Dear respected members
I belong to Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox
Church. Here I am trying to post the Syrian Church
History of Malankara. I am not a historian, what ever I
am compiled from many documents will be posted here
in many parts. This compiled version of the history is
available in my Parish community pages.http://groups.msn.com/StGeorgeSyrianOrthodoxChurchCheppaud/pithakkanmar.msnw
More over anyone can say it is a history of Jacobite
perspective. No argument
Remember, St. Thomas came to India when so many countries of Europe had not yet become Christian, and so, those Christians who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history and a higher ancestry than that of Christians of many European countries. And, it is really a matter of pride to us that it so happened.
--Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of India (1952-62), 18 Dec. 1955, St. Thomas’ Day Celebrations, New Delhi.
It is traditionally believed that St. Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus Christ came to India in A.D. 52 and established the Church on the Malabar Coast.
Dealing with the Malabar tradation about the apostolate of St. Thomas. Msgr. Texeria,, Co-adjutor bishop of Madras, said, "The Malabar tradation is not written on hard stone or sheets of parchment, but in the hearts and memories of men, assuredly as enduring a monument as those of granite and the like".
Which is attested by West Asian writings since the 2nd century (The Doctrine of the Apostle Thomas and the Acta Thomae), both of which were written at or near Edessa ca 200-250 AD - Writers of the 4th century, St. Ephrem and St. John Chrysostom knew also about the relics of St. Thomas resting at that time in Edessa, having been brought there from India by West Asian merchants - and St. Gregorios Nazianzen, also in the 4th century; St. Jerome, ca 400 AD, and historians Eusabius ca 338 and Theodore, of the 5th century.
There is a wealth of corroborative evidence to support, and no good reason to doubt the living tradition of St. Thomas Christians that the Apostle arrived in Kodungalloor (Muziris) in Kerala in 52 AD, preached the gospel, established seven churches - Cranganore (Malankara), Chavakad (Palur), Parur near Alwaye, Gokamangalam, Niranam, Nilakkel (Chayal), Quilon (Kalyan) -, and moved on to other kingdom, returning to Madras (Mylapore) in 72 AD where he was martyred that year.
History tells that in AD 394, the relics of St.Thomas was taken to Edessa, a place that was under the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch. There it was entombed in a church built in his venerated memory. July 3 is celebrated as St.Thomas day by the Eastern Churches commemorating this hallowed event.
Though my intention is not to provide evidence of his arrival in India, a few documents may be of interest.
A Syriac document dating back to the second century A.D., "Doctrines of the Apostles", states, "India and all its own countries and those bordering on it, even to the farthest sea, received the Apostle's Hand of Priesthood from Judas Thomas, who was the Guide and Ruler in the Church which he built there and ministered there."
St. Ephrem in a hymn addressed to St. Thomas says, "Blessed art thou, whom the Great King sent that India to His Begotten thou shouldst espouse."
A hymn chanted on Thursday morning in the breviary of the Syrian Orthodox / Indian Orthodox / Syro-Malankara Church has it,
'Simon, the head of the apostles,
Paul, the appointed one of the churches,
Mar Thoma, who came to India and
The Martyrs who received the crown of glory,
Pray to Jesus that He may shower grace upon us.'
Dr.Juhanon Mor Thoma Metropolitan of Marthoma Syrian Church, concludes the Chapter on St. Thomas Tradition in his book as follows: "The History of the Christian Church in the first century does not depend entirely on historical documents. Tradition is often more true and more compelling than plain historic proof. In this sense St. Peter's founding of the Roman Church and St. Thomas founding of the Malabar Church, may be said to stand on the same footing. Both are supported by traditions which are sufficiently early and sufficiently strong".
Rev. Fr. K.K. John (Vicar, St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Church, Washigton, "Certain historians after 18 th century recorded traditional belief that St. Thomas ordained priests from four Brahmins’ families. There is no mention of having had a bishop to succeed him any time. The staggering question no one explored or answered hitherto is why apostle Thomas appointed priests only from four Brahmin families when he had established seven churches. What would have been the plight of remaining three churches? They were at fairly distant places and to reach such places were difficult considering limitations of transportation and communication facilities and state boundaries. Why Apostle Thomas did not convert from low castes and untouchables (if he did not!) or why he did not ordain priests from low castes and untouchables? I would never believe that Apostle failed to do so. This makes me conclude that none of the available history books reflects full facts and hence inconclusive and is written with ulterior intent to trace high-caste lineage".
Mr. J.C. Panjikaran in his work "The Syrian Church In Malabar" chapter 1 deals with the apostolic orgin of the Syriac Christianity in India with various arguments the auther concludes that St. Thomas the Apostal is the founder. He points to the posibility of two missionary journeyes made by the apostal touching several places in the Asian Continent. According to him the apostal might have started his first journey in A.D. 35. During this first period he preached the Gospel to the Parthins, Medes and Persians and visited the countries to the North-West of India, the Kingdoms ruled by the Indo-Parthian King Gondophares who lived before A.D 50. It could be that the apostle reached Kodungallur in A.D 52 as part of his second missionary journey. The saint suffered martydom at Calamina, which is the little Mount and tradationally known as Shinnamalai in the local language.
The first community of the Syriac Christians probably included converted Nambudhiris. As evdence for this the author cities certian Nambudhiri customes practised by the Syriac Christians (women) such as mode of wearing cloths, giving mixture of honey, ghee and gold to the newely-born child within 36 hours after birth, Annaprasanam, Pulakuli on the 10th or 11th day after the death of a person etc.
St Thomas Christians faced stiff oppositions and persecution from fundamentalist Hindus and affluent rulers and were treated as bondservants to high class Hindus, which alludes that majority of converts were from low castes. They had no civic or religious freedom. The predominant caste system also had negative ramification. Upper class converts even after conversion considered themselves superior and never treated lower class converts with equal dignity that had seriously impaired Church growth. Worship, nothing comparable to that of these days, was simply house gathering that was led by leader of the house. According to one source only sacrament known to them was Baptism and there were no priests.
By the end of 2 nd century due to these factors and many others the Church of St Thomas gradually withered and almost reached a stage of extinction. Churches in Coromandel and in North India or Afghanistan (of Gondaphorus) lost vigor and fervor in due course of time and amalgamated in Hindu culture
To be contd... Part 2 (Archdeacons Part - 1)