CHRISTIAN NEWS MAGAZINE FOR KERALA MALAYALEE CHRISTIANS FROM INDIA AROUND THE WORLD
March 2005 ARCHIVE
VOL:4ISSUE 03
DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE


JUSTICE, MERCY AND HUMILITY : REQUISITES OF MAN

By DR. PHILIPOSE MAR CRYSOSTUM MARTHOMA METROPOLITAN
[Marthoma Syrian Church]

Whatever we deem good in this world are not always perfectly good. God is the only one who is truly good and all goodness is from God. The Good God require of us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him. All the humanity should turn towards God and should become ready to accept everybody whom God had accepted. A justifiable endeavor consolidates the needs of the people empathetically, finds remedies for their wants and act for the benefits of the society.



MOST. REV. PHILIPOSE
MAR
CRYSOSTUM
MARTHOMA METROPOLITAN

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. [Micah 6:8]

What is good? Whatever we deem good in this world are not always perfectly good. Everything in this world has been blemished with the possibility of evil. At least there is a small source of evil in everything existent in this universe. God is the only one who is truly good and all goodness is from God. Whatever we mean absolute goodness, it is only in God. When a man came to Jesus and asked, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? Jesus said to him, "Why you call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God." In the referred Scripture portion, the Good God require of us, three things.

  1. The Good God require of us to act justly:
    God is just and righteous. He loves and seeks for righteousness and justice. What is justice? The whole concept of justice demands to act according to the needs of the individuals in the society. Justice is not something we take for granted to treat or provide to all in the same manner. Justice involves the function of our understanding and assumptions of the needs of each one. Justice looks for a working pattern for the growth of everyone. The food and care needed for an infant baby and a five-year old grown-up boy greatly differ, though they are the children of same parents. The needs of an old or diseased exceedingly differ from that of a whole and healthy. Justice is understood to mean what is needed, right, fair, appropriate or deserved. It insures to help each one for their whole growth and achievement of their full personality. That is the contemplation of justice and that is the need of the society.

    Due to the Tsunami, many people became homeless. Many are struggling for want of food. Satisfy the needs of these needy people. Give house to the houseless. Give food to the hungry. Then only the justice of God can be established in this world. A justifiable endeavor consolidates the needs of the people empathetically, finds remedies for their wants and act for the benefits of the society. The more the need of a place or a person, the more deliver them help and solace.

  2. The Good God require of us to love mercy:
    Mercy is the comprehension of the needs of our neighbours, before they themself implore. Satisfy their wants and equip them to attain their aspirations. Our love to our neighbours is revealed in the mercy that we show to them. Accept, care and upkeep the marginalized ones of our society. The people who were affected by the Tsunami were the ones who lived with their own efforts just like any of us. They were catering our needs also. Now they became helpless and they deserve help. They lost everything. They really need help from us. By helping and uplifting those who are marginalized and relegated in the society, we are bestowing mercy emerged out of the love of God in us.

  3. The Good God require of us to walk humbly with Him:
    The relationship with God is the substance of our life. Those who alienate with God, alienate with everything. Everything is bonded together in the power of God. As St. Paul tells in his epistle, all things are from Him and through Him and to Him and all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth will be gathered together in Him. Man is not a stranger to God. Life becomes meaningful only if we walk very close to God with humility. When we walk away from God, peace and serenity fade away from our life.

If we analyze the problems of the contemporary society we notice that everything is caused by divisions. The Churches divide, institutions divide, commercial organizations divide and even family divides. All new organizations are formulated out of dissidence and rebellion. Fellowship, being the union with God, how it can dissent and divide to give way for new fellowships? Marriage is a physical and spiritual union between a man and a woman. But now divorce is a growing problem of our society. In my view, there is only one panacea for the problems of the society. The absolute cure of all complications is that man should turn towards God who bonds everything together. 'I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity': this is what Jesus intended and prayed to His father.

All the humanity should turn towards God. We should become ready to accept everybody whom God had accepted. We should show mercy to all, as God is merciful. We should inherit the Godly attributes of goodness, justice, love, mercy and humility. All our resources and the gifts received as the providence from God should be deployed for the Glory of God, uplifting of the poor and for the creation of our nation.

[Extract from Inaugural Address delivered at Maramon Convention - 2005 : Original in Malayalam]
Transalated for LOL By: Dr. Rajan Mathew, Philadelphia, USA.
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COVER MESSAGE

BACK TO THE BASICS OF THE BIBLE
By Dr. K.C.NAINAN, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, U.S.A

Heaven and earth may change, but the Lord’s words and teachings will not be changed. Lord wants us to rejoice in Him and to inherit His peace, which surpasses all human understanding. We the believers are pilgrims in this world whose real home is in the mansions built for us by our Savior as He promised. Jesus will be with us to the end of time and in eternity!

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Word (Logos) of God and His teachings give us the true life. When His words abide within us, we abide in Him, then we can ask for anything and we will be granted (John 15:7). Heaven and earth may change, but the Lord’s words and teachings will not be changed. Bible is one of the greatest gifts given to the world by God and we are constantly persuaded and reminded by the Holy Spirit to read, to study, to meditate and dwell on the word, and practice it in our daily life.

The word of God as revealed in the bible is the bread and drink that came from above. It is the pure blood of a Christian’s life. Anything that blocks or interferes with the smooth and steady flow of this life-giving blood of word of God will cause problems in our spiritual lives. Let us ask, seek, and search some of the essential basics of the bible in this article.

The bible declares and teaches us that God is the creator of heaven and earth, known and unknown, and everything was created for His Son and through Him; not one thing in all creation was made without Him (John 1:2). There is only one true God who was revealed to us as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or in other words three in one, and one in three!

Every man (and woman) except the Son of Man is a sinner who has lost God’s glory due to sins, and needs to be born again, born of water and the Spirit, to enter and inherit the kingdom of God (Romans 3:9-28, John 3:5-8). God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life (John 3:16). No one goes to the Father except by the Son of God who is the Way, the Truth, the Eternal life and the Resurrection (John 14:6, 11:25)

Salvation is to be found through Jesus alone; in the entire world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us (Acts 4:12). Believe in the Lord Jesus and we will be saved (Acts 16:31). Every sinner must turn away from his /her sins and be baptized in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that sins will be forgiven and will receive God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)

A person is put right with God only through faith, and not by doing what the Law commands (Romans 3:28). Every Christian is called to do only good works, which are the fruits of salvation and a sweet smelling sacrifice to God (John 15:16, Hebrews 13:16). Christ’s suffering and death on Calvary is the eternal sacrifice for the remission of mankind’s sins, and an offering to take away sins is no longer needed (Hebrews 10:12-18). His sacrifice cannot be repeated, duplicated nor is imitated but must be remembered and is thanked by all believers just like the Passover of the Jewish people.

Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5) who always pleads with the Father on our behalf. When we repent and confess our sins to God, He will forgive and purify us from all our mistakes and wrongdoings (1 John 1:9, 2:1-2).

Jesus Christ rose from the dead, appeared to His disciples and followers several times, and ascended to heaven, and will come back in great glory and power for judging people, dead and living.

All true believers are God’s children and are citizens of kingdom of God. Our names are written in the book of life. When we die, we will be in paradise with our Lord. On earth all believers are Lord’s saints and priests. We are the sheep of the good Shepherd who gave his life for our salvation. He is also the true Door of the sheep to heaven. Christians are the branches of the divine Vine and called to produce fruits that will glorify God at all times. As followers and friends of Jesus, every Christian is bound to obey His commandments.

Believers are freely given the gift of Holy Spirit who dwells or wants to live in every Christian. He will convict us of our sins and sanctify us always. He will comfort and counsel us, guide and lead us in a Spirit-filled life on earth. The Spirit of the Lord will help us to differentiate God’s Laws from man-made rules and regulations, dogmas and doctrines, rituals and traditions, pagan philosophy and worship which are craftily devised and applied in our lives. We are free in Christ but this freedom is not a license to do what the flesh, the world and Satan want us to follow.

As citizens of Kingdom of God, we are called to carry out all the Lord’s teachings, which include love for one another, as he loves us, service and sacrifice for others around. The Lord wants us to pray always in His Name and according to the will of God with the help of the Spirit so that our petitions and prayers will be answered. All believers are urged to be the living witnesses of the saving power of Jesus Christ, and to be intercessors and partners to proclaim the gospel to all nations before He comes.

The Lord wants us to rejoice in Him and to inherit His peace, which surpasses all human understanding. We the believers are pilgrims in this world whose real home is in the mansions built for us by our Savior as He promised. Jesus will be with us to the end of time and in eternity! Amen

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ARTICLE


WHO ARE THE BLESSED ? - PART 12
THINGS IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER

By MATHEWS MAR BARNABAS METROPOLITION

Blessed are those who make the best use of time; for they can have maximum success, can grow to perfection and contribute the highest good to the society. Blessed are those who try to do everything in love; for they can enjoy heavenly bliss and help others to enjoy the same. The really blessed are those who are being perfected as the heavenly Father is perfect.

[CONTINUED FROM LAST ISSUE]

51. Blessed are those who make the best use of time; for they can have maximum success, can grow to perfection and contribute the highest good to the society.

In this material world, time gives value to everything. If there is no time to utilize anything, it becomes useless. When we make the best use of time, everything becomes most useful. God wants to give us abundant life. For this He needs our cooperation. Hence we have to make the best used of time.

Our Lord is best example for making use of time. He said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work." (St. John 4:34) "We must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day. Night comes when no one can work." (St. John 9:4)

It is said of our Lord as follows: 1. "He went about doing good". (Acts. 10:38). 2. "He did everything well." (St. Mark 7:38)

The parable of the ten virgins teaches us the value of time. The five virgins who made the proper use of time by storing oil were ale to light the lamps, greet the bridegroom and enter the bridal chamber. (St. Matthew 25:1-13) Hence the usage "Catch the time by forelock". The time that is lost is lost for ever.

Also, if opportune moments are not used in time, situations may go beyond our control. For example, there is no use of administering medicine after the patient has passed away.

Prayer:O Lord, help us to make the best of time and to see that opportune moments are not lost.

52. Blessed are those who try to do everything in love; for they can enjoy heavenly bliss and help others to enjoy the same.

The best example for doing everything in love is Jesus Christ. "He went about doing good." (Acts. 10:38) He was love incarnate. St. Paul says, "Let all you do, be done in love." (1 Cor. 16:14) St. Peter asks, "Now, who is there to harm you, if you are zealous for what is right?" (1 Peter 3:13) Those who do even small things in love will e appreciated by all. The way to have uninterrupted joy is to seek the joy of others ignoring one's own joy. Our Lord says, that the fullness of joy can e had only through the fullness of love. "These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment that you love one another as I loved you." (St. John 15:11-12)

There is an illustration showing the difference between heaven and earth. All things in heaven and hell are the same. The only difference is that there is love in heaven and lack of love in hell. Both places offer plenty of food to eat. But there is a catch for the inhabitants to enjoy the food. The spoons are attached to the people in both places in such a way that their elbows could not be bent. Therefore no one can feed himself or herself in either place. Those in heaven, on account of love, fed each other, while those in hell did not do so, for there was no love. This is true in everyday life.

