Questions and Answers

Question 1

Kindly let me know whether we can do engagement function on Wednesday, if yes, any restriction in food for all?. The function will be conducted by C.S.I people (bride’s family) and groom from Orthodox.

Thank you Tirumeni.

Answer 1

Dear
Normally we would not have feasts on fasting days and we are encouraged not to have engagement on Wednesdays and Fridays as it involves feast. But in this case since it is done by the CSI people, we can not apply our rule. Only thing is that Orthodox members have to follow their regulation regarding fasting. Nevertheless it will be wise on our part to avoid those two days even if it is done by the CSI family, not to cause difficulty for Orthodox members. I hope the CSI people will understand.
Wish God's blessing on the couple.
Regards and prayers
Thirumeni

Question 2

Dear Thirumeni,,,

I am a catholic girl from changanacherry Archdiocese and i wish to marry an orthdox boy.I think their arise a lot of issue regarding this.If i get married in the orthdox Church,could i have to receive holy communion from a catholic church or chooses to remain in communion with the Orthdox Church.My friends who are in orthdox community are participating in Holy Catholic Qurbana and they took holy communion from catholic priests and they also participating in holy confection and also in holy adoration too. is their any problem for this. What are the other formalities regarding the marriage?

Answer 2

Dear

Orthodox and Catholic Churches are in the process of coming to an agreement on exchanging band for marriage between members of the two denominations. Until that is completed there is a bit of difficulty. In our culture wife joins the family in every respect with the family of the husband after marriage. That is some thing for the healthy upbringing of the children apart from the issue of husband and wife standing before God together in one place in worship. So it is always advisable for the girl to accept the religious tradition of the boy. If the Catholic priests would be open enough not to cause any trouble to the family of the girl for giving a girl to the Orthodox Church, it will be easy.

The marriage can be solemnized in an Orthodox parish with a letter from the vicar of the parish of the girl stating that she is of such and such age and is unmarried, if he is not allowed to give a band. If that is not given a birth certificate would be enough. If that is also not possible the parents or the girl herself can give an affidavit to this effect in a document paper to the parish of the boy. The girl will become, through the marriage, a member of the parish of the boy and she can enjoy all benefits of a communicant member of Orthodox Church. including receiving H. Communion. Since Catholic Church would not administer communion to Orthodox Church member, they may not administer it to the husband even if they do to the wife who was a Catholic Church member before marriage. In such case it is advisable on the part of the wife not to receive communion from a Catholic Church as that will cause separation between husband and wife.

I hope I answered your question.

Wish you God's blessing on you and your would be husband.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 3

Your Grace
In our church, there is no dress code for bishops. In catholic, other orthdox churches and even in jacobite, there is a dress code for every bishop. When our bishops gather togethr for a meeting, we felt ashamed having so many colours and it is not a good think to see. Once ome of our bishops used to wear red cassak during the divine liturgy. Now many of them even dont use red cassak even in the holy Qurbana. Can our synod propose a common colour pattern for all bishops? Suppose if our priests too folow this type of dress code. how can we support it.? I prefer Red or atleast rose to all bishops and must be in red for divine liturgy.

regrds
your spiritual son

Answer 3

Dear

The colour of the dress of clergymen in Christian community is a later regulation. Initially there was no particular dress code as testified by the lacerna, or birrus and (civil) dalmatic, associated with the martyrdom or St. Cyprian. The Catholic Church made a definite decision on the matter only in the 13th century and a final stage only by 18th c. However there was a code prepared in the Synod of Braga (Portugal), in AD 572. Until then clergy wore the dress of common people of the region they lived in. The primary purpose of the new regulation was to identify the clergy in public (in a letter of Pope Celestine in 428 to certain bishop of Gaul states that bishops are not to be identified from common public not by what they wear rather by learning, conduct and cleanness of mind -ref. Mansi, "Concilia", IV, 465). In most Orthodox Churches same was the case. Even today the dress of clerics in Orthodox Churches is not essentially different from that of the of the common man of earlier times (Catholic Encyclopedia – Clerical Costume). The Council of Gangara (340) condemns use of any dress claiming that it has any kind of holiness. Testimonies from the life of St. Patrick gives us the impression that the dress used by clerics including bishops were not a distinctively liturgical, but simply an outer garment commonly worn by the humbler classes.

