Think about how it feels to be hungry- hungry in your stomach and hungry in your soul.
Then think of the best bread you have ever tasted.
Smell its yeasty aroma.
What does it look like?
Feel its crust and its soft interior with your fingers.
Taste it. Savor the experience.
What kinds of things are like bread for you- savory, filling, satisfying?
Think of the descriptive words that come to you.
But what does it mean for you to “eat” the bread Jesus offers?
At your earliest opportunity (or this Sunday) be ready to receive God with a true contrite heart, by either confessing before the priest or partaking in the Hussoyo prayer, and receive the Bread of Life.
Meet God in the worship…
Jesus Knows What Thomas Need: He Knows What We Need
We are sometimes scornful of Thomas, giving him the nickname “doubting Thomas”. But he is not unlike many of us. He needs the data. He needs the visuals. He needs to touch Jesus’ wounds in order for his faith to take root and grow. Jesus accepts that. He knows what we need.
What do we need from Jesus in order for our faith to bloom?
Tell Jesus. And wait, watch and wonder!
The Lord is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Resurrection gives hope for the humanity.
Despite Christ is risen, our struggle to follow Christ will continue with all our fears and doubts.
But the good news is, He is risen!
He is risen to give us a new beginning…
He is risen to remind us that goodness is more powerful than evil…
He is risen to remind us that love is more powerful than hatred…
He is risen to remind us that faith is more powerful than doubt and despair…
The wounds of people’s infirmities rarely escape Jesus’ notice and he was always ready to offer a healing touch. The woman in the story was walking around the church bend over, to see how the world looks from her vantage point.
How does it feel to walk that way?
What are the burdens that weigh you down and bend you over?
Take a deep breath and stand up straight, offering your burdens to God.
Stretch out your hands in praise to God, who declares you have been “set free!”
Feel the tightness and pain, in your heart and on your body parts. Breathe in and breathe out slowly. Each time you exhale feel the pleasant soothing sensation you have in Lord Jesus Christ.
Slowly and deeply inhale and exhale. From what all things does God want to set you free today, to stand upright to work for him and praise his mercies?
The study of the Bible is absolutely necessary for the nourishment of Christian life. The facts which the Scriptures present are the basis of faith in the Trinitarian God. Acquaintance with these prophetic and devotional facts in the light of the contemporary world realities is the only sensible means to imbibe and disseminate a true dynamic Christian faith. The nourishment of the Scriptures is necessary to the spiritual life as that of food to the body. The following Bible study is based on the Gospel reading on the ‘Sunday of the Leper’ from St. Luke 5: 12-16; and St. Luke 4: 40-42.
And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.” However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (St. Luke 5: 12-16).
When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ (St. Luke 4: 40-42).
To me these beautiful verses portrait various dimensions of Jesus ministry; for example his Gospel ministry, Social ministry, Prayer ministry, and Healing ministry are all mentioned here in an integrated fashion. The beginning of chapter five depicts Jesus gospel ministry; And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men” (St. Luke 5:10). This is followed by a portrait of Jesus social ministry; a depiction of his interaction with a marginalized, stigmatized and dehumanized leper is portrayed followed by a miracle of healing. Finally, Jesus prayer ministry is also depicted; he went to wilderness for prayer and to refuel the spirituality for sustaining his ministry.
Let’s have a look at the context of Jesus social and healing ministry with the leaper. Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him (St. Luke 5: 13). If you look into this story, cracking the healing part, it is very clear that Jesus did something unconventional! He challenged the cultural misconceptions and social prejudice by ‘touching a leper’. The word challenging has got different meanings to different people. What does challenging means? Challenging does not mean ‘shoot first and ask questions later’, or disobeying parents or elders. Believe me sometimes they are sick, idiosyncratic in their value systems and Hippocratic! But challenging does not mean raise voice against something that stands in our way, I mean against our freedom of choice, our freedom to dress, to talk or to date!
The term challenging has got a social meaning and implication, especially in a Christian context. Number one, it assumes that we human beings are capable of using our freedom in a responsible way. Imagine you are standing on the top of the Sears Tower. You can see the traffic, cars and trucks moving on the road like ants marching. When you watched closely you could see a car moving in the wrong direction. You could easily anticipate that it’s going to hit another car coming in the opposite direction. Can you do something? Of course something can be done; but the point here is there are traffic rules and regulations and the car driver is supposed to follow them. She has the freedom to travel in wherever way she likes, the only presumption is that she will have to follow the driving regulations or rules. Friends, it’s up to us, whether to follow the right way or to head against the expectations; this is a kind of irresponsible and aimless challenging! Moreover, it’s our choice whether we want to enjoy the ‘myth of total freedom’ or behave in a responsible way.
Number two, challenging in a Christian context aims at social transformation. Social transformation is not a familiar concept in the Orthodox context. But it’s very important to live in the current sociopolitical context and to meaningfully involve and live in the present. Many times we are ignorant about the political and economic chaos and struggles around us. We may have little idea about what is happening in Syria or in Egypt; May not even heard that the fast-food employees in New York are on strike demanding minimum wages. The people and the world around us are going through various turmoil and challenges. What I’m trying to say is as an Orthodox Christian youth we also should get exposed to the social transformation activities like human rights-non-violence movements, Anti-war movements, and free software movements! The spirit of this argument is the bottom-line of Christian ideology; never dissociate our faith and life with the society, culture, art, work or with politics.
Young adulthood is the best time in human lifespan. You guys are full of energy, you guys look for fun, you guys look for innovation, and I believe you can also take part in Jesus social ministry. As we become older our energy level and enthusiasm declines. I believe in the power of youth. Take my words, the youth in our church can do lot of challenging activities in the ministry of social transformation.
Follow the daily news, not the Cowboy or Mavericks insider; but news about what is happening around the world. Get updated about people’s struggle like what is happening in Wall Street in New York? Who is helped by raising the minimum wages? Why does the richest country (USA) in the world have the second highest child poverty? Why the land of the free is the home of the world’s largest prison population? Many youths are very alive in the social networking sites. Get involved in the social campaigns for peace, justice and humanity by sharing or liking in Facebook or twitter. You may think you have better works to do, I know, but keep an eye on this too.
Why I’m saying this because, we should acknowledge one thing: the so called freedom we enjoy and the rights we have is not our privilege! We enjoy freedom because somebody fought for us sometime back and it’s truly Christian to do something back to society. Moreover, it’s a Christian ministry to take care of our fellow beings and our environment.
The bible verses says Jesus touched the leper; touching the leaper reflects the call for not to ‘discriminate’ anyone based on illness, cast, class, sex, race or even based on sexual preferences. This may be controversial, but the Kingdom of God is for everyone. Remember, touching a leper was controversial at the time of Jesus, but not in the 21st century. Believe in the magic of time and walk ahead of time!
At a more personal level, we can see Jesus is ‘empathizing’ with a leper. I mean there is an action component, not just the faith alone- he touched and healed. A proactive action is much higher than simply sympathizing (which we frequently do in our daily life). We feel sorry about a lot of things, we feel sorry about others illness, others fate, others helpless situations. We may say one hundred times that ‘I feel sorry about him/ her’ but there is any action. Of course it is easy to sympathize and move on with our busy schedule. And that’s quite okay. But do something meaningful in your daily life (at least occasionally!) that can relieve someone’s stress, pain, or burden.
If possible, get involved in volunteer work, be a good listener, listen to someone, especially listen to old people, listen to their stories (Please, do not charge on hourly basis!) reassure them to make them feel their existence meaningful, write a blog, tweet something that can help and inspire your friends about your experience with a helpless person or situation. Let all these become part of your efforts to empathize with your fellow-beings in a Christian way. Remember it’s very hard to be a Christian!
The next theme portrayed is the prayer ministry; So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (St. Luke 5:16). Jesus withdraws to the wilderness for solitary prayer and meditation. And this is to refuel spirituality. We all need this kind of ‘spiritual refueling’ to get inspired for a meaningful life and to advance in our ministry as a true Christian.
The most important focus of this gospel passage is the fourth dimension; the ministry of healing. All those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them (St. Luke 4:40). However, I want to look healing in a broader perspective. We usually equate healing with well-being. We are working hard throughout our lives because we all need happiness, financial well-being, social well-being, health and security. And that’s quite okay. But that’s not complete, remember, Christian life is not a buffet! We are not supposed to take or eat what we like. And reject or ignore what we do not like. What I’m trying to say is, we need to accept illness just like health, bad things just like good things; sadness just like happiness, failures just like victories. And remember, healing need not always mean a ‘positive state of well-being’.
There are hundreds of Saints, Martyrs and Blessed fathers whose story depicts their agony, pain and suffering in their Christian life. They all accepted suffering, they all praised God even in the midst of deadly sorrow! That could be one reason why we call them Saints.
Orthodoxy is a way of life that is continuously inspired by the life stories of the Saints. Unfortunately, the popular modern pleasure theology depicted Saints as the agents or mediators of blessings. But they are actually the witnesses, inspirations and role models of Christian life. Keep in mind that God’s primary purpose is not to bless us with pleasures, wealth, or happiness. But he is there to heal you! I may have to use St. Paul’s words to facilitate our understanding of healing. My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I hope this bible study could illuminate some insights into our perceptions and help us to reflect on our attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and actions in our faith journey. May God bless!
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)
- Kymto period (Starts from Easter to the feast of Cross/ Sleebo)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- The first Cycle Starts with Koodosh Eetho, and ends on the Christmas day (Yeldho).
- 2nd is from Christmas to the first Sunday of great lend (Kothine)
- 3rd is from the first Sunday of Great Lend to Easter Sunday (Kymtha)
- 4th is from Easter to Pentecost
- 5th is from Pentecost to Sleebo (feast of Cross)
- 6th is from Sleebo to Koodosh Eetho
IV. Seven cycle classification: (Mor Mosa Salama )
- Sanctification of the Church to Christmas (Yeldho)
- Yeldho to Epiphany (Dan’ho)
- Dan’ho to the Beginning Sunday of Great Lent (Kothine)
- Kothine to Easter Sunday (Kymtha)
- Kymtha to Pentecost
- Pentecost to the Transfiguration
- Sleebo to Sanctification of Church (Koodosh Eetho)
V. Yet another seven periods classification (conceptually same as above; difference in setting the norms)
- Suboro period: seven weeks from Koodosh Eetho
- Yeldho- Dan’ho period: seven weeks from the Sunday before Christmas to the beginning of Great Lent
- Lent period: seven weeks till Easter Sunday
- Kymtho (Hovore) period: Seven weeks from Easter to Pentecost
- Pentecost period: Pentecost to August 5th
- Transfiguration period: Transfiguration to September 13th (till the day before the feast of Sleebo)
- 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.