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Onam Celebrations in Church

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  • Eldho Joseph
    Dearly beloved, Please see the pdf attachment on the subject matter. Yours in Christ Dr. Eldho Joseph St. Dionysius Orthodox Church Al Ain, UAE.
    Message 1 of 13 , Oct 20, 2013
    Dearly beloved,

    Please see the pdf attachment on the subject matter.

    Yours in Christ

    Dr. Eldho Joseph
    St. Dionysius Orthodox Church
    Al Ain, UAE.
  • prakash_varghese
    Dear bro be blessed in Christ I would like to bring forward some pagan concepts celebrated in Orthodox Church my question is do we need to celebrate it or not?
    Message 2 of 13 , Oct 23, 2013

       

      Dear bro be blessed in Christ

      I would like to bring forward some pagan concepts celebrated in Orthodox Church my question is do we need to celebrate it or not?

       

       

      1        Onam Celebration

       

      2         Vidyarambham ( വിദ്യാരംഭം) (Why on the auspicious day tenth and final day of the Navratri celebrations)

       

      3        Holy Bible Reading on the Ramayana Month (Karkitakam) why on this specific month

       

      4        Thulabharam (I do not have proof I heard it has been done in Orthodox Church in Kerala)

       

      I fully support your view and strongly advice we should not support any kind of pagan worship in the church for sake of religious harmony. This would send a wrong signal to our younger generation and lead to pagan practice.

       

      We have been raising this voice in the church against Onam/ Vidyarambham celebration and been targeted as fundamentalist by the church committee members and priest , I would not say all but some priest are against this and are force to give approval to celebrate by the pressure of the committee members .

       

      My question what backing  does the church give on these topic being silent means approving all form of pagan worship. When Holy Bible clearly mention not to practice any kind of pagan concept.

       

      Deuteronomy 18:9-14

       

      9 “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.

      10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,

      11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.

      12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord, your God drives them out from before you.

      13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God.

      14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.

       

      I would pray and submit my humble request to our members to kindly consider and take action as soon as possible so that at least by next year we can stop this practice in the church by a decree from our Bava.

       

      May God bless all

       

      Prakash Varghese

      Sinner



      ---In indianorthodox@yahoogroups.com, <eldhojoseph@...> wrote:

      Dearly beloved,

      Please see the pdf attachment on the subject matter.

      Yours in Christ

      Dr. Eldho Joseph
      St. Dionysius Orthodox Church
      Al Ain, UAE.
    • cicythomas28
       Dear Prakash Varghese,   I wonder at your viewing the Onam, Vidhyrambham, etc as pagan practices and  your exhortation to stop it in the Church terming
      Message 3 of 13 , Oct 25, 2013

         Dear Prakash Varghese,

         

        I wonder at your viewing the Onam, Vidhyrambham, etc as pagan practices and  your exhortation to stop it in the Church terming  its adaptation as our own is  anti-christian.  If you go on with such view, you will have to forsake many other things that we have borrowed from the pagans.

         

        1. The celebration of Christmas(December 25), New Year(January 1)  and Easter, all have connection to the pagan festivals. 

        2. The practice of  tithing (Giving 10th of income) in the  Christianity also is a practice once prevalent in pagan religions at the time of Abraham. 

        3. The common attire of Indian Women, Sari, has a connection to Hindu Deity. 

        4. Christian  practice of Baptism too has the parallel practice in pagan religions. 

        Could you ignore these facts?  What is wrong if we are able to adapt  good practices from other religions into  our own  after having given a Christian flavor? The mission of the Church, I believe,  is to "Christianize" the whole creation in every sense.  Hope you won't differ.              

         

        With prayers,

        George Achen, Ireland



        ---In indianorthodox@yahoogroups.com, wrote:

        Dearly beloved,

        Please see the pdf attachment on the subject matter.

        Yours in Christ

        Dr. Eldho Joseph
        St. Dionysius Orthodox Church
        Al Ain, UAE.
      • Dr. Eldho Joseph
        Dear All, I have read the points raised by Mr. Prakash Varghese and George Achen, Ireland. Mr. Prakash Varghese has expressed his concerns regarding entering
        Message 4 of 13 , Oct 27, 2013

          Dear All,

          I have read the points raised by Mr. Prakash Varghese and George Achen, Ireland. Mr. Prakash Varghese has expressed his concerns regarding entering of pagan practices or whatever unscriptural practices in the Church. Many people have the same concern. Instead of giving a proper explanation, George achen says that there are so many other practices in the Church borrowed from paganism. This is like a discussion among politicians. When asked `അരിയെത്ര?', they answer `പയറഞ്ഞാഴി'. This will not end up anywhere. Achen should have said why such practices are followed in the Church, on what grounds, what is its relation with Orthodoxy etc., etc, very precisely. If we practice something wrong is not a grant to do other wrong things; we need to correct it.

