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San Antonio St. Mary’s Church moved to their own building

san-antonio-st-marys
TEXAS: San Antonio St. Mary’s Indian Orthodox Church had purchased a property and building at 4990 View Drive San Antonio, Texas 78228. on Dec 28 2012.

This is truly a Gift from Heaven, said the vicar Fr. V. C Varghese after the holy Qurbana on Sunday congratulating the members for their accomplishments.

The members of this parish are thankful to the Diocesan bishop, Alexios Mar Eusebius of SW Diocese of America, for elevating the St. Mary’s church to a full-fledged parish in Dec 2011.

“We feel that our Bishop’s blessings and the guidance of vicar, joint effort from dedicated members and generous financial assistance helped us to buy the new church property in such a short period of time”, said one of the parishioner.

Vicar also appreciated two families who came forward to sign as guarantors for Bank loan.

The “SM Investments'” board of directors for their leadership had renovated the facility (over 3000 sq ft) and made the facility available for church use free of charge.

New Year service will be conducted on 31-Dec at 6:00PM with Evening Prayer followed by Holy Qurbana and New Year Meditation. Fr. Dr. V. C Varghese will be the chief celebrant on the occasion. Children’s’ Program will be concluded at mid-night

For more information contact St. Mary’s Indian Orthodox Church: (210) 573 8856
Or Vicar: Fr. Dr. V. C. Varghese Ph #: (281) 980-1658 or (832) 766-2996

News reported by: Thomas Koshy Poovathoor

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Articles Devotional

Fear Not – Be strong to do His Will!

prayer-table
Are you Ready to Face the Future, regardless of how dark things look? The days of 2012 were in many ways darkening ones – crime, immorality, corruption, and deadly violence by young and old. No informed person today will deny that the human race walks in darkness. We face dilemmas and problems that seemingly have no answer. Many observers despair of solving the problems of the world; they suspect that we are people who not only walk in darkness but who walk in darkness to our doom.

At the root of our problems is our continuing attempt to live without God. An anti-god spirit is becoming more hateful and vocal and widespread. For years, people have been seeking to organize human life without Him. They have tried to thrust Him out of the universe. Critics are attacking evangelical Christianity throughout the world because they find it hard to believe in God, they have transferred their faith to man. They have invented a creed that is the worship of humanity. “Glory to man in the highest” is their theme.

This worship of human nature feeds on our own conceit. We have been told, especially in some of our classrooms, that there is no sin and that the human race simply has a bit of selfishness that with time will correct. It flatters the egoism in us; it seems to make redemption unnecessary; it empties the cross of its meaning. People will grow better, we are told.

However, the failure to solve the problems of the world has shattered the hopes of many. We are unsure of peace and have less freedom than ever before. We have built a world of technology and spaceships, which have led to possible terrorist attacks, chemical and biological weapons, of radiation poisoning, snipers and of suicide bombers. In our brilliance without God, we have become fools.

Into this world of madness came an event that can change everything. If we allow it, it can bring peace to our hearts, heal our relationships, correct our self-image, and bring light to our darkness. We celebrated this event few days ago – “Christmas” – baby Jesus was born “to be with us”. From the lips of Jesus Himself came these words, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Christ came into a world that was facing problems very much like the ones we tackle with today. We often imagine that the world Jesus came to was not complicated, that its problems were not complex. The problems of that day were similar to the problems of our day.

Jesus came to help us through our suffering and sorrow, saying, “I am with you. Let Me share your burdens.” Today, in spite of all the darkness and despair, in spite of all the headlines about murders, riots, terrorism and war, there is hope. He is alive to conquer your despair, to give you hope, to forgive your sins and to take away your loneliness. He is alive to reconcile you to God.

Face every situation with faith in God in this darkening hour face all problems in full Reliance upon god’s faithfulness. No situation, no condition, involved, unknown, untried, dark, and dangerous circumstance or combination of circumstances–is too hard for God. He knows all things. And he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7; 1 John 3:20). Nothing is too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:17). With God all Things are possible (St. Matthew 19:26). He has already shown His love and manifested his compassion for us by giving his only begotten Son to die a cruel death for us.

As we look forward to a brighter future in 2013 and beyond, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Put your faith and trust in Him. Do not lead a life of Fear, but a life of Love for God and people. Give Him your heart, your soul, your life. The human race walks in darkness, but God offers us light. He offers every one of us eternal life if we will put our faith in Jesus Christ. Take time, make time, use time for reading and also for meditating on god’s word, that you may know His Will, and that you may be strong to do His Will!

