Dukrana of Mar Toma Shliha

Qeryana I (Old Testament Reading I): Genesis 2:8-15  
Qeryana II (Old Testament Reading II): Proverbs 4:10-18  
Engarta (Epistle Reading): Ephesians 2:19-22  
Evangalion (Gospel): John 20:24-29  

Gen 2:8-15

According to the second story of creation Yahweh planted a garden in Eden and placed there Adam. In the middle of the garden was the tree of life. The task of humans was to cultivate and care for the garden.

Mar Toma Shliha was the gardener of Christ. He cultivated it and cared for it, even shedding his last drop of blood in this apostolic work. This garden was India, where he sowed the seed of faith in the hearts of Indians. He brought the people to Christ, the tree of life and gave them immortality.


Prov 4:10-18

The author of Proverbs depicts the portrait of the Wisdom. She leads the people on straightforward paths, give them instruction, which makes them righteous people who tread the path of shining light.

In Mar Toma the figure of Wisdom is realized. He led the Indians in the paths of heavenly wisdom and divine uprightness. They became the righteous disciples of the Risen Christ, who grow in the brilliance of the glorified Messiah. Their margam is that of Christ’s uprightness.


Eph 2:19-22

Paul exposes the sublime dignity of Christians. They are fellow citizens of the saints and the members of the household of God. They are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ being the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. Thus the followers of Jesus’ margam are built into it for a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.

Mar Toma Shliha, our Father in faith was this builder of the Indian Church. As a mason of Christ he fitted together the whole structure and made it a holy temple in the Lord. Thus he gave us the grace to become fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God. The Mar Toma margam excels in its mystical and in-depth insights and biblical visions.


Jn 20:24-29

This pericope is often wrongly interpreted as Christ chiding our Father for his lack of faith. On the contrary, Mar Toma is the champion of proclaiming experiential faith in the Risen Lord on behalf of other apostles and all the members of the Church of yesterday, today and tomorrow. He had an intimate loving relationship with his Master, that was why when the other apostles told him about the apparition of Christ, he protested. How can he bear the fact that his dear Guru appeared to others in his absence? So he resolutely affirmed: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” He wanted to see with his own eyes, look upon and touch with his hands the Word of life (1 Jn. 1:1). Then he can proclaim in absolute terms the experiential knowledge of Christ’s resurrection. Only such an intimate and personal proclamation can touch the hearts of humankind.


The beloved Master could read the heart of his loving disciple. Hence he appeared to the apostles, with whom Thomas also was present. The narrative seems to imply that it was only for the sake of Mar Toma that the Risen Lord had come to them. After appearing to them he immediately addressed Thomas and lovingly invited him to see the pierced hands and to put his finger into his wounded heart. He can then believe in fullest sense.


The response of the beloved disciple was a wonderful, intuitive, in-depth and mystical avowal of the Lordship and Godhead of the Son of Man. We do not find anywhere in the Gospels such a strong and most effective profession of faith. We can interpret his Mār Walāh (“my Lord and my God”) as a declaration formula with which Mar Toma, for the sake of the other apostles and all the future generations, renewed the covenant relationship with the Risen Christ.


The feast of Mar Toma Shliha is traditionally known in Kerala as dukrana, memorial. This term encapsulates the whole salvation history. The subject of dukrana may be God, community or an individual. The Syro-Malabar Qurbana is a dukrana, the memorial of the mystery of the passion, death, burial and resurrection of the Son of Man. It is not a memorial of what had happened in the past. Rather, at the altar these mysteries are enacted here and now. It is thus a living, experiential and saving dukrana. All Christians are called to participate in the resurrection of the Lord. Thus they have to become the dukrana, as Christ is the dukrana in the sublime sense. Mar Toma, by living these holy mysteries, and by martyrdom became the living memorial of Jesus’ passion, death, burial and resurrection. Thus the feast of the Apostle of India is aptly called dukrana.



Father Paul Kalluveettil, CMI (paulkalluveettil 'at ' gmail.com)

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