Categories
Articles Devotional

Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification) Feast Day: November 2

images
Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification)The Sunday that comes on of after October 30th is called Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification of Church) Sunday. It is the beginning of the church calendar.

First of all we need to know what the Church is and why it should be sanctified. Church, according to St. Paul, is the ‘Body of Christ’ (Romans 12:4-21; 1Cor 6:15; 12:12ff). Church is also called the ‘temple of God’ (1Cor 3:16). This Church belongs to God.

A temple is the abode of God and therefore it must be holy. Here St. Paul reminds us all that individual believers and the collective body of believers is the members of Christ’s body.
St Peter jogs our memory to be ‘living stones built into a spiritual house’ (1Peter 2:5). We proclaim in our Niceo-Constantinopolitan creed that the Church we believe in is ‘ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC’. Church by virtue of being a Church is, therefore, the body of sanctified and ‘called out’ people (ek-kaleon, Gk). The faithful are called out from darkness to His marvelous light to declare His wonderful deeds (1 Peter 2:9). And therefore, Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

We separate certain places/things for certain uses. We give due regards to our place of worship. It must be clean. As group or individuals this cleanliness has to be spiritual, physical, moral and ethical. This is a God-given requirement: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy”. “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes, and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Lev.19:2; 20: 6-8; 1 Peter 1:15).

In His High-priestly prayer, our Lord prayed to His Father to sanctify His disciples and His Church: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you did send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, and they also may be consecrated in truth” (John 17: 17-19). Thus, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit are interceding for us (Heb.10; Rom 8: 26-27).

In short, Church is the body of Christ and not merely an association or incorporation of people. Christ sanctified her by His sacrifice and continues with the sanctification process. We shall maintain that sanctified status by following the word of God in our individual and collective responsibilities. In other words, we have to follow a sanctified behavior pattern. It is not merely our adherence to a faith that matters but our new behavior.

Now let us look what does this sanctification mean precisely to us? As individuals and as a body of believers, we have to examine our lives and mission. Where are we with our mission? Christ did not send us to the world to make enemies but to make friends and disciples. Our mission is not political but moral and spiritual. Historically Churches have succeeded to make followers (employing party spirit by force or by mission) but have failed to make disciples. We have been fighting for temporal and personal powers or for recognition. It is high time that we pause for a moment and contemplate on our special calling.

Our church with its long history is still in her infancy in mission. We need to be reaching out as a community. Every parish should have an active mission program, wherein all believers take active roles. Our parish committee and general body meetings should be theologically focused and mission oriented. Our individual commitment to Christian/Church life needs to go beyond our Sunday worship, learning Church history, and monthly subscription to a total dedication of Christian living because we are a ‘called out’ community to proclaim His good deeds by putting away ‘all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and slander’ (1Peter 2:2).

As individuals we need to commit ourselves to spread the Gospel by our personal deeds, by reaching out as forgiving and loving persons. As parishes we have to develop a mission plan that goes beyond Sunday ministry and as a Church we have to be a forgiving entity with wide worldview in ecumenical initiatives and putting away all quarrels to ‘declare His marvelous deeds’.

Let this Koodosh Eetho (Qddosh Eetho) Sunday be a renewed beginning for all of us, namely, as individuals, parishes and as Church as a whole. May God bless us all. Let us work closely, by putting away our differences to glorify His name through our words and deeds with the help of His Holy Spirit. Amen!

Categories
Articles Youth And Faith

New Liturgical begins with ‘Koodhosh-Etho’

worship
The liturgical Calendar of the Oriental Orthodox Church begins on ‘Koodhosh-Etho’ (Sanctification of the Church) Sunday, falls on 8th Sunday before Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. So this will be the Sunday after 29th of October every year; for instance 2nd of Nov. in 2014. Like we have seven liturgical hours per day and seven days per week, the liturgical year is also 1 planed as seven seasons or periods. Each period of an year, each day of a week and each hour 2 of a day has some commonality in their theme! The seven periods are:

1. Koodhosh-Etho to Eldho (the Feast of Nativity of our Lord)/ Sunday/ Evening: refers the time from the start of Creation till to the birth of our Lord; covers the entire Old Testament.

2. Eldho to the the beginning of the Great-lent/ Monday/ Compline (before bed): refers the time from the birth of our Lord till to His Public Ministry; covers thirty years in the life of our Lord.

3. Great-lent/ Tuesday/ Night: the time of His Public Ministry; refers around the three and a half years that He ministered many those who believed in Him.

4. Feast of Resurrection to the Feast of Pentecost/ Wednesday/ Morning: refers the time that our Loud being with us as Resurrected Being and Presence; covers the forty days till His
ascension and the ten days that the Apostles and believers awaited for the Holy Spirit.

5. Pentecost to the Feast of Transfiguration (Aug. 6th)/ Thursday/ 7am: refers the time of the Growth of the Church through the propagation of the Gospel by the Apostles, Prophets,
Martyrs and holy Fathers, Doctors and Departed of the Church.

6. From Aug.6th to the Feast of exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sep. 14th)/ Friday/ Noon: refers the assurance in Him and believe those who suffered for the Kingdom of God will be glorified.

7. From Sep. 14th to the next Koodhosh-Etho/ Saturday/ 3pm: refers the Futuristic Period as we affirm in the last part of the Nicene Creed, “we look forward for the resurrection of the dead and a life eternal to come”.

It is arranged in such a beautiful way by the Fathers to lead us in a meaningful Christ centered spiritual life and for personal meditation that in every year we begin from the bingeing of Creation of the World to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we grow with Him, becoming disciples, follow Him in His Public Ministry like His suffering, death, resurrection, ascending into heaven, descending of the Holy Spirit, growth of the Church and finally looking forward the Last Judgement and Second-coming. The same pattern and sequence we can see both in meditation theme of each day in a week and also in each canonical hour of a day!

While Sunday, being the first day according to the creation account of the Holy Scripture, represents the binging of Creation, when we reach to Saturday being the seventh day, represents Sabbath, a day of rest and hence the Church remembers all the Departed souls on Saturday! Likewise, while the Evening time represents the start of Creation, the 9th hour, the last canonical hour of each day, represents the Resurrection of the dead in Christ. This spiritual Rhythm and harmony is seen in every aspect of the liturgical life of the Church!

The Holy Scripture itself begins from the Creation story, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”(Gen. 1:1), prepares the way for our Lord through the Old Testament and in the New Testament it further explains that the ‘Word of God’ became Man in Christ, through His redemptive-works He paved a way to humanity, founded the Holy Church as His own bride and made her to await for His Second Coming, the Last-Judgement and promised eternal Salvation. He assures: ‘He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. And the Church pray and saying: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). To conclude this part of our discussion, I repeat that the Books of the Holy Scripture, by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are written and arranged in this chronological order from Creation to the Second Coming of our Lord and the same order we can see in our weekly prayers, daily prayer-hours, further in the Holy Qurbana and in the affirmation of the Faith of the Church as well. This is the beauty of Orthodox liturgical tradition.
Now let me give few notes about the important liturgical days of our Church in November in a brief.

2 Nov.: Along with the Sunday of the Feast of Sanctification, the first day of the liturgical Calendar year, for us it also the 112th Memorial Feast of Saint Gregorios of Parumala.3

5 Nov.: we have the 7th Memorial Feast of our Father Stephanos Mar Theodosius of Calcutta Diocese.

8 Nov.: 18th Memorial Feast of Catholicos His Holiness Baselios Marthomma Mathews I

9 Nov.: Sunday of the Feast of Rededication of the Church. It is specially remarkable that every year the Church sets parts a fortnight before the Advent period for Sanctification and rededication of her members.

13 &14 Nov.: The Church observes Memorial Feasts of John Chrisostom and Apostle Philip, pillars of Orthodox Faith, respectively.

16 Nov.: Announcement to Zachariah about the birth of John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Christ. (Luke 1: 1-25) From this Sunday onwards the Incarnation Event begins. This Sunday and following week denotes the Inter-Testamentel period. 20 Nov. is the 3rd Memorial Feast of Job Mar Philoxinos.

23 Nov.: The great Feast of Annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce to her that she would conceive and bear a son, even though she “knew no man.” According to holy tradition Mary was only fifteen when she was visited by Gabriel. (Luke 1: 26-38).

24 Nov.: The 198th Memorial Feast of Malankara-Metropolitan ‘Sabha-Joythis’ Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius II, the founder of Kottayam seminary & 18th Memorial Feast of glorified Paulose Mar Gregorios.

28 Nov.: The Memorial Feasts of Jacob Baradaeus, bishop of Edessa & Dionysius Barsleebi, great Fathers and Doctors of the Oriental Orthodox Church from 6th and 12th centuries.

29 Nov.: e Memorial Feast of Jacob of Serugh, bishop, theologian and great poet of Oriental Orthodox Church from 6th Century.

30 Nov.: Visitation Sunday. The Church celebrates the visit of Mother Mary to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (Luke1: 39-56). It is also the Memorial Day of Apostle Andrews.
The important days of the Church Calendar of the month December can be discussed later. May God Almighty bless us to keep the Holy Tradition of the Church!
—————————————————————————
1- daily work begins, 12pm: Noon and 3pm: 9th Hour/ end of daily work. However, for convince of community worship, the 9th hour of the previous day along with Evening and Compline complied together as Evening Prayer and likewise the Night, Morning, 3rd Hour and Noon are compiled in the Morning Prayer.

2- A twelve month Calendar having 1st. Jan. as the first day of the year is only one system of looking it, introduced by the Romans and became popular through Roman colonialism. Actually almost every culture of the world has there own

3- Whenever it comes memory of saints on a Sunday, the Church commemorate that Feast on the very next day in order to keep the liturgical importance of Sunday; while all Sundays are observed as Feast of Resurrection of our Lord.calendar year and begins on different dates. Nothing special is happening to Earth of solar system on 1st of Jan.!

Categories
Articles Youth And Faith

Canons are not against the transfer of Diocesan Bishops: A Response to Dr. Mar Gregorios’ article in the Malankara Sabha Deepam.

bishops
I was very much impressed with the scholarly introduction of HG Dr. Gregorios’ justification against the idea of Metropolitan’s transfer. From the outset it looked like a researched article. However, further reading in to the article did not hold my interest. The presentation of some high sounding syllables and undocumented “tradition” can impress readers but cannot justify a unsound argument. The arguments he placed did not compellingly support his theory. Let me explain why?

1. In his introduction he cited many ancient works Didache, Didascalia, Apostolic Constitution, Hoodaya Canon and so on. I did not see any relevant documentation or citation to support his premises selected from any of these documents except the (erroneous/typo) citation of the constitution of our church . It is true that Orthodox Churches accept some of the teachings from these ancient documents and made contextual modifications to many .

2. His explanation to the Syriac word Hoodaya was “ marga nirdesam” or guidance. The word Hoodaya also means “explanation or interpretation” according Abrham Malpan Konnattu . When we look into the formation of Hoodaya Canon, the latter explanation is more applicable than the first one. All canons are guiding principles. Gregory Bar Habraeus/Ebraya (Son of the Hebrew) (1226-1286) was a Maphrian of the East by 1264. The major work for which Bar Ebraya is known for his codification of the canons of the church from the Apostolic time onwards. A critical study of his work shows that he collected the canons of the church regarding faith, order and practices and gave explanation (Hoodaya) to each of them; that is Hoodaya Canon.

3. The current Malayalam translation of Hoodaya Canon was prepared/published by Konattu Abrham Malpan, Pampakuda, 1986, (4th Edition) has only ten chapters and does not talk much about the transfer of bishops. There is a section about the selection and consecration of bishops , Chapter 7: Paragraph 3 where he does not support the election of bishops by the people.

