Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Minor Orders

Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of the Syriac Catholic Church and the Chaldean Church, which we have not disregarded upon union with Rome, is the strong emphasis on the minor orders in the Church.

The minor orders are:
  • Mazamrono (cantor)
  • Quryoyo (lector)
  • Aphudyaqno (subdeacon)
In the Syriac Church young men and boys are encouraged to join the minor orders. Depending on the Eparchy or parish a system of learning and rewarding is used. An example of this may be: If young man would know the different movements in the Qurobo (Mass) and knows how to chant the Psalms he would be ordained a cantor. Upon a young man learning the various prayers required by the deacon (by deacon here, I mean server) in the liturgy he is ordained as a lector, when a young man is able to learn Syriac and read the epistle well, he would be ordained a subdeacon.

Here the orders are permanent, meaning there is no assumption that the young man will continue all the way to the priesthood. Nevertheless, if a young man feels a call to the Holy Orders (full-deacon or priest) he can consult his Bishop.

What often happens in the Patriarchal territories (and sometimes in the diaspora) is that a Bishop may ask a married subdeacon to become a full-deacon. A subdeacon is often chosen based on his standing in the community, self-education, love for the Church, knowledge of  liturgy and holiness. A full-deacon usually becomes the head of the deacons in a parish. His primary liturgical responsibility is organising the deacons, which musical scales to use, which deacon uses the censer, which deacon proclaims specific prayers etc. He may also be required to give classes, baptise and help the priest. While at the same time he continues his secular job.

A deacon may latter on in his life be asked to be a married priest. If this happens he may be required to leave his secular life completely and dedicate his life to the Church.

The importance of the minor orders are many. They include:

  • the education of young boys
  • foster vocations
  • creates a sense of community
  • encourages the preservation of tradition amongst the laity 
  • education of laity through the minor orders
and many more...

I personally believe though, that in the diaspora it is far too easy to elevate through the minor orders. Many young men without a knowledge of Syriac or liturgy are often made lectors or subdeacons. The minor orders are often seen as only positions of prestige. And while they are prestigious, the requirement and promise is to serve the Church and the community.

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

Monday, 25 November 2013

Syriac (and Maronite) Romanisations vs Melkite Byzantinisations

We hear all the time the large number of Romanisations (mostly neo-Romanisations) that have occurred and are occurring within Syriac Churches whom are in communion with Rome. It is a very sad phenomenon indeed.

Nevertheless the Byzantinisations that the Melkite (or Roum) Church has experienced far surpasses the Romanisations within any Catholic Syriac Church. The Melkites are a group of Syriac Christians who adopted the liturgy, traditions and spirituality of the Byzantine Emperor. Over time, the name Melkite (A Syriac term for 'Imperials'), was given to them.

The Melkites were a Syro-Antiochene Church that got Byzantanised completely and ceased to use the Syro-Antiochene liturgy by the 13th century. Nevertheless, the Melkites still maintained the use of the Syriac language, what was used by the Melkites was simply a Syriac translation of the Greek-Byzantine liturgy. The Melkites also developed their own script of Syriac, a mixture of Serto and Estrangelo script.

Syriac in the Melkite Church

Eventually by the 16th and 17th centuries, Arabic began to be introduced into the Melkite liturgy. Today, we're left with the modern-day Melkite Church. Devoid of any Syro-Antiochene traditions, spirituality and liturgy. It has simply become an Arabic Byzantine Church.

In saying all this, the Melkite Church is perhaps one of the few Eastern Catholic Churches that has been able to maintain both an Eastern and Catholic identity amongst both laity and clergy. For example: the Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh's participation at the Second Vatican council and the refusal of many Melkite Patriarchs for becoming cardinals (I will blog about the inconsistency of Eastern Prelates becoming Cardinals latter on).

The reason why I say this is because many Melkites seem to look down upon many Maronites and Syriac Catholics because of our Romanisations (hopefully in a spirit of brotherly competition). Nevertheless they fail to realise that the Melkite Church probably experienced one of the greatest liturgical change out of any community in Christendom.

I am not making an excuse here for the Romanisations (especially neo-Romanisations) that are occurring within Catholic Syriac Churches. Infact, I would rather beautiful iconostasis and chants than the neo-Romanisations (with people-facing altars, prayers of the faithful etc) that are occurring within our own Churches. However, the history of the Melkite Church is often not known to many.

So my Maronite and Syriac Catholic friends. If you are ever given a hard time by our beloved Melkite brethren for Romanising (which I hope is in jest :p). Always remind them, that they are Syriac!

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

    Friday, 22 November 2013

    The Three Anaphorae in the Syriac Catholic Missal (1978)

    The three Anaphorae (Eucharistic Prayers) in the Syriac Catholic Missal of 1978 include (in printed order):
    1. The Anaphora of the 12 Apostles (St Mor Luke the Evangelist)
    2. The Anaphora of the 12 Apostles
    3. The Anaphora of Mor Eustathius Bishop of Antioch
      The Third Anaphora - Mor Eustathius Bishop of Antioch
      According to the notes, the third Anaphora is simply taken from the 1922 Missal. This 1922 Missal included Latinisations, where the words of Institution for each Anaphora was in the Roman formula.

