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FOCUS April 2018 Vol. 6 No: 2
Prayer: Elixir of the Soul, Acharya Sachidananda Bharathi, Ernakulam – Page 17
Cover Photo: Prayer (Source Internet)
A Publication of Diaspora FOCUS Aspects of the Prayer Movement in India, A Personal Account, Dr. M. A. Raju, India – Page 18
Editorial, A Life of Prayer-Underneath is the Everlasting Arms, Rev. Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam - Page 3
Urslem Yaatra Vivranam: An Alternate Reading, Rev. Dr. Valson Thampu, Trivandrum – Page 20
Lord Teach us to Pray, Revd Dr. Valson Thampu, Trivandrum – Page 6
A Blue Print of Lord’s Prayer, Rev. Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam – Page 24 The Power of Prayer, David Brand, Harrow Weald, – Page 10
The Liturgy of St. James and Its Importance in the Christendom, Rev. Jameson Pallikunnil – Page 12
Church – A Praying Community, Rev. Dr. Abraham Athyal, Kerala - Page 25
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EDITORIAL A Life of Prayer-Underneath is the Everlasting Arms
It is not possible to define prayer as it is a deep awareness of the Divine in our DAILY LIFE of happiness and sufferings. “A prayer-centred life” is the longing of the heart for divine intervention in life as illustrated in the Philokalia, the age-old classic book of meditations. So also the same is found in the book, Prayers of life, by Michel Quoist (1963). This is true in several prayers of world religions as found in the book under the title Temple Bells compiled by Bishop Appasamy of India. Life is meant to be lived for others so as to find ourselves in the pilgrimage of life. In the words of Abbe Quoist, “. . . it is not falling that is the worst; but staying on the ground.” A prayer from the cave of the heart will help us to get up with the power from above. Genuine prayer is meant for the transformation of life and it brings to our mind quite a few life-centered questions such as whether the Divine has heard me, and whether I have made a resolution to become “eyes to the blind and feet to the lame; a father to the needy and championed the cause of the stranger and broke the fangs of the unrighteous and made them drop their prey from their teeth” (Job.29:15-17). To put it in a nutshell, genuine prayer is to prepare ourselves individually and collectively “for doing God’s will on earth” as we find it in the Lord’s Prayer. The will of God is to be fulfilled “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt.6:910). The will of the Father, the Creator parent, is to establish His Kingdom in God’s world. This is well stated in the Notre Pere and it makes the prayer universal. For everyone doing the will of God is “good and acceptable” (Rom.12:1) because the availability of the power from above is always a divine possibility through our utterance of Kyrie eleison. In Heb.4:16, we have the divine assurance to draw near to the throne of grace through prayer and supplication so that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need. This is well stated in Jer.29:11-13. It has been widely held by scientific research on meditation that brain circuits important for the regulation of attention and emotion can be altered by meditation practice (Richard Davidson, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin, Madison). Meditation is a form of prayer and it makes a lament for a divine response when the heart utters, “lord, it is dark; Lord, are you here in my darkness!”(Quoist). “It takes one to the innermost recess of interior centre as well as to the heights of
heaven.” “It takes the humankind into the depths of mind for a glimpse of the ultimate.” The Church is thus called upon to continue its priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry and to bear witness to the presence of the Kingdom-justice of God - in God’s world through prayer, meditation and other spiritual exercises. A Bible study included in the present issue takes care of this radical concern of the Church. The rule of God is the restoration of justice in human heart across any divide and a call from the beyond to build up the quality of life for all. The purpose is to have the visibility of “the full stature of Christ” (Eph.4:13) in God’s one world. For this, giving thanks to God is the first step. Ps.139:7-10 and Ps.136:1-9 urges us to shout with joy along with the Psalmist in 100:5, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” The Great hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness God my father” is indeed an affirmation of life. The hymn, which Mahatma Gandhi liked to sing, “Lead Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom” is indeed a prayer song to keep our feet strong in the pilgrimage of life. Our prayers whether liturgical or otherwise should enable us to bow our knees before the creator. The cosmic Christ thus becomes the centre of gravity and any genuine prayer addressed in the name of God/Christ becomes Theo-centric. The legacy of the Eastern Eucharistic liturgy is its Theocentric moorings. This is well stated in the Eucharistic prayer of St. James Liturgy where we pray after the First Blessing, “. . . who is adored by the heavenly host; Sun and moon and all the stars; the earth and seas and all that dwell there; Angels and archangels, thrones and powers, Cherubim and Seraphim..., ever proclaiming, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” The Trinitarian blessings in the liturgy confirm this. (See A Diary of Private Prayer, 1980 by John Baillie) The theme of the 9th and the 10th Assemblies of the WCC (“God in your grace, transform the world” and “God of life, lead us to justice and peace” respectively) make a universal cry of the Spirit of Christ for the establishment of God’s will on earth. The message of the Assemblies was a plea for doing God’s will on earth. What happens on earth pleases God in the heaven. The Ecumenical vision in the Lord’s Prayer addressed to God as “Our Father” is indeed a universal celebration of “one life” in God’s world. The theme chosen for the Week of Prayer-2018, “your right hand Lord, glorious in power” elaborates this. The Lord’s Prayer carries its ecumenical and ecological overtones as it is concerned with the whole Oikoumene. In all humility, I would like to make a
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reference to my book Aroma of Christ which has been translated into German under the title, Geben Und Emphangen (1978). This is a book of poetic meditations and prayers I wrote during my brief sojourn in Israel during 1973-1975. In its preface, Prof. Dr. J. J. Von Allmen (Switzerland), former rector of Ecumenical Institute, Tantur, Jerusalem wrote: “…M. J. Joseph’s meditations will ask any of its readers a very deep and important question: - whatever their reactions to the poems may be – are you also profoundly enamored by the joy of the Gospel that you too cannot think of anything which would not be allusive to Jesus Christ and the Mystery of Salvation in and through Him.” Thus in Christian prayer, there is a twin blending of the horizontal and vertical dimensions of life as we read in the classic prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. To quote, “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine master, . . . it is in giving that we get; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life”. Yes, when we love one another (truly a form of prayer), our Father is acting within us”(See Simply Surrender by Therese of Lisieux). The article” A prayer-centered life” takes care of this point further. We should remember that our Father does not inspire us to do what cannot be done. All through the day, we need to ask humbly to our Father to instruct us in the secrets of His love. (see Prayers with Bible Readings for Forty Mornings and Evenings, by William Barclay) This is probably what St. Paul speaks about praying without ceasing. God’s mercy is our strength. We humans must remember as St. Augustine reminds us: “Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” The prayer life of Brother Lawrence is also a reminder to us. The deep longing of the heart is well stated in the Upanishad chant “Lead me from unreal to real; from darkness to life and from death to immortality.” The Divine acceptance of the prayer offered in the purity of heart is well sated in the Bhagavad Gita IX, vs.26: “Whosoever shall offer me a leaf, a flower, a fruit and water in the spirit of devotion and purity of mind, that offering, I accept.” In the prayer of Das Hammarskjold – “Give us a pure heart that we may see Thee, a humble heart that we may hear Thee, a heart of love that we may serve Thee, a heart of faith that we may live Thee.” – One may notice a daily enactment of divine love. The noble words of Jesus in Matt.5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” – Carry the spirit of true prayer as find in the book of meditation, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (The first book): -”Strengthen me, O God, by
the grace of Thy Holy Spirit.” This is indeed a prayer of Serenity. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference” (Reinhold Niebuhr). A man of prayer should be a man of action in the true spirit of wisdom. (cf. 1 King.17)
In an age of “Prayers for sale”, we need to remind ourselves about the teaching of Jesus concerning prayer as we find in St. Matt. 6: 5-7. No doubt, we simply carry much extra-luggage in our corporate and individual worship services. Our loud recital of liturgical prayers and singing of songs from the worshipping places have become sources for noise pollution. It is indeed sad that there is no serious attempt to curb this trend. Noise pollution is an ecological sin. In Christian prayer, whether corporate or individual, God’s gift of new humanity in Christ should be affirmed. This is well stated in a WCC prayer which is quoted below: “Almighty God, as your son was born in a Hebrew mother, but rejoiced in the faith of a Roman soldier, welcomed Greeks who sought him and suffered a man from Africa to carry his cross, so teach us to regard the members of all races as fellow heirs of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, our Lord” Amen. Such a theological
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perspective on prayer helps us to search for a mission paradigm as we find in Is. 54:3: “Enlarge the place of your tent and let the curtains of your habituations be stretched out. . .” The prayer of Jabez carries a personal and corporate mission paradigm: “Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory. God granted him what he requested” (I Chron.4:10). It is time for us to search for a mission paradigm in our corporate worship services. The Eco-liturgy what is included in this volume of FOCUS is indeed a reminder for us to pray for peace with nature. As ecology is a matter of faith, its inclusion in our liturgical worship must not be an optional item in the present context of ecological crisis. The Eco-mission mandate by the Risen Lord in Mk.16: 15 must be remembered in our private and public prayers. “Doing things right should not be a philosophy of our life, but it should be doing the right thing.” Enlargement of our spiritual vision should be the norm for our witness today. “Teach us Lord, to serve Thee as Thou deservest” be the spiritual slogan for the faithful.
the times and to do God’s will on earth. We have quite a number of prayers found in the writings of St. Paul. A few examples are given below: (i) Rom.1:8-12Praying for the Church in Rome (ii) Rom.10:1-Praying for his own people (iii) Rom.15:5,6; Rom.15:13-Prayers of benediction (iv) Rom.15;13- “Prayer for joy and peace (v) 1Cor.16:22-“Maranatha” (vi) 2Cor.1:34”Thanking God for granting peace and consolation (vii) 2Cor.13:14” Pronouncing benediction in the name of the Holy Trinity” (viii) Gal.1:3-5- “Thanking God for the gift of Salvation through Christ” (ix) Eph.1:3-14- “A hymn of praise to the Holy Trinity” (x) Eph.1:15-22_” Beseeching God to open our inner eyes to behold the beauty of resurrected Christ (xi) Eph.3:14-21-For strengthening of the inner man” (xii) Phil.1:3-11” Thanking God for all the divine benefits” (xiii) Col.1:912-“To lead a life according to God’s will” (xiv) 1 Thes.1:2-5- “For faith, love and hope” (xv) I1 Thess.3:10-13:”For increasing love and holiness in life” (xvi) 2 Tim.1:16-18 “Praying for the household of Onesiphorus” (xvii) 2 Thess. 2:16-17“For strengthening our lives for good deeds” (xviii) 2Thess.3:16-“ prayer for peace with God.” The sole purpose of a prayer-centered life is meant to empower “the man who belongs to God to be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind.” It is also a human plea as an intercessory prayer to the Throne of Grace for the whole universe. Thus our prayer becomes ecumenical and ecological in the true spirit of the Lord’s Prayer. Revd Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam Member, FOCUS Editorial Board http://www.issuu.com/diasporafocus http://www.scribd.com/diasporafocus
The prayer life of Jesus must be the model for the faithful. Let us a have a glimpse of the gospel passages where Jesus ‘prayer life is mentioned. (i) Mk:1:35-“early morning Jesus went apart to pray”(ii) Lk.3:21- “before his baptism Jesus prayed” iii) Lk;5:16“Jesus often withdrew himself to pray”(iv) Lk.6:12“Jesus spent the whole night in prayer”(v) Lk.9:18“Jesus prayed privately”(vi) Matt.14:23- “Jesus dismissed the crowd and went to pray”(vii) Lk.9:28“Jesus prayed with his disciples”(viii) Lk.11:1-“After Jesus finished praying…” (Lk.21:37- “Be always on the watch and pray” (ix) (Heb.5:7- “In the last days of Jesus on earth, he prayed.” The above references to Jesus’ prayer life urge us to maintain a prayer-centered life to discern the signs of
Disclaimer: Diaspora FOCUS is a non-profit organization registered in United States, originally formed in late Nineties in London for the Diaspora Marthomites. Now it is an independent lay-movement of the Diaspora laity of the Syrian Christians; and as such Focus is not an official publication of any denominations. It is an ecumenical journal to focus attention more sharply on issues to help churches and other faith communities to examine their own commitment to loving their neighbors and God, justice, and peace. Opinions expressed in any article or statements are of the individuals and are not to be deemed as an endorsement of the view expressed therein by Diaspora FOCUS. Thanks. Web Site: www.facebook.com/groups/mtfocus E-Mail: email@example.com
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LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY! Revd Dr. Valson Thampu, Trivandrum St. Luke 11: 1-13 Prayer is a quintessential spiritual discipline. But that does not mean that all prayers are necessarily spiritual. Like most religious practices and provisions, prayer too is vulnerable to abuse. In times of spiritual decline, prayer gets overridden by superstition. This is nothing new. Else, the disciples of Jesus would not have had to request him to teach them to pray. Obviously, they were worried. They were aware of conflicting views and styles on the subject. It is interesting that, despite Jesus’ clear and simple teaching on prayer, its abuse continues unabated!
given to us, clearly, as a model. (‘Pray in this manner….”) Instances can be multiplied. I have incurred myself in a mountain of insincerity on account of prayer. Many people have, in the past asked me, after mentioning their needs and worries -known by the omnibus expression “prayer requests”- “Achen, please pray for me”. By sheer force of habit, I had said on each occasion, “I shall”. I have not stayed true to even 10% of such promises. It is not that I have been indifferent to the needs and miseries brought to my notice. It was that I wasn’t sure I could be praying for them ‘in spirit and in truth’ by staying at a safe and comfortable distance from their via dolorosa. This raises the question: what is it to pray? My discomfort all along has been that in such instances prayer is assumed to be a magical thing that the experts in this field may practise with unmatched efficacy. I have always been uncomfortable in being seen as an ‘expert’ in prayer: or as one who existed in privileged proximity to God so that he was bound to hear my prayers preferentially and compulsorily. I experience an instinctive unease about any magical association with spiritual practices. Yet I have had powerful experiences in praying. Most of them relate to the terminal illness of my mother, spread over a period of several years. I used to ‘wrestle’ with God -if you don’t mind the expression- for her life. Fasting for three days was not a problem. Praying through the night was not tiresome. But all that was rooted in being agonizingly “involved” with her predicament. My praying and fasting was a seamless part of my agonized identification with her plight. It was sustained by a willingness to do anything for securing a wee-bit of relief for her.
