Friday, April 06, 2012


“Seven weeks from the Resurrection Sunday up to the feast of Pentecost are celebrated as the Season of Resurrection in Mar Toma Margam.”

            The Apostles themselves started celebrating the Resurrection calling it the First Day of the Week or the Eighth Day or the Lord’s Day and so on.  The annual celebration of Resurrection also must have become a regular feature from the very beginning of Christianity.  There was a lot of diversity in this celebration too.

            According to the Johannine Tradition, Iso’-Msiha, the Lamb of God, died on the Cross exactly when the Paschal lamb was beheaded in the Temple of Jerusalem; and that he was raised on Sliba is seen as his glorification.  Thus some churches which were close to this tradition, began to celebrate Nisan 14th as the annual feast of Resurrection.

            The other churches, however, following the Synoptic tradition, were celebrating the feast of Resurrection on the Sunday that follows the 14th of Nisan.

            After one and a half centuries, in 154 A. D. there was an attempt at unification of Resurrection celebration from the part of the saintly leaders of the two traditions, Pope Anicetus and Archbishop Polycarp.  But owing to their respect for the church traditions and the diversity of expression in the one church of God, they decided in favour of continuing the different traditions.

            In 198 A. D. Pope Victor took a decision in this matter, favourable to the Roman Tradition.  Thus everybody was asked to celebrate Easter on the Sunday that comes after 14th of the month of Nisan.
The unilatera1 decision taken by the Pope gave rise to several problems.  The great father of the church, St. Ireneus, appeared as a mediator at this juncture and thus each individual church got freedom to accept the decision of the Pope; gradually, all Churches accepted the decision of the Pope.

            The first ecumenical Synod at Nicea in 325 A.D. took the matter again for discussion.  The fathers in the Synod entrusted the bishops of Alexandria the responsibility of fixing the date of Easter.  Even to the present day all churches, catholic and non-catholic, celebrate Easter according to the decision taken by the Alexandrian bishops in that context.

According to the Jewish calendar, Nisan 14th is the Spring equinox day.  According to the present calculations, it falls on March 21st.  The decision taken by them was to celebrate Easter on the Sunday that follows the full moon after the 21st of March.

            The Resurrection of Iso’-Msiha is commemorated as the Feast of feasts throughout the church.  This is the first and central celebration of the church and as evidences show the only feast up to the end of the third century.  The spirit of the whole Season of Resurrection flows from this unique source.

            In the Mar Toma Margam, the Easter celebration includes three groups of rites and prayers namely, the Night and Morning Prayers (Lelya-Sapra), the Easter-Peace-Service and the Holy Qurbana.  Of these the Easter-Peace-Service expresses in a special way the identity and individuality of the Mar Toma Nazranees

            Usually, these celebrations in the church take place after three O’clock in the morning.  The faithful, as they come to the church on that day, bring with them a candle each.  Arrangements for extra illumination of the Sanctuary, the church and the Cross in the church yard, are all foreseen.
            Two small but beautiful niches are specially decorated.  The Evangalion or Gospel-Lectionary is enthroned in one of them and that should be kept on the Gospel-side of the altar; the other is kept empty on the other side.  As usual, the Sanctuary is veiled at the beginning of the celebration.  The celebrants and ministers vested according to their rank and grade come to the Bema and there they begin the special rites.

            When the Psalmody is absolved, the incense is blessed and the Sanctuary is opened as the choir intones the Resurrection-Hymn.  Now, the celebrants and ministers entering the Sanctuary bring up the Sliba from beneath or behind the altar and it is enthroned in the niche kept empty on the altar.  The extra illumination in the Sanctuary and the church is switched on at this moment and all the church-bells sounded.  The Resurrection-Hymn is repeated at least thrice.  The main celebrant himself incenses first the Sliba, then the Evangalion and finally the altar, all symbols of the Risen Lord in their own way.  Then one of the deacons incenses first the Sanctuary and then the whole of Haikala or church.  Meanwhile, another Deacon or one of the priests or ministers lights the candles which are in the hands of the faithful, beginning from the Sanctuary lamp.

            During the Procession that follows, the main celebrant carries the Sliba, enthroned in the special niche and another priest (Archdeacon) or Deacon the Evangalion, equally decorated.  The Procession goes round the Cross in the churchyard, which is also illumined on that day.

            As the Procession returns, the Cross and Evangalion are placed on the table on Bema.  Then follow the Readings, Homily and Karozuta.  At the end of Karozuta when the Deacon requests, all together bow down their heads and venerate the Cross and Evangalion.  Then they give Peace to one another.

