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Some Thoughts On the Icon of St. George, the Martyr

st-george-orthodox-icon
When we recall St. George, the most popular saint in Christianity, the first image that comes to mind is that of a brave young soldier riding a horse over a dragon (snake) and trying to thwart (kill) the dragon with a spear. The icon of St. George (picture) commonly seen throughout the world is written (drawn) based on this theme. It speaks volumes. It has a plethora of symbolic meanings. This imagery has, in a sense, an implication of an evolutionary process or a transition or in other words, a transformation that undergoes in the animal kingdom from the crawling reptile to the limbic animal and finally to the intellectual human. It is a modest attempt on the part of this author to correlate Anatomy and Spirituality and allegorically and hypothetically interpret it in the language of Psychology and Theology.

The brain is our most mysterious and mighty organ, the command and communication centre of the body which controls the nervous system, an intricate network receiving messages from the senses, processing them and then co-ordinating and directing all our actions and reactions. The home of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, creative imagination and talents, as well as the instruction headquarters for all our body functions, the brain’s power comes from electrical energy carried in the chemical substance known as neurotransmitters.

Medical scientists say that we have actually three cerebral units in the single human brain, namely, the primitive brain, the limbic system and neocortex.

Júlio Rocha do Amaral, & Jorge Martins de Oliveira, elucidate: “Throughout its evolution, the human brain has acquired three components that progressively appeared and became superimposed, just like in an archaeological site: the oldest, located underneath and to the back; the next one, resting in an intermediate position and the most recent, situated on top and to the front. They are, respectively:
1 – The archi pallium or primitive (reptilian) brain, comprising the structures of the brain stem – medulla, Pons, cerebellum, mesencephalon, the oldest basal nuclei – the Globus pallidus and the olfactory bulbs. It corresponds to the reptile brain, also called “R-complex”, by the famous neuroscientist Paul MacLean.
2 – The Paleo pallium or intermediate (old mammalian) brain, comprising the structures of the limbic system. It corresponds to the brain of the inferiormammals.
3 – The neo pallium, also known as the superior or rational (new mammalian) brain, comprises almost the whole of the hemispheres (made up of a more recent type of cortex, called neocortex) and some subcortical neuronal groups. It corresponds to the brain of the superior mammals, thus including the primates and, consequently, the human species.

These three cerebral layers appeared, one after the other, during the development of the embryo and the foetus (ontogenesis), recapitulating, chronologically, the evolution of animal species (phylogenesis), from the lizards up to the Homo-sapiens”.

According to Maclean, they are three biological computers, which, although interconnected, retained, each one, “their peculiar types of intelligence, subjectivity, the sense of time and space, memory, mobility and other less specific functions.

In 1878, the French neurologist Paul Broca called attention to the fact that, on the medial surface of the mammalian brain, right underneath the cortex, there exists an area containing several nuclei of grey matter (neurons) which he denominated limbic lobe (from the Latin word “limbus” that implies the idea of a circle, ring, surrounding, etc.), since it forms a kind of border around the brain stem.

The three characters in the icon, namely the snake, the horse, and the man (Saint George) represent, respectively the three anatomical classification of what is mentioned above and that show a continuum of traits such as diabolic, savage, humane and divine which can be seen latent in every human. St. George here, in a sense, is seen trying to subdue and tame the dragon by using the horse and he might have used the dragon to fight enemies of external temptations. Thus, the spiritual man is able to command both the limbic and reptilian instincts and to sublimate and use their God given gifts without being dominated by them. The horse and dragon are internal conflicts. St. George on the top of both dragon and horse here is indicative of the human potential in overcoming the internal conflicts that one has to face in one’s life. The victory of sanity over insanity. Dragon, the one in reference, is seen trying to devour a virgin woman. This betokens of the sexual urge in every man in wooing a woman. Precisely, the dragon here symbolizes the surge seen commonly in men who run after women with the aim of seducing the weaker sex (womanizing).

The life of a reptile is still in the preliminary stage of evolution whose basic instinct is to eat and to mate. It has an excessive craving for food and an exceeding sexual drive at this stage for its survival and procreation. In reptiles, according to the scholars of medicine, the primitive brain is so strong that it determines its character and is responsible for its self-preservation. It is there that the mechanisms of aggression and repetitive behaviors are developed. It is there that occur the instinctive reactions of the so-called reflex arcs and the commands which allow some involuntary actions and the control of certain visceral functions (cardiac, pulmonary, intestinal, etc.), indispensable to the preservation of life. The development of the olfactory bulbs and their connections made possible an accurate analysis of olfactory stimuli and the improvement of answers oriented by odors, such as approach, attack, flight and mating. Throughout evolution, some of these reptilian functions were lost or minimized (in humans, the amygdala and the entorhinal cortex are the only limbic structures that connect with the olfactory system). It is also in the R-complex that started the first manifestations of the phenomena of ritualism, by means of which the animal tries to define its hierarchic position inside the group and to establish its own space in the ecological niche.

