Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prayer in the name of Jesus in Orthodox Christian tradition of Indian Church

The accusation of one close to you , just as you are making vey small steps in learning to live the faith in the life of the Church that the Church is full of hypocrites, those who are like the pharisees , those who follow rituals and traditions without knowing the person Jesus Christ, is a very painful and often traumatic event that leaves it's scar etched into one's very fibre a feeling of hoplessness.

It is during such a time that we seek support and a reassurance from others , from our family , from the Clergy and whatever we hold dear to tell us this is not the case . It is possible then to find the help we get lacking in conviction and tell tale signs to make us assume the accusation to be true .

However this is when we members of Church fail to grasp the very true eternal truth proclaimed and lived out by the Church Fathers that as individuals we are mere men with no strength on our own with nothing to our own merit , but precious to One , and our help is from Him and Him alone the very God who became man Jesus Christ - who art one of the Holy Trinity. It is to Him that we should turn for solace and indeed He surely loves us and will not leave us to lose hope and let us realize the lie that the evil one is using to bring us to despair .

The short prayers to turn the attention of their lives to God was used by the early Church fathers in Nitrea turning to the desert spending time in caves raising their hearts in prayer seeking His help. I believe that this tradition became part of the worshipping community coming together as Church the reason why in our Eucharist service we repeatedly hear the Church proclaiming Kuriyelaison - 'Lord Have Mercy'. Alternatively the Greek , Russian Church traditions adapted the cry for help of the blind man ' Lord Jesus Christ Son of God Have mercy upon me a sinner' become part of ceaseless personal prayer and witness the great saints like St. Seraphim of Sarov.

If we have such a great history of well troden and proven path in the Church then you and me need not feel discouraged but rather take the step the effort to ask of Him, ask of His help in prayer and perhaps be the instrument to turn our accuser too to not look at his brother's sins, the brother who knows his sins are too many . Let us be thankful edified by this prayer in the name of Jesus in Orthodox Church tradition of the Indian Church found in Moonu Noyambu prayer very similar to the prayer of closing on each Holy Qurbana.

"Jesus, Be our Helper
Jesus Be our Shelter
Jesus, strengthen us-
Jesus guard us
lJesus, remove thewicked from us
lJesus, absolve oursins and our evil deeds
Jesus, have mercyon the judgement day"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity -5

This article was shared by Dr. Roy Cherian at ICON . May it be edifying.
The Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity-- by Bishop Kallistos Ware ( Part 5)

In the Absence of a Starets And what is one to do, if he cannot find a spiritual father? He may turn, in the first place, to books. Writing in 5th-century Russia,St. Nil Sorsky laments the extreme scarcity of qualified spiritual directors; yet how much more frequent they must have been in his day than in ours!Search diligently, he urges, for a sure and trustworthy guide. "However, if such a teacher cannot be found, then the Holy Fathers order us to turn tothe Scriptures and listen to Our Lord Himself speaking." [31] Since the testimony of Scripture should not be isolated from the continuing witness ofthe Spirit in the life of the Church, the inquirer will also read the works of the Fathers, and above all the Philokalia. But there is an evident danger here. The starets adapts his guidance to the inward state of each; books offer the same advice to everyone. How is the beginner to discern whether or not a particular text is applicable to his own situation? Even if hecannot find a spiritual father in the full sense, he should at least try to find someone more experienced than himself, able to guide him in his reading.It is possible to learn also from visiting places where divine grace hasbeen exceptionally manifested and where prayer has been especially concentrated. Before taking a major decision, and in the absence of other guidance,many Orthodox Christians will goon pilgrimage to Jerusalem or Mount Athos,to some monastery or the tomb of a saint, where they will pray for enlightenment. This is the way in which I have reached the more difficult decisions in my life.

Thirdly, we can learn from religious communities with an established tradition of the spiritual life. In the absence of a personal teacher, the monastic environment can serve as guru; we can receive our formation from the ordered sequence of the daily program, with its periods of liturgical and silent prayer, with its balance of manual labor, study, and recreation. [32]This seems to have be en the chief way in which St. Seraphim of Sarov gained his spiritual training. A well-organized monastery embodies, in anaccessible and living form, the inherited wisdom of many starets. Not only monks,but those who come as visitors for a longer or shorter period, can be formed and guided by the experience of community life.It is indeed no coincidence that the kind of spiritual fatherhood that we have been describing emerged initially in 4th-century Egypt, not within thefully organized communities under St. Pachomius, but among the hermits andin the semi-eremitic milieu of Nitria and Scetis. In the former, spiritual direction was provided by Pachomius himself, by the superiors of each monastery, and by the heads of individual "houses" within the monastery. TheRule of St. Benedict also envisages the abbot as spiritual father, and thereis no provision for further development of a more "charismatic" type. Intime, of course, the coenobitic communities incorporated many of the traditions of spiritual fatherhood as developed among the hermits, but the need forthose traditions has always been less intensely felt in the coenobia,precisely because direction is provided by the corporate life pursued under theguidance of the Rule.

Finally, before we leave the subject of the absence of the starets, it is important to recognize the extreme flexibility in the relationship between starets and disciple. Some may see their spiritual father daily or even hourly, praying, eating, and working with him, perhaps sharing the same cell,as often happened in the Egyptian Desert. Others may see him only once a month or once a year; others, again, may visit a starets on but a single occasion in their entire life, yet this will be sufficient to set them on path. There are, furthermore, many different types of spiritual father;few will be wonder-workers like St. Seraphim of Sarov. There are numerous priests and laymen who, while lacking the more spectacular endowments of the startsi, are certainly able to provide others with the guidance that they require.Many people imagine that they cannot find a spiritual father, because they expect him to be of a particular type: they want a St. Seraphim, and so they close their eyes to the guides whom God is actually sending to them. Often their supposed problems are not so very complicated, and in reality they already know in their own heart what the answer is. But they do not like the answer, because it involves patient and sustained effort on their part:and so they look for a deus ex machina who, by a single miraculous word,will suddenly make everything easy. Such people need to be helped to an understanding of the true nature of spiritual direction.

