Friday, April 27, 2012

Is Syriac Orthodox Church is Monophysite?

The Church was established in AD 37 by St. Peter, the chief of apostles in Antioch. Syriac is the liturgical language of the Church. Syriac Orthodox Church occupies an important position among the ancient independent churches of the world. The Syriac Patriarchs of Antioch are successors of St. Peter and the head of the Syrian Orthodox church. It uses Syriac as its liturgical language and keeps the ancient liturgical tradition of the church of Antioch. In this article I would like to discuss the Christology of the Syrian Orthodox Church especially the two terms ‘Monophysitism’ and ‘Miaphysitism’.
Christological controversy in 451
Syriac Orthodox Church rejected the Fourth Ecumenical Council of AD 451 which is known as the Council of Chalcedon. This council was summoned by the bishops not to define Christology, but to fine tune it and to examine the extreme "monophysite" heresy of the Alexandrian Eutyches who took the Christology of St. Cyril to an extreme seeing in Christ a humanity which was lost, swallowed up in a see of divinity. The Syriac Orthodox Church Fathers (Not only Syriac orthodox church fathers, but also the all Oriental Orthodox Church fathers) rejected not only Eutyches, but also the definitions and acts of Chalcedon due primarily to the Tome of Leo, which "separated' the activities of Christ according to human or divine, thus tending strongly toward the dangers and errors of Nestorius.
The main reason of the controversy
The main reason for this controversy is the affirmation by the Chalcedonian (Eastern Orthodox Churches) of “two natures two wills and two energies hypostatically united in the one Lord Jesus Christ”. While the Syrian Orthodox church and other Oriental Orthodox Churches affirm “one united Divine-Human nature, will and energy in the same Christ without confusion, without change, without division and without separation from the very movement of His descent to the Virgin’s womb where He took to Himself from her a human body with a human rational soul and made Himself one with the manhood which He took from her as formulated by St. Cyril as “One Incarnate nature of God the Word”. Syrian Orthodox fathers and St. Cyril appeared to be an especially strong opponents of the council of Chalcedon.
Is Syriac Orthodox Church Monophysites?
Some non oriental orthodox peoples believe that the Syrian Orthodox Church subscribes to the Monophysite doctrine. (Greek word ‘mono’ means one, ‘physis’ means nature). This is incorrect. Monophysitism is a Christological heresy that originated in the 5th century A.D. Its chief proponent was the monk Eutyches, who stated that in the person of Jesus Christ the human nature was absorbed into the divine nature. Eutyches refused to confess that Christ partook of our humanity teaching that He was solely divine. The doctrine of Monophysites believes that “Jesus was not human, but exclusively divine, and God himself, therefore he could not have died.” And this doctrine is not Orthodox.
Miaphysite Christology of the Syriac Orthodox Church
Miaphysitism is the Christology of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Miaphysitism holds that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one "nature", the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration. The Syrian Orthodox Church considered as central the Christology is Miaphysis. What is the difference between ‘mono’ and ‘mia’.? ‘Mono’ is one in the sense of a numerical one, whereas ‘mia’ is one in the sense of a united, or composite, one. The word "Miaphysite" was taken from St. Cyril's famous phrase "Mia Physis tou Theo Logos Sesarkomene," and thus this has been adopted by Syrian Orthodox Church Fathers along with its theological implications. The Syriac Orthodox Church abides by the formula "The one Incarnate Nature of God the Word", on which St. Cyril of Alexandria increasingly insisted upon, a formula which was accepted as correct by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D and which, after the Council of Chalcedon, the Chalcedonian side in the East itself admitted. The expression "One Nature" does not indicate the Divine nature alone nor the human nature alone, but it indicates the unity of both natures into One Nature which is "The Nature of the Incarnate Logos".
What is the Christology of Syrian Orthodox Church?
According to Church fathers, we can thus summarize the Christology of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
  • The belief of Syriac Orthodox Church is that "mia" one, but not "single one" or "simple one," but unity, one "out of two natures".
  • According to the non oriental orthodox Christians "one nature" of Christ means only one of two probabilities: the natures had been absorbed or confusion between the divine and human nature happened to produce one confused nature. But Syriac Orthodox Church confirmed that no confusion or absorption had occurred but a real unity.
  • The Word became truly man. He is at once God and man. The manhood of Jesus Christ was perfect. And he had a body and also a soul. Jesus Christ’s manhood was not formed before the incarnation. Moreover the manhood did not exist then the Godhead dwelt in it afterwards.
  • The Syrian Orthodox believe that, they receive the True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Communion. These belong to man, humanity, and we know that Jesus Christ is God, the Divine.
  • Syrian Orthodox Church believe the Divinity and humanity of Christ are manifested, and the co-equality of Jesus Christ with God the Father.
  • Jesus Christ was at the same time perfect God and perfect man. This is the union of the natures in the Incarnation. Jesus Christ was no longer in two natures after the union and He is not two persons. But one Person, one incarnate Nature of God the Son, with one will, but being at once divine and human. The two natures became united into one nature without separation, without confusion and without change.
Syriac Orthodox are often mistakenly considered Monophysites by many Latin Catholics and Byzantine Orthodox. The Syriac Orthodox, being Miaphysite, reject the ecumenical council of Chalcedon, and anathematize Nestorianism, and thus accept Ephesus; they do not accept any other ecumenical councils but the first three. In recent times, the Pope of Rome has made progress in resolving doctrinal differences of the Roman Catholic Church with the Syriac Orthodox Church and other Oriental Orthodox Churches, and have together signed Joint Christological Statements saying we believe in the same thing about Christology expressed differently. This has greatly helped to overcome a disagreement that had been started over 1,500 years ago. Such dialogues and encounters fostered healthy situation of mutual understanding and recovery of the deeper spiritual communion based on the common faith in the nature of Jesus Christ that they have been given through the Gospel of Christ.
V.C. Samuel, The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined: A Historical Theological Survey; Indian Theological library, No.8, Christian Literature Society (C.L.S), Madras, India, 1977.British Orthodox Press, London, UK, 2003; Tadros Y Malaty, Introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church, Alexandria, 1993;Robert Betts, Christians in the Arab East, Lycabbetus Press, Athens, 1978; John Binns. An Introduction to the Christian Orthodox Churches, Cambridge University Press, 2002; R. H. Charles, The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu: Translated from Hermann Zotenberg's Ethiopic Text., Evolution Publishing, 1916. Reprinted 2007; Stanley Harakas. The Orthodox Church; 455 Questions and Answers. Light and Life Publishing Company, 1988; Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books, 1997; Mebratu Kiros Gebru. Miaphysite Christology, Gorgias Press, 2010; Gorgorios, General Church History, Addis Ababa, 1978; Sirgiw Hable Sellassie, Ancient and Medieval Ethiopian History to 1270. Addis Ababa: united Printers, 1972; W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement: Chapters in the History of the Church in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries, Cambrige University Press, Cambridge, 1979; John A. McGuckin, St. Cyril of Alexandria :The Christological Controversy, St. Vladimir's Press, Crestwood, 2004.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Main Early Heretical Teachings: Gnosticism, Docetism, Ebionitism


The history of the Christian Church, the Christians have believed that Jesus Christ is truly man and truly God, and He is the Son of God, whom we worship and who is our savior, as the Holy Bible teaches. Historically, the basic doctrine experienced a lot of struggles in its growth in the early history of Christianity. Looking back on the past of the Christological developments, we can see the Christian Church faced a lot of heretical teachings about the Person of the Jesus Christ. In this article I would like to briefly explain about four major heretical teachings which were affected by the early Church.


The word "Gnosticism" comes from the Greek word "Gnosis" which means "knowledge. Gnosticism traces its roots back just after the beginning of the Christianity. But some Scholars state that evidence of its existence even predates Christian religion. This heretic teaching presented a major challenge to the early Christian religion. Gnosticism was an eclectic phenomenon, which arose out of a mixture of Jewish, Hellenistic, Oriental and Christian factors, and at the same time employed philosophical language as a terminology but not as a basic structure. To its supporters, this heretical sect taught as “Salvation is by knowledge.” They considered Jesus as a heavenly messenger and seem to have looked upon Christ as a liberator or revealer, rather than a judge or savior. So, the Gnostics rejected the idea of God becoming incarnate, dying and rising bodily. Christ was pure spirit and only had a phantom body; Jesus just appeared to be human to his followers. These sects believe that whoever entered Jesus at his baptism left him before he died on the cross. Gnostics defined Jesus’ resurrection as occurring when the spirit of Christ was liberated from his body. Gnostics reasoned that a true emissary from the Highest God cannot have been overcome by the evil of the earth, and to have suffered and died. These heretics did not consider in the perfection of Jesus Christ as God and human, for them Jesus was only a mediator between the material world and good God. For them the knowledge about the good God, Jesus and material world is important. The important Gnostic leaders were Marcion, Basilides and Valentinus. The famous Gnostic documents are Treatise on the Three Natures, the Gospel of Truth, the Letter to Rheginus, the Gospel of Matthias, Apocalypse of Adam, Gospel of Philip, Acts of Thomas and Acts of Peter. Early Church fathers like Clement of Alexandria, Ireneaus, etc. wrote against this heresy.