A new year is just around the corner, and it promises more challenges, changes, and chances to make a difference in the world. As we leave 2012 behind us for a New Year 2013, please enjoy the time with your friends and family – tell them how much you love them and how valuable they are in your life.

I wish you a wonderful new year filled with abundance, joy, and treasured moments.
May 2013 be your best year yet!
Let us hold Him tight and walk with Jesus Christ into the New Year 2013.

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Welcome 2013 with new resolutions!!

Happy-New-Year
Very recently, precisely while we were caroling, one of our parishioners asked me pointing to my Accord, “Achen, did you buy a new car?”

“Yes, I did, but it was precisely seven months back though”, I answered.

After having received complements for the seven months old new car, I and my family got into the car to drive to the family, where we were next to carol.

Soon we reached the next red light, and I stopped. That was the time, I really looked at the rear-view-mirror of my new car and not just through the rear-view-mirror to the back.

What I found out was very much surprising. The rear-view-mirror of my seven month old new car needed a little cleaning activity. There were shades of oil, dust and dirt in it. I tried to clean them with my palm and that complicated the problem. I was not able to see the traffic coming from behind effectively, especially as darkness pulled itself gently over the earth. Thank God, we had some wipes with us, which were of temporary use to clean the rear-view-mirror and we carried on with the ride on the Expressway westwards to the next house.

Today, when I sit at my desk to meditate on thoughts for the Year 2013 this very incident came surprisingly into my mind screen. It might do good to analyze the event a little bit further.

Usually, we do not touch the rear-view-mirror at all. We might adjust it this way or that way, but touching the actual mirror is very seldom. Still there were shades of oil, dirt and dust on it. I do not remember having touched the rear-view-mirror and nor my wife does. I can not blame the children either for they never sit on the front seat. Dust can be understood. However, where did shades of oil and dirt come from? No answers! They just came!

Looking back to the passing 2012 the same thought is ruling over me. Am I seeing the passing year clearly?

Usually, we see the passing year through a rear-view-mirror that is dirty, which often skips our attention.

Sometimes we find it out and try to clean with our palms that would even complicate the issue.

If we really want to look back to the passing year clearly, first of all we need to clean the rear-view-mirror with real good wipes. Let us use the wipes of truthfulness, frankness, honesty, humility, humbleness and finally, the mercy of God to clean the rear-view-mirror to evaluate our lives in the passing year.

Secondly, let us realize that we always sit in the direction of travel in the car, while we look through the rear-view-mirror. We do not reverse the direction of travel to analyze and correct what had gone wrong in the rear. We learn from the mistakes that we have identified looking through the rear-view-mirror and sincerely try not to repeat them in the present or in the future. Let us resolve to drive ahead positively employing the lessons we have learned by looking through the rear-view-mirror! Let us drive safer!

Wish all the readers of Indian Orthodox Herald, a Blessed and Happy New Year!!

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Diocese News Features News

Children are more precious than career: Mar Seraphim

mar-seraphim
DELHI: There is an urgent need to understand that our children are more important than our careers and salary packages said Metropolitan Mar Seraphim

Dr. Abraham Mar Seraphim, Metropolitan of Bangalore Diocese of the Orthodox Church was speaking this while addressing the seminar of the Diaspora movement in Delhi last week.

Parents must go back to the very basics of family prayer and spend more time with children, the Metropolitan added.

Mar Seraphim was the main speaker for parenting session organized on December 16, 2012 at St James Orthodox Church Mayur Vihar Phase 3 under the aegis of the Delhi Diocese. Delhi Diocesan Metropolitan Dr. Youhanon Mar Demetrios and Diocesan Secretary Fr. Skariah Ramban were also present on the occasion.

Issues like online abuses of children and kids having a disturbed life due to struggle between parents has become common among families in cities like Delhi and the Church wish lay leaders and clergy to be sensitive to such issues to deal with it, said Delhi Metropolitan Mar Demetrios.

Diaspora vice president Dr Shabu Varghese introduced the topic. He presented different tools available to track children who have severe online addiction. The seminar was part of the 25 day advent fasting period observed by Orthodox churches across the world.

This year Malankara Orthodox Church is focusing on family and respect for elders as a topic of discussion.

Report by : Sanjay Varghese, Secretary, Indian Orthodox Diaspora.

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Church News Features News

Mar Demetrios of Delhi Diocese condoled

Dr. Youhanon Mar Demetrios
DELHI: “We learn the news about the passing away of the young girl in Singapore, a victim of the heinous crime, with utmost shock” said Dr. Youhanon Mar Demetrios, Metropolitan of Delhi Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

“It has cast a sense of gloom and shame over the whole of country as Orthodox Christians in India joins in prayers to mourn the sad event. We convey our deepest condolences to the members of the family and the millions of well meaning citizens who have come to be identified themselves with the victim and for the cause of safety for woman in the country’ the Metropolitan added.

