Tuesday, March 31, 2009
THE MAKINGS OF A SPIRITUALLY VIBRANT PARISH
Professing Christ is a far cry from possessing Christ. Living a selfless life in absolute obedience to Christ's commandments is the only way to possess Christ and be His disciple(s). What distinguishes a spiritually vibrant parish is the parishioners' habitually 'loving one another' in the same way as Christ has unconditionally loved them. (Jn. 15:12) Loving one another is enjoined as imperative in Christian discipleship. (Jn. 13:35) Apostle Paul calls it a debt that we "owe" (Rom. 13:8) to one another regardless of pelf, position or power. Apostles Peter and John commend it as a way of life to be diligently pursued and passionately preserved for mutual edification. (1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Jn. 3:11&23; 4:7,11&12 and 2 Jn. 1:5) Furthermore, Apostle John exhorts us: "Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth." (1 Jn. 3:18)
Parishioners' loving one another must manifest itself in the way they instinctively think, speak and act. The following are a few among the many channels of expression of their mutual love and adoration.
1. Greeting one another: (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12 & 1 Pet. 5:14)
In the first three cited references above, Apostle Paul emphasizes the need for greeting one another "with a holy kiss" while in the fourth and last, Apostle Peter reiterates it using a similar expression, "with the kiss of love". The kiss envisaged by the Apostles is by way of informal routine unlike the formal 'kiss of peace' we cherish having during the Holy Qurbana. In a spiritually vibrant parish, members tend to greet one another, with a warm and cordial embrace and with spontaneous cheer and courtesy, especially when they come together for light refreshments after the Holy Qurbana. The temptation to remain secluded in prisons of one's own making cannot then arise at all. Inspired as they are with love for one another, 'other people' and 'common events' do not generally feature in their sublime conversation. Instead, they tend to discuss shared moral goals and values; precepts and principles; norms and standards. Even the tone and tenor of their conversation will be mutually elevating and empowering as is summed up in Eph. 5:19.
2. Rejoicing in the Lord and in one another: (Phil. 4:4)
A parish community, that steadfastly upholds love in all its internal dealings with one another, tends to blossom out as a 'joyful' community, rejoicing in the Lord always and consequently in one another.
3. Living in harmony with one another: (Rom. 12:16 & 1 Cor. 1:10)
A joyful parish community evolves into a 'peaceful' community in due course, ironing out differences and forging consensus amicably. The parish community is then at peace with itself, with other parishes and with God.
4. Bearing with one another in a spirit of forgiveness: (Eph. 4:2 & Col. 3:13)
When interactive love, joy and peace permeate among the parishioners, they tend to be graciously 'patient' with one another's shortcomings, and refrain from "passing judgment on one another." (Rom. 14:13)
5. Accepting one another and serving one another: (Rom. 15:7; Gal.5:13 & Eph. 4:32)
The offshoot of 'patience' outlined in (4) above is 'kindness' in accepting one another as one really is, and being servants of one another in "humility". (1 Pet. 5:5)
6. Encouraging one another out of goodness: (1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:13 & 10:25)
By 'goodness' is NOT meant 'inherent' goodness, but goodness attained by the parishioners through the practice of virtues in successive stages starting from 'pervasive love'. At this stage, they are able to overcome their envy, and begin encouraging one another to scale greater heights of success in their respective professional and/or personal pursuits.
7. Teaching and admonishing one another in faithfulness: (Rom. 15:14 & Col. 3:16)
All parishioners cannot be at the same level of spiritual growth and awareness at any given time. Those lagging behind need to be helped out by the enlightened and discerning in 'faithfulness' which is yet another fruit of the Spirit.
8. Submitting and being hospitable to one another in gentleness: (Eph. 5:21 & 1 Pet. 4:9)
'Gentleness' ranks eighth in the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22) Gradually, when parishioners climb up to the eighth rung of the spiritual ladder through self-surrender, the Holy Spirit enables them to submit to one another gently without self-importance or pride. They also tend to practice being hospitable to one another.
9. Exercising self-control in thought, speech and action: (Gal. 5:22)
At this final stage, parishioners are strengthened by the Enabler to gain control over themselves and be temperate. The steady ascent, step after step from 'permeating love', eventually culminates in self-mastery and control, indispensable to overcoming the world and its temptations, and living abundantly thereafter.
Gal. 5:22 reads: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Only when ALL the parishioners bear the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit in their daily lives, does a parish become spiritually vibrant in its true sense. Becoming and being a spiritually vibrant parish, has therefore to be a protracted ongoing process. Providential grace is the one key to achieving final victory.
Nakkolackal V. L. Eapen,
Monday, March 30, 2009
A video: Open To Me the Doors of Repentance, is one of the most beautiful prayers sung during Great Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was written by Boris Ledkovsky (1894-1975), a Russian-American composer of Orthodox Liturgical music.
But in this time of Lent, we need to be asking another question, not just further we are making a differencee in the world, but are we making a difference in the lives of our friends and neighbours. Are you doing so?
That is what the Mor Gregorios Community Center and St. Mary Orthodox Church is all about...making a differnce in the lives of our friends and neighbours. But we need your help to do so.
To discover how you can making making a difference email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call thecommunity center and church at 574=540-2048.
I know that you may getting tired of reading my call for help, but it is only with your prayers an your help that these programs will survive.
by Prof. O. M. Mathew Oruvattithara
1. 'One is in all and all is in one'
"We believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church", so runs an article of Faith of the Episcopal Churches. The very being of the earthly Ecclesia is expressed in these four 'essential' marks enshrined in this Credal confession. They are sometimes called 'esse' as they are the essentials for the visible Church 'to be' or 'to exist'. Ontologically the earthly Ecclesia is nothing more or less than these four 'notae' or marks. None of these 'notae' can exist to the exclusion of the others. Whenever any one of them is expressed or expounded, ipsofacto it implies the other three also. In other words, one is in all and all is in one, at one and the same time. It is due to the inherent 'mystery and communion' of the Ecclesia, that She is all these simultaneously. One God the Father, One Christ, One Spirit, One Eucharist and One Faith, as St. Paul pithly proclaims through his epistles, are what that makes the Church 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic'.
2. Creed Formation - Early period
As the four 'notae' form part of the Creed of the Church, their implication and significance can be appreciated in fullness, only with reference to the evolution, purport and purpose of the 'Creed' itself. Creed making is as old as the Christian Community, although official creeds did not appear until the 4th century, A.D. In fact, creed formulation is a legacy of Judaism. For, the OT books Deuteronomy and I Kings, do contain the declaratory affirmation of the Jewish Faith. Primitive Church was faced by a vigourous and dangerous Jewish counter missionary campaign. In the words of antiquarian Rufinus, the situation resembled a 'cold war'. In order to distinguish friends from foes, pass-words were to be coined. The Apostles composed their Creed to serve as a recognition. But this is not what that has come to be called the 'Apostes' Creed. The origin of the so called 'Apostles' Creed is from a 'Roman Creed', developed around 2nd century A.D. St. Paul developed a proto-credal summary as seen in 1 Cor 8, and 1 Tim 2. In Mt 28 and 2 Cor 13, the beginning of the Trinitarian pattern of later conciliar creeds is found. From the opening address in I Peter, the baptismal formula can be gleaned. Originally, Creeds were interrogatory. Later on, they developed into declaratory ones. Early Church Fathers continued the process of Creed making. The second century writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch contain precise principles of the Christian faith. A creed-like section is seen in the confession of Justin the Martyr, at his martyrdom, which took place around 165 A.D. Hippolytus, who was in all probability a Syrian priest of the early 3rd century did preserve the formula of Faith of the presbyters who condemned the heretic Noetus, at Smyrna, in A.D. 180. The 'Rule of Faith' which was in popular use among the Christian Community in the 2nd century gives a gist of the Faith of the then Christians. It is a short compendium of faith arranged in the Trinitarian pattern. Irenaeus, Tertullian and Eusebius had also developed Credal formulae.
3. Council at Nicaea - 'Iota conflict'
The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea held in A.D. 325, and attended by 318 Fathers, was a turning point in credal development. Although accredited ecumenical, all the Fathers save one were Easterners. And that one was Hosius of Spain, the advisor of Emperor Constantine who had convened the council on political reasons rather than on theological grounds. To combat the contentions of Arius, the Council promulgated a credal formula of one hundred and one Greek words of which 84 deal with the Son. One of the masterminds of this credal formation was Athanasius. Interestingly he was not a member of the Council, as he was not a bishop then. The philosophical temperament and analytical acumen of young Athanasius prompted him to refute Arianism. Athanasius was quick to realise that the assertion regarding the relation between God the Father and Christ, as expounded by Arius in the Greek word 'homoiousia' was full of fallacies. For, this term means that the Father and the Son are, of 'similar' or 'like' nature and the Son is a generate or a 'created' one. So the deduction would be, 'there was, when the Son was not'. Athanasius in his 'orthodoxy', denounced this as heresy as it would lead to polytheism. Therefore, he suggested another Greek word, 'homoousia' meaning, 'of the identical or same substance', to explain the relation between the Father and the Son. He affirmed that the Son is not 'created'; but 'begotten of and equal to', the Father and that 'there was not, when the Son was not'. Arius had drawn a line demarcating the Creator and the created. It is true, that he then gave Jesus, a unique place in the Universe. Yet, he put Christ on the 'created' side of the line. With dexterity Athanasius also drew such a line with equal sharpness. But he posited Jesus on the 'Creator' side. Since the two Greek words, 'homoiousia' and 'homoousia' differ only by the middle letter 'i', called 'iota' in the Greek alphabet, the Nicaean controversy is wittingly referred to as the 'iota' conflict. But the fact remains, that but for the so called crisis and the theological truimph of Athanasius, Trinitarian Christianity would have dwindled into insignificance, if not vanished completely. The situation, which impelled St. Jerome to remark, "the whole world have groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian" would have repeated almost in the entire Christendom. After prolonged polemics and acute argumentation, the Council amplified the Trinitarian formula, adumbrated by the prophets of the OT and the preachers of the NT periods.
