Encyclopedia of Syriac chants

സഗ്ദിനൻ മാർ
Sagdīnan mār

Encyclopedia of Syriac Chants - Index

CMSI Ref Number 101-0031
Title Sagdinan Mar
Category Liturgy of the Hours.
Author of Text Mar Babai the Great
Liturgical Context Night prayers on Sundays in Advent and Christmas seasons

 

Introduction

The hymn is from the night prayers (lelya) for Sundays in Advent and Christmas in the East Syriac tradition. This couplet appears in the Thesbohtha (“praise”) that contains several verses. Often, this couplet is treated as a separate chant. In this case, the chant appears at the end of Purathunamaskaram (Hours outside the church) at Kaduthuruthy Valiyapalli. It is led by Rev. Dr. Jacob Vellian, a member of the Knanaya community and a scholar of the Syro Malabar liturgy. This video contains one of the two known melodies of this chant. Until further evidence appears, we may presume that these melodies were composed in Kerala; the text of the hymn, the poetic meter and, possibly, the melody were known to the St. Thomas Christian clergy before 1588. The earliest reference to these is in the acrostic hymn in Syriac, written by a Keralite, Fr. Chandi Kadavil, popularly known as “Alexander the Indian” (1588- c. 1673). The title of Fr. Kadavil’s acrostic hymn on the Eucharist contains a reference to the opening words of this chant;Fr. Kadavilwrote the acrostic hymn according to meter and melody of “Sagdīnanmār.” In this video the same melody is sung three times. In other instances, the same melody is sung three times in three ascending pitch registers. We have one such example in the voice of Rev. Dr. Thomas Kalayil, CMI, which will be posted later. The text is highly Christological, and deserves further study. It is, in effect, a paraphrasing of the exuberant acclamation of St. Thomas the Apostle of India, when Jesus made a special appearance after resurrection (Jn 20:28). The various takes on the existence of the human and divine natures in Christ caused many divisions in the Church. Given below is the content of one of many email communicationsI had on this topic with Dr. Zacharias Thundy. These comments could be the starting point for further research on this chant, for example, for a master’s thesis in theology. Zacharias P. Thundy (October 8, 2017): The hymn was composed during the theological controversies of the time regarding the relationship between the divinity and humanity of Jesus. Without going into details, let me just say that "d’la pulaga" has the meaning of "undivided" referring to the divinity and humanity of Jesus, and not to our act of adoration: "Lord, we worship your undivided humanity and divinity." It all means Jesus is both human and divine. Complex theology it is. So words like "sewiana" and "shuprutha" also have highly technical theological meaning. "Shuprutha" could mean "mia phusis" of Cyril or Council of Chalcedon. I do not know of the theological meaning of "shuprutha" in the Syrian context of the time. Maybe the word means the Chalcedonian "mia phusis" or "Miaphysitism holds that in the person of Jesus Christ, Divine nature and Human nature are united (μία, mia - "one" or "unity") in a compound nature ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without mixture, without confusion, and without alteration." Then there is the theology of the Syrian bishop, Theodore of Mopsuestia: Referring to the two natures in Christ, Theodore writes, “When we try to distinguish the natures, we say that the person of the man is complete and that that of the Godhead is complete (T-120, VIII-8).” Furthermore, he notes that indwelling does not imply a change in nature of either the Logos or the indwelt man (T-121, IX-9), and that Christ’s human will was maintained through the indwelling (T-118, VII-3). Therefore, according to Theodore, Christ is fully human, possessing both human spirit (or rational soul) and human flesh (T-59.22)." All of this theology has a long tortuous history in the ancient Syriac-speaking world, but it is all reflected darkly in the Syriac hymns. Most of us know little or nothing about it all.

Zacharias P. Thundy (October 8, 2017): The hymn was composed during the theological controversies of the time regarding the relationship between the divinity and humanity of Jesus. Without going into details, let me just say that "d’la pulaga" has the meaning of "undivided" referring to the divinity and humanity of Jesus, and not to our act of adoration: "Lord, we worship your undivided humanity and divinity." It all means Jesus is both human and divine. Complex theology it is. So words like "sewiana" and "shuprutha" also have highly technical theological meaning. "Shuprutha" could mean "mia phusis" of Cyril or Council of Chalcedon. I do not know of the theological meaning of "shuprutha" in the Syrian context of the time. Maybe the word means the Chalcedonian "mia phusis" or "Miaphysitism holds that in the person of Jesus Christ, Divine nature and Human nature are united (μία, mia - "one" or "unity") in a compound nature ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without mixture, without confusion, and without alteration." Then there is the theology of the Syrian bishop, Theodore of Mopsuestia: Referring to the two natures in Christ, Theodore writes, “When we try to distinguish the natures, we say that the person of the man is complete and that that of the Godhead is complete (T-120, VIII-8).” Furthermore, he notes that indwelling does not imply a change in nature of either the Logos or the indwelt man (T-121, IX-9), and that Christ’s human will was maintained through the indwelling (T-118, VII-3). Therefore, according to Theodore, Christ is fully human, possessing both human spirit (or rational soul) and human flesh (T-59.22)."

