Onam And The Church
- For the church members living outside Kerala, especially in America, church is one of the common places to meet and exchange ideas.For some people, it is the only common place.Most of the churches have less than 100 family members and they celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries and remember their departed loved ones together ater the regular Holy Qurbana.Due to these celebrations, there will be common lunch for all in the church.In this context, it is natural to celebrate Onam in our church as a feast after the Holy Qurbana.People lived in Kerala had sweet memories about the secular Onam celebrations.Since our roots are in Kerala, it is good to remember our secular festivals and educate our next generation.But as Aby Paul pointed out, it should not interfere with our common prayer time in the church.What is the extent to which we can celebrate these festivals?This has to be discussed and decided at the higher levels of our church.With prayers.Abey Tharian, Dumont,NJ.
- Let me express my views on this subject. What Mr. Aby Paul said is more than 100% correct. In this platform, some time back, I have wrote an opinion on the matter 'വിദ്യാരംഭം' on Saraswathi Pooja Day. I have narrowly escaped from the attacks of 'Christian believers' though many of the laity who smelt the danger in the issue responded positively; a brother even called me hypocrite! I don't know why. Actually I had a plan to include the issue of Christians 'celebrating Onam in churches' in that letter; but deliberately avoided. Actually, there was no Onam celebrations in the Church some ten years ago; it is all new.Now Mr. Aby Paul raised the point for a discussion.
I asked a student in the Sunday School to mention some of the Church festivals; among Christmas and Easter he included Onam also. I wondered; but he said his grand father, a priest, celebrates Onam in church and even the very same church, where he studies, is celebrating Onam with Sadya, Maaveli and all; surely it is a Christian festival! That is what his grand father and his parish church taught him. When I shared this question with some of my friends, they said that it is the 'National Festival' of Kerala and is a festival of communal harmony.
Communal Harmony is a word used by politicians. Is communal harmony possible? No way. I have the right to believe in a God and my friend has the right to believe in a different god or gods - it is the personal matter of each individual. Where is harmony in this? St. Paul asks "What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" 2Cor. 6:15. But Holy Bible never says to hate our fellow beings but to be in harmony with them. "...honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself" Mt. 19:19. This is the essence or theology of Holy Bible. But it warns against the following of false practices. "Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices..." Ex. 23:24. So communal harmony is impossible and personal harmony is very much possible, and that is how we are living in this world. If Christians believe in St. Paul and Holy Bible and speak about communal harmony, then they are called hypocrites! Our duty is to keep harmony with each and every human being not with their beliefs.
We know that Onam is related with Maaveli and Vaamanan (Mahaavisnhu); there is no Onam without them. Among them, at least Maaveli is present in the Onam celebrations of the church. What message it gives to the ordinary believer? - the authenticity of the story. If so, somebody else has already entered in the Church with a doctrine other than St. Paul's. "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!" Gal. 1:8. That 'angel' shall be kicked out of the Church.
Some people say that it is a secular festival. If so what is the role of Maaveli? He is present even in the invitation letter and leaflet of the Church Onam celebrations. If Maaveli is present, secularism looses.
There is only one answer - The Malankara Orthodox Church has accepted Maaveli and Vaamana (may be like David and Goliath) and unofficially gives the message to its churches to celebrate Maaveli's memorial day; but do not have the courage to express it officially. In the nearest future other festivals also will enter in the Church; the leaders will welcome them with all reverence. And as Mr. Aby Paul doubted intercessory prayer, 'Qurbaana' as on 'moranaaya perunaal' etc will be conducted during such days!!!
Dr. Eldho Joseph
St. Dionysius Orthodox Church
Al Ain, UAE.
I prefer to differ with Dr. Eldho Joseph's comments about Onam celebrations in church.
Guess we need to understand the community angle of the programs in the church. We cannot say that everything which is conducted in the church should be spiritual. If we say so, we may not be able to conduct even the "Pally Pothuyogam"; there is nothing spiritual about it.
Surely the members of the church are believers and that is the primary reason why, they are there. Simultaneously they are also a social group who do have common social interests. Some parishes conduct real estate development to raise funds, some others conduct "Ganamelas" and dramas to raise funds. There are parishes which conduct "SnehaVirunnu" to promote "Sneham" or social harmony among the members. There are many more programs like these. None of these are spiritual programs. Are we now going to do away with all these ?
Onam is a celebration of the Malayalee community who happen to be members of the church. None of the churches mixes any spiritual activity with the Onam celebration. Many of them conduct the program inside the church building for the only reason of using it as a hall, where another hall is immediately not available. Also we should note that there is no celebration inside the alter. Nobody prays to Mahabali or Vamanan. Celebrating Onam do not mean that we have to be spiritually aligned with the myth behind it. If that is the case then we may not be able to watch a moderen science fiction movie for the simple reason that it may not be fully aligned with the Bible.
In 1 Corinthians 8, St. Paul makes it clear that the believer is not harmed by even eating the food sacrificed to idols. But he advises to abstain from it to avoid confusion for those others who are weak in conscience. So, if food sacrificed to idols do not make any difference for the believer, is Onam celebration going to make that ? Do we need to remain weak in faith even after 2000 years since St. Thomas landed the Malabar coast?
Thanks for your patience.
Abey Jacob, Bangalore.
- Hello every oneI have seen few notes on having Onam celebration in our Churches. Those who are interested in listening to my opinion on the matter may please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF4uPkErfm4&feature=c4-overview&list=UU8bQDT0tJ9YZoyBxN4WdUgw for a video I uploaded to my YouTube channel. This is a talk I delivered when the OCYM members of my diocese conducted a pookkalam contest on third Onam day at our diocesan center.Regards and prayers. This is also posted in my blog: http://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/onam-programme-of-ocym-thrissur/Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan, Thrissur.
EVANGELION ACCORDING TO MALANKARA ORTHODOX LECTIONARY -
The interpretation of the Scripture should be left to the biblical scholars. The list of reading for each Sunday is contained in this book, but without the relevant points noted at the end to be mentioned in each sermon.
There was a time when Achen used to hijack the worship time and insult or accuse the individuals during this Holy Qurbana- "Vachana Sesrusha";
Now the danger is faith doctrines or principle on ORTHODOXY, built upon for generations is eroded by pressure groups and to appease all faiths loosing our distinction.
The time has come for the Synod to consider the consequences of this action and issue strict guide lines by approving to print a' NEW ENGLISH MALAKARA ORTHODOX LECTIONARY ' with instructions to the gospel of the day.Baboi GeorgeLondon, U.K