About the Syriac Orthodox Church

The Syriac Orthodox Church (also known as Syrian Orthodox Church) enjoys the greatest prestige in the history of Christendom since it is the first Church which was established in Jerusalem out of the Apostles, Preachers and other converted Jews, and was grafted in Antioch by those who were converted from among the Arameans and other gentile elements. It can justifiably claim the wealthiest liturgical and musical heritage, besides a proud theological and missionary record. The Church and it's parishioners still use Syriac-Aramaic the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ. It suffered untold hardships and tragedies including massacres and repeated transfer of the See of the Patriarchate from one locality to another due to political and other developments until it settled in Damascus-Syria. Historians declare that the survival of this Church was nothing short of a miracle. The current Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, the Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church is His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas. The Church provides spiritual guidance to over four million parishioners throughout the World.

ITS NAME: THE "SYRIAN"

This name was derived from Cyrus the king of Persia (559-529 B.C.) who conquered Babylon (539 B.C.) and liberated the Jews by permitting them to return to Judea. His name is mentioned by the prophet Isaiah, connected with Christ. The name "Syrian" is equivalent to the term "Christian" which was applied to the disciples in Antioch for the first time, because those converted Jews believed that Cyrus, their liberator from captivity in 538 B.C., resembled Christ the liberator of captive mankind. So they used to repeat Christ's name connected with his name for pride and honour, as their forefathers did upon their return to Judea. When this news arrived to the gentile elements in Antioch, they called them "Syrians" or "Christians". From that time onwards the name "Syrian" prevailed first among the Christians of Syria and afterwards among the Christians of Mesopotamia, Persia, India and the Far East, through the work of the Syrian Apostles and preachers. This name was used in Syria to distinguish between the Christian Arameans and the Arameans who were not yet converted. Hence the word "Aramean" became synonymous to the word "Heathen", and the word "Syrian" synonymous to "Christian". Likewise, the Aramaic language was called Syriac. Until the present days the Christians who speak Syriac, are called in this sense, "Suroye" or "Suraye" or "Curyaye" Whereas the name "Christian" prevailed among the Western Christians.

All the Syrian historians agree that the name of Syria itself is derived from the above mentioned Cyrus. So, when the disciples were called "Syrians", both of these names were combined together, since their source was the same. This name was connected with The Church of Antioch from the very beginning of Christianity. Hence it was called the "Syrian Church" as it is mentioned in the epistle of St. Ignatius, the third Patriarch of Antioch, to the Romans in 107. It was also attached to the churches in the East as far as India, which submitted to the Church of the ancient capital of Syria. It is still connected to these churches which still use Syriac as their liturgical language, that is the first language of the Antiocheane Church of Syria and of the Syrian countries. Formerly, according to the Romans, the term "Syrus" meant every body speaking Syriac. We are amazed to know that some of the Western writers and orientalists call our Church the "Syriac Church". Our Church, from its very inception in the first century, has been called and was known throughout the world only as the Syrian Church. The name "Syrian" to us does not only designate the name of a country, but also designates the proper name of the Church that was established in Syria and used the Syriac (Aramaic), the language of the country. Therefore it became the religious name of our Church wherever located in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, India, North and South America and Australia. Our church has also followed the distinctive Syrian religious and cultural traditions unbroken to the present day.

It is accepted by all that the word "Syriac" means the language of Syria and that of the Syrians, just as Arabic means the language of the Arabs. So we call our Church the "Syrian Church" (and not Syriac Church), because it was and still is the only native Church of Syria , as mentioned above. It so gallantly preserved and continuously maintained the ancient culture, language of Syria and the rituals of the Church of Antioch; Antioch being the ancient capital of Syria.

In short, there can never be any doubt, as all historians and scholars admit, that our Church is the original Church of Syria, and that it is the one and only Church that has preserved the ancient culture and language of Syria, together with the valuable literature and liturgies of the ancient Apostolic Church of Antioch.

By: H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Yacoub III (1912-1957- 1980+)

 

 

 

 


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