Malankara World Journal Theme: Advent - Annunciation to St. Mary
Volume 2 No. 110 November 22, 2012
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Table of Contents
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by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World
We are into the second week of Advent according to Syrian Orthodox Calendar. Our church recalls all the important events that led to the incarnation of our Lord during the weeks prior to Christmas. Last week, we recalled the annunciation to Zechariah about the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus Christ. This week, we celebrate the Annunciation to St. Mary.
Our church considers the annunciation to Mary so important that we celebrate this feast twice in a year. The first time, it is celebrated on March 25, exactly 9 months before December 25. The church requires that there should be mandatory Holy Qurbano on that day even if it falls on a Good Friday. (A few years ago, Good Friday fell on March 25; we had the holy qurbano and then the mandatory breaking the fast before proceeding with the Good Friday service.) In Malayalam the annunciation feast is known as 'vachanippu perunnal.' The second time the feast is celebrated is on the third Sunday after Koodhosh Eetho. This year it falls is on Sunday, November 25. In Syriac, this feast is known as Suboro.
When we look at the two annunciations - last week to Zechariah about the birth of John the Baptist and this week to Mary - the contrast is striking. Zechariah didn't believe the angel and he was "punished" for his disbelief; he was unable to speak till the naming of John. In contrast, Mary wondered how she can become pregnant as she 'has known no man'; but she accepted the angel's explanation that "nothing is impossible with God." She accepted her assignment with grace, obedience, faith and humility. She deserved the honor bestowed on her by God as the "most favored one."
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI) described the mystery of annunciation to St. Mary as the 'Mystery of Grace.' A virginal birth for the Savior is not intended to downplay the importance of family and marriage. It means that every step of the redemption of the fallen man was carefully planned and executed. Cardinal Ratzinger explained it this way:
"The mystery of the annunciation to Mary is not just a mystery of silence. It is above and beyond all that a mystery of grace.
If you recall, one of the themes of Malankara World is that "God picks ordinary people to do an extra ordinary job." This is best illustrated in God's choice of Mary for the most important link in His plan for the redemption of mankind.
was like a child when Angel Gabriel visited her. Those days, girls were usually engaged at the age of twelve or thirteen.
The marriages are arranged one like we do in Kerala - arranged by their families. Mary probably was dreaming of
spending her life with Joseph, the carpenter, when the encounter with the angel
Mary wasn’t a princess or a prophetess or a priestess. She had never been
anywhere exciting or
done anything extraordinary. She was an ordinary country girl from 'a small
town, of small regard.' (Can anything good comes out of Nazareth?)
What set Mary apart from others was that the Lord was with her, according to the angel.
That is a big advantage.
Mary's status as the 'favored one' is of sheer grace. It was not a payback for
anything she did. Luke Timothy Johnson
describes this grace as follows: [Mary] is among the most powerless people in her society: she is young in a
world that values age; female in a world ruled by men; poor in a stratified
economy. Furthermore, she has neither husband nor child to validate her
existence. That she should have found 'favor with God' and be 'highly gifted'
shows Luke's understanding of God's activity as surprising and often
paradoxical, almost always reversing human expectations. 1
No one, including Mary, could have expected God to choose her. But
God did. We do not know why. But He chose Mary; Mary
received God's grace and favor.
Mary said "yes" to the angel paving the way for the completion of God's plan
for the redemption of Man.
She had taken tremendous risk in saying 'yes.' She could haves stoned to death
for adultery. She had to go through tremendous
suffering and heart break (Her soul will be pierced with a sword as Simeon
prophesied later). But she trusted God. She had faith in God. She was
humble enough to be obedient. That was Mary. God knows our heart. That is why she was the
'favored one' and that was why 'God was with her.'
We have several articles in this issue that examines every aspect of the
annunciation story. We also have more in the Malankara World Supplement on St.
Mary. Next week, we will take a look at Mary's 'Magnificat' - one
of the most beautiful prayer/poetry in the bible. Spend some time reflecting on
these events. Put yourself in the place of Mary. Imagine the angel appearing in
front of you and asking your cooperation in bringing out Jesus to the world.
What thoughts would be going through your mind? Would you say 'yes'? Most
probably no. It just does not make any sense for us to take all that risk. As
Will Willimon says, "(un)like Mary, we think of all of the reasons why this doesn’t
make any sense. We are not perfect people. We have baggage. We have
But it is by grace - because God is able, because God can, because with God
nothing is impossible-that we, like Mary, can say, 'Yes' to God. It is from
absolute trust and complete faith in God like Mary's that we, too, can open
ourselves to God's purposes for our lives. 3
1 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina (Collegeville, Minn.:
Liturgical Press, 1991) 39.
Mary wasn’t a princess or a prophetess or a priestess. She had never been anywhere exciting or done anything extraordinary. She was an ordinary country girl from 'a small town, of small regard.' (Can anything good comes out of Nazareth?)
What set Mary apart from others was that the Lord was with her, according to the angel. That is a big advantage.
Mary's status as the 'favored one' is of sheer grace. It was not a payback for anything she did. Luke Timothy Johnson describes this grace as follows:
[Mary] is among the most powerless people in her society: she is young in a world that values age; female in a world ruled by men; poor in a stratified economy. Furthermore, she has neither husband nor child to validate her existence. That she should have found 'favor with God' and be 'highly gifted' shows Luke's understanding of God's activity as surprising and often paradoxical, almost always reversing human expectations. 1
No one, including Mary, could have expected God to choose her. But God did. We do not know why. But He chose Mary; Mary received God's grace and favor.
