Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Great Lent #25 - 31/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 12

Prayers of Thanksgiving

Also known as the concluding prayers, the priest thanks the Father on behalf of the congregation for having considered us worthy of partaking in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. After the prayers of thanksgiving, the faithful are dismissed by saying ‘depart ye in peace and pray for me always’.

How is the Holy Qurbana concluded?

The Qurbana is concluded behind the veil when the priest completes his communion. He concludes by kissing the altar three times saying: “Farewell, O Holy and divine altar of the Lord. Henceforth, I know not whether I shall return to Thee or not…” This reminds that death is always at the door and makes us vigilant in preparing ourselves to meet the Lord whenever the call comes

Compiled From:

1. Samuel, A. Yeshu, H. E. (1967). Anaphora - The Divine Liturgy of Saint James, the first bishop of Jerusalem. New York.

2. Rajan, Mani Rev. Dr. (1994). Queen of the Sacraments. Seminary Publications. Mulanthuruthy.

3. Panoor, Punnose Dr. (1994). A Guide to the Orthodox Liturgy and Faith. Madras.

Great Lent #24 - 30/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 11


The veil is then opened symbolizing the second coming of our Lord and the Day of Judgment. The priest, carrying the paten in his right hand and the chalice in his left hand, turns counter-clockwise to face the congregation to specially signify the coming of the Lord of judgment. This is in contrast to the usual clockwise turn, which is symbolic of the first coming of our Lord as the Redeemer. The priest then proceeds west in a procession which signifies the anticipated second coming.

The accompanying deacon’s with lighted candles, marvahtso (fans), and bells represent the tumultuous second coming of the Lord with trumpets and accompanied by the angels. (Mathew 25: 31 - “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds…”)

The priest returns to the altar where he sets the paten and chalice on the tablitho.

Great Lent #23 - 29/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 10

The Lords Prayer (Mat. 5:6)

It is the family prayer of the Church, addressed to the Father in heaven by His little children. It is all inclusive, and can be used for every kind of intention. Every clause is wonderful in its combined depth and simplicity. But its very familiarity makes men repeat it hurriedly without thinking of its meaning in other words, saying it, instead of praying it. This we must avoid.

Elevation of the Holy Mysteries

The priest holds up the sacred mysteries, bells rings, two lighted candles on either side, and fans on either side shaken (Acts 1:10). The deacon calls to watch with fear and trembling, emphasizing the solemnity of the occasion. This commemorates the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to heaven.

Hymns of Eucharistic Devotion

The Church commemorates the saints and seeks their intercession through these hymns. The Church venerates the memory of St. Mary, the mother of God, the patron saint of the parish or the saint whose feast is being celebrated. The congregation also intercedes for the departed clergy and the faithful departed through these hymns, based on Psalms:

· “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree…” Psalms 92:12-14

· “Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness…” Psalms 132:9-10, 12

· “Just as a father has compassion on his children...” Psalms 103:13, 15

Why is the sanctuary closed again?

It symbolizes that our Lord is now hidden to our bodily eyes and also the age in which the Church awaits the second coming of our Lord.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Great Lent #22 - 28/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 9

Prayers for the Faithful Departed

The Church believes that the faithful departed are present in the Holy Mass along with the living faithful. St. Peter ascertains that the judgment is for both the living and the dead. Therefore, Jesus Christ preached the Gospel to the departed. “That is why the Good News was preached also to the dead” (1 Peter 4:6). Thus the congregation intercedes for the remission of sins of the faithful departed, so that the Lord may make them worthy of inheriting the heavenly kingdom.

Why is the Sanctuary closed after the above?

The veil is pulled over the sanctuary as a reminder of the time of His redemptive passion, death, burial, and resurrection, when the earth was engulfed in darkness (Luke 23:44, 24:1; Mat 28:1; John 20:1)

The Fracture and Commixture performed by the priest while the sanctuary is hidden: The breaking of the host (bread) signifies the suffering and death of our Lord. The priest breaks the bread and anoints it with the precious blood, signifying that the body and blood of Christ, which are separated in death, were reunited at resurrection. Then the host is lifted signifying our Lords resurrection.

The Seraphic Hymn (While sanctuary is hidden) – “Anpudayonae (Hearken gracious)”: Hymn is based on Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah Ch. 6). It describes the worship of the seraphim and our desire to draw near to our Lord.

The veil is opened symbolizing the appearance of our Lord to His disciples after his resurrection several times, before Pentecost.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Great Lent #21 - 27/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 8

Diptychs (Thubden) – The Great Intercessions

For the living spiritual Fathers who tend the Church

For the living faithful brethren

For the living faithful rulers

Intercession of the Mother of God and Saints

Ø St. Mary – Most revered saint of the church

Ø John the Baptist – The forerunner of Christ (Feast on 7th of January)

Ø St. Stephen – Known as the head of deacons and is the first martyr of the Church. He was stoned to death. Death looming, he saw the heavens open and the Son of God standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56). The church commemorated his memory through the feast held on the 8th of January.