          The four points that achen has raised are mainly the doctrines of sectarian groups. They have dug out so many `crucial matters' related to Christian faith in the 16th century and thereafter and their propaganda machinery was utilized to establish their findings. No Apostolic Churches agree to their teachings. So we will leave it. Let us examine the points raised by George achen.

          1. Christmas, New Year and Easter:
          Fundamentalists say that Christmas celebration was a pagan practice related with `Saturnalia' an ancient Roman festival. But the Holy Bible says that the Christmas was first celebrated by the angels and shepherds (Lk. 2: 6-19). Whom should we believe -The Holy Scriptures or the fundamentalists? It is true that till the 3rd or 4th century Christmas was not celebrated. Under the cruel persecution of the Roman emperors and the Jews, Christians never got a chance to celebrate Christmas; rather they were engaged in spreading the gospel to the maximum possible areas. But when they got freedom to worship, they started celebrating festivals like Christmas. Dr. Michael Alan Anderson, Artistic Director, Schola Antiqua of Chicago in his doctorate thesis `Symbols of Saints: Theology, Ritual, and Kinship in Music for John the Baptist and St. Anne (1175-1563) Vol. 1, June 2008' explains that the Annunciation to St. Mary was took place on March 25th and from that date 9 months are counted to decide the birth date of Jesus Christ. To emphasis this, he quotes Iranaeus of Lyon also (Dissertation for PhD submitted to University of Chicago, p. 42-43).

          Our Church teaches that the early Church was filled with Holy Spirit. If that is the case, whatever decisions taken in the Church, at least up to the Council of Ephesus, were as guided by the Holy Spirit. So there is every reason to believe that fixing 25th December as Christmas day was also as inspired by the Holy Spirit. If anybody argues that it has got connection with Saturnalia, St. Paul answers it: "Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1Cor. 9: 19-23).

          Celebration of New Year was not there in the Church until the recent past; it is a new trend. But the Church was observing the circumcision of Jesus on January 1st. If that is not right, it is to be thrown out of the Church; but do not bring paganism into the body of Christ. Beware, Jesus will come for a second time.

          Regarding Easter, the angel of God only asked us to celebrate this day: "But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you'" (Mk. 16:7). Orthodox Christians know that the essence of Easter celebration is the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus (as said by the angel).

          2. Tithe:
          Bible never says that tithing is just a pagan practice. Abraham gives `a tenth of everything' to Melchizedek and this is acknowledged by St. Paul (Heb. 7: 1-2). For us, it is scriptural and not paganism.

          3. Sari:
          "In the history of Indian clothing the sari is traced back to the Indus Valley Civilisation, which flourished during 2800�1800 BC around the western part of the Indian subcontinent" (Wikipedia: Sari, available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sari). Sari is a dress that was used by Indians even before the arrival of St. Thomas. He never asked the people to change their dress code but to change their beliefs and practices; he preached gospel to them as instructed by his master. God does not want any physical changes, but spiritual. Achen surely knows it; but just arguing for the sake of celebrating onam.

          4. Baptism:
          The comment made by achen is not one that is expected from a priest. Whether it is paganism or heathenism, Jesus instructed His disciples to do that and that is it. Why we go after something else? All these arguments raised by achen will help only misguiding the ordinary faithful.

          Though achen was strongly arguing for unprecedented practices in the Church, he miserably fails with his own words, achen asks: "What is wrong if we are able to adapt GOOD practices from other religions into our own after having given a Christian flavor?" If something is GOOD, why should we add Christian flavor? It is already good. Any good is acceptable to God. "This is good, and pleases God our Savior," (1 Tim. 2: 3). And if something is bad how we can make it good by adding Christian flavor? Bad personalities can be made good with `Christian flavor'; but bad practices cannot be made good and that is why it is called bad. Again achen says: "The mission of the Church, I believe, is to `Christianize' the whole creation in every sense." All Christians will agree to it. But the most pathetic thing is that achen, through his arguments, advocates for `paganizing' Christianity.

          At least the clergy should not argue for celebrating Hindu mythological festivals in the churches. It is high time to loudly think, why more and more people leaving this church.

          Dr. Eldho Joseph
          St. Dionysius Orthodox Church
          Al Ain, UAE.



        • jerinjuby
          The discussion regarding Onam and other local traditions and its practice in churches has been very interesting. And I m sure most of the people in this
          Message 5 of 13 , Oct 27, 2013

            The discussion regarding Onam and other local traditions and its practice in churches has been very interesting. And I'm sure most of the people in this conversation will get tagged as a fundamentalist, conservative, liberal, etc. Up to this point in this discussion, it is clear that there are two sides. Also, I have been noticing this difference in opinion in other churches, especially the Catholic church. 


