Pope Francis says, I go to confession every 15 days
- Pope Francis: God never tires of forgiving us (millennialjournal.com)
- Pope Francis: If the priest is not merciful, he should not be a confessor (silentmaj.wordpress.com)
- ‘Sinner’ Pope confesses fortnightly (bbc.co.uk)
- Dolan: Pope Francis Bringing More People to Catholicism (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
Nigooda Manna (The Hidden Bread of Life)
നിഗൂഡ മന്ന – അഭിഷേകം അഭിഷേകം ദിവ്യകാരുണ്യത്തിൻ അഭിഷേകം… (സൂപ്പർ ഹിറ്റ് അഭിഷേക ഗാനം)
New Devotional Album by
Fr Xavier Kunnupuram MCBS
Fr Xavier Kunnupuram MCBS
MCBS Minor Seminary
Kottayam – 686562
Nigooda Manna – Trailer
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.
In Judaism, God is described as father as he is said to be the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector. 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.
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”. 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.
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.
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. Many monotheists believe they can communicate with God and come closer to him through prayer – a key element of achieving communion with God.
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. For instance, after completing his monumental work Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas concluded that he had not yet begun to understand God the Father. 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“. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.” 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.” This passage clearly acknowledges the Jewish teachings on the uniqueness of God, yet also states the role of Jesus as an agent in creation. 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.
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.
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.
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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”. 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”.
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.
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”. 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. Tertullian also discussed how the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
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:
|“||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. 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. 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.
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. 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. The Father is the one who eternally begets the Son, and the Father eternally breaths the Holy Spirit.
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. Because of this, the Trinity is beyond reason and can only be known by revelation.
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. He is viewed as a loving and caring God, a Heavenly Father who is active both in the world and in people’s lives. He created all things visible and invisible in love and wisdom,<and man for his own sake.
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. 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.
The concept of fatherhood of God does appear in the Old Testament, but is not a a major theme. 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. This is manifested in the Lord’s prayer which combines the earthly needs of daily bread with the reciprocal concept of forgiveness. 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.
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. 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.”
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. Some broad definitions of Protestantism include these groups within Protestantism, but most definitions do not.
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. 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. Mormons often refer to this Council as the “Godhead” to distinguish it from the traditional Trinity. As such, the term Godhead has a different meaning than the term as used in traditional Christianity.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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). 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.
“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. Islam puts a heavy emphasis on the conceptualization of God as strictly singular (tawhid). God is unique (wahid) and inherently One (ahad), all-merciful and omnipotent. 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.
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.
God the Father in Western art
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. 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.
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.
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.
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- ^ a b Calling God “Father” by John W. Miller (Nov 1999) ISBN 0809138972 pages x-xii
- ^ a b Diana L. Eck (2003) Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras ISBN 0807073024 p. 98
- ^ a b Church Dogmatics, Vol. 2.1, Section 31: The Doctrine of God by Karl Barth (Sep 23, 2010) ISBN 0567012859 pages 15-17
- ^ Gerald J. Blidstein, 2006 Honor thy father and mother: filial responsibility in Jewish law and ethics ISBN 0-88125-862-8 page 1
- ^ 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
- ^ a b c d Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Creeds Longmans:1960, p.136; p.139; p.195 respectively
- ^ a b c Symbols of Jesus: a Christology of symbolic engagement by Robert C. Neville 2002 ISBN 0-521-00353-9 page 26
- ^ a b The Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity by Hans Köchler 1982 ISBN 3-7003-0339-4 page 38
- ^ Floyd H. Barackman, 2002 Practical Christian Theology ISBN 0-8254-2380-5 page 117
- ^ Calling God “Father” by John W. Miller (Nov 1999) ISBN 0809138972 page 51
- ^ Church Dogmatics, Vol. 2.1, Section 31: The Doctrine of God by Karl Barth (Sep 23, 2010) ISBN 0567012859 pages 73-74
