1. HOMOOUSION TO PATRI (OF THE SAME ESSENCE AS OF THE FATHER)
The most debated and controversial phrase of the Nicene Creed is the sub-title of this article. Arius objected to its use and St. Athanasius asserted its validity and the synod of Nicea accepted it. Today all those who consider the Nicene Constantinopolitan symbol (The Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches) as the central creed of the Church, recite it with the homoousion to patri (of the same essence or substance as of the Father), what is modern meaning of ousia or essence.
This brief article is a Theological discussion as to the meaning of ousia or essence. Is it omnipotence or omnipresence or omniscience? It is clear from the holy Bible that during the thirty-three and half years of His incarnation, He did not use these attributes of the power, but hid them in Himself like latent heat of energy. The one essence of Holy Trinity is divine love, the one essence of Triune God. He manifested Himself fully by His kenotic Incarnation. His teachings and His ministry, redeeming death, descent into Hades, resurrection and appearances. His Ascension and His promise of return, when "all knees in heaven, earth and Hades will confess His Lordship to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10) The Church Fathers agree that Christ came to die for humanity.
God is not faith or hope; "God is love" (1 John 4:8 & 16) Faith and hope are the essence of Man, Woman and Child. Love is the essence of God. Faith and hope are from below. Love of God is from above (1 John 4:7-12) Faith and hope has barriers, but divine love has no barriers. God's love gives rain to the just and the unjust. Christ, the revealer of the truth that "God is love" for those who crucified Him and descended to the Hades to save those who were punished for disobedience to repent according to the Sermons of Noah (1 Peter 3:18-20). Furthermore, the only criterion for sheep at the right hand was that they found Jesus in the form of the hungry, thirsty, naked and in prison. The only sins of the goats on the left side was that they were selfish and did not love and share for the poor and the needy (Matthew 25:31-46) There is a story that, Mother Theresa and other loving missionaries chose hell rather than heaven till hell is emptied. (Karl Barth). All humanity in hell must also be saved.
Of the same essence as of the father, thus means, of the same divine love as of the heavenly Father. In the O.T. Revelation through Moses the prophet is "You shall be holy as the Lord your God is holy [Lev. 19;21]The revelation through the eternal Son of God is "you shall be holy Love as the Holy Trinity is perfect Holy Love". A monad God can be holy, but only a Triune God can be eternal sharing love in eternity. Jehovah or Allah is exclusive unity. Trinity is inclusive Monotheism.
2. EKATHA, ADVAITHA AND THRAI EKATHA
In Kevaladvaithatha of Sree Shankaracharya the ultimate Brahman is ONE WITHOUT A SECOND (EKAM EVA ADVAITHIYAM). In semetic religion of Judaism, Jehovah is exclusive monotheism. Similarly Islam teaches; "There is no other God except Allah and Mohammed His prophet." It also adds that Allah is compassionate God. Hinduism is the most tolerant religion as it separates personal spirituality as superior to all religions. Islamic liberal Theologians are not fundamentalists but they do not give due importance to the attribute of compassion of Allah and believe what the Israelites believed during the days of the conquest of Canaan that all the heathens should be terminated by the command of Jehovah. We live in the third millennium, respecting the spirituality of all religionists and seeking out what is universally beneficial spirituality.
I beg to submit that while we dig deep, there is a quest for spirituality of love underneath all religions. We must examine the various scriptures with an open mind, not covered by selfish fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism is worse than secular fundamentalism. Bagavad Gita teaches Bhakthi Marga for the devotional types, Jnana Marga for intellectuals, and Karma Marga for active types. However, love of Isvara is a prerequiste for all. Sree Rama was an embodiment of love and compassion, by which he chose vanavassa, the way of the cross for fourteen years.
Sree Budha, of course, taught Ahimsa and love as ultimate ethic. Theoretically Budhistic spiritually is atheistic, but practically, Buddha takes the place of God. Although some claim that there is direct mysticism, all mysticism is mediatory. The mediator can be Jesus Christ for Christians, Buddha for Buddhists, Holy Quran or Mohammed for the Muslims, the Vedas or Upanishadic Sutras for the different Hindus or Jaina for Jainists, or Sree Narayana Guru for Ezhava or Brahman for Jeevan muktas, who claim they have emerged in to Brahma must have done so through the mediation Brahma or Nirguna Brahma as explained by particular gurus.
The major difference between Hindu spirituality and Christian spirituality is that the former is personal and later is social. The mystery behind is the difference between advaitha Brahmin and Social God. In Hinduism, plurality is due to subjective avidya (ignorance) and its objective maya. In Christianity divine love is unity with the eternal Father, eternal Son, Logos=Christ and eternal mother, the Holy Spirit. As there is unity in sat, chit and ananda, in Hindu Vedas, the unity in the Triunity of Triune God is the Ousia or essence of divine love. Even if we take an earthly example the love of parents demands the child. Parents without a child is very unsatisfied and unhappy till a child is born or at least adopted. Love of giving and receiving alone is imperfect without unselfish sharing.
3. EXCLUSIVE OR TRUINE MONOTHEISM
Jurgen Moltman of Tubingen University writes as follows in his famous book, trinity and Kingdom of God(SCM PRESS, London '81) The monotheistic God is the lord of the word, he is defined simply through His power of disposal, over the property, not through personality, and personal relationships. He really has no name - merely legal titles. But the Triune God represents an inexhaustible life, a life which the three persons have in common, in which they are present with one another, for one another and in one another. What the doctrine of trinity calls perichoresis was also understood by patristic theologians as the sociality of three divine persons" (P, 198)
I may add that the essence ousia of the Triune God as agape is the unity of the Trinity. Agape of the Son and Holy Spirit is one. It was St. John Damascus who first popularized the word perichoresis to explain the commonality and interdependence of the functions of the Triune God. Creation, for example, is the work of the Father through the Logos Son and the perfecting by the Holy Spirit. There are no watertight compartments in the functioning of the Holy Trinity. After the controversy about the sameness of the ousia of the Son with that of the Father was settled, Macedonians urged that the ousia of the Holy Spirit was different from that of the Father, but St. Basil in his classical treatment Spirit Sanctu established that the Holy Spirit also is homoousion to Patri. It is worthy of note that in Gal 5:22, the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit are enumerated, not in plural, but in singular, "fruit of the spirit in love". The earlier passage dealing with the works of the flesh are rightly enumerated in the plural. This indicates that if we have love, the essence of God, other eight fruits will follow naturally. A monad God cannot be love with none to share the love, the essence of God. Similarly, a dualistic God can only give and receive love like a husband and wife, without a child to share love together. This exclusive monotheism must enlarge its theism to an all-inclusive Trinitarian monotheism, which alone can understand the depth of GOD IS LOVE.
