Are We Really An Indian Church?

Written By: on Apr 9th, 2010 and filed under Columns, Features, Opinions.


When E. M. Philip wrote his church history he titled it as : “Apostles Thomas’ Indian Church” (1951). In his book he tried to establish the identity of the Indian church with its affinity and obligation to the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. Today we affirm that Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is an independent (Autocephalous) church with its own administrative head and infrastructure in place. We have been fighting to establish that independence through civil procedures.

In our pledge of allegiance we proclaim the “freedom and indivisibility of the Church”. They are well taken points. We are that part of the Body of Christ in India and it should be recognized as the Church of India established by Apostle St. Thomas at the command of his Master.

When we say ‘Indian’ we expect some special characteristics. For example, ‘Indian Art and architecture’ will differ significantly from Greek or Roman art and architecture. ‘Indian philosophy’ is unique and differs in certain areas with Western philosophy. ‘Indian spirituality or piety cannot be compared one to one with Jewish spirituality.

‘Indian culture and customs’ vary significantly from the western customs and culture. In an ‘Indian restaurant’ we expect certain specialties as opposed to a Chinese restaurant. So anything we claim exclusiveness should reflect some of its special characteristics.

Now let us examine our church’s worship and the names that we give to our bishops. How do we differ from our sister autocephalous church viz. Syrian Orthodox Church? We simply translate and use Syrian worship books written centuries ago to maintain our identity. Our offices of prayers and the sacramental styles closely resemble the Syrian Orthodox church. Well, that is our affinity and relationship to them since 1665 to maintain Orthodox solidarity.

When it comes to the names of Bishops we search the church history books for the names of all 318 fathers of the Nicaea and pick one that ends in “—os”. (There are some exceptions too)

Interesting history book shows that a bishop John of India attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 with no “os” suffix. If we believe that we are an Indian church why can’t we use our own Indian names to our Bishops? Indian Christian tradition of naming a child is family oriented, i.e. giving the names of the grand parents or their near relatives. When it comes to naming a bishop, why do we have to go to the Greek or Syrian relatives? By bringing some one to bishopricate, are we throwing them away from our family of origin? In naming the Bishops/clergy Church of North India or Church of South India, or even Roman Catholic Church of India are more indigenous than the original Indian Church founded by Apostle Thomas. Will there be a paradigm shift when we name our newly elected bishop candidates?

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34 Responses for “Are We Really An Indian Church?”

  1. Manu says:

    Regarding few things John Mathew said:
    I agree with you in most things you said. I would like to comment on few things.
    1. If you say there is no enough historical evidence to say St. Thomas came to India, you should also know that there is no enough historical evidence to say that St. Peter was the first bishop of Antioch or he ordained the second bishop of Antioch. It is all based on some forged documents by Catholic Church which is shown as the evidence for it. He may have gone to Antioch as St. Paul says in Epistle to Galatians. Also there is no historical evidence for matrydom of St. Peter in Rome or for even St. Peter ever went to Rome.
    2. It is true that we accepted West Syrian rite. West Syrian rite is developed from Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (which was the rite of Antioch & Constantinople when Syriac Orthodox faction split from Greek Orthodox church) which again is adapted from Liturgy of St. Basil, which again is adapted from Liturgy of St. James which again is adapted from liturgy in Apostolic Constitutions (supposedly compiled by Clement of Rome). So nobody can boast ownership of any liturgy. Everybody adopts from a previous one and adapts it. Basis of all these is supposed to be Anaphora of Hippolytus of Rome.
    3. There is no evidence that Syrian Christians in Kerala are descendents of Syrian or Persian people. Few Syrian people would have come and settled here. That is all there to it.

  2. Manu says:

    I don’t exactly understand which are the Indian names that is being suggested. As previously one blogger pointed out, we being a Christian Church can afford to take only Christian names. All the Christian names are bound to be from outside India as this is a religion originated outside India. Even if we decide not to take Greek names, still what is left is names like John, Jacob, Matthew, Joseph, Thomas etc which are again Hebrew names and not Indian names.

  3. Abraham says:

    I had prepared a befitting reply to John Mathew, exposing his past deeds. Just because I later felt that to be, unchristian, I am holding it and not posting them here. However, I want to pen few lines.

    A FORUM IS NOT A CURE FOR ANYONE’S DISEASE.

    Their are other Christians, who read all these (bashing of Orthodox Church in the name ultra-conservatism), and members of the Orthodox Church, will have an embarrassing time answering these accusations.

    I have seen most of the articles and comments in Orthodox forums and weeklies twisted and taken out of context, appearing in Jacobite publications. They will twist it, add more masala and publish it.

    Positively, the articles of John Mathew in Nasrani.net, has belittled all the Orthodox Christians. One mans deed makes the whole members of the church feel embarrassed and answerable.

    If common sense had prevailed, and people had understood, that the church is not the personal property of anyone to mock and ridicule in public.

  4. Jacob Varghese says:

    Mr. John Mathew, you have been nothing but Rude, Disrespectful and foulmouthed. Your messages were not enlightening rather hate filled. Do you think this is the right tone to teach Conservative Orthodoxy? You have called other church members Heretics, Who has given you the right to do so? Why dont you try Love and Compassion in your messages?

    Your messages seem like you are angry at each and everyone posting here . Belittling others doesnt make you an intellectual or the voice of Conservative Orthodoxy. I am sad you didnt learn the basic quality a Christian should have from your Orthodox Guru’s. You boast your scholarly wisdom of Orthodoxy all over this forum by bashing others. Judge yourself, is it the right way to convey your ideas and thoughts? You have offended most readers here with your tone. Learn to love others then teach Orthodoxy.

  5. Suraj Iype says:

    John and others.

    You and I have spoken personally as well, and I know well whom I am dealing with from day one ( and I know you might have guessed it ).

