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

Featured: Manjinikkara Festival

Volume 4 No. 194 February 6, 2014

If the Journal is not displayed properly, please click on the link below (or copy and paste) to read from web
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_194.htm

Archives: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/Default.htm

Puthencruz Pilgrimmage-2014 at Puntehncruz

Top: Manjinikkara Pilgrimage from St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church, Puthencruz
Bottom: Devotees enjoying refreshments at Maneed St. Kuriakose Jacobite Syriac Church, where the original Manjinikkara pilgrimage started.

Photos Courtesy of SOCMNet

TABLE OF CONTENTS
If you are not receiving your own copy of Malankara World by email, please add your name to our subscription list. It is free. click here.

THIS SUNDAY IN CHURCH

1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (February 9)

Bible Readings For Fifth Sunday after Denho
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_5th_sunday-after-Denho.htm

2. Sermons for This Sunday (February 9)

Sermons for the Fifth Sunday After Denho

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_5th-sunday-after-denaha.htm

3. Following Jesus as Though Our Lives Depend On It

When I ponder stories like this one in Mark I am tempted to say "That was another time. People today can't just drop everything and go like that." Maybe and maybe not. Even if it didn't mean abandoning everything you have known, what could following Jesus into the new and unfamiliar mean in your life? Why might it be especially important for people like you and me to come up against stories like this? Is it possible that sometimes we get altogether too comfortable, too unwilling to risk, too unable to step out in faith? ...

4. Time Fulfilled - A Reflection on Mark 1:14-20

"Repent" is part of the poetry of exile, something that the Israelites knew a lot about. Repenting, when in exile, meant going home.

If we in the church talked more about "going home" than "feeling bad," the church would be a healthier and holier place.

And, Jesus telling us that we can go home, and that God will welcome us back, and throw His arms around us is such good news. ...

5. Jesus Chooses Twelve Apostles

Today we read about Jesus choosing twelve men to be apostles. The word apostle means "one who is sent," and that is why Jesus chose His apostles---to send them out to preach the gospel. Jesus never could have, by Himself, preached the gospel to everyone who needed to hear it. These twelve men would be His helpers. ...

6. Contributions Sought for Two Centum (200) Issue of Malankara World Journal

We invite your creative submissions for this special issue. Articles on various themes, Poetry/Hymns, Articles/Poems by Children and painting/sketches/photos are also welcome.

In order to meet the editorial deadline, please inform the editor of your intent to submit material by February 12 and the material by February 23. You can contact the editor at mail@malankaraworld.com

FEATURED: MANJINIKKARA PERUNNAL

7. Manjinikkara Perunnal: Come And See Faith in Action

If you happen to be in Kerala on around February 13 (The actual date may vary slightly depending on when the Nineveh lent falls), you will not miss it. The countless floats with the picture of Manjinikkara bava (HH Patriarch Ignatius Elias III of blessed memory) and the orderly faithful going to Manjinikkara on foot for pilgrimage. The signs and banners are all over the place welcoming the pilgrims. If you do not know anything about Malankara Church, you will wonder what is going on. The only answer that can be given here is the same answer Philip gave a skeptic Nathaniel in John 1:46. When Philip told Nathaniel that he found the Messiah, Nathaniel sarcastically remarked, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip answered: Come and see." ...

8. Patriarch Saint Moran Mor Ignatius Elias III - 82nd Memorial Feast and Pilgrimage - 2014

We are celebrating the 82nd annual memorial festival of St. Ignatius Elias III on February 7, 2014. The faithful children in Malankara pay high reverence to this Holy Father and seek His Intercession. Faithful devotees go through a week-long pilgrimage of prayer and fasting. Majority of them are walking by foot from the origin to the destination in Manjinikkara. Every year they renew their pledges to walk next year in seeking favors through Bava's intercession. How did the Asia's biggest pilgrimage on foot start? Read on. ...

REGULAR FEATURES

9. What We Can Learn About Suffering in the Story of Joseph, The Patriarch

One of the greatest and most painful of mysteries is the problem of suffering and the broader problem of evil in the world. The story of the Old Testament Patriarch Joseph  is rich with lessons about family struggles, envy, jealousy, pride, mercy and forgiveness. But the story also has a lot to say about suffering and the way that God can use it to bring blessings. Lets take a moment and consider the problem of suffering and see what Joseph's life has to teach us. ...

10. Syria: Christian persecution? No. Annihilation!

The first delegation of Syrian Christian church leaders to visit the U.S. since civil war broke out in March 2011 spoke Monday at the Heritage Foundation, issuing a stunning warning that the nation's Christian population could vanish.

"Today we are faced with a potential extinction of the church," Patrick Sookhdeo, chairman of the Westminster Institute, warned. "Not just in Syria. We've seen it in Iraq. The church could fall in Lebanon." ...

11. Family Special: What if the Trouble is in Me?

During the last significant conversation Christ had with His closest friends He spoke these words about trouble: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b NIV).

While some might find this verse comforting, it echoed differently inside of me the first time I heard it. The question stuck in my head: What if the trouble is inside of me?

Have you ever felt that way? Do you believe that if others knew the whole truth about you they would, at best, be disappointed? ...

12. Inspiration: The Stuff of Dreams

Dreams tend to get short shrift in our culture. Oh, the word crops up all the time. But too often it's in the context of something pie-in-the-sky or other-worldly. "Dreamer" is a by-word for someone disconnected from reality. Many people avoid using or even thinking about the word "dream" in reference to their own vision and desires, because they've been conditioned to associate it with childishness or a lack of seriousness. ...

13. Health: Russian Men Are Dying Young Because of Excessive Drinking - Study

A study published in January 31, 2014 in The Lancet shows Russian men are dying prematurely at extraordinarily high rates because of alcohol consumption.

Currently, one in four Russian men die before age 55, largely because they're drinking too much vodka, according to Alcohol and mortality in Russia: Prospective observational study of 151,000 adults. ...

14. Health: Illicit Drug Users More Likely to Seriously Consider Suicide

Illicit drug users are significantly more likely to consider suicide compared with the general population, new research shows.

A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that the rate of suicidal thoughts among illicit drugs users in the United States was 9.4% compared with a rate of 3.9% in the general population. ...

15. Recipe: Fruity Chicken Salad

A delicious balance of savory and sweet delight all in this attractive chicken salad..

16. Recipe: Shrimp Salad with Cilantro Dressing

Cilantro and lime paired with beautiful shrimp, this salad is sure to be a popular favorite. ...

17. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (February 9)

Bible Readings For Fifth Sunday after Denho (Baptism of our Lord)

    • Evening
      • St. Matthew 11: 1-15
    • Morning
      • St. Luke 5:1-11
    • Before Holy Qurbana
      • Genesis 9: 12-17
      • Psalms 29: 1-11
      • Isaiah 41: 8-20
    • Holy Qurbana
      • Acts9: 10 - 21
      • II Corinthians 4: 1-6
      • St. Mark 1:12-20

Sermons for This Sunday (February 9)
This Week's Features

Following Jesus as Though Our Lives Depend On It

by The Rev. Dr. Janet H. Hunt

Gospel: Mark 1:14-20

I was reminded of this journey as I made my way home from O'Hare Airport in snow and rush hour traffic the other night. It was a hard drive but didn't begin to compared to one I took many years ago when I was serving my seminary internship in Wahoo, Nebraska.

I had traveled to Marshalltown, Iowa for a couple of days to visit my sister, Martha. While there an April snowstorm hit. You know the type --- where the snow is heavy and wet and doesn't last long but while here wreaks havoc on everything and everyone who dares to venture out in it. My two day visit turned into three and I was getting anxious to get back.

The sun was shining brightly and the roads looked clear as I peered out her apartment window that morning. Of course, it was 1987 and we simply didn't have access then to accurate weather reports and road conditions so I did what I knew to do. I looked for myself and then I called back to Wahoo and checked there and they said it looked good on that end, too. So I packed up and headed west on Route 80 and for a while the drive was easy. It was as I approached the Iowa/Nebraska state line that I wondered at my wisdom for suddenly the roads turned to glare ice. I will never forget the moment when I had to suddenly brake… and while I kept the car steady and on the road, I looked into my rearview mirror to see a semi- truck bearing down on me. I remember gripping the wheel so tightly I thought I'd never be able to let go. I remember he was able to stop… but just barely and in fact, bumped the back of my little car before bringing his rig to a screeching halt.