Contemporary Examples In condusion, I wish briefly to recall two startsi of our own day, whom I have had the happiness of knowing personally. The first is FatherAmphilochios (+1970), abbot of the Monastery of St. John on the Island of Patmos, andspiritual father to a community of nuns which he had founded not far from the Monastery. What most distinguished his character was his gentleness,the warmth of his affection, and his sense of tranquil yet triumphant joy.Life in Christ, as he understood it, is not a heavy yoke, a burden to be carried' with resignation, but a personal relationship to be pursued with eagerness of heart. He was firmly opposed to all spiritual violence and cruelty.It was typical that, as he lay dying and took leave of the nuns under hiscare, he should urge the abbess not to be too severe on them: "They haveleft everything to come here, they must not be unhappy." [33] When I was to return from Patmos to England as a newly-ordained priest, he insisted thatthere was no need to be afraid of anything.My second example is Archbishop John (Maximovich), Russian bishop in Shanghai, in Western Europe, and finally in San Francisco (+1966). Little more than a dwarf in height, with tangled hair and beard, and with an impedimentin his speech, he possessed more than a touch of the "Fool in Christ." From the time of his profession as a monk, he did not lie down on a bed to sleep at night; he went on working and praying, snatching his sleep at oddmoments in the 24 hours. He wandered barefoot through the streets of Paris, and once he celebrated a memorial, service among the tram lines close to the port of Marseilles. Punctuality had little meaning for him. Baffled by hisunpredictable behavior, the more conventional among his flock sometimes judged him to be unsuited for the administrative work of a bishop. But with his total disregard of normal formalities he succeeded where others, relying on worldly influence and expertise, had failed entirelyas when, against allhope and in the teeth of the "quota" system, he secured the admission of thousands of homeless Russian refugees to the U.S.A. In private conversation he was very gentle, and he quickly won theconfidence of small children. Particularly striking was the intensity of his intercessory prayer. When possible, he liked to celebrate the Divine Liturgy daily, and the service often took twice or three times the normal space of time, such was the multitude of those whom he commemorated individually by name. As he prayed for them, they were never mere names on a lengthy list, but always persons. One story that I was told is typical. It was his custom each year to visit Holy Trinity Monastery at Jordanville, N.Y. As he left,after one such visit, a monk gave him a slip of paper with four names of those who were gravely ill. Archbishop John received thousands upon thousands ofsuch requests for prayer in the course of each year. On his return to the monastery some twelve months later, at once he beckoned to the monk, and much to the latter's surprise, from the depths of his cassock Archbishop John produced the identical slip of paper, now crumpled and tattered. "I have been praying for your friends," he said, "but two of them"he pointed to their names"are now dead and the other two have recovered." And so indeed itwas.Even at a distance he shared in the concerns of his spiritual children. One of them, superior of a small Orthodox monastery in Holland, was sitting one night in his room, unable to sleep from anxiety over the problems which faced him. About three o'dock in the morning, the telephone rang; it was Archbishop John, speaking from several hundred miles away. He had rung to say that it was time for the monk to go to bed.Such is the role of the spiritual father. As Varsanuphius expressed it, "I care for you more than you care for yourself."

1. On spiritual fatherhood in the Christian East, see the well-documented study by I. Hausherr, S. L., Direction Spintuelle en Orient d'Autrefois(Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 144: Rome 1955). An excellent portrait of agreat starets in 19th-century Russia is provided by J. B. Dunlop, StaretzAmvrosy: Model for Dostoevsky's Staretz Zossima (Belmont, Mass. 1972); comparealso I. de Beausobre, Macanus, Starets of Optina: Russian Letters ofDirection 18341860 (London, 1944). For the life and writings of a Russian starets in the present century, see Archimandrite Sofrony, The UndistortedImage.Staretz Silouan: 18661938 (London, 1958).
2. Apophthegmata Patrum, alphabetical collection (Migne, P.G., 65, pp.37-8).3. Les Apophtegemes des Pres du Desert, by J. C. Guy, S.jj. (Textes deSpiritualit Orientale, No. 1: Etiolles, 1968), pp. 112, 158.4. A. Elchaninov, The Diary of a Russian Priest, (London, 1967, p. 54).5. I use "charismatic" in the restricted sense customarily given to it bycontemporary writers. But if that word indicates one who has received thegifts or charismata of the Holy Spirit, then the ministerial priest, ordainedthrough the episcopal laying on of hands, is as genuinely a "charismatic"as one who speaks with tongues.6. The Life of St. Antony, chapters 87 and 81 (P.G. 26, 965A, and 957A.)7. Quoted in Igumen Chariton, The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology(London, 1966), p. 164. [Webmaster Note: I could not determine where thisfootnote appeared in the original article.]8. Apophthegmata Patrum, alphabetical collection, Theophilus theArchbishop, p. 2. In the Christian East, the Patriarch of Alexandria bears the title"Pope."9. Ibid., Antony p. 27.10. Ibid., Antony, p. 24.11. Compare Ignaty's contemporary, Bishop Theophan the Recluse (+l894) andSt. Tikhon of Zadonsk (+l753).12. Three of the great banes of the 20th century are shorthand, duplicatorsand photocopying machines. If chairmen of committees and those in seats ofauthority were forced to write out personally in longhand everything theywanted to communicate to others, no doubt they would choose their wordswith greater care.13. Evergetinos, Synagoge, 1, 20 (ed. Victor Matthaiou, I, Athens, 1957,pp. 168-9).14. Apophthegmata Patrum, alphabetical collection, Poemen, p. 8.15. For the importance of a spiritual father's prayers, see for exampleLes Apophtegmes des Peres du Dsert, tr. Guy, "srie des dits anonymes", P.160.16. The Book of Varsanuphius and John, edited by Sotirios Schoinas (Volos,1960), pp. 208, 39, 353, 110 and 23g. A critical edition of part of theGreek text, accompanied by an English translation, has been prepared by D. J.Chitty: Varsanuphius and John, Questions and Answers, (PatrologiaOrientalis, XXXI, 3, Paris, 1966). [Webmaster Note. This and many other finebookson spiritual direction are available from _St. Herman Press_(http://www.stherman.com/) .17. Apophthegmata Patrurn, alphabetical collection, Antony, p. 16.18. Ibid., John the Theban, p. 1.19. Mystic Treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, tr. by A. J. Wensinck,(Amsterdam, 1923), p. 341.20. "_Conversation of St. Seraphim on the Aim of the Christian Life_(http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/wonderful.aspx) ," in A Wonderful Revelationto the World (Jordanville, N.Y., 1953), pp. 23-24.21. Apophthegmata Patrum, alphabetical collection, John Colobos, p. 1.22. Ibid., Mark the Disciple of Silvanus, pp. 1, 2.23. Ibid., Joseph of Panepho, p. 5.24. Ibid., Saio, p. 1. The geron subsequently returned the things to theirrightful owners.25. Les Apophtegmes des Peres du Desert, tr. Guy, "serie des ditsanonymes," p. 162. There is a parallel story in the alphabetical collection,Sisoes, p. 10; cf. Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 22).26. Fr. Andr Scrima, "La Tradition du Pre Spirituel dan l'Eglise d'Orient."Hermes, 1967, No. 4, p. 83.27. Apophthegmata Patrurn, alphabetical collection, Poemen, p. 174.28. Ibid., Isaac the Priest, p. 2.29. The Book of Varsanuphius and John, pp. 23, 51, 35.30. Quoted by Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction and Meditation. (1960), p.12.31. "The Monastic Rule," in G. P. Fedotov, A Treasury of RussianSpirituality, (London, 1950) p.96.32. See Thomas Merton, op. cit., pp. 14-16, on the dangers of rigidmonastic discipline without proper spiritual direction.33. See I. Gorainoff, "Holy Men of Patmos", Sobornost (The Journal of theFellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius), Series 6, No. 5 (1972) pp. 341-4.From Cross Currents (Summer/Fall 1974), pp. 296-313.**************************************

Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity -4

This article was shared by Dr. Roy Cherian at ICON . May it be edifying.
The Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity-- by Bishop Kallistos Ware ( Part 4)