4. BRAHMAMIC OM, CHRISTIAN LOGOS=CHRIST, ISLAMIC COMPASSIONATE ALLAH
This title is very misleading to the devotees of popular Hinduism, also who claim that Brahman is the God of Hindus alone. Jesus Christ is the God of Christians alone and Alla is the God of Islam alone. My understanding of God is that God has no part or parties, He is eternal, omniscient omnipresent omnipotent Creator, preserver, the ultimate origin and destiny, the living Father of all things visible and invisible, with the image of the creator of the human beings, the crown of creation, the universe being the indispensable cradle for humanity.
Of course there will be difference between the Semitic doctrines of creation exnihilo, and from emanation from Brahman. Faith and philosophies are different from the religion and even from one person to another and from one sect to another. Giving a large margin for such difference all theologians of theistic religions will agree with Paul Tillich, that religion is ultimate concern and that God is the Ground of Being. My conviction is that the Ground of Being is the same as OM of Advaitha Hinduism, Orthodox Christian Logos incarnate Christ, who revealed God as triune Love and liberal Muslims who believe God as compassionate, as written at the beginning of every Surah of the Holy Quran. Is not compassion the same as love? The Nicene Creed asserts that "Jesus Christ is very God of very God". In the book of Revelation Jesus Christ is the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, or OM.
There are those who believe that religions are relative and personal spirituality is ultimate putting the personal above socialism is a Capitalistic Myth and pitting a social above the personal is a socialistic myth. Adam is not a proper name but a common name including male and female (Gem 5:2 ff). Without the unity of two a child will not be born as Holy Trinity unites singularity and plurality, It is OM and compassionate Allah and advaita is not Monism. It is the mystery of Triunity of Godhead in the bond of divine love. My thesis is that the Father's love and that of the Son and that of Holy Spirit is the essence (Ousia) of divine eternal love.
May I conclude that this millennium beckons us to consider the thesis of this article that Holiness and Love are the essence of God who is Compassionate Allah, OM, Triune God of Holy love Whom we must all worship adore and emulate.
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LIFE OF AN INDIAN WOMAN - A BOON OR A CURSE?
According to the Bible, In Genesis Chapter 2:22, “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman.” Woman was taken out of man (Genesis 2:23) and therefore the man has the preeminence. The head of a woman is a man but yet honour is to be shown to wife; as unto the weaker vessel. (1 Cor 11:3,8,9), (1 Peter 3:7)
Sthree Janamum is indeed a blessed one. Woman is a glory of creation. A woman thru the various stages of her life from her infancy to adulthood undergoes different roles of a daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, mother-in-law and grandmother. She is born to bear pain and suffering from birth till her death. Each Woman is unique and different. An Indian woman is traditional. Born as a woman she bears children, works both at home and outside, looks after the family. She is caring and daring. A woman’s feelings cannot always be interpreted. There are women who face so much of mental and physical tortures in life. She is a person with a lot of tolerance: Ability to forgive and forget. Behind every successful man there is a woman.
Some wise sayings about Women:
The same God created man or Woman both. God didn’t create them identical. God had a different form for both so that the world would continue to grow. A man was created and blessed to undertake certain roles; jobs and works so were the women.
The women were considered to be powerless servant in a male dominant society. The women were regarded as little more than a slave to her husband, down trodden, submissive beast of burden whose work was never done. We refer to the earth as “Mother Earth” when making reference to gifts provided by nature. Because life begins with birth and mother nourishes that life. The ultimate achievement for a woman is being a mother and rearing a healthy family.
Now a days we see that many Indian women attaining distinctions as religious practitioners, medicine women and skilled artists in craft work, in no way did these tasks affect their role as bearers and raisers of children.
We talk about women's rights and equality. Think of the poor uneducated women. Who have no one to help in times of trouble. Parents wish for the good of their children. Even though they are poor and cannot afford huge dowries, some how sell their land and properties in order to arrange for their daughter’s wedding hoping that their daughter will be looked upon with great care and love. But it is not happening in many of the cases. Still the Indian papers reports dowry related deaths.
There are so many women who take up the difficult and looked down upon career - “the nursing career” in order to save their families from poverty. Especially in Kerala, there are so many women from the poor and low income family who go for nursing and finally get a chance to reach overseas. Working day and night for her people back in India.
Marriage should be considered as an act done by God. Pray together for a marriage to stay. There are many instances when parents get their daughters married to overseas (Gulf, U.S.A, etc..) employed boys. Thinking their daughter will be happy ever after. The guy would not be in a good position there, so finally the girl is left behind in India. Little does she know about the whereabouts of this guy overseas. He comes once in 3 years or so; stays for a month and leaves. In the course of time the lady bears children. She and the kids are left behind. Sometimes an occasional check or money order appears in the mail. The Guy overseas would be happily leaving there with another wife and children. Why deceive a girl? Isn’t it a harsh and evil thing to do?
Indian constitution grants women equal rights with working with men, but strong patriarchal persist with women’s lives shaped by customs that are centuries old. In most families a daughter is not considered equal to their son. In some families a daughter is considered a liability and she is conditional to believe that she is inferior and subordinate to men. Sons are idolized and celebrated. During Hindu wedding elders and Pujari’s blesses the bride saying, “May you be the mother of hundred sons”.
