Liturgical Contributions of Blessed Chavara

Rev. Dr. Antony Vallavanthara, C. M. I.


Note: Dr. Vallavanthara (1942-2008) emailed me this document, which is the result of many years of his arduous research, on 30 April 2001. The document contains a wealth of information on the history of the Syro Malabar liturgy in East Syriac, and the role of Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara (1805-1871) in the renewal of the liturgy in the 19th century. Vallavanthara refers also to the role of Palackal Thoma Malpan (circa 1780-1841), the Rector of Pallippuram Seminary and the mentor of Saint Chavara, in inspiring Saint Chavara to undertake these activities. This document will be of immense value to future researchers. Joseph J. Palackal. 24 September 2015.


The lectionary that Blessed Chavara prepared was only to complement what was existing. He prepared readings for certain feasts that were introduced after the printing of the Missal in 1774, the Lectionary in 1775 and the reedition in 1844. He prepared the manuscript and sent it to Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith around 1866. Here he only borrowed the reading from the Roman Missal. The whole reading is not written but only the indications to the versicles in the scriptures are given. The manuscript is kept in the Archives of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Borrowed from the Roman Tradition

The three books in the third category, namely the Small Office of Blessed Mary, the Rite of Holy Saturday and the Rites of Forty Hours Adoration, are borrowed from the Roman tradition and are nothing but Syriac translations adapted to the Malabar Church. It was more the pastoral and spiritual need of the community that prompted Blessed Chavara to prepare these texts.

The Small Office of Our Lady:

This consists of 36 folios written in Blessed Chavara's on hand. The rubrics are written in red and the text in black. This is a Syriac translation of Latin text of the Small Office of Our Lady. Here the originality and genius of Blessed Chavara is that he organizes this according to the triple division of the office into Ramsa, Lelya and Sapra in the Malabar and East Syrian traditions. And it is here that he reveals his love for the ancient traditions. This was never printed.

Rites of the Holy Saturday:

In the Malabar tradition as in all the East Syrian traditions, there is no special ceremony for the Holy Saturday. To meet this need Blessed Chavara himself prepared the ceremony for the Holy Saturday. This is a Syriac translation of the liturgical text and ceremonies of the Roman rite. From the manuscript written in the hand of Blessed Chavara we know that his was a free translation. The text was prepared on 1865 and sent to Rome for approval. The approval was received in 1870, but it was printed only in 1922. We know that a literal translation was prepared and published later in 1934.

Rites of the Forty Hours Adoration:

He has introduced the 40 Hours Adoration in the Malabar Church. For the celebration of this rite he has prepared the text and the rites. This again is borrowed from the western tradition and a translation into Syriac form, Latin to suit the Malabar tradition.

Ritual of Benedictions:

Blessed Chavara translated various benedictions from the Latin traditions. The book was printed only after the death of Blessed Chavara.

The Malabar Traditions preserved

Blessed Chavara's most substantial contribution in preserving the Malabar tradition is the organization and publication of the Malabar Breviary, the Malabar Calendar and the Office of the Dead. The most important of all the three is the organization of the breviary. The Malabar calendar is the most important work after the breviary. It is in the preparation of these two that we see the liturgical genius of Blessed Chavara and his great contribution to the preservation of the ancient traditions of the Malabar Church. The work of Blessed Chavara with regard to the organization of the Breviary and the Calendar and its importance is the main object of this study.

The Office of the Dead

Blessed Chavara prepared the Office of the dead, a long one and a short one and the burial services. Burial services are organized according to the different persons: for priests, adult lay people and for children. In organizing this Blessed Chavara has not merely collected the ancient texts, he also edited them making them shorter. The office of the dead was not printed in Blessed Chavara's life time. It was first printed in 1882 by his successor Kuriakose Eliseus Porukara. In the preface of this work Kuriakose Porukara gives this details. "This office consists of the longer office of the dead and the shorter, as it was divided by our Father Respected Kuriakose Elias whose memory resounds in the whole Kerala today." Later different editions were published until the year 1967 when the Office of the Dead was prepared in Malayalam.

The Breviary

The Breviary of Blessed Chavara is a great land mark in the history of liturgy, not only of the Malabar Church, but also of the East Syrian Churches. The Chaldian breviary edited by Paul Bedjan and published from Rome in 1896, is generally considered as the first edition of the East Syrian breviary. For that reason the breviary of Bedjan, though romanized and much corrected by Bedjan, is considered by the scholars today as the source book for the study of the history of the breviary in the East Syrian tradition. For the same reason, it was taken by the Roman Liturgical Commission of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches for the restoration of the liturgy in Malabar, as one of the most important source books. But, in fact, thirty-five years before Bedjan's Breviary was published, Blessed Chavara had published his own edition of the Oriental Syrian Breviary, as it was known and was in use among the St.Thomas Christians in Malabar, basing himself on the Malabar manuscripts and in consultation with the Malpans of Malabar. This really is a monumental work in the history of the Liturgy of the East Syrian tradition.

The Calendar

The next important work of Blessed Chavara is the liturgical Calendar of the Malabar Church which he prepared for the first time in the history of the Malabar Church. It very well reveals his love for the ancient traditions and his concern for its preservation. The specialty of this liturgical calendar is that it reveals different layers of the ancient traditions that had outlived the romanization process during the three centuries after the Synod of Diamper of 1599. Through this calendar Blessed Chavara preserved one of the two most ancient traditions of the structure and organization of the liturgical year that existed in the East Syrian tradition. This in all probability dates back to a period prior to the reorganization of the Liturgical Year generally attributed to Iso Yahb III. We shall discuss in detail the history and development of this calendar after discussing the Breviary of Blessed Chavara.

