Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Metropolitan Jonah meets with Oriental Church representatives

Metropolitan Jonah meets with Oriental Church representativesOn August 13, 2009, a delegation of Oriental Orthodox bishops and priests visited His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah at the OCA Chancery here.

The delegation, which was led by His Eminence, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, included His Eminence Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Prelate of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the United States. The Very Rev. David Bebawy represented the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The delegation visited Saint Sergius Chapel at the Chancery, where they were offered a brief history of the OCA Chancery. After a meaningful discussion on different issues of mutual interest, Metropolitan Jonah hosted a luncheon for the delegation, during which the visiting hierarchs expressed gratitude for their visit.

Metropolitan Jonah also was invited to be a guest of Archbishop Khajag Barsamian at the Armenian Diocesan Headquarters in New York in early September.

source: http://www.oca.org/news/1909

Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch visits His Holiness


On Thursday August 20, 2009, His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Joseph III Younan, the Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, made his first official visit to our Patriarch His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas I at the St. Aphrem Monastery in Ma`rrat Sayyidnaya, Damascus. At a reception meeting held soon after in honor of the visiting Syrian Catholic primate, the holy father expressed his warm greetings to Mar Ignatius Joseph III Younan who assumed the office in early 2009. Mar Ignatius Joseph III in his reply speech thanked the holy father for hospitality and honor given to him and also presented a Gift of Holy Cross to His Holiness.

Earlier the visiting Syrian Catholic Patriarch and his entourage was received at the entrance of the Monastery by Their Eminences Mor Philoxinos Mattiyas Nayis (the Patriarchal Assistant), Mor Dionnasios Behanam Jajavi, Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim (Archbishop of Aleppo & Environs), Mor Theophilos George Saliba (Archbishop of Mount Lebanon and the secretary of the Holy Synod) Mor Osthatheos Matta Rohum (Metropolitan of Euphrates) Mor Selwanos Petros AL-nemeh (Metropolitan of Homs & Hama), Mor Clemis Daniel of Beirut diocese.

Representatives from the Syrian Orthodox Church of India, Their Eminences Mor Yulios Kuriakose (Senior Metropolitan of the Simhasana churches & Institutions in India and Mor Gregorios Joseph (Metropolitan of Kochi Diocese & Malankara Episcopal Synod Secretary) were also present on the occasion.

The Syrian Catholic Church belongs to the family of oriental churches which follows the almost the same traditions and practices of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch & All the east. They separated from the mother church in the late 18th century to join the Roman Catholic communion under Pope and since then is being ruled by a separate Patriarch. Mar Ignatius Joseph III Younan, the visiting Syrian Catholic Patriarch was born at Hassaké, Syria on November 15, 1944 and was ordained priest on September 12, 1971. In June of 1991, he was elevated to the rank of "Corbishop" by the Patriarch, Mar Ignatius Antoun II Hayek. On November 6, 1995, Pope John Paul II appointed him first Bishop (Eparch) of the newly established Diocese for Syriac Catholics in the United States and Canada and was consecrated Bishop on January 7, 1996. Mar Ignatius Joseph III Younan assumed the office of Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch on January 20, 2009.






































































Source: Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Damascus


source: http://www.socmnet.org/news_%20SyrCathpatAug2009.htm

EarlyChristians.org

EarlyChristians.org An interesting and informative web site of the early
christians.

the early christians : how did they live?

LIFE OF EXAMPLE1. Life of sanctity

They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. (Aristides, Apology, II c.)

Roman Colisseum
Roman Colosseum

Such, O King, is the commandment of the law of the Christians, and such is their manner of life. As men who know God, they ask from Him petitions which are fitting for Him to grant and for them to receive. And thus they employ their whole lifetime. And since they know the loving-kindnesses of God toward them, behold! for their sake the glorious things which are in the world flow forth to view. And verily, they are those who found the truth when they went about and made search for it; and from what we considered, we learned that they alone come near to a knowledge of the truth. (Aristides, Apology, II c.)

For with Christians, temperance dwells, self-restraint is practiced, monogamy is observed, chastity is guarded, iniquity exterminated, sin extirpated, righteousness exercised, law administered, worship performed, God acknowledged: truth governs, grace guards, peace screens them; the holy word guides, wisdom teaches, life directs, God reigns. (St. Theophilus of Antioch, Books to Autolycus, II c.)


2. Dedicated to others

They appeal to those who injure them, and try to win them as friends; they are eager to do good to their enemies; they are gentle and easy to be entreated; they abstain from all unlawful conversation and from all impurity; they despise not the widow, nor oppress the orphan; and he that has, gives ungrudgingly for the maintenance of him who has not. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God.

And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of Christ, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food.
(Aristides, Apology, II c.)


3. Citizens of earth and heaven

“For, we have not here a lasting city: but we seek one that is to come.” (Heb 13:14)

“They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.
Appian Way
Appian Way

They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. (2 Cor 10:3) They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. (Phil 3:20) They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. (2 Cor 6:9) They are poor, yet make many rich; (2 Cor 6:10) they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; (2 Cor 4:12) they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. (Epistle to Diogentus, II-III c.)

For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other god as companion, from whom they received laws which they engraved upon their minds and hearts and observe in hope and expectation of the world to come. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. (Aristides, Apology, II c.)


4. Eucharist

In one of the first Christian texts, St. Justin the Martyr narrates how the Eucharist was celebrated during the ancient times.

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place,

And the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then,

when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.
San Justino

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying “Amen”; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.

For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do in remembrance of Me, (Lk 22:19) this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone.

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit. (St. Justin the Martyr, Letter to Antoninus Pius, Emperor, 155 AD)


5. Christian dimension of work

The early Christians remembered the very testimony of Christ with their life of work since “Christ was in the habit of working as a carpenter when among men, making ploughs and yokes; by which He taught the symbols of righteousness and an active life.” (St. Justin the Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho)

gente

The Christian message of work is that labor, as long as noble and good, acquires a new dimension in Christ (cfr. Ef. 6,7). The supernatural dimension of work is like a divine incentive that will surpass much the impact of social agreements, without violence nor rebellions. For the early Christians, work had a value of a distinct sign between the true believer and the false brother, as well as a delicate way to live charity in order to be just to his brother (cfr. Thes 5, 11). (cfr. Encyclopedia GER, Primeros Cristianos II, Espiritualidad)

On the other hand, we cannot forget that the early Christians were immersed in a world in which some aspects of work had become somewhat pejorative. “Because work was what determined the life of the slave, the well-known distinction between servile work and liberal work prevailed, first identifying the work itself, and second all activities that, in addition to culture, include leisure and the arts.” (J.Mullor, La Nueva Cristiandad, Madrid 1966, p.215).

source: http://www.earlychristians.org/how_did_they_live_1.html

Salvation: Growing in the likeness of God

Mr Jake Kurian gives an introduction to the Church's teachings of Salvation, focusing on both Process (i.e., Theosis) and Person (i.e., Our Lord Jesus Christ). This talk was given at the Chicago MGOCSM Lenten Retreat at St Thomas Orthodox Church in Chicago on March14, 2009



source: http://blip.tv/file/2479523/

Monday, August 24, 2009

A tribute to the Shepherds

A song depicting the true respect of Malankara Jacobite (Syrian Orthodox) Christians to their Church Fathers.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Some of Orthodoxy in video and music

Mar Cassian's Columbus Ministry

A video story which appeared on the online edition of the Columbus Dispatch about the neighborhood served by Mar Cassian and about his ministry there.

