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Malankara Syrian Orthodox Seminary
Udayagiri, Mulanthuruthy
Ernakulam, India 682 314
Phone: +91-484-74379

Source: Photo, December 2000

A Firm Foundation for the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church

Very Rev. Chor Episcopus Dr. Adai Jacob, Principal


When we examine the history of Christianity, we can discover an indisputable fact that Antioch was the most important centre of Christianity after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. The believers were first called the name 'Christians' in Antioch. St. Peter and St. Paul, who did their best to spread the gospel in the whole world chose Antioch as their centre of activity. From Antioch the Church began to spread and flourish not only in all the Syriac speaking regions but also in other parts of the world. Therefore it was the Antiochine Church, which assumed the character of 'Catholicity' for the first time in the history of the Church. At least for the first three centuries the Syrian Church was the most flourishing church in the world. Therefore, if we want to discover the invaluable treasures of Christianity we have to search the same in the writings of early Syrian Fathers. The Syrian Church has a profound history of theological education and scholasticism. Ancient theological Schools of Edessa and Nisibis serve as testimonies to this fact. Sometime in the past, due to reasons like persecutions, internal troubles and lack of religious freedom, the Church lost its theological scholastic tradition. However in the recent past the Church has once again come to the realization of the need of advanced theological education overcoming the hurdles and limitations. The Malankara Syrian Orthodox Theological Seminary is a humble attempt to rediscover the treasures of the Syrian Church. Because it is a very difficult task, it will take some years to bear its fruit.

In 1988 we started the construction of a new major Theological Seminary with all modern facilities. By the end of the year 1989 we were able to complete the first phase of construction by spending Rs. 3 million. On 1st January 1990 we were able to consecrate the ground floor of the hostel building and the Seminary began to function in the new building. The seminary buildings are situated on a small hill called "Udayagiri", which means hill of the rising sun. The Seminary sheds light, like the rising sun, on the whole Church through its various activities.

Udayagiri lies in a small village called Vettickal, about 4 kms. away from Mulanthuruthy, a small town, about 25 kms. away from Cochin. The project plan of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Theological Seminary contains a theological college, library, chapel, auditorium, guesthouse, staffquarters, printing press, hostel for students, houses for brotherhoods and sisterhoods, etc. The Seminary is thus one of the most important institutions of the Church. The chapel, hostel, ground floor of the college building, library, mess hall, etc., have been completed at an expense of about Rupees 15,000,000.

1. The Church and the Theological Seminary

The greatest asset and wealth of the Syrian Orthodox Church is nothing, but its one and a half million believers, who owe allegiance to the Holy Throne of Antioch. The main concern and task of the Church now is to fulfill the spiritual needs of these believers and to give them efficient leadership so that they may remain united. This concern and task is the most important problem that the Church faces today. The only way to solve this problem is to formulate an efficient leadership, which stands rooted in the faith and traditions of the Church. This precisely is the be-all and end-all of the Theological Seminary.

It can be undoubtedly affirmed that for an Apostolic Church the Theological Seminary is its most crucial institution. The Church exists in this world not merely for it's sake, but to fulfill a greater duty. The Church takes up the noblest responsibility of keeping and preserving the Christian faith in this world and the task of transmitting the same to others. How can the Church execute this duty? It is for this end, that parishes are constituted and priests appointed to lead them. The noble task of the Church is being, carried out through the priests who lead the parishes. We need priests with commitment and call and who are well trained to perform this task. To ordain and appoint priests without proper education and training is an injustice done to the Church. The most important function of the Seminary, therefore, is to equip the priests for the mission of the Church through disciplined training and proper education. If we want to make the future of Church secure, the Church needs well trained and educated priests and bishops. Through the Seminary, this vital role of the Church can be fulfilled.

2. Seminary and the Spiritual Organisation

Spiritual organisations like the Sunday School Association, Youth Association, Students Movement, Women's Fellowship, Prayer Fellowship, Clergy Association, etc., function as the backbone of the Church. It is these organisations, which make the Church dynamic. This Seminary can help them mainly in three ways:

  1. The Seminary can organise classes and seminars for the spiritual organisations to impart knowledge and to widen the outlook of the members of those organisations.
  2. The Seminary is already conducting leadership training camps for almost all the spiritual organisations. In this way the Seminary helps them to develop leadership qualities.
  3. Because there are so many false teachersand teachings now a days, there is always the danger of deviating from the true faith. The Seminary can not only safeguard the true faith but also deepen it.

