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Kerala High Court stays filling of Metran Kayal for tourism project

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed the government order to fill vast tract of ecologically sensitive paddy-field and backwaters at Kumarakam in Kottayam, known as methran kayal, for a major tourism project proposed by a private developer.

The Congress government had given nod for reclamation of ‘the methran kayal‘ at the famous tourist destination at Kumarakam three days before the notification for the assembly elections was announced.

The government decision, which amounted to flagrant violation of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act-2008, had come under sharp criticism from the Congress itself.

Acting upon the petition of a farmer named Alexander, the bench of Justice Muhammed Mustaq ordered that status quo should be maintained in the issue and banned construction activities at the project site.

Last week, the government had issued an order allowing Chennai-based Rakindo Developers Pvt Limited to fill 376 acres of paddy field and backwaters at Kumarakam for a tourism project worth Rs 1,000 crore.

The government allowed reclamation of the paddy field, disregarding the adverse reports from the departments of agriculture, fisheries, environment and local self governing.

Besides, the Assembly subject committee too had registered its dissent for granting sanction for the proposed tourism project at the cost of paddy fields and backwaters. However, to overcome the objections raised by various departments, the government had got a report from the district collector, which said the proposed site was not suitable for farming.

As the government decision on the eve of election notification became controversial, Congress state president V M Sudheeran publically stated that the decision should be revoked. He said such controversial decisions do not bode well for a government at election times. He urged CM Oommen Chandy and Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash to review the decision taken by the revenue department.

The high court stay came at a time the government indicated that it was ready to revisit the controversial decision. The Opposition had alleged corrupt deal behind the decision.

Methran Kayal Dying a Slow Death

Large areas of the Vembanad lake were transformed into cultivable lands in the beginning of the 19th century, during the reign of Sri Moolam Thirunal, to meet the food requirement of the erstwhile Kingdom of Travancore.

Of these, Methran Kayal, a paddy polder in the Kumarakom panchayat, was the richest land in terms of productivity.

Unfortunately, Methran Kayal has been falling prey to unsustainable developmental activities, which is making land non-cultivable. When cultivated properly, the land had produced more than 10,500 quintal of rice, annually.

Methran Kayal, which was handed over to the Malankara Orthodox Church during the time of Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious-II by Sri Moolam Thirunal, was also called the ‘Seminary Kayal’.

According to the Orthodox Church, the area was handed over to some farmers for cultivation during the time of Geevarghese Mar Vattasseril (Vattasseril Thirumeni), in return for a stipulated quantity of rice to be given to the Kottayam Old Seminary.

All those who cultivated paddy there were members of the Orthodox Church, except for one Hindu family. All, except the Hindu family, refused to return the land. Then, the Thirumeni asked the Hindu family to keep the land with them.

The Church authorities did not take any legal action against those who held the land against the agreement. Later, an area of around 417 acre went to private parties, which was cultivated until 2006.

Courtsey: The Indian Express /Shaju Philip

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Church Sponsors students for paramedical courses at C M C Vellore

KOTTAYAM: Malankara Orthodox Church is sponsoring students for paramedical courses at C M C Vellore for the coming academic year. Those interested, please contact MGOCSM Student Centre, College Road, Kottayam-1.

Please note:

1. Download your application forms

2. Enclose a Demand Draft in favour of ‘MGOCSM’ for Rs. 600/- as application fee.

3. Attach Baptism Certificate and send it to MGOCSM Student Centre, College Road, Kottayam-1

For More information contact MGOCSN office : Ph. 0481 2567338 or Email:

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Fr. Philip M. Samuel, celebrates Priesthood Pearl Jubilee

DELHI: Fr. Philip M. Samuel, Priest of the Delhi Diocese today completes 30 years of Priesthood.

Fr. Philip M. Samuel, was ordained on February 23, 1986 at St. George Orthodox Valiyapally, Thumpamon Erom, Mathoor, Pathanamthitta by Late Lamented Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios Metropolitan.

Currently he is serving as the Vicar of St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, Gurgaon. Wife: Valsamma Philip. Children Cecil Sam Philip, Cerin Mary Philip. Fr. Philip is from Changayil Family, Mathoor.

Previously he served in St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, Hauz Khas, New Delhi (Astt. Vicar) – 1986-1989, St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, Udaipur, Rajasthan – 1989-1992, St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Bhilwara, Rajasthan – 1989-1992, St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Banswara, Rajasthan – 1989-1992, St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, Dungarpur, Rajasthan -1989-1992, St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Dubai, UAE – 1992-1995, Mar Gregorios Orthodox Church, Janakpuri, New Delhi – 1996-2002, St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Ghaziabad – 2002-2005, St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Faridabad – 2005-2006, St. John’s Orthodox Church, Mayur Vihar Phase – I, Delhi – 2006-2011 and St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, C-3, SDA, Hauz Khas, as vicar

News: Varughese P Thomas

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Parents Left Behind?

The other day, I met a couple after the Sunday worship in the church premises and asked why they are not in a hurry to go back home as usual. They replied, “Our kids are staying back in Sunday school, we feel uneasy at home without them”. If this is the situation of the parents who can’t stay away from their children for a day, it is worth analyzing the situation of parents who have to live away from their children for a long time.

Compared with their counterparts in developed countries, Indian parents place greater emphasis on their children succeeding in work – published in a report titled “The Value of Education: Learning for Life”. Indian parents are willing to spend more to give their child the opportunity to study abroad as they believe students receive a more rounded education and experience abroad.

