Holy Qurbana – A brief Study
Pre-Communion Service1. Prefatory Prayers 2. Entrance into the SanctuaryThe Celebrant enters the Sanctuary with the prayers (Ps 43:4), bows his head before the Altar with penitence, and kisses the four corners of the Altar — starting from the right — with praise and thanksgiving (Ps 118:27, 28).Vesting After the preliminary prayers and preparations, the Celebrant washes his hands and puts on his vestments — 7 pieces for the Priest and 12 for the Bishop. The vestment represents ‘the glory and the beauty’ of God (Exodus 28:2)..3.Secret Prayers (Thuyobo) (a) Preparation of the Altar The Priest first kneels down before the Altar and offers silent prayers of penitence and self -offering. Thereafter he kisses the Altar, ascends the steps of the Altar and removes the cover of the Mysteries by reciting special prayers. Then the Priest begins the Intercession with the Paten and the Chalice held in hands crossed against each other. The Intercession of Saints and St Mary is followed by Special Prayers for the sick, for the penitents, and for the departed souls (to be remembered during the Holy Qurbana). The list for Special Prayers must reach the Priest before the commencement of the preparatory service. The Priest now places the Mysteries on the Altar and covers it with ‘Shushafo’ which is the spread. (b) The Censing The Priests perform the Intercession with the incense. He places the incense in the censer with prayers and intercedes for the living and the departed. The Priest concludes this inaudible service of Intercession with incense, which symbolises the offering of Aaron and his sons (Levi. 8:16) with Trisagion, the Lord’s Prayer and Nicene Creed.4.The Old Testament Lessons and Hymn before the Holy LiturgyNow comes Readings from the Old Testament and Psalms prescribed in the Church calendar.
COMMUNION SERVICE (Public Celebration)
- Mariam Deelethok – The public celebration of the Holy Eucharist begins by remembering both the Birth and the Baptism of Our Lord, through which the God manifested Himself to the world. The Priest burns the incense and censes the Table of Life. The veil is drawn and the bells are rung. The Altar boys representing the angels hold the sacramental fans (symbolising the six-winged Seraphim) proclaiming, `Holy, Holy, Holy’ chant along with the congregation and follows the Priest, who goes around the Altar censing.The unveiling of the curtain at the beginning of the public celebration denotes the revelation of Our Lord through Incarnation. At this time the Sanctuary represents the manger, and the Altar the lap of Mother Mary, and Altar boys the shepherds, and the congregation the whole world.Another interpretation is that the Altar is the manger, and the Priest censing and kissing the corners of the Altar in procession, the coming of the shepherds and the Wise Men. The Altar server going before the Priest, with the lighted candle, is the John the Baptist, the forerunner of Our Lord, and the whole congregation singing the hymn represent the angels.
- Trisagon – The Trisagon that follows is addressed to Our Lord. The tradition says at the burial of Our Lord in the newly hewn Sepulcher, the angels and the Archangels descended from Heaven and held the body of Christ, one group after another praising the Lord and proclaiming, “Holy art Thou, O God; Holy art Thou Immortal” when Nicodemus Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43) and the other faithful witnessing the solemn scene, joined the angels saying, “Crucified for us, have mercy upon us”. The Holy Communion begins with this angelic prayer and the congregation makes the sign of the Cross as they recite, ‘Crucified for us, have mercy upon us’.
- Epistle Reading – The Epistle and the Gospel Reading represent the teaching and the healing ministry of Our Lord. Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, standing on the right (north) side of the Sanctuary, represents the mission to the Jews and the Pauline epistles, standing on the left (south) side, represents the mission of Gentiles.
