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Christian Education In The Family


Christian education of children should be carried on chiefly within the home, within the family. Instruction given in Sunday schools and attendance of church services are very important, but dependant, of course, on the family’s cooperation and attitude. Family is recognized as the ‘home church’, and the task of the parents is really a kind of lay priesthood. Within a Christian family our Christian faith must be incarnated; it must be brought to life in the daily, hourly experience of living. Children attend Sunday school for an hour a week; they attend church services for another hour or two, but family life goes on all the time, every day of the year, and is embodied in every detail of living – in personal relationships, in providing, preparing and partaking of food, in health and in sickness. It is the environment within which the life of the child unfolds.

Love in Family Life

The nature of the family is that it is based on love, is an embodiment of love between several human beings. A family is not made by legal definition; it is based on the love of husband and wife for each other and the love between parents and children. The experience of family love is different from other expressions of love. It is essential in the sense that – unlike romantic love or devotion to some cause, that demand proclamation and explanation in words – family love does not have to be consciously verbalized. Furthermore, it is a universal experience, because every human being belongs to some kind of family.

The Christian concept of a family and of family love has a special character. It is similar to the Trinitarian concept of God: a human being cannot exist completely by itself. It becomes fully human within a relationship of love with other human beings. Such a relationship can be violated – human beings may not love each other, parents may not love their children, children may not love their parents – but lack of love is always a violation of the true nature of the family.

Husband and wife relationship

The husband-wife relationship is very different from the romantic period of ‘being in love’. As much as romance is very important in a relationship, in the husband-wife relationship each one of the partners gives up his or her ‘selfness.’ One person becomes only a part of the new unity. In order to be happy, both of them have to be happy; if one is unhappy, both are. O decision can be isolated one. The hurts of the other person mean as much as your own hurts. Whatever you do, the other is involved. In a very real sense in marriage two become one.

The difficulty of the relationship is that loving is not the same as liking. There are always traits and qualities that a couple dislikes within each other. It may be arrogance or laziness, talkativeness or impatience, some habits and tastes inherited from one’s former family, some superficial mannerisms. There are circumstances in which a husband and wife simply get on each other’s nerves. How does on then deal in love with traits one dislikes? This abrasive nature of the married life is what one might call its ‘askesis,’ and experienced monks say that the ascetic effort of married life is greater than that of a monk in a monastic community. In other social groups you can avoid a person who has irritating traits. You can control yourself and put up with another’s exasperating traits for a limited time; but in a family there is no way of isolating yourself. Such as you are, you have to come to terms with the other members of your family as they are. A Christian family comes into being only when the ‘coming of terms’ is a true incarnation of Christian faith, hope and love.

Chapter 13 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians remains forever the most helpful and practical manual of love in human relationships. The effort to apply this kind of love, the constant effort to deal in this spirit with the thousands of aggravating difficulties in our daily relations goes on throughout the long years of every Christian marriage. Love does not exclude anger. Something is wrong with your love if you are never angry. Precisely because a husband or a wife has a lover’s vision of his or her partner as a person who is worth loving, anything that destroys this vision cannot leave that person indifferent. Anger rooted in love is a necessary element in husband-wife relationships; marriage is not a ‘society of mutual admiration.’ There is nothing wrong in a certain fear of one’s spouse’s anger. In a

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Articles Features We Believe

Let Us Be Reconciled With One Another – Shubqono


The Church, on this very afternoon of the ‘Day of Forgiveness,’ has set her journey into penitence. And so, kneeling and prostrating, her people look ahead to Kymtho, the great feast of the Light. The service of reconciliation is conducted on Monday, the first day if the Great Lent, at the end of third hour. The Service of Reconciliation or shubqono, stands at the ‘threshold of Great Lent.’ The service marks the actual doorway into Lent, the threshold on the other side of which stands the fullest measure of ascesis that the Church metes out to the whole of her faithful throughout the world. As we stand at the threshold of the fast, we sing of him who stood before the gates of Eden. As we make ready to enter in to this season of preparation, we sing often:

O merciful and compassionate Lord, to You I cry aloud: I am fallen! Have mercy on me! Your grace has shown forth, O Lord, it has shone forth and given light to our souls. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the season of repentance. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, that having sailed across the great sea of the Fast, we may reach the third-day Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls.