The feeling of grief and loneliness parents feel when their children leave home is called ‘empty nest syndrome’. It is not a clinical condition and is not a term you will find in many medical textbooks, but it has become a useful ‘label’ for the feelings of sadness and loss, which many individuals experience when their children fly the nest.

After marriage, the couples love each other and feel complete in the presence of each other. They don’t prefer to have an ‘outsider’ when they are together. However, subsequent to their attempt to achieve the completeness, a child is born strengthening their relationship. The child is not an ‘outsider’ rather the incarnation of their love, becoming an inevitable part of the family. For parents, their kids are always ‘small children’. They will continue to take care of them even if the kids are grown up. That is why the great grandmother, in spite of her age-related ailments, is worried about the health of her son who might have grandchildren. Parents who like to have their kids, always with them should understand that their parents also wish the same.

Our church has successfully completed an awareness program for the elderly and palliative care, an exclusive project for the ones left alone in their twilight years. His Holiness Marthoma Paulose Marthoma Paulose II termed it as a “burning issue” and needs to be tackled on an urgent basis and donated his own land for such a project. I would like to share from my pastoral experience, some practical suggestions for caring for aging parents in Kerala for those in the diaspora.

1. Be in love with your Parents

This is the most important responsibility towards your parents. This is possible only when you accept them as they are. They may have conditioning, habits and convictions that we may not agree with. Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve” and his research revealed that human knowledge doubled every century up to around 1900. The end of World War II reduced that time frame for every 25 years. Today, some parts of our knowledge have advanced faster than others and on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. With this rate of change in human knowledge, it is not surprising to see huge gap that builds between our parents and us.

We may have complaints about our parents on their attitude and bias towards our siblings, our lifestyles, religious and world views. We may succeed in substantiating that our parents are wrong. But we should always remember that they are our parents and understand that trying to change our parents’ lifetime of thinking is brutal and impossible in one or two conversations. We should love unconditionally and learn to accept them as they are and accept the fact that there is absolutely no replacement for our parents. We can persuade them with love, patience, and empathy. Though they may be wrong with many contemporary matters, ultimately they are responsible for our birth and growth. Usually, it’s said, “we can change our friend, we can’t change our neighbors”. But if we have enough money, we can move and change our neighbors too, but it is impossible to change our parents.

2. Be in touch with your Parents

Communication is a way of expressing our love. It is more relevant when we stay away from our parents. Parents are waiting to hear the sound of their children like Hornbill waiting for rain. We should make every possible effort to talk to them for a moment on a daily basis. This is not to convey some information, but a great opportunity to fill the vacuum in our parents’ home with our voice. We should encourage our kids to talk to our parents at least once in a week. Our parents want to listen to the sound of the small babies though they are not able to speak. They are in ecstasy when the grandchildren call them ‘appacha, ammachi’. We can make use of the modern technology to facilitate connection. We can train our parents to use Skype, WhatsApp and video calling. Today with smartphones and data connections, it is absolutely easy to connect on a daily basis by sharing our pictures, videos, and moments.

An old lady used to complain about her phone. Every time the personnel from telephone exchange found it worked. Finally, she asked a question, “Then why my children are not calling?”

Our kids can tell the name of the grandfather of Mahatma Gandhi as they learn it as part of history at school. Will they tell the name of their grandparents? I have noticed if somebody asks about their hometown to kids, parents would step in to say with pride “she/he doesn’t know it. She/he rarely visits there”. Is this actually a matter of pride, we should ask ourselves! We have a system of keeping the name with two initials, the short form of the family name and father’s name. Actually, it comprises the full address of that individual giving his identity. For example, K.A. George means George son of Kavunkal Alias. We misunderstand the house number given by the municipality as our address! When we go to Kerala we should find time to visit the older generation, seek blessing at their tomb and make them familiarize to the new generation.

3. It is your responsibility to take care of your Parents

Taking care of one’s parents is embedded in our culture. Parents are morally and legally obligated to care for their children when they are young. They provide shelter, food, clothes and above all, all the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. Isn’t it fair to ask that when children grow up and their parents become elderly, they take up the responsibility to provide a decent life for their parents? We should consider this as our moral obligation and not be forced as part of our adherence to the recently passed Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act. Today our parents are more financially stable and independent, but that should not stand in our way to our responsibility as their children. His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews II of blessed memory used to give a dhoti to his father every year, as said in an interview. Holy Father says, “Parents enjoy receiving from their children. Not because they need it. But getting it from their children is something special”. Every time when we give something, they share their joy by showing their friends “It’s sent by my son”. They want to prove that their children are taking care of them. We should give something to our parents from our income on a regular basis. It may vary according to our financial situation and their needs. However, we should give them something even in our financial constraints. We can never repay the debts we have to them. Giving something regularly is the external expression of this gratitude.

4. Respect siblings who take care of your Parents

We cannot define our responsibility towards our parents on the basis of money. Parents need our presence, love and care. Sometimes we are unable to fulfill this in a certain situation. If we are one of those lucky ones who have a sibling who could fill in for us, we should be grateful to them as they are fulfilling their responsibility as a vocation. They do the service when we discharge our job by sending something or showing love and care through phone calls.