Obedience and Freedom

Such are by God's grace, the gifts of the starets. But what of the spiritual child? How does he contribute to the mutual relationship between fatherand son in God?Briefly, what he offers is his full and unquestioning obedience. As a classic example, there is the story in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers about the monk who was told to plant a dry stick in the sand and to water it daily. So distant was the spring from his cell that he had to leave in the evening to fetch the water and he only returned in the following morning. For three years he patiently fulfilled his Abba's command. At the end of this period, the stick suddenly put forth leaves and bore fruit. The Abba picked the fruit, took it to the church, and invited the monks to eat, saying,"Come and taste the fruit of obedience." [21] Another example of obedience is the monk Mark who was summoned by his Abba,while copying a manuscript, and so immediate was his response that he did not even complete the circle of the letter that he was writing. On another occasion, as they walked together, his Abba saw a small pig; testing Mark,he said, "Do you see that buffalo, my child?" "Yes, Father," replied Mark."And you see how powerful its horns are?" "Yes, Father", he answered once more without demur. [22] Abba Joseph of Panepho, following a similar policy,tested the obedience of his disciples by assigning ridiculous tasks tothem, and only if they complied would he then give them sensible commands.[23] Another geron instructed his disciple to steal things from the cells ofthe brethren; [24] yet another told his disciple (who had not been entirelytruthful with him) to throw his son into the furnace. [25]Such stories are likely to make a somewhat ambivalent impression on the modern reader. They seem to reduce the disciple to an infantile or sub-human level, depriving him of all power of judgment and moral choice. With indignation we ask: "Is this the 'glorious liberty of the children of God'?"(Rom.8:21)Three points must here be made. In the first place, the obedience offered by the spiritual son to his Abba is not forced but willing and voluntary. It is the task of the starets to take up our will into his will, but he can only do this if by our own free choice we place it in his hands. He does not break our will, but accepts it from us as a gift.

A submission that is forced and involuntary is obviously devoid of moral value; the starets asks of each one that he offer to God his heart, not his external actions.The voluntary nature of obedience is vividly emphasized in the ceremony ofthe tonsure at the Orthodox rite of monastic profession. The scissors areplaced upon the Book of the Gospels, and the novice must himself pick them up and give them to the abbot. The abbot immediately replaces them on the Book of the Gospels. Again the novice take the scissors, and again they are replaced. Only when the novice him the scissors for the third time does the abbot proceed to cut hair. Never there after will the monk have the right to say to the abbot or the brethren: "My personality is constricted andsuppressed here in the monastery; you have deprived me of my freedom". No one has taken away his freedom, for it was he himself who took up the scissors and placed them three times in the abbot's hand.But this voluntary offering of our freedom is obviously something that cannot be made once and for all, by a single gesture; There must be a continual offering, extending over-our whole life; our growth in Christ is, measuredprecisely by the increasing degree of our self-giving. Our freedom must be offered anew each day and each hour, in constantly varying ways; and this means that the relation between starets and disciple is not static but dynamic, not unchanging but infinitely diverse. Each day and each hour, under the guidance of his Abba, the disciple will face new situations, calling for a different response, a new kind of self-giving.In the second place, the relation between starets and spiritual child is not one- but two-sided. Just as the starets enables the disciples to see themselves as they truly are, so it is the disciples who reveal the starets to himself. In most instances, a man does not realize that he is called to be a starets until others come to him and insist on placing themselves under his guidance. This reciprocity continues throughout the relationship between the two.

The spiritual father does not possess an exhaustive program,neatly worked out in advance and imposed in the same manner upon everyone. Onthe contrary, if he is a true starets, he will have a different word fo reach; and since the word which he gives is on the deepest level, not his ownbut the Holy Spirit's, he does not know in advance what that word will be.The starets proceeds on the basis, not of abstract rules but of concrete human situations. He and his disciple enter each situation together; neither of them knowing before hand exactly what the outcome will be, but each waiting for the enlightenment of the Spirit. Each of them, the spiritual fatheras well as the disciple, must learn as he goes.The mutuality of their relationship is indicated by certain stories in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, where an unworthy Abba has a spiritual son far better than himself. The disciple, for example, detects his Abba in the sin of fornication, but pretends to have noticed nothing and remains under his charge; and so, through the patient humility of his new disciple, the spiritual father is brought eventually to repentance and a new life. In sucha case, it is not the spiritual father who helps the disciple, but the reverse. Obviously such a situation is far from the norm, but it indicates that the disciple is called to give as well as to receive.In reality, the relationship is not two-sided but triangular, for in addition to the starets and his disciple there is also a third partner, God. OurLord insisted that we should call no man "father," for we have only onefather, who is in Heaven (Matthew 13:8-10). The starets is not an infallible judge or a final court of appeal, but a fellow-servant of the living God;not a dictator, but a guide and companion on the way.

The only true"spiritual director," in the fullest sense of the word, is the Holy Spirit.This brings us to the third point. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition at its best, the spiritual father has always sought to avoid any kind of constraint and spiritual violence in his relations with his disciple. If, under the guidance of the Spirit, he speaks and acts with authority, it is with theauthority of humble love. The words of starets Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov express an essential aspect of spiritual fatherhood: "At some ideas you stand perplexed, especially at the sight of men's sin, uncertain whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide, 'I will combat it by humble love.' If you make up your mind about that once and for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a terrible force; it is the strongest of all things and there is nothing like it."Anxious to avoid all mechanical constraint, many spiritual fathers in the Christian East refused to provide their disciples with a rule of life, a set of external commands to be applied automatically. In the words of acontemporary Romanian monk, the starets is "not a legislator but a mystagogue."[26] He guides others, not by imposing rules, but by sharing his life with them. A monk told Abba Poemen, "Some brethren have come to live with me; do you want me to give them orders?" "No," said the Old Man. "But, Father,"the monk persisted, "they themselves want me to give them orders." "No",repeated Poemen, "be an example to them but not a lawgiver." [27] The samemoral emerges from the story of Isaac the Priest. As a young man, he remained first with Abba Kronios and then with Abba Theodore of Pherme; but neither of them told him what to do. Isaac complained to the other monks and theycame and remonstrated with Theodore. "If he wishes", Theodore repliedeventually, "let him do what he sees me doing." [28] When Varsanuphius was asked to supply a detailed rule of life, he refused, saying: "I do not want you tobe under the law, but under grace." And in other letters he wrote: "You know that we have never imposed chains upon anyone... Do not force men's freewill, but sow in hope, for our Lord did not compel anyone, but He preached the good news, and those who wished hearkened to Him." [29]Do not force men's free will. The task of the spiritual father is not to destroy a man's freedom, but to assist him to see the truth for himself; not to suppress a man's personality, but to enable him to discover himself, togrow to full maturity and to become what he really is. If on occasion thespiritual father requires an implicit and seemingly "blind" obedience fromhis disciple, this is never done as an end in itself, nor with a view to enslaving him. The purpose of this kind of shock treatment is simply to deliver the disciple from his false and illusory "self", so that he may enterinto true freedom. The spiritual father does not impose his own ideas and devotions, but he helps the disdple to find his own special vocation. In thewords of a 17th-century Benedictine, Dom Augustine Baker: "The director is not to teach his own way, nor indeed any determinate way of prayer, but to instruct his disciples how they may themselves find out the way proper forthem . . . In a word, he is only God's usher, and must lead souls in God'sway, and not his own." [30]In the last resort, what the spiritual father gives to his disciple is not a code of written or oral regulations, not a set of techniques for meditation, but a personal relationship. Within this personal relationship the Abba grows and changes as well as the disciple, for God is constantly guiding them both. He may on occasion provide his disciple with detailed verbal instructions, with precise answers to specific questions. On other occasions hemay fail to give any answer at all; either because he does not think that the question needs an answer, or because he himself does not yet know what the answer should be. But these answers or this failure to answerare always given the framework of a personal relationship. Many things cannot be said in words, but can be conveyed through a direct personal encounter.

