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Youths – The Purpose Driven Life

youth-studying

One of the great struggles we have today in the Indian Orthodox Church is preserving our children in the Orthodox Faith and keeping them motivated to participate in the Church. Too often they seem not to be interested. Can we somehow motivate our youths to be excited about being Orthodox Christians? I believe there is a way. It takes commitment and hard work, but it’s worth it.

We want everything in life – best education, successful career, wealth, great marriage and family and above all a name and standing in the community. But how many of us have committed / are willing to commit our lives to God and his Church? I want to outline few things and challenge the youths to come forward and work more for the glory of God and His Church. It goes without saying that the work of the youths in our church is commendable. Let us not rest on our past laurel, there is plenty more work to be done. Remember the words of the Lord; “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”

1. Make Your Church a Priority

I am not asking everyone to be in church 24/7, but let us commit ourselves and each other and all our life to God. Our relationship with God comes first, our commitment to our church comes next, and our dedication to our family and work is third. If we are busy, find a way to compensate. If our time is in heavy demand and we don’t block out time for the church, we’ll never get involved. Let God not be only a part of our life, but let Him be the very essence of our lives.

2. Forget not God’s Faithfulness

A lot of us have access to good education, have our dream jobs, and life is blessed. We can take credit for all the hard work, effort and money we invested in this venture. However, we should never forget that God is the core and anchor of our success. We should be able to give God all the glory.

3. Love Your Church

Thirdly and I can’t stress this enough, we need to love our Church. If the problems in the church today, big and small were taken as our own, we would find solutions to most of our troubles. It is easy to walk away when things are rough, but that is when the Church needs us the most. Do not give your money, services and time to the Church out of obligation or fear of wrath, but give it out of love. Remember the word of St. Paul; “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. (2 Corinthians 9: 7)

4. Never stay away from the Church out of Anger or Frustration.

There are times when things go wrong, even badly wrong. Today, we’ve having a few big bumps in our Church. Some of the situations in our Church bring us to tears. We could say, Lord, is there light at the end of this tunnel? Thank God for repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and grace. We are ordained as His servants, lay or clergy. Therefore, whatever we do, our goal is to work for the glory of God. Thank God, these measures have and will produce good fruit. That doesn’t mean there will never be more problems. There may be bumps yet to come in our lives. Lets us not be scorners and cynics. Let us persuade with tender compassion.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
But set an example for the believers
in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4: 12)

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Articles Youth And Faith

And They Came With Haste, And Found Mary And Joseph, And The Babe Lying In The Manger

manger

And They Came With Haste, And Found Mary And Joseph, And The Babe Lying In The Manger – St. Luke 1: 16.

Dear Young Friends,

May I convey my belated Seasons Greetings? I know you all are in the thrill of the exciting celebrations. From your mails/letters/phone calls, it is understood that you all have celebrated the Christmas and the New Year in different ways with a variety of programs. New year is the occasion to evaluate the blessings and gifts we received in the past year and to submit our immediate needs and desires to God Almighty. Normally many of us do not take pains to count the gifts and mercies we enjoyed from our Lord God. The verse of devotion is very familiar to all of us, as we have heard this Biblical portion several times. There won’t be any doubt about “they” mentioned in the verse of devotion. The term ‘they’ is used for the shepherds who reached the manger to worship Lord Jesus. We must taker care in understanding the word ‘haste’, which has deep meaning. Whenever one has to see our Lord face to face, he has to reach the divine presence in haste. When Zacchaeus was peeping Lord Jesus through the leaves of the sycomore tree, our Lord called him by name and said “make haste and come down: for today I must abide at your house”. (St. Luke 19:5) What is this ‘haste’? Let us separate each alphabet and try to see for what they stand for. The first alphabet ‘h’ stands for humbleness one should have, prior to meeting our Lord. The second letter ‘a’ stands for the ambition of a faithful to have an abide ness with our Lord. The third letter ‘s’ is for the solemnity one faithful must have. And ‘t’ is there for the tears one should shed, remembering his own or her own sins and the final letter ‘e’ stands for the enthusiasm one should have. When we would unite all these qualities together, we could see our Lord face to face. I am sure all of you might have attended the Church worships on Christmas day as well as New Year day. On New Year day we have remembered the circumcision of our Lord as well as the memory of St. Basil, St. Gregory and the other Church Fathers.

When our Lord was 12, his mother St. Mary and St. Joseph. took him to the Jerusalem temple In Vs 43-46 we read, “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of doctors, both bearing them, and asking them questions”.

