February 2019 Letter
As we approach Nineveh’s fast which we celebrate in February this year, let us contemplate on the writings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his 14th article on teaching the catechumens about Jonah as a symbol of Christ:
“But again they say, A corpse dead was raised immediately by the living; but show us how one dead for three days can possibly arise, and that a man should be buried, and rise after three days. If we seek for Scripture testimony in proof of such facts, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself supplies it in the Gospels, saying, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mat 12: 40). And when we examine the story of Jonah, great is the resemblance. Jesus was sent to preach repentance; Jonah also was sent: but whereas the one fled, not knowing what should come to pass; the other came willingly, to give repentance unto salvation.
Jonah was asleep in the ship, and snoring amidst the stormy sea; while Jesus also slept then, the sea, according to God’s providence, began to rise, to show in the sequel the might of Him who slept. To the one they said: “Why are you snoring? Arise, call upon your God, that God may save us” (Jonah 1: 6); but in the other case they say unto the Master: “Lord, save us” (Mat 8: 25-26). Then they said, Call upon your God; here they say, save Thou.
The one was cast into a whale’s belly: but the other of His own accord went down there, where the invisible whale of death is. And He went down of His own accord, that death might cast up those whom he had devoured, according to that which is written: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; and from the hand of death I will redeem them” (Hosea 13: 14).
Jonah the prophet resembled our Savior, when he prayed in the belly of the whale, and said: “I cried in my affliction, and so on; out of the belly of hell” (Jonah 2: 2), but though in the whale, he says that he is in Hades; for he was a type of Christ, who was to descend into Hades.
And after a few words, he says, in the person of Christ, prophesying most clearly: “My head went down to the chasms of the mountains”; and yet he was in the belly of the whale. What mountains then encompass you? I know, he says, that I am a type of Him, who is to be laid in the Sepulcher hewn out of the rock. And though he was in the sea, Jonas says, I went down to the earth, since he was a type of Christ, who went down into the heart of the earth.
Jonah also prophesied about the deeds of the Jews who persuaded the soldiers to lie, and told them: “Say that they stole Him away” (Mat 28: 13), he says: “By regarding lying vanities they forsook their own mercy” (Jonah 2: 8). For He who had mercy on them came, and was crucified, and rose again, giving His own precious blood both for Jews and Gentiles; yet they say, Say that they stole Him away, having regard to lying vanities.
May the blessings of St. Mary & St Mercurius, and the blessings of these Holy days be with us all.