Questions through MTV

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These are the recent questions I received through MTV and my reply to them
Question 1.

Thanks very much for the new forum to clarify the doubts on Orthodox Faith. Please see below.

What version of HOLY BIBLE is currently being used by Orthodox Church ? Did we change the version we are using recently ?, If it is changed what is the basis of this change?.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,

Answer 1.

If you are asking about Malayalam Bible, for general reading purpose we use Bible published by Bible Society of India. In the Holy Qurbana and during other liturgies, we use Peshia (meaning simple- Syriac version) Bible translated. Every time we have a reprint of a particular book we update the language. Because of that you may think it is a new version. But we always use Peshita version.

Regards and prayers


Question 2.

Happy,healthy and prosperous New Year to Beloved Thirumeni

Could you please tell How many Heavens are there, Based on 1Corinth 12:2 as stated by St.Paul,and what are they?

Many thanks

God bless you!

Answer 2.

Thank you for the greetings. Wish you and your dear ones a Blessed New Year.

I think we have to have a better understanding of the symbols used in our religion. The word ‘heaven’ is a symbol. Earlier people thought heaven is a place some where up in the sky and hell is under the earth. Now with every thing we know about the nature of the universe, these concepts do not hold value. We have to think of what do they really meant when Jesus or others said of heaven and hell. Heaven is a ‘state’ than a place. It is a state where you experience the comforting, loving and caring presence of God. Figuratively you may say that it is ‘above’ or ‘beyond’ In that sense it is ‘up’. But it is not some where above or up the earth. It is above all physical experiences. In 2 Cor. 12:2 (not in 1 Cor. as you said), Paul talks about one of his experiences. There Paul talks about one of his unexplainable experiences of the divine. He is probably talking about himself when he said, ‘I know certain person…’ He says, ‘he does not know whether it was in body or without body’. It certainly was a spiritual (charismatic) experience. The word ‘third’ may mean supreme or paramount. This does not mean that there are several layers of heaven (I am told in the popular Muslim faith, they talk about several layers of heaven, but we do not share that). There is only one Lord and there is only one state of affair with Him. But for those who experience Him, experience may vary in magnitude and effect. To answer your question, I may say there is only one heaven which is the abode of the Holy Trinity.

Regards and prayers


Question 3.

Are we following any particular proportion in the construction of crosses in our churches?

Answer: 3

No we are not following any particular proportion except that the vertical piece down from the centre should be longer than the other three and those three are to be equal in length.

Question 4.

Dear Thirumeni

My first question is in regards to the Holy Confession. In my Orthodox Sunday School Book (Lesson 7- Abiding in the Lord through Holy Confession) it says "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 21:23). Now, the way in which we enter heaven is determined by our own holiness, so if our sins are forgiven we are holy and guaranteed a place in heaven, this is one of the fundamental ideologies about the Holy Eucharist as well. The above verse is Jesus telling his disciples about their power to forgive sins. Later down in my Sunday School Book it says "This authority is entrusted with the priests" and “When sins are confessed before the priests they are forgiven.". My question now relates to the Catholic Pope who according to their faith has the divine power to determine right in front of them whether they will go to heaven or hell, i.e. the Pope can forgive and retain sins. In this respect what is the deference between the Catholic faith and common sense (which should be the Orthodox faith). I know that priests are not a substitute for disciples or Jesus but if this is what is being taught in our Seminaries, I cannot help but wonder whether our deacons are taught that they are supreme. What I do not understand is that “This authority is entrusted with our priests". My argument is that this teaching is wrong, it is only a right given to the disciples.

My next question relates to Jesus’ act of sacrifice that is a Holy Being spilling His Blood for us sinners. What is the logic behind such an act? How does shedding Blood make us forever holy?  We can say the logic is passion, but such a selfless act (even though He knows He will arise) can't possibly set us free. How? What is the logic, it doesn't make us better people or lessen the fact that we are still sinners.

My third question is about amorality and the meaning of life. We know that God is all knowing and supreme, so then what is the meaning of life? God has created everything, us humans included so that we can fulfill His purpose (whether His purpose is purposeless we do not know).  Are you saying that a murder has defied God (His purpose) by murdering? No, whatever He instilled has been done or will be done, so if He said that a person should murder, that person will murder for reasons that beyond our understanding; thus proving that there is no such thing as right or wrong in the eyes of God. So now tell me the meaning of life. If life is not necessarily to help others or to be good to others (because there is no such thing as right or wrong), then what is the meaning of life? This question comes down to fate and destiny; we will do what we were meant to do, and whether it was good or bad is totally irrelevant. Can you now see why I do not believe in heaven or hell? After some thought I have said the meaning of life is just to live it, but while you are alive, why not enjoy it? Do you agree with the philosophy of fate and amorality?