      The First Anaphora - 12 Apostles (St Mor Luke the Evangelist)
      The first Anaphora was previously published in the 1922 Missal by Ignatius Ephrem II Rahmani, however the version in the 1978 Missal is different. The version in the 1978 missal has been adapted from Anaphorae Syriacae by Fr Alfons Raes published in Rome in 1940. This publication contains the version of this Anaphora as it appears in the 10th century. However, it is not all good news. Some parts of the Anaphora have been modified (for the worse), the most notable is the removal of the petitions after the Epiclesis (from the third to the sixth petition).

      I have not found this Anaphora published in my Syriac Orthodox Resources, so I was unable to make a comparison.

      The Second Anaphora - 12 Apostles
      The second Anaphora has never been published by the Syriac Catholic Church and is from the 12th century as it appears in the publication by Fr Raes. There seems to be a few trivial changes here and there, most notably in the Words of Institution for the Blood rather than the priest saying This is my blood he says This is the chalice of my blood the justification listed was 1 Corinthians 11:20 and Luke 22:20. Nevertheless the prayers said by the Priest in this Anaphora seem to be the ones that closest resemble the original.

      I made a comparison between this Anaphora and the Syriac Orthodox version. It seems that indeed the word chalice has been added to the Syriac Catholic version. Another interesting difference seems to be the Epiclesis for the blood. Where the Syriac Orthodox version has
      And the mixture in this cup to the Blood +++ of Christ our God
      The Syriac Catholic Version has an additional word "ܕܝܠܗ" (his) after the word "ܕܡܐ" (Blood). So the meaning of the whole Epiclesis changes to:
      And the mixture in this cup to His Blood ++ of Christ our God
      Now the Syriac Catholic Missal does not state whether this word was added in the missal, so there is a discrepancy. Nevertheless I have two theories:
      1. That the word  "ܕܝܠܗ" was added (before the 12th century) and the Syriac Orthodox Church removed it to make it consistent with other Anaphorae.
      2. That the Syriac Catholic Church simply added it to the missal without mentioning anything in the notes. I would need to see Anaphorae Syriacae to double check this.

      It seems the result of this Missal is a case of a few steps back but a few more steps forward. I suspect the late Patriarch Ignatius Anthony Hayek could see the neo-Latinisations occurring in the Syriac Catholic world and wanted to put and end to it. Unfortunately the reality is that his Priests and Bishops refused to follow the instructions (blogged about previously) and now we are left with Liturgies which our late Patriarch feared.

      Please pray for the restoration of our traditions.

      Through the prayers of the Birth-Giver of God Maryam and Mor Ephrem. God Bless you all.

      Wednesday, 20 November 2013

      Instructions for Ad Orientem Worship in Syriac Catholic Missal (1978)

      I have had a bit of extra time on my hands. So I decided to pick up my Syriac Catholic Missal and look through it. I hadn't really read the notes at the beginning mainly because my Arabic is not perfect.

      Nevertheless I picked up the book and read through the notes (it seems my Arabic has improved) and these are my findings regarding Ad Orientem Worship as stated in our 1978 Patriarchal Missal authorised by the late Patriarch Ignatius Antony II Hayyek.

      Instructions in Syriac Catholic Missal 1978

      Translation (my emphasis added):

      In the Liturgy of the Offering, the Priest and congregation face towards the altar, the priest does not turn to the congregation unless the instructions say so.

      The reality is, however, that this instruction (which is in our Patriarchal Missal) is rarely followed (at least in the diaspora).

      Most Priests in the diaspora have never celebrated the Divine Offering facing Christ in the East.

      Bishop Mor Yousif Habash with Fr Selwan Taponi Celebrating the Divine Offering with their backs towards God. In addition to this Fr Taponi was not wearing his cuffs nor his belt. I am not sure if Mor Habash reprimanded him for this.

      What is even sadder though, is the fact that many of our Bishops who continue to place there back towards the Cross. Especially our most beloved Patriarch who has disregarded the beautiful Dome Altar in his Cathedral in Beirut by putting a table in front of it.

      Please, I beg you all to pray for the restoration of our beautiful traditions. So that we can glorify our Lord the way our forefathers did.

      I will be sure to blog more about this Missal in the near future.

      Through the prayers of the Birth-Giver of God Maryam and Mor Ephrem. God Bless you all.

      Co-redemtrix and Churches of the Syriac-East

      In Michael Voris' recent video, he speaks about the title of co-redemtrix for the Birth-Giver of God Maryam, he claims that Pope Francis may declare this as a dogma. He then goes on to speak about how orthodox Catholics are generally in favour of this, while the more liberal crowd are not.
      I will like to suggest that, as a small o orthodox Catholic and as a capital O Orthodox Catholic in Communion with Rome that this generalisation is not true for at least myself. For the reasons explained below:

      There is no debate regarding the dogma itself
      Voris claims that there is a debate regarding whether this title should be dogmatised, however, this debate is not one of a theological nature, but rather, of a practical nature. That is, whether the dogma is needed to be dogmatised in the first place. The Pope of Rome generally practices his synodal Primacy when there is conflict (as in the Acts of the Apostles). Here, there is no theological conflict between those who want to define co-redemtrix and those who do not. Both sides believe in the theological title (when it is fully explained).