Docetism was developed around last of first century. Docetism name is derived from “Dokesis” which means semblance or appearance, because these heretics taught that Christ only “seemed” or “appeared” to be a man, to have been born, to have lived and suffered. They refused to acknowledge Christ’s humanity and only believed in His divinity. They thought that Christ did not actually have a physical body, but only appeared to have flesh and blood. Patriarch Ignatius Noorono wrote against Docetism in his letter to the Smyrnaeans. Other detailed criticisms were given by Tertullian and Irenaeus.


Ebionitism was originated in the last of 3rd century to a heretic sect of early Jewish Christianity who retained much of teachings of Jewish religion in their beliefs. It was a mixture of Judaism and Christianity. While these heretics accepted the Old Testament in its integrity, they rejected the New Testament. For them Jesus was merely a human being on whom the Holy Spirit had descended on at His baptism. These heretics denied both the divinity of Christ and at least some of them denied His virgin birth and physical resurrection. They believed that Jesus was mere man, who became the Messiah only by his good works and strict maintaining of the law. He became conscious of his Messiah identity and received the Holy Spirit when he was baptized. A lot of church fathers like Eusebius, Epiphanius, Ireneaus, etc. wrote against this heresy.


Marcionism is a Christian heresy of the second and third centuries A.D. This heretical teachings originated in the teachings of Marcion at Rome around the 2nd century. Marcionism rejected the Old Testament and almost all of the New Testament books, including the accounts of the incarnation and the resurrection. They denied the God’s incarnation in Jesus as a human. They believed the Old Testament God was vengeful, petty, spiteful, and fell short of the perfection of the New Testament God. Marcionism had to account for the existence of the Old Testament and Marcionism accounted for it by postulating a secondary deity, a ‘Demiurgus,’ who was god, in a sense, but not the supreme God; he was just, rigidly just, he had his good qualities, but he was not the good God, who was Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Marcionism placed the good God of love in opposition to the creator of the world. This good God has only been revealed in Christ. Good God was absolutely unknown before Christ, and men were in every respect strange to him. The good God of love appeared in Christ and proclaimed a new kingdom. Marcionism has accepted an altered version of the Gospel according to Luke and ten of the Epistles of St. Paul. The early Church Fathers wrote against Marcionism. The first mention of Marcionism was in Apologia by Justin Martyr, a contemporary of Marcionism. Irenaeus also describes a confrontation with Marcionism in ‘Adversus Haereses.’


Above mentioned heretical teachings rejected by the Church. The Church Fathers of the Church summarize their faith according to the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Three in One.” The true doctrine of our church is cited in the Bible which thought that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Son of Man, and God, who was born by Morth Mariam through the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus Christ came to this world to give salvation to mankind through his crucifixion on the cross. After the death of Jesus Christ, He was buried for 3 days in a tomb, and on the third day he resurrected. He appeared to his disciples relatives, and others. After fifty days, Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven. The Church maintains that Christ is perfect God and perfect man, at once consubstantial with the Father and with us; the divinity and the humanity continuing in him without mixture or separation, confusion or change. He is one and the same person both in his eternal pre-existence and also in the economy, in which he performs the redeeming work of God on behalf of man, from the indivisible state of union of Godhead and manhood.


David Salter Williams, “Reconsidering Marcion's Gospel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 108 (1989): 477-796; I. Matter, Histoire Critique du Gnosticisme, Paris, 1828; Mansel, The Gnostic Heresies, London, 1875; A. Hilgenfeld, Ketzergesch. des Urchristenthums, Leipsic, 1884; A. Dietrich, Abraxas, Leipsic, 1891; G. Aurich, Das Antike Mysterienwesen in Seinem Einfluss auf das Christenthum, Göttingen, 1894; G. Wobbermin, Religionsgesch. Studien zur Frage der Beeinflussung des Urchristenthums Durch das Antike Mysterienwesen, Berlin, 1896; G. R. S. Mead, Fragmente eines Verschollenen Glaubens (German transl. by A. von Ulrich), ib. 1902. Kaesemann, Ernst. The Testament of Jesus, trans. Gerhard Krodel Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968; Philip Schaff (ed.), A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd ed. (1894); W.H.C. Frend, "Marcion," Expository Times 80.11 (1969): 328-332; Robert M. Grant, "Notes on Gnosis 1. Marcion and the Old Testament," Vigiliae Christianae 11 (1957): 145-51.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jacob Baradaeus: The defender of Oriental Orthodox faith.

Jacob Baradaeus, a Bishop well schooled in Greek and Syriac with a reputation for austerity and discipline, secluded himself in a monastery in Constantinople. Though an opponent of Chalcedonian Christology. He is a saint who is revered highly by the church. In this short essay I am trying to give a small description about the Jacob Baradaeus.
He was born in the city of Tall Mawzalt in Turkey, and was son of a priest named Theophilos Bar Mano. Depending on the wishes of his parents, the child was placed at a young age at local monastery, where he did a solid study under the leadership of Father Eustathius who taught him Greek and Aramaic culture. At a young age he was ordained a monk in the monastery of Fsilta, and subsequently he became the principal of that monastery. On the death of his parents, he inherited the family land and property as well as some slaves, at least he chooses to free them and give them all his possessions. Their choice would be a good idea. So it seemed in distress, Baradaeus was one of those who ultimately ensured the survival not only of the Oriental Orthodox Church but also its dramatic revival. For nearly thirty years, he tirelessly traveled the roads of Syria, Arabia Petrea, Asia Minor, Palestine, Egypt and Persia. Preaching to crowds, visiting churches and monasteries, ordered under the authority of apostolic ready, bishops and patriarchs.
He was educated in the monastery of Phasilta near Nisibis, lived for fifteen years as a monk in Constantinople, and was consecrated bishop in 541 or 543. Clad in rags, he then wandered from Egypt to the Euphrates and to the islands of the Mediterranean for nearly forty years, expounding his doctrines, ordaining deacons and priests, and consecrating bishops, doing his work in the daytime and traveling at night sometimes forty miles to a new place of labor. He is said to have consecrated two patriarchs and twenty-seven bishops, and to have created 100,000 priests and deacons. He died at Edessa in 578.

He wore a simple cloth which reflected his humbleness. He wore the same clothing all his life, and every time a part of his clothing was ripped off, he put it together. That is reason he is called "Burd'ono" which means "fixed". One of his most famous words are "Better for the soul to be lifted by the serenity of the good deeds than to be lost in what leads to everlasting suffering". During this time the Emperor Justinian had continued and even step up its campaign to eradicate Oriental Orthodox doctrines. Baradaeus was took refuge from his imperial persecutors at the court of the Ghassanid Christian king . In Seleucia he is said to have visited the court of Chosroes I 559 to gain tolerance for the Oriental Orthodox Christians.

He was a great and educated theologian, who spent most of his time praying and fasting, in order to be able to convey the word of God to the people. In the monastery he did theological studies, learned the Syriac and Greek languages, and read books that concerned the hermit life. He struggled very hard to keep the Syrian Orthodox faith pure from all the heretical thoughts. He wanted everybody to understand that the faith was the most important in a Christian life. He was also known for his God-fearing and humbleness. He was preached for the theology of Oriental Orthodox Church. (Jesus Christ, is perfect God with respect to His divinity, perfect man with respect to His humanity. In Him His divinity is united with His humanity in a real, perfect union without mingling, without confusion, without alteration, without division, without separation.)
At this critical stage, God raised up an in¬defatigable man to protect the church. Through his efforts to preserve the Oriental Orthodox faith in the time of persecution.


