Categories
Editorial Features

Privy Purse Of Diocesan Bishops In The Orthodox Church


Privy Purse literally means allowance of money allocated from the public revenue for the private expenses of a Sovereign or monarch. Our bishops are generally considered kings of their dioceses (a bishop is a king of his people, priest of his people and a prophet of his people). And on this reason they are buried in sitting positions like kings, a tradition maintained by Byzantine royalty, which was later copied by Byzantine bishops, but later discontinued. Currently, only the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Middle East and the Orthodox Syrian Church in Malankara keep that tradition, which has no meaning now when all the monarchies on earth have become functionally defunct. This writer believes that our bishops generally do not get complete rest during their life time on earth due to the number of Holy Liturgies they celebrate, the number of marriages and houses they bless every day, the baptisms they perform, and the public functions they attend every day (fasting ordeals are also part of their daily agenda recently!), and they should start their eternal rest not being seated on a chair, but being flatly laid in a most royal priestly coffin! Jesus, the King of kings did not get a throne of burial; after all, He was wrapped in linen and laid in somebody’s tomb. This is not our topic. Our discussion is on the Purse of our diocesan bishops.

Our diocesan bishops are professed monks. As monks they should not have any earnings or possessions. Strictly speaking, they cannot own anything except their habit and other items for day-to-day use. The Church they serve should take care of their needs, such as residence, food, cloths, transportation, and domestic and office help. Does the Church take care of them adequately? Some bishops in the past had complained that they had been nearly at the point of starvation. If we cannot adequately support a bishop, I urge the Church not to consecrate a bishop, unless he is willing to go to the mission field where he may have only the basics.

Canonically speaking, The Syrian Church does not have a stipulation of maintaining a monastic episcopate like the Byzantine Orthodox Church that has a canonical requirement that only a monk could be made a bishop. In the Oriental Orthodox Churches, to the best of our knowledge there was no canonical and conciliar injunction against a married person becoming a bishop in any of the first three ecumenical councils. Most of our holy fathers during the early centuries of Christianity were married bishops with children, and some of their children also eventually became bishops. However, at least since the eighth century monastics began to monopolize the episcopate due to various reasons, most of which are irrelevant now. The only overriding justification for a monastic episcopate is just convention.

We would love to see our bishops living in strict obedience to their monastic vows, and we venerate their sanctity as monks. This writer was secretary to Metropolitan Mar Thoma Dionysius of Niranam for four years. There is a dictum in English: “Familiarity breeds contempt”. After living with this great hierarch of blessed memory, this writer became convinced that familiarity does not breed contempt; on the other hand, if the person under consideration possesses radiant virtues, it breeds not only appreciation, but also veneration. This great hierarch did not possess practically anything. When we went to perform sacramental rites, it was a custom among our people to give a gift (kaimuth) to him. During those days the amounts were not large; but he never saved a penny in any banks from these gifts (kaimuth). He never had a bank account of his own, except when he had to have such an account in connection with his position as the Manager of Mount Tabor Educational Institutions. Whatever he received as gifts were distributed among the poor without even counting what he had received or what he was about to donate. How many prelates are there like him in the Church now!

There are a lot of rumors spreading in our Orthodox Churches that our bishops are unreasonably attached to money and that their bank deposits are fatter than what the bank even can hold. To the best of our knowledge there are only very few bishops who could be considered ascetically poor. Bishops are supposed to observe poverty as one of their vows and as a virtue. Some of them have accounts with the worth of hundreds of thousands and even millions. Many of these bishops were humble ideal priests when they were elected to the episcopate. But after receiving their episcopal cassocks, they felt more regal and began to think of possessing more material wealth.

We believe the Holy Synods and other supervisory bodies have to think about protecting the integrity and character of our traditional episcopate. We suggest the following:

The Diocese or the Church has to meet all the expenses of a bishop and his staff and maintain his residence unsparingly, but with the simplicity required for monks.

The Church should provide adequate transportation for the bishop and his staff. No car should be registered in the name of a particular bishop. All vehicles are to be bought and registered in the name of the Church.

Every bishop should be provided with discretionary funds with limits of spending. On unusual occasions, the bishop may take from this fund to provide for his personal charities.

The Church should meet all the incidental expenses of the bishop with accountability. This does not mean that he should get permission from the Diocesan Council or Assembly to spend the money he needs for various purposes. He should be treated like the head of a household with respect and dignity. But as a father in the family, he is responsible to the entire Church. The Church should know the amount that is expended.

All substantial charities should be administered through the office of the bishop as a disbursement item covered by the Diocesan budget.

All receipts (for example, gifts received as donations, gifts, stipends, allowances, etc.) taken by the bishop should go to the treasury of the Church or Diocese.

