[Diocesan Bishop of Ranni Diocese, Marthoma Church]

Bring the Love of God into our situation and all the humdrum; commonplace activities and normal events of any life and any family can be turned with flavor, fragrance, strength, intoxication and inspiration, to turn them into wine. Orchid and Anthorium are not always needed to make a garden. Flowers symbolize beauty and serenity and a single rose can be your garden. We should emerge out in victorious procession of a resurrection community.


In the John's gospel we have the account of Jesus turned water into wine. The occasion was a wedding, an Eastern wedding in Cana of Galilee. We too can turn the water to wine of our life. Bring the Love of God into our situation and all the humdrum; commonplace activities and normal events of any life and any family can be turned with flavor, fragrance, strength, intoxication [elcn] and inspiration, to turn them into wine. Orchid and Anthorium are not always needed to make a garden. Flowers symbolize beauty and serenity and a single rose can be your garden. Who are the flowers in our life garden? The father who comes home with a smile after hard work of the day, the mother who cook happily in the kitchen and the children with good instruction are the sweet smelling flowers of this earthly paradise. With these factors, we can create the most beautiful garden of the world.

However, it is most painful that survey and calculations reveal that family feud and divorce is on a tremendous increase in our Churches. There is a great need of pre-marriage counseling and post-marriage counseling for our couples to learn the concept of Christen marriage, and the nature of a Christian family. Jesus had called and commissioned us to create beautiful garden of our life. It is not that easy to build a family compared to that of building a house. If we are asked today; 'Watchman, how far gone is the night?'; do we have any answer for the enquiries? We have a great deal of work to do, a long journey to go; is it not time to be stirring? The question is serious! We are to take notice of the motions of the enemy and keep the fort safe. Are we serious about it?

What are the priorities of our life? Studies exploring why couples divorce tend to concentrate on lists of flimsy reasons: snoring while sleeping, less gold than agreed, dowry is not fully paid etc. etc. Are these imperative in a Christ driven family life? Jesus was at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee along with His mother and disciples. In spite of His exaltation and greatness, Jesus humiliated Himself to enter into the marriage hall of an ordinary one. The marriage celebrated in the presence of Jesus is not to break, but to make, as Jesus create and serve the wine of love which bonds the elements of the family garden. In spite of all disasters, discomforts or distress in our family life, the hope derived out of constant communion with Lord delivers us from evil thought of its disintegration.

We have two options, the greatest lesson and the lesson that is right in front of us: Mother Teresa and Diana. Both of them searched for the light and each passed on in the way in which she lived her life. Mother Teresa gave so much of herself and lighted the bright lamp to minister the poorest of the poor, moved by human suffering and sacrificed her life to the wretched of the shacks. The awards bestowed on her did not glorify her, but on the contrary the acceptance by that glorious woman glorified those awards. Diana, who was caught up in the ersatz glamour of the wealth and privilege, had put out the lamp and searched for the light as a butterfly in her life.

A marriage, which really works, is one, which works for others. Marriage has both a private face and a public importance. If we solved all our economic problems and failed to build loving families, it would profit us nothing, because the family is the place where the future is created, good and full of love or deformed. Those who are married live happily ever after the wedding day if they persevere in the real adventure, which is the royal task of creating each other and creating a more loving world. This is true of every man and every woman undertaking marriage.

Our Lord is the one who bless us abundantly. He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. There is an inexhaustible fullness of grace and mercy in God, which our prayers can never draw dry. Open your mouth ever so wide, still He has wherewithal to fill it. When the disciples looked for fish for one meal, they received in plentyfulness [NmIc]. When we ask for a bit of love, our Lord offer us a sea of love. When we crave for a droplet of faith, He fills us with faith to the sky. When we seek for a flower, He confers us with a beautiful garden. When Jesus turned the water to miraculous wine, He made it in six large water-pots containing two or three firkins in each. Theologians say that it was not intended to be all drank at this feast, but it was sufficient for many more marriages. Christ gives like himself, gives abundantly, according to his riches in glory.

We are given with different type of talents in different measures. Some got money, some got time, some abilities and yet another intelligence. Once a Paris Litterateur was passing through a street. A blind beggar beaconed him and asked for alms. But the writer did not have any money to offer him. He took a piece of paper and wrote, 'Days of Spring are right around to begin from tomorrow. Nature awakens when flowers bloom but my eyes are misfortunate not to see the spring!' The paper was exhibited in front of the beggar and the writer walked away. What this mean? The writer did not spend even single penny. The poetical gift of the writer was given free to the beggar, all the passers-by read this literal note and the beggar’s coffer was filled soon.

Normally we shed tears in two scenarios. Firstly, when we are deprived of what we are deserved, we feel sorry and shed tears. Secondly, do we shed tears when we receive from God something which we are not deserved? Patriarch, Jacob was the one who did it. Jacob wept in front of God and humbly acknowledged his own unworthiness to receive any favor from God; 'I am unworthy of all the mercy and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies.'

Prophet Isaiah and Amos were shouting Israelites to pay attention and to get ready. They were begging the unconcerned to wake up and to prepare for a day of disaster which is apropos to our age too! The oppressors in Israel were threatened for their oppression of the poor. If we get weary of the warnings, if we do relent and ease up or if we fail to hear the lamentations of our neighbors, God will turn His face away from our carnivals and spiritual feasts. Tsunami had swept over lives of Lakhs of people in one sweep. Are we satisfied with rehabilitation of the survivors? Is the food, cloth and shelter suffice the agenda of the rehabilitation. How the Christian church should respond to the call for mission among them? Hearts cry out not for answers but for friends who can share their miseries and sufferings.

An Archbishop once responded in a retreat about the Christian mission to the victims of calamities. He took scripture reference of Song of Songs 8:7 to substantiate his thoughts. 'Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.' Love is a valiant victorious passion. The reigning love of God in the soul is constant and firm, and will not be drawn off from him either by fair means or foul, by life or death. Christian faith does not believe in impossible things. It trusts the promises of Christ, which never fail. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above it. Faith is not hoping the worst will not happen, but it knows there is no tragedy, which cannot be redeemed. Hope does not ignore the shadows of suffering and death but it is strong and secure in the assurance that love is at heart of all things in the refuge of our eternal God. We are held underneath His everlasting arms, both those who died and those who mourn their dead ones. Though those died had their grave in the seabed, nevertheless, they are truly in the loving hands of our Lord as if their body lay in most gracious country Churchyard.

We should be going out of the marriage hall in victorious procession of a resurrection community. When we exhibit the courage to be the heralds of Gospel message, our own faith is strengthened and we grow in the power and wisdom of God. Through this, we bear fruits and get adorned which are the innate desire of life. There are many who had kept the good wine for the last, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea. It is always better late than never. We should be transformed as the children of daylight and not the lovers of darkness of night.

[Extract from Message delivered at Maramon Convention 2005
Original in Malayalam : Translated by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]
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For every Christian, Christ must be the center of all life-activities, just like every circle has a center of its own. Nothing should be allowed to replace or displace this most essential and important center of Christ in our Christian lives. Everything we think, imagine, talk and do, need to be directed or radiated from this sacred center of Christ; of course, all praises, glories and thanks belong to the living God. In the Kingdom of God, we have only one King to whom we all have to give our total allegiance, worship and adoration.

For every Christian, Christ must be the center of all life-activities, just like every circle has a center of its own. Nothing should be allowed to replace or displace this most essential and important center of Christ in our Christian lives. In the parable of vine and its branches (John 15) explained and taught by our Lord, we cannot live as true followers of Jesus unless we are always centered on Him in every aspect of our lives. All our attentions, prayers, goals and activities need to be pointed and directed to our Master and Lord. He is the only one who gave His life for us, and purchased and freed us from the powers of sin, Satan, and death. There is no other substitute for our savior!

Everything we think, imagine, talk and do, need to be directed or radiated from this sacred center of Christ; of course, all praises, glories and thanks belong to the living God. The spirit of the God given to us as a free gift and who is pleased to dwell within us, will help all Christians to internalize and make this experience of making Christ as the center of our lives. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we cannot achieve this. On the day of Pentecost, all disciples of our Lord were filled with the spirit, and Jesus became the center of their life-activities. They all lived and died for the living God.

Very often, in the disguise of surrendering and centering our lives on our Savior, many Christians attach and give attentions to other things such as rituals, traditions, different religious and cultural practices, man-made doctrines, and dogmas, rules and regulations, methods of worship and legalisms, etc. and thus we become multi-centered and divided instead of being single-centered on Jesus Christ. This is very unfortunate and we are separated into different denominations. In the Kingdom of God, we have only one King to whom we all have to give our total allegiance, worship and adoration. Let us remember that three kings who came from different countries and cultures came and worshipped the baby King born in Bethlehem. Similarly all Christians born and brought up in different denominations need to be centered and concentrated on the person of Jesus Christ.

The true characteristics of a Christ-centered believer will be the Christ-like character as revealed and explained in the New Testament. In other words they will always try to carry out the Lord’s teachings by loving God and His Supreme creations of fellow human beings, and appreciating, admiring and preserving the Lord’s other creations too. Amen.

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We are commissioned to live in the fullness of life. One aspect of wholeness is the harmony between externally visible and invisible aspects of our life. The biblical worldview is the profound optimism to our life scenarios as we are created only a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned with glory and honor. God demands us as our duty to utilize our talents and it is the defining aspect of being good and faithful servants. The redemption and regeneration of family is a crucial emphasis in the mission of Christ.

It is not only families in crises that need to reflect on the biblical idea of family. Even those who are getting along without major hiccups need to stop and take stock. That is because the biblical goal, or the mark that God has ordained for us, is “fullness of life”. Surely, this applies to family life as much as it does to every other aspect of human life. So mere crisis avoidance is not enough. We are obliged to keep 'fullness' as the yardstick for measuring the vitality and wholeness of our family life.

This is an exalted and exacting requirement and is unique to spirituality. One aspect of wholeness is the harmony between what men see and what God alone sees: the outer and inner lives we live. It is unrealistic to require ‘perfection’ from an approach to life that confines itself wholly to the external. What is possible in this sphere is the ‘perfection of appearances’. Ironically, the more we get obsessed with perfecting appearances, the more we neglect the truth of our inner lives; whereas the latter is the spiritual priority [Ps. 51: 6,10]. The most universal pattern of imperfection is hypocrisy or the contradiction between appearance and reality. Unlike the worldly outlook, in which compartmentalization is not a major hassle, integration is of the essence of spirituality. Hence, what ‘is’ must also be what ‘appears to be’. That is the essence of the ‘truth’ that Jesus exemplifies. Truth of this order is the very foundation of perfection and fullness of life. This explains why Jesus who came to empower us to enjoy fullness of life [Jn. 10:10], reveals himself as the truth [Jn. 14:6] and urges us to be perfect [Mtt. 5:48].

We need to turn to spirituality precisely for the reason that makes us want, when ridden wholly by our instincts, to flee from it. It does not help to complain that the Bible confronts us with standards too exalted to be realized. Instead, we need be grateful that this very thing saves us from the inertia of complacency, and impels us along the path to perfection. The lowering of standards has done no one any good. It serves only to perpetuate mediocrity. In every area of human endeavour to which we attach any significance at all, the crossbars of excellence are being raised continually. Why shouldn’t this apply to family life as well?

The biblical worldview is informed by a profound optimism concerning the human situation. It accepts no easy limit to what human beings can do or attain. According to the Psalmist, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” [Ps.139:14] and God has made us “a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned (us) with glory and honour” [Ps. 8: 5]. There is something spiritual, therefore, about pushing the familiar limits of our attainment in order to reveal the glory latent in our creation.

