Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rogation of the Ninevites

The Fast of the Ninevites is kept by "Chaldean/Assyrian, Coptic, Ethiopian and the Syriac Orthodox churches." More information and selections from the Rogation service can be found here.

(Assyrian Post) - Baouta’d Ninevaye or the Rogation of the Ninevites ܒܥܘܬܐ ܕܢܝܢܘܐ which means 'Nineveh's Wish' commemorates the repentance of the people of Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah, the Prophet.

God instruct Jonah to go to Nineveh and condemn Assyrians for their “wickedness”, and to preach faith in His unity and virtuous conduct. But the people jeered at him and paid no heed to his call. Jonah was so disgusted with the attitude of his people that he decided to leave his town and take to the sea.

When his ship was in deep waters, it was rocked by storm and Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a big fish. As he lay in the belly of the fish, Jonah wondered why he was being punished when God had chosen him to be His messenger; where had he gone wrong? He then realized that he should not have acted in anger, because God wished that he be patient and more persuasive.

He prayed for forgiveness and for another opportunity to prove himself. Thus did his Lord choose him and make him of the company of the righteous. [68:50]

After three days in the belly of the fish, God listened to his prayers and miraculously took him out of the belly of the fish and cast him, albeit in a sickly condition, upon a deserted shore. Having recovered in the shadow of a gourd-tree, he went to Ninveh, where he pursued his mission, this time with greater persuasion and forbearance and despite all the jeers of the people, continuing with his work to bring them to the right path.

God told Jonah: Had your Lord so wished, all people everywhere would have been believers. But that is not His way, hence do not force anyone to take to Our path unless they do so willingly. No one can believe except by the will of God; only those who are skeptics do not understand His message. [10:99-100]

The Ninevites repent and declared a public fast. God then relented and did not inflict on them the punishment he had threatened. This shows God's universal love and mercy which extend to all human beings.

For Assyrians the Rogation of Ninevite has a nationalistic and a spiritual significance: In this way Assyrians were always reminded of Nineveh throughout the history until the ruins of Nineveh were discovered in early half of the 19th Century. Assyrians were also reminded of their importance in the history of the Church and spiritual development of Judeo-Christian tradition, for the Ninevites symbolized the longing of all humans for a universal God. The God who is so gracious and compassionate, the God who watches over His people and protects them from their evil ways.

During the three days of Baouta (fasting) people abstain from all food and water in their plea for forgiveness. Traditionally, at the end of the fasting period those that have fasted would partake of three handfuls of parched barley, mixed with a like amount of salt, and then sleep. Assyrians have different recipe's for such salty mixture or "pookhon" as it's called.

Baouta d’Ninevaye or the Rogation of Ninevites is an important Assyrian tradition which must be noted for its historic and spiritual significance.

1 comment:

  1. This fast is also kept by the Armenian and Indian Orthodox Churches. So all the Oriental Orthodox and the Church of the East keep it.