Ep. 006 – Fast, A Verb and An Adjective (Sawma Talk)


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On this week’s show we cover the “Great Fast.” Sawma. Lent. Building off of our discussion of fasting in general in episode four, part one, we not talk about how fasting applies to Sawma and how it originated as the gold standard for fasting in the Church.

Here are some of the reasons why we fast during Lent:

Following Christ’s Example

Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert before going into his public ministry. It was there that he was tempted by the devil. Jesus went away to a quiet place and fasted for a certain amount of time. During Lent, we follow the example of our Lord as we walk with him by fasting from things that we desire in order to be strengthened to fight temptations to sin..

Preparing for the Resurrection

In the Liturgy we fast and prepare ourselves before big feasts. Sometimes it is just a day before a feast, but other times it is a longer period, like Advent, which is four weeks before Christmas, or like Lent, which is the 7 weeks before Easter. The feast of the Resurrection of the Lord is the Great Feast (Edha Raba) and so the fasting period before it is called the Great Fast (Sawma Raba). We fast to prepare ourselves to walk with Jesus in his suffering so that we can also walk with him in his Resurrection. The whole Christian life is, in fact, walking with Jesus.

Becoming Virtuous

A unique aspect of the Eastern view of Lent is that all of us are joining together to become more virtuous human beings. The hymn that our Liturgy brings forth during this season tells us what the point of our fasting is:

Let us cleanse our consciences and scour our minds from the stain of sin, and our vices cast away as we strive for excellence.

Fasting is meant to make us stronger, as we deny ourselves something that we desire that is not necessarily bad (like alcohol, chocolate, TV shows, smoking, meat or anything else we choose to give up), so that we become masters of ourselves. While fasting helps us become masters of our own desires, it also increases our will power to fight sin.

The Devil Hates You

Lent is not something we do alone. As a Church, community, family and a team, we strengthen ourselves in virtue while attempting to remove our bad habits. We do this so that we can become better husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, and most importantly, followers of Christ, The devil hates this idea, so be prepared for an attack. The temptation won’t be something obvious. But expect it to be difficult. In any shape or form that it comes, the temptation can be overcome by the grace of God. And through our effort and openness to him, we can become champions of faith, helping others by our example.

Ep. 005 – Be Not Afraid! [to listen to this podcast] w/ Anthony Narsi

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On this week’s show we dissect how worry and fear are opposed to love and trust and how that hampers our decision making. This topic came to me while reading War & Peace. Two characters: Prince Andrei and Pierre Bezukhov go through adversity that allows them to consolidate their cares to only essentials and realize the frivolity of worry. Recalling Christ’s words in the Gospels they realize that focusing on the necessities without worry and fear but with intense trust in the Lord leads to happiness.

Worry

Why does Christ emphasize so often that a life in faith is difficult for the rich? The answer was given to us once by a wise sage of our era who said, “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems.” Do problems really rise with money? Or is it that we self impose frivolous cares and worries when we have more things and more areas to be concerned about? I would pose that it is, largely, the latter. As humans we are so in touch with the tangible and things that are in front of our eyes that as the amount of things, experiences, etc. increase in our lives, we naturally grow concerned with them. That increase in concern distracts us from being concerned with the necessary unless we resist and make deliberate effort to stay grounded.

Once we are able to bring our selves back to reality, the other complicating factor is an imprudent amount of worry that builds to fear.

Fear

Is fear a Christian attitude? Scripture quite clearly references fear in positive terms when talking about things like fear of God, but in other places scripture tells us to “be not afraid” over 300 times! I would propose that fear is either good and prudent or simply not a Christian attitude depending on your definition. Fear, as understood in the context of “fear of God,” more closely aligns to reverence and respect. We should revere and respect the mightiness of God. Fear, as used today to mean an expectation of danger, is not a Christian attitude when applied outside of the obvious situation of imminent harm. Scripture does not intend to call us to expect danger from God. It does however call us in its popular refrain of “be not afraid” to understand that God and His grace is stronger than anything that could cause us to be worried or afraid. That attitude is necessary to live Verso L’Alto. To push yourself to the peak you must have the trust that worry and fear is frivolous. How do we bridge that gap? Love.

Love

1 John 4:18 tells us that, “There is no fear in love [of God], but perfect love casts out fear.” This verse is true because God is all powerful and all good. This verse does not apply to fraternal or romantic love between people because of our ability and tendency to deviate from goodness and our simple inability to control everything. Thankfully, God’s nature overcomes both of those obstacles. That means that we can pursue our lives to do good without worry and fear like Christ tells us to when he tells us about the lilies of the field and the birds in the air. Love is the vehicle of trust that gives us that confidence. We will seldom attain certainty, but love gives us confidence to move forward and do the will of God.

