Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 27 - 'Feast Of The Slaughter Of The Infants'

In between the Nativity of our Lord and God, and New Year celebration, the significance of this feast sometimes lose its importance.

However as the Church consider it very important to be included as a feast in the liturgical life of the Church, It bothers me every year and try to ask others to reflect too a bit on it.

Today the world suffers with many innocent children killed by Hunger and Famine, slaughtered by War, Murdered by mothers even in wombs by Abortion, Mothers forced to have no choice than Abort, and while political agendas continue on just as it was for King Herod.
In the agenda of our Shepherds of the Church is the rush to built orphanages, are we turning a blind eye by not looking at the root cause? Should not these questions be thought through by each of us ?

• How did we as individuals and together as Church in which the Holy Spirit dwells in it's fullness contribute to this?
• How did we fail to respond to mend the broken and strained tension this world torn with sin and bearing the consequences of disobedience is facing?
• How did we the Church whose sole purpose, as His instrument for existence is to continue the Saving MISSION of Jesus Christ the Savior and God of all fail to guide those who by Baptism and Chrismation are its members?
• How have we become so complacent to become so secular hypocritical, unfaithful adulterous pretenders, failures who cannot raise eyes to ask God for Mercy and be sanctified by full participation in the liturgical life of Church lest alone become points of light and a royal priesthood separated out of the world, in the world yet not of the world?

Though this season is a time to be thankful to God for all the blessings we each have received by His mercy, it is also time we have reflect and cry out for the innocent victims today in this world, in our midst. For the children murdered by abortion, for children of female infanticide, for the innocent children of women assaulted & abused by men, for innocent children of those that we call fallen woman, for those children helpless to have been born from Aids parents, for those innocent children having to suffer cancer or other deadly diseases and for the orphans and for those children who become victims due to famine, war and conflict. Also, let us pray for the traumatized having to give up their children by abortion, for those who had to live bearing shame for their children day by day.
This is also a time when as individuals and Church we show ourselves totally against abortion, against killing of innocent children even if in the name of compassion, even for medical research like stem cell research.

Lord Have mercy on us

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Studying , Reading without acually Living!!!!

To try to discover the meaning of the commandments through study and reading without actually living in accordance with them is like mistaking the shadow of something for its reality. It is only by participating in the truth that you can share in the meaning of truth. If you search for the meaning without participating in the truth and without having been initiated into it, you will find only a besotted kind of wisdom. (St. Gregory of Sinai, On Commandments and Doctrines 22, in The Philokalia, Vol. IV)

Oh God, Direct our will to live !!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sanctification Sunday November 1, 2009

In the Orthodox Church from the Indian and Syrian tradition , the Liturgical Cycle starts on the First Sunday in November or 30th or 31st October should they fall on a Sunday. This is intentional with 8 Sundays,each having a significance, before the Church come together to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and God.

This Eucharist reading the fathers chose for this Sunday are
Mathew 16:13-23, I Peter 2:1-12, I Corinthians 3:16-16,6:15-20

The Epistle reading points out to us how we may grow up in our salvation as a people of God and how we and the Church are consecrated 'Set apart' as Holy and pure with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in it's fullness . The Gospel reading points us on true confession of our God on who He is  His revelation and when we do not have in our mind His will and things we can become stumbling blocks and be worthy to called 'Satan'

Now that we have known this, let us seek His help and encourage one another as we celebrate the Feast of the Church to live out our lives for His Glory

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Elevation of The Life Giving Cross

In our Malankara Orthodox Church prayer book , we see two different versions of the prayers before Holy Qurbana called Sleebah ( Cross )and Kymtha ( Ressurection)

It is believed that St . Helena mother of Emperor Constantine found the Cross in which our Lord and God was crucified and when it was raised up elevated by St. Macarius the Patriach of Jerusalem, all the people bowed down and cried out Lord have Mercy.

Below is a short article on the Cross by a 20th Century contemporay saint of the Russian Church .


The Life- Giving Cross - On the three components of the Life-Giving Cross and our own cross.

