Devotional Thoughts for February 6th, 2005 (Kothine Sunday)
- Great Lent (Saumo)
We are once again in the threshold of the Great Lent. Syriac word, �Saumo� means both �lent and fasting.� Lent denotes diet restrictions and recital of prayers but fasting denotes complete abnegation of food, sex, evil thoughts, fulfilling acts of mercy and prayers. Adam�s failure to heed to eating restriction led all generations to fast. Thus lent began in the Garden of Eden. Lent is a pilgrimage together with Christ to the foot of the cross. It has seven steps each week being a step forward. It begins with acknowledging Jesus as
(1) God of nature (water turned into wine at Cana),
(2) God of sin and sickness, divine healer (leper healed),
(3) God of forgiveness of sin (paralytic healed),
(4) God of also the gentiles (daughter of Cananite woman healed),
(5) God over Satan (crippled woman liberated),
(6) Light of the world (blind healed),
(7) Lord and King (Hosanna, triumphant entry into Jerusalem temple) and the pinnacle, passion and the cross.
Lent is a legacy from Jews. Lent is a period to prepare, repent, commune with God and exercise physical and spiritual discipline. Israel fasted seven days after burial of Saul, 1 Sam 31:13. David fasted when his son fell ill, 2 Sam 12:16. Fasting is self humiliating,� Ps 35:13. Righteous men spent nights fasting and praying, Dan 6:18. Fasting on Monday and Thursday was compulsory for Jews, Lk 18: 12. Moses, Elijah and Jesus fasted forty days. Fasting for specific purposes was also common. Esther ordered three day fast to destroy Haman�s conspiracy, 4:16. John the Baptist followed lental diet throughout life. He totally renounced animal meat and wine, Lk 1:15. He grew hair, beard, and wore leather belt and clothes made of camel�s hair. Modern translations are misleading, �He ate locusts and wild honey,� Mk 1: 6. The original Aramaic version reads, �Kamsa� instead of locust. Kamsa is an edible root like arrowroot and was plenty available. So Baptist John, member of Qumran society, was surely pure vegetarian. Keeping up this noble tradition the holy Church exhorts every faithful, except children and pregnant women, to abstain from milk, and fatty foods like fish, meat, egg, etc. �Share your food with hungry and your clothes with the naked. Increase your almsgiving according to increase in income. Almsgiving will save you from death and prevent going down to darkness,� Tob 4:10,16.
Prayer and fasting are the only weapons to drive out Satan, said Jesus, Mat 17:21. Pharisees confronted Jesus saying, �Your disciples are not fasting.� He said, �they (disciples) will fast when the bridegroom is taken away from them,� Mk 2:20. Thus refusal to fast is disobedience to Christ and causes to miss spiritual gifts. Apostles began fasting considering the arrest, indictment, scorns, crucifixion and burial of our Lord as days when bridegroom was taken away. Apostles carefully adhered to what they learned from Jesus and instructed their disciples to diligently continue it. Apostles advised fasting on Wednesday and Friday, Didache 7: 4. Two days fasting before Easter was common in the early Church, says Justin Martyr, Irenius, Hypolitus, Thertulian, etc. Dionesius of Alexandria advised fast for six days prior to Easter. Athanasius Great called it �Holy fast.� �Take bread, salt and water only during these days. Do not eat or drink on Friday and Saturday,� says Didescalia. Monday, Judas agreed to betray Jesus. Tuesday, Lord instituted Last Supper and Jews arrested Him. Wednesday, they imprisoned Him at the residence of Caiaphas. Thursday, Lord stood before Pilate to receive judgment. Friday, they crucified our Lord. Saturday, Lord was in the tomb and preached Gospel in hell. Sunday He rose from dead and strengthened disciples. Sunday is also called, �Eighth day or Day of eternity.�
The Nicene Synod stipulated Lents as (1) 3 day lent to recall repentance of Nineveh people, (2) 12 day lent to remember 12 apostles, (3) 15 day lent to honor �assumption of St Mary,� (4) 25 day lent before Christmas and (5) 50 day lent before Kyamtho. Church prohibits fasting on Saturdays and Sundays of the great lent. Saturday is preparatory to good news of resurrection and Sunday brings Hope and salvation. Lent aims at spiritual development and readiness through humility, moral discipline, repentance, mercy acts and controls over self and flesh. Lent not only brings awareness of sin but also complete abnegation of sin. In Orthodox tradition sickness is a state of sin. As patient earnestly goes to physician, faithful approaches Jesus, the divine physician. (Karunakadale njaan nokum�) Holy Church begins the Great lent with Subukono service. This service is a call to repentance, mutual love, forgiveness and reconciling one another because if not, no benefit ever received and the whole concept of lent becomes idle talk. (Hubo dadke men akso men heriyone m�leele bavosan Moreo � Malayalam, Vairam malsaramiva vediyum snehathalul thaliru niraikaname � Nadha �)
Why should we have to fast, shun certain foods or abstinence? Man gives priority to matters of stomach and of flesh and chooses evil ways to accomplish them. Satan played this trick on Eve and he won. �Adam ate the forbidden fruit and that food pushed Adam into shame and he was sent out of paradise. Our Savior defeated temptation for food by His holy fast,� Lilio prayer. �Body and spirit together should fast. When the body renounces food mind should renounce evil thoughts. Renouncing food alone is hypocrisy,� evening prayer. Satan is in perilous war with God through the medium of humanity. Consequently, humanity has warfare between good and evil, hope and despair, morality and immorality, etc. We have no other weapon but lent to defeat Satan. Fitness programs and credit cards were the two businesses that flourished during economic recession in ninety�s. This shows that most people are foolish in money management and conscious about health and physical fitness and yet, mostly they are unmindful of need of spiritual health. Many are habitually dieting to maintain good figure/health. They forgo certain food items, cut down on others and undergo vigorous workout programs. These are not fasting. Poor people starve for want of sufficient food. Avoiding food because of poverty is not fasting.