Rustum, A. The Church of the City of God, Great Antioch, 3 vols. Beirut, 1966..,R. Duval, La Literature syriaque, Paris 1900; E. Sachau, Am Euphrat und Tigris, Leipsic, 1900., J. B. Chabot, Chronique de Michel le Syrien, patriarche jacobique d'Antioche (1166-1199), 2 vols., Paris, 1900-04; F. C. Burkitt, Early Eastern Christianity,London, 1904; L. Silbernagl, Verfassung und gegenwrtiger Bestand s�mtlicher Kirchen des Orients, Regensburg, 1904; Harnack, Dogma, passim; KL, xi. 1124-34; the periodicals mentioned in the last paragraph above, together with Echos d'orient; and the literature under EUTYCHIANISM; MONOPHYSITES. On Jacob Baradaeus consult H. G. Kleyn, Jacobus Baradeus, Leyden, 1882; DCB, iii. 328-332.Atiya, A. S. A History of Eastern Christianity. London, 1967;Chebot, J. B., ed. and trans. Chronique de Michelle Syrien, patriarche jacobite d'Antioche 1166- 99, 3 vols. Paris, 1899-1903;Honigmann, H. Evêques et évêchés monophysites d'Asie antérieure au VIe siècle. CSCO 127, Subsidia, Vol. 2. Louvain, 1951;Kleyn, H. G. Iacobus Baradeus--de Stichter der Syrische monophysitische Kerk. Leiden, 1882.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Persian Catholicate and Nestorianism

Persian Church is the one of the ancient churches which is early controlled by the Patriarchate of Antioch. Later the Nestorian heresy swallowed in that church, the church of Persia divided into two groups. In that groups one group under the Nestorian Catholicose and the other group under the Patriarch of Antioch. In this short paper I would like to describe the Origin or Persian Catholicate and its division and the establishment of Persian Maphrianate.

1. Establishment of Persian Catholicate
The need of the establishment of the Persian Catholicate was the political problems of Persia. The political barriers between the Persian and Roman Empires and the bitter rivalry of its rulers made intercommunications between the two regions much more difficult and dangerous[1]. There were instances where clergy from Persia who were ordained by the Patriarch of Antioch were put to death alleging to be spies. The rulers of Persian Empire treated Christians as the spies of Roman emperor.[2]
Fr. Placid says:
The Bishop or Metropolitan of Seleucia used to receive Episcopal consecration from Antioch. But owing to the dangers attending on the journey to Antioch, the bishops of the East were given powers to consecrate him.[3]
It therefore, became necessary for the Patriarch to vest authority in an ecclesiastical dignitary to carry on the administration in the Persian region. Mosheim says that “the Patriarch of Antioch voluntarily ceded a part of his jurisdiction to Seleucia.”[4] So the Catholicos of Seleucia acted as the deputy of the Patriarch of Antioch[5], in the Persian Empire, with some exclusive privileges to consecrate bishops on behalf of the Patriarch.
Gibbon says:
The Catholicos were elected and ordained by their own suffragans ; but their filial dependence on the patriarchs of Antioch is attested by the canons of the oriental church.[6]
Neale says:
Still later, Nestorianism swallowed up the Catholicate of Chaldaea, which was, in a mannaer, dependent on Antioch.[7] The See of Antioch allowed that of Seleucia to consecrate its own Prelates, who were thenceforward called Catholici, i.e. Procurators-General, of Antioch[8].
Bernad says:
The St. Thomas Christians were receiving bishops sent by the Catholicos (Katholicos) of Seleucia who was subordinate to the See of Antioch. But when that See became Nestorian, they used to receive only those Bishops who were sent by that Catholicos who as before was subordinate to the See of Antioch. The See of Seleucia was subordinate to the See of from the very beginning. There is evidence for it in Canon II of the Council of Constantinople (381) which places the eastern dioceses (beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire) under the Patriarch of Antioch, who used to appoint an Archbishop, entitled Catholicos (Primatial Archbishop) to govern the Christians of India, Persia and other countries.[9]
From the above mentioned matters we understand that the Persian Catholicate was under the Patriarchate of Antioch and he had accepted the subjection of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

2. Nestorianism in Persian Church
In the previous section we have seen that the Catholicos of Persia obeyed and respected the Patriarch of Antioch[10]. When the Persian church was under Antioch, Nestorianism crept into the Persian Church.

2.1. Nestorius and Barsauma
In 428 A.D., Nestore was a bishop of Constantinople.[11] He showed great zeal against the few remaining advocates of the Arian heresy. But while combating one heresy, he fell into another. He had allowed Anastasius, a newly ordained priest of Constantinople to preach against the heretics. In one of his sermons, Anastasius said that it was improper to give Mary the title ‘Theotokos’ or Mother of God. ‘Let no one’, said he, ‘designate the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of God. Mary was merely human and God cannot be born of a human creature’.[12] The council of Ephesus in A.D.431[13], examined the writings of Nestorius, discussed the term ‘Theotokos’, and finally the Council unanimously condemned the doctrines of Nestorius. The writings of Nestorius, however, found favour with some influential persons, and two of them, Ibas and Thomas Barsaumaa, were obliged to leave the school of Edessa for their advocacy of the Nestorian heresy.[14] Barsauma was the bishop of Nisibis in (435-489).[15] The Nestorians, who had been turned out of their homes at Edessa, were protected by him. In 498, Babaeus, whom Barsumas had won over to Nestorianism, ascended the throne of Seleucia. The following year he held a synod in which the Nestorian party was organised.[16]
E.M. Philip says about this topic:
From the chronicles of Gregarious Bar Hebraeus, an intelligent and well-informed writer of the thirteenth century; we learn that Nestorianism was forced upon Seleucia by a treacherous act of Bar Souma, Bishop of Nisibin. The Catholicos, who was an orthodox deputy of the See of Antioch, was invited to a Provincial Synod to be held at Antioch. In reply, he communicated to his superior the dangers consequent upon his leaving his station. The letter contained some references to the hostile attitude of Pheroz, King of Persia, towards the Orthodox Church. This letter fell into the hands of Bar Souma, who availed himself of the opportunity to instigate Pheroz against the orthodox. The result was that the Catholicos was martyred, and a nominee of Bar Souma was elevated to the See of Seleucia. Not long after this, in a Council held in A.D. 498, Seleucia adopted the teachings of Nestorius, and its Head declared himself independent assuming the title of Patriarch of Babylon[17]

3. The Division of the Persian Catholicate
The Catholicos of Seleucia adopted Nestorianism in A.D. 498[18], and its Head declared himself independent, assuming the title of ‘Patriarch of Babylon’.[19] As a result of Nestorianism there are two groups aroused in Persia at the same time.[20] Many church under the Catholicos, some clung fast to the old and primitive faith, while others became converts to Nestorianism.[21] At that time of these disputes, there was a movement by Jacob Bardaeus.
See Mosheim says about Jacob Bardaeus’ work:
When the Monophysites were nearly in despair, and very few of their bishops remained, some of them being dead and others in captivity; an obscure man, Jacobus surnamed Baradaeus or Zanzalus, to distinguish him from others of the name, restored their fallen state. This indigent monk, a most indefatigable and persevering man, being ordained bishop by a few bishops who were confined in prison, travelled over all the East, on foot, constituted a vast number of bishops and presbyters, received every where the depressed spirits of the Monophysites, and was so efficient, by his eloquence and his astonishing diligence, that when he died, in the year 578, at Edessa, where he had been bishop, he left his sect in a very flourishing state in Syria, in Mesopotamia, in Armenia, in Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia, and in other countries. He extinguished nearly all the dissensions among the Monophysites; and as their churches were so widely dispersed in the East, that the bishop of Antioch could not well govern them all, he associated with him a Maphrian or primate of the East, whose residence was at Tagritum on the borders of Armenia. His efforts were not a little aided, in Egypt and the neighbouring regions, by Theodosius of Alexandria. From this man as the second father of the sect, all the Monophysites in the East are called Jacobites.[22]
In A.D. 559 Jacob Bardaeus consecrated Abudemmeh[23] as Catholicos of Seleucia, and the new dignitary bore the same relation to the Patriarch of Antioch as the Catholicos of Seleucia did to that See before the introduction of Nestorianism.[24]

3.1. Establishment of Persian Maphrianate in Tigrit
The Patriarch of Antioch established the Maphrianate. The Maphrian[25] owed allegiance to the Patriarch and was considered as the vicar of the Patriarch in Persia.[26]The title ‘Maphrian’ came into usage since AD 629. The office of the ‘Maphrian of the East’ was founded to take care of the orthodox faithful, living in the dioceses of the ancient territory of the Persian Sassanid Empire and who were under the Patriarchate of Antioch.[27] The transition of the title, from ‘Catholicos’ to ‘Maphrian’, was effected by the Syrian Jacobites to maintain their identity and distinctiveness from those who embraced Nestorianism. Tigrit was originally the main centre of the members of the Jacobite community and also the eastern head quarters of the Church.[28]

