Mar Thoma Syrian Church

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Mar Thoma Syrian Church
Mar Thoma Syrian Church Crest.png
Logo of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church
Founder St. Thomas The Apostle.[1]
Independence various
Primate Joseph Mar Thoma, Metropolitan
Polity Episcopal
Headquarters Tiruvalla, Kerala, India
Territory Universal
Possessions Australia, Canada, Germany, Middle East (Gulf Region), Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland.
Language Malayalam, English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Syriac (Western).
Members 1,061,940 (worldwide)[2]
Website www.marthoma.in

The Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, also known as the Mar Thoma Church, is a Christian denomination based in the state of Kerala in southwestern India. It is one of the Saint Thomas Christian churches tracing its origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.[3]

Most Christian churches around the world are divided into Western or Eastern traditions. Eastern churches are again divided into many traditions, one of which is Syriac tradition. Syriac tradition comprises of West Syrian Rite and East Syrian Rite. The Mar Thoma Syrian Church follows a variance of West Syrian tradition and bases its teachings in accordance with fundamental biblical teachings.

The Mar Thoma Church is an autonomous oriental church with the syriac high church traditions and eclectic reformation era characteristics. The church defines itself as "Apostolic in origin, Universal in nature, Biblical in faith, Evangelical in principle, Ecumenical in outlook, Oriental in worship, Democratic in function, and Episcopal in character".[4]

The church emerged from a reformation movement within the Malankara Church inspired by contact with British Anglican missionaries, on scriptural principles.[5] The confluence movement of eastern traditions and western reformation begin in 1836, a Malankara Church clergyman Abraham Malpan instituted changes independently in his parish at Maramon, including translating the Holy Qurbana service from the traditional Syriac into the local Malayalam language and introducing many Protestant-influenced doctrines. This led to a rift within the church hierarchy. Malpan's nephew was consecrated as metropolitan bishop by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch in 1842, as the leader of the Malankara Jacobiite Syrian Orthodox Church which led later in establishing authoritatively what is known as the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar. Further reform groups were also evolved from Marthoma Church mainly, St. Thomas Evangelical Church or generally known as Evangelicals and Believers Church by individualistic efforts of a former zealous marthomite K. P. Yohannan, they are commonly known as Believers.

Until the beginning of 20th century Marthomites lived in a few districts of Central Travancore and Kunnamkulam in Kerala. Since that time it has spread with the 20th-century Indian diaspora to North America, Europe, the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and currently has around 500,000 members in Kerala, and another 50,000 throughout the diaspora.[6] Their mother tongue is Malayalam, the language of Kerala. The members of the Church are known commonly as Nazaranis, Naveekarna Suriyani or as Marthomakkar.

Definitions[edit]

Malankara is the ancient name derived from the name 'Maliankara', Maliankara Island on the south-western side of Indian Peninsula. It was between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari the southern point of India. Kerala, the present south-western state of India is only a part of Malankara. It is also thought to be a cognate of this name Maliankara, a place near Muziris, where Thomas the Apostle first landed in Kerala.

Mar Thoma or Marthoma is Aramaic, means Saint Thomas. Members of this church are often referred to as Marthomites.

Syrian Church. The original liturgical language used in Malankara Church was Aramaic and Hebrew. Later this was replaced by Syriac. In 1898 the church decided to continue its old name Malankara Marthoma Church with the addition of Syriac in it.[7]

Administration[edit]

The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church has a well-defined constitution and has a democratic pattern of administration. There is an "Episcopal Synod", a Grand Assembly known as Marthoma Suryani Sabha Prathinidhi Mandalam (House of Representatives), a council to aid the metropolitan in administrative matters and a Vaideeka Selection Committee, to select candidates for the ministry of the church.

Each diocese has its own council and an assembly. The assembly members are elected by the individual parishes, and the council members, by the assembly.

All members of a parish are members of Edavaka Sangham (General Body) and they also have the right to elect their representatives to the Diocesan Assembly and Prathinidhi Mandalam, (Church Parliament).

The title of the head of the Church is "Marthoma" and is addressed as "Marthoma Metropolitan". He is installed from among the duly consecrated bishops (episcopas) of the Church, the choice being ordinarily that of the senior most among them. The present "Marthoma Metropolitan" is the Most Reverend Joseph Mar Thoma who resides at Poolatheen at Church Headquarters in Tiruvalla, Kerala.

If the Metropolitan is personally satisfied that he has difficulty to continue to perform the duties appertaining to his office, he may, relinquish the powers and responsibilities as the Metropolitan. Then he becomes the Senior Mar Thoma Metropolitan and is addressed as "Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan". The present "Marthoma Valiya Metropolitan" is the Most Reverend Philipose Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan.

To assist the metropolitan there are episcopas, the senior most among them is called the suffragan metropolitan.

Administrative divisions[edit]

For administrative purpose, the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church is divided into 13 dioceses or popularly called as Bhadhrasanams w.e.f. 1 January 2010, headed by a Metropolitan or by an Episcopa. They are:

Metropolitans and bishops of Mar Thoma Church[edit]

Present Episcopal Synod[edit]

The present members of the Episcopal Synod of Mar Thoma Church are:

Marthoma metropolitans of Malankara throne[edit]

Malankara throne/Throne of St. Thomas,The throne used for this consecration of Mar Thoma I in 1653

For the consecrations, from 1917 onwards bishops from other churches were invited as guests. But the consecration was done only by the metropolitan assisted by the other metropolitans of the Mar Thoma Church and of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church.

