Saturday, February 1, 2014

കേഴുക മലങ്കര സഭയെ കേഴുക

കേഴുക മലങ്കര സഭയെ കേഴുക നിന്റെ പുത്രൻ ക്രൂരമായി മർദ്ദനമേറ്റു ..... അട്ടഹാസവും കൊലവിളികളും മുഴങ്ങുന്നു ദേവാലയത്തിൽ..... കയ്യാഫ പുനർജനിക്കുന്നു.... സന്നദ്രീം സംഘം കൊലവിളി നടത്തുന്നു.... ആർത്തട്ടഹസിക്കുന്നു രക്തദാഹികൾ.... പീലാത്തൊസും അധികാരവും വീണ്ടും വഴിതെറ്റുന്നു.... ഇരുളിന്റെ മറവിൽ കൊലവിളി നടത്തുന്നു നരാധമന്മാർ.... ദുഷ്: ക്കർമ്മികളാൽ കൈയ്യേറ്റം ചെയ്യപ്പെട്ടവനെ നിന്റെ പുരോഹിതൻ ദ്രോഹികളാൽ കൈയ്യേറ്റം ചെയ്യപ്പെട്ടതു കാണുന്നില്ലേ...... നിൻ തിരുരുധിരവും പാവനമെയ്യും വഹിച്ച കൈകൾ ഞെരിച്ചുടക്കപ്പെട്ടു..... നിൻ അഭിഷിക്തൻ മർദ്ദനമേറ്റു കിടപ്പതു കാണ്ക..... കേഴുക മലങ്കര സഭയെ കേഴുക..... നിന്റെ മകൻ ക്രൂരമായി കൈയ്യേറ്റം ചെയ്യപ്പെട്ടു..... പൌരോഹിത്യ വസ്ത്രം ധരിച്ചവർ മുട്ടാളന്മാരായി..... ചെയ്യുന്നു ആഹ്വാനം അന്തിക്രിസ്തുവിൻ അപ്പൊസ്തൊലരായി.... മുറവിളി നടത്തുന്നു പാവം പുരോഹിതൻ രക്തത്തിനായി.... കേഴുക മലങ്കര സഭയെ കേഴുക... നിന്റെ പുത്രൻ ക്രൂരമായി മർദ്ദനമേറ്റു... എങ്ങനെ സഹിക്കും എങ്ങനെ സഹിക്കും.... ഹൃദയമുള്ളവർ ആരുമില്ലേ... കടന്നു പോകുന്ന നിങ്ങൾക്കേതുമില്ലേ.. .. ഇവനെയും പെറ്റതൊരമ്മയാണ്... നമ്മളെ പെറ്റതുമൊരമ്മയാണ്... നമ്മളെ പെറ്റതുമൊരമ്മയാണ്

