The Munnu Noyambu (three days lent) originated among the Eastern Christian tradition. Today this lent is observed by the Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Christian and Catholic Churches, and Oriental Orthodox Churches. This fast commemorates the three days that Prophet Jonah spend inside the fish and the subsequent fast and repentance of the Ninevites. Today it is being considered as a preparation for the great Lent. This lent is also observed in the Syro-Malabar Church, three weeks prior to the Great Lent and three days from the tenth Monday before Easter Sunday.
This fast is connected to the life of prophet Jonah (book of Jonah) in the Old Testament. God sent Jonah, son of Amittai, to prophesize the destruction of Nineveh. But in his attempts to escape from the divine mission, caused him to be thrown into the sea and to be swallowed by a large fish. For three days and nights he languished inside the fish’s belly. His prayers and repentance caused God to command the fish to vomit out Jonah safely on dry land. Further as per the call of God, he prophesies to the Ninevites to repent and mend their ways. His prophesy caused the people to fast and repent for their sins, which pleased God and they were forgiven in his great mercy and the destruction was averted.
When a mighty plague devastated Mesopotamia and Beth-Garmai regions, the civil authorities were unable to curb its spread. When the disastrous plague was spreading, the faithful of the place gathered in the Church to pray, fast and penitent, just like the Nivevites did, following the words of prophet Jonah. As a result, the plague came to an end instantaneously.
Since the prayer, fasting and penitence were observed for three days, it is named as Munnu Noyambu, in Malayalam.
The three days fast is reminder for us that we are called to transform ourselves. The biblical and traditional background clearly mentions the importance of prayer, fasting and repentance. Even in the life of Jonah we find a moment of transformation: accepting the call of God to accept the divine mission.
Though we all are God’s children, our inclination towards the worldly affairs tends to stain us , so we too need cleansing. The moments of silence in the life of Jonah (when he was in the belly of fish) caused him to listen, understand, accept and be part of God’s call. The days of fast is an occasion for us to be in silence to listen the invitation and to be a part of God’s call.
As we are approaching the Great Lent, we need to humble our hearts like the Ninevites. Therefore, in humility, let’s Pray, let’s fast, let’s repentant and let’s be partakers of salvation.