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The Slaughter Of The Infants

14,000 Holy Infants were killed by King Herod in Bethlehem. When the time came for the Incarnation of the Son of God and His Birth of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Magi in the East beheld a new star in the heavens, foretelling the Nativity of the King of the Jews. They journeyed immediately to Jerusalem to worship the Child, and the star showed them the way. Having worshipped the divine Infant, they did not return to Jerusalem to Herod, as he had ordered them, but being warned by God in a dream, they went back to their country by another way. Herod finally realized that his scheme to find the Child would not be successful, and he ordered that all the male children two years old and younger at Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. He thought that the divine Infant, Whom he considered a rival, would be among the dead children.

The murdered infants thus became the first martyrs for Christ. The rage of Herod fell also on Simeon the God-Receiver (February 3), who declared before everyone in the Temple that the Messiah had been born. When the holy Elder died, Herod would not give permission for him to be properly buried. On the orders of King Herod, the holy prophet and priest Zachariah was also killed. He was murdered in Jerusalem between the Temple and the altar (Mt. 23:35) because he would not tell the whereabouts of his son John, the future Baptist of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The wrath of God soon fell upon Herod himself: a horrid condition struck him down and he died, eaten by worms while still alive. Before his death, the impious king murdered the chief priests and scribes of the Jews, and also his brother, and his sister and her husband, and also his own wife Mariam, and three of his sons, and seventy men of wisdom who were members of the Sanhedrin. He initiated this bloodbath so that the day of his death would not be one of rejoicing, but one of mourning.

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Yaldo (Holy Nativity of our Lord)

The incomprehensible and inexplicable Nativity of Christ came to pass when Herod the Great was reigning in Judea; the latter was an Ascalonite on his fathers's side and an Idumean on his mother's. He was in every way foreign to the royal line of David; rather, he had received his authority from the Roman emperors, and had ruled tyrannically over the Jewish people for some thirty-three years. The tribe of Judah, which had reigned of old, was deprived of its rights and stripped of all rule and authority. Such was the condition of the Jews when the awaited Messiah was born, and truly thus was fulfilled the prophecy which the Patriarch Jacob had spoken 1,807 years before: "A ruler shall not fail from Judah, nor a prince from his loins, until there come the things stored up for him; and he is the expectation of the nations" (Gen.49:10).

Thus, our Saviour was born in Bethlehem, a city of Judea, whither Joseph had come from Nazareth of Galilee, taking Mary his betrothed, who was great with child, that, according to the decree issued in those days by the Emperor Augustus, they might be registered in the census of those subject to Rome. Therefore, when the time came for the Virgin to give birth, and since because of the great multitude there was no place in the inn, the Virgin's circumstace constrained them to enter a cave which was near Bethlehem. Having as shelter a stable of irrational beasts, she gave birth there, and swaddled the Infant and laid Him in the manger (Luke 2:1-7). From this, the tradition has come down to us that when Christ was born He lay between two animals, an ox and an ass, that the words of the Prophets might be fulfilled: "Between two living creatures shalt Thou be known" (Abbacum 3:2), and "The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib" (Esaias 1: 3).

But while the earth gave the new-born Saviour such a humble reception, Heaven on high celebrated majestically His world-saving coming. A wondrous star, shining with uncommon brightness and following a strange course, led Magi from the East to Bethlehem to worship the new-born King. Certain shepherds who were in the area of Bethlehem, who kept watch while tending their sheep, were suddenly surrounded by an extraordinary light, and they saw before them an Angel who proclaimed to them the good tidings of the Lord's joyous Nativity. And straightway, together with this Angel, they beheld and heard a whole host of the Heavenly Powers praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men" (Luke 2:8-14).

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St. Ignatius Noorono

The third bishop (Patriarch) of Antioch, succeeding Evodius around 68AD. Ignatius, who most likely, with Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna (commemorated 23 February) were fellow-disciples under St. Peter and St. John. It is a tradition by no means inconsistent with anything in the Epistles of either. His subsequent history is sufficiently indicated in his Epistles.

The seductive myth which represents this Father as the little child whom the Lord placed in the midst of his apostles (Matthew 18: 2) indicates at least the period when he may be supposed to have been born.

Professor Ramsay suggests, that he belonged to a Syrian family, strongly affected by Western civilization, which had discarded native names. It is clear from the nature of his punishment that he cannot have been a Roman citizen, in which case he would have been sent, like St. Paul, to Rome for trial, and, if condemned, would have been beheaded. From the scattered hints which the letters give, e. g. Rom. 9, 'born out of due time,' and the expression, 'last (of all),' found in Eph. 21, Trall. 13, Smyrn. 11, we may conclude that his conversion was late in life (Ch. in R. Empire, p. 440, note.)

According to ecclesiastical history and tradition, St. Peter the Apostle established a bishopric in Antioch and became its first bishop and was succeeded by Evodius for the converted Jews and St. Ignatius the Illuminator for the converted Gentiles. After the martyrdom of St. Peter in Rome, he was succeeded by St. Evodius who was martyred in 68AD, and St. Ignatius respectively. St. John the Chrysostom says that St. Peter appointed St. Ignatius Bishop of Antioch, who governed the See for forty years.

Several of his letters have survived to this day; he is generally considered to be one of the Apostolic Fathers (the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers) and a saint by both the Roman Catholics, who celebrate his feast on October 17and February 1, and the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, who celebrate his feast on December 20, The Syriac Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on November 17 the day he martyred.

St. Ignatius was so delighted by his name Theophorus "God-Bearer" (sufficiently expounded in his own words to Trajan or his official representative), since he had the Name of the Savior in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him, that it is worth noting how deeply the early Christians felt and believed in (2 Corinthians 6: 16) the indwelling Spirit.

Saint Ignatius was zealous and spared no efforts for toiling in the fields of Christ. To him is attributed the establishing within church services of antiphonal singing (for two parts or choirs). During time of persecution he was a source of strength to the souls of his flock, and was himself ardent in the wish to suffer for Christ.

Ignatius has been censured for his language to the Romans, in which he seems to crave martyrdom. But he was already condemned, in law a dead man, and felt himself at liberty to glory in his tribulations.

We learn from his letters that he voluntarily presented himself before Trajan at Antioch, the seat of his bishopric, when that prince was on his first expedition against the Parthians and Armenians (A.D. 107); and on professing himself a Christian, he was arrested by the Roman authorities and transported to Rome, condemned to the wild beasts in the arena. They hoped to make an example of him and thus discourage Christianity from spreading. Instead, he met with and encouraged Christians all along his route. After a long and dangerous voyage he came to Smyrna, of which Polycarp was bishop, and thence wrote his four Epistles to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the Trallians, and the Romans. From Smyrna he came to Troas, and tarrying there a few days, he wrote to the Philadelphians, the Smyrnaeans, and Polycarp. His letters proved to be influential in the development of Christian theology. He then came on to Neapolis, and passed through the whole of Macedonia. Finding a ship at Dyrrachium in Epirus about to sail into Italy, he embarked, and crossing the Adriatic, was brought to Rome, where he was martyred on the 17th of November 107AD (according the Syraic account), or, as some think, who deny a twofold expedition of Trajan against the Parthians, on the same day of the year 116AD.

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St. Philoxenus of Mabbug


St.Philoxenus was born, probably in the third quarter of the 5th century, at Tahal, a village in the district of Beth Garmaï east of the Tigris. He was thus by birth a subject of Persia, but all his active life of which we have any record was passed in the territory of the Byzantine Empire. The statements that he had been a slave and was never baptized appear to be malicious inventions of his theological opponents. He was educated at Edessa, perhaps in the famous "school of the Persians,".

The years which followed the Council of Chalcedon (451) were a stormy period in the Syrian Church. Philoxenus soon attracted notice by his strenuous advocacy of Miaphysitism.

When Calandio, the orthodox patriarch of Antioch, was expelled by the Miaphysite Peter the Fuller in 485, Philoxenus was ordained bishop of Mabbug (Barhebraeus, Chron. eccl. i. 183). It was probably during the earlier years of his episcopate that Philoxenus composed his thirteen homilies on the Christian life.

The inter-relationship between various significant ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament (some identified by their siglum). LXX here denotes the original septuagint.

Later he devoted himself to the revision of the Syriac version of the Bible, and with the help of his chorepiscopus Polycarp produced in 508 the so-called Philoxenian version, which was in some sense the received Bible of the Syrian Miaphysites during the 6th century. In the meantime he continued his ecclesiastical activity, working as a bitter opponent of Flavian II, who was patriarch of Antioch from 498 to 512 and accepted the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon.

With the support of Emperor Anastasius, the Miaphysites ousted Flavian in 512 and replaced him with their partisan Severus. Of Philoxenus's part in the struggle we possess not too trustworthy accounts by hostile writers, such as Theophanes the Confessor and Theodorus Lector. We know that in 498 he was staying at Edessa; in or about 507, according to Theophanes, he was summoned by the emperor to Constantinople; and he finally presided at a synod at Sidon which was the means of procuring the replacement of Flavian by Severus. But the triumph was short-lived. Justin I, who succeeded Anastasius in 518 and adhered to the Chalcedonian creed, exiled Severus and Philoxenus in 519. Philoxenus was banished to Philippopolis in Thrace, and afterwards to Gangra in Paphlagonia, where he was murdered in 523.

Apart from his redoubtable powers as a controversialist, Philoxenus is remembered as a scholar, an elegant writer, and an exponent of practical Christianity. Of the chief monument of his scholarship – the Philoxenian version of the Bible – only the Gospels and certain portions of Isaiah are known to survive (see Wright, Syr. Lit. 14). It was an attempt to provide a more accurate rendering of the Septuagint than had hitherto existed in Syriac, and obtained recognition among Syrian Miaphysites until superseded by the still more literal renderings of the Old Testament by Paul of Tella and of the New Testament by Thomas of Harkel (both in 616/617), of which the latter at least was based on the work of Philoxenus.

There are also extant portions of commentaries on the Gospels from his pen. Of the excellence of his style and of his practical religious zeal we are able to judge from the thirteen homilies on the Christian life and character which have been edited and translated by E. A. Wallis Budge (London, 1894). In these he holds aloof for the most part from theological controversy, and treats in an admirable tone and spirit the themes of faith, simplicity, the fear of God, poverty, greed, abstinence and unchastity. His affinity with his earlier countryman Aphraates is manifest both in his choice of subjects and his manner of treatment. As his quotations from Scripture appear to be made from the Peshitta, he probably wrote the homilies before he embarked upon the Philoxenian version. Philoxenus wrote also many controversial works and some liturgical pieces. Many of his letters survive, and at least two have been edited. Several of his writings were translated into Arabic and Ethiopic.

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to Dec 25

Nativity Fast

December 1st marks the start of the Nativity Fast in the Indian Orthodox Church. We have to believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual weapon that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest around the world. At first we question the need of fasting and prayer “Is this truly God’s call for me?” But with each passing day, His call will grow stronger and clearer. Finally, we will be convinced that God has called us to fast, and He would not make such a call without a specific reason or purpose. With this conviction, enter the Nativity fast with excitement and expectancy mounting in our hearts, praying, Lord, what do you want us to do?” 