When this reptilian nature is predominant in us, we are prone to sin leading our life to anarchy and evil.Today’s world is mad after sexual promiscuity (voluptuary) and gluttony (over eating and that too for the sake of satiating one’s palatal taste) which invite many a disease and the rate of immorality, morbidity, and mortality is alarmingly increasing.Like water dragon, the new generation has now become more or less omnivorous consuming junk food with gusto and immensely rapacious in eating anything and everything available on earth, or rather inclined to orgies.

Over the period, man, the so called crown of creation, has learnt to misuse and abuse his innate potential of sexuality. Sex ought to be expressed within the wedlock of marriage and sex outside the wedlock is supposed be suppressed or repressed. The epicurean lifestyle (living exclusively for eating, drinking and merry-making) seen in the modern society is the result of the triggering off of the primitive brain. When the primitive brain is prominent in a person, criminal traits like aggressiveness and selfishness will be all the more rampant and it is such a person who expresses the erotic love.

The next stage of evolution is to rise from the crawling stage to the limbic stage. The entirety of these structures, that, years later, would receive the name of “limbic system”, developed with the emergence of the inferior (primitive) mammals. This system commands certain behaviors that are necessary for the survival of all mammals. It gives rise and modulates specific functions that allow the animal to distinguish between the agreeable and the disagreeable. Here specific affective functions are developed, such as the one that induces the females to nurse and protect their toddlers, or the one which induces these animals to develop ludic behaviours (playful moods). Emotions and feelings, like wrath, fright, passion, love, hate, joy and sadness, are mammalian inventions, which originated in the limbic system. This system is also responsible for some aspects of personal identity and for important functions related to memory. When we grow to the limbic stage, we acquire the qualities said supra. Here we tend to express a particular kind of fraternal love called in Greek “Philia and Storgee.”

And when the superior mammals (humans) arrived on the Earth, the third cerebral unit was finally developed: the neopallium or rational brain, a highly complex net of neural cells capable of producing symbolic language thus enabling man to exercise skillful intellectual tasks such as reading, writing and performing mathematical calculations. The neopallium is the great generator of ideas or as expressed by Paul MacLean, “it is the mother of invention and the father of abstractive thought.”

We, as Christians, are supposed to attain a balanced life of spirituality. When the third unit becomes stronger in us as St. George is depicted in the icon above the horse and the dragon, we will be able to transform ourselves and evolve into mature human beings full of divine grace and glory and will be able to surmount all the stumbling blocks on our way to the glorious world of spirituality. Here we express divine love called ‘Agape’ in Greek. Virtues, like compassion, patience, humility, endurance, gentleness and self-control will reflect in our life. ‘Yogis’ or ‘Saints’ can be said to have a fully developed and active “neo pallium” for they have learned to live a life of purity by frugal food, high thoughts and good deeds. We have to climb up the ladder of life from the lower rung of inferior mammalian nature to the superior mammalian nature. The spirituality of a person is directly proportional to the development of his/her brain. Oriental Orthodox Worship involves several symbolic languages, abstract thoughts and religious activities like rituals attached to it. It is a sign of mental development that we, the Orthodox Christians, indulge in worship throughout our life. It is the sublime stage in the process of personality development.

There is a widening trend seen in modern society especially among youngsters in exposing themselves indecently in public. It seems that they have lost their shame of nakedness just like the snake and horse. This exhibitionism reveals the fact that their primitive brain and intermediate brain dominate their superior brain. St. George in the picture is seen well-armored pointing to the perfection of human development.

In tandem with the life of St George and with the words of St. Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20, let us be strong in the Lord and in the power of God’s might. Let us put on the whole Armor of God that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, let’s take up the whole Armor of God that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Let us stand, therefore, having girded our waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which we will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And let’s take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

In brief, what happens here is a sea-change from the stage of sensitivity of a snake to the stage of the sensibility of a saint. Although there is only a subtle change in their physical traits, there is a drastic change in their behavioral traits or rather from a raw state of life to a refined one which even the angels would be jealous of.

It is a pity that we, humans, who claim that we are superior to other animals, often behave in a way rather inferior to them. Therefore we should not let the reptilian nature in us take control of our lives, instead, we should rise up and try to attain the qualities of the super mammalian nature. It can be seen that the vegans and vegetarians are generally benign when compared with those who are carnivores.

A similar comparison is possible with the thoughts of the world renowned Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud.

Sigmund Freud saw the human mind or psyche as consisting of three domains, which he named the ego, the super-ego and the id. The id is the domain of instinctive drives (pleasure principle) which aims at pleasure. The super-ego corresponds roughly to what we commonly call ‘conscience’ (moral principle). It represents prohibitions and taboos as well as the values and ideals – the norms- of society. These norms are presented to the child first by its parents and later by other authority figures- teachers, for example, or just other grown –ups. These social pressures become internalized in the child and start to function as part of his or her individual personality or psyche.

Id and super-ego may clash. What id demands may be prohibited by the super-ego, and the result is conflict or tension ‘in the depths of the self’ because both Id and super-ego function largely at the unconscious level. Resolving the tension and acting as referee between the rival claims of id and super-ego are the functions of the ego. The ego is the conscious self (reality principle) because it is the part of the mind that takes account of external reality. The ego therefore has the daunting task of holding in balance the claims of id, super-ego and outside world. Here super-ego plays the role of St. George when the Id plays the role of dragon and the ego that of the horse respectively.

