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Are Religions For Peace, Justice And Dignity Of The Universe?

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Introduction:

The soul of the universe must be confused over many centuries about religions! Religions are meant for keeping peace and prosperity all over the universe at one hand; but on the other, we know many times they, knowingly or unknowingly, become agents of communal violence and disharmony. On ground of it there are many secular ideologies developed in the history fully negating the concept of religion itself. Being researches in the field of scientific studies of religions, it is our duty to fix this issue and to give an adequate answer to this criticism.

The phenomenon Religion is as old as human history. All efforts that the global society at time to time at different continents and living situations taken for the well being of the universe are all known as religions in general. Most of the religions believe in God and trying to practice good virtues. They pray and wish the well being of the entire Universe. There is no doubt for those who study the history of humanity in a balanced way that the religions played a very good role for the peaceful coexistence of different communities of linguistic and ethnic diversities all over the world. But at the same time whenever religions turn parochial in their perspectives, there the same peace-makers become evil forces and disturbs communities. We see so many examples for this reality in the history of the world.

Those who know the true spirit and essence of any religion can never turn to any sort of religious fanaticism and give troubles to the world; rather they will be peace makers in communities. Friedrich Max Müller (1823-1900), the famous orientologist, thus says this remark after studying numerous religions and their basic ethos:“Wer kennt eine Religion, kennt er alle religionen.”  They were always efforts taken in the history of humanity to use religions positively for a peaceful co-existence of different communities; and many of them worked successfully. Instead of making exclusive claims and segregate people from people, religions can have positive understandings and they could be in dialogues and work hand in hand for the ultimate goal, the well being of the universe.

Thus in the modern history of the world, interreligious dialogue bodies like World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) met many times as a continuation of an important heritage like the Parliament of Religions in 1893 , revealed on the international level a basic unity of purpose and goal amid diversities of religious belief, and widened the pathway of inter-religious cooperation for peace. In spite of the scars of religious strife in some parts of the world, the humanity perceive with joy a growing ferment of mutual understanding and respect among the followers of the great religions. Though we are still in the process of learning, while maintaining our commitment to our respective faiths and traditions, we may respect and understand the devotion of others to their faiths and religious practices.

Those who are at the warhead of interreligious dialogues know that the forces which negate human dignity are still strong and all around us. We see the menace of deadly nuclear weapons and desperate national insecurity. Technological and economic power often exploits and excludes the poor of the world. Political power often represses dissidents and denies human rights. Human greed also destroys the natural environment on which we all depend. We realize that our religious insights and actions are only one contribution to the struggle against these forces. We therefore have to work in unity, with humility but with urgency using the resources of our traditions and beliefs, to cast out the danger before the world.

Is Peace possible?

In a global perspective, Peace can be defined as a World Community built in love, freedom, justice, and truth. It is the goal of all our striving; it should not be a utopian dream. Despite the facts like the centers of economic power intensify their exploitation, and as stockpiles of nuclear weapons grow, we have to stand together in a spirit of hope. In our various religions, we know that we are members of one universal family . Sustained and motivated by the spiritual power by which we all live, we believe that there is an alternative to violence. We believe that peace is possible. This should be the hope we would share with the whole world. We have to dedicate ourselves to the task of becoming more effective agents of building interreligious communities. Being religious people and leaders of communities, we have a special responsibility for building a peaceful world community.

On the one hand, we realize that far too often the names of our various religions have been used in warfare and community strife, and that we must work harder against this. We cannot deny the facts and have to confess that:

  • The practices of our religious communities are often a divisive force in the world;
  • Too often we conform to the powers of the world, even when they do wrong, rather than confronting those powers with the Word of the Teachings of our religions;
  • We have not done enough as servants and advocates of suffering and exploited human beings; and
  • We have done too little to build inter-religious understanding and communities among ourselves on the local level where prejudices run strong.

