Q. 1. What can you tell me about the 40 days of Lent?
A. 1. The 40 days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday and end on Easter Sunday. The forty days do not include the Sundays that are found between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
The forty days represent the time that Jesus retreated into the desert, where he fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-2, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-2). Remembering this event, the purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believers through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The number forty has many Biblical references: the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18); the forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); God made it rain for forty days and forty nights in the days of Noah (Genesis 7:4); the Hebrew people wandered forty years traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33); Jonah in his prophecy of judgment gave the city of Nineveh forty days time in which to repent (Jonah 3:4).
Also, it is the traditional belief that Jesus lay for 40 hours in the tomb which led to the forty hours of total fast that preceded the Easter celebration in the early Church (the biblical reference to 'three days in the tomb' is understood as spanning three days, from Friday afternoon to early Sunday morning, rather than three 24 hour periods of time).