The Metropolitan also said that the church also joins with the right-thinking people in demanding the strengthening of laws on crimes against women to uphold the dignity and safety of the women, weak and marginalized in the society.

Mar Demetrios reminded the faithful that its not just for the government but each one of us have a duty to timely act and ensure this and to uphold this situation in the country in our prayers and keep all our celebrations a prayerful and solemn one in such challenging conditions .

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Dr Mar Thimothios favours regional centres for churches in Africa; plans family get together in Kerala on Jan 4

MMTIMOTIOS-(1)

# Annual family get together planned in Kerala on January 4, 2013
# Regional centres/councils in Africa will be on similar lines in UK
# Metropolitan favours aligning these with backward dioceses
# Prefers an autonomous nature for the Diocese
# For developing OTS as a major centre of learning
# Chalks out ambitious plans for Menorah Orthodox Centre

HG Dr Mathews Mar Thimothios, Metropolitan of UK-Europe and Africa Diocese, visited Sultanate of Oman on his maiden visit as the chief guest at the Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edvaka’s 40th Harvest Festival. Dr Mar Thimothios is a reputed scholar with proficiency in five foreign languages. Deeply influenced by David Livingston, a noted Scottish and one of the greatest European explorers of Africa, His Grace has a Licentiate in Sacred Scriptures from Biblical Institute, Rome and a doctorate in Psalm 24 from Pontifical Institute, Rome where he was based for 7 years. In a recent interview, Mar Thimothios discusses about the future plans and visions for his Diocese.
Excerpts:

Major challenges faced since taking over:

UK-Europe and Africa Diocese which I have been shepherding since 2009 faces more of a geographical challenge. There is no free movement and to enter each country in my diocese you need to have visas. It’s a sort of a unity in diversity! The work involves small countries and the challenges itself is a blessing for the Diocese.

This faced with the vagaries of different languages between each continent which includes various currencies. All in all it’s a unique diocese with different time zones and cultural differences. I see the role of the bishop here more as a uniting force of all these varying factors for which the Metropolitan has to play an important role.

When I took charge in 2009 as the Diocesan Bishop, we had only one church as our own in London but now we have another own new church in Bristol and about 21 congregations in major cities.

St Thomas Orthodox Church at St Agnell’s Lane, Hemel Hempstead is the second church which is owned by Malankara Orthodox Church in UK and built in traditional architecture. The church was consecrated in September 2012.

We had a major family conference in September 2012 in which over 400 members took part which brought our community people from diverse background on a common platform and are looking forward to the next conference in January 4, 2013.

We recently launched Harmony, the monthly news letter for the Diocese at the St Gregorios Orthodox Church on Diocesan Day. The news letter helps in updates for the parishes and to be mutually connected.

Visions and dreams for the Diocese

At present we have UK as a complete regional centre with formation of a regional council and have major presence in the United Kingdom from North to South and in the central part of UK.

We have a major say in UK and are active in all ecumenical boards. I was elected Chairman for the Oriental Orthodox Church Council in UK for three-year tenure from 1999. The community consists of the Council of Anglican Churches and Council of Catholic Churches. The Bishop of London, Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, awarded me the Order of St Mellitus in recognition of our partnership in the Gospel in July 2012.

Next, our plan is to target Ireland and efforts are on to create another regional council there since about 200 Orthodox families have made their presence at present.

At a later stage, I would like to relate churches in UK to any other diocese in Kerala so that the size of the diocese is reduced and the diocese is easy to manage. This will help develop the Diocese on a autonomous nature and could take take place within a year or so. We will strive to develop such a system and place some promising young priests for ministry work.

There are also smaller Orthodox congregations in France, Holland, Belgium and Hungary which we want to target. Also Orthodox congregations both big and small exist in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The impact on the lives of the faithful post financial crisis:

Major migration to Europe took place from 2000 onward. Usually it is the nursing profession which is in demand. The spouses do other menial jobs and contribute much to the upliftment of the family. Initially they struggle to settle, to have a home, children’s education and such. When faced with trials in life, the natural way of the faithful is to seek help from the savoiur and rely upon Him.