Ø St. Peter – Was called to tend the Church by Lord Jesus Christ and is thus known as the chief of the Apostles. He is the foundation of the One Apostolic and Catholic (Universal) Church and was the first Patriarch of the Church of Antioch (Mathew 16:17). He was publicly crucified by the Emperor of Rome. He was nailed to the cross with his head downward, at his own request, symbolically kissing the feet of His Lord (Pollock, 1985).

Ø St. Paul – The greatest evangelist of the church. Originally a persecutor of the Church, he transformed into its most eloquent leader. He was born at Tarsus and was known as Saul. He was finally condemned by the Roman Senate and was beheaded on the same day St. Peter was crucified. His memory is commemorated by the Church on the 29th of June along with that of St. Peter.

Ø St. Thomas – It is traditionally believed that He arrived in Malankara (Kerala) in A.D. 52. It is believed that St. Thomas installed seven crosses in different parts of Kerala and performed several miracles. St. Thomas was martyred at Mylapore, near Madras, India in A.D. 72. His mortal remains were transferred to Uraha (Edessa) in A.D. 394. The feast of St. Thomas is celebrated on July 3rd, presumable the day the mortal remains were transferred to Uraha.

For the departed spiritual Fathers of the Church

For the faithful departed – The names of the departed for whom the Qurbana is said are remembered, after a silent prayer. The priest draws the sign of cross on the right rim of the paten while remembering the names of the departed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Great Lent #20 - 26/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 7

Anamnesis or the Sacrificial Memorial

The priest and the people together recall the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ which is made present in all its saving power, while they look forward to the second coming of Christ, for which this mystery prepares them.

The spoon and cushion are lifted up and placed on the left side of the Thronos (Altar). The priest lifts them over head in his right hand quickly, signifying the second coming of the Lord on the last day, which will be like a flash of lightning. “For just as lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27).

Invocation of the Holy Spirit

The consecration is followed by invocation of the Holy Spirit in which the Holy Spirit is called upon to descend upon the gifts. The mystery of the Holy sacrifice is considered to be complete and perfected by the action of the Holy Spirit. The priest waves his hands over the bread and wine with a fluttering motion, signifying the descent of the Holy Spirit. We find the deacon warning the people to stand in awe as the Holy Spirit is descending and hovering over the mysteries. The Holy Spirit is here represented by the dove, flying and hovering over (Mark 1:10). The hands signify the wings of the dove.

This is followed by the thrice repeated earnest prayers of the priest. “Answer me, O Lord” and the people respond with a three fold, “Kurie-elaison” meaning “Lord have mercy”. This reminds us of the repeated prayer of Elijah on Mount Carmel to send down fire from heaven upon the sacrifice - “Hear me, Lord, hear me” (1 Kings 18:36-39). The coming of the Holy Spirit upon the offering is to transform the offerings into the Body and Blood of our Lord.

Great Lent #19 - 25/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 6

The Eucharistic Prayer

The dialogue between the priest and people which follows is one of the most ancient liturgical formulas found in all liturgies at this point. The people are asked to lift up their hearts and minds to where Christ sits, at the right hand of God the Father, and then to give thanks. Then the congregation breaks with the song of the angels ‘Holy, holy, holy…’ (Isaiah 6: 3) and ‘Blessed is He that cometh…’ (Psalms 118: 26) recalling that the angels are present at this solemn moment, joining their praise to that of the church on earth.

“The people are directed to lift up their heart to heaven, to see heaven not earth, the heavenly altar not the earthly altar, the heavenly priest not the earthly priest, the heavenly Body and Blood, not the earthly bread and wine, the heavenly worshipping host, not the earthly congregation.” (Bishop Pakenham Walsh p. 36)

Celebration of the Holy Qurbana

The priest narrates that which the Lord did, and blesses the bread and wine by making the sign of the cross. Thus, they become the Body and Blood of our Lord. If we allow Him to bless us, just as the ordinary bread is changed to His Body, we ordinary men and women, our ordinary lives, are thus transformed into the vehicle of God’s grace (Jn 2:9). By giving His blood, our Lord has given us everything He has. He makes our whole being His, when He blesses us.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Great Lent #18 - 24/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 5

Bowing of Head
After the kiss of peace, we bow our heads. This is to express our humility and receptive mood for Gods blessings. According to Bar Sleebi, we collectively bow before Christ who sees all secrets and cleanses, lightens, and completes each one as he or she deserves.
The covering and Lifting of the Anaphora
When the Holy sacrifice is about to begin the veil is lifted form the paten and chalice and solemnly waved over the offering. The prayer which the priest says, compares the veil to the stone which covered the sepulcher (tomb) of Christ, which is now rolled away and to the rock of the desert which gave water to the people of God, signifying the water of life which Christ gives to his people in the Qurbana (2 Cor. 10:4).

