The Nestorians and their Rituals/Volume 2/Preface


It has been the Author's aim in the following volume, to collect from their standard writings all that refers to the doctrine, ecclesiastical discipline, and ritual observances of the Nestorians; to show wherein their present faith and practice differ from their own recognized authorities; as also to what extent the ex-Nestorian body, styling themselves "Chaldeans," have altered their ancient formularies so as to be in accordance with the new tenets which they have adopted since their submission to the See of Rome. In carrying out this design he has endeavoured to secure the best rituals extant, and such as are in constant use among the two communities alluded to, and has availed himself of the facilities which he possessed, through the influence of Mr. Christian Rassam, of constantly referring not only to Mar Shimoon, but also to the Chaldean Patriarch, for the solution of any difficulty which arose in its execution, either from want of books, or from his own ignorance. His not having taken advantage of the help to be derived in an investigation of this kind from such works as those of Renaudot and Assemanni, was not because he had more confidence in his own abilities, but because he deemed it more satisfactory to draw from the original Syriac, and to quote from the manuscript rituals which are in use among the Nestorians and Chaldeans at the present day, the authority of which is not liable to be contested.

In the work of translation the author has had the valuable help of the Reverend Michael Giamala, whose name has already been mentioned in the preceding volume, and who is considered one of the best Syriac scholars in Mesopotamia. It is sincerely to be hoped that the Church of England will eventually avail herself of his services for the reformation and restoration of the Nestorians, by whom, as well as by their Patriarch, he is held in high esteem.

An apology may be judged necessary for the publication of the Nestorian offices entire, especially the marriage and burial services, some parts of which consist of frequent repetitions, and are composed in a very loose and verbose style. Three reasons decided the author to give them unmutilated: First, in order that the wary might not suspect any reserve. Secondly, because the omission of a part would in many instances destroy the connexion existing between the whole. And, thirdly, because although the repetitions complained of might seemingly be rejected without affecting the essentials of the offices in question, yet the dogmas therein inculcated are not without their use in contributing to the principal design of this work, viz., the exposition of the theology of the Nestorians.

On the plan adopted in the execution of this object more will be said in the body of this volume; suffice it to remark here, that in collating the doctrines of the Nestorian rituals with those taught in the Book of Common Prayer, it has been the author's aim to afford an easy medium of comparing the agreement or difference existing between the two, and of showing in what respects their spiritual poverty calls for the ready aid of our holy Church to raise up among them what is fallen, to make the crooked straight, and to restore them to the full enjoyment of all the privileges of the Catholic faith and the communion of the Catholic Church.