History Behind the Beginning of the 8-day Lent (Ettunoyambu) in September
By Corepisopa Joseph Karippayil (Editorial, Vision, 2004)
The eight day lent period is not a canonical one for the Church but is observed by the Syrian Christians in India and also in the Arabian countries. In our Diptychs (AKA the “Thubden”) we read that Mar Kyrollos, in the synod of Ephesus in AD 341, defended Mother Mary as the ‘Bearer of God’, Virgin Mother etc. This shows how much importance our Church bestows upon Mother Mary. We believe in her intercessory prayers as well. All over the world we have so many churches consecrated in her name.
There are different versions about the origin of the lent. Ettunoyambu - as it is called in Malayalam – the eight day lent from the 1st to the 8th of September. The narration given below is by Bar Ebroyo, which seems more convincing.
In the sixth century, there was a town called Heera near Bazra, which was predominantly a Christian township. The Caliph of Baghdad captured this town and appointed a fanatic Muslim governor, who implemented the Caliph’s every dictum with fervour. The Caliph was known to be cruel and had a weakness for beautiful women. He was enamoured by the beauty and charm of the womenfolk of Heera and decided to reach there in three days. The whole town was in agony. The chastity and modesty of the womenfolk of Heera were at stake. The helpless and hapless menfolk were in bewilderment as to how to tide over this fiery test.
At last they found refuge in Mother Mary and rushed to the church of St. Mary. The priest declared an uncompromising lent for 3 days invoking the intercession of Mother Mary. On the 3rd day, in the middle of the Holy Qurbono, a golden beam of light flashed down from above, illuminated the Holy of Holies and then spread to the whole church.
It is said that the priest had a vision of Mother Mary and also heard her saying, “Do not be afraid; peace be to you – Rejoice. The Caliph is no more. Tribulations are over”.
The priest then turned to the people and they could see an aura around the priests face as he pronounced the message of the Mother. The whole congregation praised the Lord and thanked Mother for her intercessory prayers.
The womenfolk then decided to observe a lent for 8 days (i.e from the 1st to the 8th of September in commemoration of this event). They believed that Mother Mary helped safeguard their chastity, modesty and dignity.
She is our Mother, who cares, helps and loves us and intercedes for us at all times.