Question and Answer

Here are few questions and my answers:

Question 1

Respected  Yuhanon Mar Meletius Thirumeni....

Hope you are well....I have  some  doubt about our  prayer for  departed belivers...(Marichaverkku vendi ulla prardhana) We prayer  for them... especially on 3rd, 9th 30th & 40th day. shall I ask one  Question . As per protestant they say that Why we pray for them.....??? .If  we can save them( departed belivers)  by our prayer, we can also live in  in this  world in any way..Because  if  our family members & relative  will pray for us  to save  from hell....& they also  shows that In Psalms we read  .Psalms 88: 10.  ""Of what use are your miracles when iam in grave""......

I expect a good answer from you (based on Holy Bible.)

Answer

Dear

I have an article written on this matter and I am sending the text below. This was posted in my blog (Wordpress) which you can get from this address along with other articles: http://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/orthodox-position-on-the-departed/

Hope this will answer your question.

Orthodox Position Regarding the Remembrance of the Departed

Yuhanon  Mor Meletius Metropolitan

The question of our faith regarding the departed has to be approached from two sides. One: explaining the matter from our position. Two: defending our faith against criticism.

First, by way of explaining our position we may say that our faith though is very much Biblical, not so much based on individual references. We believe that Church is the body of Christ and any one who is baptized will be part of His body.  As Christ lives eternally His body also should be living eternally. Jesus said “who ever eats of my body and drinks of my blood shall live eternally (John 6:54).  Life eternal can not be challenged by physical changes. Because physical is not eternal, eternal is beyond physical.  Death is only a physical change brought on humans.  Living means living dynamically. Eternally living is to be eternally dynamic.  In Christ being living and dynamic is to be being in participation. Participation of an organ of Christ’s body is participation with Christ the head and with other organs or members.  This participation also need not be physical.  Therefore, the paramount form of participation is that in worship.

The Orthodox believes that there is a celestial eternal worship that goes on in heaven.  All living and dead are participants in this worship. The classical example for this is the event at the transfiguration mountain (Mtt. 17:1 ff.).  Our worship in this world is a time and space bound participation in this celestial worship.  The priest in our Eucharistic worship exhorts: “At this time our hearts, thoughts and minds be in at the high and exalted above where the Son of God is seated at the right hand side of the Father”.  A worshipping community is a dynamic loving and caring community.  Love and care are not primarily physical and material phenomenon, rather they are spiritual and metaphysical. Our love and care can thus be better expressed in mutual prayer support.  We remember each other in prayer. When we remember them our love towards them make us wish they be with Christ and be remembered all the time.  All our prayers are placed before the merciful God. While we do so we present our wish also before Him.

We know that Christ can forgive our sins. So we also pray that just as our sins others sins may be forgiven and be accepted in the company of all the celestial worshipers.  In this intercessory prayer we not only include those who are living in this world but also those who have passed away from here and joined the unseen members of the body of Christ. We believe that the departed can also do the same on our behalf because they are also part of the dynamic and eternally living body of Christ. Thus we become truly loving and caring members of the same body of Christ transcending time, space and physical boundaries.

Secondly, we can consider our defense against criticism from other communities.  Two things need to be said initially.  First it is not easy to answer all question raised against our faith as they work with a difference approach to Bible and Church tradition. They also adopt different methodology to explain faith.  Secondly, every thing we do in the name of remembering the departed and praying on their behalf may not be strictly on the basis of our faith rather will be related to cultural practices and for lack of proper understanding of our faith. It will be hard to defend many of such practices.  In such cases we need to be humble enough to accept criticism.

One of the major objections raised against the remembrance of the departed is, ‘how can God forgive sins done while alive after they are not in the body in this world’. Firstly our prayer for the departed is not primarily for the forgiveness of sins. We remember them since we know them and we love them and are concerned of them. It is for God to decide whether to forgive them or not.  Again, this is a question we also struggle with and is expressed in one of our prayers too. But on the one hand we put our trust in God and hope that He is able to do that if He wishes so. On the other hand our love towards them makes us pray even if there is only little chance of being forgiven.  Hoping and praying is not a bad thing to do.