(To be Continued....)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity -3

This article was shared by Dr. Roy Cherian at ICON . May it be edifying.
The Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity- by Bishop Kallistos Ware ( Part 3)

The Three Gifts of the Spiritual Father

Three gifts in particular distinguish the spiritual father. The first is insight and discernment (diakrisis), the ability to perceive intuitively the secrets of another's heart, to understand the hidden depths of which theother is unaware. The spiritual father penetrates beneath the conventional gestures and attitudes whereby we conceal our true personality from othersand from ourselves; and beyond all these trivialities, he comes to grips with the unique person made in the image and likeness of God. This power is spiritual rather than psychic; it is not simply a kind of extra-sensory perception or a sanctified clairvoyance but the fruit of grace, presupposing concentrated prayer and an unremitting ascetic struggle.

With this gift of insight there goes the ability to use words with power.As each person comes before him, the starets knows immediately and specificallywhat it is that the individual needs to hear. Today, we are inundated with words, but for the most part these are conspicuously not words uttered with power. [12] The starets uses few words, and sometimes none at all; butby these few words or by his silence, he is able to alter the wholedirection of a man's life. At Bethany, Christ used three words only: "Lazarus, comeout" (John 11:43) and these three words, spoken with power, were sufficient to bring the dead back to life. In an age when language has beendisgracefully trivialized, it is vital to rediscover the power of the word; and this means rediscovering the nature of silence, not just as a pause between words but as one of the primary realities of existence. Most teachers and preachers talk far too much; the starets is distinguished by an austere economy of language.But for a word to possess power, it is necessary that there should be not only one who speaks with the genuine authority of personal experience, but also one who listens with attention and eagerness. If someone questions a starets out of idle curiosity, it is likely that he will receive little benefit; but if he approaches the starets with ardent faith and deep hunger,theword that he hears may transfigure his being. The words of the startsi are for the most part simple in verbal expression and devoid of literary artifice; to those who read them in a superficial way, they will seem jejune and banal.

The spiritual father's gift of insight is exercised primarily through the practice known as "disclosure of thoughts" (logismoi). In early Eastern monasticism the young monk used to go daily to his father and lay before him all the thoughts which had come to him during the day. This disclosure of thoughts includes far more than a confession of sins, since the novice also speaks of those ideas and impulses which may seem innocent to him, but in which the spiritual father may discern secret dangers or significant signs. Confession is retrospective, dealing with sins that have already occurred;the disclosure of thoughts, on the other hand, is prophylactic, for it lays bare our logismoi before they have led to sin and so deprives them of their,power to harm. The purpose of the disclosure is not juridical, to secure absolution from guilt, but self-knowledge, that each may see himself as he truly is. [13]

Endowed with discernment, the spiritual father does not merely wait for a person to reveal himself, but shows to the other thoughts hidden from him.When people came to St. Seraphim of Sarov, he often answered theirdifficulties before they had time to put their thoughts before him. On manyoccasions the answer at first seemed quite irrelevant, and even absurd and irresponsible; for what St. Seraphim answered was not, the question his visitor had consciously in mind, but the one he ought to have been asking. In all this St. Seraphim relied on the inward light of the Holy Spirit. He found it important, he explained, not to work out in advance hat he was going to say;in that case, his words would represent merely his own human judgment whichmight well be in error, and not the judgment of God. In St. Seraphim's eyes, the relationship between starets and spiritual child is stronger than death, and he therefore urged his children to continue their disclosure of thoughts to him even after his departure to the next life. These are the words which, by his on command, were written on his tomb:"When I am dead, come to me at my grave, and the more often, the better. Whatever is on your soul, whatever may have happened to you, come to me aswhen I was alive and, kneeling on the ground, cast all your bitterness upon my grave. Tell me everything and I shall listen to you, and all the bitterness will fly away from you. And as you spoke to me when I was alive, do so now. For I am living, and I shall be forever."

The second gift of the spiritual father is the ability to love others and to make others' sufferings his own. Of Abba Poemen, one of the greatest ofthe Egyptian gerontes, it is briefly and simply recorded: "He possessedlove, and many came to him." [14] He possessed love this is indispensable in all spiritual fatherhood. Unlimited insight into the secrets of men's hearts,if devoid of loving compassion, would not be creative but destructive; he who cannot love others will have little power to heal them.Loving others involves suffering with and for them; such is the literal sense of compassion. "Bear one anothers burdens and so fulfill the law ofChrist" (Galatians 6:2). The spiritual father is 'the one who par excellence bears the burdens of others. "A starets", writes Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov, "is one who takes your soul, your will, unto his soul and hiswill. . . . " It is not enough for him to offer advice. He is also required to take up the soul of his spiritual children into his own soul, their life into his life. It is his task to pray for them, and his constant intercession on their behalf is more important to them than any words of counsel. [15] It is his task likewise to assume their sorrows and their sins, to taketheir guilt upon himself, and to answer for them at the Last Judgment.

All this is manifest in a primary document of Eastern spiritual direction,the Books of Varsanuphius and John, embodying some 850 questions addressed to two elders of 6th-century Palestine, together with their written answers. "As God Himself knows," Varsanuphius insists to his spiritual children,"there is not a second or an hour when I do not have you in my mind and in my prayers . . . I care for you more than you care for yourself . . . I would gladly lay down my life for you." This is his prayer to God: "O Master,either bring my children with me into Your Kingdom, or else wipe me also out of Your book." Taking up the theme of bearing others' burdens,Varsanuphius affirms: "I am bearing your burdens and your offences . . . You have become like a man sitting under a shady tree . . . I take upon myself the sentence of condemnation against you, and by the grace of Christ, I will not abandon you, either in this age or in the Age to Come." [16]

Readers of Charles Williams will be reminded of the principle of'substituted love,' which plays a central part in Descent into Hell. The samelineof thought is expressed by Dostoevsky's starets Zosima: "There is only oneway of salvation, and that is to make yourself responsible for all men'ssins. . . To make yourself responsible in all sincerity for everything and for everyone." The ability of the starets to support and strengthen others ismeasured by his willingness to adopt this way of salvation.Yet the relation between the spiritual father and his children is not one-sided. Though he takes the burden of their guilt upon himself and answersfor them before God, he cannot do this effectively unless they themselves arestruggling wholeheartedly for their own salvation. Once a brother came to St. Antony of Egypt and said: "Pray for me." But the Old Man replied:"Neither will I take pity on you nor will God, unless you make some effort of your own." [17]

When considering the love of a starets for those under his care, it is important to give full meaning to the word "father" in the title "spiritual father". As father and offspring in an ordinary family should be joined inmutual love, so it must also be within the "charismatic" family of the starets. It is primarily a relationship in the Holy Spirit, and while thewell spring of human affection is not to be unfeelingly suppressed, it must be contained within bounds. It is recounted how a young monk looked after his elder, who was gravely ill, for twelve years without interruption. Never once in that period did his elder thank him or so much as speak one word of kindness to him. Only on his death-bed did the Old Man remark to the assembled brethren, "He is an angel and not a man." [18] The story is valuable as an indication of the need for spiritual detachment, but such an uncompromising suppression of all outward tokens of affection is not typical of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, still less of Varsanuphius and John.

