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The Significance of the holy Campfire(bonfire) in Christmas Service

The Orthodox liturgy on Christmas is usually conducted in the silence of night and is designed in such a way as to attract anyone to it. It often creates in the minds of the faithful an inexplicable experience of the coming down of heaven to earth. Prior to the Holy Eucharist, there is a service conducted outside the church in the open space. A special service is performed at a burning fire set in a cross- shaped pit or in a container. This spiritual campfire (bonfire) is meaningful and biblically based.

In Christian religious tradition as well as in the Indian Cultural tradition, ‘fire’ is considered to be the ‘Seat of God’, the medium and symbol of the presence of God. The light is that which eradicates darkness. Light implies the divine where as darkness, the evil.

(1) In the holy Bible, we see that God appears before Moses in the form of fire at the bush and as the flash of light on the Mount Sinai. (Ref:-Exodus 3:3-6, 19:16-20)). The fire during Christmas liturgy signifies the flash of light and the burning bush Moses witnessed which symbolically communicates to us the glory and grandeur of God.

(2) According to the Christian doctrine (Nicene Creed), Jesus Christ is “the Light of Light and very God of very God”. (Ref: – St.John 1:9,3:2-218:12,12:46, St. Mathew 17:2, Rev.21:23,Psalm 104:2,Daniel2:22.)

When the shepherds and the wise-men from the East who came to see baby Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem, they could see the very same glory of the very same God who appeared before Moses at the burning bush which prompted them to worship Him together with the band of angels (St.Mathew 2:11,
St. Luke 2:20) This very event endorses the divinity of Christ Jesus. As His ‘Incarnation’ has been a spiritual event happened in history once and for all, people of all generation must get a chance to experience it. Therefore, we too, by way of this holy ritualistic service on Christmas, are given an opportunity in the present time to see the glory of God in the physical and mental plane, for we are privileged
to have access to Him(Galatians 4:4-7). There is no other way for us to experience that spiritual event which happened some 2000 years ago. Those who whole heartedly partake in this rite in all faith, hope and love will certainly find the radiant face of our saviour Jesus Christ.

When we offer frankincense during this service by chanting the angelic hymn, “As the angels and the archangels up in the heaven….” (Melpatta uyarangalil swargeeya malakhamaar sthuthikkunnathupole balaheenarum manmayarumaya njangalum sthuthichuparayunnu…) we are, in fact, offering ourselves and our gifts to our Lord and God Jesus Christ who was born for us in the city of David like the poor shepherds and the Magi. See what the Psalmist promises to God, “I will offer you whole burnt offering full of marrow; with incense and ram,” (V 65:13-15).

In liturgy, we make a travel in time-machine from present to the past transcending the time-space continuum. The Orthodox worship is, at the same time, an earthly as well as a heavenly worship.

“Come, let us greatly rejoice in the Lord; Let us shout aloud to God our saviour; Let us come before His face with thanksgiving, and let us shout aloud to Him with psalms.”(Psalm 95:1)

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MGOCSM Yesturday -Today and Tomorow

Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Student Movement, popularly known as MGOCSM, was started by our spiritual leaders with a good intention for students at High School-College levels initially, if I am not mistaken. Later it was established in parish levels, especially in outside kerala regions, during the regime of late lamented H G Dr Philipos Mar Theophilus Metropolitan who was the President for a longer period assisted by late lamented H G Philipose Mar Eusebius, H G Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, H G Paulose Mar Pachomios, H G Dr Zachariah Mar Theophilos, H G Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim and other prominent priests who are in que for the decorated post of a Metropolitan.