My parents fasted until noon during lent. But this practice is not viable in these days. Working people, especially labor oriented, expend high energy, which needs replenishment. Shift rotation workers would find extremely difficult for fasting on regular basis. And yet conscious effort to fast cannot be overstated. The church envisages; one should willfully and deliberately impose starvation of self when he/she has food in plenty. They ought to discern higher goal of fasting. Visiting sick, praying, meditating and almsgiving are part of fasting. The higher goal is to bring under control lust of the flesh and elevate soul to realm of God�s presence, growing in the spirit and sharing bounties with the less fortunate. Prophet Isaiah corrects the misguided notion of people and explains the right attitude of fasting. �Loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens and to let the oppressed go free and that you break every yoke. Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked you cover him; you hide not yourself from your own flesh,� 58: 6-7. �Call the poor and feed him if you fast. Not that he comes to you but that you go to him with food. For, the land does not go to the farmer but the farmer goes to the land with seeds. One has to feed poor from hunger, if not, such fasting is useless.� Regular eating stores more fat in the body. Fasting is good for health, for it burns excess fat. Kumbideel, Kneeling down, is good aerobics to reduce potbelly, to improve muscular, circulatory, nerve and joint systems and to enhance mental health.
Some thoughts from venerable Church fathers: �O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again; but our imitation was in a figure, and our salvation in reality. Christ was actually crucified, and actually buried, and truly rose again. And all these things He has freely bestowed upon us, that we, sharing His sufferings by imitation, might gain salvation in reality. O surpassing loving-kindness! Christ received nails in His undefiled hands and feet, and suffered anguish; while on me without pain or toil by the fellowship of His suffering He freely bestows salvation!� St. Cyril of Jerusalem. �And in addition to the words of the physicians, it is right for us, like wise men, to understand from experience, that the cause of all wickedness, and of the pains and sicknesses of the body, arises from superfluity of food. And if thou wishes, consider carefully the rich, and the poor, and those who lead a quiet life, and those who are vexed, and those who are weighted with care, and those who labor, and see which of these preserves his body in a healthy condition, and which of them has many and frequent sicknesses; and in proportion to their frequency is the difficulty of healing them. Is it not the rich? Is it not those who have rent their bellies by overeating?� St Philoxenos of Mabbug. I exhort all believers to observe Lent for it is profitable to soul. Fasting with purity of thought helps renew our walk with Lord!
- Dear All,
we were reading several messages on discussing the
catholicate and patriarchate and i am sure that those
arguments will never converge and touch to any
conclusions as they are kept parallel today. the
re-establishment of the catholicate of the 3rd century
was done in malankara in 1912 for which there were
objections within the church. however it was made
right in 1964. still the confusion prevails.
in one of my old postings i just mentioned about the
establishment of a bishopate in Parumala seminary
which is the spiritual power for all our church
leaders, parishes all over the world and an undisputed
pilgrimage for all irrespective of cast, creed and
St.Greegorios of Parumala himself went to Jeruselam
and accepted the title of Jerusalem Patriarch in
silence. However; never agreed to the request of HH
Moran Peter III the Patriarch of Antioch to shift the
saint's stay to Jerusalem. saint's staying back at
Parumala resulted in the 2nd Jerusalem for us.
it is a common sight in Parumala that a bishop is
alway is visiting the sacred shrine.
as suggested in my earlier postings can we position a
bishop in that vacant seminary and re -establish the
title 'Jerusalem Patriarch' under the St Thomas
this would fulfil the desire of the saint to activate
the seminary as the spiritual centre for the church.
this should be the only place where no Christian shall
be denied of any sacraments because of the trivial
Dr.GeorgeK John, Sharjah.