The Church lives the events of the Book of Jonah with a fasting of three days with prayer and melodies. Because of its importance, it considers it a temporal introduction to the journey of Great Lent, which starts two weeks after Jonah’s fast until the glorious resurrection.
Jonah the Prophet: He lived nearly 100 years in the eighth century BC, including 73 years of service.
Book of Jonah: It differs from the other Books of the prophets, as it talks about the Prophet himself and not about a prophecy.
Sections of the Book: (chapters 1,2 – Jonah flees from his service) (chapters 3,4 – Jonah completes his service).
Book summary: chapters 1,2
There are three stories in this fast:
The first: God and man – man in God’s concern, man’s stubbornness, his erroneous thinking, and his loss.
The second: God and the members of the ship – they were worshipers of idols, and their ignorance of the true God.
The third: God and the people of Nineveh – they were in the dark and lived in error and sin.
At the same time, we see three great divine attributes:
- He is the god of mercy and forgiveness: he has mercy on people – he has mercy on individuals – he has mercy on a person (Jonah).
- He is the god of the second chance: to Jonah – to the sailors of the ship – to the people of Nineveh.
- He is the god of goodness and victory: Jonah became the owner of the most successful preaching mission and saved Nineveh.
- Lessons from the sailors: the spirit of preparation and justice → the lesson of fear they are better than him (1:10).
- Lessons from the fish: Quiet Prayer Dialogue → lesson of Obedience- they are more obedient than him (2:10).
- Lessons from the people of Nineveh: decisive repentance → the lesson of repentance – they are more understanding than him (3:10).
- Lessons from nature (the gourd): → Man’s grumbling against God’s mercy that flows upon all human beings.
St. John Chrysostom says: “How beautiful is the icon of Christ drawn in the tear of a repentant person!”And also: “We must first do what we can, so God will do in us what we cannot”.
Book of Jonah, chapter 2: It is the piece of prophecies that is read on the second day of the Nineveh fast.The whole book compares God’s longing for man, against man’s stubbornness before God.
General features in this prayer:
- It is devoid of any direct requests: “Out of the depths I cry out to you, Lord…” (Psalm 1:130).
- It begins with sorrow and distress and ends with glory, thanksgiving, praise and vows.
- He flees in abundance from the face of the Lord, and in distress the Lord finds his refuge
Three features in this prayer shape the feelings of a repentant person:
I. Feelings of shame: his intense shame of his sins, his disobedience, and his fleeing from God, and consequently his deserving of expulsion and punishment from God, as David said: “My sin is always before me.” (Psalm 51:3-4)
II. Feelings of trust: the intensity of his trust and hope in God’s love. He is confident that God will save him. He forgives, forgets, and starts over with us.
III. Feelings of trial: He teaches us and he himself learned two things from this tribulation:o Those who observe falsehoods leave their grace, as his escape was a false deception, like other falsehoods (self – dignity – money – sin – etc).o “With the voice of praise, I sacrifice for you and fulfill what I vowed. Salvation belongs to the Lord.” I proclaim the salvation of the Lord. (Eight centuries before the advent of Christ) like our Virgin Mother (my soul rejoices in God my Savior).
How is the human being described?
There are 4 phrases in the Book of Jonah that explain who man is and what are his various feelings?
1- He slept heavily (1:5) → (recklessness, laziness, and flight).
2- The men had a great fear (1:10) ← (Fear and Feeling of the Divine Presence).
3- Jonah was deeply distressed by this (4:1) → (selfishness and lack of love for others).
4- Jonah was overjoyed (4:6) → (naivety and narrow view).As for the whale, the hero of the story, it was a blessing from God:
- A school of prayer in times of trouble. -> it drove the fugitive prophet into a heartfelt prayer fellowship.
- An example and a model of obedience and work. ->It served as a teaching tool for his obedience to the Prophet.
- Free means of transportation for the Prophet. ->God does not leave his servant even if he is a stubborn fugitive.
Mar Ephrem the Syrian says: Blessed is he who is always filled with spiritual joy, and who is not lazy in carrying the good yoke of the Lord, because he will be crowned with glory.
The Five Elements of the Book of Jonah the Prophet:
- A complaining prophet: he rejects an invitation, he flees, he sleeps, he complains, he is narrow-minded… Beware of escaping from the commandment.
- Reasonable sailors: they think, they pray, they cast the baggage, they cast lots, they strive, they fear, they offer a sacrifice, they make a vow,… they have open and aware hearts.
- Obedient whale: energetic, it swallows, it comes at the appropriate time, it fasts 3 days, it carries out the divine command, it is submissive…
- An accepted people: they hear, they are affected, they fast, they wear sackcloth, they pray, they repent of their evil, …
- A loving God: gracious, merciful, slow to anger, long-suffering…. The prophet Jonah represents spiritual dullness, and it manifests itself as follows:
- Not obeying God (disobedience).
- Not having pity on sinners… a limited heart.
- Not realizing the simplest truths of faith, as God is present everywhere.
- Not being humble – he preferred his dignity to the survival of the people – and wished his death as it was better than his life. He has arrogance and pride.
- Intolerance (he became angry) and said that “my death is better than my life”.