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Mathopadesa Sarangal On Fasts

vattaseril-thirumeni
Introduction

Fast was the initial decree enjoined by the Lord,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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St. Thomas belongs to the whole of India

PCALEXANDER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Feast Of Resurrection – The Feast Of New Hopes

easter-feast

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

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

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

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

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

2. Resurrection: The Dawn of new hope of Immortality

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

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

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

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

3. Resurrection: The Feast of Strengthening the Marginalized

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

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

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

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

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

4. Resurrection: The Feast that Lays New Responsibility

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

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

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

I wish all readers a very Happy Easter.

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Saint Peter in West Syriac Liturgical Tradition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St Peter in the Liturgical year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

who mingled with the wicked”22.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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When Divinity meets Humanity…

nativity-of-our-Lord
We hear the Christmas story every year during the month of December. What we hear is the story of purely mundane things. We hear about a couple looking for a lodge in an emergency situation; the young woman was in her full term of pregnancy and was about to give birth to a baby. We hear about a manger, which was the only alternative for them without the availability of a lodge in Bethlehem. This manger happened to be very frigid; the newborn shivered and happened to be wrapped up in straw. We hear about the whispering of a girl, whose eyes were lit with astonishment and wonder. The story is also loud about the first Christmas carol of a choir of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest…!” To our admiration, there was also a moving star which led some wise men to this manger. These men offered incense, myrrh and gold at the feet of this newborn baby… This is humanly speaking a very lovely story.

The mother of this baby, thirty-three later, was entrusted to a man called John when this baby grew up and revealed the ultimate truth about Himself and was sentenced to die on the cross. Her Son asked him to take care of her as his mother after his passing away, also asked her to take him as her son. This woman must have told him the mystery of her conception, and the truth about the Person she carried in her womb. Thus the true story of Christmas unravels itself, and the picture gets clear. John many decades later had the audacity declare “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1.14). When this truth is professed in the Nicene Symbol of faith, all Christians make a deep prostration to adore this enfleshment of the Sovereign Deity. Here the Story of Christmas becomes complete; when Divinity meets humanity we have the Christmas. Any Christmas (and its feast and celebration) devoid of the Divine meeting the human is not a Christmas; because it does not meet the criterion witnessed by John.

If one studies the early part first chapter of John’s gospel, it becomes clear who this Word is. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1: 1- 4: Orthodox Study Bible). John’s description of the Word actually elevates the human beauty of the Christmas story to a higher plane and connects it to the divine to make sense of the story and to make it worthy of global celebration.

John’s preamble to the enfleshment of the Word directs our rational imagination to the primordial scenes of human origins, to the first man and woman, to the first transgression of God’s law. Adam and Eve, the first humans, who were created to be the first parents of human genealogy, were meant to transmit their original innocence, which they had received directly from the breathing of the Creator, to the generations of men and women of their species. However, they both sinned and shattered and totally disfigured the image of God in which they were fashioned.

In the strictest sense this image was not just a reflection; the first humans possessed the basic characteristics of the Godhead. God is a person, who is fully rational, capable of thinking or reasoning and of possessing the most sublime faculty of a free will which is the source of His immeasurable love. In other words, it is reason and free will in their unfathomable magnitude that make God the Person who creates and sustains all that was, all that is and all that will be. It is to this divine realm that God raised His new species of humans, although in a very limited extent as a created being that has limitations of temporality. Actually instead of qualifying man as an image or reflection of God, we must call him an icon of God. An icon is the miniature of a reality, the replica of the very reality, but not the reality itself. Similarly man is miniature God.

But this status of the first humans did not last that long. Satan, having lost all his glory as an archangel wanted to expand his kingdom, and shot his arrow of deception at this new creation of God, who has almost all his qualities with an additional dimension taken from the dust of the earth, which made him more vulnerable to temptations. This vulnerability with a free will and rationality was a feast for Satan. His arrow hit at the right spot, and it was also swallowed by the first woman, who did not want to be herself as the sole victim. She shared it with her man, as any woman would naturally do. This led to a metaphysical tragedy making not only both of them but also all the generations that erupted from them lose their original innocence and justice. Thus they lost the real love infused in them by their Creator; “love had fled from their souls”. They both became terrified. Adam cried out in despair: “I heard Your voice in paradise, and I was afraid”. Thus Satan succeeded in his plan. His plan was to demolish the most noble relationship between a rational God and His rational creature. He poisoned the human race at its root. The human race thus had fallen away from the love of God. Man could not relate to Him in the absence of a true love. Being fallen, Adam’s race acquired a habit of sinning and offending God from Cain who had killed his innocent brother to the archenemy of Christ before the end of our generation, the Antichrist. Until there is no more relevance for time and space, this deception by Satan will go on, the devil in and around us would lead us to more sins. The first victim of Eve’s sin was Abel at whose death the first tears in human history fell from the eyes of a mourning Eve, the first mother, whose first sin had brought this first tragedy on her and her man! This was the first gift our first parents presented to us, a nature susceptible to sin.

God was very much disturbed by this deplorable lot of humans. The antidote for sin is its own antonym- LOVE. God cursed Satan, but made a covenant for man’s emancipation from the deceptive grip of Satan out of His true love: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall be on guard for His heel” Gen. #; 15). To paraphrase, (God said to Satan): “The first human beings that I have created betrayed my love. To restore that love I will raise a Son from her, and I will create a shield of grace between you and her Son, between your treachery (sin) and her Son; and finally He will crush your head”. Let me quote from the Wisdom of Solomon now: “For while gentle silence embraced everything and night at its own speed was half over, Your all-powerful Word leaped from heaven, and from the royal throne into the midst of a doomed land” (18:14-15)[*These verses of Wisdom may have other implications]. How lovely and cogent are the words of Solomon to depict the descent of the Word on earth from His royal throne in heaven! Almost a thousand years later, about this Word (Logos), John confirmed the same after having been inspired by the Holy Spirit “The Word became flesh (on earth)”.