“Your Father in heaven knows what you want,” Jesus said. Yet, the driving assumption in our prayers most of the time is that God does not have a clue. The more ‘specialized’ the expert in prayer is, the more he takes it upon himself to instruct God minutely and meticulously on obvious details. There is no merit in using too many words in prayering, says Jesus. Yet, the virtue of prayers, by our reckoning, depends mostly on how flowery, vehement and long-winded they are. Pray ‘in this manner’, says Jesus. We happily call it “Lord’s prayer” and seem relieved that we don’t have to be restricted by that model. We brand it as a special case; whereas it was
I saw, as vividly as I have seen the brightest of noondays, two things about prayer. First, it had awesome power. My mother had immense faith in prayer. She had nearly as much faith in my sincerity. She believed earnestly that God will hear the cries of my heart. The reason? She knew how much I loved her. Second, I felt praying to be a natural thing and a source of immense strength for myself. What sort of power? The power to serve, to hope, and to endure. Looking back, it amazes me how much I could! And how much I could take. I could not only nurse my mother full-time but also excel in studies. I did not experience such explosive power and optimism until much later, when in the evening of my life, I assumed responsibility for St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. I couldn’t have done half as much, but for
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the strength -strength is too weak a word- I derived from prayer. The power of prayer that I experienced then was simply due to a feeling of being near to Jesus. From Sunday school classes I had gathered that Jesus was particularly fond of children. That helped a great deal! I used to feel, as the Psalmist says, that God’s ears were inclined to my prayers and that my tears were not wasted in his presence. He was closest to me when my heart was breaking into pieces. (I don’t use this expression merely as a figure of speech) In comparison, when I pray now, I feel that my experiences lack that ‘density’ (Somehow, I prefer this word to ‘intensity’. Can’t say, why.). I don’t know how else to put it. I am no longer a warrior in prayer. (By the way, a prayer-warrior is different from worldly warriors. The former fights his own littleness of faith; the latter, the weaknesses of their adversaries.) The best example of the ‘density’ that I mention here is the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane. I wasn’t acquainted well enough with the Bible in those days. (Not that I am a great deal better now!) Now I know that my experiences then weren’t far dissimilar to the discipline that Jesus practised. He persevered in prayer; but not prayer as an alternative to struggle, suffering and sacrifice; but as a preparation for it. The same connection between prayer and action can be seen in the case of Nehemiah, in his daunting mission to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. A question that often bothers me, when I think of prayer, is this: have I lost the spiritual gift of prayer because I lost my simplicity? Was this simplicity my strength when I was a little boy? I don’t think so. My strength then was my passionate identification with a cause, which was -to put it rather mildly- of the very essence of my life. This is a bit too difficult to verbalize, but let me try. What I prayed for -or, wrestled in prayer for- was not something external to me. (I was not asking God for a ‘favour’). It existed in the core of my being. There was a total and earnest identity between the longing of my whole being and the words that became my prayer. How do I know? Well, it is quite simple. I never experienced the slightest artificiality, shallowness, formality, or matterof-factness in praying. I was utterly unaware of the words I used. Of who was around, or who wasn’t. Of the posture or the hour in which I prayed. Forgive me for putting it this way, I was so sincere in praying that I was not aware of praying at all. My praying was of a piece with all else that I did for her. It was like giving her a sponge bath, for example. Like feeding her, when she was too ill to sit and eat. Like massaging her feet, which were gradually
turning blue due to decreasing blood supply. Like sitting for hours with her head in my lap. Like sharing jokes with her, when she was well enough to listen and laugh. I prayed for her, not because she asked me to, but I could not help it. Why, then, did I fail to pray as meaningfully and efficaciously as this for those who sought my ‘prayer support’? Conversely, why did Jesus enfold, effortlessly and naturally, the whole world (Jn. 3: 16) within his ambit of concern, compassion and prayer? And prayer, even from the Cross? At the heart of the parable of the Good Samaritan is the very same insight that prayer and social responsibilities need to go hand in hand. The ambit of the religiosity of the priest and the Levite in the parable became so very narrow because it had nothing to do with the secular space. It is interesting to note that, as per old terminologies, whatever was outside the temple premises was ‘profane’; as though the world beyond the hedge of temples was extraneous to God’s concern and responsibility! Like the priest and the Levite in this parable, I too failed, as I now recognize in retrospect, because I did not grow in my sympathies. For far too long, I stayed confined to the religious haven. Today, I have no doubt at all that the mark of a spiritually evolved person is his capacity to feel as intensely for ‘the other’ (or, neighbour) as he feels for himself. As Soren Kierkegaard pointed out long ago, the word ‘neighbour’ is universal in scope. It does not exclude anyone -not even criminals and sinners- from its scope. When one does not grow in this way, only two options are available. (a) to stay confined to oneself and to a selfcreated small world where one is at home and in charge; and (b) to resort to gimmicks in order to play on the susceptibilities and vulnerabilities of others, deceiving as many as possible and, in the end, to end up selfdeceived. Jesus calls such people ‘false prophets’ -the wolves that come in sheep’s clothing. This raises yet another issue. To what extent can we turn prayer into a public exercise? One thing is by now absolutely clear to me: to pray is to have fellowship with God in the fullness of our being. It is the discipline prescribed in the first of the two cardinal commandments. The logic implied here can be formulated in simple terms. We are to love God with the fullness of our being -whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, whole body. Admittedly, there is no activity in the human sphere, which requires participation in a state of fullness to this extent. In comparison, all other activities involve only a part, or a portion, of who we are.
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It is impossible that we love God in such fullness, if we live a compartmentalized life. As we live, so we worship. If we agree that we are social creatures -as is affirmed in the commandment that we love our neighbours as we love ourselves- it is impossible that we love God with the fullness of our being if we hide from our social responsibilities. Prayer is an expression of loving God as he deserves to be loved, which is with the fullness of our being. Seen in this sense, it is doubtful that most of us pray at all. I am sure only about myself. I am far from this norm. There are times when I feel like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “My words fly up, my heart remains below”. Over the years I have grown in my conviction that spirituality is about this fullness of life (Jn. 10:10). And prayer is necessary and powerful as a means for gaining strength and inspiration in attaining this spiritual goal. Jesus has taught us to pray, “Thy will be done…” And that will too is revealed clearly. It is that we should have life, and life in all its fullness. How can prayer be delinked from, or fall short of, this goal? The proof, therefore, that we pray in spirit and truth is that we grow in our awareness, sensitivities and responsibilities. It is impossible that those who pray stay stunted like Zacchaeus. The curse of shrinking in our spiritual stature is that we fall into the morass of superstition. And it is indeed shocking how thickly overlaid our religiosity is with superstition. If we are not shocked it is only because we lack discernment. Is it not superstitious, let me ask you, to turn praying into an exercise in cosmic begging, assuming God to be a superhuman Christmas father, whose duty it is to go around distributing favours to the chosen few who do not care to help themselves? Jesus insisted on the likely incompatibility between the public space and sincerity in respect of prayer. The public domain -the sphere of ‘being seen by men’- is a sphere where hypocrisy lies in wait for us. There, the desire to be seen by men, rather than by God, is too real and insidious to be glossed over. It is not that we should not pray in public; or, even standing in street corners. It is that the location, or the setting, should not get the better of us and reduce praying into an exercise in self-advertisement. Only those who have the spiritual maturity to be ‘in the secret place with God’ -irrespective of where they arecan venture to pray ‘in spirit and in truth’ in the public sphere too. The readers would realize how evidently mechanical the familiar experts in public prayer are. Their eloquent prayers are like re-plays of the same old tape that you have heard many times over. When, then, about seeking God’s help in prayer? Are we not, after all, given the right to approach the Good Shepherd with our needs? Didn’t Jesus himself encourage us to do so? Didn’t he say, where two or
three are gathered together and agreed in his name, he will surely heed their prayers? In considering this aspect of our theme, it is necessary that we also conjugate this assurance with the discipline Jesus himself laid down for praying -to pray in his name. Praying in the name of Jesus is not a magical formula! In eastern thought, ‘name’ stands for the total significance of a person. To pray in the name of Jesus is, therefore, to pray strictly according to the role model that he is to us. His prayer had the power to drive our demons, cleanse lepers, raise the dead and change lives because he embraced the whole of creation in his love. Our prayers are as sincere and as powerful as who we are. I do believe that prayers have the power to activate external help. But that ‘external’ help must not be, as Spinoza warns us, misunderstood. All means and forces with which the external world is filled are God-created. God is not arbitrary or chaotic. The forces in the external world -forces extraneous to us- can avail us through prayer, provided we pray aright. Such prayers become effective only when they serve as catalysts for our growth in a manner that attunes us to the larger possibilities, energies and forces that surround us. Jesus’ feeding the five thousand, with a boy’s lunch pack, is a case in point. The multiplication of loaves happens through a prayer of thanks giving. It evokes a response from something beyond the immediate. That response is ‘supernatural’ only in the sense that it seems to be so from our limited understanding. Leaves absorb sunlight and turn it into food with the help of chlorophyll. Dry leaves can’t do that. What if we stay as dry leaves on the withered tree of superstitious religiosity? How can it avail us if we pray, or don’t pray, in such a state? I have experienced help from the ‘world out there’ materializing in astonishing ways. But I cannot think of a single instance of that kind happening without my putting myself in situations where my individual strength and resources were inadequate for serving the godly cause espoused. God is not a performer. He is our helper. Helper for what? Is it not to help us do his will? When it comes to doing his will, God is faithful enough to activate external help, if need be; but not to impress anyone or to secure publicity, but to reveal his mercy and faithfulness. Yet another way in which I have experienced the power of prayer is through the intensification of my internal powers. I must insist and emphasize that this, again, was not magical, but logical. God gave me the grace to stay focused as well as open to his promptings. Insofar as I ventured out in his name, I grew continually. God led me through a variety of situations and challenges. In retrospect I cannot help feeling convinced that thee was a method underlying what seemed, then, to be a haphazard process. Given the inclinations of human nature, we are
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happy to be led in linear progress, where things happen neatly and predictably. My life was full of ups and downs. Nothing really happened as I wished, planned or preferred. It was best that it did not. God had a plan for me. And he caused me to grow continually. So, when the final push came, in the crowning phase of my public life as the principal of St. Stephen’s, and I got into near-death situations, I found myself -and this is not an exaggeration- exploding with inner energy and happiness.
you; for I believe in what you are doing. I know that justice is on your side.” Rajiv Nayyar stayed a tower of strength till the last day of my tenure and he was largely responsible for my winning all cases. It didn’t cost me a rupee. Do you believe such things can happen? You have to. It happened in my case. Rajiv is not a Christian. But I believe he was the answer to my prayers. I prayed because I was utterly helpless. I was on the brink of total collapse. I couldn’t have survived without this help.
How can I not include this in my understanding of what it means to pray? What I am going to share or reveal in the following paragraphs presupposes some familiarity with the events that comprise my tumultuous tenure as the 12rh principal of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. Since I have narrated them in my recently published memoir titled On A Stormy Course (Hachette India, New Delhi, 2017), it is not being repeated here.
Suppose I had taken the easy path and compromised with my adversaries, apologizing for my spiritual convictions and assuring them that I’d do their bidding for the rest of my tenure in exchange for an easy passage out? Then too I would have prayed. But my prayer would have been like Macbeth’s prayers, “My words go up, my heart remains below.”
St. Stephen’s had become, over the decades, the exclusive preserve of the rich and the mighty. In fact, the gloss of the institution was derived almost entirely from this. The flip side of this situation was that the college shut the door hard against social justice. The foremost question in my mind, as I took office on the 22nd of May 2007, was: “How can I preach the Good News to the poor through St. Stephen’s.” My attempt to integrate social justice with higher education made me the most hated person in Delhi, among the upper caste and upper class, in the annals of higher education in India. It plunged me into a nine-yearslong relentless turmoil, the like of which was wholly without a precedent in India. I have had hundreds of people - Christians and Non-Christians alike- asks me, “How could you survive?” Through prayer, I tell them. I was all the time on my knees. I was working all the time. But my work was awash in prayer. That is the time I realized that prayer and work are one! The hallmark of doing the will of God is that work and prayer become seamlessly integrated; one indistinguishable from the other. Then great things begin to happen. Here is an instance. One of the many strategies used against me was litigation. A slew of court cases was piled on me, on the assumption that I would not able to defend myself, given how prohibitively expensive litigation is. I had to face, in all, 21 court cases! When this was in progress, and I was truly at my wit’s end, I got a call, on night, from a total stranger. He introduced himself as Rajiv Nayyar, a lawyer. “Sir, would you allow me to represent you in the High Court?” Rajiv was a senior advocate, whose charge per appearance was Rs. 5 lakhs. “I can’t afford you, Rajiv”. “Sir, who is asking for money. All I want is the honour of representing
I am inherently suspicious of prayer experts; those who claim to enjoy special equations with the Almighty. I believe all our ailments and calamities come laden with crucial messages for us. We can stay stubbornly deaf to the ‘still, small, voice’ talking to us through pain and trauma. We can also open our hearts and our lives to divine authority and emerge from these situations refined and rejuvenated in the spirit. If we allow middlemen to intervene and make a mess of this sacred process, we belittle God’s purposes concerning us. In 1992, I went through a serious health crisis. Three of my cervical discs prolapsed and I was paralysed in the neck and the left hand. I lay in intermittent traction for 3 months. My neurologist grew cynical of my recovery. I went to the UK for surgery, but it was ruled out, given the high risk involved. When I was in the dark night of the soul -battling demons of hopelessness- light dawned on my life. A tremendous inner assurance that ‘the business of my life’ was not over yet, descended deep into me. A few days later it occurred to me to try and lift my head. I could! For the first time in months. That was the most significant turning point in my life. No prayer or healing expert was involved in this process. It was strictly between my Maker and me. God does not need recommendations. You and I are valuable enough in his sight! The sanctuary of God’s mercy is open equally to all. Through that near-death experience God taught me the value of life and of each moment in time. I was seized by a keen desire to fill each day with the best. It was this traumatic experience that motivated me to become an author. I had written and published very little till then. After 1992, it has been truly an avalanche of creativity! Does God answer prayers? Well, you decide, if he should. It is all up to you!
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THE POWER OF PRAYER David Brand, Harrow Weald There have been many articles written about prayer, so you may be interested in the following events that occurred to me after praying that will hopefully reinforce your confidence and belief in the power of prayer. A new Vicar joined us in 2007 and had been asked by a lady member of the congregation for healing for a back condition she had been suffering from for some time and now was getting worse. I was asked to support her as she knelt in front of the altar while the Vicar prayed for healing. After a few minutes into the prayer she began to slowly collapse, I held her to prevent her falling forward and thankfully the Vicar finished his prayer and helped me to lower her gently to the floor. After approximately five minutes she recovered, we helped her on to her feet and she announced that there was no more pain. After approximately four months she moved south and strangely enough to the church that our previous Vicar had gone to, so we had feedback on her condition until her Vicar retired. Needless to say her back remained healed; unfortunately we no longer have contact. One final twist in the tail came when our Vicar admitted to me years later it was his first attempt at healing. It is worth noting that she received an almost immediate healing response, which begs the question where did it come from? It defied all our physical laws of space and time suggesting that whatever carried out that healing operates in some spiritual dimension we are not yet privy to. I hope the church is examining events like these in the hope we can gain knowledge of how and why the Good Lord works in his wondrous way.