The Breviary of Blessed Chavara

As we have mentioned above, at the moment when Blessed Chavara went about the renewal of the Malabar Liturgy, the missal and the lectionary were already in fixed form with printed texts. But what remained without proper organization, was the breviary. There was no proper, uniform or common text. Nor was there any uniformity in the celebration. The celebration of the divine office of the feasts was slowly going out of use. Almost all the writers of the period are unanimous in reporting the actual plight of the divine office. Blessed Chavara himself and his two contemporary biographers, Leopold Missionary, his spiritual father and Fr. Kuriakose Porukara, his successor witness to this truth. Fr.Leopold writes: Then the canonical offices in Syriac were recited in different places differently. In order that there may be unity of order in the recitation of the divine office, with the order of the vicar apostolic, our father Prior called together many Malpans from different places in the monastery of Kunammavu and after consulting them he corrected the differences. With the intention of getting it printed, he transcribed the whole breviary in his own hand. From these acts of his it is clear how much interest and desire he had in performing the sacred ceremonies of the Church.

Father Kuriakose Porukara describes it in his own way:

He desired to organize the canonical office of the priests of the Syro-Malabar Church and the rubrics of the Mass according to the tradition of the Holy Church. He also wanted, after having obtained the permission, to make these offices shorter and to establish uniformity every where in these things. Therefore, he collected the ancient books of the divine office from different place and with great care reformed its rubrics. He prepared the divine office for the whole year with great care and wrote out the whole book in his own hand. He sent this book to Rome through Rev.Father Bernardine, so that it may be properly examined there and after printing it to be sent to Malabar.This is the version that we see in the Latin text in Positio which follows slightly different version in the recent edition in Malayalam of the same biography of Blessed Chavara by Kuriakose Porukara.

Father Kuriakose Porukara writes:

Since the Syriac books of the divine office was in practice in each church differently and with diversity, in order that there may be unity and uniformity everywhere, our Father Prior with the order of the Vicar Apostolic collected the ancient books from different places and gathered many Malpans at Koonammavu and after having corrected the difference, with much pain prepared the complete breviary very neatly and in an orderly way, in his own hand.Regarding the work for the reorganization of the book of the divine office Blessed Chavara himself writes with a lot of clarity in his letter of 1st February, 1869 to the priests of Malabar

Now the second part, that is, the Divine Office, which consists of 7 Hulale for the days of the (great) Fast, Sundays ten, and for Nativity 21, like that it was very heavy and the office of the feasts also is long like that. Since it was difficult to write in the book of the feasts is very difficult and since they did not contain all the feasts given in the Thaksa and for many other reasons each one recited the canonical prayers differently. Moreover the mass was often of the saints and the divine office of the week days without proper integration. Hence the canonical prayer were abridged and reorganized in accordance with the order of the late Archbishop so as to unify the Mass and the canonical prayers. All these citation very well show the genius of Blessed Chavara. In the first place, his main interest was to restore the ancient traditional practice of the divine office in the Malabar Church. Secondly his concern was that there should be unity or uniformity in the celebration of the divine office in different places in the Malabar Church. Thirdly he wanted that there is proper integration in the liturgical celebrations according to the spirit of the liturgical year. When there is a feast or commemoration the mass and the breviary should go hand in hand. He was also aware of the heaviness of the office, so he did not hesitate to shorten them when and where that was needed. His approach was balanced and methodical. He took care to collect all the available documents and to consult the available specialists, namely, the Malpans of Malabar. Through all these he wanted to keep up the ancient traditions of the Malabar Church.

Even as a seminarian under Malpan Thomas Palackal, Blessed Chavara was aware of the situation of the books of the divine office. Therefore he had shown great interest in the organization of the books of the divine office. He had been inspired and encouraged in this work by his professor, Father Thomas Palackal. We are told of this by Fr.Porukara Kuriakose: In those days the divine office of (the ordinary days and) the feasts which has been recited in ancient times was in such a state that it was slowly disappearing. To restore anew this practice of reciting the divine office, in consultation with his Malpan, he (Blessed Chavara) collected the books from different places and with great labor transcribed it with his own hand and very well practiced all the rubrics of reciting it.This experience and training under Father Palackal helped him in his work in 1862 when Bishop Baccinelli entrusted Blessed Chavara with the work of the organisation of the breviary when he was the Vicar General of the Syrians under Bishop Baccinelli, the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly.

Blessed Chavara had completed the work of organization of the breviary already in the year 1862. This is very clear from his letter dated 31st May 1869 addressed to the head of the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith. He writes: We humbly request you to obtain permission to recite the divine office for whole year according to the order given in the copies we sent to the Sacred Congregation some seven years back for approbation. This is how we read in the Latin text of the letter which is a resume rather than a word by word translation of the original Syriac. In the original Syriac text the date is clearly indicated as 1862.

We have another reference in a letter of much earlier date, which Blessed Chavara sent to Rome with the signature of Archbishop Bernardino. The letter reads: We are very happy about the interest that you show in getting the Syriac book of canonical prayers examined and approved which we sent to the Sacred Congregation for approbation about two years back through Msgr. Cunard. We are glad to hear that the scrutiny of the books are coming to an end. We hope that after having finished the scrutiny, the book will be approved soon. Our elderly fathers are waiting with great interest to see the new approved book of canonical prayers. The letter clearly says that the divine office was sent to Rome "two years before". But unfortunately in this letter there is no date. Therefore it is not useful for us for fixing the date when the books were sent to Rome. Still it gives us a lot of information about the work of Blessed Chavara and the enthusiasm and joy with which he was waiting for the final realization of the dream he so dearly cherished.

Blessed Chavara had to wait long to get any response from Rome. Already seven years have elapsed until 1869. He did not have much hope that the breviary could be printed in Rome as was the missal in 1774. Hence he proceeded to get the printing done through local means. Both Father Porukara and Chavara speak of it.Father Porukara writes: Since he found that, under the circumstances of those times, it was difficult to have the books canonical prayers printed in Rome he decided to print it in Koonammavu and collected the prices of the book in advance from the priests and the clerics and with the aid from Mannanam made the types of Syriac, Malayalam and Latin and published the Psalter and waited for the permission from Rome. Here Porukara is saying that he waited for the permission after printing the Psalter. But in the letter of Chavara dated 1st Kumbam (February), 1869, part of which we have quoted above, Blessed Chavara says that permission was given. He very well describes the different circumstances. But he does not mention the printing of the Psalter. From his letter it would appear that he was planning to print the whole breviary. Blessed Chavara writes: And since the only possibility is to get these books printed through him (the Archbishop), as it is difficult these days to get them printed there (Rome) or by some other means, and since permission is received to pray it and because it is difficult to do it by writing, arrangements are made to print it in the stone press under my own supervision. In order to raise the means to print the book that is in use for all the Sundays Feasts and the Fast of the year and also (the prayers) for the feasts according to the Thaksa and to make a calculation of the number of books to be printed this letter is sent. This circular letter is dated 1st February 1869 and the letter to Propaganda is dated 31st May 1869. In the first letter Blessed Chavara says that "permission to pray the breviary was received". But in the second letter Blessed Chavara requests for permission: "We humbly request you to obtain permission to recite the divine office". This shows that there is some incongruence in the two letters. If he says permission was received before February 1869, why should he ask again for permission after three months?

