A Visit to St. Dionysius Orthdoox Church, Al Ain


I visited St. Dionysius Orthodox Church, Al Ain, UAE after its consecration on Tuesday, April 15th 2014. This was my second visit. I visited the Church last November when it was still under construction. I was accompanied by Rev. Fr. Jose Chemmanam, Vicar of St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Abu Dhabi, his wife and Mr. Thomas of a member of the Abu Dhabi Church committee member. The Church was constructed at a cost of 7.5 million Dhirams. H.G. Dr. Yuhanon Mar Chrisostamos Metropolitan was in station for the passion week services. Rev. Fr. Saji, vicar and committee members received us. We had noon prayer and lunch afterward.

 

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Passion Week Service 2014


My Passion Week Services at St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Abu Dhabi, UAE began with H. Qurbana on 40th day of Lent. Pictures from Palm Sunday Services.

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Hail Narendra Modi …!


Early morning today, Rev. Fr. Alias Cherukattu, a prominent priest of Kandanadu East diocese, and a member of the working committee and advisory board of His Holiness the Catholicos of the Church called me up over phone. He told me that the proposed Gospel Convention at the Orthodox chapel at Koothattukulam where I was supposed to deliver a sermon on Sunday evening stands cancelled (this convention was to be for three days). He said the police asked the organizers to cancel it because a resident of the area, a member of the BJP state committee and leader of Bharathiya Masdur Sangh (BJP workers’ wing) has filed a complaint with the police against this convention being conducted in his neighborhood.

Kerala is a state with over 19% Christian population and is a decisive presence in social, political and economic life of the state. If we have to face this kind of situation, what will be the case in other states of India where Christians are a minority and mostly from socially backward communities? OK for some of us Mr. Narendra Modi is the Messiah; Messiah of whom that is my question.

 

 

Questions and Clarifications


Here are my notes of few questions I received since last posting of questions and clarifications:

Question 1. Dear Thirumeni

Hope thirumeni is fine. I have a doubt regarding the 8 day lent in September .I have studied in sunday school and heard from others one of the major difference between orthodox churches and catholic churches is on the theological topic whether St. Mary is a saint by birth or not .Orthodox churches oppose it. So lent of Aug. 1-15 is accepted by us and other is not accepted by us….

But what is happening around us is entirely different. If we ask our church members which is the lent for St. Mary 90%will say 8 day lent. And most churches in our place do conduct this as a big perunal.8 days mass by 8 bishops is a common thing .But the same churches will not have H. Mass on 15 day lent…..In our locality only 1 church had H. Mass on 15 days ….another church conducted Sept. perunal with 8 bishops…How could common people distinguish between these two things…

One of the reason i heard is to prevent people from going to manrkadu church we are keeping quiet on this topic. But it is not true. During Nov. lot of other people come to parumala…can there home churches stop them???

We have everything to stand in a society.But people always think we should immitate others.

Here our teachings are not even kept by us. Thirumeni can you please share your thoughts on this topic

Regards —-

Answer 1. Dear —–

Yes there is a difference between the way Catholics and Orthodox understand the position of St. Mary in the Church. The Catholic Church celebrates St. Mary’s birth during eight day lent. They teach that Mary was what they call “amalolbhava” which means born without sin. This assumes that every one else is born with what they call ‘original sin’. Our difference with the Catholics begins here in this regard. We do not believe that Adam’s sin is inherited by human born in to this world. Of course the effect of Adam’s sin, which is estrangement, is continued through generation until Jesus brought human race and creation back to God’s presence. So there is no original sin and hence there is no question of St. Mary being born with or without ‘original sin’.

St. Mary was a woman like any other when she was born. Her response to God’s call made her a saint. Again, in Orthodox Church, we do not usually celebrate birth day of any one. Even that of our Lord was not celebrated until we had the Catholic influence. We used to observe the yoldo (birth) of our Lord along with His baptism on Jan. 6 as the time of God’s appearance incarnate.

It is true that now eight day lent is gaining popularity and observed with much enthusiasm in several Churches. I do not think that it is to prevent people from going to Manarcadu Church. Those Churches in other states in India with those in UK or US who observe this lent do not have that challenge for obvious reason. It is not true that people do not care for 15 day lent any more. That is a canonical lent and every parish in Malankara Orthodox Church is obliged to observe that and they do also. However it is true that this lent is not observed with the same enthusiasm as that of 8 day lent.

I would make two comments on this. The theory behind we observing 8 day lent will decide whether we are doing some thing right or wrong. An Orthodox faithful has the right to observe lent (saumo) for any reason any time except on the Lord’s Day. It becomes wrong only if we observe it based on a wrong principle. This is where our responsibility to teach the faithful about the principle behind observing 8 day lent becomes relevant. We need to tell them that we are not observing it for the same reason as that of the Catholic Church. Rather we are observing a second with St. Mary’s intercession since she holds a special position among the saints and since a lent after her name and in her intercession would help people in their spiritual enrichment.

Of course we already have this 15 day lent. But since lot of Churches among us are observing 8 day lent and our people feel that this will help their spiritual nourishment, we don’t need to say no to them.

Observing 8 day lent with our principle need not contradict the principle of 15 day lent. We live in a society from where we have adapted many things which we thought either would help us in our spiritual growth or will make better meaning for us. We have done this in the case of the Great Lent also. The time for Great Lent in our tradition earlier was not in line with that of the western Church due to the difference between Gregorian and Julian calendars. But since the majority of people are observing Good Friday and Easter according to the calendar followed by the western Church, which is Gregorian calendar, we also decided to follow. You may note that the Church of the East (otherwise called the Chaldean Church) used to observe this lent differently according to the Eastern (Julian) calendar until few years back. Again architecture of Church buildings, oil lamp (nila vilakku), thali (or minnu) for wedding, neyyappam for feasts etc. were adapted from different cultures. This does not mean that we adapted them with the original meaning attached to them. We did so with essential change in meaning to suit our basic principles (kindly listen to my Onam greeting on http://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/onam-programme-of-ocym-thrissur/). We adapted 8 day lent as we thought our people will benefit spiritually from it.