            My observation is that many traditional churches in Kerala attempt to look more and more closer to the local traditions and cultures to become authentically Indian/Keralite. Hence, practices like Onam, Vidyarambham, etc., got in to the parishes. My home parish is St. Mary's, Maramon, and I do not remember having parish based Onam celebrations (and other celebrations) during my childhood years. But this has changed. 


            It has been about 2000 years and we have been 'Christianizing' the cultural practices by adapting them in to the church. It is unfortunate and sad that we have forgotten (to a great extend) to evangelize, while trying to look identical to the majority. Hence, we think Onam, Vidyarambham, Kodimaram, etc. are necessities and should be part of our churches.  


            This might be a good time to think about the significance of these in the church. While it is good for the sake of arguments (and discussions), is there a real reason and benefit in celebrating Onam (or any other practice like that) in Church? Such a practice is astrology, which many Syrian Christians practice. The Word of God makes it clear not to practice astrology and its branches, but very few of us are educated on it. Moreover, one might argue and support it calling it science, and claiming it acceptable since the wise-men followed the star. 


            To what extend do we adapt practices from other religions? What will be the limit? OT narrates various occasions of  idolatry and them being condemned by God. If God did not accept those practices, where do we find the loop hole to accept characters (and gods) of other religions, like Maveli and Vamanan, in to the church? We had posts with Bible verses clarifying this already, and hence I'm not re-posting them here. 


            I doubt if there is any significance in understanding tithing through pagan roots, since the Bible is clear about it. I find it hard to use this reasoning to justify Onam! Moreover, pagan history related to Christmas, Easter, etc., or even baptism does not justify Christianity embracing the 'Memorial Day' of Maveli! 


            On the other extreme, there is the option to 'Christianize' different practices in different parts of the world, like Onam, Vishu, Ramzan, and whatever else we could find. I think the idea of Christianizing paganism is completely wrong. What we end up doing is paganizing Christianity! Of course, I believe we can make great secular arguments to support these. In the midst of these theologies, philosophies and reasonings, we lose Jesus! 


            Jerin Juby

            Philadelphia



            ---In indianorthodox@yahoogroups.com, wrote:

            Dearly beloved,

            Please see the pdf attachment on the subject matter.

            Yours in Christ

            Dr. Eldho Joseph
            St. Dionysius Orthodox Church
            Al Ain, UAE.
          • Ninan Mathai
            Dear friends, 1. We should not forget that we have a history of over 19 centuries in what is now Kerala, a land known for freedom of religion and tolerance.
            Message 6 of 13 , Oct 28, 2013

              Dear friends,

              1. We should not forget that we have a history of over 19 centuries in what is now Kerala, a land known for freedom of religion and tolerance. Many Hindu, the indigenous religion, traditions got absorbed into our life. This could be akin to Greek traditions which entered the early Judeo-Christian society, including the concept of Trinity. There is nothing to be ashamed of our traditions.

              2. Onam, with its Hindu mythological lore, has been accepted by Christians in Kerala for centuries. When I was a child in 1950s, my paternal grand father would give me a Kutty mundu for Onam. I clearly remember asking him to give me a Kutty mundu of off-white colour instead of the pure white one he had given. He accepted my request.

              3. My grandfather would take me to see the Kettu Kazhcha (decorated chariots) at Chettikulangara Bhagawati Temple, about four miles away from our house in Mavelikara town. His or my faith did not waver. He had a Panchangam for each year and followed Raahukalam. He avoided starting anything during this period which he considered auspicious. I am sure his predecessors also followed this practice.

              4. I understand that a large number of oarsmen in Aranmula Boat Race, which has a Hindu origin, are Christians.

              5. When I was a child, children were initiated into formal education by an Aasaan who would make them write in uncooked rice. Christian children would write 'Sree Yesu Vijayam' and Hindu children would write 'Hari Sree Ganapathaye Namah'. I do not think Muslim children came to 'Aasaan's school'. I also do not know the religion of the Aasaan. I also do not know if my Vidyarambham, by my maternal grandfather coincided with Vijayadasami.

              6. We have all heard of Kadamattath Kathanar. He practiced black magic even though he was a Christian priest. Our heritage as followers of the Persian Church (Nestorian) also assisted in these practices. When the Portuguese Catholics burned our books, they were trying to wipe out such practices. History also tells us that they burned books wherever their presence was preceded by actively evangelising Nestorians, as in Mongolia and China.

              7. We can follow all these practices with our faith concentrated on the teachings and practices of Jesus, the Christ. If we try to forget these traditions handed down to us by our forefathers, we would be more like the 'Born Agains' whom I consider Christian Talibans.

              8. What I have written above may not be appreciated by second and third generation Mallu Christians outside Kerala, unless they visit Kerala regularly and interact with people there.