Christmas is nothing if it is not about Love, if it is not the restoration of love. In fact we celebrate God’s benevolent and all-forgiving kiss on the sad face of humanity charred by a first degree burning inflicted by sin; it is a kiss of love to lay the foundation for reconciliation between desperate humanity and a just God who seeks propitiation from His offender. Christmas is not about a cold manger, swaddling cloths, a Mary and Joseph kneeling in front of an infant and a few cattle gazing at him, the angels and their choir, the three magi and their gifts of incense, myrrh and gold, and not even the many innocent infants killed by Herod, but about the Son of a woman who came to bruise the head of the archenemy of God, Satan. Humanity needed a Savior; and on the first Christmas day in Bethlehem He was born from a woman untainted by man’s voluptuousness. This Son born of a virgin could take away the sin of humanity and give forgiveness.

The beauty of Christmas lies in forgiveness; not in the manger, not in the garland decorating it, not in a Virgin Mary and her betrothed husband, and not even in the mesmerizing melody produced by the angelic choir up in the air. What Bethlehem had witnessed was the birth of this forgiveness, which was obtained from this Child of the Virgin. Christmas without the guarantee of forgiveness is just a celebratory extravaganza; it just is an entertainment without substance, without a raison d’etre. So it is with most of our Christians. Forgiveness demands many prerequisites. The conviction that we have sinned, the contrition creating genuine remorse, the unwavering resolution not to sin again, the confession of the sins committed or omitted, and readiness to repair the damage inflicted by the sin are the major prerequisites. Every Christmas is an occasion for a Christian to spiritually and emotionally prepare for God’s forgiveness; commercial interests have very little room in its celebrations. It is not primarily meant for the entrepreneurial man to dig in for more gold. In Capitalism it may be ethical, but in Christianity this mentality is spiritually and morally deceptive and destructive.

Our festivities in connection with our Christmas bypass all supernatural exhortations and preternatural considerations. We sink in more deep sins during these festivities. It is reported that on a Christmas day, the Beverages Corporation in the State of Kerala In India sells millions of liters of liquor driving thousands and thousands of families into irrevocable poverty, immorality, destitution, accidents, and diseases for many months, or years, to come. Instead of forgiveness, these festivities gather the wrath of God and His judgment. In order to become worthy of His forgiveness, it is not enough that the Christ-Child stay in His manger. The other name of this Child is Emmanuel, which means “God with us”; in other words, this Child should be “with us and within us”, not just “in the manger”. Rather than keeping this Christ-Child in a manger, we have to taste His presence “with us and in us”. There is a Christian name, Christopher, which literally means “the one who carries Christ”. Rather than letting a manger carry Christ, we should become the bearers of Christ. The truth is that one cannot bear Christ if he has driven out the Spirit of God from by becoming an obedient servant of Satan. If Christ-God lives in us, if we bear Him, we are not at all afraid of Him or His presence; on the contrary we would rejoice. Centuries ago Adam said: “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid”; however with Christ-Child in us, each of us could say: “I heard Your voice in the manger in Bethlehem; and I was very happy; I rejoice”. What a transformation Christmas has effected on our souls! We read in I Corin-thians (15:55) that death comes from sin and the victory that the Hell is joyful about; the Hell was rejoicing about death effected by our sin. But Paul emphatically declares that “Thanks be to God, who gives victory (over death and sin) through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Co. 15:56). Christmas started the combat against the reign of death. If the first Christmas was in a manger in Bethlehem, every Christmas since then must have occurred in our hearts. Imperial Rome must have recorded the birth of Christ then in Bethlehem (because it was for meeting the census requirement that Mary and Joseph had gone to Bethlehem), and it was indeed a significant birth as it recoded one more citizen within the dominion of the Roman Emperor. Every Christmas since then would be significant only after His birth is recorded in our hearts and souls as the most significant in our history. One cannot record Christ’s birth in his heart until His birth is an event for him, until it imprints a salvific seal in his soul, until he becomes equipped to fight sin which is the cause of death.

Let us go back to the area of John’s gospel we have quoted earlier and read on the most relevant portions thereafter: “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 the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn 1:12-13). The entire theology of the economy of salvation is spelled out here by John. We have to become children of God, Godlike, or divine ultimately in order to accomplish the mission of incarnation. We lost our filial relationship to God through Adam’s sin; but Christ regained our sonship through adoption by His blood. Everyday we repeat the Nicene Symbol of Faith: “We believe in the one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God…who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man…” This is the act of faith required of us at every Christmas, and always as Christians.

All the celebrations of Christmas become lovely when we really comprehend spiritually and rationally (“rationally” means our rational assent to a revealed truth, not that our intellect can totally comprehend the truth of incarnation) the basic doctrine of Christianity that “The Word became flesh”.