Fr. Placid is of opinion that Blessed Chavara died before getting the permission "to print the canonical prayers". For him the permission is for printing. Placid bases himself on the words of Father Kuriakos Porukara. Placid writes: "As very Reverend Father Porukara Kuriakos says, Father Chavara printed the Psalms and waited for the permission to print the (canonical) prayers. But he died in 1871". However, from Fr. Porukara's writing we cannot make out the year about which he is speaking when he says "and he waited for the permission". Further, Placid's statement does not agree with the words of the letter Blessed Chavara wrote on 1st Kumbam 1869, which Placid quotes on the same page. Since from the circular letter we know that as he found that the divine office cannot be printed in Rome, he decided to print it in Kunammavu under his own care. That means, even though he asks the cardinal to obtain the permission, he assumes it and does not "wait for the permission" as Porukara says. Rather he considers the permission given as valid for printing the breviary. According to Father Placid the first part of the breviary prepared by Chavara was published from Koonammavu. But we have no means to determine exactly the date of the printing of the first part of the breviary.

We have found out a few copies of book of the canonical prayers that satisfy the description given by Father Placid. There is no indication on the volume as to when and where it was printed. There is no preface or letter of introduction. It is printed in the so called stone press (Kallachu). From the type it seems to be printed in Kunammavu or Mannanam. Since Father Placid says that the first part of the breviary prepared by Blessed Chavara was printed in Koonammavu we think this was printed in Koonammavu.

The Organization of the Breviary

The Breviary of Blessed Chavara, as we know it today, contains the first part of the Hudra according to the Malabar tradition covering the periods of Annunciation, Nativity and Epiphany, including the three days of the Prayer of the Ninevites. In the structural portion it follows the ancient East Syrian tradition. However, in its organization of the commemorations we find the influence of the romanization that began in the Synod of Diamper and culminated in the two editions of the Thakasa in 1774 and 1844 and the Lectionary of 1775.

The volume consists of three sections, the first section contains the Psalms and the hymns of Moses. The second section contains the order of the different offices Ramsa, Suvaya, Lelya, Sapra and Kuthaya with the common for the Sundays and week days with the variations of the pair and impair weeks. The fourth section is the Hudra part of the volume and contains the prayers for the Sundays, Feasts and Commemorations and the ordinary days that come within it.

The following are the three sections of the book.

