Theo Kabundi, sx –
The tradition of remembering in a particular way the 40th day of someone’s death is spread worldwide and in especial way in the culture to which our beloved deceased brother used to belong to. To be faithful to this and in order to respect his culture, the Xaverian International Theologate had a special thought for their spiritual son Martin on Sunday December 03 during the mass of ordination of Brother Hery presided by the Most Rev. Antonio, bishop of Novaliches in the Philippines. During that Eucharistic celebration the faithful were encouraged to pray and keep alive all the legacies they have learnt and appreciated from Martin’s life here in Manila.
Seeing around us how people are involved and interested in celebrating the 40th day after someone’s death, this raised a question in my mind: What is the significance of the 40 day memorial? To this philosophical, sociological and anthropological question, many are the answers to be given according to each culture, country and the conception of the life and death. Far be it from us to deny the validity and truth contained in all of these attempts to explain this phenomenon; we would like now to approach it in the Christian perspective. In other words, we will be looking for the significance of the number 40 in the Bible.
In the Scriptures, 40 is used as a symbolic number. It is the number which represents a long period of time during which something of great significance is accomplished. In the time of Noah, God caused a great flood by making it to rain for 40 days and 40 nights. After leaving Egypt, the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. After being Baptized, Christ fasted for 40 days. Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after resurrection. Thus it is that 40 days signals the end of a period of mourning and marks the occasion to remember our departed and praying to God for their souls. For some, there is a view that the period of the 40 days after death is the time when the soul is ‘judged’ and on the 40th day itself, decided upon which direction the soul will go. There is also a view that the soul travels around for during that time visiting places of significance in its life. These statements point out a common denominator which is the value of this number in history of salvation. Therefore and above all evoked reasons, the 40th day service is celebrated in the memory of the Savior’s Ascension 40 days after His Resurrection and that the reposed one, when he is resurrected, may be taken up in the clouds to meet the Judge, our Savior and Master, and thus be with Him forever (1Thes. 4:17).
Now that we have officially put an end to the mourning of our brother Martin, let us entrust ourselves to God through his intercession so that we too may be ready to meet our Savior face to face in order to enjoy forever the beatification vision.
Rest in peace brother Martin and intercede for us!