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Catholicate of the East
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was founded by St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, who came to India in A.D. 52.

At least from the fourth century the Indian Church entered into a close relationship with the Persian or East Syrian Church. From the Persians, the Indians inherited East Syrian language and liturgies and gradually came to be known as Syrian Christians. 

In the sixteenth century Roman Catholic missionaries came to Kerala. They tried to unite the Syrian Christians to the Roman Catholic Church and this led to a split in the community. Those who accepted Catholicism are the present Syro-Malabar Catholics. Later Western Protestant missionaries came to Kerala and worked among Syrian Christians; That also created certain splits in the community. 

In the seventeenth century the Church came to a relationship with the Antiochene Church which again caused splits. As a result of this relationship the Church received West Syrian liturgies and practices.

The Church entered into a new phase of its history by the establishment of the Catholicate in 1912. 

At present the Church is using the West Syrian liturgy. The faith of the Church is that which was established by the three Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (A.D. 381) and Ephesus (A.D. 431). 

The Church is in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches namely, Antiochene, Alexandrian, Armenian, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches. The Church is in good ecumenical relationship with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. 

At present the Church has over 2 million faithful with 24 dioceses all over the world.

The Catholicate of the Malankara orthodox Syrian Church

    The word ‘Catholicos’ means “the general head” or “general bishop”. It can be considered as equivalent to “universal Bishop”. This title and rank is much more ancient than the title Patriarch in the church.

    In the ministry of the early church there were only three ranks namely; Episcopos (Bishop), Priest and Deacon. By the end of the third century or by the beginning of the  fourth century certain bishops of certain important cities or provincial capitals in the Roman empire gained pre- eminence than other bishops and they came to be known as Metropolitans. The Ecumenical councils of the fourth century recognized the authority of these Metropolitans.

   By the fifth century the Bishops in major cities like Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch etc. gained control over the churches in the surrounding cities. Gradually they became the heads of each independent regional church and were called Patriarch which means ‘common father’. 
The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called Catholicos. There were three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the fifth century. They were the  Catholicate of the East (Persia), the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia. None of these ranks and titles are the monopoly of any church. Any Apostolic and national church has the authority to declare and call its head, Catholicose, Pope, or Patriarch.

    Even though the title Catholicose had not existed in India before the 20th century, the idea behind the Catholicate or Patriarchate  as the head of  a national independent Church  was there from the early centuries and there was similar native position or authority in the Indian Church.  As we say that St. Peter was the first Pope of Rome, St. Thomas was the first  Head or the Catholicos of India. As all other Apostles did, he also established Church in India and made a set up to continue its administration in India.That was the Apostolic authority existed in India throughout the centuries.

    In India the position and authority of the catholicose is development in the history of the Church throughout the past centuries. 
The first stage of the apostolic ministry in the Malankara Church is from the time of St.Thomas till the middle of the fourth century when the authority of the Church was vested in the hands of the Archdeacon. 

    The second stage is the period of the reign of the Arcdeacons which started from the middle of the fourth century and lasted till the sixteenth century.

    The third stage started when the archdeacon was elevated to the position of a Bishop by the community  with the name Marthoma I in  1653.

    Since then the head of the community was the Marthoma Metrans and later  the position was developed to Malankara Metropolitan with more recognition. 

    When in a religious turmoil the Patriarch of Antioch interfered and suspended the Malankara Metropolitan demanding complete surrender, in 1912 the Church consecrated the senior Metropolitan as the Catholicose and head of the Church.

    In 1934,through the meeting of the Malankara Association  the authority  and powers of the Malankara Metropolitan was entrusted  to the Catholicose. Thus both the spiritual and temporal authorities of the Church was vested in one person who is the Catholicose cum Malankara Metropolitan  and the development of authority in that direction was completed in the Church.

The Throne of St. Thomas

The concept of the ‘Throne of St. Thomas’ is based on the words of our Lord Himself. In St. Mathew 19:28 it is written that ‘Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, you who have followed me, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory in the rebirth, you yourselves shall also sit upon twelve thrones ruling the twelve tribes of Israel’’. In Luke 22:28 our Lord says to the twelve “You are those who have continued with me in trials. As my father appointed a Kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel”.
From these two passages it is quite clear that our Lord promised twelve thrones to the twelve apostles and none of them was deprived of having the authority. Even Judas Iscariot was promised a throne, but he fell from his honor and another inherited his place. If the Twelve have thrones, then there can be no doubt at all that St. Thomas the Apostle had also a throne.
The word ‘throne’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Thronos’ and the Syriac equivalent is ‘kursyo’. In Hebrew it is ‘kisse’. The word primarily means ‘the seat of authority of a king or a prince or a judge. Both in Old Testament and in New Testament the word throne is referred to the seat of authority (cf. 1 kings 22:19; Issah 6:1; Sam 4:1-13 etc.). In Revelation 4:2 we see a throne in heaven which is the seat of God and in 4:4 we see twenty four other thrones set around the throne of God. 24 elders were seated on the 24 thrones (4:4), clad in white garments and with a golden crown on the head of each. The tradition of the Church says that the 24 elders are the 12 tribal patriarchs of the Old Testament and the 12 Apostles of the New Testament (Rev. 11:6). Thus by the word ‘throne’ it means the ‘authority proceeds from God bestowed up on disciples.
The following assumptions can be drawn from the analysis of the above biblical passages: The throne is the seat and symbol of authority and is primarily applied to the highest of all authorities from whom every authority comes, ie., the authority of God and therefore the Throne of God. In the Scriptural accounts the throne of God is shared by Jesus Christ who sits at the right hand of God the Father. He is ruler and the judge.
Jesus Christ shares his throne with others. In the book Revelation 24 elders share it with him. Jesus promises twelve thrones to the twelve apostles. There is no indication in the Bible that the authority is exclusively for any one of the disciples. It is a common heritage and privilege. In this matter of throne, there is no difference between the authority vested on St. Peter and St. Thomas. In the tradition of the Church also we do not hear very much of the thrones of particular apostles; rather apostolic thrones are shared by all the bishops. Every bishop succeeds to the Apostolic thrones of the whole college of Apostles.
During the course of the time, the word ‘throne’ gradually gave place to other Greek word for the seat of authority ‘kathedra’. It is used in Mathew 23:2 for the seat of Moses or the place of the teaching authority of the Mosaic Law. The word ‘Cathedral’ comes from ‘kathedra’ which in Christian use means a bishop’s chair. A cathedral is not simply a large church, but a church which has the bishop’s throne in it as s symbol of authority or ‘throne’. Every bishop possesses the authority given by the Church and for the Church. No bishop has any authority independent of the Church; it is the authority of the Church that they exercise in the Church.
(The above article is prepared by Fr. Dr. Sabu Kuriakose based on a paper submitted by Late lamented Metropolitan Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios to the Holy Episcopal Synod in 1974) 

