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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NO DENHA FOR SYRO-MALABARIANS IN DELHI

 

According to the Syro-Malabar Liturgical Calendar, we celebrate the baptismal feast of feasts i.e. Denha on January 6th. The Syro-Malabar Liturgical Calendar 2009-10 says it is an “important feast day and a day of obligation. In those places where today is not a holiday, all those who can are requested to participate in the Holy Qurbana and other liturgical ceremonies.” January 6, 2010 was not a holiday in Delhi. In most of the Churches there was not even an announcement that 6th January is Denha and that it is a day of obligation. Obviously there was no Holy Qurbana in Delhi. May be for the so-called "Delhi Mission", Denha was not so important. For them Novenas, Way of the Cross and Rosaries are more important than the feast of our Lord!

 

For the Latin Church, Denha is the "Feast of the Epiphany" the mystery of the apparition of the Lord to all people, as represented by the Magi who came from the East to adore the King of the Jews". However, for the Nazranis and for all the other Oriental Churches, Denha is the baptismal feast of feasts. It announces and celebrates as much about our own baptism as it does that of our Lord Iso' M'siha. Both Scripture and the Church Fathers bear witness to the fact that our "illumination" becomes a reality only to the extent that it enables us to participate in Christ's own baptism and in the life and works that flowed forth from it. 

 

Two interrelated yet apparently contradictory themes are proclaimed through Denha: the death of believers, and their new birth to eternal life. As Paulose Sleeha declares in Roma 6, our true death occurs as we enter the baptismal waters. There we "die" with Christ, in order to be raised with him into a new mode of existence. "We have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also might walk in newness of life" (6:4). The sacramental grace conferred by baptism, and not our physical, biological demise, thus marks our true death. It signifies and accomplishes our dying to the "old Adam" and our rebirth as the "new man," in the image of the crucified and resurrected "Second Adam," the eternal Son of God (cf.1 Cor 15:45-49).

 

At the same time, as our Lord Iso' M'siha affirms in Yohannan 3, baptism is a "new birth," a "birth from above". Paulose Sleeha expresses the same idea in Thithoos 3:5 with the term "rebirth" or "regeneration." Baptism through water accomplishes the washing away of sins, incorporation into the Body of the glorified Christ, the Church, and renewal by Ruha-d-qudassa.

 

The Fathers of the Church, in their discussions of baptism, often shaped their statements so as to combat various forms of heresy. Against those who favoured "rebaptism," they argued that there is only "one baptism" as affirmed by the Church's Creeds. Baptism rests uniquely upon the name of the Trinity: a true baptismal epiclesis or invocation of Ruha requires the threefold name of "Father, Son and Ruha-d-qudassa". Baptism in any name other than that of the Holy Trinity is not true "baptism," an incorporation into the personal reality of God as he is in his innermost being. Those who submitted themselves to a ritual that uses non-Trinitarian names need therefore to be baptized (for the first time) according to the prescripts of Holy Tradition (beginning with the Great Commission in Mathai 28:19), in order to enter fully into the Church and its Eucharistic communion.

 

Genesis Chapter 1 proclaims that God brought all things from non-being into being by His Word. This initial, extraordinary act was fulfilled by the Ruha "moving across the face of the waters." In the "new creation" of baptism, the catechumen descends into the waters to "die" and be "co-buried" with Christ. Yet this gesture is only fulfilled by chrismation, anointing as the "seal of the gift of Ruha-d-qudassa," which makes us "Christ’s," anointed ones. As the Ruha descended visibly upon our Lord Iso' M'siha and dwelt within him from the time of His baptism (Yohannan 1:32-33), so this same Ruha is bestowed upon the newly baptized and chrismated children of God, to dwell within them, and to purify and sanctify them in their pilgrimage towards the Kingdom.

 

Baptism, however, does not confer only the Ruha-d-qudassa. It is also affirmed by Church Fathers that through baptism "the Lord is in us," united to us and we to Him, as Bride and Bridegroom. Thus this ritual also signifies a sacred marriage, a nuptial union, as proclaimed in Ephesians 5. At baptism, Christ comes to live at the altar of the heart." Baptism also creates a union between the believer and the Son. The Father sends both the Son and the Ruha to dwell within and to sanctify those who submit themselves to rebirth, in faith and in love. Finally, baptism sets us on the path towards "deification” and a one where ecclesial and eucharistic conditions are created by which those who allow themselves to be led by the Ruha can pass through the ascetic stages of purification and illumination, to arrive at last at union with and communion in the God of love.