4. Bar Habreus depended a lot on the Apostolic canons (85) the canons the Council of Laodicea 362 AD (60) and the canons of the Council of Trullo (692 AD) (102) in addition to the writings of Orthodox Fathers and decisions of the three ecumenical councils. Most of the Orthodox Churches accept the decisions of the Council of Trullio or Quinisext council as authentic and foundational. Eastern Orthodox Churches considers it as the Rudder of the Orthodox Churches and approved by the Council of Jerusalem or Bethlehem of 1672. My point here is this:

that Bar Habraeus codified and took only the essential ones he thought relevant at that time to carry out his administrative duties as the Maphrian of the East. His work or canon is not exhaustive or infallible. Today we cannot consider it as an absolute dogma on practical decisions.

5. Even if one accepts this work as absolute dogma, Bar Habraeus did not prohibit Bishops’ transfer and that did not come into play. Church was still growing and contextual changes were demanded.

6. Malankara Orthdox Church made bishop’s transfer as early as 1991, in the American Diocese. It was based on the demands of or the need of the hour . Mar Makarios did not voluntarily resigned his position. The church followed constitutional protocol as outlined in the 1934 constitution 118-119 and conducted due process.

7. There was a troubling sentence in his article which reads as: (translation) “the clergy- laity leadership move of the church is a dangerous to the h church” and at another place he asserted that that church is synodal without giving an explanation of the word Synodal. If the author meant what was printed then there is a theological and ecclesiological problem: (a) According to the New Testament studies, the Church is defined as the people of God (1.Peter 2: 10; Act. 15:9; 2 Cor. 6:16, Rev. 21:3, Romans 8:21 and Matt 5:13-16) (b) Bishops and Synods were formed to take care of the people of God, ti nurture them, (c) Bishops are elected from the people of God (Pastoral letters) and the constitution of the church Article 113 . Bishops candidates were elected by the Association , consecrated and appointed by the Catholicos and Malankara Maetropolitan. Hoodaya canon did not support the idea of election by lay people. However, 1934 constitution made contextual changes contrary to the recommendations of Hoodaya Canon. That means our church recognized laity/clergy leadership as early as 1934 and did not feel any threat as discussed by Metropolitan Mar Gregorios.

8. The Malankara Association elects bishop candidates based on the need felt by the church and approved by the Holy Synod and Malankara Metropolitan. Holy Synod is not, administratively above the Association or the Managing Committee. I agree with the author, that the Malankara Metropolitan appoint Metropolitans to the diocese and every diocese should have a diocesan metropolitan ( Article 64, and 63 of the Constitution) These articles does not imply that Metropolitans are appointed for life and they are immovable.

9. The 1934 Constitution clearly states that the authority of the Holy Synod is limited to, faith, order and discipline . Holy Synod, the spiritual authority of the church, may abstain from interfering temporal/administrative actions or proposals made by the Church Managing Committee. Such interference is intermingling of legislative, executive and judicial power of the church. That will create tyranny. In the article, the author also wants the church to be synodal. The dictionary meaning of the word Synodal is the following: “an assembly of ecclesiastics or other church delegates, convoked pursuant to the law of the church, for the discussion and decision of ecclesiastical affairs; ecclesiastical council”. (Dictionary.com). If we accept that definition, then laity clergy leadership will also be part of the “synodal” nature of the church suggested by the writer and his fear is displaced.

10. No canon has universal effect /binding in the Christendom ; all Canons were developed out of certain local or regional issues .

11. The author asked, what is the administrative practice/background of our church? It requires thorough review of Malankara Church history from Nestorian era to the establishment of Catholicate in 1912 and the formation of 1934 constitution. We are different from other Eastern Orthodox Churches in this regard because of our intertwined relationship with the Portuguese and CMS missionaries. Knowingly or unknowingly we have elements of Congregationalism and Episcopalism in our administration. We see that in our parish administration to Malankara Church administration. We are Malankara Orthodox not part of Byzantine tradition which is more Roman in administration.

12. Therefore, the foundations on which Dr. Mar Gregorios launched his arguments lack combustion to shoot down the pro-transfer argument. The author failed substantiate his argument with adequate theological, Sociological, historical, ethical or canonical grounds. Transfer of Metropolitans/bishops is not heretical but critical. Transfer of Bishops in Malankara Orthodox Church does not weaken Orthodox faith or belittle metropolitan’s authority. On the contrary it will only increase the image of the church with its proactive mission initiatives. Bishop transfer shall not be a reactive measure but it should be creative steps to meet the contextual needs and demands. Constitutionally, Malankara Metropolitan , by virtue of his office, has the authority to distribute diocese to Bishops new or by transfer. Canons or constitutions were never infallible and will keep on updating. Church is dynamic and growing; growth demands change. Let the clergy and laity be prepared enough to welcome changes in our system.

References:

Article 53 instead of 63.
Canon 24 of the Council of Laodicea prohibits clergy of any class from eating out- Restaurant. Do all our bishops practice that? We make contextual changes
Abraham Malpan Konattu took the initiative to translate Hoodya Canon into Malayalam.
It was at this council fathers decided to make Sunday as the worship day as against the Sabbath observance.
Canon 28 did not allow chairs in the church; Canon 49 mandated againt celebration of Holy Qurbana during lent season except on Sundays; Canon 45 mandates no baptism after the second week of the Lent until the Resurrection. Canon 24, prohibits clergy from eating out/restaurants!!!! It was at this council they decided on Clerical marriage. There were only 215 bishops of the Eastern province of Roman empire attended this Synod. All decrees of the Synod were not accepted by all; Roman Church took only 50, Orthodox Church subscribed to the whole 85, and Bar Habraeus sparingly used them.
This council was attended by 215 bishops of the Eastern Roman Empire and the West initially did not accept their decisions. Eventually they adopted 50 canons of the Council of Trullio.
Orthodox Churches held a Council to refute the Calvinism in 1672 and developed its own canons.
In 1996, there was a special Synod at Kottayam, which discussed the transfer of Bishops especially in American diocese.
This is against the decision of the council of Laodicea Canon 13, and cited in Hoodaya Canon, Konattu Abrham Malpan, Pampakuda, 1986, 4th Edition 1986, P.101,
Constitution Artcile 113
These three are also not arbitrary buy based on tradition, practice and established ethical and moral standards. Sometimes, erratic use of disciplinary steps created problems in the church in the past.
That is how LL Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios taught us (4t year students) at the Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1977-78
In the case of LL HG Mar Makarios, it was more a reactive measure than a proactive one. A greater picture of reactive measures are seen the Roman Catholic church with Reformation and counter reformation.

Categories
Articles Youth And Faith

Mission of the Asian Churches in the household of God — An Orthodox Perspective

cca-july-2014

This Paper was presented by Dr. Yakob Mar Irenaios, Metropolitan of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, India, at the THEOLOGICAL WORKSHOP ON THE THEME FOR THE CCA 14TH CONFERENCE IN 2015 held at Jakarta, Indonesia from 21 – 25 July 2014.

“As you go, proclaim the good news; ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You have Received without payment, give without payment” (Matt. 10:7-8).

“Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19)

The Holy Church is the Household of God with a divine assignment to work for the transformation of the world, in which it finds itself. Thus the vision becomes inclusive to see the whole world as the Household of God. A message of this responsibility of humans is obvious in the beautiful discovery of the psalmist: The heavens are the Lord’s heavens: but the earth he has given to human beings (115:16). In fact, St. Paul talks about the family in heaven and earth,
which is named of the Father (Ephesians 3: 14-15). Thus the household of God consists of all the inhabitants of heaven and earth. Our concern for the earth, which we are called to share with God (cf. Jonah 4:11), is not to harbor any discrimination in terms of faith, language, culture, ethnicity, gender or financial security. In fact, the significance of the ‘household of God on earth’ in the context of the inalienable relationship between heaven and earth is clear and loud in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

Household of God

Household is a beautiful term: a house becomes a ‘household’, only when its inhabitants (‘partners’ in modern jargon) are ‘held together’ by some unseen but strong, affinity, which may be described as spiritual. If any family fails to ‘hold together’ its members, it ceases to deserve this appellation. In God’s household, what holds everything and everybody together is unselfish and unconditional love, and not mere survival instinct; for, love binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col. 3:14). The one principle of life that the creator God writ large on the face on creations was this: one should serve the other. Even to this day the entire edifice of life on this planet is sustained by this cardinal principle. This principle is behind “living together” and sustenance as well as the essential awareness that this household is owned by God. A faulty understanding and execution of mission is liable to violate this principle.

Two Biblical metaphors of perfect household may be cited here to illustrate the idea of “living together” in the household of God. Both these are from the ‘in the beginning” portions of Old Testament history.

The first obviously is the first ever household known to us – the community life in the Garden of Eden. It was the ideal household of God; where the presence of God was felt, the Tree of Life (symbolizing the Son of God, in Orthodox theology) was at the centre of the ‘household’, the possibility of temptations loomed large, and also the possibility of defeating temptations; and the God-given responsibility to tend and protect the earth (a responsibility in which modern man has miserably failed!). If we borrow from the Bible and the Desert Fathers, what held the inhabitants of that household together was the observation of the twin commandments: Love of God and Love of others. There, they all ‘lived together’: there was zero enmity between human beings and animals; all the creatures could communicate with each other. Perhaps there was one common means of perfect communication for all, known in theological parlance as “Paradisiacal Language’. In that household everyone had to care for everyone else; otherwise they could not continue to exist. Their ‘living together’ was ordained by God, and they enjoyed it too. They knew (but later faltered to honour it) that God was the head of the household, and they had to depend on him for everything: life, sustenance, safety,
consummation and so on.

Man’s disobedience and the “Fall’ upset the whole apple cart: humans lost their “innocence”; ‘being good’ was replaced by mere ‘knowledge of good and evil’; mutual love and respect among the members of the ‘household’ diminished; mutual suspicion and enmity replaced perfect mutual understanding; exploitation emanating from selfishness ruled the roost; ‘privacy’ replaced ‘openness’; even the presence of God was looked askance – in short, there were very few essentials to ‘hold the house together.’

The second instance is that of the “corporate” life in Noah’s ark. It was a household seemingly by ‘compulsion’. Yet it is a strong metaphor of living together, despite the fact that it was a conglomerate of myriad disparities. Here was a real commune, where the needs of every one were met. No one could claim superiority over any one else; all of them felt the need to hold together; and there absolutely was no scope for exploitation. They all need each other; they
had all shed their ‘natural’ ferocity, if they had any. Such an understanding called for mutual respect and concern. As we say, ‘all were in the same boat’, meaning that they had to live with the principle’ live and let live’. There is no record of any rancor or struggle among the Arkdwellers! Once the deluge was over, they forgot the principles of the ‘community life’ they enjoyed in the Ark of their ‘salvation’. Noah was inebriate before long; the remnant who survived the Flood by the grace of God soon came together to ‘rebel’ against God.

Life in Asian Countries Today

The general life situation in the 47 Asian countries today is one of unease; and in a few of them, there exists a civil war like situation. It is not assumed here that only Asian countries are experiencing ethnic or political turmoil. Some of the Western countries too are passing through war like situations. Political unrest is not something new in Eastern countries. Today, West Asia and North African (WANA) and Gulf region are no longer citadels of peace, despite material prosperity. The much orchestrated Arab Spring has only brought the greatest social, ethnic and political unrest to some of them. Actually those states which have not been affected by the movement live in mortal fear of its unwelcome visitation. However, the Asian polity has survived so many vicissitudes, but life goes on despite all kinds of unrest with amazing resilience. The latest in order is descent of the movement called SISI (State of Iraq and Syria), in Iraq.