When we analyse this topic, Catholicose was Persian Origin and Maphrianate was only under the Patriarch of Antioch. We can explicitly say that the reestablishment of the Catholicate is protecting from the influence of the Nestorianism. And this re establishment helps to the protection of true Orthodox faith in that time

Foot Notes
[1] IORWERTH EIDDON STEPHEN EDWARDS, The Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998. p.411-413
[2] AUGUSTUS NEANDER, General History of the Christian Religion and Church, By JOSEPH TORREY, Crocker &Brewster, Vol.2, Boston, 1854. p.105.
[3] Fr. PLACID T.O. C.D., The Syrian Church of Malabar, K.E.JOB (Ed.), Changanacherry, 1938; Reprinted by GEORGE MENACHERY, The Nazranies, The Indian Church History Classics,Vol.1, SARAS, Trissur, 1998. p. 364.
[4] JOHN LAWRENCE VON MOSHEIM, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern, JAMES MURDOCK, Vol.1, New York, 1854. p.324.
[5] FR.BERNAD, A brief sketch of the History of the St.Thomas Christians, ROMEO THOMAS(Ed.), St.Joseph Press, Mannanam, 1924; Reprinted by GEORGE MENACHERY, The Nazranies, The Indian Church History Classics,Vol.1, SARAS, Trissur,1998. p.295.
[6] EDWARD GIBBON, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman empire, J&J Harper, Vol. III, New York, 1831.p.270.
[7] JOHN MANSON NEALE, A History of the Holy Eastern Church, Part1, London, 1850. p.124.
[8] JOHN MANSON NEALE, A History of the Holy Eastern Church, Part1, p.141.
[9] FR.BERNAD, A brief sketch of the History of the St.Thomas Christians, ROMEO THOMAS(Ed.), St.Joseph Press, Mannanam, 1924; Reprinted by GEORGE MENACHERY, The Nazranies, The Indian Church History Classics,Vol.1, SARAS, Trissur,1998. p. 296.
[10] Fr. PLACID T.O. C.D., The Syrian Church of Malabar, ICHC, p.364.
[11] JOHN C.L. GIESELER, A Text book of Church History, Harper Brothers Publishers, Vol.1, New York, 1857. p.340.
[12] JOHN ALZONG, Universal Church History, Vol. I. Dublin, 1895, p.415-416; Cited in JOSEPH C. PANJIKARAN, The Syrian Church in Malabar, St. Joseph Industrial School Press, 1914; Reprinted by GEORGE MENACHERY, The Nazranies, The Indian Church History Classics,Vol.1, SARAS, Trissur,1998.p.280-281.
[13] THOMAS MILNER, History of the seven Churches of Asia, London, 1832. p.192.
[14] JOSEPH C. PANJIKARAN, The Syrian Church in Malabar, ICHC, p.280-281.
[15] JOHN C.L. GIESELER, A Text book of Church History, Harper Brothers Publishers, Vol.1, New York, 1857.p.354.
[16] JOSEPH C. PANJIKARAN, The Syrian Church in Malabar, ICHC, p.280-281.
[17] E.M.PHILIP, The Indian Church of St. Thomas, Kottayam, 1908, Mor Adai Study Centre, Cheeramchira, 2002. p.72-73.
[18] ELI SMITH, H.G.O. DWIGHT, (Eds.), Missionary Researches in Armenia: Including a Journey Through Asia Minor, and into Geogrgia and Persia, with a visit to the Nestorian and Chaldean Christians of Oormiah and salmas, George Wightman and Paternoster Row, London, 1834. p. 363-365.
[19] E.M.PHILIP, The Indian Church of St. Thomas, Kottayam, 1908, Mor Adai Study Centre, Cheeramchira, 2002. p.73.
[20] FR.BERNAD, A brief sketch of the History of the St.Thomas Christians, ICHC, p.295.
[21] P.T. GHEEVARGHESE, Suriyani Kristhiyanikal Nestoriar ayirunno? (Where the Syrian Christians Nestorians?),Mal., Parumala, 1907; Seminary Publications, Mulanthuruthy, 1994. p.24.
[22] JOHN LAWRENCE VON MOSHEIM, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History ; Ancient and Modern, By JAMES MURDOCK, Vol.1,New York 1854. p.417-418.
[23] G.CHEDIATH & G. APPASSERY, Bar Ebraya-Sabha Charithram-Randam Bhagam,(Mal.), Vadavathoor, OIRS, 1990. p.49.
[24] JOHN MANSON NEALE, A History of the Holy Eastern Church, Part.1, General Introduction, London, 1850. p.152.
[25] The term ‘Maphrian’ is derived from the Syriac word ‘afri’, meaning, “to make fruitful”. In the mid 13th century the title ‘Catholicos’ was adopted by some occupants of the Maphrianate. It is this title that is being used in India today, while the title ‘Maphrian’ is no longer used.
[26] DAVID DANIEL, The Orthodox Church of India, Rachel David, New Delhi, 1986. p.85.
[27] E.R.HAMBYE, Dimensions of Eastern Christianity, Vadavathoor, OIRS, 1983. p.65.
[28] Dr.CURIAN KANIYANPARAMBIL, Suriyanisabha Charithravum Viswasa Sathyangalum (Mal.), Seminary Publications, Mulanthuruthy, 2003. p.788.

Christological contribution of Severious of Antioch to the Syrian Orthodox Church

Severious was the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of the Antioch. According to Syrian Orthodox historians, he was the main defender of Syrian Orthodox Faith. The main works of Severious of Antioch are Liturgical works, letters, treatises, homilies, teachings etc. Most of the works are preserved in various libraries. Some works are published Patrologia Orientals. His homilies was delivered to a more varied audience as well as we can clearly visible his faith proclamation in his homilies. Those homilies are contained by main teachings of the Syrian Orthodox Church. He delivered that homilies in churches, monasteries and towns. Currently, Christian intellectual world conducting researches in the Christology of Severious.

A Short Biography of Severious
Severious of Antioch was born in 465 at Sozopolis in Pisidia ( The South western part of Modern Turkey) in a aristocratic family. His father was a senator. He completed his basic studies in Pisidia. Then he moved to Alexandria. From Alexandria he studied Philosophy, Greek, Latin and natural sciences at Alexandria and then he went to Beirut for his studies on Roman law to become an Advocate. Then he moved to Lebanon and intended to begin to practice the profession of advocacy. In that time he was attracted by the Christian religion and he decided to Christianity. He was baptized in 499 in Lebanon and he joined a Syrian Orthodox Monastery in Lebanon. This monastery is isolated from the world for a time, devoting him exclusively spiritual asceticism, the maceration of the body, separated from worldly activities. Severious ordained as a Priest Later he was elected Patriarch of Antioch in A.D. 512. At that moment he began to put in writing its conceptual development. The changing of political-religious imperial, religious intransigence with the arrival of Justin I in 518 Severious, was deposed from his chair. He was forced to abandon his Episcopal seat, and with it Antioch. Severious was able to return to Constantinople, between 531 and 536, where he enjoyed the direct protection of Theodora. At last he died in the Egyptian desert in A.D. 538.

