CHRISTIAN NEWS MAGAZINE FOR KERALA MALAYALEE CHRISTIANS FROM INDIA AROUND THE WORLD
October 1-31, 2002 ARCHIVE
Vol:2Issue:15
GUEST MESSAGE


PASTORAL CHALLENGES OF THE ORTHODOX SYRIAN COMMUNITY IN AMERICA

By Zachariahs Mar Nicholovas

A pastor without a well balance personal spirituality cannot sustain himself in the ministry. If he depends merely on his skills and for the sustainability of the ministry it is liable to fail.



H.G.ZACHARIAHS MAR NICHOLOVAS
Asst.Diocesan Metropolitan,
American Diocese,
Malankara Orthodox Church

Most of the members of the Malankara Orthodox Community in America are the first generation immigrants from India. Most of the priests have their original ministerial formation in India and almost all of them grew up in India. Their original training is to cater to the particular needs of the community in India, where the society is homogeneous and the value systems are different from that of America. Their ministry in this country is raising totally unexpected challenges in their ministerial life as well as in their personal lives.

This demographic pattern is changing very fast as the number children born and brought up in this country is increasing. As their number is increased the ministerial need of the American Orthodox Syrian Community and the skills of the available priests are put into pressure. While most of the priests of this Diocese have their ministerial formation in the seminaries in India some had only a crash course on liturgy and a few had training in this country all these along with challenges of the modern society calls for continued efforts on the part of the Church to improve the skills of the serving priests for providing a meaningful ministry to the faithful and on the part of the priests for progress of their own spiritual growth as well as to keep healthy attitude to wards their ministry. A research conducted by Rev. Dr. George Koshy into the ministerial needs of the community came up with this finding.

If the quantity of priests is more than needed, their quality is questionable for the parishes in America because of the generation gap and the unique cultural, social and linguistic problems. Of course almost all are able, educated and talented in catering to the needs of the first generation. Therefore, in most of the parishes the second generation has not been receiving services or proper attention from the clergy. Most of the priests are employed fulltime, [elsewhere] .

These kinds of situations affect the ministry from both sides. On the one side the priests who are working very hard in supporting themselves and support their ministry finds it draining on their spiritual and emotional life. They feel frustrated and dejected. On the other side the parishioners are not able to get proper pastoral care because of the problems. This situation demands a very strong support system from the Church.

On the evaluation of the pastoral situation in the Amerian Orthodox Syrian Community in general we find that the overall situation calls for lot of improvement and in almost all the aspects of the ministry we find most of the pastors are lacking. Here I will just try to briefly delineate a few of the specific ministerial challenges faced by the American Orthodox Syrian Community.

A. PERSONAL SPIRITUALITY OF THE PASTOR

A pastor without a well balance personal spirituality cannot sustain himself in the ministry. If he depends merely on his skills and for the sustainability of the ministry it is liable to fail. We are experiencing this at present. Most of the pastors begin with good spiritual grounding but it gets challenged very easily when it is tested repeatedly in the real life situations. Hard work and shortage of time prevents him from the inevitable spiritual disciplines of personal devotions, study, meditation, etc. The inner spiritual balance wanes slowly the commitment to the ministry also proportionately wanes. Pastoral functioning then becomes a profession and not a vocation. He most of the times is overwhelmed by the work load and the first causality in the process is the time set apart for his own personal or family needs. Slowly this erodes his spirituality.

B. FAILURE OF THE PASTOR TO MAKE THE CONGREGATION FEEL THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST THROUGH HIM

When pastor himself loses the spiritual characteristic of the ministry it will be soon experienced by the congregation. The congregation will experience the pastor trying respond to the challenges in a very secular way. This has come to situation where many feel that the Church has become a very secular organization and people are not getting the spiritual nourishment they expect from the Body of Christ. When the pastor fails to experience presence of the Jesus Christ in his personal life he will fail to be the Iconic presence of Jesus Christ. He cannot be what he is not. All the attempts cover up this will only deepen the deterioration.

C. SACRAMENTAL VERSUS THE RITUALISTIC NATURE OF THE MINISTRY

Orthodox ministry by nature is sacramental. The sacramental nature of the orthodox ministry is not limited to the ritualistic performance of the rituals. On close observation we understand that the ritual aspect of the ministry forms only a miniscule part of the sacramental life. In the Orthodox understanding the sacramentality is a way of life and not the performance of the rituals. Rituals are only an aspect of the sacramental lifestyle that helps us to mystically experience the presence of Jesus Christ in the different stages of our life. While certain rituals fulfill the sacramental aspect of the rites of passage an individual go through in life. They in the proper sense help the individual and community relate the stages in their personal life to the life of Jesus Christ. The malady here is when the Pastor loses his personal spiritual balance consequently he ceases to be the iconic presence of Jesus Christ and his sacramental life becomes ritualistic. He is more concerned with the performance of the rituals instead of the mystical experience of Jesus that is expected to happen through the sacraments.

D. FAILURES TO LEAD THE CONGREGATION IN A CHRIST LIKE MANNER

Whether the pastor likes it or not he is the leader of the congregation. He does not have a choice in this role. The only choice he has is in the manner in which he wants to do it. Many situations the poor leadership is not a mater of his choice but an outcome of his ignorance and lack of sense of the call to which he is called. He can become very abusive and authoritarian. This is a reality in many situations. The pastor's inability to lead the congregation properly ends up in the congregation dwindling in personal and other resources. The ethnic nature of the Orthodox Church may help the pastor to survive for some time despite his inability to lead properly but in the long term it is detrimental for the parish as well as the pastor himself. Even now we already see the symptoms of the problems that necessitates an intervention to improve the Christian quality of the congregational leadership.

E. FORGOTTEN ROLE OF THE PROPHETIC MINISTRY

The prophetic role of the minister is rarely acknowledged in the Orthodox Churches. Though there are several genuine reasons for this lapse it is not appropriate for the pastors to undervalue the prophetic role. A minister by his call is called to take stand on justice related issues. Whether it is in within the community or in the society at large he being the icon of Christ has no choice but take his stand along with the poor, oppressed or wherever and to whomever justice is denied. He has to remind his congregation about the need for a justice based spirituality. As pointed out earlier the ritualistic approach along with the fact that their immediate life situation does not call for such a stand this role is rarely recognized as necessary characteristic of the ministry by the congregations, pastor or even at the Church hierarchy. Here a thorough reorientation is needed for the pastors about their own prophetic vocation.

F. PREACHING/TEACHING MINISTRY

The preaching/ teaching characteristic of the minister is one of the most widely recognized by the Pastors themselves as well as the congregation. The word preacher has become a synonym for pastor. In spite of the recognition widely held for this role we still see that there is a lot of scope for improvement. One of the greatest drawbacks of many preachers is that they tend to forget that they are preaching Jesus Christ who is the word of God and the preaching end up as a performance of their oratorical skills and scholarship in various subjects. The greatest danger that has taken place in this context is that because of the continued abuse of this part of the ministry people vision of preaching ministry itself has got distorted. Now people do not look to the sermons to be edified but to enjoy the oratorical skills of the pastor. In this process the word of God has become the causality. We need education to recapture the proper understanding of the word of God.

G. MEDIATOR AND INTERCESSORY ROLE OF THE PASTOR

The pastor's role as a mediator and intercessor is widely recognized by both the pastors and the congregation. As in the case of the other key characteristics of the ministry this role also has to recapture its proper understanding. Most of the times we perceive this role as the role of an errand boy. The congregation thinks of a pastor as person who will get things from God. The role of mediation is understood distorted. We have to understand that intercession and mediation are parts of a relationship between God and individuals and communities. It is not a matter of setting a shop of divine blessings where everything can be had at a proper price. We have to recapture the idea that the intercession is for the whole creation and mediation is between the whole creation and God. Here the pastor is called to fulfill his particular call to bring his congregation to the journey of Christ likeness through his intercessions and mediations.

It is a necessity that we as a Church address these issues very seriously and work hard to find solutions. Only when we are able to deal with the reality that confronts us we will be able to become the Church that is truly the body of Jesus Christ.

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COVER MESSAGE


HOW THEN SHALL I LIVE?

By THOMAS KOSHY - WASHINGTON

We often label our casual short-term or brief encounters as purely social, political or cultural. But Word of God teaches 'Blessed is the man who does not walk in the consul of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the mockers.'

There are many who have answered this question in different ways and would offer advice on it. This question is being answered everyday either consciously or unconsciously by every individual through the decisions or the choices one makes. The appropriateness, the timing of the decision or choices are revisited often when the outcome is much different than the expectation. Let us find out how lead a blessed life.

Three DO NOT DOs

The Word of God gives perfect guidance. Psalms 1: 1 points to avoid three things to remain blessed. "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the consul of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the mockers." The first is to avoid the advice of the wicked, second to not find company in standing with sinners and third not to sit with the mockers. Keep distance with potentially sinful environment. Proximity to sin can gradually lead you to entrapment because Satan is very serious and active in his recruitment and customer service. Gen 4:7a "If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

Do not sit in the seat of mockers.

This verse prescribes limits on our social life. Where can I sit, where can I stand and whose advice I can take. The sitting is usually connected with a club, or organizations for which there is a membership. If we are seeking a blessed life, we cannot have membership and long-term associations in the organizations that mock Christian life, teachings or its principles.

Do not stand in the way of sinners.

We often label our casual short-term or brief encounters as purely social, political or cultural. While it could very well remain in that category, the discussions could lead to a significant influence on the personal value system decision on what is more important at this time. When the social gatherings go late into Saturday night and fail to wake up Sunday Morning for a worship, the value has shifted. Those associations gradually drag us away from Christian fellowship.

Do not walk in the consul of the wicked.

At the garden of Eden, Eve knew that God had forbidden eating the fruit from the tree in the middle. Eve entertained a chitchat with the snake. The snake offered the technical reasoning for God's order "when you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Gen 3:5. What a nice devil, he gives valuable insights!!! We would feel that we got something valuable, but the devil has a different agenda for giving that sample of valuable insight. The woman was impressed with this new friend, remained gazing at the forbidden fruit and found justifiable bases "good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom," Gen 3:6. When we give ear to the wicked counsel, our interest and curiosity increases, we try hard to gather justifiable reasons to depart from Godly instruction. Run from wicked consul, if we have to remain blessed.

Two DOs

Delight in the law of the Lord.

Psalms 1:2 "But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night." The Bible is God's instruction book for the life on earth. An instruction book is essential for complicated operations. Our lives is complicated and therefore, let us start respecting the instruction book. It should become instinctive to reach for the book and find joy in exploring this book.

Meditate His law day and night.