The international media tell us that exists a kind of ‘cold war’ between China and Taiwan. Within China, the elaborate precautionary measures taken by the state to ‘meet’ the Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incidents a quarter century ago, and the continuing incarceration of votaries of democracy, are ominous enough to reveal the state of things there. Again, there is no love lost between the two Koreas! There appear few parallels for what is
really happening in North Korea, as surmised from what little is leaked out from behind the iron curtain. The tension and lack of trust between China and Japan, China and India, India and Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia etc. on territorial issues are only too pronounced. The unrest in the WANA and Gulf region tells on the whole world for several reasons. After the failed Iraqi invasion, Kuwait is apparently calm; Egypt is not yet free from the commotion that
has been going on there for a few years now; Syria and Iraq are literally boiling. A recent UN press release says “one family flees Syria every 60 minutes”1, echoing one of the bloodiest civil wars in this generation. Lebanon, a country no bigger than the North Eastern state of Tripura in India, is today home to a million Syrian refugees. Today one in every four people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. These blood-letting events have their international repercussions. Echoing this sentiment, Swamy wrote an article titled: “War in Iraq Hurts Every Home in India”2. If the twitter images are to be believed, the militant group’s squads gunning down Iraqi air force recruits in Tikrit, some 1700 of them, was one of ghastliest images this generation has seen. And there is the ‘perennially’ unresolved problem between Israel and Palestine. The ‘liberation’ of the Tamil dominated north by the security forces appears to boomerang on the Sri Lankan regime with the proposed U.N. enquiry commission into the alleged human rights violations in place. The Nobel laureate democracy icon in Myanmar is kept out of bounds from the democratic process she loves and stands for. Ukraine has proved to be the latest in the lingering spirit of Glasnost and Perestroika; whether it is in the right or wrong direction, history alone would prove.

In India, a new federal government has taken over following the national General Elections, amidst fears of a right wing Hindu extremist backlash. For the time being, everything is quiet; but the attacks from terrorist groups working from across the border with its northeast neighbor continues.

Apart from these political and military details, there are other factors vitiating life in Asian countries. Ethnic or caste conflicts, corruption, gender exploitation, substance abuse, and the latest- “honour killings” (family members or community taking revenge on youngsters for love marriages cutting across caste barriers, in some parts of central and north India) are the hallmarks of the Asian Reality today. This is apart from the overwhelming poverty in certain
patches in Asia, lingering into the present century.

A word about the churches and Christians in Asian countries today: in several Asian countries, not only Christians, but religious minorities are discriminated against; and do not enjoy the regular citizen’s rights; it would be worse, if we talk about religious freedom in such countries. The notion of a ‘state religion’ is not a bygone idea!

This is a brief, but very incomplete, picture of human life in Asia today. No wonder, if somebody would exclaim that some places in this continent are the most unlivable on the earth! We need to brood over how the Church could discharge its God-assigned task of ‘mission’ in such a scenario. The assignment is to “baptize the nations”! There is likelihood to misunderstand this command to mean that ‘conversion and giving baptism’ is what the Lord meant. Aggressive movements of preaching mission and conversions are discouraged, if not banned, in several states in Asia. In this context, Churches in Asia need to go after the real meaning of “baptizing the nations”. We call it as the real mission of the Church.

Mission – an Orthodox Point of View

To put it briefly, the Church exists in the world to work for its transformation. Here is a poignant statement from an Oriental Orthodox theologian:

The ministry of the Church consists in carrying forward the work which our Lord did while he was on earth. As the gospels testify, he came to the world to do the will of the Father who sent him, and to fulfill his work, and he enjoined on the Church to complete what he had initiated in himself with reference to the world as a whole, in the power of the Holy Spirit3.

Thus we have before us a world, to be specific in the context of this paper, ‘an Asia, to be transfigured’. This is the core and principle of the mission of the Church in Asia.

This process has two aspects:
1. To build up the Christian community on the basis of the life and ideals of Jesus Christ.
2. To work for the transformation of the world at large in the light of the life and ideals of Jesus Christ.

The former emphasizes the fact that the Church is a community organized by God, in which we are members by God’s grace; and this community, which is and has to be a fellowship which reflects the fellowship in heaven, has to have unique characteristics becoming the household of God. The central point is that this community has the duty to keep herself faithful to her Lord. Jesus had exhorted his disciples to be his witnesses everywhere (Acts 1:8). The archetype of life style before them was the life of Jesus himself. Their life style and spirituality were to transcend those of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 5:20). They were asked not to hate or take revenge on those who hated them or created trouble for them, but to love those who hated them and to pray for those who caused them harm (Matt.5: 43-48). Therefore, it would appear to suggest a suffering community. This ideal of not hating those who oppose us and praying for those who put us in trouble was dear to the heart of Mahatma Gandhi, who had great respect for Jesus Christ.

The latter is the second part of mission; while the former asked us “to be”. The heart of the matter is that the presence of a Christian or the Christian community is expected to be a transforming presence in this world of violence, exploitation, corruption, discrimination and injustice. The greatest example is the early Church which was a ‘suffering’ Church, for the sake of Truth and justice. Martyrdom which was the distinguishing feature of the Church of the first four centuries is reckoned as the greatest force, along with asceticism, in the witness and spreading of the Church. The small mission minded community that was the early Church was convinced that it was ‘called and elected’ to be the salt and light of the earth (Matt. 5:13-14).

The theological bases for these ideas are the following:

1. God made the world in the beginning and guides it to the final goal of reflecting his will only. Though the world as a whole and man in particular have fallen away from this divine plan, God is working unceasingly to accomplish his purpose. The Church is the pre-eminent instrument for realizing this goal.

2. St. Paul says that he is completing in his flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, the Church (Colossians 1:24). The sufferings of Christ should become the means of salvation through the entire human race through the Church; and we, the members of the household of God have got a role to play in the attainment of this goal. The risen Christ, before he ascended to heaven said to his disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came up on them, and they would be his witnesses to the end of the earth (Acts 1: 7-8).

3. The Christian understanding of God and the work of Christ imply the need for the transformation of the whole creation, not merely the human race. The creation itself, he says, would one day be set free from its slavery to decay and would share the glorious freedom of the children of God. Thus the mission of Christ is not merely for a section of the human race, but for the entire human race, i.e. the household of God. He is the Lord of the entire world and the human race as a whole. His concern is not limited, but is cosmic.

4. Jesus did not act or pray for the external conversion of people into the Church. On the contrary, his prayer was that his disciples may be united with him and with one another in love, as he himself was with the Father in love. It is such unity among them, and their being together united with the Triune God that will lead the world to believe in the Christian message (cf. John 17:21).

This community is asked to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead and to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God. This community is asked to feed the hungry, instead of sending them away famished after feeding them from the Word of God (Matt.14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13). This community is asked to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5: 48). The members of this community are asked to wash each other’s feet as a sign of humility and mutual service (John 13:14). This community is asked to love each other to prove that it belongs to God; and is told that the greatest expression of love is to lay down one’s life for the sake of others (John 15:14). These were the major and attractive features of the life of our Lord. In other words, the household of God is one with a difference, though it is in the world. Mission of Asian Churches

Asian Churches cannot run away from their responsibility to minister unto this household of God as God wills, which means simply ‘to be’ and ‘to do’ what He would have said and done in this complex and formidable environment.

Conflicts, Civil War, Border Disputes, etc.

Churches together, for instance, through the National Councils, could engage the political regimes, whether democratic or authoritarian, as regards the safety of innocent people, especially because of the fact that children and women bear most of the brunt of conflicts and wars. Churches and Church agencies could offer free services to the affected population. Churches shall try to win the confidence of the authoritarian regimes by their sincerity of intent,
and commitment to Justice, Truth and Peace. There might come instances where the Churches themselves would be the afflicted group. It is in such circumstances the moral and spiritual mettle of the Church is tested, and its commitment to Peace and Justice verified. Prominent examples for the recognition won by Christian mission services are the work of the Red Cross/ Red Crescent Society, Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity, and the like, in every society.

Poverty and Luxury

Alleviating the misery of the poor is fundamental to Christian mission. Situations of poverty and starvation have not been effaced from certain parts of Asia. Assurance of food security is still a mirage in several Asian countries. Recently, the Indian Parliament has approved a National Food Security Act. Public Distribution network of essential commodities does help to ameliorate poverty in backward states.

As a foil to the issue of poverty alleviation, the sin of luxury raises its head. Christians and Churches have not extricated themselves from the sin of luxury and worldliness. A recurring theme in the speeches and writings of the late Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church, Geevarghese Mar Osthathios was about “the sin of being rich in a poor world”. Church history bears witness to the prevalence of luxury in the Churches and monasteries of Europe in the
Middle Ages, that led to corruption and to their obvious decadence. The mission of the Asian Churches in the household of God has to seriously ponder over this, i.e. whether history is being allowed to get repeated!

Corruption, Authoritarianism, Gender discrimination, Exploitation etc.

One hallmark of life in Asian countries is corruption that eats into the vitals of polity. However, it is no consolation to bask in the thinking that this bane is worldwide. Poor, illiterate villagers being exploited by the bureaucrats is a common phenomenon in several Asian states. (of course, this can hardly be generalized). Harassment of women in workplaces, ill-treatment of migrant workers, denial of human rights etc. are problems that stare into the conscience of the Asian people and Churches.

In this situation, several Churches have started educating and the poor as to their rights as citizens and the right to enjoy the welfare measures provided by the state. In some places this programme is being resisted by the rich, who exploit the poor.

Again, some Asian countries are still under some form of authoritarian or military rule, which rarely respects human rights. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, ‘rule of law’ has become what the military or some tribal war lords dictate. Minorities are far from secure in such states.

In some Asian states, women are not as independent as their counterparts in other countries; so much so that it has become a slur on womanhood. In these situations the value of human life is degraded to a totally unacceptable low. Christianity teaches that life is God-given and it is precious; and blatant violation of this shall be confronted in a ‘Christian’ manner, through education, coercion, counseling, legal measures, and through whatever other means possible. “Almost all women in India, from the most docile and submissive to the seemingly liberated, are forced to lead lives that straddle the extremities of brash sexual objectification and abject domestication”, said the Toronto-based documentary film maker Nisha Pahuja, whose award winning documentary, “The World Before Her” was screened in the city of Kochi recently. This situation may not be duplicated as such elsewhere in Asia, but this is a reflection on the patriarchal culture still in vogue in many places. The Church has to show the way by respecting womanhood and resisting atrocities against woman in an enlightened manner.

Religious Persecution and Ethnic Cleansing

This malady usually based on religious beliefs or caste considerations is not unknown in history, and it continues to our times. Certain states in Asia, take pride in declaring that they are founded on religion; the laws in such states correspond to their specific religious beliefs; any citizen in that state who harbours some other religious persuasion will be in mortal danger of being arrested for ‘blasphemy’ charges, for some flimsy reason or the other. Such an
environment is current in many of the ‘Islamic States’, and also a few other Hindu and Buddhist majority states.

The situation in the pronounced Communist countries is different; they allow neither individual nor religious freedom to their citizens. One may or may not call it oppression, for no religion which does not toe the line of the ruling class, is ‘visible’. (At the same time it is acknowledged that there are underground churches in mainland China). Besides, some states have reported instances of regional ethnic cleansing.