Deceased bishops[edit]

Clergy – ministers[edit]

‘’Semmasan’’ (Deacons): The Sabha Prathinidhi Mandalam elects a Vaidika Selection board to select candidates for the ministry of the Church through recommendations (letters from bishops-clergy by the level of exposure in church and by personal sponsorships & support from bishops), exams (english-general knowledge-bible) & pre- and post- theological training interviews (within theological-sociological aspects & scrutiny through psych & health evaluations).

Following a Mormon Church tradition and from diasporic influence, the church is considering a controversial compulsory 12-24 month missionary service to those who are inclined to be a priest, before selection process as a "Tithe of Youth" program, Additionally this program was challenged in youth meets of the church at the time of its conception on the basis of fast changing world, non-guarantee and economic factors and have arrived at a discussion level resolution of implementing this process after the pursual of their theological training and before the "Deacon" or integrating the "Deacon" status during the time period, If the candidate is counted to be worthy.

‘’Kassessa’’ (Clergy): Persons receiving ordination as ministers shall be duly ordained deacons. They all have had their Bachelor of Divinity Degree from Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam, Kerala or from other recognized theological seminaries of India. The wife of a Kassissa is known as “Baskiamma” and is often addressed as “Kochamma” (Big sister).

‘’Vicars general’’: From among the clergy who have completed 25 years of service in the ordained ministry and not less than sixty years of age are selected according to their contributions and ordained as vicars general. In the absence of the diocesan bishop, they may be appointed as deputy head of the bishopric.

History[edit]

First century BC[edit]

Muziris, near the tip of India, in the Peutinger Table.

On the south western side of the Indian peninsula; between the mountains and the Erythraean Sea (now Arabian Sea); stretching from Kannoor to Kanyakumari was the land called Cherarajyam, which was ruled by local chieftains. Later this land came to be known as Malabar and (now Kerala). Muziris [8] (near modern day Cochin) was the important entry port. After the discovery of Hippalus, every year 100 ships arrived here from various parts of the then known world, including Red Sea ports.[9]

During the time of Moses and King Solomon, the Malabar Coast traded spices and luxury articles with Israel.[10] Excavations carried out at Pattanam (near Cochin) from 2005 provided evidence that the maritime trade between Kerala and the Mediterranean ports existed even before 500 BC or earlier.[11] It is possible that some of those traders who arrived from the west, including Jews, remained in Kerala.[12]

While Augustus Caesar (31 BC- 14 AD) was the Emperor of Rome and Herod the Great (37–4 BC) was King of Judea, ambassadors from Malabar visited the Emperor Augustus.[13] Nasranis believe that these ambassadors were The Wise Men From the East, of the Bible.[14] People who believe they are descendants of these Wise Men gather every year in Kerala.[15]

Arrival of Saint Thomas[edit]

Saint Thomas Christians believe that Thomas the Apostle[16] arrived in Kerala around AD 52, after completing a huge building contract (biggest tourist attraction in Pakistan) in Taxila for the king of Taxila, Gondaphores. His presence in Taxila is still celebrated annually on July 3 on his bones arriving (on being transferred to Edessa/Urfa from where he had been murdered in Mylapore, Madras, India) to his eventual place of interment in Ortona hundreds of years later.[17] He landed at Muziris. The Jews and a few of the Wise Men, who had been to Bethlehem to worship Jesus[18] listened to his preaching and became followers of Jesus of Nazareth.[19] It is believed that after leaving Malankara, St. Thomas proceeded to the East coast of India and died a martyrs’ death at a place called Mylapore in Tamil Nadu. The Nazarenes in Malabar were and are either 'Mar Thomites' or Mar Barthomolites, i.e. Nazarenes brought from mainstream Judaism by the missionary efforts of Mar Thoma and Mar Bartholomeu. Pantaneius's reference to the gift of 'Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew' by Mar Bartholomeu to the Nazereans in Malabar is a clear pointer to the fact that Mar Bartholemeu did evangelize Malabar.

First Christians[edit]

In early Christian times, 'Nazraanis' were not a separate religion, but a sect in the Jewish community. The term was used to denote followers of Jesus of Nazareth. (Acts. 24:5; 28:22). 'Khristianos' (or Christians) was initially used largely to refer non-Jewish people who followed Christ (Acts 11:26). In Kerala, the sect was known as 'Nazraani Margam'. Margam in Malayalam means, 'The Way'. (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22). Thus, the word Nazraani clearly shows that many who joined them were Jews. But in Kerala this name was replaced by the word 'Christians' in the 20th century.[20]

Divisions among Saint Thomas Christians[edit]

Relationship of the Nasrani groups

A protest took place in 1653 with the Coonan Cross Oath. Under the leadership of Archdeacon Thomas, the Thomas Christians publicly took an oath that they would not obey the Jesuit bishops.[21]

Rome sent Carmelites in two groups from the Propagation of the Faith to Malabar headed by Fr. Sebastiani and Fr. Hyacinth. Fr. Sebastiani arrived first in 1655. He began to deal directly with the Archdeacon, Mar Thoma I. Fr. Sebastiani gained the support of many, especially with the support of Parambil Mar Chandy, Alexandar Kadavil and the Vicar of Muttam. These were the three councilors of Mar Thoma I, who were reconciled with Gracia (SJ)[who?] before the arrival of Sebastaini, according to Jesuit reports.[21]

