Bible Study at CWM Samoa


BIBLE STUDY

Conducted at Council for World Mission Training for Trainers (Mission With Children) Malua, SAMOA, 18 – 26, Sept. 2009. Malua Theological College, Malua, Samoa (24-09-2009)

‘The lad leaped for joy in the womb’ (TEXT: Luke 1:39-48)

Introduction

One of the troubles of being a bishop in the Orthodox Church is that he could be asked to speak about anything under the sun, most of the time on matters he may not have any clue what so ever about, any time of the day or night.

 

To take the present example, Ms. Elizabeth Joy, a good old friend of mine from seminary days asked me to talk about caring children. Talk about me, a confined bachelor who has not married and has no children, apart from the fact that once upon a time I myself was a child; I do not have much experience in the area. Many of the better experiences during my childhood days I do not remember also. But because Elizabeth is married to one of our priests, again a friend of mine, I could not say no. Hence here I am, ignore me if you want to.

 

One of the greatest poets of India, Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel lariat wrote, ‘Every child that is born in to the world brings the good news of God’s continued love towards the world’.

I am trying to read and understand with you Luke Ch. 1: verses 39 to 49.

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;

 

1. Meeting of two people in distress

For most of the commentators, this passage (continued further) is important because it contains what is called the magnificat. They find parallels to the song in Old Testament as it is written in the form of an Old Testament lyrical Psalm (see parallels in 1 Sam. 2:1-10 (song of Hannah; Mala. 3:12; Zech. 3:17; Ps. 111:9 etc.).

 

But to me this passage is important for different reasons. I always get so excited when I read this passage not only because of what happened between Mary and Elizabeth (not our Elizabeth) but also because of what happened between the two yet to be born children. One may be called, in medical terms, an embryo and the other a fetus. What happens between them is unimaginable and unbelievable.

 

But First Let us consider the situation two women are in. We have two women who are in trouble. One is a lot shy as she got pregnant at an advanced age. It was like something that happened to Sarai, wife of Abraham (Gen. 21:2). Elizabeth was a bit hesitant to come out in public. The second woman, Mary was in deep trouble. She was betrothed to Joseph but now she is pregnant and the wedding has not taken place. Her life and her dreams are in jeopardy; she could even be killed by the community if found out.

 

Consider what a normal girl of a traditional society today would do under such situation?  She may decide to abort the child, she may go and hide herself some place, have the delivery and give the child to an orphanage and come back clean for the wedding, she may commit suicide, anything negative could happen. In any case the rights of the child will not be much of a consideration.

 

But Mary took courage to find someone who can understand her and share her feelings. One of the problems of the modern world is, it is hard to find someone with whom you can confide; someone who will not take advantage of the situation, but will understand you. So Mary goes to Elizabeth.

 

The word Mary used to salute Elizabeth was ‘Shalom’. (Ms. Dr. Genevieve James earlier talked about the meaning of the word). Being an Old Testament student; I can say how much this may have meant to both Elizabeth and Mary. It is not something like ‘hi there’ or ‘hello’. When we say hi or hello we do not usually expect a very active response. For the Jew it meant everything the community stood for. With the word, they were supposed to work for the wholeness of others even risking their lives. That word expressed the very purpose of the community seen in the call of Abraham (Gen. 12:2. You leave … become a blessing to the nations). It requires a lot of courage on Mary’s part to utter that word under the circumstance. Greet another person with ‘Shalom’ when there is no possibility of any ‘Shalom’ in her. It is evident that Mary was not approaching the matter negatively. She met the situation positively.

 

There are parents who would give all kinds of reason for not taking care of their children such as the difficulties they may be facing in life, or the trouble they may be going through, economic or social, emotional or relationship based, all kinds of reasons. But it is in plain words facing the situation negatively. What comes out of a situation depends on how it is faced.

 

I do not know what Mary would have done if Elizabeth was not there and if she was left alone. But I can say she certainly showed a tremendous amount of courage. What will be the attitude of the Church that is supposed to be a caring community, towards a person who may face such a situation? What will the society call such a person? Look at someone who was caught in adultery and was brought to Jesus (John 8). Yes adultery is not a good practice. But do we at any point ask the question, who all are involved?  Whose fault was it? What would be our response to such a situation?

 

II. The word ‘Shalom’ did not create so much response in Elizabeth. But it gave John, the child in the womb immense joy; ‘The lad leaped with joy’ in the womb of Elizabeth. Elizabeth felt the vibration; then she got excited and became a prophetess. She forgets everything about her shyness.

 

Commentators compare John’s leaping with David’s dance before the ark (2Sam. 6:16) and relates it with the messianic leap of joy among the poor (Isa. 35:6 – “Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For  waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert”. This is in contrast to Ps. 114:6 “They have ears, but they do not hear; Noses they have, but they do not smell”).

 

A relevant question that we may have to ask is, do we always recognize and respond to the feelings of our children?  Many a time they silently talk about their feelings. We may say the child is rebellious, sometimes quiet, sometimes indifferent, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, a sudden fall in grades. Are they trying to tell us something? Do we see what are they going through?  Elizabeth was quick to recognize and respond to the feeling of her baby. In our daily life how much role the child is given in various decision making sessions in the family, in the Church, in the community? Do we take them seriously? Do we account them? Do we care how do they feel about things we do?

 

III. 

On the other hand, we also have to ask are the parents in a position to recognize the feelings of the child and act on it in the given socio-political economic context?  I would like to address this question a bit more seriously. There are a host of reasons that may make the parents handicapped: political, economic, emotional, social and physical; yes there are several reasons.

 

We have been talking about the responsibility of the Church and the parents in caring for the children. What if it is practically impossible for the parents to be positive to children? Do we try to see the reasons that make us helpless? With all the possible solutions we can think of, an effective listening and response can happen only if the socio- political atmosphere is favorable for the parents to do so. We may talk about poverty. But do not forget that poverty is political than economic.

 

Let me give you few examples

 

a). What happened recently in Nandigram in Bengal state of India in one example. Hundreds of acres of agricultural land that belonged to the farmers were taken over by the government to hand it over to a car company called TATA. That land was all that they had to sustain their lives. People took it up on the streets. Hundreds were killed by police firing. How can a woman who first lost her farm land and then her husband listen to the cry or laughter of her child in such situation?

 

 

b). Thousands of farmers in Andhra Presdesh state in India committed suicide as the terminator seed supplied by BT Cotton failed them. How can parents respond positively to the feelings of their children when they have nothing to eat and sustain life?

 

c). Several parents in north India sell their children for money as hunger takes over any sentimental feeling they may have towards their children. How can they respond to the cry of the child under such situation? People kill girl children at infancy itself because parents of even illiterate and jobless boys ask hundreds of thousands as dowry to take them in marriage. How can the parents of such girls feel their emotions?

 

d). Certain man in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu state of India sold his kidney to support his family. How many kidneys one can sell? How can he listen and respond to the cry of his child?

 

e). In North India govt. started a dam for irrigation purpose. They went on raising the height of the dam and it drowned village after village. Take a family in one of those villages. They lose everything they may have. Rehabilitation is a myth in such situations. How can a family who lost its land and everything in it care for the children?

 

f). In the United States of America when the president Mr. GW Bush offered bailout plan for ailing companies, the three CEOs of the three automobile giants in Detroit in Michigan state went to ask for help to Washington in individual private jets spending sixty thousand each, while they could fly in one jet spending six thousand each in first class. Later GM (others are on the line) became bankrupt and thousands are let without job. How can those jobless parents take care of their children?

 

G). Let me bring to you a crisis parents in Kerala are going through. A boy from a middle class family goes to school and meets his friends. Many of them come from wealthy families. They carry around small communication equipment called the mobile/cell phone. It becomes so embarrassing for this boy not to have one. He comes home and asks for one. His dad cannot afford to have one. The question whether a school boy needs one is not asked by the telecom company that advertises ‘friends and family’ plan. Infants and children are constantly lured by commercials that appear on television. The parents would find it too hard to share and respond to the aspirations and dreams of the child. Children’s food habit, their dress code, their needs, what and where they should study all are nowadays decided by those trans-national corporations CEOs of which want to fly around the world in private jets even while their company is ailing. Do we at any point address this issue? With the new economic order in effect, with the Regan-Thatcher thesis as its foundation, all around the world the parents would many a time find it impossible to respond to the feelings of the child.

