Women’s Voting Right


The Holy Episcopal Synod of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has accepted the report of the commission appointed by the H. Synod to report to the H. Synod on the possibility of granting voting right to women in the Church general body meetings. The report will be available for publication only after the Rules Committee makes specific constitutional changes in this regard. The commission, me, in the 11 page report has given, reasons for granting voting right to women in parish assembly on the basis of the teachings and approach of Jesus Christ, Biblical testimony, the opinion of the early fathers of the Church, theological issues, position of other Orthodox Churches of the world, the suggestion of the Supreme court in its order in 1995 verdict on Church case, articles of human rights, practical issues etc. Through this, the Church will be addressing a major issue that has been in the air for a long time and will be a milestone in the history of the Church. Though this will make the size of the parish general body larger, it will not add any number to parish managing committee, diocesan council, Malankara Association or Association Managing Committee.

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Question on Prostration


Respected Thirumeni,

We, the Orthodox community has a practice to kneel down during our prayers, particularly when we do the cross during Kauma and also at certain other occasions. But there are some restrictions for this act that we should not kneel down from Saturday evening prayers onwards up to the 9th hour prayers on Sunday. We are also not to resort to kneeling similarly on Maranaya feast days. Again, we are not permitted to kneel down during the fifty day period from Easter up to the Pentecost. These are what I understand from our priests during their pieces of advice. But there are people who are not bothered about such restrictions and whenever some young man breaks this, I do advise him.

During the post Christmas week, I had been to Parumala and saw a 40 year looking man kneeling down in front of the Parumala chapel’s Madbaha after the Holy Qurbana. I had seen him accepting the Holy Qurbana a few minutes earlier. So I approached him and spoke to him in a very humble tone. In an equally humble tone, he replied that he was from Kunnamkulam and that they had been doing this after the Holy Qurbana for long. He also advised me to check with “Bava” on this.

In this background, I look forward to Your Grace to know the correct position on this as per true Orthodox theology. I do understand that there is a theological background in kneeling down as well as for its restrictions on certain occasions. But if there is a theological truth, it cannot vary from area to area.

Please also advise me as to what are exactly the days when we are not supposed to kneel down because, during he Passion week, prior to Holy Qurbana, we do kneel down during the Evening, Midnight and Morning prayers ( Maundy Thursday, Holy Saturday ). Similarly, what about the days when we have Holy Qurbana on unscheduled days? eg: Some body’s 40th day of demise, Dukrono of departed fathers ( Saints or otherwise ), Feast days like Mayalto, Wednesday and Thursday of our three day lent, Transfiguration and so on.

Trust, Your Grace will find some time to look into this for a detailed clarification. But take time as Your Grace pleases.

With prayers, Your spiritual (?)

Dear (?)

Thank you for your mail and the query.
Regarding kneeling down practiced in our Church, you are right. But primarily this is a cultural thing. We see it in many cultures and communities. People kneel down or prostrate to express their subordination, humility and helplessness. Several  religions have made it a religious custom. For example in Hinduism it is called danda namskaram. You touch your body parts on the ground and submit yourself before a deity or honorable person. In Islam people sit down on a mat on the floor and bend over to touch their forehead on the ground. In Japan and in that region people bow down and greet others. It is not seen so much in western cultures. In many of the North Indian states when ever you meet a person of honor or respect they bend down and touch his/her feet. This, therefore is a personal matter too. When it is personal, it will not be controlled totally by rules and regulations. It is rather done in an emotional way. I have seen lot of people, particularly women, after H. Qurbana, stand on their knees in the Church and pray. Some times they do that in front of a tomb, if there is one, or in front of a picture of a saint (we in the Syriac tradition do not permit pictures in the Church. But now people widely use pictures and icons). It is personal piety and to say either or is not so much on our account.
Technically, we, Orthodox Christians in the Syriac tradition, are asked to prostrate when there is no immediate presence of the Lord. So we do not have to prostrate on Sundays (particularly after receiving Holy Qurbana), Lord’s days (moranaya days), and as you said on designated days that mark the presence of our Lord. But it does not prevent people from expressing their sincere and  innocent  piety through kneeling down or prostrating. It may not be wise to regulate, beyond a limit, expressions of personal piety as long as it does not bring serious offenses to the community or to other individuals. Of course community has to draw boundaries of behavior of its members. But it should not question the basic freedom of individuals and become slavish and oppressive. This is my opinion.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question on Forty Days Lent


His Grace Thirumeni,

I (?), doing my 2nd B.Tech. I came up with few question asked by my friend who is a protestant. I couldn’t give her an answer. I am really depressed about that and can’t find the answer to it.
The question she asked was, why do we fast for 50 days? Is it because Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days? or is it, because of the tradition? How do you  know that the days that Jesus Christ fasted falls on the exact 40 days before the Passion Week?

