Monday, March 22, 2010

“Hold Fast to What Is Good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

Fr George Varghese Vayaliparambil

Glory be to the Almighty God

My dear children respected parents and teachers very Good morning to all of you. I am very proud to present our VBS Theme in front of you. I think all of you know the word which we took for our study and meditation this year. Can any one say the theme? “Hold Fast to What Is Good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Can you say guys what is good that we have to hold fast…? Let us think what is the word of God says about the good that a Christian need to hold? or what is good before God?
In the book of Micah Chapter 6 : 8 it says that “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Can you say again what is good?

1. To Act Justly

2. To love mercy

3. To walk humbly with God

To Act Justly. It shows our relation with God. Am I standing for God? Am I standing for truth that is just?

What is injustice?

Injustice means unfairness.

Can you say an occasion when you stood for justice even though you were forced to do injustice?

In the life of our Mahatma Gandhi we can see there was a situation that he stood for justice when he was a student. Do you know who Mahatma Gandhi is? He is the father of our India. After his primary education he joined the Kattyawar High School at Rajkot in October 1880. The name of the school was changed to Mohandas Gandhi Vidyalaya. This change of name was done in order to honour and cherish the memories of Mahatma Gandhi.

One day an incident took place at the school which Gandhi could not forget till his end. Giles, the Educational Inspector, an English man had come on a visit to inspect the school. In India such visits made by Educational Inspectors in order to check the proper functioning and dissemination of knowledge is a usual routine till date. Mr. Giles entered Gandhi’s class in order to inspect the learning and teaching process. He gave five words and asked the boys to spell it on a slate. This test given by the Educational Inspector Mr. Giles was the unexpected part of the examination. One of the words given by Mr. Giles was ‘kettle’. Gandhi had misspelt the word ‘kettle’. This was noticed by the class teacher. The class teacher tried to prompt Gandhi with the point of his boot to copy the Spelling from his neighbor’s slate. Gandhi did not want to do anything against his conscience and he knew that this act of copying was evil and untruthful. Gandhi also thought that the teacher was there to supervise the students and to see that none of the students copied. Thus Gandhi did not copy from the neighbors’ slate which was against his conscience and reason. When the results were announced Gandhi was the only boy in the class who had not spelt that word correctly. All the students had written all the five words with correct spelling. Even though Gandhi felt embarrassed and shy due to the poor score which he had received, he never learnt or did the foul act of copying in the days of his life. When Gandhi grew older he became famous. He recollected that it was this concept of Truth and the act of being truthful to oneself, to others, and to God made him rise to such heights. It was from this inner strength that he was able to overcome all the hardships, trials, and tribulations. And it was the conscience of Truth and of his act of being truthful to the human community that made his life a light to shed away the darkness in the life of millions of people even in the twenty first century. We can say injustice is do what you are not allowed to do and don’t do what you are supposed to do

To love mercy. It shows our relation with our fellow being. How I am in my relation with my fellow being.

We are called to show mercy to the fellow being and break ourselves to the world as the God let himself to break through the holy Qurbono.

In the book of Hosea Chapter 6: Vs 6 our Lord says “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

In Mathew 5: 5 God says blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. It is the promise of the Lord that those who love mercy will inherit the earth

To walk humbly with God. It says how we should be our self before God.

What does it means? Keep humbleness in life. Keep simplicity and straightforwardness in life.
For what we are give importance in our life. For me or God? For my intention or for the will of God.

For what I am giving priority in my life is important thing. St John the Baptist says. In the Gospel of St John 3: 30-31 He must increase, but I must decrease.
Dear kids it should be our attitude in all our thoughts our words and actions. Jesus must Increase and I must decrease. St Luke 1: 52 He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

Let me conclude by pointing out the word of God pronounced through the wiser of wises Solomon the great.

From the book of proverbs chapter 14:22.

Beloved! Let us not walk in our own ways but walk in the ways of the Lord. The ways of the Lord are good and they lead us to righteousness and blessings. So, let us wait on the Lord for His guidance in everything and holdfast to what is good. God will help us and bless us.

Once again wish you a Happy and Merry VBS

May the Love of the Father the grace of the only begotten son and the fellowship and descent of the Holy Spirit be upon you for ever and ever and ever. Amen

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Holy Cross

Angel’s Bell

Holy Cross
Fr. George Varghese Vayaliparambil

Word for the Day:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing; but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians. 1:18)

Story about the Cross: Queen Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century A.D., pledged to search for the cross, if her son the Emperor Constantine came to believe in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of humanity. She prayed continuously day and night, accompanying it with fasting, and gave alms so that the Lord would answer her plea. God willed that and showed Constantine the sign of the cross in the sky in the middle of the day and with it wrote the saying, “In this sign you will conquer.” So Constantine took the sign of the cross as a banner for his army and conquered his enemies. He became Christian and his mother fulfilled her pledge in the year 326 A.D. and went to the Holy City, searched for the cross and found it. She was assured by a miracle that it was the real cross that the Lord Jesus hung on at Golgotha when the cross was placed on the body of a dead young man, immediately when it touched the body life returned to that young man and he was resurrected and the bishop of the city blessed the people with the holy cross of Christ.

