The Period of Annunciation-Nativity

 The Period of Annunciation-Nativity

Prof. Dr. John Moolan

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1. The Naming of the Season

The Syrians call this season Subbara (Annunciation), while Latins and Armenians call it Advent. For Syrians and Latins it is their first season, whereas for Armenians it is their last season. This difference in naming is due to the theology contained in the concerned seasonal propers of the liturgy of the hours (divine praises) of those Churches. The East and West Syrian prayer system expresses the theology of fulfilment, whereas the Latins and Armenians express the theology of expectation in this season. The theology of fulfilment brings forth the certainty of salvation with the establishment of peace and hope on earth (Lk 2:14). The achievement of this fulfilment of salvation is the main target of annunciation. The theology of expectation indicates the necessity of ardent preparation for the three advents of the Saviour in hearts and minds. First He came in human form to Bethlehem years ago (the Incarnation), the intermediate daily coming in hidden form (the Eucharist), and the final coming in glorious form (Parousia). In the early Christian writings, the term Adventus is a classical term for the coming of Christ in the flesh to inaugurate among men the messianic era.[1]

2. Beginning of the Season

            The season begins on the Sunday in between November 27 to December 3 inclusive, so that it comprises four Sundays before Christmas on December 25, and one or two Sundays between Christmas and Denha (Epiphany). If Christmas falls on Monday or Tuesday, there will be only one Sunday between Christmas and Denha, because the feast of Denha falls on January 6.

a. Four Weeks’ Formation before Christmas

            In the first half of the 5th century the christological controversies[2] paved the way for the denial of the divine maternity of Mary. As a result in 431 the so-called Nestorianism was condemned at the Ephesus Council. Therefore the then Fathers like Cyril of Alexandria (412-444),[3] Proclus of Constantinople (426-446)[4], Theodotus of Ancyra (+ ca.432-446)[5] and Basil of Seleucia (+ca.458-468)[6] stressed in their homilies the divine maternity and the everlasting virginity of Mary. As a result the Annunciation to Mary began to be commemorated in the East with a feast of Theotokos (Mother of God) celebrated probably on the Sunday before Christmas, because Mary is for Christ. This Marian feast stressed the divine maternity and the virginal conception of Mary.

The nucleus of this period is already found in the West Syrian tradition during the middle of the fifth century. As evidence, we have two homilies of Antipater, bishop of Bostra (+ 451-458) [7] in Syria, preached on two Sundays before Christmas. The first one is on John the Baptist[8] and the second one is on the annunciation to Mary, Mother of God[9]. He testifies for a two-week preparation for the Nativity. These two Sundays were called the “Sunday of John the Baptist” and the “Sunday of Annunciation to Mary”. These two Sundays are the original nucleus of the pre-Christmas season in the present East and West Syrian calendars.

b. Distribution of Weeks

The East Syrians have doubled them as the 1st & 3rd Sundays for the Baptist and 2nd & 4th Sundays for Mary, while the West Syrians have tripled them as the 1st, 3rd & 4th Sundays for the Baptist and the 2nd, 5th & 6th Sundays for Mary. Thus the East Syrians have four and the West Syrians six Sundays before Christmas. Thus the less developed West Syrian system probably represents the earlier stage of evolution followed also by the East Syrians at least until the liturgical reform of Iso-Yahb iii in the 7th century. It is probable that he might have added the present two Sundays after the Nativity in memory of visit of Magi & flight to Egypt (Mt 2:1-23) and presentation & finding in the temple (Lk 2:21-52) in order to complete the infancy of Jesus to form a more developed East Syrian cycle.

3. Twenty-five Day Fast

The naming of this fast as “twenty five-day fast” (Irupathiyanj Nonbu) is traditional among the Thomas Christians in Kerala. The acts of Diamper Synod (1599) indicate that a fasting period from December 1 until Christmas-eve was an established custom among Malabar catholics even before the Synod.[10] This might be due to three reasons: 1) An imitation either of the period of Great Fast, 2) or of the respond to the call of John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord, 3) or of the monastic practice, which gradually spread to the whole Church in Malabar. According to Gabriel of Basra (9th century), the Anchorite monks in Syria fasted during the period of Annunciation. In their rule book, they shifted the fast in the period of Moses to the period of Annunciation: “Monks are obliged to fast in the period of Apostle, Elias, and instead of Moses they should fast on the period of Annunciation.”[11] Nevertheless, we shall see that the period of Annunciation cannot be considered a period of penance from the spirit of the propers of this season.[12]

It would be better to limit this fast to twenty-five days before Christmas rather than to connect it with the season, because, since the season begins on the Sunday between November 27 and December 3 inclusive, the fast days in the season shall rarely be exact twenty-five days.

4. Immaculate Conception

            The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8 was fixed by anticipating nine months from September 8, the traditional feast of the birth of Mary. Certain monasteries in Palestine during the 8th century started to celebrate this event in memory of the miraculous conception of Mary by Anna. In the beginning stage this event had nothing to do with her immaculate state. England and France started to celebrate it in the 11th and 12th centuries respectively. Pope John XII celebrated it as a private devotion in the 14th century. Pope Sixtus IV in 1476 officially approved for the Church. It was the Pope Alexander VII on December 8, 1661 declared the intention of the feast as the Immaculate Conception, i.e. Mary was conceived without original sin. Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854 decreed Immaculate Conception a Christian dogma, the revealed truth to be believed.[13] This dogma teaches that there was no blemish in the life of the Mother of God, because she was full of grace (Lk 1:28) from the beginning to the end of her earthly life.[14] This does not mean that she is exempted from the redemption merited by Jesus. Jesus died for all without any exception (2 Cor 5:14f; 1 Tim 1:15) Mary’s exception from original sin was not due to herself, but of Christ. Therefore her immaculate state is another mode of redemption through exemption. God is powerful to do everything, and nothing is impossible with Him.[15]

5. Mar Thoma-Sliba Day

December 18 is the memorial day of the miraculous stone Cross at St. Thomas Mount church in Mylapore.[16] Devotion to this Cross is so great among Thomas Christians that they venerate this Cross in places of worship, at homes and in prayer sessions. The ancient models of this Cross are found even today in churches at Alangad, Changanassery, Kadamattom, Kaduthuruthy, Kothanellur, Kottayam, Kuravilangad, Muttuchira, Niranam, Pallipuram, Palayur, and Paravur.

a. The Period

Mar Thoma Sliba is considered as belonging to the sixth or seventh century, because the Sassanian Pahlavi inscription found running round the Cross edge is calculated to have been existed in between 6-8 centuries.[17] The Biblical reference found inscribed at the foot of the Cross is Gal 6:14 “But far be it for me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world”.

b. Naming

Mar Thoma Sliba[18] is the unique and the unparalleled symbol of St. Thomas Christians in India. The name “Mar Thoma Sliba” (St. Thomas Cross) is considered to be derived from the belief that this particular Cross has been carved on the granite stone, stained with the Apostle’s blood,[19] from the place of his martyrdom in Mylapore on July 3, 72 AD. In the year 1547 on March 23 while digging foundation for a new chapel on St. Thomas Mountain (Big Mountain or Periamalai), Mylapore, the Portuguese got this Cross from the ruins of an early rectory built by the Apostle.[20] It was of 90 x 95 cm in size, engraved on a piece of granite stone. They noticed a streak like petrified drops of blood on one side of the Cross. When they scratched them off, other fresh blood drops started to reappear.[21] This phenomenon brought great devotion to the Cross. Therefore they fixed this Cross on the wall behind the altar in the sanctuary of the newly built chapel at the Apostle’s martyrdon on St. Thomas Mountain.

c. Devotion

The devotion became strong when this Cross started sweating for the first time during the singing of the Gospel lesson at the Eucharist on December 18, 1557, the then Latin commemoration day of the expectation of Our Lady.[22] The miracle lasted until the end of the Eucharist.

In the year 1558 on December 18 the same miracle lasted for four hours in the following way. At the Gospel singing during the Eucharist the Cross stone turned into deep black colour in splendour and started sweating water in a large quantity. Fr.Gaspar Coelho, the vicar of the church, was celebrating the Eucharist. After the Holy Communion in the Eucharist, he dipped a purificator in this sweating water and kept it in a chalice. At the end of the miracle the Cross became very splendid and bright in appearance and dried itself slowly by acquiring its own original granite colour. The very next day when the vicar examined the purificator kept in the chalice, he found it as if it were soaked with blood. This miracle took place every year on Dec.18 up to 1566 during the Gospel singing in the Eucharist.[23] The Portuguese missionaries informed this continuous miraculous phenomenon of the Cross to the Holy See, and had a feast approved by the Holy Father in its honour on Dec. 18 as “Commemoratio Miraculi Petrae S. Thomae Apostoli”.[24]

c. Symbolism

The miraculous cross is very rich in symbolism. The main features of this empty Cross are descending position of the dove on the top, the blooming buds like four ends, the three steps at the bottom, and the up and down semicircular structures in between the Cross and the three steps. These features have their Biblical, theological and cultural dimensions of Christian life as follows.