      The use of Latin Theological Language
      As Eastern Christians in Communion with Rome, we believe in the dogmas of the Theotokos, Assumption, Perpetual Virginity and Finally the Immaculate Conception. However the problem with the Immaculate Conception (and to a lesser extent the Assumption) is that it was written from a Latin theological perspective and may be interpreted from the East in a heterodox fashion (as it assumes a Latin understanding of Original Sin where ancessestorial guilt is emphasised more than the consequences of sin ).

      The reason for this is the use of Latin Theological Language and the current Roman practice of not recognising that there exists a few other great Patristic Traditions within Christendom (those of the Syriac, Coptic and Greek Traditions).

      The very title itself "co"-redemtrix is derived from a Latin word and can be confusing. Co does not mean on the same level as Our Lord, but in cooperation (that is, a subordinate level). For those who live in a different cultural sphere than the West, this language can be quite confusing.

      I realise that Michael Voris' main issue with those who do not want this title to be dogmatised are those who are in favour of Ecumenism with the Protestants. But how about Ecumenism with those who are our Apostolic Orthodox Brethren? We are just starting to solve the problems associated with the language of the Immaculate Conception. And the dogmatisation of co-redemtrix could potentially push Orthodox-Catholic unity further away.

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

      Monday, 18 November 2013

      Why do we even care about our Syro-Maronite identity?

      Wanting to revive a language and culture is never an easy thing. And having people ask you the same questions over and over again is not that fun either; although, it's an opportunity to inspire others to get involved. The two most common questions I've often received are:

      1. "How do you even know about this? Our grandparents barley knew about it!"
      2. "Why?Why can't you accept that change occurs and we must adapt to the new?"

      The answer to the first is unique to every individual who's found an interest in Syriac. What led me to find an interest in the Syriac language, history and tradition was a search for identity.

      Growing up in a Maronite region of Lebanon, I recognized the deep-rooted cultural and even ethnic uniqueness that my people had. I knew it was different than what I saw in non-christian regions of Lebanon but I payed little attention to what that meant at the time.

      It was only after I left Lebanon and moved abroad that I began to remember these unique traits Maronites possessed in Lebanon. It began with the assumptions people abroad made; the way they would lump Maronites in with Arabs and assign to me a culture which was very foreign and which I knew was not what I experienced during my life in Lebanon.

      Naturally I revolted against this falsehood of who Maronites were, especially as I saw my own relatives, who had lived abroad all their life and never experienced Maronite culture in the motherland falling to this lie and rejoicing in their "Arab-ness".

      It led me to ask myself, firstly, why I didn't agree with everyone else. What was it that differentiated us?
      Well it was too obvious for me that there was no such thing as Maronite Arabs; I knew what the Maronite lifestyle in Lebanon looked like and it was completely opposed to this fabricated description of Maronites (or all Lebanese which lumped Maronites in there) that I found abroad. And so I set myself to proving this intrinsic gut-instinct I had telling me this foreign Arab culture is not for you.

      The answers I found however, were not just satisfying, but were more than I had ever expected! I'd discovered an identity that was so precious that I had no idea why we weren't all taught who we were from infancy! An early Christian peoples! With a sacred tradition, with a mother-tongue the same as that which our Lord used on earth! Discovering this truth made sense to our culture which I'd known was unique.

      I'll answer the second question: Why is it such big deal?

      Perhaps if I'd discovered a different identity I would have been less enthusiastic to push for revival. But Maronites need to know that their identity is so important it is almost sacred.

      I often consider how we as Catholics regard relics of saints or even of Christ; these objects that the holy used we wear as protection or store in safe places to marvel at. I saw the language Christ used as a sort of relic too. The same words and similar pronunciations that came out of his sacred mouth, Syriacs still use.

      It is not a matter of disrespecting the Arab culture but rather, if you are Christian, why give up your own Christian-rooted culture for one that is not?

      Our history is one to be proud of and not to forget! We were such early Christians that our true culture is centered around our faith; not just the Syriac language but our architecture our celebrations our greetings and, for Maronites, our geography. The terrain of Mount Lebanon which is so ancient and mentioned many times in the Old Testament is our homeland. Everywhere you look on every hill our faith is marked by crosses standing strong. Our valleys are filled with hermitages and ancient churches with Syraic inscriptions. Even the names of our villages are in Syriac; a language that sadly we do not understand anymore. Do we feel proud throwing all this sacredness in the bin? Do we rejoice in adopting a culture which is not ours and which carries none of our faith in its roots?

      Our identity is something to be so proud and so fiercely defensive of that it should remain crystal clear to all Maronites; we should not have to move abroad or experience some disaster for us to go searching for it. We shouldn't have to argue amongst ourselves of whether or not it's significant because, for someone passionate about their faith, and wanting to give their children an identity to carry on with pride, it is very significant.

      Friday, 15 November 2013

      Anaphoras without Explicit Words of Institution

      As I have stated previously, in the Syriac-East, we do not have a specific time when the bread changes to the body of Christ. As such many Syriac Anaphorae may, at first, seem quite challenging to the Latin Soul. Especially when taking into consideration the post-protestant-revolt theology of the bread and wine changing into the body of Christ at a specific time and using specific words.

      The Anaphora of Pope Sixtus and Anaphora of Mor Dionysius all have the essential elements of a traditional Anaphora. These elements include: the Preface prayers to the father, an Institution narrative and an Epiclesis. What is, however different is the fact that the Institution narrative is in the third person and does not contain the words this is my body or this is my blood.