Late lamented Theophilus Thirumeni paved way for this spiritual organization into parish levels with due respect and consideration to the parish priests, the initial student leaders of the parishes could perform its activities mainly in consultations with their respective parish priests. However, as time changed especially after the passing away of Theophilus Thirumeni in 1997, attitude of the student leaders have changed. They think that they are the whole and sole and needs no support of the parish priests and think that the President Thirumeni and others are always with them to support and protect them, which many a times causes an embarrassing situation leading to arguments between the parish priests and MGOCSM members. Many a times I had to warn the MGOCSM members of the parishes wherever I have served as they give less importance to worship and spiritual services and are engaged in extra activities, which I never entertain or encourage, instead I am sorry to mention that I discourage them, even though I may face hatred from them, which I am not at all bothered.

It is my humble request on behalf of my fellow priests to the present President Thirumeni, who is also my Diocesan Metropolitan/Superior and Vice President Thirumenis to advice students atleast during this annual conference, in the last week of December, to behave well, be disciplined,consult and seek proper advice and guidance from their parish priests. Hope that CoorilosThirumeni, Pachomios Thirumeni, Theophilos Thirumeni, Seraphim Thirumeni and other priest leaders especially Fr Varghese Varghese, my seminary mate, will advice the next generation MGOCSM delegates.

Fr Varghese Yohannan Vattaparampil
Kalyan Parish,
Bombay Diocese.

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St. Gregorios of Parumala was a Great Social Reformer: Paulose Mar Pachomios

PARUMALA: “St. Gregorios of Parumala was a great social reformer, who stood solid upon his strong fundament of faith”, said Paulose Mar Pachomios, Metropolitan of Mavelikkara Diocese.

Mar Pachomios was speaking after inaugurating the meeting at Parumala to commemorate the 134th anniversary of consecration of St. Gregorios.

Dr. Yuhanon Mar Chrysostomos, Metropolitan of Niranam, presided over the meeting. Fr. K.V. Joseph Ramban, Fr. M.D. Yuhanon Ramban, Fr. Dr. Regi Mathew, Fr. Simon Skaria, Dr. George Joseph, Dr. Alexander Karackal, A.K. Thomas, Jacob Thomas Arikupuram, Thomas T. Parumala and G. Oommen spoke on the occasion.

Fr. Alexander Abraham celebrated Holy Qurbana in the morning.

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Gift of Baptism to the seekers of Christ is not Unorthodox: Mar Demetrios

NAGPUR: St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur, convened a one day meet for Orthodox lay evangelists. The meeting was held on 8th December 2010 and was divided into two sessions- the first one being a sharing of personal life experiences, and the second as an interactive group discussion and question answer forum. Dr. Yuhanon Mar Dimitrios, the Assistant Metropolitan of Delhi Diocese presided over the meeting.

The guest speakers for the meeting were Saji Varghese, Gwalior, Sunil Varghese, Korba, John Freeman, Bilaspur, P. Venkat Narayan Sharma, GM, Union Bank Of India, Jabalpur and Sanjay Mohandi, GM, State Bank of India, Raipur.

Saji Varghese is an active member of the St. Paul’s Orthodox Church, Gwalior. Presently he is working among the non Christian people especially in Punjab, Haryana and other northern parts of the country. Sunil Varghese takes active part in the Mar Gregorios Orthodox Church, Korba. He is very much active among the youth and is a regular participant of the MGOCSM meetings. Amidst the adverse conditions in North India he gained so many souls for Christ. P. Venkat Narayan Sharma and Sanjay Mohandi consider Sunil Varghese as their ‘Spiritual Guru’. John Freeman is an active member of the Mar Gregorios Orthodox Church, Bilaspur. He too works among the non Christian people in different parts of India. Most of them were attracted towards Christ and His teachings only after facing some painful experiences in their lives.

It is a matter of great appreciation that these personalities are continuing their missionary activities by being the member of the Indian Orthodox Church. They are providing good examples for others to follow. However, it is also a fact that they are not getting proper guidance and support from the Leaders of the Church. They are facing great challenges from other protestant churches too.