The scene painted by the hymns of the day is one of a great and terrible sorrow. We lament the loss of so great a gift – the gift to be children of God. Our sins have forced us to be exiles from glory. We are in want. No more can we look upon the Lord our God and Maker. As Great Lent begins, we are reminded in language stronger and more direct than ever before of the gravity of our condition in sin:

‘Woe is me, what have I suffered in my misery! I transgressed the commandments of the Master, and now I am deprived of every blessing.’ Then the Savior said: ‘I desire not the loss of the creature which I fashioned, but that he should be saved and come to knowledge of the truth; and when he comes to me I will not cast him out.’

By the transgression of the will of God we threw aside the gift of grace and blessings. However, we have a God who loves us and is abundant in His mercy.
‘I will not cast him out.’ God’s words in this are already the words of salvation. They are words of calling, of beckoning, of reconciliation. But they are also words of directive: ‘when he comes to me….’ God does not take fallen man and, with a divine fiat that would mean little to the long-term well being of humankind, magically place him back into glory from which we ourselves have exiled. God knows that it is our heart that most desperately needs to be healed, needs to be turned away from the desire for its own ends and back to a desire for the heart of God Himself. And so the Savior whispers to us, ‘When you come back to me, I will not cast you out’.

Our prayer must be:

Come, my wretched soul, and weep today over your acts, remembering how once you were stripped naked in Eden and cast out from delight and unending joy.

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Great Lent: ‘Restore Me To The Paradise From Which I Departed’


The center of the liturgical year in the Orthodox Church is Kymtho, the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.  It is extolled in the services as the Feast of feasts and Triumph of triumphs. Justifiably so, for as the Apostle Paul declares, if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain (I Cor. 15:14).  The sense of resurrection joy forms the foundation of all the worship of the Orthodox Church; it is the one and only basis for our Christian life and hope.  Through His redeeming Passion, Christ freed us from the tyranny of death and opened for us the door to Paradise and eternal life.  This is the goal of our life-long spiritual journey, a journey from death to life, from darkness to light – a restoration to paradise from which we have departed.  It is a long journey and we travelers get weary; we get distracted and wander off or even lose sight of the road.  To help keep us focused, the Church every year compresses for us this journey as it prepares us to greet the Feast of Christ’s Resurrection. This preparatory time is the joyous period of Great Lent. Without this preparation, without this expectant waiting, the deeper meaning of the Easter celebration will be lost.

The primary aim of fasting is to make us conscious of our dependence upon God. It is to lead us to a sense of inward brokenness and contrition; to bring to us, that is, to the point where we appreciate the full force of Christ’s statement, `Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). During the Great Lent, we have to strip ourselves from the specious assurance of the Pharisee who fasted, it is true, but not in the right spirit. Lenten abstinence gives us the saving self- dissatisfaction of the Publican (Luke 18:10-13). Such is the function of the hunger and the tiredness: to make us `poor in spirit’, aware of our helplessness and of our dependence on God’s aid. Abstinence leads to a sense of lightness, wakefulness, freedom and joy.

Lent is a time of joy. It is a time when we come back to life. It is a time when we shake off what is bad and dead in us in order to become able to live, to live with all the vastness, all the depth, and all the intensity to which we are called. We are at the threshold of the Great Lent. We have to believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual weapon that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil. Fasting might seem hard, but with each passing day, God’s call will grow stronger and clearer. Finally, we will be convinced that God has called us to fast, and He would not make such a call without a specific reason or purpose. With this conviction, enter the Great Lent with excitement and expectancy mounting in our hearts, praying, Lord, “I have walked away from You and Your precepts. But now I return, merciful Lord, and cry to You: I have sinned.”

