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Mar Gregorius Syriac Orthodox Students Association (MGSOSA)

THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

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“Follow me…” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

The disciples’ fishing nets represent their income, their sense of accomplishment and their identity as enterprising fish catching businessmen. They’ve probably handled these nets most of their lives. No wonder they find it difficult to let go of them.

How about imagining ourselves clutching the tightly woven cords of fishing nets- how familiar they feel, how secure? But remember, Jesus is standing near to us, gazing at us with a look of invitation that’s somehow irresistible. He’s asking us to let go of the nets and find our security in him. Jesus walks daily through our life, calling us to follow him. What is God asking us to let go of today? What do we need to relinquish in order to confirm our heart to the heart of our savior Jesus Christ?

Gospel Reading- Mark 1:12-20

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[a] of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Ma’ Altho: The presentation of infant Jesus

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Ma’ Altho is an important feast-day celebrating the presentation of infant Jesus to the Jerusalem temple. The presentation of infant Jesus is an analogy of “giving away” of children to God. They no longer simply belong to their parents, but they belong to God. In Orthodox tradition the sacrament of Baptism is a kind of a “giving away” of children to God.
This “giving away” of children in baptism implies that the parents/ god-persons are not just raising their own child, but a child of God. This is also an assurance that God will help in the complex process of child-rearing. So we have to trust that God’s hand is involved — often in ways that we can’t fully comprehend.
Acknowledging God’s mysterious involvement in human life is the crux of orthodox thought. Ma’ Altho is yet another feast-day to remind us to fully acknowledge and trust- that God is continuously involving in our lives, from birth till death and beyond.
Moreover, there can also be the comfort in knowing that we have been presented to and accepted by God as ‘God’s child’ through baptism. The world in which we live is not always kind or easy, but we are assured that we belong to God and he is well-connected with our lives.

Gospel Reading: Luke 2:36-40 (New Revised Standard Version)
36 There was also a prophet, Anna[a] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[b] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY: Nicodemus Visits Jesus

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Nicodemus was seeking Jesus under the cover of darkness because he has much to lose- his security, position and power. But Jesus asks him to be “born from above”; which was far beyond his comprehension.
We also find it difficult to understand many divine things as we are just another God’s creation. The plans and purposes of the creator are far beyond our comprehension. Orthodoxy is a way to make sense and connect with the creator God, who is beyond the human intellect and comprehension, through worship.

Gospel Reading: John 3: 1-12

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY: A personal invitation to “Come and See”

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“Come and see” is a personal invitation by Jesus. His disciples also invite others into discipleship saying, “come and see”. This phrase, in short has become a personal invitation to God’s dwelling and into discipleship with him.

Can we invite Jesus to come and see where we are dwelling? How about inviting him to our living space, kitchen and bedroom? How about talking to him as we show him around?

The imagination goes like this; if Jesus accepts our invitation ask him to sit with us. Show him those aspects of our home, collections, valuables, achievements and our possessions that delight us.

But if he asks, “where your sprit is residing”, how might we respond. Read this gospel passage, then meditate and write a conversation with Jesus about where we are “staying”. Be truthful and trust him. Pray through the thoughts and emotions we experience during the dialogue. Talk to your loved ones and share your experience.

Reading from John 1: 43-51: Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

 

 

CHRISTMAS QUIZ 2013

1. Whose birthday is celebrated as Christmas?

a. The Father God
b. God the Son
c. The Holy Sprit
d. None of the above

2. What is the meaning of the name Jesus?

a. Salvation
b. God saves
c. The lord is help
d. All of the above

3. Which two Gospels have the details of the birth of Jesus?

a. Mathew & Luke
b. Luke & Mark
c. Mark & John
d. John & Mathew

4. Which Gospel has the best and detailed description about the first Christmas?

a. Mathew
b. Mark
c. Luke
d. John

5. Who all visited baby Jesus on his birth day?

a. Shepherds & the Wise men
b. Shepherds
c. Wise Men & Angels
d. None of the above