On the other hand, we have been brought to a new awareness, in this two days seminar on interreligious coalition for Peace, of the deep resources, both in Governmental and NGO levels, we share for making peace.

  • Adhering to different religions, we may differ in our objects of faith and worship. Nevertheless, in the way we practice our faith, we all confess that the God or the Truth is one in which we believe transcends the powers and divisions of this world. We are not masters, but servants and witnesses, always being changed and disciplined in worship, meditation, and practice by the truth which we confess.
  • We all acknowledge restraint and self-discipline in a community of giving and forgiving love as basic to human life and the form of true blessedness.
  • We are all commanded by our faiths to seek justice in the world in a community of free and equal persons. In this search, conscience is given to every person as a moral guide to the ways of truth among us all.
  • We believe that peace in world community is not only possible but is the way of life for human beings on earth, as we learn it in our prayers or meditations during these two days and by our faiths.

If religions come together to propagate active love, uniting men and women in the search for righteousness, will liberate the world from all injustice, hatred, and wrong. Common suffering whatever the universe face today may be the means of making us realize that we are brothers and sisters, called to overcome the sources of that suffering. Modern civilization may someday be changed so that neighborly good will and helpful partnership may be fostered; and all religions may increasingly cooperate in creating a responsible world community.

Mobilization for Peace, Justice and Dignity of the universe should be our real goal:

I want to mention at least five special areas where we have to concentrate the work of interreligious movements for the future of our globe; and I believe that it is the prime duty of the leading religions of the world and their leaders to launch effective programs in this respect in order to protect the global community from dangers of the present era.

1. International Economic Order

A new international economic order of growing justice and equity would stimulate all nations to achieve viable and self-reliant national economies, capable of participating in international trade on a basis of equality rather than dependence. In order to establish this new vision, there must be the political and social will to promote balanced economic growth worldwide and to allocate its benefits to the abolition of poverty, the meeting of all basic human needs, and the creation of equitable trade relations between the industrial and the developing countries. It is our duty to call upon religious people to work for the elimination of the structures of economic and social injustice and to mobilize governmental public opinion in favor. All the wealth of the universe is a common heritage held in trusteeship for all . We have to advocate ourselves and our fellow-pilgrims that the rights of yet-to-be born generations to planetary resources that have been wisely developed rather than wastefully exhausted.

2.  Nuclear and Conventional Disarmament

The major concern for the human family on earth even today is the looming danger of nuclear annihilation, either by design or accident. A global moral and religious campaign which will say NO to ANY KIND OF WAR BETWEEN NATIONS OR PEOPLES is our call to governments, religious groups, and all men and women of conscience and faith. The interreligious movements must work toward disarmament and nonviolent means of maintaining security. As a prerequisite, it is essential to create an atmosphere of trust and foster a spirit of conciliation between peoples.

3.  Human Rights

Interreligious movements should pledge our support to all societies, organizations, and groups sincerely struggling for human rights and opposing their violation. So we should condemn religious discrimination in any form. All human beings are born free and for freedom that they are equal in dignity and rights, and that any discrimination is incompatible with human dignity. Each new born in this world should breath the air of freedom, peace and justice around him/er as it is declared by UN on the occasion of International Year of Children in1959 . Religious people should work harmoniously for the adoption of social, economic, and population policies to assure a better and a brighter future for every child.

4.  Environment and Energy Crisis

The earth is threatened increasingly by human misuse of the environment in quest of material prosperity. We are endangering future generations by our depletion of nonrenewable natural resources, our pollution of air and water with chemical and radioactive wastes, and our overexploitation of the soil in many parts of the world. An energy crisis stares us in the face. With diminishing supplies, of oil, nations and individuals will have to make sacrifices, develop alternative – if possible renewable – sources of energy, and even change their lifestyles. The resources of all religions are needed to cultivate respect for the natural world in which we live conservation of its resources, and a style of human life that is in harmony with all of nature.

