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 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