Of course, if I'd had any sense at all, I would have pulled off at the next exit and found safe shelter for the night. Perhaps it was just the “invincibility” of youth that had me not thinking clearly and so I kept driving.

It was when I turned off the Interstate and kept driving west on Route 92, that even I had to admit I was in trouble. By now it was dark and the drifts on either side of the road were growing higher and higher. Pretty soon the lanes themselves narrowed to the point that the few foolhardy people still on the road were left to squeeze by one another. It was so tight, in fact, that I can remember the side of my car scraping into the high drifts on my right. Still I kept going.

Until I reached the small town of Yutan and was brought to a halt by bright orange barriers which told me the road before me was closed. I was less than fifteen miles from home and apparently I could go no further.

I pulled into the convenience store that was right there. I wearily walked my way inside and asked to borrow a phone. (Yes, this was long before cell phones…) The clerk set it on the counter and I called the pastor who was my supervisor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Wahoo… just a few miles away now but far out of reach to me. He suggested I try to call the pastor who served the Lutheran congregation there in that town. Perhaps I could stay there for the night. I made the call but when he answered he didn't seem to remember me and that being the case was none too eager to venture out into the cold to rescue me. Discouraged, I hung up the phone and looked at the clerk behind the counter who was even then working at closing up. He wanted to get home early since 'traffic' was literally shut down and I was most likely their last customer anyway. I looked at him and asked for directions around the closed road.

He gave them to me… speaking the language of rural folks who have lived in a place all their lives. You know what I'm talking about: turn right at the grain elevator, go about a mile and a half and turn left at the old Smith place… you can't miss it, they have two windmills instead of one, etc. As he spoke I felt myself wanting to weep, knowing I would never find my way.

Before he had finished though I felt a kind hand on my shoulder. It seemed this older couple had been in a few minutes before to fill their gas tank and he said he thought he recognized me coming in as he was going out. He and his wife got back into their car and he turned to her and said, “You know, I think that was Janet Hunt.” They started towards home and then they turned around and came back. He walked back inside and said, “You're Janet, aren't you?” I looked at him, but in my exhaustion I had no idea of who he was. He introduced himself and reminded me that we had met a few weeks before when I had been paying a hospital call on a friend of theirs. And then he said, “Come on. Follow us. We'll get you home.”

And so I did. I climbed back into my car and followed them… never letting their tail-lights out of my sight through those unfamiliar rural roads. I followed them through twists and turns and drifts higher than my car until they turned off at the edge of town, knowing I could find my way from there. I followed them as though my life depended upon it. And perhaps it did…

Some things I'm wondering…

What in this week's story in Mark's Gospel stays with you? What bothers you in it? What gives you hope? What surprises you most? Does it bring you comfort? Does it make you uncomfortable? Why or why not?

In my story, I followed that car as though my life depended on it. How did the lives of Simon and Andrew, James and John depend on following Jesus? How about you?

Apparently, I had met my rescuers before --- although I did not remember them then --- and so far as I know I have never encountered those kind people again. So far as we can tell, the four disciples mentioned today had never met Jesus before. Why do you think they trusted him enough to follow him?

My following was towards the familiar and the secure. The following of the disciples would have seemed to be towards the unfamiliar and the insecure. Again, what do you think compelled them to drop everything and go?

When I ponder stories like this one in Mark I am tempted to say "That was another time. People today can't just drop everything and go like that." Maybe and maybe not. Even if it didn't mean abandoning everything you have known, what could following Jesus into the new and unfamiliar mean in your life? Why might it be especially important for people like you and me to come up against stories like this? Is it possible that sometimes we get altogether too comfortable, too unwilling to risk, too unable to step out in faith?

What are you called to leave behind as you follow Jesus this week? What might you be called to move toward in your following?

Source: Dancing with the Word

Time Fulfilled - A Reflection on Mark 1:14-20

by Rick Morley

Gospel: Mark 1:14-20.

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." Mark 1:15

In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus immediately (ahem…) says four quite amazing things. The first two are statements - about how things are going to be as Jesus begins his ministry.

Time (kairos) is fulfilled. God's Kingdom has come, and it is near.

Imagine living in Jesus' day. The Roman Empire has taken over everything. The emperor's hands are into every aspect of society. Herod, the "King of the Jews," is a hateful man who might kill anyone at anytime. The Temple authorities are in cahoots with the Empire.

And along comes a rabbi who proclaims that the time (kairos) is fulfilled. And, in God's good time, God's Kingdom - NOT Rome's Kingdom - has come near.

Eggizo, to come near, can also mean to join one thing to another. Heaven and Earth are about to be joined together. Everything is about to change. And, the change won't be a a rearranging. It's soup-to-nuts.

Change for a people hungry for it. Desperate for it.

And then, Jesus has two directions as this new kairos is being ushered in: repent, and believe in the good news.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with my opinion that the word "repent" needs some convalescence. We've made it be a scary word. Something that resembles "feeling bad." And, probably, the worse you feel, the better.

But, that is not what "repent" means. It means, quite literally to turn around.

When you're alone and walking down a dark and scary road, turning around is not a bad thing. You turn and run as quick as you can in the opposite direction.

It's a welcome thing.

"Repent" is part of the poetry of exile, something that the Israelites knew a lot about. Repenting, when in exile, meant going home.

I think if we in the church talked more about "going home" than "feeling bad," the church would be a healthier and holier place.

And, Jesus telling us that we can go home, and that God will welcome us back, and throw His arms around us is such good news.

And, that's what Jesus tells us to believe in.

At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark Jesus tells his listeners something wonderful. When we're able to take-in the fact that Mark is a wartime Gospel—written either in the lead-up-to or in-the-wake-of the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Temple…Jesus' words are also balm to souls who were frightened for their lives decades after his death and resurrection.

And if those words could speak to Jesus' audience, and Mark's audience…can't they be good news for us to?

It IS time…and it's time to go Home.

Jesus Chooses Twelve Apostles
Gospel: Mark 3:7-19

As time went on, Jesus' fame spread far and wide. Curiosity seekers and spiritually hungry people journeyed as far as one hundred miles to see Him, which was quite a distance at a time when there were no cars, trains or airplanes. People had to walk or ride a donkey. But it was worth their effort to see the Son of God, especially for those who needed healing or deliverance from demons. Lots of those kinds of people sought Jesus. One day, there were numerous sick people trying to touch Jesus as He taught along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. So many of them were pressing their way through the crowd that Jesus instructed His disciples to have a boat ready---just in case He was forced into the water by the mob of people! Imagine what that must have been like!

We have to wonder why Jesus would need a boat in such a situation, when we know that on another occasion He walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee. The answer is that, although Jesus was the Son of God, when He became a man, He emptied Himself of some of the qualities that God possesses. For example, Jesus was no longer omnipresent (present everywhere), omniscient (all-knowing) or omnipotent (all-powerful). He didn't know everything about everybody, and He couldn't work a miracle at any time, but only as the Holy Spirit willed. That is why Jesus had to be anointed by the Holy Spirit before He began His ministry, and why He did no miracles until after He was baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Although Jesus was God, in His ministry He operated as a man anointed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which operate as the Spirit wills (see 1 Corinthians 12:11; Hebrews 2:4). Therefore, we shouldn't doubt Jesus' deity when we read about Him relying on a boat to keep Him above water or asking questions to obtain knowledge.

Today we read about Jesus choosing twelve men to be apostles. The word apostle means "one who is sent," and that is why Jesus chose His apostles---to send them out to preach the gospel. Jesus never could have, by Himself, preached the gospel to everyone who needed to hear it. These twelve men would be His helpers. Notice that there were two sets of brothers in the list: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. There were also three sets of people with the same name: Simon called Peter and Simon the Zealot, James son of Zebedee and James son of Alphaeus, and Judas son of James (here called Thaddaeus) and Judas Iscariot.

Q. Jesus gave authority to cast out demons to the twelve men He chose to be His apostles. Why do you think He did that?

A. To help them in their task of spreading the gospel. When people were delivered from demons by the apostles' command, it would advertise their ministry and draw more people to hear the gospel.

Q. Why do you think Jesus nicknamed James and John the "sons of thunder"?

A. To be a "son of thunder" would mean to be the product of something powerful and loud that startles people and gets their attention. For example, you may have heard the expression, "son of a gun." It's not a compliment to call someone the offspring of something that kills. Jesus would never have given James and John a nickname that would have been a continual criticism, so it must have been either a compliment or an encouragement. Probably it was an encouragement that God would transform them both into powerful preachers who would startle people like thunder and arrest their attention.

