Questions and Clarifications


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

Question 1. Dear Thirumeni

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

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

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

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

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

Regards —-

Answer 1. Dear —–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards and prayers, Thirumeni

Question 2. Dear thirumeni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and regards —

Answer 2. Dear —

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

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

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

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

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 3. Dear Thirumeni,

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous Onam…

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

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

Hope I am not asking any mandatharams..

remember us in your prayers

Regards —–

Answer 3. Dear —-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards and prayers, Thirumeni

Question 3. Dear Thirumeni,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question 4.

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

Anser 4. Dear —

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

Thirumeni

Question 5. Dear Thirumeni,

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

a. What happen to the soul after death?

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

c. Can we feel the loved departed?

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

e. Is there Heaven and Hell exist?

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

Regards —

Answer 5. Dear —

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

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

and further on other issues, go to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answer 6.  Dear —

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

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

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 7: Dear Thirumeni,

Greetings…

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

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

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

Thanks..—

Answer 7. Dear —

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

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

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 8: Dear Thirumeni I have few questions

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

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

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

Thanks —

Answer 8: Dear —-

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

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

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

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

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

Regards and prayers Thirumeni

Question 9: Dear Thirumeni,

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

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

Thanks & regards —

Answer 9: Dear —

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

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

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

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

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

Hope I answered your question.

With regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 10: Dear Thirumeni,

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

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

With prayers —

Answer 10: Dear —

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

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

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

Hope I have clarified the matter.

Regards and prayers Thirumeni

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

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

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

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

Answer 11. Dear —

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

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

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

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

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

With regards and prayers Thirumeni

Question 12. Most Respected Thirumeni,

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

With prayers —

Answer 12: Dear —

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

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

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

Regards and prayers Thirumeni

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

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

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

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

Could you please answer the aforementioned queries?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions and Answers


Question 1

Dear thirumeni,

Hope thirumeni is doing fine with heavenly grace. I am writing this to clarify a practice observed by orthodox community. It is a common practice to observe 41st day remembrances of the departed ones. Recently a member of one orthodox church here passed away from cancer. Her parents and husband are alive. someone in the church is of the view that 41st day of remembrance cannot be observed in this case as she is young and parents and husband is alive. I have seen on numerous occasions this is observed when elder family members are still alive and thirumenis conduct the holy qurbana. I would like to know is there an authoritative explanation for observing the 41st day? Recently i read that 30th day is observed  for Ivanios thirmeni.

It is a well known fact that for some of the practices observed by the community no authentic explanations are available. Recently some one asked me why our perunnal rasa is conducted. In these days of noise pollution and traffic jams is it not a public nuisance? I was passing through Mavelikara in January and traffic was blocked for one hour due to some rasa procession..
Recently some bishop of a sister church has issued a kalpana against observing fire works, and traffic blocking rasa. In my opinion this is a welcome progressive step.

It will be very much of a help if thirumeni can throw some light on the 41 st day observance as different people interpret different ways.

with respectful regards

Answer 1.

Thank you for the mail.

Remembrance of the departed is part of the faith of many of the ancient cultures and religions. For traditional Christianity though remembrance of the departed is common, the practices related to it are variant. There are people who observe three day lent and then conclude it with H. Qurbana in the Church. There are people who practice it with 16 days and 30 days and 40 days and also 41 days. There are people who keep a white decorated bed in the house for 40 days in remembrance of the departed and on the 40th day remove it after a dhoopam. In Kunnamkulam region there is no white decorated bed practice. They have 3rd day or 16th day or 30th or some 40th day. Yes the 30th day of demise of Ivanios Thirumeni was observed at various churches in Kottayam diocese.

In any case there is no rule or practice that says that when a younger person dies and when the older ones are still alive these are not observed. In many places the detailed feast will be avoided as the mourning will be much intense than in the case of older people. Otherwise there is nothing wrong in having a 30th or 40th or 41st day observance of the young departed person when the older ones or parents are still alive.

Perunnal go around (rasa is not the right word to use. This word is used for go around by the Catholic Church that goes around with Holy bread in a decorated casket. What we do is not rasa, rather it is go around or pradekshinam).

This practice is very old and meant to sanctify the village/ city. This is also related to an Indian practice of the procession with the deity on some one’s shoulder or on a cattle or an elephant to sanctify the village/ city. Of course it will be wise on our part to do it without causing any trouble to the traffic and public life.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question No. 2

Thirumeni

A lot of unwanted trouble was made in Malankara due to mis-interpretation of John 20:19-24, which lead to questioning the Priesthood of St. Thomas. Could you please give a clarification on this? Why do our Church fathers use these verses connecting Priesthood? Why does the Author give importance to note that St. Thomas was not present there during this time of great importance? If you could clear up this confusion, it will be of great benefit to the laity. Thank you.

Answer 2.

Yes you are right; there has been so much talk about the passage in John 20:19-24. Much of it was either due to lack of proper understanding about the principles of Biblical interpretation or to prove a point they raised, which is against the principles of Biblical interpretation.

Now the principle is that any passage in the Bible can be interpreted on two basics only. One, the central message of the Bible as one unit has to be considered in exploring the meaning and message of a particular passage. Two, the particular context of the author and his theological position has to be considered. You can not use any passage in aloofness or independently or as a proof text for any single argument you may have.

Now coming to the text in question, there are three things happening there. One, ‘breathed on the disciples for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Two, sending them out or commissioning of the disciples. Three, giving them authority to forgive or not to forgive sins. One primary point we need to understand is that the Gospel writers have not strictly followed the same chronology of event of the period. Each of these three matters are accounted by the Gospel writers at different point of time.

In Matthew the commissioning has nothing to do with either breathing or gift of the H. Spirit (Mtt. 28:19). Again binding and losing authority according to Matthew was given at a different time (16:19) and was given only to Peter according to this passage. This was before Jesus’ death. This again in isolation has been used by vested interest lobbies. Similar commissioning is recorded in Mark 16:15-16 as given to all the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew again gives a similar commissioning in 18:18. This was not only to Peter but to all disciples. According to the book of Acts, the gift of Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost (ch.2).

I gave this detailed introduction to tell you that just one reference some where in the Bible can not be taken as a proof text passage.

Coming to St. John’s passage, the key in the event is given in 20: 29. The first part of the verse “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me” is not a statement but a question. So it is not a negative comment on Thomas’ disbelief. Jesus was asking ‘having seen me have you now believed me’? It is to that question Thomas was replying “My Lord and my God”. The answer in other words, ‘yes Lord I do and you are my Lord and my God’. The second part of the verse is a general statement. This is applicable to every one since that time, including we people the ones of the present time who are asked to believe without seeing in Him person. It is also a call to every one not to insist that they should see Him in person to believe because after resurrection Jesus presence in the world was going to be of different nature. Hence any one who believes in Him without seeing Him would be blessed. This again is important in another sense. St. John was using the situation to widen the size of the faith community. If the preaching of the Gospel about resurrection had to be effective and convincing, they had to answer the question from the audience, ‘how can we believe as we do not see Him in person’? John takes this possibility seriously and answers well in advance. It does not mean that John invented this statement of Jesus. He remembered this and used the absence and presence of Thomas to present the answer to his future readers. This does not put St. Thomas in any account in a bad position.

It was not easy for any one to believe that a dead person can ever be resurrected. Of course they had seen the girl and Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus. But now the one who did those miracles himself is dead. So who else would do the miracle on Him? Those days only a few, the Pharisees, had any idea of a possibility of resurrection. Thomas and his fellow disciples who were from the grass root level of the society never had such profound thinking ability until they received the H. Spirit. More over there were the Sadducees who vehemently ruled out that possibility. It should also be remembered that those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, after Jesus’ resurrection also did not recognize Him even when they saw Him in person and talked to them for quite a long distance (Luke 24:13ff.). Matt. 28:17 says, “… but some of them doubted”, even after all those events after resurrection.  Mark 16:11 says that ‘the disciples did not believe what Mary Magdalene said about the resurrection’. Luke 24:11 says that ‘the report of Mary and others were like “idle talk” to the apostles and so “they did not believe them”. Some saw and believed and some even after seeing had difficulty in believing. But Thomas of course wanted to see Him in person to believe, and when he saw Jesus, believed and confessed Him with a classical and unique statement. Of course we can not find fault on any one for not believing until after the Pentecost event.

Now the question is about Jesus breathing on the disciples and asking them to receive H. Spirit. As said earlier the chronology of events in John’s Gospel is different from that of the other Gospels and Acts. The statement about Thomas being absent the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples is not part of the section on gift of the Spirit. Even if it is applied on Thomas, still we do see him receiving H. Spirit on the day of Pentecost. If we are talking about the authority to forgive or bind sins, it was given to all including Thomas according to Mark 16:15-16 and Matt. 28:19 (This happened after the resurrection and with all the eleven of them, including Thomas, present.  Also see Matt. 18:18).

To sum up as it was said earlier, taking one verse from some where in the Bible and making an argument is not a legitimate way of Biblical interpretation. Then the purpose of St. John in 20:19-24 was not to single out Thomas and say that he did not receive the Holy Spirit. Hence any of those things said in the context of Church feud in Malankara does not do justice to either the Biblical testimony of the events or to the way we should interpret Bible passage.

Question 3

Dear Thirumeni,
While reading the Old Testament, I saw that there was a lot of bloodshed that took place. There were a lot of fights and wars. Somehow I get the idea that the Old Testament is quite violent. Since it is known that all are God’s creations and He is powerful, then why not just put them straight? Why should God kill His creations? For instance, the great flood, the red sea crossing scenarios could have been avoided. What was gained?

Answer 3.

The first question in this regard is what is this Old Testament? The answer would be, it is the holy scripture of Jews. When you say Jews, it is a community of just two tribes of the children of Jacob, Israel. They call what we call Old Testament TANAK with three parts in it namely Torah (the Law), Nebiim (the Prophets) and ketubim (the Writings). That means it does not represent even the history and life of majority of tribes or all of Israel. On the contrary its approach most of the time is against the other ten tribes in the North of the region not to speak Canaanites and neighboring communities. Old Testament in general and the historical books in particular comes to us from those two tribes from a time of one of their greatest crises of its life which was their time in Babylon. That was a time of community formation and self realization. But on the one hand they collected all the sayings of the prophets who criticized them, and on the other they took pride in being a community specially chosen by God. We can see both these sentiments in the Old Testament material. In general the writings in OT represent what they thought about themselves, of their neighbors and of God. This does not mean that all you see in there is just subjective stuff. In the middle of predominantly subjective material you can also see the work of God in the life of a community presented in the most open manner. This is especially true with the writings of the prophets. Even in the Psalms you will see songs of hatred and rivalry.

Then you might ask why do you have Old Testament at all as part of the Bible. First we are not considering Bible as some conservative evangelicals or Pentecostal Protestants do. We look at it as it is and try to derive the message and do not read it literally to suit some agenda. Again we have those books because it was the sacred scripture of the community of our Lord. Jesus himself have used it often but had a realistic and critical approach to it. That is why we see Him making several corrections to the prescriptions as recorded in Matthew ch.5 in the Sermon on the Mount. He considered many of the laws said to be from Moses are there because of the hardness of the heart of the people (Matthew 19:8). He did not respect the laws regarding purity as He touched the man with leprosy and allowed the woman with bleeding to deal with Him. Again in the Old Testament irrespective of all that we see unacceptable with the present day standards, we see God at work though and in the history of a people to equip them to work for the liberation of the whole creation (Gen. 12: 3) that suffered the  consequence of the sin of Adam.