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Youth And Faith

Presentation Of Our Lord In The Temple

Today we celebrate a multi-layered Festival. It is multi-layered because it is both a festival of the Church and an astronomical calendar date marking the half way point between winter solstice and vernal equinox: spring is on the way! It commemorates a scriptural event which combines the Presentation of the infant Jesus, a Christological feast; the Purification of the Virgin, a Mariological feast; and at the same it is the honoring of the temple, so it is a temple feast as well.

This feast, celebrated on February 2, is known in the Orthodox Church as The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Mayaltho in Syriac). Another name for the feast is The Meeting of our Lord. Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians call the feast, The Purification of the Holy Virgin. About 450 AD in Jerusalem, people began the custom of holding lighted candles during the Divine Liturgy of this feast day. Therefore, some churches in the West refer to this day as Candlemas.

Forty days after Jesus Christ’s birth, Mary and Joseph, brought Christ to the Temple to make the customary offering for purification; a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. According to the Law of Moses (Leviticus. 12:2-8), a woman who gave birth to a child was forbidden to enter the Temple of God for forty days. There, the prophetess Anna and the aged Simeon met them. Simeon sensed the fulfillment of Isaiah’s puzzling prophecies of a virginal birth (Isaiah 7:14), and received God Incarnate just as he was promised he would before his death. Then Simeon praised God singing a hymn now called the Nunc Dimittis: “Now let Your servant depart in peace, O Master” (Luke 2: 29-32). Also, in the Temple was Anna the Prophetess. She had been a widow for many years. Anna was about eighty-four years old and spent her time in the Temple worshiping, fasting, and praying. When she saw the Christ Child she praised God and spoke of him to all who were awaiting the Messiah. After Jesus was presented in the Temple, the family returned to Galilee to the town of Nazareth. The Bible tells us that Jesus grew and became strong, and was filled with wisdom. (Luke 2:22-40)

Egeria, writing around AD 380, attests to a feast of the Presentation in the Jerusalem Church. It was kept on February 14th. The day was kept by a procession to the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection, with a homily on Luke 2:22-39. However, the feast had no proper name at this point; it was simply called the 40th day after Epiphany. This shows that the Jerusalem church celebrated Jesus’ birth on the Epiphany Feast (as is common in some Orthodox Churches today). In regions where Christ’s birth was celebrated on December 25th, the feast began to be celebrated on February 2nd, where it is kept in the West today. In 542, the Emperor Justinian introduced the feast to the entire Eastern Roman empire in thanksgiving for the end to a great pestilence afflicting the city of Constantinople. Perhaps this is when Pope Gregory I brought the feast to Rome. The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons on the Feast by the holy bishops Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom.

When Mary ritually presented her newborn Son in the Temple in Jerusalem, she did so in accordance with the Mosaic Law. The law provided that a woman should bring as a sacrifice a lamb and a dove.

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Articles Youth And Faith

Fast Of Nineveh


In the first qolo of Thursday evening prayer, we sing:

The Ninevites trembled at the voice of Jonah, the son of Mattai, and took refuge in penitence by watching, fasting and prayer; and by tears and groans the sentence of judgment pronounced by Jonah concerning the destruction of Nineveh was annulled. Blessed be the Compassionate one who turned them from evil to good.

The three-day fast commemorates the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the fish and also the repentance of the city of Nineveh. Jonah runs away from God and from the mission that was entrusted to him. Jonah was cast into the sea and in the belly of the whale Jonah cries out to God. Jonah proclaims his message: “in 40 days Nineveh will be overthrown.” The people fast and pray. The king also prays and commands the whole city to call on God in the hopes that God would relent and withdraw his anger. God withholds his judgment due to their repentance and prayers. The Three Day Fast is in a way our preparation for the Great Lent. St. Jerome writes: “Fasting is not merely a perfect virtue: it is the foundation of all the other virtues; it is sanctification, purity, and prudence, – virtues without which no one can see God.”