A dispassionate look at these situations gives the constraint to the Asian Churches to be aware of the Asian realities and device Christian responses as part of its mission. Here are a few suggestions:

1. The Church has the basic missionary duty to take the gospel to the ‘unreached’. Having said so, it is only too obvious that such initiatives are not generally welcome in a religiously awakening Asia. Therefore, the Christian dispensation, as it did in the past, needs to engage other faiths in dialogue, without condemning them as ‘demonic ‘or false. In turn, such dialogic engagements are certain to give a new life to the Christian faith as it enters the thought world of different religious and cultural situations. Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate economist, a non-resident Indian, living in the U. K., talks about the time-tested method of fruitful dialogue that was the hallmark of India of old. India could welcome every new thought or philosophy, but there was always room for dialogue. In such dialogical situations, instead of fighting and hate which are the familiar “mode” in modern times, people of different religious or thinking persuasions would engage in a healthy “talk” without undermining the human dignity. Asian Churches today, are in a vital situation to engage other faiths in dialogue.

2. The Orthodox Church, as different from the Augustinian teaching, emphasizes that human nature is “good” (cf. Gregory of Nyssa), and respect for the ‘person” is the crux of human relations; and that every individual is precious. Therefore human freedom, which is a gift from God, has to be respected at every initiative – mission, peace or “Good Samaritan” activities.

3. The Orthodox Churches consider the liturgy as inseparably related to all mission activities. Liturgy is the soul of Christian life; history says that the Church did sustain itself through the centuries of persecution solely through its liturgy. What is meant is not an over dominance of the liturgical part, for Orthodox theology talks about “liturgy after liturgy’, referring to works of love.

4. A related and beautiful corollary is a distinguishing feature of the Indian “psyche”, that “always there is room for one more person”. This supreme sense of accommodation seems a unique characteristic of the “household of God”. “Mission” has to consider this seriously- Asia is not just the ripe field for “converting” people by any means, but it is the household of God, waiting to be transformed by the “salt’- like presence of the Church. One instance of accommodation among Churches themselves is the short-lived cooperation of the Orthodox Church in India with the CMS missionaries in theological education, which, of course, did bear some good fruits.

5. Asian Churches need to shed their “foreign” tag”, if any; and transform themselves to be the “serving” Church to millions of Asians.

6. Asian Christians, along with their brothers and sisters in the West, need to be worried about the decadence of Christianity at the level of holiness – its credibility and practice. Perhaps Asian Churches might claim to be relatively better placed on this point, but still, there remains the indelible “foreign” tag attached to it owing to various reasons. One would ask: “What is Christian in the Christian Church of today? “We may recall a joke of a bygone era regarding the “Holy Roman Empire”- that it was neither “Holy” nor “Roman”. Divisions and faulty witnessing are to be taken seriously.

Perhaps, mission in Asian countries in more challenging and formidable than in other countries!

Foot Note_____________________________
1 Priyanka Bhattacharya Dutt, “A Syrian Tragedy of many Dimensions”, article in The Hindu, Daily, Kochi, India, dated 20, June 2014.
2 Praveen Swamy, article published in The Hindu dated 18 June 20, 2014.
3 Rev. Dr. V. C. Samuel, An Orthodox Catechism on the Faith and Life of the Church, Kottayam: MGOCSM Bookshop &Publishing house, 2008, 111.

Categories
Articles We Believe

Pentecost – Demonstration of the Holy Trinity and Indwelling of and Cleansing by the Holy Spirit

Pentecost
On this day we recall that just 50 days after the Glorious Resurrection and 10 days after the Victorious Ascension of our Lord, the Holy Spirit came upon the Holy Apostles and all those gathered with. (Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2) Today we celebrate the bringing of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of the Resurrection in the heart of man. Christ prophesied it Himself, and the fulfillment we hear in the Acts of the Apostles.

Usually, when we have a feast day, the primary reading will be from the Gospel, in terms of in content of the feast, but the event of Pentecost is described in the Acts. ‘Acts of the Apostles’ is the account of continuation of the history of Salvation and hence it is included in the New Testament giving next importance to the Gospel. The Ascension of our Lord, the dissension of the Holy Spirit and indwelling in the Church, in the heart of each believers and the early history of the Church are described there. The book is hence also called the ‘Work of the Holy Spirit.’ The event of Pentecost is the link between Gospel and other part of the New Testament. It shows that the Church is the Church of Triune God; continuation of Creation, redemption in Christ and growing in Spirit.

Why it is like a demonstration of the Holy Trinity, why there are three parts for the order of Service of the Feast of Pentecost?

We worship the Triune God – The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of our prayers starts and ends in the name of Triune God – “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Living Holy Spirit, One God for ever and ever.” No doubt, we believe in One True God – “The Father who by His grace created the world, the Son who by His precious suffering redeemed the world and the Holy and Living Spirit who fulfills and perfects all that has been and all that will be.” The above quoted liturgical passages are the most meaningful explanation why the One True God is worshiped in three Persons. He is the One manifested in three. He is the One who bestowed upon us in three Persons– Creator, Redeemer and In-dweller for fulfillment and perfection. This is why He is understood and being referred by the Church in an integrated Triune form – the Holy Trinity. (In classical Hinduism the soundest philosophical definition for God follows: Sat-Chit-Anatam Brahmam. Here ‘Sat’ is the Pure Essence of Creation, ‘Chit’ the Pure Consciousness of Redemption and ‘Anatam’ the Pure state of Intelligence – indwelling for fulfillment and perfection. So for an Indian mind it will be much easier to understand the philosophy of One God in Three Persons.)

All the three phases of creation, redemption and indwelling are there from the start of the world itself. But these things revealed to humanity, as according to Christian Faith, in three definite phases, the Work of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the liturgical year of the Church, which is a depiction of the history of Salvation, these phases could trace as following: The start of first season begins with Sanctification of Church (Koothos Etho), the Redemption through the Incarnation of Christ- the second to fourth seasons- and the Indwelling of the Holy and Living Spirit- starts from the fifth season. This third and final phase starts on the day of the Feast of Pentecost. This could be the reason why the Fathers of the Church decided to use this wonderful occasion to demonstrate the Holy Trinity. To show and explain it so clearly and to become part of it they, filled with the Spirit of our Lord, designed it in three services of absolute meditation on the Holy Trinity. The history of Salvation is well presented in this canonical liturgy referring to each historical, prophetical and evangelistic writings from the Word of God; with high theological explanations, philosophical reasoning and contemplative meditation. One could see a finite expression of Eastern Orthodox liturgical worship on the Feast of Pentecost.

Why the Kneeling down and Sprinkling of water on the Feast of Pentecost in our Church?

As it is very clear in the message of Christ, repentance is the only way to attain the Kingdom of God. Receiving the renewal of Holy Spirit is the sign and expression of becoming a member in the Kingdom of God. In Eastern Church kneeling down and crying Kurielaison is the most genuine and powerful expression of real repentance. There is no other way to invocation of the Holy Spirit than our real repentance and confession. (Outward expressions like making terrific sounds and instructing Holy Spirit to come down and so on are not a sign of repentance, but of arrogance and ignorance of divine wisdom. Apart from some physical exercise no internal meditation may be possible there.)

Sprinkling of water is considered in the Church as a symbolic expression of receiving the power of Holy Spirit. Christ said, “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink,” and He said, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” The Apostle John tells us this refers to the Holy Spirit, Who was not yet given, but He was prophesying of what would happen when it was given. “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.” The Holy Spirit is available to us, if we thirst. The abundant water, cool water, fresh water, not water from a cistern, but water from a living spring is available to us, but only if we thirst. If we do not thirst, then the water that we partake of is flat and lifeless and tepid. We must thirst. Thirst for righteousness, thirst for Christ. Then, out of your belly truly shall flow rivers of living water. Think of the image, of what this means. Continual activity, continual purity because water purifies, especially flowing water. It scours the ground, and cleans, takes waste away, continually flowing and purifying and cleansing. This is what happens in the heart of man, but only if we thirst. We must thirst for that good water, the water that Christ also spoke of with the woman at the well. If you thirst, then indeed, you will have living water.

“As many as we have been baptized into Christ, we have put on Christ.” This putting on is our action, our desire, our continual living in Christ. May it be that we would truly live as Christians. The Spirit makes it possible. It is all there for us. Abundant grace is present, and abundant grace is continually shed upon us. And we would have all of this grace if we thirsted. To the extent that we thirst for things that are not godly, and that distract us, to that extent we don’t have this living water.

When he sent His Holy Spirit upon mankind it was so that the things of Christ would be revealed to those who would be willing to listen, and they would become completely alive. Everything would be cleaned; just as water that is rushing, cleans and freshens everything. So that even those parts of us which are dirty, even those parts of us which resist becoming perfected, the Lord will indeed perfect. Water can not be held back when it is in a torrent; everything in its path is pushed out of the way. So it is with the Holy Spirit. But there is a difference: when a flood comes upon us it is not of our own will that the water comes, and the water destroys things that are precious to us. But the flood of the Holy Spirit comes only if we desire it. If, of our will, we desire to follow the things of God, then indeed the torrent will come. The torrent will flow and never end. Anything that is ungodly that is in our way of the keeping of the commandments will be scoured away, will be pushed away, and the water will flow eternally out of our belly, out of every part of us.

Now, the Holy Spirit is also fire. Not just water, but also fire; now these are two things that in Nature do not exist together – one destroys the other. But according to God, these things can coexist. Fire burns away that which is trash, that which is unclean. Fire purifies. Fire softens. Fire warms. And we need the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn away impurity in our soul, and we need the warmth of the Holy Spirit to encourage us. He is called Comforter – He comforts with fire; He comforts by warming our hearts, by giving us that sure and certain hope that indeed we can be changed. And He is water, eternally giving us life, refreshment, invigorating us; a spring that never, ever ends. A drought will never come upon he who has the Spirit; fire and water in the soul of a Christian, each doing their part, each from the same Spirit.

The Holy Spirit abides in a Christian. Until the promise was given, the Holy Spirit did not live in men; all the things that were accomplished by the Spirit outside. Even the prophets who spoke by the Spirit: the Spirit did not live in them. He inspired them, and they were still unable to accomplish perfection. But now the Comforter is given to us, and we can become perfected. Anything that is impure, anything that is temporal can all be changed, can become perfected, can become clean, and can become light, life. Today when we celebrate the fulfillment of the Resurrection in man the Lord has given us everything now we need.

He lived on the earth and showed us the way of life that is perfect; the way of life that leads to eternal life, to true happiness, no other kind of happiness is possible. Only by following the will of God can we truly be happy. He showed us this. He showed us the way to live, of having priorities, to follow the commandments. But showing this would not do us any good, unless He also made us capable of doing what He shows us, because we were not capable of following His examples; we are strangers and aliens as the apostle said, far from God, unable to follow the commandments, not completely, not so that we could have rivers of living water in our belly springing out; not so that we could be completely perfected, have nothing ever that is corruptible in us. So He died, and resurrected Himself so that our bodies can be resurrected, can defeat corruption.

But even this is not enough. How many people live in the Resurrection? We still see sin, suffering, unbelief, sadness in the world. The Resurrection is for all men, but not all men are able to apprehend it, to clasp it to their bosom. We need a Comforter, a Guide, a Helper; that is the Holy Spirit. He is given so that we can live in the Resurrection; so we can apply the lessons the Lord has given us – and continues to give us on a moment by moment basis – of how to live, how to think, how to be, how to feel. All these lessons can be applied because the Comforter tells us in groaning that can not be uttered. Most of what the Holy Spirit does for us we do not see, or feel, or even know, but he does enlighten, and He does change, and He does make alive, Without the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection would only be a painting on the wall inaccessible to us, beautiful to be sure, but not something that belongs to us. The Holy Spirit makes it belong to us, because we can be changed. We do not have to live with in-corruption.