The rivalry, killing and bloodshed were all attributed on God by those who wrote or composed them. God can only be “love” as Jesus revealed and cannot kill any one rather waits patiently for return. But it should be remembered that some of us like the way it is presented in there as we also have this kind of attitude toward others. In fact what we see in the Old Testament in terms of rivalry, killing and bloodshed are either the interpretation of the writers as to what happened or about those who suffered death or suffering due to their own shortcoming. In the case of people suffering due to their own mistake, even God can not help to stop. But the OT writer who had the idea that every thing happens because of God would say that these things were also God created where as they were human created. This happens even today. Why those innocent people died in shoot out during the Boston marathon? Why so many people are being killed in Syria, Afganistan or in Iraq, or in Bihar or the infants’ death in Attappadi in Kerala? These are man made and God can not be blamed for. But a person who believes in fate these all would be labeled as God guided or known by God in advance who did not stop it.

Again the question why can’t God stop it is a question against the free will of humans which God gave and hoped will be used wisely. God on the other hand keeps on attempting to liberate human from using it in the wrong way. If human was not given this freedom, human would not have been human, but another animal on two legs. The Old Testament is there so that we will learn from history, see the salvific work of God, thank Him for that and will work with God to help us come out of our own misbehavior and wrong way of using the freedom, which is the greatest gift human has ever received from God, so that history will not be repeated.

With regard to ‘great flood’ it was not God created if you think of it in a realistic way, it was human made with their sin (read carefully and just eliminate God from the scene and think of the reason the statement in Gen. 6:5). The Old Testament writer did not know how to explain it otherwise. But if you read the words of prophets closely you will see them talking about it this way (see Isaiah 5:13. Also see Jer. 20: 4; 1 Chro. 9:1 etc). These calamities were not God created. There is also another point to explore. The created world is moving towards perfection. In that movement there will be imperfection and imperfection causes suffering and set back. This has to be explained at a later time. To sum up, God did not cause any bloodshed or bad things happening. It was the way the writers put it. But it certainly brings us lessons of God’s work in history. With God given freedom enjoyed by human, and suffering in the midst due to human error, God is not able to stop what happens in that line.

Question 4

Dear Thirumeni. I am really happy to see your efforts to interact with public. Let me have a clarification on the argument made by the Marthoma Church. I have heard that when Abraham Malapan left the Old Seminary after losing the case, some body threw a chair used by him which actually was the Malankara Throne over the window. He took it and left with it. Today the Marthoma Church claims that they are with possession of the Throne, so Malankara Metropolitan title belongs to them. What is our perspective on this?

Answer No. 4

Dear

Some one really fooled you with his/her ignorance. There is no chair called the Malankara chair. If they are referring to the throne of St. Thomas or that of the Malankara Metropolitan (for that matter the throne of St. Peter too), what is referred here with the word ‘chair’ or ‘throne’ is not a physical chair with four legs and a back rest rather it is a position or an office of authority. If some one talks about English chair in a university, it does not refer to a chair in its literal sense. It is the official position of the English department. Recently a chair was instituted in the name of H.G. Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios in Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam. There is no specific chair there for the dean of the department to sit on. Malankara Metropolitan or the successor of St. Thomas holds an authority and position in the community and that is called a throne or a chair. The word comes from the terminology of monarchy.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question No. 5

Beloved Thirumeni,

Thanks for the history of the Syrians. Is it not Bible prediction in Ezkiel 29 that Egypt and it’s neighboring muslim states will come to extinction for 40 years? Did it already happen in the past any time or yet to happen?

Thanks,

Answer No. 5

Dear

The prophecy of Ezekiel is from the time of the Babylonian Exile. The prophet was an very young person when Josiah (639-609 BCE) the righteous king was ruling the Northern state Judah with Jerusalem as the capital. He was killed in Meggido by Pharaoh Necho of Egypt (2 Kings 23:29) and that was a blow to all the expectations the young prophet Ezekiel had regarding the re-unification of Israel and establishment of true worship of Yahweh and a Davidic monarchy in the united nation. This he carried all through his life. His prophecy was done while he was in Babylon in exile (587 – 537). Chapter 29 of the book talks about the imminent fall of Egypt and what is said in verses 1 to 16 comes from 587 BCE. . Being a student of Old Testament, I would not call it a prediction. Prophets were shrewd social analysts too.  They were able to see what is going to happen in the near future seeing the line of current events. What Ezekiel said about Egypt happened in six month’s time. Number forty (here years in verse 11) doesn’t need to be taken literally. It is a symbol of a long period of punishment (Eze. 4:6; Numb. 14:33; 32:13). The names referred here denotes the then boundaries of Egupt. Migdol  is the present day Tel el hyer in the northern tip of the nation and svene is in the south on the territory of Ethiopia. The prophecy in verses 17 to 21 comes from 571 BCE. There is no reference to any other country in the region here. Again you can not have any talk about Muslin in the Before Christian Era. It is a Post Christian Era religion.

Yuhanon Mor Meletius

Question No. 6

After I read your blog, something came to mind…..I’ll ask it anyway…..not anything I wanted to do on a public blog.

Is there a “law” (man-made, church-made or Biblical) against women receiving the Holy Eucharist when they have their menstrual cycle? I was told not to……it baffled me but decided I’ll just do as asked…..but in my mind I don’t see it as being wrong…..(its just another bodily function…..why so much taboo, not sure)….

I don’t know any other clergy well enough to ask this question, you see……

Answer No. 6

Hey why should it be a private thing? I have answered that question in my blog. Menstruation is one of the most blessed things God has given to a woman. It has nothing unholy or evil in it. Those days when hygiene was a concern and did not have modern facilities, communities prescribed abstaining from public life and hard work.  If a woman with excessive bleeding can touch Jesus’ cloth and get healed and confront him, why can’t a woman with normal bleeding can go to Jesus and get blessed with the H. Qurbana. To your information this question came to me first long back from my cousin sisters when they were growing up. So have no guilt feeling. What is most important is being close to our Lord no matter what condition we are in. Those days people asked backward community people not to come and have H. Qurbana with the wealthy and high class people. During Jesus’ time women were not allowed to come out in public and be with a respected person like Jesus. But he allowed that and on the top of it they were his close associates. Those days people with skin disease were not allowed in public. Jesus never cared, but touched them and healed them.So I can say this with confidence that Jesus does not care for these man made statues through which people segregate each other and put them in boxes or make them slaves to cultures. Of course we need to have culture and regulations, But not to make others slaves but to liberate them. That is what our Lord came in to our midst for.

Question No. 7

Thank you Thirumeni for your valuable reply and time. Can I have clarification on one more doubt? Idolatry is strictly prohibited by orthodox faith. The reason is evident from the bible,the 10 commandments.Paulose apostle,in his letter to the romans says that God do not need the creation of human hands,as he is the creator of the universe.If so,is the picturization of God and saints idolatry as they are also hand-made?Is there any mistake in doing that? Please clarify my doubt.

Answer No. 7

Idolatry is worship of hand made things or natural thinks like river or sun or star or mountain or tree as divine and god. In Orthodox Church, we do not consider any picture or material as God. Even the picture we do have in our home or Church, are not objects of worship. There are only representations for visual assistance of some reality. It is just like a mile stone or sign board on the road side. When they write on the sign board ‘Horlicks is good for you’ with a picture of a cup of hot Horlicks, no one would go to take it from the sign board. Or if there is a sign board saying 50 KM to Kottayam, no one goes to the sign board as if it is Kottayam.

Question No. 8

Many newspapers and TV channels play on people’s predictable emotional response and avid curiosity and sensationalize incidents to capture people’s attention. We need to educate the young not to buy the ideas that the media sells without due discrimination and discernment.

Recently I heard a voice supposedly of Biju Radhakrishnan tell a TV interviewer that Saritha had stayed in the same hotel at Coimbatore where Minister Ganesh was also put up on the same date. The woman on the TV channel put it as “Ganesh and Saritha stayed together in a hotel at Coimbatore.’ If I were Ganesh I would sue that woman and the channel for distorting information with malafide intent. The channels and papers need to be taught a lesson by the public by not subscribing to them.

That, in my opinion, is the responsible response of the viewer. That is how they can be hurt. We owe nothing to Ganesh or Saritha but we, the public, need to be respected as intelligent and normal citizens.

The sanctity of family life is targeted by many malayalam serials and shows some of which tries to sell the idea that an unwed mother is a heroine if she remains ignorant of the fact that her child is alive and marries another man hiding her past to save her father’s reputation.

We all know which malayalam daily gives us a breakfast dose of rape or sex scandals every day.

When the State reels under epidemics and people are unable to walk around Thiruvananthapuram with its smelly garbage heaps, the media plays along with the political parties and draw the attention of the gullible public to Saritha’s Sari and Shalu’s Chalu acts, to dilute focus on basic issues and corruption of the administration that affect our lives.

What with Income Tax, Service Tax, Sales Tax, VAT, Education cess, Road Tax, Tolls, Luxury Tax and so on, 50 % of the income of a salaried person who is a honest tax payer is swallowed by the government which then wastes our hard earned money in paralysed assemblies, destroyed police vans, fake projects and project studies, half finished and abandoned projects, leviathans and white elephants as well as security, foreign tours, and conspicuous consumption. The media is supposed to benefit the people and work for them, but actually it tries to fool them. It is easy to fool people as no one has enough time to read or to think.

Salvation has only one path. Right training of the young, intellectually, spiritually and physically. Creating the right paradigm is important. The young must be trained to question before accepting and to accept only that which they come to know as true. The levels would surely change as one gets wiser, just as the same shoe would not fit you at every age.

Religion should not curtail man’s right to think and analyze even before it accepts a mystery as such.

Answer No. 8

I fully endorse your thoughts. But sad fact is that we get the kind of government we deserve. How come there is so much garbage on the streets? We do not dispose them properly. We go after selfish motifs. If some one tries to cheat us, we are there to be cheated. We send our children not for ethical education, rather for job oriented education and that itself the job that will bring high position in society and salary with kick back. Those who want to bring out a different voice, there would not be any media to spread it and there won’t be any one to read or listen. We are like those who called Jesus a lunatic when he tried to bring in change in the religion and society (Mar. 3:20-30). This is what we read as Gospel lesion last Sunday (6-8-2013). Thirumeni

Question No. 9

തിരുമേനീ ഈ അടുത്തയീടെ രണ്ടു മുന്ന് ചെറുപ്പക്കാർ വീവാഹിതരായീ. വീവാഹം നടത്തീയത് തിരുമേനീമാരണ്‍. എന്നാൽ ഇവെടുത്തെ പ്രശനം ചീല തിരുമേനീമാർ കപ്പ ധരീച്ചും ചീലർ കറുത്ത കുപ്പായം ധരീച്ചുമാണ്‍ വീവാഹശ്രീശ്രുഷ നടത്തീയത് ഇത് എന്താ ? ഇതു സാധരണക്കാർക്ക് മനസീലാകുന്നീല്ല. ഈ അടുത്ത് ഇടയീൽ സ്ഥാനം ഏറ്റവരീൽ ചീലർ കപ്പ ഇടുകയും ചീലർ ഇടതെയും നടത്തുന്നു. മാവേലികര ഭാദ്രാസനത്തീൽ പക്കോമിയോസ് തിരുമേനീ തിരുമേനീമാർ കാപ്പ ധാരീച്ച് വീവാഹശ്രീശ്രുഷ നടത്തുന്നതിന് എതിരായീരുന്നു. കാപ്പ ധരീക്കുന്ന തീരുമേനീമാരേ പള്ളീ കളീൽ വീളീക്കരൂത്ത് എന്ന് അച്ഛൻമാർക്ക് നീർദേശം കൊടുത്തീരുന്നു തീരുമനസീൽ നീന്നും ഒരു മറുപടീ പ്രതീക്ഷീച്ചു കൊണ്ട് നീർത്തുന്നു – സന്തോഷ്‌