    This misidentification of John Mathew with a United Church of Canada pastor gracefully sipping a bit of fine wine, is just that – a misidentification. Tha pastor will get a fright if he sees what is written of him.

    But that is all beside the point, I think people need to address issues and statements rather than find who is who.

    My humble request to John is this, be non abrasive and sensitive to people (even when you think they are dumb idiots). A little kindness and grace does not harm anybody.

    Until that occurs, even with the best intentions and the most cutting of arguments, you will not win people over. If ones intention is not to come of as Gods newest gift to the Malankara Church, then people must also be won over.

    I have no love for the Marthoma Church or the Anglican one or for the most part for what goes on in the typical Latin and Syro Malabar parishes down the road, but they are not damned heretics (Atleast not all of them are) . Anathemizing someone is not my job.

    I dont want to sound patronizing but even when man is at his intellectual worst, the image of Christ in the other must be seen.

  6. Thomas says:

    1) The historical proof that St Peter preached in Rome is slimmer than that of St Thomas’ mission in India. Western historians have conveniently fudged this issue and Catholic propaganda has brazenly peddled this misinformation down the centuries that no one has even bothered to question this seemingly obvious truth

    2) Edessa is the heart of Syriac christainity, Antioch a Greek City, has nothing to do with Syriac Christianity.
    Were the saints St Peter or St Ignatius, who we all agree, had connections and presence in Antioch Syrians? I doubt not.
    Like the Catholics our Syrian brothers are bent upon aligning themselves to St Peter and thereby claim superiority over other Christian denominations.

    Syriac Orthodox Christians should be brave and bold enough to call themselves Edessan Christians and align themselves to their true patron – St Thomas

  7. John Mathew says:

    Okay: last post from me. Please Editor: just allow this one through; I’ll not bother you any more. This is not a threat, but a humble request. I understand and respect your power to remove posts. I’ve tried to make this one as clean and as unabrasive as possible. I merely wish to respond to my misidentification with a pastor and the statement that I am a coward.

    To my opponents here: via a simple Google search you’ve found three people named “John Mathew” and assume that all three are the same? This doesn’t seem to be an accurate way of doing things: “John Mathew” is not exactly a rare combination of names on this planet. John’s the most popular name, and Mathew is close as well. The probability of “John” and “Mathew” being in a Malayali name is very high. I’m no pastor, and am likely 30 years younger than the target John Mathew you’ve identified. The late (and very lamented) Fr. Thomas P. Mundakuzhy baptized me, so from that your can deduce my age.

    And would your target “John Mathew” the pastor have read the Shehimo or Fenquito in Syriac? Please, be reasonable in your speculation. (And both those texts are large substantial texts: their translation into English is a major contribution.)

    I’m Orthodox, like it or not. And my apolitical ultraconservative stance is not rare.
    My perspective is nothing other than an ultra-orthodox point of view. That is, I admit knowledge only with actually proof. Regarding St Thomas: the point is moot anyways, whether or not he came (no proof exists either way) how does that make us better (or worse)? It looks like the Indians are using Thomas as a crutch. Apostolic origins does not make one *better* at orthodoxy. The Russians and Serbs are recent converts (10th century) and no Apostle converted them. Only Greek missionaries. Yet, they are perhaps the most pious Orthodox communities in Christendom.

    Since my posts are being deleted I’ll refrain from more posts. Please Editor, just this last one so I could clarify my point of view.

    The problem here is the typical liberal vs conservative friction. I’m an ultra conservative in matters of orthodoxy, and my opponents here are not. I’m not interested in the mix of culture, nationality, and religion; my opponents are.

    But to question my canonical affiliation because of my *conservatism* is utterly without any foundation.

    I’ve spoken with many priests of our Church who are of the hardline, ultraorthodox sort: none of them have any problem with me. They may disagree with my over emphasis on scientific methods with respect to religious history, but they never question my orthodoxy. In particular I’m a great admirer of C.E. Fr. Thottupuram. Much of my conservatism comes from studying his writings. He’s a beacon of conservatism in our Church.

    Okay, I’ll sign out. Hopefully this post makes it’s way through, because I don’t think I’m alone in this manner of thinking. There are many apolitical Orthodox members of the Church, who focus more on the Orthodoxy and less on the nationalistic/cultural aspects. Shouldn’t *we* have a voice?

    Thank you very much Editor, for allowing this one last post. Please let it through; I’ll not bother you nor the community any longer.

    Best regards,
    John

  8. Jacob Varghese says:

    I just noticed something, all the comments posted by The very Reverend Protestant John Mathew is deleted….Is he a coward?

  9. Jacob Varghese says:

    You are welcome Abraham!!!!

    This guy forgot that the year is 2010 and people have ways to dig information….

    He has been bashing Orthodox Church members for being “Protestantized” like Marthomites. Apparently he has some issues with Marthoma church, he has bashed them quite a few times……And this Very Reverend is a Protestant pastor….How Ironic…He claims to be Jacobite, Orthodox and what ever he wants, but he doesnt beleive St. Thomas came to India. Even Jacobites dont deny that fact.

    If you read his profile it says ” John was born and brought up in the first-century Mar Thoma (Apostle Thomas) tradition in Kerala, southwest India. ”

    Hmmmm……..Interesting!!!!! Mar Thoma ???? Apostle Thomas Tradition?????
    What a joke this guy is…..

  10. Abraham says:

    Thank you God for allowing me to write few lines about our beloved Sabhakavi CP Chandy Sir, today is his 5th death anniversary. (4th of May).

  11. Abraham says:

    Kudos, Jacob Varghese, for unraveling the PURE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN, who is ready to juggle from MOSC to JOC, for experiencing purity of faith.

