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)


                     THE NAZRANI        “The Truth will make you free”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------            Vol.21, No. 3                     New Delhi                Easter 2011                     --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The earliest known liturgical text of the Nazranis in Kerala is an Epistolary copied in 1301 (Vat. Syr. 22). The feasts in Vatican Syriac 22 are typical of the East Syriac calendar, as it was copied in Chingala (Kodungallur) in Malabar from a text of the Beth Kokhe Cathedral of Seleucia-Ctesiphon "in the time of Bishop Mar Jacob, Metropolitan and Director of the Holy See of the Apostle Mar Thoma, that is to say our captain and the director of the entire Holy Church of the Christian India" (fol. 93v; Vellian, Raza, p.4). The oldest known text of the Anaphora of the Blessed Apostles (Qudasha daShlihe Tubhane) is in a hudra of 10/11th c. in the Church of Mar Esa'aya in Mosul; it is edited by W.F. Macomber SJ in 1966.  He gives all the variants of the text found in MSS of 16th century. Most of the subsequent MSS fall into one of the three well-defined text traditions: the Alqosh tradition; the Chaldean tradition and the Malabar tradition.


Nazranis adapted the East Syriac Liturgy into an Indian Liturgy, as shown by a few decrees of Diamper (1599) dealing with "superstitious" practices, and the testimonies pertaining to the strange and "heretical" practices of Nazranis, given by European travellers like Barbosa (1519), Monserrate (1579), Vincenzo Maria (1672) and Paulinus of Bartolomew (1796). Fr. Dr. J. Vellian gives details (Raza, p. 6-11). In the collegio (seminary) of Kodungallur started in 1541 by Fr Vincent de Lagos, OFM, there were about 100 pupils from the Nazrani families in 1549, as Francis Xavier reports. Syriac was not taught there; but Latin liturgy was strictly kept up! These latinised priests (Cathanars) could not celebrate Qurbana in Syriac!  They joined the Latin Diocese. Thus clergy of Nazranis were latinised in the seminaries (Vellian, Raza, p. 16-24; V.Pathikulangara-CIL 1:52f; P-TC 148f, 207f). 


The first Latin Bishop, Roz SJ for the Nazranis made changes in Qurbana by his diocesan Statutes promulgated on 16.5.1606 under the Syriac title: Tukasa d-Mar'itha Thomaita d-Hendo i.e. Ordinances for the Thomite Fold of India; but its title in Malayalam means: Ordinances of our diocese of St Thomas in Malankara (Vatican Codex Borgia Indiano 18; OCP 23:325). We do not have the original Taksa, mutilated by Menesis in 1599 at Diamper; we have only the Latin version of the mutilated text, known as Menesian Qurbana, reprinted by Raulin with notes in 1745. Bishop Roz further mutilated the Taksa of Nazrani in the Synod of Angamali in 1603 and published his Statutes in 1606 with many directives for celebrating Qurbana (Fr Placid TOCD, Nammude Ritu (Our Rite, Mannanam, 1951), p. 88-93; OCP 23(1957) 325-29). Bishop Roz amended the Syro-Malabar Liturgy in general and gave also special regulations regarding the position of the Apostle and Gospel, and the Communion of the faithful (OCP 23; 326F).  CPF published Chaldean Missal in 1767 and Malabar Taksa in 1774 (QS), reprinted in 1844, in Puthenpally in 1904/6 and in 1929; in Mannanam in 1928; lastly in 1946 from Aluva.


The Syro-Malabar Carmelite Monastery, Mannanam (Kerala) has a Syriac MS (written in 1708) of rubrics and text of Raza titled: The Order of saying Raza in the Indian Church clarified by Mar Francis (Roz) in the Synod of Angamale in the fourth month of the fourth year of his administration (1603). It has some differences from the  Taksa of 1774, which is not Menesian but Rozaian, and more latinized than Menesian.  It lacks the prayers added to QS in 1774 (OCP 23:317 & 329).  It omits mention of "Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ" in 4th ghanta (OCP 32 (1966) 346). It leaves out 2nd set of prayers of intercession containing names of Pope, Catholicos-Patriarch and Metropolitan Bishop; but it has Catholicos Romania (Cathedra gloriosa Romana in Menesian) in the final seal (Huttama). It gives alternative forms (gender and number) of the communicants in the absolution and final blessing at Communion; QS has masculine plural only.  It has more final seals than QS of 1774 (OCP 23:329). CPF reprinted Malabar Taksa in 1844 and added 20 pages for Latin rite readings and prayers. This Taksa was reprinted many times (1904 & 1906, 1928 & 1929 and 1946), adding more customs (rites) of Latin Rite.  Thus the Liturgy of the Mar Thoma Nazranis became a typical example of latinisation.