Now my fourth question relates to the accuracy of the Bible. Do you think man created religion because man, at his core is frightened of death, and the idea of dying? If I said that I was the incarnation of God and spread my ideology, got people to write a book on my philosophies and got many followers, why won’t you believe that I am God? There is a story, once upon a time there were a group of people that were chained to face the wall of a cave, one day a man turned his head around and saw light, he tried to tell the others that there was such thing as light, but the other people of the cave could believe him because they had never seen light before. This is how the fathers of the church (and its faithful) feel, they feel like the man in the cave that turned around and saw light, they feel like the man who tried explain light to the people who have only known darkness.  But this is the truth, the fathers of the church and its faithful are not primary sources, they have not seen light, rather they have been told of light and simply just believe it and try to convince others of things they have not seen themselves. What I am saying is isn’t religion just a cult that believes in, from George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ a ‘Sugar Candy Mountain’. What do you think about the above statement?

I will try come with more questions if I can. I would also like to thank you for creating such a service like Orthodoxy, I know I can ask my teachers and the Achen but still to get an 'expert opinion' is good.

Thank You,

Answer: 4.

Before I answer your questions, let me tell you, you need to discern what you read. There are a lot of stuff available, literature, fiction etc. You can not judge our faith with what you read in them.

Now regarding your questions: 1. John 21:23 does not say what you said. I do not know whether you went wrong or the Sunday School book printed it wrong. What you said is seen in John 20:23. What every Jesus talked about to the disciples, he talked about every one who believes in him (see. John 14:12; 17:20). Those who believe in Jesus will do what he did to others. You may also read passages like Matthew 6:12; 9:6; Mark 1:5; 2:10; Luke 5:24; 11:4; 17:3; 24:47. I do not think Catholic Church teaches that only Pope can forgive sins (in the middle ages Pope claimed that he has a special authority to permit people skip what they called Purgatory. But that is not followed any more). Priesthood is promised to all who believed in Christ (1 Pet. 2:9).  But those who are trained and are given proper authorization can only exercise it. By virtue of this authorization the ordained priests get the right to pardon sins, a right given to all in Christ. This does not make any one, not to mention the priests, superior to any one else. All are servants to others in Christ.

2. Who said Jesus blood alone make us change? This is what the sectarian people say, not any of the Orthodox Churches. The birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and the second coming together save us. That is what we proclaim in the Holy Eucharistic liturgy. Jesus as the representative of the whole human race, of all ages, passed through all stages of human life in this world. Through that he took us through to salvation, not just the blood. We by actualizing it in our loves through accepting him as our Lord through our acts and deeds get saved. It is not a magical thing that happens in our lives, but through active participation in him and his life in this world.

3. No we do not believe in fate. God’s purpose for His creation is quite positive. He wants us to make this world a better place. What is better is decided by how it helps others. Mutual respect, love and caring is what God wants from us. What ever we may think, say and do should contribute to that end. The morality is decided by how it helps others in making the world a better place for them. It will then be a better place for you too since others will also be working under that principle. This is the morality of Christ. How do we do this is decided by us and not by God to say there is no pre-written agenda with which we live. Principle for our lives is set by God, agenda through which this principle is put to concrete practice is made by humans.

4. Some religions were created by humans by reason of fear. But some by reason of love. There are several ancient religions that fall in the first category. But Christianity is not one among them. Rather it is created on the foundation of love. Animan Farm is a fiction and a piece of literature. It is not to be taken as a spiritual text book. It is not the ideology that matters in Christianity. It is the vicarious life of Christ that matters in our religion.

Regards and prayers


Question 5:

Dear Tirumeni,

Why there is a lighted candle while the Kalpana of Bava Tirumeni is read in the church after \Holy Qurbana.What is the significance of that.

Answer 5.

