Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church

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Thomas Daniel (Reji):
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 :)

Part 1
St. Thomas
 
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)

Thomas Daniel (Reji):
Part 2 (Archdeacons Part - 1)

There is no proper document to show a continuous history of primitive church of St Thomas in Malabar. This is because Archbishop Menezis and later CMS missionaries destroyed all our historical records.
 
In the year 189 A.D. Pantaenus who was a missionary sent by Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria arrived in Malabar. He found a Christian group with an Aramaic version of the Gospel of St. Mathew. The visit of Pantaenus has been mentioned in the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea, and St. Jerome.
 
There is mentioned in the records of the Council of Nicea, of the presence of a Bishop John of India (A D 325, may not be from Malankara but possible that from Churches in Coromandel and in North India or Afghanistan - of Gondaphorus).
 
More clear evidence is found in the writings of Cosmas who was a merchant from Alexandria and sailed in the Indian seas in 522 A.D. He records that he had seen Christians in the Island of Taprobani (Ceylon or Srilanka) with clergy and a congregation of believers, and also in the land called Male (Malabar) where pepper grows. He has written that there the clergy are ordained by a Bishop sent from Persia. From the mention of Malabar as the place where pepper grows it is quite clear that he mentions the presence of a strong Christian community in this area in the early years of the sixth century with strong connections with the church in Persia.
 
All these shows, there was connection with the Church in the Middle East & Persia from where Bishops came and rendered spiritual ministrations and ordained priests.
 
By the end of 2 nd century due to factors mentioned earlier 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.
 
But the sorry plight was being informed to Antioch, the center of Christianity. Followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch, Acts 11. St Peter, the Head of all Apostles, established on February 22, AD 37 an ecclesiastical center for administration in Antioch, we call it Holy See, for whole Christendom. All other apostles preached Gospel, converted people and ordained presbyters (Presbyter means and includes priest and bishop) but they never established a center for administration as Peter did in Antioch. Obviously, all apostles joined Peter to establish the Holy See in Antioch. Until recently none, neither apostles nor their successors ever claimed similar or parallel arrangement. Holy Mooron was consecrated only in Jerusalem and Antioch until 4 th centuries. So it is fair to hold that the faithful in India though handful yet devout and strong made all possible efforts to inform their hapless state of affairs to the Christians in Antioch. In response to such requests from the shepherd-less Malabar Christians, Demitrius, the bishop of Alexandria, advised Pantones, according to certain sources, from school of Alexandria to visit India and he visited India in AD 190. If Dimitrius so advised it was not because he had any spiritual authority over the east but because he was requested to do so by Antioch. Antioch and Alexandria always maintained cordial relations. There were Indian students in Alexandrian school of theology. Bishop of Antioch enjoyed preeminent status all over Persia and entire east right up to China and Korea, but due to local persecutions and other restraints it was not easy to send bishops frequently to Malabar to administer Holy Mooron and sacraments.
 
Emperor Constantine’s conversion became a turning point in the history of Christendom and it opened new opportunities. Not only that persecution ended and religious freedom restored but also Christianity gained royal status. The Church was however riddled with heresies and schisms most catastrophic being the Arian heresy. Constantine convened a synod to set the heresy at rest. 318 fathers from whole Christendom met at Nicea in AD 325. After many deliberations the Arian heresy was condemned and Arius was excommunicated. The first ecumenical Nicene synod is very conspicuous that it also formulated and provided an administrative framework as the basis for the future Church.
 
The Nicene council created four Patriarchs according to four corners of earth and defined areas of authority for the first time. They were, Patriarch of Rome, also recognized as the first among the equals solely because of the preeminent status of Roman Empire, Patriarch of Alexandria, Patriarch of Constantinople and the Patriarch of Antioch who had authority over all the east. Jerusalem bishop was conferred honorary rank as the fifth Patriarch recognizing the preeminent status of Jerusalem as the place of redemptive activities of our Lord.
 