This is what happening in our lives also. We all have started the pilgrimage to heavenly Canaan with our Savior Jesus Christ. When we started our pilgrimage the faith in the presence of our Lord with us was our power, enthusiasm and thrill. But due to some or other personal/selfish interests, we lost the frequent contact with Him and we maintained a false faith that He would be with us and we never bothered to identify the truth that we lose Him from our company. Why we lose Christ? It is only because of our selfishness, which do not allow us to identify ourselves with the interests of Christ. In our daily lives we must give priority to the interests of Christ. When we would realize that we lost the companionship of Lord Jesus, we must go back to the place and circumstance where we lost him. When His mother and St. Joseph realized that Lord is not with them, they turned back to Jerusalem seeking him. We the Christians, never turn back even if we are sure that we have lost our Lord from the fellowship and also we never bother to seek him. Unless we turn back from the style of life followed by us and seek Him, we cannot survive in his companionship. As long as we stay away from Jesus, we cannot produce heavenly fruits. In St. John 15:1 our Lord says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman” And again in verse 4 of the same chapter we read from him, “Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine no more can you, except you abide in me”.

Let us turn back and seek Him and try to abide in Him. Let our Lord make use of us to produce good fruits useful for the glory of God. May God bless us all.

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Articles Youth And Faith

K. R. Narayanan – A Curriculum for the Younger Generation

k-r-narayan

Our esteemed former President K. R. Narayanan is no more today. Leaving a trail of glorious achievements he breathed his last on Wednesday, November 9, 2005. Vindicating the worth of his life, K. R. Narayanan disapproved Thomas Gray that he was like ‘ a flower blown to blush unseen’. Through the toil and moil of his life, like Abraham Lincoln’s journey from log cabin to the White House, K. R. Narayanan made a journey from his small cottage at Uzhavoor in Kottayam district to Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi with jubilant landings at different destinations.Kocheril Raman Narayanan was born in a Dalit family in 1921 as the fourth of the seven children. Grueling poverty , penury , deprivation and social discrimination haunted him all the way. But KRN undertook a sagacious journey braving all odds to pass his B.A and M.A with distinction to go on a scholarship to the London school of Economics where he earned B.Sc. (Economics) Honours degree in the First Division. Narayanan joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1949. As a young diplomat, Narayanan’s first posting was in Rangoon where he met a Burmese girl Tint Tint who later became his wife in 1950 with the name Usha for which Pandit Jawarhalal Nehru granted special permission for an IFS officer to marry a foreign national.

After postings in Tokyo, London and Hanoi, Narayanan became the Ambassador to Thailand (1967 – 69), Turkey (1973 – 75) and China (1976 – 78). In 1978, Narayanan retired from IFS to become the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University. In 1980, the then Prime Minister made him the Ambassador to the United States, where he helped arrange Ms. Gandhi’s landmark 1982 visit to Washington. On returning from the U.S., he plunged into Politics to be elected from Ottapalam Parliamentary constituency in 1984and two more times subsequently. Narayanan became the Minister of State for Planning in the Rajiv Gandhi Cabinet and later became the Minister of State of External Affairs and then in the Ministry of Science and Technology Then on a unanimous choice he was made the Vice-President in 1992 and in 1997 Mr. Narayanan was elevated to the post of 10th President of India, from Uzhavoor to New Delhi, completing the wheel of fortune.

I K.R. Narayanan is a big Chapter for the youngsters to learn and the teachers to teach. Kerala is so proud that we could offer such a great man to India and to the World.

The younger generation shall learn from K. R. Narayanan the skill of being a good student. Both at home and abroad he was so. Even from his answer sheets, the teachers could discern in him a promising student. As in India, he was always admired by foreign teachers like Lionel Robbins, Karl Popper, Friedrich Hayek and others. No wonder, he was very much admired by Professor Harold J. Laski, who wrote a letter to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru about the precociousness of his student K. R. Narayanan.

Being a good student , K. R. Narayanan suffered humiliation with dignity and patiently waited for his turn to come. When the Travancore University refused to give him permanent teaching job on caste considerations , he simply pocketed the insult by boycotting the convocation ceremony and refused to accept the degree certificate. But it was providence that fifty years later, when he became the President of India, this certificate was handed over to him at a special function.

