When Priesthood goes astray, Jesus is crucified.

Some years back, in a publication of the Catholic Church, a nun lamented that when ordinary people err, the matter is treated lightly, but when a priest or a nun commits even a small mistake, it is blown out of proportion by the people. I wrote back to her that this was because we ordinary people look up to them to show us how to live to be pleasing in the eyes of God and when our models  and idols crumble, it hurts us deeply.  However, once we stand on our own without props, priests and models loose their relevance and we learn to live according to the truth in us that stands revealed, often through the rituals and practices of religion, which serves to point us to the way.

The message that His Holiness Baselius Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicose of the Malankara Orthodox Church, gave at the 112th memorial feast of St Gregorios of  Parumala was published in ‘Malankara Sabha Deepam’ and here I am reproducing it in English because I think it is very relevant  today.

For the last one week, we have been observing and celebrating the memorial of the Holy Parulama Thirumeni, who has disappeared from our physical vision 112 years ago, but whom we experience in our lives as a great and holy saint. Today, when the Eucharistic sacrifice and processions wind up, this week of celebrations will also come to a close. I think it would be fruitful at this time to consider in brief, the contributions of Parumala Thirumeni.

We the high priests/ bishops are persons who communicate a lot about God. The priesthood is made up of those who teach a lot about God. But Parumala Thirumeni was one who transmitted God to ordinary people, much more than he talked about Him. Teaching and transmitting are two different things. If teaching is an intellectual act, transmitting God is an act of living, or one carried out through the process of one’s life itself. I believe that this is what Parumala Thirumeni did. If Thirumeni had not transmitted God to others, perhaps thousands of people would not have gathered here for the Orma Perunnal (memorial feast).

It is not easy to enumerate the number of people who came here during the last week. When we ask why (they came), it is because Thirumeni did not teach about God but transmitted God. Transmitted God more than taught about God. This is an important truth. How did Thirumeni do it? Through the holiness of Thirumeni’s life. What is a holy life? The difference between man’s holiness in life and God’s Holiness was explained to the gathered people by HG Mar Aprem briefly and excellently yesterday at Sandhya Namaskaram (Evening service).

What is a holy life? The moral and intellectual aspects of holiness can be gasped by us. Generally, when our bodies get dirty we bathe. There are those who scrub with soap and others use gram flour. We bathe to get rid of grime. Yesterday I said (at an address somewhere) that Malayalis are believed to bathe twice a day, but when we get out on the road we doubt that they bathe at all.  We have a culture of throwing all garbage and filth out on the road. But we must not forget that the garbage and filth within us far exceed the garbage and filth we throw out on the road. When we say that Parumala Thirumeni lead a holy life, we must also remember what a holy life is. God has installed a system within us for purifying our bodies. The Kidneys are organs that purify our blood and remove the toxins in our bodies. If a person’s kidneys are not functioning properly, he will need dialysis. If the dialysis does not work, he will go up very quickly.  What I am saying is this: in order to transmit God, the ability to transmit God can be gained only through spiritual life.

Spiritual life is not easy. It is an ongoing process. It is not possible in one day. It cannot be gained in two. This purification process must go on deep within us till the end of our lives. It is a fact that if this process is blocked at any time, man dies. Therefore, Parumala Thirumeni transmitted God through spiritual living. Therefore Thirumeni became a friend of God. Since Thirumeni became a friend of God, God is giving Thirumeni what he asks for. Given unconditionally. It is because of this understanding that we gather here.

Why does God not listen when we ask? You must have said many things and I too have said a thousand things. Except for small answers occasionally, nothing substantial was received. Since Parishudha Parumala Thirumeni became a friend of God, God is granting his requests.

Moses and Yahova (Yahweh ) argue occasionally. When Moses says, I am fed up with these people. I shall destroy them etc. Yahova calms him down. Sometimes Yahova gets angry and says that He would not let any one in the desert  remain alive and Moses tells Yahova that He should not do it because the Gods of the gentiles shall mock Him. If  You bring the people along over all this distance into the desert and then kills them, Your reputation would suffer. I am exaggerating this, but I am conveying the spirit of the Bible passage which you get when you read it. This is a conversation between friends. It is this right to converse with God as a friend that Parumala Thirumeni achieved through the holiness of his life.

I will remind you of one thing. The priesthood is the source of holiness for a Church. Ordinary people believe that the priesthood is their model and guide. We all believe that. But when they go in the wrong path, there is immense danger.