The practical aspect of this creation was also to break tie situations in case of disputes when the council was in progress. Subsequent synods ratified the decisions of the Nicene council and decided that no one shall alter decisions of the Nicene council. Thus obedience to the Nicene council is mandatory and basis for all future doctrines. Historians agree that creating the Patriarchates was not altogether a new invention of the Nicene council but ratification and authentication of the practices and privileges locally existed until then at various places.
 
Within twenty years from then the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, he took prompt action to stabilize and improve downtrodden conditions of Malabar Christians which itself is sufficient proof that he was legitimately concerned about the welfare of the Indian flock under his care (Click here).
 
As a commercial community the Christians were not very much concerned about the theological nuances of the Bishops who came from the Middle East, some “Jacobite (Orthodox)” doctrine regarding the person of Jesus Christ and some of whom were Nestorian. Faithful received the Nestorians due to mistaken identity namely, they wore same attire, spoke similar language, were conversant with Nicene Creed, were against idolatry and had semblance in the way they conducted worship. Faithful were not illuminated to distinguish the theological intricacies of complicated Christology.
 
The Persian connection of the Indian Churches has to be seen also in the context of the internal dissension and state persecution of Christians in Persia from the 5th century. A synod of the Persian Church (410 AD) affirmed the faith of Nicea and acknowledged the Metropolitan of Selucia-Ctesphion as the Catholicose of the East. Not long after, the christological controversies of Chalcedon, fuelled by the strains between the Persian and Byzantine empires, swayed the Persian Church to declare itself 'Nestorian' and its head to assume the title of Patriarch of the East (Babylon). From their base in the then flourishing theological school of Nisibis, Nestorian missionaries began moving to India, Central Asia, China and Ethiopia to teach their doctrines - probably associating with the work of St. Thomas the apostle, whom the Persians must have venerated as the founder of their own church.

To be contd... Part 2 (Archdeacons Part - 2)

Anastasios:
thanks for this info!  Keep it coming!

Thomas Daniel (Reji):
Part 3

Archdeacons (Part 2)

By the 7th century, specific references of the Indian Church began to appear in Persian records. The Metropolitan of India and the Metropolitan of China are mentioned in the consecration records of Patriarchs of The East.

There were other developments in the Persian Church of potential import to the Indian Church. A renaissance of the pre-Chalcedon faith began, led by Jacob Bardeus, emphasizing the West Syrian Christological tradition of the One United Nature, influencing the church in Persia as well. Availing the relatively equable political climate following the Arab conquest of Syria and other parts of West Asia, a Maphrianate of the anti-Chalcedonies was established by Mar Marutha, a native Persian, became the first Jacobite Maphriana (Catholicose) of the East. The jurisdiction of this Catholicose at Tigris extended to in lower Mesopotamia and further east.

On the life of the Church in India during the first 15 centuries, the balance of historical evidence and the thrust of local tradition point to its basic autonomy sustained by the core of its own faith and culture. It received with the trust and courtesy missionaries, bishops and migrants as they came from whichever Eastern Church Tigris or Babylon, Antioch or Alexandria, but not from the more distant Constantinople or Rome. There were times in this long period when the Christians in India had been without a bishop and were led by an Archdeacon. And requests were sent, sometimes with success, to one or another of the eastern prelates to help restore the episcopate in India. Meanwhile the church in Persia and much of west Asia declined by internal causes and the impact of Islam, affecting both the Nestorian Patriarchate of the East (Babylon) and the Jacobite Catholicate of the East (Tigris).

In conclusion up to the 16th century there was ecclesiastical connection between the Church in West Asia and the Church in Malabar. The Bishops who came from Babylonian Patriarchate were Nestorian. Those who came from Antioch or Catholicose of the East who was under the Jurisdiction of Antoich were Jacobite. What is certain is that the Malabar Christians and the Persian Christians had ecclesiastical connections.

H.G Paulose Mor Gregorious, a bishop of “Catholic faction of Malankara”, then remban Paul T Varghese and Principal of the Orthodox Theological seminary, Kottayam and world renowned scholar, wrote on October 9, 1968 in the "News from Seema" page 21-22, "We in India belong to this Patriarchate even if we have our own Catholicose and are autonomous. We have no other sources from which to renew our ancient tradition, except the tradition of Antioch, of the Great Syrian Church, which once had spread through the length and breadth of Asia, right up to China and Korea. It would be the height of ingratitude and most deplorable folly on our part if we grieve his hart (the Patriarch) with any world which seeks to dissociate ourselves with the patriarchate of Antioch."

