Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Focus: Great Lent Week 2; Pope Benedict XVI

Volume 3 No. 125 February 14, 2013

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Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world this week when he announced that he will resign from his office on February 28, something that hasn't happened in Catholic Church in more than 500 years. The pope is considered to be a scholar with a high humility.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

Bible Readings for This Sunday (Feb 17)

The Second Sunday of Great Lent - Garbo/ Leper Sunday

Sermons for This Sunday (Feb 17)

Sermons for the Second Sunday of Great Lent - Garbo/ Leper Sunday
http://www.malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermon-of-the-week_2nd-sunday-in-Lent.htm

Reflection on Lent

The object of our prayer-life is to empty ourselves and be filled with the Trinity. The first thing Jesus did when He became Man was to empty Himself. ...

Today, We Begin A New Journey: Liturgically Speaking, Pope Benedict XVI's Last Word

We begin our Lenten journey with trust and joy. May the invitation to conversion , to "return to God with all our heart", resonate strongly in us, accepting His grace that makes us new men and women, with the surprising news that is participating in the very life of Jesus. ...

Jesus Touched Him (Based on Luke 5:12-16)

"Jesus reached out and touched him!" Think for a moment about the power contained in that simple sentence. Jesus reached out and touched a man who was unclean. Think about Jesus reaching out and touching you. The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus himself has pronounced us clean. That's the Good News even we believers find so hard to accept. Just about all of us are hard on ourselves. Sometimes those who speak with the most self-confidence hurt the most inside...

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. If you had been with us last year, you will find that this year's offering has expanded. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here.

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Week 2 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week2.htm

Charity Can Never be Separated from Faith

Christian faith and an impulse to charity are "intimately linked" and can never be in conflict, Pope Benedict XVI writes in his Lenten Message for 2013. Faith, he writes, is a "personal adherence…to the revelation of God's gratuitous and 'passionate' love for us, fully revealed in Jesus Christ."

The Christian response to God's love, the Pope says, "is always open-ended; love is never 'finished' or 'complete.'" Rather, Christians find that their encounter with a loving God "awakens their love" and stimulates their love for other people. The love of neighbor, the Pope says, is no longer "a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith." ...

Preparing for Lent: Nine Liturgical Gems from the Byzantine East

Our brethren in the East call the period of Lent the "Great Fast," or alternatively, "Great Lent." It is the most important of the four fasting seasons in the Eastern churches, since it is the preparation for the feast of feasts, namely Pascha, or Easter. ..The particulars of the Great Fast are as ancient as they are fascinating. We will be focusing on some of the more general virtues of Lent extolled in the East. In particular, we will cover nine Byzantine liturgical gems of wisdom to gaze upon, as we prepare to enter into the spiritual arena of the Fast...

Cardinal Bertone's Farewell Address to Pope Benedict XVI

A few days ago, you said that as Christians we know that the future is ours, the future belongs to God, and that the tree of the Church grows ever anew. The Church is always renewed, always reborn. Serving the Church in the firm knowledge that it is not ours, but God's, that it is not we who build it but He; being able to say in truth: "We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty " ...

Resignation Shows Pope's Servant Nature

Pope Benedict's decision to resign as Bishop of Rome shows how the papacy is an office not of power but of service, reflected author and professor Dr. Scott Hahn. "It seems to me this might be for him, the most humble and obedient act of service that he can render in his own conscience," Hahn said. ...

The Reluctant Pope

He entered the papacy humbly and now leaves it humbly. His resignation is a great loss for the Church and the world. He represented the unity of reason and faith at a moment when the world was fast losing both. Between the West's culture of abortion and the East's culture of jihad, he stood as the civilizational center for life. ...

Family Special: Just Because ... (I Love You)

This is a 'must read story.' Sometimes a short story illustrates a point better than pages of instruction on how to have the perfect marriage. This kind of love — not flashy but forever; not commercial but committed — is truly honoring to the Lord and to your spouse. ...

About Malankara World

Foreword

by Dr. Jacob Mathew

Today, February 14, is the Valentine's Day, the day for lovers in the United States. We had been planning to publish the MWJ Issue 125 focused on Divine Love. Well, things changed. Earlier this week, Pope Benedict XVI announced his plan to resign papacy effective February 28. Pope said his health condition has deteriorated to the point that he cannot carry out his duties of pope effectively. This is a historic event. This shows the humility of the pope and his deep faith. He believes in the church that belong to Jesus and feels that we are here to serve. I think our church can learn a few things from the pope.

I had read most of the sermons of this pope (at least those available in public domain.) There is no question that he is a great scholar. His sermons on Prayers and later on Faith are second to none. His courage to stand on the principles despite all the temptations from the corrupt world to "change with the time" and reject abortion, same sex marriages etc. is worth emulating. He had revised the liturgy and had been evaluating the much maligned Vatican II. He had strengthened the bond between the Eastern Churches and his church. He had found ways to accommodate those who want to come to his church, like the conservative episcopalians. Many prominent protestants have joined Catholic church in size="5" his watch. But above all, I had admired this pope for his encouraging the use of the media to promote evangelism - something our church hasn't done effectively.

In a message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Communications, the then 82-year-old Pope, acknowledged priests must make the most of the "rich menu of options" offered by new technology.

"Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources - images, videos, animated features, blogs, Web sites - which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis."