Meditation on this book through out the day is needed for remaining in Godly directions and seeking His ways. When the Godly priorities govern our daily actions, reactions, and interactions, the devil loses his grip.

Why should I do the Above?

Psalms 1:6 "For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." When an almighty all-powerful God is watching over my ways, I can confidently proceed. If we joined the wicked in their ways, the joy is short lived and it will perish. A child of God has a blessed life in this world and an imperishable life ahead into eternity.



Forward your comments or questions to: tomkoshy@aol.com

Thomas Koshy, of Washington Mar Thoma Church, is a Senior Nuclear Scientist serving US federal government. His primary service area is Sunday school where he held several offices for the Diocese and Southeast Region. He devotes most of his time in teaching and preaching the Word of God to reaffirm our faith. He lives in Maryland with his wife Elizabeth and two children Benjamin and Annie.

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ARTICLE 1


THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON

By E.S.JOHN AUSTRALIA

A holy war in this age of Holy Spirit is an anachronism because no one is allowed, apart from a declared war between the nations, to shed the blood of another person.

The word ARMAGEDDON, a probable interpretation, appears only once in the Bible (Rev. 16:15-16). The utterance of this place name transmits shock waves across horizons and sky limits, reverberating back violently, especially towards the Christian communities and countries. It may be a reference to 'Megiddo', as we read: 'In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.' (Zec 12:11 ) It is a place identified with the valley of Jehoshaphat (South of Jerusalem), which means 'Jehovah Judges'. "Christians, Muslim and Jewish traditions identifies it with valley of Kidron, where it is the ambition of pious Jews and Muslims to be buried in order that they may be ready for the day of Judgment." Though a minor prophet, Joel's prophecies poignantly finger point a devastating and dreadful war in which all the nations of the world may intriguingly got incited at the closing down ceremony of the aeon. 'For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and [for] my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.' (Joel 3:1-2)

HOLY WAR:
'Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I [am] strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about:...' (Joel 3:9-15) Despite multitude of wars, including two world wars, so far fought by mankind hasn't darkened the sun and moon; consequently this multitudes and holy war certainly pertain to the day of the Lord and valley of decision at last. A holy war in this age of Holy Spirit is an anachronism because no one is allowed, apart from a declared war between the nations, to shed the blood of another person. (Matt. 5:38-48; Genesis 9:5-6)

A martyr is a righteous person who is killed by another person for the service rendered to God. One who kills a human being even in the name of God is a murderer (Infringement of Moses' sixth commandment), who, if not atoned of his sins by repentance, is destined to the bottomless pit (Rev. 9:11). God being the author of life, no one has the right to commit suicide. Suicide is a murder; it is a crime. One who kills another person is a murderer and not a martyr. A human bomb is a conglomeration of two types of sins or crimes, murders and self-immolation, punishable for multiple crimes. Even Euthanasia and abortion are treated as murders. Taking away the life of a person (including suicide) is one of the pre-requisite credentials for one's passport to the sulphurous lake of fire. (Rev. 20:15)

REDEMPTIVE STAGES:
There are three epochs in the redemptive scheme of man's salvation as was accounted in great details in my book (Abomination of Desolations - 12 Volumes) and other books and articles. The first one is the BC era (4000 Years), second one is AD(2000 Years), and the third one is of 1000 Years set apart for the solemn rest of the Elects of the Spirit 'in the mid-heaven' with the Lord. As the wars and events portrayed in the Biblical prophecies do not keep the unity of time, place and sequence of events, the reader is kept in dismay, uncertainty and bewilderment. However, we assume that the holy war of the nations mentioned in the Joel's prophecy is akin to the close of second epoch as the Lord proclaims that he is the Shepherd of the Jewish remnants or survivors of the third epoch. '... in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.' (Joel 2:32; Hos 3:4-5; Amos 5:19-20; Mic 2:2:12; 5:8; Hos 3:4; Obd 17; Isa 10:12; 11:11)

Who will be able to endure the great and fiery day of the Lord? (Mal. 4) The remedy is to 'Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. ' (Joel 2:15-16) St.John also reminds the same to us. 'Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed [is] he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.' (Rev 16:15-16; 1 Thess 5:2-3) Who did invite the kings of the whole world there on the great day of the Almighty? The demonic technological miracles). On what grounds God's creation will have to pass through periods of the tribulation (Rev.2:9) and great tribulation (Rev.2:22; 7:14) of the total seven years? God almighty is adored and glorified incessantly by the Heavenly hosts (Rev. 15), where as his name is being desecrated and His servants here on earth are tortured and persecuted (Rev. 16:6) continually. The burning wrath of God is poured down over the inhabitant of the earth as plagues and pestilences by seven angels of God. (Rev 15-16; 2 Thess:8-12) At the time when the fifth bowl is poured down on the throne of the beast, (Rev 12:12) its kingdom was in darkness; men gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of Heaven for their pain and sores, and did not repent of their deeds (Rev.16:10). Pouring down the sixth bowl, God's angel gives the trinity of darkness (Rev. 16:13) seven years to trample upon the anointed as well as the wicked ones of the world (Rev. 13, Dan 12) and imprint his name and number 666 on the earthly inhabitants (Rev. 13:14-18)

The first half of the Beast's seven years of treacherous rule (Dan. 8:14) is called the period of tribulation and the latter part is known as the period of great tribulation (Rev. 13:5; 9:27) " And from the time that the continual burnt offering is taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be a 1290 days' (3.5 Years app. Dan 12:11-13) During this fearful period " I set every man against his fellow" (Zech 8:10)

ANTI-CHRIST:
There are very many Biblical evidence to prove that the anti-Christ hails from Babylon. (Isa 12; Rev 18:10; 14:8) "Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth's abominations" (Rev 17:5) 'And here [is] the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.' (Rev 17:9) 'He shall give no heed to the Gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by woman...." Instead, 'He shall honour the God of fortress (Neither World beast), whom his fathers did not know...' (Dan 11:37-39; Rev 13:11- 4; 2 thess 2:2-3)

'And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. ...But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many. ...Yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. ' (Dan 11:40-45) The tidings from the east and north is perhaps the likely combined army assaults from western continents and their allies and also the coalesced forces of the eastern regions. This combined uprising may unseat him on account of his abrasive attitude in eliminating and ignoring the Gods of all religions, and bloodshed caused towards the end of his terrified reign of seven years. The allied forces of the beast that made war on the Lamb will be conquered and destroyed. (Rev. 1(:19; 17: 13-18; Dan 11:44)

RELIGIOUS WAR:
The hatred between Muslims and Jews is ought to embroil all other religions as their theocratic governments, though under the name of democracy, and allied with other world nations of politicked religions. Jesus' second coming may be heralded by an atrocious war of attrition because the Muslim nations and their allies on one side wage war on the Jews, coalesced with their satellite nations (Christ Countries) on the other side. ' In the whole land two thirds shall be cut off and perish and the one third shall be left alive.' (Zech 13:8; Rev 9:13-21) During this time also the Bride will be protected by the Groom (Rev. 12:6,14) The chosen ones will be gathered in the 'Mid-Air' (2 Thess 4:17) What will be the destiny of the remnant third? 'And I will put this third into fire and refine them as one refine the silver and test them as gold is tested. They will call thy name, and I will answer them. I will say "They are my people" and they will say "The Lord is my God" (Zech 13:9)It is not easy to ascertain whether Lord's wrath over mankind may be over by the finish of the second epoch or not. (Rev.15:1; 16-19) " And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulpher." (Rev. 19:20) The imagery of false prophet indicates the pseudo-churches that aligned with the beast. The second person (dragon or Satan) in the trinity of the devil may be dumped into hell for 100 years. (Rev.20:2-3) He must be loosened for a while at the end of the third epoch. The dragon and the Hades also will be thrown into the lake of fire after the last judgment (Rev 20:14) I have thrown in a multitude of Biblical evidences in my books to prove that Christ's coming down is likely to eventuate around 2006 A.D. The reality of flowering a third epoch which the Fathers have not stated emphatically, although there are glimpses of the same in their writings, it has been a food for my thought for long since. Is there a Contradiction if I draw a conclusion that the Jews may :Look on whom they have pierced (Zech 12:10) during the period of great tribulation, and redeemed. But the odds are more against arriving at such a conclusion, as there are more Biblical evidence to prove otherwise. God has a huge number of probabilities for everything and He chooses the apt one if we thirst and look on Him for His help and Grace. (Isa 38:1-5) It is God's discretion to postpone His time of Second Coming provided the world leaders strive hard for peace and security with a concerted heart. Hence my fixing His descent around 2006 AD becomes a dust in the blowing wind.

"For as lightening comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of Son of Man" (Matt. 24:27). Imitating Jesus, the son of perdition also follows the same path and pattern. The wanton butchery that kindled in Ambon and Timor(Indonesia) is conflagrating to the westward direction, molesting the purity of the Church of the Nativity and other Holy places in Bethlehem, the birth place of the Saviour. On it sweeps to the westward journey, the bloodbath whetted by followers of some major religions in India and Pakistan and neighboring countries is testimony that the spirit of rebellion and holocaust is already at work. The developing countries, which are incapable of feeding their starving millions, are equipped with weapons of mass destruction to participate in the holy war. The fanaticism of underground religious fundamentalism and sectarians violence and its carnivorous horror and terror is fuming the heat waves to the four corners of the world, simmering every individual and institution with rage, shudder and awe, whether they are rich or poor, small or great, low or high. Mankind is a victim of an immense catastrophe, too.

Now the whole world is boiled up with mass incendiaries and hysteria. Treachery and lechery is everywhere and in all walk of life. Have we already slipped into the period of tribulation? The ripeness for extirpation of humanity is accomplished by our own paranoid and daily demonic gymnastics. The battle of Armageddon is a detrimental turning point to the trinity of the devil and his worshippers, where as it is blossoming the city of paradise for those who have received the seal of the angel of the Lord. (Rev. 7:3; 14:1)

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ARTICLE 2


WHO IS THE GREATEST

By JACOB YESUDASAN, NEDUMONCAVE

Jesus gives a definite answer for the question 'Who is greatest?' 'Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.'

