Tag: religion

Kerala Conference of Major Superiors (KCMS)

KCMS (Kerala Conference of Major Superiors)

Kerala Conference of Major Superiors (KCMS) is the Kerala Regional body of CRI (Conference of Religious India). KCMS intends not only the unity among the Catholic Religious Congregations and Institutions of Kerala but also stands for the cooperation and coordination between the Local Hierarchs and the Diocesan Clergy. It has been constituted for this purpose on 15th September 1971.

There are 355 Religious Congregations and 470 Major Superiors in Kerala: 267 women Religious Congregations, 71 Priestly Religious Congregations and 17 Brothers Congregations. Altogether there are 1,17,000 religious in Kerala. 40,000 religious work in Kerala. 60,000 work in other Indian states and 26,000 work abroad. Although Kerala accounts for only 1% of the total area of India and contains about 3% of the country’s population, it provides more than 75% of Indian religious, clergy and missionaries. Though this statistics may give us a sense of joy, due to the erosion of spiritual and religious values in religious communities and due to the penetration of materialism, secularism and individualism in our society, at present, there is an alarming decrease in religious vocations in Kerala. The situation is so drastic that many of the postulant, aspirant and novitiate houses of women religious are empty. At this juncture, we the Kerala Conference of Major Superiors (KCMS) have taken a firm resolution to revitalize KCMS and to strengthen the bond between KCBC and KCMS to renew the face of the Church.

KCMS Expreses its immense gratitude towards all  Bishops in Kerala, who always guide and inspire us. KCMS is also grateful to all  Major Superiors in Kerala who actively participate in all its meetings and cooperate well with all its activities.

Address:-

KCMS, POC

PB No. 2251

Palarivattom

Cochin – 682 025

Kerala, India

Mobile: 09446520519

Email: kcmscrip@yahoo.com , crikcms@live.in, crikcms@gmail.com

Blog site: http://crikcms.wordpress.com

God the Father

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17.

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God the Father is a title given to God in modern monotheist religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Bahá’í, in part because he is viewed as having an active interest in human affairs, in the way that a father would take an interest in his children who are dependent on him.[1][2][3]

In Judaism, God is described as father as he is said to be the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector.[4] However, in Judaism the use of the Father title is generally a metaphor and is one of many titles by which Jews speak of and to God.[5]

Since the second century, Christian creeds included affirmation of belief in “God the Father (Almighty)”, primarily as his capacity as “Father and creator of the universe”.[6] Yet, in Christianity the concept of God as the father of Jesus is distinct from the concept of God as the Creator and father of all people, as indicated in the Apostle’s Creed where the expression of belief in the “Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” is immediately, but separately followed by in “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”, thus expressing both senses of fatherhood.[7]

The Islamic view of God sees God as the unique creator of the universe and as the life-giver, but does not accept the term “father” in reference to God, as well as in regard to his relationship to the prophet Isa, i.e. Jesus in Islam.[8]

Contents

Overview

An image of God the Father by Julius Schnorr, 1860.

In modern monotheist religious traditions with a large following, such as Christianity, Judaism and Bahá’í, God is addressed as the father, in part because of his active interest in human affairs, in the way that a father would take an interest in his children who are dependent on him and as a father, he will respond to humanity, his children, acting in their best interests.[1][2][3] Many monotheists believe they can communicate with God and come closer to him through prayer – a key element of achieving communion with God.[9][10][11]

In general, the title Father (capitalized) signifies God’s role as the life-giver, the authority, and powerful protector, often viewed as immense, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent with infinite power and charity that goes beyond human understanding.[12] For instance, after completing his monumental work Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas concluded that he had not yet begun to understand God the Father.[13] Although the term “Father” implies masculine characteristics, God is usually defined as having the form of a spirit without any human biological gender, e.g. the Catechism of the Catholic Church #239 specifically states that “God is neither man nor woman: he is God“.[14][15] Although God is never directly addressed as “Mother”, at times motherly attributes may be interpreted in Old Testament references such as Isa 42:14, Isa 49:14-15 or Isa 66:12-13.[16]

Although similarities exist among religions, the common language and the shared concepts about God the Father among the Abrahamic religions is quite limited, and each religion has very specific belief structures and religious nomenclature with respect to the subject.[17] While a religious teacher in one faith may be able to explain the concepts to his own audience with ease, significant barriers remain in communicating those concepts across religious boundaries.[17]

In the New Testament, the Christian concept of God the Father may be seen as a continuation of the Jewish concept, but with specific additions and changes, which over time made the Christian concept become even more distinct by the start of the Middle Ages.[18][19][20] The conformity to the Old Testament concepts is shown in Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8 where in response to temptation Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 and states: “It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”[18] However, 1 Corinthians 8:6 shows the distinct Christian teaching about the agency of Christ by first stating: “there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him” and immediately continuing with “and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.”[19] This passage clearly acknowledges the Jewish teachings on the uniqueness of God, yet also states the role of Jesus as an agent in creation.[19] Over time, the Christian doctrine began to fully diverge from Judaism through the teachings of the Church Fathers in the second century and by the fourth century belief in the Trinity was formalized.[19][20]

The Islamic concept of God differs from the Christian and Jewish views, the term “father” in not applied to God by Muslims, and the Christian notion of the Trinity is rejected in Islam.[21][22]

Judaism

Main article: God in Judaism

The Biblical Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew Name for God the Father.

In Judaism, God is called “Father” with a unique sense of familiarity. In addition to the sense in which God is “Father” to all men because he created the world (and in that sense “fathered” the world), the same God is also uniquely the patriarchal law-giver to the chosen people. He maintains a special, covenantal father-child relationship with the people, giving them the Shabbat, stewardship of his oracles, and a unique heritage in the things of God, calling Israel “my son” because he delivered the descendants of Jacob out of slavery in Egypt[Hosea 11:1] according to his oath to their father, Abraham. In the Hebrew Scriptures, in Isaiah 63:16 (ASV) it reads: “Thou, O Jehovah, art our Father; our Redeemer from everlasting is thy name.” To God, according to Judaism, is attributed the fatherly role of protector. He is called the Father of the poor, of the orphan and the widow, their guarantor of justice. He is also called the Father of the king, as the teacher and helper over the judge of Israel.[23]

However, in Judaism “Father” is generally a metaphor; it is not a proper name for God but rather one of many titles by which Jews speak of and to God. In Christianity fatherhood is taken in a more literal and substantive sense, and is explicit about the need for the Son as a means of accessing the Father, making for a more metaphysical rather than metaphorical interpretation.[5]

Christianity

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Main article: God in Christianity

Since the second century, creeds in the Western Church have included affirmation of belief in “God the Father (Almighty)”, the primary reference being to “God in his capacity as Father and creator of the universe”.[6] This did not exclude either the fact the “eternal father of the universe was also the Father of Jesus the Christ” or that he had even “vouchsafed to adopt [the believer] as his son by grace”.[6]

Creeds in the Eastern Church (known to have come from a later date) began with an affirmation of faith in “one God” and almost always expanded this by adding “the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible” or words to that effect.[6]

By the end of the first century, Clement of Rome had repeatedly referred to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and linked the Father to creation, 1 Clement 19.2 stating: “let us look steadfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe”.[24] Around AD 213 in Adversus Praxeas (chapter 3) Tertullian provided a formal representation of the concept of the Trinity, i.e. that God exists as one “substance” but three “Persons”: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.[25][26] Tertullian also discussed how the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.[25]

The Nicene Creed, which dates to 325, states that the Son (Jesus Christ) is “eternally begotten of the Father”, indicating that their divine Father-Son relationship is seen as not tied to an event within time or human history.

There is a deep sense in which Christians believe that they are made participants in the eternal relationship of Father and Son, through Jesus Christ. Christians call themselves adopted children of God:[27][28]

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

The same notion is expressed in Romans 8:8-11 where the Son of God extends the parental relationship to the believers.[28] Yet, in Christianity the concept of God as the father of Jesus is distinct from the concept of God as the Creator and father of all people, as indicated in the Apostle’s Creed.[7] The profession in the Creed begins with expressing belief in the “Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” and then immediately, but separately, in “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”, thus expressing both senses of fatherhood within the Creed.[7]

Trinitarianism

God the Father by Girolamo dai Libri c. 1555. The triangular halo represents the Trinity.

To Trinitarian Christians (which include Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most but not all Protestant denominations), God the Father is not at all a separate god from God the Son (of whom Jesus is the incarnation) and the Holy Spirit, the other Hypostases of the Christian Godhead.[29][30][31] However, in Trinitarian theology, God the Father is the “arche” or “principium” (beginning), the “source” or “origin” of both the Son and the Holy Spirit, and is considered the eternal source of the Godhead.[32] The Father is the one who eternally begets the Son, and the Father eternally breaths the Holy Spirit.[24][32]

As a member of the Trinity, God the Father is one with, co-equal to, co-eternal, and con-substantial with the Son and the Holy Spirit, each Person being the one eternal God and in no way separated, who is the creator: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent.[24] Because of this, the Trinity is beyond reason and can only be known by revelation.[30][33]

The Trinitarians concept of God the Father is not pantheistic in that he not viewed as identical to the universe or a vague notionthat persists in it, but exists fully outside of creation, as its Creator.[34][29] He is viewed as a loving and caring God, a Heavenly Father who is active both in the world and in people’s lives.[34][29] He created all things visible and invisible in love and wisdom,<and man for his own sake.[34][35]

The emergence of Trinitarian theology of God the Father in early Christianity was based on two key ideas: first the shared identity of of the Yahweh of the Old Testament and the God of Jesus in the New Testament, and then the self-distinction and yet the unity between Jesus and his Father.[36][37] An example of the unity of Son and Father is Matthew 11:27: “No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son”, asserting the mutual knowledge of Father and Son.[38]

The concept of fatherhood of God does appear in the Old Testament, but is not a a major theme.[39][36] While the view of God as the Father is used in the Old Testament, it only became a focus in the New Testament, as Jesus frequently referred to it.[39][36] This is manifested in the Lord’s prayer which combines the earthly needs of daily bread with the reciprocal concept of forgiveness.[39] And Jesus’ emphasis on his special relationship with the Father highlights the importance of the distinct yet unified natures of Jesus and the Father, building to the unity of Father and Son in the Trinity.[39]

The paternal view of God as the Father extends beyond Jesus to his disciples, and the entire Church, as reflected in the petitions Jesus submitted to the Father for his followers at the end of the Farewell Discourse, the night before his crucifixion.[40] Instances of this in the Farewell Discourse are John 14:20 as Jesus addresses the disciples: “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” and in John 17:22 as he prays tothe Father: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”[41]

Non-trinitarianism

Main article: Nontrinitarianism

A number of nontriniatarian traditions reject the doctrine of the Trinity, but differ from one another in their views, variously depicting Jesus as a divine being second only to God the Father, Yahweh of the Old Testament in human form, God (but not eternally God), prophet, or simply a holy man.[42] Some broad definitions of Protestantism include these groups within Protestantism, but most definitions do not.[43]

Mormon depiction of God the Father and the Son Jesus.

In Mormon theology, the most prominent conception of God is as a divine council of three distinct beings: Elohim (the Father), Jehovah (the Son, or Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. The Father and Son are considered to have perfected, material bodies, while the Holy Spirit has a body of spirit.[44] Mormons believe that God the Father presides over both the Son and Holy Spirit, but together they represent one God.

Mormons officially consider the Godhead a Divine Council, the Father being over the Son and Spirit in time and power. This conception differs from the traditional Christian Trinity of co-equal and co-eternal members; in Mormonism, the three persons are considered worthy to be members of godhood by being united in will and purpose.[45] Mormons often refer to this Council as the “Godhead” to distinguish it from the traditional Trinity.[46] As such, the term Godhead has a different meaning than the term as used in traditional Christianity.[47]

In Jehovah’s Witness theology, only God the Father is the one true and almighty God, even over his Son Jesus Christ. While the Witnesses acknowledge Christ’s pre-existence, perfection, and unique “Sonship” with God the Father, and believe that Christ had an essential role in creation and redemption, and is the Messiah, they believe that only the Father is without beginning. They say that the Son had a beginning, and was “brought forth” at a certain point, as the Father’s First and Only-begotten, and as the Father’s only direct creation, before all ages. They believe that all other things were created through the Son, in the service of God the Father.[48]

Jehovah’s Witnesses emphasize God the Father, in their services, studies, and worship, more than Christ the Son. In their theology, they teach that the Father is greater than the Son.[49][50] The Witnesses, though they do give relative “worship” or “obeisance” (Greek: proskyneo) to Jesus as God’s Son and Messiah, and pray through Him as Mediator, do not give him the same degree of worship or service as they give to God the Father.[51][52]

Oneness Pentecostalism teaches that God is a singular spirit who is one person, not three divine persons, individuals or minds. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are merely titles reflecting the different personal manifestations of the One True God in the universe. When Oneness believers speak of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they see these as three personal manifestations of one being, one personal God.[53][54]

Other groups include Sabbatarian traditions, such as the Living Church of God and the Philadelphia Church of God, Armstrongism, the Unitarian Christian Association, Binitarianism, etc.

Islam

Main articles: God in Islam and Shirk (Islam)

God, as referenced in the Qur’an, is the only God and the same God worshiped by members of the other Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Judaism. (29:46).[55] However, though Islam accepts the concept of God as creator and life-giver, and as the unique one, Islam rejects the term “father” in reference to God, particularly in regard to his relationship to the prophet Isa, i.e. Jesus in Islam.[8]

The Qur’an states:[56]

“Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” (Sura 112:1-4, Yusuf Ali)

In Islamic theology, God (Arabic: Allāh) is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer, and judge of the universe.[57][58] Islam puts a heavy emphasis on the conceptualization of God as strictly singular (tawhid).[59] God is unique (wahid) and inherently One (ahad), all-merciful and omnipotent.[60] The Qur’an asserts the existence of a single and absolute truth that transcends the world; a unique and indivisible being who is independent of the entire creation.[56]

Other religions

Although some forms of Hinduism support monotheism, there is no concept of a god as a father in Hinduism. A genderless Brahman is considered the Creator and Life-giver, and the Shakta Goddess is viewed as the divine mother and life-bearer.[61][62]

God the Father in Western art

Depiction of God the Father (detail), Pieter de Grebber, 1654.

For about a thousand years, no attempt was made to portray God the Father in human form, because early Christians believed that the words of Exodus 33:20 “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see Me and live” and of the Gospel of John 1:18: “No man hath seen God at any time” were meant to apply not only to the Father, but to all attempts at the depiction of the Father.[63] Typically only a small part of the body of Father would be represented, usually the hand, or sometimes the face, but rarely the whole person, and in many images, the figure of the Son supplants the Father, so a smaller portion of the person of the Father is depicted.[64]

In the early medieval period God was often represented by Christ as the Logos, which continued to be very common even after the separate figure of God the Father appeared. Western art eventually required some way to illustrate the presence of the Father, so through successive representations a set of artistic styles for the depiction of the Father in human form gradually emerged around the tenth century AD.[65]

By the twelfth century depictions of a figure of God, essentially based on the Ancient of Days in the Book of Daniel had started to appear in French manuscripts and in stained glass church windows in England. In the 14th century the illustrated Naples Bible had a depiction of God the Father in the Burning bush. By the 15th century, the Rohan Book of Hours included depictions of God the Father in human form. The depiction remains rare and often controversial in Eastern Orthodox art, and by the time of the Renaissance artistic representations of God the Father were freely used in the Western Church.[66]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: God the Father

References

  1. ^ a b Calling God “Father” by John W. Miller (Nov 1999) ISBN 0809138972 pages x-xii
  2. ^ a b Diana L. Eck (2003) Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras ISBN 0807073024 p. 98
  3. ^ a b Church Dogmatics, Vol. 2.1, Section 31: The Doctrine of God by Karl Barth (Sep 23, 2010) ISBN 0567012859 pages 15-17
  4. ^ Gerald J. Blidstein, 2006 Honor thy father and mother: filial responsibility in Jewish law and ethics ISBN 0-88125-862-8 page 1
  5. ^ a b God the Father in Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity: Transformed Background or Common Ground?, Alon Goshen-Gottstein. The Elijah Interfaith Institute, first published in Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 38:4, Spring 2001
  6. ^ a b c d Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Creeds Longmans:1960, p.136; p.139; p.195 respectively
  7. ^ a b c Symbols of Jesus: a Christology of symbolic engagement by Robert C. Neville 2002 ISBN 0-521-00353-9 page 26
  8. ^ a b The Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity by Hans Köchler 1982 ISBN 3-7003-0339-4 page 38
  9. ^ Floyd H. Barackman, 2002 Practical Christian Theology ISBN 0-8254-2380-5 page 117
  10. ^ Calling God “Father” by John W. Miller (Nov 1999) ISBN 0809138972 page 51
  11. ^ Church Dogmatics, Vol. 2.1, Section 31: The Doctrine of God by Karl Barth (Sep 23, 2010) ISBN 0567012859 pages 73-74
  12. ^ Lawrence Kimbrough, 2006 Contemplating God the Father B&H Publishing ISBN 0-8054-4083-6 page 3
  13. ^ Thomas W. Petrisko, 2001 The Kingdom of Our Father St. Andrew’s Press ISBN 1-891903-18-7 page 8
  14. ^ David Bordwell, 2002, Catechism of the Catholic Church,Continuum International Publishing ISBN 978-0-86012-324-8 page 84
  15. ^ Catechism at the Vatican website
  16. ^ Calling God “Father”: Essays on the Bible, Fatherhood and Culture by John W. Miller (Nov 1999) ISBN 0809138972 pages 50-51
  17. ^ a b The Names of God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: A Basis for Interfaith Dialogue: by Máire Byrne (Sep 8, 2011) ISBN 144115356X pages 2-3
  18. ^ a b Early Jewish and Christian Monotheism by Wendy North and Loren T. Stuckenbruck (May 27, 2004) ISBN 0567082938 pages 111-112
  19. ^ a b c d One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism by Larry W. Hurtado (Oct 25, 2003) ISBN pages 96-100
  20. ^ a b A History of the Christian Tradition, Vol. I by Thomas D. McGonigle and James F. Quigley (Sep 1988) ISBN 0809129647 pages 72-75 and 90
  21. ^ The Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity by Hans Köchler 1982 ISBN 3-7003-0339-4 page 38
  22. ^ Christian Theology: An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath (Oct 12, 2010) ISBN 1444335146 pages 237-238
  23. ^ Marianne Meye Thompson The promise of the Father: Jesus and God in the New Testament ch.2 God as Father in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism p35 2000 “Christian theologians have often accentuated the distinctiveness of the portrait of God as Father in the New Testament on the basis of an alleged discontinuity”
  24. ^ a b c The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen 2004 ISBN 0801027527 pages 70-74
  25. ^ a b The Trinity by Roger E. Olson, Christopher Alan Hall 2002 ISBN 0802848273 pages 29-31
  26. ^ Tertullian, First Theologian of the West by Eric Osborn (4 Dec 2003) ISBN 0521524954 pages 116-117
  27. ^ Paul’s Way of Knowing by Ian W. Scott (Dec 1, 2008) ISBN 0801036097 pages 159-160
  28. ^ a b Pillars of Paul’s Gospel: Galatians and Romans by John F. O?Grady (May 1992) ISBN 080913327X page 162
  29. ^ a b c International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Mar 1982) ISBN 0802837824 pages 515-516
  30. ^ a b The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity by Gilles Emery O. P. and Matthew Levering (27 Oct 2011) ISBN 0199557810 page 263
  31. ^ Critical Terms for Religious Studies. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998. Credo Reference. 27 July 2009
  32. ^ a b The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology by Alan Richardson and John Bowden (Jan 1, 1983) ISBN 0664227481 page 36
  33. ^ Catholic catechism at the Vatican web site, items: 242 245 237
  34. ^ a b c God Our Father by John Koessler (Sep 13, 1999) ISBN 0802440681 page 68
  35. ^ Catholic Catechism items: 356 and 295 at the Vatican web site
  36. ^ a b c The Trinity: Global Perspectives by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Jan 17, 2007) ISBN 0664228909 pages 10-13
  37. ^ Global Dictionary of Theology by William A. Dyrness, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Juan F. Martinez and Simon Chan (Oct 10, 2008) ISBN 0830824545 pages 169-171
  38. ^ The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1988 ISBN 0-8028-3785-9 page 571-572
  39. ^ a b c d The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen 2004 ISBN 0801027527 pages 37-41
  40. ^ Symbols of Jesus by Robert C. Neville (Feb 4, 2002) ISBN 0521003539 pages 26-27
  41. ^ Jesus and His Own: A Commentary on John 13-17 by Daniel B. Stevick (Apr 29, 2011) Eeardmans ISBN 0802848656 page 46
  42. ^ Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology by Paul Louis Metzger 2006 ISBN 0567084108 pages 36 and 43
  43. ^ Encyclopedia of Protestantism by J. Gordon Melton 2008 ISBN 0816077460 page 543
  44. ^ “Godhead”, True to the Faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 2004. See also: “God the Father”, True to the Faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 2004.
  45. ^ Robinson, Stephen E. (1992), “God the Father: Overview”, in Ludlow, Daniel H., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Mcmillan, pp. 548–550, ISBN 0-02-904040-X
  46. ^ Dahl, Paul E. (1992), “Godhead”, in Ludlow, Daniel H., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Mcmillan, pp. 552–553, ISBN 0-02-904040-X
  47. ^ The term with its distinctive Mormon usage first appeared in Lectures on Faith (published 1834), Lecture 5 (“We shall in this lecture speak of the Godhead; we mean the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”). The term Godhead also appears several times in Lecture 2 in its sense as used in the Authorized King James Version as meaning divinity.
  48. ^ Insight on the Scriptures. 2. 1988. p. 1019.
  49. ^ Revelation Its Grand Climax, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1988, pg 36, “In the songbook produced by Jehovah’s people in 1905, there were twice as many songs praising Jesus as there were songs praising Jehovah God. In their 1928 songbook, the number of songs extolling Jesus was about the same as the number extolling Jehovah. But in the latest songbook of 1984, Jehovah is honored by four times as many songs as is Jesus. This is in harmony with Jesus’ own words: ‘The Father is greater than I am.’ Love for Jehovah must be preeminent, accompanied by deep love for Jesus and appreciation of his precious sacrifice and office as God’s High Priest and King.”
  50. ^ The Watchtower, April 15, 1983, pg 29, “Why is God’s name, Jehovah, missing from most modern translations of the Bible? Superstition that developed among tradition-bound Jews caused them to avoid pronouncing God’s personal name, Jehovah. This has contributed to worldwide ignorance regarding the divine name. Added to this has been Christendom’s tendency to focus attention on the person of Jesus Christ, thus relegating Jehovah to second place in their triune godhead.”
  51. ^ “Should you believe in the Trinity?”. The Watchtower. 1989. Retrieved 13 April 2012. “Chapter: Is God Always Superior to Jesus?”
  52. ^ Watchtower 1984 9/1 p. 25-30.
  53. ^ James Roberts – Oneness vs. Trinitarian Theology – Westland United Pentecostal Church. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  54. ^ See also David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988. ISBN 0-932581-37-4 needs page num
  55. ^ F.E. Peters, Islam, p.4, Princeton University Press, 2003
  56. ^ a b Vincent J. Cornell, Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol 5, pp.3561-3562
  57. ^ Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes, Encyclopedia of the Quran
  58. ^ John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.22
  59. ^ John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.88
  60. ^ “Allah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica
  61. ^ Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology Set by C. Scott Littleton 2005 ISBN 0-7614-7559-1 page 908
  62. ^ Fundamentals of the Faith by Peter Kreeft 1988 ISBN 0-89870-202-X page 93
  63. ^ James Cornwell, 2009 Saints, Signs, and Symbols: The Symbolic Language of Christian Art ISBN 0-8192-2345-X page 2
  64. ^ Adolphe Napoléon Didron, 2003 Christian iconography: or The history of Christian art in the middle ages ISBN 0-7661-4075-X pages 169
  65. ^ James Cornwell, 2009 Saints, Signs, and Symbols: The Symbolic Language of Christian Art ISBN 0-8192-2345-X page 2
  66. ^ George Ferguson, 1996 Signs & symbols in Christian art ISBN 0-19-501432-4 page 92

Convocation address by His Beatitude Mar George Alenchery at Sanathana

Divyakarunya Vidyapeetham, Thamarassery

Monday 28th November 2011 – The Convocation Day

Convocation address by His Beatitude Mar George Alenchery,

The Major Arch-Bishop of Syro-Malabar Church

****************************************************************************************

Dear and Very Rev Fr George Kizhakkemury, the Superior General of the congregation and the Chancellor of the Divyakarunya Vidhyapeetham, Very Rev Fr Provincials, Rev Fr Rector, Rev Fr President of the  Vidhyapeetham and Rev Fr dean of Studies,  My dear Rev Fathers and Dear Brothers,

I just start todays talk to you recalling as Fr General said, my friendship with the MCBS – Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.  You know it was a natural affection that came into my person that I continued from the seminary days until today; and hope also in future. This is not simply a human friendship but also a Spiritual affinity; because the Charism that your congregation has in the holy bible and the Holy Eucharist and that goes to the heart of the Church and that’s only I think everybody in the Church will have – an appreciation and a gratitude to the MCBS. Secondly I congratulate all the candidates who have received the decrees in theology and also diplomas in theology. You have received the fruits of your toil and voile in this Vidhyapeetham and also your formation in the seminary. So my hearty congratulations, best wishes and Prayers for your academic work in the Church. Thirdly I would like to recall to you and to me the memory of my dear young friend Fr Roy Mulakupadom. Right from the choice of his vocation I was and as you were sad in his demise I also was very much taken up by pain because of his sudden departure from this world. We do not know the God’s design for each one of us. We have to accept it when God reveals it to us. So present his soul for God’s mercy and eternal repose

Let me begin today my reflections with you recalling the mission command of the Lord. The Lord says, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe that all that I have taught you” this is the fundamental Mission command that we receive from the gospel of St Mathew. I start this reflection today with this verse from the gospel because you are a missionary congregation; secondly we are in the Mission Year. For this double reason I thought the convocation address today is well suited to be started with these verse of the Gospel. We know that this is a triple command. The first command is to make disciples of all nations. It is a very sharp command and also very extensive. Sharp in the sense to make a human being a disciple of Christ is not an easy job; it is a mission that goes to the heart of a person who is evangelizing, who is missionary, and also to the heart of one who seeks the message of the gospel. So it is a heart to heart exchange of faith that happens in individuals; a heart to heart exchange or participation in faith. I don’t know whether we have understood the depth of the mission command of the Lord when he says, “make disciples of all nations.” Because in mark it is “to preach the gospel to all the creatures”; that may be a general command; and we all are taken up by that general command. Preaching the gospel of Christ directly and indirectly and also by the apostolic words of peace. This is the common way of wishing in the Church and also in Syro-Malabar Church. And now this is the time that we have to focus more and more of making disciples. Before making disciples we have to be disciples of the Lord. So becoming disciple is the first step of making disciples. And in the seminary and by the academic formation what we gain in the institute like this is nothing but discipleship both in life and action.     The Lord Jesus prayed for his 12 men for this discipleship and there were also a group of 72 men who were also prayed by the Lord for this discipleship.  So Discipleship is a fundamental condition to become really a good missionary. And I don’t know whether all those who are in the formation houses and all in our faculties are really taken up by this bound duty of becoming real Disciples of Christ. We learn many things in the seminary regarding discipleship and the cost of discipleship and so on; but I do not know whether we become really like the master. The Lord has said that we have to become like the master. A disciple is to become like the master. It is said of St Francis of Assisi, that he was called at his time as another Christ – altar Christus. Sometimes it is translated in Malayalam as randam christhu, which is wrong translation. There is no second, third, fourth Christ like that. Altar Christus! Another Christ! Who lived like Christ. Who really gave Christ to others, whose appearance and action gave the presence and action of Jesus Christ in the world. So it is up to every priest whether he is religious or not to become altar Christus in life and action and become really a disciple like and through the master.  This must be really the actual job of every seminarian or the religious candidate one who wants to become a consecrated person. Consecrated set apart sanctified for the Lord to do his mission in this world. And such a kind of discipleship is the real challenge for every seminarian, for every candidate of the religious priesthood of today.

The world has changed much and much of the world has come into the Church. And the Church has to really sanctifying all those elements that have come into the Church. It is good that there is an exchange of the Church with the world because there is no real dichotomy between the secular and the Spirit. The Spiritual embraces the secular, the secular enters in to the Spiritual; and this is what we have to aim at. And such a kind of exchange and assimilation of the secular in to the Spiritual and the Spiritual embracing the secular every   seminarian or religious candidate has to become really conscious of it and really transformed by it and really becoming Christ’s mission in this world. Christ’s mission in this world.

One year back the Holy Father ordained four candidates to Episcopacy.  These were people who were working in the Castries of Rome. And after ordaining them, the Holy Father addressed them and said, dear brother bishops “you are your mission” and secondly he said, “we are our mission”. We the bishops are our mission that means there is no real distinction between the person and the mission. The person becomes the mission. Jesus was like that. He was God in man and as God-man he really gave to the world God and that is why the Spiritual in him entered into the secular and the secular was really sanctified and it is said of Jesus in this prayer. “O Lord, so that they may be in us I sanctify myself”. Whatever there was to be sanctified simply filling the world, filling the world in him with the Spirit of God. That is sanctification. So he did that the whole world become Spirit filled by the action of Christ; and such a work has to be continued in the world we have been so much Spiritually filled embraced by the Spirit of Christ so that we may give Spirit in to the world. This kind of sanctification has to continue. So making disciples is the deep sense of Christ and of the Church – this deep conviction of Christ and the Church in ours. Secondly we know that baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son… the whole sacramental mystery is involved there. Church is the sacrament of Christ in the world and this sacrament is realized through the persons in the Church. The sacraments are really fulfilled in the recipients. The recipients become the reality of the sacraments. The Baptized becomes the really immersed person in Jesus Christ. The anointed person becomes really the person who is filled with the gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit, like in a sacrament. So it is the sacrament of reality means to be imbibed by the whole reality of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then there is a third command of Lord “teaching them all that I have taught.” The real catechesis that pervades the whole realm of activity of the Church; that is pervading the whole realm catechesis is not only simply for the children.  Even we are all catechized. Even theology is giving meaning to the doctrinal truths in the life situations of the world. Explaining the mystery of Christ and the mystery of the Church and the mystery of the whole world. The mystery of Christ and the Church enters in to the cosmic mystery of God’s creation. The whole creation is really sanctified by the theologizing. In the past, in the 60’s and even before many of the theologians taught that theology is a science it is enough that i teach it, is not up to me whether they live it or not. I am a professor of theology.  Look here in the west countries people taught like that and I have heard professors teaching or telling me like that. I explain to you what the doctrines of the Church are basing on the word of God, it is not up to you to look up to my life; I am a professor. Really a contradictory term! If you become a theologian first of all you have to become a disciple of Christ; we are all mission; we have to be converted. Theology is not like any other science – theology is the science of the mystery of Christ. The mystery of Christ is realized in each one of us. So a theologian has to become really a person who follows Christ and who practices the values of the gospel according to the teachings of the Church. Third, as I said earlier, the first responsibility the disciple and the candidates of priesthood and to the consecrated life to be fully filled with the reality of Christ and the reality of the Church there is no difference actually between the reality of Christ and the reality of the Church of course one is the incarnated reality that continues in the world and other reality of Christ is incarnated reality also in this world in its glorified form today. So Jesus is a being priest and being administered and being also lived as the life of love in the Church. He is present in each one of us with the charisms and gifts that he has given to each one of us in this ways. So that kind of mystery of the reality of Christ being realized in the lives of each one of us is an important reflection for the people in the Church. You know that, in the recent times, from 1970’s onwards even today that continues, and there is trend in the Church that has becomes earlier challenge for the followers of Christ. And the western countries are really struggling to come out of it, struggling to come out of that challenge. After the council Vatican II many people thought that the Church was really estranged from the world. It was to some extent true and in order to get the world in to the reality of the Church; I think many went too far, they went too far that means they tried the Spirit of the world much more than giving the Spirit of Christ in the world. Thus the contrary happened, both in theology and also in moral. And we know the level of the morals in the present world and especially in the west, of course we may think that the West is going bad and we are really in the high time. I give you matter to reflect more to make such a judgment. The world reality is now moving onward as a whole as one whole it is moving before because of the globalization. So it is up to us Christians especially theologians and philosophers in the Church to really evaluate the situation and give a correct orientation in to the student in the campuses and theologates of our Church. Recently, I mean in the coming days, we will have a meeting in the Curia at Kakkanad, of all the rectors and presidents of all of the seminary the first time that we think of calling all the responsible person in the formation institutes to come and reflect together. Formerly we were doing under the offices of Church to appoint commissions of bishops to address the administration of each major seminary conducted directly by the Synod.  But we cannot close up like that; the Synod of Bishops thought that we should cross up to the Church as a whole whether in case the seminarians directly under the synod or by the dioceses or by the Religious congregations, we are all working for the Church and the world. So let us have to address these problems on one level that is the intention of coming together of the responsible persons of the   Seminaries and institutes. So what I am trying to say is that much of the philosophies and much of the ideologies of the world has coming to the Church is good, If it is really taken up according to the personal values and according to the doctrines of the Church.  The gospel values and the traditions that have developed in the Church is the criteria for us get in to the world and also to take the world in to us. We have to do it. The dialogue of the Church and the world is a must. And this dialogue has to be both in word and deed, according to the mind of Christ and according to the Spirit of the doctrines of the Church. This is the great challenge both for you students and also for the professors and the responsible persons in the formation.  The Bishops can only supervise this realities. You are really in the mission. So what the Lord wanted of making disciples has to go to all the institutes and seminaries of formation so that we become really imbibed by the Spirit of Christ as persons and one reality in the Church. And as far as we are an individual oriental Church and that traces its origin to the apostolic times, it is not a matter to be taken as a point of glory for us. Very often we may think like that, our forefathers were preached by St. Thomas, the apostle. I would be very happy if I were baptized only yesterday, because the one who is baptized yesterday has the same dignity before the Lord, by the persons who are coming in the great tradition; or you should imbibe the values of the tradition and give your dignity in the best way possible for the generation for there is something like that in the Church. We had really taken the Spirit of St. Thomas, the apostle and the apostolic times and there is a faith traditions and the moral life pattern in the Syro Malabar Church; let us be thankful to the Lord for that. But instead of simply glorifying ourselves on that level we have to be really taking the responsibility of becoming more and more that Spirit and then give that Spirit to others.

Our mission is an apostolic mission. Apostolic mission means, which comes from the responsibility of an apostle. An apostle is a disciple who is sent to preach and to act. Sent to preach and to act, there is a difference. Any disciple can be in the Church but he need not to be sent. But the priest is sent and the Bishop is sent. He cannot be remaining restless, remaining in an inactive mood. He has to be restless. He has to be really taken up by the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of mission and he has to prove he is worth. He is a person like Jesus who said that we have a baptism to be baptized with and also a chalice to drink, and Jesus was always preoccupied with this mission which he has to fulfill, the mystery of Christ. This is the mystery of Christ, both in word and in deed. Work by preaching and by action and the action that culminated in the death on the cross and was glorified in the resurrection. This total reality of the mystery of Christ is that really calls you in your charism. It is great mystery that you celebrate in your Holy Qurbana. You have taken on the charism of the whole Church, the charism of your particular Church; and you are thus becoming an ecclesial reality, your religious congregation. You are thus becoming an ecclesial mission for the Syro Malabar Church and for the Universal Church. So what a noble charism that your fathers have been working! Taking the very same reality of the Church into your persons in your reality as a congregation and implanting it wherever you go and share it with others and thus becoming the mystery of Christ spread all over the world. You make disciples, you administer sacraments, you also preach the people to observe what the Lord has taught. Such a kind of central charism has gone up into your own religious vocation or vocation to the consecrated life. I just mentioned that there are philosophies and ideologies that come into the Church. And each philosophies and ideologies are very much attracting the youth of today; the younger generation of the people who are called to the ministry in the Church. It is a natural process of globalization.

Many things come to us as ideologies through all the media – print media, electronic media, internet media – then you become really absorbed in them. When we were studying as seminarians before 1960s this was not at all a temptation. You see it was our time that this transistors and radios came and then people were controlled as you are controlled now in your internet machine or internet use, we were controlled in the use of the radio. Now nobody wants radio. But that was a big attraction. There were seminarians who used to hide these transistors and radios, small radios under their bed and hear it; and they were caught and punished. As you are now doing some mischiefs     regarding the internet and you are punished sometimes I don’t know. This was the situation. But after the print media, this radio, television… I was sent for studies in 1981, then there was no television in Kerala or in India.

When I came back in 1986 all most all the home had a television; I was taken up by that. Even in France where I studied people were not so much taken up by this new mode of media.  But we, in India were all taken up by that everybody wants to see the television was then the model. Now people don’t like even television; all have gone to internet, mobile phones, chatting; all those things you know. So this is how the world changes. So the world is coming every ideology is coming into our mind and I tell you that, this is one of the temptations of us today or attractions of men today or seminarians today. We have to take the ideas of the world and then to propagate them with the use of the gospel and the doctrines of the Church. Making just the contrary is our mission. We are the people who have to preach the gospel values and the mission of the Church by the help of the internet or the other media. We just take the other way, and each one of us try to take really an image of ourselves rather than the image of Christ.

You know about the ‘men Gods’, I don’t know if they are Gods; they are not God men, men Gods – Aal Deivangal.   Aal deivangal in other religions! And in a way we do have also the attraction to become aal deivangal  instead of becoming confirmed to Christ  we are making Christ to confirm to ourselves.  It is a very dangerous trend that comes in to the world. This is what the Holy Father called the tyranny of relativism. The objective reality of Christ and the Church is forgone and instead of that our reality is projected with the help of Christian doctrines and also gospel values. We do not do it consciously; unconsciously this trend is coming to us. So my dear friends, I call you like that, because you have to be closely related to the interests of the Church and then take this reflection seriously; and really following Christ and his mystery which is your charism and also the mystery of the Church as the mystery of the cosmos and relate ourselves in that Spirit of Christ to  the world. Whether it be regarding the doctrines or in the morals. How much the morals have come down even in the lives of the religious and the priests and the bishops, I would say. How it happened? Relativism of truth! Relativism of Morals! For everything I or you become the criterion rather than Christ and his gospel and the Church. This is the danger. Let us reflect on it. In all the faculties you have to reflect on it. And I tell you if you do not have a philosophy to live with, we will philosophize what we do. And I repeat, if you do not have a philosophy to live with, we will philosophize what we do. When something goes wrong in the Church, the person who is responsible is called and taken for a dialogue, and the person will philosophize whatever he does. He will find a reason for everything as if it is good. Even if it is a moral failure, he will say it happened because it is like that and so on. He will find a way. Actually he will have to find the way of the Lord. “I am the way, the truth and the life”. And it is in Jesus who is the way that we find the truth and we attain the life. Instead of that we break Christ into our own way, into our own life pattern and then we explain everything; it is the very dangerous, danger in our present day times. I only present this thought for your reflection for this convocation address and let us have a real reflection in these days of your studies and many of you have completed your studies; but study never completes. Because you will learn even at the death bed.

There was a father when I was studying in Paris who had always this imitation of Christ at his side. He was 93 years old.  And he used to read every day. And once I asked the father. The name of the father was Oben, Father Oben why should you read even now this Imitation of Christ? You are already a Christ imitator. To make him happy also I said like that because he was Holy man.   And then he said, “My dear brother George, my dear George, Is this the theology that you studied? Then I am very unhappy about it”.  And he corrected me telling that every day you have to be confirmed it to Jesus Christ. How much difficult the world is my dear brother. I took it as a lesson. I will tell you another small incident in my seminary days, minor seminary days. I had a minor seminary professor, Vice Rector. One day he took me for an outing. Outing means not walking; He took me for outing by bus. So we were waiting for bus.  The bus is not coming. It is in 1960s. The buses were very few and we were waiting. And I was becoming restless and I was going just ahead and looking whether the bus is coming. I was doing it every 5 mnts and like that. And then the father called me, and he used to call me by house name. “Alanchery what are we doing?” then I said, “We are wasting time, father.”  Then he said, No, we are practicing patience. We are practicing patience.  That struck in to my heart.  So there are many things every day that we have to learn every day according to the mind of Christ and of the Church. 

The Holy Father is struggling to explain the mystery of Christ to the world that is secularized. We have no struggle at all. We are not at all worried about that. We are happy with the Lord that is given to us and we don’t work and we never struggle at all. My dear brothers our work is very serious, our mission is the mission of Jesus, our mission is the mission of the Church. The more you are imbibed by the Spirit of Christ, the more you are imbibed by the Church, the more or the better will be your service. Let us become really meaningful servants in the Church, of his gospel and also his life of love.

I conclude; may God bless you. And all your activities be for the glory of the Church universal, and in particular the Church Syro- Malabar

Thank you

ദൈവവിളിക്കായുള്ള പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥന / Prayer for Vocation

ദൈവവിളിക്കായുള്ള പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥന

“വിളവധികം വേലക്കാരോ ചുരുക്കം, അതിനാല്‍ തന്റെ വിളഭൂമിയിലെക്ക് വേലക്കാരെ അയക്കാന്‍ വിളവിന്റെ നാഥനോട് പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥിക്കുവിന്‍” എന്ന് ആഹ്വാനം ചെയ്ത ഈശോ നാഥാ ലോകത്തെ മുഴുവന്‍ അങ്ങേക്കായി നേടുവാന്‍ ധാരാളം  നല്ല ശുശ്രൂഷകരെ തിരുസ്സഭക്ക് നല്‍കണമേ. അവര്‍ അങ്ങയുടെ ജനത്തെ വിശുദ്ധീകരിക്കുകയും നയിക്കുകയും പഠിപ്പിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യട്ടെ. തനിക്കു ഇഷ്ടമുള്ളവരെ അരികിലേക്ക് വിളിച്ചു പരിശുദ്ധാത്മാവിനാല്‍ നിറച്ച്‌ ലോകത്തിന്റെ നാനാ ഭാഗങ്ങളിലേക്കും അയച്ചതുപോലെ അങ്ങേ അറിയാത്ത അനേകായിരങ്ങളുടെ അടുത്തേക്ക്‌ കടന്നുചെന്ന് അവരെ അങ്ങയിലേക്ക് നയിക്കുവാന്‍ നല്ല അജപാലകരെ ഞങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് നല്‍കണമേ. ധാരാളം നല്ല ദൈവവിളികള്‍ നല്‍കി ഞങ്ങളുടെ കുടുംബത്തെയും  അനുഗ്രഹിക്കണമേ.   അങ്ങയുടെ ഹൃദയത്തിനിണങ്ങിയ നല്ല മകനായി/മകളായി  എന്നെയും മാറ്റണമേ. അങ്ങനെ ലോകത്തിനു ദീപവും ഭൂമിക്കു ഉപ്പുമായി തീരുവാന്‍ എനിക്കും ഇടയാകട്ടെ. അങ്ങയുടെ വിളിയും തിരഞ്ഞെടുപ്പും മനസ്സിലാക്കുവാനും അതിനു പ്രത്യുത്തരം നല്‍കുവാനും എന്നെ സഹായിക്കണമേ. അതിനായി അങ്ങയുടെ പരിശുദ്ധാത്മാവിന്റെ ദാനങ്ങളും   ഫലങ്ങളും എന്നില്‍ നിറയ്ക്കണമേ.  നിത്യ പുരോഹിതനായ ഈശോ അങ്ങയുടെ വിളി സ്വീകരിച്ച് അങ്ങേക്കായി ജീവിക്കുന്ന സമര്‍പ്പിതരെ അങ്ങേ തിരുഹൃദയത്തില്‍ കാത്തുകൊള്ളണമേ. ഞങ്ങളുടെ അമ്മയായ പരിശുദ്ധ കന്യകാമാതാവേ, കന്യാവ്രതക്കാരുടെ കാവല്‍ക്കാരനായ മാര്‍ യൌസേപ്പിതാവേ എനിക്കുവേണ്ടിയും ഞങ്ങളുടെ  കുടുംബത്തിനുവേണ്ടിയും പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥിക്കണമേ. എന്റെ കാവല്‍ മാലാഖയെ   ദൈവതിരുമുന്‍പില്‍ നിര്‍മലനായി/നിര്‍മലയായി ജീവിക്കുവാന്‍ എന്നെ സഹായിക്കണമേ. എന്റെ പ്രത്യേക സ്വര്‍ഗ്ഗീയ   മദ്ധ്യസ്ഥരെ… നിങ്ങളും  എനിക്കുവേണ്ടി പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥിക്കണമേ. ആമ്മേന്‍

Prayer for Vocations

Jesus, High Priest and Redeemer forever, we beg you to call young men and women to your service as priests and religious. May they be inspired by the lives of dedicated priests, Brothers, and Sisters. Give to parents the grace of generosity and trust toward you and their children so that their sons and daughters may be helped to choose their vocations in life with wisdom and freedom.

Lord, you told us that the harvest indeed is great but the laborers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest. We ask that we may know and follow the vocation to which you have called us. We pray particularly for those called ot serve as priests, Brothers and Sisters; those whom you have called, those you are calling now, and those you will call in the future. May they be open and responsive to the call of serving your people. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Vocation Promoter (Fr Maneesh MCBS)

MCBS Seminary, Athirampuzha

Kottayam 686562, India

Click her for the Detailed Web Page

ഞായറാഴ്ച പ്രസംഗങ്ങള്‍: Sunday Homilies / Sunday Sermons: Malayalam, English

Sunday Homilies in Malayalam (Syro-Malabar Rite)

സീറോ മലബാര്‍ പ്രസംഗങ്ങള്‍ മലയാളത്തില്‍

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Sunday Sermon in 8 Minutes 

ലൈഫ് ഡേ ഓൺലൈൻ 

അൽമായ വചനഭാഷ്യം

വചനനാളം – ദീപനാളം, പാലാ രൂപത

സണ്‍‌ഡേ പുൾപിറ്റ് – പാലക്കാട് രൂപത

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The Liturgy of the Blessings in the Syro-Malabar Church

LRC Seminar

13 – 15 June 2006

The Liturgy of the Blessings in the Syro-Malabar Church

 

Fr.Antony Nariculam

Before we deal with “Blessings”, we need to have some understanding about what is meant by ‘blessing’. Are ‘sacramentals’ and ‘blessings’ the same? What are ‘para-liturgical’ services? Can we make a distinction between ‘major’ blessings and ‘minor’ blessings? Which are the blessings ‘reserved’ to the bishops and priests? Are deacons of the Eastern Churches permitted to administer blessings? Which is the type of blessings that lay people may administer? As far as I know, the Syro-Malabar Church has not formally addressed these questions. Therefore, this paper is based on certain assumptions and practices that need to be clarified in order to arrive at acceptable conclusions in view of understanding the very idea of ‘Blessings’ and eventually preparing the ritual for the same.

Before trying to understand the Syro-Malabar Blessings, I feel that we need to have some general notions about the Sacramentals and Blessings in the light of Church documents and history of Blessings, including those of the Western tradition. Part One, therefore, is a survey in order to understand the meaning and areas of ‘Blessings’ and Part Two deals specifically with the Syro-Malabar Blessings.

Part One

1. Vatican II and Sacramentals

Vatican II has not given specific principles and norms regarding the Blessings. However, its references to the Sacramentals give us some hints to understand the Blessings.

After explaining the meaning of the sacraments, SC 60 says about the sacramentals the following: “These (sacramentals) are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the Church’s intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effects of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy”. For well-disposed members of the faithful, notes the document, “the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power (SC 61). However, in the course of history some features have crept into the rite of the sacramentals and sacraments[1] which have rendered their nature and purpose ‘far from clear to the people of today’ (SC 62). Then the Council proposes that the sacramentals be revised in such a way as to ‘enable the faithful to participate in them intelligently, actively and easily considering the circumstances of our times’ (SC 79). It also suggests to have provision for administering ‘some of the sacramentals’ at least ‘in special circumstances’ by ‘qualified lay persons’ at the ‘discretion of the bishops’ (SC 79).

Two of the sacramentals specifically mentioned in the Council document are the profession of the religious (SC 80) and the funeral rite (SC 81, 82).

2. Catechism of the Catholic Church and Sacramentals

According to CCC, the sacramentals are ‘instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man’ and they respond to the ‘needs, culture and special history of the Christian people of a particular region or time’ (CCC 1668).

What is the distinction between sacraments and sacramentals? In the words of CCC, ‘sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it’ (CCC 1670).

Who is the celebrant of the sacramentals? Sacramentals derive from ‘baptismal priesthood’ and hence every baptized person is “called to be a blessing and to bless” (CCC 1669. Cf. Gen. 12,2; Lk 6,28; Rom. 12,14; 1 Pet. 3,9). Consequently, also lay people may preside at ‘certain blessings’ (CCC 1669).

CCC identifies the following categories of sacramentals:

  • Blessing of Persons: Abbot and Abbess of monastery, the consecration of Virgins, the Rite of Religious Profession and the blessing of certain ministries of the Church such as readers, acolytes and catechists.
  • Blessing of Objects: Holy oils, vessels, vestments, bells etc.
  • Blessing of Places: Church, cemetery etc.
  • Blessing of Meals[2]:
  • Exorcism[3]:

Besides these sacramentals proper, there are also various forms of piety and popular devotions ‘surrounding the Church’s sacramental life’ such as the veneration of the relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the Stations of the Cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals etc. (CCC 1674). However, they do not replace liturgy, but are ‘extensions of the liturgical life of the Church’ (CCC 1675).

Referring to the Latin American Bishops’ Conference CELAM, the CCC notes that the popular piety of the Christian people is a ‘storehouse of values that offers answers of Christian wisdom to the great questions of life’ (CCC 1676).

 

3. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and Sacramentals

According to CCEO 867/1 the sacramentals are “sacred signs, which in a way imitate the sacraments and signify effects, especially spiritual ones, which are obtained through the impetration of the Church. Through the sacramentals people are disposed to receive the principal effects of the sacraments and the various circumstances of their life are sanctified”.[4] The detailed norms concerning the sacramentals are left to the Particular Law of each Individual Church sui iuris.

The Latin Code of Canon Law is more specific regarding the sacramentals. It speaks about the sacramentals which can be administered by lay people (CIC 1168), the role of the deacons in imparting blessings (CIC 1169/3), the possibility of extending blessings to non-Catholics (CIC 1170) etc.

4. Syro-Malabar Particular Law and Sacramentals

The Particular Law of SMC has the following to say about the sacramentals and their administration.