Generally speaking, today the colour of regular (not liturgical) dress of clergy in all major denominations irrespective of their rank (priest, bishop, catholicos, patriarch etc.) is black. This includes all Orthodox denominations. One of the exceptions is the Pope in Catholic Church who wears white dress. In some main line protestant Churches priests use white and grey colour shirt according to the season. In some monastic communities they use other colours too. In the Syriac tradition the colour has been black. But some time back the patriarch of Antioch of the Syriac Orthodox Church started wearing red colour robe. Bishops in that tradition today normally wear black dress with red boarder and belt (this is more or less that of the Catholic bishops dress). Occasionally they, particularly when they visit India wear red dress. They adopted it from the Catholic traditon particularly the robe with front buttons all the way down to keep it closed and not open (as the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 stipulates. This council forbid the wearing of dress with red or green colour) . In Catholic Church cardinals wear black dress with red boarder. Bishops wear black dress with purple or violet boarder and belt. Occasionally bishops wear amaranth red or purple coloured dress and cardinals wear scarlet or red coloured dress.

Following the practice of the patriarch, bishops and catholicos of Jacobite Church in India also wear red robe (this was made mandatory only recently. Until then they used to wear light coloured robe).

In India the colour of the dress of priests was set to be white because of our weather condition. It will be hard for us to wear black coloured dress all the time particularly in summer. Priests in all the major denominations in India wear white dress. In India in the Orthodox tradition there is a specially prepared dress for priests in white colour which very well suit the weather condition as it is lose and open. The currently used style of regular dress used by priests and bishops with a double plate in front comes from the Anglican tradition. In Syriac Orthodox tradition the style is that of the dress used by altar boys in black colour with black belt (this is used by some of our monastic movements like that of Pathanapuram dayara). Most of the bishops these days use Anglican style dress.

In the Protestant Churches bishops use purple or violet coloured dress. In the Catholic Church in India bishops wear white dress with purple or violet belt and skull cap. In the Orthodox Church few bishops use red colour dress and many use pink or light red. Two bishops habitually wear saffron colour and further a couple of them occasionally wear saffron coloured dress. It is true that there is no common code for bishops' dress in Malankara Orthodox Church.

If we want to follow strictly the general rule, bishops in Malankara Orthodox Church should be wearing black dress since we are an Orthodox Church and particularly we follow ancient Syriac tradition. However, since our weather condition may not let us do that it can very well be changed. But then the question would be what colour should be used. Each colour has its meaning. For example black colour symbolizes mourning and sorrow. In Catholic Church it means 'ready to die to the world'. Red colour is royal and bishops are supposed to be holding royal priesthood (there are people who interpret that they wear red to follow the colour of the blood of Christ, which is a later justificative interpretation). In the western traditions red colour for cardinals was adopted for bishops following the pattern of kings and knights.

In finding out a meaning for the colour of the dress of bishops I do not find any reason for us to follow the western pattern. Pink colour in the western culture is the colour of women. To me it will be good if we can use black colour for our dress (there is one bishop in our Church who usually use black colour dress). If that is not possible the best colour for Indian cultural context is saffron. That is the colour of the dress of Indian priests and it represents the colour of earth which is the mother of all that has life and to which we all shall return. I am not saying every one should follow what I do, but there should be a reason to have a particular colour for our dress when it is made mandatory. Otherwise, it only need to be distinct that people can identify (as I said earlier dress code was initially introduced in the Catholic Church in AD 1215). After all Orthodoxy believes in plurality and not uniformity in life and practice and unity in faith.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 4

Dear thirumeni

There have been an increase in conducting muunninmel Qurbana (trimass?) in our churches. I have learned that such practices have no Orthodox base and do not comply with the Orthodox Christian practices. However, I see a lot of our own bishops conducting munninmel, anchinmel (and 101?) Qurbana. Our achen (Rev. Fr. Dr. George Koshy) has a written an article about the wrong practice (in both factions of the church). A few years ago, our Mor Athanasios thirumeni (Muvattupuzha) declined to conduct trimass (in White Plains church) even though the parishioners compelled. I respect him for taking a strong stand and parishioners had to obey him. What is thirumeni's opinion about muunninmel Qurbana. If you agree with Fr. Dr. George Koshy what can you do to completely stop this practice in our Churches?