Benediction given by the priest
When the celebrant turns to bless, he turns to the right side after making the sign of cross on him-self and then makes the sign of the cross on the people. The priest blesses the people three times during the Qurbana. The first blessing is using the words of St. Paul: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Great Lent #17 - 23/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 4


The word ‘Ana’ means ‘Up’ and ‘Phora’ means ‘to carry’. The Anaphora is the solemn prayer of thanksgiving which our Lord uttered at the Last Supper and the works and actions which He used when he instituted the Eucharist. The original Anaphora of the rite of Antioch is that of St. James, but there are a great many others, eighty-eight in all, which were introduced in later times. Of these about sixty-four have their authors identified, which may be used for celebration.

The Kiss of Peace

The kiss of peace is of apostolic origin (Rom 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20) and is used in every liturgy to signify the ‘fellowship of the Spirit’ of which the Eucharist is the outward sign. It shows the love and harmony which should exist among the followers (disciples) of Christ. By this we fulfill the word of the Lord which says, “If thou offer thine offering and remembers that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave thine offering, and go, be reconciled with thy brother” (Mathew 5:23)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Great Lent #16 - 22/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 3

The Nicene Creed

We believe the following:

· In the one True God, the Father Almighty

· In the one Lord Jesus Christ who took birth for the salvation of humanity

· In the one living Holy Spirit

· In the One Holy, Catholic (universal) and Apostolic Church

· We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins

· In the Resurrection of the dead

· In the new life in the world to come

· St. Mary is described as the Mother of God and so this is a confession of faith against Nestorians

What does the priest pray privately in the kneeling position?

While the creed is being said, the priest turns to the clergy and people and asks for forgiveness and requests them to pray to the Lord to accept his oblations. The priest then kneels before the altar and beseeches the Lord for remission of sins and acceptance of his offering. The priest prays for and makes the sign of the cross with his right thumb on the altar mentioning the names of those alive and departed for whom prayers have been requested.

The deacon goes about the whole nave and returns to the altar. This signifies that:

o God the Word came down from heaven and offered himself for us all

o This is a sign for the un-baptized to leave

Great Lent #15 - 21/03/2011

Holy Qurbana – 2

Readings of the Scripture

In the Syrian Orthodox Church, there are three readings, one from the Acts, one from St. Paul and one from the Gospel. They are each preceded by a chant.

The first reading is done by the deacon from the northern side of the chancel, standing on the steps. It represents preaching of the gospel to the Jews.

The second reading is done form the southern side, representing preaching of the gospel to the gentiles.

The reading from the Gospel is done with great solemnity, as in all liturgies, the priest standing in the center of the sanctuary, while the servers carry lights and incense.

Proemion and Sedro

The proemion and Sedro are the typical form of solemn prayers in the Syriac church. It first offers praise and thanksgiving for the blessing which God has bestowed on us, above all in the sacrifice of his Son, then makes petition for his grace to be given to his people. There are seven different proemions and sedros which may be used for the Qurbana.

Blessing of the Censer

The prayers for the blessing of the censer are proclamations of the faith in Trinity. The chains on the censer represent the Holy Trinity. The first chain stands for God the Father. The second and third chains represent the human and Godly nature of the son. The fourth chain represents the Holy Spirit.

The priest puts incense in the censer and grasps one of the chains and makes sign of cross over it and says: ‘Holy is the Holy Father’. Grasping two more chains the priest proclaims: ‘Holy is the Holy Son’ and finally he grasps the last chain and says ‘Holy is the Holy Spirit’.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Great Lent #14 - 20/03/2011

Holy Qurbana - 1

At the beginning of the public service, the veil closing the sanctuary is drawn aside, signifying the appearance of the promised Messiah. At this time we speak of St. Mary who brought forth the Christ and John the Baptist who baptized Him. The whole congregation sings a song of praise while the priest, the deacon and the servers go solemnly around the altar carrying lights and incense, and waving the fans. These two Saints are remembered and their prayers are asked for because they were the two most intimately connected with the incarnation of the Lord, Mary who brought Him forth and John who prepared His way.

The priest offering incense along with deacons holding candles move in a procession around the altar. The priest represents Christ, the High Priest. The deacon who leads the procession represents John the Baptist, and the other deacons represent the Apostles and Disciples of Christ.


“Holy art thou, O God!

Holy art thou, Almighty,

Hoy art thou, Immortal,

Crucified for us,

Have mercy on us.”

