Recently Malankara Deepam website had an article by the late Fr Dr V C
Samuel. It is a seminal work by a visionary and scholar of our Church. It
was published in Malayalam. For the benefit of our members who are not
facile with Malayalam, I submit an English translation of the same. It is a
very thought provoking text.
Willy John Daniel, Melbourne, Australia
AN OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF OUR WORSHIP SERVICE
by Fr. Dr. V.C. Samuel
The present day worship service can be divided into four parts.
1.. Holy Eucharist service
2.. Festivals and special Holy Days' service
3.. Baptismal service
4.. Prayers - morning, noon, evening, midnight etc.
All the above worship services are taken from Syrian (Antiochian) Church
from 17th century. The order of service was actually composed during the
period 4th century through 13th century. They were written within a
background relevant to the ancient culture and thinking in Middle East.
Scientific advancement and intellectual growth have changed the world since
then. And it has become absolutely essential to revise the order of our
worship service (aaradhana kramam) to be compatible with modern life. .
Theological scholars in our Church have stressed two important aspects
within the Church. (1)Worship service (2)Canonic law. No one has any right
to change these. The Christian worship has to focus on Jesus Christ. This
truth cannot be changed. This was what was taught by St. Paul as emphasized
in Galatians 1:8 (Paulose Sleeha dhanyan cholkatte nithevam ...) However,
we should be changing the service to enlighten the cultural changes without
deviating from the central theme. This has to come from responsible
spiritual leaders of the Church.
Syrian hymns have their own charm and melody, but how much can Indian
Christians and those who are not raised in Syrian culture appreciate the
hymns and prayers. We talk about the beauty of our service, but it is
borrowed. Moreover, the length of service, the language with deep literary
flair and intrinsic reference to Bible are all negative elements in today's
worship. It is the duty of the Church to introduce worship service which is
easy to understand, yet deep in spiritual meaning so that people can become
an active part of the service. The church leaders have not done anything to
make this attractive and divine.
Secondly, there is a tendency to place a supreme value to whatever is
translated from Syriac - whether it is a prayer or hymn. Syriac is just one
of the many languages. In ancient times, it was through Syriac that history
and Theology were taught. In those days, there was already translation to
Oriental Syriac, Western Syriac, Greek, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopian etc. So
there was some similarity in the hymns and prayers. Also, if the spiritual
leaders of 13th century were living during the present day and age, they
would have changed our hymns and prayers already.
St. Gregorios Mar Ebraya of 13th century had condensed the then worship
services at many places. The opening hymn that we sing at the very beginning
of Qurbana (when chancel is unveiled) was written by Patriarch of Antioch,
Mar Saverios who died in 539.
The prayer used during the breaking of bread was taken from 12th century Mar
Dionysius Barsleebi. Also, the "thaksa" which our priests use was written by
him. It was in those days that our Prumion, Sedra and Ethro prayers were
In summary, it is the responsibility of our spiritual fathers to revise the
old prayers and worship service to make them more spiritual and divine
rather than let people chant or read from cover to cover.
The translation was done by Mr P O Varghese, San Francisco