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President asks not to ignore Christians’ role in education

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NEW DELHI: President of India, Mr.Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday said the role of the Church in spreading education cannot be ignored as he released a postal stamp commemorating the 200 years of the Orthodox Theological Seminary based in Kottayam, Kerala.

“The Christian Community established a large chain of elementary schools throughout Kerala, under the supervision of the Seminary and its leaders,” he said at the function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The Seminary was the first indigenous initiative towards universal literacy and education, which has today made Kerala the most literate state in the country.’’ The president said the charity and health care activities of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church also originated in the Old Seminary under its leadership.

‘’The role of the Church in healthcare, women’s empowerment and upliftment of the less privileged section of society are unparalleled,’’ the President said.

The President said for nearly 14 Centuries, the three major religions of Kerala, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam have existed in peace and harmony, respecting each other’s belief and cooperating to promote social welfare.

‘’In fact, Kerala was the first state in the country in which both Christianity and Islam took roots with people voluntarily choosing different religious beliefs.

The Old Seminary was set up by the Malankara Orthodox Church situated in Kerala, a state known for the peaceful co-existence of different religions and communal harmony.

“The lighting of oil lamps in and around Churches, the raising of the flagstaff and flags during festivals and the custom of entering the Churches barefoot are all Hindu traditions that have become a part of the Church practice. These bear testimony to the sharing of traditions by both the religions,’’ the president said.

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Source: UCAN India

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Catholicos to lead IOC delegation on 100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide

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KOTTAYAM, India: HH Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, will lead a delegation of the Indian Orthodox Church to Armenia from April 22-25.

This will be the maiden visit of the Catholicos to Vagharshapat, Armenia and is upon an invitation from His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church

The Primate will be the official guest along with other dignitaries and leaders at the 100th anniversary of the slaughter of Armenians which will be commemorated on April 24, 2015. April 24 is the day when thousands of the Armenian community leaders of Constantinople (now Istanbul) were deported and mostly executed.

The Primate of the Indian Orthodox Church will be accompanied by a 5-member delegation. They include the Episcopal Synod Secretary Dr Mathews Mar Severios, Dr K M George, Director of Sopana Academy, clergymen in Fr Dr Jacob Kurien, Principal, OTS Orthodox Theological Seminary, OTS, and Fr Thomas Scaria.

The Catholicos will also lead the talks with His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia. The Armenian Apostolic Church is in communion with a group of churches within Oriental Orthodoxy.

It may be recalled that the Armenian Catholicos Aram I was conferred with the ‘Order of St Thomas’ in February 2010 at Kolenchery by LL Catholicos Baselios Marthoma Didymos I during his visit. ‘Order of St Thomas’ is the most prestigious honor by the Malankara Orthodox Church.

On the 100th anniversary of the slaughter of Armenians, Pope Francis had described the mass killing by the Ottoman Empire as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”

HH Baselios Marthoma Paulose II is also visiting Lebanon in July to personally meet Catholicos Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia.

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Catholicos: My heart bleeds for every single son of Malankara who go astray

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MUSCAT: His Holiness Baselious Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, concluded a 10-day visit to the Sultanate of Oman during which His Holiness was the chief celebrant for the Holy Week programme at the Muscat Mar Gregorios Maha Edavaka.

For the first time in the 43-year history of the Maha Edavaka, a Catholicos led the Passion Week services.

In a parting message to the faithful during the Holy Eucharist at the Holy Easter service, His Holiness who spoke his mind out said during several instances he was pained when children of Malankara Orthodox Syrian community move over to other faiths. “I am pained and extremely ashamed when our children go astray. I am disappointed as the Supreme Head. If this is the case, Malankara Orthodox will under threat and it be a different scene in about 50 years…”

His Holiness cited several instances from his own personal experiences to relate this. Even during his visit here, a family who is known to HH visited him and exchanged pleasantries and posed for photographs. The very same family moved over to Pentecostal church when life became a hard reality.

The Supreme head of the Malankara Church hailed the Muscat Maha Edavaka who has stood as a ‘beacon of hope’ at all times and hoped that it would continue to do so in future and extended his wishes for the future.

The Catholicos rushed to Kerala immediately after the Easter service where His Holiness will lead the Dukrono of St Kuriakose Mar Gregorios at Pampady Dayara on Sunday. His Holiness enplaned for Kerala by the 1 am Oman Air flight from Muscat International Airport and was seen off by executive committee members of the Maha Edavaka.

The Catholicos was accompanied by Dn Santhosh Babu, Secretary to His Holiness, during the visit.

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We do not have to do it alone!; the Promise of the Resurrection

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Through the resurrection, there is a way out of our personal tombs of pain and suffering, of cynicism and despair, if only we will open our eyes, sit up, and see how the stone has been rolled away by a power far beyond our control.

As Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Do not worry about your life…for…indeed your heavenly Father knows what you need.”

The sun goes down, but the sun also rises. If winter comes, can spring be far behind? Human desperation and hopelessness are real, yet they can also be transformed into human aspiration and hopefulness. We are still concerned: who will roll away the stone at the entrance to our tombs?

We see that there continue to be wars and refugees from wars – cruelty and oppression, violence, accidents, and sickness.

We hear people cry out, with hurt, pain, and fear in their eyes.

We face the Easter Sunday with our questions and hope, with despair over our faults and the evil around us, with deep yearning for joy and goodness and life. Many live not knowing who will roll the stone away or how?

On this Easter Sunday, I want to assure you that the stone has been moved by nothing we said or did or prayed, but only through the gracious power of our loving and compassionate God through His only begotten Son.

We do not have to do it alone! The Easter message is to find the open door and actively to walk through it.

Prophet Isaiah says “…….the everlasting joy shall be upon our heads…and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Wishing you all a blessed Easter. May His Peace and Joy reign in our daily Christian life.

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Catholicos Easter message: Christ’s Resurrection Signifies Big Victory Despite Problems For Mankind

HH-Baselius-Paulose-II-Catholicos
MUSCAT: His Holiness Baselious Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Indian Orthodox (Malankara) Metropolitan, has in a Easter message called upon the faithful to face the problems and not be disappointed, since victory is at the end of every phase.

The Supreme Head of the Indian Orthodox Church who delivered the Easter message at the Muscat Mar Gregorios Maha Edavaka in Malayalam pointed out that despite the numerous problems we face in this world, one needs to move forward and not be cowed down by them. Even with these issues, man still overcomes them all and comes forward to happy times in the end which in itself signifies victory. This victory is an indication and message of resurrection.

For Easter, Christians experience their biggest moment which is not a silly and an ordinary experience in itself. The Catholicos said that one must leave an imprint in our life from Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The resurrection is also proof enough that death is not the end of all but we live through a different life and have a right to a happy and everlasting life.

His Holiness also reiterates in his message that mankind who is part of a world beset with problems, neglection, poverty and sadness, need to face them. In the same manner, Jesus also expects these traits from us just like how we fed Him when He was hungry, clothed Him when he was naked, visited Him when he was alone. Similarly we must strive to take part in the pain of others in our ordinary lifes. Through this message, Jesus who showed that his life of crucifixion and resurrection was not for him but for others, set a shining example for others to follow them.

“We have passed through the last stages life of Christ, who overcame death and also participated in His suffering, followed by crucifixion and resurrection. Each year we celebrate the resurrection and once again we have been part of the passion week, going through them all. We need to take something new in our life and imbibe it in our life,” the Supreme Head said adding that we need to bring solace to others just like Christ who brought peace upon all mankind.

The Catholicos ended his message by extending his Easter greetings to all.

Link at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OugVM3erW6s

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Catholicos leads feet washing service at St Thomas Church in Oman

Feet-Washing
MUSCAT: His Holiness Baselious Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, led the feet washing service at St Thomas Church, Ruwi, on April 2, Thursday, evening.

During the ceremony, His Holiness ceremoniously washed the feet of three clergymen and nine laymen both senior members and Sunday School students of Muscat Mar Gregorios Maha Edavaka, and kissed the feet of the 12 persons. This was done in the midst of the reading of the Gospel (Evangelion). Dn Santhosh Babu, Secretary to the Catholicos, also participated in the ceremony along with Fr Dr Jossi Jose, Ethiopia and Fr George Varghese, Vicar, St Mary’s Orthodox Church, Ghala, Muscat

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On April 1 evening, the Catholicos led the Pessaha service and delivered the message to the large number of faithful gathered at St Thomas Church.

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A Food for thought on the Holy Week Services

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The holy Week is again the round the corner. The people around the world are getting ready for long liturgical services with great zeal and fasting. Why do we observe this ‘particular week’ with so much solemnity?

We all know its significance is solely because of its connection with the passion of Christ, the sum total of the traumas that our Lord had to endure for a new world order. During this solemn season, we specifically commemorate and celebrate the episodes of those past events happened in the life of Christ the incarnate. Liturgy is a recreated and reactivated reality. Every liturgy in the holy Orthodox Church is fashioned as a spiritual exercise for the edification of the faithful. The pious observance of the holy week gives us an opportunity to identify ourselves with the incarnation of Christ whereby we show our solidarity with his salvific work and we are particularly bestowed with the vital energy for our ‘deification’.