Qudasha daShlihe (QS) is a great treasure of Nazranis. It goes directly to the Aramaic roots of NT revelation; it has its origin and development fully in the semitic cultural background; it is suffused with biblical ideas and allusions. It has also apologetic values, as it expresses the faith of the original Church in a simple style and langauge of our Lord Iso' M'siha; Aramaic-syriac (Peshitha). The East Syriac Liturgy, developed in Edessa, was of Judaeo-Christian origin; it was well adapted to the life-situation of the people of India. Aramaic was the commercial language and it was used in the edicts of Ashoka (Marshall, Guide to Taxila, Delhi 1936, p. 78f).  The 7 Churches of Mar Thoma Sliha in Kerala were Jewish centres of trade or near their colonies (T. Puthiakunnel, Jewish Colonies in India... in OCA 186 (Rome 1970), p. 187-91). Nazranis consider the East Syriac Liturgy as the patrimony of Mar Thoma Shliha, derived from Iso' M'siha who preached in Aramaic. Fr. Varghese Pathikulangara in his Qurbana explains the Indo-Chaldean heritage in the context of liturgical families (Pk-Q 100-10), and the Syriac words (p. 137-48) in Qurbana as they occur (p. 151-265).


Qudasha daShlihe has scriptural citations from the Syriac versions; it was not originally a translation from the Greek, but composed in Syriac. The body of Qudasha da Shlihe is addressed not to the Father, but to the Son; opening address of prayers and some phrases, addressed to the Father, may be later additions or modifications due to Greek and Latin influences. Evidently there was a strong tradition in Syriac generally to address prayers and liturgies to the Son; even Mozarabic and Gallican eucharistic prayers have distinct traces of such a custom; two North African councils (4th c.) condemns it ! Christ can receive prayer and sacrifice. The fact that Qudasha daShlihe is addressed to the Son is only a proof of its antiquity, and not an exceptional peculiarity (Dix 180), much less a heresy !.


Anaphora of the Blessed Apostles would mean that various liturgical prayers were composed by the Apostles, or seem as the legitimate development of their unwritten traditions. E. Renaudot considers this liturgy of the Marthoma Nazranis to be composed by Addai and Mari (Liturgiarum Orientalium Colectio, 2 (Frankfurt 1847) 578-81).


Marthoma Nazranis, as a pilgrim people of God, celebrate their Holy Qurbana, Divine Praises and other official liturgical services, turning towards God / the Altar / East.  It reveals the eschatological dimension of the Christian expectation of the Church; it is better expressed in this posture for prayers to God. The whole Christian life is to be centred on Iso' M'siha, who is to come in glory to take us to heaven. Fathers of the Church explain the biblical texts through liturgical prayers and commentaries say that Christ's promised second coming will be from the East. Every one should face the East and pray to be ready to receive Him who comes gloriously as lightening from East to West (Mt 20:30). This is the theology behind the practice of turning towards the East for Qurbana, Divine Praises and other official Liturgical celebrations.


Pope Pius XI tried to put a stop to "latinisation" and made a commission for revising liturgical books in 1934. Roman committee of 1954 printed "Liturgia Siro-Malabaresi" (Qurbana) with Ordo in 1955; Ordo in 1959 and Supplementum Mysteriorum in 1960 in Rome; reformed Syriac Qurbana text in 1960 at Aluva.  It may not be realised, however, unless and until Nazranis get back the episcopal jurisdiction over all-India (kolla-Hendo), usurped by the Parankis (Franks, Europeans, Portuguese) in the 16th century with the bulls of Roman Pontiff for Latin Rite in India. OE 6 is denied for the children of Marthoma Sliha !! A Patriarch for the Apostolic Church of Mar Thoma Sliha in India, with personal jurisdiction over all its members, scattered among the people of other traditions and faiths in the world, will assure the protection and promotion of her heritage and ancient ecclesial rites and rights.