When God's love abides in us, we also will be able to do everything in love, helping, forgiving, respecting, and submitting to one another. "Our goal is to be perfect in love." (St. John 15:12)

Prayer:O Lord, Help us to do everything in love, following your example and making this world a heaven on earth.

The really blessed are those who are being perfected as the heavenly Father is perfect. St. Matthew (5:8)

[ARTICLE CONCLUDED]

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ARTICLE


GREAT LENT [SAUMO]

By Fr. K.K. JOHN PHILADELPHIA

Lent is a period to prepare, repent, commune with God and exercise physical and spiritual discipline. During lent period when the body renounces food mind should renounce evil thoughts. Satan is in perilous war with God through the medium of humanity. Consequently, humanity has warfare between good and evil, hope and despair, morality and immorality, etc. The higher goal is to bring under control lust of the flesh and elevate soul to realm of God’s presence, growing in the spirit and sharing bounties with the less fortunate.

We are once again in the threshold of the Great Lent. Syriac word, ‘Saumo’ means both ‘lent and fasting.’ Lent denotes diet restrictions and recital of prayers but fasting denotes complete abnegation of food, sex, evil thoughts, fulfilling acts of mercy and prayers. Adam’s failure to heed to eating restriction led all generations to fast. Thus lent began in the Garden of Eden. Lent is a pilgrimage together with Christ to the foot of the cross. It has seven steps each week being a step forward. It begins with acknowledging Jesus as:

  1. God of nature (water turned into wine at Cana)

  2. God of sin and sickness, divine healer (leper healed)

  3. God of forgiveness of sin (paralytic healed)

  4. God of also the gentiles (daughter of Cananite woman healed)

  5. God over Satan (crippled woman liberated)

  6. Light of the world (blind healed)

  7. Lord and King (Hosanna, triumphant entry into Jerusalem temple) and the pinnacle, passion and the cross.

Lent is a legacy from Jews. Lent is a period to prepare, repent, commune with God and exercise physical and spiritual discipline. Israel fasted seven days after burial of Saul, 1 Sam 31:13. David fasted when his son fell ill, 2 Sam 12:16. Fasting is self humiliating,” Ps 35:13. Righteous men spent nights fasting and praying, Dan 6:18. Fasting on Monday and Thursday was compulsory for Jews, Lk 18: 12. Moses, Elijah and Jesus fasted forty days. Fasting for specific purposes was also common. Esther ordered three day fast to destroy Haman’s conspiracy, 4:16. John the Baptist followed lental diet throughout life. He totally renounced animal meat and wine, Lk 1:15. He grew hair, beard, and wore leather belt and clothes made of camel’s hair. Modern translations are misleading, “He ate locusts and wild honey,” Mk 1: 6. The original Aramaic version reads, ‘Kamsa’ instead of locust. Kamsa is an edible root like arrowroot and was plenty available. So Baptist John, member of Qumran society, was surely pure vegetarian.

Keeping up this noble tradition the holy Church exhorts every faithful, except children and pregnant women, to abstain from milk, and fatty foods like fish, meat, egg, etc. “Share your food with hungry and your clothes with the naked. Increase your almsgiving according to increase in income. Almsgiving will save you from death and prevent going down to darkness,” Tob 4:10,16.

Prayer and fasting are the only weapons to drive out Satan, said Jesus, Mat 17:21. Pharisees confronted Jesus saying, “Your disciples are not fasting.” He said, “they (disciples) will fast when the bridegroom is taken away from them,” Mk 2:20. Thus refusal to fast is disobedience to Christ and causes to miss spiritual gifts. Apostles began fasting considering the arrest, indictment, scorns, crucifixion and burial of our Lord as days when bridegroom was taken away. Apostles carefully adhered to what they learned from Jesus and instructed their disciples to diligently continue it. Apostles advised fasting on Wednesday and Friday, Didache 7: 4. Two days fasting before Easter was common in the early Church, says Justin Martyr, Irenius, Hypolitus, Thertulian, etc. Dionesius of Alexandria advised fast for six days prior to Easter. Athanasius Great called it “Holy fast.” ‘Take bread, salt and water only during these days. Do not eat or drink on Friday and Saturday,’ says Didescalia. Monday, Judas agreed to betray Jesus. Tuesday, Lord instituted Last Supper and Jews arrested Him. Wednesday, they imprisoned Him at the residence of Caiaphas. Thursday, Lord stood before Pilate to receive judgment. Friday, they crucified our Lord. Saturday, Lord was in the tomb and preached Gospel in hell. Sunday He rose from dead and strengthened disciples. Sunday is also called, ‘Eighth day or Day of eternity.’

The Nicene Synod stipulated Lents as:

  1. 3 day lent to recall repentance of Nineveh people

  2. 12 day lent to remember 12 apostles

  3. 15 day lent to honor ‘assumption of St Mary

  4. 25 day lent before Christmas

  5. 50 day lent before Kyamtho.

Church prohibits fasting on Saturdays and Sundays of the great lent. Saturday is preparatory to good news of resurrection and Sunday brings Hope and salvation. Lent aims at spiritual development and readiness through humility, moral discipline, repentance, mercy acts and controls over self and flesh. Lent not only brings awareness of sin but also complete abnegation of sin. In Orthodox tradition sickness is a state of sin. As patient earnestly goes to physician, faithful approaches Jesus, the divine physician. Holy Church begins the Great lent with Subukono service. This service is a call to repentance, mutual love, forgiveness and reconciling one another because if not, no benefit ever received and the whole concept of lent becomes idle talk.

Why should we have to fast, shun certain foods or abstinence? Man gives priority to matters of stomach and of flesh and chooses evil ways to accomplish them. Satan played this trick on Eve and he won. “Adam ate the forbidden fruit and that food pushed Adam into shame and he was sent out of paradise. Our Savior defeated temptation for food by His holy fast,” Lilio prayer. “Body and spirit together should fast. When the body renounces food mind should renounce evil thoughts. Renouncing food alone is hypocrisy,” evening prayer. Satan is in perilous war with God through the medium of humanity. Consequently, humanity has warfare between good and evil, hope and despair, morality and immorality, etc. We have no other weapon but lent to defeat Satan. Fitness programs and credit cards were the two businesses that flourished during economic recession in ninety’s. This shows that most people are foolish in money management and conscious about health and physical fitness and yet, mostly they are unmindful of need of spiritual health. Many are habitually dieting to maintain good figure/health. They forgo certain food items, cut down on others and undergo vigorous workout programs. These are not fasting. Poor people starve for want of sufficient food. Avoiding food because of poverty is not fasting.

My parents fasted until noon during lent. But this practice is not viable in these days. Working people, especially labor oriented, expend high energy, which needs replenishment. Shift rotation workers would find extremely difficult for fasting on regular basis. And yet conscious effort to fast cannot be overstated. The church envisages; one should willfully and deliberately impose starvation of self when he/she has food in plenty. They ought to discern higher goal of fasting. Visiting sick, praying, meditating and almsgiving are part of fasting. The higher goal is to bring under control lust of the flesh and elevate soul to realm of God’s presence, growing in the spirit and sharing bounties with the less fortunate. Prophet Isaiah corrects the misguided notion of people and explains the right attitude of fasting. “Loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens and to let the oppressed go free and that you break every yoke. Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked you cover him; you hide not yourself from your own flesh,” 58: 6-7. “Call the poor and feed him if you fast. Not that he comes to you but that you go to him with food. For, the land does not go to the farmer but the farmer goes to the land with seeds. One has to feed poor from hunger, if not, such fasting is useless.” Regular eating stores more fat in the body. Fasting is good for health, for it burns excess fat. Kumbideel, Kneeling down, is good aerobics to reduce potbelly, to improve muscular, circulatory, nerve and joint systems and to enhance mental health.

Some thoughts from venerable Church fathers: “O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again; but our imitation was in a figure, and our salvation in reality. Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and truly rose again. And all these things He has freely bestowed upon us, that we, sharing His sufferings by imitation, might gain salvation in reality. O surpassing loving-kindness! Christ received nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and suffered anguish; while on me without pain or toil by the fellowship of His suffering He freely bestows salvation!” St. Cyril of Jerusalem. “And in addition to the words of the physicians, it is right for us, like wise men, to understand from experience, that the cause of all wickedness, and of the pains and sicknesses of the body, arises from superfluity of food. And if thou wishes, consider carefully the rich, and the poor, and those who lead a quiet life, and those who are vexed, and those who are weighted with care, and those who labor, and see which of these preserves his body in a healthy condition, and which of them has many and frequent sicknesses; and in proportion to their frequency is the difficulty of healing them. Is it not the rich? Is it not those who have rent their bellies by overeating?” St Philoxenos of Mabbug. I exhort all believers to observe Lent for it is profitable to soul. Fasting with purity of thought helps renew our walk with Lord!

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ARTICLE


RELIGIOUS FASTING - A HEALTH HAZARD?

By E.S. JOHN AUSTRALIA

Fasting that associated with repenting and weeping has been one of the oldest observances of God’s race. This earthly life that meant for Jesus and His followers is to wage a battle against the infernal enemy, Satan, and the victory over him prepares a place for us in the celestial place. Job’s weapon of silent suffering only can make the demon to flee away from us. Fasting is a declared war against the angels of darkness and his dominion.

The therapies like yoga, naturopathy, and similar other ones and allopathy have come in hand in hand till lately with the view that fasting is good for the health of the body in multiple ways. However, some of the modern researchers, whether fake or real ones for business purposes are of pertinent opinion that avoiding breakfast is harmful for the overall health of the body. The dieticians, nutritionists are following this prescription as a gospel truth. This nuke idea of giving universal publicity through the cheap reading magazines and periodicals have gathered momentum even in the traditional gospel believers as a deterrent for religious fasting during the festive seasons. They say that dieting is good but not by skipping breakfast. Is it a hidden agenda of the humanists to dynamite the faith and religion of the gospel believers?

Fasting that associated with repenting and weeping has been one of the oldest observances of God’s race. At a time when particular individual or communities were threatened, they escaped the dangers by rigorous fasting for days continuously. Esther and her community fasted by putting on sack clothes and ashes and prayed for deliverance from the ruthless hand of Haman; it retributed him miraculously and restored the peace for her people. The Ninevites also fasted in the same tune and hurled out of God’s fury. Jehoshaphat (2.Chr.20: 3; Ezra. 8: 21) and Ezra proclaimed fasts for God’s mercy, and tasted the sweet fruits of fasting. Daniel taught the lion how to fast while the prey was fasting and praying to get out of the predator. Fasting and weeping that went together had positive results from the days of antiquity.

Fasting has in all ages, and among all nations, been much in use in times of mourning, sorrow, and afflictions. It is in some sort inspired by nature, which, in these circumstances, denies itself, nourishments, and takes off the edge of hunger. There is no example of fasting, properly so called, to be seen before Moses; yet it is presumable that the Patriarchs fasted, since we see that there were very great mournings among them, such as that of Abraham for Sarah, Gen.23: 2; and that of Jacob for his son Joseph, Gen.37: 34.