Weinland Park is known for its poverty, violence and drug problems, but some residents see a community with potential

Weinland Park is known for its poverty, violence and drug problems, but some residents see a community with potential
Sunday, August 23, 2009 3:44 AM
By Mark Ferenchik
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH



On the front of a worn brick apartment building on N. 4th Street in the Weinland Park neighborhood, someone scrawled the words "Short North Jungle."

It's a landmark drivers see as they pass through the neighborhood on their way from Downtown to Clintonville or the Ohio State University area.

And an unfortunate symbol, some say.

"That's the billboard for our community," said Robert Caldwell, a neighborhood resident and former president of the Weinland Park Community Civic Association.

But it's not the complete story.

A sign next to a church a few blocks away announces "Fresh bagels in the morning!" as well as Wi-Fi.

Last weekend, the civic association presented its annual community festival featuring family events and music.

Other positive signs include that nearly $30 million has been spent on renovating 450 units of what had been blighted, neglected public housing.

Joyce Hughes, who has lived in Los Angeles and other parts of Columbus, returned to Weinland Park. She has owned her N. 6th Street house since 2002.

"I like it because -- this is really funny -- my neighborhood is really safe," said Hughes, president of the civic association.

That might be a well-kept secret. Many people drive through Weinland Park but few stop.

There is crime. And poverty.

But this small neighborhood has far-reaching influence.

Weinland Park is technically in the city's University District, abutting the OSU area, including South Campus Gateway at the neighborhood's northwestern tip.

"It's important because activities in Weinland Park affect the neighborhoods around it," said Steve Sterrett, spokesman for Campus Partners, a nonprofit that seeks to improve the neighborhoods around OSU.

At the heart of the neighborhood, at Indianola and E. 9th avenues, sits St. Sophia Orthodox Cathedral, a small stone church that is an oasis in a desert of instability.

Archbishop John-Cassian Lewis located his church there a decade ago, despite the bullet holes that riddled the building.

Cassian, who goes by one name, was looking for the most crime-plagued neighborhood in the state.

In 2000, almost half of Weinland Park's residents lived in poverty, including six of every 10 children. Similar data are not available for this year.

But today, about 15 percent of the homes are vacant. One in four properties was in foreclosure from 2006 through 2008.

The doors to the church's basement outreach center are always open. The center provides bagels and coffee every morning and a meal at 5 p.m. As many as 80 people show up every evening, said Cassian, 57. The church also sponsors a youth football team.

Operating in the neighborhood hasn't been easy. Last Wednesday, Cassian ran out of paper products and money, he said. He prayed for help, and later that day, a benefactor brought $150.

Over the years, Cassian has grown tired of the violence and desperation around him. He hung 16 banners, to mark each time a neighborhood child died from violence. He removed four. It just got to be too many, he said.

Statistics show that things have improved, but drug dealing, break-ins and burglaries still plague the area, he said. "It's gotta stop."

And he, like others, doesn't appreciate the "Short North Jungle" moniker written by a few "cowards," as he calls them.

"I've never met a gang member who is a real man," he said.

Caldwell, the civic association's former president, said events such as the annual festival show people there's more to Weinland Park.

"The main thing is to correct the misperception of our neighborhood," he said.

Positive signs include the nonprofit Ohio Capital Corp. for Housing spending $29 million -- $65,000 per apartment -- to renovate 450 units of subsidized housing.

"We think the Section 8 housing has been significantly improved so it's no longer the housing of last resort," Sterrett said.

And the Wagenbrenner Co. is teaming with Campus Partners to redevelop the old Columbus Coated Fabrics site along N. Grant Avenue between 5th and 11th avenues. The project, estimated to cost as much as $80 million, might include as many as 305 houses and 300 apartments.

For now, commuters still speed through the neighborhood.

The city shelved plans this year to convert Summit and 4th streets from one-way to two-way. Officials said they wanted to hold off until a decision is made about running light-rail lines down parts of the streets.

Some residents say two-way streets would help create a more walkable neighborhood.

"We have streets where the kids come together and play. We have a diverse community," Hughes said.

"We're striving to have a real neighborhood."

mferenchik@dispatch.com

source: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2009/08/23/WEINLAND_PARK.ART_ART_08-23-09_B1_0AER78F.html

Where they live



This video tells the story of Archbishop Cassian's ministry in Columbus where he not only prayers with everyone, but also cooks for them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Are you saved? - an Orthodox Christian answer.

Are you saved? A familiar question if you come from evangelical background but what does it mean to an Orthodox Christian?
Text is written and read by Molly Sabourin a freelance writer focusing on issues of family, faith, and community. She is also an Orthodox Christian, a wife, and a frenzied mother of four.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Video conference with President Obama - Thursday August 21st - 2:30 PM

For those who were unable to join us this afternoon at the Mor Gregorios
Community Center to hear the teleconference with President Obama, you have a
second chance to join us tomorrow for a second conference at the center.
President Obama will appear via video conference starting at 2:30 PM
tomorrow, Thursday, August 20th. This is a different video conference than
that today.

The Mor Gregorios Community Center is located in the white A-frame building
on the corner of Oak Hill and Michigan, across from the Webster Elementary
School. The address for the center is 1000 South Michigan Street, Plymouth,
Indiana. For more information about the video conference tomorrow, or for
directions to the community center, please call the center at 574-540-2048.

President Obama to join faith conference call at community center this afternoon

The Mor Gregorios Community Center in Plymouth will be one of the faith-based organizations around America which will participate in the nationwide teleconference with President Obama. The call will be this afternoon, Wednesday, August 19th. The conference call will start at 5 PM.

President Barack Obama has accepted an invitation to join tens of thousands of people of faith oObaman a nationwide conference call to discuss health care reform on Wednesday, August 19, at 5:00 pm eastern. This is an historic opportunity, because never before has a President addressed such a large gathering of the faith community so directly and specifically on this issue.

The 30-40-50 thousand or more people of faith who will participate in this call will focus together on a moral vision for how we provide health care in the U.S. We will demonstrate that even though we may not agree on policy, we agree that our shared faith values should be at the heart of public discourse. If we hit 47,000 callers, it will symbolize our concern for the 47 million people who go without needed health care because they are uninsured. It will represent our commitment to speak truth to power until our health care future includes everyone and works well for all of us!

Call sponsors include the Faithful Reform in Health Care Coalition and a number of coalition members: American Muslim Health Professionals • Disciples Center for Public Witness • Disciples Justice Action Network • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America • Faithful Reform in Health Care • Islamic Medical Association of North America • Islamic Society of North America • Jewish Women International • National Council of Jewish Women • Network, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), Washington Office • Progressive National Baptist Convention • Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism • Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations • United Church of Christ • United Methodist Church General Board of Church And Society.