As we begin to fast, our confidence in the Lord will help us. Each day His presence will encouraged us to continue. The longer we fast, the more we sense the presence of the Lord. The Holy Spirit refreshes our soul and spirit, and we experience the joy of the Lord as seldom before. Biblical truths leap at us from the pages of God’s Word. Our faith soars as we humble ourselves and cry out to God and rejoice in His presence. Fasting calls on the Holy Spirit and brings us to repentance, prayer and almsgiving.

We youths need to revive our commitment to fasting and prayer and the rest of the church will respond to this call. Spent time in reading God’s word and make your time with the Lord more spiritually rewarding. There is no point in fasting and prayer until it equips you for spiritual awakening. Hope this Nativity Fast will not slip by without having made a genuine effort to prepare ourselves for the incarnation of Jesus Christ our Saviour. 

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St. Jacob Baradaeus


St. Jacob Baradaeus (James or Jacob) was born at Tella Mouzalat, near Nisbis, which is 55 miles East of Edessa. Tella Mouzalat is also referred in certain texts as Constantina. He was born as the son of Theophilus (Theophilus Bar-Manu) who was a priest of the Syrian Orthodox Church (Smith & Wace, 1882; Patriarch Aphrem I, 2000). His parents were not having children for a long time and in pursuance of a vow of his parents he was dedicated to God. At the age of 2 years, Jacob was entrusted to the care of Eustathius, the chief of the Monastery (Reesh Dayro), at Phaselita, near Nisbis (Paulose Aphrem, 1963). He learnt Greek, Syriac and the basics of asceticism at the monastery.

One day Jacob’s mother visited the monastery and wanted to take him with her. He was not willing to go home even for a visit and said: “I am fully dedicated to Christ and that my mother has no share in me.” After this incidence, his mother died in about a year and his father died in about three years (Paulose Aphrem, 1963). After the death of his parents he distributed all the properties that he inherited from his parents among poor people and reserved nothing for himself (Smith & Wace, 1882). He said: “Let the wealth of the world be to the world.” He released two slaves whom he inherited and left the house and estate for them.

After the training at Phaselita monastery, Jacob was ordained deacon and subsequently became a priest. Jacob was reputed for working miracles, and sick people came from far and near to be healed by him. St. Jacob raised the dead, the blind were restored to sight, rain was given, and even the Sun was made to stand still. Edessa, when attacked by Chosroes I, after the capture of Batnae (Isnik in Turkey, the place where Council of Nicea met in A. D. 325; Fuller, 1655), and other towns on the Euphrates, the prayers of St. James (Jacob) saved the people and Chosroes was scared by a terrific vision (Smith & Wace, 1882). His fame spread over the East. The empress Theodora, a zealous partisan of Jacobites (Syrian Orthodox Christians were called Jacobites after the leadership of St. Jacob-Jacob) wanted to see him. However, Jacob was not inclined to go to Constantinople. Later, in a vision, Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch, and Mor John, the late bishop of Tella, directed him to go to Constantinople to which he obliged. He went to Constantinople in about A. D. 528 and remained there in a monastery for fifteen years (Cross & Livingstone, 1974).

On the arrival of St. Jacob at Constantinople, Theodora received him with honour, but the court had no concern for him. Justinian, the emperor, had resolved to enforce the Chalcedonian decrees universally, and the bishops and clergy who refused to accept the decrees were punished with imprisonment, deprivation, and exile. As a result, Jacobites were deprived of their spiritual pastors and for about ten years many churches had been destitute of the sacraments. The faithful were not ready to accept sacraments from the heretics. Since the emperor ardently supported Chalcedonians, they were known as the Melchites (Malchoye- the royal party or the Emperor’s men).

Al-Harith (Aretas) ibn Jabalah al-Ghassani, the Sheik of the Christian Arabs (A. D. 530-572), appealed to Theodora, and Jacob was given a little freedom. At that time, a number of bishops from all parts of the East, including Theodosius of Alexandria, Anthimus, the deposed Patriarch of Constantinople, Constantius of Laodicea, John of Egypt, Peter and others came to Constantinople to mitigate the displeasure of the emperor. But they were detained in a castle in a kind of honourable imprisonment. They ordained Jacob as the bishop of Edessa in c. A. D. 541 (the date given by Asseman). Some authors have given the date as 542 or 543 (Cross & Livingstone, 1974; Patriarch Aphrem I, 2000).

The Syrian Orthodox Church should gratefully remember Jacob Baradaeus for he is responsible for restoring the Church from extinction by his indomitable zeal and untiring activity. The Church was threatened by the persecution of the imperial power. The Christological doctrine (two natures in Christ) set forth by the Chalcedon synod (451) was not acceptable to the Syrian Orthodox Church. The political and dynastic storms although swept that portion of the world, efforts of St. Jacob preserved the Church whereby the Church since 6th century is known as the Jacobite Church.

Jacob Baradaeus travelled on foot the whole of Asia Minor, Syria and Mesopotamia, and adjacent provinces, even to the borders of Persia. He both exhorted the faithful and sent encyclicals encouraging them to maintain the true faith. He ordained 89 (27?) bishops and two Patriarchs (Smith & Wace, 1882). The Patriarchs probably are Sergius (544-547) and Paul II (550-578). Paulose Aphrem (1963) has recorded that in A.D. 550 St. Jacob (James) with the help of Augen, the Episcopa of Selucia, ordained Paul of Egypt as Patriarch of Antioch. Justinian, the emperor, and Catholic bishops were angry at the successful missionary labour of St. Jacob. Orders were issued for his apprehension and rewards were offered for his capture. However, in his beggar’s garb, aided by the friendliness of Arab tribes and other chiefs and the people of Syria and Asia, he eluded all attempt to seize him. His labours paved the way for establishment of the Church as the National Church of Syria (Cross & Living stone, 1974). Imperial persecution could not repress his work. Although there were many converts to Islam after the Arab invasion of Syria (c. 640), the Jacobite Church continued to produce a number of writers.

Jacob Baradaeus is known by the surname Baradaeus. The surname Baradaeus is derived from ‘baradai’ (clad in rags) or the ragged mendicant’s garb, patched-up out of the old saddle-cloths which he used for his swift and secret journeys in Syria and Mesopotamia to avoid arrest by the imperial forces (Smith & Wace, 1882; Douglas, 1978). John of Ephesus states that the origin of his surname is that he cut a coarse robe into two pieces, and wore one-half as an under garment, and the other half as an upper garment without changing them during summer or winter until they grew quite ragged and tattered. Burd’ono, the nickname is derived from the Syriac word “Burd- o” meaning saddle-cloth. The origin of the word from Arabic, Greek and Latin equivalents are detailed in Smith & Wace (1882, P. 329).

In the 5th and 6th centuries a large body of Christians in Syria repudiated those who had supported the Council of Chalcedon (451) in affirming the dual nature of Christ. The Christological teaching of the Chalcedon can be summarized as: “we confess one and the same Christ Jesus, the Only-begotten Son, whom we acknowledge to have two natures, without confusion, transformation, division or separation between them. The difference between these two natures is not suppressed by their union; on the contrary, the attributes of each nature are safeguarded and subsist in one person” (Poulet, 1956, pp. 240-241). Some writers refer to the Syrian Orthodox faith as monophysitism which is totally wrong. Monophysitism is a Christological teaching of Euthyches that human nature of Christ was absorbed by the divine (Encyclopedia Americana, 1988). The Christological differences are now understood to be the problem of use of vocabulary rather than ideological.

Like many Copts, Ethiopians, and Armenians, Syrian Orthodox Church hold that Christ is not “in two natures” (human and divine) but is “one nature out of two natures.” St. Severios, the Patriarch of Antioch (A. D. 459-538), taught that “… all the human qualities remained in Christ unchanged in their nature and essence, but that they were amalgamated with the totality of hypostasis; that they had no longer separate existence, and having no longer any kind of centre or focus of their own, no longer constituted a distinct monad. On the contrary, the foci had become one. The monads were conjoined; the substratum in which the qualities of both natures inhered no longer had an independent subsistence, but formed a synthesis, and all the attributes subsisted in this composite hypostasis” (Smith & Wace, 1887, Vol. IV, p. 641).

Jacob Baradaeus, bishop of Edessa, was instrumental in organizing their community; hence, they have been termed Jacobites" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2001). There were trustworthy bishops who supported Jacob Baradaeus. They include Mor John of Asia, Mor Ahudeme’ (the Persian King Kizra Anusharvan martyred him in A. D. 575) and Mor Yulian. John of Asia, a contemporary of Jacob Baradaeus, has written two biographies about him. They are: Anecdota Syriaca, Vol. II, edited by J. P. N. Land in 1875 (pp. 249-253; pp. 364-383) and Ecclesiastical history Part III, Payne Smith’s translation (pp. 273-278, 291). Bar Hebraeus account of Jacob Burdono written in 13th century in the Chronicon Ecclesiasticum relies on the above mentioned books (Cited in, Smith & Wace, 1882).

Jacob Baradaeus died at the monastery of Romanus or Cassianus on July 30, 578 (Douglas, 1978; Patriarch Aphrem, 2000). His episcopate is said to have extended over 37 years, and his life, according to Renaudot to 73 years. According to a short account by Cyriacus, bishop of Mardin, the remains of Jacob Baradaeus were kept at the monastery of Cassian until A. D. 622 (621?). Thereafter the relics were translated to his monastery of Phaselita, near Tella Mouzalat by Mor Zakkai, the episcopa of Tella (Paulose Aphrem, 1963). He has written a liturgy in fifteen pages beginning with “O Lord, the most holy Father of peace” and several letters, which are published in Syriac. The feast of Mor Jacob Baradaeus, the protector of faith, is celebrated on November 28.

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St. Dionysius Bar Salibi

Jacob Bar-Salibi also known as Dionysius Bar-Salibi was the best-known and most prolific writer in the Syriac Orthodox Church of the twelfth century.

Bar-Salibi was, like Bar-Hebraeus, a native of Malatia on the upper Euphrates. In 1154 he was created bishop of Marash by the patriarch Athanasius VII; a year later the diocese of Mabbog was added to his charge.

In 1166 Michael the Great, the successor of Athanasius, transferred him to the metropolitan see of Amid in Mesopotamia, and there he remained till his death in 1171. Of his writings probably the most important are his exhaustive commentaries on the text of the Old and New Testaments, in which he skillfully interwove and summarized the interpretations of previous writers such as Ephrem, Chrysostom, Cyril, Moses Bar-Kepha and John of Dar, whom he mentions together in the preface to his commentary on St Matthew. Among his other main works are a treatise against heretics, containing inter alia a polemic against the Jews and the Muslims; liturgical treatises, epistles, homilies, and anaphora .

'Jacob' was his baptismal name; 'Dionysius' he assumed when consecrated to the bishopric.

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Annunciation to Zechariah

annunciation-to-zechariah-43 (1).jpg

According to the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah was a Jewish priest and Pharisee of the line of Abijah, during the reign of King Herod the Great, and husband of Elizabeth, a woman from the priestly family of Aaron. The parentage of John the Baptist is not recorded in the other Gospels. The evangelist states that both the parents were righteous before God, since they were blameless in observing the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. When the events related in Luke commenced, their marriage was still childless, because Elizabeth was barren and, like her husband, was advanced in years (Luke 1:5-7).