"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"(Mat. 18:1)

It was an issue among the disciples that who was the greatest among them.(Mar.9:39), Luke. 9:46; 22.24). But the quoted verse projects the question: "Who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven". Jesus gives a definite, clear and undoubtable answer, showing the example of a child and that of his own, in the following verses:

"And Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore who ever humble himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven" (Mat.18.2-4) (compare Mark 9:35-37; Luke. 9:47-48) "Who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you on the one who serves" (Luke. 22:26-27)

The mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus and requested Him to give her sons James and John the prominent place among the disciples (Mat.20.20:21) Jesus answered her saying :-

"whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave"(Mat.20:26-27)

Evaluating the words and the contrasting deeds of the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus taught His disciples:-

"But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And who ever exalt himself will be abased and he who humbles himself will be exalted". (Mat. 23:11,12)

The least in the kingdom of heaven is the greatest of the greatest. Concerning the greatness of John the Baptist, Jesus said:

"Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist, But he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is the greater than he." (Mat. 11:11)

The same subject, the same questions; raised in different occasion, different circumstance and different context. Jesus' answer, though varies in detail in description, the sole common factor in all His descriptions is the quality of humility. But, in His teachings and explanations to the question as to who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven, there consist yet other points-certain lessons of faith (Mat 18:2,11). Let us conceive each of them precisely and briefly, within the limitation of this small thought.

1. REPENTANCE IS VITAL FOR ENTERING INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN:
Before giving His thought on "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven", Jesus, in the first places says, who will enter the kingdom of God; and emphasizes that "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of God". It means that only converted soul will enter in His kingdom. Repentance is one of the elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ.(Heb. 6.1). Jesus started in His ministry by preaching "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mat.4:17; Mark 1.14:15) Without the experience of repentance and conversion as a sinless child, the entry into the kingdom of heaven is impossible. Unless humble oneself, repentance cannot be generated self-righteousness prevents repentance. In the parable of the Pharisees and the publican (Chunkakaran), Jesus has thought us their session. Pharisee was the one who kept up all commandments of 'Tora' from his childhood. He did not find any shortcomings in him before God. Rather, he was proud of himself being 'just' than any man and not beings a sinner like the 'Chunkakaran' standing near to him. So, he could not humble and want unjustified before God. But the tax collector on the other hand, washed his sins in his tears, beat his breast and prayed before God for pardon. He departed in peace, duly justified by God.

When we part take in the worship of God, it should be the occasion for the repentance. It should experience us to find our guilt before God. As we recite in musical rhythm "Holly art thou o' God, we should as well say within us: 'I am the most unhappy'. It is not for the pleasure of hearing that prayers are arranged with long notes intervening between the words and sentences. It is the time for the worshipers to meditate and to repent.

2. THE LESSION OF FAITH:
The lesson of faith of Baptism is the next to be seen in Jesus' preaching "And whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives me"(Mat. 18.5). To receive the child in Jesus name is to baptize the child in His name and make him part of His body, the Holy church.

3. OFFENDERS ARE LIABLE TO BE PUNISHED:
"But whoever causes one of this little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him it a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Mat.18:6). It is here we hear from the mouth of the Preacher and Savior that those who offend the believer, particularly the little ones, will be punished Then, those who with their ardent apostasy that the gift of Holy Spirits not bestowed upon the children with the baptism are committing and grieving the Holy Spirit. "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were seated for the day or redemption"(Eph.4:30)

4. GET RID OF THE SIN ORIENTED MEANS:
"And if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. And if you eye cause your to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you"(Mat 18. 8,9) Jesus is not asking us to cut off our limbs and thus commit suicide. Hands and legs are the organs of work of life and eye for perception. There is no function for these independent of the body and the wish of the 'self' and the commanding power of the brain. He is only saying us to abstain from the sin-oriented ways of life and keep off sin.

5. DO NOT DESPISE THE LITTLE ONES:
Last but not least advice "You do not despise one of there little ones" (Mat. 18.10) Here the "little one", in the context of the quoted verse is the child believer.(verse. 5,.6). Not the poor in wealth, not the least in social status, but they are too not be despised according to Christian principles. "Receive one who is weak in faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things." (Rom.14.1) "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them [that are] of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come [with] vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you." (Isa.35:3,4) So, one according to all that above is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven Dear Reader, Art Thou, the one?

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ARTICLE 3


HOW SHALL WE KNOW OF JESUS CHRIST COMING AGAIN?

By MATHEW VARGHESE, BRAMPTON, ONTARAIO, CANADA

O Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky ? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.

In order to know the prophecy of second coming of Jesus Christ, refer to Zech. 14:4 'And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.' Jesus' disciples heard the very same passage from the mouth our Lord. Matt.24:1-2 and 32-36: 'And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the building of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you. There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down'. 'Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise, ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that is near, even at the door'.

The disciples were very excited because He was teaching them of a righteous kingdom and how they would rule in it. In verse 3 we read, now the disciples were on the Mount of Olives with Him. The present temple they looked at was the third one called "Herod's Temple". The first one was Solomon's. That temple was actually David's because David provided all materials for it. Zerubbabel built second temple. It was also torn down and the third one was constructed. Now we read the disciples asked," All right, what shall these things be". They thought they are at the right place (the Mount of Olive). It was certainly not the right temple because the temple has yet to be destroyed. In Acts 1:6 the disciples again asking the same question. Here also they were at the Mount of Olives. The resurrected Christ was among them. Jesus told them "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power". Here again it was not the right time. Jesus, during his Olive discourse, had told his close disciples, the symptom of His Second Coming as 'when you see the fig tree's branch is tender..... Know that it is near'. Israel is pictured here as a fig tree. Read Matt.21:18-20. We see a fig tree, which bear only leaves. There was no fruit.

Comparing Verses in Acts and that in Matthew.21, we see Israel will come back as a nation. They will still reject Christ. In other words, he is not speaking of a spiritual awakening of Israel but as a political reality. Then you know I am near. The fact that Israel became a political reality in May 1948 as a tremendous miracle. So He is near. But the greatest miracle takes place when someone comes to trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour. This is also a rebirth. In John 3:7-8 Jesus tells to Nicodemus 'Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye much be born again. The wind blowth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound there of, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.' What a wonderful reality is to have God's promise of eternal life?.

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ARTICLE - SOCIETY


VHP, THE BIBLE AND THE RHETORIC OF ATTACK

By REV.DR. VALSAN THAMPU

There are three sure signs that one does not understand spirituality in general. 1. Irrational anxiety for existence. 2. Thick-skinned unconcern about other religions. 3. Meddlesome eagerness to reform the scriptures.

There are three sure signs that one does not understand spirituality in general and one's own religion in particular. The first is the irrational anxiety that if other religions are left free to flourish and fulfill their destiny, one's own religion will be stamped out of existence. The second is the thick-skinned unconcern with which sweeping and malicious generalizations are made about other religions. The third is the meddlesome eagerness to reform the scriptures, customs, and liturgical life of other religions; to wield reform, in short, as a rhetoric of attack. The irony that these trends betoken the ascendancy of intolerance in a religious group and that this marks the degeneration of the spiritual core of that religion is often lost on most people.

We would have been beholden to the VHP mouthpieces, and listened to them reverentially, if they had anything worthwhile to say on the treasures of Hinduism. As of today, there is no evidence to suggest that they are seized of the spiritual profundities of the Vedic faith. We have heard far too much from them, however, on the dangers and demerits of the minorities. Out of the VHP cauldron of communal calculations there continues to emerge an endless array of instructions to minorities. Thus, they have been asked, in quick succession, to amend their names (for example, Christians must call themselves "Christian Hindus"), to indianize their liturgical practices and community life, to hard-earn the good will of the Hindu community (by which is meant, the Parivar), and so on. The latest in this series of unsolicited advice is that Christians should edit their scripture, and remove all 'objectionable' materials from the Bible.

On the face of it, there should be nothing 'objectionable' about excising 'objectionable texts' from the Bible. The difficulty is in deciding which text is objectionable and which is not. Who is to adjudicate on the merit of these texts? If the VHP is allowed to edit the Bible, the outcome could be similar to the fate of the notice put up in front of a fish-shop, which read: "Fresh fish sold here". Soon thereafter, a local prankster approached the shopkeeper saying, "What is the need to say 'fresh fish' sold here? Who does not know that you sell only 'fresh' fish?" So the shopkeeper erased the word 'fresh', retaining only the words: "fish sold here". The next day the same fellow returned with the argument, "Is there any need to write, 'sold here'? Isn't it obvious that fish is sold 'here' and not 'there'?" So the word 'here' went, and the notice now read, "Fish sold". The prankster came again to argue that the word 'sold' was superfluous. "Isn't it obvious that the fish kept here is meant for sale?" That word had to go too, leaving now only one word, "fish". A few days later he returned to insist that the word 'fish' also be erased. "From the stink in this place," he argued convincingly, "it is obvious that there is fish here."

The question of motive is basic to the merit of a suggestion. Why does the VHP want the Bible edited? Is it that the likes of Giriraj Kishore and Pravin Togadia want the thorns in the Bible removed so that they may enjoy its spiritual flowers and fruits? The only valid reason for resenting any section in the Bible as 'objectionable' is that it interferes with one's relationship with it. Only a person who wants to embrace a scripture can come to any just or reliable conclusion as to which of its parts are objectionable and which acceptable. Arguably, those who find Christianity as a whole objectionable will not stop short of finding the whole of the Bible objectionable, as the prankster in the story did vis--vis the notice.

What credibility does an outfit that despises scripture in general and the Bible and the Q'ran in particular have to suggest that it be edited or reformed?

Knowing only too well how the VHP is disposed towards the Bible, we are constrained to be skeptical of its zeal to subject this sacred text to communal censorship. Why have they improvised this fanciful agenda at this time? The answer points to the not-so-hidden intention to demoralize the Christian community. It is well known that the morale of a religious community depends, among other things, on the inviolability of three factors: (a) the scriptures (b) the rituals, including places of worship and (c) the freedom to express the genius of the faith vis--vis the world at large.

The attack on rituals, the second in our list, began in a tentative fashion a few years ago when the BJP think-tank in Delhi argued that churches in Delhi must be de-notified as liquor in the form of sacramental wine was served, without license, at the Lord's Supper! Of course, this was preceded by a whisper campaign to caricature the Lord's Supper as cannibalism, as sacramental wine and wafer were believed to trans-substantiate into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The public outcry in the wake of this campaign to stigmatize the sacrament made the mischief-mongers retrace their steps in quick time. The attack on religious practices has concentrated so far on intimidating Christian social workers and criminalizing all conversions as coerced or induced. To this category also belongs the call to indianize the Church. Perhaps it is far too much to expect of the VHP storm-troopers to know that spirituality, whether seen from a Christian or Hindu perspective, is at once local and universal and that, Church being a spiritual entity, cannot be defined wholly in territorial terms.

With its recent demand that all offending texts be excluded from the Bible, the VHP has launched its maiden attack on the scripture. It needs to be seen as part of its penchant for improvising anti-minority scandals. This is a shrewd and calculated campaign constructed on the centrality of the Bible to the Christian faith and community life. Over the last 2000 years, the Bible has been one of the most decisive factors in defining Christian identity and morale. Christians were known, from the early times, as "People of the Book". The Bible, more than all the churches in the world put together, accounts for the culture and inspiration of the community. Spreading suspicion on the integrity and spiritual authenticity of the Bible is, hence, a potent strategy to demoralize Christians anywhere in the world. In its long-term implications, it rivals the communal atrocities unleashed on the Muslims in Gujarat.