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

നെസ്തോറിയസും സഭയുടെ വിഭജനവും

കുസ്തന്തീനോസ്പോലീസിന്റെ അദ്ധ്യക്ഷനായിരുന്ന നെസ്തോറിയസിന്റെ പഠിപ്പിക്കലും, അതിന്റെ പരിണിതഫലവും അതിന്റെ കാരണങ്ങളും മനസ്സിലാക്കണമെങ്കിൽ പുരാതന സഭയിലെ അന്ത്യോക്യൻ വേദശാസ്ത്ര സ്കൂളിനേക്കുറിച്ചും അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യൻ വേദശാസ്ത്ര സ്കൂളിനേക്കുറിച്ചും അവിടുത്തെ പഠിപ്പിക്കലും അതിന്റെ പിന്നിലെ വേദശാസ്ത്രവും അല്പം മനസ്സിലാക്കണമെന്നാണു എനിക്ക് തോന്നുന്നതു. 1) അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യൻ വേദശാസ്ത്ര ചിന്ത അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യൻ വേദശാസ്ത്ര പണ്ഡിതന്മാരുടെ നേതൃത്വത്തിൽ വികസിച്ചതും പൌരസ്ത്യ ദേശം മുഴുവനും തന്നെ പ്രചരിച്ചിരുന്നതുമായ ക്രൈസ്തവ ചിന്താഗതിയായിരുന്നിത്. സഭയുടെ ഒരു ഉപദേശം എന്ന രീതിയിൽ ഇതിനെ അംഗീകരിച്ചിരുന്നവരിൽ കപ്പദോക്യൻ പിതാക്കന്മാരെപ്പോലെ അലക്സന്ത്ര്യാക്കാരല്ലാത്ത പലരും ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. "വചനം ജഡമായിത്തീർന്നു" (യോഹ. 1:14) എന്നതായിരുന്നു അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യൻ വേദശാസ്ത്രത്തിന്റെ അടിസ്ഥാനം. (അലക്സന്ത്ര്യായിലെ അത്താനാസിയോസ് വിശദീകരണം നല്കിയത് ഇതിന്റെ അടിസ്ഥാനത്തിൽ ആയിരുന്നു.) ഈ അടിസ്ഥാനത്തിൽ രണ്ടു കാര്യങ്ങൾക്കാണ് അവർ ഊന്നൽ കൊടുത്തതു. 1) വചനം മനുഷ്യനായി തീർന്നപ്പോൾ, വചനത്തിന്റെ ദൈവീക തത്വത്തിനോ ആളത്തത്തിനോ യാതൊരു വ്യതിയാനവും വന്നില്ല. അതായത്, മനുഷ്യാവതാരത്തിൽ ദൈവത്വം മനുഷ്യത്വമായി രൂപാന്തരപ്പെടുകയല്ലായിരുന്നു. 2) മനുഷ്യനായി തീർന്നപ്പോൾ വചനം പരിശുദ്ധ കന്യകയിൽ നിന്ന് യഥാർഥമായി മനുഷ്യത്വം അവലംബിച്ചു. അതായത്, ദൈവത്തിന്റെ നിത്യ വചനം വാസ്തവമായി സാക്ഷാൽ മനുഷ്യത്വം സ്വീകരിച്ച് ലോക ജീവിതത്തിൽ പ്രവേശിക്കുക ആയിരുന്നു. ഇതിലൂടെ മുൻപുണ്ടായിരുന്ന എല്ലാ വേദവിപരീതങ്ങളേയും അവർ ഖണ്ഡിക്കുകയും നിരസിക്കുകയും കൂടി ആയിരുന്നു. എ. ഡി. 444 ൽ നിര്യാതനായ അലക്സന്ത്ര്യായിലെ കൂറീലോസ് (അഞ്ചാം തുബ്ദേനിൽ ഓർക്കുന്നത് ഈ കൂറീലോസിനെയാണു) ആയിരുന്നു അക്കാലത്ത് ഈ ആശയത്തിനു വിപുലമായ വിശദീകരണം നല്കിയത്. അതിനായി ഗ്രീക്കിൽ അന്ന് ഉപയോഗത്തിൽ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്ന ചില സാങ്കേതിക പദങ്ങൾ അദ്ദേഹം ഉപയോഗിച്ചു. അവ യഥാക്രമം "ഊസിയ", "ഹിപ്പോസ്റ്റാസിസ്", "ഫീസിസ്", "പ്രോസോപ്പോണ്‍ " എന്നിവയാണു. "ഊസിയ" എന്നാൽ സാരാംശം, സുറിയാനിയിൽ "ഈതൂതാ" എന്ന് പറയും. ഹിപ്പോസ്റ്റാസിസ് (പാശ്ചാത്യ സുറിയാനിയിൽ "ക്നൂമൊ" പൌരസ്ത്യ സുറിയാനിയിൽ "ക്നൂമാ") എന്ന പദം പിതാവ്, പുത്രൻ, പരിശുദ്ധാത്മാവു എന്നീ ദൈവീക ആളത്തങ്ങളെ സൂചിപ്പിക്കാൻ ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നു. എന്നാൽ "പ്രോസോപ്പോണ്‍ " ("പർസൂപ്പൊ" , "പർസൂപ്പാ") എന്ന പദം "ആളത്തം" എന്ന് വിവർത്തനം ചെയ്യാമെങ്കിലും ഹിപ്പോസ്റ്റാസിസുമായി അല്പം വ്യത്യാസമുണ്ട്. എന്താണെന്നു വച്ചാൽ ആളത്തത്തിനു രണ്ടു വശങ്ങൾ ഉണ്ട് - ആന്തരീകവും, ബാഹ്യവും. അവയിൽ ആന്തരീക സ്വഭാവത്തെ സൂചിപ്പിക്കുന്നതാണ് ഹിപ്പോസ്റ്റാസിസ്, എന്നാൽ ബാഹ്യവശത്തെ പ്രോസോപ്പോണ്‍ എന്ന പദം കൊണ്ടു വിവക്ഷിക്കുന്നു. [ഉദാഹരണത്തിനു, മനുഷ്യനു മാത്രമുള്ള ഒന്നാണു മനുഷ്യത്വം എന്നത്. അത് എല്ലാ മനുഷ്യർക്ക് പൊതുവാണു. ഈ ആന്തരീക സ്വഭാവത്തെ മനുഷ്യന്റെ ഹിപ്പോസ്റ്റാസിസ് എന്ന് പറയാം, എന്നാൽ ഒരു മനുഷ്യനെ മറ്റൊരു മനുഷ്യനിൽ നിന്ന് വേർതിരിച്ചരിയുന്ന ചില പ്രത്യേകതകൾ ഉണ്ട് അതിനെ പ്രോസോപ്പോണ്‍ എന്ന പദം ഉപയോഗിച്ചു നിർവചിക്കാം.] nature എന്ന് ഇംഗ്ളീഷിൽ വിവർത്തനം ചെയ്തിരിക്കുന്ന "ഫീസിസ്" (ക്യോനോ) എന്ന പദം "ഊസിയ", "ഹിപ്പോസ്റ്റാസിസ്" എന്നീ രണ്ടു പദങ്ങളേയും സാന്ദർഭികമായി ഉദ്ദേശിച്ചു പൊതുവായി ഉപയോഗിച്ചു വന്നിരുന്നു. യേശു ക്രിസ്തുവിൽ ദൈവത്വവും മനുഷ്യത്വവും തമ്മിൽ അവിഭാജ്യമായി സംയോജിച്ചു എന്ന് പറയുവാൻ വേണ്ടി ദൈവത്വം, മനുഷ്യത്വം എന്ന രണ്ടു സ്വഭാവങ്ങൾ അഥവാ ഫീസിസുകൾ തമ്മിൽ യോജിച്ചു എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞിരുന്നു. (ഈ പദങ്ങളുടെയെല്ലാം ഉപയോഗത്തിലും പരസ്പര മനസ്സിലാക്കലിലും തെറ്റിദ്ധാരണ ഉണ്ടായി എന്നാണ് ആധുനിക ദൈവശാത്രജ്ഞന്മാർ പറയുന്നത്.) ഈ പദഘടനയുടെ അടിസ്ഥാനത്തിൽ കൂറീലോസിന്റെ ആശയം ഇങ്ങനെ ചുരുക്കമായി വിവരിക്കാം.. ദൈവത്തിന്റെ വചനം നിത്യമായ ദൈവിക സ്വഭാവമാണ്. പ. കന്യക മറിയാമിൽ നിന്ന് അവലംബിച്ച മാനുഷിക സ്വഭാവം മാനുഷികമാത്രേ. മനുഷ്യാവതാരത്തിൽ ഈ രണ്ടു സ്വഭാവങ്ങളും സംയോജിച്ചു, ആ യോജിപ്പ് ഉണ്ടായത് പ. കന്യകയുടെ ഉദരത്തിൽ ശിശു ഉല്പാദിദമായ ആ നിമിഷത്തിൽ തന്നെയായിരുന്നു (ലൂക്കോസ് 1:35). ആയതിനാൽ പ. കന്യക പ്രസവിച്ചതു ദൈവിക സ്വഭാവവും മനുഷ്യ സ്വഭാവവും യോജിച്ചുണ്ടായ ഏക ആളത്തത്തെയാണു. അതിനാൽ പ. കന്യക ദൈവജനനിയാകുന്നു. ഗ്രീക്കിൽ "തെയോട്ടോക്കോസ്" എന്ന പദം സുറിയാനിയിൽ തർജമ ചെയ്തിരിക്കുന്നത് "യൊൽദാത് ആലോഹോ" എന്നും മലയാളത്തിൽ "ദൈവമാതാവ്" എന്നുമാണ്. ഈ ജനനം മൂലം ദൈവത്വം മനുഷ്യത്വമായിട്ടോ, മനുഷ്യത്വം ദൈവത്വമായിട്ടോ രൂപാന്തരം പ്രാപിച്ചില്ല. സ്ഥല കാലങ്ങൾക്ക് അതീതനും അവയുടെ സ്രഷ്ടാവും ആയ ദൈവത്തിന്റെ വചനം ഒരു വശത്തുനിന്നും സ്ഥലകാലങ്ങൾക്കു വിധേയനും സൃഷ്ടിയും ആയ മനുഷ്യത്വം മറുവശത്തുനിന്നും അന്യോന്യം വേർപെട്ടു പോകാത്തവണ്ണം എന്നേക്കുമായി സംയോജിച്ചു. ആ ഐക്യം പരിപൂർണ്ണം ആകുന്നു. അതുകൊണ്ട് യേശുക്രിസ്തു "ജഡധാരണം ചെയ്ത വചനമായ ദൈവത്തിന്റെ ഒന്നായിരിക്കുന്ന സ്വഭാവം" അത്രേ. അതുകൊണ്ട് "രണ്ടു സ്വഭാവങ്ങൾ" എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞു കൂടാ. യേശുക്രിസ്തുവിൽ വ്യാപരിച്ചതു ദൈവിക സ്വഭാവമോ മാനുഷിക സ്വഭാവമോ പരസ്പരം വേർപിരിഞ്ഞല്ല. പിന്നെയോ ഈ സ്വഭാവങ്ങൾ വ്യത്യാസപ്പെടാതെയും അതാതിന്റെ പ്രത്യേകതകൾ പരിരക്ഷിച്ചും ഏക ആളത്തത്തിൽ ഒരുമിക്കുകയാണ് ചെയ്തത്. ഇതാണു കൂറീലോസിന്റെ വാദം. അന്ത്യോക്യൻ വേദശാസ്ത്ര ചിന്ത പുരാതന റോമാ സാമ്രാജ്യത്തിന്റെ പൌരസ്ത്യ ഭാഗത്തിന്റെ തലസ്ഥാന നഗരമായിരുന്ന അന്ത്യോക്യയിൽ വളർന്നു വന്ന വേദശാസ്ത്ര പാരമ്പര്യമാണ് അന്ത്യോക്യൻ സ്കൂൾ എന്നതുകൊണ്ട്‌ ഉദ്ദേശിക്കുന്നതു. സമോസോട്ടയിലെ പൌലോ ഇതിന്റെ മൂന്നാം നൂറ്റാണ്ടിലെ ഒരു പ്രാജ്ഞെതാവ് ആയിരുന്നെങ്കിലും, നാലാം നൂറ്റാണ്ടിന്റെ ഉത്തരാർദ്ധത്തിലും അഞ്ചാം നൂറ്റാണ്ടിന്റെ ആദ്യ കാലത്തുമായി ജീവിച്ചിരുന്ന തർശീശിലെ ദീയോദോർ (Diodore of Tarsus), മൊഫ്സ്വെസ്തിയായിലെ തീയോദോർ (Theodore of Mopsuestia) എന്നിവരായിരുന്നു ഇതിലെ പ്രധാനികൾ. നിഖ്യ വിശ്വാസം പാലിച്ചിരുന്ന ഇവർ, പൗലേയുടെ ഉപദേശം അംഗീകരിച്ചിരുന്നില്ല. ദൈവവും മനുഷ്യനും തമ്മിൽ നികത്തുവാനാകാത്ത അകൽച്ച ഉണ്ടെന്നുള്ള ആശയമായിരുന്നു ഇവരുടെ ചിന്താഗതിക്ക് അടിസ്ഥാനം. സ്രഷ്ടാവും സർവ്വസമ്പൂർണനും പ്രപഞ്ചത്തിനതീതാനും ആണ് ദൈവം. മനുഷ്യനാകട്ടെ സൃഷ്ടിയും അപൂർണനും പ്രപഞ്ചത്തിൽ സ്ഥിതി ചെയ്യുന്നവനും മാത്രമാണ്, അതുകൊണ്ട് ദൈവം മനുഷ്യനായി ത്തീർന്നു എന്നുള്ള പ്രസ്ഥാവാൻ അലങ്കാര രൂപത്തിൽ മാത്രമാണ് എടുക്കേണ്ടത് എന്ന് തിയഡോർ നിഷ്ക്കർഷിച്ചു. അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യൻ ചിന്തയ്ക്ക് വിപരീതമായി സ്വഭാവങ്ങൾ തമ്മിലുള്ള യോജിപ്പ് ബാഹ്യമായി മാത്രം (according to prosopon) ആളത്തപരമായിരുന്നു. തീയഡോരിന്റെ ഉപദേശങ്ങളിൽ കാണുന്ന രണ്ടു കാര്യങ്ങൾ ഇവയാണ്.. 1) കന്യക ഉദരത്തിൽ ഉൽപ്പാദിപ്പിച്ചതും ഒരു ശിശുവായി പ്രസവിപ്പിക്കപ്പെട്ടതും ദൈവം പ്രത്യേകം തിരഞ്ഞെടുത്തിരുന്ന നസ്രായനായ യേശുവിനെ ആയിരുന്നു. ആ ശിശുവിന്റെ ആളത്തത്തിന്റെ ബാഹ്യവശത്തു (പ്രോസോപ്പോണ്‍ ) വചനമായ ദൈവവുമായി അവനു സംയോജിപ്പുണ്ടായിരുന്നു. അതുകൊണ്ട് ഒരർത്ഥത്തിൽ കന്യകയെ "ദൈവ പ്രസവിത്രി" എന്ന് പറയാമെങ്കിലും, വാസ്തവത്തിൽ അവൾ മനുഷ്യപ്രസവത്രി (ആന്ത്രോപ്പോട്ടോക്കോസ്) ആയിരുന്നു. 2) സ്വഭാവങ്ങളുടെ യോജിപ്പ് ആളത്തത്തിന്റെ ബാഹ്യവശത്തു മാത്രം സ്ഥിതി ചെയ്തിരുന്നതിനാൽ, യോജിപ്പിന് ശേഷവും യേശുക്രിസ്തു രണ്ടു സ്വഭാവങ്ങളിലായിട്ടാണു സ്ഥിതി ചെയ്തത്. ഇത് അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യൻ ചിന്തയ്ക്ക് വിരുദ്ധമായിരുന്നു. പ്രശ്നങ്ങളുടെ ആരംഭം ഈ രണ്ടു ചിന്താഗതികൾ സ്വീകരിച്ചിരുന്നവർ തമ്മിൽ വലിയ ആശയ സംഘട്ടനം നടന്നിരുന്നു. സ്വഭാവങ്ങൾ തമ്മിലുള്ള യോജിപ്പ് ബാഹ്യമായി മാത്രം ആളത്തപരമായിരുന്നു എങ്കിൽ നസ്രായനായ യേശുവും വചനമായ ദൈവവും തമ്മിൽ ഉള്ള ബന്ധം ഒരു പ്രവാചകനും ദൈവവുമായുള്ള ബന്ധം പോലെയാണു അതിനാൽ അന്ത്യോക്യൻ ചിന്തയനുസരിച്ചു യേശു ക്രിസ്തുവിനെ ലോകൈക രക്ഷിതാവായി പറയുന്നതെങ്ങിനെ എന്ന് അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യർ വിമർശിച്ചപ്പോൾ, അന്ത്യോക്യരാകട്ടെ, സ്വഭാവങ്ങളുടെ യോജിപ്പ് ആന്തരീയമായ (ഹിപ്പോസ്റ്റാസിസ്സ്) ആളത്തപരമെങ്കിൽ യേശുക്രിസ്തുവിന്റെ ആളത്ത കേന്ദ്രത്തിൽ മനുഷ്യത്വത്തെ ദൈവത്വം പരിപൂർണമായി ഭരിച്ചിരിക്കണം. അതിനാൽ മനുഷ്യത്വം പൂർണമല്ല എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞ് അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യരെ വിമർശിച്ചു. ചുരുക്കിപ്പറഞ്ഞാൽ അന്ത്യോക്യൻ ചിന്തയിൽ യേശുക്രിസ്തുവിനെ കേവലം മനുഷ്യനായി (psilanthropism) എന്ന് അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യരും, അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യർ യേശുക്രിസ്തുവിന്റെ മനുഷ്യത്വത്തെ അവഗണിക്കുന്നു (docetism) എന്ന് അന്ത്യോക്യരും കുറ്റപ്പെടുത്തി. നെസ്തോറിയസ്... ഇങ്ങനെയിരിക്കെയാണ്, അന്ത്യോക്യൻ പാരമ്പര്യത്തിൽ പരിശീലനം പൂർത്തിയാക്കിയ നെസ്തോറിയസ് എ.ഡി. 428 ൽ കുസ്തന്തീനോസ് പോലീസിലെ അദ്ധ്യക്ഷനാകുന്നത്. അന്ത്യോക്യ - അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യൻ സംവാദം കൊടുമ്പിരിക്കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്ന സമയമായതിനാൽ, പ. കന്യകയെ എന്ത് വിളിക്കണമെന്നു നെസ്തോറിയോസിനോടു അവിടെയുള്ളവർ അഭിപ്രായം ആരാഞ്ഞു. അതിനു മറുപടിയായി അദ്ദേഹം നിർദ്ദേശിച്ചത്, കന്യക പ്രസവിച്ചതു ക്രിസ്തുവിനെയാണ് അതിനാൽ ക്രിസ്തോട്ടോക്കോസ് എന്ന് വിളിച്ചാൽ മതിയെന്നായിരുന്നു. തന്നെയുമല്ല അന്ത്യോക്യൻ ചിന്താഗതിയിൽ വളർന്ന അദ്ദേഹം ക്രിസ്തുവിൽ ദൈവ സ്വഭാവവും മനുഷ്യ സ്വഭാവവും ആന്തരികമായും ആളത്തപരമായും യോജിച്ചിരുന്നില്ല എന്നും പഠിപ്പിച്ചിരുന്നു. ഇതിനെത്തുടർന്ന് നെസ്തോറിയസിനു കൂറീലോസുമായി വാദപ്രതിവാദത്തിൽ ഏർപ്പെടേണ്ടതായി വന്നു. പ. കന്യകയെ ദൈവമാതാവ് എന്ന് തന്നെ വിളിക്കണമെന്ന് കൂറീലോസ് നിഷ്കർഷിച്ചു, നെസ്തോറിയസത് നിരസിച്ചു. ഇതിനെത്തുടർന്ന് ഉണ്ടായ അനേകം സംഭവങ്ങൾ ഒന്നായിരുന്ന സഭയെ പിടിച്ചു കുലുക്കി. ഈ വിഷയങ്ങൾ ചർച്ച ചെയ്തു പരിഹരിക്കാൻ എ.ഡി. 431 ൽ തെവോദോസിയോസ് രണ്ടാമൻ ചക്രവർത്തി എഫേസൂസിൽ ഒരു സുന്നഹദോസ് വിളിച്ചുകൂട്ടി. എന്നാൽ അന്ത്യോക്യയിലെ അദ്ധ്യക്ഷനായിരുന്ന യോഹന്നാനും കൂട്ടരും സമയത്ത് വരാത്തതിനാൽ നിശ്ചയിച്ചിരുന്ന തീയതിക്കു കൂടാതെ നീട്ടിവയ്ക്കേണ്ടാതായി വന്നു. എന്നിട്ടും അവർ വന്നെത്തിയില്ല, എങ്കിലും ജൂണ്‍ 22 നു അലക്സന്ത്ര്യായിലെ കൂറീലോസിന്റെ അദ്ധ്യക്ഷതയിൽ സുന്നഹദോസ് ആരംഭിച്ചു. ഏതാണ്ട് ഇരുന്നൂറോളം പ്രതിനിധികൾ സംബന്ധിച്ചു. റോമിലെ അദ്ധ്യക്ഷനായിരുന്ന സെലസ്റ്റിയന്റെ പിന്തുണയും ഉണ്ടായിരുന്ന ഇതിൽ വച്ചു് നെസ്തോറിയസിനെ വേദവിപരീതിയായി പ്രഖ്യാപിച്ചു പുറത്താക്കി. ജൂണ്‍ 26 നു എത്തിച്ചേർന്ന യോഹന്നാൻ ഇതിൽ കുപിതനായി 43 പ്രതിനിധികളുമായി മറ്റൊരു സുന്നഹദോസു കൂടി കൂറീലോസിനെയും എഫേസൂസിലെ മെമ്നോനെയും (Memnon of Ephesus) പുറത്താക്കി. തുടർന്നു രണ്ടു കൂട്ടരും ചക്രവർത്തിയുടെ അടുത്തു പരാതി ബോധിപ്പിച്ചു. ചക്രവർത്തി കൂറീലോസിനേയും മെമ്നോനെയും നെസ്തോറിയോസിനേയും തരം താഴ്ത്താൻ കല്പ്പനയിട്ടു. പക്ഷേ അധികം താമസിയാതെ കൂറീലോസിനേയും മെമ്നോനെയും പുനസ്ഥാപിച്ചു. നെസ്തോറിയസിനെ ഒരു ആശ്രമത്തിലേക്കു അയച്ചു (monastery of Euprepius). പിന്നീടു നെസ്തോറിയസിനെ അറേബ്യയിലെ Petra എന്ന സ്ഥലത്തേക്കും തുടർന്നു ഈജിപ്തിലെ മരുഭൂമിയിലേക്കും നാടുകടത്തി. അവിടെ കൂറീലോസിന്റെ ഭരണത്തിൻ കീഴിലുള്ള ഒരു ആശ്രമത്തിൽ താമസിച്ചു വരികെ 449 ൽ നെസ്തോറിയസ് അന്തരിച്ചു. 433 ൽ കൂറീലോസും യോഹന്നാനും തമ്മിൽ ഉണ്ടാക്കിയ ഒത്തുതീർപ്പനുസരിച്ചു യോഹന്നാനും കൂട്ടരും എഫേസൂസ് സുന്നഹദോസ് നിശ്ചയത്തെ അംഗീകരിച്ചു. അലക്സന്ത്ര്യൻ ചിന്താഗതി കൂറീലോസ് വിശദീകരിച്ചതു യോഹന്നാനു തൃപ്തി ആയി. ഇനി പ. കന്യകയെ മനുഷ്യ പ്രസവത്രി എന്ന് പറയുകയില്ല എന്നും ദൈവ പ്രസവത്രി എന്നേ വിശേഷിപ്പിക്കുകയുള്ളൂ എന്നും അന്ത്യോക്യർ സമ്മതിച്ചു. കൂടാതെ നെസ്തോറിയസിനെ പുറത്താക്കിയതും അംഗീകരിച്ചു. പക്ഷേ ഇതുകൊണ്ടൊന്നും പ്രശ്നങ്ങൾ അവസാനിച്ചില്ല. അലക്സന്ത്ര്യൻ പാരമ്പര്യത്തിൽ വളർന്ന ഒരു വൃദ്ധ സന്യാസി ആയിരുന്ന എവുത്തിക്കൂസ്. കുസ്തന്തീനോസ് പോലീസിലെ ഒരു ആശ്രമാധിപൻ ആയിരുന്നു. രാജകൊട്ടാരത്തിൽ തനിക്കുള്ള സ്വാധീനം ഉപയോഗിച്ചു നെസ്തോറിയസിനേയും കൂട്ടരെയും ദ്രോഹിക്കാൻ പല ഒത്താശകളും നടത്തിയിരുന്നു. വേദശാസ്ത്രത്തിൽ വലിയ അറിവും പാണ്ഡ്യത്യവും ഒന്നും ഇല്ലാതിരുന്ന ഇദ്ദേഹത്തെ 448 ൽ കുസ്തന്തീനോപ്പോലീസിൽ കൂടിയ ഒരു പ്രാദേശിക സുന്നഹദോസ് എവുത്തിക്കൂസിനെ സഭാഭ്രംശം ചെയ്തു. ഇതിനെ അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യർ ശക്തമായി എതിർക്കുകയും 449 ൽ എഫേസൂസിൽ കൂടിയ മറ്റൊരു സുന്നഹദോസിൽ ഇത് പ്രകടമാക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു. ഇതിൽ പങ്കെടുക്കാതിരുന്ന റോമിലെ അദ്ധ്യക്ഷൻ ലിയോ, എവുത്തിക്കൂസിന്റെമേൽ എടുത്ത നടപടി ശരിവയ് ക്കുകയും, വലിയൊരു ലേഖനം (ലിയോയുടെ തുംസ) എഴുതി അയക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു. എന്നാൽ 449 ലെ സുന്നഹദോസിൽ അത് സ്വീകരിച്ചില്ല. ഇത് പോപ്പ് ലിയോയെ പ്രകോപിതനാക്കി. 449 ലെ സുന്നഹദോസ് എവുത്തിക്കൂസിന്റെ വിശ്വാസ പ്രസ്താവന വായിക്കുകയും, അദ്ദേഹത്തെ കുറ്റവിമുക്തനാക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു. കൂടാതെ 448 ലെ സുന്നഹദോസിനു നേതൃത്വം കൊടുത്ത അന്ത്യോക്യൻ ചിന്താഗതിക്കാരായ എട്ടു പേരെ സഭാഭ്രംശം ചെയ്തു. ലിയോയേയും അന്ത്യോക്യൻ ചിന്താഗതിയെ പിന്തുണയ്ക്കുന്നവരേയും ഏറെ ക്ഷോഭിപ്പിച്ച ഈ സുന്നഹദോസിനുള്ള തിരിച്ചടിയായിരുന്നു 451 ലെ കൽക്കിദൂൻ സുന്നഹദോസ്. എന്തായാലും അന്ത്യോക്യൻ ചിന്താഗതിയും അലക്സന്ത്ര്യൻ ചിന്താഗതിയും തമ്മിലുള്ള ആശയ സംഘട്ടനം ഒന്നായിരുന്ന സഭയെ മൂന്നു തട്ടിലാക്കി. സഭ മൂന്ന് വിഭാഗങ്ങളായി പിരിഞ്ഞു. നെസ്തോറിയസിനെ അനുകൂലിക്കുന്നവരിൽ പലരും പീഡനം ഭയന്ന് പേർഷ്യയിൽ അഭയം പ്രാപിക്കയും തങ്ങളുടെ വേദശാസ്ത്ര നിലപാടുകൾ പുരാതനമായ പേർഷ്യൻ സഭയിൽ പ്രചരിപ്പിക്കയും ചെയ്തു. അതിന്റെ ഫലമായി അന്ത്യോക്യൻ ചിന്താഗതി തങ്ങളുടെ ഔദ്യോഗികമായ നിലപാടായി പേർഷ്യൻ സഭ അംഗീകരിക്കയും നെസ്തോറിനെ പരിശുദ്ധനായി ക്രമേണ കരുതുകയും ചെയ്തു. കല്ക്കിദൂനെ അംഗീകരിക്കുന്നവർ റോമിന്റെയും കുസ്തന്തീനോപോലീസിന്റെയും വൈദിക നേതൃത്വത്തിൽ നിലവിൽ വരുകയും, ഇവയെ നിരസിക്കുന്ന വിഭാഗം അലക്സാന്ത്ര്യൻ വേദശസ്ത്രവും ചിന്താഗതിയും പുലർത്തിക്കൊണ്ട് നിലവിൽ വരികയും ചെയ്തു. ഇവരെ ഓറിയന്റൽ ഓർത്തഡോക്സ് സഭകൾ എന്ന് വിളിക്കുന്നു.