As a rule, very few perform in any area to their full potential. Not even the best of athletes, for example, attain even 80% of their muscle tonus, except perhaps in moments of rare inspiration. Diverse human potentials remain underutilized. In the words of T.S. Eliot, we are ‘living and partly living’. Our routine life is a wasteland of under-performance. It is for this reason that most people live in a state of boredom and low self-esteem. The full utilization of human potential is a spiritual duty and it is the defining aspect of being ‘good and faithful’ servants [Mtt. 25: 21]. Inspiration points to the presence of something more than the human. God is the context of our maximum actualization and empowerment. So there is a great deal of practical wisdom in the words of Jesus that we can be fruitful if we abide in him. 'Faith' grounds and roots us in Jesus. To be grounded and rooted thus is to be able to access powers and resources that are truly miraculous. So it makes good sense that those who have faith in Jesus do extraordinary things [Jn. 14:12]. If you have faith as large as a mustard seed, said Jesus, “you can say to this mountain, 'move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [Mtt. 17: 20]

The mark of a Christian family is not that it is free from conflicts and tragedies. Mere sterile merits and virtues are not enough. Christian family should embody fullness of life. The biblical approach to family is based on this article of faith. Some of the distinctive prescriptions in this context may seem exaggerated or utopian if this goal, namely fullness of life, is compromised. Husbands and wives need not, for example, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” if they do not wish to attain fullness of life. It is perfectly possible to co-exist even for a lifetime without such a discipline. The duty to seek perfection or to attain fullness of life is not mandated by any jurisprudence or cultural tradition in the world. It is a unique spiritual prescription.

Our indifference, even allergy, to spiritual principles and demands is almost wholly on account of the mark we set for ourselves. If it is to live like everybody else, according to the “patterns of the world” [Rom. 12:2], the need for spiritual discipline will not be obvious or palatable to us. Spiritual principles seem unhelpful to the pursuit of worldly goals. “Abundant life” is a spiritual goal. Even when this goal is accepted in theory by the world, it is misunderstood for “abundance of possessions”. It was for this reason that Jesus emphasized, “a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” [Lk. 12: 15]. This highlights the logic of the need to receive and live by spiritual resources as well.

The implication of what we have seen so far is that we need to be clear as to the basic model, or paradigm, for our family life. Merely preserving the gloss of religiosity over a family modeled on the patterns of the world does not take us far. And it is an abuse of religion to see this only as an escape-route from the harmful consequences of one's worldly pursuits. A family becomes Christian only because it is Christ-centred and, therefore, feels committed to producing the fruits of righteousness in its total life and culture.

From the beginning of times, therefore, family has been seen a critically important sphere of witness and spirituality. The Genesis account of creation reveals that being in mission is basic to this God-founded institution. Predictably, family became the key theatre for the epic battle between God and Satan, good and evil. The infiltration and corruption of this institution was, and continues to be, the foremost satanic strategy to frustrate the purposes of God.

Consequent to the Fall, family relationships were recast on the pattern of 'desire' and 'domination' [Gen. 3: 16], which comprise the dynamics of the mindset of power and the ‘war of wills’ it activates in relationships. The Fall degraded the basic culture of family as an institution. It corrupted the garden of life into a wilderness of aimless wandering and substituted fruitfulness with futility. Indifference infiltrated into relationships of intimacy. Consequently, man-woman relationships begin and end as the encounter of strangers, in contrast to the biblical norm of ‘man and woman becoming one flesh’ [Gen. 2:24]. Hospitality turned into hostility, as in the instance of Cain killing his brother Abel [Gen. 4:1-9]. The redemption and regeneration of family is, therefore, a crucial emphasis in the mission of Christ. There are ample indications that Jesus saw the transformation of the individual and the redemption of family as necessarily inter-linked. It was not enough, for example, for Jesus to call Zacchaeus down from the sycamore tree and have a good 'heart-to-heart' with him on the roadside. He deemed it essential to go home to Zacchaeus. The result was, “Today salvation has come to this house” [Lk. 19: 9]. Church itself is meant to be the ‘household of faith’. This implies, among other things, that church life must be a role-model for family. Every congregation must have a healing influence on the families that comprise it, and not become a source of worldly infection to them!

Since the Fall, the institution of family stands at the meeting-point between spirituality and culture, Church and the world. There arise two possibilities from such a situation. First, family could be a means for spiritually renewing culture. This makes parenting a missionary activity. Family culture is mandated to be redemptive. Approached this way, parents become sensitive to the need to nurture in children especially those values that the society compromises in order to prosper in the world, but are necessary for its regeneration and wholeness. When a whole society is fleeing from the demands of truth, as is the case today, truth-speaking becomes an important part of Christian family culture. When the prevailing culture becomes uncaring, selfish and indolent, the Christian family culture must endeavour to be sensitive, caring and compassionate. As Goethe says, “If only every man would sweep his own doorstep, the whole city would be clean.”

The alternative is to let family be a penetration-point for the prevailing culture into the life of the Church and of the faith community. Almost the whole of one's habits, tastes and strategies are learned at home. If family is shaped by the culture of the world, the same culture will necessarily reach and overwhelm the life of the Church. This danger is particularly acute today on account of the unprecedented invasiveness and pervasiveness of modern culture. Family, which is envisaged to be the nursery of a healthy society, today stands in real danger of mirroring the sickness of the society. The world around us is floundering. So is the family. Relationships within the family seem not to be improvements on relationships outside of it. Barring exceptions, life is lived superficially and functionally in both sectors. The patterns of the world prevail, at times in acute forms, in the life of the Church in matters relating to money, position and self-aggrandizement.

While this seems a gloomy scenario, the encouraging truth is that its underlying cause is not very complicated. As a rule, big problems result, mostly, from the long-term neglect of simple principles, though it is a widely held myth that solutions are complicated and amenable only to specialist-treatment. But the fact that the cause is simple does not mean that it will seem feasible or acceptable to all. This is where the Bible guides us through the light of revelation. The Bible begins, virtually, by alerting us to the likely degeneration that family is vulnerable to. The Fall is not only the tragedy of two individuals but also of the institution of family. The rest of the Bible chronicles God’s initiatives to restore love, peace and joy to human life.

The Bible reveals that the foundation for family has been weakened by the Fall. Sin penetrated this institution through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The seminal impact of the Fall on family is in terms of the man-woman relationship. The Fall shifted its foundation from love to power. While love creates relationships of equality and companionship, power creates relationships or arrangements of “desire” and “domination” which are, significantly, the two words that God uses in describing the nature of man-woman relationship on account of the Fall [Gen. 3: 16]. 'Desire' is the seed of power. It includes not only the desire to dominate, but also the desire to be dominated. The desire to be dominated is presupposed in the desire to dominate. Those who are submissive in powerlessness become tyrannical in the exercise of power. Husband and wife are to submit to each other [Eph. 5: 21]. They must submit to love, not to power. Abuse is inherent and inevitable in power. It is when a people prostitute their freedom that tyrants are born, even if this awareness comes only too late and at a heavy price. It takes a husband-wife collaboration to sustain a relationship of cruelty and misery. The pity of it is that often both parties may not be adequately aware of the roles they play in degrading their family life into a hell upon this earth.

It is instructive to unpack this “desire-domination” syndrome as a drama of man-woman collaboration in a state of fallenness. Power is the shaping factor of this syndrome. Desire is the passive, and domination the active, element of power in the dynamics of relationships. The meeting point between the two is 'ownership'. Man prefers to demonstrate the ownership of woman; whereas it is enough, comparatively, for woman to be inwardly assured of a sense of belonging. Proof that clamours for periodic demonstration is a male obsession; whereas assurance -its female counterpart- is content to be inwardly experienced. It is within this dynamic that the war of wills takes place between the male and the female. ‘Desire' chooses the strategy of 'submission', which may seem to be the opposite of 'domination'. When this 'submission' is situated in a context of 'power' this too becomes a subset of power. Submission of this kind may well be motivated, consciously or otherwise, by control-orientation. One may stoop also to conquer and so resort to what might be described as manipulative subservience. Whether consciously meant to be so or not, such subservience induces men to be dependent.

But power is a domain of instability. The elements that operate in it can, and do, switch roles. Hence hen-pecked husbands -husbands who are cast in the mould of 'desire' rather than of 'domination'- are a logical necessity. Practically all husbands are 'henpecked' in patches. Ironically, these may well be also the moments of their humanness within the paradigm of power. Relationships governed by the “desire-domination syndrome” afflict men and women in different ways. It tortures the male with a sense of deep-seated insecurity, which is the necessary accompaniment and punishment of power. Power breeds insecurity. A state of insecurity abounds in irrational fears and anxieties. Anxiety results from the frustration of the basic goal of power, which is the control and domination of the partner, if only to attain a modicum of emotional security. Therefore, the more insecure the man gets the more desperately he tries to control his wife. Mistrust, violence of various kinds and chronic cruelty are the dubious and desperate means by which this is sought to be achieved.

As for the woman, the desire-domination syndrome holds out a different, but complementary, malady. The male penchant to dominate, and the need to have this domination proved at least to oneself every now and then, threaten to turn the woman into a commodity: an item of male ownership. This undermines the self-worth of the woman, which is already under siege on account of unequal social and cultural conditioning. She fights back through strategies that are meant to assert and if possible demonstrate her worth. Such strategies include, among others, the refusal to communicate, emotional and physical boycott, punitive carelessness, vindictive self-deprecation, and so on.

From the above, it should be obvious that man-woman relationship stands in danger of subverting the biblical goal of 'fullness of life' as long as it stands on the foundation of power. Theoretically, the best scenario that could be envisaged in such a situation is a 'balance of power'; similar to the 'balance of terror' that averts the outbreak of hostilities between nations. This is the goal that underlies the feminist discourse on empowering women in the relational context. Balance of power is a correlative of 'equality' within the paradigm of power. In practical terms, however, this makes deep and enduring relationships virtually impossible. Power corrupts human intimacy and infuses all-round alienation into relationships. This embitters the partners who live aggrieved and burdened with a feeling of being given a 'raw deal' by each other. The ultimate irony inherent in power is that it houses only a world of victims. Family, engineered on the principle of power, can only be an asylum of victims. And, as a rule, the victimizers are the first to project themselves as victims.

The biblical approach to this situation begins with the assumption that this is not the norm but a perversion of what God had meant for the human species. What was envisaged as a relationship of total commitment in love, has been degraded into a theatre of conflict, because the foundation has shifted from love to power. The radical remedy for this universal malady is a return to the lost foundation of love. It is in this light that Paul's instructions to husbands, wives, parents and children are to be understood.

Significantly, Paul prefaces his teachings in this respect with the instruction to husbands and wives “submit to one another” in the fear of the Lord (Eph. 5: 21). This is quite the opposite of the 'balance of power,' the very aim of which is to rule out, if possible, submission of every kind. Mutual submission, in contrast either to the balance of power or to the subjugation of one by the other, is nourished by a culture of love and can work or make sense only within it. Seen through the spectacles of power, this looks neither desirable nor possible. Mutual submission involves a redemptive rejection of power as the shaping principle of the relationship involved. Balance of power gravitates towards a polarization of relationship, whereas mutual submission makes for their dynamic integration. This enables them to become ‘one flesh’ (Gen. 2:24).

Paul's teachings in Ephesians 5:22-6:4 can be examined under two broad heads:

  1. Instructions for wives and husbands
  2. Those for parents and children.
The discipline he prescribes, within the matrix of the wisdom of the Word of God as a whole, is the spiritual window through which we propose to view the panorama of family life as an incarnation of fullness of life in this mixed-up world.


[Serialized from recently published book]

Sign-posts to Fullness of Life
By : Rev. Dr. Valsan Thampu

[Faith and Family: Signposts to Fullness of Life addresses the foundational issue of our times: wasting of the family. Tragedies arise, often, out of trivial things. Fortunately, the remedy too is simple. We do not have to move mountains to heal our homes. But we do have to turn a new leaf. Sadly, moving a mountain rather than turning a new leaf appeals to most men and women. Those who refuse to make even minor adjustments move inexorably to desperate remedies like divorce or suicide. Millions of men and women live in avoidable domestic purgatories. That should not happen to you. Healing and happiness can come to your home. This book tells you how. ]

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A comparative study is made between the customs and traditions between the St. Thomas Christians, Jews and Brahmins. We see many customs, practices, and beliefs of St. Thomas Christians are similar to that of Brahmins and Jews. We see a common patriarchal family system and many common customs and manners between these communities especially in childbirth, body cleanliness, abstention from work on specific days, celebration of festival feasts, naming of the children with scriptural names etc.