It is this truth that connects Christmas with the divine. Thus we realize it is not just Mary’s Child who lies in the manger, and it is God Himself, Who is wrapped in swaddling cloths. Now there is significance for Mary and Joseph gazing at the stunning Reality to which the former gave birth. Now it is meaningful for Mary and Joseph to kneel around this Wonder Baby in adoration. Now it makes sense for the angelic choir to chant “Hallel… Hallel.. Halleluiah…” in the heavens. The shepherds watching their sheep now hear a much more mellifluous melody coming from the angels which is contagious to the rest of humans to start fresh stanzas of lullaby for this new miracle babe: “The Word became flesh…, and dwelt among us…” We have a striking melody that was sung by Mary herself while she was kneeling by the side of the crib of her Baby:

“You strengthened me and I carried You…and when I bore You in the cave, You showed me Your glory. Flames surround the little crib and the Seraphim with six wings fly above it. Command them to raise their wings, that I may enter, Lord, and kneel and worship you; and I will give a pure milk which shall be pleasing to Your will… I have no house on earth, nor couch, nor bed, I am deprived of all; I will wrap in swaddling bands Him who is more ancient than all, and I will lay in manger the Lord of creatures. His Father has no equal in heaven, and there is none like His mother on earth; He is the Lord and I am His handmaid and the Church is His bride” (Syrian Breviary- Evening Prayers). What an unparalleled and unmatching poetic imagery the Syrian Orthodox Book of Hours provides!

Joseph definitely was stunned at the Reality in front of him.

The guiding star of the magi did not have a clue why it was moved to a definite destination, but when it stood above the crib the prostrations of the wise men told it that they had been hastening to worship the Sovereign-Child of the cosmos! And these magi may have thought of giving their guiding star as a toy for this Lord of lords who was lying as a Child in that crib, in addition to the other gifts!!

Readers: Is the Incarnate Word of God a Reality for all of us who celebrate this Christmas like Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the magi and the whole Judea who were blessed with His really definite divine presence in human nature? If we do not see our God coming as a human baby for our redemption, our Christmas is totally devoid of its original substance. We are deceiving ourselves. Let us not be hypocritical.

Yes, Christmas is the story of Divinity coming down and meeting humanity. Without the Lord God coming down to be spiritually born in our hearts and souls, Christmas is flavorless.

May the Incarnate Lord God be born in you and live in you, so that the peace He brought for all men of good will may remain in you during the New Year and always thereafter!

When Divinity meets humanity… we have Christmas!

We wish you a very Blessed Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year! +TVOO

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Articles We Believe

The Catholicate Centenary Celebrations: Significance and importance.


The Malankara Orthodox Church, established by St. Thomas, disciple of Lord Jesus Christ, Apostle and Patron Saint of India in AD 52 has sustained so far in its original charisma only because of God’s special care, abundant graces and blessings.

Many Churches which came into existence in almost the same time of the inception of Malankara Church, which became prominent and influential later, disappeared from the face of earth in course of time. In this context, the greatness of the graces and blessings bestowed upon our Church becomes significant.

Malankara Orthodox Church is one among the few Christian Churches in the entire Christendom, which could claim to have plenty of ancient and unique traditions, rich heritage, magnificent system of heavenly services, holy and attractive worship orders and blessed and meaningful rituals of very high standards. It is a truth that it enables us to get proud of our Church. It is well known to one and all that our Church remains as a National Church since its inception till date. Still many foreigners who reached India were only interested to dominate and to take control of our independent Church. All of them succeeded in their attempts. The history proves that the Portuguese, who reached in 15th century, the Syrians who reached in the 17th century and the British who reached in the 19th century had the same intention and aim.

As a result outbreaks happened in the Mother Church and new churches came up combining the faithful who were attracted to their faith and who had surrendered their identity and liberty to the foreign Churches. The children of Malankara church, which longed and still longs to remain loyal to the local heads of the Church, attributed the titles like leader of the tribe, Arkadayakon, Metropolitan etc. to their heads of the Church from time to time.

No one could deny the truth that there were all signs and symbols of the Catholicate visibly or invisibly in the Church from the day of inception till the establishment of the Catholicate in AD 1912. From 17th Sept 1912 the Catholicate remains visible in the Church with all sorts of due significance and brightness. As and when the Catholicate was confirmed by H.H. Moran Mar Ignatius Abdul Messiah Patriarch and elevated H.G. Murimattathil Paulos Mar Ivanios as the first Catholicose in India, on the throne of St. Thomas, with the title “H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I, Catholicose of the East”, there started the new era of the Church. It enabled the church to attain steady progress and development. The growth of the Church, both in the religious as well as the secular fields was the net result of the establishment of the Catholicate. As a result of the establishment of the Catholicate, our Church confirmed that she could elevate Catholicose or Metropolitans, at any venue in India or at any time, and also to consecrate the Holy Chrism as and when required. The Church has achieved a tremendous growth as a full-fledged one, having Dioceses and Parishes not only in each continent, but also in every nook and corner of the globe.

The Church as a whole pay the tributes to St. Dionysius Vattasseril, LL HH Moran Mar Baselios Augen I, Catholicose, who had struggled and sacrificed much for the establishment of Catholicate in India and to all their Holinesses the Catholicoses who had reigned the Church efficiently from time to time.

On 17th Sept 2012, it completes the centenary of the establishment of Catholicate in India. The present Catholicose H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulos II, is the 8th Indian Catholicose. At present the Holy Church is blessed to have more blessings with the presence, prayers and benedictions of the previous Catholicose, H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Didimose I.

Here comes the significance and importance of the Catholicate, Centenary and the related celebrations. For an average member of the Church, it is a great and golden opportunity to take part in the centenary celebrations and to express his or her love and reverence to God for all the blessings we gain from and through the Church. The Church is to be understood as the body of our Savior and we the members are the tiny parts of the great body. It is the privilege and prestige of one and all members of the Church to participate in the centenary celebrations in a way or other or at least through the continuous prayers for the Holy Church so that they could praise God Almighty for enabling all to be the proud members of this ancient and spiritually rich Church.