It is a difficult job to serve parents in their old age, catering to their particularities and obstinate nature, it is essential that we don’t find fault in the care provided. Instead of giving suggestions like, “Give a new bedsheet to ammachi or provide a better blanket to appachen” we should be kind enough to take a few days off our busy schedule and physically give our sibling a break. We may have numerous suggestions in our one week stay with our parents overlooking all the great work our siblings do day in and day out.

It is necessary that we appreciate the efforts and services of our siblings to make sure they stay motivated as their work only gets challenging with time. Always be diligent not to give false promises, suggestions, and guidance. This is not the place to be tactful and smart by saying “If you come with us we could take care of you better”. We should realize the fact that we may not have the capability to take care of them for a week. Let us adore our siblings for their wonderful job. They do what we can’t do.

We all have reasons to be abroad, however, insubstantial, it may look to others, and there is no excuse for abandoning the care of parents in exchange for a career growth, life aspirations or financial gains. We should realize that as our parents live with the fear of aging without us and the uncertainty of how life will unfold, the mutual emotional support and bonding have no equivalent! Can we all make a commitment that caring for our parents is one of the top priorities in our lives because I can confidently say from the lives of many that the best years of their lives were the years with their parents’.

[Fr. Jaise K. George has completed the theological education from STOTS Nagpur and is serving as the Vicar of various parishes in the Diocese of Delhi. He is the Coordinator for the Pre-Marital Guidance Program, Diocese of Delhi. He is a research scholar in Psychology]

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His Holiness Pope Francis – “Marks of a Spiritual Leader”

Some would say getting to see the pope was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Thousands of people got the chance to see Pope Francis. As others across the world, my experience was indescribable; literally made me cry. It was a feeling that is almost hard to describe of peace and tranquility and emotion and spirit. It was really just something. I consider a real honor and myself blessed. Hearing my multi tasked secular and spiritual life, “Live your life abundantly” – was the guidance from Pope Francis. Turning to a friend, I expressed, “wasn’t that an amazing?” I recall him saying, “Yes, and I am a Baptist.” Being a priest of the Indian Orthodox Church, the encounter showed the unifying power of Pope Francis’ papacy.”

Spiritual leadership as knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to use God’s methods to get them there in reliance on God’s power. The answer to where God wants people to be is in a spiritual condition and in a lifestyle that displays his glory and honors His name. Therefore, the goal of spiritual leadership is that people come to know God and to glorify him in all that they do. Spiritual leadership is aimed not so much at directing people as it is at changing people. This is the quality I saw in His Holiness.

Pope Francis’ leadership style appeared to one that other people will come to glorify God, that is, he magnifies the true character of God. According to Matthew 5:14-16, one of the crucial means by which a Christian leader brings other people to glorify God is by being a person who loves both friend and foe. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid, nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.” Pope Francis spoke of the reality of God’s promises to take care of us and to work everything together for our good grips of our hearts so that we do not fall prey to greed or fear or vainglory but rather manifest a contentment and a love and a freedom for other people, then the world will have to admit that the one who gives us hope and freedom must be real and glorious. When our hope is strong, we are freed from fears and cares that prevent the free exercises of love. Pope appeared to be a person who has strong confidence in the sovereign goodness of God to work everything together for His good.

Pope was very clear about why he felt so strongly about issues ranging from poverty to climate change. I fully understood because, it is about people and it is not the issues for the issues sake; it is how they impact on people’s lives. I could sense that there has been some resistance from some quarters of the Catholic Church about the Pope weighing in on what have traditionally been seen as more political issues. But, being a priest I could really read the writing on the wall that, the Pope sees all issues through the prism of its impact on people regardless of faith; it is not at all political and this is pastoral.

During his historic address to the U.S. Congress, he reminded of the “The Golden Rule” – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, from Matthew 7: 12. He also reminded us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! He asked to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope, he said. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. He recognized that, many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem. It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy, which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. He said, he is convinced that we can make a difference and he has no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’ and ‘an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.

The charismatic leadership of Pope Francis appeared much like that of St. Francis of Assisi and the effect he had on audiences. He is following the example of St. Francis when he offers ancient wisdom as a cure for today’s climate crisis. St. Francis embodied the integration of care for the poor with care for the planet. The 13th-century saint inspired rich and poor, men and women, faithful and faithless to respond spiritually to the social problems of his age. He preached against greed and inspired many to live in voluntary poverty. St. Francis’s life was a model of humility, without judgment on the sin or failures of others. Though he is the patron saint of ecological spirituality, he did not consider himself a steward of nature. Rather, he viewed animals, elements and the planet as brothers and sisters, and he in their family.

His example teaches that care for the environment goes hand in hand with reverence for human beings — that everything is a gift. This concept is at the heart of Franciscan economics, which governs the Franciscan order.

When I heard Pope Francis throughout his six days of U.S. visit, he demonstrated a deep understanding of his Patron Saint, St. Francis. I believe the example of St. Francis can help us address our environmental problems. Now we know Pope Francis believes this as well — and that gives many great hope. In proposing integral ecology, the pope is calling us to bring together care for our planet and practical compassion for the poor. We cannot effectively protect the environment while more than three billion people are living in poverty. There is no absolute shortage of resources. Pope Francis is calling us to find new ways of sharing creation’s bounty. He is broadly endorsing the environmental movement and its goals but challenges us to take a more holistic, universal view. The integral-ecology framework asks us all to deepen and broaden our compassion, to care for creation and the poor in our neighborhoods and globally. The pope calls into question our own choices as individuals and as a society, urging us to act now.