Moses enjoins no particular fast, excepting that upon the day of atonement, which was generally and strictly observed, Lev.23: 27-29. Since the time of Moses, examples of fasting have been very common among the Jew, Joshua and the elders of Israel remained prostrate before the ark from morning until evening, without eating, after the Israelites were defeated by the men of Ai, Josh.7: 6. The 11 tribes which had taken arms against that of Benjamin, against the inhabitants of Gibeah, faces, and so continued till the evening without eating, Judg.20: 26. The Israelites perceiving themselves to be pressed by the Philistines, assembled before the Lord at Mispeh, and fasted in his presence till the evening- 1.Sam.7: 6; 2.Sam.12: 16.

Moses fasted for 40 days on mount Horeb-Exo.34: 28. Elijah passed as many days without eating anything, 1 Kin.19: 8. And our Saviour however inferred from such statements as those in Lk.5: 33-35 that He expected His followers would do so. The one condition that He made was that it be sincere-Mt.6: 10”. The Jews fast twice in a week-Lk.18: 12, so also some Christian denominations.

JESUS' FASTING:
Fasting for various seasons has been one of the common basic ingredients of all world religions and denominational churches. Despite there are different festive seasons for fasting, the great lent for 50 days is to commemorate the passions of Christ during His wilderness life of fasting for 40 days, coupled with 10 days of His passions that He underwent before His crucifixion. This earthly life that meant for Jesus and His followers is to wage a battle against the infernal enemy, Satan, and the victory over him prepares a place for us in the celestial place. Even if we don’t willingly wage a war against him, he is always after us to be subdued. Hence a declared war against the angels of darkness is better than an undeclared one because we know that fasting, a declared war is a challenge against his dominion. Jesus went to the wilderness for a declared war. He was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil Mt.4: 1; Lk.4: 1. He handed over Himself to the hell’s agents for an unusual 40 days’ war. Instead of being usually tempted for 40 days in 20 aerial houses of Oyar by the aerial forces after our death, Jesus went for it and won the Devil here on earth itself.

No demon can touch us unless we submit our ‘ free will’ to the diabolic forces. Then the devils left him, and angels came and ministered to him Mt.4: 11.... the devil departed him until an opportune time. Any person can be tempted more than one season in life as in the case of Jesus. Job’s weapon of silent suffering only can make the demon to flee away from us. After His fasting, ‘Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee’. Lk.4: 13-14. Fasting is a renewal of the Spirit who illumines us with higher glory and glow as in the case of Moses, Elijah and Daniel. Sadhu Sunder Singh started his 40 days’ fast, but not sure whether he finished it. Those who fasted for 40 days here flew into Heaven without being hassled by the aerial tollhouses.

Jesus had to face 3 temptations from the Devil, firstly of converting stones as bread, secondly jumping down from the pinnacle of Jerusalem temple, and lastly worshipping Satan so as to become the monarch of the world. In all the 3 temptations, Jesus hid Himself without exposing the identity only by quoting the Old Testament verses. Had Satan come to know that He was the Son of God, he wouldn’t have tempted Him any more, as the fiendish powers didn’t want Him to buy salvation for mankind. We also should be precocious enough to understand the viles of our unseen enemy. Be wise as serpents and innocents as doves Mt.10: 16-17. In all the 3 temptations, pride and personal security were the common factors that the devil wanted to offer to Jesus. As food is the first priority for our sustenance, the devil gave the first temptation by asking of Him to change stones into bread (Mt.4: 9), just as Eve was enticed with the fruit that was a delight to the eyes for eating- Gen.3: 1-10. In the similar way of hooking Eve by the bait,’ you will be like God’; Jesus also was tempted to jump down from the pinnacle of the temple. The reply, ‘you shall not tempt your God’ was again to the point. The third one of knowing everything of good and evil and become wise to possess the whole world and its possessions was given to Jesus. Our first temptation for our daily bread is an economic one. Greed is the spices and condiments that he adds on with our daily bread 1.Tim.6: 7-10; Lk.12: 15. As we began to plunder the wealth of fossil resources lately, the millionaires and destitute both increase in geometrical progressions as the rich become richer by vandalizing the poor ones. While the genetic elites of ‘might is right’ used to run the society of yesterday, the avaricious ones exploit the vulnerable elites of today.

Together with the economic miracle comes the instincts of power that affiliates us with a craving desire of making the church as a playground, thinking that the economic affluence and pomp that one gets is only by God’s blessings. The devil took Him to the pinnacle of the Jerusalem temple. The business of the evangelical empires and clerical hierarchy of today is to impart the knowledge of acquiring money and social halo, the product of profligate spirituality and the crossbreed theology of holy politics and money. Today’s cosmetic Christians think that they can do any mesmerism by tempting and hooking the true believers with money. Members of every church jump to the pinnacle of another church for any material benefits, on the pretext that everyone and every denomination and cult worship the same Jesus. Jesus cannot jump from the pinnacle because He didn’t grab the crowd by serving with bread and fish as He did in the desert on an emergency case. He fed the starving mob that followed Him to hear about the Kingdom of God, not that He showed magic to entice the crowd to follow His gimmick faith, just like today’s miracle performing saviours of this apocalyptic times. Pay attention about the idolaters of the flesh. “ The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance” 1.Cor.10: 7.

The financial self-sufficiency that led the magician of the church politics of money and power games impel us to conquer the whole world to our grip is the 3rd temptation. The saviour’s reply to Satan at the time when the Devil asked to worship for the possession of the whole world is a cardinal truth. You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve (Mt.4: 10), not Mammon. Despite Jesus is the head of every household, the supreme high priest of the church and King of kings of the universe, He led a life of a recluse by avoiding family life where bread is baked, and getting involved in the money grabbing politics of the church and the kingly secular world. When Jesus fed the multitude with a handful of bread and fish, they wanted to make Him king, that He denied and retreated to the mountains Jn.6: 12. Jesus denied everything that the devil offered in making a glamorous life for body and mind. Instead of today’s church asking us to leap over these 3 strata of temptations the apocalyptic churches are hurling us into the whirlwind of these 3 ephemeral tempests.

Attaining of self-sufficiency by hook or by crook propels the so-called believers to commercialize the church and religions. Unless we submit all these 3 egos at the foot of the Calvary- the crooked means of becoming rich for playing individual politics, commercializing and politicizing spirituality in our favour in the parish and global secular stages- abstaining certain food from our menu doesn’t help to sublimate our sins, the prime aim of this great lent and other religious fasting. Globalisization of Christianity under the umbrella of each fermented sect has been the main motive of the cat and dog fight of each denomination that degenerated to the ghost of the apocalyptic spirituality. Despite the apostolic worship takes place in some churches, the spirit of real worship is dead as there is no unity of mind among the worshippers because the 3 temptations that the diabolic powers offered to Jesus run the religions of every age, particularly the hypocritical piety that invites ‘one who opposes and exalts himself every so-called god or object of worship’ into our churches of this age.

FASTING METHODOLOGIES:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed to go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house;.....Is.58. Daniel got the power of looking into the womb of time was only after his long fasting and weeping - Dan.9.The tragedy that folded in the Garden of Eden goes like this. Creation> commandment of eating from the tree of life, and not from the tree of good and bad> eating the forbidden fruit by the deception of Satan > opening the eyes of nudity > the birth of 7 deadly vices that forced the eviction that barred them to pluck the fruit from the tree of life which helped them not to gain eternity in sin > redeemed by the Son’s sacrifice. A lax reverse order takes place to regain the Paradise once lost. Our sacrifice for Christ and His creations > eat the Body of Christ by the baptismal rite and grow to a new creation of God so as to dwell in the Paradise regained. But we can’t attain to that expected saintliness because of the fire of sex, the byproduct of eating the fruit - Gen.2: 25; 3: 7- and dominant force that impels us to cultivate vices, not virtues.

In order to erase the stain of the food that generated sexual impulses once, one has to abstain from the food and the resultant sexual feats while fasting and praying. Jesus, Moses and Elijah fasted for 40 days without any food, and gained the full halo of glory and luminosity (Mt.17: 1-8; 2.cor.3: 7). They got the privilege of discussing together the passions of Christ on mount Tabor. As we are only spiritual pigmies that are always busy with social intercourse, we don’t have the time and stamina to abstain from food and spend our time in full fasting. Hence we are supposed to participate in the passions of the Lord by avoiding sumptuous food, liquor and anything that poisons our body. Avoiding food that gives energy and vitality for the body is a deterrent in triggering sex fire during the fasting seasons.

God works within the framework of the Law that He devised before the creation of man (Ps.148: 5-6). Consuming toxin from our system while fasting is the root cause of liberating our soul from the tentacles of body passions and commune with the celestial powers, the real outcome of fasting and prayer. Man doesn’t live by bread alone -Jn.4: 32. The fasting period is meant to consume our body toxin that cripples the soul in traveling in higher frequencies for communing with the Spirit of God. God doesn’t want our sacrifice, supplications or prayers; all these commandments given by the Lord are to help us to fly upward from this mundane life at least once in a while during the Lenten period. Hating, intriguing and similar destructive passions that generate different secretions in our body pollute our body to retain stain, which works against in communicating with God. All the commandments are given to help us in developing a sound chemistry of our body in a sound mind that propels us to worship God in truth and beauty. The Fasting that cleanses our body and spirit simultaneously is a discipline based on the scientific formula. Daniel and his companions didn’t do a full fast due to the adverse circumstances, yet they shone like celestials that became their companions when they were thrown into the blazing fire (Dan.3: 24-30).

Many who accuse that there is no meaning in fasting while people maintaining a carnivorous nature of Pharisees’ are only the ignorant ones, reflecting only the omnivorous instincts of the Sadducees because they don’t sacrifice even forgoing a single food for the Lord, despite the biological chemistry doesn’t alter the nature of the body or the spiritual senses to a higher level by missing a single meal. Fasting for dieting may do some good for the body, but fasting by dieting and prayer makes infinitely better results for the body as well as for the soul. The hatred and enmity that we nurture during fasting days is more harmful because the acidity that creates by evil behaviour fills the empty stomach with toxin, which degenerates our system. Either fast by staying away from all filths or better don’t fast. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try fasting as nobody is a born saint, try slowly by throwing away our acrimonious nature and conquer the body and spirit eventually- 1.Cor.9: 27. This is why a full life is given to us; by the time we get to ripeness we will be called back. “ Slow and steady wins the race”. This cannot be driven out by anything but prayer or faith (fasting and prayer in Malayalam) Mk.9: 29;Mat.17: 21.

Most of the churches are silent with regard to restricting conjugal union during fasting period; it is left to the discretion of the readers. Learn what are the distinctive requirements of a Nazirite? Why do people use sackcloth instead of normal good cloths during the fasting period? Fasting means to abstain from all worldly attachments except having simple basic food if one can’t starve during the festive fasting. It is the most advantageous battlefield where one can fight against all the negative passions of the body and world, the steward of the same is Satan, and to gain mastership and sound inner and physical personality that propels our life along a safe and secure path for salvation.