The environment conditions our behavior. Our thoughts, words and deeds are fashioned by what we experience through our senses. We become what we eat, what we see, and what we hear. We have to be judicious in choosing our means of life. Good companionship, good thoughts, good food, all play a vital role in our lives. Listening to a piece of music, spiritual sermon, and reciting of Holy Scriptures, and partaking in the prayer with meditation, all enhance our well being.

As we contemplate on the meaning of the Holy Icon of St. George especially on these days of commemoration and celebration of the feast of that great saintly warrior and martyr of our Lord, let us imitate him and grow to the stature of Christ, our head. Let us be as perfect as Jesus, who grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and increased in stature and in favor of God and man. (St. Luke 2:40, 52) Although the historicity of St. George is disputed among certain quarters, the love for this man of God is increasing day by day as a spiritual guide and guardian among the hearts of millions of people all over the world. A close observation on the holy icon of St. George would augment the philosophical understanding of our life on earth and would help us to lead a better spiritual life. What we need today is not just living a life of religiosity but to live by the principles of religion. The icon of St. George is a perpetual learning lesson for every human and St George, as a follower of Christ, sets before us a living example for us to emulate.

Sources referred:-

1. Júlio Rocha do Amaral, MD & Jorge Martins de Oliveira, MD, PhDLimbic system: The centre of emotions, Link- http://www.healing-arts.org/n-r-limbic.htm
2.Ackroyd, Eric. A dictionary of dreams symbols, with an introduction to dream psychology, Bounty Books, Great Britain 1993.
3. Simester, Lisha, The Natural Health Bible stay well, live longer, Quadrille Publishing Limited, London 2001

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Articles We Believe Youth And Faith

Mathopadesa Sarangal On Fasts

vattaseril-thirumeni
Introduction

Fast was the initial decree enjoined by the Lord,

1. On Adam.
Ref: Gen. 2:17. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it, for, in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (K.J.V.)

Comment
Fasting is apparently the abstinence from food completely or partially or from certain types of food. Of all the divine or dominical decrees to mankind, the instruction to Adam for fasting was the first one. In the Garden of Eden, the first place of habitation, God’s forbidding decree to keep away from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge was pronounced. In this context it may be construed that the Lord as the greatest dietician, knew that certain prohibitions in the food habit are necessary for the good health of His creation. Realising the implication of the divine decree, the Church as a true mother prescribes periodical fasts to make her children not only physically strong but also spiritually fit.

2. It was observed by the Jewish community, as per the commandment of the Lord.

Ref: (a) Joel 2:12. Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting and with weeping and with mourning. (K.J.V.)

(b) Zech. 7:5. Tell the people of the land and the priest that when they fasted and mourned in the fifth and the seventh month during these seventy years… (G.N.B.)

Comment
As per Mosaic Law, the Jews were forbidden from eating certain fishes and flesh. During the Passover the Israelites were to keep away from eating leavened bread. Elijah, the great Jewish prophet observed fast for forty days. Joshua, the son of Nun, was able to keep the celestial bodies still, by the power he gained through prayer and fasting.

3. Was ordered, practised and taught by our Lord.

Ref: (a) Mt. 4:2. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. (K.J.V.)

(b) Mt. 9:15. And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them and then shall they fast. (K.J.V.)

Comment
Even Jesus our Lord observed fast for forty days. It was the spiritual strength that He gained from this fast, which fortified Him to have decisive victory over the seductive strategy of Satan. In His teachings, Jesus further emphasised that one could cast off the evil spirits with the power of prayer and fasting.

4. And was observed by the Apostles and accordingly confirmed, ordered and practised by the Church as part of Her discipline.

Ref: Acts. 13:2. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for me, Barnabas and Saul, to do the work to which I have called them”. (G.N.B.)

Comment
From the book of Praxis or The Acts of the Apostles, it can be gathered that the Holy Apostles also observed fast like their Master. One of the sources of their spiritual strength was fasting. In line with the Apostolic tradition and with the lessons that She learned from the Semitic cradle of training, the S.O.C. vouches on the efficacy of fasting and the inexorable value of it, in spiritual life.

5. But physical or bodily fasting without spiritual abstinence from evil is not enough at all.

Ref: (a) Mt. 6:16. “And when you fast do not put on a sad face, as the hypocrites do, they neglect their appearance so that everyone will see that they are
fasting. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. (G.N.B.)
(b) vide. Is. 58:77
(c) vide. Num. 7:7

Comment
Abstinence from food alone, without spiritual nourishments, like prayer and meditation will emaciate both the body and the soul equally. On the contrary physical abstinence from food coupled with spiritual exercises would fortify the person observing fast.

6. The intentions of fasting are the following: To instruct to value more of matters spiritual than worldly, to subdue bodily temptations and foster the soul, to defend the soul from bodily desires and to awaken and orient it to things divine. And to be a weapon to have victory over Satan. As love of the stomach is the mother of many a sin, abstaining oneself from food is a way to prevent the evil arising from consuming food.

Ref: (a) Phil. 3:19…They worship their stomach and brag about the disgusting things they do. (L.B.)

(b) Mt. 17:21. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (K.J.V.)