Mary said "yes" to the angel paving the way for the completion of God's plan for the redemption of Man. She had taken tremendous risk in saying 'yes.' She could haves stoned to death for adultery. She had to go through tremendous suffering and heart break (Her soul will be pierced with a sword as Simeon prophesied later). But she trusted God. She had faith in God. She was humble enough to be obedient. That was Mary. God knows our heart. That is why she was the 'favored one' and that was why 'God was with her.'
We have several articles in this issue that examines every aspect of the annunciation story. We also have more in the Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary. Next week, we will take a look at Mary's 'Magnificat' - one of the most beautiful prayer/poetry in the bible. Spend some time reflecting on these events. Put yourself in the place of Mary. Imagine the angel appearing in front of you and asking your cooperation in bringing out Jesus to the world. What thoughts would be going through your mind? Would you say 'yes'? Most probably no. It just does not make any sense for us to take all that risk. As Will Willimon says, "(un)like Mary, we think of all of the reasons why this doesn’t make any sense. We are not perfect people. We have baggage. We have limitations." 2
But it is by grace - because God is able, because God can, because with God nothing is impossible-that we, like Mary, can say, 'Yes' to God. It is from absolute trust and complete faith in God like Mary's that we, too, can open ourselves to God's purposes for our lives. 3
1 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina (Collegeville, Minn.:
Liturgical Press, 1991) 39.
This Sunday in Church
Annunciation to St. Mary, Mother of God (Suboro)
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
By: Deacon Keith Fournier
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Mary's profound Prayer, her "Fiat" (Let it be done) in response to the visitation from the messenger of heaven, the angel, provides a pattern of prayer and a way to live for every Christian. It issues forth in her song of praise, her "Magnificat." This song begins with the words "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" "My soul doth magnify the Lord" (Luke 1:46-55). However, the "Fiat" is more than a prayer and the "Magnificat" more than a hymn of praise. Together they reveal the Way of the first disciple, Mary, and together they constitute a lesson book, a guide, for this journey called life that we all walk.
Our lives, so real and human, with all of the blessings and all of the pain, can be packed with meaning, purpose and destiny, if we have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to respond with the kind of voluntary surrender that was so beautifully expressed by the Virgin of Nazareth in her continuing surrender to God's invitation. This lesson book is desperately needed by Christians, indeed all people of good will, in this age so characterized by pride and arrogance.
The pattern of that prayer and song was the pattern of Mary's entire life. She continues, in her place within that great communion of saints, to invite us to follow Her Son. Mary the disciple lived a trajectory of surrendered love. As it was with her, so it can be with us. It begins with Gods gift and invitation, invites our response, leads to praise and is intended to bear the fruit of a meaningful life.
She said "Yes" to the invitation to love and she humbled herself. She confronted her own fears and she entered into a new way of living, the Way of Discipleship. All of this was in a continued response to the original invitation of love, which was a gift and a special vocation, initiated by a loving God. Through this continuing response, she assumed a life's posture of receiving and giving, she became a fruitful woman, a "God-bearer" or "Mother of God". She brought forth the Word of God! This is a prototype of the vocation of every human person to bear the fruit of our surrendered love to the living God.
It touches the inner core of the meaning of life for all men and women who are children of the one Creator. We were made to give ourselves away to the Lord and, in Him, for others. Mary's choice, her response to the invitation of a God who always respects our human freedom, is a singularly extraordinary event in all of human history. However, it is meant to be much more. It is an invitation to each one of us to explore our own personal histories and to write them anew in Him.
The secret of sanctity, like that of Mary, is "profound humility," John Paul II told pilgrims gathered on the feast of All Saints on November 1, 2000 at Vatican City.
The pope's homily turned into a hymn of thanksgiving to God for Mary's beauty and that "immense multitude" of "anonymous saints that only he knows."
He cited examples: "mothers and fathers of families, who in their daily dedication to their children have contributed effectively to the growth of the Church and the edification of society; priests, religious and laymen who, as lit candles before the Lord's altar, have spent themselves in their neighbor's service in their material and spiritual need; men and women missionaries who have left everything to proclaim the Gospel to all corners of the earth. And the list could continue."
John Paul II said that Jesus made the road to sanctity very clear in the Gospel: the beatitudes. The Holy Father went on to describe the "poor in spirit," the "afflicted," the "pure of heart," those who "have hunger and thirst for justice," the "merciful," and those who "bring peace."
The last mentioned is the "synthesis of messianic goods," he said. "In a world that reflects tremendous antagonisms and exclusions, it is necessary to promote fraternal coexistence inspired in love and the capacity to share, overcoming enmities and oppositions."
In a certain sense, the Holy Father said, Mary summarized the beatitudes in her life: "'Blessed is she who believed in the fulfillment of the things that were said by the Lord!' Elizabeth said."
What is the secret of this sanctity? According to the Holy Father, it must be sought in "profound humility," in the humility that penetrates her words: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word."
"Mary, the first of the redeemed, shines before us like a lamp that guides the way of all humanity, reminding us of the last end to which the person is called: sanctity and eternal life," the Pope emphasized.
These two goals, the Pope said, cannot be reached without being dedicated to justice and peace on earth -- a peace like the one sought for the Holy Land in the Mideast.
Copyright © 2000, Zeitun-eg.org. All rights reserved.
The First Step Toward Her MysteryThe Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is an enormous subject in the Orthodox Church. At the same time it is rather modest, dogmatically speaking. In the Orthodox Church the presence of Mary is defined by only two dogmas, but she is advocated by a thousand names or images.