May the Holy and Glorious Triune God bless and enable us to understand the meaning of the Feast of Pentecost and indwell in us as He does in case of the Apostles and Saints.

This article was written by Metropolitan Dr. Geevarghese Mar Yulios while he was a priest

Categories
Articles Features We Believe

The Feast Of Resurrection – The Feast Of New Hopes

easter-feast

The Feast of Resurrection is the feast of feasts for the Christian Church. The resurrection of Jesus marks a complete turnaround in history. History became ‘His Story’. This is the feast of the victory of Truth over falsehood. This is the day of reunion for the dispersed disciples on account of the terror of the death of their Leader. This great fest marks the beginning of new hope for entire humanity. This is the feast of the resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. A few thoughts on this glorious feast:

1. Resurrection: The Feast of ultimate triumph of the truth

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate triumph of the truth. While questioning Jesus, Pontius Pilate asked Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). But Jesus kept quiet. It was not the opportune time to answer this vexed question. The intention behind the incarnation of Jesus was described by him in this manner: “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). The real aim of the coming of Jesus to this world who gave up his life for the cause of Truth was neither understood by the High Priests of Jewish community, nor the high officials of the Roman Empire. They crucified the Truth and the Untruth had a temporary victory over the Truth.

However, through His Resurrection the Truth was reborn. Those who believed the words of Jesus, and those who put their faith in Him whole-heartedly and those who followed Him suffered lot of pains at His passion and death. The challenging question before them was, “Is Jesus a reality or a myth?” Those who mocked him challenged him to come down from the cross. When falsehood celebrates temporal victory the believers are even challenged to raise the question of Jesus’ mockers. It takes Truth sometime to triumph. The truth only triumphs ultimately and this was proved through His resurrection. The Truth which died on the cross on Friday was raised again on Sunday.

The age old tradition of Indian hermits, who chants “lead us from untruth to Truth”, came to pass in the resurrection of Jesus. This proved that the triumph of untruth was just temporary. The resurrection of Jesus thus opened the way of hope for those who bear witness to truth. His victory inspires those who are allegedly persecuted or tortured for bearing witness to truth. The Apostles and martyrs stood by truth to point of death and set the tradition of witnessing Jesus to the contemporary society. Let Easter be a motivation to stand for the truth.

2. Resurrection: The Dawn of new hope of Immortality

The desire to be free from the clutches of death is as old as human origin. The ancient Sanskrit chanting of the Indian sages “let us lead from death to immortality” also reflects the same desire. But how this could be achieved? Death reigns in humanity through sin of one human being, Adam. From Adam till Christ death got victory over the body of early human beings. But through Christ humanity got a new birth. St. Paul says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being (1 Corinthians 15:20- 21). The death which entered humanity through Adam was replaced with life through the resurrection of Second Adam, Christ.

Thus the feast of resurrection proclaims a new horizon for humanity, the resurrection. The humanity lives in the hope of future resurrection. St. Paul aptly summarizes this hope as he says, “So all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (15:23). Humanity now has the hope of sharing the glorified body like Christ’s which He had after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:47-49). It was Christ’s resurrection which gave such hope to mankind that our decaying body will be transformed into the glorified body like Christ’s (Philippians 3:21).

The relationship between Jesus and believers became more intense and personal through the sacramental presence of Jesus. The faithful also shares the unique experience of the Emmaus disciples at the Breaking of Bread (Lk 24:31, 35). The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of this kind of a sacramental relationship between Christ and the believers. Believers become part of Christ’s Body through sacraments. Our participation in his death and resurrection takes place in Baptism (Rom. 6:5). The believers are kept alive in the body of Christ through Holy Eucharist (1 Cor. 10:16). When a believer dies this relation cannot be broken because of the hope of resurrection. Though death seems to raise an obstacle between Christ and a believer in reality for a believer death is only a sleep in Christ.

Jesus came to this world to give life in abundance. He revealed the hope of resurrection in his public ministry. He proved that He has authority over dead by raising the dead. In the context of raising Lazarus, Jesus proclaimed “I am the resurrection and the life those who believe in me even though they die will live” (John 11:25). He became bread and wine to give everlasting life to his followers. Thus after His resurrection the Church celebrates the Holy Eucharist to remember His self giving and to sustain eternal life for His followers. His resurrection became a reason of the hope that His followers will also receive the same life He had after the resurrection.

3. Resurrection: The Feast of Strengthening the Marginalized

We see the empowerment of the marginalized in the feast of Jesus’ resurrection. The dispersed disciples gathered together to celebrate the good news of the resurrection of their Master. The disciples run away the moment when Jesus was arrested. St. Peter who had declared that he would not deny Christ even if he had to die with Him, denied Christ. The arrest of Jesus paralyzed the disciples and His blood shuddering death completely dispirited them. Jesus appeared to them with the greeting of ‘peace’. This rejuvenated the disciples and relieved them from fear. Jesus strengthens them by assuring them that His presence would always be with them (Matthew 28:20).

The resurrection caused the unprecedented empowerment of women, who were the first witness of His resurrection. To a great extend, the Easter faith is built around empty tomb. It is the women who came to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body found the tomb empty. Their initial perplexity was taken away by the testimony of angels. The women in turn proclaimed the good news of the resurrection of Jesus to the apostles and others (Luke 24:9-10). Jesus chides the disciples, who were hard to believe the words of women, points the reality of resurrection announced by the women (24:22-226). Just as His public ministry heightens the position of women, His resurrection also strengthened them.

This act of women might have appeared bizarre to the male dominated then existed community. However, it is quite natural for the women to become witness of this unique event because they are unique to Jesus. They were empowered in His public ministry. He made women His co- partners in His ministry breaking the shackles of patriarchal fabric of the Jewish community. They assisted Jesus and His disciples with their resources (Luke 8:3). In company with them, Jesus preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God in the various towns and villages. The women left behind their homes and their loved ones to follow Him. As followers of Jesus they became His disciples (Luke 23:49, 55).

This close relation of the women with Jesus continues even after His death. Neither the fear of crucifixion, nor the presence of the Roman soldiers, nor the darkness was any stumbling blocks in their pursuit of following Jesus. Deemed as powerless and feeble, the women gather strength through the resurrection of Christ. The history of the early church also attests the witness of women (Acts 1:14).

Jesus’ resurrection strengthens the mankind who became weak through sin. His resurrection strengthens the relationship, which was drifted because of human sin, between human beings and God. The whole creation which became disfigured by departing away from the glory of God finds reconciliation through Jesus Christ. Thus human beings received courage and hope for a closer relationship to God through Jesus Christ.

4. Resurrection: The Feast that Lays New Responsibility

The resurrection of Jesus was a very unique event. Jesus was looking forward to this day to entrust new responsibilities to His disciples. He already chose them to be His witnesses to continue His ministry after He had gone from the world. Resurrection is the turning point in taking up this responsibility.

Jesus’ resurrection reunited the disciples to be His witnesses. His appearance comforted the disciples. He charged them to be His witnesses throughout the nations. He promised another Comforter (Holy Spirit) to guide them in the way they take up the ministry. If there was no resurrection the fate of the disciples would have been different from what they became. The disciples spread the good news of Resurrection throughout the world and offered new life in Christ.

The task before the Christian Church is to be His faithful servant in the contemporary society. The forces that crucified Jesus on the cross exist in our society in manifold ways. The good news of resurrection not only over powers these forces but also facilitates new life in Christ. The Church needs to present a crucified and resurrected Jesus to the world today. The message of cross is of less acceptance in our time. Resurrection proclaims the cross and the life there after. Thus, resurrection lays the foundation for a continued ministry of the Church. The feast of Resurrection is not meant to be celebrated on personal levels but it should be celebrated throughout the world in communion with others.

I wish all readers a very Happy Easter.

Categories
Articles Features We Believe

Saint Peter in West Syriac Liturgical Tradition

saint-peter
The idea of the Primacy of the Pope set forth in the decrees of the first Vatican Council of 1870 is perhaps the most crucial subject discussed in the dialogues between the Catholics and the eastern and the Oriental Orthodox Christians. [E.g.XIth session of the Plenary of the International mixed Commission
for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, Patmos, Greece, 16-23 October 2009 & XIIth Session in Vienna, 20 to 27 September 2010]

1 Since its promulgation, the Catholic theologians have defended it, quoting evidences from the biblical, patristic, canonical and liturgical sources, often reading into the texts a developed concept of primacy. The Syrian Catholic Bishop H.E.Cyril Behnam Benni [Arch bishop of Mosul 1861-92; Syrian catholic Patriarch 1892-97] an ardent defender of the Petrine primacy at the first Vatican Council of 1870, had made an impressive collection of Syriac sources, in order to support his arguments 2. For the past 140 years, Mgr.Benni’s work was never been the subject of a critical evaluation.

The West Syriac liturgical tradition acknowledges St Peter as the first among the apostles. Thus he is called ‘the chief of the apostles’ (risho d-slihe).The so-called Petrine texts (Math. 16:18-19; Luke 22:32; John 21:15-17) are often quoted in the prayers and hymns along with other New Testament allusions to St Peter. Thus the key words in the Catholic teaching on ‘Petrine Primacy’ such as ‘keys’, ‘faith of Peter’ and ‘rock’ occur in the Syriac liturgical texts.

Syriac tradition speaks of ‘the place of honour’ that St Peter occupied among the apostles. But he was never seen as ‘superior’ to his fellow apostles. The texts that speak of ‘the place of honour’ that St Peter occupied shall be understood in relation to numerous other passages thathighlight the ministry of the apostles and various ministers. Sometimes the encomium or eulogy of Peter is part of the poetical style of the prayers and other liturgical texts, which compare and contrast biblical figures precisely to meditate on the mystery of salvation and to praise God. In the Weekly Breviary Shehimo or the Book of Common Prayer the Evening (Ramso) and Morning (Sapro) have certain themes that recur: e.g. Mother of God, Saints, and Penitence, departed. Occasional references to St Peter appear under the section ‘Saints’, along with other apostles, especially with St Paul or St John the Baptist. A prayer of Monday evening provides the example:

“Simon the head of the apostles, and Paul the elect and John who baptized your Lord, be intercessors on behalf of the flock which you fed by the waters of

faith, and lead it to pasture”3. The main themes of the texts are not often St Peter and never his primacy. Let us quote a text from Monday Night Second

Qaumo:“We remember Moses the fountainhead of prophecy and Simon, head of the apostles, and Paul the master-builder, who wrote to us in a letter to the Romans, that we should take part in the remembrance of the just, who loved God with all their heart; by their prayer and their petition may mercy be shown to
us, halleluiah, may their prayer assist us.