Comment
The purposes or intentions and the merits of fasting are brought out here. Fasting, on the whole, brings in spiritual orientation and equilibrium besides victory over carnal desires. In the prayers of the S.O.C. it is extolled that observance of fasting is a sure device to gain victory over Satan and his primrose ways, which lead to eternal damnation. Fasting uplifts a person from the terrestrial realm to the celestial plane

7. The Church has therefore decreed the observance of fasting on all Wednesdays and Fridays besides during the following five periods. Lent, period of Annunciation and Nativity, the feast of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, feast of the Apostles, Nineveh fast or fast of Rogation.

Ref: Lk. 18:12. “I fast two days a week…” (G.N.B.)

Comment
The Church has specified five periods of fast noted already, in the course of an Ecclesial year. Besides them, all the Wednesdays and Fridays except during the weeks between the Easter and the Pentecost are to be observed as days of fast. Wednesdays in honour of the Blessed Virgin and Fridays in rememberance of the Crucifixion of our Saviour.

8. During fast days abstinence from marital relationship, consuming of meat, fish etc. is obligatory. Also, in accordance with one’s physical capacity and the ordinances of the Church, keeping away from meals till noon or having only one time food a day is also to be observed.

Ref: (a) 1Cor. 7:5… You agree not to have sex… (L.B.)

(b) 2Sam. 1:12. They cried all day long and would not eat anything… (L.B.)

(c) Dan. 1:8. Daniel made up his mind to eat and drink only what God had approved his people to eat. And he asked the king’s chief official for permission not to eat the food and wine served in the royal palace. (L.B.)

Comment
The disciplines to be observed during the fast days are here detailed. They are all conducive for the spiritual growth and strength.

(A chapter from – Mathopadesa Sarangal)
By Saint Dionysius Geevarghese Vattasseril
English Translation & Commentary
Prof. O. M. Mathew Oruvattithara

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Articles Devotional Features

Become instruments of peace and healing in this broken world: Mar Nicholovos

The-Nativity-Icon-2
It is “cliché” to talk about the themes of peace, love, and joy during this Holy Season. In the context of the American culture, it is probably the three themes emphasized during the months of November and December, and then forgotten the rest of the year.

We speak in a triumphant and emphatic manner when it comes to these themes in every divine office of the Church. Today however, we have either accepted a shallow understanding of them, or altogether have rejected them. The only theme we have consistently been living in is fear – the fear of terrorism, the fear of religion, the fear of mass shootings, the fear of refugees. This “culture of fear” has significantly grown and trapped us.

The Feast of Nativity is the celebration of the birth of Christ born to a family who was homeless and seeking refuge in Bethlehem. The Lord preferentially opted to be identified with the poor in His birth. The early parts of His life were spent as a refugee fleeing from the threatening political rulers of that time. Today, the world is being challenged by the presence of millions of refugees who are victims of the political “super powers”. We are reminded that the Lord is not in shopping malls or mansions but among the refugees and the homeless.

This feast is a reminder for us to advocate against the social and political structures that create refugees, and human suffering. This can be done if we actively accept peace, love, and joy – which are all in found in Jesus Christ – the new born King!

May this glorious Feast be an occasion for us to recommit ourselves to the Lord and become instruments of peace and healing in this broken world. May Christ the King, and Redeemer of our souls, sustain you and your loved ones on this Holy Day and throughout the New Year!

(Content of the Kalpana sent to all parishes of the Northeast American Diocese by the Metropolitan Zachariah Mar Nicholovos on the feast of the Nativity bearing the NO. CK.No.16/2015)

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Articles Features Youth And Faith

Eighty Years of Indo – Serbian Orthodox Relations and Saint Dositej Vasić of Zagreb

Reception at Belgrade on 21 September 1937. H.H. Basalius Geevarghese II, Catholicos of the East, Abo Alaxios O.I.C. & Metropolitan Dositej of Zagreb
Reception at Belgrade on 21 September 1937. H.H. Basalius Geevarghese II, Catholicos of the East, Abo Alaxios O.I.C. & Metropolitan Dositej of Zagreb

Ecumenism was something novel in the Christian world a century ago. While every denomination was nesting in their doctrinal shell, Inter-Church relations were absurd. Politics, lack of communication and transport kept the Orthodox Churches away from interaction amid them. Perhaps except in the Holy city of Jerusalem, it was almost zilch till the middle of the twentieth century, where also the relation was hostile most of the time.

Even in this scenario, the Malankara Orthodox Church of India, a member of the Oriental Orthodox community in the south-west corner of the Indian Peninsula and the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Byzantine community in the Eastern Europe, developed a warm relation as early as in 1936. It expanded even to the mutual visits of the Hierarchs in 1937. The amazing story of the brotherhood of two geographically remote Churches of the Pan Orthodox community was initiated by the Serbian Orthodox Confessor Saint Dositej Vasić of Zagreb.