After stating that the bishops, priests and deacons are the ordinary ministers of the sacramentals (No. 153), the Law gives the following directives:

  • The priest can delegate the power of administering the sacramentals, except funeral service, blessing of houses and exorcism, to minor clerics as per eparchial statutes (No. 154/1).
  • When a deacon or a minor cleric is the minister of sacramentals, he can say the final prayer (Huttama), but shall not impart the blessing with the Sign of the Cross which is reserved to priests (No.154/2).
  • The following are some of the sacramentals: Dedication (Adima), funeral service, office of the dead and exorcism (No. 154/3).

5. Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and Sacramentals[5]

Sacramentals and popular devotions often respond to the religious sensibility of the peoples. According to the Instruction, the Eastern Churches are known for their ability to integrate the elements of their devotions into their liturgies. So much so, they have “their own devotional forms or formulas, less precise, more individual and probably easier, such as exclamatory prayers, celebration of the divine office with their own particular content, veneration of the most Holy Cross, of icons, of relics, of sanctuaries, the use of candles, incensing, and sometimes even the offering of animals” (No. 38). These manifestations of piety have usually remained “linked with the liturgical life” (No. 38).

I think that three observations are in order here.

(i) Eastern popular piety is less precise and more individual. This was the case also in the development of the liturgy. The fluid liturgical celebrations of individual pioneers were later codified and introduced. Such a process in popular piety too was a felt-need. Hence, it is natural that the popular devotions in the SMC are codified and have adopted a communitarian dimension.

(ii) Eastern manifestations of popular piety were linked with the liturgical life. But, in the course of history, we find an attempt, both in the East as well as in the West, to make a distinction between liturgy and popular piety. The general trend in the SMC too is to separate popular piety from liturgy, rather than to integrate it with the liturgical life.

(iii) After mentioning the influence of Latin popular devotions on the Eastern Catholic Churches and the spiritual benefits they have obtained due to this influence, the Instruction states that in any event it should be kept in mind that which has been established by CCEO 656/2 according to which the prayer books of popular devotions should have ecclesiastical permission (No. 38). It seems to me that the Instruction is taking the ‘Latin influence’ as a fait-accompli and hence future attempts should be to integrate them properly without endangering one’s own liturgical traditions.

6. Blessings: A Short Historical Survey

To ‘bless’ (benedicere, eulogein) means ‘to say a good word’. However, it is generally understood as a ‘praise to God’ or an ‘invocation to God’. This two-fold movement is the meaning of blessing in the liturgical tradition. The former (praising God) is very clear in the Eucharistic celebration and the divine office. The latter form of blessing (invoking God) is found in a variety of forms like the blessing of the ashes or palms, the blessing of oil and water, the blessing of sacred images or vessels, the blessing of persons or places etc. Among these there are those which are administered by the ordained ministers and which forms part of Church’s euchological patrimony. There are also popular practices of blessings that have roots in the Bible and in the faith of the people.

In the past when people were basically rural, they invoked God’s blessings over all aspects of their lives, from birth to death. Making the sign of the cross on oneself, prayer on rising in the morning and before retiring at night, prayer before and after meals, blessing of children, the sick etc. are examples.

Blessings have developed also on the basis of the rhythms of the universe. Prayers on the occasions of sowing, harvest, natural disasters etc. were human responses to God’s omnipresence and omnipotence. Blessings for protection against the evil spirits are yet another development in history. Some of them later led to superstitious and magical practices. Certain types of exorcism are consequent upon this mentality. In course of time some blessings became ‘private’ functions of the priest without any participation of the community. This has caused cases where  ‘magical effects’ are attributed to Blessings.

Till the 13th century we do not find a ‘definition’ of the sacramentals. In fact, the term ‘sacramental’ and its quasi-definition was introduced for the first time by Guglielmo d’ Auvergne (+ 1249), a professor of Paris University and later an Archbishop.[6] Later its understanding was made clearer by St Thomas Aquinas who held that the sacramentals were not instituted by Christ and that they did not confer grace and were left to the institution of the faithful. Suarez, Bellarmino and others tried to clarify this concept further. Eventually the sacramentals were understood as visible signs, instituted by the Church, for the spiritual and material benefit of the faithful.

In early times a distinction was made between ‘Constitutive Blessing’ (e.g. Blessing of the baptismal font) whose effect is guaranteed through the mediation of the Church and ‘Invocative Blessing’ (e.g. Blessing of a sick person) whose effect depends on the desire of the recipient and the will of God.[7]

The roots of Christian liturgical blessings are found in the anaphoral prayers. They are the highest forms of Blessings. For example, in the four G’hanta cycles of the anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari, the Father, the Holy Trinity, Christ and the Holy Spirit are ‘blessed’ respectively. There are other blessings too in the Eucharistic celebration. The blessing of the catechumens before their dismissal, the blessing before Holy Communion, the final blessing (Huttama) etc. and the blessing with the Gospel book, the blessing before the exchange of peace etc. are examples.

Two representative ancient documents which reveal the nature of the Blessings are Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome in the West and Euchologion of Serapion in the East. In the Apostolic Tradition there are two Blessings: one for the light when the lamps are brought to the dining room before the evening meal and the other for the first fruits.[8] The Euchologion of Serapion contains Blessing of persons (catechumens, lay persons, the sick etc.) and objects (oil for the sick, water for Baptism, oil for post-baptismal anointing etc.).[9]

The history of Blessings in the Eastern tradition reveals that there is no dearth of borrowings from various texts such as Apostolic Tradition and even apocryphal sources. It is true also with regard to their style and content.[10]

‘Blessing’ sometimes expresses the idea of ‘permission’ in the West as well as in the East. Thus ‘Bless me, Lord, (Barekmar) in the liturgy of the Word can mean ‘Do you allow me?’[11]

7. Blessings and Inculturation

The field of ‘Blessings’ is an area where there is great scope for inculturation and adaptation. As Catechism of the Catholic Church states, the sacramentals respond to the “needs, culture and special history of the Christian people of a particular region or time” (CCC 1668). The “Book of Blessings” of the Latin Rite notes that provision should be made for legitimate variations adaptations of the Rite of Blessings to different groups, peoples and regions.[12] The Bishops’ Conferences are authorized to take necessary steps in this regard.[13]

As far as the Eastern Churches are concerned, inculturation is a hallmark of their tradition. As the Congregation for Catholic Education once remarked, the Eastern Churches have a long tradition of inculturation teaching Christian peoples to praise God in their own language. The process of inculturation in the East sometimes reached such a point that their cultural life was ‘identified with the manner of Christian living’. The study of this process, the document added, ‘can serve as an example and guide for those involved in a similar process today’.[14]

The Syro-Malabar Church is no exception to this rule. Various Rites connected with birth, baptism, marriage, funeral etc. are all well known. In fact, the Syro-Malabar bishops have on different occasions expressed the need of adapting liturgy to the needs of places and times.[15] Following this trend the eparchy of Chanda has given shape to some inculturated sacramentals.

8. Nestorian Rituals

George Percy Badger in his “The Nestorians and Their Rituals”[16] gives references to the following sacramentals of the Nestorians.

  •   Kahneeda which is the burial service for those who die in holy Orders and Anneedha which is the burial service for lay people (p. 24)
  •   Thaksa d’husaya or ‘Office of Pardon’ which contains the service used to restore the sinners to the Church. It includes also prayers said before admitting them to Holy Communion. And Badger notes that ‘there are several short offices of this kind in use among the Nestorians’ (p. 25).
  •   Malka is the tradition of the renewal of the holy Leaven on Maundy Thursday which is considered to be a sacramental(?) rite (p. 161)
  •   The chapter on sacraments does not mention any sacramental as such. However, there is an appendix to this chapter which refers to the importance of the Cross with which all sacraments are ‘sealed and perfected’. It seems that the ‘sign of the Cross’ is almost equated to a sacramental (p. 162).
  •   Some Blessings are mentioned in connection with marriage, namely the blessing of bridal chamber (a service usually said in the evening before the bridegroom and the bride retire to rest for the night) and the ‘churching’ of women (a blessing to be said over the child and the mother when they are brought to the Church after child-birth (p. 271, 250).

9. Latin Rite and the Book of Blessings

The Book of Blessings of the Latin Rite says that the Blessings hold “a privileged place among all the sacramentals created by the Church for the pastoral benefit of the people of God”. As a liturgical action, they ‘lead the faithful to praise God and prepare  them for the principal effects of the sacraments’. Through blessings the faithful can ‘sanctify various situations and events in their lives’.[17] Further it says that the blessings are established by the Church ‘as a kind of imitation of the sacramentals’ and that their effects are achieved ‘through the intervention of the Church’.[18] And the blessings are meant ‘for praising God through Christ in the Holy Spirit and for calling on divine help’.[19]

The following observations and recommendations of the “Book of Blessings’ are very relevant:

  • All superstitious practices should be eschewed in the celebration of the Blessings (No.13).
  • Though God’s help is invoked on the objects and places in the blessings, they are actually in view of the people who use these objects or frequent those places (No.12)
  • The celebration of the blessings is prohibited without the participation of at least some of the faithful (No.17).
  • There should be provision for legitimate variations and adaptations in the celebration of the blessings according to different groups, peoples and regions (No.24).
  • Certain blessings can be administered along with the Eucharistic celebration (Nos. 28,29).[20]
  • Lay people may administer certain blessings because of their  universal priesthood (No.18).[21]

 The Latin Rite divides the Blessings into five categories:

(i)     Blessings directly pertaining to Persons (e.g. Sick persons, travellers etc.)

(ii)   Blessings related to Buildings and to various forms of Human Activity (e.g. Houses, Hospitals, Shops, Fields etc.)

(iii)  Blessings of Objects that are designed or erected for use in Churches, either in the Liturgy or in Popular Devotions (e.g. Baptismal font, Confessional, Tabernacle, Cross, Holy Water, Sacred Images, Cemetery etc.)

(iv)  Blessings of Articles meant to foster the Devotion of the Christian People (e.g. Religious articles, Rosaries, Medals etc.)

(v)   Blessings for various Needs and Occasions (e.g. Thanksgiving on Year-End, Beginning of the New Year, Anniversaries, Jubilees etc.)

   In general, the Latin formularies have the following pattern: Introduction, Scriptural readings, Responsorial Song, Homily, Intercessions, Prayer of Blessing, Concluding Blessing and Dismissal.

                                                            Part Two

 

  The second part of this paper is an attempt to understand the idea the Syro-Malabar Church has about “Blessings”. The available data could be of help to prepare a ‘Book of Blessings’ for the Syro-Malabar Church.

1. Blessings in the Syro-Malabar Church

    As in any Christian tradition we come across Sacramentals and Blessings for various occasions in the Syro-Malabar Church. Though no systematic study and research have been undertaken to understand their origin and development, some general and universal trends can be found in their development.

 The Eastern Churches are said to have developed their own specific forms of devotions in history.[22]Among them the veneration of the Cross, devotion to the relics., visit to the sanctuaries, incensing etc. seem to have been practiced also by the Syro-Malabarians. The ‘blessing’ of the sick with the ‘relics’ of the tomb of St.Thomas at Mylapore appears to be a specific example of indigenous Syro-Malabar tradition.

  History reminds us that there was no dearth of borrowing among the Churches in the case of devotions.[23]A number of Western devotions prevalent in the Syro-Malabar Church today can be easily understood in this background.

Christian tradition of the Blessings is not an ‘original’ contribution of the early Christians. In fact, they received it from the Jews[24] and continued to use it spontaneously, without much theological reflection and keep it in diverse forms. This seems to be true with regard to the Western devotions in the Syro-Malabar Church too.

The term ‘benediction’ (Berakah) had at least three meanings in the Jewish understanding. It could be (i) Blessing coming from God (ii) Blessing of praise to God and (iii) Prayer or wish of blessing by man. These three dimensions are found also in the Syro-Malabar Blessings. For the Jews, however, the second dimension – blessing of praise to God for His marvellous deeds – was more important. But the Syro-Malabar Blessings are more in line with the third dimension, that is, petitions for God’s blessings.

A close examination of the history of Blessings will reveal that their development  took  two directions: One is the ‘shape’ of these Blessings in the Jewish tradition and the other  the human-religious sentiments contained in them. Already by the second century there was a shift of emphasis from ‘praise of God’ to ‘sanctification of objects’. Today this emphasis is reiterated. This can be ascertained from the spectacular popularity of pious devotions.

2. Syro-Malabar Rituals of Blessings

 Here below is given a list of Rituals of Blessings now in use in the Syro-Malabar Church. The list is not exhaustive.

(1) Blessings (Vencherippukal):  This is one of the first Ritual of Blessings published from Ernakulam in 1974. It has 6 parts and an appendix.

Part 1: Blessing of ‘Sacred Places’: ( Chapel, Cemetery etc.)

Part 2: Blessing of ‘Buildings and Places’: (Houses, Hospitals, Schools, Shops etc)

Part 3: Blessing of ‘Persons’: (Children, Sick persons etc.)

Part 4: Blessing of ‘Sacred Objects’: (Vestments, Vessels, Religious articles etc)

Part 5: Blessing of ‘Animals’.

Part 6: Other ‘Useful Objects’: (Vehicles, Food etc).

   The appendix has the prayer of ‘consecration of the family’ to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Litany of Our Lord, a prayer-service that can be used when the priest visits a family etc.

(2) Blessings (Asirvadhaprarthanakal):[25] This book was published by Denha Services, Kottayam, in 1988. The book has a sub-title too, namely “Sacramentals”(Koodasanukaranangal).

  The preface of the Ritual states that the book is prepared making use of the sources and taking into consideration the present needs of the Syro-Malabar Church. It defines the sacramental as the rites which are ‘formed from the sacraments and are similar to them in spirit and structure’. It also opens the way for adapting them according to the circumstances. The sacramentals being communitarian celebrations, it is recommended that at least a few people should be present when they are administered. According to the Ritual, the priests are the celebrants of the sacramentals though the deacons can substitute them in their absence.

The book has three parts and an appendix.

Part 1: It is entitled ‘Blessings’ (Venchirippukal). There are 18 items in this category beginning with ‘House Blessing’. Other Blessings are of holy water, religious articles, buildings, animals, vehicles etc. It includes also the betrothal ceremony, exorcism etc.

Part 2: Blessing of the sick and the dying.

Part 3: Blessings to be used on ‘Special Occasions’ which includes prayer before and after meals, for good harvest, on birthday etc.

The appendix gives a rite for the ‘Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament” integrating the Ramsa prayer.

(3) Blessings (Venchirippukal): This Ritual was published from Ernakulam in 1992 by the Inter-diocesan Committee for Liturgy. A special feature of this book is the addition of an inculturated Rite of House Blessing into which some traditional Indian elements like Arathi, Bhajans etc are incorporated.

The book has 7 parts divided as follows:

Part 1: Buildings and Institutions (Houses, Chapels, Shops etc.)

Part 2: Sacred Objects (Altar, Sacred Images, Rosaries, Medals etc.)

Part 3: Various Objects (Food items, Boats etc.)

Part 4: Vehicles

Part 5: Animals

Part 6: Food Offerings

Part 7: Holy Water

(4)  A Collection  of Various Booklets of Blessings

(i)     A “Collection of Prayers” (Prarthanasamaharam) by Cardinal Joseph Parecattil, Ernakulam 10980. It contains 42 prayers or prayer-services for various occasions.

(ii)   An Order for Blessing the Houses of the Religious and Priests, Denha Services, Kottayam 1984.

(iii)  Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, Denha Services, Kottayam 1984.

(iv)  Betrothal, Oottunercha, Rite of Healing the Sick, Ernakulam 1985.

(v)   Prayer- service in honour of Blessed Chavara and Alphonsa, Denha Services, Kottayam 1986.

(vi)  Rite of Christmas Celebration, Denha Services, Kottayam 1987.

(vii)                       Christmas Celebration, Sandesanilayam, Changanacherry (No date)

(viii)                     Message of Christmas, Prayer on Year-End, Prayer at the Beginning of the Year, Ernakulam 1987.

(ix) Sacred Rites in the Church (Devalayathirukkarmangal), Inter-diocesan Committee for Liturgy, Ernakulam 1991.

(5)  Prayer for the Dead

 Various diocesan committees have published a series of prayer books under the title ‘Prayer for the Dead’.

(i)     Prayers during and after Death, Ernakulam 1969.

(ii)   Prayer Service for the Dead, Ernakulam 1980

(iii)  Commemoration of the Dead, Ernakulam 1984

(iv)   Anuthaparchana, Changanacherry 1992

(v)   From the Valley of Death, Kottayam 1996

(vi)  Prayer for the Dead, Irinjalakuda 1997

            (vii) Prayer for the Dead, Thamarassery 2003

            (viii) Prayer Service for the Dead, Ernakulam 2006

            (6) Home Liturgy

In the history of Syro-Malabar Blessings a new path was opened by Fr.Jacob Aeranat who published his “Home Liturgy” (Kudumbaliturgy) in 1980. Two books are now available in this category.

(i)     Home Liturgy (Kudumbaliturgy) by Fr.Jacob Aeranat, Ernakulam 1980.

      This book got a very enthusiastic reception in the Syro-Malabar families. In 2003 it had its 11th reprint. The book has about 130 Blessings and prayers for various occasions.

(ii)   Family Rites (lKudumbasusrooshakal) By Fr.Thomas Mathasseril CMI, Kottayam 2002.

                               This book has 200 Blessings and prayer- services under 28 headings. The approach of this book is a little different from that of ‘Home Liturgy’ in some respects. For example, there are 42 prayer- services connected with marriage and family alone. (e.g. Vivaham Urappikkal, marriage, after marriage, child-birth, baptism etc.)

3. Some Remarks

An examination of “Blessings” in the Syro-Malabar Church brings out the following categories:

(i) Blessings reserved to the Bishops (Muron, Church, Deppa(?) etc.). They are often called ‘consecrations’.

(ii) Blessings reserved to the Bishops or priests (Ashes, Palms, Water, House etc.).

(iii) Quasi-blessings the deacons may administer. (Generally, the deacons do not impart any blessing in the Eastern tradition. However, the Particular Law of the Syro-Malabar Church allows the deacons to be official witness at the betrothal).

(iv) M’samsana, Hevpadyakna and Karoya are allowed by the Syro-Malabar Particular Law to be the ministers of the sacramental of Adima though they are not allowed to impart blessing with the Sign of the Cross.

(v) The Syro-Malabar faithful ‘administer’ the so-called ‘Home Liturgies’ with a prayer of invocation to God for His blessings in connection with various domestic religious occasions like marriage, baptism, holy communion etc.

Among the various categories of Blessings in the Syro-Malabar Church we may identify the following:

(i)                 Persons: (Children, Sick persons etc.)

(ii)               Buildings: (Presbytery, Religious Houses, Corner-stone etc.)

(iii)             Objects (Tools): ( Food  Vehicles, Boats etc.)

(iv)             Sacred Objects: (Altar, Baptismal Font, Cross, Sacred Vessels, Holy Water, Sacred Images, the Stations of the Cross etc.)

(v)               Places: ( Cemetery, Fields etc.)

(vi)             Animals

(vii)           Various Occasions: (Home Liturgies)

Conclusion

In today’s secularised and secularising world how far do the Blessings influence the people? It is true that the progress of science, technology, urbanization etc. have made certain Blessings lose their original Christian meaning. At the same time, we find also a growth of various Blessings, some of them even slipping into near-superstitious and magical practices.

Another phenomenon is the shift of emphasis regarding the content of Blessings. The original meaning of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord has given way to prayers of petitions. Though the petitions do part of the Blessing, we need to rediscover the original meaning of Christian Blessings.[26] The karozutha prayers of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana is a right indicator in this direction. The response of each petition is “Lord, have mercy on us”.

 

 

 


[1] Here the document mentions the sacramentals before the sacraments which, in my judgement, implies that the sacramentals are more vitiated than the sacraments in the historical process.

[2] No example is given in CCC. The blessing of ‘Pesaha Appam’ could be an example.

[3] When the Church publicly and authoritatively asks that a person be protected from the dominion of the power of the Evil One, it is called exorcism.

[4] This translation is taken from George Nedungatt, A Companion to the Eastern Code, Rome 1994, p.204.

[5] Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Rome 1996

[6] Cf. Mario Righetti, Storia Liturgica IV: Sacramenti e Sacramentali, Milano 1959, p.474

[7] Cf. Ibid, p. 476

[8] Cf. Reiner Kaczynski, Blessings in Rome and the Non-Roman West, in A.J. Chupungco (ed.), Handbook for Liturgical Studies IV, Collegeville 2000, p. 398

[9] Cf. Ibid, p. 399

[10] Cf. Elena Velkova Velkovska, Blessings in the East, in A.J.Chupungco 9ed.), Handbook for Liturgical Studies, p. 388

[11] Cf. Ibid, p. 384

[12] ICEL, Book of Blessings, Washington DC 1987, General Instructions No. 24

[13]  Ibid, General Instructions No. 39

[14] Cf. Circular Letter Concerning Studies of the Oriental Churches, L’Osservatore  Romano, 6 April 1987, p. 12

[15] Cf. SMBC Report of 19 June 1973, p. 1-2; Report of 14 August 1974, p. 1; Report of 6 December 1980, p. 1; Report of 7 November 1985, p. 3; Report of 3 December 1986, p. 5; Report of the Synod of November 1999 etc.

[16] G.P. Badger, Nestorians and Their Rituals, Vol. II, London 1852

[17] Cf. Book of Blessings, Preface, p.7.

[18] Book of Blessings, General Instructions, No.10.

[19] Ibid., No.13

[20] Examples: Blessing of altar, chalice, paten etc.; Jubilee celebration of marriage, Blessing of  bed-ridden sick persons at home etc.

[21] However, when a priest or a deacon is present, the ministry of blessing should be left to them.

[22] Congregation  for the Eastern Churches, Instruction, No.38. See above, p.3.

[23] See above, Footnote No.9.

[24] For example, the Jewish domestic liturgy of Birkat ha Mazon which was a prayer of thanksgiving  was not meant simply for the food, but also for all the gifts of Yahweh.

[25] This Ritual is translated into English, but without the appendix. ‘Blessings and Prayers (Sacramentals), Denha Services, Kottayam 1990.

[26] Andres Torres Queiruga, Beyond Prayer of Petitions, in Concilium, 1/2006, pp.63-75.

LITURGY AND INCULTURATION

LITURGY AND INCULTURATION

Dr Antony Nariculam

 Antony Nariculam

 

The universality of the Church makes it imperative that the Church and her liturgy are inculturated. God became man to save humankind. This saving mystery in Christ must be presented to the whole world in a manner that is understood by the people of a given place.

There was a period in history when some Christian theologians considered the ‘Christian culture’ as a universal monoculture. For them this Christian culture was ‘normative’. But in course of time, the empirical approach in philosophy and sociology began to affirm pluralism in culture. Slowly these theologians had to admit a multicultural world which led to the realization that universality does not necessarily mean uniformity.

One of the greatest achievements of Vatican II and the subsequent magisterial teachings is the openness the Church has towards the wider world with its religions and cultures. This ‘cultural opening’ was initially received with great enthusiasm. But later, due to a variety of reasons, it came to be looked upon with suspicion and diffidence.

Vatican II, which allowed vernacularisation in the liturgy, was aware of the variety of cultures. Hence it suggested that provision be made in the revision of the liturgical books “for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions and peoples, especially in the mission countries”.[1] This view is theologically supported by another statement of the same document: “The liturgy is made up of unchangeable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These latter not only may be changed, with the passage of time, if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become less suitable” (SC 21).

Pope John Paul II, establishing the Pontifical Council for Culture on 20 May 1982, said that the synthesis between culture and faith is not just a demand of culture, but is also of faith. A faith which does not become culture is a faith which has not been fully received, not thoroughly thought through, not fully lived out.[2] In fact, there is never a cultureless Christianity and never yet a fully Christian culture.

On 19 November 1969, during the course of a General Audience, Pope Paul VI said: ‘The rite and the relative rubric are not in themselves dogmatic definitions. Their theological qualification may vary in differing degrees according to the liturgical context to which they refer. They are gestures and terms relating to a religious action – experienced and living – of an indescribable mystery of divine presence, not always expressed in a univocal way’.[3] This vision he already had as Cardinal John Baptist Montini when he stated on the floor of Vatican II that ‘Liturgy is for man and not man for liturgy’.[4]

This article is an attempt to point out how important is culture to express the Christian faith through liturgical celebrations.

  1. What is Liturgy?

 The rule of prayer is the rule of faith. Liturgy is the celebration of our faith. It is a response of man (the ‘ascending’ man) to the ‘descending’ God who comes to save humankind. Being a response of man, it has to be a fully ‘human’ act. No human act can be dissociated from his/her culture and life situations. Here we should remember that the liturgical celebrations are not only celebrations of our faith in God and our relationship with Him. It is also a celebration of our lives and the relation among human beings, not excluding the realities of the created world. Thus the ‘verticality’ with God cannot be separated from the ‘horizontality’ with our fellow-beings.

One of the most important acts by which the Holy Spirit reminds the Church about the message of Christ is the liturgical celebration because it is the memorial (anamnesis) of the Lord. It is an expression of faith. So much so, history tells us that there was no recitation of the Creed during the celebration of the liturgy since the whole liturgy is an expression of faith. The Creed was reserved to baptism as an immediate preparation for it.

Liturgy, though an expression of faith, is not simply an act of worship. The New Testament worship, as we understand from the Letter to the Hebrews, is not merely a ritual act. In fact, Christ abolished all rituals and replaced them with symbols (Heb 10:5-10). The rituals are very often conventional, and they can be performed even ‘impersonally’, whereas the symbols are used between living persons as a means of communication. The language of the new worship inaugurated by Christ is a symbolic one in which the body is very much involved.[5] Human beings normally require bodily expressions to actively participate in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ through worship. The signs and symbols are the ordinary means to have this participatory experience.

Speaking about active participation in the liturgy, Vatican II states that it should be “conscious, active and fruitful’ (SC 14). In order to achieve this goal, choice of appropriate symbols that emerge from the cultural context of the people is a must. The transformation of the sacramental celebrations, as a “means of grace” rather than as an act of faith by means of signs and symbols, has led to a distortion of the understanding of the liturgy itself. Therefore, we need to rediscover their meaning and value for the man of today.

  1. What is Inculturation?

 From a Christian point of view, inculturation means a dialogue between the gospel message and a culture. This message is not fully independent of a culture. In fact, the gospel message is not simply an idea or a dogma. It is the message about a person – the person of Jesus Christ himself. It is Christ who is coming into dialogue with cultures. Thus inculturation is a response to the call of Christ. It is a gradual transformation that has to take place in the community through individuals. No individual can impose it upon the community. The individuals can only act as agents of this transformation.

Thomas Groome describes inculturation as “a dialectical encounter between Christian faith and a particular culture in which the culture is affirmed, challenged, and transformed towards God’s reign, and in which Christian faith is likewise affirmed, challenged, and enriched by this unique instance of its realization”.[6] This description is based on the thesis that the Christian inculturation is a dialectical encounter between an already cultured version of Christian faith and another culture that is either new to Christianity or has aspects not yet explicitly permeated by it.

He further observes that for a meaningful application of the principles of inculturation one should be convinced of the following facts:

(i)                 There is never a cultureless Christianity or a faithless culture. That is, wherever the Christian faith is implanted, it has always taken elements from the local culture to grow, and that God’s saving presence is already planted in every culture.

(ii)               The ‘story’ and ‘vision’ of Christian faith continues to unfold throughout history. The Christian faith is a living tradition, and its vitality demands that it incarnates in every cultural and historical context.

(iii)             Each cultural expression of Christian faith should be profoundly unique, while remaining bonded in essential unity with all other expressions. ‘Unity in diversity’ should be the motto of the process of inculturation. No cultural expression should be detrimental to the essential unity of faith.

(iv)             The values of God’s reign should be reflected in the very process of inculturation. Inculturation should not be at the expense of the values of God’s kingdom in this world – that of love, peace , justice, freedom, integrity of God’s creation etc.[7]1

One of the greatest insights of Vatican II on inculturation is found in Ad Gentes 22: ‘In imitation of the plan of Incarnation, the young Churches, rooted in Christ and built upon the foundation of the apostles, take to themselves, in a wonderful exchange, all the riches of the nations which were given to Christ as an inheritance’. In the past the Christians in general thought that they had a ‘finished product’ by way of ecclesiastical structures, including the liturgy. But, Ad Gentes 21 notes that the lay people must give expression to the ‘meaning of life’ given to them in baptism ‘in the social and cultural framework of their own homeland according to their own national traditions… They must develop it in accordance with modern conditions, and finally perfect in Christ’. Therefore, openness towards cultures, traditions, customs etc. is a sine qua non if we really wish to make the Church and her worship relevant for the modern era. That is why the Vatican II decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, while insisting on the need of returning to the sources and ancient practices, wishes that they are adapted to the needs of different times and places (OE 2).

Incarnation is one of the most important theological bases of inculturation. It is a redemptive incarnation. Christ became similar to us in all things but sin. Through his death and resurrection he redeemed the humankind. This leads to the conclusion that inculturation “recognizes the presence of evil in the world, the reality of sin and its imprints, forces and consequences in all realities of the world and human life”.[8] Any element taken from the cultures should be made to pass through the redemptive death and resurrection of Christ. In other words, the yardstick to judge the appropriateness of inculturation is the mystery of Christ. Consequently, inculturation has a double task: of liberating the cultures from sin, evil and error, and of giving them a true Christian meaning, orientation and fulfilment. Thus inculturation calls for a prophetical critique and a Christian interpretation. It calls for “dying and rising” on the part of the Church for new flowers and new fruits.

In this process of inculturation, it is not sufficient that we make the Christian formulae intelligible to the peoples of various cultures. Rather, it implies a genuine experience of Christ in every culture through authentic signs and symbols taken from the culture concerned.

  1. What is Liturgical Inculturation?

 To speak about the need of inculturation in liturgy is to repeat the obvious. Nobody seems to have any objection to its relevance and the need though there are apprehensions with regard to how to go about it and how far we can go with it. The renewal and updating of liturgy practically means inculturation in the same.

The Pan-Asian Consultation on Inculturation and Liturgy made the following statement after their meeting in 1995. “All Asian countries struggle with the issue of inculturation. Our sharing revealed that liturgical developments in Asia have consisted mainly

in the translation of the typical editions of the Roman liturgical books in the wake of Vatican II. This has, by and large, marked the first phase of inculturation. The translation of liturgical texts composed in another time and culture is an extremely difficult task. The transplantation of signs and symbols is even more difficult. Even supposedly universal signs and symbols, when transplanted into another culture, often hide or even distort the very mysteries they are meant to convey. No universal model can speak with equal clarity and force throughout the world. Moreover, no Christian community can become creative in language and symbol system that is basically alien to it. Unless the Word of God becomes flesh in our cultures, the soul of Asia will remain untouched”.[9]

What is liturgical inculturation? A. Shorter defines inculturation as “the on-going dialogue between faith and culture or cultures. More fully, it is the creative and dynamic relationship between the Christian message and a culture or cultures”.[10] And then he makes three observations about inculturation. First, it is an on-going process, and hence even the so-called ‘Christian’ nations need to undergo inculturation. In other words, it should not be confined to the newly evangelized missions. Second, the Christian faith transcends all cultures. At the same time, it cannot exist except in a cultural form. Third, there is need of a reciprocal and critical interaction between the Christian faith and culture.[11]These observations are of prime importance when we deal with the whole question of liturgical inculturation.

The issue of liturgical inculturartion is primarily an ecclesiological one. It cannot be understood and practised separate from the life of the Church in all its aspects. One reason for the relative failure of liturgical inculturation is the inadequate understanding of the liturgy as a vertical celebration in a numinous sphere unrelated to the real life situations of the celebrating community. There is a close relationship between a ritual and the community that enacts it. Ritual, in fact, is a symbolic expression of the structure of the society.

What are the areas of inculturation in the Church? There is no area of the Church that does not need inculturation. The liturgical inculturation should not be reduced to the exclusive sphere of worship. But, of course, one needs to fix priorities.

To worship God is a fundamental need of a religious minded person. It affects the core of his/her religiosity. It is a personal, deep experience of the human soul. Being persons with senses, they require visible signs and symbols to express this experience. This visible expression becomes meaningful and communicative only when it is understood by the generality of the people. Hence it is imperative that it is expressed through the symbols of the people of the place.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy underlines this dimension of the culture in relation to the liturgy in the following words: “Even in the liturgy the Church does not wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not involve the faith or the good of the whole community. Rather she does respect and foster the qualities and talents of the various races and nations… She sometimes even admits such things into the liturgy itself, provided they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit” (SC 37). The Council is also in favour of allowing ‘legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions and peoples, especially in mission countries’ (SC 38). Conscious of its absolute need, the Council also notes that ‘in some places and circumstances however an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed’ though it entails ‘greater difficulties’ (SC 39).

Liturgy is the expression of the experience of the risen Lord manifested in various cultural forms. One and the same experience is expressed by different peoples in different historical and geographical contexts. In this manifestation there are universal and unchangeable, as well as particular and changeable, elements. The universal elements are celebrated by a particular community in a particular place. The unchangeable truths are celebrated with changeable elements. And, the Divine is celebrated by human beings.  This is something marvellous in the universal Church. A successful liturgical inculturation depends upon striking a balance between these elements.

Jesus did not hand over to us a ‘prototype’ of liturgy, but an experience. Since this experience is linked with cultural manifestations, its expressions vary. This variety, however, is not to be determined by laws and regulations, but from the cultural experiences of a living community of a given place. Therefore, liturgical inculturation is defined as “a process of inserting texts and rites of the liturgy into the framework of the local culture”.[12]

In order to attain this goal, it is not enough that we merely adapt some cultural elements into the institutionalized form of Christianity. Rather, “we need to undergo a process of symbiosis by which our faith becomes an experience in the context and expresses itself in a symbol system that is capable of communicating this experience to others”.[13] Hence the liturgical inculturation is not simply a matter of discovering adequate cultural symbols to express the content of faith and worship, but is a question of ecclesiology and a pastoral methodology.

Regarding a practical methodology of liturgical inculturation  A.Chupungco suggests a three-step process. It consists of Dynamic Equivalence, Creative Assimilation and Organic Progression.[14]

Dynamic Equivalence is practically an adaptation of the editio typica. Though some creativity is involved in this process, it is dependent on the typical editions of the liturgical books. Creative Assimilation is a methodology used in the Patristic era. The giving of a cup of milk and honey in the baptismal Mass, renouncing Satan looking towards the West and making the profession of faith turning towards the East, the celebration of Epiphany on 6th January and Christmas on 25th December are examples. In Organic Progression comes the question of ‘new forms’ in worship which are unknown till then. Though they are ‘new’, they have to respect the principle of “organic growth”.[15]

Vatican II has identified certain areas of the liturgy where this process needs to be undertaken. Besides SC 37-40, which we have referred to above, the document mentions also the Christian initiation rites (SC 65), the rite of Marriage (SC 77), the liturgical music (SC119) and the liturgical art (SC 123).

In this process, the sacramentals, especially the blessings, have a special place as most of them are closely related to the day to day life of the people. Though there are sacramentals that have some sort of a universal character, mostly they are attached to the culture and the customs of the people. Therefore SC 39 names them among the liturgical books wherein the Conferences of Bishops have a free hand to make adaptations.

  1. Local Church: The Venue of Inculturation

 The Church being the sacrament of Christ is the visible manifestation of Christ. The institutional Church which is localized must have a visible expression congenial to the community of the people. The Church becomes authentically local in so far as she bears the imprint of the place and the people where she lives. “The Church becomes Church when it is incarnated in a place and this localization is called the local Church”.[16]

We know from history that liturgy developed in the local Churches resulting in liturgical diversities. Only later they began to be unified, a phenomenon more prevalent in the Western liturgy. In the East, maintaining the unity of faith, liturgies continued to flourish in diversity. As the decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches notes, the universal Church is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government. But they combine into different groups which are held together by their hierarchy and so form individual Churches keeping their own particular liturgy, spirituality and discipline (OE 2-3). From this it is clear that the liturgical celebration is not a ‘universal act’. It is always an action of the community of faithful ‘here and now’. That is why the Eastern Churches are very particular about insisting on the universal Church as a ‘Communion of Individual Churches’. As Pope Paul VI notes, the universal Church is in practice incarnate in the individual Churches that are heirs of a cultural patrimony, of a vision of the Word of God, of an historical part of a particular historical substratum.[17] It responds to the deep aspiration of peoples and human communities to find their own identity ever more clearly.[18] One of the important characteristics of an individual Church is the manner in which it expresses its faith in worship form.

A local Christian community is not a ‘fraction’ of the universal Church. Every worshipping community manifests the full mystery of the Church. This manifestation is based on its social, cultural and religious milieu, and hence appropriate signs and symbols congenial to the people are to be employed. History of the Churches – both in the West and in the East – gives evidence to this fact. The existence of the liturgies according to the Roman Rite, the Ambrosian Rite, the Spanish Rite, and later the Indian Rite, the Philippino Rite, the Congolese Rite etc. are examples. The five liturgical families – Alexandrian, Antiochian, Byzantine, East Syrian and Armenian – with 22 individual Churches bear ample witness to it in the East. Even within an individual Church there can be diverse liturgical expressions according to the culture, place and the context of the people as we see in the Western and Eastern ecclesiastical traditions.

  1. Liturgical Inculturation: An Historical Review

 Inculturation is essentially an historical phenomenon, and the history of the Church is practically a history of inculturation.

When we examine the history of the Roman liturgy, we find that the so-called “classical period” (5th – 8th centuries) was a time of ‘classical’ inculturation too. It was a period of liturgical creativity with original composition of liturgical texts for the people of the time. The Popes like Gelasius, Leo the Great and Gregory the Great have contributed their insights for its growth. In the 8th century, as the Church spread to Franco-Germanic world, it underwent another type of liturgical inculturation.  Liturgy was transformed from its Roman simplicity and sobriety to a charming, dramatic and colourful one to suit the temperament of the Franco-Germanic people.

The first half of the first millennium was a period of intense inculturation in liturgy. Some examples will clarify this point.[19]

  • Though Christianity was in close relationship with the Jewish religious tradition, when it required the liturgical vestments the West adopted the festive attire of the Greco-Roman world and the East that of the Byzantine Empire.
  • From the Jews she inherited the Bema – a platform for reading from the Torah – for the proclamation from the Bible.
  • The morning and evening holocaust of the Jews appears in the form of morning and evening prayers in the Christian tradition.
  • The language used in the liturgy was the language of the people.
  • The apophatic (negative –  Neti, neti of the Indian tradition) approach towards God’s name (YHWH: I am who am) without a positive affirmation is adopted from the Jewish understanding of God as IN-visible, IN-comprehensible, IN-expressible, UN-fathomable etc.
  • The Christian litanic prayers are an imitation of the Roman manner of prayers.
  • The liturgical gestures like kissing the altar, the prostrations, the use of incense and the candles, etc are taken from the non-Christian practice.
  • The prayer turning to the East has its roots in the Sun-cult of the pagans.
  • The Christian tradition of fasting on Wednesday and Friday was influenced by the Tuesday and Thursday fasts of the Jews.
  • The pre-Christian mystery cults have influenced the Christian practice of exorcism, the imposition of hands and the anointing.
  • The architecture of the ancient churches followed that of the Roman basilicas’.
  • The “May they rest in peace” (R.I.P) in the funeral rites has its origin in the pre-Christian Roman funeral acclamation.
  • The feast of Transfiguration on 6th August is related to the Jewish commemoration of Moses’ transfiguration on Mount Sinai.
  • The feast of Epiphany on 6th January recalls another ‘epiphany’ (manifestation) of a ruler to a province of his kingdom.
  • The feast of Christmas on 25th December is inspired by the birth of the Invincible Sun-god.
  • The feast of the “Cathedra” of St. Peter is in imitation of the anniversary of the Roman emperor’s assumption of office.
  • The feast of martyrs, saints, etc originated from the pre-Christian practice of venerating the tombs of the dead.

In the later period of the Church too we have luminous examples of inculturation. The history of the St. Thomas Christians of India before the 16th century is a classical example of how the Christians could find themselves completely at home in the Indian culture. In their social and religious practices, and worshipping customs they were very much like their non-Christian neighbours.[20]

The Chinese experimentation of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) with the cult of the familial dead that was administered with prostrations, the burning of incense and the offering of food at their tombs was condemned as superstitious practices. Roberto Nobili’s (1577-1656) attempts with Indian culture were frowned upon by his confreres, and later they had to be abandoned. Even during this period, we come across some silver lining by way of official sanction in favour of liturgical inculturation. Thus in 1615 Pope Paul V allowed the Chinese to use the Chinese language in the liturgy though this permission was withdrawn in 1661 due to the objections of the missionaries themselves. In 1659 Propaganda Fide wrote a letter asking the missionaries not to make attempts to persuade the people of the mission lands to change their rites, customs and ways, provided they are not very manifestly contrary to religion and morals.[21]

  1. Challenges of Inculturation

 One of the notable limitations of liturgical inculturation is the non-permanent nature of culture. Given culture’s susceptibility to change, the product of any attempt at inculturation is bound to be an unstable mixture. Therefore at no time can we have a complete and perfectly inculturated liturgy. It is a continuous search and a constant struggle. Only a genuine local Church can cope with the ever new demands of the changing culture.

All religions carry with them some cultural expression. Christianity, for example, has many semitic elements. For some people these cultural expressions are part and parcel of their religion, and any change in them is considered a threat to their religious experience. In other words, the cultural expressions are equated with religion itself. This is nothing short of religious fundamentalism.

In the process of liturgical inculturation a crucial factor should be borne in mind. Faith transcends all cultures. Faith in Christ can even purify and transform cultures. Therefore some hold that the duty of the Christian faith is to purify the cultures and make them ‘Christian’. As a matter of fact, culture is not good or bad, holy or sinful. Human choices make them bad or sinful. In this perspective, the Christian inculturation can also mean a purification of the sinful culture through the intervention of the Christian faith. At the same time, we should also remember that the mysteries we celebrate in the liturgy transcend all cultures though the expressions of the mysteries and the people’s response to it in the liturgy are culturally conditioned. Here the role of culture in relation to worship needs to be properly understood. “Christian worship should not end up being a mere ingredient of the local culture, nor should culture be reduced to an ancillary role. The process of interaction and mutual assimilation brings progress to both; it does not cause mutual extinction”.[22]

Conclusion

Pope Paul VI once warned that evangelization would lose much of its force and effectiveness “if it does not take into consideration the actual people to whom it is addressed, if it does not use their language, their signs and symbols, if it does not answer the questions they ask, and if it does not have an impact on their concrete life”.[23] Among them the signs and symbols employed in the liturgy are of great relevance because “the religious symbols have the power to render the real more real. They induce faith, conviction, commitment because they act upon the creative power of the human intellect and galvanize the will towards action… No religion can exercise this power if its symbols are not inseparable from those of culture”.[24]

However, we need to make a distinction between inculturation and ‘culturalism’. A religion, when it assumes various external forms by way of inculturation, should not lose its essential identity. If it loses its identity, it is no more inculturation, but ‘culturalism’, that is, absolutization of culture. Besides, the Christian religion cannot take cultural symbols of a place if they are inseparably associated with the religious faith of another religion.

There is the need to evolve a liturgy which speaks for itself, and which requires not much commentary. Therefore, clerically inspired and clerically managed inculturation is likely to fail. Inculturation is a way of life. It is an on-going search. Failures are possible. But they should not deter us from continuing our search. As Pope Benedict XVI rightly remarks, the abuses that have occurred in the process of inculturation  should not “detract from this clear principle , which must be upheld in accordance with the real needs of the Church as she lives and celebrates the one mystery of Christ in a variety of cultural situations”.[25]

 


[1] Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, SC 38

[2] L’Osservatore Romano, 28 June 1982, p.1-8

[3] Jacob Manathodath, Culture, Dialogue and the Church, Intercultural Publication, New Delhi 1990, p.141.

[4] J.Manathodath, Culture, Dialogue and the Church, p.139

[5] Paul Puthanangady, Challenges of Cultures and Religions in Asia to Christian Liturgy, in Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference – Office of Education and Student Chaplaincy, Asian Worship in Spirit and Truth, Madras 1995, p.11

[6] “Inculturation: How to Proceed in a Pastoral Context”, Concilium 2(1994) 120-133. Here p.122

[7] “Inculturation: How to Proceed in a Pastoral Context”, p.122-129

[8] D.S.Amalorpavadass, Inculturation is not Hinduisation but Christianization, NBCLC Bangalore 1981, p.7

[9] FABC-OESC, Asian Worship in Spirit and Truth, p.201-202

[10] Aylward Shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation, Geoffrey Chapman  London 1988, p.11

[11] Toward a Theology of Inculturation, p.11-13

[12] Abscar Chupungco, Liturgical Inculturation: Sacramentals, Religiosity and Catechesis, The Liturgical Press Collegeville:MN 1992, p.30

[13] P.Puthanangady, Challenges of Cultures and Religions in Asia to Christian Liturgy, p.4

[14] A.Chupungco, Liturgical Inculturaion: Sacramentality, Religiosity and Catechesis, p.37-51

[15] SC 23, OE 2. Antony Nariculam, The Holy See, The Syro-Malabar Bishops’ Conference and the Syro-Malabar Bishops’ Synod on the Inculturation of the Syro-Malabar Liturgy: A Study, in Bosco Puthur (ed.), Inculturation and the Syro-Malabar Church, LRC Publications Kochi 2005, p.66-68

[16] D.S. Amalorpavadass, Gospel and Culture, NBCLC Bangalore 1978, p.22

[17] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975) 62

[18] Evangelii Nuntiandi, 63

[19] Julian Saldanha, Inculturation, St.Paul Publication Bombay 1985, p.25-28

[20] For details see Antony Nariculam, “Evagelization and Inculturation Eastern Church’s Perspective”, Ishvani Documentation and Mission Digest, January-April 2000, p.95-108

[21] Referred to in Cyprian Illickamuri, Inculturation and Liturgy, in Antony Nariculam (ed.), Inculturation and Liturgy, Star Publications  Alwaye 1992, p.85

[22] A.Chupungco, Liturgical Inculturation: Sacramentals, Religiosity and Catechesis, p.29

[23] Evangelii Nuntiandi, 63

[24] A.Shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation, p.41

[25] Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (2007) 54

MUSIC IN LITURGY: Liturgical Music in the Syro-Malabar Church

MUSIC IN LITURGY

ILA MEETING, NBCLC Bangalore, 26-28 October 2007

 

Liturgical Music in the Syro-Malabar Church [*]

Dr Antony Nariculam

  1. Introduction

 

 The development of the Syro-Malabar liturgy and its musical tradition has a long history. It has had Syriac, Indian and Western influences. Its history is spread over five stages.

1.1  Stage One: The first stage is the earliest period of Christianity on the coast of Malabar ( Ist to 4th century). We do not have any concrete evidence as to the shape of the liturgical period during this period.

1.2  Stage Two: With the arrival of the Syrian merchant Thomas of Knai in the 4th century begins the second stage – the period of Syriac liturgical tradition, and consequently also of the Syriac musical tradition. In course of time, the Syriac hymns practically became the liturgical music of the Syro-Malabar Church. However, history shows that the Syro-Malabarians were not simply imitating the Syriac music as it was practised among the Syrians. Rather, they made adaptations in pronouncing the words as well as in the tunes. For example, the Arabic influence on the Syriac hymns did not affect the Syro-Malabar manner of singing. Therefore, many opine that the Syro-Malabar musical tradition without Arabic influence is more archaic and original.  Another example is the Trinitarian conclusion of the hymns (Glory be to the Father and to the Son… Subha Laha…). It has a Syro-Malabar nuance not found in the Syriac music. Singing “Glory to God in the highest” at the beginning of the holy Mass too has its special features. The Syro-Malabarians sing it three times, each time raising the voice a little higher. Before the elevation and at the end of incensing, the Syro-Malabar priests used to sing Barekmor…Barekmor…Barekmor (= Bless O Lord) in a devotional melody, something not found in the Syriac tradition. It is also interesting to note that there was a slight difference in the tunes of the Divine Office used by the Carmelites (CMI) and by the diocesan priests.

1.3  Stage Three: The third stage is the period of Western influence that begins after the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. Consequent upon the Latinization of the Syro-Malabar liturgy, the liturgical music too began to take new shapes. One of its results was the use of the Gregorian chant. One example is the final blessing of the holy Mass sung in the tune of  Vere dignum est justum est salutare. However, the general policy was to give Syriac tunes to the Latin hymns after translating them into Syriac. Thus the hymns of the Eucharistic benediction like Pange lingua, Tantum ergo Sacramentum, Panem de caelo, and Oremus were rendered into Syriac tunes. Another Syriac tune was that of Lak Alaha (Te Deum). Some of the psalms and orations of the burial service of the Latin Rite also were rendered into Syriac tunes. These new tunes were not imported from outside. They were creative additions by the Syro-Malabar musicians.

1.4  Stage Four:  The fourth stage begins after the erection of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy in 1923. Since then there were serious attempts to sing the Syriac hymns in a systematic and scientific way. Fr. Saldhana SJ helped the Church to publish a Syriac hymnal in 1937 with musical notations. Its title in Malayalam was “Malayala Suriani Keerthanamalika” (= Syriac Hymnal in Malayalam). Later in 1954 it was modified and enlarged by Fr. Mathew Vadakkel and Fr. Aurelius OCD , and this hymnal was published by St. Joseph Seminary, Alwaye. Its title was “Kerala Kaldaya Suriani Reethile Thirukkarmageethangal” (= Hymns for the Sacred Rites of the Kerala Chaldean-Syriac Rite). As the preface of the book clarifies, one of the aims of the hymnal is to help the choir in singing the Syriac hymns correctly. It gives notations for the portions to be sung by the celebrant. It omitted the Latin tunes that were in vogue in singing certain prayers (eg. Final blessing) of the holy Mass.

1.5  Stage Five: The fifth stage is the period after Vatican II. The liturgical reforms of Vatican II led to renewed attempts to revise the liturgical hymns. Even before the reform movement took proper steps to revise the hymns, the hymns of the Divine Office (published in three volumes in 1886-87 for the Chaldean Catholic Church, and in 1938 for the Syro-Malabar Church) were published with notations in 1967. Its author was Heinrick Hussman, and its title was “Die Melodien des Chaldaischen Breviers Commune” (= The melodies of the Chaldean Breviary).

2. After 1960

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a period of creativity in the Syro-Malabar liturgy and its hymns. The All India Seminar held at NBCLC, Bangalore, in 1969 gave a new impetus to this movement. Even before that, vernacularisation in the liturgy had led to the publication of the funeral services and the office for the dead in Malayalam (1967). Though the lyrics were in Malayalam, the tunes continued to be Syriac. The Syriac tunes of the Divine Office too were unaffected by the new tunes that began to emerge after Vatican II.