[Paper presented by Prof. George Menachery at the 13th Triennial Conference of the Church History Association of India, CHAI, Old Goa, 2005 with Title 'Aspects of the Idea of “Clean and Unclean” among the Brahmins, the Jews, and the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala']


Comparison is often made between the customs and traditions of the Thomas Christians and the Jews[1] on the one hand, and between those of the Thomas Christians and the Brahmins (i.e. the Nampoothiri or Malayalee Brahmins) [2] on the other.


This paper attempts, adhering to the spirit of the theme of this conference, viz. “Indian Society and Culture: An Encounter with Christianity”, to outline aspects of the idea of “Clean and Unclean” among the Brahmins, the Jews, and the St. Thomas Christians or Nazranies as they are often designated, and to examine the common traits in these three sets of customs and beliefs regarding the idea of “Clean and Unclean”. The overriding concern for “Cleanliness” dominates, or used to dominate, the ritual and daily life of all these three communities to the detriment of comfort, convenience, and even the unhampered pursuit of the common activities of the vast majority of people around them, and even stands frequently in the way of showing consideration, nay even common courtesy to others.


To study the prevalence of ideas of “Clean and Unclean” (Shuddham and Ashuddham) among the Brahmins the writer has mainly depended on the works and precepts of the sages[3] and elders of the community and of kindred communities as well as on the few works of an anthropological nature that exist independently or as part of general historical works4; for the Jews the OT, the NT and the various commentaries were chiefly made use of; and for the Thomas Christians in addition to the few scattered remarks that deal with the matter in well-known works[5], the personal experience of the writer and the knowledge gathered from parents, grandparents, and other elders, and from the observation of the conscious and unconscious behavior of the members of the community have been made use of. There is a vast fund of material that deals with these issues scattered in a plethora of works which aught to be systematically tapped, not just in a paper like this, but at least by way of a doctoral thesis or two6, and the earlier such detailed studies are undertaken the more will be the material available to investigate, both in the form of documents and living customs, and in the form of personnel in the know who are still in our midst.


Before launching into a study of the ideas about “Clean and Unclean” among these communities it will be profitable to take a quick look at the similarities that exist in their other better known customs, practices, and beliefs. As this assembly is made up of Christians mainly, and as we are meeting in a predominantly Hindu locality let us commence by comparing the Christian customs and Brahmin customs first, bearing in mind the special relationship Kerala Brahmins have always had with west coastal Brahmins of the Konkan Coast, rather than with Paradesi or Tamil Brahmins [7]. The similarities in the customs of Kerala Brahmins and Bengali Brahmins also have been noticed by certain scholars.[8] The following are only a few of the points of comparison between the general customs of the so-called Syrian Christians[9] or Thomas Christians and the customs of the Kerala Brahmins. As the consensus among modern scholars of Kerala history, like Dr. M.G.S. Narayanan and Dr.Veluthatt Kesavan is that the Nambuthiri Brahmins arrive in Kerala only many centuries after the existence of Christian communities there it is quite possible that many of the customs and manners of the latter were imitated or borrowed by the former.[10] The similarities outlined below are only indicative, and not exhaustive.


In both communities, i.e. Kerala Christians and Kerala Brahmins, women wear only predominantly white dress. Among Brahmins of the east coast only widows use white dress. [2 & 3] Otherwise Brahmin women outside Kerala use dark reds, blues, greens etc..


For both communities, Kerala Christians and Kerala Brahmins, piercing the nose for nasal ornaments is taboo. For all Brahmin women elsewhere nasal ornaments are customary. [2 & 3]


Architecture of residential houses of Upper Caste Hindus and Christians was almost identical, both residing in Nalukettu and Ettukettu houses, respectively having one inner courtyard surrounded by four (nalu) halls (something like the Spanish courtyard), and having two inner courtyards surrounded by eight (ettu) halls.[11]


Architecture of churches and temples was alike. Cf. Temple Architecture of Kerala, Dept. of Archaeology, Govt. of Kerala, Trivandrum, and Andrews Athappilly, “Church Architecture of Kerala”, STCEI, II, 1973, as also id. James Menachery, “Thomas Christian Architecture”. Remember how Vasco da Gama and company mistook a temple for a church and worshipped Kali or Bhagavathy thinking it was Our Lady (BVM). To avoid the similarity between the temple and the church the Portuguese introduced the “facade” in Kerala churches as an extension of the wall separating the nave or Hykala from the portico or Mukhamandapam of the church. Also see the hundreds of photographs by the editor- i.e. this writer - in the STCEI and the Indian Church History Classics, Vol. I, The Nazranies.


Both in front of many churches (e.g. Kallooppara, Niranam, Kundra, Chengannur), and the majority of temples there are rock (granite) lampstands [photos in The Nazranies & STCEI II & Pallikkalakalum Mattum & Trichur (Arch) Diocesan Centenary Volume (Articles by the present writer) and the CBCI 2004 Trichur Volume (articles and pictures by the present writer).


Both in front of all the churches and temples there are flagstaffs. (See 2.05)


Both communities are patriarchal, unlike the family system of the Sudras (Nairs) who follow the matriarchal system.


Both communities hold menstruation and delivery to be occasions of pollution, demanding elaborate ablutions and purificatory ceremonies.


Both communities have many customs connected with child birth (e.g. feeding the babe with powdered gold and honey). In the eleventh month the child is ceremoniously fed with rice for the first time. Mangoose teeth and panther toes worked in gold were part of the children’s ornaments.


Ceremonies connected with marriage like ceremonial baths, Manthrakodi or Pudava (bridal cloth or veil), Thali or Minnu - the gold ornament signifying marriage tied by the groom adorning the bride’s neck until “death do them part” - are all to be found among the Brahmins and the Christians in an identical style. Similarly death and funeral ceremonies like Pula, keeping legal defilement for a certain number of days, Shradham or the several feasts in memory of the dead were common to these communities.

There are several more customs, common to these two communities of Christians and Brahmins alone, which we are not enumerating for fear of exceeding the time and space limits prescribed by the organizers.


Similarly there are a number of general customs and manners common to the Judaic and Thomas Christian traditions. Here one must note the existence of a particular community of Syrian Christians or Thomas Christians who trace their descend to Thomas Kinai or Cana or K’nai and his party. Naturally Jewish customs are more prevalent in that community of Knanaya Christians than among the vast majority of Thomas Christians. However as many Jewish and Old Testament customs are to be met with in Christianity all over the world here one might be content merely to enumerate a few customs found commonly among the Jews and the Thomas Christians in general.


The Thomas Christians abstained from work on feasts and on Sundays. This abstention may be compared to the Jewish abstention from work on the Sabbath. Maffeus says:” When the sun sets they [Thomas Christians] could work on Sundays, because Monday is then begun.” [12] Again Fr. Jerome: “In the same way, also on Sunday evening they can work”.[13 ] Gouvea’s words are similar: “They may work after sunset (on Sundays), because it is already Monday”.[14] Fr. Paolino of St. Bartholomeo writes: “The feast began at the first vespers of the feast, in such a way that in that hour they used to close all the shops and end all day’s work. They do not start them again until after the second vespers.”[15]


The similarity in the celebration of the Pascal feast between the Jewish customs[16 ] and the Kerala Christian customs is noteworthy. In this there was very little difference between the Knanaya community and the other Thomas Christian communities. “Though a Pascal lamb is not used, certain elements of this meal allude to the Jewish Passover, as, for instance, the unleavened bread, the wine [“milk”], the time of the meal, the ordinary supper preceding, the standing position, the respect and reverence pervading the scene, the annual commemoration of the wonderful works of God, the bitter herbs, almsgiving, and the singing of hymns.”[17]


Both communities are seen to use mostly biblical names for their children. Names from the Old Testament are quite common, such as Abraham (Avara, Avarachan), Issac (Ithakku), Jacob (James, Chacko, Chakkunny,Chakkappan, Yakkob) and Joseph (Ouseph).[18] According to Ludovico di Varthema, “They use four names, John, James, Matthew, and Thomas.”[19] However today George is the most popular Christian name among the Nazranies.[20]


Leaving aside for the moment the consideration of common GENERAL customs among these three communities of Jews, Namboothiries, and St. Thomas Christians let us take up the study of a few specific customs related to the idea of “Clean and Unclean” and find out how far these customs were prevalent in the said communities and with what degree of universality, and variations, if any.


This is all the more relevant in the light of the accusation at times made against modern day Christians of Kerala by Caste i.e. “high caste” Hindus of Kerala that the Christians are not sufficiently conscious of cleanliness - in their eating habits, dressing habits, and even in the matter of keeping their body and habitat clean. It would be interesting to examine the validity of this accusation and to note who was responsible for this decline in the Cleanliness - Fad among the Christians, which is so very characteristic of the Kerala Brahmins, and what led to this decline if any.


There are a very large number of customs and practices connected with “Clean and Unclean” among the Nampoothiries, and a good number of such among the Jews. Among the Thomas Christians in times gone by, most of such customs and practices among the Nampoothiri Brahmins and those among the Jews were both in vogue together, making them perhaps the most “Clean” community in the whole world.


In note 3 below are listed the 64 special rules for Kerala Brahmins, most of which dealing with the practice of “cleanliness”, Shudham. In addition to these there are ever so many other customs given sanctity and sanction and the status of law as a result of long and strict practice. In fact the very life of the Kerala Brahmin is made “Hell”[21] literally by these rules, regulations, and conventions regarding “Clean and Unclean”. In addition to this there is the strict observance of Ayitham [22] , which is much more than mere untouchability. The Syrian Christians more or less strictly adhered to all these codes of behaviour also[23].


The occasions on a single day when the Nampoothiri Brahmin must necessarily wash oneself or bathe are innumerable. And this bathing has to be performed not by standing under a shower, or by pouring water over oneself with a mug, but only by immersing oneself in water - in a pond, a tank, or a river. The Brahmin must bathe before cooking. Braahmanans, desirous of purity (“Suddhi”)[“Cleanliness”] shall bathe if they touch a “Soodran”, etc. And it must be remembered that Soodran (a member of the fourth caste - the Soodras) denotes not outcastes, but caste Hindus like Nairs, Menons, and all or at least large portions of Pillais, Panickers, and even Ambalavasis or Temple-Castes like Variers, Pisharatis, Marars etc. The duty of the Sudra community was to serve the other three castes of Brahmins, Kshathrias, and Vaisyas. In Kerala these services extended to domestic help in the houses of upper castes by both the men and women of this fourth caste, and even the performance by Soodra women of the duties of a concubine in the unique sexual relationship prevalent in Kerala euphemistically called Sambandham.[24]

There are many other occasions when the Brahmin must ritually and otherwise bathe. It would be tedious to describe the dozens of occasions and circumstances that would necessitate bathing by the Kerala Brahmin, for example as a result of touching or seeing, or coming near people belonging to lower castes.[25]


Bathing, especially ritual bathing is found often prescribed for the Jews in the Old Testament. “Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the Tent of my presence, and tell them to take a ritual bath.” (Ex. 29.4) “ The person shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and have a bath; he will then be ritually clean...on the seventh day he shall again shave his head, his beard, his eyebrows, and all the rest of the hair on his body, he shall wash his clothes and have a bath and then he will be ritually clean.” (Lev. 14.8-9)


Thomas Christians were always as much addicted to washing their bodies as the Brahmins or the Jews or even more so. In spite of the decrees of the Synod of Diamper and the efforts of the missionaries the Thomas Christian could hardly reconcile himself to any laxity in the matter of cleanliness. All Christians in the villages continued to observe the strictest rules that obtained among the Brahmins in matters of cleanliness and caste distinctions even till very recent times, as this writer could assert from his own experiences in and about the inhabitants of the villages of Kattur, Meloor, Chalakkudy, Ollur, Mala, Kallettumkara, Edakkulam, Chengalur, &c. in present day revenue districts of Thrissur and Ernakulam.

