"And he arose, and came to his father. (St. Luke 15:20)

Ascertainment of our prospects is influenced by the appropriation of our faculties, potential and liberty, we obtained. The affluent family background, the independence entertained by him and the affectionate attitude towards him, given to the younger son by the loving father was to make use for the welfare of the society. But he exploited same as the means of destruction. This loving father is the reflection of an old culture. The attitude and mentality of the father are not suitable for the modern world. The son believed that more comfort is available outside the house than in his father's house. His notion of the luxury and freedom outside his father’s house was alluring against the comfort and security he would have if he would abide with his father.

But the circumstances he was exposed to, outside his father's house led him to destruction. His expedition from his house to the external society, seeking for better prosperity has caused his devastation. He lost his refuge and security. This is the reason that the current world is depraved of to live.

"The way of salvation is altered as the way of destruction."

We can not blame the leaders alone for all the current socio-religious-political problems. We have to regulate our self. True repentance is not only the acceptance of the sin but also the dedication to do the right. Let the 109th Maramon Convention be the moments of repentance, blessings and seeking refuge in the father's house. Lets us pray for the same.

[Inaugural Speech delivered at Maramon Convention-2004]
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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:

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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How important is it for the laws of the land to follow Christian Orthodoxy? If others in "the land" do not accept the basic tenets of orthodox faith and belief, or worse, accept some distortion of Christianity, should we try to stop them from legal benefits in a pluralistic society?

In a "free" society, which is still relatively new to the world and especially new to Holy Orthodoxy for most of its existence, are we hypocritical in suggesting that any non-life-threatening-belief should be suppressed legally? Where do we draw the battle lines? Since Holy Orthodoxy is not in the majority, if the "conservative" protestant (including all protestants that don't call themselves protestant) or the prevailing secularists or any other majority were to make incense illegal, would we stop burning it in liturgy? If we do, would that stop Holy Orthodoxy's mission in this world and the next?

It is one thing to truly want everyone to live in harmony and peace in this life and be welcome in Christ's kingdom in the next. It is entirely another issue to suggest that any amount of legislature will "save" anyone or "protect the faith." It would be foolish for Orthodox people, with a collective memory of centuries of persecution (legislative, societal, personal), to trust any government to assist in keeping us faithful. From that same experience, it would ridiculous for us to stand in the way of other's disbelief or to suggest that any legislation should defeat us in our work to carry the light of Christ's Church to those in darkness. As the saying goes, "Do not abhor sin so much as to come to love men too little."

We should always present Christ's love before proving to the un-Orthodox they are wrong, if that is our heart's desire. However, there is great temptation to believe that, by bringing everyone under the same religion, accepting the same Truths, there will be greater sanity; more rational behavior, more harmony and greater peace. Even among Orthodox Christians, there is continual disagreement in the application of the teachings and canons of the same church. Accepting the same Truths and the same interpretations, of course, can only happen with God's help and individual agreement. You see, the problem in a secular society is mixing apples and oranges - religion and society are not the same, not even equal, in a secular world view. In Holy Orthodoxy, for each Orthodox Christian, religion and society should be completely intersecting and integrated. This is not always the case for the non-Orthodox.

So, the issue of proper marriage, which has become a volatile and political issue in America, like others in western societal pluralism, has an underlying question - "can I live with it?" The central "I" being noted here. If you wish to have a Christian theocracy or Islamic theocracy, then you do not want to "live with it" or anything that suggests that one's particular religion is not in charge of everything. Is this what Christ instructs His followers? Is this how He wanted His followers to be known?

In nearly 2000 years, Christ and His church has not brought homogeny to the world and only fleeting theocracies. The peace of Christ will not come through legislation or "conservative" complaints or insurgency or theocracy (at least not of this world). The peace of Christ will not come at the expense of free will. Each of us must come to the Truth and choose eternal life over temporal living. Yet, in Holy Orthodoxy, we understand that we are in this with all people - and just as the Saints wait for us, we will wait for others to come to the knowledge of the Truth and repent. Christ will come in glory not because we have legislated belief or particulars of faith or tradition, but in spite of our attempts to do so. Christ is the just judge and He will be compassionate and merciful when that time comes. He will separate the goats from the sheep, until then we have to live with each other. Let us be careful to avoid becoming goats while trying to force others to be sheep.

The process of individual choice for enlightenment cannot be legislated or manipulated as these efforts will only be resisted by the natural understanding of free will. Free will means having the option to chose wrongly and be stubbornly committed to wrong belief. At the same time, in free will is the fullness of God's love for us. Christ's suffering can be redemptive only to those with free will. Since closed-mindedness is an option with free will, how do you graft a "new" idea onto a closed mind?

The Truth may come to a closed consciousness only when the mind has been readied as the farmer's fields in spring. Sometimes this means extra fertilizer; other times it means extra weed killers - but always it means turning the topsoil over to reveal the fresh soil underneath where the seeds can be planted with the greatest possibility of germination and ultimately fruition.

Indeed the issue of proper marriage is an issue of faith, but who's faith and when? Only servants need to live under the rules of their Master. If we are servants of Christ and "they" are not, we need to be concerned about being good servants to OUR Master. Maybe we can be examples of serving a loving and gentle Master, so that slaves to other lesser masters may seek freedom from their chains, chains they cannot see or feel until they attempt to leave them behind.

May peace prevail in all our actions and may our good works be a beacon to the light of Truth in Christ for those in darkness.

Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
Preparation for Lent 2004
Madison, Wisconsin

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[Paper presented by Prof. George MENACHERY at Mt. St. Thomas, Ecumenical Seminar on The Cultural Heritage of the St. Thomas Christians - Our Efforts to Preserve It : The Syro-Malabar Church ]


One might justly feel frightened standing before such an august assembly of the most distinguished ecclesiastical dignitaries and scholars of this calibre; but for discussing the particular topic of this seminar Kerala cannot offer any forum more appropriate than this one. Especially, to discuss the topic of this specific paper viz. The Cultural Heritage of the Syro-Malabar Church and Our Efforts to Preserve It there could be no group of people anywhere else, more competent or more earnest, than is present here.


The topic of this seminar, one feels, has been wisely chosen since on the one hand there can be no two opinions about the invaluable nature of the cultural wealth of the St. Thomas Christians, and on the other hand such another topic does not exist with practically no scope for controversy or mutual suspicion or petty jealousy . There is to be found today considerable unanimity of opinion among all the Churches of the St. Thomas Christians and among the sub-groups thereof, both among scholars and the People of God in general, regarding the need to study, research, preserve, and propagate this unique heritage - everyone expressing the strongest desire to earnestly cooperate, actively collaborate, and determinedly work together towards that end without any reservations. As was discovered in the course of more than one seminar held here[1] the cultural heritage of the community could be an effective binding force and one of the strongest rallying points - perhaps the chief one at the moment - that could unite all the groups and all the Churches that adhere to the St. Thomas tradition in a meaningful spirit of ecumenism.


Among the strongest arguments used were:

What is Kerala culture? Who are the true inheritors of Kerala culture? When one looks at the near consensus among scholars[2] that the Brahmins (Nampoothiris) arrive in Kerala only much later than the third century C.E., their dominance decernible only after the 9th-10th centuries, and that the Nairs appear on the scene only after the twelfth century and even then only as Sudras as they are till this date, one might reasonably surmise that Mar Thoma Nazranies were the most influencial community in Kerala in the first centuries. Perhaps upto the year 849 (24 M.E.) when Ayyanadikal confers[3] once again the seventytwo aristocratic / royal privileges on the Palli (church) and the Palliyars (Christians) these Christians combined in themselves all the attributes of the Brahmins (Purohitas), the Kshatriyas (soldiers and rulers), and the Vysyas (traders and entrepreuners)


Before proceeding any further let us take another look at this oft-used but much abused term culture. One uses the word culture in different contexts: When we say in English, Shes a very cultured woman, what we generally mean is Shes had a good education and knows a lot about art, music, painting etc. Similarly Shes a person of culture would mean She likes and knows a lot about literature, art, music, etc. But there is much more to culture than all this.[4]


Other phrases come to mind: phrases like Culture Shock, Culture Gap, Cultural Stereotype, Cultural Cringe, and Culture Vulture.[5] Culture has been defined in various ways, but the truth is, so far a universally accepted definiton of culture has not yet been found. Kroeber and Kluckhohn list in their book Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions[6] about 250 definitions and even this list is not complete. Not to become too involved philosophically attention may simply be directed to the excellent article Culture at the Service of Evangelisation in India by Stephen Fuchs.[7]


In order to emphasise the point that in the phrase Cultural Heritage Culture means much more than art, architecture, sculpture, literature, music &c. a few more quotations one may be kindly permitted to be reproduce. Culture is that complex whole which indudes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, customs and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.[8] Culture is everything. Culture is the way we dress, the way we carry our heads, the way we walk, the way we tie our ties it is not only the fact of writing books or building houses.[9]


The Nature of Culture: Culture is based on the uniquely human capacity to classify experiences, encode such classifications symbolically, and teach such abstractions to others. It is usually acquired through enculturation, the process through which an older generation induces and compels a younger generation to reproduce the established lifestyle; consequently, culture is embedded in a persons way of life. Culture is difficult to quantify, because it frequently exists at an unconscious level, or at least tends to be so pervasive that it escapes everyday thought.

Thus the existence and use of culture depends upon an ability possessed by humans alone. It refers to behaviour peculiar to Homo sapiens, together with material objects used as an integral part of this behaviour. Hence culture includes language, ideas, beliefs, customs, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, and ceremonies, among other elements.[10]


The rock edicts[11] and copperplate grants[12], various Granthavaries, the Ramban Song[13], the Margam Kali Pattukal[14], the Pallippattukal[15], and other such songs, the letters and reports of the Portuguese and the Dutch, the Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Diamper[16] contain much information for the various aspects of the culture of the St. Thomas Christians. But the most important source is the collective memory of the people, and the existing customs and traditions, in addition to the extant works of art, architecture etc.[17] Works by Ferroli, Schurhammer, and Placid, and the efforts of the three Hs :Heras, Hosten, and Hambye have contributed greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the Thomas Christian cultual heritage.

To understand, appreciate, and conserve the cultural heritage of the Syro-Malabar Church one must study all the aspects mentioned above in detail vis-a-vis the cultural heritage of all the other Thomas Christians and the cultural heritage of Kerala.. These streams are generally quite similar and often identical with each other. In a short paper of this length justice cannot be done to even a single aspect of this heritage. However let us deal with some items at random, knowing full well that the selection is bound to be arbitrary, and the treatment haphazard.


As the documentary video film screened earlier showed a number of examples of the various works of art in the Syro-Malabar churches it is not necessary to go into all that again here. Suffice it to say the works of art and architecture in wood, metal, ivory, stone, colours, plaster, shells, cloth, etc. in Thomas Christian churches and households form a considerable proportion of art objects in Kerala and their position qualitatively and quantitatively in the heirarchy of Keralas art tradition cannot be questioned.