Monday, March 5, 2012

HOLY SACRAMENTS
Fr. Jose Thomas Poovathumkal

The word Sacraments is a derivation of the Latin term “Sacramentum,” which literally means “seal” or “stamp.” In the ancient Roman world, the oath taken by soldiers and the stamp put on the animal for sacrifice were indicated by the same word Sacramentum. The Eastern Churches (Orthodox Churches) prefer to use the word “Mysteries” to denote the Sacraments of the Church. The word Mystery derives from the Greek term “Musterion.” St. Augustine of Hippo gives definitions to the Sacraments as visible signs of invisible grace and signs of sacred things. According to the Orthodox understanding, we enter into and participate in the divine salvific Mysteries (Eph. 3:4,9; 6:19; Col. 1:26ff). Sacraments are highest and unique activities of the Church. And Church is the supreme Mystery of Christ.

1. Holy Baptism
The Sacrament of Baptism is the bedrock for the building up the Christian life. It is from the Greek word, “Baptizein” meaning “immersion” that the English term Baptism has originated. It is unique as the first Sacrament through which we are initiated into the Church. In Judaism and some other ancient religions, there were practices of ritual washing or bathing as acts of initiation. In the Christian Church, Holy Baptism was instituted by the command of Jesus Christ (Mt.28:19; Mk.16:16). The words of Jesus Christ to Nicodemus, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, You must be born from above” (Jn.3:5-7) also are considered to be a reference to baptism and its effects and nature.

Though water is used as a physical medium in Baptism, emphasis goes to working of the Holy Spirit. St. John the Baptist says, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than me is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk. 3:6). The importance of the working of Holy Spirit in the Christian Baptism is clear in his words.

a. Baptism of Christ and Christian Baptism
Baptism of Christ in Jordan is the inauguration of the public ministry. St. Ephrem the Syrian presents the Baptism of Lord as the fountainhead of Christian Baptism. According to him, by His Baptism Christ opens up our Baptism. He writes: “Christ, though immortal by nature, clothed Himself in a mortal body; He was baptized and raised up from the water the treasure of salvation for the race of Adam.” (Hymns on Virginity. 7:10).

