Malankara World Journal
Malankara World Journal

Volume 1 No. 39 November 17, 2011

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Annunciation to St. Mary
Annunciation to St. Mary
Table of Contents
Editor's Note
We are well into the advent season according to our Church's Lectionary. Last week was the annunciation to Zachariah about the birth of John, the Baptist. We have indicated that the two predominant themes that emerge in the gospel passage from St. Luke prescribed were the Hope and God, as promise keeper. This week, the scene shifts to Nazareth, a nondescript hamlet in Israel where the angel visits a very young girl named Mary and tells her about God's plans for her. She was the central figure in the God's plan for the redemption of man! The angel tells her that she has found favor with god and wants her to be the mother of the son of God.

Throughout the bible we see that God uses common, ordinary persons to accomplish extraordinary things. Moses, who could not even talk fluently, was chosen by God to liberate Israelites from Pharaoh. David, a poor shepherd boy, was chosen to save Israel from the hands of Goliath and Philistines, and later lead Israel and, in the process, to become the most beloved of the God in the Old Testament - so beloved that coming Messiah was to come from the household of David. If we examine the genealogy of Jesus, we see many ordinary folks there even including 'shady characters' in the line.

Christ followed this example. He chose 12 ordinary men to be His disciples. They were not educated or in high social standing - just mere fisherman, tax collectors, etc. If Jesus wanted high class people, He could have selected theology experts like Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. - person such as Nicodemus - who would have commanded instant respect.

The same pattern was followed in laying out the plan for the birth/incarnation of the Son of God.

This strategy defies conventional wisdom. Let us take a look at what some of the contemporary theologians think about this strategy:

"The offensive element of Jesus' birth is that the king of the Jews would be born to such a poor family in an insignificant city at the outskirts of Israel. If a king were to be born, wouldn't it be better to have him born to high ranking, wealthy parents who could provide him with all the finest things? Shouldn't he be born and grow up in Jerusalem -- the city of God?" - Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen

"This element of surprise is consistent throughout all the stories of the birth of Jesus. All the familiar characters in the biblical accounts are surprised and puzzled. It is a story full of surprises.

Who would expect, for example, that such a world-changing event would transpire in such a marginal location? The angel Gabriel, we are told, was sent by God, not to Jerusalem, the center of religious life; and not to Rome, the center of political life; and not to Athens, the center of cultural life…but to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to announce the birth of a king. This king would inspire a new religion, challenge the politics of that day and this, and revolutionize the culture of the world. All of that was about to happen, and it would be announced by Gabriel in a place of religious, political, and cultural obscurity.

What a chancy thing to do! God was going out to the margins of respectable society to inaugurate this world-changing event. Galilee was hardly a respectable place in the eyes of the Jewish elite. Thus from the beginning Christianity had two strikes against it. To speak of a Savior from Galilee was almost a contradiction in terms. Galilee was known as a hotbed of political sedition, a land of uneducated yokels who had little respect for the Torah. The Gospel of John even quotes a well-known proverb: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? At the end of the gospel story, when Jesus was arrested and Peter is outside the high priest’s house in the courtyard, it is his distinctive country accent that betrays him as a Galilean." - Thomas R. McKibbens, Surprised by Christmas

And the central character in this drama is Mary, a barely teenager living in Nazareth:

"And now Mary, this young wisp of a girl, barely old enough to have a baby, senses the call of God in her life, and even though she has no idea what this call will mean for her future, she says Here am I, the servant of the Lord. She never asked, “What’s in it for me?” She never asked if she would be safe through childbirth. She never asked if she would be stoned for being pregnant out of the marriage bond. She never asked, “Will my parents disown me?” She just stood up to the voice of that angel and said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be according to your word."

"Another important element in this text is that God accomplishes the divine plan through human servants. And this is done without regard to social position or influence. Shepherds, carpenters and peasant girls are the key persons in the lessons for today. Indeed throughout scripture the truth of Paul's statement that God is "no respecter of persons" comes through. If you and I were planning an event like the fulfillment of hundreds of years of waiting for the one who would come to occupy the throne of David... think about it -- who would we put on the invitation list from the town we live in?