4. Post-Nicaea period
The 'Nicaean' third article that dealt with the Holy Ghost was supplemented by the 'Council of 150 Fathers', which is also called the 'Council of Constantinople'. It was held in A.D. 381. What evolved from the consensus of the Constantinople Council has come to be called the 'Nicaean Creed'. It is because, the content of this creed is from the theology of Nicaean Council while the contour of it, was of course of Constantinople. So for precision sake, it is better to refer it as 'Nicaean - Constantinople' Creed. The Council of Chalcedon of 451 A.D., expanded further the Nicaean third article and furnished a fuller statement of the 'Creed of Nicaea'. In the East, excepting the so-called 'Jacobites' and a few other monophysites others accepted the Chalcedon formula and introduced it into their Liturgy of the Church. The Western Church, however, retained the old 'Roman Creed' and enlarged it. This has come to be known the 'Apostles' Creed. The Apostles' Creed, the Constantinople Creed and the Nicaean Creed are jointly called the three ecumenical creeds. Centuries had to elapse before the West modified the Nicaean Creed as to incorporate into it, the word 'Holy' from their 'Apostles' Creed and finally approved and included it in the central act of worship as the Easterners were doing. It was canon 3 of the 3rd Council of Toledo held in 589A.D., which enacted that the 'creed of 150 Fathers' called the Nicaean Creed should be sung by the congregation. Since then, the Nicaean creed has become the ecumenical confession of faith and the official creed of the 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic' Church.
5. 'I believe'
The word 'Creed' comes from the Latin word 'credo' meaning 'I believe'. Creeds are called so, precisely because the beginning is with the word 'credo'. The substance of the creed is called the Faith. 'Creed' expounds the Faith of the Church in such a way that the meanings and bearnings of Faith can be better understood. However as Pope John XXIII has said, there must be drawn a distinction between the content of Faith and its outer garment. Externals may change but the essentials of Faith remain unchanged. The 'Mother Church' had the insight into the working of the mind of man. She had no hesitation to call a halt to the helter-skelter wanderings of the human psyche. For this She furnished a formula of Faith. Affirmation of it, She said, not only clarifies the Faith but also affords a means of deeper commitment of heart and mind. The primary purpose of the formulation of the Creed is that those who became the members of the Church would know what She stands for and what are their commitments. Further, several situations in the life of the visible earthly Ecclesia called for Creed-like formulae and statements of Faith. Preaching, teaching, baptism, confession and polemics were a few of such needs. It is well to recall that the occasion for the proclamation of the Nicaean Creed itself, was to refute the Arian heresy. Chalcedon formula could be viewed either as the starting of a new preaching or the settling of a controversy. If situations demanded codification of 'Creed', 'worship' commanded it. Without the confession of the 'Creed', worship would be incomplete. So it is an Ecclesial mandate, that like the Lord's prayer the Credal proclamation also should be a limb of the Liturgy. Creeds are not extra-Biblical growth. Quite contrarily, it is the Bible that moulds and makes the Creed. Or if we choose, we may say that the 'Creed' is created and controlled by the Bible. It is acknowledged without demurring, that the very words with which each of the articles of the 'Nicaean Creed' in its original form in Greek, started with Pauline phrases as found in the Bible. Credal confession is concisely the Church's understanding of the Scripture. Consequently, there is no dichotomy between the Bible and the Creed. It can be absolutely asserted that the Creed of the Church epitomises the Bible. Today, the 'Creed' is the key and the best guide to hermeneutics. The 'Creed' may not give an exhaustive catalogue on the majesty, magisterium, magnanimity and mercy of the Lord. After all, human words cannot contain or convey the 'Word' eternal. Yet as St. Augustine has asserted, the 'Creed' is an alternative to silence.
6. 'Oneness' - The first 'notae'
One of the greatest mysteries of the Bl.Trinity is that even while It is a unity, It is a communion of the Father, Son and the Spirit. It logically follows that the Ecclesia which is the 'icon' of the Trinity must be 'One and a Communion', at one and the same time. As Pope John Paul II makes clear in 'Ut Unum Sint', the Trinitarian unity is the divine source of the unity of the Ecclesia. Ontologically the visible Church is established in the Trinitarian model. She is in fact, the body of Christ, forming a spiritual unity with Him. Biblical passages that bespeak the 'Oneness' of the Ecclesia, are galore. Jesus did not come to found 'churches'. He came to found 'the Church'. What Jesus said, when Peter confessed His Messiahship was, 'On this rock I will build my Church'. His priestly prayer as found in John 17, and the activities of the Apostles as recorded in Chapters 2 and 4 of the 'Acts of the Apostles' point to the unity of the Church. Again, a particular action of St. Paul is an excellent illustration of this point. With unflinching zeal Paul argues all out on the organic unity of the Church. In Chap. 12 of his Ist Epistle to Corinthians he expresses: "For, just as the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ". Adamantly he held that Gentiles could become members of the Church, without being circumcised and observing the Jewish Law. When differences arose on this score Paul himself made concessions as is written in 'Acts' 21. Again, Paul gathered gifts from the 'Gentile' churches, to be offered to the 'Mother Church' at Jerusalem. In order to effectualise the unity of the 'Church' he even risked his life by his journey to Jerusalem. Exhortations, epistles and homilies of antiquarian prelates of the Church also testify to the unity of the Church.
7. 'The Seamless robe'- symbol of unity
According to Syrian tradition, besides the Cross, the Scripture and the Eucharist are proofs par excellence of the Ecclesial 'oneness'. A Syriac Liturgical prayer extols the Cross: "as it has appeased the people with the peoples, that is, Israel with the Gentiles, so that in One Church, they may make entreaty........". Ignatius of Antioch in his letters to Magnesians, emphasises that the 'one' flesh and the 'one' altar maketh the 'Church' 'One'. Elsewhere, he suggests that Christ's standard rallies His followers everywhere, in the body of His Church. Irenaeus, held the belief in the 'One Church' and made the exclusive claim for it. The prayer that poured out from Polycarp as he faced death was for the 'entire One Catholic Church'. The seamless and undivided robe of Jesus is traditionally held as a symbol of the unity of the Church. St. Ephrem, deemed the divided Church not as the whole or wholesome body but as the wounded corpus of Christ. In short, 'Oneness' is the 'sine qua non' of the Church. Disunity is an ecclesial contradiction. To divide the Church is to destroy Her. Even though the doors of death shall not prevail upon Her, division and disunity may be described figuratively as the death knell of the Ecclesia. Mother Church's is the misfortune and ours is the tragedy that the Latin West relegated, if not replaced the Eucharist and the Scripture, the main visible signs of the 'Oneness' of the 'Church'. Instead it introduced the insignia of 'institution' as the symbol of Unity. The sequel was ruthless Latinisation under the banner of uniformity. The overzealous overlords of Latinization forgot the fact that unity did not mean uniformity and that in variety vests the vitality and vigour of the Church. This process resulted in utter disappointment and disillusionment among the Greek-East and the Syriac-Orient and other nations and peoples. It mounted up and led to the great schism of 1054 and the Protestant Reformation by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli etc. Even in India, the Church, called the 'St. Thomas Christians' lost her ecclesial identity on account of this policy of uniformity. As Rev. Fr. Dr. Joseph Perumthottam brings out in his doctoral dissertation, 'A Period of Decline of the Mar Thoma Christians' "the missionaries thought that to be honest and obedient towards the 'Holy Mother Church' meant uniformity with the Roman Rite and therefore necessitated the abandoning of the East-Syrian customs". The pseudo synod at Diamper and its sequel, the Coonan Cross did undermine the unity of the Church of St. Thomas in India. But, thanks to the ecclesiological resolve, 'return to resources' and due to the ethos of ecumenism the West has begun to invoke the 'neglected' ancient symbols of unity.
8. Oneness is not an 'alone' concept
Clearly, "the Oneness of the Church is not an 'alone' concept" as Rev. Sr. Dr. Sophy Rose very exquisitely and explicity expresses in her thesis. Christ's parables of 'the vine and the branches' as well as the 'shepherd and the flock', illustrate this. History of early Christianity also provides proofs for the 'plurality' of 'churches'. The 'Church', in the primitive period appears as a vast diffusion of congregations. Each one was a 'church', not because she had her own institution and constitution but because of the divine life pulsing through her. This life-force, was a flow from Christ, like fire to fire. That is to say, that each 'church' was conscious of being a branch of the 'vine', namely Christ. As a guiding principle for the churches and prior to the idea of multiplicity, is the 'Oneness' which each embodies. A church of a locality, if established duly by 'apostolicity' would certainly be a miniature of the One Church. To draw a parallel, a bar magnet, when divided scientifically results in the formation of many a 'mini' magnet maintaining the features of the original one. As the microcosom definitely contains all the aspects of the macrocosm, the 'offspring' churches will be the replica of the 'Mother Church'. The obvious reason is that on account of the 'Divine Life', each local church would enjoy in entirety the presence of Christ and not a fragment of Him. It was through membership in the 'Mother Church', that the early Christians of Africa believed to inherit the grace of Christ. Differences of social, cultural, historical and environmental conditions are legitimate grounds to form various 'churches'. But none of them is an excuse for exclusiveness or sanction for separation. In modern terminology, such a claim would be equal to allowing sociology to overshadow and eclipse ecclesiology besides thwarting theology. Fortunately, the Fathers of the early Church never had the notion that distinction denoted difference. Their thinking was that each local church, even if enjoyed autonomy, is not autocephalus or self-headed. Rather each provincial or local church formed part of the 'One Universal Mother Church'. This 'Universal Church' is certainly not made of by adding up all these local congregations together or by a few individual churches grouping together like pebbles in a bucket. To illustrate by a modern familiar example, a University is more than the sum of the colleges which make it up. True, in a sense the whole University is present in each of the colleges. Called into existence by God, the visible Ecclesia is no man-made agglomeration. On the contrary, the Church is 'One' even while it is 'a communion of churches' as the conciliar documents of Vat.II, clarify.
9. The Divine and the devilish
In conclusion, it is to be emphasised that Ecclesial 'Unity' or 'Oneness' is the Divine decree while separateness or disunity is the device of the devil. 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil' should be the constant chorus of the Church, so that the 'oneness' may not be undermined by forces of the underworld.