Again there is a second point. The practices and observances we are following now in our Church were given by the father of the Syriac tradition. They are quite valid and important. But it does not mean that they can be applied in every situation and context without any change. Some of them may have to be put to alteration and some may have to be replaced by others. Just to name one, we are not doing our weddings the same way it is done in Syriac tradition. We do not use crowns to adorn the bride and groom though the Syriac liturgy prescribes to use them. It should be noted that both in the blessing prayer and in the hymn during the liturgy, still suggests that we are crowning them. We now use chain to wear around the neck according to our convenience.

Now coming to 15 day lent. No one knows the exact date of the soonoyo (vangippu or death) of St. Mary. The Church, to fit in within an annual cycle, set each and every event in the life of our Lord and that of His saints so that we will have cyclic platform for our spiritual life in this world. Again initially observance of all lent was for forty days. In the course of history this was changed to different days according to the need of the time. Now only the great lent has forty days. Even dates were changed later. If the Holy Synod of Malankara Church decides so, we could reconsider the dates of the soonoyo lent and re-schedule it to be observed from September 1st to 8th or to 15th. To sum up: what I have been trying to say is, the Church has every right to make necessary change in the way we observe practices and observances for the spiritual nourishment of the faithful. Some times it is done by the official bodies and some times by the people. In this case the people took the initiative and the Church followed. This is exactly how saints were recognized in Syriac tradition. We never, until recently, had the practice of officially declaring a person as saint or intercessor as in Catholic Church. Now we have accepted three saints through official declaration. But in those cases too the acceptance from the people came first. So let us hope and wait for some thing positive to happen in this regard too from the official circle of the Church. Until then let the faithful observe this. But also let us continue to tell them ‘what you are doing is not exactly with the same principle as that of the Catholic Church. Again it may be noted that it is not the date and days that is important, rather why and how we do a particular thing is.

Let us be open to new and progressive thoughts and practices for the spiritual nourishment of the faithful.

Regards and prayers, Thirumeni

Question 2. Dear thirumeni

The reply given by you is very well explained …Thanks for the time taken for giving the reply. And also thirumeni i am not against the practice of taking 8 day lent..My concern was officially our church’s principle is not in line with the same. If our church accepts the same then its a very good decision….

And another thing My uncle is a member of a protestant church. Last time when he came home i had a big discussion regarding their faith. What i understand from him is their pastor/leader of church is able to inject their faith to them like what Taliban is doing……

On the same time we are not able to teach our members what is our belief.People who complaints about length of our service is more  never complaints the same when he goes to a protestant whose prayer timing is always more than ours…They get enough sunday school students but we dont…. 1 friend of mine does n’ t even know difference between sandya namaskaram and h.mass…

i think the way we teach people has to change.The approach of teaching of our church  has to change not the content….

The availability of online articles should be more.We have to create more discussion forums and attract people to it.We have attract youth to study our faith.

It will be a great thing if we can introduce some new measures to teach our faith …..

Thirumeni My marriage is fixed on Janury 19th ,My would be’s name is —.She is doing B.Ed after completing M.Sc in Zoology.Thirumeni please do remember us in your prayers.

Thanks and regards —

Answer 2. Dear —

Hope you are doing fine by the grace of God. Also I remember you and your fiancé in my prayers and pray for the wedding ceremony too.

I don’t think your uncle is a Protestant church member. There is a difference between Protestants and Pentecostals. Probably your uncle belongs to a Pentecostal group. Protestants are Lutheran, Baptists, Presbyterian etc. They will not argue with people like the Pentecostals do. They are people with reasoning. The Pentecostals generally do not respect others and do not follow basic principles of Biblical interpretation. So don’t argue with them as it is of no use. If you still want to, ask them to read from the Bible Luke 1:28, 30 and 42 and ask them to make it part of their prayers. They claim that things in the Bible are the only acceptable rule in their spiritual life. So these verses too should be part of their spiritual life.

Of course you are right, at this modern age of new communication facilities we need to have new methods of teaching and keeping our people informed. My blog is a small attempt in this line.

Once again God be with you helping in all the matters related to your marriage and may He help you make a wonderful family with peace, love and joy.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 3. Dear Thirumeni,

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous Onam…

How are you..? How is your health. By the grace of god here every one is good. I would like to ask a small doubt to you, can please provide some knowledge in orthodox church teachings about the “sola scriptura” teaching of protestant churches. And I heard that Our church is collecting and preparing a bible for the church use, will it be available soon.. Is the current bible we are using it in our houses is as same as what we are using in the church?. If its not the same, will it become a tool for others people with their own agendas to misinterpret the bible?

I believe that the studies and interpretation of the bible should inspired by holy spirit and it should consider that era’s social and other circumstances too. am i rite?

Hope I am not asking any mandatharams..

remember us in your prayers

Regards —–

Answer 3. Dear —-

Hope you and your dear ones are doing fine by the grace of God, my prayers on your behalf.

No, no question is a foolish (mandatharam) question. Those who want to learn and grow in understanding only would ask questions.

With regard to the Bible, to the Orthodox Church, Bible is part of the great and long tradition of the Church. The tradition starts from the very beginning of time and will end only at the second coming of Christ. Primary reason for this is that God’s work in the history of His creation and witness of it cannot be limited to few books or writings within a specific period of the time. So to us Bible is continuously being written. Everything positive that happens in this created world has God’s hand on it. Everything that happens negatively in this world will have a message from God for us to correct our ways and to come back to God’s ways. However we have to acknowledge the fact that there is already a collection of books that has gained general acceptance. This acceptance was with certain norms set by the community of believers otherwise called the Church. The writings of the saints and ecclesial epistles of the leaders of the community (like the presiding bishop, the Pope, Catholicos, Patriarch etc.) on matter of faith and practices and decisions of the general councils are also considered as the work of the Holy Spirit. So they make part of the tradition of the Church.

This is one of the areas where we, the Orthodox Church, and other major communities in the Christian world have difference of position. For the Catholic Church, the Bible and tradition are two different strands of equal authority. The protestant Churches in general do not accept tradition as having equal or similar authority. This is where they would say ‘sola scriptura’ or scripture alone. There is a definite historical context for them to take this position. During the middle ages, the Catholic Church headed by the Pope brought out various theories and dogmas that were quite contrary to the basic teachings of Christ as seen in the Gospels, in Acts and in the Epistles. They tried to reason with the Pope, but were not successful and so they had to take this position and rule out all possibilities of having tradition with equal and same authority with the Biblical testimony in matters of faith. However, they also eventually accepted the fact that the community or Church certainly has tradition valid and guided by the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless they do not accept them as having equal authority as that of the Biblical testimony.