A third gift of the spiritual father is the power to transform the human environment, both the material and the non-material. The gift of healing,possessed by so many of the startsi, is one aspect of this power: More generally, the starets helps his disciples to perceive the world as God createdit and as God desires it once more to be. "Can you take too much joy in your Father's works?" asks Thomas Traherne. "He is Himself in everything." The true starets is one who discerns this universal presence of the Creator throughout creation, and assists others to discern it. In the words of William Blake, "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything will appear to man as it is, infinite." For the man who dwells in God, there is nothing mean and trivial: he sees everything in the light of Mount Tabor. "What is a merciful heart?" inquires St. Isaac the Syrian. "It is a heart that burns with love for 'the whole of creation for men, for the birds, for the beasts,for the demons, for every, creature. When a man with such a heart as this thinks of the creatures or looks at them, his eyes are filled with tears;An overwhelming compassion makes his heart grow! small and weak, and he cannot endure to hear or see any suffering, even the smallest pain, inflicted upon any creature. Therefore he never ceases to pray, with tears even for the irrational animals, for the enemies of truth, and for those who do him evil, asking that they may be guarded and receive God's mercy. And for the reptiles also he prays with a great compassion, which rises up endlessly in his heart until he shines again and is glorious like God."' [19]

An all-embracing love, like that of Dostoevsky's starets Zosima,transfigures its object, making the human environment transparent, so that the uncreated energies of God shine through it. A momentary glimpse of what thistransfiguration involves is provided by the celebrated _conversation betweenSt. Seraphim of Sarov and Nicholas Motoviov_(http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/wonderful.aspx) , his spiritual child. They were walking in the forestone winter's day and St. Seraphim spoke of the need to acquire the HolySpirit. This led Motovilov to ask how a man can know with certainty that he is"in the Spirit of God":Then Fr. Seraphim took me very firmly by the shoulders and said: "My son,we are both, at this moment in the Spirit of God. Why don't you look at me?""I cannot look, Father," I replied, "because your eyes are flashing like lightning. Your face has become brighter than the sun, and it hurts my eyes to look, at you.""Don't be afraid," he said. "At this very moment you have yourself become as bright as I am. You are yourself in the fullness of the Spirit of God at this moment; otherwise you would not be able to see me as you do. . . but why, my son, do you not look me in the eyes? Just look, and don't be afraid; the Lord is with us."After these words I glanced at his face, and there came over me an even greater reverent awe. Imagine in the center of the sun, in the dazzling lightof its mid-day rays, the face of a man talking to you. You see the movement of his lips and the changing expression of his eyes and you hear his voice, you feel someone holding your shoulders, yet you do not see his hands,you do not even see yourself or his body, but only a blinding light spreading far around for several yards and lighting up with its brilliance the snow-blanket which covers the forest glade and the snowflakes which continue to fall unceasingly [20].
(To be Continued....)

Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity -2

This article was shared by Dr. Roy Cherian at ICON . May it be edifying. ...........................................................................................................................................................

The Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity-- by Bishop Kallistos Ware ( Part 2)

Flight and Return: the Preparation of the Starets Although the starets is not ordained or appointed for his task, it iscertainly necessary that he should be prepared.The classic pattern for this preparation, which consists in a movement of flight and return, may be clearly discerned in the liyes of _St. Antony of Egypt_(http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/vita-antony.aspx) (+356) and St. Seraphim of Sarov (+1833).St. Antony's life falls sharply into two halves, with his fifty-fifth year as the watershed. The years from, early manhood to the age of fifty-five were his time of preparation, spent in an ever-increasing seclusion from theworld as he withdrew further and further into the desert. He eventually passed twenty years in an abandoned fort, meeting no one whatsoever. When he had reached the age of fifty-five, his friends could contain their curiosity no longer, and broke down the entrance. St. Antony came out and, 'for the remaining half century of his long life, without abandoning the life of ahermit, he made himself freely available to others, acting as "a physician given by God to Egypt." He was beloved by all, adds his biographer, St.Athanasius, "and all desired to 'have him as their father." [6]

Observe that the transition from enclosed anchorite to Spiritual father came about, not through any initiative on St. Antony's part, but through the action of others.Antony was a lay monk, never ordained to the priesthood. St. Seraphim followed a comparable path. After fifteen years spent in the ordinary life of the monastic community, as novice, professed monk, deacon,and priest, he withdrew for thirty years of solitude and almost total silence. During the first part of this period he, lived in a forest hut; at one point he passed a thousand days on the stump of a tree and a thousand nights of those days on a rock, devoting himself to unceasing prayer. Recalled by his abbot to the monastery, he obeyed the order without the slightest delay; and during the latter part of his time of solitude he lived rigidlyenclosed in his cell, which he did not leave even to attend services inchurch; on Sundays the priest brought communion to him at the door of his room.Though he was a priest he didn't celebrate the liturgy. Finally, in the last eight years of his life, he ended his enclosure, opening the door of his cell and receiving all who came. He did nothing to advertise himself or to summon people; it was the others who took the initiative in approaching him,but when they came sometimes hundreds or even thousands in a single dayhe did not send them empty away.

Without this intense ascetic preparation, without this radical flight into solitude, could St. Antony or St. Seraphim have acted in the same 'degree as guide to those of their generation? Not that they withdrew in order tobecome masters and guides of others. 'They fled, not, in order to prepare themselves for some other task, but out of a consuming desire to be alone with God. God accepted their love, but then sent them back" as instruments of healing in the world from which they had withdrawn. Even had He never sent them back, their flight would still have been supremely creative and valuable to society; for the monk helps the world not primarily by anything that he does and says but by what he is, by the state of unceasing prayer which has become identical with his innermost being. Had St. Antony and St.Seraphim done nothing but pray in solitude they would still have been serving their fellow men to the highest degree.
As things turned out, however, God ordained that they should also serve others in a more direct fashion. But this direct and visible service was essentially a consequence of the invisibleservice which they rendered through their prayer."Acquire inward peace", said St. Seraphim, "and a multitude of men aroundyou will find their salvation."

Such is the role of spiritual fatherhood.Establish yourself in God; then you can bring others to His presence. A man must learn to be alone, he must listen in the stillness of his own heart to the wordless speech of the Spirit, and so discover the truth about himself and God. Then his work to others will be a word of power, because it is a word out of silence.What Nikos Kazantzakis said of the almond tree is true also of the starets:"I said to the almond tree, 'Sister, speak to me of God,' And the almondtree blossomed."Shaped by the encounter with God in solitude, the starets is able to healby his very presence. He guides and forms others, not primarily by words ofadvice, but by his companionship, by the living and specific example whichhe setsin a word, by blossoming like the almond tree. He teaches as much by his silence as by his speech. "Abba Theophilus the Archbishop once visited Scetis, and when the brethren had assembled they said to Abba Pambo,'Speak a word to the Pope that he may be edified.' The Old Man said to them,"if he is not edified by my silence, neither will be he edified by my speech.'" [8]
A story with the same moral is told of St. Antony. "It was the custom of three Fathers to visit the Blessed Antony once each year, and two of them used to ask him questions about their thoughts (logismoi) and the salvation of their soul; but the third remained completely silent, withoutputting any questions. After a long while, Abba Antony said to him, 'See, you have been in the habit of coming to me all this time, and yet you do not ask me any questions'. And the other replied, 'Father, it is enough for me just to look at you.'" [9]

The real journey of the starets is not spatially into the desert, but spiritually into the heart. External solitude, while helpful, is not indispensable, and a man may learn to stand alone before God, while yet continuing to pursue a life of active service in the midst of society. St. Antony of Egypt was told that a doctor in, Alexandria was his equal in spiritual achievement: "In the city there is someone like you, a doctor by profession, whogives all his money to the needy, and the whole day long he sings the Thrice-Holy Hymn with the angels." [10] We are not told how this revelation came to Antony, nor what was the name of the doctor, but one thing is clear.
Unceasing: prayer of the heart is no monopoly of the solitaries; the mystical and "angelic" life is possible in the city as well as the desert. TheAlexandrian doctor accomplished the inward journey without severing his outwardlinks with the community.