The origins of the Nineveh Fast in the Syrian Orthodox Church can be traced back to the fourth century AD. This can be inferred from the memres and hymns of St. Ephrem, the Syrian. Initially the fast was for six days, but now it is only for three days starting on the third Monday before the Great Lent. The 3 days Fast had been neglected through the ages. Mar Dionysius Bar Salibi states that Mar Marutha of Tikrit was the one who enjoined it on the Church of the East first in the region of Nineveh. Armenians embraced this practice of the Syrians calling it (Sorep Sarkis). The Copts did the same during the time of Patriarch Anba Eprem, the Syrian.

Historically, this fast is one of the most rigorously observed fasts in the Church. The faithful traditionally refrain from food and drink for three consecutive days, from Monday till Wednesday. Some observe the fast by refraining from food and drink from morning till sunset during the three days. The church exhorts her faithful to at least refrain from meat, fish and dairy products during the period of fasting. The faithful are urged to go to church after this fast and receive the Holy Qurbono.

In the Old Testament, preparation for a special holy occasion included fasting and prayer. The New Testament often mentions fasting. Fasting is clearly not optional inasmuch as Jesus Christ said, regarding fasting “When you fast” (Matt. 6:16), rather than “If you fast.” Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Fasting is an essential aspect of practicing the Orthodox life. You cannot be Orthodox and not fast. Unfortunately, many in the Church today do not participate in this grace-bestowing practice. St. John Chrysostom says:

“Fasting purifies the mind, calms the senses, subjects the flesh to the spirit, renders the heart humble and contrite, disperses the clouds of concupiscence, extinguishes the heat of passion, and lights up the fire of chastity.”

Fasting in the Orthodox Church has two aspects: physical and spiritual. The first one implies abstinence from food, such as dairy products, eggs, fish and all kinds of meat. Spiritual fasting consists in abstinence from evil thoughts, desires, and deeds. The main purpose of fasting is to gain mastery over oneself and to conquer the passions of the flesh. It is to liberate oneself from dependence on the things of this world in order to concentrate on the things of the Kingdom of God. It is to give power to the soul so that it would not yield to temptation and sin.

Basil the great reminds us,

“As much as you subtract from the body, so much will you add to the strength of the soul. True fasting lies is rejecting evil, holding one’s tongue, suppressing one’s hatred, and banishing one’s lust, evil words, lying, and betrayal of vows.”

God has forgiven us for running from Him and God has snatched us from death, and He has rescued us from what we deserve. May this Fast enable us to turn to God and experience His abundant grace, compassion and loving kindness. May this Fast truly prepare us for the Great Lent that will dawn upon us in a few weeks.

Mawdainan lokh moryo alohan, wyateeroeeth mqableenan tayboothokh dalwothan wethraham ‘layn. (We thank You, O Lord our God, and are grateful for Your grace toward us, and have mercy upon us).

1. Bede Griffiths, The Book of Common Prayer of the Syrian Church, (Gorgias Press, 2005), pp. 172.
2. Rev. D.E. Hudson, “The Fathers of the Church on Fasting.” in The Ave Maria: A Magazine Devoted to the Honor of the Blessed Virgin, (1988).
3. Edip Aydin, “The History of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch in North America: Challenges and Opportunities,” Saint Vladimir’s 4. Orthodox Crestwood, (New York, 2000).
5. Ibid.
6. John Chrysostom, “Homilies on Fasting,” From The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 9.
7. Basil the Great, “On Fasting,” in Orthodox Tradition, Volume XXIII, Number 3 (2006), pp. 6-16. Also refer to Greek original in Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXI, cols. 164A-184C.

