Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Honour Her - Mary , Mother of God Full of Grace

We remember specially the falling asleep of Mary , Mother of God on the Feast of Dormition together with the Church all over - August 15 in Gregorian calendar.  see links by Rincy  Raju to read on the feast




The tradition of the Girdle of St. Mary  given to St. Thomas  is so dear and found in the various hymns of the Church  and recorded in the Synaxarium within Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christian traditions.  See how it is noted  in the hymn after the Gospel is heard on the Feast of Dormition in our tradition . ( Translation as in living sacrifice prayer book)

"1. St. Thomas told me how he reached Jerusalem from India . When praying the Holy Spirit asked to go to take part in the burial of the Mother of God. A cloud came and brought me here . I saw angels, carrying the dead body of the mother to Heaven . I pleaded to stop. Let me get the blessings from that Holy body. Angels stopped and bowed. I was given the towel and girdle as a witness to the coming of Paradise of Eden. I sing songs of praise along with angels of God who allowed to  celebrate the day of Dormition in earth and heaven.

2. St. Thomas spoke to the other disciples seen near the tomb of St, Mary in Gethsamen. He asked to open the tomb to receive blessings along with them. When opened the did not find the body there. They wondered when the disciples showed the place where her body was placed, St. Thomas showed the towel and girdle o the mother and said that she reached heaven. The Lord who honored the Dormition of His mother is praiseworthy. "

It is believed that the Tomb of St. Thomas who was buried in Mylapur in India held the girdle of  St. Mary and was moved along with the bones of St. Thomas . Tradition has its relics in Homs , Syria and in Mount Athos.

We typically fast on Dormition Lent and on every Wednesday as well  as have these as the feast days called to commemorate.

  • January 15: Feast of the Virgin of the Sowing.
  • March 25:  Dormition of the Virgin Mary.
  • May 15: Feast of the Virgin Mary of the Harvest.
  • August 15: Assumption of the Virgin Mary .
  • September 8: Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
  • December 26: Glorification of the Mother of God

  • On the feasts , It is interesting  that Syrian Orthodox Church has these  feasts  , which is not found in other traditions  -  January 15 as feast for sowing, May 15 as feast for harvest and August 15 as the feast for vine.  Through the mercy of God because of our interaction with the Syrians Church , the Indian Church adopted  them as well.

    The special song for commemorating Mother Mary at the end of the Holy Qurbana in Indian Church showed the history of these feasts to be coming to the Syrian Church through St. John the Apostle . Remember we know St. John lived in Ephesus and ...to whom Mother Mary was bestowed by our Lord and God Jesus Christ. See the translation from Malayalam in English

     'John the Apostle when he came to Ephesus brought a book written about the Virgin Mother. In it, it is asked to celebrate three feasts every year to remember the blessed lady. - To remember the spike of corn in the month of Edavam ,to remember the seed in the month of Makram , to remember grapes in the month of Children. Let her prayers be our refuge.'

    In all through eternity the Lord  Honors her , while the Church  too will continue to praise and seek the intercession of Mary, Mother of God.  May the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour save us through the prayer of His Mother Mary the Holy Theotokos as we too remember her on this day

    August 15, 2017

    Saturday, August 12, 2017

    Re -Affirmation after new Supreme Court Verdict - Constitutional and Mind Set Change

    I had shared this from 2000 and more strongly across ICON discussion group in 2003 when the court cases was being so much discussed , that the Church not become Nationalistic under the lawyers or under fanatical Petrine Supremacy mentality that the evil one sowed into our hearts. I felt it is fitting at this occasion to re- affirm in 2017 .  .
    "The Catholicate is the Autonomous and Autocephalous Body of Christ , Re-established in 1912 at India , The primary Church as one of the 6 in the Oriental Orthodox Commune (Others in this commune- Syrian, Ethiopian , Eritrean , Armenian and Coptic) ,the potential and possibility of being witness of Christ . It should not be allowed ,because of the help the Syrian Church came and it was added as a compromise to the 1934 Constitution for peace ,be a stumbling block to the real challenge facing the Catholicate .