He highlighted in his speeches that the wealthy countries, like United States, have a special moral obligation to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We are responsible for the majority of emissions and need to transform our energy systems — generation, transmission and consumption. He said, poor countries are already experiencing climate disruption and are likely to disproportionately suffer its worst effects. Ingenuity and innovation are needed to create climate resilience — the ability to withstand the coming disruptions. About one-third of all humans, for example, live in energy poverty, defined as lacking access to modern energy for heating, lighting and cooking. He said social entrepreneurs across the developing world have demonstrated that renewable energy can improve the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Solar home systems, clean-cook stoves and community micro-grids are examples of how innovation and entrepreneurship create exits from energy poverty. These practical initiatives help the poor cope with the climate disruption already underway, while improving the dignity of their lives. Pope Francis said that, the practical need to protect the climate system is real — but so, too, is the moral outrage of billions of human beings denied access to a dignified life. By invoking St. Francis, the pope called us to remember the fundamental interdependence of all life. Everyone has a role to play in the family; everyone can make a valuable contribution.

I was extremely impressed by Pope Francis’ call for ecumenism and unit. In his opening prayers, Pope Francis prayed that God the Father might send the Holy Spirit, Who will guide us to unity. During one of his speech, it is the Holy Spirit, he said, who gives the various charisms within the Church, who works through the variety of gifts in the Church, and who grants unity. Pope Francis asked that Jesus, who prayed for unity in His Church, might help us to walk along the path of “unity, or of reconciled diversity.” Pope Francis also spoke about the idea of “unity in diversity.” Unity is not uniformity, he said, but reflects the confluence of all the different parts that go to make it up.

He warned of the temptation of leaders – or rather, servants – to imagine that they are indispensable, a temptation that can lead to authoritarianism or personalism, which “does not allow the renewed communities to live in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit, Pope Francis exclaimed, is the only indispensable actor in the renewal, just as Jesus is the one Lord. Pope Francis emphasized the ecumenical dimension of the charismatic movement, rooting it in our common Baptism. Unity among Christians, he said, must begin with prayer.

Pope Francis asked that we value the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities. His Holiness asked that, with gratitude for all we have received, and with confident assurance in all our needs, let us turn to Mary, our Blessed Mother. With a mother’s love, may she intercede for the growth of the Church in America in prophetic witness to the power of her Son’s Cross to bring joy, hope and strength into our world.

The Holy Father said the people who walked with all their dreams and hopes, their disappointments and regrets, the people have seen a great light. The people of God are called in every age to contemplate this light, a light for the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. One special quality of God’s people is their ability to see. To contemplate, even in moments of darkness, the light that Christ brings. He reminds us that Jesus tells his disciples to go out and meet the people where they really are, not where we think they should be. We should go out like the father who goes out looking for his son, and when he returns, embraces him. He moves us from the fray of competition and self-absorption and opens before us a path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others; that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters. God is living in our cities. And God who lives in our cities want to be leaven in the dough, and relate to everyone, to stand at everyone’s side while they proclaim the wonders of the mighty counselor … the prince of peace. The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light, and we Christians, are witnesses of that light.

Pope Francis’ common theme emphasized the significance of family, equality, justice, kindness, caring for the poor, sick, and the homeless. He called attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture, which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life. In these remarks, Pope said, I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land, which has inspired so many people to dream. He ended his historic tour, which I will cherish for eternity, with Apostolic Blessings: “God bless America!”

Author Fr. Alexander J. Kurien is the Deputy Associate Administrator at the Office of U.S. Government-Wide Policy
United States Government
Washington D.C.

Diocese News Features News

Living word of God is the media followed by Christians, says Mar Yulios

UDAIPUR: “The living word of God, the good news, should be the media which Christians must devotedly follow”, the Metropolitan Pulikkottil Dr Geevarghese Mar Yulios said.

The base of our media culture should be “Christ is our savior” the Metropolitan reminded, quoting from the Gospel St Luke 2-10:11

Mar Yulios was delivering the presidential address after inaugurating the 6th annual MMVS conference of Ahmedabad Diocese, at Mar Gregorios Valiya Pally, Udaipur, from December 12, 13, 2015.

The theme of the conference was based on “The Christian family in the context of New Media Culture”.

About 250 delegates from the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan attended the two-day annual conference and shared their experience of having an enriching and rewarding experience.

Fr George Abraham, Vicar, Mar Gregorios Valiya Pally, Udaipur, welcomed the dignitaries at the inaugural function and urged the Samajam delegates to seize the opportunity to attain maximum benefit from the conference.

Elaborating on the theme, Fr Dr John Thomas Karingattil, focused on the role of parents to inculcate Christian values among children. “This will help them differentiate the good and evil of new media culture and its influence,” he explained.

Jaisy John Karingattil with her expertise as an advocate briefed about empowerment of women and urged the womenfolk to be aware of their rights and to kindle the spirit of self-confidence, self-respect and empower oneself and the society.

The delegates enjoyed the classes as the lessons were interspersed with fun and humor. The classes were also made very interactive as the message was delivered to the delegates in a very interesting manner.
Fr Manu Varghese Jacob, Vice President MMVS, Fr Binu John, Vicar, Banaswara Church also graced the occasion and delivered felicitation speeches.

