Malankara World Journal
Malankara World Journal

Volume 1 No. 27 September 7, 2011
Nativity of St. Mary Special Edition

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St. Mary, Mother of God
Oh ... Morth Mariam Yoldath Aloho (Mother of God) Pray for Us
Table of Contents
Editor's Note
This is the last of the special abridged editions of Malankara World Journal to celebrate the Nativity of the Mother of God. We will have a Malankara World Journal Supplement tomorrow to end the festivities. Then we will continue the Journal in the weekly format. We hope that you have enjoyed these special editions. We selected articles that are informative as well as challenging; the articles that are thought provoking and inspiring.

Today's keynote paper is by Very Rev. Joseph Pukkunnel Corepiscopos. Achen's sermons are very inspiring and well researched. My first contact with achen came a few decades ago when achen came to Cleveland, Ohio to visit his son Jijo (a very active member of the Malankara Archdiocese and currently a member of the archdiocesan council) and family. He gave a series of 3 lectures on "Following Jesus." After more than 20 years, I still quotes achen when I speak. Achen was saying that the Christian life is not a bed of roses. God does not always do things so that it inconveniences us the least. On the other hand, we are often tested. He gave an example of the conception of Mary. Achen said, if God wanted to make it easy for Mary, all he had to do was to send angel Gabriel to the betrothal ceremony of Mary and announce to the gathering that God has picked Mary to receive the honor of bearing the future Messiah. She would have been the talk of the town and most looked up to. Instead, what did God do? Gabriel met her alone and conveyed the good news in secret. Mary had nearly came to the brink of being stoned for breaking the vows of celibacy during the engagement and even Joseph did not know till the last moment about the truth of Mary's conception. Today's article by achen is equally informative.

The second article in today's Journal will complement and enhance Joseph achen's article. This article looks at the angelic salutation in a different point of view. During our qurbano, the celebrant turns to the audience and offer them peace several times. However, in case of Mary, the angel did not wish her peace. The angel already knew that word has already entered her and she is already filled with eternal peace. I do not think you will hear this perspective too often. St. Lawrence says that the angelic greeting contains the whole Gospel of Good News. Please read the article to find out how.

We end this edition with a short devotional. When we think of Mary the first thing that comes to our mind is her willingness to obey God and assume any sacrifices that are required to make the redemption plan of God a reality. Oswald Chambers points out that Jesus did not say, "He who believes in Me will realize all the blessings of the fullness of God," but, in essence, "He who believes in Me will have everything he receives escape out of him." Our Lord’s teaching was always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a person— His purpose is to make a person exactly like Himself, and the Son of God is characterized by self-expenditure (like a candle that burns itself out by providing service to others). If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts. God’s purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us. Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success as the world measures it, but only by what God pours through us. It is a great meditation that is very thought-provoking.

More articles on Virgin Mary can be found in Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary at.

Hail Mary! The Holy Virgin, Mother of God
by Very Rev. Joseph Pukkunnel Corepiscopos
Invited Paper

[Editor's Note: Very Rev. Joseph Pukkunnel Corepiscopos is one of the senior priests in Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. He is leading a 'retired but not tired' life at his house by helping our Sunday school and Seminary students at Udayagiri by doing a lot of translation work required for their study materials. Joseph achen has a masters degree in English Literature and is a retired teacher of Basil School Kothamangalam. He served many churches as vicar in Angamali Diocese and outer Kerala .

We are thankful to achen for responding to our request for an article at a very short notice. The article has been transcribed from handwritten text. There may be few errors and achen did not yet got an opportunity to inspect the final copy due to the deadline for publishing the special edition. We will correct any errors in the web edition.

We need scholars like Joseph achen to come forward and write such quality articles that will become reference materials for future students of our faith.]

St. Mary is the Holy Virgin Mother of God. The name 'Virgin Mother' will seem to be paradoxical; but only one who has studied the mysterious way how St. Mary bore the infant Jesus in her womb can understand how she had conceived even yet a virgin.

Mary was born to Joachim and Ann (Hannah), very old and saintly persons. Child Mary was born after ardent prayers and faith during their old age. The child, after the suckling period was over, was submitted to the temple in keeping with their oath to God Jehovah. The child grew up in the temple with holy people in prayer and meditation. She did not know what sin was. As she grew up, she was betrothed to an old saintly, Just man, named Joseph. It was at such a time that the angel appeared before her and announced about her child-bearing. The angel came unto her and said, " Hail Mary, thou art highly favored, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women."

Mary was bewildered and wondered what sort of salutation it was. The angel continued:

"Fear not Mary, for thou hast found favor of God. And, behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shalt be great and shall be called the son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever and his kingdom there shall be no end."

Mary was puzzled at this announcement. She took courage and said unto the angel, "How shalt this be, seeing I know not a man?"

