Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Some Basics the Teacher did not Know

Recently one of our high school young adults had questioned something
she had heard from her Malphonitho (Teacher). The teacher had told
the class that we are one of the Protestant churches because we broke
away from the Roman Catholics. The student, knowing better, disagreed
but sent me an email asking for a little write up on why this teacher
had taught her incorrectly. I thought I would share this with all of
you just in case you run into anything similar. Sometimes these sort
of teachings enter our Church because people marry Protestants, who
are not fully educated in the ways of the Orthodox Christian faith.

BEGIN RESPONSE

Yeah... your suspicion is right. The aunty is WAY wrong!

Here is how I would explain it (while trying to be sensitive to this
aunty).

The Syriac Orthodox Church is the original Church. Go back to the book
of Acts and in two places, you can find evidence for this (few other
groups have Biblical evidence for the history of their church!). First
look at the first and second chapters of the book of Acts. The
disciples gathered together in the Upper Room, where on the day of
Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon them. This is regarded as
the first day of the Christian Church. You may be interested to know,
this place is still one of our Syriac Orthodox monasteries! We call it
St. Mark's because St. Mark used to own this place... there is also an
icon there that was made by St. Luke who painted it of the Virgin
Mary. Here is a link:
http://sor.cua.edu/ChMon/HLand/YerusalemSMark.html

A few decades later, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, so the Christian
community there fled to Antioch. This is the heart of our Church, and
the first place where people were actually called Christians!

"...in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians."
Acts 11:26

It is a very important city in Christian history, as it was the place
from which the Eastern portion of the earth was administered. This is
why people from India are affiliated with the Patriarch of Antioch. On
an interesting historical note, this also at one time included many
Mongols, Chinese, Central Asians, Afghanis, etc. Those people have all
died off and are lost to history. The only communities of our Church
which survived were the South Indians and the Middle Easterners.

Also, I want to mention that our community in Jerusalem is VERY poor.
People are dying out there because they can't afford to have families.
The Archbishop of Jerusalem is visiting here now... please remember
our Church there in your prayers!

Back to the topic... so let me provide a little historical timeline so
you have something to mention if this aunty says something like this
again:

- We are the oldest Church as one can see from the Bible. We also have
kept the language of Christ, which no other Orthodox Church has done.

- In the year 520 AD, the Roman Church split away from our Church
(which includes the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and the Armenian
Church). After 520 AD, the RCC and us had nothing to do with one another.

- In the year 1054, the Roman Catholics of the East (also known as the
Greek Orthodox who were part of the Eastern Roman Empire at that time)
and the Roman Catholics of the West (Rome, those who we today refer to
as Roman Catholics) split from each other.

- In the 1500s, Martin Luther began the Protestant "Reformation". This
was an attempt to fix what was wrong with the Roman Catholics (because
they added many new ideas after they left our Church). Unfortunately,
the Protestants began rejecting more than they needed to, and they
have since split into 50,000 different and often competing
denominations! Basically, the Protestants threw out the baby with the
bath water.

Today, many Protestants who have learned about Orthodoxy are coming
home to the ancient Church--Orthodoxy. And actually, from OUR
perspective, the Roman Catholics were the first protestants because
they protested against many of the canons of our Church (they
basically became a political organization, and that affected how their
theology developed). So to be nice to the aunty, both Syriac Orthodox
Christians and Protestant have areas where we agree because of the
Roman Catholic theological problems... the difference is, the
Protestants did not return home to Orthodoxy, they just invented a new
religion.

If you have any more specific questions or you need me to elaborate,
please feel free to ask.

God bless you and pray for me!
Mike

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