              9. My humble opinion is that the Church has been supportive of local traditions and should continue to do so.

              Regards,

              Cdr Ninan P Mathai IN (Retd)
              Mumbai

            • Ninan Mathai
              Dear friends, In para 3 of my mail, please read inauspicious instead of auspicious . Cdr Ninan P Mathai IN (Retd) Mumbai ... 3. My grandfather would take me
              Message 7 of 13 , Oct 28, 2013

                Dear friends,

                In para 3 of my mail, please read 'inauspicious' instead of 'auspicious'.

                Cdr Ninan P Mathai IN (Retd)
                Mumbai

                On Oct 28, 2013 6:00 PM, "Ninan Mathai" <ninanmathai@...> wrote:

                >>>>>

                3. My grandfather would take me to see the Kettu Kazhcha (decorated chariots) at Chettikulangara Bhagawati Temple, about four miles away from our house in Mavelikara town. His or my faith did not waver. He had a Panchangam for each year and followed Raahukalam. He avoided starting anything during this period which he considered auspicious. I am sure his predecessors also followed this practice.

                >>>

                ---------

                Here is the full message that is referred to above:

                http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/IndianOrthodox/conversations/messages/35444

              • abcjacob
                Dear All, Here is the news about an Orthodox parish taking the initiative to help poor girls from other denominations including Hinduism to have their wedding
                Message 8 of 13 , Nov 13, 2013
                  Dear All,


                  Here is the news about an Orthodox parish taking the initiative to help poor girls from other denominations including Hinduism to have their wedding as per their own respective traditions/rituals (http://marthoman.tv/?p=11893). Will this be considered a case of idol worship(because we are directly arranging a Hindu ritual to be performed, using the money collected from believers) or a Christian behaviour(because of its Christian spirit) ? I appreciate Dr. Eldho's views about Onam. However I am unable to subscribe to that view, since in my humble opinion, he is mixing a social event with spirituality, which I guess should be separately dealt with. I stand by all what I have said in my previous posting.


                  Do Christians need to be afraid of a myth, as affecting their spiritual life ? If so what all  events/things, we should be scared of ?  Is Christian belief so flimsy and fragile? Some Pentecostal pastors are able to see Satan in every incident and every non living and living thing. Funny that they are not able to see God !! I have understood Christianity to be, Freedom and Love in our Lord,  though different people understand Christianity differently. It is not about bondages and scarecrows; but about the ultimate freedom of mind in our Lord. We need to break free !


                  The word myth by itself means, it is not reality; irrespective of whether it be Christian or Hindu. We, Christians have our own set of Christian myths too; which the religious authorities effectively makes use of,  to serve their private purpose.  I am not sure, even how many of our Hindu brothers consider the story behind Onam to be real.  Whatever it be, Onam is celebration time for all; even atheistic Communists and the secular Government of Kerala celebrate Onam. Christian belief remains unblemished of Onam or Deepavali or whatever celebration it be; if we do not make our mind servile to the spirituality behind it. Had it been otherwise, Paul would not have visited the Greek temples and idols(Acts 17:23) for fear of being charged for idol worship.  Nor would Paul have explained sacrificed food, the way he has done in Corinthians 8.  I must say,   what Paul has written in chapter 8 is absolutely clear and there is no contextual confusion. I was unable to see a different context regarding this chapter, other than what I have already explained in my previous posting, to which Dr. Eldho replied.  Corinthians 10:14-33, which Dr. Eldho mentioned, do not give any different  idea, regarding sacrificed food. Do we need to think, that Paul is trying to contradict his own statements, which he has explained in the previous chapter ?  Upon careful reading, what I could understand was that, here Paul is only corroborating (verses 19,28 and 29) from a different context, whatever he has already stated about sacrificed food in chapter 8. For Christians food is food alone, irrespective of whether it is sacrificed or vegetarian or non vegetarian or sweet or sour. Only scientific considerations like whether the food is stale, or decayed or contaminated with bacteria etc. make any difference. 


                  Where Dr. Eldho is going different,  is in his interpretation of Onam celebration as an act of idol worship. It is not- let me repeat - as far as we do not subject our mind to the spirituality behind it. Onam has only celebration and entertainment value for Christians. That is why, the celebration question  by church comes in mainly for parishes outside Kerala; within Kerala there is ample opportunity for celebration outside the church. Well, regarding  idol worship, if we are particular to find one in church, the NadaThurakkal in Manarcaud church is a  close candidate, as we discussed sometime back in this forum. Lets make the faithful aware of this and close down  the "EttuNombu"  in its present form. And if any of our youngsters are misunderstanding Maveli as a saint, then the culprit is not Onam; it only points to the sad and sorry state of affairs in our spiritual organizations including the Sunday School. 