The two dogmas adopted by the ecumenical councils affirm that Mary is Mother of God and that she is the ever-Virgin. 1 All the rest of what we know about her comes from the Ecclesial Tradition, history, popular devotion, and the Holy Spirit.
"The name of Mother of God is the only name which contains all the mystery of the economy," as St. John Damascene says. The "economy" means the "work" that God has done for our salvation, and which is revealed through the name of Mary. In the mirror of her participation in the work of salvation operated by God we shall consider the dogmatical, spiritual and liturgical role of the Theotókos in the Oriental Church.
"Nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved," said St. Peter of Jesus (Acts 4:12). This confession remains immutable and inviolable for all disciples of Christ. But the other apostle, St. Paul, proclaims the "depth of the riches of wisdom and knowledge of God" (Rom 11:33); the depth which is concealed from us, but which is constantly revealing the incredible richness of the veneration of Mary in the Orthodox Church can be viewed as a particular form of this revelation.
In fact, faith in Christ is fulfilled in the person of Mary with an unspeakable light which betrays the secret of God that only his Mother knows. And she communicates it to us, because she does not cease to reveal the wisdom and the human face of God. Lending an ear to the innumerable prayers addressed to Mary, we understand that each one of them underlines a singular facet of the inexhaustible mystery of the Incarnation-as if the feast of the Nativity continued forever in the Orthodox Church and since Christmas Eve the world lives in astonishment.
"In the Silence of God"
"From apostolic times," writes the Orthodox Archbishop of San Francisco, John Maximovitch, "and to our days all who truly love Christ give veneration to her who gave birth to him, raised him and protected him in the days of his youth. If God the Father chose her, God the Holy Spirit descended upon her, and God the Son dwelt in her, submitted to her in the days of his youth, was concerned for her when hanging on the Cross, then should not everyone who confesses the Holy Trinity venerate her?" 2
This veneration was not affirmed directly in the letter of Scripture, but was concealed in the spirit of Scripture, and the earlier generation of Christians, obedient to this Spirit, could recognize him in the presence of Mary. One may say that the whole veneration of Mary has matured in the bosom of the spiritual recognition of her presence in the strictly and fundamentally Christocentric faith.
One of the first (if not the first) of the witnesses to such recognition, or awakening, of the discreet presence of Mary belongs to St. Ignatius of Antioch. On the way to his martyrdom (107) he wrote: "To the prince of this world, the virginity of Mary and her birth were kept hidden; and so also was the death of our Lord. These are the three glorious mysteries that took place in the silence of God." 3
Tradition tells us that St. Ignatius wrote these words during a brief rest while on his way to Rome, where he was sent to die in the arena of the circus. He is not afraid; he begs his friends not to intervene on his behalf with the Roman authorities in order to save his life. Death promises to him a meeting with Jesus-"I am seeking the One who died for us; I want him who resurrected for our sake." 4
Facing his death, he behaves and confirms his vocation and duty of a pastor; he writes letters to his flock imparting some teachings, he prays, preaches, exhorts. Above all he is concerned about the unity and catholicity of the Church, because where the Church is, there the Christ is truly present, and there truly is the faith and the Eucharist. From the very source of his ecclesial experience, in the offering of his life to God, he discovers the mystery of Mary.
"The links between Our Lady and the Church are not only numerous and close," writes Henry de Lubac, "They are essential, and woven from within. The two mysteries of the faith are not just solitary; we might say that they are 'one single and unique mystery.' ... In the Church's Tradition the same biblical symbols are applied, either in turn or simultaneously, with one and the same ever increasing profusion, to the Church and Our Lady." 5
The same thing can also be repeated by an Orthodox theologian, but with one difference: In the Eastern Church, Mary is never above the Church, but always inside of it. (For this reason the term "Mother of the Church" was not accepted by the Orthodox). But the Church constantly "recognizes" itself in the presence and the grace of Mary, as if the Church had the need to live the presence of the Mother of God in her own bosom, to enter more and more in communion with her beatitude, and the Church's river of praise is never exhausted. On the contrary, it always finds new expressions; with time it becomes richer, more abundant.
For instance, every title given to icons, which express the various facets of Mary's life in the Church, attempts, through that same title, to anticipate and to explain the secret content by means of the representation of that icon: "Unexpected Joy," "Finder of the Lost," "Vivifying Fountain." "Petitioner for Sinners," "Divine River of Living Water," and so on. This river of images and of words that comes from the spring called "Mary" is born in the faith, nourishes it and becomes part of our "ecclesial being," 6 though it often doesn't come to light in the Word.
However, where the Church is, there is Mary, and where there is Mary, the Church of her Son is born and is formed. In order to understand the origin of our spontaneous veneration, we have to examine our way of living the faith in the Tradition of the Church.
1. Formerly, even the dogma of the ever-virginity of Mary was not proclaimed
officially. But it was mentioned by the fifth ecumenical council (553) as
something evident, which goes without saying.
Excerpted from 'the Marian anthology, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons,' Seat of Wisdom Books, 2008
by Pastor Gavin
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
This sermon is somewhat racy as it talks about an unwed mother. Also, I mention it in the text, but I'm using Scot McKnight's "The Real Mary" quite seriously in this sermon series.
I. Why Mary
Mary is the center of the Christmas story. It is her faith that allows Christmas to happen in the first place. We are told throughout the Gospel of Luke that Mary pondered these things in her heart and we realize that Luke is telling us that he talked to Mary when writing the Gospel, giving her a chance to tell of Jesus' birth as she experienced it. When, in the fullness of time, God was ready to send his Son, it was Mary whom he chose to be Jesus' mother. Mary was not a goddess, but she was special.