    Let us pray that the Church will take  out these two clauses - 1.  'The Malankara Church is a division of the Orthodox Syrian Church. The Primate of the Orthodox Syrian Church is the Patriarch of Antioch.' as well as
    2. ' The Malankara Church was founded by St.Thomas the Apostle and is included in the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East and the Primate of the Orthodox Syrian Church of the East is the Catholicos.

    and replace with a new Canon that will supersede the statement in Constitution or replace Constitution with this:

    ' The Malankara (Indian ) Orthodox Church , established by our Lord and God Jesus Christ  through St. Thomas in India in AD 52 ,is an Orthodox Christian Church and its Catholicate re-established  in 1912 in the Oriental Orthodox Christian commune. The Head of the Church and its Catholicate is Jesus Christ and guiding its members in living out its Orthodox Christian faith through Temporal and Spiritual leadership and guidance in is entrusted as Stewards primarily to its Primate the Catholicos of the East and its Synodical Bishops in conjunction with its Malankara Association Managing committee '
    When we have this clause out , Then we will see if the Catholicate can and will fully trust in God . We will also see if real Oriental Orthodox Christian Unity exist  and if we really care for it , for we have seen in North America neither the Bishops of the Catholicate and the others in Commune had no issues that we are not included in SCOOCH - Standing Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches as a member and we are not participating  in its activities.  The Church as always had to make a stand .  Our Fathers showed us this and let us continue .

    Let us week and cry out -'May the Catholicate be sustained through the Mercy of our Lord nd the prayers of Mary the Mother of God and the Saints' . ' Guide us O Lord , Come to our Help , Teach us to live out and stand up for your faith .'

    George Varghese
    Calgary, Canada
    August 12, 2017

    P.s Having said this , to avoid irresponsible accusation in future ,be they Bishops or Priests might come out and claim this post as one sided , Please read this in conjunction with various posts in this blog and not this in isolation and that this is the voice of a lay man with many many short comings.
    See as an example related post


    Friday, August 4, 2017

    An old article on Feast of Transfiguration by Rambachen Fr. M.S Skariah of Memory Eternal

    Feast of Transfiguration - Manifestation of Divine Nature
    Matthew 17: 1-8, Mark 9: 2-8, Luke 9: 27-36

    (Rev. M.S. Sakariah Ramban, Delhi)

    In August, our church has two important feasts.
    On August 6th the feast of  Transfiguration and on August 15th the Ascension (Dormition) of the Mother of God. In the third year of His ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ spoke more frequent to His disciples about His Passion, but related it always with His glory and His suffering on the Cross. That His expected suffering should not utterly shatter His disciples, so that they fall away from Him, He  decided to reveal to them, before His passion, something of His divine glory.

    The Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke narrate that event. Our Lord went up a mountain with His three disciples : Peter, James and John. These there disciples were the witnesses in some of the most important events in the life of our Lord. On the mountain our Lord began to pray. And as He was praying, He was transfigured. The Evangelists narrate this event with vivid expressions. Luke says "as He prayed, the appearance of His face altered, and His robe, became white and glistening" (9:29). Mark says, " His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them"  (9: 3). This means that His dress was intensively white. Matthew writes, "His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as the light? (17:2.) He revealed to them radiant in glory and splendour.

    According to the tradition, this incident took place on the Mount Tabor. But the Gospels do not give the name of the place. But simply say that " a high mountain". Luke given an interesting expression:- "as He was praying" Jesus was transfigured-or He was seen in an intense light. What does it mean? Church Fathers say that Our Lord was revealing the destiny of human  beings, the goal of our Christian life. In the Bible, light or whiteness is the symbol of the presence of God, goodness ! Light is almost always associated with God or the divine revelation. When God is present in our life, when the spirit of God abides in us, we are transfigured, we become source of light for others. Through this incident, our Lord was revealing that our destiny is to attain light, whiteness " glory. God is light and source of light. He is the One who dwells in light unapproachable, and who is, in the Psalmist's words, in Your light we see light(36:9). The shining clouds, reflecting light and yet concealing, were for the Ancient Hebrews the Shekinah, the symbol of God's glory. For a brief moment the disciples saw the light of God shining through Him. As St. John wrote in the prologue to his Gospel: " In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it' (1:4-5). For this reason we confess in the Creed Christ as "God from God" and "Light from Light" .

    The goal of our life is for this light, the goodness, the purity, the sinlessness. In the coming world we will attain this condition. St. Paul as convinced of it. He wrote in 1Cor 15: 51-54. It was this life of the coming world which was revealed in the transfiguration of Christ. In the Book of Revelation St. John speaks of this life - Life in light; Revelation Chapter 7, St. John saw the heaven opened before him; he saw the throne of Christ, thousands and thousands of people standing before the throne clothed in white robes and glorifying Christ. We are called to this heavenly worship - Clothed in white robes. All our worship, our prayers, sacraments and spiritual activities have one goal - To prepare us for that life of light, life of glory, life of purity, life filled with God.

