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Jacobite Syrian Christian Church

 

The Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, an Orthodox church in Malankara (Kerala, India) is an integral part of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church with the Patriarch of  Antioch, His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas as  its supreme head. The local head of the church in Malankara is the Catholicose of India, His Beatitude Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I, ordained  by and accountable to the Patriarch of Antioch.

The Syriac Orthodox Church dates back to the very dawn of Christianity. In Syriac, the proper name of the Church is 'idto suryoyto treeysath shubho. In the past, the name of the Church had been translated to English as "Syrian Orthodox Church". The Holy Synod of the Church approved the translation "Syriac Orthodox Church" for use in English speaking countries in its session of March 28-April 3, 2000. The Church justifiably prides itself as being one of the earliest established Apostolic Churches. It was in Antioch, that the followers of Jesus were called Christians (Acts 11:26).

 

 

 

 
History

 

Jacobite Syrian Church  (Syrian Orthodox Church) of India, Iraq, and Syria, recognizing the Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch as its spiritual head. The foundation of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch goes back to early Apostolic days. This event in the history of Christianity is recorded in the Book of Acts 11:26 . Apostle Peter Himself established his See 37 AD. He is, therefore, rightly considered the founder and first Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

The Syrian orthodox church in India functions as an integral part of the universal Syrian orthodox church. So, it is necessary to deal briefly about this universal church at first. When we study the preeminence of Antioch, which has been righly acknowledged as the capital of Syrian Church, we will know the crucial position accorded to the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church in the history of Christianity. Though the Christian Church was first established in Jerusalem, due to servere persecutions, those who gave leadership to the church ere forced to leave the they adopted as a place of refuge, but it turned out to be a fertile ground for the propagation of Gospel. Soon Antioch become the capital of the whole Christendom. The name Christian for believers was first pronounced at Antioch and that is an ample reason to establish the importance of Antioch (Act.11:26).St. Paul the greatest proponent of Gospel had adopted Antioch as the centre of his missionary activities. St. Paul along with Barnabas used Antioch as a center to spread the Gospel and established Churches at various places.

St. Peter who gave leadership to the primitive church was not able to continue his work in Jerusalem because of persecution, Therefore he also chose Antioch as the centre of his activities, Antioch was in Short a place of refuge, chosen even by God to safeguard the infant church from perils of oppression. So it could be established that the Church, that was natured from Antioch as it’ centre, has all the attributes of a full fledged Church and could be rightly called One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Just as St.Peter was its supreme head so also, even now, for the Syrian Orthodox Church, Antioch is the capital and Patriarch, as the successor of St.Peter, the supreme head of the Church. The Syrian Orthodox Church is in this way a remnant of the most ancient church that was born in Jerusalem and brought up in Antioch.

 

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Faith and Tradions

 

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 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..

 

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The Patriarch

 

The book of Acts in its exposition with regard to the rank accorded to St.Peter.   St.Peter took up the leadership of the Church of Jerusalem after Christ’s Crucifixion and resurrection. Even when he was with Jesus as one the twelve disciples, St.Peter acted as the Chief, emissary and spokesperson of the lot. His primacy is underscored biblically which leaves no room to doubt otherwise. By 37 AD Antioch became the capital of the universal Church and St.Peter, its head.

 

Since St. Peter has assumed the leadership of the Church and had make use of Antioch as the capital to lead the Church, those who are ordained as  Patriarchs by the church to succeed St.Peter are no doubt the successors and emissaries of St.Peter. The divine grace is handed down from Jesus to St.Peter,  St.Peter to his successors the Metropolitans to Priests, and from Priests to the laity. Thus in the Syrian Orthodox Church the Patriarch represents the first and the foremost link in respect of the apostolic succession and divine priesthood.

The universal Syrian Orthodox Church perceives its strength and Unity in His Holiness the Patriarch, the supreme head of the Church. As the Sucessor of the St.Peter, His Holiness is the embodiment and symbol of unity of the universal Syrian Orthodox Church. This embodiment signifies two type of representative characters.

 

The book of Acts in its exposition with regard to the rank accorded to St.Peter.   St.Peter took up the leadership of the Church of Jerusalem after Christ’s Crucifixion and resurrection. Even when he was with Jesus as one the twelve disciples, St.Peter acted as the Chief, emissary and spokesperson of the lot. His primacy is underscored biblically which leaves no room to doubt otherwise. By 37 AD Antioch became the capital of the universal Church and St.Peter, its head.

 

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Mariology

The syrian Orthodox revere Mary the mother of Jesus Christ as the Mother of God. They revere her much more than do the Protestants, but less than do the Roman Catholics and Anglo- Catholics. There is a large number of Churches and institutions of the Syrian Orthodox in the name of St. Mary. They intercede to her in almost all religious services and prayers, except during the six days of the holy passion week.


In the daily daily canonical prayers of the Syrian Orthodox, she is the remembered in all the six prayers out of the seven. The prayer of the ninth hour which is exclusively about the departed and is very brief alone does not  contain anything about the departed and is very brief alone does  not contain anything about her.  She is spoken of as the 'Virgin Eternal' in the prayers and various writings of this Church. She conceived as virgin and brought forth her son without breaking her seal of Virginity. She remained in the same manner unknown to man. She was not married and she never cohabited with man before or after the birth of Jesus Christ.

The word of God entered her through the ear and descended to her womb and took flesh from her uniting divinity with humanity never to separate. As she conceived without the seed of man, the child was physically after the mother. Mary was born like any one of us and was cleansed and purified later before she conceived her son. She was not born immaculate as the Roman Catholics say. It is believed that every one who is born of the co-habitation of man and woman inherits their sin because lust enters their hearts when they co-habit. This sin which the child inherits is referred to by the Psalmist in the  words. " My mother conceived me in sins". It is believed to be removed at Baptism. What the child inherits inherits unawares shall be cleansed unawares.

Mary Who was brought up in the Temple was betrothed before she was thirteen and was sent away with the righteous and elderly Joseph. Before she had attained puberty the angel came and announced to her. The Holy Spirit came down upon her, cleansed her and the Word descended to her womb. She became pure and holy virgin just before that moment of conception. St.Thomas Aquinas has said that she was not conceived immaculate, but was conceived like any one of us and was cleansed while in her mother's womb and then purified of original sin. If she was not conceived immaculate, but was made holy by a cleansing process, then what is the harm in postponing that moment of cleansing a little upto the time just before she conceived, as the Syrian Orthodox believe.

She was not married but only betrothed to Joseph and she conceived before she could have been married. The Gospel writer testifies that Joseph was just and righteous and that he did not know her until she had brought forth her firstborn son. The miracles and unique events at the time of the Son's birth and later had certainly changed Joseph's attitude towards Mary to one of deep veneration and he being much elderly, of noble birth and righteous would never have thought of marrying her thereafter.

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