Many Programmes, which had been chalked out, have been implemented in the parish, regional, diocesan and Church level, aiming the spiritual, social and general progress of the Church. The Logo of the centenary celebrations was released at Niranam Church on 21st Dec 2010 and the official inauguration of the celebrations was held at Parumala on 2nd Nov 2011, the first event of the program was the celebration of the Catholicate day of the year with more colors and glory. It was desired to celebrate the day as the flag day of the Church and Catholicate flags were hoisted in Parishes, Church institutions as well as houses of members of the Church.

Three colorful ‘declaration rallies’ are planned to be held soon.

The first one will be from Thiruvithamcode Church, and it will end at Niranam Church, (these two churches were originally established by St. Thomas.) When the rally will cover the Diocesan centers of the southern Dioceses, special public functions will be arranged at various centers. The rallies are to publicize the rich St. Thomas heritage, traditions and the real glory of the Church.

The second rally is to start from the northern corner of Kerala and will end at Pazhaya Seminary, Kottayam. It will also cover all important stations and centers in between.

The third rally will start from Mylapore and will end at Mangalore. Various programmes have been organized in the Parish, Diocesan and regional levels. The Lenten period in August (from 1st August till the 15th ) was observed as the meditation days of preparation.

In the main cities in India and abroad, public meetings, seminars etc. were arranged with leaders of the local religion, other denominations, WCC. KCC. and NCCI. It is proposed to undertake key essential social services as the memory of the centenary celebrations. The project under consideration will be finalized and announced among our members shortly.

The spiritual organizations of the Church, in their central and diocesan levels are in the attempt to introduce their own remarkable and unique contributions in these regards with a sort of competitive spirit. There are schemes to provide houses to the homeless in the Church and to provide benevolent schemes for the poor and needy. Conducting memorial processions through the places which are the cradles of Nazrani heritage, arrangement of historical exhibition which might declare the Nazrani, Bible classes in Parishes, Presentation of documentary at various locations, and arrangement of competitions are taking place everywhere.

H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Paulos II, Catholicose has released a Kalpana in which exhortations have been placed to observe 100 hours continuous prayer chains from 11th Sept 2012 to 15th Sept 2012, in the Church Head Quarters as well in various Diocesan Head Quarters. The spiritual organizations in various parishes could follow the call and implement the same in their parishes successfully.

The newly constructed Secretariat complex in Devalokam will be named after the Centenary Celebrations’ memorial. The new church under construction in the place of the previous Coonan Kurish Church will serve as the memorial of the celebrations.

The sub- committee from the Holy Synod, consisting of about seven Metropolitans are earnestly engaged in the publication of a few authoritative and solid books on Canons, Liturgy, Faith, Traditions and rituals etc. and it is expected to be a five year project, as a part of the centenary celebrations.

Various committees are working in full swing for the success of the great event on 25th Nov. 2012. The Souvenir Committee is committed to bring out a book type souvenir, which would serve as a guide to our faith, traditions, history and all other needy topics. In addition to this, it is planned to bring out a pictorial souvenir, presenting certain unique and uncommon pictures.

The valedictory function of the celebrations will be held with a Nazrani Sangamam at Baselios Marthoma Nagar, at Marine Drive, Ernakulam on Sunday, 25th Nov 2012 in a large scale where tens of thousands of faithful are expected to attend. The public meeting chaired by H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulos II, Catholicose of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, will be officially inaugurated by H. E. Dr. A.P.J. Kalam, Former President of India and the renowned Scholar, highly talented Scientist and pride of India has kindly consented to inaugurate the same. Central and State Government Ministers as well as religious leaders like H.H. Dalai lama; H.G. Mar Joseph Powathil will grace the occasion and offer a few words of benediction.

The prayers and co-operation of all members of the Church in every nook and corner of the world are earnestly solicited for the blissful functioning of all events.
May God bless us all

Author Jose Kurian Puliyeril is the Secretary of the Catholicate Centenary Celebrations Central Committee

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Articles We Believe Youth And Faith

The Catholicate of the Malankara orthodox Syrian Church


The word ‘Catholicos’ means ‘the general head’ or ‘general bishop’. It can be considered as equivalent to ‘universal Bishop’. This title and rank is much more ancient than the title Patriarch in the church.

In the ministry of the early church there were only three ranks namely; Episcopos (Bishop), Priest and Deacon. By the end of the third century or by the beginning of the fourth century certain bishops of certain important cities or provincial capitals in the Roman empire gained pre- eminence than other bishops and they came to be known as Metropolitans. The Ecumenical councils of the fourth century recognized the authority of these Metropolitans.

By the fifth century the Bishops in major cities like Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch etc. gained control over the churches in the surrounding cities. Gradually they became the heads of each independent regional church and were called Patriarch which means ‘common father’.
The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called Catholicos. There were three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the fifth century. They were the Catholicate of the East (Persia), the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia. None of these ranks and titles are the monopoly of any church. Any Apostolic and national church has the authority to declare and call its head, Catholicose, Pope, or Patriarch.

Even though the title Catholicose had not existed in India before the 20th century, the idea behind the Catholicate or Patriarchate as the head of a national independent Church was there from the early centuries and there was similar native position or authority in the Indian Church. As we say that St. Peter was the first Pope of Rome, St. Thomas was the first Head or the Catholicos of India. As all other Apostles did, he also established Church in India and made a set up to continue its administration in India.That was the Apostolic authority existed in India throughout the centuries.

In India the position and authority of the catholicose is development in the history of the Church throughout the past centuries.

The first stage of the apostolic ministry in the Malankara Church is from the time of St.Thomas till the middle of the fourth century when the authority of the Church was vested in the hands of the Archdeacon.

The second stage is the period of the reign of the Arcdeacons which started from the middle of the fourth century and lasted till the sixteenth century.

