Why 40th?

Forty years is a long time in the life of a person, but not for a parish or an organization.  The number ‘40’ has a lot of significance in the spiritual realm.  Both in the New Testament and Old Testament, the number ‘40’ is mentioned in several places to show a feeling of cleansing, a transformation and triumph.

In the Old Testament, the first mention of ‘40’ is at the time of the great flood, called the ‘flood of Noah’.  God cleansed the world of sins and recreated a world of goodness, through the flood.  The rain of 40 days and 40 nights prepared the way for purification.  Then we see those who came out of Egypt walked in the wilderness of Sinai Peninsula for 40 years, before they entered into the Promised Land.  God was with them, but He humbled them due to their disbelief.  He was their light and guide, though they deserted Him and worshipped idols.  Moses went to the pinnacle of Mount Sinai to be with God for ‘40 days and 40 nights’. It was a time of transformation for him.  When he came down to the valley with the tablets of Ten Commandments, his face shined like the sun.  People were so afraid to look at him, he covered his face.  He became a transformed person.

Elijah, the great prophet, walked ‘40 days and 40 nights’ from the southernmost city of Israel, Beth-Sheba to Mount Horeb in the north and fasted. God revealed to him a great truth that there were 7000 people still in Israel who worshipped Yahweh and this strengthened Elijah, with utmost courage to fight against King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He reestablished the worship of Yahweh in the place of Baal.  Thus Elijah triumphed over the evil worshippers and destroyed their priests and worshipping places.  Here we see the triumph of Truth.

In the New Testament we see the ‘40 days and 40 nights’ of our Lord’s fasting, before the beginning of His public ministry.  That was how Christ prepared himself to reveal the Truth and create a new community.  He stayed with them for ’40’ days after the resurrection to strengthen them and prepare them for the difficult work to preach and spread the truth of salvation.

The number ‘40’ has more significance and meaning in the spiritual realm than the number ‘50’ which also is significant.  But in the religious and Biblical context, ‘40’ is more befitting to a parish.

This is why the St. Mary’s Orthodox Church has decided to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our parish.   We passed through the purification, the transformation, and witnessed that TRUTH WILL TRIUMPH AND PREVAIL and we see the glory of God in our parish, parishioners, our homes, and our hearts.

by Fr. A.K. Cherian, Vicar