Among the objects in these churches which contribute much to the artistic superiority of Kerala may be counted the huge pillarless roofs and roof decorations, the belfrys, the altarpieces, the ceilings, the wooden rostra (Pushpakkoodu), the processional RoopaKkoodu, the wooden candlesticks, the open-air granite crosses, the copper-sheathed flagstaffs, the rock lampstands and the array of rock (chuttuvilakku) lamps on the huge Aanamathil, facades and their plaster images, baptismal fonts, bronze bells and vessels, wood and ivory statues, wooden boxes, gold and silver crosses, colourful processional umbrellas, multicoloured mural paintings, wooden panels, goldcoated woodcarvings, and a thousand and one other items. True some of these are of post-Portuguese origin. But typologically and from the point of view of the techniques used most of these are typically Keralite and often typically christian in origin and use.


One of Indias most celebrated festivals is the Pooram festival of Thrissur. This festival was planned, organised and established by Shaktan Tamburan of Cochin just two hundred years ago. Perhaps the most attractive item of this festival is the celebrated Thekkottirakkam with the heavenly sight of the changing of the colourful umbrellas. It is this changing of the umbrellas that brings to the Thekkinkad Maidan large numbers of visitors from India and abroad every year. Although even the smallest Syro-Malabar church has a dozen colourful Muthukkudas in its possession from the time of its establishment, it being an item of the 1500 years old 72 privileges of Kerala christians. These churches or their festivals are not very famous compared to the two centuries old Pooram. It is not having these art objects that matters, but using ones cultural wealth to the best advantage for the greater glory of God and man.


Adi Sankaracharya in his 64 so-called anacharams made white cloth compulsory for Brahmin men and women. He made nasal ornaments taboo for Kerala Brahmin womenfolk (i.e.the Antharjanams). Today the njori forms part of the costume of aristocratic Nampoothiri women. Brahmin women everywhere else use dark-coloured dresses. Elsewhere they always use nasal ornaments. In Kerala only Mar Thoma Nazraney women have these two customs. Did Sankaracharya who lived in Kalady at the centre of christian communities in the 8th/9th century borrow these customs from the aristocratic Nazranies to promote Brahmin acceptability? In any case white dress has always been a part of christian culture in Kerala as also the taboo concerning the use of nasal ornaments. Here one might also make mention of the large number of similarities found between nampoothiri and nazraney customs regarding ornaments, marriage, birth, and death related ceremonies and observances, costumes, daily utensils and food items etc.


Kerala christians have their own customs and traditions regarding many other matters, as f.i. in the names chosen for their children or in the type of Palaharams they make for Holy days and festivals. There are even some Curries and side dishes which are peculiar to the christians of Kerala.


Institutions like Palliyogam and Pallikkoodam prospered under christian aegis.


Liturgy, liturgical art and architecture, music, musical instruments, vestments, gestures and celebrations all formed another important part of the cultural richness of the Syro-Malabar Church.


Down from the first century we find Kerala christians almost invariably open to all the sections of world christianity and willing to give a warm welcome to fellowchristians irrespective of their nationality or allegiance. For the Kerala christian Christianity was always the same whether it was of one brand or other. It was only much later that lack of unity and divisions become permanent features of Kerala Christianity.


Kerala perhaps is the part of India which has come into contact with the maximum number of different cultures from all parts of the world at least from the first centuries B.C.E. Kerala also came into contact with almost all world religions at an early stage. This exposure to world religions, and world cultures was maximum in the case of the christians of Kerala as they were having a monopoly of sea trade from time immemorial. Hence Kerala christians became world citizens before other parts of India became even aware of the existence of other cultures and other religions. This had had its positive and negative effects on the character and conduct of Keralites in general and Kerala christians in particular. This is well reflected in the cultural heritage of the Kerala christians. While this has helped the Thomas Christian to absorb some of the best things from all cultures, it has also led to their changing too fast and discarding the ways of their forefathers without much hesitation. This is best seen in their attitude to their cultural heritage.


In spite of Rome setting up various commissions and other bodies for promoting the protection and preservation of the cultural wealth of individual Churches and for the promotion of better methods in the preservation of old records very little progress has been made by the Syro-Malabar church in these matters. The writings and speeches of the Holy Father regarding these matters appears to have had little impact on the this Church. This negligence is visible in the attitude to all aspects of culture, although here and there one could see some solitary efforts being made to remedy matters. The leadership being given by the ecclesiastical dignitaries it may be hoped will bear fruit in the not too distant future.


Perhaps this is the place to sound a much needed warning to our own people to preserve their cultural and historical heritage. Anyone who has worked in the field knows the neglect and even vandalism of Kerala Christians towards their cultural heritage. Old churches and monuments are demolished and replaced with ugly concrete structures, ancient paintings are rubbed off, and copperplate grants are sold for metal value; valuable records perish without being copied. And the general outrage to history and antiquity borders on the criminal. And it is high time this is stopped.