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ARTICLE


COPING WITH SUFFERINGS

By REV. DR. VALSAN THAMPU

By responding positively to suffering, we could master the challenge of suffering. Jesus stands out as a shining example of the positive and transforming approach to suffering. The spiritual purpose that underlies the unfailing presence of God in the sanctuary of human suffering is to empower a positive response to our predicament.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
[St. John 16: 33]


People take to religion in order to ward off the prospect of suffering. The secular world turns to drugs and tranquilizers, instead. Often, religion is packaged and peddled as a sort of magic wand that wishes away the need to suffer. The words of Jesus explode on the face of such religiosity: “the Son of Man must suffer”. It was to suffer that Jesus came into this world (Mk. 8: 31, 10: 45). At the core of the magnetism of the Cross is Jesus’ attitude to suffering.

But ours is an age in flight from the very idea of suffering. It mistakes suffering as evil, pain as an enemy. Pain management is one of the hottest priorities in medical sciences today. The annual sale of analgesics in the US today stands at US $ 6 billion. At the same time, anthropologists insist that a person’s ability to cope with pain and master suffering is the single most important index to his personality. A low pain-threshold betrays an infantile attitude to life.

Jesus tells the unvarnished tale: “In this world you will have suffering.” As if that is not bad enough, he goes on to outline the blessedness in suffering for his sake. But he is not satisfied with our mere willingness to endure suffering. Jesus says that we are to suffer our privations gladly. In what sense are we blessed because we suffer? Can there be any profit at all in suffering? Was there any profit in the suffering of Jesus? The deepest human instinct is to dodge suffering. Why should we go against the grain of our nature?

We would like the wicked to suffer. We feel aggrieved when the wicked prosper. At least in this instance we agree that suffering is a good thing! Else, why should the suffering of the wicked give us any satisfaction? How can what pleases us be anything but good? Of course, we know the answer! This kind of suffering pleases us because it is the suffering of someone we dislike. Arguably, this is one of the reasons for the prevalence of suffering in this world: this pleasure in the suffering of others that finds countless expressions, direct and indirect. This was what made it necessary for Jesus to suffer.

Jesus, who came to be “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world,” had to suffer. That would mean that there is a connection between sin and suffering. But what kind of connection is this? Is it only individual? Or is it also corporate? Can my sin involve others in suffering? Does not the whole body suffer because the hands have sinned?

This makes suffering inevitable in this world. The necessity to suffer shifts the focus from suffering to the way we respond to suffering. It is neither possible nor desirable to be insulated from suffering. What is both possible and challenging is that we can choose the way we respond to suffering.

May be, by responding positively to suffering, we could master the challenge of suffering. By engaging suffering spiritually, we may access and master its dynamic and so turn it into something positive, something beautiful, which suffering as suffering is not. May be it is like falling into the middle of a sea. It is in vain that we try to run away from it. All we can do is to thrash about in the swirling waters of the sea and, by doing so, come to terms with the sea, almost without knowing it. At that point the life-threatening sea begins to hold us up, to sustain us. The acquired ability to swim transforms the scope of the sea! Blessed are those who try to swim, rather than flee from the sea in fear!

“In this world you have much suffering; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,” says Jesus. But it is suicidal to get complacent or reckless about falling into this sea. So we are to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” We must make sure that we do not fall into the sea with our hands and feet tied. To one so immobilized, the sea can hold out only the prospect of unmanning fear, of utter and ultimate despair. To have to suffer, without the freedom to choose how we may respond to suffering, is to encounter the absurdity of suffering. The good news is that we don’t have to go down, like lead, to the bottom of this sea. We can master this raging sea and calm its storms, as Jesus says, with the resources of faith. In practical terms, faith is freedom of choice: the choice to be otherwise than we would be, instinctually and naturally. But what is the secret of this freedom?

Paul finds it in Jesus of Nazareth. To him, Jesus is an invitation to freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5: 1). What is this freedom that Paul is taking about? Is it not freedom to respond positively to the total spectrum of life, including the need to suffer? Does not Paul celebrate this freedom when he takes pride in suffering for Christ? (2 Cor. 12:16-29) We may understand this freedom, our spiritual freedom, as freedom from negativity.

That being the case, the freedom that Jesus offers is not, and cannot be, freedom from suffering. The very desire to be incubated from suffering is a symptom of negativity. The freedom that Jesus activates is the opposite of this: freedom from the tyranny of negativity, freedom from the ways of responding to suffering encoded in our fallen nature. It was this freedom that Jesus unveiled in all its glory on the Cross of Calvary: something that moved the Roman centurion to exclaim: “Surely, this was a righteous man!” (Lk. 23: 47) This freedom should be the identification mark of the followers of Christ. Freedom from negativity cannot be a negative state, a state of mere absence. It is a positive state of ‘abiding in,’ of engagement. Our freedom to move derives from our abiding in the force of gravity. The airplane flies by abiding in the law of aviation. The ship sails by abiding in the law of flotation.

Freedom of the positive kind derives from this ‘abiding in’ (Jn. 15:4). It is this kind of freedom that leads to ‘fruitfulness’ on which there is such an unapologetic emphasis in the Bible. In contrast, Freedom of the negative kind, the freedom that led to the lostness of the younger son in the parable (Lk. 15: 11ff), involves a ‘walking out,’ a flight to the ‘far country’ of negative freedom. It was freedom of this kind that Judas chose for himself. He turned the sacrament, an invitation to the freedom of ‘abiding in,’ into the freedom of ‘walking out’. John records that Judas, on receiving the bread of fellowship, walked out into darkness (Jn. 13: 27, 30). That ‘walking out,’ a symbolic choice of darkness in preference over light, cost him his life.

The choice we have vis-à-vis suffering is, hence, the choice between two options. We can respond to suffering either as those who abide in the world or as those who abide in the Lord. This makes all the difference. ‘Escape’ is the logic of sin. This has been the archetypal pattern of the world since the Fall. The spiritual counter-paradigm is engagement. The irony of escape is that it leads to further enslavement: the enslavement to negativity. Engagement leads to liberation: dynamic liberation. Jesus came to set the captives free, that they may have life in all its fullness (Lk. 4: 18, Jn. 10: 10).

The strategy of escape has a thousand faces, ranging from subtle denial to crude destruction. Murder and suicide are final forms of escape: they are the two sides of the coin of negativity. Love, on the other hand, is a force of engagement. Hence love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13: 7-8). Spiritually, suffering is valuable both in exposing hidden negativity and in overcoming it. Our fundamental spiritual need is to be set free from negativity. Negativity is the dark dungeon of un-freedom. The popular assumption that the business of religion is to ward off suffering is a cultic and materialistic make-believe. It is irreligion, even if it puts on the garb of piety.

Jesus would have us know that spirituality calls for a positive engagement with reality. Religion may degenerate into escapism; but that is only when it gives up on its spiritual core. It is through a pro-active engagement with reality that our spirituality deepens and matures. But engaging reality positively does not come naturally to the natural man. More often than not, the idea of responding positively to one’s suffering seems pathological to the world. It is mistaken for masochism. Inflicting pain, especially in an indirect fashion (as in the case of waging war and terrorizing people groups) is not considered pathological. If it were, we would have known that many among the heroes of the world were, in fact, villains. This notwithstanding, we still nurse dreams of moral heroism: of enduring gigantic privations in the pursuit of great causes, of not wincing in the face of tragedy and terror. But when life puts us to the test we wilt under pressure, as Peter did in the courtyard of Caiaphaz. Peter was not exactly insincere when he told his Master, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Mtt. 26: 33) Peter was human, all too human.

Suffering breeds terror when, in enduring it, we have nothing more than our own ideals and good intentions to bank on. It is as a quivering witness to this humbling truth that Peter retains his place in the Passion Narrative. The worst is not that we have to suffer. It is that in our suffering we feel forsaken. Ask Job, and he will tell you what it means to cope with that kind of hell on this earth. It is this pain in the human predicament that Jesus took into himself on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus stands out as a shining example of the positive and transforming approach to suffering. He makes it abundantly clear that the secret of his response is his rootedness in God. “You will leave me all alone,” he says, “Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” (Jn. 16: 31-32) The basic issues in coping with suffering are:

  1. Suffering and loneliness: Loneliness sharpens the edges of human suffering. Milton’s Satan strives to seduce human beings away from God and lure them into his camp because “it is good to have company in suffering”. The Bible in general, and Jesus in particular, portrays God as “a near help in trouble”. This, of course, presupposes the reality of trouble. In the mystery of God’s compassion, human suffering becomes a preferred sanctuary of the divine presence. In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mtt. 25: 31ff) Jesus identifies himself with the “hungry, thirsty, sick, suffering, naked, imprisoned and alienated” -the universal facets of human suffering.

    Suffering has an uncanny knack for insulating human beings from their life-world. It is like being clothed in fire. The wall that separates you from the rest of the world is not tangible; but it is not insignificant for that. Prolonged suffering wears a person down, and robs him of the inward dynamism for coping with the world around. Besides this, suffering activates anxiety. Anxiety is the fire of suffering spreading into the forest of the psyche. It gnaws the strings of life with the teeth of exasperation.

    While human company offers relief in suffering, it is not enough in itself to meet the full needs of a person in agony. We can walk only up to a point with a suffering a person. Suffering is intensely personal, and there is a lakshman rekha that no one, except God, can cross. That is because alienation is basic to the logic of suffering. Suffering breeds solitude; and that is the paradox. Human fellowship mitigates suffering; but extreme suffering shuts others out. Pain insulates a person from the rest of the world. It brings on a black out. It is a barrier that God alone can breach. This is what Jesus means when he says that when the world around you collapses and all the familiar pillars of strength fail, you are still left with God. That is because does not change. He alone does not change in this changing world.

    The spiritual purpose that underlies the unfailing presence of God in the sanctuary of human suffering is to empower a positive response to our predicament. God is not a religious ornament. God is spiritual Energy: the Energy of the Absolute Positive. God as Positive is Absolute because this Being never acquires a negative charge. So to abide in God is to exemplify a positive response, even when the scope for it seems non-existent.

  2. Suffering and fear: The second element of negativity in suffering is fear. Suffering catalyzes fear; and fear intensifies suffering. Fear, except of the spiritual kind, is a negative phenomenon. That is why Paul says, “The fullness of love casts out fear”. Love is positive; fear is negative. Love is stronger than fear. One way or another, fear has a reference to discontinuity. Death is the most dreaded form of discontinuity. Suffering, especially of the chronic kind, is instinct with the intimation of mortality.