 

Ep. 004 – Ba’utha Pt 3

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Day 3

During Ba’utha, we pray and fast with the rest of the Church in supplication to God. When we fast, we are at a sort of war with ourselves, giving to God freely what we enjoy so that by our fasting we may express our deep love and gratitude to Him. Yet as we fast, we often realize just how weak we are: we wait anxiously until Noon to eat, and when we are able to eat we complain about what we can eat. In today’s Ba’utha meditations (Wednesday of Ba’utha), our Liturgy points this out sharply. In the Second Qiryana/Reading, this weakness is expressed:

If he is poor, he is sad, begets complaining; if he is rich, he puts on pride and arrogance. If he is good, he looks down on the human race; and if he sins, he is made weak and gives up hope. If he is wise, he forgets the clay within him; and if he prides, he is a beast without a mind.

In these short verses, the human complexity is shown: if we are poor, we complain, if rich then we are arrogant. When we are good, we take pride in ourselves and look with shame upon humanity, and when we sin, we despair. It is hard even to understand which is the greater evil. Another verse reads pointedly:“In great and in small, his sufferings increase and grow…He is between neediness and bad excesses.”What, then, is the medicine to this contradiction within man? How can we be good without the consequence of pride? or suffer evil without the consequence of despair? Should avoid becoming rich so as not to become arrogant? Are the poor left to a life of sadness and complaining? Our Liturgy answers, in the same Qiryana:

The King and People of Nineveh RepentingSo difficult it is for mankind to live well, and righteousness is not made easy for the flesh. Flesh – he is flesh, as much as he desires spirit, though that desire is not his, but an Other One’s. An Other dwells in him, as in temple of clay

———————————————–

Bautha:

Bautha is an Aramaic word that means “Supplication” or a request or need. Liturgically speaking, Bautha is a special season of three consecutive days, Monday through Wednesday, during the fifth week of epiphany, or exactly three weeks before the “Lent-Sawma” The atmosphere of Bautha is characterized by the spirit of liturgical prayers, confessions, repentance from sins, fasting until midday from everything, abstinence from all animal products for the whole three days- and regret for sins and faults against God and people. The third and last day of Bautha is ceremonial, because it represents the end of the grief and abstinence and the start of new phase.

‘Bautha’ in the Bible:

By reading the book of Jonah (that is composed of four chapters) we recognize the biblical basis for Bautha. God wants to save the people of Nineveh because they were sinners, and He wants them to repent and correct themselves. Jonah refuses to be part in this mission because of, his believe that the Ninevites are non-believers. Since only Jews know God, Jonah reasons, why should he help foreigners? Hence, God punishes Jonah, after he tries to go west instead of east. Jonah wanted to escape to Spain via the Mediterranean Sea, but God threw him in the deep waters and sent a big fish to swallow him. Jonah stays there three days and three nights, because of his disobedience and prejudiced mentality. Jonah describes himself inside the big fish as if he is in the “midst of the nether world.” God hears his supplication and commands the fish to spit Jonah on the land. At this point Jonah goes to Nineveh and warns the city that God’s wrath will fall upon them unless they repent of their sins. The city obeys: all the people repent, they abstain from food and their sins, along with their pets and sheep…without asking a single questioning.

History of ‘Bautha’ in Mesopotamia:

It is really hard to define when exactly Bautha entered into the tradition of the Church of the East. Here, I will try to point out some evidence so that we can estimate the time of Bautha:

A- The Plague Story: the history of our Church of the East tells us about the plague that hit all the Middle East and Mesopotamia specifically and lasted for four years (and 50 years according to some sources). The epidemic hit the poor in the beginning and then attacked the rich as well soon after. The death angel did not stop taking the souls of people until they went back to repentance. It is sure that the epidemic stopped during the days of Patriarch Hazqyal (570-581) the author of Al Majdal book (the tower) says: “The Bishops of Beth Garmai -Kerkuk- and Nineveh -Mosul- agreed to raise the prayer of Bautha for three days so God may take away from them this epidemic, and they informed the Patriarch on their intention and he liked the idea very much, and since then it was called the lent of Nineveh or Bautha of Nineveh on the image of the repentance of the people of Nineveh in the Bible. And God answered their supplication and accepted their Lent and abstinence and stopped the epidemic and gave people the rest.”