(1) Biblical

The descending form of dove on the top of the Cross is the symbol of the Holy Spirit that expresses the Pauline theology of resurrection (Rom 8:11). The empty Cross being the symbol of resurrection, the Holy Spirit on the top of the Cross signifies that the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, will give resurrection to our mortal bodies too. The biblical reference Gal 6:14 at the bottom of the Cross, indicates the glory of the Cross in Christian life. The up and down semicircular structures in between the Cross and the three steps have two Biblical symbolisms. They are the leaves of the tree of life in Paradise (Gen 2:9) signifying the leaves of medicine for the healing of sins (Ez 47:12) and the four rivers in the garden of Eden (Gen 2:10) symbolising the streams of grace opened through the Cross to enrich the Christian life.

(2) Theological

The empty Cross, like the empty tomb signifies the resurrection of the Lord. The four ends of the Cross like blooming buds symbolise the new life proclaimed at the resurrection of Jesus. The three steps at the bottom of the Cross indicate the steps to climb the Calvary for attaining divine glory through suffering.

(3) Cultural

The cultural dimension of this Cross is drawn from the up and down semicircular structures found in between the Cross and the steps. This is considered as a cross-section of a lotus flower, the national flower of India.[25]   The setting up of this Cross on this flower indicates the establishment of Christianity in India. As the lotus plant rooted in mud and surrounded by muddy water, produces pure and unspotted lotus flower, so too we, who are rooted in and surrounded by worldly affairs, have to lead a holy life with lofty mind and pure heart.

6. Date of Christmas

            Since the birth date of Jesus is documented nowhere, the attempt to calculate it started to take place very early in the Church, perhaps during the second or third century. Up to the 4/5 centuries, baptism (Epiphany) and Nativity (Christmas) of Jesus were celebrated on January 6 until when the Nativity was shifted to December 25.

a. January 6

In the beginning stage the feast Denha (Epiphany) on January 6 was also the feast of the Nativity[26], because the birth of Christ was considered also as the manifestation of God among men. Since the Gospel does not give any specific indication about the birth date of Christ, in the early centuries Epiphany and Christmas were celebrated together on Jan 6.

(1) Ancient Practice

But the Gospel gives specific information about the death and resurrection of Christ during the Passover. For John, Jesus died on the 14th of Nisan (Jn 13:1), while for the Synoptics He died on the 15th of Nisan (Mt 26:17; Mk14:12; Lk 22:7). From this relatively fixed point one can arrive at the approximate birthday of Christ. The ancients assumed that Jesus’ earthly life formed a perfect life circle. Therefore His death might have been taken place on the anniversary of His conception in the womb of Mary.[27] Thus we get Jesus’ birthday by adding the normal nine-month period of gestation to the date of Nissan, i.e. Nisan 14/15.

(2) Clement of Alexandria

The early catholic evidence for Jesus’ birth date on January 6 is given by Clement of Alexandria (+ca.215).[28] According to him. Christ was born in 28th year of Caesar Agustus (3/2 bc),…but 194years , 1 month, and 13 days before the death of Commodus (December 31, 192 ad). When we calculate 194 years, 1 month and 13days from December 31, 192 ad on the movable basis as shown below, the result obtained is January 6, 2 bc:[29]

                                     “December 31, 192 ad = 1791529 + 31 = 1791551

                                      1791551 – 522 = 29    Mechir     940

                                                               – 13  one month  194                               

                                                                  16     Tybi      746  =  1720682

                                                                                                +            16

                                                                                             1720698

                                                                                                –           692

                                                                                                                 6 January 2 bc”

(3) Ephrem

According to Ephrem (+373) in his hymn on the Nativity, Mary’s conception was on April 10, and Jesus’ birth was on January 6.[30] He does not give any indication for his calculation of this date. Therefore the conclusion is that the Christian calculation of the birth of Christ on January 6, goes back to the beginning of the second century.

b. December 25

Later transference of Christmas from January 6 to December 25 is found in Roman dating and biblical dating. The first one in the 4th century happened as a means for defending Christian faith from paganism. The second one in the 5th century took place as a result of the Biblical calculation of the birth date of Christ.

(1) In Rome

The Feast of Nativity of Christ on December 25 was first introduced in Rome probably by the Pope Liberius in 345[31]. Thus in the West, Rome became the earliest evidence for Christmas on December 25.[32]According to the Filocalian calendar of 354, ascribed to Furius Dionysius Filocalus, that contains the lists of death anniversaries of Roman bishops (Depositio episcoporum) and Roman martyrs (Depositio martyrum) prepared in 336, gives December 25 as the feast of Nativity.[33] The purpose of this feast was to immunise the Christians against the pagan worship of sun-god.

The Roman emperor Aurelian in 274 ordered to celebrate the birthday of the unconquered sun-God (Natalis solis invicti) on December 25, the longest day of the year when the sun reaches the farthest south of equator at the winter solstice.[34]. His aim of this celebration was to unite and strengthen his vast empire. Thus during the reign of Aurelian (+275) the worship of sun-god became the highest official sun-cult of the State. He dedicated a temple to sun-god on December 25, 274 and declared “sol” (sun) the single official divine protector of the empire and the emperor. He identified himself as the personification of the god “sol” and became the first emperor to declare himself as god, “roi soleil”[35]. Since this was a national feast, Christians too took part in all the celebrations connected with it. This affected the Christian faith. Therefore against the attractions of this pagan feast, considering Christ as the Sun of justice (Mal 4:2;3:20), the true Light that enlightens every one (Jn 1:9) and the light of the world (Jn 8:12), the Church of Rome established a feast of Christ’s birth to be celebrated on the same day.[36]

(2) Biblical Calculation

            The biblical system of calculation[37] by Chrysostom (+407) [38] and Agustin (+431) in the fifth century [39] fixed the date of Christmas on December 25. In the 6th century Cosmas Indicopleustes, the Church historian, confirmed this date as the day of Christmas in the whole Christendom.[40] They based their calculation mainly on the two Gospel data such as Lk 1:36 (the Elizabeth in her sixth month) and Lk 1:39 (Zachary’s entry to the temple to burn incenses).[41] The entry of Zachary to the temple is considered as on the 10th of the 7th month of the Jewish year (Lev 16:29-34), a reckoning from Nisan.[42] The 10th of the 7th month (October) + another 2, 3, or 7days until Zachary reach home + 6months = the beginning of the month of Nisan (March 25),[43] Mary’s conception day + 9 months, the period of gestation = December 25, Jesus’ birth.

(3) Observations

In the East the feast of Nativity on December 25 started to spread from the end of the 4th century onwards.[44] The West Syrian Church began to celebrate this feast before 386. John Chrysostom’s (+407) sermon on December 25, 386 in Antioch is the first evidence for this, where he mentions that it is not yet ten years since this feast is clearly known there.[45] The East Syrian Church started to celebrate Nativity on December 25 probably from fifth century onwards. The first evidence in this regard is found in the canon 13 of the Synod of Seleucia-Ctesiphon by Mar Isaac and Mar Marutha of Mypharkat in 410, where the faithful are asked to celebrate the feast of Nativity, Lent and the Unleavened Bread in agreement with the West.[46]

In the Byzantine Church this feast might have been originated in between 379-381 when Greogory Nazianzen (+381) was in Constantinople. The two probable evidences to this effect are his two sermons. The one was preached on December 25, 380 on the Nativity, which he calls the “Theophany.” [47] The second one was delivered on January 6, 381 on the feast of Christ’s baptism, which he calls the “Feast of the Light”, where he refers back to the festival of December 25 just celebrated a fortnight before.[48]

In the Alexandrian Church the first celebration of the Nativity on December 25 seemed to be taken place most probably in 432. The sermon of Paul of Emessa on December 25, 432 in the presence of Cyril of Alexandria declared that today a child is born, who is the hope of salvation for all the creation.[49]

In the Armenian Church, according to the Canon 12 of the Armenian Council of Sis in 1342, it was in the middle of the 14th century, the Feast of the Nativity on December 25 was introduced there in their liturgical calendar.[50]

In Jerusalem, the birthplace of Jesus, the feast of Nativity on December 25 found its access twice. The first access was only for a temporary period in the 5th century during the episcopate of Juvenal (424-458). Basil of Selucia (+ca.468) in his sermon preached probably in between 454-456 in the presence of Juvenal, attributes the introduction of this feast in Jerusalem to Juvenal.[51] The final and permanent adoption of this feast in Jerusalem took place during the 6th century by the decree of the emperor Justin ii (565-578).[52] In this regard Antonius of Plaisance (+ca.570) give witness to the feast of Nativity on December 25 and Epiphany on January 6 in Jeruasalem.[53]

7. Liturgical Themes

            The liturgical themes found in the propers of the Eucharistic celebration and the liturgy of the hours (divine praises) of this season elucidates the theological aspects, which have to be applied in the liturgical life of the faithful in coherence with the paschal mystery of incarnation fulfilled in Christ.