10. 'Holiness' - The second 'notae'. 'Mother Eve' and 'Mother Ecclesia'
Every kind of thing must be referred to its origin if it is to be evaluated in toto. So to appreciate the 'mark' of 'holiness' of the Ecclesia, Her genesis must not be forgotten. The Ecclesia is holy, because She is called into earthly existence by Him, Who is holiness itself. St. Peter, on whom Jesus founded His Church categorically reminds the Ecclesial community in invigorating words: "We are partakers of the Divine nature". He did not mince words. Rather he goes on to instil confidence by exhilarating expressions. The Churh, summoned by Christ, is a "chosen race, a holy nation, a royal priesthood". The 'Breviarium' hails the Church in no matching style. "Hallowed is He, who has established the 'holy' Church on the rock of faith and set in her, apostles, prophets and teachers, knowing the truth". Words, especially the last few ones, remind the Pauline phrases. Ancient Syriac Fathers, like St. Ephrem and St. John Chrysostom, use a profound imagery to explain the birth of the Church. As Eve was born from the side of Adam, so did the Ecclesia flow from the side of Lord Jesus. For them, the blood that gushed forth from the side of Christ, when it was pierced with the lance of the Roman soldier, is the sign of the birth of the Ecclesia. Since the blood of Jesus is holy and pure the Church must also be so. Furthermore, the Church is holy because She is ever being sanctified by the perpetual presence of the Trinitarian God, Who is holy, now and always. Holiness refers to the calling of the Church and its members. As the visible Church is a collection of heterogenous people, the epithet 'holiness' does not pertain to their worldly character and conduct.
11. 'Bridegroom and the Bride'
The analogy of the 'Bridegroom and the Bride' found in the NT makes crystal clear the sanctifying activity of Christ. The Lord loved the Church as His Bride and hallowed Her with holiness. Christ is concerned, as any husband is, with the purity and probity of His Bride. Precisely for this, His ongoing work in the visible Church is one of progressive purification. This is for making the Church, seemingly of sinful men and women, a holy entity as it ought to be. This is what St. Paul remarks in his epistle to the Ephesians. "Christ's aim is that He must present the Church to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing so that She may be holy and without blemish". Christ performs this by a mystic sacrifice, in continuation of the unique self-sacrifice at the Cross. After Jesus had died, risen and ascended to the right side of the Father, He returned in His Spirit to live in the Church. On account of His living presence in the Church, She has become the temple of the Trinitarian God. That temple which was Christ's body when He was on earth is now the Holy Church. By His precious and pure blood, Christ did purify and purge the Ecclesia of all filth of sin.
12. 'We get rid of our sins'
The 'holiness' of the Church is not a man-made quality. The Fathers, who incorporated the notae 'holiness' into the Apostolic and the Nicaean creeds simply gave expression to what was there as inherent elements in the Ecclesia, even in Her celestial existence. As a sequel, the holiness of the Church cleanses us of our iniquities. Indeed, by the intercession of 'Mother Church', 'we get rid of our sins' to adopt the six words that G.K. Chesterton has used in a particular context in his autobiography. An invaluable fortune for the humans! Anything short of perfect 'holiness' could not achieve this marvel for the mortals. As the wife is subject to her husband, so the Church the Bride, should be subject to Christ owning and acknowledging His lordship. This is Her seal for 'holiness', which in the words of John Macquarrie, "is co-operation with the 'letting be' of Being".
13. Ransom for Holiness
Basically the word 'holy' means 'separation'. In the 'Scripture' it is used of anything that is separated for God's use from the ways of the world or the ordinary business of life. Naturally it is used for such men and materials. In the OT some places are holy; so too some buildings. Even the utensils, the pans and pots of the Temple are considered holy. In the case of people, the idea of being 'separate' involved more. This is quite natural. People are not like chattels. They are endowed with discriminative faculty or will. If any person wants to be holy, he must surrender himself to the will of God. Of course it is God's great concern to call and create a people as His exclusive possession by making them holy in heart, mind and body. This is what redemption is all about, both in the OT and NT. Yahweh redeemed His people from Egypt by a 'call'. Again by a 'call' He redeems His people from the subjection to sin and satan so that they may be holy and blameless before Him. The fruit of His this action is the Ecclesia. The Church is selectively 'separated' and connected to Christ and Christ alone. The ransom has been paid for this; not with perishable objects such as silver and gold but with the precious blood of Christ, as Simon, the Kepa, says. Thus God has called into existence a 'holy' people who will be truly His. And this is the Holy Church!, the mystical body of Jesus Christ.
14. The task before the 'sinful'
The 'holiness' of the Church as God's exclusive possession is well illustrated by the various titles bestowed upon the 'people of God'. One of the common titles for Christians in the NT. especially in the writings of St. Paul, is 'Saint'. This word like 'sanctify' or 'consecrate', comes from the root, meaning holy. These titles entail responsibilites on such people to become worthy of the appellation. Apparently the visible Church contains the well meaning and the evil minded. Christ's parables of the 'net' gathering every kind of objects of the ocean and the other one, of the 'field and the tares', are suggestives of this fact. Therefore a task is laid before the 'sinful' people who aspire to find a convenient and comfortable berth in the 'Mother's' lap. The effort is not one of physical labour. It is of the kind of total mental transformation, or metanoia; that is to say 'holiness' is to be acquired. Therefore the Apostles appeal to the people for actual holy living. "As He who called is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct" writes St. Peter. St. Paul in his epistle to Corinthians exhorts the members of the Church "to cleanse themselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God". The Church is discharging a duty only and is not exercising a right when in deference to the call of Peter, Paul and the other members of the Apostolic College, She invokes the magisterium. The aim is to maintain Herself and Her children ever holy before Him who is, as the great prophet of the yore, Isaiah, hails thrice, "holy, holy, holy". Once the implication of this process of the 'sinful' folk acquiring holiness is understood, the paradox of depicting the Church simultaneously as 'holy' and 'sinful' would be vindicated.
15. Christ's 'dowry' -Sheet-anchor of holiness
The call to be 'holy' shall not be misconstrued as one for monastic or secluded life or for individualism. The earthly Ecclesia will have to associate Herself with the so called 'sinful' and the scum of the society who are in the ordinary tussle and tumble of life. The Church has to go out into the world and at the same time remain "aliens" and exiles or 'untouched' like the lillies of the lagoons and lakes. The Church has the potency to be in the world and yet not of it. How, it may be asked. The answer is, because of Christ's 'dowry'. As is the practice in the East where the bridegroom gives dowry to the bride, so the Church the Bride was offered by Christ the Bridegroom, His own blood as dowry. That bride- money is the 'sheet anchor' of the 'holiness' of the Ecclesia. Consequently, satan and his stooges shall tremble to draw anywhere near the Ecclesia and desecrate Her.
16. 'Catholic' - The third 'notae' - 'Name and Surname'
"Christian is my name, Catholic is my surname" proclaimed, Pacian the 4th century Bishop of Barcelona, in one of his letters to Sympronia. Three deductions can be derived from his usage 'catholic'. First, a geographic, then a legalistic and finally a qualitative one. Apparently, the 'notae', 'catholic' envisages world-wide expansion of the 'Church'. Or as the poet in St. Ephrem has put by using an OT metaphor, the Church had spread as Daniel's sfone had grown. It is history that at Pacian's period, the earthly Ecclesia had extended to all the corners of the then known world, through the blood of the martyrs, biblical preachings of the preceptors and benefits bestowed by the convert Emperors, Constantine and Theodocius. Spatial and territorial expansion as well as numerical maximisation alone will not convey the connotation of 'catholic' in its completeness as it is not a quantitative idea alone. The legalistic meaning stands for the submission to 'one' supreme head, ostensibly the Roman Pope or the Bishop of Rome. True, His primacy was acknowledged at the Council of Nicaea. Ecclesiologists, however, have highlighted the fallacy in this theory. They explicate that 'catholicity' is not mere legalistic submission to a particular office of a particular Church. Uniformity is not a mark of the unity of the Church. The Church is certainly a "communion of churches". These are the pointers of Vatican decrees. Unity, the Church must have; but, not by doing away with diversity. So the significance of the third interpretation. This is a qualitative one, in the true spirit of the NT meaning and in the original sense of the term 'catholic'. Rightly understood therefore, 'catholic' is a condition of having the quality of catholicity or universality in the liberal sense. This is in fact the cue from the message of the Messiah, regarding the redemptive role of the Ecclesia. Liberalism, not literalism and legalism, is the landmark of the lessons of Lord Christ. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation", "..... to all nations....", ".....until the end of the world......" Thus have Mark and Matthew recorded the words of Jesus. More than spatial expansion, what is discernable in this dictate is a qualitative undertone of universality. The Apostles were to teach a religion, suitable to the whole mankind, in contrast to any elitist expression based on race or nationality. The pre-requisite for a 'Catholic Church', according to Jesus, was not the belief either in the fatherhood of Abraham or in the Mosaic Law. On the other hand it is the faith in the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man, that makes the Ecclesia 'Catholic' and 'Universal' according to the Christian 'categorisation'.
17. 'Katholiki' is fullness
Although no where in the NT, is the epithet 'Catholic' attributed to the Church, the idea is imbedded in it. Ephesians, 1:23 speaks of the catholicity of the Church as "fullness of Christ, who fills all in all". Fullness, certainly, comes from Christ. Wholeness or fullness, or intense integrity, is verily what is imported by 'Katholiki', the Greek term derived from 'Kathholou' the root word of 'Catholic'. It was Ignatius of Antioch, who first applied the term 'catholic' as an attribute of the Church. "...... where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church", he wrote to the Church at Smyrna. The term 'catholic' here conveys the concept of the 'whole' Church. The remark of E.Lanne, the theologian, is absolutely appropriate here. "The local church" he opines "is not just a part of the Catholic Church, but it is the whole Catholic Church in its fullness in a given place". Of course, a local church can be a 'catholic' church, but certainly not 'the' Catholic Church. To put it more explicitly, catholicity is not against the 'unity' 'esse' of the Ecclesia. They are inertwined dual dimensions of the Church. Wherever a church may be, she is what She is in the whole, provided the stamp of 'apostolicity' is imprinted on her.