 

h). All the money the employees in US saved for their retirement went blank when the 4O1K where they had invested the money went down. How are they going to support their children and grand children?

 

Political structures decide on what kind of life we should have. The transnational corporations decide what kind of government should be there in a country. They set the agenda for our socio-economic and even religious life.

 

How a mother who lost her job in the IT sector when the market collapsed, can respond to the joy of the child? How can the Church alone with the WCC slogan, ‘God in your mercy transform the world’ really transform the world for the child?

 

Our theme for this training program is “welcome children, welcome Jesus”. We say ‘welcome children’.  We welcome them to where, to what kind of a society? What kind of political system which obviously would control all areas of their lives we can invite them to?

 

We say, ‘welcome Jesus’ where to? To our unjust society where greed and selfishness are the rules of the time?  To our society where Coco and Pepsi colas, McDonald and Kentucky, arms and drugs dealers control the governments and the governments control our lives?

 

Let us ask about the content of our sermons on Sundays. What are we telling the people?  We preach about Kingdom of God after death or Kingdom of God in this world?

 

If you are talking about kingdom of God beyond, you have to wait till you are dead to know and respond to the feelings of the child. If you are talking about the kingdom of God in this world, then you are talking about a political world.  Politics controls your life and dreams. They decide whether you can have a child or not. They decide how many you can have; when and what kind of child you can have.  Someone the other day in one of the sessions talked about man and woman living together without getting married. Why does it happen? The social system is such that they are not sure how long they will be able to live together.  The company where husband works is moving to five hundred miles away location or to the other state or even to a foreign country and he was asked to move or quit. What would he do? What are you going to do about it? Go to the Church and preach about the child protection plan of CWM? Which child you are talking about? The government decides whether you can have a child or not. How about that?

Are we ready to address the situation, or shall we ask everyone to bow their heads in prayer, closing their eyes and pray thinking that everything is going to be all right?

 

There are people who would say we should not blame it on any one or should not single out any one. I heard that voice here also several times. I think we are afraid to address the situation. The old colonization tendency is still in the air in other forms. We cannot ignore that. We need to address that. We need to blame it on people who try to make our lives and the lives of our children miserable. We have to cry aloud and say, ‘look the king is naked’. Prophet Amos cried aloud and said, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever rolling stream” (5:24).  People talk about the issue as if all responsibility lies on the shoulders of the parents and the Churches. Yes true, but our responsibility is not limited to doing something in our own court yard.

 

I strongly believe that we have to address this political world. Of course we have to address it on the basis of Church’s action plan for children. But it should not be limited to educating people about child care and child abuse. We have to address the situation as it is and where it is. We need to be politically active too. Jesus who called Herod ‘fox’ (Luke 13:32) wants us to address our political system realistically. I have read and got so much fascinated and inspired by “Long Walk to Freedom” the autobiography of Nelson Mandela. I am so proud of Bishop Tutu who addressed this issue with a Christian commitment.

 

Some time back the political system made a division between sacred and secular. Part of the blame should be on the Church. But the politicians took it for their convenience and now they are taking over the spiritual realm too. Unless we address this issue all our talk about ‘welcome children, welcome Jesus’ will be in vain, I am afraid.

 

How do we address this issue? The Church gets house full attendance on every Sunday morning. What is the message we give to them? This is one of the most effective campaign platforms any one could get in the world. Are we ready to talk about the wrong and unjust agendas of the political leaders? Are we ready to talk about the dehumanizing atmosphere created by the socio-political systems of our world?

 

I find two concrete way of doing it.

  1. Making the pulpit a medium for a healthy political campaign. We have seen it working in South Africa (Bishop Tutu), in Latin America (the Catholic priests of liberation theology), in several parts of India and in many other places in the world.
  2. Align with NGOs that work in the same area to make the voice heard in a united way.

After having done this we can confidently and sincerely talk about child protection plan and child welfare system for the Church and for the community.

 

IV.

My final (for now) point is related to the joy of the fetus in the womb of Elizabeth.  (I am not going to dwell too long on it, rather want to raise few questions only. I have given a paper explaining what we are doing in the Orthodox Church in India in this regard)

 

John recognized the presence of his Lord. He is in the womb of his mother as a fetus. I would say creation is meeting the creator and rejoicing in His presence. The creator decided to incarnate and now is in the womb of Mary as an embryo. But they both recognized each other. This happens even before the formation of senses.

This is the recognition of the relationship between. This is evident from the words of Elizabeth who said in verse 43;And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me”? We may ask; at what age the child can feel the presence of its creator and be happy about it? Are we ready to consider the infant as full member of the body of Christ and treat it as one?

The joy of John was not emotional or ecstatic, rather was rational and sensible because this joy found its fullness just before his death by the hands of the king (John 3:28-30. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”)

I want to highlight two points: (1) John recognized himself and (2) his mission in this world. Both were initiated by the visit of his Lord in the womb of the mother. This recognition was the reason for his joy. We need to see two statements of John; first, ‘I am not Christ’. This comes only from one who has self realization. And I believe it started at the very moment he confronted his Lord while he was in the womb of his mother. Two, ‘therefore this joy of mine is now full’. This happened after John baptized Jesus and had introduced Jesus to his disciples (John 1:29 ff. and 1:35 ff.), and also just before John was killed. This tells us that John did understand his mission and purpose very well and he faithfully fulfilled it in his short life time. Once again to reiterate, all this, started with his confrontation with his Lord in the beginning while he was still in womb of his mother.

If a child in the womb can recognize him/herself and her/his mission why cannot one in the world, no matter how small it may be, recognize these? Will it not be helpful if we give a chance to the infants to be with Christ and experience Him through baptism confirmation and communion?

 

I believe, and I see in this event, recognition has not much to do with age and intellectual ability. If they did, we would not have so many problems in the Church. We who claim to have known our Lord well enough and have identified our role in this world have over centuries made the Church a laughing stock and hindrance to others in many ways.

I am not going to elaborate on this as it may look as if I am defending our practice in the Orthodox Church. But sincerely I want you to think about this seriously. Will it not be helpful for the emotional, psychological and spiritual growth of the child if we make them part of the Eucharist table from infancy itself?

 

 “Let the children come unto me, hinter them not”. That is the word of the Lord.

Thank you and may God bless us all with our children,the mothers and the fathers. Amen

Yuhanon Meletius Murimakil, Bishop of Thrissur diocese of Orthodox Syrian Church in India. yuhanonmilitos@hotmail.com

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Infant Communion


Paedocommunion Practiced in Orthodox
Syrian Church of India

 

I.
Introduction

I. 1.
Orthodox Church over the centuries has developed systems that it consider
important for the holistic transformation (divinization) of creation which is
the goal of its spirituality. Even while it works with ‘tradition’ as the
foundation of its ecclesiastical practices, the word ‘tradition’ is to be
understood in a unique way. It is not just following something that existed in
the past and has lost its relevance in the present. It is, rather, ‘the sum
total of the continued work of the Holy Spirit through history in the life of
the Church’. Therefore the historical development in the given cultural context
is an important factor in dealing with any of the practices and systems existing
in the Church. When the Church talks about tradition, it certainly gives a
central position to the Biblical testimony received and handed down by the
Church. Biblical record is the primary and most important part of the tradition
of the Church (we know that Biblical record was not made in a day).

 

I. 2. It
should be said at the outset that Orthodox Syrian Church in India follows the
West Syriac or Antiochean rite in its liturgical life which is also the liturgy
of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. These two Churches are part of the
Oriental Orthodox family of Churches. 
Like many other liturgical acts, baptism also has undergone series of
changes through generations (please see: Studies in the Early History of the
Syrian Orthodox Baptismal Liturgy: Brock, Sebastian. J. Theol. Studies. 1972.
XXIII. 16-64. Also see, Sebastian Brock. "Holy Spirit In The Syrian
Baptismal Tradition."  The Syrian Churches Series, Vol 9. (ed.).
Jacob Vellian. Anita Printers, Poona, 1979). Following the practice in the Apostolic
Church, the act of baptism was a very simple act in the beginning to which
various elements were later added in the course of its development.

