Dear George, I don’t know how valuable my comments …
Comment posted Thomas-Malabar Connection & The Jewish Heritage, A Biblical & Analytical Approach by John Mathew.
I don’t know how valuable my comments are … but I’ll give them to you.
1. It’s a matter of speculation as to what the faith circa 33 AD was. All we really know for sure is what we have documentation for, and that starts far after that. I suppose you can use the NT as a basis to re-construct how things were — but parts (if not all) of the NT were written after 33 AD as well.
2. George, our concepts of spirituality are different. There really isn’t much I can say, because at this point none of us will be able to convince the other. (Far from it! If historical facts can’t stop you labeling the Mar Thomite Church as “Orthodox” then my personal comments can do nothing! One key different between the Mar Thomite and the Orthodox: we Orthodox believe our Qurbana to be a re-sacrifice of Jesus, and not a re-enactment. The Protestants and the Mar Thomites view it as a memorial. This is why the Protestants and Mar Thomites have a looser view of the Qurbana host and wine, giving it less reverence as us Orthodox. This is a huge difference, and by itself is enough to justify the label of “heretic” that the Orthodox and Catholics apply to the Mar Thomites and other Protestants. I know in “ecumenical India” the Mar Thomites are often viewed as a sister Church; however, that is only due to the common genetic ancestry of our communities. In the inner circles of the Churches there is no ecumenism: there is absolutely no intercommunion between the two.)
But I’ll tell you this. I was never proud of my being an Orthodox Syrian Christian due to my membership in this community. Actually, I see nothing that makes our community any different or more noble than any other. Every community has a history. It’s sort of like those idiotic matrimonials in Kerala where someone claims to hail from an “ancient family” — what does that mean? How can one family be any more ancient than another? We all come from the same ape, who came from the same fish, who came from the same primordial slime that God created via his biochemical reactions a few million/billion years ago! Similarly, every community, even the so-called “backwards people” have a story to tell. I don’t believe I’m better than a Pentecostal, and I certainly don’t think that the Orthodox community is better than any other community.
However, I am very confident in my religion. Why? Because I understand Orthodox spirituality. I’m not claiming to be a spiritual person … but I’ve been a student of the works of Mar Isaac of Nineveh, and Mar James of Serugh, and Mar Ephrem. I’ve studied the liturgy, and I understand what type of spirituality it implies. So I accept Orthodoxy wholeheartedly as my religion. Is it what St. Thomas preached? No … none of the Apostles really have any direct, provable connection to what came afterwards. But I don’t know what St. Thomas preached. All I know is what the second and third and fourth hand accounts by my Orthodox fathers say — that is written. And I trust my fathers, far more than some 19th century businessman (ever notice that all these Protestant cults were started by some snake-oil saleman in either the US or the UK?). Why? Because the 19th century man is coming 1800 years after the fact, and is from an entirely different culture. There is *no* way that he has greater access to the teachings of Jesus than a 2nd or 4th century monk in the heart of Mesopotamia speaking the language of Christ. This alone for me is a strong indictment against Abraham Malpan or the Pentecostals! How audacious of them to claim that they understand Christ more than the fathers who saw Christ or the Apostles.
But… I know that my reasons can not be your reasons — we have a very different upbringing. Just by virtue of the fact that you are Mar Thomite makes you very different from me — our exposure to things, the bias given to us by our parents, etc. I know this because I know my Mar Thomite cousins … apart from some familial love that I have for them, I don’t have any real connection to them because our cultures are vastly different. We can not converse on a spiritual level because our innards are made differently. It is a West vs. East issue — I subscribe fully to Eastern Christianity, and I admit no Western Christian influences — and certainly none of the innovations made in Europe during the last few centuries (Protestantism, and its spawn). But this is not due to bigotry. It is because when I look at Western Spirituality through the lens of my Eastern teachings, I find it alien, and hollow, and different. And the same for many of Orthodox and Eastern Catholics, at least those of us who know our faith.
But I agree with one thing you said: we pay too much importance to our birth as previlaged Christians. In fact, I see the Nasrani concept of privilage as rather absurd… our ancestors didn’t contribute to our faith, being recipients of whatever the Nestorians, Catholics, Jacobites gave us. It was only in the last 300 years than anything scholarly came out of Kerala. At least, anything novel that was worth preserving. And for our ancestors to give their books to the Portuguese to burn is unforgivable. For a martial community, we were a bunch of wimps. And that stigma will remain with our community forever — or at least under something good is uncovered by archeologists …!
By the way George, I have a question: most of Nasrani history is written from the perspective of the North which was under Latin domination. But how about the South and inland Kerala? There are ancient pre-Portuguese Churches in those districts … why is there no history on those? Did they just accept what the Northerners did? This is something that ought to be investigated…
Related NSC Network Articles
- Letters of St. Thomas the Apostle to Edessa from India
- Mission of Pantaenus in India and Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle in India
- Some of the traditions and rituals among the Syrian Christians of Kerala
- ‘The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India’- Volume II , Chief Editor Prof.George Menachery
- Surviving MSS- Old Testament Manuscripts, Psalms and New Testament Manuscripts of Christians of Saint Thomas
- Palm Sunday ( Kuruthola Perunnal), Maundy Thursday( Pesaha), Good Friday (Dukha Velli) and Easter among Saint Thomas Christians of India
- ‘St. Thomas Christians and Nambudiris, Jews and Sangam Literature – A Historical Appraisal’, Bosco Puthur (Editor)
Get NEW Articles by e-mail / Enter your e-mail
Nasrani Syrian Christians NETWORK Snapshot
- Nazrani History and Discourse on Early Nationalism in Varthamanapusthakam
- PESAHA CELEBRATION OF NASRANIS: A SOCIO-CULTURAL ANALYSIS
- Saint Thomas Christians in the Shaping of Modern Kerala
- Ikkako Kathanar -the forgotten martyr
- MS Vatican Syriac 22 & MS Vatican Syriac 17: Syriac Manuscripts copied in South India
- Patriarchate Of India- An Appraisal Of The Evolution Of The Episcopal Hierarchy Among Thomas Christians Of Malabar