The St. Mary's Jacobite Syrian Cathedral, Manarcad situated in Kottayam District of Kerala is one of the most ancient places of worship in the state. And the first eight days in the month of September is when thousands throng this church to observe the feast of the nativity of Virgin Mary
September 1 to 8 marks the historic eight-day lent at Manarcad Church. People come from different parts of the world to participate in this festival. Some to offer their gratitude for blessings received, some to pray for miracles that the church is famous for. Faith and dedication are the emotion that binds each and everyone who gathers here during these eight days.
History of the Church
In the early days, there were twelve famous Christian families in the area. When they actually felt the need of a church for offering prayers and for receiving the holy sacraments, they assembled in prayer and spent days fasting. On the eighth day, each of them had a vision. In their vision, each of them saw a white cow and its calf lying in a forest area overgrown with a certain species of acacia and other thorny bushes. They realized that each of them had the same dream and it could signify just one fact. This place in their vision will be the place where the church would be built and it would be dedicated to the Holy Mother and Son. They went in search of the cow and the calf and found them at the place where the church of Manarcad is presently situated.
The Stone Cross and the Great Miracle
The stone cross situated right in front of the church is as old as the church. There is a story behind this stone cross too. When the chiseling work of the massive stone cross was completed, people found it difficult to erect it. It was impossible to lift and straighten such a heavy stone cross without using an elephant. But no one in Manarcad at that time owned an elephant. So the parishioners went to Puthupally (Kottayam District) to get an elephant for this work. The parishioners came back disheartened. But back in the church, they were faced with a miracle. The stone cross was in place, and the elephant they requested for the task stood next to the foot of the cross.
Lighting candles around this stone cross has been an important offering in this church. There have been a couple of times when the candles were lighted on the stone cross, a delicate fragrance emanated from the place.
The Historic Raza
The historic festival procession, Raza, takes place on September 6 with thousands of colorful ornamental umbrellas as accompaniments (Muthukudas), gold and silver crosses and orchestras. This is considered as a sacred event.
Opening of holy Portrait
The covered portrait of the Holy Mother with Child Jesus in her hand will be kept in the sanctum sanctorum for the adoration of the devotees on 7th September every year. Lakhs of people from all over the world come to the church to see this blessed event.
On the eighth day of the lent, as part of feast celebrations, Pachoru will be prepared and given to all devotees. Pachoru is a holy sweet made from rice, milk and jaggery served in the afternoon of the feast day.