K. R. Narayanan was a soft spoken and matter of fact President. Without hurting anybody, he could put his ideas through to others. His statements often carried weight. Because he always valued humanity and democracy. At the height of the debate on the proposed Constitution Review, he threw a big challenge for others by asking the Indian polity ‘ to introspect whether the Constitution has failed us or we have failed the Constitution’. Similarly on the eve of Republic Day in 2000, the President K. R. Narayanan made a memorable speech many lines of which even today have the ringing tones like, ‘Our giant factories rise from squalor, our satellites shoot up from the midst of the hovels of the poor….’ Again in the same speech he said, ‘….our greatest national drawback is the status of our women, and our greatest national shame , the condition of the dalits….’ And how many more!

K. R. Narayanan was such a good Teacher that he never cherished any ill will against his students , however troublesome they were. While being the Vice – Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, he had the worst stint of student indiscipline. With good sense of humour once he said, ‘It was easier dealing with the Gang of Four, you fellows are really troublesome’. Certainly he always loved his students in spite of their failings and the great teacher won the respect of all.

K. R. Narayanan’s life was a big lesson on humility. He never held his head high egoistically, nor did he cast aspersions at anybody. When the President joined other citizens of India at a polling booth on Feb.16,1998 to cast his vote, it was unprecedented. To all his detractors , he had a big message that he was the President of a democratic nation and in his own words , he was not ‘an executive President, but a working President’.

K. R. Narayanan taught the world not to underestimate a person, as it is foulsome to overestimate a person based on his appearance. It is the grit, the will, the conscience that matter. Narayanan had all these in plenty. Truly, in his long journey from rags to riches, he never knocked at any door for any position , but positions came him searching. What a big lesson for us to learn and others to teach !.

As H.W. Long fellow wrote,

“The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by a sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.”

Such was the life and message of K. R. Narayanan. Let the pyre and the flames that consumed him disseminate that curriculum for us.

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Articles Youth And Faith

The Calling And Its Challenges

priest-book

When we look at the Church both in the days of the early Christian communities, and the Malankara Orthodox Church in its Diaspora, we find a common thread of unity in the faith and worship of those church communities. However, something that was missing in the Diaspora in the United States for the Malankara Church was clearly evident in the early Church. That “something” created the movement of Christianity and gave it life to grow into what we currently know in various traditions and forms. It established the faith to be not just the old man’s religion and ways, but the young man’s hope for a better world of peace and love. That “something” we find in the great leaders of the early church, especially in the young disciple of St. Paul, Timothy. In fact, that something was clearly also despised by those elders who felt threatened by the authority from someone so inexperienced. And so the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy saying, Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.” (I Timothy 4:12-14). The role of the youth, and young leaders like Timothy, set the Church apart for greatness, and gave the early Church a life and a conviction that allowed the faithful to even go and die for their faith. Today, in the Malankara Orthodox Church in America, in the face of obstacles and trials, the youth have risen to their calling, and have not neglected their gifts, thus giving the Church in the U.S. a new life and the people who live here, a new hope about the future of the Church.

It is to this new revolution of the youth that I belong, and became an active part in. The MGOCSM and the Sunday School became the strength and the backbone of the American Diocese because of young leaders and workers who have given their lives, time and energy for a faith that they believe strongly in and for a Church that brings them the Christian hope for a better world in Christ. Young men and women, teens, students, professionals, young married couples, all who share the common experience of growing up in a land that is not their own and in a culture that clashes with their mother culture, have stepped up to making the Diaspora Church their church, and not just their parents’ church. So, today the MGOCSM has over 50 active units in the American Diocese, helps to coordinate the Diocesan Family & Youth Conference, leads a Leadership Camp for young leaders, helps to lead the OVBS and Sunday School activities, raises money for charity, hosts sport events, talent shows, and encourages the youth to become active leaders in their home parishes, as well as on the Diocesan level.

The biggest sign of hope, however, came with the ordination of several young men to the Diaconate (Readers and Sub deacons) from among the American born and raised youth. I, along with a few other young men of various ages, took the Call of Christ to accept ordination and work along with the bishops and priests in the role of pastoral leaders.