Many among the clergy of Indian Orthodox Church are hesitant to administer baptism to the people, who are attracted to Jesus Christ and to our Church, it is reported. Consequently these evangelists approach our sister churches such as CNI, CSI, etc. and they were well appreciated by them. Therefore, it is high time for the Indian Orthodox Church to discuss this issue and to provide them with proper support and helping hands.

“Bestowing the gift of baptism upon the seekers of Christ and admitting them to the Church is not at all unorthodox. It was well practiced in the early days. Now dioceses should give proper leaderships to such acts. But it is still a prevalent question that what will we do after converting them or administering baptism to them. We should be ready to provide them with at least a separate congregation and other ‘after-baptism support programmes’”, Dr. Yuhanon Mar Demetrios commented

Principal of St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur, Fr. Dr. Bijesh Philip, Vice-Principal Fr. Ninan K. George and all other faculty members attended the one day meet of evangelists. All of them were happy with the program and they longed for that the same to be continued by the Church. The Seminary also feels the need of giving some training to such evangelists.

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“No Flowers Please, Donate Those Funds to Charity as Money or as Clothes”, Dr. Mar Osthathios

MAVELIKKARA: “I wish that when I die, no one decorates my corpus with flowers, rather they donate those funds to charity as money or as clothes”, said Dr. Geevarghes e Mar Osthathios on the occasion of his 93rd birthday. He was replying to the felicitations at as special meeting at the St. Paul’s Mission Training Centre, Mavelikkara on December 9th.

“Innumerable lives are struggling at various parts of India without a second piece of cloth to change. These clothes shall be given to them in your name. If it is money you will get a receipt with fidelity to that effect”, affirmed the time proven altruist of the Orthodox Church of India. “It does not matter at all that how many years that one lived. However, what goodness did one accomplish during one’s life time matters though”, carried on the Senior Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church.

Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, the Catholicose and Malankara Metropolitan inaugurated the Birthday Celebrations. Before the meeting the Catholicos also celebrated Holy Qurbana.

“The Guru in Dr. Mar Osthathios could initiate a new metamorphosis in the Malankara Church. The Church has always accepted his discourses and actions with a huge optimism”, said the Pontiff in his inaugural speech. The Pontiff had also released the book ‘Snehasamvedanam’, edited by Fr. John Thomas Karingattil and handed over the first copy to Fr. K.I. Philip Ramban, the stalwart of missions for Metropolitan Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios.

Metropolitan of Mavelikkara Diocese Paulose Mar Pachomios, Metropolitan of Niranam Diocese Dr. Yuhanon Mar Chrisostomos, Metropolitan of UK, Europe and Africa Dr. Mathews Mar Thimothios, Metropolitan of Kottarakkara-Adoor Diocese Dr. Yuhanon Mar Theodoros, Fr. Dr. O. Thomas, Dr. Alexander Karackel, Diocesan Secretary of Mavelikkara Diocese Fr. Jacob John, Manager of St. Paul’s Mission Training Centre Fr. Jacob Mathew and Prof. D. Mathew spoke on the occasion.

Earlier Metropolitan of Kottayam Diocese Geevarghese Mar Ivanios visited Dr. Mar Osthathios to pass on his good wishes to his Senior Metropolitan on his 93rd birthday. National Association for Mission Studies had collected Rs 93000 for charity and Prof. K.C. Mani handed over that amount to the Metropolitan.

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Indian Orthodox Diaspora Secretariat of the Diocese of Delhi Organizes ‘Advent Retreat’

GAZIABAD, UP: Indian Orthodox Diaspora Secretariat of the Diocese of Delhi is organizing an ‘Advent Retreat’ on Sunday, December 12 at St Thomas Orthodox Church, Gaziabad.

“As Orthodox Christians we often are faced with questions like why do we have a fasting period before Christmas. Sometimes, people ask why easter is more important that Christmas. It is as a step towards seeking an understanding on the importance of Advent Lent and the Christmas season, the Indian Orthodox Diaspora Secretariat of the Diocese of Delhi is organizing this event”, says the press release from the Indian Orthodox Diaspora Secretariat of Diocese of Delhi.