Page Numbers Section Decsription
  Section 1  
1-249   The Psalter: 150 Psalms and the Hymns of Moses
259-252   Prayers before the Canonical Offices
  Section 2. The Common of the different Offices  
253-276   Office of Ramsa
276-282   Office of Suvaa
282-309   Office of Lelya
310-331   Office of Sapra
332-338   Office of Quthaya
  Section 3 Ordinary for the seven days of the week  
348-365   Lelya of Sunday
365-372   Qala d’Sahara
373-384   Sapra of Sundays
  Mondays of the Weeks  
385-389   Ramsa of Mondays of the Pair week
390-398   Ramsa of Mondays of the Impair week
398-407   Lelya of Mondays
407-412   Sapra of Mondays
  Tuesdays of the Weeks  
413-417   Ramsa of Tuesdays of the Pair week
417-425   Ramsa of Tuesdays of the Impair week
425-434   Lelya of Tuesdays
434-439   Sapra of Tuesdays
  Wednesdays of the Weeks  
440-448   Ramsa of Wednesdays of the Pair week
448-459   Lelya of Wednesdays of the Pair week
459-463   Sapra of Wednesdays
463-467   Ramsa of Wednesday of imprair week
467-475   Lelya of Wednesday of the Impair week
  Thursdays of the Weeks  
475-479   Ramsa of Thursdays of Pair Weeks
479-487   Ramsa of Thursdays of Impair Week
487-899   Lelya of Thursdays
499-503   Sapra of Thursdays
  Fridays of the Pair Week  
503-506   Ramsa of Fridays of Pair Week
506-509   Ramsa of Fridays of the middle week
509-517   Ramsa of the Fridays of the Imprair week
517-526   Lelya of Fridays
526-531   Sapra of Fridays
  Saturdays of the Week  
531-534   Ramsa of Saturdays of the Pair Week
535-541   Ramsa of Saturdays of the Imprair Week
541-550   Lelya of Saturdays
550-554   Sapra of Saturdays
  Section 4: Choices for the Commemorations  
554-558   Commemoration of many martyrs
558-559   Commemoration of one martyr
559-559   Commemoration of Virgin and Martyr
  Commemoration in the month of January  
563-565   January 13: Marios, Martha and Audipas
565-566   January 23: St. Emaranthina, Virgin and Martyr
566-568   January 26: St. Agnes
  Commemoration in the month of February  
568-569   February 3: St. Bailius, Bishop and Martyr
569-571   February 6: Dorethea, Martyr and Virgin
571-572   February 8: Apolonaia, Virgin and Martyr
572-573   February 14:St. Valentine , Martyr
573-574   February 15 Faustine and Jolita, Martyrs
574-575   February 18: Simeon Bishop and Martyr
576   Suraye Dilanaya: Suraye of choice
577-936 Section 5. Hudra Prayers according to the Liturgical Periods Those of the Times (Dilanaye d’Sauna)* See Note below table  
  Period of Annunciation (Suvara)  
577-585   First Sunday of Annunciation
577   Ramsa
579   Lelya
583   Qala d’Sahara
584   Sapra
585-597   The first Week of Annunciation
585   Monday of the Pair week
588   Tuesday of the Pair week
  All the Wednesdays the ordinary is celebrated  
590   Thursday of the Pair Week
592   Friday of the Pair Week
593   Friday of the Middle Week
584   Friday of the Impair week
586   Saturday of the Pair week
597-603   Second Sunday of Annunciation
603-610   Impair week of Annunciation
603   Monday of the Imprair week
505   Tuesday of the Impair week
  Wednesday : ordinary of the week  
607   Thursday of the Impair week
584   Friday of the Impair is given above
  Saturday of the Impair week  
611-616   Third Sunday of Annunciation
613   Ramsa:
614   Lelya:
615   Qala d’Sahara
616   Sapra
617-   Wednesday of the Four times
617   Ramsa
617   Suvaya
619   Lelya
621   Qala d’Sahara
623-629   Friday of the Rogations
626-628   Saturday of the Rogations
629-635   Fourth Sunday of Annunciation
629   Ramsa
630   Lelya
634   Qala d’Sahara
635   Sapra
636   The fast before the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ Small office
636   Basaliqe
637   Suvaya
638   Lelya
641   Qala d’Sahara
642   Sapra
646-695   On the Day of the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord First type with Octave
646   Ramsa:
655   Lelya
655   First Mauthua
659   Second Mauthua
663   Third Muathua
676   Qala d’Sahara
684-695   Sapra
695-714   On the day of the feast of St. Stephen the first Martyr Type 2 with Octave
695   Ramsa
697   Lelya: First Mauthua
698   Lelya: Second Mauthua
699   Lelya:Third Mauthua
704   Qala d’Sahara
707-714   Sapra
715-734   On the day of the Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Type 2 with Octave
716   Ramsa
716   Lelya: First mauthua
717   Lelya: Second Mauthua
718   Lelya: Third Mauthua;
724   Lelya: Madrasa
726   Qala d’Sahara:
727   Sapra:
734-751   On the day of the feast of Holy Innocent Children Type 2 with Octave
752-764   On the day of the feast of the St. Thomas Bishop and Martyr Small office
764-772   The Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord
764   Ramsa:
765   Lelya
768   Qala d’Sahara
770   Sapra
771-777   Sunday after the feast of St. Thomas
771   Ramsa: direction
772   Lelya
776   Qala d’Sahara
777   Sapra directions on
777-793   On the day of the feast of St. Sylester Pope and Confessor
  Period of Nativity( Yalda)  
794-809   Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord and Octave Type 3
794   Ramsa
795   Lelya
802   Qala d’Sahara
803   Sapra
810-815   Octave of the feast of St.Stephen
815-821   Octave of the feast of John the Apostle
821-816   Octave of the feast of innocent children
  Period of Epiphany Deneha  
826-832   Day before the feast of Deneha
826   Ramsa
828   Lelya
830   Qala d’Sahara ( type 2)
832   Sapra
833-856   Feast of Deneha of Our Lord Jesus Christ
833   Ramsa
835   Lelya: First Mauthua
836   Lelya Second Mauthua
837   Lelya Third Muathua
842   Qala d’Sahara
845-856   Sapra
856-862   Monday to Saturday of the Octave
856   Second day of the Octave
860   Third day of the Octave
861   Fourth, Fifth and Friday
862   Saturday
862-868   Sunday within the Octave of Deneha
868-871   The Octave of Deneha
872-873   Monday of the Pair week
874-876   Tuesday of the Pair week
876-877   Thursday of the Pair Week
877-879   Friday of the Pair week
879-881   Friday of the Middle week
881-882   Friday of the Impair week
882-884   Saturday of the Pair week
884-889   Second Sunday after Deneha
889-890   Monday of the impair week
890-891   Tuesday of the Impair week
891-892   Thursday of the Impair week
892-893   Saturday of the Imprair week
894-898   Third Sunday after Deneha
898-903   Fourth Sunday after Deneha
903-907   Fifth Sunday after Deneha
908-912   Sixth Sunday after Deneha
912-921   Monday of the Three days fast
921-924   Tuesday of the Three days fast
924-928   Wednesday of the Three days fast
928-933   Seventh Sunday after Deneha
933-936   Eighth Sunday after Deneha


* Note: There is no subtitle for the periods of the Liturgical Year as “of the Period of Annunciation”, or “ of the Period of Nativity” or “ of the period of Epiphany”. in this section. Simply the first Sunday of Annunciation is given followed by the second etc. But for the facility of distinguishing we have given these subheadings

The Organization of the Offices

In this organization of the book of the divine office, what interests us in our study are the second and third sections. The second section is important for its organization of the offices, while the third reveals the mobile parts that vary according to the Liturgical Period.

Today we know only of Ramsa, Lelya and Sapra in the organization of the divine offices in the Malabar Church. But in the earlier times a few other offices were in use. Father Bernard, the historian of the Malabar Church, in his history of the CMI Congregation, speaking of the divine office says: The Canonical prayers are generally recited as three parts, namely, Ramsa, Lelya and Sapra. However, during the time of the fast (like Fifty days Fast, three days Fast) there are three other special parts, called Kuthaya,Endana and Subaa. Of these Kuthaya is said during the Sapra, Subaa as part of Ramsa. Endana is said in the middle of the day.

The second section very well reveals the depth of Blessed Chavara's knowledge of the ancient traditions and his care in safeguarding what was uniquely of the Malabar Church. It informs us that the offices like Suvaya and Kuthaya were in existence in the Malabar Church at the time of Blessed Chavara. Now these offices are not known in Malabar as they are integrated in the other three and hence they have lost their specificity. It is worth noting here that Blessed Chavara was preserving these offices of Kuthaya, Subaa and Endana almost at the same time as Bedjan was engaged in editing the breviary where he suppressed them. Hence we have to have great veneration for the memory of Blessed Chavara of his contribution.

The Organization of the HudraThe Organization of the Hudra tc \l 4 "The Organization of the Hudra" The Hudra, the third section of the volume, contains the offices for the periods of the Annunciation, Nativity and Epiphany and for the feasts and commemorations that occur during these periods according to the Thaksas of 1774 and 1844 the lectionary. One of the anomalies that Blessed Chavara felt was that "the mass was often of the saints and the divine office of the week days without proper integration". The purpose of the reorganization was "to unify the Mass and the canonical prayers". Hence in reorganizing the divine offices he integrated the feasts that came from the Roman tradition that has been introduced in the Missal and Lectionary into the breviary.

