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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources referred:-

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

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Articles We Believe Youth And Faith

Mathopadesa Sarangal On Fasts

vattaseril-thirumeni
Introduction

Fast was the initial decree enjoined by the Lord,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Articles Features Youth And Faith

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

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

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

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

Saint Dositej of Zagreb

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

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

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

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

Saint Dositej in India

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

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

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

Father Andronic, the Russian

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

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

Visit of Catholicos Geevarghese II to Belgrade

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

Catholicos Geevarghese II in Yugoslavia

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foot-notes—————————

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

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The Catholicate is so precious to us …..

HH-Baselios-Marthoma-Mathews-I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Food for thought on the Holy Week Services

holy-week
The holy Week is again the round the corner. The people around the world are getting ready for long liturgical services with great zeal and fasting. Why do we observe this ‘particular week’ with so much solemnity?

We all know its significance is solely because of its connection with the passion of Christ, the sum total of the traumas that our Lord had to endure for a new world order. During this solemn season, we specifically commemorate and celebrate the episodes of those past events happened in the life of Christ the incarnate. Liturgy is a recreated and reactivated reality. Every liturgy in the holy Orthodox Church is fashioned as a spiritual exercise for the edification of the faithful. The pious observance of the holy week gives us an opportunity to identify ourselves with the incarnation of Christ whereby we show our solidarity with his salvific work and we are particularly bestowed with the vital energy for our ‘deification’.

The Passion Week service in the Orthodox Syrian Church is packed with a plethora of rites and rituals. Each rubric has its own meaning attached to the activity of Christ. The liturgy in the holy Church is the means of living along the life of Christ, to be precise, a re-living with the Lord. The Old Testament liturgies were the shadow of the Christ’s incarnation whereas the New Testament liturgies are its reflection. Moreover, it is the copy and shadow of what is in heaven (Hebrews 8:5). In other words, it is a foretaste of eschatological life in heaven. Orthodox liturgy is as vast and as deep as an Ocean in terms of its theological meaning. No one can fathom the depths of it. Nevertheless, let us glance through some of the symbolic activity that is being done during the holy week and prayerfully try to ponder over and meditate upon its meaning based on biblical references.

The Palm Sunday service:

The special service in addition to Holy Eucharist on the day is the blessing of the ‘tender palm leaves’ and offering of flowers taken out from the products of the Nature. It is, in a sense, God’s acceptance of the offerings from the faithful and His reciprocal love of giving it back as a blessed gift. This shows that the earth and its fullness are for God as said in Psalm 24:1. Bible makes a picturesque reference on the triumphal entry of Jesus, the king and saviour, into the city of Jerusalem (Mat 21). The people gathered there to receive him began shouting the slogan “Hosanna” (Save Lord, Praise). It is both a word of praise and prayer. They spread their clothing and branches from the tree on the pathways. In tandem with this historical event, we use the articles such as palm leaves and flowers for the procession around the church during the liturgy. In the Bible, we see a multitude of God’s people clad in white robes worshipping God and His lamb with palm leaves in their hands(Revelation 7:9). The procession in the holy Church on Palm Sunday is a prelude to the triumphal entry of the King of kings and Lord of lords and his bride into the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 19, 21). The blessed leaves, after the holy service, are given out to the faithful for their healing and absolution from every curse as has been promised in Revelation 22:2-3. The Bible exhorts everyone to raise praises to God emphasising the importance of this celebration(Genesis 49:8-12,Zachariah 9:9-12,Isaiah 51:9-11,1John2:7-15,Romans 11:3-24,Psalm 118:24-29, 92:12-14, 8,80). The faithful takes away the blessed leaves to their homes for their blessing. Thus, by partaking in the orthodox liturgy; one is able to experience the ecstasy of the worship of both past and future in the present time.