And where would we hold such an event? Because we know the end of the story, we loose some of the "shock" of the truth that Jesus was "born in a barn." (A truth most of us would leave off our resumes -- yes?)" - Believing," John Jewell

The work of God does not depend on talent or intelligence. He does not need people with Ivy League degrees and titles before their name. Different people have different strengths. God uses all of us to accomplish His purposes. God looks at our hearts; he looks at our faith; he looks at our obedience; he looks at our dependency on Him. These are more important than where we are born or what social status we carry.

God demands great things of/from us, far beyond what we could humanly imagine we are able to accomplish. Yet, we have to step out in faith. We need to take take that first step. This may be risky. To step out where there is no risk is not the path to greater faithfulness. God calls us to where it is foggiest and darkest. For instance, God tells Joshua that the waters of the Jordan will not part until the priests first step into them (Josh 3:13). The angel tells Mary, "Do not be afraid (to take that step.)" Like Mary we should have faith and trust God for him to use us.

God uses ordinary people like Moses, David, Mary, 12 Disciples, etc. to accomplish extraordinary things. Can He count us in?

Next Thursday, those in the US celebrate Thanksgiving. We want to wish all a very happy Thanksgiving week. Next issue of Malankara World Journal will have some classic Thanksgiving sermons.

Talking of thanks, I want to thank my good friend Mr. Philip Scaria of Chicago (and Manarcad Cathedral) for providing the valuable suggestion that led to the incorporation of hyperlinks in the weekly lectionary readings. We are always looking for suggestions to make Malankara World better and more useful for our readers. Thank you Philip.

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Nov 20)
Sermons for This Sunday (Nov 20)
Annunciation to St. Mary, Mother of God (St. Luke 1:26-38)

This week's gospel reading takes off from where we left of last week on God's plan for the redemption of mankind. The angel, 6 months after visiting Zacharia and telling him about the arrival of John the Baptist, now travels to Nazareth, meets a virgin named Mary, barely a teen ager and betrothed to a Carpenter named Joseph and tells her about God's plans for the annunciation of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, which required her to play a central role.

St. Luke's skill in storytelling keeps us glued to the bible with the themes such as:

1. God picks ordinary people to do extraordinary tasks for him (Read the companion editorial and the lead article in this week's Journal in addition to the sermon collection.)

2. How to receive/respond to an angel (Remember how Zachariah fumbled his role last week by questioning God. Here is a barely teenaged girl willing to take on the sacrifice by saying what is the most pleasing of words God want to hear: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be according to your word." No demands, no preconditions; just total submission!! Now we understand why God prefers ordinary people. He prefers a contrite heart; not sacrifices.

3. Virgin birth - central to the incarnation of God's son

4. Nothing is impossible to God.

We have provided bible commentaries, gospel analyses, homilies and sermons covering various aspects of this fascinating story. You can find them in Malankara World at:

Sermons, Bible Commentaries, and Gospel Analysis of the Annunciation to St. Mary

To study more about St. Mary's role in all this and to better understand why she deserves to be called "the Mother of God" please visit Malankara World Special Supplement on St. Mary. You will also find a great book on St. Mary written by our Holy Father.

Thomas R. McKibbens in his article 'Surprised by Christmas' explains what the annunciation message means to us the best:

There is an underlying question running all through Luke’s familiar stories of the birth of Jesus. That question is this: "Where will the divine find room in our world?" Where is there room for Christ? At the beginning of his gospel there is no room in the inn. At the end of his gospel there is no room for him in the world. No one shouts out a word of support for Jesus when he stands before the crowds and Pilate asks, What then shall I do with Jesus? No one makes room for him. Crucify him is the only word we hear.

They all assumed that there really was no room for Christ in this world. They even laid his corpse in a borrowed tomb, reminiscent of the way Mary had laid the little baby in a borrowed manger. Once again, at the end of the story, it is women who take center stage of the drama. As an angel appears at the birth stories, so angels appear once again at the resurrection, this time speaking to another Mary…Mary Magdelene. And the good word at the end is that there really is room, for not even death can exclude the divine invasion of the world that began with the birth of Jesus.