Again the norms for accepting books to be included in the Bible set by the Churches are variant. While the protestant Churches accept only those written originally in Hebrew as part of the Old Testament and originally in Greek as part of the New Testament (I am not strict in making this distinction, but this is for primary understanding). However, both Catholic and Orthodox Churches have included books that were not written in these languages alone, rather also written in Aramaic and Greek (this again is a general statement). There are criteria regarding the dates of books also. So there are difference of opinion regarding the total number of books to be included in the collection called the Bible. The Catholic and Protestant Churches have set the number for sure. While the Protestants have 66 books the Catholics have several additional books (which the Protestants call apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha or non-canonical books) along with few additions in certain books like Psalms and Daniel. This was finally set by them in a council called the Trent Council (1546 AD). The Greek Orthodox Church set its canon in Jerusalem council in AD 1672 and the Anglican Church in A D1563. Other protestant Churches also decided in the line I mentioned earlier. Oriental Orthodox traditions with Syriac, Indian, Coptic, Armenian etc. have not officially set the number. In a fluid manner we consider the books from which fathers of the Church have quoted in their writings are considered as authentic though we have general agreement on the number which is 72.

Peshito which is the Syriac version of the Bible is what is generally used in the Syriac tradition Churches. This was translated in to Malayalam by Very. Rev. Kurian Cor-Episcopa Kaniyamparambil several years back. This has 50 books in OT and 27 books in NT. However, there are hundreds of manuscripts in Syriac and have several variations between them which are not so much attended in this translation. Those who have some basic knowledge about the formation of Biblical books will not argue anything on the basis of a particular verse or passage in the Bible.

When you say ‘Protestant’ you must be referring to some of the ‘sectarian’ or ‘Pentecostal’ communities which cannot be strictly called Protestant communities (they call themselves ‘evangelical communities’). They are a group of people who do not believe in many things the main line Protestant denominations believe in, including some of the cardinal elements of Christian faith like sensible and healthy spirituality (of course these days there are lot of educated people and pastors in these communities too who would see things as it should be).

Yes Malankara Church, under the auspices of MGOCSM, is bringing out a Malayalam translation of Orthodox Bible. It will be published shortly. It is only an attempt to give the people a particular version of the Bible. Now all the three major denominations (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) agree in general on their approach to Biblical books and their interpretation. So I don’t see any major issue that may come up due to the publishing of an Orthodox Bible in Malayalam. Nevertheless, I am sure those less informed and not well educated members of the sectarian and Pentecostal Churches will continue to challenge our people with their kind of argument. The only solution to that is, we getting more aware of things in matter of faith and practices of our Church and more familiar with the content and message of the Biblical books.

Yes, you are right. Biblical books are inspired writings of the Holy Spirit. But Holy Spirit did not inspire people of no knowledge. They were people of their time and of own personality. Each understood what the Holy Spirit revealed to them in their own way within their own specific context and situation. That is why we have four Gospels and several Epistles and not just one record of the life and work of our Lord and of His continued work in the community of His followers, the Church. Again same is the case with the Books in the Old Testament. For example you have several books that talk about the same matter. The book of Deuteronomy has what is being said in the other four books of Pentateuch in a nutshell and what is said in the books of Samuel and of Kings is again narrated with a different style and theological principle in the books of Chronicles.

Interpreting Biblical passages should have three basic considerations. First, the fundament teachings of Jesus as we see in all the Gospels combined (not in any one of them in isolation), second, the time and context of the writer and third, the time and context of the interpreter. Without this the message can be wrong, irrelevant and out of context. Most of the time in all these three the sectarian and Pentecostal preachers do not show credibility. The sad fact is that some of our people fall prey to that for emotional and personal reasons.

For general purpose most of the time we use the Bible published by Bible Society of India. They have only those books accepted by the main line Protestant Churches with 66 books. But for Gospel reading we mostly use those translated from Syriac version of the Bible. For Epistle readings we use both those published by Bible Society and by our Church. Those ones we use in our homes are mostly published by the Bible Society.

Regards and prayers, Thirumeni

Question 3. Dear Thirumeni,

Thank you for the valuable answers. Hope your grace is doing well by the grace of almighty. Sending few more doubts to clear. Remember me and my family in your daily prayers and we do the same.

Qn.a): The meaning of verses in St. Luke’s gospel 11:24-26

Qn.b): Should the husband and the wife wear the wedding ring and ‘minnu’ always in their life? Is it a tradition only?

Qn c): Is it wrong if an altar boy reads the 1st tubden by including the full names and titles of the holy fathers? i.e. HH moran mor Ignathiose Zakka Iwas, the Patriarch of Antioch and the head of Syrian Church, HH moran mor Baseliose Marthoma Paulose II, the Malankara Metropolitan and the catholicose of the east, moran mor Gregoriose, the patriarch of Jerusalem, our parish metropolitan …mor… Many of the church members don’t know who are the aboons referred in the 1st tubden.

Qn d): In a book by Z.M. Parett, it is written that the Syrian Bishops won’t lift the chair on non arab bishops upwards while saying ‘oxiose’ and have a slave mentality towards them especially from India. Any fact? How was it in your grace’s consecration? Which community(church) he belongs to?

Qn e): As per the verdict of the Supreme Court of India, the title ‘Malankara Metropolitan’ belongs to the head of our church and it can’t be questioned on any stage by any one. 3-4 years back while surfing through the web site of Malankara Catholic Church, I was surprised by seeing the titles MM and the throne of St. Thomas on H.G. Isaac (‘Baseliose’) mor Clemmis. The timely actions of our TVM bishop prevented him from going ahead with those titles. He had to remove it under the pressure from Rome since in their church there is only one throne which is of St. Peter. Now it is the turn of H.G. Joseph Marthoma Metropolitan, the head of Marthoma Church. One of my friends (Marthomite) sent the photo of H.G and the titles MM, 21st Marthoma and the throne of St. Thomas is given to him. How can they claim it since the Royal Court declared that H.G. Thomas Mor Athanasius is not the MM? Of course they can claim the heritage of St. Thomas to some extent. Is there no body in our church officials to protest against it and correct him? ( I did it on the face book) Is it not a violation of Supreme Court Verdict? Can we file a case against him?