During this period, Cardinal Joseph Parecattil, a pioneer and visionary of the Syro-Malabar liturgical movement, helped to establish a musical academy called “Kalabhavan” under the directorship of a gifted musician Fr. Abel CMI. He produced a number of records and cassettes, composed in South Indian  ragas and talas, with the assistance of  a Karnatic musician K.K.Antony Master. Besides many popular devotional songs, they produced a number of hymns for liturgical and paraliturgical services. Thus a solemn sung Syro-Malabar Mass was published in 1971 that was widely acclaimed by the community, and it was enthusiastically used in the Syro-Malabar churches. Other hymns were of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter and Christmas.

3.  Sung Mass since 1986

 

When the restored text of the holy Mass was introduced in 1986, almost all of its hymns were in Syriac tunes. But when it was revised in 1989, two more tunes were added to the hymns. One of them was more in line with Indian melodies, while the other employed modern music with long preludes and interludes. The 1989 compositions made use of many ragas like Sankarabharanam, Anandabhairavi, Kalyani etc., and talas like Aditalam, Rupakatalam etc.

Besides these three sets of hymns for the holy Mass, there were also individual attempts to produce new albums with new music.

4. Karnatic Solemn Sung Mass

 

Fr.Paul Poovathinkal CMI has produced an album of Syro-Malabar sung Mass based on pure Karnatic ragas. He has used the musical forms such as Kirthans, Bhajans, Hymns and Chanting in it.

5.  Sacraments

 

The hymns composed for the sacraments in 1970s, especially those of marriage, were widely acclaimed by the faithful. The new hymns were not following the Syriac musical style. Instead, they employed scales of modern music, including the Western.

The restored and revised texts of the sacraments published in 2005 have newly composed hymns for Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage. They are in the format of ragas and talas of Karnatic and Hindustani music.

6.  Holy Week Liturgy

 

The Holy Week liturgical hymns, especially of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, were produced by Fr. Abel CMI and K.K. Antony Master in 1970s, departing from the Syriac style. They used Karnatic ragas and talas. Some of these hymns like Thalathil Vellameduthu (= Taking water in a bowl) on Maundy Thursday, and Gagultha Malayilninnu (= From mount Golgotha) on Good Friday have made deep imprints on the hearts and minds of the faithful. However, the hymns of Palm Sunday, Holy Saturday and Easter as a whole have not made such lasting impressions.

7.  Christmas Liturgy

 

Though a couple of hymns are composed for Christmas night using Karnatic ragas and talas, they are not wholeheartedly received unlike the hymns of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

8.  Divine Office 

 

One of the liturgical texts that continue to use Syriac tunes is the Divine Office. However, the Divine Office prepared by Fr. Abel CMI, smaller in size compared to the official one, has introduced Karnatic ragas and talas along with the traditional Syriac tunes.

9. Funeral Services

 

Though modern trends have invaded the Syro-Malabar liturgical music, they have not in any way affected the Syriac tunes of the Requiem Mass and the funeral services. The clergy and the people wholeheartedly welcome them, and it seems that they would reject any attempt to substitute them with modern tunes since the Syriac tunes have become part and parcel of their funeral services. So much so, the Syriac tunes are called “tunes for the services for the dead”!

When Fr. Abel CMI composed the Malayalm hymns from Syriac liturgical texts in the 1960s, he slightly changed some of the rhythmic patterns of Syriac chants, and used Karnatic talas. An example is the tune of Kambel Maran sung in the office for the dead. The original Syriac tune with a lot of grace notes and modulations, but without a tala frame, was restructured with a simple melody using Rupaka talam.

 

10.  Various Musical Forms found in the Syro-Malabar Liturgy

As of today, we can see a combination of different musical styles in the Syro-Malabar liturgy. Among them we find Karnatic and Western music along with Syriac melodies. Unfortunately, the non-devotional musical style of the modern era too has made inroads into the liturgical music of the Syro-Malabar Church. At present we may identify the following styles:

10.1 Antiphonal Singing:  The antiphonal singing is a traditional Syriac style popularised by St. Ephrem already in the 3rd century. Therefore, the ‘hymns’ are called “Onitha” (plural Oniatha) in Syriac. These are hymns to be sung always in two groups alternating the stanzas. Each stanza is preceded by a refrain.

10.2 Chanting:  It is another musical form in the Syro-Malabar liturgical music. The doxologies and refrains are chanted. Chanting style is applicable, to a certain extent, to the whole of the liturgical prayers also.

10.3Hymns:  This is a musical form developed by St. Ephrem in the East. Hymn is “a song in praise of God”. It is slightly different from the South Indian Kirthans. In a hymn we find different stanzas with the same melodic texturing.

10.4 Bhajans: In the post-Vatican period, especially after the All India Seminar in 1969, the Syro-Malabar Church did make various attempts to introduce Bhajans in their liturgy. The Syro-Malabar holy Mass “according to the Indian Rite” prepared by Dharmaram College, Bangalore, and “Bharatheeya Pooja” by Cardinal Joseph Parecattil, Ernakulam, employed many Bhajans and Slokas. Some of the Syro-Malabar dioceses outside Kerala too introduced Bhajans in their liturgical music. The Syro-Malabar Divine Office in Hindi has many Bhajans. In course of time, a number of Bhajans and Namajapas have been composed and used in liturgical and paraliturgical services.

10.5 Kirthans:  This musical form, prevalent in the devotional singing, is used also in the liturgy. It focuses on Bhaktibhava.

 

10.6  Modern Style: This is a modified form of hymns and kirthans using musical preludes and interludes as background music with the help of orchestration. Initially this style began as a help to the vocalist. But today it has invaded the melodic and devotional simplicity of the liturgical hymns.

 

11.  The Choir and the Musical Instruments

A traditional Syro-Malabar church choir had five members. Their instruments were violin, harmonium, drum and triangle. However, after the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries, some Syro-Malabar churches had pedestal harmonium, and even pipe organs. The drum is known by its Portuguese name tambor and the triangle is called thiriamkol, a Portuguese (triangulo) flavoured Malayalam word. Violin is known as fiddle or Rebec.

12. The Eastern Liturgical Music

In the Eastern tradition, the musical instruments have little importance compared to the voice of the people. Some Eastern Churches like the Russian and the Greek who continue to keep up the original spirit of the Eastern liturgical music, have very little dependence on the musical instruments. The Eastern policy is to minimize the use of the instruments. They are to be employed just to help the congregation to sing better, and with devotion and ease. Therefore, the present trend in the Syro-Malabar Church, the ‘filmy orchestral performance’, is completely alien to the  Eastern ethos.

13.  The Musical Style proper to the Syro-Malabar Church

 

By use of almost 1600 years, the Syriac liturgical music has become the hallmark of the Syro-Malabar sacred music. It continues to be used to the great satisfaction of the clergy and the people in the Requiem Mass and funeral services. The same is kept up also in the Divine Office. The Syriac music in the Syro-Malabar Church can be compared to the Gregorian music in the Latin Church. Therefore, despite various  attempts at inculturation of music, the Syriac melodies continue to enjoy a place of honour in the Syro-Malabar musical tradition.

14.  Common Musical Heritage of the Latin Church and the Syro-Malabar Church

 

Though there are Malayalam liturgical hymns characteristic of the Latin and Syro-Malabar Churches in Kerala, there are also hymns that have now become common heritage of these Churches during the Eucharistic celebration. These are sung mainly at the entrance procession, offertory, sanctus, holy communion and dismissal. Some of them have lasting impression on the faithful of these Churches because of their devotional and melodious nature, and they continue to be sung on ordinary days as well as on solemn occasions.

15.  Rethinking about the Syro-Malabar Liturgical Music

 

In the recent past, a number of church choirs mushroomed, and they literally began to invade the Church music introducing hymns, tunes and instruments that are not always conducive to the prayerful atmosphere during the liturgical celebration. Thus the Church music practically became a ‘stage performance’ with all modern gadgets, and the solo singing became widespread. Though ordinary parish celebrations continue to enjoy the simplicity of the hymns and tunes, the solemn occasions like church feasts, marriages and such other celebrations have become a venue of filmy orchestration. Despite the interventions of the Church authorities to stop this tendency, they do not seem to have made great impact on these choirs. Complaints from various quarters have been pouring in to control this trend. Finally, the Syro-Malabar Liturgical Research Centre under the auspices of the Synod of Bishops conducted a seminar on Syro-Malabar Liturgical Music in July 2005, and made proposals to the Synod requesting it to take concrete steps to remedy the situation. The Syro-Malabar Central Liturgical Committee consisting of representatives from all the Syro-Malabar dioceses also requested the Synod to take effective steps in this regard. Some of the bishops did send circulars to the parishes and institutions to correct the drawbacks. But, things did not improve as desired.

The Synod of Bishops held in August 2006 decided to send a circular letter to all the parishes and institutions of the Church, and to give instructions to the departments concerned of the dioceses to take necessary steps to rectify the defective manner of singing in the liturgy. Accordingly, the Major Archbishop, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, wrote a common Pastoral Letter in December 2006. Referring to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II, Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the exhortations of the Popes, especially Pius X, Pius XII, John Paul II, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Major Archbishop requested all concerned to take immediate steps to make the sacred music really “sacred”, avoiding the lyrics, tunes and instruments not conducive to the prayerful and recollected atmosphere in the church. He requested them to give prominence to the voice of the people than to the choir members and the instruments. He reminded the members of the choir that they should realize that they are doing a “ministry” in the Church to help people to pray better.

16.  Decisions of the Synod regarding Sacred Music

 

The Synod of Bishops held in August 2006 discussed the various aspects of church music, and decided to publish certain guidelines to the whole Church. Among them we find the following:

  • A Hymnal to be published under the auspices of the Syro-Malabar Commission for Liturgy.
  • Only approved hymns may be sung during the liturgy.
  • Community singing should be fostered. People should be trained to sing as a community.
  • Recorded hymns should not be used in the liturgy.
  • There should be training for the church choirs under the auspices of the dioceses.
  • Along with poetic quality, the liturgical hymns should have sound theological basis.
  • There should be model choirs in every diocese.
  • The traditional Syriac melodies should be preserved. At the same time, Karnatic and Hindustani tunes should have their rightful place in the liturgical music.
  • In seminaries and formation houses of the religious, sacred music should form part of the official curriculum.
  • The Research Centre of the Syro-Malabar Church should start a Documentation Centre collecting all the musical styles of the past and the present for future study and research.

It is encouraging that some dioceses have already published hymnals to be used in the holy Mass. Steps have been taken by some dioceses to train the choir members of the parishes to sing liturgical hymns shortening the preludes and interludes, and to foster community singing.

17. Conclusion

 

The Syro-Malabar liturgical music is in a process of change and growth. The spread of this Church to various parts of the world – USA, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa etc. -, besides the various States of North India, definitely obliges her to adapt the liturgical music to the culture of the place. Though the traditional musical style is Syriac, in the present multicultural and global context, she cannot remain unaffected by the influences of different musical styles. Therefore, she must be open to the changing situations. However, every change should be in view of raising the hearts and minds of the people to the Lord who has come and who is to come.

                                                                                                      Fr.Antony Nariculam

                                                                                                      Pontifical Seminary

                                                                                                      Alwaye 683 102

                                                                              antonynariculam@yahoo.co.in

                                                             ************


[*] I am indebted to Fr.Jacob Vellian, an expert in Syriac liturgical music, for the analysis of the Syro-Malabar Syriac musical tradition, and Fr.Paul Poovathinkal CMI, a Ph.D holder in Indian music from Madras University, for the analysis of the present adapted hymns and chants of the Syro-Malabar liturgy. I have taken many findings from the papers they presented at the seminar on “Liturgical Music of the Syro-Malabar Church” conducted by the Syro-Malabar Liturgical Research Centre in July 2005. Their papers were entitled “Syriac Liturgical Music of the Syro-Malabar Church” and “The Influence of Karnatic Music on the Liturgical Music of the Syro-Malabar Church”.

Interpreting and Responding to Religious Extremism

Interpreting and Responding to Religious Extremism

Dr Vincent Kundukulam

Vincent Kundukulam

Introduction

A new world order is emerging as globalization grows fast across the continents. Parochial identities based on ethnic and religious allegiances get strengthened in the nations. The indigenous religions claim more role in the process of nation building. This paves the way for unhealthy combinations of politics and religion. Jama-a-at Islami, Hindutva and Sects are some examples of such fallout in Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.  It is surprising that most of these groups define themselves against secularism and they strive to put up theocracies in the nations.

What is the nature of these religious groups having political ambitions? Why do they distance themselves from secularism? Has Christianity the potential to triumph over the mayhem created by fanatic organizations? Will the religious crusade usher in a new moral order? These are some complex questions that brood over us coming to this concluding paper. To deal with them all in this article will be a very ambitious project. However we shall make an attempt to understand why the religious activists attack secularism and what forms of disrupted ideologies the above mentioned groups belong to. A Christian response to the phenomenon of religious terrorism and practical measures to resist extremism will be also in order. As a pre-requisite, we begin with explaining the concepts of fundamentalism, fanaticism and communalism, the ideologies which manipulate religious sentiments of people for political ends.

1. Types of Religious Extremism

1.1 Religious fundamentalism

The origin of the term fundamentalism dates back to the last phase of the 19th century in USA. It is Cutis Lee Laws, a Baptist from North America, who seems to have used it for the first time. In the editorial of The Watchman Examiner, a New York weekly, on 1st July 1920 he coined this word to designate those who were blindly attached to the great fundamentals of Christian faith and vehemently opposed to modern interpretations of the Bible[1]. In the following period, the fundamentalists were distinguished by the aggressive efforts to impose their creed upon the public and on denominational schools in USA. They insisted upon the obligatory prayer before classes, the reading of the Bible and divine service in colleges and universities. Those who did not share the conservative faith were removed from the churches and educational institutions and state legislatures were under pressure to pass laws prohibiting teaching the theory of evolution.[2]

Fundamentalism has cut across Christian world and has become one of the most obvious characteristics of almost all the institutionalized religions of the world. The fundamentalists are always certain of what they say. Their value system is non-negotiable. To argue that there could be a plurality of ideas which could be equally valid is for them sacrilege. Another feature is the moral fervor with which they speak. They are convinced of having God’s authority to do what they will. They supply literalist interpretations of the Scriptures, which legitimate the exclusion of the other. They consider the progressive thinkers as creatures of devil and they don’t mind in using violence against them[3]. In short, fundamentalists advocate extreme loyalty to the basic tenets and activities as they were laid down by the founding ‘fathers’ or Scriptures of religions and they want to go back to what they regard as the purer standards of bygone days.

1.2 Religious fanaticism

Fanaticism is the anglicized form of a word, which in ancient times was used of priests supposed to be inspired by divinity. By the sixteenth century this original meaning expanded to include forms of noisy madness having no religious basis. In the seventeenth century immoderate adherents of the sects in England were called fanatics. Gradually this term denoted blind zeal in any cause whether religious social or political.

A thorough study of the various forms of fanaticism shows that it has three important components. The most obvious among them is extreme narrowness and rigidity of temper. It is impossible for the fanatics to learn anything that would dislodge their fixed idea. The end which they select as supreme and the path they follow to arrive at that end are never open to question. Another character of fanatics is their unyielding determination to make the fixed idea of triumph over men. They are men of fiction and fiery missionaries. A fanatic may intertwine himself with political parties and social forces in the destiny of the religious struggle. Another trait no less characteristic to fanaticism is callousness to pain. The fanatics become insensitive to human suffering to the point of cruelty.

Its extreme narrowness of sin, inflexibility and brutal disregard of other values make fanaticism a deeply disruptive force in the society. Whether it arises out of religion, politics or class struggle, the fanatic regards himself as specially chosen for the purpose. According to analysts, neurological abnormality, unhappy environmental conditions and strong ambition contribute to the growth of fanatic culture in an individual[4].

1.3 Religious communalism

In the original sense, to commune means feel as one with somebody or some group. Communal in the positive sense is commitment for the well being of the community. It becomes communal in the negative sense when one discriminates others on account of effusive attachment to one’s own community. As Rasheedhudin Khan has rightly observed, in India, religious communalism has taken the shape of narrow and blind devotion to one’s own religious community for acquiring political and economic benefits. Thus communalism is understood as an ideology that is opposed to secularism in India.[5]

Though communalists play with religion, in fact, religion is not the fundamental cause of communal conflicts. As Louis Dumont remarks, religion becomes here a mere appearance. People are not really concerned about the substance of religion. Religious communalism is the affirmation of the religious community as a political group. What appears to be clash of religions is really clash of interests of a small group. It neither represents religion nor patriotism; it represents vested interests of the communal leaders.[6]

There are various stages in the growth of religious communalism. First a feeling is promoted that the people of the same religion have not only common religious beliefs but also common economic political and cultural interests. In the second stage it emphasizes that the political, economic and social interests of one religious community are different from those of other religious communities. In the third stage people are made to believe that not only their beliefs and interests are different but also antagonistic to those of other communities[7].

Macro level and micro level factors contribute to the growth of communalism, says Asghar Ali Engineer. By macro level factor he means the communalist ideology itself which grows due to the economic inequality. When one individual or one section of the society makes economic development the rest of the same class of people will be succumbed to certain type of insecurity and inferiority feelings against the rich. The elites of the weaker sections, in their effort to compete with the rich, collect the support of the majority community against them by infusing religious sentiments to the rest of the society. The micro level factors are the local conflicts which are emerged out of vicious propaganda created by the communalists. For example, in the religiously sensitive areas a rumour regarding the slaughter of a cow before the mosque will be plenty to bring about inter-religious riot[8].

1.4 Ethnocentric Nationalism

It was only from the end of the eighteenth century that nationalism received the sense in which it is in use today. Hans Kohn defines nationalism as a state of mind, in which the supreme loyalty of the individual is felt to be due the nation-state. Every nation possesses certain objective factors distinguishing them from other nationalities like common descent, language, territory, political entity, customs and traditions, or religion. Though the blend of these objective elements may vary from nation to nation, Kohn opines that the most essential and common element of nationalism is the living and active corporate will of the people[9]. .

Antony D. Smith, who wrote Theories of Nationalism, divides nationalism into two kinds: ethnocentric and polycentric.  The polycentric nationalism recognizes different cultural and power centers which in an attitude of mutual dialogue and enrichment share their power and ideals for the common good of the nation. Smith considers only this broader type of nationalism as worth to be called nationalism. The ethnocentric nationalism gives emphasis on the cultural and religious heritage of one ethnic group to the extent of imposing it on all those who live in the surroundings. This is a narrower kind of nationalism because it assumes an emotional character which easily becomes aggressive and thrives on the negation of other ethnic groups. It rises to the extreme forms of passionate hostility to all alien manifestations[10].

The above study shows that all forms of extremism contain some sort of exclusive attitude, which provokes in the adepts violent attitude towards their opponents. If for the religious fundamentalists the enemy is progressive thinkers within their own religion, adepts of other religions are the targets of religious fanatics. The religious communalists are not, in fact, serious about the religion. Their interest is mainly economic and political. The concern of ethnocentric nationalists is primarily religious-cultural. However, all forms of religious extremists manipulate the religious sentiments of people for their vested interests. When everything is in a flux and nothing seems to be stable and permanent, people feel nostalgia for the customary and routine-bound past. They make a resolute and stubborn return to a way of life in the past based on religion though for our time it may be outworn and irrelevant. The illiterate hope that attachment to the fundamentalist interpretation of sacred texts and exclusion of the ‘other’ will resolve their contemporary problems. But their aspirations will ever remain unfulfilled.

2. Interpreting the forms of extremism

The above attempt to explain the political ideologies was to help us understand the different religious extremist movements that were studied in the previous papers. In those articles the authors were referring to concepts like fundamentalism, fanaticism, religious nationalism, communalism, fascism, chauvinism, etc. to explain the character of those movements. To define exactly the nature of Jama-at Islami, Hindutva and Christian Sects is above the scope of this small paper. Therefore we will make an attempt to state their affinity with the extremist ideologies we studied in the first section of this article.

2.1 Jama-at-Islami (JAI) [11] The Jama-at-Islami seems to be a representative of the movements that are originated in the third world countries against colonialism and secularism. This hypothesis can be verified if we study the context in which it is born and the manner in which it grows at present. Syed Maulana Abu Ala Maududi founded this movement in Pakistan in the year 1941 to capture freedom from the British.  Even after obtaining independence in 1947 it continues to oppose the secular culture which is identified as the culture of colonialists.

The JAI has also got some similarity with fundamentalism as it holds on unchangeably the conservative doctrines of Islam. It demands from the Muslims a total surrender to the Din, never trying to alter any element of it. According to JAI Islam alone is the solution to the problems that not only the Muslims but also the whole world encounters.  The thinking that only Islam is right and whatever else is menial points also to the fanatic potential inherent in JAI.

The fanatic leaning of JAI can grow into theocratic forms had it captures political power. The final goal of JAI is the establishment of the Caliphates, the states governed by the Sharia. JAI believes that Hizbullah – the party of God – can only meet the political economic and religious aspirations of humans. ‘There is only one path and that path is Caliph’s rule based on Sharia’ is the slogan of JAI.

2.2 Christian Sects[12]: The new sects that are emerging among the Christians in India are in their structure and nature very similar to fundamentalist movements.  Similar to its awakening in USA at the end of 19th century, the sects of the contemporary era –  ‘Spirit in Jesus’  and ‘Church of Eternity’ – assert themselves in opposition to the scientific and contextual interpretations of Bible. The advocates these sects believe in the inadequacy of modern biblical hermeneutics in dealing with the spiritual needs of laity and makes irrational claims regarding life after death. The funny side of it is that they criticise vehemently the Catholic hierarchy in the guise of safeguarding Christian revelation, but they themselves are highly defensive in style and demand unquestionable submission and obedience from the part of their followers.

2.3 Hindutva:[13] To determine the nature of the Hindutva movements is a Herculean task because, being an umbrella organization, each of its wings has its own sensibilities. The RSS, the founding father of Sangh Parivar associations, pretends to involve more in cultural activities, the BJP in politics, the VHP in religious field, and so on. However we can find out certain unity among them since they all imbibe energy from the same Hindutva ideology.

A careful analysis of the activities of the Parivar movements indicates that Hindutva is more linked with communalism or ethnocentric nationalism than with any other political system. Like communalism Hindutva is founded on the false identity that there is only one culture in India that is Hindu.  This monolithic identity is an invented one because any unbiased social scientist will concede to the fact that India is conglomeration of races, castes, jatis and languages, each having its own cultural identity.  The Sangh Parivar constructs this fake identity in order that the upper caste Hindus can, with the support of majority of the backward classes and the tribals, maintain their political and economic hegemony in the country. Hindutva cannot in any way be identified with the genuine nationalism, as its proponents claim, because from its origin onwards, its main interest is in imposing the religious and cultural hegemony of the upper caste Hindus over the Muslims, Christians, tribals and Dalits of the country.  Thus Hindutva is very much akin to ethnocentric nationalism or to the religious communalism.

3. Secularism and religion, mutually antagonistic?

Our investigation into the Islamic, Hindu and Christian varieties of extremism have shown us that most of them are in conflict with the secularism. Why does it happen so? Mark Juergensmeyer has thoroughly examined the matter and he gives the following reasons.

The main reason for the rivalry between secularism and religion seems to be the structural similarity. Both include doctrine, myth, ethics, ritual, experience and social organization. Both function to provide an overreaching framework of moral order. Religions try to maintain order in the daily life in accordance with the unchanging divine order. Secularism also attempts to work as ideology of the order. During French revolution, the ideologists built up a science of ideas based on the theories of Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Rene Descartes. In doing so they were formulating a code of conduct, which can replace religion. Thus secularism and religions are parallel in fulfilling their tasks and hence they become potentially rivals.

Another reason for the rejection of secular nationalism by the religious nationalists is that the latter considers the secularists accountable for the moral decline of the people. The secularists consider reason alone as sufficient for finding the truth. Religious nationalists despise this notion. For them, secular nationalism, as it condemns religion and faith, is fundamentally bereft of spiritual values. Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka mention that the people there are indulged in gambling, slaughtering animals for meat and drinking alcohol due to the influence of Western secularism.

Religious extremists oppose secularism also for its colonial background. Secularism was grown in the West as a reaction to the monopoly of Church over the social and political spheres. But it slowly borrowed the salient features of Christianity in an attempt to become competitive to religious values. Thus it has specifically a Christian basis. As a result, the secularism is interpreted as a part of a plot to perpetuate colonialism in indigenous countries.

We can not hope that the religious activists and secularists will come to an accord in the immediate future. They are mutually afraid of being marginalized by the other. There may ultimately have no true convergence between religious and secular political ideologies. On the ideological plane the cold war may persist. But we can envisage a situation in which both secular and religious aspirations of the people are respected. Religion has a role to play in defining the value system of the state. The same way secularists can curb religion from extremist temptations. Even in the West where religion was shunted to the periphery the States assimilated some aspects of religion into the national consensus. Hence we have to sort out the aspects of religious nationalism, which we must oppose and those aspects we can co-exist with.

Among the values, which we cannot live with religious extremism include dictatorship, tendency to satanize secularism, potential to become intolerant and violent. Aspects of religious nationalism, which we can live with, are appreciation of tradition, insistence on morality, etc. There is a third category of factors, which we cannot live with easily but we have to learn to co-exist with. One is the religious nationalist’s insistence on divine justification for human laws. If divine justification motivates people to obey just laws we may agree that they are good. Another element that is to be negotiated is the exaltation of communitarian values over the individual one. Religious nationalists cherish group loyalties over individual rights and personal achievements[14].

4. Christian approach to extremism

The two factors that constitute extremism, as we have seen earlier, are exclusive attitude and recourse to violence. Consequently Christian approach towards extremism can be inferred from Jesus’ attitude towards the gentiles, the people who aggressively reacted to him and those who advocated violence. The Church teachings on non-Christians and violence will reveal to us the actual standpoint of the Church on extremism.

4.1 Jesus’ attitude towards pagans: The God whom Jesus preached is a God who offers his love to all without any restriction. Even though Jesus was born as a member of Jewish community he honored other believers in a special way. Seeing the faith of the centurion Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 8, 10-11) Jesus praised the Canaanite woman’s faith “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (Mt 15, 28). He projected a Samaritan as model to practice the love of neighbor (Lk 10, 25-37). He drank water from the Samarian woman (Jn 4, 7).

4.2 Jesus’ approach to enemies: At the time of Jesus Jews believed that the expected Messiah would take revenge on the pagans for not joining them and adoring Yahweh. But Jesus in his inaugural speech removed the idea of vengeance from the eschatological expectation. When he read the passage from Isaiah in the Synagogue of Nazareth he left out the words like “the day of vengeance of our God” (Is 61, 2) i.e. punishing the Gentiles and the lawless for the wrong done to the law-abiding Jews. When disciples asked Jesus to destroy Samaritans who did not receive them on the way to Jerusalem Jesus rebuked them (Lk 9, 51-56).

Contrary to the practice of his epoch, Jesus enforces the disciples to love the enemies. The antithesis on non retaliation that we have in Mt 5, 38-48 and parallels urges the followers to opt out of the process of revenge through violence. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus not only prohibits violence but also demand that brutality and force be met with abounding goodness. He uses the example of God’s care for all creatures to challenge us to avoid restricting love only to those who can benefit us or already love us[15]. During the arrest of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when one of the disciples takes his sword and strike the slave of the high priest Jesus rebukes him. Luke adds then that Jesus heals the slave by touching. By refusing to call upon his Father’s twelve legions of angels Jesus avoids doing what a magician might promise. Jesus behaves here not like a brigand. He is exemplifying the attitude of forgiveness and compassion towards those who hate him and thus proves himself faithful to the will of his Father[16].

4.3 Cleansing of the Temple: Jesus’ act of cleansing the temple (Mk 11, 15-19) is often quoted by the extremists to legitimize violent way of reacting to the opponents. But the exegetical study does not authorize us to make such an interpretation. Jesus went to the Jerusalem temple for the celebration of the Passover. According to John’s gospel, Jesus drove out with a whip of cords those selling in animals, scattered the coins and overturned the tables of the money changers. Jesus got angry because for him temple is not merely a building where people gather but it is the house of his Father[17].

A few scholars like Schnackenburg opine that this act is to be understood in a messianic sense. John narrates this event to show how the prophecies about the Messiah are fulfilled in Jesus. ‘And there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day’ (Zech 14, 21b). ‘Zeal for your house has consumed me’ (Ps 68 (69), 10). By referring to the purification of the temple John shows that the Messianic prophecies are accomplished in Christ[18].

Another set of exegetes view this act as symbolic. This act which expresses the zeal of Jesus for the house of God cost him his life. In fact, by cleansing the temple, he is pointing to how he will purify his own body and make it the abode of his Father. As says R. E. Brown, the cleansing of the temple is a prelude to the reconstruction of the sanctuary i.e. Jesus’ own body.  Jews will destroy Jesus but he will shortly afterwards rise up anew[19]. In short, according to Johannine Christology cleansing of the temple is a symbol of Jesus’ own death and resurrection and institution of His body as the real sanctuary where the Father is present to the humanity.

4. 4 Jesus’ lack of enthusiasm to serve the Gentiles: One who objectively examines Jesus’ attitude towards pagans can not ignore his unwillingness to work among the gentiles. Jesus preached exclusively to the Jews. He limited his ministry mainly to the hill-country of Galilee and to the northern coast of the Lake of Gennesaret, regions populated by the Israelites. He seems to have avoided deliberately cities populated by Hellenists like Galillee, Sephoris and Tiberias. The only gentiles territories seem to have been visited by Jesus are Tyre and Sidon (Mk 7, 24-31) and Caesarea Philippi (Mk 8, 27). Even in those journeys his interest might have been the descendants of northern Israelites who had settled there[20]. ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Mt 15, 24). In the same manner Jesus limited the ministry of his apostles also to the Jews. Before sending the apostles on their mission Christ warned them against going into the ways of the gentiles and into the city of Samaritans (Mt 10, 5-6).

To understand this, we have to look into the theology behind Matthew’s gospel. In post-70 Judaism (after the destruction of Jerusalem), under the leadership of Johannan ben Zakkai, the Pharisees at Jamnia became hostile to the Christians. Anyone who confessed Jesus as messiah was excluded from Synagogue (Jn 9, 22). Christianity was declared an atheistic heresy and Jews were prohibited from associating with the Christians. Jewish Christians found themselves as an isolated group. It caused confusion, tension and conflict in the community. Gentile mission would have never succeeded until they learned to manage these issues. There were enough problems already within Jewish Christians and so they did not like to cause further issues going beyond its boundaries for a period of time. Some opine that His counsel not to go to the Samaritans was to make easy the mission among Jews who considered it below their dignity to be taught by men who mixed with the gentiles and Samaritans.

Another explanation for Jesus’ reluctance to carry mission among non-Jews is that he was sharing the common Jewish belief according to which Gentiles would be brought to God through the witness of Israel once the kingdom of God was established in Israel. Salvation of the Gentiles was believed to take place at the eschatological time. The eschatological time would begin definitively only at his resurrection. Missionary work among them had to wait till the post-resurrection period. The blood of the true Passover Lamp must be shed for many (Mk 14, 24). Therefore, even while keeping an open attitude towards the Gentiles throughout the ministry, he was patiently awaiting the conversion of the Jewish people in order that through them the conversion of other races might be achieved. The service of Jesus to the Jews was a service in view of the Gentiles[21]. In short, Biblical experts do not see Jesus’ reservation to carry pastoral activity among the Jews as an example for exclusivism. Jesus’ particular actions are to be interpreted in terms of his general attitude towards the gentiles. Gospels witness clearly the universalistic attitude of Jesus.

4.5 Attitude of the Church: The fact that the Catholicism condemns extremism is evident from Church’s positive approach to the non-Christian religions of the world. The Second Vatican Council devotes a special declaration Nostra Aetate, to speak about her affinity with Judaism, Islam and other South Asian religions. Besides, Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et spes and Ad Gentes furnish elements for a positive approach to pluralism. The Instruction, Libertatis Conscientia, has expressed precisely on Church’s attitude towards violence.

Nostra Aetate understands humanity as one family and advises Christians to deal with all humans as brothers and sisters: All men form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth and also because all share in a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all men. (1 Tim 2, 4. NA 1). ‘The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrine which, although differing in many ways from her teaching, nevertheless, often reflect a ray of truth, which enlightens all men. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture’. (NA 2) ‘Sacred Council begs Christian faithful to conduct themselves well among the Gentiles and if possible, depends on them, to be at peace with them and thus be true sons of the Father who is in heaven’ (NA 5)

Lumen Gentium gives a broad concept of people of God so as to comprehend in it all good minded people: ‘The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems… Nor is God remote from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breadth and all things (Acts 17, 25-28), and since the Savior wills all men be saved (I Tim 2,4). Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation’ (LG 16). To include in the people of God all those who do good to the world is an incentive for the Catholics to establish positive relationship with all people irrespective of caste and creed.

The Instruction Libertatis Conscientia which was published in 1986 admits armed struggle only as a last resort to put an end to the tyranny, which is gravely damaging the fundamental right of the individuals. Otherwise Church holds the following standpoint: ‘Systematic recourse to violence put forward as the necessary path to liberation has to be condemned as a destructive illusion and one that opens the way to new forms of servitude … One can never approve, whether perpetrated by established power or insurgents, crimes such as reprisals against the general population, torture, or methods of terrorism and deliberate provocation aimed at causing deaths during popular demonstration’[22]. Thus, neither the attitude of Jesus nor the attitude of Church promotes extremist tendencies to safeguard faith.

5. Means to resist religious extremism

5.1 Teach the noble values of all religions: Ignorance about other religions is a great hurdle in the path of communal harmony. Wars begin in the minds of men and therefore it is in the minds of men that defense for peace must be constructed. All religions nurture values like truth, love, non-violence, compassion, peace, service, practice of equality, fraternity, justice, etc. People are to be formed in these ideals.

The value education in and through the academic and extra-curricular activities is an efficient way to instil universal religious values in the minds of pupils. Across the country several NGOs function in this field. The Universal Solidarity Movement, one of the offshoots of Dharma Bharati (began at Indore on 16th July 1993), organizes training programmes for cabinet members (body of students formed in view of influencing fellow students), teachers, principals and parents in schools and colleges. See below some of the action plans that are adopted by the participants of such a training programme which was held in April-June at the Indore National Office. a) We shall practise the Five Paths (skip a meal a week, say a prayer a day, do a good deed a day, honour parents and respect earth) for personal transformation through out life; b) We shall plant at least five trees every year and take care of them; c) We will greet our friends, of other communities or faith, on their festivals; d) We shall never waste food items either at home or outside; e) We shall read at least five books a year; and f) We will not use intoxicants[23]. Similar grass-root level action plans are executed by various peace-making organizations all over the country and they render valuable service in defying the communal agenda of fanatic groups.

Among the adults the inter-religious amity can be fostered through exchanges at various levels. Through common prayers, meditations, discussions and celebrations we can know about the noble values akin to each religion. Every person can contribute to building unity by small gestures of daily life. Visiting the hospitals, sharing meals with neighbors on festivals, would cause decline on communal feelings.

5.2 Virtue of interdependence: Every religion has something unique to contribute for the welfare of the world. For example, Islamic life is known for prayerfulness and fellowship, Hindu-Bahai mind for universal vision, Sikh-Buddhist-Jain heart for Courage Compassion and Non-Violence, Parsi intellect for initiative and creativity, Jewish will for strict adherence to law, and Christian spirit for forgiveness and self-sacrifice. But at the same time we know that religions have influenced each other, helped each other and enriched each other in developing their specific virtues. For example, Christianity received from Babylonia the idea of God as the maker of heaven and earth, from Persia the dualism of Satan and God, from Egypt last judgment, from Phrygia the worship of the Great Mother, from Greece and Rome the idea of universal law.[24] If so, it is naïve to harp on exclusiveness and assert one’s superiority either in belief, or in tradition or in culture. Humans can enhance the unity of mankind while remaining in many religions.

The virtue of interdependence is the little way to transcend the barrier of caste, creed, race, and language. An atmosphere of understanding one another as human beings with same needs, aspirations and obligations is to be created. Ways of worship and style of life may be varied, but these outward manifestations need not erode the basic trust in one another as human beings. Peace which is result of trust among the people can prosper only when social interdependence becomes a way of life of the people.[25]

5.3 Development: Formation of religious values alone will not keep the young generation away from extremist tendencies. Studies show that the sectarian groups find sympathizers by a large amount among the unemployed youth. The young people who migrate from remote areas to the towns are culturally alienated. Those who fail to meet with the challenges of highly mechanized world are sidelined. Such frustrated youth often find refuge in small sects where they get emotional warmth. Therefore to curtail the growth of fundamentalism one has to definitely work for employment and development.

Taking care of them is witnessing Christ’s love in a world of selfishness. In the scene of last judgment (Mt 25, 31-46) and in the parable of rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16, 19-31) Jesus refers to the compassionate concern for the dalim as the necessary condition to enter into his Kingdom. That is why Church today perceives development as a means for establishing peace: ‘Excessive economic, social and cultural inequalities danger to peace … Peace is something that is built up day after day, in the pursuit of an order intended by God, which implies a more perfect form of justice among people’[26]

5.4 Counter cultural and political formation: During the last two decades secular minded individuals used to expose the hidden agenda and strategies of communal forces and create public opinion against them. But the resistance put up by the secular forces is very less at present. Unless sustained efforts are not undertaken for the counter culture formation, our world will not be a livable planet for tomorrow. Using art forms – painting, music, street plays – is an efficient means to oppose the communal forces. The counter cultural formation has to be done also through mass media by disseminating teachings, stories, legends and myths from different religious traditions. Mere cultural response will not be sufficient if not followed up with more substantive moves on the political front to check the wave of communalism.  Solution would be an extensive campaign sponsored by all those who believe in secularism.

Today man suffers from a type of religious neurosis. The best medicine to heal the poisoned psyche of humanity is the spirituality of religions advocating values of pluralism, universality, compassion and love. We are born and trained in certain traditions of religion. But we are not supposed to transfer the absoluteness, which belongs to the Divine Reality, to its historical formulations. We must be able to hold our particular formulation as valid without denying the other forms. This is the only one attitude consistent with faith in a Universal God.


[1] P. Lathuiliere, Le fondamentalisme catholique, Cerf, Paris, 1995, pp. 15-19.

[2] H.R. Niebuhr, Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, vol. 6, p. 526.

[3] GPD, Economic Political Weekly, September 29, 2001, p. 3668.

[4] M. C. Otto, Fanaticism, Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 5, pp. 90-91.

[5] R. Khan, South Asian Portents, India Nation-State and Communalism, G.S. Balla [ed.], 1989, 40-42.

[6] L. Dumont, Nationalism and Communalism, Contribution to Indian Sociology, VII, 1964, 45-47.

[7] B. Chandra, Communalism in Modern India, New Delhi, Vani Educational Books, 1984, pp. 1-4.

[8] A.A. Engineer, A Theory of Communal Riots, Seminar, November 1983, pp. 14-17.

[9] H. Kohn, Nationalism: Its Meaning and History, Florida: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1982, pp. 9-10.

[10] A.D. Smith, Theories of Nationalism, London: Gerald Duckworth & Company Limited, 1971, pp. 158-1163; 170-171. E.R.A. Seligman & A. Johnson, Nationalism, Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 11, London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., p. 231.

[11] See the article written by Anto  Cheranthuruthy on Jama-at-Islami in the same issue.

[12] Read Joseph Pamplany’s article on Christian Sects in same number of Encounter.

[13] For details see the article of Devis Kavungal on the topic in this copy of Encounter

[14] M. Juergensmeyer, Religious Nationalism confronts the Secular State, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 15-34.

[15] D.J. Harrington, The Gospel of Mathew, Sacra Pagina, D.J. Harrington (ed.), vol. 1, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville Minnesota, 1991, p. 92.

[16] Ibid., pp. 375-377.

[17] F.J. Moloney, The Gospel of John, Sacra Pagina, D.J. Harrington (ed.), The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1998, pp. 75-80.

[18] R. Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to John, vol. 1, New York: The Seabury Press, 1980, pp. 343-357.

[19] R.E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, New York: Doubleday, 1997, pp. 340-341.

[20] L. Legrand, Mission in the Bible, Pune: Ishvani Publications, 1992, pp. 48-50.

[21] J. Kuttianimattathil, Jesus-Christ, Unique and Universal, Bangalore: KJ Publications, 1990, pp. 66-67.

[22] Congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Instruction Libertatis Conscientia, 22 March 1986, AAS 79 (1987) no: 76.79.

[23] Charter of Action Plan by the Student Leaders, Renaissance, vol. 16, no:3, May-June 2008, Indore, p. 2.

[24] S. Radhakrishnan, The Present Crisis of Faith, 51-58.

[25] S.K. Parmar, Inter-religious Co-operation for Peace and Value Education: Response to Consumerism and Communalism, Peace and Values Education, K.P. Joseph [ed.], 30-33.

[26] Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, AAS 59 (1967), no: 50.

Dominus Jesus and Mission

Dominus Jesus and Mission

Dr Vincent Kundukulam

Dr Vincent Kundukulam

Vincent Kundukulam

 No other Vatican document has produced so many storms in the recent past like Dominus Iesus,(DI), a Declaration prepared by the Office of the Congregation for Doctrine of Faith (CDF) and by the Pope John Paul II and published on 6 August 2000.  There ensued many discussions about DI in the form of study seminars and symposiums and through the publication of books, theological journals and popular magazines both inside and outside the Catholic Church. The conservative groups in different religions and Christian denominations came out with severe criticisms against it. Among the Indian catholic theological journals, Jeevadhara brought out a special issue in May 2001, a collection of reactions from theologians representing various continents. We are not in a position to examine this voluminous literature and that is not our objective too. Our aim is to understand the concerns of Dominus Jesus from a missiological perspective and the reasons for which it is known as a polemic document.

 1. Nature of the Document

 The Declaration Dominus Jesus besides the introduction and conclusion contains six small chapters and is spread in 23 numbers. Compared to other Vatican teachings like Redemptoris Missio or Fides et Ratio which have 92 and 108 paragraphs respectively, DI is not a very big document. It does not contribute any new insight regarding the uniqueness of Christ or unicity of Church. It reiterates only what has been taught in previous magisterial documents about this subject. Then naturally one may ask why does it create so much uproar.

A look into sources of this Letter gives us a glimpse on the nature of the document. Apparently this heavily documented Declaration is largely based on the open perspectives of Second Vatican Council. For, among the 102 citations 42 belongs to Second Vatican Council and 30 are taken from the encyclicals of John Paul II. But a close scrutiny of these citations shows that the drafter is very much selective in his references. He has chosen mainly the orthodox statements, which reinforce the primacy of Christ, Church and mission and seldom refers to the passages of inclusive and integrating order. The 7 citations from Ancient Councils and 5 from CCC add to its exclusive language.

 2. Purpose of the Declaration

The objective of the document, as made explicit in its beginning, is to recall to bishops, theologians and the faithful certain indispensable elements of Christian doctrine which would help them develop answers consistent with the content of faith and refute erroneous or ambiguous positions regarding faith (no: 3). This intention is again repeated in the last number: “Faced with certain problematic and even erroneous propositions, theological reflection is called to reconfirm the Church’s faith and to give reasons for her hope in a way that is convincing and effective” (no: 23).

 What are the erroneous doctrines that the document refer to? Mainly, these are propositions originating from relativism. DI rules out the mentality of indifferentism, which leads to the belief that Jesus is one of the manifestations of God and that one religion is as good as another. It takes extreme care to defend the uniqueness of Christ and unicity of Church. But a cautious reading of the Letter will show that these Christological and ecclesiological concerns are led by another objective namely to rejuvenate missionary preaching and baptism. The propositions coming from relativist ideologies had cast shadows of doubts regarding the need of missionary proclamation.

This missiological concern is very clear from the document, which laments that inspite of two thousand years of missionary efforts the mission still remains far from complete. DI cites St. Paul crying, “woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (I Cor 9, 16) (no 2). Moreover the fact that the document begins with the missionary command of Resurrected Jesus to the disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize all nations shown in all the Synoptic Gospels (Mt, 28, 19-20; Mk 16, 15-16; Lk 24, 46-48) make evident the priority of the Declaration for mission. (no 1)

 3. Affirmations of DI

            From the above explanation the three theological disciplines in which the document likes to put certain order is very clear. They are Christology, Ecclesiology and Missiology. Though the sixth chapter deals with the salvific value of non-Christian religions it is not a major preoccupation of the Declaration. If it were so, the document should have positively defined their role in building the kingdom of God.

 3.1 Christological: Jesus, the only Unique Redeemer

One of the main assertions of DI is that Jesus Christ is the mediator and the universal redeemer. Christ, the Son of God Lord and only Saviour, through the event of incarnation, death and resurrection, has brought the history of salvation to fulfillment and there is no other name under heaven among men by which they can be saved (no 13). God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand constituting him judge of the living and the dead. This gives him unique, singular, exclusive, absolute and universal significance as the mediator of the world (no 15)

The document rejects the concept of limited, incomplete or imperfect character of revelation of Jesus Christ which will be complementary to that found in other religions. It denies also the underlying relativist theory, which says that God cannot be grasped and manifested in its globality and completeness by any historical religion. According to the document this theory is not applicable to the person of Jesus. The truth about God is not abolished or reduced even though it is spoken in human language by Jesus because he who speaks and acts here is the Incarnate Son of God (no 6) The attitude of perceiving Jesus as a particular, finite, historical figure manifesting one of the many faces of Logos communicating with humanity in course of the history does not conform to the faith of the Church. (no 9)

DI cautions against the different sorts of separation made by the progressive theologians: between Jesus of history and Christ of faith; between humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ and between the economy of salvation realized through the Three Persons of Trinity in order to create space for the mediations of other religions in the salvific project of God. The document denies the view that there are two economies of salvation: one of the Eternal Word, which is valid even outside the Church and another of the Incarnated Word, which is limited to the Christians. (no 9) The declaration does not accept any separation between the Word and Jesus Christ and the salvific actions of the Word as such and that of the Word made flesh (no 10)

            DI admits the work of the Spirit extending beyond the visible boundaries of the Church and affecting other cultures, peoples, and religions. It quotes Gs 22: “For since Christ has died for all and since all men are called to one and the same destiny we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the Paschal mystery”. But the declaration does not accept a separate economy of the Holy Spirit with a more universal breadth than that of the Incarnate Word. It is the same Spirit who is active among other religions and who was at work in the life death and resurrection of Jesus and now present in the Church. The action of the Spirit is not parallel to that of Christ.  (no 12)

 3.2 Ecclesiological: Necessity of Church

            The fourth and fifth chapters of the document defend the Unicity of the Church. Because there is an historical continuity between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church DI argues that she has the fullness of Christ’s salvific mystery. Just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated, and constitute single ‘whole Christ’. Just as there is one Christ so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ, a single Catholic and apostolic Church. Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. (no 16)

            Church being the legitimate continuation of Christ claims the declaration: ‘none can empty or deny the intimate connection between Christ, the Kingdom and the Church’. The declaration is aware that the kingdom of God is not identical with the Church in her visible and social reality. Church is oriented toward the kingdom of God, of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both. Church is the kingdom of Christ already present in mystery. (no 18) On account of the indissoluble mysterious relationship that Church has with Christ, it would be contrary to faith to consider Church as one way of salvation along side those constituted by other religions. Other religions cannot be seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if they will converge with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God. (no 21)

 After affirming the specificity of Church DI alerts the Catholics not to boast of their exalted condition: ‘if they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed, not only they shall not be saved but also they shall be more severely judged’. (no 22) In fact these chapters reveal drafter’s tension to keep two truths together: the necessity of the Church for salvation on the one hand and the possibility of salvation for all mankind in Christ on the other. DI finds Church necessary for salvation because of Christ’s presence in her. Since Church is united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, she has, in God’s plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being. She is the universal sacrament of salvation. But at the same time DI affirms that to those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, salvation is accessible by virtue of a grace. (no 20).

 3.3 Missiological: Urgency of Mission

            Apart from relativism, what put down the missionary zeal in the Church is misunderstanding caused by some forged concepts of dialogue. Some missionaries doubt the need to work for the conversion of the gentiles if the latter are already on the way of salvation while they obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Responding to this situation DI explains the basic reason for evangelization: God has made himself in the fullest possible way known to Christians. Since Church possesses the definitive revelation of God she has by her nature to be missionary. (no 5)

According to DI though the followers of other religions can receive divine grace in their own religions, it is also certain that they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who in the Church have the fullness of the means of salvation. Hence the Church, to whom the fullness of Truth has been entrusted, has the duty to bring them the full truth. Guided by charity and respect for freedom Church must commit herself to proclaim the truth revealed by the Lord, to announce the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of the adherence to the Church through baptism and other sacraments, in order to participate fully in communion with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (no 22)

 With regard to dialogue DI says that the inter-religious dialogue does not relegate the necessity of mission. Dialogue is just one of the actions of the Church in her mission ad gentes. Inter-religious dialogue as well the mission ad gentes today as always retains its full force and necessity. Dialogue does not replace but rather accompanies the missio ad gentes. In brief the certainty of the universal salvific will of God does not diminish but rather increase the duty and urgency of the proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ. (no 22)

4. Attitude towards other Religions

            In some instances DI endorses the open outlook of Second Vatican Council. For example, the first chapter quotes NA 2: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and teachings, which although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men”. Referring to the universal salvific will of God DI admits that ‘the sacred books of other religions receive from the mystery of Christ the elements of goodness and grace for God who desires to call all people to himself in Christ and to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation. God’s love does not fail to make himself present in many ways not only to individuals but also to entire people through their spiritual riches. Hence other religions are the main and essential expression of God’s revelation even when they contain gaps, insufficiencies and errors’ (no 8). A similar attitude is obvious in the last chapter: “Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements, which come from God, and which are parts of what the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions” (no 21)

 But in many other parts DI compares Christianity with other religions and thereby downplays their value. First of all, the document makes a distinction between faith in Christianity and belief in other religions. Theological faith gives Christians revealed truth whereas beliefs of other religions are the sum of experience of human treasury of wisdom and religious aspiration, which are still in search of the absolute truth and still lacking assent to God who reveals himself.  (no 7) Secondly DI makes a distinction between the sacred writings of other religions and Bible. The Scriptures of other religions contain however some elements to nourish and maintain inter-relationship with God but they can not be considered as inspired texts, a title which is reserved only to the Canonical Books of the Bible as they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. (no 8) Thirdly, DI compares the Christian prayers and rituals with that of other religions. DI recognizes some of them as preparation for the Gospel but it does not attribute to them a divine origin or ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments. (no 21)

 In the light of above pages we can certainly say that Dominus Jesus projects an ambivalent attitude towards Non-Christians. In one context, it would say that other religions receive elements of goodness and grace from God and in spite of the errors contained in them, are essential expressions of God’s revelation (no 8). But on other occasions DI does not hesitate to affirm that other religions are in a gravely deficient situation (no 22) and that they are the sum of experience of human treasury of wisdom and religious aspiration, which still lacks assent to God’s revelation (no 7). Such sort of incoherence happens partly due to the presence of members having diverse sensibilities in the redaction committee. When Pope John Paul II convened the meeting of leaders of the World Religions at Assisi in 1986 there were some misgivings already in the Vatican and Pope had to give a special address to the Roman Curia explaining the theological foundations of that initiative. We will now see non-Catholic reception of Dominus Iesus.