Historical Development of Catholicate in India


    In India St.Thomas founded the church and appointed prelates to continue apostolic ministry in the church. It is believed that the prelates were appointed from for ancient families namely, Pakalomattom, Sankarapuri, Kalli, and Kaliankal. Gradually the Pakalomattom family gained prominence in the ministry and chief prelates of the community where hailed from that family.During the reign of Marthoma VIII, the metropolitan of the community in the early 19th century, the Madras government once asked him a review of the history of the Malankara church and gave him seventeen questions to answer. On the 20th of April 1812 he gave written answer to all the questions. The last question was about the position and authority of the Malankara Metropolitan in the church. In his answer, he said, that from 335 AD for 1308 years ie. Till the coonan cress oath, the church was ruled by the  Archdeacons of  Pakalomattom family. He also said that after the coming of the Portuguese the church had, besides him six Metrans and one metropolitan. The Metran or Malankara Metropolitan of the community was the continuation of the apostolic authority in the Malankara Church. Our historical evidences say that in the early time, the title of the head of the community was Arch deacon. Sometimes the title was known as the Arch deacon of whole Indian. The native language it was usually called Jathikku Karthavyan. The Arch deacon of the community was the unquestioned social and political leader and he got even local soldiers under his command to protect himself and protect the interest of the community. The Arch deacon was the unquestioned leader of the community when the Portuguese arrived Malabar in the 16th century.

    The Portuguese tried to bring the Archdeacon under their control. Through the Synod of Udayamperur (1599) they tried their level best to control the Archdeacon  and for a short period they brought him under the authority of the Roman Arch bishop. The community revolted against this through the coonan cross oath of 1653.

The Archdeacon as Bishop

    After the coonan cross oath the Church ordained the Arch deacon as a bishop with the name  Mar Thoma I. This ordination of the archdeacon as a bishop was a very important turning point in the history of the development of authority in the Malankara Church. All the powers of the century old arch deacon with some more spiritual authority was given to the  Archdeacon when he was elevated to the position of a bishop.

    The Marthoma Metrans continued in succession till the early 19th century with the names Mar Thoma I,II,etc. till Mar Thoma VIII. and they ruled the church  from 1653 to 1816.
The spiritual as well as the administrative authority of the community were vested on the Mar Thoma Metrans during this period. 

Malankara Metropolitan

    In 1816 Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dioysius became a bishop and he got an approval letter known as the Royal Proclamation  from the Travancore government to function as the Metropolitan of the community. Now on wards the head of the  Church came to be known as Malankara Metropolitan.   The position of the Malanakara Metropolitan in the 19th century is a growth from the position of the Marthoma Metrans.  The power and authority of the Malanakara Metropolitan got more recognition than the power and authority of the Archdeacons and Marthoma Metrans because of some political changes in the country through the establishment of British rule.
    From 1816, DionysiusII, DionysiusIII, DionysiusIV, Mar Athanasios and  DionysiusV  were the Malanakara Metropolitans in the 19th century. Among these Mar Athanasios and Mar Dionysius V exercised enormous spiritual as well as temporal powers inside and outside  the community.  
Mar Dionysius V was the Malankara Metropolitan at  the time of the Synod of Mulanthuruthy (1876).  During the later half of the 19th century there occurred a split in the community because of the works of the CMS missionaries and the reformation supported by them.  This invited a closer interference of the Patriarch of Antioch. 

    To get over the difficulties caused by the reformation and to support Mar Dionysius V against the reformers the Church invited the Patriarch to come over to India. 
The Patriarch Peter III of Antioch  came here in  1875. Instead of healing the division in the community the Patriarch tried to make use of the situation to establish his authority in the church by suppressing the authority of the Malanakra Metropolitan. 
He strongly stood with Mar Dionysius and  called the Synod of Mulanthuruthy.

     The Patriarch presided over  the synod and directed its proceedings and took some decisions justifying the actions of the Patriarch in the Malankara Church. After the Synod he divided the church into seven dioceses and consecrated six new bishops to rule each diocese. By these actions the Patriarch was trying to reduce the authorities of the Malankara Metropolitan. 

The way to Catholicate
    After the synod of Mulanthuruthy  the Church became more  conscious about establishing a Catholicate (Maphrianate)  in the Malanakra Church mainly to avoid unnecessary interference of the Patriarch of Antioch in the internal affairs of the Church.

    The patriarch himself  directed the Synod of Mulanthuruthy and attained more powers through its decisions. He claimed as the spiritual and temporal head of the Church. 
The Malankara Church which was in dare need of the Patriarch  to fight against the reformers yielded to all  the demands of the Patriarch. The legal fights against the reformers ended up in the final judgment of the Travencore Royal court in 1889.

    The Royal Court judgment was a success to both the Patriarch and Mar Dionysius V in various  aspects. The court declared that the Patriarch got spiritual supervisory powers over the Malanakara Church. But it also declared that the Patriarch does not have any temporal authority in the Church.  The Patriarch was not satisfied about this decision.

    The Patriarch used all his ways and means to establish his spiritual and temporal authority in the Church. 
Mar Dionysius V died in 1909 and Mar Dionysius VI became the Malankara Metropolitan.  

    When Mar Dionysius VI became the Malankara  Metropolitan, the Patriarch demanded a registered deed from Mar Dionysius declaring perfect allegiance to the patriarch. Mar Dionysius strongly refused to yield to the demands of the Patriarch. 