We are now glorifying the Life-giving Cross of our Lord. On this occasion it would be quite fitting, dear brethren, to remember how the Church and the Holy Fathers and spiritual instructors teach us to look upon the Life-giving Cross and the bearing of our own cross.

The great spiritual instructor in faith, Saint Theophanus the Recluse, said that the Cross of Christ was threefold. The cross which each Chris-tian must bear in his life is also threefold, similar to the Life-giving Cross which, according to prophecy, was composed of three tree varieties (cypress, pine and cedar). Thus, in bearing our own cross, we see three sides to it, three crosses which merge into one.

The first of these crosses is the cross of fallen mankind. This cross was described briefly but accurately and powerfully by the Apostle Paul, who said of himself: “I know not what I do: the good which I wish to do - I do not; the evil which I do not wish to do - I do.” And man is a captive of his sin - this is the sin of fallen mankind from which no one can escape, and of which the same Saint Theophanus said: “Imagine a man who has a rotting and foul-smelling corpse firmly attached to his back: wherever he goes, wherever he runs, he is unable to escape from this horrible foul decay. It follows him persistently, pursues him relentlessly.”

The second cross is the one which we usually understand as being our own cross: this is the combination of all the sorrows, all the misfortunes, all the difficulties of which our lives are composed. This, precisely, is what is meant by bearing one’s cross. But that is not yet all.

The holy fathers say: here is a man surrounded by affliction, illness, misfortune. As soon as he gives himself up completely into the will of God, saying that the Lord does everything well and, therefore, whatever may be sent to him on this path of the cross, he accepts it all as being good - as soon as he says this in his heart (says Saint Theophanus) - everything will disappear as if by magic. Everything around him remains the same: the same afflictions, the same worries, but it is he who has changed and sees everything differently. Thus must a man have the firm conviction that the Heavenly Father will not give him a stone in place of bread.

If God sends us difficulties, that means they are needed and are to our benefit. The elder Ambrose of Optina said: “Whatever will be, will be, and what will be, will be whatever God gives us, and God gives us everything for our good.”

The last component of our cross is such that Saint Theophanus spoke of it with his usual deep humility. He said: “That cross is known only to those who have attained a high spiritual level. Such a person has already overcome all temptations, has easily overcome all difficulties. But there are higher temptations - the temptations of pride, the temptations of vainglory, the temptation to consider oneself, through one’s spiritual labors, as being better and higher than others. This cross is the heaviest to bear and is known only to those who, albeit with great difficulty, have overcome it.”

Saint Theophanus says that each Christian must be a cross-bearer. The life of each Christian begins with a cross: he is baptized and a cross is placed around his neck at the very moment of his entering the bright sacrament of baptism. When he is buried, the cross remains with him, and a cross is also placed over his grave, indicating that a faithful Christian is buried there.

Let us keep that in mind, my beloved, and let us always wear a cross, which strengthens us and saves us in difficult circumstances. Do not forget, Christian soul, of the strength of the cross, and that with the power of His Cross the Lord will always save you from all possible misfortune. Amen.

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky )

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wholeness & Contemporary Orthodox Christian Dilemma

Very often, born in to a family of Orthodox Christians from India, We are not taught to live and grow in life of the Church. When the realization hits us straight on of our ignorance , we run delusional ,confused not knowing where to turn and go through a hurt filled life affected by trauma that the Church has fallen short and is lacking.

Yes we have fallen short, but it is not the Church .It is merely us not taking the time to seek the depth of our faith and see how the fathers have lived this life in the Church for the last two millennia and not trusting God is present in our own times and who remains who He is to St. Paul as this God Who is able to make all grace abound towards you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things ,may have an abundance for every good work.