    Fear disables. It alienates us from our inner resources for coping with the given situation. Fear paralyses and this paralysis makes us pathetic. Fear freezes our potential heroism in coping with the crisis at hand. That was what happened when, on the sea of Galilee, the boat was tempest-tossed and the disciples gave in to panic. Jesus told them, in his own way, that the key to calming the sea was calming their own inner selves. Fear distorts the size and scope of our suffering. Exaggeration is a universal form of distortion. Exaggeration is an enemy to effective crisis management. It makes us our own enemies. Worst of all, fear makes us blind: blind to the other half of the situation where the light shines. Every crisis in this world is like our planet. At any point in time only one-half of it is dark; the other is bathed in light. As the Psalmist says, “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5).

    Overcoming fear is basic to any positive response to suffering. Fear is of the essence of human predicament. Everything about human life involves fear, one way or another. Parents use fear as a weapon against their children, even as a shortcut to discipline. Fear is the foremost weapon that rulers use against their subjects. The strangest of all, we relate to the God of love in fear, even as we say, “Fullness of love casts our fear”! All these prove that we are poised precariously over the precipice of fear. Come a gentle nudge, and we tip over.

    Alienation is the source and essence of fear. Adam and Eve began to experience fear only after the Fall. It is in this space of alienation that human suffering is situated. Suffering is an eloquent sign of alienation. In creational terms, alienation is imperfection. The imperfect is, by definition, impermanent. The impermanent must change. Change involves the death of the old and the birth of the new. On account of this inexorable logic, human consciousness situated in the sphere of imperfection -the imperfection of its own making- is tinged with fear psychosis. In this respect, as in many others, we are sick. The degree of psychic morbidity might vary from person to person; but there is none who is free from it. Not surprisingly, it takes very little to catalyze fear!

    Spirituality helps us to master fear; but not in a magical way. It does so by enabling us to see the hidden, and better, side of the given situation. Also, by urging us to respond constructively to the crisis at hand and to look beyond the present in hope. Above all, spirituality empowers by annulling the logic of alienation. The Psalmist says he will not fear, even if the earth shakes and the mountains go and fall into the sea (Ps.46: 1), not because he is brave, but because God is his refuge. Fear bred by alienation is a state of spiritual and psychic homelessness. Suffering inheres in such a situation.

  3. Suffering and meaninglessness: Suffering is compounded not only of loneliness and fear but also of meaninglessness. If the anguish of Job is any indication, what breaks our spirit is not so much the quantity of our suffering, but its seeming absurdity and unintelligibility. Rarely do we realize that the meaningless we sense about life in general and our suffering in particular stems from the insulated life we live. Most of us are living to ourselves. The fallacy in the individualistic life is its insistence that every aspect of a person’s life must make sense with reference only to himself. But that is not blueprint on which life is designed. The Bible begins with the insight that the whole of mankind is a corporate personality. As such, it is illogical to insist that the value or meaning of an experience must blossom precisely at the site of its occurrence. Here too the analogy of the human body helps. It is in the brain, and not at site of occurrence, that the meaning of a sensation in the body is processed and interpreted. Self-centredness is, thus, quite contrary to the logic of life. We cannot live to ourselves without reducing the scope of our life. Basic to Jesus’ mission to lead people to fullness of life was the creation of a caring and sacramental community.

    Jesus was acutely aware of the weariness and heavy-ladenness of human existence. He invited the weary to himself. He couched this invitation (Mtt. 11: 28-30) in a missional metaphor. The weary are to find rest under his yoke: the yoke of a shared mission. This is an image of dynamic integration, which is the spiritual alternative to solipsistic alienation. The solipsistic way of life is nagged by an unending ache. The name of this chronic pain is ‘boredom’. Boredom afflicts a way of life devoid of the luxury even of a stimulating crisis that could liberate its victims from the world of make-believe they live in.

    As a matter of fact, a great deal of our suffering stems from this make-believe. The very expectation that in this world one can side-step suffering simply by having recourse to religion is a make-believe. This assumption, in turn, arises out of gross misunderstanding of the purpose of religion itself. The business of religion is not to create smug individuals untouched by the sting of life. It is to lead people to fullness of life. Greatness, not happiness, is the goal of spirituality. And that greatness has a vertical reference to God and a horizontal reference to one’s fellow human beings. Growth on both axes involves pain. It is for this reason that the Bible urges us to respond creatively to suffering (Rom. 5: 3-5; James 1: 2 -4 ff.)

The profit in suffering:
That suffering can be profitable at all is an impudent thought, except in the sphere of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of creativity. The essence of creativity is the power to transform the given, and to unveil the hidden potentialities. This is also the essence of positivity and of spiritual engagement. There is no profit in mere suffering; suffering, that is, like an animal. The profit is in responding spiritually to our suffering.

  • Suffering deepens personality: Suffering seems to be the pilgrim path to the depth of personality. Jesus urged his disciples to walk the narrow way. >From a spiritual perspective, the greatest achievement is not what we have, but who we are. Human beings cannot be all surface, and no depth. It is from the depth that we derive the nourishment for our personality. The ideals that we cherish blossom there: values such as love, compassion, truth, justice, self-transcendence, and so on. Progressively the Bible unfolds the truth that it is in the inner sanctuary of human beings, and not in man-made temples, that God resides. The Kingdom of God, says Jesus, is within us. Suffering is the insignia of the spiritual Kingdom. Jesus did not come to start a new religion; he came to unveil the Kingdom of God. The spotlight in this Kingdom is on the subjects, unlike in the kingdoms of the world. Jesus is benchmark of our humanity. He came to be the way to the fullness of our humanity. It is in respect of this that suffering is a profit. Prosperity, said Bacon, was the blessing of the Old Testament; but adversity is the blessing in the New Testament.

    It is universally known that those who have endured and mastered suffering come to have a rare depth and power of personality. They are apt to be compassionate and sensitive. But they are also a disturbing presence among shallow people, because of the core of mystery in them.Alternately, those who flee from suffering and are negative in their outlook, become two-dimensional characters, lacking depth and inward core mystery.

  • Suffering pricks the bubble of self-sufficiency: The most universal of human delusions, even when this is not stated publicly, is the delusion of individual self-sufficiency. The prosperous are particularly vulnerable to it. Affluence facilitates, for a while, a way of life insulated from life’s painful realities. Progressively, this breeds an exclusive dependence on material resources. Referring to such a state the Psalmist says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (Ps. 14:1). The sole dependence on material resources amounts to de facto atheism. This tells on the quality of one’s personality. Emboldened by what mammon can do, those who are materially privileged gradually walk out on God. This, according to the Psalmist, is a state of lethal foolishness. Suffering is the key that can unlock this inward prison. Suffering ushers in the moment of truth when the deluded victims of self-sufficiency recognize that they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev.3: 17) in spite of all their material wealth. This illumines the logic of God-dependence, which then is felt to comforting, and not humiliating.

  • The redemptive scope of suffering: Suffering has not only refining and regenerative implications for the individuals concerned, it also has redemptive overtones for those around him. It is well-known that the suffering of parents avails their children much. Those who suffer for the sake of righteousness, are assured of abundant harvests through the generations after them. The noblest form of suffering is suffering for the sake of others. It is only in God that this finds its purest expression.

A glimpse of its rare glory may be caught in those who abide in God. Millions of their fellow human beings are blessed and inspired by it. This is the paradox of the innocent suffering, as exemplified in Job and Jesus.

Coping with suffering spiritually has also a prophetic dimension. This involves articulating the insights born out of one’s spiritual engagement with this irreducible aspect of human reality. Reading the Word as a daily routine, and reading the same to receive the manna for our pilgrimage in the wilderness that this world is, are two different experiences altogether!

The second lays bare the treasures hidden beneath the printed word. It is then that we move from the word to the Word. At that level the Word does become ‘a lantern unto our feet and a light unto our path’ (Ps. 119: 105). The paradigmatic prophetic truth in this context is that suffering is integral to any scheme of things driven by power. Societies and nations, institutions and relationships, groups and individuals are all gripped and governed by the will to power. This is the quintessential ‘pattern of the world’ that Paul wants us to transcend. The more organized and advanced a society is, the greater is the power play in it. Consequently, such a society abounds in victims and scapegoats.

Those who eat salt, to use an earthy metaphor, must thirst. The solution to the problem does not lie in resenting thirst. The key lies in the salt. It is at once naïve and dishonest to create systems of power and harbour, at the same time, a sense of grievance about the hurt they cause. Of course, there are types of suffering that are not man-made. But that does not in any way become an alibi for not addressing the miseries that we create, personally or systemically. The spiritual task is not only to respond compassionately to those who suffer, it is also to address the roots of man-made suffering in this world. This calls for a shift from power to love, which is the fundamental spiritual revolution.

This may not help avoid natural disasters, such as cyclones and earthquakes. But this will definitely help the victims of natural disasters, in terms of relief and rehabilitation. A disaster worse than the killer quake in Gujarat this year or the super cyclone in Orissa last year is the crass corruption and mercenary hardheartedness witnessed in the wake of these unimaginable human tragedies, when relief meant for its victims was misappropriated by the relief and rehabilitation sharks of this country. They too would, given a platform, denounce the insensitivity of God in letting these disasters happen. Though, in point of fact, it would be a real disaster for them if no disasters were to happen at all in a given year.

Minimally, the inevitability of suffering boils down to two basic challenges. First, we are obliged to respond to our suffering positively and creatively, and to develop the spiritual resources for doing so. Second, we must respond in compassion and solidarity to those who suffer. In suffering we stand at the crossroads. From there we can branch off in two different directions. We can turn either to repentance and renewal. Or, we can take the path of hardheartedness and embittered stubbornness. The choice is wholly ours.

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ARTICLE


HISTORY AND GROWTH OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
IN EARLY CENTURIES-SERIES 4


By DR. RAJAN MATHEW B.E., M.E., Ph.D., Th.D



BACK GROUND SETTING FOR CHRISTIANITY AND CHRISTIAN EDUCATION [CONTINUED]

The most popular materials used in ancient Greece and Rome for making books were papyrus, leather, and vellum. The papyrus codices were sheets of papyrus bound together to form a book. Christian works were recorded more often on papyrus codices than on papyrus rolls. With the conquests of Alexander the Great Greek came to be spoken throughout the whole of the eastern Mediterranean world.

[CONTINUED FROM THE LAST ISSUE]

Book-Making in Antiquity:
The most popular materials used in ancient Greece and Rome for making books were papyrus, leather, and vellum. Papyrus rolls existed for many centuries and vellum codices followed them. Herodotus stated that leather was probably used when papyrus was not readily available, but it was not so popular. Papyrus was apparently the most popular and readily available material in the Greek world and all the Roman classics were written on papyrus. Papyrus was made from the pith of the papyrus plant that grows in water. The plant grew abundantly in the areas of the Nile River and its Delta. Papyrus rolls were very flexible. The books were rolled and unrolled for decades and centuries. It is known that papyrus was used in Egypt in the third millennium. 

Vellum existed at the same time as papyrus but it was used only rarely. However the vellum codex came into the market before the papyrus codex began to be popular. The codex were similar to our modern books. They were made of sheets of papyrus or vellum and held together by string or leather thongs. Vellum, like leather, is produced from animal skins. The skins were washed and scraped and the hairs were removed with pumice stones. After the hides were smoothed, they were chalked. The hair-side of the skin was better suited for writing and retaining ink.