Last month, even the pope had opened his own twitter account. Catholic church has EWTN, Eternal Word Television Network, a full fledged, state of the art, studios and staff. You may have seen the series on Catholicism, that was shown on Public TV in the US. There are active outreach programs in the campuses where young people are welcomed to come and spend some quiet time in meditation and counseling if desired. The result is that when all mainline churches (including our church) has been losing members, Catholic Church has gained membership last year. That definitely is an accomplishment considering all the negative publicity regarding priest abuse scandals that had been plaging the church.

He was also admired by his traditional foes: Reformed Christians and the Evangelical Christians.

For example, recently, Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote about pope Benedict XVI:

Benedict has stood against the nihilism that defines human worth in terms of power and usefulness. He has constantly spoken for those whose lives are seen as a burden to society: the baby with Down syndrome, the woman with advanced Alzheimer's, the child starving in the desert, the prisoner being tortured. These lives aren't things, he has said, but images of God, and for them we will give an account. When society wants to dehumanize with language: "embryo," "fetus," "anchor baby," "illegal alien," "collateral damage," and so on, Benedict has stood firmly to point to the human faces the world is seeking to wipe away.

Samuel Gregg, Research Director at the Acton Institute, and the author of 'Becoming Europe' and 'The Modern Papacy' wrote about Pope Benedict XVI:

Ever since I started writing about Joseph Ratzinger in the late 1990s, two qualities about the man impressed me. The first was his quiet but clear love of Christ as a living Person rather than the vague abstraction of liberal, often atheist theologians.

The second was Ratzinger's genuine humility. Intellectually, Ratzinger far surpassed the usual suspects who want to turn Catholicism into something between the disaster otherwise known as the Church of England, and the rather sad leftist-activism of aging nuns stuck in 1968. But against the increasingly-absurd rants of a Hans Kung or Leonardo Boff, Ratzinger simply continued defending and explaining orthodox Christianity's essential rationality with a modesty lacking in his opponents. ..

But we need to remember that Benedict XVI is arguably the most intellectual pope to sit in Peter's Chair for centuries - even more so than his saintly predecessor, who was certainly no slouch in the world of ideas. And if there is one single thing that stands out in Benedict's papacy, it's this: his laser-like focus on the root-cause of the intellectual crisis that explains not only Western culture's present wallowing in facile relativism that's on full display in the content-free rhetoric of your average EU politician, but also the trauma that explains the violence and rage that continues to shake the Islamic world and which Islam seems incapable of resolving on its own terms.

As Jesus commanded, Pope Benedict XVI was a champion of the forgotten and forsaken people. He equated charity to faith. Christianity is not about money and possessions. It is all about serving fellow man. The pope's example is worth emulating. We hope that the Pope will continue to write during his well deserved retirement. Enjoy the articles about him in this issue.

We are into the second week of the Great Lent next Sunday. We encourage you to use the Malankara World daily meditations and bible reading to make this a meaningful, transformative experience.

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Feb 17)

Second Sunday of Great Lent (Lepers' Sunday)

Evening

  • St. Mark 1: 32-45

Morning

  • St. Mark 9 : 14 - 29

Before Holy Qurbana

  • Genesis 7: 6 - 24
  • II Kings 5: 1 - 14
  • Isaiah 33:2-9
  • Jeremiah 50 : 4- 7: 15 : 15 -21

Holy Qurbana.

  • Acts 5:12-16 :19 :8-12
  • Acts 9:22-31
  • Romans3: 27- 4: 5
  • St. Luke 5: 12-16, 4: 40 -41

Sermons for This Sunday (Feb 17)

Sermons for the Second Sunday of Great Lent - Garbo/ Leper Sunday

http://www.malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermon-of-the-week_2nd-sunday-in-Lent.htm

More Sermons

This Week's Features

Reflection on Lent

by Mother Angelica

The object of our prayer-life is to empty ourselves and be filled with the Trinity. The first thing Jesus did when He became Man was to empty Himself.

"His state was Divine, yet He did not cling to His equality with God, but emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave and become as men are; and as all men are, He was humbler yet." (Phil. 2:6,7)

Our mission in life, then, is to cooperate with God's Grace and empty ourselves and be filled with the Trinity.

We are not to seek detachment to be free of responsibility, but to enable us to love both God and man with a pure love.

We are not to withdraw from the world to be alone, but to be with God. We are to do penance, not because it erases our guilt, but because it wipes away the traces of sin.

We are to empty ourselves, not for the sake of self-control, but to be filled with God- transformed into Jesus.

There is no definite method by which we can become selfless. Each one of us has a particular virtue and faults that make the process of becoming like Jesus different. We must look at Jesus, read His Word in Scripture and ask His Spirit to enlighten our minds and give us that particular way by which we can best attain the goal He has set for us ....  

Today, We Begin A New Journey:
Liturgically Speaking, Pope Benedict XVI's Last Word
Editor's Note:

From the Ash Wednesday Mass on February 13, 2013 as a monumental Lent begins for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Here's the Vatican's English translation of Joseph Ratzinger's final homily as Pope Benedict XVI, bishop of Rome, the 264th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stations, we are gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio took place in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances suggested we gather in St. Peter's Basilica. Tonight there are many of us gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to also ask him to pray for the path of the Church going forward at this particular moment in time, to renew our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer.

The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, "Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (2.12). Please note the phrase "with all your heart," which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: "return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment" (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a 'grace', because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that "rends the heart". Once again the prophet proclaims these words from God: "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (v. 13). Today, in fact, many are ready to "rend their garments" over scandals and injustices – which are of course caused by others - but few seem willing to act according to their own "heart", their own conscience and their own intentions, by allowing the Lord transform, renew and convert them.