    None of the Resurrection appearances of our Lord seems to have impressed the apostles with quite the same celestial glory as the experience of transfiguration. The light shining forth upon Tabore is divine light of revelation - No more symbol or fantasy, but the presence of God Himself. Way back in Exodus, Moses had encountered the Divine presence at the burning bush in Sinai, which was in flames but not consumed. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. The three young Jews, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, at the court of the king of Babylon, who were thrown into the burning fiery furnace for refusing to worship false gods, were protected by the divine presence amidst the flames. The same presence is manifested in the light of Transfiguration.

    Moses and Elijah, the great prophets of the Old Testaments appeared beside our Lord and talked Him. Both of them had the experience of light in their life, when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai his face shone and the people of Israel could not look at his face. Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariots of fire. The disciples saw them talking to Jesus. Luke writes on the subject of their conversation - the suffering of Jesus in Jerusalem.
    Why did Moses and Elijah appear?. To shatter the Jewish fallacy that Christ was one of the prophets - Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the others. This was why He revealed Himself as King over the prophets and Moses and Elijah appeared as His servants. Talking with Christ, Moses and Elijah showed that He is Lord of both the living and the dead, and God who spoke of old through the Law and the Prophets.

    Why did our Lord take only three disciples with Him to Mt. Tabore, and not all of them? According to one interpretation, Judas was not worthy to behold the divine glory of the Master whom he was to betray, and the Lord did not want to leave him alone at the foot of the mountain. Another interpretation upholds that God Himself had given the Law through Moses: "At the mouth of two witnesses or.of three, shall the matter be established"
    (Deut. 19:15). Three witnesses were, then, enough. There was, though, a special reason for choosing these three disciples. The three of them represented the three chief virtues: Peter-faith, for he was the first to proclaim his faith in Christ as the God; James-hope, for it was with hope in  the promise of Christ that he was the first to lay down his life for the Lord, being the first martyred; John-love, for stayed beneath the Lord's Cross till the end.

    Why was He transfigured on the mountain and not in the valley? That He might teach us two virtues: love of toil and pondering on God. To climb to the heights involves toil, and the heights represent the heights of our thoughts: pondering on God. Why was He transfigured at night? Because the night is more fitted to prayer and meditation than the day, and because the night covers all earthly beauty with darkness and reveals the beauty of the starry heavens.

    Our Lord had many times shown His divine power to His disciples, but on Tabore He showed them His divine nature. This vision of His divinity and the hearing of the heavenly witness to Him as the Son of God must have been of support to the disciples in the days of the Lord's suffering, for the strengthening of a steadfast faith in Him and His final victory.

    For Orthodox Christians, the feast of transfiguration plays a much wider theological role than the Western Christians. It is the promise and foretaste of our weak and sinful human nature is to be purified by the divine fire and irradiated with the eternal light. We are summoned to share  in the community life of the most Holy Trinity. O ! let us who love to see and hear things past understanding, mystically behold Christ shine as lightening with the rays of divine splendour, and let us make the Father's voice resound, who proclaimed His as His well loved Son. On Mount Tabor He makes bright the weakness of man and bestows enlightenment upon our souls !.
    (Greek Orthodox church Vespers)

    The Divine glory revealed in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ, was none  other than love, a love that is the Spirit of living God poured into our hearts that we may be transformed, transfigured into the likeness of God.

    Monday, July 24, 2017

    An old Article by Rambachan Fr. M.S Skariah on Denaha - Epiphany- Theophany

    Denaha - Epiphany- Theophany

    Fr. M.S. Skariah, Abu Dhabi.,( January 2003  ICON Posting)

    The festival of Epiphany falls on the thirteenth day after Christmas every  year. It is on 6th January for all who observe Christmas on 25th December  and on 19th January for those who observe Christmas on 7th January every  year. The word Epiphany originates from the Greek word Epiphanco, which  means to shine/to illuminate.
    In Syriac it is known as Denaha, which also means to shine. The Orthodox tradition and faith prefer to name it as  Theophany.

    In the western Theology Epiphany commemorate the arrival of the three wise  men from the East at the time of the incarnation of our Saviour Lord Jesus  Christ. In the Eastern tradition, it is the celebration of our Lord's  baptism in the river Jordan. Epiphany is marked by a distinctive ceremony of  the great blessing of water. Christ's baptism at the hands of John the  Baptist is seen as anticipation of our own baptisms and is given at the same  time a cosmic significance: saviour, himself sinless enters the streams of  river Jordan, thereby cleansing the water and so imparting Grace and  redemption to the entire mankind and material creation.