Pesaha service:

The annual and elaborate ‘Passover’ feast of the people of Israel came into vogue in Old Testament period as their mode of commemoration and celebration of the Passing over of the angel of destruction (Exodus 12:14). They celebrated this feast by sacrificing a lamb and eating of it. The death of Christ on the mount Calvary, according to the holy Bible, was a new sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb replacing the old paschal lamb. (1 Corinthians 5:7). At the time of our Lord’s death on the Cross, the Jews were killing the paschal lamb in commemoration of the first Passover. Our Lord knowing that he would be sacrificed at the same time when the Jews would kill their paschal lamb instituted the New Testament Passover a day earlier. He took the leavened bread (lahamo) and fermented wine and said “This is my body…and this is my blood”. Thus, in the bloodless sacrifice of the holy Eucharist, the bloodshed sacrifice of the Old Testament Passover comes to an end. The changed bread and wine continue to give us the benefit of forgiveness from sins and the release from Captivity of Satan. The modern Passover meal, Holy Communion, is also a foretaste of the heavenly banquet as said in Revelation 19:17 and the participation in the eschatological worship in advance as narrated in Rev. 5:9ff.

The Service on Good Friday:

There are two processions on this day. The first one is the procession around the Church in memory of the Christ’s way of Cross to Mount Calvary. When we do this procession, we travel in time-machine to that past event in history. We know that when Christ was bearing the Cross on his way, Simon the Cyrene was blessed to have joined in carrying the Cross of Christ. (Luke 23:26-31). So also, on every Good Friday, we too are given a chance to partake in Christ’s economy of salvation. In Luke 23: 27, we read of a large number of people including wailing and weeping women following Jesus. They were bearing witness to this heart-rending incident and were asked to weep for them and for their children. By attending to this liturgy on Good Friday, we get a chance to bear witness to Christ’s passion and to regret of our iniquities just as the women were asked to do. Each time we make a sign of Cross during the liturgy, we get a sense belonging to Christ and we, ourselves, crucify all our self-indulgent passions, and desires for we are asked by St. Paul to do so. In Galatians 5:24, St. Paul says, “You cannot belong to Christ, unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires”.

The second ceremonial procession on the day gives us, by virtue of being his children and disciples, a chance to participate in the burial service of our Lord along with Joseph of Arimathea, and Nichodemus. A deep reading of the Bible reveals the fact that Mary of Bethany, and the Magi from the East too were privileged to offer homage to the Lord(Mathew 2:11,John 12:7). Their offering of myrrh betokens of this truth. Myrrh was one of the articles used for embalming the dead body (John 19:39). Since Christ is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow (Heb 13:8), and he, being the pre-existent Word of God(John 1: 1-18,8: 58) and lives forever(Heb 7:25), transcends the time-space continuum to interact with and save all people of all time. The ritualistic liturgy is the only realistic means by which we get the benefits of the sacrifice of Jesus which took place in history once and for all. Another ritual on Good Friday is the washing of the holy Cross, made of wood, and dipping its horns into the bitter water, the concoction. It is, in a sense, an empathic and vicarious way of joining Christ in receiving the bitter juice that was given to him while on the Cross (Mat 27:34). We see in the Exodus 14-15, that Moses, Aaron and the people of Israel crossing the Red Sea after having been released from the bondage of Pharaoh in Egypt. This crossing implies the Christian Baptism and their walking for three days in the desert points to the Christian life of sufferings. We see Moses throwing a “piece of wood” to the bitter water in Marah after saying a prayer. The water in Marah turns to be sweet and potable. People of God are seen getting a promise of healing from God following this event. The using of a piece of wood by Moses here was a prophetic symbolism of the Cross of Christ, the universal saviour. The bitter water served to the fasting faithful at the end of the service on the day can be said of as the merciful caring of God of his people today just as He cared His old people at Marah. Although the bitter juice tastes hard to drink, those who drink it in all faith, hope and love, will be able to imbibe the taste of spiritual flavour. If we comply with the commandment of God, we will get everything that we need. One who attends the holy service of the Church with all seriousness and sincerity would get what one needs.