- ^ Lawrence Kimbrough, 2006 Contemplating God the Father B&H Publishing ISBN 0-8054-4083-6 page 3
- ^ Thomas W. Petrisko, 2001 The Kingdom of Our Father St. Andrew’s Press ISBN 1-891903-18-7 page 8
- ^ David Bordwell, 2002, Catechism of the Catholic Church,Continuum International Publishing ISBN 978-0-86012-324-8 page 84
- ^ Catechism at the Vatican website
- ^ Calling God “Father”: Essays on the Bible, Fatherhood and Culture by John W. Miller (Nov 1999) ISBN 0809138972 pages 50-51
- ^ 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
- ^ a b Early Jewish and Christian Monotheism by Wendy North and Loren T. Stuckenbruck (May 27, 2004) ISBN 0567082938 pages 111-112
- ^ 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
- ^ 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
- ^ The Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity by Hans Köchler 1982 ISBN 3-7003-0339-4 page 38
- ^ Christian Theology: An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath (Oct 12, 2010) ISBN 1444335146 pages 237-238
- ^ 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”
- ^ a b c The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen 2004 ISBN 0801027527 pages 70-74
- ^ a b The Trinity by Roger E. Olson, Christopher Alan Hall 2002 ISBN 0802848273 pages 29-31
- ^ Tertullian, First Theologian of the West by Eric Osborn (4 Dec 2003) ISBN 0521524954 pages 116-117
- ^ Paul’s Way of Knowing by Ian W. Scott (Dec 1, 2008) ISBN 0801036097 pages 159-160
- ^ a b Pillars of Paul’s Gospel: Galatians and Romans by John F. O?Grady (May 1992) ISBN 080913327X page 162
- ^ a b c International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Mar 1982) ISBN 0802837824 pages 515-516
- ^ a b The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity by Gilles Emery O. P. and Matthew Levering (27 Oct 2011) ISBN 0199557810 page 263
- ^ Critical Terms for Religious Studies. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998. Credo Reference. 27 July 2009
- ^ a b The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology by Alan Richardson and John Bowden (Jan 1, 1983) ISBN 0664227481 page 36
- ^ Catholic catechism at the Vatican web site, items: 242 245 237
- ^ a b c God Our Father by John Koessler (Sep 13, 1999) ISBN 0802440681 page 68
- ^ Catholic Catechism items: 356 and 295 at the Vatican web site
- ^ a b c The Trinity: Global Perspectives by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Jan 17, 2007) ISBN 0664228909 pages 10-13
- ^ 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
- ^ The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1988 ISBN 0-8028-3785-9 page 571-572
- ^ a b c d The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen 2004 ISBN 0801027527 pages 37-41
- ^ Symbols of Jesus by Robert C. Neville (Feb 4, 2002) ISBN 0521003539 pages 26-27
- ^ Jesus and His Own: A Commentary on John 13-17 by Daniel B. Stevick (Apr 29, 2011) Eeardmans ISBN 0802848656 page 46
- ^ Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology by Paul Louis Metzger 2006 ISBN 0567084108 pages 36 and 43
- ^ Encyclopedia of Protestantism by J. Gordon Melton 2008 ISBN 0816077460 page 543
- ^ “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.
- ^ 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
- ^ Dahl, Paul E. (1992), “Godhead”, in Ludlow, Daniel H., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Mcmillan, pp. 552–553, ISBN 0-02-904040-X
- ^ 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.
- ^ Insight on the Scriptures. 2. 1988. p. 1019.
- ^ 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.”
- ^ 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.”
- ^ “Should you believe in the Trinity?”. The Watchtower. 1989. Retrieved 13 April 2012. “Chapter: Is God Always Superior to Jesus?”
- ^ Watchtower 1984 9/1 p. 25-30.
- ^ James Roberts – Oneness vs. Trinitarian Theology – Westland United Pentecostal Church. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
- ^ See also David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988. ISBN 0-932581-37-4 needs page num
- ^ F.E. Peters, Islam, p.4, Princeton University Press, 2003
- ^ a b Vincent J. Cornell, Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol 5, pp.3561-3562
- ^ Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes, Encyclopedia of the Quran
- ^ John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.22
- ^ John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.88
- ^ “Allah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica
- ^ Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology Set by C. Scott Littleton 2005 ISBN 0-7614-7559-1 page 908
- ^ Fundamentals of the Faith by Peter Kreeft 1988 ISBN 0-89870-202-X page 93
- ^ James Cornwell, 2009 Saints, Signs, and Symbols: The Symbolic Language of Christian Art ISBN 0-8192-2345-X page 2
- ^ Adolphe Napoléon Didron, 2003 Christian iconography: or The history of Christian art in the middle ages ISBN 0-7661-4075-X pages 169
- ^ James Cornwell, 2009 Saints, Signs, and Symbols: The Symbolic Language of Christian Art ISBN 0-8192-2345-X page 2
- ^ George Ferguson, 1996 Signs & symbols in Christian art ISBN 0-19-501432-4 page 92
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
13 – 15 June 2006
The Liturgy of the Blessings in the Syro-Malabar Church
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.
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 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:
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”. 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
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. 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.
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. 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.).
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.
‘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?’
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. The Bishops’ Conferences are authorized to take necessary steps in this regard.
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’.