There are also many instances in which flight and return are not sharply distinguished in temporal sequence. Take, for example, the case of St.Seraphim's younger contemporary, Bishop Ignaty Brianchaninov (t1867). Trained originally as an army officer, he was appointed at the early age of twenty-six to take charge of a busy and influential monastery close to St.Petersburg. His own monastic training had lasted little more than four yearsbefore he was placed in a position of authority. After twetity-four years as Abbot,he was consecrated Bishop. Four years later he resigned, to spend the remaining six years of his life as a hermit. Here a period of active pastoral work preceded the period of anachoretic seclusion. When he was made abbot,he must surely have felt gravely ill-prepared. His secret withdrawal into the heart was undertaken continuously during the many years in which headministered a monastery and a diocese; but it did not receive an exterior,expression until the very end of his life. Bishop Ignaty's career [11] may serve as a paradigm to many of us at the present time, although (needless to say) we fall far short of his level of spiritual achievement. Under the pressure of outward circumstances and probably without clearly realizing what is happening to us, we become launched on a career of teaching, preaching, and pastoral counselling, while lacking any deep knowledge of the desert and its creative silence. But through teaching others we ourselves begin to learn. Slowly we recognize our powerlessness to heal the wounds of humanity solely through philanthropic programs,common sense, and psychiatry. Our complacency is broken down, we appreciate our own inadequacy, and start to understand what Christ meant by the "onething that is necessary" (Luke 10:42). That is the moment when we enter upon the path of the starets. Through our pastoral experience, through our anguish over the pain of others,' we are brought to undertake the journey inwards, to ascend the secret ladder of the Kingdom, where alone a genuine solution to the world's problems can be found. No doubt few if any among us would think of ourselves as a starets in the full sense, but provided we seek with humble sincerity to enter into the "secret chamber" of our heart, we can all share to some degree in the grace of the spiritual fatherhood. Perhaps we shall never outwardly lead the life of a monastic recluse or a hermitthat rests with God but what is supremely important is that each should see the need to be a hermit of the heart.

(To be Continued ....)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity -1

This article was shared by Dr. Roy Cherian at ICON . May it be edifying
The Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity-- by Bishop Kallistos Ware

One who climbs a mountain for the first time needs to follow a known route;and he needs to have with him, as companion and guide, someone who hasbeen up before and is familiar with the way. To serve as such a companion and guide is precisely the role of the "Abba" or spiritual father whom theGreeks call "Geron" and the Russians "Starets", a title which in both languages means "old man" or "elder". [1]

The importance of obedience to a Geron is underlined from the first emergence of monasticism in the Christian East. St. Antony of Egypt said: "I know of monks who fell after much toil and lapsed into madness, because they trusted in their own work . . . So far as possible, for every step that a monk takes, for every drop of water that he drinks in his cell, he should entrust the decision to the Old Men, to avoid making some mistake in what he does." [2]

This is a theme constantly emphasized in the Apophthegmata or Sayings ofthe Desert Fathers:"The old Men used to say: 'if you see a young monk climbing up to heaven by his own will, grasp him by the feet and throw him down, for this is to his profit . . . if a man has faith in another and renders himself up to him in full submission, he has no need to attend to the commandment of God, but he needs only to entrust his entire will into the hands of his father.Then he will be blameless before God, for God requires nothing from beginners so much as self-stripping through obedience.'" [3]

This figure of the Starets, so prominent in the first generations of Egyptian monasticism, has retained its full significance up to the present day in Orthodox Christendom. "There is one thing more important than all possible books and ideas", states a Russian layman of the 19th Century, the Slavophile Kireyevsky, "and that is the example of an Orthodox Starets, before whom you can lay each of your thoughts and from whom you can hear, not a more or less valuable private opinion, but the judgement of the Holy Fathers.God be praised, such Startsi have not yet disappeared from our Russia." And a Priest of the Russian emigration in our own century, Fr. Alexander Elchaninov (+ 1934), writes: "Their held of action is unlimited... they are undoubtedly saints, recognized as such by the people. I feel that in our tragic days it is precisely through this means that faith will survive and be strengthened in our country." [4]

The Spiritual Father as a 'Charismatic' Figure What entitles a man to act as a starets? How and by whom is he appointed?To this there is a simple answer. The spiritual father or starets isessentially a 'charismatic' and prophetic figure, accredited for his task by thedirect action of the Holy Spirit. He is ordained, not by the hand of man,but by the hand of God. He is an expression of the Church as "event" or"happening", rather than of the Church as institution. [5]

There is, of course, no sharp line of demarcation between the prophetic and the institutional in the life of the Church; each grows out of the other and is intertwined with it. The ministry of the starets, itself charismatic,is related to a clearly-defined function within the institutional framework of the Church, the office of priest-confessor. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the right to hear confessions is not granted automatically at ordination. Before acting as confessor, a priest requires authorization from his bishop; in the Greek Church, only a minority of the clergy are so authorized.Although the sacrament of confession is certainly an appropriate occasion for spiritual direction, the ministry of the starets is not identical with that of a confessor. The starets gives advice, not only at confession, but on many other occasions; indeed, while the confessor must always be a priest, the starets may be a simple monk, not in holy orders, or a nun, a layman or laywoman. The ministry of the starets is deeper, because only a very few confessor priests would claim to speak with the former's insight and authority.But if the starets is not ordained or appointed by an act of the official hierarchy, how does he come to embark on his ministry? Sometimes an existing starets will designate his own successor. In this way, at certain monastic centers such as Optina in 19th-century Russia, there was established an"apostolic succession" of spiritual masters. In other cases, the starets simply emerges spontaneously, without any act of external authorization. As Elchaninov said, they are "recognized as such by the people". Within the continuing life of the Christian community, it becomes plain to the believing people of God (the true guardian of Holy Tradition) that this or that person has the gift of spiritual fatherhood. Then, in a free and informal fashion,others begin to come to him or her for advice and direction.
It will be noted that the initiative comes, as a rule, not from the master but from the disciples. It would be perilously presumptuous for someone to say in his own heart or to others, "Come and submit yourselves to me; I am a starets, I have the grace of the Spirit." What happens, rather, is that without any claims being made by the starets himself others approach him,seeking his advice or asking to live permanently under his care. At first, he will probably send them away, telling them to consult someone else. Finally the moment comes when he no longer sends them away but accepts their coming to him as a disclosure of the will of God. Thus it is his spiritual children who reveal the starets to himself.