This article was shared by Fr. John Brian and I pray that by posting it here would encourage another person who read it not to lose heart and go through the trauma I have had to go through and make me to follow this through in my life. Please pray for me and Let us seek Him who is God as members of the Church by earnestly crying out - "Lord Have Mercy"

Bishop Kallistos Ware
Excerpts from an interviewed in Parabola Magazine, February 1985

In the Orthodox spiritual tradition we often use the word “heart.” By heart we mean not just the emotions or feelings but the deep center, the true self. Our aim is to discover the place of the heart, to unite the brain with its knowledge to the heart; and in the heart also feeling is found. Our aim, then, is to integrate them on the level of the deep heart. And the body is also involved in this, because the body is not a piece of clothing but out integral self. The body plays its part through ascetic effort, by which I don’t mean just self-denial, but self-control. It plays its part through symbolic actions. There are ways also in which the rhythms of the body, the rhythm of the breathing, for example, can be used in prayer and meditation. The body is not just a piece of matter to be ignored, and still less something evil to be hated. The body is an aspect of our self, which we are to live to the full.

The whole person is not just a self-contained, self-centered unity. The whole person is a person who is on the one side open to God, and on the other side open to other human persons. The human being without God is not truly human. We were created to enter into a relationship with God, to be in dialogue with Him, and if that relationship is not present something essential is lacking from our personhood. Equally, we are created to relate to other human persons. It has been said that there is no true man unless there are two men entering into communication with one another. The isolated individual is not a real person. A real person is one who lives in and for others. And the more personal relationships we form with others, the more truly we realize ourselves as persons. This idea of openness to God, openness to other persons, could be summed up under the word “love.” We become truly personal by loving God and by loving other humans. By love I don’t mean merely an emotional feeling, but a fundamental attitude. In its deepest sense, love is the life, the energy, of God Himself in us.

For me, as an Orthodox Christian, the journey towards wholeness involves prayer, in the sense of personal, private prayer, standing in silence before God; but also in the sense of communal prayer, sharing in the services of the Church, sharing in the Sacraments. It involves, beyond prayer, joining in all the other practices of the Church; in fasting, in the reading of Holy Scripture. Is it possible to grow without these things? God is very generous. Man people who have no religious practice do grow in self-understanding, do show creative love towards others. They are open to their fellow humans. And there are many people who are open towards God who do not belong to any particular church. I do not wish to judge them. I accept the authenticity and integrity of their inner life. Yet, I believe that in its fullness, the growth of the human person towards wholeness is intended by God to take place within church life.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

A prayer by St. Nerses the Graceful of Armenia

St. Nerses the Graceful, A hymnic prayer to the Suffering Christ

Restorer of the universe, who clothed us with your glorious light, on whom the soldiers spread the crimson mantle of reproach; remove from me the rags of sin stained with the horrible blood and clothe me anew with my former robe.
They bent the knee mocking you, heavenly King, they inflicted blows on your crowned head and hit you with the reed, and so did I stoop down to earth, obeying the will of the evil one. Let me not become the object of his game but lift me up again.
The mob surrounded you physically following the verdict of the judge, and you received blows on your skull for the sake of the skull of the first-born man. By virtue of the baptismal font restore me to health, the one needlessly afflicted from head to toe.
In lieu of the sacred and shining ornament which you placed on Aaron’s head, the tillers of Israel’s vineyard placed a crown of thorns on you. Take away from me, the thorn of sin with which the enemy has inflicted me, and heal the lacerated wound so that the scars of sin may be eradicated.
They gave you the gall to drink, the vinegar to the thirsty. You drank of it willingly, so that the fruits of bitterness of the venom which has been injected in the recesses of my soul and thus may your love be sweetened therein.
In lieu of the tree that ushered in death, once planted in paradise, you lifted the wood of the Cross, raising it on Golgotha. Lift up my soul submerged in sin, O Lifter of the heaviest burden, as you lifted up the sheep upon your shoulder. Take my soul up from earth to its promised place.
At the third hour on Friday you, Lord, were nailed to the Cross, loosening the shackles of the first-born man and binding the enemy. Strengthen me beneath the shadow of your life-giving Sign [referring to the Cross] and enlighten me with its light from the rising of the sun.
The gates of the Edenic paradise were opened to the blessed thief, his petition being granted according to his faith. Grant me also, Lord, with him to hear the same response: ‘Today you shall be with me in Eden, your first homeland.’