According to Bar Sleebi three sets of angels came down at the time of burial of Christ. They sang, the first set ‘Holy art thou god’, the second, ‘Holy are Thou mighty’, and the third ‘Holy art Thou immortal’ and Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemose (Mark 15:43) inspired by the Holy Spirit burst forth ‘Thou that was crucified for us have mercy on us’.

God is a trinity and so the number three has special significance. After the Trisagion the priest and the congregation chant kurielaison (Lord have mercy upon us) thrice.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Great Lent #13 - 19/03/2011

Meaning of Church Vessels contd.

The Chalice and Paten - The Chalice which holds the Eucharistic wine is the most important of all sacramental vessels. The Patent holds the Eucharistic bread. The Paten and Chalice recall the mystery of the Last Supper, the bread standing for the Body of Christ and the Wine for His precious Blood.

Shushafo (Veil) - This white veil is used to cover the Paten and Chalice. It represents the fact that the Divine Mysteries are hidden from the understanding of men and that the divinity and humanity united in Christ, the Divine Word, is beyond human comprehension just the same way as the transformation of bread and wine to flesh and blood of Christ is beyond our perception.

The Censer - It has a lower half and upper half, four chains and 12 bells. The lower cup of the censer represents the earth and the upper cup the heaven. The coal in it represents the sinners. The chains represent the Holy Trinity. The first chain stands for God the Father. The second and third chains represent the human and Godly nature of the son. The fourth chain represents the Holy Spirit. The 12 bells represent the 12 Apostles of Christ. The four chains have a total of 72 links to represent the 72 evangelists of the Old Testament who prepared men to be worthy of the new covenant with God. The fire signifies the Holy Spirit by whose contact the black coal shines and glows. The incense shows the grace of the Holy Trinity. As the smoke goes up to the high so also our prayers should go high (Psalm 141:2)

Marvahtho (Fan) - A Fan shaped silver object mounted on a long pole. In the center of the fans, the seraphic face and wings are represented. The fans symbolize the presence of angels around the altar. The sounds represent the seraphim's and the flutter of their wings around the mysteries. It is carried in processions and shaken at the most solemn parts of the Qurbana.

The Lectern (Gospel stand or Evengelion table) - This is the pulpit which symbolizes the heights of Mount Sinai from where God spoke to Moses and handed him the stone tablets (Exodus 34:2). Mathew 5:1 tells us that Christ went up a mountain to preach the gospel to the multitude. Therefore the Book of gospel, which points to Christ Himself, is placed on the gospel stand.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Great Lent #12 - 18/03/2011

Today we will learn about Meaning of Church Vessels.

Thabilitho - this is a piece of wooden slab placed at the center of the altar and is covered with cloth. The Paten and Chalice are placed over it. It is consecrated with Holy Chrism by a Bishop during the consecration of a church. Each tabalitho has inscribed on it the following: "The Holy Ghost has hallowed this tabalitho by the hands of Mar..." and the year. The Holy Qurbana can be celebrated any where with this slab. Without this the Qurbana cannot be celebrated. Thabilitho symbolizes the cross on which our Lord was crucified.

The Cross - The cross is placed in the middle of the altar. It symbolizes our Lord's sacrifice on Mount Golgotha. The Cross is the symbol of peace, victory, and salvation. It is also described as the weapon in the struggle against Satan.

The sign of cross is made with the right hand. The thumb, first finger, and second finger are brought together and the first finger is extended further than the thumb and second finger, indicating that Christ is the One and Only Savior. The sign of cross is drawn starting from the forehead, down to the chest and then from the left to the right shoulder. This tradition symbolizes that the Lord Christ, came down to earth from the heights, and redeemed our earthly body from the gloomy paths of darkness (left), to the paths of truth and light (right).

Candles - God is the light of the world. Jesus said "I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" John 8:12. The candle in the middle of the altar represent the resurrected Lord. The twelve candles represents the twelve Apostles. The burning of wax reminds us that we should be prepared to sacrifice ourselves to lighten others.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Great Lent #11 - 17/03/2011

Being a Syrian Orthodox Church member each one of us should be aware of what our church is and how it is built. What is Liturgy and what is the meaning of each and every thing priest does in Holy Altar. It is easy to stand in church and watch Holy Mass like a Forign language film. But if we learn more about church it make us walk with Jesus! Today we can discuss about the Church as a whole in brief.

The church building has the following four parts:

1. Holy Sanctuary (Madhaba) - Place of Sacrifice
2. Part inside the rails (Azhikakam) - Holy Place
3. Nave (Hykala) - Main hall for congregation
4. Narthex (Court of the Gentiles)

The Holy Sanctuary - The Syriac term madhb'ho means the holy place. It is at the eastern end of the Church and represents heaven. "Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the East. And behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the East....and the glory of the Lord came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east" Ezekiel 43:1,2,3. "... for the facade of the temple was toward the east..." Ezekiel 47:1. In the Sanctuary the Body and Blood of our Lord are offered by the priest, the representative of Lord, in the midst of deacons and candle lights.