The papyrus codices were sheets of papyrus bound together to form a book. Wooden boards covered the front and back. Holes were bored in the wooden covers and the books were sewn together. Books were also constructed by gluing the papyrus sheets together. Near the beginning of the Christian era, the Romans started covering the wooden sheets on the front and back with colored leather in yellow, red, green or purple. Many surviving papyrus codices are texts of Christian works. Christian works were recorded more often on papyrus codices than on papyrus rolls.

Literature in the pre-Christian centuries employed the papyrus scroll; from the fourth century A.D. it was commonly preserved on the parchment codex. The New Testaments writings were produced near the time of the beginning of the change in book production. Pliny the Elder in Natural History describes the preparation and use of the Egyptian papyrus plant for writing of material. The use of papyrus for writing in Egypt was two millennia older than Alexander's time. Parchment was made from skins of sheep or goats, and vellum for a higher-grade writings. Pliny tells the story of the rivalry of the Pergamum and Alexandrian kings over their libraries. Eumenes II king of Pergamene in the third century B.C. tried to kidnap the librarian of Ptolemy from Alexandria. Further Ptolemy put the librarian in prison and placed an embargo on the export of papyrus. This led Eumenes to develop an alternative writing material, parchment.

The universal form of a book in ancient times was the roll. A sheet rarely exceeded thirteen inches by nine inches. Pliny says twenty would be glued together for a normal roll. The extreme limit for a normal Greek literary roll would be thirty-five feet. Writings were only on one side (Rev. 5:1) Jews wrote the Old Testament Scriptures to be kept in their synagogues on leather scrolls. Third John 13 refers to the writings implements of reed pen and ink made from carbon soot; and 2 John 12 to paper and ink. The codex or book form originated with binding wax covered wood tablets together with rings or leather cords. The word codex is a trunk of tree or block of wood. Household and school writings used them along with stylus. Parchment replaced the wax tablets for literary works. Second Timothy 4:13 refers to books which might be Paul' notebooks or perhaps Christian writings.

Languages:
With the conquests of Alexander the Great (died 323 B.C.), Greek came to be spoken throughout the whole of the eastern Mediterranean world. Greek that emerged over this wide area also spread through the Western Roman Empire when the Romans adopted Greek as a language of learning and culture. Unlike Latin, Greek never became sufficiently well established to propagate itself in daughter languages. With the collapse of Roman political authority in Spain, Gaul, and Italy, it ceased to be spoken in the western Mediterranean; knowledge of Greek was largely lost in Western Europe. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the range of the language was effectively confined to mainland Greece.

This Roman Empire encompassed a great diversity of languages, cultures, and religions. It would be too much to expect that all the peoples living under the umbrella of such a cosmopolitan empire would know or learn how to read Latin. Latin was just an obscure Central Italian language before the Romans conquered much of the known world. With its conquering legions, the Romans brought their language with them and it became the official language of the empire. All government records were kept in Latin and legal transactions were carried out in Latin. In fact, if you were an educated person in the Roman Empire you were more likely to speak Greek than Latin. The whole Eastern half of the empire spoke Greek almost exclusively. After the decline of the West, the Eastern Roman Empire remained powerful and even grew in importance. Since the native language of most of the Middle East had been Greek ever since the times of the Ptolemaic and Seleukid rulers, the Byzantine Empire's government business came more and more to be conducted in Greek. This gradual process of reverting to the use of Greek had an unusual impact on the written literatures. Attic Greek had developed to the Modern Greek, which was the Byzantine.

When the knowledge of Greek was confined primarily to that of the classics, the New Testament seemed to represent a peculiar Greek that was accounted for "Holy Spirit Greek," a form of the language especially inspired by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of revelation. Many argued the distinctiveness of New Testament Greek as a manifestation of "Jewish Greek". The New Testament avoids much of the ordinary language of Hellenistic religion and did not appropriate pagan religious terms.

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BASELIOS AUGEN I
FOURTH CATHOLICOSE [1964-1975]

Moran Mar Basalios Augen I succeeded Basalios Geevarghese II as the fourth Catholicose in 1964. He was Catholicose and Malankara Metropolitan of Malankara Orthodox Church for more than eleven years. The fourth Catholicose was a scholar in Syriac and translated a number of works from Syriac to Malayalam. He had a deep knowledge in theology and was very versatile in conversing same. His exceptional humility was the most exemplary mark of his character.

THOSE WHO LED US
H.H. BASELIOS AUGEN I
FOURTH CATHOLICOS

Moran Mar Basalios Augen I succeeded Basalios Geevarghese II as the fourth Catholicos of Malankara Orthodox Church. Mar Augen was, earlier on May 17, 1962, elected as Malankara Metropolitan and Catholicate-designate in succession to Mar Geevarghese II who was the Third Catholicate at Malankara. Consequently, Mar Basalios Augen officially came into position as Malankara Metropolitan on January 3, 1964 following death of H.H. Mar Geevarghese II.

Mar Augen was born on July 26, 1884 to Rev. Fr. Abraham of Turuthi Chettakullathumkara family of Vengola near Perumbavur and Annamma, daughter of Valiyal Mathai at Puthenkurrissu. His father Abraham Kasseessa was a Scholar of Syriac language and the entire family led a very pious and spiritual life with timely prayers of the day and night. His both parents had high longevity. The Child was baptized by Metropolitan Murimattom Mar Ivanios who was elevated as the first Catholicos of the Malankara Church and christened him with baptismal name of Mathai. During his early childhood, Mathai lived in his mother's house at Puthenkurrissu and did his preliminary education there. At a very young age itself Mathai joined for theological studies at Pampakkuda Seminary under the discipleship of Konattu Mathen Cor-Episcopa who was the Malankara Malpan at that time.

In 1900, Mathai received the first stage of the order of a deacon from Kadavil Mar Athanasios. After gaining proficiency in Malayalam, Syriac, and attaining sufficient skill in preaching, Dn. Mathai went for English education at M.D. High School Kottayam. At this time, he came into contact with Deacon Sleeba of the Church of Syria who was in Malankara. Deacon Sleeba later became Metropolitan Sleeba Mar Osthathios. Dn. Mathai traveled with Dn.Sleeba in many Churches of Malankara and translated his sermons.

Due to his affinity to Syriac and Syrian Church, Dn. Mathai went to Syria with Deacon Sleeba in 1906 and started living at Kurkuma Dayara at Murdin in Syria. For three years the deacon lived in Syria visiting the holy land, various historical monasteries and studying theology. During that time, he got ordained as a full deacon at Mar Mathai Dayara in Assyria. While residing in the ancient and famous Dayara of Mar Augen at Thurabdin in Syria, the young deacon adopted the name of Augen in place of his baptismal name of Mathai. Also he had the fortune to live with and to acquaint personally with Patriarchs Moran Mar Abdullah at Mardin and Moran Mar Abdul Messiah at Thurabdin. Then he went to Kurkuma Dayara and met Patriarch Elias III and Mar Aprem. He lived in the Kurkuma Dayara for about nine months. He read many invaluable theological books in Syriac at this Dayara and it increased greatly his knowledge about Eastern Church Theology and got acquainted with traditions of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

In 1908, Patriarch Mar Abdullah ordained Deacon Augen to the monastic order of Ramban, at the Dayara of St. Mark in Jerusalem. It is noteworthy that he became a Ramban which means a full Monk, before he was ordained as a priest, which is not a tradition in Malankara.

After returning from Syria in 1908, Ramban Augen was ordained as a priest at Cheriapally, Kottayam by Metropolitan Sleeba Mar Osthathios. When Patriarch Abdullah and Ramban's friend and inseparable companion, Sleeba Mar Osthathios, visited Malankara in 1909, he traveled with them to all places as a translator to them. When Abded Messiah Patriarch visited Malankara and installed the Catholicate and consecrated Murimattom Mar Ivanios as the first Catholicos at Niranam Church, Ramban Augen also attended the celebrations.

Considering the spiritual needs of the Orthodox members at Madras, as per the request of Judge K.K. Lukose, Ramban Augen had celebrated Holy Qurbana at an Anglican Church in Madras which later paved the way for extending the horizon of Orthodox Church to Madras and eventually it became a full Diocese.

The missionary zeal of the Ramban was none too less. After returning from Madras, Ramban Augen concentrated in the evangelical, charitable and educational services at Vadakara and surrounding places. There were many backward class people of Pulaya caste at Vadakara and neighboring villages. He was attracted to this village, selecting it as his first mission field, by seeing the condition of the poor people in this area. He entered house by house of the low caste and downtrodden people and met all their needs and helped them. More than two hundred families believed in Christ and got baptized. They were given clothes from the Church. Many houses were constructed and blessed by him. He initiated marriages and housewarming of these people. Mar Augen had vehemently opposed the idea of building separate Church for the newly converted Christians. Mission work of Mookancherril Deacon Pathrose [Later Metropolitan Pathrose Mar Osthathios] also started consequently at these villages and continued the work started by the Augen Ramban and it emerged out as the Society of Servants of Cross [Sleebadasa Samooham]. Basalios Augen was then known as the Anchor of this Society. After it had emerged out as a full fledged and well organized Evangelical Society under the leadership of Deacon Pathrose, during its early years all the Annual General Body meetings were presided over by Metropolitan Augen Mar Timotheos.

Ramban Augen strongly believed that the newly converted Christians should be well educated so that they can be uplifted in the Society from their downtrodden Status. With this intention, he desired to establish an English School near Vadakara. There were no schools available at Vadakara or surroundings. A granted Anglo vernacular school at Koothattukulam was closed due to financial crisis. Also another effort for starting a girl’s school also was failed due to same reason. Finance was a hindrance to Ramban also for starting an English School. However, he had full confidence and ardent faith in God for the accomplishments of his mission. He suggested to the Vadakara Church that if a land can be given, he will put his efforts for starting the school. Accordingly, Church agreed and gave the open space at the Kurisin Thotti Maidan and Ramban commenced his work. He went house to house for donations for the building of the school. Ramban accepted anything, whatever the people gave, whether it is wood, coconut leaves, paddy, money, coconuts, hens, eggs or any type of donation. He was very particular to give his handwritten receipts even for donation of 4 Annas (Quarter of a Rupee).

As his fund raising programs were during lent period, he was fasting till 3 O' Clock in the evening. He used to take his breakfast snacks at 3 O’clock. The Roads in that village were in very pathetic condition. While the Donation collecting group carried the wood and other donated materials, it was quite common that the wheel of the Bullock Cart fall into pits on the road. Ramban who accompanied the collection group was the first to put his hands to raise the wheel of the bullock cart from the muddy pits on the road. Ramban was initiating himself for the excavation work for the school building. His answer to those who discouraged him from the manual work was that the Manual labor is not prohibited for Rambans. With the money and materials, he collected from the people, he could make a two storied building at Vadakara on the Koothattukulam-Ernakulam Road for starting a full-fledged High School. He could accomplish his dream in six years time. While doing his mission, he did not have any intention of any reputation for himself. In 1928 the High School was completed.