“The particular greeting formula during the Easter celebration and throughout the Easter Season is: “Let the Risen Lord be with you”; and the response “Resurrection, Life and Renewal be with you.””
The Qurbana then continues, singing the Onita d-Raze, the “Anthem of the Mysteries.”
“           Through many and varied signs and symbols of the Resurrection during the celebration of Easter the faithful are led into an ecstatic experience of the Risen Lord in the Mar Toma Margam.”

The Risen Lord is the Light that never sets.  The Resurrection celebration is underlined with the emphasis given to Light.
            Iso’-Msiha is truly God.  Repeated incensing and other expressions of total submission proclaim this fact.  Mar Toma Sliba is the Icon or Sacrament of the Risen Lord and the Evangalion, the Gospel Lectionary, his living word.

            For St. Athanasius (296-373), one of the prominent fathers of the Church, the Easter Season is a “Great Sunday”.  It is, indeed, meaningful to say so.  It is the Season to exult in the NEW LIFE obtained through the Resurrection of the Saviour.  We have inherited the heavenly Kingdom through the Resurrection of Iso’-Msiha.  We cannot but rejoice in that context!

“Saints are those, who are already filled with the NEW LIFE and have secured for themselves the Kingdom of heaven.  Hence the Mar Toma Nazranees celebrate their Feast on the FIRST FRIDAY of Easter Season.”

            The first among the seven Weeks of Resurrection is known as the Week of weeks.  It is considered to be the central Week of the whole liturgical year.  In the context of the Paschal Baptismal rites, this week was always considered to be a Week of intense faith expression.
            The Second Sunday of Easter Season is New Sunday in the Mar Toma Margam.  It is also a Feast Day, very special to the Mar Toma Nazranees.  On New Sunday they celebrate the Profession of faith in the Resurrection of Iso’-Msiha by their father Mar Toma Sliha as the representative of the college of Apostles (Jn 20, 24-29).  In order to express publicly the faith they have imbibed from their father, it is their custom to go on pilgrimage on this day to holy places such as Malayattoor.

            On the Fifth Sunday of Easter Season, we celebrate the Feast of Mar Addai.  Mar Addai and Mar Mari are generally known to be the Apostles of the East.  The Syriac term Sliha means “one who is sent.” During the time of Iso’-Msiha, there were two well-known Empires, the Roman and the Persian and Persia was geographically on the eastern side.  Thus the two saints, who are considered to be the founders of Christianity in Persia, began to be called the Apostles or Slihe of the East.
            According to one tradition, Mar Addai was disciple of St. Thomas the Apostle and according another, he was one of the 7O disciples of Iso’-Msiha; it can also be both.  He is venerated as the Founder of the Edessan church
            The most ancient Anaphora in Christendom and the one mostly used by the Churches of St. Thomas the Apostle (namely, the Churches in India, Persia, Edessa and Mesopotamia), the Anaphora of the Apostles, is usually known under the names of Mar Addai and Mar Mari.  The title Slihanmarude Qurbana, seen written in Malayalam in the Qurbana Texts refers to these apostles.  In the recent calendar, the feast of Mar Addai is shifted to the second Friday of Qaita, the Season of Summer, to celebrate it together with that of Mar Mari.

            The Feast of Ascension falls on the 40th day after Resurrection, i.e., on the sixth Thursday in the Easter Season.  Ascension is the celebration of Iso’s victory over the cosmic powers.  The Prayers, Hymns and Rites of this Feast celebration picture Iso’-Msiha as the Great King, King of kings, who having entered the Kingdom of heaven, is sitting on the right hand of God the Father and ruling over everything.  In the first hymn of the Night Prayer of the Feast, we sing thus:
            “The Lord of great glory, who was crucified, died, buried and risen, entering into heaven, rules over everything.  He is to come again to judge the living and the dead.”
The Feast of Ascension is the very Feast of Iso’-Msiha’s Kingship.  The Gospel Lectionary solemnly enthroned on the right hand side of the Altar (which is the throne of God) in the Sanctuary (which symbolically is the heaven on earth) proclaims the mystery of Iso’-Msiha’s ascension and sitting at the right hand side of the Father.

“Only when one is transfigured into the risen Lord, does he/she partake in the Resurrection of Iso’.  This transfiguration becomes a reality in the Qurbana celebration where one is united to his risen body.  Hence the faithful are drawn closer to the Holy Qurbana during this particular Season of Resurrection.”

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