If anyone requires a bishop to perform his sacraments, the Diocese should charge him for the transportation of the bishop and his staff, and an additional tax to help the poor of the Church (education, marriage, house construction for the homeless, etc.).
All the monies donated to the bishop as gift (kaimuth) should be turned over to the Diocese/ Church. However, he may earmark what he received as gift (kaimuth) for his favorite charities or other benevolent purposes.

No monies generated by the ministerial service of a bishop should be deposited in the personal account of the bishop, but may be deposited in his name as the head of a Diocese.

There may be more suggestions. The purpose is to establish a strict monastic discipline within the episcopate. This writer visited the Coptic Church of Egypt a few years ago, and personally observed how their bishops lived. Almost all bishops live in monastic environments. They are well taken care of by their communities. All their receipts are turned over to the monastery or institution they are part of. For example, this writer stayed with Bishop Picenti for about two weeks. He lives in a large monastery (St. BarSoum), which is like an Industrial Estate. He has a bank account in his name, but not in his personal name; the account is in the name of Bishop Picenti of Helwan (Helwan is the name of his diocese). This man does not even see the balances of that account. The account is operated by his diocesan officers (including priests and nuns). The community takes care of him. He never worries about any of his needs. This is the life an ideal monk-bishop.

Can our episcopate imitate this kind of reform to establish a simple monastic life without attachment to money and material possessions? If our bishops cannot live as monks, we do not need the monastic episcopate. Let us start thinking about consecrating virtuous and holy married priests to the order of bishops in our Church, and it is not a violation of the Word of God.

Categories
Editorial Features

Orthodox Herald Web Malayalam Edition To Be Under Subscription


PHILADELPHIA: Indian Orthodox Herald, the online Orthodox News Portal that actively brings news and speeches from February 2002 in English, from 2005 in Malayalam and from November 2009 on Web Edition, is making the Web Malayalam Edition under subscription.

For almost a year the activities at the Indian office had been reduced due to the excessive financial burden that it was demanding in the context of consistently receding income. Therefore, powerful speeches and pregnant articles with theological insights were missing for the extensive readership of Indian Orthodox Herald.

The monthly subscription for Indian Orthodox Herald will be $2.00 for a month and $6.00 for three months. In the next three months time, the Malayalam Edition from 2005 onwards will be available in the web-archives.

Indian Orthodox Herald is trying to maintain its decorum by presenting itself in a vivid manner and strongly holding on to the diversity of dignified media. It is not a ‘notice board’ that lets paste the news and photos on a free site. Malayalam web development itself costed about Rs. 3.5 lacs. IOH is not using any Unicode letters for Malayalam. Moreover, the Malayalam edition is available on Mobile phone as well.

BMM creations have more than five full time Editors and many reporters at various states and nations. An own server is used to bring news to the whole world, as and when they break.

Incoming news have to be edited and typed, they need to be translated and typed for English edition, and the whole thing needs to be then coordinated. One would also need to contact people at various countries for accurate news scoops. There beyond come the office expenses. Esteemed readers may kindly be aware of these background activities to know the reality and constrain that IOH is facing at present.

Urbane Projects used to fund for IOH even into the recent past. However, the recession has squeezed and pushed Urbane Projects back from doing that. It is in this very context that the subscription is being introduced. Indian Orthodox Herald sincerely requests all its esteemed readers to understand and continue your benevolent attitude.

It is possible to register the names and pay the subscription online. Click here to register and pay for the subscription. Help Support Indian Orthodox Herald.

Categories
Editorial Features

Stretch Out a Helping Hand


Indian Orthodox Herald launches a fundraiser to maintain IOH as a free online news paper for the Malankara Orthodox faithful, especially for those in the diaspora.

IOH is the only news paper of its kind publishing from the United States of America that brings news at once in English and in Malayalam. There is also a weekend Malayalam Edition, where one can read articles of credence and speeches from reputed orators on important occasions and events related to the Malankara Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Dr. Geevarghese Mar Julios is the Patron of the Indian Orthodox Herald.

IOH is approaching the first, second and third generation faithful in the diaspora with this fundraiser to carry on the good works it is doing in the web from 2002 onwards. Unfortunately we had to layoff four of our Indian office personals due to financial constrains. Unless we make the Indian office run in full swing, we are handicapped in bringing news, speeches and photographs firsthand. In the event of a continued financial constrain we will be forced to make Malayalam edition available only under paid subscription from 1st July 2010.

You can press the following buttons after entering the number of donations you wish to contribute at the designated place. We consider your goodwill as encouragement to our efforts and sincerely appreciate your benevolence in advance. This drive will remain online for the month of June.




Quantity

2CheckOut.com Inc. (Ohio, USA) is an authorized retailer for goods and services provided by BMM Creations Inc..

Donate $5




Quantity

2CheckOut.com Inc. (Ohio, USA) is an authorized retailer for goods and services provided by BMM Creations Inc..