The important liturgical themes are greetings to Mary, mother of God, second Eve, blessed amonmg women, ever virgin, fulfilment of Prophecies and the fruits of incarnation. The fruits of Incarnation throw light to the revelation of His divinity in humanty emptying Himself to become one with us (Phil 2:1-11), indicating that we too should be humble enough to be worthy of receiving the divine graces. Mary and the Prophets are the good examples in this regard. Like Mary and the Prophets we too are called for to fulfil the will of God for possessing Christ in our life to attain eternal bliss in heaven.

a. On Mary

            Due to Mary’s giving birth to the Saviour in this season, there is no other season which gives so much importance to Mary. Different aspects of Mary as worthy to be greeted, mother of God, blessed among women, second eve, and ever virgin are discussed here as follows.

(1) Greetings to Mary

            Second Friday of Nativity is dedicated to give greetings to Mary, the mother of God, for her wonderful place in the salvation history by her giving birth to the Saviour of the world. This is the first sanctoral commemoration in the cycle of the year. Thus among the East Syrians originally the very first feast in the liturgical year is the Nativity of the Lord, and the second one is the feast of congratulation to Mary for her giving birth to God the saviour, which is also the first one in the sanctoral calendar. Thus the importance of Christ and Mary in the salvation history is well expressed in the liturgical year. Christ is called “Second Adam” (Rom 5:15; 1 Cor 15:22, 45), because He is the redeemer of all those who truly believe in Him (Mk 16:16; Acts 4:12; 16:31). While Mary is called “Second Eve”, because she became the fountain of life and the liberator of our mortal race through the virginal conception of Immanuel.[54] The Mawtba de Lelya on the 1st Sunday of Annunciation is full of greetings to Mary from the Archangel Gabriel as he announces the good news to her. More than twenty times the term “greetings to you” is used here.[55]Even though the feasts of the Immaculate Conception (Dec.8) and Mar Thoma Sliba (Dec.18) come before the Nativity in the liturgical year, they are of later origin.

(2) Mother of God

            The divine motherhood of Mary was granted to her because of her complete surrender to the will of God (Lk 1:38). This complete dedication resulted in complete possession of God by her. Thus she became worthy to be called “God bearer and God giver”. It is this acceptance of divine motherhood that made the Annunciation the good news. Otherwise it would have been a bad news. The West Syrian prayer system of this period expresses the purposeful planning of the heavenly Father to make the Annunciation the good news ever heard. His directions given to the Archangel Gabriel before he was sent to Mary in Nazareth manifest it.

            “…My Son wishes to descent on earth. Go and prepare a place to Him, with Mary the daughter of David. And do this on your journey. Greet her with peace, that seeing you she may not be afraid. Let peace be on you lips that she may be comforted by you…Wear a white veil on your head that she may have no fear. Do not strike her with dumbness like Zachary (Lk 1:20). Speak to her tenderly, make your announcement gently…When she asks, “how this will be”? Answer with sweetness, “the Holy Spirit will come and God’s power will rests on you” (Lk 1:35).[56]

            When we fulfil the will of God and dedicate fully our self to Him like Mary, we too will become worthy to bear God in our hearts and minds, and give Him others through our words and deeds. Thus we will be able to make others happy like Mary who made the whole world happy by her giving birth to the Saviour. In this regard Mary is ready to help us always through her intercession. Mary’s intercession is stronger than any other intercession, because her Son is always at her own side. This image of Mary is well represented by icon of Mary where the child Jesus is placed always at her own side. Among the Orientals there is no representation of Mary without Jesus, because Mary is for Jesus, and without Jesus there is no Mary.

(3) Blessed Among Women

            It is due to her magnanimity among women, she is called the “blessed among women” (Lk 1:42). Before Mary the women were given a very law standard in society among the Jews. This is because it was Eve the first woman who became the first cause of sin inhumanity. Therefore both the men and women prayed according to their status in society. Men prayed, “praise be to the Lord that you did not create us as women, gentiles or ignorant ones”; while the women prayed, “praise be to the Lord that you created us according to your will”. When Mary became the mother of the Saviour, she became the first woman to bring salvation on earth. Thus she announced the greatness of women in society by accomplishing the prophecies and hopes of generations.

            Mary is a very good example for all the stages a woman’s growth. She was a good child, girl, woman, virgin, wife, mother, widow and the dedicated one. Jesus as a Jew had a great respect for woman. He made them His followers (Lk 8:2-3) and messangers (Jn 20:17-18). Early Church made them collaborators in the Church’s activities (Acts 1:14; 9:36-41; 12:12; 16:14-15). Following the example of Mary each woman has the responsibility of becoming another Mary through a pure and holy life for maintaining a good status of woman in society. As Mary fulfilled the will of God placed before her, so we too are expected to execute the will of God placed before us by Him. Therefore the fulfilment of the will of God does not mean that we place our wishes and desires before God and request him to grant them accordingly.

(4) Second Eve

            Christ, the life Giver, is called “Second Adam” (Rom 5:15; 1 Cor 15:22, 45), while Mary, the mother of the life Giver, is called (Lk 1:32) “Second Eve”, who became the fountain of life and the liberator of our mortal race through the virginal conception of Immanuel. “…The womb of Eve, which was condemned to give birth in pain, became the fountain that gives life. She conceived without seed and gave birth to Emanuel; and she liberated our mortal humankind from corruption…” [57]. The contrast between Mary and Eve makes clear the importance of Mary in the salvation history. When the Eve failed to obey God due to her non co-operation to the will of God, Mary succeeded in obeying God due to her co-operation to the will of God. While the Eve became the cause of evil and death through her pride, Mary became the cause of life and salvation trough her humility.

     Contrast

                                    Eve                                                                                          Mary

                        1.Disobedient                                                                               1.Obedient

                        2.Damnation                                                                                 2.Salvation

                        3.Paradise lost                                                                               3.Paradise regained

                        4.Mother of mortals                                                                      4.Mother of Saviour

            As Mary co-operated with God for the salvation of all, we too are called to co-operate with God for our own salvation. This co-operation with God contains in our unselfish motivation of giving glory to God in everything, and doing well to others always. While the pride is the cause of damnation, and humility is the cause of salvation. Humility in serving others brings in peace, hope and joy in Christian life. Life is beautiful when it gives consolation to others. As Mary served humanity to find out salvation, so we have to serve others to find out holiness in life.

(5) Ever Virgin

            Mary is the perpetual virgin who retained her chastity before, during and after her conception of Jesus. In order to show that Mary’s giving birth to Emanuel did not affect her virginity and she remained ever virgin, the term “virgin” is used more than thirty times in this season.[58] The power of God is the basis of her virginal motherhood. Two important comparisons are brought forward from the Old Testament to prove the ever powerfulness of God that worked in Mary.

(a) Creation of Adam and Eve

The power of God that worked out in Mary is compared to the power in the creation of Adam and Eve. Before Adam and Eve no humanity existed. As God created Adam from dust (Gen 2:7) and Eve from his rib (Gen 2:22), so the power of the most High made to conceive Jesus in the womb of Mary without any human intervention. Therefore just as without any other external assistance God created human species, so also without any external intervention of any one else Mary was conceived by the power of the Most High (Lk 1:35): “The power of the Most High shall come down upon you to form the image of man on the tablet of your members…As He prepared Adam, and Eve from his rib, so He is able to compose in you an infant without seed”.[59] It was the same power that made barren Sarah (Gen 17:19), Rebecca (Gen 25:21) and Elizabeth (lk 1:13) fertile, made also Mary to conceive Jesus in her womb: “…She (Mary) was with the child by the power of the Spirit who made Adam from dust and formed Eve from him without seed. The same One made the barren Sarah fertile, and after her Rabecca; and in the case of Elizabeth, (He) confirmed the virgin”.[60]   Thus the cause of Mary’s conception is attributed to God alone.