5.  Education for Peace

The world’s religious bodies must undertake major educational programs to increase mutual appreciation of all peoples and cultures and foster a commitment to the values of peace. Our efforts so far have not been sufficient. We therefore rededicate ourselves to the education of children, youth, and adults, to the training of our religious leaders, and to the promotion of values of peace and understanding in our conduct in personal and public life.

Ultimately, peace and justice move toward the salvation and wholeness of all humanity, and flow from them as well. We, as followers of great religions, should be the channels through which spiritual power can flow for the healing of the world. We should confess that we have not been worthy of this high calling, but we pledge ourselves here anew to be its faithful servants and witnesses. World peace in world community, with justice for all, is possible.

Conclusion:

Let me conclude by quoting some universal prayers we have from different religious traditions which enables our goal.

  • The most important prayer of Buddhism, for example, says:

“Buddham saranam gacchami. Dhammam saranam gacchami. Sangham saranamgacchami”.

Advocates a true religious movement of Knowing the Reality, Practicing it and receive Energy of people that through.

  • The Christians: Kriye elison, a prayer and aspiration for the God’s mercy to the entire universe and
  • The Indian religions teach: Loka samastha sukino bhavanthu, let the whole World have always Wellbeing.

If these and many other prayers of this kind become a reality, the efforts of Interreligious Dialogues get their goal done and the global community will be benefited towards their future for having real Peace, Justice and dignity of Universe

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The Life-Message Of Late H. H. Baselios Mathews II

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What could be the life-message of our most respected holy father late Baselios Mathews II? In my view his life was a testament to the fact that liturgical-life offers a scientific, and holistic way of living. From a very young age he followed a liturgical life style both in his home and parish. He used to say that he could not even remember a day in his life that he missed the canonical prayers and meditation. He used to wake early in the morning, after his ablutions to clean his physical body, do the canonical prayers with prostrations followed by a personal silent meditation. For all liturgically important occasions he celebrated the holy Qurbana in the morning with fasting and full preparations. On Wednesdays, Fridays and lent-seasons, he fasted at least till noon even without drinking water. Likewise he conducted evening prayers, Bible study, spiritual reading and other spiritual exercises. All these strict principles and life-style kept him cleansed in his spiritual entity, helped maintain his total body-fitness and gave him a radiant personality. Undoubtedly, one could notice that the ‘Grace and Provisions’ he has received from the liturgical and highly sacrificial life he led was the unceasing power behind his successes story.

What does it mean to lead a liturgical life style in a modern society? How far and in earnest can one practice such a lifestyle in a society where we always lament that “I have no time”? I maintain that not only is such a lifestyle important for us to lead a healthy life but necessary to elevate us to the spiritual potential that we are each capable of.

Liturgical life is a style of living. Our prayers and meditations should not be something that we are doing to please God, church, parents or even our personal ego; rather it is something vital for your existence itself. It is the discipline you very much need to organize your very basic living. Just think of an electronic device that you handle daily. To maintain such a device we have to follow the instructions in the owner’s manual. Complaining to the manufacturer without following the owner’s manual will not get us any results. Same is the case with each one of us. If we do not keep our physical body clean and healthy, it will deteriorate after a while. Complaining to God, after having failed to take good care of the body he gave us, will not yield any results. When I came to know that I am a diabetic, I started to cry out to God and asked him why it happened to me. I knew the answer. It was very simple because I was not at all taking care of the physical body God gave me. I ate what ever I got without any regard to the time! I did not exercise consistently and let my body deteriorate.

Following the life-style prescribed by the Fathers of the Orthodox Church, with its weekly and seasonal fasting, meditations and life principles will give the practitioner a healthy body. This will help us raise our level of spirituality and spiritual pursuits.. The Life of Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews II is an excellent example of this basic tenet of Orthodox life-style.