From time immemorial women in this land of ours are treated as a sort of thing (looked down upon). Her placing in society was not at par with other human being. She has no rights, cannot move nor do anything at her will. In the Hindu Shastras, she has been branded just like animals. From the verses of Ramayan written by Tulsi Das; “Dhol, ganwar, shudra, pashu, naari - Ye sab tadan ke adhikari”. Easy inferences as to what status our mothers are granted can be drawn. Dropadi of Mahabharata was reduced to the status of bitch, as she was the wife of five husbands.
In olden days women were considered to be a par with animals & slaves in Hindu dharma. The Hindu women are tied up with the bondage of superstitions, which they carry till their death. Women of India have remained a matter of joy and source of amusement as such she was used and misused by man just to serve their evil ends. Machine for procreation, blond slave of her father when she is young, to her husband when she is middle aged & her son when she is a mother. Dr. B.R Ambedkar has tried to brake down the barrier in the way of advancement of women in India. Child marriage still exist in some remote villages in the northern parts of India, In spite of the 1976 amendment to child marriage restraint act, Minimum age for marriage for woman is 18 and man is 21.
In Christianity, Mary was able to bear the Lord. There are numerous people attaining miracles thru the intercessory prayers thru St. Mary. During the wedding feast in Cana, when wine ran out, the disciples ran to Mary to ask what is to be done. Several women are mentioned in the scriptures as having been endowed with prophetic gifts. Miriam in Exodus 15:20, Deborah in Judges 4:4,5, Huldah in 2 kings 22:14, Noadiah in Neh 6:14, Anna in Luke 2:36,37 and daughters of Philip the evangelist in Acts 21:8, 9.
Women are kept subordinate and are even murdered by the practice of dowry. In India at least 6,000 dowry deaths happens each year. Even though the Dowry Prohibition Act has been in existence for 33 years. There are no arrests under this Act, since those giving as well as those accepting dowry are punishable under the existing law, no one dares to complain. It is only after a dowry death that the complaints become public.
Divorce is not a viable option. Most often the woman is blamed even though the divorce is caused for no fault of hers. Divorce is rare; it is considered a shameful admission of a woman’s failure as a wife and a daughter-in-law. In 1990 divorced women made up 0.08 % of the total female population.
India has the world’s largest number of professionally qualified women. India has more female doctors, surgeons, scientists and professors than the United States. On an average however, women in India are socially, politically and economically weaker than men.
As women receive greater education and training they will earn more money, which they will be able to spend for further education and health of their children. Unlike the men who sometimes spend on evil things like alcohol, tobacco, etc.. When a woman rises in economic status, they will gain greater social standing in the household and the village she stays and would have a greater voice. As women’s economic power grows, she will be able to overcome the tradition of “son preference” and thus put an end to the evil of dowry. As women are better nourished and marry later, they will be healthier, more productive, and will give birth to healthier babies.
A birth of a woman is indeed a blessed one. A man can never take her place. She has her own beauty and charm. Treat her fairly Give her the respect she deserves. She is just like your own mother or sister. Leave her alone. She has promises to keep and miles to go before she sleeps…
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[CONTINUED FROM LAST ISSUE]
35. "Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the children of God." (St. Matthew 5:9)
Generally speaking, people join with warring parties based on their vested interests. Others may keep away from both sides. But it is the duty of the children of God to create situations in which people can come to compromise in love. Efforts must be made to uphold the dignity of both parties in making settlements. Peace may be established through deeds of love.
There is a story of a nice lady who won the love of her neighbour who ill-treated her. One day the nice lady took some sweets to the other lady saying, "Siste I have brought some friendly gifts. Will you please taste it?" The neighbor was overwhelmed with wonder and love. She burst out saying; "It is now 36 years since anyone had given me a gift." This brought love and affection, which they enjoyed to the end of their lives.
In a certain general body meeting of a church, people got divided into two groups. The majority got their view passed. Then the leader of the minority, after reaching home, declared that he was going to start a new parish and get separated from the old one. Hearing this, the leader of the majority went to that person and offered that they would join together to build the new church. This brought the dispute to an end.
Prayer:Help us O' Lord, to overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:21)
36. Blessed are those who give counselling to the needy; for they can help them to handle their problems better.
Counselling becomes urgent, when people find it difficult to handle their problems by themselves. Everyone may be called upon sometime or other, to give counselling to people in various kinds od need. Hence it is the duty of everyone to qualify himself/herself to be good counselor as far as possible. Counselors should be trustworthy, wise and friendly. St. Paul says, "Bear one another's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2)
Prayer:Help us O Lord through your Holy Spirit to give counselling whenever it is necessary.
37. Blessed are those who suffer for others, friends or foes; for they show forth the love of God and they can rejoice in the welfare of their fellow beings.
Our Lord suffered for us and has given us an example to follow. St. Paul says, " God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) Note how the Good Samaritan took the trouble of saying the dying man on the road risking his own safety. (St. Luke 10:30-35) Also see the self-sacrificing love of Ruth for her mother-in-law. (Ruth 1:16-17) It is to be noted that she was fortunate enough to get Boaz, a rich man as her husband as a result of her self-sacrifice for her mother-in-law.
An Italian sister working in the leprosy hospital at Koratty, Kerala, India caught leprosy. When a visitor expressed his sympathy, her reply was "Well, I have come to die for them."
Prayer:O Lord help us to suffer for others following your example.
38. Blessed are those who can identify themselves with people through love, in their joys and suffereings; for they can love strangers and sinners also, while hating their sins.
Our Lord said, "Whatever you wish that men should do to you, do to them." (St. Matt. 7:12) When we identify ourselves with one another, we can "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15) as St. Paul says. When we ejoice with those who rejoice, we can decrease their sorrow. When we identify ourselves with others, hatred becomes impossible and love is generated.
Prayer:Grant O Lord, the spirit of fellowship so that we can share in the joys and sorrows of others.
[TO BE CONTINUED IN NEXT ISSUE...]