    Here is another link pointing towards his credentials and affiliations.

    http://www.laurentian.ca/Laurentian/Home/Departments/Huntington+University/Faculty/JohnMathew.htm?Laurentian_Lang=en-CA

    What ????? did I read, United Church of Canada.

    Yes, the largest PROTESTANT church in Canada.

    http://www.united-church.ca/

    and our very PURE WESTERN ORTHODOX Christian, is a ordained minister of United Church of Canada.
    ————————————–
    Canfield Pastoral Charge
    Conference:Hamilton
    Presbytery :Erie
    6100820

    Contact Information:
    Street: PO Box 508
    City/Town: Canfield
    Province: ON
    Postal Code: N0A 1C0
    Phone: 905-774-3753
    Ministry Personnel: John T. Mathew
    —————————————————-
    See what, the person who, believes, that St.Thomas, never arrived in Kerala has to say,

    http://www.lightoflife.com/LOL_Article_ChristophanicCourage.htm

    No wonder why, he knows nothing about the legacy of Vattasheril Thirumeni, Valiya Bava , Pampady Thirumeni etc etc.

    He wrote in Nasrani.net, that is he a Jacobite, here he mentioned atleast 4-5 times that he is an Malankara Orthodox Christian. I am seriously wondering about his intentions??? A protestant Pentecost meddling in the affairs of the Orthodox church, misleading people, creating confusions, asking us to fight the Marthoma, hmm… Thanks again to Jacob Varghese, before, this Pentecost guy could create a ruckus, we found his whereabouts…

    And Robin J Mani… tring .. tring….get up..Wake up… its time to get back to reality ..:-)

  12. Abraham says:

    1. “St.Thomas in India.”

    One proof that St. Thomas came to India, is the several hymns by St.Ephrem the Syrian, and one goes like this

    “ ‘(Thus) howled the devil: into what land shall I fly from the just?
    ‘ I stirred up Death the Apostles to slay, that by their death I might escape their blows.
    ‘But harder still am I now stricken: the Apostle I slew in India
    has overtaken me in Edessa; here and there he is all himself.
    ‘There went I, and there was he: here and there to my grief I find him.”

    John Mathew urges everyone to read books of Sebastian Brock, Popularity of Brock himself is due to the book(The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of Saint Ephrem the Syrian) he wrote about St.Ephrem. As per John Mathew one should believe in brock and not what St.Ephrem wrote ????

    2. ” He say that Ougen bava was the only real catholicose and he has no respect for Vattaseril thirumeni,valiya bava thirumeni and vattakunnel thirumeni as they are all new editions.”

    He has certainly not read about anyone. Maybe since most of the good books are in Malayalam, he is finding problem in researching.

    No other church in Kerala has produced, great souls like, Pampady Thirumeni, Valiya Bava, and Vattasheril Thirumeni in the past century. Maybe John Mathew, never read about the miracle, a Jacobite family experienced because of the intercession of Vattasheril Thirumeni.

    An English book about Vattasheril Thirumeni is , “Truth Triumphs” by Fr.Dr. V.C. Samuel.

    3. “John Mathews undue reverence and love towards Catholics.”

    He gives undue credit to reeth catholics, for translating some paltry syriac prayers. Prayers are proses which anyone with the knowledge of language can do easily. Maybe he dosent know the magnitude of the effort our Sabhakavi CP Chandy Sir, had to undergo to translate the Syriac hymns to Malayalam.

    I have heard that, when one line of Syriac hymn is translated to its Malayalam meaning, it is more that two lines of Malayalam prose. Then, to convert that again to one line Malayalam hymn, without loosing the meaning, is a humongous task. Sabha Kavi, CP Chandy Sir, himself told, that , if he were asked to write hymns on his own, he could have done more easily that translating from Syriac.

    Creating such meaningful and beautiful songs, was indeed a tremendous job, and I would say historical too. Today, the Marthoma, Jacobites and the reethu, use his transalations with minor changes. How many of us Christians, would have enjoyed. our qurbana, if our beloved sabhakavi, hadn’t taken so much pain to get these hymns translated?

    If John Mathew is an Orthodox Christian and if he does enjoy the Malayalam qurbana, then atleast he should know who Sabhakavi CP Chandy Sir was and what were his contributions.

    3. The 3 churches.

    I agree with Mr.Thomas. Some of the churches are shared and some belong completely to the Marthoma, because they have majority in those places. In fact our church, would have fought for all those churches initially and would have lost (in the matter of these three).

    Sorry for my harsh tone. The problem is, some of us have not read the priceless books written in Malayalam about, Vattasheril Thirumeni, Valiya Bava and Pampady Thirumeni.

  13. Check this link out http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/profile/TheRevDrJohnTMathew

    I think it is the fanatic that has been posting here. It says he is an Ordained minister. The same guy who is posting in nasrani.net.

    He also gave his contact 705-522-3454 and/or (jmathew@laurentian.ca) . So if any one wants to blow off some tension call

    The. Very. Rev. Fr. Hon. Bar Itho Metho Potho Dr. John Mathew Phd MA BA Vivarakkedu

