Reviewing the available literature, there are at least four to five different classifications of the periods in the Church Lectionary in the Malankara tradition. All of them have the same arrangement of Sundays, order, and themes with minor differences in the gospel readings and other readings from Old Testament and New Testament.
Over the years, liturgical calendars were published in two forms- the tables of Easter and related movable feasts; and a calendar of saints. The two have separate origins. The former were a matter of controversy in the ancient church. Eventually, a single one of 532 years (taqlab in Syriac sources) was adopted as the norm. They again differed in the way in which the dates of are fixed, so do the content and classification of Lectionary.
There are different categorizations of the periods in the Church. Many books published refer to six or seven periods; some refer to generally two periods; most of the other books on Lectionary have no mention on the periods/ cycles. The book ‘Sermons based on readings of the Lectionary’ by H.G Mor Chrysostamus Mosa Salama (1958; Re-published by Mor Adai Study Center) presents seven cycles instead of six. This approach seems to be classical and more authentic.
However, other approaches are in no way inferior to the seven period approach; indeed some of them are more logical and correlates well with the themes and gospel readings.
The 52/ 53 Sundays in a calendar year has been divided to Seven Cycles in the Church Calendar. The first Sunday according to the Church Calendar is the Koodosh Eetho Sunday (Sanctification of the Church). Koodosh Eetho is the Sunday that falls between October 30th and November 5th. The following are the four major classifications commonly found in the Malankara literature (includes the literature published by both the Indian Orthodox and Jacobite Churches).
I. A Broader classification (May have little to do with the actual Lectionary)
- Kymto period (Starts from Easter to the feast of Cross/ Sleebo)
- Sleebo period (Starts from the feast of Sleebo to Easter)
The order of worship of Kymto (prayers) are meant to be followed on all Sundays. However, inclusion of Sleebo prayers, and this kind of a bifurcation has a specific meaning and purpose. The general message of this categorization is that the salvation and liberation of human race is interlinked in the Cross and Resurrection of the savior lord Jesus Christ.
II. Another bivariate approach; this is more conceptual rather than a clear-cut division or categorization. This approach presumes that the entire Lectionary is stretched from Genesis to the second coming of Lord Jesus Christ.
- Koodosh Eetho to Pentecost; the Lectionary includes Genesis, Prophets, Birth, death and resurrection of the savior, to ascension and Pentecost. The entire message and objective of this part of the Lectionary is the spiritual empowerment of believers and meditation in lines with the salvation plan of God the Father.
- Pentecost to the second coming of Christ; this period is considered the ‘growth’ period of the church and beyond the scope of written scriptures. The reason being, the widespread growth of the church triggered after the formation of bible. The fundamental dogmas/ faith that are essential for Christian life and Jesus teachings pertaining to this are included in this section. To be more precise, the Sundays after Sleebo are aimed at reminding the church about the second coming of Jesus Christ and how the church and her members should prepare for the same.
III. Six cycles classification:
- The first Cycle Starts with Koodosh Eetho, and ends on the Christmas day (Yeldho).
- 2nd is from Christmas to the first Sunday of great lend (Kothine)
- 3rd is from the first Sunday of Great Lend to Easter Sunday (Kymtha)
- 4th is from Easter to Pentecost
- 5th is from Pentecost to Sleebo (feast of Cross)
- 6th is from Sleebo to Koodosh Eetho
IV. Seven cycle classification: (Mor Mosa Salama )
- Sanctification of the Church to Christmas (Yeldho)
- Yeldho to Epiphany (Dan’ho)
- Dan’ho to the Beginning Sunday of Great Lent (Kothine)
- Kothine to Easter Sunday (Kymtha)
- Kymtha to Pentecost
- Pentecost to the Transfiguration
- Sleebo to Sanctification of Church (Koodosh Eetho)
V. Yet another seven periods classification (conceptually same as above; difference in setting the norms)
- Suboro period: seven weeks from Koodosh Eetho
- Yeldho- Dan’ho period: seven weeks from the Sunday before Christmas to the beginning of Great Lent
- Lent period: seven weeks till Easter Sunday
- Kymtho (Hovore) period: Seven weeks from Easter to Pentecost
- Pentecost period: Pentecost to August 5th
- Transfiguration period: Transfiguration to September 13th (till the day before the feast of Sleebo)
- Sleebo period: September 14th till Koodosh Eetho
Knowing this arrangement will help us to better appreciate and understand the logical connection between different feasts, days of the church, gospel readings and what the gospel messages are intended to be. Moreover, there are general themes for each cycle; for example, theme for the first Cycle is confession, affirmation and purification, which helps us to prepare to welcome the Savior on the Christmas day.
The divine intervention in Lectionary is beyond the scope of doubt and definitely Holy Spirit driven. The actual correlation of the themes of each period, the series of scripture readings on the respective Sundays and utilization of contemporary understanding of biblical hermeneutics on Lectionary are the topics for further research.