The Syrian Faith

See photo: Saint Gregory's Cathedral, Hasaka

As strange as it may seem, the concept of Christianity arose in Syrian territory, where there is currently a Muslim majority.  According to the New Testament, the inhabitants of Syria were the first to call themselves Christians.

The denomination of the Jacobite Syrian Church comes from the name of the country where it originated, Syria, and the name of the bishop at the time, Jacob Borodai. Borodai lived in the 6th century and was a leader of those opposed to the rulings of the Council of Chalcedon that took place in 451. The objective of Council was to reach a common decision on the nature of Christ. Consequently, the schism of the Christian churches resulted between those who believed that the Son of God unified the human and divine qualities independently, and those who believed in a uniform human-divine nature of Christ. Jacob Borodai and his followers belonged to the second group of believers. As such, the Jacobite Syrians, along with the Copts, Armenians and others, formed part of the non-Chalcedonian churches. A symbolic feature of Jacobite Syrians is that they make the Sign of the Cross with one finger, from the left to the right.

They claim that their first patriarch was the Apostle Peter. The Apostle Paul, on the road to Damascus, saw the resurrected Jesus and when he reached Damascus he was cured of his blindness and baptized.

At their peak in the Middle Ages the works of the Syrian theologians show an astounding level of knowledge for their time. Some of them confessed that there were no differences among the Christians, not in their faith, and that the differences materialized solely due to the whims of a few even though "Christ was unitary". The Jacobite Syrians spread all the way to India, where the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church belongs to the same branch. It is certain that many Syrian saints are venerated by Christians all over the world. Saint Ephrem the Syrian was a great thinker, theologian, and poet who is known and venerated in the Christian world. Saint Simeon Stylites invented “stylitism”, a type of asceticism where lengthy prayers or preaching is performed on a pillar, a column, a rock or an elevated tower. According to legend, Saint Simeon spent 37 years of his life on a pillar in vigil and praying. For that he was given the gift of providence and healing

The Virgen Mary is especially venerated among the Jacobite Syrians. On Sundays and Holy Days the members of the church celebrate mass in the Chapel of Saint Joseph of Arimathea in the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre. The area is under the authority of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is believed that there used to be a stone altar table there where the Virgen Mary rested while on the road to Bethlehem. There is now just an ordinary, wooden table. The Jacobite Syrian community numbers about 600 people in Jerusalem and they worship at the Church of Saint Mark of Jerusalem, in the North-Eastern section of the Armenian neighborhood located in the Old City. Saint Mark, acting as an interpreter, accompanied the Apostle Paul on his journey through Syria. The Jacobite Syrians believe that their main church in the Holy Land is located on the spot where Saint Mark's mother's house once stood. It is also said that the Virgen Mary was baptized there.