24 April 2014

West Syriac Syro-Malankara Catholic Mass

The divisions among the St. Thomas Christians of India are bewildering to the neophyte seeking to understand how they came to be.  As one Mar Thomite recently said to me, "We are the ruins of a great Church after its desolating encounter with Catholic and Protestant Europeans and a plague of Middle Eastern mischief that left each man to his own tent."  This friend of mine is one who wants to see all St. Thomas Christians reunited and using their original East Syriac rites and Syriac chants - a small but growing movement among the many splintered churches.   

By way of example of the confusing situation,  the actual celebrations of the Holy Qurbana of the Syro-Malabar rite are all over the place from Latinised pre-Vatican II to Latinised 'in the spirit of Vatican II' to those using the full revised rites that return to the Syriac origins of the Church.  

One can find YouTube videos of every sort all called "Syro-Malabar" and indicating clearly what the various levels of Latinisation (especially that of 'the spirit of Vatican II') have done to make a muddle of the rite.  [It is the young who are doing the heavy lifting now for the re-sourcing of the Syriac roots of the Syro-Malabar's East Syriac origins but they have an uphill battle against that rather wicked 'spirit' of Vatican II.]

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church is another major body of St. Thomas Christians in Communion with Rome who lost their original rites not to Latinisation but to importation of the West Syriac rites of the Jacobites.  Today the Syro-Malankara rite is essentially West Syriac-Antiochene but has a number of local elements unique to its own liturgical order.

I am no expert but I feel much more at home with the average sort of Syro-Malankara celebration than a Syro-Malabar latinised Mass with 'inculturated' music that is more Bollywood than Syriac chant.  

But whenever the Syro-Malabar rite with Syriac chants is celebrated with serious attention to bringing forth the Mar Thoma Nasrani heritage (and suppressing the centuries of latinisations and eliminating those forced by the 'spirit of Vatican II') ... ah, it is a most beautiful thing to behold.  And I am blessed to worship with such a group of Syro-Malabarese Catholics from time to time.

The following video shows part of the Syro-Malankara Holy Qurbana celebrated in Malayalam, and this particular video is thought to be one of the better ones out there depicting this rite because its celebrant is the well-beloved Father Aji Puthoor — would that it had been the entire Qurbana recorded! :

St. Thomas the Apostle, pray for us.
Ut omnes unum sint!