The duties at the temple in Jerusalem alternated between each of the families that had descended from those appointed by King David (1 Chronicles 23:1-19). The offering of incense was one of the most solemn parts of the daily worship and, owing to the large number of eligible priests, no priest could hope to perform the task more than once during his lifetime. Luke states that during the week when it was the duty of his family to serve at the temple in Jerusalem, the lot for performing the incense offering had fallen to Zechariah.

The Gospel of Luke states that while Zechariah ministered at the golden altar of incense, an angel of God announced to him that his wife would give birth to a son, whom he was to name John, and that this son would be the forerunner of the long-expected Messiah (Luke 1:12-17). Citing their advanced age, Zechariah asked with disbelief for a sign whereby he would know the truth of this prophecy. In reply, the angel identified himself as the Archangel Gabriel, sent especially by God to make this announcement, and added that because of Zechariah's doubt he would be struck dumb and not able to speak until the day that these things happen. Consequently, when Zechariah went out to the waiting worshipers in the temple's outer courts, he was unable to pronounce the customary blessing (Luke 1:18-22).

On his return home Elizabeth duly conceived. During Elizabeth's pregnancy, her cousin Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and—though still a virgin—became pregnant with Jesus. Mary then traveled to visit her cousin Elizabeth to share the good news of Mary's expected child and discovered that her much older cousin was also expecting the birth of a son (Luke 1:23-45).

Eight days after Elizabeth gave birth, when their son was to be circumcised according to Jewish tradition, their family members and neighbors assumed that he was to be named after his father, as was the custom. Elizabeth, however, insisted that his name was to be John; so the family then questioned her husband. As soon as Zechariah had written on a writing tablet: His name is John, he regained the power of speech, and praised God with a prophecy known as the Benedictus (Luke 1:57-79). The child grew up and became strong in spirit, but remained in the desert of Judaea until he assumed the ministry that was to earn him the name John the Baptist (or Baptizer) (Luke 1:80, 3:2-3, Matthew 3:1).

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St. Philip the Apostle

This Apostle, one of the Twelve, was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and was a compatriot of Andrew and Peter. He was instructed in the teachings of the Law, and devoted himself to the study of the prophetic books. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus called him to the dignity of apostleship, he immediately sought out and found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of Whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1.45). Having preached Jesus the God-man throughout many parts of Asia Minor, and having suffered many things for His Name's sake, he was finally crucified upside down in Hierapolis of Phrygia.

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St. John Chrysostom


This greatest and most beloved of all Christian orators was born in Antioch the Great in the year 344 or 347; his pious parents were called Secundus and Anthusa. After his mother was widowed at the age of twenty, she devoted herself to bringing up John and his elder sister in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. John received his literary training under Anthragathius the philosopher, and Libanius the sophist, who was the greatest Greek scholar and rhetorician of his day. Libanius was a pagan, and when asked before his death whom he wished to have for his successor, he said, "John, had not the Christians stolen him from us." With such a training, and with such gifts as he had by nature, John had before him a brilliant career as a rhetorician. But through the good example of his godly mother Anthusa and of the holy Bishop Meletius of Antioch, by whom he was ordained reader about the year 370, he chose instead to dedicate himself to God. From the years 374 to 381 he lived the monastic life in the hermitages that were near Antioch. His extreme asceticism undermined his health, compelling him to return to Antioch, where Saint Meletius ordained him deacon about the year 381. Saint Meletius was called to Constantinople later that year to preside over the Second Ecumenical Council, during which he fell asleep in the Lord. In 386 Bishop Flavian ordained John presbyter of the Church of Antioch. Upon his elevation to the priesthood his career as a public preacher began, and his exceptional oratorical gifts were made manifest through his many sermons and commentaries. They are distinguished by their eloquence and the remarkable ease with which rich imagery and scriptural allusions are multiplied; by their depth of insight into the meaning of Scripture and the workings of God's providence; and, not least of all, by their earnestness and moral force, which issue from the heart of a blameless and guileless man who lived first what he preached to others. Because of his fame, he was chosen to succeed Saint Nectarius as Patriarch of Constantinople. He was taken away by stealth, to avoid the opposition of the people, and consecrated Patriarch of Constantinople on February 28, 398, by Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who was to prove his mortal enemy.

At that time the Emperor of the East was Arcadius, who had had Saint Arsenius the Great as his tutor; Arcadius was a man of weak character, and much under the influence of his wife Eudoxia. The zealous and upright Chrysostom's unsparing censures of the lax morals in the imperial city stung the vain Eudoxia; through Theophilus' plottings and her collaboration, Saint John was banished to Pontus in 403. The people were in an uproar, and the following night an earthquake shook the city; this so frightened the Empress Eudoxia that she begged Arcadius to call Chrysostom back. While his return was triumphant, his reconciliation with the Empress did not last long. When she had a silver statue of herself erected in the forum before the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Saint Sophia) in September of 403, and had it dedicated with much unseemly revelry, Saint John thundered against her, and she could not forgive him. In June of 404 he was exiled to Cucusus, on the borders of Cilicia and Armenia. From here he exchanged letters with Pope Innocent of Rome, who sent bishops and priests to Constantinople requesting that a council be held. Saint John's enemies, dreading his return, prevailed upon the Emperor to see an insult in this, and had John taken to a more remote place of banishment called Pityus near the Caucasus. The journey was filled with bitter sufferings for the aged bishop, both because of the harshness of the elements and the cruelty of one of his 310 guards. He did not reach Pityus, but gave up his soul to the Lord near Comana in Pontus, at the chapel of the Martyr Basiliscus, who had appeared to him shortly before, foretelling the day of his death, which came to pass on September 14, 407. His last words were "Glory be to God for all things."

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to Nov 13

Hoodhosh Eetho (Dedication)


The Sunday after Koodhosh Eetho is called Hoodhosh Eetho (Dedication of Church) Sunday.

The Syriac term "Hoodhosh Eetho" meaning, "The Feast of Dedication of the Church", has a connection with "the Feast of Dedication of the Old Testament Church", which took place approximately three months after the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1-10:21). It was also called ‘Hanukkah or Chanukah" which was of 8 days celebrations by the Jews. 

The temple of Jerusalem, though beautifully built by King Solomon, was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah it was rebuilt and preserved. Again it underwent destruction. King Herod for the third time renovated it extensively. In BC 170, the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanus, greatly influenced by the Greek culture, wanted to replace the Jewish religion with the Greek religion and custom. He decided to wage war against the kingdom of Judah and finally he invaded the city of Jerusalem. 80,000 people were massacred and an equal number of people were taken captives. It was during this time that St. Solomonia (Morth Shmooni) and her 7 children were brutally assassinated. A large quantity of wealth from the temple was looted and the booty was estimated to be 1,800 talents. The house of God was made a house of harlots. As a result the worship in the temple was obstructed. He even defiled the holy temple of Jerusalem by sacrificing a female swine on the holy altar as an offering to the Greek deity Zeus. Antiochus was permitted by God to carry out this insane desecration of the most holy temple because of the sins of the people. It was not just because Antiochus was bent on destruction, but because the Lord allowed it for the good of his people.

In 164 BC, the Jews succeeded in retrieving the temple of Jerusalem from the Greeks and they renovated and refined the temple. Judas Maccabeus took the initiative in consecrating the desecrated temple. We learn of this story from the books of Maccabees of the Holy Bible. In commemoration of this act of rededication and as a mark of their joy of freedom, the Jews began to celebrate it flamboyantly. This feast came to be known as ‘festival of light" as there were many lights to illuminate the temple and houses of the Jews who celebrated it. It was in this background, that Christ our Lord said that He was the “Light of the world” (John8:12). It is meaningful that Christ chooses to talk to the people in a ‘winter" season for the reason that winter has a symbolic representation of darkness or death which is always followed by ‘spring" indicative of a renewed life and brightening of light.

Antiochus Epiphanus was the personification of all evil. Even in the present time, similar forces of evil still exist causing closing down of many a church. Factionalism, fundamentalism, cultism and secularism are the main factors for such spiritual tragedies. We see in the book of Maccabees that there were some lawless and traitorous men coming forth from the sons of Israel by persuading many to yield to the Hellenistic customs, ordinances of the gentiles and finally succumbing themselves to the authority of King Antiochus . Similarly, there are some extremist people in the present Church too who bear the yoke of evil forces.

The unwavering faith shown by the Jewish scribe Eleazar and the 7 Maccabean martyrs along with their mother Morth Shmoomi , by defying valiantly the sacrilegious commands of King Antiochus IV Ephiphanus and by just ignoring the fierce persecution from the King for the sake of God, are prototypes of all Christian martyrs. They have set a model for true witnessing which we all have to emulate.

Please bear in mind that we have a collective as well as individual responsibility to keep ourselves away from defilement owing to our sinful acts , for it is written that we are God"s temple and that God"s Spirit lives in us.( Ref:1 Cor 3:16).

By celebrating the " Hoodos Etho" every year, the church is expected to renew and rededicate itself as a community bearing the beacon of light to the society around which fumbles in the darkness of evil. It is the time to introspect whether we are able to commit ourselves fully to our calling or not. Let us prayerfully work hard to be as good as Christ in rendering selfless service to our fellow-beings and to live a holy life to the glory of God and in tune with His statutes.

We read in this passage of an episode where Christ was being asked a question whether he was the expected Messiah or not. Confirming to the fact which he had already made many a time; Jesus is seen speaking inextenso to those who asked him of his identity. He was delineating of his intimacy that he had and would be having with his flock. It is noticeable that the relationship between God and his people were considered in the Old Testament period as something similar to that of a Shepherd – Sheep relationship. E.g.: “Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” (Psalm 23:1ff).

Here Jesus claims that his flock identifies his voice and follows him pointing to their mutual rapport. He further says that his authoritative words and deeds testify to his divinity. He makes three-fold promises to those who accept him.

  1. Union with the divine.
  2. Everlasting life.
  3. Secured life.

At night, sheep were often gathered into a sheep pen to protect them from thieves, weather, or wild animals. The sheep pens were caves, sheds, or open areas surrounded by walls made of stones or branches. The shepherd often slept in the pen to protect the sheep. Just as a shepherd cares for his sheep, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, cares for his flock( those who follow him), protects his people from eternal harm(John 10:1-18). The prophet Ezekiel, in predicting the coming of the Messiah, called him a Shepherd allegorically (Ezekiel 34:23). Just as a shepherd protects his sheep, Jesus protects his people from eternal harm. While believers can expect to suffer on earth, Satan cannot harm their souls or take away their eternal life with God (Job2:1-6). There are many reasons to be afraid here on earth because this is the devil"s domain (1 Peter 5:8). But if you choose to follow Jesus, he will give you everlasting safety.

At this moment, let me point out that the sheep stealing seen in the present evangelical scenario among the Christians is against the very will of God. Therefore, I exhort everybody to be alert always and to pray earnestly to Jesus, our Great Shepherd, to save us from the mouth of the greedy wolves clad in sheep-cloth.

It is worth mentioning here that Jesus goes on saying of a truth that He and His Father are one. Here ‘One" means one in nature or essence. God"s essence is love [(agape in Greek) (1John 4:8)] which is infinite, eternal, all-inclusive, self -emptying, cross-bearing and universal sharing as practiced by Christ incarnate while he was on earth. Jesus Christ is God before all ages, and He remains God after the Incarnation and for all eternity. The plural verb “are” indicates two distinct Persons, while confirming a continuous unity.