                  Christianity attaches great significance to the intent and the mental processes preceding any action. While the Lord rejected the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18 :9-14;  He accepted the two cents of the widow as more than that  of anyone else in Mark 12:41-44. The Lord gives a new definition to adultery in Mathew 5:28.  The intent behind  Onam celebration  is what matters and surely it makes  the  difference.


                  Some people abstain from cinemas, reading novels , enjoying music and even sports activities thinking that  these will impact their spiritual life. Some may even choose not to join a mission which works for sending man to outer space. It is all, purely their personal choices. Christianity has nothing to do with any of these.  They  are unnecessarily suppressing some of their own mental faculties, probably out of misunderstanding.


                  Having said all the above, let me acknowledge that there is no harm in not celebrating Onam.  Our spiritual life remains unaffected by its celebration or non celebration. If somebody is not comfortable celebrating it for any reason of his spirituality, let him not do that. (as probably how Paul explains in Corinthians 8). Finally, what is more important is to remain a follower of the Nazarene; irrespective of whether we celebrate or not celebrate Onam. Dr. Eldho's zeal for Christian principles is well acknowledged and respected.


                  Several interesting but controversial points came out in the postings about this topic. Let me stay clear and say nothing  about  any of them, for the time being.  I beg Dr. Eldho's pardon, if I have in any way, offended his thoughts, in the course of this writeup. Also let me conclude my inputs on this topic  with this posting.


                  Regards,
                  Abey Jaocb, Bangalore


                   



                  ---In IndianOrthodox@yahoogroups.com, <eldhojoseph@...> wrote:

                  Dearly beloved,

                  Please see the pdf attachment on the subject matter.

                  Yours in Christ

                  Dr. Eldho Joseph
                  St. Dionysius Orthodox Church
                  Al Ain, UAE.
                • ES John
                  Dear Dr. Eldo, I am now in the Indian Promised Land or Holy place where milk and honey flows, but in synthetic colour only; the same is the sprituality that is
                  Message 9 of 13 , Dec 4, 2013
                    Dear Dr. Eldo,

                    I am now in the Indian Promised Land or Holy place where milk and honey flows, but in synthetic colour only; the same is the sprituality that is flavoured with the dynamics of paganism, cultural programmes and political and secular synthetics, etc. I am very much surprised by the attitude changes by the clergy and their cronies, forgetting that these are the addendums of today's church, not present in yesterday's church. Orthodox spirituality survived when we had purses and pockets, but money that is not even with in the limits of Banks, credit cards, etc., the church take the abundance of affluence as a premium for  salvation.
                     
                    St. Andrews, the first christian missionary, Jn. 1, asked his crucifiers to hang him on the cross without being nailed because he didn't want a quick death by nainling, so also St.peter was crucified by hanging down; thereby kissing the feet of his Guru. They embraced suffering as gift of christian virtue. Eevery christian of Iron Age aspires for a life on the bed of roses, not a life of the bed of thorns. Christianity is dead; the end does not know the beginning; everyone, the shepherds and the flock, uses the yardstick of surnvival by hook or by crook. The true faith and love, the products of obeying the commandments, 1 Jn: 4 & 5, is wiped out by a sub-culture of money and humanism, lax and godless democracy. The religious hierarchy and its crony laity is baffled by the sacramental celebrations of electronic and real estate spirituality that do not hesitate to  import any filth and paganism and social profligacy. The Catholicose is the head of spirituality and Malankara metropolitan is the chieftain of church administration. Nobody has any right to cange anything without a kalpana from the Catholicose. List how many changes that take place in each parish in spiritual and administrative area. We give only lip service
                     
                    E.S. John, Australia
                  • Ninan Mathai
                    Dear Mr. ES John, We are coming around to the discussion which Dr. Eldho Joseph had suggested should be titled Paganism in Malankara Orthodox Church , if I
                    Message 10 of 13 , Dec 7, 2013
                      Dear Mr. ES John,

                      We are coming around to the discussion which Dr. Eldho Joseph had suggested should be titled 'Paganism in Malankara Orthodox Church', if I recall correctly.

                      Recently, I visited Parumala Church and went to the Book Stall run by our Church. I located a new book which I found very interesting. It is titled 'Charition Greek Drama and the Christians of Kerala', authored by Mr. Thattunkal Zachariah Mani, a member of our ancient Church, published by him and his wife in October 2013 and printed at Printexpress, Kochi. The author was an Indian Revenue Service Officer and, on retirement, became a full time historian. He has been a member of the Kerala History Association from 1978. He studied the Charition Drama, found in a Papyrus discovered in Egypt. It has been studied by experts and trace it to a Greek Play in the early Second Century. Its dialogues are in old Greek and in an old Indian dialect. The author identifies this dialect as entirely devoted to Christian Worship. The presence of Sanskrit words in the dialogue indicates, as per the author, Brahminic influence in the land where it was spoken. As there are Malayalam, Hebrew and Aramaic words in addition to the Greek words in the Papyrus, the region has been identified as present Kerala, then in the Chera Kingdom. Thomas and Mary are mentioned in the play, indicating that the play covers the St. Thomas Christians. It also surmises that the arrival of Brahminism in Kerala preceded the Second Century and supports our tradition that St. Thomas converted four Brahmin families in Kerala.