However, there is, in spite of the VHP, a positive element in this scenario. The need for re-thinking, reform and spiritual regeneration is a glaring fact in the sphere of religions, especially in the Indian context. If anti-human and unspiritual ideas and sentiments are embedded in any scripture or religious literature they need to be identified for what they are. But in this respect, no one should behave like a bull in a China shop, smashing whatever is unsavory to his personal taste or group whims. The time-tested sanctity of all scriptures must be respected. No one should set out to vandalize any scripture, equipped only by casual impressions and communal prejudices. In spiritual matters, superficial knowledge is dangerous and utterly unacceptable, for spirituality is a depth-phenomenon.

Only those who endeavor to live by its light can know scripture in truth. That being the case, the sensible thing to do is to leave the risky and onerous task of reforming scriptures and other aspects of religious life to the practitioners of the respective religions. Hindus must reform Hinduism and Christians must put their own house in order. And the time has come for both to desist from making laughably uninformed statements about each other. In place of the current eagerness to reform the religions of others, there must be an uncompromising will to purify one's own religion of whatever irrational and inhuman accretions it might have acquired over the centuries.

In this context, I wish to place on record my personal disapproval of whatever uninformed and uncharitable remarks that self-styled Christian preachers have made in the past about other faiths. In most cases, these statements were made by those who did not know the subjects on which they ventured to pontificate. They were also, at the same time, too shallow and superficial in the understanding of their own faith. Showing other faiths in a poor light is neither necessary nor compatible with the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus never said one uncharitable word against any other religion. Instead, he reserved his most vehement condemnation for the corrupters of Judaism; the religious fold to which he belonged. Love is the lifeblood of the Gospel and it can be preached only in the spirit of love and magnanimity. The mark of love is that it endeavors to see others in the best light possible, without disowning the demands of truth.

But there is a fundamental problem in this context that we need to reckon. All through history, no religious community has taken kindly to the idea of reforming itself. Consequently, religious reformers were demonized as heretics and enemies of the faith. They were excluded or eliminated ruthlessly. Religions may preach tolerance, but every religion has been viciously intolerant in respect of religious reform. "No prophet," says Jesus of Nazareth, "is welcome in the midst of his own people". By ruthlessly stamping out the spirit of reform from within, religious communities invite lumpen attempts to coerce them into conformity. Ironically, the VHP itself is born out of the lack of spiritual reform and regeneration in the Hindu fold. Christian fundamentalists are their counterparts in the opposite camp.

For the time being, it is imperative that the nation as a whole wake up to the communal pogrom camouflaged under the VHP campaign to censor the Bible. The question needs to be asked as to which particular text in the Bible has created, in practice, what trouble for the country? Sure enough, there are passages in the Old Testament on Holy War. How many Christian groups today advocate holy wars in the Indian context? But that is hardly the issue. The tragedy with an outfit like the VHP is that, pathetically devoid of any positive agenda, it is condemned to fondling its invented victim-hood, improvising grievances where none exists. The mindset that underlies this outlook is one of pathological negativity that holds the potential to infect and paralyze our destiny as a nation. In the judgment of future historians, the condemnation of the current custodians of Hinduism would be that they stood by and watched communal and irreligious outfits like the VHP hijacking the Vedic faith and degrading it into an ideology of intolerance and inhumanity. May this not continue to happen!

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LITERAL-ARTICLE


THE DYNAMICS OF FAMILY LIFE

By FR. GEORGE PANACKAMATTOM

Marriage is a dynamic relationship and family life is not the bed of noses. If requires plenty of hard work, dollops of fact, good humour, patience, maturity and continual mutual adjustments of the partners through out the lives, to make it happy healthy and stable.


INTRODUCTION:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer sitting in a Nazi prison cell once wrote to a married person "Marriage is more than your life for each other, has a higher dignity and power for it is God's holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In marriage you are a link in the chain of generations, which God causes to come and to pass way to His glory and calls in to His Kingdom. In marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind". The real value of family life is very well expressed here. Family:- A family is more than the sum of its parts husband, wife, daughters, sons, grand children, Uncles, Aunts, and grand childres, Each has a unique vew poing, needs duties and responsibilities within the larger unity of the family. Each has his or her storng and wak points, individual traits and personalities. The interaction of these family members can result in friction, tensions, headaches. At the same time this interaction can produce joy, accomplishment and a sense of well-being for each member of the family. This article deals with certain causes of conflicts in the family and the dynamics of a healthy stable and happy family life.

CONFLICTS:
Because of the deficiency in the togetherness of family lfie, "a taste of honey" may some time turn to sour and sometime bitter, Because of differences in personality, in physiological capacities, or in emotional needs conflicts may arise. Other factors may also lead to marital disturbances. Cultural, religious educational differences, social and economical factors may be sufficiently acute to become a cause of serious difficulties in a marital relationship. Unemployment, illness, lack of adequate housing, in-las interference frequently cause anxieties and conflicts in a relationship that might otherwise have been very satisfactory. Technological advances particularly the increasing participation of women in industrial and professional life, the progressive dimunition of her economic dependence on her husband, labour saving devices in the home-all of these are affecting the character of marriage and family life today.

ROLE - EXPECTATION AND PERFORMANCE:
In every culture the male has been the 'preparer'. Today these roles are being modified. Today the woman works, earns money and helps 'with providing'. She may expect her husband to participate in preparing. This change in the previosuly well defined roles of men and women adds new stress and strains to the family life. Many are confused by these factors and are not ready or equipped to recognize and accept them.

PROBLEM OF MUTUALITY:
The transition from and authoritarian patriarchal family system to a democratic organisation brings further problems. Here the problem of mutuality arises. Now the husband and wife arises. Now the husband and wife both expect to have mutual interests, mutual tases, mutual attitudes to families and friends and also mutual sexual gratifications. Since this is not always possible, one or the other or both may feel that there is something wrong in the relationship.

INFERTILITY:
Infertility can become a difficult psychological problem in marriage. The lack of ability to procreate is a sever blow to self-esteem and the knowledge of it leads to a feeling of inadequacy. There may also exist deep seated anxieties which contribute to the infertility resulting conflicts may lead to much marital dissatisfaction.

INFIDELITY:
Infidelity is another threat to marriage today. In the past infidelity of a husband was facially accepted but today the right or risk of extra-marital relationship is treated equally in the case of men and women. This adds another difficulty to maintain a stable happy family unit.

FAMILY DYNAMICS:
The dynamics of a happy, healthy & stable marriage consist of mature mutual love, mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual caring, sharing in parenthood, sexual responsiveness, true awareness of dependence, awareness of responsibilities, emotional security inner unity, harmony and continuous adjustments in life.

THE FAMILY VALUES AND WORTH OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS:
Family values and worth of human relationship within the family are very important. Joseph Addison said "The grand essentials in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." A fine house can be constructed easily with valuable components but it depends on each individual of a family to build up a home".

FLEXIBLE MATURE PERSONALITY:
The interrelationship that results from the interaction of two different personalities of husband and wife make the kind of family life for a couple. In marriage the two individual have to adjust themselves to each other as well as to many others and situations not of their own choice, the spouses family, relatives, friends and a new and different way of life. They have to be able to give up much of the personal freedom. They must be able to share the basic satisfaction that men and women seek in marriage-the security of love, companionship, a home and a family. For such a satisfactory marriage a person has to have a flexible mature personality.

DIGNITY OF WOMAN:
The forgotten dignity of woman was brought to light and its value acknowledged. The rights of wife are equally great and sacred with those of man. Wife is a fellow heir with man of eternal life. Between the husband and the wife there exists a bond of love more holy, tender and firm. The image of self-sacrifice, devotion. The image of self sacrifice, devotion and fidelity to each others and to other are to be realized in the family relationship.

LOVE AND EMOTIONAL SECURITY:
Men and women are of varying degrees of emotional development. They seek love and emotional security in marriage. The need for this remains a need throughout the life of the adult. A mature love relationship between man and woman is a source of security. In mature love it seeks not merely the satisfaction of the self but even more. So the satisfaction of the beloved partners. It is also different from romantic or carnal love in which the loved one is endowed with all the qualifications one would wish to find is him/her. Mature love is expressed to the person loved with word and gesture, with signs of affection and tenderness. Lack of demonstrativeness becomes a source of irritation and resentment. A woman seems to have constant need for reassurance and support from a husband. Mature love and an ability to express it and give it freely is an essential base for a good marriage. "Express one's feelings to the extent of one's capacity".

SEXUAL RESPONSIVENESS:
The Sexual incompatibility of a married couple may wreck their family life. Ignorance in sexual matters enhances family problems. One is uncertain as to what is moral and what is immoral. In married life self control and abstinence have a significant place. Every one should be conscious of the need of self control, spiritual enlightenment and discipline. Premarital Sex and sex outside marriage will spoil healthy married life. Social laws, conventions, customs and regulations to be rembered for a better life in the society, breaking of which may disturb one's peace of mind. Pre-marital sex and sex outside marriage do not result in absolute satisfaction and happiness, because of fear, anxiety and worry etc. Illegitimate sex prevents a person from giving absolute love and satisfaction to the aprtner. And consequently they become estranged day by day. Children born of promisous sex, may develop unhealthy character and outlook in life and go astray. They are likely to be victims of sexually transmitted diseases and abnormality.

In married life the sexual satisfaction derived from husband-wife relationship is not only phsical but also emotional, psychological and spiritual. Sex is God-given and holy. If maniputated in a noble manner sex is a great force that brings light and life to family living. Men and women seek mutual resonse in their sex relations. A couple fully grown to maturiy should bring a healthy hetero sexual attitude to their marital relations. This will express itself in a mutually pleasurable response. This good feeling extyends to other areas in their relationship and facilitate the requirred adjustments in life. The ability to work out a mutually satisfactory sex relationship demonstrates an ability to consider not only one's own needs but those of the mate as well. The satisfaction of a mate's needs may be jestifiable even when they are not necessaryl mutual. Couples have to accept each other in the sex relations without resentment.

EFFECT OF COMMUNICATION:
Marriage is a real partnership for life. Where the couple can "talk each others language" and freely communicate with each other will find their life together richly rewarding. Marriage has been described as the "art of human relationship at its best". Every husband and wife has the right to know each other's minds, about each other, and about everything, which concerns their marital relationship. "Intimate and friendly communication between husband and wife tends to weld them together, where as a decided decline in this type of communication tend to break up existing attachments" (a re-mark of a sociologist in "Happiness in marriage").