A group discussion with presentation brought forth the theme in its full depth which was much appreciated. The conference also saw various flair of the Samajam members being exhibited through competitions on solo song, quick Bible verses and talent show.

Top rankers from the diocesan level results of annual MMVS examinations 2015 were declared during the conference and awarded.

General Secretary Mrs Beena Kuriakose presented the annual report and the annual accounts for 2014-15 was read by treasurer Mrs Ponnamma Thomas.

The warmth of the hospitality by Mar Gregorios Valiya Pally, Udaipur, the host church, under the leadership of Fr George, the Vicar, was highly applauded by all the participants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial Features

Christmas: Peace or Sword?.

The Orthodox Churches generally start their Nativity Fast about forty days before the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord, which is on December 25 or on January 7. However, we do realize that the Syrian churches have only 25 days of fast before the Feast of the Nativity for the laity. As a rule nothing is heard about such a Nativity Fast in the Western Churches, either in Roman Catholicism or in High Churches of Protestantism.

Fasting has a twofold purpose in eastern theology. First, it is a spiritual tune up or disciplining of body, mind and soul through prayer, self-inflicted suffering of hunger and thirst and other acts of mortifications, which should direct a believer into deep meditation and prayer, and appreciation of the reality towards which fasting is meant to proceed. For a soul that has reached high levels of spiritual intuition, this would lead to deeper union with his/ her raison d’etre, his/ her source of being. And thus fasting will lead the believer into a deeper experience with the reality of the Feast for which the fasting has been stipulated by the Church.

The other purpose is not often discussed by the preacher. This subtle purpose of fasting is not very much highlighted in any sermons in conjunction with the fast; and it is not mentioned as a theme on the day of the celebration of the Feast, because a Feast by its very nature is an occasion of joy, wherein any mention of pain or suffering is out of place. Joy is measured against the intensity of pain caused by the suffering or torture experienced before or after the cause of joy; and it is thus the true nature of joy is appreciated. Thus fasting has another objective, which is to prepare a good Christian for the sufferings and unfavorable conditions which he will be confronted with in a normal life. One could say that fasting also implies the foretaste of this anticipated suffering or torture attached to every occasion of a Feast.

In Orthodox theology this twofold purpose attached to every major Dominical feast is highlighted. Hence we have fasts attached to all major feasts of the Church, such as the Great Lent before Resurrection, Nativity Fast before Christmas, Assumption Fast before the Assumption of the Theotokos, and Apostles’ Fast that culminates with the Feast of the apostles. In certain churches there is an Eight-day fast before the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos (of course this is not recognized as canonical).

The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in western countries is called Christmas, is the convergence of all the spiritual and sacrificial activities of the fasting period prior to it. More than any other Dominical Feast, Christmas particularly conveys this dual truth, the truth of ecstatic joy and the truth of tormenting sword; thus there is a problem to Christmas. Christmas is a paradox! What is a paradox? There is a paradox whenever two contradictions meet in confrontation with each other in one and the same reality or event. Christmas is such a reality or event.

During the period Christ was born, Palestine was in turmoil. There was not peace in that region, because the Jewish people were under the oppressive imperial regime of the Romans. They could not freely exercise their religion. They were taxed heavily. They did not have freedom of speech; no one knew when he would be arrested by Roman soldiers for a casual slippage of tongue; it was easy to be incriminated for conspiracy. Although King Herod was partially Jewish, he was not their friend either; he was a vassal buried in his gluttonous life and cared only for himself. Fear lingered everywhere. Every Jew looked for a deliverer like their ancestors in Egypt were anxiously waiting for.

It was to these people the angel announced: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. …. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Lk. 2:10-14).

The angels announce that they do not need to fear anymore. Further it was also a greeting of peace.

This is one side of the paradox. In the same gospel in Chapter 12, Jesus, after thirty years, laid out just the opposite of what the angels had sung: “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division (sword)” (Lk 12:51). This is the other side of the paradox, and now the paradox is complete; on one side it is PEACE, and on the side it is SWORD, the antithesis of peace.

On the day of the first Christmas the angels rejoiced, and they declared peace on earth in anticipation of the arrival of the King of Peace. Jewish scriptures predicted it. The nation of Israel was eagerly waiting for a Messiah to establish lasting peace to its people who had been repeatedly subjugated by foreign occupiers who suppressed their freedoms to live according to the Law of Moses. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem the entire Judea was in turmoil; and there were agitations to overthrow the foreign rule, and the Roman occupiers in the land were tightening their grips to suppress any rebellion against them. Yes, it was a period of revolt and uprising. The Jewish people definitely needed the intervention by a predicted Messiah to sit on the throne of David to be their own King in order to restore peace as David did a thousand years earlier. However, the Messiah, the Christ who was born in Bethlehem was not an earthly king as the world has come to know about Him; His Messianic role was to redeem humanity from its burden of sin and establish peace by uniting humanity with its Creator.

Ultimately it would require a combat of the spiritual order to crush the temporal order in order to establish lasting peace. It is this battle we observe from time to time in Christian history since the first Christmas.

On the first Christmas day everything was peace. The shepherds rejoiced. The air in Bethlehem was quiet. The manger was quiet and tranquil, except for the joyful praises of Mary and Joseph and for the subtle undertones of their adoration of the Word Incarnate, and for the delicate murmurings of the animals around them.