  14. Dear Mr. Abraham,
    You are absolutely right.There is basically something wrong with John Mathew.Otherwise how can he say ” Iam belonging to the malankara orthodox church but I do not believe that St. Thomas ever came to India ” .But he belongs to a church which believe and declare that the Malankara church is founded by St. Thomas the Appostle (Declaration clause 2. of the constitution ).This is like someone say ” I am a christian but I do not believe Jesus Christ ever came to this world.”
    2.He say that Ogen bava was the only real catholicose and he has no respect for Vattaseril thirumeni,valiya bava thirumeni and vattakunnel thirumeni as they are all new editions.
    3.Fore fathers of the malankara nasranis were not masters in hair splitting theology to distinguish who is nestorian and who is antiochean but they were all god fearing and pious people who welcomed and accepted whoever came in this land in the name of our Lord.There was no proper language available to have our own liturgy.There was no malayalam and printing technology in those days.When our fore fathers came to know the real intention of the foreigners they started revloting.
    4. Now the question of two or three ancient churches in the possession of Marthoma church and in two or three sharing with them can be compared with the occupation of manarcadu church etc.by the Jacobites where they have wild majority and sharing of
    Piravam,Kolencherry,Kadamattom etc. by orthodox and Jacobites even though the constitution approved by the supreme court says (clause,94) ” the prime juridiction regarding the temporal ecclesiastical and spiritual administration of the Malankara church is vested in the Malankara Metropolitan”.
    5.This was the same condition in those days in Maramon and Kozhencherry Churches which was in the native place of Palakkunnathu Mathews mar Athanasios where the majority were supporters of the reformist group.Hence these churches are with the marthoma church today.There was a sad incident that a man was killed inside Kozhencherry church in 1863 even before the formal split took place in the fight and scuffle between the two groups while Mavelil Geevarghese kathanar belonging to the conservative group was trying to conduct holy qurbana.Seven people from the Ayroor Pakalomattom family including the priest landed in Jail as they were convicted in this case(Ayroor pakalomattom Family history 1982 edition page113–123.).
    Thomas Kuttikandathil,
    Houston.

  15. Abraham says:

    “The MOSC lies about it’s history by claiming our Church is a continuation of the old pre-Portuguese Church, and that our Catholicos is the historic head of Indian Christians.”

    Arent these claims made by Marthomite and Syro Malankara Catholics also?

    The jacobites and the orthodox have the unbroken succession from MarThoma I. Neither both did, deviate in the values, and both are Orthodox. So what is the lie all about ?????

    The Jacobites, teach that we had historical ties with Antioch, from the early ages which is a lie and the Syro-Malabar catholics, teach that we had historical connections with the Pope, another lie. Between these two highly absurd blunders, you seem to more interested in pointing a Malankara church which claims only a paltry succession, which even the protestant Marthomites and the 80 year old, Reeth make. If its not the continuation, then where from the Orthodox church come from , out of the blue ????

    “Our Catholicate is a mere 100 years old, and our West Syriac creed is a mere 400 years old in India.”

    Did anyone argue about it, that’s what we all learn in Sunday school.

    “We were Chaldean Catholics before Mor Gregorios came in the 1600s, and we were Nestorians before that.”

    Partially true and partially wrong. We were Nestorians, no argument about it. The Chaldean church is as old as the Malankara chuch. It was established only in 1552. And the Portuguese used the bishops of the newly formed Chaldean church, to bring us to their fold. (Sebastiani, Mar Joseph etc). But it was late, so we were never under the Chaldeans. May be we would have had connections with them, but then the Persian church was a united church.

    “What does our Church in India have that is unique? Oil lamps and thalis? Is that all? Nothing! We don’t have one iota of anything that is not an import from the East and West Syriacs. Nothing!”

    Ours is not a christian country and we do not live in proximity to the Middle East. Christanity itself is an import to India. So what else should we do? Does the Catholics in Philipines, have a different faith, than the Spaniards who made them catholics ? Does the Russian orthodox christians have a different faith, than their brothers in Greece? It is historical, that all the native practices we had were banned or abolished either by, the Portuguese or to some extend the Syrians. So do you want to say we should have revolted these foreigners and kept alive all those ancient practices ?

    “Compare that with the Ethiopians and Armenians who are truly ancient Churches”

    Their was no religious invasion, in those countries, like what we had in India. (Portuguese). And also we had people like British Munro. Ethiopia was an Italian colony very recently and those Italians never meddled with the Ethiopian church like how the Portuguese, Syrians and British did in India. Neither was Armenia a colony of any other country.

    “Either that or go and join the Mar Thomites rather than pollute our Orthodox Church with your mental infection.”

    This is one crap which you keep saying. I live in kerala, and I have not seen the church leaders having any kind of love towards the Marthoma church. Some fools , who have marthoma connections through marriage , may go to maramon and all sort of stupid venues. But please don’t paint the whole church protestant. I have no love to any protestant church, and so does all true orthodox Christians. The love for Protestantism, is found among catholics as well, I have seen many catholics, who shift to protestant denominations, it is not the problem of the church. It is personal interest of individuals to study what is correct.

    “Only a fool would claim that the Mar Thomite use of *our* Churches for their heresy is a “minor” issue.”

    There was no Jacobite or Orthodox faction, when these 3 churches, were handed to Marthomites. Why dont you, ask your jacobite brothers also to fight for these three churches? Even the Syro-Malankara can also join.

    My sincere advise, to you, if you claim that you are an orthodox Christian, and hold different views, please do not claim, that you belong to so and so denomination. Their was pathetic blunder, which someone posted, “Vattasheriil Thirumeni asked Reeth ivanios to join Rome” , what reply did you give for that, either say , you don’t know about it, or give him some reply which you know . All the history which you are dumping here is exactly available in ‘Malankara Nasranikal ’ – written by ZM Paret, you don’t have to go after Brock, Istvan Perczel etc to know all these.

  16. Abraham says:

    ” demonizing our Catholic and Jacobite brothers, are far more interested in letting the Mar Thomite occupation of our 3 ancient churches (Chengannur, Kottarakara, Maramon) continue unchallenged ”

    And the CATHOLICS and JACOBITES are saints !!!!!

    And all the problem, is that we didnt start a war with MARTHOMA for a paltry 3 churches, and one among that is shared (Chengannur).

    Readers, please dont buy the arguments of John Mathew, HE IS A CUNNING JACOBITE. The same person, claimed to be a JACOBITE , in the webiste nasrani.net.

    His only intention is creating internal stife.

  17. Abraham says:

    “I have heard he was simply doing what Vattersail told him to do.”