18. All inclusiveness
Originally the term 'Catholic' meant universality in the sense of all inclusiveness regarding membership. St. Paul's categoric contention is illustrative of this aspect. "There is, in Christ, neither Jew nor Greek, bound nor free, male nor female". The message is absolutely clear. The 'Catholic' Church shall not exclude anybody; but beckon everybody. Invoking the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, it may be said "with malice towards none, but with charity towards all", the 'Mother Church' would spread the glad tidings of universal salvation to the high and the low in the world. The term 'catholic', therefore, refers to the transcending of man-made barriers of nations, races, languages, status, gender etc., since they are all 'irrelevant', as St. Paul reminds the Galatians. Assuredly, 'Catholic' means that which preserves every tradition. This was the spirit behind the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem. To quote the modern Catholic Encyclopaedia, "as a sign of reconciliation and communication in Christ, the Church must embrace all peoples, classes, races and cultures as its birth on the feast of Pentecost suggests". Undoubtedly, this is the ethos of evangelisation which is an inalienable imperative of the initiator of the Ecclesia.
19. Neither a sociological nor a historical concept
'Catholicity' or universality is not a sociological concept. While adopting the culture of any community, the Church should be vigilant to preseve Her 'deposit of faith' and 'the traditions' from being eclipsed by excessive inculturation. Syncretism is no synonym for catholicity. Inordinate inculturation tends to undermine the identity of the Church. The Church should always remember that 'culture' is only the context and not the content of Faith. If a Church permits Her patrimony and heritage to be overshadowed and overlooked, Her very being would become a complex of opposites. A sifting process is essential. What is gained in quantity shall not be lost in quality. Likewise, a church which severs her umblical cord from the 'Mother Church' by sociological, sectarian or even theological factors and allows herself to drift away from her origins, has no legitimacy for claiming 'catholicity'. No mere, peripheral or secular continuity will be enough. 'Catholicity' is a spiritual and religious concept. Further, 'catholicity' is not simply a 'historic' idea. A church which has become oblivious of her original moorings and cut off the roots will not be 'catholic', even by her constant and continuous claim to, or reverberating refrain of, ancestry, antiquity and ancientness. 'Catholic' Church means, a Church having unbroken and uninterrupted 'continuity' from Christ Himself, through 'apostolic succession'. A Church shall not be 'Catholic' by the vestige of the 'once commended' glorious origin. As the celebrated Catholic theologian Hans Kung comments in his moumental work, 'The Church', "venerable memorial of a venerable tradition" will not help a Church to be 'Catholic' in spirit. Preserving the identity intact, the Catholic Church must move amidst and among varying verities, varieties, vistas and environments.
20. 'Catholic' means Orthodox
Certain other connotations of the concept 'Catholic' are also to be assessed. From the 3rd century downward, the concept 'Catholic' had gained the meaning of 'Orthodoxy'. This was the result of an edict of Emperor Theodocius. 'The Ecclesia Catholici' that is, the total all embracing Church became the only lawful religion in the Roman Empire. In legal terminology, 'catholicity' became 'orthodoxy' defended by law. The persecuted Church of the early eras became a privileged one in the post-Constantine period. With legality as the shield and orthodoxy as the sword, the Church could anathematise, denounce and excommunicate the apostates, schismatics and the heretics, in the polemics that ensued.St. Augustine uses the term 'catholic' in this sense of 'orthodox faith', especially in his disputations with the Donatists, a sect of Africa. It is of interst to note that when the term 'catholic' was used in the 'Nicaean Creed', it had the sense of standard doctrine. This was the meaning in the other ecumenical Creeds as well. It is commented by Daniel Lamont, in his treatise, 'The Church and the Creeds' as follows. "The holy Catholic Church, the phrase when first uttered in the Apostles' Creed, around 450 A.D., would convey the same impression as the 'Holy Orthodox Church' conveys to a Russian today". This would exactly be the meaning that a Syrian Orthodox Christian would also ascribe to the 'notae' 'Catholic'. Stressing on the quality of the term, St. Vincent Lerins, the 5th century monk and theologian also gave a precise definition of 'catholicity' in his heresiography called 'Commonitaria'. His definition has come to be known the, 'Vincentian Canon'. He explains 'Catholicity' in the sense of Orthodoxy, "as that which is believed every where and always by all men". It may be noted in passing, that modern theologians like Cardinal Frazelin, do not deem St. Vincent's views as exclusive since they do not encompass the later legitimate developments. Of course , they are acknowledged authoritative. St. Cyril, the 4th Century prelate of Jerusalem, has provided a comprehensive conception of the term 'Catholic'. This is by combining the elements of earlier definitions. In his 'Catechesis' he describes that Church 'Catholic' if She extended to the ends of the earth, taught true doctrines, opened the doors of godliness to all men and healed every kind of sin.
21. Martin Luther's view
Until Luther's time, the 'Fathers of the Church' were emphasising that apostolicity, orthodoxy of faith based on the Scripture, celebration of Sacraments and ministry were the salient features of the 'Catholic' Church. The Protestant Reformation did upset this notion and these norms as well. The protagonists of Protestantism, propagated the theory that the Scripture is the sole source of sanction behind the Church. As this thinking neglects the nourishment the Church does draw from 'the Tradition', this is deemed by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christendom, as not a whole and wholesome view.
22. The vision and the ideal
Openness without ignoring the identity, dedication and the will to witness Lord Christ, are what which affix the 'notae' 'Catholic' on the Ecclesia. This was the grand vision and immaculate ideal of the Divine Founder, of the Spirit-filled Apostles and of the holy Fathers, whose life blood was the bounty for the birth and life of the Ecclesia.
23. 'Apostolic' - The fourth 'notae' - Distinguish the real from the unreal
'Lead us to the real from the unreal'. This has been the eternal supplication of every thinking human ever since he or she faced the fleeing and the fleeting phenomena of Nature. Obviously, mankind does not lack the wisdom to distinguish the holy and the profane. The claim of the Church to 'Oneness', 'Holiness' and 'Catholicity' will be acknowledged, only when the mortal feels them to be really present in the Ecclesia. This conviction arises as and when man or woman realises the Church to be of Divine origin either directly from Christ Himself or through delegated divine decree. Jesus founded the earthly Ecclesia in accordance with the Divine 'Salvific Scheme' and then delegated the authority to the Apostles to establish the extension of the 'One, Holy, Catholic' Church everywhere. This delegated divine right is called theologically, 'apostolicity'. In order of priority, therefore, 'apostolicity' is apparently the fountain-head of the other three 'essentials' of the Ecclesia.
24. Did Christ establish the visible Ecclesia on the 'Apostolic College'?
Sceptics cast two doubts on the 'Apostolicity' or the 'Apostolic' 'notae' of the Church. Did Christ found a visible Church on the 'Apostolic College', headed by Simon or were the followers given the 'freedom' to form groups according to their own beliefs? If so, are they still at liberty to organise any type of congregation, they ask. The answer to the first question is an emphatic 'yes'. It naturally renders the second doubt superfluous.
25. The props to the positive answer
The positive reply to the first query is drawn from three sources. They are the beliefs of the primitive Christians, historical proofs that the Ecclesia was not the product of secular influences and thirdly, the internal evidences of NT themselves. This concisely is the scholarly opinion of Canon Charles Gore, the Protestant theologian of the 19th century, in his authoritative book, 'The Church and the Ministry'.
26. Early Christians and the Heathens
The early Christians, especially those three thousand who embraced Christianity on the first Pentecost day, did so out of a deep conviction. They believed beyond doubt, that Peter and the Apostles were proclaiming the 'good news', the gospel, with the authority they received from the redeemer Christ and from the all directing Paraclete. On receiving baptism from the Apostles, they believed that the power of the risen Christ would run through their arteries. Naturally, disregarding the displeasure of the powers that might be, they ingrafted themselves into the Ecclesia. Ingenuous lot they might have been! But it is Divine Wisdom, that riddles are unravelled more often to the simple than to the sophisticated. As yet another supplementary support, it may be adduced from the annals of history, that the then heathens also considered the Christians as a closely knit congregation or group with its religious rites and rituals as prescribed by a divine person named Jesus.
27. Agape and the Guild feast
Adverting to the second source, it is to be admitted that in the Apostolic period there was the invading influence of the guilds and associations. Hence the suggestion that the Ecclesia was modelled after them. Yet, resemblances vanish on close approach and differences become distinguishable. St. Paul foils the fallacy of equating the agape of the Primitive Church with the communal meal of the guilds. As John Knox the Scotish Protestant writer remarks in the book 'The Early Church and the coming great Church', "the Church is not an adhoc response to the gnostic threat either". Writings of the early defenders of Christianity, called the 'Apologists', especially of the 2nd century Aristides and Theophilus of Antioch also point out the existence of the Church with divine sanction behind Her. For Theophilus, the Church "is a fertile and well inhabited island in the sea which has harbours of truth to welcome and give security to the storm tossed souls". Thought provoking description indeed! As a true 'Church Father' he warns against the heretics who cast aspersions on the Ecclesia and cast their nets to 'net in' the guideless, guileless and the gullible.