Between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Carmelites reclaimed eighty-four churches, leaving Archdeacon Mar Thomas I with thirty-two churches. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro Malabar Church has descended. The other thirty-two churches and their congregations represented the nucleus from which the Syriac Orthodox (Jacobites & Orthodox), Thozhiyur, Mar Thoma (Reformed Syrians), Syro Malankara Catholics have originated.[22]

In 1665 Mar Gregorios, a Bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, arrived in India. A faithful group under the leadership of the Archdeacon welcomed him.,[23] the arrival of the Bishop Mar Gregory of the Syriac Orthodox Church in 1665 marked the beginning of a formal schism among the St. Thomas Christians. Those who accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch of Mar Gregory became known as the Jacobite, The Syrian Catholics remained in communion with Rome and later came to be known as the Syro Malabar Church.[23]

First 15 centuries[edit]

Administration[edit]

The Malankara Church believes that St. Thomas appointed elders at every place he preached to lead the believers. He prayed and laid his hands upon them, in the same way as the other disciples did.[24] This was the system used till the arrival of Portuguese. By 1500, Malankara Church had Parish elders and a Church leader. Before the arrival of Portuguese, Latin was unknown to Malankara people. In the ‘’Decrees of The Synod of Udayamperoor’’ presented to the St. Thomas Christians in their mother tongue Malayalam, Malankara Mooppen was the name used to refer the Church leader, except on three occasions.[25] For the first time in 1653 the Church leader was given the title Mar Thoma. The present head of the Mar Thoma Church is the twenty first Mar Thoma.

Pantaenus from Alexandria[edit]

In the 2nd century(189-190 AD) AD, Pantaenus, the Philosopher and Missionary sent by Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria to India, found that there were many christians in India with a Persian Bishop and that they had a copy of the Gospel according to Matthew in Aramaic.[26] These Christians were the early evangelists of Malankara Church.

Arrival of Knanaya Nazranis[edit]

During the time of King Shapur II (310–379) of Persia, a group of 400 immigrants (72 families) from Persia arrived in Malabar under the leadership of merchant Knai Thomman. They were engaged in trade and settled down in Kodungallur. Another immigration from Persia occurred around 825 under the leadership of Persian merchant Marwan Sabriso, with two Bishops, Mar Sapro and Mar Prodh. Together they were known as Knanaya/Kanai people. They continued to remain partially in an endogamous group within the Nasrani community. They cooperated with the Malankara Church, attended worship services together but remained a separate identity. By the 10th century, in Malabar there were two Nazrani groups, the St. Thomas Christians and Knanaya community.[27]

Bishops from Persia[edit]

Following the arrival of Christians from Persia, their bishops, priests or laymen began visiting them[citation needed]. Most of them were not able to return due to financial difficulties and travelling long distances. The Knanaya people were worshipping together with the St. Thomas Christians[citation needed]. So these visitors also attended these services. It is a matter of ongoing dispute between different churches in Kerala whether the Syrian bishops had any administrative responsibility or jurisdiction over the Nazrani Christians.

Persian crosses[edit]

Persian crosses were in churches once attended by Knanaya Nasranis. Out of five Persian crosses two are in Kottayam Knanaya Valia Palli. According to the archaeologists, the earliest one was made in the 7th century. The cross became a symbol of Christianity in the west, during the time of Constantine (272–337).[28] Saint Thomas Christians of Malabar had hardly any contact with other Christians before the arrival of Knanaya people from Persia. Moreover, two of the oldest church buildings that still exist in South India do not have any marking of a Cross on their original structure. So most probably it was during the 7th century that the cross became a symbol of St. Thomas Christians.

Visits corroborating the existence of the Malankara Church[edit]

The existence of this Church in early centuries is evident in the writings of ancient travellers.

522 AD – an Egyptian Monk, Cosmas Indicopleustes in his writings, ‘’Universal Christian Topography’’ mentions that there was this Church with a bishop from Persia.[29]

883 AD. – Alfred the Great (849–899), King of Wessex, England reportedly sent gifts “in India to St. Thomas and to St. Bartholomew”, through Sighelm, bishop of Sherborne.[30]

1225 AD. – Chau Ju-Kua a Chinese traveller visited Kerala.[31][32]

1282 AD. – Kublai Khan (1215–1294) Emperor of China sent an emissary to Kollam, It was followed by an emissary from Kollam under the leadership of a St. Thomas Christian.[33][34]

1292 AD. – Marco Polo (1254–1324) on his return journey from China visited Kerala, mentions that, "The people are idolaters, though there are some Christians and Jews among them".[35]

Collection of deeds[edit]

The rulers of Kerala, in appreciation of their assistance, had given to the Malankara Nazranis, three deeds on copper plates. These are known as Cheppeds, Royal Grants, Sasanam etc. Five sheets of them are now in the custody of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church Headquarters at Thiruvalla.

  1. Iravi Corttan Deed: In the year 774 AD. Sri Vira Raghava Chakravarti, gave a deed to Iravi Corttan of Mahadevarpattanam.
  2. Tharissa palli Deed I: Perumal Sthanu Ravi Gupta (844–885) gave a deed in 849 AD, to Isodatta Virai for Tharissa Palli (church) at Curakkeni Kollam. According to historians, this is the first deed in Kerala that gives the exact date.[36]
  3. Tharissa palli Deed II: A continuation of the above deed was given sometimes after 849 AD.