    Where do you hear such nonsense?
    Read better books rather that listening to crap people and reading Yellow paper,

    “Vishwsa Somrakshakan”

  18. Abraham says:

    @Robin J Mani,

    John Mathew, is clearly a Jacobite. He is fooling around for quite some time, posing as an IOC member.

  19. Robin J Mani says:

    Mr. Mathew,
    From your research were you able to find out any information regarding the formation of the Malankara Reeth and Ivanios’ reasons for going back to Rome? I have heard he was simply doing what Vattersail told him to do.

  20. Jacob says:

    Mr. Mathew,

    Voices of sanity are very rare in Orthodox online communities.

    Do take the time to make a couple of postings on the above in ICON –
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IndianOrthodox/

    There are several priests and Bishops who may respond.

    Thanks
    Jacob

  21. Mr. Mathew,
    How did you come about your thinking, which is far away from your Church’s usual rhetoric. Where you always thinking along these lines or was it process of many years and research? Also do you know of any Bishops from your Church that have similar feelings?

    Robin

  22. John Mathew says:

    Robin:

    Perhaps I was overly negative on this one. I’m unconvinced by the arguments of both sides, which means I should have wrote I’m neutral to this issue (and not negative). My mistake.

    But quite a bit of silliness comes from the St Thomas adherents, e.g., the over-drama of Palayur, Mylapore, etc., by the Catholics. I’m positive the story: “St Thomas came to India in 52 AD, converted Brahmins, and established 7.5 Churches is false.”

    Perhaps he came to India — perhaps also to southern India. But who he converted is unknown. And he likely didn’t found any of the nine Churches that are claimed to be his (several are in contention: the Catholics claim one list, we claim another).

    So whether or not St Thomas came is an difficult issue to argue. But the recorded history of our Church begins in the 5th century. We have solid evidence up to then.

  23. John Mathew says:

    Robin:

    I am also disgusted with the clamoring for innovation that occurs in the Indian Orthodox Church. And I strongly disagree with the constant re-definition of the Catholicate. And of course I object to the over-emphasis of St Thomas in defining the Church in India. (Not because of any diminished respect for St Thomas; rather, I don’t actually believe he came to India. I think the connection of Thomas with India happened via the Syriac and Persian immigrants who brought their reverence for Mar Thoma to India, and passed that tradition to their children (us).)

    I would join the Syriac Orthodox Church in a heartbeat if it didn’t have similar problems. For example, my comment of Syriac Orthodox bookstalls holding books of dubious authorship. Then there’s the use of instruments and novel tunes. When I last went to India, I visited SEERI, and happened to pass by St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kottayam. What did I hear? Some convention speaker giving a bona fide Pentecostal rendition.

    Like I said earlier, there is an infection that plagues both Churches, and is the real problem. I hope there would be some kind of peace (not unity) in Malankara, if only to help both sides attack the real problem.

  24. Jigme says:

    Nationalism has NO place in the church. That’s all I’ll say on that matter.

  25. John Mathew says:

    RE: changing the name of our Church

    Why change anything? Why are we all clamoring for change?

    In English, the name of our Church should be in English and should be descriptive. “Malankara Sathia viswasa Sabha” meanings nothing in English and doesn’t describe our Church at all. Perhaps this name is sufficient in Malayalam—i don’t care about Malayalam as that languages is not relevant to our Church in any liturgical sense—but it is not suitable as the English name of our Church.

    In English: Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is very descriptive. It identifies us as an Orthodox Church of the Syriac tradition in Malankara.

  26. John Mathew says:

    Itty Pothen:

    What a coincidence: that exact same verse comes to mind when I see maniacs chanting “Jai Catholicos” … within the Church … during *Lent*.

    Quoting verses out of context often works both ways. And here’s another from our father Solomon:

    “Do not move the landmark of your ancestors.”

  27. We are bothered about the name of the bishops. Same time we are not discussed the name of the church itself. Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Syrian Church. Why not Malankara Sathia viswasa Sabha instead of this.

    Many claims CSI and CNI are more using Indian names but CSI using their songs as like English Songs. Please watch any Songs by CSI Quoir . The viewers may be thinking when their nerves of the singers will break down while we see their face expression.

    So there is no wrong to follow greek or syrian or western style name or prayers but the persons who leads the prayer and part take the worship should understand what they prays and worships.

    After all what is the use if we attend the worship if we canot forgive and forgets the enimity against our brother , relatives or neighbour .

    So greek, syrian or english names or prayers is not the problem if we really lives as per the teaching of Christ.

  28. Itty Pothen says:

    In response to John Mathew’s Post;

    Proverbs 12: 15, 16

    15 The way of a fool seems right to him,
    but a wise man listens to advice.
    16 A fool shows his annoyance at once,
    but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

    I pen off.
    God Bless you my Brother.

  29. John Mathew says:

    In response to Itty Pothen’s post:

    1. “And from within us Indians, but surprisingly not seen elsewhere in the world, we unfortunately have “loyal folks” or ‘bootlickers’ who are the real fertilizers nourishing such domination,”

    Rubbish. I think the real probelm is people who feel intrinsically inferior due to their own lack of something, and to compensate claim that they’re part of some great civilization to somehow appropriate the accomplishments of others. So now, I see the majority of Indians who are clamoring for our “ancient” patriarchate, are likely to be people who themselves are nothing special. And so, they appeal to their origins in a “great civilization” to justify themselves.

    And your “boot licking” foolishness is seen everywhere not just in India.
    Read about Jacob of Edessa. He was a Syriac but honored the Greeks, and got into trouble from his Syriac peers. Or read about the Russians and Serbians who like to go back to the Greek source. There are honest people everywhere.

    2. “Authentic historical records show that Christianity came to India through St. Thomas”

    No. No such records exist.