 5. Reactions from outside Church

            Abd-al-Haqq, the director of Institute for Islamic Higher Studies at Paris thinks that Dominus Jesus is “taking a step back”. He observes that for the first time in the history of humanity the religions coexist in different continents and above all they encounter and know mutually. We can no more understand Truth in the same way as in the past. God does not want to be exhausted by one faith. Haqq regrets of the exclusive attitude in Dominus Jesus and he is afraid that such kind of text reinforces the rigid attitude in Islam. (La Croix, 7 September 2000, Paris)

Olivier Clement, an orthodox theologian who has been engaging in ecumenical dialogue since years comments that “this abrupt way of saying things make me to think that this text is a reaction of those who have difficulty in the Curia to accept the open attitude of John Paul II. I don’t see any continuity between this text and Ut unum sint (1995), an encyclical on the unity of Christians. Rabbi Korsia, the director of College of Rabbis in France, does not understand why a text from Vatican takes position on Judaism. When the Association of Rabbis makes a declaration to the Jews, it does not discuss any issue related to the Catholic Church. It is true that each religion must be able to articulate for its own members where lays the Truth. The only thing that we accuse is the fact of imposing one’s own truth on others. (La Croix, 7 September 2000, Paris, p.11)

            The Hindu world, the Sangh Parivar in particular, could not digest the premises of Dominus Iesus. N.S. Rajaram, an ideologist of RSS writes: “In a just released document titled Declaration of Lord Jesus the Vatican proclaims non-Christians to be in a gravely deficient situation” and that even non-Catholic churches have “defects” because they do not acknowledge the primacy of Pope. This of course means that the Vatican refuses to acknowledge the spiritual right (and freedom) of non-Catholics. This consigns non-Christians to hell, and the only way they can save themselves is by becoming Christians, preferably Catholics, by submitting to the Pope. (Organizer, 3 June 2001, Delhi, p. 19)

 6. Lacking pedagogy of encounter

 As we mentioned in the introduction a bundle of articles had already come out criticizing this document. Due to constraint of time we will discuss about only one aspect, namely language of DI.

No doubt, the tone, style and language of the Declaration are very different from that of the Second Vatican Council. The Council Decrees by its inclusive style generates in the reader a feeling of harmony. Reading them we are moved to work with all peoples, cultures and religions. For example see the human fellowship outlined in Nostra aetate: “All men form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock” (no 1) Gaudium et spes writes: “Through loyalty to conscience Christians are joined to other men in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems which arise both in the life of individuals and from social relationships. (no 16).

But this spirit of commonality or togetherness is unseen in Dominus Jesus. Exclusive language, imposing style and comparative statements of DI nourish a ghetto culture. Referring to the language of DI, Felix Wilfred has rightly observed that Church still lacks the pedagogy of dialogue. Many misunderstand tolerance, compassion and the concern for other’s faith as compromise. We are afraid to follow in our relationship with other religions the path of renunciation and kenosis showed by Jesus. The only way to get rid of this fear is to let us be touched by the neighbour (La Croix, 28 September 2000).

Some may underestimate Felix’s comment, as he is a theologian, known for his modernism. But Joseph Dore, Archbishop of Strasbourg, known for his orthodoxy and allegiance to Vatican, also confesses that the style of DI is different from that of the Council. There are expressions of command like “In fact it must be firmly believed that” (no 5) “It must be firmly held” (no 7) “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that” (no 22), etc. in the document, which may badly affect its reception by local Churches. (La Croix, 6 September 2000). Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi, CBCI Vice-President said, “Dominus Iesus is immediately relevant to the multi-religious and multi-cultural situation in India but it was felt that the document has to be toned down”. (The New Leader, vol. 114, no:10, June 1-15, 2001, p.30.)

            As Jacob Parappally notes, DI cannot but be exclusive because its language is confessional. Our task is to proclaim the faith of the Church in the context of plurality of religions and ecclesial communities. It is the charism of the local Churches to evolve a language in which the faith affirmations can be meaningfully communicated. Overemphasis on the historicity of Jesus in DI reduces him to be one among the founders of religion. DI makes Jesus Christ small and his Church a sect. (Parappally, Profession and Proclamation of Faith, Jeevadhara, vol, 31, no 183, May 2001, pp. 225-227)

            Against the above-mentioned accusations CDF’s response was that DI is not destined to other religions. But this argument does not stand in Asia and Africa where to be religious means to be inter-religious. Whatever is said by one religion affects all others. Nobody can seek God in isolation here. In such a context the Church teachings must be expressed in local cultures. “Doing Asian Theology in Asia Today’ (DATAT), a document published by FABC in October 2000 seems to be a glaring example. It begins with addressing the threat of relativism, as does DI. But DATAT does not equate relativism with pluralism; instead as Second Vatican Council, DATAT advocates pluralism in theology.  At the same time it warns against irresponsibility or indifferentism with matters affecting the faith of the Church. When DI relegates other religious traditions to beliefs still in search of truth DATAT draws nourishment from Asian cultures. DI presents Church as custodian of Truth but DATAT consider Truth as mystery, to be approached with reverence. This reverence does not allow FABC make judgment upon other religions (Jeevadhara, vol, 31, no 183, May 2001, pp. 230-233)

            The absence of the theology of incarnation has also affected the missiological perspective of DI. It finds the source of mission in Jesus’ missionary command to the apostles after resurrection. To base mission on this mandate is an outdated approach. The Second Vatican Council accepts the Mystery of Incarnation as the source and model of evangelization. As Jesus who, being sent by the Father, assumed what is good in humanity the missionary must assimilate the fruits of Spirit already present in the local culture before announcing the Gospel. Unfortunately, DI is silent about inculturation, dialogue, liberative actions, witness, etc. which should precede mission.

7. There is yet to hope for

Inspite of all the above noted drawbacks DI cannot be, in my view, totally discarded because all along with the rigid standpoints it has also retained inclusive attitude of Second Vatican Council. For example, the document still believes in the participatory mediation of other religions: “The unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation, which is, but a participation in this one source. These participatory forms of mediation acquire meaning and value only from Christ’s own mediation. They cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his.” (no: 14)

Similarly, DI has not totally identified Church with Christ and the Kingdom: “The kingdom of God is not identified with the Church in her visible and social reality. In fact the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries must not be excluded. Therefore, one must also bear in mind that the kingdom is the concern of everyone: individuals, society and the world”. (no 19 On the contrary if DI had equated Church with Kingdom there would have been no room left for dialogue and inculturation.

 It must also be noted that the Declaration believes in the salvation of those who remain outside Catholic Church by means of a special grace from God: “For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace, which while having a mysterious relationship to the Church does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way, which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit (no: 20).

 Above all, the document promotes the freedom of theologians to cogitate over the mystery of salvation. DI invites the theologians to explore in what way the historical figures and positive elements of other religions fall within the divine plan of salvation. (no 14) It encourages them to find out the meaning of the statement in AG 7 saying: “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel to that faith without which it is impossible to please him “(no 21). The present Pope Benedict XVI during the Holy Mass that he offered on the subsequent day of his election (20th April 2005) promised to continue the efforts of dialogue commenced by his predecessor. Let us hope that Church will rediscover the vision of the Council about other religions.

Deepening Inculturation

 Deepening Inculturation

 Dr Vincent Kundukulam

Dr Vincent Kundukulam

 Dr Vincent Kundukulam

Introduction

 

            Since the Second Vatican Council the theologians spoke much about the necessity of transmitting the gospel values in the indigenous cultures. Various local Churches in Africa Asia and Latin America took initiatives to develop Christian practices proper to their cultures. This interaction of the Christian message with the local cultures gave birth not only to adapted liturgies but also to diverged forms of theologies like liberation theology, theology of dialogue, etc. which sowed certain confusion in the Church. There was a feeling that individual Churches are moving away from the old traditions of the catholic Church. As a result certain precautions are taken by the Church to make sure that the efforts of inculturation do not risk the faith and unity of the universal Church. Unfortunately, today many individual Churches left aside the efforts to reinterpret the gospel message in their religious cultures and are content with adopting a few local external customs in the liturgy. The objective of this article is to show that inculturation is to be done not merely at superficial realms of indigenous cultures but also at religious aspects. The meaning of inculturation, its relation with the mystery of incarnation, the process of inculturation and the intrinsic connection that exists between the culture and religion proves the pertinence of such an argument.

 

1. Meaning of Inculturation

Origin: We don’t know the exact date of the first apparition of the term inculturation[1].  It seems that it was Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the Superior General of Jesuits, who first used this term during the thirty-second general assembly of their Congregation, which took place in Rome from 1st December 1974 to 7th April 1975[2]. The first Assembly of Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (F.A.B.C) organised at Taipei between 22nd to 27th April 1976 had also spoken about an indigenous and inculturated church[3]. This word first appeared in the official text of the Catholic Church during the Synod of Bishops in 1977. John Paul II officially pronounced this word during his allocation addressed to the members of Pontifical Biblical Commission on 26th April 1979. In his speech, he placed inculturation at the centre of the Mystery of incarnation[4]. Since then during his various visits in different countries and in his official documents Pope speaks about inculturation as a constitutive element of evangelisation. We can better understand the significance of inculturation if we compare it with other notions like adaptation, accommodation, localisation, indigenisation, contextualisation, acculturation and enculturation which are often employed in missiology to explain the new rapport established between the Church and different cultures.

Adaptation, accommodation and localisation: The initiative for adaptation was existing in the Church from the very beginning of her mission. It was more prevalent from 16th century when the European missionaries began to go in the Far East countries. It denotes the efforts taken by the missionaries on the one hand to adapt to the local customs in dress, lodging and food and on the other hand to present the Bible in an intelligible and understandable way for the non-Christians. In this sense the accommodation and localisation signify the same reality of adaptation. But inculturation is distinct from them in two aspects: a) Adaptation is essentially the work of missionary while inculturation is the result of the efforts taken by the members of the local Church to receive the Christian message in their culture. b) Adaptation limits itself to external aspects of the culture while inculturation is a process in which the Church makes of gospel new expressions and interpretations in a given culture[5].

Indigenisation and contextualisation The missiologists do not prefer to use the term Indigenisation to designate the transmission of the gospel in a particular culture because the term Indigenous designate those people who lived in ancient colonised countries. It revives the memory of colonial culture. As regards the term contextualisation, in its original usage, refers to the theological formation in the non-accidental countries. Later, it was utilised for explaining the various aspects of life and the mission of the church[6]. The benefit of this term is that it evokes the sum total of cultural political social and religious situations in which the Bible must be inculturated and by the same fact it represents well the object of inculturation. But the disadvantage of this term is that it does not represent well the theological dimension i.e., the encounter of gospel with human situations.

Acculturation:  This term is employed in sociology to evoke what one designated by inculturation in theology. Since thirty years, the missiologists use it to explain the relation between the Church and various cultures. Acculturation stands for that process by which one person moves from one culture to another with the consequence of changing the modes of his original culture. It is a historical process in the sense that the individuals and the groups do not stop modifying their cultural traditions by the contact of other people and other cultures[7]. But since this term is of sociology, the theologians prefer to use the word inculturation, which belongs properly to the theology.

Enculturation: This term also has its origin in sociology to indicate the process by which an individual is initiated and grown up in his culture, the first act of socialisation[8]. What distinguishes enculturation from inculturation is that the former is concerned about the insertion of an individual in a particular culture while the latter points to the process by which Church becomes a part of the culture of the people. Again, in the case of former, the child does not have a-prioi the culture while in the case of latter, the Church is already deep-rooted in a particular culture[9]. The above explanations helped us to see the differences between inculturation and other concepts, which describes the relationship between the Church and the culture in missiology. Now we have to study the significance of the term inculturation in a positive way.

            Fr. Arrupe used the term inculturation for the first time in his letter to the Jesuits written on 14th May 1978 defining it as follows: “Inculturation is the incarnation of Christian life and of the Christian message in a particular cultural context, in such a way that this experience not only finds expression through elements proper to the culture in question (this alone would be no more than a superficial adaptation), but becomes a principle that animates, directs and unifies the culture, transforming and remaking it so to bring about a new creation”. Then Arrupe gives the following explanation: “In every case, this Christian experience is that of the People of God, that lives in a definite cultural space and has assimilated the traditional values of its own culture, but is open to other cultures. In other words, it is the experience of a local Church which, accepting the past with discernment, constructs the future with its present resources”[10]. The FABC at Taipei in 1976 used the term inculturation when it defined the local Church: “The local Church is Church incarnate in a people, a Church indigenous and inculturated[11]. Pope John Paul II in his first utilisation of this term, he connects it with the mystery of incarnation: ‘the term inculturation is perhaps a neologism, but it expresses very well one of the components of the great mystery of incarnation’[12].

            The above explanations make clear that inculturation is more than adaptation. The gospel must be inculturated in the cultural political social and religious situations of the indigenous communities. Let us now contemplate on the inseparable link that exists between inculturation and mystery of incarnation, which will convince us of the need of giving flesh to the Word even at religious level.

2. Inculturation – Incarnation

            The heart of mystery of incarnation is the fact that the ‘word is made flesh’. (Jn.1:14)  God has taken the contingent form of humanity. The ultimate divinity has been incarnated in a man called Jesus. The connection between incarnation and inculturation consists in the fact that the latter follows the same logic of the former. In the process of inculturation, Gospel becomes a concrete word for the people. It takes a new expression and at the same time it enriches the culture. The advantage of comparing inculturation to the incarnation, as Claude Geffre says, is that there will be evangelisation only if the gospel is presented in a particular culture as the fullness of revelation of God in a man can take place only if he is incarnated in a particular and concrete man called Jesus of Nazareth.  Another advantage is that we can show the incorruptible nature of the word of God. Gospel does not lose its identity even though it is realised in different cultures, as the transcendence of God is not compromised in the incarnation[13].

            St. Paul presents the mystery of incarnation as a real denouncement  (kenosis) of God (Phil.2:6,7), a mystery according to which God accepted to incarnate as one of the member of a particular group (Jews) in order to open the way of universal salvation. The process of inculturation contains also this aspect of kenosis. The four gospels, even though they are inseparably linked with the cultures of their times, in order that they become a ferment in a particular context of today, they must be detached of the cultural contingencies of their time. The Indian theologians are really convinced that inculturation will take place only when there is kenosis of the word of God: “ To become a Christian is to become incarnated: to become a seed, to die, to be reborn in the cultural roots. There must be a fundamental transformation in our attitudes. We are born here and we must be harmonised to the vibrations, to the rhythms and to the music of Indian culture.”[14]

            R. Jaouen gives the example of a seed to speak about inculturation. As soon as the seed is fallen on the earth, it begins to work slowly and invisibly. The sower does not know how the seed sprouts and grows. The same way, the missionary sows the Word but the result is produced without him. Everything happens as a mysterious action that takes place between gospel and culture where the missionary remains as a useless servant. This reference to the symbol of seed helps us to understand the gist of inculturation: The principal actor of inculturation, as in incarnation, is not man but Jesus Christ himself who germinate his church in each man where he is preached. In other words inculturation is not the product of a human project. It is not the result of an encounter between two human cultures. But it is a divine project realised due to the encounter of Gospel with a particular culture. Jesus Christ is the Word proclaimed by the predicator and the Word received by a culture[15].

            As incarnation, inculturation is also an evangelising act. Amalorpavadass mention the missionary connection that exists between the process of incarnation and that of inculturation. According to him by incarnation, Christ has assumed in his humanity the whole creation and by the death and resurrection, he has recapitulated it in him. The church is called to continue the mission of recapitulation of everything in Christ of which inculturation is the accessible means for the church. If the church does not follow the same channel of incarnation done by Christ, she cannot fulfil her mission[16]. We listen to the same idea in the mouth of a bishop working in a missionary region of Kerala: “The incarnation of Christ is mission to be lived continually and everything that is good in different cultures must be assumed in his humanity[17]. Puthanangady affirms this dimension of inculturation saying that it does not mean simply the encounter of gospel with a culture in view of making a pertinent and adequate formulation of Gospel but it is the way in which God encounters the humanity in need of salvation[18]. In short, inculturation is a fundamental exigency for the church which is missionary among the diverse cultures of the world.

            Even though there are common elements between these two concepts, we cannot for the same reason exchange them mutually since the mystery of incarnation is absolutely unique. The incarnation has taken place only once for all while inculturation has to be realised many times everywhere in the world. Another important element which distinguishes inculturation from incarnation is that the latter evoke the relation between one person, Jesus Christ and a Jewish Aramanic culture while the former suppose a relation between a religion, Christianity which has already assimilated the elements of particular cultures and an another culture[19].

            This study on the relationship between the mystery of incarnation and inculturation shows the necessity of realising the process of inculturation even in religious level. We have seen that by incarnation, God has not taken shape only in the superficial aspects of humanity but in all the dimensions of man’s life. If the inculturation has to follow the same logic of incarnation, we cannot be content with an adaptation of the Church in Indian culture. We have also seen that incarnation was an act of evangelisation. Jesus has recapitulated the whole humanity in God. In order that the inculturation becomes an act of evangelisation, the gospel must assimilate and transform the profound aspects of human person including his religious culture. The study on the double movement of inculturation will clarify such a necessity in a better way.

3. The double movement of inculturation

            Inculturation is an encounter of the gospel with the culture. In this encounter, the two partners transform by the grace of their dialogical rapport. As the local culture is transformed by the gospel, the gospel is renewed by the culture. John Paul II in his encyclical Slavorum Apostolii published in 1985 during the 11th Centenary of the evangelising works done by Saints Cyril and Methode mentions this double face of inculturation: In the work of evangelisation that they undertake in the territories of Slav, one finds  a model which we call today inculturation: The incarnation of gospel in the native cultures and at the same time the presentation of the cultures in the life of the Church.[20]

3.1 The inculturation of the Gospel

            It designates today the process by which the gospel takes shape in the local culture of our time as the four gospels were formed in the early Christianity. The four gospels witness the possible cultural variants of the translation of the word of God. For e.g. in the discourse on love of enemies, when Matthew speaks to Jews, he uses the term- gentiles. (Do not even the gentiles do the same? Mt 5: 47) On the other hand, Luke uses another expression, sinners, while addressing to the Gentiles:  (For even sinners do the same; Lk 6:33) Thus the evangelists do not reproduce the exact words of Jesus, but translates the thoughts of Jesus in the cultural patterns of his addressee.[21] The objective of inculturation is, as says Peelman, to write a fifth gospel.[22]

   What does this expression mean? Should we try to write a gospel for India another for Brazil and a third one for Cameroon? I would never say that the gospel must be radically transformed. Anyway, by inculturation we would not be able to produce texts equivalent to the four gospels, which are part of the Canon of the church. The four gospels due to their proximity with Christ and the apostles are unique and they cannot be reproduced in any place. But at the same time, the process of inculturation of the Gospels implies that if the gospel takes root deeply in a culture of a particular people today, the latter will receive gospel in a quite different manner than the first Christian communities. The fact that the words of Christ are read and re-interpreted in a pertinent way for a particular people will bring a certain novelty in the very understanding of gospel. These new elements cannot be reduced to simple adaptations or applications of the word of God because they modify the very understanding of Christ, Church and her mission in the world. Inculturation is the renewal or the updating of the good news without losing its unique message. In realising such a task, the Spirit of Christ incorporates into the Church the new fruits of the kenosis of the word of God.

   In the process of inculturation, even though the principle agent is the Spirit of Christ, it is the missionary who acts in his name. When the Word of God is sown on the earth, it is the missionary who represents the presence of the church in that place. What is the role of missionary in the inculturation of gospel? First of all, let us remember that like gospel, the missionary is never culturally pure. Take the case of a Indian missionary in Africa. He is profoundly conditioned on the one hand by the Hindu culture and on the other hand by a Indian catholic culture. The gospel, which he announces, is in determined by the specific cultural paradigms of India that he lived during the course of centuries.  As says Jaouen, the cultural and religious affinity of a missionary compels him to create certain apriori cultural ethnocentrism. In order that his personal cultural roots do not become an obstacle in the encounter between the gospel and the local community, he has to put in dialectical contact his original culture and the new culture in which he is sent. In any way he has to avoid the risk of imposing the ecclesiastical culture proper to him upon the local Church. The missionary must act in such a way that the indigenous Christian community respond in an authentic manner to the gospel. On the contrary, if the missionary tries to implant his own Church, he imposes there a response, which is already made by his Church a few centuries ago. It has nothing to do with the local culture of Africa. The missionary must wait patiently so that the encounter between the gospel and the indigenous culture give shape to a new Church, which is the improvisible creation of Holy Spirit.[23]

   But in this process, the preacher should not also forget the risk of reducing the Christian message to the local culture because it will make Christ and his gospel to merely a human wisdom. St. Paul had averted the Christian communities of his time about such a danger. “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin” (Gal.1, 11) “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ“”(Col. 2, 8) It is therefore Evangelii Nuntiandi after having indicated the necessity of inculturation of the gospel says: “But on the other hand evangelisation risk losing its power and disappearing altogether if one empties or adulterates its content under the pretext of translating it; if, in other words, one sacrifices this reality and destroys the unity without which there is no universality, out of a wish to adapt a universal reality to a local situation. Now, only a Church which preserves the awareness of her universality and shows that she is in fact universal is capable of having a message which can be heard by all, regardless of regional frontiers”. (EN 63) Bishop Poupard has reason to say that any effort to make cultural assimilation in a totalitarian manner, will end up in the very refusal of Christianity. In her concern to reach man in his modern culture, the Church cannot at the same time allow to be perished. She has to bring leaven to the local culture.[24]  Such an observation leads us to speak about the evangelisation of cultures, the other face of inculturation.

3.2 Evangelisation of cultures

   It means to criticise those elements in the local culture, which contradict the spirit of the gospels and to transform it by creating a new culture, which is in harmony with the gospel. The document Gaudium et Spes stresses this aspect of transformation of the culture when it speaks of the evangelisation. “Good news of Christ continually renews the life and culture of fallen man; it combats and removes the error and the evil which flow from the ever present attraction of sin. It never ceases to purify and elevate the morality of people. It takes the spiritual qualities and endowments of every age and nation, and with supernatural riches, it causes them to blossom as it were, from within; it fortifies, completes and restores them in Christ” (G.S. 58, 4) The Evangelii Nuntiandi explain like this: “For the Church, evangelising means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new  … the Church evangelises when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.” (EN 18) The question that we have to ask here is this: why and how the gospel is capable of transforming the cultures?

   We can find the answer in the creative power of the Word of God. As we have said earlier, it is Christ himself, who is the word preached and the missionary. The good news that Christ is made man, died and resurrected is too strange that it provokes in the mind of the listener a rupture with his original culture. It results in the change of the person and the reception of the gospel.[25] According to Puthanangady, the word of God is a critical word and so it is liberating. If Church allows the gospel to play its critical role, it will bring in the conversion of oppressors and the liberation of the oppressed.[26] Those who receive the gospel message like Saccheus (Lk.1:19), says Amaladoss, change their representations of God, of the world and  of the other, of  the material things, etc. Thus a new culture is born in the society.[27]

   Those who are actively participating in the activities of the Church are aware of the transforming aspect of inculturation: “The inculturation includes also the process of questioning the Hindu cultural practices which are not in harmony with the gospel message. We have to accept what is coherent with the spirit of gospel and refuse which do not[28]. “The church must assimilate the concepts of Hindu culture but at the same time, she has to re-interpret them in order that they become capable of carrying evangelical sense. The Christians must purify and evangelise the cultures and if nessary, they have to formulate a new one.[29]” The process of evangelisation of cultures finishes only when the gospel exercises its critical function and contributes to the creation of new evangelical cultures. It is not sufficient that the anti-gospel and the anti human values are denounced. We must detect the spiritual aspirations hidden deep inside the minds of the people, which may enlighten in a better way the gospel message and thus create a new gospel culture.

   But this evangelisation of the culture must be lead without destroying the prestigious indigenous culture, which may appear to the missionaries eyes as non evangelical due to his estrangement to the local culture. The directives given by the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith to the first missionaries of Asia in 17th century had already evoked the necessity of being prudent vis-à-vis the local cultures: “Don’t make any tentative to persuade the people to change their customs, way of life and daily practices, when they are not contrary to the morals and religious life. It is absurd to transport to China what is lived in France, Spain and Italy or in other parts of Europe. Don’t bring them at all, but only faith which does neither reject nor offend the way of life and the usage of the people when they are not bad. On the contrary, the faith may conserve and protect those morals and ideas.”[30] Even then, these instructions do not come from the urge for the inculturation of the gospel, as we understand it today. Rather it shows the desire to be successful in the conversion of gentiles.

   But in our time, Pope John Paul II in his address to the Australian aborigines on 29th November said: “Your culture, which witness the permanent genius and the dignity of your race, should not be disappeared. Don’t believe that your talents are not of great value that you need not preserve them no more. Share them among you and transmit them to your children; your songs, your stories, your paintings, your dances, your language…They should never be lost.”[31]  The objective of all these official declarations of the church is the same: We should not confuse the values, the cultures and the way of life in Europe or in Mediterranean world with the substantial and essential message of the gospel. The missionary Church is neither Christ nor the Kingdom of God Her mission is to witness Christ and to dispose herself at the service of the Kingdom as the sign and sacrament of God. Such a conviction will allow the preachers to make gospel a leaven in the inside of each culture.[32] Finish this treatise with the description of inculturation proposed by Crollius who resumed the double movement in inculturation as follows: “Inculturation of the Church is the integration of the Christian experience of a local Church into the culture of its people, in such a way that this experience not only expresses itself in elements of this culture, but becomes a force that animates, orients and innovates this culture so as to create a new unity and communion, not only within the culture in question but also as an enrichment of the Church universal”.[33]

            The above study shows that if the inculturation is made only in the exterior aspects and if we remain foreign to the profound dimensions of Christian life that is not the spirit of the theology of inculturation. A serious approach to inculturation demands that the Gospel penetrate even in the religious cultures of a locality in order to transform them and recapitulate them in Christ. In this mission, Church cannot leave aside the non-Christian religious traditions, which guide the half of human population. As says Claude Geffre, all the existing values and ideas must undergo a metamorphosis and a new synthesis of which the Christian message is the catalysing factor. Thus re-actualising the fundamental Christian experience in new historical forms, the Church will become really universal.[34] To achieve this objective, as bishop Zoa of Cameroon says, ‘It will not be sufficient to put together the rituals of some religions or cultures. The word of God must take flesh in the economic, political and social situations of the local people. One must be able to say as the Samarians told to the Samaritan woman converted by Jesus. “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe. For we have heard for ourselves and we know that this is truly the saviour of the World” (Jn 4:42)’[35].

   Evangelii Nuntiandi reminds that the gospel message must be be inculturated not merely in a decorative way as it were by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their roots. (EN 20) During the encounter with the Pontifical Council for the Culture, on 13 January 1986, Pope John Paul II referred to the work done by the Synod of Bishops and affirmed it clearly: ‘Inculturation is another thing than mere simple exterior adaptation. It signifies a deep transformation of the authentic cultural values by the integration into Christianity and the deepening of Christianity in the different human cultures’[36]. If this is the very objective of inculturation, we cannot be satisfied with adaptations in the superficial level.

4. Culture and religion

   The concept of culture can be studied from different angles. There is the classical understanding of the culture according to which it is the sum total of refined habits that are practised by the dominant classes. The modern anthropologists prefer a more open definition of the culture. Among many definitions, I would like that of Edward Tylor and Clifford Geertz: “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs and any other capabilities or habits acquired by man as a member of society[37]. “Culture is a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which human beings communicate perpetuate and develop their knowledge about and their attitudes towards life”[38].

   The description of the culture given by Gaudium et Spes is in coherence with the modern anthropological vision: “The word culture in the general sense refers to all those things which go to the refining and developing of man’s diverse mental and physical endowments. He strives to subdue the earth by his knowledge and his labor: he humanises social life both in the family and in the whole civic community through the improvement of customs and institutions; he expresses through his works the great spiritual experiences and aspirations of man through out the ages; he communicates and preserves them to be an inspiration for the progress of many even of all mankind.” (G.S. 53:2) These definitions show that the term culture is to be understood in its largest sense: the integral vision of the life which is developed from not only social but also religious heritage of people through the history in a determined context.

   The relation between the culture and the gospel brings into our focus the inevitable place of religious factor in the processes of inculturation. With regard to the message of salvation, gospel is distinct from diverse cultures and still there cannot be total separation between gospel and culture. Gaudium et Spes says that God revealed himself to his people until the coming of his son through different cultures of the time.(G.S. 58) For the same reason in every culture we can find some sort of preparation to receive the gospel message. (G.S.57) Evangelii Nuntiandi affirms also the connection between culture and gospel: The Gospel, and therefore evangelisation, is certainly not identical with culture, and they are independent in regard to all cultures. Nevertheless, the Kingdom, which the Gospel proclaims, is lived by men who are profoundly linked to a culture, and the building up of the kingdom can not avoid borrowing the elements of human culture or cultures. (E.N. 20) As Cardinal Poupard says if Bible had been completely separated from the culture, it could not have the capacity to transform, to purify, to elevate, to strengthen, to perfect and to renovate the cultures as it does since 2000 years[39].

            There exists a reciprocal interaction between culture and religion in almost every countries. Religion is often the secret motor of every culture. So any attempt to get involved in a culture will necessarily lead to the involvement in their religious sphere. Perhaps what keeps away the missionaries from the religious inculturation is the fear of losing the Christian identity. Some think that by adopting some Hindu symbols, the Christians will be ‘Hindusised’. This fear is understandable because the co-habitation of the symbols belonging to different religious languages may cause syncretism. But the universal character of symbolic language shows that such a fear is baseless. As Michel Meslin says, ‘The symbol reveals a logic of correspondence: Above the immediate signification, there will be a second meaning which surpasses the material reality and make possible a mediation between man and his world. The efficient symbol speaks to man at a cosmic and social level. The symbols exist in and through the signification given by human individuals.’[40] If it is the human interpretation that gives sense to a symbol and if the symbols have the capacity to represent the ideas in a universal realm, I think that the Christianity can re-interpret the Hindu religious symbols without committing the mistake of syncretism.

Conclusion

            The inculturation is an inter-religious encounter. The particular culture that the gospel meets is not devoid of religious elements. The culture is transporting the human aspirations about transcendental realities and it is very difficult to separate the religious elements from the culture even in those countries which are very much secular. Much more difficult in countries like India where the daily life is some way or other related with a event in Scriptures which are numerous. So Indian Church has to take a renewed interest in reading and interpreting the word of God in the diverse religious cultures of this land. This is part and parcel of her mission to transform the Indian society from within. Only when the she fulfils this task she will be really Indian and Catholic.

                                                                                                Vincent Kundukulam

                                                                        Mangalapuzha, Aluva, January 2000


[1] For the details see A.A.R.Crollius, ‘What is so new about Inculturation? A concept and its implications’ , Gregorianum, Vol 59 n.3. 1978, pp. 721-738 : M. Sales, ‘Le christianisme, la culture et les cultures, Axes XIII – 1-2, 1980, pp.3-40: J. Masson, L’ Eglise, Ouverte sur le monde,  Nouvelle Revue Theologique, Vol 84, 1962, p.1038.

[2] Cf. P. Arupe, Fr.P Arupe’s letter on Inculturation to the whole society of Jesus,  Indian Missiological Review, January 1979, p.87.

3 Cf. G.B. Rossalez and C.G. Arevalo (eds), For All The Peoples Of Asia : Federation Of Asian Bishops Conference Documents From 1970-1991 , Clarition Publication, Quenzon City, 1992, p. 14

[4] John Paul II, Allocution a la Commission  biblique Pontificale: L’insertion culturelle de la Revelation, Documentation catholique, no: 776, 1979, p. 455

[5] Cf. N. Standaert, L’histoire d’un neologisme, Nouvelle revue theologique, no: 111, 1988, pp. 556-557.

[6] Cf. A.A.R. Crollius, What is so new about Inculturation? op.cit., p.723.

[7] Cf. A. Shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation, Orbis, New York, 1994, p.7.

[8] Ibid., p.5.

[9] Cf. A.A.R. Crollius, What is so new about Inculturation? op.cit., pp. 726-727

[10] P. Arupe, Fr.P Arupe’s letter on Inculturation to the whole society of Jesus,  op.cit., pp.87-88

[11] G.B. Rossalez and C.G. Arevalo (eds), For All The Peoples Of Asia, op.cit., p. 14

[12] John Paul II, Allocution a la Commission  biblique, op.cit., p. 455

[13] Cf. C. Geffre, Mission et inculturation, Spiritus, vol. 28, no: 109, 1987, p. 412

[14] Interview with Albert Nambiaparambil at Delhi.

[15] Cf. R. Jaouen, Les conditions d’une inculturation fiable, Observations d’un missionnaire au Cameroun, Lumiere et Vie, vol. 33, no: 168, 1984, pp. 29. 35-38.

[16] Cf. D.S. Amalorpavadass, Theological Reflections on Inculturation, Indian Theological Studies, vol. 27, no: ¾, 1990, pp. 234-240.

[17] Interview with Bp. Zoosai Pakiam at Trivandrum, Kerala.

[18] Cf. P. Puthanangady, Which Culture for Inculturation: The Dominant or the Popular, East Asian Pastoral Review, vol. 30, no: ¾, 1993, p.301.

[19] Cf. N. Standaret, L’histoire d’un neologism, op.cit., pp. 561-562.

[20] Jean Paul II, Homelie pour le jubile des saints Cyrille et Methode, le 14 fevrier 1985, La Documentation catholique, no: 1893, 1985, p. 308.

[21] Cf. S. Anand, The Local Church and Inculturation, Ishvani Kendra, Pune, 1985, pp. 34-36.

[22] Cf. A. Peelman, L’inculturation: L’Eglise et les cultures, Desclee, Paris, 1989, pp. 91-92.

[23] Cf. R. Jaouen, Les conditions d’une inculturation fiable, op.cit., pp. 34-37

[24] Cf. P. Poupard, L’Eglise au defi des cultures: Inculturation et Evangelisation, Desclee, Paris, 1989, p.44.

[25] Cf. N. Standaret, L’histoire d’un neologism, op.cit., p. 563.

[26] Cf. P. Puthanangady. Which culture for Inculturation: The dominant or the popular ?, East Asian Patoral Review, vol. 30, no: ¾, 1993, p. 302

[27] Cf. A. Amaladoss, Inculturation and Intentionality, East Asian Pastoral Review, vol. 29, no:3,1992,p.240

[28] Interview with Paul Thelakkatt, editor of Satyadeepam weekly at Ernakulam, Kerala.

[29] Interview with Francis Kodenkandath, Diocesian Pastoral Council member of Thrissur, Kerala.

[30] Alexandre VII, Instructions a l’usage des Vicaires Apostoliques en partenance pour les Royaumes chinois de Tonkin et de Cochinchine, Collectanea SC Propaganda Fide, 1, p. 42, no: 35

[31] Jean Paul II, Voici pour vous l’heure d’une novelle naissance: Discours aux aborigenes a Alice Springs, La Documentation Catholique, no: 1932, 18 janvier 1987, p. 61

[32] Cf. A. Peelman, L’inculturation: L’Eglise at les cultures, op.cit., pp. 78-85

[33] [33] Cf. A.A.R. Crollius, What is so new about Inculturation? op.cit., p.735.

[34] Cf. C. Geffre, Mission et inculturation, Spiritus, vol. 28, no: 109, 1987, pp. 418.420.

[35] From the homily which was made at Notre Dame de Lorette in Paris on 10 December 1995.

[36] Jean Paul II, Un temps nouveau de la culture humaine, La Documentation Catholique, no: 1912, 16 fevrier 1986, p. 191.

[37] E.B. Tylor, Primitive culture: Researches in to the development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art, Custom, vol.1, Peter Smith, Gloucester, 1871, p.1.

[38] C. Geertz The Interpretation of Cultures, New York, 1975, p. 89.

[39] Cf. P. Poupard, L’Eglise au defi des cultures, op.cit, p. 27.

[40] Cf. M.Meslin, L’experience humaine du divin, Cerf, Paris, 1988, pp. 197-201.

ORIENTAL CHURCHES:HISTORY, LITURGY, THEOLOGY

ORIENTAL CHURCHES

HISTORY, LITURGY, THEOLOGY

Dr Antony Nariculam

Preface

Since some years I have been giving a short Introductory Course on Oriental Theology to the students of various Major Seminaries in India.  In the course of these years I realized that many seminarians were not aware of the inter-ritual ecclesial reality in India and its implications.  I also realized that after my lectures students were happy to have had some understanding about the history, liturgy and theology of the Oriental (Eastern) Churches in general and in particular that of the Oriental Individual Churches – Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches – in India.

From time to time the students were requesting me to give them my lectures in the form of cyclostyled notes or in a book-form.  For various reason I could not respond to their request.  Now I am happy to present the content of my lectures in the form of this small book.

This is not a scientific exposition of the subject or an exhaustive study of it.  The simple aim of this book is to introduce the various aspects of this subject to the students of Theology.  This is more a class-text than a detailed study of the vast subject of Oriental Theology.  In fact, there are Oriental theologies rather than Oriental theology.  It is a wide subject that cannot be contained in a small book of this nature.  Still I hope that this short exposition will help to have a general idea about the Oriental Churches, and their liturgy and theology.  In this hope I dedicate this book to my students of Oriental Theology.

I am grateful to my colleagues Dr.Thomas Pallipurathukunnel and Dr.Philips Vadakekalam who went through the manuscript and gave creative suggestions to improve the content and the language of this book. My thanks are also due to STAR Publications for undertaking its publication and Alwaye Press for its printing.

0. Introduction

Pluriformity is an accepted fact today in theology, liturgy, spirituality and discipline.  In fact, it is our daily experience that in all aspects of human life – culture, food, dress, language etc. – there is no uniformity.  But when it comes to the Individual Churches or Rites, many people opt for uniformity.  Their argument is very simple and straightforward: ‘After all, there is only one Faith, one Baptism, one Church founded by Christ; then why so many Churches, even in the One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church’?  Apparently it is a relevant question.

We must remember that the history of the Church is one of pluriformity, and not of uniformity.  As Vatican II rightly observes, “The holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government.  They combine into different groups, which are held together by their hierarchy and so form particular Churches or Rites” (OE 2). And in another place Vatican II says:
”It has come about through divine providence that in the course of time, different Churches set up in various places by the apostles and their successors joined together in a multiplicity of organically united groups which, whilst safeguarding the unity of the faith and the unique divine structure of the Universal Church, have their own discipline, enjoy their own liturgical usage and inherit a theological and spiritual patrimony” (LG 23).

A classical example of this pluriformity is the four gospels.  All the gospels are narrating the same story of Jesus and his deeds.  Still we find diversities in their narration of the gospel events. These diversities are due to the context in which they were written and the people to whom they were addressed.  Consequently, we have the gospel ‘according to St. Mathew’, ‘according to St. Mark’, ‘according to St. Luke’ and ‘according to St.John’.  Though the ‘content’ of the narration is the same, its ‘expression’ is different.  Even in the sacrosanct Institution Narrative of the Holy Eucharist we come across certain variations.  While St. Luke mentions a ‘supper’ (Luke 20:20) between the blessing of the bread and the cup, there is not such a reference in St. Mathew (26:26-27) and St. Mark (14:22-23).  The genealogy of Jesus elaborately described by St. Mathew (1:1-16) is not found in other gospels.  Mathew considered it necessary while addressing the Jews who were very particular about genealogies.  Besides, the background of the Evangelists too has influenced their writings.  The long reflections on Jesus as the divine Son of God in St. John is an example thereof.  In other words, the ‘charism’ of the Evangelists had a role to play in sharing their experience of Jesus.

Another example of pluriformity is the ‘charisms’ of the religious congregations for men and women.  According to the Catholic Directory of India 2005 – 2006, there are 314 religious congregations in India.  All these men and women religious follow the same three vows – obedience, poverty and chastity.  Then why so many congregations?  Why each one of them starts its own novitiate and generalate?  Even when the number of novices is meagre, they conduct their own novitiates with the infrastructures needed.  The reason for this is very clear and justifiable: each congregation has its own ‘charism’ and they want to train their members in their own ‘charism’ or tradition.

The above mentioned principle is valid also for the Individual Churches or Rites.  Each Church has her own ‘charism’ which consists of her liturgy, theology, spirituality and discipline. According to the Code of Canon of the Eastern Churches, an Individual Church is “a group of Christian faithful united by a hierarchy according to the norms of law which the supreme authority of the Church  expressly or tacitly recognizes as sui iuris is called a Church sui iuris” (CCEO, can. 27).  And it defines a Rite as “the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstances of history of a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested in each Church sui iuris”(CCEO can. 28 #1).  In other words, the same faith is expressed and lived in a variety of forms by different Individual Churches or Rites.

Before Vatican II, the Eastern Churches were known as the Eastern Church in the singular.  The new awareness about the diversity of Churches paved the way for the plural form while describing the Eastern tradition.  Accordingly, the Roman dicastery which was known as ‘Congregation for the Oriental Church’ was renamed ‘Congregation for the Oriental Churches’.

In the past, the Eastern Churches were supposed to take only spiritual and pastoral care of their faithful wherever they lived and they had no role in the work of evangelization.  This basic gospel duty was entrusted with the Latin Church.  This old view was corrected by Vatican II.  Thus all Individual Churches in the Catholic Communion are of equal rank and they have the ‘same rights and obligations even with regard to the preaching of the gospel in the whole world under the direction of the Roman Pontiff’  (OE  3).  As early as 1929, the Vatican Congregation for Universities and Seminaries had prescribed that the Oriental themes should form part of the theological curriculum.  In 1928 Pope Pius XI had mentioned about it in one of his Apostolic Letters.  In 1935 the Congregation for Seminaries asked all the Catholic Bishops to celebrate an ‘Oriental Day’ in every seminary to make the non-Oriental students aware of this ecclesial reality.  In 1987 the Congregation for Catholic Education sent a circular to all the Bishops, Rectors of Seminaries and Deans of Theological Faculties to introduce the Oriental subjects in the curriculum.  This last document, quoting Pope John Paul II, affirms that “the Church must learn to breathe again with its two lungs, its Eastern one and its Western one” (No.1).  It also notes that “by returning to the essential sources of the faith, the theologian who belongs to a particular Church not only enriches himself through this experience of the ‘Others’, but also, through this method, returns to his own roots” {No.5).  As a practical step, it suggests that “in seminaries and theological faculties, courses should be made available to the students on the fundamental notions regarding the Eastern Churches, their theological ideas, their liturgical and spiritual traditions” (No.10) because the various ecclesial traditions, as the Decree on Ecumenism notes, belong to “the full Catholic and apostolic character of the Church” (UR 17).

It is needed that all Christians grow in mutual understanding by improving their knowledge of one another.  Pope John Paul II suggests the following to realize this desire of the Church: ‘Know the liturgy of the Eastern Churches; deepen the knowledge of the spiritual traditions of their Fathers and Doctors; follow their examples for the inculturation of the gospel; encourage dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox; offer appropriate teaching on these subjects in seminaries and theological faculties, especially to future priests’ (Orientale Lumen, 24).

In the first millennium, the ecumenical Councils were all celebrated in the East.  The Councils of Nicaea (325), Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451) Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680) and Nicaea II (787) were held in the East.  Some of the dogmas of the Church like Word of God made flesh from Mary; Trinity etc. were defined by these Councils.  The Councils of the second millennium like Florence (1438 – 45), Lateran (1123, 1139, 1179, 1215), Trent (1545 – 63) etc. were all held in the West.

Diversity in the Church is not something to be just ‘tolerated’, but is a necessary reality as the life of the faith is always ‘incarnated’ in a particular culture and context.  It in no way stands in the way of unity, communion and catholicity.  Rather, as the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches states, diversity manifests unity (OE 2).  In fact, the Catholic Church has one faith with many faith expressions, one worship in spirit and truth with many liturgies and one life in the Spirit with many spiritualities.

This book has three chapters besides an introduction and a conclusion. The first chapter is a general introduction to the Eastern Churches and their liturgies.   It looks at the terms ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ Churches, the five Families of Eastern Churches, a brief history of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches, and the Vatican II understanding of Catholic Eastern Churches.  In addition, it deals also with the understanding of the Catholic Church in India as a communion of three Individual Churches and the question of inculturation as understood and practised by the Eastern Churches.

The second chapter tries to explain the characteristics of the Eastern Churches.   It touches upon the liturgical, theological, spiritual and juridical characteristic of the Christian Oriental World.

The third chapter is devoted to the specific theological features of Oriental Theology.  The method of theologizing in the East is called the apophatic way.  The ‘mysteries’ of God cannot be fully comprehended or explained by human reasoning.  Therefore, the attitude of a devotee of God must be that of wonder and amazement before this ‘mystery’.  It is in this context that this chapter briefly explains some themes of theology from an Eastern perspective.

The Oriental Theology in India is not made, but is in the making.  Christianity is basically Asian.  Therefore, Eastern theology finds a suitable home in India.  It is hoped that the understanding of Eastern Theology would be a helpful tool also to delve deep into an Indian theology.

Chapter I

 Eastern Churches

There are many Eastern Churches in the universal Christian Tradition.  22 of them are Catholic and others non-Catholic.  The Catholic Churches are those which are in communion with Rome and therefore which accept the Roman Pontiff, the Successor of St. Peter, as the supreme Head and Pastor.  Our main concern in this chapter is the Catholic Individual Churches in communion with Rome.

1.1  The Origin of Eastern and Western Churches

The naming of the Church as ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ has its origin in a geographico-political division which in course of time became an ecclesiastical one.

Broadly speaking, this division is based on the demarcation of the Roman Empire made by Diocletian (A.D 284 – 305), which became permanent with the death of Theodisius I (+395) who divided the empire between his two sons – Arcadius and Honorius – who later became emperors of the Eastern (395 – 408) and Western (395 – 423) parts.  The Eastern empire took the name ‘Byzantine’ from Byzantium which was the ancient name of the capital.  Byzantium was called Constantinople or New Rome after AD 330 when it was made the metropolis (=mother city) of the Roman Empire.

In ancient times state and  religion were so closely interwoven that Churches which happen to grow in the Eastern part of the empire were called ‘Eastern Churches’ and those in the West ‘Western Churches’.  They are also called ‘Oriental’ (Oriens = East) and Occidental (Occidens = West) Churches respectively. These Eastern Churches centred mainly around the metropolis of Constantinople and the Western Churches around Rome.  This, as we have noted above, is a broad division as there were Eastern Churches outside the confines of the Eastern Empire such as the East Syrian, Armenian and Ethiopean Churches.

Another broad division was based on the language in use.  One of the predominant languages in the East was Greek and in the West, Latin.  Hence we come across the expression ‘Greek Churches’ for the Eastern Churches and ‘Latin Church’ for the Western Church.  But this division into ‘Greek’ and ‘Latin’ Churches does not do justice to the historical development of the Churches.  Actually in the East there was another important tradition of the Syriac Churches.  In the Greek or Hellenistic tradition we have the great theological contributions of the Cappodocian Fathers, John Chrysostom and Pseudo-Dionosius. In the Syriac tradition, which was semitic, there were renowned theologians like Aphraates, Ephrem, Jacob of Serugs and Babai the Great.

In the West, Rome played a very important role to keep up unity, and even uniformity, despite the fact that there were few schisms.  In the East, most of the schisms were followed by division and separation.  The undivided Eastern patrimony may be found till the Council of Ephesus held in AD 431.  Nestorianism and Monophysitism were the two major schisms that divided the Eastern Christendom.

Originally, that is during the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, there were three Patriarchates: Rome in the West, and Alexandria and Antioch in the East.  The third Eastern Patriarchate was Constantinople, the titlr conferred in AD 381 by the Council of Constantinople I. The fourth was Jerusalem Patriarchate.  The Persian Church, of which the centre was Seleucia-Ctesiphon, was the fourth Eastern Patriarchate was the fifth Eastern Patriarchate.

Today the geographical, political and linguistic factors that caused the division into ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ Churches do not apply because there are so-called Eastern Churches in the West and Western Churches in the East.  Besides, vernacularisation has made the division on the basis of languages irrelevant.  For practical purposes, however, all the Churches not belonging to the Western or Latin tradition are today called ‘Eastern Churches’.  According to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, the Oriental Churches arise from the Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian, Chaldean and Constantinopolitan traditions (CCEO can. 28#2).

1.2  Church and Rite

In the Vatican II documents the term ‘Particular Church’ and ‘Rite’ have the same meaning (OE 2).  Here the term ‘Rite’ is used in the canonical sense and not in the liturgical sense.  However, elsewhere ‘Particular Church’ is used by Vatican II for the diocese (LG 23).

It may be useful to make a distinction between ‘Church’ and ‘Rite’. Very often these two terms are used to mean one and the same reality.  Thus, Latin Church and Latin Rite or Syro-Malabar Church and Syro-Malabar Rite mean the same.

The Indian theologians representing the three Catholic Individual Churches in India discussed the inter-ritual situation in India in 1993 and made the following distinction between a Church and the Rite.  A Church is a community which proclaims the Christ-event with its own identity; whereas a Rite is the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, characterized by culture and history of the people, through which an Individual Church expresses its faith and life.  (ITA Statement of 1993, No.2) .  Though this is not a magisterial teaching on the Church and Rite, it is helpful to understand the faith believed and lived.  This distinction is broadly based on CCEO can. 27 & 28 #1 which defined a Church and a Rite.

In baptism one is born into a Church and not necessarily into a Rite.  Therefore, it is not easy to change one’s Church.  On the other hand, the Rite can be understood as the manner of the living the faith of the Church which is expressed in liturgy, theology, spirituality and discipline.  These four elements can undergo changes depending on the culture and the living context of the people.  Hence we have diverse forms of living our faith.  In other words, ‘inculturation’ of the liturgy, theology, spirituality and discipline is so natural to Christian living.  Thus in the Latin Church there is Roman Rite, Ambrosian Rite, Spanish Rite, Indian Rite, Congolese Rite etc.  Within an Eastern Individual Church too there can be diversities in ritual expressions.  The attempts of the Syro-Malabar Church to adapt its ecclesial life to the cultural context of North India is an example of a ‘new’ Rite in the Syro-Malabar Church.  The liturgy at Kurisumala Ashram in Kerala is yet another example experimented in the Syro-Malankara Church.  In short, there can be varieties of ‘Rites’ within the same ‘Church’.

