Malankara World

Faith of the Universal Syrian (Syriac) Orthodox Church

The faith and liturgy of the Malankara Syrian (Syriac) Orthodox Church (to which Baselios Church belongs) are similar to those observed by the Universal Syrian Orthodox church. These include the belief in Trinity, Jesus Christ's incarnation as the savior, Nicean creed, the Church, Holy Bible, the Divinity of the traditions, the observations of the sacramental rites, intercession of St. Mary and Saints, rites after death, prayers for the departed, daily prayers, lent, fasting, celebrating holy Qurbana (Eucharist or Mass) on Sunday and other sacred days, church consecration, the three stages of priesthood which has the Apostolic succession that comes from St. Peter through the Holy Throne of Antioch preserving the canonic laying on the hands, baptism, the Holy Cross, the three Holy Synods and (veneration of) the Relics of Holy fathers.

Ecumenical Synods and Nicene Creed

The Syrian Orthodox church accepts only three Ecumenical Synods as the universal Synods. These are: Nicea (A.D.325), Constantinople (A.D. 381) and Ephesus (A. D. 431). The Church meticulously observe all faith declaration of the Nicean Creed. (The western church at a later stage appended a statement to this creed attributing the Holy Ghost to be originating from the Son also, (Filioque) which the Syrian Orthodox church do not accept.)

The Syrian Orthodox church believes that Jesus Christ is one Person out of two natures, namely human and divine. He is perfect man and perfect God.

Bible and Holy Traditions

Holy Bible is revered as the word of God. Every Sundays and other sacred days, Bible is read. (A lectionary specifies what to read.) During the sacramental rites and common prayers, the Bible is read by the priest and, as a mark of reverence, candles are lit and held on either sides.

The traditions of the church that have been handed down by the early Church Fathers are revered and observed strictly as that of Bible. The Holy Bible and the traditions of the Church are esteemed as the criteria of the Church's faith.

Church and Sacraments

The Syrian orthodox church teaches its members that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church enshrined with all elements of a full-fledged Church and it paves the way for salvation. It is the duty of each member to obey the directions of the Church. The sacramental rites such as Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Confession, Priestly Orders, Matrimony and Sacrament to sick are held sacred and the members have ardent belief in their efficacy. The first three rites (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) are the most important and each member has to partake in these without fail. They are given together at the time of baptism. (The Syrian orthodox church believes in infant baptism. Hot and cold water mixed together is used for baptism.)

Qurbana (Eucharist)

The Eucharist is believed to represent the Body and Blood of Christ. The Syrian orthodox church do not accept the 'transubstatiation' as taught by the Roman Catholic Church, whereby the bread and wine are transmuted into the very Body and Blood of Christ. Leavened bread and wine are used in the Eucharist and given to the believers as the sacred Body and Blood.

Prayers for Departed

The departed souls are remembered in prayers. The church believes that they are part of the church and with us today. Holy Eucharist is conducted in their memory. The church observes the practice of annually celebrating the day of demise of any person at his/her house with prayer and offering of incense at the tomb (sradham).

Role of St. Mary and Intercession to Saints

St. Mary is the perpetual virgin and mother of God who is esteemed as the first among the saints. Intercessory prayers are offered in the names of the Saints, Churches are built in their venerated memory and their relics are honored and their memories are celebrated. (Immaculate conception for St. Mary, as taught by Catholic Church, is not accepted by the Syrian Orthodox Church.)

The Syrian Orthodox church teaches that observing lent, refraining from rich food, etc. are good for the spiritual awakening. The Church observes every Wednesday and Friday as days of lent. Also there are five canonical lents annually. These are: 50 days lent before Easter (Valia nombu), the 13-day lent of Apostles, the 15-day lent in the name of St. Mary, the 25-day lent before Christmas and the 3 day lent (Nineveh). In addition to these required lents, many believers also observe the optional 8-day lent (ettu nombu) from September 1-8 that ends on the birthday of St. Mary on November 8.

Priesthood and Apostolic Succession

The Syrian Orthodox church believes that it receives Apostolic Benediction and succession through the Patriarchs seated on the throne of St. Peter at Antioch and the Patriarchs are the successors of St. Peter. The Apostolic laying on the hands is regarded to be absolutely essential for the Order of Priesthood. Only those priests who have received such ordination have the authority to perform liturgy and give sacraments.

The church teaches that the priests are the designate of Christ. Thus they are empowered to forgive sins. The believers make secret confession before the priest who can forgive the sins in the name of Christ.

The Church asserts the need for marriage to those priests who are Vicars of Parishes. But the bishops are unmarried and must adhere to celibacy. The Priests are not allowed to remarry. The Church also preaches that matrimony is sacred.

Rites for the Sick

The Sick are anointed with sacred oil for recuperation and atonement of sins. (Basically this sacrament has been conceived for the healing of the sick, but it is now generally misunderstood and observed as the last sacrament.)

Sacred Days

The Syrian Orthodox church expects its members to observe Sunday and sacred days as holy and to refrain from routine engagements such as sexual relations during those days. Traditionally there are nine such sacred days a year. They are: Christmas, Baptism of Jesus, Jesus' entry into the Church, Gabriel's Announcement to St. Mary of the impending birth of the savior, Ascension, Transfiguration, Feast of the Cross, the ascension of St. Mary the mother of God and remembrance of St. Peter & St. Paul. In addition to these, other important occasions are St. Thomas day, Passover, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Resurrection (Easter) during Passion Week.

Prayer and Worship

The Syrian Orthodox church members do not worship idols. The pictures of Jesus, St. Mary and other Saints are displayed in the Churches and houses. The devotee faces east during prayer. The laity is expected to pray twice a day (morning and evening) while the monks in monasteries should pray seven times. Only canonical prayers can be used in public worship.

Second Coming

The Syrian Orthodox church believes in the second coming of Jesus and in the last judgment when the righteous would be rewarded with eternal heavenly tranquility and the wicked will be banished to perpetual hell.

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