Moses is the head of the Old, Simon of the New; both resemble one another and God dwelt in them. Moses brought down the tables of the Law, Simon received the keys of the kingdom; Moses built the earthly tabernacle, Simon built the Church, for the Old and the New, glory to you, O Lord, halleluiah, may their prayer assist us”4. [The next two stanzas speak of the martyrs, St Stephen, George, Sergius, Kuriakose, Julitta, Shmouni and the forty martyrs]

The theme of Monday Night Second Qaumo is the saints. It is in that context that St Peter is remembered. Here the imagery of building the Church has been associated to St Paul as well as St Peter. In fact these two apostles appear together in a number of liturgical texts. Thus the fourth diptych speaks of “the exalted chiefs of the apostles St Peter and St Paul”. It shall be noted that the main goal of this diptych is not to teach the doctrine of the ‘primacy’ of these two apostles, but to commemorate the Mother of God, the prophets and the apostles, the preachers and Evangelists, the martyrs and confessors. Along with them St John the Baptist, St Stephen and St Peter and St Paul are commemorated. In the inaudible prayer that accompanies the fourth diptych, there is no reference to Peter and Paul. The prayer simply speaks of the ‘apostles’. In fact in the Syrian Orthodox anaphoras, the inaudible prayer that accompanies the fourth diptych does not mention St Peter by name. The Anaphora of Julius of Rome is an exception. The inaudible prayer reads:

“Remember O Lord, all the bishops, orthodox doctors of Your Holy Church who have already departed…. From Peter, the chief of the apostles until today”5.

This is an isolated example and cannot support the any argument related to the primacy of Peter. In the Anaphora of Abraham Nahshirtono (‘the Hunter’), the same prayer reads: “Remember O Lord, all those who have ruled over Your Holy Church from Mar Jacob until today”6.

The Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles ( St Luke) speaks of “John the Baptist and Stephen the head of the deacons”. (also the anaphoras of St John Chrysostom and the Mkanashto)

The fourth diptych provides the key to understand the question of Peter’s position. The Blessed apostle Peter is commemorated as one of the leading figures among the saints, but not as their head. The ‘General prayer’ of the preparation rites (which commemorates “all those who, since the world began, have been
wellpleasing to Thee from our father Adam even unto this day”) does not speak of Peter. A text in the liturgy of the marriage speaks Christ entrusting the

care of the Church to St Peter along with St John: “When the heavenly Bridegroom betrothed the faithful Holy Church, he called Simon and John and entrusted her to both of them (aga’el w-yahboh lathraihun). He made Simon the steward of the House (rab baitho) and John the preacher (of the Gospel). He called them
and commanded them: you shall guard diligently the (church) that I have purchased with my precious blood When the Malayalam translation was rendered into verses, the original sense was completely lost, which is often quoted by those who defend the doctrine of Petrine primacy.

St Peter in the Liturgical year

It is interesting to note that in the Syrian Orthodox liturgical year there is no feast of St Peter. The ‘chief of the apostle’ is commemorated along with St Paul on June 29. There are a good number of ancient Syriac calendars that have come down to us. None of them contains a feast of St Peter. There is even a
feast of St Andrew, brother of St Peter (Nov. 30). There are feasts of St Thomas (July 3; Sept 10); John the Evangelist (Sept. 26; Oct 5; Dec. 15; May 8);

Philip (Nov. 14), Simon the Zealot (May 10), Mathew (Nov 16), Judas (Jan 27). The New Testament figures such as Philemon (Nov 22), Timothy (Jan 21), Onesimos (Feb 15), Jason (April 28) are commemorated as apostles.. Even the Old Testament minor prophets are commemorated: Nahum (Dec.1); Habakkuk (Dec 2); Zephaniah(Dec.3).

In the earliest arrangement of the liturgical calendars, the most important feasts are placed closer to the feasts of Nativity and Epiphany. Thus the glorification of Theotokos (Dec. 26), the beheading of John the Baptist (Jan. 7) and the martyrdom of St Stephen (Jan 8), the oldest among the feasts of the saints are widely celebrated. According to a number of ancient sources, the feast of Jacob, brother of our Lord was celebrated on 28th December. The position of the feast of St Peter and St Paul outside this cycle is not without significance.

125 Homilies of Severus of Antioch (d. 536) have come down to us. Apparently a feast of St Peter did not exist in his days. Severus had preached homilies on John the Baptist (Hom. 32; 61) and on the memory of St Thomas (Hom. 28 preached on July 3, 513) . We have three homilies on ‘Golden Friday (Hom. 74; 92 )

Homily 74 is based on Acts 3:1-2. But no special honour has been attributed to St Peter. Homily 124 is on Math. 16:13 (‘Who do men say that the Son of man is?). No primacy is attributed to St Peter and to the see of Antioch. In homily 124, the main emphasis is on the orthodox faith and in it, Severus says: “ If
some one confesses Christ in the say was as Peter had confessed, he removes the ‘veil of flesh’ (spread) on his heart, and associates with the revelation of the Father in heaven”8. Homily 81 (on Mathew 17:23: on paying didrachma) makes no special comments on the role of Peter in paying the didrachma9. St Peter as
one among the twelve apostles In the New Testament, the titles ‘rock’, ‘head’, ‘shepherd’ and ‘bridegroom’ are used for Christ and some of them are associated with the ministry of the apostles and later with that of the bishops.

The metaphors ‘son’ and ‘anointed’ are used for the believers. The title “only begotten” (Ihydoyo) is used for the monks. Among these titles, ‘rock’is often discussed in relation to the ‘Petrine primacy’. In the liturgical texts, the imagery of rock is used with different meanings. The liturgical texts unequivocally say that the Church is founded upon Christ, the Rock (cfr. 1Cor. 10:4). In the Sedro of the Kudosh ‘edtho (Consecration of the Church), we find: “ Praise to You and thanksgiving to You, Jesus Christ, the unshakable rock of truth on which the holy Church is established, rock of Moses which gave forth twelve streams to quench the thirst of Israel”10.

The same idea is found in the inaudible prayer that accompanies the lifting up of the veil in the anaphora: “Thou art the rock of flint, sent forth twelve streams of water for the twelve tribes of Israel”.

Elsewhere, the imagery of rock is used to refer to the faith: “Your Holy Church, which is firmly established on the rock of faith”11. The Church says: “ On that rock (i.e. faith) at the house of Simon, the head of the apostles, I am built and I am not afraid, the Church answered and said..”12. The rock which brought forth the streams is the image of Mary: “ The rock which brought forth streams in the desert was clearly a figure (tupso) of you, holy virgin, from whom came forth in the creation the Son of God, who is the true rock, as Paul said”13. The title rock is used for St Peter as well: “ On Simon, the rock, our
Lord built the Church and on seventy two pillars he set it up; it is more high and lofty that the mountain of Cardu; the architect, who built it, has his dwelling on high,halleluiah, blessed is he who built the Church and set up the altar in it”14. This passage is part of the section on the saints. The text is a meditation on the mystery of the Church and the place of the saints in it. Thus in the previous stanza we find: “At your door, O Church, watchers stand by night and by day, and guard you from the evil one; Simon, the foundation, and Paul, the architect, and John, who was the friend of the bridegroom, halleluiah, and David, the harp of the Holy Spirit”15. These texts do not signify any primacy of Peter, for elsewhere the same ideas are used in a general sense: “ Peace be with the prophets, apostles and martyrs, builders of faith and pillars of the holy Church, who endured all torments for the sake of our Lord…”16.

A text paraphrased from the biblical accounts speaks of Peter’s privileged position in the Church: “Simon Peter was catching fish in the sea, when his Lord called him and thus said to him: Come, Simon, and I will give you a catch of the Spirit and you shall draw men, from death to life; and on you, Simon, I will build the holy Church, and the bars of Sheol shall not be able to prevail against it”17. This is an isolated example and shall be understood in relation to other texts on Peter and the apostles.

In several passages, Simon Peter is presented as one of the apostles, without attributing any special significance to his place among the twelve. Thus in a prayer of the Holy Week we find a lamentation on Judas: “O dishonest (Judas), why have you disregarded the gift that the Master has given you, as He gave it to Simon or John?18”

Again in a passage addressed to Judas: “I have elected you like Simon and loved like Thomas and honoured like John”19.

Judas had the same dignity as Peter and John: “O dishonest (Judas), why have you disregarded the gift that the Master has given you, as He gave it to Simon and John?”20

Simon is presented along with other apostles: “O Simon, if I do not wash your feet, you will have no throne among your companions”21.

Again: “Simon wept along with John. Mathew and Bartholomew cried out. With pain they mourned for their teacher who was about to die, and for the companion

who mingled with the wicked”22.

Simon Peter and Judas were compared and contrasted and even put at the same level: “One slaps on His cheek, and another spits on His face. One kisses (Him) and betrays. Another says that he does not know Him”23.

On one occasion, the faith of the thief is said to be greater than that of Peter and John: “How great is the faith of the thief, who asked forgiveness to His Lord suspended on the tree, with nails on His hands and feet. He told Him: Forgive me my iniquity! Simon who saw Him renounced Him and John stood afar, but

the thief cried out, saying: ‘Remember me O Lord, when You come!”24.

Thus any reference to Peter shall be understood in the context of the idea of the ‘cloud of witnesses’ who are regularly evoked in the liturgical texts. In a Sedro of the Kudosh ‘edtho we find: “The Lord of the world is her (= Church’s) Bridegroom. John is the Bridegroom’s friend, the apostles and the martyrs are
the wedding guests”25.

It is interesting to note that the ‘priority’ of women as the first witnesses of the resurrection in contrast to St Peter is underscored: “He sent word to His apostles, that He had risen, by the women; it was not from Simon that the women received the tidings, but they who gave them to Simon; from women was the beginning of his course, His birth, His resurrection and the news of His resurrection”26.

It is certain that the goal of the text is to emphasis the reality of the resurrection. Similarly, the texts on St Peter are aimed at narrating the experiences of the apostles or to point out their place in the Church as the prime witnesses to the mystery of Christ. This explains the usual references to
St Peter along with St Paul or other apostles.

The West Syriac weekly breviary always commemorates the apostles along with the saints of the Old and the New dispensations. In the evening of Tuesday we

find (section on the saints): apostles with the blessed martyrs; may their prayers be a strong hold to us. Prophets, apostles and holy fathers, may your

prayers be to us a high wall and a house of refuge”27.

The saints are the foundations of the Church: “ Blessed is he, who built the holy Church on the palm of his hands, and placed as its foundations the prophets, apostles and holy martyrs and assembled and filled her with all peoples; and behold, they offer praise in her by night and day. Blessed is he, who magnified you, prophets, apostles and holy martyrs, and placed your bones like lights within the holy Church, and honoured and magnified your memory here and above in heaven; may your prayers assist us”28.

There are isolated examples in which Peter is singled out: “ In the company of Peter, we shall see you, our father, Mar (X), when you will say to him with open face; these you gave me, Lord, acknowledge them before your Father, even as they have acknowledge you”29.

Peter is an example of repentance and is alluded to along with the thief, publican and the sinful woman: “Open to us, Lord, the door of your mercy, asyou did to the thief, and accept our repentance, as you did that of the publican and the sinful woman, and as you pardoned Simon after he had denied you,
pardon our offences and sins….”30.

The repentance of Peter is described vividly: “Simon was sitting at the outer door and was weeping at the outer door and was weeping: Open Your door, O my master, for I am your disciple. Heaven and earth shall weep for me, for I have made the keys of the kingdom to be lost”31.

Unlike the Latin tradition, the Syriac fathers do not say that ‘the keys’ are the sole privilege of St Peter. According to Moses Bar Kepha, every bishop holds the keys. Thus in his commentary on Holy Myron Bar Kepha writes: “Again (the Myron) is given with the permission of the bishops, because he holds the
keys of Peter and opens the treasury to whom he pleases”32.

For Bar Kepha, ‘the keys’ is a poetical expression implying no primacy whatsoever. Thus in the same work he writes: “(Myron) holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven”33.