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Each day as it Proceeds - Morning Prayer

It has been quite a while since any post 'Each day as it Proceeds', I move away from doing what I should do to merely searching to Know what I should do and not doing.

Here I remember this two wonderful prayers of the Church and may He guide you to use it too

Oh Lord , Grant me to greet this coming day in peace.Help me in all things to rely upon you . In every hour of the day reveal your will to me. Bless my dealings with all that surround me. Teach me to treat everything that comes to me through out the day with the peace of soul and firm conviction that your will governs all . In all my deeds and words,guide my thoughts and feelings . In unforseen events,Let me not forget all are sent by you.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely without embittering or embarassing others.Grant me strength to bear the faitigue of this day . Direct my Will. Teach me to Pray and you Yourself Pray in me. Amen

Oh Lord, Thanks be to Thee for letting me wake up comfortably. I dedicate myself to Thee so that I may be able to live for Thee and in Thy Love. O Lord Jesus Christ, Please come to my Help Amen

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Orthodox Christian Worship in First Century

Justin Martyr on Christian worship
c. 150 AD from chapters 61-67 of Justin's First Apology

Christian Baptism

I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, "Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Now, that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers' wombs, is manifest to all. And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Esaias the prophet, as I wrote above; he thus speaks: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well; judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be as crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if ye refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."

And for this rite we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the layer the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness. And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.

Its imitation by demons

And the devils, indeed, having heard this washing published by the prophet, instigated those who enter their temples, and are about to approach them with libations and burnt-offerings, also to sprinkle themselves; and they cause them also to wash themselves entirely, as they depart from the sacrifice, before they enter into the shrines in which their images are set. And the command, too, given by the priests to those who enter and worship in the temples, that they take off their shoes, the devils, learning what happened to the above-mentioned prophet Moses, have given in imitation of these things. For at that juncture, when Moses was ordered to go down into Egypt and lead out the people of the Israelites who were there, and while he was tending the flocks of his maternal uncle in the land of Arabia, our Christ conversed with him under the appearance of fire from a bush, and said, "Put off thy shoes, and draw near and hear." And he, when he had put off his shoes and drawn near, heard that he was to go down into Egypt and lead out the people of the Israelites there; and he received mighty power from Christ, who spoke to him in the appearance of fire, and went down and led out the people, having done great and marvellous things; which, if you desire to know, you will learn them accurately from his writings.

Baptism and the consecration of the Eucharist

But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized illuminated person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to genoito so be it. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

The Eucharist

And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

Weekly worship of the Christians

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration

(This is from chapters 61-67 of the First Apology of Justin Martyr. You can read the whole document here.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Visit to Baselius Dayara ,Vakathanam India

As you are aware going to a monastery by Laity is frequent among other Orthodox all over the world,even among some of my friends at OCA here in Canada. Infact I heard the Bishop has made it mandatory that the priest serving in Calgary St. Peter the Aleut parish must find time yearly to take time off to spend in Monastery.

I have been wanting to visit a monastery in India and spent a day and in my trip 4 years back I could go to Sastankota Dayara but had only afew hours there.

My curiosity of visiting this Dayara began from George Abraham's (GA) series (Walk the Talk) in ICON on Ivanios Thirumeny and had made plans that defenitely this time I will find time to go there and if possible even stay there. Coincidentally I could get in touch with George Abraham in India who gave me the phone info. and thought it will be worthwhile for me to go there as we don't know how long Thiumeny will be there before we not even undrstand his thoughts or teaching.I kept thinking how long do I have in life and when I phoned was told Thirumeny was admitted in hospital and whenever I need to visit, I just have to show up and get Thirumeny's permission.