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Devil, the older brother of man and the author of Death (Gen.3; 1.cor.10: 10; 15: 26) which brought the first parents’ fatal tragedy in the Garden of Eden, has been man’s accomplice for their fall that drove them out of the ever-blissful Paradise and ever since. Evidently, there are some valid reasons for the insulation of some secrets that was hidden from Adam till his overthrow. How come man’s frame was made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth (Ps.139: 15)? How obscure and oblivious is the panorama of the celestial universe that shaped the event of the creation of man. “....having cancelled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing to it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over in him (Col.2: 13-16). The Redeemer nailed the power of Darkness on to the cross during that three- hour darkness which gulped the whole world while Jesus was heaving for His last breath. What could be the legal bond that He nailed on to the cross and how could He triumph over and disarm the archenemy? What could be the foundation stone upon which that bond was executed between the agent of Death and the angels of Life?
How could the heavens and the earth that God created in the beginning was without form and void, enveloping darkness upon the face of the deep, despite the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Gen.1: 1-2)? “ God formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!)” (Is.45: 18). It became a wasteland apparently because of a war, chemical sprinkle similar to one that happened in the annihilation of Sodom, between Lucifer and his myriads and the God of hosts.
THE ANCIENT EPIC WAR:
The devil was also seemingly constrained by the same dilemma of containing with in the same limits of not divulging the contents of the bond. He tried to bring out the truth subsequently in a subtle, double- meaning dialogue with Eve. The infernal guard’s first crafty question, “Did God say, ‘you shall not eat any tree of the garden?” to Eve was a sugar coated dynamite that coaxed Eve to think that God and the power of darkness were in talking terms and having good relationship. But he understood from her reply, “ you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die” (Gen.3: 3). The next part of the dialogue was also confined with in the referred bond. “You shall not die”, of course denotes to the physical death, but God meant it to be the death of the soul. To cross the next obstacle by confining within the limits of the agreed record was a great victory for the author of Death. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen.3: 5). Her ambition of becoming like God, as in the case of identifying with Lucifer, was an enviable victory for the abysmal power and a peril for the ‘first lady’. What the Devil said was not a lie; as and when they ate the fruit, the eyes of their sex were opened, and they understood the meaning of good and evil and the existence of good and evil angels. “ Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (3:7).
HIERARCHY OF THE DEVIL:
These unclean spirits are known by the names, such as devils, fiends, demons, evil spirits, diabolic spirits, equivocal spirits,.....their foul smelling fire is their dart that has an enduring and enticing magnetic attraction to our chemical body and its chemistry (Eph.6: 16), since our mortal frame is moulded at the womb of the earth, seemingly again on the foundation of the bond that agreed upon before. The purity or virginity of the flesh is an added ingredient for the life of the soul.
WILES OF SATAN:
Man has only one weapon; the virgin faith commingled with celestial or ethereal love, not the erotic or exotic love, to fight against the fiery darts of the diabolic ones. The wiles, the deep things of Satan (Rev.2: 24) are complex and multifold. He is opaque, obscure and cunning, otherwise nobody will listen to his guiles as they lead to perdition and death. He lives on the passions of the flesh of man, neither he writes books nor does he pass on his tidings beforehand, unlike God the Father. He takes man as his hostage and human shield in his defense against God. He knows that he is fighting a loosing battle; his aim is to do as much havocs and lengthen his dominion over this planet. “.... The devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short” Rev.12: 12). He is happy if any one believes that there is God and no Devil because the person cannot draw a line between the jurisdictions of both parties that allow him to prowl upon the weakling easily. His only aim is to devastate the person who fights against him by taking the weapons of chaste faith and love; all others automatically belong to his territory, doing diabolical work for him. Hence the dictum, ‘Fools are lucky’ is applicable in this context. Such people claim that they are sinless and ready to go any time, preferably during their sleep without tasting any bitter fruit of sufferings (Jn.8: 42-45). The world is full of them now.
As and when God recruits enough Elects of the Spirit (Jn.14: 2) for His Kingdom, He will dump this earth into the lake of fire. While God has only one weapon, love, the evil trinity’s baffling tricks are uncountable. We are consumed provided the lethal weapons of Satan, vendetta and the deadly vices, are used against him in our battle for his destruction (James.4: 7-8). While the manufacturer and supplier of lethal weapons scourge against the retailer, the defeat of the latter is automatic. The vibrant fire of love that emanates only from the Lord can kindle life to its sublime beauty. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil....Therefore take the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day...”(Eph.6: 10-20). “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Heb.10: 30), says the Lord.
The whole planet now is thundered with the final stages of this battle cry. He infiltrated and established his authority over the church from the time it was liberated from the clutches of the imperial Roman persecutors. By his subtle crookedness he has been quite successful in multiplying the church into 2300 denominations and innumerable cults. The chaste apostolic faith is almost extinct. Where do we go from now on? All the cataclysmic and inhuman atrocities that are taking place now are the detrimental signs of Jesus’ coming from Above and the Beast’s from below (Rev.13: 1-4). It is almost time for us to make an exit from here. “ For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord’ (1.Thess.4: 16-17). Then at the end of the day, “He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev.3; 21).
The Omniscient God who set aside 7,000 years in the beginning to fight against His archenemy, came into this lurid house of lunacy, carrying the crosses of all sort of bitter encounters languished by His own children, and vanquished the enemy to their total defeat. Despite He came down to His own children for their salvage and salvation, the paradox is that they themselves wove the crown of thorn for the cross “ Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt.8: 20). “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house is forsaken (Lk.13: 34-35). The chosen ones, including the mainstream churches, and the cultic worshippers are also facing the same scenario now. Just as the Jewish hierarchy betrayed Jesus to His adversaries, the clerical and pastoral hierarchy of today has already dug His grave here now, but He cannot be trapped by our ego and selfishness (Mt.24: 48-51; 2P.3: 1-7; 2.Tim.3: 1-7). Ever since the doom of our first parents, the Devil has been viciously at work for the nightmare of man. The great deluge during the time of Noah, the Babel of languages, division of Israelite kingdom and subsequent siege and exile of the Israelites under king Nebuchadnezzar, the brutality of the Roman empire, the flowering of the British empire for Gospel evangelization and that at a later stage gave birth the world wars the Iron empire and Nazi destructions are some of the monumental victories of the devil against God, yet the naked truth is that the Almighty can’t be conquered.