Donate $10




Quantity

2CheckOut.com Inc. (Ohio, USA) is an authorized retailer for goods and services provided by BMM Creations Inc..

Donate $25 or up

thanks
IOH Team

Donation Received

May 31, 2010 : $0.00
June 01, 2010 :$0.00
June 02, 2010 :$0.00
June 03, 2010 :$0.00
June 04, 2010 :$0.00
June 05, 2010 :$0.00
June 06, 2010 :$0.00
June 07, 2010 :$0.00
June 08, 2010 :$0.00
June 09, 2010 :$0.00
June 10, 2010 :$0.00
June 11, 2010 :$0.00
June 12, 2010 :$0.00
June 13, 2010 :$0.00
June 14, 2010 :$0.00
June 15, 2010 :$0.00
June 16, 2010 :$0.00
June 17, 2010 :$0.00
June 18, 2010 :$0.00
June 19, 2010 :$0.00
June 20, 2010 :$0.00
June 21, 2010 :$0.00
June 22, 2010 :$0.00
June 23, 2010 :$0.00
June 24, 2010 :$0.00
June 25, 2010 :$0.00
June 26, 2010 :$0.00
June 27, 2010 :$0.00
June 28, 2010 :$0.00
June 29, 2010 :$0.00
June 30, 2010 :$0.00

Categories
Editorial

Orthodox Herald Launches Web Malayalam Edition


The third endeavor of BMM Creations for the Orthodox Malayalee Community all over the world, the new Web Malayalam Edition of Indian Orthodox Herald, had launched today, April 3, 2010. This Malayalam Edition is dedicated to the sacred memory of LL Baselios Marthoma Mathews I, the fifth Catholicos of Malankara, who has always been the motive force behind the BMM Creations.

One can access the Web Malayalam Edition by clicking on the red navigation bar ‘Malayalam’ on extreme top right portion of English Edition of Indian Orthodox Herald. Thereafter one can navigate oneself by clicking on various nav-bars in Malayalam itself. Bonnie Mathew is the web developer.

“To updating Church-news to the world wide Malankara Orthodox presence, Indian Orthodox Herald is doing an exemplary job. There-beyond Indian Orthodox Herald puts up important suggestions with a specific aim to highlight the growth of Malankara Church. This is what I appreciate and therefore, I wish all success to the new Web Malayalam Edition also”, said the Sabha Secretary Dr. George Joseph.

Indian Orthodox Herald began its online edition in English in February 2002. It was in 2005 March that the pdf Malayalam online edition started honoring the frequent and wide spread requests of Indian Orthodox Herald readers. This was frequented as one issue on every alternate day. In order to collect news and to prepare the news paper on pdf format, an office of Indian Orthodox Herald was also opened at Thazhakkara, Mavelikkara under the Resident Editorship of Mr. George Thazakkara.

2007 onwards various online media handling Church news have set in and Orthodox Herald Malayalam edition as pdf was therefore limited as weekly. However, demand for an online Church-news edition in Malayalam with daily updates with a scope beyond the weekly pdf news paper became real strong and this new Web Malayalam Edition is thought to fill that gap up, which readers have appropriately identified. The pdf Malayalam weekly format will continue without interruptions with a revised emphasis on articles and speeches that highlight the faith, theology, history, liturgy and tradition etc. of the Malankara Church.

GO TO THE NEW MALAYALAM EDITION

Categories
Editorial Episcopal Election Features

IOH Exit Poll 2010 Results and Episcopal Election Results: Vox Populi Vox Dei


Until 2010 it was only mouth to mouth opinions voiced by people a means to predict results for the Episcopal Election. Therefore people always suggested that this time five candidates or four candidates are going to get separate majority in the priests’ and laymen’s votes to become winners. There were no scientific methods to generalize or standardize these popular opinions to come to reliable conclusions. This was until Episcopal Election 2010.

It was for the first time in the history of Malankara Church that some agency conducted an Exit Poll towards the Episcopal Election to predict possible results. IOH had bravely ventured the Exit Poll 2010 to scientifically predict the seven winners. IOH had also taken important and serious measures to filter away all kinds of manipulations into the Exit Poll 2010 to the maximum possible extend as well.

Readers might have noticed that some of the candidates had their names in bold letters throughout the Exit poll 2010 and some names in normal letters. Those names that have appeared in bold letters indicated that these names have figured in those votes that have been cast for seven candidates together. Those that were not bold indicated that people voted for those candidates singularly.

It was not possible for a person to vote more than once from one IP Address. Happened that a person tried to vote a second time, the Exit Poll 2010 said to him/her that he/she had already voiced his/her opinion. This has contributed to the veracity of the Exit Poll 2010 tremendously.

