A really excellent post on Pastor McCain's really excellent blog Cyberbrethren got me going.
Jonah is one of those Eastern observances that we have well added to our calendar. Although our current calendar unfortunately adds Vatican II novus ordo style revisionist nonsense along with preserving the Christian calendar which grew out of the Jewish one, it also adds, commendably, some observances of Old Testament figures the Eastern Christian calendar has that the Western historically hasn't. Jonah is one of them, which is on 22 September. In the Gregorian Calendar; for those in the East following the Julian Calendar liturgically, it's 5 October.
Growing up, in that preconciliar RCC time, I was taught that Jonah -- or Jonas as we said then following the Septuagint, or Greek, form of the name -- prefigured Christ with the three day thing and all, the great fish prefigured the tomb of Christ, his coming out of the fish the ressurrection of Christ, the water the water of Baptism, etc.
But how much more there is! Where Jonas was the "reluctant prophet", Jesus is not! Jonah wanted judgement, especially on Nineveh, which was not only not part of the Chosen People, but one of its enemies. He was called; he just didn't like what he was called to! His reluctance was to a message of repentance, and forgiveness that it brings, to all people. Teshuva, the Hebrew for repentance, is extended to all Man, not just the people chosen to bear the message.
He doesn't like that. But the book makes God's insistence on it clear. The pagan sailors' piety and desire to do what's right before God, as best they could understand it by their own incomplete lights, is contrasted with Jonas' reluctance and the problems it brings them. And after the message is delivered to Nineveh, God takes him to task for being more concerned about a gourd given for his help than the fate of the people -- and animals -- of Nineveh! But they do repent, and yes, fast.
Nineveh, btw, was the capital of Assyria, a threat to the Jews which would later conquer them and a centre of the worship of Ishtar. Regardless, God offers them repentance, and with no insistence that they undertake observance of the Law of Moses. You may have heard of its location in the news lately, in case you think this is more musty Past Elder stuff. Its ruins are across the river Tigris from Mosul, Iraq. And what for sure isn't musty is the message that God offers repentance and forgiveness unto all Man, even the wicked and those who oppose God, everyone.
For which reason the Book of Jonah is read in its entirety on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is the precursor of Christ the Atonement, as the haftorah, which is the reading from the Prophets to expand on the reading from the Law that is the precursor to the "Epistle" reading to expand on the Gospel reading, at mincha, which is the afternoon service corresponding to the afternoon Temple sacrifice that is the precursor of Vespers.
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