The Passion Week service in the Orthodox Syrian Church is packed with a plethora of rites and rituals. Each rubric has its own meaning attached to the activity of Christ. The liturgy in the holy Church is the means of living along the life of Christ, to be precise, a re-living with the Lord. The Old Testament liturgies were the shadow of the Christ’s incarnation whereas the New Testament liturgies are its reflection. Moreover, it is the copy and shadow of what is in heaven (Hebrews 8:5). In other words, it is a foretaste of eschatological life in heaven. Orthodox liturgy is as vast and as deep as an Ocean in terms of its theological meaning. No one can fathom the depths of it. Nevertheless, let us glance through some of the symbolic activity that is being done during the holy week and prayerfully try to ponder over and meditate upon its meaning based on biblical references.

The Palm Sunday service:

The special service in addition to Holy Eucharist on the day is the blessing of the ‘tender palm leaves’ and offering of flowers taken out from the products of the Nature. It is, in a sense, God’s acceptance of the offerings from the faithful and His reciprocal love of giving it back as a blessed gift. This shows that the earth and its fullness are for God as said in Psalm 24:1. Bible makes a picturesque reference on the triumphal entry of Jesus, the king and saviour, into the city of Jerusalem (Mat 21). The people gathered there to receive him began shouting the slogan “Hosanna” (Save Lord, Praise). It is both a word of praise and prayer. They spread their clothing and branches from the tree on the pathways. In tandem with this historical event, we use the articles such as palm leaves and flowers for the procession around the church during the liturgy. In the Bible, we see a multitude of God’s people clad in white robes worshipping God and His lamb with palm leaves in their hands(Revelation 7:9). The procession in the holy Church on Palm Sunday is a prelude to the triumphal entry of the King of kings and Lord of lords and his bride into the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 19, 21). The blessed leaves, after the holy service, are given out to the faithful for their healing and absolution from every curse as has been promised in Revelation 22:2-3. The Bible exhorts everyone to raise praises to God emphasising the importance of this celebration(Genesis 49:8-12,Zachariah 9:9-12,Isaiah 51:9-11,1John2:7-15,Romans 11:3-24,Psalm 118:24-29, 92:12-14, 8,80). The faithful takes away the blessed leaves to their homes for their blessing. Thus, by partaking in the orthodox liturgy; one is able to experience the ecstasy of the worship of both past and future in the present time.

Pesaha service:

The annual and elaborate ‘Passover’ feast of the people of Israel came into vogue in Old Testament period as their mode of commemoration and celebration of the Passing over of the angel of destruction (Exodus 12:14). They celebrated this feast by sacrificing a lamb and eating of it. The death of Christ on the mount Calvary, according to the holy Bible, was a new sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb replacing the old paschal lamb. (1 Corinthians 5:7). At the time of our Lord’s death on the Cross, the Jews were killing the paschal lamb in commemoration of the first Passover. Our Lord knowing that he would be sacrificed at the same time when the Jews would kill their paschal lamb instituted the New Testament Passover a day earlier. He took the leavened bread (lahamo) and fermented wine and said “This is my body…and this is my blood”. Thus, in the bloodless sacrifice of the holy Eucharist, the bloodshed sacrifice of the Old Testament Passover comes to an end. The changed bread and wine continue to give us the benefit of forgiveness from sins and the release from Captivity of Satan. The modern Passover meal, Holy Communion, is also a foretaste of the heavenly banquet as said in Revelation 19:17 and the participation in the eschatological worship in advance as narrated in Rev. 5:9ff.

The Service on Good Friday:

There are two processions on this day. The first one is the procession around the Church in memory of the Christ’s way of Cross to Mount Calvary. When we do this procession, we travel in time-machine to that past event in history. We know that when Christ was bearing the Cross on his way, Simon the Cyrene was blessed to have joined in carrying the Cross of Christ. (Luke 23:26-31). So also, on every Good Friday, we too are given a chance to partake in Christ’s economy of salvation. In Luke 23: 27, we read of a large number of people including wailing and weeping women following Jesus. They were bearing witness to this heart-rending incident and were asked to weep for them and for their children. By attending to this liturgy on Good Friday, we get a chance to bear witness to Christ’s passion and to regret of our iniquities just as the women were asked to do. Each time we make a sign of Cross during the liturgy, we get a sense belonging to Christ and we, ourselves, crucify all our self-indulgent passions, and desires for we are asked by St. Paul to do so. In Galatians 5:24, St. Paul says, “You cannot belong to Christ, unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires”.