The third stage started when the archdeacon was elevated to the position of a Bishop by the community with the name Marthoma I in 1653. Since then the head of the community was the Marthoma Metrans and later the position was developed to Malankara Metropolitan with more recognition.

When in a religious turmoil the Patriarch of Antioch interfered and suspended the Malankara Metropolitan demanding complete surrender, in 1912 the Church consecrated the senior Metropolitan as the Catholicose and head of the Church. In 1934,through the meeting of the Malankara Association the authority and powers of the Malankara Metropolitan was entrusted to the Catholicose. Thus both the spiritual and temporal authorities of the Church was vested in one person who is the Catholicose cum Malankara Metropolitan and the development of authority in that direction was completed in the Church.

Historical Development of Catholicate in India
Archdeacons

In India St.Thomas founded the church and appointed prelates to continue apostolic ministry in the church. It is believed that the prelates were appointed from for ancient families namely, Pakalomattom, Sankarapuri, Kalli, and Kaliankal. Gradually the Pakalomattom family gained prominence in the ministry and chief prelates of the community where hailed from that family.During the reign of Marthoma VIII, the metropolitan of the community in the early 19th century, the Madras government once asked him a review of the history of the Malankara church and gave him seventeen questions to answer. On the 20th of April 1812 he gave written answer to all the questions. The last question was about the position and authority of the Malankara Metropolitan in the church. In his answer, he said, that from 335 AD for 1308 years ie. Till the coonan cress oath, the church was ruled by the Archdeacons of Pakalomattom family. He also said that after the coming of the Portuguese the church had, besides him six Metrans and one metropolitan. The Metran or Malankara Metropolitan of the community was the continuation of the apostolic authority in the Malankara Church. Our historical evidences say that in the early time, the title of the head of the community was Arch deacon. Sometimes the title was known as the Arch deacon of whole Indian. The native language it was usually called Jathikku Karthavyan. The Arch deacon of the community was the unquestioned social and political leader and he got even local soldiers under his command to protect himself and protect the interest of the community. The Arch deacon was the unquestioned leader of the community when the Portuguese arrived Malabar in the 16th century.

The Portuguese tried to bring the Archdeacon under their control. Through the Synod of Udayamperur (1599) they tried their level best control the Archdeacon and for a short period they brought him under the authority of the Roman Arch bishop. The community revolted against this through the coonan cross oath of 1653.

The Archdeacon as Bishop

After the coonan cross oath the Church ordained the Arch deacon as a bishop with the name Mar Thoma I. This ordination of the archdeacon as a bishop was a very important turning point in the history of the development of authority in the Malankara Church. All the powers of the century old arch deacon with some more spiritual authority was given to the Archdeacon when he was elevated to the position of a bishop.

The Marthoma Metrans continued in succession till the early 19th century with the names Mar Thoma I,II,etc. till Mar Thoma VIII. and they ruled the church from 1653 to 1816.

The spiritual as well as the administrative authority of the community were vested on the Mar Thoma Metrans during this period.

Malankara Metropolitan

In 1816 Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dioysius became a bishop and he got an approval letter known as the Royal Proclamation from the Travancore government to function as the Metropolitan of the community. Now on wards the head of the Church came to be known as Malankara Metropolitan. The position of the Malanakara Metropolitan in the 19th century is a growth from the position of the Marthoma Metrans. The power and authority of the Malanakara Metropolitan got more recognition than the power and authority of the Archdeacons and Marthoma Metrans because of some political changes in the country through the establishment of British rule.

From 1816, DionysiusII, DionysiusIII, DionysiusIV, Mar Athanasios and DionysiusV were the Malanakara Metropolitans in the 19th century. Among these Mar Athanasios and Mar Dionysius V exercised enormous spiritual as well as temporal powers inside and outside the community.

Mar Dionysius V was the Malankara Metropolitan at the time of the Synod of Mulanthuruthy (1876). During the later half of the 19th century there occurred a split in the community because of the works of the CMS missionaries and the reformation supported by them. This invited a closer interference of the Patriarch of Antioch.

To get over the difficulties caused by the reformation and to support Mar Dionysius V against the reformers the Church invited the Patriarch to come over to India.

The Patriarch Peter III of Antioch came here in 1875. Instead of healing the division in the community the Patriarch tried to make use of the situation to establish his authority in the church by suppressing the authority of the Malanakra Metropolitan.

He strongly stood with Mar Dionysius and called the Synod of Mulanthuruthy.

The Patriarch presided over the synod and directed its proceedings and took some decisions justifying the actions of the Patriarch in the Malankara Church. After the Synod he divided the church into seven dioceses and consecrated six new bishops to rule each diocese. By these actions the Patriarch was trying to reduce the authorities of the Malankara Metropolitan.

The way to Catholicate

After the synod of Mulanthuruthy the Church became more conscious about establishing a Catholicate (Maphrianate) in the Malanakra Church mainly to avoid unnecessary interference of the Patriarch of Antioch in the internal affairs of the Church.

The patriarch himself directed the Synod of Mulanthuruthy and attained more powers through its decisions. He claimed as the spiritual and temporal head of the Church.

The Malankara Church which was in dare need of the Patriarch to fight against the reformers yielded to all the demands of the Patriarch. The legal fights against the reformers ended up in the final judgment of the Travencore Royal court in 1889.

The Royal Court judgment was a success to both the Patriarch and Mar Dionysius V in various aspects. The court declared that the Patriarch got spiritual supervisory powers over the Malanakara Church. But it also declared that the Patriarch does not have any temporal authority in the Church. The Patriarch was not satisfied about this decision.

The Patriarch used all his ways and means to establish his spiritual and temporal authority in the Church.

