An Areal View of Burbank City CA


I was invited by Mr. George Grer, a prominent member of At. James Orthodox Church, Burbank for dinner at Castaway Hotel from where I saw an areal view of Burbank City. Pictures:

Warm Welcome at Burbank Mission


I visited Burbank Mission of Malankara Orthodox Church on which I am in charge and they accorded a warm welcome at the Church. The Scout and Guide unit of the Church gave a guard of honor and prepared a cake tocommemorate my sacerdotal silver Jubilee. Few pictures:

A Day Out With Deacon Elias Khouri


I had a wonderful time with the president of the Board of Elders of St. James Syrian Orthodox Church of Los Angles, CA of which I am the metropolitan appointed by the Holy Synod. We visited New Port Beach and the island.  Few pictures.

Dhoopam, Nilavilakku and more


Question:

Respected Thirumeni,

I seek Your Grace’s guidance on two issues.

The other day my wife attended a class where one of our priests mentioned that we offer prayers for the departed up to the 40th or 41st day with incense because we are honouring the bread and wine they would have accepted which would be live for around 40 days as per human physiology. I do not know whether this is correct because even after the 40th day, for the subsequent anniversaries we offer incense prayers. What I feel is that offering incense is our tradition we have from the OT days as we read about Aaron and others offering incense during prayers. The visions of Isaiah and John describes such prayers taking place in Heaven.Therefore, incense offering looks like an accompaniment to all our prayers. Thinking at a higher level, it may prepare us or help us to worship God in all His Omnipotence beyond time and space restrictions.

The second point is based on heated argument I had with my wife ( not a quarrel, but quite positive ) on using Nilavilakku while praying. She was a Marthomite having accepted each and everything in Orthodox Church in true spirits and living like  a true Orthodox in all respects. Here, what she feels is that we are accepting some Hindu systems, which according to her is wrong. I tried to convince her that this is not Hindu, but Indian in essence. Also, OT tradition too allows this. Jews do the same. She takes a stand that this would have come up due  to non invention of electricity during OT era. But now it is a pure Hindu custom and we should not do this. I took the stand that we should see it as our accepting Indian culture and that this should be seen as light, a symbolic representation of ourselves aiming to be light of the world. I also told her that singing hymns like CSI people just imitate English custom and we should be able to switch over to India style of singing, by suitable changes in our Syriac ragas. The thali too is Indian and not Hindu because there are certain Hindu sects who are not using thali for marriages.

Looking forward to guidance from Your Grace, your spiritual son,

Answer:

Dear (?)
Thank you for the mail. I am in California and enjoying the company of our people in this part of the country.
Regarding the question, in both cases you are right.
First, I have never heard this interesting explanation about dhoopam. Basically the 40 days observance of the bereavement of the departed is a cultural thing. In most of the ancient cultures people remember the departed with special acts and functions for a prescribed date. 40 days is not observed in all parts of our Church. In Kunnamkulam area people do it some times for 6 days, some times for 3 days. But there is an importance given to 40 days as this custom is seen in most of the traditions. We relate it with the days of Jesus in this world after his resurrection. Regarding dhoopam you are right, it is practiced in almost all religions of the world. In our Church, it symbolizes our prayers that go up with the dhoopam which shall be pleasing to God. Again it also symbolizes the sanctification of the community. It has a medicinal effect also. Who ever might have said that the Holy Qurbana and the bread and wine has effect only for 40 days, knows nothing about the Holy Qurbana. It has eternal effect. This is what Jesus told his disciples. He said, “Who ever eats of this bread shall live for ever” (John 6:50. There are other passages too with the same meaning).

Lighting the lamp is also seen in all cultures and therefore in almost all religion religions. It is some thing universal. It provides light of course, but then in almost all religions light is related to the divine. Jesus talked about himself as light at the lamp stand of the Jerusalem temple (John 8:12; 9:5; 12: 46 etc.). In Jerusalem temple they had oil lamps like that we have now in our Churches with seven branches. The medium you use for lighting the lamp is subject to availability and culture. In the Mediterranean world they use similar lamps with olive oil. In the western world they use candles made of wax as the medium. What we call Hinduism is a mixture of several religions. It was the British who created that word as they did not know what our religious heritage was in India. There are people in Hinduism who use different kind of lamps in worship. Nilavilakku is used predominantly in Kerala and Kerala was not a Hindu country in its strict sense. It was rather a dravidian region. The shape of the lamp has no relation to any religion. Again Thali is also not used in all parts of India among those who practice ‘Hinduism’. You can not call any of these practices as Indian too. Because our country is a big one and the customs and cultures are variant. Many of the practices are local. Religion can only be practiced in a given context adapting the customs of the local culture. There is nothing wrong in it if you believe that God is one and universal. He works among people in line with their living environment. It will be wrong on the part of any one when they say that one particular religious practice is just for one religion. As long as we say that our God is the only God and is the creator of every thing seen and unseen, we have all right to use the cultural elements of a locality in our worship.
Hope you are doing fine
With regards and prayers
Thirumeni