    The Patriarch excommunicated Mar DionysiusVI on 31st May 1911.The excommunication of Mar Dionysius created lots of confusions and divisions in the Malanakara Church. 
Most of the influential lay leaders and many clergy in the Church supported Mar Dionysius and stood firm with him.

    The Malankara Metropolitan was the supreme authority in the Church throughout the past years and the Patriarchs were always trying with all their means to exterminate that position from the Church. 
The Church clearly understood the intention of the Patriarch when he excommunicated Mar DionysisVI. 

The consecration of the Catholicose     

    When the Patriarch excommunicated mar Dionysius VI,  there were two Patriarchs of Antioch; one was Abdulla who had powers according to the legal documents knows as Firman of the Turkish government and the other was Abdedmassiah who was senior and at the same time inactive at Turkey since the government withdrew his firman.

    Abdulla was the one who excommunicated the Malanakara Metropolitan  Mar Dionysius. The Malankara Church contacted Abdedmassiah and invited him to Malankara. The patriarch came and presided over the meetings of the Episcopal Synod of the Malankara church that decided to consecrate a Catholicose for the Malankara Church. Mar Ivanios Metropolitan of the Kandanadu Diocese was unanimously proposed to the post of Catholicose. 

    On 15th September 1912, at  St. Marys  Church founded by St.Thomas in  Niranam,  Mar Ivanios Metropolitan was consecrated with the name Mar Baselios Paulose First as the first Catholicose of  Malankara Church. The chief celebrant of the consecration ceremony was the Patriarch Mar Abdedmassiah himself.  After the consecration the Patriarch issued two Kalpanas declaring the importance, privileges, powers and functions of the Catholicose. 

All the authorities and privileges enjoyed by the Patriarch in the Church as its head was given to the Catholicose also.

By the consecration of the Catholicose the Indian Church asserted and declared its full autonomy and became a full autocephalous (having its own head) Church.

    After the demise of the Catholicose Baselicose Paulose I, the Bishops in Malankara together with Mar Dionysius VI consecrated Mar Philoxenos of Vakathanam as the second Catholicos with the name Baselius Geevarghese I. When he died in 1928, Mar Gregorios was elected as his successor. He was consecrated by the Indian Bishops in February 13, 1929 with the title Baselius Geevarghese II .

    The Patriarchal group questioned the validity of the Catholicate in law courts and the litigation went on up to the Supreme court. In September 12, 1958, the constitutional bench of the supreme court of India recognized the validity of the Catholicate and unanimously declared that the Patriarch of  Antioch does not have any authority over the Malankara church and that the Indian church is completely free under the Catholicos of the East. Without doubt the judgment stated that all the parishes and properties of the Malankara church are under the authority of the Catholicos.

    Moved by the final judgment of the Supreme Court of India, the Patriarch's group unanimously recommended to the Patriarch Ignatius Yacob III to accept the Catholicos as the head of the Indian church. In December 1958, the Patriarch and the Catholicos subjected to the constitution of the Malankara church and accepted each other by exchanging letters.

    The peace in the Indian Orthodox church which started with the mutual acceptance of the Catholicos and the Patriarch continued without much problem till the demise of the Catholicose Geevarghese II in 1964. The Malankara Association (representative body for the church) elected Mar Augen Thimothios as the next Catholicose, According to the constitution  of the church, the Syrian Patriarch who was on friendly terms with the Malankara church, was also invited officially to participate in the consecration of the Catholicose. The Patriarch accepted the invitation of the Malankara church and came down to India and co-operated with the Malankara synod  to consecrate the Catholicose. Conclusion

    In all the Churches the position of the Patriarch or the Catholicose was a development of authority  in their  history. In Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople and in  the Persian Church  it achieved almost full development and recognition in the 4th century  itself. Jerusalem became a Patriarchate at the council of Chalcedone in 451. The Georgian and Armenian Catholicose were also developed in the same period.

    The Patriarchate was developed in Russian Orthodox Church between 1448 and 1589. In Rumenia it was established in 1885.  The Serbian Patriarcahte was established in 1879 and the Bulgarian patriarchate was established in 1883. The patriarchate of Ethiopea  was established in 1958 only. It happened in the Malankara Orthodox Church in 1912.

    The Catholicate in India was a growth and development through centuries within the Malankara Church. Of course the developments in other churches like Persia, Antioch Rome and external interferences  has influenced the growth in different stages.

    It should  always be considered as a symbol of Apostolic origin, authority and heritage as well as nationality and  independence of the Malankara Orthodox Church.     
Throughout centuries the Metropolitan heads of the Thomas Christians were known as the apostolic successors of St.Thomas, the founder of the Indian church. The Vatican Syriac codex 22 written in 1301 at Kodungalloor refers to the Metropolitan of the church as “The Metropolitan Bishop of the See of St. Thomas, and of the whole church of Christians in India”. The church always asserted that St. Thomas had his apostolic throne in India as St. Peter had it in Rome or Antioch. When the Catholicate was established the catholicose as the head of the Malankara church, took the title “The successor of the Apostolic throne of St. Thomas”.

What do the Orthodox Believe

What do we believe? It is more to ask: "in whom do we put our trust?" "Believe" is a very vague word. Often it means simply holding an opinion without demonstrable evidence. But our faith is not an opinion, not one of many possible views. It is an affirmation of what ultimate reality is-dependable, trustable reality.
We do not put our trust either in the ancient character of our Church or in any dogmas or doctrines. Our trust is in the One True God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit, eternal, self-existent, indivisible, infinite, incomprehensible, glorious, holy, not created or owing his being to something else, all-sovereign, Creator of the whole universe. All things are from Him. We too have our being from Him, acknowledge him as the source of our being. Of the being of all else, of all good and therefore worthy of adoration and praise perpectual.
About the First Person of the Trinity, the Father we know only what the Son and the Spirit have revealed to us, and still continue to reveal. The knowledge or statable doctrine, but true worship in the community of Faith. True knowledge of God comes through the quality of our life than through intellectual clarification. Some things, however we can affirm conceptually, knowing well that these concepts do not fully conform to reality.
The Truine God is beyond all conceptual comprehension not only by human beings, but by any created mind. He is, in a way different from the way anything else in creation is. We know the Truine God, not because we have comprehended His being or isness, but through His operations or activities, the energies of God which come down to us through the Incarnate Son and through the Holy Spirit. The Truine God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, share the same is-ness; their being is one-infinite, eternal, uncreated, self-existent, with three persons or centres of consciousness and response, always acting in concord and unison as one being. There is no gap or interval of time or space between the three persons; there is no senior or junior; greater or lesser.

