What We Believe
Sacramental/Liturgical/Ecumenical/Doctrinal Essentials/Symbolic Statement of Faith/Trinitarian
WE ARE A COMMUNION OF CHRISTIANS SEEKING CONTINUAL
UNION WITH THE ANCIENT FAITH
The Mar Thoma Orthodox Church is a self-governing (autocephalous) jurisdiction of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ. Our roots are ancient and eastern. However, we also maintain our respective cultural identity as contemporary people of the west.
The teachings of The Mar Thoma Orthodox Church are derived from Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Conciliar affirmation. Scripture contains those truths taught by Christ to the Apostles and later put into writing. Apostolic Tradition represents those truths, and the conciliar nature of the church affirms the continuation of the apostolic witness through the unity of the Spirit as manifested through the people of God.
We are a Sacramental Church in that we recognize and practice Seven Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) as channels of God's grace by which we share in the Divine Life of God himself for our salvation. These include: Baptism, Eucharist. Chrismation, Reconciliation, Ordination (Holy Orders), Holy Unction (Healing and Last Rites), and Holy Matrimony.
We are a Liturgical Church that expresses itself most fully in the Divine Liturgy (Holy Qurbana). Our churches follow the example of Christ who maintained liturgical worship and exhorted his followers to continue this practice. Christ participated in the ritual and offerings of his time, but he also emphatically declared that those who worship God must do so "in Spirit and in truth." The Divine Liturgy is a sacrifice and worship offered to God for the living and the dead, through which Orthodox Catholic Christians share in the benefits of the bread and wine that are changed by the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The liturgies of The Mar Thoma Orthodox Church throughout the world derive from St. James of Jerusalem, being the oldest continual liturgical worship service in the Christian Church. Although the form of expression may differ according to local and cultural standards, the essential framework of each liturgy is that of all ancient Christian worship.
We are an Ecumenical Church that is commited to working side by side with all who proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. Differences of theology or denomination do not prevent The Mar Thoma Orthodox Church from working together for the common good for the sake of Christ.
We affirm the doctrinal essentials of the First Seven Ecumenical Councils. Our church officially recognizes the first three ecumenical councils of the historic Christian Church: Nicea I (325); Constantinople I (381); and Ephesus (431). Additionally, our church affirms the doctrinal truths and Orthodox continuity found in the first seven ecumenical councils recognized by all Eastern Orthodox Churches. Historically, our lineage is derived from the Oriental Orthodoxtradition. Such churches are often referred to as Non-Chalcedonian, which only recognize the first three councils as they do not believe councils 4-7 were truly ecumenical (representative of the worldwide Christian communion). However, the Mar Thoma Orthodox Church believes that much of the doctrinal discrepancy between the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions has more to do with the accidents of history, differences of theological language, and political factors, rather than essential beliefs regarding the understanding of Christology. We pray continually for the healing of this rift between the ancient churches, and we encourage continued dialogue among the various factions.
Our symbolic statement of faith is found in the Nicene Creed, which is common ground to Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and most other Christian groups. Even churches that do not have a tradition of using it in their services nevertheless are committed to the doctrines it teaches.
In addition to the Nicene Creed, The Mar Thoma Orthodox Church makes the following statements about our Christian faith:
We are Trinitarian, in that we believe in the salvific work of the Trinity. We are incarnational, in that we believe that Christ, as Son of God, came in the flesh to redeem creation. We are charismatic, in that we believe in the work of the Spirit, in the historical Church, in the teachings of the doctors of the Church, in the lives of the saints, and each of us today.
We believe, as do all Orthodox and Western liturgical Churches, in the existence of a single God, who is characterized as creator, that is as the origin of all that exists, and as almighty, that is beyond compare in might, rule, time and being. There is no other God beside him and in him only do we move and live.
We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son who was with the Father from time immemorial, before the foundation of the world. We believe that in his great mercy, God send his very Son to save the world. That eternal, divine Son took flesh and became man in the person of Jesus, son of Mary. He who knew no sin became of the same nature as the fallen creation to redeem it by his blood on the cross. Through his death, resurrection and ascension, Christ atoned for the sin of Adam, and made us God's children. He became man so that men and women may return to God.
We behold Mary as Theotokos, as God Bearer, as the vessel for the human birth of Christ, who was truly God yet also truly man. Mary is to be blessed in every generations as the one who brought forth the incarnation of God. God saw it fit to choose a young maiden to bear his Son and thus we must continually respect and venerate her.
We believe that in the fullness of time, Christ will return in his great glory to bring the fold back to himself and establish his kingdom, where all may dwell in the blessed presence of the Almighty.
We believe in the third person of the Trinity, who was in the beginning and continues to reign in and over our lives. We believe that the Spirit was the inspiration of the ancient prophets, of the doctors at the ecumenical councils, of the prophets and teachers of today. We believe that the Spirit informs the reason of men and women and thus, alongside the traditions of the Church, helps us deal with present-day crises and issues.
We believe that we are part of a greater body of Christians, who have worshiped and glorified God since the days of the Apostles. From these Apostles and the hand of Christ came a lineage of which we are part, the Apostolic Succession. This means that from Christ laying hands over the Apostles and commanding them to go out into the world to preach the Good News, generations of church leaders have carried on that great commissions. These leaders were (and are still) called bishops, or overseers. Our lineage comes from Thomas, Apostle and first Bishop of India as well as St. Peter who first presided over the community at Antioch.