6. The wise men searched for Jesus in__

a. The manger
b. Bethlehem
c. The Palace of King Herod
d. Nazareth

Answers
1. B; The father God send his only son to this world as part of his salvation plan. This is to reinstate the connection and fellowship with God, which was lost in the Garden of Eden.
2. D; Jeshua (Hebrew Yeshua) is a later abbreviated form of the name Joshua; which means The Lord is Help, or Salvation or the God saves. So the correct answer is all of the above.
3. A; Mathew and Luke do mention about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. There is little reference in other two gospels about the nativity.
4. C; Luke 2: 1-7 describes the birth of Jesus; verses 8-20 describe the annunciation to shepherds and their visit.
5. B
6. C; the star appeared on the east was there indication that the savior was born. But they searched for the savior in the palace of King Herod in Jerusalem. The king secretly called the wise men and learned the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem. They further followed the star and may be many months later they finally saw the savior. They offered three gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh.

THE SUNDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS

THE SUNDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS

 

Genealogies are common in Hebrew bible and were a matter of pride.  Mathew’s portrait of the genealogy of Jesus Christ is an amazing testimony to God’s power to overcome the sin of humankind. This stylized ancestral tree consisting of roughly three groups of fourteen: from Abraham to David, from David to the deportation to Babylon; and from the deportation to Jesus. The numerical value of David’s name in Hebrew is fourteen, which may account for this arrangement.

From an Orthodox perspective, these three phases represent the three states of human life. The first phase represents the uniqueness and dignity of humanhood, and the continued fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden.  The separation and lost fellowship with God when they committed sin represents the second phase. But God never abandoned the humankind. The salvation plan by sending the Son of God for the remission of human sin and the reinstatement of the fellowship with God represents the third phase.

Jesus genealogy is unusual, not simply because it includes women, but also because it features non-Israelite women, some of questionable repute (e.g., Tamar, Rahab). In short, despite Mathew’s intention to prove that Jesus is a true Israelite, this genealogy is by no means a “pure” family tree: Judah visited prostituted women; Rahab was a prostituted woman; David committed adultery and murder; Solomon flirted with idols. The inclusion of women (and/ or with questionable repute) may prefigure Mary’s own marital dilemma and the coming mission to the gentiles.

Yet through these imperfect people, God was able to preserve his promises and shape earthly events to prepare the way for the savior Messiah. Today, let’s think about what all ways in which we have departed from God’s will for us? Think about how God has called us back. Despite our spiritual dryness and (perceived) distance from God, can’t we see God’s working to keep us back on track with his purposes?

Today’s Gospel reading gives us the hope, that despite we slipped away we can come back as he came to call not the righteous but the sinners.

REVELATION TO ST. JOSEPH

St. Joseph: The ‘special’ chosen for the heavenly mission

REVELATION TO ST. JOSEPH

Joseph was a poor carpenter. He was simple, humble and lovable. Yet God choose this simple man to carry out one of the most important heavenly mission in the salvation plan. We are living in a world where everyone is ‘special’; we are proud of our ancestral family, our education, our occupation, our talents, our beauty, our skills, and the list continues. God always needs specials, but not according to human terms.

What made Joseph special? Though he thought of abandoning Mary, he does not want her to be disgraced in public. How will we cover ourselves, if we are going to be blamed in public? Aren’t we smart enough to play the ‘blame game’? But Joseph was righteous. He was extraordinary not to play the blame-game and the dream made him complete turnaround. The angel in his dream informed that the baby born in Mary is of the Holy Spirit. He took the word of the Angel as that of God. There is no doubt about the good understanding of Joseph. Neuroscience says we dream every day during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. But do you have any dreams that made a complete 180? Let’s pray to the Almighty God to have good dreams to help us to get inspired for a purposeful life.

From today’s Gospel reading, we can see that though simple, Joseph was a man of compassion, integrity, decency and love. He honored God’s will in his life, and was totally committed to act on God’s will. He was concerned about what God wanted out of his life than about what he himself wanted. This is the ‘special’ that made him chosen for the heavenly mission.

God is still looking for special people He can use to carry out His will in the today’s world. Are we ready to be the ‘specials’ in his list?

HOODOSH EETHO Sunday: “The Feast of Dedication of the Church.”

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HOODOSH EETHO Sunday: ‘Hoodosh Eetho’ means “The Feast of Dedication of the Church.”

Luke 20 depicts a series of questions the Jews ask Jesus in order to trick him. They ask Jesus three questions and today’s Gospel reading is about the first one; they question about the authority of Jesus. If we continue reading the chapter, Jesus responds by asking them twice as many questions and by telling them a parable.

We might want to list the questions in this chapter of Luke and ponder why Jesus asks so many of them. Then ask ourselves, “Do we respond to people’s problems with our answers or do we try to listen to them and ask them helpful questions?” A poet once said, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.” Are we ready to offer our own questions to God in our personal prayer life, in our community life, and in our church life?

As a church, as God’s people, let us ask these questions to ourselves. “Are we trying to listen to people’s cry, pain and sufferings? Or are we trying to respond with our myopic and selfish perspectives to the real problems of the world?”  Remember, the mother Church and her members were sanctified last week (Koodosh Eetho). Now it’s the time for renewal and re-dedication (Hoodosh Eetho). Let us pray and submit ourselves as a community, as the God’s people, as the church to renew and rededicate, to bear the beacon of light to the society that fumbles in the darkness of evil.

Various Classifications of periods in the Lectionary in Malankara tradition

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Reviewing the available literature, there are at least four to five different classifications of the periods in the Church Lectionary in the Malankara tradition. All of them have the same arrangement of Sundays, order, and themes with minor differences in the gospel readings and other readings from Old Testament and New Testament.

Over the years, liturgical calendars were published in two forms- the tables of Easter and related movable feasts; and a calendar of saints. The two have separate origins. The former were a matter of controversy in the ancient church. Eventually, a single one of 532 years (taqlab in Syriac sources) was adopted as the norm. They again differed in the way in which the dates of are fixed, so do the content and classification of Lectionary.

There are different categorizations of the periods in the Church. Many books published refer to six or seven periods; some refer to generally two periods; most of the other books on Lectionary have no mention on the periods/ cycles. The book ‘Sermons based on readings of the Lectionary’ by H.G Mor Chrysostamus Mosa Salama (1958; Re-published by Mor Adai Study Center) presents seven cycles instead of six. This approach seems to be classical and more authentic.

However, other approaches are in no way inferior to the seven period approach; indeed some of them are more logical and correlates well with the themes and gospel readings.

The 52/ 53 Sundays in a calendar year has been divided to Seven Cycles in the Church Calendar. The first Sunday according to the Church Calendar is the Koodosh Eetho Sunday (Sanctification of the Church). Koodosh Eetho is the Sunday that falls between October 30th and November 5th. The following are the four major classifications commonly found in the Malankara literature (includes the literature published by both the Indian Orthodox and Jacobite Churches).

I. A Broader classification (May have little to do with the actual Lectionary)

  1. Kymto period (Starts from Easter to the feast of Cross/ Sleebo)
  2. Sleebo period (Starts from the feast of Sleebo to Easter)

The order of worship of Kymto (prayers) are meant to be followed on all Sundays. However, inclusion of Sleebo prayers, and this kind of a bifurcation has a specific meaning and purpose. The general message of this categorization is that the salvation and liberation of human race is interlinked in the Cross and Resurrection of the savior lord Jesus Christ.

II. Another bivariate approach; this is more conceptual rather than a clear-cut division or categorization. This approach presumes that the entire Lectionary is stretched from Genesis to the second coming of Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. Koodosh Eetho to Pentecost; the Lectionary includes Genesis, Prophets, Birth, death and resurrection of the savior, to ascension and Pentecost. The entire message and objective of this part of the Lectionary is the spiritual empowerment of believers and meditation in lines with the salvation plan of God the Father.
  2. Pentecost to the second coming of Christ; this period is considered the ‘growth’ period of the church and beyond the scope of written scriptures. The reason being, the widespread growth of the church triggered after the formation of bible. The fundamental dogmas/ faith that are essential for Christian life and Jesus teachings pertaining to this are included in this section. To be more precise, the Sundays after Sleebo are aimed at reminding the church about the second coming of Jesus Christ and how the church and her members should prepare for the same.