We believe that Jesus Christ the Son of God became a human being, rules in the universe. All power in heaven (the aspects of the universe now not open to our senses) and on earth (that is, the universe in all-its tangible, sensible aspects) is given to Jesus Christ the God-Man. Death and Evil have been overcome, but they are still allowed to function, serving Christ’s purposes. They will disappear-love and life will triumph-this is the faith of the Church, and this we affirm.
For us the Holy Spirit is Life-giver, Sanctifier and perfecter. We do think in terms of sin and grace, but the central category in our understanding of salvation is the life-giving Spirit. It is He who effects forgiveness of sins, removes barriers between human beings as well as between them and God, gives life, makes people more holy and God-like, and draws us to perfection. He works in the Church, through His special gifts, to build up the body of Christ and to make its members holy. He also works in the Creation, bringing all things to their fullness and perfection.
While we do speak about these operations of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are not three Gods, but one God, we know next to nothing about His being as Truine God, It is important for us to confess the incomprehensibility of God. He is not to be discussed or explained, but to be worshipped and adored and acknowledged as Lord of all.
We believe in the Church, all who acknowledge the Niceno Constantinopolitan creed do. The Church is the great consequence of the Son of God becoming flesh. It is this community that not only bears witness to Christ, but also is the abode of Christ, Christ dwelling in the Church, which is His body. It is in the Church that the life-giving power of the Spirit is at work.
But the Church is not simply the community believers gathered together. It is a reality which spans heaven and earth, the risen Christ himself as chief cornerstone, the Apostles and Prophets as foundation, and all who belong to Christ from Adam to second coming being members of this one, holy Catholic apostolic community.

The local Church is not a mere part of this one great heaven-and-earth community; it is the full manifestation of the One Church, especially when the community is gathered together with the Bishop for the hearing of the Word of God and for the Eucharistic participation in the one eternal sacrifice of Christ of the Cross.

We are never allowed to forget even in a small local church the presence of this great cloud of witnesses who share with us the life of the One Church. We remember at every Eucharist the departed as a whole, and especially the Apostles, great teachers, and spiritual leaders who have helped build up and protect the Church from error and deviation. It is not a law that we have to ask the Saints to intercede for us. We do it with great joy and genuine appreciation of their past and present role in the one Church of Jesus Christ.
Of the great Saints in the Church, the first (after Christ) and unique place goes to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for she was the first to hear the Gospel of the Incarnation of our Lord from the Archangel, and to receive Him, on behalf of all of us human beings, into her womb. She is the mother of Christ, and thus mother of all the faithful who are joint-heirs with Christ. But she is also the Theotokos, the Godbearer, for the one whom she bore in her womb was truly God himself.
For her, Jesus Christ was not an ordinary human being who was then adopted or exalted as Son by God the Father. No, He is the Second person of the Trinity, who dwelt in the womb of Mary without being absent from the "place" of His eternal being. Jesus Christ is now fully God as he always was, of the same being as God the Father. He is also fully a human being, sharing our fallen human nature, but without incurring sin. His humanness and his Godness are inseparably and indivisibly united without change or mixture. One divine-human Christ, one Person, with one united nature and faculties which combine the divine and the human. Our union with this divine-human nature of Christ is what makes us participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 2:4; Hebrews 2:10-14) without ceasing to be human beings.
Salvation for us means more than escaping hell and going to heaven. It means separation from evil and growth in the good. It means eternal life with true holiness and righteousness. It means also being united with Christ in his divine-human nature, in his sonship and rule over the universe. It means becoming more and more God-like in love, power and wisdom. This is what the Holy spirit makes possible. What is humanly impossible becomes reality by the grace and power of God.
The participation in Christ’s body and His being and nature becomes possible, by the grace of God, by the Holy Spirit, through the "mysteries of the Church" (roze-d-idtho in Syriac), which are called Sacraments in the West. These mysteries, mainly Baptism -Chrismation-Eucharist, are acts in the community of Faith by which the eternal and eschatological (i.e. pertaining to the last times) reality of our oneness with Christ becomes experienced by faith in the Church, in time, here and now.

There are other mysteries also-Confession-Absolution for forgiveness of sins for the baptized, an anointing of the Sick for deliverance from Sin and Sickness. Marriage too is a mystery of the Church, because it unites Man and Woman in an act of permanent mutual commitment and permanent union, reflecting the Union of Christ with His Bride, the Church, or of God with the new Humanity.
Another great mystery of the Church is hierotonia (or hierothesia) the special laying of hands for receiving special gifts of the Holy Spirit - for the Bishop as the mystery -presence of Christ the High Priest and Good Shepherd with His Church, and the related ministries of ruling elders (priests or presbyters) and serving ministers (deacons and deaconesses).
We hold the Bible in very high regard. The Gospel is the Word of Life, the proclamation of life and salvation to the world. We hold the Scriptures in the highest respect, and no other writings can have the same standing, for the primary witness to Christ is in the Scriptures. We revere the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God, and all our prayers, as well as the services of the mysteries of the Church are saturated with Biblical reference, and always completed by the public reading of the Scriptures.
Icons are important for us. These mediate to the worshipping community the presence of the Saints, and of the saving events of our Lord’s incarnate life. We do not make images of the unseen God. We consecrate icons to mediate to us the Godbearing persons and events which have been actually manifested to our senses.

