WHAT WE BELIEVE?
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church also known as the Malankara Church and the Indian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous church based in Kerala, India. Part of Oriental Orthodoxy, it is one of the oldest Christian communities in Asia. The church serves India’s Saint Thomas Christian (also known as Nasrani) population. The autocephalous Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan enthroned on the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas (currently H.H. Baselios Marthoma Mathews III), is the primate of the church. It employs the Malankara Rite, an Indian form of the West Syriac liturgical rite.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church regained full autocephaly in 1912 and remains in communion with the other five Oriental Orthodox churches, including the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church drafted and formally adopted a constitution in 1934, wherein the church formally declared the Malankara Metropolitan and the Catholicos of the East as one.
The Orthodox Church is one of the three main Christian groups (the others being Roman Catholic and Protestant). Around 200 million people follow the Orthodox tradition. It is made up of a number of self-governing Churches that are either ‘autocephalous’ (meaning having their own head) or ‘autonomous’ (meaning self-governing). The word ‘Orthodox’ takes its meaning from the Greek words orthos (‘right’) and doxa (‘belief’). Hence the word Orthodox means correct belief or right thinking.
THE NICENE CREED
CREED comes from the Latin credo, “We believe.” From the earliest days of the Church, creeds have been living confessions of what Christians believe and not simply formal, academic, Church pronouncements. Such confessions of faith appear as early as the New Testament, where, for example, Saint Paul quotes a creed to remind Timothy, “God was manifested in the flesh.. .” (1 Timothy 3:16). The creeds were approved by Church councils, usually to give a concise statement of the truth in the face of the invasion of heresy.
The most important creed in Christendom is the Nicene Creed, the product of two Ecumenical Councils in the fourth century. Fashioned in the midst of a life-and-death controversy, it contains the essence of New Testament teaching about the Holy Trinity, guarding that life-giving truth against those who would change the very nature of God and reduce Jesus Christ to a created being rather than God in the flesh. The creeds give us a sure interpretation of the Scriptures against those who would distort them to support their own religious schemes. Called the “Symbol of Faith” and confessed in many of the services of the Church, the Nicene Creed constantly reminds the Orthodox Christian of what he personally believes, keeping his faith on track. The Creed - Our Statement of Faith
GOD THE FATHER
GOD THE FATHER is the fountainhead of the Holy Trinity. The Scriptures reveal that the one God is Three Persons-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-eternally sharing the one divine nature. From the Father, the Son is begotten before all ages and all time (Psalm 2:7; 2 Corinthians 11:31).
“We believe in one true God (Heb 11:6, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Romans 3:29-31, Eph 4:6) The Father Almighty (1Cor. 8:6Rev. 1:8) Maker of heaven and earth (Ex. 20:11, Gen. Ch. 1 &2) and of all things visible and invisible (Jer. 32:17. Col. 1:16)”
It is also from the Father that the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds (John 15:26). Through Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, we come to know the Father (Matthew 11:27). God the Father created all things through the Son, in the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1; 2; John 1:3; Job 33:4), and we are called to worship Him (John 4:23). The Father loves us and sent His Son to give us everlasting life (John 3:16).
JESUS CHRIST is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, eternally born of the Father. He became a man, and thus He is at once fully God and fully man. His coming to earth was foretold in the Old Testament by the Prophets. Because Jesus Christ is at the heart of Christianity, the Orthodox Church has given more attention to knowing Him than to anything or anyone else.
In reciting the Nicene Creed, Orthodox Christians regularly affirm the historic faith concerning Jesus as we say,
“We believe in the one Lord (Acts 10:36) Jesus (Matt. 1:21) Christ (John 4:25-26) the only-begotten Son of God (John 1:14) begotten of the Father before all worlds (1 John 4:9) Light of Light, very God of very God (John 1:4, 1 John 1:5-7, John 12:35-37, John 5:18) begotten, not made (John 8:58) being of the same substance with the Father (John10:30) and by whom all things were made (John 1:3) + who for us men and for our salvation (Mat 1:21) came down from heaven (John 3:31) + and was incarnate of the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God (Luke 2:6) by the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:35) and became man (John 1:14) + and was crucified for us (Mark 15:25) in the days of Pontius Pilate (Matt 27:22-26) and suffered, and died, and was buried (Matt 27:50-60) And the third day rose again (Matt 28:6) according to His will (1.Cor 15:4) and ascended into heaven (Luke 24:51) and sat on the right side of the Father (Mark 16:19) and shall come again in His great glory (Matt 25:31) to judge both the quick and the dead (2 Tim 4:1) whose kingdom shall have no end (Luke 1:33)”
THE HOLY SPIRIT
THE HOLY SPIRIT is one of the Persons of the Trinity and is one in essence with the Father. Orthodox Christians repeatedly confess, “And in the one living Holy Spirit (John 14:26) the life-giving Lord of all (2cor 3:17-18, Is. 6:8, Acts 28:25 Rom 8:2, 2.Cor 3:6) who proceeds from the Father (John 15:26): and who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified (Rev. 4:8) who spoke by the Prophets and Apostles (2 Peter 1:21).He is called the “Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4), given by Christ as a gift to the Church, to empower the Church for service to God (Acts 1:8), to place God’s love in our hearts (Romans 5:5), and to impart spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-13) and virtues (Galatians 5:22, 23) for Christian life and witness. Orthodox Christians believe the biblical promise that the Holy Spirit is given in chrismation (anointing) at baptism (Acts 2:38). We are to grow in our experience of the Holy Spirit for the rest of our lives.