How do you make time? The answer is if you do not find time to remain healthy, you will get time to be sick. Further, if there is a will, we will find a way. For example, no matter how busy we are, we always make time to fill up our cars if the gas gets too low. A change of life style is necessary. Instead of spending time on non-value adding activities such as watching TV, we need to be actively involved in our physical and spiritual daily exercise. We still need to eat, but we can be careful of what we eat, the amount we eat and the number of times we eat. At least twice a week be perfect vegetarian, eat only half stomach, know what you eat and drink, observe daily fasting of any twelve hours (6 pm to 6 am preferably), observe the five Lenten seasons and so on. Do the morning and evening prayers with standing posture with prostration when ever it is suggested, have a silent meditation at least for ten minutes in the morning and evening after the daily prayers and then plan your next day. Then you will see that you are managing your time in a very productive way. It will make you both physically and spiritually happy. You may never say to anybody anymore that “I have no time”, because now you have a time management

This was the reason why His Holiness was never busy, though he was really doing wonders. He was never tired, though he was so active more than eighteen hours a day. Can we try this on a trial basis this Lenten season? Then get ready to start from Feb. 26th with the inception of the Great fifty days fast. You will then realize that you are and resurrected and realized being in Christ our Lord.

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Maranatha– Our Lord Come!

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According to the liturgical calendar of the Oriental Orthodox Church, now we are in the last part of our liturgical calendar, namely the Eschatological period. This period starts from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (Sep.14th) and ends on the feast of Koodhosh Eetho (the first Sunday of the liturgical year – Oct. 30th in this year). The Gk. term eskhatos meaning “last, furthest” refers in Christian theology to the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment. In the Nicene Creed, we pray: “He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there shall be no end.” When we recite this prayer, we do believe and admit four important points: 1. Jesus Christ died on the Cross; 2. He is resurrected and ascended into heaven; 3. He is to return to this earth to judge the world and to establish His Kingdom; and 4. Though no one knows the day or hour of Christ’s second coming, a true believer should be always ready to face this final day. The Church is always in preparation for this great day and should always pray for that. This is why the last part of the year is set apart in the calendar as a special period of meditation and study on this important topic – Eschatology – study about the second coming of Christ, last judgment of the world and related things to be happened.

As a part of the preparation and longing for the Kingdom of our Lord in its fullness, we do pray Maran atha (our Lord come)! Though this Aramaic (Syriac) phrase occurs only once in the NT (I Cor. 16:22), it became one of the most important shortest prayers of the Church because of its message and importance. It could be understood and interpreted as the essence of Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father, who art in heaven…” The term literally means “our Lord has come”, or “our Lord will come”, or more likely “Come, our Lord!” Then it becomes a powerful prayer form. In that sense, there is a strong similarity to the final words of the Book of Revelation: “Amen; come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). This is the basic hope and prayer of the Church that our Lord will come again.

But, will He come again at all? Is it not some what only a superstitious belief of Christians? Why is He so late, if he really wanted to come again? We hear all these from unbelievers or even from some Christian friends those who are still in doubt and confusion. Being the witnesses of the Right Faith (Ortho Duksso), it is our responsibility to face these questions. See if you believe in Christ and Gospel, then you have to believe in His Second Coming and Last Judgment too, because it is an essential message of the New Testament. In other words the Plan of the kingdom of God will have its completion only on the day of the Second Coming of our Lord. Thus “the Holy Church, the bride of the Most High”, will receive her reward on that day – the Eternal life with Christ her Bridegroom. Though we can neither anticipate the time nor the way or method of His coming, we do have His assurance that He will come and restore His creation – the Church. Hence we pray during the Eucharist: “…; we wait for Your awesome and glorious Second Coming…” (Lk. 22:15 & 1 Cor. 11:26).

So, let us recite this prayer from the depth of our hearts on waiting for His eternal Kingdom. Let it be our final goal and longing. Let it be our contemplation and meditation: “Maranatha o’ Kyrielison – Our Lord, come and have mercy upon us.”