    St. Cyril of Jerusalem says: " In the beginning of the world we find water  and in the beginning of gospel we find the water of river Jordan".
    At the  baptism of our Lord in the water, that mystery that God is Trinity in nature  was revealed to the world that which was predicted in the Old Testament and fabled in ancient Egyptian and Indian civilizations.

    Water, in the Holy  Bible, as in the Indian and other traditions, is a symbol of God's life  giving, purifying, thirst slaking and cleansing functions. It is being used  in the Holy Bible as a means of God's vivifying power. Many chapters of the Holy Bible are dedicated to explain how water has become the means; the  occasion of His Grace outpoured on humanity. Our Lord Jesus Christ made the  church cleanse by washing her in water so that she would be glorious, with  no wrinkles but pure and holy. It is for a bath of regeneration. St. John  the Baptist used the water of Jordan, which had formerly cleansed Naaman the  Leper. (2 Kings 5:10-14)

    In the Hindu tradition it is always through water a  man feels that he is purified. May the waters, the mothers, purify us (Tait Samlita 1:21) and again "Hail to you, divine unfathomable, all  purifying waters" (T.Ts 1:2-3) In the Rig Vedic Hymn (VII.49) to the divine  waters, if possible to find a prefiguring of Lord Jesus in the waters: In  the midst of waters, the Lord is moving surveying men's truths and men's  lies. How sweet are these waters, crystal clear and cleaning. Now may these
    divine waters quicken me" (v.3)

    The significance of Christ's Baptism- why was Christ Baptized?

    The waters of Jordan were to be the venue of an introduction to Christ's  public ministry. A beginning for a beginning. His baptism in the Jordan is a  manifestation of God to the word. To reveal Him to Israel that I come  baptizing with water. (St. John 1:31) St. John the Baptist recognized Him-
    Him whom the world did not recognize (St. John 1:15) for He was sent to  baptize with water had said to me "you will see the Spirit come down and  stay on man, he is the one who baptize with the Holy Spirit". (V-33)

    (a) For the sake of sinful Humanity.

    Our baptism is for the remission of our sins as we confess in the Creed. (We  confess that Baptism for the remission of our sins is only once) In Baptism  we are purified and cleansed a sinless with an eligibility to enter the  kingdom of God as a member of the body of Christ. But what need had Christ
    who is sinless to undergo Baptism in the river Jordan? Though he is God, He  needs no cleansing, yet for the sake of fallen Humanity He is cleansed in  the Jordan. (Remember the testimony of St. John the Baptist about our Lord -"He is the lamb who bears the sins of the world")
    In reality it was not  Christ who is cleansed in the Jordan, but us. Our Lord assumed a  representation at His incarnation and became the New Adam, summing up the  whole human race in Him as the first Adam summed up and contained all  mankind in him at the fall. He was cleansed for humanity's sin as on the  Cross-. He suffered and died for the sins of the entire humanity. Our  Lord's baptism is continuation of His salvic act commenced with His Incarnation.
    We pray in the Epiphany prayer (Ethro - the prayer with incense):"Come, you Holy Church, and worship the only begotten God who came and  redeemed thee by His Baptism and sanctified the baptismal font for you"

    Friday, February 17, 2017

    Sunday of all Departed faithful

    In every Liturgical year , We enter into the Holy Lent  not alone but with a whole congregation . May the prayers of Saint Severus , Mother Mary and All the  Saints -  Priests and  Faithful the Departed and in Earth amongst us lead us as we enter into yet another Holy Lent in 2017.

    Primary purpose of prayer is to offer praise and adoration to our Lord. Infact, when we do request anything from God, our main request is mercy. We bessech Christ for mercy and compassion for the sins that we have commited against Him. However , the prayers are not just about repentance , but communion with God. In our communion with God , we are also brought into communion with those who loved God through out their life: the Saints and Faithful Departed , as well as our Faithful brethren on this earth. So Prayer , while being personal , is not independent. Prayer for the Orthodox Christians is personal, yet communal.

    Short introduction from Church School  Grade 12 textbook  - Lesson 9

    Evening : St.Matthew25:31-46 Morning :St.John5:19-29

    Before Holy Qurbana
    Deuteronomy 34:1-12 

    Holy Qurbana

    Scripture Readings from Church Lectionary.


     February 19, 2017

    Friday, January 20, 2017

    Homily Notes - 3rd Week after Danaha Perunaal

    From 2003 onwards , ICON discussion group have tried to post notes on homilies for the upcoming Sunday Liturgy or Feast day . This week, It was an old repost from one of our Deacon Daniel Mathai who has been serving  for many  years with HG Nicholovas  in our North East Diocese . Shared here with prayer it edify and help us as we go to upcoming liturgy in our respective parishes.
    January 20, 2016
    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, One God forever Amen +

    On the 3rd Sunday after Theophany, the Church reads to us the Gospel of St. John 3:1-12.
    This passage invites us the faithful, to participate in a conversation between Nicodemus, a member of the Pharisees, and Jesus.

