Let us pray, peace be with us:

"The Cross that has been the cause of our good and by which our mortal humanity was set free,
O Lord, be for us a strong fortress. And by this Cross, we shall overcome the wicked one and All his devices."

(Syro-Malabar Qurbana)

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“The Truth will make you free”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------             Vol. 19, No.1                   New Delhi                January, 2009                   -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Catholic Church

Catholic Church is a communion of particular Churches, not an aggregate of them; so it exists in one and all Christian Churches.  Specificity is an expression of catholicity; specificity of a Church and of its spirituality is guaranteed by constant renewal which requires competence and time, especially since the field is large.  Sanctification means deification of man after incarnation of God (2 Pt 1:4).  “Western Christological thought, since the early Middle Ages, has been dominated by the Anselmian idea of redemption through (legalistic) satisfaction.  The idea that Iso’ M’siha offered to the Father a perfect and sufficient sacrifice, propitiatory for the sins of mankind, has been at the centre of Christological speculation, playing a prominent role in modern historical research on the patristic age.  The result is that Christology has been conceived as a topic in itself, clearly distinct from Pneumatology and Anthropology” (J. Meyendorff, Byzantine theology, p. 32; Fr T. Thumpeparampil, Towards an Eastern Christology, p. 75).  So, the Latinised Syro-Malabarians objected to the prayer:  May Christ….accept this sacrifice….

The Orientals have retained far more than the West the idea of religious worship as a social and corporate act centered in the Holy Sacrifice.  All liturgies are identical theologically and in their basic structure; but they are different not only externally in language, gestures, music, ceremonial dress, forms of prayers, etc., but also internally due to culture, temperament, etc., which have their profound and legitimate influence on religious life and worship both in the East and in the West.   Following are the Specialities of Oriental Liturgy:

1)      Eastern Churches, except Armenian and Syro-Malabar, have many alternative Anaphoras.  They use only the Nicene Creed, in their liturgy, approved by other Councils in 381, 430 and 451.  They use leavened bread for Eucharist.  They have Baptism by immersion, followed by Sacrament of Perfection by Priest and Holy Qurbana.

2)      Eastern Liturgies are more primitive in type than the Roman-Latin Mass (reformed periodically in 5-6th cent., 9th cent., 16th cent., and 20th cent.).  Their ‘tempo’ is slower, their material expression more ample, their atmosphere more mysterious, their language less artful, less refined and less scholarly but theologically accurate.  They lack the straight-for-ward simplicity to which the West is accustomed; they have a later but notable tendency to ritual purity for the sake of symbolism.  For them the whole sanctuary is a holy place of God.

3)      Qurbana (sacrifice, offering) is used by the Easterners for Mass (Missa, from ‘Ite missa est’) of the Latins.  Mass means the complex of prayers and rites: ceremonies, words and actions, used in the Western Church, to commemorate Christ’s death, as Way of the Cross ends in the tomb.  Qurbana is longer than the Latin Mass; Deacon has an important role as a link between the celebrant and the people by means of litanies and notices.

4)      In the East a sung-liturgy is the usual and ordinary way of celebration.  Solemn Mass is the normal Mass of Roman-Latin Church; Low Mass is a later development of Christian worship in the West.  The Orientals had no extra-liturgical cult (worship/adoration) of the Blessed Sacrament, until it was imposed by the Latins to show the real presence of Iso’ M’siha in the Qurbana !.

5)     The Orientals stand during the liturgy and public prayer; for them kneeling is proper only to the penitential seasons; sitting is a sign of laziness and disrespect.  (Now some of the latinised (or may be latin origin ! who knows ?) in Delhi ask  the faithful to kneel down during Institution Narrative of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana.  What a pity! The interesting part is they are catechism teachers of Syro-Malabar personal parishes in Delhi ! ). At the same time, they simply ignore the importance of the Epiclesis, Invocation of the Holy Spirit.  If we are proclaiming the death of the Lord in relation to the Institution Narrative, with the Epiclesis, we proclaim His Resurrection.   We know very well that the resurrection alone can make the death meaningful. According to the teaching of St Paul (Rom 8, 11), our Lord, Iso’ M’siha’s resurrection is at the root of Christian faith.  Qurbana celebration being the expression of our faith, the proclamation of Resurrection in it, namely, the epiclesis ought to be given adequate importance. As per the instructions printed in the Taksa, approved by the Holy See and the Bishops Conference of the Syro-Malabar Church, during the Qurbana, the faithful may sit or kneel as follows:


During the OT and Epistle reading

During the homily


From “Have mercy on me, O God, in Your love….” (p. 36) until “We may bring forth fruits of glory to Your exalted divinity with all the saints in Your Kingdom (p. 42)

6)      Statues are foreign to the Orientals and not put in the Oriental Churches, except under Latin influence; only  icons are allowed in the Oriental religious life, as they are symbols in divine economy.

7)      Sacraments have depreciative formula in the East rather than active formula in the West: Servant of God, N. is baptized……; I baptize you, N…..May God through me a sinner, forgive you….(East).  I absolve you…… (West).

8)      In the East a monk ‘receives the habit’; in the West a monk ‘makes his profession’.

9)      East prefers an interior process to external discipline and jurisdicism of West, and passivity to activity of West, in the sanctification or deification of human beings.

10)  The Orientals normally leave the obligations of religion and morality to the individual conscience, rather than make them the subjects of positive law.  But most Eastern Catholics have now adopted the Western legislation, with the general principle of dispensation, which is quite alien to the East.  So Sunday obligation and ‘daily Mass’ became necessary.