962 people participated in the Exit Poll 2010 from all over the world, namely, from the Americas, from Arabian Gulf, from all over India, Oceania and so on. This indicates that the results have come from the true cross section of the Malankara Orthodox Church members from all over the globe. IOH sincerely thanks to all herewith, who have voiced their judgments.

Most important fact is that the results of Exit Poll 2010 reflected exactly in the Episcopal election results as well, except one or two candidates changing their positions in standings of majority. Fr. Dr. George Pulikkottil stood ahead of all candidates right from the beginning and he had the maximum votes with 65%, when the Exit Poll 2010 ended. Fr. V.M. James was predicted as the seventh candidate to qualify and exactly it happened too.

Finally one more observation. One candidate’s name was proposed to the Malankara Church Managing Committee by the Screening Committee after a lot of deliberations. Reason for these extra deliberations was that this candidate did not find favor in the eyes of the Principal, Orthodox Theological Seminary and so did it happen with the Chairman of the Screening committee too. Believable sources have confirmed this to the IOH.

The candidate, whom the Principal of Orthodox Theological Seminary in his confidential report deemed as ‘not fit to become a bishop’ has reaped the maximum number of votes in the Exit Poll 2010 as well as in the Episcopal Election at the Malankara Association 2010.

We need to see this result with caution though. At times God speaks through the leaders. At times, when the leadership reflects decay and needs correction, God speaks through the people. That is why genuine leaders have always respected the saying, ‘vox populi vox dei, namely voice of the people is the voice of God’! Results of Episcopal Election 2010 simply suggest that the Malankara Church Leadership needs somehow to rediscover the meaning of this old Latin saying.

Exit poll outcome

Categories
Editorial

Christ Is Born; Adore Him And Venerate His Humility


Remember that the celebration of Christmas was not one of the original feasts related to the mystery of Christ celebrated by the ancient Church. Among all the feasts of the Church the most important was the Celebration of Resurrection of Christ or Passover, or Pascha, because it was His resurrection that sealed His Messianic role and perfect divinity. The second most important feast was the Baptism of Christ during which the Father revealed to the world that Jesus was His beloved Son through the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and this feast is generally called Epiphany, but easterners love to call it Theophany, because it was the manifestation of Christ as God. In the East these were the most important feasts concerning the mystery of Christ.

Things changed in the Church after Constantine the Great declared freedom for the Church in the beginning of the fourth century. The feast of Saturnalia, a licentious celebration of the winter solstice dedicated to Saturn, was Christianized by the Church of Rome to attract the Roman pagans to Christianity. Saturnalia had many features: As the nights became longer and darker with the arrival of winter the display of light everywhere became an important observance of the feast. With winter comes the cessation of life, particularly the vegetation; and in order to give hope of life to a frozen world of winter the display of evergreen plants and green wreaths in general was also another feature. Such practices easily found their ways into the Christianized feast, now called the feast of the Nativity of Christ (Christmas is an Anglo-Saxon rendering of the same feast), with the emphasis that Christ, who was the ultimate light and the light of light, became the new focus of the celebration; and the Roman Christianized pagans began to celebrate the birth of Christ, the light of light in conjunction with the Saturnalia celebrations.

From Rome, which was the center of the civilized world then, the celebration moved to the East, where it was not welcomed as it had been intended by the Romans. Although the Eastern Christians did not oppose the idea of a feast of the nativity of Christ, they did not embrace the date it was observed in Rome, for the simple reason that Saturnalia had no meaning for them. They accepted the feast and placed it immediately attached to Theophany. Hence, the feast of nativity of Christ was celebrated on January 7 every year, some even celebrated it with Theophany. It was at this time all Orthodox Christians and other eastern Christians celebrated the feast of Nativity. In recent times, we see that the Orthodox minorities in western countries have moved their observance of the feast of nativity of Christ along with their western brethren on December 25. However, we see that the majority of eastern Christians still follow January 6 or 7 as their Christmas day, for example, the Russians, Ukrainians and other eastern European Orthodox Christians, Armenians, Copts and Ethiopians. Please note that those Christians, who celebrate the nativity of Christ on December 25, also celebrate the annunciation to Mary on March 25 (exactly nine months prior to the birth of Christ).

Based on historical and circumstantial evidences the majority of scholars agree that Christ was not born in the winter; Christ’s birth took place some time in the autumn or spring according to them.

Then why don’t we change the date? We do not know the exact date. The most important idea is the observance of the truth of the nativity of Christ, for which a date does not matter much. Some

Categories
Editorial

Who Is A Catholic?

christian-church-altar
About forty years ago I had the opportunity to visit the ordinary of the Orthodox (Russian) Diocese of Chicago, Archbishop John of blessed memory, a very saintly prelate whose sanctity was well known among his people. Although he was a bishop of the Byzantine tradition, he was extremely warm towards the Malankarese Church which is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, despite the historic division between both of them since Chalcedon. He was a keen observer of the Aarhus (Denmark) consultation (1964) between these churches and maintained that there is no dogmatic division between these churches and that both are equally orthodox.