Christology of Syrian Orthodox Church and His contributions
The Syrian Orthodox Church accepts the First three of the Councils. That is the Counicl of Niceae (325), The council of Constantinople (381), The council of Ephesus (431). The decisions of these Councils were not dominated by national or political agendas. These Councils defined the one true nature of the Incarnate God, proclaiming Jesus Christ as true God and true man; but united, without confusion and without division. Each of the regional Churches understood these gatherings as a sign of their ultimate unity, opportunities to witness in true Christian love. This faith was maintained until the de­velopment of the teaching of "two natures" framed at the Council of Chalcedon (A. D. 451), which was contrary to the teachings of the above mentioned Councils. This fourth gathering attempted to justify a formula of "two natures" in Christ against the "one nature" The Syrian Orthodox Church explicitly believes that HE is One out of both. The Logos and the humanity constitute one nature not two nature, and union is established not with losing His original attributes. The nature of humanity was not dis­solved in the Divine, as Eutyches taught at one point, but rather the Divine made the nature of human immediately its own. After the union, Jesus Christ is One not two, knowing the distinction between the natures and not confusing one with the other. Philaxinose of Mabugh states that "We became sons of God, although
our nature was not changed, and Christ became a man by his mercy, although his essence was not changed.[1]
Severious of Antioch’s Christology based on the first three councils, influence of Cyril of Alexandria’s teachings and School of Alexandria. For Severious, the concepts of
Nature and Hypostasis , are synonyms, except that the term Nature could refer either to the specific (individual) or to the generic (non individual), while the term Hypostasis always refers to an individual.[2]Severious argues for two kinds of hypostases: the non self-existent and self-existent hypostasis. The combination or union of these two makes one complete hypostasis. A simple self-existent hypostasis is one that exists in its own right and is not composite: the Father or the Holy Spirit is a simple self-existent hypostasis. Christ, on the other hand, is one self-existent composite hypostasis, the product of a union of a simple self-existent with a non-self existent hypostasis. The simple self-existent hypostasis is the divinity of Christ, and the simple non-self-existent hypostasis is the humanity of Christ. [3]

Influence of Cyril of Alexandria
Firstly, that Severious considered himself to be a disciple of Cyril of Alexandria. Thus we should not read into any of his teachings an anti-Cyrilline meaning which is not justified by his complete commitment to a Cyrilline Christology. Secondly, that the writings of Severious should be read in continuity with those of Cyril and not as though they taught something different. Any obscure points in the teaching of Severious should be explained by the teaching of Cyril and not assumed to be at odds with it. Syrian Orthodox Church considered as central the Christological ‘mia physis’ formula of St. Cyril “one incarnate nature of God the Word".[4] St. Cyril’s formula was accepted by the Council of Ephesus in 431. It was neither nullified by the Reunion of 433, nor condemned at Chalcedon. On the contrary, it continued to be considered an orthodox formula.[5]
Syrian Orthodox Church on the other hand opposes the Eutychian heresy that sees the in Christ's Incarnation, the humanity of Jesus swallowed up like a "drop of vinegar in a sea" of divinity. In the One Nature, both completely and fully human and divine, the properties of both continue to operate in the person of Jesus Christ. Both errors are avoided and rejected, serving as a balance for Syrian Orthodox Christology.

Foot Note
[1] Three Letters of Philoxenus, Bishop of Mabbogh (ed. And tr. A. VASCHALDE,
Dissertation for PhD; Rome: 1902. p. 164-5.
[2] E. W. Brooks, “A Collection of Letters of Severus of Antioch, from Numerous
Syriac Manuscripts (Letters I to LXI),” Patrologia Orientalis 12 Paris,1919.
[3] ABDUL MASSIH SAADI, Christological Contention and Tolerance in the Syriac Church Traditions: A Case for Ecumenism, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, p.50-52.

[4] Fr. Matthias F. Wahba, Monophysitism: Reconsidered, St. Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church, Hayward, California.
[5] Now what do the non-Chalcedonians mean by the mia physis, the "one incarnate nature?". They mean by mia one, but not "single one" or "simple numerical one," as some scholars believe. There is a slight difference between mono and mia. While the former suggests one single (divine) nature, the latter refers to one composite and united nature, as reflected by the Cyrillian formula. Cfr. Fr. Matthias F. Wahba, Monophysitism: Reconsidered, St. Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church, Hayward, California.

Other References

J.A. Dorner, History of the Development of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ, Vol. 1:2. Edinburgh, 1862.

George Dion Dragas, "The Anti-Apollinarist Christology of St. Gregory of Nyssa: A First Analysis," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 42.3-4 (1997): 299-314

J. Egan, "Gregory of Nazianzus and the Logos Doctrine," J. Plevnic, ed., Word and Spirit: Essays in Honor of David Michael Stanley. Willowdale, ON: 1975. pp.281-322.J. Jeremias, The Problem of the Historical Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972.

Jacob Mathew, Christology of St. Severus of Antioch Mainly Basing His First Thirty One Cathedral Homilies, Doctoral Dissertation submitted to the University of Salzburg, Austria, 2001.

Torrance IR, Christology after Chalcedon, Severus of Antioch and Sergius the Monophysite, Norwich, 1988.

Monday, January 18, 2010

L’atteggiamento della Chiesa Siro Ortodossa per l’ordinazione delle donne.

[The attitude of Syriac Orthodox church towards ordination of women.
With special references with the deaconess ministry.]

Ordinazione delle donne in confessioni cristiane è spesso un argomento controverso, che è stato oggetto di rivendicazioni e hanno portato a dichiarazioni dottrinali. La Chiesa e le Chiese anglicana di Cattolica Internazionale dell'Unione di Utrecht (o Chiesa vetero-cattolica) accettare l'ordinazione delle donne. Tuttavia, questa pratica è considerato non valido (nessun effetto) e illegali (non perché apostolica), nella Chiesa cattolica e le Chiese ortodosse. L'ordinazione delle donne come pastori è una pratica comune oggi in varie denominazioni protestanti, per lo più in Europa. In questo breve saggio vorrei spiegare l'approccio della Chiesa siro-ortodossa verso il sacerdozio donna. E ho anche dare alcuni riferimenti speciale con il ministero diaconessa

I. Ostacoli biblica di Ordinazione delle donne

La Sacra Scrittura insegna che senza dubbio gli anziani le donne non devono essere ordinati (sacerdoti). Almeno tre ragioni per sostenere questa tesi. Il primo riguarda la questione delle qualifiche specifiche delineate per l'inserimento in ufficio di un sacerdote o un vescovo, il secondo riguarda la ragione della sostituzione di Giuda, e il terzo motivo del divieto diretto contro le donne di diventare pastori.

A. Eldership Qualifiche

Le qualifiche specifiche descritte per coloro che aspirano a pastorato o eldership fortemente implicano che tali candidati devono essere uomini (1 Timoteo 3:1-7; Tito 1:5-9). Il vescovo deve essere il marito "di una sola moglie" (1 Tm 3,2; Tito 1:6). Inoltre, deve essere una persona che "le norme propria famiglia bene" che è un prerequisito per prendersi cura della Chiesa, "Perché se un uomo non sa governare la propria famiglia, come potrà aver cura della chiesa di Dio? "(1 Tm 3,4-5)La gestione della casa, secondo la Sacra Scrittura, è soprattutto l'uomo, piuttosto che la responsabilità della donna. L'uomo è considerato il capo sotto Signore Gesù Cristo "il capo della donna è l'uomo" (1 Cor 11,3). Questo fatto che l'uomo è quello di gestire la famiglia è ulteriormente suffragata se la dichiarazione di qualificazione simili per i diaconi viene esaminato, "I diaconi siano mariti di una sola moglie e governino bene i figli e le proprie famiglie" (1 Tm 3,12)Questa affermazione non lascia alcun dubbio su chi sia a gestire la famiglia. La coerenza, quindi, chiede che la qualifica simili per coloro che aspirano ad essere pastori devono fare riferimento anche agli uomini e non donne.

B. La sostituzione di Giuda

Il Libro Sacro degli Atti che il 120 maschile e femminile discepoli che erano riuniti nella cenacolo cercato di orientamento per trovare un sostituto per Giuda. Significativamente, hanno cercato scritturale orientamento sulle opportunità di occupare il posto vacante. Hanno fatto appello al libro sacro dei Salmi, dove è scritto: "Lasciate un altro prendere il suo ufficio (Gr. Episkopen; posizione del sorvegliante)" (Atti 1:20; Salmo 109:8) Ora legale la qualificazione dei candidati, "pertanto, di questi uomini che ci hanno accompagnato tutto il tempo che il Signore Gesù è andato e venuto in mezzo a noi, incominciando dal battesimo di Giovanni fino a quel giorno, quando fu preso da noi, uno di questi deve diventare un testimone con noi della sua risurrezione "(Atti 1:21 -- 22). Perché i 120 uomini e donne nel Cenacolo nominare due uomini e nessuna donna come candidati? Se non ci fossero donne qualificate? C'era nessuna donna con un cuore (At 1, 24) abbastanza accettabile a Dio ad assumere questo ministero apostolico? Certo che no. Ovviamente ci sono donne capaci tra i 120 discepoli, dal momento che tutti - uomini e donne - sono stati riempiti di Spirito Santo nella Pentecoste. L'assenza di un candidato donna (comprese Vergine Maria) non è un caso, il motivo per cui le donne sono stati esclusi come candidati per l'apostolato, anche se alcuni di loro senza dubbio soddisfatto i requisiti stabiliti in versi 21-22, è chiaramente il genere. I discepoli nel cenacolo erano "con un accordo" (At 1,14), nella loro scelta di un sostituto di sesso maschile.