Qn. F): The value of Vattipanam (8000 poovarahan) in Indian Rupees. From where we are getting it now?

Qn g): Should women cover their hair while praying? St. Paul wrote that their hair is given instead of veil? Is it also a tradition?

Answer a): Well Jesus talked to the people through parables or examples. There are two things we need to remember regarding them. One they are all from the context of the hearers and that has ground in their understanding of things. Two, they serve only the purpose intended to convey. That means it can not be taken for any other kind of interpretation what so ever. Now regarding Luke 11:24-26:

I quite often use this verse and the parable in there in my sermons. The issue here is that the Jews rejected Jesus and his works saying that He was doing them with the help of the chief of Satan, ‘Beelzebub’. The Jewish community that had abandoned God is the one who was possessed with the evil spirit. But they are trying to avoid this evil spirit though feasts, practices and observances. They only effect externally. For a while it may look as if they are clean. But eventually things will get even worse. I have spoken on this in my sermons, saying, ‘it is not enough for you to be cleansed, but have to keep life filled with good works of the H. Spirit without which those bad habits you have avoided will come back multiplied’. So what is needed is not just cleaning, but also filling; cleaning of bad things is good. But without filling that space with better things, the cleaning will only give space for even worse tendencies.

Answer b): Yes they are tradition only. The first one, the ring, is a universal tradition and the second, the minnu, is a Malayalee tradition (some other states in India also has this tradition, but not in other parts of the world). These are symbols of our mutual fidelity and relationship. It is for both of them to decide whether they should wear these all the time. I should also add that ring is a sacramental symbol of being bonded together and hence has added importance.

Answer c): That is not needed and will not be right to read the full name. The names are of the offices not of the persons. That is why even though there is no more any patriarch in Jerusalem we would also remember the patriarch of Jerusalem every time. Even if there is no living patriarch or catholicos still we are supposed to remember their offices. The office never ceases to exist. So yes it will be unnecessary and out of place to read the full name of the prelates in the 1st Diptychs

Answer d): No that is not correct. The Syrian bishops do lift the chair when Oksios is said. In my case also they did that.

Answer e): The court order is in a case between two factions of Orthodox Church and is applicable only to them. Any one in a democratic system has the right to call themselves any name they wish unless a particular name is registered with copy right protection authorities. When we added “Marthoma” to the name of our Catholicos starting with H.H. Mathews I Bava thirumeni, did the Marthoma metropolitan or his church protest? What right we had to take their title and use it for our Catholicos? When the Malankara rite of the Catholic Church call their metropolitan Malankara Matropolitan they mean Malankara Metropolitan of their Church, the Catholic Church, and not of our Church. The court verdict is applicable only for our Church.

Answer f): We are not getting the interest of vattippanam now. We are supposed to get it from Kerala government.

Answer g): It is a tradition that St. Paul asked (1 Cor. 11) women to follow due to a particular social situation in Corinthian Church and not intended to be a universal law. There were places in Corinth where women would behave loosely in the society and one of their ways was to keep their head uncovered and showing off their beauty. This caused confusion in the society and misunderstanding among other people to the effect that Christians considered as lose community. Paul wanted to avoid the allegation and asked women to use their freedom in Christ more prudently without causing any misunderstanding about the whole community. Same is the reason Paul asked women to be quite in the assemblies and only ask their husband at home about faith (1 Cor. 14). This is not meant to be followed universally.

Question 4.

I love to see the question and answer section of your blog. My question is, Onam has always been celebrated in our homes. We clean and decorate our homes and have a feast. But is it necessary to bring all this to Churches if so in Gujarat and in Madhya Pradesh Navaratri Garbha is a cultural festival for Gujarathis. They put an idol on Durga and all people dance around that. Can a Christian do that? Same way Ganesh utsav is observed by all in western M.P. and Maharastra. Can a Genesh pandal be set up in our Church. So I would like to say that we should restrain from such cultural things from our Church.

Anser 4. Dear —

I guess this is in response to the post in my blog regarding Onam celebration by Mannuthy OCYM unit (http://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/onam-programme-of-ocym-thrissur/ and the message in there). I don’t think you got my point clearly enough. I did say that the Church has to re-interpret the festivals adapted from other cultures. For Onam the Hindu community place three small tower like structures in the middle of the flower bed. We don’t do that. Again we would not be celebrating the good days of the past. Rather of the future too. The good days of the past in the Garden of Eden are to be remembered. But unlike the matter in Onam, we will also be taking it to the future when our Lord will bring back the past glory. Again for Ganesha Utasav we can avoid the idol, but can place a cross in the pandal and observe it. I do not know the story and details of the celebration of Navaratri or Ganesha festival in the north to make detailed suggestions to make them Christian festivals. But I am sure that is possible and that way we can join our fellow beings. Many of our present Christian fests including Christmas and Easter were adapted from non-Christian cultures after re-interpretation.

Thirumeni

Question 5. Dear Thirumeni,

Appachan’s sudden demise made me think more about life after death. I have been reading and trying to understand the true orthodox faith to communicate with my children and family members, Few questions come to mind and hope you will answer them and as when you find time.

a. What happen to the soul after death?

b. Will the soul remain with and around the loved ones

c. Can we feel the loved departed?

d. What is the orthodox faith about judgment day and eternity?

e. Is there Heaven and Hell exist?

f. Is Satan exists? and what does it do to human?

Regards —

Answer 5. Dear —

I have a blog where have addressed your question, Pl. go for answer to the 1st question:

http://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/questions-and-answers-6/

and further on other issues, go to:

http://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/orthodox-position-on-the-departed/

Answer to question (f). regarding Satan: This question about Satan has to be addressed in two ways. One is in the context of popular belief of Jesus’ time and two, in a theological perspective.

