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Secrets to Happiness in 2015!; A New Year’s Message

Wish-You-A-Happy-New-Year-2015
Per recent events such as the Ebola, universal uprising of terrorism, multiple shootings, several major plane crashes, Cruise ships and Ferries sinking, many children went missing, it is obvious that we are living in a time of growing uncertainty and personal anxiety. A renowned researcher writes that as we have clearly in a period of global instability. I know I am speaking to people with health concerns, financial worries, career issues, marital problems, spiritual struggles, unanswered prayers, and serious concerns about what the new year will bring for you and your loved ones. Often we say “Happy New Year” rather superficially—many times without any thought at all. We should ask “will 2015 be a happy new year for us”? In every generation believers have faced moments when fear threatened to overwhelm faith. God’s word to his people is always “Fear not” – a phrase repeated 365 times in the Bible—once for every day in the year. No matter what happens in 2015—or in the years to come—God’s word to you is the same: “Fear not – Your God is with you.” As we prepare for 2015, I want us to focus on three Christian principles to be Extremely Happy in 2015.

At any given moment I have everything I truly need…
True contentment means understanding that at any given moment I have everything I truly need. In Philippians 4: verse 11 he declares, “I have learned to be content” and in verse 12 he says, “I have learned the secret of being content.” Why was not everything given to us as a gift from God? The answer is that God is most glorified when we struggle through the process of being weaned from our dependence on the things of the world. To be weaned is to have something removed from your life which you thought you couldn’t live without. Most of us live on the opposite principle. In our hearts we think, “I would be happy if only I had a new car or a new job or a new dress or a new husband or a new wife.” Since life is hardly ever that simple, we stay frustrated when we ought to be happy. No wonder we are never satisfied. Instead of being weaned from the world, we are wedded to it. Or maybe I should say, welded to it. I almost certainly do not have everything I want. And I probably do not have everything I think I need. This part of the definition means that God has so ordered the universe that no matter where you are right now you have everything you truly need to be content. That is an awesome statement—and I know it’s one thing to say that on Sunday morning, it’s something else to believe that when your husband walks out on you or the doctor says, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing else we can do.”

How do we know this is true? We know it because God has said it is true. He has promised to supply our needs. He has guaranteed that he will feed and clothe us. He has promised to hear our prayers. He has given the Holy Spirit to lead and the Word of God to guide us. He has redeemed us from our sins, given us new life, placed us in Christ, endowed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, seated us with Christ in heaven, given us abundant life, filled us with his Spirit, placed us in the body of Christ, and promised us a way of escape in the moment of temptation. He sent his angels to encamp around us, translated us from the realm of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son, sealed us with the Spirit who is the earnest of our salvation, caused us to pass from death to life, justified us while we were still ungodly, and called us his children, He adopted us into his family, sanctified us, promised never to leave us, set our feet on the road to heaven, broken Satan’s power, removed the fear of death, and guaranteed our future resurrection.

If all that is true, how can we doubt that God will give us what we need when we need it? That applies to every area of life—to our finances, our job, our health, our marriage, our friendships, our children, our parents, every relationship of life, and to all our dreams for the future. You have got everything you need to be content right now—and if you are not, please do not blame God. It is not his fault. He has not changed His love and promises for us.

Contentment comes from my confidence in God…
Paul knew that riches are not the way to contentment. So he was willing to hold material things with an open hand. He refused to become a slave to wealth. He could walk away from prosperity when service to the Lord demanded it. What about you? Are you killing yourself to get that gold medal? Let me remind you – if you’re not happy without it, you won’t be happy with it either. Verse 12 lays this out very clearly. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” In case we missed it he adds this phrase, “Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” It’s easy to assume Paul means being well fed is good and going hungry is bad. But that’s not correct. Poverty and prosperity both have their good uses—and both can lead us astray spiritually. If we take the words of Jesus seriously, riches can wreck the soul much quicker than poverty – St. Matthew 19:23-26.

God has ordained every circumstance of my life…
I know of no truth more important than this. As a priest, I constantly face this question in dealing with the seeming inequities of life — why the wicked prosper while the righteous often suffer in this world! Hardly a week goes by that I do not hear about someone in one of our congregations who is battling with cancer. What I cannot explain is why it happens to one person and not to another. You can go through life asking, Why did this happen? And you will end up frustrated and disappointed because in this life there is rarely a satisfactory answer to that question. We simply do not know why some people live long and prosper while others never seem to catch a break. In the world’s terms, they are victims of bad luck. From the standpoint of Holy Scripture, we can only say that God is working out his plan in ways we cannot see from our limited vantage point. This becomes very personal when I pray and cry with members of various congregations as they face the uncertainties of life. One thing I have learned is that there are no guarantees, which is why a long time ago I stopped making promises about what God will do in a particular situation. Generally, I do not know what God is going to do, and I am content to leave matters in his hands.