All of this theology has a long tortuous history in the ancient Syriac-speaking world, but it is all reflected darkly in the Syriac hymns. Most of us know little or nothing about it all.

Translation Glossory

Translation by Dr. Placid J. Podipara, CMI (1899-1985)


(Courtesy : Zacharias Thundy)

Sagdīnanmār(sagdīn + an) = we adore; mār = my Lord; lālāhūsāk (l’ + alahusa + akh) = your divinity; walnāšūākh (w’ + al + nāšūsā + akh) = and your humanity; d’lāpūlāga (d’ + lā +pūlāga) = that which [is] without division.

 

From: Zacharias P Thundy<This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 11:48 AM
Subject: Re: DLA PULAGA--a theological concept
To: Joseph Palackal <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>


The one who was smarter is the author of the Fourth Gospel who put those words in the mouth of Thomas. That erudite author, well-versed in Indian, Greek, Roman, and Hebrew theologies, was struggling with a fundamental theological problem. He was acutely aware that there is a difference between Dyaus-pita (Father God or Zeus or Jupiter and many gods, whom we call correctly gods or rather as "divine," as in the Greek, Indian, and Roman conceptions of the many gods who share in divinity as in the well-known Upanishadic expression "AhamBrahmasmi." This was the theological problem all the early Christian theologians like the gospel writers had to contend with: How is divinity shared when there is a Supreme Creator God (Pantocrator) as in genesis, the savior gods in all religions, and the continued presence or appearance of saviors in all religions? Was Jesus, the savior, equal to the Father from the moment of conception or did He become divine during his baptism or after his death? The Fourth Gospel says he was "divine" (theos but not ho theos, which is equivalent dyaus pita or Zeus or Jupiter or God the Father) by giving him the Greek concept of LOGOS, implying that it was this WORD that created heaven and earth as in Genesis etc. A difficult theological problem early Christians had to deal with, spawning all kinds of heresies even to this day. Finally, they found the solution in the concept of the Trinity, leaving room for saints (still sharing divinity by being part of the body ofJesus) instead of calling them as gods.

 

As for a meaningful translation: "We worship you, Lord, as one in your divinity and humanity, "united without separation, without mixture, without confusion, and without alteration." The intended meaning is this because the next four lines explicate this position clearly; Haduhaila; hadamarrutha/Had sewiana; hadashuprutha/Lava u lavra;Walruhqudsha/Laalamalmin; aamenwaamen."

 

 

From: Zacharias P Thundy<This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 10:13 AM
Subject: Joe: FYI: You May be Opening an Old Wound in Kerala Church
To: Joseph Palackal <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Were we Nestorians or not? The hymn, in my view, is an interesting one only from a historical perspective. As it stands, the Portuguese apparently overlooked it and failed to remove it from our prayers. Or we hid it from their censorship, which is probably the case. We used to sing it loud and clear for centuries "without any hesitation." The words of the hymn can be interpreted as Nestorian. But not necessarily and emphatically.

 

Why? The hymn also states that there is only one will in Christ "had sewiana." Or is it in the trinity?

 

Anything wrong with it at all? Yes, from a theological standpoint but not from our "Syrian Christian point of view" from the fourth century. The Latin Church would condemn us Nestorian. Did we care? Yes we did at the Diamper Synod. Do we care now? Yes. We Roman Catholics do not want to be known as Nestorians any more. There is the rub.

 

I bet the Assyrian Church of the East sings the same hymn with "SAGDINAN." Find out to satisfy your own curiosity. Then draw your own conclusions. Let me know.

 

Here below see St. Thomas Aquinas:

 

I answer that,some placed only one will in Christ; but they seem to have had different motives for holding this. For Apollinaris did not hold an intellectual soul in Christ, but maintained that the Word was in place of the soul, or even in place of the intellect. Hence since "the will is in the reason," as the Philosopher says (De Anima iii, 9), it followed that in Christ there was no human will; and thus there was only one will in Him. So, too, Eutyches and all who held one composite nature in Christ were forced to place one will in Him. Nestorius, too, who maintained that the union of God and man was one of affection and will, held only one will in Christ. But later on, Macarius, Patriarch of Antioch, Cyrus of Alexandria, and Sergius of Constantinople and some of their followers, held that there is one will in Christ, although they held that in Christ there are two natures united in a hypostasis; because they believedthat Christ's human nature never moved with its own motion, but only inasmuch as it was moved by the Godhead, as is plain from the synodical letter of Pope Agatho [Third Council of Constantinople, Act. 4].