(b) Sprouting of the Rod of Aaron

            Mary’s virginity is compared to the sprouting of the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi, which Moses put in the tent of the testimony (Num 17:6f). As the rod sprouted without nature’s assistance like earth, manure and water, so the virgin Mary conceived Jesus without intercourse, but by the power of the Most High (Lk 1:35). “Similar to the rod of Aaron which sprouted leaves, the virgin conceived in her womb, O unfaithful Jew. That One never planted and irrigated, took root in the virgin without man; and without seed she conceived by the command of God. The rod sprouted by miracle; and the power of the Most High came down upon the one full of grace and dwelt in her. And she became worthy to give birth to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world…”[61]

            The importance of dedicated life got its relevance with Mary. Until Mary virginity as a devoted life was unthinkable, because every woman wanted to become the mother of the Saviour. Therefore the sterility was considered as something shameful in the society. That is why the sterile Elizabeth when she found conceived John the Baptist, praised God for taking away her reproach (disgrace) among the people (Lk 1:25). When Mary’s virginity produced the divine fruit as God himself, the dedicated life as virgin found out its meaning as acceptable among the society. Jesus praised celibacy for the Kingdom of God, because the celibates can easily bear and give Christ to the world. Special grace is needed for this way of life. Therefore don’t try for it if there is no vocation to it (Mt 19:11; 1 Cor 7:7-9). Full dedication brings in God experience, because surrender to God means to be surrounded by God. Then with Paul one could say, “to live is Christ and to die is profit” (Phil 1:20).

b. Fulfilment of the Prophecies

Christ’s coming to the world was in accordance with the accomplishment of the prophecies in the Old Testament. He is the One promised by God and proclaimed by the prophets. All the prophecies concerning Jesus are recalled in this season. Instead of retaining only the incarnation prophecies in this season and distributing other prophecies to the concerned seasons, all of them beginning from His virginal birth to His Second Coming are recalled here.[62]  The purpose of recalling all the prophecies in the very beginning of the liturgical year is to remind us the necessity of acquiring the courage and sincerity of the prophets in order to practise the mysteries of Christ in a meaningful way throughout the liturgical year. Prophets were those who overcame the tests of time. Like them we too are expected to get ready for facing any trouble for the sake of God in our heavenly pilgrimage throughout the liturgical year. We have to make Christ alive today by following Him closely as being manifested through the paschal mysteries found present in different liturgical seasons.

c.The Fruits of Incarnation

            The incarnation as a unique event produced the fruits like the revelation of the Father and the Holy Trinity, the beginning of a new era of salvation, and the establishment of great joy in hope and peace. When the One who is from heaven itself revealed the divine realities, then the credibility became more reliable than any other earthly witness.

(1) Revelation

The Incarnation revealed not only the Son to the world, but through Him the Father also was manifested. It is through the Son we know the Father; because “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22). This revelation of the Father through the self-revelation of the Son is possible since the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son (Jn 10:38; 14:11). Being to be from the Father (Jn 16:28) and to be with the Father (Jn 16:32), He is the only One who has seen the Father  (Jn 6:46) and to whom belongs everything that the Father has (Jn 16:15). He is up above from the Father without a mother, and down below from the mother without a Father.[63]Thus except for Him no one else could reveal the Father in a better way. Therefore one who sees the Son, sees the Father (Jn 14:9); and the Father is glorified in the Son (Jn 14:13). Son is the splendour of the Father, who appeared in flesh and revealed Father’s rays in our human race in order to recognise Him as the Creator of everything.[64]

            As the self-revelation of the Son is also the revelation of the Father, so also our own revelation of Christ to others through a proper Christian life, is the manifestation of the love of the Father and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that abide in us. Because He is the true vine and His Father is the vinedresser. We the branches have to abide in the vine to produce fruits for the vinedresser (Jn 15:1-10). Then we will be abided by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14).

            Another revelation fulfilled in the Incarnation is the manifestation of the Trinity. The great mystery of the hidden Father, the eternal Son, and the Holy Spirit, has been revealed to us through the coming of Christ in flesh. The Son from the Father, who took flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35), is the apt person to convey the love and the grace that proceed from the Father and the Spirit. He made this revelation in a humble way, taking the form of a servant (Heb 2:16-17). The only one who is in the bosom of His Father, came and received the shape of a servant from the house of David in order to reveal the fullness of faith in the Holy Trinity. He revealed the glorified three persons, the hidden Father, the eternal Son and the permeating Holy Spirit who have no beginning.[65]

The Trinitarian unity is the real Christian unity that involves each and every one around us. In this regard the divine grace is the unifying element that makes us all one in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore we have a great responsibility of retaining the divine grace conferred on us, and to regain it through sacramental life when it is lost by our negligence of the love of God and the neighbour. Thus the mystery of the Holy Trinity has to be revealed through the wonder in the easy attainment of peace and joy in our human relations.

(2) Birth of a New Era

            The Incarnation inaugurated a new age of salvation, “the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe” (Mk 1:15). It proclaimed a New World for the mortals, a world of immortality where He himself is the Chief and the Saviour. His birth destroyed sadness, death and corruption, and established perfect harmony and love (1 Cor 15:28).[66] He redeemed our race (Gal 4:5; Ti 2:14) by shattering death and curse which killed us in Paradise through our sin. The Child from Mary took away the condemnation on our race (Gen 3:19). Thus the Incarnation re-established our image of God which was corrupted in Paradise.[67] Till His coming, our race had been open to the snares of the evil One, but now the creator has come down and has taken us with Him to heaven (Rom 7:5-6). Because through Him we have been set free from the corruption of death and Satan (Rom 6:18; 8:2; 1Cor 15:54-55), and brought back to life eternal (Rom 6:13). Thus through His arrival on earth, we are in an age where we enjoy true freedom of the children of God (Rom 8:21; 6:22).[68] Therefore we have to sing songs to the freedom giver of creatures and confess the King who came down to our low state to set us free from the servitude of murderous death and the Devil, so that we may reign with Him in His Glory.[69]

            Furthermore with His birth both the world and salvation histories were turned to a new direction. The division of the world history into bc and ad (Anno Dominum) showed the new face of the earth where He is the true King of kings, and the true Ruler of rulers. Again the division of the salvation history into ot and nt established Church, the saved community as the mystical body of Christ. Therefore we have to become the heralds of a new age of salvation established by Christ.

(3) Joy in the Establishment of Hope and Peace

            The heavens and the earth rejoiced at the appearance of the glorified Child from the virgin. The Archangel announced joy and salvation to the world[70] and the groups of angels appeared and sang glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to the people with whom He is pleased (Lk 2:14). Thus at this event both the heavens and the earth rejoiced. The spiritual and corporal beings became jubilant, because they saw the salvation and the true hope in eternal life proclaimed, and `the true peace coming down to all.[71] There occurred reconciliation between the terrestrial and celestial beings. Before the Incarnation the angels were in charge of not entering the people to the Paradise. When Adam was sent out of Paradise, God placed the Cherubim and a flaming sword at the gate of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen 3:24). But by sending the Cherubim, Gabriel, to announce the good news to Mary, God established friendship between angels and people. Thus the angels no longer keep us away from Paradise, but they guard us from the evil One and guide us into the life eternal. The Incarnation made the angels and people equals, because He made the groups of angels proclaimers who separated themselves from our service due to our sin.[72]

            The whole world became happy since it saw the anointed one who preached the good news of the acceptable year of the Lord as consolation to the afflicted, relief to the captives, freedom to the oppressed and sight to the blind (Mt 4:18-19). Angels, Apostles, Prophets, all the just, the Church and all people became happy at His birth. Angels became happy over the good hope of salvation for the people and the reconciliation between the heavenly and terrestrial beings.[73] The Apostles became happy because they have seen the Saviour whom the prophets desired to see in their lifetime. The prophets became happy because their predictions have come true. All the just of ancient times became happy because their revelations have been fulfilled. The Church became happy because the peace and good hope have been accomplished at His arrival. All people became happy because the salvation has been opened to all (Mt 19:29; 25:34; Heb 6:12; 9:12).[74] Therefore, both heaven and earth offer thanks for the deeds that He has accomplished at His birth:

            “…From the angels, glory; from the sky, a bright star; from the Magi, offerings; from the shepherds, worship; from the earth, a chosen cave; from the desert, a crib; from our race a holy and virgin mother; and you are worshipped by all the creatures, O Christ, have mercy on us”.[75]

2.Blessed Virgin Mary

            Mary’s important is very great in this season. In the East Syrian tradition there is no other liturgical season, which gives so much importance to Mary.[76] Because she is the “Godbearer”(Theotokos) from whom the eternal Son of God “came and received the shape of a servant”.[77] She is the seed of Abraham (Gen 22:12; Heb 2:16), from whom the Word took our human nature and redeemed us from damnation by recuperating our image of God (Gen 1:27) that was corrupted in Paradise by the sin of Adam and Eve. Therefore “the mother, who gave Him birth, deserves blessings and the arms that carried Him deserve remembrance and the knees that brought Him up deserve praise…”[78]

8. Lectionary Theology

The East Syrian Church Calendar in its entire plan of lectionary system explicates the coherence of Passover mysteries fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Thus the whole system represents anamnetically the call of Jesus to re-enact His salvation mysteries as present realities taking place today, proposing guidelines for a good conduct of Christian life. For this purpose the whole lectionary has theologically and liturgically been well arranged.

The present lectionary is the work of great liturgical reformer Iso-Yahb III, the patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in the seventh century. Before him there existed two lectionaries such as the monastic usage developed in the Upper Monastery (Deir Alleita) known also as the Monastery of Mar Abraham and Mar Gabriel, the first superiors of this monastery, situated on the upper bank of river Tigris in Mosul,[79] and the cathedral usage developed in the patriarchal church of Kokhe in Seleucia.[80] In the year 650/51, Iso-Yahb III with the help of Hnaniso, the monk of Forest Monastery (Beth Abhe), compiled these two usages into one lectionary system for the use of East Syrian Church. He fixed distinctive rules and regulations for the arrangement of Old and New Testament lessons in liturgical celebrations.[81] The first revision of this lectionary was done in the Upper Monastery around 1250.[82] The last revision was made by Paul Bedjan in 1886-1887.[83] The excerpt of lectionary from the revised work of P. Bedjan, was later published by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, for the use of the Malabar Church.[84]

a. Setup

            The East Syrian calendar known as Hudra (cycle),[85] compiled by Patriarch Iso-Yahb III of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (647-657),[86] consists of nine seasons that link Old Testament promises to their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. In this system, types from the book of law and exhortations from the prophets and the apostles are connected in order to make a gospel encounter a reality in Christian life throughout the liturgical year. The arrangement of the lectionary system explicates, accentuates, and coheres with the mysteries of the life and work of Christ that is celebrated and emphasized in the prayer system of the Church.