A second question is based on the Psalmist’s words in Ps. 115:17 where it is said “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down in to silence”.  There is more than one response to this.  Basically a Christian faith can not be challenged by a passage from Old Testament which does not contain themes of many of the Christian faith affirmations.  If at all we take it as useful, we have to take the whole Psalm and continue to read verse 18 where it is said, “But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for ever more”.  Here ‘ever more’ can be taken as a time beyond physical world. Further there is an instance where God asked prophet Ezekiel to talk and prophecy to the bones in the valley of death Eze. Ch. 47).  God through the prophet promises the bones that they will be brought back to life. Question is how can the bones hear what the prophet was saying if the dead can not hear the words of a living person?  Again Christ called Lazarus out of the tomb and called him to life (John 11:43).  If Lazarus can not praise God in death how can he hear the calling of Christ

The third question usually raised is, ‘can the dead be benefited by our prayers’? The first answer would be that we Christians do not do things to get some thing back or for a reward.  That is a utilitarian materialistic attitude which is contrary to Christian way of life. We do things because of our love and care. It is for God to decide the benefit. More over we do things because we have already received some thing great from our Lord which is Salvation and right to call God ‘our Father’.  Motivated by the love we received from our Lord, we try to express our love to others and remember them in our prayers without minding whether they are living or dead. We are not concerned of the benefit which is for God to decide.  We also believe that benefit from God is not out of what we do. It is God’s gift to us.

A forth question asked is, ‘do we have evidence in the Bible to support what we do in this matter’?  To an orthodox what we do in Christian worship and in life is not solely based on what we see in the Bible. We are guided by the basic principles we see in the Bible and also in the teaching of the fathers of the Church who witnessed Christ and His salvific work. Of course the second has to agree with the basic principles of the teachings of Christ. We do not think that loving the departed and remembering them and praying for their welfare is against Christ’s principle. There is no passage in the Bible which would suggest that remembering the departed is meaningless.  If we take the passages in the Bible strictly and literally even burying the dead would be against Christ’s teaching as Christ once said, “Let the dead bury the dead” (Matt. 8:22). Burying the dead is considered by every one as a humanitarian thing. Our love and concern for the welfare of our dear ones go beyond the physical world and that is not contrary to the teaching of Christ. As said earlier, we have evidence that Christ Himself remembered departed one when He was conducting a worshipping atmosphere at the transfiguration mountain. He invited not only Peter, James and John to that worship, rather also Moses who died some thirteen centuries before Christ and Elijah who died some eight centuries back. It is also noteworthy that these two were more active in worship that the living ones. At least Peter was concerned of the troubles and hard times waited on the bottom of the hill and was planning to build three booths for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He found life up on the hill better than life in the valley. If Jesus can invite dead members of the Old Testament community to worship, how much more He can do it with the New Testament worshiping community? We only recognize that probability in remembering them in our worship. This is where we stand regarding our attitude to the departed.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Queston 2

Dear Thirumeni,

Why did Thirumeni and 2 other Thirumeni's (Athanious Thirumeni and Nicholos Thirumeni) left Jacobite .Why we cant settle the conflict with Jacobite faction.Recently conflict is getting worse like attaching priest and why most of this happen in and around central Kerala.What is Thirumenis stand or opinion on this?

Answer

Dear

I am surprised that even after more than a decade after the order of the Supreme court of India in 1995 and a decade after its execution in 2002, still people have not understood the content and implications of the order. Please be educated that no one joined any other Church. The Church was one with one patriarch and one catholicos till 1974. In 1970s there started a dispute between two sections of members in the Managing Committee of the Church. This resulted in a split in the Church. Two groups the catholicos group and the patriarch group emerged. I was ordained a deacon just before this division started and when the Church was still one in 1973 January. Metropolitan Thomas Mar Athanasius was already a deacon and Metropolitan Abraham Mar Severius was a pries at that time under late Metropolitan Philipos Mar Theophilos of Angamali. The division became evident in 194 March when two priests of the Malankara Church got consecrated as bishops by the patriarch of Antioch. Of course there were related events and issues.