Additional sponsors include: African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) • Catholics In Alliance for the Common Good • Catholics United • Christian Community Development Association • Faithful America • Faith in Public Life • Gamaliel Foundation • Jewish Council for Public Affairs • National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. • National Council of Churches in Christ • PICO National Network • Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference • Sisters of Mercy of The Americas • Sojourners • The Episcopal Church • The Latino Leadership Circle • The New Evangelicals • United Methodist Church, Washington Office of Women's Division, General Board of Global Ministries.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Teleconference with President Obama - You're Invited

News Release
For Immediate release

The Mor Gregorios Community Center has been asked to participate with other
faith-based organizations around the nation in a nation wide teleconference
on health care reform, which will feature a talk, by President Obama. The
telephone conference is scheduled for August 19th, Wednesday, starting at
5:00 PM EDT. The event is open to the public.

The call will feature stories from faith-based workers; a question and
answer session with White House staff; and a concluding address from
President Obama.

The public is invited to join us at the Mor Gregorios Community Center
located at 1000 South Michigan Street, Plymouth, Indiana. The center is
located on the corner of Oak Hill and Michigan streets in the white A-frame
building across from Webster Elementary School.

For more information, you can contact the center¹s director Father
Theodosius Walker at 574-540-2048, or by email at monastery@synesius.com.

Liturgy and spiritual practices

1. Transfiguration of the whole being
Human mind is provided with conscious, sub conscious and unconscious layers. Worship is not only the transfiguration of the conscious mind. It transforms the whole being . St. Paul expresses this process as follows: “ And we all, with unveiled face beholding the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory , just as by the spirit of the Lord”. ( 2 Cor.3:18). The three representatives of the Apostles could experience this glory of the Lord in their Taboric Transfiguration. Christian witness is not only to see the glory of God, but also to become glorified. Human beings , created in the image of God are transfigured from glory to glory through incessant prayer and worship. This process is not intellectual but experiential. The whole being is involved in this process. In other words, worship is infinite growth in goodness. It is theosis or Deification.

2. Communication with the five senses.
The five sense help us in human communications. The same is applicable to our communication with God. In real worship we see, hear, smell, taste and experience the divine communion. Preaching the word of God and listening to it are not the exclusive factors of worship. Take the example of the three fold colors by which the Holy Altar is decorated. The red covering at the altar indicates the universe and the solar system. The green coloring denotes the earth with the greenish variety of biological species. The white covering indicates the Church made sanctified and pure through the blood of the unblemished lamb of God , Jesus Christ. The blood and body of Christ were given to the Church and the whole creation is sanctified through the Church. In worship we listen to the word of God , smell the odor of incense ,touch the hands of our brethren in Kiss of Peace and taste from the divine chalice perceiving the mysteries of the liturgical scenario.

3. Rituals, offerings and incense
God became man. He took flesh, matter was used in the redeeming process of incarnation. . Rituals offerings and material objects were given sufficient role in the ministry of Jesus. St. Luke chapter 5 verse 14 states , “ And he charged him to tell no one : but go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing as Moses commanded for a proof to the people”. Thus Jesus commanded to give offering and rites of thanks giving. Jesus is serious towards those who disobeyed the commandments. Jesus taught that offerings and rituals must help to be firm in faith and for the glorification of God. Jesus was respectful towards priesthood , offerings of thanks giving and vows . Even St.Paul cut his hair at Cenchreae, for he had a vow ( Acts 18:18) .Bread , wine , water, oil and soil are all seen used in the redemptive process according to the Bible. “ You do this in remembrance of me, this is my body and this is my blood” commanded Jesus. The offering of the incense is practiced in Christian worship ( See Rev. 8 : 3,4 Rev. 5:8, Heb 9:4, Mt.2: 11). Offering of the incense is to get rid of the plagues to remove the foul smell of sin, to please the Lord with complete dedication and to keep the Biblical commandments ( See Num. 16:46- 50 ) . Ex. 35: 8, 2 Chron 2: 4, 1 kg 9: 25, Malachi 1:11 etc.) With the offering of incense we are mingling with the prayers of all the saints. ( Rev, 8:4)

4.Symbolic Representations
We have to acknowledge our linguistic limitations. Words and language alone fail to reflect our gratitude to God Almighty. Symbols speak volumes and help us for meaningful communication with God. The early Church developed symbolic art in the Catacombs.Symbols used by early Christians include , lamb, dove ,fish, shepherd, vine , bread, cross and the like. The dove represents holy Spirit, Christ si the Good Shepherd,and the Lamb of God. The Greek word “ikhthus” which means fish denotes “ Jesus Christ, son of god, Savior” when alphabetically expanded. This was the creed and declaration of faith used by ancient Christians. The symbolism of salt, lamp, etc. are inspirative and educative for a Christian. They are parts of the Christian devotion. The cross speaks out the sacrificial acts of Jesus. Signing of the cross is also silent , but meaningful worship. The icons first came into existence in Syria and Egypt. The Byzantine Church developed icons and iconostasis with a sound theology of symbols called iconography.

5.Fasting, Feasting and Festivals
In worship there are factors beyond human reasoning and intellect. Through the particular cycle of prayers, rites of purification and courses of meditation together with lent, fasting and deeds of charity we find amalgamation with such factors beyond our reason and intellect. In our worship we bow our heads, kneel down and pray to the Lord. ( See Gen 24:26, Gen 24:48, Ex 4:31, Dan 6:10, 1 king 8:54,Mt. 2:11, Rev.7:11, ps,95:6. Etc.) Fasting is pleasing to God Is 58:6-8) , God asked his people to observe fast . Joel 1:12-15. The evil one can be overcome by fasting. Luke 2:37, Mt. 17:21, Esther 4:16 , . Moses observed fasting Ex: 34:28, Mk 9:29, Acts 14:23, , fasting is mentioned in 1 king 19:18. Also we see 21 days fasting of Daniel ( Dan 10:2,3) 14 days fasting in Acts 27: 33,35 . 7 days fasting of David in 2 Sam 12:16, 1 Sam 31:13, 3 days fasting of Esther 3:13, 4:16, Acts 9:9, Dan 9:3-21 , Ezra 8:3, people of Nineveh Jona 3:6 etc. Jesus is the best example Mt. 4:2, Feasts are observed as days of special honor and reverence. Jn.7:2 , acts 20:16, 1 Cor 16:8. The Jews observed feast of Passover. ( Ex. 12: 14-17) ,Pentecost ( Ex. 19:20), tabernacle ( Lev 23:24 ), Purim ( Esther 9:26) , Trumpet ( Lev 23:24) , Feasts and Festivals of Christianity commemorate events related to Christ , saints, and martyrs sharing the experiences in and with so great a cloud of witness ( Heb 12:10)

6. Conformity with the mind of the Church
We are bound to hold fast the traditions transferred to us through the Church by our Lord, the Apostles and the church Fathers. The Greek word paradosisused in the Bible means “ that which is transferred” or “ traditions” ( see 2 thess 2 : 15, 3:16, 1 Cor 11:2 etc.) The continuity and apostolic authority together with the rich spiritual fragrance behind these traditions are to be counted. Tradition is the mind of the Church . It is difficult to write down everything that we see , know and experience . The canons, faith declaration and textual formations of the liturgical practices form the spiritual code of conduct made by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles , gospel- writers and Church Fathers. These traditions (oral and written ) act as catalytic agents for our spiritual upbringing . These tradition are not be ridiculed , misused , and misunderstood. See 1 Cor, 11:34, Phil 4:9, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Tim 1:13, Heb 2: 1, 3 Jn. 1 :13 , 2 Pet 3:16.