- Gospel Reading (Evangelion) – Believing is the highlight of the words of the Priest before the Gospel Reading and the response reflects the same. The hymn that follows the Gospel Reading exhorts the urgency of doing good work in the vineyard of the Lord, as a result of listening to the Gospel (Luke 12:37)
- The Holy Quarbana Commences – The Gospel Reading is followed by Special Prayers of absolution for the living and the departed, accompanied by offering of the incense. The congregation accepts this by making the sign of the Cross and bowing their heads. We believe as the sweet-smelling smoke of incense rising from the censer ascends Heavenwards, our prayers and petitions, too, ascend as fragrance to the Lord.a) Faith in one, true and Almighty God b) Faith in the Trinity consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit c) Faith in the Incarnation of Our Lord, His Birth, Crucifixion, Burial, Resurrection, Ascension, Second Coming and Last Judgment d) Faith of the Holy Sprit e) Faith in the Absolution f) Faith in Baptism and all other Sacraments of the Church g) Faith in Communion and Intercession with the saints h) Faith in resurrection of the departed, and i) Faith in Eternal Life and the world to come.The Deacon or the Altar server descends from the Holy of Holies and walks towards the western end of the Church, censing the congregation while the Creed is being recited. It is an old custom to denote the end of the service for Catechumens thereby announcing for the departure of unbelievers, and preparing the rest of the service exclusively for the faithful. Remember, Our Lord chose only the 12 to eat the Passover with Him in the Upper Room. The Sacraments are the exclusive privilege of the chosen.
- Washing of Hands – Symbolic of Our Lord washing the feet of His disciples, the Priest washes his hands as the final touch of cleansing before the Holy Eucharist. Then the Priest turns towards the congregation, requesting their prayers so that his oblation is accepted before God. The Priest then kneels down and prays for the congregation — the living and the departed, especially for those whose names were to be remembered.
Anaphora of the Faithful – Chapter 1
- Kiss of Peace – It begins with the kiss of peace — a symbolic gesture of obedience to the Lord’s commandment (explained below): * If you are offering your gifts at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you; leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift (St. Mattew 5 :23). A New Commandment I Give you, that you love one another (St..John 13:34)· Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you (St John 14:27) This ‘Kiss of Peace’ is passed on to all the worshippers assembled in the Church.
- The Apostolic Benediction (II Cor 13:14) – It reminds us of the voice from Heaven on the Mount of Transfiguration, and also at River Jordan (Mt 3:16,17)
- Celebration of the Shushafo – The celebration of the Anaphora Veil (Shushafo) signifies the revelation of the Lord as the Son of God at the time of His Baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. The same Holy Spirit comes down on the Holy Mysteries when the Priest lifts and waves the Shushafo over them. The Celebration of the Shushafo three times represents St Peter’s vision (Acts: 10:9 –16) when he saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. This vision enlightened St. Peter on the fact that not only the Israelites but also the Gentiles are saved by Christ. Also, the Celebration represents the opening of heaven at Transfiguration when the veil of the Old Testament was completely removed. “On this mountain, he (the Lord) will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations” (Isaiah 25:7).
- The Lifting of Minds and Hearts (Sarsum Corda) – The Priest exhorts the congregation: “May the minds and hearts and meditations of us at this moment be on high, where Our Lord, the Messiah sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father “ (Acts 7:55,56, Rev 5:6) The congregation responds: “Our minds and hearts and meditations are with the Lord God.” In almost all the liturgies, the ‘Sarsum Corda’ (the lifting up hearts) and the response remains the same — as that of St James liturgy.
- Sanctus – “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory; Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He that hath come, in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.”
- Consecration (Epiclesis) – This time represents the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the invocation of the Holy Spirit to consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. The liturgy of St James renders the verses thus: ‘’When He the sinless one, on of his own will prepared Himself to accept death for us, gave thanks, He blessed and sanctified and broke and gave it to His Holy Apostles saying, ‘Take, eat. This is my body, which is given for the remission of sins and for eternal life”.
- Invocation – The Deacon cries aloud the following ‘Barekmore (God Bless us) how solemn, Oh my beloved and how dreadful is this time when the Holy and quickening Spirit descends from the Heaven, from the heights above and broods upon this Holy Qurbana and sanctifies it. Stand ye in holy fear and worship.”
- O’ Lord Answer me! (Anin Moriyo) – The Priest beats his breast three times and prays: `Anin Moriyo’ — just as Prophet Elijah prayed three times, “O Lord, Answer me”, and fire came down from Heaven and burnt the sacrifice, showing the sacrifice is accepted by the Lord. Likewise when the Priest calls the Lord three times to answer him, the fire of the Holy Spirit comes down on the Holy Qurbana to transform the same as real Body and Blood of the Lord. When the fire of the Lord burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil and also the water in trench were consumed. (1 KG 18:37,38).
