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Solemn High Mass of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church celebrated its Qurbāna (Eucharist/Divine Liturgy) in Rome this Sunday at Chiesa di Santa Caterina dei Funari. This is the first time this rite of the Church has been celebrated in English in the City, and we were blessed to be a part of the celebration.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is one of the churches which belong to the liturgical family known as the Chaldean, or East Syrian, Rite. The others are the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church, which were the focus of our study with Bishop Bawai Soro the last few weeks. Of these, the Syro-Malabar is the largest, and is one of the groups of “Thomas Christians” tracing their conversion back to the apostle Thomas, originating mostly in Kerala, India.

The liturgy was not too dissimilar, of course, from other rites I have experienced, but at the same time new and clearly a distinct tradition. Familiar elements included the Trisagion (the Thrice Holy Hymn) and a clear institution narrative, but there was also a lot more antiphonal prayer and response with the assembly. There were five concelebrating presbyters, and one deacon (who, unfortunately, was the only one without a mic, so I could never hear any of his few lines).

The hymnody was English, not just in language but in cultural context. I felt like i had walked into a British Methodist Church, or Anglican perhaps.

The liturgy was translated and presided by Fr. Joseph Palackal, and sponsored by the Chavara Institute of Indian and Interreligious Studies in Rome. One of my friends got pictures, I hope to add them when I get hold of them!

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2 Comments

  1. Mihovil Skarpa says:

    Was it ad orientem or versus populum?
    I have attended a few in England, in Malayam, all versus populum, excessively noisy drums, music played by electronic instruments, and rhytimic like disco music all the time. I doubt it is their original music; it is probably post Vatican II fabrication under the western influence. But it is diffuclt the find out what it had been before, because the congragation and the priests are all of the post V II generation. The noisy drums appart, the music is ear-pleasing but doesn’t sound liturgical. The overal impression is that of the bad Novus Ordo adaptation.

    • A.J. Boyd says:

      Mihovil, this liturgy was celebrated versus populum, but the church (16th century) is on a North-South axis, so true ad orientum is not physically possible. Not sure what the preference would have been if the church were oriented toward the east. The music was choral with an electric keyboard, and if anything made me think of colonial English influence rather than mid-20th century. There are still some latinising tendencies in the liturgy, i think, including a much-diminished role for the deacon (who at least, Deo Gratias, was a real deacon and not a priest playacting as one). Here in Rome it is good to be reminded that not all Catholics are Roman from time to time.

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