This "return to me with all your heart," then, is a reminder that not only involves the individual but the entire community. Again we heard in the first reading: "Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly! Gather the people, sanctify the congregation; Assemble the elderly; gather the children, even infants nursing at the breast; Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her bridal tent (vv.15-16). The community dimension is an essential element in faith and Christian life. Christ came "to gather the children of God who are scattered into one" (Jn 11:52). The "we" of the Church is the community in which Jesus brings us together (cf. Jn 12:32), faith is necessarily ecclesial. And it is important to remember and to live this during Lent: each person must be aware that the penitential journey cannot be faced alone, but together with many brothers and sisters in the Church.

Finally, the prophet focuses on the prayers of priests, who, with tears in their eyes, turn to God, saying: " Between the porch and the altar let the priests weep, let the ministers of the LORD weep and say: “Spare your people, Lord! Do not let your heritage become a disgrace, a byword among the nations! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’"(V.17). This prayer leads us to reflect on the importance of witnessing to faith and Christian life, for each of us and our community, so that we can reveal the face of the Church and how this face is, at times, disfigured. I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church, of the divisions in the body of the Church. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble and precious sign for those who have distanced themselves from the faith or who are indifferent.

"Well, now is the favorable time, this is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). The words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth resonate for us with an urgency that does not permit absences or inertia. The term "now" is repeated and can not be missed, it is offered to us as a unique opportunity. And the Apostle's gaze focuses on sharing with which Christ chose to characterize his life, taking on everything human to the point of taking on all of man’s sins. The words of St. Paul are very strong: "God made him sin for our sake." Jesus, the innocent, the Holy One, "He who knew no sin" (2 Cor 5:21), bears the burden of sin sharing the outcome of death, and death of the Cross with humanity. The reconciliation we are offered came at a very high price, that of the Cross raised on Golgotha, on which the Son of God made man was hung. In this, in God’s immersion in human suffering and the abyss of evil, is the root of our justification. The "return to God with all your heart" in our Lenten journey passes through the Cross, in following Christ on the road to Calvary, to the total gift of self. It is a journey on which each and every day we learn to leave behind our selfishness and our being closed in on ourselves, to make room for God who opens and transforms our hearts. And as St. Paul reminds us, the proclamation of the Cross resonates within us thanks to the preaching of the Word, of which the Apostle himself is an ambassador. It is a call to us so that this Lenten journey be characterized by a more careful and assiduous listening to the Word of God, the light that illuminates our steps.

In the Gospel passage according of Matthew, to whom belongs to the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to three fundamental practices required by the Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These are also traditional indications on the Lenten journey to respond to the invitation to "return to God with all your heart." But he points out that both the quality and the truth of our relationship with God is what qualifies the authenticity of every religious act. For this reason he denounces religious hypocrisy, a behavior that seeks applause and approval. The true disciple does not serve himself or the "public", but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity: "And your Father who sees everything in secret will reward you" (Mt 6,4.6.18). Our fitness will always be more effective the less we seek our own glory and the more we are aware that the reward of the righteous is God Himself, to be united to Him, here, on a journey of faith, and at the end of life, in the peace light of coming face to face with Him forever (cf. 1 Cor 13:12).

Dear brothers and sisters, we begin our Lenten journey with trust and joy. May the invitation to conversion , to "return to God with all our heart", resonate strongly in us, accepting His grace that makes us new men and women, with the surprising news that is participating in the very life of Jesus. May none of us, therefore, be deaf to this appeal, also addressed in the austere rite, so simple and yet so beautiful, of the imposition of ashes, which we will shortly carry out. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and model of every true disciple of the Lord accompany us in this time. Amen!

Source: Rocco Palmo, WITL

Jesus Touched Him

Scripture: Luke 5: 12-16

This sermon reminds us of where our becoming followers of Jesus begins. It begins with one of Jesus' miracles of healing.

It's hard for us to understand the power of some of the New Testament stories because we live in a different culture. Most of them are told only in outline form. We don't get to really know the people involved. I want to begin this morning by retelling the story we just read about Jesus healing a leper. Using the customs of the day and the Law of Moses, let's see if we can try to understand some of the power and passion of this simple story.

The man knew he hadn't been feeling well, but he hadn't shared his concern with anyone. Now he couldn't ignore it any longer. He had seen it happen to other people, but he never thought it would happen to him.

He knew what he had to do. It was the law. He had to make a journey. He told his wife and children he would only be gone a few days and that they shouldn't worry; everything would be all right. The man walked out of the village with tears in his eyes. He walked alone carrying in his heart the knowledge of his terrifying discovery.

Finally he reached the city. He went to a certain room that was part of a great building called the temple. He met a stranger there, a priest. The frightened man described the awful discovery. He showed the priest the white spots on his arms and legs. Even his body hair had turned white over the spots.

The priest's eyes narrowed. His jaw was set. "I declare before God that you are now unclean. God's word says, 'the leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair on his head hang loose. He shall cover his upper lip and cry "Unclean, unclean!" He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.'"

The law is found in Leviticus. It is more a public health law than a religious law. It is harsh, but in the days before any scientific knowledge about the cause of disease, laws were designed to protect the community even if it hurt the individual.

The priest left. The man stood alone. Never again would he hold his wife close in the night. He could no longer touch his children. He could no longer worship in the temple or shake the hands of his friends. What would become of his wife and children now that he couldn't support them?