Mar Dionysius V died in 1909 and Mar Dionysius VI became the Malankara Metropolitan. When Mar Dionysius VI became the Malankara Metropolitan, the Patriarch demanded a registered deed from Mar Dionysius declaring perfect allegiance to the patriarch. Mar Dionysius strongly refused to yield to the demands of the Patriarch. The Patriarch excommunicated Mar DionysiusVI on 31st May 1911.The excommunication of Mar Dionysius created lots of confusions and divisions in the Malanakara Church. Most of the influential lay leaders and many clergy in the Church supported Mar Dionysius and stood firm with him.

The Malankara Metropolitan was the supreme authority in the Church throughout the past years and the Patriarchs were always trying with all their means to exterminate that position from the Church.

The Church clearly understood the intention of the Patriarch when he excommunicated Mar DionysisVI.

The consecration of the Catholicose

When the Patriarch excommunicated mar Dionysius VI, there were two Patriarchs of Antioch; one was Abdulla who had powers according to the legal documents knows as Firman of the Turkish government and the other was Abdedmassiah who was senior and at the same time inactive at Turkey since the government withdrew his firman.

Abdulla was the one who excommunicated the Malanakara Metropolitan Mar Dionysius. The Malankara Church contacted Abdedmassiah and invited him to Malankara. The patriarch came and presided over the meetings of the Episcopal Synod of the Malankara church that decided to consecrate a Catholicose for the Malankara Church. Mar Ivanios Metropolitan of the Kandanadu Diocese was unanimously proposed to the post of Catholicose.

On 17th September 1912 (Kanni 2, 1088), at St. Marys Church founded by St.Thomas in Niranam, Mar Ivanios Metropolitan was consecrated with the name Mar Baselios Paulose First as the first Catholicose of Malankara Church. The chief celebrant of the consecration ceremony was the Patriarch Mar Abdedmassiah himself. After the consecration the Patriarch issued two Kalpanas declaring the importance, privileges, powers and functions of the Catholicose.

All the authorities and privileges enjoyed by the Patriarch in the Church as its head was given to the Catholicose also. By the consecration of the Catholicose the Indian Church asserted and declared its full autonomy and became a full autocephalous (having its own head) Church.After the demise of the Catholicose Baselicose Paulose I, the Bishops in Malankara together with Mar Dionysius VI consecrated Mar Philoxenos of Vakathanam as the second Catholicos with the name Baselius Geevarghese I. When he died in 1928, Mar Gregorios was elected as his successor. He was consecrated by the Indian Bishops in February 13, 1929 with the title Baselius Geevarghese II .

The Patriarchal group questioned the validity of the Catholicate in law courts and the litigation went on up to the Supreme court. In September 12, 1958, the constitutional bench of the supreme court of India recognized the validity of the Catholicate and unanimously declared that the Patriarch of Antioch does not have any authority over the Malankara church and that the Indian church is completely free under the Catholicos of the East. Without doubt the judgment stated that all the parishes and properties of the Malankara church are under the authority of the Catholicos.

Moved by the final judgment of the Supreme Court of India, the Patriarch’s group unanimously recommended to the Patriarch Ignatius Yacob III to accept the Catholicos as the head of the Indian church. In December 1958, the Patriarch and the Catholicos subjected to the constitution of the Malankara church and accepted each other by exchanging letters.

The peace in the Indian Orthodox church which started with the mutual acceptance of the Catholicos and the Patriarch continued without much problem till the demise of the Catholicose Geevarghese II in 1964. The Malankara Association (representative body for the church) elected Mar Augen Thimothios as the next Catholicose, According to the constitution of the church, the Syrian Patriarch who was on friendly terms with the Malankara church, was also invited officially to participate in the consecration of the Catholicose. The Patriarch accepted the invitation of the Malankara church and came down to India and co-operated with the Malankara synod to consecrate the Catholicose.

Conclusion

In all the Churches the position of the Patriarch or the Catholicose was a development of authority in their history. In Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople and in the Persian Church it achieved almost full development and recognition in the 4th century itself. Jerusalem became a Patriarchate at the council of Chalcedone in 451. The Georgian and Armenian Catholicose were also developed in the same period.

The Patriarchate was developed in Russian Orthodox Church between 1448 and 1589. In Rumenia it was established in 1885. The Serbian Patriarcahte was established in 1879 and the Bulgarian patriarchate was established in 1883. The patriarchate of Ethiopea was established in 1958 only. It happened in the Malankara Orthodox Church in 1912.

The Catholicate in India was a growth and development through centuries within the Malankara Church. Of course the developments in other churches like Persia, Antioch Rome and external interferences has influenced the growth in different stages. It should always be considered as a symbol of Apostolic origin, authority and heritage as well as nationality and independence of the Malankara Orthodox Church. Throughout centuries the Metropolitan heads of the Thomas Christians were known as the apostolic successors of St.Thomas, the founder of the Indian church. The Vatican Syriac codex 22 written in 1301 at Kodungalloor refers to the Metropolitan of the church as ‘The Metropolitan Bishop of the See of St. Thomas, and of the whole church of Christians in India’. The church always asserted that St. Thomas had his apostolic throne in India as St. Peter had it in Rome or Antioch. When the Catholicate was established the catholicose as the head of the Malankara church, took the title ‘The successor of the Apostolic throne of St. Thomas’.

Source:www.ots.org.in

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Reflections On The Church Day


On 25th March, 2012, our Holy Church celebrates both the Annunciation celebration and the Catholicate Day together. Our Holy Forefathers who were biblical scholars consider the Holy Mother as the representative of the Church. May Her intercession and blessings be our strongholds.