Portuguese period[edit]

By 1500, Malankara Church was spread from Kannur in the North to Kollam in the South. It included the Saint Thomas Christians and the endogamous group, Knanaya Christians.

The Portuguese started settling in India with the arrival of Vasco da Gama in 1498. For the next 200 years they took control over the sea routes and were powerful in the western parts of India.

Synod of Diamper[edit]

The Malankara Church had hardly any contact with the Western Church. The Portuguese used their power to bring the Malankara Church under Latin jurisdiction. A powerful Archbishop Aleixo de Menezes[37] arrived in Goa in 1595. He then convened a Synod at Udayamperoor, south of Ernakulam, from 20–26 June 1599, known as the Synod of Diamper. Here the Archbishop demanded complete submission to the Latin jurisdiction. The representatives sent from various parishes in and around Cochin were forced to accept the decrees read out by the Archbishop.

Oath of the Bent Cross[edit]

Main article: Coonan Cross Oath

Under the leadership of their elder Thomas, Nazranis around Cochin gathered at Mattancherry church on Friday, 24 January 1653 (M.E. 828 Makaram 3) and made an oath that is known as the Great Oath of Bent Cross. The following oath was read aloud and the people touching a stone-cross repeated it loudly.

By the Father, Son and Holy Ghost that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks, nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome[38]

(The Missionary Register for 1822 seems to be the earliest reliable document available) Those who were not able to touch the cross tied ropes on the cross, held the rope in their hands and made the oath. Because of the weight it is believed by the followers that the cross bent a little and so it is known as ‘’Oath of the bent cross (Coonen Kurisu Sathyam) ’’

Four months after this event, according to the beliefs, 12 elders of the church ordained the elder Thomas as their prelate with the ecclesiastical title Mar Thoma I.

Beliefs and practices[edit]

Their beliefs and practices before the arrival of the Portuguese as evident in the canons of the Synod of Diamper.[39][40]

Malankara Church,

  1. maintained the spiritual presence of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament.
  2. had no knowledge of the term purgatory, but prayed for the dead.
  3. had irregular practice of auricular confession.
  4. only had a few celibacy clergy in monastic rank, while celibate bishops visited periodically from the Middle East.

Dutch period[edit]

The Dutch was on the Malabar Coast from 11 November 1604 1795. Mar Thoma I to Mar Thoma VI were the prelates during this period.

British period[edit]

The English defeated the Dutch in 1795 and took over Cochin during the time of Mar Thoma VI. In 1806, Rev. Dr. Claudius Buchanan, an Anglican missionary visited Malankara and met Marthoma VI .[41] But, soon after this meeting, Mar Thoma VI convened a meeting of representatives of the parishes and declared that the Malankara Church should not follow the teachings of the churches of Rome or Antioch or any other foreign churches.[42] The Bible that was translated from the original Aramaic into Malayalam by two Malpans (Syriac Professors) was printed with the help of Buchanan.[43]

In 1808, a sum of 3000 Star Pagoda[44] (known as Vattipanam) was handed over to Col. Macaulay, the British Resident in Travancore by Mar Thoma VII with the condition that the interest be paid to the Metropolitan of the Syrian Church of Malabar. Col Munro the British Resident in Travancore gave the interest of the deposit to Joseph Ramban ignoring the agreement. In order to avoid the quandary in 1815, Joseph Ramban was consecrated by Mar Philexenos of the Thozhyoor Church and was given the ecclesiastical title Mar Dionysious. To make the Malankara Church accept him as their head, Col. Munroe had to get the rulers of Travancore and Cochin issue Royal proclamations ordering Christians to render obedience to Mar Dionysious.[45]

Ignoring this interference by the British, Mar Thoma VIII consecrated his successor Mar Thoma IX.[46] But soon after, Pulikkottil Mar Dionysious dethroned him. The next two prelates were also selected by Col. Munroe and Royal proclamations were issued to them also.[47]

Cheppad Philipose Mar Dionysius (Mar Thoma XII) did not like the interference of the Anglican Missionaries. So he convened a Synod at Mavelikkara in 1836, in which the Synod declared that, “We, the Jacobite Syrians are under the rule of the Patriarch of Antioch.”[48] But it is historically untenable to assert that the Malankara Church had always been under the Patriarch of Antioch.[49] Abraham Malpan leader of the Reformation did not attend this meeting.

After this the missionaries continued their work on their own. By 1878, CMS Church (Anglican Church) was established in Kerala with those who joined them and with those whom they converted.

Cleansing of the Church – Reformation and Actualization[edit]

From 1498 India was under the Colonial rule of three European powers. They all brought in their beliefs, practices and traditions into the Malankara Church. The Cleansing of the Church was an attempt to eliminate certain such practices and bring back those prevalent in the Church of their fore-fathers.[50]

The reformation was carried out in dissidence by the members of a review committee of 12 scholarly clergy, appointed for a thorough study on the "necessary amendments that the church should adopt" at a meeting of representatives of the Malankara Church by Punnathara Mar Dionysious (Mar Thoma XI) at Mavelikkara on 3 December 1818. No foreigner was involved in this plenary committee or in its deliberations.