Therefore, what is the secret of contentment in 2015? The answer is that, my God will give me strength in every circumstance to do his will. This is the true meaning of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” This takes more than positive thinking. You have got to have Jesus Christ on the inside. We have the power of the indwelling Christ who gives us the strength we need. Is Jesus Christ enough for the problems of life? Is his broken body enough? Is his shed blood sufficient? Is his intercession in heaven able to sustain us? Can his power meet the problems of life? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, and the saints across the ages testify that Jesus Christ is enough. There is one thing I know for certain from my personal and family life. God has given us everything we need in 2015. Therefore, we can be content whatever happens, and we need not fear the future.

I am praying for the very best in life for you and your loved ones. Wishing you and your lovely family a fabulous 2015 with full of great achievements and experiences – A meaningful chapter full of contentment waiting to be written in your New Year. Thank you for your continued prayers. And may God bless us all. Amen.

happy_new_year_2015

The writer Rev. Fr. Alexander J. Kurien is the Deputy Associate Administrator at the Office of U.S. Government-Wide Policy of the United States Government

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The miracle of Christmas

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The Church waits in anticipation to celebrate the glorious Feast of the birth of our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ. This infant Messiah, was born into this world as a poor, homeless child. This child had to leave His homeland because the political powers of that time, felt this child would topple their political regime.

As two thousand years passed we have forgotten the harsh realities surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ and what He represented. Even today while we measure the success of the Christmas celebrations in terms of dollars spent in malls and the quantity of food eaten, homelessness, displacement and poverty abounds.
In the midst of extreme affluence and abundance hopelessness, poverty, and deprivation exist. As we celebrate this festival of peace we cannot avoid the presence of violence that stares us unblinkingly whether it is the police brutality, terrorism or even violent protests against structural violence. We sadly watch the politically powerful trying to do away with minimal state support the poor receive.

All these are sufficient to make us desperately give up hope. However, our Lord identified Himself in His birth and human life with the poor, and the dejected. The miracle of Christmas is found in the coming of the Messiah, who identifies Himself with those who have lost hope, those who are dejected, those who are displaced, those who are impoverished, those who are hungry, and those who are grieving. Christ offers hope, in the person of Himself. The One Who was born in the manger, offers the might of His arms, and lifts up those who are oppressed, grief-stricken, and poor. His presence is an invitation for all of mankind to experience the presence of a God Who cares, a God Who is present, and a God Who refuses to turn away from His people.

As we approach the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, it is our prayer that this Feast calls upon each of us, to not take the easy route of closing our eyes to the struggles of society. Rather, it is an invitation to take the narrow path, and be like Christ, and refuse to turn our back on our fellow brothers and sisters. It is an invitation to stand up to the policies that seek to minimize any kind of support to the poor.

It is our prayer, Christ our Hope, will be born not only in your hearts. May He, Christ the King, and Redeemer of our souls, sustain you and your loved ones on this Holy Day, and throughout the New Year!

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Christmas thoughts; Turning to the inner light

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From behind my glass window on the third floor of the Upasana block at the St Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur, I can watch a flock of sheep grazing on a little, not so green meadow, decked with neem trees and thorny bushes beyond the campus.

It is a winter morning. Two shepherd-girls, wrapped in cheap, colorful blankets, huddle behind the sheepfold in the hazy winter sun.

There is a small pond and a narrow canal nearby . The water in it reflects the sky, and the passing clouds resemble a flock of white sheep.

In this Christmas season one is naturally reminded of a biblical, Palestinian pastoral scene at the time of the birth of Christ.. At night from behind the same window I gaze at the stars, some brighter than others, and occasionally some shooting stars as well….

Again a reminder of the nativity scene, more than 2000 years ago. It was in these same Advent days that one heard the heart-renting cry of innocent children and the inconsolable wailing of families from Peshawar, Pakistan. Demonic cruelty to the budding life of children again reminded us of biblical times, murder of children as ordered by Herod who was scared by the news of the birth of the Messiah: “A voice was heard in Rama, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she would not be comforted because they are not.” ( Matt. 2:18 citing Prophet Jeremiah).
How does one fit these bits and pieces together in the puzzle of life?? The nature of sheep and the social condition of the shepherds in India probably remain very similar to those of Bethlehem 2000 years ago in spite of the great changes in the world. The sun and stars have not perceptibly changed in this astrologically negligible period. And human nature? Has it changed any bit? War, Violence and human cruelty tragically challenge our tall claims of progress and cultural evolution. Progress seems to be a myth. We have confidently assumed that we in the mid- second decade of the 21st century are better off than our forebears in knowledge, achievement and standard of life. Proudly counting on the developments in science and technology, on the incredible progress in communication and transportation, in global trade and commerce and the flowering of consumerist, libertarian culture of individual freedom, many in the west and those who follow them in the rest of the world simply assumed that this is the ideal condition of life that all nations aspire to. It turns out, however that, a large chunk of humanity is deprived of such “blessings”.

