Friday, May 18, 2007

Meaning of 40 days

The discussion around when to celebrate the Ascension got me thinking about the biblical meaning of the number 40.
I had never really paid that much attention to it, but in the Bible, the number 40 is quite significant and occurs around many important matters: the rain fell on Noah 40 days and 40 nights, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, Moses stayed on the mountain with God for 40 days, Elijah fled for his life for 40 days and nights until he came to Mt Horeb, God's mountain, and of course Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert.

I found a good article on this here.

To quote part of it:
"Forty denotes a period of preparation for some special action of the Lord; it is a time of grace.After the flood in Genesis, a new creation begins. After Moses converses with God, the covenant is renewed. After Israel's wandering in the wilderness, they will enter into the Promised Land. After Elijah's journey, God strengthens him to resume his prophetic ministry. After Jesus' temptation, he begins his public ministry; after the Ascension, we enter the age of the Church. At the end of the season of Lent, we celebrate Holy Week and the great feast of Easter."

The 40 days of the Easter season are a time of grace to prepare us for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the new birth of the Church.

Veni Sancte Spiritus


Jeff Miller said...

The Pope also has a good discussion of the number 40 in his new book.

Robin L. in TX said...


I really miss the deep symbolism that has been lost since Vatican II. I am no rad-trad, I truly appreciate what the Holy Spirit is doing in the Church, but the three steps up to the sanctuary symbolizing so many ideas, especially the Trinity, being surrounded by statues and stained glass representing the Church Triumphant makes so many of our liturgical prayers easier to visualize, etc. etc.

Now that I understand that Jesus is the High Priest presenting the Offering to which we ask Him to add and purify us and ours, the Mass seems backwards when the priest prays to the Father facing me.

And yes, I miss celebrating Ascension Thursday because some are too lax to come to Mass during the week. I obey because Jesus gave the Pope His authority, but I do miss it!!!!

In Christ's peace and joy,

Robin L. in TX

Jim said...

Hi; A lady I worked with years ago was raised orthodox jewish, when I asked her what the number 40 meant she replied (enough) always this means enough if it were intended to be a real number then the actual number of items, days , men whatever would be used. her explanation was that in the early years the language was not written or if written the majority of the people were illiterate so some concepts were given numbers and this one always meant enough like enough rain or enough time. Shalom Jim.