The second event although not instantaneous was on a broader scale and the reason why I am writing this article is because it happened to me. In December 2012, I lost my wife to Cancer three weeks after diagnosis. We had 52 years of happy marriage; I had known her since she was eleven, and her father and my father were friends before they married. After her death I became withdrawn and spent most of my time playing computer games, as this was the only way I could forget my situation; consequently, I would put off doing what I considered to be non-essential jobs. I was also suffering from wet macular degeneration and was receiving injections in the eyes. In November 2015, I woke up in the night not knowing where I was or who I was; eventually I went back to bed to wake up the next morning with every light on in the house. I had a vague recollection of my immediate location measured in yards but no further and a sense of this is where I belong. After two days with no improvement I had the sense to dial 111 for advice and was promptly taken to hospital and placed in the stroke ward. The diagnosis was a stroke in the back of the head where the brain made sense of the visionary signals sent from the eyes. After two days I was gifted MRSA and placed in a single room in a psychiatric ward opposite the Nurses Station. This has got to be the nearest thing to hell on earth if you are sane and trying to recover from a stroke. On the other side of the thin partition, the nurses kept opening and banging shut filing cabinet draws night and day. There was a chap going up and down the corridor shouting, “They are trying to kill me;” other patients made funny noises or cried out. Having been used to the peace and quiet of living on my own for three years I just could not sleep or relax. A few days later, I decided to go for a walk down the corridor and on returning I could not recognise the door to my room as my vision and recognition had deteriorated. I badly needed undisturbed sleep, peace and quiet before I lost my vision. The second visit of the consultant only confirmed the deterioration but no medication. I had a heart ablation operation scheduled for mid-December at Harefield hospital which I did not want to miss so after two more days of this chaos I got on my knees, prayed for help and promised to change my ways, ditch the computer games and help others. In the modern idiom this was my Scrooge or ‘Groundhog Day’ moment of decision and immediately I seemed to hear a voice in my brain telling me to get out of this hospital now.
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The following, out of the ordinary, events occurred to me and I must leave to the imagination of the readers to draw their own conclusions. I discharged myself and arranged for my son to collect me and to my relief he totally agreed with my decision. I did not realise it at the time but my incredible journey was about to begin. Having completed the necessary documentation, my son and I were walking down the busy corridor leading to the main exit, I felt weak, tired and concerned about my decision. Everybody in the corridor appeared to be in a hurry, we were slow but we passed a man with a white stick walking even slower, after passing him I was suddenly reminded of my promise a few yards further on. I stopped turned back and asked him if I could help. My vision was bad but this man was virtually blind all I could see was the white of his eyes. He told me he was looking for the main reception, I could manage that so I guided him there and the receptionist took over after he thanked me. When my son and I exited for the car park I suddenly felt stronger and no longer doubted my decision, also helping the blind man gave me a sense of worth. A few days later my son and I passed an Asian lady outside our Waitrose selling a charity broadsheet called ‘The Big Issue’; we passed her by; however, when we reached the car park I received another reminder. I returned and gave her a pound, as I did not want the paper and a few days later I received some good financial news. My next encounter was with a Muslim lady and her son, they were standing by a sweet vending machine, he was agitated and she was searching in her purse. I passed by; but, looked back and nothing had changed; so I went back and asked what the problem was and she mentioned twice, as I did not understand her the first time, that she needed a twenty pence coin for the vending machine. So I gave her one and to my surprise she said in perfect Oxford English “Thank you very much.” This was followed by an Asian man dressed as Father Christmas, again selling ‘The Big Issue’, like the Asian lady above; I gave him a pound but did not take ‘The Big Issue’. Once more, there was a further improvement in my financial situation. A couple of weeks later, I was standing in a bus queue when a large black man said with a superb deep perfect English accent “I am hungry will you give me money for a Hot Dog.” I was surprised as he was well dressed in a suit and overcoat. I asked him how much he wanted and he said, “I need £1.57”, so I gave him a £2 coin and said, “Keep the change.” The way he said thank you, left a deep impression on me due to his sincerity, warmth and tone. A couple of days later I found an old Life Policy which I had completely forgotten about; so as there was now only me, I decided to cash it in and received over £13000.
During this period I had two visits from a health visitor to check me out after the second visit she said no more visits were necessary. The consultant at Moorfield said I was a very rare case in that my Wet Macular Degeneration had turned to dry. My doctor said my recovery from the stroke was remarkable. I passed the DVLA eyesight test in 2016 and have just passed it again in 2018. I have had a full examination more intensive than the DVLA’s. The Macular Degeneration has gone leaving scar tissues where the bleeding had occurred and my eyesight has improved requiring weaker spectacles. The heart ablation operation was successful eliminating any heart instability. I do not hesitate to give money or help happily to those I am specifically directed to. I fully sympathize with anybody who doubts the authenticity of the financial side of this testimony as possibly unusual circumstances, coincidences or luck. However, the medical side is fully documented and supported by two medical specialists, two other doctors and one optometrist. In St Francis’ superb prayer there are two inspiring lines that certainly apply to me. “IT IS IN GIVING THAT WE RECEIVE, IT IS IN DYING (SELF), THAT WE ARE BORN TO ETERNAL LIFE.” The first line was exactly right for in giving I most certainly received and not in just plain monetary terms, I also received things that money cannot buy. In the second line the elimination of the old self and creating a different approach to life more in keeping with Jesus’ teaching of closing old doors and opening new ones, leading to a more purposeful and satisfying life closer to the role model we crucified. Is it eternal? That is not my decision but my remaining years, having reached 81, will be more fulfilling as I hope to justify the faith that has been placed in me. I have written this because I care about your relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Do not repeat Mantras when communicating, he has heard them many times before, have a conversation instead; he would prefer that, as it is something he can listen to and act upon. Above all BELIEVE, BELIEVE, BELIEVE and remember that what you receive may not be what you asked for, but it will be in your best long-term interest and please demonstrate your gratitude for that. Editor’s Note: Mr. David Brand is an elder and a Lay Reader of the All Saints’, Harrow Weald, where the Sinai MTC conducts worship services. He is a retired electronic engineer. He is a friend of one of the editors, and he too is a witness to the amazing recovery of the author from the stroke and macular degeneration through the grace of God.
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The Liturgy of St. James and its Importance in the Christendom; With Special Reference to the Mar Thoma Syrian Church Revd Dr. Jameson K. Pallikunnil In the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Holy Qurbana is considered not merely as one of the seven sacraments, but as the centre of all others. It is also called the “Queen of all Sacraments in the Church,” because of its centrality in the life of the Church. In the celebration of the Eucharist, the Church commemorates the divine dispensation of God, in Christ with the attitudes of confession, praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and supplication. Everything in the Church leads to the Eucharist and all the things flow from it. Even though there are many rites for the celebration of the Eucharist, the Liturgy of St. James possess a unique place in the Christian circle. This article mainly draws light into the uniqueness of the Liturgy of St. James and its importance in the Malankara Mar Thoma Church. 1
West Syrian liturgy of the present form is a Mesopotamian version of the Antiochian tradition. This liturgy is called the mother of the most of the Eucharistic liturgies especially of the Oriental and Eastern Churches. There is no other Eastern anaphora ever seems to have such a wider circulation in the history of the Church. This liturgy has been employed in the Churches of Palestine, Arabia, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Slavonic countries, Greece, Ethiopia and Egypt. There are mainly two reasons for its wider acceptance, i.e. the Jerusalemite origin, and the attribution to St. James. This anaphora may be used on any occasion (unlike other anaphoras) but it is particularly employed on the occasions of all the festivals of the Church, at the ordination of deacons, priests, the consecration of a new church building, the consecration of a bishop and enthronement of a Patriarch / Catholicos. Usually a priest uses the anaphora of St. James’ when he celebrates his first holy Eucharist after having been ordained and also whenever he celebrates the holy Eucharist in a church for the first time because of its primacy among the anaphoras in the Syrian Orthodox Church. 3
Authorship of the Liturgy The authorship of this liturgy traditionally attributed to St. James, the brother of Jesus Christ, the first bishop of Jerusalem. This belief was deeply rooted among the Syriac writers. Most of the Syriac manuscripts bear the following or similar title: “the Anaphora of St. James, the brother of our Lord and the Apostle, who learned from our Lord in the Upper Room of the mysteries.” The shorter version published from Pampakuda (Kerala, India) gives the title: “the Anaphora of St. James, brother of Our Lord, Apostle, martyr, and the first Archbishop of Jerusalem for the month of our Lord.” The most ancient Church Father, who attributed a liturgy to St. James, is St. Jerome (340-420 CE) and Proclus the Patriarch of Constantinople (434-446 CE). The Sixth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils testified that St. James was the author of the liturgy. Another earliest authentic mention of the liturgy by name occurred in Canon 32 of the Quinisextine Council (in Trullo, 692 CE). This canon speaks of a liturgy composed by St. James “the brother of Jesus Christ and the bishop of Jerusalem.” During the same period, Jacob of Edessa (633-708 CE), in his letter to a 4
The liturgy of St. James is one of the oldest anaphoras in the Christian circle. It is generally believed that the origin of the rite was in Jerusalem during the fourth century. This liturgy became the liturgy “par excellence” of the Syriac-speaking Monophysites and was to become models for a large number of other rites. By the 17 century, the East Syrian rite was replaced by the West Syrian rite among considerable sections of the St. Thomas Christians in South India. This th
1 Thomas Hopko, The Orthodox Faith, Worship, vol. II (New York: Department of Religious Education, 1972), 34. 2 Fenwick, The Anaphoras of St. Basil and St. James, 31.
3 Baby Varghese, “St. James’ Liturgy: A Brief History of the Text,” The Harp 2, no.3 (December 1989): 129. 4 Varghese, “St. James’ Liturgy: A Brief History of the Text,”143. 5 This title is given to the Anaphora, which was abridged by Bar Hebraeus (1286 CE). 6 Fenwick, The Anaphoras of St. Basil and St. James, 31.
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presbyter named Thomas, gave an outline of the liturgy of St. James. 7
Date of Composition
the St. James liturgy was in most places a word-for-word translation from the Greek version, apparently undertook at a time of consolidation of the non-Chalcedonians in the first half of the sixth century, either in the time of John of Tella or under Jacob of Burdana. Since the fourth century, various Church Fathers quoted from the liturgy of St. James. The fundamental parts of the St. James Eucharistic prayer have not changed since the fourth century. However, through time and because of the theological disputes, which dominated in the fourth and fifth centuries, this anaphora got many changes. When discussing theological development of this anaphora, James Bouyer observes that, “If we look at the Eucharist of St. James as a whole, we are especially struck by the clarity of its Trinitarian theology, which is expressed with much more exacting precision in its structure than could be seen in the liturgy of the Eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions. All the duplications and all the repetitions in thought have been definitively and categorically removed.” Jacob of Edessa (708 CE) revised it and his revision, except for minor and superfluous changes, is used by the Syrian Church today. In the early 18 century Lebrun produced a French translation of the anaphora of St. James and passages from the commentary of Jacob Edessa. A little before this Renaudot’s publication of more than forty West Syriac anaphoras introduced the richness of the Syriac liturgy with a Latin translation. Likewise an English translation of the West Syriac Anaphoras was published by Howard in 1864 and Brightmann in 1896. In 1926 Fuchs published one of the oldest Syrian Orthodox anaphoras attributed to John I (648 CE), Patriarch of Antioch. A landmark in the study of the West Syriac Anaphora is Labourt’s Dionysius Bar Salibi (1172 CE), Expositio Liturgicae on the Eucharist and Two Commentaries on the Jacobite Liturgy edited by Connolly and Codrington. In the 13 century, Gregory Bar Hebracus abridged the liturgy of St. James and made a shorter version and this text was printed at Pampakuda, Kerala. This is the oldest manuscript of St. James liturgy and it was found in the Malankara Church. Among the Syrian Orthodox Churches, this anaphora is the main liturgy. Although there are many anaphoras, the liturgy of St. James was the model for the rest. 11
Even though the Jerusalemite origin of St. James liturgy had not been questioned, there was no unanimity concerning the date of its composition. Some scholars propose the date to the middle of the third century and some others to the middle of the fourth century. Those who propose fourth century, claims that the anaphora had already got its final form when Cyril (313-383 CE), preached his Fifth Mystagogical Catechesis. The popular belief was that, the liturgy was not older than the fourth or fifth century, but its principal elements went back to very early days, if not apostolic times and it was certainly one of the most venerable rites of the Church. According to Heiming, the Syriac text was finalized between 520 CE and 630 CE. Since the liturgy of St. James was acceptable to both Chalcedonians and Non-Chalcedonians, the period before the council of Chalcedon (451 CE) seems to be the probable date for the fixation of the Greek text. 8
Different Version of the Liturgy: A Historical Outline A historical survey of the liturgy of St. James is a complex one. As cited above, this liturgy in its nucleus was brought from Jerusalem to Antioch, and it was from there, the first missionaries took the rite and the liturgical customs to other places. The anaphora survived in many languages, Syriac and Greek being the main. In some places along with Syriac, Greek terms were also used since Church scholars in Syria were bilingual. It also contained expansions, substitutions and the apparent retention of more primitive forms when compared to the extant Greek text. There were different versions of the liturgy of St. James that had commonly been in use in the Christian corpus. They were Greek, Syriac, Georgian, Old Slavonic, Armenian, Ethiopian and Coptic Versions. The Greek and Syriac were the most important versions and other forms were dependent either on one or the other. The ancient manuscripts of the Syriac version show that it was translated from a Greek original. The oldest Greek manuscript belongs to the Eighth century and is different at several points from the Syriac text. The Syriac version is made from the Greek manuscripts, which are one or more centuries older than the existing oldest Greek manuscripts. The Syriac text retained several examples of literal translation of Greek words and expressions. In the fourth century, the liturgical language of Jerusalem was Greek, as it was evident from the Catechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem. It was considered that a Syriac version of St. James liturgy existed at least from the beginning of the fifth century. Brian D. Spinks remarked that, the Syriac version of 9
7 Frank E. Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, vol.1 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1896), 490-494. 8 A. Raes, Introduction in Liturgian Orientalem (Rome, Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 1947), 20. 9 Anne McGowan, Eucharistic Epiclesis, Ancient and Modern (London: SPCK, 2014), 61. 10 Fenwick, The Anaphoras of St. Basil and St. James, 57-58.