7.Communion with the departed ones
The Church is the communion of all believers in the past , present, and future. Both the living and the departed are members of the church. A believer never dies.Jn.11:26. The departed ones stand around us like clouds today. Heb 12:1. They live 1 Pet 4:6. They speak Luke 9:30,31. They please God 2 Cor 5:8,9. They pray for the world. Rev 6:9,10. Death is not capable of separating us from the love of God. Rom 8:38. The departed Moses and Elijah are seen talking with Jesus Mt. 17:3. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effect. James 5:16. See also Prov 10:7, 1 Cor 6:2, Rev 2:26, Luke 16:27,28. The departed ones are alive in paradise. Luke. 23:43. St. Paul prayed for the departed Onesiphorous. 2 Tim 1:16-18 . We commemorate and unite in prayer with the departed ones who form the larger part of the Church.

8.Intercession for the whole creation
Intercession for the living and the departed was practiced in the Church from the very beginning. If it is alright to ask a living person to pray for us without violating the principle of one unique Mediator , it cannot be wrong to ask a departed saint to pray for us. We also pray for them. Even the relics of the departed saints can do miracles. See 2 kings 13:20, 21. The rich man in hades prays for his five brothers who are living Luke 16:27,28. The Orthodox Church believes that the range of Christ’s saving activity is the whole creation at large. The creation is based on the will, wisdom and power of God. Purpose of the creation is to glorify God. With our prayers and intercession we transfigure the world for the glorification of God.

9.Liturgical hymns with diversity of tunes
The highest form of worship is to use hymns with diversity of tunes as in the Psalms. Through liturgical hymns we are getting into the horizon of the fact of incarnation. We are exploring the divine mysteries through our hymns. Music is the human response to divine love. Music transforms human mind. It is the highest form of devotion and the strongest mental shock absorber. With the heavenly angels who stand in rows and repeat the chanting of melodious prayers, the earthly beings participate in the worship with melodious songs. In the book of psalms there are directions to lift up the voice of the choir. The word “sela” means “lift up” . In the communal worship and singing , the choir members are reminded here to raise and lower down the voices and tunes. Worship is our state of being immersed into the ocean of God. We feel relaxed when our burdens, problems, afflictions and aspirations are submitted before God. Worship is the state of our relaxation before God.

10. Strong Biblical basis
The apostles and the early disciples described the mystery of early Incarnation based on the law of Moses, prophets and other writings. See Acts 28:23. The worship and liturgical practice of the early Church were developed with the contents of Synagogue worship and Temple worship. The worship in the Jerusalem Temple followed morning and evening sacrifice , offering of the incense and Hanukah processions with lighted candles. The synagogue worship followed readings from the Old Testament, verses of blessings, singing of Psalms, exegetical sermons by religious scholars and Aaronic benediction. Assimilating these ancient practices of worship , the Church developed and regularized readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, songs, offering of incense and the holy Eucharist which is the liturgy of the sacrifice (Jn 6:53 ,1 Cor. 11:23-32, Heb 9: 15-22,). The worship of the Orthodox Church is saturated with verses from the Holy Bible.

Fr.Dr. Mathew Vaidyan

source: http://malankaraorthodoxchurch.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=108&Itemid=238

The Ministry of an Episcopos

The consecration of seven new bishops seems to become an epoch making event in the modern history of the Malankara Orthodox Church. Not only was the process by which they were selected unique but also was the systematic training, which they have received prior to the consecration excellent. The event gets a new attraction due to a third factor, i.e. change of leadership in the Church; six of the senior bishops have entered their eternal rest during the last two years and the new group of bishops will make 25% of the Holy Episcopal Synod. At this juncture it is important to examine the meaning of the post of the bishop and its various functions and features.

Meaning of the Word Episcopos
The word episkopos was used at first in Greek literature for one who kept a watch over a country or a people or even a treaty or an agreement. Later on it became the title for the official who was sent from Athens, the capital of Greek Empire, to its dependant states. The word was used in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, for overseers, officers and governors (2Chr 24,11; Neh 11,9; 12,42). The verb episkeptomai was used for God’s “loving supervision and solicitous care for the land of Israel” in Deut. 11:12. The Qumran Community used an equivalent term mebaqqer for its leader (1QS 6,12.20). This one was an expert in Law and was entrusted with the leadership over the community; he could make its final decisions, take disciplinary actions against its members and control its fund. He was considered as a fatherly figure in the Damascus Document: “He shall love them as a father loves his children, and shall carry them in all their distress like a shepherd his sheep. He shall loosen all the fetters which bind them” (CD 13,9).

The New Testament uses the term episkopos five times only:
a) 1 Pet 2,25 describes Jesus Christ as the “guardian” (episkopos) of the souls of the believers along with his role as their “shepherd” (poimen).
b) The above two roles of Christ (episcopos and poimen) are ascribed to the elders of Ephesus in Paul’s speech to them in the Acts 20,28. This has an Old Testament background; when Joshua was elected Moses prayed to God to give Israel a “leader” and “shepherd”.
c) In the opening sentence of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians he addresses the “bishops” (episcopoi) along with the “deacons”(diakonoi).
d) In 1Tim 3,1 we read about the qualities of an episcopos of the early Church, which include sensibility, dignity, hospitality, scholarship, gentle behaviour, management skills etc.
e) In his letter to Titus St. Paul says that “a bishop (episcopos), is God’s steward” and he must be “blameless, hospitable, lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy and self-controlled” and he must not be arrogant, quick-tempered, violent, drunkard or greedy (Tit 1,7-8). He must “hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it” (Tit 1,9).

Functions of a Bishop
Professor Karl Christian Felmy, a retired Lutheran Pastor of Germany and an expert in history and theology of the Orthodox Church, made a sarcastic comment once during a discussion; “the problem of the Roman Catholic Church is that it has got only one bishop, while that of the Protestants is that they have no bishops at all, and that of the Orthodox Church is that it has got many bishops”. This remark makes clearly the basis of Orthodox ecclesiology. As per the Orthodox understanding all bishops are equal in their status and the Patriarch or the Catholicos is called “the first among the equals” (primes inter pares).

We can say that Orthodox Church is episcopocentric, because everything depends upon the bishop and nothing can be done without him. But what actually is this “everything”? Does it include all sacramental functions of a parish like baptism, marriage and funeral? None of the Orthodox Churches has got the practice of our Church; one or more bishops attending the sacraments of a parish. Every day they have to travel at least hundred kilometres just to lead the funerals and weddings. Even though our bishops are suffocated with this hectic schedule, they are helpless, because it has become a custom especially in central Travancore to invite a bishop for personal functions. People consider the position of the bishops as a ceremonial one and they do not understand more than that about him. Does the above “everything” mean that the bishop should be consulted before each and every instance in the decision making process of a parish? This has become a practice in our Church since the dioceses have become small in their geographical area and since communication became easier. The parish priests have got the freedom and discretion to take decisions as per the constitution and canons and customs of our Church. Bishops can be approached only when things become “exceptional”. What then are the duties of a bishop?