Anyway, when I reached there by about 9:00 am, I was given coffee and told by a young preseminarian to wait for Thirumey who will be back before noon. we got to talking for a little while and he mentioned they practise the 'Jesus Prayer' here and the chapel has ICON's here with seperate buildings for pre seminarians , monks with a new wing built for guests with some college students renting I was told by the gardner while walking about the grounds that Thirumeny himself oversees the gradening and would know even if a single plant is removed.

I had already heard from one of my cousins that Thirumeny stands out from others in not paticipating in Moonimel Qurbana and sure enough the Chapel has only one altar ( Which I personally agree must be the norm not having seen a mooninmel altar arrangement in any Coptic or Ethiopian or Eastern parishes here and Theologically I would think correct for How can be three bodies when we are to come partake as one body to parake of one God? )

I found it also strange that there were lots of Icons typical of what one would find in a Byzantine parish like the Russian.The icons were done mostly by a Fr. Zacharia and on speaking to him, He told he donot have any formal training in writing ICONs. They looked beautiful but I wished there could be more interaction specifically on writing ICONS with the Churches who have been using them like the Coptic , Armenian ,Syrian ( not the Jacobite on in Kerala , but the one in old Antioch or Syria where ICONs are venerated and possibly still written - For example I have been trying to find from internet from that tradiion if anyone writes the ICON of St.Severus of Antioch ),Ethiopian etc. They were all Byzantine Icons by the way. This is a matter which I pray in time God will open more opportunities. Thirumeny was very open when he came and told and told I could stay as long as I wanted.

Knowing his interest in the Jesus Prayer gave him a copy of the book on 'Jesus Prayer by Lev Gillet' , which I never got to use or practise because of my lethargic habit. Another book, which I think Thirmeny could have on this is by St. Ignatius Brianchaninov. The practise at the Dayara is at morning, noon and night after the prescribed prayers are repeated chanting each of about 7 or 8 one line prayers including the classical Jesus Prayer line , each either 25 or 50 times. Whenever Thirumeny is there, he would be one leading the prayers. I think this was typical of the 'Arrow Prayers' which was in practise used by the desert monastries of Nitrea in early 4th century . I think this practise is being re introuduced to the Church in India only here at this Dayara.

When Thirumeny is at the Dayara, He would share the meal with the Preseminarians at his residence.The preseminarians would take turns on who will be serving the tales and I think the preseminarians use the door from the dining room door quiet a lot to Thrmeny to speak to him. It is so wonderful that the young minds have so ready access to such an elder .

One of the highlite of the visit was the conversation with Thirumeny when asked on on how I know quite a lot of the theory of our faith but very little practical experience and not making the effort to living it out. His answer which I had alraedy guessed, but too lazy to act on was something like this- 'Prayer is not in the standing but in the moving ,in the rememberence and trying to converse with God through crying out and reaching out whenever posible with prayers like Jesus Christ ,Son of God Have mercy upon me to a state of Prayer.'

I told him also my disappointment with what we the Indian Orthodox christian community have become, with how our choirs ,noise and how much useless stuff takes precedence in our weekly qurbanas and our churches. He agreed and told that there is only so much he could do and his effort now is concentated here to aid the two stream of future priests - those who want to become monks or go to seminary to get an ascetic base before venturing out . I think not having this monastic discipline and the Priest hood with those who are not worthy of it's calling are really the root cause of our problem which is exacly what I recall the original more known Mar Ivanios - St. John Chrysostoum had to say on it.

Thirumeny has a wonderful library of many books from St. Vlad's seminary and other places , which alone can spiritually uplift, and alot of people from far visit Thirumeny. I was given to take home free when I left the Dayara ,the Malayalam translation facilitated by Dr. Cherian Eapen of the classical 'Way of the Pilgrim'. He by the way spends a lot time at Pampadi dayara and manage his business in Russia, where he first came in contact with the Russian monks, and is trying to make vailable free copies of the Philakolia translated in Malyalam. So the visit If I were to summarize really did tell me to examine myself and try to change with God's grace, Have the strong conviction that that the Church is not just in the hands of men but with God for whom nothing is impossible and woul recommend every one to spend a few days there.