Answer No. 9

പ്രിയ സന്തോഷ്‌

വിവാഹ കൂദാശ സംബന്ധിച്ച സുറിയാനി നടപടി ക്രമം അനുസരിച്ച് വിവാഹ കൂദാശക്ക് പ്രധാന കര്‍മികന്‍ അംശ വസ്ത്രം ധരിച്ചിരിക്കണം. കാരണം അത് ഏഴ് കൂദാശയില്‍ ഒന്നാണ്. അതുകൊണ്ട് സുറിയാനിക്കാരായ മെത്രാന്‍മാര്‍ വിവാഹം നടത്തുമ്പോള്‍ കാപ്പ ധരിക്കും. എന്നാല്‍ മലങ്കരയില്‍ മുന്കാലം മുതല്‍ മെത്രാന്മാര്‍ കാപ്പ ധരിക്കുന്ന പതിവില്ല (പാത്രിയര്ക്കീസ് ഭാഗത്തും ഇങ്ങനെ തന്നെ ആണ്). പകരം അച്ചന്‍ കാപ്പ ധരിക്കുകയും മെത്രാന്മാര്‍ കറുത്ത കുപ്പായം ധരിക്കുകയും ആണ് പതിവ്. എന്നാല്‍ ഓര്‍ത്തഡോക്സ് സഭയില്‍ എന്റെ അറിവനുസരിച്ചു അഭി. ബര്‍ണബാസ് തിരുമേനിയുടെ കാലം മുതല്‍ ചില തിരുമേനിമാര്‍ കാപ്പ ഇട്ടു നടത്താന്‍ തുടങ്ങി. കൃത്യമായി പറഞ്ഞാല്‍ അതാണ് ശരി. എന്നാല്‍ ഞാന്‍ ഉള്‍പ്പടെ പലരും കാപ്പ ഇടാറില്ല. ഈ വിഷയം പരി. സുന്നഹദോസില്‍ പരിഗനക്ക് വന്നിരുന്നു. ഇപ്പോള്‍ നടക്കുന്നത് പോലെ തുടരുക എന്നാണ് തീരുമാനം. എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞാല്‍ ഇടുന്നവര്‍ ഇട്ടും ഇടാത്തവര്‍ ഇടാതെയും നടത്താം എന്ന്. ആരും ആരെയും കുറ്റപ്പെടുത്തരുത് എന്ന് സാരം.

പ്രാര്‍ഥനയോടെ

തിരുമേനി

Question No. 10

“Thank you for sharing this (Forgotten history of Armenian Church). Indeed a striking thought: deaconess by her calling symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit. What is the thought in our church on this issue? Who are the forgotten shining examples from our church?”

I don’t think we have ever thought of that. In the early years of our Church, of course we were Dravidians (or early Dravidians) and among Dravidians women held much a higher position in the society and in religion (divine was predominantly feminine in their religion). But we do not have clear picture of the kind of Church we had as much of it was destroyed by the Latinizing Portuguese missionaries. Later when the Arians came, since they were the lords, we aligned with them to become one like them. What we remember now against the historical testimony is that we were all Brahmins. Thus we lost that Dravidian goodness. We disregarded them feminine elements they had also. Even when we got the Syrian connection, we did not adapt those little feminine elements they had. So now we are a masculine Church. I am not sure whether there is any shining example in this regard.

i have a doubt

according to our orthodox belief

is it like when we are doing a sin it will get paid off for us in future?

my personal perception is like that…

i’m from ….

st.mary’s church

Answer No. 10

Hi .

Well, there is nothing like that in Christian belief. People do sin and that can be pardoned if that person acknowledges it, be sorry about it and be ready to correct the ways for future. Otherwise, that sin will follow that person and will have to take the consequence for it some time here or in the world to come. This is why the Church has set confession to give a chance to acknowledge and be sorry about sin they have done. Thirumeni

Question No.11

I really like the examples you gave with the above answer. Nowhere I found such good simple examples.

I have a doubt, a question I saw in a social networking site. They took Numbers 21: 8-9 It says “And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”
Then question is like this God could have saved people from snake bite in a number of other ways… He is Almighty… But, why did He command to make an idol (A Serpent), while in 10 commandments He categorically says to not to make any idol?

Answer No. 11

Dear God uses humans, objects and symbols to convey messages both of salvation and of punishment. No one can dictate to God what He should be using. We have seen people behaving strange when asked by God to give a sign or message. For example, God asked Isaiah to go naked and bare foot for three years (Isaiah 20:2, 3). We also see a donkey speaking the mind of God (Numbers 22). God can use other nations to speak to His people. God can use nature to speak to his people (eg. Flood, locusts etc.). Here in the book of Numbers 21, God is using a symbol to speak to His people. Idol is an image that takes the position of god, or god represented by an idol. This is what Israel did when Moses was on the mountain talking to God. Read Exodus 32:4 carefully “He (Aaron) took this from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” This is what is called idol and idol worship. Here Aaron calls the calf he made ‘god’. In this sense even the so called idols of Hindu temples are not idols. They only carry the chaithanyam of the divine for them. They would not call these images in which the presence of the divine is, god. Unfortunately we call Hindus ‘idol worshippers’ without really knowing what they are doing and how they consider those images. You may remember that God asked Moses to make two cherubim in gold to place them in the tent of meeting to cover either side of the mercy seat (Exodus 25). God did not ask them not to make images of any thing, rather He asked them not to make idols. Idols can be images, but all images can not be idols. In this case in Numbers 21:8, 9 God is using live serpents to punish His people and a bonze serpent to save His people. God used during the time of His Son a wooden cross, which was used as an instrument for killing people sentenced to death at that time. To sum up, no, the bronze serpent God asked Moses to make was not an idol, rather a symbol of the salvation God worked out. So looking at that Serpent will not come under the law of idolatry.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question No. 12

In our prayers, priests and bishops wear black dress as a sign of repentance (my vicar told this). In a recent reading I came to learn that it was imposed by the Muslim rulers to Dimmies (non muslims live in a muslim country giving tax) to identify them. Moreover, it is a sign of slavery. Here in KSA women wear black dress only though Quran does not mention the colour or insists it’s colour. In addition, the life of the Christians under Ottoman Empire was very terrible and thousands were murdered, tortured and converted to Islam. I know Your Grace might have gone to Syira, Egypt and Turkey which were the part of Ottoman Empire or know the people from those places. I would like to get a clarification on this matter. The answer will be confidential since I know that this is a sensible question.

Answer No. 12

I have already addressed this question about the black dress of clergymen in one of the previous sessions. Go to https://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/questions-and-answers-5/ for my Question and Answer No. 3 in the blog on July 20, 2012. Each colour will have different implication in different cultures. If black is a symbol of mourning in some cultures, it is the symbol of pride and nobility in other cultures (see the colour of judicial officials any where in the world). In India white is the colour of morning (see the dress code of widows). Among Muslim community of Gulf region, white is the colour of men (in some regions noble men and those of the royal families wear a black outer garment) and predominantly black is that of the women. In some cultures black represents evil or as some people call Satanic. Islamic experts say there is no regulation on black with regard to the colour of dress for Muslim women. Women can wear any colour dress except that of men. There are women who wear gray or blue colour dress. I do not think that the dress of Christian clergy was imposed by Muslims. It is used even by clerics that has no influence on Christian Church. Black colour is used for regular dress of Christian clergy all over the world with very few exceptions. It also is not true that black is the symbol of repentance alone (in the Syriac monastic tradition, this may be true though. But it is not a universal law any way).

Qestion No. 13

The feast of St. George was celebrated in my parish on last May and HH the catholicose was the chief celebrant. In the Morning Prayer, HH the catholicose conducted a part of it and went inside the madbaha while the vicar and other priests were continuing the prayer. There were occasions to say e’Subaho labo..’ but any one didn’t chant it but said from ‘menaolam….’. Don’t they have the right to say that?

Answer No 13. Well, strictly speaking there is nothing that prevents a priest or even a lay person from saying Subaho … when a higher clerical official is present. But it is not done in our tradition out of respect to the higher official. Added to that there is no point in saying Men Olam … when Subho … is not said. Men Olam is the response to Subho … When there is no statement that calls for a response, how can there be a response?

Question No. 14: This question is for my father who is a diabetic person and for my son of 6 years old. In our church Holy Qurbana stats at 8.30 a.m and ends at 10.30 a.m. Our home is 5 k.m. away from the church. We go to church at 7.30 a.m. and reach there at 7.50 a.m to attend the morning prayer also. We come back home at 11 – 11.15 am while my son come at 12.30 after the Sunday School. My question is that should they observe fasting to eat Holy Qurbana? Can they eat some thing lightly before going to church? i.e. 2 bread or 1 banana etc.

Answer No. 14 I have addressed this question also in one of my previous posts in my blog. See the answer to the forth question in. https://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/questions-and-answers-4/

Question No. 15: Do we have the gospels or epistles of other disciples of Jesus? Why the new testament is dominated with St. Paul’s epistles?

Answer No. 15. Well, it was Paul who extensively wrote letters to his churches. We do not even hear of other disciples and their activities much. Paul had more than one distinct advantage. He was a Roman citizen that enabled him to travel freely any where in the Roman Empire, meet people, talk to them about his mission. Again he was a well educated person in both philosophy and Hebrew thought. So he was able to intelligibly and articulately present his theory and let people know things and be convinced. Again he had more followers, co-workers and assistants (as far as we know. Again the source for this information is his own epistles) which none of the other disciples had. Of course there are letters and gospels from other sources which claim to be from other disciples like the gospel of Thomas. But the Church did not accept them as authentic due to the un-orthodox content (according to the canon setters of course), time and source.

Remember us in your daily prayers.

Question No. 16

Why the Trisagion Prayer of Oriental orthodox church and eastern orthodox church are different ? Is there any particular reason for our usage “who was crucified for us, have mercy on us” than that of eastern Orthodox version “Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages”

Question No. 16.

The interpretation given by our tradition is that while the body of our Lord was being prepared for burial by Joseph and Nichodemus (the name of Nichodemus is not seen in the Biblical record, but he was also present according to the tradition – see the Passion Friday hymn yauseppodu neechodemos .. ) after the body was brought down from the cross, the angels came down and praised their Lord by singing “Holy are you Oh God, Holy are you Almighty, Holy are you Immortal”, He being God Almighty and Immortal. Then Joseph (and Nichodemus) praised Him saying “Crucified for us, have mercy on us” recognizing His salvific work on the cross. This is primarily a faith statement. Technically speaking the Trisagion is addressed to the Son in our tradition instead of the Father or the holy Trinity as they are in other traditions.

Question No. 17

I have gone thru answer qustion reg bible. It was very resanable and easy to understand. If we say bible is only a vresion of history .most of time our achensalways says bible is written under inspirationfrom holly spirit and true to core we sunday school teachers also teach the same way so how can we manage this contradiction . How ever I want to hear more from u .kindly remember me in yr prayer
with warm regards

Answer No. 17

Dear

Thank you for your note. I am glad you were able to follow my thoughts. If there is any specific question, I can answer. A quick response to your statement on the Bible. Yes they are right in saying Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit. That does not mean that there was and is nothing else inspired by the H.Spirit. The inspiration you got to listen to my interview was from H. Spirit. The inspiration for scholars to do historical studies is from the H. Spirit. The inspiration to study medicine and treat people is from the H. Spirit. The inspiration to climb the coconut tree and pluck the coconut for people to use them comes from the H.Spirit. The inspiration for the fishermen to go out in to the sea and catch fish comes from the H. Spirit. Every thing and any thing that happen in this created universe for the better, positive and educative purpose of the creation comes from the H. Spirit. The only problem is when people say Bible is the only inspired material in the world. Then you are stuck with nothing other than Bible for your life in this world, edification and growth and you are limiting the work of H. Spirit which is God Himself and therefore liming the possibilities of God who is all able and eternal.

Regards and prayer

Thirumeni

Three Questions and Answers


Question 1

Dear thirumeni,

Hope thirumeni is doing fine with heavenly grace. I am writing this to clarify a practice observed by orthodox community. It is a common practice to observe 41st day remembrances of the departed ones. Recently a member of one orthodox church here passed away from cancer. Her parents and husband are alive. someone in the church is of the view that 41st day of remembrance cannot be observed in this case as she is young and parents and husband is alive. I have seen on numerous occasions this is observed when elder family members are still alive and thirumenis conduct the holy qurbana. I would like to know is there an authoritative explanation for observing the 41st day? Recently i read that 30th day is observed  for Ivanios thirmeni

It is a well known fact that for some of the practices observed by the community no authentic explanations are available. Recently some one asked me why our perunnal rasa is conducted. In these days of noise pollution and traffic jams is it not a public nuisance? I was passing through Mavelikara in January and traffic was blocked for one hour due to some rasa procession..