Requesting for prayers and blessings.Hoping for a reply soon.

Yours sincerely

Dear (?)

Thank you for the mail and and questions. Wish you God’s blessings in your continued studies. I am glad you are curious and interested in the faith and practices of our Church along with your secular studies. I wish all our children be like that.

Regarding your question: Eastern Churches took the model of Christ’s life in this world very seriously in several aspects. Many thought it will be advisable to be celibates like Jesus and abstain from getting married. Hundreds and thousands of people, therefore, went to monasteries and solitude to ‘imitate’ our Lord. There are lot of people who took the mark of Jesus on their body by artificially inflicting themselves or in a psychological way taking wounds in their body which is called stigmata. Another way of imitating Christ was by observing the lent Jesus observed. They found several occasions to observe lent. They thought through observing lent they will prepare themselves for perfectly observing the event in the life of Christ. Jesus’ birth was one occasion, the veneration of his mother was another occasion, the veneration of his disciples was another occasion, his suffering and death was another etc. etc. Initially all lent had 40 days duration just like the fasting and praying period of Jesus (Mtt. 4: 1ff.; Mark 1: 12,13; Luke 4:1 ff.). But this was not possible for everyone in secular life. The Church limited 40 days lent only to the lent before the passion week. Actually the lent related to the passion of Jesus is only for 40 days. Through this the Church prepares itself for the observance of the passion and the following resurrection of our Lord. Then comes the days of the passion of our Lord. These days are also observed as special days. They are not just lent days. They are days of participation of the Church in the suffering of our Lord. Through this the Church hopes to achieve the liberation Jesus offered to the creation from sin, suffering and actualize resurrection in the life of the members of the Church.

We are not considering the days in a historical style. We take the whole year as a period of recapitulation (re-actualization) of the salvific history. Jesus lived in this world thirty three years and his public ministry was three years duration. None of this can be historically reenacted in the life of a believer in a secular situation. So the Church takes one year to complete the reenactment of thirty three years of life of Jesus. The Church hopes to, in cyclic way, bring the salvific life of our lord adapted in to the life of the faithful every year so that the salvation brought by Jesus can be effected in the life of the faithful. So we do not look for which date exactly a particular event happened in the life of our Lord, rather we arrange the important event in his life that all of them can be observed in one year. Jesus fasted for forty days at the beginning of the public ministry. We can not chronologically. It would take three years to complete the whole public life of Jesus. So we set the Easter at a particular date and then count fifty days backward to have forty days lent and ten days for passion days. During the forty days we remember and celebrate the important miracle deeds of Jesus every day and particularly on Sundays for the public worship. This is how we make three years one year. In the liturgical life of the community time and space are transcended. You may remember in our worship, towards the beginning, the priest will call the faith full saying, ‘let our hearts, minds and thoughts be up above at the right hand side of the Father where Jesus is seated’. The faithful will respond to this the same way. This call is similar in all the major Churches of the world with slight variations. This implies that in salvation history, we transcend time and space. But at the same time we take them seriously and arrange the events in history in such a way that it will fit within the structure of salvation history.

Some of the sectarian Churches who do not take these things seriously, rather take matters in an emotional and ecstatic way may not follow or rather understand this. They take only the present moment seriously and reduce the long period of Jesus in this world to just crucifixion and highlight it. This for me is injustice done to the salvific work of our Lord.  He was not a magician who simply did the whole thing in just one act. He was born like a human who went away fro God and went through all the stages of humans to correct  the way human walked in alienation and farther-ness to God so that all those ways can be corrected and human be brought back to God by reversing the whole history of humanity.  In simple terms, our lent is for forty days as Jesus observed. The balance 10 days is our way of trying to participate in the suffering of our Lord.

Hope I addressed your question. If there is any thing else just send it. I will try my best.

Once again God’s blessings in your life and particularly in your studies now.

With regards and prayers

Thirumeni