 

I. 3. There
are two kinds of baptisms as practiced in the Church: One, adult baptism and
two, infant baptism. New converts are accepted in to the Church only as adults.
In the case of a whole family joining the Church anew, children in the family
are baptized after the adults. I am not entering in to a detailed discussion of
adult baptism for lack of relevance. A historical survey of ancient practice of
baptism is provided by the well known New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias
(Jeremias, Joachim.  Die Kindertaufe in den ersten vier Jahrhunderten,
Göttingen, 1958.  English version: David Cairns, trans. Infant Baptism in
the First Four Centuries, London, 1960. Also see,…  Nochmals: Die Anfänge der Kindertaufe,
Munich, 1962. English version:  Dorthea
M. Barton, trans. The Origins of Infant Baptism: A Further Reply to Kurt Aland,
Chatham, U.K., 1963). The second, and as part of it children baptized along
with adults in the family, are to be considered in this paper.

 

I. 4. To the
Orthodox Church any act of worship not to speak of a sacrament will be
completed only with participation in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Therefore the act of baptism will also be complete with participation in the
Holy Eucharist. However this position has to be substantiated by reason with
regard to infant baptism which is the primary purpose of this presentation.
This paper is not intended to be a defence of the practice of paedocommunion in
the Orthodox Church in India, rather is an attempt to present our position and
to help others understand us better.

 

II. Baptism
in Orthodox Syrian Church of India

 

II. 1.
Baptism Administered on Adults.

In the case
of new converts the Church practices only adult baptism unless the whole family
is converted. In the case of adults the minimum age for baptism is 12 years. A
prescribed catechetical process is carried out before baptism is administered
and H. Communion is given immediately. If children are also in the family they
are baptized after their parents were baptized and H. Communion is given to
them too then and there. The already baptized adults are given the
responsibility in bringing the child up in a true Christian environment. We
emphasise the importance of the family and its unity more than any thing else.
Communion is given to infants for the same reason why it is given to adult’s
parents. This will be explained later.

 

II.2. Infant
Baptism

Children
born to Orthodox parents who had a valid sacrament of marriage are given
baptism any time the parents wish. Normally they will be baptized within three
months unless they live in a place where that is not possible for practical or
sentimental reasons. Confirmation is done along with baptism H. Communion will
be administered to them immediately afterwards. The godfather/godmother who
will be responsible for the spiritual growth of the child along with the
parents will make the oath and proclamation that are to be taken on behalf of
the child. Usually the grand parents or a close adult relative of the child
from the same denomination will be the godfather/godmother.

 

II.3. Brief
Introduction to the Baptismal Liturgy

II.3.a. A
close examination of the liturgy of baptism will show that it was prepared
primarily for the baptism of adults. New converts are accepted in to the Church
only as adults after the required catechism followed by a proclamation of faith
in person. For infants of Christian families, there will be an adult to
proclaim the faith on behalf of the child and will be responsible along with
the parents for the spiritual growth of the child.

 

II.3.b. The
liturgy beings with a prayer introducing the child in to the presence of God.
Hymns and prayers follow. They all talk about how a human being can be
sanctified by being in the presence of God and by the signing with the sign of
the Cross. The epistle lesson comes from Rom. 5:20 – 6:4 and gospel lesson from
Luke 3:15-16 and John 3:5-6. The following prayer talks about light that was
made to shine in the midst of darkness during creation. The celebrant requests
God to repeat the same in the case of the candidate. The celebrant breaths on
the candidate and then sings him/her with the sign of the cross in the name of
the triune God. This is a kind of exorcism act. 
The celebrant further addresses the evil and satanic tendency in the
child to leave and never come back.

 

II. 3. c.
Further the candidate disowns Satan and all its evil influences and affirms
everything that is good and takes the refuge in the faith in Christ and the
company of the saints through a process of proclamations. Further faith in
triune God is proclaimed through Nicene Creed. Once again the candidate is
signed with specially prepared oil. Water for baptism is prepared by mixing hot
and cold water (signifying the godhead and manhood of Jesus) with prayers and
H. oil (Myron) is poured in to it. The oil signifies the presence of the Holy
Spirit (while blessing the water, again a brief exorcism is performed to take
away the evil influence from the water – the chaotic water is made creative
water – symbol received from the creation story). In baptism, water will be
poured on the candidate that he/she may completely get wet.

 

II. 3. d.
After the washing in water the child is handed over to the godmother/ father
and a hymn that says, ‘receive you Oh Holy Church this sacred new born in
Christ through baptism’. Through this, the community of believers is entrusted
with the spiritual nurture and growth of the child and the parents and
godmother/ father are only representatives of the community of believers.

 

II.3.b.
Further the baptized is signed with the Holy Oil and then it is applied on the
whole body signifying the anointing by the Holy Spirit along with marking the
baptized a lamb in the fold of Christ and a warrior to fight against all evil
tendencies. Through this the baptized is confirmed in Christian faith and in
the community of Christ. A Crown is placed on the head of the baptized
signifying the crowning by the Holy Spirit and making the person member of the
‘royal priesthood’ (1Pet. 2:5, 9). Then the child is administered H. Communion.
According to the faith of the Orthodox Church, any person baptized in to the fellowship
of the Church and consequently joined in to the body of Christ has the right to
demand H. Qurbana (Malayalam word used for Eucharist. Equitant Syriac word is
Qurbono which means offering) any time day or night without any question asked
(On the other hand, it is never an open table. Only those who were initiated in
to the family of faithful through baptism are invited).  The hymn that is sung while Communion is
served goes like this: ‘this is the fruit of the tree of life that Adam could
not taste in the Garden of Eden’ (Gen. 3:22). The baptized is further admitted
in to the altar. This is the first entry of the child in to the altar as a
member of the holy priesthood. The Priest then would dismiss the child after
giving instruction to the godmother/father to nurture the child in an
atmosphere of Christian values and in accordance with the faith and customs of
the Church. The dismissal prayer has a beautiful statement in it. It says, “God
Almighty keep this son/daughter of you who has been accepted as sister/brother
to your Son may be kept always under your protection and in the guidance of
your Gospel”.  The crown will be removed
with a prayer requesting God for ‘His continued blessing and that the child may
not lose the glory of the crown until the second coming of Christ’.

 

III.
Biblical foundation

III.1. It
should be said in the outset that there is no reference in the Bible that
directly supports paedocommunion. What we have is supportive reference to
infant baptism. For the Orthodox Church these two are integrally related and
are to be administered one after another without break. So the references given
will be references for infant baptism.

 

III.2. Texts
that support directly or indirectly infant baptism are few as this was not a
major question in the early Church. Only new converts entered the Church those
days. When the whole family was baptized, there was no need for special mention
as children were part of the family in the community (See: Acts. 11: 14ff;
16:15; 16:31; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16; 16:15). Well known New Testament scholar
Joachim Jeremias consider that ‘infant baptism was practiced at least in the
first two centuries in the Church’ (Ref. op. cit.). He further states that the
Bible presents baptism as ‘an eschatological act in which the participant is
snatched from the dominion of the devil and incorporated in to the mystical
body of Christ, entering the Kingdom of God, changing lordship, and receiving
newness of life’. In such case, even children can be part of that body since it
is ‘mystical’ and not primarily intellectual in nature.

 

III. 3. The
Lord’s Supper is being compared to the sacrificial meal of the Old Testament by
many biblical scholars. In Deut. 12:7 it is directed that “and there you shall
eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households,
in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you”. Deut.
16:7 ff. (in the case of Passover sacrifice in) and Deut. 16:13 ff. (feasts of
booths) clearly mention the sons and daughters in matter of participation the
meal.

