The assyrian church of the east
In Isaiah 19:25, God promises to bless the Assyrians. Over 700 years later, soon after Jesus’ resurrection, some of the very first disciples and evangelists travelled east to preach the Good News in Assyria. And so the Church of the East was born.
The ancient Christian community in Assyria (now modern-day Iran, Iraq and Syria) dates back to the first century, and is traditionally said to have been founded by the apostle Thomas. The liturgy of the Church of the East is in Syriac, a form of Aramaic – the language spoken by Jesus. At its height, the Church of the East spread from Cyprus to China, but now it fights for survival in the Middle East, and there are more Assyrian believers in diaspora than in its homelands.
On this Feast, ‘the first-born of blessed feasts,’ we are moved by love to love. We are inspired by obedience to obedience. Our hearts and minds are exalted from wonder to wonder at the humble beginnings of the great drama of our redemption from sin and death. And we are grateful in all.” (Assyrian Church of the East, acote.church)
Listen and Reflect
Click on the Soundcloud play button to listen to a traditional Assyrian Christmas song, “Oumana Isho Mshikha,” sung by the Assyrian Church of the East Choir in Lebanon. As you listen, reflect on the words – translated here from Syriac to English:
Jesus Christ the Builder: blessed be Your birthday.
All you faithful chant glory to the glorious King of kings.
On this day there was light: shepherds attended to their flocks.
The Church received hope: Jesus is truly born.
There was peace on earth: let’s raise boundless glory.
He saved our oppressed race: Jesus Christ the wise.
The healer of our human race: was born of Virgin Mary.
Oh Lord bless our nation: that it may reach the land of Eden.
Oh you faithful of our Church: let’s be close to fast and prayers.
like the Ninevites and their rogation: let’s seek repentance.
The spirit that came down from Heaven: settled in a human body.
The only begotten Son came: in the image of Jesus Christ.
More hope for mankind: when hearing the sound of the semantron*.
Newborn Jesus small and holy: born in the manger for a purpose.
The Magi came so swiftly: when they saw the star in the sky
And worshiped the only Son: The Lord Jesus in Bethlehem.
'Jesus Christ the Builder': Assyrian lyrics by the late Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. Translated to English by Philimon Darmo, Sydney.
*The semantron is a percussion instrument used in the Syriac Orthodox monastic tradition. It is held in great veneration as it is said to have been invented by Noah.
Top image: A 9th Century manuscript of the Peshitta, the Syriac Aramaic translation of the Bible