B- ‘Bautha’ of the Virgins: around eighth century AD during the government of the Ommayyad Islamic Caliph Abdul Malik bin Alwalid, who was known for his hostility toward Christians and his continuous attacks on upper Mesopotamia –today’s Kurdistan- (because it had a Christian majority), Bin Alwalid heard about the convents of the nuns and that they were beautiful ladies and he wanted to take them as slaves or wives to him and his soldiers. Hearing this, all the nuns in northern Mesopotamia were alarmed and started a special supplication-Bautha to the Lord to protect them from the unjust king. On the morning of the next day news went around that the king had passed away, and the virgins cheered thanking the Lord for He listened to their agony.

Below is a link to a PDF of the full liturgy in Englsih

bauthaweb_english

Ep. 004 – Ba’utha Pt 2

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Day 2 

A harsh reality hits us when we face our own mortality. Everything we have and work for loses its stability and comfort when we realize that we can lose it all in a moment. For a godless person, death is
a terrible fate. It is only those who hope that can die peacefully. When Jonah was sent to Ninevah, he gave the city a death sentence. “Yet forty days, and Nin’eveh shall be overthrown!” There was no hope in his cry and if Ninevah had truly been a godless city, it would have sunk in despair. Yet that was not their fate. In the First Qiryana/Reading of the prayers for Tuesday of Ba’utha we read:

He showed them their medicine, those with sharp and bitter taste.
And his cries were thundering, and cut through hearts like a sword.
So God’s grace, for this purpose, had sent the prophet to them:
Not to overturn their land, but rather to heal their wounds.

But the preacher did not tell; Ninevites they should repent.
Thus he showed to all who mourn, that they should go aid themselves.
He locked the door in their face, to show how hard they should knock.
The judgment that Jonah made, had the opposite effect.

Let us too look to the example of Ninevah. In recognizing their own frail mortality, they were able to admit their need for God and repented. Just as Ninevah was stunned by the cries of Jonah we too should be stunned by the cries of our own conscience. Like the Ninevites, let us draw near to God and find in him our true repentance. In this way, we can see from Jonah that;

Thus he showed how penitence, has the power to save all.
And how much the penitent, can gain mercy with boldness.

———————————————–
Bautha:

Bautha is an Aramaic word that means “Supplication” or a request or need. Liturgically speaking, Bautha is a special season of three consecutive days, Monday through Wednesday, during the fifth week of epiphany, or exactly three weeks before the “Lent-Sawma” The atmosphere of Bautha is characterized by the spirit of liturgical prayers, confessions, repentance from sins, fasting until midday from everything, abstinence from all animal products for the whole three days- and regret for sins and faults against God and people. The third and last day of Bautha is ceremonial, because it represents the end of the grief and abstinence and the start of new phase.

‘Bautha’ in the Bible:

By reading the book of Jonah (that is composed of four chapters) we recognize the biblical basis for Bautha. God wants to save the people of Nineveh because they were sinners, and He wants them to repent and correct themselves. Jonah refuses to be part in this mission because of, his believe that the Ninevites are non-believers. Since only Jews know God, Jonah reasons, why should he help foreigners? Hence, God punishes Jonah, after he tries to go west instead of east. Jonah wanted to escape to Spain via the Mediterranean Sea, but God threw him in the deep waters and sent a big fish to swallow him. Jonah stays there three days and three nights, because of his disobedience and prejudiced mentality. Jonah describes himself inside the big fish as if he is in the “midst of the nether world.” God hears his supplication and commands the fish to spit Jonah on the land. At this point Jonah goes to Nineveh and warns the city that God’s wrath will fall upon them unless they repent of their sins. The city obeys: all the people repent, they abstain from food and their sins, along with their pets and sheep…without asking a single questioning.

History of ‘Bautha’ in Mesopotamia:

It is really hard to define when exactly Bautha entered into the tradition of the Church of the East. Here, I will try to point out some evidence so that we can estimate the time of Bautha:

A- The Plague Story: the history of our Church of the East tells us about the plague that hit all the Middle East and Mesopotamia specifically and lasted for four years (and 50 years according to some sources). The epidemic hit the poor in the beginning and then attacked the rich as well soon after. The death angel did not stop taking the souls of people until they went back to repentance. It is sure that the epidemic stopped during the days of Patriarch Hazqyal (570-581) the author of Al Majdal book (the tower) says: “The Bishops of Beth Garmai -Kerkuk- and Nineveh -Mosul- agreed to raise the prayer of Bautha for three days so God may take away from them this epidemic, and they informed the Patriarch on their intention and he liked the idea very much, and since then it was called the lent of Nineveh or Bautha of Nineveh on the image of the repentance of the people of Nineveh in the Bible. And God answered their supplication and accepted their Lent and abstinence and stopped the epidemic and gave people the rest.”