Saint Dositej of Zagreb

Metropolitan Dositej was born in Belgrade in 1887. He took his Master of Theology from Kiev Religious Academy in 1904. He spent two years at the University of Berlin studying theological and philosophical science followed by philosophy at Leipzig. From 1907 to 1909 he taught at the Seminary of St. Sava in Belgrade. He studied at the Sorbonne and the College of Social Sciences, Paris from 1907 to 1909 and in Geneva from 1910 to 1912. Besides his native Serbian, he was fluent in Russian, Czech, German and French. He also learned Bulgarian and English.

In 1899, he was ordained to the rank of the monk in the monastery of Manasija. In May 1913, the Holy assembly of bishops of the Kingdom of Serbia elected him as a bishop. Subsequently, he was consecrated as the bishop of Nis on 25 May 1913. It was a herculean effort to tender his sheep through catastrophic situations crated by successive wars and the earthquake of 1927. The Bolshevik revolution of Russia in 1917 also added up his burden. When the Russian people in exile dying of hunger in 1920’s, Bishop Dositej was the delegate of the Royal Yugoslavian Government in the International League for the facilitation of hungry Russians, and preached throughout Yugoslavia, urging mercy and brotherly love for the Russian people die painfully.

In 1931, Bishop Dositej was appointed the first Metropolitan of the newly established Zagreb Diocese. He was described as an excellent teacher at the seminary, a great organizer, a good orator, well-mannered and full of Christian goodness and a true patriot. He was sent abroad by the Serbian Orthodox Church frequently as its delegate to Geneva, Basel, Athens, Bulgaria etc. Metropolitan Dositej visited India during the winter of 1936/37.

During the World War II, Metropolitan Dositej was arrested and imprisoned by the Nazi controlled regime of Croatia. He was brutally tortured in the prison. It is accused that the Roman Catholic nuns were also actively participated in enhancing his agony while he was hospitalized. Later, the Germans transported the unconscious and terribly battered Metropolitan Dositej by train from Zagreb to Belgrade where he was housed in a Gestapo prison. Later, Metropolitan Dositej was transferred to a sanatorium since he was in critical condition. Even though he escaped a sudden death, he never recovered mentally or physically. Metropolitan Dositej spent the last days of his life at Belgrade Monastery of the Ascension under the care of the sisters of the Russian abbess Angelina. He entered into eternal rest on 14 January 1945 by sustained physical and psychological wounds from the persecution. He was entombed in the churchyard of this monastery. On 22 May 1998 the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbia Orthodox Church declared Metropolitan Dositeja (Vasic) of Zagreb and Ljubljana as a Confessor.1 Hiero-confessor Dositej of Zagreb and Vavedenje, was added to the list of the Serbian saints by the decision of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church from May 2000. On May 13, 2008, his sacred relics were transferred to the monastery church from the tomb in which he rested from January 15, 1945.2

Saint Dositej in India

According to the Serbian cyber data, “It is little known that the Metropolitan Dositej was also in India. There he resided during the winter of 1936/37 year, the Russian mission among the Indians. Metropolitan Dositej was preaching even visited the Malabar Coast. Great was the love of Christ and courage converts Hindus, because they were persecuted majority Hindus. How many missionary work in these climates sometimes be dangerous, it can be seen from the following events. On one occasion, Metropolitan Dositej observed in the church, behind the icon, a cobra snake. She repeatedly appeared. He was later informed that a believer died from its bite.”3

We have no evidences to confirm or counter-check his mission in India or even the Russian Orthodox Mission in India. But the records of the Malankara Orthodox Church confirm his visit to India, especially to Malabar, now known as state of Kerala in India, in 1936/7. Metropolitan Dositej participated4 in the world conference of Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) held at Mysore, India from 2 January 1937 onwards.5 According to the available sources, he visited India in connection with this conference.

According to the Indian Sources, Metropolitan Dositej visited Kottayam, Kerala, India along with F.T. Pianoff6 in January 1937 after the Mysore conference. Feodor T. Pianoff (1889-1969), a leader of the Russian Student Christian Movement. He had left Russia in 1918. He had worked for YMCA and actively participated in the activities of the Orthodox Theological Institute, Paris. As the guest of Catholicos H. H. Basalius Geevarghese II, he stayed for about two weeks at Old Seminary, Kottayam, with the former.7 By informing his joyful experience with the Catholicos, to H. H. Patriarch Vernava of Serbia, he established the relation between the Malankara and Serbian Churches. He created a colourful impression about the Malankara Church to Patriarch Vernava.

Father Andronic, the Russian

Another important event during the Indian tour of Metropolitan Dositej was his meeting with Father Andronic, a Russian monk – priest. Father Andronic was stayed with the monastery of Transfiguration, Mount Tabor, Pathanapuram, Kerala, India for nine years as a visitor. He expressed his desire to engage in farming since he studied the same while in Germany. The monastery allocated one of its detached farmlands at Pattazhi, Kerala, India at his disposal. He constructed a small building and a chapel in that property along with his farming activities. He visited several Malankara Orthodox parishes and attended many priests meetings to preach. Perhaps this was referred to as “the Russian mission among the Indians” in the Serbian records about Metropolitan Dositej.