- The Great Intercession (Diptychs) – In his Great High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed not only for his disciples but for generations yet unborn who will hear His teachings through the succession of disciples (Jn 17:20). In other words, Our Lord prayed for the universal church. So in the Holy Qurbana, we pray for the universal church, which includes the living and the departed. This is known as ‘The Great intercession’ (Thubbeden). In the first three prayers, we remember the living and in the next three we remember the departed. The following is the gist of the six intercessional prayers:
1) For the living spiritual fathers – Here we pray for the Patriarch of Antioch, Catholicos of the East, Bishop of Jerusalem, Diocesan Bishop and for all other Bishops in the Church. This prayer is based on Heb 13:18:19.
2) For the Living Faithful Brethren – Here we pray for all the laymen, women, and children who are sick, needy, troubled and stranded. This prayer is based on Eph: 6:18
3) For the living faithful, secular rulers and administrators – Here we pray for all the rulers and authorities. This prayers is based on Esra : 6: 9 & II Tm:2:2
4) For the Mother of God and Saints – Here we remember Mother Mary and all the Saints, Apostles, St Thomas in particular, and martyrs. This prayer is based on Heb 11
5) For the departed spiritual fathers and doctors of the Church
- Here we remember the great ecclesiastical leaders who worked for the establishment of the faith and the teaching of the Church, and ask for their intercession in our day-to-day Christian life.The three Ecumenical Synods and the names of 24 Church fathers are remembered in the fifth and long intercession.a) Synod of Nicea (325 A D) Roman Emperor Constantine convened this synod in Nicea against the heresy of Arius who preached that Christ is merely a creation. As many as 318 Church fathers the world over attended the synod. The synod proclaimed that Christ is God and the Second Person to the Holy Trinity. This synod formulated the creed for the universal Church. It also fixed the date of Easter, and 20 major decisions were taken for constituting the Church Canons.b) Synod of Constantinople (A D 381) This synod was convened by Emperor Theodosius against the teaching of Macedonian Patriarch of Constantinople. As many as 150 fathers attended and proclaimed the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, who is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. The declaration was added to the Nicencean Creed. Also, this synod added seven major decisions to the canons.
- The Synod of Ephesus (A D 431) – The heresy of Nestorius occasioned the Third Ecumenical Council, summoned by Emperor Theodosius II. Bishop Cyril of Alexandria presided over the deliberations and the 200 Church fathers unanimously condemned the teaching of Nestorius, and added to the Creed the words `Virgin Mary, the Mother of God’ — in effect proclaiming Jesus is God. We remember the following Church fathers who lived in the first six centuries:
a) St James
The brother of Our Lord and the first Bishop of Jerusalem, who presided over the Synod of Jerusalem in AD 50. He was a strict vegetarian and wrote the epistle named after him in AD 61. He was stoned to death by the Jews in AD 63.
b) St Ignatius
The third Bishop of Antioch, he organised the orderly conduct of the liturgical services. He also established the Episcopal administration of the Church, During emperor Trajan’s persecution, he was martyred in AD 108 by being thrown to the lions.
c) Mar Clemis
The third Bishop of Rome, Mar Clemis published a number of encyclicals defending faith and edifying the Church. He died in AD 101
d) Mar Dionysus
A great scholar, he taught in the Alexandria theological institute for 17 years and became a Bishop in AD 241. He died in AD 266.
e) Mar Athanasius
Making his debut at the first ecumenical synod of Nicea as Deacon, he became the Bishop of Alexandria in 386 and a staunch defender of the Orthodox faith for which he was exiled five times. His voice, eloquence and erudition virtually drowned the Arian hersy. He died in 373.
f) Mar Yulios
Bishop of Rome (337-352 AD).and a friend of Mar Athanasius, he attended the provincial council of Sardica in 347. He died in 352 AD.
g) Mar Baselius
Mar Baselius — the title of our Catholicose — is inspired by the life of the saintly scholar St Basil the Great, who died on 379.
