Faith and traditions
The Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church’s faith and liturgy are similar to those observed by the Universal Syrian Orthodox church such as the belief in Trinity, Jesus Christ’s incarnation as the saviour, Holy Cross, the Church, Holy Bible, the Divinity of the traditions, the creed of Nicea, the observations of the sacramental rites, intercession of St.Mary and Saints, rites after death, prayers for the dead, daily prayers, lent, fasting, celebrating holy Qurbana 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 the Relics of Holy fathers etc..
The Syrian Orthodox church accepts only three Ecumenical Synods namely Nicea (A.D.325), Constantinople (A.D. 381) and Ephesus (A. D. 431) as the universal Synods. 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 Son also, (Filioque) which we do not accept. The Church was totally merged with the divine element and became one (Monophysite). The church believes that Jesus Christ is one Person out of two natures namely human and divine. He is perfect man and perfect God. But Western Church had wrongly construed us Monophysites. This was an unfortunate error that creeped into the Werstern Church History. But this anomally was removed as a result of the deliberations at Vienna under the auspices of Pro-Orienete’. The faith of Orthodox Churches like Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Indian Church are in line with the beliefs of Syrian Churches. The Syrian orthodox church assiduously teach its members that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostholic enshrined with all elements of full-fledged Church and it paves way for salvation and that 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. Among those the first three rites are not only given together but are most important and each member has to partake in these without fail. The Syrian Church believes in infant baptism. Hot and cold water mixed together is used for baptism.
The Eucharist is believed to represent the Body and Blood of Christ. But we do not accept the ‘transubstatiation’ of the Roman Catholic Church, whereby the bread and wine 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.
Then Holy Bible is revered as the word of God. Every Sundays and other sacred days, Bible is invariably 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 either sides. The traditions of the church that have been handed down by the early Church Fathers are revered fervently 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.
The departed souls are remembered in prayers and Holy Eucharist is conducted in their memory. There is another practice of annually celebrating the day of demise of any person at his house with prayer and offering of incense at the tomb.
St.Mary is the perpetual virgin and mother of God who is esteemed as the first among the saints. Inercessory prayers are offered in the names of the Saints, Churches are built in their venerated memory and their relies are honored and their memories are celebrated Conception for St. Mary is not accepted by the Syrian Church.
The Church teaches that observing lent, refraining from rich food is good for the spiritual awakening. The Church observes every Wednesday and Friday as day of lent. Also there are five lent annually such as 50 days lent before Easter, the lent of Apostles the lent in the name of St.Mary, the lent before Christmas and the 3 day lent (Nineweh).
The 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. Those priest who have received such ordination only have the authority to perform liturgy and give sacraments. The church teaches the priest to be the designate of Christ and as such he is empowered to forgive sins. The believers make secret confession before the priest forgives 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 and marriage relation is undissolvable.
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. The church expects its members to observe Sunday and sacred days as holy and to refrain from routine engagements. Traditionally there are nine such sacred days a year and they are Christmas, Baptisam of Jesus, His entry into the Church, Gabriel’s Announcement to St. Mary of the impending birth of the saviour, Ascension, Transfiguration, Feast of 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 during Passion Week. The Syrians do not worship idols but the pictures of Jesus, St. Mary and other Saints are displayed in the Churches and houses. During Prayer, facing east ward is the practice. The monks in monasteries should pray seven times and the laity twice daily. It is also specified that only canonical prayers can be used in public worship. The 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.