I am reading a book by Scot McKnight, a professor at North Park University, called The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus and it truly is an inspiring book. In the book we see that when we don't place Mary on a high pedestal, we discover that we can learn from her faith and her life. We can see how she was faithful to God and God was able to use this to bring about great things in the world.
So, this Advent season, let's look at Mary and see what she can offer to us as Christians. We can definitely learn from her and grow in faith as we see that she was a woman of strong faith and great faithfulness.
II. A Difficult Situation
I don't think we truly allow ourselves to understand Mary's great faith until we allow ourselves to understand the world she lived in. The fact that she went along with what Gabriel told her in today's scripture is quite amazing. You see, by agreeing to be the mother of Jesus, Mary was agreeing to begin a path down a long and difficult road, one that would make her an outcast, one that would eventually lead to her watching her son die on a cross at the young age of thirty-three. Of course she didn't know that she would experience her son's death. She probably believed that her son would be an earthly king, just as so many others believed.
But she did know that she would be ostracized and gossiped about when people found out that she, an unwed and engaged mother, was pregnant. You see, life has changed much in the last 2000 years. We treat unwed mothers much differently than they were treated in Jesus' day. In fact, in Jesus' day the laws were set that if a woman was pregnant outside of wedlock, they could be killed for this.
So, when Mary agreed to be Jesus' mother, she was acting out in faith and facing death to do so. It gets a bit worse, though. You see, in Mary's day, women would argue that they weren't responsible for their pregnancy, and when they argued this they would be forced to participate in the bitter waters test. The bitter waters test was not a pleasant one. Mary, if Joseph had asked it, would have been brought before the priest, and be placed under oath and told to drink "bitter waters": a mixture of dust, holy water, and a written curse that the priest would have written out in ink and put in the water. The written curse would say this, "may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb to miscarry and your abdomen swell." It was believed that if the woman was guilty she would become sick. If she didn't become sick, it was believed that she was not guilty of adultery.
But this also isn't the worst of it. You see, in Mary's day, this was practiced in front of large groups of people and the suspected adulteress would be paraded in front of them in full humiliation. Furthermore, the bitter waters that they would drink would often cause them to become sick and even miscarry.
By agreeing to God's plan to bring Jesus into the world in such an unusual way, Mary was face this possibility in her life. But Mary trusted God. She trusted that God would not ask something of her and then betray her. And so she responded to Gabriel with words of faith: "may it be to me as you have said."
III. Great Faith allows God to do Great Things
There are two traps that people tend to fall into when they see this faith of Mary. One is to take it for granted and undervalue it. We do that when we ignore the risks she was willing to take to be faithful to God. We do that when we convince ourselves that anybody in Mary's situation would have done the same thing. We do that when we allow ourselves to think that Mary's faith was easy. Having faith, being faithful to God when circumstances are against you, is not meant to be easy. It is meant to be difficult. It is meant to be work, to be hard. Faith is not supposed to be simple. It asks much from us, sometimes our very lives.
The second trap that some fall into is to elevate Mary's faith up to such a height that we put her in a place that no other mortal could possibly reach. We elevate her to the place of goddess and look at her faith and faithfulness as superhuman. When we do this we miss the truth that we are all called to this great faith that Mary showed when Gabriel appeared to her.
You see, Mary isn't someone to look up to as the perfect example that we can never reach. Instead, when we see her step out in faith, we realize that we are called to the same kind of life-risking faith. Without faith Mary would not have accepted the words that Gabriel had for her. She would have told God that she was too young or not ready. She would have said no to God's great plan for her life and Jesus wouldn't have been born. Think about that for a minute. God relied on the faith of one woman, Mary, and because of her faith he was able to bring us his Son, Jesus.
When we step out in faith, when we respond to God in the way Mary did, saying "may it be," God is able to bring around great things in our world as well. It's a strange thing, the way God works. He continually looks for ways to find faithful followers to work through. He continues to call to people and ask them to step out in faith and move forward. And when they do he then uses their faith to change the world, to save it. He did it for Mary. He saved the world through her. And he can do it for us as well.
And so we can look at Mary and see her as a woman of true faith. We can see her resolve in a difficult situation. We can see that she was willing to step out in faith even though it would take her to a very difficult place. And we can find it in ourselves to do the same thing. Maybe we might not have an angel appear to us and tell us we are going to be the parent of the Savior of the world. But we do have God asking us to step out in faith. How are we going to respond? Amen.
Scripture: Luke 1:26-56
This week, I want to speak about that which is on the minds of many at this time of year - the birth of Jesus Christ. In particular, I want to preach about "The Blessed Virgin."
I don't know if you have ever noticed it, but the blessedness of Mary is strongly emphasized in Luke 1:26-56.
1) First, we hear it on the lips of the angel Gabriel when he comes to tell Mary that she is going to conceive and bring forth the Christ. In verse 28, he says,
"Rejoice highly favored one, the Lord is with you; Blessed are you among women!"
2) Then we hear it again from Mary's cousin Elizabeth when Mary goes to visit her. In verse 42, Elizabeth declares,
And again in verse 45,
And notice that Elizabeth says these things as one filled with the Holy Spirit - it is not just her own words, but the word of God.
3) And thirdly, we hear of Mary's blessedness from Mary herself, also speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in verse 48 where she says:
Today I want to focus my sermon on the blessedness of Mary. My outline today is very simple and can be reduced to three questions:
But before I begin working through these questions, I want to alert you about something I will be doing as we go along...
I will be applying what is said about Mary's blessedness to you...