We may conclude with Goethe: Men are so inclined to content themselves with what is commonest; the spirit and the senses so easily grow dead to the impressions of the beautiful and perfect, that every one should study, by all methods, to nourish in his mind the faculty of feeling these things. ...For this reason, one ought every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words. Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Apprenticeship. Bk. v, ch.1 (Carlyle, tr.) [source: Stevenson]


  1. Cf., f. i., Questions 2 and 3 (p.226) on universally / commonly acceptable artistic / architectural features in the St. Thomas tradition and such features of the Palliyogam along with the answers (pp.226, 227) given during the Group Discussions and the general recommendations (p.229 et.sq.) of the seminar on The Life and Nature of the St. Thomas Christian Church in the Pre-Diamper Period, in Bosco Puthur (Ed.), LRC Publication No.1, LRC, Kochi, 2000. The different papers reproduced and responses thereto also may throw considerable light on this aspect.
  2. The views of Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan and Dr. Veluthattu Kesavan who have exhaustively studied the question of the arrival of Nampoothiri Brahmins in Kerala and their early settlements in Kerala may be read in their papers for the LRC Seminar on some of the Historical Questions related to 1.the Nampoothiris, 2.the Jews, and 3. the Samgham Literature held here in September 2000. Prof. Rajan Gurukkal and Prof. Scaria Zacharia gave prepared responses to the paper on the Early History of Nampoodiris in Kerala.
  3. It is especially stated [in the copper plates] that Vijayaragadeva the kings representative, Ayyan Atikal the governor, Rama Thiruvatikal the governors heir apparent, Prakriti (chief citizens), Adhikarar (officers), Arunnurruvar (The Six Hundred), and the Patis (local chiefs) of Punnaittalai and Polaikkuti were present on the occasion of this gift and this in itself conveys its importance. - M. G. S. Narayanan, Cultural Symbiosis in Kerala, Kerala Historical Society, Trivandrum, 1972, p.36.
  4. Because the 72 privileges have more rights and freedoms and authority incorporated into them than enjoyed even by Azhvancheri Thamprakkal, both a ruler and top Nampoothiri. (Read the Tharisappalli plates along with the Jewish plates for some eleven of these privileges or Viduperus: Earth and water on elephant-back, day lamp, spreading cloth, palanquin, umbrella, northern drum, bugle, locked gate, arch, arch-decoration, and arrow.) Vide M. G. S. Narayanan, op. cit., ibid.
  5. Cambridge International Dictionary of English, p.334.
  6. A. L. Kroeber and C. Kluckhohn, Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions - Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, Mass., 1952, Vol.XLVII, No.1.
  7. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol.I, Ed. G.Menachery, Trichur, 1982, pp.198 ff.
  8. Sir E. B. Tylor
  9. Aime Cesair
  10. Encyclopaedia Brittanica
  11. Like the Thazhekkat rock inscription and the later foundation stones and tomb inscriptions of many churches.
  12. Like the Tharisappalli plates and the Palayur plates.
  13. An English translation of the Song of Thomas Ramban sent by T.K.Joseph dated 6-7/3/1926 to Fr. Hosten s.j. may be seen in the Indian Church History Classics, Vol.I - The Nazranies,Ed. G.Menachery, Ollur, Jan. 1998, pp.520-525.
  14. P.U.Lucas, Kottayam, 1910. A reprint, Ed. J. Vellian, is available (1980). In his Anthropology of the Syrian Christians L. K. Anatha Krishna Ayyar has given English translations of many songs (which is available in the ICHC, Vol.I, The Nazranies, pp.500-506.
  15. Vide supra f.n.14
  16. Gouvea, Antonio de, O.E.S.A, Jornada do Arcebispo de Goa Dom Freyn Aleixo de Menezes, Coimbra,1606. In English: Geddes, Michael, The History of the Church of Malabar...Together with the Synod od Diamper...London: 1694 (fully reproduced in Hough II and in The Nazranies). In Malayalam: Scaria Zacharia, Edamattam, 1998.
  17. See the separate articles in the ecumenical St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Ed. G. Menachery, Vol.II, Trichur, 1973. Vols.I (1984), and II (1982) of the History of Christianity in India (CHAI - Ed. A. M. Mundadan) and the Malayalam Kraisthava Vijnana Kosham (Alleppy, 1976) also have much useful material. The STCEI and The Nazranies together have nearly one thousand photographs dealing with the cultural heritage of the Thomas Christians. A collection of articles by this writer entitled Pallikkalakalum Mattum in Malayalam (Trichur, 1984) has given as appendices a number of rather exhaustive lists of objects of art of the St. Thomas Christians gathered from churches and households for the various exhibitions organised by the STCEI from 1971 onwards and for the Christian Cultural Museum of Trichur (1980).
  18. Yet when the local churches brought forth all their Muthukkudas in 1983 for the Holy Year cultual rally it was a wonderful sight indeed that left the onlookers dumbfounded with joy. From that time onwards more and more processions in the State and even abroad are displaying the Muthukkudas and Historico-cultural floats to advantage.

[Prof. George Menachery is the Editor of the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India and the Indian Church History Classics. He was teaching university classes for thirty years and gave up the job as Head of the Department of Post-Graduate Teaching in order to concentrate on research and publication.]

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Euthanasia means the killing of chronic sufferers who lost all their hopes and aspirations of life as they are medically unfit to prolong their life on earth. Despite there have been legal implications in administering such mercy killings, certain doctors who are sympathetic to long term sufferings of the invalid people kill their patients either by with or without the tacit consent of the victims or their relatives. As the community gives such implicit or explicit consent to such killings, the Commonwealth Central Govt. of Australia made null and void the world’s first legalization of the same by the Northern Territory State. Should people suffer mentally or physically? Even Jesus wished to take away the chalice of His sufferings.