Let us think about the last days of our Lord. Why was He crucified? It was a conspiracy between a father –in-law and a son-in-law. Jesus was killed due to the plot hatched by High Priests Annas and Caiaphas. I will assert, where priesthood goes astray, Jesus gets killed. If Annas and Caiaphas had not gone astray, Pilate would not have had any problem administering justice. Pilate is constrained by the scheming of these two high priests, powerless to carry out justice. Even though his beloved wife whispers advice in his ear, he could not  be fair-because Annas and Caiaphas and the high priests have already gone astray.  Therefore Pilate could not carry out justice. Because Pilate could not carry out justice, the people lost their way. The people who had called Jesus ‘King’ on Sunday called Him ‘thief of thieves’ by Friday.  Who was behind this turning of events? Annas and Caiaphas ! If Annas and Caiaphas had not lost their direction, Jesus would not have been crucified. If Jesus Christ had to be crucified, there would have been another way. Another aspect (to consider), people expect this (righteousness) from those who profess to lead the way to a life of holiness. God expects this. When priesthood looses the sense of direction, Jesus is slain. This is certain.

For this (holy life) priesthood must lead the way with virtue and humility in holiness. Priesthood must itself control priesthood. Priesthood is neither to be controlled by the legal system, nor by the people. How should priesthood control itself? There are two or three methods. The first is self examination before and in consultation with God to recognize whether priesthood is going on the wrong path. Here conscience can be made the witness for the prosecution. There we will come to know whether priesthood is going astray. The laws and codes of the Church may be examined if so desired. The written and unwritten laws of the Church. We can understand what we are saying exactly. We can also reflect on what God’s holy word tells us. Under the circumstances, if priesthood must be the guide and it is recognized that it has gone astray, there are only two options. The first is the option chosen by St Peter. Peter’s way was to turn around and come to the Lord and apologize when he realized that he has gone astray. It was not an exhibition of regret, but an apology marked by uncontrollable weeping. The Lord accepted his apology. Judas also apologized (He regretted his deed), but it was not appropriate. In the end Judas went along his own way.

What I am saying is that Parishudha Parumala Thirumeni did not explain God  but he was transmitting (pouring out) God. Each of us must try to follow this. That is why Parumala Thirumeni is our guide. He was not just the guide of the Orthodox Church, but was a guide for the multi-religious, multi cultural society. He was a friend of God. Because he was a friend of God he could approach God with freedom and talk to God on any matter. There is a Lord who fulfils his requests. It is because of this that you have come here. Perhaps you desire to talk privately to him. Perhaps it is some benefit that you seek. Do not be afraid. Parumala Thirumeni transmitted God, he did not explain God. As we often think,  scholarship cannot help win God, nor can wealth earn God. It is possible only in a limited manner. It is not possible through health or beauty. We can win God only through spiritual life and holy life. It is not possible otherwise. What is said to be possible is only the eligibility or skill to explain God.

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Therefore Parumala Thirumeni became the friend of God, So the faithful run to him. The faithful  do not know theology. They are not certain how to pray. ‘O Thirumeni help!’ This is the common man’s prayer. A  sinner and a Pharisee who had studied the Law, went to pray at the same time. We know what happened. If we read the Bible, we will not pray with perfect grammar and composition. ‘Please don’t abandon me! I am in trouble’. Beating chest in agony. He (the sinner) only said ‘Have mercy on me!’ The other man (Pharisee) said everything.

I remember now, some of you may also remember, one of our late senior bishops said once, ‘Those who are intellectual do not have devotion/ bhakthi and those who have bhakthi/ are devout, are not intellectual. I have neither.  Your minds must now be recalling the person who said this.

What I mean is this, as long as we are not prepared to lead holy lives, we cannot become friends of God. Whatever reasons we put forth, life is an effort to conform to God completely. We cannot conform perfectly, but with our minds, our spirits and our thoughts we can live in conformity with God. The world is unclean. But it is in the midst of these unclean surroundings that we must lead holy lives. The Lotus is a beautiful flower but it is rooted in slime and dirt. When the world is filled with contamination, we must be able to illuminate it through our holy lives. It is only then that we can also transmit God. That is what Parumala Thirumeni did.

I do not want to make this long. When the knowledgeable and ignorant, scholar and non scholar, poor and rich come to his presence and with honest sincerity request God in their own individual ways, Parumala Thirumeni will speak to God on their behalf. When he speaks, if it is something that is needed, God will allow it. If it is not needed, even if Parumala Thirumeni requests, it would not be granted. We should not be offended by that. The Lord has foreseen that this is not meant for us and so this response. That is my belief.

We are celebrating the 112th commemoration feast of Parumala Thirumeni. He is the guide of the Malankara Church. He is the father who transmitted God to the Malankara Sabha and the world. He did not hold his health dear. He cherished only God.

