Posted by: Fr Chris | March 2, 2022

Beginning the 40 Days

The Lenten Fast began on Pure Monday for Byzantine Catholics and Ash Wednesday for Latin  Catholics. This is Pure Week in the Byzantine Rite. The Matins for today includes these verses: Tossed about by the waves of sin, I am drowning in the deep waters of despair, but I hasten to the ocean of your love; save me, O Lord!

The number forty appears many times in the Bible:

  • Forty days and nights of rain during the flood
  • Moses lived forty years in Egypt
  • Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai
  • The Jews journeyed through the desert for forty years to the Promised Land
  • Jonah preached forty days to Nineveh
  • Elijah fasted for forty days on Mount Horeb
  • Goliath taunted Israel for forty days
  • Jesus fasted in the desert forty days

The flood ended with new life and a new beginning with God; Moses is saved from the genocide and prepared to become the leader of God’s Chosen People; Moses got the commandments; Israel arrived in the Promised Land at last; Nineveh repented and is saved; Elijah triumphs against the pagan priests and Jezebel; David defeats Goliath with the five stones; Jesus begins his public ministry.

When we see the number forty used to denote time in the Bible, we are being told that something extraordinary is about to happen and that God will triumph. So, what is extraordinary now for us? We are living in an extraordinary moment in history, that’s for sure, with this war raging in Ukraine due to Putin’s invasion and all of the intense reaction around the world to it. But we are also each living in our own extraordinary moment. If we are being serious about Lent, then this time is supposed to be extra-ordinary, beyond ordinary. We are all tossed about by sin, as we each have our own spiritual battles to fight. And we each have a choice: drown in those battles, surrender to temptation, give up the struggle, or run, hurry, to the loving embrace of God the Father.

The second Sunday of the Triodion is that of the Prodigal Son. He is going back in disgrace, shamed for what he did, but the father comes running toward him to embrace him, to restore him to his true dignity as the father’s son once more. That is what awaits us on  Easter Sunday. That is the key of the paschal joy, to be restored, and to be triumphant over Satan and all the temptations of our broken world.

There is a lot of darkness in the world: the war and the unnecessary deaths and injuries and wreckage due to that war; ongoing persecution of Christians around the world on a massive scale; the decay of religion in the western world; violence here in our own city and elsewhere; the pandemic and the damage it has done. So many things are wrong – but the sun rises every morning, we wake up every day, the Church continues to exist, people continue to love, the laws of nature still work. Either I can despair, or I can ask the Holy Trinity to strengthen me in my determination not to drown in sin.

Jesus fasted in the desert to defeat Satan and his temptations. Now this year, as we fast and abstain, as we pray more, as we receive the Eucharist more often, we do so in order to defeat Satan and his attacks on not only ourselves, but to intercede for those around us. There is always darkness, hatred, jealousy, and other vices running rampant in the world. But there is always the clarion call of God to fallen humanity as well: come home to Me.

Let us hasten to the ocean of God’s love this year especially, let us pray hard for the Prince of Peace to rule in the hearts of all people, and pray for the conversion of each other and the whole human race. Let us listen to the God’s clarion call that pierces through all darkness and be strengthened and renewed in our Catholic Faith.

We are a little parish in the grand scheme of the Catholic Church, but then Jesus had only the eleven apostles and the band of women who walked with them. Great things happen in Scripture always after 40 days; may great things happen for us individually, in the parish, in the larger Church, and in the world after these 40 days are over.


Responses

  1. Thank you for the hopeful and inspiring thoughts, Father. May God give you strength during these forty days and bless you richly upon the feast of the resurrection of His only begotten Son.

    • thank you – have a blessed Lent!


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