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. 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” 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’. 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’. And the blessings are meant ‘for praising God through Christ in the Holy Spirit and for calling on divine help’.
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).
- Lay people may administer certain blessings because of their universal priesthood (No.18).
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.
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.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.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 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): 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.)
(vii) Various Occasions: (Home Liturgies)
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. 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”.
 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.
 No example is given in CCC. The blessing of ‘Pesaha Appam’ could be an example.
 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.
 This translation is taken from George Nedungatt, A Companion to the Eastern Code, Rome 1994, p.204.
 Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Rome 1996
 Cf. Mario Righetti, Storia Liturgica IV: Sacramenti e Sacramentali, Milano 1959, p.474
 Cf. Ibid, p. 476
 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
 Cf. Ibid, p. 399
 Cf. Elena Velkova Velkovska, Blessings in the East, in A.J.Chupungco 9ed.), Handbook for Liturgical Studies, p. 388
 Cf. Ibid, p. 384
 ICEL, Book of Blessings, Washington DC 1987, General Instructions No. 24
 Ibid, General Instructions No. 39
 Cf. Circular Letter Concerning Studies of the Oriental Churches, L’Osservatore Romano, 6 April 1987, p. 12
 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.
 G.P. Badger, Nestorians and Their Rituals, Vol. II, London 1852
 Cf. Book of Blessings, Preface, p.7.
 Book of Blessings, General Instructions, No.10.
 Ibid., No.13
 Examples: Blessing of altar, chalice, paten etc.; Jubilee celebration of marriage, Blessing of bed-ridden sick persons at home etc.
 However, when a priest or a deacon is present, the ministry of blessing should be left to them.
 Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Instruction, No.38. See above, p.3.
 See above, Footnote No.9.
 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.
 This Ritual is translated into English, but without the appendix. ‘Blessings and Prayers (Sacramentals), Denha Services, Kottayam 1990.
 Andres Torres Queiruga, Beyond Prayer of Petitions, in Concilium, 1/2006, pp.63-75.
LITURGY AND INCULTURATION
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”. 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. 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’. 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’.
This article is an attempt to point out how important is culture to express the Christian faith through liturgical celebrations.
- 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. 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.
- 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”. 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.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”. 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.
- 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”.
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”. 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.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”.
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”. 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.
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”.
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.
- 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”.
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. It responds to the deep aspiration of peoples and human communities to find their own identity ever more clearly. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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”.
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”. 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”.
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”.
 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, SC 38
 L’Osservatore Romano, 28 June 1982, p.1-8
 Jacob Manathodath, Culture, Dialogue and the Church, Intercultural Publication, New Delhi 1990, p.141.
 J.Manathodath, Culture, Dialogue and the Church, p.139
 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
 “Inculturation: How to Proceed in a Pastoral Context”, Concilium 2(1994) 120-133. Here p.122
 “Inculturation: How to Proceed in a Pastoral Context”, p.122-129
 D.S.Amalorpavadass, Inculturation is not Hinduisation but Christianization, NBCLC Bangalore 1981, p.7
 FABC-OESC, Asian Worship in Spirit and Truth, p.201-202
 Aylward Shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation, Geoffrey Chapman London 1988, p.11
 Toward a Theology of Inculturation, p.11-13
 Abscar Chupungco, Liturgical Inculturation: Sacramentals, Religiosity and Catechesis, The Liturgical Press Collegeville:MN 1992, p.30
 P.Puthanangady, Challenges of Cultures and Religions in Asia to Christian Liturgy, p.4
 A.Chupungco, Liturgical Inculturaion: Sacramentality, Religiosity and Catechesis, p.37-51
 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
 D.S. Amalorpavadass, Gospel and Culture, NBCLC Bangalore 1978, p.22
 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975) 62
 Evangelii Nuntiandi, 63
 Julian Saldanha, Inculturation, St.Paul Publication Bombay 1985, p.25-28
 For details see Antony Nariculam, “Evagelization and Inculturation Eastern Church’s Perspective”, Ishvani Documentation and Mission Digest, January-April 2000, p.95-108
 Referred to in Cyprian Illickamuri, Inculturation and Liturgy, in Antony Nariculam (ed.), Inculturation and Liturgy, Star Publications Alwaye 1992, p.85
 A.Chupungco, Liturgical Inculturation: Sacramentals, Religiosity and Catechesis, p.29
 Evangelii Nuntiandi, 63
 A.Shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation, p.41
 Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (2007) 54
MUSIC IN LITURGY
ILA MEETING, NBCLC Bangalore, 26-28 October 2007
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.
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.
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.
Alwaye 683 102
[*] 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”.