Period of the Dedication of the Church (Qudas Edta)

Rev. Dr. Prof. John Moolan    

This period comprises the last four weeks of the East Syrian liturgical year. The rubric indicates the mandate for the beginning of the season. If the November first is a Sunday, then the same day begins the season. If is a Monday or Tuesday, then the season begins on the previous Sunday.  But, if it is a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, then the season begins on the following Sunday.[1] For convenience sake, we can say that this period starts before four Sundays of the beginning of the Annunciation-Nativity season, the beginning of this liturgical year.[2]

The Syriac term Edta indicates generally the Church, the bride of Christ. The same term in Hebrew means also the encounter, meeting, assembly, congregation of Yahweh, or the congregation of the Israelites (Ex 12:3; Num 27:17). The East Syrians use this term to signify also the church building, the place of worship.[3]

1. The Naming of Sundays

Among the four Sundays of this season in the Hudra (cycle), the first Sunday is named Hudat Edta (renewal of the Church).[4] The West Syrians with two Sundays of this season in the beginning of their liturgical year name the first Sunday Hudat Edta and the second Sunday Qudas Edta. In the Syriac version of bible (Pesitta) the name Hudat Edta is given to the feast of the dedication of the Jerusalem temple (Jn 10:22). Therefore Hudat Edta is more ancient than the present name Qudas Edta (Dedication of the Church), which might have been adapted later in order to clarify its significance as the final dedication of the Church by Christ to His Father at Parousia (the eschatological appearance).[5]

2. Different Opinions

There are differences in opinions regarding the origin of the feast of the Dedication. Is it the dedication of the church of Edessa,[6] or the dedication of the patriarchal church of Seleucia-Ctesiphon,[7] or the Jewish dedication of all temples known as the feast of Hnukkah (1 Mac 4:59), which lasted for eight days from the 25th of the Jewish month of Chislev (between November 30 and December 25),[8] or the Palestine dedication (encaenia) simply transplanted to Syrian soil, that is the feast of the dedication of the Church of the Anasthasis (resurrection) on the holy sepulchre in Jerusalem on September 13, 135, in order to mark the triumph of Constantine the Great (306-337)?[9] Any how, we are not quite certain of these possibilities. The feast itself might have been celebrated by the Christian community from the early centuries, but the period seems to have been formed later.[10]

3. Formation

It is Iso-Yahb III, the Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (647-657), who separating four weeks of Moses instituted four Sundays of Dedication[11] in imitation of the four dedications of the tabernacle in the Old Testament: (a) The tabernacle dedicated by Moses (Ex 40:1, 17), (b) The tabernacle at Shiloh dedicated by the people of Israel (Josh 18:1), (c) The dedication of the temple by Solomon (1 Kings 8:63), (d) The tabernacle dedicated by Joshua and Zerubabel (Ezra 3:1-3).[12] The motivation behind this arrangement might be the closing of the liturgical year with four weeks of Dedication just as it started with four weeks of Annunciation. Thus the liturgical year shall come to a perfect cycling of the salvation history in the course of heavenward yearly pilgrimage to meet the Lord (the Groom) face to face by the Church (the Bride) enjoying her heavenly glory.

4. Sunday of Entry

At the beginning of this period the Chaldeans make a solemn entry to the church.[13] As we have already seen from the feast of ascension onwards, the sixth Thursday of Resurrection, the Chaldeans conduct all liturgical rites except the Eucharist part of Qurbana (offering of the Eucharist), outside the church due to the heat of the summer.[14] But, since the winter is approaching now, they enter into the church in a solemn procession that takes place before the hymn “to you the Lord of all” (lakuMara d’kolla) in Ramsa. From then onwards all the services are held inside the Church. According to the rubrics in Hudra (cycle), this entrance takes place on the first Sunday of this season: “If November first falls on a Sunday, it is celebrated as the entrance Sunday. If it falls on Monday or Tuesday, the entrance takes place on the previous Sunday. If it falls on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday the entrance is on the following Sunday.”[15]

5. Liturgical Themes

            The final glory of the Church saved by Christ is ineffable or inexpressibly great in the eternal abode where she will sing everlasting praises to the eternal High priest. The propers of this season often speak of Christ’s meeting with His spouse, the Church, redeemed by His blood.

a. Glory of the Church

Glory of the Church contains in the way she was established and adorned with divine graces. Church is a divine institution that nothing can overturn her. She can withstand all difficulties due to her divine nature of Christ’s mystical body.