During our conversation the Archbishop asked me where I was studying.

“At Loyola, a Catholic University”, I replied.

“No, don’t say that; we are the Catholic Church; that’s why they are qualifying themselves as ‘Roman Catholics’. . . . We are the Catholic Church”, Archbishop John said.

In almost all Roman Catholic official documents, such as dogmatic pronouncements and encyclicals, prior to Vatican II, the Roman Church itself regularly used “Roman Catholic” (Ecclesia Romana Catholica) to signify its name. It was after Vatican II, due to the insistence of the Uniates, the Roman Church began to use “Roman Catholic” to denote its Latin rite wing. Thus the uniates began to emphasize that they are not ‘Roman’, but Greek, or Syrian, in order to win acceptance among the Orthodox that they are THE local Church, not Roman. But in international media and religious circles the Latins and Uniates are generally called Roman Catholics, because they are all under Rome, and they profess the Roman faith.

Unfortunately, the Malankarese Church shows a very unhealthy allergy when it comes to the point of accepting that they are “Catholics”. The Byzantine Orthodox Churches, when they were being established in America as ethnic orthodox churches, called themselves the “Greek Orthodox Catholic, or Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic, or Antiochian Orthodox Catholic Church or Archdiocese”. It is a shame that the Malankarese Orthodox do not identify themselves as “Catholic” when they also profess, “We believe in the One, Holy, CATHOLIC, and Apostolic Church”. In the Service Book of the Holy Qurbana (1970) translated and published by Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasios, later Catholicos, the creed is translated with the word “Orthodox” in parenthesis after the word “Catholic”! I wonder if the framers of the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Symbol, were so ignorant that they missed “Orthodox” after “Catholic”! It is high time for us to teach our generation what the terms “Orthodox and Catholic” mean.

With this prefatory note let me get to the historical and theological significance of these terms.

In the beginning of the fourth century, the church was divided on theological pronouncements made by a priest-monk called Arius. Arius began to teach that the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus, was not consubstantial with the Father. He insisted that Jesus was begotten by the Father, but was not co-eternal with the Father. In other words, Jesus’ Godhead was inferior to the Father, and His Godhead was not complete as the Father. To make it simpler, Jesus was not completely God, but a creation of God (Mar Thoma Dionysius, Aarhus Statement 1964). It was to resolve this major heresy that the Council of Nicea (325) was convened by Emperor Constantine, and it was finally settled.

The Council empathically concluded that the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, was consubstantial with the Father in essence and existence, and every divine attributes; whatever attributes the Father possesses in His Godhead, the Son possesses equally, no less, no more, except the Fatherhood. The majority of Christianity accepted this symbol of  faith.

During this period the Eastern part of the Church called themselves “Orthodox” to distinguish themselves from the minority that followed the Arian teachings. The word “Orthodox” does not mean “true or genuine faith” as many have understood. “Orthos” in Greek means ‘true or genuine’ but “doxa” in Greek does not mean faith, it means ‘praise or glory’ or worship. According to the Creed accepted at Nicea, the adoration or praise given to the Godhead is never true or genuine if it is not also directed to the second person of the Holy Trinity as true God. The Father and Son (and the Holy Spirit) are different persons in the Trinity, but are one and the same God. It is this Triune God the people of God, redeemed by the second person of the Trinity, adore in the Church on earth, in the Eucharist and in their regular worship. If the Son was not worshipped equal to the Father, such a worship was not true or genuine. In order to emphasize that they were the true worshippers, the majority that followed Nicea called themselves “Orthodox” (worshippers of the Triune God with three distinct persons but in ONE substance of the Godhead).

In the western part of the Church, which was the Church under Rome, the term “Catholic” became more popular during this period. Of course they did not undermine the significance of the word, “Orthodox”. “Catholic” was a term more commonly used by the western and eastern fathers even before Nicea and it meant “universal applicability”. It was accepted at Nicea as one of the notes, or distin-guishing marks, of the Church, to signify that the Church was for all the creations of the universe. During this period, the western Church was comparatively smaller than the Eastern church; Christianity had not reached beyond the Alps (except Spain). Italy was the only predominantly Christian region in Europe (Greece belonged to the Eastern Church). Actually it was the churches of the East which were under several patriarchates that rendered meaning to the word “Catholic”, because of the vastness of the eastern churches within the Eastern portion of the Church. Therefore, the West accepted the term “Catholic” in order to emphasize the fact that they were part of the universal faith of the larger Church that worshipped the true Godhead of Jesus. So, the words, “Catholic” and “Orthodox” meant the same as far the faith and practice of the post-Arian period was concerned, although etymologically both terms had different significances. Parenthetically, the East also used the word “Catholic” commonly before and after Nicea to signify the true genuine Church, because one of the purposes of the Church was the universalization of Christ’s Gospel.