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“Evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness and sin not,” 1Cor 15:33-34. This is universal truth. Three aspects are mentioned:
Chapter 15 establishes the reality of resurrection. “Bad (evil) company ruins good morals,” (RSV). Another version says, “Evil communications corrupt morals.” Apostle means that communication, which denies the reality of resurrection, is immoral. He who has no hope of resurrection and assurance of life after death is capable to lead others to corrupt manners.
Another exiting school year is at hand. After spending joyful vacation with parents, relatives and friends students are returning to hectic study programs. Some are heading to far off places to live in University dorms for the first time where they will renew some old acquaintances and establish new friendships. In America, university education is designed to mold independent people. Educational institutions, which are basically business-minded, prefer students from far off places rather than from near. Being far from home students are compelled to stay in dorms at the cost of huge amounts beyond their means. Loans come handy to meet tuition, boarding and lodging expenses. The stark reality is, after 4 or 5 years the students come out of the institutions with huge debt ranging from 15000 to 50000 depending on the course selected. Many are unaware and often taken aback, that repayment of loan with interest, a lifelong liability, starts right away. Very few are lucky to get decent placements. Others, large majority, struggle hard for years to pay off the debts. Personal choice is much acclaimed university motto.
According to Indian concept an educational institution is holy abode of Saraswathi, God of education. The teacher is highly revered, next only to mother and father. Old sages say; “Matha, Pitha, Guru and Daivam” are four categories that deserve utmost respect. Manu, the Hindu Law-giver, said that pupil should not sit in the presence of teacher without permission and always keep respectful demeanor. But in today’s culture these are outdated and irrelevant. The sanctity of educational institution and of the teachers is totally subverted. God and morality are the most detestable subjects in American education and the most favored subjects are free-sex, alternative life-style and self-fulfillment. Shortly, present universities are the breeding centers for all immoral ways. The curriculum, dorm and extra-curricular activities are designed to obliterate family values. They jettisoned the very core of social fabric and implanted strong revulsion toward God, prayer and moral principles, which are foundation of a free and fair society. We often hear from the elite groups that, “America is a land of opportunities.” People enormously extol the high degree of independence, liberty and civic amenities available in this country. Recently an article by Dinesh D’souza was posted in the parish website, “If I had remained in India, I would probably have lived my entire life within a five-mile radius of where I was born. I would undoubtedly have married a girl of my identical caste and religious and socioeconomic background. I would have faced relentless social pressure to become a doctor, an engineer, or a computer programmer. I would have socialized largely within my ethnic community. I would have had a whole set of opinions that could be predicted in advance. In sum, my destiny would to a large degree have been given to me.” I feel sorry for the author because he does not see any good in the land of his birth, growth and education that enabled him a pass to this country. He never attempted to discern the immense value of our ancient culture. This is purely a partial assessment. Can we not express loyalty to the country of domicile without blaming motherland? A system, no matter how lofty it seems, that torpedoes the basic social value needs be resisted and rejected.
This I say just to remind our young people that the educational institutions, the political arena, the media, the legislature and the legal system are infested and festered with immoral people. Their evil agenda ought to be resisted. Guard against evil forces in the campuses. Swan is a mystical bird of Hindu and Greek mythologies. According to Indian concept, Swan is symbol of intelligence and purity. It flies as high as 8000 feet and lives in heaven. Swan is famous for its unique ability to segregate and drink pure milk from a compound of milk and water. This fable may be imaginary and yet there is good moral in it and that is, when the youth who inevitably encounters evil anywhere especially in the university campuses, they should possess and exercise the quality of swan namely, distinguish right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral, righteousness and wickedness, etc and be vigilant to filter and choose good.
One cannot resist evil by self-merits because flesh is weak and susceptible to sin. Tendency to sin is automatic but needs practice to do good things. Religious, moral and ethical values learned in home and parish would be helpful. Prayer, reading the Word of God and meditation should be a regular routine for one who aspire success. God’s grace is necessary to overcome evils. Not that God forsakes others but He helps those who seek Him. Never drift from the cherished goal of acquiring knowledge and expertise. ‘Knowledge brings humility; humility brings respect; respect enables one to gain wealth; wealth enables good deeds; good deeds bring complacency’. Another proverb says, “Woe unto you my son, you did not learn anything in the nights you spent for seeking pleasures. Therefore as a cow is unable to remove its legs stuck in the mud, you will be sad in the midst of scholars.” This proverb implies the need for hard work.
In situations where possibilities are too high to sin, take refuge in St Paul’s admonition, “Awake to righteousness and sin not.” Bible says that Daniel was blameless. Angel saluted him saying, “Man greatly beloved,” 9:23, 10:11, 19. How Daniel became greatly beloved of God? Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babel, ordered his servants to train up the captive youths from Jerusalem who were royal, noble, intelligent and handsome for services in the king’s court. They assigned rich royal diet to the boys. But Daniel, avowed not to defile himself with king’s meat and wine, 1:8. This resolve was a costly challenge because to refuse the king’s order was no fun. It could cost not only his life but also of the caretaker, v10. And yet, Daniel resolutely pleaded with the caretaker for ten days’ trial. He depended on God rather than men. Could our youth resolve that they will not keep company with immoral people and not yield to peer pressures to indulge in wickedness? Remember three admonitions of the Psalmist. Do not walk with the ungodly, nor stand in the path of the sinner, nor sit in the seat of the scornful, Ps 1:1.
Each of you is a missionary, Jesus Christ being the only role model. Peer pressure to indulge in wickedness such as, gossip, profanity, loitering, neglect of lessons, disrespect to teachers and elders, unnatural relations, alcohol, drug, pornography, etc will mount beyond tolerable limit at times causing great deal of pain. It will not be easy to resist and keep aloof. But then remember, success depends upon persevering, not surrendering. Oyster is a small sea-fish that moves close to sand at the bottom. While taking water in, tiny sand get stuck in its fleshy mantle causing injury and discomfort. This fish has a natural defense mechanism. It starts secreting a thick liquid that covers the particle. The liquid so covered gradually solidifies and forms a heavy lump. The fish then ejects it out, which is the most beautiful and precious pearl.