Secondly, there have been a tremendous increase in giving titles such as Cheveliar, Captain, Commander (is Major and Major General next?) to laymen in church. I haven't seen such practice in Orthodox Church yet but it is a common practice in Jacobite faction. I guess it will come to our church pretty soon. Giving similar titles to church (Valiyapally, Cathedral, ??) began in Jacobite faction but shamefully, we have already followed them and is an item for competition! What is the meaning of giving such titles to parishes?

Thank you

Answer 4

Dear

Yes you are right there is no theological or practical validity for the practice of the so called 'moonninmel Qurbana'. The Catholic Church quite some time back used to do it, but later discontinued. We however, following them, started doing it and continue till today for no valid reason.

I have not seen the article of George Koshy Achen on this matter though Achen told me about it some time back. Now the practice had taken even worse forms to have, as you said, 'anchinmel' and 'noottonninmel' Qurbanas.

The Holy Episcopal Synod of Malankara Orthodox Church has, two years back, decided to discourage this practice and encourage con-celebration which has been the practice in Syriac tradition. However, since moonninmel is deep rooted in our culture it is not easy to completely ovoid or eliminate the practice all together in a day or two. Nevertheless it is a fact that we need to slowly reduce this unhealthy practice.

In the case of giving titles to individuals, I can not comment on the Jacobite Churches' practice. It is not currently followed in Orthodox Church. But giving titles to Churches has reached an unwelcome point in our Church. Here again the H. Synod has decided to limit granting titles to Churches and to make the criteria stricter. In any case only through education or conscentization process we can control and eliminate these kind of practices once it is started for some reason.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Question 5

Respected Thirumeni,

I am extremely grateful to Thirumeni for taking the effort to dispel the doubts of people like me. I am 57. About 10 years ago I had a sort of look-back on my life and a kind of 'conversion' -change in my paradigms. Then there was a kind of glow to my life which gradually got dulled in the 'business' and busyness of life. Now, I am actively seeking what went wrong and I came across 3 books- Philokalia, Orthodox Psychotherapy and Christotherapy. Christotherapy being less theological helped me grasp Orthodox Psychotherapy.

With a great deal of surprise and shame I became aware of the many many erroneous scripts that I still carry.I realize that I do need so much of inner healing/ correction that I am doubtful of ever improving my condition and become an authentic human with authentic values, which the writer says is God alone..

The author of Orthodox Psychotherapy tells us that we misuse the intellectual, mental and spiritual gifts of  God, and so we have these problems/ inauthenticity or mismatch or fragmentation. The prayer after 'Our Father' during the Holy Liturgy 'to convert' what is an obstacle to what is useful and helpful makes sense here to me.

The first realization came when I read about 'logismoi'. I realised that my mind is a battleground. (kurukshetra) I also understood the truth of the statement 'As a man thinketh, so is he.' and the value of 'venda kastatha veen chintayum adiyaarennozhikka.' I realized that my reality is to a large extent, subjective and hence my judgments cannot be just.I was a foolish and haughty judge.

I understand that the values that I prided myself about may not really be all that good.

The author of ' Christotherapy' says ' -- every aspect of God's revelation in Christ, has a healing and enlightening meaning and value for the lives of men and women'.

Again, while referring to the healing events, woman with the issue of blood, woman at the well, blind man etc. the author says Jesus 'truly does know what is in individual human hearts (we ourselves are often confused and lack self knowledge) and often, gradually, led individuals in desperate need of healing through various stages of enlightenment until full healing occurred.

Though this may seem to be wrong, I now believe that "much of the suffering and disease that I have faced in my life is a direct symptom of misdirected concerns, erroneous assumptions and beliefs and inauthentic thinking and desiring.'"

I would like to see the 'healing and enlightening meaning' in the Gospels and I don't know how to go about it.

Can you help me? I am keeping away from Qurbana in this confused state. But I know well, from experience, that God renews even the most desperate situations and restores the years that the locusts have eaten. Could you suggest some books or prayers? 'Karunakkadale ' is my position exactly My wounds are severe. But God is kind and good and I have everything worldly-except this sense of incompleteness.