Now a days many family problems are due to the lack of communication and understanding of the truth. Mind a openness and free talks among the members. Conveying the thoughts desire and problems of a member to the partner bring relief to all the members of the family. Problem one faces could easily be understood and solutions could be brought out before catering in to a breaking situation. Mental agony makes a person sick and with the interaction of that particular person the whole family may go to a troubled and confused situation. Real communication between the partners make such situations relieved which brings happiness to the family" Communications in marriage is putting love into practice".

HAPPINESS:
"Laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone. A smile is an inexpensive way to happiness. Think of all, one has to be grateful for. Getters generally don't get happiness, but givers get it" (Book. Simple ways to make your family happy) Each one has a goal to be happy in life. A person could get happiness out of the manner of his dealings. If he wants to see the other members of the family happy, first of all make himself happy. A smile one the lips and a twinkle in the eyes make others happy and so also the family as a whole. Learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. "Love other Love others, express it express it through words and deeds, make happiness for a lifetime".

CONFIDENCE AND MUTUAL TRUST:
Have confidence in oneself and in others is very important in family life. If this is lost the whole family will be is trouble. With confidence one can empower the other which will develop communication and contacts. Mutual trust, mutual honesty and mutual frankness are absolutely necessary for a good and happy married life.

MUTUAL SHARING:
The relationship between husband and wife is the most abiding and deep. For this reason husband and wife should not desist from the emotional sharing of joys and sorrows in life. They should also appreciate each other's aptitudes and abilities, taking into account the fact that the family and social background of the one may be different from the others. The relationship becomes strengthened when the husband and the wife have a sharing attitude.

MUTUAL RESPECT:
Nobody wants insults and humiliations. Blaming others, nagging getting angry, throwing fun rums, shouting, bickering etc will only 'pour oil on fire' partners should not be criticized in front of other. Admit the mistakes one make. Self respect and mutual respect have value in the family life.

AWARENESS OF DEPENDENCE:
Family life requires the cultivation of an awareness of mutual dependence between husband and wife. Develop an attitude of co-operation and consultation between husband and wife. Where necessary, children also should be consulted which will assure them of their important place in the family. Mutual understanding, Mutual caring of or the needs of each partner sharing together all the good and bad experiences of life together etc are to be seen as the few forms of a healthier family life.

AWARENESS OF RESPONSIBILITIES:
A family as a whole and each member individually should bear in mind their duties and responsibilities towards God, towards the society towards each other, towards oneself towards the parents, towards in laws, and towards children & others. A mind of sacrifice and an effective co-operation between the husband and the wife to fulfill these responsibilities are forces behind a successful family life.

SUCCESSFUL PARENTING:
Successful parenting is an essential force ie family life. There is a basic and powerful urge in women to conceive and to bear children. Planning and spacing children have become increasingly discussed among all social strata. Children have always been cherished and looked upon as the most valuable resources and the best hope for the future. Helping children to become good and well adjusted adults is an essential function. More than performing parental duties of giving food, clothing better education and modern facilities, better attention to be given for the development of their personalities and formation of good character. They can never be spoilt if brought up together by the husband and the wife giving them of love.

FELLOWSHIP AND SERVICE:
People have begun to feel alienated, lonely disillusioned, having set up nuclear families. Disillusionment and loneliness may led them to take drinks and drugs. The remedy for this is fellowship. This is experience of translating love in to action through selfless service to those who are in need, poor, miserable and helpless. This experience is a dynamic force to liberate a person in a family from the clutches of loneliness, alienation, drinks and drugs.

INNER UNITY AND HARMONY:
Formerly families were held to gather in spite of conflicts by external pressures of law, religions and society. Today theses forces have begun to lose their effectiveness. So now marital stability depends more on the coherent power of an inner unity and harmony than on the adhesive forces of social power.

CONCLUSION:
Marriage is a dynamic relationship and family life is not the bed of noses. If requires plenty of hard work, dollops of fact, good humour, patience, maturity and continual mutual adjustments of the partners through out the lives, to make it happy healthy and stable.

A happy, healthy and stable marriage makes the family "a paradise on earth.

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LITERAL-ARTICLE

PARENTS' ROLE FOR UPBRINGING CHILDREN IN CHRISTIAN VALUES
By FR. K.K. JOHN, PHILADELPHIA

The simple principle would be that if you do not instill good thought and manners in children when they are able to imbibe, do not expect also good things back when they are able to impart. For, no one can give out what he/she did not take in.

It is of paramount importance that this particular title was one of the selected theme of a youth movement group which adduced beyond any reasonable doubt that our faithful already started discerning the awareness of a staggering exigency to address such important subjects so as to better equip themselves in dealing with the yeomen's task of molding a better future generation. This awareness is solemn and lofty, though however late, I console, 'late is better than never.' I felt it should benefit those who could not attend that meeting and hence this essay in nut a shell.

While dealing with Baptism for those coming back from heresies, St. Cyprian says, "For one cannot receive anything from nothing," Hudaya Canon Chapter 2:1. St. Irenaeus in his 2nd book, 'Adversus haereses' corroborates the same idea, "Men, indeed, are not able to make something from nothing, but only from existing material," Article 199, "Faith of the early fathers," by W A Jurgens.) Evidently, many right thinking people feel the same way our venerable fathers said. Equally so, the right minded people of our times genuinely perceive that the situation is really out of control. A few decades ago New York Times reported that 'Christianity would be extinct from the face of the earth once Christians start reconciling with the world order and in Sept 96 it claimed that its prediction has already come true.' We exist as Christians only so long as we wrestle against the world order. "You are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you," John 15:19. Jesus said, "I have overcome the world," John 16:33. "World is enmity with God," James 4:4. St Paul exhorts, "Do not be conformed to this world," Rom 12:2. St John exhorts, "Do not love the world," 1 John 2:15. "For, our citizenship is in heaven," says St Paul, Phil 3:20. These do not mean that Christians are removed from all the realities of social life and awareness in this world, but that they are to desist from the temptations of luxuries that can preclude them inheriting heavenly bliss and to effectively enjoy the bond of peace and happiness in Christ. This would mean that as Christians we ought to hold fast the principles of morality, ethics, faith, hope and love to conform to the standards set forth by our Savior Jesus Christ, Apostles and their bonafide successors.

The question is how far we are able to keep up the standards in our practical personal daily life in the changed present context. Many are caught up in a dilemma. On one side they want to enjoy all pleasures and amenities available around without least judging how their mediocre interests would affect their growing offspring and on the other side they expect very high standards of morale and ethical behavior patterns from the children, without imparting any. The simple principle would be that if you do not instill good thought and manners in them when they are able to imbibe, do not expect also good things when they are able to impart. For, no one can give out what he/she did not take in. In other words, if parents are to genuinely expect good morale and ethical output when the children are grown up they ought to have taught worthy examples for them to emulate when they were children. Thus the burden to bear the brunt of all the outpouring acts of good and evil by the children rests upon the practical life style of parents; for the old adage, 'treat the mother for the infant's sickness' is quite apt in this case.

One cannot ignore that we are put up in a very hostile situation and potentialities of nurturing good morale and ethical Christian values in our children are very bleak which reality itself impels us to be very cautious. To illustrate:

1.

One talk show (Sally) on 4.18.97 revealed that many American parents are in the grip of divorce due to the disruptive and erratic behavior of the teenage children.

2.

"An average person sees 9230 actual or implied sex acts in a year on TV, of which 81% come from soap operas and 94% are of extra marital affairs. A teenager from 8 to 18 years would see approximately 75000 illicit sex acts during the span of ten years," 'Here is life' by San Bernado 1987.

3.

"An average third grader spends 900 hours in school in a year but he spends 1170 by watching TV, i.e. more than 3 hours daily," News Week Oct 1.1990."

This alludes that children are spending more time on TV than in school. Bernard Hoffman, a national expert on youth and violence says, "Violence almost become way of life because people answer not by talking but by taking instant actions. Media has been glamorizing violence in movies, TV, video and computer games. Hollywood makes violence more acceptable to children. Before a child finishes elementary school he/she has watched about 8000 murders and more than 100,000 acts of violence. By the time the same child turns 18, he/she has watched more than 18000 TV murders...and makes it appears as an acceptable, even normal, way to solve problems.

Today more and more children are left unsupervised... children develop a distorted reality. Hard work ethic is slipping away. Nationwide 4 to 10 million children have been abused. More than half of such children commit violent crimes. Over 12 million American children have mental problems. If not treated, you run the risk of child erupting into violence," Bucks County Courier times dated May 7. 1997. Many would not admit, yet, the fact is that most of our kids are now products of TV culture and indubitably parents are mainly, if not fully, responsible to this appalling trend and many are weeping over the spilt milk. These statistics may not directly relate to our community in full save a few isolated instances here and there but we cannot ignore the situation at any rate. Time is ripe, however, if not too late, to awake from the deep slumber many are in, and take precautionary steps against such impending calamities that might befall and take heavy toll on our flamboyant life style. It is hearty sign; at least some section of our community captured the magnitude of the situation and began seriously pondering over the ways and means of reparation and reversal to the basics.

A few years ago, a friend of mine bought a bedroom set elegantly packed in a corrugated carton. He brought it home and started assembling. Even after many hours frantic efforts he could not make it to the manufacturer's specifications. Some parts and handful of accessories were in excess. Finally he came to senses that he could not complete the project. He called me for help. I went there only to find a big mess. I sat with him and showed him how to assemble, following step by step from the manufacturer's instruction manual. It worked out very easy and he was happy. In this case his problem was his over confidence about his own ability; I call it pride. He did not care to consult the instruction manual, as was supposed to, I call it neglect or even defiance. The result was dismay and failure. The same or similar situation happens in family life also. Who knows best about family relationships and duties of each one in it, as ought to be, better than the one who designed and established family?

Adam sinned against the will of God that caused him the loss of Paradise, constituting the first ever 'divorce' or separation from God. Adam realized his folly and damage that followed. He felt insecure and devastated and realized the futility of his existence without God and decided to reconcile with God hoping to regain the promised paradise, thus began to worship God, Gen 4:26. God in His abundant and unfathomable mercy, promised Adam re-entry into the lost paradise, by the redeeming sacrifice of His only begotten Son, as the "Seed of woman" Gen 3:15. God designed a sublime plan to bring out the "Seed of the woman" who would execute the task of redemption. He named this plan 'marriage and family.' He wrapped and bound Adam and Eve as husband and wife with His love, that was 'His best for their best.' St. Augustine says, "Love is a movement of mind directed towards God." 'The opposite of love is not hate but lust that is also a movement of mind directed against God.' When Adam saw Eve for the first time he exclaimed, "Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh," Gen 2: 23. Adam had no better word to express his exuberance and sense of oneness as he saw Eve. He found bliss and endless exultation in her presence and enjoyed pinnacle of divine love and never again felt lonely. So when husband and wife come together in mutual commitment of sincere love and care, there begins the paradise on earth and heaven rejoices. He established the family in His own image and likeness of love as the first alternative to the lost paradise and as a passage to future eternal paradise. God visualized the blessed Trinity in the family set up (man, Adam + God + woman, Eve = husband + wife = family).

