Today, Monday 6 February, theCoptic Orthodox Church observes the Fast of Nineveh. The Nineveh fast, also known as the Fast of Jonah, is a three-day Lent that marks the three days the prophet Jonah spent in the belly of a large fish as penance for his disobedience to God, also the fast of atonement observed by the sinful city of Nineveh.The fast begins on Monday and lasts till Wednesday, two weeks before Lent which also begins on a Monday since it ends on Easter Day which is always a Sunday.
AnbaMartyrus, Bishop-General of East of the Railway, talked to Watani about the Fast of Nineveh. “TheFast goes back in Egypt to the 10th century when the a Syrian became patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, under the name Pope Abra’amIbnZaraa. The Syrian Church already observed this fast, and Pope Abra’am introduced it to Egypt and added it to the schedule of fasts of the Coptic Church.
Pope Abra’am had been a God fearing merchant who was respected and loved by Egyptians; they elected him to be patriarch in 967.His papacy witnessed the Miracle of moving the Muqattam Mountain, and he documented the Coptic System of dating Church events, called “Hissaabal-Apoqti” (The Calculus of remainders). [http://st-takla.org/Feastes-&-Special-Events/Jonah-s-Fasting__Nineveh-s-Fast/Soom-Yonan__EN-08-Jonah-Whale-Great-City-of-Nineveh.html]
“Saint Mar-Marutha of Tikrit, Iraq, was the first who called for this fast in the 6th century,” AnbaMartyrus added, “because of an epidemic had hit Nineveh.The people fasted for three days and three nights so that God would save them. At the end of the three-day fast, the plague miraculously stopped.The tradition continued and was followed by the Assyrian church, but is no longer observed today.”
According to AnbaMartyrus, the Armenian Church fasts the Nineveh Fasrfor five days, whereas the Greek Church does not recogniseit.
FrBishoySaeed, pastor of the church of the Archangel Michael in AyyadBey, Shubra, Cairo, said that: “Jonah tried to escape God’sword and intentionally closed his ears. But he raised his heart in ardent prayer while he lay three days and nights in the belly of the fish, and God listened to his prayers and rescued him. It confirms that repentance is open to all, and god’s salvation is at hand.”
The Jonah Fast is very widely and observed by the Coptic congregation who view it as a harbinger for Lent. They observe it with joy and feel it brings on many blessings.
6 February 2017