C. Donna vietate:

La terza ragione per cui le donne non possono essere sacerdoti o vescovi, è perché la Sacra Scrittura specificamente vieta tale azione. St. Paul, nel comunicare al San Timoteo per le politiche, le pratiche ei principi che devono governare come si deve comportarsi "nella casa di Dio, che è la Chiesa del Dio vivente" (1Tm 3,15) ha detto : 1. Non permetto alla donna di insegnare o di avere autorità su un uomo, ma di essere in silenzio. "(1 Tm 2,12)
2. Lasciate le vostre donne in silenzio nelle chiese, perché non sono autorizzati a parlare, ma devono essere sottomesse, come dice la legge ... anche perché è vergognoso per le donne parlare in chiesa. "(1 Cor 14:34-35 )

D. La Vergine Maria e il sacerdozio

Se le donne sono stati chiamati al sacerdozio, la prima donna al mondo sarebbe stata la Vergine Maria. Nessuna donna al mondo è più santo di Santa Maria. E nessuna donna in tutto il mondo è più degno, se si tratta di una questione di dignità, rispetto alla Vergine Maria. E Santa Maria la Vergine non ha pretesa di essere un sacerdote. Lei era la madre spirituale di tutti gli Apostoli, ma lei non ha pretesa di essere un sacerdote.

II. Diaconesse nella Chiesa:

Nella Chiesa antica, vi erano diaconesse aiutando gli Apostoli e poi i vescovi e sacerdoti con alcune questioni di servizio. Diaconesse sono stati selezionati tra le donne anziane e molto probabilmente le vedove che si sono sposati una sola volta. St. Paul disse: "Non lasciare che una vedova con sessanta anni da prendere in numero, e non a meno che non sia stata la moglie di un uomo, ben segnalato per opere di bene, se lei ha dei figli, se ha lavato piedi del santo, se ha sollevato gli afflitti, se ha seguito diligentemente ogni opera buona "(1 Tm 5,9). Un esempio di successo è diaconessa Phoebe su cui St. Paul scrisse ai Romani dice: "vi raccomando Febe, nostra sorella, che è un servitore della Chiesa in Cenchrea, che si può ricevere la sua nel Signore in modo degno dei santi, e aiutare la sua in qualsiasi attività che ha bisogno di voi, anzi per lei è stato un aiuto di molti e anche di me stesso "(Rm 16,1-2).

A. Il Ministero del Deaconess

Dopo essere stata consacrata, il ministero del diaconessa è limitato ad aiutare il sacerdote e il diacono al di fuori del santuario al servizio di battezzare le donne e le ragazze mature e l'unzione con il crisma bucata. Questo ministero include anche la visita fedeli malati di sesso femminile specialmente in case abitate solo da donne. In questo caso il vescovo non invia un diacono a far loro visita perché i dubbi potrebbero sorgere tra i non credenti, ma piuttosto una diaconessa di prendersi cura dei fedeli di sesso femminile. Nel caso in cui una vedova consacrata come una risposa diaconessa, lei deve essere scomunicato assieme a quello che la sposa. Leggi canoniche determinato limite di età del candidato vedova di essere consacrati come una diaconessa di quarant'anni, e che altri canoni non consigliamo la consacrazione di una diaconessa prima dell'età di sessant'anni. Severios San Magno (538), afferma che nel sesto secolo l'ordinazione delle diaconesse badesse, come è stato, in pratica, in Oriente (sotto la giurisdizione della Santa antiochena). In caso di indisponibilità di un sacerdote o un diacono, ognuna di quelle consacrate aveva il diritto di distribuire la santa Comunione ai sorelle che erano sotto la loro autorità. Non lo faranno, però, fare questo servizio, nel caso della presenza di uno dei due. La diaconessa indossa una stola (uroro) pende dalla spalla alla maniera di un arcidiacono. In caso di indisponibilità di un sacerdote o un diacono nel convento, una diaconessa ha il diritto di entrare nel santuario (Beth Qudsheh), a condizione che non sta avendo il suo periodo mestruale e che è solo con le sue sorelle dove si può dare loro la Comunione. Lei non può farlo per i maschi, anche a ragazzini che sono cinque anni di età o più.

B. Oggi Diaconesse nella Chiesa Siro-ortodossa

Il nome di diaconessa dato ad un choirgirl è quello nominale. Durante il rito di consacrazione, il vescovo dice che il nome (di persona), viene consacrato come una diaconessa nel coro. Questo diaconessa non sono soggetti alle leggi che utilizzato per legare le diaconesse in passato. Né si deve avere il diritto agli stessi diritti, privilegi o delle sue funzioni la diaconessa utilizzata per godere in precedenza. Lei è solo una cantante in chiesa. Più spesso si serve nei centri di educazione religiosa. Proprio come le altre donne, che possono sposarsi, restano ancora consacrata come una diaconessa, che serve come cantante nel coro, un insegnante o di un consigliere scuola Domenica. Questo potrebbe essere un passo avanti verso la ripresa di consacrare vedove come diaconesse nella Chiesa come precedentemente praticate. Vi è la possibilità di avere una seconda riflessione sulla tradizione della chiesa in relazione ai diritti e doveri di quanti sono chiamati diaconesse o presbyteraes in termini di servizi offerti alle donne e ai bambini piccoli, e in relazione alla pulizia del santuario e le candele di illuminazione. In questa età, le attività che potrebbero svolgersi in chiesa, se necessario, e può aggiungere al arricchimento delle anime e per il progresso e la prosperità della Chiesa.


Sicuramente, il coordinamento delle presbyteraes, avendo il potere di un clero per celebrare la Santa Eucaristia, in atto da alcuni tradizionale non chiese apostoliche, non si sarebbe mai permesso al nostro apostolica Chiesa siro-ortodossa. Ciò è dovuto al fatto che un tale atto non è basata sulle Scritture. Per cui il Signore Gesù scelse dodici apostoli e missionari settanta, non ha mai scelto una di quelle donne che sono state servirlo. Allo stesso modo, un presbytera nella nostra Chiesa non è mai stato ordinato presso l'ufficio del clero con il potere di assolvere dal peccato e senza sangue celebrare l'Eucaristia e gli altri sacramenti della Chiesa. Donne siriaco oggi occupano posizioni di rilievo in tutti i settori, sociali, culturali e religiose. Le donne sono diventati medici, avvocati, giudici, ingegneri, insegnanti e membri del Parlamento, e in seno al Consiglio di fondazione della Chiesa così come i membri di essere nelle società di beneficenza. Sono cantanti del coro e insegnanti di scuola Domenica. In tutti questi sforzi, le donne sono uguali agli uomini in materia di diritti, doveri e la dignità.


ADAI JACOB , Priesthood and Syrian Orthodox Church, Seminary Publications, Ernakulam, 2002.

ELIZABETH JOHNSON, She Who Is, Crossroad, New York, 1992.

LEONARD SWINDLER, Women Priests: A Catholic Commentary on the Vatican Declaration, Paulist Publications, New York, 1977.

IGNATIUS ZAKKA IWAS, Patriarch of Syrian Orthodox Church, The Role of Women in the
Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, Patriarchal Journal, 152, October, Damascus, 1996.

JACQUELINE FIELD BIBB, Women towards priesthood: ministerial politics and feminist praxis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991.

JOANNA BOGLE, “Women Priests — No Chance.” This Rock , October, Vol.10, San Diego, 1997. p.18-21.

HEYER ROBERT, Women and Orders. Paulist Publications, New York, 1974.

THOMAS HOPKO, Women and the Priesthood, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, New York, 1999.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Frumentius the West Syrian Bishop Came to India?

When studies are conducted on St.Thomas Christians, the historians make their conclusions according to their whims and fancies. They try to uphold not only their own traditions In this short essay I wish to point out some realities of the ancient Indian Church history. Frumentius was the saint of Ethiopian Church. But all of the ancient historians mentioned he visited in India. So in this essay I wish to focus some realities.