Abraham Malpan[edit]

Though Maramon Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan was bounteous in his temperament he never hesitated to introduce reforms in both teaching and practice. He also insisted on a high moral standard of conduct for laity and clergy alike. All this created a ferment in the Malankara Church and its effects are still discernible in the Church as a whole.[51]

Principal reforms[edit]

Changes carried out during reformation:[52]
  1. Icons, pictures, statues, and drawings of saints were removed from homes, churches, and places of worship.
  2. All prayers,worship, devotion and praise to the Virgin Mary and the saints were omitted.
  3. All prayers to dead and for dead were omitted.
  4. Insisted that Sunday services are to be held in a reverent and spiritual way. During that time reading and expounding scriptures is to be done.
  5. Conducted worship services, including Holy Communion in the mother tongue, Malayalam.
  6. Holy Communion was not celebrated when there were none to receive.
  7. Mandated that communion under both kinds should be distributed separately.
  8. Considered the practice of praying for the dead and of doing obeisance at their graves with lighted candles as abhorrent.
  9. Intercession of saints and prayers for the dead were discarded.
  10. Auricular confession was discontinued.
  11. Believed that those who come for confession should ask for forgiveness with fasting and prayer, instead of offering oil, incense and candles.
  12. Insisted that bishops should ordain only candidates who have been examined by them and the malpans (Meaning:- Syriac scholars).
  13. Repudiated the custom of smearing charcoal on the forehead on Ash Wednesday.
Doctrines upheld :[53]
  1. The Church unequivocally hold the doctrine of the Trinity as interpreted by the creed of Nicea, Constantinople[disambiguation needed] and Ephesus.
  2. The Church is neither Nestorian nor Monophysite
  3. The Clergy, is dedicated in avoiding benefices other than the regulated salary, a principle of simple life for self and the laity.

Course of events[edit]

The first printed Malayalam Bible, translated from Syriac was published in 1811. Known as Ramban Bible[54] it contained only the four Gospels. By 1841, the whole Bible was translated, printed and released. Realizing the need for timely changes, in 1818 Mar Thoma XI convened a meeting of representatives of the Malankara Church at Mavelikkara. In that meeting a review committee was appointed to recommend reforms. Abraham Malpan, Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan, Eruthikkal Markose Kathanar, Adangapurathu Joseph Kathanar were members of this committee. This was the first step in carrying out Reformation in Malankara Church.

On 5 September 1836, the reformation was planned. Strategy was determined by a group of 12 clergymen under the leadership of Abraham Malpan. They issued an encyclical describing what they believed were the wrong teachings, a statement listing twenty-four practices of the Church which they believed were "evil" and had crept in by its association with other Churches and religions and a petition to a British Resident.[55][56]

Maramon Mar Thoma Church (2005)

On 27 August 1837 (Sunday), then suspended[57] Abraham Malpan conducted the Holy Communion service in mother tongue Malayalam at his home parish at Maramon. Clergymen, who supported him also did the same thing in various other parishes on the same day.

Connected with a saint (Eldho Mor Baselios), every year in the first week of October, there was a church festival at Maramon. During that time a wooden statue of that saint, they called "Muthappen" (Meaning:- Elder father) was taken around in procession and people used to venerate the saint by offering prayers and ask for intercession. In 1837, Abraham Malpan from deeper biblical understandings and of the spiritual scruples surrounding it, took the statue and threw it into a well saying, “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19). So when the festival came there was no statue to be taken out for procession.

The use of the revised liturgy and the changes he brought about in practices disgruntled Marthoma XII. So deacons trained under Abraham Malpan were refused priesthood. But Abraham Malpan was not disheartened. He continued with his spirited reforms. He returned to Maramon. Many of his students joined him to continue their studies. All those who believed that "The Church" needed a revitalization also joined him. Members of parishes in Kozhencherry, Kumbanad, Eraviperoor, Thumpamon, Elanthoor, Kundara, Kottarakara, Mavelikkara, Mallapally, and many other places made trips to Maramon to attend the service in Malayalam and listen to his sermons. Doors were also opened for reformation in other places by ministers who supported him.

At this stage he had three choices in front of him. Repent and go back to the old beliefs under Antioch; join the Anglican Church with western theology and aid; or go forward with the reformation and restoring "The Church" to what he thought would bring it to a pristine position, A church uncontaminated by avarice, venality, licentiousness and rapacity.[58] He selected the third one. Abraham Malpan died in 1845.

Mathen, a motivated nephew of Abraham Malpan by his uncle's guidance and spiritual nurturing, went to Antioch and returned after two years. While there, he was consecrated by the Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Elias II with the title Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan. After Cheppattu Philipose Mar Dionysius abdicated due to ill health - To collect the interest of the Vattipanam (Fixed Deposit), through a legal ordeal Mathews Mar Athanasius was approved as Malankara Metropolitan by the governments of Kerala and Cochin on 30 August 1852.[59][60] Mathews Mar Athanasius published the liturgy without the prayer to St. Mary.[61] He consecrated Ouseph Mar Koorilos, as Metropolitan/Bishop for Malabar Independent Church.[62] The entirety of strong-arm actions incited many clergymen and Pulikkottil Ouseph Kathanar went to Antioch in 1864. He returned as Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious II in 1865.

Independence of the Church[edit]

Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious II and his supporters filed a case on 4 March 1879. (Case O.S.No. 439 of 1054) demanding the possession of the seminary and the control of assets of the Church. Thomas Mar Athanasius was then the Metropolitan.

