Period of Qayta


 

apostlesRev. Dr. Prof. John Moolan

 

The literal meaning of Syriac term qayta is summer. It is in summer that the vegetative fruition takes place. Accordingly the theological significance of this period is the spiritual fruition in the Church by the working of the apostles. This is a growth in faith, sanctity and love among the members of the Church. Mere numerical growth without a spiritual dimension is useless. The main role of the Church is to grow herself towards Christ and make others to grow towards the same motto of “Living is Christ and dying is gain” (Phil 1:21).

Normally, the liturgical season Qayta (Summer) is a period of seven weeks. But to celebrate the first Sunday of Elias before the feast of the Cross on September 14, in some years when the date of Easter comes late, the sixth and seventh Sundays must be combined and celebrated together.

According to Hudra (Cycle), this period begins with the last Sunday of the Apostles which is named Nusardel. Why it is called Nusardel is not clear. After the title of the day, the interpretation given for this term in the Hudra is: “The feast of God, and the feast of twelve Apostles.”[1] Hoffman gives another interpretation, namely this is the first Sunday of the Persian New Year, where Christians celebrated the New Year in the fourth century.[2]

1. First Sunday

Twelve apostles are commemorated on this Sunday. The explanation for this change of memory of saints from Friday to Sunday, can be observed in the another title given to this feast in Hudra (cycle), that is, “the feast of God”. The feasting or the celebration of God in our lives became possible through the works of the Apostles who instilled faith and sanctity in us to provide God experience. So also this Sunday (the Lord’s Day) comes in the middle of the periods of Apostles (spreading of the Church) and of Qayta (growth of the Church) that are mutually related in their spirit. Thus it might have been dedicated for the twelve apostles who became the cause of feasting, celebrating, and experiencing God in the hearts of people. This Sunday known also s Nusardel (Nau-Sard-El = New Year of God)[3] in Persian language, signifies that it is with the Apostles a new era of the Church (of God) started celebrating the mysteries of Christ in life

For the Thomas Christians in Malabar, this Nusardel Sunday is an important day in their history, which reminds them of their early relationship with the Chaldean Church. It was on this day that the Portuguese missionaries welcomed with whole heart Mar Jacob (1503-1547) and other three bishops who arrived at Kannoor, Kerala, from the Middle East and allowed them to celebrate Holy Mass. Thus the missionaries, who later found fault with Malabar Christians for anything and everything, originally accepted and recognised on this Nusardel Sunday that the Syrian bishops of the St. Thomas Christians were Catholics.

2. Fridays of Qayta

The Fridays of Qayta are the commemoration days of the martyrs of the Church. These commemorations are very suitable to this period when we celebrate the growth of the Church through the blood of martyrs. The sacrifices of the apostles and martyrs paved the way for the growth of the Church. The Church that grew up in the blood of martyrs can not fade away in the sunlight. The further growth of the Church is entrusted with us. When we grow in faith, love and sanctity, then the Church grows. For attaining this purpose we have to follow the sacrifices of the apostles and the courage of martyrs. A life as if not of this world is fostered here (Jn 17:14).

Except for the third and fourth Fridays, set apart for local martyrs, all other Fridays of this season give the following commemorations.

a. First Friday: Jacob of Nisibis

Jacob of Nisibis, a Syrian ascetic, was born and brought up in Nisibis. He became the second bishop of Nisibis (308-338/350), near Turkey at the boarder of Syria, during the persecution of Sapor II (309-379) in Persia. As a wise and educated metropolitan, he constructed the basilica of Nisibis and founded the theological School of Nisibis after the model of the school of Diodorus of Tarsus (d.390), Antioch. Jacob, the teacher and spiritual director of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (d.373) known as the harp of the Holy Spirit,[4] combated Aryanism and died peacefully in Nisibis in 338.[5]

b. Second Friday: Mar Mari, the Disciple of Addai

            Mar Mari one of the great apostles to Syria and Persia was converted by Addai to his discipleship. Mari is believed to have done missionary work also in Nineveh, Nisibis, and along the Euphrates. Mar Aggai was his spiritual director.[6] Apocryphal Acts of Mar Mari are connected with him.[7]