The Doctrine of the Trinity: A Fundamental Aspect of the Liturgy The doctrine of Trinity is a distinctive mark of the Christian faith, which has very deep roots in the Christian tradition. Even though there is no explicit reference as such to the term Trinity in the Bible, this theological dogma defends the
Spinks, Do this in Remembrance of Me, 160. Ishaq Saka, Commentary on the Liturgy of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, trans. Matti Moosa (Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press.2009), 14. 13 Louis Bouyer, Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer, trans. Charles Underhill Quinn (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 1968), 279. 14 Pierre Lebrun, Explication de la messe (Paris: Lyon Public Library, 1726). 15 Eusebe Renaudot, Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio (Paris: Coignard, 1716). 11 12
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central faith of the Bible and of the Church. According to McGrath, “the doctrine of Trinity is the outcome of a process of sustained and critical reflection on the pattern of divine activity revealed in Scripture, and continued in Christian experience. This is not to say that Scripture contains the doctrine of Trinity; rather, Scripture bears witness to a God who demands to be understood in a Trinitarian manner.” It is Tertullian (155-240 CE) who is responsible for the development of the Trinitarian terminology. This doctrine emerged as a result of concrete theological reflection and debates throughout the centuries especially in the fourth and fifth centuries, when the early ecumenical Church councils carefully formulated creedal summaries of the Christian faith, including the Nicene Creed. There are various kinds of interpretations derived throughout the periods on this topic. Generally, a Trinitarian understanding of God signifies, God in three persons, one God in three natures, mutually indwelling and indebted together. Latin theology of the Christian West emphasizes the divine nature, whereas the Greek theology of the Christian East emphasizes the divine hypostases (person). Western readings of the Trinity underlined the single divine substance of God and that treated the personhood within the Trinity secondarily. Consequently, the West ended up with a functionally monistic way of imagining God’s engagement with the world: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit act individually. The Eastern tradition is seen as beginning with the relationality of the three divine persons, whose unity is found in the source or origin of the Father, as well as in their perichoresis, or 16
mutual indwelling. Eastern theology tended to emphasize the “distinct individuality of the three persons or hypostases,” and sought “to safeguard their unity by stressing the fact that both the Son and the Spirit derived from the Father.” According to this view “the relation between the persons or hypostases is ontological, grounded in what those persons are. Thus the relation of the Son to the Father is defined in terms of ‘being begotten’ and sonship.” An Eastern understanding of the Trinity deals with God’s radical relatedness and the movement towards the restoration of creation. The notion of perichoresis invites us to think in a new way about the meaning of “one” and “personal.” The oneness of God is not the oneness of a selfcontained individual; it is the unity of a community of personas. In addition, “person” means by definition interpersonal: one cannot be truly personal alone, but only in relation to other persons. Such is the unity and personal character of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In short, it is claimed that the East begins with the Threeness of the Trinity and the West with the oneness or unity. 22
16 Jurgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God (London: SCM, 1981), 16. 17 Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 293-294, 297. 18 Veli-Matti Karkkainen, The Trinity: Global Perspective (London: Westminster John Knox, 2007), 37. Lesslie Newbigin, The Relevance of Trinitarian Doctrine for Todays Mission (London: Edinburgh House, 1963), 34. 19 Karkkainen, The Trinity: Global Perspective, 44-45. 20 Leonard E. H Jalmarson, “A Trinitarian Spirituality of Mission,” Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care 6, no. 1 (2013): 95. 21 Perichoresis is a Greek term, firstly used by pseudoCyril in the sixth century and then by John of Damascus in the eighth century. The word “peri” (as in perimeter) means around and “choresis” means dancing as in the choreography of a ballet). The term literally refers around dancing and more deeply stands for reciprocity and exchange in the mutual indwelling of the persons, to express how each person can permeate and coincide here with the others without confusion. Theologically, there is a perichoresis of the persons of the Trinity within the unity of their substance. Perichoresis, describes the mutual indwelling and the mutual inter-penetration of the Father and the Son and the Spirit. Here, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are like three dancers holding hands, dancing around together in joyful freedom. It suggests that persons truly exist through their participation in each other, not as persons in relationship, but persons as a relationship. Shirley C. Guthrie Jr, Always Being Reforming (London: Westminster John Knox, 2008), 37. Stephen Spencer, SCM Study Guide to Christian Mission (London: SCM, 2007), 19.
A Trinitarian theology stresses that God’s life is one of abundant communion, a kind of fellowship that overflows to include everyone. In Trinity, there is a fellowship and community of equals who share all that they are and have, each living with and for the others in self-giving love, each free not “from” but “for” the other. Here, God is God in the community, and in this divine community, there is no above or below, superior or inferior, but only the society of equals who are different from one another and live together in mutual respect and self-giving love. Unity is the basis of their existence. The term “relationality” is a key to understand the mystery of God. God, as a Trinity of persons who are mutually constitutive of and infinitely in communion with one another, is wholly constituted by relationality. According to Zizioulas, relational personhood is constitutive of being: a component of essence. There is no personal identity without relationality. “The Orthodox tradition has stressed the generative, outward-reaching love (ekstasis) and communion (koinonia) of the three persons. The Trinity is seen as a community, whose orientation is outward and whose shared love spills over beyond itself. Moreover, the concept of perichoresis is a dynamic, circulating movement that has offered rich analogies for human interdependence.” 25
22 Craig Van Gelder and Dwight J. Zscheile, The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academie, 2011), 103. 23 McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 297-298. 24 “They are not three independent persons who get together to form a club. They are what they are in relationship with one another. Each exists only in this relationship and would not exist apart from it. The Triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live only in and with and through one another, eternally united in mutual love and shared purpose.” Guthrie. Always Being Reforming, 36-37. 25 John D. Witvliet, “The Opening of Worship: Trinity,” in A More Profound Alleluia: Theology and Worship in Harmony, ed. Dyk, 8. 26 Gelder and Dwight, The Missional Church in Perspective, 105.
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The work of Zizioulas reaches back to the Cappadocian Fathers, who understood God’s being (substance or ousia) as an essentially relational achievement among the three persons (hypostasis) of the Trinity. Therefore, the unified being of the One God is only to be found in the relational communion of the three persons. Newbigin frames it like this: “Interpersonal relatedness belongs to the very being of God. Therefore, there can be no salvation for human beings except in relatedness. No one can be made whole except by being restored to the wholeness of that being-in-relatedness for which God made us and the world and which is the image of that being-in-relatedness which is the being of God himself.” 27
As is very evident throughout its celebration, the liturgy of the MTC is Trinitarian in its very nature. An analysis of the liturgical prayers, rubrics, signs and symbols in the liturgy disclose the centrality of the Trinity in the worship service. The liturgy emphasizes the fact that the Trinitarian God is a God of Communion, i.e. a life of communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It enumerates that the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, the sending forth of the Holy Spirit into the world, and the foundation of the Church establishes the faith of the MTC. The Eucharistic celebration in the Church begins and concludes with the Trinitarian adoration. Through this adoration, the Church affirms and proclaims her faith in the Trinity. The primary response during the opening of worship is adoration of the Trinity. All sedros in the liturgy conclude with the adoration of the Trinity. A Trinitarian adulation is pronounced while censing the altar and throughout the service. The celebrant offers blessings in the name of the Trinity. Through the pronouncement of the Nicene Creed the Church affirms its faith in the Triune God. According to Jacob of Edessa, (640708 CE) “the priest begins with these words to teach the unity of the nature, the essence, and the three hypostases, which are separated without separation and united without confusion.” 31
Significance of the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Mar Thoma Church The Mar Thoma Church (MTC) mainly uses a revised form of the liturgy of St. James in its Eucharistic service. This revised version is a modification of the Syrian Orthodox liturgy in line with Protestant theology. The revision of liturgy is based on scriptural principles. A distinguishing mark of this liturgy is its intimate connection with the Holy Bible. The prayers are resplendent with echoes and idioms of the Bible. The content of this liturgy is simple and easy to follow. It is enriched with elements of solemnity, majesty, and mystery. The use of the vernacular for most part of the liturgy helps to maintain a continuous dialogue between the celebrant and the community. The whole liturgy constantly brings before our mind the supreme importance of the mystery of the blessed Trinity in the Eucharistic worship. This liturgy is full of mystical symbolism. The vestments, the sacred ornaments and the sacred ritual are very meaningful. 29
The Trinitarian Emphasis in the Liturgy of the Mar Thoma Church
27 John Zizioulas, Being as Communion (Toronto: Novalis, 2002), 16-22. According to Zizioulas, “there is no true being without communion; nothing exists as an “individual” in itself. Therefore, to be a “person” in contrast to an “individual,” there needs to be communion, relation and opening to the other, or as he often calls it an ekstasis (going out of one’s self). Human existence, including the existence of the Church communion, thus reflects the communal, relational being of God.” 28 Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 70. 29 Phillip Tovey, The Liturgy of St. James as Presently Use (Cambridge: Grove Books, 1998), 3. It is a revised version of the rite that is in use of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in India. 30 The influence of the CMS missionaries motivated the reformers to study the scripture thoroughly. The Bible is the norm for the faith and practice of the MTC. Traditions that are considered contrary to biblical teachings were abandoned or amended. The Church has seriously taken the biblical authority over the liturgy and at the same time, they tried to uphold the traditions of the Malankara Church too. The Mar Thoma liturgy is a blending of these two elements: tradition and Scripture. Kuruvilla, An Indian Fruit from the Palestinian Roots, 12-13.
In the Mar Thoma liturgy, the celebration of the Holy Qurbana is an expression of the communion of love from the 31 “We praise You, the One true God, One power in substance, Three persons known as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We praise You O Triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One in essence, in power and truth.” Order of Worship for Divine Service, Parasyaradhana Kramam (Thiruvalla: Mar Thoma Publication Society, 2000), 12, 22. “Christ our God, inscrutably confessed as the One True God, known in three Persons yet believed as One.” Titus II, Qurbana Thaksa, 125. 32 Daniel, Ecumenism in Praxis, 23-25. 33 “Give praise to the Father Almighty. To his Son, Jesus Christ the Lord, To the Spirit who dwells in our hearts. Both now and for ever.” The Order of the Holy Qurbana, 1. 34 “Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be word without endAmen.” Titus II, Qurbana Thaksa, 1. Juhanon, The Order of the Holy Qurbana, 1. It is important to remember that every act of praise is a strong act of negation as well as affirmation. When we sing praise to the triune God, we are asserting our opposition to anything that would attempt to stand in God’s place. Witvliet, “The Opening of Worship: Trinity,” 12. 35 There are four blessings in the anaphora all of which, with the exception of the second, are in the name of the Trinity. The second blessing is in the name of Jesus Christ. Contrary to the Catholic and Protestant traditions, in the Oriental Eastern worship the celebrant and faithful turn to the East side to celebrate the Liturgy. During the time of blessings the celebrant turn towards the faithful and bless the congregation by pronouncing the Trinitarian blessing with sign of the cross. 36 The MTC accepts the teachings of the first three ecumenical councils, i.e. Nicaea, (325 CE) Constantinople (381 CE) and Ephesus. (451 CE).The creed formulated in the council of Nicaea is pronounced in every liturgical celebrations before the beginning of the anaphora. Titus II, Qurbana Thaksa, 18-19. 37 Quoted in Baby Varghese, “Dionysius Bar Salibi: Commentary on the Eucharist,” Moran Etho, no.10 (1980): 48.
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Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. The Church prays and sings to the Trinity “through Christ,” in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Liturgy shows that, God is active in prompting the prayers of the faithful, in receiving it and in perfecting it. An active participation in the Eucharistic liturgy enables the faithful to take part in the Trinitarian mystery. The liturgy invites the faithful to engage with the fullness of the life of Christ and draws the faithful into the Trinitarian mystery of salvation. Thus, the missionary dimension of the liturgy can be perceived from the framework of the Trinity. It enunciates the importance of mission through its prayers and practices. The liturgical celebration motivates the faithful to engage with the mission of the Triune God in creation. The Trinitarian model of mission is similarly a paradigm for the mission of the MTC. As cited above, the Trinity is a community in relationship which discloses love in action. The mission of the Church is mainly to create a community of love which is united in the name of Jesus Christ and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit. This community is called out to live and enliven others by the values of the Kingdom of God, to reflect the divine nature for the glory of God and to move in faith towards Eternity. The liturgical emphasis of the Trinitarian community is a model of mission, which motivates the Church through its various ministries to work for the formation of communities by its diverse interactions in society. This model demands a Trinitarian way of thinking and living which means a life based on interrelationship, mutuality, respect and unity. An experience of communion is at the heart of both God’s Triune life and the Christian life. A Trinitarian way of worship is practiced by communities that fully embrace Trinitarian ways of thinking and living. “Liturgical worship reflects, embodies, and enacts a rich tapestry of relationships. Christian liturgy embodies the mutuality and koinonia of a Trinitarian ecclesiology. At its best, it enacts and prefigures the Kingdom of God. Christian worship is an icon or window into the web of relationships that make up the Christian Church. It is an icon of our union with Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.” 38
38 The two primary models for Christian prayer and worship are (1) prayer directed to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and (2) prayer directed to the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit. For more on these models see Josef Jungmann, The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer, trans. A Peeler (New York: Alba House, 1965) and Graham Redding, Prayer and the Priesthood of Christ in the Reformed Tradition (London: T and T Clark, 2003). In liturgy the human-divine and divine-human communication workout of Trinitarian formula. The Liturgical emphasis of the prayers conclude with the Trinitarian supplication but in the extempore prayer concludes with the supplication through Christ. The MTC do practice Trinitarian worship, but without much acknowledgement of highlighting of it. Very often in the extempore prayers in the Church end with the words “in Jesus name,” Amen. It is not the negation of the Trinitarian doctrine rather an affirmation of divine nature of Jesus and the supplication of prayer to the Trinity through Jesus. A Trinitarian nature of worship help the faithful to grow into the fullness of biblical teaching about God. 39 “May they be one as were one…” (Jn.17:12), “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn.1:3) 40 Witvliet, “The Opening of Worship: Trinity,” 23.
Conclusion The Eucharist is the central act of the Church. It is always the End, the sacrament of the Parousia, and yet it is always the beginning, the starting point of the mission (Lk.24:8). The Church is called out to witness the resurrection of Christ. By the celebration of the Eucharist, the Church proclaims the salvific act of Jesus Christ. In the Holy Qurbana, the transmission of the life of communion that exists in the Trinity is experienced. This enables the Church to continue the mission of the God in this world. The Trinitarian dimension of the liturgy shows how the faithful community can be in relation with God and with their fellow beings. It is a twofold relationship: vertical relation of the faithful to God and the horizontal relation of the faithful to fellow beings. The liturgy of the Holy Qurbana in fact serves as the central thread and brings the believers close to the Lord Jesus as well as to the Church, which is His body. The symbols used in the Holy Qurbana communicate the theological richness and the traditions of the Church. This liturgy is a deeply moving and richly symbolic spiritual drama in which the salvific act of Jesus Christ is relived and shared. The liturgy is, both in its character and in its mystery, appealing to both the physical and mystical senses. The symbolism of word and act, of vestment and voice, of jingling of the censer, burning of the incense, lighted lamps in the sanctuary, and the veil, transports the faithful before the very throne of God. It is in the “table of life,” where the glorification of God and the sanctification of people are taking place. It is the solemn occasion where the heaven and the earth are reconciled. It is on this Table that the Church proclaims the resurrection of Christ, and this process will continue until He comes back in his glory. 41
This liturgy, undoubtedly, provides many opportunities for the participation of the congregation. Still it is often criticised as lengthy, monotonous and for its lack of variety. The prayers are replete with idioms, images, and it echoes the Bible. An active participation in the Eucharistic liturgy strengthens the participants to discharge their God-given mission. The Eucharist involves a thankful remembrance of the mighty deeds of God in history, a sending forth into the contemporary world to be with the God as He continues His saving deeds, and we are looking forward for the end, which He is bringing about. Editor’s Note: Rev. Dr. Jameson K. Pallikunnil, is an ordained minister of Mar Thoma Syrian Church, who holds two post graduate degrees in Sociology and Liturgical Theology and was bestowed with Ph.D. from St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland. He is now serving as the vicar of the Switzerland and Belfast Mar Thoma Congregations. Achen is the author of the book “The Eucharistic Liturgy: A Liturgical Foundation for Mission in the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church” published in 2017. 41 Karl Muller, Theo Sundermeier, Stephen B. Bevans, Richard H. Bliese, eds., Dictionary of Mission: Theology, History, Perspectives (New York: Orbis, 1999), 435.
