The 40 Days of Lent. Catholic Tradition or Biblical Mandate?

What is the purpose and origin of Lent? Is it merely a product of Church Tradition or is there actually a biblical precedent for this practice? Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to Egypt, Turkey, Rome, and the Holy Land, as we search for answers.

For the Catholic faithful, Lent marks a 40 day preparation for the Easter celebration of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead. Easter, therefore, marks the high point of Christ’s pascal mystery (death, resurrection and ascension into heaven). Keeping our eyes focused on the three parts of this mystery, we can hope to gain new insights into the purpose and role of Lent.

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The actual tomb of Christ contained within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. No bones were found in this historical location, for on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead (John 20:1-10).

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Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in Jerusalem, which contains both the crucifixion and resurrection sites of our Lord.

The word Lent, derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “lenten”, actually means “spring”.  Lent, therefore, recalls our own spiritual springtime, experienced during Baptism and celebrated during the liturgical Easter Celebration. This new springtime also points to the regenerating graces of forgiveness we receive during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. A third, and often overlooked, aspect of this new springtime can be found in our own spiritual journey, and that of the entire Church, towards eternal participation in Christ’s resurrected glory. Therefore, the sum of these three characteristics points to the fullness and purpose of Lent: preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection and His second coming at the end of time. How do we get ready for both of these events? Simply put, we repent of our sins through Baptism and Penance, and renew our faith and personal holiness through prayer, fasting and the performance of good works.

Now that we know the purpose of Lent, what of its origin? Since the earliest time period in Church history, we find indications of a spiritual preparation for Easter. Although the early Lenten practices varied, there did seem to be a more regularized approach after the faith’s legalization in 313 A.D. In fact, in 462, Pope Leo the Great preached that the faithful must “fulfill with their fasts the Apostolic institution of the 40 days.”

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The Altar of St. Leo the Great (440-461), the first Pope to be buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. On this large monumental marble relief, we find the pope repelling Atilla and the Huns from attacking Rome. Above each of these figures, we see Saints Peter and Paul appearing in the sky.

But why 40 days and does this Catholic tradition really have anything to do with the story of salvation revealed in Sacred Scripture? The answer is yes, for Christ, Himself, spent forty days in the Judean desert after His Baptism. There, He prayed to the Father, fasted, resisted sin, and defeated Satan. Through His baptism, Jesus highlighted our own personal pathway to freedom. During His three year ministry, Jesus established the Church’s sacramental system. Included, was the authority to bind and loose sin, and heal the wounds of separation, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After His resurrection, Christ, once again, spent 40 days with His disciples, instructing them to walk in holiness, witness the Gospel (the good news of the resurrection), and await the transformative powers of the Holy Spirit.

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Early ritual bath, where John the Baptist is believed to have first encountered the concept of baptism as a means of preparation for the coming Messiah. This ancient site of Qumran, located in the Judean desert, is well known for its discovery of the dead sea scrolls.

Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven mark the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to the nation of Israel. The number forty has always held special significance throughout the Old Testament. It’s allegorical representation of spring time, and the life giving waters of Baptism, are indicated in Noah’s forty days in the Ark. On Mount Sinai, Moses prayed, fasted and contemplated the face of the Lord for forty days. There, he received God’s laws for personal and communal holiness (Ten Commandments). Finally, Joshua and the Israelite nation waited forty days prior to their triumphant entry into the Promised Land. What do these Old Testament events have in common with our own personal Lenten journey? Both mark a forty day time period of preparation, and both indicate our struggles and personal advancement towards life eternal with God and His Only Begotten Son, the Resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Above: Mount Ararat in Turkey, where the Ark of Noah is believed to have landed.
Below: Mount Sinai in Egypt, where Moses received the Ten Commandments from the Lord.

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Closing 3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You.

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

 

 

 

Thanks Be To God!

Living A Eucharistic Life. 

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Thanksgiving originated in the US as a harvest festival after George Washington’s 1789 proclamation. But how does an annual federal holiday truly relate to the Eucharistic life that each of us are called to live as Christians? To search for answers, please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy Land as we explore the life of Israel’s King David, a “man after God’s own heart”.

“Oh Lord, You put gladness into my heart, more than when grain and wine abound.” (Psalms 4:8)

The Greek word for “thanksgiving” is Eucharista, which is what we, as Catholics, celebrate every time we attend Mass. There, united with the saints and angels, we participate in the eternal banquet of thanksgiving, and give praise, honor and glory to the Son of God. During catholic liturgy, we offer our lives, humble thanks, and gifts of bread, wine and water to God, who, in return, elevates, perfects and transforms them into the very Body, Blood, life and existence of His Son, Jesus. We then, as members of His Body, are called to live a “Eucharistic” life of thanksgiving. But how do we live this life of divine thanksgiving? The answer: By becoming men and women after God’s own heart.

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A shepherd boy, mighty warrior, musician, poet, sinner and saint. These words all describe King David, and yet he will always be remembered best as a “man after God’s own heart,” (Acts 13:22). In David, we find a great example of the “Eucharistic” life. David did not view an intimate connection with God as some kind of vague matter, for his experience of God was real and very much connected to his earthly life. “Only in God be at rest, my soul, for from him comes my hope. He only is my rock and my salvation”, (Psalms 62:6-7). David had a strong desire for closeness with God, for there he found holiness, loving kindness, refuge, power, glory and the waters of life. “How precious is your loving kindness, O God! The children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They have their fill of the prime gifts of your house; from your delightful stream you give them to drink,”(Psalms 36:8-9).

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The Wilderness of Judea, King David’s sanctuary and escape. When visiting the wilderness of Judea, one can gaze upon the ancient lands where David hid before he became the King of Israel, (1Samuel 24:1-4). This is the same wilderness where John the Baptist announced the coming of the Lord, (Matthew 3:1) and where Jesus retreated to fast for 40 days and 40 nights, (Matthew 4:1). Within these barren hills, David yearned for the Lord, the waters of life, and riches of the heavenly banquet. It was during his time in the barren wilderness that David wrote many of his Psalms, including Psalm 63: “Ardent Longing for God”. Pictured above: an oasis amidst the barren Judean Wilderness.

“The one thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate his temple,” (Psalm 27:4). With the eyes of faith, David continuously found himself within the very sanctuary of God. There, he gazed upon God’s power and glory with thanksgiving. During the Mass, we too gaze upon the power and glory of God. During liturgy, however, we do not praise His Holy Name alone, for there, we celebrate in “communion”. Therefore, the Eucharistic life is not only a life lived in union with God, but also one lived in communion with others. In joyful appreciation for the unmerited gifts of God, we are called to share these gifts with others through loving acts of kindness and charity. Through self-sacrifice and love, we too participate in Christ’s eternal Sacrifice and become partakers in the eternal banquet of thanksgiving. This heavenly feast has a guest list without number, and God, as the host, wants to fill up each and every seat. Therefore, this Thanksgiving Season, let us strive to imitate God, the ultimate Host, as we welcome others, not only into our home, but also into the eternal house of God! Amen and Happy Thanksgiving.

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, Most High, because my enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before you,” (Psalms 9:2-4).

3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You.

To learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, to make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, to shop for books and sacred devotionals, or to learn more about my own upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love, please click on the link below. Thank you and God Bless America!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com