The Veil (Curtain) - The veil that separated the Madbaha (Sanctuary) and the Nave signifies the sky which separates the Heaven and Earth. (Exodus 36:16, 40:3,21)

The Altar - The alter is often referred to as the 'Table of Life' because on it we find the bread of life. It is also called the 'Tomb of the glorified Lord' because the bread and wine placed upon it are transformed into the Body and Blood of our resurrected Lord.

Great Lent #10 - 16/03/2011

The history of the Syriac Orthodox Church is characterized by adversity. Byzantinian oppression in the sixth and seventh centuries was followed by the atrocities of the Crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries, then decimation at the hands of the Mongolians lead by Tamerlane (1336-1405) in about 1400, and severe restrictions under the Ottoman Sultanate. The growth of nationalism in the waning years of the Ottoman Sultanate lead to the massacre of about 25,000 in what is today South East Turkey in 1895-96. An even greater calamity occurred in 1915, etched in the memory of the Syriac Orthodox community as the Sayfo (Year of the Sword), wiping out 90314 people (including 154 priests) in 13350 families in 346 villages representing about a third of the Syriac Orthodox population in the area (according to the records compiled by Patriarch Aphrem I). Further misery came with the Kurdish rebellion in 1925-26, when the Kurds used the monasteries of Mor Malke and Dayro da-Slibo and the churches in Basibrin and near Hbob as bases. The immense suffering and destruction from 1895 onwards resulted in the alteration of the demographics of the community and mass emigration to other areas in the Middle East, notably Syria, to the North and South Americas, to different parts of Europe, and to Australia.

Amidst all the adversity, the Church produced several illustrious saints whose lives and works had such immense influence not only on the Syriac tradition but much of Christendom. The rich liturgical heritage of the Syriac Orthodox Church is but one of their legacies. Scholars of the Church such as Mor Ya`qub of Edessa, George, the Bishop of the Arabians, and Moses Bar Kepha played an important role in transmitting Greek knowledge to the Arab world. Numerous Syriac Orthodox authors have also recorded historiographical accounts. Among them are such works as the Ecclesiastical History of John of Ephesus, the Chronicle of Jacob of Edessa, the Chronicle of Zuqnin (erroneously attributed to Patriarch Dionysius of Tel-Mahre), the Chronicle of Patriarch Mikhayel Rabo, the Chronography and Ecclesiastical History of Maphryono Gregorius Bar `Ebroyo.

In coming days we will learn more about our Liturgy and Holy Fathers.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Great Lent #09 - 15/03/2011

The Syriac Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Christian Churches tracing its roots to the Church of Antioch. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts of the Apostles 11:26). Apostle Peter is believed to have established a church in Antioch in AD 37, the remnants of which are still in Antakya (the modern name of Antioch), Turkey. After the martyrdom of Apostle Peter, he was succeeded by St. Euodius and St. Ignatius Noorono as shepherds of the flock in Antioch and in the writings of St. Ignatius we find the evolution of the ecclesiastical order of bishops—ordained successors of the Apostles in whom continued the spiritual authorities vested by our Lord in the Apostles. The bishophric of Antioch was recognized in the ecumenical Synod of Nicea (AD 325) as one of the Patriarchates of Christendom (along with that of Alexandria and Rome). It produced a line of succession beginning with Apostle Peter which continues to this day in the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Antioch was at the time of Christ the capital of the Roman province of Syria and an important center of commerce. As a city imbued in the hellenistic culture, Greek was the common language. But the majority of the people in the region, especially outside the cities spoke Syriac, the Edessene dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by our Lord.

The disciples Addai, Mari, Aggai and Apostle Thomas, are believed to have spread the Gospel in the regions north east of Antioch, of Edessa (Urhoy) and Nisibis and further to upper northern Mesopotamian plains between Rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The Syriac Doctrine of Addai recounts how Christ send Addai, one of the Seventy Disciples, to King Abgar of Edessa. It is believed that Apostle Thomas went further east arriving in what is today India in AD 52. Many important and influential centers of Syriac speaking Christians emerged in the cities such as Edessa (Urhoy), Adiabene (Hadyab), and Nisibis (Nsibin). While Antioch was the seat of the bishophric, Edessa is often considered the cradle of Syriac Christianity.