All human beings prefer life to death; nobody winches for the inherent light sufferings, but we can’t blame people when the excruciating pain converts the normal beauty of life as a synonym of inferno. The victims curse themselves and God on the ground of the introspection of their past life, and they feel that they are a burden to those who nurse and care them. On second thoughts, John the Baptist who baptized Jesus, while he was at the heights of his mental and physical afflictions, doubted about the authenticity of Jesus’ claim as the real Redeemer of Israel. The pang and bite of any pain is immeasurable and unimaginable. The Son of Man who conquered Death says, “In the world you have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”(Jn.16: 33) The Divinity about the Providence

Three or four litres of blood that sustains the whole life span of a human being are not the sole provider for the abundance of life; it is the Spirit that quickens life, not the flesh (Jn.6.63). Unless we acknowledge that God is the Provider of everything, He hesitates to give the fullness of life to the recipient continuously. “And you shall teach them your children, speaking of them….And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house…and to cleave unto him”(Deu.11: 19- 22). Giving glory by our mouth and observing the commandments and leading a righteous life as in the case of John the Baptist’s or Jesus’ parents (Lk.1: 6;Mt.1: 19) are the prerequisites in getting the blessings of God. God gives us freedom in choosing either good or evil (blessings or curses). “Behold I set before you this day a blessing and a curse….,which you have not known”(Deu.11: 26-27). God is the owner of our body and the provider of everything that helps the body to do its functions. While God is the provider, man is only a recipient and a tenant. Man has no authority to fiddle with the Spirit that is of God’s. Man has no authority to kill another person or by himself (Gen.9: 6; Deu.32: 39; 32:43; 2Kg.5: 7;Num.35: 9-34). “You shall not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in the danger of judgement”(Mt.5: 21;Exo.20; Mk.10: 19;Lk.18: 20).

We can’t blame God for our sufferings; Man has the right to choose between good and evil. Man is the architect of his own sufferings; hence he is obliged to re-channel or redirect the course of his actions and reactions. Misusing our body with the help of the spirit of this world invites corruption and corrosion which can be remedied only by the provision given by washing and soaking our body with bucketful of repenting tears. So many victims of incurable and chronic maladies have been able to come to normal life by their contrition of heart, despite they were written off by medical profession. Killing a person under any circumstance cannot be condoned by any means. The blind leading the blind is a crime; give glory to God, the Creator, Provider and Sustainer of everything that is balanced by the mutual working of all the living and non-living things by the process of reciprocation. The pride of life and head weight of man (Ps.62: 9) is a punishable crime that can be thawed away only by humility, submission and devotion at the feet of the Creator. We believe that sufferings in life cannot be sublimated by self-annihilation because suicide takes us straight to the land of eternal sufferings, the land occupied by the infernal guard. Hence death need not put away the veil of sorrows and agonies; rather it opens the door to eternal damnation. Suicide or insisting others to commit suicide is a crime and treated as an unpardonable sin because black despair shut the way to the gate of salvation. Despite sinning is a part of human nature, the prescribed remedy for the same is penance and contrition of heart.

Adversities are a part of the nature of the fallen man; the vexation of the spirit and bodily ailments and sufferings are the ingredients of the forbidden fruit that we gulped without any second thoughts. Nobody, whether rich or poor, small or great, is immune from this part of the implicit curse. There are two kinds of routine sufferings, firstly the sufferings caused by miscreants knowingly or unknowingly for the enhancement of our miseries, the second one is the righteous sufferings for the glorification of God. The righteous suffering is a gift of God (Phi.1:29), the main ingredient for the spiritual catharsis that drives us to the high way of Christian salvation. Salvation is the product of a continual fight between the noble sufferings and evil inter- actions. To kill slowly our body ourselves in the crossfire between good and evil is the source of life in the life yet to come. Life is a challenge and enduring battle, which is the deciding factor for the crown that awaits us after vanishing from this planet.

Escapism and survival techniques are the weapons of cowards; the brave and onward Christian soldiers face the battle valiantly and chivalrously, for they know that a good and enduring life is the dawn of a new life. Though suffering is a bitter and painful pill, the meek and the valiant conquer the Kingdom of God by the force and victory of agonies. Bud is bitter but fruit is sweet. Sufferings are a spontaneous outcome of our intentions, actions and reactions, which nobody else is responsible for(Jas: 1:12-14). The penalty for the same is sure to come in this life and in the next life, unless cleansed by repentance and helping the destitute. Instead of cultivating hard- heartedness, the real suffering period is the ideal time for our inner purification which helps the body to get rid of f the physical and mental maladies by driving our the toxin that is responsible for the upsurge for the invisible tornado of our body and spirit.

Killing the parents by their children and relatives or vice-versa is the most ruthless cime and cruelty which exhibits the most merciless killing that is not even common in the animal world. This civilized methods of getting rid of the most loved ones are only the crocodile tears shed to express their cosmetic sympathy and love. The doctor who invented the devices for the victims to kill themselves is known as Mr. Death. Doesn’t he know the implications of playing the role of God? Does he play the role of Satan, who imported Death to the garden of Aden out of sheer ignorance of the work of the Omnipotent God or pretend to be a deity doing the evil things for his own cheap popularity and money? The creations cannot excel the Creator at any pretensions. God has a foreknowledge of every individual; perverting and interfering with God’s plan is a sin; the aftermath of the same is detrimental to others and to him. We have no right or commission to annihilate life, where as we are deputed to give service plentifully to others in sustaining life in this planet by helping by charitable works. “Give to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s”(Mt.22: 21)

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“Achen, I was wondering whether you could write an article or give a message about in-laws. How should they act to one another, especially the relation between mother-in-law and daughter in-law. I know a family in which the daughter-in-law tries to do everything she can to please her mother-in-law, but the mother-in-law won’t talk to her. She’ll resort to all other means, including other family members, but not her daughter-in-law. The husband is divided amongst the two. Who should he support, his mother or his wife? Please mention this to Barnabas and Nicolovas Thirumeni's and may be we can get a conference (Marth Mariam Samajam) on this topic.”