If you are in Christ, I will be encouraging you that like her, you are also blessed of God... And if you are not in Christ, I will be urging you to come to Him so that you too can have God's blessing.
You all need to understand that what is said about the blessedness of Mary may, in a certain sense, be said about the entire church.
As products of our age, we tend to look at the blessings of God as something we receive in isolation from others, but the Bible looks at them as something we receive in connection with others...
For example, in Galatians 3, Paul calls the salvation that the Gentiles receive "the blessing of Abraham." We can read about God's blessing of Abraham and realize all the while that it is also our blessing, whoever among us not believe...
The Bible gives me good reason to apply what is said to Mary here to all of you who believe...
In the Bible, the church is often referred to as a woman who is called to bring forth life...
Just after the fall of mankind into sin, God came to the woman and He promised that the woman's seed would crush the serpent's head. The woman's seed was, of course, her offspring...
Some how, the woman would bring forth a Son that would deliver her from bondage to Satan into which the whole human race had fallen. All through Scripture, this theme is developed.
The promise is expressed again and again that somehow, God's chosen people will bring forth a Saviour who will deliver them from their sin.
For example, Isaiah 54 speaks about the barren woman (the church in her present state at the time Isaiah wrote it) becoming fruitful.
In Galatians 4, Paul quotes from Isaiah 54 and compares Hagar as the mother of covenant people who do not believe with Sarah, the barren woman, who by God's grace is the mother of those who are blessed through faith in God's promise.
Mary could no more bring forth a son of righteousness than Sarah could bring forth a son in her old age...
It was the work of God, not the work of the flesh, that the church would bring forth the very Son of God.
It is the church that brings forth salvation by the grace of God through Mary...
It is a personal blessing for Mary, but it is also a blessing for the entire church.
If you look at the overall tenor of Mary's response, you can see that while she declares that "all generations will call me blessed," she does not look at what God has done for her in isolation from what He has done for the entire church...
She does not look at God's blessing in giving her this child as her blessing in isolation of what the coming of this child means for us all!
This is very clear in verse 54 and 55 where she speaks of what God is doing in giving her this child as: in the remembrance of His covenant mercy to Israel - that which was promised to Abraham and His seed forever.
And so although Mary is the only woman who is to conceive and bring forth Jesus Christ, His coming forth is for the blessing of the entire church - that is, those who believe in every age.
God's expression of love and grace to Mary in calling her to be the mother of the Lord cannot be separated from His love and grace to the whole church in at last bringing forth a Saviour.
So I will not just be talking about the blessedness of Mary this morning, but also the blessedness of all of you who believe... and the blessedness that you who do not believe might have if only you would turn from your own way and believe.
This will continue in the next issue of Malankara World Journal (Issue 111)
by Alan Carr
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
Fear has been a part of the human existence since the fall of man in Genesis 3:8-10. Everyone, regardless of how brave they seem, is afraid of something. I, personally, am afraid of heights. Not so much afraid of being of there, because the views are incredible. Not afraid of the fall, because free fall is an exhilarating experience. If I had to define my fear, I would have to say that my fear of heights is really a fear of the sudden stop that awaits me at the bottom of my fall. I say again, everyone is afraid of something. (Snakes, Spiders, Disease, Financial Setbacks, Old Age, Gray Hair, Rejection, Disappointment, Exposure, Being Forgotten, Etc.) Even in the Bible, we can see where men were stalked by their fears:
Nothing has changed! People are still caught in the grip of their fears, and this is even true during the Christmas Season. A time that should be joyous, happy and totally Christ-centered. We fear not having enough money, of not meeting everyone's expectations, we worry over meals, over who will be there and who will not. We just seem to fear everything.
Illustration: The great Scottish preacher John McNeill told that during his childhood he had to walk a long distance home every evening, and his route led through a forest with a large ravine. Reports said that wild animals and gangs of robbers were often seen in that area. Great fear would seize his heart as he made his way past the spooky- looking trees. He recalled, "One night it was especially dark, but I was aware that something or someone was moving slowing and quietly toward me. I was sure it was a robber. When a voice called out, its eerie tone struck my heart with fear. I thought I was finished. Then came a second call. This time I could hear the voice saying, 'John, is that you?' It was my father. He had known of my fear and had come out to meet me.")
It was a word from John McNeill's father that brought peace to his fearful heart that night. What we fearful humans need is a word from our Father. A word from Him who is able to expel our fears and eliminate our worries. We have such a word before us this morning.
Three times God sent angelic messengers to the earth with messages connected to the birth of His Son, the Lord Jesus. Each time, they brought big news, news which troubled the hearts of their hearers. However, they also came with a message of peace. Three times angels appeared. Three times they spoke the words, "Fear not." Let's take some time this morning to examine the messages of these angels and learn for ourselves what it means to "Fear Not."
I. Luke 1:26-38 DO NOT FEAR GOD'S PROVIDENCE
The "Fear Not" of human impossibility!
(Providence = The care, guardianship, and control exercised by a deity; divine direction. In other words, it is the overruling watch care and involvement of God in the lives of His people.)
A. V. 26-27 The Calmness Of Mary's Life - When Gabriel appears to Mary, she is probably about 14 or 15 years old. She has probably grown up dreaming the same romantic dreams that girls have dreamed since the dawning of time. Dreams of marriage, home and family. She is even engaged to a man named Joseph and about to be married. According to the text, she has maintained her sexual purity, as well as her spiritual purity. She is living close to the Lord and is living a good life before the Lord. Mary apparently has it all sewed up. A bright future is awaiting her, she has everything for which to live.