Recently some bishop of a sister church has issued a kalpana against observing fire works, and traffic blocking rasa. In my opinion this is a welcome progressive step.

It will be very much of a help if thirumeni can throw some light on the 41 st day observance as different people interpret different ways.

Pl. Pray for all of us.

with respectful regards

Answer 1.

Thank you for the mail.

Remembrance of the departed is part of the faith of many of the ancient cultures and religions. For traditional Christianity though remembrance of the departed is common, the practices related to it are variant. There are people who observe three day lent and then conclude it with H. Qurbana in the Church. There are people who practice it with 16 days and 30 days and 40 days and also 41 days. There are people who keep a white decorated bed in the house for 40 days in remembrance of the departed and on the 40th day remove it after a dhoopam. In Kunnamkulam region there is no white decorated bed practice. They have 3rd day or 16th day or 30th or some 40th day. Yes the 30th day of demise of Ivanios Thirumeni was observed at various churches in Kottayam diocese.

In any case there is no rule or practice that says that when a younger person dies and when the older ones are still alive these are not observed. In many places the detailed feast will be avoided as the mourning will be much intense than in the case of older people. Otherwise there is nothing wrong in having a 30th or 40th or 41st day observance of the young departed person when the older ones or parents are still alive.

Perunnal go around (rasa is not the right word to use. This word is used for go around by the Catholic Church that goes around with Holy bread in a decorated casket. What we do is not rasa, rather it is go around or pradekshinam.

This practice is very old and meant to sanctify the village/ city. This is also related to an Indian practice of the procession with the deity on some one’s shoulder or on a cattle or an elephant to sanctify the village/ city. Of course it will be wise on our part to do it without causing any trouble to the traffic and public life.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 2.

Thirumeni,
A lot of unwanted trouble was made in Malankara due to misinterpretation of John 20:19-24, which lead to questioning the Priesthood of St. Thomas. Could you please give a clarification on this? Why do our Church fathers use these verses connecting Priesthood? Why does the Author give importance to note that St. Thomas was not present there during this time of great importance? If you could clear up this confusion, it will of great benefit to the laity. Thank you.

Answer 2.

Yes you are right, there has been so much talk about the passage in John 20:19-24. Much of it was either due to lack of proper understanding about the principles of Biblical interpretation or to prove a point they raised, which is against the principles of Biblical interpretation.

Now the principle is that any passage in the Bible can be interpreted on two basics only. One, the ceentral message of the Bible as one unit has to be considered in exploring the meaning and message of a particular passage. Two, the particular context of the author and his theological position has to be considered. You can not use any passage in aloofness or independently or as a proof text for any single argument you may have.

Now coming to the text in question, there are three things happening there. One, ‘breathed on the disciples for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Two, sending them out or commissioning of the disciples. Three, giving them authority to forgive or not to forgive sins. One primary point we need to understand is that the Gospel writers have not strictly followed the same chronology of event of the period. Each of these three matters are accounted by the Gospel writers at different point of time.

In Matthew the commissioning has nothing to do with either breathing or gift of the H. Spirit (Mtt. 28:19). Again binding and losing authority according to Matthew was given at a different time (16:19) and was given only to Peter according to this passage. This was before Jesus’ death. This again in isolation has been used by vested interest lobbies. Similar commissioning is recorded in Mark 16:15-16 as given to all the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew again gives a similar commissioning in 18:18. This was not only to Peter but to all disciples. According to the book of Acts, the gift of Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost (ch.2).

I gave this detailed introduction to tell you that just one reference some where in the Bible can not be taken as a proof text passage.

Coming to St. John’s passage, the key in the event is given in 20: 29. The first part of the verse “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me” is not a statement but a question. So it is not a negative comment on Thomas’ disbelief. Jesus was asking ‘having seen me have you now believed me’? It is to that question Thomas was replying “My Lord and my God”. The answer in other words, ‘yes Lord I do and you are my Lord and my God’. The second part of the verse is a general statement. This is applicable to every one since that time, including we people the ones of the present time who are asked to believe without seeing in Him person. It is also a call to every one not to insist that they should see Him in person to believe because after resurrection Jesus presence in the world was going to be of different nature. Hence any one who believes in Him without seeing Him would be blessed. This again is important in another sense. St. John was using the situation to widen the size of the faith community. If the preaching of the Gospel about resurrection had to be effective and convincing, they had to answer the question from the audience, ‘how can we believe as we do not see Him in person’? John takes this possibility seriously and answers well in advance. It does not mean that John invented this statement of Jesus. He remembered this and used the absence and presence of Thomas to present the answer to his future readers. This does not put St. Thomas in any account in a bad position.

It was not easy for any one to believe that a dead person can ever be resurrected. Of course they had seen the girl and Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus. But now the one who did those miracles himself is dead. So who else would do the miracle on Him? Those days only a few, the Pharisees, had any idea of a possibility of resurrection. Thomas and his fellow disciples who were from the grass root level of the society never had such profound thinking ability until they received the H. Spirit. More over there were the Sadducees who vehemently ruled out that possibility. It should also be remembered that those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, after Jesus’ resurrection also did not recognize Him even when they saw Him in person and talked to them for quite a long distance (Luke 24:13ff.). Matt. 28:17 says, “… but some of them doubted”, even after all those events after resurrection.  Mark 16:11 says that ‘the disciples did not believe what Mary Magdalene said about the resurrection’. Luke 24:11 says that ‘the report of Mary and others were like “idle talk” to the apostles and so “they did not believe them”. Some saw and believed and some even after seeing had difficulty in believing. But Thomas of course wanted to see Him in person to believe, and when he saw Jesus, believed and confessed Him with a classical and unique statement. Of course we can not find fault on any one for not believing until after the Pentecost event.

Now the question is about Jesus breathing on the disciples and asking them to receive H. Spirit. As said earlier the chronology of events in John’s Gospel is different from that of the other Gospels and Acts. The statement about Thomas being absent the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples is not part of the section on gift of the Spirit. Even if it is applied on Thomas, still we do see him receiving H. Spirit on the day of Pentecost. If we are talking about the authority to forgive or bind sins, it was given to all including Thomas according to Mark 16:15-16 and Matt. 28:19 (This happened after the resurrection and with all the eleven of them, including Thomas, present.  Also see Matt. 18:18).

To sum up as it was said earlier, taking one verse from some where in the Bible and making an argument is not a legitimate way of Biblical interpretation. Then the purpose of St. John in 20:19-24 was not to single out Thomas and say that he did not receive the Holy Spirit. Hence any of those things said in the context of Church feud in Malankara does not do justice to either the Biblical testimony of the events or to the way we should interpret Bible passage.

Question 3

Dear Thirumeni,
While reading the Old Testament, I saw that there was a lot of bloodshed that took place. There were a lot of fights and wars. Somehow I get the idea that the Old Testament is quite violent. Since it is known that all are God’s creations and He is powerful, then why not just put them straight? Why should God kill His creations? For instance, the great flood, the red sea crossing scenarios could have been avoided. What was gained?

Answer 3.

The first question in this regard is what is this Old Testament? The answer would be, it is the holy scripture of Jews. When you say Jews, it is a community of just two tribes of the children of Jacob, Israel. They call what we call Old Testament TANAK with three parts in it namely Torah (the Law), Nebiim (the Prophets) and ketubim (the Writings). That means it does not represent even the history and life of majority of tribes or all of Israel. On the contrary its approach most of the time is against the other ten tribes in the North of the region not to speak Canaanites and neighboring communities. Old Testament in general and the historical books in particular comes to us from those two tribes from a time of one of their greatest crises of its life which was their time in Babylon. That was a time of community formation and self realization. But on the one hand they collected all the sayings of the prophets who criticized them, and on the other they took pride in being a community specially chosen by God. We can see both these sentiments in the Old Testament material. In general the writings in OT represent what they thought about themselves, of their neighbors and of God. This does not mean that all you see in there is just subjective stuff. In the middle of predominantly subjective material you can also see the work of God in the life of a community presented in the most open manner. This is especially true with the writings of the prophets. Even in the Psalms you will see songs of hatred and rivalry.

Then you might ask why do you have Old Testament at all as part of the Bible. First we are not considering Bible as some conservative evangelicals or Pentecostal Protestants do. We look at it as it is and try to derive the message and do not read it literally to suit some agenda. Again we have those books because it was the sacred scripture of the community of our Lord. Jesus himself have used it often but had a realistic and critical approach to it. That is why we see Him making several corrections to the prescriptions as recorded in Matthew ch.5 in the Sermon on the Mount. He considered many of the laws said to be from Moses are there because of the hardness of the heart of the people (Matthew 19:8). He did not respect the laws regarding purity as He touched the man with leprosy and allowed the woman with bleeding to deal with Him. Again in the Old Testament irrespective of all that we see unacceptable with the present day standards, we see God at work though and in the history of a people to equip them to work for the liberation of the whole creation (Gen. 12: 3) that suffered the  consequence of the sin of Adam.

The rivalry, killing and bloodshed were all attributed on God by those who wrote or composed them. God can only be “love” as Jesus revealed and cannot kill any one rather waits patiently for return. But it should be remembered that some of us like the way it is presented in there as we also have this kind of attitude toward others. In fact what we see in the Old Testament in terms of rivalry, killing and bloodshed are either the interpretation of the writers as to what happened or about those who suffered death or suffering due to their own shortcoming. In the case of people suffering due to their own mistake, even God can not help to stop. But the OT writer who had the idea that every thing happens because of God would say that these things were also God created where as they were human created. This happens even today. Why those innocent people died in shoot out during the Boston marathon? Why so many people are being killed in Syria, Afganistan or in Iraq, or in Bihar or the infants’ death in Attappadi in Kerala? These are man made and God can not be blamed for. But a person who believes in fate these all would be labeled as God guided or known by God in advance who did not stop it.

Again the question why can’t God stop it is a question against the free will of humans which God gave and hoped will be used wisely. God on the other hand keeps on attempting to liberate human from using it in the wrong way. If human was not given this freedom, human would not have been human, but another animal on two legs. The Old Testament is there so that we will learn from history, see the salvific work of God, thank Him for that and will work with God to help us come out of our own misbehavior and wrong way of using the freedom, which is the greatest gift human has ever received from God, so that history will not be repeated.

With regard to ‘great flood’ it was not God created if you think of it in a realistic way, it was human made with their sin (read carefully and just eliminate God from the scene and think of the reason the statement in Gen. 6:5). The Old Testament writer did not know how to explain it otherwise. But if you read the words of prophets closely you will see them talking about it this way (see Isaiah 5:13. Also see Jer. 20: 4; 1 Chro. 9:1 etc). These calamities were not God created. There is also another point to explore. The created world is moving towards perfection. In that movement there will be imperfection and imperfection causes suffering and set back. This has to be explained at a later time. To sum up, God did not cause any bloodshed or bad things happening. It was the way the writers put it. But it certainly brings us lessons of God’s work in history. With God given freedom enjoyed by human, and suffering in the midst due to human error, God is not able to stop what happens in that line.

 

Few More Questions


Here are my answers to some of the questions I received recently

I.

Q. 1 I think in the Catholic Church, priests are allowed to conduct Feet Washing. Is there a tradition like that in our church, or has it been always the bishops? Would it be a nice idea to rethink the current practice, so that more people can experience it?

A.1. Yes the priests also can do feet washing. For some reason it is not practiced in our Church. In the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, the priests also do this liturgy. There is no reason either theological or canonical, why priests should not.

Q. 2 During our Good Friday service, we sing ‘Nin Vidhi Cheythor Vidhiyelkkumbol Vidhi Cheyyaruthe Njanagale Eesha’. I find this hard to comprehend because Jesus on the cross said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Considering the fact that Jesus voluntarily died for the salvation of the creation, would the Jews and Romans get judged for crucifying Him?