What are the plans for the African continent

Our next major focus area will be the vast continent of Africa where we have 13 places of worship with about 150 families. We have parishes in South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia and also unorganized Orthodox faithful in Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia and Malawi. Rev Fr Joci John is in-charge of the parsonage in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

We want to concentrate in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia and plan to send two more experienced vicars there soon. I will be planning a visit to Africa during Passion Week in March 2013 and efforts are being made to channelize more large number of faithful. Setting up of a regional council on similar lines like UK, will be made, though it’s not that easy. But we are definitely working in that direction. Most of the countries mentioned have a stable economy. We also plan to speed up various missionary activities in the name of Late Lamented Dr Geevarghese Mar Osthathios say in about two to three years time from now.

Can you explain about the dreams, visions of Menorah Orthodox Centre

Menorah Indian Orthodox Centre is based at Venmony, Chengannoor. The Centre is primarily striving to promote Orthodox ethos. The centre is presently set up on a one acre plot. Presently we have a Remban and seminary students who are engaged in serious work. The centre conducts yearly youth orientation classes for children from UK who come to Kerala during vacation in January each year. We want to build the infrastructure further and conduct more seminars and conferences. We also conducted blood donation camps and a Pravasi Sangamma for families from the diocese last year.

Can you explain about the January 4 Family Conference:

The Diocese is planning its family get together in India on January 4 from 10 am to 1 pm at Menorah Orthodox Centre, Venmony, Kerala. Rev Dr Jacob Kurian, Principal-Orthodox Theological Seminary will be the chief guest. General meeting, seminars, love feast are being arranged at the event. Seminars on Catholicate Centenary and psychology of Diaspora community will be conducted as part of the event. Bishops, priests, ecumenical church leaders, social and political dignitaries will attend the meeting. Rev Dr Jacob Kurian will lead the seminar on the theme of this year’s meeting on ‘Bharatheeyathayum Navodhanavum.’

Your views as MOSC celebrates its Catholicate centenary, future plans:

Catholicate Centenary (1912-2012) symbolizes freedom which is generated from the people, by the people and for the people. Ours is a unique church having its own constitution. The Malankara Association is a large elected body with over 4,000 members and maintains its own fervor and democratic principles. The Episcopal congregation is binding and approved by the Holy Episcopal Synod. Eastern Orthodox churches look upon us as a beacon of hope. We have to take care not to lose our democratic principles since ours is a universal church.

This is a new set up where 3 desks have been set up. These are the Ecumenical and Spiritual which is being looked after by Elizabeth Joy. Next is the PRO who sources matters for the newsletters, websites and other office administration matter and is headed by Saji Varghese as Deputy Secretary for Public Relations. Lastly is the registration and accounts which often looks after charity related aspects and training courses.

Message to the rest of the church in relation to making women’s participation more visible in our church’s life and witness..

Women have already been playing a leading role long before empowerment.…. They have far more opportunities now and Martha Mariya Samajams in UK has been very active from long. The diocese backs women empowerment to the full though none of them have been elected to the council as yet. Even this could be a reality sooner or later. For better functioning of the Diocesan office, we have split up major jobs into different desks. One of them is ecumenical relations and spiritual organization and appointed a veteran in Mrs Elizabeth Joy as the Deputy Secretary. She will make timely consultations with the Regional Secretary of the Diocese for the smooth functioning of the Desk.

Suggestions for OTS seminary, Kottayam:

Our primary base is seminary and seminary leaders are very important. This is amplified and reflected in the church by the leaders. Present Principal of Orthodox Theological Seminary (OTS), Rev Fr Jacob Kurian, is doing a great job in leadership training and direction for the seminarians. But we need to have more professional and dedicated teachers. Through this we can develop OTS as a major centre of learning and develop it as an autonomous institute. Orthodox tradition and culture can be promoted and we need more resource persons and experts in all aspects.

What are the specific interests of your grace as a scholar

I would say my special interest is in liturgical study since our liturgy is more rich and dynamic and its expressions more archaic. But it is not translated and transmitted to the people and ours is highly Biblical. Something has to be done in this regard.Thanking you for spending your time for the interview.

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Attappadi Mission seeking your help

attappadi-mission
History: History dates back to 1991 as the outcome of the ever burning missionary zeal of H.B.Thomas Mar Thimotheos Metropolitan (Present Valiya Bava Thirumeni) of Malabar Diocese. Few young celebate priests who had the divine call, decided to forsake everything for the noble cause of the missionary work. The outcome of this was the inception of StThomas Ashram and Mission (The Society of the Missionaries of St. Thomas)

Location: Nellippathy, Agali P.O., Attappady, Palakkad District, on the banks of river Siruvanl, hardly 2Kms from Goollkkadav Township on Chittoor Dam Road. Goolikkadav is 50 Kms away from Coimbatore (Via Thadagom•Anakkatty•Mannarkkad Road) and 36 Kms from Mannarkkad Town

