Thursday, April 30, 2009

Burned Out family need your help

You can make a difference in the lives of your friends and neighbors. And you can help us make a difference in a family who was burned out of their home. To discover how, email us at, or call the Mor Gregorios Community Center at 574-540-2048.

And please keep this family in your prayers. They have had to take their small baby to the emergency room twice since the fire.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fire in Plymouth

There was a fire in downtown Plymouth about a week ago. It left a family homeless. This video is of the fire.

Ryan Liedtky came to me and said we should do something to help the family. You can read about what we are doing at the following: You can help.

Ryan is a young man who believes as we do that we can make a difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

St. Thomas in India

When 16th century European priests arrived in southern India to introduce Christianity, they were told that a more famed Christian missionary had been there first. In the districts of Travancore and Cochin, there was already a community of Indian Christians with a tradition of loose communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The man who first converted them, the Indians said, was none other than St. Thomas the Apostle (the "Doubting Thomas"), who reputedly arrived in India aboard a Roman trading vessel in 52 A.D.

Whether St. Thomas actually preached under the palm trees of Travancore and Cochin is a point that historians have neither proved nor disproved. But nowadays there are 2,357,000 Indian Christians in the area, and for the past month, giving St. Thomas the benefit of the doubt, they have been celebrating the 1900th anniversary of his landing.

Three Drops of Honey. According to tradition, St. Thomas made his first conversions by a miracle. At the village of Palur, he found some Brahman priests throwing handfuls of water into the air as they performed their purification prayers. Thomas threw some water into the air himself, and it hung suspended in the form of sparkling flowers. Tradition continues that most of the Brahmans embraced Christianity on the spot, and that the rest fled. To this day, no orthodox Brahman will take a bath in Palur.

Although St. Thomas was later killed (one legend says he was pierced by spears), the religion founded by him or later missionaries took firm hold. By the sixth century there were Indian churches in contact with the Christian bishops of Syria. In 883, King Alfred the Great sent an English bishop to make an offering for him at St. Thomas' shrine in Mylapore. But contact with the West was precarious, and by the end of the Middle Ages the Indian church was practically forgotten.

In their isolation, the Indians developed surprisingly few originalities of dogma. But they did intersperse their religious rites with local Hindu practices. Like Hindus, Indian Christian women have always worn large gold earrings in the upper part of their ears. The Christians preserve Hindu-style observances for birth, marriage and death, e.g., when a child is born, its father pours into its mouth three drops of honey in which gold has been dipped.

Festive Coconuts. The Portuguese, during their rule in India, tried to stamp out native Christian practices and enforce strict conformity to Latin rituals. In reaction, many Indian Christians broke away from Rome. Called "Jacobites," after Jacob al-Baradai, a 6th century Syrian bishop, they now number 800,000. Another group, the St. Thomas Christians (membership: 200,000), broke away in turn from the Jacobites, under Protestant influence, in 1837. About 1,000,000 "Romo-Syrians" have remained faithful to the Roman Catholic Church, although they use Syriac and their native language in their liturgy.

For the last month, each of the Christian groups has been having a separate celebration for St. Thomas. Jacobites and St. Thomas Christians held observances at Kottayam and Trichur. Last week the Romo-Syrians held the biggest celebration. Led by a special papal delegate, Australia's Norman Cardinal Gilroy, 50 archbishops and bishops gathered at Ernakulam, the old capital of Cochin. After the cardinal's special train, decorated with festive bunches of coconuts and bananas, pulled into the station, a crowd of 100,000 led the visiting clergy to Christnagar (Christ town). As the cardinal passed through the streets, fireworks were set off and Christian youths sang long recitatives, to the accompaniment of harmonicas and cymbals, about the mission of St. Thomas the Apostle to their country 1900 years ago.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Plymouth Family Needs Your Help! Please Read.

Plymouth-A fire in downtown Plymouth Sunday, April 18th left four adults and
four children without a place to live.

Libertarian leader Ryan Liedtky and Father Theodosius of St. Mary the
Protectress Syriac Orthodox Church have teamed up to help bring some relief
to this family, but they need the public¹s help. A box will be placed at the
church, located at 1000 S. Michigan Street in Plymouth, right across the
street from Webster Elementary school, for donated items, such as clothing.
Also, monetary donations will be accepted.

The box will be made available to the general public starting Monday and
lasting through Friday, May 1st. Saturday morning, May 2nd, at 10:00 a.m.
Father Theodosius will present the donated items and money to the family in
a ceremony to be held at the church.

³We can make a difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors,² Father
Theodosius said Saturday. ³We have a community center (at the church), and
people who need help are there helping others as well,² he continued, citing
a need for the community to come together and lend a hand to those who are

Ryan Liedtky requested that anyone who can afford to make even the smallest
of donations should do so. ³If my house caught fire,² Ryan said, ³I¹d need
the help of caring members of the community. Likewise, when one of them
suffers, I should step up and offer my assistance however I can.²

Liedtky has asked that clothing for young teens, as well as infants, be
donated. ³They have an infant as well,² Liedtky noted. ³They have enough
monetary worries now, so they¹ll need diapers and baby food as well.²

All donations can be dropped off at St. Mary the Protectress Syrian Orthodox
Church, 1000 S. Michigan Street, Plymouth, Indiana. Anyone with any
questions is asked to contact Ryan Liedtky by phone at 574-952-8409, or to
stop by the church.

Holy Qurbana by H.G. Dr. Kuriakose Mor Theophilose Metropolitan

The poster of this video on Google video wrote:
A very Holy Jacobite Qurbono. Never attend a holy Qurbono like this one where I felt such a strong presence of holiness . Hope more people get a chance to attend this Qurbono so that they can too live in the Love of God. May God bless you all.

