by HH Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East, Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church
This Lent is called after Nineveh, because the Ninevites were the first to practice such a fast praying for Godís Mercy and forgiveness. This fast is practiced following the example of the people of Nineveh of old times who hearkened to the warning of God through Prophet Jonah and proclaimed a fast enjoined on man and beast, on the greatest of them even to the least of them in supplication of God.
And God repented of the evil he had said he would do unto them and he did it not. (Jon. 3)
This fast began to be practiced in our church towards the fourth Century AD. This can be inferred from the memres of St. Ephrem, the Syrian (373) and the hymns he composed in the past. This fast used to last for six days, but now it is only for three days starting on the third Monday that precedes Lent. It had been neglected through the ages. Mar Dionysius Bar Salibi (1171) states that Mar Marutha of Tikrit (+649) was the one who enjoined it on the Church of the East first in the region of Nineveh. Bar Hebraeus reportedly states that the confirmation of this fast was due to the crises the church went through in (Hirat). The people there fasted three days and three nights praying constantly in fulfillment of the command of their bishop and they were rescued from the ordeal by God.
Armenians embraced this practice of the Syrians calling it (Sorep Sarkis). The Copts did the same during the patriarchate of the sixty-second Patriarch of Alexandria, Anba Eprem, the Syrian. This fast is highly favored among Syrians. Some faithful abstain from food and drink throughout this three day fast, then they receive the Holy Communion on the third day and afterwards they go on eating fasting-food until Thursday morning.
The rest of the faithful abstain from having food till noon or till late afternoon and afterwards they eat fasting food. Prayers that are sung to melodies of Lent usually accompany fasting. In the event of having the presentation of Lord Jesus into the Temple, which we usually celebrate on Feb.2, during this Fast, it is mandatory that we celebrate the commemoration day and afterwards we carry out the celebration of the Holy liturgy in the morning as usual, whereas the prayers of Ninevehís Fast are said at noon. Abstinence from food ends directly after the mass by eating fasting food.
[Editor's Note: Excerpted from His Holiness' article: 'Fasting' that describes all the lents in Syriac Orthodox Church in depth. The full article is in Malankara World. ]
by HH Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Lenten Reflections: LENT as FEAST and FAST
The Lent of Jonah
by Bar Eto briro Dr. D Babu Paul
The History of the Three Days Lent in Syriac Orthodox Church
by Rev. Fr. Dr. Biji Chirathilattu
Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for Nineveh Lent
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