The figure of the starets illustrates the two interpenetrating levels on which the earthly Church exists and functions. On the one hand, there is the external, official, and hierarchial level, with its geographicalorganization into dioceses and parishes, its great centers (Rome,Constantinople,Moscow, and Canterbury), and its "apostolic succession" of bishops. On the other hand, there is the inward, spiritual and "charismatic" level, to whichthe startsi primarily belong. Here the chief centrs are, for the most part,not the great primatial and metropolitan sees, but certain remote hermitages, in which there shine forth a few personalities richly endowed withspiritual gifts. Most startsi have possessed no exalted status in the formal hierarchy of the Church; yet the influence of a simple priest-monk such as St.Seraphim of Sarov has exceeded that of any patriarch or bishop in 19th-century Orthodoxy. In this fashion, alongside the apostolic succession of the episcopate, there exists that of the saints and spiritual men. Both types of succession are essential for the true functioning of the Body of Christ,and it is through their interaction that the life of the Church on earth is accomplished.

(To be continued...)


Monday, November 1, 2010

October 31, 2010- Kodosh Etho Thoughts

1) God created us in His likeness and image.
2) Adam by disobedience caused this world to be fallen and He who cares for us provided us this opportunity to reenter that relationship through the Church.
3) We are baptised and anointed with the Holy Spirit into the Church where the Holy spirit dwells in it's fullness and we reunite to that relationship with God within it.
4) We are to live in genuine repentance approach confession before the priest who is the living image of God and partake of the Holy communion knowing that whatever we are, we are not to despair and doubt His mercy knowing that He is a just judge.
5) Also we are not to be looking at others but look within ourselves our short comings and we are to grow in Holiness together as Church as one body, His body
6) All the fathers who lived in the Church who have lived this have shown us if we are willing to look within the Church, we will know what we each are to do.
7) We out of our unwillingness are the cause of our hell here and we read of the fathers that even at death bed pleading 'Lord have mercy" knowing they need it and without Him nothing is possible

Christ in Us - (From grade V1 Sunday school text Lesson -31)Jesus Christ abides in us.

In HIM we live a new life of the kingdom of God.Through Holy Baptism we are born anew as God's own children and heirs of the Kingdom of God. From a life of death and decay we are raised to anew life that is eternal and imperishable.We are anointed and are made temple of the Holy Spirit, (1 Cor 3:16)who dwells in us, guiding and renewing us, that we might be transformed to the perfect image of God in Jesus Christ.

The purity and holiness that we all aim in Baptism is to be kept till the end of our life.The garment of purity, we are given in Baptism may be stained by the dust and dirt of the world in which we live in. We are living in a world where evil forces work. We must renew ourselves again and again through genuine repentance and confessions. The sacrament of Holy Confession cleanses us of all our sins and re-establishes our broken relationship with God, the Father.The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that we participate in the Holy Eucharist make us abide in Him and He in us (Jn. 6:56)

The sacrament of Holy Matrimony unites man and woman together to form a new little Kingdom of God where they live together in a bond of selfless love and affection, reflecting the great love that the Lord showed toward His beloved Church.Thus the Church, through the sacraments, helps us grow into full stature and maturity in Jesus Christ.

The saints lived the new life of the Kingdom. They were the living presence of God on earth. Their thoughts words and deeds were in conformity with God's will. For them life in the Church and life in the world had no contradictions. They participated in the Holy Sacraments constantly and kept their lives always pure and renewed.They worked for the Church and for the people of the society to which they belonged without any selfish motives. They poured out their lives for others. Their mere presence had a sanctifying influence.Devotion to the Lord and commitment to the uplift of the people of God; this was all their life. These words of St. Paul were quite true in the life of the saints:" Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come."

In Jesus Christ we too have put on a new nature. As God's holy and beloved ones, we have put on the virtues of compassion and kindness,lowliness and meekness, forbearing and forgiveness and above all love that binds everyone with perfect harmony. Anger, wrath, malice,slander, foul talk, all these do not have any place in us. We have put of all these practices of our old nature. Again, among us there is no distinction between man and man in the name of caste, colour or wealth because Christ is all, and in all (Read Col 3:8-12)St. Paul says, " If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God."We are raised with Christ to the new life in the Kingdom. Therefore,our words and deeds should be in accordance with this new life. Every aspect of our life should be holy and sanctified.

For Memorization I Cor 3:16" Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

For furstration on seemingly unanswered prayer

“Therefore be sure that every prayer that is not fulfilled is certainly harmful; but a prayer that is answered is beneficial. The Giver of gifts is just and good and will not leave your prayers unanswered, for in His goodness there is no malice and in His truth there is no envy.”

(St. Ephraim the Syrian)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Remembering the Fathers

One is remembered as a Church Father not because they are infallible with no short comings, but through their actions, words and thoughts, long after they departed this world bring more clarity and could edify others to live out the Orthodox Christian faith.

The Malankara Orthodox Church lists a multitude of Saints and Church fathers in the fifth diptych of it’s Holy Eucharist Service, when the community comes together as ‘Church’ and worship God. The list include the Church Fathers of the past 2000 years outside of India - those who live and declared the common faith of the Orthodox Church, those who particularly had interacted with the Church in India like St. Eldho Mar Baselios, those from Indian origin who taught by example to live out a life of prayer like St. Gregorios of Parumala, the beloved Saint of the Church in India – Vattasheril Gee Varghese Mar Dionysius Thirumeny.

A key point which we often miss out during the worship is that the list is endless – The Diptych ends with these words that we remember and beseech the Lord that prayers of the fathers listed – “... and those before them, and with them, and after them, those who have kept and handed down and entrusted to us the One genuine and undefiled faith” be a refuge to us the Church.
This compel us to remember that that for the Church the Fathers are live, continuing in their prayers, and we join them in our prayers. Also, there is a very serious responsibility entrusted to us - The Fathers have kept, handed down the Orthodox Christian faith and is entrusting to keep and hand it down to others.

A Father of the Malankara Church that comes to my mind today during our own times- exemplary in encouraging one another, strengthening each other to see with our eyes open what our faith entails is the departed Fr. V.C. Samuel of Memory Eternal. Some know him, many don’t, and some might have come across him at Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V._C._Samuel
To me what encouraged me to remember him today was reading this response from his book - ‘An Orthodox Catechism on the Faith and Life of the Church’ on the ‘Need of Divine Economy for Human Salvation ‘
“Man is a creature of God, endowed with creaturely freedom. As a creature, he has a beginning and the possibility of an end. Yet, unlike other creatures, he/she is created to attain eternal life, which God grants. To gain this goal, man is called to live on earth in communion with the Creator and follow His way, using his creaturely autonomy. However, man took advantage of his personal freedom to follow his own plan in life. This led to his fall from the Source of Eternal life, to which he had to be restored. This restoration required an absolute surrender to God on the part of man, which was possible only by God Himself helping man to do it. Therefore the coming together of God the Son and man into union was necessary, and God accomplished it in Jesus Christ”

Lord forgive us and have mercy on us, for while the Fathers knew you and lived You- We have fallen away . Strengthen us to seek you in our lives like the Church Fathers

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Maneeso of St. Severus - An update

Manisa or Maneeso of St. Severus is found as the heading of one of the first songs sung at Holy Qurbana . In Malayalam the hymn starts of like ' Nin Maathave vishudhanmar... ' . For the Malankara Orthodox Christians , We spend so much time in ensuring every one sings together in harmony and do not take time enough to really understand what we are singing about. This song descibes the fundamental faith on ' Who is Jesus Christ ' and it is so fitting that the song is attributed to one of the greatest Church father of the Orthodox Christians that did not see Chalcedon as ecumenical and spent a life time teaching the true faith.
This caught my attention today seeing it at the back of fourth standard Sunday school text book and found from the net that ' Manisa' mean ' Song of Praise '. This is so fitting, for is it not this - 'Sing Praise to God 'that we are to do most when we come together to worship God as Church . I am posting the English translation from the text book and hope this will be edifying.