                      At Para 1.11, the author writes " The local practice among the Hindus and Christians of Kerala has always been to celebrate their festivals together. Hindus also gave offerings to the local Churches. They participated in the Christian worship. The Portuguese bishops noted this native practice and objected to it in the 'Canons of Diamper' (1599), a document still available in the Portuguese records. The Portuguese Archbishop Menezis and Bishop Francis Ros issued orders to the priests of the Thomas Christians to ensure that only persons who had received proper baptism should be allowed entry into the Church during the celebration of the Kurbaana (the Eucharist). This was not followed in most of the Churches of the local Christians. Some prominent Christian families played important roles in the celebration of the Hindu festivals and even in the administration of some Hindu temples till recently. Many ancient temples in Kerala followed the old custom of using all items for worship in the temple (like oil, ghee, incense material and any new vessel for the sanctum sanctorum of the temple) only after they were touched by a Nazaraani Christian of St. Thomas lineage. Nowhere else in the world such a close link existed between communities that followed separate religions. The intimate association between Christians and Hindus in Kerala was deliberately discouraged by some bishops from outside India. Despite these foreign interference, the people of Kerala have always lived a life of communal and religious harmony. The Kings in Kerala encouraged the collaboration of all compatible communities, in the conduct of festivals, whether religious or secular. They made arrangements for the orderly conduct of the festivals where all the religious communities would participate."

                      I am grateful to the author for permitting me to quote verbatim from his book. The point is that Mr. ES John's and Dr Eldho Joseph's contention that celebration of these pagan festivals in Churches are modern practices may not be absolutely right. Please remember that we have a history of nearly 2000 years and our practices were influenced by foreign missionaries, whether they were Portuguese, French, Dutch, English, German, Armenian, Persian, Syrian, Greek or Italian. The Persian Church, declared heretic by Rome, Antioch and Alexandria, played a prominent role in the Malankara Church before the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498.

                      With Prayers,

                      Cdr Ninan P Mathai IN (Retd)
                      Mumbai
                    • Eldho Joseph
                      Dearly beloved, Read the postings of Mr. E S John and Cdr Ninan P Mathai. The essence of the subject we were discussing is the leakage of spirituality in the
                      Message 11 of 13 , Dec 11, 2013
                        Dearly beloved,

                        Read the postings of Mr. E S John and Cdr Ninan P Mathai. The essence of the subject we were discussing is the leakage of spirituality in the Church and the entry of paganism to fill that gap. Or in the other way – replacement of spirituality by paganism. Church members like Rev. K K John Achen, Mr. E S John, Mr. Prakash Varghese etc are concerned about the squatting of paganism in the Church; I, being a member of the Church, also do.
                         
                        Mr. E S John in his posting explains what Christianity was and is. In these days, the clergy (may be a minority) enjoy the bed of roses (not plant, but flower) and their priorities are not that of their ancestors though they are proud of them. They focus on inaugurations, public meetings (where they get a seat in the dais), pleasure trips, real estate, banking, money lending, brokerage, insurance agency etc and all types of celebrations. Sometimes worship and sacramental matters become secondary in front of celebrations. And this attitude is the main reason for entering more and more pagan activities in the Church. May be that is why Mr. E S John mentioned that ‘we give only lip service’. I don’t think any clergy will agree the entry of paganism in the Church, but they only allow it, except some bold and dedicated.
                         
                        The basic difference between bureaucrat and technocrat is that the former usually finds reasons for not to do things and the latter to do things and finish it off. Here, people like Cdr Ninan P Mathai are trying to find out reasons for not to stop the pagan celebrations in the Church – the bureaucratic approach. The quoting of Cdr Ninan P Mathai from ‘Charition Greek Drama and the Christians of Kerala’ does not prove that onam was celebrated in Christian churches. It cannot be proved because it was not there. It is absolutely right that onam celebrations and vidyaarambham are entered in the Church only in the recent past – may be 10 or15 years ago. Still no other community celebrates onam in their worship places (except Thrikkakkara temple); they do it at their home only. Being a retired person, I hope, Cdr will be old enough to see whether it is correct or not; it needs just a go back for few years. When we are witnesses why we look for other evidences?
                         