The verses John 1:1-18, 17:5 and Philippians 2:6-11, all endorse to this fact that before Jesus came to earth, he was one with God. At this point, when his mission on earth was almost finished, Jesus was asking his Father to restore him to his original place of honor and authority. Jesus" resurrection and ascension –and Stephen"s dying exclamation (Act 7:56) –attest that Jesus did return to his exalted position at the right hand of God. The verse John 10:30 is the clearest statement of Jesus" divinity he ever made. Jesus and his Father are not the same person, but they are one in essence and nature. Thus Jesus is not merely a good teacher –he is God. His claim to be God was unmistakable. The religious leaders wanted to kill him because their laws said that anyone claiming to be God should die. Nothing could persuade them that Jesus" claim was true. The Jews clearly recognize this claim of divinity (v33) and thus accuse Him of blasphemy.

What Christ our Lord wants from us all today is to live in perfect unity, love and peace. We, being his disciples, are expected to be united in harmony and love as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united –the strongest of all union. Christians can know unity among themselves if they are living in union with God. For example, each branch living in union with the vine is united with all other branches doing the same.

How do we get eternal life? Jesus teaches clearly that by knowing God the Father himself through his son, Jesus Christ. (John 17:3). The Knowledge of the only true God is far more than intellectual understanding. It is participation in His divine life and in communion with Him. Thus eternal life is an ongoing, loving knowledge of God in Christ and the Holy Spirit. Eternal life requires entering into a corporate as well as a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. When we admit our sin and turn away from it, Christ"s love lives in us by the Holy Spirit. And this is possible by active involvement in the liturgies of the holy church and by way of receiving the holy sacraments from there in all our faith, hope and love.

May God Almighty bless us to refresh our vocation! Amen.

Let us Pray:-
O Lord Jesus Christ, our good Shepherd! We, thy humble sheep flock, seek thy loving protection trusting on thy promises made for us. We follow thee wholeheartedly so that we may be made perfect in union with the holy Trinity. Please don"t leave us alone but keep us safe in thy mighty arms. Grant us grace to attain eternal life. Drive away the sheep stealing wolves from thy holy Church which thou hast bought by thy precious blood. We ask this in the name of thy loving disciple and our patron saint, Thomas the apostle. Amen.

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Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification)


The Sunday that comes on of after October 30th is called Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification of Church) Sunday. It is the beginning of the church calendar.

First of all we need to know what the Church is and why it should be sanctified. Church, according to St. Paul, is the ‘Body of Christ’ (Romans 12:4-21; 1Cor 6:15; 12:12ff). Church is also called the ‘temple of God’ (1Cor 3:16). This Church belongs to God.

A temple is the abode of God and therefore it must be holy. Here St. Paul reminds us all that individual believers and the collective body of believers is the members of Christ’s body.

St Peter jogs our memory to be ‘living stones built into a spiritual house’ (1Peter 2:5). We proclaim in our Niceo-Constantinopolitan creed that the Church we believe in is ‘ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC’. Church by virtue of being a Church is, therefore, the body of sanctified and ‘called out’ people (ek-kaleon, Gk). The faithful are called out from darkness to His marvelous light to declare His wonderful deeds (1 Peter 2:9). And therefore, Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

We separate certain places/things for certain uses. We give due regards to our place of worship. It must be clean. As group or individuals this cleanliness has to be spiritual, physical, moral and ethical. This is a God-given requirement: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy”. “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes, and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Lev.19:2; 20: 6-8; 1 Peter 1:15).

In His High-priestly prayer, our Lord prayed to His Father to sanctify His disciples and His Church: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you did send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, and they also may be consecrated in truth” (John 17: 17-19). Thus, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit are interceding for us (Heb.10; Rom 8: 26-27).

In short, Church is the body of Christ and not merely an association or incorporation of people. Christ sanctified her by His sacrifice and continues with the sanctification process. We shall maintain that sanctified status by following the word of God in our individual and collective responsibilities. In other words, we have to follow a sanctified behavior pattern. It is not merely our adherence to a faith that matters but our new behavior.

Now let us look what does this sanctification mean precisely to us? As individuals and as a body of believers, we have to examine our lives and mission. Where are we with our mission? Christ did not send us to the world to make enemies but to make friends and disciples. Our mission is not political but moral and spiritual. Historically Churches have succeeded to make followers (employing party spirit by force or by mission) but have failed to make disciples. We have been fighting for temporal and personal powers or for recognition. It is high time that we pause for a moment and contemplate on our special calling.

Our church with its long history is still in her infancy in mission. We need to be reaching out as a community. Every parish should have an active mission program, wherein all believers take active roles. Our parish committee and general body meetings should be theologically focused and mission oriented. Our individual commitment to Christian/Church life needs to go beyond our Sunday worship, learning Church history, and monthly subscription to a total dedication of Christian living because we are a ‘called out’ community to proclaim His good deeds by putting away ‘all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and slander’ (1Peter 2:2).

As individuals we need to commit ourselves to spread the Gospel by our personal deeds, by reaching out as forgiving and loving persons. As parishes we have to develop a mission plan that goes beyond Sunday ministry and as a Church we have to be a forgiving entity with wide worldview in ecumenical initiatives and putting away all quarrels to ‘declare His marvelous deeds’.

Let this Koodosh Eetho (Qddosh Eetho) Sunday be a renewed beginning for all of us, namely, as individuals, parishes and as Church as a whole. May God bless us all. Let us work closely, by putting away our differences to glorify His name through our words and deeds with the help of His Holy Spirit. Amen!

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St. Geevarghese Mar Gregorios


Saint Gregorios of Parumala is popularly known as ‘Parumala Thirumeni’. Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Gregorios of the Malankara Orthodox Church who passed away on November 2nd 1902, became the first declared saint from Malankara (Kerala, India) naturally to be called, ‘Parumala Thirumeni’. He shines in the cloud of witnesses as a bright luminary giving rays of hope to millions in their suffering and struggles.



Mar Gregorios was born on 15th June 1848 (M.E. Mithunam 3, 1023) to Kochu Mathai and Mariam of Pallathetta family in the Chathuruthy house at Mulamthuruthy. He was called by the name ‘Kochaippora’ and was given the baptismal name ‘Geevarghese’. Kochaippora had two brothers and two sisters; Kurian, Eli, Mariam and Varkey. Kochaippora was the youngest and was therefore the most beloved to everyone. Unfortunately, his mother passed away when he was only two years old. His eldest sister Mariam became to him all that a mother was meant. Mariam was married at that time and had a child of Kochaippora’s age.


He was ordained as a reader-deacon (Korooyo) on 14th Sept, 1858 at the age of ten by Palakkunnath Mathews Mar Athanasios at Karingachira Church. Koroyo Geevarghese continued his training under Geevarghese Malpan until the latter died due to small pox. Although Deacon Geevarghese was also infected with small pox, he miraculously survived it. Afterwards Deacon Geevarghese moved to Pampakuda to continued his studies under Konat Geevarghese Malpan. In the mean time Deacon became associated with the visiting Syrian Bishop Yuyakim Mar Coorilos. Mar Coorilos had great admiration for the deacon and was pleased to ordain him as full deacon, priest and cor-episcopa within few months in 1865.


The new priest’s short stay at Mulanthuruthy Marthommen Church gave him an inner conviction that he should lead a hermit’s life in a quieter place. Therefore he shifted his residence to Vettickal Dayara. At Vettickal Dayara, Corepiscopa Geevarghese started a strenuous life of prayer and fasting. Having heard about the vigorous asceticism practised by corepiscopa Geevarghese, the then Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius made him a ‘Ramban’ (Monk Priest) in 1872.


In 1875, the Antioch Patriarch His Holiness Peter III visited Malankara. The Patriarch chose Ramban Geevarghese as his Secretary and translator during the entire visit. Along with the Patriarch , the Ramban visited many churches. Ramban Geevarghese also assisted the Patriarch in the consecration of the Holy Mooron and in the historic synod of Mulanthuruthy in 1876.


Being pleased with the Ramban Geevarghese, the Patriarch decided to consecrate him as Metropolitan. On December 10, 1876 the Patriarch consecrated six priests as bishops including Ramban Geevarghese at St. Thomas Church, N Paravur. He was given the new name Geevarghese Mar Gregorios and was given the charge of Niranam Diocese. The other bishops and their Diocese were: Murimattath Mar Ivanios (Kandanad) Kadavil Mar Athanasios (Kottayam) Ambattu Mar Coorilos (Ankamaly) Karottuveetil Simon Mar Dionysius (Cochin) Konat Mar Julius (Thumpamon) St.Thomas Church, N Paravur

Mar Gregorios was only 28 years when he was made a bishop. Since he was the youngest among all the bishops, he was dearly called by all as ‘Kochu Thirumeni’. The first thing the new bishops undertook was a special fasting-vigil for forty days at Vettickal Dayara under the leadership of ‘Kochu Thirumeni’. This fasting was both symbolic and effective in the pursuit of new life in an old church.

Mar Gregorios took charge of the Niranam Diocese and started staying at Parumala. There was at Parumala, at that time, a land donated by Arikupurath Koruth Mathen to the church and in this plot a small building was erected by the Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius. This building was known as ‘Azhippura’. Mar Gregorios lived there along with few other deacons who came for priestly training. They worshipped in a thatched chapel during that time.


Mar Gregorios engaged in a threefold activity of tireless service for the church: Diocesan administration, Ministerial formation of deacons, Missionary witness of the church through inner spiritual and theological consolidation, along with evangelical reaching out.

In addition to these, Mar Gregorios undertook the task of building a church and seminary at Parumala. The diocesan administration, in the mean time, was extended to two more dioceses, Thumpamon and Quilon. The newly constructed church was consecrated in 1895. Mar Gregorios was the co-celebrant for the consecration of two ex-Roman Catholic priests as bishops: Fr.Alvaris as Alvaris Mar Kulius for Bombay-Mangalore Diocese; Fr.Rene Vilatti as Rene Vilatti Mar Timotheos for America.


Mar Gregorios made the Holy Land Pilgrimage in 1895 as the fulfillment of a long cherished dream. On his return he published a travelogue under the title ‘Oorslem yathra vivaranam’ (a narrative of the Jerusalem visit). This book, published in 1895 is to be considered as the earliest printed travelogue in Malayalam. This book had its centenary edition in 1996 and translation into English in 2000.


Mar Gregorios believed that the church should engage in educational activity especially to facilitate primary education and English teaching without discriminating gender or religion. Accordingly he started schools at Kunnamkulam, Mulamthuruthy, Niranam, Thumpamon, Thiruvalla etc. The missionary task of the Church was also evinced by his outreach programme to the socially down trodden communities at Chennithala, Kalikunnu, Mallappally, Puthupally, Kallumkathara etc. He also organized evangelical awakening programme for non-Christians at various places like Aluva, under the leadership of the Seminary students.

A major task of Mar Gregorios was to motivate the clergy for effective ministry. With this aim, he formed the Malankara Syrian Clergy Association and took many progressive decisions and made many suggestions for the effective functioning of the priestly ministry.