      From the Anaphora of Mor Dionysius Bar Salibi (that is used in the Syro-Malankara Church very regularly):

      When He prepared for the redemptive passion, he took bread and blessed + + and sanctified + and broke, and called it His Holy Body for eternal life for those who receive it.
      And also the cup blended of wine and water, He blessed + + and sanctified + and completed as His Precious Blood of eternal life for those who receive it.

      It is important here to note, that while the words this is my body aren't said explicitly. The Priest himself is still acting as the mediator between God and Man (in Latin theological terms, the priest himself is doing what Christ did. That is, he is acting in the person of Christ). Nevertheless, my job here is not to defend the validity of these Anaphoras but rather, raise awareness of them.

      In the Syriac-East we accept the Anaphora is valid because they have been passed down from our fathers, brethren, priests and teachers whom were all given authority, from the Apostles themselves, to bind on earth what it is in heaven (Rome has approved the validity of some of these Anaphorae anyway, but approval from Her is not necessary). The important thing here is that the Priest follows the proper traditions and rubrics for celebrating the Liturgy of the Divine Mysteries in the way our great Syriac fathers intended, the rest is a mystery.

      It is important to note here, that there is an Anaphora in the East Syriac tradition which lacks an Institution Narrative entirely, that being the Anaphora of Marai Addai & Mari. The Assyrian Church of the East maintains this Anaphora in its original, while the Chaldean Church has added an Institution Narrative to mirror those in the other two Anaphorae used in the East Syriac tradition. Also, a number of scholars suggest that the uniquely Maronite anaphora called Peter III (sometimes called "Sharar" after its first word), which is also of the East Syriac model, may have originally lacked an Institution Narrative as well. Whether this is true or not isn't clear, but what is clear is that Peter III as it has survived has a very unique form of the Institution: it's written in the 2nd Person Singular ("You took bread ..." etc).

      For the remaining Anaphorae (those of the West Syriac style), in actual practice the Maronite Church has substituted a standardized text of the Institution Narrative for the original, proper text. This has also been the practice in Syriac CC although in recent years some Anaphorae have had the proper texts restored. Among the West Syriac Churches in union with Rome, it's only the Syro-Malankara that has continuously maintained the use of the actual text proper to each Anaphora. 

       Through the prayers of the Birth-Giver of God Maryam and Mor Ephrem. God bless you all.

      Monday, 11 November 2013

      A few observations on versus populum vs ad orientem in the Syro-Maronite Church

      The comments that led me to write a previous post regarding the term "Syro-Maronite" were rather broad in scope, so I suppose it would be in order to address another one of them here.

      There is a bizarre idea prevalent among certain Maronite revisionists that we are some kind liturgical freak show, wherein many of the innovations introduced by the Latin Church with the Novus Ordo are claimed to be part of our tradition. There's a one word answer to that: WRONG! Had this been the case, we would have been exterminated from all sides: The non-Chalcedonians, the Byzantines, and the Latins. And I'm sure the Assyrians would have shot an arrow or two as well. As it happens, however, we were NOT exterminated.

      Those Maronites espousing this unique revisionist position invariably deride "latinizations" and make de-latinization a cause célèbre. But when the say "latinization" they mean only those latinizations through the 19th Century, the vast bulk of which are from the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. They conveniently ignore the fact that what is being done today, even as we speak, is equally a latinization. But because this new wave is of Novus Ordo provenance, they look away and turn a blind eye. Actually, no, they don't look away: they wholeheartedly embrace Novus Ordo-inspired neo-latinizations with open arms. And that is 100 times worse.

      For one example, we can look at the versus populum table. That practice is about as authentically Maronite as snow balls are authentic to the Amazon rain forest. The very idea that the Maronites, alone in the Levant, yeah, alone in the entire Church, developed a usage so divergent from the norm is preposterous. In other words, this versus populum table business is nothing more than another post-conciliar Novus Ordo-inspired neo-latinization, and it is really the most obvious one of all. 

      The same versus populum disease has affected other Oriental Churches as well, including the Syriac CC, the Chaldeans and Syro-Malabars, and the Alexanrenes, to varying degrees. Even the Byzantine Meklites have been affected, at least to some extent. It's simply "monkey see, monkey do" syndrome: they see Rome and its innovative practices and just have to copy them, all the while disregarding their own patrimony and tradition. On the other hand, and to their credit, the Syro-Malankara Church has not, at least to my knowledge, veered from the authentic ad orientem practice.

      Unfortunately, the Maronites have done absolutely nothing to rectify this grievous error. Equally unfortunate is the fact that the Syriac Catholic Church seems to be moving ever more in the wrong direction, meaning toward versus populum instead of away from it. It's truly sad, but there are some bright spots: the Chaldean reform from several years back has restored ad orientem, although numerous bishops have yet to implement it in their jurisdictions. The Syro-Malabars, under the guidance of Major-Archbishop Mar George Allencherry, have moved in the same direction. 

      The idea of ad orientem worship is most traditional and not, as the revisionists would have people believe, something to be avoided. There are many things in favor of ad orientem, but nothing in favor of the alternate.

