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.

1 comment:

George Varghese said...
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