PARAPPALLIL ISSACSON, Church and Marriage in Symbols and Images.

  Parappallil Issacson, Tiruvalla,

Church and Marriage in Symbols and Ima­ges: Ecclesiolo­gy of the Malankara Liturgy of Marriage

Direttore: P. Edward G. Farru­gia sj


           Avery Dulles, in his book "Models of the Church", used different models especially the sacramental model of the Church, concentrating much attention on the Western theology while ignoring at least partly the importance of its ceremo­nies and liturgy. The present study seeks to shed new light on the Church by us­ing a model hitherto employed only in limited context: the liturgy of marriage. This study is pertinent for a better understanding of the nature, mission, and pur­pose of the Church and marriage, and it makes us aware of the intimate relation between Christ, Church and marriage. The originality of this study lies also in its vision and explanation of the ecclesial symbolism. It explores the roots, the basis and the development of the important ecclesial symbolism found in the marriage liturgy. This study concentrates on the biblical, Jewish, patristic and traditional-customary roots of the ecclesial imageries found in the Malankara liturgy of mar­riage. It is a study through the ecclesial symbolism towards an ecclesiological di­mension of marriage. By means of the present research, we make an attempt to elaborate the ecclesiological themes present in the Malankara Liturgy of marriage. Thus, an ecclesiology is drawn from the prayers and hymns of the marriage ser­vice. This study attempts to study the ecclesiological themes inherent in the Malanka­ra liturgy of marriage focussing  on the patristic symbolism and imager­ies contained in it. The study assumes greater importance as it brings out a perma­nent Christ-Church relationship which is really an exemplar for Christian spouses. The purpose of our study is to articulate the ecclesiology of the Malanka­ra liturgy of marriage in the light of the patristic images found in it. The study envisages the theological beauty and the ecclesiological content of the lit­urgy of marriage. The scope of the study is to furnish a proper understanding of the mystery of the sacrament of marriage, its theological content, its model of the relation between Christ and His Church, and its ecclesial dimension. This disser­tation investigates the ecclesiology of the sacrament of marriage which is inter­spersed in the patristic symbolism and imageries. The present study applies a the­matic approach to the Malankara marriage celebration. This means that we make use of the ecclesial images and symbols found in the marriage service in order to make a theological and ecclesiological exposition of the marriage Rite in the Malanka­ra Church. The patristic symbols and images mentioned in the liturgy help also to facilitate a better grasp of liturgical structures currently in use by a flashback onto the past.

          This work consists of four chapters. The first chapter focuses on the histor­ical antecedents of the Malankara liturgy of marriage. It deals with the Jewish influence on the Christian liturgy of marriage, the genesis and the formation of Christian marriage, the early Christians and their marriage ceremonies in the first three centuries, the development of the Christian marriage ceremony from the fourth century to the present, the Antiochene tradition of the origin and develop­ment of the Malankara liturgy of marriage. This chapter includes also the doctrine of marriage in early Syrian literary sources and Fathers. The aim of this chapter is simply to prepare the reader to comprehend the historical background of the Christian marriage service, particularly of the Malankara liturgy, and its Jewish, Syriac and Indian antecedents.

          The second chapter ‘The theology of the Spousal Union between Christ and the Church' examines the general theology of Christian marriage. This chap­ter includes themes such as the importance of symbolism in theology, conjugal symbolism in the Sacred Scripture, the conjugal symbolism of Christ and the Church as expressed in the Malankara liturgy of marriage, spousal union as ‘great mystery', spousal union as the ‘one flesh' image, and spousal union as a sacra­ment in theology. This chapter highlights the spousal union between Christ and the Church which is the exemplar of every Christian marriage. On the basis of the historical and theological antecedents presented in the previous chapters, we con­centrate in the following chapters on the symbolic theology of the important pa­tristic images and symbols, and the ecclesiology inherent in them. The Syriac Fa­thers expressed their theology and their thoughts through various images and symbols. These images and symbols are always related to the biblical background and referred to the doctrine of the Church. They bestow a rich biblical interpreta­tion and theology, and typological meanings of sacred things for the readers. The imageries establish a strong relation between the symbolic nature of a thing and its theological richness.

          The third chapter analyses the important patristic themes found in the Malanka­ra liturgy of marriage such as Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, Christ=s baptism in Jordan as the bridal barn and the betrothal of the Church, Christ on the Cross as married the Church, Christ=s blood as His dowry to the Church, Christ=s body and blood as ring, and Christ the Bridegroom who prepares the bridal chamber for the Church. The chapter also discusses the christological dimension of marriage by presenting Christ as the true and righteous Bridegroom of the Church.

          The final chapter discusses the ecclesiological dimension of the Malankara liturgy of marriage. This chapter contains themes such as the Church in the Syriac tradition, and the Church as the bride of Christ in Aphrahat, Ephrem and in Jacob  of Serugh, and doctrine of the birth of the Church from the side of Christ. The other important themes discussed are MLM as a ‘locus ecclesiologicus', the ecclesio- logi­cal dimension of the Malankara liturgy of marriage, and fìnally, the idea ‘marriage too makes the Church'. These themes offer numerous points which characterize the ecclesiological dimension of marriage. We find that the Christian family in which the spouses carry out the activities of the Church and participate  the mission of the Church, acts as a ‘Church in miniature'. In this way, every Christian marriage assumes an ecclesiological structure and manifests its ecclesial mission. In short, the study analyses and synthesises the ecclesiological dimen­sion of marriage, and points out some of the insights which could be further elab­orated.