(1) Divinely Instituted

The glory of the Church is magnificent due to her privileged position in Christ. Christ has saved her with His Cross, nourished with His body, redeemed with His blood, and fortified with His truth. Through Christ, the Church has become the replica of His heavenly abode and the port of peace on earth.[16] The Church founded by the Father, established by the Son, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit manifests her Trinitarian power through the sacraments and priesthood established in her for the remission of debts and the forgiveness of sins.[17]

The strength of the Church contains in her establishment on the rock of faith proclaimed by Peter (Mt 16:18). The promise of Christ, that the powers of death shall not prevail over, is her energy to fight against evil powers that try to conquer her. Just as the house built on the rock shall never fall down even when the rains fall, floods come, and the winds blow and beat upon it (Mt 7:24-25), so also the Church, as the house of God, built on strong and deep faith shall never be changed even when heresies and paganisms storm against it.[18]

(2) Glory of the Tent of Moses and the Church

The prayer system of this period brings forth the magnanimity of the Church and her glory in comparison with the tent of testimony dedicated by Moses (Ex 40; Heb 9).[19] Moses’ tent was man made, while the Church is divine made. The tent of Moses was a port of sinners, while the Church is salvation for all. The tent was purified with animal blood, but the Church is purified with Jesus’ own blood. The tent was covered with bright cloud, while the Church is filled with the grace of Christ. The tent contained two tablets of commandments, but the Church contains the Cross, Gospel, and mysteries (sacraments), the divine treasures. Thus, the glory of the Church is the glory of Christ himself. Hence, each one has to take care of attaining this glory in the kingdom of heaven. Those who have eaten His body and drunk His blood are expected to be with Him in His eternal dwelling place.

b. Church, the Bride

The Church as the bride of Christ is another fundamental theme of this season. But, the liturgical texts address not only the Son, but also the Father as the Groom, “Blessed are you, O Church, crowned bride of the Father, the King of kings;”[20] “O Church, the adorned spouse, the engaged one of the King and the daughter of the King, glorify and thank the heavenly spouse who sanctified you.”[21] Perhaps, it is due to the establishment of the primordial Church by the Father on Mount Sinai, “O Father who established His dwelling place on the Mount Sinai and filled it with sanctity of your glory, fill with glory also the temple dedicated to your love,”[22] or due to the oriental biblical expression of attributing the parenthood of one person to the another, i.e. the Father’s plan of salvation being actualised in the Son.[23]

The bride and groom symbolism shows the intimate relationship between the Church and Christ. The concept of Christ’s wedding with the Church is found especially in East Syrian liturgical periods of Denha and Dedication of the Church. Aphrat (280-345) and Ephrem (d.378) give a vivid depiction of the process of marriage as betrothal, announcing bans, bride-price, banquet, and entry to the bridal chamber.[24]

(1) Betrothal

The betrothal or engagement of Christ with the Church as His future Bride took place in Jordan with Jesus’ baptism. Christ came to Jordan River to meet his future bride receiving bridal bath of purification from Baptist.[25] This was not mere a ceremonial washing, but a profound sanctification from the impurities, filth, and wounds of mankind after the fall.[26] When the people confessed their sins and received baptism, Jesus became a ransom (1 Tim 2:6) for the purification of the bride expressing His consent to engagement with her.[27] Referring to the Old Testament betrothals of Rebecca for Isaac by Eliazer (Gen 24:10), Jacob with Rachel (Gen 29:9), and Moses with Sefura (Ex 2:15) at pools or wells, an Epiphany prayer states that Jesus, the Life-giver, betrothed Church in the Jordan Rive through the mediation of John the Baptist.[28]

(2) Announcing Bans

The purification process that started at Jordan baptism was continued through Christ’s three years of public life including His suffering and death. The whole purpose of His public life was to communicate salvation to all (bride) through the proclamation of Gospel truth. The present Syro-Malabar tradition of announcing bans in the church for three Sundays before the marriage is probably based on Christ’s three years of public life to prepare the bride to become His worthy spouse.

(3) Wedding

The wedding took place on the Cross when He brought forth His Bride from His own side. The bride-price was His own body and blood offered to her at His sacrifice on the Cross.[29] The blood and water flew from the pierced side of Christ as the symbol of baptism of blood and of water represent the Church, the purified Bride of Christ. As the first bide, the Eve, was taken out from the side of the first Adam, so also the second Bride, the Church, was taken out from the side of the second Adam, the Christ.[30]

(4) Wedding Banquet

Wedding follows the banquet. The invites are supposed to wear the bridal gown of baptismal grace, made by the Holy Spirit. The invited guests are the priests, prophets, apostles, martyrs, angels, and the people.  Each one brings a gift to the banquet. The priests come with their dignity of ordination, prophets with their revelation,  apostles with their preaching, martyrs with their life-blood, angels with their glorious praises, and the people with their adoration.[31] The Eucharist is the heavenly banquet of this divine wedding. The blood flew from His side is the symbol of Eucharist also, the divine nourishment of the Bride.[32]

