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Manifestations Of The Great Lent

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Our Great Lent for the year 2006 started on Feb 27th, and Easter is fast approaching. Our Lord not only taught us the significance of Lent and fasting, but he also practiced it. His forty days of Lent were focused on receiving power in order to defeat Satan and his temptations. Our Lord also obtained spiritual strength to fulfill his ministry in this world. These two aspects are very important in our Christian life. We need to overcome our day to day temptations and also have to finish our regular duties with bold confidence. Lent and fasting are the spiritual medicine, for maintaining our mental balance to accomplish our goals and expectations. Modern research has revealed the benefits of fasting and lent, in order to maintain a healthy body. According to the Christian point of view, Lenten season is the time of self purification, and dedication.

There are various practices; we should follow, when we observe the Great Lent. The ultimate goal of Great Lent is our preparation for celebrating Easter. The Church insists that every believer should observe this holy lent for experiencing Christ’s resurrection in his/her personal life. Christ’s resurrection becomes meaningful and realistic when we liberate ourselves form death and evil.

According to the patristic* view, every confession is a form of resurrection. That’s why our people take part in confession and communion, frequently during the Lenten season. Devotion and prayer are other practices. If we need to sustain a close relationship with someone, we will maintain continuous communication with that person. According to the orthodox liturgical tradition, a believer should pray at least seven times a day. If we start to practice this especially in the Lenten season, we can follow this pattern all the way through our life. The key to continue our life in the presence of God are bible reading and meditation. Almsgiving is also very essential. Lent is not only for our individual sanctification but is also a spiritual observance for maintaining God’s grace in all His creation. Lenten season reminds us the need of sharing our possessions with our fellow human beings. If we are not ready to serve the needy and poor, there is no meaning in lent and fasting.

Great Lent is a valuable time to enter into strict discipline and its results are immeasurable. We are now nearing the final days of the Great Lent and entering the Passion Week. I hope most of you have observed this lent, took part in confession, and accepted the life-giving flesh and blood of our Lord who sacrificed himself on the cross for the redemption of you and me.

We all know the importance of the Passion Week in Christian life. The absolutely sinless Lord took upon himself our infirmities, carried our illness, and was wounded for our transgressions, so that with His stripes we can be healed. The revered passion and glorious resurrection constitute the final and definite blow against death and Satan. He redeemed us from being accursed by becoming Himself a curse, and suffering the most dishonorable death, in order to lead us again to the glorious life of Aden. The Lord accepted to be nailed upon a cross as a criminal and in this way He held the curse of sin and of death, marking the end of all our sin and death, with that final word on the cross “It is finished” God the Father willingly allowed his only begotten Son, who did not know sin from experience, to be condemned as a sinner for our sake so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God through our union with Him.

These are some of our basic thoughts for the Passion Week: come before the Cross; sit before the Cross; share the sorrows of our Lord and Savior. Each and everyone should find time to witness and recall the facts that son of God came down from heaven, became human, died on the cross to redeem us of our sins, and rose alive from death and tomb, and sits on the side of His Heavenly Father, to plead for our entry there.

By wearing the Holy garment of Lent, by cleansing ourselves through confessions and being a new person in Christ, let us celebrate the joyful feast of Easter for our own resurrection, a passage from sin and death, to secure a peaceful life, and follow a journey with Jesus Christ – our Lord and Savior.

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The Mission of Malankara Church in Western Context

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Contextualization and Enculturation are very much present in western missiological thought. Western world realized their mistakes and failures of the old methods, which were used by missionaries in the past. Western imperialism accompanied western mission and contributed towards colonialism of much of the non-western world. Western missionaries went abroad assuming that their task was to take ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ and the benefits of Western civilization to the rest of the world. Darrell Guder, a famous theologian says, ‘western evangelic efforts were often linked with the unquestioned assumption that the churches they founded would end up looking very European’. But now an incarnational approach to mission also speaks to related problems in the Western churches with regard to their evangelistic work within their own cultures. As Indian Orthodox Christians, we are always confused about our involvement towards the western context. Our churches seem hesitate to mingle with the societal issues.

Adaptation and avoidance of western culture, in full sense are not healthy and advisable. The most considerable approach is to be faithful with ourselves, as Indian Orthodox Christians, and try to accomplish our identity through the involvement in the society.

Understanding of ‘Contextual Theology’ is very relevant and helpful to highlight what we, as the Indian Orthodox community can do in America. Jesus did not soar off into heavenly heights but immersed himself into the altogether real circumstances of the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed (Luke 4:18). The last words of St. Mathew’s gospel revealed Jesus’ teaching about “Great Commission”. David Bosch, another great western theologian says “Christians find their true identity when they are involved in mission, in communicating to others a new way of life, a new interpretation of reality of God, and in committing themselves to the liberation and salvation of others”.

Contextual Theology emphasizes the need of our theology and belief contextualized. The Church cannot turn away its face from the poor, miserable, persecuted, oppressed and all other marginalized people. The Church must involve in political, social, cultural and economical issues of this world. The life of Church is based on Christ’s victory over the powers of evil and death, accomplished once for all. The purpose of Christian mission is the transformation of man and entire the creation.

As members of an alien community in US, we should be aware of our inability to achieve our identity even now. Most of the westerners still believe that the eastern orthodoxy being something primitive, quietist and not activist. Even though it is because of their lack of knowledge and misunderstanding, we have to accept our impassivity in the involvement with this culture. The protestant understanding of evangelism does not truly apply in the Orthodox Church, which is very different from the western approach. The church believes that a true Christian is a person who leads a Christian life and affects others with it. Each member of the church is considered responsible to spread the word of our Lord through his way of life. A person who leads a life of worship, dedication and social service is considered a true follower of our Lord. Orthodox spirituality is mainly based on purity of life. In order to gain this purity one has to get involved in daily prayers, fasting, meditation and sacramental life. We all have the responsibility to show the depth of our spirituality through our way of life and praxis (action). Our praxis should not be isolated from our real life. Our spirituality must be contextualized. No parish can exist meaningfully without reacting to the need and changes of the society. We have to find out the possibilities for starting monasteries, nursing homes, old age homes, counseling centers etc or visit such institutions and provide help and care. Another important crisis we face in achieving our identity is lack of ‘oneness’ in our community. If we control the mushrooming of several congregations, we can use our togetherness force to extract our wider resources and utilize it where needed.

The quality of human lives depends on our relationships with other human being and with God. As Indian Orthodox people we have to show our non-individualistic nature and the values of our extended family system. Lack of a good Support System will continue to create problems for the new immigrants to pursue better opportunities. Had there been a Support System in place with the availability of free information to make critical decisions, it would have eased the pain that others who came here earlier went through. Since Support Systems exist in other communities and denominations, there is a tendency for some of our Orthodox people to leave the Orthodox faith and join other denominations.

The following suggestions may be considered in establishing a good support system. Each parish can keep one or two apartments where people come and stay temporarily till they are familiar with the situations. There is need to help and develop a Medical Information network of voluntary services for those who do not have insurance. Language counseling should include in this Support System. Several of our Indian Orthodox communities come from a non-English speaking background. The ability to get trained in communication and language skills for better job opportunities is determined as another important service a Support System could provide. It is certain that by providing such a support system, our community will be tightly knit with the ability to grow and prosper both in spirit and in wealth.