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Prayer: Elixir of the Soul Acharya Sachidananda Bharathi Prayer is to the soul what food is to the body. Just as the body needs to be nourished constantly with good food for a healthy life, the soul also needs to be nourished constantly with ardent prayer for our spiritual growth. Prayer is the elixir of the soul. Communion with God through faith, hope and love is the goal and essence of prayer. The God we worship determines our character, worldview and relationships. Hence, it is very essential for us first of all to have a clear understanding of the God we worship. ‘Eternal life is knowing the one true God and His Christ’ taught Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 17.3). The one true God was defined by him as ‘Spirit’. He also taught that this one true God needs to be worshiped in truth and spirit (Jn. 4.24). The most devout disciple of Lord Jesus Christ, Paul of Tarsus, saw God as the One in whom ‘we live, move and have our being’ (Acts 17.28). The one true God was also presented by Lord Jesus Christ as an infinitely loving Father of all humankind. Through the parable of the prodigal son the Divine Master taught his disciples that they could develop a personal relationship with God as an eternally loving ‘Father’ who is infinitely merciful and ever forgiving (Lk 15. 11-32). John, the ‘beloved disciple’ of the Divine Master, had defined God as ‘Love’ (1 Jn. 4.8). Lord Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God’s love in human history. He is ‘Emmanuel’ (God with us). Hence, we can develop a personal relationship and have a deep experience of the one true God in, with and through Lord Jesus Christ. This is the unique revelation that we have received through the Holy Spirit. This possibility of a living and loving personal relationship with the one true God is the uniqueness of the Christian faith. ‘God is light’ (1 Jn. 4.8). This is an insight about the one true God that almost all major religions of the world share in common. According to the Holy Quran, ‘Allah is the light of the world.’ The Guru Grandh Sahib teaches us that ‘God is the Light of lights’. The Chandogya Upanishad points out that God is the ‘Great Light beyond all the worlds.’ God as light can be seen as a meeting point of religions. ‘Light’ here also means ‘wisdom’. Lord Jesus Christ is ‘the power and wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1.24). ‘Power’ here implies the divine energy that is the source of life. The Divine Master is also the ‘light of the world’. Those who follow him shall have the ‘light of life’ (Jn. 8. 12). Prayer according to Lord Jesus Christ has to be more of a matter of the heart than of many spoken words. ‘When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret’ taught Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 6. 6). Here, the term ‘inner room’ is to be understood as the ‘cave of the heart’. ‘Close the door’ implies withdrawing our senses from external things and focusing the mind on God the Father who is Spirit, Love and Light. The Spirit of God will empower us, the Love of God will enliven us and the Light of God will enlighten us through such prayer. We will
then enjoy ‘abundant life’. Lord Jesus Christ came to give this ‘abundant life’ to all those people who ‘seek, knock and ask’ for it through prayer as he had taught us. The prayer life of a disciple of Lord Jesus Christ often goes through four stages. In our Indian tradition we can also refer to these four stages as ‘Salokhyam’, ‘Sameepyam’, ‘Saroopyam’ and ‘Sayoojyam’, which are the four stages in the spiritual quest and life of a sincere seeker of God. ‘Salokhyam’ in the context of our Christian prayer life implies familiarity. It means we are familiar with the name and person of Lord Jesus Christ, we read the Bible and we often go to Church to pray to him. Most ‘Christians’ come under this category. Petitions, Praise, Thanks-giving, Adoration, and Sacraments etc. can be seen as forms of prayer at this stage. ‘Sameepyam’ implies closeness. At this second level of our prayer life we develop a close personal relationship with the crucified and risen Christ. We can feel his living presence in our lives. He will become ‘Emmanuel’ for us and we will become fearless and creative disciples of the Divine Master, ready to take risks for him and on his behalf. ‘Saroopyam’ implies imitation. At this third level of our prayer life we begin to imitate the Lord in our own lives. He becomes our standard and we sincerely strive to become Christ like-persons. ‘Sayoojyam’ implies blissful communion. At this final stage of our prayer life we enter into a blissful communion with God the Father through the living Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit of God. This was also the communion prayer of Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 17.21) Popular Christianity remains mostly at the first level. Vocal prayers, petitions, seeking for favours and miracles etc. are the characteristics of people at this level. Meditation and mysticism alone can lead us to higher levels of prayer life. The ‘Peace of Christ Meditation’ (also termed ‘Inner Peace Meditation’) developed and promoted by ‘Disciples of Christ for Peace’ (DCP) through the Dharma Bharathi School of Forgiveness & Reconciliation (DBSFR) is found to be very effective in leading sincere seekers to higher realms of spiritual growth and experience. Editor’s Note: Acharya Sachidananda Bharathi is a former Indian Air Force Squadron Leader turned disciple of Sadguru Jesus Christ. An encounter with the living Spirit of Christ while hospitalized after an air accident in 1982 was the ‘turning point’ in his life. He has founded a number of organizations, institutions and ashrams. He has also travelled much and has authored a number of books. He was one of the delegates who represented India in the ‘Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders’ organized by the United Nations in August 2000. He now lives in Dharma Bharathi Ashram, Mulanthuruthy, Kochi – 682314, Kerala. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile - 07709796805 & URL:www.navasrushti.org
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Aspects of the Prayer Movement in India (A Personal Account) Dr. M. A. Raju, India* The below is an excerpt from the Book “Transforming Partnerships” chapter 1 – Aspects of the prayer movements in India (A personal account) Be steadfast in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Pray for us also that God may open the door to us for the Gospel. And pray that words may be given to us to proclaim boldly the mystery of the good news of salvation… that in proclaiming it we may speak courageously and winsomely, as we should…The earnest heartfelt prayer of righteous people makes tremendous power available. (Col.4:3, 4; James 5:16 Amp. Bible) Prayer is the foundation of all that we are and do. “When we work, we work. When we pray, God works.” Below are some of the ways that prayer has been woven into God’s work in India. Earlier periods The recent prayer efforts of the last 25 years described below look back to much earlier prayer, starting in the 1950’s with individuals and small groups praying for the nation after independence. (It is difficult to be sure of the period before that because of insufficient documentation – though most of us have read of John Hyde and the Punjab Prayer Union and the revival in the early 1900’s beginning in Sialkot (now in Pakistan). In the 1950’s the movement, as I see it, was in South India and in the North East and in the Prayer Fellowship for South Asia (PFSA) in Britain where a group of returning missionaries have been meeting regularly twice a year and exchanging news letters about happenings in South Asia. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) was also birthed in the deep desire for revival and held regular prayer events for revival in the same period (recorded in ‘To God be the Glory’ by Robert McMahon). The early 60’s: In the early 60’s there was intensification of prayer with the Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB). Prayer groups were started in different places in Tamil Nadu with committed leaders just to pray for the nation. All the pray-ers became members of Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB). I still remember Dr Kamalesan recounting to me in London how in the early 60’s when they were praying for India they felt a mighty wind and they all went about shouting and praising God and laying their hand on a map of India on every district and claiming it for Christ. He told me about an overseas missionary who was staying in the house and was fast asleep they woke him up saying how could he sleep at such a time as this. Out of this prayer FMPB, with its amazing missionary movement, was born – A mission society with sacrificial giving and dedicated prayer. Its members don't think that it is a burden on them but they think that it is a precious privilege for them to give whatever they have to the Lord. Today FMPB raises more than Rs 60 crores (US$ 9 miillion) a year for missions and has over 2500 missionaries.
The other group that prayed regularly every morning at 5 am was the Mizo village churches under the Mizo Presbyterian church and later the Zoram Baptist churches (the Mizo churches have had periodic revivals since the Welsh revivals in 1906). The Mizo churches, like FMPB, independently raised finances for missions, with one hand full of rice for the family and one hand full of rice for missions, one egg for the family and one egg for missions. Today FMPB raises more than Rs 100 crores ($20 miillion) a year for missions and has I think over. Mizo churches too raise more than $25m a year for missions and also have over 2000 missionaries. (The Mizo churches have the highest proportion of missionaries per head of population in the world). 1970s: The first people I know who did prayer walking in the country were FMPB pray-ers. They used to take a round trip ticket (in those days the Indian railways used to have a concession ‘See India’ ticket for a small sum). About 10-20 of them, mostly rural teachers and others, would take an overnight train (so that they did not have to pay for a hotel) go to a local CNI church – to have a bath etc. – and then use the church hall to pray for that city. This they used to do every year, taking the train to the major north Indian cities, throughout the 70’s 1980s onwards: In the mid 80’s South Asian Concern came into the picture when we latched on to the Prayer Fellowship for South Asian (PFSA) which used to meet for a weekend of Prayer every year. We then started our own 24 hour prayer and fasting for India in April-May every year. When I came to India in 1991 I soon realised the immense need of prayer. In 1994 we did the first Spiritual map of India when Dr John Robb came to Varanasi. With DR Victor Choudhrie we did our first prayer boat trip. The book by Diane Eck ‘Benares City of Light’ stimulated me to do a spiritual map of Varanasi that was circulated. About the same time my brother in Bombay told me about Dr Zacharias Fomum, a Cameroonian Biochemist and Apostle of Prayer who had a church of 3000 in Yaounde and a 24 hour prayer ministry led by a sister Esther. My brother helped Dr Fomum to publish 10 (really intense) books on prayer in India. Dr Zach had been making visits to India, taking a room in a hotel in Bombay and Varanasi and other cities for 10 days and having only water and tea and praying for India. I invited him to come again and teach on prayer. From 1994 to 1998 I went around with Dr Zach stirring up prayer for India and he taught on prayer. There were sometimes 50, sometimes 100 in a church, from Ludhiana to Mumbai, from Coimbatore to Hyderabad. The largest audience we had was 2000 in a church in Coimbatore. He was particularly popular with FMPB, as their prayer movement was flagging. His books were translated into Tamil and lapped up there. Once I was with him at a FMPB conference in Tamilnadu where there were
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nearly 2000 missionaries and their families. In the middle of the heat of May we had 2 days of teaching and praying for India. About that time I also produced a booklet ‘30 days of prayer for the Hindu world’ with a YWAMer (on the same lines as the 30 days of prayer for the Muslim world’, also by YWAM). This was produced each year from 1998-2001 by South Asian Concern in partnership with YWAM. From 1994-96, there was a modest worldwide movement for praying for the Kumbh Mela spearheaded by Greg and Debbie Wiley of YWAM. Peter Wagner was involved as well as the spiritual warfare track of the AD 2000 and Beyond movement, so ably led by Luis Bush. It was at that time that the North India Harvest Network (NIHN) was born. I had prepared a paper on the challenge of North India, ‘The Core of the Core’, which Luis Bush edited and published and put on the web. Later Dr Bush came to India and led about 6 or 7 awareness meetings in North India which was also published as a short book. With Tony Hilton Samuel (son of the first FMB Missionary to be sent to North India) and his mates plus Rajesh Tiwari my research assistant and Ram’s niece Sheena Gidoomal, we produced books on Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Nepal. In those books we outlined every people group, language, urban agglomerate and geographical district. The Kumbh Mela in 1998: Greg Wiley took a film that I had picked up from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) in London and edited it to a short film on the Kumbh Mela, which raised prayer worldwide for the 1998 Ardh (half)`Kumbh in Haridwar. By that time the Wiley’s had moved with their prayer team to Mussoorie (35 miles from Haridwar) and Ray Eicher (formerly head of OM in India) had got involved. Every month we used to take a team to Haridwar to fast and pray for the Kumbh. Also we had 24 hour fasting prayer in Mussoorie for North India. We also met every day from 6-7 am in the morning for prayer for North India. I had by then prepared a Spiritual map of India. Patrick Joshua of FMPB invited leaders from North India Harvest Network (NIHN) to fast and pray with FMPB at the Sangam (at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna) in Allahabad. We also produced our own film on the Kumbh Mela led by a YWAM film crew. Ray Eicher prepared a strategy where he got 5 million gospel packets in 11 Indian languages distributed in 26 locations mostly in Uttar Pradesh through nearly 800 volunteers (750 from OM with Joseph D’Souza’s backing). Amazingly all the tracts were distributed without a single violent reaction. New leadership for the Prayer Movement: By then the Prayer movement was taken over by Brother Vardaraj and he and Dr Fomum went to cities and towns that had sometimes 5.000 and even 10,000 people at a time praying for the country. Other Prayer Ministries: Also about that time we became aware of other prayer movements. ‘Quiet Corner’ led by
Thomas Samuel (former head of OM India) had been running since the 1970’s, as had ‘Jesus Calls’, the prayer towers in India founded by Dr DGS Dhinakaran. One led by Mohan C Lazarus and ‘Jesus Redeems’ ministry in Nalumawadi, a small village in Tamilnadu, used to have 6000-10000 people meet every month in that small village for 12 hours of fasting prayer for the country. I think the first truly 24 hour prayer ministry was started in the 1990s by Bro Chelladurai in Chennai under the ACA independent Church. The 24 chain prayer had 3500 volunteers with a true 24 hour nonstop prayer for the country without a minute lost in between. 2001: Back at the full Kumbh Mela in Allahabad Dr Zacharias Fomum held a Prayer conference where there were nearly 900 Christians who gathered for prayer at ABS, arranged through Conrad and Nina Menezes and Bro Vardaraj. During that Kumbh Mela one organisation raised 2 million packets of tracts in 6 Indian languages and distributed them in 10 different locations, through 350 volunteers. In Jan 2001 the floodgates of response started. At a Sunday meeting at the university chapel at Allahabad Agricultural Institute there were over 300 people crowded into the meeting. It was led by a revived Dr R B Lal, Vice Chancellor (now SHUATS). By June of that year there were 5000 village people meeting at the SHUATS sports stadium in Allahabad. By Dec that year 50,000 were coming every Sunday to hear the Gospel preached by Dr R B Lal the Vice Chancellor at the Yoshi Durbar. NPCTI and UCPI In 2004 the National Prayer and Church Planting Initiative (NPCTI) was launched, followed by the United Christian Prayer for India, as described in later chapters of this book. On 5th January 2013 over 300,000 people met under the leadership of Mohan C Lazarus and Jesus Redeems Ministries in Chennai to fast and pray for 12 hours for India!! It can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXyc3qZ80N0) There are so many unsung heroes of the faith. It makes me want to sing…….