The following Decree of the Synod of Diamper(Action VIII, Decree XIII. Cf. The book of Geddes in the ICHC, Ed. George Menachery, p.91) throws much light on how far the Christians adhered to ritual cleanliness:

“ The Synod doth very much condemn what some...imagine, viz. That if they do not wash their Bodies betimes in the Morning on a Fastday, their Fast will be of no worth; and that if they happen to touch any of a base Race, or a Naires , they must wash themselves to make their Fast to be of any Merit; and declares that all such Washings and Superstitious touches, are commanded neither by God nor the Church...”

However the old customs died first in towns and townships, as the result of English education and contact with Westerners and their ways. The habit of taking bath for various reasons and of washing legs, hands, etc. quite often was fully prevalent during this writer’s childhood and even boyhood, and was a big headache and nuisance and even a burden. There were ponds or huge wells with steps leading down in the compound of all notable families, where the river was far away. A number of Kindies or a vessel with a spout or nozzle-like side tube to pour water was always available which was used to wash one’s feet whenever climbing into the corridor or verandah of the house after walking outside. The latrines were separate structures during my childhood always a great distance from the house.


Ayitham or untouchability, a sort of total segregation of a member of the lower caste, from a Brahmin in the form of Thottukoodayma and Theendikkoodayma was one of the strongest practices that has now more or less - only more or less - disappeared from Kerala, but after a very long and bitter struggle. Seeing the extreme forms Ayitham or untouchability, “unseeability”, and unapproachability as practised in Kerala took, Swami Vivekananda was forced to call Kerala a “Lunatic Asylum”.


The custom of Ayitham or untouchability or segregation among the Jews is evident from these words of Peter. He (i.e. Peter) said to them, “ You yourselves know very well that a Jew is not allowed by his religion to visit or associate with Gentiles”. (Acts 10.28)

Paul also concurs:
And so the Lord says, “You must leave them and separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with what is unclean, and I will accept you”. (2Cor 6.17) And Paul goes on to add:” So then, let us purify ourselves from everything that makes body or soul unclean”. In the same chapter v.14 says: “Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners?” More scriptural verses it is not necessary to cite in this assembly.


The practice of Ayitham as it existed among the Thomas Christians, and as it continued to exist even in my youth with some intensity, can be understood from the enactments of the Synod of Diamper of 1599. Allow me to quote a little extensively:

“The Synod being informed, that in some parts when any one of the baser sort do but touch the Cisterns of Christians, that Christians do Disemplear or Purify them, by performing certain Ceremonies...(the Synod) with great rigour command those that make the said Disempoleamento or Purification,. to be thrown out of the Communion of the Church, and to be denied Casture...and to be punished with the Penalties...” (Act IX, Decree III of the 1599 Synod of Diamper)[26]

For Christians as to the Brahmins Nairs being Sudras was an untouchable caste, though some European writers have described the Nairs as Noblemen and so on.27 Cf. Decree II of Act IX of the said Synod fully and may I request you to go through it most carefully to understand how expediency and profit often comes first with Archbishop Menezes, and how His Grace advises tricks to combine religion with material benefit. He allows Christians to practice untouchability or Ayitham and to pretend to go by the existing customs of segregation, but not to perform the ritual bath after the pollution caused by going near or touching Nairs and lower caste persons if it will not come to the attention of the king and the elite! “Therefore the Synod doth command all that shall be found guilty of forbearing to touch such [Nairs], or having touched them, shall wash themselves, to be severely punished as Superstitious followers of the Heathen Customs, and commands the Preachers and Confessors to admonish them thereof in their Sermons and Confessions.”

In the same Decree when the Synod is advising the Christians not to shun or steer clear of others who are Christians it is also indirectly pleading the cause of the Yavanas who were often considered Mlechas by caste Hindus and were untouchables for the native Christians too.


As the paper has already gone beyond the allotted length hereafter we shall restrict ourselves to a consideration of a few more related practices prevalent among the Christians and to draw some parallels between those and the Jewish or Brahmin customs.


The Synod doth condemn the Custom, or abuse that has obtained in this Diocess of the new-married couple’s not going to Church till after the fourth day after their Marriage, when they use to Wash themselves, which is according to the Judaical Ceremonies condemned by the Law of Christ...” (Action VII, Decree XVI, Geddes, ICHC I, Ed. Menachery, p.89)


Heathen Muscicians to be kept out of the church. Hence Kottupuras as at Kuravilangad and Palai(?).Geddes, Ed. Menachery, p.74.


“Faithful Christians must not only avoid the Ceremonies and Superstitions of the Heathens, but the Judaical Rites and Ceremonies also,..the Synod, tho’ it doth very much commend the Holy Custom of carrying Children to Church forty days after they are born,...; nevertheless it condemns the separating of Women for the said forty days after the birth of a Male, as if they were unclean ...and eighty days after the birth of a Female; both which are Jewish Ceremonies, that are now abrogated...” (Geddes, Ed. Menachery, ICHCI, p.96, Decree V)


“Whereas the Synod is informed, That the meaner sort of People are much better disposed to receive the Faith than the Naires, or Nobles, and being extremely desirous to find some way whereby such well disposed People may be made Christians, so as to assemble together with the old Christians, as why should they not, since they all adore the same God,...and conferred about the most proper methods for the effecting of it...we have not been able to find any that are effectual...” (Decree XXXVI, Geddes, Ed. Menachery, ICHCI, p.95). It is suggested that this is not done in order not to displease the Heathen Kings, “who would correspond with us no longer to the loss of the Trade and Commerce we do at present maintain with them”. To overcome such problems the Synod suggests that “and the Prelate shall be advised thereof, that he may give order for the building od distinct Churches for them” (i.e. the meaner sort of People), “and in case they have not a church to themselves, they shall then hear Mass without doors in the Porch,” etc. Geddes, p.95.


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As man became self sufficient in his earthly superlatives, his aim in leading a life of oblivion of private life turned him to be a man of all seasons to cultivate the omnivorous profligacy of his flesh. The language of money diffuses the angelic language of love. This show case spirituality that revolutionized our religiosity produced a commercialized devotion in this era of manifold sophistications. But the truth is that God cannot be contained within the man-made mansions because His real abode is within the hearts of pious people.

The tower of Babel built by the people of Shinar to escape from another calamity like that of a global deluge that wiped out the whole world population, except Noah and family of a total of eight, was a crafty twist of the devil in his mission of defeating God who got victory by saving the Noah family for the propagation of the human species -Gen.11: 4; Rev.9: 14. Not only making a city for themselves, but also a tower at the top in heavens and make a name for themselves. This justifies in imprinting our names and qualifications and addresses at the front gate our mansions. The devil has the ability to insinuate people to work as his salves by instilling the impracticalities and crudities of our mundane life. Once when we were leading a natural life of semi-starving economy, we thought that money could solve all our agonies and worries. By plundering the fossil energy that drilled out of the suburbs of the dark inferno, we became rich and self sufficient in every walk of life that harnessed the technological miracles, transforming the life of this sordid life a synonym of a new earth and heaven that God planted in the midst of another set of galaxies elsewhere.

In the heralding scenario of a blooming New Age, we can fly like birds, swim like fishes in the under waters, walk in space, communicate at far distance places by seeing one another, penetrate into the mysteries of the unknown planes of metaphysics; he is a demi-god of Herculean dimensions in his make up and flourish. As he became self sufficient in his earthly superlatives, his aim in leading a life of oblivion of private life turned him to be a man of all seasons to cultivate the omnivorous profligacy of his flesh. The Privacy Act that made him an uncrowned monarch of his private life impelled him to utilize the resources that he could easily accessible to the immoral traffic of the dark world. Segregating himself from his brethren, at the same time harvesting the beauty of modern club life of all promiscuities, man became victorious in molding a nuclear family set up by distancing his kiths and kins by hook or crook, whereby enabling him to be at loggerheads with his own blood relatives, as the families are shattered everywhere due to war or migrating to the greener pastures for better living conditions and high -flying life. Petrol money and wealth turned upside down the globe that once our ancestors were trying to conquer, but failed miserably till lately. This changing- over period of technology is only momentary when compared with the span of terrestrial times.

Jungles of Cement Structures:
The jungles of late cement sky scrapers and hefty structures, really health hazards, are the just the alleged escape routes from the tornados of theft and robbery from thieves and robbers, but we don’t know these glossy structures are going to be our burial yards that the devil has driven to trap us to a quick firing squad that doesn’t give time to people for repentance and contrition of hearts. The devil’s ensnaring techniques are quite opaque, as he himself is, that nobody knows because they are the hosts of people who are disenchanted by God’s ways of life. All these multi- storied cement buildings, reinforced with heavy iron grids and pillars that synchronized with the prophesy, Dan.2: 40-44; 7: 19, that mushroomed even at the remotest corners of the globe are the death corners that the diabolical forces have foreseen beforehand, the gifts of the dark powers at the end of the time. The language of money diffuses the angelic language of love from these affluent cement structures, thereby inviting the language of Satan who imports spiritual impotency that brings in his darts of sex immoralities, divorce and profligacy of all kinds and many other vices of the nether world gloom. Thinking that the unimaginable blessings seemingly are from God, we build high-rise church buildings for God as a token of expressing our gratitude to the Creator, also promoting real estate spirituality in the House of God. This real estate spirituality that revolutionized our religiosity produced a commercialized devotion that cannot be substituted with anything else in this era of manifold sophistications.

Commercialization of Spirituality:
There is no problem; we can make beautiful huge mansions for the Lord. But the truth is that He cannot be contained within the man-made mansions because -1.kin.8: 27, His real abode is within the hearts of pious people -Rev.3: 20. This is the confession of Solomon, the first Temple builder for the Lord. Both Our body, 1.Cor.3: 16-17, and the worshipping places are the temples of God, the former for private worship and the latter for social worship. The former must join in with the latter for completion. There is no more 10% tithe business in the New Age; it was of the past. Sell all what we have, including us, and give everything to the poor, and then follow the Master. 10% is not for building hefty concrete structures but to be used for the welfare for the congregation and the ministers. The indispensability of holiness is important, not the cosmetic beauty or the immensity of the building and its splendor. The jungles of huge cement structures or buildings don’t make a worshipping place but the immanence of holiness is of deluxe value. God is our fortress, not the church building. The first Temple became a prey of the infidel ruler, king Nebuchadnezzar within 400 years’ of internal feuding of Israelites. How many of our parishes are there that are not run by some sort of holy politics? We need a good building for the worship of the Lord, but they are not meant for exhibiting our hypocrisy and show case spirituality.

Please don’t treat what I write here under as mere nonsense; some thinking people may find some substance in my sighs. The prosperity that the modern world is reaping is out of the black gold that we pump out of the periphery of hell, the abode of the Beast that is about to emerge for controlling and harnessing this globe later. The petrol money and the petrol byproducts that we invest for the advancement of technology has converted this earth as a new paradise that is going to be the nerve center of the Beast, Antichrist, who will rule the world with iron fists for 7 years. One should realize that he has a claim on all the assets and belongings of the present world because the petrol money belongs to him as it is drilled out of his region. All the money that we accumulated lately is his, as we have been exploiting all his petrol wealth so far. This could be the reason for him to claim the ownership and sit in our cement temples and rule the world -2.Thess.2. All these modern buildings are his and all our wealth should go to him. All the money holders take note. When he starts to rule the world, he will take all our money and assets, for which he will imprint, electronically his seal no.666 upon our foreheads or wrists-Rev.13. Don’t extract money from the helpless believers who borrowed money for getting their visas and start building their life from the scratch. We should serve them, instead of plundering their money that are earned to help the households and other dependants.