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Theophany – Denho Da’ Tlithoyutho


The Feast of Theophany is a celebration of an historic event, the Baptism of Christ, celebrated each year on January 6. The Feast commemorates the divine revelation of the Holy Trinity. At the Baptism of Christ, all three Persons of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—were made manifest. Thus, the name of the Feast is Epiphany, meaning manifestation, or Theophany, meaning manifestation of God.

The Biblical story of the Baptism of Christ is recorded in all four of the Gospels: Matthew 3, Mark 1:1-9, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:31-34. In accordance with the Gospel this is the first revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity. The Father and the Holy Spirit give testimony to the appearance of the Son of God in the flesh among mankind.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. Initially, John would not do this, saying that Jesus should baptize him. Jesus said to John, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness (3:15). John consented and baptized Jesus.

When Jesus came up from the water, the heavens opened suddenly, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. The Bible records that the Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus. When this happened, a voice came from heaven and said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” This was the voice of God the Father.

Festival of Lights:

The theme of “manifestation” or “revelation” is also expressed in Scripture with the symbolism of light. In the hymn of the Feast we sing, “Christ has appeared and enlightened the world.” Thus, January 6 is also known as the Feast of Lights. The Church celebrates on this day the illumination of the world by the light of Christ.

By descending into the waters, Christ has enlightened all creation, and has crushed the heads of the serpents. And now all are glorified in Him who is the Savior, the Enlightener of our souls. “Light” is a

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Columns Episcopal Election Opinions

How A Bishop Must Be Chosen – A Laymans Perspective

bishop-chosen
The answer to the question “Who chooses a new bishop?” is “The Holy Spirit.” Christ has not abandoned His church, and continues to guide and govern her through the Holy Spirit. However, the Holy Spirit uses human beings to accomplish this. The process consists of two parts: identifying priests with the necessary qualities, and selecting the one who best fills a specific vacancy. We have to try to find the best candidate who fits the niche.

Identifying the Right Priests

The process of identifying priests with the qualities desired in a bishop is an ongoing process, even if there are no vacancies. The bishop of a diocese in the Indian Orthodox Church should give the Catholicos the names of priests they think would make good bishops. The candidates passed on by a bishop should usually be from his diocese or with whom he has served, since these are the priests he knows best. In my opinion, the process of 30 people having to sign a form and then getting the consent of the person to become a bishop is uncanonical. From when have we become a worldly and secular institution?

The Qualities of a Bishop

The church is very explicit about the qualities that must be present in a candidate to the episcopacy. He must be “a good pastor of souls and teacher of the Faith.” The church examines whether the candidates “enjoy a good reputation; whether they are of irreproachable morality; whether they are endowed with right judgment and prudence; whether they are even-tempered and of stable character; whether they firmly hold the Orthodox Faith; whether they are devoted to the Apostolic See and faithful to the Church; whether they have a thorough knowledge of dogmatic and moral theology and canon law; whether they are outstanding for their piety, their spirit of sacrifice and their pastoral zeal; whether they have an aptitude for governing.”

Consideration is also be given to “intellectual qualities, studies completed, social sense, spirit of dialogue and cooperation, openness to the signs of the times, praise-worthy impartiality, family background, health, age (40-50) and inherited characteristics.” By the way, celibacy is by no way the only criterion for episcopacy. There was a time when men ran away from wanting to become a bishop, nowadays, we have many running for it and setting their eyes on higher offices. We sing in Syriac: tow b’shlomo aboon d’rabyath rooho d’qudsho: w’ablaishoneh t’een laqleedai d’baith aloho – (Hail Bishop, whom the Holy Spirit did raise up, and, with his tongue, bears the keys to God’s house).

The List

Periodically, the bishops must meet under the chairmanship of the Catholicos to consider the names of priests who are possible candidates for the episcopacy. At such meetings, a list of candidates for the episcopacy must be assembled, voted on and forwarded to the Managing committee. While the Managing committee can nominate a priest for bishop not from this pool of candidates, most appointments must come from these lists. When the church needs bishops, the second part of the process must get underway i.e. the thorough screening for the best persons who will fill specific vacancies. Why should we wait till the next association to have a pool of good and able candidates? Why wait, start early!