During the Old Testament period there has never been any idea about a being called “Satan” as we think of it now. Though there are several references to the word “Satan” in Hebrew in Old Testament only 18 of them are taken to English Bible without translating it and uses as “Satan” in English too as a noun. Malayalam Bible Society Bible has only 11 usages. Other references to Hebrew word “Satan” in Old Testament is translated generally as ‘adversary’. Out o these eighteen fourteen are in the book of Job. If we examine this in the book of Job we could see that it does not fit in with the kind of picture we may have in popular understanding of Satan. This “Satan” in Job has the right to access to the presence of God along with ‘sons of God’. In the book of Chronicles there is one reference to “Satan” who stood against Israel and moved David to number Israel. A parallel text to this in 2 Sam. 24:1 ff. says that it was God who asked David to number Israel. In both cases the numbering was an act of rebellion against the power of God. There are three references to “Satan” in the book of Zechariah (in Malayalam only one). According to Biblical scholars, the idea of “Satan” was introduced to Israel during the time of Exile in Babylon. The Persian culture sure had this idea of an adversary who stands before the divine to point out the other side of the matter. This has the image of a court setting before a king. In the period between Old and New Testaments (Inter-Testamental) this became more powerful and took the shape of power with an army that fights against the power of God. Zechariah’s vision in ch. 3 talks about Satan standing in front of the angel of the Lord and God addressing and rebuking it.

Origen and Jerome and some other early Church fathers have related Satan with the Morning Star in Isaiah 14 translated as Lucifer by Latin version (Vulgate). But this text talks about the fall of Israel who is the Morning Star.

The New Testament understanding of the term has to be taken in this context. There are quite a few references to this term in the New Testament. The Greek word used satana clearly gives the picture of how the Greek world view influenced New Testament along with Jewish inter-testamental perception of evil. If we read Matthew 16:23 where Jesus called Peter “Satan”, we may assume that Jesus himself did not understand “Satan” as an independent power but as tendency in people.

Taking the theological perspective in this regard we may say that Jesus calling Peter ‘Satan’ gives a clear picture of the matter. Theologically speaking, we believe and confess that every thing seen and unseen are created by God. Genesis testifies that God saw every thing He created good. There can not be any thing in this whole world that was not created by God and what all He created has to be good. But the picture of “Satan” is that it is essentially bad and evil. Can it be created by God? The answer would be No.  Then we have to conclude that God can not be the creator of evil. If that was not created by God it has no existence. Then what is “Satan”? Satan is the personification of evil. Then the question is ‘where did evil come from’. The Old Testament story of creation clearly gives an answer. It has no self or existence, rather evil came to this world through the ‘greed’ of human. Human consumed the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil not because they had nothing else to eat. But they took it out of their luxurious tendency guided by the false propaganda and luring of a creature of God, the snake’ that was supposed to serve human instead of advising them. So to sum up, “Satan” is not a being with existence rather an adversary as lawyer in the court who accuses the defendant or an advisor before the king about the other side of the matter as seen in the Old Testament books. In the New Testament, it is the personification of evil tendency brought to the world through human submission to greed and attraction to fancy and unrealistic, selfish security as in the case of Peter. However, New Testament writers and general public till present believe that Satan has self and has independent existence.

Question 6: Respected Thirumeni,
As a layman can i use sheema namaskaram in home instead of
kudumbaaradhanakramam? or whether it is specially reserved for
priests?
Kissing your hands, your son in Christ —

Answer 6.  Dear —

S’hemo means simple. It does not say ‘exclusively for priests’. As a matter of fact the daily prayer that are prescribed for lay people according to the prayer book first published from Pampakuda is an abridged version Wednesday prayer from S’hemo prayer book.

Yes you can use S’hemo prayers for your daily prayers

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 7: Dear Thirumeni,

Greetings…

I enjoy reading your space and am greatly encouraged by your blog. I hope to write like you some day. I wanted to request your opinion on the following the issue:

The great commissioning of our Lord to the apostles (Gospel according to St. Mathew 28: 16 to 20) was to reach out to the world and to make disciples and share the good news of God’s reconciliation and salvation. Based on that commission St. Thomas came to our Land and shared the good news even at the cost of risking his life and becoming a Martyr..

2000 years have gone by and we have grown to be the Indian orthodox Church. But somewhere the commissioning to make disciples have taken the back seat. Upholding our tradition and pastoring the already existing members has become our upmost ideal. Isn’t it time that we refocus our call as Indian Orthodox church to make disciples across India and world rather than keeping this treasure only with malankara.

Thanks..—

Answer 7. Dear —

Thank you for the note. I must say, don’t try to be like some one else including me. Try to make the best of what you should be.

Well there are two things that I should mention about your question. One I do not think that the primary mission of the Church is to verbally preach and make disciples. Rather people should be attracted to Christ seeing our life conduct. We are not doing this and I am afraid I do not think we are able to do this with our unrealistic claims that we were converted from high class people and that hence we are above many other communities. We have lived and still live as an exclusive community. With this kind of attitude we are not able to attract people. Again we should not be concerned of number but quality. Many Christian communities in our country have gathered people and have added number to their credit but never changed their life. We can do the mission only if, still being a be a minority, but can be a ‘light on the top of the hill’. As long as we cannot do that there is no point in converting people from one religion to another religion.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 8: Dear Thirumeni I have few questions

Question a. Weather it has the judgment immediately, or are does it stay in a state of stillness till the final judgment or is there any other form.

Question b. do we believe in the concept of purgatory.

Question c. Does the last funeral rites do anything to the soul. In other words if those rites are not done will it make any difference. and other post funeral traditions of 41days etc.