In the wedding episode of Isaac and Rebecca the unnamed servant who faithfully carries out the whole process of marriage is referred to as type of Holy Spirit, Gen 24:10-66. So long as we fail to comprehend this divine principle and willfully submit to it we cannot and will not be able to fulfill our obligations as parents. Life in paradise was so pleasant that they never lacked anything. Everything went well until a third character, other than God, without consent of the other partner intruded in their life, we call him Satan, who destroyed their bliss and turned everything into turmoil. Even today mankind is reeling under the dastardly effects of this unauthorized intrusion. In the present day's culture too, third character's entry in the life of 'two' is the main reason for family break-ups and manifold afflictions that follow. US News Sept 24.1990 says, "50% of black children in the country and 80% in New York alone live without father." "There are 1.1 Million single fathers in US. 50% of the divorces are due to the new extra marital relationships developed in the work places," Dr. James Dobson in 'focus on the family,' April 9.97. St Paul equates the relationship of husband and wife to that of Christ and Church and adds that it is nothing but a great mystery, Eph Ch 5. Christ is the perfect embodiment of selfless love and self-sacrifice. Affectionate relationship between husband and wife need not necessarily depend on sexual gratification alone, which is an alien concept in these days. Intimacy in family relationship cannot exist nor flourish without self-emptying unconditional love, self-sacrifice, mutual trust and unqualified commitment to spouse. However, divine presence is indispensable for these elements to function harmoniously, so as not to create any imbalance. Marriage is not a casual relationship, as many contemplate in these days, but a dignified vocation. 'Marriage is an institution, not a romance; it is a way of life, not a passion; it is not rainbow, but hodden-gray,' says Earnest Barker in "Values of life."

We see a lot of family models in the Holy Bible. Psalm 128 is a lucid and candid narration of a model family as a well-grown garden. Husband is the full-grown, matured olive tree; wife is the vine crept over the olive tree, not as parasite but as ornament and the children are the healthy, growing olive plants. No doubt, this is a prototype of heaven. The responsibility of keeping harmonious and blessed relation in the family is vested upon husband. He should do so by fearing the Lord. He must place God first in everything he does. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you," Matt 6:33. His actions must conform to the divine standards. He should transmit Godly principles of honesty, affection, love, forgiving, discipline, obedience, etc to the entire household. He is a mediator between God and members of the family. He should consult God in prayer and seek His guidance before commissioning or implementing anything. He ought to behave responsibly and in blameless way as if he were type of Christ. Such people shall eat the fruit of their labor; rather, the husband who does not fear God nor keep His commandments may not get desired results of his labor. Egocentric people are more prone to sustained failures. God-fearing people are promised with 'happiness.' Happiness is a state of blessedness. But nowadays, most people seek their own asylums, independent of God, and end up in alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, etc.

Some others conceive economic independence, opulence, social position, education, physical attractiveness, etc as vehicles to happiness. All these things may be helpful to grow in self-esteem or offer some momentary pleasure, nevertheless, there will always remain a sense of dissatisfaction or worthlessness. This is the same solitude that Adam felt when he lost paradise, for man is created in a different way from all other animals. The 'Word' of His mouth created animals. He said so and they were made, Gen 1: 9-23. But man was created after a discussion and consent within the Holy Trinity. He was created in the image and the likeness of Trinity. "And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." Gen 1: 26. The first part, "God said" is singular that denotes "oneness of God" (God is one) and the second part, "Let us" and "our image" and "our likeness" are plural numbers and that plurality we call, "Trinity. " One God is known in three personalities (K'noome, in Syriac) "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." or "Triune God." This is evident from the fact that man (includes woman also) possesses body, mind and spirit. Secondly, God's own hands formed him. He was not created by command, though it was quite possible for God to do so. He did not opt that way. This adduces that man, unlike other animals, is a special creation and that he is very important to God. For this reason man can never enjoy his life in abundance without the active presence of God, his creator, sustainer and emancipator.

Understanding this immutable truth will invariably unravel many riddles of life; namely, why possessions of huge wealth, social status, education, beauty and such other worldly accomplishments do not bring in the desired level of happiness. Recorded history, contemporary happenings, and stories of acclaimed persons of fame are full with discontentment, failures, turmoil and feeling of wantonness. Why? St Augustine said, "My heart will never rest until I rest in thee." Jesus said, "abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bare fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine. You are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing," John 15:4-5. "Happy are the people whose God is Lord," Ps 144: 15 and Prov. 16: 20.

Man who fears the Lord and finds happiness in the Lord is endowed with a wife, who shall be like fruitful vine beside his house, is a beautiful simile. Wine is symbolic of life, John 2:4-10, Ezk.19: 10. Faithful and God fearing wife can convert a barren house into a home of abundance where Christ lives. Christians are familiar with St. Monica whose saintly life converted Patricia, her pagan husband and Augustine, her son. Psalmist recognizes that a devoted wife can make real difference in a home. Proverb's chapter 31 is an exemplary homily on good wife. Shakespeare said, 'woman can become an angel as also Satan next moment, can make heaven a hell and hell a heaven.' Unlike many other tropical plants vine needs constant care. Systematic soil preparation, spreading manure, watering, pruning and spraying insecticides at regular intervals are necessary if it should give good results. Similarly, wife deserves attention such as love, respect, self- esteem, cooperation and independence to grow profitably.

Another characteristic of vine is that it grows in abundance only in warm weather. It will be dormant in winter. Husband has to provide favorable atmosphere in the home, pursue right values and proper discipline based on mutually acceptable principles. A husband offering winter attitude would never expect spring blossom; for, he won't get it. Winter cold and spring blossom cannot coexist. Another characteristic of vine is that it is a creeping plant. Creeper needs support, failing which will result in wild growth. This not only spoils the beauty of the plant and wastes more area of land but also bears fewer fruits that will be unpleasant to everyone and it will be eventually shattered. Husband should support his wife at all times. Wine extracted out of fruits of vine has medicinal value. 1Tim 5: 23. Misuse can be dangerous, Prov. 20: 1. Uncontrolled use is forbidden, Eph 5: 18, 1 Tim 3:3, Lev 10:9. A properly cared and loved wife can rectify many malfunctions in the family and in the society as a whole and the opposite will prove the opposite, sometimes even fatal.

Lord fearing man is further gifted with children, like olive plants around the table. Comparison of children with olive plants generates many sublime thoughts. Firstly, plants tent to grow. They need nurturing, and call for all the essentials mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Secondly, plants are a source of pleasure at all times. Olive is mentioned in the H. Bible as symbol of healing and soothing. Olive oil is used in baptism and to anoint the sick. Children are a source of happiness in the home. They are to be nurtured and motivated properly. Time magazine dated Oct 8 1990 wrote, "Parents who do not spent time with their children often spent money instead." In the industrialized environment parents turn busy finding their jobs and pleasures and hardly spent time with children, instead, they buy costly toys, forgetting that those lifeless toys cannot substitute their presence. "In a recently reported opinion poll 67% where both parents work said they go for work just for choice and not due to financial constraints." Focus on the family radio April 9.97. Evidently, in such cases parents are neglecting their basic duty of raising their children. Raising children in Godly manner so that they become useful assets to the parents, society, nation and God should invariably be the first and best of all other priorities and aversion to this time tested principle will prove fatal to both the parents and the children. Apparently, many children grow up in loneliness.

Mother Theresa once said, "Loneliness is America's greatest poverty." Compelled by loneliness they seek reachable alternatives and finally end up in television shows, computer plays, rock music, spurious publications, sinister relations, addiction to alcohol, drug abuse and so on. The harmful habits grow parallel to their physical growth. ABC reported on 5.5.97 morning news 'health check,' "There are good news and bad news. The good news is that people live longer. The bad news is that life is not happier because of the ill-health due to continued and excessive use of alcohol and drugs." Parents would never know until they reach rebellious state. Parents ought to know that the children are none but their replica and they will imitate what the parent do and speak. Psychological experts agree that an adult brings out in action and thought what he/she has acquired as a child between the age of 2 to 5 years. They also found that there are three stages of development for a child:

1.

Child (age upto 5 years), carefully and quickly watches, learns and imitates whatever parents do and say, without least doubting or questioning. For him/her parents are God.

2.

Child (age 6 to 12), while retaining acquired qualities of the first stage, develops additional qualities of doubts, questions and analysis. He/she silently compares home experiences with outside contact and thinks parents, especially father, know something.

3.

Child (teenager) fully develops what is already stored in his memory in the first and second stages and receives more from outside contacts. In-house contact decreases and outside contacts widen. Compares and contrasts inside and outside contacts and takes up a position.

TThis most reckless stage develops a false pretense and thinks, more often than not, parents do not know much better. Here begins great set back, rather, parents reaping harvest of their own actions in the past. We are inclined to search for more worldly delights than God because of the fallen nature of mankind and its end result will be chaos and eternal perdition. God Almighty does not want all that happen to us. He wants us to grow profitably in Him and hence He gave His unfailing statutes for the benefit of mankind. The very purpose of choosing and appointing Abraham as father of many nations was that he "Shall command his children and his household after him, that they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment," Gen 18:19. "Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons," Deut 4: 9. "And thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up," Deut 6:7. Apostle admonishes us to, "Bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord," Eph 6:4. And that, "We have had human fathers who corrected us and we paid them respect, Eph 12:9. "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it, Prov 22: 6

However, no one would appreciate any kind of discipline in the first place because it will be painful when administered but it will yield peaceful fruits of righteous in the future that will bring respect and honor to those imparting training, Heb 12: 11. I would add that those children, who were brought up without due discipline when they were yet unknowing good and evil, will, by all chances hate their parents; neither pay respect nor bring honor as they grow up spoiled. Such dereliction of duties from parents is defiance against the clear instructions (quoted above) of God. And the results will be, "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon children and upon children's children, unto the third and to the forth generations," Ex 34: 7, Num 14: 18. For instance, Uzziah the king "Did that which was right in the sight of the Lord." He became excessively famous, wealthy and neighboring kings respected him and gave gifts. "When he was strong his heart was lifted up to his destruction; for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense." The priests under the leadership of Azariah went and told him not to do so as it was the duty of only priests but he did not yield. While holding incense in his hands he became a leper and according to the custom, he was cut off from the house of the Lord and spent rest of his life in solitary confinement, 2 Chr 26: 4-21. His son Jotham, as a child, was a mute witness to all that had happened to his father and developed a fear psychosis in his growing mind. He, as king, became very precarious about the affairs of the temple. He did everything right in the sight of the Lord, but he never entered into the temple of the Lord. His absence caused people to corrupt, 2 Chr 27: 2. Ahaz the son of Jotham, as child, never saw his father going to the temple. He saw corruption in the temple. He was never taught to seek the way of the Lord. No wonder, he developed extreme animosity towards temple and the Lord. So, he did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord. He made molten images of Bali. He burnt incense in the valley of sons of Hinnom, burnt his children in the fire. The result; God delivered him into the hands of the king of Syria who smote him and then in the hands of the king of Israel who also smote him with great slaughter of his sons and households, 2 Chr 28: 1-6.