A. 2. Yes we have no right to accuse the Jews for the killing of Jesus (it is another fact that we, on a daily basis, with our anti Christian behavior, are crucifying Him). We can of course accuse them for not listening to him and taking his advice to go back to a better relation with God and one another, while they claimed themselves to be the guardians of the Law of God and His will. The song you mentioned is not a good Christian song. This comes from  those hardcore monks who were primarily anti-Jew in their attitude. Our Church has changed some of them. But our Syrian mania does not allow us to completely revise the liturgy.

 

II

Q.1. We read in St. Mathew’s gospel (only in it) that the tomb of our Lord was sealed by the Governor. On the 3rd day, women go there to anoint perfume on His body. How can they do it as it is sealed? Can the soldiers break the seal without the permission from the top officials?

A.1.According to Matthew’s Gospel Ch. 27 the tomb was guarded by the temple guards. Seal was set by them and not by the governor. Read verses 65 and 66. Pilate said to them (to the chief priests and the Pharisees – see verse 62), “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. The ladies went to offer incense. The guards were there to prevent the body being taken away not to prevent devotees who come in the presence of the guards. Why should they prevent the ladies? Probably by the time the ladies went to the tomb, the guards must have gone to tell the priests that the tomb was empty.

 

Q. 2. Should the curtain in front of the Madbaha be closed always? At …. church, it is drawn aside but the other churches that I’ve gone, it is closed.

A. 2. The curtain of the Madbaha should be closed all the time. They can be opened during the mid night payer when hallelujah is sung. It will be opened during the evening prayer after the 9th hour prayer. Then for the Holy Qurbana when the public worship begins. Again when a bishop or Catholicos or Patriarch enters the Church it has to be oponed. These are some of the important times the Madbaha curtain is to be opened

Q.3. The correct place for burying Bishops in Syrian tradition. I’ve seen some inside the madbaha, some at the sides of steps to madbaha and some at rooms near to madbaha.

A.3.No burial is done inside the Madbaha. It is done either inside the Church hall or in a room beside the Church. Some are also buried in public cemetery.

 

Q.4. Last time I had a chance to go to Kothamangalam Marthoman Church where Eldho bava is emtombed. But to my surprise, I couldn’t find a single portrait of Bava inside the church or at the shops in the church compoud. I could see only the photos of the tomb.  I got a calander from ….. Seminary and could find his photo on it. Is it a genuine one? More over, the tomb in rectangular in shape but the tombs of other bishops (in my humble experience) are square shaped since we bury them in sitting position. Do we follow it from the 1st Century or from the beginning of 18th Century?

A. 4. There is no picture of Mar Baselus Yeldho ever made. Recently some artist has made a picture and is printed in calendars. When Yeldho Mar Baselius came to India, the Church was not familiar with the West Syrian tradition (it is not sure whether he was from West Syrian tradition or not). In the East Syrian tradition bishops are buried in lying down posture. Only in West Syrian tradition, bishops are buried in sitting position.

 

III.

Q. 1. Once again thanking you for your answers. Now few more questions. Does the word ‘yada’ mean to have sex relation? (I think that word is from Greek or Aramic) The pentacostal groups creates much problems by pointing this among others.

A.1.Yes the word yada means sexual relation. It is a Hebrew word from Israelite cultural context and its Syriac equal is yoda. To the Israelite culture ‘to know’ a person well enough is through sexual relation. There is no need for any misinterpretation. If you mean to say that it has problem with the interpretation of Matthew 1:25, the issue is not with the term know, but with ‘till gave birth’ (പ്രസവിക്കും വരെ). This phrase does not mean there was a ‘knowing’ after the birth. ‘Till’ of course has the connotation after that, the opposite happens. This could mean that after the birth of Jesus, Joseph had husband and wife relation with Mary. This should be what the Pentecostals are arguing. But ‘till’ does not always mean this. Matthew 24:34 (also Mark:13:30) says, “this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled”. Does it mean that after this the generation would pass? If so what happens to them, they go to nothingness? No. Here ‘till’ gives an emphasis to ‘these things’ and not what happens after. Again, Luke 9:29 says, “they shall not taste death till they see the Kingdom of God”. Does it mean that soon after that they will die? No. 1 Samuel 15:35 says, “Samuel did not come to see Saul till his death”. Does this mean that he saw the king after his death? No. Jeremiah 52:34 says, “There was a continual diet given him of the king of Babylon, every day a portion until the day of his death, all the days of his life”. Does this ‘till’ mean that after the death of the king, the portion was changed? No. There are similar instances where ‘till’ does not mean something opposite happened after. So there need not be any argument on this word ‘till’.

More over there is a strong tradition from the very first century itself that Jesus was the only son of Mary. Bible is the creation of Christian history and not Christianity made out of Bible. Therefore Biblical passages have to be interpreted on the basis of the tradition of the Church. Ultimately it is the Church that should interpret the Bible. Whereas Pentecostals are no Church, and has no respect for the tradition, they would say anything and will interpret the Bible out of their ignorance regarding the context. You do not have to worry about it and do not have to argue with them. They cannot be convinced with any of your argument.

 

Q. 2. The meaning of ‘pattangapetta Daivam Thampuraney’ and ‘selah’ in psalms.

A. 2. Pattanga petta is an old Malayalam phrase which means ‘true’. The whole phrase means, ‘O! The true Lord God’.

No Biblical interpreter has ever identified the meaning of ‘selah’ in Psalms. There are people who say, ‘it is a direction to the choir master or the singers’, there are people who say, ‘it denoted the change of tune’. Some people say, it may mean ‘pause the singing for a moment’. But no one has for sure identified the meaning. It should be remembered that even during the time of Jesus Hebrew was not a language in popular use. After the first century and the destruction of Jerusalem, Hebrew became a dead language and no one knew how it was pronounced (ancient Hebrew had no vowels) and what are the meanings of various phrases. It was from 10th to 13th century attempts were made to revive the language. However utmost care was taken in their ability to preserve the meaning. A group called ‘Masorites’ are responsible for the rewriting of the Bible.

 

Q.3. Jesus cures a blind man in St. Mark’s gospel in two steps. Is there any interpretation in that?

A.3.  What we see in the Gospels is the testimony of the people who were with Jesus and who later learned of Jesus and his works. While Jesus was alive in this world, no one cared to take a note book with him/her and note everything as it happened. They followed Jesus, listened to him with marvel, saw what he did with wonder and were always in a blissful mood. They never thought that they had to write them down some day. But they had to, as Jesus was resurrected and ascended and they had to spread the news. As St. Luke puts it, there were several people who said different things about what happened during Jesus’ time (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3).So they picked from their memory what they heard, saw and experienced. Each person’s experience was different and each had difference in the details of the event as they remembered. That does not mean that they were not saying the truth or they wanted to give their interpretation. It simply means that this is what they remembered as it happened. It should be noted that the Biblical compilers have not tried to level up and synchronize all the information and make one statement. Their sincerity and transparency is seen in them giving all the four Gospels and Acts which has slight differences in details of the events and sayings. However you may note that there is no difference in the basics.

 

Q. 4. Is benches, chairs and shoes are allowed inside our churches? (both in out side Kerala and in abroad).

A.4. There is no single way of doing the prayer. People should feel comfortable while they are in worship. Uncomfortable posture will not help them concentrate in worship. Again this is a question of culture. There is nothing wrong in having benches and chairs inside the Church and people wearing shoes in Church.  There are several places outside Kerala where our people rent out secular places for them to worship. Many a time those facilities may not be according to our custom or need. We make those places as much convenient as possible. If the place is not air conditioned or heated according to the weather, the congregation has to wear thick cloths and shoes. What is important is to have worship and not what posture you take. There are old people who cannot stand for long time but still wanted to join in worship. They should be allowed to sit on bench or chair. Generally in western culture seating is provided in worship places, where as in eastern culture people stand in worship. Here again it is not a rule rather a cultural practice. God is a loving God and He understands people’s genuine situations.

 

IV.

Q.1. Who was St. Mark? Was he one of the apostles that Jesus had sent before him?

A. 1. St. Mark is believed to be one of the seventy preachers Jesus appointed to preach the Gospel. Our fathers call him ‘Samrono’ the one who proclaims.

 

Q.2. Did he present at the last supper with the other 12 disciples? We see an incident which is written in his gospel only. (14:51-52).

A2.There is nothing in 14th chapter (vs. 51-52) about such an event. As a matter of 14th chapter has only 36 verses. I assume you are referring to the ascension event recorded in 24:51 and 52. Yes it is true that the only Mark and Luke has this ascension event recorded and Mark has a different way of saying it too. This does not make Luke part of the upper room table. Matthew 26: 12 says, “He sat with the twelve…” (also Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14). So it is not possible that Luke was with Jesus at the table. Luke was writing not only what he saw, but also what he heard (Luke 1:1 “… most surely believed among us …”).

 

Q.3. I was taught in Sunday School that the Coonan Cross Oath was against the Pope and the Portuguese. But while watching Shalom TV, a Catholic priest said that it was only against the Portuguese and the majority of the church members arrayed under the Pope. Is it true or ‘his-story’?

A.3. The Church in Malankara was, during the time, a truly Eastern Church with its faith, practices and administration. One of the main features of that Church was that the local congregation was solely administered by the parish assembly. When the Archbishop Menezis came to India, he saw this and it was something he could not take as they were practicing the pyramidal style of administration ( of course there were other things he could not accept like priests being married etc.)  where everything was dictated by the Pope through the bishop and the clergy. This was a Roman style of running the administration of the Church.

The argument of the western Church is that the Church in Malankara was not against the Pope but was only against the Portuguese who implemented the Latin way of administration. But their argument itself testifies against it. They claim that the Persian Church was under the Pope during that time. If that was the case (even if that was not the case archbishop being under the Pope), under the Roman system, how can an archbishop act independently in turning upside down all the systems existed in Malankara without the consent of the Pope? This argument is further strengthened by the kind of attitude the middle age Popes had which created an atmosphere for the splitting of the Church and for the creation of several protestant Churches. Whatever they may claim, the Coonon Cross revolt was, directly or indirectly, against the Pope, his Church and the way he ran the Church those days.

 

Q.4. Do we have a monument of Coonan Cross Oath at Mattancherry? If yes, was it the spot of oath?

A.4.Yes we do have a monument and it is under a major remodeling to make it a pilgrim centre. Mattanchery is the original site of the coonon cross oath and any specific site will be under question as there are counter claims. It is just like what we have in Jerusalem (like in many other sites) where there are at least three sites where different people claim that Jesus had His last supper.

 

Q. 5. What should be the greeting word if I talk to a priest or a bishop by phone? When I had to talk with my vicar, I said “namaskaram acho”. But he didn’t say anything though I said it again.

A. 5.We Orthodox Syrian Christians in India have not created a religious salutation to be used between clergy and laity. We keep normal secular salutations. In Syrian tradition they would say “barekmor aboon” (bless me father) in the case of priests and “barekmor seydna” (bless me honorable one) in the case of bishops and “barekmor moran” (bless me lord) in the case of catholicos or patriarch. They in turn will respond saying “Alohon nbarek” (May God bless you). The catholic Church has developed similar salutations (glory be to Jesus Christ and in turn Glory be now and always) in India. Under the present circumstance, since we have not created any as our own I do not think there is any thing wrong in using a common secular salutation, like the one you used and there is no reason to be angry at any one who use it.

 

V.

The situation when a metropolitan is celebrating the Qurbana and some priests are in the Madbaha.

Q.1 When does a deacon offer incense to the metropolitan, Is it after incensing the both sides of the throne (ത്രോണോസ് ) or just after incensing right side?

A.1. The deacon/ altar boy goes to the bishop offer incense and then kiss his hand/ cross after he has offered incense on first right side of the altar and then on the left side and following towards the table of Gospel. This is the case during the Holy Qurbana. If the incense is offered during the prayers, the deacon/ altar boy offers incense only on the right side of the altar.