28. Jesus' own method - Esoteric
Thirdly, arguments from within the NT are almost axiomatic. Even a random reading of the relevant remarks of the Gospels would drive home that Jesus adopted a 'selection' process before he opened the treasure- chest of redemptive secrets and sanctification. The summary of 'selection' is as follows. On his return from the wilderness to Galilee, He calls Simon and his brother Andrew, then James and his brother John. The true tenor of His words to them, "I will make you to become fishers of men", is indicative of their future 'Apostolate'. His 'selective scheme' is marked by the avoidance of 'popular touch' and the subsequent 'retirements'. Yes, the 'rabbi' 'retires' with his adherents to the shores of the sea of Galilee; then he ascends the mountain. He calls "whom he himself would." Christ thus forms the 'outer ring' of His disciples. Within this circle, Jesus constitutes the twelve, whom as Luke testifies, "He named Apostles". Mark the words "He made" in the Gospel of Mark, as he narrates these happenings or developments. Christ created an office, the 'Apostolate'. Jesus then "began to send them forth to the villages of Galilee". Nor would Jesus erect the edifice of the Ecclesia on the shifting sands or rolling rubbles, the riff-raff. Rather, He would do so, on Simon, the 'rock' itself. That too, only after obtaining from him the formal confession of Messiahship. Jesus would not cast the pearls before the swines. So, he selected a faithful few. Jesus finally limited the number of Apostles at twelve, as Mark and Luke record. He then initiated them into the mysteries of baptism, ministerial priesthood etc. In no ambiguous words Jesus promulgated the decree that what the Apostles bound or lose on earth would be so in heaven and whose sins they forgive are to be forgiven, whose sins they retain to be retained. Besides, in no unmistakable manner Jesus commanded, as recorded in Mt. 10, "He who hears you hears me". To Peter, he handed over the keys of the 'Kingdom of God'. The Eucharist, which is the consummating event of the establishig of the Ecclesia on the earth, was celebrated by Christ in camera; of course in the presence of the twelve, whom as John says, Jesus called "His own and loved them unto the end". The element of esoterism is evident in all these acts of Christ.The Eucharist became theirs by virtue of the conditions which Christ stipulated. Only through the Apostles and as they transmitted does the Eucharist pass on to the community. The words of beatitude are for the multitude to meditate and live by; but the 'words of institution' are for the Apostles and their successors to celebrate in anamnesis and for the laity to partake. In short, Jesus founded the earthly Ecclesia on Himself as the corner stone, Peter as the foundation stone and the Apostles as the college of ministers. The implied doctrine is that the 'other Apostles' could establish extension of the 'One' Church, with the acquiescence, if not with the patent permission of Peter. There is no bypass for establishing a Church.
29. 'Shelihah' - root of the term Apostle
The notae 'Apostolic', obviously is an adjective of the term 'Apostle' which comes from the Syriac word 'Shelihah', with the root 'Shlah'. It may mean messenger, missionary or ambassador. Apostolicity is a constitutive element or a foundational aspect of the Church. To appreciate the 'notae' 'apostolic', the role of the Apostles with regard to the Ecclesial formation must be analysed and amplified. The choice of the twelve to the apostolic status is sometimes interpreted on an eschatological milieu. However, Hans Kung opines that the role played by the Apostles in the early history of the Church is more significant. He goes on to add, "the twelve are the fundamental witnesses of Christ's resurrection. This is part of the central tradition which Paul received from the primitive community and handed on to his communities".
30. Apostles 'fish mankind'
Christ entrusted with the Apostles, the 'net of his teaching' to fish mankind, as Bedjan puts, in the Liturgical book 'Breviarium'. The Apostles were empowered with the gift of the gab or tongue by the Holy Spirit. They became possessed with the 'experiential knowledge' of the Trinitarian mysteries. Then they began to preach and teach the Holy Trinity. Through these spirit suffused 'shelihahs', the earthly Ecclesia became a wider reality and a 'Divine-human' combine.
31. The Nucleus of the Church
The remark of Rev.Sr.Dr. Sophy Rose regarding the Apostles, "they serve as the conscience of the Church" would speak volumes. It is a truth that the Church had Her origin and organisation around the nucleus, the 'Apostolic Collegium'. St. Paul gives a very exhaustive and clear catalogue of the conspicuous role of the Apostles. As for Paul, they were authorised to found and lead churches, to bring discipline in the corporate life of the Ecclesia, to perform baptism, to celebrate the Eucharist. This information can be gathered from his epistles to the Corinthians. St. Paul reminds the Ephesians, through chap 4 of his epistle, that the 'apostle' is the first in the Church. But he also remarks that the aim of the Apostle is not subjection but service or 'diaconia'. In fact, this was the great vision of the 'Great Master'.
32. Testimony from the 'Acts of the Apostles'
Post-Resurrection narratives also confirm the 'special separation' of the twelve. The seclusion of the twelve in the 'upper room', is just one instance. Yet another is, the command in Mt. 28;16. Further, 'Acts' 2:41 testifies: "They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching". As John Macquarrie remarks in his book cited, "faithfulness to the Apostles appears as a mark of the NT Church in its earliest period". The doctrine of the 'Church of England' is equally explicit when it states in Her doctrine, "from the first, there was the fellowship of believers finding its unity in the twelve". In the 'Acts', the Church is seen as entering upon Her career as an organised body. Thereupon, the Apostles are being differentiated from the 'brethren'. In the selection of the deacons, the brethren were asked to find out seven from among themselves. These seven were set apart, with the 'laying on' of the hands by the Apostles. Apostolic 'transmission' and its corollary 'apostolic succession' were thus inaugurated by the holy Apostles. Verily, the NT narrative is an advocacy for 'apostolicity' and 'apostolic succession'.
33. Doctrine of Apostolicity and Apostolic Succession
The theory is that, Christ, after establishing the earthly Ecclesia, implanted in Her a recognizable unity and cohesion. He furthermore granted to Her the stewards or the Apostles and the sanction to them to perpetuate the authoritative ministry through ordaining successors. In the early periods, when heretical sects sprang up within Christianity due to the influence of gnostic notions, the authentic Christian community had to distinguish itself by establishing its connection and continuity of faith with the Apostles. Doctrinally, apostolicity means constancy and consistency of faith; apostolic succession implies the following of the faith, confession and witness of the Apostles. Through the application of apostolicity, the Church maintains Her identity throughout the aeons and ages, Forms of faith may vary from time to time. But fundamentals remain the same. Maintaining of apostolicity is thus a commission of Christ and a duty of the disciples. Down from the second century, Episcopate became the expression of apostolicity. The Orthodox theologian, R. Kereszty records in the treatise, 'The Unity of Church', that according to Irenaeus, the 2nd century prelate, the Apostles "handed over the Church at every place to the bishops". The bishop could check the centrifugal and schismatic tendencies in his Church because his authority rested on apostolic continuity and orthodox faith.
34. Apostolic continuity and Link
It is conceded that 'apostolic' is not found in the NT as a 'notae' of the Church. At the same time, in the succeeding patristic period it was in wide usage. It was Ignatius, the successor of Peter to the Throne of Antioch, who employs this term as a 'notae' for the first time. Polycarp projects this 'notae' at his martyrdom. This 'notae' apparently implies the continuity of a church at a given period with that Church which an Apostle, as a member of the 'collegium', founded. The Apostles transmitted their mission to the Church, which they summoned and ministered. In other words, it establishes that the Church, as it exists at present, is the same as the Church whose genesis and growth are graphically given in the 'Acts of the Apostles'. Through this continuity, the link of the Church to God the Father, through Christ and by the Spirit, is established. This official stamp and sanction for official ministry, every man and woman would ask for, before submitting to receive any spiritual sacrament. The ordinary believer would recall that Lord Jesus Himself launched His public ministry only after submitting Himself to John the Baptist and obviously after the Paraclete descended upon Him, from the high heavens. The simple and the straightforward Christian will not easily forget the account in 'Acts' 8. Philip, though he evangelises Samaria, cannot complete his work, without the intervention of the Apostles of Jerusalem. So also, the metaphor of Church as an edifice and the apostolicity of the Church as founded on 'Kepa', the 'rock' will also be fresh in the memory of the ordinary Christian.
35. Apostolic Succession-The mode
How is Apostolic succession effected? This may be actualised in two ways. Either directly through the Apostle, who acting as an 'authorised representative' of Christ, to use St. Paul's phrase, founded the Church and appointed ministers. Or indirectly, by the duly and uninterruptedly ordained inheritors of the patrimony of the Apostles. Two factors are involved here. Someone, who has the 'rightful spiritual authority' transmits or bestows the 'Christ-experience', 'the deposit of faith' or in short, the 'spiritual power' to somebody else called technically, the successor, along with the authorisation to pass it on to the succeeding generations, as and when required. The 'successor' or ordainee receives them in spiritual submission to the bestower or ordainer. In effect, the ordainer transmits, the ordainee receives. From the Apostolic times downwards this rite was not performed by mere word of mouth only but along with some physical act like the 'laying on' of the hands on the head of the candidate or by anointing him with oil etc. to the accompaniment of some rituals which are generally esoteric. The underlying doctrine is that by the act of epiclesis, the ordainer invokes the Holy Spirit to descend and be ever present by His marvellous grace on the ordainee and make him worthy to minister the Ecclesia. This may be briefly branded as initiation into the holy orders of the Church. As all these are spiritual in dimensions, they are all holy and ever to be hallowed. Secular considerations of any sort shall not be permitted to interfere in the forming of judgement on the 'flow' of spirituality. The receiver becomes a duly eligible partaker of the 'Apostolic Traditions' by 'Apostolic Succession'. This is the kernel of the doctrine.
36. Calvin too, for Apostolicity
Apart from occasional administrative tussels and power struggles, the entire Ecclesial history is the record of the earnest endeavour of the Christian Community to preserve Apostolicity and to partake in the 'deposit of faith and Christ-experience' of the holy Apostles. No wonder, the Church considers those who denigrate this doctrine as heretics. The Church was not created by a group of religious men banding together to form one. She was formed by the will of God the Father, the Sacrament of Jesus and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Summarily, She is the gift of the Triune God in fulfilment of the mysterious 'Salvific Plan'. Better organisations, human expertise, modern methods, catch phrases, or any other paraphernalia would not build the Church. To be worthy of the name Ecclesia, She should trace Her chart to Christ, through Apostolic ancestry or lineage. The stress on the necessity and role of the ordained ministry is not more strongly put than the one given by John Calvin, the ultra revolutionary. In the 'Institute of Christian Religion', Calvin contends that "the Church cannot be kept safe, unless supported by those guards to which the Lord has been pleased to commit its safety". The Church does not exist to perpetuate the memory of a great man, who is dead and gone for ever. If the case were so, the Church would have been but the body of Jesus mummified. This is blasphemy. The Church, certainly is no 'mummy', no lingering memorial of a past mortal, born of an woman in a manger. When everything fears time, time fears the Ecclesia. This is precisely because She is ever suffused with the Spirit of the Lord and by virtue of the prerogative of apostolicity. Verily the 'gates of Hades' will ever remain bolted by the pleadings and prayers of the 'Apostolic Church'.
37. 'Imitation of Christ'The quadrilateral 'notae' constitute the Ecclesia in Her externals and essentials. The more, the 'Imitation of Christ' is effected through these notae the greater will be the vitality of the Church through their full blossoming. Then will She become the worthy Bride of the Bridegroom, Christ the Lord.