3. Protector of Syrian Patrimony

The Christian Church today stands in this world as various denominations such as Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, etc. The Christian confession of faith is that the Church is one and therefore unity is very important. However when we speak about unity it does not mean an external or structural unity. To put it in simple terms, the different churches are like different variety of flowers in a garden. We can see that each flower has its own unique form, colour and odour. For us, these unique qualities of each flower becomes attractive. At the same time we should also note that all these plants bearing different flowers do receive light from same sun, breath air from the same atmosphere and take water and food from the same soil. Although, the source out of which they draw their energy is the same, they do keep their unique and individual qualities. For example, a rose flower is distinguished through its unique shape, colour and odour. Likewise, we the Syrian Orthodox Christians are known by our distinct language, liturgy and traditions. If these treasures are lost the Church loses its credibility and individuality. The Theological Seminary preserves and safeguards the faith and practices of the Syrian Orthodox Church. In short, the Seminary atempts to rediscover and protect the Syrian Patrimony.

4. Ecumenical Centre

The Ecumenical Secretariat of the Church functions in the Seminary. The Syrian Orthodox Church participates creatively in all the ecumenical activities and co-operates with ecumenical bodies like National Council of Churches in India (N.C.C.I.), Kerala Council of Churches (K.C.C.), Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (C.A.S.A.), Theological Literature Council (T.L.C.), St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI), Ecumenical Christian Centre (ECC), etc. Moreover, His Holiness the Patriarch has entrusted the Seminary with the responsibility of sending delegates to the meetings of the World Council of Churches. The Seminary also took the initiative to conduct theological dialogue with the Catholic Church. From 1990 onwards this dialogue is going on with positive results. All these were made possible through the Seminary. The future programmes of the Seminary are being planned, not with a narrow vision, but with a wider vision. The Seminary will be a centre, which protects mutual co-operation and unity of various Christian denominations.

5. Conference Centre

The Seminary will also be a centre to conduct important conferences useful to the Church and society at large. We have seen that the Seminary is conducting leadership training camps for all spiritual organizations. Beyond that we would like to see the Seminary to be a centre to foster ecumenical relations and co-operation among churches. The Seminary can take up conferences aimed at conscientising the society, which is caught by several evils like degradation of ethical values, drug addition, alcoholism, religious fundamentalism, injustice, violence and other evils. Conferences, seminars and symposia will help a lot to eradicate the above mentioned evils. It is our hope that these could be fulfilled once the Seminary reaches its full potential.

6. Publication Centre

It was envisaged that the publication department of the Church must function in the Seminary. In addition to the publishing of the church calendar every year, we have also started publishing prayer books and other liturgical books. Publication of liturgical books, theological books, diary for clergy, Church Directory, etc., are some of the main objectives set by the publication centre. To fulfill these objectives, personnel and finance are essential. We hope that Almighty God will bless us providing them all gradually, in the near future.

7. Centre to Conduct Refresher Courses

It is necessary that refresher courses be held for the priests, who are involved in ministering to the parishes. This will help not only to refresh the mind and thought but also to evaluate and assess problems in practice. Refresher courses also help to give information about current trends in theological thinking. Moreover, it will also be an occasion to share with one another the practical experiences of the priests. Above all, the refresher courses will be a great help to the priests, who were not able to study in the Seminary.

8. Meeting-place of the Syrian Orthodox Church

It is envisaged that Seminary should become a common meeting place of the Syrian Orthodox Church transcending geographical boundaries. Seminary considers it a great privilege to welcome teachers and students of the Syrian Church scattered all over the world. It is our wish and earnest hope that the Seminary will gradually develop to the position of a mini Syrian Orthodox University offering courses for degree, post-graduate and doctoral studies in theology. It is one of our dreams about its future, that it will rise to be an institution, which declares the unity of the universal Syrian Orthodox Church and reveals its greatness.

Through the Seminary arrangements are made to enable Syrian Christians from all the comers of the world to come to India and to visit the Malankara Church. As a first step, delegates from Sweden, Germany and Holland, led by the respective Diocesan Archbishops visited Kerala in past years. We expect the Seminary to view everything with a wider perspective transcending all narrow thinking.

9. Theological Library

The library is very significant to the functioning of the Seminary. The library also needs to be developed with the development of the Seminary. It is envisaged to have a first rate theological library with all modern facilities to do research not only in theology but also in Syriac language and patrimony. Besides, the seminary library should become a store-house of knowledge beneficial to the Church at large. Attached to the library we also wish to have an archives to preserve ancient and rare documents of the Church.

10. Additional activities

We want to take up many other projects under the auspices of the Seminary for the benefit of the Church and the society. A few important programmes are discussed here.

  1. Counselling Centre

    It is a fact that today society and social life have become quite complex. Society, being complex, social problems are also increasing day by day. For example, we face problems in married life, mental agony, alcoholism, etc., in our own society. Through counselling centres, creative solutions to such issues can be arrived at. Moreover it can also take up programmes against superstitions and ignorance. It is also the duty of the Church to conscientise its people about the after effects of the uncontrollable exploitation of nature, which is God's creation.