For us Tradition is not something old, static, and life-less; it is the life of the Church as a counting body, with the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit in it. It is the Spirit that makes the Tradition alive and it bears witness to Christ; it also moves forward in expectation of the final fulfillment. Hence Tradition for us is dynamic. It includes knowledge of Christ, the teaching of the Apostles, the doctrine of the Saints and fathers, the practices of worship developed by the community of faith, its way of doing things and practicing love. Scripture is part of this tradition. Tradition is not just a body of knowledge, but a way of life and worship and service.
Our worship as a community is the centre of our life, not our own personal articulations of faith. It is there that the Church, united with Christ, participates in Christ’s self-offering for the world. Our daily life flows out from worship and has to be a life of love and compassion, caring for the needy, struggling against evil, serving the poor.
Our hope is focused on Christ’s coming again. It is only in that coming that evil would be separated from good, death from life, so that the good can triumph eternally and grow eternally also. In that coming there will be a reconstitution of the universe; all things shall be made new; evil shall be banished. Death and darkness would be finally overcome; light and life and love will triumph.
It is our task to bear witness to this final reality, while living it out here and now, as much as we can, beset as we are by sin and frailty.
Thy Kingdom Come Lord. And when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom, remember us poor sinners also.

The Ecumenical Council of Nicea and Nicene Creed

The Oriental Orthodox Churches recognize only three ecumenical councils and the council of Nicea is the first among them. The Nicene Council, also known as First Ecumenical Council, was held in 325 and is one of the most important councils in Christian history. It was originally called by Emperor Constantine in order to address the challenges posed by Arianism. The council established the foundations of orthodox Christian belief with the Nicene Creed.

Two reasons are usually cited to justify the council’s ecumenical status. Firstly, the Emperor ordered that all legitimate bishops from the whole Church shall participate and secondly, a problem that affected the whole Church, namely, the Arian controversy was discussed and decided upon in the council. It was the Emperor Constantine himself, who opened the council on 20th May 325. He affirmed that the decision of the council shall be binding to the whole Church and he promised himself as the guarantor of unity between the state and the Church so that the decision of the council shall be universally binding. Also he declared that his successors would follow his policy.

318 bishops participated in the council, who are called ‘holy fathers of Nicea’ or just ‘holy 318’. The number 318 has a biblical significance as the bishops are seen like 318 servants of Abraham (Gen 14:14). Main participants were Ossius of Cordoba, Alexander of Alexandria, his deacon and secretary Athanasius, Eusthathius of Antioch, who was consecrated to the see of Antioch shortly before the council, and Eusebius of Caesarea, who accepted the homo-ousius teaching just before the council of Nicea. Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia and some other Arian supporters were also present in the proceedings. The council concluded on 19th of June officially, although, some records say that the council went on for some more time.

The council gave out four documents: 1. Confession of faith (Symbol), which Arius and two of his supporters declined to undersign and were thereby excommunicated and exiled to Illiricum. 2. The council decided upon the date of Easter and controversies on this issue were settled. 3. 20 Canons to the question of ecclesiastical discipline. 4. A synodal letter, which was sent to all sister Churches to explain the proceedings of the council and thereby a call to obey the decisions of the council.

Symbol of the Council of Nicea: 
“We believe in one true God, the Father almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten, begotten of the Father, that is, out of the ousia of the Father, God out of God, Light out of Light, true God out of true God, begotten, not made, of the same ousia as the Father, through whom all things were made, both those things in heaven and those on earth, who for us men and our salvation came down, took flesh, and was made human, suffered and rose up on the third day, ascended unto heaven and will come to judge both the quick and the dead; And in the Holy Spirit.
But those who say that there was a when, when He was not, and that He was made out of nothing (what did not exist), or who say that He is of another hypostasis or ousia, or that the Son of God is created or subject to change or alteration, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematize.”

Date of Easter: 

From the time of Polycarp of Smyrna (first half of the second century), the date of Easter was a matter of dispute. Irenaeus of Lyon has also expressed his opinion on this issue, but there was no consensus about this problem among the Church as a whole and therefore, the council of Nicea decided upon this question. Alexandrine Church as well as the Western Church celebrated Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring season and this was according to the Synoptic tradition. The Church in Asia Minor celebrated Easter according to the Jewish pattern, namely, the first Sunday after Nissan 14th, which was eventually the Johannine one too. The council of Nicea decided that Easter was to be celebrated according to the Alexandrine-Western practice, namely, on the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring season.

Canons of the Council:
Council of Nicea issued 20 canons on issues that matter to the discipline of the Church. Ecclesiastical structures are dealt with in canons 4-7, 15 and 16. Dignity of ordained people is mentioned in canons 1-3, 9, 10 and 17. The problem of open confession of sins during a liturgical action is the theme in canons 11-14. The question how to reinstate the lapsed, schismatic and heretics etc. into the Church is dealt with in canons 8 and 19. Liturgical admonitions are given in canons 18 and 20. From the above narration, it is clear that there is no systematic treatment of problems in the order of canons. Yet, these canons are considered as most important and binding to the whole Christian Church even today.

The history of Nicene Creed:
As it seen above, the Nicene Creed  was first adopted in 325 at the First Universal Christian Council of Nicaea. The Coptic Church has the tradition that the original creed was authored by Athanasius. There is also a strong tradition that the Nicene Creed was the local creed of Caesarea brought to the council by Eusebius of Caesarea. However, the creed was not in the full form that we see and use today!  It is in the second Ecumenical Council in 381 added the section that follows the words "We believe in the Holy 
Spirit" hence the creed is also known in the history as "Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed", referring to the Creed as it was after the modification in Constantinople.

 The third Ecumenical Council, Ephesus in 431, reaffirmed the 381 version, and decreed that "it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa." 

The Filioque controversy:
Amongst the Latin-speaking churches of Western Europe, the words "and the Son" (Filioque) were added to the description of the procession of the Holy Spirit, in what many have argued is a violation of the Canons of the Third Ecumenical Council. Those words were not included by either the Council of Nicaea or that of Constantinople, and hence Eastern Orthodox theologians consider their inclusion to be a heresy.  The dispute over the Filioque clause was one of the reasons for the East-West Schism. The clause had been adopted in the west , although the Third Ecumenical Council (431) had prohibited to individuals the promulgation of any other creed. The manner of the clause's adoption was therefore controversial and in the 10th century Photius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, used this clause in his conflict with the Pope. He accused the West of having fallen into heresy and thereby turned the Filioque clause into the doctrinal issue of contention between East and West.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches those who follow the uncorrupted faith of the Three Holy Ecumenical Synods have thus the Creed in the following formula. Since it the declaration of our Faith and cream of our theological stand point, it is the duty of the Church and believers to recite it in all our liturgical prayers and keep hold its faith in their daily life. 