Thanks —

Answer 8: Dear —-

Thank you for your comments and further questions. Actually it is hard to explain matters of faith in a virtual dialogue than in face to face talk. I am trying to reply your questions briefly:

Reply: a) What we call judgment can not be thought of as we see in our courts of any sort. It is a process like our life is. There are two kinds of references from Jesus about judgment. One suggests that it is going to be some time in the future (Matt. 10:15; 11:22,24; etc. Luke 11:31,31; John 5:29; 16:8 etc). At the same time there is another suggestion that the judgment has already come on the basis of whether they have accepted Jesus as savior or not (John 3:19; 9:39; 12:31 etc.). Taking both set of references seriously we may say that it is a process. Any one, when decides that Christ is his/her Lord the judgment begins (Matt.10:34). Accepting Him is a judgment in favor and not accepting him is a judgment against. This is the first stage of judgment. Those who took a negative judgment will have chance to correct this and take a positive judgment any time during his/her life time in this world. Even after accepting Christ, still people at every moment may take a judgment by acting against the spirit of that decision which is called a sin. But those acts against the positive decision (which is called sin) have to be corrected through repentance, confession and absolution. The community of creation (some times people, sometimes nature) will play a crucial role (this is the role of natural calamities and people’s messages, advices and sermons) for a person to identify the negative acts and to correct them. The positive acts have to be strengthened by those who have made positive decisions too (here again the community will help). This continues till departure from this world. Then there is no chance of going away, but there is a chance for coming closer with the help of fellow beings who support the person in prayer before God. However, anyone who has not at any point repented or never accepted Christ’s role in his/her life cannot be helped by the community. Those who were on a steady growth in relationship can only be helped by the community after death. The second stage of judgment comes when the second coming of Jesus occurs. This is the culmination of all the judgments during life time and after. So to put it in one sentence, judgment is a process that begins with the initial decision and proceeds to the final through ups and downs till the end of time when the whole history is wrapped up.

Reply.b) No we don’t hold the theory of purgatory that was initiated by the Western Church in the council of Florence (1438-1445 AD) and was affirmed later in the council of Trent (1545-1563 AD). There is no suggestion to hold that theory either in the Bible or in the writings of the early father of the Church. However, there is a point to be noted in this regard. The theory of purgatory says that ‘the prayers of the faithful and the service offered at the altar will help the departed grow closer to Christ’. In this sense we may agree with them as a stage and not as a place of correction with tormenting and punishing.

Reply: c) The funeral rites have three purposes; one is to prepare the diseased to go in peace with an assurance of continued support of the faithful along with prayers addressed to God for a passionate consideration towards the departed. This will be a time for those who are bereaved on the death to get an opportunity to be comforted and to release their bereavement and sorrow. This shall be continued even after the funeral. When there is no funeral rites these two things will be missing.

The observance of 40 days (not 41 days) has two bases. One, it takes seriously the number of days Jesus was with his disciples after His resurrection and assumes that the departed soul will be with the dear ones for that many days before it enters in to a different realm. But there is a problem with this. Jesus was with the disciples for forty days after his resurrection and not after his death. Here we are not doing it after the resurrection. This is where the second base becomes relevant. This is basically a cultural practice. In every culture the relatives will mourn on the death of a departed relative for certain number of days. This will help all the dear ones to get a grip of life being comforted by others and by doing certain rituals. Life has to go on even after the death of the dear ones. For that people have to overcome the grief. These forty days observance and rituals related to that will help people achieve that. It will also give time for a collective supplication before God on behalf of the departed. The observance of 40 days has a long history. This number is referred in the Bible quite a lot of times and for numerous reasons.  There is no clear explanation given to ‘why forty’ and not any other number. There are two popular explanations. One is that that is the number of penance (don’t ask why). The other is more reasonable. It says that those days a person’s life span is calculated to be forty.

Regards and prayers Thirumeni

Question 9: Dear Thirumeni,

I am writing this to you from Doha since I am working here for the last two years. I was in UAE for some time and was recently transferred from there with the same company for a project in Doha. We hail from Chengannur, and borne and brought up in an Orthodox family though my mother and their family members are with the Pentecostal church. Please remember me and my family in your valuable prayers to our Lord Almighty.

Also I need your valuable advice and explanation regarding the below verse from the Bible. I just wanted to understand the verse on Orthodox Theology basis. I understand this verse is being used by the Pentecostal churches as a justification to their ‘sermons’. Galatians, Chapter 4, Verse 5 “to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” Wishing you a very happy new year ahead and awaits your valuable advice regarding the above.

Thanks & regards —

Answer 9: Dear —

Thank you for your mail and for your New Year greetings. My prayers on behalf of you and your family.

The question from you needs to be addressed from the point of view of the total message of the epistle of Paul to Galatian Church.

There were both Jewish and Gentile converts in that Church. The Jewish converts did not so much like the way Gospel was preached among the Gentiles as Paul imposed nothing from Jewish culture on Gentiles but offered free Grace of God on them. This made Jewish Christians angry with Paul. So Paul had to defend his position. This is the context of the whole epistle.

According to Paul those who are under the law are slaves and not free people. Those who give importance to law must understand that they were not saved by Christ because they were having the law. At the same time he addresses the Gentile Christians who were once not knowing God and who worshiped forces in nature. To redeem them also God sent His Son through a woman under law so that both under law and not under law but under unknown forces may be be saved. This means that whether they were under the law or under natural forces, both were under slavery. Now both have been saved and given the right to call God Abba, Father and can enjoy the right of a son (child).

It is important that when we try to understand a particular verse in the Bible we have to read the whole book and understand the general message and then try to understand the particular verse in the general context of the message of the Book. Most of the time sectarian groups (including Pentecostals) do not do that. On the contrary they have set ideas and find verses out of context to support their teaching. This is injustice done to the Bible.

Hope I answered your question.

With regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 10: Dear Thirumeni,

How are you.. hows your health. hope your health is great. i want to confirm a small doubt, please ignore it if its my foolishness.

in our Holy Qurbana are we giving bread and wine. this is a doubt came up in one of our friendly discussions. one of my marthomite friend was told that in their church they are giving it seperatly. at that time i was not able to comment any thing as i remember only  we are giving bread and wine only to kids. I cannot say that we are giving bread dipped in wine because Jesus gave like this only to judas. and water we are giving along is normal water not praised water. Please guide me through the correct practices.

With prayers —

Answer 10: Dear —

Thank you for the mail and the query. No question is foolish, rather a sign of positive enthusiasm to grow.

Our Church does not separate bread and wine. The meal we share with Christ is not just the Passover meal. In fact we do not believe that Jesus had his last supper on the day of Jewish Passover when bread is served independent of wine with roasted lamb meat, rather it was a day earlier than the day of the Passover (John 12:1,2). According to Jewish custom, Jews could observe Passover on the previous day of the Passover day for practical reason. If some one follows that exception, then they can not use unleavened bread, but only leavened bread. They also will not cut any lamb on that day. Jesus’ table had no meat but only bread and wine. So we are not to follow the Jewish Passover formalities.

We are sharing the body and blood of resurrected Christ. In the resurrected body the flesh and blood can not be separated. They are together. So we give it together. There are two ways of administering it to the faithful. One is to put the bread in wine cup and serve it from the cup. Two, pour wine on to the bread and serve from the plate. In either case both bread and wine are present in the serving. During the breaking of the bread while the curtain is closed in the middle of the service the bread is broken and wine is poured on to it liturgically. Further while putting a piece in the cup the priest would say, this body belongs to this blood and while wine is mixed with the bread the priest would say this blood belongs to the body. Thus they become inseparable. This is how we serve the holy body and blood of our Lord to the faithful. To the infants and children we serve from the cup for practical reason. It will be the wine mixed with bread and particles of which will in there.

Hope I have clarified the matter.

Regards and prayers Thirumeni

Question 11: Thirumeni there are two deep questions that I struggle with:
a) Should I hate the sinner and the sin? Or, hate the sin, but love the sinner?
b) Am I qualified to condemn or condone? This is in the context of the meeting of two bishops with Mr. Narendra Modi

The first poses the biggest challenge, because if I don’t love the sinner how will I ever deliver the Gospel to him? Isn’t there some good in everyone, no matter how ‘evil’ they are? And, if there is even an iota of good, isn’t that person redeemable?

The second in the words of Jesus, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” restrains me from either condemning or condoning the act. Am I guiltless (clean)?

Your learned advice will go a long way to help clarify the questions. Wishing life’s questions were black and white only: no shades of grey.

Answer 11. Dear —

Thank you for your note. Yes you are right we can not hate a sinner, but only sin.

No you can not condemn a person. But at the same time you have to be wise to decide whether a person or a thing is good or bad depending on how he/she/it has been to others.

The Gospel has two sides; one is addressing the sin in the person as Jesus did with the Jews and two to give the positive message of salvation with a turning away from that person’s evil tendencies and acts. This is how you have to address any one including Mr. Narendra Modi. Loving the sinner is not just accommodating or being silent of the sin of the person.

Jesus was addressing a group who brought the woman caught in adultery. They were equally sinful in that case. So they lost the credibility to accuse her. This does not mean that a person, who is not part of a crime, though in other matters may be guilty, can not address the crime committed by someone. There is no one who is sinless except Jesus born in to this world. So if we follow the principle of not to point out the sin of another person because he/she has done some thing wrong, we can not say any thing to any one at all about his/her sin or fault. But of course any one, including the one who accuses another, has to be ready to take criticism from another person.

Hope you and your dear ones are doing fine by the grace of God.

With regards and prayers Thirumeni

Question 12. Most Respected Thirumeni,

Sheep stealing by Pentecostals and other new generation churches is a thing that our church has to address seriously. I am not sure whether our Holy synod has discussed about this yet. Many of our youths are getting converted to this group.The main reason is the lack of awareness about the faith of our church, especially about child baptism, remembering departed people,  intercession of saints.Catholic church has started to address this problem.Recently they had ‘faith year’.My humble suggestion is that we should have ‘faith week’ in each year.During this week we should educate our sheeps about the above subjects and how it is related to Holy Bible.Also we have to solve all problems with Jacobites through discussions.

With prayers —

Answer 12: Dear —

Thank you for your question. Yes it is a reality that some of our young people go to other denominations and groups for prayer and some times become part of them permanently. I do not think this is because of lack of awareness on their part about our faith and practices. Most of them, I am sure, are former Sunday School students and many of them have served in the Holy Altar and may also have participated in MGOCSM and OCYM activities. They, thus, have sure got enough opportunity to learn about our Church, faith and practices.

The issue is mainly sociological and psychological. Look at the kind of movie songs you hear today. The old lyrics based songs are less attractive to young people. They need fast rhythm and high volume. This is the trend of the time. Some people need personal attention. Both these are not possible in our Church as we follow a different pattern. When the young people join other groups they find this as a difference. Our young people are becoming less concerned of the former generation and their traditions. Even their relationship with parents are getting much shifted. They don’t stick around to take care of their older generation. So emotionally they get slightly distanced from them no matter living or departed not to speak of departed saints. Further they want immediate and direct result for any thing they may ask for. This will also take away, for them, need of an intercessor, but will insist on needing only direct relations with God. Of course some are guided by lack of proper education. But that is not a big number. We could try some thing like advanced study programme on faith and practices of our Church. Our Divya Bodhanam is aimed at that. But even that will not help any one if he/she decides to go away.

There is this psychological issue too. People are getting more and more emotional and any kind of emotional over tone would attract them easily. Knowing this, the new generation prayer groups introduce that tact before our young people. Her again with our kind of system, it is not possible for us to create an ecstatic atmosphere in service.

Regards and prayers Thirumeni

Question 13. Most Respected Thirumeni,
Hope you are doing fine by the Grace of God.

My father, who teaches at the Sunday School, requested me to forward the following queries to your Grace.

a) In Genesis 4:13, Cain says to the Lord” “I will be a homeless wanderer on the earth, and anyone who finds me will kill me”. Were there people on the earth during that time, other than Cain, Adam, and Eve?

b) Is Mary Magdalene the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus resurrected from dead?

Could you please answer the aforementioned queries?

Answer 13: One of the problem with our Bible study is that we have not accepted Bible as Bible rather as a scientific book. Well it is not, it is a book written by people who had faith. When people write with faith, they look at things in a different way. They don’t look for reason or how or why. Rather they look at the question who. Scientific question will how and why. When we look at Bible with these scientific questions, we may not see what the Bible is trying to tell us. This is particularly significant with Old Testament books.

To talk about the creation narrations we see in the Book of Genesis, the author was trying to tell us who is responsible for what we see around us. Every thing we see around us was created by God and all of them were created to be good. But then the question would be, if that was the case how come you have suffering, rivalry, bad acts etc. The answer given is that is caused by human. So we have two answers to the basic question who. To this back drop we have to further see other things. The Bible does not say Adam was the first and only man (male) created by God. It was we, the interpreters who said that. To understand this, we have to look for the language in which it was written and the meaning of the word. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. In that language Adam means human and not man (in singular or man as masculine singular). This is even more evident if we try to look for the feminine gender of the word Adam. It is ‘Adamah’ and the meaning of the word is ‘earth’ not eve. The name given to the woman is ‘hava’ which is a derivative of the root ‘ha’ which means ‘to be’ and hence ‘have’ means life. Again this is not about a single woman rather refers to womanhood.