Application:

Just as Jesus chose twelve apostles to help Him reach more people with the gospel, so Jesus is still choosing people for the same task. Everyone who is a believer in Jesus is given some kind of ministry that contributes to the expansion of His kingdom.

Source: Family Style Devotions; Used with Permission

Contributions Sought for Two Centum (200) Issue of Malankara World Journal
Malankara World Journal will publish a Mega Special Issue to celebrate the publication of Issue 200. The issue is expected to be released on March 5, 2014.

We invite your creative submissions for this special issue. Articles on various themes, Poetry/Hymns, Articles/Poems by Children and painting/sketches/photos are also welcome.

In order to meet the editorial deadline, please inform the editor of your intent to submit material by February 12 and the material by February 23. You can contact the editor at mail@malankaraworld.com You can also contact any member of the Board of Malankara World.

Thank you.

Malankara World Team

Featured: Manjinikkara Perunnal
Manjinikkara Perunnal: Come And See Faith in Action

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

If you happen to be in Kerala on around February 13 (The actual date may vary slightly depending on when the Nineveh lent falls), you will not miss it. The countless floats with the picture of Manjinikkara bava (HH Patriarch Ignatius Elias III of blessed memory) and the orderly faithful going to Manjinikkara on foot for the pilgrimage. The signs and banners are all over the place welcoming the pilgrims. If you do not know anything about Malankara Church, you will wonder what is going on. The only answer that can be given here is the same answer Philip gave a skeptic Nathaniel in John 1:46. When Philip told Nathaniel that he found the Messiah, Nathaniel sarcastically remarked, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip answered:

"Come and see."

We believe in mysteries, miracles and intercessions. The only answer we can give to those who question them is: "Come and See." The change of heart comes only by experiencing it, not by listening to speeches or lectures.

Manjinikkara Perunnal - 2014 - floats

If you had the privilege of walking with the pilgrims to Manjinikkara, it is one of the most blessed experience. You can experience the pure, unadulterated faith. The temperature is mild in Kerala at that time. The nature shows the artistic brush of the God with flowers and greenery all over the state. The walk, singing hymns and prayers, has a tranquilizing effect. Every few hundred yards, people will be offering you snacks, and drinks as their offering. In Malankara, we believe that, everyone gets blessed: those who go for pilgrimage as well as those who worked behind the scenes to make it possible for the pilgrims to make the trip. We can understand this when we listen to our Holy Qurbano. At the end of the Living Sacrifice, when the priest faces the audience indicating the second coming of Jesus, he says:

"May the mercy of the Great God, and our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, be upon the bearers of these Holy Mysteries, and upon those who receive them, and upon all those who have labored and have shared and share in them. May the mercy of God be upon us and upon them in both worlds forever."

 This is a great truism with all our sacraments and mystery. Everyone benefits - the actual pilgrims and those serving the pilgrims.

Manjinikkara Pilgrimmage-2014-Vadavukode

It is a well organized affair. The logistics are not easy to set up. The pilgrims start the journey from far away places like Idukky (High Ranges), Malabar area, etc. typically 150 miles (nearly 250 kms) from Manjinikkara. The reach is getting further and further with every passing year. This year, for example, there are pilgrims from Karnataka, Delhi diocese and from Germany. Many devotees visit Kerala during this time to participate in the festivities from US, Europe and Middle East. V. Rev. Sabu Thomas Cor Episcopa from Los Angles make the pilgrimage every year with a team from his church. The number in his group keep growing every year! A few years ago, the son of Dr. Kurian Mani from Los Angeles, injured in an accident and on crutches, walked several miles on crutches from Thiruvalla!

As the procession moves along, more people join. Think of it like a river. It start with a small stream. ( The mighty Ganges river in India begins in Himalayas from the melting snow.) Then the tributaries join the river and finally it becomes a majestic river at the end. Same thing happens in case of the Manjinikkara pilgrimage. The crowd becomes larger and larger as the procession proceeds. It may take several days to make the trip depending on where you join. They have to be given facilities to rest, food etc. at the end of the day. The various churches on the path do that skillfully. There are medical vans to care for the sick people and vehicles carrying people who find it hard to walk. All these happens magically. The best part is the time. This may be the only event in Kerala where everything happens on time. WOW!!

How did a simple event became the biggest event on foot in Asia? The accompanying article by Rev. Fr. Jose Daniel Paitel explains it well.

What is so special about Manjinikkara?

Again, the answer is, "Come and See." The devotees have experienced the power of intercession of Manjinikkara bava. Many report experiencing true miracles. (We will cover this briefly later.) The other reason is that Manjinikkara is the only place in the world where a Patriarch is buried outside the Middle East. As Paitel achen explains,

"With the presence of the mortal remains of Patriarch St. Ignatius Elias III in Malankara, Malankara became an extension of the Holy Throne of Antioch."

Elias bava came to Kerala in 1931 on invitation from Lord Irwin, then British Viceroy to India. Lord Irwin requested bava's intervention in resolving the schism that had erupted in the Malankara Church. Moran was over 65 years old that time and was suffering from Cardiac problems. His doctors advised him not to go as the travel those days were very hard and dangerous and he was not in any shape to travel. Bava refused. His elder sister, who was 75 at that time, also pleaded with him not to go. His Holiness, reportedly, told her:

"Death is inevitable whether here or in India; I would rather sacrifice my life for the sake of our children in Malankara."

What we see here is the ultimate sacrifice and love. We are reading about the persecution of Christians in Syria and the Middle East (Malankara World Journal featured this several times.) But most of us don't care. But our holy fathers from Middle East sacrificed their lives to take care of us when we needed them. That is unconditional love.

When we study the life of Elias bava, we learn that bava was very disappointed that he could not bring peace to Malankara. It was not from lack of effort. He spent a year in Kerala going all over Malankara and convened several meetings to resolve it to no avail.

Bava visited Manjinikkara on invitation from Qashisho Kuriakos Elavinamannil on February 11, 1932. HH was emotionally drained from his inability to bring about reconciliation in the church. This was compounded by his health problems, and the hardships of the long travel.

On arriving at Manjinikkara, the Patriarch reportedly said, "This place offers us much comfort; we desire to remain here permanently."

Moran knew that his end was near. The day after his arrival in Manjinikkara, His Holiness requested the priests who came to visit him not to leave for a couple of days. In the evening, the Patriarch recited many prayers of the qandilo (unction) and contemplated on the departed. On February 13, 1932, after the Holy Qurbono; His Holiness gave his final sermon.

After the noon prayers and lunch, HH spent time recording events in his journal, as was his routine. Following that, he complained of pain in his head. Soon, he fainted and was placed on a bed by the monks. The moran went to his heavenly abode and eternal rest at 2:30 pm on February 13, 1932. Many eye witnesses reported the deep gloom that cast its spell in the area that evening and the wails of the monks who accompanied the Patriarch.

Bava's mortal remains were interred in a plot of land to the north of the Mor Stephanos church in Manjinikkara on February 14, 1932. The dayara was built there later. Today, Patriarch St. lgnatius Elias III, is widely acclaimed as the 'Angel of Peace.'

The pilgrimage to Manjinikkara started with 8 people from Maneed, near Piravom, under the leadership of Mr. Kollinal Peter. They wanted to attend the 30-day memorial service at Manjinikkara. They walked the entire length from Maneed to Manjinikkara and experienced the blessings from the trip which prompted them to attend the memorial service next year. The news of this, together with the experience of the 'Miracle Oil' at the memorial service (please read the article by Paitel achen to learn more about this), spread like wildfire all over Malankara and devotees started walking to Malankara. Ultimately, this grew to become Asia's Biggest Annual Pilgrimage on Foot.

Of course, there are skeptics who do not believe in miracles. I recently read an article by Tim Staples about miracles. Tim says that there are millions of authentic miracles that the church knows about in the last 2000 years. But they are not publicized by the church. Tom said:

Some of the greatest gifts God has given to the Church for evangelism are the gifts of miracles. As a Pentecostal before I became Catholic, I always believed God still performs miracles, but I never saw anything close to what Catholics too often take for granted in both the number and kind of miracles God pours out upon his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church in every generation. Everything from the raising of the dead, to restorative miracles of the body and more have been experienced in the Church for 2,000 years fulfilling our Lord's prophetic words of Mark 16:17-20:

"These signs shall follow those who believe"… And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. - The Truth About Miracles by Tim Staples (Jan 31, 2014)

So, what is a Miracle? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it as follows:

A sign or wonder, such as a healing or the control of nature, which can only be attributed to divine power. The miracles of Jesus were messianic signs of the presence of God.