During the course of this litigation (1879–1889), answering a question Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan said,

“ The Episcopal throne of Patriarch is the throne of St. Peter, while the throne of Malankara Church is that of St. Thomas. Malankara Church is as old as the Church in Antioch, equal in status, and both are independent.”

A meeting was convened by the Maharaja of Travancore, before the final verdict was given, Mar Athanasius testified that,

Malankara Church was never under any foreign rule and that he was unwilling to move away from the teachings or give the authority and the Church possessions to a foreign Patriarch.

The final verdict came on 12 July 1889, after ten years, was against the Metran Kakshi (supporters of Thomas Mar Athanasious)

The Metran Kakshi decided to remain as an independent Malankara Church, and to give primary authority to the Holy Bible and continue as the successors of St. Thomas throne. In 1898 this group chose the name Malankara Mar Thoma Suryani Sabha.

Liturgy[edit]

Ramban Bible, Translated by Kayamkulam Philipose Ramban.

When the Bible was not available, the liturgy took the role of the Bible, much of the scripture is formed in the liturgical context. The original liturgical language used by Malankara Church was Aramaic and Hebrew. The Bible that was in use also was in Hebrew.[63] Later when Syriac replaced Aramaic in eastern countries, and the arrival of Knanaya people from Persia in AD 345, Malankara Church began using Syriac. The Bible used in Malankara Church is called the "Peshitta" and was in Estrangelo Syriac[41][64] This was the Bible that was in use till Malayalam (language of Kerala) translation was available. The first printed Malayalam Bible, translated from Syriac was published in 1811 by Philipose Ramban with the provision of Claudius Buchanan. Known as Ramban Bible it contained only the four Gospels. By 1841, the whole Bible was translated, printed and released by missionary-scholar Benjamin Bailey with the help of Chandu Menon, a tahsildar in the Madras State service. It is interesting to note that even though bishops from Syrian churches visited Kerala, they did not attempt to change the Bible into the newer forms of Syriac or to the native language. In June 1876, Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Pathrose IV, visited Kerala and a majority of Malankara Church accepted him as the head of their Church. But those who did not join them continued to follow their own leaders and kept their peculiar identity garnered from reformation. After Mar Thoma Church had begun to use the liturgy in mother tongue Malayalam, other churches continued to follow the same for a deeper engagement with the laity. A revised version of the ancient and apostolic liturgy known as People's liturgy, The Liturgy of St James was adapted in the Church, later the liturgy has been translated into various languages including English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

Places of worship[edit]

Those who were converted by St. Thomas in the 1st century continued worshiping in synagogues. Then they moved to their homes and by the 2nd century, they began to build their own churches (called ‘’Palli’’) in various places. It is believed that there were such small gatherings at Maliankara, Piravom, Niranam (Nelcynda) and Nilakkal. St. Thomas Christians in Kerala, still construct their churches following the design of Solomon's temple, and Indian Vastu Shastra. So from outside it looks like a Hindu temple[65] but inside it is like a Jewish temple. Now there is a tendency to follow western architectural designs.

Neither pictures nor statues are in their churches. Until the middle of the 20th century, all worshippers were seated on a mat spread on the floor. Now many churches provide chairs or benches, at least for the aged. During the Passion week services, these are removed, to facilitate worshiping according to their ancient custom. All, including priests and clergy, who take part in any service, look to the east and worship.

Festivals[edit]

The most important festival is the Passion Week ending with the Resurrection day, (Easter). Every week day there will be special services and during which they prostrate a number of times.

Christmas is celebrated by all members of the Church, to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. During this time, parishes will be involved in Christmas carolling and the celebration of Christmas Day services. By the end of last century, Christmas trees and other related celebrations have appeared in many parishes.

Organizations[edit]

Auxiliary Empowerment Organizations[edit]

Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association; Mar Thoma Sunday School Samjam; Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakyam; Mar Thoma Suvishesha Sevika Sangham; Mar Thoma Voluntary Evangelists’ Association; Department of Sacred Music and Communications.

Development Department; Christian Agency for Rural Development (CARD); Mar Thoma Medical Mission; Mar Thoma Sabha Mandiram Fellowship; Social Welfare Institutions; Theological Institutions; Educational Institutions; Technical Institutions; Study Centres; Church Animation Centre; and Camp Centres.

Educational institutions[edit]

Nine colleges, six higher secondary schools, one vocational higher secondary school, eight high schools, one training school, five technical institutions plus other educational institutions owned and managed by individuals and by parishes.

Other institutions[edit]

There are 38 social welfare institutions, 14 destitute homes and ten hospitals. The Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam (established 1926), E.J. Institute of Evangelism, and 5 other institutes cater to the theological education of both the clergy and the laity. Three study centres at Managanam, Kottayam and Trivandrum for arranging regular study programs and to provide opportunities for creative dialogue between Church and society on various ethical, moral, social and religious issues. The religious education of children is looked after by the Sunday School Samajam (organised in 1905) and the work among youth is carried on by the Youth Department, (the Yuvajana Sakhyam organised in 1933). The Church has a Women's Department (the Mar Thoma Suvisesha Sevika Sanghom organised in 1919).