After that, we see the people of Israel under the leadership of Moses coming to Elim where they camped by the side of 12 springs and 70 palm trees. The twelve springs and 70 palm trees prefigure the 12 apostles and 70 evangelists of the New Testament Church respectively. (Ref:-Matthew 10 and Luke 10). Their arrival in Elim is indicative of the new and inexplicable experience of Christian Church with the risen Christ.

Gospel Saturday:

The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is generally known as Gospel Saturday. The holy Church began to observe this day as the day of commemoration of all the departed souls, in line with the going down of Christ into Hades after his crucifixion. Since Christ went to Hades to preach gospel to the departed souls there, it has its own place in the rites of the Church (1 Peter 3:19, 4:6). Bible speaks clearly that God has been merciful towards both living and the departed alike (Ruth 2:20). Since Christ’s redeeming mission includes even the departed souls, it is the Church’s responsibility to carry out the Lord’s mission for the salvation of all for and on His behalf in all humility, faith, hope and love. The Holy Communion celebrated on this day gives us an opportunity to have a fellowship with all the departed souls gone before us and to intercede for them so that they may get grace from the Lord. It is in a way, reaching out to the people of God on the other side of the veil of time.

The Easter Sunday:

‘Easter’ is the most important feast for the people of Orthodoxy. Its importance is mainly because of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It is in tune with the resurrection of Christ that the Church began observing Sunday as the New Sabbath day replacing the old Sabbath of Saturday. Lord Jesus rested on gospel Saturday in Hades fulfilling the old Sabbath as he did at the beginning of creation in his capacity as God, and began his new creation on the very next day, 1st or the 8th in the cycle of week, providing new phase of life for humanity. This is the reason why St. Paul said, “When one is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As St. Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”

(I Corinthians 15:14. This feast gives us an opportunity to confess with our mouth that Jesus is our Lord and to believe in our heart that He was indeed raised from the dead fulfilling the biblical verse of Romans 10:9 in our lives and reassuring of our salvation. We all know that the risen Lord was seen appearing to many a people in various places and giving them all peace and Joy.

The main attraction of the day is the holy Cross clad in red clothing symbolizing the victory of Christ over death and evil. Isaiah 63 and Revelation 19: 11ff speak of this symbolism. Another main ritual attached to this feast is the elevation of the holy Cross and the blessing of the four directions, East, West, North and South. The biblical basis for this ritual is the Lords command to Abraham, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever…Go walk through the length and breadth of the land for I am giving it to you”.(Genesis 13: 14ff) By this ritual, God renews his covenant with us and we are given the whole world for the service of God as stewards. By so doing, we are in fact, blessing the whole world in the Name of the risen Lord. It is in a way praising God or rather lifting up His glorious name by way of an action. The last commissioning of our Lord Jesus Christ is very relevant at this point, to go out into peoples everywhere and to make them His disciples by baptising and teaching them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit(Mat 28:19). We are duty bound to comply with his commandments. We see Abraham afterwards going to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron where he is seen building an altar for God. It is indicative of the necessity of our coming closer to the holy Altar throughout our life. The active and sincere participation in every service of the holy week takes us to a blissful experience, and helps us to lead a life of repentance and righteousness.

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New Liturgical begins with ‘Koodhosh-Etho’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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Articles Youth And Faith

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

cca-july-2014

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

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

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

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

Household of God

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

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

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

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

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

Life in Asian Countries Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mission – an Orthodox Point of View

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

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

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

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

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

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

The theological bases for these ideas are the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conflicts, Civil War, Border Disputes, etc.

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

Poverty and Luxury

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

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

Corruption, Authoritarianism, Gender discrimination, Exploitation etc.

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

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

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

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

Religious Persecution and Ethnic Cleansing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Vision for the Orthodox Church of India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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