Among the many disciples of Mar Gregorios, three deserve special notice:

  1. Vattasseril Rev.Fr.Geevarghese (later, Malankara Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Dionysius)
  2. Kuttikattu Rev.Fr.Paulose (later, Paulose Mar Athanasios of Aluva) 
  3. Kallasseril Rev.Fr,Geevarghese (Punnoose) (later, Catholicos Baselios Geevarghese II) 


Mar Gregorios was already a piles-patient. It became chronic in 1902. Treatments proved futile and slowly His Grace became physically weaker and weaker. At last the blessed soul left the earthly abode on 2nd November 1902. The funeral was conducted at Parumala on Tuesday the 3rd of November 1902 in the presence of thousands of people and hundreds of priests. The many testimonies to the saintly intercession of Mar Gregorios made Parumala Church and the tomb a centre of pilgrimage. In 1947 Mar Gregorios of blessed memory was declared a saint by the then Catholicos of the church, His Holiness Baselius Geevarghese II.

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Slibo (Feast of the Holy Cross)


Velum shathrukalle ninaal njangal halleluiah… 
Dveshikale medhichedum nin naamathil
Varikallil ninnum kathengale nee halleluiah… 
Shathrukalle lejipichu (Kukliyon of the Cross)

"The sayings of the prophets foretold the holy Wood, whereby Adam was set free from the ancient curse of death. And today, at the Exaltation of the Cross, all creation raises its voice, asking of God plenteous mercy. O Master, who alone art boundless in compassion, be our atonement and save our souls!" (Feast of the Veneration of the Cross)

Each year on the fourteenth of September, the faithful come together in her churches for a unique celebration bound up in mystery and paradox. In this season the Cross, that most horrible of tools, is hallowed in the center of the church. The bishop/priest, taking the cross, processes to the center of the church where, as through it he presents his blessing, the people intone a solemn ‘Lord, have mercy’. Christians "exalt” the Cross of Christ as the instrument of our salvation. Adoration of the Cross is, thus, adoration of Jesus Christ, God and Man, who suffered and died on this instrument of torture for our redemption from sin and death. The cross represents the One Sacrifice by which Jesus Christ, obedient even unto death, accomplished our salvation. The cross is a symbolic summary of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ – all in one image.

On this great day, the precious Cross of Christ is not only venerated, it is exalted. It is elevated to the place of greatest honor, adored again and again as the ‘footstool’ by which Christ reigns over the universe. On this day, perhaps more than most other days, the full paradox of the Cross is loudly proclaimed: this instrument of most horrible death is become the ensign of victory and eternal life. The cruel weapon of torture and torment has been taken in the hand of God and transformed into the sword by which every enemy is defeated. The sword is raised, and the Devil is fallen. Without the Cross there is no Resurrection.

The Cross is power. The Cross is glory. The Cross is regal. The Cross is sweetness. The Cross is majestic. All these are wondrously foretold in the pages of a testament we call Old and all too often think of as 'outdated' or 'outmoded'. But when the Church sings her hymns, and when she magnifies the precious and life-giving Cross, she turns her eyes to these images. It is with a heart immersed in this truly cosmic and eternal universality of the Cross that she exults: 'The Cross is the guardian of the whole earth! The Cross is the beauty of the Church! The Cross is the strength of kings! The Cross is the support of the faithful! The Cross is the glory of the angels and the wounder of demons! We venerate Thy Cross, O Master, and we glorify Thy holy Resurrection!'.

The Cross - because of what it represents – is the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith. It has inspired both liturgical and private devotions: for example, the Sign of the Cross, which is an invocation of the Holy Trinity; the Sign of the Cross at the reading of the Gospel; and the Veneration of the Cross by the faithful on Good Friday. Placing a cross in churches and homes, in cars, or wearing this image on our persons, is a constant reminder – and witness – of Christ’s ultimate triumph, His victory over sin and death through His suffering and dying on the Cross. We remember Our Lord’s words, "He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mt 10:38,39). Meditating on these words we unite ourselves – our souls and bodies — with His obedience and His sacrifice; and we rejoice in this inestimable gift through which we have the hope of salvation and the glory. "Dying, you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life. Save us by your cross, Christ our Redeemer".

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Nativity of the Theotokos


There has been a lot of discussion about the "Eight Days Fast Commemorating the Nativity of the Theotokos'. Questions have been raised if this 'feast' is to be celebrated at all? Then, there are those that argue for and against the 'Eight Days Lent' that has picked up so much popularity in the Orthodox Churches in India.

The Nativity of the Theotokos is not a feast the Orthodox Church got from the Catholic church. This feast is celebrated by Byzantine Orthodox, some Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. This is a feast of the Church - it might not have come down to the Indian Orthodox Church through the West Syrian influence. That is no way means it is not Orthodox.

Abstaining from certain kinds of food is fasting. Even if believers partake of the Holy Qurbana during these 8 days and break their fast, but they abstain from certain kinds of food - it is considered fasting. Fasting is the expression of expectation, of the state of waiting and preparation.

With that said here is a brief overview on the 'Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos'.

The Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos is the first major feast of the new Church Year (Eastern Orthodox), which begins on September 1st. Why was this day selected since it is not in the Holy Scripture? History shows that St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, built a Church in Jerusalem, which was dedicated to the Nativity of our Lady. It was said to be consecrated on the date of her nativity: September 8th. The birth and early life of the Virgin Mary is not recorded in the Gospels or other books of the New Testament, however this information can be found in a work dating from the second century known as the Book of James or Protevangelion.[1]

According to the story found in this book, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anna, were childless for many years. They remained faithful to God, but their prayers for a child were unanswered. One day, when Joachim came to the temple to make an offering, he was turned away by the High Priest who chastised him for his lack of children. To hide his shame, Joachim retreated to the hill country to live among the shepherds and their flocks. Joachim was frustrated that he was turned away by the High Priest in the temple but he submitted his emptiness to the Lord. At the same time his wife Anna also prayed at their house in Jerusalem. An angel appeared to both of them and announced that Anna would have a child whose name would be known throughout the world. Anna promised to offer her child as a gift to the Lord. Joachim returned home, and in due time Anna bore a daughter, Mary.[2] Joachim was of the lineage of David, and Anna of the lineage of Aaron. Thus, Mary was of royal birth by her father and of priestly birth by her mother. In this, Mary foreshadowed Christ who would be born of her as King and High Priest.

"Mary, Full of grace, Blessed among women, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Altar of the Living God, the Table of the Heavenly Bread, the Ark of God's Holiness, the Tree of the Sweetest Fruit, the Glory of the race of man, the Praise of womanhood, the Fount of virginity and purity - this was the daughter given by God to Joachim and Anna. She was born in Nazareth, and at the age of three, was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem. In her young womanhood she returned again to Nazareth, and shortly thereafter heard the Annunciation of the Holy Archangel Gabriel concerning the birth of the Son of God, the Savior of the world, from her most-pure virgin body".[3]

Romanos, who lived in the 5th century, was a native of Syria and later a deacon of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. He is known to have composed and written many prayers and hymns now in use in the Eastern Church. He was probably the first one who brought this day to the attention of the Church leaders. He wrote a hymn in honor of her birth and spread the knowledge of it among the people. Both St. Andrew of Crete and St. John of Damascus also wrote much about this event. Andrew of Crete said: "This day is for us the beginning of all holy days. It is the door to kindness and truth. Today is arranged for the Creator of all, an inspired Church and creation prepares itself to become the divine dwelling place of its Creator".[4] John of Damascus says, "The day of the Nativity of the Theotokos is the feast of joy for the whole world, because through the Theotokos the entire human race was renewed and the grief of the first mother Eve was changed into joy".[5]

The fact that there is no Biblical verification of Mary's birth is incidental to the meaning of the feast. There had to be one born of human flesh and blood who would be spiritually capable of being the Theotokos, and she herself had to be born into the world of persons who were spiritually capable of being her parents. The feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, therefore is a glorification of the miracle of Mary's birth, a celebration as well of the very first preparation of the salvation of the world. "From Apostolic times and to our days all who truly love Christ give veneration to Her Who gave birth to Him, raised Him and protected Him in the days of His youth. If God the Father chose Her, God the Holy Spirit descended upon Her, and God the Son dwelt in Her, submitted to Her in the days of His youth, was concerned for Her when hanging on the Cross then should not everyone who confesses the Holy Trinity venerate Her?"[6]

"The Redeemer of the human race -- as I said -- willed to arrange a new birth and re-creation of mankind: like as under the first creation, taking dust from the virginal and pure earth, wherein He formed the first Adam, so also now, having arranged His Incarnation upon the earth, -- and so to speak, in place of dust -- He chooses from out of all the creation this Pure and Immaculate Virgin and, having re-created mankind within His Chosen-One from amidst mankind, the Creator of Adam is made the New Adam, in order to save the old".[7]

The Orthodox Church gives a special place to the honor and veneration of the Virgin Mary the Mother of God. The Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus (431 A.D.) officially adopted the term Theotokos in her honor. There is a period of fasting (the first 14 days of August) and numerous feasts and hymns dedicated to her. Her image is traditionally painted above the Sanctuary and called "more spacious than the heavens" (Platytera). The Virgin Mary, being the mother of God, earnestly intercedes for us, for she gave her flesh to Christ in all humility and obedience, so that the Word of God could become man.[8]

The image of the Hodegetria holds a privileged place in the iconography of the Mother of God. "Hodegetria" means "She who shows the Way".[9] Mary, the Mother of God always shows us the way to God. May the prayers of the Theotokos be a stronghold to us.

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St. Matthias the Apostle


St. Matthias was born at Bethlehem of the Tribe of Judah. From his early childhood he studied the Law of God under the guidance of St Simeon the God-receiver.

When the Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself to the world, St Matthias believed in him as the Messiah, followed constantly after him and was numbered among the Seventy Apostles, whom the Lord "sent them two by two before His face" (Luke 10:1).

After the Ascension of the Savior, St Matthias was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot as one of the Twelve Apostles (Acts 1:15-26). After the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Matthias preached the Gospel at Jerusalem and in Judea together with the other Apostles (Acts 6:2, 8:14). From Jerusalem he went with the Apostles Peter and Andrew to Syrian Antioch, and was in the Cappadocian city of Tianum and Sinope. Here the Apostle Matthias was locked into prison, from which he was miraculously freed by St Andrew the First-Called.

The Apostle Matthias journeyed after this to Amasea, a city on the shore of the sea. During a three year journey of the Apostle Andrew, St Matthias was with him at Edessa and Sebaste. According to Church Tradition, he was preaching at Pontine Ethiopia (presently Western Georgia) and Macedonia. He was frequently subjected to deadly peril, but the Lord preserved him to preach the Gospel.

Once, pagans forced the saint to drink a poison potion. He drank it, and not only did he himself remain unharmed, but he also healed other prisoners who had been blinded by the potion. When St Matthias left the prison, the pagans searched for him in vain, for he had become invisible to them. Another time, when the pagans had become enraged intending to kill the Apostle, the earth opened up and engulfed them.

The Apostle Matthias returned to Judea and did not cease to enlighten his countrymen with the light of Christ's teachings. He worked great miracles in the Name of the Lord Jesus and he converted a great many to faith in Christ.