The angel answered and said unto her:

"The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, and therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the son of God." --- "For with God nothing shall be impossible."

And Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."

This annunciation was too great for an ordinary person to comply with. But Mary did it. She believed it fully and prepared herself to face the after-effects of such a thing. 'A woman espoused to a man was to live with him for an year without coming together (physical intimacy)' was the prevalent Jewish law before the marriage proper. During this period, if one is found conceived, she was to be stoned to death, a ridiculous and ignominious death, according to the Jewish law. Mary was fully aware of this fact. Yet, she was ready to face any catastrophes in this connection lest she should violate her acceptance of the 'word' of the angel. This shows really a sign of her extreme faith in the Lord and she fully believed that the Lord of the Highest would safeguard her.

The miracle in the annunciation is wonderful and mysterious. Mary heard the 'words' of the angel that she would be conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost and the power of the Highest would be on her. The 'word' hearing through her ears went into her womb and the word became flesh, and from there taking flesh and blood from her until she brought forth her child 'Jesus.'

Her husband was a 'Just' old man who was very much troubled at the knowledge of his betrothed wife's untimely pregnancy. Being just and very sympathetic, he wished to abandon her without the knowledge of anyone else at all. But God was kind enough to make him understand that his betrothed spouse was not polluted and that she was conceived by the Holy Ghost. Joseph wanted to abandon her with a view to keeping her away from the ignominy of bearing a child unlawfully.

These were predestined. In the Holy Bible, in the book of Proverbs Chapter 8: verses 23 to 28 refer to St. Mary according to Catholic Church teaching.

23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:

Proverbs 8:23-28 (KJV)

In the prophecy of Isaiah Chapter 7 verse 14:

"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)

The annunciation of the angel at Nazareth to Mariam is just a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. It is interesting to see Simeon, the old man in the temple of Jerusalem (St. Luke 2: 21-35).

Read the full article in Malankara World

Hail, Full of Grace: Sermons of St. Lawrence of Brindisi

by Dr. Joseph Almeida

[Editor's Note: The article contains some reference to the sinless nature of Mary which comes from the dogma of Immaculate Conception of Catholic Church. Orthodox Church does not subscribe to immaculate conception of Mary. This article, however, is very important, as it provides us a different perspective on the angelic salutation to Mary.]

The Marian work of St. Lawrence is not only valuable, but timely. In the first of St. Lawrence's ten sermons on the "Angelic Salutation," i.e. on the "Hail Mary," St. Lawrence holds that the words, "hail, full of grace," contain, in principle, the whole of the Gospel.

In his reflections on the angel's greeting, St. Lawrence notes the uniqueness of the words, "Hail full of grace." This greeting indicates the birth into the world of a new and profound kind of joy, experienced mutually by the angel and the Blessed Virgin and, indeed, to be experienced henceforth, perpetually, by the entire Church of God. As we shall see, this is the joy of that special "good news" which is the Gospel.

St. Lawrence says:

A new messenger of God greeted a new woman in a new way according to a new and unspoken mystery, a new and unspoken sacrament. "Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with you." This is a new form of greeting, never heard by another, never before encountered. Because this greeting was unique in the history and customs of men, when Mary heard it, she was confused and amazed by the novelty of it all.

For St. Lawrence the angel's greeting is not a typical form of well-wishing. He sees it as an affirmation that Mary possesses divine peace in a special way:

There is very deep meaning in this greeting. The angel did not wish for and offer a prayer of peace for Mary in the customary way of those who give greetings, but he made an affirmation. The Lord said to Gideon, who was afraid because he had seen an angel of the Lord: "Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die" (Judg 6:23). That is to say: "My peace is with you. Peace goes between us, and you are affected by no fear or thought of death." So also in his greeting to Mary the celestial groomsman is not wishing nor offering a prayer of peace for the Virgin, but announcing and affirming that she already possesses this peace.

The greeting, shalom, i.e. "peace," for the Hebrews, as those skilled in this language knew, does not only signify concord and tranquility, but also happiness. Jerusalem, the heavenly fatherland derives its own name from the word shalom because "Jerusalem" (in Hebrew) means "vision of peace": in this heavenly city one finds the highest perfection, the highest happiness, the most perfect and eternal salvation, and that repose which will never end. Thus Christ is called the Prince of Peace, whose peace will never end (cf. Is 9:7). This is what "hail" or "ave" signifies in the angel's greeting, namely, "peace is with you," the peace, to be sure, of God, a peace "which passes all understanding" (Phil 4:7). The words "hail full of grace" mean, therefore, "happy and blessed are you who are full of grace." This is because peace for the Hebrews denotes perfect happiness and, further, because God is said to dwell in peace just as He is said to dwell in unapproachable light (cf. 1 Tim 6:16).