Slowly he began to tear his clothes and muss his hair. He stepped out onto the street, stopped, shoulders sagging. "Unclean! Unclean!" he shouted. People stepped back. They were afraid. The crowds around the temple made a path for him.

When he got back to his village he dared not enter. He yelled from a distance at his wife and children. They must stay away from him. He left them crying; he left feeling totally alone. At the time of Jesus, the leper would have come to that point in his life much as I have described it. To make matters worse, the theology of the day said that God himself had given the man this disease as a punishment for his sins. Not only was this man cut off from his family and community; he was denied access to his God.

Deep in the darkness of our souls, I suspect many of us can at least partially identify with this man. "Full of leprosy" ... A few of us have chronic illnesses that make us unable to do all the things we would like to do - or perhaps we just feel the effects of aging. On television practically everyone over seventy is cranky and partly senile. Why do they think that of us when we don't think of ourselves that way? Others feel a sense of ugliness. We don't talk about it a whole lot, but I think our discomfort with our bodies causes many people a great deal of anxious concern.

Too tall, too short, too heavy, too slim, too old, too many wrinkles - no one ever lost money betting on products and services designed to cater to the anxiety, the sense of uncleanness most Americans have about their bodies. And every day, in movies, on television, in countless commercials, we are given the message that we aren't beautiful enough or handsome enough or young enough to be loved. We can laugh about it, but we spend billions of dollars a year trying to keep this anxiety under reasonable control.

There are, of course, other things that work on our minds. Many people are full of memories that if revealed, they fear, would turn people away. We have done things for which we still feel guilt. We hope no one knows or remembers. We keep this pain, this sense of uncleanness, bottled up most of the time, but it boils up at the strangest times. People seeking relief many times over the years have told me these stories.

"Unclean!" "Unclean!"

I'm probably safe in saying that most of us rather recently have been addressed like the priest in that little room addressed that man. Someone has sent us a message saying in so many words, "You are no good. You are bad. You are terrible. You are a failure. You are unclean." I see children being sent that message every week in the grocery store, in Wal-mart, in parking lots. God knows what they are told at home. Young people sometimes send that message to their parents as well. I never will forget a father bringing in a young teenaged girl for me to talk some sense into as he put it. "Everyone at school tells me I'm too thin, too dumb and my breasts are too small," she shouted as we set in my office. I still feel pain every time I think about her.

Read the rest of this sermon in Malankara World

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. If you had been with us last year, you will find that this year's offering has expanded. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Week 2 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week2.htm

Daily Meditations and Bible Reading:

Day 7 (Feb 17) - Second Sunday of the Great Lent

Day 8 (Feb 18) - Second Monday of the Great Lent

Day 9 (Feb 19) - Second Tuesday of the Great Lent

Day 10 (Feb 20) - Second Wednesday of the Great Lent

Day 11 (Feb 21) - Second Thursday of the Great Lent

Day 12 (Feb 22) - Second Friday of the Great Lent

Day 13 (Feb 23)- Second Saturday of the Great Lent

Charity Can Never be Separated from Faith

by Pope Benedict XVI

Christian faith and an impulse to charity are "intimately linked" and can never be in conflict, Pope Benedict XVI writes in his Lenten Message for 2013.

In his message-entitled "Believing in Charity Calls Forth Charity" - the Pope reminds readers that during the Year of Faith he has called upon Catholics to reflect on the fundamental doctrines of faith. Faith, he writes, is a "personal adherence…to the revelation of God's gratuitous and 'passionate' love for us, fully revealed in Jesus Christ."

The Christian response to God's love, the Pope says, "is always open-ended; love is never 'finished' or 'complete.'" Rather, Christians find that their encounter with a loving God "awakens their love" and stimulates their love for other people. The love of neighbor, the Pope says, is no longer "a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith."

"When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity," the Pope explains. Thus faith arouses the impulse toward charity.

But in charitable activity, the Pope cautioned, Christians should guard against a loss of that fundamental connection with faith. He writes:

Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term "charity" to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization.

Preaching the Gospel, the Pope reminds readers, is actually the greatest act of charity, since it involves "the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person." He writes that the connection between faith and charitable work could be considered analogous to the relationship between the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist: both are essential.

At a February 1 press conference in Rome, presenting the papal message to the media, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, underscored the Pope's insistence that Christian faith cannot be seen as separate from, or in conflict with, charitable work. The cardinal said that the mistaken tendency to see a separation between these two virtues can take several forms.

"It is a misunderstanding," Cardinal Sarah said, "to emphasize the faith, and the liturgy as its privileged channel, so strongly as to forget that they are intended for actual persons who have their own needs." However, he continued, it is also wrong to think "that the Church is some kind of great act of philanthropy or solidarity that is purely human." Finally, he said:

"A further misconception is to divide the Church into a 'good Church'--the one of charitable action?and a 'bad Church'--the one that insists on the truth, that defends and protects human live and the universal moral values."

Source: Catholic Culture; Copyright © 2013 Trinity Communications. All rights reserved

Preparing for Lent:
Nine Liturgical Gems from the Byzantine East

by Brian Battersby

Our brethren in the East call the period of Lent the "Great Fast," or alternatively, "Great Lent." It is the most important of the four fasting seasons in the Eastern churches, since it is the preparation for the feast of feasts, namely Pascha, or Easter. In the Byzantine rite, the period of Great Lent is preceded by four Sundays (five in the Slavic reckoning), during which the faithful prepare themselves for the asceticism, prayer, and repentance which accompanies the Fast. The first of these is the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, followed by the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Sunday of the Last Judgment, and then and then the Sunday of Forgiveness.

