Fasting In The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Tradition

Written By: on May 26th, 2009 and filed under Articles, We Believe.

The Fast of Ninevites

This is one of the most strictly observed fasts in the Syrian Church tradition. This fast lasts for three days beginning on the Monday, the third week before the beginning of the Great Lent. The origin of this fast was to commemorate a miraculous cessation of plague which broke out in the region of Beth-gammae. When struck with disaster, the faithful of the place gathered in the Church to pray and began to do great acts of penance and the plague ceased suddenly. To remember this great mercy of Lord, this fast came to be observed annually.  Since it is observed for three days, it is commonly known as Moonnunoimbu (three days fast) in the Malankara Church. It is also known as the fast of Jonah since it commemorates the conversion of Nineveh through the preaching of prophet Jonah. It is time for the penitential practice for the whole Church and the Church does her penance and prayers like that of Jonah in the belly of the big fish and that of the Ninevites.

The Great Fast

The importance of this fast is much evident from the name itself.  This is observed to actively participate in the Resurrection of Christ through a life of passion and suffering. The Church prescribes the forty days of fast in seven weeks which ends on Friday (Nalpatham Velly) before the passion week. But the fast gets completed only with the Easter and therefore it is also called fifty days Lent (Anpathu Noimbu). The Monday, the beginning of the Lent, there is a special service called the service of reconciliation (Subukono) and the purpose of which is that the faithful enter into the season  of  fast having reconciled with all. This means that the fast is holy and being holy it would become proper only if it is approached with preparation. The Church recommends the faithful to get content with one meal a day and avoid all delicious food.

The Apostles’ Fast

The Apostles, following the example of Jesus Christ, fasted twice forty days each, namely from the day of Pentecost and the days before the feast of Epiphany (Denha). But, as to how this fast originated in the Church is not exactly known. One could say that since Christ has said to the apostles that ‘the sons of the bride chamber cannot         fast as long as the bridegroom is with them, but days shall come when the bridegroom will be taken from them and then they shall fast’ (Lk 5:34-35). Thus, after the ascension of Jesus Christ and after the day of Pentecost, the apostles began to keep this fast and gradually it was adopted as a custom in the Church. At present, in the Malankara Church, this fast is reduced into 13 days corresponding to the number of 12 apostles and St.Paul (June 16-29). This fast is observed in order to become aware of the responsibility of the faithful in the Church and missionary activities.

The Fast before the Migration of Virgin Mary the Mother of God

This is one of the traditional fasts observed in all the Eastern Churches. A feast in commemoration of the Mother of God was celebrated in the East as early as fourth century. Later this was identified as the migration of the blessed Virgin and it came to be called the feast of Sunoyo (Migration) of the Mother of God. This fast starts from the first day of August and ends with the Sunoyo feast on the fifteenth day. This is the time for the faithful to prepare themselves for their death because the death of the Mother of God is a desirable and exemplary death for all.

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