Here below we give the details regarding the organization of the prayers according to each liturgical period. They will reveal to us how the feasts taken from the Roman tradition are integrated into the ancient Malabar tradition.

Period of Annunciation

1st Sunday of Annunciation
Monday-Saturday of the 1st week of Annunciation
2nd Sunday of Annunciation
Monday-Saturday of the 2nd week of Annunciation
3rd Sunday of Annunciation
Monday-Saturday of the 3rd week of Annunciation
4th Sunday of Annunciation
Monday-Saturday of the 4th week of Annunciation

The Period of Nativity

Feast of the Nativity of the Lord
St. Stephen, the first Martyr
John the Evangelists
Feast of the Slain Children
Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord
Feast of Sylvester the Pope
Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord: the Octave of Nativity
Octave of St. Stephen
Octave of the Slain Children

The Period of Epiphany

The day before the Feast of Epiphany
The Feast of Epiphany of the Lord
Monday to Saturday
Sunday within the Octave of Deneha
The Octave of Deneha
Monday-Saturday of the 1st week
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Monday - Saturday of the 2nd week
3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Monday-Saturday of the third week
4th Sunday after Epiphany
Monday-Saturday of the 4th week
5th Sunday of Epiphany
Monday-Saturday of the 5th week
6th Sunday after Epiphany
Bausa d'Ninevaye :Prayer of the Ninevites
Monday of the Prayer of the Ninevites
(Ramsa, Subaya, Lelya, Qala d'Sahara, Sapra and Kuthaya)
Tuesday of the Prayer
Wednesday of the Prayer
Thursday-Saturday of the 6th week
7th Sunday after Epiphany (Hadb'samba Sabiaya)
Monday-Saturday of the 7th week
Eighth Sunday after Epiphany (Hadbsamba Sthiyaya)

The volume ends with the eighth Sunday after Epiphany. We have not been able to find a copy of the other volumes. We presume that there were two other volumes. But the manuscripts that Blessed Chavara sent to Rome is not traceable. Hence we do not know the details of the organization of the prayers according to the other liturgical periods.

However, from the Calendar of Blessed Chavara, that we will analyse below, we can somehow understand the structural organization of the liturgical periods. For, as we shall see below, the Calendar of Blessed Chavara and also the later Malabar Calendars side by side with the romanized liturgical periods also indicated the Malabar liturgical periods.

This was a conceived provision in view of the breviary. Since these indications are given in view of the recitation of the breviary, it should be the same as the liturgical year in the breviary he provided. The first calendar appeared three years after the breviary was sent to Rome for approbation. Hence we have to think that the structure of the Liturgical Year in the organization of the Calendar should be the same as that of the breviary of Blessed Chavara.

We know that Blessed Chavara collected all the manuscripts available from different places and consulted the Malpans in this regard. But he has also introduced feasts for Roman tradition. Still here we have a valid question. What are the sources that Blessed Chavara used when he introduced prayers for the feasts that he had found in the Missal which were not in the ancient traditions of Malabar? A search into that question is beyond the limits of this article.

Blessed Chavara's attempt to get the breviary he organized, approved by Rome did not realize before his death. He died in 1871. We do not know what was the fate of the volumes that Blessed Chavara sent to Rome in 1862 for approbation. But we know that five years after the death of Blessed Chavara, on the 4th February 1876 a breviary greatly different from the one he organized has been introduced in the Malabar Church.

A valid question arises: why was Rome silent to the petitions of Blessed Chavara? Why did Rome give no approbation to the breviary organized by the Blessed Chavara according to the Liturgical periods as it was known in Malabar? Why did they introduce another breviary? This is an area where much research is to be made.

The work of Blessed Chavara in the organization of the breviary and the attempts he made to print it shows what interest Blessed Chavara had in the restoration of the ancient traditions of the divine office in the Malabar Church. Through this work he was preserving in the Malabar Church a very ancient model of the Liturgical Year of the East Syrian tradition that has outlived the romanization process initiated by the Synod of Diamper and continued by the missionaries for the three centuries following. Since we do not possess all the parts of the divine office we cannot know the complete structure of this liturgical year. It is through the Calendar that this tradition was bequeathed to us. Hence we shall study the calendar and then discuss the significance of Blessed Chavara's contributions.

The Calendar of Blessed Chavara

There did not exist any systematically organized calendars in the Malabar Church as we know it today until the time of Blessed Chavara. Up to the 18th century the Epact in the liturgical manuscripts showing the dates of the feast of Nativity, beginning of the fast, the feast of Resurrection, Pentecost was sufficient for the computation of the liturgical periods and the feasts and fasts. The liturgical periods known in Kerala followed one of the two earlier East Syrian structures. However, after the Synod of Diamper, especially with the printing of the Missals and lectionary in 1774-1775, the liturgical year was romanized so much so that the liturgical periods and the feasts and fasts were fixed more according to Roman tradition. However, the ancient Malabar / East Syrian tradition could not be completely replaced.

The liturgical calendars as we know them came into existence with Blessed Chavara. The first liturgical calendar properly so called was printed by him. It was in Malayalam. Later under the first indigenous Bishops the calendars were made in Syriac. Later the calendars came to be printed in Malayalam. There were two different editions of the calendars in use, one published by the Bishops and another of the CMI Congregation with feasts special to them. They continued sometimes after 1962 when the liturgy was restored and the restored liturgical year following the model of Supplementum Mysteriorum was introduced.

As mentioned above, the first printed calendar that was ever used in the Malabar Church was prepared by Blessed Kuriakos Chavara in 1865. We have different sources that inform us of the work of Blessed Chavara in the preparation and printing of the calendar. Father Kuriakos Porukara in his biography of that Blessed Chavara says that he prepared the "Thukasa" and the Liturgical Calendar. The Chronicle of Mannanam Monastery tells us about the preparation and printing of the calendar for the year 1866 by Blessed Chavara. We have the following words of the Chronicle:

Therefore Father Prior was asked to go to Kunammavu at least on the day before the Nativity of Our Lord. Therefore Father Prior with great difficulty completed the printing of the calendar of the year (18)66 and then proceeded to Kunammavu with that.