There is peace everywhere on our Christmas day, and all Christians celebrate it with peaceful jubilations, festive cloths and sumptuous meals. Caroling children sing in neighborhood homes. Churches host caroling groups. Nations exchange messages of peace. Even the soldiers in the battlefield halt their activities, put their weapons back in their sheaths, quiet their marching band, and even forget the presence of enemies in front of them.

Go back to Bethlehem and its surroundings. Some time after the birth of Christ, one could see the entire region weeping and in tears; this is what we commemorate two days after Christmas, the Feast of the killing of the innocent babies. When the swords of the soldiers of Herod were swinging to behead the innocent babies who happened to look like Jesus, the paradox became complete. Thus the innocent infants were baptized in their blood. Two weeks after Christmas, on January 8, the Orthodox Church witnesses another martyrdom, that of Stephen, the protodeacon, full of faith and the Holy Spirit. His life was taken not by a sword; he was stoned to death. He had been “full of Holy Spirit… , saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” He identified with Jesus, which was his crime worth of a death by stoning.

Thus these innocent human beings proved the assertion of Christ who said: “ I came to bring a sword”. There was only one reason for their death: they looked like Jesus. Of the baby boys killed, one might have been Jesus; and Herod killed all of them; he did not want to take a chance of confronting a rivalry in Jesus.

In Christian history we have myriads of martyr who died for Christ; but these holy innocent babies, all less than two years, died instead of Christ. You could call them first martyrs of Christ, but the most thrilling account is that they looked like the Prince of peace, Jesus Christ. All the festivities of Christmas should halt instantaneously when you start to think that if you are Christ-like, the same swords that terminated the lives of those innocents and the stones that killed Stephen, are being sharpened to take your lives.

Yes, Christmas gives us peace, the first part of the paradox, but it becomes a paradox only when the other side is unveiled. Actually it is these innocent babies and the protodeacon Stephen, who trumpet the message of Christmas in a more cogent voice. In other words, Christmas is fundamentally the message not only of peace but also of sword; one complements the other!

The message of Christmas is about a gift; in theological language every gift is grace. Grace is always something given to human being freely, not based on our merits. It is this gift of grace that we receive in Christmas; but it implies sinlessness, the state of innocence acquired through genuine repentance. At this point we, our souls, resemble Christ. By His very nature Christ is what He is; when we resemble Christ it is by His grace; it is a gift. When we resemble Christ, when we become Christlike, we have already become children of God. The Fathers of the Church taught that “God became man so that we may become gods.” After your Baptism and Chrismation you have already become Christlike; you resemble Jesus, by becoming gods, by becoming children of God.

When the angels sang “peace to men of good-will”, it was not meant to men who are cheering and feasting on this day of Christmas. The peace granted is for men who are totally comminuted to Christ, totally transformed and resembled Christ. We experience this peace only when we are at peace with God and God is at peace with us. On the day God’s incarnation is celebrated , on the day the birth of the incarnate God is celebrated, man anxiously smiles at God, and God graciously smiles at him,; they are the points at which the restoration of the similitude of God, which was distorted in Eden, begins to take shape. We begin to assume the resemblance of God, which Adam had been but lost by his transgression. At this Christmas we also should assume God’s resemblance; then the peace granted at the first Christmas will be realized for us, and the sword we are going to confront will be lighter. The privilege of being Christlike, Godlike, is granted only to those who receive Him, not to anybody else. “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn 1: 11-13); this is the theology of Christmas, elucidated by St. John the apostle, who was very dear to his Master and who expounded true Christology. Yes, we are given the right to become His children, Christlike, Godlike, only when we receive Him. The festivities and sumptuous dinners do not have any significance if we do not shake off the old man of vengeance and sinfulness in us and receive Him as our true Savior, our true Messiah. Thus Christ becomes our peace; no one can take it from us; then we are Christlike.

The moment you become Christlike, our travail to confront the sword starts; that was exactly what the Holy Innocents experienced.

Christians are going to be hunted for being Christlike. Early centuries of Christianity witness the martyrdom of thousands who were Christlike. Since the 7th century after the eruption of and invasion by Islam, Christians, for being Christlike, were hunted and were forced to strip their resemblance of Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God. They had several options under the dhimya system enforced by militant Muslim rulers. One was to become a Muslim by rejecting Jesus, the Incarnate God, and embracing the ultimate prophethood of Mohammed; and many weak Christians gave up their faith and rejected the similitude to Christ. The other was to pay a very heavy tax for their protection in their own motherland, a tax which was enormously heavier than that of Muslim invaders. The third option was to leave the country of their ethnic origin and find asylum in a foreign land; thousands left for other countries which were gracious to receive them and they flourished in their host countries with pride; India was one of those countries. Some of the Syrian communities in South India are descendants of those Syrians/ Assyrians who escaped from persecution in the Middle East. The fourth option was to die for bearing the resemblance of Christ; and thousands perished not being able to leave their own country due to lack of resources to take a trip outside their country.

The pattern was not different in the recent past; thousands of Christians left Turabdin, Iraq and Syria for countries in Europe and the Americas. They proudly, but tearfully, ruminate over their glorious countries their fathers and forefathers naturally inherited, but lost to their invaders. Communism under Stalin banished millions of Orthodox Christians with their hierarchs to Siberia, and there most of them perished without adequate food and medicine in extreme frigid weather. In front of our own eyes we observe the atrocities committed by radical militant Islam against Christians in the Middle East, the demonic immorality practiced against their girls and the plunder that is reducing them to be penniless. Their only crime is looking like Christ, like Jesus, and living like Christ.