If you find that your life is messy, busy, and over-scheduled, there is one surprise that beats any Christmas surprise we have ever received. That surprise comes from the lips of the angel Gabriel in Luke's story. Those shining angelic eyes look deeply into the heart of Mary, and look deeply into our hearts, and the angel says, "For nothing will be impossible with God." Notice, that promise is in the future tense. Nothing WILL BE impossible with God. And that future tense stretches all the way from Galilee to the corner of where or house is located wherever it is.

Greetings, favored ones. The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid. For nothing will be impossible with God.

This Week's Features

All Things Are Possible with God

by Frank Broom

In Mark 9:17-27, a man brought his son to Jesus disciples and they could not help him. Jesus told the man to bring his son to him and the man said to Jesus "If you can do anything have compassion and help us." What God can do is never the question. For with God all things are possible (Luke 1:37). The question is what can you believe.

Notice Jesus took the focus off of what God could do and put the focus on what the man could believe. In other words Jesus was saying you take care of your part (believe) because my part is already taken care of I have the power. Your part is to believe because without faith you can't receive from the power. What you receive from God is according to your faith. Like in the case of the 2 blind men that asked Jesus to have mercy on them notice Jesus asked them if they believed he could do it. Notice the focus was on what they believed. Then Jesus topped it off and said, "According to your faith be it done unto you (Matt. 9:27-29).

The power is constant the only thing that changes is people's faith. Like Peter walking on the water, Jesus told Peter to "Come" and that one word was enough for Peter to walk on the water. But what happened when he saw the wind and the waves, he became afraid. The power stayed constant; the only thing that changed was Peter's faith.

In Mark chapter 5 in the case of Jairus after he got the news his daughter was dead Jesus immediately told him "Fear not only believe" (Mark 5:36). The centurion said to Jesus "Speak the word only and my servant shall be healed." And Jesus answered him "As thou hast believed so be it done unto you" (Matt. 8:8,13).

So instead of trying to figure out what God can do, ask yourself is there anything too hard for God (Gen.18:14 Jeremiah 32:17,27).

God can do, but can you believe?

Featured This Week: God Uses the Ordinary

by Dr. Joe McKeever

When we allow God to use us...Ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

I sometimes trip over the words coming out my mouth when I try to say that "God uses 'little people.'" There ought to be a better way of saying that.

How about "ordinary?" God uses ordinary people. Folks like you and me. He uses ordinary things. Ordinary days.

Look up the definition and you'll quickly see the word means different things to different people. To some, it implies inferiority and the commonplace. In this article, it simply means: the normal, the usual.

A day like today. A person like you and me. A thing like this on my desk.

God delights in using the non-special.

Here's a couple of songs on that theme.


I kiss my baby on the cheek
then she wraps her little arms around me
The rest of the world just melts away
As I'd hang on every word she would say

When I wake up and I see
The sun shining down on me
That's when I thank God
For an ordinary day.

I drink my coffee on my swing in my back yard
The birds that are singing just don't know how good they are
I'm so happy where I am right now
Isn't that what life's about anyhow

When I wake up and I see
The sun shining down on me
That's when I thank God
For an ordinary day

Now I lay me down to sleep at night
As I think about the day that's gone by
I can't think about one thing I would change
I hope I get another day just the same

When I wake up and I see
The sun shining down on me
That's when I thank God
For an ordinary day.

Written by Lisa Lee. Her husband Gary shared it with me. When I asked for background, he said:

Our oldest daughter Callie, who is now 14, was a lot younger when Lisa wrote the song. God has blessed us now with a second child, age 3, but at the time, we had the one little girl and had lost a baby a couple of years before. Life was extremely hectic and busy, dealing with all the issues of finances and a growing family. One day she had gotten up and had a great morning with Callie, was literally sitting in a bench swing in the back yard having finished her quiet time and it hit her how blessed we were.

She sat there listening to the birds and reflecting on all the little things Callie would say or do that brought so much joy, and how God never intended us to get so busy that we miss out on the beauty of Creation and relationships with each other and time with Him.

So, she wrote the song and shelved the demo for several years. Jericho Crossing got together as an experiment about a year ago, and now they are tracking an album and finishing a video to another track called "I love you 'cause you live" about the relationship with parent/child and how it relates to God/us.

Lisa did a cut with John Berry about 10 years ago called "Heaven's Newest Angel," just after the tragic Westside School shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas. that cut played on every major news network in the country and on some 300 radio stations.

