Malankara World

Items Used in Church

by Vineeth John Abraham

Meaning of Church Vessels.


This is a piece of wooden slab placed at the center of the altar and is covered with cloth. The Paten and Chalice are placed over it. It is consecrated with Holy Chrism by a Bishop during the consecration of a church.

Each tabalitho has inscribed on it the following: "The Holy Ghost has hallowed this tabalitho by the hands of Mar..." and the year. The Holy Qurbana can be celebrated any where with this slab. Without this, the Qurbana cannot be celebrated*. Thabilitho symbolizes the cross on which our Lord was crucified.

[Editor's Note: * Qurbana can be celebrated on a Holy Bible if Tabilitho is not available.]

The Cross

The cross is placed in the middle of the altar. It symbolizes our Lord's sacrifice on Golgotha. The Cross is the symbol of peace, victory, and salvation. It is also described as the weapon in the struggle against Satan.

The sign of cross is made with the right hand. The thumb, first finger, and second finger are brought together and the first finger is extended further than the thumb and second finger, indicating that Christ is the One and Only Savior. The sign of cross is drawn starting from the forehead, down to the chest and then from the left to the right shoulder. This tradition symbolizes that the Lord Christ, came down to earth from the heights, and redeemed our earthly body from the gloomy paths of darkness (left), to the paths of truth and light (right).


God is the light of the world. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" John 8:12. The candle, in the middle of the altar, represent the resurrected Lord. The twelve candles represents the twelve Apostles. The burning of wax reminds us that we should be prepared to sacrifice ourselves to lighten others.

The Chalice and Paten

The Chalice which holds the Eucharistic wine is the most important of all sacramental vessels. The Patent holds the Eucharistic bread. The Paten and Chalice recall the mystery of the Last Supper, the bread standing for the Body of Christ and the Wine for His precious Blood.

Shushafo (Veil)

This white veil is used to cover the Paten and Chalice. It represents the fact that the Divine Mysteries are hidden from the understanding of men and that the divinity and humanity united in Christ, the Divine Word, is beyond human comprehension just the same way as the transformation of bread and wine to flesh and blood of Christ is beyond our perception.

The Censer

It has a lower half and upper half, four chains and 12 bells. The lower cup of the censer represents the earth and the upper cup the heaven. The coal in it represents the sinners. The chains represent the Holy Trinity. The first chain stands for God the Father. The second and third chains represent the human and Godly nature of the son. The fourth chain represents the Holy Spirit. The 12 bells represent the 12 Apostles of Christ. The four chains have a total of 72 links to represent the 72 evangelists of the Old Testament who prepared men to be worthy of the new covenant with God. The fire signifies the Holy Spirit by whose contact the black coal shines and glows. The incense shows the grace of the Holy Trinity. As the smoke goes up to the high so also our prayers should go high (Psalm 141:2)

Marvahtho (Fan)

A Fan shaped silver object mounted on a long pole. In the center of the fans, the seraphic face and wings are represented. The fans symbolize the presence of angels around the altar. The sounds represent the seraphim's and the flutter of their wings around the mysteries. It is carried in processions and shaken at the most solemn parts of the Qurbana.

The Lectern (Gospel stand or Evengelion table)

This is the pulpit which symbolizes the heights of Mount Sinai from where God spoke to Moses and handed him the stone tablets (Exodus 34:2). Mathew 5:1 tells us that Christ went up a mountain to preach the gospel to the multitude. Therefore the Book of gospel, which points to Christ Himself, is placed on the gospel stand.

See Also:

Components of a Syrian Orthodox Church (Building)

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