Thursday, May 24, 2012
14. WEEKS OF APOSTLES (Slihe)
“Seven Weeks beginning from the feast of Pentecost are called the Weeks of Apostles. This is a period when the actions of the Holy Spirit in salvation history are emphasised in celebration.”
Pentecost is one of the most important feasts of Christianity and one that has passed through various steps of redemptive history. This was first celebrated by the Israelites in connection with their harvest. In the beginning it denoted the end of grain harvest and the starting of fruit harvest. Gradually it turned out to be a feast that was closely linked with the origin of Israel as God’s chosen people. Israel was sealed as God’s people on Mount Sinai through the giving of the Commandments (Ex 24. 1ff). Thus in the Old Testament the Feast of Pentecost is the commemoration of Israel becoming God’s Covenant-People.
NATIVITY OF A NEW PEOPLE
Today, the Feast of Pentecost is the commemoration of the Nativity of the New People of God of the New Testament. The Church, the New People of God, was announced on that day. And this New People is built upon the corner Stone of love. It was realized by the Descent of the Ruha da-Qudsa who is Love itself or personification of Love.
“The New People is also a People of the Covenant; their commandments are engraved not on stone tablets, but on the walls of their own hearts. If the OT covenant were sealed with the blood of oxen (Ex 24, 8), the NT covenant is sealed with the blood of Iso’-Msiha, the Son of God.”
Apostles are those who went to the different parts of the world with the spirit of the New Covenant and who laid the foundation for ecclesial communities. It is to the community of these Apostles that the believers are called and grafted to.
The Greek term pentecostos means fiftieth. In OT, it was the feast celebrated on the fiftieth day (Num l6, 9f.; Lev 23, 15f) after the harvest has started. After the Covenant on Mount Sinai, the commemoration of that salvific event was also connected to it.
In the NT, during this Feast, we celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2, 1f.) on the Apostles. It is also considered to be a conclusion of Easter Season, which is celebrated as an extended Easter. There was no fasting and abstinence during Easter Season; and there was no kneeling during prayer-hours. Pentecost was the day on which all those practices were resumed.
In the Mar Toma Margam, on the day of Pentecost, there is a special rite in the Holy Qurbana immediately before the communion. Special prayers, incensing and a solemn kneeling are the constituent parts of this special rite, known as KNEELING RITE. It has all the characteristics of a public rite of Reconciliation. Such a rite is seen in several Oriental Churches, namely, the Byzantine, Antiochene and so on. In the Mar Toma Margam it remains today a rite to be restored.
SLIHA - FASTING
Many documents testify to the fact that the Mar Toma Naranees observed the whole Season of Apostles as a fasting period. This observance might have been in order to identify themselves with the Apostles who had to encounter so many afflictions and difficulties in sharing their Christ experience. The Kneeling Rite could be considered as the beginning of this Sliha Fasting. A hymn from the Kneeling Rite is given below.
“The Church saw Iso’-Msiha who suffered for her and is now in inexplicable glory. When she understood that it was for her, he suffered pain on the Cross and insult at Gagulta she ran to him, bowed and adored him, stood up, embraced and kissed him, and forgetting her own fathers began to burn with the love of Iso’. She raised her voice and proclaimed before angels and men thus: ‘I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor things present, nor things to come, nor Powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God in Iso’-Msiha’ (Rom 8, 38-39); for I confess his Cross; let there be praise to him”
FRIDAY OF GOLD
On the first Friday of the Season of Apostles, almost all Eastern Churches commemorate the first miracle performed by Peter after receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. In relation to this episode, we read in the Acts of the Apostles.
“I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Iso’-Msiha of Nazareth walk” (Acts 3, 6).
It appears that these words of St. Peter gave this feast its name, Friday of Gold. This miracle had, in fact, opened the public ministry of the Apostles.
On the last Friday of Apostles, we commemorate the 70 Disciples of our Lord. In some documents it is said to be 72 Disciples. That is because of the difference in this number seen in different versions of the Bible. In the liturgical prayers of the day, Seventy plus Twelve are also mentioned. It is fitting that the Season of Apostles comes to an end celebrating the Disciples who were next to the Apostles in witnessing to Iso’-Msiha.
The feasts of the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord and the Sacred Heart are feasts that started in the Latin Church in particular circumstances. During the post sixteenth century Latin Bishops’ rule, the Mar Toma Nazranees also began to celebrate these feasts. According to the genius of Mar Toma Margam, the celebration of the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord comes on the Thursday of Pesha and the Sacred Heart on Passion Friday. Hence, there is no relevance for setting apart two other days in the Season of Apostles for these feasts. What we confess on these feast days is Iso’s love for men and their love for Iso’-Msiha. A rethinking on the relevance of these feasts appears to be necessary.
According to the present Calendar, these feasts are officially recognized in the Mar Toma Margam: The Feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord is celebrated on the Second Thursday and of the Sacred Heart on Third Friday of the Season of Apostles.
BLESSED MARIYAM THRESIA
Blessed Mariyam Thresia was called to eternal glory on June 8, 1926. So Mar Toma Nazranees should celebrate her feast on that day.
DUKRANA OF MAR TOMA SLIHA
“The commemoration of the Martyrdom of St. Thomas the Apostle on July 3 is one of the most important celebrations of the Mar Toma Margam. Usually it comes in the Season of Apostles. Down through the centuries to the present day, the Mar Toma Nazranees had always celebrated it most becomingly. Since the celebration of Qurbana is the most sublime expression of Christian faith, all Mar Toma Nazranees, wherever they be try their best to celebrate it as solemn as possible on this day of the Martyrdom of their Father in Faith.”
So also in connection with the feast of Dukrana the Mar Toma Nazranees used to distribute edibles, rice etc. among the poor and the needy. Such charitable activities are relevant even today in remembrance of their Father in faith.