            This lectionary system assigns four scripture lessons from three “books”[87] drawn from the Psita (simple), the Syriac version of the Bible: Qeryane (readings), Old Testament lesson-extracts from the Law and the Prophets;[88] Sliha (Apostle), Engarta (Epistle) lesson-extracts from the Pauline Epistles;[89] and Ewangaliyon (Gospel), Gospel lesson-extracts from the four Gospels.[90] For the order of proclamation, first come the two lessons from the Qeryane, then the Sliha, and finally the Ewangaliyon. If only two lessons are used, they are taken from the New Testament—Sliha and Ewangaliyon—since they pertain directly to the Church. There is no provision for using three scripture lessons, since it violates the lectionary principle of the anamnetic (commemorative) and epicletic (invocational) interaction of the lessons in their settings.[91] The principle of diachronism and synchronism as the characteristic features of a lectionary manifests the divine and human aspects of gospel encounter in worship throughout the liturgical year.

(1) Diachronism

Diachronism indicates the chronological, thematic, and linguistic agreement of scripture lessons. It shows 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 interpreted either anamnetically and epicletically.

For the anamnetic, the typology from the book of law and the reality from the book of the gospel are paired to explicate respectively the theology of foreshadowing and its fulfillment in the salvation economy. For the epicletic, the prophetic admonitions to Israel from the book of the prophets and the apostolic exhortations to the church from the book of the apostle (Epistles) are paired to explicate respectively the spiritual guidance for the old Israel and the new Israel to enable the better conduct of the community. The whole system follows an historically ordered sequence of gospel events to which the other lessons are oriented:[92]

(2). Synchronism

Synchronism is indicated by the relationship of the lectionary system to the totality of the chronological and thematic arrangement of the Paschal mystery commemorated in the liturgical propers.[93] This dynamic relationship between lectionary and propers highlights the biblical and theological coherence of the salvation economy: the lectionary system illustrates the gradual unfolding of salvation history at the biblical level, while the liturgical propers speak to the mystery of salvation at the theological level.

In this regard, one may say that the West Syrian tradition, with its emphasis on historia over theoria as noted in Antiochene exegesis and mystagogy,[94] presents in comparison to the East Syrian tradition a more developed form of a historically ordered sequence in its lectionary system and liturgical propers.[95] On the other hand, the East Syrian lectionary system provides a more historically ordered sequence of gospel events, and the liturgical propers continually revolve around a few basic theological themes.[96] The theological agreement within the season is more thematic than historical, and the progression is neither linear nor logical. The lack of an organizational principle based on salvation history in the East Syrian liturgical propers may be an indicator of its antiquity. In general, the liturgical propers of the year thematically safeguard a definitive and beautiful chronological order of salvation history seen through the lens of the Christ event and the Paschal mystery:[97]

                        1. Annunciation-Nativity  (Subbara-Yalda)                 = The mystery of Incarnation

                        2. Epiphany (Denha)                                                       = The mystery of revelation

                        3. Great Fast (Sawma rabba)                                        = The mystery of suffering and death

                        4. Resurrection  (Qiamta)                                                = The mystery of redemption

                        5. Apostles (Slihe)                                                    = The mystery of the working of the Holy Spirit

                        6. Summer (Qaita)                                                             = The mystery of the growth of the Church

                        7. Elia-Cross (Elia-Sliba)                                                 = The mystery of the power of the cross

                        8. Moses (Moshe)                                                             = The mystery of the second coming

                       9. The Dedication of the Church (Quddash edta)       = The mystery of the final glory of the Church

 

Jesus came to the world to make us capable of accompanying him to his heavenly abode (John 14:2-3). This divine journey is made perennial through the synchronic arrangement of the lectionary system with the liturgical propers, thus perpetuating the thirst for a human and divine encounter.[98] Hence, the lectionary synchronism helps the Bride to make her heavenward journey to her Groom much easier by following fully the salvific order of the divine dispensation[99] expressed in the liturgical propers for the year. For this purpose, the Sunday lessons are well regulated so as to agree themselves with the particular salvation mysteries celebrated in each season.

Diachronism of Lectionary

Anamnetic Lesson

Epicletic Lesson

Type

Real

Prophetic Admonitions

Apostolic Exhortations

Book of Law

Gospel

Prophets

Epistle

Synchronism of Propers

                                                                                                     

Annunciation-Nativity Epiphany Great Fast Resurrection Apostles Qaita Elia-Cross Moses Dedication

b. Theology

Lessons for Sundays alone are discussed here. Since Sundays are the pivotal point of the celebration of salvation economy, the lectionary for weekdays follows fully the spirit of Sundays. The structure of four lessons for each day is systematically applied here in order to maintain the fullness of the diachronic and synchronic system of lectionary. The lectionary guide referred here is the one approved by the Oriental Congregation for the use of the Syro-Malabar Church for temporal (Hudra) and sanctoral (Gazz) cycles in the liturgical year.[100]

The lectionary system of the Annunciation-Nativity season from Sunday to Sunday Eucharist unfolding the diachronic and synchronic settings of scripture lessons, together with the paschal mysteries of the mystery of the incarnation commemorated in the liturgical propers, enables a dynamic encounter with gospel values to be practiced in daily life. Reincorporation into the Paschal events reminds the faithful of their commitments to lead a new life in Christ. This period’s manifestation of divine providence through the coming of the Savior, as God’s revelation through the incarnation, summons to the attainment of peace, hope, and joy fulfilled at the inauguration of a new era of salvation..

(1) Diachronic Agreement

Diachronism indicates the agreement between the Old and the New Testament Sunday-scripture lessons within this period of Annunciation-Nativity. They bring out a gradual unfolding of the chronological order of incarnation as the first Christ event of salvation history . For this purpose, the whole system follows a historically ordered sequence of gospel events to which the other lessons are anamnetically and epicletically oriented to interpret as follows.[101]

Sunday Lectionary of Annunciation-Nativity

Anamnetic Lessons

Epicletic Lessons

Type

Real

Prophetic Admonitions

Apostolic Exhortation

1.Gen 17:1-27 God’s covenant with Abraham Luke 1:1-25 Annunciation to Zechariah Isa 42:18-43:13 Israel’s witness to Yahweh Eph 5:21-6:9 Christians’ witness to Jesus
2.Num 22:20-23:2 Balaam’s  prophecy Luke I:26-56 Annunciation to Mary, Visitation Isa 43:14-44:5 The future redemption of Israel Col 4:2-18 Justification through  faith
3.Gen 18:1-19 Birth of Isaac announced Luke 1:57-80 Birth of John the Baptist Judg 13:2-24 Samson to deliver Israel Eph 3:1-21 Wisdom of God
4.Gen 24:50-67 Isaac’s  marriage with Rebecca Mt 1:18-25 The dream of Joseph 1 Sam 1:1-18 Prayer of Hannah for a child     Eph 5:5-21 God’s Kingdom for the children of light
Nativity (Dec.25): Isa 7:10-16; 9:1,3,6-7 Emanuel prophecy Luke 2:1-20 Birth of Jesus, the Savior Mic 4:1-3,5:2-5,8-9 God’s reign in Zion Gal 3:15-4:6 Establishment of law  and faith
1.Gen 21:1-21 Birth of Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael expelled Mt 2:1-23 Magi, massacre, flight to Egypt 1 Sam 1:19-28 Birth of Samuel announced Gal 4:18-5:1 Christians are the children of promise
2.Exod 2:1-10 Moses’ birth and his upbringing Luke 2:21-52 Presentation of Jesus in the temple Isa 49:1-6 Prophecy on messianic commission 2 Tim 2:16-26 Duties of the servant  of the Lord

(a) Anamnetic Interpretation

Abraham, Balaam, Isaac, and Moses are presented as types of the incarnation fulfilled in Jesus. The covenant with Abraham established an intimate relationship between Israel and God and made Israel God’s chosen people. Hence Balaam blessed them instead of cursing them. Isaac, the son of the covenant, led Israel to the portal of salvation instigating their great hope in the Emanuel to come. Moses strengthened Israel’s hope of salvation by manifesting the decisive power of God that liberated the people from the slavery of Egypt and led them to the freedom of the Promised Land. Thus they were given the signs of salvation to be fulfilled in the future establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven through Jesus, and reminded of the duty of God’s people to live accordingly in order to attain such an end.