      From an ancient Maronite instructional manuscript:

      4. Pray towards the East. Because, "as the lightning which lightens from the east and is seen even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be:" that by this we may know and understand that He will appear from the East suddenly.
      And from the Didascalia Apostolorum:
      Let the place of the priests be separated in a part of the house that faces east. In the midst of them is placed the bishop’s chair, and with him let the priests be seated. Likewise, and in another section let the lay men be seated facing east. For thus it is proper: that the priests sit with the bishop in a part of the house to the east and after them the lay men and the lay women, and when you stand to pray, the ecclessial leaders rise first, and after them the lay men, and again, then the women. Now, you ought to face to east to pray for, as you know, scripture has it, Give praise to God who ascends above the highest heavens to the east.

      Note that, in both of the above quotes, Mass was NOT celebrated facing the people as some Novus Ordo revisionists insist was the practice of the early Church. Everyone was to face to the east, clergy and people alike. Everyone faced one direction. The texts cite Scripture as the reason for this. God is to the East, the origin of the light.

      I suppose it's worth mentioning here that "east" need not necessarily be geographical east. In olden times, most churches were built with the proper geographical orientation, but in modern times, what with zoning laws and property parceling, that isn't always possible. Where true geographical east is not possible, the concept extends to what is often called "liturgical east" (sometimes called "ad apsidum" meaning toward the apse).

      It seems to me that restoring the ad orientem posture in the Maronite Church is the first and most obvious step needed to begin stripping way the neo-latinizations. When this is accomplished, it will pave the way for  restoration of our traditional practices and the concurrent abolition of Novus Ordo-inspired innovations.

      Sunday, 10 November 2013

      Bishop Tarabay and Syriac!

      In a recent discussion with a Maronite friend of mine I was advised that the celebrant had said something in Syriac right before the prayers of the faithful. After a few questions, I realised that what the celebrant actually said in Syriac was the Epiclesis. The celebrant was Bishop Tarabay, the new Bishop for the Maronite Eparchy in Australia.

      In the East we do not define the very moment that the Bread and Wine change into the Body and Blood of Christ. Rather, we still maintain the tradition of it being a Mystery. The Epiclesis is the high point of the Qurbono. That is not to say that the Epiclesis is more important than the Institution Narrative (or what is called in the West the consecration), but rather, it is the point of completion for the whole process of consecration. The Epiclesis is the high point because it finishes off the consecration. The Epiclesis in the Syriac Traditions (depending on the Anaphora) is usually worded like this:

      Cel: So that He may, by His descent, make this bread the Body + + + of Christ our God.
      Cong: Amen.
      Cel: And the mixture in this cup to the Blood + + + of Christ our God.
      Cong: Amen.

      In the the Syriac-East (and East in general) all the prayers from the Preface (Remembrance of the Father), til the Qadish (Santus), Institution Narrative, Amnesis (Rememberance of the Son) until the Epiclesis (Invocation of the Holy Spirit) are of a consecratory nature. What has been done recently in Maronite Churches (post-V2) is to emphasise the Institution narrative and say this in Syriac, while saying the Epiclesis in Arabic or English, and hence placing less emphasis on it.

      Nevertheless this return by Bishop Tarabay to use Syriac during the Epiclesis invites Maronites to re-think the Epiclesis. I congratulate and thank Bishop Tarabay for taking this small step of restoration.

      It also seems that various other Priests in the Sydney area have also taken on this practice. It could be due to the Bishop celebrating Qurbono for popular organisations like Maronites for Life and the Maronite Lawyers Guild. Either way, it seems that Bishop Tarabay has made a difference and this is a very good step forward.

      Through the prayers of the Birth-Giver of God Maryam and Mor Ephrem. God Bless you all.

      Friday, 8 November 2013

      "Monks are to return to their Monastery" - Chaldean Patriarch

      The Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael-Louis Sako's recent letter touches on a variety of different topics. These include: the importance of prayer, monks, financial matters and the Liturgy.

      It is very clear from the Patriarch's letter his great love towards both the Church and his home country Iraq. It is also clear the Patriarch's desire that the Church does not simply become a Non-Gvernmental Organization in Iraq. The Patriarch states that the Church's Nucleus is Christ he suggests that without this the Church will simply closed on itself.

      The Patriarch then goes on to state that Monks should return to their monasteries from comfortable life and freedom in working at a parish with parishioners. The Patriarch's demand here is of vital importance. Our Syriac traditions have developed in parallel to our Monasteries. The monastic life is the pulse of Syriac Christianity. Without this healthy pulse, Syriac Christianity dies. This slow death of Syriac Christianity amongst Syriac Churches in communion with Rome (Chaldean, Syriac Catholic and Maronite) is analogous with the walking away from our monastic traditions. I personally commend the Patriarch for this demand, and know, that if Chaldean monastic life resumes, then great fruits will be borne.

      In addition to all this it is extremely refreshing to read about the Patriarch's emphasis on Liturgical communal prayer as well. He states:

      Liturgy, if celebrated in a well-prepared and organized way, would nourish the faith of the parishioners and reflect the unity of the Church and its identity, so we need to be careful not to be celebrating the Sacraments as some kind of a show having movement and words
      Everything the Patriarch says is true, the Qurbana is not a show. However, the actions of the Patriarch must also speak as loud as his words on this matter. The Chaldean Patriarch continues to face the people when celebrating the Qurbana, he continues to have Latinisations (and Novous Ordo neo-Latinisations) in the Church and refuses to implement the restorations of 2005 (like has been done in certain areas in the USA and Canada).