In order for it to become a genuine miracle all natural explanations have to be ruled out.

Miracles are experienced only by those with faith:

"Nevertheless, in order that the submission of our faith should be in accordance with reason, it was God's will that there should be linked to the internal assistance of the Holy Spirit external indications of his revelation, that is to say divine acts, and first and foremost miracles and prophecies, which clearly demonstrating as they do the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are the most certain signs of revelation and are suited to the understanding of all."
(The Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith)

In our Qurbono, just before we celebrate the ascension of Jesus, the priest exhorts:

"It is right that these Mysteries be given only to the holy and to the pure." ("Eee vishudhathakal, vishuddhiyullavarkum, vedippullavarkum nalkapedunnu.")

Everyone does not experience miracles. We need faith for sure. We also need to be prepared and receptive. Tim Staples explains further:

God does not overwhelm us when it comes to miracles. God respects our freedom. Indeed, without freedom there is no true love as we understand it. Miracles are aids to those who honestly seek truth, never guns to the head forcing belief. For those who do not want to submit to God and his truth, there will always be ways to explain away miracles, even if these "explanations" range from the weak to the absurd. Jesus' words in Luke 16:31 come to mind:

"If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."

Paitel achen explained the remarkable healing of a blind person (sister of a priest from Angamali diocese) when the 'miracle' oil from Manjinikkara bava's memorial service was applied on her eyes. She got her vision back when she prayerfully applied this miracle oil on her eyes. Do not believe that? Here is another story recounted by Tim Staples: (similar result, different country, different time.)

Born Christmas day 1939, in Ribera, Sicily, Gemma Di Giorgi was legally blind. She was born without pupils in her eyes. Doctors declared there was nothing that could be done for her. Yet, at the age of seven, she was taken by her grandmother on the long journey to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as Padre Pio.

There are differing accounts of the actual process of how the healing took place, but there is no disagreement over the fact that through the intercession of Padre Pio, this little girl received her sight. Fr. Charles Mortimer Carty recounts:

They were both lost in the crowd… attending [Padre Pio's] Mass, when at the end while the silence was still intense, everyone heard a voice calling: "Gemma, come here!" The grandmother pushed her way to the altar… [Padre Pio] smiled at Gemma and told her that she must make her first Communion. He heard her confession and then stroked her eyes with his hand…

The healing did not take place immediately, but as Fr. Carty explains:

Padre Pio saw them later and said: "May the Madonna bless you, Gemma. Be a good girl!" At this moment the child gave a frantic cry, she could see…

What is perhaps most remarkable about this healing is that from a medical and scientific perspective, Gemma should still be blind. When she was healed, she did not miraculously receive new pupils. Her eyes to this day (and she is still alive) still look like the eyes of a blind woman. Carty goes on to say:

The cure was permanent and complete, although her eyes still had no pupils. She was examined by many doctors who testified to the case and were able to offer no scientific explanation.

Yes, miracles happen only to those people who are "pure" and believe. Ask any of the thousands of people walking to Manjinikkara every year. They experienced miracles. So, they go year after year. One of that person is Rev. Fr. Roy Paul's (Vicar of St. George Cathedral, Kattachira, Kochi and a member of Malankara World Board) wife Molly Kochamma. Kochamma walks every year from Kochi to Manjinikkara in spite of her physical ailment. Her son drives the medical vehicle for the devotees.

My mother was a big believer of Manjinikkara bava. I remember walking part of the pilgrimage when I was less than 5 years old! I hope that one of these days, I will make the entire trip. It is a heavenly experience.

Come and see.

Patriarch Saint Moran Mor Ignatius Elias III
82nd Memorial Feast and Pilgrimage - 2014

By Rev. Fr. Jose Daniel Paitel, Philadelphia, USA

A Reflection on The Asia's Biggest Annual Pilgrimage on Foot

Manjinikkara Pilgrimage

Introduction

Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church is blessed to have a close relationship with our mother church in Antioch. Lord Almighty has kept both of churches together for 21centuries in a paternal, caring relationship, going to back to the earliest days of Christianity. Our forefathers accepted Jesus Christ as their savior when they discovered the truth of worshipping the true living God. They were called Christians because of their unctioning with the Holy Mooron, the Holy Chrism received soon after their baptism.

Relationship with the Mother Church in Antioch

With the passage of time, our forefathers became stronger in their faith and developed a close relationship with Lord Jesus Christ, our savior. They grew spiritually and developed into a morally civilized, culturally oriented and educated community. The Holy Church provided a strong foundation to the Christian community. The Holy Fathers from the Holy throne of Antioch provided us with spiritual nurturing as and when needed. We learned the Syriac language, the language our savior spoke, and the Syriac liturgy, one of the most beautiful liturgies in the world, from them. They taught us stories of the martyrdom of saints, and the persecuted fathers of Syrian origin, necessity and meaning of salvation in the eternal life, hope of resurrection and, above all, how to respect and, at the same time, fear the word of God, the creator as revealed in the bible. These helped our forefathers and ourselves to learn and grow in the holy and true faith of our Lord - the true orthodoxy.

We are very proud of Our Church. The Church is more than a place to worship God. It helped us to build an identity of our own. From the very beginning, Christians in Malankara were known as 'Suriyani' (the Malayalam name for 'Syriac' which became 'Syrian') Christians. The name is derived from the liturgical language of worship in our Church (Syriac). It is clear that our spiritual heritage is linked to the holy Throne of Antioch. The name 'Jacobite', the name the church is identified with in Malankara, comes from the lineage of Antiochean bishop Mor Jacob Berdaus (or Baradaeus or 'bhurdana' referenced in our Fifth Thubden - Diptychs), who has been persecuted for the Holy Church for upholding the true Orthodox Faith.

Visits of Holy Fathers From Antioch

There are records of intermittent visits of the spiritual fathers from the Holy Throne of Antioch to Malankara. There are several tombs of blessed fathers in the southern part of Kerala that are still being honored by the faithful. Those tombs are historically and traditionally cited as belonging to the spiritual fathers of Syrian origin. Examples are: Mor Aho, of Thevalakkara; Mor Laban at Chennithala; several tombs in chapels at Kaduvettoor, Chengannoor, Kudassanadu, etc.

We also know about the Apostolic visitations from Antioch and Iraq who died during their visit in Malankara and are buried here. Examples are:

  • Mor Yeldho Baseliose Bava (entombed at St. Thomas Jacobite Syrian Church, Kothamangalam),
  • St. Mor Greegoriose Abdul Jaleel Bava (entombed at St. Thomas Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, North Parur, Alwaye),
  • St. Mor Sleeba Osthathiose bava (entombed at Arthat Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, Kunnamkulam),
  • Mor Yooyakim Kurilose (entombed at St. Thomas Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, Mulanthuruthy) and
  • Mor Elias Yuliose (entombed at manjinikkara, Omallur).

The history of these Holy Fathers and their apostolic visits to Malankara are recorded in the golden annals of our Church history. In addition to those mentioned above, Mor Ahathalla bava was brutally assassinated and buried by the heretics in the sea at Mattanchery Lake in Cochin.

Several fathers had apostolic visits of Malankara and returned back to their aramana. Examples are:

  • HH Patriarch Mor Ignatius Peter IV,
  • HH Patriarch Mor Yakoob III and
  • HH Patriarch Moran Mor Zakka I Iwas (current Patriarch)

Royal visitation of His Holiness Patriarch St. Ignatius Elias III of blessed memory is very important for Malankara Christians. Holy Father was the only Patriarch entombed in Malankara. None of the other Patriarchs of our Church left their mortal remains outside the Middle Eastern Diaspora. With the presence of the mortal remains of Patriarch St. Ignatius Elias III in Malankara, Malankara became an extension of the Holy Throne of Antioch.

Pilgrims from Ponpally Church, Kottayam

The Asia's Biggest Annual Pilgrimage on Foot

We are celebrating the 82nd annual memorial festival of St. Ignatius Elias III on February 7, 2014. The faithful children in Malankara pay high reverence to this Holy Father and seek His Intercession. Faithful devotees go through a week-long pilgrimage of prayer and fasting. Majority of them are walking by foot from the origin to the destination in Manjinikkara. Every year they renew their pledges to walk next year in seeking favors through Bava's intercession.