My Visit to Stanford University Campus


I visited Stanford University  campus near San Francisco with my niece and her family. Few pictures:

Question of Confession


Question:

“Therumeni, there is one question in my mind since long, which is; “is it a necessity to confess one’s sins before a Priest or a Bishop. if so, where can we find such a direction in the Holy Bible”. If I directly go and ask forgiveness from the person, whom I may have sinned; will my sins be not forgiven?”

Answer:

Dear (?)

Thank you for your question.

First of all let me tell you that proof texts for many of the practices of our Church, for that matter any Church, may not be found in the Bible. This raises the question of our understanding of the Bible. Bible is not a text book for our religious practices that were introduced by the fathers of the Church on the basis of need of time and situation. Bible is, rather, a book of principles. Principles are, in most cases, universal and practices are local and time-situation bound. We make practices on the basis of principles laid out in the Bible. Personal confession is one among them. Setting relationships right is a principle laid out by Jesus himself as per the testimony of the Biblical writers (Matthew 5:23, 24).

Again confession is not just for the forgiveness of sins. It is an expression of the self before someone who is competent, authorised and qualified to listen and respond. This has several dimensions. Confessing sin is just one among them.

In our life in this world we will have to go through lot of situations. These situations may bring joy, sorrow, grief, sadness, sorry, anger etc. etc. You need to find people to share these moods and feelings with someone. Any mood or feeling you may have will have religious, psychological, emotional, relationship, social and community elements in it. For example when you are happy, it may be because you had something happened to you or someone did something for you. You may not know some times who did what. But in any situation there will be two elements that influence it. First, God who monitors and be present to help us to take that situation to a positive ending. Second, the creation of God that influences the other in some way or other. So you need someone who can represent both God and creation to share the joy. The Church has provided us with a person who represents both, and that is a priest.

Again when you are sad or sick, that may have caused by something (event) or by someone. Even if you know who or what caused it, you may or may not be able to take it up directly with that person or thing. Even though you may know it will be God alone who can deal with your sadness in an effective way. So you need someone who can represent God. Further you also need to have a person to who can represent the community. That is what a priest is. Since the priest is the representative of the people, he can represent the prayers of the people before God. The very knowledge that there are lot of people who are concerned of your welfare and who are praying for you will help you deal with your situation. These prayers will be of greater value before God also (see James 5:14).  Sometimes you may feel sorry for what you did or said or thought. You may not know how many people were affected by that. It will be good to say sorry to the person whom you know was affected by that. But that person alone may not have been affected. Anything we do will have consequence far reaching than we may think. We may assume that only just one person or few people were affected by what we did, said or thought. But many a time it may affect lot of people and nature beyond our imagination. So just saying sorry to the person whom you think was affected will not be enough to take away the guilt. If we do sin against nature, we can not go and tell sorry to nature. Then we need a person who can represent both God and His creation. Also, if you go and express sorry directly to a person whom you think may have been affected, it may cause further problems as that person may not see things as you see it and respond the way you wanted that person to be. When we are sorry about something wrong we did, said or thought we need to be absolved of that. When we reveal the matter to a priest, he is authorized and designated by the community and God through the ordination he received to absolve and pardon the wrong doing on behalf of God and on behalf of creation. The priest will be able to suggest a remedy too. He may be able tell you whether you can or need to go to the person concerned and say sorry. This has a psychological effect too.

Again people may ask why we cannot just say that to God. That is a possibility. But that is something which has no personal presence. When you say something, you need to have someone to listen to in person, need someone to talk back to you in terms of that it was well understood and also to suggest some solution. The Church provides such a person in a priest. Further confession provides a possibility of counselling free of cost. Sometimes you may feel that you have to talk to someone who can personally listen and suggest a solution. That person should be someone in whom you can trust also. A priest is bound by law in the Church that whatever others share with him in confession should not be shared to anyone.  So personal confession is a great and valuable possibility the Church has set for people to be healthy in mind and spirit.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

A Visit to Brentwood CA for Fruit Picking


Today I went with Mr. Paul Thomas in San Jose and family to Brentwood for Fruit Picking. Few Pictures.

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