The second ceremonial procession on the day gives us, by virtue of being his children and disciples, a chance to participate in the burial service of our Lord along with Joseph of Arimathea, and Nichodemus. A deep reading of the Bible reveals the fact that Mary of Bethany, and the Magi from the East too were privileged to offer homage to the Lord(Mathew 2:11,John 12:7). Their offering of myrrh betokens of this truth. Myrrh was one of the articles used for embalming the dead body (John 19:39). Since Christ is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow (Heb 13:8), and he, being the pre-existent Word of God(John 1: 1-18,8: 58) and lives forever(Heb 7:25), transcends the time-space continuum to interact with and save all people of all time. The ritualistic liturgy is the only realistic means by which we get the benefits of the sacrifice of Jesus which took place in history once and for all. Another ritual on Good Friday is the washing of the holy Cross, made of wood, and dipping its horns into the bitter water, the concoction. It is, in a sense, an empathic and vicarious way of joining Christ in receiving the bitter juice that was given to him while on the Cross (Mat 27:34). We see in the Exodus 14-15, that Moses, Aaron and the people of Israel crossing the Red Sea after having been released from the bondage of Pharaoh in Egypt. This crossing implies the Christian Baptism and their walking for three days in the desert points to the Christian life of sufferings. We see Moses throwing a “piece of wood” to the bitter water in Marah after saying a prayer. The water in Marah turns to be sweet and potable. People of God are seen getting a promise of healing from God following this event. The using of a piece of wood by Moses here was a prophetic symbolism of the Cross of Christ, the universal saviour. The bitter water served to the fasting faithful at the end of the service on the day can be said of as the merciful caring of God of his people today just as He cared His old people at Marah. Although the bitter juice tastes hard to drink, those who drink it in all faith, hope and love, will be able to imbibe the taste of spiritual flavour. If we comply with the commandment of God, we will get everything that we need. One who attends the holy service of the Church with all seriousness and sincerity would get what one needs.

After that, we see the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses coming to Elim where they camped by the side of 12 springs and 70 palm trees. The twelve springs and 70 palm trees prefigure the 12 apostles and 70 evangelists of the New Testament Church respectively. (Ref:-Matthew 10 and Luke 10). Their arrival in Elim is indicative of the new and inexplicable experience of Christian Church with the risen Christ.

Gospel Saturday:

The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is generally known as Gospel Saturday. The holy Church began to observe this day as the day of commemoration of all the departed souls, in line with the going down of Christ into Hades after his crucifixion. Since Christ went to Hades to preach gospel to the departed souls there, it has its own place in the rites of the Church (1 Peter 3:19, 4:6). Bible speaks clearly that God has been merciful towards both living and the departed alike (Ruth 2:20). Since Christ’s redeeming mission includes even the departed souls, it is the Church’s responsibility to carry out the Lord’s mission for the salvation of all for and on His behalf in all humility, faith, hope and love. The Holy Communion celebrated on this day gives us an opportunity to have a fellowship with all the departed souls gone before us and to intercede for them so that they may get grace from the Lord. It is in a way, reaching out to the people of God on the other side of the veil of time.

The Easter Sunday:

‘Easter’ is the most important feast for the people of Orthodoxy. Its importance is mainly because of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It is in tune with the resurrection of Christ that the Church began observing Sunday as the New Sabbath day replacing the old Sabbath of Saturday. Lord Jesus rested on gospel Saturday in Hades fulfilling the old Sabbath as he did at the beginning of creation in his capacity as God, and began his new creation on the very next day, 1st or the 8th in the cycle of week, providing new phase of life for humanity. This is the reason why St. Paul said, “When one is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As St. Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”

(I Corinthians 15:14. This feast gives us an opportunity to confess with our mouth that Jesus is our Lord and to believe in our heart that He was indeed raised from the dead fulfilling the biblical verse of Romans 10:9 in our lives and reassuring of our salvation. We all know that the risen Lord was seen appearing to many a people in various places and giving them all peace and Joy.

The main attraction of the day is the holy Cross clad in red clothing symbolizing the victory of Christ over death and evil. Isaiah 63 and Revelation 19: 11ff speak of this symbolism. Another main ritual attached to this feast is the elevation of the holy Cross and the blessing of the four directions, East, West, North and South. The biblical basis for this ritual is the Lords command to Abraham, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever…Go walk through the length and breadth of the land for I am giving it to you”.(Genesis 13: 14ff) By this ritual, God renews his covenant with us and we are given the whole world for the service of God as stewards. By so doing, we are in fact, blessing the whole world in the Name of the risen Lord. It is in a way praising God or rather lifting up His glorious name by way of an action. The last commissioning of our Lord Jesus Christ is very relevant at this point, to go out into peoples everywhere and to make them His disciples by baptising and teaching them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit(Mat 28:19). We are duty bound to comply with his commandments. We see Abraham afterwards going to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron where he is seen building an altar for God. It is indicative of the necessity of our coming closer to the holy Altar throughout our life. The active and sincere participation in every service of the holy week takes us to a blissful experience, and helps us to lead a life of repentance and righteousness.