Take heed of the failures; generations suffered as a result of parents' misdeeds! Abraham deceived Egyptians, Abimelech telling lie concerning Sarah, Gen 12: 11-20, Gen 20. Isaac his son repeated the same error concerning Rebecca, Gen 26: 7. Jacob went a step further and deceived his blind father Isaac and brother. His sons virtually deceived Jacob concerning Joseph. Jacob was compelled to believe like a blind while he was still not blind, Gen 37: 32-35. We can dig out numerous instances to corroborate that children will do the same or even worse at times what the parents do or speak. Therefore beware, 'time and tide will wait for none,' teach ways of the Lord when the child is very young.

I would suggest that parents ought to nurture them religiously. The problem is that we are in a situation where religion is negatively influencing. At the same time we must admit that church also has substantial responsibility in molding the character of children. This can be achieved through Sunday school where Bible, prayer, liturgy, faith matters, moral, ethics, values, life story of fathers and so on are taught. Parents, priests and church leaders should join hand in hand to achieve this pursuit. By no means this is a lesser task. I suggest even adult education through conventions, seminars and retreats so that parents can equip themselves to deal with the situations. However, this does not mean that children brought up in church education do not turn bad. I do not mean that children brought up in very congenial background would always be perfect. Do our part and leave rest to God. Bertrand Russell, a known anti-Christian, who authored a book, "why I am not a Christian" had a Christian background. His mother was a committed Christian. Sigmund Freud, who said against God's existence as, "fairy tales of religion" and about religion, "religion as a universal obsessional child neurosis" and "religion is a mere illusion derived from human wishes" was brought up in a strong religious background.

A.T. Kovoor, founder of rational movement, also came from a very religious family. His father was a priest. Dr. Robert Coles, author and psychologist, describes that some children suffered from obsessive and destructive habits that were related to their childhood education and due to their deep commitment on certain religious conceptions. David Larson, renowned psychologist says, "Research shows that religiously inclined and those coming from religious back ground suffer less psychological problems. They recoup faster. Those who regularly go to church are less disturbed in emotional encounters," Reported on 'firm foundations' radio on 5.5. 97. What model we should emulate in upbringing of children, is a confusing question. Bernard Hoffman, expert on youth, offers the following tips. "(1) More parenting courses. (2) More parental involvement beginning at birth. (3) School-required anger management classes. (4) Good adult role models," Bucks county Courier Times dated 5.7.97. These suggestions though mainly based on secular concept they apply to spiritual context also. Opportunities are bleak to receive the warmth of grand parents' love these days due to various constraints but that grand parents are the best source of molding children's habits is an undeniable fact. Truly, faith as well as values is traditionally handed down from forefathers to grandparents and to parents and to children. "When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, I am persuaded is in you also," 2 Tim 1: 5.

CJews refused to worship Hellenistic Gods instead of Jehovah. They faced persecution at the hands of Antiochus (BC 175-164). A family of seven children and their mother Smoony were one by one threatened and subjected to torture by cutting off the organs, burning in fire and so on. Their mother Morth (Saint) Smooni encouraged them to defy the orders of the wicked king saying, "My sons, I do not know how you were formed in my womb. I am not the one who gave you life and soul. I did not give you shape and image you distinctly posses. He who is Creator of the whole universe, Creator of mankind, who knows every heart, created and formed you... Therefore give honor to your mother, be of courage, strength and cheer, and do not submit to the wicked king. Suffer the persecution and we will join together in glory," 2 Mac 7: 22-23. This is very powerful testimony and a role model worthy of emulation. Secondly, Hanna thus prayed, "Lord of hosts, if you will give thine handmaid a man-child, then I will give him unto the Lord," 1 Sam 1: 11 and she literally did so, verse 28. This is the kind of mothers (and fathers) who surrender to God in prayer, seek divine guidance before every action, dedicate the children to the will of God, instill spiritual life in them, disdain from all things that would bring discredit, feed them with Word of God, show them the right path, teach them the right values that are love, honor, trustworthiness, law abiding, good demeanor, and instruct them to respect others. "We have to see to it that the TV is turned off and our kids get into the books. We have to monitor their friendships and acquaintances. We have to teach them a solid work ethic and appreciation of their history. We have to provide the strong surrogate male Christian models they so desperately need. We have to show them how to save, spend and give... and how to reject the negative values thrust upon them," 'Guiding your family in a misguided world, By Dr. Anthony T Evans, page 169. '

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FEATURE


ORTHODOX CONVENTION - PHILADELPHIA

REPORTED BY: DR. RAJAN MATHEW MANNADI (FOR LOL)

Joint Convention of 7 Orthodox Churches in Philadelphia city and suburbs were conducted on September 21-22, 2002 at Ascension Marthoma Church. The convention of this year was the seventh of its kind jointly conducted by various Orthodox Groups in Philadelphia. This year conventions proceedings were started on 21st September Saturday at 9.30 AM with Holy Qurbana and retreat at the St.Mary's Orthodox Church. Fr.M.K.Kuriakose celebrated the Holy Qurbana with Fr.K.K.John and Fr.Babu Varghese as co-celebrants. The retreat was lead by Fr.K.K.John and Fr.Babu Varghese.

Orthodox Convention
ORTHODOX CONVENTION

RETREAT:
At the onset of the retreat Fr.K.K.John reminded that the magnificence of the word of God is culminated only by the spillage of Holy Spirit. With the recollection of the Psalm of King David Fr.John theorized four magic wording for stepping up the stages to the apex of salvation.

1. Dwelling or Existence
Where we do we exist? In which world we live in? We see two different worlds in front of us. One world 'Down below' and another world 'Up above'. The world 'Up above' is the world of all goodness and the latter is the world of evil. Paradoxically two prisoners looked from their cell of bondage; one looked above and had seen the magnificence of God in glory of celestial illumination while the other looked down to see the filthiness of the mud and worm. What ever may be your age, where ever you are geographically situated or whatever may be your social and economic status, it is the question where you are looking. The one look up enjoy the bliss of God and see the glory of God as Psalmist exemplify as 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.' (Psalms 19:1) We are living in a sinful world and among the sinners. So there are all the chances that we may fall any time. Holy Spirit should pervade in our life to give us victory. Jesus prayed for us to His Father: ' I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.' (John 17:15)

The world 'Down below' is the world of Satan. The throne of God is always up above as Isaiah view it '...I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up...' (Isa 6:1) In the Holy Eucharist we raise our mind to God Up above, while reminding us 'Now our mind, our intellects and our heart should be up above where Christ our Lord is seated.'

2. Proximity:
We should have the desire to sit near our Lord, in the proximity of Him. If we look at the valley of Sychar we see a woman of Samaria. She saw Jesus. On the first sight she saw him as Jew, belonging to a caste, which have no dealings with the Samaritans. But once she knew him one step ahead she appraise him as 'Guru'. But in the next step she identifies him as Messiah and witnesses him to the whole city. So in each step she approached near and near to Christ. It is not always easy to be in the proximity of Jesus.

John Banyan had portrayed his Character Christine in the 'Pilgrim Progress' as a boy with a burden on his shoulder. Once he approached to the Cross and became in the proximity of Jesus, the ties of his burden were melted away and he became relieved of his burdens. How much is our heart near to God? Jesus invite all the mankind to him to come toward him with all the burden's we have. ' Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ' (Matt 11:28)

3.Configuration
We have to configure our self with the figure of Christ. We are the image of God and we should bear always the image of God in us, in our thought, walk, talk and actions. It is a big question to all Christians today whose figure and image are projected out of us. God created man in His own image. Son of God who had redeemed us from our sinful nature, had configured us in the pure image of God. Many of the Christians around the world who bear the very name and image of God are lined up behind many of the atrocities and hooliganisms of the world. Many a time our Christianity is reduced only to the Christian Name we had received. During the baptism we are anointed with the perfume of Messiah through the faith. Through the Holy Mooron we are transfigured to be with Christ. Our sweet savor should spread around the world. If we are emitting the bad smell of our wickedness, what is the difference between us and the Sadducees and Pharisees

Many a time, the mentality of Christians is that they are meant for mending others. But we should mend our self first before mending others. The Glory we lost in Aden, we regained in the Baptism. To solve any of our problems we should shed 2 drops of tears as it was done by the woman of sin who came to the house of Simon. One of the early Christian Author depicted that St.Mary had vision of the sinful world as a huge devastating fire, which was put out by the 2 drops of tears from St.Mary.

Do we have this quality of humiliation and repentance? In the early churches we had Golden ministers with wooden crosses, currently we see categorically Wooden ministers with Golden Crosses. St. Augustine who was one time a drunkard and adulterer had changed himself to became a great theologian and Bishop by the persistent prayer of his mother, St.Monica. He had witnessed himself 'My mother's tears made me a man'. We should cultivate an unlimited tolerability and love in our Christian families so that our children will not be lost forever.

4.Salavtion
This is final stage of our culmination; to amalgamate with Him for the eternal living with Christ as Jesus Christ promised to us. 'In my Father's house are many mansions:...' (John 14:2) The prayer is being done around the table of the lamb day and night. As per same our prayer should be to 'Make us to be with you always.'

Fr.Babu Varghese continued to lead the retreat on the theme of commandments. 1. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 2. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. In our contemporary world, all worshipping media is converted for selfish motives. Why God had sent his son to this world. 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' (John 3:16) The one who sin is under the yoke of death. 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep .' (John 10:1-2) The one who squeeze through the back door is the adversary. He is the thief and robber. He always comes only to destroy. To be in the Holiness of God we should be holy. So we should sanctify ourself to stand in the Holiness of God.