Holy Qurbono by H.G. Dr. Kuriakose Mor Theophilose Metropolitan. Assisted by Staff and Students of M.S.O.T Seminary, Mulanthuruthy Church : St. Johns Jacobite Syrian Cathedral,Karingachira Video Uploaded By : Anoop K Baby St. johns Jacobite Syrian Church Nellikkunnel, Mannathoor

It will not be the same (however Christ and all the saints will be here), but we invite you to join us any Sunday starting at 10 am for the celebration of the Holy Qurbana at St. Mary the Protectress Syriac Orthodox Church, 1000 South Michigan Street, Plymouth, Indiana. For direction to the church, and for the times of daily services, please call the Mor Gregorios Community Center and St. Mary's church at 574-540-2048.

Ancient Christianity in India

Ancient Christians in India

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: In southern India, in Kerala, there are millions of people known as St. Thomas Christians. Their ancestors, many believe, were converted by the Apostle Thomas in the first century. Portuguese missionaries later destroyed most of the ancient church writings, replacing them with their own. But now Benedictine monks at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota are rediscovering the surviving texts. Fred de Sam Lazaro has a close-up view of all this. He is both our correspondent and journalist-in-residence at St. John’s University.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota may be best known in the world of biblical manuscripts for its illuminated, hand-written Bible.

Reverend COLUMBA STEWART, OSB (St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN, handing over manuscripts): Ethiopian manuscript, Latin manuscript.

DE SAM LAZARO: But also here, in the subterranean Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, is one of the most extensive records of sacred texts from around the world.

Reverend STEWART: This project of preserving manuscripts photographically was started out of our Benedictine tradition of being guardians of culture. The monasteries have been places where texts particularly have been treasured.

DE SAM LAZARO: Father Columba Stewart’s quest to record church history, to fill in its blanks, has taken him to the farthest trails of early Christianity — Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and, perhaps the least well-known destination, Kerala, a province in southwestern India where he recently brought a delegation of his museum’s benefactors.

Rev. STEWART: We got to India through the Middle East, and of course that’s how Christianity got to India in the first place. There’s an assumption that there were no Christians in India until the Western missionaries brought the Gospel to this land of pagans, and that’s not the truth at all.

DE SAM LAZARO: Long before it reached many parts of Europe, Christianity came across the Arabian Sea to Kerala along the thriving spice trade routes. Today about seven million people, a fifth of Kerala’s population, call themselves St. Thomas Christians after Jesus’ apostle, who many here believe arrived in India in 52 A.D. Even today, parts of some liturgies are sung in Syriac, close to the Aramaic language spoken by Christ.

Professor ISTVAN PERCZEL (Department of Medieval Studies, CEU): They claim to have been converted by St. Thomas the Apostle. This we cannot prove either or disprove. But from the, I don’t know, third, perhaps fourth century onwards we have testimony to their existence here.

DE SAM LAZARO: Professor Istvan Perczel, a Hungarian scholar of medieval Christianity, has championed the effort to document Kerala’s church history, bringing together the Minnesota monastery and local Indian scholars

Prof. PERCZEL (looking at manuscript): Hmmm. We have never seen this.

DE SAM LAZARO: He’s spent months in Kerala scouring dusty church closets for old texts and records.

Prof. PERCZEL (pointing at page in manuscript): Can we come back to digitize this?

DE SAM LAZARO: Most of these go back only as far as the beginning of colonization around the 15th century, when the first European colonists — the Portuguese — arrived to find both spices and the St. Thomas Christians who, they discovered, were a distant branch of Middle Eastern Orthodox churches

Rev. STEWART: By their lights, viewing it through the lens of the 15th- and 16th-century European perspective, these people were heretics. They were concerned that their liturgies and their other writings be purified and corrected on the basis of what a Portuguese Latin-Rite Roman Catholic would expect to be normative. So there is very, very little manuscript evidence from before the Portuguese era, because the Portuguese were very good at collecting these manuscripts that they’d already found, destroying them, and issuing corrected copies of them.

(speaking to Father Ignatius): So, Father Ignatius, this is your oldest Syriac manuscript?

Reverend IGNATIUS PAYYAPPILLY (Director, Catholic Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India): This is the oldest Syriac manuscript which I have here in these archives. It is written in 1563.

Rev. STEWART: It’s a Syriac manuscript, but there’s a Latin note that this manuscript belonged to the Carmelites, and it’s interesting that they write it in Latin. It, again, tells you something about the religious situation.

DE SAM LAZARO: Latin or Roman Catholic were introduced or imposed on the St. Thomas Christians, though Syriac continued in use in their liturgies. But many outlawed rites survived, as did factions that resisted pledging loyalty to a Syriac patriarch instead of the pope. Scribes from Kerala were later sent to the Middle East to recover texts destroyed by the Portuguese. The only surviving copies of many are now in Kerala.

Rev. STEWART: Those are treasures, because we can find manuscripts that may have disappeared in Middle Eastern libraries, some collections of East Syrian canon law, for example, preserved in unique manuscripts in Kerala, which haven’t survived because of the later persecution of these Christians in the Middle East in the 19th and 20th centuries.

DE SAM LAZARO: The Kerala church, meanwhile, has seen schisms both between and within the Western and Eastern branches. But through it all the St. Thomas Christians have maintained a distinctly Indian — that is non-European — character.

Rev. PAYYAPILLY: We are Christians in faith, and we are Indian in citizenship, and we are Hindus in culture.