(5) Bridal Chamber

Banquet follows the entry of the spouse into the bridal chamber. Christ the groom will lead her to His eternal bridal chamber (g’nona) of spiritual, eternal, and heavenly Jerusalem.[33] There, He will make her to sit at His right side and make Her happy with His vision forever and ever. Thus, she will enjoy eternity singing divine praises to Him with the assemblies of heavenly hosts:

And at the end, the spouse of Christ (the Church), the saints, and the faithfull will begin to receive Him with Joy, praising and glorifying Him with every honour. He… will receive His spouse, the Holy Church, making her enter the eternal bridal chamber and will seat her at His right, making her happy with His vision, and thus she will enjoy eternity…singing to Him praises with the assemblies of heavenly hosts.[34]

The Church has to wait for this entry until the second coming of Christ, when Christ will take the Church above to the prepared eternal joy in heaven. But, the Church has an anticipation of this bridal chamber on earth through participation in the Eucharistic banquet.[35]

6. 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 glory of the Church commemorated in this 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.[36]

Sundays

Anamnetic Lessons

Epicletic Lessons

Type

Real

Prophetic  Admonitions

Apostolic Exhortations

1.Dedication, 5.Moses: Ex 40:17-38 Tabernacle erected Mat 16:13-19 Peter’s confession   of faith Isa 6:1-13 Vision in the temple 1 Cor 12:28-13:13 Diversity of gifts
2.Dedication, 6.Moses: Ex 39:32-40:16 Tabernacle completed   Mat 12:1-21 Plucking wheat, healing on Sabbath 1 Kgs 8:10-29 Solomon’s dedication of the temple Heb 8:1-9:10 Old and new sacrifices
3.Dedication,   7.Moses: Num 7:1-10; 9:15,18 Tabernacle consecrated                      John 2:12-22 Cleansing of the temple Isa 54:1-15 On the creation of the new Jerusalem Heb 9:5-15 Old and new sacrifices
4. 1 Kgs 6:1-9 Solomon’s building of the temple Mat 22:42-23:22 True Messiah, pharisaic view Ez 43: 1-7; 44:1-5 The vision of Ezekiel Heb 9:16-28 Perfect sacrifice, parousia

(1) Anamnetic Lessons

                     The book of law depicts the tabernacles as the earthly abode of the true, living God. Directions for the construction of Solomon’s temple and the appearance of theophanic clouds in the temple at the time of its dedication show the willingness of God to be with his people and to experience his glory here on earth. God’s dwelling with the people indicates the possibility of humans dwelling with God at the end of time.

                      The gospel events reveal Jesus as the Messiah, the true temple, the Lord and Savior of all. Peter’s profession of faith made this truth public. Jesus’ lordship over everything was made evident through the cleansing of the temple and the healing on the Sabbath. Jesus’ life on earth manifested the real presence of heaven on earth.

(2) Epicletic

                    The prophetic lessons address the eschatological realization of great glory in future life. The visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel of God’s glory filling the temple reveal the expected future glory of Israel. The promise of rebuilding the city of Zion is a sign of hope in the future glory.

                   The apostolic exhortations stress that Jesus is our way to eternal life. The new covenant and the new sacrifice signed with his blood are the proofs of eternal glory. Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, will make his Bride, the Church, to sit at his right and will gladden her with his glorious vision. This eschatological realization of the redeemed Church with Christ includes the singing of hymns to the Holy Trinity in heaven.

b. Synchronic

The liturgical propers for this season place the accent on the theme of the mystery of the final glory of the Church by referring to the Church as the bride of Christ, the redeemed Church, and the final meeting of the bride (the Church) in the heavenly bridal chamber of Christ. These emphases open up the mystery of the glory of the Church that is experienced personally in the present and will be experienced at the end of the time when the heavenly assembly sings divine praises forever and ever.[37]

At the end, the Spouse of Christ (the Church), the saints, and the faithful will begin to receive Him with great joy, praising and glorifying Him with every honour. He . . . will receive His Spouse, the Holy Church, making Her enter the eternal bridal chamber and will seat Her at His right, making Her happy with His vision, and thus She will enjoy eternity . . . singing to Him praises with the assemblies of heavenly hosts.[38]

Conclusion

            This period celebrates the final glorification of the Church, founded by the Father, established by the Son, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.[39] Church, the bride of Christ sanctified and saved by Christ, is eagerly waiting for her union with Him in His heavenly bridal chamber where she will be glorified for eternity. This intimate relationship with Christ is continued through sacraments, especially through baptism and Eucharist. The sacramental life helps to live up the paschal mysteries of Christ in life in order to attain the eternal glory in the heavenly bridal chamber at the end of the world.