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The Youth Must Face The Changes Of The World Courageously

youth-shadows

As lion share of the members of the Orthodox Parishes in UAE are youngsters, these Parishes could be called Youth Parishes and the youth could donate very valid and creative contributions than elders, with their unity and enthusiasm, said Fr. Dr. K.M George. He was presenting the main theme (the presence of Christ in a changing world) of the annual Zonal conference of the Youth movement units in all parishes in UAE, held at St. George Orthodox Church, Abu Dhabi on 2nd Dec 2003. Whenever a new President takes over the office in USA, in his maiden message to the nation, declares about the steps planned for the changing world in the coming years. This is on a misunderstanding that he is responsible for the world order. It is only because of a false understanding known as ‘Megayo media’. It is a renewed attempt of colonization of the past. This truth is revealed clearly in the famous poem in English “A Whitman’s burden” H.H. The Pope gave the rights of the countries in the west to the Spanish and the right of the countries in the east to the Italians in the16th century. As a result a team under the leadership of Vasco De Gamma reached India and another team under the leadership of Columbus reached the North America and they established their colonies. In those days the Popes believed that it was their responsibility to look after the world order.

We could come to know that there was a world order from the creation, as explained in the Holy Scriptures. Cosmos is the right word to be utilized in the meaning of Universe and all the creations in the universe. Its literal meaning is the order. It has got another meaning ‘beauty’. The word related to the beautification is cosmetic. The melodious and dynamic world order established by God has it’s own uniqueness, attraction, transparency. In the view of the contemporary Presidents of USA, all world orders are in great disorder. That is why the Government of USA has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. Indian Orthodox Church is a founder member of the World Council of Churches from 1948 onwards. WCC had selected ‘Man’s order and disorder’ for the study and perusal in 1948. Instead of disorder sometimes we use the term ‘violence’, (in Malayalam, we use ‘Akramam’ meaning which is not in the ‘kramam’/order) which also literally means disorder.

In 1998 H.H. The Pope John Paul had invited all Catholic Bishops to Rome to think about the stand to be adopted in the new Millennium. Fr. George was lucky enough to attend the Synod, representing the Indian Orthodox Church as a special invitee. During the Synod days H.H. The Pope used to invite a few to dine with His Holiness. One day Fr. George was also invited for the dinner with His Holiness. When Fr. George got a close audience with His Holiness, he asked the Pope, “Today the entire world is looking forward to the future with fear. What is your Holiness’ advice to the world?” The answer was not spontaneous, but very quietly and affectionately His Holiness answered, “I don’t think that there is nothing to worry as there won’t be frightening and poisonous events in the 21st century as in the case of 20th century.” Fr. George considers this answer from the practical knowledge of His Holiness, as he might have seen the cruel brutality of Hitler when he assassinated 6 million people cruelly.

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Articles Youth And Faith

Pilgrimage to Truth: OCYM Conference 2005 Theme

ocym-conference

Introduction

The word ‘Pilgrimage’ here stands for leading a man’s consciousness to new and fresh pastures. Sometimes it is a physical displacement. But basically it is a quest for newer concepts and understandings. Here let us concentrate on a ‘Pilgrimage to Truth’.

The Problem (Concept) of Truth

Truth is a term oft – repeated by Jesus Christ during his public ministry. It was used either to indicate the divine authenticity of his claims (cf. Verily, Verily I say unto you or By Truth I say unto you) or to reflect the essence (spirit) of his existence or identity. (cf. I am the Way, Truth and the Life). Besides he used the term to reveal his mission when he said, “I should bear witness unto Truth” John 17: 37. The most important among them is the second one: revealing his self – I AM: No one dared to question or outshine his claims except Pilate who asked ‘What is Truth’? (John 18:37). This is a problem, which we all face.

The contemporary world is highly complex – confused with claims, ideas and ideals. The good and evil are inseparably or inextricably bound together. Humans remain embarrassed in front of the claims and comments made in religious, political, economic and social dimensions or contexts.

Religion and Truth

Jesus Christ was incarnated into this world with the message of giving rest and salvation to human. Many great persons who survived the ages have propagated the same message. But all the movements or organizations left by these historic people are now in conflicts by blaming each other or making false and contradictory claims. For instance, the community, which believe that God is Omniscient and Omnipresent, is now waging violent wars to monopolize the places of divine incarnation.

Conflicts have risen even in the basic principles of religion. Some say religion should aim at building a social communion and effecting a social liberation whereas some claim that religion is a feeling, which aim at gratification of selfish and superficial instincts. Some religious leaders want people more concerned about the life after whereas some give priority to life here. Here a search into ‘Truth’ is highly essential.

Truth in the Political Context

Those who come to power, having pledged to stand for the welfare of the nation and security of the citizens are later accused of corruption and mis-governance. Some are in favor of the war by pointing to the external and internal threats. But some leaders see the other side of deliberate attempts of asserting their power and financial benefits. The political parties and factions – “divided we grow!” – blame one another for ideals, personal gains and political games. The question is again ‘What is truth’?