I have also did a biblical analysis of the Nicene Creed to show that how much its words and usages  are owed and quoted from the Holly Bible, the word of God and the chief resource of the Church. One could see many more quotations from the word of God, however, what I did is giving model study of it.

The Nicene Creed
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)
And 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);
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);
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 church had no written constitution until 1934, but was governed by consensus, traditions and precedence. It was the vision of Mor Dionysius, Vattasseril to have a clearly defined uniform constitution to govern the church administration. He initiated action in this regard and appointed a sub-committee with O. M. Cherian as convener to submit a draft constitution. The committee members had discussed the fundamental issues with the Metropolitan in several rounds. However it was not finalized and passed (materialized) in his life time.

After his demise, the constitution was presented in the Malankara Christian Association meeting of Dec 26, 1934, held at M. D. Seminary. It was adopted and brought to force. Three times the constitution was amended to meet specific situations and needs. It only shows that the church is alive to meet the challenges that arise from time to time.
The validity of the constitution was challenged by the Patriarch party in the Court, but the Supreme Court has given its final verdict declaring the validity of the Constitution. Every member of the Church is bound by the rules and regulations laid down in the Constitution. 

The Constitution upholds the autonomy and autocephaly of the Malankara Orthodox Church. It is Episcopal in its (polity) and not congregational. At the same time it upholds democratic principle by safeguarding the rights and privileges of the lay people. It was framed at a time when the Patriarch of Antioch was held in high esteem and hence his limited role is included.

The constitution enshrines the fundamental features of the Church, provides direction for its internal administration and preserves its integrity and autonomy. The essential features of the Church are provided in the preamble. The first article emphasizes the bond of relationship between the Church of Syria and Malankara. The second article deals with the foundation of the Malankara Church by St. Thomas and the primacy of the Catholicos. The third article refers to the name of the church and the fourth about the faith, traditions etc., and the fifth about the canons governing the administration of the Church.

The whole constitution conceives the Malankara Church as self –sufficient in all her requirements, be it temporal, ecclesiastical or spiritual in nature and upholds that the Malankara Orthodox church is rightly autocephalous in character.

Syrian Heritage of the St. Thomas Christians

Syriac is the liturgical language of the St. Thomas Christians from a very early date, even though their identity and culture remained always truly Indian. This language, which belongs to the family of Semitic languages developed as an independent dialect of Aramaic with its own script in the 1st century A. D. Aramaic, believed to be in continuous use since 3000 years, was one of the most prominent languages of the middle east. It was the language of commerce and international relations in this region at least from 7th century B. C, and was the official language of the Persian (Achaemenid) empire from the 6th century B. C. Aramaic dialects were spoken in Palestine in the time of Jesus and thus it has the honor of being the language in which Christ and his disciples spoke. The early forms of Christian worship conducted in Jerusalem also would have been in Aramaic.

Edessa was the cradle of Syriac and it was primarily among the Christians of Edessa that it began to be used as an independent language. Soon it acquired the status of the language of Christian communities of Mesopotamia and Syria. These Christians began to be called as Syrians after the Roman province in which they lived – Syria-and their language was called Syriac. It did not take long for this language to reach Persia and from there to India – where it remains even today as the basic liturgical language of some Christian communities – and even up to China.

    Estrangela was the script initially used to write Syriac. Later two different scripts and pronunciations developed, one in the western parts of the Middle East (especially in the Roman empire) known as the western script or serto and another one in the eastern parts (especially in Persia) known as the eastern script or chaldean script. The serto is being used by the Syrian Orthodox, the Maronite and Syrian Catholic denominations whereas the Assyrian and Chaldean churches use the eastern script. Although remaining a single language, the two employ distinctive variations in pronunciation and writing system. The exact periods in which each of these forms developed is still a disputed question. It was after the 8th century that the estrangela script was steadily replaced in the west Syrian circles by the serto. However, recent discoveries show that serto scripts were in use much earlier; but as they were used more in business or administrative texts, ecclesiastical institutions and libraries rarely preserved them.  The eastern script, which resembles more to the estrangela came into regular use even later.

    Syriac literature covers numerous fields within and outside Christianity such as Biblical interpretations, theology, apologetics, history, monasticism, legends, civil and cannon law, philosophy, natural and physical science, astronomy and mathematics. St. Ephrem of Nisibis, Aphrahat the Persian Sage, Jacob of Serugh etc. are some of the eminent Syriac writers of the early centuries. With the invasion of the Middle Eastern region by the Arabs, Syriac language slowly lost its prominence until it was gradually banned by the Arab rulers. By the end of the 8th century, this language ceased to be spoken in cities, but was kept alive in villages and as a liturgical language. Writers like Moses Bar Kepha (9th cent.) Bar Salibi (12th cent.) continued to produce important literary works. Gregorios Bar Hebraeus (13th century) can be considered as the most renowned scholar and writer of the middle ages.A considerable amount of both prose and poetry continued to be written during the centuries that followed, but the language and literature could not flourish as before; it underwent a period of decline until it became almost a dead language. The late 19th century witnessed a revival of Syriac literary activity thanks to the contributions of men like T’oma Audo, Rahmani, Patriarch Ephrem Barsaum etc. Today different dialects of Syriac are spoken as the first language in small scattered communities in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Iran etc. Turoyo and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic are two of the important dialects of modern Syriac. Attempts are being made to revive its use. It remains as the basic liturgical language of some Christian denominations in the Middle East, but most of the liturgy has been translated into and is being conducted in Arabic.