Malayala Manorama who was, to an extent, a reason for this division called one group the Orthodox group and the other Jacobite group. People of both parties without seeing the danger in the move sort of accepted these terms and let them be the official titles of the group. Of course Manorama had business interest behind this move. But common people started to think that these two groups are two denominations. But actually there was nothing either regarding faith, liturgy or practice that separated these two. The only question was how much power the patriarch of Antioch has in Malankara Church.

The official Church went to the court to get a verdict to the effect that the patriarch has no authority in Malankara Chruch and all Churches are to be governed by 1934 constitution and all parish Churches are owned by the Malankara Metropolitan. The patriarach party countered it by arguing that the catholicos is only  a subordinate to the patriarch. The case was finally decided, after two orders from the single bench and division bench of the Kerala High Court, by the Supreme Court of India in 1995. The courst said, the patriarch remains to be spiritually superior in the Church, but the Church has to be administered by the 1934 constitution and the catholicos, upon whom the patriarch had invested all his powers, will have all the powers of the supreme head of the Church in matters of administration and so the patriarch can not interfere without reference to the catholicos in Malankara Church affairs.

Both the patriarch and the catholicos accepted the verdict and reunification efforts began. The court in further order laid down parameters for the reunification. But half way through a section of the patriarch party backed off and started to call themselves the continuation of the patriarch faction and as the Jacobite Chruch. But we three bishops, Dr. Abraham Mar Severius, Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius and myself said no to that and went ahead with the reunification efforts. The reunification was executed in a joint meeting of representatives of Churches from both former groups as the Malankara Association of the united Church. This meeting was convened by mutual agreement made in writing by both the catholicos and patriarch factions in the Supreme court and the Court assigned an observer, Mr. Justice Malimat a retired judge of the Supreme Court, on request of the patriarch group. All the Churches from the former catholicos group and about 120 Churches from former the patriarch group participated in the meeting. The matter was reported to the Court and the Court declared the Church united.  But the split away group of the former patriarch faction people convened a meeting which they called the Association of Jacobite Syrian Christian Association Church was convened simultaneously at Puthencruz in Ernakulam dist. and declared that they are the true descendant of the old patriarch group and they hold title to the Churches and properties of the old patriarch group. This was total violation of the order of the Court. We three bishops accepted the decisions of the court and the decisions of the Malankara Association of 2002 to get back as a unified Church putting an end to the old split and rivalry. Metropolitan Zechariahs Mar Nicholovos who was in US also accepted the order of the court in 2002 and joined the reunification process and attended the Association meeting. At the same due to pressure from the new Church Metroplitan Abraham Mar Severius who was in charge of Idukku diocese in the reunified Church left and joined the new Church. In short, the Malankara Church was one till early 1970s and unfortunately there occurred a split which was mended in 2002 and once again became one Church. We are glad we are back together to be in one reunified Church. Hope you now know what happened between 1970 and 2002. We Thomas Mar Athanasius Thirumeni and Zechariah Mar Nicholovos Thirumeni and myself who were part of the Church prior to the split happed to be in one group just as some others were in the other group, mostly not by choice, went along the common decision of the Church to be reunited. It was the naming of these groups by Malayalam Manorama that gave the wrong impression that these were two Churches.