Since then we use the cross as the banner of Christian church.

What does the cross signify?

A cross signifies the essence of the gospels. We make a sign of the cross by bringing down the hand from the forehead to the chest and from chest to the left shoulder and then to the right shoulder. Moving your hand from forehead to the chest signifies that Jesus came down from heaven to earth for our sins, and moving the hand from chest to the left shoulder says that his beloved people were under the sins of Satan, and by moving from the left to the right shoulder signifies that Jesus liberated us from the shackles of Satan to the status of children of God.

This practice of signing ourselves with the cross did not develop in the church over a period of time as is alleged. The early church members had this practice.

Tertullian (AD 155) “We take anxious care lest something of our Cup or Bread should fall upon the ground. At every forward step and movement, when coming in and going out, when putting on our clothes, when putting on our shoes, when bathing, when at table, when lighting the lamps, when reclining, when sitting, in all the ordinary occupations of our daily lives, we furrow our forehead with the sign of the cross.” (367)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 315 - 386) St. Cyril who was the Bishop of Jerusalem has written about the cross on which Christ was crucified and was discovered by Queen Helane from Jerusalem. “The Holy wood of the Cross among us seen to the present day and now fillings almost the whole world by means of those, who in faith, take away from here portions of it.”

St. Jerome who was the contemporary of Queen of Helena says “Prostrate before the cross, she worshipped as though she saw the Lord hanging thereon.” The Biblical Encyclopedia says that it is certain that the Christians made the sign of the cross on themselves in the 2nd century.

Mar Baselious (AD 329-379) says that ‘the apostles established the practice of crossing themselves. Before dining they used to draw a cross on the food. Soldiers would cross on his forehead. When we pray or when we read the Bible or when we preach we will do a cross. During the time of Baptism we draw a cross on the forehead and chest. Also one would do a cross in our prayers (Majority of the modern churches do not sign themselves a cross). Eusebious has stated that there were crosses with jewels embedded in it during his time (4th century).
· Mt. 10:38 - "He who does not take the cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
· Luke 9:23 - "If any man would come after me let him deny himself and take up the cross daily & follow me."
· Gal 6:14 - "Our glory is on the cross of the Lord."
· 1 Cor. 1:17 - “The cross of Christ is God's power over us."
· Phil. 3:18-19 - “The end of the enemies of the cross is decay."
· Eph. 2:14 - “The enmity is stopped and we are reconciled in the Cross.”
The cross reminds the church that it is the basis of Christianity and all of the sacraments. When we bow and kiss the cross, it is a kiss in respect to Jesus Christ who died on the cross for us.

When we should the Sign of Cross

When we pronounce the name of the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Son and Holy Trinity).
When we see the Holy Cross or enter into the Church
While we kiss the cross or the hand of the Bishop or Priest
When we say the word Cross/ Sleeba during our prayer.
While the priest and bishops bless us with cross

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Importance and the significance of Prayer in

Syrian Orthodox Church

Fr.George Varghese Vayaliparambil

Prayer simply means COMMUNICATION WITH GOD. While praying, our Soul, Spirit, Body and Mind unite to praise Lord along with the angels. It is through prayer that we thank God for his mercy upon us, praise Him for his mighty deeds for our salvation, submit our plea for the remission of debts and forgiveness of sins and request for his kindness and grace for our protection.

We can see that prayer has formerly been mentioned in Genesis, chapter 4.

* Genesis 4:26 And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enoch. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.

Why Should I Pray?
• Prayer Develops Our Relationship with God. If we never bother to speak to our spouse or never listen to anything what they might have to tell us, our marriage relationship will quickly develop a void space in between. It is the same way with God. Prayer—communicating with God—helps us grow more closer and more intimate with God.

* Zechariah 13:9 I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure, just as gold and silver are refined and purified by fire. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'These are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.' "

* John 15:7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted! • The Lord Instructed Us to Pray. One of the simplest reason to spend time in prayer is because the Lord instructed us to pray. Obedience is a natural by-product of discipleship

* Matthew 26:41 "Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!"

* Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

* Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (NIV)
(See also - Matthew 7:7 and 1 Timothy 2:8)

What is the Correct Posture for Prayer?

Is there a certain posture for prayer?
Yes! There is. In the Bible, people prayed on their knees (1 Kings 8:45), bowing (Exodus 4:31), on their faces before God (2 Chronicles 20:18; Matthew 26:39), and standing (1 Kings 8:22). You may pray with your eyes opened or closed, quietly or out loud—however you must be most comfortable and least distracted.

In Syrian Orthodox Church we give most importance to the gestures and postures. Our Liturgy is highly symbolic, so each movements, gestures and postures should be meaningful and appropriate to communicate a particular message.

Usually in public and private prayer we are supposed to stand, by keeping our heel together and the fingers little wide to each side. We can keep our hand tied, close to our chest or can keep it opened like begging to the Lord some times.