(Illustration: I really like it when my life goes just as I have planned. There are times when we sail the calm seas of life, but those days often seem fleeting and few when compared to the days when trials stalk us like savage beasts.)
B. V. 28-37 The Challenge To Mary's Life - When Gabriel makes His announcement to Mary, her life is immediately turned upside down. Mary is called upon to bear shame, reproach and humiliation for the glory of God. Her's is to be the greatest honor ever afforded to woman, but at the same time it carried with it a tremendous social stigma. (Very much unlike our day!)
(Illustration: When our lives do not go as we have planned it is easy to fear that which is unknown. Often, God will allow things to happen in your life and life and mine that are hard to bear and hard to understand, yet the Lord sends them our way so that we might grow in Him and come to know Him in a better way. When these times arise, it is easy to question the Lord and His judgment. It is always easy to question but it is far nobler to comply with the Lord.)
(You see, one inescapable part of being a Christian is the area of cross bearing, Matt. 16:24. No one said such a life was easy, but the end results are worth the trials of this life!)
(Illustration: The secret to surviving the dreadful times is to learn to trust completely in the Lord - Although Nancy earned a meager living by hard work, she was a radiant, triumphant believer. One day a wealthy lady with a very gloomy outlook on life said to her, "You're happy now, but what about later? Or suppose your employer moves and you have no job? Or suppose..." Nancy broke in, "Stop! I never suppose! The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want," Then she added, "And it's all those 'supposes' that are making you so miserable. Why don't you give them up and trust the Lord completely?" That just about sums us up as well, doesn't it?)
C. V. 38 The Consecration Of Mary's Life - Despite the shame that was sure to come her way, despite the humiliation she would bear, Mary was willing to submit her life to the will of the Lord. In doing so, she sets and example of obedience and surrender that every child of God needs to take to heart.
(Illustration: You and I would do well to learn to submit to the will of the Lord in every detail of life. We need never fear the providential hand of God, for He will never do us wrong! Regardless of what may come our way in life, we can rest assured that God is going to use it to get glory to Himself and to help us learn more about Him.)
(Illustration: Joseph - He was loved by his father and occupied a special place of privilege in his family. Yet, God allowed Joseph to be sold by his brothers into slavery and to spend the next 13 year in either servitude or prison. However, in the end, God proved that His plan was the right plan and Joseph came out on tope of the heap - Gen. 50:20.)
I. Do Not Fear God's Providence
II. Matthew 1:18-25 DO NOT FEAR GOD'S PLAN
The "Fear Not" of immediate obedience!
A. V. 18-19 The Pain Of Joseph's Life - Joseph, like Mary, was on the way to having all that a Jewish man could have asked for in that day. He was about to be married to a pure, righteous Jewish girl. Everything was falling into place. Then came the news that shattered his life and brought all his dreams and hopes crashing down to the ground. Mary was pregnant, and Joseph was not the father. With his dreams shattered, his hopes dashed, his pride lost, his life seemed over. To Joseph, there appeared to be only 2 possible solutions
1. He could divorce Mary quietly and have her sent away until the baby was born.
2. He could divorce her publically, and thereby subject her to the ridicule and humiliation of the public. This option could also have resulted in her death - Deut. 24.
Joseph's life was literally turned upside down by the news of Mary's pregnancy.
(Illustration: We have all faced a similar situation. You thought you had everything lined up and planned out pretty well, and then the Lord went a did something that was against the rules and messed everything up, or so you thought. However, this simply what life is like under the curse of sin - Job 14:1; Eccl. 2:23.)
(Illustration: This was the problem Job faced. He suffered the loss of everything he had worked for and everything he loved. His was a life of trial and trouble. These times will come to all of us and must be handled, or they will handle us.)
B. V. 20-23 The Privilege Of Joseph's Life - As Joseph pondered what to do about his situation, God sent an angel to tell Joseph that he was about to gain far more than he stood to lose. Joseph finds out that he is the man who has been chosen to raise the Messiah. He had been handpicked by God to provide Jesus with His physical and spiritual training. His is a privilege that is unique to all of humanity.
(Illustration: Sometimes, the Lord's assignments are costly, but they always pay back far more than they require from us. In fact, just the privilege of being chosen by God to do anything is a privilege beyond description! Thank God, He chooses the common man to carry out the dictates and plans of the Lord.)
C. V. 24-25 The Priorities Of Joseph's Life - Joseph willingly took the assignment offered to him by God. In spite of the ridicule and the humiliation, he was willing to make the Lord's will a priority in his life. This is an example that we all need to emulate. It was never a question of "if" with Joseph. He was willing to obey the clear command of God without question!
(Illustration: Do not fear God's purposes. They may look bad in the beginning, but in the end, He will be glorified and you will be blessed - Rom. 8:28; Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 4:15-17)
(Illustration: Regardless of what comes your way in life, determine in your heart that you will seek the Lord's will and will do that which He has called upon you to do above all other things, and He will be glorified!)
I. Do Not Fear God's Providence
II. Do Not Fear God's Plan
III. Luke 2:8-20 DO NOT FEAR GOD'S PRESENTATION
The "Fear Not" of Salvation!
A. The Burden Of These Shepherds - These men were the social outcasts of the day. They were usually vulgar, dirty, smelly and unkept. They were also religious outcasts. By virtue of their very jobs, they were defiled and considered unfit to participate in the ceremonies of the Temple. They were separated from both God and man. If any men every needed hope, these men did! Hope is what they got!)
(Illustration: This is the natural state of man. Separated from God by virtue of our sins and doomed to an eternity apart from Him. Rom. 3:23; Isa. 59:2)
B. V. 9-14 The Blessedness Of These Shepherd's Lives - These outcast keepers of the lambs, are the first to receive the news that the Lamb of God has come into the world. What a privilege has been afforded to these humble shepherds.
