Editor’s Note: This is a blog that I posted two years ago but it involves a question that always comes up during the Season of Lent. With that in mind I am republishing it to hopefully help those who are participating in Lent on how to count the ’40 days’ between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
Having grown up as a low-church evangelical (and that is not an altogether bad thing), I never really had to wrestle with or seek to understand ‘high-church’ liturgy and had no idea that there even was a historic church calendar. It was not until I began my seminary training at the age of 26 that I took three courses in Church History and my journey in studying the long and majestic lineage of the Christian Church took off. For the past twelve years as I move forward in my own faith and in my own ministry, I have continued to find amazing blessing and encouragement not by looking for something ‘unknown’ or ‘different’ but rather by looking backwards. In other words, there is something very refreshing about being constantly reminded that the Christian Church did not begin when I joined her and long after I am gone, the Christian Church will be continuing to take shape as she grows in size and influence. The convergence of tying together the ‘ancient’ with the ‘future’ has been our desire here at City Church which is why we continually work to not only better understand the Church Calendar but we continually work to put into practice the ancient Church Calendar. This brings me to Lent.
I have never understood when the Season of Lent ended. I certainly understand that this season begins on Ash Wednesday (Feb 22nd for 2012) and it lasts for 40 days. But when did it end? If you count off 40 days from Ash Wednesday you end up on Palm Sunday. This made sense, since I figured ‘The Passion Week’ (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday) all fall within that week and it just made sense that we would set aside that special week as its own separate ‘season.’
But, I also came across other sources that said the Season of Lent began on Ash Wednesday and ended on Holy Thursday. But the math didn’t add up. That would be 44 days. I asked another friend of mine who practiced the Season of Lent and he said, the math is wrong because you aren’t supposed to include Sundays during Lent. But that still didn’t add up since the number went down to 38 and not the magical 40.
But then I also came across another source that said the season of Lent ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter) and we are not supposed to count Sunday’s in Lent. Once again a quick add of the math and viola – 40! But now the question remains…why don’t we count Sunday’s? Here’s the best answer I have received thus far:
Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling. (From Dennis Bratcher over at CRIVoice.org).
So there you have it! While we are in the Season of Lent, Day 5 of this season begins on Monday! May you have a blessed Lord’s Day celebrating our resurrected Savior!