Multiple Altars during the Holy Qurbana in the West Syriac Rite

While this concerns a concelebration of the Holy Qurbana by the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church Ignatius Zakka I Iwas with the Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church in Kothamangalam, my question is primarily liturgical, rather than theological, so I have decided to post it here rather than the Non-Catholic Religions forum.

According to this video, it appears that the Qurbana is celebrated by Patriarch Igantius Zakka I and concelebrated by several other bishops. The venue appears to be an outdoor set-up. There also appears to be multiple altars at which the Qurbana is concelebrated. I believe that they are the altars because the it appears that the anaphoras are chanted while the bishops are facing it, and the Eucharist is confected with the Holy Gifts are on it.

What piques my curiosity is that it seems to be a new concept to me. In the case of concelebrations of the Roman Rite and the Byzantine Rite, the anaphoras are centered around the same altar. However, this appears to be synchronised over multiple altars at once. The closest I can think of it is the simultaneous celebration of Mass at multiple altars in the same church in the Roman Rite, but in this case the masses celebrated on each of them are considered a separate mass each and not concelebrated, whereas in this instance, they are entirely synchronised.

My question therefore is this: is this normal for a concelebration? Is there a liturgical preference for a single altar or multiple altars?

If anybody has any insight into this, especially if they have deep personal experience with the West Syrian rite, be they Catholic or Orthodox, I do look forward to your contribution. :slight_smile:

This is a feature of West Syriac usage that is mostly particular to the Indian churches. I am not quite sure if you can call it “concelebration” as such because it is more accurately described as a simultaneous and synchronized event with the Patriarch celebrating the one public and chanted Qurbono while the other bishops celebrate their own at the same time but not amplified. You will notice that each bishop has his own attending deacons.

The Roman Church has done similar at various times; from about 1000AD to 1965AD, the Roman Church only had proper concelebration in the Chrism Mass, Ordinations, and Enthronements. Even then, it was more common for everyone (besides the presiding bishop and a newly enthroned bishop) to sit in choir, rather than be at the altar.

At any other mass, instead of concelebration, separate masses on side altars would be used. It was not uncommon for a cathedral to have 5 simultaneous masses, with communion being distributed only from the high altar’s mass, or if need be due to size of crowd, by the main altar’s celebrant and one other mass’s celebrant.

The Roman multiple-simultaneous-mass phenomenon is an outgrowth of a call for every priest to say a mass daily, but not having a normal provision for concelebration.

Multiple Altars is a common tradition among the West Syriac Christians. I know in India their churches are you usually built having multiple altars (usually 3) and the provisions for them. Provisions include distinct separate altar veils.


Indeed I have noticed that, but I thought the feature of it being synchronised was a bigger argument in favour of an apparent concelebration rather than the individual deacons. I suppose it does make some sense. In such a case, I note that all other portions of the Qurbana are executed only once and focused around the attending Patriarch, so am I correct in saying that they are expressed as an amalgamation of these portions from the individual Qurbanas of the other bishops as well? If so, it is an interesting expression of the universality of the Qurbana and the priesthood of the bishops. Each carries with them the full ministry of Holy Orders in which they are empowered to celebrate the Eucharist individually, but with the Qurbana as the public worship of the Church they can also be collectively expressed as one.

Indeed that is so. I am aware of the use of multiple simultaneous masses in the Roman rite, and I have noted that in my first post as well. However, I also have noticed that in the Roman usage, they do not synchronise their masses as they did here. That is why I thought that this case of the Qurbana is a unique case distinct from the multiple simultaneous masses of the Roman rite.

I also understand that the Roman phenomenon of multiple simultaneous masses is due to concelebration not being ordinarily provided for in the pre-1969 rubrics, but given that the West Syrian rite appears to provide for concelebrations at the same altar (correct me if I am wrong), I found it interesting to note that there is also this alternative expression of having multiple celebrations synchronised and set within the same context, hence my surprise. With your and Denho’s input, I now have a better idea of this.

May I know the significance underlying this synchronised celebration of the Qurbana that sets it apart from a concelebration? Surely such things do not arise by accident, and I am curious to know what deeper theological meaning it carries for the Church.

I thank you all for your contributions. If there is anybody else who could shed more light on this, they are welcome to join in. My ignorant Latin mind is in need of some broadening. :smiley:

I think I may have phrased the title of the topic poorly. I am aware of the presence of multiple altars in the West Syriac churches. What surprised me was the synchronised use of said multiple altars in the context of a Holy Qurbana. It is something I have never yet seen before, and that is why I was curious.

Nonetheless, I thank you for the new information. It is curious to note that having three altars (one main altar and two side altars) is similar to the traditional designs of small churches of the Roman Rite and that there are architectural provisions for each as separate altars for the full celebration of the Qurbana in themselves. It has helped me in my understanding of West Syriac ecclesiastical architecture. :slight_smile:

Actually, the Romans sometimes did do synchronous masses, but it was never something official. Tho’ I’ve heard it was common at some seminaries for daily mass to be said that way pre-1969.

And I have seen it done once - a visiting priest saying his daily mass in the side chapel, while the local priest said one at the main altar. Both distributed communion at the main aisle together.

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