All for being Christlike, for resembling Christ!

There is no peace for a Christian in this world. But when he is at peace with God and God is at peace with him, he experiences genuine peace inside him despite the sharpest swords swung around him, severe persecutions that torture him. There are Herods still on the loose in this world; they will continue to hunt him down, and persecute him with their swords. Make no mistake; it is sword that is waiting for you, if you are like Jesus, if you are good Christian, a good Orthodox Christian.

When we become identified with Jesus, our swords may not always come from outside forces who oppose us; swords may come from our own family, our own church, our own community, our own superiors, our own bishops and priests. When we stand for genuine Orthodoxy, the true Gospel of Christ, sometimes by attacking phony and heretical ecumenism, we are observing Christ’s doctrines; and our Christlike image assumes more splendor. At this point those swords will come against us in ways of being ostracized, alienated, marginalized or even reprimanded. In this world it seems that we have to be team-players even when it is against Christ and the faith of the Church, otherwise we will end up paying a heavy price. A true Christian can never be politically-correct; he has to open his conscience to defend the truth revealed to him by Christ. Many priests are unable to do this according their conscience and according to the doctrines of the Church for fear of retaliation, not only by the congregants but also by their hierarchy. No one would leave us alone to live freely with the Christ we have identified.

This is the price we pay for bearing Christ. But our eternal reward for being subjected to these ordeals, whether from outside or from our community, or from our superiors, is our process of deification (theosis) through which is guaranteed our eternal life with the Savior. A good Christian who is Christlike may not be glorified by the world around him; some who are Christlike may be honored because of their position and influence. But a genuine Christian, who is like Jesus, may be persecuted by his own kinsfolk; but even if he does not get any popular acclamation or accolades, or a saint’s funeral, and even if he would seem to rot in an unmarked grave, he would go out of this world seeing the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Always bear in mind: No Herod is a fool; his intention is not to kill you; the ultimate purpose is to destroy Jesus. When the innocent babies were killed, Herod’s intention was to kill Jesus, his rivalry. When Stephen was stoned to death, his persecutors wanted to destroy Jesus. When Islam killed Christians in the Middle East, it was to destroy Jesus. All these martyrs would have been saved from swords if they rejected Jesus from their lives. When the Liberal Radical Left with its modern world view forces you to greet your neighbor with a seemingly innocuous, but meaningless, “Happy Holidays!“ instead of “Happy Christmas!”, the agendum behind it is the destruction of Jesus the Christ! When they kill the Jesus in you, they kill the historic Jesus. Historic Jesus is a rival to all these Herods. They fear Him!

If you bear Christ, adversities are unavoidable; they could be from outside as swords for our destruction, or temptations or sorrows from inside. We cannot enjoy the peace given to us without the swords. In other words, we cannot just accept peace and avoid the sword. If the concept of Christmas is a paradox, we are forced to accept both sides of it. In other words, if you want to look like Jesus, you have to accept the consequences of looking like Jesus.

May the celebrations of the Feast of Nativity enlighten your minds to comprehend the real significance of peace granted to us through Christ and the inevitable sword attached to it!

We wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

* The author gratefully acknowledges that some of the thoughts behind this editorial have been influenced by Patristic Theologian Walter Burghardt (All Lost in Wonder), a brilliant mind in his field.

Features News Obituary Parish News

Dr T. Pathrose Mathai passes away in Vellore

KOTTAYAM: Chalukunnu Mazhavanchery Madatlnl Dr T. Pathrose Mathai (76), a well-known nephrologist, has passed away in Vellore. His body will be brought home at 8am tomorrow. After prayers at apm at home, his body will be buried at 3pm in Kottnyarn Puthan Palli under the leadership of the Catholicos, His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II.

Dr Mathai, who earned an MD from PG Institute of Medical Sciences in Chandigarh in 1967, started his service at Christian Medical College, Vellore. He was instrumental in establishing the first dialysis unit at Vellore. Also, he played a major role in establishing the first dialysis unit in Kerala at Caritas Hospit al in 1971.

He has served in Kangazha MGD1I, Karipal in Kalathipady and Kottayam Cheriyapalli Hospital and in Sandi Arabia. Dr Mathai’s research was mainly into damage caused by snakebites on kidneys. He is one of the founders of the Indian Society of Nephrology, He has received the president’s honour for eminent nephrologist from A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Late Cherat Puthusseri Muttepadathil Sobha Mathai is his wife. His children are: Dr Smitha Mathai (pathologist, a IC Vellore); Dr Sona Mathai (paediatrician, Sheffield, UK); and Dr Saritha Mathai (ophthalmologist, Binningham, UK).


Diocese News Features News

Catholicos declared bishop Alvares Mar Julius and Fr R Z Noronha as ‘Regional Saints’

UDUPI: Catholicos Paulose II, who is on his maiden apostolic tour of St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral, Brahmavar and its chapels, on Sunday December 6, declared bishop Alvares Mar Julius and Fr R Z Noronha as ‘Regional Saints’ (Blessed) during the Sunday holy Eucharist offered at St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral, Brahmavar.