Father Lucas Vithuvattickal tells us that since 1865 till the year of his death it was Blessed Chavara who had prepared and printed the Calen But the earliest copy of the calendar that we have been able to trace out was that of 1871, the year in which he died. We know that he had completed its preparation as early as August 1870. This was the last calendar that Blessed Chavara had prepared and he died on 3rd January 1871. In his letter, dated 30th August Blessed Chavara asks Father Alexander Kattakayam to continue this work for the following years. Blessed Chavara writes to Kattakkayam: "I sent to you the calendar of 1871. Please take care to print all these there, as in this year, for it is not convenient to print it here.

Besides the one of 1871 we could trace still another edition. It is dated 1876. The 1876 edition is a reproduction with required changes for the year. We present them to show the differences in the number of the weeks in the liturgical periods because of the change in the date of Easter each year.

Liturgical Period 1871 Calendar 1876 Calendar
Sundays after Nativity
(this period is not named)
- -
Period of Denaha (Epiphany) 7 7
Period of Sauma (Fast) 7 7
Period of Qyamtha (Resurrection) 7 7
Pent.1-7 Period of the Sliha(Apostles) 7 7
Pent 8-15 Period of Qaitha 9 8
Pent 16-22 Period of Sliva (Cross) 7 7
Pent 23-26 Period of Qudas Edtha 4 4
Period of Suvara (Annunciation) 4 4
Sunday Ozhiva 1 1

These calendars are important for the fact that they give us a glimpse into the ancient traditions of the Liturgical Year as it was known and practiced in the Malabar Church.

The calendar is in Malayalam, the dates are given both according to the Malayalam Era (ME) and according to Anno Domini. But the names of the months are given according to ME alone, which stand in a special way to denote also the months of Anno Domini. Here below we give the list indicating the sequence of the months in ME and AD. This system of naming the months was followed in the ecclesiastical documents of the last century. The months are named:

Makaramasam month of January
Kumbhamasam month of February
Meenamasam month of March
Metamasam month of April
Idavamasam month of May
Midhunamasam month of June
Karkidakamasam month of July
Chingamasam month of August
Kannimasam month of September
Thulamasam month of October
Vrischigamasam month of November
Dhanumasam month of December

The first column of the calendar is the dates of ME months and second those of AD months. The Sundays and feasts days of obligation are marked with a cross. The feasts that were days of obligation are marked with cross in brackets. The calendar begins with the first of the month of January (19th Makaram in the ME). The month of January is called Makaram. The liturgical periods are given in the sequence of the days and months. The Liturgical periods are structured and named according the Roman liturgical calendar. But in the nomenclature the ancient Malabar names of the periods are retained. Thus we have the names Suvara (Annunciation), Deneha (Epiphany) used to denote the periods and Qyamtha to denote the feast of Resurrection. For the periods of Fast and Resurrection Malayalam names Nompu and Uyirppu are used. The Sundays after Pentecost until the period of Suvara are named as Sundays of Pentecost and the Malayalam equivalents of quinquegessima, sexagessima and septagessima are given as in the Roman calendar. Hence we have the following structure

1st to 7th Sundays of Deneha
70th Sunday
60th Sunday
50th Sunday
1st to 6th Sendays of Nompu (Fast)
1st to 7th Sundays of Uyirppu(Resurrection)
1st to 26th Sundays of Pentecost
1st to 4th Sunday of Suvara
Sunday of Ozhiva

In this structure the calendar fully follows the Roman tradition as has been seen in the Missal of 1774, the Lectioanry of 1775 and the Thaksa of 1844. Only that in the nomenclature of the liturgical periods the Malabar tradition like Deneha, Suvara, Qyamtha and Nompu and Uyirppu in retained.

However, where the calendar becomes the witness of the ancient tradition of the Malabar Church, is in that this calendar gives side by side with the romanised system also the ancient system of the organization of the Liturgical Year, with the structure and nomenclature of the liturgical periods, as it was in practice in the Malabar Church in 1871. This is given on the right hand side of the calendar whereas the romanized system is seen on the left hand side of the calendar. The ancient names are given in Syriac. Actually, the ancient system is given to help the celebration of the divine office indicating the liturgical periods parallel to the one given in the breviary that Blessed Chavara prepared. In the beginning of each liturgical period according to the ancient system, the calendar gives the name of the period in Syriac. Thus on the first Sunday after Deneha we have the name d'Deneha (of Epiphany), on the quinquegessima Sunday is marked d'Sauma (of Fast), on the Easter Sunday daQyamtha (of Resurrection), on the 1st Sunday of Pentecost daSliha (of the Apostles), on the 7th Sunday of Pentecost d'Qaitha (of Qaitha) and 16th Sunday of Pentecost daSliva (of the Cross). On the 23rd Sunday of Pentecost we have the indication to the last period as Qudas Edtha. Hence we have the following organization of the Liturgical periods.

d'Suvara Period of Annunciation
d'Denaha Period of Epiphany
d'Sauma Period of Fast
daQyamtha Period of Resurrection
daSliha Period of the Apostles
d'Qaitha Period of Qaitha (Summer)
daSliva Period of the Cross
d'Qudas Edtha Period of the Glorification of the Church

This structure of the Liturgical Year is what has been preserved in the Malabar Church through the Calendar of Blessed Chavara. As we have mentioned above this is one of the two ancient traditions of the structural organization of the East Syrian Liturgical Year.

Significance Blessed Chavara's Liturgical Renewal Efforts

The originality of Blessed Chavara in all his liturgical renewal efforts, is that he always was the son of the soil, in love with the traditions of his Church. This is very clearly seen in his work of the organization of the breviary. He was faced with two problems. First the breviary was unorganized and was going out of practice. Second, there was lack of integration in the liturgical celebrations, the mass was often of the saint and the breviary of ordinary days. His concern for the spiritual renewal of the Church and the preservation of its traditions moved him to action.

