Mr. George K. John,
Your article has raised an important, if not vital point in the
current state of our church. Having grown up in America, this issue
is that much more important. Why?
Our forefathers and spiritual leaders lived out the faith in their
lives. What does living out the faith mean? This means different
things to different people. We have so many alternatives to look at
today. We hear so many differing messages. In the past, Orthodoxy
was our only option. Their life centered around it, their family
and friends at least professed it as their faith, and the church was
literally the center of their life. Even today, as I visit India, I
see how churches are all around us. In fact, as we pass a church, I
was taught to make the sign of the cross. Most of the time, that's
all that I'd be doing!
Now how do the younger generation live? We see so many other
churches, monasteries, mosques, temples, etc. It's funny because
one of our close friends used to make another gesture as we pass
these churches. Anytime he sees one, he'd make the sign of a gun
with his hands and figuratively shoot it at the church! He does not
literally mean it, as least I hope. But it just shows the current
state of our coming generation. They have so many so-called
churches all around them. The options are numerous. Instead of
many of the same churches, we now have many of different churches.
Mr. George K. John points to us how we're reacting to this culture.
Instead of growing stronger in our Orthodox faith, we are constantly
erasing it. When the younger generation is taught that their
forefathers used to pray seven times a day, they are astonished.
They think that this took place hundreds of years ago when people
had nothing else to do! Mr. John correctly writes that it is
through our forefathers' prayers that we are in our current state.
But how the devil has taken advantage of our prosperity. We are
wealthier and more prosperous today than anyone could have
imagined. Our past generations fought for more freedom, prosperity,
and peace. The nationalist, democratic movements took place because
of this cause. We now have it in America. They have fought the
fight. Now the problem is that we have nothing to fight for! But
is that so? How the devil is cunning. Now we don't have time to
live out the faith of our forefathers. Our Orthodox identity is
What is this identity? As Mr. John wrote, it means continuous
prayer, fasting, confession, etc. But then our church was told to
adapt to the culture. Get with the times! So what happened? Our
church allowed the faithful small concessions on doing the common
prayers, shortening it to meet the busy schedule of the faithful.
Our church allowed the sick, pregnant, travelers, etc. concession on
observing the lent. As I wrote earlier, they gave us an inch, and
we took a mile. Now we repeat the same, lesser prayers everyday.
Now, we're told that it's o.k. to eat fish, fast is only for the
first ten and last ten days of Great Lent (w/ Wed. & Fridays in-
between). I'm surprised they didn't reduce the three-day lent to
What's my point? These concessions have led the people to not live
out the Orthodox faith. Many don't pray or observe lent at all.
We've forgotten our past, our cornerstones. Our fathers prayed for
our prosperity, but with it also came, more importantly, our
prosperity spiritually. We, the younger generation, want to know
what this Syriac Orthodox faith is all about. If this faith becomes
more like the many others, why stay? The Syriac Orthodox faith
needs to be lived out through our actions in prayer, fasting,
Now this next part is my personal testimony. I've given my
criticisms, but now I offer an example that contradicts it.
Throughout the past week, our St. Ignatious Church had the rare
honor to share the Holy Week with our own Catholicose Bava, H.B. Mor
Baselious Thomas I. You may have already seen the videos and
These videos and pictures only show a minute part of Orthodoxy in
action. During his stay, he practiced Orthodoxy. As far as I know,
he prayed at least in the morning, afternoon, evening, and
midnight. I could hear the prayers as I pass by. He would eat rice
with three sides only. He never touches meat, fish, etc. During
conversations, he rarely talked about church politics. He spoke of
the Bible, the Orthodox tradition, and practical living
instructions. After he blesses a child, he would then briefly tell
them the importance of listening to their parents. He confessed
that he barely knows English, but he still taught them.
During the services, he kept apologizing. He apologized for
requesting the committee to move the benches for prostration; he
apologized for not being able to prostrate as much (due to old age)
but nonetheless asked the congregation to follow his lead, as he led
prostrations all throughout the services. He knelt similar to a
position shown on this webpage:
I tried kneeing like this for a few seconds, and how it hurts my
legs! He stayed in this position for much longer.
In my last observance, our Bava had to wait for his ride to Houston
on Friday. Remember, this is after the long Good Friday services
with people still chatting. What did he do during this wait time?
I saw him behind the Evangelion stand (so others wouldn't see)
kneeling in this same position praying!
In speaking with my friends, the youth, these examples of Bava kept
coming up. He did not speak a word of English to them, but they
still understood. They understood what it means to live out the
Orthodox faith. They were taught, by example, of how to live out a
The devil comes in by saying, yes, this is true because he's Bava;
he's your Catholicose. Others will say, but you don't know this and
this about him. All that I can speak from is my own experience; the
things that I saw and heard. They will speak much louder. And to
answer the other side, that he's suppose to do this since he's Bava,
are we all not called to live out saintly lives? Only the saints
will hear, "`well done, good and faithful servant...come and share
your master's happiness!'" (Matt. 25:23).
I hope our church will take steps in reinvigorating the Syriac
Orthodox faith. This will be the only solution to preserving it.
But more importantly, I pray that we will continue to have more
spiritual leaders who can serve as examples for the faithful.
Leaders of whom others can say, "Look at him, he lives out his