During the investigation the Church must send out a confidential questionnaire on the candidate to people who know him. The questions must address the physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social, and priestly characteristics that one would hope for in a bishop. Those from whom a report is requested must include clergy and laity and also from secular and religious institutions…these must include the priest’s diocesan bishop, others should be diocesan officials the person has gotten to know personally and also people who have worked with him on secular and academic levels too.

The laity consulted should be officers in diocesan lay organizations or on diocesan advisory committees. Each must be told to answer the questions without consulting others. They cannot tell anyone, especially the candidate, that they have received the questionnaire. If we already have a pool of able candidates, then these reports makes the selection of the best among the list much easier.

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Nativity Reflections: Waiting With Hope And Expection

jesus-nativity
1) – Meditational Texts:

Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10 , 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 and Luke 21:25-36

The LORD Our Salvation

The Nativity of Christ marks a wonderfully exciting time in the church year. The change of season proclaims – Jesus Christ is coming! We sing “O come, O come, Emmanuel” as we await Christ Jesus’ arrival. In announcing his nativity, all the readings echo the word COMING:

  • Behold, the days are COMING, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. (Jeremiah 33:14, RSV)
  • So that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the COMING of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13, RSV)
  • And then they will see the Son of man COMING in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:27, RSV)

The message of Nativity is God’s reassurance to us of his faithfulness to his promises. The promise is that Jesus Christ will be present among us and the Holy Spirit will guide and counsel us. Advent also is a summons to watch and pray. Watch for signs of the kingdom of God, for signs of love and forgiveness, for signs of hope and joy, for peace. Be alert for opportunities to reach out to others. Pray for the coming of the kingdom and the fulfillment of God’s will. We are called to grow in holiness as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.

God will overcome and change the world by pouring out, in self-sacrifice and love, his unrestricted force and flood of divine life. This life can be brought into being by making real in human affairs the depth of divine life and love; by showing ‘glory’ – the intensity and radiance of unqualified joy, eternal self-giving. Only in the heart of the ordinary vulnerability of human life can this be shown in such a way, so that we are saved from the terrible temptation of confusing it with earthly power and success. This is an assurance from the LORD, as recorded by Jeremiah, that God truly is the LORD, our salvation.

We have begun the new church cycle; we start over again, and we have the opportunity to review and recommit ourselves to the disciplines of faith. We will again receive the invitation and call, “Come, for all things are ready!” Let us respond with faith, in preparation of Jesus Christ’s coming! Amen!

2) – Meditational Text:

Malachi 3:1-4, Baruch 5:1-9, Luke 1:68-79, Philippians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6

Prepare the Way for the Lord

Preparing is hard work and preparing the way for the Lord is harder. The prophet Malachi calls us to a time of preparation during the Advent season as we anticipate the coming of Christ. Malachi has good news—God will indeed appear. As a spokesman for the Lord, the prophet begins this particular chapter by saying, “Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3. 1, RSV). In this season of preparation, we await the coming of Jesus into his temple – and into our hearts again at Christmas.

But, Malachi also has a warning: “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.” (Malachi 3. 2, RSV). In other words, the coming of the Lord means judgment.

That is precisely why it is imperative that we prepare for the Lord’s return. Preparing for the Lord’s coming is a matter of purification. True spiritual preparation involves repentance and change of heart. That is what getting ready for Christmas is about — preparing the way for the Lord’s arrival into our lives.

Like Malachi, John the Baptist tells us to prepare, but he also admonishes us to repair the path into our hearts. The crooked areas needs straightening and our souls that have been bent and turned by too many false hopes need to return to God. The only way for us to get our souls made right with God is for us to turn our hearts toward the coming Savior. John said it best when he quoted the prophet Isaiah, saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Luke 3.4, RSV).