Pilgrimage on foot became a specialty of Manjinikkara perunnal (festival). Now the pilgrimage to Manjinikkara is considered as an artery of the Holy Church. This practice came into existence soon after the unexpected and sad demise of the Holy Moran. Various group of pilgrims from many areas and churches unite together into a gigantic procession when they arrive at the Manjinikkara Dayara. Imagine of procession with over fifty thousand people chanting prayers and seeking intercession together. What a way to worship!

The main procession starts from various churches of Alwaye through Perumpilly, Maneed, Piravom, Kothamangalam, Muvattpuzha, and High ranges of Kerala (Idukky). They go through Kottayam, Thiruvalla and Aranmula, with more pilgrims joining the procession on the way. From Aranmula, the procession proceeds to Omalloor and then to Manjinikkara. The core team starting from Perumpilly, Mulanthuruthy, is covering a distance of 150Km. in four days. Another procession starts from Kundara (Quilon Diocese). It travels through the southern area churches, picking pilgrims on the way, and join the main procession from the South at Omalloor.

Another procession from Kayamkulam passes through Kattachira, Chennithala, Chengannoor, Manthalir, and Thumpamon. This procession also joins the main procession at Omalloor.

How Did The Pilgrimage Start?

What is unique about the Manjinikkara pilgrimage is that it started very modestly. This was not something the church started; but the work of devotees.

The pilgrimage began with eight young devotees under the leadership of an ardent faithful of our church Mr. Kollinal Peter, a member of St. Kuriakose Cathedral, Maneed. (That was a chapel at that time. At present, that church is famous for the intercession of Manjinikkara Bava.)

Maneed was a remote village near Piravom. After attending the funeral of Moran Elias III Bava, Kollinal Peter had an inspiration to attend the 30th day memorial service at Manjinikkara Church. So he and his friends decided to go as a small group and reach there by walking on foot from Maneed to Manjinikkara. Eighty two years ago, public transportation facilities were quite rare. So walking a large distance on foot was not unusual those days. This small step of 8 people grew to become the largest pilgrimage on foot in Asia! Read on. …

Miracle on the Night Before the Feast

A miracle occurred on the night before the memorial feast. The coconut oil collected for cooking, ran out before frying the pappads. Fried Pappad is a must item for a traditional Kerala style memorial feast. In fact, the inauguration of the feast is done by the traditional breaking of a wide fried Pappad, hoisted on a tall pole at the entrance to the decorated tent, where the feast is being served. Manager of the feast has the privilege to break the pappad and inaugurate the feast.

Shortage of coconut oil on the night before the feast devastated everyone who were assembled there. Getting enough measure of oil at night in such a rural place was nearly impossible. (The hills of Manjinikkara was an isolated and remote area at that time.) The cooks and those helping in the cooking area were upset about it. Only a little measure of cooking oil was left with them in the frying pan. But then, this oil miraculously arose while boiling and began to touch the brim of the wide frying pan as if it is going to overflow. They hurriedly collected the overflowing oil into the empty vessels they had. Some of the overflow oil was collected in small bottles by the devotees present there witnessing this miracle and took home as a blessing. The oil continued to bubble till all the empty vessels and bottles were full and then it stopped.

Later, a blind sister of a priest from Angamaly diocese got her vision back when she prayerfully applied this miracle oil on her eyes. From that time, she could see everything! Since then, many miracles were witnessed, testified and reported by the faithful devotees from the intercession of bava to those who visited, prayed and sought intercession at the holy sepulcher. When our bishops and clergy face trials and tribulations, they seek and request intercession of Holy Moran. And that will be answered in due time. Moran is still keeping intercession towards our church.

As per the traditions of our church, the hierarchical head of our church does not travel out of the Monastery. They spent a secluded life in prayer and fasting and writing and teaching of their disciples. H.H. Patriarch Moran Ignatius Peter IV was the first Patriarch to make an apostolic visit to Malankara in AD. 1876. His visit and the Mulanthuruthy synod under his presidency during his visit, was a major Episcopal democratic development for our church. The resolutions in the Mulanthuruthy synod under the presidency of H.H. Peter IV are considered the 'Magna Carta' of Malankara Church. It specifies the basic principles of Church administration.

Following footsteps of his predecessor, Moran Elias III also made his holy visit to Malankara Church. H.H. Moran Ignatius Elias III spent more than a year in Malankara. His goal was to make a peaceful reconciliation and make the church in Malankara free from internal agitation. Holy Moran tried every possible way to calm the unrest and aggression in our church and to stop spreading the malignancy. Satanic deeds of some heretic people made every attempt for peace a failure. His holiness went to his heavenly abode with a broken heart about the people who worked for the failure of peace in our church.

However, another intention of H.H. was fulfilled after his demise. That was the founding of a Theological seminary for our future deacons and priests. Seminary education was offered at Mor Ignatius Dayara for more than sixty years. Even now, under the leadership of H.G. Gheevarghese Mor Dionysius Metropolitan, theological classes are still being given at the Dayara.

Let us seek the intercession of Holy Moran to bless and save our Church as we witness the Christian Persecution all over the world.

[Edited by Dr. Jacob Mathew]

REGULAR FEATURES
What We Can Learn About Suffering in the Story of Joseph, The Patriarch

by Msgr. Charles Pope, Catholic Archdiocese of Washington

One of the greatest and most painful of mysteries is the problem of suffering and the broader problem of evil in the world. I was meditating with my Sunday School parents this past weekend on the Old Testament Patriarch Joseph. That story is rich with lessons about family struggles, envy, jealousy, pride, mercy and forgiveness. But the story also has a lot to say about suffering and the way that God can use it to bring blessings.

Lets take a moment and consider the problem of suffering and see what Joseph's life has to teach us. But first we ought to begin with some background.

I. Prequel

God had set forth a vision for us; let's call it "Plan A" also known as paradise. But of course that plan came at the "price" of a an intimate relationship with God the Father. Man would not be at the center; God would be.

God also asked Adam and Eve to trust him in an important matter. And that matter was both symbolized and focused on a tree called "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil."

The word "knowledge" is key here. In scripture, to "know" almost never means simple intellectual knowing. Rather, it means to know something by experience. In effect, the title of the tree teaches that God did not want Adam and Eve to know what was good and evil by experience. Rather, he wished them simply to trust Him to be their teacher, to be their Father who would guide them in these matters.

But as we know, Adam and Eve gave way to the temptation of the devil yielded to pride. They insisted on "knowing" good, and, more problematically, evil by experience. In effect, their decision amounted to saying,

"I will not be told what to do. I will decide what I want to do and I will decide whether it is this right or wrong. I will conduct experiments in this way for myself because I do not trust God to act in my interest, or to teach me accurately."

The Catechism says Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness. (# 397)

Thus, would not trust God to teach them what was good and not. They insisted on knowing and deciding for themselves. Adam and Eve wanted a "better deal" than paradise. So welcome to the better deal.

We live now in Paradise Lost, a world where the imperial autonomous self creates a kind of hellish existence often marked with great suffering and ultimately death. In wanting to know, that is experience, evil we sadly got what we wanted: sin and evil, sorrow and death as our daily fare. And this is the first Biblical explanation of the problem of evil.

But why was the tree there in the first place? Simply put, it had to be. Without choice, there can be no freedom, and without freedom, there can be no love. God wants his human children to be lovers, not slaves or instinct-driven animals but rather, children who can freely choose to love God or not. God is very serious about our freedom. Our "yes" is of no real meaning if our capacity to say "no" is not also very real.

II. Prescription

What then is God to do? If He simply canceled our choice, or the consequences associated with it, could we really say that he is serious about our freedom? No. So working within the parameters of our decision, a decision that included the experiencing of evil, suffering and death, God chose to make those consequences the very path of our healing and salvation.

Thus Christ came and endured the full fury of evil and suffering unleashed by that ancient tree in the garden, and He now mounts another tree of the cross in a place called "the skull."

Now suffering and death provide a way back. And by his suffering and death Jesus sets us free and, still respectful of the choice we have made, Jesus bids us to follow him in the way of the cross.

So, as we've seen, God has entered our broken world, and made this brokenness a pathway by God's grace. Suffering often produces glory and refines us so that we are pure gold. Through suffering, grants us wisdom and helps us to learn new skills, new insights.