These last two Sundays are called "Meatfare" and "Cheesefare" Sundays respectively, since the one marks the end of the eating of meat two weeks before Lent, and the other the end of the consumption of dairy products one week before. The Monday after the Sunday of Forgiveness (known as "Clean Monday") heralds the beginning of the Great Fast proper, after which time wine, oil, and fish, are allowed only on certain days, meat and dairy being excluded altogether. The particulars of the Great Fast are as ancient as they are fascinating, and while certainly meriting their own study, in this list we will be focusing on some of the more general virtues of Lent extolled in the East. In particular, we will cover nine Byzantine liturgical gems of wisdom to gaze upon, as we prepare to enter into the spiritual arena of the Fast. A quote from the hymns of the Byzantine liturgy will be provided, either extolling a particular virtue or repudiating the vice which must be rooted out in order to possess it [1]:

1) Self-Control

The virtue of self-control, as practiced through fasting and temperance in food and drink, is of paramount importance to the Eastern church. According to the Damascene, the passion which this virtue seeks to destroy is that of gluttony, which is considered one of the three chief passions [2], as it was the act of eating the forbidden fruit by which Adam and Eve transgressed the divine Commandment:

"Adam was deprived of the delights of Paradise by the bitterness of the fruit; his gluttony made him reject the commandment of the Lord. He was condemned to work the earth from which he himself had been formed; by the sweat of his brow, he had to earn his bread to eat. Therefore, let us learn self-control, so that we do not have to weep before the gates of Paradise; rather, let us strive to enter therein." [3]

Through fasting and abstinence, we refrain from good things, in order to more easily concern ourselves with better things. In the Byzantine monastic tradition, abstinence from meat is a reminder of the blessed condition of Adam and Eve before the Fall, where they walked with God, and lived an angelic life of contemplation and grace.

And yet, it is not simply enough to fast or abstain. The key to success in the attainment of self-control, as the Fathers warn us, is that it must be practiced in concert with the other virtues. For as Chrysostom teaches, even the demons fast, being by nature incorporeal; while prayer—as well as all the other virtues of a life lived in communion with God—is obviously neglected by them.

2) Holy Desire

This is a zeal for God, a longing for Him, and a confident hope and longing for the blessings of the world to come. The vice which this virtue seeks to destroy is that of unchastity, by directing the intellect away from the transitory things of this world, and to the promises of the future life of blessedness:

"O beloved Paradise, beauty of Springtime and divinely created abode, unending joy and delight, the glory of all the just, the enchantment of the prophets, and the dwelling-place of the saints, by the rustling of your leaves, implore the Creator of the universe to open the gates that I have closed by my fault; let me partake of the Tree of Life, and share the joy that I once found in you." [4]

3) Almsgiving

Compassion for the poor, as the Damascene teaches, fights against the vice of avarice. This vice is the one which, according to the ascetic Fathers, is the root of all evil: [5]

"Driven by his love of money, Judas the traitor cunningly planned to sell you, O Lord, the Treasure of life; in his frenzy, he hastened to the impious ones and said: ‘What will you give me, if I will deliver him to you to be crucified?" [6]

4) Charity

In addition to almsgiving, the goodwill and love for all, as exemplified in the virtue of charity fights against the vice of anger. But whoever who seeks the salvation of their neighbor does not have the luxury of harboring rancor or malice, but rather seeks their good, both in reference to their life on earth, and eternal life in heaven:

"O faithful, let us vie with each other in zeal, and let us seek to do good. Let us live together in humility, and may our hearts sigh with tears and prayer so that we may obtain forgiveness from God." [7]

5) Joy

Although Great Lent is a time of sadness and sorrow for sins, it is a "bright sadness," because the benevolent Father waits in earnest for the return of His prodigal children. The spiritual joy which comes from God allows us to vie against the vice of worldly dejection, which arises when we find that our efforts go unrecognized and unheralded by the world, or when we are even rejected by it on account of our faith. This divine joy also serves as a healing balm for those who despair of the mercy of God on account of their sins:

"O faithful, let us discover the power of the divine mystery. The Prodigal came back from his sin and returned to his father's house; in his lovingkindness his father came out to meet him and kissed him. He restored him to the glory of his house, and prepared a mystical banquet on high. He killed the fatted calf so that we might share in his joy; the joy of the Father who offers in love, and the joy of the Lamb who gives himself for us; for He is Christ, the Savior of our souls." [8]

6) Patience

Constant vigilance and perseverance, with continual thanksgiving to God, fights against the vice of self-love. While avarice is considered the root of all evil by the Fathers, the inordinate love of the body and its pleasures is considered the "mother of vices," to be striven against mightily during the Great Fast: [9]

"The arena of virtues is now open! Let all who wish to begin training now enter! Prepare yourselves for the struggle of the Fast; those who strive valiantly shall receive the crown! Let us put on the armor of the Cross to combat the Enemy, taking faith as our unshakable rampart. Let us put on prayer as our breastplate, and charity as our helmet. As our sword, let us use fasting, for it cuts out all evil from our hearts. Those who do this shall truly receive the crown format he hands of Christ, the almighty One, on the day of judgment." [10]