Frumentius the West Syrian Bishop came to India
Frumentius was a Syrian bishop, from Tyre (West Syrian City, now situated in Lebanon).( JOHN AIKIN, General Biography,Vol.4, London, 1803.p.254). He was ordained by Athanasius Patriarch of Alexandria. (----STANLEY BURSTEIN, ‘ The Introduction of Christianity to Axum’, Ancient African Civilizations, New Jersey 1997. p.96----, ) He came to India (JOSIAH CONDER, The Modern Traveller: A Description, Geographical, Historical and Topographical of the various countries of the Globe, Vol.7, James Duncan, London, 1830. p. 143.)with one West Syrian Philosopher named as Meropius. Frumentius was the nephew of Meropius. He had done a lot of missionary works in Malabar including establishment several churches. ….(WALTER CHAPIN, The Missionary Gazetteer, Comprising a view of the Inhabitants and a Geographical description of the countries and places, where protestant Missionaries have laboured; Alphabetically arranged and so constructed as to give a particular and general History of Missions throughout the World with an Appendix containing an Alphabetical List of missionaries, their Stations, the Time of Entering Removal or decease, David Watson,Woodstock, 1895. p. 343-344.)

Let us see the historian’s opinions:-

1…… “The Greek Manuscript says:- A philosopher of Tyre about this period, desiring to penetrate into the interior of India, set off for this purpose with his two nephews. …..…..His nephews were conducted to the king. The name of the one was Edesius, and of the other Frumentius.” (EVAGRIUS & THEODORET, ‘The Conversion of the Indians’, History of the Church from A. D. 322 to the Death of Thedore of Mopsuestia, A.D. 427, Translated from Greek. London 1854. p.60.)

2. ……….. “Athanasius of Alexandria consecrated him and bade him return in the Grace of Goid whence he had come. And when he had arrived in India as a bishop,….”. (STANLEY BURSTEIN, ‘ The Introduction of Christianity to Axum’, Ancient African Civilizations, New Jersey 1997. p.96)

3. …………… “The period was one of more mobility and geographical exploits than it is generally given credit for Meropius, a Christian of Tyre in Syria, went to India and took two young men along, Adesius and Frumentius….” ( BENGT SUNDKLER & CHRISTOPHER STEED, A history of the Church in Africa, Cambridge, 2000, p.35.)

4…………… “Edesius and Frumentius, two youths of Tyre, accompanied Meropius the philosopher into India, where being taken by the natives, they were presented to the king of the country, who pleased with their persons and their parts, made one of them, his butler, the other (Frumentius) the keeper of his records, or as Sozomen will have it, his treasurer and major-domo, committing to his care the government of his house. For their great diligence and fidelity the king at his death gave them their liberty, who thereupon determined to return to their own country, but were prevailed with by the queen to stay, and superintend affairs during the minority of her son. Which they did, the main of the government being in the hands of Frumentius, who, assisted by some Christian merchants that trafficked there, built an oratory, where they assembled to worship God according to the rites of Christianity, and instructed several of the natives, who joined themselves to their assembly. The young king, now of age, Frumentius resigned his trust, and begged leave to return ; which being with some difficulty obtained, they presently departed, Edesius going for Tyre, while Frumentius went to Alexandria, where he gave Athanasius, then bishop of that place, an account of the whole affair, showing him what hopes there were that the Indians would come over to the faith of Christ, withal begging of him, to send a bishop and some clergymen among them, and not to neglect so fair an opportunity of advancing their salvation. Athanasius, having advised with his clergy, persuaded Frumentius to accept the office, assuring him he had none fitter for it than himself. Which was done accordingly, and Frumentius being made bishop, returned back into India, where he preached the Christian faith, erected many churches, and being assisted by the divine grace and favour, healed both the souls and bodies of many at the same time.” ( WILLIAM CAVE, The History of the Lives, Acts, Death and Martyrdoms, Philadelphia, 1810. p.353.)

5…………. “Early Indian Church historians opinion:- Frumentius, the Apostle of Abyssinia, who had resided a long time in India, and spoke the language remarkably well, preached the Gospel in the southern parts, where he had great influence, and was highly respected, having been for many years prime minister, of the Kings, during his minority. There he converted many Hindus, and built many churches, and then went to Abyssinia. He came to India with his brother Adesius, along with their paternal uncle, a native of Tyre, who was a Christian, and a very learned man. He travelled into the interior parts of India as a philosopher, and having satisfied his curiosity, he re-embarked on his way back with his two nephews; but, happening to put into a certain harbour, in order to get a supply of water, they were, at their landing, suddenly attacked by the natives. 'Many perished, and the rest were carried into captivity. Among the former was the uncle; but his two nephews were presented to the King, who took particular notice of them, and they were afterward raised by him to the first dignities of the state. They obtained leave to revisit their native country, when Frumentius was ordained a bishop, and in that character went back to India.” (CAPTAIN F. WILFORD, Origin and Decline of the Christian Religion in India. Asiatic Researches , Vol. X, London, 1810. p. 69-70)

6….. “Meropius, say they, a merchant of Tyre (West Syria), proceeding to India, …….; and dying there, left two youths, by name Frumentius and Edesius;……….” (SAMUEL GOBAT, Journal of a Three years Residence in Abyssinia, London, 1834.p.3)

7………. “FRUMENTIUS, a saint in the Romish calendar…….was a native of Tyre, and flourished in the fourth century….” (JOHN AIKIN, General Biography,Vol.4, London, 1803.p.254)

8……… “Frumentius was a native of Tyre, and flourished in the fourth century.” (JOHN GORTON, General Biographical Dictionary, New Edition Vol1, London, Whittaker and Co, 1838 p.FRY-FUL)

9…….Edwards says: “The Bishop of India was present, and signed his name at the council of Nice, in 325. The next year Frumentius was consecrated to that office by Athanasius, of Alexandria, and founded many churches in India. The Syrian Christians enjoyed a succession of bishops, appointed by the Patriarch of Antioch, from the beginning of the 3rd century, till they were invaded by the Portuguese. They still retain the Liturgy anciently used in the churches of Syria, and employ in their public worship the language spoken by our Saviour in the streets of Jerusalem.” (BELA BATES EDWARDS, The Missionary Gazetteer, William Hyde & Co., Boston, 1832. p.162; ‘Syrian Christians in Travancore’, Introduction to the Eclectic Reader, Perkins & Marvin, Boston, 1833. p. 40.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On the Priesthood: Saint John Chrysostom

Priesthood is an institution of Christianity for which a person is ordained a priest and held the post of minister of Church. And it is a body of priests who have special religious authority or function. Priesthood is more than celebrating Mass and telling people about God. It is about knowing the central call of life and giving all for this call. Priests are called to be forthright messengers of hope, strong community leaders and spiritual guides for both the lost and the faithful. About this topic many of the early church fathers wrote as well as how to live priest and how to do priestly life. John Chrysostom is the one of the main church father wrote about the priesthood. He wrote around six books which dealt with the Christian Priesthood. In this essay I am discussing about the John Cristostom’s writings on the Priesthood and its evaluation.

1. John Chrysostom : A brief biography.
John Chrysostom was Patriarch of Constantinople and is considered one of the greatest Christian preachers. In the 6th Century has been attributed to him the name Chrysostom (Greek for "golden mouth"), under which he is known today. He has also known as Ivanios. He was born around 347 (according to Western sources - approximately 349) of Antioch in Syria. He led an ascetic life. In 371 he left Antioch and went into the wilderness. After six years of being a hermit returned and was ordained a priest. He was revered as an ascetic and was known for his talent in public speaking as well known for his appearance against the misuse of church and state authority. Controversial are its massive negative statements about Jews in his earliest surviving sermons. During his life he was a fearless defender of morality, branding the abuse of the faithful, even the emperors - it was dragged to his persecution. He also practiced theology - dealt with Christology, issues of original sin, repentance and the priesthood, and above all the Eucharist.

3. His main works
John Chrysostom preached much, much writing. While many works formerly attributed to his patronage, have been restored to their rightful owner, the number of authentic works nonetheless considerable. It divides its messages in several groups:
3. 1. Main Homilies and speeches
Homilies were written down by the audience and subsequently circulated, revealing a style that tended to be direct and greatly personal, but was also formed by the rhetorical conventions of his time and place. [1] Homilies on the texts of the Bible (Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, Matthew, John, Acts of the Apostles, Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews); Homilies on the incomprehensibility of God; Finally, even if not directly to him, the usual Liturgy of the Orthodox Church bears his name. Also, read the homily at the Easter Vigil, is attributed to St. John Chrysostom. In every Easter, the greatest feast of the church year the Eastern Orthodox Churches also read his Catechetical Homily.
[2] Sermons on Jews are series of fourth homilies that have been circulated by many groups to foster anti- Semistism.