Pay serious attention to elders. They are more interested in your growth than your peers. Few years ago I read in “Dear Abby” column that a father thought to give a gift for his son’s 16th birthday. They selected a car. During the birthday celebration, the father exuberantly presented a beautifully wrapped gift. The son hurriedly unwrapped the packet and found that it was a bible, which he never expected. Inflamed in anger, he threw the bible, uttered profanity and quit home and lived of his own. The boy turned deaf to numerous communications from father. The father could not get over from the terrible shock of his son’s erratic behavior and fell seriously ill. He died after two years suffering. The son did not bother to see him. The son returned to the house after father’s death. The bible was in the same place where it fell when he threw it. The cover was dusty. Out of curiosity he took it and opened it. There was in it a ‘cashier’s check’ dated on his birthday for the exact value of the car addressed to the dealer they negotiated. A myriad of thoughts flashed through his mind. He felt remorse but was too late; lost his father, education and a good fortune. He sought “Dear Abby” to advise how to get over from the guilt feeling!
Whenever possible, communicate the word of God. Tennyson said, “Nobility enkindles nobility”. Tell others about the greatness of this ancient orthodox faith. Be a good model. Organize prayer groups in campuses. Consider yourself an ambassador of the Church. Keep vigil.
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[CONTINUED FROM THE LAST ISSUE]
There are several anecdotes relating to his compassionate caring for the clergy. Once the Metropolitan visited a parish and asked the vicar there whether everything was ready for holy Communion and had an affirmative reply. But when the Trustee opened the Security box, it was found that communion bread had gone sale. In those days wafers were not in use. The vicar panicked. The Metropolitan understood the problem and asked the trustee if there was a bakery around, but there were none. The trustee rushed to the cafe nearby and fetched some buns to the parsonage. Thirumeni took them and sliced off the exterior of the buns and broke them into small pieces, which served the purpose. He improvised an apt solution and spared the vicar of sure embarrassment.
Here is yet another story that reflects the uniqueness of the Metropolitan's personality. The Metropolitan was a great social reformer like Abraham Marthoma. He was getting tired of the practices of bishop conducting marriage ceremonies to indulge some in their sense of social vanity. One day a senior clergyman arrived at the Bishop's house in Thiruvalla to inform the Metropolitan in advance of his daughter's wedding. This priest had no intention whatsoever of asking Thirumeni to conduct the wedding ceremony, because of the additional expenses this might have entailed. He only wanted to report the matter to the Metropolitan as a matter of courtesy. Thirumeni misunderstood the intention of the priest and got very angry and spoke to him at length about people wasting the time of bishops when an achen could as well do the ceremony concerned. Metropolitan thought quite rightly that as a senior clergy he should have known better and, lead the people in such matters by example. Achen departed with a very heavy heart. But immediately thereafter, Thirumeni felt very sorry for him and he sent his driver to bring him back. Thirumeni apologised to him and said that he would be delighted to conduct his daughter's wedding.
On another occasion, Thirumeni appointed young clergyman to a city parish beset with pastoral problems. The clergyman expressed reluctance to take on his assignment. So Thirumeni told him, "I am not sending you to that parish to move mountains. You do one simple thing. In that parish there are quite a few parishioners interested in praying. You go and pray with them and visit all the parishioners." The clergyman did that, and he had a fruitful ministry in that parish.
When he visited parishes he took time to see the parsonages to understand the problems of the clergy and to talk to the children of the clergy. Once he visited a village parish and called at the parsonage when the young daughter of the vicar rushed to "Methrachen Appachen" (That is, father bishop) and told him that they had a disaster, as all their poultry died of some poison. He shared her sorrow and asked whether all were dead. The little girl, with tears rolling down her cheeks, confirmed that not one of them had survived. A week later the vicar, her father, received a letter from Thirumeni to the effect that six hens have been arranged to b delivered to him. He shared the sorrow of the little one and responded in a practical way to a crisis.
Once Metropolitan had to write a letter to Rev. C.V. John asking him to vacate his residence at the M.T. Seminary immediately in favour of the new principal, Rev. Dr. V.P. Thomas. Achen had been living in this house for many years and his wife was bed-ridden with high fever. Achen was very upset at this, and wrote a letter very respectfully, though somewhat provoked. He sent this letter late evening through a courier to Tiruvalla. After receiving this letter, Metropolitan became very worried about having upset him at a time when his wife was indisposed. Achen had stood by the Metropolitan through thick and thin, and was a staunch supporter especially during the tempestuous times of litigation. Thirumeni got the letter late in the evening and immediately asked his driver to take him to Kottayam. It was about midnight when they reached achen's residence. The driver knocked at the door and achen came out, and was very surprised to see his Metropolitan at his doorstep. Thirumeni immediately apologised for writing to him in that manner and said and said that he just wanted to he just wanted to see Kochamma and pray for her recovery. Thirumeni made a frank admission of his regret at having written that letter at such a time and apologised for the same. After a time of prayer, he told achen that he could vacate the house at his convenience and that he would make interim arrangements for the accommodation of the new incumbent.
Rev. C.A. Kuruvilla has recorded the following incident that testifies to Thirumeni's caring and loving disposition. He was the vicar of Ayroor Salem Church. He was bitten by a rat and was poisoned. He was bed-ridden for some months. Thirumeni granted him leave with pay and advised him to seek proper treatment and the necessary rest. However Rev. Kuruvilla could not recover fully from the illness caused by the poison. One day his son told him, "Daddy, why don't you go to Valia Thirumeni and seek his prayers." He mentioned this to a visitor who arranged a car for Rev. Kuruvilla to go to Metropolitan's house at Tiruvalla. Thirumeni laid his hands on him and said a prayer: "Dear Lord, this servant who had dedicated himself for your sevice was unable to do your work for some months because of his illness. When treatment is unsuccessful and medicines are ineffective we get discouraged. But we believe that you are our help and refuge. Please lay your healing hands on him and give him relief. " Rev. Kuruvilla was miraculously healed after this touching prayer and he was able to celebrate Holy Communion the following Sunday as well as attend to his regular parish work thereafter.