I have tried to reflect what my chief problems are. When I reflected, I found that I am infected by four diseases. 1. Spiritual decay, 2. Indiscipline, 3. Desire for power and authority, 4. Conflict/dissension.

These four diseases have affected me. I do not know whether they have affected anybody else. Spiritual decay, indiscipline, lust for power and dissension are grave diseases affecting spiritual life. If we sit humbly at the feet of God, requesting the intercession of Parumala Thirumeni for uprooting these four diseases  and then go forth, God will be with us. This is the only way the Malankara Church can go forward. It is a church that is 2000 years old. It has an apostolic tradition. In many places Christian Churches with apostolic tradition have become rusted and decayed. But we in India have not faced this situation. We have nothing to be proud of in this. What I wish to say is that this Malankara Church must go forward as a guiding light to the world retaining its apostolic traditions and nurtured by the love of Parumala Thirumeni. Let me wind up now. May the intercession and protection of the Holy Parumala Thirumeni, Holy Marthoma Sleeha, Holy Saints Peter and Paul be with us ! May God bless you all .”

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Omana

Now that I am over fifty and aware of the ground realities, I often wonder about Omana. I also understand why many of the important characters in the  stories of Madhavikutty alias Kamala Das, are maids, houseboys, drivers and helpers around the house. Around and about them, a child hears and sees many things which he cannot understand and stores them up to recollect and classify in adulthood when he or she has acquired worldly wisdom.

 

Omana must have been around 13 when she was brought to our house by her father as a helper. She was dark with protruding cheeks and a comically ugly face. She had small skin eruptions on her arms and face.

 

The kitchen was the dominion of Thankamma, who was a widow of over 45 and who had been with us for years. Omana did the cleaning and other small odd jobs.  We also had a man, who did the marketing and attended to my father’s needs like cleaning the car, putting his files in the jeep, marketing and so on. We were a big family by today’s standards, My Dad and Mom and five children besides the two maids and the man Sreedharan.

 

One day, soon after Omana joined us, I found my mother doing something that she had never ever done before or after till today. She sent Sreedharan out and summoned a cycle rickshaw and went off with Omana in it and came back after some time. She had never gone out alone before.

 

I heard her tell Thankamma, “ I went out to the back yard yesterday and found Omana sitting on the ground crying and trying to urinate. She was in a lot of pain. Her private parts are severely infected. That is why I took her to the doctor today.’

 

They exchanged knowing looks.

 

My sister kept her distance from Omana as she did have a rather disgusting appearance, and whenever we went out to the sea shore or the park, Omana was given the window seat and I had to sit next to her.

 

Omana used to sleep next to my cot on a mat on the floor.  At night she would start groaning and I would wake up to find her asleep with her legs up in the air. Gradually, her sullenness disappeared; and so did her disfiguring skin eruptions which had dotted her arms and face. Her nightmares apparently went away as she started to sleep soundly. She also played with me in the evening and listened to the movie songs on the radio. She was a passionate gardener and grew cucumber and Okra in our garden, first burying green leaves of the Konna in the ground to prepare the soil and then planting the seedlings. She was even allowed to help out in the kitchen and my father praised her for her Rasam.

 

 

Two years went by comfortably and her parents just collected her wages. One day, when Omana turned 16, her father turned up.

 

‘We are taking her home. A marriage proposal has come for her from a Jawan and we would like to see her settled.’ he said.

 

It was agreed that he would come to collect her the next month.

 

I teased her about the soldier, but she seemed unhappy and slipped back into sullen brooding.

 

I heard my mother say to Thankamma, ‘He wants her back now that she is well and has blossomed into a young woman. What can we do? Poor thing.’

 

Omana left with her father after one month and I lost a friend and playmate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snakes

Suddenly the snakes were everywhere. A big fat rat-snake that used to be seen slithering around the water-lily tank had disappeared and no snake had been seen in the area for quite some time. This peaceful time was disturbed by two events. First, the empty tile-roofed old house opposite my brother in law, Sunnychayan’s place was demolished. Soon afterwards it was reported that several small vipers were killed near the demolition site. It was widely discussed and we came to the conclusion that the snakes had been forced out of their habitat under the old house. There was a lull then, my sister in law Susan, staying two doors from our house gave us the story of another snake sighting. Jittu, a young guitarist returning home saw the big snake, allegedly a cobra,  in the lane opposite to the demolished house. It stood with raised hood and the scared youngster waited in paralyzed terror. The snake slithered off somewhere.