Renowned historian Mr. George Varghese of Malankara Orthodox Church wrote “Malankara Sabha (an official church magazine of Malankara Orthodox Church)” “ From the time of Nicea synod till 1490 Malankara church was with Jacobite / Orthodox faith. From 1490 until the time of Udumperroer Synod, 1599, Nestorian Faith influenced Malankara. 1665 Mor Gregorious of Jerusalem reestablished the Jacobite / Orthodox faith. (The Malankara Sabha, Page 21, Issue No. 41, August 1986)

In reply to the above statement Rev. Fr. Dr. V.C. Samuel wrote, “ From 470 the Catholicate of Persia were influenced by the Nestorian Faith and by 486 it officially accepted the faith. After that by 629 only the Anthiocan Syrian Catholicate was able to reestablished in Persia (The Malankara Sabha, Page 25, Issue No. 41, October 1986).

For a true faithful there are yet sufficient evidences to show that Malankara was an archdiocese of the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch. Dr Neal says, ‘a Jacobite bishop arrived in Malankara in AD 696,’ ‘History of the Holy Eastern Church, Vol II P 88.

There is a granite cross, preserved at Santhom Madras, inscribed therein in old Palavi language, dating back to 8 th century. Translation of Dr Burnel as GM Rae certified reads, ‘Suffering of the One, true Christ and God in the Highest and ever Holy Guide, was punishment on the Cross.’ In other words, the One crucified and suffered was God. Palavi was Persian language, not Indian. Nestorians never believed the concept of suffering God. They curse those who say God suffered. So there is no possibility that a Nestorian would epitomize something, which he detests. On the other hand Jacobites do hold that Jesus Christ was God while suffering on the Cross. His Godhead did not separate from His body or soul even for a split of second- “Theopaschite theory.”

Another granite inscription - a ditto copy of the cross - written in 7 th century is kept in Kottayam Valiapally. This clearly shows that some Persian-Jacobite wrote and brought that to Malankara. Thus Malankara Church was Jacobite during 8 th century.

Bishop Mor Dionesius I presented a Syriac (Estrangleo) bible to Dr Buchanan in 1807. He preserved it at Cambridge University. The bishop said to Buchanan, ‘we kept this bible for thousand years. Now it is safer with you.’ Faithful of Mavelikara Church said to Buchanan, ‘we had bible for the past 1400  years, ’ (‘Christian Researches in Asia,’ p.137). Now the question remains whether or not the said bible was Nestorian or Jacobian. This Bible contains reading index for special occasions / festivals. St. Mary is mentioned as Theotokos, (Mariam Yeldoth Aloho). Nestorians calls her Christotokos. ‘Theotokos’ is heresy for them. This sufficiently proves that the said bible was Jacobian. If the faithful so dearly kept a Jacobite bible there is no doubt for me that those who kept it also held the same faith. Thus Malankara Church was under the patriarch of Antioch at least from the time of Syrian colonization of Malabar.

The Catholicose of Selucia who had contacts with Malabar was under the supremacy of the same patriarch. By the end of 5 th century it fell to Nestorians. Nestorians waited opportunity to sneak into Malankara as and when they got opportunity. Patriarchs after Michael Rabo and last Catholicose Barebraya were very feeble and could achieve nothing worth to record and they neglected Malankara or they assumed everything was fine. Nestorians took advantage of the situation and sneaked into Malankara. For two centuries Nestorians exerted their influence in Malankara. Buchanan records what the faithful told him, ‘whatever is your faith, our faith is undefiled because we come from land where the disciples were first called Christians,’ Christian Researches in Asia, edn 1812 p. 147. This instance would prove that the ignorant faithful received them under mistaken identity thinking that they came from the same patriarch. Please read, “Indian Church of St Thomas, by EM Philip ch 16.