Similarly, the Thirumeni showed loving consideration for evangelists (upadesis) and lay preachers in the Church who had no regular salary or were paid poorly. When they visited him, he invariably shared his meals. He also helped them financially on his visits to their parishes. Once an old Upadesi (evangelist) visited him at Tiruvalla and Thirumeni listened to him on his family matters like a close friend, shared the lunch with him. When this upadeshi was about to leave Thirumeni noticed that his sandals were totally worn out. Thirumeni asked him to wait, went inside and fetched the new pair of sandals, which he had bought for himself and gave it to the Upadesi. This act of affection moved the Upadesi to tears. Another visiting evangelist told Thirumeni that he had some abdominal problem. Thirumeni asked him to go to nearby Pushpagiri Hospital, giving him a letter addressed to the doctor to the effect that the Upadesi be given the required treatment, including surgery if required, and to send the bill to Thirumeni. Subsequently Thirumeni went to the hospital to pray for the patient whose surgery was successful.
Thirumeni treated the poor and the affluent equally. Some poor farmers, who were allotted forest land for clearance and cultivation, put up a rudimentary structure for a church and requested Thirumeni to consecrate the church. He gladly agreed to go and traveled by a jeep for some distance and the rest on foot and consecrated the church for the farmers who were delighted and praised God. However a concern was expressed in the Church Council that the Metropolitan was endangering his indifferent health by such arduous engagements. With a characteristic smile he told the Council, "You are happy for me to attend the parish day in Madras with the great Mayor of Madras, but you are trying to bar me from consecrating the church for the humble and hardworking farmers who are loyal to the Church."
Juhanon Mar Thoma was a great source of inspiration for many. At the Mar Thoma Students' conference in 1949 he gave a talk on "Christian Church and Social Justice". A number of the conference attendees were enthused and entered into various social service activities of the Church like homes for the homeless, elimination of the remaining illiteracy in Kerala, technical training for the literates, which programme continued after his reign and are in force even today. By these means he proved to the young that Christianity is stronger than Marxist ideology which was gaining ground in Kerala at that time. He placed on record in the Church Magazine of July 1957 the information of a Social Service Committee to rid society of social evils like landlessness, broken homes, alcoholism, dowry system and flimsy litigations and religious aberrations like communalism in society and disunity in the Church.
Juhanon Mar Thoma's theology was really broadminded although he had the reputation of being a traditionalist. He respected the views and reasoning of all people. Liturgically he could be at once evangelical and liberal. When he visited evangelically oriented parishes, he was quite happy to celebrate Holy Communion without candles, while he was happy to follow the age-old traditions in other parishes if the congregation so desired. It was not a matter of compromising one's convictions, but of the willingness to respect the religious sentiments and needs of the people. He had theological and intellectual grounds to justify both attitudes as he believed that Mar Thoma Church was a broad-minded Church.
At times, he initiated new procedures like starting a Holy Communion Service by singing the first hymn in Hindi, indicating that the Church should change to the language of the people. At the same time he was very appreciative of Malayalam poets and their lyrics. He introduced the prayer hymns of Chekot Asan and P.O. Samuel and encouraged promising poets like Puthenkavu Mathen Tharakan who was the author of "Vishwadeepam Mahakavyam". (Epic of the light of the world describing the life of Jesus). Thirumeni was enthusiastic in giving equal opportunity and responsibility to women in the Church and thus he was very much ahead of the times.
In 1974 Mar Thoma Theological Seminary was upgraded to a B.D. grade college of the Serampore University, inaugurated by Juhanon Mar Thoma. The other educational institutions of the Church expanded during his reign. In 1974 the Church had a very large number of primary schools, 14 High Schools and a Teacher's Training School. Besides these, there were three Arts and Science Colleges: Mar Thoma College Tiruvalla, Christian College in Chengannur and St.Thomas College in Kozhencherry and Titus II Teachers Training College in Tiruvalla, which were all high-ranking colleges of their kind. There was also the Marthoma Industrial Training Institute at Kozhencherry to provide technical and vocational training for those with High School education but stood no chance of finding employment otherwise. Rev. Dr. Ninan Kallumpram gave leadership in starting this institute. Thirumeni took active interest in establishing these institutions. That this was close to his heart is clearly visible from the large number of Mar Thoma youth both men and women who have found employment in India and abroad, thus forming a very large Mar Thoma Diaspora.
On 1st December 1974 Bishop Mathews Mar Athanasius who had been a tower of strength to the Metropolitan and the Church passed away. The idea of consecrating two more Bishops were already under consideration and in February 1975, Rev. P.T. Joseph and Rev. V.T. Koshy were consecrated Bishops by Juhanon Mar Thoma assisted by three Bishops and the Metropolitan of the Thozhiyur Church. Rev. P.T. Joseph became Joseph Mar Irenaeus, and Rev. V.T. Koshy, Easow Mar Timotheus.
The work of Evangelistic Association progressed steadily during the reign of Juhanon Mar Thoma. More Ashrams took shape and the missionary activities of the Church expanded in Madhya Pradesh, Tibet, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Andamans. A large number of congregations were formed in Kerala as a result of the Mission work. The Evangelistic Association continued to organise the Maramon Convention annually. Medical mission hospitals were started in Palghat, Hoskote, Ankola, Vapi, Sihora and also in Marthoma heartlands of Maramon and Kattanam.
Juhanon Mar Thoma pioneered the ecumenical movement in the Church. His work with the World Council of Churches has been described earlier in this chapter. He took the practical step of moving away from the Julian calendar and accepting the Gregorian calendar so that the main festivals of Christmas and Easter are celebrated on the same days as in Western Churches. This was because of his keenness to be in line with the other Churches in India that were linked to the Western Churches.