The Jewish High Priest Ananias hated Christ and earlier had commanded the Apostle James, Brother of the Lord, to be flung down from the heights of the Temple, and now he ordered that the Apostle Matthias be arrested and brought for judgment before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem.

The impious Ananias uttered a speech in which he blasphemously slandered the Lord. Using the prophecies of the Old Testament, the Apostle Matthias demonstrated that Jesus Christ is the True God, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, Consubstantial and Coeternal with God the Father. After these words the Apostle Matthias was sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin and stoned.

When St Matthias was already dead, the Jews, to hide their malefaction, cut off his head as an enemy of Caesar. (According to several historians, the Apostle Matthias was crucified, and indicate that he instead died at Colchis.) The Apostle Matthias received the martyr's crown of glory in the year 63.

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St. Jude the Apostle


Jude was the brother of St. James and son of St. Joseph, betrothed to the Theotokos. Sometimes he is called Levi or Thaddeus (some English translations call him "Judas"). He protested along with Simon and Hosea when the elderly Joseph wanted to leave a portion of his estate to Jesus upon his death. He was often called 'brother of James' out of humility and shame for he did not believe in Christ at first, yet St. James did.

He was one of the Twelve Apostles (not to be confused with the Thaddeus of the Seventy Apostles) and after the Ascension he preached the Gospel Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Idumea, Syria, Arabia, Mesopotamia and Armenia.

In Armenia St. Thaddeus converted many followers, including Princess Sandukht, the daughter of King Sanatruk of Shavarshan, in the province of Artaz. By the order of King Sanatruk St. Thaddeus, along with his converts, were martyred in 66 A.D., for preaching Christianity

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Shunoyo (Dormition of the Theotokos)


The Theotokos had now reached an advanced age. Her fervent and unceasing desire was to leave the body and be with her beloved Son and God. The Mother of God did not fear death, nor did she seek to avoid it. She knew that death had already been overcome by her Son and God. At that time she still lived in the house of John the Evangelist on Mount Sion. She often went from there to the Mount of Olives to offer fervent prayers. As she was thus praying on the Mount of Olives that the Lord quickly take her to heaven, there appeared before her the archangel Gabriel and disclosed to the Theotokos the following: “Thus says your Son: The days are approaching when I will take My Mother unto Me”. Thus the Virgin heard those much longed for words which she received with gladness.

Tradition has it that it occurred on a Friday. Thus after three days, on a Sunday, she would depart and be with Christ. On the message of the angel, she uttered the following prayer to God: “I would not have been worthy to receive Thee, O Lord, into my womb, unless Thou Thyself had mercy on me, Thy slave. I kept the treasure entrusted to me and, therefore, I have the boldness to ask Thee, O King of glory, to protect me from the power of Gehenna”. The Theotokos also desired to behold the holy Apostles who were scattered throughout the world preaching the Gospel. When the Virgin knelt and offered her petition and thanksgiving, her prayer was accompanied by a manifestation: the olive trees growing on the Mount of Olives bowed with her as they were animate. When the Theotokos knelt, the trees bent down; when she arose, the trees straightened themselves out again. Thus, even the trees revered and honoured the Mother of God.

After completing her prayer, the Theotokos returned to her home. The Theotokos prepared for her repose. She told the matter to the beloved disciple John, who had taken her into his home as his own mother. She ordered that her bed and room be decorated, and that incense and as many lamps as possible to be lit in it. She then changed her clothes. Simply put, all necessary preparations for her burial were made.

John at once sent for James. John also sent for all their relatives and neighbours, informing them of the imminent repose of the Mother of God. James, too informed all the Christians, both them that were in Jerusalem and in the surrounding towns and villages. Thus, a great multitude of the faithful gathered around the Theotokos. The whole house was filled with weeping and lamentation. The Theotokos, however, asked them not to weep for her, but to rejoice at her repose. These comforting words dried the tears and brought solace to their sorrow.

The Theotokos then made a will concerning her two garments. She desired that they be given to two poor widows who had faithfully served her and received their maintenance from her. With regard to her body, the Mother of God made her will known that it should be buried on the Mount of Olives, not far from Jerusalem, in the garden of Gethsemane. There also were interred her parents, the righteous Joachim and Anna, and her spouse, Joseph. The tombs lay in the Valley of Jehosaphat between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.

While the Theotokos was making these arrangments, all of a sudden a noise was heard, similar to a clap of thunder. A cloud then encircled the home of John. By the command of God, angels had siezed the Apostles that were scattered to the ends of the world and brought them on clouds to Jerusalem. All, except the Apostle Thomas, were then placed on Sion before the door of the house where the Theotokos dwelt. Therefore, on seeing one another, the holy Apostles rejoiced, but at the same time they wondered, saying, “Why has the Lord gathered us together in this place?” John informed them of the speedy departure of the Mother of God.

It was the Lord’s day, and the fifteenth day of the month of August, when that blessed hour that all were awaiting drew near. It was the third hour of the day (9:00 a.m.). In the rooms the lamps were burning. The holy Apostles were offering praise to God. When they had prayed, there was a thunder from heaven and there came a fearful voice as if of chariots; and behold, a multitude of a host of angels and powers, and a voice, as if of the Son of Man was heard. Raising herself from bed as if she were trying to go and meet her Son, she worshipped the Lord. The she said, “Ready is my heart, O God, ready is my heart”. The she repeated the words once said by her, “Be it unto me according to Thy word” [Lk 1:38], and then lay down on the bed. With these words, the Theotokos, surrendered her soul into the hands of the Lord. At once there began wonderful and joyous angelic singing repeating the fomer words of gabriel: Rejoice, thou who are full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed are thou among women” [Lk 1:28].

Then a solemn procession conveyed the body of the Theotokos from Sion through Jerusalem to Gethsemane. The tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane was east of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley. Finally, the holy Apostles with all the multitude of Christians reached the Garden. When they laid down the bier with the body, the Christians began to weep. In giving the last kiss, the Christians fell down before the body of the Theotokos. Kissing it, thy shed copious tears, so that only towards evening could the body be placed in the new tomb. Her relics were laid with the greatest honour, while chanting and weeping took place. When the Apostles stepped before her bier to bid her farewell, each according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they uttered pslams of triumph and thanksgiving and chanted prayers.

Many believe that at the end of her life Mary was assumed bodily ‘into heaven’. This claim, magisterially entitled ‘The Doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’, is a Latin concept. The Orthodox marked this feast as the koimesis (dormition) of the Theotokos. Finally, we Orthodox do not “worship” the Virgin Mary. We “venerate” her and show her great honor. Nor have we ever, like the Latins, developed the idea that the Theotokos was born without sin (the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception) or that she is a co-redemptor with Christ. The consensus of the Church Fathers rejects such ideas, and the Orthodox Church adheres to that consensus. However, we do believe that the Virgin Mary is an image of the Christian goal of becoming Christ-like, of theosis. Just as the Theotokos gave birth to Christ in a bodily way, so we must bear Christ in a spiritual way. In so doing, we imitate her practical spiritual life, including the purity and humility by which she formed her free will into perfect obedience to the Will of God.

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Mtalé (Transfiguration of our Lord)


As we know, the Transfiguration of Christ is one of the central events recorded in the gospels. Immediately after our Lord was recognized by his apostles as "the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Living God," he told them that "he must go up to Jerusalem and suffer many things … and be killed and on the third day be raised" (Mt 16). The announcement of Christ’s approaching passion and death was met with indignation by the disciples. And then, after rebuking them, the Lord took Peter, James, and John "up to a high mountain" — by tradition mount Tabor — and was "transfigured before them."

His face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as snow and behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah. He was still speaking when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead" (Mt 17:1-92, see also Mk 9:1-9; Lk 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18).

The Jewish Festival of Tents was a feast of the dwelling of God with men, referring to their journey from Egypt to the promised-land where they always lived in tents whenever they camped. The Tabernacle, the house of their Lord, was with them always at the centre of their camp. The transfiguration of Christ reveals how this dwelling takes place in and through the Messiah, the Son of God in human flesh. Christ’s transfiguration took place at the time of the Festival of Tents, and that the celebration of the event in the Christian Church became a feast in a way similar to the feasts of Passover and Pentecost.

In the Transfiguration, the apostles see the glory of the Kingdom of God present in majesty in the person of Christ. They see that in him, indeed, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, that "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 1:19, 2:9). They see this before the crucifixion so that in the resurrection they might know who it is who has suffered for them, and what it is that this one, who is God, has prepared for those who love him. This is what the Church celebrates in the feast of the Transfiguration and hence she prays: "Thou wast transfigured on the mount. 0 Christ, our Lord and Savior, revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners. Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee. On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, 0 Christ God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it; so that when they would behold Thee crucified, they would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world that Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father." – Prayers from the Feast of Transfiguration.

Besides the fundamental meaning which the event of the Transfiguration has in the context of the life and mission of Christ, and in addition to the theme of the glory of God which is revealed in all of its divine splendor in the face of the Savior, the presence of Moses and Elijah is also of great significance for the understanding and celebration of the feast. Many of the hymns refer to these two leading figures of the Old Covenant as do the three scripture readings of Vespers which tell of the manifestation of the glory of God to these holy men. (Ex 24:12-18; 33:11-34:8; 1 Kings 19:3-16). Moses and Elijah, according to the liturgical verses, are not only the greatest figures of the Old Testament who now come to worship the Son of God in glory, they also are not merely two of the holy men to whom God has revealed himself in the pre-figurative theophanies of the Old Covenant of Israel. These two figures actually stand for the Old Testament itself: Moses for the Law and Elijah for the Prophets. And Christ is the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets (Mt 5:17). They also stand for the living and dead, for Moses died and his burial place is known, while Elijah was taken alive into heaven in order to appear again to announce the time of God’s salvation in Christ the Messiah. Thus, in appearing with Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah show that the Messiah Savior is here, and that he is the Son of God to whom the Father himself bears witness, the Lord of all creation, of the Old and New Testaments, of the living and the dead. The Transfiguration of Christ in itself is the fulfillment of all of the theophanies and manifestations of God, a fulfillment made perfect and complete in the person of Christ. The Transfiguration of Christ reveals to us our ultimate destiny as Christians, the ultimate destiny of all men and all creation to be transformed and glorified by the majestic splendor of God himself.

The feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated in most of the Orthodox Churches on the sixth of August. In the Gospel, the event of Transfiguration happens before the Death and Resurrection of our Lord. Then why we celebrate the feast after Pentecost at this period, and why particular on 6th August? There are both theological and historical reasons. The theological reason is that, transfiguration is possible only through the sacramental life and witness of the Church in Christ. The Church after Pentecost specially represents the sacramental body of Christ as well as it witnesses Him from generations to generations. The transfiguration and transformation of the Church, as a community of believers, is happening through this processes of witnessing Him in sacramental life. Virgin Mary the Mother of God, the most effective symbol of the Church, been transfigured and transformed to Divine Kingdom as the first and true model for all the Church. This is been celebrated on fifteenth of August.

The historical reason should be that the Romans as well as the Byzantines were having their great summer fest at this time. The summer celebration of the feast, however, has lent itself very well to the theme of transfiguration. Their tradition of blessing of grapes, as well as other fruits and vegetables on this day is the most beautiful and adequate sign of the final transfiguration of all things in Christ. It signifies the ultimate flowering and fruitfulness of all creation in the paradise of God’s unending Kingdom of Life where all will he transformed by the glory of the Lord.