God is still on the throne, and He will remember His own; Though’ trials may press us and burdens distress us, He never will leave us alone; God is still on the throne, He never forsaketh His own; His promise is true, He will not forget you, God is still on the throne. Editor’s Note: Dr. M. A. Raju was trained and practised as a neurologist in the UK and moved to India to provide compassionate help and social justice to poor in Utter Pradesh, India.
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URSLEM YAATRA VIVARANAM: AN ALTERNATE READING: Part-2 Revd Dr. Valson Thampu, Trivandrum [Saint Geevargese Mar Gregorios is popularly known as Parumala Thirumeni (Bishop of Parumala) and also known as Kochu Thirumeni, (15 June 1848 – 2 November 1902. He was a bishop of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. In 1947, he was declared a saint by the then Catholicos of the church, Baselios Geevarghese II. Later, in 1987, he was declared a saint by the then Patriarch of Antioch, Ign- Page 17atius Zakka I. He was recognised as a saint by The Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church and Coptic Orthodox Church. Part -1 of this article appeared in FOCUS January 2018] We are now in a position to understand why Thirumeni was keen that every congregation should have a copy of Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam and all, who could do so, visit the land of the Saviour. He was not promoting holy tourism! Of course, he knew that only a microscopic minority among his immediate flock could even dream of undertaking such a journey. But whether one can go to Jerusalem or not, one thing is within everyone’s reach. There is no one who cannot go beyond the limitations of the spoken, or preached, word and enter into a vitally reciprocal relationship with the Living Word. Also, there is no one who is in a particularly privileged position in this respect. This is the light that shines out of Jesus’ most extraordinary conversation with the woman of Samaria. “Sure, you need this water. But, by itself, this will not do. There is water you have not heard of before, which you now have. I am the living waters.” The woman came to Jacob’s well ‘seeing’. She abandons her pitcher at the well and rushes to the denizens of the city in evangelistic outreach ‘seeing’ differently. Any ‘seeing’ that does not take us beyond ‘seeing’ of the first kind, and the scope of mere hearing needs to have his eyes opened by the light of the world (Lk. 4: 18; Jn. 9: 5). If the woman is not to go beyond her present degradation, water from Jacob’s well should do. The best thing to do then is to dress up that well in a hoary tradition and to tout it as a hallowed tourist destination. While the world moved on, for better, for worse, from the ‘heard’ to the ‘seen’ -and have become the blinder for it- the Christian community in Kerala remained laboring under the ‘heard’. We live drenched under a Monsoon of words. In our midst, words are pretty much like rains. Gusts of proclamations come and go. The rain of words, presumably centred on the Word, leads none to the living waters. There could be debates on whether or not Parumala Thirumeni’s was indeed the first travelogue in Malayalam. But there can be no doubt at all if he was the first to take the prophetic pains to emphasize the need for the faith community to supplement hearing with seeing. Given how little this is understood even a century after Parumala Thirumeni advanced it in his own authentic fashion, it will not be inappropriate to stay a while longer with it. In what sense is the ‘seen’ Word spiritually superior, or more helpful, than the word that is only heard? The heard word implies the passivity of the believer/listener. He only has to lend his ears. In contrast, what is seen transforms the believer into an active, eager participant. Listener could become a seer. The focus, then, is as much on the one who sees as on what is seen. This shifts the emphasis from what is provided, to what needs to be attained.
The bankruptcy of our spirituality, the anaemia of our faith-life, is its poverty vis-a-vis first-hand experiences and the barrenness it breeds. We are not unlike the fig tree that disappointed Jesus on his way -what a remarkable coincidence! - to Jerusalem. It seems to flourish; but is barren (Mt. 21: 18-22). The point is that there is a relationship between God’s initiatives and human responsibilities. Spirituality involves seeing the link between the sacrificial atonement that Jesus undertook and the fruitfulness with which we need to respond to the same; for sacrifice is not waste. Even a fig tree is required to be fruitful. It is this logic that underlies the composition of Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam. The book is the fruit of the author’s journey; and it needs to be treated and cherished as such. It was the very same logic that transformed Kochu Thirumeni into Parumala Thirumeni. If it were otherwise, his life would not have been relevant to the spiritual struggle and faith pilgrimage of the generations after him. ‘Seeing,’ in the sense in which Parumala Thirumeni envisages its scope and purpose in Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam, can orient hearers and passive spectators towards the narrow way to saintliness. Going by the insight that Jesus provides in the Sermon on the Mount, it is the willingness to go out and ‘do’ according to what is ‘heard’ that expresses the essence of such seeing. “He who hears these words of mine and does them…” (Mt. 7:24). The journey that Thirumeni undertook involved ‘doing’ of this order. A saint is one in whom what is heard becomes what is seen, and what is seen becomes what is done, and done in such a way that what one sees becomes visible to others as well. Jesus said, “Let your lights so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5: 16). This, more than anything else, accounts for Thirumeni’s eagerness to ensure wide circulation for Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam, so that his people who would not be able to go to Jerusalem may see it through his eyes. Spiritually, the shepherd is also the eye of the flock. That is why ‘watchfulness’ is critically important in discharging episcopal responsibilities. From the biography of Parumala Thirumeni it is obvious that his Jerusalem journey made him all the more active. It was followed by several significant initiatives and advocacies. Especially noteworthy is the fervor with which he addressed the Dalit question, in which he was truly a pioneer and a revolutionary. In the historic speech that Thirumeni made, soon after returning from his Jerusalem visit, he said“At the present time, those who are languishing in what are considered lower castes -pulayas and others- are disallowed to use public thoroughfares. They are denied the right to be in concourse with their fellow creatures. It is our duty to end their suffering and degradation, to empower and liberate them through education, and to welcome them into the way of salvation and social rehabilitation.” Sadly, most people have stayed as ‘listeners’ and not ‘seers’ and ‘doers’ of Thirumeni’s words. Commenting on the spiritual paralysis this betrays, Siby Tharakan wrote, “This mandate has still not entered into the mainstream of the Orthodox Church.”
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Every text has an interpretative key. Identifying it and using it perceptively is similar to using keys to open and enter our houses. The alternative is to skirt around the house, without bothering to enter it. What, then, is the interpretative key to Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam? Those who have read the narrative with ears attuned to the spiritual genius of Parumala Thirumeni will readily agree that it is the passage pertaining to “puthen theei”, or the new fire. The whole of chapter nine is devoted to this episode. I give below an excerpt from Thirumeni’s account of it“It is ardently held by believers in the Eastern tradition that puthen theei is a spontaneous emanation from the Holy Sepulchre. This is endorsed not only by Christian believers but also by the Muslims in this region. Tradition has it that, once upon a time, rich and aristocratic people crowded this sacred space to the exclusion of the poor from this awesome experience. The door was shut against them. It happened thereupon that the stone block, to which one of the flaps of the door was fixed, cracked from top to bottom and, through the split; fire from the sanctuary went out to the poor and the excluded. The rich and the mighty had to come out and receive the new fire from them.” Beyond providing a matter-of-fact account of what obviously is a widely revered tradition; Thirumeni does not dilate upon its history, or bother to record his personal views on its veracity, one way or another. He takes it as the given and puts the spotlight on the impact this experience had on him. While reading this chapter and the one that follows, which concludes the narrative (chapter ten); it becomes amply clear that for Thirumeni the ‘new fire’ had a profound resonance. This reminds us of Moses’ experience in Midian, when the angel of the Lord appeared to him“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up” (Exo. 3: 2). Fire is a universal symbol of zeal. In the spiritual context, it is zeal bred by purity. Biblical purity is dynamic, not static. It denotes a mighty presence, not an absence. Fire, in this sense, is as much within as it is without. (What sense would ‘puthen theei’ -or any fire- makes to a church like the one in Laodicea? (Rev. 3: 15-16). This is obvious in the case of Moses. He saw the burning bush, and it spoke to him in a transformative way to a missional effect, because the fire kindled something within that was ready to burn and glow. It is the missional link between the fire out there in the bush and the fire within Moses that saves the bush from getting gutted. Such fire is also the fire of self-realization: the sudden and blazing awareness of the unearthly purpose underlying the earthly existence of human beings. In the case of Moses, the fire did not consume the bush; but it was, nonetheless, an allconsuming fire. What this fire consumes, or buns out, are not bushes in nature, but the fetters in culture that hold us back from taking the plunge when called into partnerships by God. Human beings experience life in all fullness in course of being sent out in missional partnerships. God calls us out of our confinement to the partial, and leads us to the fullness, or wholeness, of life. Godly partnership is empowered freedom. This explains why “putten theei” -new fire- will not stay confined behind barred doors as a hostage to anyone. Fire is no
respecter of ranks and statuses. Nor is it vassal to the will of man. It will break out. Dare you resist? You will burn yourself. Fire points to a horizon of possibilities beyond human control. What stays confined to man-made systems is not fire; it is mire. A saint is one who, being the new fire kindled by God, breaks out. That is why, paradoxically, he attracts! “Puthen theei,” as Thirumeni encountered it, is to spiritual civilization what empirical fire is to material civilization. To break out is to liberate oneself from the stereotypes that, in every society, hold its members shackled. The connection that the book of Exodus establishes between fire and liberation is a significant one; and it is central to the spiritually transformative experiences that Parumala Thirumeni narrates in Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam. Was the tradition concerning the new fire blazing forth on the day of the Resurrection from the Holy Sepulcher a living tradition; or was it only make-believe? Thirumeni does not shed light on this question. Instead, he is fully and glowingly engrossed in this profound experience. Here we have yet another crucial spiritual truth. How do we harmonize faith and fact in the spiritual pilgrimage that life is? There are times I feel inclined to believe that spirituality, like art, is a collaborative experience. Religious accoutrements are, at best, raw materials for spirituality. No ready-made version or view is imposed on us. Spirituality, like art, is a domain of freedom. It is incompatible with coercion of any kind. God is marked more by vulnerability than by raw power! The biblical vision culminates, in the book of Revelation, on the slain Lamb. God’s vulnerability is the matrix of human freedom. Freedom is basic to creativity. Not surprisingly human freedom is a prime concern for the Creator. The Lamb is slain only ‘to set the captives free’ (Lk. 4: 18). Consider this analogy from the Gospels. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John. As he emerged from the river, Jesus saw the Holy Spirit descend and rest on him in the form and likeness of a dove. The text does not say if anyone other than Jesus, including the Baptist, saw this sign of divine significance. The same applies also to the announcement from heaven, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3: 16, 17). We have good reasons to believe that this was a privileged vision exclusive to Jesus. To that extent, this remains vulnerable to skepticism on the part of scholars who rarely realize that their intellectual tools and thought categories are irrelevant to realities of this order. Now consider the predicament of Jesus. His vision was more real to him than everything else in the context. Even so, he did not draw the attention of anyone to it, even for the sake of authenticating its veracity. What does he do, then? He believes in it firmly, passionately. He stakes his life on this vision. He abandons himself passionately to incarnating it with the whole of his life. It is not inappropriate to consider this as a Christological parallel to Parumala Thirumeni’s “new fire” experience. When it comes to fire, hearing will not do. It needs to be seen. But, to see, in a spiritual sense, is also to become. Zeal ensures that we become what we see. This too makes us revisit Moses in Midian. He was not a mere spectator to an uncommon fire. Because he saw the puthen theei, he became a ‘new fire’. That fire manifests itself, yet again, in the course of the people’s long march to freedom spread over forty years in the wilderness. In the spiritual
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architecture of the Exodus narrative, the appearance of the pillar of fire is a logical necessity. Through the pillar, fire spreads from the individual and connects to the people. But ‘puthen theei’, whether it is in the case of Moses or of Thirumeni, could have been only a profound personal experience. What is ‘fire’ at the personal level becomes ‘light’ in the life of the people. We say, ‘there can be no smoke without fire’. More importantly, there can no light without fire. Why do I underline this? Today, the Christian community is obsessed with numbers. This is a clear and alarming sign that the ‘pattern’ of the world (ref. Rom. 12: 1-2) has overpowered us. Whether it be in the sphere of politics, or of art, or of religion, prestige is measured in terms of numbers. The size of the crowds attracted, not the sense of the business transacted, matters. The significance of a church depends on the scale on which it is constructed and the amount of resources it consumed. Indian democracy has already shifted its foundation from ‘we, the people’ to ‘we, the crowds’. At the level of crowds and towers, there may be conflagration, but not ‘puthen theei’. Parumala Thirumeni did not go to Jerusalem because thousands were thronging there. He went there, because it was associated with One Man. All that mattered to him was the oneto-one rendezvous. Fire symbolizes the spiritual vitality that blazes at the meeting of godly souls. More than ever before, it is now critically important for the Christian community to regain this ‘personal’ and fiery dimension in the experience and practice of faith. We acknowledge and revere Thirumeni as a fiery ascetic. Being alone with God is the quintessential strength, the signature bliss, of an ascetic. An ascetic may not despise company or shun crowds. But he is not defined by either. He knows that puthen theei is strictly between him and God. But, because God loves the world (Jn. 3: 16), this puthen theei becomes light for the world God loves. The Jews would have neither emerged from the land of slavery, nor seen the pillar of fire in the wilderness, had Moses not encountered, and become, the puthen theei in the Midian bush. No fire can be ‘puthen’ or new, so long as it stays confined to secured spaces of social prestige. Fire that does not break out and impact the world around is no fire. Parumala Thirumeni went as a pilgrim to Jerusalem and returned as puthen theei, or new fire, himself. This is the defining aspect of his ‘travelogue,’ if indeed we must treat it as one.
journey. All of our earthly life is, must be, a preparation for our return journey. Jesus, we believe, is the Way for that journey too. He is the putten theei that illumines our path that merges with eternity. So far, I have argued against the unwitting disservice in treating Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam primarily as travel literature (sancharasahityam). Now is the time for me to agree with the literary geniuses and scholars ranged on the other side, whom I can mention only with boundless respect. I agree with them on the value and need for literature that ennobles, and empowers what is good and godly in every human being. The Christian predicament at the present time is riddled especially by two maladies. We are alienated from the Word. Second, we don’t have a lively Christian literary tradition that caters to human enrichment and spiritual up building. The Christian community has contributed several men and women of merit to the evolving Malayalam literary tradition: from Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar (whose Varthamaanapusthakam (1795) stands out, according to Puthenkavu Mathan Tharakan, as an epic in the genre of travelogue), to Sarah Joseph, who established pennezhuth, or feminist writing, on a pedestal of respectability in Malayalam literature. But Kerala Christian community, for all its multi-faceted attainments, has remained, despite the early lead provided by Parumala Thirumeni, in a prolonged slumber vis-a-vis spiritual creativity. Missionaries from the west, overcoming formidable cultural and linguistic barriers, did a commendable job in laying the foundations, which have remained in comparative neglect. One of the many reasons for this, I venture to suggest, is that we failed to heed the message embedded in Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam. Especially, the concern writ large over the distinction that Thirumeni makes between hearing and seeing. We expended all our energies on the ‘hearing’ part of our footprint on the cultural landscape of Kerala. We remained smug and indolent, our ears ever-craving for an incessant feast of proclamation. We rivaled and outstripped the rest of the world in the magnitude and plenitude of crusades and conventions. We luxuriated in hearing and abandoned ourselves to a cataract of resounding, but transient, words.