DE SAM LAZARO: Father Ignatius Payyapilly started this museum a few years ago, collecting relics and statues mostly from demolished church buildings.

Rev. PAYYAPILLY: See the halo of Jesus around his head, Jesus, and see the long ears and his hair. These are all typical resemblance of the statue of Buddha.

DE SAM LAZARO: Although the Western scholars first came in search of Syriac manuscripts, they’ve also discovered a rich local history inscribed on palm leaves and in Malayalam, the local language, and tongues that preceded it. Much of it is everyday church accounts and records. Valuable history to scholars — just clutter to most priests in the local churches

SUSAN THOMAS (Church Scholar): And most of these palm leaves were, you know, either put in somewhere where you have them exposed to termites and mice, or just put up with the logs and water wells or the waste material. Sometimes they burn it up.

DE SAM LAZARO: The palm leaves reveal a community that could serve as a model of interfaith harmony in a larger region that’s often seen sectarian violence. The churches employed Hindu scribes, for example, and bishops enjoyed warm relations with the local kings who reigned in the area

Rev. PAYYAPILLY: I have seen here in these archives a beautiful document written by the bishop — handwritten together with the printed one — requesting all the churches belonging to the Cochin Kingdom — they should celebrate the 60th birthday of the king.

DE SAM LAZARO: There’s still much to be analyzed, much to be discovered. All of it will be digitized — rescued from moisture, termites, and neglect and stored here for scholars and for posterity. There will also be back-up copies in an unlikely safe haven: a monastery in central Minnesota.

For RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY, this is Fred de Sam Lazaro.


The Brahmavar Revisited

‘Brahmavar’ is term by which each and every Orthodox Christian in India must feel happy and proud of their Church. Brahmavar Christain community also known as the Brahmavar Mission was once considered to be proud by the Indian Orthodox Church. It is very important to make an analysis on the present conditions of the Brahmavar Christians.

The Beginning and Reunion to the Mother (Orthodox) Church from Roman Catholicism

In the year 1889 Fr Alvariz and Fr Nurono along with 5000 Roman Catholic Families reunited with the Indian Orthodox Church. In the very year itself Fr Alvaris was ordinated as the Metropolitan of Goa-Ceylon in the name Mar Yulius by H G Paulose Mar Athanasius and St Gregory of Parumala. The ceremony was held at Kottayam Old Seminary.

It is very important to note that those days the Indian Orthodox Church had a large number of believers in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and in the Trishnapalli area of Tamil Nadu.

The rift between Indian Orthodox Church and the Jacobite Syrian Church (Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate) after the year 1912 affected the Brahmavar Christian in deep manner. In the year 1923 H G Alvariz Mar Yuluis Metropolitan passed away in Lord. The Metropolitan had a very sad and terrible end to his life. His mortal remain were ignored by the Church. For several years it remained in one of the Municipal Cemeteries of Goa till it was recovered by the Late Catholicose of the East His Holiness Baselius Marthoma Mathews I. At present the mortal remains is well preserved in one of the Orthodox Churches in Goa.

The Brahamavra Christian considers H G Alvariz Mar Yuluis Metropolitan to be a Saintly person.

The Present Situation

The Brahmavar Christians followed Latin from of worship till 1980. Later Rev Thomas Ramban translated the holy mass into Kokini language along with other prayers and namaskarrams. Presently there are four parishes in Brahmavar. There are a number of Priests from their own community. Presently there are nearly 700 Orthodox Christian families in Brahamavar .

They know that they are ‘Syrians’ They remember the name of Catholicose of the East in the First Tubden, apart from that they are unaware of the Malankara Orthodox Church, though they are an integral part of the Church.. In all aspects they stay away from the forefront of the Indian Orthodox Church. The Brahmavar Orthodox Christian also run a College and a School.

Challenges Ahead

The Indian Orthodox Church must give high priority and importance to the Brahmavar Christians. It is high time the Church think about the future of these Christian Community.

Threats from Malankara Catholic Rite: Malankara Catholic Rite (An Eastern Catholic Rite in India) has an eye on the on the Brahmavar Christians. They have plans to build a new diocese in the Shimoga area, focusing exclusively on the Brahmavar Orthodox Christians. The Malankara Catholic Rite will definitely aim at the Brahmavar Orthodox Christians

The Orthodox Church must give more importance to the Brahmavar Community. A good amount in the Church budget must be allotted to the total development of the Brahmavar Orthodox Christians. They must be given chance to involve more deeply in all areas of the Malankara Church. It would be better to raise the status to a diocese or Archdioceses and a full time Metropolitan can be constituted for their spiritual and administrative needs. Help must be given to their overall development. Spiritual organizations of the Church like Orthodox Christian Youth Movement, Mar Gregorious Orthodox Students Movement, Martha Mariyam Samagam (Women’s Fellowship of the Church) must extend their activities to the Brahmavar community. These organization must give importance to deliver have Holy Mass in Kongini Language.

The Brahmavar Christians does not like tem being addressed as Brahmanar Mission. These Christian Community and their leader H G Alvariz Mar Yuluis Metropolitan had undergone large number of problems, physical and mental torture, and ignorance, but they have relied and still hold strongly on to the holy Orthodox faith. The existing people never went back to the Roman Church, but remained within the Indian Orthodox Church. It is to be always noted that the Orthodox Christians in Brahmavar is not at all a result of any mission of the Malankara Orthodox Church. But they have come into existence as part of their enquiry for the true faith of a number of truth seekers.