The Roman Church began to identify itself as “Catholic” with the emphasis that it was the Church “universally” accepted as a global denomination of Christendom, or that it was the Church that reached all corners of the universe and that it was everywhere in the world. The Roman Catholic Church also taught that it was the meaning of the word “Catholic”, mentioned as one of the notes of the Church in the Nicene Creed. The codifiers of the Creed did not dream that meaning at all. In fact, the word “Catholic” simply signifies that the Church is meant for all peoples of the earth, regardless of color, or ethnicity. The Roman Catholic Church became a global Church only after Spanish and Portuguese colonization in Asian and South American countries during the colonial period. It was the Spanish and Portuguese colonial missionaries who took the Roman faith to these countries, including our own State of Keralam.

During the Constantinian period, the Western Church did not have a practice of using the phrase “Roman Catholic” in order to designate its church, because catholicity was never the note of one particular local church, although each church was and is part of the global universal/ catholic church; and in that sense every church is catholic. However, this trend changed in the West after the Great Schism between Rome and Byzantium (10th century). Rome began to assert that it was the true claimant and heir of catholicity, and that Rome was the seat and center of the true Church, and that the Church of Rome was the true successor of the Church established by Christ on the foundation of the apostles, particularly of Peter. Thereafter, the West began to use “Roman”, in order to claim that the note of catholicity was its sole possession, which the East never accepted. The West also continued to teach that no other Church but Rome was Catholic and that if a Church was not in communion with the Roman Pope it was not Catholic. The East always believed that it was Catholic despite Rome’s claim. Actually the East taught that Rome had separated itself from the true Catholic Church, and does not, in strict sense, possess the notes of Christ’s Church!

Categories
Editorial

In America Canons Of The Church Dont Matter Right? Other Serious Violations Of Sacred Canons:

sacred-canons

Who should be anointed with Holy Myron? Can a non-orthodox receive Orthodox Sacraments? Do the Orthodox have Eucharistic Communion with the non-orthodox?

It was in 1974. This writer was a very young priest in charge of a mission parish in Chicago, which he founded for the Indian Syrians. In one of the parish committee meetings, one member accused him for not conducting a marriage between an Orthodox young woman and a Protestant (Church of South India) young man, who had desired to have the wedding according to rite of the Orthodox Church to please his bride. Most of the members of the Committee did not understand the theological ramifications of the decision of this writer not to bless that marriage.

The bridegroom, who was a Protestant, requested this writer to bless his marriage in the Orthodox Church, and he had no objection to go through any Orthodox rites for that purpose. He told this writer to anoint him with Holy Myron, not because he had had any understanding of what Holy Myron was, or because he had desired to convert to Orthodoxy. He just wanted his marriage in the Orthodox Church to please his bride. This writer asked him if he had the intention to continue his life in the Orthodox Church; and he said emphatically that he would not be converted to Orthodoxy. And this writer told him that he could not anoint him with Holy Myron with insincere intentions. The marriage did not take place in the Orthodox Church; an Evangelical Pastor witnessed their marital vows. Within a year, it was reported this couple became members of a Pentecostal Assembly!

These are the questions arising from this incident: Who is anointed with Holy Myron? What should be the intention behind receiving the unction of Holy Myron? What is Holy Myron?

Let me answer the last question first without any sophisticated theological jargons. Holy Myron is a sacrament of Christian initiation received along with Baptism. The sacramental liturgy of Holy Myron says that it is the fragrance of Christ, sign and seal of true faith, and the PLENITUDE OF THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The entire Orthodox theology of Holy Myron is encapsuled in these words of anointing. Any convert from heretical groups is accepted into the Church with the unction of Holy Myron. The Orthodox Church accepts only the sacrament of baptism of Protestants or other groups, if they retain the right intention and form of baptism. (For example, baptisms performed by sects such as Baptists, Pentecostals, and the like are not accepted as valid, because their intentions are defective, and converts from such churches are to be baptized again before they are chrismated). Converts from any Christian sects that do not have a valid priesthood and do not have Holy Myron (Chrism) as a sacrament are to be chrismated before they are accepted into Holy Orthodoxy. It should be clearly understood that without a valid apostolic succession of the priesthood there is no imparting of sacramental grace beyond baptism, hence even if a heretical group talks about Holy Chrism, their rite of confirmation (as they call it) is null and void; it does not generate grace.