                        Cdr quotes, “………Hindus and Christians of Kerala has always been to celebrate their festivals together”. The book never says that ‘Hinduism and Christianity celebrated their festivals together’; it only says about the personal involvement of Christians and Hindus in celebrating the festivals, not as religions. Christians and Christianity are different terms. So far, our discussions were ‘Celebrating Onam in Orthodox Churches’, not the celebration by individuals. Please do not confuse it. When an Orthodox Christian celebrates onam or any other festival, it is his personal affair. If he wants, even after knowing the story behind it, let him celebrate. Cdr Ninan P Mathai, anybody or me has the right to do so. But ‘Church’ is the body of Christ and ‘church’ is a holy place that cannot be abused; no clergy shall promote such abuse.
                         
                        If the book says “The intimate association between Christians and Hindus in Kerala was deliberately discouraged by some bishops from outside India”, it is to be corrected as “…..between Christianity and Hinduism……..”. Even in these days also Christians and Hindus (and all other communities) are living in harmony; it is not disturbed. But Christianity and Hinduism are two opposite poles in doctrines. Living people in harmony does not mean that one agrees with all the doctrines of the other. Being a social creature, man has to live in harmony with his fellow being. Religion is a personal matter. When I believe in Christ, my friend has the right to believe in Krishna. I have the right to tell him about Jesus and he has the right to tell me about Krishna; selection is the choice of individual. ‘I go to church, you go to temple’ is harmony, ‘you go to temple, I also come with you’ is also harmony. Which harmony we are talking about? ‘I go to church, you also go to church’ is clash and ‘I go to church, but follow some of your doctrines and beliefs’ is hypocrisy. I am talking in religious context. Where do we stand?
                         
                        Anything will work in a society or community where there is no discipline. In our Church, priests have their way, laity has theirs and the bishops have their own, there is no oneness or unity in doctrines. Clergy themselves take the permission to pervert the Church doctrines to suit their own beliefs; the cronies are there to clap. If anybody points out a mistake, he will be treated as a second rated member.
                         
                        Many people who supported the onam celebrations in the church have opined that it is a local festival and when it is celebrated by Christians there is no Maaveli or Vaamana. I suggest them to listen the speech of HG Yuhanon Mar Militheos thirumeni. HG says, “Jesus was welcomed by children with palm tree leaves and flowers at that time and now the ‘athappookkalam’ is a ‘flower carpet’ for Jesus to sit (from the postings of HG in ICON No. 5028 dd. 01 Oct, 2013. I am not sure that the same is still available in Youtube). What a comparison! How many bishops will agree with this interpretation? Knowingly or unknowingly thirumeni equates Jesus and Maaveli. The story says that Maaveli comes every year; we know that Jesus will come for a second time. Does thirumeni say that Jesus comes every year and sits on the carpet? HG is quite sure about the rule of Maaveli and the golden era.
                         
                        Thirumeni also says that while we keep our faith, we have to go with the local practices. Nothing wrong in it as far as the local practices are not contradicting with the Scriptures. If we give due importance to local practices, why the bishops and priests are using foreign vestments? Why can’t we use the vestments of a local sanyasi or poojari? Even the clergy of eastern and western Christianity differs in their vestments. Why we use the foreign olive oil for preparing the leavened bread for Holy Eucharist when coconut oil is used in local sacrifices? That means we cannot adopt all local practices especially when it is related with religious/faith matters. Any tradition or practice against Scriptures is detestable and shall not be adopted.
                         
                        Since new practices are entering in the church, claiming that they are traditions, it is high time that the Holy Synod take proper decisions on such matters.
                         
                        Dr. Eldho Joseph
                        St. Dionysius Orthodox Church
                        Al Ain, UAE.
                      • Ninan Mathai
                        Dear Friends, 1. This is a combined response to what Mr. Nakkolackal VL Eapen wrote on 09 Dec 2013 and Dr. Eldho Joseph wrote on 11 Dec 2013. 2. I am a firm
                        Message 12 of 13 , Dec 15, 2013
                          Dear Friends,

                          1. This is a combined response to what Mr. Nakkolackal VL Eapen wrote on 09 Dec 2013 and Dr. Eldho Joseph wrote on 11 Dec 2013.

                          2. I am a firm believer that the Church should be relevant to the People and the People should be relevant to the Church. I had discussed earlier that the teachings of St. Paul, in the first century, was relevant to the Patriarchal Jewish and Greek Societies at that time, but not necessarily relevant to the society in the twenty first century. Mr. Eapen has quoted from 1 Peter 3 to indicate that St. Peter had also supported St. Paul regarding the role of women in Church and how they should conduct themselves. Infallibility of the first Pope not withstanding, I am not sure how many of the women readers of this note would agree with what St Peter propounded. There is a disconnect with the people of the twenty first century. The present Pope, despite his desire to come closer to the people, has stated that Priesthood for women is not subject to discussion.