Economic Context

There exists propaganda in favor of free market and liberal privatization for the welfare of the people. But it is counter – argued by pointing to the dominance of market system and commodity culture, which make humans least important and their life worse than it is. Globalization has invited foreign market controllers to India. Yet in effect, it puts the internal products at stake. Liberalized banking schemes and loan systems provide people with many avenues to get money to add to their luxurious life. Besides, even the unwanted are made inevitable by the post modern conditions of consumption culture. Humans struggles to get out of such traps till they “embraces” suicide. India is developing with the huge amount of money borrowed from foreign controlled banks. Where do we stand? What will be our future? What is Truth?

Truth in the Context of the Church

Truth is all the more complicated in the context of the church. One among the complexities is about the relative importance of the tradition and the Bible. Which is the ultimate or which is truth? Tradition? Or Bible? Or are they complementary, as our church believes? These questions are to be answered. The fast growing charismatic movements, which are centered round a self-made ‘super human’ is also adding to the complexity. Some stand for and with the cross, but some for cure! Some propagates fast development and material prosperity, but some for spiritual elevation. Do charisma means the exploitation of weak human feelings? What is Truth?

Again another relevant question is should the church get involved in social and political issues? Didn’t Jesus make a distinction between the physical and the spiritual, by stating, “Give unto Caesar what is due to him and to God what is due to Him”. It is debated by referring to Jesus’ remarks on Herod by calling him a fox. It is argued that the faithful should evaluate and respond to all those which make his destiny in the world and influence his life at large including politics. What should we do? What is Truth?

Conclusion

In short, human life is at its severe complexities. Truth is distorted: reality is misconceived. A re – search is inevitable. Jesus is Truth, Way and Life. Only those who know the truth can find the way to abundant life as conceived by Christ. No one does get to God except through Him. So let us open new horizons of analytic, evaluative and authoritative search into the Truth, which paves the way for new life. We are called upon such a mission of pilgrimage.

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Articles Youth And Faith

Strategies And Visions For Making The Diaspora Youth A Dynamic Community of Christ’s Disciples

youth-together

It is important to note that this unique seminar for giving a new life and boost for the Diaspora youth in India takes place immediately after the Sunday in which the Church celebrated the feast of Pentecost. In the first Pentecost day, many of the Diaspora Jews gathered in Jerusalem were moved by the abundant experience of the Holy Spirit by the early Christian community. That event laid the foundation for the Church through a communication beyond the language barriers. May the same Spirit guide the participants of this seminar, who have come from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, so that we could build up an effective Youth Movement in the ‘Babelic’ context of India.

The Changing Scenario Of The Indian Society

As an important prerequisite to empower the youth organizations, we need to have a clear grasp of the crisis and challenges our society is facing today. At present , the whirlwind of the forces of globalization is sweeping over our country, as well as other poor and developing nations. On the one hand, modern transportation and communication technologies have compressed the world into a global city, heightening the awareness of humanities interconnection and interdependence. Globalization has developed a capacity to extend the effects of modern development to all the parts of the world with ease and speed. But actually, through the process of privatization and liberalization, it is creating economic exploitation and political subordination of the poor countries by the developed ones, leading to greater misery and poverty for the poor.

It is creating a world where the market forces are reigning supreme, sidelining the real needs of the poor people and the earth. It is generating an ever-expanding greed for profit and power, promising an unending material progress, and causing irresponsible exploitation of rare resources of the earth and polluting the environment

1. It is spreading secularism and indirectly encouraging religious fanaticism. It is excluding the poor and the powerless more and more from the immense benefits of today’s scientific and technological progress. Another threat is “the cultural monism powered by the engine of religious fundamentalism and driven by the Sangh Parivar”

2. The motto of this conceptualization is: one nation, one people, and cone culture. This is countered by the concept of cultural pluralism promoted by secular forces and cultural subalternism. which is an effort to mobilize the Dalits, the secluded tribes, and the Backward classes as Dalitbahujans in order to be an alternative political and cultural force. Caste discriminations which are prevailing even within Church, unemployment of youth, unbridled migration for jobs, the displacement of the tribal, the discrimination against women, the degradation of eco- system are other negatives. These are mentioned not to minimize the developments, but to view the realities around us from the view point of the victims so that we could understand the pungency of serving God’s Kingdom by responding to these issues.