    As far as historical evidence is available, it is now more or less an established fact that the St. Thomas Christians had very intimate relations with the Persian Church from a very early date. Even though it is difficult to precise dates due to scarcity of documents, most of the modern historians agree that the Church of Malabar was under the Metropolitan of Riwadisher, belonging to the Persian Church and they had adopted the east Syrian (Persian) liturgical traditions at least from the 4th century. We do not know how far the ordinary people of Malabar were proficient in this language, but at least the clergy would have been well versed in Syriac and the people could follow the worship conducted in it. Thus, even though Syriac neither is nor was the mother tongue of the Thomas Christians, they have a longer acquaintance with it than with their own mother tongue Malayalam (developed only in the 10th cent.) As Syriac was already present during the formative period of Malayalam, a lot of Syriac words have crept into it. Sleeba (cross), madbaha (alter), kasesa (priest), qurbana (Eucharist) are examples.

    The liturgy that was in use in this church when the Portuguese landed in Malabar (end of 15th cent.) was the east Syrian liturgy of Adai and Mari, the same as that of the Persian Church. Other liturgical practices also would have been in line with that of the east Syrian tradition. Later when the church had to face the threat of latinization under the Portuguese Archbishop Menezes, the Archdeacon of India and other leaders of the Church were constantly trying to establish contacts with churches in the Middle East following Syrian liturgy and traditions. In the turbulent events that followed in the 17th century, the St. Thomas Christians who resisted latinisation entered into an intimate relation with the west Syrian Church of Antioch. During the succeeding centuries (18th and 19th) the Church slowly accepted west Syrian liturgical traditions. Thus the liturgy of St. James replaced that of Adai and Mari. Other liturgical books such as order of sacraments of marriage, baptism, house blessing, funeral rites etc. were brought to Malabar by visiting bishops and Patriarchs of the Antiochian Church. Books of prayer such as shimo (prayer for ordinary days) prayers for the holy week, prayers for lent, the penquito (prayers for feasts and special days) etc. followed suite. Detailed rubrics conforming to antiochian practices were slowly established through bulls of Patriarchs and direct instructions given by visiting prelates. Patriarch Peter III, who visited the Malankara Church during the last quarter of the 19th century, did give the final touch to the antiochianisation of the Malankara Church. It is inferred that he even tried to conform the dress of the people of Malankara to that of the Syrians, an attempt which proved to be a failure.

    The establishment of Syriac printing presses, first in Cochin, (St. Thomas press), which was later shifted to Kottayam, and in Pampakuda (Mar Julius press, in 1879) helped the spread of west Syrian liturgical traditions. A Syriac periodical by name simath haye, published from the Mar Julius Press popularized even patristic texts, side by side with books of worship.

    If the 19th century saw the establishment of west Syrian traditions in Kerala, the 20th century can be distinguished as the era of translations. Especially during the second half of the past cent most of the liturgical texts were translated to Malayalam. Eminent linguists like St. Dionysius Vattasseril, Konat Mathen Malpan and Mattackal Alexandreos Malpan gave the lead to this trend while H. H. Mar Baselios Augen I, H. H. Mar Baselios Mathews I, H. G. Youhanon Mar Severios and Konat Abraham Malpan followed suit in the next generation. Now almost all liturgical texts, except some used in very rare and special occasions, have been made available in Malayalam. Translations in other Indian languages and English are under way.

    It has to be born in mind that the St. Thomas Christians, even while accepting and feeling proud of their Syrian liturgical heritage, has always adopted those traditions in combination with local customs and practices. For example, customs related to birth, marriage and funeral have a lot of local elements. As stated at the out set, though they have inherited Antiochian faith and liturgy, their culture is Indian.

Oriental and Eastern Orthodox churches

Who are these Orthodox-- Protestants or Roman Catholics?
What do they believe differently from the others?
What is the difference between Orthodox and other Christians? 
Let me try some simple answers to these three questions.
Who are the Indian Orthodox? 
First, both Roman Catholics and Protestants are Western Christian groups. The Orthodox Church is not Western Christianity. Eastern in origin, it was from the beginning open to influences from all cultures. In the first century, Christianity was primarily an Asian-African religion. Only by the 4th century did the Roman Empire become increasingly Christian. The Strength of Christianity in the early period was in Palestine, Syria, Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt, and Libya. We can make a list of the earliest Churches -- the Churches of the first century.

In the West, i.e. Italy: 2 Churches -- Rome and Puteoli (today Pozzuoli near Naples) 
Western Greece: 5 Churches -- Nicopolis, Corinth, Athens, Thessalonica and Philippi. 
Eastern Greece (Asia Minor, today Turkey): 15 Churches -- Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Troas, Miletus, Colossae, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. 
Syria and the East: 6 Churches -- Antioch, Tarsus Edessa, Damascus, Tyre, Sidon 
Palestine: 4 Churches-- Caesarea, Jerusalem, Samaria, Pella 
Cyprus: 2 Churches-- Paphos and Salamis
Egypt: Alexandria 
Pentapolis (North Africa): Cyrene 
India: Malabar

As you can see, only 2 out of 37 Apostolic Churches are strictly Western. If Western Greece and Cyprus are also regarded as Europe, then nine Churches are in Europe, while 28 are in Asia and Africa. 
The Orthodox Church claims to be the true successor of all these Apostolic Churches, including the Italian Churches, which used Greek as their language of worship in that century. So the Orthodox Church is neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant. It regards itself as the true and faithful successor of the ancient Apostolic Church, and regards the Western or Roman Catholic Church as a group that broke off and went astray from the true tradition of the Christian Church. The Protestant Churches broke off much later (in the 16th century and after) from the Roman Catholic. 
The Orthodox are today in two families -- the Oriental Orthodox family, to which the Indian Orthodox Church belongs, and the Byzantine Orthodox family, which is four times as large. 
The Oriental Orthodox family has five Churches -- India, Armenia, Syria, Egypt and Ethiopia - three in Asia and two in Africa. Total membership is over 25 millions.

The Byzantine Orthodox family has over 100 million members -- in Greece, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Western Europe, America, Australia and so on. Their members are mostly Slavic, Greek or Roman in origin. But they are also regarded as Eastern, though they are a bit less Asian-African. 
Thus the Indian Orthodox Church is a strictly Asian-African Church, an Apostolic Church in continuity with the ancient West Asian Apostolic Church. This Church was established in India in the very first century by the Apostle. St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. It is one of the 40 or so ancient Apostolic Churches of the world.