                          3. Mr. Eapen also brought up the relevance of the Ten Commandments in the present times. First of all, the Ten Commandments were not written for the mankind as a whole. It was addressed specifically to the people of Israel. God Spoke "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves". While God was writing these Ten Commandments on two tablets, the Israelites, led by Aaron, were making a golden Bull Calf as their god. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, he found that the people had forgotten their God and were praying to the Bull Calf. Jehovah and Moses were not relevant to the people of Israel, at that particular time. Moses realised this and threw down the Tablets and broke them. What did he do thereafter? He worked with the people of Israel proactively and brought them around to accepting not only the Ten Commandments, but also 613 'Mitzvot' [Commandments] found in the first five books of Torah. These cover most of the activities prevalent at that time.

                          4. Now, on the Ten Commandments. These are listed at Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The Orthodox follow the former, but the Catholics follow the latter. These are not identical, but follow the general division into two, summarised by our Saviour, Jesus, the Christ, Duties to God and Duties to Man. The Fifth Commandment 'Honour your father and mother' is usually included in the Duties to God, as Jews placed them (the parents) between themselves and God. A resemblance to 'Matha Pitha Guru Daivom' is noted. The Jews also taught that fulfilling of duties to Man took priority over fulfilling the duties to God. Their logic is very simple. Man needs your help, God does not. The Ten commandments or 613 Mitzvot of the Jewish tradition has found corresponding rules for the society in all communities / civilisations.  These have been adapted to meet the changes in the times. The recent ruling of the Indian Supreme Court in respect of Art 377 criminalising same sex union and its repercussions is a case in point.

                          5. Coming to Dr Eldho Joseph's points in respect of paganism, I am of the opinion that it is the duty of the Priestly Class (includes the Patriarchs, Catholicoses, Bishops, Priests, Presbyters, Pastors, Deacons etc) to  make the Church relevant to the People and the duty of the People to make themselves relevant to the Church. Having been a Bureaucrat and a Technocrat during my service in the Navy, I cannot agree with the generalisation given by Dr. Eldho Joseph on the characteristics of these two groups. One would find all varieties of persons in these two groups. A 20:80 ratio is usually accepted for doers : talkers. The individual opts himself for being a pro-active one or not. The pro-active bureaucrat finds reasons to get the job done, in spite of the rules. I am reminded of an address by a Project Director, when I was the Project Manager. He said, "Gentlemen, we have been sent to this Project to identify what the Navy wants. During your work, you would find that there are certain situations when the rules do not permit a certain action. But from the bottom of your heart, you feel that taking the action would benefit the Service. In such a case, please go ahead and do it, ensuring that no money would go into your pocket. You may have to write a few letters later justifying your actions." He rose to the highest rank any technical officer could aspire for in the Navy and on retirement as a Vice Admiral, headed the Nuclear Submarine Project of the Defence Research & Development Organisation. I have followed his advice and had to write a few letters explaining why I broke the rules repeatedly, with no adverse repercussions.!!!

                          6. I would like to make a special mention of the ONAM Celebrations at my parish, St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral, Dadar, Mumbai. In addition to the meeting, where a Hindu Literary Activist gave the Onam Message, in Malayalam, and lauded the role played by the Christians in bringing education and medical coverage in Kerala there were cultural activities, including Maveli, and the mandatory Sadya. The entire function was organised by the youth of the church, with whole hearted support of the Vicars and the Managing Committee. To top all, the Church had invited the girls from St George's Balikagram, Dehu Road, Pune and arranged transport to get them to Mumbai and back. The girls enjoyed the function and sang songs used in our services. Not one of the girls was a Christian!!! I have personally seen the whole hearted involvement of the youth of the Church, which is lacking in many other avenues in Malankara Orthodox Church.

                          7. Summarising, the Church needs to be relevant to the People and the People relevant to the Church. If it needs Paganism to be brought in, SO BE IT.

                          Yours in Prayer,

                          Cdr Ninan P Mathai IN (Retd)
                          Mumbai


                        • K.G. Mathaikutty
                          Dear ICON Readers, The explanation given by Cdr Ninan P Mathew IN (Retd) is very appropriate and addressing several issues raised over a period of time. What
                          Message 13 of 13 , Dec 17, 2013
                            Dear ICON Readers,

                            The explanation given by Cdr Ninan P Mathew IN (Retd) is very appropriate and addressing several issues raised over a period of time. What is lacking in our church is the issue of relevance to the 21st century.  Both the Church and its members required to recognize the relevance factors considering the current way of life among children, youths in Kerala and outside and the spirituality of generations in the changing world around.

                            Hope and trust the Holy Episcopal Synod, the Church Managing Committee, the Association, the parish managing committee, etc. will rise up to the expectation of the time and consider a well balanced approaches for a healthy situation.  

                            I sincerely endorse and congratulate Cdr Ninan P. Mathew of Mumbai for his contribution and continue to create awareness through his articles.

                            Best wishes,

                            K.G. Mathaikutty
                            Executive Secretary,
                            MOCSHA.    

                                
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