Any person, who is about to receive this plenitude of the gift of Holy Spirit through Holy Myron, should already have the genuine desire to convert to Orthodoxy. If Holy Myron is used to anoint anyone who does not have the proper spiritual preparation to be received into the Church, or who does not have the desire to convert, that rite is a desecration of the sacrament, and it is sacrilegious. In other words, any act of chrismation that does not have the genuine intention of bringing someone to the Holy Church is sacrilegious. If the celebrant is morally certain that a person who is about to receive Holy Myron is doing it with ulterior motives, the sacrament of Chrismation should not be administered (it is based on this principle that this writer denied the chrismation and marriage of the person mentioned earlier). Many priests are pressured into such situations in order to please people and to move smoothly without criticism; but they should always remind themselves that they are the custodians of faith and preservers of the mysteries of God, and their primary task is not to be politically correct.

Categories
Editorial

Doctors, Doctors, Everywhere; Not A Single One To Treat

st-thomas-indian-orthodox-church-philadelphia

Cor-Episcopos Kuriakos Thottupuram I believe it was Goldsmith, who said: “Water, water, everywhere water; not a drop to drink”. Now we have another paradox.

A few years ago, I was strolling with His Beatitude Mor Timotheos of Malabar, the Catholicos-elect of the Church of Malankara, on the courtyards of the Orthodox Theological Seminary at Kottayam. We talked about the great strides the seminary has made, and I proudly said: “Look, Your Beatitude, most of the faculty members possess doctoral degrees from prestigious institutions of Europe and it is definitely going to improve the academic standard of our seminary and enhance a deeper understanding of genuine orthodoxy amidst the encircling heterodox tendencies resulting from unhealthy contacts with Roman and Protestant theologies and practices.”

The response of the Catholicos -elect is the topic of this editorial. “Yes, we have many Doctors here; but there is no one to treat the disease. Actually the Church is getting sicker and sicker everyday in the areas of doctrines and practice. Our faith is eroding every day, our spirituality is getting more and more westernized and losing its genuine eastern flavor…”

For the past few years I have been re investigating the depth of this response, and I also came to the same inference: “Doctors, Doctors, Everywhere Doctors; there is not a single one to treat the disease!”

Recently a family left my congregation for another parish under the Malankarese Orthodox Syrian Church. I visited the family three times to inquire about the reasons for their departure from a parish church where they worshiped for over twenty years. I met with the father and his adult son thrice at different times in order to gather their explanations for their action. One of the major concerns to justify their departure to the other parish was very disappointing for me as a Chor-Episcopos. On different occasions the father and his eldest son insisted: “You are too Orthodox. Always you teach and preach Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy and Orthodoxy, that’s all we hear from you all the time. You do not teach Christianity. When we go to the other Church, it is different. They sing hymns that we use in prayer meetings during the sermon of the Holy Qurbana, even during the Holy Qurbana they have Christian songs…”. I wondered about what I did wrong as a priest.

From my deep recollection of their explanations I have understood what they are missing in my Church, and what I do not have for them. This family was wandering from faith to faith during their sojourn in America before finally settling down in my parish, and their religious experience had been primarily their exposures to different types of Protestant denominations, particularly the Pentecostal groups. For them Christianity consists of sermons of revival, noisy music (preferably with instruments that make ear-breaking sound), presentations of testimonies and the like. Pure Orthodoxy has no such noisy outbursts. It is simple, soft, and recollecting. Whereas our young priests were exposed to other forms of worship either when they were in the seminary or when they were out in the field; and they were indoctrinated to accept the legitimacy of those forms of worship as being part of orthodoxy. I keep the traditional style of worship without Protestant adulterations, and I also keep the traditional style of didactic preaching in order to explain and elucidate Orthodox doctrines and practices and their theological and patristic justifications. People who were exposed to Protestant forms of worship may find the Orthodox worship and preaching very arid if they do not understand the meaning and symbolism behind it. The truth is that the formation of our current generation of priests is within an ecumenical environment that inhibits articulation of orthodox doctrines and practices. I have seen no Protestant clergymen eager to follow an Orthodox pattern of prayer; on the other hand, most of our priests seem to seem to deliberately appease the other side of the audience by following their pattern of worship and prayer. If the seminarians who are exposed to Protestant forms of worship and prayer come out as priest to the vineyard of the Lord, naturally they will be more “Christian” (?) than Orthodox Christian.

This writer feels that our seminary is primarily concerned about theology as an academic discipline. That is why its leaders are more concerned about its degrees and their recognition by Serampore College, a very liberal Protestant institution established during the British rule in India. In a seminary the primary goal of the Church should be to promote the faith, doctrines and morality she upholds. This writer understands the relevance of theology as an academic discipline in a university set up where the primary goal of a theology department is not to promote a particular faith but to explore areas of knowledge within that field. However, a seminary is a place where the seeds of faith and doctrines of the Church are sown and nurtured. The Latin word seminarium literally means a field where seeds are sown and raised. It is deplorable to implicate that our seminary does not adequately promote genuine orthodoxy.