    During this conversation at night, we see Nicodemus sitting in a state of confusion by one of the most profound theological mysteries spoken by the Lord – the regeneration of man through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

    Christ tries to offer an explanation to Nicodemus, however, the ignorance of Nicodemus causes him to be deaf to the words of the Lord and he remains ‘in the dark'. Nicodemus is indeed a biblical character however; the character in this passage is none other than ourselves.

    Many of us often sit in the darkness of our own ignorance, specifically in relation to our Faith in Christ and being active members in His Body – The Church. As many times we may or may not be willing to admit, we remain in a state of ignorance or darkness like Nicodemus, by our refusal to acknowledge or participate in that Truth offered to us by Christ.

    About one month ago we celebrated and participated in the Incarnation of Truth – Christ our God. Churches were filled beyond capacity as they invited Her faithful to have this precious Messiah be born in our hearts and have Him shine through the darkness of this world through our words, deeds and ultimately with our entire lives.

    We participated in the ‘Thejwala Sushroosha’, where we chanted the very hymn of the Angelic Hosts, to the God who destroys all darkness. Hopefully we were engulfed in that glorious light of Christ who inspires us to change our ways and not to be confused in dark ignorant state like Nicodemus. What a wonderful Truth!

    More that two weeks ago the Church invited us to come to the river Jordan and participate in the Feast of Theophany or Denaha. We participated and experienced through those divine services, Truth Himself – Christ, who was revealed to Israel as the Messiah. The Church prayed that her faithful may confess the same words of St. John the Baptist – ‘…I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God’ (St. John 1:34). Just as the world was illumined on this Feast, by the Light of lights - Christ, we too were hopefully illumined from our confused and ignorant state of darkness as Nicodemus was in. What a wonderful Truth!

    What a wonderful Truth indeed! Our souls rejoiced at Truth offered to us on those two glorious Feasts of the Orthodox Christian Church, but, where is this Truth now, specifically in our lives? Have we left Truth in the Manger of Bethlehem or in river Jordan?

    St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Do not deceive yourselves...” (1 Corinthians 3:18). How many times have we deceived ourselves by offering promises on Christmas that we will come more often to Church? How many times have we offered resolutions or promises to God in the spirit of the holy days that we will pray more, fast more, confess our sins, read the Holy Scriptures more, tithe more – all divine acts of virtue which help us on the continuous journey of being ‘born in the Spirit’?

    Have we become ignorant or numb, to the words of Christ? This sermon is not to make one feel like there is no hope, because there is hope. Hope however does not lie in our own ignorance; it lies in the virtue of humility. It is in the virtue of humility that we are able to be born again in the Spirit. It is the virtue of humility that brings us before God and it is His Spirit that inspires us to confess our ignorance and the horrible fruits of it.

    It is through this virtue of humility Nicodemus is able to comprehend the words of the Lord and not remain in his own Pharisaical shadow of ignorance. It is through this virtue of humility, this ignorant Pharisee dies and resurrects to as one of the most celebrated saints of Christendom.

    Through his saintly example, let us not die in ignorance, but rather live up to our baptismal promise every day – to be born and to live in the Spirit, for the salvation of our souls!
    -Dn. Daniel Mathai (Dennis)

    Wednesday, January 4, 2017

    Philosophies and a Cry

    Today I stand to request even beg to to Clergy and those within Church not to take so much from the world ,other philosophies and so much intellectualism and bring it to the Church . 

    Orthodox Christianity that has been shown by our Fathers primarily as simple and they have stressed the need to make it a matter of heart and not so much a matter of the head . 

    It is true in time the Fathers of the Church ex: ApologIists fathers had to step up intellectually to explain to those within the Church the heretical teachings that crept in from members of the Church using philosophies . Unlike the modernist approach to search these philosophies out , the Apologist fathers were very particularly to highlight that this was for those in the Church and the intention was to help those within the Church to not lose their faith and real perception of our Lord and our Encounter with Him.

    In my mind if we don't listen to these and curtain ourselves from indulging in these philosophies, we will be on a quick and speedy path to disaster and stand ashamed before the question raised by our Lord in St. Luke " When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith ?"

    While the posting was done in haste , Please keep in Prayer and in His mercy enlighten us as we approach to commemorate the Theophany of our Lord

    January 4, 2017
    Calgary, Canada