Kabilana and Shushafo

Published by Jacob P Varghese on



Kabilana is small piece the richly embroidered cloth coverings of the Holy Vessels, the Paten and Chalice. The name means receptacles. There is a word in Syriac ‘Mcbilon’ meaning receptacle or accepting. The correct name for this is ‘Hoofoyo’ or ‘cover’. They are square in shape, richly stitched embroidered clothes, decorated with pendant borders, fringes and marked on the top with ornamental cross. It is made of nice silk, and it represents the clouds that shadowed over the Tabernacle. (1 Kings 8: 10-11).

The Holy Elements remains covered in the beginning, to show that our Lord Jesus is with the Heavenly Father during the Old Testament period. The Holy Elements are uncovered during the period of the ministry of Jesus on earth, like institution, fraction, commixture etc. After exaltation of mysteries and during procession of the Second Coming, the Holy Mysteries remain covered, to signify that a cloud hid him during ascension and that He will come in the same way. (Acts 1: 9-11). The Paten and the Chalice are covered with separate veils. Early Churches used metal covers and some other Churches. still use it.

Shooshepo (Shushafo/Sosaffa)

  • It is a white silk cloth to cover Chalice, with wine and Paten with Bread in it. It is embroidered with an ornamental cross in the middle and sometimes with angels or dove. It is used to cover both the sacred vessels together, with the Holy Eucharist.It signifies the swaddling cloth of baby Jesus on the manger. (Lk.2:7);
  • The seamless cloth of our Lord (Jn. 20:5-6);
  • The wrapped linen of our Lord. (Mt.27: 60);
  • The stone rolled over the sepulchre of Christ.
  • The hard rock that gave forth water to the twelve tribes of Israel in the desert (Num. 20: 2 -11).
  • That rock was Christ (1Cor 10:4);
  • The uncreated light, the glory of Shekhina, over the Mercy Seat of the Covenant Box.
  • The bright cloud that overshadowed at the time of transfiguration on Mount Tabor (Mt.17: 5).
  • When the mysteries are covered with the Shooshepo, it signifies the stage of our Lord in the womb of the Mother St. Mary (humanity). When it is removed, it signifies the period of intercession after resurrection and before arrival in heaven.

The term used for this was ‘Anafura or Anaphora’ in Syriac which means offering, liturgy, petition or veil. The covering of the Holy Mysteries by Shooshepo signifies the Divine presence and glory of the fact that the Divine Mysteries are hidden from the understanding of men and that the divinity and humanity united in Christ, the Divine Word, is beyond human comprehension just the same way as the transformation of bread and wine to the flesh and blood of Christ is beyond our perception. 

During the Thuyobo (preparatory service) the celebrant places the Chalice (Kasa) to the East and Paten (Peelasa) to the West of Thabilitho and spreads the Shooshepo from West to East and covers the Holy Mysteries saying a prayer; The heavens are covered with the splendour of the Glorious One. His glory has filled all the earth (Habakkuk 3: 3). This prayer reveals this thought: “His glory covered the heavens, and his praise filled the earth”. We can think that the glorious veil covering the ministry of the Spirit, in the Old Testament, which is not removed for long is removed with Christ (2 Cor. 3: 7-18). When covered by the Shooshepo, one corner is folded up, signifies the transformation of the Old Testament to New Testament and also after Jesus was buried in the tomb, the soldiers left and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone

During the celebration of Holy Qurbana, after the kiss of piece, the Shooshepo is raised and celebrated with this prayer: “You are the hard rock which sent forth twelve rivers of water for the twelve tribes of Israel. You are the hard rock which was set against the tomb of our Saviour” (St James’ Thaksa). According to this prayer, removing Shooshepo from atop the Chalice and Paten is symbolic of the hard rock being removed from the tomb of our Lord (Matthew 27: 60). Just like, Israel having saved themselves from the clutches of death with the flow of water from the hard rock (Numbers 20: 2 – 11), mankind saved themselves from the clutches of death because of our Lord, the Water of Life resurrected from the tomb made of hard rock (John 7: 37 – 39).

Shooshepo is also seen as a symbol of the large sheet Peter saw in his vision (Acts 10: 9 – 16). In the early days, Shooshepo was larger in size to cover the entire Thronos. Co-celebrants or deacons used to help the chief celebrant to hold this large sized Shooshepo during its celebration. Even today, Byzantine Church has a custom that when a Bishop is the celebrant, other priests present help him in Shooshepo celebration.

After the celebration of the Shooshepo, it is kept on the right side of the Holy Altar. The main deacon after the Thubden folds it neatly symbolizing the handing over of Blessed Virgin Mary to St John the Evangelist, Jesus Christ at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19: 26-27) and it is kept on the right side of the Holy Altar, with Kabilana, as St. Mary is seated at the Right side of Jesus in Heaven (Psalm 45: 9).


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published.