However, the importance of the Feast of Transfiguration should be acknowledged in the Church. Our parishes, Monasteries and other spiritual institutions must celebrate this feast of our Lord in its full meaning and application in the life of our believers. Because, according to the Fathers, it is, undoubtedly, even the for-taste of the kingdom of God.

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to Aug 15

Virgin Mary's Fast


We do practice this fast in preparation for the celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and in following in her footsteps and those of the Holy Apostles who fasted at the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. This fast lasts for fifteen days and ends on the Assumption Day of the Virgin Mary, August 15th.

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Prophet Elijah


Elijah of great fame was from Thisbe or Thesbe, a town of Galaad (Gilead), beyond the Jordan. He was of priestly lineage, a man of a solitary and ascetical character, clothed in a mantle of sheep skin, and girded about his loins with a leathern belt. His name is interpreted as "Yah is my God." His zeal for the glory of God was compared to fire, and his speech for teaching and rebuke was likened unto a burning lamp. From this too he received the name Zealot. Therefore, set aflame with such zeal, he sternly reproved the impiety and lawlessness of Ahab and his wife Jezebel. He shut up heaven by means of prayer, and it did not rain for three years and six months. Ravens brought him food for his need when, at God's command, he was hiding by the torrent of Horrath. He multiplied the little flour and oil of the poor widow of Sarephtha of Sidon, who had given him hospitality in her home, and when her son died, he raised him up. He brought down fire from Heaven upon Mount Carmel, and it burned up the sacrifice offered to God before all the people of Israel, that they might know the truth. At the torrent of Kisson, he slew 450 false prophets and priests who worshipped idols and led the people astray. He received food wondrously at the hand of an Angel, and being strengthened by this food he walked for forty days and forty nights. He beheld God on Mount Horeb, as far as this is possible for human nature. He foretold the destruction of the house of Ahab, and the death of his son Ohozias; and as for the two captains of fifty that were sent by the king, he burned them for their punishment, bringing fire down from Heaven. He divided the flow of the Jordan, and he and his disciple Elisseus passed through as it were on dry land; and finally, while speaking with him, Elijah was suddenly snatched away by a fiery chariot in the year 895 B.C., and he ascended as though into heaven, whither God most certainly translated him alive, as He did Enoch (Gen. 5:24; IV Kings 2: 11). But from thence also, after seven years, by means of an epistle he reproached Joram, the son of Josaphat, as it is written: "And there came a message in writing to him from Elijah the Prophet, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the way," and so forth (II Chron. 21:12). According to the opinion of the majority of the interpreters, this came to pass either through his disciple Elisseus, or through another Prophet when Elijah appeared to them, even as he appeared on Mount Tabor to the disciples of Christ.

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St. Yulithi & St. Kuriakose


The blessed Yulithi (Julietta) and her saintly son trampled the devil and all his wicked means under their feet and received the crowns of martyrdom. Yuliti, a beautiful rich woman and a good Christian, a descendent of the Asian kings, was born in Iconnium in Asia Minor where St.Paul and Barnabas founded the church. Yuliti spent most of her time in praying and helping the poor. Yuliti's only son Kuriakose (Cyricus) grew up in a spiritual atmosphere whose first spoken words were "I am a Christian". When Yuliti's husband passed away all on a sudden, she had to raise her son by herself. Dioceltian, the Roman emperor, started the worst Christian persecution when Kuriakose was only three years old.

Yuliti, in order to escape from persecution, fled to Selucia in Syria with two of her maids. As the situation there was also worse, they went to Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul. The Roman tetrarch in that city, Alexandros was also very cruel towards Christians. Yuliti was arrested and brought before Alexandros. Because Yuliti confessed that she is a Christian as against all warnings of Alexandros, the soldiers threw Yuliti on the ground after taking away young Kuriakose from her. Alexandros promised to release her if she forsook Jesus Christ to which she answered that even a child, like her son, would not budge. Alexandros asked Kuriakose: "Would you agree to worship the idols". Young Kuriakose replied: "Your idols are made by stone and wood; My real God is Jesus Christ". When Yuliti heard this, she filled with courage shouted: "I am a Christian; I worship the real God Jesus Christ who made heaven and earth". Then Kuriakose also started shouted "I am a Christian; I am a Christian".

Soldiers continued beating Yuliti and the ruler tried to play with the boy to attract his attention. The tetrarch got mad at the child as he was not falling into his trap and threw him to the ground. The young boy hit his head against one of the concrete steps and died instantly. When Yuliti saw this, she prayed: "Thank you my Lord because you considered Kuriakose worthy of receiving this glorious crown. I ask you now my Savior to take me also.....” On hearing this, the angered Roman emperor ordered her to be beheaded. Thus she was beheaded while she was repeatedly saying: " I am a Christian, I am a Christian". At night, her two maids took the bodies and hid them in a cave near Tarsus.

When Constantine, the first Roman emperor, came to power, he built a church where the Mother and the child were martyred. Parts of the relics of these two saints' are preserved in the Syrian St.Mary's Monastery in the valley of Nitron. There is also a historical church bearing their name in Tahta.

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St. Thomas the Apostle

The Apostle Thomas was born in the Galileian city of Pansada and was a fisherman. Hearing the good tidings of Jesus Christ, he left all and followed after him.

According to Holy Scripture, the holy Apostle Thomas did not believe the reports of the other disciples about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).

On the eighth day after the Resurrection, the Lord appeared to the Apostle Thomas and showed him His wounds. "My Lord and my God," the Apostle cried out (John 20:28). "Thomas, being once weaker in faith than the other apostles," says St John Chrysostom, "toiled through the grace of God more bravely, more zealously and tirelessly than them all, so that he went preaching over nearly all the earth, not fearing to proclaim the Word of God to savage nations."

According to Church Tradition, the holy Apostle Thomas founded Christian churches in Palestine, Mesopotamia, Parthia, Ethiopia and India. Church Traditon also indicates that Apostle Thomas baptized the Magicitation needed. Preaching the Gospel earned him a martyr's death. For having converted the wife and son of the prefect of the Indian city of Meliapur (Melipur), the holy apostle was locked up in prison, suffered torture, and finally, pierced with five spears, he departed to the Lord. Part of the relics of the holy Apostle Thomas are in India, in Hungary and on Mt. Athos.

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12 Apostles


The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, the First-called; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, who was also the Evangelist and Theologian; Philip, and Bartholomew (see also June 11); Thomas, and Matthew the publican, who was also called Levi and was an Evangelist; James the son of Alphaeus, and Jude (also called Lebbaeus, and surnamed Thaddaeus), the brother of James, the Brother of God; Simon the Cananite ("the Zealot"), and Matthias, who was elected to fill the place of Judas the traitor

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Sts. Peter and Paul


The divinely-blessed Peter was from Bethsaida of Galilee. He was the son of Jonas and the brother of Andrew the First-called. He was a fisherman by trade, unlearned and poor, and was called Simon; later he was renamed Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who looked at him and said, "Thou art Simon the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter)" (John 1:42). On being raised by the Lord to the dignity of an Apostle and becoming inseparable from Him as His zealous disciple, he followed Him from the beginning of His preaching of salvation up until the very Passion, when, in the court of Caiaphas the high priest, he denied Him thrice because of his fear of the Jews and of the danger at hand. But again, after many bitter tears, he received complete forgiveness of his transgression. After the Resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, he preached in Judea, Antioch, and certain parts of Asia, and finally came to Rome, where he was crucified upside down by Nero, and thus he ascended to the eternal habitations about the year 66 or 68, leaving two Catholic (General) Epistles to the Church of Christ.

Paul, the chosen vessel of Christ, the glory of the Church, the Apostle of the Nations and teacher of the whole world, was a Jew by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, having Tarsus as his homeland. He was a Roman citizen, fluent in the Greek language, an expert in knowledge of the Law, a Pharisee, born of a Pharisee, and a disciple of Gamaliel, a Pharisee and notable teacher of the Law in Jerusalem. For this cause, from the beginning, Paul was a most fervent zealot for the traditions of the Jews and a great persecutor of the Church of Christ; at that time, his name was Saul (Acts 22:3-4). In his great passion of rage and fury against the disciples of the Lord, he went to Damascus bearing letters of introduction from the high priest. His intention was to bring the disciples of Christ back to Jerusalem in bonds. As he was approaching Damascus, about midday there suddenly shone upon him a light from Heaven. Falling on the earth, he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And he asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And that heavenly voice and brilliance made him tremble, and he was blinded for a time. He was led by the hand into the city, and on account of a divine revelation to the Apostle Ananias (see Oct. 1), he was baptized by him, and both his bodily and spiritual eyes were opened to the knowledge of the Sun of Righteousness. And straightway- O wondrous transformation! - beyond all expectation, he spoke with boldness in the synagogues, proclaiming that "Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 9:1-21). As for his zeal in preaching the Gospel after these things had come to pass, as for his unabating labors and afflictions of diverse kinds, the wounds, the prisons, the bonds, the beatings, the stonings, the shipwrecks, the journeys, the perils on land, on sea, in cities, in wildernesses, the continual vigils, the daily fasting, the hunger, the thirst, the nakedness, and all those other things that he endured for the Name of Christ, and which he underwent before nations and kings and the Israelites, and above all, his care for all the churches, his fiery longing for the salvation of all, whereby he became all things to all men, that he might save them all if possible, and because of which, with his heart aflame, he continuously traveled throughout all parts, visiting them all, and like a bird of heaven flying from Asia and Europe, the West and East, neither staying nor abiding in any one place - all these things are related incident by incident in the Book of the Acts, and as he himself tells them in his Epistles. His Epistles, being fourteen in number, are explained in 250 homilies by the divine Chrysostom and make manifest the loftiness of his thoughts, the abundance of the revelations made to him, the wisdom given to him from God, wherewith he brings together in.

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St. James of the Less


According to some, this Saint was a son of Joseph the Betrothed, born of the wife that the latter had before he was betrothed to the Ever-virgin. Hence he was the brother of the Lord, Who was also thought to be the son of Joseph (Matt. 13: 55). But some say that he was a nephew of Joseph, and the son of his brother Cleopas, who was also called Alphaeus and Mary his wife, who was the first cousin of the Theotokos. But even according to this genealogy, he was still called, according to the idiom of the Scriptures, the Lord's brother because of their kinship.

This James is called the Less (Mark 15:4) by the Evangelists to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee, who was called the Great. He became the first Bishop of Jerusalem, elevated to this episcopal rank by the Apostles, according to Eusebius (Eccl. Hist., Book II: 23), and was called Obliah, that is, the Just, because of his great holiness and righteousness. Having ascended the crest of the Temple on the day of the Passover at the prompting of all, he bore testimony from there concerning his belief in Jesus, and he proclaimed with a great voice that Jesus sits at the right hand of the great power of God and shall come again upon the clouds of heaven. On hearing this testimony, many of those present cried, "Hosanna to the Son of David." But the Scribes and Pharisees cried, "So, even the just one hath been led astray," and at the command of Ananias the high priest, the Apostle was cast down headlong from thence, then was stoned, and while he prayed for his slayers, his head was crushed by the wooden club wielded by a certain scribe. The first of the Catholic (General) Epistles written to the Jews in the Diaspora who believed in Christ was written by this James.

