Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 17 April |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Mariana of Jesus
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Why does Lent last 40 days?

TEMPTATION OF CHRIST,WILDERNESS,DESERT

Ivan Kramskoi | PD

The Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness

Philip Kosloski - published on 02/13/18 - updated on 02/18/21

The number 40 has deep biblical roots.

Each year the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church celebrates Lent with 40 days of prayer and fasting before the great celebration of Easter. This number is very symbolic and has deep ties to multiple biblical events.

Number 40 in the Bible

The first mention of 40 occurs in the book of Genesis. God proclaims to Noah, “For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground” (Genesis 7:4). This event connects the number 40 to purification and renewal, a time when the earth was washed clean and made anew.

Recognizing our sinfulness

In Numbers we see the number 40 again, this time as a type of penance and punishment imposed on the people of Israel for disobeying God. They had to wander in the desert for 40 years so that a new generation could inherit the Promised Land, instead of the people who did not trust in God’s plan for them.

Repentance and conversion of heart

In the book of Jonah, the prophet proclaims to Nineveh, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown! And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:4). This again ties the number to spiritual renewal and conversion of heart.

A time of prayer and preparation

The prophet Elijah, before he encountered God on Mount Horeb, traveled for forty days, “And he arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God (1 Kings 19:8). This connects 40 to a time of spiritual preparation, a time when the soul is led to a place where it can hear the voice of God.

Engaging in a spiritual battle

Before embarking on his own public ministry, Jesus “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights” (Matthew 4:1-2). In continuity with the past, Jesus sets out to pray and fast for 40 days, combating temptation and preparing himself for proclaiming the Gospel to others.

In the end, all of these episodes in the Gospel reveal different reasons why the number 40 was selected for the season of Lent. Together they provide for us a spiritual guide for Lent, inviting us to open our hearts to God.


ASH WEDNESDAY,ASHES

Read more:
What does the word “Lent” mean?

Tags:
BibleLent
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
SPANISH FLU
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
2
LOREN SCHAUERS
Annalisa Teggi
Amputee from the waist down is thankful every day to be alive
3
HOLY SEPULCHRE CROSSES
Zelda Caldwell
Mystery of crosses on walls of Church of the Holy Sepulchre may h...
4
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
5
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
St. Padre Pio: His life, his miracles and his legacy
6
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Catholic prayers for strength
7
COUPLE
Cerith Gardiner
7 Joys to be had from a lengthy marriage
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.