1.3  Five Families of the Eastern Churches

 

The Churches are divided into various groups based on their liturgical tradition.  There are at present six liturgical Families of which one is Western (Roman) and five are Eastern.  The Eastern Families are the Antiochian, Alexandrian, East Syrian, Armenian and Byzantine.  Among these the Armenian Family has only one Church, and that Church is called Armenian Church.  The rest of the Families have two or more Individual Churches.   Here below are given the names of the Churches according to the Families.  In brackets are given the approximate number of faithful in each of them.  All these Churches, except the Maronite and Italo-Albanian, have Orthodox counterparts.

                                                            Alexandrian Family

 

                                                             (1)  Coptic Church (243000)

                                                             (2)  Ethiopean (197000)

                                                            Antiochian Family

                                                             (3)  West Syrian Church (124000)

                                                             (4)  Maronite Church (3107000)

                                                             (5)  Syro-Malankara Church (405000)

                                                            East Syrian Family

                                                             (6)  Chaldean Church (383000)

                                                             (7)  Syro-Malabar Church (3753000)

                                                            Armenian Family

                                                             (8)  Armenian Church (369000)

                                                            Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) Family

                                                                                  (9)  Albanian Church (not available)

                                                            (10)  Byelorussian Church (100000)

                                                            (11)  Bulgarian Church (10000)

                                                            (12)  Greek Church (2400)

                                                            (13)  Hungarian Church (269000)

                                                            (14)  Italo-Albanian Church (61000)

                                                            (15)  Melkite Church (1341000)

                                                            (16)  Romanian Church (746000)

                                                            (17)  Russian Church (not available)

                                                            (18)  Ruthenian Church (598000)

                                                            (19)  Slovakian Church (226000)

                                                            (20)  Ukranian Church (4322000)

                                                            (21)  Macedonian Church (6100)

                                                            (22)  Eparchy of Krizevci (77000)

1.3.1        Alexandrian Family

Alexandria is a city in Egypt.  The foundation of the Church in Egypt is associated with St. Mark, the Evangelist.  Their liturgical tradition is known in the name of the city itself.  This liturgy is used by two Churches – the Church that uses the Coptic language and the Church in Ethiopia.  Most of the Coptic faithful live in Egypt, and the members of the Ethiopian Church are mostly in Ethiopia.  There are over 9000000 Coptic Orthodox faithful, whereas the number of Catholic Copts is over 200000.

According to an ancient tradition St. Frumentius is the evangelizer of the Ethiopians.  They have retained many Jewish practices.  The liturgy is influenced by the Syriac tradition.  There are about 3000000 faithful in the Orthodox Ethiopian Church.  The number of the Catholic Ethiopians is only about 200000.  When Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in 1993, the Eritrean Orthodox wished to form a Church separate from the Ethiopian Church and they became an Autocephalous Church in 1993 itself.  There are about 150000 faithful in the Eritrean Orthodox Church.

1.3.2        Antiochian Family

The Syrian Church of Antioch traces its origin back to early Christian community at Antioch mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (11:19-26).  It was a great centre of Christianity in the early centuries.

There are three Churches in this Family.  One among them is the West Syrian Church.  Its members are spread over Syria, Lebanon etc.  The Malankara Orthodox Syrian and Malankara Syrian Orthodox Churches of India are the non-Catholic sections of this Family.  There are about 17000000 non-Catholic Syrians in the world.

Another Church of this tradition is the Maronite Church.  The name ‘Maronite’ comes from a monk called ‘Maron’ who lived in the fourth century.  A special feature is that unlike the other Churches this is one among the two Eastern Churches of which all faithful are Catholics.  This is the third largest Eastern Catholic Church with over 31000000 of faithful.  Many of them live in Syria and Lebanon.

The third Church of this tradition is the Syro-Malankara Church of India with about 400000 members.  These are the faithful who got separated from the Catholic St. Thomas Christians of India (Syro-Malabar Church) in 1653 after the ‘Coonan Cross Oath’, and who in 1930 got reunited with the Catholic Church.

1.3.3        East Syrian Family

The two Churches that belong to this liturgical Family are the Chaldean Church and the Syro-Malabar Church.  The birth place of the East Syrian or Assyrian liturgical tradition is the present-day Iraq.  The Assyrian Church was accused of Nestorian heresy, and a section of it got reunited with the Catholic Church in 1552 assuming the name ‘Chaldean’.  The non-Catholic section continues to be called ‘Assyrian’ Church.

The St. Thomas Christians in India happened to have had contact with this Syriac tradition probably from the fourth century.  Various reasons are pointed out to justify the introduction of the Syriac tradition in India.  The Syriac contact paved the way for the prefix ‘Syro’ to the name of the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala/Malabar.  The Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest Catholic Eastern Church with over 37000000 faithful.

1.3.4        Armenian Family

The Armenian liturgical tradition is followed by only one Church – the Armenian Church.  They are spread over countries like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Turkey etc. There are about 4000000 of Catholic Armenians.  Their liturgy was influenced by elements of the Syriac, Jerusalem and Byzantine traditions after seventh century.  The number of Orthodox Armenian is about 6000000.

1.3.5        Byzantine Family

The Byzantine liturgical Family has 14 Churches.  Since Constantinople was the capital of Byzantium, it is called ‘Constantinopolitan Family’. 10 of these Churches are without  proper hierarchy and other ecclesiastical infrastructures.  Therefore, they are directly under the pastoral guidance of the Roman Pontiff.  Most of these Churches were in the old Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, and hence they were under Communist regimes.

Among the Byzantine Catholic Churches the Ukranian, the Melkite, the Romanian and Ruthanian are the ones with large number of faithful.  The Ukranian Church is the largest among them with over 43000000 members.  There is a sizable number of Ukranian Catholic in Poland (13000000) and in the USA (105000).

The term ‘Melkite’ comes from the Syriac and Arabic word for ‘King’.  Originally the members of this Church were those who accepted the Christological faith professed by the Byzantine Emperor (King) after the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451).  They are the fourth largest Catholic Eastern community after the Ukranians, the Syro-Malabarians and the Maronites.  The smallest among them is the Greek Catholic Church with less than 3000 faithful, whereas there are 10000000 of Greek Orthodox faithful.

Of the 14 Individual Churches in the Byzantine tradition, the Italo-Albanian Church also, like the Maronite Church, has no corresponding Orthodox Church.  The Byelorussian Church is today called ‘Belarusan’ Church.

The largest among the Byzantine Orthodox Churches is the Russian Church with about 90000000 faithful.  Compared to the Catholics, some of the Orthodox Churches are quite large in the number of faithful.  There are 13000000 of Macedonians, 190000000 of Romanians, 6000000 of Albanians and 650000 of Bulgarians.  In the Slovakian Church, there are more Catholics (226000) than Orthodox (71000).  The Byelorussians are almost equal:  100000 Catholics and 1100000 Orthodox.

1.4  Churches not in communion with Rome

 Alexandrian Tradition                        Coptic Orthodox Church

                                                            Ethiopean Orthodox Church

                                                            Eritrean Orthodox Church

 Antiochian Tradition                          Syrian Orthodox Church

                                                            Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church

                                                            Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

                                                            Thozhiyoor Church

                                                            Marthoma Syrian Church

 Armenian Tradition                            Armenian Apostolic Church

East Syrian Tradition

                                                            Assyrian Church of the East

                                                            Assyrian Church of the East of Trichur

 Byzantine Tradition                           Four Autocephalous Patriarchal Churches

                                   (“Autocephalous” in Greek means “self-headed”.  An autocephalous Church possesses the right to resolve all internal problems on its own authority.  They do not in any way depend upon other Churches for taking decisions which concern them like the choice of the Bishops or the Patriarchs.  Though each autocephalous Church acts independently, all remain in full sacramental and canonical communion with one another).

                                                            Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople

                                                            Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria

                                                            Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch

                                                            Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Eleven other Autocephalous Churches

Orthodox Church of Russia

Orthodox Church of Serbia

Orthodox Church of Romania

Orthodox Church of Bulgaria

Orthodox Church of Georgia

Orthodox Church of Cyprus

Orthodox Church of Greece

Orthodox Church of Poland

Orthodox Church of Albania

Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia

Orthodox Church of America

 Autonomous Orthodox Churches

                                   (Autonomous Churches, though they function independently, are however canonically dependent on an Autocephalous Orthodox Church.  In practice this means that the head of an Autonomous Church must be confirmed in office by the synod of its Mother Autocephalous Church)

                                                            Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai

                                                            Orthodox Church of Finland

                                                            Orthodox Church of Japan

                                                            Orthodox Church of China

The Canonical Churches under Constantinople

 

American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church

Greek Orthodox Church

Ukranian Orthodox Church of America and Canada

Russian Orthodox Archdiocese in Western Europe

Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

Byelorussian Council of Orthodox Churches in North

                                                                        America

1.5  The Origin of the Catholic Eastern Churches in India

There are two Catholic Churches in India.  They are the Syro-Malabar Church and the Syro-Malankara Church.  The origin of Christianity in India goes back to the Apostolate of St.Thomas who, according to tradition, came to India in AD 52 and died a martyr in AD 72.  The Eastern Churches in India – both Catholic and non-Catholic – trace back their origin to the apostolate of St. Thomas and hence they were called ‘St. Thomas Christians’. Here below is a short history of these Churches.

1.5.1        The Syro-Malabar Church

The name ‘Syro-Malabar’ for the old Catholics in India is not very ancient. It appears for the first time in one of the letters of Mgr. Aloysius Mary OCD who was the Vicar Apostolic of Malabar from 1784 – 1802.  The traditional name of this Christian community is ‘St. Thomas Christians’. ‘Malabar’ is a name attributed to the present southern Indian State of Kerala.  Their liturgy was in Syriac (Aramaic) language at least since the fourth century.  As this ‘Malabar’ Church was using ‘Syriac’ , it happened to be called ‘Syro-Malabar’ (= ‘Syriac’ in ‘Malabar’).  This designation was used to distinguish the St. Thomas Catholics of India from the Chaldean Catholics of Middle East because the Malabar Church was known also as ‘Chaldeo-Malabar Church’.

When we examine the history of the Syro-Malabar Church, we can identify five stages.

Stage One: The St. Thomas Period (AD 52 – 4th Century)

St. Thomas the Apostle is believed to have stayed in India from AD 52 – AD 72.  It is to be assumed that wherever the apostles went to preach the Good News, Christian communities were established, and the sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist, were celebrated.  Naturally, St. Thomas too must have celebrated these sacraments in the seven communities he founded in Kerala.

But what was the ‘shape’ of the liturgy he practised?  What was the language he used?  No ‘proof’ is available to answer these questions when we apply the historiographical rigorous methods of today.  However, we can arrive at certain possible conclusions from circumstantial evidence.  This is a very slippery area where opinions vary.  What we can guess with quasi-certainty is that the liturgical celebrations during that period had no definite shape, and that St. Thomas introduced some fluid form on the basis of what he learned from Jesus at the Last Supper.  It is to be assumed also that the Eucharistic bread and wine were some indigenous products rather than bread of wheat and wine.  Thus the first stage of St. Thomas period is one of uncertainties and hence one has to be satisfied with the above-mentioned plausible conjectures

Stage Two: The East Syrian [Persian] Period [4th – 16th century]

The origin of the East Syrian Liturgy in Malabar may be traced back to the arrival of Thomas of Knai in the 4th century or so.  It is known that Thomas belonged to the East Syrian Church.  This Church is understood to have been one of the most flourishing Christian communities which had developed theological schools and liturgical structures.  Hence it is quite probable that Thomas of Knai brought  to Malabar a developed Syriac liturgy.  This liturgy continued to be in use in Malabar almost intact till the arrival of the Portuguese Latin Missionaries in the16th century.  It seems that the contact of the Malabar Church with the East Syrian [Persian] Church, which was only a friendly one among sister Churches in the beginning, later developed into hierarchical dependence of the former on the latter.  However we have no evidence of any ‘conflicts of interests’ between these Churches.

Stage Three:  The Portuguese Period [16th century – 1896]

During the third stage of almost four centuries of the Portuguese period of the Latin Rite missionaries, there began to emerge some conflicts.  One reason for this was their attempt to meddle with the affairs of the St. Thomas Christians, especially their Syriac liturgy.  The missionaries even suspected them of ‘Nestorianism’ [ The heresy calling Virgin Mary only ‘Mother of Christ’ and not ‘Mother of God’] as the Malabar Christians were using the Syriac liturgical texts.  [The Syrian Church was accused of Nestorianism]

The conflict between the Portuguese missionaries and the St. Thomas Christians later developed into a serious crisis and it led to a sad split among the Malabar Christians with the ‘Coonan Cross Oath’ in 1653.  It was a public protest against the missionaries, and a group of Malabar Christians left Catholic communion. These separated Malabar Christians later took the Antiochian liturgical tradition abandoning their East Syriac liturgy. The formal acceptance of the Antiochia liturgy took place in the  Mavelikara Synod held in 1836.

Despite the crisis, the non-separated St. Thomas Christians continued to be under the Latin rule with their fragmented Syriac liturgical tradition.

Stage Four:  The Syro Malabar Period [1896 – 1992]

The Malabar Church got partial independence from the Latin rule in 1887 when Rome established two Vicariates for them.  She got greater independence in 1896 when the two Vicariates were reorganized into three Vicariates of Trichur, Ernakulam and Changanacherry, and three Syro-Malabar priests were appointed to head them.  That process came to a happy conclusion when the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy was finally established in 1923.  Since then the Syro-Malabar Church had a spectacular growth in terms of the faithful, dioceses, priests, religious and institutions.

Stage Five:  The Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Period [1992 –           ]

Though the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy was established in 1923, the Church had not achieved the full canonical status of an Eastern Catholic Church.  To be a full-fledged Eastern Church, she had to be recognized either as a Patriarchal Church or a Major Archiepiscopal Church with the Synod of Bishops as foreseen in the Eastern Code of Canons.  This happened in 1992 when she was raised to the Major Archiepiscopal status.

Today the Syro-Malabar faithful find themselves in a number of life-situations due to their history, evangelization and emigration.  They have traditional parishes with their agricultural background, rapidly growing urban parishes, inter-ritual situations, mission territories in North India, migrants in Indian cities, and in Europe, America and Gulf countries.

When we examine the liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Church today, we can identify various influences.  Though her liturgy is basically East Syriac, we can find influences of Latin and Indian elements. For example, the private confession and the anointing of the sick as practised today, are influenced by the Latin tradition.  The custom of tying the Thali and giving of the Manthrakodi in marriage, and the various customs connected with the funeral are definitely of Indian origin. ( See below, p…..)

1.5.2        The Syro-Malankara Church

 

The Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara Churches have the same history till the split in 1653 (Coonan Cross Oath).  After the split, the dissident group of St. Thomas Christians began to follow the Antiochian liturgical tradition, and eventually came to be known as the Jacobite Church. It went on till the late 1920­­s.  In 1930 the Indian Jacobite Archbishop Mar Ivanios with another Bishop, a few priests and lay people decided to reunite with the Catholic Church assuming the name ‘Syro-Malankara’ Church, and using the Antiochian liturgy which they were using  since the split.  Instead of rejoining the Mother Church – the Syro-Malabar Church – they decided to keep their newly–found identity with the Antiochian liturgy, and the Pope recognized them as a new Church  under Antiochian liturgical Family.

The growth of this Church since 1930 has been phenomenal with new dioceses, parishes, institutions and a high number of vocations to priesthood and religious life.  In recognition of this growth, the Pope erected it as a Major Archiepiscopal Church in 2005 with the synod of Bishops, and thus it attained the characteristics of a full-fledged Catholic Eastern Church.

1. 6 The Non-Catholic Churches in India

The St. Thomas Christians who joined the Jacobite Church after the split in 1653 were later divided into different Christian denominations.   One group, as we mentioned above, got reunited with the Catholic Church in 1930.  The others are found in the following Christian Churches.

1.6.1        The Marthoma Syrian Church

The 19th century Anglican influence created new problems in the Jacobite Church.  A group of Jacobites was happy to welcome the Anglican alliance, and their ‘reform movement’ was influenced by Protestantism.  Eventually, after the synod of Mulunthuruthy held in 1876, they got separated from the Jacobite Church and organized themselves as a new group taking the name ‘Marthoma Syrian Church’.  As they are influenced by Protestant theology, they do not recognize some of the important traditional elements of Christian faith such as the sacrificial nature of the Holy Mass, the prayer for the dead and the intercession of the saints.  As a matter of fact, these are some of the faith-traditions of the Eastern Churches whether Catholic or non-Catholic.  Hence the ‘Eastern nature’ of the Mathoma Syrian Church is called into question, the reason being the strong influence of the theology of the Protestant Churches.  There are about 700000 Marthoma Syrians.

 

1.6.2        The Malankara Syrian Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

 

After the split of the Marthoma Syrian Church in 1876, there surfaced another crisis in the Jacobite Church in the early 20th century. The crux of the problem was the authority of the Antiochian Patriarch over the Jacobite Church in India. One group accepted the supreme authority of the Patriarch, but this group was reluctant accept his authority in temporal matters.  This led to a split within this community, and they were divided into two groups – one accepting the Patriarch in everything and the other opposing the temporal authority of the Patriarch.  The former was called ‘Patriarchal group’ and the latter ‘Bishop’s group’.  The latter group established a ‘Catholicate’ [A central administrative body headed by a Bishop who is called Catholicose].  Soon a litigation started between these groups for the possession, especially of the properties.  The Patriarchal group is now known as the ‘Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church’ and the Bishop’s [Catholicose’s] group is called the ‘Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church’.  Both groups are following the same liturgical texts.  Together they have a strength of about 13000000 – 14000000 faithful.

1.6.3        The Syrian Church of  Thozhiyoor

This is a small Church of about 10000 faithful which got split from the Jacobite Church in 1772.  Since they are established in a place called Thozhiyoor in the north of Kerala, they are also called ‘Thozhiyoor Church’.  The validity of their priestly and episcopal Orders is not established with certainty.

1.6.4        The Assyrian Church of the East

This Church was bon as a result of a conflict within the Syro-Malabar Church.  When the Syro-Malabar Church was under the Portuguese Latin rule, there were various attempts to bring Syrian Bishops to rule over them.  But the Latin missionaries always stood against it.  Finally the Chaldean Patriarch sent two bishops to Malabar – Mar Roccos in 1861 and Mar Mellus in 1874.  Despite Latin objections Mellus continued to lead a group of Syro-Malabarians.  Mar Mellus was followed by an Indian bishop Mar Abdiso.  After his death, an Assyrian bishop Mar Timotheos organized this group of Syro-Malabarians and brought them under the Assyrian Church, and later they came to be known as the ‘Assyrian Church of the East of Trichur’.  The Assyrian Church of Mesopotamia was one of the most flourishing Churches of the Christian East by early 14th century. They had some 30 Metropolitan Sees and 200 suffragan dioceses.  Their Catholic counterpart is the Chaldean Catholic Church.

1.6.5 The St. Thomas Evangelical Church

 

This is one of the recent Churches in the St. Thomas Christian tradition.  This was born out of Marthoma Syrian Church.  St. Thomas Evangelical Church was formed in the 1960s accusing the Marthoma Syrian Church of not fully following the fundamentalistic Protestant dogmatic views on the Eucharistic celebration and the prayers for the dead.

1.7      The non-Catholic Western Churches of India

 

The following are the non-Catholic Protestant, Anglican and Pentecostal Churches of India.

v  The Church of South India

v  Lutheran Church

v  Anabaptists

v  Brethren Church

v  Baptists

v  Methodists

v  Salvation Army

v  Assemblies of God

v  Church of God

v  Seventh Day Adventists

v  Yuyomayam

v  Witnesses of Yahweh

v  Pentecostal Churches

1.8      Vatican II and the Catholic Eastern Churches

On 21 November 1964 the Second Vatican Council passsed the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches (OE).  It has 30 paragraphs.  Paragraphs 1 – 6 give us the main thrust of this document.  Therefore, we shall make a short analysis of these paragraphs to highlight the importance of the Eastern Churches in the Universal Church.

The Eastern Churches, according to the decree, are ‘distinguished by their venerable antiquity’ and their traditions have come ‘from the Apostles through the Fathers’, and it is part of the ‘divine revealed, undivided heritage of the Universal Church’.  Therefore, Vatican II wants these Churches ‘to flourish and to fulfill with new apostolic strength the task entrusted to them’ (OE 1).

Though all the Catholic Individual Churches have the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government, they are organized under their own hierarchy with their own liturgy, spirituality and ecclesiastical discipline.  Between these Churches, notes the document, there is such a ‘wonderful bond of union that this variety in the Universal Church, so far from diminishing its unity, rather serves to emphasize it’.  Hence the Church wishes to keep their tradition ‘whole and entire’, but at the same time, it wishes also ‘to adapt them to the needs of different places and time’. (OE 2)

The Individual Churches are of ‘equal rank’ so that none of them is superior to the others, and all of them are equally entrusted to the pastoral guidance of the Roman Pontiff.  Therefore all of them have ‘the same rights and obligations, even with regard to preaching of the gospel in the whole world’, under the direction of the Roman Pontiff. (OE 3)

In order to safeguard the traditions and integrity of the Eastern Churches the document lays down the following:

–          Each should organize its own parishes and hierarchy where the spiritual good of the faithful requires it (OE 4).

–          All clerics should be well instructed concerning Individual Churches and rules regarding the inter-ritual questions (OE 4).

–          Lay people also should be given instruction about them in their catechetical formation (OE 4).

–          Every Catholic faithful must retain his/her own Rite wherever  he/she is, and live it to the best of his/ her ability (OE 4, 6).

–          All Individual Churches have the right and duty to govern themselves according to their own special discipline  (OE 5).

–          Changes in the rites may be made only to forward their own organic development (OE 6).

–          If the Eastern faithful have fallen away from their traditions, they are to aim always at a more perfect knowledge of their Rites and they are to strive to return to their ancestral traditions (OE 6).

–          If persons belonging to non-Eastern Churches are entrusted with the task of taking care of the Eastern faithful, they should be instructed in theoretical and practical knowledge of their rites, discipline, doctrine, history and character of the members of Eastern Churches (OE 6).

–          The Western or Latin Religious Orders working among the Eastern faithful are strongly exhorted to set up, so far as is possible, houses or even provinces of Eastern Churches to make their apostolate more effective (OE 6).

The decree also recalls the great contribution of the Eastern Churches to the Universal Church.  The Vatican II decree on Ecumenism has spelt out some of their  contributions.  It notes: “From their very origins Churches of the East have had a treasury from which the Church of the West has drawn largely for its liturgy, spiritual tradition and jurisprudence.  Nor must we underestimate the fact that the basic dogmas of the Christian faith concerning the Trinity and the Word of God made flesh from the Virgin Mary were defined in Ecumenical Councils held in the East” (UR 14).  Hence Vatican II considers the Eastern ecclesiastical and spiritual traditions as a ‘heritage of the whole Church of Christ’ (OE 5).

In the light of the teachings of Vatican II, the Roman Congregation for Catholic Education sent out a circular letter in 1987 to all the Catholic Ecclesiastical Educational Institutions like universities and seminaries affirming the need of imparting knowledge about the Eastern Churches to all the faithful of the Universal Church.  This is needed in order to have mutual understanding and love between Catholics of Latin tradition and the Christians, Catholics and Orthodox, belonging to the various communities of the East.  Commenting upon the lack of understanding which persists, and upon the ignorance of the spiritual traditions and values which form part of the heritage of so many Christians of Eastern Europe, the Near East, African and India, Pope John Paul II underlined the importance of these traditions for the life and well-being of the whole Church with the striking affirmation that “the Church must learn to breathe again with its two lungs, its Eastern one and the Western one”.  The circular letter of the Congregation for Catholic Education then asks : how much is known of the liturgical and spiritual traditions of these ancient Christian Churches?

The Apostolic Letter “Orientale Lumen” of Pope John Paul II published in May 1995 to mark the centenary of Orientalium Dignitas (An Apostolic Letter published by Leo XIII in 1894 to highlight the significance of the Eastern traditions for the whole Church) has put in unambiguous terms the need for all Catholics to be familiar with the Eastern traditions, so as to be nourished by and to encourage the process of unity of the Christians.  Hence the Pope writes: “The members of the Catholic Church of Latin tradition must be fully acquainted with this treasure and thus feel, with the Pope, a passionate longing that the full manifestation of the Church’s Catholicity be restored to the Church and to the world, expressed not by a single  tradition, as still less by one community in opposition to the other; and that we too may all be granted a full taste of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the Universal Church which is preserved and grows in the life of the Churches of the East as well as in those of the West”. (Orientale Lumen 1)

1.9      The Understanding of the Catholic Individual Churches in India and the Indian Theological Association

In 1993 the Indian Theological Association comprising members from all three Individual Catholic Churches in India met in Bangalore to discuss the inter-ritual situation in India.  In their final statement, they made some observations which are helpful to understand, evaluate and esteem the various roles of the three Individual Churches in India.

 The Church understands itself, observe the Indian Theologians, as the people of God.  However, a monolithic concept of Catholicity had often replaced the understanding of the Church as a communion.  The one Church of Christ made its appearance as many faith communities, each having its own specific, characteristics with regard to government, worship and life-style.  Thus we have the Church in Ephesus, in Jerusalem, in Corinth each one an ecclesial community in communion with the others.  The unity and catholicity were based on mutual recognition and communion, and not on the imposition of a common administrative or juridical structure.  The various individual Churches in the Universal Church is the best expression of the Church of Christ which keeps the tradition of authentic catholicity and communion (No. 12).

The structure of government and worship of these ecclesial communities emerged from within their life.  These were authentic Churches, having within them, all that is necessary to constitute them into the Body of Christ.  In course of time, they were less correctly called “rites”, a term which in some sense diminished their ecclesial identity, and reduce them to mere groupings of Christians within a monolithic catholicity.  Being authentic Churches, they developed their particular ecclesial expressions, such as liturgical celebrations, administrative structures, popular devotions etc.  These specific expressions of their faith were the manifestation of the vitality of the Holy Spirit operative within them.  There were thus able to manifest the catholicity of the Church in a rich variety of expressions and through a deep communion of sharing among the various Churches (No.13).

Referring to the St. Thomas tradition of Kerala, the statement notes: ‘The St. Thomas Christians in Kerala were self-governing communities for several centuries.  The Oriental Churches of the past were in fact people-centred communities; they were not autocratic.  The ancient practice of Church assembly could be revitalized in such way that the modern parish councils do not remain merely consultative bodies, but truly participate in building the body of Christ’ (No. 14. cf. LG 32, 33).

The misunderstandings about the ecclesial realities, the statement further notes, have caused certain problems and issues in the Catholic Church in India.  This should lead us, it observes, to a discerning understanding of what it means to be Church, help us to appreciate the context and function of rites in the Individual Churches, and above all, to discover how a successful mode of inter-ritual or inter-ecclesial co-operation can effectively offer service to the people of India.

1.10  Inculturation and the Eastern Churches

 

“One of the first great values embodied particularly in the Christian East is the attention given to people and their cultures, so that the Word of God and his praise may resound in every language”, remarks Pope John Paul II.  And the Pope continues: “At a time when it is increasingly recognized that the right the every people to express themselves according to their own heritage of culture and thought is fundamental, the experience of the Individual Churches of the East is offered to us as an authoritative example of successful inculturation” (Orientale Lumen 7).

Appreciating  the process of inculturation in the Christian East, the circular letter of the Congregation for Catholic Education (1987) says that the Eastern Churches have a long tradition in the matter of teaching Christian peoples, from the very moment of their baptism ‘to praise God in their own language’.  In many countries of the East, the document continues, this inculturation sometimes reached the point of a transformation, of an identification of one’s cultural life with the manner of Christian living.  The study of this process, the document suggests, can serve as an example and guide for those involved in a similar process today.

In his post-synodal exhortation Ecclesia in Asia Pope John Paul II notes that the liturgy of the Oriental Churches for the most part has been successfully inculturated through centuries of interaction with the surrounding cultures.  Their traditions and rites, born of a deep inculturation of faith in the soil of Asian countries, deserve the greatest respect.  The Catholic Eastern Churches possess a great wealth of tradition and experience which can greatly benefit the whole Church (Ecclesia in Asia 22, 27).

For the Eastern Churches, inculturation was an ecclesial praxis or a practical and pastoral reality rather than a theoretical-theological academic exercise.  It was a lived and shared reality.  Instead of a philosophical and historical-critical methodology, it was applying a psychological, sociological and empirical methodology.  Being a shared ecclesial praxis, it affected the entire community.

As an example of this praxis, let us take the St. Thomas Christian tradition of Kerala.  Despite all drawbacks, they had a glorious history of identifying themselves with the religious, social and cultural set-up of the country.  This has been ascertained by both Christian and non-Christian historians.  There are writings to show that the St. Thomas Christians adopted the local art and architecture in building their churches.  They were in the fashion of Hindu temples.  They were externally distinguished from the temple by the Cross raised on them.  The paintings and the sculptures of the churches depicted the peacock, the lotus flower and tiger which were common symbols among the non-Christians.

According to the testimony of a Franciscan Missionary, the Eucharistic species used by the St. Thomas Christian were made of rice and wine of palms.

One of their rituals that adopted many indigenous elements is marriage.  They have adopted instead of the exchange of rings, the local practice of tying the Thali (a small gold ornament with the cross carved on it) around the neck of the bride by the bridegroom.  The Christian Thali is distinguished from the Hindu Thali by the cross engraved on it.  Another local element is Manthrakodi (bridal veil) being given to the bride by the bridegroom.

At weddings the Hindus used to have a lighted lamp (koluvilakku) as a witness (sakshi) representing the fire-god (agni).  It seems that imitating this custom the Christians used to prepare the marriage banns under the sanctuary lamp in the presence of the witnesses of the families of the bride and the bridegroom.

As in the case of marriage, there are quite a few local customs absorbed into the ceremonies connected with  burial.

After the funeral service, the priest and those who participated in it return to the house of the deceased person.  The priest is then served a tender coconut, which he drinks after saying grace.  This recalls the local custom of offering tender coconuts in the name of the dead.  This is followed by a vegetarian meal called pattinikanji (= rice soup after fasting period) which is the formal breaking of the fast for the members of the family of the deceased person.

Another custom in connection with the funeral service is pulakuli (=defilement bath).  It is

a ceremonial bath for purification after the death of a member of the family.  It takes place on the 13th day after the burial, following the Hindu religious practice.  Then a meal is served followed by a prayer service.  At the end of the prayer, the eldest son of the deceased brings a plate with Jeerakam (cumin) and receives the blessing of the priest.  It may be recalled here that at the burial service of the Hindus the eldest son of the deceased has a special role to play.

The birth of a Christian child too was associated with some indigenous elements.  Following the Hindu custom of Namakarana (=Naming), the name of Jesus and the child’s own name are whispered into the ear of the child.  A Poonul (sacred thread similar to that worn by Hindu Brahmins) was blessed and given to the male child at baptism.  The baptismal names given were often taken from the Old Testament.  They included Abraham, Jacob etc., but had many local derivations.

The indigenized form of Church administration is another important feature of the St. Thomas Christian tradition.  Their parish assembly was called Palliyogam.   In this system the whole community was constituted as a well-knit unit that functioned as an autonomous entity.  It was almost like ‘village-republics’.  The palliyogam, consisting of the parish priest and the members of the parish, decided all matters pertaining to the parish in a democratic way. The local non-Christian communities already had this type of assemblies.

The history of the St. Thomas Christians can be a stimulus to further inculturate the Individual Churches in India.  The failures of the past should not tempt us to shy away from making progress in this direction.  As Pope Benedict XVI clearly states, the fact that certain abuses have occurred in the process of cultural adaptations should not detract  us from the clear principle of inculturation.  It must be upheld in accordance with the real needs of the Church as she lives and celebrates the one mystery of Christ in a variety of cultural situations.  (Sacramentum Caritatis 54).

CHAPTER TWO

 

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE EASTERN CHURCHES

As we have already mentioned, an Individual Church is distinguished by her liturgy, theology, spirituality and discipline. This chapter is devoted to the understanding of the liturgical, theological, spiritual and juridical characteristics of the Eastern Churches.

2.1   Liturgical Characteristics

 

2.1.1.      It is Communal Worship 

 

‘Privatization’ of liturgy (eg. Private Mass, Devotional Mass etc.) is not an Eastern practice.  Since the Eastern worship system has popular and cultural roots, it is naturally community worship.  Liturgy, especially the Eucharist, is a celebration of the unity of the local Church. The Divine Office too is the ‘public worship’ of the community of the faithful.  Therefore, the tendency to reduce the time of worship to a manageable length so that many Masses can be conducted at regular intervals is not of Eastern ethos.

2.1.2.   ‘Mystery’ Dimension and  Liturgical Celebration

 

The ‘mystery’ dimension (not ‘mysterious’ dimension) is highly emphasized in the Eastern tradition.  Various means like the use of the veil, incense, prayers with  expressions like ‘awful’ and ‘fearful’, numerous prayers revealing the unworthiness of the celebrant and the people etc. are used to underscore the mystery dimension.  Therefore, the Blessed Sacrament is not generally ‘exposed’ in the monstrance.  If at all it is exposed, a veil is put on it as in the Syro-Malankara Church. (The practice of putting a veil in front of the tabernacle, if there is Sacrament reserved, may be recalled in this context; so also, the veil of the ciborium containing the consecrated species). There are also Eastern Churches that ‘expose’ the covered ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament for adoration, instead of using the monstrance. The Eastern expressions like the mystery of baptism, the mystery of Eucharist, the mystery of matrimony etc. may be understood in this context.  The most solemn celebration of the holy Qurbana in the Syro-Malabar Church is even now called ‘Raza’ which literally means ‘mystery’.

2.1.3  Importance given to Symbols

 

A complaint about the Eastern liturgies is that they are ‘long’, ‘pompous’ and ‘complicated’.  This impression is based on an inadequate knowledge about the great importance the Easterners attach to symbolisms in worship.

The symbols are widely used in the Eastern liturgy. They include objects, places and movements.  The division of the church building into three parts – sanctuary, choir and nave – is an example thereof.  The sanctuary symbolizes the heavenly Jerusalem and the nave the earthly Jerusalem.  The choir symbolizes the angels who sing the praises of God.

In the Antiochian tradition, the thurible has a fantastic interpretation.  The upper part of the thurible represents heaven, the lower part the hell and the cup containing fire symbolizes the purgatory.  The three chains which support the lower part of the thurible are symbols of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the single chain of the upper part symbolizes the Triune God.  Each chain has 18 rings representing the 72 (18×4) disciples and the 12 bells on the chains are the 12 apostles.

The gospel procession from the sanctuary to the ambo placed in the nave symbolizes Christ coming down from the heavenly Jerusalem to the earthly Jerusalem to announce his Good News. According to some Eastern Churches, the deacons undertaking various duties during the celebration are called Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Of course, certain symbolisms would give the impression of allegories.  What is important, however, is the preference of the Eastern Churches for the appeal to the senses rather than for the intellect that expresses the invisible realities.

2.1.4 Postures and Gestures

 

The Eastern tradition is very particular about giving symbolic meaning to the postures and gestures used in the liturgy.  For example, standing symbolizes joy, and hence except on a few occasions, one has to stand up during the Eucharistic celebration as it recalls the joy in the Risen Lord.  One has to kneel down when prayers of penitence are said as kneeling is generally interpreted as a penitential act. One sits down ‘to listen’, and hence sitting posture is common during the scriptural readings (except gospel reading) and the homily.

In the Syro-Malabar Qurbana, the celebrant after entering the sanctuary kisses the altar at the centre, on its right and left, these places in turn symbolize the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit respectively.

2.1.5 Manner of making the Sign of the Cross

The universal practice of making the sign of the cross on oneself was from right to left.  Later some Churches began to make it from left to right.  Various interpretations are given to this practice.  Those who move their hand from right to left attach importance to the common understanding of the ‘right’ as the place of ‘goodness’ and ‘light’.  Hence one has to take the light from the right, and then to the left to dispel the ‘darkness’ of the ‘left’.  Those who move from left to right mean that at birth we are children of the ‘left’, and hence of ‘darkness’ as we are born with the ‘original sin’.  Moving to the right, we abandon the darkness and go to the light on the right. Another simple explanation is that when one blesses others with the sign of the cross, he moves his hand from the right to the left of the person blessed.  Hence it is proper that when he makes the sign of the cross on himself he does it in the same manner.

2.1.6 Continuity in the Liturgical Tradition

 

A special attachment to the liturgical tradition is very evident in the Eastern Churches.  This does not mean that their liturgy is immobile.  As a matter of fact, change and growth in their liturgy are slow, and sometimes imperceptible. One reason for this is that the changes are not dictated from above, but are part of a natural process taking place slowly.

2.1.7        Repetition of  Prayers and Hymns

 

Repetition of prayers and hymns is in fact a feature found in all Eastern Religions.  The Bhajans and Namajapas of Indian tradition are examples thereof.  Repetition is said to be helpful to concentrate on a particular idea and to underscore it.  Repeating the prayers is not entirely an Eastern tradition either.  The Kyrie Eleison and the Agnus Dei in the Latin Mass too are examples of repetition.  The Eastern liturgies, of course, use it more profusely.

 

2.1.8 Importance of Community Singing

 

‘Who sings, prays twice’ is a well-known and accepted dictum.  The Eastern tradition has always given importance to singing in the liturgy.  Even the prayers are said in a musical tone.  Therefore, the choir substituting community, found in some Eastern Churches, like  the Syro-Malabar Church, is entirely a new phenomenon.  Very often the hymns are sung alternating the stanzas between the celebrants and the choir (community) or between two groups of the choir (community) itself.  As community singing is the norm, the melodies are always simple.

2.1.9        Role of the Holy Spirit

 

The pneumatology of the East is well-known.  The importance attached to the epiclesis in the Eucharistic celebration, and in the blessing of the oil and water in baptism are concrete examples of this pneumatological emphasis.  The deprecative (declarative) formula in Baptism (‘you are baptized’) and Penance (‘you are forgiven’) are other examples.

2.1.10    Icons and Statues

 

The Eastern Churches prefer icons to statues.  In the Indian Eastern Churches, however, the statues need not be a taboo. The Indian religious culture has both statues and mural pictures. (The icons of the Eastern Churches are not the same as the pictures of the Indian tradition). Today the Syro-Malabar churches have more statues than icons.  The influence of the Western Church is evident in this development.

2.1.11    Communion of Saints and  Liturgy

 

The Church is not simply a place where the faithful worship God.  In a typical Eastern church we find the faithful going from one icon of saints to another, venerating and kissing them, and sometimes lighting a candle before them to express the ‘communion of saints’.  The icons are often the figures of the Old Testament and the Fathers of the Church.  Their great devotion to the dead too is noteworthy. The prayers and hymns in the liturgy bear ample witness to this devotion.

2.1.12    Construction of the Church Building

 

Vatican II, while referring to the construction of the churches for worship, remarks:  ‘When churches are built, let great care be taken that they be suitable for the celebration of liturgical services and for the active participation of the faithful’ (SC 124). The Eastern Churches have been always very careful in keeping the norms regarding the construction of the churches.  Each Individual Church has her own understanding of worship and worship symbols, and the churches were constructed accordingly. The setting up of the sanctuary, altar, tabernacle, ambo, choir and baptistery must be helpful to reveal this understanding.

Here below is described one model of church construction practiced in the East Syrian tradition.  Of course, this construction needs adaptations according to the needs of today and the availability of space.

The inside of the church consists of three parts, namely the sanctuary, the choir and the nave.  The choir is constructed one step above the nave, between the sanctuary and the nave.  This is to show that the choir represents the angels who sing glories of God in heaven.  The sanctuary built three steps above the choir symbolizes the Holy of Holies, the heavenly abode.

On both sides of the altar, a table each is put, one to prepare the bread and the other for the chalice. This is mainly not to allow the gifts to be prepared on the altar that represents the ‘sepulchre’ of Lord Jesus.

A veil is put between the choir and the sanctuary.  It separates the Holy of Holies (the mysteries) from the rest of the church building. (As a veil is put in front of the tabernacle when the Eucharist is preserved, a veil is put before the sanctuary to recall the mysteries being celebrated inside the sanctuary).

The ambo is placed in the middle of the nave.  The ambo is not simply a lectern.  It is a fixed platform called the bema on which are arranged a table for placing the candles, the cross etc., and two lecterns for the Old Testament and the New Testament readings, and  chairs for the celebrants.  The liturgy of the Word in the midst of the people (in the nave) is interpreted as Jesus coming to the people to proclaim his Word.

The tabernacle is placed on one side of the sanctuary and the baptistery on the other side.  The closeness of the baptistery to the sanctuary is understood to emphazise the relationship between the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist as  sacraments of Christian initiation.

The symbolic set-up of the East Syrian tradition has the influence of Jerusalem temple.  As a matter of fact, it is well-known that this tradition had close contacts with, and high influence of semitic tradition.  Since the Syro-Malabar liturgy belongs to the East Syrian family, she too is supposed to follow these liturgical settings.  But, due to the demands of modern pastoral situations, some changes had to be made in this arrangement.  For example, the place of the liturgy of the Word (bema) is now arranged just in front of the nave, instead of in the middle.  Since the community singing is preferred, the role of the choir has faded away to a certain extent.  The choir occupying the place one step above the nave has almost disappeared. The custom of the Mass facing the people, now prevalent in many dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church, has put in question the relevance of the veil between the sanctuary and the choir.

However, one thing is certain.  Whatever the structure of the church and its settings, the church building should be such that it is conducive to worship and active participation, and that it should evoke a sense of the sacred and the mysteries celebrated.

2.1.13    Altar as a Symbol of Jesus’ Sepulchre

 

There are at least two main symbolisms expressed by the altar.  According to one, the altar symbolizes the ‘table’ of the Last Supper.  The other is the symbol of the ‘sepulchre’ of Lord Jesus.  The Easterners in general prefer the latter symbolism.  The prayer in the Syro-Malabar Qurbana bidding farewell to the altar after the holy Mass clearly expresses this symbolism.  The prayer runs as follows: “Praise to the altar of sanctification. Praise to you the sepulchre of Our Lord.  May the holy Qurbana that I have received from you, be for me unto the forgiveness of my debts and the remission of my sins.  I know not whether I shall come again to offer another sacrifice”.

The deposition of the gifts on the altar at offertory too alludes to this symbolism.  The celebrant after raising the paten and the chalice in the form of a cross, recalling the death of Christ, places them on the altar which symbolizes the sepulchre.  He thus commemorates the ‘burial’ of the Lord, and then covers the offerings with a sacred veil to recall the ‘tombstone’.  For this reason the Eastern altars are generally covered on all four sides.

2.1.14    Fermented Bread and the Eucharistic Celebration

 

Many Eastern Churches use the fermented bread for the Eucharist.  It is a break from the Jewish tradition of unfermented bread used for their Paschal Meal.  Some Easterners interpret the fermentation as a symbol of the ‘living’ bread that gives remission of sins and eternal life.  However, some Eastern Churches, including the Syro-Malabar Church, have switched on to the unfermented bread for practical reasons.  The Syro-Malankara Church continues to use the fermented bread.

2.1.15    Structure of the Anaphoral Prayers

 

When the ancient Roman Rite was using only one anaphora (Roman Anaphora), the Eastern Churches produced a number of anaphorae. The Antiochian tradition, and hence the Syro-Malankara Church, has over 70 anaphorae, though some of them have been lost or are only fragmentary.  The East Syrian tradition, and hence the Syro-Malabar Church, is said to have had about 10 anaphorae.  At present it has only three.

There is an important difference between the Western and the Eastern anaphorae. While the West was satisfied with one anaphora, it had a number of Prefaces according to the liturgical seasons and feasts.  As the East does not have the so-called ‘Preface’, it multiplied the anaphorae.  While the Eastern anaphorae try to cover the main events of salvation history as a whole, the Western anaphora concentrates just on one particular event in its Preface.

The Syro-Malabar anaphora has four cycles of prayers, each cycle consisting of four prayers.  The first cycle of prayers is Theological in content thanking God the Father for His great mercies towards humankind.  The second cycle is Trinitarian  thanking the Holy Trinity for creation.  The third cycle of prayers is Christological recalling the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the institution of the holy Eucharist.  The fourth and  last cycle is Pneumatological or epicletic asking the Holy Spirit to come down and to sanctify and perfect the celebration.  The anaphora then concludes with a final doxology.

The Syro-Malankara anaphora has a total of 66 prayers of which 33 are fixed, symbolizing the 33 years of the life of Christ in this world. These prayers include the Institution Narrative, Epiclesis, prayers of thanksgiving, propitiation etc., and six intercessory prayers –  for the living and  the dead.

 

 

2.1.16  Concept of Concelebration

 

In general, the concept of concelebration in the East is different from that of the West.  A theological basis of the Western understanding of concelebration may be traced in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II.  It shows the “unity of the priesthood” (SC 57).  There are Catholic Eastern Churches (eg. Syro-Malabar Church) which follows this understanding of concelebration).

In the Eastern perspective in general, the priest-celebrant represents Jesus Christ the High Priest who offers the sacrifice.  In this understanding, the other priests are only ‘assisting’ him, and not ‘concelebrating’ with him.  Hence all prayers of the anaphora are to be said by the main celebrant alone, and they are not to be distributed among the concelebrants.  In this understanding, the gospel has to be proclaimed by the main celebrant himself, and not by the concelebrants or the deacon as in the Latin West.

Co-consecration by the concelebrants is found in the West already in the 7th century Ordo Romanus III. The earliest Eastern practice is that of a Byzantine rubric book of 10th century. This text is a witness to the concelebration with only priests, without a Bishop.

Today there are various modes of concelebration in the Eastern tradition. The Armenians have it only for episcopal and priestly ordination. Among the Catholic Copts and Maronites there is verbal consecration by the concelebrants, whereas among the Orthodox Copts, the consecratory prayers are said only by the main celebrant. The Syrian Catholics and Orthodox have the so-called “synchronized” Mass, that is, each concelebrant has his own bread and chalice, and he joins the chief celebrant at the main altar by synchronizing his prayers and gestures.  In the Byzantine tradition there are various forms of concelebration.  There are those who practice verbal consecration by the concelebrants, and those who allow the main celebrant alone to utter the consecratory prayers. The Orthodox Byzantines normally have concelebration only when the bishop is present.  If only priests are present, one becomes the main celebrant, and others assist modo laico without sacred vestments.

According to the ancient East Syrian tradition, the priest who is ‘chosen’ to be the main celebrant alone says the consecratory prayers.  The other priests ‘assist’ him uttering some prayers of the pre-anaphoral and post-anaphoral parts. The Syro-Malabar liturgy which belongs to the East Syrian tradition, however, is now following verbal consecration by the concelebrants, though the main celebrant is given certain privileges.

2.1.17  Symbolism of East: Mass facing the Altar/People

 

Facing the East in prayer has been a universal tradition of Christian liturgies. Didascalia Apostolorum (3rd century) says: ‘Indeed it is required that you pray toward the East, as knowing that which is written: “Give thanks to God who rides upon the heaven of heavens toward the East”’. The symbolic significance of the East is based mainly on the rising sun. Christians considered it as a symbol of Christ. The symbolism of the East is supported also by the texts in the Bible. Paradise is said to be in the East (Gen 2:8). God’s glory comes from the East (Ezek 43:2). St. Augustine, Origen, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Clement of Alexandria and St. John Damascene have mentioned the importance of prayer turning to the East.

For Christians, facing the East points to the eschatological hope. The East is symbolized as the place where the Lord will appear on the last day (Mt 24:30). Thus facing the East during prayers symbolizes the waiting for the Lord. It is a journey towards the heaven of the pilgrim Church. For these reasons the Eastern Churches – both Catholic and Orthodox – continue to face the East (for various reasons the ‘East’ is now symbolized also by the ‘Cross’ or the ‘Altar’) during the prayers, especially at the Eucharistic celebration.

But there are the Eastern faithful, especially in the Syro-Malabar Church, who prefer to face the congregation during the holy Qurbana. They are influenced by the Vatican II liturgical reforms and the practice in the Latin Church. After Vatican II, there was a conscious attempt to bring the liturgy closer to the people. One consequence of this move was to bring the ‘high altar’ to the people. Many consider it useful for active participation of the people. They are supported by the following arguments:

– God is present symbolically not only in the East, but also in the middle (midst). The monks who faced each other while praying experienced God in their midst.

– It brings about the symbolism of the Last Supper.

– It is not wrong that the priest who is alter Christus faces the people.

– Every celebration of the Mass is a turning to both God and the community.

– Facing the people is helpful to express better the ministerial priesthood of the celebrant and the common priesthood of the people.

2.1.18  Role of the Deacons in the Liturgical Celebration

 

The institution of permanent diaconate has never been absent in the Eastern Churches, though in practice there were only a few of them in both Orthodox and Catholic traditions of the recent past.  Today there are attempts to revive it.

The deacon has an indispensable role to play all throughout the liturgical celebration.  So much so, there are Eastern Churches that do not celebrate the holy Mass if a deacon is not available.  Some other Churches, like the Syro-Malabar Church, make use of the services of altar boys today in the place of the deacons.  Historically, the Syro-Malabar Church too had married deacons in the parishes to assist the priests in the liturgy.  It may be recalled that many Eastern Churches also had deaconesses to assist the priests, especially at the baptism of women.  The main duty of the deacon is to assist the celebrant and to help the people for active participation by means of exhortations and announcements during the liturgy.

2.1.19   Divine Office as the Prayer of the Church

According to the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, the Oriental clerics and religious are to celebrate the Divine Office in accordance with the prescriptions and traditions of their Church sui iuris. It is recommended also to the lay people. This is attested also by the ancient practice. Even now, many churches continue the common recitation of the Divine Office with the faithful in the parish churches and monasteries. As for the clerics, it is an obligatory prayer according to the Code of Canons (CCEO 377).

2.1.20    Liturgical Year in the Eastern Understanding

The Liturgical Year in the Christian Orient must be seen in the background of Hebrew Liturgical Year. The Jews had arranged their Liturgical Year in four cycles: Daily Cycle, Weekly Cycle, Monthly Cycle and Annual Cycle.

The Daily Cycle consists of the morning and evening prayers. The Weekly Cycle is organized around Sabbath. The Monthly Cycle is based on the twelve lunations (light of the moon around the earth) of the year. The Annual Cycle based on three feasts, is of greater importance for us since it leads to the understanding of the Christian liturgical year.