God loves to use ordinary days. And--would you allow me to say--ordinary people to write exceptional songs and do special works.

Ordinary Days? In a sense, there is no such thing.

Today, after 24 hours of rain, the sun came out. It's a beautiful and cool Autumn day in New Orleans where I live. Life is everywhere. The trees and flowers and birds and small animals--and the people too!--are alive and flourishing.

I have a theory.

The biggest test for a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ might not be how we handle the toughest assignments in life. The hardest and most telling days may not be the highs or the lows which life hands us from time to time.

It may turn out that the best test any of us ever face is what we do with the ordinary days. How we deal with a day like today is probably a far better guide to how we are and what we stand for.

If you find yourself living in an ordinary town, saddled with an ordinary job, and surrounded by ordinary people, I have a word for you.

It's a song. Go to youtube and find it sung by Larry Ford. Many have recorded it, but for my money, he "owns" this one.

Little is Much.

In His harvest fields now ripened
There is work for all to do
Hark, for the Master's voice is calling
To the harvest, calling you.

Does the place you are called to labor
Seem so small and little known?
It is great if God is in it
For He will not forsake His own.

When the conflict here has ended,
And our race on earth is run,
He will say if we are faithful,
"Welcome home, my child, well done."

Little is much if God is in it.
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There's a crown and you can win it
If you go in Jesus' name.

[Editor's Note: Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.]

Book: 'With Christ In the School of Prayer' by Andrew Murray

Lesson 13: Prayer and Fasting
[Editor's Note: Here is this week's lesson from the book, 'With Christ in the School of Prayer' by Andrew Murray. This book is a very important reference book on intercessional prayer, something Orthodox Church believes in greatly. Murray skillfully describes the role of the Holy Spirit within the church and exhorts Christians to use the blessings God has given us. This book is a guide to living a life as a temple of the Holy Spirit. If you have missed the earlier lessons, please read them in Malankara World.]

Lesson 13: Prayer and Fasting Or The Cure of Unbelief

"Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, 'Why could not we cast him out?' And Jesus said unto them, 'Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible to you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.' " - Matthew 17:19-21

...they asked the Master for the cause of their failure.

When the disciples saw Jesus cast the evil spirit out of the epileptic whom they could not cure, they asked the Master for the cause of their failure. He had given them power and authority over all devils, and to cure all diseases. They had often exercised that power, and joyfully told how the devils were subject to them. And yet now, while He was on the Mount, they had utterly failed.

That there had been nothing in the will of God or in the nature of the case to render deliverance impossible, had been proved: at Christ's bidding the evil spirit had gone out. From their expression, "Why could we not?", it is evident that they had wished and sought to do so; they had probably used the Master's name, and called upon the evil spirit to go out. Their efforts had been vain, and in presence of the multitude, they had been put to shame. Why could we not?

...the power was in Christ, to be received, and held, and used by faith alone, living faith in Himself.

Christ's answer was direct and plain: "Because of your unbelief." The cause of His success and their failure, was not owing to His having a special power to which they had no access. No; the reason was not far to seek. He had so often taught them that there is one power, that of faith, to which, in the kingdom of darkness, as in the kingdom of God, everything must bow; in the spiritual world failure has but one cause, the want of faith.

Faith is the one condition on which all Divine power can enter into man and work through him. It is the susceptibility of the unseen: man's will yielded up to, and moulded by, the will of God. The power they had received to cast out devils, they did not hold in themselves as a permanent gift or possession; the power was in Christ, to be received, and held, and used by faith alone, living faith in Himself.

"This kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer."

Had they been full of faith in Him as Lord and Conqueror in the spirit-world, had they been full of faith in Him as having given them authority to cast out in His name, this faith would have given them the victory. "Because of your unbelief," was, for all time, the Master's explanation and reproof of impotence and failure in His Church.

But such want of faith must have a cause too. Well might the disciples have asked: And why could we not believe? Our faith has cast out devils before this: why have we now failed in believing? The Master proceeds to tell them ere they ask: "This kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer."