 

Q. 2. After the Thubdhen before giving peace to the people in the altar whether the deacon receive it from the metropolitan (i.e, will he kiss the sleeba of the metropolitan )

A.2. There is no peace given to the people by the deacon/ alter boy. The usual custom is that after the Tubden, the deacon/ altar boy kisses the corners of the altar, then goes to the bishop and kisses the amnikho (the one worn on the top of Cope [kappa] of the bishop. He does not kiss the hand/ cross. Then he goes to the priests and kiss their hand and further turns to the people and bow down and ask for their prayers stretching both hands.

This is because, strictly speaking the sub deacons or the altar boys are not authorized to enter the sanctuary  touch the altar or the holy materials on the altar including the soosepho (ശോശപ്പ). But under the circumstance he has to do it, since the priest/ bishop who is actually the one to do it, has not done it. So he takes the blessings of the bishop/ priests and asks the prayers of the people that what he does may not become a sin on his part. He may also give peace / kaikkasuri to the fellow deacons/ alter boys. In Orthodox Church, strictly speaking, only full deacons/ semsono (ശെമ്മാശന്‍) is allowed to enter the altar and deal with the things on it. But in Malankara we, after the style of the Catholics, our old boss, we have permitted altar boys in to the sanctuary and have omitted permanent deacons in there.

 

Q.3. After the Thubdhen before giving peace to the people in the altar whether the deacon receive it from the priests in the Madbaha.

A.3. From the explanation given above you may see that it is not the peace the deacon/ altar boy is giving. He is requesting prayers from the people.

 

Q. 4. Is there any other matter  the deacon taken into consideration in the above situation?

A. 4. I have published a hand book for the use of altar boys which is available with my office to buy.

 

Q.5. Is the Facebook account in your name real, Thirumeni ?

A. 5. Yes I manage the face book account that is in my name.

 

Q. 1. Is a marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Jacobite accepted? Does the Jacobite have to be baptized in the Catholic Church in order to be joined in Holy Matrimony to the Catholic Groom? If the Jacobite bride need not be baptized in the Catholic Church, can she receive Eucharist during the wedding ceremony or otherwise?

A.1. If you are talking about marriages between Jacobites (under the patriarch of Antioch), there is an official agreement between them and the Catholic Church that there is no joining or leaving any Church. The wedding is done as if between people of the same denomination. The only restriction is that the authorization letter has to be issued by the local bishop. If you are referring to the Orthodox Church by ‘Jacobite’ then the two Churches are in the process of coming to a similar kind of agreement, but as of now there is no agreement. The marriages between a Catholic girls and an Orthodox boys are accepted, but official letter of consent is not issued between. There is no question of a baptism what so ever, since both accept each other’s baptism. There is only a question of some of the faith affirmations. The bride has to join the groom’s Church by giving an affidavit and taking a pledge to the effect that she shall be a faithful member of the Orthodox Church. The bride, if getting married to an Orthodox boy, has to go for pre-marital counseling and then take confession and communion. Before that the bride has to give the affidavit and faith affirmation to a priest of the Orthodox Church. I am not quite sure of the proceedings the Catholic Church has if a boy of their community take a girl from the Orthodox Church. I am told that she has to join a Catholic rite before she gets married. In Catholic Church after the wedding the bride and groom have to receive communion.

Few More Questions


Dear Thirumeni,

My new questions are;

1. The meaning of ‘let the dead bury their own dead (St. Math 8:22). Is it a proverb in Hebrew?

2. Should we sell all the properties and give it to poor to become true X’ians?

3. How the kingdom of god is related to non X’ians? We read all the nations will be gathered before our Lord and will be judged according to their works.

4. The meaning of ‘shubaho veekkoro u segutho u rabisiyo yuso….’ in the morning prayer.

5. The name in Syriac for the arch works in front of the thronose like in Manarcadu church.

Repy 1: The matter is a sort of tricky answer from Jesus. This is against selfish and proud attitude of people. There are people who think they have to things all by themselves which is practically impossible for any one. Here in this case, the young person can not busy his father all by himself. He needs few more people to do that. If he joins the fold of Jesus, he will become a child of heavenly father and will be a brother to Jesus and all other followers of Jesus would become his brothers and sisters. Consequently his father will become the father of all the followers of Jesus. They it is not any more just the responsibility of this young person to bury his father, rather there will be a larger community including Jesus himself to join him as brothers and sisters to bury his father. If that does not happen, he has to live his life and do things all alone and that will be just equal to be dead. Then he can bury his father as another dead person who has no one to share his life and struggles in life. This is what happened to Adam in the garden of Edan. He was still alive though God had warned him that ‘when he eats of the fruit of the garden, he would die’. Even after eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, still he was physically alive. But his relation with his wife became stratified, his children’s relationship became strayed and one killed the other. In fact he became a dead person in terms of relationship. This would have happened to the young person who wanted to follow Jesus after he buried his father. Jesus wanted him to be a wise man and be part of a larger caring community.

Reply 2: If you follow the pattern literally, when you sell your property and give it to the poor, you will become poor and then the one who got the property will have to sell it to give to some other poor person. Again since you have become poor some one else has to sell his property and give it to you. Then that person will be poor, further a third person has to sell his property to give to this fellow. Those who got the property of the rich man may become rich and later he has to sell it. What happened in Kerala was some thing similar to this. When feudalism was abolished, those Christian tenants got all the property they worked on and the feudal lords became poor. But we Christians never gave any thing to any one except a microscopic percentage in the name of charity.

The point is, Jesus did not mean what he told the rich person to be taken literally. There are things valuable in life and priorities have to be set. As for this person, he wanted to get in to the kingdom of God. But for him priorities in life were not fitting to be in the kingdom of God. His attitude was that it can be achieved by following the Mosaic law and commandments. Jesus had already told the people about the limits of the law of Moses in Matt. ch. 5 and else where. Formation of the law and giving of commandments had a purpose. That was to guide the community in a balanced and just manner under a given socio-political environment. Laws will change, but basic values can not. The primary value is to love God and the next one is to love fellow beings or creation of God. On the contrary, he loved riches and possessions. Then he thought simply knowing few laws and living them will save a person. When Jesus asked him to sell his property, he simply vanished. This clearly shows his attachment to riches. This can be compared with what he said about limb and eye causing hindrance (Mark 9:47). He was not asking people to chop off limbs and eyes, rather asking them to keep the priorities in place and if there is any thing that does not help do that, simply take control over it. If you are too much attached to your property, control that. This can happen regarding our attitude to children, husband, wife, father, mother, education, carrier, power any thing in this world except God and our love towards Him and His creation.

Reply 3: Why do you worry about non-Christians? You mind your own life with God. After Jesus’ resurrection while He was talking to His disciples, Peter asked Jesus about the fate of John. Jesus’ answer was, in today’s English, ‘mind your own business, I will decide what should happen to him’ (John 21: 20ff.). Ultimately one’s final destiny is decided by God. If we were more loving those Hindus would have become one with us. We never did that (blame it on us). So my reply to your question is in the same line, leave it to God to decide the destiny of Hindus and people of other faiths. You live your life according to what you learned.

Reply 4. Stuthiyum stotravum vanakkavum valiya pukazhchayum manjupokatha nalla unnathiyum pithavinum putranum parisudha roohakkum nirantharam karettunnu.

Reply 5: This is not seen in Manarkadu Church alone. It is seen in many other Churches. It is called the holy of holies or Khud Kudsin. This symbolizes the tent that housed the ark of covenant, now the holy table of our Lord.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Respected Thirumeni,

We, four friends were discussing the meaning of the Kukiliyon lines, “Atmam matram tharuvil kai vittu; nija saramsham meniyil nivasichu”. After pondering over more than half an hour what we thought was like this.

Jesus died on cross. But Jesus was man and God. When he died on cross, the man in him died and thus the purpose of His coming to earth in flesh accomplished. The soul was separated at this death as is stated in gospels. But the man remained with the body, that is the dead body. The God in Him remained alive and that is why He could resurrect and also before resurrection, He could preach gospel to the dead. When He resurrected, he was transformed and was only God in Him and noman.

Thirumeni, we do not know to what extent we are right and wrong. I look forward to a clarification from Your Grace. Instead of asking the meaning straight, I thought we will share with Your Grace what we understood of our own.

Your spiritual son,

 

Dear ?

First of all, it will not wise on our part to dissect meditative hymns and prayers with sharp theological reasoning all the time. Many of the hymns and prayers our liturgy has its development stages and they may not always reflect strict theological ideas. This is a caution we need to take when we try to understand our liturgical prayers and hymns.

The early Church was troubled with the question of how can Jesus be both God and human. To their experience, He was both. But to explain it was not easy, particularly in human language. This crisis can be seen in many places in many forms.

It is a fact that Jesus did die on the cross. But how that affects His body and Godhead is the question. Since He is God, Godhead cannot die, and since the body of Jesus is the God incarnate body, it cannot be estranged from Godhead. This is the situation. What exactly is death also has to be put in perspective here. Death is the body losing the spirit (this spirit can not be confused with H. spirit. This is the breath that keeps body moving and doing things). In death sprit loses its control over the body. The question here is does it mean that the body loses the Godhead united to it? This is this question the hymn addresses. The hymn says, no, it continues to have the Godhead (saramsam) with it. To sum up, of course the body God took died and the spirit was separated from the body, but it did not lose the Godhead’s presence with it. This is what the hymn is talking about.

This provides us with hope even in death. The body Jesus took is that of universal humanity, which our humanity, with body and spirit present. To this the presence of God which was lost in Adam is added through Jesus’ incarnation with His life, death, resurrection, ascension and being seated at the right hand side of the Father. When we die, the body is separated from the spirit. But what happened in Jesus’ death effects in us and the presence of God is not lost either to our body or to our spirit. This is why we confess that at the second coming the body transformed will be resurrected. Any thing that is united to God can not be lost, but only can be transformed. So at the second coming we with body transformed and spirit in one person will stand before God.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

A Relevant Question and My Comment


Dear Thirumeni,
Hope you are doing well and in good health.

I am writing this letter to share my concern on how much our church capable of catering to the spiritual needs of the current generation and that are coming. The major problem I see is that the worship in our church is losing its life and becoming a dull practice. Most of the people see it as a ceremony rather than a spiritual experience.
I am a common man, not studied any theology. But I can see where the church lacks its ability to inspire and motivate people especially young to the God.
God is the ultimate reality. When we worship God, we should be in that reality otherwise we can’t experience his presence (John 4:24).
How realistic is our worship? In other words, how much spiritual is it? In my own experience and at least for some people I know, it’s not up to the expectation. People come to church out of some obligation rather than any compelling reason. Where we went wrong? Let me point out what my heart says.
1) Most of the songs we use in worship are unable to convey its  meaning. People are not singing but chanting these songs. I heard one Catholic say: ‘I didn’t understand your Quarbana’. Sadly we also don’t.
2) Use of Suriani is also has the same effect. Common people can understand and enjoy small words like ‘Amen’, ‘Halleluiah’ but beyond that it is meaningless, boring and thus incapable of filling with the Holy Spirit.
What we can do?
1) Re-phase/rewrite the songs used in Qurbana so that common people can understand and enjoy
2) Introduce new songs which are rich in meaning. (Psalm 96:1)
3) Persuade priests to use Malayalam than Suriyani
What happen if we don’t act?
1) People who take their spiritual life seriously go for other churches and fellowships
2) People who don’t understand spirituality a big thing but see things more pragmatic sense ceases to come to the church
3) People who stick with the church may become immature in their emotional, social and professional life I expect your valuable opinion in this matter
With Prayers,
?