This Advent season, may we have the courage to ask God to repair our hearts so that we are truly prepared for the coming of the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY – DEPARTMENT OF RELIGION

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Man (Humanity) – In The Image Of God

sing-praise
What does the word sacrament signify? “It is the sacraments that constitute our life in Christ.” The sacraments are “windows into this unseen world.”

But though we live in a dark world, there are windows into it. Let us remember the Greek term for sacrament — mysterion, mystery. A mystery, in the true religious sense, is not simply an enigma, an unexplained problem. A mystery is something, which is revealed for our understanding, yet never totally revealed because it reaches into the infinity of God. The mystery of all mysteries is the incarnation of Christ; therefore all other sacraments of the church are founded upon that.

The second word in the title which we shall need to keep in mind is healing — Sacraments of Healing and the healing power of our Sacraments. Healing means wholeness. I am broken and fragmented. Healing means a recovery of unity. Let us each thinks that I cannot bring peace and unity to the world unless I am at peace and unity with myself. “Acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will find salvation.” If I don’t have the spirit of peace within myself, if I am inwardly divided, I shall spread that division around me to others. Great divisions in the world between nations and states spring from many divisions within the human heart of each one of us.

How I am to understand my unity as a person? What models do I have when I think of the healing of my total self? Human beings are a complex unity. My personhood is a single whole, but a whole that embraces many aspects. As humans we stand at the center and crossroads of the creation. Saint John Chrysostom thinks of the human person as bridge and bond. Each of us then, is a little universe, a microcosm; each of us is imago mundi — an icon of the world. Each reflects within her or him the manifold diversity of the created order.

Saint Gregory Nazianzen, the Theologian, distinguishes the two main levels of the created order. On one hand, there is the spiritual or invisible order, on the other there is the material or physical order. Angels belong only to the first order. They are bodiless, spiritual beings. In Saint Gregory’s view, animals belong to the second order — the material and physical. We, uniquely in God’s creation, exist on both levels at once. Anthropos, man, the human person alone, has a twofold nature, both material and spiritual. Saint Gregory goes on to speak of ourselves as earthly yet heavenly, temporal yet immortal, visible yet intelligible, midway between majesty and lowliness, one selfsame being yet both spirit and flesh. Wishing to form a single creature from two levels of creation from both visible and invisible nature, says Gregory, the Creator Logos fashioned the human person. Taking a body from matter that He has previously created and placing in it the breath of life that comes from himself, which scripture terms the intelligent soul and the image of God, He formed anthropos, the human person, as a second universe — a great universe in a little one.

Now, because we stand in this way on the crossroads of creation, because each of us is a laboratory or workshop that contains everything in a most comprehensive fashion, we have a special vocation, and that is to mediate and to unify. Standing at the crossroads, earthly yet heavenly, body yet soul, our human vocation is to reconcile and harmonize the differing levels of reality in which we participate. Our vocation is to spiritualize the material, without thereby dematerializing it. That is why reconciliation and peace are such a fundamental aspect of our personhood.

But having said that humans are a microcosmic image of the world, we have not yet said the most important thing. The most important thing about our personhood it is not that we are an image of the world but it is that we are created in the image of God. We are a created expression of God’s infinite and uncreated self-expression. Our true glory is that we are in God’s image, that we reflect the divine. We are called not only to unify the different levels of the created order, but we are also called to join earth and heaven and to unite the created and the uncreated.

We are not only imago mundi but also imago dei — image of God. These are our two vocations — not just to unify the creation, but also to offer creation back to God. As king and priest of creation formed to the image of God, the human person offers the world back to God and so transfigures it. The great universe is not the world around us, not the galaxy light years away from us. The great universe is the inner space of the heart. Incomparably greater than the outside universe is the depth within each human heart.

