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Christmas Liturgy in the Mar Thoma Church Christian Church is the response to the great salvific act of God

in history. Remembrance of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ has a practical appeal to the faith of the Church in general and Christian believer in particular. Ones faith constitutes his being. Regular participation in Christs life and teaching through remembrance strengthen and illuminates a Christians faith and being. Liturgy is one of the modes of the Church in making this process of growth a reality. Meaning of Liturgy The word liturgy is derived from the Greek word leitourgia. To the ancient Greek, Leitourgia in its general sense means the work of the people or the public work. Centuries ago when the Church was in infancy, the same work was applied for Christian worship, i.e. the Churchs public work. In the religious setting it comprises a religious ceremony. It is the Churchs earnest involvement in the process of remembrance of the salvific action of God in Christ. Hence it is the response of the Church in public worship. In worship through liturgy salvific act of God is recapitulated by the faith community so that the action of God that happened centuries before could become contemporaneous. In the liturgy rituals confronts our thoughts and deeds. They then challenge us to respond to the present day realities in the wake of the Christ events. Therefore, as Pope Pius XII has said, the most pressing duty of Christians is to live the liturgical life and increase and cherish its supernatural spirit. As a result worship becomes the central activity of the Church. In liturgy, words and actions joins together to give the above mentioned situation. Hence liturgy becomes the unity of faith and practice through which Church publicly praises and honours God. But owing to the misconception of work as perceived by many, they look down upon liturgical expressions of the Church also. They think work as a heavy labour and something that is pressured upon them. In consequence for them work is not a wilful option but an unpleasant and unwanted imposition. For those with such mental frame work, liturgy becomes a meaningless, unproductive and forced burden. For them liturgy doesnt fit. On the contrary liturgy is a work of different sort. It is some thing which one wilfully opts. It is something which one eagerly desires for. Significance Implications of the worship of the Church in liturgy are multifaceted. 1. It is giving honour to God in and through Christ. In liturgical worship we consciously turn our attention to God. God is made the central thrust of liturgical worship. Concentration is made on the salvific act of God in Christ. Therefore, birth, life, teaching, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and second coming is touched repeatedly. 2. It brings together the community of faithful. Community is built up in relation with God. Everyone uses the same expression of faith. Rituals that includes set of words and actions with universal meaning is employed. It builds up an interrelated community nurturing common bond of faith. As a result community

of love is generated. This oneness helps individuals and families to produce reconciled relationships. So it becomes a public expression of witness also. 3. It helps us to understand who we are. Our identity is revealed and continuously reminded in the act of worshiping. When the liturgy unceasingly reminds us about the nature of God in Christ, it has an underlying call to follow the footsteps of Christ. This is increasingly true in the context of our call as Disciples of Christ because worship is not just a theoretical or philosophical expression as conceived by many, but it is a total involvement of the participants. Hence it becomes our self expression. At the same time, it is instrumental in the formation of a Christian for, we are constantly taught about Gods response to this world. 4. It makes us to create and celebrate a new view of history. History is not just viewed as some independent events that had happened in the past or as that happens today and that will happen tomorrow. Instead events are interpreted in relation with Gods will. This could be either as positive affirmation or as negative negation. In response we are called to commitment and recommitment involving thanksgiving for the positive response and confession on behalf of the negative repudiation of Gods will from human side. For that reason, liturgy gives a new meaning to history and enforces a movement towards a glorious future. Purpose Eastern Church is gifted with glorious liturgical traditions. She has produced magnificent liturgies that suites the various occasions in Christian calendar and other sacramental needs. An Oriental writer has pointed out, Liturgy is the royal door through which one must pass if one wants to grasp the Spirit of the Christian East. It is true that the meaning and strength of the faith of the Oriental Church could only be grasped in and through its liturgy. Liturgy is the symbolic drama of the history of redemption. It is the Churchs earnest involvement in the process of remembrance of the salvific action of God in Christ. Hence it is the response of the Church in public worship. In worship through liturgy salvation act of God is recapitulated by the faith community so that the action of God that has happened centuries before could become contemporaneous. When the past is invoked into the present, present context remains a presupposition. That's why the liturgy becomes contemporaneous to any time in the history. Remembered occasions confront our thoughts and deeds and it challenges us to respond to the present day realities in the wake of the Christ event. So the eastern liturgy retains a didactic as well as a celebrative aspect. Christmas Liturgy in Mar Thoma Church Mar Thoma Syrian Church cherishes its Eastern nature. She is blessed with beautiful liturgies to celebrate the various occasions in the life of Christ. Christmas liturgy (Janana Perunnal Liturgy) is one among that. This liturgical composition has two parts. One is for the service on the Christmas evening while the other is set for the service in the early morning time of the Christmas day. These liturgies repeatedly emphasise the great event of the entry of God into history in the form of a human. The

liturgy calls us to join along with the celestial as well as the mundane beings who took heart in Christ. It prepares us to encounter Christ with all those who met him during the process of incarnation. In effect it generates a historical consciousness in us giving us an identity consciousness in line with those who offered themselves before Christ. Further through the responsive prayers liturgy exhorts the Church to diligently draw before Jesus in humility. In that process the events related to the birth of Christ are brought before us and the positive response to this great event is remembered with the intention of creating such a positive response to incarnation from the present day congregation. The Promeon and Sedara prayers concentrate much on the nature of God and His glory which was forsaken for the sake of His creation. Further it enumerates the situations into which humility of God transformed himself to fit in. On the basis of this celebration of Gods humility and creations acquisition of grace, it prays for the right vision of the nature and purpose of incarnation. This prayer for orthodoxy is repeatedly emphasised through out the prayers. These prayers also express our desire for unity, peace and reconciliation. The liturgy also includes readings from the Old Testament that are known for their Messianic references. Gospel is read in order to give the punching touch of authority regarding the authenticity of the remembrance of the Christ event. Liturgy is concluded with the affirmation of faith through the Nicene Creed on the first day. On the second days liturgy, the special liturgy for Christmas is concluded with the reading of the Gospel. Affirmation of faith is omitted for the reason that, usually the liturgy is proceeded by Holy Qurbana where the faith affirmation is done in the first part of the Holy Communion Service. These liturgies did not directly touch the present day context. Because of that, they lack an obvious relevance for very particular situations of today. As earlier mentioned, the present context is a presupposition. Present context is brought into life through us being in the situation, and so contemporary relevance is always a deductible and interpretive one. Consequently the scope is not minimal but vast and unlimited. We are given the immense possibility of making incarnation a present day reality with ample room for diversified methods. Even though we possess this great treasury of possibilities, we quite often fail to understand the value of that. On the increasing emphasis on Carol singing that many a times move to the level of show business has pushed our liturgical commitment to the background. Some times even to the graveyard. We need to give more importance to the liturgical heritage of the Church. That should not be viewed with contempt as we look upon imposed labour but as a cradle of immense possibilities of making incarnation contemporarily relevant and Christmas a true celebration of faith and commitment.

Rev. Sunni E. Mathew