The Church is worthy for it, because she is the mystical body of Christ, redeemed with His own body and blood. Hence her glory is the same as that of Christ. The ultimate goal of redemption is the union of all the faithful with the heavenly Bridegroom.[40] Though it is a reality to be fulfilled at the eschatological consummation of everything in Christ, its foretasting in life takes place in liturgical celebrations and sacramental life today.  This awaiting heavenly glory, which no eyes have seen, no ears heard, and no heart experienced shall never be missed, should be the Christian challenge in life in order to attain salvation meeting the Lord face to face in heaven, singing praises, honour, adoration, and thanksgiving for Him forever and ever.


[1] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 390.

[2] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 53; The period of Annunciation-Nativity begins on the Sunday between November 27 and December 3.

[3] Genesius-Tregelles, Hebre-English Lexicon to the Old Testament, 1857 (Grand Rapids, 1957) 607-608; J.Vellian, “The Church as Bride in the East Syrian Liturgy.” Studia Liturgica 11.1 (1976) 59-64, here 59.

[4] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 390.

[5] J.Mateos, Lelya-Sapra, 291.

[6] A.Baumstark,  Festbrevier und Kirchenjahr der syrischen JacobitenStudien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Altertum 3 (Paderborn, 1910) 167.

[7] A.J.Maclean, East Syrian Daily Offices (London, 1894) xxv.

[8] B.Botte, “Les dimanches de la Dédicace dans les Eglise Syriennes,” L’Orient Syrien 2 (1957) 65-70, here 67-70; A.Renoux, Le Codex Arménien Jerusalem 121, PO 35.1 (Brepols, 1969-1970) 196; Id.  PO 36.2 (Belgium, 1971) 366-367.

[9] M.Black, “The Festival of Encoenia in the Ancient Church with special Reference to the Palestine and Syria,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 5 (1954) 75-85, here 78.

[10] A.Baumstark, Nichtevegelische syrische Perikopenordungen der ersten Jahrtausands, Liturgiegeschichtliche Forschungen 15 (Munich, 1921) 58.

[11] Rabban Brik-lso, Preface to Hudra in Cambridge Add. 1981, 4v; J.Mateos, Lelya-Sapra, 463-464.

[12] A.Baumstark, Nichtevegelische syrische Perikopenordungen, 58.

[13] J.Mateos, Lelya-Sapra, 290; S.Pudichery, Ramsa, 146-147.

[14] P.Bedjan, Breviarium II, 495

[15] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 390.

[16] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 403.

[17] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 396.

[18] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 579.

[19] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 394, 395, 396.

[20] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 409.

[21] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 410.

[22] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 419; The altar consecration rite in the East Syrian tradition also brings forth the same idea that the Father designed the Church on Mount Sinai, see Pontificale Syrorum Orientalium (Rome, 1957) 23,

[23] H.Engberding, “Die Kirche als Braut in der Syrischen Liturgie,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica 3 (1937) 5-45, here 9.

[24] Aphrat, Demonstratio 19.38-39; 21; Ephrem, Commentaire de E’vangile concordant 2.11; 3.4-17; 5.8; Id.,  Hymnen de Virginitate 16.2, 12; P. Yousif, L’ Eucharistie chez Saint Ephrem de Nisibe, OCA 224 (Rome, 1984) 243-246; H. Engberding, “Die Kirche als Braut in der ostsyrischen Liturgie” OCP 3 (1937) 13-14; J. Veliian, “The Church as Bride in the East Syrian Liturgy”, Studia Liturgica 11-12 (1976-1977) 62.

[25] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 397, 413, 419, 421.

[26] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 410, 441.

[27] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 403-406.

[28] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 403.

[29] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 397, 314.

[30] Ephrem, Commentaire de E’vangile concordant 2.11; R. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early  Syriac Tradition (London, 1`975) 138.

[31] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 432.

[32] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 432.

[33] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 340, 426.

[34] Rabban Brik-lso, Preface to Hudra in Cambridge Add. 1981, 4v.

[35] P.Bedjan, Breviarium III, 392.

[36]Ordo celebrationis “Quddasa,” 57-58; Supplementum Mysteriorum, 155-162.

  [37]Supplementum Mysteriorum, 155-162; and Breviarium iuxta ritum Syrorum orientalium I, part 3, 390-441.

  [38]Rabban Brik-Iso, Cambridge Add.1981, f. 4v;  see also T.Darmo, Ktaba de qdam wa-de-batar wa-de-hudra wa-de-kaskul wa-de-gazza I, 112; trans. in Mateos, Lelya-Sapra, 464.

[39] Supplementum Mysteriorum, 155.

[40] V.Pathikulangara, “The Liturgical Year of the Syro-Malabar Church”, Ephemerides Liturgicae 90(1976)173-196, here 192-193.

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