 

Then my husband told me that he had seen a snake, which he assured me was a harmless rat snake, coming from the house next door to our right, crossing our compound and moving to our neighbor on the left. Thereafter I was alert and careful even when I went to feed the fish in the lily tank or  to look for ripe papayas or hot tiny Kaanthari chillies to spice up the thoran.

 

A few days later, my husband’s sister Susie staying in the suburbs rang us . ‘Yesterday night, when I went out to gather the dried clothes from the clothes line, I stepped on a snake. It wound itself round my leg, but did not bite me.’

 

‘What did you do?’

 

‘Prakash (their son) was at the site where a water pipe had burst and so Achayen took me to the doctor. They checked and said that I was not bitten, but warned us that we should immediately go to the MedicalCollegeHospital should I develop any discomfort later in the night’

 

I relayed the story to my sister in law Susan, who remarked “There is something wrong. So many snakes all at once and that too within our family’.

 

We have three Susans in our family, Susan the elder brother’s wife, Susie the eldest sister and myself, Susan the youngest brother’s wife.

 

Then came the worst incident of all. On the evening of the day that we had invited guests for dinner, there was a sudden hullabaloo from outside. The young woman and her children occupying our ancestral tiled house at the back of our residence were outside, crying ;’Snake ! snake!’

 

My husband and I rushed to the house, and the lady told us that there was a snake hiding in the heap of dirty laundry in their bedroom.  She had been sleeping with their younger child, a boy of two and the elder, a ten year old girl had woken her up.

 

‘Amma, amma, there is a tail protruding from the clothes in the corner. What is it?

 

Amma had looked and found that it was a dark and long tail of a snake.

 

My husband immediately took a stick and was trying to rush in when I stopped him. He had recently fractured his tibia and was still only hobbling around. “If the snake tries to strike’, I said, ‘you would not even be able to move aside. Don’t be foolish.’

 

The lady called some workers who were building their new house nearby and two North Eastern men who could hardly understand what we were trying to tell them came and went in gingerly to the bedroom. They poked at the heap with the stick and said that the snake was behind the washing machine. After a while they said that it had moved behind the wardrobe and then had disappeared. After some more poking around, they left. The family also left to sleep at their parents’ place as they were not sure whether the snake had left or was still hiding among the cupboards and book shelves in the house. Next day the house was given a through cleaning up and no snake was seen, but a big frog was located under the washing machine. Perhaps the snake had come in to catch the frog.

 

Next night my sister in law Susan called again. ‘Two snakes,’ she said, ‘ were seen by Anil just now in his backyard. Don’t go out in the dark without shoes or a light and don’t allow Kochan to go out at all’ she said. Anil’s house was behind hers.  Kochan is my son nearly six feet tall and thirty years of age, but being the youngest grandson, he is still considered a baby as his name. Kochan meaning ‘small boy’ implies.

 

‘Something is wrong’, she added broodingly,  ‘Don’t you think so? Snake twining round Susie’s leg and now snakes in and around our place. St. Gregorios is the one who protects us from snakes’.

 

My husband’s other sister Leela  rang me from Ernakulam ‘When we found a snake on the bed in our house at Palavila, Appachen (her father in law) went to St. George’s church at Palayam and prayed there and thereafter no snake ever came to our house.’

 

St. George is depicted in Icons astride a horse with a lance pointing at a dragon or snake at the feet of his mount. I have often wondered about the meaning of the Icon because Icons are not portraits and are intended to point at a transcendent reality. I had concluded that perhaps the dragon depicts the shadows and dragons in our psyche and St George helps us reconcile them. Some stores  of St. George say that he tamed the dragon which followed him from his lair into the city.

 

Anyway, I looked up about snakes in the Internet and came to understand that there were deadly snakes other than the Cobra in Kerala and most of the snake bite deaths came from the bite of the Krait. It was long and had white marks down its back and its bite, unlike the bite of the Cobra a Krait bite was easily mistaken for that of an insect or rodent, but soon death would overcome the victim. September and October were the breeding season of snakes. Aayilyam of Kanni and Tulaam,  (September-October) are the days of the festival at Mannarsaala, the temple dedicated to snake God Naagaraja in Kerala. This was the season of snakes and with kids rushing barefoot around the compound we could not afford to take any chances. Some had suggested calling up Vava Suresh, the famed snake catcher who was adept at catching King Cobras and dangerous snakes. But we were not sure about the location of the snake which seemed to appear at different places. Moreover my husband and one of his brothers were sure that it was only a harmless rat snake come to catch rats inhabiting the compound and digging up our plants. In such a case, calling up Vava Suresh would be an impertinence.

