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Re: English and Syriac Qurbono

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  • Dr. Sinu P. John
    Dear Rev. Fr. Zach, I am happy to hear that the church in Austin is trying to conduct the liturgy in English with support from every one. English Qurbono is a
    Message 1 of 9 , Sep 15, 2012
      Dear Rev. Fr. Zach,

      I am happy to hear that the church in Austin is trying to conduct the liturgy in English with support from every one. English Qurbono is a need of our young generation and more importantly for the future generations in America who may not be so fluent in the Malayalam language. For them, to understand the beauty and meaning of the Qurbono it is essential to eventually switch the Qurbono to English. Another option is to teach every kid Malayalam to the level they can read and understand the Malayalam language. This may be possible in the current generation where parents/grand parents in US are fluent in Malayalam. However, in looking forward, I am not sure how successful we will be in teaching Malayalam to all the future generations in the United States. So a gradual change to English is highly essential.

      However, we should also promote Syriac, the official language of our church. The reasons to promote Syriac language are many. First, it was the language (a dialect of Aramaic) Jesus spoke and many of what Jesus taught in the Syriac language is better understood in its fullness only in the Syriac language. Although Jesus's teachings are translated into different languages with much accuracy, several of his speeches are still, better understood only when we learn it in the Syriac language (one e.g.: the Syriac (also Hebrew) letter `yood' mentioned in Matthew 5:18). Languages evolve over time and people adapt different languages. But we have to preserve Jesus's teachings with its original interpretation to the future generation and for the same reason we have to promote Syriac language. In addition, a lot of the writings of the early church fathers which describes the uncorrupted doctrine of the early church are written in Syriac. Although several of them are translated to other languages, it is important to know the Syriac language to verify its translation from the original text whenever needed. Our church is very proud to be one among the few to preserve this precious language for about 2000 years. Our church preserved Syriac language among different language speaking members of our church, such as Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, Malayalam, Sanskrit, and Tamil. So, we should be able to preserve the Syriac language even if the new generation of our church speaks only English. Using and teaching Syriac in the church is a good opportunity to promote the language of our Savior Jesus Christ.

      `Syriac' is an identity for us as well, which we all should be very proud of. We were called Syriac Christians (Suriyani Christianikal in Malayalam) even before we were called Malayalees! The language Malayalam was evolved to the current form only in the 7th-8th centuries. Even before this, at least from 4th century onwards with records, the Christians lived in India were called Syriac Christians. The language spoken by Jews in the first century was Syriac and thus, when St. Thomas reached Maliankara, most likely the Syriac speaking Jews there would have helped him to translate to their native languages. So most likely the first christian converts might have spoken Syriac together with Tamil or Sanskrit. I remember seeing long time ago, in a government issued tourism map of Kerala, Kottayam denoted as `Center for Syriac Christians'! So Syriac is our identity and also part of our own history.

      While we (those who live outside of Kerala or India) gradually change the Qurbono to English, we should be careful to promote and use Syriac language as well. In my opinion, Syriac should be taught at the Sunday school level (both in Kerala and outside) and should be made mandatory for the curriculum. At the diocesan level, Syriac coaching should be given to the Sunday school teachers. Muslims teach Arabic, the language their prophet spoke, in their religious school, for the same reason and is mandatory throughout the world for Muslim kids. We should learn from the dedication Muslims showing in teaching and promoting the language of their prophet and should take initiative to teach the Syriac language which our Savior Jesus Christ spoke, to all of our church members.

      With prayers,

      Sinu P. John, PhD
      Boston, USA
      Member ID: 0076

      Posted By: dnzach4

      I very much appreciate the context and intentions of this article concerning using English. In some ways we here at our Austin, Texas parish are conducting an *in situ* experiment with our multicultural,
      transcendent, and precious tradition.

      Thankfully, I am happy to report generally positive responses to a fully English Holy Qurbono. Criticism has been constructive.
      Please pray for all of us who love and respect Malayalam, Syriac, and other linguistic/cultural inputs but are handicapped but language barriers.

      Sincerely in Christ,
      Fr. Zach Varghese
      Member 903
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