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The Significance of the Nineveh Nombu for us today

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  • H.E. Geevaghese Mor Coorilose
    Dear all in Christ Although the least in terms of the number of days of fast, the Nineveh Nombu is one of the most important fasts in the Syrian Orthodox
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 24, 2010
      Dear all in Christ

      Although the least in terms of the number of days of fast,
      the "Nineveh Nombu" is one of the most important fasts in the Syrian
      Orthodox Church tradition.

      Fasting is meant to be a sign of our giving up of our ego
      or `selves' for the sake of others. They are, in other words,
      occasions of self-emptying or `kenosis' of which the supreme example
      is Jesus Christ himself (Phil.2).

      Prayer and fasting are two cardinal corner stones of a Christian
      life. The what , the why and the how of prayer and fasting are
      clearly explicated in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt.6). Prophet Isaiah
      brings home to us the concrete manifestation of a genuine spiritual
      life, itself rooted in prayer and fasting.

      Exposing the hypocrisy and the pseudo-spirituality of the people of
      his time, the prophet challenges them to observe lent and fasting
      the way God wants them to observe it:

      Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
      And to strike with a wicked fist
      Such fasting as you do today
      Will not make your voice heard on High
      Is such the fast that I choose
      A day to humble oneself?
      Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush
      And to lie down in sackcloth and ashes?
      Will you call this a fast
      A day acceptable to the LORD?

      Is not this the fast that I choose
      To loose the bonds of injustice
      To undo the thongs of yoke
      Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
      And bring the homeless to your house

      Fasting is an occasion for us to live through the pain of poverty and
      starvation. For most of us, fasting has become an easy option
      of `dieting', which many of us do need to shed the extra kilos that
      gain, given that we all live in a consumerist society such as
      today's. As my own spiritual guru, the late lamented Yakoob Mar
      Themotheose thirumeni, taught me, fasting should enable us to feel
      the pain of hunger, which, in turn, will make us compassionate to
      the poor and the hungry. Unfortunately, we have lost this dimension
      of serving the poor some where along the lines. May this time
      of "Moonu Nombu" be a time for us to reclaim and recover this lost
      sense of charity and compassion towards the less privileged and the
      needy among us.

      The story of Jonah has many lessons for us. Let me highlight just
      one of them here. All human beings have some sense of pride and ego
      within themselves- a false sense of prestige. Prophets were no
      exception to this rule- Jonah certainly wasn't one. He knew that his
      obeying God's commandment to preach in Nineveh had some risks
      involved with it. He knew quite well that his God was a
      compassionate God. He was asked to bring the message of God's anger
      and wrath onto the people of Nineveh. He knew that when people would
      regret their ways of living and return to the LORD, they would be
      forgiven and redeemed. It happened exactly the way he `feared'. For
      Jonah it was a matter of great disappointment.

      His ego was hurt, his `name' affected and pride shaken. He wanted
      God to punish the people as he had prophesied so that `his' words
      would come true. But God thinks and acts beyond our perceptions and
      calculations. Jonah was much more concerned about his prophecy being
      fulfilled than God's compassion towards the people and their
      welfare. It is a clear case where even prophets get their priorities
      wrong. This, in fact, is a grave temptation for all of us,
      especially for those who work in the vineyard of the LORD- a desire
      to keep our `selves' in tact, to get our predictions right, even at
      the cost of the ruin of others around us. We should always strive
      for the wellbeing of others even if it comes at the expense of our
      pride and name.

      This is the challenge of all feasts, especially the Nineveh Nombu,
      to risk ourselves for the sake of the gospel and Christ,
      particularly for the poor and the downtrodden in whom Christ can be
      encountered in our daily lives.

      May God have mercy upon us, be gracious to us, and accept the fast of the Holy Church, as HE accepted the fast of the people of Nineveh and spared them.

      Koorilose Thirumeni
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