Mar Addai, one of the 70/72 disciples of Jesus and the apostle of Edessa, was sent my Mar Thoma the apostle to heal King Abgar the Black. He healed and converted Abgar and evangelised his people together with Mar Aggai and Mar Mari.[8]

The Divine Liturgy (Anaphora) of Addai and Mari, the oldest one without institution words dated to the third century, is used by Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Syro-Malabarites.[9]

c. Third Friday: No commemoration is found, perhaps dedicated to the memory of local martyrs.

d. Fourth Friday: No commemoration is found, perhaps dedicated to the memory of local martyrs.

c. Fifth Friday: St. Simoni and her Seven Sons (2 Mac 7:1 -42)

d. Sixth Friday: Mar Simon Bar Sabbae and other martyrs

The Persian King Sapor II (309-379),[10] on Good Friday in 341, killed Mar Simon Bar Sabbae, Catholicos of Seleucia-Ctesiphone, and many other bishops.[11] Christians began to celebrate this day as the feast day of martyrs. Since Good Friday was the commemoration day of our Lord’s death, the Friday after Easter was set apart for them, which gradually became All Saints’ Day.[12]

e. Seventh Friday: St. Qardagh, a Persian Martyr.

Qardagh was born in a noble family of Sassanian Empire during the fourth century. Impressed by his handsome appearance and athleticism, King Sapor II (309-379) appointed him the governor for a large region in northern Persia. There he visited the Syriac hermit Abdisho who converted him to Christianity. This made the king and his family angry against him for his rejection of Zoroastrian Faith, and he was sentenced to be stoned to death.

Qardagh fled with his guards to the mountains where he defended himself for a number of months. One night Saint Stephen the martyr appeared and told him to become a martyr for the faith than fighting for life. Thus, he surrendered to the king, and it was his own father who threw the first of stones in the region of Melqi near the city of Arbela, Iraq, which led him to receive the crown of martyrdom.[13]

3. Transfiguration

August 6, forty days before September 14, the Exaltation of the Cross, is the day of Transfiguration commemorated in the Orient. Since Christ foretold His suffering, death and resurrection, forty days before His death on the Cross, His Transfiguration is considered as the anticipation of the awaiting eschatological glory of Jesus and His disciples in heaven. Therefore the ancients might have thought of fixing this particular day for the day of transfiguration as an anticipation of the foretaste of the eschatological glory attained through the power of the Cross.[14] This feast in the period of Qayta encourages practicing virtues in life in order to grow towards the glory of Christ, through sanctity and holiness.

4. Liturgical Themes

a. Works of the Apostles

This period of the liturgical year commemorates the works of the apostles, which led to the spreading of the Church. They founded the Church throughout the world and succeeded in it, because of their hard work. The main purpose of their mission was the building up of the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people.[15] This evangelical work is compared to the ploughing of land. The Cross as the plough and the hearts of people as the land, they ploughed the hearts with Cross in their hands and removed the weeds of idolatry uprooting paganism from them. Then they sowed the seeds of God’s words in their hearts, which produced hundred, sixty and thirty fold of fruits (Mt 13:8).