The poor are still the overwhelming majority in our world . They cannot simply aspire to the standard of life considered ideal by the advanced nations for various reasons including depletion of natural resources and the whole ecological crisis. A significant minority in the non-western world deliberately rejects some of what the west considers as civilization, freedom, human rights, justice, democracy, progress, equality, women’s liberation, gender justice, marriage, family, culture and so on. They operate with wholly different concepts and world views. Religion, which was expelled from the western secular civilization, is providing the backbone, albeit in radically different modes and under different names, of this emerging counter force of terrorist and fundamentalist movements. The whole scenario makes us raise questions about the future of humanity as well as about all that has humanity has “achieved” in the recent past centuries. Thus, if the past and the future of human civilization require to be radically questioned at this juncture of history, it spells a very serious crisis for humanity.

We may have to reexamine all the assumptions of our so called global culture, which is really an extension of the modern western civilization. Christmas cannot any longer be taken for granted as a romantic, sentimental festival of lights, gifts, exchange of greetings, family reunion, feasting and holidaying – something many people are used to in certain parts of the world. In fact, nothing in our present mode of life in a profligate consumerist culture can be taken for granted with any certainty for our future if we venture to perceive the other side of world reality. Well, I am not trying to strike a negative and depressing note in this season of festivities. On the contrary, I am full of hope and confidence in the power of God’s love for us as manifested in Jesus Christ.

The gospels proclaim him as the Light of the world. But it is not the external light, similar to the light of the sun. It is the inner light that illumines our path ahead from within us even when there is thick darkness all around. In fact, we are now in a situation where the external world around us is darkening deeper with religious fanaticism, hostility, violence and injustice. This trend may not easily reverse or subside, but might flare up to the point of a new world war unless humanity recognizes the fatal character of the current situation and reorders the present world in a new civilization frame work.
We need to light the interior lamp to see the way out. We need to seek the true Enlightenment. Churches and Christians must turn to the inward eye that can see the future prophetically, critically and with re-ordered hope.

One of the ancient prayers in our Orthodox liturgy of the hours sings: “When the sun sets over the face of earth, O Lord, be our light that shows us the path of truth”. May this season of Christmas be a time of repentance and reordering of our attitudes so that we may all rejoice with all the innocent children, the poor and the oppressed of the whole world, and together celebrate life in all it’s abundance in Jesus Christ our inner Light.

Courtesy: Marthoman TV

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Prayer for the Victims of the Terrorist Attack at the Military School, Pakistan

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Dear Friends, Please join me in Prayer for the Victims (150 plus innocent children of all ages and teachers and those many wounded) of the Deadly Terrorist Attack at the Military School, Peshawar, Pakistan

Heavenly Father our Benevolent Lord, Creator and Sustainer of us all, hear us, Your children, at this time of intolerable pain and incredulity from the inhumane act. We come to You because You are our Savior and Benefactor Who grants peace and solace to those who suffer. It is only You that can heal our wounds and relieve our pain, especially of those crying families of those lost their loved ones in this inhumane act. We here by pray that you comfort the citizens of Pakistan at this time of terrible tragedy of trial and crisis. Shield them and us under the shadow of Your Cross. Grant to us, especially those families and friends affected by this inhumane act, Your Peace, Your Comfort, Your Touch, Your Love and assistance. Bestow solace and strength to the families of the innocent victims of the barbaric act of violence. Christ our eternal King and God, You have destroyed death and the devil by Your Cross and have restored man to life by Your Resurrection; give rest, Lord, to the soul of Your children who have fallen asleep in this tragedy, in Your Kingdom. Touch and heal those surviving families and friends. Work through the doctors, nurses, and emergency crews helping those many injured and their families. We too pray for the emergency responders, the heroes of today, the local and national law enforcement personnel, and the government officials responded and assisting the Victims. Help us and people throughout the world to comprehend that we are all your children. We are all brothers and sisters created in your image and likeness. Guide us to exist in harmony with one another, respectful of each other’s human rights and human dignity. We ask this of you, for You are a sympathetic and loving God and to You do we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen

— Fr Alexander J Kurien of the Indian Orthodox Church is the deputy administrator at the Government wide Policy (OGP) of United States government. The writer was blessed to visit this school twice

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Meltho Calendar 2015 based on canonical lents launches

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BENGALURU: The Meltho Calendar for 2015 has been launched from the blessed hands of Bengaluru Diocese Metropolitan Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim on December 6, 2014 during the occasion of Zamar 2014, the annual Christmas carol event.