Objectives

1. Spiritual empowering of mentally tormented
2. Educating economically backward
3. Helping in exigencies and disasters
4. Parenting the Orphans
5. Implementing health awareness
6. To provide home for the homeless
7. To conduct marriage of poor girls
8. To provide sponsorship tor Nursing Students
9. To open opportunities for self employment

MISSION ACTIVITIES AT A GLANCE

1. St.Gregorlos Balabhavan
2. St.Mary’s Ballkabhavan
3. Sneha Bhavan

Now the mission has dedicated people to work for it. If our faithful are interested to share their love and a little money for this mission, with their participation the mission will grow to its fullness. Please remember the mission in your daily prayers and be concerned about the little ones, those are precious in the eyes of our Lord.

Call the center when you want to show your concern:
Superior: Fr. M.D. Yuhanon Ramban (Mob: 9447277690)
Manager: Fr.S.Paul. (Mob: 9446789602)

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When Divinity meets Humanity…

nativity-of-our-Lord
We hear the Christmas story every year during the month of December. What we hear is the story of purely mundane things. We hear about a couple looking for a lodge in an emergency situation; the young woman was in her full term of pregnancy and was about to give birth to a baby. We hear about a manger, which was the only alternative for them without the availability of a lodge in Bethlehem. This manger happened to be very frigid; the newborn shivered and happened to be wrapped up in straw. We hear about the whispering of a girl, whose eyes were lit with astonishment and wonder. The story is also loud about the first Christmas carol of a choir of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest…!” To our admiration, there was also a moving star which led some wise men to this manger. These men offered incense, myrrh and gold at the feet of this newborn baby… This is humanly speaking a very lovely story.

The mother of this baby, thirty-three later, was entrusted to a man called John when this baby grew up and revealed the ultimate truth about Himself and was sentenced to die on the cross. Her Son asked him to take care of her as his mother after his passing away, also asked her to take him as her son. This woman must have told him the mystery of her conception, and the truth about the Person she carried in her womb. Thus the true story of Christmas unravels itself, and the picture gets clear. John many decades later had the audacity declare “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1.14). When this truth is professed in the Nicene Symbol of faith, all Christians make a deep prostration to adore this enfleshment of the Sovereign Deity. Here the Story of Christmas becomes complete; when Divinity meets humanity we have the Christmas. Any Christmas (and its feast and celebration) devoid of the Divine meeting the human is not a Christmas; because it does not meet the criterion witnessed by John.

If one studies the early part first chapter of John’s gospel, it becomes clear who this Word is. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1: 1- 4: Orthodox Study Bible). John’s description of the Word actually elevates the human beauty of the Christmas story to a higher plane and connects it to the divine to make sense of the story and to make it worthy of global celebration.

John’s preamble to the enfleshment of the Word directs our rational imagination to the primordial scenes of human origins, to the first man and woman, to the first transgression of God’s law. Adam and Eve, the first humans, who were created to be the first parents of human genealogy, were meant to transmit their original innocence, which they had received directly from the breathing of the Creator, to the generations of men and women of their species. However, they both sinned and shattered and totally disfigured the image of God in which they were fashioned.

In the strictest sense this image was not just a reflection; the first humans possessed the basic characteristics of the Godhead. God is a person, who is fully rational, capable of thinking or reasoning and of possessing the most sublime faculty of a free will which is the source of His immeasurable love. In other words, it is reason and free will in their unfathomable magnitude that make God the Person who creates and sustains all that was, all that is and all that will be. It is to this divine realm that God raised His new species of humans, although in a very limited extent as a created being that has limitations of temporality. Actually instead of qualifying man as an image or reflection of God, we must call him an icon of God. An icon is the miniature of a reality, the replica of the very reality, but not the reality itself. Similarly man is miniature God.

But this status of the first humans did not last that long. Satan, having lost all his glory as an archangel wanted to expand his kingdom, and shot his arrow of deception at this new creation of God, who has almost all his qualities with an additional dimension taken from the dust of the earth, which made him more vulnerable to temptations. This vulnerability with a free will and rationality was a feast for Satan. His arrow hit at the right spot, and it was also swallowed by the first woman, who did not want to be herself as the sole victim. She shared it with her man, as any woman would naturally do. This led to a metaphysical tragedy making not only both of them but also all the generations that erupted from them lose their original innocence and justice. Thus they lost the real love infused in them by their Creator; “love had fled from their souls”. They both became terrified. Adam cried out in despair: “I heard Your voice in paradise, and I was afraid”. Thus Satan succeeded in his plan. His plan was to demolish the most noble relationship between a rational God and His rational creature. He poisoned the human race at its root. The human race thus had fallen away from the love of God. Man could not relate to Him in the absence of a true love. Being fallen, Adam’s race acquired a habit of sinning and offending God from Cain who had killed his innocent brother to the archenemy of Christ before the end of our generation, the Antichrist. Until there is no more relevance for time and space, this deception by Satan will go on, the devil in and around us would lead us to more sins. The first victim of Eve’s sin was Abel at whose death the first tears in human history fell from the eyes of a mourning Eve, the first mother, whose first sin had brought this first tragedy on her and her man! This was the first gift our first parents presented to us, a nature susceptible to sin.

