Monday, November 29, 2010

The theology and spirituality of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church in India

The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church or the Syrian Orthodox church in India is a church which is entwined in the spiritual-cultural spectrum of India for centuries now. As churches in India are in the process of understanding and even re-discovering their place in the new India, the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church will also have to travel the same direction at some point of time or the other. The new India is not just the India of progress but also the India of discrepancies and discriminations. As the diverse country tries to understand itself, it will also look at the various religious groups in the hope of learning things from them which will help it evolve towards a common good.

What does the church have to say about the equality of humankind, sexuality, poverty, the environment, rights deprivation and economic disparity? There may be a notion among the people of India that this church is an old, strict, limited and wasted communion of people. But there is also a notion that this very church can offer through its theology, spirituality and practice a different message for an India which wants to go full blast along the high road of development. This variance in opinion may even exist inside the church itself. There are those who say that church tradition means that which is unchanging and those who say that tradition evolves with time and therefore does not stand still in the time gone by.

What could be some of the aspects we could learn from? The church gains understanding from the Trinitarian relationship of God, is energised by the communitarian essence of worship which is an unending spiritual and practical expression of believers, is aware of the unseen and unheard which brings about humility into the essence of living, brings in a special concoction of the body and the being and keeps in living memory the special relationship of God, humans and creation. These cannot be explained by members of the church. They can only be lived out. This brings out the need for the Syrian Orthodox church to live out their faith in India. The actual living will express itself in various ways and it would be dangerous to give a hard and fast ruling on this.

The church will have to include others in India in this living out of its faith. This will bring out the struggle to include others into a so far exclusive circle which we have created by the non-living of our faith. Better still we may have to do away with the circle all together or make it a flexible circle which includes all, in opposition to excluding all. The church thus has to be an inclusive, creative and life affirming community of believers. There has to be a coming together of the old and the new. This is the meeting point which the church has to affirm to the people of India. This could be the development model which seeks to conserve for many, rather than destruct in the pursuit of happiness for the few.

14 comments:

Dr George Easaw said...

achen,
nice to read your informative, theological and spiritual writings.. continue the good work ..
george easaw..

Fr Jerry said...

Thank you Dr George. It would be nice to have comments from your side too. I can see that you are an avid blogger as well. I like the SUPA project in your college. Would be very beneficial to develop that and maybe even include church youth groups in the loop.

Anonymous said...

‎Jacob Idiculla, Facebook (30-11-2010)- "There has to be a coming together of the old and new." Thats the main point... Thought provoking.

Fr Jerry said...

Thanks for commenting. Glad that you liked the old and new partnership theme. Will have to see how the church pulls itself together and takes it from here!

Anonymous said...

Jacob Idiculla, (Facebook, Dec 1, 2010)- I think basically it is the question of, felt need to change.. The culture associated between the church and the community has been cascaded from generations. And this very point creates the resistance to change because they would fear the unknown outcome if a new approach is being introduced..

Fr Jerry said...

Hmm. Interesting. This could be true. Resistance could also be in two directions actually. Resitance to change and resistance for change!

Anonymous said...

(Prince Mathews, Facebook, 2-12-2010)- Detachment between, the faith within the church building and living the faith once we step out of the church building and carrying on with our routine lives, is glaring. we need to come out from the pollution and high caste mindset, ingrained in us over the centuries through tradition. inclusiveness in us is a long long way to go. the brighter side is that we have managed to preserve our exclusiveness and 'purity' all these centuries. i do not know, maybe this has taken place over time as we are a negligible minority within the larger minority of christians in India. Achen, your thesis presented here is a good thought as we prepare for christmas.

Mathew said...

My understanding of bible is minimal and theology is not my cup of tea, though I would say the Church and its traditions can't be a thick rod of steel.God himself has changed with times and circumstances.The God Moses saw in old testament and Zakkai saw in new testament is incomparable.If God can change with times the why not church and its traditions?

Mathew Chacko, Dubai

Fr Jerry said...

Prince: Have we maintained our purity and exclusiveness? If we have then this will go against accepting other castes. But maybe we haven't been able to maintain this so called purity. That gives a chance to explore ways of understanding other castes and being an inclusive church. We can definitely continue the discussion.

Fr Jerry said...

Thank you Mathew for your comment. I love the part where you say "God himself has changed with times and circumstances.The God Moses saw in old testament and Zakkai saw in new testament is incomparable.If God can change with times then why not church and its traditions?" Quite interesting.
I on the one hand like our traditions. On the other hand I would also like a debate on whether our traditions can be fine tuned for the age we live in. I maintain that traditions evolve with time and do not stand still.
Guess we have to wait and see how this can be debated. Mind you, all churches have the same problem. Thanks again.

Magic said...

achen,
Nice article. Continue the good work

John
Kerala Tourism

Fr Jerry said...

Thank you John. You have got a nice website on Kerala tourism. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Very provocative title indeed. Allow me to make a comment -

Insinuation such religiousity towards a particular breed of christians gives them the feeling of " thou art holy and others not . My point is - everybody is only and our basic essence of a human being is to become like his creator - (preaching to the evolutionists is like preaching to the choir , so lets side line them ) and focus on creating the creator in all of us and we all will bow down each to other because we are bowing down to the most high.

can we do that?
Parvathy Khan Abraham

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thanks Parvathy for the comment. I suppose that the main essence of this write up is to say that every religion and denomination has hidden resources within their existence. The longer we keep it hidden, the longer we will keep to ourselves. The real essence of religion rather would be to work realizing that working together is part of religious existence. It is just that we have chosen to keep it under wraps. I suppose read this way, it comes close to your concern as well.