Exhortations to Theodore; Treaty of priesthood; Apology of monastic life; comparison of solitary and King Treaty of compunction; Treaty of illicit cohabitation; Treaty of virginity; Treaties against the second marriage controversy Treaties. Other important treatises written by John include, Instructions to Catechumens, and On the Incomprehensibility of the Divine Nature. In addition, he wrote a series of letters to the deaconess Olypias, of which seventeen are extant.[3]

4. On the Priesthood
This Treaties’s content is his dialogue with St. Basil ‘ On the Priesthood. He was highly influenced by Gregory, and he built upon his ideas about the function of the priest as teacher and shepherd, describing in more detail the difficulties, perils and temptations he encounters in
his service. But he also added new themes that were not touched in Gregory’s treatise. [4] The first book of the treatise on the Priesthood opens with a description of his friendship with Basil; how they studied the same subjects together under the same teachers, and how entirely harmonious they were in all their tastes, and inclinations. The remaining books on the Priesthood treat of the pre-eminent dignity, and sanctity of the priestly office and the peculiar difficulties and perils which beset it. They abound with wise and weighty observations instructive for all times, but they are also interesting from the light which they throw upon the condition of the Church and of society in the age when Chrysostom lived.[5]
In discussing the responsibility of the priest for the souls of his flock and his liturgical and sacramental functions, Chrysostom found in them a reason to ascribe to him an awesome dignity, a high honour, and even a character which is different from human: “When one is required to preside over the Church, and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also; and we must bring forward
those who to a large extent surpass all others, and soar as much above them in excellence of spirit as Saul overtopped the whole Hebrew nation in bodily stature: or rather far more. For in this case let me not take the height of shoulders as the standard of inquiry; but let the distinction between the pastor and his charge be as great as that between rational man and irrational creatures, not to say even greater, in as much as the risk is concerned with things of far greater importance.” (Book 2:2)[6]
‘For the priestly office is indeed discharged on earth, but it ranks amongst heavenly ordinances; and very naturally so: for neither man, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any other created power, but the Paraclete Himself, instituted this vocation, and persuaded men while still abiding in the flesh to represent the ministry of angels. Wherefore the consecrated priest ought to be as pure as if he were standing in the heavens themselves in the midst of those powers.” (Book 3:4)
Chrysostom sees that the role of priests in the sacraments of reconciliation, baptism and Eucharist makes our salvation dependent upon them! “For if any one will consider how great a thing it is for one, being a man, and compassed with flesh and blood, to be enabled to draw near to that blessed and pure nature, he will then clearly see what great honor the grace of the Spirit has vouchsafed to priests; since by their agency these rites are celebrated, and others nowise inferior to these both in respect of our dignity and our salvation. For they who inhabit the earth and make their abode there are entrusted with the administration of things which are in Heaven, and have received an authority that God has not given to angels or archangels. For it has not been said to them, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”.... this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens; and what priests
do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence of his servants. For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, “Whose sins you remit they are remitted, and whose sins you retain they are retained?” What authority could be greater than this? “The Father has committed all judgment to the Son?” But I see it all put
into the hands of these men by the Son. For they have been conducted to this dignity as if they were already translated to Heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the passions to which we are liable.”(Book 3:5)
“For transparent madness it is to despise so great a dignity, without which it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation, or the good things which have been promised to us. For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?”(Book 3:5)
John Chrysostom reaches the conclusion that the authority of the priests over the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, and Anointing is a reason for them to be more feared and honored than kings and Jewish priests and to be more loved than parents: “These verily are they who are entrusted with the pangs of spiritual travail and the birth which comes through baptism: by their means we put on Christ, and are buried with the Son of God, and become members of that blessed
Head. Wherefore they might not only be more justly feared by us than rulers and kings, but also be more honored than parents; since these begat us of blood and the will of the flesh, but the others are the authors of our birth from God, even that blessed regeneration which is the true freedom and the sonship according to grace. The Jewish priests had authority to release the body from leprosy, or, rather, not to release it but only to examine those who were already released, and you know how much the office of priest was contended for at that time. But our priests have received authority to deal, not with bodily leprosy, but spiritual uncleanness--not to pronounce it removed after examination, but actually and absolutely to take it away. Wherefore they who despise these priests would be far more accursed than Dathan and his company, and deserve more severe punishment. ...God has bestowed a power on priests greater than that of our natural parents... For our natural parents generate us unto this life only, but the others unto that which is to come. And the former
would not be able to avert death from their offspring, or to repel the assaults of disease; but these others have often saved a sick soul, or one which was on the point of perishing, For not only at the time of regeneration, but afterwards also, they have authority to forgive sins. “Is any sick among you?” it is said, “let him call for the elders of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing
him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up: and if he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him.” Again: our natural parents, should their children come into conflict with any men of high rank and great power in the world, are unable to profit them: but priests have reconciled, not rulers and kings, but God Himself when His wrath has often been provoked against them.”(Book 3: 6)[7]
5. Chysostom’s Theology of Priesthood
John Chrysostom’s Six books on the Priesthood shows the influence of Gregory’s ‘’ Fight to Pontus’’, and, therefore, we see developing the great tradition in pastoral theology that nearly two hundred years later would extend into the West through Gregory the Great.
Chrysostom’s personal views of the role of the pastor and preacher can be best understood by examining his own articulation of them in his treatise, On the Priesthood. He wrote this work between 390 and 391 to defend himself from accusations that in his youth he had belittled the office of the priest (presbyter) by hiding from those who would ordain him. Chrysostom replies that he escaped ordination precisely because he had such high regard for the office and did not believe he was worthy of it.[8]
The mystical nature of the priestly office, in Chrysostom’s mind, also involved a mystical bond between the pastor and his congregation, reflecting the “mystery” of Christ’s union with the Church as the Husband with His bride (Eph 5.32).
In his work on the Priesthood, St John does occasionally speak in very high terms of the priest as the liturgical officiant, but his main concern is with the priestly ministry more generally, following the example of Christ, who came to serve rather than be served. As he puts it, while the priesthood is ranked among the heavenly ordinances, it is nevertheless is enacted on earth. And the tasks of the priest are numerous: he was the teacher and moral guide of the community; he was the liturgical leader, deciding which catechumens should be admitted to baptism, and he presided at the Eucharist; he was the spiritual guide for those who wanted to lead more ascetic lives; he received guests from other churches; he maintained an elaborate system of charity for the care of strangers, the support of widows, orphans and the poor, he cared for the women who were ranked in the order of “virgins,” ordained presbyters and deacons.[9]

The contribution provides the teaching of St. John Chrysostom on the Priesthood of Christ. John touched the descendants and ascendants of view of the priestly office to run. The soteriological aspect of the priestly ministry of St. John Chrysostom reflects. Through the Incarnation of the Son of God, a New Covenant between the Creator and the creature is bound. In it, the new priesthood is established, which is essential to the person bound by the God-man who brought the heavens and the divine world of grace close to the earth. Consubstantial with the Father, the eternal High Priest, brought about by his sacrifice, the redemption of the world. His priestly ministry continues through his mystical body, the church and spread to the whole created world. His unsurpassable, unique victim initiated a very nature of communication between God and man, which are connected to heaven and earth.
None of the early church Fathers’ works is more popular than On the Priesthood. John Chrysostoms’s unique gift for linking concrete observation and theological vision is nowhere more evident than in On the Pristhood. Its presence helps to account for the work’s power to inspire and challenge Christians in all ages.

Foot Notes

[1] LEWY YOHANAN, ‘John Chrysostom’ Encyclopedia Judaica (CD-ROM Edition Version 1.0), Ed. Cecil Roth, Keter Publishing House, 1997.
[2] JASON BARKER, ‘Pascal Homily', Be Transformed. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, dept. of Youth Ministry. 2005.
[3] JOHANN PETER KIRSCH, ’St. Olympias’. Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2009
[4] RODOLPH YANNEY, Priesthood between St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom, CCR, New Jersey, 1999. p.137-139.
[5] w. r. w. stephens John Chrysostom: Treatise on the Priesthood, Books 1-6. Adapted from the translation of the
NPNF, first series, volume 9, 2005. p 2.
[6] Ibid. 33-83.
[7] RODOLPH YANNEY, Priesthood between St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom, CCR, New Jersey, 1999. p.139.
[8] J. N. D. KELLY, Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom-Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop, London, 1995. p. 25.
[9] JOHN BEHR, A lecture delivered at the parish of St John Chrysostom Orthodox Church, House Springs, Missouri, 2007.

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