Maramon Convention[edit]

Main article: Maramon Convention
113 th Maramon Convention – 2008
114th Maramon Convention – 2009

Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association, the missionary wing of the Mar Thoma Church is in charge of organising the Maramon Convention, the largest annual Christian gathering in Asia. It takes place at Maramon, near Kozhencherry during the month of February on the vast sand-bed of the Pampa River next to the Kozhencherry Bridge.The first convention was held in 1895 March, for a period of 10 days.

The Maramon Convention is pre-eminently an assembly of Christians who once a year come here for listening to the gospel as read and expounded by Christian leaders from all over India as well as abroad, This provides a revived ideological and experiential faith in accordance to the need of the laity & period of time. Attendees sit on the sand bed, (old & invalid people are given chairs) with separate sponsored seating arrangements for men and women. Generally, one session is for ecumenical messages by invited leaders of other Churches.

Ecumenical relations[edit]

The church actively participates in the programs of the World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia, the National Council of Churches and the Kerala Christian Council.[66]

Mar Thoma Church was attending meetings of World Council of Churches from its first meeting in 1948. At the WCC meeting held in Evanston, Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan was elected as one of its presidents. Since then the Church representatives attended all the General meetings.

The Mar Thoma Church is in communion relationship with the Malabar Independent Syrian Church (also known as Independent Syrian Church of Thozhiyoor). It is also in partial communion with the Anglican Communion; but these churches have not accepted each other's doctrines in its fullness. The Mar Thoma Church keeps a multifaceted approach in these relationships by adapting to spiritual and cultural environment of the communions, yet strongly abiding with the Mar Thoma Syrian identity. The Marthoma Church also keeps good ecumenical relations with other Christian Churches around the globe.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://marthoma.in/
  2. ^ http://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/mar-thoma-syrian-church-of-malabar
  3. ^ The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 5 by Erwin Fahlbusch. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing - 2008. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-8028-2417-2.
  4. ^ "Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar". www.marthoma.in. Mar Thoma Syrian Church. 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2012. 
  5. ^ Faith and Practice of the Marthoma Church (1993) by Rev. K.S. Mathew
  6. ^ Adherents.com (1999). Accessed 2012-06-04.
  7. ^ Canons of Synod of Diamper in its Malayalam version, uses the name “Church of the ancient Marthoma Nazrani.” The canons were read out in Malayalam, the language of the people.
  8. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/more-studies-needed-at-pattanam/article4743789.ece
  9. ^ Saryu Doshi. (Ed). India and Egypt. Co-sponsored by Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and Marg Publications, Bombay, 1993. p. 45
  10. ^ ‘’Bible’’; I Kings. 9:26–28; 10:11,22; 2 Chronicles: 8:18; 9:21.
  11. ^ Kerala Council for Historical Research findings in 2005–10.
  12. ^ Edna Fernadez. The last Jews of Kerala.- The two thousand year history of India's forgotten Jewish community. Skyhorse Publishing. c.2008. p. 80
  13. ^ Nicolaus of Damascus
  14. ^ Matthew 2:1
  15. ^ Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.(2006). Page 68-69.
  16. ^ http://sites.utoronto.ca/religion/synopsis/gth.htm
  17. ^ Pappas, Paul Constantine (1991). Jesus' Tomb in India: The Debate on His Death and Resurrection. Jain Publishing Company. p. 100. ISBN 0895819465. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  18. ^ Matthew 2:1–2
  19. ^ Bowler, Gerry. (2000). ‘’The World Encyclopedia of Christmas’’. Page 139.
  20. ^ Canons of the Synod of Diamper (Malayalam version) and Travancore government records of that period.
  21. ^ a b Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, "Eastern Christianity in India"
  22. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia profile of "St. Thomas Christians" - The Carmelite Period
  23. ^ a b Thekkedath, History of Christianity in India”
  24. ^ Acts 6:1–6; 8:14–17; 13: 1–3
  25. ^ Decrees of The Synod of Udayamperoor A.D.1500. (Malayalam document)
  26. ^ Church History of Eusebius Book V, Chapter 10.
  27. ^ Mathew, N.M. (History of the Marthoma Church. (Malayalam), Volume 1. Page 92-94and souvenirs published by Knanaya parishes in Kerala.
  28. ^ Christian cross, Constantine I and Christianity, Jewish Encyclopedia
  29. ^ McCrindle, J.W. The Christian Topography of Cosmos, pp 91–128, Book 3.
  30. ^ ’’The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’’, Part II, AD 750–919
  31. ^ Mathew, N.M. (2003)St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. Page 76.
  32. ^ Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1. Page 98.
  33. ^ Mathew, N.M. (2003)St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. Page 76-77.
  34. ^ Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.Page 99-100.
  35. ^ Marco Polo. The Book of Travels Translated by Ronald Latham. 1958. Page 287.
  36. ^ Sreedhara Menon, A. A Survey of Kerala History.(Mal).Page 54.
  37. ^ Also known as Alejo-de-Menezes, Kerala people called him Allosos Metran
  38. ^ The Missionary Register for M DCCC XXII. October 1822, Letter from Punnathara Mar Dionysious (Mar Thoma XI) to the Head of the Church Missionary Society. From a translation of it, out of Syriac, by Professor Lee. Page 431- 432.
  39. ^ Daniel, K.N. ‘’Canons of Synod of Diamper’’(Malayalam)
  40. ^ Geddes, Michael, ‘’The History of the Church of Malabar.’’ (from 1501). London 1964
  41. ^ a b Buchanan Rev. Claudius, Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India. Page 76.
  42. ^ Aarthattu padiola
  43. ^ ‘’Niranam Grantavari, Record of History written during 1770–1830’’. Chapter 25.
  44. ^ A south Indian gold coin in use from 1740 to 1808.
  45. ^ The CMS ‘’Missionary Register’’, January 1816, Page 37-38.
  46. ^ ‘’Niranam Grantavari, Record of History written during 1770–1830’’. Chapter 29.
  47. ^ The CMS ‘’Missionary Register’’, January 1818, pp 103–108.
  48. ^ Mavelikara Padiola
  49. ^ Cheriyan, Dr. C.V. ‘’Orthodox Christianity in India.’’ page 279.
  50. ^ K.K. Kuruvilla. ‘’The Mar Thoma Church and Its Doctrines.’’ 1950. p. 21
  51. ^ Mar Thoma Sabha Directory (1999), Page 24.
  52. ^ Memorandum issued by Abraham Malpan along with eleven other clergy on 6 September 1836.
  53. ^ Royal Court of Final Appeal, Case No:III of 1061, Vol III pp. 26, 27.
  54. ^ https://archive.org/details/1811RambanBibleMalayalam
  55. ^ Zac Varghese & Mathew A.Kallumpram. (2003). Glimpses of Mar Thoma Church History. Page28-33.
  56. ^ Mar Thoma Sabha Directory. (1999). Page 82-89.
  57. ^ http://papers.musementpark.com/Abraham_Malpan_v2.pdf
  58. ^ Youth Monthly, Madras-Calcutta Diocese (1997) by Rev. Dr. M.J. Joseph
  59. ^ Royal Proclamation by Uthram Thirunal Maharaja of Travancore
  60. ^ Agur, C.M. Church History of Travancore.1903.
  61. ^ Mathew, N.M. (2007). Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, Volume II. 2007. Page 63.
  62. ^ Varughese, Rev. K.C., Malabar Swathantra Suryani Sabhyude Charitram.1972.
  63. ^ Church History of Eusebius (AD 260–341) Book V, Chapter 10.)
  64. ^ A copy of this Bible given to Dr. Buchanan for translation was later presented to him and is kept in Cambridge University Library.
  65. ^ see also Hindu temple architecture
  66. ^ http://www.keralacouncilofchurches.org/