The three feasts of the Annual Cycle are the feasts of the Unleavened Bread, Harvest and Ingathering (Ex 33:14-17; 34:18-23). These three feasts were agricultural celebrations of the Jews. In course of time, they were made ‘soteriological’ with the new awareness they had in the course of history. Consequently, they changed the names of the feasts giving them new meaning. Thus the feast of the Unleavened Bread became the feast of Passover, remembering their passage from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of Canaan. The feast of Harvest was renamed the feast of Weeks and they commemorated the closing day of Exodus. The feast of Ingathering was called the feast of Tabernacles to recall their days in the desert when Yahweh lived with His people in the tents (Lev 23:4-36; Deut 16:1-17).

The Christian Liturgical Year in the East was inspired to a great extent by the Hebrew Liturgical Year. But in the Christian perspective, the only yardstick was the Lord of history, Jesus Christ. Thus for Christians, the feast of Passover became the feast of the Lamb of God and the feast of Weeks the feast of Pentecost commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit. The feast of Tabernacles became the final stage of the liturgical year, the Eternal Bliss (Parousia).

The following are the four pillars on which the Eastern Liturgical Year is built up: Easter, Sunday, Temporal Cycle and Sanctoral Cycle. When we examine the Temporal Cycle of the East, we come across six important ‘moments’ of the liturgical year. They are:

(i)                 Epiphany (January 6): It commemorates the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan and the revelation of the Holy Trinity. Before the 25th of December became  Christmas Day, Epiphany was considered also as the day of Nativity.

(ii)               Transfiguration (August 6): As in the Epiphany, in the Transfiguration too there is the manifestation of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, it is a very important feast for the Eastern Churches.

(iii)             Exaltation of the Cross (September 14):  The veneration of the Cross is an important liturgical manifestation of the Eastern tradition. Hence the liturgical year dedicates a period for its veneration (Period of the Cross).

(iv)             Resurrection: All other ‘moments’ of the liturgical year are centred around the mystery of Resurrection. It is the mystery par excellence. It is the Day of the Lord. This mystery is commemorated on Sundays in the Weekly Cycle.

(v)               Pentecost: This may be considered as the culminating moment of the Paschal mystery. The renowned Eastern pneumatology is based on this Pentecostal theme.

(vi)             Parousia:  It is the final stage of the liturgical year. The Eastern liturgies give emphasis to this theme since all look forward to the Second Coming of the Lord – Maranatha!

The Syro-Malabar Liturgical Year may be examined to understand the application of the above mentioned six ‘moments’. It consists of 9 liturgical periods, each having a name and a theme. The prayers, hymns and the scriptural readings are arranged according to the spirit of the liturgical seasons. Each season commemorates a mystery of our salvation realized in Jesus Christ. The 9 periods and the mysteries celebrated are the following:

(i)                 Annunciation:  The mystery of Incarnation. This period has four Sundays.

(ii)               Nativity:  The mystery of Incarnation is continued. It has 1 or 2 Sundays.

(iii)             Epiphany:  The mystery of the Revelation of the Holy Trinity. It can have 5 to 8 Sundays depending upon the date of Easter.

(iv)             Lent:  The mystery of the Passion of Christ. It has always 7 Sundays.

(v)               Resurrection:  The mystery of Redemption. It has 7 Sundays.

(vi)             Apostle:  The mystery of the Power of the Holy Spirit. The period starts on the feast of Pentecost. It has 7 Sundays.

(vii)           Kaitha (Summer):  The mystery of the Growth of the Church. This period is called “summer” since, after the preaching of the apostles, there will be ‘summer’, that is, the growth of the Church. 7 Sundays.

(viii)         Elijah CrossMoses:  The mystery of the Second Coming of Christ. There is a traditional belief that Elijah and Moses would be present with Christ on the day of Judgement. That is why these two names are given along with the Cross (= Christ). It can have up to 11 Sundays depending upon the date of Easter.

(ix)             Dedication of the Church:  The mystery of the Heavenly Bliss. It has 4 Sundays.

Thus the Syro-Malabar liturgical year begins with the period of Annunciation which culminates with the birth of Christ (Nativity). Then Christ manifests himself on the day of his baptism (Epiphany). After this he begins his public life announcing the Good News, but had to suffer, and finally he was crucified (Lent). But that was not his end. He rose from the dead (Resurrection) and sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. After receiving the Holy Spirit, the apostles went about preaching the Good News (Apostle). As a result, the Church began to grow (Summer). The pilgrimage of the Church comes to an end on the day of Final Judgement (Elijah-Cross-Moses). And on the last day, the chosen ones will enjoy the eternal bliss (Dedication of the Church). In this way the liturgical year helps people to make the pilgrimage in the Church along with Christ from Annunciation to Parousia..

Besides the Temporal Cycle of the liturgical year centred on the life of Christ, there is also the Sanctoral Cycle commemorating the saints. Though there are feasts of saints on fixed dates ( June 29 for Sts. Peter and Paul, July 3 for St. Thomas etc.), the Easterners also have the tradition of celebrating the feasts of saints according to the seasons of the liturgical year. Thus the period of Annunciation is an appropriate time to recall Virgin Mary’s role in the salvation history. The period of Epiphany which recalls the public life of Christ, commemorates the great figures like St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Stephen etc. The period of Summer is the most apt time to recall the martyrs who shed their blood for the growth of the Church.

2.1.21    Eschatological dimension

 

 The liturgical prayers, especially those of the holy Mass, reveal a profound expectation of the second coming of Christ. One looks eagerly to the Lord who comes. Therefore, the final blessing of the Eucharistic celebration almost always refers to this theme. One of the final blessings of the Syro-Malabar Qurabana ends as follows: “May we, who joyfully participated in these glorious, life-giving and divine mysteries, be crowned with glory”.  And in another blessing, the celebrant prays that may Christ “make us worthy of the glory of his kingdom, eternal happiness with his holy angels, and joy in his divine presence”.

2.2               Theological Characteristics

 

Pluriformity in theology is an accepted fact, provided they are complementary, and not contradictory. In this respect, Eastern theology has some special features, which, in some cases, are different from the Western perspective. As the Vatican II decree on Ecumenism remarks, “[I]n the study of the revealed truth East and West have used  different methods and approaches in understanding and confessing divine things. It is hardly surprising, then, if sometimes one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed them better. In such cases, these various theological formulations are often to be considered complementary rather than conflicting” (UR 17). Referring to this statement of Vatican II, Pope John Paul II notes: “I listen to the Churches of the East, which I know are living interpreters of the treasure of tradition they preserve. In contemplating it, before my eyes appear elements of great significance for a fuller and more thorough understanding of the Christian experience” (Oriental Lumen, 5). Among these elements the Pope especially mentions the following:

–          An original way of living their relationship with the Saviour, Lord Jesus Christ.

–          The respect they show towards the act of worship, especially the Eucharistic liturgy.

–          Their rootedness in the culture.

 Eastern theology does not pretend to solve all the paradoxes. It is divine and human, traditional and progressive, other-worldly and this-worldly, structured and free, and systematic and mystical. The following are some of its characteristics.

2.2.1        It is Scriptural

 Eastern theology is the fruit of meditation on the Word of God. For the theologians of the East, more important is what God has done for us, than who God is in Himself. Therefore, the basis of Eastern theology is the economy of salvation. As the Bible contains what this economy reveals, theology is primarily scriptural. In other words, theology is an interpretation of the Bible. This does not however mean that the East ignores the modern tools of form criticism, exegesis etc. As the Vatican II decree on Ecumenism notes, ‘with regard to the authentic theological tradition of the East, we must recognize that they are admirably rooted in Holy Scripture, are fostered and are given expression in liturgical life, are nourished by the living tradition of the apostles and by the works of their Fathers and spiritual writers of the East’ (UR 17).

2.2.2        It is Liturgical

 ‘Rule of prayer is the rule of faith’. Liturgy is in fact a celebration of Revelation. Therefore, the liturgy is not simply one among many sources of theology. It is locus theologicus. Rarely do we find the Western theologians quoting liturgical texts to substantiate their arguments. On the contrary, the Eastern theologians often refer to them as they consider the liturgical texts as source books.

2.2.3        It is Doxological

 Doxology is said to be the ‘grammar’ of theology. The doxological nature of theology is a consequence of its liturgical characteristic. Precisely for this reason, the Divine Office with its psalms and hymns, and the other liturgical texts, especially the holy Mass with their praise and thanksgiving, are of great importance in the Eastern Churches. Consequently, liturgy is a main source of their devotion and spirituality than the popular devotions.

2.2.4        It is Typological

 The preferred method of interpretation of the Sacred Scripture in the East is typology. The typological exegesis of St. Ephrem is widely known. An example is the pierced side of Christ, and the blood and water pouring out of it (John 19:34). The ‘blood’ and ‘water’ point to the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism. Another example is Adam’s side from where Eve comes forth. As Adam’s side is to Eve, so is Christ’s side to the Church. Breathing by Jesus on the apostles in the Upper Room with the words “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22) is compared to God’s breathing of life into the nostrils of Adam (Gen 2:7). Here the aim of the exegesis is to bring out the “hidden” mystery.

 Eastern theology understands the Sacred Scripture at two levels of meaning: An ‘historical-external’ meaning and a ‘spiritual-internal’ meaning. The Eastern theologians in general prefer to bring out the spiritual-internal meaning using the language of symbols.

2.2.5        It is Symbolic

  As against the rationalistic method of definitions, Eastern theology employs the method of symbols. The problem with definitions, which has foundation in pure philosophy, is that they put ‘boundaries’ to the defined reality. They try to contain what is ‘uncontainable’. They  put limits to the ‘unlimited’. In order to avoid this risk, the East, as far as possible, tries to evade logical systematization and categorization, and uses symbols and poetry. St. Ephrem is very famous for rendering theology into poetry. As we know, images and symbols are basic to human experience, and they are prior to philosophical categorization. The mountains as abode of God, and fire as the symbol of the Divinity are examples of this understanding.

2.2.6        It is Iconic

 Eastern theology is more akin to art than science. This leads to iconic theology. The basis of this theology is Incarnation, a spirituality of conforming oneself to Christ, and thus becoming an icon (image) of Christ. Genesis 1:27 (‘God created man in His image’) is its biblical basis. Christ is Father’s icon (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:12; Heb 1:3).

The purpose of the Eastern icon is multiple: symbolic, didactic, catechetical, kerygmatic, liturgical and aesthetic. Therefore, an iconographer has to be a God-fearing and devout Christian who shares the faith of the Church.A theologian’s task is that of an iconographer. Both are engaged in proclaiming their faith. The icons make visible what is invisible. What Scripture expresses through words, the icons express through colours. Hence we can call it ‘visual theology’. The icons are said to be of great help to the less sophisticated people to deepen their faith and Christian life. As Gregory the Great says, Scripture is for the educated and the icons are for the less educated.

2.2.7        It is Ecclesial

 In the Eastern understanding, a theologian is a “person of the Church” (an ecclesial person) who shares the faith of the Church and that of the people of God. He is not ‘above’ other believers. One has to live faith not only in the Church, but also with the Church. Therefore, genuine theology is possible only in communion with the Church, the Body of Christ, because Christian faith is “faith with the Church”. Consequently, Eastern theology is also “pastoral”, that is, addressed to the faithful rather than to the scholars.

2.2.8        It is Pastoral

 In the first millennium of Christianity, especially in the pre-medieval Patristic period, theology was for life, both in the East and the West. Thus it was dogmatic as well as pastoral. But, by the second millennium, especially after scholastic theology, it became more an academic affair. It became philosophical, clear, concrete and concise. It became analytical with divisions and subdivisions, with definitions and distinctions, with objections and replies. Vatican II, however, rediscovered the pastoral dimension of theology to a certain extent. The good of the faithful (‘bonum fidelium’) is by now an important aspect in theological discussions. The flexibility and diversity in the Eastern theology is due to this pastoral concern.

2.2.9        It is Apophatic

 Eastern theology is a mixture of mysticism, asceticism, monasticism etc. In the Eastern tradition, there is no sharp distinction between theology and mysticism, between the dogma affirmed by the Church and the contemplative experience of the divine mysteries. Theology is, in fact, more an experience (anubhava). It is not knowing something about God, but having God in oneself. The focus of mystical understanding is not to know that God is unchanging essence and immutable, but somehow participating in the mysteries of God. Mysticism helps to appropriate this mystery in a conscious experience.

Theology and monasticism too are closely related. The monastic life in the East is meant to be a life of radical commitment of witness to the eschatological life. In the Eastern understanding, monasticism is something inherent in the life of every Christian, and not an exclusive ‘charism’ of the monks. Fasting, penance and ascetical practices are part and parcel of this life-style. They are not merely seasonal or occasional acts of a Christian. A true theologian, therefore, has to be, to a certain degree, both a mystic and a monk.

2.2.10    It is Eschatological

 Historical criticism, legal aspects and compartmentalization are not the main concerns of Eastern theology. Even authority is understood more in terms of communion than as a legal superior. The whole Christian life is directed towards the search for the Absolute which creates an eschatological tension.

2.2.11    It is Pneumatocentric

 Eastern theology is centred on the mystery of the Holy Spirit. It is, so to say, epicletic. The deprecative or declarative formula in Baptism (‘Your are baptized’ instead of ‘I baptize you’) and Penance (‘You are forgiven’ instead of ‘I absolve you’), and epiclesis as a crucial moment in the Eucharistic anaphora are examples of this pneumatocentricism in Eastern theology.

2.2.12    It is Ecumenical

 For a long time, the Eastern Catholic Churches were de facto excluded from all direct dialogue with their Orthodox brethren. Ecumenical dialogue was considered to be a prerogative of the Western Roman Church. However, Vatican II reminded the Eastern Catholics of their special duty to enter into dialogue with the separated Eastern brethren (OE 24).

Eastern theology is more ecumenical than apologetic. Theology has to see the other not as an opponent, but as a partner. This is all the more important for the Catholic Eastern Churches as they have to hold dialogue with their separated brethren. Therefore, an Instruction of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches gave the following directive to all the Catholic Eastern Churches: ‘In every effort of liturgical renewal the practice of the Orthodox brethren should be taken into account, knowing it, respecting it and distancing from it as little as possible so as not to increase the existing separation, but rather intensifying efforts in view of eventual adaptations, maturing and working together’ (1996 Instruction, No.21).

2.2.13    It is Contextual

 The Eastern Churches have always tried to identify themselves with the local culture. The praiseworthy practice of inculturation that took place in these Churches shows how they grew imbibing the culture of the place.

2.3            Spiritual Characteristics   

Christian tradition has various sources to nurture the spiritual life of its faithful. Each Individual Church has developed, besides common features of Eastern spirituality, her own means to deepen the faith experience. We shall see here below some of these features of the Eastern tradition.

2.3.1        Spiritual Life centred on Liturgy

 The liturgy, especially the Eucharist, is the founding element of Eastern spirituality. For every community of believers, liturgy is the “summit and source” of Christian life. However, history shows that the Eastern Churches have maintained, in a special way, the primacy of the liturgy as the summit of Christian spirituality, remaining faithful to the apostolic period and the spirit of the Patristic period. The whole life of the Church is, in a way, summarized in the liturgy. This is the reason why the Eastern Churches have less popular devotions compared to the Western tradition.

2.3.2        A Profound Sense of the Sacred

The apophatic dimension of the liturgy which expresses the sense of unworthiness of human beings before the unfathomable nature of the Divinity is to elicit a sense of the sacred in the devotee. The expressions like awe-inspiring mystery (mysterium tremendum), the use of the sanctuary veil, prayers revealing the unworthiness of the celebrant etc. are indicative of it.

2.3.3        Ascetical Practices as a Source of Spirituality

The Christian East has a rigorous discipline with regard to fasts and penance. They have a number of days during the year devoted to fasting. According to the St. Thomas tradition of Kerala, almost half the days of the year were days of fasting. They abstained from meat, fish, egg and milk products on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year. Though some of these rigorous practices have now disappeared, they still attach great importance to these practices as a means of spiritual growth.

2.3.4        Mysticism and Monasticism

 Mysticism and monasticism are not exclusive to the monks. Every Christian is, to a certain extent, a mystic and a monk. In the East, monasticism was not seen merely as a separate condition proper to a precise category of Christians, but rather as a reference point for all the baptized according to the gifts offered to each by the Lord. It is, so to say, a symbolic synthesis of Christianity (cf. Orientale Lumen, 9).

2.3.5        Cult of the Icons

 The icons are not merely  reminders of some persons or events of salvation history. They are means to reflect over the mysteries of God and the Church to deepen the spirituality of the faithful. For some Easterners they are almost equal to the sacraments as they make visible the hidden mysteries to nourish their faith.

2.3.6        Importance given to the Cross

 Veneration of the Cross is an important source of Eastern spirituality. Eastern faithful make the sign of the cross on themselves on a number of occasions during the liturgical celebration. The bishops carry a hand-cross with which they bless the people, and the people express their obeisance to the bishops by showing veneration to the cross being carried by them. The feast of Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) is therefore a central one in the Eastern liturgical calendar.

2.3.7        Devotion to the Virgin Mary

 There is no Eastern church – Catholic or Orthodox – that does not have an icon or statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is highly venerated in the churches and at home. A good number of ancient churches are dedicated to her. But she is often depicted with the Child Jesus in her hands to emphazise the Christological nature of Marian devotion. There are special feasts in honour of Mary, especially among the womenfolk.

2.3.8        Popular Devotions

The Eastern Churches have their own traditional popular devotions which are more individual than communitarian. The veneration of the Cross, icons and relics, the use of candles, incensing etc. are some of them. Very often these expressions of popular piety are linked to their liturgical life. This may be the reason why many of the Western devotional practices did not develop in the Eastern Churches. However, due to close contact with the Latin Church, some Western devotions, especially the Rosary and the Way of the Cross, are freely accepted by some Catholic Eastern Churches, and they have, in fact, enriched their spirituality.

2.4            Juridical Characteristics

 

All the Catholic Eastern Churches are governed by the Roman Pontiff and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. In addition, each Individual Church has her own Particular Laws. In certain matters, each eparchy is free to formulate its own local laws. The importance given to the local church is one of the fundamental reasons for this multiplicity of laws and regulations.

2.4.1        Synod of Bishops and its Functioning

 The Eastern Synod of Bishops is different in structure and functioning from the Bishops’ Conference of the Latin Church. It is different also from the Synod of Bishops occasionally convened in Rome by the Pope. The Synod of the Eastern Churches is a juridical body, and the bishops are bound by the serious obligation to attend the same whenever it is convoked. If a bishop is unable to participate in it for a just impediment, he is to submit his reasons to the synod. The synod is to decide upon the legitimacy of the impediment. After the opening of the synod no bishop is allowed to leave the sessions of the synod unless it is for a just reason approved by the synod. The synod has the authority to elect and transfer bishops, bifurcate eparchies, and approve liturgical texts. But their decisions need the recognitio (approval) of the Holy See. The decisions of the synod are binding on all the bishops and the eparchies.

2.4.2        Four Categories of the Catholic Eastern Churches

 The 22 Catholic Eastern Churches are divided into four categories. The Churches having a Patriarch as its head, are called “Patriarchal Churches”. There are 6 Patriarchal Churches. They are the following: Coptic (1824), West Syrian, Melkite, Maronite, Chaldean (1553) and Armenian (1742).

The second category is called “Major Archiepiscopal Churches” of which the head is called Major Archbishop. There are 4 Churches under this category. They are: Ukranian (1963), Syro-Malabar (1992), Syro-Malankara (2005) and Romanian (2005).

The third is “Metropolitan Churches” having one archdiocese and other dioceses. The archbishop of the archdiocese will be head of that Church, and he is called Metropolitan. The 2 Metropolitan Churches are the Ethiopean and the Ruthanian.

The rest of the Individual Churches – 10 of them – are called “Other sui iuris Churches”. These are Churches having no proper hierarchy, and hence are unable to convoke a synod as other Eastern Churches. They come under the direct pastoral guidance of the Pope.

There are a couple of differences between a Patriarch and a Major Archbishop, though both have equal rights and obligations in their respective Churches as their heads. One difference is with regard to the honour given to them. Between the two, the Patriarch has precedence of honour in relation to the Major Archbishop. The other difference is more serious. When the Synod of Bishops of a Major Archiepiscopal Church elects their head – the Major Archbishop -, he requires “confirmation’ of the Pope to become the Major Archbishop. In other words, the Pope can ask the synod to elect another person if he is not ready to confirm the person elected. On the other hand, in the election of a Patriarch, all that is required is “ecclesiastical communion” with the Roman Pontiff by means of a letter signed in Patriarch’s own hand.

2.4.3        Respect for Customs

 Custom is said to be the best interpreter of law (CCEO 1508). Normally a custom obtains the force of law only when it has been legitimately observed for thirty continuous and complete years. This is so because the Church wants to respect the practices rooted in the life of the people. This again shows the importance given to the local church.

2.4.4        Pragmatism and Flexibility

 The Eastern Churches have Common Laws (CCEO), Particular Laws (enacted by the Synods) and Eparchial Laws. Besides these laws, there are also local customs. Consequently, in the application of the laws, there is room for flexibility depending upon the local traditions. This pragmatic approach is to respond to the concrete pastoral needs.

2.4.5        Religious ‘Obligations’

 The ‘obligation’ as understood in the West, generally speaking, is not an Eastern feature. Even ‘Sunday obligation’ to attend Mass was not strictly practised by many Eastern Churches in the past. Of course, Sunday, the Day of the Lord, is a ‘Holy Day’, a day of sanctification. It can be sanctified not only by attending Mass, but also by praying the Divine Office. In one of the documents of the Greek Catholic Church, we read something as follows: ‘The precept of divine worship on Sundays and feast days is to be observed. Those who neglect it sins more or less gravely according to the degree of negligence. However, this precept can be fulfilled also by participating in the Divine Office’. As of today, most of the Catholic Eastern Churches practise ‘Sunday obligation’ by participating in the Eucharistic celebration.

CHAPTER THREE

 EASTERN THEOLOGY

 

In this Chapter we shall deal with the sources of Eastern theology, the method of theologizing in the East and some selected themes of theology.

3.1 The Sources of Eastern Theology

 

The East has a variety of sources which influence its theology.

3.1.1 Scared Scripture: The Bible is considered to be the most sublime expression of God’s revelation. Hence it is the primary source of theology.

3.1.2 Liturgy: The rule of prayer is the rule of faith (Lex orandi lex credendi). Faith is expressed not in dogmatic terms, but in liturgical celebrations. The uninterrupted continuity of the Church is manifested in her liturgy.

3.1.3 Ecumenical Councils and Creeds: In a broad sense, we may call it Tradition. The Councils and Creeds are expressions of the faith of the Church in history and tradition.[ The Orthodox accept only the first seven Councils, namely Nicaea (325), Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680-681) and Nicaea II (787)].

3.1.4 Fathers of the Church: The Fathers of the Church are guardians of the mind of the apostles and the ancient Church. Though the Fathers did not have the charism of “inspiration”, they had the charism of “interpretation”. Their writings are an inexhaustible spring, faithful and true, that irrigate the Christian imagination with the life-giving water flowing from the biblical and spiritual sources of the faith. [The Western Catholic tradition has restricted the Fathers to the period of Isidore of Seville (+636) and the Eastern Catholic tradition to John of Damascus (+749). But the Orthodox believe that such a restriction would be tantamount to saying that the Holy Spirit  has deserted the Church].

3.1.5 Canons: Canons are the norms drawn up by the ecumenical and local Councils on the discipline and organization of the Church. The East sees a relationship between the dogmas and the canons. Accordingly, the canons apply the dogmas to practical Christian life.

3.1.6 Icons: Icons are considered to be a way of God’s revelation to man. The spiritual world is exteriorized through the icons. Therefore, the Easterners expect a practising Christian to paint the icons.

3.1.7 Other Sources: To the above mentioned sources we may add also other elements like monasticism, asceticism, mysticism, martyrology, spiritual writers, and practices of fasting, penance and abstinence which have some influence on the theological thinking of the East.

 

3.2 Theologizing in the Eastern Tradition

 

The Easterners make a distinction between theology and theological teaching. Theology is existential experience of God, whereas theological teaching is the scientific exposition of the experiential knowledge of God. In this sense, every practising Christian is a ‘theologian’. A ‘professional’ theologian is one who is capable of articulating the faith of the Church, and also who helps others to live it.

The eternal bliss in heaven, as understood in the East, is not the vision of the Essence of God, but “deification”, the “union” with the Holy Trinity. This union with God is not in his “Essence”, but in his “Energy”, that is ‘Grace’. What Western theology calls ‘supernatural’ is understood as ‘divine energy’ in the East. In short, theology in the East is not an academic exercise, but the outcome of a lived experience of God. Their theological method is more doxological than intellectual; it is more poetical than logical; it is more apophatic than cataphatic.

In theologizing, therefore, the East employs the so-called ‘apophatic way’ or the ‘negative way’. They try to know God in what He is not. It is very similar to the Indian way of ‘neti, neti’. Since God is a transcendent reality, man with his limitedness is incapable of fully comprehending Him. Therefore, philosophizing on the concept of God is not very effective. Precisely for this reason, God is called the ‘Invisible’, the ‘Incomprehensible’, the ‘Unfathomable’, the ‘Indescribable’, the ‘Beyond’, and the ‘Other’. As Pseudo-Dionisius (AD 500) says, the knowledge about God can be described as “knowing through unknowing”. The more man grows in the knowledge of God, the more he perceives him as an inaccessible mystery. This should not be confused with an obscure mysticism in which man loses himself in enigmatic, impersonal realities. On the contrary, the Christians of the East turn to God uttering a solemn, humble and majestic doxology (cf. Orientale Lumen, 17). They look at theology in its synthetical content, as a spiritual experience. This type of theology is called ‘apophatic theology’.

Apophatism’ literally means ‘negation’. In the Old Testament the Jews were afraid of using the name of God, and thus for them God was YHWH (= I am Who am). As St. John says, ‘no one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart who has made him known’ (John 1:18). According to Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386), the nature of God is known to God alone. Man can know it in so far as it is made known to man by God Himself. For Gregory Nazianzen (329-389) God is a relationship. The nature and essence of God are like an ocean – an ocean whose depth and limits cannot be determined. In this regard, there is a famous saying of Karl Rahner. It runs as follows: ‘My aim is not to teach about a God who can be fully understood by all. Instead, my aim is to teach that it is not possible to fully comprehend God with our intellect. God whom we are searching for is the same God who is looking at us’.

But, if this principle of apophatic theology is not properly understood and applied, one could be led to a denial of God Himself. Against this danger the Fathers like Gregory of Nyssa turned to mysticism  where one meets God in a personal relationship, that is, in the realm of “I-Thou” relationship. In this understanding, God is “known” to me “personally”. This approach is not ‘negative’, but positive or affirmative, and hence is called ‘cataphatic’. Here the invisible and unfathomable becomes ‘close’ to me. The ultimate consequence of this approach is a “mystical union” with God.

This way of ‘union’ takes us to the very meaning of Incarnation. In Incarnation the divinity takes human nature. The transcendent is made immanent. Revelation becomes an encounter and a communion.

The Eastern theology makes a distinction between  ‘Essence’ and ‘Energy’ in God. The apophatic approach is applied to the Essence of God because the Essence of God is unknowable to humans. Energy is the “acts” of God or His “grace”. In the mystical union, one comes into communion with God in His Energy (grace) and not in His Essence.

Here there is another danger. The knowledge of God depends upon one’s ‘personal encounter’. It is more of a ‘subjective’ nature, and not objective. If the encounter with God does not take place in one’s life, God does not exist ‘for’ him/her. Here we need to note that the ‘personal’ encounter is not an ‘individualistic’ encounter. A Christian is not an ‘island’. Being a member of the Church and an organ of a Body, a Christian is in a ‘sacramental fellowship’ with his/her brothers and sisters. Thus the ‘personal’ encounter with God takes place as a member of the Body of the Church and not simply as an individual.As St. Paul says, the true progress in faith is not coming to know God, but rather to be known by him (Gal 3:9). Though the transcendent God became immanent in Creation, in His presence in the history of Israel, and finally in Incarnation, he remains beyond all human knowing and beyond all human discourse.

The East has a two-directional way of speaking about God. An example is the Holy Spirit having two functions in the Church: He brings the Church to Christ, and Christ to the Church. This insight is the underlying principle of consecratory and communion epiclesis in the holy Mass. The Spirit is invoked to transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ (that is, to bring Christ to the Church – consecratory epiclesis), and on the congregation (that is, to bring the Church to Christ – communion epiclesis).

Theology in the East, therefore, is not dogmatic assertions imposed on the people of God, rather it is truth gradually revealed in the Church through the personal encounter of the members of the Church. A true theologian is one who has a genuine experience of God and who helps the people to live their faith without falling into errors.

3.3    Some Themes of Eastern Theology

 

3.3.1        Creation

 

Creation of the world is out of nothing (ex nihilo). It is a free and gratuitous act of God. The analysis of the Creed reminds us of the role of the Holy Trinity in Creation. Thus the Father is the ‘Creator of Haven and Earth’; the Son is the one ‘Through whom all things were created’ and the Holy Spirit is the ‘Creator of life’.

In the East Syrian anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari we have a reference to the

Holy Trinity as the Creator. It reads: “Father, Son and Holy Spirit! The adorable name of Your most blessed Trinity is worthy of honour from every mouth, thanksgiving from every tongue, and praise from every creature. For, in Your great kindness You created the world and everything in it”. In this Eastern perspective, the Son and the Holy Spirit are “co-Creators” with the Father.

3.3.2        Original Sin

Misusing freedom Adam disobeyed God. Consequently, a new form of existence appeared in the world –  of disease and death. This is extended to Adam’s descendants. The members of the Church too inherit the consequences of Adam’s Fall. As the Church is the mystical Body of Christ, and the baptized persons are the organs of this Body, when one suffers all others also suffer. The Catholics and the Orthodox agree up to this point.

The Orthodox theology goes further. Adam sinned, they hold, not from the height of his full knowledge, but out of his simplicity and not so perfect knowledge of things. They also hold that the descendants of Adam automatically got his corruption and mortality, but not his guilt. They become guilty only when they imitate Adam with their free will. According to them, after the Fall, the ‘image’ of God in man is distorted and not destroyed. They admit, however, that the sin has created a barrier between God and man. This barrier can be broken only with the grace of God and not simply by man’s own efforts. Hence they too admit the need of God’s grace to be saved.

3.3.3        Incarnation and Deification

 

Despite the sin of man, the divine philanthropy is not withdrawn by God. The eternal plan of God – the salvation of man through the Incarnation of Christ – continues to invite man to get united with Him because the ultimate aim of man is ‘to become’ God, that is, Deification or Divinization. As St. Athanasius says, ‘God became man so that man may become God’. This concept is based on the understanding that man is created in the ‘image’ of God.

In the Western thinking, man is free to sin, but he will be punished. Only grace can save him. Hence he looks forward to his “justification”. The East, on the other hand, thinks in terms of reunion or communion with God (Deification). Therefore, the Church is seen not merely as a mediator of grace which has authority over the faithful to give guarantee on doctrines, but more as a place where man experiences this divine communion.

Deification is not pantheism. As we have already noted, the Eastern theology makes a distinction between Essence and Energy in God. Communion of man with God is in His Energy (grace) and not in Essence.  In other words, man does not become “God” by nature but by grace.

Deification is a process to be accomplished through love of God and neighbour. The full deification will take place on the Last Day.

3.3.4        Holy Trinity

 

The whole frame of Eastern theology is Trinitarian. There is a difference in the approaches of the East and the West in the understanding of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The West presupposes God’s unity in three Persons whereas the East begins from the three Persons to reach unity in Godhead. Thus in the Western approach, oneness in nature is primary and difference in Persons is only secondary. The East reaches unity of the Godhead from the distinction of the three Persons of the Trinity.

The Eastern approach is in conformity with the Bible. ‘In the beginning was the Word’, ‘the Word was with God’ and ‘the Word became flesh’ (John 1:1,14). And again, ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever’ (John 14:16). And ‘when the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf’ (John 15:26). Though the three Persons in the Godhead are related among themselves, in the unfolding of the Salvation History they are distinct. Thus the Father is the source, Son the procreated  (by the Father) and the Holy Spirit is the One who proceeds (from the Father). As St. Basil says, Father is the source, Son the manifestation and Holy Spirit the force that manifests.

When the Western theology emphasizes the concept of one Essence for the Persons of the Trinity, the East places empahsis on the Tri-Personality. Hence the East prefers to speak about God in concrete: God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob; God of Jesus Christ etc.

One of the contributions of the twentieth century theology is the Trinity as the foundation of the theology of the communion of Churches – Trinity as the foundation of ecclesiology. From a theological point of view, the Church is more a communion than an institution governed by the hierarchy. The communion in the Trinity is ontological . The terms like consubstantiality, hypostatic union etc. are used to make this idea clear. Unlike ontological communion in the Trinity, the communion among the Churches is vital and dynamic. This vitality originates from the communion of different persons inspired by the Spirit of the Lord.

Vatican II sees the Church as a result of Trinitarian procession. The Church shines forth as a ‘people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (LG 4). In the words of J. Tillard, the Universal Church is a ‘Communion of communions’.

The structure of the Bishops’ Synod in the Eastern tradition is based on the Trinitarian theology. The Bishops “walk together” (= synod) as a body. Even the head of the synod (Patriarch, Major Archbishop, Metropolitan) cannot take decisions for the Church independent of the members of the synod.

The theology of the communion of Churches does not harm the Petrine ministry. In fact, it emphasizes it. The Roman Pontiff is the guardian of this communion.

3.3.5        Filioque (And from  the Son)

 

The ‘Filioque controversy’ is practically the consequence of the Trinitarian theology. It was added to the Nicene Creed for the first time in the Council Toledo (AD 589). By this addition the West wanted to fight the Arian heresy and affirm the divinity of Christ. In Rome it was added to the Creed by Pope Benedict VIII in AD 1014.

The objection of the East to the addition of Filioque is that it reduces the divine Persons of the Father and the Son to a mere relation, that is, the Father and the Son are two in relation to each other, but one in relation to the Holy Spirit. Instead, the East holds that the Father is to be considered as the only source of both the Son and the Holy Spirit. Otherwise the concept of Tri-Personality – three distinct persons in Trinity – will be destroyed. In other words, while the West emphasizes the unity of Essence in the three Persons of the Trinity, the East places emphasis on the Person of the Father from whom the other Persons originate. The East objects to its addition also on the ground that the West changed the decision of the ecumenical council of Nicaea (AD 325) unilaterally without consulting the Eastern Churches.

The West quotes St. Augustine: ‘Why then should we not believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son since he is the Spirit of the Son? If he did not proceed from him, after his resurrection, he would not have breathed on his apostles saying: Receive the Holy Spirit. What then does breathing mean, but that the Holy Spirit proceeds from him too’? The West argues that if there are three Persons in the Trinity, then there should be some relationship among them. Thus there is paternity between the Father and the Son, and procession between the Father and the Holy Spirit as well as between the Son and the Holy Spirit. In Essence all three Persons are equal. The difference is only in their relationship.

Some Orthodox theologians are prepared to admit Filioque as an opinion, but reject it as a theological principle because it would mean that there are two sources (originating principles) in Godhead.

The Council of Florence (1438-45) tried to mitigate the expression saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. The Council based its arguments on Gal 4:6, Rom 8:9 (Spirit of the Son); Mt 10:20 (Spirit of the Father); John 16:13-15 (All that Father has is mine); John 15:26, John 16:17 (The Counsellor whom I shall send to you from the Father) etc. Later the Council of Trent (AD 1545 – 63) made it obligatory for the Latin Church to confess the Creed with the addition of Filioque. However, this obligatory nature was not binding on the Eastern Churches.

 

There are some Orthodox theologians who subscribe to the expression ‘Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through or after the Son’, considering the whole issue as a question of language and not of content. The Syro-Malabar Church has put Filioque in brackets, and has left it optional.

3.3.6        Christology

 

Trinity is one Nature and three Persons. Christ is a single Person with two Natures. The divinity and humanity are united in Christ.

The Christology of Eastern thought is characterized by the following elements:

(i)                 Christ is the Saviour of the world. Its basis is the confession of Peter in Mt 16:16: ‘You are Christ, Son of the living God’. The fallen humanity is saved not through any intermediary created by God, but by God Himself, becoming man.

(ii)               Christ is Emmanuel (=God with us). The Eastern Fathers see two supreme moments in the ‘human’ (incarnated) life of Christ: His incarnation and death on the cross.

(iii)             Christ is fully God and fully Man. Christ is consubstantial with the Father by his divinity and is consubstantial with man in his humanity. Thus in Christ there are two consubstantialities making him true God and true man. One does not absorb the other. They are not ‘mixed up’. But there is an inter-penetration between them.

(iv)             The Church is the Body of Christ. Christ restored unity of all humanity with himself. This restoration is not ‘automatic’. It requires free human cooperation and communion of the believers within the assembly of the Church. This assembly is realized most meaningfully in the Eucharistic celebration.

3.3.7        Pneumatology

 

The Holy Spirit is understood as the Person of the Godhead who restores the original status of innocence to humans. Therefore, the role of the Holy Spirit is very important in the celebration of the sacraments, and the life and activities of the Church.

In the Eastern perspective, the Holy Spirit is not only a Gift but also a Giver. The role of  God’s Spirit in Creation (Gen 1:2), in the ‘new creation’ when Jesus was conceived in the womb of Virgin Mary (Lk 1:35) and at Pentecost as an anticipation of Parousia (Acts 2:17) are important pneumatological themes in the Eastern theology.

The works of Christ and the Holy Spirit are complementary and reciprocal. Christ’s work of redemption cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification. As St. Athanasius says, ‘The Word took flesh that we might receive the Spirit’.

 

 

3.3.8        Eschatology

 

The Catholic Eastern view on eschatology is practically similar to that of Western Catholic theology. It has the same understanding on Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Prayer for the dead, Particular Judgement and Final Judgement.

Among the Orthodox there are diverse opinions about the Last Things. Though they do not follow the Catholic understanding of Purgatory, they seem to think that all the dead await in a middle state till the day of Final Judgement. This applies also to the saints (unlike the Catholic position). However, they do pray for the dead. So also, they do request the intercession of the saints.

There are also Orthodox theologians who refuse to discuss eschatological questions saying that it is not for humans to know about God’s plan on after-life.

3.3.9        Grace and Will

 

There is a special union between the grace of God and the free will of man. The term used to explain this union is “synergy” (=cooperation). This means that the grace of God and the will of man have to work together. Of course, God’s cooperation is far superior to man’s. A classical example of this synergy is Mary’s Fiat (Lk 1:38). This idea of synergy is expressed in I Cor 3:9 where St. Paul says that we are God’s “fellow workers”. Another example is Rev 3:20: ‘If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me’.

According to Cyril of Jerusalem, it is for God to shower His grace and it is up to man to receive it and guard it. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, God never draws anyone to Himself by force and violence.

3.3.10    Man

 

The concept of man in Orthodox theology is not the same as the Catholic understanding. According to the Orthodox, as do Catholics, man is created ‘in the image of God’. But they make a distinction between “image” and “likeness”. ‘Image’ indicates rationality and freedom, whereas ‘likeness’ means assimilation to God through virtues. The image  enables man to know God and to be in communion with him. It is a gift of God. ‘Likeness’ is achieved through man’s own efforts assisted by grace. By committing sin Adam lost his ‘likeness’ and not the ‘image’.

The Orthodox hold that man was perfect at creation not in actual sense, but only in potentia. He will become perfect only when he acquires the likeness through his own choices assisted by God’s grace. This position contradicts St. Augustine’s according to which Adam had reached the point of perfection.

3.3.11    Ecclesiology

In ecclesiology the Eastern theology has always given emphasis to the community nature of the Church rather than to its juridical aspect. The ecclesiological aspects are in fact presupposed  in the theological reflection. The Church, being a ‘worshipping community’, is the place where a Christian experiences his/her ‘life in Christ’. Foremost among the ecclesiological presuppositions is the awareness they have about the apostolic foundation of their individual Churches. The Church is apostolic in more than one sense. The apostolicity is related to the Christocentricity of the Church because Christ is the only true head of the Church. Therefore, ecclesiology is not merely an appendix to Christology. The diversity of the Individual Churches has also basis in the apostolicity. The diversity of Christic experience of the apostles is carried down to the ecclesial traditions.

Another ecclesiological presupposition is, as mentioned above, the perception of the Church as a communion (koinonia) rather than as an institution. The communion of the Trinity is the foundation of this ecclesial communion.

In the early Patristic thought, the Church is cosmic and eschatological. That is, the  Church is the ‘mystery of new creation’ and also the ‘mystery of the kingdom’. Therefore, more than the aspect of institution, emphasis is on the ‘sacramentality’ of the Church. In other words, the Church is the ‘epiphany’ (manifestation) of the kingdom in this world. The liturgy is one of the principal means to become aware of this cosmic and eschatological dimension of the Church.

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On the hierarchical structure of the Church, apostolic succession, intercession of the saints, episcopate and priesthood, infallibility and the universal jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, the Eastern Catholics have the same views as that of the Western Catholic Church. As for the Orthodox, they disagree on the infallibility and the universal jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff.

The Eastern ecclesiology has various images about the Church:

(i)                 Church is the image of the Holy Trinity: As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united into one Godhead, the baptized believers are united into one Body, the Church. And, as there are three Persons in the Holy Trinity, there are various Individual Churches in the universal Church.

(ii)               Church is the Body of Christ:  The Church is the extension of Christ in space and time. As various organs are united into one body, we are all untied into the Body of Christ, the Church. This communion reaches its climax in the Eucharist since the Church is a ‘sacramental community of worship’. The Church is the mystical body in so far as she is the Eucharistic body.

(iii)             Church is a continued Pentecost: Where the Church is, there is the Holy Spirit; where the Holy Spirit is, there is also the Church. Jesus has in fact promised that he would send the Spirit who would be with us always (John 14:15 ff.)

Regarding the nature and the characteristics of the Church, the Eastern theology has the following to say:

(i)                 Unity and Infallibility: Unity in God justifies the unity in the Church. But his unity is not manifested in a juridical organization, but in the celebration of the Eucharist. Therefore, one who is not in communion with the Church is outside the Church. Unity of the Bishops in the synod too has the same basis. Hence a Bishop who is not in communion with his fellow Bishops too is ‘outside’ the synod! The Church is infallible because of her relationship with God. Since the Church is the image of the Holy Trinity, Body of Christ and a continued Pentecost she is infallible.

(ii)               Church as an Ark of Salvation: Extra ecclesia nulla salus. The Church as an image of the ‘Ark of Noah’ is guided by ‘Christ the steersman’ is an expression of St. Ephrem. St. Cyprian says that a man cannot have God as his Father, if he does not have the Church as his Mother. This does not mean that everyone who is visibly in the Church is necessarily saved. As St. Augustine asks: ‘How many seeps there are without and how many wolves within’?

(iii)             Apostolic Succession: St. Cyprian says that the Church is the people of God united with the Bishop. He also says that if one is not with the Bishop, he ceases to be in the Church. However, the Orthodox understanding of the role of the Bishop is slightly different from that of the Catholics. Accordingly, the Bishop is not placed over the people. His authority is fundamentally the authority of the Church. Practically he is a holder of an office in the Church for the people. Regarding the teaching authority, though the traditional Orthodox believe that it rests with the hierarchy, there are modern thinkers who consider that every Christian is duty-bound to teach. However, for practical reasons this power is transferred to the Bishops.

What is more important from an Eastern perspective is to understand the Church as a charismatic community rather than as a juridical organization. Though there are ordained ministers like bishops, priests and deacons, the people of God too are priests who exercise their common priesthood. In the Orthodox understanding, the bishop is the divinely appointed teacher of faith, but the guardian of faith is every baptized Christian because proclamation of the faith is not the same as its possession. They also hold that all believers possess the Truth, but it is the duty of the bishops to formally and officially proclaim it.

3.3.12    Sacraments

 

Both Catholic and Orthodox Eastern Churches accept seven sacraments. However, among the Orthodox there is no formal decision in any Council determining the number of the sacraments. Since the Protestant reformation, number seven is generally accepted by them.

The Orthodox do not make a clear distinction between the sacraments and the sacramentals. Though, as a rule, they do not repeat the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Order, there is no clear teaching among them about the ‘indelible character’ of these three sacraments.

A basic concept in the Eastern sacramental theology is that the Church is a mystery of which the sacraments are the normal expressions. Here again, the emphasis is not on ‘validity’ and ‘liceity’, but on the Church community gathered around the bishop on which God sends His Spirit. The concept of ‘ex opere operato’ therefore, is not a serious concern of the Easterners.

(i) Baptism:  Baptism is administered either by immersion, infusion or pouring water over the head of the candidate. The formula used is deprecative or declarative, and not indicative. The oil used for Baptism is blessed  by the priest himself mixing it with the sacred oil (holy Muron) blessed by the bishop.

Baptism is considered to be an ‘ecclesial act’. Therefore, according to CCEO 683, ‘Baptism must be celebrated according to the liturgical prescriptions of the Church sui iuris in which the person to be baptized is to be enrolled’.

 

               Normally, Baptism is administered along with Confirmation and the Eucharist in order to emphasize the unity of the Sacraments of Initiation. The Eastern Churches continue to uphold the doctrine behind this unity not only in theory, but also in practice. The Eastern thinking on this is the following: Initiation is the one and the indivisible celebration of the entrance into the life of Christ and into the community that lives in him. This entrance, initiated with the first call to the faith, reaches its culminating point in the Paschal Mystery of Christ. We are thus rendered fit to participate in the banquet of the kingdom. In Baptism one is ‘reborn’ to a new life and is incorporated into the Church, in Confirmation is signed with the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit and with the reception of the Eucharist becomes in ‘full’ communion with the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

The ordinary minister of Baptism is a bishop or a priest (not a deacon). In case of urgent necessity, Baptism can be administered by any Christian faithful (but not by any person who has the requisite intention as in the Latin tradition) (cf. CCEO 677; CIC 861).

The rites of Baptism in the Eastern tradition consist of renunciation of Satan and profession of faith, laying on of hands, blessing of oil and water, pre-baptismal anointing, baptismal anointing and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. In the present understanding, the renunciation of Satan is oriented more towards the future life rather than to the past slavery to sin of the baptized. That is, it is meant more as a preparation for future fight against evil tendencies than as an exorcism. Therefore, renunciation of Satan and profession of faith go together. As the East Syrian commentator Narsai writes: ‘By renunciation and profession one is made sharer in the victory of Christ who conquered Satan’. According to Theodore of Mopsuestia, while renouncing evil, the candidates should kneel down as a sign of man’s fall and servitude, and while professing the faith, he stands up as a sign of one’s participation in the redemptive work of Christ.

The laying on of hands in Baptism is associated with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It can also mean ‘setting apart a person for the service of God’.

The blessing of oil and water has an epicletic prayer. The baptismal water is a prefiguration of the water of Jordan in which Jesus was baptized. The baptismal font is described as the “new womb” of spiritual birth into the family of the Church.

The pre-baptismal anointing is meant as a preparatory rite of purification. The baptismal anointing is for the conferring of the Holy Spirit and as a sign of life.

The giving of the lighted candle recalling Christ, the light of the world, and the giving of the white dress symbolizing the robe of purity, are later additions in the baptismal rite.

(ii)) Confirmation: The Eastern Code of Canons calls it “Chrismation”. According to CCEO 695 #1, it has to be administered along with Baptism except in a case of true necessity, in which case, however, it is to be administered as soon as possible.

The ordinary minister of Chrismation is the priest who administers it together with Baptism. The oil used is holy Muron blessed by the bishop. The holy Muron is made from the oil of olives or other plants and from aromatics. It is the right of the bishop to prepare it, and in some Churches, it is the privilege of the Patriarch or the head of the Church. Through this anointing with holy Muron, the baptized is signed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and is made witness and co-builder of the kingdom of God.

(iii) Eucharist:  The Eucharist has various names in the Christian East. Qurbana (= Offering), Qudasa (=Sanctification), Raze (=Mysteries) etc are some among them. Some Churches call it “The Divine Liturgy” since it is the focal point of Christian celebration of the faith.

 

The Easterners give greater emphasis to the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist than to its meal aspect. It is offered to the Father, Christ or Holy Trinity as the prayers of various Churches testify. The fermented bread is preferred though some Churches use the unfermented bread. Holy communion under both species is the norm, rather than an exception.

The general order of the Eucharistic liturgy is the following: Enarxis or the introductory rites, liturgy of the Word, pre-anaphoral rites, anaphora, post-anaphoral rites and the final prayers.

The introductory rite has preparatory prayers, opening chants, entry of the Gospel and Trisagion. The readings vary according the Churches. The East Syrian tradition has four readings – two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. Among the Old Testament readings, the first is from the Pentateuch and the other from any other Book of the Old Testament. The New Testament readings consist of the Epistle and the Gospel. In between the readings, there are hymns and halleluias. It concludes with the dismissal of the catechumens. The pre-anaphoral part has the preparation of the gifts, their deposition on the altar, the formal entry of the celebrant into the sanctuary, the washing of the hands, the creed and the kiss of peace.

The anaphora, which is consecratory, has mainly three parts: the prologue with Sanctus, the consecration with the Institution Narrative and the Epiclesis, and the prayers of Intercession.

The post-anaphoral part consists of elevation, fraction, rite of reconciliation, confession of faith before holy communion (sancta sanctis) and holy communion.

The holy Qurbana concludes with the prayers of thanksgiving, the final blessing and the farewell prayer.

The Eucharist, in the first place, is understood as a mystery. The Syriac tradition prefers the term “Mysteries” (Raze) for the Eucharistic celebration. The East looks at the Eucharist as “mystery” in which the faithful united with the bishop, have access to God the Father through the Son, the Word made flesh, who suffered and was glorified, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For them the Eucharist is the ‘seed of immortality’ (Gregory of Nyssa).

The Church is basically the people of God who are gathered together to listen to the Word and to break the Bread. There are three elements here: Assembly, Eucharist and Church. They are inseparable. There is no Eucharist without the Church and vice versa.

A close examination of the Eastern Eucharistic theology will reveal that it is mostly a theology “prayed in the Church”. That is, the very celebration of the Eucharist and an active participation in it forned the core of Eucharistic theology. It is an “experience” celebrated in the Church and lived in the world. Therefore, the Eucharist has to be understood as the sacrament of the Church. To reduce the Eucharist to a multiplicity of artificially isolated elements like sacrifice, sacrament, communion etc is not an Eastern perspective. Since the Eucharist is the anamnesis of the whole salvific action of God celebrated with praise and thanksgiving, any theology not having the Eucharist as the foundation of its whole structure is basically defective.