The theme of the first Qaumo of Monday of the Holy Week is “the Parable of the Vineyard” The prayers of this qaumo are the exposition of the parable and they represent an important source for ecclesiology. There is no reference to St Peter. He is not refereed to as the guardian or the keeper of the vineyard. The Sedro of this qaumo presents the Church as the vine planted in the place of Israel. After having narrated the planting of Israel, the spiritual vineyard and its destruction, the Sedro continues: “And You have planted in its place the glorious Vine, the Holy Church, chosen from among the gentiles. And You have
made a fence of the Gospel Law around it, and adorned it with the angelic priesthood. You have established t with the high tower of the cross, and entrusted it to the labourers: the apostles, evangelists, shepherds, doctors and chosen priests, that through them she might offer spiritual fruits worthy of Your
divinity. You have established Christ, the stone, rejected by the sons – that is by the Jewish leaders – the corner stone, which joins and unites the heavenly with the earthly beings, the people with the gentiles, which shakes and breaks into pieces, and shatters all who stumble against it”34.

Conclusion

In the prayers, St Peter is never qualified as the ‘the Shepherd of Christ’s flock’, nor Church is called ‘Peter’s flock’. He is never qualified as the ‘vicar of Christ’ or as the representative of Christ to whom other disciples are subjected to. The liturgical references to St Peter are far from being all of equal value, and it is not always possible to deduce from them a consistent ecclesiology. However, they ignore altogether Peter’s primacy or of his successors.

Scriptural references to Peter have been used to illustrate the place of the apostles and the saints in the Church, and to speak of the reality of resurrection, firm faith, human weakness, fall and repentance. The references to St Peter are to be understood as part of the narratives on the apostles’experience of the mystery of Christ and their reaction to it. Peter is rarely singled out, but never placed above the apostolic college. His title risho daslihe (chief of the apostles) is to be understood not in terms of primacy whatsoever, but rather as the chief among the apostles. It implies a ‘place of honour’ which is not defined by the New Testament or by the early Christian fathers.

Apparently, early Eastern Christian liturgical tradition did not attribute a privileged position to St Peter, similar to that of Theotokos, St John the Baptist and even St Stephen. Thus no separate feast of St Peter is attested in the Eastern liturgical calendars. In the Byzantine tradition, the icons of
Theotokos and John the Baptist (‘the friend of the bridegroom’) occupy a special place on the iconostasis, a place never attributed to St Peter. Likewise the Syrian Orthodox Pre-anaphora (‘Public celebration’) begins with the acclamation: “ Mary who brought Thee forth, and John who baptized Thee shall be
suppliants unto Thee in our behalf. Have mercy upon us”. Even in the fourth diptych, the saints are enumerated in the following order, “Mother of God, prophets, apostles, preachers, Evangelists, martyrs, confessors, John the Baptist, St Stephen and the “exalted chiefs of the apostles St Peter and St Paul”. Thus the anaphora, the prayer par excellence of the Church completely ignores the doctrine of Petrine primacy.

(Footnotes)
1 F.Bouwen, “ Patmos 2009. XIe session pléniè re de la Commission mixte int ernationale
pour le dialogue thé ologique entre l” Eglise catholique et l ’Eglise orthodoxe” , Proche
Orient Chrétien 60 (2010), 78-99 ;ID., « XIIe Session….. », POC 60 (2010), 335-
351.
2 Cyril Benham Benni, Syriac Church of Antioch, concerning the Primacy and
Prerogatives of Peter and of His Successors the Roman Pontiffs, London, 1871 ( This
work was not available to me).
3 Awsar Slawot’o –The Book of Common Prayer,( SEERI, Kottayam, 2006), 193
(=BCP)
4 BCP p. 239-241.
5 Pampakuda, 1986, p. 199.
6 Ibid. p. 256.
7 Translated from the Syriac text, Pampakuda (1982), p. 76.
8 Hom. 124, in Patrologia Orientalis 29, pp. 208-231; here, p. 219.
9 Hom. 81, in PO . 20, pp. 344-370.
10 Sedro, Evening, Kud osh ‘edtho, Prayer with the Harp of the Spirit , Vol. II, (Vagamon,
1982), p.3.
11 Anaphora of St James, Prayer after the Epiclesis.
12 Saturday Morning, BCP, p. 929.
13 Ibid..
14 Friday Morning, BCP p. 819.
15 Friday, Morning, BCP, p. 819.
16 Thursday Evening, BCP, p. 593.
17 Thursday Lilyo, Second Qaumo, BCP, p. 643.
18 Holy Week, Thursday Night, Second Qaumo, Bo ’utho of Mar Jacob, Syriac Text,
in Ktobo d-sabtho rabtho d-hasho porukoyo (Pampakuda, 1958), p. 168.
19 Ibid.
20 Holy Week, Thursday Night, Second Qaumo, Bo ’utho of Mar Jacob, Syr. P. 168-
169.
21 Holy Week, Tuesday Night , Second Qaumo, Syriac. p. 70.
22 Holy Week, Thursday Night, Second Qaumo, Mad rosho: Qum Paulose, Syriac, p.
173.
23 Sedro, Good Friday, Night, Fourth Qaumo. Tr. B.Varghese, Promioun-Sedro of the
Holy Week, (Kottayam,2011), p.139.
24 Service of the adoration of the cross , in Fr.B.Varghese (tr), Order of the Prayers of
Good Friday, (Kottayam, 2001), p. 91.
25 Crown of the Year Vol .II, p. 3.
26 Sunday night, Second Qaumo, BCP, p. 95.
27 BCP. p. 335.
28 Ibid. p. 343.
29 Tuesday Morning, BCP , p. 425.
30 Thursday Evening, BCP, p. 595-97.
31 Monday Night, Third Qaumo, BCP, p. 245.
32 Bar Kepha, Commentary on the Consecration of Holy Myron , ch. 38
(ed.W.Strothmann, p. 102).
33 Ibid. ch. 49. p. 122.
34 Promioun-Sedro of the Holy Week, p. 14-15.

Categories
Articles Features Youth And Faith

The Vision for the Orthodox Church of India

mosc
I consider it a great blessing to have this opportunity of participating in the 17th centenary celebrations of the martyrdom of St. George. I recall with great pleasure my visits to this church on several occasions in the past. However today’s is my first visit after the reconstruction of the church building. The architectural beauty and majesty of the buildings impress me enormously and I congratulate the Puthuppally Parish for undertaking this work in such a highly satisfactory manner. Puthuppally Parish has the great distinction of having produced some of the most eminent leaders of the Orthodox church who had served the church with great devotion and dedication in the critical years of its troubles and tribulations. I would particularly acknowledge with gratitude the contributions of great leaders like Rao Saheb O.M. Cherian, Justice K.K. Lukose, Z.M. Paret and the pride of the Puthuppally parish, Mathews Mar Ivanios for preserving the independence of the church. I recall with great pleasure my friendship with the late Z.M. Paret, the illustrious historian of the Orthodox church. For him the completion of the eight volumes of church history was a ‘tapasya’ or a ‘yajna’ which he undertook as his duty to his mother church. On this occasion I also recall an anecdote narrated by Z. M. Paret in the presence of Mathews Mar Ivanios when both us together called on him at Puthuppally. When Malankara Metropolitan Vattasseril Mar Dionysius who was the guru Fr. Paret pressed him about a couple of years before the Metropolitan’s demise to agree to be elevated to the position Bishop, Fr. Paret had politely declined saying that he had not received the ‘divine call’ (dhei-va-vi-Li) for it yet. The Metropolitan ~hided his disciple by saying that ‘divine call’ did not mean that God Almighty would come to his room and catch him by his hand and tell him to become a Bishop. He told Fr. Paret that when people like him tell him that he should agree to become a Bishop he should consider it as a ‘divine call’ and it was his duty to obey it. However, Fr. Paret evaded giving a positive reply as he had felt that he should remain a priest for some more years to serve his home parish of Puthuppally.

There are no clear historical evidences to prove when exactly the connection between St. George and the church in Malankara had started. The fact that a large number of Malankara Nazranis carry the name of the saint in its different variations, George, Geevarughese, Varkey, Varughese, etc., and that there are several scores of churches in Kerala instituted in the sacred memory of St. George, show the strength of the relationship between the saint and the Malankara Church. I am sure the Puthuppally Parish will arrange to undertake further researches on the origins of the sacred relationship between the Saint and the church in Malankara and Puthuppally parish in particular.

I understand that several members of the Orthodox church from various parts of the country are present here today to participate in the 17th centenary of the Saint’s martyrdom. I wish to avail of this opportunity to share with you some thoughts on the vision that we should have about the future of our church and the aims and objectives which we should keep in view in carrying out this vision. Some people may wonder why I should be talking about the objectives and aims or the directions in which the Church should proceed at this stage of its history.

After a prolonged saga of tensions and conflicts, we have today the satisfaction of having achieved almost everything that we wished to achieve through the unambiguous judgments of the highest court of the land. In the long history of the Malankara church spanning over a period of 2000 years, the 100 years from the middle of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century (when the Supreme court passed this historic judgment of 1958), have been years of great troubles and tensions which few other Christian churches in the world had ever to encounter in their relations with other churches. The heads of the Malankara Church or the Malankara Metropolitans chosen by the democratic process of election by the representatives of the clergy and the laity were subjected to the humiliating experience of being `excommunicated’ by the Patriarchs of Antioch who had no legal or ecclesiastical authority whatsoever to do so. The Patriarchs who committed such unwarranted acts against the duly elected prelates of the church were not constrained by the principles of natural justice or of Rule of Law which were all alien to their traditions and culture. They chose to indulge in such high handed and arbitrary acts because they could create a division in the church and retain the allegiance of one section of the Malankara church. The most important question now is what should be done by us in order to protect and preserve our rights from future encroachments and assaults by persons who have no legal or spiritual authority to resort to such acts.

I have to turn the pages of history a bit to explain to you how the church was forced to put up with such bitter experiences for over a hundred years. I should also point out the sad fact that we have ourselves been partly responsible for placing the Antiochian yoke over our necks because of our great fear that we would otherwise be overpowered by the rising clout of Western missionaries backed by their foreign political patrons.

We have always taken pride in the fact that the Malankara church had been an Apostolic church established at the sacred hands of St. Thomas the apostle of Jesus Christ as early as AD 52. But what will surprise anyone looking at the history of our church is the fact that for a period of 1900 years, that is till 1912, our fore fathers had not bothered to take the required steps to establish its well-deserved and most necessary status as an autocephalous church. They appeared to have been contented by maintaining occasional contacts with the Eastern Orthodox churches in Babylon, Persia, Antioch, Jerusalem, etc., and happy with the fact that the affairs of their church and of the Nazrani community were administered by local leaders elected by them as their Archdeacons. Even after liberating themselves through the historic Coonen Kurissu oath from the 54 years old Papal over lordship (1599- 1653) imposed on the church by the Portugese authorities in India our forefathers did not think of asserting the `selfhood’ of the church for consecrating its own ecclesiastical heads. Instead the Malankara church after the 1653 oath for very inexplicable reasons approached certain churches in the Middle East with a request to send a Bishop to formally complete the consecration of Archeadeacon Parampil Thomas who had been elected by them as the Metropolitan of the Church. Finally a Metropolitan arrived from Antioch and completed these formalities and Archdeacon Thomas was proclaimed as Metropolitan Marthoma I of Malankara.

For the next nearly 200 years none of the churches in the Middle East including Antioch ever tried to establish spiritual or temporal authority over the Malankara church. It continued to function as an autonomous church acknowledging no authority outside Malankara as its spiritual head. However, certain subsequent steps taken by the church to ward off the rising influence of foreign protestant missionaries and by the protestant reforms movement started by some influential members of the Malankara church led to most disastrous repercussions.