And hence in the sixth Council held at Constantinople [Act. 18] it was decreed that it must be said that there are two wills in Christ, in the following passage: "In accordance with what the Prophets of old taught us concerning Christ, and as He taught us Himself, and the Symbol of the Holy Fathers has handed down to us, we confess two natural wills in Him and two natural operations." And this much it was necessary to say. For it is manifest that the Son of God assumed a perfect human nature, as was shown above (Article 5; III:9:1). Now the will pertains to the perfection of human nature, being one of its natural powers, even as the intellect, as was stated in I:79 and I:80. Hence we must say that the Son of God assumed a human will, together with humannature. Now by the assumption of human nature the Son of God suffered no diminution of what pertains to His Divine Nature, to which it belongs to have a will, as was said in the I:19:1. Hence it must be said that there are two wills in Christ, i.e. one human, the other Divine.

Christian Musicological Society of India is immensely grateful to Prof. Zacharias Thundy for sharing his informed insights on the extremely complex topic.

I emailed the translation of the text by Fr. Placid Podipara to Zacharias Thundy. His response to the email interesting enough to lead the discussion to yet another level

 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Zacharias P Thundy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: Sun, Jan 28, 2018 at 8:11 AM
Subject: Re: Sagdinar mar / Placid Podipara's translation
To: Joseph Palackal <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Joe: The attachment you have sent me says it all. Read the whole thing with the footnotes. I have great respect for Father Placid, whom I have known as an altar boy at Chethippuzha. A good historian and scholar he was.

Now Kalayil will tell you that he had heard "Sagdinan mar...." sung by priests at he Surayi seminary at Kunnamkulam or some non-Catholic seminary.

NOTE WELL: The hymn was composed by a great scholar, who happens to be called "Nestorian." I translated the hymn as a faithful "Monothelite" and "Miaphysite" (not necessary "Nestorian"-- a bad all-inclusive word like "Protestant") would. But Placid and Kalayil translate it as Catholics. Linguistically and historically. I beloeve, my translation is more faithful to the original,which was composed by a Miaphysite. But the hymn as found in the breviary can also be translated as Placid does. The hymn as it appears in our breviary says, "Haakhan malpa etha d' Rome," Placid translates it as the "HOLY CHURCH."

Conclusion:As composed by the Miaphysite and Monothelite Babai the Great, the Church of the East understands it differently than the Catholic Placid and the present Syro-Malabar church. Can you conclude then that before the Synod of Diamper, were we the so-called Nestorians? Yes in the sense that we belonged to the Persian church. Our people in India had no idea on Nestorianism, monophysitism etc., until the arrival of the Portuguese. The presence of the hymn in the breviary of the Syro-Malabar Church is an indication that we really don't give a dam about the doctrinal differences before the arrival of the Portuguese. But now we do more than a dam. BY THE WAY DAM IS A HINDI WORD MEANING A COIN OF NO VALUE LIKE A DIME. We have far too any different denominations in the Kerala Syrian church. Good or bad? You be the judge.

Read the following on the author of the hymn:

Babai the Great (ܒܐܒܐܝ ܡܚܡܘܕܐ ca. 551 – 628) was an early church father of the Church of the East. He set several of the foundational pillars of the Church, revived the monastic movement, and formulated its Christology in a systematic way. He served as a monastic visitor and coadjutor with Mar Aba as unofficial heads of the Nestorian Church after Catholicos Gregory until to 628 AD, leaving a legacy of strong discipline and deep religious Orthodoxy. He is revered in the modern Assyrian Church of the East. Read the wikipedia article at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babai_the_Great>

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Zacharias P Thundy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: Sun, Jan 28, 2018 at 9:52 AM
Subject: Re: Sagdinar mar / Placid Podipara's translation
To: Joseph Palackal <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

One correction: Most likely Placid translated the hymn from the original hymn by Babai, where the phrase "True Church" is used, whereas our breviaryversion of the hymn changed "True Church" to "the Roman Church." That way we pleased the Roman Church authorities and displeased the Church of the East

 

Transliteration & Translation (English)

 

 

Transliteration Guide

 

Available recordings

Chanting by Dr. Jacob Vellian

 

Available resources



 

Copyright
Copyright: Christian Musicological Society of India. Do not use any part of this article without prior written permission from the Christian Musicological Society of India. For permission please send request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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