They entrusted the Gospel, Cross, and sacraments as the treasures of the Church to their followers. Thus, they showed the way of life to the whole world, conferred Holy Spirit to illumine their hearts, and rejected their own will for the sake of God’s will. Thus, they taught to fight for Christ until death.

b. Growth of the Church

This period commemorates the flourishing of the Church. Just as the climate in summer is conducive to the flourishing of plants and trees and to producing fruits, so too this period of the liturgical year commemorates the works of the innumerable faithful and the abundant fruits of their martyrdom, which led to the spiritual growth of the Church. Here, the qualitative growth is to be given prime importance than the quantitative level. Like the apostles, our own duty is to witness Christ to the world throughout life. The spiritual growth of the faithful in faith, love, and hope together with other virtues leads to the exaltation of the sanctuary with glory and the crowning of the faithful with honour: “O Lord the Almighty, Your sanctuary is exalted with glory and the faithful of Your Church are crowned with honour. Multiply Your lasting peace and tranquillity among Your people.”[16]

b. Revelation

The revelation of divine mysteries through the apostles is an important aspect of this season. The knowledge of Triune God was handed over to generations by the apostles. The apostolic works made public the sanctifying effect of the sacraments in the Church. The formal establishment of sacraments by them manifested the necessity of incorporating the paschal mysteries into life. Now it is our duty to live them up in day to day life.

The theology of suffering is another revelation through the apostles. Their joy in suffering was for the sake of Jesus and His Kingdom. They were even ready to forsake their lives for the sake of Jesus in order to find it again: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39). The apostles showed the world to forgo joyfully the selfish motivations for the sake of the building up of the mystical body of Christ.

c. Repentance

Repentance through penance leads one to grow towards sanctity acquiring the mercy of God. Repentance and penance are useless after death.[17] Therefore, this is the time for good works and sacrifices repenting over the wasting of time through laziness.[18] “If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?” (1 Pet 4:18), should be the motto of life in this season. Since we are in exile on earth (1 Pet 1:17), we should be cautious to conduct ourselves in fear of God.[19] The vanity of the earthly life and its pleasures must induce to think of the eschatological realities that help us to turn towards God.

The spirit of penance that turns the soul away from evil inclinations should govern the life on earth. Cursing of fig tree is a warning (Lk 13:6-9) for not to be like self-deceivers. Like the tax collector we have to ask for the mercy of God (Lk 18:13-14) to acquire heavenly treasures now, because the final verdict will be, “Take what belongs to you and go” (Mt 20:14). This indicates that the each moment of our life is decisive in God’s hand.

d. Preparation for the Second Coming

            As a preparation for the periods that follow, the seasons of Elias-Cross and Moses, the last judgement is also recalled in this season:

When we all stand before Your terrible tribunal, where each of us will receive retribution in the body of our nature according to the scrutiny of Your terrible judgement…O Lord, pardon those who have eaten Your Body and Blood.[20]

Hence this season reminds us of our own preparation to meet with His judgement at any time. The best means of preparation for the last judgement is to turn the soul away from evilness, Cherishing the spirit of penance, so that we may acquire the mercy of God in that decisive moment of life.

5. Lectionary Theology

The lectionary system of this season from Sunday to Sunday Eucharist, unfolding the diachronic setting of scripture lessons and the synchronic setting of the mystery of the growth of the Church commemorated in the liturgical propers, enable a dynamic encounter with gospel values to be practiced in daily life. The reincorporation into the Paschal events reminds the faithful of their commitments to lead a new life in Christ.

a. Diachronic System

Diachronism indicates the chronological, thematic, and linguistic agreement of scripture lessons showing the progress of scripture lessons on Sundays by establishing an agreement between the Old and the New Testament scripture lessons within the periods of the liturgical year. The seasonal Sunday lessons bring out a gradual unfolding of the chronological order of the Christ event in salvation history. In this respect, the theme of the first Sunday gets a further development on the second Sunday; the third Sunday proceeds from the second Sunday, and so on. For this purpose, the scripture lessons in the lectionary system are anamnetically and epicletically interpreted. The whole system follows a historically ordered sequence of gospel events to which the other lessons are oriented as follows.[21]