We can not settle the matter because we are dealing a group of people who do not respect Christian principle, law of the land, obey the orders of the court and do not have any sense of justice. What ever we may try, at the last moment they will topple it and create unrest and law and order situation there. This happens in Kerala because it is here they can manipulate the system with money and other unjust influences. They have not made any claim in any Church outside Kerala, but went out and formed their own parishes. But in Kerala they can resort to all kinds of unethical and unlawful means and can get away with it. There are politicians who back them, there are government officials who are corrupt and take bribe from them. There are Church dignitaries who openly support them. On top of all these, the news paper, who claim to be member of Orthodox Church work hard to keep the division alive. In the middle of all these there are innocent people who happened to be under their slavish custody who want to get out of that but not ready to do any thing. So it becomes our responsibly to work for them also.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 3
Respected Thirumeni ,
My Name is - -  and I am  from Kumbazha St Marys Orthodox Valiya Cathedral (Thumpamon Diocese)... I like to see ur Clarifications on the doubts on our Faith and Belief. First of all, Let me, Say thank you for taking the opportunities to teach the younger generation about the true faith of our church.

I am coming to my topic,

We have started celebrating Centenary our Catholicate establishment  a few days backs at Kunnamkulam.. Then i got some interest to go over the history of the Establishment of our Catholicate. So i made a deep search for available resources in the Internet and some books and have seen something which is quite different and mismatching with what i have studied and heard..

The Main Mismatchings are,

1. Some of Our church officials arguing that in 1912, Only Catholicate establishment was taken place in Malankara not a re-establishment of the same. But most of our official church sites and electronic medias propagating, It was not just an establishment and indeed a Reestablishment.

2. Some of our church officials, including clergies arguing, The re-establishment of Catholicate was from Tigris. But our church websites saying that it was from Selucia Steciphon and some other showing Musol.. In some sites the word 'Tigris' is not mentioned even.

3.If that was a reestablishment, how a Maphryanite from Tigris became a Catholicate in 1912, as there exists only Maphriyanite in Tigris..not a catholicate. (As Tigris is the HQ of Maphryan)

4. Catholicose of East of the Persian Church is still present - HH Mar Dinkha IV who is presently headquartered in Chicago. Then how can our Catholicose claim succession to the catholicate of East and how can a Catholicate of east which is still present be re- established to India from Selucia Ctesiphon (?) ?

Why so?

I have asked the same query to some of our Priests and even to a metropolitan. But all of them donated different answers for the same question :D Till now, no one gave the correct answer for this Query. I am Expecting a clear answer from u Thirumeni..

From My side,
I made little deep study about this and came on  a conclusion...

Based on the preseumptions and assumptions, two options are possible.

1. Ours is a continuation of the Maphrianate of Tigrith which was also called Catholicate. The re-establishment theory is fully supported here because earlier this Maphrianate was discontinued in 1846 (or 1850  I am not sure ).

2. Ours is an independent Catholicate and in 1912, we established a new centre of Spirtual power in India. It is neither the successor to Persia nor to Selucia Ctesiphon.

Please correct me if,I am wrong. I am waiting for your reply through MOTV Orthodoxy Page...

May God be with u and guide u...

Long Live the Apostolic Throne of St Thomas.

Answer

Dear

You are right, the talk about catholicate in Malankara is really confusing. Not many have a clear perspective about the matter. Let me bring to you few facts. First of all catholicate was established in the East as a parallel institution to that of the patriarchate due to the political situation existed in the East. That means it is an independent office which has all the powers and authorities of the patriarch. After a while, the who occupied the position of the catholicate embraced Nestorian faith. So the Oriental Churches de-recognized it and was left vacant since then. But to cater to the spiritual needs of the people in the East, the patriarch of Antioch established an office called maprianate in Tigris. This was not an independent office, rather a subordinate office to the patriarch of Antioch.