At the time of Blessed Chavara, the liturgical books in Malabar were changing from the ancient East Syrian model into the Roman model. The ancient liturgical books of Hudra, Thaksa d'Yuamasa Shimme and Thaksa d'Kahana and Qeriyana and Evangelion were changing into Roman tradition of separate liturgical books of missal, sacramentary, breviary and lectionary. Already the Missal and the lectionary were a fixed with a lot of romanization. Divine office alone remained without much roman influence as it was unorganized. It is at this moment that Blessed Chavara started with then work.

In his search for the tradition, he always based himself on the local sources. Two sources of the tradition were available, the text and then the practice. To be truthful to the textual tradition, in the organization of the breviary, he collected all the available manuscripts and compared them, based on the finding he corrected the books and made his own edition. In this he consulted the Malpans, who were versant with the texts and the traditions. As in the case of the texts, the Malpans were the best sources and the best resource persons for determining the living traditions of the practices of celebration and rites. With this approach he attempted to safeguarded genuine tradition.

But Blessed Chavara has shown his originality and love for the traditions in his attempt to find integration. The driving force in this attempt for integration was his sense of the unity of the liturgical celebrations. In the ancient tradition Onisa d'Ramsa (Hymn of the Vespers), Onisa d'Lelya (Hymn of the Night Prayer), Onisa d'Sapra (Hymn of the Morning Prayer), the Readings, the Gospels and Onisa d'Raza (Hymn of the Eucharist) are the elements that reveal the spirit of any liturgical day or period. But in Malabar Onisa d'Raza was suppressed in the missal and breviary has separated from the missal. Hence what keeps the unity of the day are the three onisas (Hymns) and the readings. Further in the ancient time Mass was only for Sundays, Feasts and commemorations. Now introducing daily mass changed the situation.The new festal system was introduced for which there was no equivalents in the Malabar traditions. Hence divine office was of ordinary days. To solve this problem he introduced new prayers in the breviary borrowed from Roman tradition but translated into Syriac and adapted to the Malabar taste. In this he was trying preserve the ancient tradition of the unity of celebration in this.

This sense of unity of celebration is very well seen in certain instructions in the calendar. For example, his instruction "for the days other than Sundays, Feasts and communication, for which no reading is given, using the readings of the Sundays is in accordance with the Thuksasa" reveals very well his oriental mind. Here he is affirming the supremacy of Sundays in the liturgical year and the sense of the spirit of Sunday's to permeate the whole week. This is something very special revealing his liturgical genius. Blessed Chavara's concern for the preservation of the ancient traditions (Malabar and East Syrian), is seen even in his borrowing from the roman tradition. He felt that unity ( even uniformity) of rituals as a good value preserved. Hence he was not afraid to borrow from the Roman tradition. But in borrowing he referred first to the oriental traditions and then to the Roman tradition. He asked himself, whether it goes with the Eastern tradition. This mentality of his is well seen from his letter of permission from Rome for introducing the reading of the Gospel of John at the end of the Mass as was in practice in the Roman tradition and not to use incense in private mass. His argument is that even the East Syrian Church follow such practice. " I request you to permit us to read the Gospel of John at the end of the Mass, for all the rites, even the Chaldean Syrians, do this; similarly, because the use of the thuribles and incense in the private masses is difficult ( especially when celebrating in the churches of the Latin rite or of the Chaldean Syrians where it is used only in the Solemn Mass) I request you to permit us to use thurible and incense in Solemn celebrations only".

Why Did Blessed Chavara Introduce Roman Tradition

It was his concern for the spiritual promotion of the people of God and his sense of the unity of the Catholic Church that made him to borrow. He did what he did in the theological thinking of his milieu. We should remember here that even thirty five years after the restoration attempts and within milieu of the post Vatican II Eucharistic theology, the Malabar Church still continues to have the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Hour and more especially on the Thursdays of Lent and Way of the Cross on the Fridays of Fast, even though we are aware that they do not belong to the East Syrian tradition. Nor is it in perfect consonance with the Oriental or contemporary Eucharistic theology. Still we continue. But the originality of Blessed Chavara was that he always insisted that this should be in accordance with the spirit of the ancient Malabar and East Syrian traditions. That is why when he borrowed the Little Office of Our Lady, he transformed it in the model of Ramsa, Lelya and Spara. The very fact that he was always insistent on translating the text into Syriac and that he always made free translation within the context of the Malabar Church, is a revealing sign of his love for the traditions.

In this, his mind was that of great personalities of the Malabar Church like Thomas Paremmackal and Joseph Kariattil, who felt that borrowing something from the Roman Church is not against the traditions of the Malabar Church, but whatever it be, it has to be celebrated in the liturgical language. Hence just as Joseph Kariattil and Paremmackal had translated the Roman Pontifical so has blessed Chavara introduced many things from the Roman traditions but introduced it in the context of the Malabar Church.

Similarly we have to understand Chavara in his living context as regards his borrowing devotional practices from the Roman traditions. There had been a lot of devotional practices in the Malabar Church, borrowed from the Roman tradition, and introduced by the western missionaries in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which nourished spiritual life of the laity, religious and priests alike. Blessed Chavara, like any other lay man or priest of his time, nourished his spiritual life from his early childhood from such practices. He has also promoted such practices very ardently and even introduced such practices in the Malabar Church.

Blessed Chavara Preserved the most Ancient Malabar Tradition

In the organization of the Breviary and the Calendar Blessed Chavara has contributed to the preservation of an ancient Malabar Tradition. The structure of the Liturgical Year that has been preserved in the Malabar Church through the Calendar of Blessed Chavara, as we have mentioned above, is one of the two ancient traditions of the structural organization of the East Syrian Liturgical Year.

The study of the ancient manuscripts of lectionaries and breviaries in the East Syrian tradition reveals different structural models. All the models found in them can be reduced to two very ancient models, which in all probability existed prior to the reorganization of the East Syrian Liturgical Year attributed to Iso Yahb III (7th cent). If we compare the structural model of the Liturgical Year in the Calendar and Breviary of Blessed Chavara with the model in the Breviary edited by Paul Bedjan, or of the Trichur Breviary of the Church of the East or of the Supplementum Mysteriorum, we find that they are different. In Supplementum, as in the other two breviaries, we have the following model of the Liturgical Year.