This is from a recent email I received (name withheld). God knows if she is the aggrieved or sympathizer! Since exact nature of in-law feud is not mentioned it is beyond guess. Reasons for the diffused relation might be wrong attitude, intolerance, dowry or other selfish motives. So it is hard to address a specific issue and a shot at random is only feasible. People, more often than not, apply double standard to deal with in-law relations. Parent-in-laws particularly mothers wish minimum sum of dowry to the son-in-law and expect their daughter to live in comfort, peace and harmony enjoying the undivided love and attention to the daughter from the son-in-law. The same parent expects the opposite when the question of daughter-in-law comes. She should bring handsome cash and jewelry, convert herself as an integral part of the family, perform all household tasks without grumbling, should not be too close to husband and so on.

On the other hand daughter-in-law thinks the reverse. Parents and sister-in-laws should not interfere with their life, husband should not give much heed to his parents and siblings, not too many visits, etc. Mother conveniently forgets that she was once in the stead of her in-law and how she felt then. Daughter-in-law does not think that she would face the same situation in the future. Unless both parties rise above ego politics and learn to accommodate there shall have no end to the problem. We could write volumes but nothing would help with people devoid of compassion and obsessed with materialism. We could easily relate the contents of the mail for most of us had been there.

Sibling rivalry, in-law hatred and fights are as old as mankind. In-law relation is the most volatile of all relations. Consequent to man’s sin and fall the whole order of humanity suffered distortion. There is no easy solution nor we can wipe out this problem forever. Mankind made vertical climb from prehistoric to scientific to industrial to nuclear to computer to satellite to cloning age and yet animal tendency remains the same as in prehistoric age. This is true when interpersonal, especially in-law, relationship comes to play. We have no too many but one in-law-model in the Bible. Were Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachael, etc our Great-grand mothers good in-law models? Since St Peter refers them, “Holy women who trusted God,” 1Pe 3:5 I would surmise that they were good in-law models though exceptions are possible. We live in a different time and culture and hence a comparison is impossible. Naomi and Ruth were perfect in-law role models. Any sensible woman instead of searching around the tarnished contemporary culture look in the Bible and take Naomi and Ruth as standard for good in-law model.

Naomi, native of Bethlehem, migrated neighboring country, Moab with husband and two sons when there was acute famine in Bethlehem. Her sons married Moabite women. Naomi’s husband died. Her both sons died without children. Naomi and daughter-in-laws thus became destitute. It was extremely difficult for Naomi to survive. Bethlehem was by then free from famine. She decided to return to Bethlehem. She told her daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth to return to their father’s house, get married and lead happy remainder life. Orpha obeyed Naomi and went back. Ruth decided to accompany Naomi saying, “I will go where you go, I will live where you live, your people shall be my people, your God shall be my God, where you die I will die, v1: 17. Ruth, forsaking her own, willingly accepted Naomi’s God, relations and country, which involved great deal of sacrifice. Naomi saw Ruth’s devotion was deep and took her to Bethlehem. Naomi loved Ruth not as in-law but as daughter, 2:2. Ruth went out and worked hard to gather food for Naomi. Naomi’s loving concern for the future of Ruth guided Ruth to Boas. Boas in turn praised Ruth for her deep affection to Naomi. Ruth’s care for her mother-in-law paid her rich dividends. Boas married her and she became ancestress of King David and found her name in sacred scriptures. Bible accredits Ruth’s devotion to Naomi in glowing terms, “Your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons,” 4:15.

Self-sacrificial love is necessary ingredient to nurture any relationship, which Naomi and Ruth had. A superfluous analysis would adduce that Naomi was a model mother-in-law, kindly, understanding, accommodating and not envious of daughter-in-laws. Mother and son relationship is more intense than most other relations and develops deep affection, care and sense of belonging to each other. There is some sort of exclusiveness in this relation. Mother would normally dislike her son sharing love and affection with any one else. When a son marries mother’s fear of sharing love puts her in defensive mode, imagines her son would part from her, love his wife more, which assumes the shape of suspicion, jealousy and hatred. This is especially true if the mother could not enjoy closeness with her husband while she was young. She often forgets also that how she yearned to be with husband during her initial days of marriage.

There is a generation gap too. Mothers find it difficult to accept the fact that pattern of social life underwent change with the passage of time. This in turn prompts her impose unnecessary constraints on the daughter-in-law, worse if the mother is a divorcee or widow of youth or who had disturbed relation. However, a wise daughter-in-law with patience and compassion could avert serious consequences.

[To be continued in next issue....]

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Dr.Philippose Mar Chrysostom

Dr.Joseph Mar Iraneous Saffragan

Geevarghese Mar Athanasios

Geevarghese Mar Thiodasious

Issac Mar Philaxenos

Thomas Mar Thimothius

The Maramon Convention is the one of the most pre-eminent assembly of Christians made every year for the proclamation of the Word of God expounded by the panel of eminent international and local erudite Christian orators . The Maramon Convention, organized by the Mar Thoma Church Evangelistic Association, is reported as one of the largest Christian conventions held anywhere in the world. Preaching, Singing, Bible Study, Intercessionary Prayers, Conferences etc. are the predominant features of this Asia's biggest spiritual meet which imparts a wonderful experience for every participant.