For the Orthodox Church the foundation of our faith is that handed down by the Apostles and those interpreted by the teachers of the Church. Combined both, we may say ‘tradition’ is the foundation. Tradition includes the Biblical writings, writings of the father and teachings of the leaders of the Church. They hold rather equal authority. Prelates in the Church fall in the category of the teachers and leaders in worship. So their encyclicals or pastoral letters that contain interpretation and contextualizing of faith need to be accepted equal in importance as that of the epistles of the disciples of Christ including Paul. So we read the epistles of the prelates (presiding bishops and Bava Thirumenis) just the way we read the epistles of the disciples of our Lord. Here we differ in our understanding of the foundation of faith from the Catholics and the Protestants. Catholics would put Bible and tradition side by side and Protestants would account only the scripture (sola scriptura).

Regards and prayers


Question 6.

Dear Thirumeni,

All of us want to wish you a merry christmas and a happy new year.

Hope all is well. And as promised one question. Why do we burn the palm leaves on christmas?

Does intelligence on another planet disprove the existence of God?

I know God gave us free will and intellect which sits us apart from any other creature, but if we find life that has those gifts does that disprove God?

Answer 6.

Thank you for waiting. Regarding your questions: 1. We burn on Christmas day palm leaves used on Palm Sunday. But this is not a must. Fire wood can be used for the purpose. If there are palm leaves left from Palm Sunday, that also can be used. If there are cotton left from Good Friday that also can be burnt in that fire. Much of the palm leaves used on Palm Sunday would have been given away to the people. Those are not burnt. Only if some is left, this is used as a good occasion to burn them.

2. No, intelligence on other planet does not disprove the existence of God. Rather it will only prove that our understanding about the person of God and His world was limited. Any new invention or new information will show that we are creations with limits, but God puts intelligence in us to overcome that slowly to see the complete picture.

Love and prayers


Question 7.

Most respected Thirumeni,

Let me at the outset wish you a fruitful Year ahead... Hope you are keeping fine by the Grace of God. May the Lord God strengthen you more....

Thirumeni, I would like to get a clear picture about Paradise (Parudisa). Is Paradise and purgatory the same thing ? If there is no such thing, why did Christ say to the thief "Today you shall be with me in paradise?" At the same time we believe that Christ went to hell to  set free the souls. Doesn't this points to a place other than His Father's Place? Christ certainly did not go to the Father till ascension and so he says to Mary not to touch Him. Is there any theological or Biblical reference to substantiate the above questions? Kindly advise.

Everything is fine here. I have been given the additional charge of St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, kolkata as vicar w.e.f 1st January, 2012. Please remember me & my family in your prayers.

Answer 7.

Thank you for the greetings. I wish you and your dear ones a Blessed New Year.

According to Orthodox understanding, there is no purgatory. There is no reference in the saying of Jesus or any of the epistles about this. This is solely a western concept. This concept was used by Pope to make some money in the middle ages to build Vatican city.

Paradise and hell certainly are Biblical concepts and we believe they exist. The question ‘where’ is applicable only in the case of physical existence of something. The dead ones do not have any physical existence. So they do not need ‘a place’ to exist. Hence the right word used in the context should be ‘with whom’ or ‘in what state’. We may say, with Christ or without Christ. With Christ is paradise and without Christ is hell. Our faith is that any one who dies continue the life he/she had in this world till the second coming of Christ not in a static way, but alive. Here alive is understood differently as the state of the dead is not physical. One who was with Christ in this world will continue to live and grow in that relationship even after death. This is paradise in experience. This relationship is marked and further helped by the caring help of others and fellow believers both living and dead. This caring is manifested in remembrance, prayers, and worshipping fellowship. Those who live a life away from God shall, after death, continue in that state. Their relationship with other both living and dead will not be perfect and hence they will be restless due to lack of relationship with creator and creatures. This is hell to them. So what Jesus told the thief on the cross is that, he shall hence forth be with the Lord. Then Jesus went to the midst of the departed. That state, by his presence was then transformed to a state of bliss and consequently paradise. Jesus asking Mary not to hold on to (John 20:17) him. This verse has been wrongly translated in Malayalam. Jesus did not ask her not to touch her, rather asked her not to hold on to him. This has to be understood in the context of the mission entrusted with Mary by Jesus to go and tell his disciples of his resurrection. If she, in an emotional state, stay back, disciples would not get the good news and Jesus would not be revealed as a resurrected Lord and then He will not be able to be lifted up to the Father. So she had to go and inform the disciples.

I am sending you part of an answer I sent to another question for your added reference.

I hope and pray your added responsibility may be for the glory of the Lord and for the blessing of His people.

Regards and prayers



Dear Thirumeni,
Hope you are fine.Happy New year.

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