Answer 5

Dear

Each person's experience with God is different. People write about God and God experience out of their understanding of the matter. I do not think that one's opinion would fully and perfectly apply to another person. Any book we may read will only help us understand how that person see things. It will of course also help us to see things through our perspective in an indirect way. But that will not be exactly like that of the author of the book. Here be reminded that we are talking about God and His ways with humans and the rest of the creation. No one in the world can say thing pertaining to God with absolute authority. So the first thing I would say is to give a bit of margin to what ever you read and hear from others. I would not consider every thing I read as fully applicable to me.

The fathers of the Church has said that 'un assumed are unsaved' which means Christ has gone through all stages of human life in this world for those stages to be saved and sanctified. Enlightenment is a strong word which can not be used at liberty. Each one use it to mean different things. Therefore we do not have to be carried away by some suggestion that would tell you will take you to enlightenment. What is, to me, is a Christian way is to try to find own role and path in this world. Looking back is good, but not with desire, contempt or guilt feeling. What we do today thinking wise may be proved to be not so wise an act tomorrow. It can happen the other way also. So also your thoughts and ideas. So what the other person has written yesterday many be proven to be not so wise an opinion tomorrow. This again is because we are talking about God. So look to the outer world with a positive attitude and loving attitude, but do not consider them as gods or absolute.

Living Orthodox way is living as genuine human beings without any pre-conceived notions or with a judgemental approach. The world of course will influence us, but the outside world should not be  allowed to take away the joy of living with God and with one another from us. This is where the relevance of Holy Eucharist comes in to picture. It is not for the perfect ones; rather it is for perfection. Jesus said, “when the spirit of truth comes, it shall lead you to all truth”. This H. Spirit that works through the Holy Eucharist leads us to better understanding of our lives and its role in the world with the rest of the creation and further to be one like God. No one can move along the road to being one like God without frequent participation with Christ through Eucharist since He is “the door”. You are not going to Church to attend the service as some may put it, rather to participate. Participation finds its climax in participating in the body and blood of Christ. No one who attends the service has the right to go away without participating in the body and blood of Christ. That is the sole means of solving any kind of confusion and lack of understanding as it is the Spirit of truth that is present in the Holy Eucharist. As matter of fact a true Christian has no right to keep away from participating in the body and blood of Christ.

So the point I was trying to make are

  1. Let no author or any one else for that matter, how high you may consider him/her to control your life in its eternity.
  2. An Orthodox approach to life is to live a life of love without any complication or confusion.
  3. For any individual who received baptism has to be in participation with Christ for the life forward actualized through participation in the body and blood of Christ.

I am not quite sure whether I addressed you as you wanted to have. But this is where I stand. I would not be carried away by any other person when it comes to my life with Christ, though every one and every thing in the created world would contribute in some way to my life forward. My ultimate goal is 'to be one like God'. That is not done though following some one else theories, rather by trying to be what that person is as God created.

Regards and prayers

Thirumeni

Comments

Thanks thirumeni. That is one of the things that puts me off the whole Ecumenical movement thing. How can those who are unfaithful in the little things be faithful in much bigger things.
We hear some much loud talk at WCC meetings and so on, yet in the little things christian churches in Kerala often cannot rise above pettiness of the most petty sort.

Dear Thirumeni,

I wanted to get some inputs from you regarding something which is unrelated to this post.

I want to know about the nature of our relationship with the Church of the East and their hierarchy in India. I know that we maintain the usual ecumenical ties but is there a scope to move the relationship to a higher level.
I was going through the bio-data's of the newly ordained episcopas. One studied at Marthoma seminary in Kottayam, the other bishop at the Jacobite seminary in Mulanthurthy.
Would it be possible to allow interested candidates from the Chaldean Church to study at our seminary in Kottayam.