According to St. Ephrem “...by His Baptism Jesus Christ purified the baptismal water and made it the womb, which gives birth to the Children of the Church”. Jacob of Serugh writes about the Baptism of Christ: “Christ came to Baptism, He went down and placed in the baptismal water the robe of glory, to be there for Adam, who had lost it” (Sebastian Brock, Luminous [Rome, 1985] 72). Sanctification of Jordan water by the Baptism of Christ provides the chance to regain the lost robe of glory. Through baptism we are receiving it again and it will be totally effective in the Eschatological glory. Robe of glory is a prominent theme in Syriac theology. According to Ephrem, when Adam and Eve sinned they lost their robe of glory that’s why they felt nakedness.

b. Water and the Holy Spirit
The use of water as the physical medium for Baptism is highly suggestive. We read in Gen.1:2 about the brooding of the Spirit of God over the face of the primeval water to prepare the earth to contain life in it. That in the same manner Holy Spirit acts in the Baptism of Jesus Christ and Christian Baptism. By the working of the Holy Spirit we became a new creation. St. Paul says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2Cor.5:17). St. Ephrem comments on the working of Holy Spirit in Baptism: “He came to John to receive from him baptism, that He might mingle with the visible waters the invisible Spirit; that they whose bodies should feel the moistening of the water, their souls, should feel the gift of the Spirit; that even as the bodies outwardly feel the pouring of water upon them, so the souls inwardly may feel the pouring of the Spirit upon them” (Ephrem, ‘Homily on our Lord’; NPNF, Vol.13, 329). Here water is clearly depicted as the physical media through which Holy Spirit works in Baptism. Again in Hymns on Epiphany 5: 1-2 Ephrem speaks about the same theme, “Descend, my brethren, put on from the waters of baptism the Holy Spirit; be joined with the spirit that minister to the Godhead. He explains the power of Baptism to forgive sins as by the working of Holy Spirit, Then it (fire) is a symbol of the Spirit, A type of the Holy Spirit, Who is mingled in the Baptismal water so that it may bring forgiveness….” (Hymns on Faith.40:10) Here Ephrem considers Holy Spirit as the activator of the forgiving effect of baptism. The sacrament of baptism is the way to receive the Holy Spirit and total transfiguration.

c. Baptism and Participation in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
About Baptism St. Paul says: “…who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection” (Rom.6:4-5). For St. Paul rebirth through Baptism is the total participation in the glorified life of Jesus Christ. Immersion in and raising from water symbolise participation of believer in death and resurrection of Jesus Christ respectively.

2. Holy Chrismation (Holy Muron)
In the Eastern tradition (Orthodox Churches) Sacrament of Chrismation is given immediately after Baptism. It can be called post-Baptismal anointing. Corresponding rite in the Western tradition (Catholic and Protestant Churches) is known Confirmation. Chrismation is the perfection and culmination of conferring of the Holy Spirit, the source of all divine gifts upon the baptised. In the sermon after the descent on the day of Pentecost, Apostle St. Peter answers the question of the hearers, “Brethren, what shall we do?: Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts. 2:37-38). Alexander Schmemann, a famous Russian Orthodox theologian, calls Chrismation a personal Pentecost, which opens to man the door of theosis. Through Chrismation, the baptised establishes perfect communion with the Holy Spirit and through Him with the Father and the Son.

3. The Holy Eucharist
The word Eucharist derives from the Greek root “Eucharistia” which means “thanks giving”. The Holy Eucharist is the pivotal point in the life of the Christian Church. It is the utmost activity of the Church. The Holy Eucharist can be called the nucleus of the Church. With the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, there have been congregations of believers coming together to celebrate Holy Eucharist right up to the present day (Acts. 2:42). It will continue till eschaton.

a. Holy Eucharist: A Memorial Celebration
After the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus Christ commanded to the Apostles: “…do this in remembrance of me” (Lk.22:19). Remembrance (anamnesis) is one of the basic aspects of the Holy Eucharist. It is not the simple remembrance of a past event or events, but a celebration of the whole Economy of Salvation. In Holy Eucharist after the Words of Institution we pray: “O Lord we proclaim your death, and your holy resurrection, we believe in your ascension and hoping for your second coming.” We participate in all those events of redemption through our participation in the Eucharist. We experience events of past present and future at the same time in this Sacrament. It is not an individual remembrance, but the expression of the firm faith and hope of the Church.

b. Holy Eucharist: A Living Sacrifice
The Epistle to the Hebrews clearly testifies that the crucifixion of our Lord was a sacrifice of redemption and for the remission of sins. The self-sacrifice of the Lord is perfect, unique and once for all. More than a historical event it has got an eternal realm. (Heb.9.11-12; 26-28). Through our Eucharistic Liturgy, we are participating in the eternal sacrifice, which is beyond the limits of time and space. At the end of His earthly ministry Our Lord established the Holy Eucharist and entrusted His disciples to continue it till the second coming [Mt.26-29; Mk.14:22-25; Lk.22:19-20]. At the very next day Jesus was crucified. Both of the events are inter-connected. Through Eucharist we are participating in the eternal sacrifice of our Lord, the incarnated God the son. We are repeatedly participating in the same sacrifice. The sacrifice is one, the victim is one and the High priest also is one. We are sharing the priesthood of Christ in different levels. Christian priesthood is the continuation of the real priesthood of Christ, which is given to the Church. The Holy Church executes its priesthood through her sons in different levels.

c. Holy Eucharist: Complete Worship and Foretaste of the Eternal Feast
Eucharist is a feast of love par excellence. We are invited to partake in the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic service. This is a foretaste of the eternal feast in the kingdom of God yet to be realized. We should take part in the Eucharist with love and purity of heart. The experience of the early Church is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles as follows. “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people” (Acts. 2:46-47). The early Christians experienced the joy of sharing and praising God in their Eucharistic services. That experience of happiness is the hope of the Church to be realised in parousia.

The Church believes that all the faithful departed including St. Virgin Mary and all the saints participate in the Eucharist. The celebration of Eucharist is not only the worship of a group of believers, but also of the whole Church, which includes living and departed. It expresses the active communion between God and Church and among her believers.

d. Significance of Bread and Wine
We could see some references in the Old Testament for sacrifices with bread and wine. The first reference is of Melchizadek (Gen.14: 18). In Lev.23: 13 offering of the flour and wine are mentioned. The meal to which wisdom invited is another reference to it (Prov.9: 1-5). Wheat and grapes, used for making bread and wine, are the products of earth. So they represent the whole creation. We are offering the toil to God. Through that act we express our commitment and submission towards Him. The bread and wine offered in the Eucharist become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. That is a Mystery, which effects our transformation also. The change happens in both cases by the working of the Holy Spirit. As working in the Eucharistic offering, He dwells and acts in us for our divinisation (theosis).

4. The Sacrament of Ordination (Holy Priesthood)
Orthodox Churches believe that Church, the body of Christ shares the priesthood of Jesus, the eternal High Priest. So, all of her members are partaking in its primary level. But to continue the Apostolic ministry entrusted to the Church, God select some of the members of the His body. They are not practicing the ministry in their own capacity, but in the Church and for the Church. The ordained ministers of the Church possess the Priesthood in different levels. The Christian fundamentalists like Pentecostals deny the importance of priesthood completely.

The Epistle to the Hebrews presents Jesus Christ as the real High Priest (2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15). He is the ultimate and eternal High Priest who executed the absolute sacrifice (Heb.9:11-12). All the baptized are sharing the priesthood of the real High Priest Jesus Christ. St. Peter writes, “Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let you be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pet.2: 4-5). Orthodox Churches believe that Church, the body of Christ shares the priesthood of Jesus, the eternal High Priest. So, all her members are partakers of it in primary level. But to continue the Apostolic ministry entrusted to the Church, God select some of the members of the His body. They are not practicing the ministry in their own capacity, but in the Church and for the Church. The ordained ministers of the Church share the Priesthood in different levels. Both the general priesthood and priesthood of the ordained are mutually complementary.

Our Lord entrusted the Priestly authority to the Apostles. During the time of the Institution of Eucharist (Last Supper) Lord delegated the authority of Eucharistic celebration to the Apostles [Mt.26:26-29; Mk.14:22-25; Lk.22:19-20]. After resurrection He gave them the power to remit the sins (Jn.20:22-23). It indicates the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). By the pouring of Holy Spirit as a gift whole authority for fruitful and effective continuation of the salvific ministry was given to the Church. St. Paul says to the elders of the Church of Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood” (Acts. 20:28). He specifies that the Holy Spirit appoints the leaders of the Church. In 2Cor.5: 20 he says: So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Here the role of priesthood is mentioned as mediation.


5. The Sacrament of Marriage (Holy Matrimony)
Marriage is the sacred rites by which a man and a woman are brought together in order that they may be build up a family. It is in families that children are born. God vests the responsibility for bringing up children as worthy persons, respectable citizens, and above all as devoted members of the family of God in man and woman. Marriage is the means where by the Church sanctions people to work out this divine ordering in practice. According to the book of Genesis, God created Eve from one of the ribs of Adam, so that she would be a companion to him. Because she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh (Gen. 2; 23, 24). Genesis proclaims that these two individuals possessing complete equality and resemblance to God are basically not two individuals but one. When Pharisees asked Jesus, his views on divorce in order to test him, Jesus answered quoting the two verses from the book of Genesis (Matt. 19:5 cf Gen. 1:27; 2:23). Christ’s answer shows that the Apostolic Church had definite views on marriage and divorce, what God has joined together, let no one separate (Matt. 19:6). This was the view of Christ as well as that of the early Church. The Church has striven hard to adhere to this throughout in the Christian tradition. The teaching of the Church is that Christ has instituted marriage and marital relationship is the supreme relationship of love and humanity.

a. Christ and the Church
In the Orthodox liturgy for marriage there is one constant theme running throughout – the relationship between the bridegroom Jesus and the bride, the Church. St. Paul interprets the relationship between Christ and the Church as a great mystery. The liturgy qualifies Christ as the true bridegroom who chose the Gentile daughter as his Church, cleansed her of all blemish and impurity with his own blood, and submitted himself to be her bridegroom. It is in close association with this mystery that the apostle understands marital relationship also. The Church exhorts couples to build up a perfect relationship based on the unique and inseparable relationship between Christ and the Church. It is also pointed out here that marital relationships with merely superficial love or just worldly goals do not reach perfection. The unity and love of the Holy Trinity are to be reflected through the selfless love of the couple. In this sense, couples entering marital relationship also become partakers of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the relationship between Christ and the Church. And it is here that marriage becomes a sacrament.

b. The crown of glory and the crown of thorns
In the marriage service, crowns are placed over the heads of bridegroom and the bride. Crowns generally signify royalty. However, it contains another meaning and alludes to a different kind of crown. It is compared to the crown of thorns of Jesus. In the Greek and Russian Orthodox traditions, this crown is compared to the crown of martyrs. All this makes it clear, that the crown does not denote worldly royalty, material happiness or mere physical bond of love; instead, it is a crown of thorns, symbolizing self-emptying, suffering, denial of selfish goals and mutual self-giving. The crowns of the bridegroom and the bride known as the crowns of justice and happiness lead them to a genuine, honest life filled with the happiness of the Holy Spirit.

c. Participation
Couples are called upon to participate in God’s act of creation with discretion and in freedom. They should have the great desire that the children born out of their love should be the children of the Kingdom of God. The world needs men and women who lead exemplary family life facing challenges. Each such family is the cornerstone of the Church and Kingdom of God. It is from the family that one first gets love, sense of security, hope and compassion. The Christian marriage is a pointer to these lofty goals of family life.

6. The Sacrament of Holy Confession
The Orthodox tradition views sin as a disease. The sins committed by the members of the Church damage the healthy life of the Church. Because each person is grafted to the common body of the Church through Baptism and the holy Eucharist, his evil thoughts and deeds affect the whole body of the Church. So the Church as a whole rejoices in his repentance. Jesus Christ has said “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lk. 15:7). God treats the human race that has fallen into sinful ways, with compassion and mercy in the same way as we deal with a sick person.