The anaphora or the Eucharistic prayer is said to be the “main” part of the Eucharistic celebration. It was first in the West through Scholastic theology, and by imitation also in the East, that the anaphora became the “main” part of the Eucharist. Soon it was reduced to just one single moment of “Consecration” or “Transubstantiation”. This approach gradually deprived the Eucharistic celebration of its coherence as a comprehensive celebration of various parts. To put it bluntly, the question was: “How” does the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ., rather than “What” happens to the Eucharistic species. The difference between these two approaches is important. Here the basic thrust changes from an eschatological dimension to an ecclesiological one. Consequently, the whole question gets centred on Transubstantiation, the moment of consecration. In this regard the West turned more towards the Words of Institution and the East towards the Epiclesis. From an Eastern perspective, however, the understanding of the Eucharist cannot be narrowed down to one or two moments. All parts are essential, but not equal, since each is related to the others organically in one sacramental structure. In fact, one part makes the next possible and meaningful. (For example, the Syro-Malabar Qurbana which begins with an invitation to celebrate the mystery as commanded by the Lord, goes on to commemorate his birth, passion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and the second coming).

The Eastern tradition in general considers the whole of the anaphora comprising the Words of Institution and the Epiclesis as consecratory. But there is the case of the anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari, used by the Chaldeans, the Syro-Malabarians and the Assyrians, that did not have the Words of Institution in its original. Though the Catholic Chaldeans and the Syro-Malabarians use this anaphora with the Words of Institution, the non-Catholic Assyrians continue to use it without them. It has been a stumbling block in the ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church. In an historical agreement (October 2001) between these Churches, the Catholic Church accepted the anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari without the Words of Institution as a valid Anaphora. The question that immediately arises here is the following: Can there be an anaphora without “consecration”? The obvious answer is an emphatic ‘NO’. But, here the basic question to be answered is: What is meant by “consecration”? Is it the Words of  Institution” Or, Epiclesis? Or, both?

One of the first considerations of Rome to accept this anaphora without the Words of Institution was that it was one of the most ancient anaphorae of Christian tradition, and hence it is part of the common Tradition of Christendom. Secondly, the content of the anaphora has virtual links to the Words of Institution of the Eucharist, the Last Supper, the sacrifice of Christ and the oblation of the Church. Thirdly, the Assyrian Church is a ‘sister-Church’ with apostolic succession and she has been consistently following the true nature of the Eucharist as a sacrifice and the Eucharistic bread and wine as the true Body and Blood of Christ. And finally, though the anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari has not reproduced the Words of Institution ad litteram, the content of the Institution is found in the euchological prayers.

In this context it is useful to recall the distinction between the theologia prima and theologia secunda. The former is the lex orandi – the faith expressed in the liturgy of the Church antecedent to the speculative questioning and dogmatic systematization. The latter is the systematic reflection on the lived mystery in the Church. The Words of Institution as a moment of consecration is a systematic and dogmatic expression of the faith. On the contrary, the language of theologia prima is more typological and metaphysical than scholastic and systematic. In other words, it is symbolic and evocative, and not philosophical and ontological.

The transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is definitely an integral part of the understanding of the Eucharist in both Western and Eastern theology. But the approach in its interpretation is not the same. While the West is concerned more about substance and accident, matter and form, validity and liceity, and Transubstantiation, the concern of the East is the “reality” of Christ’s Body and Blood. The philosophical questions can only lead to disputes, and eventually take us away from the essentials of the Eucharist. What St. Paul says is true: ‘The cup we bless is a participation in the Blood of Christ and the bread we break is a sharing in the Body of Christ’ (I Cor 10:16).

The Orthodox prefer to use the term “sacramental change” (metabole) in the place of Transubstantiation.  And some modern theologians in the West use terms like Transignification and Transfinalization for the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

(iv)  Penance:   The practice of sacramental absolution of sins in the Catholic Eastern Churches is regulated by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches which is similar to that of the Latin Code, except in some details. The individual confession and absolution is the ordinary means to obtain the forgiveness of sins though general absolution is allowed in particular situations as enunciated in the Code of Canons. The rules governing the confessional seal, reservation of sins, faculty to administer the sacrament of penance etc are almost the same as in the Latin Code.

Regarding the ‘obligation’ of confession, the rule is that the one who is aware of serious sins is to receive the sacrament of penance as soon as possible. It is strongly recommended that the faithful receive this sacrament frequently, especially during the times of fasts and penance observed in their own Church sui iuris.

The formula used for absolution is deprecative or declarative, thereby emphasizing the role of God in forgiving the sins.

Among the Orthodox this sacrament is understood more as a spiritual healing than as a ‘juridical absolution’.

(v) Anointing of the Sick:  Already from the 4th century we have evidence of some sort of a healing ceremony in the Christian East. The Apostolic Constitutions (4th century) has a prayer for blessing the oil for the sick. However, this sacrament does not seem to have developed  into a full-fledged ceremony in the East as in the West.

It is practically a prayer of healing for the Orthodox. In some Orthodox Churches it is administered also as a preparation for great liturgical feasts (eg. Wednesday of the Holy Week).

It is reported that the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala had an indigenous form of anointing the sick before the arrival of the Latin missionaries in the 16th century. They used to take some soil from the tomb of St. Thomas in Madras-Mylapore, and mix it with water for anointing the sick.

(vi) Holy Orders:  The Eastern Churches have various grades and practices with regard to the sacrament of Holy Orders. Still we do find certain basic rites in all the Churches.

A primary symbol used in the ordination service has been the imposition of hands on the candidates. It is considered to be an epicletic gesture. The Eastern liturgy of Ordination owes much to the Apostolic Constitutions (4th century). According to this document, the ordained are to minister at the altar of the Lord, thereby emphasizing their priestly duty. Symbolically the bishop occupies the place of the Father, the priest that of Christ, and the deacons of the apostles. The ceremony of placing the open Gospel book upon the head or the shoulders of the bishop-elect too appears in this document. This is to show that the bishop is the official bearer and proclaimer of the Gospel. The anointing with the sacred oil is not necessarily an integral part of the Eastern practice, though some traditions have it.

In the Eastern Churches there is a distinction between Ordination and the ecclesiastical dignity such as Chorepiscopus and Archdeacon. So also, there is a distinction between the Major and Minor Orders. From a liturgical point of view, the latter distinction is not very clear although the imposition of hands is generally excluded from the Minor Orders. Still we find the imposition of hands in the Minor Orders of the East Syrian, Armenian, Maronite and Coptic rituals. It is actually the formula of prayer that clarifies the Order conferred, and not the gesture of imposition. The liturgical solemnity is higher according to the grade of Order conferred. The basic structure of Ordination, namely the imposition of hands with the accompanying prayers, the putting on of the sacred vestments and the kiss of peace, is still being continued in all the Churches.

All Churches have three Major Orders: Diaconate, Priesthood and Episcopate. The Minor Orders vary according to the Rites. The Byzantines have Lectorate and Sub-diaconate; the Antiochians (Syro-Malankarites) Singer, Lectorate and Sub-diaconate; the East Syrians (Syro-Malabarians) Lectorate and Sub-diaconate.

In the Eastern tradition, the deacons do not have some of the rights enjoyed by the Latin deacons. As the term indicates, the Eastern Churches understand them as those who do “diakonia” (=service). Their basic duty, therefore, is to assist the bishops and the priests in the sanctuary. However, today many Eastern Churches allow the deacons to administer certain sacramentals like funeral, house blessing etc, but without the ‘blessing’ proper with the sign of the cross which is reserved to the bishops and the priests. Preaching the homily, which was reserved to the bishops and the priests, may now be done by the deacons also.

(vii)  Matrimony:    According to the Latin understanding, the ministers of matrimony are the bridegroom and the bride. The Eastern understanding is different. Accordingly, every sacrament is “given” to the candidate. Nobody administers any sacrament on oneself because a sacrament “confers” grace. One can confer only what he/she possesses. So the Church has to confer it through her officially appointed ministers. Therefore, the blessing of the priest is necessary for the validity of the marriage. For this reason, in the Syro-Malabar ritual of marriage, the priest prays for himself in the following words: O God,….strengthen me to administer worthily this sacrament that binds this bride and groom in love. Shower upon me your abundant graces”.

Another Eastern feature of the marriage ritual is the “crowning”. The bride and the groom are crowned to symbolize the eternal crown they would be gifted in the kingdom of God. This has however fallen into disuse in many Eastern Churches.

Marriage being a ceremony tied very much to the cultural sensibilities of the people, it has many local elements. For example, the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala have the tying of Thali or Minnu around the neck of the bride. She is also given Pudava or Saree by the bridegroom.

3.3.13    Mariology

 

In the Catholic and Orthodox Eastern traditions, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most exalted among the creatures. She is the Mother of God. She is all holy and ever Virgin. There is no church in the Christian East without an icon of Mary. However, the “popular” devotions in honour of Mary as understood in the West are not common among them.

The approach of the East towards Mary is biblical in nature and liturgical in devotion. The Syriac East employs symbolic-poetic methodology to explain the different aspects of Mary’s role in the history of salvation. We may not find dogmatic assertions in this approach. What we find in it is a ‘wondering at with admiration’ depicting Mary as the most beautiful and faithful daughter of David in whom the Son of God resided.

The main Marian themes of the East are her divine Motherhood, her perpetual Virginity, her role in the redemptive work of Christ, her Assumption into heaven and her intercession. Therefore, they commemorate the feast of Annunciation (25 March), Immaculate Conception (8 December), Birth of Mary (8 September), Assumption (15 August) etc. According to a Syrian liturgical calendar of 1689, the feast of Annunciation has to be celebrated even if it falls on Good Friday because Annunciation is the beginning and the source of all other feasts.

As regards Immaculate Conception and her Assumption into heaven, the Orthodox do agree with the “content” of them. But they have difficulties to accept them as ‘dogmas’ as the Catholics do. It is worthy of note that the Syriac East started celebrating the feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven from the 5th century. This feast is known as Dormition (= falling asleep) of Mary or Transitus (= transit). In fact, in the definition of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1854) and of her Assumption into Heaven (1950), the age-old testimony of the Eastern Churches had a prominent influence.

The Western Marian devotional practices have definitely influenced the Eastern Catholics to a great extent. Therefore, the Marian devotion of Rosary, devotion to Our Lady of Dolours, Perpetual Succour, Immaculate Heart of Mary etc. have found a place in their spirituality. The most prominent among them is Rosary.

3.3.14    Laity

The lay people have always played an important role in the life of the Eastern Churches. In the non-Catholic Eastern tradition their participation even in the episcopal election has not disappeared everywhere. In the Orthodox Churches there are many lay theologians of international reputation. The ordination of married men to permanent diaconate is a common feature among them.

In the tradition of the St. Thomas Christians of India, lay people enjoyed power not only in the temporal administration of the Church, but also in spiritual matters. For example, lay people were involved in the ex-communication of an individual from the Church community. The decisions concerning the community were taken by the Church assembly called Palliyogam. The laity had a say in the choice of the parish priests also. They were chosen from among the parishioners themselves. So much so, the parish priests were selected by the people, from the people and for the people. This democratic way of life-style prompted the Western missionaries to call the St. Thomas Christian tradition a “Christian Republic”. Thus examining their socio-ecclesial life, one could say that they were practising a ‘theology of communion’. Adapting local marriage customs, the rites of birth and death, and indigenous art and architecture, they were living an implicit ‘theology of incarnation’ also.

The Vatican II understanding of Church as the “People of God” is a revered tradition in the East. History shows that the Eastern Churches of the past were “people-oriented” communities. The revival of this tradition in its full sense will help to enhance the participation of the lay people in building up the Body of Christ. While referring to the idea of a ‘participatory Church’, Pope John Paul II says that the ecclesial communion implies that each local Church becomes a community in which all live their proper vocation. There needs to have greater involvement of the laity in pastoral planning and decision making through participatory structures such as pastoral councils and parish assemblies. (Ecclesia in Asia 25). This is necessary to give the lay people their rightful place in the Church.

Conclusion

 

Asian and Indian theology will do well to imbibe Eastern theology since it goes naturally with the Asian religious ethos. Apophatism, symbolism, monasticism, experiential knowledge of God etc are some of the elements of it. The Eastern theology is helpful to quench the thirst of those who are bored with formalism and systematic categorization in theology, and can lead them to an experiential religious life. At the same time, it should not be simply tied up to the “things above” in a numinous sphere of the church architecture and awe-inspiring cultic celebrations. It has to be concerned also with the “things below”, looking at the world around it that struggles against poverty, injustice, marginalization and oppression of various sorts.

In this respect, the Western theology can be of immense help to Eastern theology. As Karl Barth said, a theologian should have the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other. In other words, Eastern theology too has to be a “theology in reaction”, a theology that reacts to the living context of the people.

.

Select Bibliography

 

A. Documents

 

Congregation for Catholic Education, Circular Letter Concerning the Studies of the Oriental Churches, in L’Osservatore Romano, English Language Edition, 6 April 1987

Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Kottayam 1996 (Indian Edition)

FABC Papers No.96, Methodology: Asian Christian Theology. Doing Theology in Asia Today, Hong Kong  2000

 

Indian Theological Association (ITA), The Issue of “Rites” in the Indian Church. A Theological Reflection, in J.PARAPILLY (ed.), Theologizing in the Context. Statements of the Indian Theological Association, Bangalore 2000.

John Paul II, Letter to the Bishops of India, in Christian Orient 2 (1987)

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter “Orientale Lumen”, in L’Osservatore Romano, English Language Edition, 3 May 1995

Vatican II, Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches (Orientalium Ecclesiarum)

 

B. Books and Articles

 

Kallarangatt J., “The Trinitarian Foundation of an Ecclesiology of Communion”, in Christian Orient 1 (1980)

Koodapuzha X., Oriental Churches.  An Introduction, Kottayam 1996

Koodapuzha X. (ed.), Eastern Theological Reflection in India, Kottayam 1999

Luke K., “Oriental Theology”, in Christian Orient 4 (1988)

Madey J., Orientalium Ecclesiarum More Than Twenty Years After, Kottayam 1987

Parappally J., “Communion Among the Individual Churches”, in Vidyajyoti, November 1995

Pathil Kuncheria, “Vatican II and the Rite Question in India”, in Kunnumpuram K. – Ferdinando L., Quest for an Indian Church, Anand 1993

Vellanickal M., “Biblical Theology of the Individual Churches”, in Christian Orient 1 (1980)

Roberson R., The Eastern Christian Churches. A Brief Survey, Bangalore 2004

Maniyattu P., East Syriac Theology. An Introduction, Satna 2007

Manakatt M. – Puthenveettil J. (ed.), Syro-Malabar Theology in Context,  Kottayam 2007

Puthur B.(ed.), Inculturation and the Syro-Malabar Church, Kochi 2005

Thottakkara A., East Syrian Spirituality, Bangalore 1990

Nedungatt G., The Spirit of the Eastern Code, Bangalore 1993

Arangassery L., A Handbook on Catholic Eastern Churches, Changanassery 1999

Alencherry I., An Eastern Theology of Priesthood, New Delhi 1994

Mannooramparampil T., Theological Dimensions of Christian Orient, Kottayam 2005

Koodapuzha X., Communion of Churches, Kottayam 1993

Pallath P. (ed.), Catholic Eastern Churches. Heritage and Identity, Rome 1994

Clendenin D.B., Eastern Orthodox Theology. A Contemporary Reader, Michigan 1995

Taft R., “Eastern Catholic Theology: Slow Rebirth after a Long and Difficult Gestation”, in Eastern Catholic Journal 8/2 (2001)

Every G., Understanding Eastern Christianity, Bangalore 1978

Liesel N., The Eastern Catholic Liturgies, London 1960

Atiya A., A History of Eastern Christianity, London 1968

Attwater D., The Christian Churches of the East (2 Volumes), Milwaukee 1961

Binns J., An Introdution to the Christian Orthodox Churches, Cambridge 2002

Lossky V., The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, Cambridge 1957

Meyendorff J., Byzantine Theology. Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, New York 1974

Spislik T., The Spirituality of the Christian East. A Systematic Handbook, Kalamazoo 1986

Taft R., The Liturgy of the Hours of East and West. The Origins of the Divine Office and its Meaning for Today, Collegeville 1986

CHAPTER TWO

 

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE EASTERN CHURCHES

As we have already mentioned, an Individual Church is distinguished by her liturgy, theology, spirituality and discipline. This chapter is devoted to the understanding of the liturgical, theological, spiritual and juridical characteristics of the Eastern Churches.

2.1   Liturgical Characteristics

 

2.1.1.      It is Communal Worship 

 

‘Privatization’ of liturgy (eg. Private Mass, Devotional Mass etc.) is not an Eastern practice.  Since the Eastern worship system has popular and cultural roots, it is naturally community worship.  Liturgy, especially the Eucharist, is a celebration of the unity of the local Church. The Divine Office too is the ‘public worship’ of the community of the faithful.  Therefore, the tendency to reduce the time of worship to a manageable length so that many Masses can be conducted at regular intervals is not of Eastern ethos.

2.1.2.   ‘Mystery’ Dimension and  Liturgical Celebration

 

The ‘mystery’ dimension (not ‘mysterious’ dimension) is highly emphasized in the Eastern tradition.  Various means like the use of the veil, incense, prayers with  expressions like ‘awful’ and ‘fearful’, numerous prayers revealing the unworthiness of the celebrant and the people etc. are used to underscore the mystery dimension.  Therefore, the Blessed Sacrament is not generally ‘exposed’ in the monstrance.  If at all it is exposed, a veil is put on it as in the Syro-Malankara Church. (The practice of putting a veil in front of the tabernacle, if there is Sacrament reserved, may be recalled in this context; so also, the veil of the ciborium containing the consecrated species). There are also Eastern Churches that ‘expose’ the covered ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament for adoration, instead of using the monstrance. The Eastern expressions like the mystery of baptism, the mystery of Eucharist, the mystery of matrimony etc. may be understood in this context.  The most solemn celebration of the holy Qurbana in the Syro-Malabar Church is even now called ‘Raza’ which literally means ‘mystery’.

2.1.3  Importance given to Symbols

 

A complaint about the Eastern liturgies is that they are ‘long’, ‘pompous’ and ‘complicated’.  This impression is based on an inadequate knowledge about the great importance the Easterners attach to symbolisms in worship.

The symbols are widely used in the Eastern liturgy. They include objects, places and movements.  The division of the church building into three parts – sanctuary, choir and nave – is an example thereof.  The sanctuary symbolizes the heavenly Jerusalem and the nave the earthly Jerusalem.  The choir symbolizes the angels who sing the praises of God.

In the Antiochian tradition, the thurible has a fantastic interpretation.  The upper part of the thurible represents heaven, the lower part the hell and the cup containing fire symbolizes the purgatory.  The three chains which support the lower part of the thurible are symbols of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the single chain of the upper part symbolizes the Triune God.  Each chain has 18 rings representing the 72 (18×4) disciples and the 12 bells on the chains are the 12 apostles.

The gospel procession from the sanctuary to the ambo placed in the nave symbolizes Christ coming down from the heavenly Jerusalem to the earthly Jerusalem to announce his Good News. According to some Eastern Churches, the deacons undertaking various duties during the celebration are called Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Of course, certain symbolisms would give the impression of allegories.  What is important, however, is the preference of the Eastern Churches for the appeal to the senses rather than for the intellect that expresses the invisible realities.

2.1.4 Postures and Gestures

 

The Eastern tradition is very particular about giving symbolic meaning to the postures and gestures used in the liturgy.  For example, standing symbolizes joy, and hence except on a few occasions, one has to stand up during the Eucharistic celebration as it recalls the joy in the Risen Lord.  One has to kneel down when prayers of penitence are said as kneeling is generally interpreted as a penitential act. One sits down ‘to listen’, and hence sitting posture is common during the scriptural readings (except gospel reading) and the homily.

In the Syro-Malabar Qurbana, the celebrant after entering the sanctuary kisses the altar at the centre, on its right and left, these places in turn symbolize the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit respectively.

2.1.5 Manner of making the Sign of the Cross

The universal practice of making the sign of the cross on oneself was from right to left.  Later some Churches began to make it from left to right.  Various interpretations are given to this practice.  Those who move their hand from right to left attach importance to the common understanding of the ‘right’ as the place of ‘goodness’ and ‘light’.  Hence one has to take the light from the right, and then to the left to dispel the ‘darkness’ of the ‘left’.  Those who move from left to right mean that at birth we are children of the ‘left’, and hence of ‘darkness’ as we are born with the ‘original sin’.  Moving to the right, we abandon the darkness and go to the light on the right. Another simple explanation is that when one blesses others with the sign of the cross, he moves his hand from the right to the left of the person blessed.  Hence it is proper that when he makes the sign of the cross on himself he does it in the same manner.

2.1.6 Continuity in the Liturgical Tradition

 

A special attachment to the liturgical tradition is very evident in the Eastern Churches.  This does not mean that their liturgy is immobile.  As a matter of fact, change and growth in their liturgy are slow, and sometimes imperceptible. One reason for this is that the changes are not dictated from above, but are part of a natural process taking place slowly.

2.1.7        Repetition of  Prayers and Hymns

 

Repetition of prayers and hymns is in fact a feature found in all Eastern Religions.  The Bhajans and Namajapas of Indian tradition are examples thereof.  Repetition is said to be helpful to concentrate on a particular idea and to underscore it.  Repeating the prayers is not entirely an Eastern tradition either.  The Kyrie Eleison and the Agnus Dei in the Latin Mass too are examples of repetition.  The Eastern liturgies, of course, use it more profusely.

 

2.1.8 Importance of Community Singing

 

‘Who sings, prays twice’ is a well-known and accepted dictum.  The Eastern tradition has always given importance to singing in the liturgy.  Even the prayers are said in a musical tone.  Therefore, the choir substituting community, found in some Eastern Churches, like  the Syro-Malabar Church, is entirely a new phenomenon.  Very often the hymns are sung alternating the stanzas between the celebrants and the choir (community) or between two groups of the choir (community) itself.  As community singing is the norm, the melodies are always simple.

2.1.9        Role of the Holy Spirit

 

The pneumatology of the East is well-known.  The importance attached to the epiclesis in the Eucharistic celebration, and in the blessing of the oil and water in baptism are concrete examples of this pneumatological emphasis.  The deprecative (declarative) formula in Baptism (‘you are baptized’) and Penance (‘you are forgiven’) are other examples.

2.1.10    Icons and Statues

 

The Eastern Churches prefer icons to statues.  In the Indian Eastern Churches, however, the statues need not be a taboo. The Indian religious culture has both statues and mural pictures. (The icons of the Eastern Churches are not the same as the pictures of the Indian tradition). Today the Syro-Malabar churches have more statues than icons.  The influence of the Western Church is evident in this development.

2.1.11    Communion of Saints and  Liturgy

 

The Church is not simply a place where the faithful worship God.  In a typical Eastern church we find the faithful going from one icon of saints to another, venerating and kissing them, and sometimes lighting a candle before them to express the ‘communion of saints’.  The icons are often the figures of the Old Testament and the Fathers of the Church.  Their great devotion to the dead too is noteworthy. The prayers and hymns in the liturgy bear ample witness to this devotion.

2.1.12    Construction of the Church Building

 

Vatican II, while referring to the construction of the churches for worship, remarks:  ‘When churches are built, let great care be taken that they be suitable for the celebration of liturgical services and for the active participation of the faithful’ (SC 124). The Eastern Churches have been always very careful in keeping the norms regarding the construction of the churches.  Each Individual Church has her own understanding of worship and worship symbols, and the churches were constructed accordingly. The setting up of the sanctuary, altar, tabernacle, ambo, choir and baptistery must be helpful to reveal this understanding.

Here below is described one model of church construction practiced in the East Syrian tradition.  Of course, this construction needs adaptations according to the needs of today and the availability of space.

The inside of the church consists of three parts, namely the sanctuary, the choir and the nave.  The choir is constructed one step above the nave, between the sanctuary and the nave.  This is to show that the choir represents the angels who sing glories of God in heaven.  The sanctuary built three steps above the choir symbolizes the Holy of Holies, the heavenly abode.

On both sides of the altar, a table each is put, one to prepare the bread and the other for the chalice. This is mainly not to allow the gifts to be prepared on the altar that represents the ‘sepulchre’ of Lord Jesus.

A veil is put between the choir and the sanctuary.  It separates the Holy of Holies (the mysteries) from the rest of the church building. (As a veil is put in front of the tabernacle when the Eucharist is preserved, a veil is put before the sanctuary to recall the mysteries being celebrated inside the sanctuary).

The ambo is placed in the middle of the nave.  The ambo is not simply a lectern.  It is a fixed platform called the bema on which are arranged a table for placing the candles, the cross etc., and two lecterns for the Old Testament and the New Testament readings, and  chairs for the celebrants.  The liturgy of the Word in the midst of the people (in the nave) is interpreted as Jesus coming to the people to proclaim his Word.

The tabernacle is placed on one side of the sanctuary and the baptistery on the other side.  The closeness of the baptistery to the sanctuary is understood to emphazise the relationship between the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist as  sacraments of Christian initiation.

The symbolic set-up of the East Syrian tradition has the influence of Jerusalem temple.  As a matter of fact, it is well-known that this tradition had close contacts with, and high influence of semitic tradition.  Since the Syro-Malabar liturgy belongs to the East Syrian family, she too is supposed to follow these liturgical settings.  But, due to the demands of modern pastoral situations, some changes had to be made in this arrangement.  For example, the place of the liturgy of the Word (bema) is now arranged just in front of the nave, instead of in the middle.  Since the community singing is preferred, the role of the choir has faded away to a certain extent.  The choir occupying the place one step above the nave has almost disappeared. The custom of the Mass facing the people, now prevalent in many dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church, has put in question the relevance of the veil between the sanctuary and the choir.

However, one thing is certain.  Whatever the structure of the church and its settings, the church building should be such that it is conducive to worship and active participation, and that it should evoke a sense of the sacred and the mysteries celebrated.

2.1.13    Altar as a Symbol of Jesus’ Sepulchre

 

There are at least two main symbolisms expressed by the altar.  According to one, the altar symbolizes the ‘table’ of the Last Supper.  The other is the symbol of the ‘sepulchre’ of Lord Jesus.  The Easterners in general prefer the latter symbolism.  The prayer in the Syro-Malabar Qurbana bidding farewell to the altar after the holy Mass clearly expresses this symbolism.  The prayer runs as follows: “Praise to the altar of sanctification. Praise to you the sepulchre of Our Lord.  May the holy Qurbana that I have received from you, be for me unto the forgiveness of my debts and the remission of my sins.  I know not whether I shall come again to offer another sacrifice”.

The deposition of the gifts on the altar at offertory too alludes to this symbolism.  The celebrant after raising the paten and the chalice in the form of a cross, recalling the death of Christ, places them on the altar which symbolizes the sepulchre.  He thus commemorates the ‘burial’ of the Lord, and then covers the offerings with a sacred veil to recall the ‘tombstone’.  For this reason the Eastern altars are generally covered on all four sides.

2.1.14    Fermented Bread and the Eucharistic Celebration

 

Many Eastern Churches use the fermented bread for the Eucharist.  It is a break from the Jewish tradition of unfermented bread used for their Paschal Meal.  Some Easterners interpret the fermentation as a symbol of the ‘living’ bread that gives remission of sins and eternal life.  However, some Eastern Churches, including the Syro-Malabar Church, have switched on to the unfermented bread for practical reasons.  The Syro-Malankara Church continues to use the fermented bread.

2.1.15    Structure of the Anaphoral Prayers

 

When the ancient Roman Rite was using only one anaphora (Roman Anaphora), the Eastern Churches produced a number of anaphorae. The Antiochian tradition, and hence the Syro-Malankara Church, has over 70 anaphorae, though some of them have been lost or are only fragmentary.  The East Syrian tradition, and hence the Syro-Malabar Church, is said to have had about 10 anaphorae.  At present it has only three.

There is an important difference between the Western and the Eastern anaphorae. While the West was satisfied with one anaphora, it had a number of Prefaces according to the liturgical seasons and feasts.  As the East does not have the so-called ‘Preface’, it multiplied the anaphorae.  While the Eastern anaphorae try to cover the main events of salvation history as a whole, the Western anaphora concentrates just on one particular event in its Preface.

The Syro-Malabar anaphora has four cycles of prayers, each cycle consisting of four prayers.  The first cycle of prayers is Theological in content thanking God the Father for His great mercies towards humankind.  The second cycle is Trinitarian  thanking the Holy Trinity for creation.  The third cycle of prayers is Christological recalling the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the institution of the holy Eucharist.  The fourth and  last cycle is Pneumatological or epicletic asking the Holy Spirit to come down and to sanctify and perfect the celebration.  The anaphora then concludes with a final doxology.

The Syro-Malankara anaphora has a total of 66 prayers of which 33 are fixed, symbolizing the 33 years of the life of Christ in this world. These prayers include the Institution Narrative, Epiclesis, prayers of thanksgiving, propitiation etc., and six intercessory prayers –  for the living and  the dead.

 

 

2.1.16  Concept of Concelebration

 

In general, the concept of concelebration in the East is different from that of the West.  A theological basis of the Western understanding of concelebration may be traced in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II.  It shows the “unity of the priesthood” (SC 57).  There are Catholic Eastern Churches (eg. Syro-Malabar Church) which follows this understanding of concelebration).

In the Eastern perspective in general, the priest-celebrant represents Jesus Christ the High Priest who offers the sacrifice.  In this understanding, the other priests are only ‘assisting’ him, and not ‘concelebrating’ with him.  Hence all prayers of the anaphora are to be said by the main celebrant alone, and they are not to be distributed among the concelebrants.  In this understanding, the gospel has to be proclaimed by the main celebrant himself, and not by the concelebrants or the deacon as in the Latin West.

Co-consecration by the concelebrants is found in the West already in the 7th century Ordo Romanus III. The earliest Eastern practice is that of a Byzantine rubric book of 10th century. This text is a witness to the concelebration with only priests, without a Bishop.

Today there are various modes of concelebration in the Eastern tradition. The Armenians have it only for episcopal and priestly ordination. Among the Catholic Copts and Maronites there is verbal consecration by the concelebrants, whereas among the Orthodox Copts, the consecratory prayers are said only by the main celebrant. The Syrian Catholics and Orthodox have the so-called “synchronized” Mass, that is, each concelebrant has his own bread and chalice, and he joins the chief celebrant at the main altar by synchronizing his prayers and gestures.  In the Byzantine tradition there are various forms of concelebration.  There are those who practice verbal consecration by the concelebrants, and those who allow the main celebrant alone to utter the consecratory prayers. The Orthodox Byzantines normally have concelebration only when the bishop is present.  If only priests are present, one becomes the main celebrant, and others assist modo laico without sacred vestments.

According to the ancient East Syrian tradition, the priest who is ‘chosen’ to be the main celebrant alone says the consecratory prayers.  The other priests ‘assist’ him uttering some prayers of the pre-anaphoral and post-anaphoral parts. The Syro-Malabar liturgy which belongs to the East Syrian tradition, however, is now following verbal consecration by the concelebrants, though the main celebrant is given certain privileges.

2.1.17  Symbolism of East: Mass facing the Altar/People

 

Facing the East in prayer has been a universal tradition of Christian liturgies. Didascalia Apostolorum (3rd century) says: ‘Indeed it is required that you pray toward the East, as knowing that which is written: “Give thanks to God who rides upon the heaven of heavens toward the East”’. The symbolic significance of the East is based mainly on the rising sun. Christians considered it as a symbol of Christ. The symbolism of the East is supported also by the texts in the Bible. Paradise is said to be in the East (Gen 2:8). God’s glory comes from the East (Ezek 43:2). St. Augustine, Origen, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Clement of Alexandria and St. John Damascene have mentioned the importance of prayer turning to the East.

For Christians, facing the East points to the eschatological hope. The East is symbolized as the place where the Lord will appear on the last day (Mt 24:30). Thus facing the East during prayers symbolizes the waiting for the Lord. It is a journey towards the heaven of the pilgrim Church. For these reasons the Eastern Churches – both Catholic and Orthodox – continue to face the East (for various reasons the ‘East’ is now symbolized also by the ‘Cross’ or the ‘Altar’) during the prayers, especially at the Eucharistic celebration.

But there are the Eastern faithful, especially in the Syro-Malabar Church, who prefer to face the congregation during the holy Qurbana. They are influenced by the Vatican II liturgical reforms and the practice in the Latin Church. After Vatican II, there was a conscious attempt to bring the liturgy closer to the people. One consequence of this move was to bring the ‘high altar’ to the people. Many consider it useful for active participation of the people. They are supported by the following arguments:

– God is present symbolically not only in the East, but also in the middle (midst). The monks who faced each other while praying experienced God in their midst.

– It brings about the symbolism of the Last Supper.

– It is not wrong that the priest who is alter Christus faces the people.

– Every celebration of the Mass is a turning to both God and the community.

– Facing the people is helpful to express better the ministerial priesthood of the celebrant and the common priesthood of the people.

2.1.18  Role of the Deacons in the Liturgical Celebration

 

The institution of permanent diaconate has never been absent in the Eastern Churches, though in practice there were only a few of them in both Orthodox and Catholic traditions of the recent past.  Today there are attempts to revive it.

The deacon has an indispensable role to play all throughout the liturgical celebration.  So much so, there are Eastern Churches that do not celebrate the holy Mass if a deacon is not available.  Some other Churches, like the Syro-Malabar Church, make use of the services of altar boys today in the place of the deacons.  Historically, the Syro-Malabar Church too had married deacons in the parishes to assist the priests in the liturgy.  It may be recalled that many Eastern Churches also had deaconesses to assist the priests, especially at the baptism of women.  The main duty of the deacon is to assist the celebrant and to help the people for active participation by means of exhortations and announcements during the liturgy.

2.1.19   Divine Office as the Prayer of the Church

According to the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, the Oriental clerics and religious are to celebrate the Divine Office in accordance with the prescriptions and traditions of their Church sui iuris. It is recommended also to the lay people. This is attested also by the ancient practice. Even now, many churches continue the common recitation of the Divine Office with the faithful in the parish churches and monasteries. As for the clerics, it is an obligatory prayer according to the Code of Canons (CCEO 377).

2.1.20    Liturgical Year in the Eastern Understanding

The Liturgical Year in the Christian Orient must be seen in the background of Hebrew Liturgical Year. The Jews had arranged their Liturgical Year in four cycles: Daily Cycle, Weekly Cycle, Monthly Cycle and Annual Cycle.

The Daily Cycle consists of the morning and evening prayers. The Weekly Cycle is organized around Sabbath. The Monthly Cycle is based on the twelve lunations (light of the moon around the earth) of the year. The Annual Cycle based on three feasts, is of greater importance for us since it leads to the understanding of the Christian liturgical year.

The three feasts of the Annual Cycle are the feasts of the Unleavened Bread, Harvest and Ingathering (Ex 33:14-17; 34:18-23). These three feasts were agricultural celebrations of the Jews. In course of time, they were made ‘soteriological’ with the new awareness they had in the course of history. Consequently, they changed the names of the feasts giving them new meaning. Thus the feast of the Unleavened Bread became the feast of Passover, remembering their passage from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of Canaan. The feast of Harvest was renamed the feast of Weeks and they commemorated the closing day of Exodus. The feast of Ingathering was called the feast of Tabernacles to recall their days in the desert when Yahweh lived with His people in the tents (Lev 23:4-36; Deut 16:1-17).

The Christian Liturgical Year in the East was inspired to a great extent by the Hebrew Liturgical Year. But in the Christian perspective, the only yardstick was the Lord of history, Jesus Christ. Thus for Christians, the feast of Passover became the feast of the Lamb of God and the feast of Weeks the feast of Pentecost commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit. The feast of Tabernacles became the final stage of the liturgical year, the Eternal Bliss (Parousia).

The following are the four pillars on which the Eastern Liturgical Year is built up: Easter, Sunday, Temporal Cycle and Sanctoral Cycle. When we examine the Temporal Cycle of the East, we come across six important ‘moments’ of the liturgical year. They are:

(i)                 Epiphany (January 6): It commemorates the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan and the revelation of the Holy Trinity. Before the 25th of December became  Christmas Day, Epiphany was considered also as the day of Nativity.

(ii)               Transfiguration (August 6): As in the Epiphany, in the Transfiguration too there is the manifestation of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, it is a very important feast for the Eastern Churches.

(iii)             Exaltation of the Cross (September 14):  The veneration of the Cross is an important liturgical manifestation of the Eastern tradition. Hence the liturgical year dedicates a period for its veneration (Period of the Cross).

(iv)             Resurrection: All other ‘moments’ of the liturgical year are centred around the mystery of Resurrection. It is the mystery par excellence. It is the Day of the Lord. This mystery is commemorated on Sundays in the Weekly Cycle.

(v)               Pentecost: This may be considered as the culminating moment of the Paschal mystery. The renowned Eastern pneumatology is based on this Pentecostal theme.

(vi)             Parousia:  It is the final stage of the liturgical year. The Eastern liturgies give emphasis to this theme since all look forward to the Second Coming of the Lord – Maranatha!

The Syro-Malabar Liturgical Year may be examined to understand the application of the above mentioned six ‘moments’. It consists of 9 liturgical periods, each having a name and a theme. The prayers, hymns and the scriptural readings are arranged according to the spirit of the liturgical seasons. Each season commemorates a mystery of our salvation realized in Jesus Christ. The 9 periods and the mysteries celebrated are the following:

(i)                 Annunciation:  The mystery of Incarnation. This period has four Sundays.

(ii)               Nativity:  The mystery of Incarnation is continued. It has 1 or 2 Sundays.

(iii)             Epiphany:  The mystery of the Revelation of the Holy Trinity. It can have 5 to 8 Sundays depending upon the date of Easter.

(iv)             Lent:  The mystery of the Passion of Christ. It has always 7 Sundays.

(v)               Resurrection:  The mystery of Redemption. It has 7 Sundays.

(vi)             Apostle:  The mystery of the Power of the Holy Spirit. The period starts on the feast of Pentecost. It has 7 Sundays.

(vii)           Kaitha (Summer):  The mystery of the Growth of the Church. This period is called “summer” since, after the preaching of the apostles, there will be ‘summer’, that is, the growth of the Church. 7 Sundays.

(viii)         Elijah CrossMoses:  The mystery of the Second Coming of Christ. There is a traditional belief that Elijah and Moses would be present with Christ on the day of Judgement. That is why these two names are given along with the Cross (= Christ). It can have up to 11 Sundays depending upon the date of Easter.

(ix)             Dedication of the Church:  The mystery of the Heavenly Bliss. It has 4 Sundays.

Thus the Syro-Malabar liturgical year begins with the period of Annunciation which culminates with the birth of Christ (Nativity). Then Christ manifests himself on the day of his baptism (Epiphany). After this he begins his public life announcing the Good News, but had to suffer, and finally he was crucified (Lent). But that was not his end. He rose from the dead (Resurrection) and sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. After receiving the Holy Spirit, the apostles went about preaching the Good News (Apostle). As a result, the Church began to grow (Summer). The pilgrimage of the Church comes to an end on the day of Final Judgement (Elijah-Cross-Moses). And on the last day, the chosen ones will enjoy the eternal bliss (Dedication of the Church). In this way the liturgical year helps people to make the pilgrimage in the Church along with Christ from Annunciation to Parousia..

Besides the Temporal Cycle of the liturgical year centred on the life of Christ, there is also the Sanctoral Cycle commemorating the saints. Though there are feasts of saints on fixed dates ( June 29 for Sts. Peter and Paul, July 3 for St. Thomas etc.), the Easterners also have the tradition of celebrating the feasts of saints according to the seasons of the liturgical year. Thus the period of Annunciation is an appropriate time to recall Virgin Mary’s role in the salvation history. The period of Epiphany which recalls the public life of Christ, commemorates the great figures like St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Stephen etc. The period of Summer is the most apt time to recall the martyrs who shed their blood for the growth of the Church.

2.1.21    Eschatological dimension

 

 The liturgical prayers, especially those of the holy Mass, reveal a profound expectation of the second coming of Christ. One looks eagerly to the Lord who comes. Therefore, the final blessing of the Eucharistic celebration almost always refers to this theme. One of the final blessings of the Syro-Malabar Qurabana ends as follows: “May we, who joyfully participated in these glorious, life-giving and divine mysteries, be crowned with glory”.  And in another blessing, the celebrant prays that may Christ “make us worthy of the glory of his kingdom, eternal happiness with his holy angels, and joy in his divine presence”.

2.2               Theological Characteristics

 

Pluriformity in theology is an accepted fact, provided they are complementary, and not contradictory. In this respect, Eastern theology has some special features, which, in some cases, are different from the Western perspective. As the Vatican II decree on Ecumenism remarks, “[I]n the study of the revealed truth East and West have used  different methods and approaches in understanding and confessing divine things. It is hardly surprising, then, if sometimes one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed them better. In such cases, these various theological formulations are often to be considered complementary rather than conflicting” (UR 17). Referring to this statement of Vatican II, Pope John Paul II notes: “I listen to the Churches of the East, which I know are living interpreters of the treasure of tradition they preserve. In contemplating it, before my eyes appear elements of great significance for a fuller and more thorough understanding of the Christian experience” (Oriental Lumen, 5). Among these elements the Pope especially mentions the following:

–          An original way of living their relationship with the Saviour, Lord Jesus Christ.

–          The respect they show towards the act of worship, especially the Eucharistic liturgy.

–          Their rootedness in the culture.

 Eastern theology does not pretend to solve all the paradoxes. It is divine and human, traditional and progressive, other-worldly and this-worldly, structured and free, and systematic and mystical. The following are some of its characteristics.

2.2.1        It is Scriptural

 Eastern theology is the fruit of meditation on the Word of God. For the theologians of the East, more important is what God has done for us, than who God is in Himself. Therefore, the basis of Eastern theology is the economy of salvation. As the Bible contains what this economy reveals, theology is primarily scriptural. In other words, theology is an interpretation of the Bible. This does not however mean that the East ignores the modern tools of form criticism, exegesis etc. As the Vatican II decree on Ecumenism notes, ‘with regard to the authentic theological tradition of the East, we must recognize that they are admirably rooted in Holy Scripture, are fostered and are given expression in liturgical life, are nourished by the living tradition of the apostles and by the works of their Fathers and spiritual writers of the East’ (UR 17).

2.2.2        It is Liturgical

 ‘Rule of prayer is the rule of faith’. Liturgy is in fact a celebration of Revelation. Therefore, the liturgy is not simply one among many sources of theology. It is locus theologicus. Rarely do we find the Western theologians quoting liturgical texts to substantiate their arguments. On the contrary, the Eastern theologians often refer to them as they consider the liturgical texts as source books.

2.2.3        It is Doxological

 Doxology is said to be the ‘grammar’ of theology. The doxological nature of theology is a consequence of its liturgical characteristic. Precisely for this reason, the Divine Office with its psalms and hymns, and the other liturgical texts, especially the holy Mass with their praise and thanksgiving, are of great importance in the Eastern Churches. Consequently, liturgy is a main source of their devotion and spirituality than the popular devotions.

2.2.4        It is Typological

 The preferred method of interpretation of the Sacred Scripture in the East is typology. The typological exegesis of St. Ephrem is widely known. An example is the pierced side of Christ, and the blood and water pouring out of it (John 19:34). The ‘blood’ and ‘water’ point to the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism. Another example is Adam’s side from where Eve comes forth. As Adam’s side is to Eve, so is Christ’s side to the Church. Breathing by Jesus on the apostles in the Upper Room with the words “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22) is compared to God’s breathing of life into the nostrils of Adam (Gen 2:7). Here the aim of the exegesis is to bring out the “hidden” mystery.

 Eastern theology understands the Sacred Scripture at two levels of meaning: An ‘historical-external’ meaning and a ‘spiritual-internal’ meaning. The Eastern theologians in general prefer to bring out the spiritual-internal meaning using the language of symbols.

2.2.5        It is Symbolic

  As against the rationalistic method of definitions, Eastern theology employs the method of symbols. The problem with definitions, which has foundation in pure philosophy, is that they put ‘boundaries’ to the defined reality. They try to contain what is ‘uncontainable’. They  put limits to the ‘unlimited’. In order to avoid this risk, the East, as far as possible, tries to evade logical systematization and categorization, and uses symbols and poetry. St. Ephrem is very famous for rendering theology into poetry. As we know, images and symbols are basic to human experience, and they are prior to philosophical categorization. The mountains as abode of God, and fire as the symbol of the Divinity are examples of this understanding.

2.2.6        It is Iconic

 Eastern theology is more akin to art than science. This leads to iconic theology. The basis of this theology is Incarnation, a spirituality of conforming oneself to Christ, and thus becoming an icon (image) of Christ. Genesis 1:27 (‘God created man in His image’) is its biblical basis. Christ is Father’s icon (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:12; Heb 1:3).

The purpose of the Eastern icon is multiple: symbolic, didactic, catechetical, kerygmatic, liturgical and aesthetic. Therefore, an iconographer has to be a God-fearing and devout Christian who shares the faith of the Church.A theologian’s task is that of an iconographer. Both are engaged in proclaiming their faith. The icons make visible what is invisible. What Scripture expresses through words, the icons express through colours. Hence we can call it ‘visual theology’. The icons are said to be of great help to the less sophisticated people to deepen their faith and Christian life. As Gregory the Great says, Scripture is for the educated and the icons are for the less educated.

2.2.7        It is Ecclesial

 In the Eastern understanding, a theologian is a “person of the Church” (an ecclesial person) who shares the faith of the Church and that of the people of God. He is not ‘above’ other believers. One has to live faith not only in the Church, but also with the Church. Therefore, genuine theology is possible only in communion with the Church, the Body of Christ, because Christian faith is “faith with the Church”. Consequently, Eastern theology is also “pastoral”, that is, addressed to the faithful rather than to the scholars.

2.2.8        It is Pastoral

 In the first millennium of Christianity, especially in the pre-medieval Patristic period, theology was for life, both in the East and the West. Thus it was dogmatic as well as pastoral. But, by the second millennium, especially after scholastic theology, it became more an academic affair. It became philosophical, clear, concrete and concise. It became analytical with divisions and subdivisions, with definitions and distinctions, with objections and replies. Vatican II, however, rediscovered the pastoral dimension of theology to a certain extent. The good of the faithful (‘bonum fidelium’) is by now an important aspect in theological discussions. The flexibility and diversity in the Eastern theology is due to this pastoral concern.

2.2.9        It is Apophatic

 Eastern theology is a mixture of mysticism, asceticism, monasticism etc. In the Eastern tradition, there is no sharp distinction between theology and mysticism, between the dogma affirmed by the Church and the contemplative experience of the divine mysteries. Theology is, in fact, more an experience (anubhava). It is not knowing something about God, but having God in oneself. The focus of mystical understanding is not to know that God is unchanging essence and immutable, but somehow participating in the mysteries of God. Mysticism helps to appropriate this mystery in a conscious experience.

Theology and monasticism too are closely related. The monastic life in the East is meant to be a life of radical commitment of witness to the eschatological life. In the Eastern understanding, monasticism is something inherent in the life of every Christian, and not an exclusive ‘charism’ of the monks. Fasting, penance and ascetical practices are part and parcel of this life-style. They are not merely seasonal or occasional acts of a Christian. A true theologian, therefore, has to be, to a certain degree, both a mystic and a monk.

2.2.10    It is Eschatological

 Historical criticism, legal aspects and compartmentalization are not the main concerns of Eastern theology. Even authority is understood more in terms of communion than as a legal superior. The whole Christian life is directed towards the search for the Absolute which creates an eschatological tension.

2.2.11    It is Pneumatocentric

 Eastern theology is centred on the mystery of the Holy Spirit. It is, so to say, epicletic. The deprecative or declarative formula in Baptism (‘Your are baptized’ instead of ‘I baptize you’) and Penance (‘You are forgiven’ instead of ‘I absolve you’), and epiclesis as a crucial moment in the Eucharistic anaphora are examples of this pneumatocentricism in Eastern theology.

2.2.12    It is Ecumenical

 For a long time, the Eastern Catholic Churches were de facto excluded from all direct dialogue with their Orthodox brethren. Ecumenical dialogue was considered to be a prerogative of the Western Roman Church. However, Vatican II reminded the Eastern Catholics of their special duty to enter into dialogue with the separated Eastern brethren (OE 24).

Eastern theology is more ecumenical than apologetic. Theology has to see the other not as an opponent, but as a partner. This is all the more important for the Catholic Eastern Churches as they have to hold dialogue with their separated brethren. Therefore, an Instruction of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches gave the following directive to all the Catholic Eastern Churches: ‘In every effort of liturgical renewal the practice of the Orthodox brethren should be taken into account, knowing it, respecting it and distancing from it as little as possible so as not to increase the existing separation, but rather intensifying efforts in view of eventual adaptations, maturing and working together’ (1996 Instruction, No.21).

2.2.13    It is Contextual

 The Eastern Churches have always tried to identify themselves with the local culture. The praiseworthy practice of inculturation that took place in these Churches shows how they grew imbibing the culture of the place.

2.3            Spiritual Characteristics   

Christian tradition has various sources to nurture the spiritual life of its faithful. Each Individual Church has developed, besides common features of Eastern spirituality, her own means to deepen the faith experience. We shall see here below some of these features of the Eastern tradition.

2.3.1        Spiritual Life centred on Liturgy

 The liturgy, especially the Eucharist, is the founding element of Eastern spirituality. For every community of believers, liturgy is the “summit and source” of Christian life. However, history shows that the Eastern Churches have maintained, in a special way, the primacy of the liturgy as the summit of Christian spirituality, remaining faithful to the apostolic period and the spirit of the Patristic period. The whole life of the Church is, in a way, summarized in the liturgy. This is the reason why the Eastern Churches have less popular devotions compared to the Western tradition.

2.3.2        A Profound Sense of the Sacred

The apophatic dimension of the liturgy which expresses the sense of unworthiness of human beings before the unfathomable nature of the Divinity is to elicit a sense of the sacred in the devotee. The expressions like awe-inspiring mystery (mysterium tremendum), the use of the sanctuary veil, prayers revealing the unworthiness of the celebrant etc. are indicative of it.

2.3.3        Ascetical Practices as a Source of Spirituality

The Christian East has a rigorous discipline with regard to fasts and penance. They have a number of days during the year devoted to fasting. According to the St. Thomas tradition of Kerala, almost half the days of the year were days of fasting. They abstained from meat, fish, egg and milk products on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year. Though some of these rigorous practices have now disappeared, they still attach great importance to these practices as a means of spiritual growth.

2.3.4        Mysticism and Monasticism

 Mysticism and monasticism are not exclusive to the monks. Every Christian is, to a certain extent, a mystic and a monk. In the East, monasticism was not seen merely as a separate condition proper to a precise category of Christians, but rather as a reference point for all the baptized according to the gifts offered to each by the Lord. It is, so to say, a symbolic synthesis of Christianity (cf. Orientale Lumen, 9).

