"Ettu Nombu" in the Jacobite Syrian Church
- The Eight Days-Lent, although not a canonical lent in the
Syrian Orthodox church, enjoys a distinctive place in the
life of our church today. The Roman Catholic Church also
observes this lent with much enthusiasm and devotion. This
lent is a celebration of the role of St. Mary in the divine
economy of salvation, through God's incarnation in Christ,
and thereby her part in our salvation history as well.
As there had been some excellent and enlightening postings on
the Syrian Orthodox teaching on Mariology in the forum, I have
no intent to go into those details all over again here. I shall,
instead, focus on a couple of aspects of Mariology that are
relevant for us today.
Rev. 12:2 reads as follows:
"Now a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the
sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of
twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and
in pain to give birth"
This vision of John is a vision that we all need to see in our
church life. Church Fathers have interpreted this vision from a
Mariological perspective. According to them, the woman clothed
with the Sun here is none other than "Our Lady" and the Sun is
Jesus Christ himself. The twelve stars in the garland represent
the twelve apostles. In other words, it is a beautiful vision
of the Church where Jesus is with the Mother and the Apostles.
The Mother here is in absolute pain. In fact, she bears the pain
and sufferings of the entire humanity. But beyond, she has also
been instrumental in offering the solution for this affliction
of humanity-Jesus Christ. Mary has an amazing propensity to
carry forward our sufferings and needs to her son, our savior
and Lord. The miracle at Cana is a great example of the efficacy
of Mary's intercessions. Mary always showed a unique sensitivity
to the needs and concerns of the poor and the weak, as her song,
the Magnificat (Lk:1) so lucidly portrays.
As we read in Rev.12: 13-17, the serpent has been trying to
persecute her. But the earth was there to look after her.
We see contemporary incarnations of such serpents around us
that are trying to degrade the name and significance of St. Mary.
But for us, the believers of the Syrian Church, St. Mary is our
pride and fortress.
One of the most striking features of `Ettu Nombu', as I look at
it, has been the increasing participation of non-Syrians and
non-Christians in this Lent. I see this as a very positive and
equally encouraging sign. Most of us tend to be very exclusive
in our attitudes towards people from the so-called `lower castes'
and other non-Syrian sections of people. (Forgive me if I sounded
somewhat judgmental here) At least during `Ettu Nombu' season,
non-Syrians and other caste people are allowed to come to our
churches and offer prayers. (May be we are only interested in
their offerings (money). I think, it's time we broke some of
these narrow and exclusive mind sets and prejudices, and opened
the doors of our churches to all those who have a spiritual thirst
within them for the divine. Jesus Christ and his Mother certainly
exemplified this inclusive openness in their words and deeds. May
the `Ettu Nombu' this year be a time of transformation in our lives
and a blessing for all. I join all of you in the intercessions of
the Mother of God. May God bless all of us through her
Fr. George Mathew Nalunnakkal
- 1. www.catholicose.org -- biography of the Shresta Catholicose
H.B. Mor Baselios Paulose II Bava thirumeni.
2. 129th Dhukrono of Yuyakkim Mor Koorilose Bava on September 1st
[Chingam 20 perunnal of Mulanthuruthy)
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