CONVENTION:
The Proclamation of the word of God was conducted at Ascension Marthoma Church Hall from 7-9 PM on 21st and 22nd of September 2002. The convention started with the introductory speech by V.Rev. Mathai Core Episcopos and concluded with the Vote of thanks by Fr.M.K.Kuriakose. Fr. Varghese Varghese proclaimed the word of God both days. Fr. Varghese Vargese M.A.(Eng); M.A.(Syriac) is a blessed convention speaker and doing his research in Syriac at Ghandhi University. He had delivered many convention speeches in North America and many have been scheduled.

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 21, 2002
PHARAOH'S PRAYER

SCRIPTURE REF: EXODUS 8:8
'Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.'

Proclamation of the word of God is a part of worship. If we look at the characters of Bernard Shaw many of them were orators. orations only touch our mind momentarily. But the proclamation of word of God is not an oration. It is not a momentous instinct rather it is a spiritual experience.

The contemporaries of Jesus Christ searched for him in the coast of Galilee and in the land of Palestine. But they could not see the real Messiah who was knocking at the door of their heart. In the modern centuries faith is being questioned. Man depends on his knowledge and scientific advancement and not in the wisdom of God. The spirituality is reduced as a commodity for comforts.

Moses was the man appointed by God to redeem the God's people from the hands of Pharaoh. God appeared to Moses on the rock of Horeb in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush and told him 'I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob..., I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry. Cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.' And 'I am the One who I am'. Moses went to Pharaoh and asked him to let the Children of Israel to go. But Pharaoh refused to let the people to go. As a second plague God afflicted Pharaoh with frogs. Frog came upon all the people and all the servants; Frog came up upon all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and requested them 'Please pray to the Lord, that He may take away the frogs.' We see a great intercessory prayer request here by Pharaoh. Now the whole world is under the grip of intercessory prayers. One of the very interesting point what we see here is that Prayer of Pharaoh did not have any basis. It was lacking the foundation of faith. Moses knew who this God is. The wise men and sorcerers of Pharaoh's court cast down their rod and it became serpents. But Aaron's rod swallowed up the Egyptian magicians rods. So Aaron knew who this God is.

Why do we believe in God? Many of us have vivid answers. Some believe God as they got all comforts in their life. Some believe in God as they got cured from disease. Some may believe in God as they got Job, Position or wealth...the list goes like this. In the modern world the question arise 'Who is Jesus Christ?' To many he is a wonder worker. Jesus cured the leper. He cured the blind Bartimaeus; He raised Lazarus from dead; He cured the man of the palsy; He fed the multitude with 5 loaves. But during the time of judgment of Jesus Pilate asked the multitude' whom I should release to you. Barabbas or Jesus?' But nobody favored Jesus. All unanimously cried 'We need Barabbas' There may be the people in the multitude who got cured from; there may be people who satisfied with eating the blessed bread from Jesus: Bur nobody dared to vouch for Him. All the disciples fled away. 3 years before they left their fishing net and followed Jesus Christ. But immediately after Jesus is crucified they went back to their profession.

One fine morning, on the coast of Tiberias, one man asked 'Children, have ye any meat? ' They labored the whole night but they caught nothing. Vein efforts; fruitless labour. 'And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.' (John 21:6) Many a time we forget the right side of the Church. Right side is the womb of the Church, were we are baptized. We forget the right side where we are reborn. Once they came to know that the man standing on the coast is the Guru, once again they left everything. 'And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.' (1Cor 15:14) This is the basis of our faith. The emperor Nero had told the disciples that they can preach anything except that of ' Christ is resurrected'. Peter who denied him in front of a servant girl, told Nero 'Even if You kill me I will preach the resurrection of Christ.' Finally he was crucified with his head down; he died by kissing the foot of the Jesus in the Cross.

Pharaoh didn't know who this God is. He needed only that frog should go away. Moses and Aaron prayed for Pharaoh and the frogs went away. But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart. This is the shortcoming of Pharaoh's prayer. Spirituality for the physical gain. Pharaoh's spirituality didn't have any basis; his piety was short lived. Spirituality many a times test and tempt in our life. Experience rejuvenate spirituality. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews came to Jesus by night. He talks to Jesus 'Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.' Jesus replies him 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. ' Being a learned scholar Nicodemus become rational. Jesus ask Nicodemus 'Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?' So the knowledge of Nicodemus was of no use to Church as he was rational in his thoughts. What to know he did not know. He had the knowledge of law. But he was lacking the knowledge of faith. Secondly the time he had chosen was that of darkness; in the night. He had no courage to face the truth as Jesus was the incarnation of truth. The verse 'The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.' (John 3:8) is very important and many a time the early church fathers used this verse to explain the mystery nature of the sacraments. The bread and wine being converted to flesh and blood. Logic cannot make these mysteries revealed. The rebirth in Christ is not knowledge rather it is an experience.

When Saul was standing on the gateway of Demascus suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Saul was a scholar of Law in Jewish religion. But his knowledge was not of any use to the church. Astrologers from the east depended on their astronomical knowledge. The royal child can be born only in the Palace of King. Depending on their knowledge they went to the Palace of Herod. They understood their foolery of depending on their knowledge. Further they looked on the star which was the divine guidance and reached the cradle in Bethlehem. The rebirth is a death; it is the death of knowledge. Knowledge dies and wisdom get born. Further it is the knowledge of experience. Brain is not the foundation of spirituality. Beauty is the proportional growth of wisdom and experience.

The thief on the right side had never heard the discourse of Jesus. He had never seen any miracle done by Jesus. He never got cured by Jesus. He had never seen even Jesus. But the experience gives the way to his knowledge and he get the promise for the paradise. Another very relevant theme of the modern society is the Simon's Money. Simon was very rich as he made it by sorcery among the people of Samaria. When he found that the Samarians whom he bewitched by his sorcery, had believed in Jesus by hearing the preaching of Philip he himself believed also and was baptized and continued with Philip. When Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money to receive the same gift. This is the mentality of many of the modern followers of Christ. To receive the blessing by spending money. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perishes with thee. To become 'Over Rich' or 'Abject Poor' both are dangerous extremes. That is why the saints pray. 'Donot make me rich enough to forget you or poor to despise you.' When Abraham retuned back after relieving his brothers son from the captivity, King of Sodom seeing the might of 138 warriors of Abraham, the King tells him' Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.' But Abraham told him ' That I will not [take] from a thread even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take any thing that [is] thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: ' Abraham believed that the wealth is the gift of God and it should not be made from any body.

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 22, 2002
RUBEN'S SIN

SCRIPTURE REF: GENESIS 49:4
'Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou [it]: he went up to my couch.'

Modern society has a very relevance to this Bible verse. When a Hebrew father leaves the world he calls and bless all his children before he die. Jacob was living in all comforts by the courtesy of the Egyptian King. Before his death he calls his 12 sons and give them his blessing. He is giving the blessing words to his elder son Ruben. Ruben is his first-born. his might, and the beginning of his strength, the Excellency of dignity, and the Excellency of power. If we analyze the blessing words of Jacob to his elder son Ruben we make out that it was rather words of curses in place of blessing.

Ruben had many good qualities. But he was wavering man. He looses his identification of his character subject to the environments. While attending service one nature; while in the office another nature; at home another nature. Changing direction as per the flow. Water has no shape at all. It assumes the shape of the container. This was the nature of Ruben. He formed his character according to the circumstances.

The character of Simon Peter was also of wavering nature. He had flown as per the wind. When Jesus taught his disciples about his sufferings, death and resurrection and being rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, Peter took him out and began to rebuke him. Jesus turned round and rebuked Peter, saying, 'Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.' Same Simon is being appraised by Jesus when he witness Jesus as 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus tells him. Barjona Simon, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Again we see peter in the courtyard of Caiaphas during the judgment of Jesus. He rejected his Guru in front of a damsel saying, I do not know him and I know not what you are talking.

We all need our life need to be comfortable. For that the magic needed is adjusting and compromise. This is considered as the art of modern living. Adjust to the maximum. But any adjustment to any extend is not desirable for a believer. Believer got an aim for his life. He should not live according to his circumstances. Our conscience which is Law of God written in our heart should govern our conscience. In every aspect of our life this conscience which is guided by the Holy Spirit of God should take its control. Our faith should be based on credibility. Wavering become the root cause for many of our sins.

Indecision leads to pervert out lifestyle. It causes the breakage of the security of family life. Ruben had to stand shamefully in front of his father as he perverted the bed of his father. Many of the giants of the modern society fell into this shame due to the wavering mentality. We all are the temple of God. Temple of God belongs to God as God abides there. The principle of 'eat, drink, and enjoy' is not the logo in the temple of God. Wavering nature of life leads to perverted life style. Ruben never cared to repent before his father for his sins.

Another sin of Ruben was the inactiveness at the time of need. Ruben was the elder son of Jacob. He was in the position of father among his brothers in the absence of Jacob. When Joseph needed care from him to escape from the vengeance of his brother, Ruben lacked to take decision. 'And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.' (Genesis 37:22) He had the authority to save him. He had the power for it in absence of his father. But he had shown slackness to use the power.

King David who was only a shepherd, had see all the Glory of God and reached to the throne of the King of Israel. But his mind had wavered upon the scene of the bath of Bathsheba. Desire conceive and deliver sin. Ruben had the knowledge of justice. But lacked the courage to react. Majority may not be always right. Many people console that if the circumstances were good I would have been good. The deep cells of the mind of man reveals his nakedness. But that can not be opened until he will. So the inner most sin always kept covered from the society. But God does not look the face, He look at the heart. He sees the innermost cell of the heart.

But eventually Ruben got the mercy of God. He offered beastly sacrifice as the atonement. and his repentance gained the life of Glory. 'Let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few.' (Deu 33:6)

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Bible Word to by heart:

Cast your burden upon the Lord,
He will deliver you from it.


 (
Psalms 55:22)

BIBLE STORY
RUTH-3

Naomi then talked Ruth ' My daughter, Shall I not seek somebody for your security? You are with the maids of Boaz who is our family man, today there is threshing of barley. So You anoint yourself, and dress in a good way and disclose yourself to your master when ever he is resting after his food.' She also told her "when he goes to sleep, notice the place where he lies and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do." Ruth agreed to do what ever her mother-in-law told to her.

Ruth went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her. When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night Boaz was startled and bent forward and seen a woman was lying at his feet. He asked, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." Boaz said to her "May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, as all my people in this city know that you are a woman of excellence. It is true that I am a close relative of you; however, there is another one relative closer than me. Wait for this night, and when morning comes, if he is ready to redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not ready to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the LORD lives. Lie down until morning."

So Ruth lay at his feet until morning and rose before any body recognized her so that any woman will not know it came to the threshing floor. He gave her six measures of Barley in her cloak and went back to the city. Ruth came home and told everything to Naomi what happened during the night. Naomi told her "Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today."

TO BE CONTINUED 

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