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
b)Character
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.

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Doubting Thomas, Wounded Christ!!!!!!!!!

 

Text: John 20: 24-29

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.

Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

Message:

If one plays a game of ‘Word Association’, every name of a person we know evokes an adjective associated with that person. This inevitably is the label we give to that particular person. For example Musician Jakes, Suave Jennifer, Lousy Neena, Fatso David. I had a practice of saving the adjectives associated with people to my mobile, rather than their actual names. One of my friends was scandalized when he found out that his name was stored as ‘Prodigal’. Let me not get into explaining how much I struggled to give him a reasonable explanation. Similarly, in common usage, the name of disciple ‘Thomas’ is usually prefixed with ‘Doubting’. The reason for the label that has just stuck to Thomas is thanks to the text we have just read. Every label needs a reality check and so does the label of ‘Doubting Thomas’. When we read John 20: 1-8, we see that Peter and the other disciples see the Empty Tomb, but are confused and still do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Mary Magdalene, too saw Jesus in person, to believe. John 20: 19-23 shows that the disciples were sitting locked in a room fearing the Jews. The Jews had killed their leader and now their next aim would be his disciples, was the reason for their fear.  Jesus appears to the disciples to comfort them. Only then do they believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Thomas clearly was deprived of the comfort that others had. Like others, he too had witnessed the brutal death of Jesus. The basic foundation of his life was swept off and all the certitude of faith was in limbo. He was a wounded man. I think, he had a right to doubt. When other disciples said that Jesus appeared to them, he expressed the need to touch the wounds of Jesus to ascertain the veracity of the claims of the disciples. This is what we think is scandalous. This is why the black mark of ‘Doubt’ is on the forehead of Thomas. But is Doubt and Faith as antithetical as it seems? I still remember the time when I had delivered a sermon on Easter about the Resurrection of Jesus. I had a call that evening from a friend who I will leave unnamed. He explained to me the battle of divorce that he is having with his wife who is mentally ill. He can’t meet his daughter, he has lost everything he held close. And most of all he knows he can’t blame his wife as she is suffering from mental illness. He told me something that totally shook me. “I have been a very spiritual person, my parents are the most devout people that one could meet. It is not my wife’s fault. But why did such things happen to me. What meaning is there to life? If Christ has Risen, why do I have so much of pain and struggle? Sometimes I feel Jesus has been unfair to me. But I pray and I keep struggling with God.” There are many events in our lives that lead us to the doorsteps of doubt. Maybe, not all are as extreme as I have quoted. But is a doubt wrong? Is struggling with your faith a sin? Russian Novelist Dostoevsky says “It is not as a child that I believe and confess Christ. My hosanna is ‘born in the furnace of Doubt.’ ” Selwyn Hughes in Everyday With Jesus says “Being honest about your doubts is a healthy sign of a living faith”. I agree. I would rather be honest about my doubts than fake certainty and certitude.

 What is interesting in the text read above is that Jesus considers the doubt of Thomas ‘important’ and therefore appears to him not in private, but in front of those he expressed his doubt. He did not come down with fire of retribution and sword of anger for the lack of faith. The first words he said to Thomas were “Peace be with you.” Jesus then asked him to put his fingers in His hands, to touch His wounds. What is most significant about the body of Jesus Christ after resurrection? It is not a flawless Fair and Lovely body. It still has wounds of crucifixion. The resurrected body does not make us forget the cross. The wounds on Jesus’ body still points to the Cross. “There is no resurrection without the Cross.” The most fascinating aspect of this narrative is that“Jesus through His wounds heals the wounds of Thomas.” Jesus uses his brokenness to give Thomas the comfort and commission of Resurrection. In the Holy Communion, the Priest breaks the bread that symbolizes the broken body of Jesus. I always wondered, why even after resurrection the broken body of Jesus was remembered. The narrative of Thomas is an answer. The Resurrected body is a wounded and broken body that has space for our wounds and doubts. According to the Mar Thoma liturgy, before administering the Bread the priest says “The Holy Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, broken on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins, is given to you for the health of the body and soul.” When one goes to the Lord’s table weary and burdened with doubts and confusions, the broken bread is a reminder of the broken body of Christ that has resurrected and triumphed over all the odds in life. But, because of the routine hearing of these verses and ritual practice of receiving bread and wine, the profound meaning and application of Communion is lost. So may I urge you to meaningfully participate at the Lord’s Table understanding that God can accommodate you, in spite of your failings, struggles, doubts and confusions.

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After Thomas was healed, he declared Christ as “My Lord and My God.” This is one of the biggest faith affirmations. The story of Thomas sums up our journey that starts with doubts, borders on denials but ends up with declaration of faith. From Emptiness of Doubt may God lead you to the Healing of your body and soul so as to be Witnesses for Him in declaration of faith through words and action.

 

 

Rev Merin Mathew

Mar Thoma Syrian Church, 

Guwahati