Collect money, not by force, for helping the forgotten and vulnerable ones, not for building sky scrapers that make babel of confusions among the believers -Mt.24: 1-3. These modern cement fortresses, church buildings, and our home dwellings are going to be our burial yards when cataclysmic forces and bombings and terrorist attacks strike this planet. When we were once living in huts, we could escape to a certain extent from the avalanches, earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes and tornados, but now everyone is buried under the rubbles and debris of our own making. Moreover, people in the olden days could read any impending catastrophes from the behavior and reactions of animals and natural symptoms, the real barometers of natural life of the past, and used to escape from real threats.

How much money and labour Solomon had invested to build the first House for the Lord. He collected money from others and used the gentile Laborers for its construction. Their sweat and tears made a Temple that would be rampaged by the Babylonian king after 400 years’ of infighting and rivalry of the Israelites. Money is collected from the poor parishioners who also work in the building site for its finish. The carpenters Noah employed for the construction of the Ark couldn't get into it for their refuge, similarly the innocent believers who work sincerely for the church construction cannot get any consolation there because only the money-minded and power- hungry ' so-called believers' can only be afforded to exhibit their gutter spirituality there. Similar to the first Temple of the Lord was gulped by the gentile king, all our sky scraping churches with all its artistic and sculptural and decorating extravaganzas can only exemplify our cosmetic spirituality. It has been made as the den of robbers who make use of it for magnifying their megalomania and business enterprises.

"When his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the Temple, He answered them, ' you see all these, do you not?...there will not left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down" Mt.24. Realizing the explicit meaning of the statement, the disciples asked him, " what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age". Then he forewarned the signs of His coming. The huge architectural cement structures are not for declaring the glory of God but to exhibit our ego for ensnaring the fishes from the 2300 church denominations for the destruction of their souls. Unless the Lord finds a place in our hearts, there is no meaning in constructing huge structures for the loving God. He dwells in our hearts, not in our churches that are converted as den of robbers as in the days of Jesus. The commercialized spirituality that enthralls our ego only need sky kissing monuments. " But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built! - 1.King.8. Solomon got very costly materials for the construction of the Temple from the gentile kings, but together came with them the demons that destroy everything sacred. The king who made the first Temple for the Lord made gentile idols later for worship, just like the paganization of Christianity of our times, because he married gentile wives and brought pagan concubines who conquered his soul and the Temple of God. The church teaches that the wise king is deprived of his salvation on account of his religious and sexual profligacy; this is the fate of the modern majority churchgoers, too.

This is the fate of today's peripheral believers who laminate their Spirituality through prosperity gospel and power games. Today's heaven -kissing Qutub Minaar like Kurushummode and electrically luminous church buildings are nothing but displaying the white sepulchre culture that ban salvation to the afflicted as well as to the opulent part time, superficial worshippers. O great Babylon or the third Babylon, all these gigantic temples that we built are going to be the abode of the Antichrist who rase all such monuments to its foundations- ps 137. As God destroyed the first Babel fortress and skyscraper, the 2nd and 3rd Babel will destroy the ramparts of God's Houses. All these buildings and shallow spirituality signal the time of His coming. We forcibly steal money from the poor believers and make these sky scarpers to magnify our pomp and glory, not of God's. The real estate spirituality, with its celebrations and inaugurations, can brand us as aliens to the Heavenly Kingdom. The real estate piety cannot make a congregation holy, unless the indwelling H.Spirit sanctify it by our boiling, repenting tears. The present tsunamis, deluges, earthquakes and several other upheavals remind us the fact that millions of people are dying or displaced by such natural calamities. The fall of huge skyscrapers in Turkey, India, Pakistan, Russia, New Orleans, New York twin towers warn us that many have died and millions and millions are going to perish under the rubbles and shrapnel of cement and iron jungles. This is only the beginning of our woes and tribulations, a locust like rampage of many such calamities more are yet to follow. “ There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences…. Lk.21: 11. The high-rise flats are danger hazards that swallow a chunk of our populations. The global warming and global dimming, the root cause of natural cataclysms and climate changes, that are resulted out of our deep-rooted avarice propelling for many and major impending catastrophes to follow. This is only the start of the human miseries. “ Immediately after the tribulation of days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be taken…….- “ Mt.24: 29-30.

Get prepared for sufferings and unnatural deaths that eventuate by the collapse of the tower of Babel because the ruler in such days is the one who hails from Babylon for wreaking his vengeance upon mankind and his main adversary, the Creator of everything. We built all these myriads of cement forests all over the globe for showing our exuberance of pride that one day is going to bury us under the rubles of our own making. We have many justifications to make a building culture of citadels and fortresses in apocalyptic proportions, but a God who created us out of nothing is lamenting over our selfishness and naked egoism. We have to pay the price for this stereotyped and sophisticated life style, ignoring the mercy of God that we await at the end of days. How many cement buildings are lying vacant while many have no roof for hiding their faces from the brutal inclemency of weather. As ordinary human beings, we have ample justifications in bailing out of such clicks. Do our justifications hold valid in the eyes of the Lord? The babel of confusion that resulted out of the anarchy that destroyed the language of love is the double-edged cudgel that is going to exterminate us. The tower of Babel is a sky reaching monument, the outcome of our rebellion against the Almighty and our brethren that is likely our refuge under the rubles and debris when the earth and heavens rattle at the sound of His thunder. In the process of sucking the beauty of this ephemeral life in the miniature tower of Babel, one shouldn’t allow to be dallied by the darts of the prince of perdition who ultimately, however, will be thrown into the Sulpherous Lake of fire.

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Apostles continued the Holy Eucharist the same manner as our Lord conducted it. The growth of liturgical tradition spans over a period of 13 centuries. Jewish Passover was introduced as preparation for the great exodus. Passover meal began with prayer of thanks and ended with Psalms. Passover of the Ancient by all means pointed towards the full and final redemption of humanity through the atonement of Christ on the Cross. Jesus was the Sacrificial Lamb. We are saved by His atoning Blood.

Did Jesus eat His own flesh on the Passover feast at His Last Supper? Many may answer this question in different ways. All liturgies have four essential words in common:

  1. Took
  2. Gave thanks or blessed
  3. Broke
  4. Gave.

All four words are independent transitive verbs in past tense expressing completed actions. In other words, action of each verb is perfect and complete. The action of the first verb does not extend to nor combines with the other. In the case of impugned statement in the Anaphora of 12 Apostles, additional verb, “Ate” has become apple of discord. If taken in the order of sequence no confusion would arise; first Jesus took bread (Lahmo), then he gave thanks, then he broke it and then he ate some of it and then he gave remaining portion to disciples. It was bread without change when he broke and ate. Then the finite action took place that is, “He gave” to disciples saying, “This is my body.” It was those words that changed the bread into His body. It was God’s words that created, Gen 1:3. It was Jesus words that sanctified the disciples, John 15:3. It was the words of Jesus that the evil spirits left and people got healed. So when Jesus said, “This is my body,” ordinary bread instantly became His body and that happened after he ate. That is why there is no confusion of translation and Jesus did not eat His own body.

The first Holy Eucharist or Lord’s Supper was full meal for the hungry, not a symbolism as we celebrate now. This, everyone ate to his full capacity as was the custom of Passover meal. Apostles continued the Holy Eucharist the same manner as our Lord conducted it. Over the course of history Holy Eucharist was denigrated to mere symbolism of what took place when Lord instituted it. Church has its own reason for doing so and we do not find blame for it. Church inculcated various prayers and litanies giving a shape and form and hue of worship service. And yet we believe that the Holy Eucharist we celebrate and participate is immutably the same Lord’s Supper and the real conductor is Lord Himself; the priest standing in His stead by His authority.

Average faithful despite being enthusiastic traditionalists often consider a priest only as a Poojari, Kurbana thozhilali or paid employee who has no authority but to recite what is written. However, the question points towards what he/she knows about liturgy or worship service.

I would clarify that St James Liturgy is the oldest and model for all liturgies. According to tradition St James first conducted Holy Anaphora after resurrection according to what he had learned straight from Jesus Christ. However the Greek word ‘Anaphora’ is a later origin. Biblical term in the days of Apostles was “Breaking of Bread, “Lord’s Supper,” etc. as seen in Book of Acts. Some people name it, “Last Supper.” St Ignatius Noorono of Antioch was the first prelate to employ the word, “Eucharist”, which means, thanksgiving, to Anaphora. In Syriac we call it, “Kurobo.” Kurbono or Kurbana as we call it; is Arabic word meaning, oblation or offering. St Peter and St John conducted Holy Anaphora immediately after resurrection with the same words and format as of St James. Without doubt all apostles accepted the Anaphora of St James. In due course of time Anaphora of St James itself underwent many changes. Many illustrious fathers of the Church wrote many liturgies.

The growth of liturgical tradition spans over a period of 13 centuries. I mean, there was no considerable theological expansion during the last 7 centuries. All the liturgies are in the same format as of St James. Changes are only in words and length. Fundamental principles of Anaphora or its purpose has never changed. Syrian Orthodox is the only church with such rich heritage of more than 70 liturgies. In Malankara until recently we had Taksa with 24 liturgies; then it was reduced to 13 and now we have 7 short liturgies to save time for we are now too busy with other matters. Some priests prefer to the same liturgy always. For this reason most of the faithful are unaware of the existence of many liturgies and differences therein, which has caused confusion to the questioner.

Church does not stipulate St James liturgy for all Sundays as some would mistakenly say. Church insists on St James Liturgy on Feast days, Koodos Eetho, Church Consecration, ordination and when a priest conducts Holy Eucharist for the first time, and on a new altar, etc. The original St James liturgy was long one. Greorious Bar Ebraya edited and shortened it in the 13th Century and this is what we now use in both Middle East and Malankara. To further shorten the length of service priests use shorter liturgies of St K’sosthos, St Dionesius, etc and recite only the ‘establishment words’ from St James liturgy.

Establishment words, like most prayers, are not same in all liturgies. A few examples:

St James’ Anaphora:
“When He, the sinless one, of His own Will, prepared to accept death for us sinners, took bread into His Holy hands +++ when He had given thanks, He blessed, consecrated, broke and gave it to His holy apostles saying, Take, eat of it, this is my body, which is broken for you and for many and is given for the remission of sins and for life eternal.

Likewise also, He took the Cup +++ and when He had given thanks, He blessed consecrated and gave to his holy apostles saying, Take, drink of it, all of you. This is my blood, which is shed for you and for many and is given for the remission of sins and for life eternal.”

St Dionesius Bar Sleebi:
“When our Lord prepared for the redeeming Passion, took bread, blessed, consecrated, broke and named it His Holy Body to those who partake in them.

Likewise also, the cup which was mixed from wine and water blessed, sanctified, perfected as His precious blood for the eternal life of those who partake of it.”

Anaphora of 12 Apostles:
“He who, when immutably becoming man, came to the Cross and before His life giving passion, took bread in His holy hands. He blessed ++ and sanctified + and broke and ate; and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take, eat of it; this is My Body, which is broken for you and for many and is given for the remission of sins and for life everlasting.

Likewise, after they had eaten supper, He took the cup blended with wine and water. He blessed + + and sanctified + and when He had tasted it, gave it to His disciples, saying: Take drink of it, all of you. This is My Blood of the new Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins and for life everlasting.”

I have not come across nor read all the seventy plus anaphora. The words, ‘Ate/drunk’ is peculiar to the Anaphora of 12 Apostles. All authors surely mention the occasion of instituting Anaphora that it was in the eve/night of His passion. St Peter gives more clarity saying; it was instituted at the time of Passover evening.

The Syriac word “Lahmo” is used in all taksas for bread. English rendering is Bread and Malayalam rendering is Appam. Anaphora of St Isaac says, ‘common bread’ (sadharana appam). Anaphora of St Mathai Royo is the closest rendering that says, “Leavened bread which manifested the mystery of salvation” (Rekshaamarmam adangiyirikkunna pulippulla appam). Bread in English and ‘Appam’ in Malayalam do not convey accurate meaning of Lahmo. In Syriac there are two words namely; Lahmo meaning leavened (fermented) bread and Patheero meaning unleavened bread. Passover was also the feast of unleavened bread. The word Lahmo is especially significant because of the Jewish Passover background. Jesus Christ first performed all the rites of Passover meal before He instituted the Holy Anaphora using leavened bread. Some scholars say that Jesus did not conduct all the formalities of Passover meals. I have heard some old priests who use only Syriac text and instantly translate saying clearly that Jesus instituted Holy Anaphora after the Passover meal (“Moosaika pessahaye than nivarthichittu”). Again, St Mathai Royo specifies that in the Last Supper Lord ‘displaced the old feast of unleavened bread. The emphasis is that the Last Supper was a culmination of Old and New; not altogether departing from the tradition and yet fully new one. Thus in short the church allows different words with the basic understanding that everyone knows what it actually means.