            The gospel events present the gradual realization of God’s covenant fulfilled in the incarnation of Jesus. Themes such as the announcement to Zechariah, the birth of John the Baptist, the annunciation to Mary, the visitation of Mary, the dream of Joseph, the nativity of Jesus, the visit of the Magi, the massacre of the children, the flight to Egypt, and the presentation of Jesus in the temple—all these reveal the historical evolution of the fulfillment of the hope of salvation as a new age that dawns with the birth of Jesus, the Emmanuel, who provides true peace, hope, and joy. Now it is our responsibility to invite the incarnate Christ into our lives and to make him manifest to the world through our words and deeds.

(b) Epicletic Interpretation

The prophets announced the birth of a new age to come. In this regard, Israel is advised to follow the good examples of their leaders such as Samson and Samuel. Signs of this new age are Zion as the center of salvation and the messiah as the servant of God. A new life faithful to the Lord is requisite for seeing the new age to come.

Apostolic exhortations charge Christians to follow Jesus as the true leader and the Savior. The incarnation decisively turned the world and the history of salvation towards a new age of salvation. The Pauline Epistles exhort Christians to turn the power of the incarnation into a life-giving power for daily life. Only those who become faithful servants of the Lord can do this. Hence Christians must discern the joy in salvation set apart for the children of God.

(2) Synchronic Agreement

            The scriptural themes mentioned above resonate with the theme of the mystery of the incarnation articulated in the liturgical propers of this season.[102] The main theological themes include: God’s promise of the Savior, God’s love for humanity, messianic prophecies, and human miseries, the hope of salvation, revelation through incarnation, the birth of a new era of salvation, joy in the establishment of peace and hope. All these themes unfold the mystery of the incarnation that is to be experienced in daily encounters with the living Christ.

Conclusion

            The period of Annunciation-Nativity with obligatory four Sundays before Christmas (December 25) and non-obligatory two Sundays between Christmas and the Epiphany Feast (January 6) commemorates the mystery of incarnation. The two Sundays after Christmas, though with only one Sunday when Christmas falls on Monday or Tuesday, completes the infancy period of Jesus and is closely linked with as the continuation of the four Sundays of Annunciation.

            Among the Friday commemoration of saints, Mary comes first on the second Friday after Nativity with greetings to her giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God. Blessed Virgin Mary has much importance in this season due to her divine motherhood of Jesus. The prayer-system of this season considers her in a special way as the Mother of God, Second Eve, the Blessed One among women, and the Ever Virgin. Her high status of immaculacy before God made her capable of God-bearer and God-giver for the salvation of humanity.

            Twenty-five days of abstinence in this period from December 1-25 among the St. Thomas Chriatians in Malabar purifies them from inequities as per the request of John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord in order to become God-bearers in hearts, minds, and God-givers through words and deeds. The revelation through inarnation ascertained the hope of salvation establishing peace and joy on earth, which was lost in Paradise. The fulfilment of salvation depends on the personal effort to co-operate with God’s will as Mary did at the Annunciation.

            The lectionary system of this period express the theology of God’s fidelity in His promise to the forefathers by sending His son for the sake of humanty to redeem them from the bondage of sin and death. The Old Testament types of Jesus are historically realised at the Nativity of Jesus. Israel’s obligation to witness Yahweh manifests the present obligation of witnessing Jesus to the world. Just as the Israel followed the good examples of their leaders (forefathers) for witnessing Yahweh, so also the Christians have to follow up Jesus as their true leader and the Lord to attain salvation.


[1] A.G.Martimort, L’Eglise en prière: introduction à la liturgie (Paris, 1961) 735.

[2] I.H.Dalmais, “Le temps de préparation à Noël dans les liturgies Syrienne et Byzantine”, La Maison-Dieu  59 (1959)  25.

[3] Homily 4 & 11, Eulogy of Blessed Mary, Mother of God ; PG 77, 992-996 & 1029-1040; The 11th homily is considered to be a later elaboration of the 4th one, see A.Erle, Die Mariologie des heiligen Cyrillus von Alexandrien (Freiburg, 1921) 124; M.Jugie, “La première fête Mariale en Orient et en Occident, l’avent primitif”, Echos d’Orient 22 (1923) 140; The date and place of this Marian homily is disputed; see M.Jugie, Homélies Mariales Byzentines, PO 19.3 (Paris,1926) 305-307; Id., “La première fête Mariale…,” 140-141; R.Caro,  La Homiletica Mariana Griega en el siglo 4, Marian Library Studies 4 (Ohio, 1972) 274-278; M.Aubineau, Les Hmélies festales d’Hésychius de Jérusalem I (Bruxelles, 1978) 134; A.D’ales, “Saint Cyrille d’Alexandrie et les Sept à Sainte Marie Ephèse,” Recherches de Science Religieuse 22 (1934) 62-70; Schwarts, Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum, 1.4 (Berolini, 1914)  xxv.

[4] Bishop of Cyzicus in 426, and Archbishop of Constantinople from 434 to 446. Homily I, Praise to the Most Blessed Mary, Mother of God (PG 65, 680-692); Homily 5, Praise to Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God (PG 65, 716-721); Hmily 6, Praise to Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God (PG 65, 721-757.

[5] Homily 6, On Blessed Mary Mother of God, and on the Nativity of the Saviour; R.Caro, La Homiletica Mariana Griega en el siglo III, 187-197; M.Jugie, Homélies Mariales Byzentines, 318-335; PG 77, 1418-1432). The authenticity of this homily is doubtful for M.Aubineau, Les Hmélies festales d’Hésychius de Jérusalem I (Bruxelles, 1978) 134; but it is authentic for M.Jugie, Homélies Mariales Byzentines, 292.

[6] Homily 39, On the Annunciation to the Blessed Mother of God (PG 85, 425-452). R.Laurentin, Court traité de théologie Mariale (Paris, 1953) 166, attributes this homily to the Proclus of Constantinople. Acording to Combefis, Novum Anctarium i, 569, as cited in M.Jugie, “La première fête Mariale…,” 139, the title of this homily is given as, “For the Annunciation”. While for R.Caro, La Homiletica Mariana, 288f, M.Aubineau, Les Hmélies festales, 185, and, M.Jugie, Homélies Mariales Byzentines, 305, the manuscript tradition gives the title as, “On Blessed Mary, Mother of God”.

[7] P.Hindo, “Disciplina Antiochena antica Syri: iv lieux et temps sacrés, culte, divin-magistrére ecclésiastiques avec introduction”, Fonti Codicfiazione Canonica Orientale  2.28 (1943) 73; R.Laurentin, Court traité de théologie Mariale, 167; M.Jugie, “La première fête Mariale…,” 135.

[8] PG 85, 1764-1776.

[9] PG 85, 1776-1792; R.Caro, La Homiletica Mariana, 241-255. For M.Aubineau, Les Hmélies festales, 134, the authenticity of this homily is doubtful.

[10] J.Raulin, Historia  ecclesiae Malabaricae cum Diamperitana Synodo apud Indos Nestorianos nun cupatos (Rome, 1745) 225.

[11] A.Mai, Scriptorum veterum nova collectio, vol. 10 (Rome, 1838) 89; K.Holl, Gesamelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte der Osten, vol. 2 (Tűbingen, 1928) 181; J.Mateos, Lelya-Sapra: Lesoffices Chaldéens de la nuit et du matin, OCA 156 (Rome, 1959) 115-116.

[12] For the English translation of the propers for and the spirit of this season, see J.Moolan, The Period of Annunciation-Nativity in the East Syrian Calendar: Its Background in the Liturgical Year , OIRSI 90 (Kottayam, 1985) 65-145, 237-251.

[13] For the historical development and the dogmatic definition of this feast, see J.Kottackal, Behold Your Mother: Mariological Studies, OIRSI 227 (Kottayam, 1999)  C.Payngot, Thirunalukal, OIRSI 231 (Malayalam, Kottayam, 1999) 343-344.

[14] R.E.Brown, ed., Mary in the New Testament (Bangalore, 1996) 126f; de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of Covenant (Bombay, 1995) 58f.

[15] E.Schillebecks, Mary Mother of the Redemption (London, 1964) 48-54; J.Ratzinger, Daughter of Zion (San Francisco, 1983) 62-71.

[16] Ordo celebrationis “Quddasa” iuxta usum ecclesiae Syro-Malabarensis (Rome, 1959) 63; Supplementum Mysteriorum sive proprium missarum de tempore et de sanctis iuxta ritum Ecclesiae Syro-Malabarensis Rome, 1960) 174. For the proper of this day, see Supplementum Mysteriorum, 174-175; V.Pathikulangara, ed. & trans., The Crown of the Year, Denha Services 46, vol.1 (Kottayam, 1996) 294-300.

[17] Several attempts were made in 1561, 1873, 1874 and 1929 to decipher the inscriptions. Numerous are the different translations given to the inscriptions and none of them is found to be satisfactory. Among them the translation by Winckworth in 1929 is the generally accepted one at present, which reads, “My Lord Christ, have mercy on Afras son of Chaharbukht, the Syrian who cut this”, see C.P.T. Winckworth, “A New Interpretation of  Pahlavi Cross Inscriptions of Southern India”, Journal of Theological Studies 12 (1929) 238-240. For the other translations, see A.P. De andreade, The Apostle St. Thomas in the City of Mylapore: Some unpublished Documents 1293-1711 (Madras, 1972) 40-41; j.vazhuthanapally, Archaelogy of Mar Sliba, OIRSI 139 (Kottayam, 1990) 10-11; G.Ronci, “India”, Encyclopedia Cattolica 6 (Rome, 1951) 1821.  