      Please pray for the Patriarch.

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

      Thursday, 7 November 2013

      We will NEVER forget

      We will forgive, but we will never forget. We will always remember our martyrs, faithful departed and loved ones.

      We will never forget the martyrs of Sadad, we will never forget the martyrs of Baghdad, we will never forget Sayfo martyrs, we will never forget Mor Flavianus Malki, we will never forget the 40 martyrs, we will never forget Sarah and Behnam, we will never forget Abai, we will never forget Barsamya, we will not forget Sharbil (the Martyr), we will never forget. Because forgetting means we have forgotten our martyrs and forgetting means we cannot pray for our enemies.

      We must remember our martyrs, because their sacrifice was great. We remained Christian because of them. We are able to rejoice in Christ because of them, we are able to partake in the Holy Mysteries because of them. And they want us to forget? to forget our martyrs? No!

      If we forget where is our respect? if we forget where is our love for our fathers who witnessed Christ to death? if we forget where is our faith, that they are interceding for us before the throne of Christ? If we forget, where is our hope that their sacrifice will make a difference?

      I ask you all to pray for Christians in the Middle East. Especially the Christians in Syria, in this very difficult time for all.

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

      Wednesday, 6 November 2013

      Letter from Syriac Orthodox Metropolitian Regarding Recent Christian Massacre

May the peace of the Lord be with you!
      I should like to give you an overview of the events that hit the village of Sadad in the course of a week of occupation by insurgents and terrorists of various shades and types, together with a brief introduction and description of the town:

      Sadad is a Syriac and Aramaic town 160 km away from the city of Damascus, and 70 km from the city of Homs. It has an estimated population of fifteen thousand people and the town’s residents have spread out to various provinces of the country, such as Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and Raqqa, and settled there because of their working conditions. With an eye to their children’s future some of them went to Europe and North America during the middle of the last century. So there remained a nucleus of an estimated 800 families whose living standards were financially acceptable.

      In Sadad there are fourteen churches and a monastery with four priests, and five church halls for social activities.

      Most of the inhabitants of Sadad are well-to-do middle class folk who rely on working for various government departments or who are employed in the private sector, as businessmen and craftsmen. They are cultured, neighbourly and peaceful people.

      As they live in the middle of the desert and there is no rain due to the extreme climate, their livelihoods depend on their jobs and sporadic business opportunities.

      Due to the tragic events that had befallen most of the country’s governorates, especially Homs and Aleppo, people escaped from the hot spots to Sadad after insurgents entered their homes, stole their property, destroyed their houses and stole their cars. So being able only to take a few things with them they fled to Sadad as a safe town. Some 600 such families migrated from those and other provinces to Sadad.
      On Monday 21/10/2013 various insurgents and terrorists belonging to forms of the Al-Nusra Front invaded Sadad, occupied it for a week and were defeated on 28/10/2013. Following this, 2500 Sadad family members migrated from Sadad to safe places in Damascus and Homs, especially to Fayrouza, Zaydal, Maskane, and Al-Fhayle. Residents fled their town of Sadad with only the clothes they were wearing and as they were fleeing, the armed gangs stole with menaces their money and gold trinkets that they had scraped together and carried with them. Whole families remained besieged in the region occupied by the insurgents. About 1500 persons were used as human shields, including children and women, the elderly, disabled and sick. Some tried to escape on foot from Sadad to Al-Hafer, walking the distance of eight kilometres, despite having suffered every mental fatigue and physical abuse throughout the period of the siege.
      During the period of the siege and under the impact of the exchange of fire between the parties some houses were brought down on the heads of their owners, killing members of four families. Militants killed a number of people who had been trapped in Sadad in a variety of ugly ways such as strangulation. Some 45 died as martyrs during this crisis, including both male and female civilians, and young people. We have lost 10 persons and remain ignorant of their whereabouts or who abducted them. Following clashes about 30 people suffered a variety of bodily injuries.

      As a result of this crisis the occupiers of Sadad ransacked all the inhabitants’ homes and looted their property, cars, money and all electrical goods, stole electronic equipment from shops and all the equipment from the premises of the state hospital, post office and telephone exchange, schools and other institutions, as well as robbing the eparchy’s churches, church halls and stealing some books and church vessels and scrawling obscene words, defamatory of Christian belief and practice and insulting to Christianity. During painful conversations with our children I heard many stories of incidents of militants cursing the Christian religion and insulting crosses and icons and calling us infidels.

      The results of these events led to the destruction of all government buildings, schools, the municipal telephone and communications centre, hospital, clinic and financial and agricultural buildings as well as about 370 homes of which 80 uninhabitable due to their virtually total destruction.

      The insurgents who invaded Sadad had come through the village of Al-Hafer, which lies 8 km to the south, from the area Qalamun and following this the villagers migrated out of the town through tunnels, leaving their town which had suffered the theft of four cars, and the complete destruction of four houses. The village of Al-Hafer is an entirely Christian community where altogether an estimated 500 families live.