ONE APOSTOLIC CHURCH
And in the One (John 10:16) Holy (Eph 5:26-27, 2 Peter 2:5&9) Catholic (Rom 10:18 “Catholic” means universal or comprehensive, as well as “relating to the ancient undivided Christian church”) and Apostolic (Eph 2:20) Church; and we acknowledge one Baptism (Eph. 4:5) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), and look for the resurrection of the dead (Rom 6:5), and the new life in the world to come (Mat. 25:34., Rev. 21:1-7). Amen.
THE HOLY BIBLE
THE HOLY BIBLE is the divinely inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and is a crucial part of God’s self-revelation to the human race. The Old Testament tells the history of that revelation from Creation through the Age of the Prophets. The New Testament records the birth and life of Jesus as well as the writings of His Apostles. It also includes some of the histories of the early Church and especially sets forth the Church’s apostolic doctrine. The Scriptures are at the very heart of Orthodox worship and devotion.
LITURGY is a term used to describe the shape or form of the Church’s corporate worship of God. The word “liturgy” derives from a Greek word that means “the common work.” All the biblical references to worship in heaven involve liturgy. In the Old Testament, God ordered a liturgy or specific pattern of worship. We find it described in detail in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus. In the New Testament, we find the Church carrying over the worship of Old Testament Israel as expressed in both the synagogue and the temple, adjusting them in keeping with their fulfillment in Christ. The Orthodox Liturgy, which developed over many centuries, still maintains that ancient shape of worship. The main elements in the Liturgy include hymns, the reading and proclamation of the Gospel, prayers, and the Eucharist itself. For Orthodox Christians, the expressions “the Liturgy” or “the Divine Liturgy” refer to the eucharistic rite instituted by Christ Himself at the Last Supper.
EUCHARIST means “thanksgiving” and early became a synonym for Holy Communion. The Eucharist is the center of worship in the Orthodox Church. Because Jesus said of the bread and wine at the Last Supper, “This is my body,” “This … is … my blood,” and “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19, 20), His followers believe-and do-nothing less. In the Eucharist, we partake mystically of Christ’s Body and Blood, which impart His life and strength to us. The celebration of the Eucharist was a regular part of the Church’s life from its beginning. Early Christians began calling the Eucharist “the medicine of immortality” because they recognized the great grace of God that was received in it.
WORSHIP is the act of ascribing praise, glory, and thanksgiving to God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All humanity is called to worship God. Worship is more than being in the “great out-of-doors” or listening to a sermon or singing a hymn. God can be known in His creation, but that does not constitute worship. And as helpful as sermons may be, they can never offer a proper substitute for worship. Most prominent in Orthodox worship is the corporate praise, thanksgiving and glory is given to God by the Church. This worship consummates in intimate communion with God at His Holy Table.
As is said in the Liturgy, “To You is due all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.” In that worship, we touch and experience His eternal Kingdom, the age to come, and join in adoration with the heavenly hosts. We experience the glory of the fulfillment of all things in Christ as truly all in all.
THE HOLY SACRAMENTS
The Indian Orthodox Church believes in the seven Holy Mysteries, or Sacraments, are ways in which the faithful participate in the divine grace of God. We consider everything that is in and of the Church to be sacramental/mystical, but the Church does name these seven Mysteries and explain their importance in the Life of the Church. Holy Baptism, Holy Mooron (Chrismation), Holy Confession, Holy Qurbana, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders (Priesthood), and Holy anointing of the sick. Of these, the Holy Baptism, Holy Mooron, and Holy Orders are the three sacraments that shall not be repeated.
FASTING AND PRAYER
Fasting and prayer play an important part in the Orthodox Christian life. Orthodox believe that fasting can be the ‘foundation of all good’. The discipline of training the body can enable a believer to concentrate the mind totally on preparation for prayer and things spiritual.
Holy Tradition, of which Holy Scripture is a part, includes the writings, teachings, and acts of the apostles, saints, martyrs, and fathers of the Church, her liturgical and sacramental traditions throughout the ages, the oral tradition of the early Church, and the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. All of this collective wisdom and experience through the centuries are combined to form this second great source of sacred authority. While the Bible is treasured as a valuable written record of God’s revelation, it does not contain wholly that revelation. The Bible is viewed as only one expression of God’s revelation in the ongoing life of His people. Scripture is part of the treasure of faith, which is known as Tradition. The word tradition, in Greek paradosis and in Latin traditio, means literally “to hand down” or “to deliver.”
Holy Tradition refers not to the “traditions of men” that Jesus condemned (Mark 7:8) but, instead, the deposit of faith that the Apostle Paul preached, urging the church in Thessalonica to “stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15), and encouraging the Corinthians with the words, “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2).
Tradition means that which is “handed on” from one generation to another. In addition to the witness of faith in the Scripture, the Orthodox Christian faith is celebrated in the Eucharist; taught by the Fathers; glorified by the Saints; expressed in prayers, hymns, and icons; defended by the seven Ecumenical Councils; embodied in the Nicene Creed; manifested in social concern; and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is lived in every local Orthodox parish. The life of the Holy Trinity is manifested in every aspect of the Church’s life. Finally, the Church, as a whole, is the guardian of the authentic Christian Faith, which bears witness to that Revelation.