References[edit]

In English:

  1. Constitution of Mar Thoma Syrian Church. (2008)
  2. Juhanon Marthoma Metropolitan, The Most Rev. Dr. (1952). Christianity in India and a Brief History of the Marthoma Syrian Church. Pub: K.M. Cherian.
  3. K. V. Mathew (1985) The Faith and Practice of The Mar Thoma Church.
  4. George Menachery (1973) The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India Vol. II.
  5. Mathew N.M. (2003). St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages, C.S.S. Tiruvalla. ISBN 81-782-1008-8 and CN 80303
  6. Pothen, S.G. (1963). The Syrian Christians of Kerala. Asia Publishing House, London.
  7. Zac Varghese Dr. & Mathew A. Kallumpram. (2003). Glimpses of Mar Thoma Church History. London, England. ISBN 81/900854/4/1
  8. Koshy Mathew Karinjapally.(2005). Roots and Wings Bangalore, India. ISBN 81-85447-21-7
  9. Cheriyan, Dr. C.V. Orthodox Christianity in India Kottayam2003.

In Malayalam:

  1. Chacko, T.C. (1936) Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charithra Samgraham. (Concise History of Marthoma Church), Pub: E.J. Institute, Kompady, Tiruvalla.
  2. Daniel, K.N. (1924) Malankara Sabha Charitravum Upadesangalum, (History and Doctrines of Malankara Church). M.C.Chacko, R.V.Press, Tiruvalla.
  3. Daniel, K.N. (1952). Udayamperoor Sunnahadosinte Canonukal. (Canons of Synod of Diamper) Pub: C.S.S., Tiruvalla.
  4. Eapen, Prof. Dr. K.V. (2001). Malankara Marthoma Suryani Sabha Charitram. (History of Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church). Pub: Kallettu, Muttambalam, Kottayam.
  5. George Alexander, Rev.(Ed). Maramon Convention Sathapdhi Valum-’95.
  6. George Kassessa, Rev. M.C. (1919). Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan. (Biography in Malaylam), CLS, Tiruvalla.
  7. Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan. (1857). Mar Thoma Sleehayude Idavakayakunna Malankara Suryani Sabhaudai Canon. (Canon of the Malankara Syrian Church of Saint Thomas). Printed at Kottayam Syrian Seminary.
  8. Mathew, N.M. (2007). Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.(2006), Volume II (2007). Volume III (2008) Pub. E.J.Institute, Thiruvalla
  9. Varughese, Rev. K.C., (1972). Malabar Swathantra Suryani Sabhyude Charitram (History of the Malankar Independednt Suryani Church)
  10. Mar Thoma Sabha Directory. (1999) Pub. The Publication Board of The Mar Thoma church, Tiruvalla, Kerala, India.
  11. P. V. Mathew. Nazrani Christians of Kerala (Malayalam) Vol.2 Kochi, 1993.
  12. Joseph Cheeran, Rev. Dr. Adv. P.C. Mathew (Pulikottil) and K.V. Mammen (Kottackal). Indian Orthodox Church History and Culture. (Malayalam) Kottackal Publishers, Kottayam. 2002.

External links[edit]