Observation of “eight days Lent” has been a tradition for centuries in the Churches in the East. The eight days Lent honors the birthday of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. Eight days before her birthday are a season of a loving preparation by observing fasting or will-full abstinence. Fasting helps in purifying our heart and mind and it should be complemented by charitable works and sincere prayers to be fruitful. Prayer and fasting can build within you the character and power to give. The Holy Qurbana reminds us every day the purpose of fasting and leads us through the fruits of fasting, the heavenly life. As we enter the eight – day fast from Sept 1st to Sept 8th lets us understand the origin behind it.
Back in the sixth century, there was a town called Heera near Basra, which was predominantly a Christian township. The Caliph of Baghdad captured this town and appointed a fanatic Muslim governor, who implemented the Caliph’s every dictum with fervor. The Caliph was known to be cruel and had a weakness for beautiful women. He was enamored by the beauty and charm of the women of Heera and decided to reach there in three days. The chastity and modesty of the women of Heera were at stake. They found refuge in Mother Mary and rushed to the church of St. Mary. The priest declared an uncompromising lent for 3 days invoking the intercession of Mother Mary. On the 3rd day, in the middle of the Holy Qurbana, a golden beam of light flashed down from above, illuminated and then spread to the whole church. It is said that the priest had a vision of Mother Mary and also heard her saying, “Do not be afraid; peace be to you – Rejoice. The Caliph is no more. Tribulations are over”. The priest then turned to the people and they could see an aura around the priests face as he pronounced the message of the Mother. The whole congregation praised the Lord and thanked Mother for her intercessory prayers. The women then decided to observe a lent for 8 days (i.e. from the 1st to the 8th of September in commemoration of this event). They believed that Mother Mary helped safeguard their chastity, modesty and dignity.
So, as we pray and fast, let us ask Mother Mary to give us grace, comfort, and a new direction in our Christian walk. Through the intercession of Mother Mary, let us call on Jesus Christ to answer our prayers as answered prayer is the quintessence of praying and fasting.