Read the rest of the lesson in Malankara World

Previous Lessons (Archive)
"And the Greatest of These is Hope"

by Sr. Joan Delaplane, Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis, Missouri

"Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence." [I Peter 3:15]

Many have described our age as an age of malaise, of quiet desperation, of fear and anxiety. Listening to the news each evening, or reading our papers each morning, we can readily understand why some would respond with pessimism, cynicism, if not despair. We live in an age of violence and threats of war; an age filled with anxieties about the economy and ecology, about corporate greed and clergy guilt; anxieties about broken relationships and neglected responsibility, about diminished health and energy with increased costs of insurance and drugs.

I find it common today to hear people say, "I just can't look at the news anymore. I get so depressed. It s just too overwhelming." There is a feeling of powerlessness, up against a brick wall. There is a sense that there s no way out for us. In such a time, one must begin by naming the anger, the sadness, the guilt, the pain, and most of all, as in the Twelve Steps, name the sense of powerlessness. Then, in faith, recall that what is beyond all human capability and striving is not beyond our God. "Nothing is impossible with God." [Luke 1:37]

"Be ready to give an account for the hope that is in you." It's a Saturday morning after a Bad Friday, and we see eleven burly fishermen huddled together, depressed, overwhelmed with guilt, anxiety and fear, facing impasse, their dreams shattered. Then on Sunday morning, seven words, and the eleven and the world will never be the same. "He has risen; he is not here!" Words and a reality that, by a gift of the Spirit, changed their lives and changed ours. Because of one s faith in the Resurrection, we believe that Love has truly conquered hatred and evil, Life has overcome death. Hope calls those baptized into the mission of Jesus, therefore, to trust in the gift of His Spirit, and let God s grace work in us and through us so that "where sin abounds, grace may more abound." [Romans 5:20]

We are not talking about pie-in-the-sky optimism that does not look reality in the eye. We are talking about hope that sees with the eyes of faith and love. Jurgen Moltmann, a German theologian said that we come to know the truth of hope "...if we are forced to stand our ground against despair. We come to know its power when we realize that it keeps us alive in the midst of death." Or as the poet Tagore put it, "Hope is like the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark."

St. Augustine tells us that of the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is hope. By faith we know God is, says Augustine; by love we know God is Good; by hope we know God will work God s will. And hope, says Augustine, has two lovely daughters: anger and courage. Anger so that what must not be cannot be, and courage so that what can be will be. What must not be? A people who have exchanged the God of the Covenant for the false gods of power, prestige, possessions; who have forgotten that all is gift and have allowed greed and arrogance and domination to rule. "It must not be so among you," says Jesus.

What Moltmann wrote in 1980 reverberates with a strong message for 2002: "By securing what they possess against the claims of the poor nations, the rich ones are destroying their own future and burying their own hope.. . .As long as our future drives other people to despair, as long as our prosperity means poverty for others, as long as our ‘growth destroys nature, anxiety, not hope, will be our daily companion." Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, once said, "No one has a right to sit down and feel helpless. There s too much work to do."

If every frightened, paralyzed follower of Christ, hiding in their upper rooms, were to open themselves to the gift and grace of hope, given by the Spirit, might we not see a transformation of this country s values before it is too late? Might not the anger and courage proceeding from this hope make a difference right here? The action might be as simple as a phone call or letter to our legislators, or getting out to the polls to vote. We need to remember, of course, that as long as we Christians just talk about a kingdom of peace and justice, the world will tolerate us. Action to bring it about and to undo oppressive structures will be another thing. Just ask Jeremiah; just ask Jesus; just ask Martin Luther King or Oscar Romero!

"Be ready to give an account for the hope that is in you." That hope for us is rooted in the same hope and trust that Jesus had: the strong belief that God is faithful. God will always be God for us. Dr. Scott Hahn in his book, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, tells how on December 7, 1998, in Northwest Armenia, 25,000 people died in an earthquake. A distressed father ran frantically through the streets to the school where his son was. He kept remembering that he had said: "No matter what, Armand, I'll always be there." His heart sank when he saw the school in rubble. He darted toward the east corner where he knew his son's classroom had been and started digging with his bare hands. One of the bystanders said, "Forget it, mister, they're all dead." He looked up and replied, "You can criticize me or you can help lift these bricks." A few pitched in for a time, but the man kept digging: 12 hours, 18 hours, 24 hours, 36 hours—and finally he heard a muffled groan. He pulled the board back and cried, "Armand!" From the darkness came a slight, shaking voice, "Papa?" They found 14 of the 33 students still alive. When Armand emerged he turned to his friends and said, "See, I told you my father wouldn't forget us." Dr. Scott Hahn who told the story said: "That's the kind of faith [and hope] we need, because that's the kind of Father we have."