God was very much disturbed by this deplorable lot of humans. The antidote for sin is its own antonym- LOVE. God cursed Satan, but made a covenant for man’s emancipation from the deceptive grip of Satan out of His true love: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall be on guard for His heel” Gen. #; 15). To paraphrase, (God said to Satan): “The first human beings that I have created betrayed my love. To restore that love I will raise a Son from her, and I will create a shield of grace between you and her Son, between your treachery (sin) and her Son; and finally He will crush your head”. Let me quote from the Wisdom of Solomon now: “For while gentle silence embraced everything and night at its own speed was half over, Your all-powerful Word leaped from heaven, and from the royal throne into the midst of a doomed land” (18:14-15)[*These verses of Wisdom may have other implications]. How lovely and cogent are the words of Solomon to depict the descent of the Word on earth from His royal throne in heaven! Almost a thousand years later, about this Word (Logos), John confirmed the same after having been inspired by the Holy Spirit “The Word became flesh (on earth)”.

Christmas is nothing if it is not about Love, if it is not the restoration of love. In fact we celebrate God’s benevolent and all-forgiving kiss on the sad face of humanity charred by a first degree burning inflicted by sin; it is a kiss of love to lay the foundation for reconciliation between desperate humanity and a just God who seeks propitiation from His offender. Christmas is not about a cold manger, swaddling cloths, a Mary and Joseph kneeling in front of an infant and a few cattle gazing at him, the angels and their choir, the three magi and their gifts of incense, myrrh and gold, and not even the many innocent infants killed by Herod, but about the Son of a woman who came to bruise the head of the archenemy of God, Satan. Humanity needed a Savior; and on the first Christmas day in Bethlehem He was born from a woman untainted by man’s voluptuousness. This Son born of a virgin could take away the sin of humanity and give forgiveness.

The beauty of Christmas lies in forgiveness; not in the manger, not in the garland decorating it, not in a Virgin Mary and her betrothed husband, and not even in the mesmerizing melody produced by the angelic choir up in the air. What Bethlehem had witnessed was the birth of this forgiveness, which was obtained from this Child of the Virgin. Christmas without the guarantee of forgiveness is just a celebratory extravaganza; it just is an entertainment without substance, without a raison d’etre. So it is with most of our Christians. Forgiveness demands many prerequisites. The conviction that we have sinned, the contrition creating genuine remorse, the unwavering resolution not to sin again, the confession of the sins committed or omitted, and readiness to repair the damage inflicted by the sin are the major prerequisites. Every Christmas is an occasion for a Christian to spiritually and emotionally prepare for God’s forgiveness; commercial interests have very little room in its celebrations. It is not primarily meant for the entrepreneurial man to dig in for more gold. In Capitalism it may be ethical, but in Christianity this mentality is spiritually and morally deceptive and destructive.

