It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.
The earliest mention of Lent in church history is in 325 AD and is referred to in Greek as 'tessarakonta'. Translated, this means forty – the length of time that Jesus is said to have spent in the wilderness at the beginning of his public ministry. The number forty is used as a symbolic period of time, just as we use umpteen or aeons when we do not have an exact measurement.
In English, Lent derives from Anglo-Saxon and means lengthen. Lent begins when days are lengthening as spring approaches. We too can lengthen spiritually - we can stretch out and grow in the Spirit.
Just as the sun was thought to do the work of lengthening the days during early springtime, so it is the sun – in the sense of God’s warmth and light – that does this work in our lengthening and growing in Christ. In the English language there is a beautiful play on the words sun and son. Just as the sun was seen to do the work of lengthening the days in spring, so it is the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who does the work of lengthening in our spiritual growth. This image provides a comfort for us in our busy lives. During Lent, let us unite with God’s grace and find time to relax in the presence of God.
A shadow lengthening sounds gloomy, but without the sun there are no shadows. As the days grow longer, shadows stretch out. When we see shadows we know that the sun is with us, just as the Son of God, is with us too, always.
Karen Ette 14th February 2018
Photographs by Syd Spence