The Maramon Convention is being conducted every year since 1896 on the vast sand bed on a wide stretch shore of river Pumpa, below the Kozhemcherry bridge, usually in the month of February when the river bed is dry. Maramon and Kozhenchery are 16 kilometers east of Thiruvalla, 13 Kilometers from Pathanamthita and had been recognized as places of ancient Christianity influenced culture. About a week before the convention, the vicinity of the venue becomes a scene of great activity for the preparation of the Pandal wide enough to accommodate about 80000-100000 people constructed out of bamboo poles. Huge crowds streamed across temporary bridges and sandbag walkways come to the Pandal for hearing the Word of God from all over India and abroad. It is a phenomenal scenery that around 100,000 people gathered in hot and humid weather in a hot dry sand of the Pamba River to hear of Lord and to sing for Him. All the people well attentively participate in the singing and listen to the religious reading and discourse sitting under this temporary shelter of thatched coconut palm leaves . Convention is normally scheduled for a duration of 10 days, when the sand bed become dry to accommodate the sea of humanity.

It is an occasion for listening to the Word of God, preached by Evangelists of the world renown and eminent exponents of the Bible. People from far and near eagerly look forward to this great spiritual event. The convention normally attracts a crowd around 1 Lakh people. Translators are arranged for the foreign speakers.

Intercessonary prayers are conducted for the sick, needy and suffering every day of the week. Holy Communion is given at the last day of the convention at Marthoma Church at Kozhenchery.

Prayers, worship, song service, Bible Study Classes and the sweetness of the Word of God extends spiritual experience for all the participants of this Convention. Special meetings addressing social concerns are held for the awareness of social evils and to lead the Youth in proper direction. Ecumenical conferences and meetings are one of the special attribute of this gathering. As part of the ecumenical movement, special meetings are arranged against drug and alcohol addiction and corruption.

World famous orator Dr.Stanly Johns was speaker of the Maramon convention for around 50 years. Other World famous Missionaries like Dr. Kagawa of Japan, Sadhu Sunder Singh, Stephen Neil, Archbishop of Canterbury etc. had preached in this convention. The Convention also paved the way for chosing and recruiting potential evangelists.

The centenary of the Maramon Convention was celebrated in 1995. Because of the increase in religious tensions within the country, there were concerns many times that this might lead to some sort of disturbance. How ever the Convention ran smoothly so far without any disruption. It is note worthy to recollect the action initiated by youth wing the Democratic Youth Federation of India to counter the alleged threat posed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and taking up the responsibility of protecting the convention during some earlier convention.

The Maramon Convention displays co-operation and union between different sections of Churches in Kerala. It fosters an ecumenical outlook. It is also a source of spiritual inspiration and enlightenment for thousands. Gathering on the sandbanks of the river Pumpa attracts all walks of life, regardless of caste, creed or religion. The people in and around Maramon extend solidarity and hospitality to the people coming from far off places. Of the years Maramon has become a meeting place of culture and tradition and it became a stature of Indian Christianity.

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[Late Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios is considered as one of the greatest philosopher, theologian, thinker and religious personaility of the past century after swami vivekananda. The text is based on the Profile of Late Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios and his speech in Chicago Nov, 1989 at the inaugural address of the centennial of the World Parliament of religions published by Delhi Orthodox Center.}


A peep into the life which started as a trade union leader to that of a great philosopher, intellectual, thinker and a deeply religious personality renowned all over the world.

Though filled with enthusiasm, young Paul Varghese was not in a position to continue his studies in Kerala. He kept up his early love of reading and journalistic writing on current affairs. After his initial education, he accepted employment first in a private firm, and then in the Post and Telegraph Department of Kochi, his birth place. Soon he became known as an efficient worker and an active trade union leader. It was an exciting time in the mid-1940's when political freedom could be seen coming. For his part, he wanted "to serve humanity" though at that stage, the way ahead was not clear. Coming from a traditional family of practicing Christians, he was aware that the Church was a natural source of inspiration for his idealistic ambition. He also felt that for drawing upon the spiritual and moral resources offered by the Church, it was not always necessary to become a priest. Much later, in 1961, he accepted priesthood. Looking back, he said of his life: "One thing lead to another"; yes, logically and to a divine design, as we now see.

Quite by an accident of circumstances, he was offered the post of a school teacher in Ethiopia, waiving the condition that the candidate should be a college graduate. He was 25, and he accepted the post. This was a turning point in his life. News of his capability and enthusiasm reached the Emperor, who was impressed by his work as well as by the speed at which he could master the local language, Amharic. But the teacher opted to be a life-long student. After three mutually useful years in Ethiopia, he went to the United States for further studies.

After receiving his BA from Goshan College in Indiana, he continued his studies at Oklahoma University, at Union Theological Seminary in New York, at Princeton (Master of Divinity), and at Yale (Master of Sacred Theology). He did his doctoral studies in Oxford and Muenster in Germany, and received his Doctorate in Theology from Serampore University.

His doctoral dissertation centered on the profound writings of the 4th centuary philosopher-bishop, Mar Gregorios of Nyssa (in the West Asian Province of Cappodocia, a part of present day Turkey). Following the official approval of Christianity by Emperor Constantine in 313, the early era of Christian martyrs came to an end, and the Church was in a position to give expression to its faith about its life here and now in this world, without being content of thinking about the other world alone. The Church was free and had to take a responsible role in politics, in education, and in culture. That was the context of the creative concern of Gregory of Nyssa - a "Teacher of the faith", accepted by both Eastern and Western Christendom - with the present and future of the human race in relation to God and the historical world. His thought and teachings provided a foundational framework for the thought and work of his 20th centuary student, Paulose Mar Gregorios.

Returning to India, Paul Varghese worked as an honorary lecturer at Union Christian College in Alwaye, as an Associate General Secretary of the Student Christian Movement (1954-56), and as the General Secretary of the Orthodox Student Movement (1955-57)

Haile Sellassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, visited India in 1956, and he persuaded Paul Varghese to return to Ethiopia, as his Aide and Advisor. While in Ethiopia (1956-59), he involved himself in education in Ethiopia, promoted Indo-Ethiopian diplomatic relations, and lectured at the Addis Ababa University.