    3. “External domination will continue as long as our ‘bootlicking’ attitude exists”

    No. External domination will exist as long as we continue to think like 2-year old children as opposed to adults. False pride is useless, and others can easily see through such foolishness — and correspondingly judge us to be inferior.

    4. “Though we see numerous Patriarchates in Syria claiming to be that of Antioch origin, there’s only one authentic Patriarchate of Antioch in the Oriental Orthodox Churches”

    Yes, only one Oriental Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, but several if you include the Catholics (4) and the Greeks (1). So the non-Chalcedonians are outnumbered 5:1 and you have the audacity to claim we’re the authentic one? A man with a balanced intellect would say at the very least that there’s no consensus. The word authentic has no place here: what the standard of authenticity.

    And ditto for Malankara. There are 3 contenders to the West Syriac Catholicate. None has any objectively greater standard of authenticity.

    5. Regarding Christian traditions. There really are only 3 basic liturgical traditions. Starting from oldest to youngest: Greek, Syriac, Latin. Everything comes from these 3. That’s all there is. There’s no specifically Indian tradition.

    6. “so we need not be so inferior as to think “Are we really an Indian Church””

    Aha! Here’s the cause underlying it all: feelings of inferiority. That is what is giving rise to all of this bogus history and propaganda.

    Why feel inferior that we are Syrians liturgically? The Russians are Greeks liturgically, converted in the 10th c, but they don’t feel inferior. Piety has nothing to do with history. One could be a recent convert and still have the same value as the son of ancient converts. There’s no difference in Christianity between either.

    So why are we lying to ourselves and others like this?

  30. Itty Pothen says:

    Are we really an Indian Church?
    What a Caption? It’s the joke of Centaury. Don’t be surprised if somebody asks you; Are we really human beings? Or are we really Indians? Mind you, any such questions can take you by surprise and knock you off balance.

    The crux of the genes in the Indian DNA is that even though we Indians have all points fully to our credit, be it in any sphere of life, we don’t know how to dominate, leave alone Church issues. That’s because of the great quality of simplicity and humbleness found especially in Indians. But, add to it, direct or indirect domination gives us some sort of phony happiness and prestige to proclaim that we are part of so and so or we belong to so and so. The visitors to us on the other hand always have a sense of domination and they stealthily take advantage of the simplicity and humbleness of the Indians to exploit the situation. And from within us Indians, but surprisingly not seen elsewhere in the world, we unfortunately have “loyal folks” or ‘bootlickers’ who are the real fertilizers nourishing such domination, be it in political life (witnessed during the time of the British rule) or the Church issues running through centuries.

    External domination will continue as long as our ‘bootlicking’ attitude exists and here lies the crux of all issues including Church issues. We need to respect others but not become a boot licker. We as Indians need to recognize our own potential, our capability and our worth, our sense of pride; our respect and worthiness that we are able and this will have a tremendous effect to identify that we are second to none.

    Christian is certainly not of Indian origin and for that matter did not also originate from Syriac or Greek or Egypt or Rome or other Countries, but from the Jews, who after the ascension of Our LORD were for the first time called Christians in Antioch in Turkey, near the modern city of Antakya in Turkey. The heads of the Churches started moving due to persecution and with the growing demand of the faithful. In this context the head at Antioch relocated to Damascus in Syria. The Catholicate of the East was relocated to Kottayam in Malankara. Though we see numerous Patriarchates in Syria claiming to be that of Antioch origin, there’s only one authentic Patriarchate of Antioch in the Oriental Orthodox Churches which is the Syriac Orthodox Church and though we see numerous Catholicates in Malankara claiming to be under the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and under the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, there’s only one authentic Catholicate of the East in the Oriental Orthodox Churches which is the Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Church.
    Christianity spread to Rome, Greek, Syria, Mediterranean Islands, Egypt, India etc, etc. Can each of these Churches in Rome, Greek, Syria or Egypt start thinking “Are we really a Roman Church or are we really a Greek Church or are we really a Syriac Church or are we really an Egyptian Church or are we really an Indian Church etc, absolutely makes no sense. If we go by the strictest terms of ‘REAL’ then it’s really what Jesus established and His disciples followed and practiced which is “Spirituality” and what we cannot really know now, for all those practices now seen in Churches over the years have been either added or deleted by different Councils from time to time to suit a particular Community, Country or Geographical area and is religion not spirituality in the strict sense.
    In the beginning each of the apostolic Churches helped other apostolic Churches in times of difficulty and that had lead to nourishment as well as disputes, as evident from the Epistles of St. Paul. Therefore, Churches had “religious practices” influenced or borrowed from other Churches. The Coptic Church helped the Syriac Church in times of difficulty and the Thaksa of the Syriac Church is not the sole creation of the Syriac Church alone but has been also contributed by the Coptic Church. So, does that mean the Syriac Church have to think “are we really Syrian?” That makes no sense at all.

    Authentic historical records show that Christianity came to India through St. Thomas. Now, St. Thomas came to India to teach the word of God and that’s Spirituality. He established seven Churches here in INDIA for the Indians to worship. Ever since, these Churches are Indian and of the Indians and absolutely is ‘REALLY AN INDIAN CHURCH’ and will remain so. Contacting other Churches for help is pure religion. Just because the Indian Church was influenced or happened to borrow religious practices from other Apostolic Churches does not mean that the Indian Church has lost its identity and therefore should begin to ponder over the question “are we really an Indian Church?”
    Most of the modern technology that we use in daily life in India is not the sole creation of Indians alone, but has been borrowed as well, influenced from other Communities, Countries and Geographical areas and incorporated to meet our requirements, so as to be in par with the Modern World. In this context, does that mean we have to start thinking “are we really Indian”? You may argue what this has got to do with Church affairs. Well, when we start thinking on the question “are we really Indian Church” in terms of just because we’ve borrowed some practices, this runs concurrent to the thinking “are we really Indian” just because we’ve borrowed something for our daily activities in other spheres of our lives as well.