Next, his attention turned for building of the Sion Ashram at Kodanad Chettivilla near Malayattoor. To this intention, Augen Ramban started living there at the site. The Church he constructed near the site of the Ashram became the worshipping place for the migrated people to the nearby villages from eastern places. Later, after he became Catholicos, the Ashram and Church were rebuilt and a High School named after him was also established. Also he had participation for the building of Piravam Seminary Middle School and Kolencherry High school and held office of the Manager of these schools.

As per united desire of the Kandanadu Diocese, Ramban Augen was consecrated as a Metropolitan on May 15, 1927 by Patriarch Elias III at St. Mark Dayara Church in Jerusalem with Title Augen Mar Timotheos. After returning from Jerusalem as a Metropolitan, he was assigned the charge of the Diocese of Kandanad. His head quarter was at Moovatupuzha. Later he became the Principal of Theological Seminary Kottayam and started living there. When Geevarghese Mar Philaxenose of Thumpamon Diocese expired, Timotheos was given charge of that diocese and started living at Basil Aramana at Pathanamthitta. Five more new Metropolitans viz. Ivanios, Daniel Mar Philaxenose, Mathews Mar Coorilos and Pathrose Mar Osthathios were consecrated in the Church. Metropolitan Augen Mar Timotheos attended the ordination ceremony. When Daniel Mar Philaxenos took over charge of the Thumpamon Diocese, Timotheos left Pathanamthitta and returned to Moovattupuzha. After that, the Metropolitan had undergone a surgery at Vellore Hospital. He returned back to Moovattupuzha and was nominated as the Catholicos designate.

The Episcopal Synod which met on Sunday January 5, 1964, deliberated over the enthronement of the Catholicos and decided to invite the Patriarch His Holiness Mar Ignatius Yakoub III to formally install Mar Augen as the Catholicos of East. Patriarch accepted the invitation and arrived in Delhi. On 20th May 1964, the Patriarch and his troupe reached Kottayam. On Friday May 22, 1964 in a solemn and austere ceremony held at Mar Elia Chapel at M.D. Seminary, Kottayam, the Patriarch with cooperation of Metropolitans of the Synod and in the presence of a multitude of laity, consecrated Metropolitan Augen Mar Timotheos as the forth Catholicos of united Malankara Church with title Basalios Augen I. The ecclesiastical dignitaries present in the Sanctuary included Arch Bishops of Armenia, Abuna Mar Theophilus of Ethiopian Church, Mar Thomma Dharmo of Chaldean Church, Mar Coorilos of Thozhiyoor, three Metropolitans of the Syrian Church who accompanied the Patriarch and most of the Metropolitans of the united Orthodox Church. Catholicose Mar Basalios Augen led the Church for eleven years from 1964 to 1975.

Mar Augen had to undergo many persecutions in his life at various periods and he suffered all with great endurance in Christ. He led a very exceptional ascetic and prayerful life. He had very hectic prayer schedules in his daily living routine. Timely traditional Tri-hour prayers, fasting, lent etc. were very rigorously observed by him. Morning Prayer at 5 O' Clock in the morning; 9 O’clock Secret Prayer; 12 O' Clock Public Noon Prayer in the Chapel; 3 O' Clock Private Secret Prayer; 5.30 PM. Evening Prayer and Soothara in the Chapel; 9 O' Clock Group Bible reading session along with deacons continued with Night Prayer; from 1 AM to 3 AM in the night, Meditation and Bed Prayers. This was his prayer schedule of a full day. He had a very simple living pattern and dress pattern. At home he always wore cotton red garments. He never bothered to wear costly garments as he always reminded that he is Dayarite.

Two instances are worth mentioning about the cordial relationship of Malankara Orthodox Church with Roman Catholic Church during the time of Mar Timotheos. One was the occasion when, as a Metropolitan Mar Augen celebrated Holy Qurbana in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Mylapore in Madras December 25, 1963.

Secondly, the meeting with H.H. Mar Pope Paul VI in Bombay was an unforgettable and invaluable moments in the life of the forth Catholicos Mar Augen. When H.H. Mar Pope visited Bombay to attend the 38th International Eucharistic Congress, Pope expressed his desire to meet Catholicos of the East from Malankara. With the co-ordination work of Fr. K. Philipose [Later Metropolitan Philipose Mar Theophilus] and First Cardinal of India, Arch Bishop Valerian Cardinal Gracias of Bombay, the neeting was scheduled. Disregarding his old age and ailments Catholicos traveled to Bombay and met Mar Pope on December 3, 1964. Those were the magnificent moments when the East and West embraced each other. These both spiritual excellences were very humble in nature and this was the first meeting between a Roman Pope and the Catholicos of the East. Mar Pope exemplified the meeting as Union of two Apostleship of St. Peter and St. Thomas.

His Holiness led the delegation from Malankara in the Conference of the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches held at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia on January 15, 1965. It was the first time in many centuries that the heads of Oriental Orthodox Churches met. The conference was convened at the initiative of the Emperor of Ethiopia His Excellency Haille Selassie. This association of Oriental Orthodox Churches is considered as the avenues of cooperation and relationship among the sister churches in the field of theological studies and missionary work. Apart from His Holiness Moran Mar Augen, the other Heads of Churches who attended the Conference were: Curiloos, Patriarch of Alexandria; Vasken I, Supreme Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Syria. The delegation from Malankara included Metropolitans Paulose Mar Philaxenos, Daniel Mar Philoxenos, Rev. Dr. V.C. Samuel, Rev. Dr. K.C. Joseph and Rev. Fr. C. Jacob in addition to the Catholicose as the leader.

En route to Malankara from Ethiopia the Catholicos paid a visit to Mar Yokoub III, the Patriarch at Damascus on February 2, 1965 and also on Mar Severios Zacca, Metropolitan of Mosul. From the latter, the Catholicos received a portion of the relics of St. Thomas.

During this period of History, the Theological Seminary had taken significant steps to improve its image during the tenure of the fourth Catholicos. Keeping in view of the development of its academic standard and the need to train qualified priests, the Theological Seminary was affiliated to the Serampore University, Calcutta on February 1, 1965. Since then, the Seminary awards B.D and post-graduate degrees.

Theological Seminary which was established in 1815 by Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius, celebrated its 150th year jubilee on December 26-30 of 1965. Rev. Dr. K. Philiph who was later ordained as Philipose Mar Theophilus Metropolitan, was the Principal of the Seminary during 1965-66. Later, Fr. Paul Varghese who was later ordained as Paulose Mar Gregorios took over the Charge of Principal of the Seminary in 1967. The jubilee celebrations were arranged under the leadership of the Catholicose Mar Augen. Fr. Long as representative of Mar Pope from Rome, Fr. Vikre Mariam as representative of Patriarch of Ethiopia, Archbishop Alexi of Esthonia from Russia as representative of Patriarch of Russia, Bishop Conitas of Georgia, Archbishop Abrahamian of Calcutta, Catholicos of Armenia, representative of Lutheran Church and many other Church and political dignitaries attended this auspicious celebrations.

Later in 1969, the Seminary completed a new block and it was opened by Patriarch Justinian of the Rumanian Orthodox Church on January 7, 1969, who had come on special invitation.

The Catholicose consecrated Holy Mooron on December 21, 1967 at Old Seminary, Kottayam. The last occasion of this holy consecration was in 1951, held by his predecessor Mar Basalios Geevarghese II.

One of the very significant decisions taken by the Orthodox Church during the tenure of the fourth Catholicos was the relaxation on the Observation of the Lent. During the days of all lent periods, the Church used to enjoin its members for centuries, to abstain usage of milk, milk products, fish, egg and meat. Holy Synod of the Church under Catholicos Augen I, relaxed the restrictions on Feb. 9, 1966. As per this relaxation, though full periods of all Lents were maintained, restrictions of usage of milk, milk products and fish were removed during the period of Lents except during the Nineveh Lent, Wednesdays and Fridays of the first 40 days of the Great Lent and during the Passion Week.

In 1969, Mar Basalios Augen Catholicos delegated Metropolitans Mathews Mar Coorilos who is current Catholicose Basalios Marthoma Mathews, Fr. P.V. Joseph who was later ordained as Joseph Mar Pachamios to East Asian Christian conference held in Bangkok. This conference is a representative body of various Churches in the Eastern part of Asia from Pakistan to Japan. After the first conference of this Council at Prappat in Sumatra in 1957, the Council had met at Kuala Lumpur in 1959 and at Bangkok. It was the first time that Malankara Church had sent delegates to this Council which convened during August 1965 at Bangkok.

As a member of the World Council of Churches, the Catholicos sent delegations to its seven-yearly General Assembly Sessions in July 1968 at Upsala, Sweden and to its General Assembly meeting in December 1978 at Nairobi.

The fourth Catholicos Mar Basalios Augen consecrated 8 Bishops in two ordination ceremonies in 1966 and 1975 at St.Peter's and St.Pauls's Church, Kolenchery and St. Mary's Church Niranam respectively.

Ordination Ceremony on August 24, 1966 at St.Peter's and St.Pauls's Church, Kolenchery:

  1. Ramban C.T. Thomas - Thomas Mar Timotheos - Malabar Diocese

  2. Fr. N. A. Youhanon Malpan - Yuhanon Mar Severios - Cochin Diocese

  3. Fr. K. Philipose - Philipose Mar Theophilus - Principal, Theological Seminary

Ordination Ceremony on February 16, 1974 at St. Mary's Church, Niranam:

  1. Fr. M.V. George - Geevargese Mar Osthathios - Niranam Diocese

  2. Fr. Paul Varghese - Paulose Mar Gregorios - Delhi and North Diocese

  3. Fr. K.C. Thomas - Thomas Mar Makarios - American Diocese

  4. Fr. K.K. Punnoose - Punnose Mar Theodosius - Calcutta Diocese

  5. P.V. Joseph - Joseph Mar Pachomios - Kandanadu Diocese

In addition to the dignitaries attended during the Jubilee Celebrations of the Seminary, the fourth Catholicos hosted many dignitaries from sister Churches during his tenure. Most Rev. Dr. Donald Cogen, Archbishop of York, England paid a visit to the Church in February 1967. Archbishop Antoni of Minsk, Fr. Serapoion and Fr. George Telpis visited the Catholicose as representative of His Beatitude Justinian, Patriarch of Rumanian Orthodox Church. A delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church visited him in 1970.

On December 31, 1970 Mar Athanasios who was the Metropolitan of outside Kerala Diocese was nominated as the successor of Mar Basalios Augen I.