A sinful life is a state of dissatisfaction. The dissatisfaction (1 Jn 3:21) results from two counts—sins of commission and sins of omission. The sins of commission are those that we do which we are prohibited from doing (Gal. 5:19-20). Sins of omission are failure to do obligatory duties (Ex. 20:2-17). The desire to confess comes from one's own mind by the work of Holy Spirit. The sacrament of Holy Confession renews the covenant of baptism, which we had entered through godparents. The covenant is a promise to live according to God's will.

a. The Authority of the Church
Holy Confession is the Sacrament instituted by our Lord and handed over to the Apostles for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; Jn. 20:21-23). The Apostolic authority delegated to the Church in the words, “…whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18); and, “…if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn. 20:23), was first and foremost given to the Church. The priests have received this authority through the Church. The priest, like anyone else, is also a sinner; however, he is empowered by ordination to absolve sins. Besides, he is the appointed representative of God.

b. Preparation for Confession
Holy confession without proper preparation is a grave sin. St. Paul exhorts: “if anyone eats the Lord's bread or drinks from his cup in a way dishonors Him, is guilty of sin against Lord's body and blood. So then, everyone should examine himself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. For if he does not recognize the meaning of Lord's body when he eats the bread and drinks from the cup, he brings judgment on himself as he eats and drinks” (1 Cor. 11:27-29; also see, 1 Jn 1:8-9; Prov. 28:30). Our desire to confess and to be one with God is always challenged by Satan, which results in two things (1) we refuse to acknowledge that we have sinned and (2) we try to justify or find excuses for the sins that we committed. We should be prudent to recognize that these reasons are of Satan and should listen to the feeble voice within our inner selves, which suggests that something wrong is taking place.

7. The Sacrament of Healing (Holy Unction or Anointing the Sick)
There is a close relationship between the Good news of the Kingdom of God and the healing of the sick. For Jesus Christ, healing ministry was a sign of the beginning of the Kingdom of God. A good part of His work was the healing of the sick and the suffering (Matt.4: 23). When Jesus Christ sent out the twelve Apostles to different parts of the world, to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, He also gave them authority to heal the sick (Mk.6: 12-13).

a. Confession and Healing
Confession is to be understood as a sacrament of healing of the body and the soul. Modern science has slowly begun to realize that no disease can be isolated from the psychosomatic reality of the close connection between body and mind. The medical sciences have also recognized that the disease of individuals is not confined to the individual per se, its causes and consequences being intimately related to his environment and society. The individual sin causes sickness. The diseased state shows our approaching death, which is the wages of sin. Hence the Church has viewed individual sins and remission of sins, in this light. Though this fundamental relationship between sin and disease exists in the case of humanity as a whole, it does not mean that the diseases an individual suffers from are necessarily the result of his own sins. Jesus makes this clear to his disciples when they asked him about the man who was born blind (Jn. 9: 3). Since diseases continue as one of the consequences of the fall of humanity, even infants who have not committed any sin also suffer from diseases.

b. Anointing the Sick with Oil and Healing
The Apostles anointed with oil those that were sick, and healed them (Mk.6:12- 13). This is seen more clearly in the Letter of St. James (Jas 5:14-16). Oil is the symbol of love and compassion. In the Greek language, the word for oil (elaion) and the one for compassion (eleon) are related. Hence it is the oil symbolizing divine mercy and compassion with which the sick are anointed. In the parable of the Good Samaritan also we see the Samaritan anointing the wounded person with oil (Lk. 10:34).

c. Anointing the sick is not Extreme Unction
The Holy Unction is a sacrament that can be received at any stage of illness. Many refer to it and wrongly understand it as the last rites, as in the Roman Catholic Church. This is a wrong Western notion. The Holy Unction is administered with the hope and prayer that the person may be cured of his sickness and restored to normal health. It is not intended as preparation for his final departure. The Sacrament of the absolution of sins, as in the Holy Confession, is a part of Holy Unction also. A good number of prayers are directed to the confession and absolution of sins, because the disease and sin are related.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mar Ephraim

Fr Jose Thomas Poovathumkal
Mar Ephraim of Nisibis (St. Ephraim the Syrian), called “the harp of the Holy Spirit,” is the great leader of the Syrian ascetic tradition. He was a spiritual poet, theologian and teacher.

Mar Ephraim was born in or around Nisibis (Mesopotomia), a city in the ancient Roman Empire, in about AD 306. His father was the priest of god Apollo. The boy Ephraim was driven away from home when his father knew that the boy was in touch with Christians. He went to Jacob, the bishop of Nisibis, who baptized him and brought him up. He showed great interest in the study of theological books and in doing kind deeds. He was ordained to the deaconate before the year 338 AD, and remained all his life a deacon.

He was appointed the principal teacher of Nisibis School. He accepted the hard and strict life style of a monk while working as a teacher there. Then he lived a solitary life. He shone as an ideal model of a monk. He ate simple food and wore simple clothes. Though living alone, he was concerned about the problems of the society around him and tried to solve them. He was gifted with elegant language, brilliant imagination, and fine tune in music, spiritual vigour and singular analytical power of a theologian. As a result, he produced many beautiful literary works.

The attack by Persians and immigration to Eddesa (Urhay) were two important incidents in Mar Ephraim’s life. The people of Nisbis prayed, under the leadership of Mar Ephraim, when the Persians prepared to attack Nisibis for the first time. Miraculously the Persians retreated. However, Nisibis was ceded to the Persians and became a part of the Sassanide Empire in AD 367. Then the people of Nisibis immigrated to Eddesa, about 100 miles west of Nisibis in the Eastern Roman Empire, and settled there. St. Ephraim gave them leadership in their long journey and in their settling down there. He also shifted his school from Nisibis to Edesa, the famous School of Persians. There he confronted the heresies of Marcion, Bardaisan, Arius, Eunomius and the Anomeans, the Manichaeans and many others.

Mar Ephraim was living alone in his old age in a cage outside the city of Edessa. Suddenly famine and epidemic broke out in the city. St. Ephraim came out of the cave and gave active leadership to the relief measures. He was nearing his death when he gave the following message to his disciples, “Don’t make any speeches praising me, don’t sing any songs extolling me, don’t arrange any pompous burial, don’t make memorials for me, don’t keep my remains. I am a sinner.” Mar Ephraim died at Edessa in 373.


Literary contributions of Mar Ephraim
His voluminous exegetical, dogmatic, controversial, and ascetical writings are mainly in verse. They include cycles of hymns on great feasts of the Church, on the Last Things and refutations of heretics. He wrote exclusively in Syriac, but his works were translated into Armenian and Greek at an early date.

Exegetical works are in prose and are excellent in their exposition. There are extant commentaries on Genesis and Exodus and there is a beautiful Armenian version of treatise on the Diatheserone of Tatian, Acts of Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul.

Dogmatic works (Hymns against heresies or Madrose d-luqbal yulpane) are polemical against Mani, Bardaison, Marcion, etc.

Hymns and homilies are many. The main hymns are On Faith, against heresies, Hymns of the Epiphany (Madrose d-denha), On Virginity (Madrose d-‘al btuluta), On the Church, On Paradise, On Crucifixion, On Resurrection, etc. His Nisibene Hymns (Madrose da- Nsibaye), seventy-seven in number, is very famous and it praises St.Mary. He loves to sing her virginity, her divine maternity and her holiness. His homilies (Memre) On faith and On our Lord are very famous. His poems and homilies are doctrinal, moral, polemical and liturgical.

The main teachings of Mar Ephraim
Mar Ephraim wrote in Syriac many valuable works of prose and verse about the Bible, theology and about the life of monks. He explains the theological matters with the sweetness of music in his hymns. For example,

“In the womb of Mary the Infant was formed,
Who from eternity is equal to the Father.
He imparted to us His greatness,
And took on our infirmity.
He became mortal like us and joined his life to ours,
So that we might die no more.”
(Song of Praise 1, 12)

He says that, the humanity and the Divinity were intimately united in Jesus Christ. The Divine nature of the Word was ineffably united to all the parts of the soul and body. Even though, the Incarnation was an entry into the limitation of humanity, the Divine nature remains unchanged. Christ is a unity of God-man. Mar Ephraim’s soteriology is very profound and it confirms that God tasted death for all in His own flesh. The salvation is perfect due to the richness of the suffering and sacrifice of Christ our Lord.

Hymn of Mar Ephraim

Fr Jose Thomas Poovathumkal

1. Lord have mercy upon us
Kindly accept our prayers
Grant us mercy, redemption
From Thy treasury above.

Notes: We can see repentance as a major theme in the writings of Mar Ephraim. Through his hymns Mar Ephraim seeks mercy and forgiveness from God. The last word of St. Ephraim was “I am a sinner.” We are sinners and weak. We cannot exist without the help of God. This idea is firmly supported by the Holy Bible. For example, the parable of tax collector gives the importance of repentance. We read in Luke 8:13, “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Here, like King David, Mar Ephraim cries “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer” (Ps.4:1; 17:1; 64:1; 65:2; 86:6). We are in a struggle with the power of evils in this world. Only the grace of God can help us from evils. So Mar Ephraim invokes the attention of God for the help. It is also the faith of the children of God that God hears the prayers of His children and open His abundant treasure and showers all blessings. We can see this conviction in three youngsters, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. They proclaimed, “the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king” (Dan.3:17).


2. Let me Lord, before Thee stand,
Wakeful my watch I'd keep,
Should I fall to slumber's hand,
Guard me from my sinful sleep.

Note: “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Ps.5:3). Here, Mar Ephraim, like David, requests the help of God to stand in front of God in the morning. Without the inspiration of Holy Spirit we cannot pray.

3. If I do wrong while awake
Mercifully absolve me;
If I err in my sleep
In mercy, grant redemption.

Note: Mar Ephraim asks for an assessment and requests for a sinless and a peaceful night. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24;17:3; 18:23). David’s claim of innocence in support of the rightness of his case. He is not guilty of the ungodly ways of his attackers – let God examine him (cf. 139:23-24). “Examine me, see the integrity of my devotion and keep me true.”

4. By Thy cross + of submission
Grant me, Lord, a restful sleep,
Forbid vain and evil dreams
O my Lord, from Thy servant.

Note: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8). Here Mar Ephraim reflects David’s confidence and Solomon’s assurance “when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Prov.3: 24). Jesus Christ, the Lord defeated evil and his companions through cross and delivered us from anxiety and terror. Cross is the symbol of victory over evilness. It will protect us from fear and terror.

5. Through the night conduct me, Lord,
Peaceful sleep give Thou to me,
Wroth and foul thoughts O Lord
May not govern me at all.

Note: Here we can see David’s sense of security. “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me” (Ps.3:5). “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Ps.17:8). “Apple of eye” is a conventional Hebrew metaphor for protection against oppression--as shade protects from the oppressive heat of the hot desert sun. Kings were spoken of as the “shade” of those dependent on them for protection (as in Num 14:9, “protection”--lit. “shade”; Lam. 4:20; Ezek. 31:6,12,17). Similarly, the Lord is the protective “shade” of his people (see 91:1; 121:5; Isa 25:4; 49:2; 51:16).

6. O Lord, Thy servant I am
Guard my body while I sleep
Keep Thy bright angel's guard
O my Lord, by my side.

Note: Like the three young men in Babylon (Dan.3:28), Mar Ephraim requests the help of heavenly hosts for the protection. “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared” (Ex.23: 20). “… when we cried out to the Lord, He heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt” (Num.20: 16). The line speaks of the security with which the Lord surrounds his people, individually and collectively; “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Ps.34:7).

