In the liturgical cycle of the Syro Malabar church, the Great Lent is observed as the days for penance and atonement in preparation for Easter. According to the temporal cycle which tracks the events of the life of Christ, the season of Lent consists of seven weeks which comprise 49days. Easter Sunday is the 50th day – the culmination of this season. So Marthomanasranees name this period as Anpathunombu (50 days fast). In this Holy period of Lent , Fr. Lijo Velliyamkandathil from Kalyan Diocese would be sharing his knowledge and thoughts on the Syro-Malabar Liturgy of this period (Great Lent), through a Catholic Focus’ initiative named ’Know the Lent’.
Fr. Lijo explains that “The first Sunday of Great Lent (Anpathu Nombu) among Syro Malabar Christians is known as Pethratha Njayar (Pethratha Sunday). The Syriac word Pethratha means ‘to return’,‘look back’, ‘to pass through’. The Lenten season calls for a thorough examination of conscience looking back to one’s own life to have real repentance and reconciliation. The faithful celebrate Pethratha with solemn meals and bid good bye to all kinds of celebrations until Easter.” Further, he highlights that “On this day, in some parts of Kerala, a special meal pidiyum kozhiyum is prepared in Marthoma Nasrani families. This meal stands for Manna and quail provided to Israelites in the Sinai desert. Pidi made of rice flour stands for manna and Chicken stands for quail. This special food reminds the faithful that the lent offers, the same desert experience of Israelites for 40 years.”
A major question which might arise is why the Eastern Church observes 50 days and the Western church observes 40 days of lent. The basic reason would be the transmission of the Syrian tradition which was practiced in the early period.