 

Whatever the reason for the snakes appearing around our place, next day, we went to the Church of St. George in the City and prayed there. We also left requests for remembrance at the altar during the Holy Liturgy for our departed as well as for ourselves and lit candles at the Kurishadi, the small prayer kiosk in front of the Church which is frequented by the passers by who come in out of the crowded street for a moment to pray.

 

The calm serenity of the Church which is left open for pilgrims was a blessing in itself. Suddenly there were no more stories of snakes. We have not sighted a snake thereafter.

 

 

 

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A matter of perception.

My cell phone sprang to shrill life, startling me and the dentist whose gloved hand was deep in my mouth. He lifted his hand and asked

‘Do you want to answer the phone? You will have to wait till the plaster has dried.’

I was being measured for a cap for one of my molars,

I took the phone from him. It was my wife.

As soon as the work was over I rang my wife. She had tried to reach me a couple of times during the interval.

‘What is it?’

She said ‘This woman Baby is shouting here. She is creating so much noise  that the neighbors are probably listening and she  is abusing me, Perhaps she thinks that she can shame me and scare me in this manner. She says she was being underpaid and exploited. She says she has been coming here at 7 and leaving at 12.45. How she lies!’

‘OK. I will be there soon. Then we’ll talk.

By the time I reached home, my wife had dismissed the maid who had been working for us during the past two months while our regular maid was on leave attending  her daughter‘s confinement. My wife had also called up the agency which had supplied this maid Baby to us and had complained to them. They offered a substitute but she refused.

My wife was very upset. She recounted the whole incident to me. She had asked the maid to go with her to the terrace to spread the laundered clothes on the clothesline. She carried a bucket  of clothes from the washing machine and her maid another. My wife had already washed her blouses and inner wear by hand. Baby completed spreading out the clothes from the bucket she carried and started putting the clothespins on them.

My wife who was busy putting clothes on the line said said, “There are more clothes.’

Baby  kept silent. My wife said that this is her regular practice. When she is asked to do something, she plays deaf and my wife repeats till she acknowledges the instruction. She had made up her mind to be patient. She was trying to learn Orthodox Christianity and she had learned that all persons  that you encounter are images of God; Baby included. They may have come into your life to teach you about dark areas in your own character. So one must be awake and listen to the presence of God in each person

Baby answered “I have not run off. I am clipping the clothes.’

My wife noted this deviation from Baby’s regular behavior of silent insolence. ‘She is now  openly insolent’, she concluded,  ‘but I shall ignore it.

As they were coming down the stairs, my wife noticed areas of accumulated dust on the landing and told Baby, pointing to the spot.

‘Today, when you do the cleaning, please wipe this area’.

Baby was two steps down and refused to look where my wife was pointing and said “ I always clean this area’.

My wife pointed to the dust again, but Baby repeated her stand.

My wife said, ‘Why don’t you come up and look at the dust accumulated here?’

She was getting irritated and waged a war within. ‘Should I keep silent or should I speak out? If I allow her to be insolent every time, I would lose my authority.’ She also remembered that this was the first time Baby was in the house when her husband was not there.  Baby judged her to be a meek and easily scared person.

She must establish her position or throw her out. She asked Baby ‘Why do you answer me with insolence each time?’

It was as if a dam had burst. “How was I insolent? Tell me that! “ Baby started shouting at the top of her voice. “This happens every time. When people have paid for a couple of months they do not want to pay anymore. No one will work with you. You are abusive. You take 200 rupees work and pay 150. only.’

She said ‘I am paying a Hundred and sixty a day. ‘ And in addition the Agency takes ten rupees every day from Baby and twenty from me as commission. She thought.

‘I do not know what you pay. You may be paying the agency. You are paying me only hundred and fifty. I come at 7 every day and there are days when you have made me work till 12.45, though I am only hired for 4 hours’.

My wife was astonished. The woman would come any time between 7.45 and 8.15.AM She would work for around three hours and then would become restive and would become sullen. My wife would give her some odd job, which would keep her for another ten or fifteen minutes and then she would rush off. Here she was shouting to the world that she worked for nearly six hours for the wage of four hours when she hardly worked for three. If she can lie so shamelessly, tomorrow she may even accuse us of harassment and we would be in a fix.

‘You have never come at seven and you know it. Under the circumstances, I do not want your services from tomorrow.’ She said.

She called up the Agency in the presence of Baby. The Agency tried to evade her, but she rang them repeatedly and expressed her anger at their sending such an unsuitable person to her.  Baby was meanwhile shouting’ I may starve from tomorrow, but we will survive even eating our own feces. Call yourself a Christian, do you?  No wonder you cannot keep servants’.

‘I am sure that now the rains have stopped, you will have work with the rubber tappers’. My wife could only find this reason for Baby’s sudden outburst. She wanted an excuse to leave for work near her home.