That's the kind of trust and hope that sustained Jesus in the excruciating aloneness and suffering on a dark Friday afternoon. When we are up against the seeming impossible, when we want to cry out, "God, our God, why you abandoned us?" we remember early Sunday morning, and then we are ready to tell others the reason for the hope within us. This Risen Christ has said, "I am with you always, until the close of the age." [Matthew 28:20].

"We are called to hope!" says Moltmann. "Let us go forth from our anxieties and learn to hope from the Bible. Let us reach out beyond our limitations in order to find a future in a new beginning. Let us take no more account of barriers. But only of the One who broke the barriers down. He is risen. Christ is risen indeed. He is our future."

[Editor's Note:

Sr. Joan Delaplane is Professor Emerita of Preaching at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. Joan is a Spiritual Director, a well-known retreat preacher, and the recipient of the 2001 Great Preacher award from Aquinas Institute of Theology.]

Killing Your Neighbor's Cow: The Fruits of Envy

by Chuck Colson

An old Russian joke tells about a poor peasant whose better-off neighbor has just gotten a cow. In his anguish, the peasant cries out to God for relief from his distress. When God replies and asks him what he wants him to do, the peasant replies, "Kill the cow."

The joke illustrates an important point about human nature: The line between clamoring for justice and envy can be very thin.

The subject came to mind when I read a recent column by Ross Douthat in the New York Times about the issue of income inequality and the redistribution of wealth. Douthat noted that taxing Peter more will not solve Paul's problems. The most likely outcome of "soaking-the-rich," he wrote, would be to "buy a little more time for our failing public institutions," like public schools. A "public sector that has consistently done less with more" would simply have more to do less with. Listen to that. He's right.

Despite this, many people insist on soaking the well-off because, like the Russian peasant, what they want is to see their better-off neighbors knocked down a peg. That's how envy works.

Thomas Aquinas defined envy as "sorrow for another's good." It is the opposite of pity. And it is one of the defining sins of our times.

One of the most consistent findings of behavioral economics is that we gauge our own economic well-being by comparing ourselves with our neighbors. Studies have found that, given a choice between making 25 percent more than their neighbors or making 25 percent less, people will choose the former even when the latter amount is more money.

Not only is envy irrational, it's socially and personally corrosive. In his wonderful book, The Seven Deadly Sins, the late Henry Fairlie called envy the "nastiest, the most grim, the meanest" of the seven deadly sins. Sneering, sly, vicious. According to Fairlie, "the face of envy is never lovely. It is never even faintly pleasant."

It could hardly be otherwise. Loving your neighbor, or even working alongside him, is next to impossible when you regard his gains as a personal loss.

The most obvious scriptural injunction against envy is the Tenth Commandment. But Jesus also spoke on the subject. The parable of the laborers in the vineyard ends with a confrontation between the owner and those whom he hired first. After reminding them that he paid them what he had promised them, the owner adds, "Are you envious because I am generous?"

This is translated from the Greek, which refers to the "evil eye," the curse used by the envious to inflict harm on the fortunate.

Ultimately, the kind of envy on display and all the talk today about income redistribution will do nothing to help those in need or create a more just society, it just creates a bigger government. You can't promote a virtue like justice by encouraging people to indulge in a vice such as envy. Think of the Russian peasants: During the Russian Revolution many of them expressed their envy by looting the better-off. This didn't help: After the Revolution, many of them wound up worse off than they were before.

For now, let's be clear: Leave the cow alone.

Source: Breakpoint Commentary, November 14, 2011 (edited)

Orthodoxy: a Religion of Rules or a Religion of Love?

by Dn. Ian Thompson

One of the things that newcomers quickly learn about the Orthodox Church is that it is a Church with various rules. Everyone who takes their Orthodoxy seriously makes some attempt to observe the rules of fasting, and of course the rules governing the reception of Holy Communion (though these vary slightly from place to place). Marriages can only be celebrated at certain times of the year, and there are even a few directions (some of them merely advisory) relating to funerals. There is also a whole book of rules called the Typicon which prescribes in minute detail how the church services are to be performed.

