"on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."
WHEN DID IT BEGIN?
Tradition places the missionary activity which gave birth to our Church in the middle of the first century. This was during those early days when, in the East, most Christians were Jews who accepted “Yeshua” as “M’shikha” — Jesus as Messiah. As the Scriptures record, “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia… both Jews and proselytes,” had heard the gospel in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9,10).
Historical documents show the Church firmly established by the middle of the second century of the Christian era. This was a period of intense missionary activity in both the east and the west.
The strength of its numbers at that time, and the extent of the area it covered, indicate a period of development and growth prior to that time.
WHERE DID IT BEGIN?
Our Church developed first in what was known as the Parthian Empire, and, when that empire was overthrown, continued its development within the Persian Empire. This was the region lying to the East of the Roman Empire, in today’s Turkey and Iraq. The exact location of its first congregations cannot be established from the historical record, but it is thought that it began its most serious development in the region of Kh’dayab (Adiabene) in northern Mesopotamia.
It spread from there in all directions until it filled the entire Empire, where it was in competition with the Zoroastrian religion for the faith of the people. Tradition locates the first Church in the city of Edessa (modern Urfa in Turkey), from which city it is traditionally believed to have spread to Assyria, Armenia, Medea, Arabia, Persia, Siberia, Mongolia and in 635AD, into China.
The Assyrian people of upper Mesopotamia have always been an important component of the Church, at times dominating the organizational structure of the Church. Today they are the largest surviving cultural group within the Church, though there are also substantial numbers of Indians, mostly in Kerala.
The ecclesiastical language, called the “East Syriac” or “Edessene” dialect, a development on the ancient Aramaic language, is the official language of the Church, its liturgies, and its writings.
Though the Church moved far beyond its Assyrian beginnings, even to the point where the Assyrians were a minority in the Church for a good deal of its history, the language of the Assyrians and of upper Mesopotamia remained the language of the Church, and its vocabulary, augmented with a certain amount of Greek, was the vehicle which nourished its characteristic theological formulations.
OUR CHURCH DOCTRINE
HOW DOES IT WORSHIP?
Our Holy Church has a sacramental system paralleling those of the Greek and Latin traditions. The Sacraments of Baptism and the Offering (Eucharist) are paramount, and are made valid by the Sacrament of the Priesthood, as are all the other sacraments.
The Sacrament of Anointing is a component of Baptism, likewise the Sacrament of Absolution is a component of the Offering, though Absolution is also administered to the people before the Great Feasts or individually with penance in the case of serious sin. The Sign of the Cross and Holy Leaven or Malka are defined as the two other Sacraments.
The central feature of the worship life of the Church is the Holy Offering, the Eucharistic service known in the Syriac language of the Church as the “Qurbana Qaddisha.” The Holy Offering is called “of the Apostles, Addai and Mari, who discipled the East,” or, simply, “Addai and Mari.” The structure of the Holy Offering consists of a service for both the unbaptised and baptised (Psalms, responses, hymns, readings from the Law, the Prophets, the Apostle Paul’s letters, and the Gospels, a litany, and a dismissal), and a service for the baptised only (Offertory, Consecration, and Communion).
The Communion Bread is a leavened loaf, which is further leavened with the Malka, made by the priest on the day of the Holy Offering. The Cup is an equal mixture of wine and water. A legitimate priest, ordained by a bishop in the Apostolic succession, is required to consecrate the Bread and the Cup, and a deacon is usually required to assist the priest.
The baptised faithful receive both the Body and Blood of the Messiah, and the “real presence” of the Messiah is understood, though no doctrine of “transubstantiation” is implied. The Eucharistic theology of the Church may best be described as “incarnational.” A community of worshiping believers is a necessity, and “private” or personal Holy Offerings are unknown.
Our Holy Church considers it “normal” for all believers to receive Communion every Sunday. From our early Christian mentality, we have no concept of being “in communion” or “out of communion” with other ancient Churches. We believe that Baptism is a necessary prerequisite for communion.
Those baptised in one of the ancient, apostolic-catholic churches (Roman Catholic and those in union with Rome, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox) and currently able to receive Communion from their Church are permitted to receive Communion from our Altar. “Able to receive Communion from their Church” means that they are still members and living in a Biblically acceptable lifestyle. Those baptised in one of these churches who, for whatever reason, have left their church and joined a Protestant group, are not permitted Communion at our Altar.