It is also relevant to point out that certain very senior and scholarly priests taught me that it is necessary to say the establishment words (Barekh u Kaadees) because Jesus Christ used it, in all Anaphora. Probably we are the only church continuing this tradition. But there is Anaphora without those words or using derivatives. For example: St K’sosthos says on bread, “Esbaraakh Vesakzee” and on wine “Veskadaas.” Recently I have participated in a Holy Eucharist where the celebrant, a senior priest and an acclaimed scholar omitted the establishment words, (Barekh u Kadees). However my limited knowledge declines to subscribe to that position. Some Anaphora does not say Jesus gave thanks. The differences are thus vast and innumerable. The Syrian tradition allowed such differences for the sake of variety and beauty of worship unlike in RC tradition, which does not allow differences in establishment words.

The bishop/priest has authority to apply words, without changing the basics, importing messages relevant to contemporary situations for there are many words irrelevant to present context. I know at least a very few bishops/priests inserting their own wordings in Anaphora prayers and that is perfectly ok. Gospel accounts bear witness to such variations in presentation according to the knowledge and purpose of authors. I will deal some such differences below in relation to Passover. It would be too long to write from all Taksas and I hope this would suffice.

Passover is English rendering of Hebrew Pesah. Passover reminisces in our minds twofold action of Yahweh as He passed through the midst of Egyptians and Israel in that fateful night. First, it was a judgment on evil. Merciful and long suffering Yahweh gave nine chances to Pharaoh to let Israelites go out of Egypt. Each time instead of acknowledging the Omnipotent God, heeding to verbal warning and by pestilences Pharaoh hardened his heart; made the people toil harder and rebuked Moses the chosen one. When Moses told Pharaoh ‘let my people go and worship our God,’ Pharaoh challenged the living God. Pharaoh’s denials were challenging Yahweh’s omnipotence due to pride. Yahweh was thus compelled to pronounce final judgment on Pharaoh, which ended in his ultimate ruin. Second, it was the beginning of victory and deliverance to the chosen ones over evil.

The story of deliverance of Israel from the tyranny of Pharaoh has many semblances to Kurushetra (Kaurava-Pandava) war in Mahabharatham in which Lord Krishna took side of the less fortunate and the just Pandavas. Yahweh clearly took the side of Israelites, the weaker and the oppressed. Yahweh Himself took initiative and guided each step until they reach final destination. God gave sufficient warning through Moses to Pharaoh before each plague. Pharaoh was a captive of superstitious belief in the powers of his gods. Each plague was to demonstrate that there is only One God Yahweh and it is necessary to obey His commands, for He is God all Universe. The tenth plague of killing the firstborn human beings and the cattle resulted from the failure of all possible ways of reconciliations. Pharaoh’s defiance is typical of human reliance in his own distorted notion of authority and might and failure to acknowledge God. When all other lesser methods failed God took the extreme step of ruining the whole infrastructure of Pharaoh killing all the first-born males of Egypt; from king to cattle. Looking at and from different aspects of the unparalleled history of exodus, it was truly a great jihad. Jihad is war between sons of light and sons of darkness, (Dead Sea Scrolls for detail).

Was it necessary to kill the firstborns of cattle, I often wondered? Egyptians worshipped many beasts as gods. That made them to rebel against the Only God. By killing the firstborns of the beast Yahweh taught them that all firstborns whether of beast or of man belong to Him. There is no god other than Yahweh who can save. So it was necessary; necessary also to compound the severity of the judgment upon the Egyptians. The lesson here is when the leader fails the whole followers suffer and when man sins not only he but also the whole creations suffer.

Israelites and Egyptian lived together; they were not segregated into separate groups. God devised a perfect plan to identify and separate the Israel from Egyptians. Blood of the lamb became medium of identification. God has mysterious ways to save whom He chooses, Ps 23:5.

Farming and sheep tending were the oldest occupations of humanity and the only means of livelihood for the ancients. They depended upon nature and divine powers for success. Feast of unleavened bread was the feast of farmers. Pesah was the feast of shepherds. Both existed before exodus as means of propitiation to deity to prosper the farming and shepherding industry. Moses combined the two ancient traditions together giving new shape and meaning to them. Moses made it an everlasting memory of the great exodus. It became an act of thanksgiving to the mighty deeds that Yahweh did for their deliverance. It also pointed to the future eternal deliverance of humanity from the shackles of Satan and the final victory of good over evil.

Jewish Passover was introduced as preparation for the great exodus. Details are written in chapter 12 of Exodus. It was conducted within the confines of homes. The chief element was one-year-old male lamb without blemishes. From this time on, Abib (Nisan from the time of Babel Diaspora) was reckoned as the beginning of the calendar year. Moses instructed them to choose the lamb on the 10th day and keep it to 14th to verify if the lamb was without blemish. On the evening of 14th, from 3 to 5 in the afternoon, they had to kill (sacrifice) the lamb. The sacrifice indicated that life is offered to God. Blood was considered life and that was made symbol of saving, hope and security. The head of the household should smear blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel of the door using a bunch of hyssop. All members needed to be shut inside the house. No one was to go outside during that night. The sprinkling of blood was a sign to the angel to pass and to indicate that the atonement had been made. They had to roast the lamb in fire without breaking any of its bones. Sacrifice was complete only with eating the flesh of the victim. The wholeness represents the unity of Israel. Boiling in water or any other means as was the system until then was not permitted to avoid dismemberment and hasten the exodus. Left over if any had to be burnt. This was by all means environmentally and hygienically safe manner of disposing wastes. Other edible items were unleavened bread, unleavened, because there was no time to wait for fermentation again stressing the need to hurry up exodus and bitter herb. Leaven was forbidden from the sacrificial meals to remind how hurriedly their forefathers left Egypt.

Protestant scholars explain that leaven was forbidden because fermentation was symbolic of corruption and decay. Of course Jesus told his disciples to beware of the leaven of Pharisees and Sadducees, Mat16:6. Jesus was referring to the defiled doctrines. In the same sense St Paul advised Corinthians to remove the old leaven which was malice and wickedness, because Christ the Passover lamb is sacrificed on the cross, 1C5:6. Jesus implied leaven to good attitude also when He told about the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, Mat 13:33. Thus leaven can be attributed to both good and bad aspects. When it is often compared to uncleanness, moral decline and sin it also can be attributed to life and fast growth or multiplication of faithful. Leaven softens the bread and increases the palatability and hence it is good. Leavened bread was indispensable item of their daily staple food. Jewish custom required to remove leaven as the first step of preparation of Passover feast simply to remind them that with such haste their forefathers left from Egypt. They were to eat hurriedly standing, with girded loins, wearing sandals and holding staff. Jews wore long tunics flowing down to the feet. Girding it to raise the lower level of tunic was necessary to enable them to walk briskly. These are further indications of the haste invoked. Jesus advised the seventy, “Greet no one on the road, Luke 9:4. This was not an indication of discourtesy but the haste involved in preaching the gospel. Apostles advised the disciples to gird their loins so that they be ready for holy living in obedience at all times, 1P 1:13. Bitter herb was to remind their bitter experiences of bondage in Egypt.

That night, God Yahweh executed judgment on Egypt. Israelites plundered Egyptians and started pilgrimage to the Promised Land next morning. Western scholars interpret that the exodus began on the 15th day of Nissan because their calendar day begins at midnight. This is not correct. The exodus began on the 14th day itself because Jews reckoned the day from evening to evening so did Christians in early days. When the angel of death passed through the midst of Egypt and all the firstborns were killed there was great panic and cry. Pharaoh woke up at night, immediately summoned Moses and Aaron and asked them to leave without any delay, v31. Not only Pharaoh but the people of Egypt also pressed them leave quickly. So the Israelites left in such hurry that they carried the dough, not waiting to bake bread. There was also fear that Pharaoh might change his mind again if they delayed. He changed his mind again as we see later. Numbers 33:3 states that the exodus started on the 15th day. This contradicts the exodus details in Ex. 12:31-33 and nullifies the hurry. Some scholars so believe; but I think details in Exodus are more accurate.

The Passover and feast of unleavened bread celebration continued for seven days. The first day and the seventh day they had to gather together before the Tabernacle. Those who did not remove leaven were to be excommunicated. Moses charged Elders to observe Passover feast and teach the meaning of this feast to the children even after reaching the land of promise.

Later changes:
Passover was at first domestic function. Later it assumed religious ritual status. The venue of sacrificing lamb was transferred to the Tabernacle sanctuary, so even the banquet. Sacrificial victim could either be lamb or bullock. Unleavened bread was named as ‘bread of affliction,’ Dt 16:1-5. Passover performance was compulsory for all Israelites. Cleanliness became mandatory. Those who become unclean by touching corpse had to perform a secondary Passover in the next month, Num 9:10-13. King Josiah conducted Passover in grand manner with certain innovations. He arranged the Levite and Priests according to their ancestral order. Priests sprinkled the blood of the victim on the altar, 2K 23:21-23, 2 Chr. c35. Needless to say, Passover sacrifice and feast were concluded with singing of songs, Psalms 113 to 118.

By the time of Jesus ministry Passover feast was conducted in more advanced manner but the basic requirements never changed. Sacrificial lamb was chosen and set apart on the 10th day of Nisan, one for each family. 10 people were minimum needed. Neighbors or friends could be invited to complete number 10 (example Jesus with His disciples). The victim was killed on the 14th day in the temple. People assembled in the front (west) porch. Priests stood in two rows. Each in one row held a golden basin and each one in other row held silver basin. Blood collected from the expiring victim was passed on to each hand and the priest at the end of the line sprinkled the blood on the altar, all the while singling Psalms, (Douglas dictionary).

The slaughtered lamb was then carried home. Passover meal needed be prepared, served and eaten within the city limits. On the day of Preparation, 13th day, Leaven was ceremoniously searched with the aid of lighted candle and removed from the house chanting a prayer of sanctification. Passover meal was served at night. Passover meal began with prayer of thanks and ended with Psalms. There were four vessels of wine, representing four promises found in Exodus 6:6-7 namely:

  1. I will bring you out from the burdens of Egypt
  2. I will deliver you from the bondage
  3. I will redeem you with outstretched arm and great acts of judgment
  4. I will take you for my people and I will be your God [Barclay]

This was of later origin. The first is the “cup of Kiddush=sanctification.” This starts with a lengthy benediction. Then they ceremoniously washed their hands and ate vegetables dipped in vinegar, salt and water (appetizer). The youngest member then asked four question namely, why only unleavened bread, why bitter herb, why food is dipped twice, why father or Rabbi was given special comfort seats, etc. The head of the family or Rabbi then replied the whole concept, the history, the meaning, etc; mostly a prepared recitation. Second cup is passed at the end of recitation, blessed and tasted. Before breaking the bread there was another ceremony, that is, Prayer of benediction before the bitter herb is dipped in a mixture of crushed fruits and wine. The bitter and the sweet are mingled to denote that freedom and spiritual progress can be achieved only through suffering and sacrifice. Then the head of the house broke and distributed the unleavened bread to all participants; the bitter herb to remind afflictions of slavery, the mixture of different fruits, which also was a much later addition, to remind the toil of making bricks in Egypt. The bowl of salt and water reminded the tears in Egypt. After this they eat the lamb-meat. The third cup was of thanksgiving and grace after meals. The fourth cup of wine is for the grateful acknowledgement benefits that God provided. This also symbolizes that the angel of death passed off. There will be songs praising God and Psalms throughout. Some scholars say that Jesus blessed and gave the third cup to the disciples and the fourth cup he said he will not taste until glorification, Mat 26:29.

