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Chaldean Rite – Lecture 1

A Course Given by Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo

Lecture given Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at St. Peter Cathedral, El Cajon, California

“A rite is the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstances of history of a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested in each Church Sui Juris. “( can.28.1/Eastern Code)

“The rites treated in this code, unless otherwise stated, are those which arise from the Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Chaldean and Constantinopolitan traditions.” (Can.28.2).

Original Geographic Domain of the Chaldean Church of the East:
East of Euphrates: Mesopotamia, Persia, India, Mongolia, China, Tibet, Japan and Indonesia.

Historic and cultural Background

  • 3500 BC: Sumerian Language with the invention of cuneiform writing.
  • 2371 BC: With Sargon the Akkadian: the Akkadian Language.
  • 1115-1077 (Time of TiglatPalassar I) clear mention of Aramaic speaking tribes at the eastern bank of Tigris and between the Two Rivers.
  • 742-741 TiglatPalassar III forced the immigration of 18000 people of Aramaic tribes from Mesopotamia to Syria. See also the relief with two scribes: Akkadian and Aramean : Lu A.B. Gora Aramaia.

See Isaiah 36:11 at the time of Sennacherib: “Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to the commander: please speak to your servants in Aramaic; we understand it. Do not speak to us in Judean within earshot of the people who are on the wall.”

  • 626 BC Nabupalassar in Babylon : Akkadian and Aramaic.
  • 604-562 Nabukadhnasar II takes Jews in captivity two times, 597 & 586 BC,  about 70000 of them, who will learn and speak Aramaic language in Babylon and use after their return to Judea.

Darius: on 539 in Babylon, decided that Aramaic should be the international language for his empire; that was the case up to 331 BC with Alexander winning the Battle of Arbela and introducing Greek culture.

  • 126 BC with Parthian Rule Aramaic persists as the dominant lingua franca. The formation of Osroene Principality with its capital Edessa and its famous school makes its dialect the literary and most preserved idiom of Aramaic until the Middle Ages. It will be called Syriac, because Edessa will become a region within the Roman Province of Syria.  Nevertheless, indigenous people of Mesopotamia preserved their Aramaic dialects until our days.
  • 224 AD the Sassanids rule and introduce the Pahlawy language as the language of the Court and of civil administration, while Aramaic remained the popular vernacular (Swadhaya) in all Mesopotamia until the coming of Islam and up to date to some extent.

Ecclesial Background:

  • Apostles to the East of Euphrates: Thomas, and Addai & Mari, in direct connection with Jerusalem and its religious heritage.
  • Scriptural continuity: first converts being from the Jewish community of Mesopotamia, increased with the fresh immigration following the Roman crush of Jewish revolts of 70 & 130 AD; many native people of Mesopotamia, Persia, and India joined the Church and formed one ecclesial unit (Church of the East) with its center in Seleucia-Ctesiphon.
  • Cultural continuity with the Scriptures: using the same Aramaic language and culture of the region.
  • Liturgical continuity: building up on the previous Jewish formulas of public prayers and celebration’s ceremonial.
  • Spiritual particularity: having no support of an empire or a defending ruler, the Church of the East had to survive and flourish by its spiritual resources only.
  • Monastic resilience: The spiritual purity of the Christian Karozutha produced an abundant spread and growth of monastic life and monasteries with their cultural centers.
  • Missionary Expansion: It resulted from the monastic zeal of the Mesopotamians to spread the Gospel, and from the spirituality of the Church of the East as well as of its liturgy and culture, bringing the Gospel to the extremes of Asia.

Major Landmarks for the History of Mesopotamian Liturgy:

  • Addai & Mari: with their apostolic heritage, mainly the Anaphora.
  • Mar Simon Bar Sabba’e (329-341) Patriarch and Martyr: early attempt of liturgical arrangements (Lakhu Mara).
  • St. Ephrem (+373): Prodigious author whose compositions became an integral part of liturgy (ex. Maran ‘Ysho’).
  • Mar Is-haq the Catholicos (399-410) with his decisive organization of the Church immediately after the Shapurian persecution. (339-379).
  • Mar Narsai (+502): the great teacher Of Urhay and Nisibis whose many compositions were incorporated in the liturgy, particularly in the Hudhra.
    * Mar Abba the Catholicos (+552), composer of the 2nd and 3rd Quddasha, and of other liturgical formulas.
  • Mar Bawai the Great (+627) composer of Brykh Hannana and many other liturgical hymns.
  • ‘Ysho’ahb III (650-661): the great organizer of the whole liturgical patrimony of the Church of the East, as it was available up to his time.
  • ‘Nan’Ysho’ the Monk (+7th century): who helped standardizing the melodies and musical arrangements of the liturgical compositions, as they were arranged by the Patriarch ‘Ysho’yahb III.