7. Christ Thy life-abiding
Holy body that I ate
Keep away from my heart
Evil desires that destroy.

Note: Jesus Christ, the bread of life (Jn.6: 35) indwells in us through the Holy Communion. Therefore, we indwell in Christ and Christ indwells in us (Jn. 15:1-7). The presence of Christ keeps us from all wickedness. The purifying fire, the Holy Blood and Body of Christ, cleanse us from all impurities and lead us to the process of divinization. We will be clothed with the robe of Glory.

8. While I sleep in this night
May Thy holy blood guard me
Be Thou always redeemer
For I am Th-ine image.

Note: Jesus Christ, God the Son and the Lord, is not only the creator but also the sustainer and protector. The idea of God’s providence or the sense of the divine concern and care is affirmed in the Holy Bible (Ps 23, Matt 6:25-34, 10:29, Rom 8:28-29). As well as God is the Creator; He is the protector of the creation. Providence of God becomes manifest in the protection and preservation that He extends to the created. As the crown of creation humanity has responsibility of participating in the divine economy of protecting the creation. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gn. 1:27).
9. Thy hand shaped me, O Lord
Shadow me with Thy right hand,
Let Thy mercy be a fortress
Shielding me-all around.

Note: “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gn. 2:7). “…the Lord God made a woman…” (Gn.2:22). “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge” (Ps.16:1). Prov. 3:22-24. “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Ps.32:7). “Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy (Ps.64:1). “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name (Jn.17:11). “Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes (Ps.17:7). “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me (Ps.63:8).

10. While my body silent lies,
May Thy power keep vigil;
Let my sleep in Thy presence
Be like the rising incense.

Note: Mar Ephraim requests the protection of God in the night. God the Almighty (El-Shaddai) protected Daniel in the night when he was thrown into the den of Lions (Dan.6:16, 22). Yahweh, the Lord, protected the people of Israel in the day and night (Ex.40:38). We are the new Israel, a holy nation and God’s own people (1 Pet.2: 9) and an extended family household. The Lord of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (Ps.121: 4). He is the Lord of all creation and the guardian over new Israel – the One in whom the faithful may put unfaltering trust. We read in Rom. 12: 1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” Our life should be a living sacrifice to God. God Who pleased in the offerings of Patriarchs should accept our spiritual as a burnt offering and bless us. If we stay in front of God day and night blameless, it will be accepted as a pleasing odour (Gen. 8:21). Our spiritual life should be lifted up to heaven like the smoke of incense.

11. Thy mother who did bear Thee
By her prayers for me Lord
Let not evil touch my bed,
While I slumber in this night.

Note: Mar Ephraim always gives importance to Holy Virgin Mary in his hymns. In Mar Ephraim’s thought the Virgin Mary is seen very much as a model for the ideal pattern of relationship between human individual and God. She fulfills the potential that Eve failed to achieve. He wrote, “Mary has given us the Bread of rest in place of that bread of toil which Eve provided” (Unleavened Bread 6:7). She submitted herself to God and obeyed the commandment of Lord (Lk.1:38). She was willing to bear God the Son for the goodness of humanity. She conceived God the Son and gave birth (2:7). Mar Ephraim requests the intercession of this Virgin Mary, because, Christ, the Lord and God will accept the appeal of His mother as in the wedding ceremony at Cana. His eyes always upon the righteous and ears open to the cries of virtuous (Ps.34:15, 17).

12. By Thy pleasing sacrifice
That absolved me from my distress
Forbid from me the wicked one
That keeps troubling me.
Note: Mar Ephraim sees the redemptive work of Christ as a merciful deliverance from the terrible consequences of Adam’s disobedience. By His death and resurrection Christ delivers us from the consequences of first man’s disobedience. He has suffered on behalf of us. St. John depicts Christ as the atoning sacrifice (1 Jn.2:2). So we see in the cross, the perfect sacrifice or voluntary self-offering of self-loving compassion, which delivers us from all misery. Hence, Mar Ephraim demands the compassion of Christ for the protection from wicked forever.

13. By Thy kindness O my Lord
Thy promise in me fulfilled
By Thy Holy Cross + O Lord
Protect my life perfect.

Note: The greatest promise of God is salvation, which is enacted through His Son. This promise was first given in the proto-evangelium (Gen 3:15) and was repeated in the history (Gn.12:2, 7; 2 Sam 7:12-13, 28; Isa 2:2-5; 4:2; 55:5). In the New Testament all these promises are regarded as having their fulfillment in Christ (2 Cor 1:20; Eph 3:6). Church is the extension of this fulfillment. It can be seen in the New Testament books – event of Pentecost, succession of Kingdom of God (James 2:5), Eternal life (1 Tim 4:8), and Christ's coming (2 Peter 3:9). Being the member of the Church, the Body of Christ, we inherit these promises. That is, these promises have fulfilled in us (1 Pet.2:9-10). We bear the marks of Jesus Christ (Gal.6: 17) as the symbol of this inheritance and fulfillment. The term “aakal karusa” stands for satan. It is derived from the syriac “okal karuso” means “flesh eater.” That is, satan eats or destroys the life of man. Hence, Mar Ephraim requests on behalf of this mark (cross) for protection from Evil.

14.Thou who pleased in me
Feeble and sinful servant I am
May I praise Thy mercy,
When I wake up from my sleep.

Note: In his epistle to Romans, St. Paul describes the depth of God’s love. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8). Mar Ephraim commemorate this mercy and everlasting love, and express his desire to praise God like the Psalmist. “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Ps. 5:3).

15. May Thy servant know Thy will
In Thy true loving kindness
Grant me O Lord Thy mercy
So that I may walk with Thee.

Note: Here Mar Ephraim asks the grace of God to walk in His way according to the will of God, because man is expected to live with God. But his deeds create a gap between God and man. But the everlasting atoning sacrifice of the Son reestablishes this communion. Man has the responsibility to keep this reestablished communion with God. Therefore, we do have the task of drawing all men into this fellowship where the Spirit is building up the community of eternity. This community is the worshipping community, standing before God, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, living in the triumph of the Risen Lord, in the expectant hope of the full manifestation of God’s righteousness beyond history.

16. Jesus Christ, O my Lord
Grant to us Thy servants
An evening filled with peace
And a night of graceful sleep.
Note: Here, Mar Ephraim requests a blissful evening filled with peace and a night of graceful sleep, because, Jesus Christ can provide an everlasting peace to us. His resurrection provides eternal peace to us. It is the liberation from all terror and fear. “He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night” (Ps.78:14). “

17. True light Thou art O Lord
Praise we Thy bright glory
We children of Thy light
Praise Thee for ever more.

Note: Jesus Christ is the true light (Jn.9:1) and the light of the world (Jn.8:12). He who follows Jesus Christ, God the Son, shall not walk in darkness, because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1Jn.1:5). Being the children of this light (1Thess.5:5), we praise the true light forever.

18. O savior of mankind
Thy servants praise Thy mercy
As we do in this world
May it be in heaven above.

Note: We praise you, the redeemer of humanity (Ps.138:2; Heb.13:15). Make your servants worthy to offer glory and praise in this world and in the coming world.

19. Praise to Thee, O my Lord
Praise to Thee, O my savior
Praise a thousand thousand fold
Praise we Thou O Jesus Christ.

Note: “Praise” is a general term for words or deeds that exalt or God. Some of the Hebrew and Greek words mean “thanksgiving,” “blessing,” or “glory,” and are often so translated (2 Chr. 7:3, 6; Luke 1:64; John 9:24). “Arete” (virtue) is translated “praises,” or “excellencies,” in 1 Peter 2:9. We are to be the praise of God’s glory (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). Praise fills the Book of Psalms, increasing in intensity toward the end (Pss 145-150). Psalms 113-118 are called the Hallel, the praises. Praise for redemption dominates the New Testament (Luke 2:13-14; Rev 19:5-7). Here, like David, Mar Ephraim expresses his gratitude towards God through praising. God is alone worthy of worship. So he offer unlimited praise to Jesus Christ, the Lord and God. It is our responsibility to praise God.

20. Thou who does receive our prayers
Thou who grants supplications
Heed Thy servants' prayers
Kindly grant our petitions.

Note: Mar Ephraim concludes his hymn by asking grace upon grace and mercy, because, Jesus Christ will hear the prayers and supplication of humankind. He will shower limitless blessings from His abundant love and mercy. Bertimaeus, the blind, the woman from Syro-Phoenicea, the Centurian, possessed man, the woman with hemorrhage, etc., are examples for His mercy. Jesus Christ never close His eyes to the cry of the weak and needy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ORTHODOX PERSPECTIVE ON ECOLOGY
Fr Jose Thomas

Orthodoxy literally means right glorification. To enjoy right glory we need right words, concepts, reflections and good experiences. For that experience, we need a good contact with all creation. Unfortunately, we have lost the art of such attachment and experience. Companionship changed into consumerism; subject-subject relationship is changed into subject-object relationship.

St Basil, in his homilies on the six days of creation explains the orderly arrangement of the created beings. This created order has its existence because of the participation of the creation in the order, will and wisdom of Creator. According to St Basil, the harmony, order and fellowship of the creation is a product of God’s gracious will. There exists a firm fellowship between the diverse parts of the created universe. All are united in one harmoniously and in accordance with the universal sympathy. Isaac of Nineveh says that before the fall, humans’ odour was pleasing to animals and other creatures, thus they were not afraid each other. They were in good harmony, but after the fall there began gap between the humans and animals. Enmity started between them and mutual harmony is lost.

In fact, all living beings have bodies composed of the same elements as found in the earth. Man shares this aspect of his being with animals, plants and inorganic matter. Man as the crown of creation is co-creator with God. St. Gregory of Nyssa held that man in a sense recapitulates and represents the whole universe: that in man the cosmos consciously responds to the Creator. So, man can not exist apart from the universe.

The Oriental Orthodox Churches teach that Christ’s is a single personality formed by the union of perfect Godhead and perfect manhood. This integral unity of divinity and humanity in Jesus Christ also reveals nature’s integral unity with the created being; and also the purpose and the responsibility of creation. Human encounter with nature should have the effect of the same status as that of the incarnate Word – where in Christ’s nature we could experience the divinity and humanity in all perfection. Thus human association with nature should be for the implication that for the growth of humanity and the nature together; rather than humans development meant for the endangering of nature as what we experience today’s commercially exploited consumer society, where there has least concern or reverence for the nature. The Biblical message of incarnation is not only for humanity’s salvation but of the entire cosmic order, with the ascent of human through and with human. Christ combines both divinity and humanity, spirit and matter, heavenly and earthly etc. In Christ there is no subject-object dualism. In Christ everything is fulfilled con-summated, integrated and united in wholeness.

The Orthodox worship is one of the profound ways of understanding creation, and is dominated by the Holy Scripture and Patristic tradition. For example, Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, all His works. In all places of His dominion, bless the Lord, O my soul.” This Psalm tells us of the sanctification of all creation. There are other Psalms as well used for Orthodox liturgy. In the Indian Orthodox Church worship, daily prayers use Ps. 141, 142, 119, 105, 106, 111 and 117. These Psalms pictures an obedient worshipper who keeps the commandment of the Lord and preserves the harmony with the nature and fellow beings, and to his own Creator.
The Orthodox Church’s Sacraments and Festivals are not aimed at the benefit of the humans alone but for the entire created order. For example, elements used for the holy Eucharist are bread, wine, water, incense, coal and fire, that is, the fruits of human toil – products of what the earth so graciously gives us as a result of our labour. God created the whole living and non-living things out of the same earth. Therefore, the whole creation including human beings is of the earth. It is to symbolise the whole creation that the priest “offers the products of the earth”, namely, bread and wine as objects of sacrifice. The bread and wine represent not only the whole creation of the earth but also the sun, the moon, millions of stars and the whole universe. Therefore, by offering these products of earth for the holy Eucharistic worship the Church is engaged itself in creating ecological harmony. These are offered with gratitude, reverence and thankfulness. After offering the elements, they are returned to the creation; thus the creation becomes one with the Creator. This sort of offering and receiving completes one Eucharistic cycle. This cycle continues in every Eucharist. The Church teaches us that in this process the creation should get transformed and returned to the experience of paradise, that is, the experience of absolute unity, love and reconciliation.