III. Six cycles classification:

  1. The first Cycle Starts with Koodosh Eetho, and ends on the Christmas day (Yeldho).
  2. 2nd is from Christmas to the first Sunday of great lend (Kothine)
  3. 3rd is from the first Sunday of Great Lend to Easter Sunday (Kymtha)
  4. 4th is from Easter to Pentecost
  5. 5th is from Pentecost to Sleebo (feast of Cross)
  6. 6th is from Sleebo to Koodosh Eetho

IV. Seven cycle classification: (Mor Mosa Salama )

  1. Sanctification of the Church to Christmas (Yeldho)
  2. Yeldho to Epiphany (Dan’ho)
  3. Dan’ho to the Beginning Sunday of Great Lent (Kothine)
  4. Kothine to Easter Sunday (Kymtha)
  5. Kymtha to Pentecost
  6. Pentecost to the Transfiguration
  7. Sleebo to Sanctification of Church (Koodosh Eetho)

V. Yet another seven periods classification (conceptually same as above; difference in setting the norms)

  1. Suboro period: seven weeks from Koodosh Eetho
  2. Yeldho- Dan’ho period: seven weeks from the Sunday before Christmas to the beginning of Great Lent
  3. Lent period: seven weeks till Easter Sunday
  4. Kymtho (Hovore) period: Seven weeks from Easter to Pentecost
  5. Pentecost period: Pentecost to August 5th
  6.  Transfiguration period: Transfiguration to September 13th (till the day before the feast of Sleebo)
  7. Sleebo period: September 14th till Koodosh Eetho

Knowing this arrangement will help us to better appreciate and understand the logical connection between different feasts, days of the church, gospel readings and what the gospel messages are intended to be. Moreover, there are general themes for each cycle; for example, theme for the first Cycle is confession, affirmation and purification, which helps us to prepare to welcome the Savior on the Christmas day.

The divine intervention in Lectionary is beyond the scope of doubt and definitely Holy Spirit driven. The actual correlation of the themes of each period, the series of scripture readings on the respective Sundays and utilization of contemporary understanding of biblical hermeneutics on Lectionary are the topics for further research.

 

 

 

Seven Periods in the Church Calendar

Calendar NEW_001_001The 52/ 53 Sundays in a calendar year has been divided to Seven Cycles in the Church Calendar. The first Sunday according to the Church Calendar is the Koodosh Eetho Sunday (Sanctification of the Church). Koodosh Eetho is the Sunday that falls between October 30th and November 5th. Again, the entire church calendar is divided into 7 cycles.
I. Sanctification of the Church* to Christmas (Yeldho)
II. Yeldho to Epiphany (Dan’ho)
III. Dan’ho to the Beginning Sunday of Great Lent (Kothine)
IV. Kothine to Easter Sunday (Kymtha)
V. Kymtha to Pentecost
VI. Pentecost to the Transfiguration
VII. Sleebo to Sanctification of Church (Koodosh Eetho)
Knowing this arrangement will help us to better appreciate and understand the logical connection between different feasts, days of the church, gospel readings and what the gospel messages are intended to be. Moreover, there are general themes for each cycle; for example, theme for the first Cycle is confession, affirmation and purification, which helps us to prepare to welcome the Savior on the Christmas day.
A Note on the correction: Earlier we published the cycles as SIX instead of SEVEN. Over the years, liturgical calendars were published in two forms- the tables of Easter and related movable feasts; and a calendar of saints. The two have separate origins. The former were a matter of controversy in the ancient church. Eventually, a single one of 532 years (taqlab in Syriac sources) was adopted as the norm. They again differed in the way in which the date of are fixed.
There are different categorizations of the periods in the Church. Many books published refer to six periods; some refer to generally two periods; most of the other books have no mention on the periods/ cycles. The book ‘Sermons based on readings of the Lectionary’ by H.G Mor Chrysostamus Mosa Salama (1958; Re-published by Mor Adai Study Center) presents seven cycles instead of six. We are updating the periods to seven as this is an accepted categorization of the Church Lectionary.
Thanks a lot Mor Theethose Thirumeni for the timely suggestions regaring the necessary corrections.