Fr Varghese P Idichandy, thematic designer of Meltho calendar, was also present on the dais. Meltho Calendar 2015 was launched both in long and desktop formats.

“The 2015 Meltho ( (meaning “the Word”) calendar focuses on a brief study of the canonical lents and comes out during the decade celebration of the Bengaluru Orthodox Convention,” says Fr Idichandy, thematic designer and Vicar, St Gregorios Orthodox Church, Mathikere.

Fr Idichandy says the fruitful exploration of new directions makes the decade-long collection worthy and resourceful. The team who worked behind the scene consists of members from different religion, which proves the coexistence of man as a united body. I would like to thank the team members who supported me, in its aesthetic designing and all the volunteered sponsors who made this a reality.

The supporting team for Meltho 2015 consisted of Arun G (2008- 10), Manu V (2011-14), Biju T Sam (2014–15) and Siju, National Printers (2015). The first Melto convention was held in January 2006. The calendar also lists the Lectionary for 2015 with Bible readings for each of the 12 months.

Also on the occasion were Malayalam cine artist Lalu Alex the chief guest and music director Devadas as the special guest.

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MMVS Ahmedabad Diocese Annual Conference on December 13 at Naroda

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AHMEDABAD: Fifth Annual Conference of Martha Mariam Vanitha Samajam, Ahmedabad Diocese will be held at St. Thomas Chapel Naroda on December 13 to 14, 2014.

The event will be hosted by the St. Mary’s Cathedral of Ahmedabad diocese. Diocesan Metropolitan Dr. Geevarghese Mar Yulios will give leadership to the conference.

The theme of the conference will be ‘CONFLICT MANAGEMENT – CHRIST THE MODEL’.

Former Principal of STOTS Nagpur and professor at Kottayam Orthodox Seminary, Fr. Dr. Reji Mathew will be the keynote speaker of the Conference. MS. Deepthi Thomas, Gandhidham will also address the conference.

Competitions, retreat, talent night are the highlights of the conference this year.The conference will commence from 1pm on December 13. About 350 delegates are expected to participate from various parishes of the diocese.

Report by: Beena Kuriakose

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Hebbal Mar Gregorios Church choir emerge best among Bengaluru Diocese

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BENGALURU : Hebbal Mar Gregorios Orthodox Church emerged winners taking the top spot at ‘Zamar’ 2014′, the annual Christmas carol singing competition of Bengaluru Orthodox churches organised by OCYM and MGOCSM of Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Syrian Church.

Hebbal church overcame competition from Bengaluru East St Thomas Orthodox Church and claimed the K O Koshy Memorial Ever Rolling Trophy and cash prize of Rs 5,000. The runners up claimed Rs 3,000. The 5th edition of the singing competition was at held Dharmaram Vidyakshetram on December 6. Zamar 2014 was based on the theme from Psalm 71:22

About 10 parishes from Bengaluru region participated in the musical extravaganza. Cine artiste Lalu Alex inaugurated the musical evening.

Bengaluru Diocese Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim, Metropolitan, presided over the function, while playback singer and music director Devadas entertained the audience with his melodies.

Zamar also saw the release of Meltho Calendar for 2015 from the blessed hands of Mar Seraphim. The Metropolitan handed over the first copy to Lalu Alex and Fr Varghese P Idichandy, thematic designer of the calendar and Vicar, St Gregorios Orthodox Church, Mathikere. Mar Seraphim also distributed the prizes to the winners. His Grace in his address lauded the hard work by MGOCSM, OCYM volunteers towards making the competition a success and ringing in the Christmas season.

Among the clergy who took part include Cor-Episcopoi, Very Rev John Thomas, Very Rev Fr Abraham Marettu, Very Rev Fr P C Philip, Very Rev Fr T K Thomas, Fr Santhosh Samuel, Fr K M Jacob, Fr Mani K Varghese, Fr Varghese P Idichandy, Fr Aby K Raju and others.

Ajith Mathew George, General Secretary, Programme Coordinators Aaron Koshy Mathew and Ashin Paul also lent support.The function ended with a vote of thanks, closing prayer and benediction.

Zamaar 2014 photos by Ambish Jacob – Click here