This emphasis on rules sometimes puzzles and worries the non-Orthodox. Nowadays religion tends to be thought of as a private affair, to be practiced on one's own terms, and in some denominations any constraints are apt to provoke the retort: 'And you call yourself a Christian!' More significantly, Christianity is supposed to be a religion of grace, not of 'the Law'. Why then are rules considered necessary?

In the first place, rules help a community to preserve its identity and cohesion (as an extreme example, think of the Jews). Particularly nowadays, when secularism and materialism have invaded every aspect of life, a religion with sane and sensible rules has a better chance of surviving with its essential teachings and insights unimpaired. Other Christian bodies once had rules too, but they were allowed to lapse, or were modified or progressively ignored. Arguably some of them were bad rules, but when the rules went, other things went too, and belief, worship and ethical teachings were all radically affected. Change became the order of the day. Orthodoxy has been very successful in preserving its traditional character, its liturgy, its music, and its essential beliefs. Of course there is more to this than the simple keeping of rules; but the rules have played their part.

Another thing which increasingly distinguishes Orthodoxy from other forms of Christianity is a lively sense of the sacred. Orthodox churches look and feel like holy places; icons and relics are venerated and their powers believed in, and worship is still, for the most part, quietly fervent. Emphatically Orthodoxy is not a Church where 'anything goes'.

(It is easy to think of rules as things which the clergy impose on the laity. Actually, within the Orthodox Church, it is the clergy who bear the brunt of canonical rules and canonical censure - and that is as it should be. It protects the laity from clerical whims, false teaching, and - as far as rules can do so - from the abuse of priestly power.)

Finally, moderate rules are good for the spirit. They help us to acquire humility and self-discipline and they keep us in touch with reality. Rules jolt us out of that perpetual tendency to put ourselves at the centre of the universe and to make our Christianity easier and more 'convenient'. Observance of the rules helps us to live Orthodoxy as it is meant to be lived.

Yet although it involves rules, Orthodoxy is not a rule-book: it is new Life in the Spirit. There are people who know and observe every Orthodox canon but who never acquire the true spirit of Orthodoxy. They cling to rules because they offer a refuge from doubt or insecurity, or from the awful burden of personal responsibility. Rules are for normal situations and must always be subordinated to people's deepest needs and the Great Law of love. People are more important than rules, and it was for this reason that Jesus did not hesitate to heal on the sabbath.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite passed by on the other side because they were too anxious to observe the rules of their office. Priests and Levites, if they were to serve in the Temple, had to be free from the taint of blood, and the injured man was bleeding from many wounds. Yet in preserving the law of purity they violated the much greater law of humanity. Here as in the case of David and the showbread (Luke 6:1-5), there are times when the ritually sacred must take second place.

Another thing about Orthodox rules is that they are there to help people; not as instruments of condemnation. A priest may find himself having to say to a person: 'What you have done is against the teaching of the Church.' But a good priest will not leave it there. He will add, 'However, let us see if we can pick up the pieces and make a fresh start.' Orthodox rules are quite unlike the Mosaic Law and are never to be used to divide people into saints and sinners.

We are all sinners and paradoxically this is a matter for rejoicing: Christ came for the sake of sinners, and we know that publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God ahead of the righteous. St John of the Ladder says: 'You will be careful not to condemn sinners if you remember that Judas was one of the Apostles and the thief was one of a band of murderers; but in one moment the miracle of regeneration took place in him.' Always it is the possibility of such a regeneration, and not concern for the rules, which should guide our thinking and our response.

Finally, the rules are not meant to be applied pedantically. People at the start of the spiritual life may find it hard or impossible to observe all the rules. They may need easing in to the rules of fasting for example; and at the end of the day, although fasting is important, it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

We should also be aware of the damage that can be done if a spouse is not Orthodox and is faced with seemingly incomprehensible rules that bear no relation to ordinary living in the West. In such a case we should be prepared to relax our own observances out of consideration for our non-Orthodox partner. If we are too concerned with the letter of the law we kill the spirit and lose our way.