‘It is none of your business. It is none of your business where I work and what I earn, I may get paid in lakhs but it is none of your business’. She raved on in this manner

In between she heard Baby say “I do not have your education. I do not know to talk like you. I know only this way.’

My wife realized that there was no point in arguing with this abusive woman, she was from another world and had a different set of rules. She had ample evidence indicating that  Baby hid fruits to carry home and also shook talcum from the dressing table into bits of paper and hid it in her person. She had once followed Baby into the bedroom to be greeted by the strong smell of newly shaken our Cuticura Original, She had also seen that the Chakli in the bottle was suddenly reduced. But Baby had told her that she had two teenage daughters at home. She was motivated by pity at Baby’s penury and kept giving gifts of nail polish and chikki for the girls. She even allowed Baby to pack the vegetable thoran and Rava Upma with ghee and groundnuts that she had cooked on that day to give to Baby’s daughters. She always took care that Baby’s breakfast was cooked fresh and placed in a casserole to be kept warm as was her tea in a small flask.  Baby should never feel that we considered her inferior and she should get as much nourishment as possible. She gave Baby a mid morning snack with fresh lime juice.

Baby had qualities which my wife would not have tolerated in others. She chewed pan and would come into the house with her mouth full of the red juice.

‘Please do not spit in my bathrooms’. She would admonish. “I have a toothache ‘ Baby said and my wife had given her some cloves to bite on to dull the pain. She would advise Baby to have her teeth checked even though she knew that Baby would not have the money to do so. She wanted to lend her something, but felt that immediately it would be diverted to meet other urgent needs.

My wife was also careful to hide the grocery she purchased in bulk as she felt guilty each time she became aware of Baby’s abject poverty. She really wanted to help her out and was even thinking about giving her daughters some money for their education. But they would also get government grants for backward classes. She was also scared of being put upon.

Baby had a cooking gas connection but could not buy gas as now she had to pay the full amount without subsidy. She could not raise the sum and she had come to know that the subsidy would be credited much later and some amount would be deducted towards conveyance and other expenses. She also went to swell the ranks of the crowds when Sonia Gandhi visited the city. She liked VS better, but she got paid for attending political meetings. The party workers had to show impressive crowds and the same lot attended each public meeting for a pay

Why did Baby react with so much hate? She had once, in the past, awakened herself from her sullen stillness to say “How much arrogance in spite of so much illnesses!”

My wife had brooded a bit on the feelings which had evoked this exclamation from Baby. ‘Does she think me arrogant? I am half scared of her and I am so patient with her sullenness’ , she told me. Now I could see that she was wondering again. Why did Baby hate her? She had tried her best to be generous and gave her gifts of food, household items and clothes almost every day. Could it be that what she took for insolence was just Baby trying to joke? Or could it be that Baby really hated her for her fairer skin, her house, her abundance and her authority to dispense charity to herself, who was dark, low caste, in abject poverty and bound to work for the affluent to make enough for her most basic needs?

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The purpose of the Orthodox Church is to enable and nourish its children to lead a successful and happy life in this world, sharing responsibly in the many gifts that God has bestowed on man and growing spiritually towards the ultimate goal- being brothers and sisters of Christ and members of one family- the family of God.  As I understand, the children of the Church include the Pentecostals and the Charismatics too- every one from Adam down and if they do not find the Orthodox ways comprehensible, it may be that they have not yet reached the foot of the mountain up which the Orthodox  faithful are being lead by the Church through each spiritual seasonal cycle. The faithful include the ewes, the old and frail, the lambs and the sick and maimed and require different care and different fare as well as different speed and terrain.  In the story of Gideon in the book of Hebrews, victory  was not achieved through human might or through the involvement of all, but through the obedience of a focused select few. These people were not preferred above others and had no superiority except their total involvement in the matter at hand. And the Bible says that in the end, the victory was shared by all. In my considered opinion, which may be flawed, the Orthodox have no cause to crow over their superiority, but must work, moment by moment, in fear and trembling, for their own salvation and through it, the salvation of the world.

To explain further, a lamp or salt to which Christ compared his followers, do not have to strive to convert others into lamps or salt crystals, but by being true to that which God bestowed on them, dispel darkness, rot and decay and add savour to life and the world in general. The first and foremost thing that is required is being true to one-self, or being an integrated whole, centerd in Christ.

Many persons migrate to other churches thinking that the Orthodox Church is dead and cannot help them share an experience of the transcendent God whereas the Pentecost and Charismatic have it. I do not know the sort of experience that they afford, but there are many experiences to be had, through drugs and other chemicals, through psychological and psychical manipulations, electrical stimulation etc.