Categories
Editorial

Is The Church Of Malankara Stripped Off The Holy Spirit And Orthodoxy

malankara-orthodox-syrian-church-logo

We write this editorial with great pain because of a recent decision our Episcopal Synod has reportedly taken regarding widower-priests, giving them the permission to remarry. This is totally unorthodox, and we think this will destroy the sanctity and integrity and historical character of our priesthood. Our priesthood is so unique that it maintains the character of the ancient Christian priesthood honoring a married clergy and its singular characteristic of unconditional monogamy supported by the ancient canons of the early Church. The ancient canons are not there as mere canonical injunctions or prohibitions; they are there for valid theological reasons.

If they have studied the eastern theology of the sacrament of marriage, the Synod members would never have reached this so-called decision. According Orthodox sacramental theology of matrimony, there is only ONE marriage for an orthodox. Adam and Eve, not Adam, Eve and Miriam, is the Orthodox IDEAL of marriage. For the Roman Catholics and the western churches (a stipulation from the Roman Civil Law), marriage is a relationship between two physical bodies; hence remarriage is acceptable after one person dies. This is not so for the Orthodox; marriage is an eternal relationship and bond between two human persons, as it was in the beginning of creation. Strictly speaking there is no second marriage; in eternity the ideal marriage is between ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN for eternity. Orthodox fathers also teach that each of them glorifies God with his/ her gender and with their union. When we commemorate our departed father and mother, we do not just memorialize and pray for a genderless parent. They still glorify God as father and mother who begat children and citizens of God’s Kingdom, the parenthood they had received from their matrimony, a heavenly mystery, of which they are still partakers, although not sexually, even after their departure from this world. That’s how it becomes “a mystery” according to St. Paul. This simply means that there is only ONE sacrament (mystery) of marriage for an Orthodox Christian. However due to human weakness and concupiscence, the holy church had given permission for a second marriage without festivities or crowning, as a service of repentance. The entire service is the rite of asking forgiveness and mercy. The first Eniono of the second marriage starts with H’tith lok hoyen l’hatoye kabel bo-uth…, meaning, “I have sinned against You, Master, Lord of all, have mercy on me…” All prayers also generally convey messages of contrition. Actually the whole service is a service of shedding tears for breaking God’s plan or law. Why does anyone show repentance if that act is not against God’s eternal plan or a violation of God’s will?

Concerning the marriage of priests there are two specific canons: one prohibits anyone to marry after the diaconate/ priesthood, and the other prohibits bishops to ordain some one to priesthood who has been twice married after baptism and stipulates to defrock a priest who has married again. The basis for the second prohibition is Apostolic Canon XVII. “WHOEVER HAS ENTERED INTO TWO MARRIAGES AFTER BAPTISM, OR HAS POSSESSED HIMSELF OF A CONCUBINE, CANNOT BE A BISHOP, OR A PRESBYTER, OR A DEACON, OR ANYTHING ELSE IN THE SACERDOTAL LIST”. It is tradition that these canons were codified by St. Clement (Clemis) of Rome, who had personally known Peter and Paul, who instructed him to put the apostolic teachings together. These teachings were the teachings of the apostles in the various councils they held from time to time on various occasions. Later these canons, which had been put together by St. Clement, and had been also called Apostolic Canons, were confirmed and accepted by the Ecumenical Council of Nicea and the subsequent Ecumenical and provincial councils.

Our married priests are icons of the IDEAL CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE. If they go to this service of the second marriage, they also are crying for mercy and forgiveness for violating God’s ideal plan for marriage. How could they later offer the sacrifice of Holy Divine Liturgy (Qurbono), knowing that they are still in the end-result of a forbidden act? There is no room or justification for such a practice in Orthodoxy. It is a blatant violation of Orthodox practices and is totally against the FAITH related to Holy Matrimony. Our married priest is the icon of an ideal marriage, that is why the Canon forbids a second marriage for him, if he still wants to remain in priesthood.

A priest, who has become a widower prematurely, should yield to the will of God and struggle spiritually and accept that cross with genuine faith. If he cannot, let him marry again, knowing that he will cease to function as a priest thereafter. But the Church should make arrangements for him to serve the Church in many other related areas, (such as preachers, administrators, office managers, teachers and other functionaries within the overall ministry of the church, and not as a sacramental functionary) and he should also be remunerated for the education of his children and support of his family.

We do not want to be ridiculed by other orthodox churches, and we do not want be an eastern rite of the Anglican Church, like the Marthomites. Please save our church from falling to this heresy-bound practice. Most Reverend Members of the Synod, if you made such a decision, please recant it, we beseech you for the sake of Holy Orthodoxy. We do not want Orthodoxy is hijacked by some liberal bishops who had their theological training in western institutions where ancient canons and practices of Orthodoxy are ridiculed rather than hailed. May Holy Orthodoxy prevail!