2.3.5        Cult of the Icons

 The icons are not merely  reminders of some persons or events of salvation history. They are means to reflect over the mysteries of God and the Church to deepen the spirituality of the faithful. For some Easterners they are almost equal to the sacraments as they make visible the hidden mysteries to nourish their faith.

2.3.6        Importance given to the Cross

 Veneration of the Cross is an important source of Eastern spirituality. Eastern faithful make the sign of the cross on themselves on a number of occasions during the liturgical celebration. The bishops carry a hand-cross with which they bless the people, and the people express their obeisance to the bishops by showing veneration to the cross being carried by them. The feast of Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) is therefore a central one in the Eastern liturgical calendar.

2.3.7        Devotion to the Virgin Mary

 There is no Eastern church – Catholic or Orthodox – that does not have an icon or statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is highly venerated in the churches and at home. A good number of ancient churches are dedicated to her. But she is often depicted with the Child Jesus in her hands to emphazise the Christological nature of Marian devotion. There are special feasts in honour of Mary, especially among the womenfolk.

2.3.8        Popular Devotions

The Eastern Churches have their own traditional popular devotions which are more individual than communitarian. The veneration of the Cross, icons and relics, the use of candles, incensing etc. are some of them. Very often these expressions of popular piety are linked to their liturgical life. This may be the reason why many of the Western devotional practices did not develop in the Eastern Churches. However, due to close contact with the Latin Church, some Western devotions, especially the Rosary and the Way of the Cross, are freely accepted by some Catholic Eastern Churches, and they have, in fact, enriched their spirituality.

2.4            Juridical Characteristics

 

All the Catholic Eastern Churches are governed by the Roman Pontiff and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. In addition, each Individual Church has her own Particular Laws. In certain matters, each eparchy is free to formulate its own local laws. The importance given to the local church is one of the fundamental reasons for this multiplicity of laws and regulations.

2.4.1        Synod of Bishops and its Functioning

 The Eastern Synod of Bishops is different in structure and functioning from the Bishops’ Conference of the Latin Church. It is different also from the Synod of Bishops occasionally convened in Rome by the Pope. The Synod of the Eastern Churches is a juridical body, and the bishops are bound by the serious obligation to attend the same whenever it is convoked. If a bishop is unable to participate in it for a just impediment, he is to submit his reasons to the synod. The synod is to decide upon the legitimacy of the impediment. After the opening of the synod no bishop is allowed to leave the sessions of the synod unless it is for a just reason approved by the synod. The synod has the authority to elect and transfer bishops, bifurcate eparchies, and approve liturgical texts. But their decisions need the recognitio (approval) of the Holy See. The decisions of the synod are binding on all the bishops and the eparchies.

2.4.2        Four Categories of the Catholic Eastern Churches

 The 22 Catholic Eastern Churches are divided into four categories. The Churches having a Patriarch as its head, are called “Patriarchal Churches”. There are 6 Patriarchal Churches. They are the following: Coptic (1824), West Syrian, Melkite, Maronite, Chaldean (1553) and Armenian (1742).

The second category is called “Major Archiepiscopal Churches” of which the head is called Major Archbishop. There are 4 Churches under this category. They are: Ukranian (1963), Syro-Malabar (1992), Syro-Malankara (2005) and Romanian (2005).

The third is “Metropolitan Churches” having one archdiocese and other dioceses. The archbishop of the archdiocese will be head of that Church, and he is called Metropolitan. The 2 Metropolitan Churches are the Ethiopean and the Ruthanian.

The rest of the Individual Churches – 10 of them – are called “Other sui iuris Churches”. These are Churches having no proper hierarchy, and hence are unable to convoke a synod as other Eastern Churches. They come under the direct pastoral guidance of the Pope.

There are a couple of differences between a Patriarch and a Major Archbishop, though both have equal rights and obligations in their respective Churches as their heads. One difference is with regard to the honour given to them. Between the two, the Patriarch has precedence of honour in relation to the Major Archbishop. The other difference is more serious. When the Synod of Bishops of a Major Archiepiscopal Church elects their head – the Major Archbishop -, he requires “confirmation’ of the Pope to become the Major Archbishop. In other words, the Pope can ask the synod to elect another person if he is not ready to confirm the person elected. On the other hand, in the election of a Patriarch, all that is required is “ecclesiastical communion” with the Roman Pontiff by means of a letter signed in Patriarch’s own hand.

2.4.3        Respect for Customs

 Custom is said to be the best interpreter of law (CCEO 1508). Normally a custom obtains the force of law only when it has been legitimately observed for thirty continuous and complete years. This is so because the Church wants to respect the practices rooted in the life of the people. This again shows the importance given to the local church.

2.4.4        Pragmatism and Flexibility

 The Eastern Churches have Common Laws (CCEO), Particular Laws (enacted by the Synods) and Eparchial Laws. Besides these laws, there are also local customs. Consequently, in the application of the laws, there is room for flexibility depending upon the local traditions. This pragmatic approach is to respond to the concrete pastoral needs.

2.4.5        Religious ‘Obligations’

 The ‘obligation’ as understood in the West, generally speaking, is not an Eastern feature. Even ‘Sunday obligation’ to attend Mass was not strictly practised by many Eastern Churches in the past. Of course, Sunday, the Day of the Lord, is a ‘Holy Day’, a day of sanctification. It can be sanctified not only by attending Mass, but also by praying the Divine Office. In one of the documents of the Greek Catholic Church, we read something as follows: ‘The precept of divine worship on Sundays and feast days is to be observed. Those who neglect it sins more or less gravely according to the degree of negligence. However, this precept can be fulfilled also by participating in the Divine Office’. As of today, most of the Catholic Eastern Churches practise ‘Sunday obligation’ by participating in the Eucharistic celebration.

CHAPTER THREE

 EASTERN THEOLOGY

 

In this Chapter we shall deal with the sources of Eastern theology, the method of theologizing in the East and some selected themes of theology.

3.1 The Sources of Eastern Theology

 

The East has a variety of sources which influence its theology.

3.1.1 Scared Scripture: The Bible is considered to be the most sublime expression of God’s revelation. Hence it is the primary source of theology.

3.1.2 Liturgy: The rule of prayer is the rule of faith (Lex orandi lex credendi). Faith is expressed not in dogmatic terms, but in liturgical celebrations. The uninterrupted continuity of the Church is manifested in her liturgy.

3.1.3 Ecumenical Councils and Creeds: In a broad sense, we may call it Tradition. The Councils and Creeds are expressions of the faith of the Church in history and tradition.[ The Orthodox accept only the first seven Councils, namely Nicaea (325), Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680-681) and Nicaea II (787)].

3.1.4 Fathers of the Church: The Fathers of the Church are guardians of the mind of the apostles and the ancient Church. Though the Fathers did not have the charism of “inspiration”, they had the charism of “interpretation”. Their writings are an inexhaustible spring, faithful and true, that irrigate the Christian imagination with the life-giving water flowing from the biblical and spiritual sources of the faith. [The Western Catholic tradition has restricted the Fathers to the period of Isidore of Seville (+636) and the Eastern Catholic tradition to John of Damascus (+749). But the Orthodox believe that such a restriction would be tantamount to saying that the Holy Spirit  has deserted the Church].

3.1.5 Canons: Canons are the norms drawn up by the ecumenical and local Councils on the discipline and organization of the Church. The East sees a relationship between the dogmas and the canons. Accordingly, the canons apply the dogmas to practical Christian life.

3.1.6 Icons: Icons are considered to be a way of God’s revelation to man. The spiritual world is exteriorized through the icons. Therefore, the Easterners expect a practising Christian to paint the icons.

3.1.7 Other Sources: To the above mentioned sources we may add also other elements like monasticism, asceticism, mysticism, martyrology, spiritual writers, and practices of fasting, penance and abstinence which have some influence on the theological thinking of the East.

 

3.2 Theologizing in the Eastern Tradition

 

The Easterners make a distinction between theology and theological teaching. Theology is existential experience of God, whereas theological teaching is the scientific exposition of the experiential knowledge of God. In this sense, every practising Christian is a ‘theologian’. A ‘professional’ theologian is one who is capable of articulating the faith of the Church, and also who helps others to live it.

The eternal bliss in heaven, as understood in the East, is not the vision of the Essence of God, but “deification”, the “union” with the Holy Trinity. This union with God is not in his “Essence”, but in his “Energy”, that is ‘Grace’. What Western theology calls ‘supernatural’ is understood as ‘divine energy’ in the East. In short, theology in the East is not an academic exercise, but the outcome of a lived experience of God. Their theological method is more doxological than intellectual; it is more poetical than logical; it is more apophatic than cataphatic.

In theologizing, therefore, the East employs the so-called ‘apophatic way’ or the ‘negative way’. They try to know God in what He is not. It is very similar to the Indian way of ‘neti, neti’. Since God is a transcendent reality, man with his limitedness is incapable of fully comprehending Him. Therefore, philosophizing on the concept of God is not very effective. Precisely for this reason, God is called the ‘Invisible’, the ‘Incomprehensible’, the ‘Unfathomable’, the ‘Indescribable’, the ‘Beyond’, and the ‘Other’. As Pseudo-Dionisius (AD 500) says, the knowledge about God can be described as “knowing through unknowing”. The more man grows in the knowledge of God, the more he perceives him as an inaccessible mystery. This should not be confused with an obscure mysticism in which man loses himself in enigmatic, impersonal realities. On the contrary, the Christians of the East turn to God uttering a solemn, humble and majestic doxology (cf. Orientale Lumen, 17). They look at theology in its synthetical content, as a spiritual experience. This type of theology is called ‘apophatic theology’.

Apophatism’ literally means ‘negation’. In the Old Testament the Jews were afraid of using the name of God, and thus for them God was YHWH (= I am Who am). As St. John says, ‘no one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart who has made him known’ (John 1:18). According to Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386), the nature of God is known to God alone. Man can know it in so far as it is made known to man by God Himself. For Gregory Nazianzen (329-389) God is a relationship. The nature and essence of God are like an ocean – an ocean whose depth and limits cannot be determined. In this regard, there is a famous saying of Karl Rahner. It runs as follows: ‘My aim is not to teach about a God who can be fully understood by all. Instead, my aim is to teach that it is not possible to fully comprehend God with our intellect. God whom we are searching for is the same God who is looking at us’.

But, if this principle of apophatic theology is not properly understood and applied, one could be led to a denial of God Himself. Against this danger the Fathers like Gregory of Nyssa turned to mysticism  where one meets God in a personal relationship, that is, in the realm of “I-Thou” relationship. In this understanding, God is “known” to me “personally”. This approach is not ‘negative’, but positive or affirmative, and hence is called ‘cataphatic’. Here the invisible and unfathomable becomes ‘close’ to me. The ultimate consequence of this approach is a “mystical union” with God.

This way of ‘union’ takes us to the very meaning of Incarnation. In Incarnation the divinity takes human nature. The transcendent is made immanent. Revelation becomes an encounter and a communion.

The Eastern theology makes a distinction between  ‘Essence’ and ‘Energy’ in God. The apophatic approach is applied to the Essence of God because the Essence of God is unknowable to humans. Energy is the “acts” of God or His “grace”. In the mystical union, one comes into communion with God in His Energy (grace) and not in His Essence.

Here there is another danger. The knowledge of God depends upon one’s ‘personal encounter’. It is more of a ‘subjective’ nature, and not objective. If the encounter with God does not take place in one’s life, God does not exist ‘for’ him/her. Here we need to note that the ‘personal’ encounter is not an ‘individualistic’ encounter. A Christian is not an ‘island’. Being a member of the Church and an organ of a Body, a Christian is in a ‘sacramental fellowship’ with his/her brothers and sisters. Thus the ‘personal’ encounter with God takes place as a member of the Body of the Church and not simply as an individual.As St. Paul says, the true progress in faith is not coming to know God, but rather to be known by him (Gal 3:9). Though the transcendent God became immanent in Creation, in His presence in the history of Israel, and finally in Incarnation, he remains beyond all human knowing and beyond all human discourse.

The East has a two-directional way of speaking about God. An example is the Holy Spirit having two functions in the Church: He brings the Church to Christ, and Christ to the Church. This insight is the underlying principle of consecratory and communion epiclesis in the holy Mass. The Spirit is invoked to transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ (that is, to bring Christ to the Church – consecratory epiclesis), and on the congregation (that is, to bring the Church to Christ – communion epiclesis).

Theology in the East, therefore, is not dogmatic assertions imposed on the people of God, rather it is truth gradually revealed in the Church through the personal encounter of the members of the Church. A true theologian is one who has a genuine experience of God and who helps the people to live their faith without falling into errors.

3.3    Some Themes of Eastern Theology

 

3.3.1        Creation

 

Creation of the world is out of nothing (ex nihilo). It is a free and gratuitous act of God. The analysis of the Creed reminds us of the role of the Holy Trinity in Creation. Thus the Father is the ‘Creator of Haven and Earth’; the Son is the one ‘Through whom all things were created’ and the Holy Spirit is the ‘Creator of life’.

In the East Syrian anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari we have a reference to the

Holy Trinity as the Creator. It reads: “Father, Son and Holy Spirit! The adorable name of Your most blessed Trinity is worthy of honour from every mouth, thanksgiving from every tongue, and praise from every creature. For, in Your great kindness You created the world and everything in it”. In this Eastern perspective, the Son and the Holy Spirit are “co-Creators” with the Father.

3.3.2        Original Sin

Misusing freedom Adam disobeyed God. Consequently, a new form of existence appeared in the world –  of disease and death. This is extended to Adam’s descendants. The members of the Church too inherit the consequences of Adam’s Fall. As the Church is the mystical Body of Christ, and the baptized persons are the organs of this Body, when one suffers all others also suffer. The Catholics and the Orthodox agree up to this point.

The Orthodox theology goes further. Adam sinned, they hold, not from the height of his full knowledge, but out of his simplicity and not so perfect knowledge of things. They also hold that the descendants of Adam automatically got his corruption and mortality, but not his guilt. They become guilty only when they imitate Adam with their free will. According to them, after the Fall, the ‘image’ of God in man is distorted and not destroyed. They admit, however, that the sin has created a barrier between God and man. This barrier can be broken only with the grace of God and not simply by man’s own efforts. Hence they too admit the need of God’s grace to be saved.

3.3.3        Incarnation and Deification

 

Despite the sin of man, the divine philanthropy is not withdrawn by God. The eternal plan of God – the salvation of man through the Incarnation of Christ – continues to invite man to get united with Him because the ultimate aim of man is ‘to become’ God, that is, Deification or Divinization. As St. Athanasius says, ‘God became man so that man may become God’. This concept is based on the understanding that man is created in the ‘image’ of God.

In the Western thinking, man is free to sin, but he will be punished. Only grace can save him. Hence he looks forward to his “justification”. The East, on the other hand, thinks in terms of reunion or communion with God (Deification). Therefore, the Church is seen not merely as a mediator of grace which has authority over the faithful to give guarantee on doctrines, but more as a place where man experiences this divine communion.

Deification is not pantheism. As we have already noted, the Eastern theology makes a distinction between Essence and Energy in God. Communion of man with God is in His Energy (grace) and not in Essence.  In other words, man does not become “God” by nature but by grace.

Deification is a process to be accomplished through love of God and neighbour. The full deification will take place on the Last Day.

3.3.4        Holy Trinity

 

The whole frame of Eastern theology is Trinitarian. There is a difference in the approaches of the East and the West in the understanding of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The West presupposes God’s unity in three Persons whereas the East begins from the three Persons to reach unity in Godhead. Thus in the Western approach, oneness in nature is primary and difference in Persons is only secondary. The East reaches unity of the Godhead from the distinction of the three Persons of the Trinity.

The Eastern approach is in conformity with the Bible. ‘In the beginning was the Word’, ‘the Word was with God’ and ‘the Word became flesh’ (John 1:1,14). And again, ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever’ (John 14:16). And ‘when the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf’ (John 15:26). Though the three Persons in the Godhead are related among themselves, in the unfolding of the Salvation History they are distinct. Thus the Father is the source, Son the procreated  (by the Father) and the Holy Spirit is the One who proceeds (from the Father). As St. Basil says, Father is the source, Son the manifestation and Holy Spirit the force that manifests.

When the Western theology emphasizes the concept of one Essence for the Persons of the Trinity, the East places empahsis on the Tri-Personality. Hence the East prefers to speak about God in concrete: God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob; God of Jesus Christ etc.

One of the contributions of the twentieth century theology is the Trinity as the foundation of the theology of the communion of Churches – Trinity as the foundation of ecclesiology. From a theological point of view, the Church is more a communion than an institution governed by the hierarchy. The communion in the Trinity is ontological . The terms like consubstantiality, hypostatic union etc. are used to make this idea clear. Unlike ontological communion in the Trinity, the communion among the Churches is vital and dynamic. This vitality originates from the communion of different persons inspired by the Spirit of the Lord.

Vatican II sees the Church as a result of Trinitarian procession. The Church shines forth as a ‘people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (LG 4). In the words of J. Tillard, the Universal Church is a ‘Communion of communions’.

The structure of the Bishops’ Synod in the Eastern tradition is based on the Trinitarian theology. The Bishops “walk together” (= synod) as a body. Even the head of the synod (Patriarch, Major Archbishop, Metropolitan) cannot take decisions for the Church independent of the members of the synod.

The theology of the communion of Churches does not harm the Petrine ministry. In fact, it emphasizes it. The Roman Pontiff is the guardian of this communion.

3.3.5        Filioque (And from  the Son)

 

The ‘Filioque controversy’ is practically the consequence of the Trinitarian theology. It was added to the Nicene Creed for the first time in the Council Toledo (AD 589). By this addition the West wanted to fight the Arian heresy and affirm the divinity of Christ. In Rome it was added to the Creed by Pope Benedict VIII in AD 1014.

The objection of the East to the addition of Filioque is that it reduces the divine Persons of the Father and the Son to a mere relation, that is, the Father and the Son are two in relation to each other, but one in relation to the Holy Spirit. Instead, the East holds that the Father is to be considered as the only source of both the Son and the Holy Spirit. Otherwise the concept of Tri-Personality – three distinct persons in Trinity – will be destroyed. In other words, while the West emphasizes the unity of Essence in the three Persons of the Trinity, the East places emphasis on the Person of the Father from whom the other Persons originate. The East objects to its addition also on the ground that the West changed the decision of the ecumenical council of Nicaea (AD 325) unilaterally without consulting the Eastern Churches.

The West quotes St. Augustine: ‘Why then should we not believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son since he is the Spirit of the Son? If he did not proceed from him, after his resurrection, he would not have breathed on his apostles saying: Receive the Holy Spirit. What then does breathing mean, but that the Holy Spirit proceeds from him too’? The West argues that if there are three Persons in the Trinity, then there should be some relationship among them. Thus there is paternity between the Father and the Son, and procession between the Father and the Holy Spirit as well as between the Son and the Holy Spirit. In Essence all three Persons are equal. The difference is only in their relationship.

Some Orthodox theologians are prepared to admit Filioque as an opinion, but reject it as a theological principle because it would mean that there are two sources (originating principles) in Godhead.

The Council of Florence (1438-45) tried to mitigate the expression saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. The Council based its arguments on Gal 4:6, Rom 8:9 (Spirit of the Son); Mt 10:20 (Spirit of the Father); John 16:13-15 (All that Father has is mine); John 15:26, John 16:17 (The Counsellor whom I shall send to you from the Father) etc. Later the Council of Trent (AD 1545 – 63) made it obligatory for the Latin Church to confess the Creed with the addition of Filioque. However, this obligatory nature was not binding on the Eastern Churches.

 

There are some Orthodox theologians who subscribe to the expression ‘Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through or after the Son’, considering the whole issue as a question of language and not of content. The Syro-Malabar Church has put Filioque in brackets, and has left it optional.

3.3.6        Christology

 

Trinity is one Nature and three Persons. Christ is a single Person with two Natures. The divinity and humanity are united in Christ.

The Christology of Eastern thought is characterized by the following elements:

(i)                 Christ is the Saviour of the world. Its basis is the confession of Peter in Mt 16:16: ‘You are Christ, Son of the living God’. The fallen humanity is saved not through any intermediary created by God, but by God Himself, becoming man.

(ii)               Christ is Emmanuel (=God with us). The Eastern Fathers see two supreme moments in the ‘human’ (incarnated) life of Christ: His incarnation and death on the cross.

(iii)             Christ is fully God and fully Man. Christ is consubstantial with the Father by his divinity and is consubstantial with man in his humanity. Thus in Christ there are two consubstantialities making him true God and true man. One does not absorb the other. They are not ‘mixed up’. But there is an inter-penetration between them.

(iv)             The Church is the Body of Christ. Christ restored unity of all humanity with himself. This restoration is not ‘automatic’. It requires free human cooperation and communion of the believers within the assembly of the Church. This assembly is realized most meaningfully in the Eucharistic celebration.

3.3.7        Pneumatology

 

The Holy Spirit is understood as the Person of the Godhead who restores the original status of innocence to humans. Therefore, the role of the Holy Spirit is very important in the celebration of the sacraments, and the life and activities of the Church.

In the Eastern perspective, the Holy Spirit is not only a Gift but also a Giver. The role of  God’s Spirit in Creation (Gen 1:2), in the ‘new creation’ when Jesus was conceived in the womb of Virgin Mary (Lk 1:35) and at Pentecost as an anticipation of Parousia (Acts 2:17) are important pneumatological themes in the Eastern theology.

The works of Christ and the Holy Spirit are complementary and reciprocal. Christ’s work of redemption cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification. As St. Athanasius says, ‘The Word took flesh that we might receive the Spirit’.

 

 

3.3.8        Eschatology

 

The Catholic Eastern view on eschatology is practically similar to that of Western Catholic theology. It has the same understanding on Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Prayer for the dead, Particular Judgement and Final Judgement.

Among the Orthodox there are diverse opinions about the Last Things. Though they do not follow the Catholic understanding of Purgatory, they seem to think that all the dead await in a middle state till the day of Final Judgement. This applies also to the saints (unlike the Catholic position). However, they do pray for the dead. So also, they do request the intercession of the saints.

There are also Orthodox theologians who refuse to discuss eschatological questions saying that it is not for humans to know about God’s plan on after-life.

3.3.9        Grace and Will

 

There is a special union between the grace of God and the free will of man. The term used to explain this union is “synergy” (=cooperation). This means that the grace of God and the will of man have to work together. Of course, God’s cooperation is far superior to man’s. A classical example of this synergy is Mary’s Fiat (Lk 1:38). This idea of synergy is expressed in I Cor 3:9 where St. Paul says that we are God’s “fellow workers”. Another example is Rev 3:20: ‘If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me’.

According to Cyril of Jerusalem, it is for God to shower His grace and it is up to man to receive it and guard it. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, God never draws anyone to Himself by force and violence.

3.3.10    Man

 

The concept of man in Orthodox theology is not the same as the Catholic understanding. According to the Orthodox, as do Catholics, man is created ‘in the image of God’. But they make a distinction between “image” and “likeness”. ‘Image’ indicates rationality and freedom, whereas ‘likeness’ means assimilation to God through virtues. The image  enables man to know God and to be in communion with him. It is a gift of God. ‘Likeness’ is achieved through man’s own efforts assisted by grace. By committing sin Adam lost his ‘likeness’ and not the ‘image’.

The Orthodox hold that man was perfect at creation not in actual sense, but only in potentia. He will become perfect only when he acquires the likeness through his own choices assisted by God’s grace. This position contradicts St. Augustine’s according to which Adam had reached the point of perfection.

3.3.11    Ecclesiology

In ecclesiology the Eastern theology has always given emphasis to the community nature of the Church rather than to its juridical aspect. The ecclesiological aspects are in fact presupposed  in the theological reflection. The Church, being a ‘worshipping community’, is the place where a Christian experiences his/her ‘life in Christ’. Foremost among the ecclesiological presuppositions is the awareness they have about the apostolic foundation of their individual Churches. The Church is apostolic in more than one sense. The apostolicity is related to the Christocentricity of the Church because Christ is the only true head of the Church. Therefore, ecclesiology is not merely an appendix to Christology. The diversity of the Individual Churches has also basis in the apostolicity. The diversity of Christic experience of the apostles is carried down to the ecclesial traditions.

Another ecclesiological presupposition is, as mentioned above, the perception of the Church as a communion (koinonia) rather than as an institution. The communion of the Trinity is the foundation of this ecclesial communion.

In the early Patristic thought, the Church is cosmic and eschatological. That is, the  Church is the ‘mystery of new creation’ and also the ‘mystery of the kingdom’. Therefore, more than the aspect of institution, emphasis is on the ‘sacramentality’ of the Church. In other words, the Church is the ‘epiphany’ (manifestation) of the kingdom in this world. The liturgy is one of the principal means to become aware of this cosmic and eschatological dimension of the Church.

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On the hierarchical structure of the Church, apostolic succession, intercession of the saints, episcopate and priesthood, infallibility and the universal jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, the Eastern Catholics have the same views as that of the Western Catholic Church. As for the Orthodox, they disagree on the infallibility and the universal jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff.

The Eastern ecclesiology has various images about the Church:

(i)                 Church is the image of the Holy Trinity: As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united into one Godhead, the baptized believers are united into one Body, the Church. And, as there are three Persons in the Holy Trinity, there are various Individual Churches in the universal Church.

(ii)               Church is the Body of Christ:  The Church is the extension of Christ in space and time. As various organs are united into one body, we are all untied into the Body of Christ, the Church. This communion reaches its climax in the Eucharist since the Church is a ‘sacramental community of worship’. The Church is the mystical body in so far as she is the Eucharistic body.

(iii)             Church is a continued Pentecost: Where the Church is, there is the Holy Spirit; where the Holy Spirit is, there is also the Church. Jesus has in fact promised that he would send the Spirit who would be with us always (John 14:15 ff.)

Regarding the nature and the characteristics of the Church, the Eastern theology has the following to say:

(i)                 Unity and Infallibility: Unity in God justifies the unity in the Church. But his unity is not manifested in a juridical organization, but in the celebration of the Eucharist. Therefore, one who is not in communion with the Church is outside the Church. Unity of the Bishops in the synod too has the same basis. Hence a Bishop who is not in communion with his fellow Bishops too is ‘outside’ the synod! The Church is infallible because of her relationship with God. Since the Church is the image of the Holy Trinity, Body of Christ and a continued Pentecost she is infallible.

(ii)               Church as an Ark of Salvation: Extra ecclesia nulla salus. The Church as an image of the ‘Ark of Noah’ is guided by ‘Christ the steersman’ is an expression of St. Ephrem. St. Cyprian says that a man cannot have God as his Father, if he does not have the Church as his Mother. This does not mean that everyone who is visibly in the Church is necessarily saved. As St. Augustine asks: ‘How many seeps there are without and how many wolves within’?

(iii)             Apostolic Succession: St. Cyprian says that the Church is the people of God united with the Bishop. He also says that if one is not with the Bishop, he ceases to be in the Church. However, the Orthodox understanding of the role of the Bishop is slightly different from that of the Catholics. Accordingly, the Bishop is not placed over the people. His authority is fundamentally the authority of the Church. Practically he is a holder of an office in the Church for the people. Regarding the teaching authority, though the traditional Orthodox believe that it rests with the hierarchy, there are modern thinkers who consider that every Christian is duty-bound to teach. However, for practical reasons this power is transferred to the Bishops.

What is more important from an Eastern perspective is to understand the Church as a charismatic community rather than as a juridical organization. Though there are ordained ministers like bishops, priests and deacons, the people of God too are priests who exercise their common priesthood. In the Orthodox understanding, the bishop is the divinely appointed teacher of faith, but the guardian of faith is every baptized Christian because proclamation of the faith is not the same as its possession. They also hold that all believers possess the Truth, but it is the duty of the bishops to formally and officially proclaim it.

3.3.12    Sacraments

 

Both Catholic and Orthodox Eastern Churches accept seven sacraments. However, among the Orthodox there is no formal decision in any Council determining the number of the sacraments. Since the Protestant reformation, number seven is generally accepted by them.

The Orthodox do not make a clear distinction between the sacraments and the sacramentals. Though, as a rule, they do not repeat the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Order, there is no clear teaching among them about the ‘indelible character’ of these three sacraments.

A basic concept in the Eastern sacramental theology is that the Church is a mystery of which the sacraments are the normal expressions. Here again, the emphasis is not on ‘validity’ and ‘liceity’, but on the Church community gathered around the bishop on which God sends His Spirit. The concept of ‘ex opere operato’ therefore, is not a serious concern of the Easterners.

(i) Baptism:  Baptism is administered either by immersion, infusion or pouring water over the head of the candidate. The formula used is deprecative or declarative, and not indicative. The oil used for Baptism is blessed  by the priest himself mixing it with the sacred oil (holy Muron) blessed by the bishop.

Baptism is considered to be an ‘ecclesial act’. Therefore, according to CCEO 683, ‘Baptism must be celebrated according to the liturgical prescriptions of the Church sui iuris in which the person to be baptized is to be enrolled’.

 

               Normally, Baptism is administered along with Confirmation and the Eucharist in order to emphasize the unity of the Sacraments of Initiation. The Eastern Churches continue to uphold the doctrine behind this unity not only in theory, but also in practice. The Eastern thinking on this is the following: Initiation is the one and the indivisible celebration of the entrance into the life of Christ and into the community that lives in him. This entrance, initiated with the first call to the faith, reaches its culminating point in the Paschal Mystery of Christ. We are thus rendered fit to participate in the banquet of the kingdom. In Baptism one is ‘reborn’ to a new life and is incorporated into the Church, in Confirmation is signed with the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit and with the reception of the Eucharist becomes in ‘full’ communion with the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

The ordinary minister of Baptism is a bishop or a priest (not a deacon). In case of urgent necessity, Baptism can be administered by any Christian faithful (but not by any person who has the requisite intention as in the Latin tradition) (cf. CCEO 677; CIC 861).

The rites of Baptism in the Eastern tradition consist of renunciation of Satan and profession of faith, laying on of hands, blessing of oil and water, pre-baptismal anointing, baptismal anointing and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. In the present understanding, the renunciation of Satan is oriented more towards the future life rather than to the past slavery to sin of the baptized. That is, it is meant more as a preparation for future fight against evil tendencies than as an exorcism. Therefore, renunciation of Satan and profession of faith go together. As the East Syrian commentator Narsai writes: ‘By renunciation and profession one is made sharer in the victory of Christ who conquered Satan’. According to Theodore of Mopsuestia, while renouncing evil, the candidates should kneel down as a sign of man’s fall and servitude, and while professing the faith, he stands up as a sign of one’s participation in the redemptive work of Christ.

The laying on of hands in Baptism is associated with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It can also mean ‘setting apart a person for the service of God’.

The blessing of oil and water has an epicletic prayer. The baptismal water is a prefiguration of the water of Jordan in which Jesus was baptized. The baptismal font is described as the “new womb” of spiritual birth into the family of the Church.

The pre-baptismal anointing is meant as a preparatory rite of purification. The baptismal anointing is for the conferring of the Holy Spirit and as a sign of life.

The giving of the lighted candle recalling Christ, the light of the world, and the giving of the white dress symbolizing the robe of purity, are later additions in the baptismal rite.

(ii)) Confirmation: The Eastern Code of Canons calls it “Chrismation”. According to CCEO 695 #1, it has to be administered along with Baptism except in a case of true necessity, in which case, however, it is to be administered as soon as possible.

The ordinary minister of Chrismation is the priest who administers it together with Baptism. The oil used is holy Muron blessed by the bishop. The holy Muron is made from the oil of olives or other plants and from aromatics. It is the right of the bishop to prepare it, and in some Churches, it is the privilege of the Patriarch or the head of the Church. Through this anointing with holy Muron, the baptized is signed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and is made witness and co-builder of the kingdom of God.

(iii) Eucharist:  The Eucharist has various names in the Christian East. Qurbana (= Offering), Qudasa (=Sanctification), Raze (=Mysteries) etc are some among them. Some Churches call it “The Divine Liturgy” since it is the focal point of Christian celebration of the faith.

 

The Easterners give greater emphasis to the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist than to its meal aspect. It is offered to the Father, Christ or Holy Trinity as the prayers of various Churches testify. The fermented bread is preferred though some Churches use the unfermented bread. Holy communion under both species is the norm, rather than an exception.

The general order of the Eucharistic liturgy is the following: Enarxis or the introductory rites, liturgy of the Word, pre-anaphoral rites, anaphora, post-anaphoral rites and the final prayers.

The introductory rite has preparatory prayers, opening chants, entry of the Gospel and Trisagion. The readings vary according the Churches. The East Syrian tradition has four readings – two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament. Among the Old Testament readings, the first is from the Pentateuch and the other from any other Book of the Old Testament. The New Testament readings consist of the Epistle and the Gospel. In between the readings, there are hymns and halleluias. It concludes with the dismissal of the catechumens. The pre-anaphoral part has the preparation of the gifts, their deposition on the altar, the formal entry of the celebrant into the sanctuary, the washing of the hands, the creed and the kiss of peace.

The anaphora, which is consecratory, has mainly three parts: the prologue with Sanctus, the consecration with the Institution Narrative and the Epiclesis, and the prayers of Intercession.

The post-anaphoral part consists of elevation, fraction, rite of reconciliation, confession of faith before holy communion (sancta sanctis) and holy communion.

The holy Qurbana concludes with the prayers of thanksgiving, the final blessing and the farewell prayer.

The Eucharist, in the first place, is understood as a mystery. The Syriac tradition prefers the term “Mysteries” (Raze) for the Eucharistic celebration. The East looks at the Eucharist as “mystery” in which the faithful united with the bishop, have access to God the Father through the Son, the Word made flesh, who suffered and was glorified, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For them the Eucharist is the ‘seed of immortality’ (Gregory of Nyssa).

The Church is basically the people of God who are gathered together to listen to the Word and to break the Bread. There are three elements here: Assembly, Eucharist and Church. They are inseparable. There is no Eucharist without the Church and vice versa.

A close examination of the Eastern Eucharistic theology will reveal that it is mostly a theology “prayed in the Church”. That is, the very celebration of the Eucharist and an active participation in it forned the core of Eucharistic theology. It is an “experience” celebrated in the Church and lived in the world. Therefore, the Eucharist has to be understood as the sacrament of the Church. To reduce the Eucharist to a multiplicity of artificially isolated elements like sacrifice, sacrament, communion etc is not an Eastern perspective. Since the Eucharist is the anamnesis of the whole salvific action of God celebrated with praise and thanksgiving, any theology not having the Eucharist as the foundation of its whole structure is basically defective.

The anaphora or the Eucharistic prayer is said to be the “main” part of the Eucharistic celebration. It was first in the West through Scholastic theology, and by imitation also in the East, that the anaphora became the “main” part of the Eucharist. Soon it was reduced to just one single moment of “Consecration” or “Transubstantiation”. This approach gradually deprived the Eucharistic celebration of its coherence as a comprehensive celebration of various parts. To put it bluntly, the question was: “How” does the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ., rather than “What” happens to the Eucharistic species. The difference between these two approaches is important. Here the basic thrust changes from an eschatological dimension to an ecclesiological one. Consequently, the whole question gets centred on Transubstantiation, the moment of consecration. In this regard the West turned more towards the Words of Institution and the East towards the Epiclesis. From an Eastern perspective, however, the understanding of the Eucharist cannot be narrowed down to one or two moments. All parts are essential, but not equal, since each is related to the others organically in one sacramental structure. In fact, one part makes the next possible and meaningful. (For example, the Syro-Malabar Qurbana which begins with an invitation to celebrate the mystery as commanded by the Lord, goes on to commemorate his birth, passion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and the second coming).

The Eastern tradition in general considers the whole of the anaphora comprising the Words of Institution and the Epiclesis as consecratory. But there is the case of the anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari, used by the Chaldeans, the Syro-Malabarians and the Assyrians, that did not have the Words of Institution in its original. Though the Catholic Chaldeans and the Syro-Malabarians use this anaphora with the Words of Institution, the non-Catholic Assyrians continue to use it without them. It has been a stumbling block in the ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church. In an historical agreement (October 2001) between these Churches, the Catholic Church accepted the anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari without the Words of Institution as a valid Anaphora. The question that immediately arises here is the following: Can there be an anaphora without “consecration”? The obvious answer is an emphatic ‘NO’. But, here the basic question to be answered is: What is meant by “consecration”? Is it the Words of  Institution” Or, Epiclesis? Or, both?

One of the first considerations of Rome to accept this anaphora without the Words of Institution was that it was one of the most ancient anaphorae of Christian tradition, and hence it is part of the common Tradition of Christendom. Secondly, the content of the anaphora has virtual links to the Words of Institution of the Eucharist, the Last Supper, the sacrifice of Christ and the oblation of the Church. Thirdly, the Assyrian Church is a ‘sister-Church’ with apostolic succession and she has been consistently following the true nature of the Eucharist as a sacrifice and the Eucharistic bread and wine as the true Body and Blood of Christ. And finally, though the anaphora of Mar Addai and Mar Mari has not reproduced the Words of Institution ad litteram, the content of the Institution is found in the euchological prayers.

In this context it is useful to recall the distinction between the theologia prima and theologia secunda. The former is the lex orandi – the faith expressed in the liturgy of the Church antecedent to the speculative questioning and dogmatic systematization. The latter is the systematic reflection on the lived mystery in the Church. The Words of Institution as a moment of consecration is a systematic and dogmatic expression of the faith. On the contrary, the language of theologia prima is more typological and metaphysical than scholastic and systematic. In other words, it is symbolic and evocative, and not philosophical and ontological.

The transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is definitely an integral part of the understanding of the Eucharist in both Western and Eastern theology. But the approach in its interpretation is not the same. While the West is concerned more about substance and accident, matter and form, validity and liceity, and Transubstantiation, the concern of the East is the “reality” of Christ’s Body and Blood. The philosophical questions can only lead to disputes, and eventually take us away from the essentials of the Eucharist. What St. Paul says is true: ‘The cup we bless is a participation in the Blood of Christ and the bread we break is a sharing in the Body of Christ’ (I Cor 10:16).

The Orthodox prefer to use the term “sacramental change” (metabole) in the place of Transubstantiation.  And some modern theologians in the West use terms like Transignification and Transfinalization for the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

(iv)  Penance:   The practice of sacramental absolution of sins in the Catholic Eastern Churches is regulated by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches which is similar to that of the Latin Code, except in some details. The individual confession and absolution is the ordinary means to obtain the forgiveness of sins though general absolution is allowed in particular situations as enunciated in the Code of Canons. The rules governing the confessional seal, reservation of sins, faculty to administer the sacrament of penance etc are almost the same as in the Latin Code.

Regarding the ‘obligation’ of confession, the rule is that the one who is aware of serious sins is to receive the sacrament of penance as soon as possible. It is strongly recommended that the faithful receive this sacrament frequently, especially during the times of fasts and penance observed in their own Church sui iuris.

The formula used for absolution is deprecative or declarative, thereby emphasizing the role of God in forgiving the sins.

Among the Orthodox this sacrament is understood more as a spiritual healing than as a ‘juridical absolution’.

(v) Anointing of the Sick:  Already from the 4th century we have evidence of some sort of a healing ceremony in the Christian East. The Apostolic Constitutions (4th century) has a prayer for blessing the oil for the sick. However, this sacrament does not seem to have developed  into a full-fledged ceremony in the East as in the West.

It is practically a prayer of healing for the Orthodox. In some Orthodox Churches it is administered also as a preparation for great liturgical feasts (eg. Wednesday of the Holy Week).

It is reported that the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala had an indigenous form of anointing the sick before the arrival of the Latin missionaries in the 16th century. They used to take some soil from the tomb of St. Thomas in Madras-Mylapore, and mix it with water for anointing the sick.

(vi) Holy Orders:  The Eastern Churches have various grades and practices with regard to the sacrament of Holy Orders. Still we do find certain basic rites in all the Churches.

A primary symbol used in the ordination service has been the imposition of hands on the candidates. It is considered to be an epicletic gesture. The Eastern liturgy of Ordination owes much to the Apostolic Constitutions (4th century). According to this document, the ordained are to minister at the altar of the Lord, thereby emphasizing their priestly duty. Symbolically the bishop occupies the place of the Father, the priest that of Christ, and the deacons of the apostles. The ceremony of placing the open Gospel book upon the head or the shoulders of the bishop-elect too appears in this document. This is to show that the bishop is the official bearer and proclaimer of the Gospel. The anointing with the sacred oil is not necessarily an integral part of the Eastern practice, though some traditions have it.

In the Eastern Churches there is a distinction between Ordination and the ecclesiastical dignity such as Chorepiscopus and Archdeacon. So also, there is a distinction between the Major and Minor Orders. From a liturgical point of view, the latter distinction is not very clear although the imposition of hands is generally excluded from the Minor Orders. Still we find the imposition of hands in the Minor Orders of the East Syrian, Armenian, Maronite and Coptic rituals. It is actually the formula of prayer that clarifies the Order conferred, and not the gesture of imposition. The liturgical solemnity is higher according to the grade of Order conferred. The basic structure of Ordination, namely the imposition of hands with the accompanying prayers, the putting on of the sacred vestments and the kiss of peace, is still being continued in all the Churches.

All Churches have three Major Orders: Diaconate, Priesthood and Episcopate. The Minor Orders vary according to the Rites. The Byzantines have Lectorate and Sub-diaconate; the Antiochians (Syro-Malankarites) Singer, Lectorate and Sub-diaconate; the East Syrians (Syro-Malabarians) Lectorate and Sub-diaconate.

In the Eastern tradition, the deacons do not have some of the rights enjoyed by the Latin deacons. As the term indicates, the Eastern Churches understand them as those who do “diakonia” (=service). Their basic duty, therefore, is to assist the bishops and the priests in the sanctuary. However, today many Eastern Churches allow the deacons to administer certain sacramentals like funeral, house blessing etc, but without the ‘blessing’ proper with the sign of the cross which is reserved to the bishops and the priests. Preaching the homily, which was reserved to the bishops and the priests, may now be done by the deacons also.

(vii)  Matrimony:    According to the Latin understanding, the ministers of matrimony are the bridegroom and the bride. The Eastern understanding is different. Accordingly, every sacrament is “given” to the candidate. Nobody administers any sacrament on oneself because a sacrament “confers” grace. One can confer only what he/she possesses. So the Church has to confer it through her officially appointed ministers. Therefore, the blessing of the priest is necessary for the validity of the marriage. For this reason, in the Syro-Malabar ritual of marriage, the priest prays for himself in the following words: O God,….strengthen me to administer worthily this sacrament that binds this bride and groom in love. Shower upon me your abundant graces”.

Another Eastern feature of the marriage ritual is the “crowning”. The bride and the groom are crowned to symbolize the eternal crown they would be gifted in the kingdom of God. This has however fallen into disuse in many Eastern Churches.

Marriage being a ceremony tied very much to the cultural sensibilities of the people, it has many local elements. For example, the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala have the tying of Thali or Minnu around the neck of the bride. She is also given Pudava or Saree by the bridegroom.

3.3.13    Mariology

 

In the Catholic and Orthodox Eastern traditions, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most exalted among the creatures. She is the Mother of God. She is all holy and ever Virgin. There is no church in the Christian East without an icon of Mary. However, the “popular” devotions in honour of Mary as understood in the West are not common among them.

The approach of the East towards Mary is biblical in nature and liturgical in devotion. The Syriac East employs symbolic-poetic methodology to explain the different aspects of Mary’s role in the history of salvation. We may not find dogmatic assertions in this approach. What we find in it is a ‘wondering at with admiration’ depicting Mary as the most beautiful and faithful daughter of David in whom the Son of God resided.

The main Marian themes of the East are her divine Motherhood, her perpetual Virginity, her role in the redemptive work of Christ, her Assumption into heaven and her intercession. Therefore, they commemorate the feast of Annunciation (25 March), Immaculate Conception (8 December), Birth of Mary (8 September), Assumption (15 August) etc. According to a Syrian liturgical calendar of 1689, the feast of Annunciation has to be celebrated even if it falls on Good Friday because Annunciation is the beginning and the source of all other feasts.

As regards Immaculate Conception and her Assumption into heaven, the Orthodox do agree with the “content” of them. But they have difficulties to accept them as ‘dogmas’ as the Catholics do. It is worthy of note that the Syriac East started celebrating the feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven from the 5th century. This feast is known as Dormition (= falling asleep) of Mary or Transitus (= transit). In fact, in the definition of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1854) and of her Assumption into Heaven (1950), the age-old testimony of the Eastern Churches had a prominent influence.

The Western Marian devotional practices have definitely influenced the Eastern Catholics to a great extent. Therefore, the Marian devotion of Rosary, devotion to Our Lady of Dolours, Perpetual Succour, Immaculate Heart of Mary etc. have found a place in their spirituality. The most prominent among them is Rosary.

3.3.14    Laity

The lay people have always played an important role in the life of the Eastern Churches. In the non-Catholic Eastern tradition their participation even in the episcopal election has not disappeared everywhere. In the Orthodox Churches there are many lay theologians of international reputation. The ordination of married men to permanent diaconate is a common feature among them.

In the tradition of the St. Thomas Christians of India, lay people enjoyed power not only in the temporal administration of the Church, but also in spiritual matters. For example, lay people were involved in the ex-communication of an individual from the Church community. The decisions concerning the community were taken by the Church assembly called Palliyogam. The laity had a say in the choice of the parish priests also. They were chosen from among the parishioners themselves. So much so, the parish priests were selected by the people, from the people and for the people. This democratic way of life-style prompted the Western missionaries to call the St. Thomas Christian tradition a “Christian Republic”. Thus examining their socio-ecclesial life, one could say that they were practising a ‘theology of communion’. Adapting local marriage customs, the rites of birth and death, and indigenous art and architecture, they were living an implicit ‘theology of incarnation’ also.

The Vatican II understanding of Church as the “People of God” is a revered tradition in the East. History shows that the Eastern Churches of the past were “people-oriented” communities. The revival of this tradition in its full sense will help to enhance the participation of the lay people in building up the Body of Christ. While referring to the idea of a ‘participatory Church’, Pope John Paul II says that the ecclesial communion implies that each local Church becomes a community in which all live their proper vocation. There needs to have greater involvement of the laity in pastoral planning and decision making through participatory structures such as pastoral councils and parish assemblies. (Ecclesia in Asia 25). This is necessary to give the lay people their rightful place in the Church.

Conclusion

 

Asian and Indian theology will do well to imbibe Eastern theology since it goes naturally with the Asian religious ethos. Apophatism, symbolism, monasticism, experiential knowledge of God etc are some of the elements of it. The Eastern theology is helpful to quench the thirst of those who are bored with formalism and systematic categorization in theology, and can lead them to an experiential religious life. At the same time, it should not be simply tied up to the “things above” in a numinous sphere of the church architecture and awe-inspiring cultic celebrations. It has to be concerned also with the “things below”, looking at the world around it that struggles against poverty, injustice, marginalization and oppression of various sorts.

In this respect, the Western theology can be of immense help to Eastern theology. As Karl Barth said, a theologian should have the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other. In other words, Eastern theology too has to be a “theology in reaction”, a theology that reacts to the living context of the people.

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Select Bibliography

 

A. Documents

 

Congregation for Catholic Education, Circular Letter Concerning the Studies of the Oriental Churches, in L’Osservatore Romano, English Language Edition, 6 April 1987

Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Kottayam 1996 (Indian Edition)

FABC Papers No.96, Methodology: Asian Christian Theology. Doing Theology in Asia Today, Hong Kong  2000

 

Indian Theological Association (ITA), The Issue of “Rites” in the Indian Church. A Theological Reflection, in J.PARAPILLY (ed.), Theologizing in the Context. Statements of the Indian Theological Association, Bangalore 2000.

John Paul II, Letter to the Bishops of India, in Christian Orient 2 (1987)

John Paul II, Apostolic Letter “Orientale Lumen”, in L’Osservatore Romano, English Language Edition, 3 May 1995

Vatican II, Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches (Orientalium Ecclesiarum)

 

B. Books and Articles

 

Kallarangatt J., “The Trinitarian Foundation of an Ecclesiology of Communion”, in Christian Orient 1 (1980)

Koodapuzha X., Oriental Churches.  An Introduction, Kottayam 1996

Koodapuzha X. (ed.), Eastern Theological Reflection in India, Kottayam 1999

Luke K., “Oriental Theology”, in Christian Orient 4 (1988)

Madey J., Orientalium Ecclesiarum More Than Twenty Years After, Kottayam 1987

Parappally J., “Communion Among the Individual Churches”, in Vidyajyoti, November 1995

Pathil Kuncheria, “Vatican II and the Rite Question in India”, in Kunnumpuram K. – Ferdinando L., Quest for an Indian Church, Anand 1993

Vellanickal M., “Biblical Theology of the Individual Churches”, in Christian Orient 1 (1980)

Roberson R., The Eastern Christian Churches. A Brief Survey, Bangalore 2004

Maniyattu P., East Syriac Theology. An Introduction, Satna 2007

Manakatt M. – Puthenveettil J. (ed.), Syro-Malabar Theology in Context,  Kottayam 2007

Puthur B.(ed.), Inculturation and the Syro-Malabar Church, Kochi 2005

Thottakkara A., East Syrian Spirituality, Bangalore 1990

Nedungatt G., The Spirit of the Eastern Code, Bangalore 1993

Arangassery L., A Handbook on Catholic Eastern Churches, Changanassery 1999

Alencherry I., An Eastern Theology of Priesthood, New Delhi 1994

Mannooramparampil T., Theological Dimensions of Christian Orient, Kottayam 2005

Koodapuzha X., Communion of Churches, Kottayam 1993

Pallath P. (ed.), Catholic Eastern Churches. Heritage and Identity, Rome 1994

Clendenin D.B., Eastern Orthodox Theology. A Contemporary Reader, Michigan 1995

Taft R., “Eastern Catholic Theology: Slow Rebirth after a Long and Difficult Gestation”, in Eastern Catholic Journal 8/2 (2001)

Every G., Understanding Eastern Christianity, Bangalore 1978

Liesel N., The Eastern Catholic Liturgies, London 1960

Atiya A., A History of Eastern Christianity, London 1968

Attwater D., The Christian Churches of the East (2 Volumes), Milwaukee 1961

Binns J., An Introdution to the Christian Orthodox Churches, Cambridge 2002

Lossky V., The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, Cambridge 1957

Meyendorff J., Byzantine Theology. Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, New York 1974

Spislik T., The Spirituality of the Christian East. A Systematic Handbook, Kalamazoo 1986

Taft R., The Liturgy of the Hours of East and West. The Origins of the Divine Office and its Meaning for Today, Collegeville 1986