The Church of Antioch played a significant role in the early history of Christianity. It played a prominent role in the first three Synods held at Nicea (325) , Constantinople (381), and Ephesus (431), shaping the formulation and early interpretation of Christian doctrines. In AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon and its Christological position resulted in a schism that divided the faithful under the Apostolic See of Antioch into two—one today known as the `idto suryoyto treeysath shubho (Syrian or Syriac Orthodox Church) and the other the Eastern Orthodox (or Rum Orthodox) Church of Antioch. The latter had the support of the Byzantinian Emperor Justinian who convened the Council of Chalcedon. The years that followed resulted in a struggle over the Apostolic See, with bishops of both persuasions assuming the position of Patriarch of Antioch. In 518, Patriarch St. Severus was exiled from Antioch. The seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch moved to different monasteries including Qartmin, Qenneshrin (Chalkis, near Aleppo), Malatya, and Amid (Diyarbakir), and finally settled in 1293 in Dayro d-Mor Hananyo (also known as Kurkmo Dayro in Syriac and Deir Zafaran in Arabic) in Mardin. It remained at this monastery until 1933 when the political circumstances forced its migration to Homs, Syria, and later to Damascus in 1959.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Great Lent #08 - 14/03/2011

After reading my Daily mails so many people reply me with so many questions! I believe most of the doubts occur just because of lack of knowledge! We don’t know what we are! What Church we represent? What is our true faith?

Syrian Orthodox church is mainly built on 2 main pillars.

  1. The Holy Bible
  2. The Tradition

Apart from The Holy Bible, our fore fathers had developed a tradition which we are supposed to follow now also. Once I send a mail asking some questions about the Tradition of Priest Vestments! Next week when I went to church, my friend who is also an altar boy asked me whether he can light the Holy Censor with fan, or is that a “Variation in Tradition”. Even though I enjoyed the joke, I felt it is high time for us to learn what we stand for! The basic stone is laid on the above two pillars. If we feel we don’t need those, then there is no Church. I am planning to write about Church History, Our Holy Fathers and various Traditions in our church in coming days!

The church is the body of true believers in Christ. Eetho, the syriac word for Church, means ‘to bring together’. The word Church itself has it etymological roots in Green word ecclesia, which means to call and separate. The roots of the word can also be traced to the Hebrew Quhal, which means assembly summoned. The Church is the heaven on earth.

Great Lent #07 - 13/03/2011

The Church celebrated Memory of St. Ephrem the Syrian yesterday. We remember St. Ephrem in our fifth Diptych. We sing his songs in our prayers. I can never be justified if I won’t write about St. Ephrem.

Ephrem the Syrian, the greatest classical writer of the Syrian church was born in A.D 306 in Nisibis (North West of Mosul, Mesopotamia). His father is said to have been a heathen priest worshipping an idol called abnil. But the child Ephrem refused to accompany his parents to the temple of Abnil for which he was severely punished. He was later brought up by St. James the Bishop of Nisibis. He accompanied St. James to the council of Nicea at the age of 22.

Lamy, a noted biographer describes Ephram as “From the time he began to lead a monastic life till his death, he ate nothing but barely bread and dried herbs and sometimes green herbs. He drank nothing but water; his flesh had dried up in his bones until he resembled baked clay. His clothing was a mass of patches of the colour of mud. He was a small stature; his face always grave that he never laughed; he was bald and wore no beard.”

After baptism in early manhood he was ordained deacon in AD 338. He probably lived as a monk apparently never entered priesthood. Though in the clergical hierarchy he was just a decon, he is remembered as a great doctor of the universal Church.

After the death of James, Bishop of Nisibis, Ephream left for Edessa and went to Urahai. It is told that he met a great ascetic “Yulian”. Ephrem learned various tough practices of ascetic life from him. Ephrem started a monastic life of extreme austerity during this time and started composing hymns. He taught his followers through his songs and revealed divine mysteries in his poetry. About the poet in Ephrem, Lamy wrote, “No other writer has ever possessed the power of bringing tears to the eyes while the reader is profoundly stirred….” Ephrem’s teachings are centered as practical Christian life – free-will, supernatural gift, spiritual combat, and devotion to Virgin Mary.

After the death of Contantine Nisibis was invaded by Sapor King of Persia. The prayers of Ephrem resulted in withdrawal of Sapors forces. St. Ephrem was called as “Violin of Holy Spirit” by St. Ivanios. In his last days he told his disciples “Don’t give me a great funeral, don’t deliver long speeches praising me. Don’t build monuments in my name. Don’t save my relics, as I am a sinner. ” He died on 9th June AD 373.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Great Lent #06 - 12/03/2011

Troubles in Life?

Previous days we learned about the basic things one should know about Lent / Confession and Sin. We go to church every Sunday, we do our prayers all 3 times, we take fasts / lents by church, we confess our sins. But when we are into troubles we are not like “Job”, We get irritated angry. But why this troubles in life? Yesterday I got a mail from my friend. It was really inspirational.

A great tennis star, was affected with cancer. So many fans wrote to him asking, WHY YOU? He replied them, 5,00,000 people love tennis. 50,000 plays it, 5,000 reach upto grand slam, Only 2 reach finals, and 1 gets the crown. When i was holding the crown i never asked GOD "WHY I".