The Catholicate Day donations are accepted from the members mainly for the humanitarian missions and related activities of the Church. Ours is a national Church grown to international level. Its strong pillars are each and every one of us by the Grace of God and by the mediation of Holy Mother. On this day, two things, apparently insignificant but truly great, take place—one, the Catholicate Fund and the other, prayers. On Thursday in the holy Lent, during the noon prayer, it is recited “As the many dew drops can make a river with inaccessibly powerful flow, the mass prayer of numerous hapless and hopeless people in a congregation can produce the desired results and Christ’s acceptance.” The prayer of every one who loves the Church is invaluable. Two more weeks are left for the Lent to end. Let us pray to Jesus with all earnestness. Let the conflicts and the rivalries in the Church come to a peaceful end. What the priest says at the end of the Service should not be forgotten, “Go in peace, and pray for me too.” St Paul requests Colossians “Pray, then, that I may speak as I should, in such a way as to make it clear.”(Colo: 4:4). Let us pray for the powerful move for the prosperity of the Church. Let us our heart-felt prayers be a strong plea before our merciful God.

It is recited in our Holy Prayers “the blessing produced from many is the most preciously loved. It has the force of getting all its requests daily sanctioned. Rain drops are individual and separate; however, when they meet together, they form a great river of fierce flow.” The Catholicate Day Fund is the donation gladly given by the poor and the elite of the Church. It has been used to meet the various needs of the Church. The prophet Malachi emphasizes in Ch:3 the relevance and importance of giving tithes. Therefore, nobody in our Church should keep aloof from lavishly and happily donating to this fund which will bring forth blessings in abundance.

Let us remind you once again “You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves.”(Matt 10:16). This verse is an important pointer we must notice when we live in this world of complex situations. St Paul advises us “ Be wise in the way you act towards those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have.” (Colo: 4:5). All the members have to implement these verses in their words and deeds without fail. May God bless each and every one of us!

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Reflections on the Holy Nativity of Our Lord

“The Virgin has Begotten the Wonderful; Let us go and Behold Him” Reflections on the Nativity of Christ

Introduction

When the Creator saw that man, who He had made with His own hands, perish, He was so moved that, “He bowed the heavens and came down”. The Feast of Nativity is the reconciliation of heaven and earth. The birth of Christ has united those on high and those below. Today God has come down to earth, and man ascends to heaven. Today the invisible God, manifests himself in flesh for the sake of His creation. Let our souls and lips cry out – Christ is Born, Glorify Him! Today the Creator has come down into the full reality of His creation.

The Feast of Nativity is a time of joy and celebration – of much giving – but we need to ask ourselves, what is the true meaning of the Feast? If we look around, Christmas in the world today is heavily commercialized, and how much do we as Orthodox Christians contribute to the cheapening of this great Feast? Today, Christmas is about everything but Christ. To a lot of us, the Feast is just an opportunity to have a jolly good time with mulled wine and sumptuous food. It is important for us to step away from the noise and hear the real significance of this Feast. In the words of Isaiah the glorious Prophet: “… to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’” (Isaiah 9: 6).

The words of the popular Christmas carol echo a great truth, “O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth… It was not until the coming of the Son of God, that man/the soul realized his/its true worth, meaning and significance. The mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ speaks to us of something so deep and impossible, today God who fashions everything, cries and breathes the breath, which at first He gave to man, now as a babe. The coming together of God and man is at the heart of this great mystery, this great Feast. The Fathers of the Church say, “In the glory of the Incarnation, the divine and the worldly are suddenly, triumphantly, united and transformed.” This Feast is an opportunity for every believer to behold the Wonderful, and be struck with awe because, “today the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, rests in a cave.”

The Feast of God’s Embracing Love: Christmas is a time of coming to terms with God’s all embracing and redemptive love for us, in spite of all our failures and betrayals. When we journey to Bethlehem, this redemptive love becomes so visible. The truth is not only that God became man, not just that the eternally begotten second Person of the Holy Trinity took flesh, but in the manger lies not only God, but also ME. God took my nature for Himself, this is the all embracing and redemptive love. A love that is so beyond description, where me, who am but clay, we, who are but dust are made perfect in Christ.

The Feast of the Greatest Mission: Today is the day of the greatest mission the world has ever seen. In the New Testament you will not find the word “mission” but there are numerous references to God sending his Son, and Jesus sending us. The Nativity Feast proclaims the act of the Father sending His only begotten into the world. The Father does not send Jesus Christ into the world simply to speak, but He sends Jesus Christ to share the life of His people. He sends Christ to give His life for His people, and to give new life to the whole world. Christ shares in the sufferings, the struggles, the hopes and the joys of the people around Him and the Gospels bear witness to that on numerous occasions. We too are sent to give our love and our compassion. St. Paul says that Jesus is sent into the world to “destroy the power of death, and to bring everlasting life to light”. And so we are sent in order to challenge the power of death, and to bring life. Our mission is always more than words – our mission is the sharing of life – life that transforms another life.

The Feast of the Greatest Surprise: The greatest thing about Christmas morning is the surprises of the gifts wrapped and placed under the tree. As Charles Swindoll so beautifully put it, “Surprises are woven through the very fabric of all our lives. They await each one of us at unexpected and unpredictable junctures.” This Feast is an amazing surprise in that God himself decided to become man. “God comes to us, gives Himself to us, and not only in deed and action. Our very nature is taken up into His, and to our mortal frame is imparted a portion of the divine life.”
The Feast of God Descending into Our Reality: The Incarnation is about God becoming man, God descending into the world, but more so He descends into the deeper reality of our hearts – our life. The reality of our weakness. Christ becomes the very center of our life, the source of our energy in the world and the purpose of our life in this world. The sin of Adam banished him from Paradise and today that exile is banished and man is set free and Christ unites in His Person what is fallen in man and what is perfect in His. Today Eden is opened and the fullness of salvation is made manifest: “salvation enters the world, and the curse is destroyed.”