Regional saint is a step lower than the universal saint, the highest status which is posthumously conferred to any individual by the church. Thus, Udupi district gets to witness for the first time, two persons who lived and served at Brahmvar, being raised to the level of ‘Regional Saints’.

After the holy Eucharist, the valedictory of the three-day visit of HH Baselios Marthoma Paulose II was held.

Fr CA Isaac, vicar general of St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian cathedral, Fr Lawrence Dsouza, Fr David Crasta, Fr Abraham Kuriakose, Fr Noel Lewis, Alan Rohan Vaz – convener church renovation committee, Marton D’souza – Candle trustee, Ivan Suares-Member Malankara Managing Committee, Brahmavar diocese and Anil Rodrigues bid a farewell to Baselios Marthoma Paulos II during the short valedictory ceremony which was held soon after the holy Eucharist.

Diocesan Metropolitan Yakob Mar Elias and Mathai Mampally-Member, Malankara managing committee were also given farewell felicitation. Valedictory function was concluded by singing Laudate (Latin hymn from book of psalms) as one family.

Life of Metropolitan (Bishop) Alvares Mar Julius:

Born on 29th April 1836 in the region of Goa, currently a State of Indian Republic, Alvares Mar Julius was ordained as a priest of Catholic Order in 1869. As a priest and a staunch freedom fighter of Goa, the eminent personality, Fr Alvares, served in his land for spiritual and social upliftment of his countrymen for a span of eighteen years during 1869-1887. His philanthropy, patriotism and yearning for freedom from foreign Portuguese yoke, journalistic acumen and his aristocratic birth had won a good number of followers for him in Goa and South Canara. Due to the political and religious constraints of that time in his own region, Fr Alvares left Goa in 1887, geographically rerouted his mission area and started to concentrate his social and spiritual activities among his folks in Brahmavar.
On July 29, 1889, Alvares was consecrated as a Metropolitan (Bishop) with the title Alvares Mar Julius at the Old Seminary, Kottayam by Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Mar Joseph Dionysius II and St Geevarghese Mar Gregorios (Parumala Thirumeni, the first canonized Saint of Malankara). The newly consecrated Metropolitan Mar Julius was appointed as the Archbishop of India and Ceylon for the diocesan area of outside Kerala of the Malankara Orthodox Church.

Brahmavar Mission:

Alvares Mar Julius started the Brahmavar Mission in Karnataka in 1888. This mission was started in order to give spiritual leadership and to help them learn liturgy and catechism of the Church for those people newly joined to the Orthodox Church from the surrounding regions. He was the shepherd of over 5,000 faithful in Brahmavar who bestowed their allegiance to him.
In 1913, he left Brahmavar and went back to Goa. He had to suffer a lot of persecution at the hands of the Portuguese. He spent the rest of his life for collecting food for the poor people in Goa. His grace entered into eternal abode on September 23, 1923 at Ribandar, Panaji, Goa and interred mortal remains in Goa.

During his lifetime, he was known as educator, social worker, apostle of charity and patriot.

Posthumously, he came to be known more as a martyr and a saint. In the face of severe persecution, he stood for his faith. With time, more and more miracles were testified through his intercession.

Life of Fr Roque Zeferino Noronha, Brahmavar:

Fr Roque Zeferino Noronha was was born on October 20, 1850, at Angediva, Goa. He was the youngest son of Custadio Santana Noronha and Felicidade Dionisia Silveira.

Fr Noronha is the one who preached ‘Orthodox Faith’ to the coastal belt in undivided South Kanara viz Brahmavar, Sasthan, Kolalgiri, Kandlur, Barkur, Neelavar and so on and laid a strong foundation of faith.
Fr Noronha was impressed by the lifestyle and teachings of lamented Metropolitan his grace Alvares Mar Julius. As the consecration of Bishop was invoked as Mar Julius, the responsibility of St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral was handed over to Fr Noronha. He started to follow the footsteps of his role model in high spirits and accepted the ‘Orthodox Faith’. This was because he learnt that St Thomas had established the ‘Orthodox Community’ 2,000 years ago in Kerala, South India.

He established St Mary’s Church, Kandlur in 1907, and St Antony’s Church, Kolalgiri in 1923.

He was a good educationist, who believed in giving good education to the poor and needy. So he founded the Cosmopolitan Higher Primary School in 1916. The name of the school itself reveals the personality of Fr Noronha. Cosmopolitan meant to treat everyone equally. (The dictionary defines ‘Cosmopolitan’ as diverse, multiethnic or multicultural.)

Through his writings, he challenged his opponents, the ‘Colonial Christian Faith’, who had challenged his mighty faith. He built the foremost Brahmavar Church with his own hands. Besides this, he went far in the service of the ones in deep waters.

Right from the time he settled at Brahmavar, this place turned into a holy and historical pilgrimage center. Along with this, the people of St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral, Brahmavar became more devotional to their patron ‘Mother of Miracles, St Mary.’

Even after years of his death, his memory has taken deep roots in the hearts of the masses especially the elderly people of Brahmavar and Brahmavarians. There are lots of reasons behind this. The first and foremost is that Fr Noronha used to give medications. His medication was free of cost and never depended on one’s caste. He always lent a helping hand to the people. Though he never did any doctoring, he utilized his teachings from Goa to aid the poor and needy, which led to miracles. This made him popular and far famed. His spirituality was beyond comparison. He has already occupied a saint’s place in the minds of the people, all because of his prayers and medications.