h) Mar Gregorios
The Bishop of Lasema in Capadocia in 372 and the Patriarch of Constantinople in 379,.he presided over one session of the Second Ecumenical Synod of Constantinople. He is the well-known author of many hymns and sermons.
i) Mar Dioscoros
The Bishop of Alexandria in 444, he fiercely opposed the heresy of the two–nature theory of Our Lord in the Chalcedon Synod of 451. He was killed by his own bodyguards in 457 AD.
j) Mar Thimotheous
He succeeded Mar Dioscorus as the Patriarch of Alexandria (457-477.A D). He fought the Chalcedonians and Eutchinas.
k) Mar Philaxinos
A great theologian and leader, he was the Bishop of Maboog (485-519.A D) and published the new Syriac translation of the Holy Bible in 508. He fiercely contested the Calcedonians but his enemies smoked him to death in 519.
l) Mar Anthimos
With Emperor Theodara’s support, he became the Patriarch of Constantinople in 535 A D. He accomplished many things for the prosperity of the Church.m) Mar Ivanios (St John Chrysostum – 347-410 A D) Born in Antioch, he embraced the monastic order at the age of 13. The Greek title ‘Chrysostum’ means the golden-tongued, which was conferred on him for his eloquent preaching, He became the Patriarch of Constantinople in 398. He spoke against the immorality of the empress, who exiled him. He was the author of a Liturgy and a number of letters of moral and ascetic treatises, including one on priesthood comprising 600 homilies and commentaries, and festal and panegyric orations.
n) Mar Coorilos
Patriarch of Alexandria (429 to 449 A D), he was a great theologian who fought Nestorius..
o) Mar Severious:
Patriarch of Antioch (512-219 A D), he was called the Crown of the Syrians. He was an author and a theologian, and died in Egypt at the ripe old age of 81.
p) Mar Jacob Bardessus.(490 –577 A D)
A monk, he was consecrated the Bishop of Uraha in 541 by three Patriarchs in prison. It was a time when the Priestly succession was endangered because most of the prelates were imprisoned as part of the persecution. So the newly ordained Bishop went around on an ordination spree, clandestinely though. He ordained two Patriarchs, 89 Bishops and a lakh clergies. Also, he composed a communion order of service. His opponents nicknamed his followers Jacobites.
q) Mar Aphrem
An all-time Deacon, he was a poet and a teacher.
r) Mar Jacob:
He became a Bishop at the age of 67 (519 A D), and wrote many hymns for Communion and Baptism service.
s) Mar Issac: (365-466) A great monk, Bishop, poet and author of many books.
t) Mar Balai An author, Archpriest and poet.
u) Bar Sauma
A great monk, Bishop and a teacher. He died in 457 A D.
v) Mar Simon: (397-459)
A great monk who spent 18 years in prayer atop a pillar.
w) Mar Abhai
He revolutionised the monastic order in the 5th Century.
x) Mar Gregorius & Mar Dionesius
The Malankara Metropolitans and the canonized saints of our church.
vi) For all the faithful departed
In the sixth one, all the faithful departed are remembered with special remembrance of those whose names are given for the day. All of these intercessory prayers are like the ones on the high priestly prayers of Our Lord (St Jn: 17:1 ) Prayer based on Exo : 28;11,12,28.The second benediction in the name of our Lord follows the intercession prayers. Then there follows a period of His Passion
(b) Catholic Hymn / Fraction
The curtain of the Sanctuary falls, reminding us of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsamane, his sweat turning blood red in agony and praying all alone (St Mt 26:36.ff). The veil also shows the darkness at the time of Crucifixion (Lk 23:44). The Priest performs fraction and co-mixture, representing the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord. During this solemn occasion, the congregation led by the Altar boys, sing a penitential hymn.
The most popular hymn during the occasion is:
“O God of love, kindly listen to the sound of your humble servant
who knocks at your door.
Your devotees are in great need of your help.
So do not reject the prayers of your servants.
When punishing, be always kind,
remove your anger and protect us
O Lord please, open your door so that we may be rewarded
by your hearing of our prayers.
O Lord listen when we call you.