This makes me wonder. What is the most significant part of this journey: going to Jerusalem, or returning from Jerusalem, with one’s heart aglow with the new fire? If you are trapped in the travelogue paradigm, it is the former. If not, it is the latter. In a literary sense, Thirumeni’s adventurous outing ended in May 1895. But his pilgrimage came more into itself only thereafter. His Urslem Yaatra continued to his last breath.
We have been remiss in not developing the ‘seeing’ side of our spiritual heritage. We have ceased to be a writing and reading community in respect of spiritual literature. Luminaries like Metropolitan Paulose Mar Gregorios, M. M. Thomas, P. D. Devanandan, Fr. Kappan, and Fr. Ryan and so on, did their best in developing intellectually challenging and spiritually nourishing Christian literature. We let them be voices crying and dying in the wilderness. We did worse; we excused ourselves from the duty to ‘seek’ the treasures hidden in the Word. Isn’t it astonishing that more than a century ago, Parmalat Thirumeni was mindful of this danger? He was ahead of his times. He is ahead of our times as well.
This makes us ask, what does it mean for us to believe that we are pilgrims on this earth? Well, it means at least two obvious things. First, we have come here from elsewhere. The soul that rises here, says William Wordsworth, has had its setting elsewhere. We did not spring up from mud or spring out of apes. Only in respect of our bodies can it be said, “Dust thou art, and to dust thou shall return.” Second, we have to return whither we came. There can be no journey without a return
It is not necessary that we go to Jerusalem, or to any other pilgrim destination, in order to ‘see’. We may afford ourselves spiritually gainful ‘seeing’ where we are through the Word as well as the galaxy of printed words readily available to us. What a world of intellectual and spiritual nourishment is available to us! But have chosen to forsake this Jerusalem for the far country of indolent hearing; hearing without listening. Do we really have to cudgel our brains to realize that, if Parumala
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Thirumeni was not a keen and voracious reader, he would neither have wished to ‘see’ Jerusalem nor written an account, incredibly crisp and concise, of the spiritual enrichment it afforded?
While concluding, let me take note of Paul Manalil’s contributions towards making Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam intelligible and invaluable to all. Comprehensive as his introduction to the book is, and vigorously argued as his case is for recognizing it as the first of its kind, Paul does not sufficiently address the question, “Why did Parumala Thirumeni take as keen an interest in printing and distributing Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam as he did in making his pilgrimage to the Holy City? Why was he eager to get the community involved in both?
Rev. Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam
It is Thirumeni’s zeal in this respect that confirms me in my conviction that he was mindful of the need to nourish and fortify the community of faith with Christian literature of the highest merit. What a pity that this prophetic and pioneering insight was allowed to be eclipsed by our well-meaning, but misplaced, eagerness to secure a niche for Urslem Yaatra Vivaranam and its saintly author in the pantheon of Malayalam language and literature. In the early years, episcopal and pastoral letters read out periodically at Sunday services, and heeded with respectful attentiveness by congregations, met this need in part. Much care and effort was taken in drafting these circulars that remain, to this day, a felicitous and sober blend of substance and style, of letter and spirit. Time, however, does not stand still. The domain of culture elaborates its wares and costumes continually. Spirituality does not try to dodge the challenges this poses, but meets them in its own way and out of its own resources. It is the hallmark of a spiritually dynamic faith community that it remains alert and responsive to the changes in the cultural domain and continually equips and resources itself so as to stay steadfast and fruitful. At the present time, especially since the advent of the World Wide Web, and the ocean of resources readily available to Netizens, as most people are today, we cannot afford to stay stuck in the past, regurgitating the banquets of yester years. We need to create a lively tradition of contemporaneously relevant spiritual literature of exemplary merit. It is doubtful if anyone can argue convincingly that such a concern did not underlie Parumala Thirumeni’s undertaking Urslem Yaatra and, even more, in bequeathing its classic Vivaranam as a shared heritage for the Chritian Community in Kerala. The author of this splendid piece of spiritual literature was singlehandedly instrumental in exalting Parumala, till his times an insignificant sliver of land, to the status of a local Jerusalem. We don’t have exact statistics on this; but I won’t be surprised if the number of people who flock to Parumala matches that of those who troupe to Jerusalem. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)
(A Poetic Reflection)
0 God, creator and sustainer of all The visible and the invisible The human and the non-human The Father and the Mother of all We acknowledge your love and care In begetting and nurturing We praise and thank you for your unselfish love. We your children would like to bring a complaint Against our own fellow humans to whom you gave birth They urge us to call my neighbours by their nicknames They are really our brothers and sisters We all breathe the same air We eat the same food We have the same landlord Our adversaries try to brain wash our children daily Our children do not know any form of division They ask them to call our neighbours by their religious tags They call them “Hindus", “Muslims", "Buddhists”, “Sikhs”, "'non-Sikhs" and likewise. What shall we do? We request you to enlarge the chords of their tents We pray to teach them that life lived in love is nobler than Sacrifice. Lord, we are hungry and thirsty? Some of our neighbours go to bed with empty stomachs We are told that there is plenty in the granary We harvest crops in all the seasons But we are still hungry! Lord, our adversaries export our goods They believe in the laws of the jungle 'They are being ruled by the laws of scams! They defy our right to food We want your rule to come in our midst today. Teach our adversaries to share your food according to The number of your children And convict them by your command that life before death is Your wish And life after death is Your gift for the obedient ones Dear Papa and Mom, there are many in our midst Who tell lies? They kill and rob others They have no sense of guilt They don't seek forgiveness Teach us how to deal with them. Our dear Dad and Mom You are really great You carry the words of eternal life Let us have more of your genes Let us live daily and die daily For yours are love, honour and glory forever.
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A BLUE PRINT OF THE LORD’S PRAYER Revd Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam The Lord’s Prayer calls forth a paradigm-shift in mission from diakonia (service) to dikaiosune (divine righteousness). God as our Father – Father of all Believers cannot exclude other people when they say the Lord’s Prayer and address God as “Our Father.” The prayer embraces the whole creation as God is “the builder of all things” (Heb.3:4). The Church is called upon to remain faithful in God’s oikos (household) (Heb.3:2) as “His co- workers” (1 Cor. 3:9- tou theou sunergoi). The God of the Bible is a God in relationship. “Godworld” relationship is clearly brought out in the theme of the 9th and the 10th Assemblies of the WCC. The reference to the Fatherhood of God is not about the sexuality of the godhead, but of God’s caring attitude to all living beings. The world is not organized around Caesar, but under one God of creation. The reference to “Kingdom” in the Lord’s Prayer provides ethical and spiritual norms for action. 1.A celebration of a new sense of consciousnessthe Table fellowship of Jesus speaks of transcending the boundaries of caste and religion and even prejudice. 2.A new sense of relationship among the family of God- “the other” is not an object, but a subject to be loved and restored. 3.A new norm of faith and praxis - rooted in love and justice as the community of the faithful is addressed as “the aroma of Christ” to God (2 Cor. 2:16). 1.
Sharing bread is an act of compassion
Reference to bread makes the prayer universal, and the whole created order is also brought under it. Food is the substance of alienation. 20% of the people in the world consume 80% of the world’s resources. Food symbolizes human dignity and human survival. The Eucharistic prayer is a reminder of God’s providential care, which is not limited to human beings. In the Eucharist, the bread and wine-fruits of the earth and of human labour - are presented to God the Father, in faith and thanksgiving. The world is "to become an offering and hymn of praise to God." It is nothing but the Kingdom of justice, love and peace in the Holy Spirit.
What is the ground reality today? What about Market ethics? In a free market, there is no place for compassion and sympathy. Consumer values lead us to temptations of various kinds. The human needs are made wants! Multinational products are even advertised with the greeting, “yours temptingly!” The Market forces are violent, exploitative, manipulative and competitive. How do we exhibit a human face in the present context? In a selfish world, God is pushed to the periphery. It should be remembered that "Christian life is a continuation of the assimilation of the mystery of the cross in the fight against individual and social selfishness" When we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," there is a universal groaning of the spirit for equitable distribution of wealth (food) "Bread for me is a material problem, bread for my neighbour is a spiritual problem is indeed a statement of spirituality. The word (logos) of reconciliation and the ministry (diakonia) of reconciliation, as St. Paul puts it in 2 Cor. 5:18-21, have to become the means of making people "the righteousness of God (v.21)". Compassion and concern are words of the human heart. That which is concerned with the cave of the heart transcends the boundaries of any divide.
2. Forgiveness combined
In a Tsunami stricken area in Tamil Nadu, India, in 2004, we are told that it was a Muslim priest who took the initiative of burying the dead bodies of Hindus with a word of prayer. No religious divide separates people in times of crisis. A group of Sikhs came all the way from Hariyana and Punjab to Nagapatanam in Tamil Nadu to make Chapatis for the dying dalits and their surviving family members! A gesture of compassion and forgiveness, transcending the boundaries of religion has been demonstrated. The term 'forgiveness' is being used in the vocabulary of Economics when we speak of "debt forgiveness." The Lord's Prayer speaks the language of compassion and forgiveness. An ecumenical spirituality is bound up with all that life offers. God's concern is not simply for judgement, but of healing human brokenness. Healing of memories does not mean forgetting. It simply means that memories are no longer toxic. It is remembering in a different way. In forgiving one establishes a different relationship to the perpetrator. The perpetrator is seen as a deeply wounded man/ woman who also need a healing touch and redemption. The region of God on earth is to blossom into a community of people, caring for nature, forgiving each other and praising God for the gift of divine providence. In this respect the Lord's Prayer speaks of an action plan for all.
The recital of the Lord's Prayer challenges us to move from the realm of creed, code and cult to the sphere of spirituality. What is required today is less of religiosity, but more of spirituality. It is not how many times we recite the Lord's Prayer in worship, but to what extent does it lead us to a genuine relationship in God's one world.
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CHURCH – A PRAYING COMMUNITY (Mt. 6:1-9) Revd Dr. Abraham Athyal [It is part of a series of ‘Reflections on Lectionary Themes’ by Revd Dr. Abraham Athyal. The following sermon note is prepared for Sunday, January, 2018. It would be helpful to refer to the following verses: Gen. 18:19-33; 1 Pet. 4:716; Jas. 5:13-18; Mt. 6:1-9.] Church is defined here as a ‘Praying Community’. The idea is that prayer is an essential characteristic of the Church. As a faithful community we live in an atmosphere of prayer. We are sustained by prayer. We grow in prayer. We reach our destination through prayer. ‘Community’ means ‘a group of people having a particular characteristic in common’. What is our commonality, as far as prayer is concerned? It is our faith in a God with whom we can communicate. So we can be ‘in communion’ with him – that is what prayer means. Where Two or Three Are Gathered: Basic to our communion with God is the awareness of his presence. Prayer becomes as meaningful as the depth of that awareness. Church is the very ‘body of Christ’. It implies his real presence with us. We don’t need to go in search of it. We only need to realize it. (Cf. ‘Emmanuel’, Mt. 1:23, 28:20). In the context of a teaching on prayer Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20). J.B. Phillips’ translation is better: “Wherever two or three people come together...” God’s universal presence enables us to pray with confidence knowing that God cares for each one of us individually and for all. That knowledge gives an additional fortification for our intercessions. A prayer of William Barclay: “O God of mercy, who so cares for me as if you have none else to care for, yet cares for all even as you care for me, I commend to you my own needs but also the needs of all this world of men to which I belong.” (A Diary of Private Prayer). How deep is this awareness in us when we pray? Worship: A Solemn Occasion of Prayer: Communion with God may be either private or public. Worship is a public prayer – being in the presence of God as a community. Though there are several different elements in worship, the whole of it including the sermon, must be considered as a solemn occasion of prayer. We not only offer petitions, but also listen to his word, which speaks to us. Prayer is a mutual communication between God and us. It is not a monologue. The Lord’s Supper is the central act of our corporate prayer. It is ‘Holy Communion’ – communion both with God; and with one another, bringing together both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of our life in Christ. Paul’s words are significant: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation (koinonia) in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation
(koinonia) in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:16f). ‘Koinonia in the blood’ points to the new covenant signified by the cup at the Last Supper (See Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25) – a new relationship with God. But what does ‘koinonia in the body of Christ’ mean? Importantly, Paul says, it points to the ‘oneness’ of the church – a new relationship with one another. Mutual Confession of Sins: Normally, it is our tendency to limit our confession to a ‘General Confession’ in the church. But there is more to it than that. Consider the following: (1) How much does our General Confession reflect a penitent heart? Preparation for Holy Communion involves self-examination and repentance at home. That alone can authenticate our General Confession at worship in the church. (2) A praying community should be a community willing to confess their sins to one another. As we read in Jas. 5:16, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another...” That is needed even for your healing, says James. Which is more difficult? To forgive the offender (as I look at the other person), or to admit my own mistake? More often than not, it is the latter. It is easy to say, “I have nothing against him”. But what if he has something against me? Am I ready to look into the matter with a sincere heart and see if it is my fault, and if so confess it to him? That is what Jesus said, “If you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled” (Mt. 5:23-24). Reconciliation involves the willingness both to forgive and to confess. According to M.M. Thomas, the church is a koinonia based on divine forgiveness in Christ and manifested visibly in the spirituality of the Lord's Supper and extended in some kind of mutuality in congregational life. He says that divine forgiveness offered in Christ is deeply social in character. (The Gospel of Forgiveness and Koinonia, ISPK &CSS, 1994, p.2) Peter’s instruction to “Keep sane and sober for your prayers” is immediately followed by a command to “hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:7f.) How Not to Pray: Our text gives some cautions regarding public prayer. (1) Desire to impress others Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them” (Mt. 6:1). The Greek word translated here as ‘piety’ is dikaiosunē ((justice, righteousness, correctness, one’s own dharma. . .) Your
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devotion to God is required and is good. But it is not to be rehearsed for an advertisement. The motivation is important. If it is to impress others, you are already getting your reward, says Jesus. Only that it has ceased to be a communion with God.
