Liturgy means "service" that may be rendered to God and people.
Liturgy is defined as the source and summit of the life of the church and the celebration of the mystery of salvation, through signs and symbols. We are celebrating Christ and His unique role as our Redeemer.
The Mar Thoma Church's liturgy is characterized by the regular proclamation of the Gospel and the regular administration of the Lord's Supper, within the framework of an orderly, dignified, Scripture-based, and historically informed pattern of worship.
This is the central theme of the Eucharistic liturgy. Eucharist is also the celebration of the relationship between the believer and the almighty. We are also celebrating the relationship among the faithful people through the presence of Christ. The two- fold dimensions are realized and experienced in liturgy.
St. James Liturgy
James, brother of Jesus, was the Bishop of Jerusalem soon after the formation of the Church on the day of Pentecost.
The Liturgy of St. James is probably the oldest of the liturgies that ever existed.
The Holy Communion (Holy Qurbana ) is one of the ‘Dominical Sacraments’ (They are called ‘Dominical’ because they were directly commanded by the Lord. Dominical means : having to do with Jesus Christ as Lord.)
Holy Communion is regularly celebrated in the Church on Sundays and feast days. The different terms used in Christian traditions for this sacrament have significant meaning.
The word Qurbana (in Aramaic) means ‘offering’.
It is also known as Eucharist (giving thanks)(1 Cor. 11:24).
Two phrases used in the New Testament for this are “the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42, 46) and the “Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20).
The word Qurbana denotes the means by which the believer appropriates the blessing wrought through the atoning death of Christ and his/her offering to God. The holy Qurbana or, Eucharist recalls the days of Jesus on earth. It is indeed a remembrance (anamnesis) and is rooted in time and place. Christ is the host at the Church’s Eucharist and he is known in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:33). Thus, it is an action performed as Christ’s anamnesis.
'Lord's Supper' points out Jesus' initiation for first Qurbana and the celebration of heavenly joy by sharing the resources. By participating in the Holy Qurbana, we are getting ready to lead a sacrificial life with joy of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of others.
The Confessional Prayer is one of the important parts of our liturgy of the Holy
Communion (deeply rooted in the bible as evident from the following verse):
So then, everyone should examine himself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. For if he does not recognize the meaning of the Lord's body when he eats the bread and drinks from the cup, he brings judgment on himself as he eats and drinks.
I Corinthians 11:28-29
The Liturgy (Taksa) of the Holy Qurbana:
- St. James Liturgy includes the following segments:
- Anticommunion: The curtain that separates the altar from the haikala is removed at this time. Then follows the reading of Epistle, Gospel, a group of prayers, Nicene Creed and collection of offertory.
- Sermon: Preaching of the Word of God.
- Confessional Prayer: Confession is a sacrament that is administered before receiving the Holy Communion. Through this prayer, we are asking God's forgiveness for our sins. It is repeated after the priest. After the general confessional prayer, the priest declares the Absolution.
- Kiss of Peace: Believers share peace and love with one another through the kiss of peace.
- First Blessing: Communication of blessing is in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
- Words of Institution: The elements (bread and wine) are consecrated and sanctified. The prayer of consecration is very important.
- Prayer of Anamnesis (remembrance): It is a recall on Jesus' act of salvation through earthly life, death and resurrection.
- Prayer of Epiclesis: It is the prayer to the Holy Spirit to sanctify the bread and wine.
- Intercession: Through the intercession we remember ordained clergies, evangelists, believers, the forefathers and foremothers, state leaders, etc.
- Second Blessing
- Breaking of bread
- Third Blessing
- Final Blessing: There are three component elements in the final blessing. The faithful are commended to the grace and blessing of the Holy and gracious Trinity and are given the assurance that the Holy Trinity will forgive their sins and comfort their souls. The last part is a prayer of request to the congregation for their prayer and support in the life of the celebrant. The faithful are dismissed with the greeting that they may be "filled with gladness and rejoicing".
The liturgy plays a dual role.
- First, it is the worship that takes the worshipper out of the mundane world into the dimensions of spirit to worship in spirit and truth.
- Second, it is an expression of the message of salvation conveyed through all human senses.
Through worship, what is presented is an image of the heavenly worship in which we are all taking part.
In addition to the spiritual aspect of worship, it also requires the totality of our human-ness. This can be realized only through our five senses. These five senses of communications are: Eyes that sees, Ears that hear, Nose that smells, tongues that taste and the skin that feels.
In the St. James’ Liturgy we use all these five senses to communicate to us the meaning and the feeling of worship. It is for this purpose the incense, the music; the bells are all the visible symbols are emphasized.
The whole purpose of the symbolism is to convey the message. The hallow-ness of the worship is actually enhanced through all the five senses with these additions. A deep sense of the majesty of God and the awesomeness of the Holy Mysteries, which we are privileged to celebrate, pervades the whole liturgy.