Our festivities in connection with our Christmas bypass all supernatural exhortations and preternatural considerations. We sink in more deep sins during these festivities. It is reported that on a Christmas day, the Beverages Corporation in the State of Kerala In India sells millions of liters of liquor driving thousands and thousands of families into irrevocable poverty, immorality, destitution, accidents, and diseases for many months, or years, to come. Instead of forgiveness, these festivities gather the wrath of God and His judgment. In order to become worthy of His forgiveness, it is not enough that the Christ-Child stay in His manger. The other name of this Child is Emmanuel, which means “God with us”; in other words, this Child should be “with us and within us”, not just “in the manger”. Rather than keeping this Christ-Child in a manger, we have to taste His presence “with us and in us”. There is a Christian name, Christopher, which literally means “the one who carries Christ”. Rather than letting a manger carry Christ, we should become the bearers of Christ. The truth is that one cannot bear Christ if he has driven out the Spirit of God from by becoming an obedient servant of Satan. If Christ-God lives in us, if we bear Him, we are not at all afraid of Him or His presence; on the contrary we would rejoice. Centuries ago Adam said: “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid”; however with Christ-Child in us, each of us could say: “I heard Your voice in the manger in Bethlehem; and I was very happy; I rejoice”. What a transformation Christmas has effected on our souls! We read in I Corin-thians (15:55) that death comes from sin and the victory that the Hell is joyful about; the Hell was rejoicing about death effected by our sin. But Paul emphatically declares that “Thanks be to God, who gives victory (over death and sin) through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Co. 15:56). Christmas started the combat against the reign of death. If the first Christmas was in a manger in Bethlehem, every Christmas since then must have occurred in our hearts. Imperial Rome must have recorded the birth of Christ then in Bethlehem (because it was for meeting the census requirement that Mary and Joseph had gone to Bethlehem), and it was indeed a significant birth as it recoded one more citizen within the dominion of the Roman Emperor. Every Christmas since then would be significant only after His birth is recorded in our hearts and souls as the most significant in our history. One cannot record Christ’s birth in his heart until His birth is an event for him, until it imprints a salvific seal in his soul, until he becomes equipped to fight sin which is the cause of death.

Let us go back to the area of John’s gospel we have quoted earlier and read on the most relevant portions thereafter: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn 1:12-13). The entire theology of the economy of salvation is spelled out here by John. We have to become children of God, Godlike, or divine ultimately in order to accomplish the mission of incarnation. We lost our filial relationship to God through Adam’s sin; but Christ regained our sonship through adoption by His blood. Everyday we repeat the Nicene Symbol of Faith: “We believe in the one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God…who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man…” This is the act of faith required of us at every Christmas, and always as Christians.

All the celebrations of Christmas become lovely when we really comprehend spiritually and rationally (“rationally” means our rational assent to a revealed truth, not that our intellect can totally comprehend the truth of incarnation) the basic doctrine of Christianity that “The Word became flesh”.

It is this truth that connects Christmas with the divine. Thus we realize it is not just Mary’s Child who lies in the manger, and it is God Himself, Who is wrapped in swaddling cloths. Now there is significance for Mary and Joseph gazing at the stunning Reality to which the former gave birth. Now it is meaningful for Mary and Joseph to kneel around this Wonder Baby in adoration. Now it makes sense for the angelic choir to chant “Hallel… Hallel.. Halleluiah…” in the heavens. The shepherds watching their sheep now hear a much more mellifluous melody coming from the angels which is contagious to the rest of humans to start fresh stanzas of lullaby for this new miracle babe: “The Word became flesh…, and dwelt among us…” We have a striking melody that was sung by Mary herself while she was kneeling by the side of the crib of her Baby:

“You strengthened me and I carried You…and when I bore You in the cave, You showed me Your glory. Flames surround the little crib and the Seraphim with six wings fly above it. Command them to raise their wings, that I may enter, Lord, and kneel and worship you; and I will give a pure milk which shall be pleasing to Your will… I have no house on earth, nor couch, nor bed, I am deprived of all; I will wrap in swaddling bands Him who is more ancient than all, and I will lay in manger the Lord of creatures. His Father has no equal in heaven, and there is none like His mother on earth; He is the Lord and I am His handmaid and the Church is His bride” (Syrian Breviary- Evening Prayers). What an unparalleled and unmatching poetic imagery the Syrian Orthodox Book of Hours provides!

Joseph definitely was stunned at the Reality in front of him.

The guiding star of the magi did not have a clue why it was moved to a definite destination, but when it stood above the crib the prostrations of the wise men told it that they had been hastening to worship the Sovereign-Child of the cosmos! And these magi may have thought of giving their guiding star as a toy for this Lord of lords who was lying as a Child in that crib, in addition to the other gifts!!

Readers: Is the Incarnate Word of God a Reality for all of us who celebrate this Christmas like Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the magi and the whole Judea who were blessed with His really definite divine presence in human nature? If we do not see our God coming as a human baby for our redemption, our Christmas is totally devoid of its original substance. We are deceiving ourselves. Let us not be hypocritical.

Yes, Christmas is the story of Divinity coming down and meeting humanity. Without the Lord God coming down to be spiritually born in our hearts and souls, Christmas is flavorless.

May the Incarnate Lord God be born in you and live in you, so that the peace He brought for all men of good will may remain in you during the New Year and always thereafter!

When Divinity meets humanity… we have Christmas!

We wish you a very Blessed Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year! +TVOO

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The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

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“Today we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. There has been no event in the history of the world more amazing than the Nativity of Christ. The Lord God Pantocrator, who created the visible and invisible world and all that is therein with but a single word, that Same God humbled Himself, took for Himself Flesh of the Most-blessed Virgin Mary, was born in a cave, and as a helpless Infant, was laid in a manger.