(Illustration: Why were these shepherds afraid? Sinners have always displayed fear when they were confronted with the reality of God, because coming face to face with the Almighty has a way of making one have to face his own sin. And that is a true cause for fear.)
(Illustration: Sinners ought to fear the Lord, after all, it is the beginning of all wisdom, Pro. 9:10. But. We must remember that the Lord's presentations are also His invitations for us to come unto Him. When He shows Himself to man, God is desiring that men respond in faith and come to Him. Please note that the angels gave the shepherds directions as to how to find the baby Jesus. What a blessing for these lowly men to be called to come before the King of glory. Yet, that is the same privilege enjoyed by everyone here today - Rev. 22:17; John 3:16. Ill. There is only one reason why men remain in their sins and wind up in Hell. It is summed up in one statement from the lips of the Lord - John 8:24.)
(Illustration: Have you accepted His invitation?)
C. V. 15-20 The Brilliance Of These Shepherd's Lives - After these shepherds met the baby Jesus, they were forever changed. They left the manger spreading the good news that Messiah had come. All those who heard the shepherds marveled at their story. (It must have been a strange thing to hear shepherds speak of religious matters).
(Illustration: When the shepherds heard the message of the angel, they reacted with fear, but that fear eventually lead to their salvation. So it is with us. Some may fear to hear the message of the Gospel and to come to the Lord for salvation. You may think that God will not forgive you of your sins, or that you have been too evil for Him to save. The truth is, if He is calling you to come to Him, there is no way that He would ever turn you away - John 6:37. Then, if you come to Him, you will find that He has the power to forever change your life and make you what you never thought you could be - 2 Cor. 5:17. He can take a life of wickedness and turn it around for His glory, if you will allow Him the opportunity to do so.)
Three times the angels came and three times there was a reaction based in fear. However, when the fear had been dealt with and the Lord's message was allowed to come through, the message was seen for what it really was, a promise of grace. So it is this Christmas season. There may be those things around you that you fear, but if you can learn the lesson that Mary, Joseph and the shepherds learned, and that is to trust the Lord whatever the cost, then you will find that He can turn fear to peace this season for you.
(Illustration: An old man was asked what had robbed him of joy the most in his lifetime. He replied, "Things that never happened!" All of us can recall needless burdens that we have put on our own shoulders by anticipating the worst. Certainly the Lord does not lay such burdens on us.
Someone has cited these three keys to happiness:
W. B. Davidson wrote, "When just a small child, I accompanied my father on a short trip to see Grandmother, who lived 3 miles from our home. We remained longer that we should have, and night overtook us. Between our home and Grandmother's house was a swamp. That night the frogs' croaking and the crickets' chirping, together with the darkness and the shadows of the trees, frightened me. I inquired of my father if there was any danger of something catching us, but he assured me there was nothing to dread. And so, taking me by the hand, he said, 'I will not allow anything to harm you.' Immediately my fears passed away and I was ready to face the world, for my father had me by the hand." )
Is there fear in your heart today? Bring it to Jesus! Is there sadness? Bring it to Jesus! Is there fear over sin and hell? Bring it to Jesus! Is there disappointment and disillusionment over the trials of life? Bring it to Jesus! Are there burdens too heavy to bear? Bring it to Jesus! Is there brokenness and despair? Bring it to Jesus! Is there failure and defeat? Bring it to Jesus! Whatever it is that is causing you to fear, bring it to Jesus!
Copyright 2003 by Alan Carr
Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary
|For more articles, hymns, prayers, and eBooks on St. Mary, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary here:|
Although not observed in the Orthodox Church calendar, Thanksgiving Day must be celebrated by every citizen of the United States of America. It is the day of reconciliation with God, the Creator, and with our parents, friends and loved ones. It is a day of spiritual transformation of each and every one of us.
Reconciliation and transformation only occurs when we deepen in our hearts the essence of the Prayer of Thanksgiving through which we thank the All Merciful God for all the gifts graced and bestowed upon us. Above all, we reconfirm our commitment to share the gifts of God with humanity.
I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving Day!
Archbishop Hovnan Derderian
Source: Rev. Fr. John Brian, Madison, WI
Bake sweet potatoes at 400° for about 1 hour or until tender. Let cool to touch; peel and mash sweet potatoes.
Beat mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, and next 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spoon potato mixture into a greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish.
Combine cornflakes cereal and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle diagonally over casserole in rows 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle alternate rows with marshmallows; bake 10 additional minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Pope Benedict XVI has formally opened the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization with a "universal call to holiness" aimed at all Christians worldwide.
"Holiness is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life."
A rediscovery of the Christian faith can be a "source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life."
The Pope reflected upon the Sunday gospel in which Jesus proclaimed the indissolubility of marriage: "what therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." Pope Benedict recognized that "unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis."
He called upon the Synod of Bishops to focus make marriage "not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization" suggesting that there is "a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage."
"Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way," he said. Marriage "as a union of faithful and indissoluble love" is "based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross."
He advised that this statement be understood "in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly."
Source: Excerpted from CNA
by Samuel G. Freedman
Where the McNulty home once stood on the corner of Oceanside and Gotham, a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean on the spit of land in Queens called Breezy Point, there now remains a charred, twisted ruin. Flooding and fire have left behind nothing but the foundation. Within it are strewed a dislodged bathtub, an air-conditioner casing battered into a helix shape, a mailbox coated with ashes.
