Need to celebrate Holy Eucharist also in English.
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Eastern Orthodox liturgy that we have from our saintly spiritual forefathers and passed on through generations is the richest among the World Christian faith orders. The need of the day is to adapt ourselves to the fast changing social environment. I do not mean that we should deviate in any way from the liturgy or do away with different vernacular form of it.
What we need is some amount of compromise in our ardent love for participation in the celebration of Holy Qurbano in Malayalam, everywhere, in the wider interest of our future generation who are being brought up with no working knowledge of the mother tongue, or rather we have deliberately changed their mother tongue as English due to compulsion of circumstances they are being brought up.
The fact being, even many grown ups nowadays are not proficient enough in Malayalam to fully understand the liturgy as their parents could.
True, that for most of us it is more comfortable and satisfying to partake celebration of Holy Qurbano in Malayalam even while we are fully aware that children of many of us do not understand its substance in depth. ‘Manglish’ (English made readable in Malayalam) substitutes we use are of some help, but not enough to follow and understand the full meaning of the prayers and hymns in our liturgy to make our children mentally involve in it fully. Even grown ups who do not have opportunity to learn Malayalam also are simply reciting it without knowing its meaning.
There is always this argument that those who do not know Malayalam should learn the English version to know and understand the meaning of what they recite in Malayalam, but then will it ensure their real involvement. While the full mental involvement of many of us while Holy Qurbano celebrated in own vernacular being questionable, it can be understood how it would be if it is in some language we do not know. For example: Don’t we feel uncomfortable when we hear the Syriac version of the Holy Qurbano hymns sung in between by church choir and few deacons without congregation’s participation in spite of the fact that most of us know the meaning of it. Just imagine how much difficult it is for the children to learn by heart something what they do not know or understand at all.
This is perhaps, one of the reasons for many of our adolescent children, even some adults get attracted to other forms of Christian worship that give them a feeling of more involvement and participation. To feel the difference, just observe the behaviour of our children while the Vicar or others deliver serious sermons in Malayalam in the church and in prayer meetings; and then watch them when these are done in English; how attentive the children become then.
Most of churches now provide Holy Qurbano texts with transcripts in ‘Manglish’ (English made readable in Malayalam) and some do have English and Syriac version of the prayers also. The perfect way would be that every believer of Holy Syrian Orthodox faith order to learn the Syriac like the Muslims learn Arabic. This being not very practical, it will be prudent to consider celebrating the Holy Eucharist also in English, at least once a month or so according to the need and convenience of the congregations. Prayer books in English version are available now and every church can get these. It can be obtained to teach children at home and in Sunday schools. Holy Qurbano in English version are available in many TV channels and in CDs. Children can be encouraged to watch this.
Most of our worship hymns in English could be sung in the same tune as in its Malayalam version. Church Choir can prepare and provide CDs for the laity to learn and follow these. The lyrics can be displayed in wide LED screens, as being done in some churches.
The greatest advantage of this is that children once understand the meaning of the lyrics and hymns, in the language known to them, they will be also able to assimilate it while participating in celebration of Holy Eucharist in Malayalam or any other language.
It is most heartening to know that some congregations in Kerala and outside and many abroad, H. Qurbono is being celebrated in English. I remember the now Cor episcopa Rev. Fr. Roy Kochat, took pains to learn and celebrate Holy Qurbano in English, once in a month in Kalina church in Mumbai in 1995. Now this is being done in most our churches there.
English version of the hymn ‘Udayon arul cheythu’ in itself contains the entire philosophy and essence of Christian faith in nut shell; the first three stanzas are the commands and promises of Jesus to us and the remaining are what we beseech to God. This can be sung in the same tune as its Malayalam version. It is worthy to make every child learn the song in English so as to make them understand it in the language they are proficient, in context of relevant verses from H. Bible, and teaching them to sing it, which will be equally if not more useful than the lengthy sermons in Malayalam that most children do not follow. To start with we may introduce singing of the English version of the above hymn intermittently with the Malayalam version. Also some of the Diptychs could be read in English in every Holy Qurbano. Try it and see how much the children will appreciate it.
With kind regards to all,
Author: P. Abraham Paul, Karottuveettil, Trivandrum.
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