Dear ?
Hope you are doing fine by the grace of God. Thank you for your patience.
I fully follow the issues and concerns raised by you.
Most of the traditionally accepted institutions and patterns are being challenged now world over, not only in religious sphere but in all political, economic and even ethical areas of human life. It is really hard to asses the situation for a final answer on any thing and make a change. The recent movie sons in Malayalam is a typical, of course in a peripheral level, example to this. The so called democratic movements and the political disturbances in counties show the same situation. Political parties also face the same crisis. What happens in CPM, the recent statements of Mr. V. M. Sudheeran in congress party, what happens in BJP etc. also are signs of this. The recent news reports related to Orthodox, Jacobite, Catholic, Marthoma, protestant Churches and their leaders in Kerala are no exception. The news we get about the leaders of the so called charismatic and pentecostal communities are also in the same line. All that you hear and see in the news may not be based on correct information, but certainly shows the mood shift in the society at large.
Yes I agree with you that the liturgical prayers, songs and symbols are many a time not so clear to common people. There are two things I would say related to this. One, religion itself has this incomprehensibility and mystery element in it and every thing will not be understood in that world. If understanding in its fullness achieved, even God will become irrelevant non-existent (I must say, you quoting Biblical passage will not impress me for reason of Biblical scholarship the world has achieved. on the other hand the issues raised are quite relevant without the reference). Second, these days people, with their changing environment and growing individualism, have expectations variant one from another. So it is really hard to come to a common understanding on any thing. There will always be a strong resistance to any kind of change that will be initiated in the Church. You can see this even in families not only with respect to spirituality but also of ‘lay man’s day to day life’ and hence families are getting disintegrated and divorce rate is rocket high. This of course is no excuse for any serious attempt on the part of the people to make sense of being in the presence of the divine. But it simply is a herculean task. I can testify that attempts in our Church, though in a small scale, are being done in various levels and areas. What I see in Sukhada in Kolenchery is one among them. There are others too who may be doing this or similar things. Of course it may not be up to the expectation of every one, even me for that matter. Again what these people are doing may not be in full conformity of the  common faith of the community (I do not say it does not, only saying ‘may not’ in its details). So what shall we do under the circumstance? I would say, find the footing where you are and then search for a fellowship within where you will be more comfortable while again continuously raising the voice for constant change. I can assure you will not find a perfect place any where in the world. But you will not stop creating a better world where you are right now. I, sure believe that I as a leader in the community has more responsibility than any lay person in the community, which I should be fulfilling. God help us in making His community a living one.
Regards and prayers
Thirumeni

Question and Answer


Here are few questions and my answers:

Question 1

Respected  Yuhanon Mar Meletius Thirumeni….

Hope you are well….I have  some  doubt about our  prayer for  departed belivers...(Marichaverkku vendi ulla prardhana) We prayer  for them… especially on 3rd, 9th 30th & 40th day. shall I ask one  Question . As per protestant they say that Why we pray for them…..??? .If  we can save them( departed belivers)  by our prayer, we can also live in  in this  world in any way..Because  if  our family members & relative  will pray for us  to save  from hell….& they also  shows that In Psalms we read  .Psalms 88: 10.  “”Of what use are your miracles when iam in grave””……

I expect a good answer from you (based on Holy Bible.)

Answer

Dear

I have an article written on this matter and I am sending the text below. This was posted in my blog (WordPress) which you can get from this address along with other articles: https://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/orthodox-position-on-the-departed/

Hope this will answer your question.

Orthodox Position Regarding the Remembrance of the Departed

Yuhanon  Mor Meletius Metropolitan

The question of our faith regarding the departed has to be approached from two sides. One: explaining the matter from our position. Two: defending our faith against criticism.

First, by way of explaining our position we may say that our faith though is very much Biblical, not so much based on individual references. We believe that Church is the body of Christ and any one who is baptized will be part of His body.  As Christ lives eternally His body also should be living eternally. Jesus said “who ever eats of my body and drinks of my blood shall live eternally (John 6:54).  Life eternal can not be challenged by physical changes. Because physical is not eternal, eternal is beyond physical.  Death is only a physical change brought on humans.  Living means living dynamically. Eternally living is to be eternally dynamic.  In Christ being living and dynamic is to be being in participation. Participation of an organ of Christ’s body is participation with Christ the head and with other organs or members.  This participation also need not be physical.  Therefore, the paramount form of participation is that in worship.

The Orthodox believes that there is a celestial eternal worship that goes on in heaven.  All living and dead are participants in this worship. The classical example for this is the event at the transfiguration mountain (Mtt. 17:1 ff.).  Our worship in this world is a time and space bound participation in this celestial worship.  The priest in our Eucharistic worship exhorts: “At this time our hearts, thoughts and minds be in at the high and exalted above where the Son of God is seated at the right hand side of the Father”.  A worshipping community is a dynamic loving and caring community.  Love and care are not primarily physical and material phenomenon, rather they are spiritual and metaphysical. Our love and care can thus be better expressed in mutual prayer support.  We remember each other in prayer. When we remember them our love towards them make us wish they be with Christ and be remembered all the time.  All our prayers are placed before the merciful God. While we do so we present our wish also before Him.

We know that Christ can forgive our sins. So we also pray that just as our sins others sins may be forgiven and be accepted in the company of all the celestial worshipers.  In this intercessory prayer we not only include those who are living in this world but also those who have passed away from here and joined the unseen members of the body of Christ. We believe that the departed can also do the same on our behalf because they are also part of the dynamic and eternally living body of Christ. Thus we become truly loving and caring members of the same body of Christ transcending time, space and physical boundaries.

Secondly, we can consider our defense against criticism from other communities.  Two things need to be said initially.  First it is not easy to answer all question raised against our faith as they work with a difference approach to Bible and Church tradition. They also adopt different methodology to explain faith.  Secondly, every thing we do in the name of remembering the departed and praying on their behalf may not be strictly on the basis of our faith rather will be related to cultural practices and for lack of proper understanding of our faith. It will be hard to defend many of such practices.  In such cases we need to be humble enough to accept criticism.

One of the major objections raised against the remembrance of the departed is, ‘how can God forgive sins done while alive after they are not in the body in this world’. Firstly our prayer for the departed is not primarily for the forgiveness of sins. We remember them since we know them and we love them and are concerned of them. It is for God to decide whether to forgive them or not.  Again, this is a question we also struggle with and is expressed in one of our prayers too. But on the one hand we put our trust in God and hope that He is able to do that if He wishes so. On the other hand our love towards them makes us pray even if there is only little chance of being forgiven.  Hoping and praying is not a bad thing to do.

A second question is based on the Psalmist’s words in Ps. 115:17 where it is said “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down in to silence”.  There is more than one response to this.  Basically a Christian faith can not be challenged by a passage from Old Testament which does not contain themes of many of the Christian faith affirmations.  If at all we take it as useful, we have to take the whole Psalm and continue to read verse 18 where it is said, “But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for ever more”.  Here ‘ever more’ can be taken as a time beyond physical world. Further there is an instance where God asked prophet Ezekiel to talk and prophecy to the bones in the valley of death Eze. Ch. 47).  God through the prophet promises the bones that they will be brought back to life. Question is how can the bones hear what the prophet was saying if the dead can not hear the words of a living person?  Again Christ called Lazarus out of the tomb and called him to life (John 11:43).  If Lazarus can not praise God in death how can he hear the calling of Christ

The third question usually raised is, ‘can the dead be benefited by our prayers’? The first answer would be that we Christians do not do things to get some thing back or for a reward.  That is a utilitarian materialistic attitude which is contrary to Christian way of life. We do things because of our love and care. It is for God to decide the benefit. More over we do things because we have already received some thing great from our Lord which is Salvation and right to call God ‘our Father’.  Motivated by the love we received from our Lord, we try to express our love to others and remember them in our prayers without minding whether they are living or dead. We are not concerned of the benefit which is for God to decide.  We also believe that benefit from God is not out of what we do. It is God’s gift to us.

A forth question asked is, ‘do we have evidence in the Bible to support what we do in this matter’?  To an orthodox what we do in Christian worship and in life is not solely based on what we see in the Bible. We are guided by the basic principles we see in the Bible and also in the teaching of the fathers of the Church who witnessed Christ and His salvific work. Of course the second has to agree with the basic principles of the teachings of Christ. We do not think that loving the departed and remembering them and praying for their welfare is against Christ’s principle. There is no passage in the Bible which would suggest that remembering the departed is meaningless.  If we take the passages in the Bible strictly and literally even burying the dead would be against Christ’s teaching as Christ once said, “Let the dead bury the dead” (Matt. 8:22). Burying the dead is considered by every one as a humanitarian thing. Our love and concern for the welfare of our dear ones go beyond the physical world and that is not contrary to the teaching of Christ. As said earlier, we have evidence that Christ Himself remembered departed one when He was conducting a worshipping atmosphere at the transfiguration mountain. He invited not only Peter, James and John to that worship, rather also Moses who died some thirteen centuries before Christ and Elijah who died some eight centuries back. It is also noteworthy that these two were more active in worship that the living ones. At least Peter was concerned of the troubles and hard times waited on the bottom of the hill and was planning to build three booths for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He found life up on the hill better than life in the valley. If Jesus can invite dead members of the Old Testament community to worship, how much more He can do it with the New Testament worshiping community? We only recognize that probability in remembering them in our worship. This is where we stand regarding our attitude to the departed.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Queston 2

Dear Thirumeni,

Why did Thirumeni and 2 other Thirumeni’s (Athanious Thirumeni and Nicholos Thirumeni) left Jacobite .Why we cant settle the conflict with Jacobite faction.Recently conflict is getting worse like attaching priest and why most of this happen in and around central Kerala.What is Thirumenis stand or opinion on this?

Answer

Dear

I am surprised that even after more than a decade after the order of the Supreme court of India in 1995 and a decade after its execution in 2002, still people have not understood the content and implications of the order. Please be educated that no one joined any other Church. The Church was one with one patriarch and one catholicos till 1974. In 1970s there started a dispute between two sections of members in the Managing Committee of the Church. This resulted in a split in the Church. Two groups the catholicos group and the patriarch group emerged. I was ordained a deacon just before this division started and when the Church was still one in 1973 January. Metropolitan Thomas Mar Athanasius was already a deacon and Metropolitan Abraham Mar Severius was a pries at that time under late Metropolitan Philipos Mar Theophilos of Angamali. The division became evident in 194 March when two priests of the Malankara Church got consecrated as bishops by the patriarch of Antioch. Of course there were related events and issues.

Malayala Manorama who was, to an extent, a reason for this division called one group the Orthodox group and the other Jacobite group. People of both parties without seeing the danger in the move sort of accepted these terms and let them be the official titles of the group. Of course Manorama had business interest behind this move. But common people started to think that these two groups are two denominations. But actually there was nothing either regarding faith, liturgy or practice that separated these two. The only question was how much power the patriarch of Antioch has in Malankara Church.

The official Church went to the court to get a verdict to the effect that the patriarch has no authority in Malankara Chruch and all Churches are to be governed by 1934 constitution and all parish Churches are owned by the Malankara Metropolitan. The patriarach party countered it by arguing that the catholicos is only  a subordinate to the patriarch. The case was finally decided, after two orders from the single bench and division bench of the Kerala High Court, by the Supreme Court of India in 1995. The courst said, the patriarch remains to be spiritually superior in the Church, but the Church has to be administered by the 1934 constitution and the catholicos, upon whom the patriarch had invested all his powers, will have all the powers of the supreme head of the Church in matters of administration and so the patriarch can not interfere without reference to the catholicos in Malankara Church affairs.