All three had also discovered one think which they needed to do before starting a new job. They needed more than their drivers’ license to prove they were legally qualified to work in America. Did you know that to start a new job you needed at least two forms of identification? Driver license, passport, birth certificate. One of those men was quiet, then remarked that he did not know how he was going to pay to get his birth certificate. Every penny from his unemployment went to pay for food and utilities. Right then he had just enough money to buy the milk on the way home.
Without any hesitation, and together, both of the other men reached into their pockets and put a few dollars on the table. “This should help.” Their plan for today is to go to the court house up the street and get their birth certificates. They are in this together and they plan to get out of these hard time together. People, all people, can make a difference in the lives of their friends and neighbors. Are you making a difference?
Discover how you can make a difference in the lives of your friends and neighbors. Email us at email@example.com, or call the community center and church at 574-540-2048.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
What would happen if more lived their lives closer to how Jesus lived His? What would happen if we took seriously what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount? We know that more people would be making a difference in the lives of their friends and neighbours. Are you making a difference?
We hope you will join us on Saturday April 4, 2009, when we dedicate the Mor Gregorios Community Center at St. Mary the Protectress Orthodox Church. It may be by candle light, but we have lots of candles...and a lot of faith that God will not let the electricity be turned off. We also have faith in you. We are located at 1000 South Michigan Street, Plymouth, Indiana.
We thought about having a fund raiser the night before the dedication. We would like to have the Soweto Gospel Choir raise their voices, but this video is the best we could do.
And as the Ladysmith Black Mambazo sang while performing at the Nobel Peace Concert we have faith in God as we sleep in the cave.
But we are not yet homeless. And with your help, the power and the ehat will not be turned off. And with your help, the employment program of the Mor Gregorios Community Center will continue to help all of those suffering from the current economic crisis find new jobs, find a way to put food on their family's table, find a job to pay their own electric bill.
There are those in the community center's program who are already making a difference in teh lives of their friends and neighbours. You can join them in helping. To find out how email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church and center at 574-540-2048.
And please keep us and those we serve in your prayers.
By the way, rather than have a fund raiser the night before the dedication, what are we going to do? We are going to pray...pray a lot. Come on over and join us.
by H. G. Bishop Youssef"The true fast is that in which sins, anger, tongue, and instincts are under control." (St Basil the Great)
The Holy Great Fast is often referred to as "The Spring of Our Spiritual Life." Spring being the most beautiful season of the year and a time of spiritual renewal.
The 55 days of the Holy Great Fast are considered the most Holy days of fasting of the Coptic Church. Fifty days include the forty days, which were fasted by the Lord Himself, the Passion Week, and the first initial week to prepare us spiritually before this great season of renewal. We fast to commemorate His sufferings on the Holy Cross, for spiritual discipline and our salvation.
Much has been written regarding fasting associated with foods. Yet, fasting is not only abstaining from certain foods. It is a time for us to have our hearts filled with the Holy Spirit. How can our hearts be filled with the Holy Spirit and guarded against all sin?
When we fast we exercise self-control. Fasting provides an occasion to enrich the soul and elevate it to a higher level of spiritual discipline. St Isaac said, "Having control of what we say is better than having control over our bodies, and guarding our hearts against sin is best of all."
St. John Cassian wrote, "We should not be confident that the outside fasting of food is enough alone for the purity of the heart and body, unless it is accompanied by the fasting of the soul." He further said that, "Fasting is an important means which leads to purity of heart and not as a goal in itself."
Fasting of the soul is spiritual discipline. The importance of spiritual discipline can be found in the Holy Book of Proverbs 25:28, "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control." This tells us that a man without self-control and discipline is defenseless and disgraced.
St. Paul believed that spiritual discipline prepared a Christian to exercise faith and enter the Kingdom of God:
"Do you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus not with uncertainty. Thus I fight not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it under subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should not become disqualified." (I Corinthians 9: 24-27)
Self-control incorporates dominance over desires including the physical desires of food and sex. Psychological desires of fame and love of praise must also be quenched.
Periodic ascetic practices are good within marriage. This includes temporary abstinence from sexual relations for the sake of prayer during fasting. The Holy Book of I Corinthians states, "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
It has often been said that one has reached the pinnacle of spiritual success as soon as one becomes uninterested in money, compliments, or publicity and fame. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility considers others better than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3)
Spiritual discipline must always be accompanied with spiritual knowledge. This type of knowledge is not primarily mental but spiritual in nature and personal. It is experienced with faith, exercise, control, and will bear good fruits in the Lord Jesus Christ.
"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ." (II Peter 1: 5-8)
During this Great Holy Fast let us all further develop our need for spiritual discipline. The Holy Book of Wisdom of Solomon 8:7 tell us, "Do you love justice? All the virtues are a result of Wisdom's work: justice and courage, self-control and understanding. Life can offer us nothing more valuable than these."
To develop self-control during this Holy Great Fast it is recommended that one begin with:
A) Love of Godliness and Righteousness (St Felix says, "When any person sets on the way of righteous, he starts with fasting, for without asceticism all other virtues like prayer, thoughts, and mind are not pure, and the inner man cannot be renewed.")
B) Clear Goals (Our Lord Jesus Christ warns us, "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of this life." Luke 21:34)
C) Brotherly Kindness ("And herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men." Acts 24:16)
D) Desire for diligent practice of spiritual exercises (St Paul said, "I keep under my body and bring it into subjection." I Corinthians 9:27. Spiritual exercises capture our bodies and senses by not giving into the things desired. Spiritual discipline is training to the body and senses, which leads to purity of the soul.)
"I would have you learn this great fact: that a life of doing right is the wisest life there is. If you live that kind of life, you'll not limp or stumble as you run." (Proverbs 4:11-12)
H. G. Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
Saturday, March 28, 2009
by Kuriakos Tharakan Thottupuram, Ph.D., D.D.
The Departed Are Not Sleeping.
There is an erroneous assumption among Protestants that the departed are either silent or inactive until the second coming of Jesus. However, Orthodoxy does not find this as a cogent position based on the Holy Scriptures or on the apostolic and patristic traditions of the holy Church. St. Paul clearly emphasizes that both the living and the departed equally have to please God. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” 2 Cor. 5:9). In order to do the deeds that please God, one needs the grace of God. In order for the departed to receive the grace of God, they definitely need the help of prayers. Yes, it is a sin of omission when we do not pray for our departed. In order for them to grow in grace as brethren in faith and as members of the same body of Christ of which the departed are also members, we have a spiritual duty to pray for them.
Orthodox theology finds another very sound evidence in the bible that the departed are not inactive and spiritually sleeping members of the mystical body of Christ. All Christians believe that Christ went down to Sheol to preach the Gospel to the sinners. We read in 1 Peter 3:19-20: “ … He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient…” What does this verse imply? Does it mean that the departed souls are spiritually sleeping? If they have an alert faculty to listen to the preaching of Christ, indeed they are not inactive or sleeping. We believe that Jesus preached to them the Gospel of reconciliation. Do not we pray for the conversion of physically living people who are disobedient to God? If so what is the justification for not praying for the departed who can still have the opportunity of more fully transforming to Christ? Yes, Christ is still interceding for them before His Father. If conversion was still possible for the departed spirits a day after the His sacrifice on the cross, how can we emphatically affirm that they do not merit conversion now, two thousand years after His sacrifice on the cross? Yes, we should pray for their transformation. It is a sin of omission to forget our departed brethren while we pray. Yes, there may be people who are still hard hearted, and not willing to repent. We do not know who they are. Of course, our prayers do not benefit them. However, Christian charity demands us to pray for everyone regardless of his / her aptitude for repentance, because we have no way of prejudging anyone’s destiny.
Ultimate Deification at the Time of Christ’s Second Coming
All Christians believe in the final transformation we are going to receive. According to St. Paul, we will be clothed with incorruptibility. Orthodox theology calls it deification, in other words, we will become God-like. When is that going to happen? Definitely not now. St. Paul says that it will take place during Christ’s triumphant second coming to judge humanity. In the General Epistle of St. John we read: “… but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3”2). It is only reasonable that we pray for all regardless of their earthly or departed status, until Christ returns.
The Departed Percieve Our Spiritual Exercises for Them
As we know, our prayers are efficacious for all even though they are not aware of our prayers for them. But the truth is that the departed are aware of our encounters with God on their behalf. We read in the Gospel that Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ, when He and His apostles were praying on Mount Tabor and when He was transfigured. Recently a Pentecostal pastor argued with this writer that the departed souls are not absolute beings like God and hence cannot listen to our prayers, because they do not possess universal presence. This was in reference to prayers to saints. However, the presence of Moses and Elijah indicates that the departed do really understand our desires and prayers. St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews (12:1) indicates that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” in reference to the departed souls. If the departed are around us, it definitely proves that when we pray for them they are also praying to God for us. To pray for each other is the basic act of charity in the Christian religion. Since they observe us, it is important that we should not do anything that disappoints them, but do everything that pleases them. What else is more pleasing to them other than praying for them?
Heaven Is the End-point of Our Deification
If heaven is the end-result of our deification, hell is the end-result of our inability to come out of our sins. It is the transformation of our life that determines our redemption. Salvation is definitely a gift of God, but we have to merit the gift of salvation through our deeds which are pleasing to God. The blood of Christ is the ultimate source of our righteousness. But it is repentance and the subsequent virtuous life that grant us righteousness. In fact, repentance and the subsequent virtuous life are the pillars of deification. The process of deification is a deliberate and vigilant activity. Our free will can lead us to our destruction or our salvation. But we have to use our free will to progress in greater closeness with God, in restoring the original image of God in us. This is the pursuit of deification.
Whether visible or invisible, or living or departed, we are all parts of the body of Christ. The nerve that connects all these parts of the body is prayer, which is ultimately hallowed by the prayer of Christ, the head of this body, “that they all may be one.” How could we establish the oneness of the parts of this body if we do not pray for our departed souls and if the departed do not pray for their brethren still struggling on earth?Yes, praying for the dead is a noble and charitable Christian act. It is a practice based on Scriptures and on the genuine tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church
Once a rich Syrian Christian belonging to one Church in Kandanad diocese had leased a calf to a poor Nair (Hindu) widow. As per the customs that prevailed at the time, it was the right of the (lessee) widow to retain the first calf and the milk of the first season and only the cow has to be returned to the owner. But in spite of this, when this cow gave birth to a calf, the rich man requested the widow to return both the cow and calf. Disregarding the justifiable request of the lady, the rich man forcefully took back the animals. The daughter of the widow who so fond of the calf, was very sad and she even refused to take food, such was her attachment. This prompted the poor lady to approach some friends of the rich man for a solution, but failed.
