Weeks of Annunciation (Subara)


 

The Syro-Malabar liturgical year begins with the proclamation and celebration of the historical encounter between God and man in the person of Jesus Christ, the human appearance of the Divine Person.  The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Icon of Father’s Person and the Splendour of His Glory, One in essence with Him and the Holy Spirit, emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, became a perfect man and was born of Virgin Mary, for us men and for our salvation, taking to Himself all the weaknesses of our humanity except sin. The Syriac word Subbara, ‘Annunciation’, with which the Church qualify the first five or six weeks of her liturgical year, is, in fact, an announcement and procla-mation with celebration with this supreme glad news of divine condescension to the human frailty in order to raise it up to the divine sublimity.  For the whole East Syriac tradition and thus also to the Syro-Malabar Church, the whole period of Annunciation is a big Christmas!  December 25th is only the climax of this celebration.

 

According to the true vision of Christian faith, there is no sense in expecting and preparing for the coming of the Redeemer.  He has already come two thousand years ago. Today we can only celebrate that historical event in the Church through effective and fruitful signs and symbols and appropriate its salvific fruits in our own life. It is this true vision of Christian faith that the Eastern traditions, especially the East Syriac one, proclaims to the world during the celebration of Subbara, the weeks of Annunciation.

 

A different way of thinking and connected practices was forced upon the Syro-Malabar Church during the western colonial period and is still haunting her in all levels of her Christian life. The concept of Advent, Christmastide, and so on to divide the integral vision of Subbara and the like are the fruits of this colonial enforcement. Vatican II has already demanded a conscious change of this situation in 1964, paving way to the return and restoration of the above-mentioned authentic and perfect vision of Christian faith. Negligence in this case even after four decades can no more be tolerated.

 

In the context of the Divine Condescension to human history, the believers are encouraged to meditate upon all the salvific events which led to the incarnation of God, namely, creation, life in Paradise, human fall, helpless situation of humans, promise of salvation, preparation through countless divine inter-ventions, election and rejection and the immediate preparation through the Forerunner, during the time before Jesus’ Nativity. The events after His birth up to the baptism in Jordan such as the visit of the Magi, presentation to the Temple and visit to the temple at twelve are pondered on the days after Christmas.

The weeks of Annunciation, especially the first part up to Nativity, is also an occasion to turn deeper to oneself, a real self-examination.  How far we could creatively respond to this self-emptying love of God?  It is in this context, the Church developed the 25-day fasting, which is also an observance very much in common with our fellowmen in other religions of India in connection with important religious celeb-rations.  We are, in fact, called to purify ourselves from all grossness of our humanity so that we may become capable to rise up to the divinity of God-man Jesus.

 

This period is also a time to remember and honour the Blessed Virgin Mary in a special way.  We know for sure that the divine plan of human salvation is realised only through her fiat, her consent.  Thus the early images or icons of Mary are all with child Jesus.  The whole importance of Mary, and hence her veneration in the Church, depends on her relation to Jesus, the most special being His mother. The Syro-Malabar tradition, therefore, honour her in very special way during the weeks of Annunciation which celebrates Jesus’ Nativity.  Her celebration is also underlined with two very solemn festivals of her: Immaculate Conception on Decem-ber 8th and Congratulation to Mary as Mother of Jesus on the last Friday of this season. The Latin tradition, according to its liturgical style, shows such special respect to Virgin Mary through May and October monthly devotions. Monthly devotion is totally strange to the Syro-Malabar liturgical spirituality.

 

 


 

Credits: Fr. Varghese Pathikulangara, CMI, from the book "A moment with the Jesus"

 

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