Let Good Lord give the courage and strength to the Brahmavar Community. May God bless the Leadership and members of the Indians Orthodox Church to bind them and to help them to follow the true Orthodox Faith of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

This article was originally written in the Malayalam Language by Mr Subin Varghese (Vice-Chairman-OBL) as part if his visit to Brahmavar in the year 2007.

Supported and Promted by the Department of Public Relations -OBL


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Saint Thomas Christians

AD 52.

After the Day of Pentecost, the disciples go to different parts of the world to spread the Gospel.

Saint Thomas-the disciple of Christ is send to India. Legend says he arrived in a place called Kondungallur(Muziris)in Kerala, in a Jewish trading vessel in the year AD 52.

According to our oral traditions and sayings, Saint Thomas the Apostle converts numerous upperclass families in Kerala. That he converted 100 brahmin families is one story, and which has widespread acceptance among most Nasrani families in Kerala(who still use brahmin family names).
Some others say most of the converts were from the Jewish traders settled in the ancoient port cities of Kerala.

Anyway, the number of converts is not so numerous, and they manage to survive as a community and preserve their faith for a few centuries, this they would have found extremely difficult, as they had no contact with the rest of Christendom and were a small community of christians with no established notion of a "Church" per se.

However the christian community in Kerala witnesses a resurgence in AD 345, thats when supposedly around 72 families of Persian Syrian Christians arrive here, fleeing from persecution in their homeland. They were led by a wealthy trader called Knayi Thomman and also had a bishop with them.

The new arrivals were a small minority and called "Southists" by the resident christians(since they settled south of some river), who were thus logically called as the "Northists". The "Southists" or the "Persian immigrant Christians" are more well-known as the Knanaya Christians" in Kerala today.
Yes, the descendants of these Knanaya people are still visible in Kerala today, and most of them are Orthodox Syrian Christians. Though they claim Persian ancestry, some of them are as black as charcoal with distinctive dravidian feautures, while a few have semitic looks. For a community who claim racial purity, theyd have to admit their ancestors had marital relations with the locals.

Until 16th century.

The Saint Thomas Christians began to have converts from all castes and races of people in India.

The culture of the Saint Thomas Christians was predominantly hindu, but with certain Jewish traditions as well. Their Churches were modelled after Hindu Temples and Jewish Synagogues. They borrowed from the best of both cultures--Indian and West Asian.
They managed to preserve the Oriental tolerance along with the semitic Monotheistic zeal.

According to a historian, the Saint Thomas Christians were Orthodox Christians until around 7th or 8th century AD.
For a brief period between 8th century and 16th century, they were under the Nestorian Schism. That happened because the Persian Church which was considered the Mother Church of the Indian, had witnessed a division over theological definitions.

The ancient Persian Cross which is found in many churches of kerala is proof of the Orthodox Christian past of Kerala, since the inscription under the crosses reflect the Miaphysite theology of the Orthodox, rather than that of the Nestorians.

However, there was not an organised church set-up for the Saint Thomas Christians even then. Not many people were aware of theological differences. The Bible was not printed yet, the Scripture was fragmented into half a dozen different scrolls containing different biblical texts.
Copies of these Scripture scrolls were few, since they had to be painstakingly handwritten on palmleaves.

Many bishops and priests used to come to Kerala from Persia and West Asia, from both Nestorian and Orthodox Churches. A Latin bishop came around 14th century. But all were treated equally by the theologically illiterate Saint Thomas christians of Kerala.
For them, the Syriac language and the Semitic style of the bishop was proof enough for the sanctity of the newcomer.

The relationship with Hindus and Muslims was much cordial and the Christians got royal patronage. A Hindu King called Shaktan Thampuran even built churches for the christians.

Contact with Western Christendom.

By the start of the 16th century, the worldview of the Saint Thomas Christian had been radically changed.

The arrival of the Portuguese colonials in 1498 was a beginning. The Roman Catholic Church in Europe came into active contact with the St.Thomas Christians with this.
The Roman Church ofcourse, in their medieval crusader zeal tried to win the submission of the St.Thomas Christians to the Roman Pope.

However, the fiercely Independent Saint Thomas Christians would not bow to anyone other than the Catholicos of Tigris or to the Patriarch of Antioch; both eastern christian centres.
Their submission had to be won by gold and gunpowder.

Beginning with the Roman Synod of Diamper in 1599, a reign of hellish persecution was unleashed on the Saint Thomas Christians by the Jesuits and the Portuguese colonials. Syriac traditions and worship was forcibly altered. Many historical documents burned and relics stolen off to Europe. Priests were assaulted and their beards cut off. Latin replaced Syriac worship.

In 1653, the Jesuit-Portuguese combine caught hold of a Syrian bishop Ahattallah on his way to Kerala. The St.Thomas Christians who heard the news- 25,000 of them from the mountains, assembled in Cochin before the Portuguese fort, demanding the release of the old bishop.
But the cunning portuguese took him away via the seas to Goa and had him burned to death in the Goan Inqusition Chambers.

The enraged St.Thomas Christians rioted and rebelled against forcible Roman rule. They violently ejected the troublesome Jesuits from their presence and regained control of their churches.

On the fateful day of the Great Revolt, the St.Thomas Christians also assembled under a legendary Cross and took an Oath that day: "We or our descendants to come, will not have anything to do with the Roman Pope or the Roman Church anymore".

Thus proclaiming their Independence and Reviving their old Oriental Orthodox past.

British age.

However the clever Roman Church did not give up and send a second wave of missionaries to re-convert the Saint Thomas Christians. Many of the revolters returned to Romanism.