    So long as man exists in this world, there exists a tendency to share, borrow, give, take influence, improve and grow and that’s what society actually is and that’s why people travel and move around. And this is what has been precisely happening to the Churches as well.

    And man is a social animal. So long as this social attitude does not lead to greed, conquering, control and bossing, it remains healthy.

    Our LORD said “Go and make disciples of “ALL NATIONS” and so we need not be so inferior as to think “Are we really an Indian Church”. Should we? Absolutely not! For the LORD send His Apostle Thomas to us to make disciples of us for HIM and we have just to proclaim “My LORD and My God” and lo, the LORD is with us always and unto the end of the ages. So take heart and be of good courage for the LORD our GOD is with us.

    Link below shows a grand and interesting open letter worth reading which reveals truly the myth and blind faith practiced by many.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/28443051/Open-Letter

  31. MORE IMPORTANT IS TRINITY THE FATHER THE SON And HOLYSPIRIT. Let give a choice to people and select what they like. Those who like to be under the holy see of Anthioc , let them have it and those who want to be under the holy see of Malankara, Let them also have that.
    What ever we do it should be good and helpfull for poor people and common man and let them thank Our GOD?. Let it be indian or syriac or greek if we can be like Jesus or like Apostholes or the anicient Greek holy Fathers aor Syriac holyFathers or even like Parumala Thirumeni, They all give more importance to GOD and serverd, we give more importance to other things, thats is why we are having different opinions and different ideas?

    regards
    General Statements

  32. vilson says:

    As we know regarding the history about the Indian specially Malankara Christians are not available, may foreigners to impose their rule over the Christians here and to change them to their church might have destroyed all the histories. We have not known about the traveling of Indians to other continents unlike the people from other continents visited India and especially Malankara for business.

    But no one can say there was no Christianity in Malankara before the arrival of Latin Catholics or Syrian.

    Regarding the Davidianism in Malankara Christians.
    1. Wedding sari and Manthrakodi – From Dravidian Culture.

    2. Thalikettu (Minnukettu) – From Dravidian Culture.

    3. Kalvilakku, Thookuvilakku in churches are from India.

    4. Even now we are not following but before the Malankara People were keeping Kuduma (bunch of long hair on the head)

    5. Even if not official Rahukalam is still followed by the Christian (even after the churches are discouraging it). Even some Pentecost People following it when it comes for their own important occasions even if they will not agree.

    6. Dravidian Stars and Jathakam – Even after high objection from church leaders we are not avoiding it when it comes for many occasions including at the time of marriage. I have seen in one Christian Matrimony web site the detail of one Pentecost Girl is given with her star.

    7. The way of wishing each other and giving peace is not same among various Christian denominations among various nations.

    8. Wedding suit is a later addition after our people started working outside Kerala.

    9. Sari used by our ladies and Churidar. Also Kachamuri and Kavani the dress used by Ladies (Chatta is borrowed from Jews is seems to be)

    10. Vidhiarambam (staring of studying) – Cannot be seen in any other Christians.

    11. Vattayappam – Pesaha appam

    12. We have 28 kettu

    So even if we adopted many things from various countries, still we have many indigenous identities from our country.

    We have malayalee version of Christian names Viz, Kariyachan, Uthuppu, Aantappan, Georgekutty, vareethu, avarachan, mathai, chackochan, Varunni, etc and Aleyamma, Achamma, Annamma, etc,

  33. John Mathew says:

    This is a very interesting topic.

    I think the answer to the question is complex.

    1. Liturgically we are not Indian at all. We are West Syriac. Apart from some extremely minor contributions by Indians (e.g., Mor Augen’s Hootomo prayers, and some miscellaneous prayers; beautiful, but still paltry compared to the vast corpus of Syriac texts that we’ve appropriated) we are a 100% copy of the Syriac Orthodox Church. In fact, in this respect we are not a sister Church of the Syriac Orthodox, but a daughter Church of Antioch. Yes, it may sound bitter to hear this, but — liturgically and historically — this is a fact.

    And prior to our connection with Antioch, i.e., prior to the 17th century, we were a replica of the East Syriac Church, and a daughter of them.

    This is something that we should not downplay for mere politics. We must be honest (if we claim to be Indian, let’s follow the example of India’s greatest son, Gandhi, and pursue *truth* as opposed to propaganda), and acknowledge that there is nothing about our liturgy that is Indian.

    Even the Persians influenced the East Syriacs and there are some fossils of Persian culture to be found in the East Syriac liturgy. The Chinese also developed their own local variant literature after their contact with the East Syriacs. What about us? Nothing. Nada. Nothing original.

    Aside: My theory? No, it’s not that Indians lacked the intellect to do this. Rather, the Christians of Malabar are likely to be descendants of various migrations of Persians (that is, Iranians) and Syriacs from the Middle East who fled Zoroastrian, and later Muslim, persecution. No, I’m not talking about the “Knanaya” fiction. I’m talking about the still living, substantiated immigrations that occurred in the 10th century under the leadership of Mar Sabor and Mar Aproth (e.g., go to Kollam and you’ll find families connected to those immigrations — interestingly they’re *not* endogamous.) So why did the Indians not develop their own liturgy? Because they wanted to maintain the faith of their Persian and Syriac fore-fathers in this new adopted home. The same way Malayalis in the West still maintain the Malayalam liturgy and call bishops from India.

    2. Ethnically, clearly we are Indian But in a country like India, where people are basically the product of inter-racial, inter-cultural marriages, what does “Indian” even mean in a land composed of: hill tribes, Dravidians, Aryans, Mongoloids, Turks, Jews, Parsees, Anglo-Indians, Lusitanian-Indians, etc.?

