The Fast of Ninevah

February 10, 11 and 12 2014 is the Fast of Ninevah.

“Fast of Nineveh also known as the Fast of Ba’utha (Classical Syriac: ܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܝܐ Baʻūṯá d-Ninwáyé, literally “Rogation of the Ninevites”), is a three day fast commemorating the repentance of the Ninevites at the hands of prophet Jonah according to the bible. The fast is observed for three days starting Monday three weeks before Ash Wednesday. The fast originated in Syriac Christian tradition and then spread to other oriental orthodox traditions, including the Coptic and Armenian Churches.

This is one of the most strictly observed fasts in the Church of the East and the Syriac Orthodox 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 Garmai. 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 (Indian) Orthodox 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.”
In the 9th century, Pope Abraam, the 62nd Pope of Alexandria, one of three Syrian Popes in the history of the Coptic church, agreed for the Coptic Church to participate in the Fast of Nineveh, if the Syria Church would participate in the fast the Week of Hercules (the week before Lent.) The Copts agreed due to the piety of this great Pope.

It is also of note that Pope Abraam was on the Patriarchal Seat during the time of the Miracle of the Muqatam Mountain, in which the church fasted three days to be spared from annihilation, if they could not move the mountain. The Lord accepted the fast of the people, the mountains were moved with their prayers, and the people of Egypt were spared. It was agreed that the Copts would observe this three-day fast fifteen days prior to the Great Lent following the strict dietary rules of the Great Lent.

The Nineveh fast which was once particular only to the Assyrian region is now observed by all the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Except for the Armenian Church, which fasts for 5 days, all the other Oriental churches maintains a three day period. It is believed that Afraham Ibn Zura, a Coptic Patriarch of Syrian descent, was the one who introduced the Nineveh fast to the Coptic Orthodox Church. It is this same Afraham Ibn Zura better known as Abraham the Syrian whom the Caliph asked to move the Mokattam Mountain.

For the Coptic music and rites for the Fast, see


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