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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"Asato ma sat gamaya" and "OM Shanti, Shanti" were chanted at the beginning of Holy Qurbana at Delhi Syro-Malabar Convention on 16th November, 2008 against the instructions of the Holy See.  Who cares the Holy See or the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church !


"Asato ma sat gamaya" and "OM Shanti, Shanti" were chanted at the beginning of Holy Qurbana at Delhi Syro-Malabar Convention on 16th November, 2008 against the instructions of the Holy See !. In this connection, we reproduce below the relevant portion of an article written by Bishop Mar Abraham Mattam (cfr The Nazrani, vol. 15, No.5).


……….....St Thomas introduced the Gospel in Tamizhakam, as described above, in the Dravidico-Semitic cultural milieu.  There were Jewish presence, and besides Dravidian race and culture manifest much affinity with Semitic Jewish culture.  The Church in South India in its growth absorbed many elements from the local culture in living the Christian faith and was well established before the arrival of the Nambudiris in the 7-8th centuries.


What is said about inculturation by the Second Vatican Council and the Roman documents deal with new encounters of the Gospel with cultures and new Christian communities.  This is not the case with the Apostolic Syro-Malabar Church as if we were new converts of yesterday.  Jawaharlal Nehru in his book Discovery of India says: "There were large numbers of Syriac Christians and Nestorians in the South and they were as much part of the country as anyone else" (Discovery of India, p.12).  The Western image of Christianity in India was the result of Western missionaries and the Protestant and Latin Churches.  Well read Hindus understand this difference.


Syncretism: Syncretism in the religious sphere means choosing and mixing up of elements from different religions, as for example, borrowing elements from Hinduism or Jainism into Christianity.   The Church does not approve such steps in the name of inculturation, because they may have a different religious significance.  The Roman document The Roman Liturgy and Inculturation brings out the following points which are equally valid for other liturgies.  It says: "The liturgy is the ex-pression of faith and Christian life, and so it is necessary to ensure that liturgical inculturation is not marked, even in appearance, by religious syncretism.  This would be the case if the places of worship, the liturgical objects and vestments, gestures and postures let it appear as if rites had the same significance in Christian celebration as they did before evangelization. The syncretism would be still worse if biblical readings and chants or the prayers were replaced by texts from other religions, even if these contain an undeniable religious and moral value" (RLI n. 47).  (For a detailed treatise on the subject, see Bishop A. Mattam, "Forgotten East", Satna, 2001, "Christianity and Inculturation" pp. 235-263).


In India, we are facing a serious problem in this connection.  Hindu scriptures and terms are used in some Christian circles, without verifying their exact meaning, and sometimes giving a Christian interpretation contrary to the universally accepted meaning.  We may mention a few cases in concrete.  "Vande Saccidanandam", "OM", "Asato ma sat gamaya...", etc. are chanted.  Some people think "asat" means untruth and "sat" truth, whereas "asat" means unreal or maya and "sat" real. This chant is taken from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28 where it means "Lead me from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality".  "Saccidananda" is applied to the Holy Trinity.  But this is not what has been revealed by Christ.  Holy Spirit is not "ananda" or bliss, but a Person of the Trinity.


These and other similar texts and chants were incorporated in the "Indian Mass" prepared for the Latin Church and the "Indianized Mass" composed by some CMI Fathers of Dharmaram ca. 1979.  They were sent to the Holy See for approval.  The use of "Indian Mass" was prohibited by the Congregation for the Sacraments.  The Congregation for the Oriental Churches made several Observations on these compositions in a letter to the Syro-Malabar Bishops on 12-8-1980.  To quote few lines from the comments. On 'asato ma'...it is stated: "In point of fact God has already drawn us out of the unreality, darkness and death: possessing Christ we are in the supreme reality of the new creation, we have eternal life, we have become sons of the light....It must also be noted that in the original context well-known to all the Upanishad from which the prayer in question is taken, the unreal, the darkness and death are nothing but the phenominic world, in which we are immersed as long as we are drawn along in the cycle of rebirths and from we are liberated by knowledge of its merely apparent existence and out identity with the Brahman".


On "Sachidananda" the Communication from Rome further points out:  "Besides - to reduce - as is here done - the proclamation of the Trinity in the three terms "Being, Knowledge, Bliss".  The people of God has the right to call God by the three names by which he has revealed Himself. And above all, has the right and duty to do so at the supreme moment of the Eucharistic doxology.


"Saccidananda".....in the original Sanskrit, it has even more a formal connotation, being compounded in a single name: It is all the more suggestive, and, therefore, all the more unacceptable as a formula of worship".


On the invocation "OM" the Holy See observes, "......according to what innumerable passages of the Upanishads continually and repeatedly affirm is the synthesis of all the Vedas and of all the "gnosis" of Hinduism....(OM) is charged with meanings so unmistakably Hindu, that it simply cannot be used in Christian worship.....Moreover, "OM" is an essential, integral part of Hindu worship".  If these Hindu terms and chants are not to be used in Christian worship it is not proper either to use them in Christian prayers...............


In spite of all this, "asato ma sat gamaya" and "OM Shanti, Shanti" were chanted at the beginning of the Holy Qurbana of the Delhi Syro-Malabar Convention 2008.  To say the least, it was unfortunate.