"By the prayers of your mother who bought you forth and by those of all your saints: My Lord and King! I will magnify You, Only begotton Son, Word of the Heavenly Father, Immortal by nature; who by your grace did come down for the life and redemption of all mankind ,who did become incarnate of the Holy and glorious pure Virgin Mary, Mother of God,and who became man without changing your divinity, and was crucified for us. O Christ our Lord, who by your death did trample down our death and destroy it ,being One among the Holy Trinity, You are worshipped and glorified in the unity of Your Father and your Living Holy Spirit ; Have mercy on us. "

See the parallel in the Coptic Tradition

O only-Begotten Son, and the Word of God, the Immortal, before all ages, Who has accepted everything for our salvation - the Incarnate of the holy Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary.

Who without change became man; Who was crucified; the Christ God, Who has trampled death by His death; The one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us.

Holy God, Who for our sake became man without change, still being God;

Holy Mighty, Who through weakness has shown what is greater than might;

Holy Immortal, Who was crucified for us and endured death upon the Cross in His flesh, still being immortal; O Holy Trinity have mercy upon us.

(Translated by Hegomen Athanasius Iskander)

See the parallel in the Eastern Orthodox tradition , where the prayer is attributed to Emperor Justinian  considered as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox .

Only Begotten Son and Immortal Word of God ,
Who or our salvation didst will to be incarnate of the Holy Theotokos and ever virgin Mary ,
Who without change didst become man and wast crucified, O Christ our God,
Trampling down death by death, Who art one of the Holy Trinity,
Glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us.

  It is proclaimed by Eastern Orthodox that Emperor Justinian  brought this to the to refrain from Nestorianism ( Heresy denying St. Mary  to be known as Theotokos  implying that  Jesus Christ  to be someone less than God). It was almost 100 years before this our beloved Saint  Dioscoros was tortured , deposed because he refused to acknowledge Jesus Christ continuing after his Incarnation in Two Natures - Human and Divine . He refused to accept this as this was exactly to him as the teaching of Nestorius  that was rejected by the Church as a whole and explained by St. Cyril . Also, lest History not forget that our beloved St. Severus was deposed as Patriarch  by Emperor Justinian in AD 518 . Perhaps God had to use Emperor Justinian to see the wisdom much later to see the truth that St. Severus and St. Dioscoros  was openly proclaiming the truth that Nestorianism had crept in their tradition.

See note below from Wikipedia on how the Church still proclaim and refuse Nestorianism

"... explained the union between the divine and human natures of Christ as "inward and real without any division, change, or confusion." He rejected the Antiochene theory of "indwelling,", or "conjunction" or "close participation," as insufficient. Thus the Alexandrian formula adopted by Cyril and Dioscorus was "one nature of God the Word Incarnate," which translates into Greek as mia physis tou theou logou sesarkomene, by which Cyril meant "one nature"—that Christ is at once God and man. On the other hand, the Antiochene formula was "two natures after the union," or "in two natures," which translates to dyo physis. This formula explained Christ as existing in two natures, God and man. Nestorius was condemned and deposed by the First Council of Ephesus, which approved of the Second Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius.He succeeded Cyril as Patriarch of Alexandria in 444.[2] ."

As we come closer to another Passion week, may we remember  pay attention and journey to Pascha seeking His mercy and cry out together Christ is  Risen ! , Indeed He is Risen !! . The Lord has been merciful and though the differences are being reconciled among hierarchs and teachers  from the Orthodox Christian traditions ( Eastern Orthodox and us labelled as Oriental Orthodox ) , In Calgary, Canada where the Lord has brought us  to pay attention for the first time melodiously in plain English  at an Eastern Orthodox tradition - ' Christ has risen from the dead trampling down death by death and today '

Calgary, Canada
March 15, 2016

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Books on Shelves!!!!

"The fathers...kept the commandments; their successors wrote them down; but we have placed their books on the shelves. And even if we want to read them, we do not have the application to understand what is said and to put it into practice; we read them either as something incidental, or because we think that by reading them we are doing something great, thus growing full of pride. We do not realize that we incur greater condemnation if we do not put into practice what we read..."
St. Peter of Damaskos

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Feast of Pentecost - May 23, 2010

With the feast of Pentecost .
In the scripture, every single one who have been baptized are saints .To this sainthood are we called . Christians should take up the challenge to live in obedience to the Spirit. ( HG Mar Ivanios , Kottayam)

Read the message of our Bishop - http://www.ds-wa.org/thirumenis-message.htmlScripture

Readings - : ◦Evening ■St. John14:15-31 ◦Morning ■St. John 15: 20 -25
◦Before Holy Qurbana ■Numbers11: 16 - 35 ■I Samuel 10:9-15 ■II Kings 2:14 -17 , 12: 1-27 ■Ezekiel 11: 17-20, 36: 25 - 27 ■Isaiah42: 1- 27 ◦
Holy Qurbana ■Acts 2: 1-13 ■Galatians5 : 16 - 26 ■St. John 15: 1 - 14

◦Service of the First kneeling ■Genesis11: 1-9 ■II Kings 2 ; 14 - 17 ■Acts 19:1-7 ■I Corinthians 14: 20-25 ■St. John14: 1-17
◦Service of the Second Kneeling ■Ezekiel 37: 1 - 14 ■Joel2:25-32 ■Acts10: 34 - 48 ■I Corinthians 12: 12 - 27 ■St. John 14: 25 - 31
◦Service of the Third Kneeling ■Judges13 : 24- 14: 7 ■Ezekiel 47: 1-12 ■Isaiah47: 1- 1 ■Acts 2: 1-21 ■I Corinthians 14: 20 - 33 ■St. John 16: 1 - 15

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Towards a direction

I remember today my grandmother , Mariamma Varghese, of eternal memory ,of her praying the 7 times daily prayer , of her continuing perserverence of keeping the Lents and fasts by living the life of the Church day by day each year of her life.

As I think of her today , the question comes to mind on what kept her going day by day, while for me it is an anticipation that on the coming Monday , Holy Lent begin ,and I must try to keep away from what binds me during this Lenten period.

I regret not getting the answer from her while growing up ,but think for her was not the goal of getting to heaven after this life ,but an attempt to a Christ centred life, right here ,begining here by focusing and living it out by what the Church taught .

I pray that strengthened by the faith that the fathers and mothers departed this life , each of us instead of thinking of what we will be after 50 days of Lent , begin the journey in the direction a direction oriented on our Lord and God Jesus Christ knowing that He is the Way and in Him is the journey of the Church and each of us .

May God bless you