      On Monday morning 28/10/2013 the militants withdrew from the village of Sadad towards Qalamun and the Syrian Arab Army entered and inspected the town, in case there were any hidden mines and improvised explosive devices. Then they called on the inhabitants of Sadad to go back and some 70 percent of the people responded and returned, though some had lost their homes. On the first day they gathered up and buried 20 bodies. The families cleaned their homes and refurbished them ready to settle there. We have to admit that the security officials are still very much afraid for us as we return to Sadad. Material damage in Sadad is estimated at about 65 percent and the state is trying hard now to repair the electricity grid and telephone, water and fund the repair of important buildings, such as the hospital and schools, which cannot be reopened unless the security situation in Sadad is stabilized for families. What has happened has led to the destruction of our children’s academic future this year.

      These events that happened in Sadad are considered the largest massacre of Christians in Syria, and in the Middle East second only to the bombing and killing of the faithful in the Church of Our Lady of Deliverance in Iraq on the same day and month in 2010. Will terrorists be eradicated for good, I wonder, or will there be still more massacres?….
Some 3000 people have been taken hostage already …. And forty have died as martyrs ….. And some 8,000 people have been displaced and ……

      Though we have shouted an appeal to the world, people did not hear us. Just a few have worked with us and stood alongside us. Where is Christian conscience? Where is Syriac conscience? Where is human conscience? Where are our brother bishops, priests and friends? Where indeed? for they are not responsive. Yet perhaps, some of them may be. With a lump in the throat and a burning heart we remember everything that happened in our parishes and those poor suffering people who fled to Sadad and emerged empty-handed. After all this, where they will go I do not know.

      Pray for us!

      Silvanus Peter Alnemeh
      Metropolitan of Homs, Hama and dependencies of the Syriac Orthodox Church


      Now more than ever, we need Christian Unity. Please pray for Christians in Syria and Please pray for Christian Unity.

      Through the prayers of the Birth-Giver of God Maryam and Mor Ephrem. God Bless you all!

      Monday, 4 November 2013

      The Syrian/Syriac ethnicity - with its Jewish and Aramean roots.

      Firstly, there must be a distinction made between Syrians of the modern polity of Syria and the traditional Syrians. They are not the same thing. There are many traditional Syrians in Iraq, many in Lebanon and many in Jordan. But they do not live in the modern polity of Syria. (maybe I will blog in the future about the farce in the way the middle east was divided into nation-states, but it isn't the goal of this post).

      The Syrians are not Arab, they are Syrian!. The eventual establishment of the Syrian Arab Republic created confusion in the international community. This caused the Syrian Orthodox Church to use the term Syriac Orthodox Church to clearly distinguish itself from the Syrian Arab Republic.

      Intermarriages had occurred between Christian-Jews, Native Arameans and to a far lesser extent Greeks in Antioch and Edessa (and surrounding areas) . After several generations of Christianity a group with a clear Aramean-Semitic dominance had developed. They took the name Syrians, which is a bastardized form of the Aramaic word Assyrian. The Syrians then developed their own writing system for the Aramaic language which is called today Syriac. This language became the communication medium for Christianity in the whole East.

      The native Arameans had spanned from the Mediterranean to the Levant to Mesopotamia and all the way to Persia. These people today form the majority of members of the Syrian Ethnicity.

      The School of Edessa, prior to Christianity, had been a hub of Jewish thought. Due to the difficulty of going to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice, the Jewish faithful in Edessa developed a ritual of incense offering. When Edessa eventually became Christian, this prayer formed the basis of the Hosoyo prayer (Prayer of Forgiveness). Many Edessian Jews eventually dropped this practice, however, there are still remnants of this ritual surviving today amongst Jews in Mesopotamia and the Levant. For Example: the use of the Bema, and the use of Maqamat (The 8 Syriac musical tones).

      Finally, the Syrians are today either called the Syriacs or Arameans. As the modern-day polity of Syria has caused confusion. Nevertheless these people are not Arab nor Greek. They are descendants of Jews and Arameans. They are distinguished by their Semitic race and Syriac-Aramaic Language.

      We (the Syriacs/Arameans) must all be grateful to our forefather, who had been under persecution for their faith for 2,000 years. We must never forget the sacrifice they made so that we may continue to know the Lord.

      Through the prayers of the Birth-Giver of God Maryam and Mor Ephrem God Bless you all!

      Sunday, 3 November 2013

      Prayer, in Syriac, prior to connecting to the Internet

      Fr Z blogged a few days ago about a Prayer Before Connecting to the Internet.

      Interestingly he had a Syro-Aramaic translation.

      I have pasted it below using the Serto font as the Aramaic is West Syriac (Fr Z had Estrangelo Font) .