Metropolitan Dositej also visited the monastery of Transfiguration during his Indian voyage. During his stay at the monastery, he too enlightens the monks over there. From there, he visited Father Andronic at Pattazhi and elevated him as Archimandrite. Later, Father Andronic left India since his services were requested among the Russian migrants in the North Amarica.8 Even after his departure, Father Andronic was in warm relation with the Malankara Orthodox Church. He even gifted three sets of chalices for the Diaspora parishes of the Malankara Orthodox Church in 1950’s.9.

Visit of Catholicos Geevarghese II to Belgrade

As the result of the report given by Metropolitan Dositej, Patriarch Vernava invited Catholicos Geevarghese II to Yugoslavia that was accepted by the latter. Catholicos Geevarghese II planned to visit Yugoslavia after his participation in the second World Faith & Order Conference assembling at Edinburgh, U. K., in August 1937. Catholicos Geevarghese II invited Patriarch Vernava as the chief guest of the silver jubilee celebrations of the establishment of the Catholicate in India scheduled for 1937.10 Unexpectedly, Patriarch Vernava demised on 23 July 1937. Catholicos Geevarghese II received this tragic news en route to Edinburgh. On 25 July, he conducted a memorial service at Paris, France, together with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Eulogius Georgievsky of Paris.11 As the result, Catholicos Geevarghese II considered calling off his Yugoslavian trip after this awful incident. But Metropolitan Dositej, who was the Locum tenens Patriarch as the president of the synod, insisted to continue with the scheduled tour. Along with this, the accomplices of Catholicos Geevarghese II encouraged him to carry on. Finally he agreed to visit Belgrade.12

Catholicos Geevarghese II in Yugoslavia

Immediately after the Edinburgh conference, Catholicos Geevarghese II left to Yugoslavia, with Abo Alaxios O.I.C. They reached Belgrade via Paris by train On 21 September 1937. The Indian primate was received royally by Metropolitan Dositej and a large array of Serbian clergy. Catholicos Geevarghese II was honoured with the same reverence extended to their own Patriarch. He was made to sit on the Patriarchal throne in all parishes and monasteries they visited. He was addressed as “Patriarch Basali” in the Holy Eucharist and Litany. Metropolitan Dositej assigned two bishops, Bishop Seraphim and Bishop Nicholas, as the ‘bishops on waiting’ to accompany Catholicos Geevarghese II during his travels.

On 23 September, Catholicos Geevarghese II addressed a gathering of about 1,000 Serbian priests and several bishops. On the next day he visited Military Museum and National Museum in Belgrade. On 26 September Catholicos Geevarghese II visited the monasteries of Pustinja and Žiča followed by a visit to the famous Đurđevi stupovi on the next day. He was received by clergy and laity at all Serbian parishes en route joyfully. He was accompanied in these visits by Bishop Seraphim and Bishop Nicholas of the Serbian Church.

Catholicos Geevarghese II and Abo Alaxios O.I.C. left Yugoslavia on 30 September 1937 to India via Rome. Metropolitan Dositej, Metropolitan Anastasy Gribanovsky of Kishinev, then prelate of the Russian Orthodox Church in exile, four bishops and a huge gathering was assembled at the railway station to see them off.13 They reached back Kottayam, India on 30 October 1937.

The emergence of the Second World War, captivity and martyrdom of Metropolitan Dositej followed by the political restructuring of the Balkan countries made further communications and visits impossible. And hence, the strong relations started to build up were broken. Even then, the visit of Catholicos Geevarghese II was sweet memory at Belgrade even in 1952.14

Conclusion

Even though the Indian documents revels these much about the Indian connection of Metropolitan Dositej and the Serbian Church at large,there are still some unsolved mysteries. They are;

1. Does Metropolitan Dositej have any knowledge about the Malankara Orthodox Church prior to his arrival in India?

2. Did he ever in touch with Abo Alaxios during the latter’s tour in England for more than six months in 1933?

3. Did Metropolitan Anastasy Gribanovsky of Kishinev have any role in the visit of Metropolitan Dositej to India? The former met Catholicos Geevarghese II at Jerusalem on 24 September 1934.15 He urged for the close relation between Indian and Russian churches during that meeting. As the chief organizer of the Russian Church in exile, he often had been in Belgrade too.

4. Did Metropolitan Dositej pre-known to Father Andronic while in Germany? If not, how does he dare to elevate him as an Archimandrite?

5. Did Russian Orthodox Church in Exile in general or F.T. Pianoff in particular had any role in the visit of Metropolitan Dositej to Kerala?

These questions cannot be answered on the basis of the available Indian sources.