Both the patriarch and the catholicos accepted the verdict and reunification efforts began. The court in further order laid down parameters for the reunification. But half way through a section of the patriarch party backed off and started to call themselves the continuation of the patriarch faction and as the Jacobite Chruch. But we three bishops, Dr. Abraham Mar Severius, Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius and myself said no to that and went ahead with the reunification efforts. The reunification was executed in a joint meeting of representatives of Churches from both former groups as the Malankara Association of the united Church. This meeting was convened by mutual agreement made in writing by both the catholicos and patriarch factions in the Supreme court and the Court assigned an observer, Mr. Justice Malimat a retired judge of the Supreme Court, on request of the patriarch group. All the Churches from the former catholicos group and about 120 Churches from former the patriarch group participated in the meeting. The matter was reported to the Court and the Court declared the Church united.  But the split away group of the former patriarch faction people convened a meeting which they called the Association of Jacobite Syrian Christian Association Church was convened simultaneously at Puthencruz in Ernakulam dist. and declared that they are the true descendant of the old patriarch group and they hold title to the Churches and properties of the old patriarch group. This was total violation of the order of the Court. We three bishops accepted the decisions of the court and the decisions of the Malankara Association of 2002 to get back as a unified Church putting an end to the old split and rivalry. Metropolitan Zechariahs Mar Nicholovos who was in US also accepted the order of the court in 2002 and joined the reunification process and attended the Association meeting. At the same due to pressure from the new Church Metroplitan Abraham Mar Severius who was in charge of Idukku diocese in the reunified Church left and joined the new Church. In short, the Malankara Church was one till early 1970s and unfortunately there occurred a split which was mended in 2002 and once again became one Church. We are glad we are back together to be in one reunified Church. Hope you now know what happened between 1970 and 2002. We Thomas Mar Athanasius Thirumeni and Zechariah Mar Nicholovos Thirumeni and myself who were part of the Church prior to the split happed to be in one group just as some others were in the other group, mostly not by choice, went along the common decision of the Church to be reunited. It was the naming of these groups by Malayalam Manorama that gave the wrong impression that these were two Churches.

We can not settle the matter because we are dealing a group of people who do not respect Christian principle, law of the land, obey the orders of the court and do not have any sense of justice. What ever we may try, at the last moment they will topple it and create unrest and law and order situation there. This happens in Kerala because it is here they can manipulate the system with money and other unjust influences. They have not made any claim in any Church outside Kerala, but went out and formed their own parishes. But in Kerala they can resort to all kinds of unethical and unlawful means and can get away with it. There are politicians who back them, there are government officials who are corrupt and take bribe from them. There are Church dignitaries who openly support them. On top of all these, the news paper, who claim to be member of Orthodox Church work hard to keep the division alive. In the middle of all these there are innocent people who happened to be under their slavish custody who want to get out of that but not ready to do any thing. So it becomes our responsibly to work for them also.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 3
Respected Thirumeni ,
My Name is – –  and I am  from Kumbazha St Marys Orthodox Valiya Cathedral (Thumpamon Diocese)… I like to see ur Clarifications on the doubts on our Faith and Belief. First of all, Let me, Say thank you for taking the opportunities to teach the younger generation about the true faith of our church.

I am coming to my topic,

We have started celebrating Centenary our Catholicate establishment  a few days backs at Kunnamkulam.. Then i got some interest to go over the history of the Establishment of our Catholicate. So i made a deep search for available resources in the Internet and some books and have seen something which is quite different and mismatching with what i have studied and heard..

The Main Mismatchings are,

1. Some of Our church officials arguing that in 1912, Only Catholicate establishment was taken place in Malankara not a re-establishment of the same. But most of our official church sites and electronic medias propagating, It was not just an establishment and indeed a Reestablishment.

2. Some of our church officials, including clergies arguing, The re-establishment of Catholicate was from Tigris. But our church websites saying that it was from Selucia Steciphon and some other showing Musol.. In some sites the word ‘Tigris’ is not mentioned even.

3.If that was a reestablishment, how a Maphryanite from Tigris became a Catholicate in 1912, as there exists only Maphriyanite in Tigris..not a catholicate. (As Tigris is the HQ of Maphryan)

4. Catholicose of East of the Persian Church is still present – HH Mar Dinkha IV who is presently headquartered in Chicago. Then how can our Catholicose claim succession to the catholicate of East and how can a Catholicate of east which is still present be re- established to India from Selucia Ctesiphon (?) ?

Why so?

I have asked the same query to some of our Priests and even to a metropolitan. But all of them donated different answers for the same question 😀 Till now, no one gave the correct answer for this Query. I am Expecting a clear answer from u Thirumeni..

From My side,
I made little deep study about this and came on  a conclusion…

Based on the preseumptions and assumptions, two options are possible.

1. Ours is a continuation of the Maphrianate of Tigrith which was also called Catholicate. The re-establishment theory is fully supported here because earlier this Maphrianate was discontinued in 1846 (or 1850  I am not sure ).

2. Ours is an independent Catholicate and in 1912, we established a new centre of Spirtual power in India. It is neither the successor to Persia nor to Selucia Ctesiphon.

Please correct me if,I am wrong. I am waiting for your reply through MOTV Orthodoxy Page…

May God be with u and guide u…

Long Live the Apostolic Throne of St Thomas.

Answer

Dear

You are right, the talk about catholicate in Malankara is really confusing. Not many have a clear perspective about the matter. Let me bring to you few facts. First of all catholicate was established in the East as a parallel institution to that of the patriarchate due to the political situation existed in the East. That means it is an independent office which has all the powers and authorities of the patriarch. After a while, the who occupied the position of the catholicate embraced Nestorian faith. So the Oriental Churches de-recognized it and was left vacant since then. But to cater to the spiritual needs of the people in the East, the patriarch of Antioch established an office called maprianate in Tigris. This was not an independent office, rather a subordinate office to the patriarch of Antioch.

Indian Church was a national indigenous Church from the beginning until the Portuguese came with the petra do arrangement they had with the pope.  Of course we had ecclesiastical dignitaries coming from the East and we always welcomed them. But the Church remained rather indigenous. The Portuguese wanted to make this Church a Latin Church. Though they were successful initially, people revolted at the Coonan Cross and a then majority returned to the indigenous community. But they felt the need for help from the East to survive the threat from  the Latin Church. So they approached the Eastern Churches and it was Antiochean patriarch who responded. Thus we sort of accepted faith, liturgy and many of the practices of Antiochean Church ad made them ours. That was not a problem for us. But the problem started when the patriarch began behaving the same was as that of the Roman Pontiff or as an unquestioned authority of both spiritual and temporal affairs of the Church. This caused split in the Church. Some liked this attitude and some did not. It was at this juncture people like Vattasseril Thirumeni decided to while keeping the faith and liturgy of, and ecclesiastical relation with, the Antiochean Church (as a matter of fact the faith was common to all Oriental Orthodox Churches), to become independent in temporal matters. To achieve this goal, they thought we should have an office which was defined by the Ecumenical Synods as equal to that of the patriarch.

So they invited the patriarch of Antioch Abdul Messiah, who for some was not ruling because of the political situation in Turkey (the question whether political decision is the one that should be valid in matter of faith) who was the one installed first as the valid patriarch, to be the head of the Synod that installed the first catholicos. The term used in the constitution is re-establishment of the catholicate. Here we have room for an interpretation of the term re-establishment. It can be revival of the office or re-location of the office. To us, it is the revival of the office. We are not relocating the office of the catholicate established in Selucia Ctesiphon. We are using the same title as we intended the office to be parallel to the office of the patriarch which is in fact independent.  We sought the cooperation of the patriarch since one, in faith we are one community, two, in practice the catholicate represents the universality of the Church. This office was not the office of the Maprianate of Tigris. It was not the succession of the catholicate in Selucia Ctesiphon.

Thus I would go with your second conclusion. In that sense we can also say that the catholicate in Malankara was established in 1912. In any case it was not a continuation of the one existed in Selucia Ctesphon and also the one existed in Tigris, rather it was the fresh establishment of the office in Malankara, but the title was already in use for the one in Selucia Ctesiphon.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 4

Respected Tirumeni

Thank you very much. I think it is the wisdom in Sant Rahim ke Dohe- Jahan kaam karai sui, kaha karai thalwari- where the needle is required, what can the sword achieve? -each to his own and his role.

I really enjoy my role as wife and mother.

But ‘Orthodox Psychotherapy’, & 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Tyrell’s Christotherapy etc. helped me a lot because I realized that every single second of my waking life is full of internal dialogues and chatter and most of these thoughts are based on fear. Fear of poverty, fear of disapproval, fear of illness, need for approval etc. My sister, asked me why I always act from fear and live anticipating the worst. It was what gave relevance to these books. I also see many others around who operate from ‘fear.’ – the point where we stand.

I am now much better and am able to recognize  moments when I act from fear- I tell myself that God the Father is the source of all and whatever the situation,He would give us the inner resources to live through . I can be more generous and free and less fearful. I acquired this fear psychosis over the last 10 years due to certain circumstances in our work situation and then it became a part of me.

Life has improved a lot since I have started to operate from faith instead of fear. I think, this would help me stick to my newly adopted lifestyle also and that my diabetes would be cured. (Thomas Vaidyan’s diet of Ragi, Chama And other millets has drastically reduced my blood sugar and he says I can be cured in 2 years if I stick to it. Latest medical research has confirmed that the Pancreas can be reactivated through diet.) There is both inner and outer healing involved.I believe that. There is healing in Christ. All of us desperately need it. Especially healing from the image of a vengeful, unapproachable God who would punish us for every word and deed-however small.

I have also seen people healed and at peace outside the Church and though I feel afraid to affirm this, I cannot disbelieve that the Hindu also speaks of the same Father in Heaven and that people like, Sri Sri Ravishankar etc have some bits of truth that has helped people to live in the present and be relaxed, comfortable with their lives and live usefully and joyfully.

So I think they are  not ‘un assumed’, but are saved. AM I wrong?

I am happy about my being able to operate less fearfully,  but I am happiest to know that our Church cares about insignificant people like me. I had thought that it was a huge monolith- stony and uncaring.

I was also afraid of Bishops because I was told that angering them would invite curses on our family. When my husband broke his leg about 35 years ago, it was said that his father had joined the group against the then Bava about some church property and that is why it happened. Recently one of our parish was hit by a car while he was standing by the roadside and had severe multiple fractures. People say that this happened because he did not get up when our Thirumeni came into our church and also he had raised some questions. (I am not sure what.) So to me this seems little better than a regime of fear.

But our own Bishops died in Road accidents.

Please forgive me for raising this issue, but if people should come closer, this fear must be allayed, should it not?

Did not Jesus imply that curse is not His Way? (Even my brother in law has stopped active participation in church matters because my sister in law said why should we invite curses?- many do this)

Please do not be angry.

Answer

Dear

Yes I admit that fear should not have any room in Christian life. Fear began in the garden of Eden when human felt that he/she is estranged him/herself from God (Gen. 3:10). This is why when ever God or angel or messenger appeared to humans, the first word uttered was ‘fear not’. There are people still under fear and they say ‘you have to fear God’ which is actually anti-Christian. Salvation Christ brought primarily talks about free from fear. So Christ taught us to address God ‘father’. This closeness and relationship takes away fear. I do not think that we have to distinguish between ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ cure. It is the cure of the person. The thought that there is this dichotomy itself is part of the fear. If God created us, we are as humans contains both inner and outer combined. So we can henceforth talk about the person and not compartments of the person. The fruit that Adam and Eve ate affected the person not only the inner person, but also the outer person.

There is a famous saying, ‘it is not a valid question whether Christ is there or not, the valid question is whether you are recognizing Christ’s presence or not’. Christ’s presence can be recognized where ever salvation is experienced. God has no boundary for his activity, we may have. How ever, I should also be warned against phony charismatic individuals who claim they represent joy or God.

To address the other question, I do not believe that any one in this world has been given authority to curse any one. Of course we may not agree with others. If this is seen  positively, that opens room for dialogue. If even after genuine dialogue difference exists, then again to look at it positively, can say we agree to disagree. We can say my idea has nothing in common with yours. So we are not related and I have nothing to do with you. But when I say , my idea is absolutely right and yours is absolutely wrong, that person will be making him/herself a god. I do not think that God is a primary school teacher who keeps track of every small thing to find a reason to punish people. Some meet with bad times because of their own fault on that matter, some because of other people’s fault at that time. Getting up when some one arrives or not getting up are all cultural things and God is not bound by cultural things. Again the same element of fear is working here too. I hope I addressed your note.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

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