      ܨܠܽܘܬܳܐ ܩܕܳܡ ܡܰܥܰܠܬܳܐ ܠܶܐܢܬܶܪܢܶܬܳܐ

      ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ ܡܨܶܐ ܐܰܚܺܝܕ ܟܽ݀ܠ ܘܰܡܬܽܘܡܳܝܳܐ:
      ܕܰܒܪ݂ܳܐ ܠܰܢ ܒܨܰܠܡܳܟ ܘܰܦܩ݂ܰܕ ܠܰܢ
      ܠܡ݂ܶܒܥܳܐ ܒܳܬܰܪ ܟܽ݀ܠ ܡܶܕܶܡ ܕܺܝܬ ܛܳܒܳܐ.
      ܘܫܰܪܺܝܪܳܐ. ܘܫܰܦܺܝܪܳܐ. ܝܰܬܺܝܪܳܐܝܺܬ
      ܒܦܰܪܨܽܘܦܳܐ ܐܰܠܳܗܳܝܳܐ ܕܰܒܪܳܟ
      ܐܺܝܚܺܝܕܳܝܳܐ ܡܳܪܰܢ ܝܶܫܽܘܥ ܡܫܺܝܚܳܐ.
      ܗ݂ܰܒ ܒܳܥܶܝ̇ܢܰܢ ܡ݂ܶܢܳܟ ܕܰܒܬܰܟܫܶܦܬܳܐ
      ܕܡܳܪܝ̱ ܐܺܝܣܺܕܳܪܽܘܣ ܚܰܣܝܳܐ ܘܡܰܠܦܳܢܳܐ
      ܕܰܢ݂ܕܰܒܰܪ ܠܺܐܝ̈ܕܰܝܢ ܘܰܠܥܰܝ̈ܢܰܝܢ
      ܒܰܠܚܽܘܕ ܥܰܠ ܡܶܕܶܡ ܕܫ̇ܳܦܰܪ ܠܳܟ
      ܒܡܰܪ̈ܕܝܳܬܳܐ ܕܺܝܠܰܢ ܥܰܠ ܐܶܢܬܶܪܢܶܬܳܐ.
      ܘܢܶܣ݂ܥܽܘܪ ܠܟܽ݀ܠܗܶܝܢ ܢܰܦ̈ܫܳܢ ܕܢܶܚ݂ܙܶܐ
      ܒܚܽܘܒܳܐ ܘܒܰܡܣܰܝܒܪܳܢܽܘܬܳܐ. ܒܝܰܕ
      ܡܫܺܝܚܳܐ ܡܳܪܰܢ .ܐܰܡܺܝܢ܀

      Slotho qdom ma'lotho leyanternetho

      Aloho mṣe aḥid kol wamtomoyo
      dabro lan mṣalmokh wu phaqad lan
      lmeb'o bothar kol medem deith ṭobo
      wu shariro. Wu shaphiro. yatiroith.
      bpharṣoro Alohoyo dabrokh
      yiḥidoyo Moran Yeshu' Mishiḥo
      Hab bo'inan minokh dabthakshephotho
      dMor Iseedoros ḥasyo wu malphono
      dnadabar leyadaykh wu la'aynayen
      balḥood 'al medeim dshofar lokh
      bmarduyotho delan 'al anternetho
      wu nis'or lookhein nafshon nḥeize
      bḥoob wabmasabronotho. Byad
      Mshiḥo Moran. Amin

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

      Saturday, 2 November 2013

      All Souls Day and Purgatory in the Syriac Tradition

      Purgatory is a topic that is often very grey in the East. Especially the Syriac-East. Being in communion with the Bishop of Rome, we are, however, bound to accept the doctrine of Purgatory as declared by the Council of Trent

      Since the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, following the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught in sacred councils and very recently in this ecumenical council that there is a purgatory, and that the souls there detained are aided by the suffrages of the faithful and chiefly by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar, the holy council commands the bishops that they strive diligently to the end that the sound doctrine of purgatory, transmitted by the Fathers and sacred councils, be believed and maintained by the faithful of Christ, and be everywhere taught and preached.
      Purgatory, as a term, has never been used in the Syriac East (and is not required by the Church), however, there are a plethora of prayers in our Liturgies that remember ... our souls and the souls of our fathers, our brethren, our elders, our teachers, our departed ones and all the faithful departed. This remembrance is for people, who we simply do not know where they are. We ask God to have mercy on them as they are now asleep in death in a process of purification.

      In addition to this, our great Syriac Fathers. St Ephrem and St Aphrahat. Both spoke about the sleep of the soul in death. St Ephrem, continuously compares sleep to death and awakening to the resurrection. He states:

      Sweet is sleep to the weary, so is death to him who fasts and watches. Natural sleep slays not the sleepr, nor has Sheol slain, nor does it so now. Sleep is sweet, and so is Sheol quite... Sleep strives not to hold the sleeper, nor is Sheol greedy. Behold, sleep shows us how temporary is Sheol, for the morn awakes the sleeper, and the Voice raises the dead - Carmina Nisib
      he also says:

      Behold how (the dead) are encompassed in Sheol, and awaiting the great day, till He come to delight them, and bring hope to the hopeless
      In the same set of hymns, St Ephrem makes a distinction between what he calls the flames and sheol.

      One road, my brethren, lies before us all: from childhood unto death, and from death unto the Resurrection; thence branch out two ways, the one to the flames, the other to Paradise
      Clearly suggesting that Sheol is temporary, while Paradise and the flames are eternal. A doctrine completely consistent with the faith declared by the Council of Trent.

      In summary. The East and more specifically the Syriac-East's theology is NOT incompatible with the doctrine of purgatory. St Ephrem called purgatory Sheol but whatever the name that is given to it, it is important that we pray for our departed, so that not only may their suffering be quickened but also to teach our kids to do the same when we depart.

      For more info here is a video of a Syriac (Orthodox) Bishop defending prayers for the departed because they are in a state of suffering before Paradise.

      Happy feast day to all the Latins out there!

      Pray for the departed. Especially those who have no one to offer sacrifice on the Altars of the Lord for them.

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