Foot-notes—————————

1 A.) http://orthodoxwiki.org/Dositheus_(Vasich)_of_Zagreb, B.) orthodoxhr.blogspot.com/…/svdositej-zagrebacki.htm
2 www.spc.rs/eng/celebration_st_dositej_zagreb_vavedenje_monastery
3 orthodoxhr.blogspot.com/…/sv-dositej-zagrebacki.htm
4 The Orthodox Sabha Magazine, Chingam 1113
5 A) Malayala Manorama, 8 January, 1937, B) The Sydney Morning Herald, February 20, 1937
6(a.)http://samlib.ru/j/jarich_irina_georgiewna/russkiepisma.shtml,b.)http://www.borisogleb.de/lieb3.html)
7. The Orthodox Sabha Magazine, Chingam 1113
8 Thoma Mar Dionysius Metropolitan, cf in Chandanappally, Dr. Samuel, Malankara Sabha Pithakkanmar Vol II, 2012, Chandanappally, pp 657-8
9. Alaxios Mar Theodosius Metropolitan, cf in The Indian Orthodox Church Mission, The History and Report of the Orthodox Parishes Outside Malabar, 1955, Madras. P 5
10. The Orthodox Sabha Magazine, Chingam 1113
11 Kuriakosu Remban, M.C., Edinburgho Yaathra, Kottayam, 1938
12 Philipose Mar Theophilus, Malankara Sabhayude Yasassuyarthy, cf in Paulose OIC (Ed), Bethaniyude Panimalar, 1976, Ranni-Perunad. p 40 -1
13 Thomas, Dr. M. Kurian Thomas, Kurichy Bavayude Moonnu paradesha Yathrakal, 2015, Kottayam, pp 293 -5
14 Philipose Mar Theophilus, cf in Thomas, Dr. M. Kurian, Abo Alaxios – Nadithulyam Saantham, 2015, Kottayam, p 66
15 Kasheesha, C, M, Skriah, Jurusalem Yathra, 1935, Kottayam. p 172

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St. Thomas belongs to the whole of India

PCALEXANDER

(Speech by Dr. P. C. Alexander, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of India at Sapthathi celebration public meeting in 1982 September 12 at Kottayam)

Respected Rashtrapathiji, Your Holiness Marthoma Mathews I, Catholicos of the East. Your Holiness Catholicos- Patriarch Ilia, Archbishops, Representatives of the Christian Churches, Eminent Emissaries of His Holiness the Pope, Heads of various Christian Communities in India, Heads of Religious Communities present here and my fellow members of the Indian Orthodox Church.

Let me at the very outset as a member of the India n Orthodox Church, offer our respectful felicitations and gratitude’s to our Res. Rashtrapathi for his gracious gesture of his presence in our midst this evening . Sir, we are greatly honored and privileged by your presence here. To the members of the Orthodox Community your presence should carry a greater message. That the head of the 700 million people of India, should find the time and take trouble to corns allover to this corner of our State and to be present here for a small function organized by 1. 5 million people of the State, speaks volumes about the concern and the patronage with which he looks at, and his Government looks at all communities. It is an eloquent tribute to the policy of his Government that they make no distinction between one community and another; and the size of a community does not matter at all. In the same way, the presence of the luminaries, dignitaries of the various Churches here should also convey to us great message. It is not merely we are rejoicing in this great function of ours, which is indeed a recognition of the eminent position which our Church has acquired after we regained our independence. Whenever I think of this small community of Orthodox Christians in lndis, I am struck by one simple factor and that is the real life. vigor and vitality of this small community. I have lived in various
parts of the world, had different times and occasions to see Christian Communities in operation and I tell you with full knowledge of facts, there are very few communities in this wide world of Christianity with as much spiritual life, as much vigor and vitality as this small community has. I have asked this question how is it that for 1900 years, this community has survived, the turmoil’s, the troubles, the litigations; and how is it that the Church has been able to retain its faith. I have only a few answers to that. The first is the passionate faith of this community in the tradition of St. Thomas I am not claiming this tradition as the exclusive heritage of the Orthodox Christians. St. Thomas belongs to the whole of India. In fact Jawaharlal Nehru once said when he was participating in the 1900 years’ celebrations of St. Thomas, that St. Thomas belongs to the whole Indian heritage. We are not making an exclusive claim of St. Thomas.

But there is a special point for this community. While for other Christians, it may be a part of history, while for some others it may be a part of heritage, for Orthodox Syrian Christians it is a part of their emotion, something which we have imbibed from the milk of mothers. Something which we want to transfer to our children and to our children’s children as treasure to be preserved with awe and pride. This is the special feature about St. Thomas as far as we, Christians are concerned I have always Wondered why 51. Thomas chose to come to this ancient land of ours, which is the cradle for the four religions of the world. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism and I have the answer for that.

In this ancient holy land of ours, Christianity out of necessity has to come from the authentic hands of the Apostle of Christ himself. Imagine what would have the inadequacy been of Christianity, if our ancestors have been converted by the missionaries who carne with the Portuguese, the French or the Dutch. It was one of the justifications of the historical necessity and inevitable part of history that in this land, the authenticity of Christianity should be established by the disciple of Christ himself. When we speak about the authenticity of Christianity, we should also remember another thing and that is to preserve the faith of our fathers. On this day of joy and gratitude let us remember them also.

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The Catholicate is so precious to us …..

HH-Baselios-Marthoma-Mathews-I

(The inaugural address delivered 70th Anniversary of the re-establishment Catholicate in India by His Holiness Baselius Marthoma Mathews I, the then Catholicos of the East in 1982 at Ernakulam).

Your Holiness Patriarch Ilia, Your Eminences, Your Excellences’, Your Graces, Honorable Ministers, and our beloved people.