There are so many people who are in trouble. We face so many problems in our daily life. Why do we suffer? Are they the trials given by God because we have committed sins? But Why God allows these trials and hardships?

I was just trying to find a solution from Holy Bible.

In Job 14:1 it is told "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble".

Our life in this earth is full of troubles. By experience we come to know that Job's verses are true. Troubles concern us, not just because hardship itself is a burden, but also because affliction can lead to spiritual temptations. We may be tempted to feel that our trials justify committing sin. Once we face a trouble, or hardship we blame God for giving us the same. We will loose our faith, or we will begin to doubt His mercy. Bible states that also. Job's wife said, "Curse God and die" (Job 2:9).

According to experts, there are so many reasons not just one reason why people suffer.

1. Sometimes people suffer as a result of their sins

1 Chron. 10:13,14 :- King Saul lived a miserable life and eventually was slain because he had rebelled against God. Matthew 27:3-5 :- Judas killed himself because he had betrayed Jesus.

There can be so many instances which clarify these thoughts. Thieves get hurt, drunkards fall sick. But this is not the reason we get hardships.

2. Sometimes innocent people suffer as a result of other people's sins.

Incidents like when innocent bystander killed by a drunken driver or when a thief violently attacks his victims.

1 Peter 2:19-23 :-Jesus is an example of one who committed no sin at all, yet He was persecuted and killed by wicked men. So we may follow His example and suffer, not for our faults, but when we do good.

John 15:18-20 :- The treatment Jesus received should warn us of the treatment we can expect. The world hated Him and persecuted Him, and it will do the same to His servants.

2 Corinthians 11:23-26 - Paul's life shows that Jesus' followers truly often are persecuted.

2 Timothy 3:10-12 - All who live godly in Christ shall suffer persecution.

There are so many verses in Bible, which claims the above topic.

3. All people suffer as a result of Adam and Eve's sin.

The third reason often told, we suffer because we are children of Adam and Eve. In particular, it is because of Adam and Eve, we got death?

Gen. 3:16-19 - God originally placed Adam and Eve in a state of bliss with no problems of any kind. But He warned them of the consequences of sin. When they sinned anyway, He decreed they would endure pain, suffering, hardship, and eventual death.

This does not mean as some teach, that people today are born guilty of Adam's sin or will be eternally punished for it (Ezek. 18:20; 2 Cor. 5:10)

4. Some suffering is simply a temptation from Satan.

Job 1:1-2:10 - States that Job's suffering was a temptation from Satan. He hoped that, because he was suffering, Job would turn away from God.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 - To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

If we truly believe in God, he will be with us, he will hold us from all the suffering. And he will give us good results.

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted" (Psa. 119:71). Usually when we suffer we can only see the problems involved. Surely if we commit sin as a result, then the suffering is harmful. But if we remain faithful, there are favorable results that can occur.

1 Peter 1:6,7 - As gold is purified by passing through fire, so the genuineness of our faith is proved by trials.

In a summary we can tell

1. Suffering Gives Us Opportunity to Prove Our Commitment to God.
2. Suffering Causes Spiritual Growth.
3. Suffering Keeps Us Humble and Dependent on God.

Everyone can write what ever they feels. We are not Jesus Christ, nor Job, nor David. But we are his children. So he himself through Holy Bible conveys some messages to us.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalm 27:1)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
(Psalm 23:4-6)

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
(Psalm 27:10,14)

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.
(Psalm 37:24)

Great Lent #05 - 11/03/2011


Yesterday we read about Confession. If we commit a Sin we should confess. But What is Sin? What does it mean to Sin? How does the Bible portray it?

The Greek word translated "sin" in the Bible is an interesting term. It, (hamartano), literally means, "to miss the mark."In shooting an arrow from a bow, if your arrow flies beyond the target or falls short of it, if it veers to the right of the target or to the left, you "miss the mark." If in our lives we go beyond the will of God, doing things God has said not to do; if we fall short of the will of God by not doing things commanded by God; if we veer away from God's will, doing things for which we have no authority; we "miss the mark" or SIN. As John states in 1 John 3:4, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." Sin is lawlessness. God has revealed to us His law or will. The Bible is the final authority on sin and its consequences.

In the Old Testament Sin signifies simply what is unacceptable to God or even to humanity. However, in the New Testament anything wrongly related to God is Sin as St. Paul said in the Romans: “But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is Sin.”

How Can We Judge if Something is Sin? Many sins are spelled out plainly in the Bible. The Ten Commandments give us a clear picture of God's laws. They offer basic rules of behavior for spiritual and moral living. Many other verses in the Bible present direct examples of sin: Proverbs 6:16-19; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Apart from that What all can be classified as Sin? Mark 3:29 says, "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.