Finding of the Cross (Sliva),
Qudas Edtha.

This pattern with different variations can be seen in many manuscripts of the East Syrian lectionaries and breviaries dating from the 7/8th centuries. However, there are few rare manuscripts, dating from 8/9th century, like Vatican Syriac 22 dated 1301 from the Malabar Coast, which show a different model. They reveal a structural model which is different from the above as given below .

Finding of the Cross (Sliva),
Qudas Edtha.

The difference in structural and nomenclature is from the period of Qaitha onward. They have periods of Elia, Finding of the Cross, Qudas Edtha ( this we call EFQE model) whereas the Supplementum Mysteriorum, has Elia-Finding-Moses-Qudas Edtha (this we call EFMQE model).

Our study of the East Syriac manuscripts of breviaries and lectionaries, including Malabar manuscripts, has brought us to the conclusion that the different structural models that we find in the different manuscripts is a mixture of two earlier traditions that existed in the East Syrian traditions. Of these, the first begins with the seven weeks of Moses and ends with seven weeks of Elia and the periods of Annunciation, Nativity, Epiphany, Fast, Resurrection, Apostles and Qaitha coming in between as follows


The second, on the other hand, begins with the period of Annunciation and ends with Qudas Edtha and the periods of Nativity, Epiphany, Fast, Resurrection, Apostles and Qaitha coming in between. The first has no period of Qudas Edtha and the second has no period of Moses and Elia. Thus we have the following models

Finding of the Cross
Qudas Edtha

The three known theological interpretations of the Liturgical Year by the Anonymous Author( 9/10th cent), Raman Bric Ipso (14th cent) and the Unknown Theologian (16th century) point to these two traditions.

What has been preserved in the Calendar and Breviary of Blessed Chavara is the remnant of the second model in the East Syrian traditions. Our researches into the manuscript traditions of the lectionary and breviary in the East Syrian and Malabar traditions has made us convinced that through the breviary and Calendar of Blessed Chavara one of these two ancient traditions of the structure and nomenclature of the Liturgical Year has been preserved. This is a great contribution which has great significance in the study of the history of Liturgy in the Malabar and East Syrian traditions.

We shall stand with respect and veneration to the great liturgical genius of the Malabar Church, ever mindful of his love and concern for the traditions of his Church. Let us follow his examples and be instruments and channels in preserving the valuable traditions of our Church.


(reproduced here as they appear in the original; cross references to these notes are missing in the body of the article)

  1. Fr. Lucas Vithuvattickal, Beatifications et Canonizationis Servi Dei Cyriaci Eliae Chavara Sacerdotis Cofundatoris Congregationis Fratrum Carmelitarum Mariae Immaculatae (+1871), Poistio Super Introductione Causae et Super Virtutibus Ex Officio Concinnata
  2. Thukasa, Mannanam, 1868.
  3. Positio, p.484
  4. Placid TOCD, Nammute Ritu, Mannanam, 1944, 1951, p.132
  5. Positio, p.499-500
  6. Positio p.282, 381
  7. Ksava d'sesmestha dahalap anidhe, Mannanam, 1882, p.2, Positio, p.281
  8. Positio, p.493
  9. Positio, p.484
  10. Blessed Chavara was the first Prior of the CMI Congregation. He was known as Father Prior.
  11. Sthapaka Pithakkanmar, Mannanam, 1996 p.24, Quoted by Placid, TOCD, Nammute Ritu, p. 131.
  12. Already he had completed the work of Thukasa (the book of the rubrics) and the calendar. They form the first part that Chavara mentions here. Blessed Chavara's letter dated 1 (Kumbam)February 1869, Chavarayachante Sampoorna Krithikal, Vol.4 Kathukal,p. 130-131, Positio p.310, Valerian TOCD, Chavara Kuriakos Eliachan, Mannanam, 1935, pp.315-316, quoted by Fr.Placid C.D., Nammute Ritu, Mannanam, 1942, p.132.
  13. The Latin text of Positio gives this while the recent Sthapaka Pithakknmar, Mannanam, 1995 does not contain it.
  14. Kuriakos Eliseus Porukara, A Short History,, p.32-33, 1905,1989, (New edition)
  15. Sthapaka Pithakkanmar (Founding Fathers), Mannanam 1995 p.24, Latin translation in Positio p.478.
  16. The letter dated May 1st 1869 gives a slightly different latin text:""Tandem te obsecramus ut nobis obtineas permissionem recitare divinum officium totius anni juxta ordinem iam abhinc septem annis S.Congregationi ad effectum approbationis propositum", Positio, p.312. Valerian TOCD, Chavara Kuriakos Eliachan, p.226, quoted by Placid TOCD, Nammute Ritu, p.130.
  17. Positio 312 cfr. footnote 69.
  18. In malayalam text we have the name Vunard, which in all probability is Bernardine.
  19. Letter to the Propoaganda Fidei,Chavarayachante Sampoorna Krithikal, kathukal, p.29
  20. Positio, p.485.
  21. Valerian TOCD, op.cit., p.315-316, quoted by Placid TOCD, Nammute Ritu, p.132-133.
  22. The Latin translation in Positio is slightly different. Cf. Positio, p.310.
  23. Placid TOCD, Nammute Rithu, 1951, p.133.
  24. Bernard of St. Thomas TOCD, Malayalathile Kaldaya Suriyani Reethil Chernna Charithra Samkzhepam, Mannanam, 1908, p.16.
  25. Positio, p.644
  26. Letter of Blessed Chavara to Father Alexander Kattakkayam, dated 30th August 1870,
  27. Positio, doc.XII,1,f. p.397.
  28. Deneha Sesham 1-am Njayar: First Sunday after Deneha. It reveals that what was still prevalent in the use was the expression basar Deneha, though the calendar gives d'Denaha.
  29. The Sunday after Ascension is called the 6th Sunday of Resurrec
  30. Positio p.312
  31. Supplementum Mysteriorum was prepared and proposed by the Liturgical Commission of the Oriental Congregation for the restoration of the Malabar Liturgical Year.


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