According to Orthodox ecclesiology the bishop is the President of the Eucharist. Ignatius of Antioch says: “you should regard the Eucharist as valid which is celebrated either by the bishop, or by someone he authorizes. Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Smyrn. 8,1-2). The priests are just “vicars” of a bishop. However, this Eucharistic function of the bishop has been changed later. Zizoulas, himself being a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church and an authority on the topic says; “the Eucharist, from being the business of the episcopate par excellence, was later (it remains to be seen when) largely transformed into the principal task of the parish and the presbyter. While the bishop, from being par excellence the ‘president’ of the Eucharist was largely transformed into an administrator and a co-ordinator of the life of the parishes” (Eucharist Bishop Church, HCOP, Brookline 2001, p. 23).

The Eucharistic function of the bishop should not be considered as less important to other duties of a bishop. On the one hand the bishop is the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ with in the Church. But on the other hand he unites all the people. That is why we say there can not be more than one bishop within a local Church. Since the bishops represent Christ they have to possess a model life. Paulose Gregorios says; “On the analogy of both the consecration of Holy Chrism, and also the consecrated Chrism itself being sacraments, the consecration of a bishop as well as the consecrated bishop is a sacrament” (Glory and Burden, ISPCK/MGF, Delhi 2006, p.95). We have already seen the list of qualities, which St. Paul expected from a bishop (1Tim 3,1ff; Tit 1,7-9). St. John Chrysostom says; “The offences of the insignificant, even if made public, harm no one seriously. But those who are set upon the pinnacle of this honour not only catch every eye; more than that, however trifling their offences, these little things seem great to others, since everyone measures sin, not by the size of the offence, but by the standing of the sinner” (On the Priesthood, SVSP 1984, p. 85-6).

What distinguishes a bishop from a priest is his authority for ordination. It is his prerogative as a successor of the Apostles. Laying on of hands was originated in the rabbinic schools of Judaism. A candidate was ordained as a rabbi once he completed his training in interpreting the Torah. Early Church adopted this as a sign for handing over priestly authority. However, by ordaining somebody the bishop is transferring not just his authority for teaching, which was the practice of Jewish rabbis, but also the gift of the Holy Spirit. The ordained gets the divine charisma, which will be used for the edification of the Church. The deacon gets the charisma of service while the priest gets the charisma of forgiveness of sins and that of the authority for presiding over the sacraments.

Teaching can be considered as the unique function of a bishop. Even though the New Testament did not make a distinction between a priest (presbuteros) and a bishop (episcopos) in this regard, later on the bishop became the final authority for teaching. He is the one who declares a final word about a disputed matter of faith. He will decide what is “orthodox” and what a “heretical” teaching is. He does this not as an individual but as the member of the Holy Episcopal Synod. For this he needs a lot of time for learning the faith of the Church and for examining the writings of the Holy Fathers. However, most of our bishops do not get enough time for reading and reflecting because of their pre-occupations with ordinary functions like a wedding or funeral. The administrative duties can also become a hindrance for their study and meditation. Some bishops are exhausted by attending committees after committees.

Therefore the Church as a whole has to rethink about the rank as well as functions of an episcopos. He is different from a priest and a deacon not simply in the vestments but in his identity. This should be widely understood and respected. “Seven” is a sabbatical number and it was considered as a number of perfection in the Bible. Let the consecration of the seven new bishops put a milestone in the history of Malankara Church. Once the whole Church acknowledge not only their apostolic succession but also their apostolic authority things will be quite different. Let each one do his own duty; the priests should perform all parish duties and the committees should fulfil their responsibilities. Let the bishops stand at the top as Jesus Christ is the head of the Church

- Fr. Reji Mathew, STOTS Nagpur

source: http://malankaraorthodoxchurch.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=531&Itemid=506

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dialogue with world religions

Dialogue with World Religions
Introduction
This paper seeks only to attempt a preliminary answer to three simple questions related to Christians engaging in dialogue with people of other faiths and religions.

1. What theological and practical considerations lead us to undertake dialogue with people of other faiths and religions?

II. In what spirit, with what attitudes and expectations, should we as Christians enter in to dialogue with people of other faiths and religions?

III. What important lessons can be learned from the experience so far in dialogue with people of other faiths and religions?

In answering these questions, we should take into account the problems created by
(a) Theological difference between Christians.

(b) Sociological and cultural differences between various situations.

This paper has been written from the theological background of the Orthodox Tradition, but with some sympathy and understanding for the Protestant and Roman Catholic Traditions as well. The background of the writer of this paper is one of a Christian minority amidst a preponderant Hindu majority, and a Muslim minority that is at least five times as large as the total Christian community, not to mention the Sikhs who are almost as numerous as the Christians, and various other smaller minorities like Buddhists, Jews, Parsis, and Jains. But an effort will be made here to look at the issue of dialogue with people of other religions from the perspective of post-Christendom Europe and America.

1. Theological Considerations

The tone for the western Christian approach to unbelievers was, perhaps, set by Augustine of Hippo. When Nectarius of Calama wrote to him about the contradiction between Augustine’s assertion that man can do good deeds only through the grace of God in Christ, and the common experience that unbelieving pagans sometimes do show forth some splendid virtues, Augustine’s reply to Nectarius was simply that the virtues of the pagans were but splendid vices.

If we were to say the same thing about the many instances of unbelievers in our secular society sometimes putting Christians to shame by their superior spirit of unselfishness and self-sacrifice, we would be regarded as bigoted and narrow-minded. We cannot write off a Gandhi or a Marx or a Lenin as simply pagans with splendid vices. Augustine’s loyalty to the doctrine of an exclusive grace that come to Christians alone for the doing of good deeds goes both against our experience and the spirit of our age.

But a similar exclusivism and bigotry was more recently manifested by reputable modern Protestant theologians like Karl Barth and Hendrik Kraemer. Ever since Tambaram 1938, Protestant Christians who want to engage in dialogue with people of other faiths have found themselves inhibited by the contention that God’s revelation comes only to Christians, and that others are so totally in error that there is no point in talking to them.

I do not know of any respectable Roman Catholic theologians who have revived Augustinian intolerance in so virulent a form. Theologians like Karl Rahner, with a broad-minded Existentialist, neo-Thomist orientation, have been quite open to the possibility that other religions can be a positive factor in the under standing of divine revelation:

The divinely intended means of salvation for the individual meet him within the concrete religion of his actual existential milieu and historical contingency, according to God’s will and forbearance (which so intermingle, that they are no longer clearly separable)

The position stands in stark contrast with Karl Barth’s dictum in the Kirchliche Dogmatik, 1/2 para 17:2, entitled Religion als Unglaube:
Wir beginnen mit dem Satz: Religion ist Unglaube; Religion ist eine Angelegenheit,
man muss geradezu sagan: die Angelegenheit des got tlosen Menschen.

