40 Days of Lent
February 22, 2020
Lent is the Church Year’s “springtime.” Out of the cold and darkness of sin’s winter merges a people — the Church — reborn in their Lord’s Easter resurrection.
Although Easter is the oldest Christian season, the observance of Lent appeared between 200-300 A.D. Lent was a time of preparation for persons being instructed in the Christian Faith before their baptism. Following the model of Jesus’ time in the wilderness, new adult converts practiced Lenten penance and prayer for 40 days while waiting to receive their baptism, confirmation and first Lord’s Supper at the Saturday evening vigil before Easter.
Today Lent calls us to take time out and look back on the impact of our baptism on our lives. How are we doing, we who have died to sin and come alive to new life in Christ? In repentance we ask our Lord to cleanse our hearts and lives of sin’s self-centeredness.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday’s somber repentance and leads us to Holy Week’s bitter story and Easter’s joy in Christ’s Resurrection.
These 40 days (excluding Sundays which is a celebration of the Resurrection) are the first half of a larger rainbow arch, centered over Easter. The other half includes the Easter season’s 50 days in which we celebrate our baptismal rebirth in Christ.
Now we can understand why the church has at heart to cleanse herself from the filth that adheres to her garment from the sins of Christians. The soap, the lye, and the broom used by the church fro this cleansing process is fasting.
The dust and dirt accumulated over winter have to be routed. Outside in the gardens, now at the coming of spring, leaves and dry grass have to be raked together and burned. Now in the time of Lent, Mother Church, too, like the housewife and the gardener, is determined to burn up and to rout the dust and trash of our sins. The means she employs are fasting, mortification, abstinence, and self-conquest.
Pius Parch, Phillip T. Weller, trans., Sermons on the Liturgy for Sundays and Feast Days (Milwaukee, Wis: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1953).