III. Picture

Perhaps the story of saint of Joseph in the Old Testament helps illustrate a lot this. While are many layers to the story, both personal and communal, it is clear that God often allows great injustice and suffering, only to produce great glory and healing on account of it. Lets weave the story with some basic teachings about suffering.

A. Structures of Sin bring suffering

The story of Joseph begins in the dysfunctionality of Jacob's household. Jacob had two wives (Leah and Rachel and 12 sons in different combinations with them and their maids (Zilpah and Bilhah). Now polygamy, and adultery is not God's plan! And, to be out of God's will is always to ask for trouble. And having sons by four different women produces no end of internecine conflicts. Sure enough Jacobs sons all vie for power and have divided loyalties because they have different mothers.

And in this matter we see that a lot of suffering is ushered in by human sinfulness. When we are out of God's will we invite trouble. Sadly, the trouble does not affect merely the sinners, it also affects many others.

Thus the sons of Jacob have been born into a mess, and into what moralists describe as the "structures of sin." In these broken situations of structural sin, sin and suffering multiply.

And it is often the children who suffer. They themselves, inheriting a mess begin to act badly an disdainfully. Suffering and evil grow rapidly in these settings.

In the world today, it is probably not an exaggeration that 80% of our suffering would go away at once, if we all kept the Commandments. But sadly we do not repent, individually or collectively.

And thus the first answer to why there is suffering is sin. Original Sin ended paradise, and individual sin brings dysfunction and a host of social ills and the sins that go with it. And while this does not explain all suffering (e.g. natural disasters etc) is does explain a lot of suffering.

Thus we see Joseph is about to suffer on account of a structurally sinful situation brought about by Jacob and his wives and mistresses and contributed to all the members of the household. It's not his fault but he will suffer.

B. Suffering can bring purification and humility

Though the brothers of Joseph all fought among themselves, all of them agreed on one thing, Jacob's youngest son Joseph had to go. Jacob's favorite wife was Rachel and when she finally had a son, Joseph, he became Jacob's favorite son. Jacob doted on him, praised him, and even gave him a beautiful coat that enraged his brothers with jealousy. They were also enraged and envious because Joseph had many gifts. He was a natural leader, and had the special gift to be able to interpret dreams. Joseph had the kind of self-esteem that perhaps too boldly celebrated his own gifts. Among the dreams that he had and articulated was if he would one day rule over his brothers. This was altogether too much for them. Even Jacob at the school Joseph for speaking in this manner.

Here we see a possible flaw or character defect in Joseph. It is hard to know if Joseph actually crossed the line. His dreams after all, were true. He was a gifted young man and would one day rule his brothers. Some one once said, "It's not boasting if its true."

And while this has some validity, it is possible for us to conclude that Joseph was awfully self assured and may have lacked the kind of humility that required purification.

Surely as a young man he also had a lot to learn, and suffering has a way of both purifying us and granting us humility and wisdom. If Joseph is going to be a great leader, he like Moses, needs some time in the desert of suffering. And thus we sense God permitting trials for him to prepare him for wise, effective and compassionate leadership.

And so too for us. Trials and sufferings prepare us for greater things and purify us of pride and self-reliance. Woe to the man who has not suffered, who is unbroken. Thus God permits us trials and difficulties that help us hone our skills, know our limits, grow in wisdom and develop compassion and trust.

C. Suffering Opens Doors

On account of all of this is brothers plotted to kill him. But figuring they could make money on the deal, they instead sold him to the Ishmaelites as a slave. He ends up in Egypt, in the house of Potiphar. His natural leadership skills earned him quick promotions and he soon came to manage the household of this very wealthy man.

It is true that Joseph has had a disaster befall him. He was sold into slavery. It is hard to imagine a worse fate. Yet strangely God permits it to open a door. Now on his way off to Egypt in chains it would hard to convince Joseph that his life was anything but a disaster. Yet, God was up to something good.

And within months Joseph was in a good spot, working for a wealthy man as a trusted adviser and manager. As we shall see, more will be required for Joseph to be prepared for his ultimate work.

But for now, the lesson is clear enough, God permits some sufferings to get us to move to the next stage. He closes one door to open another. There is pain in the closing of the door to the familiar, but there is greater joy beyond in the door He opens.

How about for you? What doors has God closed in your life, only to open something better? At the time a door closes we may suffer, and wonder if God cares. But later we see what God was doing. For the new door opens to things far greater.

D. Suffering helps summon courage

In a tragic way, sorrow was again to come to Joseph. For Potiphar's wife took a liking to Joseph and sought to seduce him. Joseph refused her advances out of fear of God, and respect for Potiphar. But in her scorn she falsely accused Joseph of having made advances on her, and Joseph lands in jail! More misery, more suffering, and on account of the sins of others, not his own! Joseph is suffering for doing what is right!

One of the great virtues that we must all have, and see developed, is the virtue of courage. In a world steeped in sin, it takes great courage to resist the tide.

But courage, like any virtue cannot simply be developed in the abstract. Rather, it is developed and refined quite often in the crucible of opposition and persecution.

And thus we see how God helps Joseph develop his courage and trust by permitting this trial. Jesus would say many centuries later, In this world you shall have tribulation, but have confidence, I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33) He also said, Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs (Matt 5:10).

As for Joseph, so also for us. If we are going to make it through this sinful world with our soul intact, we are going to need a lot of courage. The Lord often develops his courage in the crucible, asking us to trust him that we will be vindicated, whether in this world or the next.

E. Suffering builds trust

Joseph just happened to meet to prisoners from Pharaoh's household, the Cup-bearer, and the Baker. In prison, they experience Joseph's ability to interpret dreams, and observe his natural leadership skills. In accordance with a prophecy given by Joseph, the cup-bearer was restored to Pharaoh's service who then reported Joseph's skills to Pharaoh who just happened to be having dreams that troubled him.

God humbles us, only to exalt us. As Joseph has already learned, God can make a way out of no way. He can do anything but fail, and he writes straight with crooked lines.

Sure enough, in jail Joseph has his trust confirmed. Through his connections in jail, of all places, he will rise to become the prime minister of all Egypt. Having come through the crucible, Joseph is now ready for the main work that God has for him.

Consider how in your life, God's providence has prepared you for something that an earlier stage in your life you couldn't handle. Surely he prepared you in many ways; but among those ways was the way of humility and suffering. Setbacks or failures have a way of teaching us and preparing us for some of the greatest things that we enjoy. And in our struggles we learn the essential truth and we must come to trust and depend on God who knows what we need, what is best for us, and who knows how to prepare us for the works he expects of us.

F. Suffering produces wisdom

Joseph is brought to Pharaoh and he so powerfully interprets Pharaoh's dreams, not only as to their meaning, but even as to a 14-year plan that will lead them through a looming crisis. Pharaoh was impressed, and Joseph is appointed to the equivalent of prime minister of all Egypt.

Joseph is able to interpret Pharaoh's dream. But he doesn't simply interpret what it means, he also sets forth a wise plan. He explains to Pharaoh that the next fourteen years will have its ups and downs. Where might Joseph have learned this truth? Of course we know, in the crucible of his own life.

There's a great wisdom in grasping that what is seen and experienced in this world is transitory. And thus we do well to listen to the Lord's wisdom which is eternal.

Centuries later, the Lord spoke a parable of the certain wealthy man who had a great harvest and thought he was forever set. Lord called him a fool for thinking this way. Our abundance is not meant to be hoarded for ourselves. Excess food is not to be stored for myself, but rather stored in the stomachs of the poor and the hungry.

And thus Joseph, has been prepared for this moment by God, and he's no fool. He has learned God's wisdom and direction. Whatever abundance occurs in the next seven years must be set aside for those who will be hungry in the years that follow.

His wisdom is no accident, no mere hunch. It has come from the crucible of suffering. Suffering does that, it helps us become wise, get our priorities straight, and in this case, understand that our wealth depends on the Commonwealth. We cannot live merely for ourselves. That is foolishness, we are called to live for others.

What wisdom has God taught you through suffering? How has suffering helped you to get your priorities straight; to see the passing quality of life in this world, and to set your sights on the world it is to come and on the judgment awaits you? On the day of judgment will God call you a fool or a wise person? And if you are wise how did you get there?