The context for his imperious intolerance against liberalism would permit no simply the fact that the fight against liberalism would permit no loophole through which some kind of “natural revelation” would get in. More illuminating is the fact the Jerusalem international missionary conference had posed the problem of mission and unbelief in that peculiar form. According to one rather liberal with influential Anglo-American faction at Tambaram, the enemy was secularism with its denial of God and revelation, and all those opposed to secularism. This meant that the appeal of Jerusalem would be that Christian missionaries join hands with the adherents of other religions in fighting the common enemy-- secularism. The issue was only raised and not resolved at Jerusalem 1930. It was only in Tambaram, India, 1938, that the battle was really joined between the Anglo-Americans under the leadership of the Anglican Richey Hogg identifying the enemy as secularism, and the continental theologians under the leadership of the Dutch Reformed Hendrik Kraemer locating the enemy as these other religions so full of human error, superstition and ignorance. For Kraemer, it was fatal for Christianity to ally itself with the other religions. Secularism was less of an enemy than those religions. It was this line that Kraemer’s disciple Theodore Van Leeuwen further developed in his Christianity in World History, where the argument is that secularisation is God’s action, that it is the form in which the Gospel goes on, and that the world religions which have resisted the Christian mission will not be able to stand up against the sweeping torrent of secularisation.
Van Leeuwen was not against all non-European cultures. If only these cultures would rid themselves of the obnoxious religious element, then Van Leeuwen would be very charitable towards them:
Once the religious myth has been blown away, there is room for the traditions of the non-Christian cultures to bring forth their treasures.
Some of my Hindu friends detect a highly reprehensible element of European cultural arrogance in such a statement. What it says to him is in effect, “Oh yes, once you are sufficiently trained in our western secular civilisation and you shed your Hindu religious identity, we will co-opt you into a world civilisation which will of course be dominated by European secularised culture."
Whatever theological or other reasons we as Christians may have for engaging in dialogue with people of other faiths, we should be explicit and honest about them. If we are engaging in dialogue with the secret intention of converting them, as many religious people in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism suspect, then our partner is bound to be wary and our dialogue inauthentic.
The attempt here is merely to present first the Christian theological basis for dialogue with all human beings, and then to advance a few simple arguments to show that we should begin dialogue without much more dilly-dally with theoretical reflection.

It is not necessary in this connection to start with any concept of Uroffenbarung as Paul Althaus5 does, distinguishing it from Christus offenbarung. Neither does it seem essential to follow the line of Carl Heinz Ratschow, and posit some kind of Hervortreten or stepping forth of God which is then regarded as being apprehended by people of other religions without any presuppositions about General or original Revelation or about the salvific values of other religions.

The basic theological position may be set forth thus:

Christ is the first-born of Creation, the head of all created reality. He loves not only all men, but also all that is created. I am united to Christ in Baptism and Chrismation. My mind is the mind of Christ. Therefore my love is non-exclusive and open to the whole creation. Nothing is alien or threatening. Love and compassion for the whole creation is the characteristic of Christ. The Church as His body shares in this love and compassion in faithfulness, integrity and openness with sympathetic understanding. This is sufficient and compelling reason for me to engage in dialogue with people of other faiths. It is love in Christ that sends me to dialogue.

This seems to give quite sufficient theological basis for dialogue. If you want additional arguments, here are a few:

(a) If dialogue with “secular” man is justified on the ground that he is my neighbour, then “religious” man is also equally my neighbour and I must communicate with him.

(b) If theology has as its task the understanding for what God does in the world and how he deals with human beings, then we must know something about man’s present state as created. Fallen and redeemed. Such an understanding of man cannot be built upon knowing European or Christian man alone. The vast majority of humanity belongs to other religions and what they experience and aspire to should be part of our knowledge of humanity. Present western theology is defective precisely because of its defective and partial understanding of what constitutes humanity. Dialogue can help in remedying this defect.

(c) What God does in history cannot be confined to Christians alone. How Christ has affected people who are not members of the Christian Church is an important aspect of God’s action. The great religions of the world have been profoundly affected by exposure to the person and teachings of Christ. This work of God can be understood only in-patient and trusting dialogue with people of other faiths.

(d) There is some truth in the statements of some liberal theologians like Ernst Troeltsch who advocated “replacement of missionary attacks on the other world religions by cross-fertilization” for cultural exchange and mutual stimulation. This need not be based, as it was in the case of liberalism, on some value neutral acceptance of the empirically given without any overriding criterion of judgement. As one expose oneself to people of other religions, one’s own judgmental criteria are transformed. One’s understanding of Christianity itself can be changed. It may not be so unwise to follow Paul Tillich’s advice to use the knowledge of other religions as a means “to penetrate into the depth of one’s own religion, in devotion, thought and action.”

In the depth of every religion there is a point at which religion itself loses its importance, and that to which it points breaks through its particularity, elevating it to spiritual freedom, and with it to a vision of the spiritual presence in other expressions of the ultimate meaning of man’s existence. This is what Christianity must see in the present encounter of the world religions.6

In other words, dialogue with other religions strengthens and stimulates our Christian faith.

(e) The Christian Church is an instrument of God for bringing humanity together in unity, creativity and righteousness. Such a unity can neither impose uniformity nor condone unrighteousness. It means a critical reconciliation of opposed elements in such a way that their creative possibilities are enhanced and released. What we are looking for is more than what the late Prof. R.C. Zaehner recommended-- namely the transition from a mere convergence towards a “Concordant Discord”7. What we need is more like what Pannenberg recommends -- the development of a Tradition that is rich in its diversity, conscious of its incompleteness, and always “open for the future in an unlimited way”. The Christian Church has to play its role as a unifying force among the various discordant elements in humanity. Religion is one of the most deeply rooted of these elements that divide man from man. By putting men into dialogue with each other, the Church would be contributing towards a rich and diverse creative unity of humankind.
One last word about the theological position. Roman Catholic theology itself has recently moved from what may be called the “proportion of truth” approach to other religions, which characterised the theology of the Vatican II decree on non-Christian religions. We cannot simply say that the Church has 100 percent of the Truth while other religions have varying proportions or percentages of the Truth. God is Truth, Christ is Truth, and the truth liberates. But it cannot be objectified and quantified. The new approach in Roman Catholic theology seems to be based on “the universal salvific will of God”. This is reflected in Karl Rahner’s writings as well as in the article of Fr. Eugene Hillman in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies:

Every religion serves God’s saving purpose in history, insofar as it offers its followers an awareness of their own inadequacies before God even when God may be only a suspected influence behind the immediate questions of human destiny. Every religious act is a saving act, insofar as it directs persons to a greater love for one another.
Fr Hillman does not assert that one religion is as good as another. Neither does he think that we have reliable criteria for evaluating “the comparative salutary and humanizing value of the countless religions of the world”. He is in fact simply reviving an earlier Protestant approach, the praeparatio evangelica approach when he states:

The fathers of Vatican II have clearly taken the position that non-Christian religions perhaps related to Christianity in somewhat the same way that John the Baptist was related to Jesus, or as Christians believe the Old Testament is related to the New?
This approach, which was characteristic of enlightened Protestant missionary policy in the pre- Tambaram days, was found to be too patronising to be acceptable to non-Christians. Even Raimundo Panikkar’s Unknown Christ of Hinduism is offensive to sensitive and intelligent Hindus for in claiming what is good in Hinduism for Christ, Christians are being imperialistic, patronising and superior, as the Hindu sees them. Fr. Panikkar’s statement that Christ came “to bring to its fullness every religion of the world” is seen as the “Christianity -- the Crown of all Religions” kind of haughtiness.

