Question on Forty Days Lent


His Grace Thirumeni,

I (?), doing my 2nd B.Tech. I came up with few question asked by my friend who is a protestant. I couldn’t give her an answer. I am really depressed about that and can’t find the answer to it.
The question she asked was, why do we fast for 50 days? Is it because Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days? or is it, because of the tradition? How do you  know that the days that Jesus Christ fasted falls on the exact 40 days before the Passion Week?

Requesting for prayers and blessings.Hoping for a reply soon.

Yours sincerely

Dear (?)

Thank you for the mail and and questions. Wish you God’s blessings in your continued studies. I am glad you are curious and interested in the faith and practices of our Church along with your secular studies. I wish all our children be like that.

Regarding your question: Eastern Churches took the model of Christ’s life in this world very seriously in several aspects. Many thought it will be advisable to be celibates like Jesus and abstain from getting married. Hundreds and thousands of people, therefore, went to monasteries and solitude to ‘imitate’ our Lord. There are lot of people who took the mark of Jesus on their body by artificially inflicting themselves or in a psychological way taking wounds in their body which is called stigmata. Another way of imitating Christ was by observing the lent Jesus observed. They found several occasions to observe lent. They thought through observing lent they will prepare themselves for perfectly observing the event in the life of Christ. Jesus’ birth was one occasion, the veneration of his mother was another occasion, the veneration of his disciples was another occasion, his suffering and death was another etc. etc. Initially all lent had 40 days duration just like the fasting and praying period of Jesus (Mtt. 4: 1ff.; Mark 1: 12,13; Luke 4:1 ff.). But this was not possible for everyone in secular life. The Church limited 40 days lent only to the lent before the passion week. Actually the lent related to the passion of Jesus is only for 40 days. Through this the Church prepares itself for the observance of the passion and the following resurrection of our Lord. Then comes the days of the passion of our Lord. These days are also observed as special days. They are not just lent days. They are days of participation of the Church in the suffering of our Lord. Through this the Church hopes to achieve the liberation Jesus offered to the creation from sin, suffering and actualize resurrection in the life of the members of the Church.

We are not considering the days in a historical style. We take the whole year as a period of recapitulation (re-actualization) of the salvific history. Jesus lived in this world thirty three years and his public ministry was three years duration. None of this can be historically reenacted in the life of a believer in a secular situation. So the Church takes one year to complete the reenactment of thirty three years of life of Jesus. The Church hopes to, in cyclic way, bring the salvific life of our lord adapted in to the life of the faithful every year so that the salvation brought by Jesus can be effected in the life of the faithful. So we do not look for which date exactly a particular event happened in the life of our Lord, rather we arrange the important event in his life that all of them can be observed in one year. Jesus fasted for forty days at the beginning of the public ministry. We can not chronologically. It would take three years to complete the whole public life of Jesus. So we set the Easter at a particular date and then count fifty days backward to have forty days lent and ten days for passion days. During the forty days we remember and celebrate the important miracle deeds of Jesus every day and particularly on Sundays for the public worship. This is how we make three years one year. In the liturgical life of the community time and space are transcended. You may remember in our worship, towards the beginning, the priest will call the faith full saying, ‘let our hearts, minds and thoughts be up above at the right hand side of the Father where Jesus is seated’. The faithful will respond to this the same way. This call is similar in all the major Churches of the world with slight variations. This implies that in salvation history, we transcend time and space. But at the same time we take them seriously and arrange the events in history in such a way that it will fit within the structure of salvation history.

Some of the sectarian Churches who do not take these things seriously, rather take matters in an emotional and ecstatic way may not follow or rather understand this. They take only the present moment seriously and reduce the long period of Jesus in this world to just crucifixion and highlight it. This for me is injustice done to the salvific work of our Lord.  He was not a magician who simply did the whole thing in just one act. He was born like a human who went away fro God and went through all the stages of humans to correct  the way human walked in alienation and farther-ness to God so that all those ways can be corrected and human be brought back to God by reversing the whole history of humanity.  In simple terms, our lent is for forty days as Jesus observed. The balance 10 days is our way of trying to participate in the suffering of our Lord.

Hope I addressed your question. If there is any thing else just send it. I will try my best.

Once again God’s blessings in your life and particularly in your studies now.

With regards and prayers

Thirumeni

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