One can even hear voices (‘ Phantoms in my Brain’). So it is easy to be lead astray and fall prey to the many wolves that lie in wait to fatten themselves on the ewes and the lambs and sometimes even on the strong rams.

Jesus made it clear to us that true prayer is in our ‘inner closet’ and true worship is not in temples or mountains but in Spirit and in Truth. It is when one is able to worship in Spirit and in Truth that one gains an experience of God because as Jesus said, ‘God is Spirit’. It is then that we exercise the freedom given through the incarnation, reconciling us with God.  Perhaps this is the place where God walked with Adam before the fall and which is now protected by the Angel with the whirling sword.

 

 

 All ancient religions and ancient Christian writings such as the Philokalia and the “Cloud of the Unknowing” tells us that we can get this experience of God who is beyond our knowledge and our senses only if we are able to go beyond our waking and sleeping (dreaming and dreamless) states.

Man lives in a world of experiences and his experiences come through his senses. I see and hear and taste and smell and  think about them with my mind and judge these experiences through my intellect. These experiences also generate feeling of happiness and sorrow. These experiences as well as feelings are extremely subjective and what is good for one may not be so for another. In our waking state we are always busy caught in a continuous stream of experiences and thought and judgments.

God, as we know resides in our hearts (spiritual heart) and knocks at the door to our intellect/ awareness to allow admission. We may be baptized and have the Holy Spirit in us but unless we become aware of the Spirit and listen to Him, He is only a jewel locked up in the iron safe. We are unable to hear the still small voice within because of the din created by our senses, thoughts, emotions and judgement.

We can easily become aware of the inner cacophony by watching ourselves. Try to do so while attending the Holy Qurbana. How many times do our thoughts wander? Did I lock the car? Is the sermon going to take long? How many times do we judge? The speaker is not adjusted properly. The man is a bore. She should keep her child in check. It is impossible for us to keep our senses, mind and body as well as intellect perfectly inactive.  There are subconscious tendencies within, which are like ruts worn on a track developed through repeated traffic along the same line. These tendencies must be eliminated.

All religions give various methods for clearing out our inner garbage and allowing room for the Christ within. But many are severe ascetic practices requiring initiation and guidance of a Guru. We are lucky. All of us are initiated in at the time of baptism and we continue to progress towards the right worship in Spirit and in Truth  through our Holy Qurbana .

 

 

How is this done?

For a person to become perfect, the journey is very strenuous. The tendencies for self defeating thought and action must be removed and replaced by positive attributes. The fasts and the penances as well as confession are steps to achieve this.  The fasts  help us develop a strong will to resist things that are wrong. Prayers help us  focus on God and to understand what is right. It is prayer that establishes our relationship with God.

Both Hinduism and Orthodox Christianity understand the power of the inherent evil tendencies or vasanas in us. Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita tells Arjuna about the way to perfection:

‘Objects retire from the abstinent, leaving the longing behind. But this longing also ends in him who sees the Supreme”

So we have fasts and penances as well as prayers and sermons to guide us. Just restraining ourselves from our harmful actions will not be successful unless we replace it with the opposite good qualities through the vision of God. An empty space may be occupied by even greater evil so Jesus warned us.

How do we attain this vision of the Supreme? The Yogis of Orthodoxy, Hinduism, Buddhism etc. point to ascetic practices and Japa (The Jesus Prayer) and meditation as some of the ways. But these ways are  more easy for Dayaras and those who have dedicated their lives entirely to prayer than for ordinary people engaged in the strife of life.

The Divine Liturgy  is the best and most effective solution to this problem.

 

Liturgy means the work of the people. Many things happen during the Divine Liturgy. What happens in the  Madbaha/altar through the mediation of the priest is known to the clergy. What happens to the faithful who participate in the Liturgy ? In my understanding and experience we the faithful are drawn  collectively and as a whole into a  guided  meditation through the Liturgy.

I need not elaborate how involved participation in the Liturgy, listening, watching, acting,  smelling, feeling, keeps our senses in the awake state totally involved. Our 5 modes of action also are involved in speaking, inhaling smells, looking at what is going on, making the sign of the cross, singing, hearing to understand etc. We are totally immersed, body mind and spirit in an event- the Christ event and in the process our mind and intellect are unable to think of or judge or look at or speak of anything else. In this process, we enter the cloud of the unknowing, abandoning all else but God and get a glimpse of the Divine which is beyond our sensory or intellectual knowledge. This leaves us  recharged and purified and ready to face the week ahead. This joy which comes unaware to us is what makes us return again and again to the Church and what makes us despondent when we do not attend.