Indian Church was a national indigenous Church from the beginning until the Portuguese came with the petra do arrangement they had with the pope.  Of course we had ecclesiastical dignitaries coming from the East and we always welcomed them. But the Church remained rather indigenous. The Portuguese wanted to make this Church a Latin Church. Though they were successful initially, people revolted at the Coonan Cross and a then majority returned to the indigenous community. But they felt the need for help from the East to survive the threat from  the Latin Church. So they approached the Eastern Churches and it was Antiochean patriarch who responded. Thus we sort of accepted faith, liturgy and many of the practices of Antiochean Church ad made them ours. That was not a problem for us. But the problem started when the patriarch began behaving the same was as that of the Roman Pontiff or as an unquestioned authority of both spiritual and temporal affairs of the Church. This caused split in the Church. Some liked this attitude and some did not. It was at this juncture people like Vattasseril Thirumeni decided to while keeping the faith and liturgy of, and ecclesiastical relation with, the Antiochean Church (as a matter of fact the faith was common to all Oriental Orthodox Churches), to become independent in temporal matters. To achieve this goal, they thought we should have an office which was defined by the Ecumenical Synods as equal to that of the patriarch.

So they invited the patriarch of Antioch Abdul Messiah, who for some was not ruling because of the political situation in Turkey (the question whether political decision is the one that should be valid in matter of faith) who was the one installed first as the valid patriarch, to be the head of the Synod that installed the first catholicos. The term used in the constitution is re-establishment of the catholicate. Here we have room for an interpretation of the term re-establishment. It can be revival of the office or re-location of the office. To us, it is the revival of the office. We are not relocating the office of the catholicate established in Selucia Ctesiphon. We are using the same title as we intended the office to be parallel to the office of the patriarch which is in fact independent.  We sought the cooperation of the patriarch since one, in faith we are one community, two, in practice the catholicate represents the universality of the Church. This office was not the office of the Maprianate of Tigris. It was not the succession of the catholicate in Selucia Ctesiphon.

Thus I would go with your second conclusion. In that sense we can also say that the catholicate in Malankara was established in 1912. In any case it was not a continuation of the one existed in Selucia Ctesphon and also the one existed in Tigris, rather it was the fresh establishment of the office in Malankara, but the title was already in use for the one in Selucia Ctesiphon.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 4

Respected Tirumeni

Thank you very much. I think it is the wisdom in Sant Rahim ke Dohe- Jahan kaam karai sui, kaha karai thalwari- where the needle is required, what can the sword achieve? -each to his own and his role.

I really enjoy my role as wife and mother.

But 'Orthodox Psychotherapy', & 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Tyrell's Christotherapy etc. helped me a lot because I realized that every single second of my waking life is full of internal dialogues and chatter and most of these thoughts are based on fear. Fear of poverty, fear of disapproval, fear of illness, need for approval etc. My sister, asked me why I always act from fear and live anticipating the worst. It was what gave relevance to these books. I also see many others around who operate from 'fear.' - the point where we stand.

I am now much better and am able to recognize  moments when I act from fear- I tell myself that God the Father is the source of all and whatever the situation,He would give us the inner resources to live through . I can be more generous and free and less fearful. I acquired this fear psychosis over the last 10 years due to certain circumstances in our work situation and then it became a part of me.

Life has improved a lot since I have started to operate from faith instead of fear. I think, this would help me stick to my newly adopted lifestyle also and that my diabetes would be cured. (Thomas Vaidyan's diet of Ragi, Chama And other millets has drastically reduced my blood sugar and he says I can be cured in 2 years if I stick to it. Latest medical research has confirmed that the Pancreas can be reactivated through diet.) There is both inner and outer healing involved.I believe that. There is healing in Christ. All of us desperately need it. Especially healing from the image of a vengeful, unapproachable God who would punish us for every word and deed-however small.

I have also seen people healed and at peace outside the Church and though I feel afraid to affirm this, I cannot disbelieve that the Hindu also speaks of the same Father in Heaven and that people like, Sri Sri Ravishankar etc have some bits of truth that has helped people to live in the present and be relaxed, comfortable with their lives and live usefully and joyfully.

So I think they are  not 'un assumed', but are saved. AM I wrong?

I am happy about my being able to operate less fearfully,  but I am happiest to know that our Church cares about insignificant people like me. I had thought that it was a huge monolith- stony and uncaring.