Our vocation is not just to unify but also, as image of God, it’s our task to render the world transparent — to make God’s presence shine through it. We cannot fulfill our vocation as bridge builders, as unifiers, as cosmic priests, unless we see our own selves as a single undivided whole. More specifically, we can act as bond and mediator within the creation, rendering the material spiritual only if we see our body as an essential part of our selves, only if we view our personhood as an integral unity of body and soul. Severing our links with the material environment, we cease to mediate.

Here at once we see the very grave spiritual implications of the present pollution of the environment, what we humans are doing toward the cosmic temple which God has given us to dwell in. The fact that we are degrading the world around us in a very alarming manner shows a terrifying failure to realize our vocation as mediators. So we need, if we are to be truly human, to come to terms with our own body — with its rhythm, its mysteries, its dreams — and through our body then to come to terms with the material world.

Let me express my sincere and deepest gratitude to Bishop Kallistos Ware, my supervisor and guru for his wonderful series of lectures from which I have managed to write and share the above topic.- Tenny Thomas

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“He Rose According to the Scriptures” does the Indian Orthodox recite “He Rose According to His Will”?

resurrection
The Nicene Creed is a statement of faith accepted by the Orthodox (both Eastern and Oriental), Roman Catholic, Anglican, and major Protestant churches. It gets its name from the First Council of Nicaea (325), at which it was adopted and from the First Council of Constantinople (381), at which a revised version was accepted. Thus it may be referred to specifically as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed to distinguish it from both the 325 version and later versions that include the filioque clause. There is also an Armenian version of the Creed.

In modern times there are many variations to the Nicene Creed – but what we recite today in the Indian Orthodox Church has not deviated from the Faith of the Fathers. Given below are the Greek (original and transliteration), Syriac (transliteration) and Latin form of the Creed along with the translation. We see that in the Syriac – the word “w’meet” – “and died” is added in between “and suffered and was buried”. This in no way deviates from the Faith but it is just a variation. In the same way if you pay attention to the last part of the Syriac transliteration – the words “akh dasbo” – “according to His will” is what is recited in the Syriac Orthodox Church today. This is not a practice that crept into the Syriac Orthodox Church in the recent past, but something that has been handed down over centuries.

Always bear in mind that when the Creed was formed in Greek, there were people who followed the Faith and who did not know Greek and so several translations needed to be made into other languages such as Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Latin, Syriac – all these translations kept the core of the Faith and might have added a few words of which “w’meet” is one. Some Fathers might have thought that it is just not enough to say, “he rose according to the Scriptures”, but to emphasize, “his resurrection was in accordance with His Will”. For Christ, the will of the Father signified, exclusively, one specific thing, and it was that one thing that he had come to the earth to perform. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me”. (John 6:38). The “akh dasbo” emphasizes the will of Christ in accordance with the will of the Father.

Secondly, in the early days – when texts were copied on scrolls and a scribe translates a text from another language to Syriac – there is a possibility of word corruption. Originally it could have been “akh ketbo qadisho” or just “akh ketbo” (I am sure there is a word for Scriptures that is very similar to “dasbo” (will) in Syriac, but it skips my mind). So when the scribe copied from one manuscript to another, he misread the text and wrote the word “dasbo” instead of the word for “scriptures”. Both words look very similar in Syriac script and so the word “dasbo” stuck. This happens often in ancient manuscript copying. Please bear in mind that this reason is just a thought, but not a confirmed thesis as to why we use “akh dasbo”. However, the change “according to His Will” in the Creed from the original in no way deviates from the Faith of our Fathers. It only goes on to show that there are many variations of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

kai pathonta kai tafenta kai anastanta ti triti imera kata tas graphas (Greek transliteration) and suffered, and was buried, and rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures

Hash w’meeth w’etheqbar w’qom latlotho yawmeen akh dasbo (Syriac transliteration) suffered and died and was buried and rose on the third day according to His will

Passus, et sepúltus est, Et resurréxit tértia die, secúndum Scriptúras (Latin) suffered and was buried, and rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures