March 30, 2006 - Post No. 69
His Holiness Didymus I Catholicos of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church from Kerala, India comes to pay a visit to His Beatitude Torkom II at the Armenian Patriarchate on Sunday afternoon. Joining him are his immediate entourage of archbishops, bishops, priests and deacons from Kerala. His Holiness is in reasonably good health for his 86 years but requires the assistance of one of the Malankara priests when leaving the Patriarchate. The Malankara Catholicos is the same age as both Patriarch Torkom II and His Holiness Zaka I Patriarch of Antioch (cf. earlier posts from Damascus.)
Following the meeting with the Armenian Patriarch, the group of Malankara Orthodox leaders joins the 150 pilgrims who have come with them to the Holy Land from Kerala, for a celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Church, a short walk from the Patriarchate.
The group of Malankara pilgrims arrived here on Wednesday, April 26. About half of the group will journey on to Egypt later this week for an audience with the Coptic Pope Shenouda in Alexandria before returning to Kerala on May 8. The other half, including a couple of the bishops, will return to Kerala sooner.
Following the opening office, the beautiful sanctuary curtain in St. Mark's Chapel, depicting the risen Jesus, is closed for the preparation of the liturgy. Click here to listen to some of the Malankara opening hymn.
During the singing, the members of the congregation come forward one-by-one, squeezing their way through the small chapel which the group has filled to its capacity.
Each of the pilgrims approaches one of three priests at the front of the chapel who offer absolution and a blessing. Even Archbishop Coorilos of Bombay comes forward in all humility to avail himself of this ministry.
The service moves onto the liturgy of the Word, and a layman comes forward to intone the first readings. Click here to listen to the readings and to hear a sample of Malayalam the Indian language used in Malankara Orthodox worship. For a comparison with Syrian refer to the earlier post on the Syrian Divine Liturgy.
Then the curtain opens and His Eminence the senior Archbishop begins the censing of the sanctuary and its congregation.
Click here for a short movie (18MB) of the censing. Note the heavy red hood worn by the archbishop, in the Syrian and Malankara traditions it is the equivalent to the bishop's mitre.
I have previously arranged to meet with one of the monks at the Patriarchate, and must reluctantly leave the liturgy following the Gospel reading, pictured here. Note that two of the bishops in the group of pilgrims fill in as the acolytes (candle bearers) for the Gospel reading.