Dear Suraj Ipe
I think there has been one of two priest candidates studying in our seminary too. I am not sure. I am sure if applied admission may not be a problem provided they follow general rules regarding life in our seminary. In Kerala to have a higher level understanding is not seen in the near future.
Thirumeni

Not just you, it puts off many. In India and particularly in Kerala Ecumenism means mutual understanding not to cross over boarders, rather help each other protect it. Will stand together to fight for any unjust claims and assumed rights against every one who talk about justice and equality. This is Christian Ecumenical Movement in India. God help us!

Dear Abraham
Disciplinary action has to be taken if a person lives a life against Christian principle. The very word disciplinary means an action towards correction. For example if a person leaves the Church he was a member of, then there is no point in keeping him in and giving the privileges he was entitled. Yes like Peter if a person repents and comes back, he will be re-instated. You read only certain parts of the Bible. Why don't you read Titus 3:10.

Dear Thirumeni,

Thank you response; I understood what you meant.

Your Grace has cleared my doubt in this;

in other words; H. Sacraments cannot be forbidden to a baptized person by a priest/Bishop due to personal/family disagreements?

As long as he/she keeps their responsibility/obligations to Parish/Church no such action can be taken.

Titus 3:10 is very clear. However, it is sad that some glorified priests (not all) with their selfish motives twist the Word of God.

Thanks again; we pray for your good health

Best regards.
Abraham.

Dear Thirumeni

Thank you very much for your prompt response.

Thirumeni, can you please elaborate/explain "under any kind of disciplinary action" ; on what occasions or for what kind of reasons?

If Christ had no restrictions on "Judas" or St.Peter on H. Qurbana, I believe it is not proper to suspend Holy Sacraments, such as H.Qurbana to a baptized person in order to discipline him/her;

Punishing person by suspending H. Sacraments him/her is forcing him/her to submit to unjustified/unreasonable demands/claims. God is the judge, not we.

This is like we are playing God!!! If I am wrong, pls. help me understand.

Judas betrayed Him, yet he was present, Jesus did not take any disciplinary actions: John 13:26-27, he has taken the morsel, we don't know whether he had eaten it or not; but was present and taken the morsel; there were restrictions from Jesus Christ.

St.Peter, who had thrice denied Jesus Christ- John 18:15-27, yet he was present, took part in the H.Qurbana, Jesus did not restrict him!!

Kindly respond. We pray for your well being.

Yours in Him
Abraham.

Dear Thirumeni,

Thank you very much for your response. Hope to meet Grace in person again some time in the near future.

Praying for your well being.

Best regards
Abraham.

Dear Thirumeni,

Hope you are keeping in good health. I have few doubts; request your help in understanding them clearly:

1 Corinthians 5:5- you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

everyone is judged at the last judgement day; is there a point in some people asking "are you saved"? Can a person say I am saved while he/she is in flesh? Is not salvation conditional?

2."Sainthood"- we consider, rather declared some people who have passed away recently from our midst as "saints" ; no one knows these saints will be saved or not?

Since we are not sure of this, why we declare them as saints, both the dead and alive? How can we judge others and give such title?

when in Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus Christ says- For “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

3. The thief on the Cross, whom Jesus said "today you will be with me in Paradise"
Is this thief saved?

Best regards
Abraham.

Kindly respond.

Best regards
Abraham.

Dear Abraham
Thank you for the note. Regarding Holy Qurbana reception, it is the right of a baptized person in the Orthodox Church. Technically he/she can ask or rather demand for H. Qurbana to be administered any time day or night without any questions asked.
However, if a person is under any kind of disciplinary action in the proper manner, the Bishop can suspend this right. However, the person thus suspended has to be intimated properly and there should have been a process through which the person concerned was made aware of the matters relating to the disciplinary action. Further a proper inquiry has to be ordered and if proven guilty that person can be ex-communicated permanently from the Church and from all sacramental rights. If not that person has to be re-instated in the community. Without these procedures no one can deny a faithful person's right to H. Qurbana.
Hope I answered your question.
Regards and prayers
Thirumeni

Dear Thirumeni.

Hope you are keeping fine. I have two questions, kindly help me understand the ambiguities in it, if any:

1. Can an Orthodox Priest/Bishop restrict/refuse in receiving/giving the Holy communion (H.Qurbana), as punishment for any relevant/irrelevant issue?

2. if yes, what are the guidelines.

If it is controversal issue, pls. reply me on my Email

Regards