Government of India Decorates the Emeritus Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church
(2) Hypocritical prayer Hypocrisy is feigning to be what one really is not. You are not what you appear to be before others. The remedy is to enter into a period of self-examination, “Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Mt. 6:6). Pray to God who sees you in secret for a transformation of your inner nature. (3) Meaningless repetitions “Do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Mt. 6:7). Avoid prayers that carry no meaning; avoid useless repetitions. Paul says that as we pray with inspiration we should pray “with the mind also” (1 Cor. 14:14 NEB). Liturgical worship is a blessing. But it can become a meaningless exercise. One of the benefits of Church Reformation in Kerala was that people were freed from unintelligible prayers in Syriac. Unfortunately some leaders today are interested in reverting the process. There are also groups who repeat the same words or phrases over and over until everything degenerates to unintelligible confusion. Prayer of the Kingdom Community “Pray like this”, Jesus said as he taught the disciples how to pray (Mt. 6:9). The so- called Lord’s Prayer is a model Family Prayer. We are a kingdom-centred community. Cf. Rev. 1:6. So we pray “May your kingdom come...Thine is the kingdom”. God is King, of course. But God is also ‘Our Father’. We pray for and on behalf of all his children – our brothers and sisters. Notice the plural pronouns, ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’. Selfish desires and petitions are excluded. Are we not guilty of selfish praying too often? Conclusion: Church is a praying community. But our prayers should encompass the entire family of God. Prayer life is based on the realization of our solidarity with all men and women before God, both in sin and in divine forgiveness. Guard against prayers becoming nothing more than a ritual. While using a liturgy concentrate on the prayers. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Praying in secret before the One who sees us in secret is a corrective to hypocrisy and mere ritualism. Praying in public should not become a substitute for spending time alone with God in private prayer and meditation. Editor’s Note: Retired Professor of New Testament at: United Theological College, Bangalore; Bishop’s College, Calcutta, Mar Thoma Theological Seminary; Kottayam, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, Chennai.
Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan Thirumeni Receiving Padmabushan award from President of India in New Delhi The Diaspora Mar Thomamites and Christian Community worldwide thank our Lord for the honour conferred on the Emeritus Metropolitan, Most Revd Dr. Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan, by the Government of India. This award of ‘Padmabushan’ is very rarely given for religious leaders for being a ‘Secular Democratic Republic’ country. Previously, such an award was given to Mother Teresa. Mar Chrysostom was given this award in recognition of His Grace’s amazing work as a great spiritual leader in uniting the whole country of 1.3 billion people and upholding constitutional and universal human rights of every person. Charles Kingsley, who was a19th century Church of England priest, philosopher and poet, wrote about his interactions with nature in the following way, “I was aware that I was immersed in the infinite ocean of God.” The success and longevity of Mar Chrysostom is entirely due to his ‘immersion in the infinite ocean of God’ and through his everyday interaction with people of every age, culture, faith groups and political ideologies because he has a God-given ability to sense the presence of God in human situations and interactions as mentioned above. For him, the mission of the church is God’s mission (mission die); it is not building walls, but breaking them down so that Christians could welcome and embrace the strangers, ‘the other’. He has been a beacon of light and a source of wisdom and is ‘lighted to lighten’. May that light continue to shine on us and encourage us to do God’s mission. He is the most blessed man on earth, and we celebrated his birth centenary in last April. He is indeed a blessing from God through him we are blessed. He is indeed ‘immersed in an ocean love’ of people of all ages, of castes and creeds. Let us individually and collectively say to Mar Chrysostom, ‘thank you for offering your whole life for our spiritual growth and mentorship’. FOCUS EDITORIAL BOARD
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Pearls of Wisdom Down Through the Ages-8 The Power of Prayer - St. John Chrysostom** [**St. John Chrysostom (c 347-407), Archbishop of Constantinople, was a significant Early Church Father. He is known for his legendary eloquence in preaching. The following is from his Homilies on St. Paul’s Second Letter to Corinthians. ]
Book Review: The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person E. Stanley Jones (Initially printed in 1972 and reprinted by the E. Stanley Jones Foundation in August 2017)
God is often won over by the importunity of a number of people praying together in unison of mind and voice. We should therefore be eager to meet for prayer and to pray for each other as the early Christians prayed for the apostles. In this way we shall fulfil the commandment, and be stimulated to love; and when I say love, I include under that heading everything that is good. We shall also learn to be more earnest in thanksgiving. If men give thanks for the blessings given to others, they do so even more for what they themselves have received. This was the case with David, who said: “come, magnify the Lord with me, and let us praise his name together.” It is what the apostle urges in all his letters and it should be our practice also. Let us proclaim God’s blessings to all, so that we may gain companions in praising him. If whenever we experience anything good at the hands of men our praise fills them with renewed zeal, we may be sure to declare God’s benefits will increase his favours towards us all the more. And if when we have been well treated by men we urge others to join us to thanking them, surely we should show even more enthusiasm in leading as many people as we can to give thanks to God on our behalf. St. Paul enjoyed confident freedom of speech before God, yet this was his practice; how much more it should be ours. Let us therefore entreat the saints to give thanks on our behalf, and ourselves do the same for each other. This greatest of all good works is a task that belongs especially to the priesthood. When we approach God, we first give thanks to the whole world and the good things we share in common – for each of us receives God’s gifts in common with others, even our own personal salvation. We should render thanks to God together with others, therefore, for our own particular blessings, and praise him in private for the blessings that are common to us all. The sun does not shine for one person alone, but for all together. Although part of the sun is visible to each man, he sees it as a whole; indeed it was precisely for the common good that it was made so large. It appears the same size to one man by himself as it does to all. The consequence to be drawn is that each personally owes a great debt of gratitude to God as all men collectively, and it is only fitting that we should also give thanks for the shared gifts and for the integrity of other people’s lives. Often blessings we receive are due to others. If there had been only just ten men in Sodom, it would not have suffered; it would not have suffered the fate it did. So let us give thanks too for the freedom and confidence that others show to God, for this is an ancient rule of conduct which the Church adopted from the beginning, and which St. Paul put into practice when he prayed for the Romans, the Corinthians, and for the whole world. *Collected by Dr. Zac Varghese from ‘A Word in Season’ edited by Henry Ashworth O. S. B, Vol II, and Lent Pat I, P 247-248, The Talbot Press Dublin, 1974.
To think that God not only offered us himself in the person of Jesus Christ, but also offered us His Kingdom, a master plan for the our lives and our world—this is fact and E. Stanley Jones reflects with depth and precision on the implications of this gift. This Kingdom master plan is not something that we ‘build,’ for it has been built into the framework of the world, and what’s more, as a gift. Jones writes: A note of warning must be uttered against the idea of "building the Kingdom." The New Testament never tells us that we are to build the Kingdom. We are told to "see," to "enter," to "receive," and to "proclaim" the Kingdom, but never to build it. What is the difference? The difference is profound and far-reaching. For if we are to build the Kingdom, then it is something that we bring into life, something that we produce. But the Kingdom is already in existence; it is a fact, so it is something we "receive." We are to build the Church, but not the Kingdom, for the Church is a relativism built more or less after the pattern of the absolute, the Kingdom of God. The idea of building the Kingdom comes out of misplaced idealism—that the Kingdom of God is an ideal. This idea is deeply embedded in our modern Christian thinking and must be rooted out at all costs if we are to make progress. Written when Jones was 87 years of age, this book is Jones’ capstone statement of his theology. The Kingdom of God fomented a revolution in Jones’ life that sustained him throughout his life-long ministry. He said, “I see now, as I have never seen before, the eternal fitness of the gospel – it fits the soul like a glove fits the hand, It is the way we are made to live, and to try to live some other
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way is not only foolish, but it is also impossible. cannot live against life and get away with it.”
Jones continues, if Jesus made the kingdom of God the center of his message and the center of his endeavor, then the greatest need of man, as I see it, is to rediscover the Kingdom of God. Man needs nothing so much as he needs something to bring life together into total meaning and total goal. Life for the modern man in East and West needs something to give total meaning to an otherwise fragmented life. Modern man needs absolute from which he can work down to the relativism of the day, a master light of all his seeing. Modern man is being pushed, pulled, beckoned, enticed and bludgeoned form all directions. He is being pushed from relativism to relativism. He is confused – the most confused, and yet the most intelligent person that ever existed. Modern man knows everything about life, except how to live it. Both pastors and laypersons are enthusiastic about this book and its message. This book is simply a must-read for every pastor! Through Dr. Jones’ profound words, I realized I had missed the Gospel according to Jesus. I had settled for a Gospel that wasn’t good and not really news. To trust we have received an unchangeable Christ and an unshakeable Kingdom is the very definition of Good News and is the key to living victoriously in the 21st Century! Read this book and you will never be the same. Jeff Gannon, Senior Pastor, Chapel Hill United Methodist church, Wichita, Kansas In reading E, Stanley Jones, you read not only history but about that which is always contemporary and ultimately eternal. Ron Crandall, E, Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky Not many authors can bride the cultural divide from one generation to the next. However, you will see that the concepts Jones presents are universal. They are just as relevant today as they were when this book was written. This book will lead you on a magnificent journey to an ever-increasing knowledge of God’s order and God Himself. E. Stanley Jones brings wisdom as he reveals eternal Spiritual truths. Duane V. McNett, McNett Press, Bellingham, Washington The E. Stanley Jones Foundation is in the process of reprinting several of Jones’ books. In partnership with the Methodist Publishing House, we plan to have all of E. Stanley Jones’ books back into print (and available electronically) by 2025. For more information about this effort, please visit the Foundation’s web site – www.estanleyjonesfoundation.com This 21st Century edition of The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person is available for purchase from www.amazon.com and www.createspace.com
An Eco-Liturgy Rev. Dr. M. J. Joseph, Kottayam Water in a glass and soil in a mud pot are kept in front of a lamp stand as eco-symbols. Four people representing the four corners of the earth light the lamp, chanting the great Upanishadic hymn “Asatoma Sat gamaya… “The worshippers are then asked to maintain a moment of silence reflecting on sky, earth, air, water and fire, the elements of the panchabootha. 1) Call to Eco-Consciousness (The leader reads the following leaving space for silent reflection) i) Psalm 19.1: The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. ii) Psalm 65.1, 9-12: Praise is due to Thee, O God... You visit the earth and water it... You provide the people with grain... The pastures of the wilderness overflow, The hills gird themselves with joy. iii) The Lord said to Job: Have you descended to the springs of the sea or walked into the unfathomable deep? Have you comprehended the vast expanse of the world? (38:16, 18) iv) The Seer of the 7th century A.D. prayed: O Earth, my mother, Air (wind) my father, 0 Fire (light) my friend; Water my kinsman, Space my brother, here do I bow before you with folded hands (From the Vairagyashataka of Bhartrahari). v) Neil Armstrong, while landing on the Moon at the Sea of Tranquility on July 21, 1969 uttered words of ecstasy: "Big, Bright and Beautiful." vi) Eco praise. Ezra said: You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of the heavens with their entire host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you (Neh. 9:6). vii) Looking at: "A Seed" (Each of the worshippers holds a seed in the palm of his/ her hand) The following prayer is said by all: A seed is not a weed A weed looks like a seed Between the seed and the weed, life sprouts. A seed looks for a resting place A place of silence An abode in the womb of the Mother Earth.
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O seed, you are a miniature world Your patience makes you great Your humility to cling to the Mother's bosom protects you Your urge to resurrect makes you immortal. May your inherent power be the source of life on earth May your turning to the Sun Make us humble. May your willingness to die Be a lesson for us to live forever. (The worshippers sow the seeds into the soil, kept in a bucket saying, "May you grow hundred- fold for God's glory) viii)
Responsive Reading - Psalm 104:514 ix) Listening to the Eco-music (recorded). "Thank you Lord," by Jim Reeves x) Eco-sermons Sharing of eco-thoughts upon the objects such as grass, flower, fruit and leaves kept in a tray before them xi) Eco-benediction (1) "May every creature abound in well-being and peace; May every living being, weak or strong, the long and the small The short and the medium sized, the mean and the great May every living being, seen or unseen, those dwelling far off, Those nearby, those already born, those waiting to be born May all attain inward peace"(A Buddhist prayer). xii) Celebration of Ecological Diversity in God's Order of Creation (The story of the rainbow*) Narrator: Once upon a time, all the colors in the world started to quarrel. Each claimed that she was the best, the most important, the most useful, the favorite. Green said: I am the most important. I am the sign of life and hope. I was chosen for grass, trees, and leaves. Without me all the animals would die. Look at the countryside and you will see that I am in majority. Blue interrupted: You only think about the earth, but consider the sky and the sea. It is water that is the basis of life and this is drawn up by the Sun from the blue sea. The sky gives space and peace and serenity. Without my peace there would be no fun. Yellow chuckled: You are all so serious. I bring laughter, gaiety and warmth into the world. The Sun is yellow. The Moon is yellow. The Stars are yellow. Every time you look at a sunflower, the whole world starts to smile. Without me there would be no fun. Orange began to blow her own trumpet:
I am the color of health and strength. I carry all the most important vitamins. Think of carrots and pumpkins, oranges, mangoes and papayas. When I fill the sky at sunrise or sunset, my beauty is so striking that no one gives another thought to any of you. Red shouted out: I am the ruler of you all, blood, and lifeâ€™s blood. I am the color of danger and bravery. I am willing to fight for a cause. I am the color of passion and love; the red rose and poppy. Purple spoke with great pomp: I am the color of royalty and power. Kings, chiefs and bishops have always chosen me for I am a sign of authority and wisdom. People do not question me. They just listen to me and obey. Indigo was keeping silent, but could not hold any further: Think of me. I am the color of silence. You hardly notice, but without me, you all become superficial. I represent thought and reflection, twilight and deep waters. You need me for balance and contrast, for prayer and inner peace. Narrator: And so the colours went on boasting, each trumpeting its own glory. The quarrelling became louder and louder suddenly there came a flash of brilliant white lightning; thunder rolled and boomed. Rain started to pour down relentlessly. All the colours crouched down in fear, drawing close to one another for comfort. The Rain Spoke: You foolish colours, fighting among yourselves; each trying to dominate the rest. Do you know that God made you all? Each for a special purpose, unique and different. God loves you all. Join hands with one another and come with me. He will stretch you across the sky in a great bow of colours, as a reminder that he loves you all. You shall be a sign of hope for tomorrow. Narrator: And so when God used a good rain to wash the world, he put the rainbow in the sky with all the colours staying harmoniously. When we see it, let us remember to appreciate one another. (Based on an Indian Legend by Anne Hope, 1978)
Ecological Affirmation by all towards the establishment of Vasudaivakudumbakam We are birds of the same nest We may wear different skins We may speak in different tongues We may believe in different religions We may belong to different cultures Yet we share the same home - Our earth. Born on the same planet Covered by the same skies Gazing at the same stars Breathing the same air. We must learn to progress together happily Or miserably perish together; For man can only live individually But can only survive collectively (from the Atharvav Veda). Ecological Benediction-II (The participants of the worship service are given flower seeds as mementos). May you carry the seeds of faith, hope and love and sow the divine seeds in the Creator's fields. All say together: Loka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu.
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Published on Mar 24, 2018
Dear friends in Christ: FOCUS, is a lay movement formed in England in late nineties for the laity of the Mar Thoma Church living around the...