Meanwhile this lady also approached our Kochu Thirumeni (Mor Gregorios) who was staying at the local Church and requested his help. On knowing the facts, Thirumeni advised the owner of the cow to return at least the calf, but his adamant attitude saddened the Holy Father. This prompted our Kochu Thirumeni to donate enough amount from his personal savings that was needed for buying a new cow for the widow. Both the poor lady and her daughter were very thankful and they become devotees of the Thirumeni. The young girl later in her life reached a very respectable position and was a frequent visitor to the Holy tomb of the Thirumeni.
Stories like this is why the center is the Mor Gregorios Community Center. His life is an inspiration tp all of us. We should do the same. How can we do any less. The center still has a utility bill and internet bill that needs to be paid. You can help. Even a dollar and twenty-nine cents will make a difference in the lives of your friends and neighbours. But we are praying that you reach a little deeper, for some a ot deeper.
The dedication of the center is Saturday, April4, 2009. We are Orthodox and will gladly and prayerfully have the service by candle light, if needed. But the computers do not operate by candle light.
Right now there are candles burning in the chapel of St. Mary the Protectress at the center with prayers raising to Heaven while in the community room your friends and neighbours are working at the computers finding new places to send their resumes, stop by and check for a job, and using Ebay to list another family item to sell so that there will be food for their children.
We do not have anything else left to sell to pay the utitily bill, so please pray hard and long without ceasing that someone feels driven by our Lord to help with it.
To discover how you can make a difference email the center at email@example.com, or call us at 574-540-2048.
Please help us continue your work of making a difference in the lives of our friends and neighbours...your friends and neighbour.
By Fr. Dr. Biji Chirathilattu
The famous thirteenth century Syrian Orthodox Maphrian Yuhanon Gregorios Aboul Faraj Bar Ebroyo (1225/6–1286), commonly known in the West as Bar Hebraeus (in Ara¬bic Ibn Al-cIbri), who dominates the Syrian Orthodox Church History and who is rightly called the Thomas of Acquinas of the Syrian Orthodox Christianity, was the last Syrian Father to do an extensive codification of the different patristic directions towards the spiritual exercises in his Church. He is today considered as the "authority" on all matters of the Syrian Orthodox Church. In the matters of prayers and fasts, he has produced the official canon of the Church. Therefore it will be significant to consider his main instructions.
Often many questions are asked from the part of the believers as to the dos and don'ts in the fasts. There are many doubts regarding the beginning, duration, and ending of the fasts also. One example is the question, why is a forty day fast observed when in reality it is forty-eight days. Bar Ebroyo was well aware of this situation. So, both in Ethicon and Nomocanon, he narrates in minute details the number and days of the fasts observed in his Church. He quotes from the Canons of Apostles, the fourth century Synods of Gangara and Laodicea, the strict Syrian Orthodox canonist Jacob of Edessa (AD 640/5-708) et cetera; he describes the traditional rules of the Church and then gives his own interpretations and opinions by means of his directions (Hoodoye) so that everything will be clarified.
According to Bar Ebroyo, fasts until noon cannot be considered as fasting but those until the evening are the true fasts. All the believers have to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Quoting the ninth century Patriarch John III, he says that those who eat meat on Wednesdays and Fridays should be prohibited from the Church. In his directive following it, Bar Ebroyo prohibits egg, milk, and cheese also on these days and says that no believer should eat the prohibited food before the sunset. He thinks that it is the best that one does not break the fast in the evening also, rather fast till the morning of the next day. The reason behind this directive is that it is confirmed in the texts that God has begun the creation not from the darkness but from the light. Quoting Jacob of Edessa, he says that the Holy Apostles have not entrusted us anything regarding observing Friday by abstaining from the job and from the handwork. But only fast, prayer service, and reading of the holy books are suggested on Fridays and Wednesdays.
The great lent begins on the Monday coming closer, before or after the full moon between second of February and eighth of March. Quoting the Canons of the Persians, Bar Ebroyo directs that a believer who is staying in an uncivilised place having no way to know about the beginning of the fast should begin to observe the fast on twentieth February and end it on twentieth April, it means, he should observe it ten extra days. On the Sunday coming nearest, before, or after, to the completion of this time period he should end the fast with prayers and celebrate the feast. But if he is at a place where he can avail the holy elements of the Eucharist, he has no right to loosen the fast before receiving the Eucharist on the Maundy Thursday, Saturday of Annunciation and on the great Sunday of the Resurrection. But he can loosen the fast if he is in a place where he cannot avail of the Eucharist, because Bar Ebroyo sees Eucharist on all the days and on these days as alike. However, if one hopes that the Eucharist will be prepared for him in few days after the Resurrection, he should not end the lent before receiving it. But, if he does not have a hope like that, he may loosen the lent on the Resurrection day itself in the hope of the faith.
In the Nomocanon, at the beginning of the chapter on feasts, fasts, and prayers (Chapter: 5) itself, referring to the decision of the Apostles, Bar Ebroyo says that nobody should fast on the Saturdays and Sundays during the great lent. But in his "Direction" following it, he instructs that even if the release of the fast is permitted in the Canons of the Apostles because of the added fasting days in the Passion Week, it is not right to eat in the morning itself. But, because of the honour of the holy fast one should attend the Eucharistic Service at the third hour, and finish it and everything associated with it, without being haste, and come out of the Church at the noon.
This forty days great lent is being finished in 48 days. Bar Ebroyo presents the different arguments of various people regarding these extra eight days. The first view is that these days are added as the Passion Week in order to persecute our bodies more. It is the Apostles who decided that the Passion Week and the feast of Resurrection should be observed after the forty days lent. Otherwise, this fast would have been finished with the Friday of the forty-day (of the lent). Some say it is because of the Saturdays and Sundays that we break in the fast time, that we fast more than forty days. Still others say that according to the ten percent of the number of the days of the year, we separate by fasts 36.5 days for the Lord. When we reduce the number of the Sundays and Saturdays that we break, from the number of the days from the evening of the Monday of the beginning of the fasts to the morning of the Easter Sunday, we get this number. In this respect Bar Ebroyo further cites from the "Second Book" of the "Holy Clement," which is the extensive Syriac canon collection known as the "Clementinian Octateuch." The first two books of it contain the fifth century ecclesiastical order, "Testamentum Domini." Bar Ebroyo puts down the referred canon of this work as follows: "The end of the 'Pascha' (here used to denote the fast before Easter) should happen after Saturday, namely at midnight." Bar Ebroyo interprets the word 'midnight' as follows: "So that the one tenth part of those five days, that are missing to complete the whole year also will be added." It means that the 36 fasting days unto the Saturday of the Passion Week form just one tenth of the 360 days. From the five days, which are absent to form a full year, 10% will be taken, and it results in an additional half fasting day. That is why the Great Fast is not ended on the beginning of the Easter Sunday, which begins on the Saturday evening as any other day according to the Syrian calculation of times, but only at the mid-night with the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Bar Ebroyo evaluates these arguments and concludes that only the first one is the genuine reason.
Bar Ebroyo depends upon the decision of the Synod of Laodicea and from him oft quoted Patriarch Timotheos and Patriarch John III of Antioch to describe the "dos and don'ts" in the great lent. The synod of Laodicea admonishes that one should fast on the whole fasting time eating only the less nutritious (dry) food. In the 40 days lent, it is not right to say the Holy Mass except on Sundays and Saturdays. It is not correct to conduct wedding feasts and birthday parties in the forty days lent. But the remembrance of the martyrs may be done. Patriarch John says that it is not allowed that the commemorations of the deceased or funeral repasts take place in the great lent except on Sundays or on Saturdays. In one of his directives, Bar Ebroyo says that, not only meat, egg, milk and cheese, but fish and wine are also prohibited for the believers during the big lent. But Patriarch Timotheos gives the exemption that if a woman delivers in the Passion Week; she is allowed to drink wine, if she wishes it. Likewise, Patriarch Cyriacus exempts all the sick people, the people under constraint, the pregnant and nursing women and all under the age of twenty from fasts. In the normal days of the great lent a Christian should not break the fast before the ninth hour. On Saturday and Sunday and in the other lent times it is ended at noon.
The general fast of the community of believers and the righteous believers (i.e. the laity in general) has eleven Canons. The first Canon is that every believer should know the computation of all the periods of fasting, especially that of the great lent. It is necessary to avoid the danger of being ignorant of the fast when one is staying at a foreign place among the heterodox people. He should know it exactly when it begins or should fast ten extra days if he does not know to compute it. The second Canon is that, everyone who fasts, should have the intention to fast from the morning time onwards. He must entreat his God to accept his fasting and to give him strength in the struggle. It is because, those who unintentionally happen not to eat until the evening, should not be considered as people who fast. Likewise, many who do not have even dried and green vegetables to eat cannot be considered as ascetics.
The third Canon is to take care that nothing edible or drinkable accidentally comes to the throat of the one who fasts, especially when he desires to partake in the vivifying Mysteries (i.e. the holy Eucharist). Even though his fast does not break, when he unintentionally swallows something, he is not allowed to approach the vivifying mysteries. But, if he just washes his face without swallowing any water, he is permitted to approach them. Nevertheless, in the Nomocanon Bar Ebroyo quotes the canonist Jacob of Edessa and the famous Bishop of Tella, John son of Qursos, to propose that one may partake in the Mysteries if he drank the water by mistake. In his directive also, Bar Ebroyo says that one should not be prohibited from partaking the Mysteries on Maundy Thursday and the Saturday of the Announcement, even if water gets into his throat while washing the face. Even when some people say that, if blood is coming out from between somebody's teeth he is not allowed to take part in the Mysteries, Bar Ebroyo permits him to partake in it on Maundy Thursday and on Resurrection, provided that he has not swallowed any blood.