 

III. 4. Paul
in 1 Cor. 10: 18 relate the Old Testament practices to the Lord’s Supper. If
the Psalmist is of the opinion that the glory of God can be brought out from
the mouths of babes and infants why can’t they participate in the Lord’s Table
(Ps. 8:1; 22: 9 f.; 71:5f. God knew him from his mother’s womb). When Jeremiah
was called to be the prophet, God said to him, “before I formed you in the womb
I knew you”. But Jeremiah’s main objection to the call was that he was only a child.
This excuse was not accepted by God (Jer. 1:4 ff.). It is true that Jeremiah
was called not when he was an infant. But the statement of God that he was
called even while he was in the womb of his mother is to be taken seriously.
Human are called to the presence of God ‘not on their merit, rather on the
grace of God’ (see. 2 Timothy 1:9). There are several instances in the Old
Testament where God is seen calling people of no obvious intellectual or
otherwise ability of their own to carry out His mission (Samuel -1 Sam. 2:18
ff. “Samuel ministered before the LORD even as a child…”; David 1Sam. 16:8 ff.
etc.). In Genesis 17 Abraham was circumcised while he was an adult, but
following him all male children in his family were to be circumcised at infancy.
In the New Testament a classical example is given at the visit of Mary to
Elizabeth. John’s reaction to the presence of Mary and Jesus in her womb tells
us that even an foetus-state human can feel the presence of its creator without
any ‘knowledge’ of the details of that presence and be happy about it (Luke
1:41 ff.).

 

III. 5.
Regarding the question raised by Paul’s statements like 1Cor. 11:28 ff.; 2Cor.
13:5 f. and 1 Tim. 6:12 ff. where the worthiness and  self examination are stipulated as conditions
for receiving Eucharist, the Church would say that they are to be taken in
context. The first is addressed to a situation where fellow Christians were not
considerate of others when they come to the Lord’s Table. The second can not be
taken as an advice regarding the receiving of communion. The third is also not
in any way related, rather is an advice regarding general conduct. If we
believe that every baptised person can be called as a member of a ‘chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation and God’s own people who is called to declare
the wonderful deeds of him who called that person out of darkness into his
marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9), why can not that person be given Eucharist? If
we examine the message of Peter in Acts 2:38-39 we can see that the promise of
God which was fulfilled in Pentecost was given also to children. It is
noteworthy that after this sermon of Peter, “… they devoted themselves to the
apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42).
Probably with what is said in Lev. 7:38 and Num. 18:11 ff. in mind, Paul says
in 1Cor. 10:18 that, ‘all of us are of one body through the participation in
the bread that is broken’. In Num. 18:11 ff. the sons and daughters are made
eligible to be part of the meal.

 

III. 6. The
reference to the ‘household’ in Acts 16:15 in the case of Lydia of Thyatira and
in 1Cor. 1:16 in matter of Paul conducting baptism is also taken for the
administering of communion to children as it was part of the baptism rite. The
liberation of Israel from the bondage in Egypt that followed the Passover meal
shared by everyone including children (Exodus 12) is a pre-taste of the Lord’s
Supper.  For the Church, since the Lord’s
Supper is the New Testament meal that celebrates the liberation in Jesus, children
can also be part of it. What is said by Jesus as reported in Matthew 19:14 and
Mark 10:14 are taken by the Church as an unconditional invitation extended to
Children to participate life with Him. This can be read further in the light of
what is said by Paul in 1Cor. 12:13 about being baptized in to one body by the
one Spirit without any discrimination (This incidentally being used as the
earliest support for paedocommunion or for the unity of baptism and Lord’s
Supper) . Since baptism incorporates one in to Body Christ, Lord’s Supper is
the fellowship meal of that body as it partakes of one bread together (also see
1Cor. 10:16-17). 

 

IV. Fathers
of the Church

IV. 1. It is
believed that until at least 250 AD the practice of Paedocommunion was in
effect without any question (Fr. John Hainsworth (of Alaska Orthodox
Mission):(How to Receive Communion in the Orthodox Church, Conciliar Media,
Conciliar Press, (2002) The Apostolic Constitutions (fourth century) instructs
that ‘children are to receive communion after the various orders of clergy and
consecrated laity and before the general congregation’. Let none of the
catechumens, let none of the hearers, let none of the unbelievers, let none of
the heterodox, stay here. You who have prayed the foregoing prayer, depart. Let
the mothers receive [or, take] their children; let no one have anything against
any one; let no one come in hypocrisy; let us stand upright before the Lord
with fear and trembling, to offer (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, 8.2.12,
13). It is important to note that, whereas the visitors and even catechumens
were dismissed from the service when the Lord’s Supper was to be celebrated,
the children not only remained, they were called specifically to
participate. 

 

IV. 2.
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage writes (250. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol .V In the
context of Decian persecution, Treatise III. On the Lapsed. 9), “But to many
their own destruction was not sufficient. With mutual exhortations, people were
urged to their ruin; death was pledged by turns in the deadly cup. And that
nothing might be wanting to aggravate the crime, infants also, in the arms of
their parents, either carried or conducted, lost, while yet little ones, what
in the very first beginning of their nativity they had gained. Will not they,
when the day of judgment comes, say, "We have done nothing; nor have we
forsaken the Lord’s bread and cup to hasten freely to a profane contact; the
faithlessness of others has ruined us. We have found our parents our murderers;
they have denied to us the Church as a Mother; they have denied God as a
Father: so that, while we were little, and unforeseeing, and unconscious of
such a crime, we were associated by others to the partnership of wickedness,
and we were snared by the deceit of others?"  He also narrates an incident regarding what
happened to a little girl who was left alone by her parents form participating
in the Communion to support his case (may not be a very good story).

 

IV. 3.
Cyprian while addressing the question of Martyrdom, talks about the infants who
died in the massacre of Herod in his attempt to do away with Jesus. He also
talks about the adults and children killed during the early years of
Christianity including those five children and her mother (Juliet). He talks
about the courage they have shown at the point of death. (The Ante-Nicene
Fathers. Vol .V. Epistle LV. To the People of Thibaris, Exhorting to Martyrdom.
6). The question he raises is, if these infants can experience Christ in their
infancy, without of course knowing the full meaning of what they did, why can
not they receive the Eucharist at that age? 
He addresses the same question in connection with another subject too
(Epistle LVIII. To Fidus, on the Baptism of Infants. Paragraphs 1 – 3). He says
that infants even at the second or third day can be baptized. The reason being,
“whether infants or those who are older, there is the same equality of the
divine gift…”.  He concludes the matter
by saying, “And therefore, dearest brother, this was our opinion in council,
that by us no one ought to be hindered from baptism and from the grace of God,
who is merciful and kind and loving to all. Which, since it is to be observed
and maintained in respect of all, we think is to be even more observed in
respect of infants and newly-born persons, who on this very account deserve
more from our help and from the divine mercy, that immediately, on the very
beginning of their birth, lamenting and weeping, they do nothing else but
entreat” (sixth paragraph).

 

IV. 4.
Though the Church does not accept Augustine (354-430) as an Eastern father,
what he said in this regard can be noted here (it should also be said that
Augustine’s comment is in the context of what he believed regarding the sin of
Adam as ‘Original Sin’ which Orthodox Church does not endorse). ‘They are
infants, but they receive His sacraments.  They are infants, but they
share in His table, in order to have life in themselves’. (Works, Vol. 5,
Sermon 174:7). ‘The blood of Christ was shed for the remission of sins and that
is necessary for the remission of sins. Why is the blood, which of the likeness
of sinful flesh was shed for the remission of sins, ministered that the little
one may drink, that he may have life, unless he hath come to death by a
beginning of sin on the part of some one?

