Verses for the Day:
“Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:8-10 – NRSV)
The repentance of Nineveh became known and an example to the whole world. Through their repentance God reconciled with the Ninevites and wiped away the judgment that was upon them. He showed His mercy to Nineveh and filled its children with His peace. Jonah was displeased when he saw that God turned away his judgment from Nineveh. Praise to You, O Good One who opens Your door to sinners. Anyone who knocks on it is offered deliverance from debts and sins. Praise be to the Good One who keeps His door open to sinners. (Vespers, Wednesday of Nineveh Fast)
Today is the final day of the Three Day Fast, and one takes leave of the Fast by partaking in the Divine Liturgy on Thursday. Day one, we talked about Jonah’s disobedience and running away – and compared it to our running away from God or trying to do things our own way. On the second day we reflected on focusing on God and calling upon Him in the midst of the overwhelming anxieties that swallow us in life. Yesterday we read chapter two of the Book of Jonah and we heard the prayer of Jonah – a prayer filled with faith and assurance in God. Trials and tribulations must become a school of prayer for us.
God gave Jonah a second chance. The faith that Jonah reclaimed in the belly of the fish and the Word of God he received a second time – he took to the city of Nineveh. After the Three Day Fast we will continue in the worlds of our homes, jobs, school, careers etc....but always remember to sustain ourselves with the Word of God and the faith we have received. The Word of God yielded amazing fruits in the people of Nineveh – faith, fasting, prayer and repentance. By this repentance, God’s mercy came upon Nineveh and He pardoned and forgave them, received them and joined them to His own. Let our faith, fasting, prayer and repentance be pleasing unto God that He will receive us and join us unto Him. One last thought – God uses imperfect people to fulfill His mission. He used Jonah even with his disobedience and bad attitude. He can use me. He can use you. He gives us His mercy every day to start anew. Hopefully that day is Today! Once again a blessed Fast and a joyful Feast tomorrow. God Bless.
Below is a link to a humble tribute to our beloved Thomas Achen from a senior member of St Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church, Raleigh, NC.
Introduction: History of Nineveh Fast
The Fast of Nineveh, more popularly known as The Three Day Fast is the shortest of the five canonical Fasts of the Malankara Orthodox Church. The dates of this particular lent vary every year according to the date of Easter. The Great Lent (50 days) begin 18 days after the end of the Fast of Nineveh. The Fast of Jonah (Fast of Nineveh) originated in the Syrian Orthodox Tradition. In the 6th century, a plague inflicted the Northern regions of modern day Iraq or what was called at the time, Nineveh. The plague was devastating the city and the villages surrounding it, and out of desperation the people ran to their bishop to find a solution. The bishop sought help through the Scriptures and came upon the story of Jonah in the Old Testament. Upon looking at the story the bishop therefore ordered a 3-day fast to ask for God’s forgiveness. At the end of the 3-day fast, the plague had miraculously stopped, therefore, on the 4th day the people rejoiced.
Verse for the Day:
The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 1:6 – NIV)
The city of Nineveh repented before the Lord and the gates of heaven opened to them and they received mercy. The King fasted and lamented in sack cloth. The people too clothed in sack cloth and poured ashes on their heads. The Lord saw that they turned away from their evil way. He withdrew His punishment. Blessed is He who rejoices in those who repent and return to His presence. (Vespers, Monday of Nineveh Fast)
In the Book of Jonah we find that God is the One who searches for man in order to bring him to repentance. We see Him searching for all. He goes about seeking the souls that are His. He searches for the souls of those in the ship in order to save them. He searches for the lost souls of the people of Nineveh in order to make them repent to save them. He also uses every possible means in order to save Jonah the Prophet. If man does not go to God, God goes to man in order to reform him and reconcile him. St. Jacob of Serug said, “There was a dissension between God and man, and when man did not go to God to be reconciled, God came down to reconcile man to Him.” Jonah tries to take matters into his own hands and leaves God behind – or at least tries to. How many of us try to do that? We think we know better than God in all matters of our lives. It just is not the case. We think in this manner only because we are filled with pride. This fast is about getting rid of our bad habits, just like the sailors threw most of their cargo to make the ship sail safe. This fast is about cultivating virtues. Just as the captain awakened Jonah from his sleep, let us also awaken ourselves from spiritual sleep and call upon God during this three-day Fast. A blessed Fast to all of you.
Verses for the Day:
“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” (Jonah 2:1,2 – NIV)
Blessed be the one who loves and fears God. Like the Ninevites, it will save him from the wrath of God. It will instruct him in the path to the house of life and it will become a path of redemption for him. It will be a source of comfort and strength in difficult places and will show him the place where the righteous dwells. (Sixth Hour, Tuesday of Nineveh Fast)
When we read Chapter One in the Book of Jonah yesterday, we
see how Jonah failed to listen and obey God and found himself in big trouble. Does God punish Jonah? No, instead, God sends a big fish (it is an anonymous sea creature and never is it referred to as a whale) to swallow the prophet. Jonah undergoes the groaning and pain of a rebirth. The three days Jonah spent in the belly of the fish is the turning point of his life and the beginning of his true destiny.
Many a times, the anxieties of life swallow us – it could be work, school, our careers, our family life, our financial situations, our relationships, our sicknesses, our trials etc. At these times, let us not say, “Why do you treat me like this, O Lord? And why did you not rescue me?” God is always telling us to not be afraid even in the midst of all that is swallowing us. God will not disregard us nor abandon us. Always remember the words of St. Paul, “He who flees from tribulation, flees from God.” Sometimes it is in the midst of our trials and distress that we denounce everything and allow ourselves to hear God’s call. Let us all on the second day of the Fast pray not to be like Jonah thinking we can hide our disobedient actions from the presence of the all knowing Lord our God, but to truly believe that “deliverance is from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9-10). May God deliver us from our trials, tribulations and temptations.