7) Prayer

As was mentioned above, any increase in discipline must be accompanied by increased prayer, marked by a spirit of true compunction, humility, and interior stillness. This virtue combats the vice of arrogance, which ascribes progress to the self rather than to God. In prayer, one remembers that all good comes ultimately from God Himself, and in humility the Christian acknowledges that all he has is a gift from the Creator of all things:

"Let us fall down before God in prayer and tears; with deep sighs, let us imitate the humility of the Publican which lifted him up, so that we may sing in faith: ‘Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our fathers.'" [11]

8) Humility

Although the demons keep vigil in the sense that they do not sleep, and fast in the sense that they do not eat, the virtues of prayer and especially humility make the Christian soul a frightful bane for them to behold. The Damascene, therefore, proscribes this virtue as a remedy against pride. The believer should refrain from judging or despising anyone, emulating the repentant Publican rather than the boastful Pharisee. We must therefore consider ourselves as the "least of all" among our fellow human beings. [12]

"Seeing the dignity to which the humble are raised, and the deep abyss into which the proud fall, let us imitate the virtue of the Publican, and despise the sins of the Pharisee." [13]

9) Repentance

Although not included in Damascene's list, it is of course naturally implied, being part and parcel with the other Lenten virtues. Indeed, without true repentance, the other virtues are no longer meritorious. Confession of sin, tears of compunction, and good works are all radiant jewels in the crown of repentance, lauded in the Byzantine liturgy as the "queen of virtues":

"O faithful, let us purify ourselves with repentance, the queen of virtues. Behold, it brings us an abundance of blessings. It dresses the wounds of passions, it reconciles sinners with the Master. Therefore, let us embrace it with joy, and cry out to Christ our God: ‘You are risen from the dead; keep us free from condemnation, for we glorify you as the only sinless One." [14]

And so, with our minds firmly fixed on these virtues—and on God, who is the Source of all that is good—let us begin the "bright sadness" of Lent, cleaving firmly to Christ in faith and in love. May God create in us a clean heart, and the governance of His Holy and Life-giving Spirit, that we may enter worthily into the mystery of Our Lord's Passion and Resurrection.

Footnotes:

[1] The list itself is taken from an ascetical work of St. John Damascene, On the Virtues and the Vices (Philokalia, vol. II, p. 338). In addition to writing superb theological treatises, he also composed beautiful liturgical hymns, for which he is somewhat less known in the West. It was he who wrote the famous Canon of Pascha, a work in honor of the Resurrection. It is fittingly called the "Golden Canon" in the Eastern churches, both on account of the magnificence of its imagery and the sublimity of its Subject. Western Christians may already be familiar with this monumental work through the English hymn The Day of Resurrection, a translation of the Canon of Pascha from the original Greek into English verse by the John M. Neale, an Anglican cleric of the nineteenth century.

[2] Theodoros the Great Ascetic, A Century of Spiritual Texts, Philokalia, vol. II, p. 26.

[3] Canon for the Sunday of Forgiveness, Ode 1.

[4] Sticheron from the Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday.

[5] John Damascene, On the Virtues and the Vices, Philokalia, vol. II, 335; cf. 1 Timothy 6:10.

[6] Second Sessional Hymn from Matins of Great and Holy Wednesday.

[7] Canon of the Publican and the Pharisee, Ode 3.

[8] Sticheron from the Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday.

[9] John Damascene, On the Virtues and the Vices, Philokalia, vol. II, 335.

[10] Sticheron from Matins of Forgiveness Sunday.

[11] Canon of the Publican and Pharisee, Ode 7.

[12] John of Damascus, On the Virtues and the Vices, Philokalia, vol, II, p. 338.

[13] Canon of the Publican and Pharisee, Ode 1.

[14] Matins Doxastikon for the Sunday of Judgment.

About The Author:

Born in Charleston, S.C., Brian Battersby is a recent graduate from the M.A. program in Theology from Ave Maria University. Originally a convert from Protestantism, he was confirmed into the Church at the Easter Vigil in 2005. In addition to theology, he also has a great love of the liturgy, sacred music, the Church Fathers (especially John Damascene), and the Byzantine East.

Source: St. Peter's List. © 2010 St. Peter's List. All Rights Reserved.

Cardinal Bertone's Farewell Address to Pope Benedict XVI
[Editor's Note:

Here is a translation of the brief statement by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state and the cardinal camerlengo, at the end of the Ash Wednesday Mass (Feb 13, 2013), over which Benedict XVI presided. It is short, but extremely touching and beautiful.]

Most Holy Father,

With feelings of great emotion and profound respect, not only the Church, but the whole world, has heard the news of your decision to give up the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of the Apostle Peter.

We would not be honest, Your Holiness, if we said that this evening there is not a hint of sadness in our hearts. In recent years, your teaching has been a window open onto the Church and the world, which let in the rays of truth and love of God, to enlighten and warm our journey, even and especially at times when clouds gathered in the sky.

All of us have realized that it is precisely the deep love that Your Holiness has for God and the Church that prompted you to make this act, revealing that purity of mind, that strong and demanding faith, that strength of humility and meekness, along with great courage, that have marked every step of your life and your ministry, and that can only come from being with God, from standing in the light of the word of God, from continuously going up the mountain of encounter with Him to descend again into the City of men.

Holy Father, a few days ago with the seminarians of your Diocese of Rome, you said that as Christians we know that the future is ours, the future belongs to God, and that the tree of the Church grows ever anew. The Church is always renewed, always reborn. Serving the Church in the firm knowledge that it is not ours, but God's, that it is not we who build it but He; being able to say in truth: "We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty "(Lk 17:10), trusting completely in the Lord, is a great lesson that you, also with this difficult decision, have given not only to us, the Pastors of the Church, but to the entire People of God.