 

IV. 5.
Augustine argues (on the Forgiveness of Sins and the Baptism of Infants), that
the reference in John 6 to eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood refers
to "the sacrament of His own holy table."  He insists that the
requirement of John 6:53 ("Except you eat of my flesh and drink my blood,
you shall have no life in you") is universal and should include infants
too.  He continues, "From all this it follows, that even for the life
of infants was His flesh given, which He gave for the life of the world; and
that even they will not have life if they eat not the flesh of the Son of
man."  (Book I, ch. 26-27)

 

IV. 6.
Further he states, “And what else do they say who call the sacrament of the
Lord’s Supper life, than that which is written:  "I am the living
bread which came down from heaven;" and "The bread that I shall give
is my flesh, for the life of the world;" and "Except ye eat the flesh
of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye shall have no life in you?. If,
therefore, as so many and such divine witnesses agree, neither salvation nor
eternal life can be hoped for by any man without baptism and the Lord’s body
and blood, it is vain to promise these blessings to infants without them. 
Moreover, if it be only sins that separate man from salvation and eternal life,
there is nothing else in infants which these sacraments can be the means of
removing, but the guilt of sin. . .” (On the Forgiveness of Sins and the
Baptism of Infants, Bk. I, ch. 33)

 

IV. 7.
Gregory of Naziansus thinks that it is important that a child be baptized and
sanctified at an early stage. For him it will keep the child far from
weaknesses of nature. He brings the example of Anna who promised Samuel to the
service of God even before he was born. He says, ‘it will be a noble guard of
the Holy Trinity against evil tendencies of the world to the child’ (The
Oration on Holy Baptism. Preached at Constantinople Jan. 6, 381, being the day
following the delivery of that on the Holy Lights. (Post Nicene Fathers II
series Vol VII.  XVII). Here again there
is no word about Holy Eucharist. But it is well understood that baptism during
his time was followed by confirmation and participation in the Eucharist.

 

IV. 8.
Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (120-202), thinks that human was not created perfect
in the beginning, rather was only potentially perfect. To him, Jesus wanted us
to be joined to Him and for that He took all the stages of human life that
human in each stage can take him as Lord and Saviour. He comments, “He, who was
the perfect bread of the Father, offered Himself to us as milk, [because we
were] as infants. … that we, being nourished, as it were, from the breast of
His flesh, and having, by such a course of milk nourishment, become accustomed
to eat and drink the Word of God, may be able also to contain in ourselves the
Bread of immortality, which is the Spirit of the Father”.  (The Ane-Nicene Fathers. Vol. I. The
Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.  Book IV Chapter XXXVIII. Why Man Was Not Made
Perfect from the Beginning). So, the Orthodox Church thinks that it is not
right on our part to keep infants baptized in to the body of Christ away from
participation in the Lord’s Table.

 

V.
Theological Foundation

V. 1. The
Church considers the nuptial chamber a holy place and the physical union of
husband and wife a sacred act of participating in the creative work of God and
actualizing through it on them the blessing human received in creation (Gen.
1:27, 28). So the child born of this sacred union is in fact holy. Baptism is aimed
at accepting a person in to full participation in to the body of Christ and
communion is the meal of that body with all the organs participating.

 

V. 2.
Theologically covenant of God with Abraham can be a theme for
paedocommunion.  Abraham and his household
was accepted by God and a covenant was established not on his merit, rather on
the grace of God (Rom. 4:13, 16). The seed of Abraham that is mentioned in Gal.
3:16-18 which would inherit the covenant certainly is a model and reason for us
to include children in the covenant participation as also suggested by Gal.
3:29. As the blessing and promise Abraham received effected also on his
household including children and since rearing the child is the responsibility
of the parent, it will be well on the part of the parents to take the child to
the Lord’s Table.  The essential
character of a Christian community is corporate adherence to God’s covenant. We
are called to be one body and one family in Christ where everyone is an active
participant of the gifts of God. Our relationship with God is valid only if it
is realized in communion with the whole Church including infants and children.
When we baptize a child we promise God that we will do everything to bring that
child up in fellowship with and in better understanding of God. If baptism is
the participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, then it cannot be
separated from participation in the broken body and shed blood of Christ.  For the Eastern Churches in general, the
Eucharist is primarily a mystical participation with Christ that will help one
to mystically unite oneself with Christ and grow to his/her fullness.

 

V. 3. The
baptized is anointed with Holy Oil (Myron) and through that that person is made
a lamb in the flock of Christ (Brock, Sebastian P.37). The child should enjoy
all the privileges and rights of the flock and, even more, should get better
attention being a helpless individual in the community. There are several
consigning acts in the liturgy which in fact are sealing of the candidate for
eternal life. Once sealed and initiated to eternal life. the baptized should
achieve it in steady process in perfect fellowship with Christ and
participation in His Body and Blood.

 

V. 4. We do
address the question whether the candidate should understand the meaning and
relevance of the Eucharist when received at infancy.  Yes a person has to understand what he/she is
doing while receiving the Eucharist. But at the same time an exhaustive and
complete understanding is not possible even at an adult age. So if we wait to
get a perfect understanding, perhaps we would never be able to do that. A
person in Christ will always be growing in understanding and every day with new
insights about the relationship he/she has with the Lord. This growth is a process
and it can happen only in participation and in sharing. We of course awe before
this mystery, but that awe will not keep us away since through baptism one is
made eligible to call God Father and His Son brother (see the liturgy). This
helps us to come closer to Christ without fear and know Him better in
participation.

 

V. 5. The
baptismal liturgy is prepared in such a way that the candidate by receiving the
baptismal initiation may have a perfect participation with Christ through it.
This perfect participation can be achieved only with the act of confirmation
and through participation in the H. Body and Blood. Through baptism a person
becomes equipped to be part of the body of Christ. This enables him/her to
participate in the H. Eucharist. Attempt to understand the relationship will be
effective in close association and participation. Otherwise it will only be a
theoretical knowledge.

 

VI.
Sociological Perspective

VI. 1.
Family to Eastern Christianity (of course for others too) is the fundamental
and primary unit in a society. People grow in constant interaction with the
environment and the people in close association. People learn to be human and
be an integral part of the society while they grow up as a member of the
community through active involvement in the life of the community. They may not
understand initially many of the things they see, hear or others want them to
do.  They realize the meaning of that
only slowly in due course and in the company of the adults. Disciplining a
child is part of the growing process. Belonging is inculcated in an individual
through active participation in the life of the community. If left without
close association and active participation, it is more possible for a child to
be detached from other members and common life in the community.

 

VI. 2. Fear
is another element that may be created in an individual due to lack of
closeness. Parents would take the child to various places and situations where
the child may have to go when they grow up. That will give the child a
familiarity and will help to face it without fear and doubt. Introduction in to
a situation at a later stage will affect the kind of response that person may
have.

 

VI. 3. The
character formation of a child need to be in accordance with the faith and practices
of the community that child would belong. Regular attendance and close
participation in the life of the community will certainly mould the child’s
character and conduct which will last longer and will be the foundations of the
personality of the child when it grows up.

 

VI. 4. Of
course a child may not understand everything with respect to meaning,
importance and implications of receiving the H. Communion. But they through
questions and answers and in participation will learn why he/she is given that.
By the time the child is grown up, she/he may not need so much intellectual
exercise to understand the meaning; rather it may have become part of the life
of that individual. A child would recognize his/her mother from acquaintance,
touching, feeling and though other ways of closeness though it may not
understand the full meaning of being a mother and a daughter/son to that
mother. That will come slowly. But if that child is not allowed those lesions
at infant stage there is every possibility that the bond between may not be
very strong.

 

VII.
Conclusion.

VII. 1.
Orthodox Church does not believe that baptism is a onetime event in the life of
a believer. It is, rather the beginning of a process.  We take the words of Jesus to Nicodemus
seriously and consider it as a direction even to those baptized (John 3:6). An
ongoing washing and filling is required on the part of the baptized till the
end of life. To that end baptism is the beginning.

 

VII. 2. In
the process of a baptized becoming what he/she should become there are several
favourable elements that need to be present. We believe participation in the
Holy Eucharist is the first and most important positive atmosphere provider. To
that, the baptized need to be confirmed in the community. Therefore baptism
should be accompanied by confirmation and Holy Communion. We have historical,
theological and social reasons to continue that old practice of paedocommunion.
At the same time we do not believe that a new comer to the community should
wait till he/she gets old enough to at least understand the basics of the faith
that person is accepting. In the case of a human child the family and the
community have the responsibility to provide favourable environment for the
physical, mental, social and emotional growth of the child. In the case of
Christian child this should include the obligation to introduce the faith which
the parents consider so dear to them and to see that the child grows in perfect
participation. This is the responsibility the parents take up when they get
married according to the faith they have.