What do they believe differently? 

The very question is a Western one. In the West a Church is defined mainly by what it believes, ie. by its doctrines and teachings. This intellectualist orientation of faith does not belong to the Eastern tradition. 
The Orthodox confess the same faith as the ancient Church -- the faith as was later formulated in the fourth century in the councils of Nicea and Constantinople. 
We object to certain later additions made by the Roman Catholics, for example the addition of the word ‘filioque’ in the Latin creed. They, for example, teach that the Holy Spirit, one of the Three Persons  of the Trinity, proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque means ‘and from the Son’). We do not teach so. The son is begotten by the father; the Spirit proceeds from the Father. The words “begotten’ and ‘proceeding’ delineate the difference between the Son and the Spirit in their relation to the Father. In later centuries, especially after the fifth century when the Western Church broke from the Asian-African moorings, it misunderstood the word ‘proceeding’ as related to the coming of the Spirit in the Church on Pentecost. This coming, of course, is from the Father and the Son, but that is not what is meant by ‘proceeding’. The latter word denotes the eternal relation between the Father and the Spirit, and not the relation in time and history.
In the eternal dimension we cannot say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Therefore ‘filioque’ is out of place, wrong and misleading. 
There are other doctrines and dogmas which the Roman Catholic Church has added to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed -- eg. the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the dogma of Papal Infallibility, and the dogma of the bodily assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first two are wrong and the third is not dogma, for the Orthodox. We do not believe that there is any special miracle called Immaculate Conception connected with the origin and birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Nor do we believe that the Pope or any other human being is infallible. As for the teaching about the bodily assumption of Mary, We do teach it, but not as some central dogma of the Church. 
Nor do we believe that believing in the right dogma is the evidence of a true Christian. We put equal emphasis on the way of life, on the way of worship, on the way of disciplining oneself as on the way of thinking and belief. 

What then is the difference between East and West? 

It is not so easy to pinpoint the difference in words. It seems the difference is more one of ethos, of orientation, of spirit rather than of dogma or belief. 
Let us state some of the more obvious differences. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, believes in a universal organizational structure for the Church with one particular bishop, namely the Bishop of Rome or the Pope, holding a unique position in the whole world. We Easterners do not accept any one bishop as having universal jurisdiction or authority. So the Orthodox have no Pope. What they have is really an Episcopal Synod for each local or national Church. The President of the Synod may be a Patriarch, a Catholicos, and Archbishop or even a Pope as in the case of the Coptic Church of Egypt. But no such Synod or its president can have universal jurisdiction over the Churches of other countries. Each local or national Church with its Episcopal Synod and Patriarch is autocephalous, ie. it has its own head, and does not look to any other Church to exercise authority over it.

This difference in turn is based on a more profound understanding of what we call the Church Catholic. The Church Catholic is not the Roman Catholic Church. It is the whole Church, in all time and space, in its qualitative and quantitative fullness. The universal Church is not the Church Catholic. The latter includes all those who have ever lived on earth as Christians in former times, ie. Christ and the Apostles, the prophets, martyrs, confessors, fathers, doctors, ordinary believers and so on. The universal Church is, of course, composed only of those now living. The Orthodox Church had no category called the universal Church. The attempt to create a category called the “ecumenical church” by the Constantinople Church, has been virtually rejected by the Orthodox tradition.

Now the Roman Catholic Church has something called the Universal Church, and the Pope is the head of this Universal Church. So, for them, the fullness of the Church means the Universal Church which is for them, the manifestation of the Church Catholic. Because they think this way, the local Church is only part of the Universal Church and cannot be autocephalous or having its own head. The local church is ever incomplete, according to this view, without the head of the Universal Church, the Pope, since the part is never complete without the whole. Hence the insistence of the second Vatican Council that 
“The College or body of bishops has no authority unless it is simultaneously conceived of in terms of its head, the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor.... Together with its head, the Roman Pontiff, and never without this head, the Episcopal order is the subject of Supreme and full power over the Universal Church. But this power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff.” (Lumen Gentinum: 22) 
This teaching the Eastern Orthodox regard as rank heresy, and based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the relation between the local Church and the Church Catholic. The Easterners believe that the Church Catholic is fully manifest in the local Church, where the people are in communion with the bishops of the Episcopal Synod. We do not regard the local Church as part, but as the manifestation of the fullness, of the Church Catholic. The error in the teaching of the Roman Church, we feel, is due to its breaking away from the tradition of the Church Catholic in the 5th century.

Neither does the Orthodox Church teach that the bishop or college of bishops alone exercise authority in the Church. Every baptised Christian shares in the kingly, priestly and prophetic authority of the Church, though the bishop has a certain fullness of spiritual power which others in the Church do not have. But the bishop separated form the Church is nothing. It is only in communion with the Church. With the college of presbyters and deacons and with the people that he exercises his power. The Orthodox Church is thus much more conciliar and communitarian in structure. 
Neither did the Orthodox Church ever develop an aggressive or institutional mission such as Roman Catholics and Protestants have developed. The witness of the Orthodox is a quiet one, based more on worship and a holy life of love and service, than on preaching and proselytism. This lack of aggressiveness is often criticized by Western Christians as a lack of missionary fervour. But we know that the aggressive Western missionary movement is intimately linked with the economic, cultural and colonial expansionism of the West, and we would rather not be associated with such an aggressive and institutionalized mission.

The worship of the Church is the centre of the Orthodox ethos, rather than its mission. The mission follows naturally from true worship and feeds into it. It is in the eucharistic worship of the Church that the Orthodox have a foretaste of the Kingdom which is coming. To join with the angels and archangels in the adoration of the one True God and to rejoice in his presence of the Spirit through the Son-- this is the heart of the Orthodox ethos. The Orthodox Churches under Muslim or Communist oppression always survived because of this worship orientation.
The West separates action from contemplation, thought and prayer. For us it is in and from eucharistic worship that all action, contemplation, thought and prayer derive their significance. 
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