What is Lent and Why is it Longer than 40 Days?

Lent is the time between Shrove Tuesday ending when Christ is risen on Easter.  It is a 40 day period EXCEPT for the feast days.  That's right!  You don't have to count the feast days.  What are the feast days?  Well, Sundays for starters.  Each Sunday symbolizes Easter.  So mathematically:

April 7 (Holy Saturday) - February 22 (Ash Wednesday) = 8 + 31 + 7 = 46.  How many Sundays? 6.  How many days?  40.

In the Lenten Journey I started, I did not account for Feast Days.  But, it was a conscious choice.  I know, for myself, if I don't keep myself in the swing of things, I will falter.  (Sigh.)

The time of Lent and Easter are historically recorded in writings as early as 203 CE by St. Irenaeus.  Although, even at that early time, practices were varied between the Eastern and Western church.  When Christianity became legalized, Lenten practices became more regularized.  And Lent, specifically the 40 days prior to Easter, is mentioned in the disciplinary canons of the Council of Nicea (325 CE).  So, when people get bent out of shape about Lent not being in the Bible, neither is the Nicean Creed.  Just sayin.'   It did not take long at all for people to start ritualizing their holy experience through practices such as Lent or even early Christian hymns, such as the Kenotic hymn in Philippians 2:5-11.

3 comments

  1. granbee said on March 27, 2012
    Wonderful explanation of the length of Lent and its early Christian origins. For myself, I have always enjoyed the idea that just as Jesus our Lord "kept" the forty days (representing the 40 years in the wilderness after leaving slavery in Egpyt before crossing into the Promised Land) leading up to the Feast of the Passover (commorating the Angel of Death "passing over" the houses of the Hebrews in Egypt marked with the Blood of an unblemished Lamb), which Our Lord celebrated in what we call The Last Supper with His disciples--so do WE keep 40 days of Lent (skipping over the Sunday/feast days representing the resurrection on Easter morning) in honor of how our Lord worshipped and honored the religious customs of his people, the Jews. Just sayin'!
    1. Terri said on March 27, 2012
      I agree. The 40, for me, ties to Jesus in the desert.
  2. becca givens said on April 2, 2012
    All of these years --- I never realized it --- I just "safely assumed" ... and you know what kind of trouble that can get one into! LOL This has been a wonderful journey, Terri ... thank you for inviting us to participate with you ... many blessings through this time is meditation, reflection and inspiration. Namaste ~~~

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