The first time a candidate for the position of Malankara Metropolitan chose to go to Antioch to be consecrated in that position by the Patriarch of Antioch was when Palakunnathu Mathews Mar Athanasios took that course in 1842. However, when the Church realized that the new Malankara Metropolitan was keen on implementing his own agenda of introducing Protestant reforms in the church, it rebelled against his actions. In order to protect the church from being sucked into the protestant faith, the Malankara church resorted to the unusual step of proclaiming its allegiance to the Antiochian patriarch, which act they thought, would prove to be a powerful shield against protestant subversion. In the litigation that followed the newly formed Marthoma church lost its claims as the authentic Malankara Church and it chose to function as a separate church with no linkages with Antioch or the Malankara authorities. Earlier in 1836 our forefathers had declared through a formal document executed at Mavelikara (known as the Mavelikara Padiyola ) pledging total subservience to the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch. Thus the fear of protestant subversion drove us into the fold of Antioch and the church in that process lost the autonomous status it had enjoyed over since its inception in AD 52.

The visit of the first Patriarch from Antioch to Malankara, namely, Peter III in 1875 marked an important turning point in the history of the Malankara church. Peter III convened a meeting of the church representatives at Mulanthurithi in 1876 and made them agree to several declarations and pledges which resulted in the total subordination of the church to the authority of Antioch. The Patriarch had no authority, civil or spiritual to do what he did in Malankara which in t11any respects was an attempt at the ‘Arabisation’ of the culture and traditions of the Malankara church, but in its anxiety to stem the tide of Protestantism it allowed itself practically to become almost a parish of the church in Syria with disastrous consequences. The Malankara church succeeded in preventing the take-over of the church by the C.M.S. missionaries as well as by the reformist movement started by the Mar Thoma group by accepting the over lordship of Antioch, but the remedy proved to be worse than the disease; VeLukkan theChathu PaanDaayi poya Anubhavam. The Malankara church found itself for the first time in its 2000 years history in danger of altogether losing its autonomy and having been reduced to the level of a unit under the Church of Antioch.

The successor to Patriarch III Mar Abdulla who visited Malankara during 1909-1911 tried to formalize Antiochian supremacy over Malankara by demanding written agreements from the Bishops and various parishes conceding to the Patriarch both spiritual and temporal authority over them. The unprecedented act of ex-communication of Vattasseril Mar Dionysius the duly elected Metropolitan of Malankara and the attempted ‘suspension’ of the Metropolitan in 1932 by Mar Julios, a mere resident delegate of the Patriarch in Malankara, were the worst examples of high handedness on the part of the Antiochan authorities. But worse was to follow. The Malankara church had adopted a new constitution in 1934, which according to Article 94 had vested the authority for the spiritual and temporal administration of the church solely with the Malankara Metropolitan. The Supreme Court in its historic judgment of 1958 had unequivocally recognized the validity of the institution of the Catholicate in 1912 and the binding nature of the constitution of 1934 for the entire church. In spite of all these facts Patriarch Yakub III chose to repeat the thoroughly high handed act earlier committed by Patriarch Abdulla of \ex- communicating) the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan in 1975. It is amazing that the Patriarch could resort to exercise powers which he or his church never possessed, ignoring the provisions of the constitution of the church and the judgments of the highest court of justice in the country. But this is what exactly happened.

The question before us now is whether we can allow such things to happen in future. There is no point in trying to acknowledge the authority of the Patriarch subject to the provisions of the constitution of 1934 as the Patriarchs have shown no inclination to respect that constitution. Some people may say that as per Article 101 of the 1934 constitution the Patriarch cannot exercise any authority over the church unless he had been elected with the co-operation of the Catholicos and recognized as canonically consecrated as patriarch by the church. But then these constitutional provisions and legal niceties are relevant only in countries like ours which believe in Democracy, the Rule of Law and the authority of the Supreme court to interpret the Law and the constitution. We should remember that we are dealing with certain authorities who function from countries like Syria or Iraq which have no traditions of democracy or commitment to Rule of Law. Therefore, it is important that we guard ourselves against repetition of what had happened in the past.

It is my considered view that the only way of ensuring that we would not have to suffer the indignities and injustices of the past is to completely sever the connection of our church with the Patriarch of Antioch. This will have to be done following due process of law and without diluting the rights we have gained from the judgments of the Supreme court. The appropriate legal measures to be taken to achieve this objective should be left to the experts, but the first step required is the decision to make a complete break with our relationship with the church of Antioch which had come into force in the middle of the 19th century. Some enthusiasts about the Antiochian connection may argue that the Patriarch’s authority over the Malankara church has already been reduced to a ‘vanishing point’, and there is no harm in leaving it at that level. But we should never again take the risk of future attempts of the type taken by some patriarchs in the past to establish their authority over the Malankara church.

If we decide to take such a step there is no point in carrying out the litigation with the group known as the Jacobite Syrian Church which has unreservedly accepted the Patriarch of Antioch as the spiritual and temporal head of that Church. This group is no longer a part of the Orthodox Church of India; it has opted to separate itself from the Orthodox church and repudiated its allegiance to the Constitution of 1934 and to the Catholicate validly established in 1912. These are its own decisions and we should not question their rationale or logic. It has chosen its own constitution and has legally nothing more to do with the Malankara Orthodox Church. The only sensible thing which we in co-operation with that group should do is to recognize the fact of their separation without further recrimination or fault finding. A difficult question that would have to be tackled is one of allowing them to continue in possession of a few churches in which they have now an overwhelming majority in numbers. This would call for the evolution of a formula acceptable to both sides for deciding which are the churches which should continue to remain with them irrespective of the legal validity of our claims over such churches based on the judgment of the Supreme Court.

The time has come to take some firm decisions about our future. Even after renouncing the position of the Patriarch in our church we can continue close relations with Antioch as a sister Oriental Orthodox Church.

I am of the firm view that we should not resort to further litigation in order to oust the Jacobite group from certain churches where they enjoy an overwhelming majority in numbers. We should accept their decision to separate from the Malankara church and to remain as an integral part of the Syrian Orthodox church at Damascus as they have done already. We should deal with them with all the courtesy due to a unit of a sister church as we deal with the Marthomite church in our country which had earlier separated from us. There should be no recriminations and fault finding about the injustices of the past. Instead we should extend to the Jacobite group the hand of friendship and co- operation due to a unit of a sister church. If we are to establish permanent peace in the church we should be prepared to begin negotiations with them which could lead to the evolution of a suitable formula for the possession of some of the churches in dispute. I am aware that a small section in our church may not be very happy with the solution that I am suggesting now to restore peace and good will. But I want to ask you a question. Is the physical possession of a few more parishes more important than establishing lasting peace in the church as a whole? Why did our forefathers and we go through the enormous efforts and expenditure involved in litigation for over 90 years? Did we do that just to get possession of a few more parishes or did we do it in order to get certain fundamental principles established through the courts of law in the country? What we fought for till now and what we achieved in unequivocal terms through the judgments of the Supreme Court, were for the vindication of four
fundamental principles.

They are
(i) the independence of our church from the control of any foreign ecclesiastical authority;

(ii) the validity of the re- establishment of the Catholicate in India in 1912

(iii) the legality of the constitution of 1934 and (iv) the validity of the elections of the Malankara Metropolitan including the present Metropolitan. We have achieved all these four objectives. Should we now carry on a vendetta against our own brothers who believe that they have made a correct choice of separating from the Malankara Church? Should we bother at all about giving up our claims for a few parishes, even if their number may be about 100 or so, if that is the price we have to pay for lasting peace? I wish to remind you that if we have to lose a 100 churches in the interest of establishing peace with our brothers, we will have no difficulty whatsoever in constructing even 250 new churches in their place in less than six months’ time. The Indian Orthodox church has the will and the financial capacity to construct 250 new churches to replace the churches we may have to give up as the price for peace. Our choice has not to be based on the number of churches we gain or lose but on the vindication of the principles for which our forefathers and we fought. For me the choice is clear and I place this proposition before you to ponder over. If you find this approach acceptable we should be able to get appropriate orders from the Supreme Court itself incorporating the conditions agreed to by both parties. The details can be worked out with the assistance of legal experts, once we accept the principles and policies I am recommending for the consideration of the church.

I would like to make two other points as well. My vision for our church is that it should develop into a cent percent national church. I wish to remind you that almost all the Orthodox churches in the world take pride in their national identities. In the larger family of Orthodox churches there are five churches known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches and they are all national churches. They are the Coptic Church of Egypt, the Ethiopian Church, the Armenian Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Indian Orthodox church. We will have our honoured place among the five Oriental Orthodox churches which respect each other’s independence and where no church is subordinate to another. This is the right time to take a firm decision about severing the Antiochean connection in its present form and establishing friendly relations with the newly established Jacobite church recognizing it as a unit of our sister church, namely, the Syrian Orthodox Church. Our new relationship with the Syrian Orthodox Church should be on the principle of complete equality similar to the relationship we have maintained with other Oriental Orthodox Churches. Terminating the over lordship of one Church over another is nothing new in the history of Christian churches. The Ethiopian church was once under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Coptic church of Egypt. The Armenian church was once under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople and later under the Patriarch of Russia. But in due course all these churches became completely independent of each other, without having to go through the horrifying and demeaning experiences which we had to for over a century. But let us not quarrel any more about what happened in the past. Let us draw the right lessons from the past and try to preserve our independence as the other Oriental Orthodox churches have succeeded to do.

In this connection I would like to remind my fellow members of the Indian Orthodox church that we should take pride in our identity as the national church of India. We have to remind ourselves and keep constantly informing others also that we were not converted to Christianity by colonial rulers like the Portugese or the English. Our ancestors have been Christians long before Portugal or England or Holland heard of the message of Jesus of Nazerth. We should also remember with pride that we are the inheritors of 5000 years of a glorious civilizational heritage. Our ancestors wrote the Vedas and the Gita, and proclaimed the great truths of the Upanishads at a time when most of today’s Christian world was steeped in the darkness of ignorance. Therefore, we should be proud of our Indian identity and to be known as the Indian Orthodox church and not by its historic name of the Malankara church. What we propose to do with our church or our constitution is our concern and we are not bound by the opinions and views of those who have voluntarily severed their connections with the church. Simultaneously we should not also bother about what those who left the church do with their future. One more point for your kind consideration and with that I will conclude. It is time that we have a close look at our forms of worship and see to what extent they can acquire greater Indian content. It is time that we have a good look at the ‘Thubaden’ we follow in our worship. We remember in the ‘Thubaden’ the names of several holy men about whom we know little. But surprisingly we have forgotten to include the names of even the five holy fathers who had held the eminent position of Catholicos of the East from 1912 through the process of election and democratic recognition.

In conclusion, I would plead with you that the time has arrived for taking some firm decisions about the future of our 2000 years old church. As I have already said, our vision is peace and friendship with the Jacobite group and absolute equality with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches including the Syrian Orthodox Church at Damascus. It is this vision that now beckons us for serious consideration and early action.

(This is the English translation of Dr. PC Alexander’s speech, which he delivered on 5 May 2004 at the St. George Church, Puthuppally, Kerala on the occasion of the 17th Centenary of the martyrdom of St. George. Dr. Alexander himself rendered the speech into English on the request of Mar Philoxenos of Delhi because its relevance in the present context.)

Categories
Articles Devotional

Fear Not – Be strong to do His Will!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Articles Devotional Features

Welcome 2013 with new resolutions!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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