G. In our suffering, we learn that our lives are not about us.

Joseph had predicted seven years of plenty, to be followed by seven years of famine. Hence, under Joseph's direction during the years of plenty, grain was stored in abundance. So abundant was the harvest that with the grain stored, not only was Egypt saved from the famine, but also many neighboring lands. In a twist, Joseph's brothers come to Egypt seeking food. And he is able to save the very brothers who thought to kill him. To his anxious brothers, who recognizing him fear for their lives, Joseph reassured them by saying you intended for evil, but God intended for good.

Yes, in our suffering, we learn that our lives are not about us. Joseph was not purified and prepared for this moment simply for his own sake, but even more, for the sake of others. God has led Joseph, often through terrible suffering to prepare him to help save others.

God did not simply prepare him to be a big cheese. God did not prepared him for glorious leadership for his own sake, but for the sake of others.

One of the lessons that we learn in Joseph's story is that our life is interconnected with many other members of the Body of Christ, all of whom are precious and important to God.

God had to put Joseph through a lot to prepare him for his role of helping others. We are not called to live only for our self. God loves us individually, he also loves others through us; and he loves them enough that sometimes he is willing to make us wait, for their sake, or to cause us to suffer in order to groom us to help them. And the same is true of them toward us. All of us have received from the sacrifices of others, and are called to make sacrifices for others.

It is a hard truth, but true nonetheless, that God sometimes asks us to accept suffering for the sake of others, even as we are blessed by the sufferings of others who made many sacrifices for the things we enjoy.

This is the communal dimension of suffering. How is God prepared you through sufferings today to be able to help others?

Biblical stories have a wonderful way of teaching truth, and about our own life. And thus the Patriarch Joseph speaks to us from antiquity, and the pages of God's holy Word. And somehow, I can hear Joseph saying that God can make a way out of no way. Somehow I hear him calling us to courage in our sufferings, and to perspective. Somehow I can hear him singing an old gospel hymn "God never fails. He abides in me, give me the victory for God never fails!"

Syria: Christian persecution? No. Annihilation!

'We are faced with a potential extinction of the church'

by Alyssa Farah

WASHINGTON - The first delegation of Syrian Christian church leaders to visit the U.S. since civil war broke out in March 2011 spoke Monday at the Heritage Foundation, issuing a stunning warning that the nation's Christian population could vanish.

"Today we are faced with a potential extinction of the church," Patrick Sookhdeo, chairman of the Westminster Institute, warned. "Not just in Syria. We've seen it in Iraq. The church could fall in Lebanon."

The panel discussion, "Marked for Destruction: The Plight of Syria's Christians," featured Syrian Christian leaders Rev. Adib Awad, the general secretary of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon; H.E. Bishop Elias Toumeh, Orthodox bishop of Pyrgou-Syria; Rev. Riad Jarjour, former general secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches; H.E. Bishop Dionysius Jean Kawak of the Syrian Orthodox Church; Bishop Armash Nalbandian of the Armenian Church of Damascus, and Bishop Julian Dobbs.

Dobbs said Syria "used to be one of the easiest places in the Arab world to be a Christian across the Middle East.

"The church has existed there since biblical times," he said. "Christians were respected by the Muslim majority and were able to practice their faith with little interference. But, this has largely changed since the civil war broke out."

He described the persecution Christian Syrians have faced since the conflict erupted, and he criticized the West for largely ignoring their plight.

"Christians in their homelands have been attacked and invaded, houses have been ransacked, Christians have been kidnapped for ransom and brutally murdered," Dobbs said. "Yet much of the Western World, the church, the media have remained silent about this situation."

According to reports, there were more than 1,200 Christian martyrs in Syria in 2013 alone, while tens of thousands have been displaced.

Jarjour took to the podium to explain the plight of Christians still in Syria.

"Our Christian community is a broken community; it's a suffering community. We have thousands and thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) not in their homes, not knowing what to do," he said.

The delegation was hosted by the Westminster Institute and Barnabas Aid, a group that gives aid to oppressed Christians worldwide.

Kawak spoke of the horrific risk church leaders face in Syria particularly. He said the kidnapping of 12 Orthodox nuns, bishops and a priest by Syrian rebels "instilled fear in the hearts of Christian leaders" in Syria.

All speakers ultimately warned of the dangers of persecuted Christians fleeing Syria and leaving it as a nation with virtually no Christian population, drawing parallels to Iraq.

Awad noted that prior to the Iraq war, the Christian population in Iraq was 5 percent of the population, with more than 1.5 million. Now, just a decade later, there are as few as 400,000.

"Due to persecution, due to pressures, due to killings, we are all together less than 20 percent of the Syrian population," Awad said.

Adib commented on the title of the discussion, "Marked for Destruction," saying: "We can accept being marked for destruction if it's by our Lord. But we will not accept it if it is by terrorist, whether Saudis, or from Qatar or any other nation."

Sookhdeo urged the Western media to stop turning a blind eye to the plight of Christians in Syria.

"We plead for your media to break the silence," Sookhdeo said. "Why is it that the media of the Western world choose not the address what happens to the minorities? Whether it being Shiites or Sunnis or moderate Muslims or Christians that are being butchered?"

The lecture coincided with United Nations-hosted peace talks on the conflict in Syria in Geneva. According to reports, the talks appeared to be in deadlock Monday.

The talks in Geneva are being overseen by U.N. special envoy to Syria Lakdar Brahimi, who told reporters on Monday that the talks "haven't produced much."

Source: wnd.com

Family Special: What if the Trouble is in Me?

by Sheila Walsh

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33b (NIV)

When Barry and I were first married, I came up with a nickname for him: 'Velcro-Boy.'

He earned that title because every time I turned around, there he was. In the beginning, I thought I might suffocate from lack of oxygen!

If I went out for an hour to buy groceries he would call me: "Hey honey, where are you?"

"I'm at the grocery store ... remember, I told you right before I left."

I might on a good day make it to the cereal aisle before the phone rang again: "I'm missing you. Are you almost done?"

I'm sure some of you are thinking what a blessed woman I am. But while it's lovely to have someone enjoy your company, I subscribe to the old adage that, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." My heart was never going to have that opportunity!

What I've learned over the years is Barry is an extrovert and I am an introvert. Being with people energizes him, but I need alone time to process life.

We can joke about it now, but back then there was more to my need for personal space than I wanted to admit. God was at work in my life, and marriage was the perfect forum for the trouble brewing in my heart to surface.

During the last significant conversation Christ had with His closest friends He spoke these words about trouble: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b NIV).

While some might find this verse comforting, it echoed differently inside of me the first time I heard it. The question stuck in my head: What if the trouble is inside of me?

Have you ever felt that way? Do you believe that if others knew the whole truth about you they would, at best, be disappointed?

Here's the tricky thing though. I wouldn't have been able to answer if you had asked me, "So, what's the big secret you're hiding from everyone, Sheila?"

Something was wrong back in those early days of marriage, but I couldn't identify it. That's the sneaky thing about shame. Guilt says you've done something wrong, but shame says you are something wrong. Shame was like a squatter in my heart that refused to leave.

So how does this unwelcome guest gain access to our souls? It often starts with some kind of abuse that changes how we see ourselves. To others, it may look as if everything is as still and peaceful as the surface of a lake. Only you know the storm raging inside, pounding your heart and soul onto the rocks of who you believe you are.

Does the promise Christ made to his friends during the most brutal 24 hours of his life speak to us? Yes! Yes, a million times over!

Christ, the innocent Lamb of God became shame so that we who are weighed down by it could have a place to take it. And that place is not our marriage relationships.

In the early years of my marriage, I allowed that shame to intrude in my marriage, and it created a chasm between Barry and me. I pulled away and he wondered what he had done. Truth was, he'd done nothing. I was listening to the old siren song of shame.

Shame tells us to hide but Christ calls us to walk in the light with each other. In his first letter, John wrote, "But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness" (1 John 1:7-9, NLT).

So is shame sin? No, but refusing to acknowledge its presence and allowing it to damage my marriage is.

When shame raises its ugly voice, let's bring it into the light of Christ. Let's write down every shameful feeling and condemning word that echoes inside our hearts and hear Christ say to us, "I overcame that!"

Father God, You sent Your beloved Son to take my shame away. Today I choose to receive the love and freedom You offer and lay down the chaos of who I have seen myself to be. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:

Which of your relationship issues might be caused by shame?

Put on paper every shameful feeling and condemning word that echoes inside your heart. Imagine Jesus saying specifically to you, "I overcame that!"