12 years after the Great Revolt of 1653 (Also known as the Coonen Cross Revolt), the Saint Thomas christians brought the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem to ordinate for themselves an Indigenous bishop. All former Saint Thomas christian bishops were either Syrians or Persians.
Since then a special relationship between the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and the Saint Thomas christians blossomed.

The start of the British Raj in India again spelt trouble for the Saint Thomasine Church. The British were Protestants, and large numbers of British missionaries started coming to Kerala, converting Saint Thomas christians to protestantism and also infiltrating our seminaries and religious schools.
This again caused a split like in the Portuguese age in the Saint Thomas Christian community.

The Syriac Patriarch and the Indian Bishop(Malankara Metropolitan) disagreed on powersharing, with the Syriac Patriarch trying to usurp more authority over the Indian Church. This split the Saint Thomas community further.

Though the Saint Thomasine history maybe seen as "plagued with divisions", in the end it has resulted in a sort of churning of the masses.
The rest were converted to Roman Catholicism or Protestantism in the Colonial age between 1500 AD-1947 AD.

Only a third of the descendants of the Saint Thomas Christians are today Orthodox Christians.
They belong to 2 churches in India: Indian(Malankara) Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox.

Oriental Orthodoxy.

In short, the Oriental Orthodox in India are people owing their origin to the Saint Thomas tradition(first century AD) or to the Syrian immigration wave(4th century AD).

They are the oldest christians in India, and they were lucky to have survived the onslaughts of the Organised Western Churches having Imperial patronage, the last 500 years.
At most, the Oriental Orthodox in Kerala, belonging to both Indian Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Churches, come to 20 lakh members(2 million).

The other Oriental Orthodox Churches of the world are(apart from the Indian and the Syriac):

  • The Coptic Orthodox(Egypt).
  • The Ethiopian Orthodox(Ethiopia).
  • Armenian Orthodox (Armenia).

These 5 churches in Asia and Africa form the Oriental Orthodox Communion.

The Eastern European churches, ie the Russian, Greek, Bulgarian, Romanian, Macedonian Orthodox etc number to around 15 churches and form another related communion of christians known as the Eastern Orthodox.

Both Oriental and Eastern Orthodox share faith, beliefs and traditions to the tune of 99% barring for one dogma regarding the Persona or Nature of Christ.


Why I am Orthodox

Why I am an Orthodox?

Doctrinal Stability.
Evangelicals' desire to return to authentic Christianity will never be
fulfilled due to the chaos and extreme individualism. Without a
paradosis, or "the faithful handing down" of belief as hermeneutic
precedent, doctrinal fads abound. There are no spiritual fads in
Orthodoxy, yet the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Orthodox Church.

Historical Legacy.
Eastern Orthodoxy is the representative of the most ancient of Christian
traditions, and linked by unbroken continuity with the thought and
doctrine of the apostolic age. In contrast, modern American/Evangelical
Christianity seemingly refuses to value or acknowledge the Church

Unbroken Apostolic Succession.
An unbroken lineage of bishops that dates back to the leadership of the

Historical Revisionism.
Evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic movements teach that they are a
return to a lost "pure Christianity" when in fact they are something
entirely new altogether. I would probably still be Baptist or Assembly of
God today if those in leadership had been straight with me about Church
history in the first place.

Orthodox worship has remained virtually unchanged...
... since it was first instituted by the apostles themselves. While
Protestant worship is centered around one person talking, or modelled
after secular entertainment. In Charismatic worship, the 'move of the
Spirit' can depend greatly on how secure the music minister is in his

Sola Scriptura.
The early Christians were not Sola Scripura. Each Christian community had
a different combination of books until 398 AD when an official New
Testament was finally canonized. If early Christians were not Sola
Scripura, then they must have been in error, right?

World View.
While Evangelical Christianity is preoccupied with conspiracies, sinister
agendas, etc., the Orthodox Church has a sober, more realistic outlook.

Political Ideology.
In modern Evengelical churches, there is an increasing trend to determine
spiritual/social status by one's loyalty to political conservatism- a
popular and recent philosophy, not a spirituality. There is no such
pressure in Orthodoxy. The church has firm views on certain issues, which
in turn have strong political implications, but one's loyalty is expected
to be to the community of believers (the ekklesia), not a carnal
political group.

The Ultimate Endorsement.
The conversion of Campus Crusade for Christ leaders and their entire
congregations en masse (1987) and the conversion of Frank Schaeffer.
Frank's books, as well as those of his father were major influences in my
life. The Schaeffers were proof that you didn't have to "dumb down" to be
a Christian. Frank's conversion speaks volumes.

Church Stability.
I have witnessed the self-destruction of several churches since I was a
young. I want to raise my child in a congregation that will be there in
fifty years and be teaching the exact same thing.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monastery dispute continues

Prayer for employment

Prayer for Employment

God, our Father, I turn to You seeking Your Divine help and guidance for those served by the Mor Gregorios Community Center look for suitable employment. They need Your wisdom to guide their footsteps along the right path, and to lead them to find the proper things to say and do in this quest. Let them wish to use the gifts and talents You have given mthem but they need the opportunity to do so with gainful employment. Do not abandon them dear Father, in this search, but rather grant them this favor I seek so that I may return to You with praise and thanksgiving for your gracious assistance. Grant this through Christ, our Lord.

We entreat Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God and all saints to pray for these our brethren. We will together raise up glory and thanksgiving to You, Your Father and Your Holy Spirit, now and for ever.

Prayer for financial break through

Prayer for a Financial breakthrough

Almighty Father, I pray that you would release financial blessings upon the Mor Gregorios Community Center which helps to restore lost souls, In Jesus Name , Amen. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for Your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich. (2 Cor. 8:9) If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.(Matt.21:22)


Paper, Scissors, Stone

Paper, Scissors, Stone

by Tom Wayman

An executive's salary for working with paper
beats the wage in a metal shop operating shears
which beats what a gardener earns arranging stone.