[18] Other names for this Cross are Mylapore Cross, Miracle Cross, Persian Cross, Bleeding Cross, Sweating Cross, Mount Cross and Tomb Cross; see J.Vazhuthanapally, Archaeology of Mar Siba, 10-11. For detailed information on Mar Thoms Sliba, see L.M.Zaleski, Les Origines du Christianisme aux Indes (Mangalore, 1915) 359-361; A.P. de andreade, The Apostle St. Thomas in the City of Mylapore, 38-41; A.M.Mundadan, History of Christianity in India, vol.1 (Bangalore, 1989) 422-424; V.Pathikulangara, Church and Celebration (Kottayam, 1984) 15-19; K.V.Sebastian, Marthomasliba (Malayalam, Chenganassery 2000; C.Payngot, Thirunalukal, OIRSI 231 (Malayalam, Kottayam, 1999) 369-3378.

[19] L.M.Zaleski, Les Origines, 360.

[20] A.M.Mundadan, History of Christianity in India,.413-414.

[21] A.P. de Andreade, The Apostle St Thomas in the City of Mylapore, 39-40; G.Correa, Lendas da India II, 421; L.M.Zaleski, Les Origene, .359. It might be this type of earth collected from the place of martyrdom and buried in a clay vessel with the body of the Apostle that was found out from the Apostle’s tomb during the excavation in 1523.

[22] C.Payngot, “Mar Thoma Slihayum December 18 Thirunalum, in J.Vellian, ed., Aradhanakrma Vijnanakosam, OIRSI 267 (Malayalam, Kottayam 2003) 654.

[23] G.Correa, Lendas das India III (Lisbon, 1861) 421; J.Wicki, Documenta Indica, vol.2 (Rome 1949) 578f; A.P. de Andreade, The Apostle St. Thomas in the City of Mylapore, 40

[24] Ordo celebratione “Qudasa,” 63; J.Kattoor, trans., Kudasayde Aghoshaakramam, (Changanassery, 1998) 64.

[25] The lotus flower became the symbol of Buddhism with Buddha (560-488/87 BC) who propagated the principles of Dharma (truth). Buddhism was widespread and got predominance in India during the time of Asoka, the emperor of india (273-232/31 BC) who was a strong patron of Buddhism. See L.A.waddell, “Lotus (Indian),” in J.Hastings, ed., Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics 8 (New York, 1964) p. 67 on July 3, and 63 on Dec.18.

[26] T.J.Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year (Collegeville, 1991) 117-129.

[27] Sozomen, Historia Ecclesiastica 7.18 (Paris, 1668) 733; R.H.Bainton, “The Origins of Epiphany”, in The Collected Papers in the History: Early and Medieval Christianity (Boston, 1962) 34.  

[28] Stromata i, 21; PG 8,885; O.Stahlin, ed., Clemens Alexandrinus, vol.2: Stromata Buch I-VI; Die grichischen christlichen schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte 3 (Leipzig, 1906) 91; A.Harnack, Die Chronologie der altchristlichen Litteratur bis Eusebius I (Leipzig, 1897) 11.

[29] R.G.Schram, Kalendariographische und chronologische Tafeln (Leipzig, 1908) as cited in R.H.Bainton, “The Origins of Epiphany”, 37; T.J.Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, 118.

[30] De Nativitate 27, 3-4; E.Beck, ed., Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Nativitate (Epiphania), CSCO 186, Scriptores Syri 82 (Louvain, 1959) 137, n.3-4.

[31] L.Douchesne, Bulletin Critique, vol.11 (Paris, 1890) 41f; A.Baumstark, Liturgie comparée (Chevetogne, 1953) 164; Id, “Rites et Fêtes liurgiques”, Irènikon 11 (1934) 502f; J.Pascher, Das liturgische Jahr (Munich, 1963) 325-328; A.Adam, Foundations of Liturgy (Collegeville, 1966) 298.

[32] H.Lietzmann, Geschichte den alten Kirche III (Berlin, 1938) 326-329; t.j.talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, 85-86; p.kuruthkulangara, The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord in the Chaldean and Malabar Liturgical Year, OIRSI 127 (Kottayam, 1989) 5-13.

[33] mommsen, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, auctorum antiquissimorum, vol.9.1 (Berolini, 1892) 56, 71; a.strittmatter, “The Christmas and the Epiphany: Origins and Antecidents”, Thought 17 (1942) 609-610; A.A.McArthur, The Evolution of the Christian Year (London, 1953) 41-43; N.M.Denis-Boulet, Le calendrier Chréttien (Paris, 1959) 54-55.  

[34] J.Noiville, “Les Origines du Natalis Invicti”, Revue des Études Anciennes 38 (1936) 145-176

[35] A.Strittmatter, “The Christmas and the Epiphany”, 612-613; M.Grant, Augutus to Constantine: the Rise and Triumph of Christianity in the Roman World (San Francisco, 1970) 224; S.K.Roll, Toward the Origins of Christmas (Kampen, 1995) 113-114.  

[36] A.Adam, The Liturgical Year (New, York 1979)122-123.

[37] R.H.Bainton, “The Origins of Epiphany,” 27-33.

[38] In diem Natalem d.n.Jesus Christi; PG 49, 357-358; V.Raymond, “St.Chrysostom and the Date of Christ’s Nativity”, Theological Studies 3 (1942) 140-144; S.K.Roll, Toward the Origins of Christmas (Kampen, 1995) 100.

[39] De Trinitate 5, 9; PL 42, 894; S.K.Roll, Toward the Origins of Christmas (Kampen, 1995) 101-104.

[40] Topographie chretienne, ed., Wolska-consus, SC 159, 21, 23. He was an Alexandrian Merchant and a later hermit, a sixth century traveller, who made several voyages to india during the time of emperor Justinian, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmas_Indicopleustes, accessed on 7.12.1012.

[41] Whether Zachary was a high priest is controversial. For Augustin, Tract in Ioan. 49.27 (PL 35, 1757-1758), Zachary was one of the high priests. While for others he was not a high priest, A.Strittmatter, “The Christmas and the Epiphany,” 602; A.Hollard, “Les origines de la fête de Nöel”, Revue d’Histoire de Philosophie Geligieuse 11 (1931) 268; U.Holzmeister, Chronologia vitae Christi (Rome, 1933) 38; J.B.Thibaut, “La solennite de Nöel”, Echos d’Orient 19 (1920) 158.

[42] The Jewish months are, 1.Nisan (Mar.-Apr.), 2.Iyar (Apr.-May), 3.Sivan (May-June), 4.Tammus (June-July), 5.Ab (July-August),6.Elul (Aug.-Sept.), 7.Tshri (Sept.-Oct.), 8.Heshvan (Oct.-Nov.), 9.Chislev (Nov.-Dec.), 10.Thebeth (Dec.-Jan), 11.Shebat (Jan.-Feb.), 12.adar (Feb.-Mar.). Since the Jewish year of  354 days (30 and 29 alternative days of 12 months) is shorter than the solar year of 365 days, in every three years (7 times in 19 years) an extra 29 day month named Vedar is added in between the months of Adar  and Nisan to complete the solar system. See rsv English Bible (Bangalore, 193) appendix.

[43] March 25 was fixed for the Annunciation day, because of its double sense in the Julian Calendar. In the Asian recension it was equal to the Nisan 1, the beginning of the Jewish year; while in the Western recension  for Hypolytus (+215) and Tertullian (+220) it was the Nisan 14, the date of death of Jesus. For Hypolitus’ computation of pascal date, see f.c.cabrol & h.leclerq, ed., Dictionare d’archéologie Chrétienne et de liturgie  6.2 (Paris, 1927) 2423-2426, and Chronicon Paschale ad explarVaticanum recensint Ludovicus Dindorfus I (Bonn, 1832) 13. For Tertullian, Adversus Iudaeos viii, 18, see The Ante-Nicene Fathers III, 160. See V.Loi, “Il 25 Marzo data pasquale e la cronologia Giovannea della passione in età patristica”, Ephemerides Liturgicae 85 (1971) 51f; t.j.talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, 9-12, 91, 129. According to Tertullian and Agustus, the Annunciation (conception) and the Crucifxion (death) took placed on the same day of March 25 in order to fulfil the greatness of Jesus’ perfect earthly life circle in the patriarchal line. Trtullian, Adversus Iudaeos viii, 18; augustin, De Trinitate 5, 9 (PL 42, 894), Nincene and Post-Nicene Fathers i.1,74;  L.Duchesne, Origines du culte chrétien: étude sur la liturigie latin avant Charlemagne (Paris, 1925) 275-279; B.Bott, Les origines de la Noël et l.Epiphanie, Textes et Ètudes Liturgiques 1 (Louvain,  1932) 88-105; T.J.Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, 103; A.Strittmatter, “The Christmas and the Epiphany…,” 611.