We are weak, we want your help
O good God, kindly answer our prayers
and grant us our needs
O lord by your mercy show compassion
upon your servant
O God of grace, you know everything,
do not remember faults.”
Another popular hymn begins:
Isaiah saw the Seraphs … (Isaiah 6:1)
During this time, the entire congregation stands meditating. (C) Catholic Litany A General Supplication
The curtain goes up, symbolizing the Post-Resurrection appearances of Our Lord, revealing himself to his disciplines. It also represents the rending of the veil of the Holy of Holies at the temple of Jerusalem when Jesus cried, “It is finished. .. Unto thy hands I commend my spirit”.
(b) The Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:9-23).
The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we are born again through the sacrifice of Our Lord and the consequent sending down of the Holy Sprit to the children who are worthy to call God “Our Father” (Jn 3:3-5 Gal 4:6 1 Pet 1: 3-5).After the Lords Prayer comes a prayer for grace to receive the Sacrament, and then the salutation,. “Peace be unto your”, repeated twice followed by benediction in the name of the Holy Trinity. This refers to the blessing of Our Lord with uplifted hands, at the time of Ascension (Lk 24:50-51).
(c) The lifting of the Paten and the Chalice.
The Priest raises the Holy Mysteries in adoration, signifying the Ascension of Our Lord. The solemnity of the occasion is marked by the ringing of bells and lighted candles, and the announcement of the Deacon to “stand in fear and trembling”. Our Lord ascended and entered into the veil to offer intercession for us (Heb 9:7).
(d) Communion of Saints
The Priest descends from the Altar step to honour Blessed Virgin Mary and Saints and to commemorate the departed clergy and the faithful. We pray in the company of the faithful departed ones. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every thing that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us “ (Heb 12;1). The accompanying songs describe the Church as the Bride. They also describe in ornate and magnificent language the Mother of God. (Eph; 5:26,27, Rev: 19: 6-8, 21: 1-5,9 Hos: 2:20).In the Communion of the Saints, we implore them to pray for us. Though departed from this world, they are alive and active in spirit (Lk. 20:38). When we honour the Saints, we honour Our Lord whose spirit lives in them. Anyone who receives a Prophet because he is a Prophet will receive a Prophet’s reward and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward” (Mt 10:41). Death is only the flight of the soul from the body.Chapter IV
e) Commemoration of the Departed
The Church worships God in the great company of Saints — especially the Mother of God — and the Clergies.
(f) Communion of the Holy Mysteries
The Priest turns to the congregation and requests for their prayers. The curtain of the Sanctuary falls and the Priest kneels down to offer Special Prayers. Then the Priest and the Altar boys receive the Holy Communion. The Second Coming of Our Lord is signified by the loud ringing of bells and the brightly-lit candles, admits Special Prayers when the Holy Mysteries are brought down to the isle.The Holy Communion should be taken after special prayers and fasting (in the morning) because the Lord’s meal should be the first meal on the Lord’s day.Then the Priest mixes the bread and the wine transforming the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord — called `fraction and co-mixture’. The Priest says, “Thus we believe, and thus we confer, and thus we confirm, that this flesh is of this Blood and that this blood of this Flesh”. Since mixed, they don’t have to be given separately.
Facing westwards and facing the congregation, the Priest walks towards the sanctuary steps, with the Chalice and the Paten in hand, accompanied by the Altar boys in two rows holding lighted candles. This moment signifies the Second Coming of Our Lord with mighty power, heralded by the trumpet of Archangel, to judge the living and the departed. That is mankind’s most awesome moment for which every faithful Christian should look forward to. The bells and the fan the Altar boys carry proclaim symbolically the trumpet of the Archangel (1Cor 15:22, I Thes 4:16, Mt 24:30,31, Dan 7:13, Isa 27:1 Zech 9:14).
(a) Thanksgiving and Dispersal
The Mysteries are taken back to the Altar. Then the Priest offers Special Prayers and Thanksgiving. After this he dismisses the congregation with the final benediction. In response the congregation spends a little time in prayer. Meanwhile, the Priest kneels down and offers Special Prayer for himself, his family and the whole congregation, especially for those whose names are remembered in the Holy Qurbana. The Priest concludes with a short the post-Communion service.