For St. Lawrence joy follows happiness, and therefore he further understands the angel's words to be an announcement that Mary is about to experience the joy of God's own presence in a special way:

Since there is no happiness without pleasure, gladness, or joy, peace also signifies joy and gladness. Therefore by greeting the Virgin in this way, the angel indicated that she would be inundated with the greatest joy and experience great exultation. It is just as the divine prophet Zechariah said to the Church: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you" (Zech 9:9). What Zechariah means is that the highest cause of joy and exultation is for God, the king and author of all good things to come to a person; his presence is the highest happiness.

St. Lawrence sees in the angel's words affirmation of Mary's immaculate nature and takes this as further evidence that the angelic salutation is, again, more than a greeting; it is an affirmation of a special new joy in the world:

The words of the angel's greeting excluded all reference to every cause of sorrow arising from sin and depicted Mary as one free and immune from all aspects of the curse which the sin of Eve inflicted on humankind. The angel's statement rejected all the sorrows of old and excluded the ancient charge of unhappiness. He declared that Mary retained nothing at all of this ancient curse. Because she was thus truly immune from all sin, she had no reason for mourning or sadness since these things emanate wholly from sin. No adversity in the world could harm her, if no iniquity had been conveyed to her through man. The angel therefore announced the happiness of the Virgin and the cause of her highest joy and exultation. His voice was of one making an affirmation, not of one wishing for or offering a prayer for the subject of his greeting.

What could the angel offer in prayer for the Virgin whom he knew had found the highest favor with God, favor of a kind beyond even that which every angelic creature enjoyed?

Mary did not share in Eve's sin nor was she an heir to it. She was not subject to its curse. She gave birth to the Savior not in sorrow but in joy. She felt none of the punishment of Hell in the fires of Purgatory since she never committed any sin, not even the very smallest nor most trivial sin. She was always most pure and holy in her thoughts so that she in fact surpassed even the angels themselves in purity and surpassed them in sanctity. This was in her the supreme and highest cause of joy. Whence the angel said to her, Ave or Hail, and announced the peace and perfect joy which was her possession.

Finally, St. Lawrence believes that Gabriel not only greets Mary, but rejoices in a special way in the announcement that he brings to her. It is this mutual joy that leads St. Lawrence to link the Angelic Salutation with the Gospel itself:

Furthermore, it is clear to observation that, in his salutation, Gabriel did not just greet the Virgin lovingly and show her reverence, but he also happily and gladly rejoiced with her. The cause of his joy and his happiness was most bountiful. From this annunciation, which made God most glad and was at the same time a thing most pleasing to angels and to men, the New Testament seems to have received the name of Gospel, Good News, Euvangelium. Gabriel's announcement was a proclamation of the happiest news to mankind, namely, the grace and mercy of God, the remission of sin, the abundant blessings of the riches of heaven, and, finally, eternal life, glory and happiness. All these things are contained in his divine salutation, virtually, just as the fruit is contained in the root of the tree.

For St. Lawrence, then, the "Annunciation" is, precisely, an Euvangelium: it is exactly the "good news" which is the Gospel of Christ. For him, therefore, the words "hail, full of grace," the substance of the "Hail Mary," is to the Gospel as the root of the tree is to its fruit.

About the Author:

Dr. Joseph Almeida is Professor of Classics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. The above article is the first in a series on the sermons of St. Lawrence of Brindisi on the Angelic Salutation.

A Life of Pure and Holy Sacrifice

by Oswald Chambers

"He who believes in Me . . . out of his heart will flow . . ." — John 7:38

Jesus did not say, "He who believes in Me will realize all the blessings of the fullness of God," but, in essence, "He who believes in Me will have everything he receives escape out of him." Our Lord's teaching was always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a person— His purpose is to make a person exactly like Himself, and the Son of God is characterized by self-expenditure. If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts. God's purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us. Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success as the world measures it, but only by what God pours through us— and we cannot measure that at all.

When Mary of Bethany "broke the flask . . . of very costly oil . . . and poured it on [Jesus'] head," it was an act for which no one else saw any special occasion; in fact, ". . . there were some who . . . said, 'Why was this fragrant oil wasted?' " (Mark 14:3-4). But Jesus commended Mary for her extravagant act of devotion, and said, ". . . wherever this gospel is preached . . . what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her" (Mark 14:9). Our Lord is filled with overflowing joy whenever He sees any of us doing what Mary did— not being bound by a particular set of rules, but being totally surrendered to Him. God poured out the life of His Son "that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). Are we prepared to pour out our lives for Him?

"He who believes in Me . . . out of his heart will flow rivers of living water"— and hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. Now is the time for us to break 'the flask' of our lives, to stop seeking our own satisfaction, and to pour out our lives before Him. Our Lord is asking who of us will do it for Him?

Source: My Utmost for His Highest (The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers, 1935) by Oswald Chambers

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