The Eucharist is a thanksgiving to God. Tonight, we want to thank the Lord for the path that the whole Church has walked under the guidance of Your Holiness and we want to tell you from the depths of our heart, with great affection, emotion and admiration: thank you for giving us the shining example of a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord, a worker, however, who knew at all times how to do that which is most important: to bring God to men and to bring men to God.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]; Source: Zenit.org

Resignation Shows Pope's Servant Nature

by Dr. Scott Hahn

Pope Benedict's decision to resign as Bishop of Rome shows how the papacy is an office not of power but of service, reflected author and professor Dr. Scott Hahn.

"It seems to me this might be for him, the most humble and obedient act of service that he can render in his own conscience," Hahn, a professor of Biblical theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA Feb. 11.

"It's a profound reminder that the papacy is not an office of power, but one of service, and so, if anybody has had a sense of servant-hood, it is Pope Benedict."

Hahn said that while the decision is a surprise, in retrospect, "we can see the clues."

He recounted that a friend of his who taught in Rome for some fifty years "in December told a friend of mine and me that he knew, that he had heard, that within three months the Pope would resign."

"In some ways I'm surprised at how surprised I am," Hahn said. He pointed out that Pope Benedict had said in a 2010 interview with Peter Seewald that a Pope has "a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign."

Of the 256 Bishops of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI is the third to clearly resign, and the second to do so freely. The previous two were Gregory XII in 1415, who resigned to resolve the Western Schism, and Saint Celestine V in 1294.

Perhaps foreshadowing his decision to step down, Pope Benedict twice visited the relics of St. Celestine while he was Pope. In 2009, he prayed at the tomb and left his own pallium – an episcopal vestment worn over the shoulders – on top of it. And again in 2010, he visited the cathedral of Sulmona to visit the relics of St. Celestine and pray before him.

Hahn noted that he and his family prayed together as soon as they heard of the Pope's decision, but as he considered it, these visits to St. Celestine came to mind.

"I began thinking about it, and when I hearkened back to those two seemingly irrelevant, or unimportant stops...Celestine V has always been an interesting figure in my study of the papacy, and I went and looked at this, and began to realize that this has been on his mind for a long time."

As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger two or three times submitted his resignation to Pope John Paul II, Hahn noted.

"I'm sure the Holy Spirit will be steering the barque of Peter in a wonderful direction, but it is unsettling, because he is a father, and as we think of the Church as a family, there comes a time when a father becomes so old and infirm, that one of the most profound gestures of love might be to hand things over to the next one in line," he observed.

"You can see this in Scripture too, David stepping down as king and appointing Solomon before he dies."

Hahn reflected on the deep effect this decision is having on Catholics the world over.

"It's a hard thing to explain to outsiders, the mystery of a family bond that we all share, and how deeply we feel it. But here is a man who is a father figure to us all, and not just in a kind of symbolic way, but inasmuch as we are really united in a new birth, and the flesh and blood of the Eucharist, and this man, we know him to be our father, even more than our natural dads at one level."

He contrasted the witnesses of Pope Benedict and his predecessor, saying both have something to offer the Church. "On the one hand, it was a profound thing for Blessed John Paul II to show us how to suffer and die."

"On the other hand, here's a man who began when he was 78... so I think there's something magnanimous about this alternate direction that he's taking. It's not something that strikes a chord with me, there isn't a sliver of me saying, 'oh I'm glad he did it,' but I can see why, and I can see how, our Lord will use it."

Hahn also discussed the profound thought of Pope Benedict.

"I was devouring this guy's stuff before I was even sure I was gonna become a Catholic. I like Balthasar, de Lubac, Congar, Danielou, and all the rest, but they couldn't hold a candle to this guy."

Hahn recalled how he submitted the manuscript of his work "Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI" to an evangelical Protestant publishing house, expecting it to be turned down.

"But they didn't, and they picked it up enthusiastically. The editor in chief said, 'I had no idea that your Pope could make the Scriptures come alive, and the Scriptures saturate all of his theology.'"

Pope Benedict, Hahn said, is a man whose thinking, preaching and prayer are all "profoundly biblical."

Source: CNA/EWTN News

The Reluctant Pope

by George Neumayr

He served out of duty, not ambition.

After John Paul II's death, Benedict emerged as the indispensable man, without the least bit of angling for that role. He didn't seek the papacy; it simply fell upon him. He had hoped the college of cardinals would select someone else. But his acute intellect, grasp of the Church's crisis, and closeness to John Paul II made him the obvious choice.

Given this background, his resignation appears more understandable. He entered the papacy humbly and now leaves it humbly. His resignation is a great loss for the Church and the world. He represented the unity of reason and faith at a moment when the world was fast losing both. Between the West's culture of abortion and the East's culture of jihad, he stood as the civilizational center for life.

The media verdicts so far on his supposedly inconsequential and failed pontificate have been useless, reflecting nothing more than the progressive prejudices of reporters and pundits. Long after their spiteful articles have yellowed, his encyclicals will be read.

The truth is that they didn't like him from the start, treating the elevation of a believing Catholic to the papacy as somehow "controversial." Bill Keller, the former executive editor of the New York Times, once blurted out that "the struggle within the church is interesting as part of a larger struggle within the human race, between the forces of tolerance and absolutism." That is the only prism through which the media ever saw Benedict: he fell on the wrong side of the progressive "struggle" and so became a target for endless media bias.