Heaven was terrified, and the ends of the earth moved. A tremendous miracle and mystery had taken place, one utterly beyond the comprehension not only of man, but of the highest of the heavenly host.

For what reason did the Lord come down to earth?

There is but one answer: in order to save man. We should recognize that if the Lord performs this act for man, man must be of some particular value [to God], for [He] would not have employed such a means to salvation for the sake of anything worthless or insignificant. One thousand years before the Nativity of Christ, the king and prophet David had exclaimed in bewilderment [in Psalm 8: 4-5]: “O Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the Son of man, that Thou visitest him? For Thou madest him a little lower than the Angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor?”

We have even more cause to fall in fear and reverence before the Lord and cry out: Lord, what is man, that Thou didst not disdain a virgin womb, that Thou didst hide Thy Divinity and didst deign to become a man?”

What is man after all? The Word of God says: man is God’s finest creation. Man is the image of God.

All was created by God’s all-powerful word. God said: “Let there be light: and there was light…” [Genesis 1:3] “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind…” [Gen. 1:11] and it was so. And God said: “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of Heaven…” [Gen. 1:20] And everything happened according to the word of God.

When all was arranged, God turned to the creation of man, but only after, as it were, deliberation and counsel. In what caused St Gregory of Nyssa to marvel, God [the Father] as it were invited the other Persons of the Holy Trinity to confer together. For the Lord first said: “Let Us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness…” [Gen. 1:26] “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…” [Gen. 3:7]

The Lord created man by a special act: He first created the body, and then breathed into it the “breath of life,” i.e. he instilled in it as it were a portion of His Divine Essence. That is why in the Psalm [Ps. 82:6 KJV/81:6 Septuagint], the Prophet David has God say about people: “ I have said, ye are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High….” The Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ Himself confirmed the Truth of those words to the Jews who were prepared to stone him to death, accusing him of making Himself equal to God by calling God his Father. The Lord replied to them thus: “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods…and the scripture cannot be broken….” [John 10:34-35] Thus, man is the image of invisible God, and has within him a “tiny piece” of Divinity.

Man was so fine and beautiful before the Fall into sin, and even more so after his redemption by the Lord, that Saints to whom the mysteries of heaven had been revealed, e.g. Makarios of Egypt, would say: “there is nothing finer than the human soul either on earth or in heaven.” Man was predestined for blissful happiness, but because of the devil’s envy, he fell, betrayed God, went voluntarily over to the side of the slanderer, the devil, and desired to know not only the good which he had known in paradise, but also evil, which he had not theretofore known. Having fallen away from God, he fell under the sentence earlier pronounced by God: “Thou shalt die.”

Adam and Eve were spiritually devastated. Their intellect became darkened and clouded, their will perverse, their heart twisted; where they had been given a heavenly body, they now received crude matter, like unto that of cattle. Because of them, the earth was cursed, and they themselves were doomed to sorrow and to knowledge of evil – that which they, on the devil’s advice, had sought to know. The more mankind multiplied, the darker and more sullied did he become.

Lest man fall into despair and utterly perish, the Lord promised him that in time the family of the wife (not the husband) – i.e. Christ, born of a Virgin, by the Holy Spirit – would crush the head of the serpent and would save man. It is this mysterious event that we now celebrate. The Lord took pity on His creation, and came down to earth, in order to save the sheep that had been lost to predators. He came down to earth in order to raise us up to Heaven once again. He took on the form of a man, took upon Himself the sins of all mankind, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…”

Jesus Christ opened the closed gates of paradise. He rebuilt the spiritual ladder by which man may ascend to Heaven.

In taking on human flesh, the Lord raised man above the ranks of Angels, and robed him in glory greater than that of Adam in Paradise before the Fall.

If we are in fact true Christians, if we force ourselves to act on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, who had came for our sake, then we will also be with the Lord, as He promised his disciples in their final talk before His Ascension. The Lord said that those who are vouchsafed the Kingdom of God will become bright as the sun.

On Mt. Tabor, the Lord revealed to man his future glory. His face was like the sun, His garments sparkled like lightning. That external beauty and glory was but a tiny hint of the enormous glory that is within, for according to the prophet “…the kings daughter is all glorious within…” (Psalm 45:13 KJV/ Ps.44: 13 Septuagint)

This homily was written and delivered in 1945 by Abbot Nikon Vorobiev (1894-1963)

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Kottayam Pazhaya Seminary Christmas Celebration-2012

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