A Brief Overview of the Mar Thoma Order of Ordination

As these are the days of Ordination and times where Ordination services are live streamed, there are many questions asked about the Holy Ordination of Deacon and Kassessa (Priest). A detailed outline would not be possible. I would use some of the questions asked over chat to guide us through the Service of Ordination.

So let us start?

1) Is there s separate service for Ordination?

Historically there used to be, but mostly the sacrament is held in between the Holy Communion service. The second part of the service, after the sermon starts, with the candidates for Ordination kneeling behind the Bishop who celebrates at the Madhbaha (Altar).

2)When exactly do the proceedings for Ordination start proper?

It starts when the song “Deva Suthar Naam Aayiduvan” which is a call for the members to come and kneel for the communion. The special order of worship starts here with the candidates reading a prescribed oath in allegiance to the Mar Thoma Metropolitan and the faith that the Church espouses.

3)What about cutting of hair and what is its significance?

There is a text called “Homologia” which is a Greek word which means recitation of faith which the Bishop reads out to the candidates regarding

a) Integrity
c) Prayerful life
d) Family lifeAs a mark of approval to faith, each candidate is asked to draw a cross in the register in front of his name and other details. This shows symbolically the idea of conducting yourself on the path of the cross as a disciple of Lord Jesus Christ.
After that the Bishop cuts the hair in the shape of the cross as hair is seen as symbol of pride, and cutting of hair is seen as the capacity to “let go.” The hair of the candidate is preserved and it is buried along when the Bishop who has ordained is promoted to eternal glory.

4) I have seen the candidates being covered with a white cloth like the one that covers the Sacred elements of bread and wind. What is that?

After the above steps the Bishops helps the candidate to kneel in front of the Madbaha facing the east where the prayer of the “Holy Spirit is calling you…” is the liturgical start of the Ordination. There are a set of prayers read like Kuklion (Cycle of Psalms) , Promeon (introductory prayer), Sedra (First half of this prayer is normally biblically derived work of salvation of Jesus Christ and the second half is about prayer to make the candidate a meaningful servant of the Lord. Two epistles are read before the reading of the Gospel.

Before the Bishop reads the gospel he covers the candidates or candidate with a white netted cloth with the sign of the cross on it which is called the “Sossappa.” Sosappa symbolizes the cloud or Presence of God revealed through Holy Spirit or mystery. Bishop after covering them keeps the Gospel (from where the Bishop reads) on their head symbolizing the centrality of gospel. The Gospel portion read is John 20: 19-23. Before reading vs 22, the Bishop symbolically blows on the candidates and then reads “Receive the Holy Spirit….”
After several prayers again covered with the Sossappa the Bishop beseeches the Holy Spirit on the candidate “O God the Paraclete (another name for Holy Spirit)… One has to know that the centrality of Holy Spirit in the Ordination service.

5)When is the vestment given?

The difference between service of Deacon Ordination and Kassessa Ordination is minor. The candidate going to be Deacon, wears a Kameez while entering the Service for ordination and after a prayer, the Bishop giving a new testament Bible holds the hand of the candidate and says “From the group of brothers ..Name.. is elevated to the order of Deacons” and helps him stand as he was kneeling. Before that the cassock, along with girdle will be prayed upon the head of the candidate to make the candidate worthy. The chants are chanted when the curtain will be closed. While the curtain is drawn, the candidate is helped to wear the Cassock along with the girdle for the first time. He is given a New Testament Bible as he holds it in his left hand, receives the Censer from the hands of the Bishop. The first act after the curtain is drawn open, is to swing the Censer, clasping the New Testament bible in the left hand. Once that is over. The Holy Communion service continues with the Deacon given a chance to serve the wine.

For the Kassessa Ordination, the Bishop covers the candidate with his vestment (kaapa) and his his hand on the head of the candidate.According to the prayer following are the responsibilities of the Priest
a) Witness to the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
b) To offer spiritual sacrifice and offerings at the Altar.
c) To baptize the people to a new light.
d) To guide the people with the light of Jesus Christ.
e) To become an instrument for the glorification of God through the Church
f) To await the Second coming of Jesus and to build an anticipating community of The Return.

The Bishop then gives the Bible (The full bible) and says “From the order of Deacons…name… is elevated to the Order of Kassessa. After that the vestment (kaapa) is prayed upon the head of the candiddate. Curtains are drawn. The candiddate is asked to remove his girdle and is helped to wear the Kaapa after which the Bishop hands him over the Censer and after the curtains are opened, he appears in the Kaapa, censing to the Congregation of believers. ” After that the Holy Communion service continues and the newly ordained Priest serves the wine.

Rev Merin Mathew

P.S. There maybe inconsistencies in what I have written, so please pardon my ignorance for the same. It is an attempt for those who are curious from the Mar Thoma Church to know the Order of Ordination, a little better. I am not an expert, but just curious to explore. I have based the write up on the Book “The Faith and Sacraments of the Mar Thoma Church by Rev Dr George Mathew Kuttiyil.