But the pay for a surgeon's use of scissors
is larger than that of a heavy equipment driver removing stone
which in turn beats a secretary's cheque for handling paper.

And, a geologist's hours with stone
nets more than a teacher's with paper
and definitely beats someone's time in a garment factory with scissors.

In addition: to manufacture paper
you need stone to extract metal to fabricate scissors
to cut the product to size.
To make scissors you must have paper to write out the specs
and a whetstone to sharpen the new edges.
Creating gravel, you require the scissor-blades of the crusher
and lots of order forms and invoices at the office.

Thus I believe there is a connection
between things
and not at all like the hierarchy of winners
of a child's game.
When a man starts insisting
he should be paid more than me
because he's more important to the task at hand,
I keep seeing how the whole process collapses
if almost any one of us is missing.
When a woman claims she deserves more money
because she went to school longer,
I remember the taxes I paid to support her education.
Should she benefit twice?
Then there's the guy who demands extra
because he has so much seniority
and understands his work so well
he has ceased to care, does as little as possible,
or refuses to master the latest techniques
the new-hires are required to know.
Even if he's helpful and somehow still curious
after his many years—

Without a machine to precisely measure
how much sweat we each provide
or a contraption hooked up to electrodes in the brain
to record the amount we think,
my getting less than him
and more than her
makes no sense to me.
Surely whatever we do at the job
for our eight hours—as long as it contributes—
has to be worth the same.

And if anyone mentions
this is a nice idea but isn't possible,
consider what we have now:
everybody dissatisfied, continually grumbling and disputing.
No, I'm afraid it's the wage system that doesn't function
except it goes on
and will
until we set to work to stop it

with paper, with scissors, and with stone.

"Paper, Scissors, Stone" by Tom Wayman from The Face of Jack Munro. © Harbour, 1986.


Editor's Note: One of my favorite program on NPR is Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac. You can listen to Garrrsion reading of Tom Wayman's poem here:
My plan is to print this out and post in the computer room of our employment program. And perhaps it would be good to add to the next mailing by the Mor Gregorios Community Center for help with our programs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A sinner's pray

A Sinner's prayer

Heavenly Father, I know that I have sinned against you and that my sins separate me from you. I am truly sorry. I now want to turn away from my past sinful life and turn to you for forgiveness. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life.

We entreat Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God and all saints to pray for these our brethren. We will together raise up glory and thanksgiving to You, Your Father and Your Holy Spirit, now and for ever.


Catholicate of the East


'CATHOLICOS OF THE EAST' was originally the title conferred to the ecclesiastical head of the Christian congregation in the erstwhile Persian Empire that extended from Mesopotamia in the west, to the boundaries of the present day Afghanistan and Northern India in the east. In the beginning the bishop who assumed this title was known as MAJOR METROPOLITAN / CATHOLICOS OF SELEUCIA; Seleucia being the capital city of Persian Empire. This institution was initially set up to serve as a link between the Patriarch of Antioch, and the Syrian Christian Community in Persia who found the journey to the Patriarchate at Antioch, hazardous because of the bitter political rivalry between the Roman and Persian empires.

The Church in Persia was known in different names: Persian Church, Babylonian Church, East Syrian Church, Church of East, Chaldean Church etc. Though the jurisdiction of the Seleucian Catholicate was initially within the Persian Empire only, it later extended to few other regions outside the empire in Asia in the further East, through missionary activities.

Catholicos/Maphryono (Maphrian)

The term ‘Catholicos’ (Katholikos) is derived from the Greek words ‘Kath-Holikos’, meaning ‘General Primate’ or ‘General Vicar’. Even before the primates of the Church adopted this title, it existed in the Roman Empire where its Government representative who was in charge of a large area was called ‘Catholicos’. The Government servant, who was in charge of State treasury, too was known by that name. In due course, the secular administrative heads in Persian Empire also adopted this title.

The Churches (mainly outside the Roman Empire) started to use this term for their Chief Bishops much later, probably by 4th or 5th centuries. Now the primates of the Orthodox Churches in Armenia, Georgia, Iraq and India, use the title ‘Catholicos’.

‘Maphryono’ (Maphrian) is derived from the Syriac word afri, “to make fruitful’, or "one who gives fecundity". This title came to be used exclusively for the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the East (Persia) after the prelates who occupied the office of the Catholicate since late 5th century adopted Nestorian Christology and separated from the mother Church. From the mid 13th century onwards, a few occupants of the Maphrianate were referred also as ‘Catholicos’, but the title never came into extensive usage. However in the 20th century when this office of the Maphrianate under the Holy See of Antioch was established in India, the chief of the local church assumed the title ‘Catholicos’. It is this title that is being used in India today, while the title ‘Maphryono’ (Maphrian) is no longer used.

Evolution of the historic office of Catholicos of the East

At the dawn of Christianity in the 1st century, there were two great political powers that stood against each other in the Near and the Middle East; the Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Empire of the Parthians (or Sassanaid Persians since the early 3rd century), the traditional enmity of which has a determining influence on the history of that area for centuries. The border line between these rival empires divided the landscape of Mesopotamia with the Syriac speaking population on either side. The great city of Antioch where a Christian presence appeared for the first time outside Palestine, was the capital of the Syrian Province, in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. The bishoprics of the city of Antioch have special importance in the history of Christianity as it was here St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles, established his Apostolic See in AD 37. Antioch and regions east of it were placed under the care of the Bishop/Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. (The Christian church laws that took shape in the early era through regional and ecumenical councils reaffirmed the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome).