According to Rev. Dr. I. Daniel Corepiscopa of Catholicose faction of Malankara Church, in his book "The Syrian Church Of Malabar" published in 1945 from Madras, writes, "Thr Syrian Church of Malbar was founded by St. Thomas. It came into close connection with the Persian Church, but this connection in its latter stage was not with the Nestorian section but with the Maphriante in Tigrith which was West Syrian Orthodoxy. Only between 1490 and 1599 the Syrian Church was in close contact with Nestorian, which however, was not due to a right understanding about the true nature of that tradation but due to mistakes. Nevertheless, the connection had not jeopardized the Orthodoxy of the Church. The Roman Catholic attempt inder the Portuguese was to bring the Syrian Church under Roman fold and event of 1653 was a total reacation against it. With the arrival of Bisop in 1665 the Syrian Church came for the first time in direct contact with the West Syrian Patriarchate which so far had been indirectly maintained through the Maphrianate of Tigrith. Trough this event the ancient Orthodox Faith of the Syrian Church was once again restored."

In the same book were he try to establish the legitimety of the 1912 Catholicate instituation, he writes, "The Syrian Church was orthodox all through the past in its history, that it was autonomous in its church administration, and the the institution of the Catholicate in 1912 in it was valid and in accordance with the true traditions found within the West Syrian Church"

Though there were such ecclesiastical connections and ministrations, the church in Malabar (Malankara) was in administration under the Archdeacons

To be contd... Part 4 (Mor Joseph of Urfa [Uraha/Edessa])

Thomas Daniel (Reji):
Part 4

(Mor Joseph of Urfa [Uraha/Edessa])

The Nicene council created four Patriarchs according to four corners of earth and defined areas of authority for the first time. They were, Patriarch of Rome, also recognized as the first among the equals solely because of the preeminent status of Roman Empire, Patriarch of Alexandria, Patriarch of Constantinople and the Patriarch of Antioch who had authority over all the east. Jerusalem bishop was conferred honorary rank as the fifth Patriarch recognizing the preeminent status of Jerusalem as the place of redemptive activities of our Lord. The practical aspect of this creation was also to break tie situations in case of disputes when the council was in progress. Subsequent synods ratified the decisions of the Nicene council and decided that no one shall alter decisions of the Nicene council. Thus obedience to the Nicene council is mandatory and basis for all future doctrines. Historians agree that creating the Patriarchates was not altogether a new invention of the Nicene council but ratification and authentication of the practices and privileges locally existed until then at various places.
 
Within twenty years from then the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, he took prompt action to stabilize and improve downtrodden conditions of Malabar Christians which itself is sufficient proof that he was legitimately concerned about the welfare of the Indian flock under his care. There was a seasoned trader called Knai Thoma who had visited Malabar Coast several times for business.

Knai Thoma expressed willingness to migrate to Malabar. He felt it expedient to escape persecution from Sapor II, Persian King. The Patriarch advised Mor Ouseph, bishop of Edessa to accompany Knai Thoma to Malabar. Knai Thoma, the bishop, two priests, two deacons and 72 families comprising four hundred members landed in Kodungallor in AD 345.

Some recent writers discredit the Syrian migration of Knai Thoma as a way to escape persecution. The chief idea was to uplift the dwindling Christianity and he did it in compliance to the request from the Patriarch. This is a golden landmark and turning point in the history of St Thomas Christians of Malabar. Knai Thoma presented valuables to the King Cheraman Perumal. King Perumal was well pleased with the newcomers and gave them freedom and many civic honors. Perumal had no difficulty to recognize the familiar face of Knai Thoma. A document written in 1604 and preserved at the British Museum says, Perumal personally greeted Knai Thomas at the port and out of respect conferred his own name on him. The King conferred 72 honors written in copper plates to Christians. Thus for the first time St. Thomas Christians were free to worship, preach and enjoy equal civic liberties. From then onwards St. Thomas Christians were known as Syrian Christians. This is a historic event that saved Christians from slavery and decay. Knanaya community both Orthodox and Roman Catholic are descendants of Syrian migration. We can safely say that at least from the time of Syrian migration in 345 the St Thomas Christians of Malankara were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch

To be contd... Part 5 (Mor Sabor and Mor Aphroth)

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