The Nineteenth Centenary Celebrations of the martyrdom of St. Thomas was celebrated during 1972. St. Thomas, Apostle of Jesus Christ came to Kerala in India during A.D. 52 and proselytized there the Word of God. Traditions believe that St. Thomas had suffered martyrdom in the Indian Soil at Mylapore near Madras on December 21, 72 A.D. Mar Augen firmly believed that the root of the Church in India was the evangelization efforts of Apostle Thomas. The 19th centenary celebrations of the martyrdom of the founder Apostle of Christianity in India was celebrated on grand scale and concluded at a splendid public function at M.D. Seminary Kottayam, on December 31, 1972. The Armenian Church delegates, Patriarch His Holiness Derdarian at Jerusalem, Arch Bishop Aslanian, Bishop Alerian and Arch Priest Tattorian were guests of honour on the occasion. In recognition of the stature of St. Thomas, Government of India brought out a 20 Paisa stamp depicting the Persian Cross in the Church on St. Thomas Mount, Madras on this occasion.

Many charitable institutions were initiated and developed during the period of the fourth Catholicos. A Medical Mission Hospital was established in 50 Acre plot at Kolencherry of which the foundation stone was laid by Patriarch Mar Ignatius Yakoub III on June 7, 1964. Foundation stone of the Mar Theodosius Memorial Hospital was laid at Sasthamkotta near Quilon. Foundation stone of the St. Gregorios Hospital was laid on Feb. 11, 1968 on the memorial day of St. Gregorios at a plot very near to the Parumala Church.

In 1974, Catholicos Mar Augen was seriously ill which situation caused anxiety about his health to all concerned. Due to illness, Catholicos relieved of his duties as the prelate of the Church from September 24, 1975. Mathews Mar Athanasios took charge of the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan in 1975. This was the first occasion in the Church when the elected designate took over the Catholicate even when the predecessor was still alive.

Mar Augen completed 91 years on July 26, 1975, and four months thereafter, he breathed his last on December 8, 1975. Mar Augen was buried in a grave in solemn ritual of prayers befitting the head of the Church adjacent to that of late Catholicos Mar Geevarghese II. The fourth Catholicos led the Church for eleven years and five months from May 22, 1964 to Oct. 27, 1975. By his characteristic humility and calm and serene disposition, the Catholicos had endeared himself to the flock of sheep.

Mar Augen was a Scholar in Syriac and a Litterateur. He had a number of works of his own and as translations to his credit. From original Syriac books, His Holiness had translated into Malayalam, 'Passion Week Hymns, ' Hymns on the Festivals of St. Thomas and St. George, 'Promion', and other prayers. The translation works revealed Mar Augen's in depth knowledge in theology and resourcefulness in conveying them. Other books in Malayalam include 'Life after Death', 'The Supreme Sacrifice' (Parama Yagam), Mathopadesha Sarangal (Truths of Religion), ‘Holy Synods'.

[Compiled for LOL By: Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]
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METROPOLITAN TITUS II MARTHOMA [1866-1944]: PART 1

By PROF. DR. ZAC VARGHESE & MATHEW KALLUMPRAM

Titus II Marthoma Metropolitan succeeded Titus I Marthoma in 1909 and was the prelate of Mar Thoma Church for about 35 years. For the first eight years of his tenure as Marthoma Metropolitan, he was the only bishop of the Mar Thoma Church. He was an able administrator who could consolidate the independent identity of the Church and to raise manifold the income of the Church so that the Church could stand financially sound for its developmental, spiritual institutional and charitable endeavors.

THOSE WHO LED US
TITUS II MARTHOMA

Metropolitan Titus II was the youngest son of the youngest brother, Joseph, of the Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasios. His mother hailed from Mavelikara Vadakeythalackal family. Born on 6th May 1866 as the youngest of eight children, he had two elder brothers and five sisters. His uncle, Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasios, baptized and he was christened Titus (Dethtose). After his elementary education at Maramon, he became a student at the old seminary Kottayam with his nephew, Cherukara C.P. Philipose. They then moved to Trivandrum for further education at St. Joseph High School. Titus continued his education in Syriac under Cherukara Philipose Malpan staying at his family home, Palakunnathu, at Maramon.

He was ordained a priest in 1889 at Maramon Church by Metropolitan Thomas Mar Athanasios and was consecrated a bishop on 9th December 1898 at the age of 32 at Puthenkavu Church by Metropolitan Titus I and the Thozhiyur Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Kurilose. For the next eleven years he worked as the Suffragan Metropolitan and helped Metropolitan Titus I.

Metropolitan Titus I having passed away on 20th October 1909, Titus II was consecrated as the Marthoma Metropolitan on 5th November 1909 at Kozhenchery Church. For the next eight years Mar Thoma Church had only one Bishop, its Metropolitan, to build the Church and guide its manifold activities. It was a period of rapid expansion. Metropolitan Titus II was ably assisted by a group of legendary senior priests like Vicar general Kovoor Iype Thomas Kathanar, Pattamuckil Jacob Kathanar, Kizhekeythalackal Mathan Kathanar, Aviote Joseph Kathanar, and Punnathara Chandapillay Kathanar.

Titus II remained the Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church for thirty five years and was its longest serving Metropolitan of the Church till then. In his first circular as Metropolitan, he stressed the importance of Sunday worship and daily family prayers. He concluded his circular: "Obedience is the key of success of any administration, but the Metropolitan has neither civil nor criminal jurisdiction over the people under his pastoral care. Therefore, it is your ultimate responsibility to respect the religious authority with charity and love."

Metropolitan's stewardship of the Church falls into three distinct periods:

  1. As Suffragan Metropolitan to Metropolitan Titus I, (1898 to 1909)

  2. As the Mar Thoma Metropolitan (1909 to 1917) without the help of a Suffragan Metropolitan

  3. As Metropolitan assisted by Abraham Marthoma Metropolitan (1917 to 1944)

The first period of his leadership was a very testing period for the Mar Thoma Church in consolidating its independent identity. Within the first three months of his consecration as the Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Titus II was able to inaugurate two important educational institutions for the Mar Thoma Church: the new building of the MT Seminary at Kottayam and Nicholson School for Girls at Tiruvalla. The income of the Church was meager even by the standards at that time. Despite being burdened by a deficit budget, he pursued the expansion agenda with determination and the steadfast faith that the Lord was with him in building His Church. By the end of his administration, the income of the central funds increased from meager Rs 5585 in 1912 to more than Rs. 100, 000 in 1944: a hefty twenty fold increase. He was very strict in financial matters. During this period of the church building, he reminded the parishioners of the need to keep good accounting. He reminded his people of their moral obligations and the need to honour their commitments and obligations on time. The authors have in their collection a letter from Metropolitan Titus II written to Dr. Zac Varghese's father, Kanisseril Geevarghese Varghese, in 1933 expressing his sadness that the Mar Thoma community at Kalayapuram still owed Mr. Varghese Rs. 190 for building a beautiful Church by the side of MC Road at Kalayapuram. He goes to say that he did not think that it was right and proper to continue to worship in this church building without repaying the loan. This but an example of the determination, involvement and fine attention to details with which he laboured in building churches, schools, and other institutions throughout Travancore and Cochin.

The Metropolitan discouraged membership fees and fixed fees for marriage, baptism and burials. He introduced the idea of voluntary giving for various functions. He stopped the practice of remunerating clergy from fees levied through sacraments and, instead, introduced a salary system for the clergy in 1911. Some of his reforms in the administration of his Church government were very far-sighted and very effective. For example, he removed the clergy from the responsibility of handling money in parishes and instead this was given to a lay trustee, elected by the parishioners and approved by the Metropolitan. These reforms were made effective in 1915; Rev. C.P. Philipose and Rev. V. P. Mammen took responsibilities in implementing these reforms. In 1927 Metropolitan introduced the idea of thanksgiving offertories at birthdays. Compulsory giving was abolished through a decision taken at Maramon Mandalam meeting of 1931 and established a Church Income board. It is all the more remarkable that he gave effect to some of these revolutionary changes in the financial management of the Church during the world depression os '30s because it is a proof of his total faith in his people and their generosity in giving for the causes of the Church. People had implicit faith in his leadership and he trusted limitlessly. Generous voluntary giving has been integral to the culture of Mar Thoma Church members till date, and it owes a great deal to Metropolitan Titus II.

It was during the second period of his administration that a much needed, but a very modest, bishop's bungalow - old Pulatheen - and a Sabha office were built at Tiruvalla. In order to deal with the administrative burdens associated with his responsibilities, the office of a Sabha Secretary was established for the first time in 1911 and the first Sabha (Church) secretary was a very distinguished lay member of the Church, Retired Sirasthar (a court official) Sri. J. Varghese. He helped the Metropolitan to lay the foundation for the systematic central Church administration at Tiruvalla. Metropolitan was also very keen, during his visits to various parishes, to handpick young talented and educated men for theological training and higher education to provide adequate and able leadership for a rapidly growing Church. A born 'Fisher of men' he led the following, among others, into the pastoral service of the Church: Mr. N.M. Abraham (Metropolitan Abraham Marthoma), Mr. K.K. Kuruvilla, Mr. Pothen, Rev. V. P Mammen, Rev. K.E. Oommen, Rev. V.T. Chacko. All of them became devoted and distinguished leaders of the Church in later years. Metropolitan valued talents and excellence and encouraged achievements and insisted that every Christian had a duty to excel in his/her educational and professional calling. He did not patronize mediocrity. He was very proud of the lay members of the Mar Thoma Church, who held higher offices in various parts of India. He kept in touch with the so-called social elite and did not exclude them on account of pietistic or pharisaical bias, even as he had a special concern for the poor and the marginalized. Thus, Thirumeni not only acquired land, buildings, institutions, and administrative structures but also identified efficient and educated people to run them for the Church.

In those days students from well-to-do families used to go to Madras, Trichinopally and Tirnellvelly for higher education. The metropolitan was keenly interested in their progress and used to scan the graduation list of these colleges to congratulate them on their performance and career development. A keen commitment to the progress of the people under the pastoral care of the Church has remained a special characteristic of the Mar Thoma Church since then. This is certainly one of the important factors of the rapid expansion of the Mar Thoma Church as well as the development of the members. It is worth mentioning here that it was Metropolitan Titus II who started the Mar Thoma student's conference in 1911.

Metropolitan was also an effective communicator and traveler within and outside Kerala, in 1912 he attended the Serampore Conference of the Christian leaders at the special invitation of Dr. John R. Moat. He also used this time to visit The Mar Thoma Diaspora communities in Madras and Banglore. The first Mar Thoma Diaspora worshipping community was established in Madras city in 1915. Deacon C.K. Mathai who helped this congregation in Madras was an undergraduate student at the Madras Christian College at that time. Metropolitan Titus ordained Deacon Mathai as a priest at the Madras Anglican Church in the presence of an interdenominational gathering. During this visit Metropolitan also encouraged greater cooperation between members of various Christian denominations living and working in Madras. He addressed the 'Syrian Rapprochement Association' meeting and paved the way for the co-operation and reconciliation between various denominations. Thus the first parish of the Diaspora Mar Thoma Christians was established in Madras. This model was copied over and over again in many cities and towns in India, which was to become the forerunner of establishing overseas parishes in Malaysia, Singapore, England, Middle East, America, Canada, Australia and Africa.

[TO BE CONTINUED IN NEXT ISSUE]

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