As if all that loss were not loss enough, the storm spared a few tormenting reminders of life before its arrival. In the scorched shell of a cedar closet, screen windows stand neatly stacked. Three rolls of paper towels sit on a pantry shelf, toasted as delicately brown as cookout marshmallows.
So, yes, at the corner of Oceanside Avenue and Gotham Walk, the house inherited by the elderly McNultys' niece Regina after the couple died, is a place of tragedy. It is also, astonishingly, a place of faith. For the one part of the home to survive intact was a statue of the Virgin Mary that Mary McNulty placed in her garden years ago.
The statue is one of the only recognizable remnants of the swath of Breezy Point where more than 100 homes burned to the ground while a flood kept firefighters from reaching it. Since the waters withdrew early on Oct. 30,2012, the image of the Breezy Point Madonna has reached the nation, indeed the world, through vivid news photos. Pilgrims have come to leave offerings: a bouquet of yellow roses, four quarters, a votive candle, a memorial card for the victims of Sept. 11, a written admonition that healing begins with acceptance.
Ellen Mathis Kail knelt at the shrine five days after the catastrophe. She had spent 30 summers on Breezy Point and watched her parents save for decades to buy a bungalow on Gotham Walk. She had been married in the parish church, St. Thomas More, a few blocks away.
One of the first photographers on the scene, Frank Franklin II of The Associated Press, reached the corner of Oceanside and Gotham at 6 a.m. on Oct. 30.
Winding through the fields of blackened debris, he found himself transfixed by the statue of the Virgin Mary. Though raised by Protestant parents, Mr. Franklin attended a Catholic high school and he immediately perceived a deeper meaning.
"It's weird how I was drawn to it," Mr. Franklin, 40, recalled. "I'm not the most religious person in the world, but I know what those images are. When I made that frame, I knew it would resonate with people. What I couldn't imagine was how much."
Through his Twitter account, Mr. Franklin has heard from people who saw his photo in print or online. "A wonderful image," one wrote on Twitter. Another wrote, "A symbol of faith." By the afternoon of Nov. 16, a Google search for "Breezy Point Madonna" retrieved more than 400,000 results.
What happened spontaneously speaks to a larger theme in Catholicism. According to Timothy Matovina, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame, the veneration of Mary, or Marian devotion, tends to fall into three categories. One involves apparitions; the second concerns statues associated with miracles in response to prayer; the third, as at Breezy Point, centers on an image of Mary that survives in some extraordinary way.
"In the midst of terrible tragedy, here's a holy image, a sacred image, that made it through," Dr. Matovina said. "There's a sense you've been crushed, but not abandoned."
Last week, Msgr. Michael J. Curran, the pastor of St. Thomas More, stood before the statue. A retired firefighter standing nearby surveying the remains of his home, greeted the monsignor, then nearly broke into tears.
"It will be a symbol of the suffering," Monsignor Curran said of the statue, "but also of our rise from the ashes. It will be a symbol of what we've been through but also of our resurrection. It will be a reminder that for all the property we lost, God never left."
Source: The New York Times (excerpted)
[Editor's Note: I don't know if this is true but interesting. I doubt if Mukesh Ambani spends time to reply to questions like this.]
Reply from Mukesh Ambani (Reliance Group) to a Pretty Girl Seeking a Rich Husband
A young and pretty lady posted this on a popular forum:
Title: What should I do to marry a rich guy?
I'm going to be honest of what I'm going to say here. I'm 25 this year. I'm very pretty, have style and good taste. I wish to marry a guy with 100 crore annual salary or above.
You might say that I'm greedy, but an annual salary 2 crore is considered only as middle class now days. My requirement is not high.
Is there anyone in this forum who has an income of 100 crore annual salary? Are you all married? I wanted to ask: what should I do to marry rich persons like you?
Among those I've dated, the richest is 50 crore annual income, and it seems that this is my upper limit. If someone is going to move into high cost residential area on the west of New York City Garden(?), 50 crore annual income is not enough.
I'm here humbly to ask a few questions:
1) Where do most rich bachelors hang out? (Please list down the names and
addresses of bars, restaurant, gym)
Ms. Pooja I Chohan.
A philosophical reply from Mukesh Ambani
Dear Ms. Pooja,
I have read your post with great interest. Guess there are lots of girls out there who have similar questions like yours.
Please allow me to analyse your situation as a professional investor. My annual income is more than 100 crore, which meets your requirement, so I hope everyone believes that I'm not wasting time here.
From the standpoint of a business person, it is a bad decision to marry you. The answer is very simple, so let me explain. Put the details aside, what you're trying to do is an exchange of "beauty" and "money." Person A provides beauty, and Person B pays for it, fair and square. However, there's a deadly problem here, your beauty will fade, but my money will not be gone without any good reason. The fact is, my income might increase from year to year, but you can't be prettier year after year. Hence from the viewpoint of economics, I am an appreciation asset, and you are a depreciation asset. It's not just normal depreciation, but exponential depreciation. If that is your only asset, your value will be much worse 10 years later.
By the terms we use in Wall Street, every trading has a position, dating with you is also a "trading position". If the trade value dropped, we will sell it and it is not a good idea to keep it for long term - same goes with the marriage that you wanted. It might be cruel to say this, but in order to make a wiser decision, any assets with great depreciation value will be sold or "leased."
Anyone with over 100 crore annual income is not a fool; we would only date you, but will not marry you.
I would advice that you forget looking for any clues to marry a rich guy. And by the way, you could make yourself to become a rich person with 100 crore annual income. This has a better chance than finding a rich fool.
Hope this reply helps.
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