I was also afraid of Bishops because I was told that angering them would invite curses on our family. When my husband broke his leg about 35 years ago, it was said that his father had joined the group against the then Bava about some church property and that is why it happened. Recently one of our parish was hit by a car while he was standing by the roadside and had severe multiple fractures. People say that this happened because he did not get up when our Thirumeni came into our church and also he had raised some questions. (I am not sure what.) So to me this seems little better than a regime of fear.

But our own Bishops died in Road accidents.

Please forgive me for raising this issue, but if people should come closer, this fear must be allayed, should it not?

Did not Jesus imply that curse is not His Way? (Even my brother in law has stopped active participation in church matters because my sister in law said why should we invite curses?- many do this)

Please do not be angry.

Answer

Dear

Yes I admit that fear should not have any room in Christian life. Fear began in the garden of Eden when human felt that he/she is estranged him/herself from God (Gen. 3:10). This is why when ever God or angel or messenger appeared to humans, the first word uttered was ‘fear not’. There are people still under fear and they say ‘you have to fear God’ which is actually anti-Christian. Salvation Christ brought primarily talks about free from fear. So Christ taught us to address God ‘father’. This closeness and relationship takes away fear. I do not think that we have to distinguish between ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ cure. It is the cure of the person. The thought that there is this dichotomy itself is part of the fear. If God created us, we are as humans contains both inner and outer combined. So we can henceforth talk about the person and not compartments of the person. The fruit that Adam and Eve ate affected the person not only the inner person, but also the outer person.

There is a famous saying, ‘it is not a valid question whether Christ is there or not, the valid question is whether you are recognizing Christ’s presence or not’. Christ’s presence can be recognized where ever salvation is experienced. God has no boundary for his activity, we may have. How ever, I should also be warned against phony charismatic individuals who claim they represent joy or God.

To address the other question, I do not believe that any one in this world has been given authority to curse any one. Of course we may not agree with others. If this is seen  positively, that opens room for dialogue. If even after genuine dialogue difference exists, then again to look at it positively, can say we agree to disagree. We can say my idea has nothing in common with yours. So we are not related and I have nothing to do with you. But when I say , my idea is absolutely right and yours is absolutely wrong, that person will be making him/herself a god. I do not think that God is a primary school teacher who keeps track of every small thing to find a reason to punish people. Some meet with bad times because of their own fault on that matter, some because of other people’s fault at that time. Getting up when some one arrives or not getting up are all cultural things and God is not bound by cultural things. Again the same element of fear is working here too. I hope I addressed your note.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Comments

Dear Thirumeni
Thank you very much for taking time to answer the questions with so much patience and interest in equipping us. We deeply appreciate you and pray that you will continue to be a great Blessing to us as always.
Love and prayers
Elizabeth

Dear Thirumeni,
At first, thank you very much for your valuable answers. Now my question is, though as per the 1934 constitution, our church's name is MOSC why church leaders and many churches ommit the word 'Syrian' from documents such as church register,receipt, name plate etc? Why they wipe out common Syriac words and sentences (its meaning is mentioned in H. Qurbano text) used in our liturgy ? I do have friends among jacobites and they say this is one of the obstacle in the way of peace. What is your opinion?

Of course the name of the Church is Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. But many a time for convenience people just say the Orthodox Church as there is no other Orthodox Church in India. It does not need to become an issue with others any way. Why the patriarch's Church does not have any 'Jacobite' in its name, which the other party talk a lot about, in its name. Why are they not taking it as an issue for their relationship with the patriarch? This is just a lame excuse. Some of them even object to have Orthodox in the name of our Church. That is the name used by the patriarch too.They do not obviously object that.
Again Syrian does not mean Syria the political territory. The patriarch changed the name of the Church recently as Syriac Orthodox Church instead of earlier usage 'Syrian Orthodox' Church. On the top of it, Syriac or Syrian means the tradition that is represented and does not have much to do with language or the territory.

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