Source: The Orthodox Parish of St Aidan & St Chad, Nottingham

Courtesy of: Rev. Fr. John Brian, Madison, WI
Health Tip: Snack Ideas for Losing Weight

by: Mike Bunata

Many people find their diets ruined when they gorge themselves on sugary or fatty snacks. Snacks are a good way to fight hunger cravings, but you have to make healthy choices when deciding what to snack on. When you're on a diet, it's a good idea to not have any unhealthy snacks in your home. If you have to drive to the store in order to fulfill a craving for chips or chocolate, you're much less likely to do so compared to when you have some sitting around. Keeping only healthy snacks in your home is a great way to reduce the temptation to eat unhealthy food.

Fruits and vegetables are a great healthy snack option; however, the idea of eating raw vegetables isn't appealing to most people. Some vegetables lend themselves well to snacking, such as baby carrots; others, such as romaine lettuce, aren't as attractive. A good way to improve the taste of vegetables is to roast them; you can always do this in advance so you have roasted vegetables on hand. Roasting vegetables caramelizes some of the natural sugars in the vegetable, creating a more complex and rich flavor. You can even try roasting vegetables like onions which you wouldn't even consider eating raw.

You should consider always having a prepared salad on hand in the refrigerator to eat if you get hungry; lightly dress it with olive oil and vinegar after taking it out of the fridge. Be careful not to go too heavy on the dressing when eating salads as a snack; most processed salad dressings are full of fat and preservatives. A homemade dressing consisting of olive oil and vinegar is the healthiest choice; olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, which help to balance your cholesterol levels and can reduce your risk of heart disease. However, you should still go light on the dressing since it's still fat, and adds quite a bit of calories to your salad.

Fruits are a tasty and nutritious snack options; apples, pears, and oranges are all great to keep on hand to fight cravings for sweet snacks. In addition to tasting good, fruits also usually have a good amount of fiber in them, which helps you to feel fuller after snacking and will regulate your digestive system. A good way to increase the appeal of fruits is to slice them up and hit them with a touch of salt; it brings out the natural flavors of the fruit without adding calories or a significant amount of sodium.

Nuts are another great option for healthy snacking, but you should eat them in moderation. They contain high amounts of fat, and are thus higher in calories than other snacking options. It's easy to end up overeating nuts and consume a lot of calories as a result. However, they're still a better option than most processed snacks, as they are high in essential vitamins and minerals and have a more heart-healthy balance of fats than other snacks such as cookies made with mostly saturated fats like butter and shortening.


Read more health tips in Malankara World Health Section

Food: 5 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving Meal

by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to kick-off a month of unhealthy eating for your family. The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to make healthier choices for your family meal. Try the following tips to ensure a healthy and delicious Thanksgiving meal.

Bake, mash & smash: Sweet potatoes are a fantastic source of energy and one of the most nutritious vegetables around. Bake ‘em, smash ‘em, mash ‘em, or stuff ‘em. Toss them in salads, or in with other baked veggies.

Talking turkey: Turkey is a great source of lean protein and is healthiest if you skip the skin and go for the white meat. If you prefer the dark meat, mix and match in order to get a little extra flavor without adding too much fat.

Don’t forget the fruit: Baked apples or poached pears are perfect, healthy ways to end any autumn meal.

Stuffed with nutrition: Try adding fresh veggies and whole wheat bread to stuffing for a delicious, nutritious traditional dish.

Add some color: Fall vegetables such as radishes, carrots, squash and green beans are great side dishes that can add color and variety to the meal.

About the Alliance for a Healthier Generation

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national non-profit founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation to combat childhood obesity, offers more tips and tools to help you serve healthier holiday meals online at

More Recipes/ Cooking Tips at Malankara World Cafe

Humor: Gujarati Prayer
A Gujarati having no children, no money, no home and a blind mother prays sincerely to God for improving his life style.

God is very pleased with his prayer, and............

Grants him one wish........... just one !!!!!!!!!!!!

The Gujarati says OK God, thanks, my one and only wish is - "I want my Mom to SEE my wife putting, Rupees twenty million worth of diamond around on my CHILD's neck, in my Mercedes Benz parked near the swimming pool of our new bungalow in Beverly Hills."

GOD: Damn it ! I still have a lot to learn from these Gujaratis.

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