Our heart is truly filled with joy and gratitude on this occasion, Not only because God Almighty has been gracious to us and has fostered this Catholicate here in India for the last seventy years. For that our gratitude to God knows no bounds. But even more, our joy is fulfilled because you from our sister Churches from all over the world have arrived here to share our joy. Ever since St. Thomas established this Church here in the first century, the circumstances of history and geography have conspired to isolate us from other Christian Churches. Why did our sister Church in China disappear? Mainly because of a similar isolation from the sister Churches of the world.

The last seventy years mark not only the history of our reestablished Catholicate but also a period of more helpful and more frequent contacts with sister Churches all over the world. We remember especially the visit of one of our distinguished predecessors to the Faith and Order Conference in Edinburgh in 1935. We became founder members of the World Council of Churches in 1948, and our bishops. Priests and lay people have represented us in all important World Council meetings and other ecumenical gatherings. It is a matter of no small pride to us that the first Woman President of the World Council of Churches was our beloved daughter Miss Sarah Chacko, who later served the W.C.C. as its first Secretary for the Department of Co-operation between Men and Women and died in harness. Later our Fr. Paul Varghese served the W.C.C. as Associate General Secretary. Others like Dr. K. C. Joseph and Mr. C. I. Itty served on the staff in Geneva. The World Council of Churches became in many ways the forum through which our frequent and friendly contacts with the non-Roman Churches were built up and maintained. We are therefore particularly grateful that one of the Presidents of the World Council is present with us on this occasion its Orthodox President H.H. Patriarch Ilia Catholicos-Patriarch of aII Georgia.

With the opening of the Second Vatican Council and from the time of Pope John XXIII of blessed memory, our relations with the Roman Catholic Church also were put on a new basis of ecumenical co-operation. Our delegates were present at the Vatican Council as delegated observers. Our immediate precedes or had the privilege of greeting and embracing Pope Paul VI In Bombay His Eminence Cardinal Willebrands. Fr. Pierre Duprey, Archbishop Jerome Hamer. Fr. John Long and others visited us and opened and maintained a new set of genuinely sisterly relationship, between our Churches. It gives us particular pleasure that Pope .John Paul II has delegated Fr. Pierre Duprey to represent His Holiness on this joyous occasion.

His Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras of blessed memory. that angelic ecumenical pastor whom we never had the privilege for meeting also maintained vary close relations with our Church and we are very happy to welcome the delegate of Patria rch Dimitrios his successor, in the person of Metropolitan Emilianos of Siberia.

All our distinguished international and Indian guests have already been welcomed. We wish only to add our personal welcome and gratitude to all of you.

In requesting to inaugurate the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the re-establishment in India of the Catholicate of the East, we wish to make one or two points clear…First, ours is an autocephalous Orthodox Church of apostolic origin, and we want to develop our life in sisterly ecumenical co-operation with all our sister Churches in the world. We are fully committed to the ecumenical movement a prayerful dedication to make manifest our unity in Christ as His One Body. We are anxious to engage in active dialogue with our sister Churches in India as well as abroad. We have officially communicated our desire to begin a dialogue with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. We are still awaiting an official response.

We have also communicated our desire to begin a dialogue with the federation of the three evangelical Churches: the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, the Church of South India and the Church of North India. We have now been in a dialogue for some years With the Lutheran Churches in India, and we are pursuing it. We hope the other two dialogues can also begin soon.

Secondly. I want to say a brief word about our relations with the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Middle East. Our experience in the past twelve years has been bitter. We have faced both Portuguese and British intrigue and treachery in the past instances in which our ecumenical hospitality has been sinfully misused to disrupt our, Church from within. What the late Syrian Orthodox Patriarch did to our Church was something worse. We pray that God may forgive him. We allowed him inside our Church in 1958 in good faith. Since 1970. He consistently betrayed that good faith and Interfered In our internal affairs. His successor, the present Patriarch, came here recently, without even the courtesy of informing us, and began entering our churches and misleading our people. He did not take one step towards a settlement of our disputes beyond certain very offensive paternalistic declarations of self- righteous willingness to forgive those whom his predecessor had hurt. We had cabled him before his departure from Syria to delay his visit in order that we could prepare the stage for a settlement of our disputes. To this date he has not had the courtesy to respond to our telegram. We want to make this clear. We are anxious for a settlement. We are prepared to ask our deputies to sit down and discuss such a settlement with duly authorized people. We shall, of course, not compromise the autocephaly and independence of our Church. Nor can we allow any other Church to interfere in the affairs of our Church. Those are our two cherished values. We have sometimes compromised these values in the past for the sake of peace. We cannot do so in the future. We have learned our lesson.

We have a long history of association with our sister Church of Antioch. We are grateful for their help on occasions in the past when we were harassed by the British and by the Portuguese. We want to restore our sisterly relationship with that Church. We will not uncanonically interfere in their affairs, nor should they interfere in ours. This is all we ask.

Our faith in the Triune God and the Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ is very precious to us. Equally precious is our heritage from the Holy Apostle Thomas through whom we received that faith. That is why the Throne of St. Thomas and the Catholicate of the East so precious to our people. It is the Kerala celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the re-establishment of that Catholicate of the East here in India, that we most graciously request your Grace. Metropolitan Emilianos, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch to inaugurate now.

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A Food for thought on the Holy Week Services

holy-week
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.

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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

nativity
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

nativity-scene
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