Jesus told his disciples to prepare Passover meals and they did. It was surely according to the Law of Moses. Disciples did not know at that point if their master had any other thought. So He did every formality that the head of the house ought to do in relation to the feast. For he said, ‘I have come not to remove the law but to fulfill the law.’ None of the gospels clarify beyond doubt if he completed all the formalities of the law of feast. But surely there are a few indications. 1, Luke says, “When the hour came Jesus sat down and the twelve apostles with Him,” 22:14. Here, the word “hour” I believe, Luke meant after the time stipulated to eat standing. Sitting in the Passover meal, though certain rabbinical tradition allowed reclining of Rabbis or head of the household, is a clear deviation from the ancient custom. The custom required that they eat the Passover meals standing, loins girded, wearing sandals and holding staff. 2, John clearly says, that Jesus was hanged and died on the cross at the same time when the Passover lamb was slain, according to some scholars. This means that the Last Supper, as John says, was conducted in the eve before. Mark says Jesus died the day before Sabbath, Mk 15:42. Luke says, “That day was the preparation and the Sabbath drew near,” Lk 23:54. Mathew says, “Pharisees and chief priests gathered together to Pilate on the next day, which followed the day of preparation,” 27:62. This means that the death and burial was on the day of preparation and next day was Sabbath. In other words the Passover meal was eaten at the end of the day of preparation. Thus all the gospels agree, not contradicting each other, as some would imagine, the death of Jesus took place on Friday the time when the Passover Lamb was slain and before the Jews ate it.

Passover of the Ancient by all means pointed towards the full and final redemption of humanity through the atonement of Christ on the Cross.

  1. The Passover lamb was to be without blemish. Sinful man cannot redeem another sinful; he can only cause more defilement because sin multiplies sin. For this reason Son of God came into the world without sin. Jesus Christ was free from the natural defilement, which everyone inherits at birth. Speaking of the birth of Jesus Christ the apostle says, “Born of a woman.” Apostle was clearly telling that Mary conceived without human involvement. Mary by her own admission did not have human contact that caused bearing and birth of Christ.
  2. Passover was at first a closed-door family matter. Jesus conducted Passover supper and institution of Holy Eucharist in a closed-door meeting. Authority to conduct Eucharist was given to His 12 disciples.
  3. The lamb was to be roasted whole without breaking any of its bone. John attests that since Jesus was dead when soldiers inspected they did not break his bones.
  4. The Passover lamb should be of one (12 to 24 months in some cases) year of age. This is the age of prime youth of the lamb. Jesus Christ was crucified in his prime youth, at the age off 33.
  5. There are two interesting elements in the Passover ceremonies that developed in the course of its evolution.
  6. Addition of fifth cup of wine called, “Cup of Elijah.” According to Talmud, Jews had a Messianic hope. They believed, when the exploitation of man by man ends Elijah will come and fully and finally redeem them. This would take place during Passover because the original Passover is the memory of their redemption from Egypt. For this reason they would never drink that cup for it was reserved for Messiah.
  7. Intervening days were not compulsory holidays. Fifth day of the Feast of Tabernacle was called, Hoshanah Rabba. They ceremonially blessed four plants on that day. Worshippers carried willow branches and chanted, Hoshana. At His triumphant entry into Jerusalem temple, people spread olive branches on the road and sang Hosanna marking the fulfillment of long awaited Messianic expectation of Jews.

Ancient Middle East cultures practiced a cult of sacrificing firstborn. Popular belief was that all firstborn sons and first produce belonged to God. Sacrifice brought prosperity to family; example Abraham sacrificing his only son. Passover was initially a shepherd feast of sacrificing firstborn. Later instead of firstborn humans they sacrificed a lamb and redeemed human son. Yahweh revealed to Moses His plan of redeeming the lost humanity through His Firstborn (of all creations) Son, Heb 1:6. So Moses set Passover Feast not only as a memory of the redemption from Egyptian bondage but also as precursor to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God upon the cross of Calvary. Moses appeared to Jesus and discussed modalities of this great plan at Mount Tabor.

Is it not interesting that the whole acts of redemption took place during the traditional Passover days that the Jews fondly cherished for centuries? Triumphant entry into Jerusalem temple was on 10th day of Nisan. 14th evening He ate Last Supper with disciples, established the Holy Eucharist, got arrested, tried and they crucified Him at the sixth hour of the same day. This was the day and time Jews slain the Passover lamb for the whole nation. These are pointers that Jesus was the Sacrificial Lamb. We are saved by His atoning Blood.

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The year 2005 marks the one hundredth birth year of the brave and eminent Indian Christian Lady Sarah Chacko who was the first Indian honored to be the President and first Lady president of the biggest ecumenical forum, The Word Council of Churches [WCC]. The short life of Sarah Chacko was eventful with very valuable contributions to the Indian Society and Churches of the world. At the time of her early death at the age of 49 years she had grown up to be a renowned educationalist and ecumenist.

Sarah Chacko  

[The year 2005 marks the one hundredth birth year of the brave and eminent Indian Christian Lady Sarah Chacko who was the first Indian honored to be the President and first Lady president of the biggest ecumenical forum, The Word Council of Churches [WCC]. The short life of Sarah Chacko was eventful with very valuable contributions to the Indian Society and Churches of the world. At the time of her early death at the age of 49 years, she had grown up to be a renowned educationalist and ecumenist.

Sarah Chacko was born on February 13, 1905 to M.A. Chacko of Mazhuvancheril Parampathu family at Ayyampally [Near Alwaye] and Mary of Eralil family at Paravoor. Sarah had her primary education done at Syrian Girls Primary School and Govt. Jubilee Girls High School, Trissur. After the school education, she joined Queen Mary's Women's College in Madras. She passed BA at the age of 20 in 1925. After that, she started her teaching carrier at Bending School and later Christain Mahilalayam School in Trissuur. In 1928, She joined for MA in History and Economics at Queen Mary's College in Madras. After her MA, she joined as the Lecturer of Isabella Thoburn College Lucknow.

Though Sarah was belonging to an Orthodox Christian Family, she was forced to attend the Methodist service to volunteer her leadership in the monthly Christian Congregation and in Christian Student's movements, as there was no Orthodox Church in Lucknow. In the Conference of Christian Student's movement held in Java, she represented India. Sarah made a very epoch-making speech in the Java conference where students from many Asian countries participated. Further, Sarah continued her higher education in America in 1937 and took M.A in Education from Chicago University and studied Law and Colonialism from Michigan University with scholarship.

Her educational interest was to find the root cause for the international tension and participation of international law for its control. In 1938, she returned back to Lucknow, became Vice Principal and later Principal of Thoburn College. During this period, in a retreat session conducted by Allen E. Parker, 30 College girls dedicated themselves for the full time Christian service. Sarah was entrusted with the responsibility of conducting Bible studies for these girls. During the dawn of the twentieth century, Young Women's wing YWCA, World Women Prayer Day, Women Missionaries and Sisterhood got momentum to look forward in ecumenical ideas without any denominational segregation. During 1948, representatives of 147 churches assembled in Amsterdam and constituted the WCC officially. Several pioneering movements formed even from 1920, for the cause of church unity worldwide, had got merged with WCC.

After the Amsterdam Assembly, many women's educational conferences were convened. Sarah had attended all these conferences of the designated women all over the world. In the inauguration meeting of WCC, Sarah had addressed the audience on the theme 'The Participation of women in Christian Mission'. Her speech was highly appraised by all the Church leaders participated in the Assembly. As she was belonging to Orthodox Church and was doing fellowship in the Methodist Church in Lucknow, she was invited to the Council out of her own charisma and caliber and not as representative of any Church. After submitting her report, she was invited as the President of WCC Commission established for Life and acts of the women in Church. Further, she was nominated as the Planning Committee Chairperson of the World Christian Youth Conference held at Kottayam and she gave a very impressive speech in conference held in Madison Square Garden in America. In 1951, she completed the commission period and returned to Lucknow. As per the recommendation of Sarah Chacko, the Central committee of the WCC was conducted at the Thoburn College Campus during Dec.31, 1953 - Jan 8, 1954. As a paradox of history, in 1954, Sarah expired with a heart attack while playing Basket Ball at the age of 49.]


Sarah Chakko: A Voice of Women in the Ecumenical Movement”, by M. Kurian
Published 1998, Christhava Sahithya Samithy, Thiruvella, Kerala, 689 101

170 pages, US $ 6 (Rs.80)

The perennial complaint of women everywhere including in the West is that their accomplishments in the public arenas of arts, literature, science, politics, religion etc are seldom recognized by male-dominated societies. And, there is a great deal of truth to it. Among Christian communities, it appears to me that the worst offenders are those who adhere to the orthodox denominations of Christianity. In this reviewer’s opinion, M. Kurian’s impressive biography of Sarah Chakko’s accomplishments merely reinforces such grievances. The only recorded recognition of Sarah Chakko’s contributions took place overseas in 1954 when the United Church Women of Pittsburgh gave $ 10,000 to the World Council of Churches (WCC) in recognition of her work. The book deals with the life and works of Sarah Chakko who became both a stellar educator of university women in India as well as a great Christian ecumenist of our times. She was the first to reap in 1951 a double honor from the WCC, by becoming its first elected Indian President as well as the first woman President of that world organization. Sarah Chakko accomplished that feat, about three decades before another illustrious Bishop of our Church (Paulos Mar Gregorios) became the President of WCC in 1983.

This great lady lived a bare 49 years, in the nature of a shooting star perhaps, yet blazed a trail of tremendous achievements on behalf of women, not only in India but worldwide. It is rather strange that though she was born in the Orthodox Syrian Christian faith, she lived “actively in fellowship with the Methodist communion” as M. Kurian states in his book. Its 170 pages are filled with poignant recollections of Ms. Chakko’s early life, her college years, stewardship of the Isabella Thoburn College as its Principal and her many other leadership roles in the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Student Christian Movement (SCM) and finally at the WCC. Reading this book will be an inspiring experience to any one who can spare two hours to learn and meditate about the spirit and philosophy of this Christian woman who truly practiced unconditional love towards one’s fellow humans just as Jesus commanded us to do.

From her early years, it appears to this reviewer that Sarah Chakko was aware of a lack of fairness extended to women by the society in which she was raised. Though her biographer avers “Sarah’s call to teach was the outcome of a craving for the fullness of life for the women of India”; it appears that her first love was to become a physician. After her early schooling in her home community of Trichur, her father, M. A. Chakko (Commissioner of Excise, Cochin) and her mother Mary Eralil of Parur in Travancore allowed her to go and seek her first degree in arts from the Queen Mary’s College in Madras. Subsequently she worked for two years as a teacher at the Bentinck Girls School High School, Madras. She was then summoned back by her parents to Trichur to teach at the Christava Mahilalayam in Alwaye. She spent a year there and then re-enrolled for a Master of Arts in Economics and History at the Madras Presidency College. The return to Madras for her further education seems to have been made easier because of her brother George’s admission to the Madras Medical College.

Sarah was not only brilliant in her academic achievements at the Presidency College but she also excelled in swimming as well as playing competitive tennis, basketball and volleyball. Soon after her graduation from the Presidency College, she was given an appointment as Lecturer at the Isabella Thoburn College in Lucknow in 1930 from where she rose to become its Vice Principal in 1939. Even before Sarah became the Vice Principal of that institution, she represented the SCM Conference in Java (1933), went to the United States in 1936 as a representative of the Burma and Ceylon delegation to participate in the World Student Christian Federation Conference in San Francisco. On a furlough from her college duties, Sarah also used that opportunity to get a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Chicago. After six years of demonstrated excellence as Vice Principal, Sarah was chosen as the Isabella Thoburn College’s Principal in 1945, an accomplishment she wished her father had been alive to celebrate with her. Sarah’s father, M.A. Chakko died in 1941.