[44] T.J.Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, 134-141; P.Kuruthkulangara, The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord in Chaldean and Malabar Liturgical Year, OIRSI 127 (Kottayam, 1989 13-25

[45] In diem Natalem D.N.Jesus Christi; PG 49, 351.

[46] J.B.Chabot, Synodicon orientale ou recueil des synodes Nestoriens (Paris, 1902) 267

[47] In Theophania, seu Natalitia Salvatoris, oratio 33; PG 36, 312-333. The Cappadocian Fathers used the term “theophany” for the feast of the Nativity on December 25, cf. J.Mossay, “Le fête de Noël et d’ Epiphanie d’après les sources littéraires cappadociennes du iveme siécle” (Louvain, 1965) 21-30.

[48] In sancta luminn oratio 39; PG 36, 340.

[49] PG 77, 1432; H.Usener, Das Weihnachtsfest (Bonn1969) 330-331; S.K.Roll, Toward the Origins of Christmas, 198; T.J.Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, 141.

[50] J.D.Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio 25 (Florence, 1783) 1254; CCC 187.

[51] De laudibus S.Stephani, oratio 41; PG 85, 46 b.

[52] Historia ecclesiastica 16, 28; PG 147, 292 a-b;.

[53] Itinerarium 30, CCL 175, 144.

[54] P.bedjan, Breviarium I, 56, 103.

[55] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 54-56.

[56]I.G.Schelhot, Breviarium iuxta ritum Ecceliae Antiochenae Syrorum, vol.2 (Mosul, 1887) 95; F.Acharya, Prayer with the Harp of the Spirit II (Kottayam, 1982) 61.

[57] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 56.

[58] For the different dimensions of this term in this season, see J.Moolan, The period of Annunciation-Nativity, 99.

[59] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 78.

[60] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 89.

[61] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 76.

[62] Virginal birth of the Emanuel (Is 7:14 = Mt 1:23), from Bethlehem the Ruler of Israel (Mic 5:2 = Mt 2:6; Jn 7:42). massacre in Bethlehem (Jer 31:15 = Mt 2:18), Jerusalem entry (Zach 9:9 = Mt 21:5;Jn 12:15), passion and death (Zach 12:10; 13:7 = Mt 26:31; Mk 14:27), death and resurrection (Jona 1:17; 2:1; Ez 43:1-3 = Mt 12:40) and the Second Coming (Dan 7:10; 13:14 = Mt 24:30; 26:64). For the prayer system of the liturgy of the hours where all these and other prophecies are recalled, see J.Moolan, The period of Annunciation-Nativity, 243-245.

[63] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 96.

[64] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 89, 97.

[65] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 65-67,69,77.

[66] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I,.55,67,98.

[67] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 54,67,79,108.

[68] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 58,69,67,76-77.

[69] P.Bedjan, Breviarium  I,.59,79,113.

[70] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 104.

[71] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 66,78.

[72] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 79,101.

[73] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 63,66,70,79,101,111.

[74] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 86.

[75] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 108.

[76] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 353-372.

[77] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 65-66.

[78] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 98.

[79] For this lectionary, see A.J.Maclean, East Syrian Daily Offices (London, 1894) 264-81.

[80] For this lectionary, see W.F.Macomber, “The Chaldean Lectionary System of the cathedral church of Kokhe”, Orientalia Christiana Periodica 33 (1967) 495-512.

[81] A.Baumstark, Geschichte der syrischen Literatur mit Ausschlus des christlic-palästinenischen Texte (Bonn, 1922) 197-98; Id., Nichtevangelische syrische Perikopenordungen der ersten Jahrtausands, Liturgiegeschichtliche Forschungen 15 (Munich 1922) 70-77; Van Unnik, ed. & trans., Nestorian Questians on the Administration of the Eucharist, by Iso-Yahb IV (Haarlem, 1937) 147-50; j.m.Fie, “Iso-Yahb le Grand”, OCP 36 (1970) 10-13; J.Mateos. “L’office divin chez les chaldéen”, in cassien & b.botte, ed., La prière des heures, Lex Orandi 35 (Paris, 1963) 255f; Id., Lelya-Sapra (Rome, 1972) 27; W.Wright, A Short History of Syriac Literature (Amsterdam, 1966) 174; P.Kannookadan, The East Syrian Lectionary (Rome, 1991) 160-62.

[82] J.P.Badger, The Nestorians and their Rituals, vol. 2 (London, 1852) 22; D.G.Bickel, Conceptus rei Syrorum literariae (Munich, 1871) 88; A.Rücker, “Das Obere Kloster bei Mossul und seine Bedeutung für die Geschichte der ostsyrischen Liturgie”,Oriens Christianus III.7(1932)181,note 2.

[83] P. Bedjan, Breviarium, 3 vols. (Rome, 1939).  This revision was in accordance with the decision of Alquosh Synod at Ramban Hormizd Monastery (1853) to remove Nestorian theological errors from liturgy, cf. J.M.Vosté, ed., Chaldei-diritto nuovo: les actes du synode Chaldéen célébré au Couvent de Rabban Hormizd prés d’Alquoche du 7 au 21 Juin 1853, Fondi codificazione canonica orientale 2.17 (Vatican, 1942) 68-69;.

[84] Ordo Celebrationis,  43-70; Suplementum Mysteriorum.

[85]P.Bedjan, Breviarium, 3 vols. (Rome,1886-1887).

[86]W.Wright, A Short History of Syriac Literature (Amsterdam, 1966) 171-74.

[87]G.P.Badger, Nestorians and their Rituals, vol. 2 (London: Joseph Masters, 1852) 19.

[88]Lectiones quae per totum anni decursum ab ecclesia Syrorum Orientalium id est Chaldeorum in Missa adhiberi solent (Mosul, 1901).

 [89]Epistolae Apostoli Pauli quae per totum anni decursum ab Ecclesia Syrorum Orientalium id est Chaldeorum in Missa leguntur (Mosul, 1900).

 [90]Sancta Evengelia quae per totum anni decursum ab Ecclesia Syrorum Orientalium id est Chaldeorum in Missa leguntur (Mosul, 1900).

[91]P. Kannookadan, The East Syrian Lectionary (Rome, 1991) 170-71.

[92]Ordo celebrationis, 43-58.

[93]For the liturgical propers of the eucharist and the liturgy of the hours, see respectively Supplementum Mysteriorum, and P.Bedjan, Breviarium.

[94]For the Antiochene school of exegesis, see C.Schäublin, Untersuchungen zur Methode und Herkunft der antiochenischen Exegese (Cologne, 1974); and for the background and development of mystagogy from the fourth century, see R.F. Taft, “The Liturgy of the Great Church: An Initial Synthesis of Structure and Interpretation on the Eve of Iconoclasm,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 34-35 (1980-1981) 45-75.

[95]For example, see the West Syrians’ naming of the six Sundays of Annunciation season in accordance with the scriptural lessons in H. Y. Doueihi, ed., The Maronite Liturgical Year, vol. 1 ([Brooklyn, 1982) 26, 35, 43, 52, 62, 69; and the thematic presentation of the liturgical propers in agreement with the Sunday lessons in I.G.Schelhot, Breviarium juxta ritum Ecclesiae Antiochenae Syrorum, vol. 2 (Mosul, 1886) 54-259; English trans. in Prayer with the Harp of the Spirit, vol. 2, trans. F. Acharva (Vagamon, 1982) 33-120, 263-329.

[96]R.Taft, “Historicism Revisited,” Studia Liturgica 14 (1982) 97-109.

 [97]Preface to “Hudra” (cycle) by Rabban Brik-Iso, Cambridge Add.1981 (1607 c.e.), ff.2v-4v; see also T.Darmo, Ktaba de qdam wa-de-batar wa-de-hudra wa-de-kaskull wa-de-gazza, vol. 1 (Trichur, 1960-61) 111-12; French translation in Juan Mateos, Lelya-Sapra: les offices chaldéens de la nuit et du matin (Rome, 1972) 461-64. For a historical and theological study of East Syrian liturgical year, see John Moolan, The Period of Annunciation–Nativity, (Kottayam, 1985) 11-56.

[98]Cf. Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:2; 10:11; 13:14; Revelation 21:2; Lumen Gentium 50; and Sacrosanctum Concilium 8.

[99]Johnson Chittilappilly, Mdabbranuta: The Divine Dispensation of our Lord in the Holy “Qurbana” of the East Syrian Tradition (Kottayam: Paurastya Vidyapitham, 1999) 5-85.

[100] Ordo Celebrationis, p.43-70, Kudasakaludde Aghoshakramam, 46-71. For a theological comparative analysis of this lectionary with that of cathedral and monastic lectionaries, see P.Kannookadan, The East Syrian Lectionary, 171-210.

[101]Ordo celebrationis, 47-51.

 [102]P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 53-116; and Supplementum Mysteriorum, 3-17.

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