Around this time, Paul Varghese decided that the time had come for him to return to his Church back in India, particularly in view of the peace being restored to the Church, following the 1958 settlement, between the Catholicose of the East and the Patriarch of Antioch. He was ordained as a priest by Catholicose H.H. Basalios Geevarghese II in 1961.

[To be continued in the next issue....]

[Document: Gregory of India : - A Profile of the life of H.G. Late Metropolitan Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios, Delhi Orthodox Centre, December 1996.]

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Today Ahaz began the discussion by narrating his interesting encounter with some of his friends.

Ahaz:Rabbi, Yesterday I had a hot argument with some young people who believe that there is no God. I tried my best to argue that God exists. They challenged me to point out at least one proof in support of my argument, but I couldn't. Could you help me, rabbi, by giving some proofs?

Rabbi:I am sorry to disappoint you; neither do I have any proof. Unlike the world, God exists beyond the limits of time and space. We cannot think or speak anything rightly about what exists beyond those limits. Therefore, no positive statement made about God can be true. We know nothing about God, and we cannot prove that God exists. It is even more difficult to prove that God doesn't exist. Without making blind, hot arguments in favor of or against the existence of God, anyone with a reasonable intellectual power will admit that we cannot know anything about God.

In spite of our ignorance, most of the people in the world believe that God exists (theism), and some believe that God doesn't exist (atheism). Both are beliefs unsupported by any verifiable proof. We may choose either of these beliefs depending on its need or use to us. Our ancestors chose theism because they found it very useful for the well being of the world. They didn't try to prove that God exists, but just believed it..

Ahaz:Could you explain how theism helps to promote the well being of the world?

Rabbi:We discussed the uses of theism in our meetings, but I shall repeat them. To have a healthy existence, we need to know why we exist. If God exists, we have its answer. The world exists because God, its creator, wants it to exist. It is the existence of God that gives purpose and meaning to our existence. I can't think of any other way to explain the purpose of our existence if God doesn't exist.

To have a healthy existence, we need to overcome the fear of death. God exists beyond the limits of time, and so, God is immortal. As our life and God's life are one and the same, we are also immortal though we appear to die. This belief helps us to overcome the fear of death. I can't think of any other way for it.

These are the two major uses of believing that God exists. There are some minor uses too. The belief that God has created all people, and loves all people alike can serve as a basis for the equality of all human beings. It helps us to see all others as our brothers and sisters without any feeling of inferiority or superiority. The belief that God is the creator of the world, and that we represent God in the world gives us a sense of responsibility. We are responsible to keep the world healthy.

Ahaz:Thus there is no doubt that a healthy existence is impossible without believing that God exists.

Rabbi:The rabbi said: I agree with you. But just the belief that God exists is not enough. It must be supported by beliefs such as the following:

  1. The world depends on God for its existence.
  2. God knows why the world exists.
  3. Our life is one with God's life.
  4. God loves all people alike.
  5. Human beings are responsible to God.

If theism is supported by such beliefs, it is highly beneficial to the healthy existence of the human race. However, if it is supported by beliefs such as the following, it will turn out harmful.

  1. Our life is different from God's life.
  2. God loves only good people or only those who love God.

The belief that God's life is different from our life cannot help us to overcome the fear of death, but it only aggravates the fear. Similarly, if we believe that God loves some people and hates others, or that God loves some more than the others, the result will be disastrous. Instead of uniting, it divides the human race. Instead of affirming the equality of all human beings, it supports slavery and discrimination. Often people fight with others and enslave others in the name of God. Our world is made a hell by the belief in such a God.

Hence, we have to distinguish between two kinds of theism-- beneficial and harmful. To have a healthy existence, it is essential to have the beneficial theism, and it is even more essential to get rid of harmful theism. Though most of the people believe in the existence of God, unfortunately, much of it is harmful theism. The harmful theism is like a deadly contagious disease. It poisons the human minds, and divides and destroys the human race. People often revolt against the harmful theism, and it may go to the other extreme of atheism. In such cases, atheism acts like a powerful medicine against harmful theism, for if God doesn't exist, how can people fight among one another, and enslave others in the name of God? However, the use of atheism as a medicine involves great risk. Given in small dosage it heals, but overdose kills. Therefore, it is safer to fight against harmful theism without using atheism.

It is possible for people who believe in beneficial theism to join hands with those who believe in atheism in their fight against harmful theism. So when you meet your friends tomorrow, invite them to co-operate with us. I am sure that they must be denying the existence of a God who divides and destroys the humankind.

Ahaz was very happy. He said: Thank you very much, rabbi. You have given me the most satisfactory answer.

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The Lord is my protector,
The One who shelters me,
He protects me under his Shadows.
A Mighty King whom I can trust always.
My Lord is my shelter and strong hold.
The One who protects me from hunters.
He shelters me under his mighty wings.
His faithfulness is like a protective wall.
Whom Should I fear?
Should I be afraid of terrors by night?
Should I be scared of arrows during the day?
Should I be afraid of plagues in darknes?
Should I be scared of diseases that cometh in the noon?
What Can affect Me, When My Protector is by Me.
When the Lord is your refuge and shelter.
No harm or illness Can come near my home.
I would even be able to trample a young lion or serpent.
The Lord sends his angels to gaurd me thru.
Dear friend, be loyal to God always,
The Lord will deliver and protect you.
Yes, he can protect you from all troubles.
The Lord will rescue, Bringing honor for You.
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