Friday, 4 October 2013

Icon-wearing Syriac prelates

It seems that our Orthodox Counterparts the (Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch) have adopted the Greek practice of wearing icons.

Moran Mor Ignatius Zaka Iwas. Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church

Moran Mor Ignatius Aphram I Barsoum. Late Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church

However when we look at SOC (Syriac Orthodox Church) Patriarchs before(or around) the turn of the century. We see that this was not the practice. Our Patriarchs have maintained the practice of simply wearing a cross (the change of head-covering was imposed by the Ottomans which i will explain in latter blog posts)

Moran Mor Ignatius Abdo Aloho. Late Patriarch of the SOC

Moran Mor Ignatius Joseph III Younan

The reason why I bring this into attention is that we Eastern Catholics often fall into the error of thinking that everything our Orthodox Counterparts do is the more "traditional" and "correct" way of doing things.However this is not always the case and we see here that the SOC has some-sort of a hellenisation.


Pray for unity between the Oriental Orthodox and the Catholic Church

Through the Prayers of the Birth-Giver of God Maryam and Mor Ephrem, God Bless you.


  1. The Syro-Malankara, as well as the Malankara Orthodox Church (Both of Syriac tradition) wear the cross as well as icon of St. Mary and St. Thomas. Is it hellenization or being able to wear it outside of Islamic domination? I notice the Copts and Armenians wear a similar item, as do many OO prelates.

    1. I don't believe the ACoE is a good example for this practice, they have historically been devoid of the icon Tradition even within the Church, and even repudiated images in some parts of their history - they are less iconoclastic today, but still prefer not to have them in their churches.

  2. Nice blog.

    I think it's strange that one would attribute something as "correct" or "traditional" based on how "Syriac" it is versus how "Greek" it is, or how "Latin" it is. I don't believe the linguistic/cultural origin of a tradition can (1) be totally identified, or (2) if identified, can be attributed as right or wrong. (Which is why I, an Orthodox member, view anti-Latinization as ridiculous.)

    For example, with the case of icons, could it not be that the iconophilic traditions of the 8th century century persisted in the Greek East, while it was de-emphasized in the Syriac East due to Islamic invasion of Syriac lands? Teule makes a good case for the use of icons in the Church of the East, even. (That is, to say the Church of the East *never* used icons is very controversial, when we only have the modern day, heavily persecuted form to make our observations of).

    In Malankara, folks are unfortunately saturated with quasi-Protestant arguments. Which is why people make utterly absurd remarks regarding the validity of the crucifix in Orthodox or Eastern Catholic Churches. As if the doctrines pertaining to the salvation that was purchased by Christ's crucifixion are only those of the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. Do such folks even understand what they're reading when they sing the Anthem of Mar Severios?! And so with icons, the tendency to attribute it to an impure incursion of Hellenization, as opposed to a legitimate expression of faith. Above, when I see Patriarchs wearing the icons, it is an obvious expression of faith. And the Syriac Church was *never* pure in any way: even the most Oriental Church (the CoE), was very interested in the Greek fathers, maintaining its rites with reference to more western standards, etc. The West Syriac Church, due to proximity, of course never had a problem with the Greeks either (except for their "heresy"!).

    Finally, the use of the term "Hellenization" isn't correct. Hellenization is what Alexander the Great and his successors did back in the day, when they spread Greek civilization throughout the East to synthesize a universal civilization. This proved to be the bedrock that enabled the Christian faith to quickly spread. No one is Hellenizing anything nowadays: in a Church where the Gospels are all Greek, the main scriptures are referenced against a Greek gold standard (the LXX), and all of the oldest versions of the rites are in Greek, there is no need to "spread Greek".

    Adopting modern Greek Church customs (if that's the case) is not hellenization. It is mere cross fertilization, no different that when Orthodox Christians use Catholic icons and imagery, etc., and customs (e.g., the Rosary, Novenae, etc.). Just cross fertilization.