Sundays

Anamnetic Lessons

Epicletic Lessons

Type

Real

Prophetic  Admonitions

Apostolic Exhortations

1.1 Kgs 18:30-39 Elijah’s     Mount Carmel sacrifice Luke 14:1-14 Sabbath healing,    guests and hosts Acts 5:12-33 Church growth    and the first persecution 1 Cor 1:9-16; 2 Cor 1:8-14   Appeal for unity
2.Deut 4:32-40 Israel,   God’s chosen race Luke 15:4-32 Three parables    on God’s mercy Isa 3:16-4:6 Warning to the    daughters of Zion 2 Cor 3:4-18 The glory of   ministry
3.Deut 5:1-15 First three of     Ten Commandments John 9:1-38 Healing of the    blind man Isa 5:1-7 Israel the vineyard    of wild and sour  grapes 2 Cor 7:1-11 Paul’s joy in   repentance
4.Deut 5:16-6:3 Last seven   of Ten Commandments Mark 7:1-22 Rebuke on    pharisaic blind traditions Isa 9:8-21 Evil consequences    of sin 2 Cor 10:1-18 Call to obey   the Gospel
5.Lev 23:33-43 Guidelines   on feast of tabernacles Luke 16:19-17:10 Teachings    on sharing, forgiveness, faith Isa 28:14-22 Warning against    evil counselors 2 Cor 12:14- Improper   behavior
6.Lev 19:1-4, 9-14 Laws on   right conduct Luke 17:5-19 Teaching on     inner renewal Isa 29:13-24 Woe to the     escapers of God’s  counsel 1 Thess 2:1-12 Pleasing   God rather than men
7.Lev 19:15-19; 20:9-14   Laws on good behavior Luke 18:1-14 Illustrations of    constant and humble prayer Isa 30:1-15 Unfaithful people 1 Thess 2:14-3:13 Paul’s   prayer for the Church

(1) Anamnetic

            The book of law presents the criteria for Israel’s spiritual growth. Measures for this growth include obedience to the commandments, the choice of the right path, the keeping of Sabbath worship, and works of justice and charity. Whenever Israel broke the laws and went astray, they were condemned; a reorientation of mind and heart toward Yahweh restored them spiritually.

The gospel events put forward guidelines for a proper spiritual growth. Jesus demonstrates concern for the new Israel, the Church, in her growth towards God’s Kingdom. Growth is made visible by the practices of humility, sharing, repentance, forgiveness, love, and concern for others. Fruitful Christians are those who are fully followers of Jesus. Jesus is always near to those who approach him with an innermost thirst for renewal and restoration. The parable of the judge and widow is a good example of God’s concern for those who approach him earnestly. Real spiritual growth occurs when one becomes the dwelling place of God.

(2) Epicletic

            The prophet Isaiah makes clear the necessity of openness to God for spiritual uplift. God’s counsel is more important than human advice for the bearing of good fruits. The prophets express woe to those who disregard God’s counsel; blessings are always upon those who fulfill the will of God. All are called to please the Lord being faithful to him forever.

            The apostolic exhortations contain God’s counsel for a fruitful and spiritual growth: obedience to the Gospel, use of diverse gifts, courage in proclaiming the truth, good conduct, search for the will of God, fulfillment of Christian duties, avoidance of scandals, and practice of doing charity. Striving for perfection enables real Christian growth that allows one to experience the real presence of the mystical body of Christ on earth. Thus growth in such virtues as faith, hope, love, and sanctity make possible the true growth of the Church. Qualitative growth is of supreme concern to the church.

b. Synchronic System

            Theological themes related to the mystery of the growth of the Church include preparation for the second coming of Christ, repentance, and concerns for the vanity of the world.[22] The principles of truth, faith, mercy, and love are the mottos of life followed here. All are called to become good seeds that yield rich harvest (Mk 4:20). This is achieved when lead a life without fault and blame observing divine laws and doing charity. The world and its pomp vanish like a bubble in the sea, but those who do God’s-will shall endure forever.

Conclusion 

            The period of Qayta celebrates the mystery of the growth of the Church in faith, love, and hope. Spiritual growth is an important inner process, which makes one fit for a better, happier, and more harmonious life, free of tension, strain, fear, and anxiety. Spiritual growth in Christian virtues helps to getting rid of wrong concepts, thoughts, and beliefs about who we are and about the world in which we live.