The retreat will begin with Holy Qurbana in Hindi. Fr. Dr. Bijesh Philip, Principal, St Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur will be the chief resource person. Fr Shaji Mathews, Vicar, St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Gaziabad and Fr George Varghese, Vice President, Indian Orthodox Diaspora Secretariat will also lead the retreat.

For more information please contact Fr. George Varghese: 09310611636, Lovelish 9313884056, Abraham Thomas 9811126469.

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One Million Rupees in Aid to the St. Gregorios Cancer Care Project, Parumala

PORT CHESTER, NEW YORK: As part of their silver jubilee celebrations the St. George Orthodox Church, Port Chester, New York, declared to donate one million Rupees to the St. Gregorios Cancer Care Centre Project, Parumala.

The declaration came in the silver jubilee valedictory meeting held on Saturday, December 4th. Metropolitan of North East American Diocese Mathews Mar Barnabas presided over the meeting.

Various spiritual organizations of the parish like Sunday School, Marth Mariam Women’s League, and Orthodox Christian Youth League have already collected more than 12,000 dollars to this effect.

To collect more financial aid to the St. Gregorios Cancer Care Center, Parumala, the parish is also planning to organize a charity dinner at the Royal Palace Indian Restaurant, White Plains.

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NCCI felicitates the Catholicos of the East

KOTTAYAM:Fr. Vineeth Koshy, Executive Secretary of National Council of Churches in India felicitated the newly installed Supreme Head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Baselius Mar Thoma Paulose II.

On the auspicious occasion of being elevated as the 91st Catholicos in the lineage of Catholicoi of the East upon the Apostolic Throne of St Thomas and as the 21st Malankara Metropolitan of the Indian Orthodox Church, Fr. Koshy met the Pontiff at the Catholicate Palace, Devalokam and conveyed ecumenical solidarity and accompaniment from the NCCI.

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Growth with Eroded Values is Meaningless: Catholicos of the East

ADOOR: Growth shall be fundamented upon values and knowledge of a value eroded person was of no use, opined the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan Baselios Marthoma Paulose II. The Pontiff was speaking after inaugurating the Adoor Orthodox Convention.

“Dignified knowledge sprouts out of piety. Spirit of God coming upon us is the biggest strength. Acquiring of knowledge shall be with fear of God and word of God shall be an experience for us”, reminded the Supreme Head of the Orthodox Church.

Dr. Zachariah Mar Aprem, Metropolitan of Adoor-Kadampanadu Diocese presided over the meeting. Chor-Episcopos C. Thomas Arappurayil, Fr. Isaac Thomas, the General Convener, Fr. P.J. Kurien, the Diocesan Secretary, Fr. Saji Amayil, Jose V. Koshy, Joint Convener, and V. T. George spoke on the occasion. Fr. Jiju Thomas and Prof. Itty Varghese led the singing session.

Chor-Episcopos C. Thomas Arappurayil, Fr. Mathews P. John, Vicar, Fr. Joseph Samuel, Assistant Vicar, Mammachen Pavukkar, Trustee, V.K. Thampi, Secretary of Convention, Sam Panuvelil, Publicity Convener, V.O. Varghese, and Geevarghese Ninan, Treasurer received the Catholicose and the Diocesan Metropolitan at their arrival at the convention site.

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Overall Championship to Kolkotha St. Thomas Cathedral

KOLKOTHA: At the Sunday School Kolkotha Zonal Competition St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral Sunday School grabbed the overall championship.

The competition took place at St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Ranchi on Sunday, December 5. The day being celebrated as Children’s Day by the Church Linu Chacko preached the sermon on the day’s importance.

K.C. Eapen, Direct of Sunday School, Kolkotha Zone, inaugurated competitions.

Fr. Sanju John and Fr. P.S. Varghese gave leadership for the competitions.