But the political barriers between the Persian and Roman Empires and the bitter rivalry of its rulers made intercommunications between the two regions much more difficult and dangerous. There were instances where clergy from Persia who were ordained by the Patriarch of Antioch were put to death alleging to be spies. It therefore, became necessary for the Patriarch to vest authority in an ecclesiastical dignitary to carry on the administration in the Persian region. Thus evolved the historic office of the Catholicate in Seleucia (Persian capital). The Bishop/Catholicos of Seleucia acted as the deputy of the Patriarch of Antioch, in the Persian Empire, with some exclusive privileges to consecrate bishops on behalf of the Patriarch. Though attempts to bring the Church under this single authority (Seleucian bishop) started in early 4th century itself, it became fruitful only a century later. Initially the other prelates of Persia were opposed to the idea of vesting powers in this Catholicate, but the support from the Antiochean Patriarchate helped to shed all barriers.

The First Catholicos of the Syrian Church

It was around the year 300, an attempt was made for the first time to establish the Church in the Persian Empire in an organised form. The initiative for this was taken by Bishop Papa (Baba, AD.267-329) of the Persian royal capital at Seleucia-Ctesiphon with the consent of the Patriarch of Antioch. In AD 315, the Bishop convened a Synod of the Persian prelates at Seleucia in which he tried to organize the local churches, with himself as a head. But the other prelates, especially those of Persia proper resisted and even deposed Bishop Papa. At this crucial juncture, the Bishops of Antioch, Edessa and Nisibis came to his rescue and reinstated him as prelate of the prime city.

It is believed that the title 'CATHOLICOS' was first used by this Bishop Papa. Anyhow, neither this Seleucian bishop nor his successors, until 410, never had any authority over other bishoprics in Persian empire and hence the title Catholicose, if ever used by Bishop Papa, does not mean in the same sense as it was known later.

About a century after, another serious attempt was made to unite all the bishoprics in the Persian Empire. In AD 410, an historic Synod of the churches in Persia was held under the auspices of Bishop Mor Marutha of Muipharqat (delegate of the Antiochean Patriarch), which recognized the primacy of the Metropolitan of Seleucia for the first time. Thus MOR ISHAQ (Issac), the bishop of Seleucia becomes the head of the Persian Church. He is the one who is acknowledged as the first "CATHOLICOS", with jurisdiction over the entire Persian Empire. He assumed this title at the Synod of Seleucia held in AD 410. The primate at that time, was also conferred with the title "Great Metropolitan and Chief of All Bishops". (In some other records the title is mentioned as "Great Metropolitan of All the East and Major Metropolitan of Seleucia-Ctesiphon".)

Churches that claim the succession from the Catholicate of the East

From the days of establishment of Christianity in Persia, the Church there had to face severe persecutions; first from the Parthian and Persian kingdoms that considered the Christians as their adversaries, then due to the dissidence grown within their congregations and because of crusades, finally on account of the Moslem and Mongolian aggressions. Thus the Syrian Church in Persia/East separated into three main stream Churches with two more sub-divisions in the last century. The lists of the Syriac Churches in the East that are under separate Catholicates are given below.


1. Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) Church of Antioch & all the East
2. Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Sect separated from the Syrian Orthodox Church in 1912)


3. Assyrian Church of the East
4. The Ancient Church of the East (Sect separated from the Assyrian Church in 1968)

Roman Catholic

5. Chaldean Church of the East (Sect separated from the Nestorians in 1445)




In the early centuries the Christians in the Persian and the Roman Empires were subject to religious persecutions, so the Church spread its wings without the help of any of the imperial authorities. After the Roman Emperor accepted Christianity in 315, the church in Rome was spared from atrocities, but from then onwards the Persian rulers adopted a much more hostile attitude towards those Christians in Persia as they were considered as agents of the former. It was during this period that the office of the Great Metropolitan, which later came to be known as the Catholicate of East, was established in Persia. As the enmity between the empires increased, the leaders of the Church in Persia found it nearly impossible to continue ecclesiastical commune with the universal Church. Meanwhile some in the Catholicate of Persia found it more convenient to adopt the Nestorian Christology which was earlier officially rejected by the universal Christian councils for its remarks on the Mother of God; thus they tried to convince the Persian rulers that they distance themselves from the mother Church and the Roman (Byzantine) Empire. By this act, the Christians in Persia who accepted Nestorian Christology could easily win the favour of the Persian rulers while those of non-Nestorian faith suffered severe persecution. As the office of the Catholicate fell into heresy, the Orthodox faithful were wandering in wilderness. The Catholicos of Seleucia meanwhile took over the title 'Patriarch', thus trying to be equal in status with the Patriarch of Antioch.

Even though the Church in Persia had officially accepted Nestorius as a Church father, a substantial group of Christians in Mosul, Niniveh and Tigris (Tagrit) continued to keep their loyalty to the old faith. A few decades later the Orthodox wing of the Church in Persia that continued to be under the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch & all the East, got reorganized under St. Ya`qub Burdono and installed St. Ahudemmeh as 'The Great Metropolitan of the East', but he too found it difficult to discharge his ecclesiastical duties smoothly. However by the 7th century the situation changed for better which finally led to the formation of an office of the 'Maphrianate of the East’ at Tigrit (Tagrit).

In AD 629, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East elevated St. Marutha (Marooso) as the first MAPHRIYONO OF THE EAST for the rejuvenated Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) Church in Persia. Later the centre of the Maphrianate was shifted to St. Mathew’s Dayro in the city of Mosul in Iraq and continued there till the middle of the 19th century.