The Feast that Refuses to Compel Us: God has given Himself away so completely that we meet Him in poverty and weakness, with no splendor or glory. The whole of creation “lives by a love that refuses to bully us or force us or compel us, it is the love of the cradle and the cross.” Christ is the “the fire in the equations” that sustain everything. We live in a world where power is everything, in fact we are so obsessed with power that as Christians we have failed to see the two most vivid images of love – that of the helpless babe in the manger and the dying man on the cross. God empties Himself in the manger and the cross. He gives away all that He is to restore mankind. We live in Him, from Him, and through Him. God never held back His love, instead extended it unconditionally to man. “The eternal God, utterly unknowable, unfathomable, incomprehensible in His innermost being, deigned to enter into the sphere of our daily life, to assume the burdens and suffering of people like ourselves, He did so for one purpose only: to rescue us from the consequences of our sinful rebellion against the Author of Life, and to raise us up from death and corruption.” St. Athanasius puts is so well when he says, “He became what we are, so that we might become what He is.” The eternal Son of God “took flesh” and “became man” so that we might participate now and forever in all the joy and all the glory of His divine Life. Bethlehem points us to Jerusalem, there is no manger without the Cross and Resurrection – all the services in the Orthodox Christian tradition points to the salvific sacrifice of Christ and the glorious Resurrection.

Conclusion

St. Ephrem the Syrian writes, “The Lord of David and Son of David hid His glory in swaddling clothes. His swaddling clothes gave a robe of glory to human beings.” The Son of God is a gift to mankind, and He take up residence in the world. “This dwelling in the midst of Creation, as a part of it, makes God the Son close to, and available to, the surrounding creatures in a way that was not possible before. The presence of the Son here is a “personal” one that involves Him as a complete whole.” Exchanging gifts has become a universal Christmas tradition. I leave you with a question – “What is the best Christmas gift you can give another person?” For what God has given to us, what do we have to give back to Him and to His world?
I personally think the best gift we can give another person is ourselves. I am sure that I will not win many friends by such a statement, what I mean is love and genuine relationship. “The best gift is the gift of self, because in giving oneself, one is giving everything else.” This is what Christ Himself did. In His Incarnation, He gives Himself. He is Immanuel – God With Us. The real meaning of Christmas is to have Christ born in us, indwelling in our hearts.

The Nativity of Jesus Christ is a “crossing of paths” where God meets humanity and in love transforms the fallen human condition. The love of God lays in a manger in the House of Bread (Bethlehem), to feed humanity that hungers for love. It is the birth of that love into our world that we celebrate today. Christ becomes the very center of our life, our faith and our existence. The babe in the manger becomes the light of the world, even when the world is in shambles, for in Christ the Divine and the human cross paths. “No matter where we are in life, no matter in what condition we find ourselves, no matter how far we might stray away, or how unfaithful we are, God, the supreme lover, will pursue us in love for eternity!” God’s love never stops shining on us, and never stops searching for us.

“On this day when the Rich One was made poor for our sake, let the rich man also make the poor man a sharer at his table. On this day a gift came out to us without our asking for it; let us then give alms to those who cry out and beg from us. This is the day when the high gate opened to us for our prayers; let us also open the gates to the seekers who have stayed but sought [forgiveness].”

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

References
Troparion from Canticle 1 of the Matins Canon for the Nativity.
Fr. Matthew Steenberg, “He Bowed the Heavens and Came Down”, in http://www.monachos.net/content/liturgics/liturgical-reflections/101.
Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, Divine Intimacy, Volume 3, (Ignatius Press, 1987), p. 292.
Charles Swindoll, The Finishing Touch: Becoming God’s Masterpiece, (Word Publishing, 1994), p. 268.
Witness Lee, God’s New Testament Economy, (Living Stream Ministry, 1996), p. 63.
Fr. Thomas Hopko, Winter Pascha: Readings for the Christmas-Epiphany Season, (SVS Press, 1984), p. 89.
Archbishop Rowan Williams, Christmas Sermon, December 2004, http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/000950.html.
Kitty Ferguson, The Fire in the Equations: Science, Religion and the Search for God, (W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1997).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Glorious Christianity, (Crossway, 2004), p. 105.
Very Rev. john Breck, “Celebrating Christ’s Nativity” in http://legacy.oca.org/CHRIST-life-print.asp?ID=121, December, 2006.
The Incarnation of the Word by St Athanasius. Trans. by Rev. A. Robertson; Modernized, abridged and introduced by Stephen Tomkins. Edited and prepared for the web by Dan Graves.
Paul Russell, “The Image of the Infant Jesus in Ephrem the Syrian”, in Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1, January 2002, http://syrcom.cua.edu/Hugoye/Vol5No1/HV5N1Russell.html#S4.
Bill Steigerwald, “Christ, Christmas and Capitalism” in Front Page Magazine, December, 2006, http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=889
Fr. George Morelli, “Christmas and Its Significance” in Christianity Today, http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/MorelliChristmas.php.
Rev. Bill Adams, “The Original Love Story” in http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/b-ch00-adams.php.
Hymns on the Nativity 1. Translation in Ephrem the Syrian Hymns, translated and introduced by Kathleen E. McVey New York: Paulist Press 1989. Syriac text at Des Heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Nativitate (Epiphania), herausgegeben von Edmund Beck Louvain: 1959 CSCO 186.