    3. Based on the origin of our episcopal ordinations: we are *not* Indian. We all know the standard story: St Thomas came to India and ordained priests, etc.

    Let’s assume St. Thomas did come. What we do know is that by the 17th century there were *no* remaining bishops from the original lineage of Thomas (assuming there ever was one, assuming Thomas ordained bishops in India — big assumptions, but let’s humor the assumption for now while accepting the fact that we actually have *no* evidence that Indians were ordained as bishops). As of the beginning of the 17th century, we only had archdeacons who were administrators but lacked any episcopal status. And we had priests and deacons. *No* bishops. Perhaps we had bishops in the past, but as of the 17th century every lineage from those bishops had died out. This is a fact.

    Now, who was it that ordained Indians? Not the East Syriacs (at least, not in recorded history.) Rather, it was the Latin Catholics and the Jacobites who first ordained Indians in recorded history. Yes!! It was our so-called “enemies” and opponents who were the ones who had sufficient respect for us so as to confer the episcopy on Indians.

    And right up to this very day, every Indian bishop in the Orthodox/Jacobite Church has a line of ordinations whose starting point is a Jacobite bishop. There are no lines leading to our supposed Indian episcopal forebears who supposedly got ordained by St Thomas. Any episcopal connection to Thomas in our Church comes not from an Indian lineage, but from the lineage of the West Syriac Catholicos/Maphrian of the East.

    This is a fact, and you can confirm this historically as the list of Catholicoi/Maphrians is well known.

    There are *no* chains of Indian ordinations to any bishop that is alive now, that leads to before the 17th century.

    So we’re *not* Indian in an episcopal sense.

    4. RE: John of Persia: Yes, a bishop who signed as John of Persia and Great India signed at the council. But whether he was Indian, Persian, or an Assyrian/Aramean metropolitan of India and Persia is unknown. It’s a stretch to assume he was Indian — especially since the first report of Indians in Malabar is from the 5th century by our friend Cosmas.

    5. The author wrote: “When it comes to naming a bishop, why do we have to go to the Greek or Syrian relatives”

    Because we are not petty immature racist childish people, I hope. First, all of our Bishops are named after Greek names. None of the names of our bishops are Syriac, not *one*. Why Greek? Because Christianity, despite its “Asian” “Semitic” origins, was chiefly developed by Greek-speaking peoples (they may have been African, Asian, Jewish, or European — whatever — the point is they spoke *Greek* which was the dominant language of the world, which included the Hellenized Orient).

    The East Syriacs use beautiful Syriac names for their bishops: Denha, Sabr-Isho, etc., as well as Old Testament names. But the West Syriacs use Greek names exclusively, since prior to Chalcedon, they were administered by Greeks. And many of their fathers (even after the schism) had an affinity for Greek culture. How else to you explain John of Damascus’ poetry that we still sing, even though he was virulently against the Jacobite “heresy”.

    Christianity is multicultural — even when one is at odds with a race (which shouldn’t happen in the first place for a Christian!), one can not deny the contributions of saints from that race. So the Syriacs respect the Greek fathers. And so we respect the Greek and Syriac fathers.

    So, the proper question is: why do we use *GREEK* names? Why not?! They are our Fathers, spiritually, and we honor them by taking their names. There’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s stop acting like petty racists.

    6. RE: indigeounousness.

    What does this even mean? Is an Indian named Dionysius or Jacob or Thomas any less Indian than one named Ravi, or Krishna? What is this? Why are we asking silly, meaningless, rhetorical questions with absolutely no sense?

    Okay, say you don’t like Baselios because it’s Greek. Or SabrIsho because it’s Syriac. Is Thoma any better? It’s not Indian — it’s Hebrew/Aramaic! Can we at least think one step beyond our simplistic arguments to see the folly underlying it all?!

    For us to be an Indian Church must we all have our bishops named Mor Indra, Mor Vishnu, etc? Is that what Indian means? Now, if the Aryan theory has any merit (I don’t know) even those names are foreign.

    So then what? Do we go to the hill tribes of India and ask what to name our bishops so we attain the most purest “Indian” naming mechanism?

    This kind of thinking is absurd.

    My apologies to the author for taking this harsh critical tone, but I think that there is far more to this topic than simple base nationalism, or kindergarten-esque logic.

    If we want to become an Indian Church, like our more ancient Oriental Orthodox *big* sisters (the Syriacs and their daughters the Armenians; the Copts and their daughters the Ethiopians and Eritreans), then that will take time. We can’t force it, it has to flow naturally.

    The best example: Mor Augen, the first Catholicos of the undivided Church, and a true scholar. He wrote original prayers — the Hootomo concluding prayers — based on his encyclopaedic knowledge of our Syriac faith.

    My fear — we will never have a Mor Augen again, because it seems Syriac scholarship — nay, *any* scholarship that is not of legalistic nature — is not encouraged these days. We have an abundance of Syriac literature rotting in our old Church cupboards, with no translations made.

    Perhaps rather than formulating useless sermons that achieve nothing, and rather than opening colleges that require bribes for admissions, rather than opening up new “cathedrals” (while destroying the old structures built with love by our fathers), rather than purchasing new episcopal palaces — *PERHAPS* our Bishops should direct their efforts into translating the works of our Fathers (whether Greek or Syriac) and thereby attain sufficient skill and inspiration so as to compose new, deep liturgical works.

    But somehow, I think this will fall of deaf ears. People are far more interested in chanting “Jai Catholicos” to a 100 year old throne, are far more interested in demonizing our Catholic and Jacobite brothers, are far more interested in letting the Mar Thomite occupation of our 3 ancient churches (Chengannur, Kottarakara, Maramon) continue unchallenged, are far more interested in listening to the political antics of our bishops — than in pushing for something more meaningful and fundamental to gets us on the path of real Indianness.

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