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Footwashing by Ginturn H. Tran

Lent is a 40-day period starting on Ash Wednesday that goes until Easter Sunday. The 40-day period does not include Sundays. It is a season in which believers prepare for Easter through self-denial and repentance, seeking for personal piousness, and meditation on the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

The number 40 appears frequently in the Bible.We witness 40 in Noah’s 40-day flood. Moses fasted for 40 days in Mount Sinai.Moses’ life is divided into three 40-year segments, separated by his growing in the Egyptian palace as a prince, fleeing from Egypt and living as a shepherd in Midian desert, and his return to lead his people out. A maximum number of lashes a man could receive for a crime was limitedto 40, according to the Law. Elijah traveled 40 days and 40 nights to MountHoreb when he fled from Jezebel.The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. The Israelite spies took 40 days to spy out Canaan.Jonah warned about the impending judgment of God after 40 days in Nineveh. Jesus was tempted after fasting 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness and it was 40 days from the resurrection to the ascension of Jesus.40 is a significant number that signifies suffering and renewal. 

The original meaning of Lent is a time of preparation and training for the people who were to be baptized on Easter Sunday. Baptismal candidates were required to fast during this period, and later, this act of fasting was requested of the entire congregation.

Over the course of time, Lent has emphasized solemn worship and the pious lives of Christians regardless of baptism and it became a period of self-abasement and repentance, following the example of the kenosis(self-emptying) love of Christ on the cross. Thus, Lent should be a season of love when Christians meditate on the amazing love of God that was revealed through Jesus Christ and not extinguish this flame of love. When we have a deep meditation on this love, we should not lose focus but receive spiritual and pious training.

When Christians, however, have piousness and spiritual training, they might run into a problem. When they try to reveal their self-righteousness, they will face a crisis in their faith. Thus, rather than a literal period in which they focus only on the physical suffering of Christ, Lent should be a spiritual period in which believers embody the meaning of the passion of Christ as depicted by authors of the Bible and reflect the meaning in their life.

As one of the most important seasons on the church calendar, Lent contains the core of the Gospel. If Easter connotes brightness and life, the preceding season, Lent, embodies darkness and death. The message of the Gospel is the good news of purifying our sin, extinguishing the power of death, and gaining a new life through Jesus by his blood shed on the cross. At its simplest, the Gospel signifies the cross and resurrection. However, just as the order of Lent and Easter cannot be altered, the order of cross and resurrection cannot be reversed either. One of the most critical problems in modern day Christians is their sole focus on the glorious resurrection without looking at the suffering of the cross.

The words of Cicero are often quoted, when he spoke of crucifixion as “that most cruel and disgusting penalty.” We should perhaps notice also the words of the Jewish writer Josephus who spoke of it as “the most wretched of deaths.”[1]  It was that death, the most dreaded death in the ancient world, the death of slaves and criminals, that Jesus died.[2] This death of Jesus is the love of God for us and through this death God gave a life to us. For Christians to fully savor the joy of resurrected life on Easter, they must meditate on the meaning of Jesus’ death during the season of Lent.

Ash Wednesday

The first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday from the custom that prevailed in the early Church of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents on the first day of Lent, in token of repentance for sin.[3]

Passion Sunday

The fifth Sunday of Lent is known as Passion Sunday, because it marks the beginning of Passiontide, the last two weeks of Lent. These two weeks specifically commemorate the Passion of Jesus, or His experiences following the Last Supper.[4]

Passiontide refers to a two week period from Passion Sunday to Holy Saturday. It is the last two weeks of Lent.

Palm Sunday

The sixth Sunday of Lent, the last Sunday before Easter is called Palm Sunday. It commemorates Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

Holy Week, or Passion Week

Palm Sunday leads to Holy Week. It is the last week of Lent followed by Easter.  Commemorating the passion of Christ – him being arrested, tried by Pilate, and crucified, it is the climax of the Lenten period. Holy Week may properly be called the very center of the Christian Year.[5]

Three Minor Days

The first half of Holy Week is called Three Minor Days. It is Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week.

Triduum, The Paschal Triduum, or The Easter Triduum

Triduum is also called The Easter Triduum. Based on the Jewish concept of the start of a day, which counts from sunset to sunrise, it begins from the evening of Maundy Thursday and lasts until the evening of Easter Sunday. Triduum commemorates the passion of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. It is the summit of the Church Calendar which includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday

Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, is a corruption of the Latin word mandatimeaning “of the commandment,” and refers to the command “This do in remembrance of me” spoken by Jesus in regard to His breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine at the Last Supper. Maundy Thursday commemorates the event of the Last Supper.[6]

According to the Synoptic Gospel, the Last Supper was the Passover meal and John records that Jesus was crucified on the day of Passover.[7] It is also the day that Jesus washed the feet of disciples according to John.

Good Friday, or Holy Friday

Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, probably known originally as God’s Friday, commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus.[8] It commemorates the series of events that Jesus was arrested, tried, suffered, and crucified. Paradoxically it also celebrates the Good News of the cross. The cross of Christ was not a failure but victory. Salvation came to all sinners as it is a day to preach the Good News of the cross, the blessed good news, the news of victory. This day, therefore, is called Good Friday.

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day that Jesus rested in the tomb. It is also the Jewish Sabbath. Traditionally Church has emphasized and meditated the redemptive passion and death of Christ on this day. This day especially is traditionally a day of fasting together with Good Friday. Whole congregations were requested to participate in fasting. It is also the last day of Baptismal education in preparing those who are to be baptized in the dawn or morning of Easter Sunday.

[1] Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 655.

[2] Barclay, The Gospel of John, 291-292.

[3] Charles Fillmore, Keep a True Lent (3rd ed. Lee’s Summit: Unity School of Christianity, 1954), 138.

[4] Charles Fillmore, Keep a True Lent, 138.

[5] Victor E. Beck and Paul M. Lindberg, A Book of Lent (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 32.

[6] Fillmore, Keep a True Lent, 139.

[7] We should be aware of John’s intention in recording this way. John connects the Passover festival, which commemorates that the angel of death passing over the households of Hebrews, on which doorposts were sprinkled with the blood of lambs. He intends to emphasize that the death of Jesus was the death of redemption and that the true Passover lamb shed his blood for the world.

[8] Fillmore, Keep a True Lent, 139.

Christians often hear about God’s love for us, but have they truly felt and believed in His love? Prior to Christ’s death on the cross, no one saw God’s love in its full measure. But God revealed His love to the whole world through the cross and resurrection. This Lenten Bible Study provides an in-depth look into the transformative power of God’s love. Readers will examine the most central part in the whole arrangement of the Gospel of John from the Last Supper (John 13) to Christ’s crucifixion (John 19:30). – Taken from The Cross of Christ: 40 Day Lenten Bible Study through the Gospel of John with illustrations by Christy Tran. Buy the book on Amazon, Stevens Books

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