Catholicate in Malankara (India

In 1860 the office of Maphrianate was abolished as per the decision of the Syrian Orthodox Church Synod held at Deyrul' al Zafran Monastery (Kurkkumo Dayro) under Patriarch Ignatius Ya`qub II. The same was re-established in India in 1964 by the Universal Synod held at Kottayam, presided by Patriarch Mor Ignatius Ya`qub III. From the days of the establishment of this Maphrianate in India, the Church started to officially use the title ‘Catholicos of the East’, with his jurisdiction limited to India in the East. In 2002 the office of the Maphrianate was renamed ‘Catholicos of India’ in accordance with its actual jurisdiction. Present headquarters of this ancient Catholicate (Maphrianate) of the Syrian Orthodox Church is at Puthencuriz, Cochin, with Catholicos Aboon Mor Baselios Thomas I as the Chief of the Church in India.

In Episcopal dignity the Catholicos ranks second to the Patriarch. As His Holiness’s deputy, the Catholicos preside over the provincial Holy Synod. He and all the clergy of the faithful in India pledge loyalty to the Patriarch of Antioch, the supreme spiritual authority of the Syriac Orthodox Church throughout the world. In its long history there are many instances when a Maphrian (Catholicos) was elevated to the position of the Patriarch in the Syrian Orthodox Church.

The Maphryono's (Catholicos') from the Middle East who died in India

1. St. Baselios Yeldo (d. 1685) [entombed at the Marthoma Church, Kothamangalam ]

2. Mor Baselios Sakralla III (d. 1764) [entombed at the Marth Mariam Church, Kandanad]

The Catholicos' of the Indian Church

1. Mor Baselios Augen I (1964-1975)

2. Mor Baselios Paulose II (1975-1996) [entombed at the Malecuriz St. George Dayro]

3. Mor Baselios Thomas I (2002- )



This wing of the Orthodox Church in Kerala, India, originated in 1912 with the establishment of an autonomous Maphrianate/Catholicate for the section separated from the ancient Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Christian Community of Malabar. The Chief of this Church since then assumed the title ‘Catholicos of the East’. In 1934, this independent group got organised itself under the banner ‘Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church’ with headquarters in the town of Kottayam in southern Kerala. Though in 1964 the group reunited with the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church following the consecration of a Catholicos by the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, they once again separated from the Holy Church in mid-1970's. The present Catholicos of the Church is Mar Baselios Marthoma Didymos I.



Nestorian Church which is also called the 'Church of the East' and more recently the 'Assyrian Church', is one of the most important sections of the ancient Christian Congregations in Persia. By the end of the 5th century, when the chief of the Persian church (Catholicos of Seleucia), adopted Nestorian doctrinal teachings, a vast majority of faithful followed him. In 498, the section declared their independence claiming it as an exclusive Persian Church. Since then the Catholicos (also called 'Catholicos-Patriarch') of the Persian Church assumed the title 'PATRIARCH of the East, sometimes known as 'Patriarch of Babylon'.

At present there are two independent Patriarchates for the Assyrian Church of East. It was in the middle of the 20th century, a split happened in the Church which resulted in the formation of two independent factions. The dispute was triggered off in the Church after the reigning Patriarch Mar Simon decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1964. But the actual reason behind the controversy was over the hereditary succession of the Patriarchs that started in 1450. The office of the Patriarch and some other Episcopal sees had since then become hereditary within one family, usually being passed down from uncle to nephew. Opposing this practice, a section under a Metropolitan separated in 1968 and this led to the formation of a parallel Catholicate/Patriarchate. However in 1973, the age old practice of hereditic succession came to end with the retirement of the Patriarch Mar Simon in 1973, who had himself become the prelate at a young age of 12. But the division that occurred in 1964 still continues and two parallel Patriarchates are functioning in the Church of the East.

Mar Dinkha IV with his residence in Chicago USA, is the current Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East; the official name of the Church is 'Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East'. They follow the Gregorian calendar since 1964. This Church has about 30,000 faithful in Kerala (India). In India the Assyrian Church is also referred to as Chaldean Syrian Church which must not be mistaken for the Church in Roman Catholic communion).




The Ancient Church of the East was formed in 1968 following certain disputes with the Assyrian Church. Even after the split they stick to the Julian calendar whereas the other sect is now using the Gregorian calendar. The Primate of the Church is called, the 'Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East'. The present Patriarch is Mar Adai II, residing in Baghdad.


(Roman Catholic)

The Chaldean Church which is in commune with the Roman Catholic Church is a break away group of the Nestorian Church. The Church came into existence in AD 1445 after the then chief of the Nestorians embraced the Roman Catholic faith. The Chief of the Church used the title ‘Patriarch of Chaldeans’ from its inception. Their headquarters is in Bagdad, Iraq. The present primate of the Chaldean church is Mar Emmanuel III Delly. The official title of the Chaldean primate is 'Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans'.

More recently, in 2005, the Malankara Syrian Catholic Church of India which separated from the Malankara Orthodox Church to join the Roman Catholic Communion in 1930’s has also created a Catholicate. The first Catholicos who adopts this title is Cyril Mar Baselios, the head of the Malankara Catholic Church and the Archbishop of Trivandrum diocese. He is the fourth successor to Mar Ivanios, the founder of the Church. It was this Mar Ivanios, along with Mar Dionysius Wattasseril, was instrumental in the formation of the Malankara Orthodox Church in India towards the beginning of the 20th century.


Monastery of the Holy Martyrs - Orthodox Monastery, Syriac Orthodox

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