On Epiphany, we bless the waters, which are drawn from the springs of the earth. In the blessing of the water, we bless all waters in the earth. After the blessings we take them to our homes, to fields of nature, and to everything that lives. We bless the whole creation in this way with holy water. In the liturgy we pray: “By Thy Baptism, Holy Lord Who has sanctified all the water reservoir (oceans and seas) and rivers… O Lord, the water placed before us may rescue all creation from the dangers of the spheres of air, from all evil situations; make seeds grow, protect the seedlings, and let ripe the fruits.”

In the worship of the Palm Sunday the Church blesses palms, trees and branches, thus blessing the entire vegetation on the earth. One of the prayers is as follows: “O Lord, by thy gracious mercy, blesses these branches and trees from which these have been cut and all the plants thou have created.” Thus Sacramental approach to creation is filled with the Orthodox liturgy. The prayers, readings from Psalms and other all suggest that worship that humans celebrate is not by them alone but the whole of God’s creation participate in for sanctifying and blessing.

Art, paintings and architecture of church buildings also reveal Church’s eco-friendliness with nature and God’s creations. It shows that the earth in its wholeness filled with the glory of God and used in the liturgy as symbols with immense meaning. The nature also participates in the worship. These images as in the worship can also be used for meditation. Since these are part of the divine sacrament the worshipper always revere with respect and devotion.
Anointing the sick with the oil reveals the potential of healing – oil seeds are the product of the earth. Holy Oil is also used in Baptism and for Chrismation. As anointing a person with Holy Oil, a church (building) also blesses with the Holy Oil in its inauguration. It thus becomes part of the nature, and the presence of the divine is cantered upon.

In short, we can say that the theology, liturgy, sacraments and the spirituality of the Orthodox Church are related with the nature. The character of the Holy Orthodox Church is eco-friendliness. But the question is that how many of the Orthodox Christians experience it in good spirit and save the nature.

Ethiopian Orthodox Church

ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHIDO CHURCH

Fr Jose Thomas Poovathumkal

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church is one of the six Oriental Orthodox Churches, characterized by the rejection of the Council of Chalcedon (451). The history of Ethiopian Orthodox Church is, also, the history of Ethiopia. Hence one who studies the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church should feel as he is studying Ethiopian history and vice versa. In every event, process or activity of the country, Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been participated actively.

1. ETHIOPIA
Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a rugged country of tall mountains and arid deserts. Ethiopia has a diverse population, with more than 70 distinct ethnic and linguistic groups. The word Ethiopia is derived from the Greek αιθ (to burn) and οψ (face), which means the country of men with burnt face. The ancient Greek used to refer to Ethiopia as the country of burnt faced men to mean brown coloured people. It is to show that Ethiopians are neither pure black nor pure white, but they are intermediate in colour.

The ancient name of Ethiopia was Cush. The name is mentioned 27 times in the Old Testament. According to Kebra Negast, a 13th century document, written in Ge'ez by Nebure Id Yishaq, the early inhabitants of Ethiopia (Cush) were Biblical personages. Cush was begotten by Ham, son of Noah (Gen.10:6). It was from Ethiopia that Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, journeyed to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem and there, according to the First book of Kings, "talked with him about all that she had on her mind." In return, "King Solomon gave the Queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty" (1 Kings 10:1-13). The Gospel of St. Matthew in the New Testament similarly records how the Ethiopian Queen "came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom..." (Matt. 12: 42). Kebra Negast further has it that a son was born to the Queen from her union with Solomon. This son was Menelik, the founder of Solomonic Dynasty, grew up in Ethiopia ("Menelik" means "the son of the wise man"). Emperor Haile Selassie, the last monarch of Ethiopia, was the 237th successor of Solomonic Dynasty.

According to Kebra Negast, the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia in the time of King Solomon. Presently it is kept in the sanctuary of the chapel annexed to the church of St. Mary of Zion in Axum, the sacred city of Ethiopians.

2. JUDAISM
In the Kebra Negast, it is stated that the Queen of Sheba brought Judaism to Ethiopia and from that time on it became the official religion of the country until Christianity took its place. In addition, more than twelve thousand people accompanied Menelik to Ethiopia. They mixed and coexisted with the Ethiopians. The Sabbath began to be observed, the flesh of animals that are not permitted by the Old Testament was no longer eaten, male circumcision on the eight day was introduced and the Ark became the centre of worship.

Even after the introduction of Christianity these practices have been still maintained in Ethiopia. The Ark was duplicated (tabot) and found in every church throughout Ethiopia. In order to observe the Saturday as Sabbath, many of the Christians in the rural areas especially of the northern Ethiopia do not go out to collect firewood or fetch water and do not even travel on Saturday. Unofficially Saturday is holiday for Ethiopians. Christians practice male circumcision after the birth and food rules are still observed according to the rules of the Old Testament.

3. FALASHAS
The native Jews are known as Falashas or Black Jews. They refer themselves as "Beta Israel" (House of Israel) and consider the name Falashas a derogatory term. The center of Beta Israel religious life is the masjid, or synagogue. The chief functionary in each village is the high priest, who is assisted by lower priests. Monks live alone or in monasteries, isolated from other people. There are no rabbis in the sect. Until the mid-1980s Ethiopian Jews lived either in separate villages or in separate quarters in Christian or Islamic towns, in the region of Ethiopia north of Lake T’ana. They were skilled in agriculture, masonry, pottery, iron working, and weaving. Under Haile Selassie I, a few of them rose to positions of prominence in education and government, but reports of persecution followed the emperor's ouster in 1974. More than 12,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel from late 1984 to early 1985, when the Ethiopian government halted the program. The airlift resumed in 1989, and about 3,500 Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel in 1990. Nearly all of the Jews remaining in Ethiopia were evacuated by the Israeli government in May 1991.

4. CHURCH OF ETHIOPIA
Christianity had been known in Ethiopia since a much earlier time. However, it became the official religion of the Axumite Kingdom in the 4th century. There are various points of view about the introduction of Christianity to Ethiopia.

a. The presence of Ethiopians on the day of Pentecost
Acts 2:8-11 never mentioned that the Ethiopians were present on the day of Pentecost. However, in his Homily on Pentecost, St. John Chrysostom mentioned that the Ethiopians were present in the Holy City on the day of Pentecost. It seems that St. Luke did not mention them only because they were few in number. Those few people might have introduced Christianity is the very crucial point. Moreover, from the early period, Ethiopian pilgrims went annually to Jerusalem where there is an Ethiopian monastery built a long time ago on the land which, it is said, was presented by King Solomon to the Queen of Sheba on the occasion of her visit to Jerusalem. This monastery was known as "Deir Sultan" meaning "the fief of a ruler." Presently, the Ethiopian Church maintains its ancient link with Jerusalem by keeping a bishop there. In Jerusalem, the Ethiopian chapel stands on the roof of the church of the Holy Sepulchre.

b. The Conversion of the Eunuch
The introduction of Christianity into Ethiopia began by the conversion of the Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). He was the treasurer of Queen Candace of Ethiopia who ruled Ethiopia from 42 to 52 AD. The Eunuch once went Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel. While the Eunuch was returning he met Philip and was baptized by him. Ethiopian tradition asserts that the Eunuch returned home and evangelised the people. To support this view point Eusebius, the 4th century Church historian singles out Candace's treasurer as the first gentile convert to Christianity. But Eusebius consideration of the Eunuch as gentile contradicts with the Ethiopian background of Judaism before Christianity. Eusebius view has not cleared yet.

c. St. Matthew the Apostle and Ethiopia
There is another story about the introduction of Christianity into Ethiopia. It is said that St. Matthew preached Gospel in Ethiopia and became a martyr. According to Rufinius when the Apostles drew lots to preach the Gospel to the pagans, Matthias drew Persia and Matthew Ethiopia.

d. Frumentius and Aedesius
Even though many stories survive in Ethiopia about the conversion, Orthodox Christianity became the established Church of the Ethiopian Axumite Kingdom under king Ezana in the 4th century through the efforts of Frumentius. Some details of this Christianization are found in the works of Rufinus, Theodoretus of Cyrus, Socrates and Sozomenus.

The historian Rufinus of Aquila (+410), in his "Ecclesiastical History" (I,IX), tells us about King Ezana's conversion. Apparently a certain Meropius, a Christian merchant described by Rufinius as a "philosopher of Tyre", once made a voyage to India, taking with him two Syrian boys whom he was educating in "human studies". The elder was called Frumentius and the younger Aedesius. On their return journey through the Red Sea the ship was seized off the Ethiopian cost in an act of reprisal against the Eastern Roman Empire, which had broken a treaty with the people of the area.

Meropius was killed in the fighting. The boys, however survived and were taken to the Axumite King, Ella Amida, who promptly made Aedesius his cup-bearer and Frumentius -- the more sagacious and prudent of the two -- his treasurer and secretary. The boys were held in great honour and affection by the king who, however, died shortly afterwards leaving his widow and an infant son -- Ezana -- as his heir. Before his death, Ella Amida had given the two Syrians their freedom but now the widowed queen begged them, with tears in her eyes, to stay with her until her son came of age. She asked in particular for the help of Frumentius -- for Aedesius, though loyal and honest at heart, was simple.

During the years that followed, the influence of Frumentius in the Axumite kingdom grew. He sought out such foreign traders who were Christians and urged them "to establish conventiclers in various places to which they might resort for prayer." He also provided them with "whatever was needed, supplying sites for buildings and in every way promoting the growth of the seed of Christianity in the country."

At around the time that Ezana finally ascended the throne, Aedesius returned to Tyre. Frumentius for his part journeyed to Alexandria, in Egypt, where he informed Patriarch Athanasius of the work so far accomplished for the faith in Ethiopia. The young man begged the ecclesiastical leader "to look for some worthy man to send as bishop over the many Christians already congregated." Athanasius, having carefully weighed and considered the words of Frumentius, declared in a council of priests: "What other man shall we find in whom the spirit of God is as in thee who can accomplish these things?" He therefore "consecrated him bade him return in the Grace of God whence he came."

Frumentius accordingly went back to Axum as Ethiopia's first bishop (328 AD) and there he continued his missionary endeavours -- which were rewarded, in the year AD 331, by the conversion of the king himself. The first archeological documents, which witnesses to Ezana's conversion are coins and royal inscriptions. The most ancient coins show disk and crescent; later ones, crosses. The most ancient known royal inscription, in Greek, was copied in Adulis (ancient sea port of Ethiopia) in the 6th century by Cosmos Indicopleustes in his "Christian Topography." Inscriptions of the 4th and 6th centuries are found in three languages: Greek, Pseudo-Sabean and Geez. One, which includes the name of Ezana king of Axum, refers to the "Lord of Heaven and Earth." Another inscription, with the words " Son of the unvanquished Ares", shows that the king was still a pagan at the time of its production. In a Greek inscription, found in Axum in 1969 and translated by the French Scholars Caquot and Nautin, Ezana clearly calls himself "the servant of Christ." In Axum one can also see some Axumite ruins between the modern Church of St. Mary of Zion and the little chapel in which what Ethiopians believe to be the original Ark of the Covenant is kept. Downstairs, in the treasury, ancient royal crowns, crosses and other church objects are to be found.