 

VII. 3. The
Church believes that at a time when family is getting smaller and disintegrated
and society becoming more self cantered and secular, along with new and not so
healthy religious tendencies, it is important that a child grow up in an
atmosphere where he/she can experience the caring love and full fellowship of
the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Orthodox Church believes that
paedocommunion will have tremendous positive effect on the total growth of the
child as a member of the family and as a member of the society not to speak of
the Christian community he/she may belong.

The word
“Paedocommunion” is relatively a new one and is not seen in many of the major
dictionaries. “It is the practice of giving the Lord’s Supper to baptized
children, even apart from a coming-of-age ritual such as confirmation or
profession of faith” Paedocommunion: A Biblical Examination .By Rev. Brian M.
Schwertley (http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/Paedocommunion.htm)

 

Postings in ICON on Elanadu Church


A Sad incident

Today I conducted the funeral of Mr. Raju Kalliath of Elanadu Church who is the
latest victim of Church unity effort. He was the trustee of the Patriarch
faction for several years in the Church. After the Hon. Supreme Court order of
1995, with others in the group and in agreement with my efforts, he decided to
work for the unity of the Church. He supported a petition filed by the patriarch
faction in the court asking for the implementation of the court order at Elandu
Church. There were few people who were against this move. One day while when he
was coming from shopping, he was beaten up so badly that he had to undergo one
month treatment in an Ayurveda hospital and then several months in a modern
medicine hospital. He never recovered from him internal injuries and later
developed a patch in his internal organs. He died yesterday and was buried this
afternoon. A large number of people and priests attended the funeral. You may
remember that one year back the Church was finally released by the Kerala High
Court to our custody and the day of the first service Asst. vicar of the parish
Rev. Fr. Mathew Jacob was attacked and an attempt on his life was carried out by
the so called Antiocheans. I just wonder how long these people can go on doing
like this? Please pray for the surviving wife and children of Mr. Rajau who died
for the cause of peace in the Church.

Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan, Thrissur

Dear all,

When I read the posting of Mr. Joshy Paul from New Delhi in God’s love
(ICON Digest 3323) I was reminded of a verse in the Bible. God put a
question before Job and asked him "Who is this darkens counsel by
words without knowledge" (Job 38:2). I do not dare to ask that
question, first because I am not God, second this person is not Job
who said "Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand" (Job
42:3). How ever, I should clarify a couple of things.
First of all I was not talking about who got majority and which group
got elected in the Elanadu Church election. In fact those who got
elected to the managing committee of St. Mary’s Church, Elanadu were
those erstwhile patriarch faction people and not erstwhile catholicos
faction people. The Patriarch faction had majority in the Church. It
was 250 to 90. The erstwhile Catholicos faction people also had a
panel of candidates to contest in the managing committee election. But
they lost and the panel of the patriarch faction members won, because
they were majority in the Church. After the election, those erstwhile
catholicos faction people cooperated with the erstwhile patriarch
faction people and the managing committee elected exclusively from
among the erstwhile patriarch faction members. Thus it truly became
one Church with 1934 constitution governing its affairs. This
committee is still in charge of the Church. It was several weeks and
more than one committee meetings after this one person from among the
committee members left the Church to join the newly formed Association
Church. All the other managing committee members from the patriarch
faction who accepted 1934 constitution stood by their word and did not
become hypocrites and changed their stand.
This brings to the second question, what is the meaning of proclaiming
allegiance to a particular constitution? When you declared that 1934
constitution governs the affairs of their parish, they mean that
everything said in that will be followed in their spiritual and church
life. You do not accept a particular constitution for the sake of
legal standing and then adopt another at your convenience for the sake
of your vested interests. This clearly displays the personality of
those who now argue for majority benefits.
I would have so much respect for those who would have said to the
court, "we are Jacobites and we do not accept the 1934 constitution of
the Orthodox people. We do not care even if it would make us lose all
the property in our custody and which the court said should be
governed by the 1934 constitution. Instead they gave in writing to the
court that they accept everything in the 1934 constitution, later they
said, no we are governed by 2002 constitution and claimed ownership of
all that was to be under the purview of the 1934 constitution. The
Hon. Supreme court in its judgment never said anything about majority
or minority. The court said, "1934 constitution shall govern the
affairs of the parish Churches". That being the case, how a sensible
person can raise claim for the custody of a Church on the basis of
majority or minority?
I do not say this hoping that I can convince anyone. I just wanted say
this because there are lot of innocent people who can be misguided by
the argument based on majority minority matter. I rest my case here
and do not wish to continue the matter any further.

Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan (Thrissur)

 

(This was a reply to the following posting

First Service at Elanadu Church

 

Dear All,

H. G. Mar Yuhanon Meletius wrote, "All of them had participated in the
election
of the new managing committee upon the order of the hon. court after
proclaiming
allegiance in writing before the court to the 1934 constitution". This
shows
that an election was held in an individual church (Elanadu) comprising all the
members (both Jacobites and Orthodox) and elected a new managing committee.
After the election Orthodox faction has got majority in the managing committee
so the Church gone into the hands of MOSC. In other words had MOSC not got
majority in the managing committee then the church would have been gone into
the
hands of the Jacobites? If that so, then why can’t apply the same method in all
the disputed church such as Kadamattom, Kolenchery, Kandanadu, Thrikkunathu,
…. etc. Then all the Church dispute to some extent will be solved.

In God’s Love
Joshy Paul, New Delhi)

(This was in response to my posting on December 1, 2008

Dear all

I had the privilege of celebrating the first Holy Qurbana ever by a
Metropolitan at Elanadu St. Mary’s Orthodox Church after its key was
handed over to us by the revenue authorities upon order of the Hon.
High Court. The key was handed over on 26th of October and on the same
day H.B. Catholicos Designate H.G. Paulose Mar Milithios Thirumeni had conduced
evening prayer in the Church. But it was today a Holy Qurbana was
conducted by a Metropolitan. It was a wonderful experience for me. I
tasted the fruit of my toil to see the unity of the Malankara Church.
Of course I also feel the pain of some of the members of that church
leaving us to join the newly formed Jacobite Syrian Christian
Association Church. All of them had participated in the election of the
new managing committee upon the order of the hon. court after
proclaiming allegiance in writing before the court to the 1934
constitution. But later they disowned it and joined the new Church. But
they continued to make claim on their parent chruch. This shows their
hypocrcy. Nevertheless, eighty percent of the erstwile patriarch group
stayed faithful to their original decision and the affidavit they gave
to the court and have become part of the Malankara Orthodox Church, and
legal members of St. Mary’s Church, Elanadu. Now they can with grace
enjoy the fruit of their faithfullness. There was police presence
infrornt of the Church today. No untoward incident occured. On earlier
Sundays after the key was handed over, people from Jacobite Syrian
Christian Association Church used to come for prayer at the cemiteray
with their priest. The police in consultation with us, had let the
people to go and pray for the departed at the cemetery. But they did
not allow any priests. Today not even people came to pray at the
cemetery. After the H. Qurbana, the committee met with me and discussed
about the repair works required on the Church building. As a matter of
fact the building is in a very bad shape after having put under the
custody of the revenue authorities for such a long time. The Church was
closed in 1976-7 and time schedule was fixed for both parties. This was
in force till last 26th, though both services were conducted by our
priests on alternate Sundays since 1997. Both Rev. Fr. Issac Kandathil
Puthenpura, the vicar and Rev. Fr. Mathew Jacob Puthussery, asst. vicar
were present during the service. Few pictures are uploaded in to my
space (spaces.msn.com/meletiusofthrissur).

Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan (Thrissur))

Church and Politics


Re: Church and Politics

(posted in ICON Message No. 22928 of March 31, 2009)

Dear every one

Probably this is going to flare up the controversy further and also as usual I
will be misunderstood by many of my friends, I am afraid. But I could not but
express my mind on the matter.

I have seen numerous postings in ICON with respect to the announcement of the
advisory committee of H.H. Bava Thirumeni to field candidates in the forthcoming
parliament election. Several of them were disapproving and some approving. I was
not in any way connected with this episode. Initially I too shared the
sentiments of those who disapproved. Then I talked to our Priest trustee and
later with H.B. the Catholicos designate H.G. Milithios Thirumeni and few other
metropolitans. I also watched the events closely. Now I think it turned out to
be a fair political move.

Over the years, the representation of our Church members in political life of
our country minimized considerably. We should ask why? It was not because we do
not have young people who wish to serve the nation and the people through
politics. Look at the considerably smaller communities like CSI, Marthoma or
Jacobite. They have more representation than we do. They have representation
even in BJP (of course I do not endorse that). To me this was due to the
purposeful manipulative work of some of the leaders of our Church who are
already in the top in politics. They do not want anyone else come up. They also
have media support for their cause. I have been in close contact with people
like Mr. A. K. Antony, Mr. Vayalar Ravi, Mr. Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Mr.
R. Balakrishna Pillai and Mr. K. M. Mani during the past several years (I have
only fewer friends in the left parties though I was always labeled as pro left-
no complaint, to be fair call me socialist). I have only good words about these
leaders. They were always ready to listen to my case and do what was just and
right.

But there was a member of our Church in the top of political world who always
pretended to be listening, but did the opposite. I have been complaining about
this all along. But people accused me of having too much political involvement.
Now look at the events, who all came to Devalokam Aramana and who did not. Who
spoke against those who came to Aramana. Why do they do that? As I said, I
talked to the people who were involved in the matter in our Church. All of them
say the same thing. They are totally unhappy about the way this top leader from
our Church dealt with the matters related our Church.

So the resolution now before the Church leaders is that (again I have no role in
that), we will encourage young people to come up in all levels of political
activity like panchayat level, district level, state level and national level,
irrespective of their alliance to any particular political party. If this gets
worked out, we will have representatives in all forums and arenas. Then we will
not be at the mercy of any one individual or any single political party. The
positive outcome of this not so welcomed political move is this, I guess. So let
us understand the good intentions of those who were in that move.

Tail piece: I do not think that we should enter politics directly or start a
party of our own (though we can not escape from the political world). Encourage
every member of our Church to be politically conscious and actively involved in
life of the community. If some one is willing to serve the country through
political parties, encourage them irrespective of the political party they work
with.

Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan, Thrissur

Rules for Receiving Holy Qurbono


Rules for Receiving H. Communion (Originally posted in ICON on June 22, 2009, Message #23750
Dear all
I may be opening a controversy here, but I can not but say. I am quite surprised
by the enumeration of the rules for receiving H. Qurbono and further comments on
it (In East Syriac it is Qurbana and in our Syriac which is West Syriac it is
Qurbono. Our misunderstanding regarding things starts there). To the Syriac
tradition any baptized person (of course in the Church) has the right to demand
Holy Qurbono any time of the day or night with no questions asked. That is why
earlier we used to keep H. Elements in the altar until the next service. Of
course modesty and decency are all part of the culture. Again H. Qurbono has to
be received and eaten and not swallowed. Providing water came from an earlier
tradition when it was received in hand and water was given in hand. In Syriac
Church no small piece is given. Because we do not know how to make H. Qurbono
bread in Kerala we made it small and give tiny pieces. Participation in H.
Qurbono liturgy is to receive it and there is no days stipulation regarding
that, we have to receive it every time we participate in the liturgy. We need to
continously be renewed in the relationship with our Lord and this is the primary
way to do that. We made it too unapprochable and not many people participate in
it any longer. Yes it is fire, not the consuming fire but cleansing and
liberating fire. What Paul says is not understood well by us. He said it in the
context of other religions and their practice of receiving things offered to
other gods. He said any body who receives it has to have full faith in it and
has to understand what it is without which it is a curse. That is why priest
would say after it is administered “let it not be for our condemnation or
punishment, but for forgiveness of sins and for life eternal”. Just be reminded
that we in Kerala did not invent this.

Regards
Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan, Thrissur

Rules for Receiving H. Qurbono (Posted in ICON July 4, 2009)
Earlier I participated in a discussion in our forum regarding the rules related
to receiving Communion. There were few comments, but few I am duty bound to
respond. Let me say at the outset, I was not stating my opinion rather what I
learned from the canons and writings of the fathers of the Church. When there
is a question of this sort it is always better to go to the fathers of the
Church. Many a time we talk about the teaching of the fathers, but never reveal
specifically who said it. These days with information becoming so open and pubic
it is not difficult to get answers from original source. I am giving few
statements and the references from the canons and writings of the fathers of the
Church (I am sorry I can not give page number of any quotation as I am using a
soft version of the 38 volume “Writings of Early Church Fathers&”). They are
self explanatory. What I see in the writings of the fathers is “participation in
the Holy Eucharist is the right of a believer who has received baptism”. For
absolution, confession or express statement of sin is required (it used to be
public and open, but later it was made personal and secret). No priest is
permitted to absolve any individual without an express confession of sins (at
least in sign language if too sick to speak). This does not apply to the general
absolution given in the Holy Eucharistic worship (A general prayer of penitence
is present in the liturgy after the Promion and before the Sedra called Husoyo
prayer. The Promion begins with a call for repentance saying: Let us pray and
implore the Lord for grace and mercy. Gracious Lord, have mercy upon us and help
us. Make us worthy O Lord, to offer unto you continuously at all times and in
all season, praise and thanksgiving, glory and honour and never ceasing
exaltation. The deacon earlier said, Staumon Kalos which means “Let us stand
well” – Until then the people will be sitting after the Gospel reading during
the hymn and the sermon. – A general absolution using the words “from God may we
receive pardon for our debts and forgiveness of our sins in both worlds now and
ever more” is given just before the blessing of the censors. This makes every
one participating in the Eucharistic liturgy eligible to receive Holy body and
blood of Christ. Though, for the liturgy and for the initial dispensation of the
H. Qurbono a priest is needed, in time of urgency a believer can self administer
it (please remember that H. Qurbono used to be sent with nuns and monks (not
priests) to people on sick bed at home. Please read a well written article by
Rev. Fr. Ninan George, Vice Principal, St. Thomas Orthodox Seminary, Nagpur in
Bethel Patrika of Chengannur diocese a couple of years back on the question of
Husoyo).It is well in line for a community to make rules about their life and about one
to one relationship. But few things need to be borne in mind: it should not
contradict the general and basic principles set by the founders of the
community; it should not take the community back in time; should not deprive the
members of their inherent rights and also should be grounded on valid reason.

There was a question regarding the making of H. Eucharistic bread. I almost
every Sunday and on other occasions go to different parishes in our Church. I
have rarely seen well prepared bread as we see in Mediterranean countries or in
Europe. Some times it will be over cooked and dark at the bottom, some times not
cooked well enough, some times not enough leaven, some times not in good shape.
Some times not enough salt, some times too much salt, many a time the leaven not
well mixed with the flour. Kerala food culture is cooking culture and not
baking culture so we are not familiar of baking. Unless we take extra care our
baking will be a disaster. These days people cook the bread in the micro wave
oven and it becomes very dry that it is too hard to break in to pieces. I have
seen in other Orthodox Churches well baked big bread and larger pieces given.

Here are relevant statements for Ancient Fathers of the Church.
1. FROM THE CONSTITUTION OF THE HOLY APOSTLES
XXIX. Any one who has received the seal of baptism can be administered
communion.

LVIII. Those who participate in the Holy Eucharistic Liturgy let those who are
not baptized go out after the exhortation on the Word of God and let those
illuminated ones participate in the Communion of His mysteries. Let them leave
after receiving blessing from the bishop.

(Section 2) VIII. After the catechumens leave let the illumined pray for those
left and for their repentance and for their return to the fold to participate in
the Holy Eucharist.

XLVII. 10. Those illumined who participate in the reading of the scriptures, but
leave without receiving Holy Communion must be suspended from the community.

2. BASIL THE GREAT
LETTER XCIII.(2): To the Patrician Caesarea,(3) concerning Communion.
IT is good and beneficial to communicate every day, and to partake of the holy
body and blood of Christ. For He distinctly says, “He that eateth my flesh and
drinketh my blood hath eternal life.” And who doubts that to share frequently in
life, is the same thing as to have manifold life. I, indeed, communicate four
times a week, on the Lord’s Day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on the Sabbath,
and on the other days if there is a commemoration of any Saint. It is needless
to point out that for anyone in times of persecution to be compelled to take the
communion in his own hand without the presence of a priest or minister is not a
serious offence, as long custom sanctions this practice from the facts
themselves. All the solitaries in the desert, where there is no priest, take the
communion themselves, keeping communion at home. And at Alexandria and in Egypt,
each one of the laity, for the most part, keeps the communion, at his own house,
and participates in it when he likes. For when once the priest has completed the
offering, and given it, the recipient, participating in it each time as entire,
is bound to believe that he properly takes and receives it from the giver. And
even in the church, when the priest gives the portion, the recipient takes it
with complete power over it, and so lifts it to his lips with his own hand. It
has the same validity whether one portion or several portions are received from
the priest at the same time.

3. HYPPOLYTUS OF ROME
(28, 29)
That the faithful ought to eat nothing before the Holy Communion.
That care is to be well taken that nothing fall from the chalice to the ground.

4. CANONS OF THE CHURCH OF ALEXANDRIA.
Canon 29 Of the keeping of oblations which are laid upon the altar,–that
nothing fall into the sacred chalice, and that nothing fall from the priests,
nor from the boys when they take communion; that an evil spirit rule them not,
and that no one speak in the protection,(2) except in prayer; and when the
oblations of the people cease, let psalms be read with all attention, even to
the signal of the bell; and of the sign of the cross, and the casting of the
dust of the altar into the pool.

5. TEACHINGS OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES (DIDACHE)
Canon 31 also talks about administering the communion (I do not find in these
two any reference to the said rules)

6. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM: HOMILIES.
XXVII Talks about the conduct after receiving the communion. He asks faithful to
be modest and not to have any excessive festivities and luxuriousness

XXVIII. Let them come for communion with the purity of conscience.

V. On St. Mathew.
He talks about people who are awed while they are in the Church and then receive
Communion. Then they go out and plunge in to things unsuited to the communion.
He asks people to go home and take the Bible call every one in the household and
to put together what was heard in the Church. Then go to market and act
according to the principles set by the communion (for him what is important is
not how it was eaten, rather how one lives after).

7. CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE: THE 82 EPISTLES OF CYPRIAN
Those who feel that they have sinned may do penance for a set time and then come
to public confession, then the bishop may place his hand on him and may receive
communion. However, if it is the time of persecution, they can very well receive
communion without any of these.

(On the Lapsed [failed)
No communion for sinners without confession followed by absolution. If they do,
violence is done to His body and blood.

8. POPE LEO THE GREAT: LETTER TO JULIAN, BISHOP OF COS (of course we do not hold
him a person of much authority due to the Tom he wrote)

Question V. If the person is in death bed and can not express the repentance,
but ask for it by signs, absolution shall be given.
Question IX. Even if the person is in pain and is confessing out of fear of
death only, still absolution is administered..

9. THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY Book VII. Chapter XVI.
As in supplicating for pardon; it is requisite to confess the sin, it seems
probable that the priests, from the beginning, considered it irksome to make
this confession in public, before the whole assembly of the people. They
therefore appointed a presbyter, of the utmost sanctity, and the most undoubted
prudence, to act on these occasions; the penitents went to him, and confessed
their transgressions; and it was his office to indicate the kind of penance
adapted to each sin, and then when satisfaction had been made, to pronounce
absolution (Quotations over)

I shall be most obliged and grateful if some one would bring to my notice
further a quotation from one of our early Church fathers or a passage from an
authentic document regarding rules for receiving Holy Communion.

With regards and prayers
Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan, Thrissur

Dear all
I may be opening a controversy here, but I can not but say. I am quite
surprised by the enumeration of the rules for receiving H. Qurbono and
further comments on it (In East Syriac it is Qurbana and in our Syriac
which is West Syriac it is Qurbono. Our misunderstanding regarding
things starts there). To the Syriac tradition any baptized person (of
course in the Church) has the right to demand Holy Qurbono any time of
the day or night with no questions asked. That is why earlier we used
to keep H. Elements in the altar until the next service. Of course
modesty and decency are all part of the culture. Again H. Qurbono has
to be received and eaten and not swallowed. Providing water came from
an earlier tradition when it was received in hand and water was given
in hand. In Syriac Church no small piece is given. Because we do not
know how to make H. Qurbono bread in Kerala we made it small and give
tiny pieces. Participation in H. Qurbono liturgy is to receive it and
there is no days stipulation regarding that, we have to receive it
every time we participate in the liturgy. We need to continously be
renewed in the relationship with our Lord and this is the primary way
to do that. We made it too unapprochable and not many people
participate in it any longer. Yes it is fire, not the consuming fire
but cleansing and liberating fire. What Paul says is not understood
well by us. He said it in the context of other religions and their
practice of receiving things offered to other gods. He said any body
who receives it has to have full faith in it and has to understand what
it is without which it is a curse. That is why priest would say after
it is administered “let it not be for our condemnation or punishment,
but for forgiveness of sins and for life eternal”. Just be reminded
that we in Kerala did not invent this.

Regards
Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan, Thrissur

Today, during the Holy Qurbana on Friday (in Gulf our main church service is on
Friday), one of our learned and blessed laity brethren gave a message.His
message was powerfully delivered, but at the end, I was in a state of confusion
on the teachings on this Holiest Koodasha of our church.

The topic he dwelt upon was on the rules of receiving the Holy Qurbana.
He listed the rules of the church in receiving the Holy Qurbana. I was in a way
pained to hear that all of them were on the physical cleanliness rather than the
need of a repentant and contrite heart.

I would like to gain a little more insight clearly from the blessed and learned
members of ICON on the rules and their sources for receiving the Holy Qurbana.

I reproduce some of the rules my blessed brother stated (as I understood)for
your valuable guidance:

1.Once we receive the Holy Qurbana, the effect is for 40 days.
2.One needs to fast for 6 Hrs before receiving the Holy Qurbana.
3.One need to complete all the Yama Prarthana starting from the previous
evening prayers.
4.One must chew well the received Holy Qurbana with the teeth before
swallowing.(From my childhood, I have been told that one should not allow the
teeth to come in touch with the body and blood and hence must be swallowed
directly)
5.One needs to have a bath and wear modest and light coloured dress.
6.One should not do make up with lipstick and bindi.
7.One should not come directly from the office to the church for receiving the
Holy Qurbana because he would not have had chance to take bath and change into
fresh clothes.
8.One should not have bodily relation ship with the spouse the previous day.
9.Do not watch TV from the previous evening
10.Do not talk loudly after receiving the Holy Qurbana.

It was also mentioned that the Holy Qurbana is indeed fire and if you do not
follow the rules, you will receive curse instead of the blessing you are
seeking.

The example sited was that of Uzzah putting his hand to the ark of God(2 Samuel
6:6). Uzzah, the son of Abinadab, took hold of the ark of God because the oxen
stumbled.Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck
him there for his error, and he died there by the ark of God.

With all the reverence, I understand and believe that Jesus unveiled the new
face of God through His life and cross from the “eye for an eye” of old
testament to a paradigm shift of “love your enemy”.
My genuine concern is about a lot our brethren in Gulf who toil in the scorching
sun at 50 degree Celsius for 12 hours and have no one to turn to except God.What
the church needs to offer them who are part of the body of our church as much
spiritual solace as possible and not bring in physical rules in getting their
spiritual realization through partaking in the Body and Blood of new covenant of
our Lord and Saviour.
I would also like the views of the ICON family on the teaching of the church on
Hoosoyo replacing the Holy Confession.

Of course, the physical cleanliness is a symbol of the cleansing by the spirit.A
lot of emphasis on the physical aspect without attributing the spiritual
symbolism may take us back to the old testament.

Awaiting to get edified by the ICON Family.

Love in Christ

Jacob Varghese
Muscat