11)  The lack of a system of recognized dispensation does not necessarily operate in favour of the individual supplying a lax one for himself , as the following anecdote shows:  An old catholic woman of Byzantine rite found the Lenten fast very trying and her parish priest, trained under Western influence, offered to dispense her.  She said: You cannot dispense me from the law of God.  P.P. says: Then the Bishop can. She replied: No, he can’t.  Then I will go to the Pope for you, he said. Then she replied: His Holiness would be better employed by fasting himself than by releasing an old woman from it.  This is the Oriental mentality.

12)  Whatever the practice may be, the theoretical standard of physical asceticism is far more exacting in the East than in the West; even in the case of married priests they abstain on the eve of Divine Liturgy.  In India, Latin custom was imposed on the Thomas Christians ! 50 days of Fast was reduced to 40 days of Lent with Ash Wednesday and the Day of Annide (Dead) was transferred to November 2-Purgatory ! Lent from lengthen (spring) means lengthening of daylight hours in Spring.  Great Fast in Syriac is a far better term for the Season.

Centuries of latinization in Kerala and India alienated the Thomas Christians from their spiritual heritage.  A re-gain of authenticity is possible and necessary.  Some ways and means are helpful to know the sense of authenticity and help the development of  Nazrani traditions, to be re-appropriated:

i)                   Promote the sense of tradition as a reality immanent and received from the forefathers in the community.  This reality needs to be lived in the memory of the people and realized in their life.

ii)                  Understand the spirituality, liturgical and ecclesial, as a part of the heritage.  This spirituality with dogma, morals, etc. is part of the tradition.

iii)                 Access to tradition is realized by a process of re-appropriation, since we have lost it to some extent.  To forget is a human phenomenon.  Faithfulness to the past requires continual refreshment of memory, of the sense of history.

iv)              Re-appropriation requires study, literary edition, etc. by committed persons who, once formed, are able to present the tradition to the people in a suitable form.  The process of re-appropriation is going on in the field of liturgical texts, commentaries, catechism, architecture, etc.

v)                Importance of Liturgy in catechesis, priestly formation and pastoral ministry is evident.  Perseverance and fidelity to tradition are necessary for keeping ecclesial identity.

vi)            Liturgical spirituality deserves special attention, since it is the principal means of Christian formation.  An authentic restoration of East Syriac spirituality may be thus realized.


The Name 'ISO'

(commemorated on 1st January)

On the eighth day after His Nativity, our Lord Iso' M'siha was circumcised in accordance with the Old Testament Law. All male infants underwent circumcision as a sign of God's Covenant with the holy Forefather Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 17:10-14, Lev. 12:3).

After this ritual the Divine Infant was given the name Iso', as the Archangel Gabriel declared on the day of the Annunciation to the Martha Mariam (Luke 1:31-33, 2:21). The Fathers of the Church explain that the Lord, the Creator of the Law, underwent circumcision in order to give people an example of how faithfully the divine ordinances ought to be fulfilled. The Lord was circumcised so that later no one would doubt that He had truly assumed human flesh, and that His Incarnation was not merely an illusion, as certain heretics taught.

In the New Testament, the ritual of circumcision gave way to the Mystery of Baptism, which it prefigured (Col. 2:11-12). Accounts of the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord continue in the Eastern Church right up through the fourth century.

In addition to circumcision, which the Lord accepted as a sign of God's Covenant with mankind, He also received the Name Iso' on the eighth day after His Nativity as an indication of His service, the work of the salvation of the world (Mt.1:21; Mark 9:38-39, 16:17; Luke 10:17; Acts 3:6, 16; Phil 2:9-10). These two events, the Lord's Circumcision and Naming, remind Christians that they have entered into a New Covenant with God and "are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Col. 2:11). The very name "Christian" is a sign of mankind's entrance into a New Covenant with God.

                                      The feast of Denha

(commemorated on 6th January)

Denha is the Feast which reveals the Most Holy Trinity to the world through the Baptism of the Lord (Mt.3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). God the Father spoke from Heaven about the Son, the Son was baptized by  St John the Forerunner, and Ruha da Qudsa descended upon the Son in the form of a dove. From ancient times this Feast was called the Day of Illumination and the Feast of Lights, since God is Light and has appeared to illumine "those who sat in darkness," and "in the region of the shadow of death" (Mt.4:16), and to save the fallen race of mankind by grace.

The origin of the Feast of  Denha goes back to Apostolic times, and it is mentioned in The Apostolic Constitutions (Book V:13). From the second century we have the testimony of St Clement of Alexandria concerning the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, and the night vigil before this Feast.

On the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, the Holy Church proclaims our faith in the most sublime mystery, incomprehensible to human intellect, of one God in three Persons. It teaches us to confess and glorify the Holy Trinity, one in Essence and Indivisible. It exposes and overthrows the errors of ancient teachings which attempted to explain the Creator of the world by reason, and in human terms.

The Church shows the necessity of Baptism for believers in Christ, and it inspires us with a sense of deep gratitude for the illumination and purification of our sinful nature. The Church teaches that our salvation and cleansing from sin is possible only by the power of the grace of  Ruha da Qudsa, therefore, it is necessary to preserve worthily these gifts of the grace of holy Baptism, keeping clean this priceless garb, for "As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ" (Gal 3:27).