All the coming coverage of the papal election, sure to be absurdly ill-informed and tedious, will turn on that same standard. Candidates who appear sympathetic to the "forces of tolerance" will receive glowing coverage for weeks while the Church is lectured about the need to "modernize" and avoid a "contentious" pope. Modern liberals simply can't rest until the Church elects a liberal pope. Hijacking the Church for their own ideological purposes has long been their goal. They dream of a pope giving his imprimatur to the sexual revolution and socialism. Then at last the "forces of absolutism" will have been defeated!

By absolutism, the Kellers ultimately mean God. That's the absolute authority they seek to overthrow. They numbered Benedict among their historical enemies for refusing to join them in removing God from religion. He wouldn't swallow the secularist acids they dish up as "dialogue" and so he had to be dismissed.

But historians decades from now will take his pontificate seriously. It stands as an important step toward the restoration of order and orthodoxy within the Church after many years of scandal and foolishness. While plenty of dysfunction is still on display, Benedict did what he could to curb it. Contrary to the media's spinning, he inherited these crises; he didn't create them.

Indeed, the moments in his pontificate that the media has worked hardest to try and trivialize and discredit will hold up the best: his battles with the "dictatorship of relativism," his promotion of wider use of the traditional Latin Mass, his reinstitution of the ban on the ordination of homosexuals to the priesthood, his historic overture to disaffected Anglicans, his voluminous stream of speeches and writings that aimed at repairing the catechetical collapse within the Church; his insistence on the "non-negotiable" character of the natural moral law in shaping politics and culture.

He threw out an anchor to stop the doctrinal and disciplinary drift within the Church, which future generations will appreciate even if this one doesn't. The pressure on modern popes, both from outside and inside the Church, to pander to the permissive society is enormous. He resisted that pressure, understanding that if the Church mirrors the morality and philosophy of the world she becomes just one more force for evil and delusion in it.

He was a reluctant pope but a conscientious one, whose legacy, like that of his namesake, will be to have scattered seeds of recovery along the dark fields of Europe and the world.

Source: The American Spectator

Family Special: Just Because ... (I Love You)

by Lysa TerKeurst

"Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." 1 John 3:18 (NLT)

Grace looked up from the old, worn photo album to see Richard the postman making his way through the cold to her door. What a sweet young man, she thought.

Grace loved her walks to the mailbox in late spring and through the summer, but the cold winter air seemed to whip through her thin skin. Though in her heart she still felt like a young, energetic girl, her age was evident to her. Aches and pains made her careful and slow. As the air turned cooler, Richard made it a habit to deliver Grace's mail to her door.

Today was an especially lonely day for Grace. It was the seventeenth. No one but her Jim would have known what a special day this was. It wasn't her birthday or their anniversary. For forty-two years the seventeenth of every month was their unique day, as Jim would say, just because.

Though they never were rich with money, they were determined to be rich with love. For this reason, on the seventeenth Jim always found some special way to say it and live out 1 John 3:18, "Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions."

Over the years the gifts had been as simple as a scribbled note or as elaborate as a bouquet of store-bought flowers. But the message was always the same: "Just because." Once he'd secretly taken Grace's wedding band from her jewelry box and had it engraved with their special saying.

She found such comfort, confidence, and connection in those two simple words. To Grace it was more than a gesture of love, it was an outward symbol of much more.

When she'd gotten sick and couldn't keep up with the house, it meant I love you for who you are not what you do. When they had an argument, it meant even when we don't see eye-to-eye I love you still. When she started aging, it meant yours is a timeless beauty. Though Jim had never been a man of many words, his just because was perfect and poetic to Grace.

Jim had passed away three weeks ago. It wasn't a sudden death; they both had known his end was near. They'd had a sweet time of reminiscing, hugging, crying, and then as quickly as he came into her life all those years ago, he was gone. She missed him terribly but had peace.

They'd had a wonderful life and left nothing unsaid. Now Grace loved flipping through their old photo albums savoring pictures, but even more so she loved touching all the mementos from over the years written in his masculine handwriting.

Though she'd seen the postman coming, the doorbell startled Grace. Carefully, she made her way to the door. She graciously took the few letters he handed her and apologized for not having cookies. Maybe tomorrow. She then walked slowly to the kitchen to open her mail. A bill, another sympathy card, and something that made her heart jump and melt all at the same time.

Her eyes filled with tears and her hand trembled as she slid her finger underneath the envelope's back flap. It was a simple letter as they always were, delivered on the seventeenth as they always had been. Before his death, Jim had arranged for Richard to make one last special delivery. "Not even death shall stop my heart. Just because, Jim."

Sometimes a short story illustrates a point better than pages of instruction on how to have the perfect marriage. This kind of love — not flashy but forever; not commercial but committed — is truly honoring to the Lord and to your spouse.

I pray this story settles into your heart. That it reveals something to you about the heart of your loved one. Because even the smallest things can bring the greatest joys.

Dear Lord, I am so thankful for who You are – the Great Lover of our souls. Cultivate in me a heart of generosity and intentionality so Your love can shine through me into my relationships. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:

What relationship is the Lord calling you to be intentional with?

Think of how you could make that person feel truly special. Then, write five things that you could do to help foster this relationship.

Power Verse:

1 John 4:7, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." (NIV)

© 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Source: Encouragement for Today; Proverbs 31 Ministries

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