About the bread and the wine- I cannot speak authentically. But about the elation of the Liturgy, if we do the work of the people with due respect and care- I can vouchsafe.

So what do I conclude?

The Orthodox Worship is the Right Worship because it carries us to the vision of God as a community and this is not available in any other place.

This can be felt only if we follow all the directions about preparation and fasting by those who are healthy. Preparation is as necessary as faith, to really enjoy the worshipl.

 

 

 

The Daily Prayers( in Kudumbaaradhana Kramam)

I would like to confirm that when I followed the daily prayers, Nombinte Praaarthanakal (Prayers of the Great  Lent) etc. strictly, my diabetes and BP regressed. These prayers are also meditative and the prostrations are physical manifestations of our surrendering ourselves to God in faith. The Kumbideel is also like the Yoga Practice of Sun Salutation and we may call it Son Salutation. Over and above the spiritual benefits, these as well as the fasts have physical benefits also

There have been several medical research findings into the cause of metabolic Syndrome of which Diabetes, Fatty Liver etc form part. People with Metabolic Syndrome are found to be deficient in a hormone called SIRT3 which helps absorption of glucose into cells of the muscles. This hormone is secreted by the mitochondria of slow twitch muscles and exercise of slow twitch muscles increase secretion.  When we walk, or do prostrations or Yoga we use these muscles mainly. It is also found that  chronic consumption of  a High Fat Diet contributes to the Metabolic Syndrome.   Caloric restriction and fasting improves SIRT3

http://gladstoneinstitutes.org/u/rfarese/PDFs/Hirschey_MollCell(2011).pdf

http://www.pnas.org/content/108/35/14608.full

Prayer and meditation calms the mind and relieves stress.

In my present condition with insulin injections I cannot fast but I can avoid High Fat Diet, restrict calories and pray the Right Way.

The Orthodox Faith does not believe in sacrificing and avoiding worldly life and duties to assure a place in heaven. It believes in bringing heaven to earth through the felt presence on God  to us through its sacraments and live heaven here and eternally

This is true life and this is Ortho Doxa.

The encounter with God that we are invited to in the Sabbath Rest of the Liturgy cannot be gained if we are negligent and unenthusiastic. But if we do participate, it would transform us gradually, in proportion to our receptivity and strength and we would travel higher and higher on the mountain and we would gain light and savor and show the way for those who come in. But if instead of coming in, people leave, it is proof that ‘The work of the People’ is not being carried out and we as the people have failed in our duty. Can we be proud and self-righteous about it?

As for those outside- perhaps that is best for them and perhaps our life would draw them to us. We cannot discern the ways of God

 

 

 

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Anecdotal Evidence and us

Whenever we talk of Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Yoga etc. the Allopathic medicine men are disbelieving, if not contemptuous. They assert that they do not accept anecdotal evidence because they have been trained in the ‘scientific’ tradition to accept only empirical evidence confirmed in controlled laboratories. The Tribal, the Naturopath etc only have the evidence of experience and they never administer the same medicine for the same disease as they treat the whole personality and consider disease a product of imbalance/ disharmony.

The irony is that even as some person discredit ‘anecdotal’ evidence, most of them, unconsciously, have accepted several such anecdotes which are the basic tenets they live by. Let me explain:

When Mary Magdalene went and reported to the apostles that she had seen the risen Lord, they were disbelieving and considered this ‘anecdotal evidence’. The Lord however, took pity on them and appeared to them. Doubting Thomas is famous. So they believed only after they experienced Christ risen. The two on the road to Emmaus is a very relevant example. They did not even recognize Him until they had partaken of the bread. They rushed back to report.

These are at best only anecdotal experience reported to us through centuries through the Bible and the Church. Most ancient religions also do not have empirical proof but we who have dared to accept them have found that they enrich our lives.

I believe in tribal medicine because I am religious.

There is a lot in the skepticism of allopathy because since alternative medicine thrives without any specific standards, the number of fraudsters far exceed the genuine practitioner. So one must not be credulous. But in spite of the labs and research, many medicines of the allopath have caused worse conditions than the disease that they treated. But one must not undermine allopathy and the service it has rendered over the years. I owe my two children delivered through Cesarean Section to allopathy. I await the day when all medicine men join in their quest and help each other out.That would be the day when all religions accept that they point to the same truth,

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What is true spirituality?

Today, I read the message of the Indian Spiritual Guru, Mata Amrutanandamayi, in our vernacular newspaper. She said that true spirituality is knowing yourself. This is a very profound statement which I would like to explore in detail.. She also … Continue reading

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