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The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

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On 14th September the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The feast commemorates the finding of the True Cross in 326 during a pilgrimage of Christians to Jerusalem. St. Helena, the mother of then Roman emperor Constantine, who made Christianity as the state religion of the empire after having converted to the faith himself, was the leader of this pilgrimage. The prime aim of this pilgrimage was to find out the victorious Cross of our Lord. Since the event is well described in our liturgical songs for the glorification of Holy Cross, there is no need of further historical narration. However, all Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican Churches observe this day in different names, Triumph of the Cross – by the Catholics and Holy Cross Day – by the Anglicans.

The Orthodox theology of the Cross is called, “Stavrology” from the Greek, “Stavros” for “Cross.” We exalt the Holy Cross of our Lord not only on this day, but also for all Feasts of our Lord because, by the Suffering of Him, who was crucified on it, we are exalted and saved. Having eaten the forbidden fruit of the Tree in Adam, we are saved through the Tree of the Cross and are enabled to eat of Its Fruit, which is Christ in Holy Communion. This is the liturgical importance of the Holy Cross in Orthodox worship.

There are amble evidences in the history of the Early Church and that through the New Testament for the veneration of Cross. St. Paul to Galatians thus acknowledges it: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. [Gal. 6:14] The Church adores the Cross because it is the most powerful Icon of Christ, pointing to Him directly. The early Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria speaks of the Cross as tou Kuriakou semeiou tupon, i.e. “the symbol of the Lord.” And Tertullian could designate the body of Christian believers as crucis religiosi, i.e. “devotees of the Cross”.

This is why, we used to bless everything with the words: “This (food or house or whatever) is being blessed with the Sign of the Holy Cross + in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” We wear the Cross around our necks on a cord as the symbol of our Covenant with Christ. We should use it to bless ourselves as well. Our whole life is signed in the Cross because in it we are save, sanctified and divinized. It is our banner, our protection and the ensign of Christ the King, as well as our shield and the terror of the Evil One.

Let us unite in this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross to thank God the Father who had given His only begotten Son for the remission of sins and saved us by His victorious Cross.

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The Feast of Transfiguration of Our Lord

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As we know, the Transfiguration of Christ is one of the central events recorded in the gospels. Immediately after our Lord was recognized by his apostles as “the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Living God,” he told them that “he must go up to Jerusalem and suffer many things … and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16). The announcement of Christ’s approaching passion and death was met with indignation by the disciples. And then, after rebuking them, the Lord took Peter, James, and John “up to a high mountain” — by tradition mount Tabor — and was “transfigured before them.”

His face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as snow and behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah. He was still speaking when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead” (Mt 17:1-92, see also Mk 9:1-9; Lk 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18).

The Jewish Festival of Tents was a feast of the dwelling of God with men, referring to their journey from Egypt to the promised-land where they always lived in tents whenever they camped. The Tabernacle, the house of their Lord, was with them always at the centre of their camp. The transfiguration of Christ reveals how this dwelling takes place in and through the Messiah, the Son of God in human flesh. Christ’s transfiguration took place at the time of the Festival of Tents, and that the celebration of the event in the Christian Church became a feast in a way similar to the feasts of Passover and Pentecost.

WIn the Transfiguration, the apostles see the glory of the Kingdom of God present in majesty in the person of Christ. They see that in him, indeed, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 1:19, 2:9). They see this before the crucifixion so that in the resurrection they might know who it is who has suffered for them, and what it is that this one, who is God, has prepared for those who love him. This is what the Church celebrates in the feast of the Transfiguration and hence she prays: “Thou wast transfigured on the mount. 0 Christ, our Lord and Savior, revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners. Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee. On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, 0 Christ God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it; so that when they would behold Thee crucified, they would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world that Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father.” – Prayers from the Feast of Transfiguration.

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Pentecost – The Demonstration Of The Holy Trinity And The Indwelling Of And Cleansing By The Holy Spirit

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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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