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to Jun 29

Apostles' Fast


It was named as such out of the custom of calling something after the name of the one who instituted that thing. It is only God to Whom fasting is due. The practice of this fast means following in the footsteps of the Apostles (Heb. 13-7) who observed it in fulfillment of the Lord Jesus' words: "The days will come when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them and then shall they fast." (Matt 9:15). After the Ascension of the Lord Jesus to heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, they started to fast. In reference to this the following is stated in the Acts of the Apostles: "As they ministered to the Lord and fasted." (Acts 13:2)

The duration of this fast differed in length based on the Julian calendar of Easter. Starting accordingly on June 16 and ending with the commemorative of the two chief Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul on June 29.

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Sts. Bartholomew the Apostle & Barnabas


Saint Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles, and had Galilee as his homeland; this is all that is known of him for certain according to the history of the Gospels. Concerning his apostolic work, certain say that he preached in Arabia and Persia, and especially in India, bringing to them the Gospel written by Saint Matthew, which had been written originally in Hebrew, and which was found there one hundred years later by Pantaenus, formerly a stoic philosopher and later an illustrious teacher of the Christian school in Alexandria (see Eusebius, Eccl. Hist., 5: 10). Other accounts say that he went to Armenia. According to some, he ended his life by being crucified, or by being flayed alive, in Albanopolis (Urbanopolis) of Armenia. This also confirms an ancient tradition preserved by the Armenians. According to some, Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person, because the Evangelists who mention Bartholomew do not mention Nathanael; and John, who alone mentions Nathanael as one of the Twelve, says nothing of Bartholomew. Indeed, Bartholomew is a patronymic, "son of Talmai," which means "bold, spirited" (see also Jesus of Navi 15:14; II Kings 3:3), and Nathanael could have had this as a surname. According to the Synaxarion of the Menaion on April 22, however, it is Simon the Zealot and Nathanael who are the same; the Evangelists who mention Simon the Zealot (or "the Cananite") do not mention Nathanael.

Saint Barnabas, one of the Seventy, was from Cyprus, of the tribe of Levi, and a fellow disciple with Paul under Gamaliel. He was called Joses, but was renamed Barnabas, which means "son of consolation," perhaps to distinguish him from the Joses called Barsabas and surnamed Justus (Acts 1:23). Saint Barnabas had a field, which he sold and brought the money to the Apostles (Acts 4:36-37). Before the conversion of Saul to Paul, it was Barnabas who was the leader of the Seventy Apostles, the first in preaching and chief spokesman. After Saul's vision on the road to Damascus, it was Barnabas who joined him to the Apostles when the others, because of Saul's reputation as a persecutor of the Church, still feared him (Acts 9:26-27); again it was Saint Barnabas who conscripted Paul as a preacher, bringing him from Tarsus to Antioch after the stoning of Stephen, to assist in spreading the Gospel (Acts 11:25-26). Saint Barnabas preached the Gospel in many places, traveled together with Paul, and finally was stoned to death by the Jews in his native Cyprus. During the reign of Zeno, in the year 478, his sacred relics were found, having on his chest the Gospel according to Matthew written in Greek by Barnabas' own hand. This Gospel was brought to Zeno. Because of this the Church of Cyprus received the right of autonomy, and its archbishop was given the privilege, like the emperor, of signing his decrees and encyclicals in vermilion.

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On this day we recall that just 50 days after the Glorious Resurrection and 10 days after the Victorious Ascension of our Lord, the Holy Spirit came upon the Holy Apostles and all those gathered with. (Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2) We celebrate the bringing of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, the fulfillment of the Resurrection in the heart of man. Christ prophesied it Himself, and the fulfillment we hear in the Acts of the Apostles.

Usually, when we have a feast day, the primary reading will be from the Gospel, in terms of the content of the feast, but the event of Pentecost is described in the Acts. ‘Acts of the Apostles’ is the account of continuation of the history of Salvation and hence it is included in the New Testament giving next importance to the Gospel. The Ascension of our Lord, the dissension of the Holy Spirit and indwelling in the Church, in the heart of each believers and the early history of the Church are described there. The book is hence also called the ‘Work of the Holy Spirit.’ The event of Pentecost is the link between Gospel and other part of the New Testament. It shows that the Church is the Church of Triune God; continuation of Creation, redemption in Christ and growing in Spirit.

Why it is like a demonstration of the Holy Trinity, why there are three parts for the order of Service of the Feast of Pentecost?

We worship the Triune God – The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of our prayers starts and ends in the name of Triune God – "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Living Holy Spirit, One God for ever and ever." No doubt, we believe in One True God – "The Father who by His grace created the world, the Son who by His precious suffering redeemed the world and the Holy and Living Spirit who fulfills and perfects all that has been and all that will be." The above quoted liturgical passages are the most meaningful explanation why the One True God is worshiped in three Persons. He is the One manifested in three. He is the One who bestowed upon us in three Persons– Creator, Redeemer and Indweller for fulfillment and perfection. This is why He is understood and being referred by the Church in an integrated Triune form – the Holy Trinity. (In classical Hinduism the soundest philosophical definition for God follows: Sat-Chit-Anatam Brahmam. Here ‘Sat’ is the Pure Essence of Creation, ‘Chit’ the Pure Consciousness of Redemption and ‘Anatam’ the Pure state of Intelligence – indwelling for fulfillment and perfection. So for an Indian mind it will be much easier to understand the philosophy of One God in Three Persons.)

All the three phases of creation, redemption and indwelling are there from the start of the world itself. But these things revealed to humanity, as according to Christian Faith, in three definite phases, the Work of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the liturgical year of the Church, which is a depiction of the history of Salvation, these phases could trace as following: The start of first season begins with Sanctification of Church (Koothos Etho), the Redemption through the Incarnation of Christ- the second to fourth seasons- and the Indwelling of the Holy and Living Spirit- starts from the fifth season. This third and final phase starts on the day of the Feast of Pentecost. This could be the reason why the Fathers of the Church decided to use this wonderful occasion to demonstrate the Holy Trinity. To show and explain it so clearly and to become part of it they, filled with the Spirit of our Lord, designed it in three services of absolute meditation on the Holy Trinity. The history of Salvation is well presented in this canonical liturgy referring to each historical, prophetical and evangelistic writings from the Word of God; with high theological explanations, philosophical reasoning and contemplative meditation. One could see a finite expression of Eastern Orthodox liturgical worship on the Feast of Pentecost.

Sprinkling of water is considered in the Church as a symbolic expression of receiving the power of Holy Spirit. Christ said, "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink," and He said, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." The Apostle John tells us this refers to the Holy Spirit, Who was not yet given, but He was prophesying of what would happen when it was given. "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink." The Holy Spirit is available to us, if we thirst. Abundant water, cool water, fresh water. Not water from a cistern, but water from a living spring is available to us, but only if we thirst. If we do not thirst, then the water that we partake of is flat and lifeless and tepid. We must thirst. Thirst for righteousness, thirst for Christ. Then, out of your belly truly shall flow rivers of living water. Think of the image, of what this means. Continual activity, continual purity because water purifies, especially flowing water. It scours the ground, and cleans, takes waste away, continually flowing and purifying and cleansing. This is what happens in the heart of man, but only if we thirst. We must thirst for that good water, the water that Christ also spoke of with the woman at the well. If you thirst, then indeed, you will have living water.

"As many as we have been baptized into Christ, we have put on Christ." This putting on is our action, our desire, our continual living in Christ. May it be that we would truly live as Christians. The Spirit makes it possible. It is all there for us. Abundant grace is present, and abundant grace is continually shed upon us. And we would have all of this grace if we thirsted. To the extent that we thirst for things that are not godly, and that distract us, to that extent we don’t have this living water.

When he sent His Holy Spirit upon mankind it was so that the things of Christ would be revealed to those who would be willing to listen, and they would become completely alive. Everything would be cleaned; just as water that is rushing, cleans and freshens everything. So that even those parts of us which are dirty, even those parts of us which resist becoming perfected, the Lord will indeed perfect. Water can not be held back when it is in a torrent; everything in its path is pushed out of the way. So it is with the Holy Spirit. But there is a difference: when a flood comes upon us it is not of our own will that the water comes, and the water destroys things that are precious to us. But the flood of the Holy Spirit comes only if we desire it. If, of our will, we desire to follow the things of God, then indeed the torrent will come. The torrent will flow and never end. Anything that is ungodly that is in our way of the keeping of the commandments will be scoured away, will be pushed away, and the water will flow eternally out of our belly, out of every part of us.

Now, the Holy Spirit is also fire. Not just water, but also fire; now these are two things that in Nature do not exist together – one destroys the other. But according to God, these things can coexist. Fire burns away that which is trash, that which is unclean. Fire purifies. Fire softens. Fire warms. And we need the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn away impurity in our soul, and we need the warmth of the Holy Spirit to encourage us. He is called Comforter – He comforts with fire; He comforts by warming our hearts, by giving us that sure and certain hope that indeed we can be changed. And He is water, eternally giving us life, refreshment, invigorating us; a spring that never, ever ends. A drought will never come upon he who has the Spirit; fire and water in the soul of a Christian, each doing their part, each from the same Spirit.

The Holy Spirit abides in a Christian. Until the promise was given, the Holy Spirit did not live in men; all the things that were accomplished by the Spirit outside. Even the prophets who spoke by the Spirit: the Spirit did not live in them. He inspired them, and they were still unable to accomplish perfection. But now the Comforter is given to us, and we can become perfected. Anything that is impure, anything that is temporal can all be changed, can become perfected, can become clean, and can become light, life. Today when we celebrate the fulfillment of the Resurrection in man the Lord has given us everything now we need.

He lived on the earth and showed us the way of life that is perfect; the way of life that leads to eternal life, to true happiness, no other kind of happiness is possible. Only by following the will of God can we truly be happy. He showed us this. He showed us the way to live, of having priorities, to follow the commandments. But showing this would not do us any good, unless He also made us capable of doing what He shows us, because we were not capable of following His examples; we are strangers and aliens as the apostle said, far from God, unable to follow the commandments, not completely, not so that we could have rivers of living water in our belly springing out; not so that we could be completely perfected, have nothing ever that is corruptible in us. So He died, and resurrected Himself so that our bodies can be resurrected, can defeat corruption.

But even this is not enough. How many people live in the Resurrection? We still see sin, suffering, unbelief, sadness in the world. The Resurrection is for all men, but not all men are able to apprehend it, to clasp it to their bosom. We need a Comforter, a Guide, a Helper; that is the Holy Spirit. He is given so that we can live in the Resurrection; so we can apply the lessons the Lord has given us – and continues to give us on a moment by moment basis – of how to live, how to think, how to be, how to feel. All these lessons can be applied because the Comforter tells us in groaning that can not be uttered. Most of what the Holy Spirit does for us we do not see, or feel, or even know, but he does enlighten, and He does change, and He does make alive, Without the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection would only be a painting on the wall inaccessible to us, beautiful to be sure, but not something that belongs to us. The Holy Spirit makes it belong to us, because we can be changed. We do not have to live with incorruption

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