The faithful say the daily prayers standing, facing the East direction. A prelate, priest or a senior member of the laity leads the prayer. The sign of the cross is drawn while prostrating in veneration to Lord Jesus Christ at appropriate points in the prayer—in the Trisagion, the Praise of the Cherubim, when the incarnation of the Word is confessed in the Nicene Creed, etc. On days when Divine Liturgy is celebrated and also between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, the sign of the cross is drawn without prostration.

Women must cover their head with veil while praying (1 Corintians 11: 11-15)

How Many times should we pray a day?

Bible teaches that we should pray at all times and do our daily chores with prayer and praise to the Lord. Canonically we are instructed to pray 7 times a day. In accordance with Psalm 119:164, “Seven times in the day have I praised thee for thy judgments, O Righteous One,” the Syriac Orthodox Church set the times for prayer to seven: Evening or ramsho prayer (Vespers), Drawing of the Veil or sootoro prayer (Compline), Midnight or lilyo prayer, Morning or saphro prayer (Matins), the Third Hour or tloth sho`in prayer (Prime, 9 a.m.), the Sixth Hour or sheth sho`in prayer (Sext, noon) and the Ninth Hour or tsha` sho`in prayer (Nones, 3 p.m.). The Midnight prayer consists of three qawme ‘watches’ (literarily ‘standing’).

The ecclesiastical day begins in the evening at sunset. For example, Monday starts at sunset on Sunday evening. Hence, Monday's evening (ramsho) and compline (sootoro) prayers, are actually performed on Sunday in our modern reckoning. Today, even in monasteries, the evening and compline prayers are said together, as also the Midnight and Morning prayers, and the Three, Six and Nine O'Clock prayers, reducing the times of prayer to three. However, the common practice today (except during fasts) is to pray twice a day. Evening prayer starts with the ninth hour (tsha` sho`in) prayer of the previous day, followed by the evening (ramsho), and finishes with the compline (sootoro). Morning Prayer starts with the prayer of midnight (lilyo) followed by morning (saphro), the third hour (tloth sho`in) and noon (sheth sho`in).

Why is prayer 7 times a day?

It is a biblical practice. Psalm 119:164 says, “Seven times in the day have I praised thee for thy judgments, O Righteous One.”

For us Christians, it is the time to meditate the entire Christ events and the passion of Christ’s death and resurrection of our Lord that he performed for our salvation and the time to praise and glorify him.

Praying 7 times a day is obligatory for an Orthodox Christian. Altogether, in 7 times prayer, we recite the “Kaumo” 10 times a day. The Ten kauma is meant for the purification of our 10 senses of action and knowledge. Failure to complete this 7 times prayers and the reciting the kauma is a sin which requires confession. This 7 times prayers are said to be connected with the 7 stages of Jesus’s sufferings on the day of his crucifixion.

Evening or ramsho prayer (Vespers) - Jesus’s body was taken off from the Cross by Joseph and Nicodemos.

Jesus was buried in a new grave - Drawing of the Veil or sootoro prayer (Compline)
Midnight or lilyo prayer - Jesus was caught by the Roman soldiers and taken to the Palace of the High Priests.

Morning or saphro prayer (Matins) - Jesus was questioned in front of Pilate and High priests.

The Third Hour or tloth sho`in prayer (Prime, 9 a.m.) - Pilate gave his verdict to crucify Jesus.
The Sixth Hour or sheth sho`in prayer - Jesus was Crucified
The Ninth Hour or tsha` sho`in prayer (Nones, 3 p.m.) – Jesus’s soul left his body.
Should I Use Eloquent Words?

Your prayers need not be wordy or impressive in speech.
* Matthew 6:7 "When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again."
* Ecclesiastes 5:2 ”Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

What If I Don't Know How to Pray?

The Holy Spirit will help you in prayer when you don't know how to pray.
Romans 8:26-27 ”In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.”

We have the canonical prayer book. All the prayer in it is either taken from the bible versus or recited by the saints and the fathers of the church who are influenced by the Holy Spirit by meditating the word of God.

The Syriac Orthodox book of prayer for routine use is called the shhimo, meaning ' simple [prayer]'. The shhimo has offices for the canonical hours for each day of the week. Each canonical office begins and ends with a qawmo (literally 'standing'), a set of prayers that includes the Lord's Prayer. At the end of the office, the Nicene creed is recited. (When prayers are said twice a day, the Nicene creed is said at the end of sootoro in the evening and at the end of the sixth hour in the morning.)

Various translations of the Syriac shhimo, most of which are partial, have been produced in the twentieth century. The translation by V. Rev. Konattu Mathen Malpan into Malayalam was authorized for use in Malankara by Patriarch Ignatius `Abded Aloho in 1910. This translation was also partial. In that, prayers from the offices of seven days were combined into one for each office for all days of the week. An edited version of the English translation of the Malayalam text, was published by Rev. Dr. K. Mani Rajan in 1992.

Tunes in our prayer

The prayers are intoned as chants or melodies. The melodies are set in the Beth Gazo and chanted in eight modes; the mode for the day is derived from the liturgical calendar. The hymns are sung antiphonally by two choirs (goodo), especially when prayer is said in churches or monasteries. May the Lord receive our prayer and give us remission of debts and forgiveness of Sin and protect us now and forever in both worlds