B- ‘Bautha’ of the Virgins: around eighth century AD during the government of the Ommayyad Islamic Caliph Abdul Malik bin Alwalid, who was known for his hostility toward Christians and his continuous attacks on upper Mesopotamia –today’s Kurdistan- (because it had a Christian majority), Bin Alwalid heard about the convents of the nuns and that they were beautiful ladies and he wanted to take them as slaves or wives to him and his soldiers. Hearing this, all the nuns in northern Mesopotamia were alarmed and started a special supplication-Bautha to the Lord to protect them from the unjust king. On the morning of the next day news went around that the king had passed away, and the virgins cheered thanking the Lord for He listened to their agony.

Below is a link to a PDF of the full liturgy in Englsih

bauthaweb_english

Ep. 004 – Ba’utha Pt 1

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Bautha:
Bautha is an Aramaic word that means “Supplication” or a request or need. Liturgically speaking, Bautha is a special season of three consecutive days, Monday through Wednesday, during the fifth week of epiphany, or exactly three weeks before the “Lent-Sawma” The atmosphere of Bautha is characterized by the spirit of liturgical prayers, confessions, repentance from sins, fasting until midday from everything, abstinence from all animal products for the whole three days- and regret for sins and faults against God and people. The third and last day of Bautha is ceremonial, because it represents the end of the grief and abstinence and the start of new phase.

‘Bautha’ in the Bible:
By reading the book of Jonah (that is composed of four chapters) we recognize the biblical basis for Bautha. God wants to save the people of Nineveh because they were sinners, and He wants them to repent and correct themselves. Jonah refuses to be part in this mission because of, his believe that the Ninevites are non-believers. Since only Jews know God, Jonah reasons, why should he help foreigners? Hence, God punishes Jonah, after he tries to go west instead of east. Jonah wanted to escape to Spain via the Mediterranean Sea, but God threw him in the deep waters and sent a big fish to swallow him. Jonah stays there three days and three nights, because of his disobedience and prejudiced mentality. Jonah describes himself inside the big fish as if he is in the “midst of the nether world.” God hears his supplication and commands the fish to spit Jonah on the land. At this point Jonah goes to Nineveh and warns the city that God’s wrath will fall upon them unless they repent of their sins. The city obeys: all the people repent, they abstain from food and their sins, along with their pets and sheep…without asking a single questioning.

History of ‘Bautha’ in Mesopotamia:
It is really hard to define when exactly Bautha entered into the tradition of the Church of the East. Here, I will try to point out some evidence so that we can estimate the time of Bautha:

A- The Plague Story: the history of our Church of the East tells us about the plague that hit all the Middle East and Mesopotamia specifically and lasted for four years (and 50 years according to some sources). The epidemic hit the poor in the beginning and then attacked the rich as well soon after. The death angel did not stop taking the souls of people until they went back to repentance. It is sure that the epidemic stopped during the days of Patriarch Hazqyal (570-581) the author of Al Majdal book (the tower) says: “The Bishops of Beth Garmai -Kerkuk- and Nineveh -Mosul- agreed to raise the prayer of Bautha for three days so God may take away from them this epidemic, and they informed the Patriarch on their intention and he liked the idea very much, and since then it was called the lent of Nineveh or Bautha of Nineveh on the image of the repentance of the people of Nineveh in the Bible. And God answered their supplication and accepted their Lent and abstinence and stopped the epidemic and gave people the rest.”

B- ‘Bautha’ of the Virgins: around eighth century AD during the government of the Ommayyad Islamic Caliph Abdul Malik bin Alwalid, who was known for his hostility toward Christians and his continuous attacks on upper Mesopotamia –today’s Kurdistan- (because it had a Christian majority), Bin Alwalid heard about the convents of the nuns and that they were beautiful ladies and he wanted to take them as slaves or wives to him and his soldiers. Hearing this, all the nuns in northern Mesopotamia were alarmed and started a special supplication-Bautha to the Lord to protect them from the unjust king. On the morning of the next day news went around that the king had passed away, and the virgins cheered thanking the Lord for He listened to their agony.

Below is a link to a PDF of the full liturgy in Englsih

bauthaweb_english