The apostles are the great successors of Christ through their ardent faith, love, and hope that they witnessed to the world. The holy martyrs and saints, as the shining fruits of the Church, are the great warriors who fought for Christ through bloodshed instigating the Church to be courageous to witness faith against all threats and calumniations in life. Following the footsteps of the apostles and martyrs, all have to grow spiritually producing fruits conducive to acquire eternal life.

In order to keep up the proper track in the growth of the Church repentance and penance are called forth to face worthily the Lord at His judgement upon us. Real growth will produce fruits that will guarantee eternal life. The surety of eternal life is the greatest achievement of Christian life.


[1] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 169.

[2] G.Hoffman, Auszűge aus Syrischen Akten persischer Märtyrer (Leipzig, 1880) 59, note 253, cited in J.Mteos, Lelya-sapra, 462-463.

[3] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 169.

[4] K.E.McVey, Ephrem the Syrian : Hymns by Ephraem, Syrus Saint ( New York,1989); S.P.Brock, The Harp of the Spirit : Eighteen Poems of Saint Ephrem by Ephraem, Syrus Saint ( San Bernardino, 1984);  S.P.Brock, The Luminous Eye : The Spiritual World Vision of Saint Ephrem (Kalamazoo, 1992); A.Vööbus, Literary,Critical and Historical Studies in Ephrem the Syrian (Stockholm, 1958).

[6] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01136d.htm, accessed on 22.7.2012.

[7] C. Jullien, F.Jullien, eds., Aux origines de l’eglise de Perse: les Actes de Mar Mari, CSCO 602, 604 (Leuven, 2003); A.Harrak, The Acts of Mar Mari the Apostle (Atlanta, 2005); I.Ramelli, ed.,  Atti di Mar Mari (Brescia, 2008).

[9]A.Gelston, The Eucharistic Prayer of Addai and Mari (Oxford, 1992); B.D Spinks, Addai and Mari : the Anaphora of the Apostles: A Text for Students (Bramcote, 1980);  T.Elavanal, The memorial Celebration : A Theological Study of the Anaphora of the Apostles Mar Addai and Mari, OIRSI 125 (Kottayam,1989).

[10] J.M.Fiey, Nisibe Métropole Siriaque Orientale et ses suffragants des origenes à nos jours, CSCO, subsidia 54 (Louvain, 1977) 26.

[11] A.Scher, Histoire Nestorienne inedited (Chronique de Séert), PO 4.3 (Paris, 1908) 304; J.Mateos, Lelya-Sapra, 242; A.Baumstark, Festbrevier und Kirchenjahr der syrischen Jacobiten, Stidien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Altertum 3 (Paderborn, 1910) 251, 253.

[12] A.Scher, ed., Traités d’Isai le docteur et de Hnana  d’Adiabene sur les Martyrs, le Vendredi d’Or et les Rogations, et confession de foi a réciter par les évêque Nestoriens avant l’ordination, PO 7.1 (Paris, 1911) 27-28.

[13] J.T.Walker, The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq (California, 2006) 246, 254-257.

[14] D.A.Lee, Transfiguration (New York, 2004); J.W.C.Wand, Transfiguration (London, 1967); M.McClure, Transfiguration (Cambridge, 1973).

[15] Rabban Brik-Iso, “Preface” to the Hudra in Cambridge Add.1981 (1607 AD), 3rv; see trans. J,Mateos, Lelya-Sapra, 462-463.

[16] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 177.

[17] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 307.

[18] P.Bedjan, Breviarium, III, 184-185,

[19] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 20.

[20] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 188.

[21] Ordo celebrationis 54-55; Supplementum mysteriorum, 124-139.

[22] Supplementum Mysteriorum, 123-139; P. Bedjan, Breviarium III, 169-256.

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