Quick, how long does Lent last?
If you’re like most people, you’ll say 40 days. It commemorates Jesus’ self-imposed 40-day exile in the desert, when he foresook all food, etc., etc.
Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the day before Easter, is actually 46 days, if you include both of those days.
Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by the Devil. However, different Christian denominations calculate the forty days of Lent differently. In most Western traditions the Sundays are not counted as part of Lent; thus the period from Ash Wednesday until Easter consists of 40 days when the Sundays are excluded. However in the Roman Catholic Church Lent is now taken to end on Holy Thursday rather than Easter Eve, and hence lasts 38 days excluding Sundays, or 44 days in total.
If that’s not confusing enough, the full Wikipedia entry, which talks about Sundays being in, not of Lent, is here.
Excluding Sundays? C’mon! Did Jesus come back into town and have a meal on Sunday, and then go back out to the desert? I don’t think so.
This is bad news for those of us who stored up 40 days’ worth of willpower. Having just suffered through six days of sacrifice, we find that as of today, we STILL have 40 days to go. It’s like running a marathon, and finding out, five miles into the race, that they’ve lengthened the event to 31 miles, so you still have your 26 to run.
Sigh. I guess it’s just another one of those “mysteries of faith.”