The fourth Canon is that the one who fasts should not stimulate vomiting. If he vomits because of illness also, his fast is broken. In that case, he must give food to two hungry poor people in the evening. The fifth Canon is keeping the eyes away from any shameful spectacle and anything that keeps the intellect from the remembrance of God and His frightening judgement. Keeping the tongue from any vain word like falsehood, calumny, slander, mockery, injury, madness and nonsense is the sixth Canon and closing the ears to listening to shameful words is the seventh one.
The eighth Canon of the fast is dictating the hands not to commit the crime of blows, and dictating the feet not to lapse into sin. The ninth Canon is complete watchfulness, for the substances of sin and iniquity. In order to explain this canon Bar Ebroyo quotes Isaac of Nineveh, who declares the fasting of the sinners as a real disgrace, because they fast but eat usury, pray but drink of profits, and from evening till evening they eat the flesh and the blood of the poor. The tenth Canon is that a rich person should adorn his fasting with merci¬fulness, because according to Bar Ebroyo mercifulness is much more becoming for a rich person than fasting. Hence Bar Ebroyo cites a learned person who effectively portrays, the futility of the fasting of the rich without acts of charity, through the following words: "Wretched is the man, who forsakes his own occupation, but takes the occupation of others. For, it would be much more becoming for him to satisfy the hungry, to clothe the naked and to relieve the needy (cf. Mt. 25: 34-45) than to be hungry and to pray, so that his riches will increase." The eleventh Canon is to fast without ostentation. It is the hypocrites who are gloomy and who disfigure their faces in order to show the labour they perform by fasting. If one is in the habit of anointing his head, let him anoint and wash his face, and let him, according to the commandment of the Gospel, hide asceticism as much as he can (cf. Mt. 6: 16-18).
Being strict towards those who discard the rules of the Church regarding fasts, Bar Ebroyo instructs with quotations from the Apostles that, the layman who is not fasting in the 40 days fasting and on Wednesdays and Fridays, other than for the reason of sickness, should be separated. He quotes the Patriarch Cyriacus also with the same purpose. The 22nd Canon of Patriarch Cyriacus says that a priest, deacon, any male, or female believer above the age of twenty should not break the fasting on Wednesday and Friday. But those who are in sickness or in difficulty or in captivity, the pregnant women, and the stilling mother may break the fast. Except on the Saturday of the Annunciation or in the case of emergency, no believer, whether it be man or woman, has the right to fast on the Sundays and Saturdays. Any male or female believer who does not observe the 40 days lent should be separated from the Church. In the same way one who is 20 years old or above, drinking wine or anything of its category in the fast time should also be separated.
(For more details see the book: "Prayers and Fasts according to Bar Ebroyo, a study on the prayers and fasts of the Oriental Churches", by Fr. Dr. Biji Chirathilattu, Lit Publishers, Hamburg, 2004)
1 TEULE, G. B. H.: Gregory Barhebraeus Ethicon Memra I, (ed.), CSCO.S 219; (transl.), CSCO.S 218 (syr.text), Louvain, 1993, pp. 92-96; BEDJAN, P. (ed.): Nomocanon Gregorii Barhebraei, Paris-Leipzig, 1898, pp. 52-61.
2 The council of Laodicea was held in the 4th century. For a list of the Syriac manuscripts of its canons and its spread in west-Syrian legislative literature cf., SELB, W.: Orientalisches Kirchenrecht, Band II, Die Geschichte des Kirchenrechts der Westsyrer (von den Anfängen bis zur Mongolenzeit), SÖAW.PH 543, Wien, 1989, pp. 99-102. The synod of Gangara, that countered the radical ascetic movement of the Eusthatians, took place between AD 362-371. Its canons were translated into Syriac and were widely read among the West-Syrians. Cf.op.cit. SELB: Orientalisches Kirchenrecht II, p. 99f.
3 Born in AD 640/5 at 'En Deba, Jacob was appointed as Bishop of Edessa in 684. Being a strict adherent to the canons, he resigned after four years his post as Bishop owing to the lax attitude of the hierarchy concerning the ob¬servance of the canons (?AD 708).
4 Op.cit, Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), p. 53.
5 These regulations refer to the synods held at Mar Sila, Sarug in November AD 846, led by the Patriarch of Antioch Johannan III.
6 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), p. 55.
7 Ibid., p. 55.
8 Ibid., p. 60.
9 Op.cit. Nomocanon, p. 57. In Ethicon it is given more detailed: "The great lent begins on the Monday of the week after the new moon rising in February, (or in March, in case it does not rise in February), and lasts forty-eight days." Cf. op.cit. Ethicon (ed. TEULE), p. 89.
10 The origins of these canons remain anonymous. Bar Ebroyo cites forty-two of them in Nomocanon. Vööbus has collected them in, VÖÖBUS, A.(transl.): Syrische Kanonessammlungen. Ein Beitrag zur Quellenkunde I, Westsyrische Originalkunden, I, CSCO.Sub 35; Louvain, 1970. p. 219f and gives an edition and translation of 26 of them in VÖÖBUS, A. (ed. and transl.): Syriac and Arabic Documents regarding Legislation relative to Syrian Asceticism, PETSE 11, Stockholm, 1960. pp. 89-92. He proposes a West Syrian monophysitic origin of them. Cf. VÖÖ¬BUS: Syrische Kanonessammlungen I:1, B, p. 513, note 44 also. Selb as well agrees to this opinion. Cf. op.cit.SELB: Orientalisches Kirchenrecht II, pp. 161-162.
11 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), pp. 57-58.
12 Ibid., p. 54; op.cit.TEULE: (ed.). Ethicon, pp. 95-96. Bar Ebroyo has adopted with acknow¬ledgement these rules regarding the receiving of Eucharist in connection with the ending of the lent from Jacob of Edessa. Cf. DE LAGARDE, P. (ed.): Jacob of Edessa, Letter to Addai, Reliquiae Iuris Ecclesiastici antiquissimae, Leipzig, 1866, p.119; VÖÖBUS, A. (ed. and transl.): The Synodicon in the West-Syrian Tradition I, CSCO.S 161 / 162, Louvain, 1975; p. 262/239.
13 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), p. 52.
14 Op.cit. VÖÖBUS: Syndicon I, p. 102.
15 They are found in op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), pp. 55-57.
16 For details on this collection Cf. BAUMSTARK, A.: Geschichte der syrischen Literatur mit Ausschluß der christlich-palästinensischen Texte, Bonn, 1922 / reprint Berlin, 1968, p. 252; HOFMANN, J.: Clemens von Rom, (DÖPP, S. and GEERLINGS, W. (ed.),) Lexikon der antiken christlichen Literatur, Freiburg-Basel-Wien, 1998, p. 133.
17 Cf. PAYNE-SMITH, J. (ed.): A Compendious Syriac Dictionary, Oxford, 1903, / reprints Oxford 1990; Eisenbrauns, 1998, p. 452.
18 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), p. 56; op.cit. VÖÖBUS: Synodicon I, p. 49,5f (Syr. text) /p. 60, 7f (Engl. transl.).
19 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), p. 56.
20 Ibid., pp. 55-56. A brief account of it is found in op.cit Ethicon (ed. TEULE), p. 93 also.
21 It is not yet clearly identified who this Patriarch Timotheos is, though Vööbus identifies him as the Timotheos of Alexandria. Cf. op.cit. VÖÖBUS, A.(transl.): Syrische KanonessammlungenI, 1B, p. 515 note 56 and p.578.
22 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), p. 53; op.cit. Ethicon (ed. TEULE), pp. 95-96; SCHULTHESS, F.: Die Syrischen Kanones der Synoden von Nicaea bis Chalcedon, AGWG:PH 9 / XX / 2, Göttingen, 1908, p. 104; op.cit. VÖÖBUS: Synodicon I, p. 123/125 (transl.).
23 Op.cit. Ethicon (ed. TEULE), p. 96; op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), p. 55; op.cit. VÖÖBUS: Synodicon II, pp. 12-14 and 37f.
24 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), p. 55.
25 Ibid.,p. 53.
26 Ibid.,p. 54; op.cit. Ethicon (ed. TEULE), p. 96.
27 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), p. 52.
28 These first four canons are found in op.cit. Ethicon (ed. TEULE), pp. 89-90; WENSINCK, A. J. (transl.): Bar Hebraeus' Book of the Dove together with Some Chapters from his Ethicon, Leyden, 1919, pp. 27-28.
29 Op.cit. Ethicon (ed. TEULE), p. 89.
30 Bar Ebroyo always quotes Jacob of Edessa and John of Tella, whenever he wants to intro¬duce any reform in the laws of the Church. Johannan bar Qursos was the Bishop of Tella (known as Konstantina) from AD 519-538 and was much respected for his ascetic practices. Cf. op.cit. VÖÖBUS: Syrische Kanones¬sammlungen, I: 1, A, pp. 161-164 for his biography written by his pupil Elijah and pp. 156-161 and 263-267 for a collection of his canons. Cf. op.cit. SELB: Orientalisches Kirchenrecht II, pp. 116-128 for more on their popularity.
31 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), pp. 38-40.
32 Op.cit. Ethicon (ed. TEULE), p. 90.
33 Canons 5-11 are found in op. cit. Ethicon (ed. TEULE), pp. 90-91.
34 BEDJAN, P (ed.): Homiliae Sancti Isaaci Syri Antiocheni I, On The Holy Fast, Paris-Leipzig, 1903, pp. 171-180. Isaac of Nineveh the famous Father from the Church of the East was born in AD 613 at Beth Qatraye (i.e. today's Qatar in the Per¬sian Gulf). He was consecrated as Bishop of Nineveh (Mosul), but five months later, he re¬signed and retired as a solitary. Through his 'Discourses' and other works he has proved to be one of the most influential among the Syriac monastic writers and he still continues to exert a strong influence on the monastic circles on Mount Athos and in the Egyptian desert monasteries.
35 Op.cit. Nomocanon (ed. BEDJAN), pp. 53-54; op.cit. Ethicon (ed. TEULE), pp. 94-96.
36 Op.cit. SChulthess: Die Syrischen Kanones, p. 116; op.cit. VÖÖBUS: Synodicon I, p. 54/69 transl.
37 Op.cit. VÖÖBUS: Synodicon II, pp. 12-14 / 13-14 transl.
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