|Holy Prophet Jonah (Feast Day - Gr. September 21; Slav. September 22)|
You fled far from the face of God of old,
Now Jonah his face do you behold.
The Holy Prophet Jonah was the son of Amittai, from the city of Gath Kariathmaous, and resided near Azotus, a city of the Greeks near the sea. His mother was that widow to whom Elijah was sent, when through his prayers famine came to Samaria, and throughout all the realms of the ten tribes. Due to the hospitality of this woman he blessed the jug of oil and jar of flour, which did not get used up or become diminished throughout the period of the famine. Jonah was the son of this widow, whom Elijah incredibly raised from the dead.*
When the famine was completed, he got up and went to the land of Judah, and there he prophesied with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Having been ordered by God to go and proclaim in Nineveh its destruction, which it would soon suffer, he did not obey. He therefore fled from the face of God, and came upon a great storm at sea. When the captain of the ship understood that he was the cause of the storm, he was cast into the sea. And immediately by the order of God a great ketos swallowed him up.**
After three days and three nights the ketos left him on dry land, foreshadowing the three day burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He therefore went against his will to Nineveh, and there proclaimed that after three days destruction would come to that city. Because the Ninevites repented, God did not destroy them.
Then Jonah returned to his homeland, but did not remain there. Rather he took his mother and went to Ashur, a land of other tribes, and spoke these words: "In this way I will take away the reproach and dishonor of my words, for I appear to be a liar in that I prophesied against the city Nineveh, and my prophecy did not come true."
After his mother died, he buried her, and he went and settled in Saraar, near Deborah's Oak, where he died, and was buried in a cave of Kenaz, who had become judge of one tribe of Jews in the time when there was no king.
He prophesied that there would be a sign to Jerusalem and to all the land: When they should see a stone crying aloud in distress, the time of salvation would be at hand; and when they should see Jerusalem destroyed to its foundations, and all the gentiles gathered in Jerusalem to worship the Lord, and they place these stones towards the setting of the sun, then the worship of the Messiah would come. Then Jerusalem will become deserted and inhabited with wild beasts. After this the end of life will come.***
* 1 Kings 17:7-16. Read also Lives of the Prophets 17 by Pseudo-Epiphanes. Much about Jonah comes from Jewish tradition.
** St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite explains in his Synaxaristes the possibilities of what the ketos described in the Book of Jonah could be:
"For the sake of those who love learning and are curious, we present here some things on the ketos. The ketos was bigger than a prison ship, according to Theocles. It was five times bigger than an elephant, according to Aelianus. It was fifty cubits in length, according to Eratosthenes. It was twenty-five fathoms, or a hundred cubits, according to Nearchus. And according to Onesikratos, it was six hundred feet. Orthagoras says it was four plethrons, or a thousand feet in length and fifty in width.
Accordingly the divine Fathers who followed these men of old, gave extreme stature to the ketos. Basil the Great said that the ketos was like a large mountain in the magnitude of its body, and they look like islands (Hexaemeron, Hom. 7). When Ambrose says that the ketos swims on the waves, he thinks of it as an island and high mountain that reaches to the sky with the edge of its navel. Eustathios of Antioch, in his Hexaemeron, says that one ketos, called a aspidochelone, is so big that it appears to seamen as if it is an island.
Even the moderns say that in Santonia, a city in France found in the British Ocean, a ketos was caught with one hundred and twenty legs, according to Scaliger. And in the Baltic Sea there was another caught, being a hundred cubits in length, according to Ziegler. These are among the many ketoses that we are told have been caught, which are otherwise called whales."
*** This sign which Jonah is said to have prophesied, is not found in Holy Scripture, but in the Lives of the Prophets. Theodoret of Cyrus and Theophylact of Bylgaria say that Jonah made other prophecies which have not come down to us. They base this on 2 Kings 14:25, "He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher."
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
To the Ninevites, thou wast a trumpet, blaring fearful threats of Heaven's judgments, at the which they repented with all their hearts; and from the sea-monster's belly didst thou foreshow the Lord's divine Resurrection to all the world. Hence, entreat Him to bring out of corruption all of us, who honour thee, O Jonah, as a friend of God.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Thou didst pass three days and nights within the sea-monster's entrails, showing forth the Lord's descent into the belly of Hades; for when He had freely suffered His saving Passion, He arose out of the sepulchre on the third day. Hence, we honour thee, O Prophet, who wast deemed worthy to be a figure of Christ.