Let us not “MISS the mark” atleast in these 50 days, Let us follow the Commandments! May God accept our Prayers and Fast!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Great Lent #04 - 10/03/2011


Once the Great Lent days start our Parish Priests’ keep on telling about the Holy Confession (Mal- Kumbasaram) before 40th day of the Lent. Syriac Orthodox Church believers should confess atleast once in a year. But is that something which we should do only once in a year?

Our Holy Fathers teach us “If we feel we have committed a sin, we should confess it as early as possible to Priest and should not repeat it.” There are so many principles which flood in the new generation churches. Let us try to learn something about Sin and Confession.

Adam and Eve committed the first sin. Entire human’s immersed in it. We are born in Sin and we belive it is cleansed at the time of Holy Baptism (Ref: Holy Creed, Roman 5&7). God gave us free will so that we can differentiate evil and good.

Holy Baptism cleanses us from the Birth Sin and Confession is continuation of Baptism. We get back to our Lord through Confession. We sign an agreement through confession (John 20:2). Jesus sends his disciples to all over the world as representatives of Christ. We confess our sin to Priest, who is representative of Christ. (John 20:23, Mat 16:19, 18:18)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Great Lent #03 - 09/03/2011

Fasting / Lent

Our Forefathers often compares Human life as ‘Two Faced’ one. It is the conjunction of two aspects – ‘Eternal’ and ‘Physical/ Transient’. We are in middle of two faces. Just below Angels and above Animals.” Human beings have free will to fight against the evil. Whenever we go close to evil, we stand near to animals and if we control ourselves from the physical wishes we approach angels.

We live in a world where we tend to do more evil and less good! We are more attracted to the world than the eternal life. Lent / Fast always lead us to God and the eternal world. Jesus Christ himself showed us how to fast. If Christ fasted for 40 days then how much we should do to cleanse ourself from the bad deeds we do every day. Our Prayers often reminds about the importance of Lent. “Lent saved Daniel from Lions! Lent saved Peter from Jail!”

Lent in Canon

1. Apart from Holy Saturday (Sat after Good Friday) we should not observer fasting.
2. Should not observe Lent from Easter to Pentacost
3. Old People, Pregnant ladies, sick, Babies can be exempted from Lent with Prior permission of Priest.

Compulsory Lent in Canon

1. 25 Days before Christmas
2. Ninaveh Lent
3. Great Lent
4. Fast for the intercession of the Apostles (June 26-29)
5. Fast for the intercession of Virgin Mary (August 1-15)
6. Every WEDNESDAY (Jesus Christ birth in St. Mary)and FRIDAY (Crucifiction of Christ)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Great Lent #02

Great Lent, or the Great Fast, is the most important Lent in our church. We, The Syrian Christians observe several fasts / Lents throughout the year. Nineveh Lent for 3 days, 25 Day Lent before Christmas, 8-Day Lent in September and so many as Non Mandatory and Mandatory. What is the purpose of every Lent?

Do we have any guidelines in Holy Book about Lent? We are not able to figure out the origin of Lent. When it was practiced first? Early on, Lent was a time of preparation for those about to be baptized at Easter. Or Lent is a time of soul-searching and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection on Good Friday and Easter. Lent has been observed in different ways at different times, so it is hard to say when it started.

Moses took a lent of 40 Days and Night for the Tables of the Covenant. David besought God for the child; and David fasted and lay all night upon the earth. Ester before going to King, asked Mordecai to gather all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for her, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: She and her maidens fasted in like manner. Nehemiah sat down and wept, and mourned certain days; and prayed before the God of heaven “we have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.” After ten days of fasting Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah appeared fairer, and they were fatter in flesh, than all the youths that did eat of the king's dainties.

Some took Lent to examine heart and confess sins. Some others observed it as time of spiritual cleansing and renewal. What ever reasons they observed the Lent, and in whatever ways they observed, God showered his blessings unto them finding their Lent was divine and holy.

Let us observe this Lent keeping 3 major points in mind.

1. Fasting - Give up something for God. Fasting is not a means to “earn” something from God, but rather a way to learn to curb your appetites and focus more completely on God.

2. Prayer and Meditation - Read over the Gospel accounts of our Christ, his suffering. Reflect on His suffering, and the tremendous love that it represents. Reflect on your own sin and what it cost Him. Take out some time for prayers of confession and repentance. Do some spiritual “house cleaning.”

3. Giving to the poor - Use the money that you save by not eating to help the poor.

Morning Prayer of Great Lent says "Those who are away from sins, those who observe lent wholeheartedly are blessed. They always stay near to our God. " Again it says "There are people who fast from food, but have a cruel heart. There are people who don't drink, but kill s his own brother."

Rise up from where you are now! Take this lent as the most rigorous one. Let he forgive us and bless us.