Sarah was the second Indian Principal of the Isabella Thoburn College. Her immediate predecessor, Mrs. P.N.Dass was the first Indian woman to reach such a position. But, Mrs. P. N. Dass was connected to a Royal household of that region and she was the sister-in-law of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur who later became the first woman Cabinet Minister (Health) of independent India. Sarah had only her proven performance for the bestowal of such an honor. As Principal, she undertook again numerous short-term assignments on behalf of several Christian organizations. She visited China, Canada, Greece, England, Switzerland, Holland, USA etc. In 1947, she was elected first to become the Vice President of the World YWCA and subsequently in 1951 as the first woman and Indian President of the WCC. She was indeed a shining star of Indian womanhood whose scholarship and leadership styles brought much credit to both Indian women in general and to Indian Christianity in particular. It is indeed tragic that she met with an untimely demise in 1954, while playing in a basketball match along with her students. Apparently, she died of a previously undiagnosed cardiac anomaly, not uncommon among some athletes. The famous evangelist Stanley Jones who happened to be visiting Lucknow at that time participated in her funeral service. Sarah was buried in the same cemetery (Lucknow’s Gomati Cemetery) where Isabella Thoburn, the founder of the College was interred. Owing to both communication complexities and travel difficulties prevalent in India at that time, none of her immediate family members was able to attend Sarah Chakko’s funeral. Sarah’s mother passed away three years later in 1957.

The book is replete with anecdotes of Sarah’s compassion for the poor and her grit in handling many stressful and often potentially violent or volatile situations. Unfortunately, there are a few typographical and syntactical errors in the book. But, they are more than compensated by the biographer’s precision for details. Mr. Kurian is a well-known journalist who retired from the position of Assistant Editor of Malayala Manorama in 1983. He provides vivid descriptions of events illustrating Sarah’s adroitness and leadership skills in all sorts of difficult situations. There are also poignant portrayals about her concerns for the poor as well as her subordinates whenever she thought that they were afflicted by sickness or job difficulties. A few instances of Sarah’s selfless devotion to her servants will bring tears to the eyes of any sensitive reader. There are also glimpses in this book about Sarah’s genuine support of Gandhiji’s freedom movement since she undertook projects, which channeled the energies of her students into village uplift programs. An incident illustrative of Sarah’s grit and leadership qualities is described in the book by her biographer using the quotes from a staff leader of the WCC who was taking a group of international Christian leaders in 1951 to visit the Palestinian refugees dislodged by Israel’s establishment. Sarah Chakko was a member of that group when it was confronted by a group of enraged Palestinian refugees who mistook the group to be part of the United Nations, which had authorized the establishment of Israel. Dr. Visse’rt Hooft of WCC who was present on the scene described the events thus: “when our party arrived, the people came rushing down the hills and shouted what seemed to be violent protest and threats. It looked as if we had a riot on hand. So, I asked our Indian colleague, Sarah Chakko to address the crowd. There she stood in her Indian Sari and began to speak in a firm, quiet voice about the refugees in her own country. When the speech was translated into Arabic, the crowd calmed down and a man spoke up saying, we are sorry, we thought you came from the United Nations. We did not know you were men of God”.

For this reviewer, the most ennobling character of Sarah Chakko was her relentless struggle for obtaining parity for all women and Christian women in particular. Sarah’s efforts led to the establishment of a Women’s Commission within the WCC. She subsequently became the Chairperson of that Commission, in addition to her duties as the President of WCC. Shortly before her death, in early 1954, a second assembly of WCC was announced to take place in Evanston, Indiana and she was surprised beyond belief that the Orthodox Syrian Church named her as the official delegate to that assembly. In her response to that appointment, she noted that it “establishes the principle that a woman can work in an official capacity in the Orthodox Syrian Church. There has never been any rule against it, but it has never been done”. From her writings and stated positions before the WCC’s Women’s Commission there is evidence that she along with many other Christian women did not see anything theologically impermissible for undertaking a consideration of the ordination of women, no doubt a heretical statement perhaps to many in the Christian orthodox communities even today.

The biographer states that Sarah Chakko never forgot her Indian traditions and its culture wherever she went. It reminded me of the statement of Osthathios Thirumeni (Deccan Herald, Feb 20, 2005) wherein he stated that he is an Indian by nationality, a Christian by faith and a Hindu by culture etc. It seems to me that Sarah Chakko embraced that same Indian traditions as a Christian which made her love all her fellow human-beings, rich or poor, Hindu, Christian or Muslim, all as children of the same God. To quote Mr. Kurian, the biographer, “Sarah Chakko lived the life of a devotee for the work of the Lord. She had dedicated her life to that purpose. The Blessed Lord has said in Srimad Bhagvad Gita (11-55), “He who does work for Me alone and has Me for his goal, is devoted to Me, is freed from attachment and fears, has enmity towards no creatures, and entereth unto Me”. Sarah Chakko’s life is a testimony to the tenacity of a Christian woman’s commitment to do her part in the struggle for ensuring equality for all women, starting with Christian women so that they can serve as role models for all women of all faiths everywhere.

At a minimum, this book belongs in the library of every Indian Orthodox Church, both in India and overseas where we are frequently hearing complaints from Indian Orthodox Christian women about their secondary roles in the affairs of their churches. If our prelates and male members of our communities do not address such festering grievances promptly, they ought to study the fate of Orthodox Jews who came to the United States four or five generations ago. Lenni Brenner’s, “The Demographics of American Jews” cites impressive data to show that only 9.7% of the descendants of the orthodox Jews are now “orthodox”. The reasons he cites for such exodus of Jews out of orthodoxy are: segregation of women, “hostess’ roles for women in the affairs of the synagogue, hostility towards induction of women into the Rabbinate etc. Sound familiar, don’t they? Most “orthodox” Jews who abandoned orthodoxy joined the reformed Jewish communities where equality between sexes has remained absolute and irrevocable. (See:

The great American writer George Santayana said, “those who forget the past are condemned to relive it”. I would love to see the Indian Orthodox Community both here and in India flourish and thrive by conferring on orthodox Christian women the same rights as those held by male members of our congregations as well as within the association which represents the views and wishes of all Indian Orthodox Christians to the Catholicos of the Apostolic Throne of the East in Kottayam, India. If that can be realized soon in our Church, it would indeed be a fitting recognition for the many contributions that Sarah Chakko made for World Christianity.

C. Alex Alexander, M.D.
Odenton, MD

** The author copyrights this review and those wishing to publish this in any print or e-format must obtain a written permission from the author.

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The first international conference on the history of early Christianity in India from the advent of St. Thomas to Vasco de Gama was convened in New York from 13-16 August 2005. This Conference was organized jointly by the Institute of Asian Studies [IAS], The Centre for the Study of Christian Literature and Culture in Indian Languages [CSCLC], and few other academic centre of advanced research in other countries. Prof. George Menacherry had visited U.S. to attend this International Seminar held at the Concordia University, New York.

The first international conference on the history of early Christianity in India from the advent of St. Thomas to Vasco de Gama was convened in New York from 13-16 August 2005. This Conference was organized jointly by the Institute of Asian Studies [IAS], Chennai, India; The Centre for the Study of Christian Literature and Culture in Indian Languages [CSCLC], Chennai, India; and few other academic centre of advanced research in other countries.

Institute of Asian Studies [IAS] is a spiritual organization established in 1982 centered at Tiruvanmiyur in Tamil Nadu, India, conceived with the objective of strengthening the cultural ties between India and other Asian nations. Currently it is grown to become one of India's premier indological research and publication institutes involved in study and research in the ancient literary and cultural traditions of Asia promoting inter-disciplinary investigation of the literary and cultural facets of pan-Asian culture. The Institute of Asian Studies has in recent years attracted research scholars from all over Asia, Europe and America, enabling them to conduct their designated research projects in Asian languages and literatures under one roof with support facilities, a faculty of senior academicians, digital interconnectivity with the global village community and ideal accessibility to the heartland of South Indian culture.

The Center for the Study of Christian Literature and Culture in Indian Languages [CSCLC] is a registered public trust founded with the aim of promoting academic research on various aspects of Christian literature and culture in the regional languages of India. It is based on the campus of the Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai. The CSCLC undertakes research projects aiming to systematically document the history and achievements of Christianity on Indian soil beginning from the time of St. Thomas to the present day.

Prof. George Menacherry had visited U.S. to attend this International Seminar held at the Concordia University, New York. Prof. Menacherry was honoured by the New Jersy Community for the services rendered by him to spread knowledge about India and Indian Christianity - esp. the history and culture of the Nazranies - in foreign countries. V. Rev. Dr. George presented him a plaque on behalf of the community. Madathipparampil, the Vicar General of the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago. Fr. Joy Alappatt, Administrator of "Our Lady of Sorrows" church, Garfield and Fr. John, former principal of Koothuparambu College were among those who spoke on the occasion.

Prof. George Menachery is a freelance Indian Journalist and Editor of the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India and the Indian Church History Classics. After teaching university classes for thirty years, he gave up the job as Head of the Department of Post-Graduate Teaching in order to concentrate on research and publication. SARAS [South Asia Research Assistance Services] provides information and research assistance for topics dealing with India in particular and South Asia in general. He has to his credit a large number of publications, research papers, articles, radio talks and TV programmes. His research activities and lectures have taken him to more than 20 countries in 4 continents.

The history of Christianity in India is traceable from the advent of St. Thomas during the middle of the first century, precisely A.D. 52. As the secular written history does not give any clues of the origin of Christianity in India due to the fact that ancient historical documents are blended with traditions and fictional elements. Mission of St. Thomas in Kerala during the first century was always a subject of controversy for a long time. There are two distinct schools of thoughts regarding the origin of Christianity in India: viz. By the first century mission work of apostles of Jesus Christ St. Thomas & St. Bartholomew or through the merchants and the missionaries of East Syrian or Persian Church at later centuries. However the traditions of Malankara Christians strongly believe that St. Thomas arrived at the Malabar Coast in A.D. 52 converted Hindus of Kerala and established Christianity. The Malabar tradition which associates St. Thomas with Palaiyur, Parur, Kokkamangalam and Niranam is not contradicting with any other tradition. Other tradition of the West cost Christianity [Kalyan, Vasai Area near Mumbai] believes that origin is by the proselytizing of St. Bartholomew. The writings in the 'Acts of Judas Thomas' and 'Teaching of the Apostles', though they are shrouded with doubt of its connection with Gnostic thoughts and a number of stray references in the writings of Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Rufinus of Aquileia, Socrates, Ephrem of Nisibis, Gregory Nizianzus, Ambrose and Jerome corroborate the Indian traditional beliefs.

With the molding of the ancient historical sketch of Kerala and various other place in India from the modern archeological excavations give ample evidences both internal and external to testify to the existence of early Christianity in India from the period of St. Thomas. Christianity in the Tamilnadu during this phase of early history was a very potential force and its ethics and other theological codes find powerful expression even in secular Tamil Classics like Tirukkural and Naladiyar.

The aim of the present conference was to establish the existence of early Christianity in Indian soil with objective and well-documented evidences and to study its strong impact on medieval and classical India until the advent of Vasco de Gama whose epoch - making visit inaugurated a new chapter in the cultural, and political history of this great nation. The organizers are quite hopeful that the reconstruction of the early Christianity in India will shed new light on the history of Indian Philosophy and Indian Culture in general and this will give new orientation and new perspective to our understanding of the classical and medieval culture and civilization.

Delegates who are selected and invited from various organizations all over the world and had done intensive study and contributions in various related topics presented papers broadly in following topic categories.

  • History of Christianity in India
  • St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew Mission in India
  • Early Christians and Christianity in Kerala, TamilNadu and West Coast of India
  • Historical, Traditional, Linguistic, Numismatic, Iconographic, Epigraphic and Archeological evidences
  • Indian and foreign Languages
  • Indian and foreign Religions
  • Culture, Arts, Architecture and Literature

    A Committee constituted consisting of 12 representatives from various countries and Organizations all over the world offered guidelines and suggestions in the successful conduct of the conference schedules. There were cultural programmes arranged in the evenings.

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