The other Roman Catholic approach, based on “the universal salvific will of God” is exemplified by H.S. Schlette and Piet Schoonenberg. Their position is that salvation of man is a-historical, that is, not limited to specific moments and individuals in history, but operating in history as a whole. (This is also the Pannenberg line). From this they go on to argue that God is actively being revealed in non-Christians through their historical religions. The line of Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan seems to be similar -- The grace of God is universally operative and open to all human beings; in all our knowing and willing we are reaching out towards reality and thus to the infinite Transcendent. Religion is an explicit reaching out to the in1finite, and that procures special grace are then socially objectified and systematised into organised religion, since man is a social being.

But most of these theologians, when pressed may deny that the religions have full salvific value; they are at best partial and preparatory. They would agree with Protestant theologians that Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation.

The position of this paper is that it is not necessary to raise and resolve these questions before engaging in dialogue. Christian love is a sufficient and compelling basis for entering into dialogue. There are other reasons of a more pragmatic nature, which push us into dialogue. This conclusion is extremely important for what follows in the next section.

If we pose any doctrine of God’s universal salvific will, we have two problems on our hand. What is the role of Christ’s incarnation in it? In what way do Christians share in this that others don’t?

II. Spirit, Attitudes and Expectations

The spirit in which one approaches people of other faiths is decisive for the outcome. This spirit is negatively and positively influenced by our attitudes and expectations.

If your basic expectation is eventually to convert your partner in dialogue to the Christian faith, it will inevitably entail certain attitudes and approaches on your part and certain inhibitions on the part of your partner which could make dialogue self-defeating. It is true that many of our friends in the other religions already suspect dialogue to be another devious technique of evangelisation. Dialogue cannot be an alternative for mission or evangelism.

Personally, I do not like to use the terminology of mission, since it is associated in my mind with western colonialism and imperialism. This paper would prefer therefore to speak about the relation between dialogue and evangelisation.

In religious dialogue, two or more human beings meet each other, with mutual trust and openness, each respecting the convictions of the other; the object is to understand each other in their varying religious traditions, and to be mutually helped in one’s own grasp of the truth.

In evangelization, the baptised believer in the Crucified and Risen Christ speaks to the unbeliever, on behalf of Christ and His Church, to declare the good news that in Christ Jesus God calls all men into the Kingdom through faith, repentance, baptism and the Christian life.

Evangelisation is accompanied by signs of the kingdom such as acts of love and compassion, miracles of faith, symbolic acts repudiating the values of the world and manifesting the values of the kingdom. But these acts should not be called evangelisation. Evangelisation is proclamation, annunciation, declaration of the good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and is made the master and Lord of all creation.

Evangelisation is a charisma -- a gift of the spirit (Eph. 4:1). No charisma except love is common to all members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27-30, 1 Cor. 12:19). Evangelism is the task of those who are endowed with that particular charisma. It should not be engaged in by people without the gift. Indiscriminate preaching by self-proclaimed evangelists has proved itself to be counter- productive in our time.

Dialogue and evangelisation are both tasks of the Church. Dialogue is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament. But it too is a charisma of the Holy Sprit for our time. The evangelist does the work of evangelisation in the name of a Christ as a member of the Body of Christ. The Christian engaging in dialogue with people of other religions also does so in the name of Christ and as a member of the Body of Christ.

It is conceivable that the same person has the gift for evangelism. Judging from experience, however, such instances are rather rare. Both are tasks of the Church, and the Church does not abandon one because she is engaged in the other. By beginning dialogue with people of other faiths, the Church does not give up evangelisation. But in both she maintains integrity and honesty. She does not use dialogue as a means of evangelisation. When she, through her chosen and gifted members, enters into dialogue with people of other religions, she exposes herself to the risk that these members may be influenced by the people of other religions. Being so influenced is normal in any undertaking that involves exchange and communication.

In engaging in dialogue with people of other religions, the Christian keeps in mind the following principles:

1. One does not hide one’s own faith; one is not ashamed to confess one’s faith when called upon to do so in dialogue.

2. One does not, however, use dialogue as a means of persuading one’s non-Christian partner to become a Christian.

3. One does not approach dialogue with any sense of superiority. One is quite happy, as a Christian, to put oneself on a level with one’s dialogue partners, as members of the same humanity.

4. One is genuinely interested in the life, faith, and aspiration of one’s dialogue partner. One respects the other’s convictions, and tries to understand the other positively wherever possible.

5. At those points where one has to be critical of the partner’s convictions, one does not hide one’s mind, but expresses the criticism with love, respect and courtesy. Dialogue should always be in love and truth, not in fear and dissimulation.

6. In dialogue one accepts the possibility that one’s own views may be radically changed by the dialogue. Only mature people who are not afraid of exposing themselves to persuasive presentations of other people’s religious views should engage in dialogue.

7. In preparation for dialogue, one should make a study of the religious scriptures, customs, ritual writings, practices etc.,

8. Dialogue cannot be a single act. It is a process of living together in openness to each other and genuinely growing together into a deeper understanding of reality.

9. Dialogue may lead to practical consequences -- perhaps to work together in a specific field or in a particular project; perhaps to manifest inter-communal harmony in some public way perhaps to issue joint statement, articles, publications.

10. Dialogue begun should not be broken abruptly. If abruptly broken, the resulting relation is usually worse than what it was before dialogue began.

III. Lessons from Past Experience

(1) Bilateral dialogue is always easier to handle than multilateral dialogue. When representatives of two religions speak to each other one may find that it is possible to agree on many points and to state the agreement in commonly acceptable terminology. But when several different religions are present, the task becomes difficult. If, for example, Orthodox Buddhists are present, it may be difficult to use God-language. If Muslims or Jews are present certain concepts like the unity of God and Man (“I and the Father are one”, “that they all may be one in us,” etc.) cannot be freely discussed with adherents of eastern religions.

Experience shows that bilateral dialogues should be more frequent and numerous, whereas multilateral religious dialogue should be a comparatively rare phenomenon. Multilateral dialogue can also be used for promoting inter-communal harmony.

(2) The deepest levels of communication between religions take place at the level of spirituality and worship. There are three basic levels:

1. Dialogue on common social or economic problems and about common projects and practical collaboration;

2. Dialogue on the theoretical or theological aspects of religion;

3. Dialogue in which the above two are transcended into the realm of entering into each other’s spiritual experience and group worship.

