Significance of “40” in Sacred Scripture
In Sacred Scripture, the number “40” signifies new life, new growth, transformation, a change from one great task to another great task, etc. For example:
- The rain of the Great Flood – the Great Deluge – lasted 40 days and nights.
- Moses fasted for 40 days and nights to prepare himself to receive the Law.
- Moses was atop Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights receiving the Law.
- The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years after fleeing the Egyptians.
- The Manna rained down on the Israelites for 40 years.
- The Prophet Elijah walked 40 days and nights to reach the Mountain of God, Horeb.
- Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights to prepare for His public ministry.
- Jesus Ascended into Heaven 40 days after His glorious Resurrection from the dead.
- From Christmas Day to the Presentation (February 2) is 40 days.
- The human gestation period for new life is around 40 weeks.
- Even the seeking of a partial or plenary indulgence has a period of 40 days as the time allotted to make a good and holy Confession; that is, within 20 days before or 20 days after the spiritual work is sought.
Synopsis of the Significance of “40”
in Sacred Scripture…
- So it is, then, that – again, Scripturally speaking – “40 means something”, as it brings to mind such qualities as repentance, newness, preparation (say, for an important work or task), self-examination, transformation, task fulfillment, escape from bondage or slavery (such as to sin), nourishment and growth (for example, in the spiritual life), and, finally, personal fulfillment, such as with redemption and salvation, and ultimately, new generation and new life.
Lent, Regarding Lent
- The word Lent, from the Middle English word Lenten, means “Springtime.” The Lenten season lasts forty days because Jesus went into the desert for forty days of fasting, meditation and reflection before beginning His three years of public ministry. The Congregation for Divine Worship describes Lent as a time of preparation for Easter: “It is a time to hear the Word of God, to convert, to prepare for and remember Baptism, to be reconciled with God and one’s neighbor, and of more frequent recourse to the ‘arms of Christian penance’: prayer, fasting and almsgiving” – and these three things constitute what are known as the Three Eminent Good Works. Lent officially begins on Ash Wednesday, and ends at the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening. Traditionally, Sundays are excluded in Lent’s “forty day” count.