The most important decision taken by Juhanon Mar Thoma was the discussion on full communion between the Mar Thoma Church and Church of South India (CSI) and Churches of North India (CNI) and the Church of England and the other provinces of the Anglican Communion. In 1952 the Episcopal Synod which consisted of him and Bishop Mathews Mar Athanasius issued a prophetic call to the Churches in India signed by both of them reading:
Vision of these two great leaders was realized to a great extent as the Mar Thoma Church have come into close association and full communion with CSI and CNI, the Church of England and the world-wide provinces of Anglican Communion. The Bishop of London, a leading Bishop of the Church of England celebrated in 2002 Holy Communion according to the Mar Thoma rite at St.James Parish of the Mar Thoma Church in London. This was the fruit of the ecumenical outlook of Juhanon Mar Thoma and his global vision for the Church, as well as his keenness to create a united national Church in India. We have moved a long way since then. Appreciating the presence of Bishop Zacharias Mar Theophilus at the consecration of the Anglican bishop of Reading, Bishop Dominic walker wrote, "When I was consecrated a bishop, the Mar Thoma Synod of Bishops arranged for Bishop Zacharias Mar Theophilus to be one of the consecrators. May be that makes me Mar Thoma - by adoption and grace!" How mysterious are the ways of Lord! Consider this amazing sequence: laying-on-of hands by the Patriarch of Antioch on Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasius in 1842, the Episcopal succession between the Throne of St.Peter and Throne of St. Thomas and in 1997 Zacharias Thirumeni becoming a consecrator with nine other Anglican bishops, Archbishop of York and Archbishop of Canterbury, at the consecration of a bishop under the spiritual umbrella of St. Peter and St. Augustine. This is something to rejoice about. The present writers feel grateful for the opportunity to work towards this ecumenical goal through the Society St. Thomas and of St.Augustine. a Society that they founded with the help of Bishop Dominic Walker, to develop a fraternal relationship between the Anglican Church and the Mar Thoma Church. Both Metropolitan Alexander Mar Thoma and Archbishop of Canterbury were patrons of this Society in the eighties when it was formed.
The Metropolitan's pursuit of ecumenism in Kerala made actuve in seeking reconciliation between the two Orthodox factions: the Syrian Orthodox Church in Kerala, originally called Catholicose party, owing allegiance to Catholicos of the East in Kottayam and the Syrian Jacobite Church - the Patriarchal party- that recognizes the Patriarch of Antioch as its supreme head. Even though Thirumeni's mediations were not fruitful, he earned the respect of the two opposing factions. He was friendly with Catholicos Geevarghese II Mar Basalius (Bava) who shared his problems with Juhanon Mar Thoma. A few days before Bava's death Thirumeni visited him and after a hearty talk shared the breakfast with the Bava.
His commitment to social justice arose from his deep Christian faith. He spoke about social and political injustices on appropriate occasions. He did not believe in ignoring issues for the sake of diplomacy or convenience. The boldest step he took in that direction was the letter dated 25th August 1974 he sent to Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, who imposed internal emergency on India, keeping democracy in a state of suspended animation. It was de facto dictatorship. A number of political Leaders from her own and opposition parties were imprisoned and censorship was imposed on the media. Thirumeni's letter stated that he deemed the Emergency rule as a setback to democracy and demanded its speedy withdrawal as well as the release of the politicians arrested in this regard. He wrote that he was writing as a Church leader and a citizen. Possibly it was one of the many things that persuaded Mrs. Gandhi to withdraw the Emergency Rule, release the incarcerated politicians and Trade Unionists and announce the general election in which she was defeated.
On his 84th birthday, on 7 Sept 1976, Thirumeni celebrated Holy Communion at Manganam St.Peters Church, Kottayam, in which area he had started his priestly Service. He didnot participate in the public celebration of his birthday, but rested at the Bishop's house in Zion Hill. He felt unwell on the 8th September and was admitted to the Medical College Hospital. He was suffering from diabetes and cardiac problems. He received continual attention from expert doctors, but they failed to stabilize his condition. He asked for the singing of his favourite hymns like "Jesus Lover of my soul". He passed away peacefully on 27th September 1976. Thus ended the eventful life of the St.Paul of Mar Thoma Church who guided the Church over an eventful period of expansion and consolidation in the history of the Church.
Juhanon Mar Thoma added intellectual dignity to the image of the Indian Christian community. He wanted the Mar Thoma Church to be a bridge Church between the Western and Eastern Churches by practicing Councilor unity. He overcame the narrow boundaries of denominational rivalries and extended his helping hand to the cause of humanity in Kerala and outside. Politicians of all hues sought and valued his sage counsel. When Mr. R. Shankar was Chief Minister of kerala, he visited the United States of America and was speaking at a meeting. A member of the audience asked the Chief Minister, "Do you belong to the Church of Juhanon Mar Thoma?" Mr. Shankar replied, "I am not a Christian, but I am proud to say that I know the saintly Metropolitan. Anyway why did you ask me this question?" The man answered, "I love that man of faith whose ideals and simple lifestyle are very appealing to me." Thus it was evident that Thirumeni's ideals and role-model were understood and respected by people from far and wide. "His very presence radiated an aura of love and peace," said another Chief Minister, Mr. Achutha Menon, who led a Communist government in Kerala.
He taught that prayer was the deepest longing of the human heart, and fervently believed in its effectiveness. He had the gift of spiritual healing and there were many instances in which people - both clergy and laity - were miraculously healed by Thirumeni's prayers.
He was a teacher all his life and he wrote innumerable books and leaflets, distinguished for their depth and simplicity, to teach people about the Bible and the Church's beliefs. His successor Alexander Mar Thoma called him 'a Messenger of the Kingdom of God,' a well-deserved acclamation for an outstanding chief prelate of the Mar Thoma Church.
[Excerpt from the book 'Glimpses of Marthoma Church History' authored by Zac Vargese Kanisseril and Mathew Kallumpram.]
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