  2. Retirement Home for Priests

    It is not desirable to leave the priests and other ministers of the Church after their retirement in old age alone without care and nursing. The Church has the responsibility to take care of them. Unfortunately, we do not have enough provisions for the same. If the Church will not have projects for them in the near future, the Seminary will include this in the projects to be undertaken.

  3. Monasteries

    When we examine the ancient history of the Church we understand that the monastic movements played an important role in the all round development of the Church. Men and women, who have dedicated their lives for the cause of study, prayer and service and accepted celibacy can still do a lot for the welfare of the Church. In the Syrian Church now a days the monastic movements do not flourish, because of the lack of encouragement and concern. To widen the horizon of services to diverse spheres and to preserve the spirituality of the Church, the help of monastic movements are very necessary. The Seminary, therefore, needs to give proper directions and support for the growth of monastic movements for men and women. As a first step, a small convent has begun to function and the sisters in the convent are rendering valuable services to the Seminary, by working in the seminary bookshop and printing press.

  4. Spirituality Centre

    The aim of the spirituality centre is to provide convenience for believers from different walks of life, to meditate and pray, whenever they feel they should do so, retiring for a while from the busy every day life. It will be a centre which enables the believers to become spiritually enlightened, by giving them directions to pray, meditate and fast. This will also be a pilgrim centre. Moreover, the spirituality centre will be useful from the point of view of organising retreats and seminars.

  5. Theological Education for Women

    The woman often shows more interest and participates actively in Sunday services and in all other spiritual activities of the Church. But at the same time the women are not properly organised. Unfortunately we have no theologically trained women to take up the leadership and organise them. Therefore, the Seminary also plans to give theological education to women, so that they may work among women and represent women in different official bodies of the Church. The sisters, who are members of a convent can also participate in such theological training.

11. Hopes for the Future

  1. Research in the Syriac Language

    As Syrian Christians our identity is closely linked with the Syriac language. It is essential to conduct not only studies but also research on this ancient and rich language. Only in this manner can we be in a position to grasp the depth of the ancient theological writings in Syriac language. The valuable contributions of the Syrian Church from the early days of the Christianity, can never be forgotten. Our intention is to start a Syriac Department in the Seminary with all facilities to conduct research on Syriac language and patrimony, For this purpose, we will try to avail the services of learned Syriac Scholars in and out side India.

  2. Research on Church Fathers and Syriac Heritage

    Study and research on the writings of the Syrian Church Fathers is one of the areas, which is still not fully developed. There have been many Church Fathers who wrote scholarly books in the Syriac language. All these books must be carefully studied, if we are to have a deeper understanding of the Syriac heritage. If we do not give due importance to it's study and research, we will be in a situation in which we don't understand our own heritage. If we comprehend our own traditions, the Syrian Church can really become proud of its rich Christian tradition.

  3. Publication of Ancient Manuscripts

    Many of the hand written manuscripts in Syriac language are not yet published. Publication of such writings is an area where serious thought is urgently needed. We hope that with a special department in the Seminary for Syriac language this can also be taken up. It is a matter of relief that many of the universities give importance to the publication of Syriac manuscripts.

  4. Syriac for all Syrian Christians

    It is a pity that the majority of the Syrian Christians know nothing about the Syriac language. Therefore another important task of the Seminary is to formulate plans with a view to give fundamental knowledge in Syriac for all Syrian Christians. We hope that the Sunday School system can help in realising this plan.

  5. Basic Theological Education for all Believers

    The Church has the responsibility to teach all the believers the basic tenets of faith. Unfortunately, many of the believers are ignorant of the basic principles of Christian faith. A programme to give basic theological education for adults is a necessity. This can materialize through the publication of text books and through correspondence courses. It is hoped that this goal also will be achieved through the Theological Seminary.

12. Conclusion

The Theological Seminary is the greatest and most precious promise for the Church's future. It is expected to become a study and research centre for the Syrian Orthodox Church. It is the cradle of all it's spiritual activities. It evaluates the past, activates the present and leads the Church to a glorious future. Let us pray to God Almighty and work together for the well being of the Seminary.

His Holiness Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas blessed the Seminary on April 9-10, 2000, during his second apostolic visit to Malankara.

Very Rev. Chor Episcopus Adai Jacob B.A., B.D., B.Ed., Ph.D (Kegensluty, Germany) is the Principal M.S.O.T. Seminary, Udayagiri. In addition, he is a member of the Managing Committee and Ecumenical Commission of the Church. Son of Rev. Fr. T.M. Jacob, Fr. Jacob was born on March 14, 1947, became a deacon in 1971 and was ordained to priesthood in 1981.

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Last Update: June 2, 2000