Consequently we may say that what Old Testament is trying to say is, God is responsible for the existence of humanity with its life in feminineness. Once again Adam is not singular, it is collective singular which means human. If you closely study the first two chapters in the book of Genesis, you will see that there are two accounts of creation. The first from ch.1:1 to ch.2:4a and the second the rest of chapter 2. The book gives both to say that there are multiple ways of explaining the question how and therefore do not search for that answer in the Bible, just ask only the question who.

To come back to the original question: Yes when God created human, He created community and not single man/male. So there were lot of people who existed side by side and when some one was guilty of some wrong doing, others tried to take revenge on him.

I am not sure whether I made it clear to you. Biblical study is a serious discipline and I tried to make it as simple as possible to you. It will be good if you could find a book on Old Testament interpretation from Divyamodhanam series.

b). No, Mary Magdalene was a woman with seven evil processed woman who was cured by Jesus when He was divining at the house of Simon the rich man (Luke 8:2). Since then she was accompanying Jesus until after His resurrection (Mtt.27:55-56:61 // Mark 15:40, 47; Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:9-11; Luke 24:10; ; John 19:25; John 20:1-18).

Mary sister of Lazarus is the one who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to his words (Luke 10:39). She had washed Jesus’ feet with perfume (John 12:3). Jesus saw this as a pre-taste of His funeral rites (John 12:7). According to Luke 7: 36-50, certain sinful lady poured oil on Jesus’ feet. Close examination of Luke 8:2 in comparison with 7:36-50 will show that this is not the same person who was healed by Jesus. However, Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 talks about a lady anointing Jesus’ head with oil. Biblical interpreters are not sure whether this person is the same as that referred in John’s Gospel. In John the pouring is on the feet and in Matthew and Mark it is on the head. In any case Mary Magdalene is not the sister of Lazarus and Martha. There were from Bethany and not from Magdalene.

Bishop Dr Paulose Mar Paulose Memorial 2014


A lecture was conducted in memory of Bishop Dr. Paulose Mar Paulose on 25th of March 2014 at Sahithya Acadamy, Thrissur. The Bishop died of March 24th 1998 in Chennai during a heart surgery. He was the voice of the voiceless. A trust was formed to keep the thoughts of the Bishop and to make it relevant through books, articles, lectures and other activities. Memorial lecture is one among them.

Notice 1Notice 2News 1News 2

Inauguration of Orthodox Study Center at Pazhayannoor


The Orthodox Study Center at Pazhayannoor, of the diocese of Thrissur, was inaugurated at a function held at the Center on 22nd March 2014. The program began with Holy Qurbana in the adjacent chapel followed by the sanctification of the building. The public function was presided over by the Metropolitan and inaugurated by former speaker, minister and present MLA (Chelakkara) of Kerala Assembly Mr. K. Radhakrishnan. The family counseling Center attached to the Study Center was inaugurated by President of Wadakkamchery Block Panchayat and member of Thrissur diocesan council Mrs. Aleyamma Thomas. Rev. Fr. Jaison Thekkumpuram (Vicar, St. Dominic Catholic Church) Rev. Fr. Mathai Panamkuttty (Clergy association secretary of the diocese) and Sri Jiju Varghese (Church Managing Committee Member from the diocese) gave message of felicitation. Rev. Fr. Baby Paul (vicar of the center chapel and project coordinator) welcomed the guests and Mr. James Paulose (Trustee of the project) proposed vote of thanks. The coordinator and the contractor were awarded gifts. A large number of priests and faithful attended the function. The first stage of the project was completed at a cost of Rs. fifty laks. Few pictures from the event.

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Final shape

Sanctifying the Chapel 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16Manorama Reports

Seloon Baslomo Khumro M’Aliyo


Go Now In Peace Holy Father

I am deeply saddened by the eternal rest received by His Holiness Ignatius Zaka I Iwas, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syriac Orthodox Church. I was the reception committee secretary of Ankamali diocese when HH made the first ever visit to India in 1982. I did my MTh in Bangalore and ThM and PhD qualifying in USA with HH’s recommendation. I did my one year Syriac study in Damascus with HH’s invitation and during part of that period I lived in the Patriarchate while I was still a deacon and assisted HH in the office work with Rev. Fr. Kuriakose (later HG Kuriakose Mar Julius Metropolitan). I found a loving, caring and down to earth person in HH. HH elevated me as mok on 22nd Dec. 1990 and consecrated me as Metropolitan on Dec. 23rd 1990. I was given several responsibilities until the time we had to part. When the order of the Supreme Court was given on Church case, HH personally promised me twice that peace and unity will be established in Malankara Church with HH’s initiative. HH asked me to prepare the people to work for the same, which I earnestly did, and promised me that HH would be with me in every step. HH’s Kalpana No.75/95 of August 1st 1995 was a historic one and the second and third ones were even more important in that line. Was it not for the immense pressure from certain people in India who wanted to keep the Church divided and make benefit out of it, HH would have established peace in the Church. Putting trust in HH’s promise I went ahead and worked for the peace and unity in the Church. I was terribly disturbed and disillusioned by the sudden change of mind of HH. But I had to continue the mission HH had entrusted me with and I am glad I did not pull out myself. Even while I called HH over phone HH repeated the promise. I wanted HH to be honored by a united Church. But I am sorry that I had to see HH as head of part of a divided Church and small group with a leadership that many a time trying to establish and widen their horizon and power through anti-social and criminal activities. HH told many people that HH loved me very much. I pay my homage before HH’s memory and stand before God Almighty asking for HH’s eternal rest. As if to compensate the people I lost in my diocese to the so called supporters of HH in India I got a fine community who hail from Syria who were under the Patriarch and left the fold due to the unethical conduct of HH’s bishop in California.

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After the Consecration Being Consecrated as Metropolitan 1990 During a Reception to HH 1982 During First Visit to India in 1982 During my Days in Damascus Me elevated as Monk 1990

For conducting the Church case well

For conducting the Church case well

Honoring

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