The level of skill and preparation required is higher as one moves from (1) to (2) to (3). Quite obviously (3) level is advisable only when the participants are theologically or theoretically trained. It is unproductive to have a theological discussion among the theoretically untrained. Even more skill and confidence are required when entering into the partner’s spiritual experience. It is possible to enter into a Muslim’s or Hindu’s experience of worship without compromising one’s own faith. A Christian’s worship can be directed only to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So when a Christian enters the worship experience of a Muslim who prays to Allah, it becomes necessary for the Christian to enter sympathetically into his worship of Allah as in fact identical with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are important theological problems here which have not yet been sorted out. To whom are the Christian’s prayers directed? Can it be to the same God as the Muslim prays to?

Is the identity of the God to whom my prayers of a Muslim are directed dependent on his or my conceptual understanding of that God? If I identify the true destination of the Muslim’s prayers as the same God, the father whom Christians worship, does that imply my recognition that Muslim prayers are also authentic?

The problem becomes more complicated in the case of Hindu worship involving idols; even more problematic is Buddhist worship, which does not include the idea of God at all.

These theological problems not with standing experience shows that participation in each other’s spiritual experiences can be a deep and meaningful experience of dialogue.

This point of view, that encounter at the level of spirituality is more rewarding than theoretical dialogue, was ably put forward by the former Swiss Ambassador to New Delhi and Athens, Jacques Albert Cuttat (The Encounter of Religions). Ambassador Cuttat actively promoted such dialogues in India and Sri Lanka with some remarkable results.

Similar approaches have been practised also by people like Swami Abhishiktananda, by Murray Rogers and by Fr. Bede Griffiths among others. Fr. Griffiths has published his conclusions in an interesting book called Return to the Centre, where he argues that the closer you are to Christ, the less divisive appear the differences between Christians and adherents of other religions.

On the other hand, to many Christians whose hold on the Christian faith is primarily intellectual-theological, such encounter at the level of spirituality appears rather threatening. The fear of syncretism is often advanced as an argument against attempting such encounters.

This fear is not experienced by Christians who are spiritually secure like Fr Bede Griffiths. If our faith is threatened in dialogue with people of other religions, that seems to be an indication that our faith is either insufficient or inauthentic.

(3) The experience of dialogue has taught us that not everyone profits from it the same way. People who are emotionally and spiritually secure, who have a genuine desire to “fuse their horizons” (to borrow a phrase from Gadamer) with people of other religions and cultures are best suited to dialogue and derive most profit from it. Recent converts and those whose faith is still precarious or unformed may suffer from exposure to dialogue. It is therefore important for the Churches to prepare people who are spiritually deep, emotionally mature, strong and secure in faith, and endowed with the spirit of compassion and openness towards the whole of humanity, to participate in dialogue with similar people in other religions.

(4) Dialogue requires special skills in certain special situations. For example, dialogue between western Christians and the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt or the Ananda Marga of Hindus would be exceedingly difficult, and might give undue recognition to a fascist communal group which would extend its influence through such recognition. But dialogue between the World Council of Mosques would be of a different kind. Western Christians engaging in dialogue with a Saudi Muslim organization or Mummer Gaddafi’s Muslim spokesman would have to keep in mind the fact that these partners are actively engaged in financing anti-Christian activities in the Philippines, Malaysia and elsewhere. Yet a carefully planned dialogue may help to ease tension even between Jews and Muslims.

H. G. Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios Metropolitan

source: http://malankaraorthodoxchurch.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=114&Itemid=236

[Saint-george-taybeh] Water Problem

No Water in the Village
Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

Today is indeed another very holy day in the Christian world especially remembering the Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, where the Orthodox Church in the Holy Land will celebrate this particular feast thirteen days from now on the old Julian calendar.  
I am sending my sincere good wishes to all who honor this special day.  It’s good it was not a church day for me since I did not even have a drop of water to brush my teeth never mind take a shower.

You wake up in the morning and when you cannot get any water out of the faucet and you are part of the privileged less than 10% that can afford the extra water reserve from additional water tanks and two wells, it really reflects a water shortage.  
A few years ago our water in Taybeh was turned off just two days a week but due to the lack of water and extra illegal Israeli settlement expansion all around us, the water is currently turned off four days during the week.  This is devastating when the four days are consecutive days of “no water” since even the well dries up.  

Some morning conversations with my daughter home from college usually go like this:  
“Elena, you look so nice, did you manager ok without water?”  Although I know she used half of bottle of Este Lauder, I am just trying to make a little breakfast conversation before she heads out to her internship at Birzeit University where she will call me to complain at the first checkpoint.

“Yea, mom, I used the bottle to throw water on my face and some on my toothbrush and I am never coming back here again.”  
In the mean time my husband comes to the kitchen to empty out a few bottles of water in a buck and Elena forgets this is how we flush the toilet. Well, it’s another day where you cannot turn on the dishwasher or the washing machine.  And if I did have the water, the electricity went off five times today; probably my appliances might have an electric shock.  I think its good that I have only blown up four computers in the last ten years so I continue to have one good one working, Compaq, by the way.  

In the middle of the day when the dishes are piled up in the sink and the husband forgets “there is no water” he begins to scream and yell.  
Well, I say to myself, which part of “I don’t have any water” you do not understand.

I have a beautiful crystal clear view of the illegal Israeli settlement across from my kitchen window and I have to practice “love thy neighbor...love thy enemy” commandment and not be jealous since the settlements have water seven days a week and twenty-four hours a day. If everyone was cut off from the water it would be more balanced and fair because you feel everyone is trying to pro-long the water usage.  
The bias and unjust policies are directed at Palestinians only. But, the illegal settlements all over the West Bank come first in controlling the natural resources and are a huge obstacle to peace.  

In very rare occasions when I have special guests that stay with me and they do not realize about our water shortage, they will bring the reserve bottle of water from their bathroom to the kitchen:  
“I think someone forgot this in the bathroom?”  And I think it’s hard to explain that some days even the water coming out of the faucet sounds violent on this side of the world because when the water is running low it comes out with a loud gushing off and on noise that you actually feel like throwing a bottle of water on your face than listen to the water making these terrible pressure sounds early in the morning.

And, it’s really wonderful to have solar energy to get the water hot but the problem is that the tank is sometimes empty so nothing in there to make hot.  
And, don’t bother asking what is in my swimming pool.  

While I am battling the water problems in my little Christian village there was a bloody shoot out last night between Palestinians in Gaza.  
It seems that Hamas is not strict enough or Islamic enough so even more fanatic radical groups want to take Gaza over so the Islamic cleric that declared all of Palestine “An Islamic Emirate” was shot to death.  Islamic what?  And here I am in the middle of the wilderness working for a free Palestine…a democratic and modern Palestine…a moderate Palestine…and to top it off…the Taybeh Oktoberfest, October 3 & 4, 2009 to boost the collapsed economy.  If I have not asked for your prayers before, I seriously need them for a peaceful passing of this particular event among crazy circumstances.

However, cold water or hot, some days there is absolutely no water available in my house so I am just drinking up a lot of Taybeh Beer and thinking of some Bible quotes to gain inner peace:  
“I will hear what God the Lord will speak:  for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints:  but let them not turn again to foolishness.  Surely His salvation is near them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.”  Psalm 85:8-9

Monastery of the Holy Martyrs - Orthodox Monastery, Syriac Orthodox

 Have you stopped the monastery's new web site?  Come on by and visit, either on line or in person.  I love meeting new folks and make n...