Fast of Nineveh

Fast of the Ninevites
ܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܝ̈ܐ
Jonah preaches to the Ninevites
Official name ܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܝܐ
Observed by Church of the East
Chaldean Catholic Church
Syriac Christian Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Type Christian
Celebrations Three days fast
Begins Monday of the third week before Lent
2017 date 6-8 February[1]
2018 date 29-31 January [2]
Frequency Annual

Fast of Nineveh (Classical Syriac: ܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܝ̈ܐ Bā'ūṯā d-Nīnwāyē, literally "Petition of the Ninevites"), is a three-day fast starting the second Monday before Clean Monday from Sunday Midnight to Wednesday noon during which participants abstain from all kinds of dairy foods and meat products and which commemorates the three days that the Prophet Jonah spent in the belly of the Great Fish and the subsequent fast and repentance of the Ninevites at the warning message of the prophet Jonah according to the bible.[3] The fast originated in the Church of the East and later spread to the Oriental Orthodox churches, including the Coptic and Armenian Churches.[4]


Jonah appears in 2 Kings aka 4 Kings and is therefore thought to have been active around 786–746 BC.[5] A possible scenario which facilitated the acceptance of Jonah's preaching to the Ninevites is that the reign of Ashur-dan III saw a plague break out in 765 BC, revolt from 763-759 BC and another plague at the end of the revolt. These documented events suggest that Jonah's words were given credibility and adhered to, with everyone allegedly cutting off from food and drinks, including animals and children.[6]

As the patriarch Joseph (Classical Syriac: ܝܘܣܦ) had been deposed, Ezekiel (Classical Syriac: ܚܙܩܝܐܝܠ) had been selected to replace him, much to the joy of the king Khusrow Anushirwan who loved him and held him in high esteem.[7] A mighty plague devastated Mesopotamia with the Sassanian authorities unable to curb its spread and the dead littered the streets, in particular the imperial capital Seleucia-Ctesiphon (Classical Syriac: ܣܠܝܩ ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢ) The metropolitans of Adiabene (Classical Syriac: ܚܕܝܒ "Ḥdāyaḇ", encompassing Arbil, Nineveh, Hakkari and Adhorbayjan) and Beth Garmai (Classical Syriac: ܒܝܬ ܓܪ̈ܡܝ "Bēṯ Garmai", encompassing Kirkuk and the surrounding region) called for services of prayer, fasting and penitence to be held in all the churches under their jurisdiction, as was believed to have been done by the Ninevites following the preaching of the prophet Jonah. Following its success, the tradition has been strictly adhered to every year by the members of the Church of the East. Patriarchs of the Church of the East and Chaldean Catholic Church also called for extra fasts in an effort to alleviate the suffering and affliction of those persecuted by ISIS in the region of Nineveh and the rest of the Middle East.[8]


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