Power Verse:

2 Thessalonians 3:16, "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you." (NIV)

© 2014 by Sheila Walsh. All rights reserved.
Source: Encouragement for Today

Inspiration: The Stuff of Dreams

by Bob Proctor

Dreams tend to get short shrift in our culture. Oh, the word crops up all the time. But too often it's in the context of something pie-in-the-sky or other-worldly. "Dreamer" is a by-word for someone disconnected from reality. Many people avoid using or even thinking about the word "dream" in reference to their own vision and desires, because they've been conditioned to associate it with childishness or a lack of seriousness. (You might even notice a little of this conditioning bubbling up in your own mind right now!)

It even goes further than that. For some, "dream" is simply shorthand for "something that will never be."

This never ceases to amaze me. Because the truth is, there is nothing MORE serious, MORE powerful, MORE incredibly real, than a dream.

Look around you. How many things in your immediate sight have always been there? Aside from the natural landscape, I'd venture to say not a single thing. At one point, the lamp here on my desk… the keyboard I'm typing on… the phone in my pocket… everything around me, and around you too, was a dream in some man or woman's marvelous mind.

Notice I didn't say "just" a dream. I never minimize the significance of that word, and neither have all the dreamers, from time immemorial right on through today, who knew that the vision in their mind's eye was no less real simply because others couldn't see it. On the contrary, they MAXIMIZED its importance. So should you.

Dream as if your life depended on it. Because it does!

Just how important are you dreams? Here's a clue: A study was conducted at a leading U.S. university to evaluate the power and necessity of dreams. The participants were attached to brainwave monitoring devices which indicated exactly when they began dreaming. Whenever a person would start to dream, they would be awakened so that the dreaming couldn't continue.

The results shocked the team of doctors conducting the study. Some patients became neurotic. There were signs of deep, emotional upset and imbalance due to dream deprivation. The experiment was actually abandoned prematurely because the possible risks to the subjects were too high.

The implication is that our health, our very lives, depend on the ability to dream. Isn't that phenomenal? I consider it an enormously clear message from Mother Nature that we are meant to take our dreams extremely seriously.

Make no mistake: Your dreams are anything but silly. They are the most powerful tools you possess. So I encourage you to immediately start taking them as seriously as your body does. Acknowledge them as the force they really are. Listen to them, and let them lead you where they will.

Health: Russian Men Are Dying Young Because of Excessive Drinking - Study

By: Isabel Teotonio, Toronto Star

One in four die before age 55, largely because they're drinking too much, study finds.

A study published in January 31, 2014 in The Lancet shows Russian men are dying prematurely at extraordinarily high rates because of alcohol consumption.

Currently, one in four Russian men die before age 55, largely because they're drinking too much vodka, according to Alcohol and mortality in Russia: Prospective observational study of 151,000 adults.

A research team - made up of experts from the Russian Cancer Research Centre, Oxford University and the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer - tracked the health of residents in three Siberian cities: Barnaul, Byisk, and Tomsk.

In an earlier retrospective study, they asked families of 49,000 dead people how much vodka the deceased used to drink. They found a link between heavy drinkers and higher death rates, mainly from alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence, suicide, and illnesses including throat cancer, liver cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia, pancreatitis and liver disease.

To confirm the link, in 1999 they started a prospective study that is sthttp://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/ill ongoing. As part of that larger study, they looked at the drinking habits of 151,000 people and followed them until 2010. During that time, 8,000 people died. The heaviest drinkers were male smokers.

Among male smokers aged 35 to 54 about 35 per cent who had reported drinking three or more half-litre bottles of vodka a week had died. By comparison, 16 per cent of those who consumed less than a half-litre bottle a week had died. And among those who drank between 1 and 2.9 bottles each week, about 20 per cent had died, according to the study.

Accompanying the study is a commentary written by Jürgen Rehm, director of Social and Epidemiological Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

"What we know about drinking and health is that 90 per cent of the effect is in the grams of pure alcohol," he said.

The amount of pure alcohol in 1.5 litres of wine is similar to that found in a half-litre bottle of Russian vodka.

"This is a demographic crisis in Russia," according to Prof. David Zaridze of the Russian Cancer Research Centre in Moscow, the study's lead author.

" But this situation is reversible" with the right alcohol-control policies.

In 2005, mortality rates were actually higher, with 37 per cent of Russian men dead before age 55, compared with 7 per cent of U.K. men and 9 per cent of Canadian men.

But in 2006, Russia reformed its alcohol policy, which has cut consumption and mortality rates by about a third. Some of the measures introduced included an increased tax on alcohol, the requirement that all booze be >, banning stores from selling during the night, and raising the price for a half-litre bottle of vodka to a minimum of about $5.

"These measures have already produced results and I hope this decrease in sales of alcohol and consumption will be sustainable," said Zaridze. "At the moment, I'm sort of positive."

Source: Toronto Star

Health: Illicit Drug Users More Likely to Seriously Consider Suicide

by Caroline Cassels

Illicit drug users are significantly more likely to consider suicide compared with the general population, new research shows.

A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that the rate of suicidal thoughts among illicit drugs users in the United States was 9.4% compared with a rate of 3.9% in the general population.

In addition, the study revealed that the percentage of adults who had serious thoughts of suicide varied by the type of illicit substance used. For example, although 9.6% of adults who had used marijuana in the past year had seriously considered suicide, the rate was 20.9% for their counterparts who had engaged in illicit use of sedatives.

Rates of serious thoughts of suicide in the past by selected illicit drug use were as follows:

• Any illicit drug, 9.4%
• Marijuana, 9.6%
• Hallucinogens, 14.2%
• Cocaine, 14.7%
• Inhalants, 17.4%
• Pain relievers (nonmedical use), 13.0%
• Tranquilizers (nonmedical use), 14.0%
• Stimulants (nonmedical use), 18.1%
• Sedatives (nonmedical use), 20.9%

"Suicide takes a devastating toll on individuals, families and communities across our nation. We must reach out to all segments of our community to provide them with the support and treatment they need so that we can help prevent more needless deaths and shattered lives," Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Health, said in a release.

The report is based on findings from SAMHSA's 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 70,000 people aged 12 years and older in the United States.

Source: The NSDUH Report - January 16, 2014 and Medscape Medical News

Recipe: Fruity Chicken Salad

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

A delicious balance of savory and sweet delight all in this attractive chicken salad.

Ingredients

• 1/4 cup strawberry yogurt
• 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 2 lettuce leaves
• 1/2 pound shredded cooked chicken
• 1/4 medium cantaloupe, cut into thin slices
• 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
• 1/4 cup fresh blueberries

Cooking Instructions

1. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, mayonnaise and honey.

2. Place lettuce on two salad plates; top with chicken and fruit.

3. Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.

Recipe: Shrimp Salad with Cilantro Dressing

Cilantro and lime paired with beautiful shrimp, this salad is sure to be a popular favorite.

Ingredients

• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons lime juice
• 1 to 2 teaspoons dried cilantro flakes
• 1 small garlic clove, minced
• 3/4 teaspoon sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon pepper

SALAD:

• 1 teaspoon olive oil
• 1/2 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 small garlic clove, minced
• 5 cups chopped hearts of romaine
• 1 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
• 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
• 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
• 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced

Cooking Instructions

1. In a bowl, whisk the first seven ingredients until blended.

2. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, chili powder, salt and cumin; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat.

3. In a bowl, combine romaine, corn, peas and red pepper; drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Top with avocado and shrimp.

Yield: 4 Servings

Source: Sams Club

About Malankara World
With over 6000 articles and hundreds of links to outside resources covering all aspects of Syriac Orthodoxy that are of interest to Family, Malankara World is the premier source for information for Malankara Diaspora. In addition to articles on spirituality, faith, sacraments, sermons, devotionals, etc., Malankara World also has many general interest articles, health tips, Food and Cooking, Virtual Travel, and Family Specific articles. Please visit Malankara World by clicking here or cut and paste the link on your browser: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/default.htm

Malankara World Journal Subscription

If you are not receiving Malankara World Journal directly, you may sign up to receive it via email free of cost. Please click here: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Register/news_regn.asp

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Malankara World Journal Archives

Previous Issues of Malankara World Journal can be read from the archives here.

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Thank you for your help and support.

Malankara World Team

Malankara World Journal is published by MalankaraWorld.com http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/
Copyright © 2011-2014 Malankara World. All Rights Reserved.