After expelling Athanasius and installing the Arian Bishop, George of Cappadocia in his place, Constantius (337-361) sent a letter by the hand of a priest called Theophilus to Ezana requesting to send Frumentius to Alexandria to be examined in his faith. The aim of the letter was to deprive the Orthodoxy any support and ensure international recognition of Arianism. The request was rejected by the king and Frumentius remained in Axum and continued the teaching which he had learnt from Athanasius. The first Ecumenical Council, where Arius was condemned as a heretic took place in 325 AD shortly before the establishment of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but the decision of the council was nevertheless regarded as binding and Ethiopia stood by Athanasius, and the Nicene Faith.

Frumentius has contributed and played magnificent roles in upgrading Ethiopia in religious matters. He developed the order of Holy Ordination and Holy Communion. He ordained deacons and priests to spread evangelization throughout the Empire. He translated books from Syriac, Hebrew and Greek to Geez, the liturgical language of Ethiopian Orthodox Church. He rearranged the Sabean letters and created new way of writing from left to right.

Frumentius was attributed names like Abba Selama (Father of Peace) and Kessate Berhan (Revealer of Light) and which shows that the people who first received Christianity had been impressed by the work of Frumentius. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church canonizes him as a saint. The Church celebrates his feast on 26th Hamle (August 2). A monastery named after him (Abba Selama) exists in Tenbien, near Abyee Addi in Tigray region, where he was buried. At a place called Mai Guagua, near Axum, a Church is dedicated to Abba Selama. There is also a church named after him in a place called Abba Selama near the town of Quiha to the west of Makalle. In addition, a theological high school now developed into a theological college dedicated to him in Makelle, Tigray region.

e. The Nine Saints
According to the chronological list of the Ethiopian bishops, Frumentius was succeeded by the Bishop Minas, an Egyptian. Minas left certain literary works concerning his missionary activities, but the major contribution in the missionary field was that of the Nine Saints. Their activities are regarded as the "Second Evangelization" of the country. The company of Nine Saints consists of Abba Aregawi (Zemikael), Abba Tsahma, Abba Gerima (Isaac), Abba Alef, Abba Gubba, Abba Aftsie, Abba Likanos Yamaata and Abba Pateleon. They came from different parts of the Eastern Roman Empire such as Constantinople and Syria during the persecution of the Byzantine Emperor after the Council of Chalcedon (451). Around the year 480 AD they came to Axum and were warmly received by the King Ella Amida, grandfather of King Kaleb. Before their coming to Ethiopia, the Nine Saints went to Egypt and lived some years in the monastery founded by St. Pachomius. They introduced monastic life to Ethiopia. The Nine Saints studied Geez and they became familiar with the customs of the people. The first dwelling place of them is found West of Debre Ela called "Bete Ketin." Then they set out in different directions to evangelise and to introduce monastic life.

f. Sixth to Fifteenth centuries
In the 6th century, Cosmos Indicopleustes writes that Ethiopia was thoroughly Christianised. The most famous Axumite King of the 6th century is Kaleb. On a hill 2km outside of Axum, one can see remains of the so-called tomb of King Kaleb and his son Gebre Meskel. The place was excavated in 1973/4 by a British mission headed by Neville Chittick.

Kaleb also known as Ella Atsbeha, is famous because of his expedition in southern Arabia. There was a presence of Axumites at least from 3rd century AD. In the 6th century king Dhu Nuwas of Himayar (present Yemen), also known as Yusuf (521-525), was converted to Judaism and began to persecute the Christians in Najran (present southern Soudi Arabia), killing them and burning churches. Responding to the request of Emperor Justin I (518-527) of Byzantium, King Kaleb, supported by a Byzantine fleet, went to help Christians with two expeditions in 523 and 525.

Ethiopian garrisons were settled in Zafar (south of present Sana), the capital of the Kingdom of Himyar and in Marib (east of present Sana), in the Kingdom of Sheba, and churches were apparently built or rebuilt. The Axumite general, Abreha, appointed as vice regent, is said to have ordered the construction of a cathedral in Sana (present capital of Yemen). At the end of 6th century, the Persians captured Arabia and the Ethiopians had to withdraw from Southern Arabia.

It was during this time that Holy Books from Greek and other ancient and advanced languages were translated to the national language Geez, monastic life was established and churches were organized as the most important centres of worship. It was also during this time that the well-known Church musician and man of literature, Yared, composed and performed his major works, which still characterise the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

In the 7th century, Mohammedan Arabs overran North Africa and part of the Middle East. As a result, Islam expanded to the areas of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean weakening the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and obstructing ite relation with the rest of the Christian world. Again in 9th century the Falasha Queen Yodit (Gudit) who rose against Christianity ransacked the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, destroying life and property of great religious and historical heritage. From the 10th to the 12th century, Islam began to penetrate further inland: north into the Beja area, south into the Sidama country, in Eastern Shoa (Ifat Sultanate), at Harar, and later near Lake Zway.

In the first half of the 12th century, in Lasta (south of Axum), in the centre of the Ethiopian plateau, a new dynasty, the Zagwe (1137-1270), of Agaw origin, expanded. They founded a capital at Roha, better known as Lalibela, after the name of its greatest king reigned at the end of the 12th/beginning of 13th centuries. King Lalibela had a vision which pushed him to build a "new Jerusalem." During his reign remarkable churches were hewn from the rock, below ground level; twelve churches were carved and ringed by trenches, tunnels and courtyards. Near Lalibela two churches are particularly well known: the monolith of Genneta Maryam, "the Pradise of Mary" (13th century) and a cave church (12th century) named after the holy king Yemrehanna Krestos, meaning "may Christ show us the way" (1140-1180), where his tomb can be seen.

The Zagwe were overthrown in 1270 by Yekuno Amlak (1270-1285) who established a kingdom comprising of Amhara (present Wollo) and the Christian communities of Shoa. He is considered in Ethiopian tradition to have restored the so-called "Solomonic Dynasty" that of the descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, through their son Menelik. Yekuno Amlak improved administration and inaugurated a cultural revival.

In the middle of the 14th century, the Coptic bishop Salama arrived in Ethiopia and reinforced the Church through evangelisation and translations. Bishop Yaqub had already recognized evangelisation in the first half of the 14th century. Moreover, King Yeshaq in the fifteenth century tried to evangelise the Black Jews, Falashas. When one of the greatest Ethiopian ruler, Zara Yaqob, came to power (1414-1429), he made religious reforms and centralized the government again. He was helped by two Egyptian bishops, Mikael and Gabriel.

g. Jesuit interim
Under king Lebna Dengal (1508-1540), Muslims occupied the Christian highlands, under the command of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al Gazi of the Sultanate of Adal, nicknamed Gragn (the left-handed). Many churches and monasteries were burnt. Gragn's troop ravaged the country from 1527 until 1543, when he was killed and his troops were pushed back. The Portuguese had been asked for help and arrived when Galawdewos was king (1540-1559) in 1541, under the command of the son of Vasco da Gama. This was an age of destruction and social turmoil unknown in the history of Ethiopian Church and was also remembered as the period of martyrs.

During the period of war, some Jesuit missionaries also came to Ethiopia along with the Portuguese soldiers. They tried to proselytise the Ethiopian Christians. One of the Jesuit missionaries, Joao Bermudez, claimed to be the head of the Ethiopian Church. His claim was rejected. He was followed by Andrea de Oviedo (1557). To mark and explain his opposition, King Galawdewos composed a "Confession" defending his faith and the rules of his Church. The Jesuit Pedro Paez arrived in 1603 and was replaced by Almeida (1624) and by Mendez. King Suseneyos (1607-1632) was converted to the Roman Catholic faith, but he was forced by his people to abdicate in 1632. In 1663 his son Fasiladas (1632-1667) expelled the Jesuits, because of their proselitism. Due to the religious conflict created between Ethiopian Christians and Jesuit missionaries, the country was thrown into another period of bloodbath and suffering.

h. Church of Ethiopia after Jesuits
The second half of the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries were times when any recognized central government was totally absent. This particular time called "Zemene Mesafint" (the time of the Chieftains) lasted for seventy years. During this time, however, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, having gone through many ups and downs was able to make a significant progress in the following fields.

· Schools as centres of Qene (Poetry) and writings were developed
· Commentaries on the Holy Scriptures were developed
· Schools of Church music were introduced and developed

The development of Ethiopia as well as the Church was continued until the assassination of the Emperor Haile Selassie by the military government in 1974.

i. Persecution of Derg
From 1974 until 1991, the military government, known as Derg (committee) took power, followed the stricter Marxist-Leninist principles. They, under the leadership of Mengistu Haile Mariam, nationalised the properties of the Church. In 1976, Patriarch Abuna Theolophilus was arrested, detained without trial, and eventually executed. Other archbishops and clergy were imprisoned including the present Patriarch Abune Paulos. The years 1977-78 were bloodstained ones. In 1991, the Communist period was at an end: Mengistu fled abroad, and the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came into power and the Church got her freedom.

5. ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH
From the time of St. Athanasius ordained Frumentius as the first bishop of Ethiopia in the 4th century, a connection was made with the Coptic Church. Until the 20th century, the Ethiopian Church remained directly connected with the Coptic Patriarchate who used to send an Coptic Bishop, known in Ethiopia as Abuna, to look after the Ethiopian faithful. The Coptic Abuna was largely responsible for ordinations and theological issues. The abbot or hegumen of the monastery of Debre Libanos in Shoa, called "Etcheuge", was responsible for administration and the properties of the Church. Today the Patriarch of Ethiopian Orthodox Church has the title of Archbishop of Axum and Etcheuge of the see of Saint Tekelehaimanot.

a. Patriarchate
At the death of the 108th Coptic Metropolitan Atenatewos in 1876, Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-1889) asked the Coptic Patriarch Kirilos V (1875-1927), to have four bishops instead of one. The Coptic Synod agreed in 1881 and the Bishops were sent to Ethiopia, with Abuna Petros IV as Metropolitan, who was replaced in 1889 by Abuna Matewos (+1926). In 1929, under the Coptic Patriarch Yohannes XIX, five Ethiopians were consecrated as the first Ethiopian Bishops, with the Coptic Archbishop Kirilos III (+1950) at their head. Other agreements were made in 1948 and completed in 1951, when the Etcheuge (Gebre Giyorgis) became Archbishop under the name Baselius I. This stage was followed in 1959, under the Coptic Patriarch Kirilos VI, by the consecration of Baselius as the first Ethiopian Patriarch. It was the beginning of the Autocephaly of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The second Ethiopian Patriarch, Abuna Theophilus, was consecrated in 1970, but the Marxist regime deposed him in February 1976, and he stayed in prison until 1979, when he was killed. In 1976, he was replaced by a monk of the Sodo monastery, appointed as Patriarch under the name of Tekelehaimanot (1976-88). After his death in 1988, he was replaced, by Abuna Marqorewos. Since 1992, Abuna Paulos, a monk of the Debre Garima Monastery (Tigray), has been the fifth Patriarch.

b. Present Statistics
According to the statistics of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, there are in Ethiopia more than 50 million members (including diaspora); over 40,000 local parish churches and other churches: higher churches (debre), rural churches (getar) and monasteries (gedam); about 4,00,000 clergy (deacons and priests), teachers, cantors (debteras) and lay church workers. In 2001, the Church was divided into thirty-eight dioceses, and divided again into districts. Currently, there are fifty-six bishops who were members of the Synod of the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia.