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Patriarchal Encyclical on the 'Year of the Holy Bible'

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  • Thomas Daniel
    ... Moolayil wrote: PATRIARCHAL ENCYCLICAL In The Name Of The Self-Existent Eternal, Omnipotent and Almighty God Ignatius Zakka I Iwas Patriarch Of The
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 16, 2004
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      --- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Very Rev. Kuriakose Corepiscopa
      Moolayil wrote:
      PATRIARCHAL ENCYCLICAL

      In The Name Of The Self-Existent Eternal,
      Omnipotent and Almighty God

      Ignatius Zakka I Iwas Patriarch Of The Apostolic See
      Of Antioch And All The East. Supreme Head Of The
      Universal Syriac Orthodox Church

      May the divine providence protect you through the
      intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Peter the chief
      of the apostles and all the Saints and Martyrs. Amen.

      The Holy Bible

      Dearly Beloved,

      The holy Synod of our Antiochian Syriac Orthodox
      Church, that we presided over on September 9-12, 2003,
      had decided to designate the present year of 2004 as
      the Year of the Bible in response to the request of
      the Holy Bible Societies worldwide.

      The purpose is to urge the believers to continue in
      their faith that the Bible, today available to us in
      its original languages, is true since it was written
      by the Prophets and Apostles, and handed down to our
      Holy Fathers who, in turn, delivered it unto us, whole
      and accurate, without addition or subtraction.

      Furthermore, all Christians, according to all their
      different nationalities, languages and cultures, have
      agreed that the Holy Bible was inspired by God, and
      that it is: the Word of the Living God! In this
      regard, St. Paul, says: "All Scripture is given by
      inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
      for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
      righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
      thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy
      3:16 & 17). These words "given by the inspiration
      of God" mean that the Almighty had specially
      inspired the minds of the true Prophets and holy
      Apostles of the Lord Jesus. He dictated unto them
      His divine commandments and doctrines of faith in
      which they ought to believe, and they in turn
      delivered His divine will unto humankind. Moreover,
      God commanded them to record those truths that were
      inspired by Him in a book to be the beacon of light
      to their generation and all generations to come
      forever and ever.

      Clearly, Christian Churches everywhere have
      undoubtedly affirmed that the focus of the Holy Bible
      is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.

      Surely, the ultimate purpose for writing this divine
      inspiration was to inform the world of the tenets of
      faith which we ought to believe in; the divine
      commandments which we should uphold; and the noble
      Christian virtues with which we ought to be adorned
      to obtain salvation through the faith in the Lord
      Jesus, the Savior of the world. The Apostle John,
      toward the end of his Gospel, explains this, saying:
      "But these are written that you may believe that
      Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that
      believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31).

      Certainly, the Holy Bible holds a high position in
      our holy Syriac Church, because it is the words of
      the Living God and the first and foremost source of
      our articles of faith and heavenly laws. The Holy
      Bible testifies to this in various places, such as
      in the book of Jeremiah (30:2):"Thus speaks the Lord
      God of Israel, saying: Write in a book for yourself
      all the words that I have spoken to you". Also
      St. Paul declares (Galatians 1:11 & 12): "But I make
      known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was
      preached by me is not according to man. For I neither
      received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it
      came through the revelation of Jesus Christ". Moreover,
      the Apostle Peter adds: "For prophecy never came by
      the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they
      were moved by the Holy Spirit"(2 Peter 1:21). By
      these, St. Peter explains that the Almighty God had
      chosen righteous people and inspired them to deliver
      His message to humanity that they might learn about
      His divine nature and heavenly statutes. Through
      them, God even revealed His divine promise to send
      His Only-begotten Son to save the world. Thus, they
      declared it and recorded their accurate prophecies
      all through the Holy Scriptures which, word by word,
      came to be fulfilled in the person of our Lord Jesus
      throughout the period of His dispensation in the
      flesh. Concerning this, St. Paul tells us: "God,
      Who at various times and in various ways spoke in
      time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in
      these last days spoken to us by His Son, Whom He
      has appointed heir of all things, through Whom also
      He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His
      glory and the express image of His person, and
      upholding all things by the word of His power, when
      He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the
      right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:1-3).

      Thus, the Holy Bible, the sure source of the tenets
      of beliefs for the noble Christian faith, is the
      absolute authority concerning matters of the faith.
      And hence, all believers ought to follow its divine
      teachings and abide by it entirely in matters of
      faith and good deeds, that is, to uphold all principles
      of faith and virtuous conduct.

      Our fathers had based all their teachings upon the
      divine inspiration recorded in the books of the Holy
      Bible. They dived into the depths of the Holy Scriptures
      and plucked out the precious and valuable pearls that
      established our true tenets of the faith. They did
      indeed apply the holy verses into their innumerable
      spiritual writings. As an example, it has been said:
      "supposedly, if all the Syriac Bibles in the world
      were to vanish, we could re-assemble the Holy Bible
      from the quotations that St. Ephraim had used in his
      writings in the fourth century".

      Indeed, church history testifies that our fathers
      were the leaders in the study of and commentary on
      the Holy Bible. They translated it into other tongues,
      and our monasteries and churches were overfilled with
      its copies that our monks, priests and others had
      written in the holy Syriac tongue. Thus, you will
      find the most important and ancient copies in museums
      worldwide written in this language. Moreover, it is
      notable to know that our fathers had also carried the
      torchlight of the Holy Bible into many regions of the
      world. They even appointed specific Holy Scripture
      readings for Sundays and holidays to be read at the
      start of the Holy Eucharist service. They even composed
      specific prayers to be recited prior to the reading of
      the gospel, during their private, public and liturgical
      meditations. By these prayers they implored the Lord
      to enlighten their minds to understand the words of
      eternal life.

      This venerated position which the Holy Bible had
      attained in our holy Church, is witnessed, according
      to our Syriac rite, by the placement of the Holy Bible
      on a wooden podium at the center of the holy sanctuary's
      entrance in every church. The face of the Holy Bible is
      usually covered with a silver or golden plate upon which
      icons of the four Evangelists and the Holy Cross are
      engraved; it is set to be kissed in order to obtain
      blessings by the believers at the start and conclusion
      of prayer services. Thus they venerate God's word, the
      Holy Bible, and hence receive by it the blessings of
      Christ Jesus, God's Word Who was from the beginning,
      as stated by the Apostle John in his Gospel: "And the
      Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld
      His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the
      Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). The
      Church has also composed special chants through which
      they invite the believers to: stand in attention and
      to reverently listen, in wisdom, and hear the words
      of the gospel of salvation, as the incense fills the
      air. And, according to our Syriac tradition, whoever
      celebrates the Holy Liturgy is to read the Holy
      Gospel; be it a patriarch, bishop or priest.

      Therefore, our Holy Church does indeed urge all
      clergy and believers to study the Holy Bible; to
      read it in public and in private. Let us learn
      from the first Psalm (v.2) in which David promises
      blessings to the righteous man who's "delight is
      in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates
      day and night". Similarly, David praises God,
      saying: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light
      to my path. I have sworn and confirmed that I will
      keep Your righteous judgments" (Psalm 119:105 & 106).
      Undoubtedly then, the righteous are diligent in
      studying the Holy Bible. They also apply God's
      precepts in their minds, words and deeds. According
      to St. Paul's instruction: "Only let your conduct
      be worthy of the gospel of Christ." (Philippians 1:27).

      The advent of Holy Lent, beloved, gives us a golden
      opportunity to come closer to our Lord Jesus through
      a strong faith and good deeds; emulating His life
      in the flesh; bearing His Holy Cross and following
      Him. Let us learn from Him fasting and prayer, for
      He fasted forty days and forty nights for our sake;
      He let Satan tempt Him; and He quoted the Holy
      Scripture to confound the cursed devil, thus showing
      us the secret for defeating the Devil, saying: "However,
      this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting"
      (Matthew 17:21).

      Hence, my beloved, persevere in prayer and uphold the
      requirement of fasting; be generous with the needy,
      especially during these holy days which the Church
      designated as Holy Lent.

      Mother Church instructs us to gather around the Holy
      Scriptures and meditate upon them notably in the
      serenity of the night. Since by prayers we commune
      with Almighty God and offer Him thanksgiving for
      all His spiritual and worldly gifts, thus we must
      also join with the angels in praising and worshipping
      Him. In addition, we have to keenly listen in faith,
      hope and love for His holy words which the Prophets,
      Apostles and Holy Fathers have recorded in the
      Holy Scriptures. For: "God, Who at various times
      and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers
      by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to
      us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1), Who is His divine Word,
      about Whom John the divine spoke, saying: "In the
      beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
      and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and
      dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory
      as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace
      and truth" (John 1:1 & 14). That is why we ought to
      believe in Him and obey Him. Because the heavenly
      Father testified about Him by the voice that came
      from heaven during the transfiguration of the Lord
      Jesus on the mountain, declaring: "This is My
      beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased, hear
      Him"(Matthew 17:5).

      May we therefore listen to the Lord Jesus, the
      Only-begotten Son of God, Who commands us to fast
      and pray, and to have mercy on the poor and needy
      brothers that we may be worthy to inherit with
      Him His heavenly kingdom.

      Dearly beloved, may God bless you, and enable you
      to renew your spiritual relationship with Him,
      that you may endeavor to listen to His divine
      call; that you might understand His heavenly will
      through the study of the Holy Bible by which God
      speaks to us, leads us and enlightens our paths.
      For He is the Light to our steps, which we may
      uphold faithfully, that we may not stumble on
      our ways.

      May God accept your fast and prayers, and make
      you worthy to celebrate His Holy Resurrection
      from the dead in holiness, purity and joy. May
      His grace abide with you.

      Our Father Who art in heaven.

      Issued at our Patriarchal Headquarters in Damascus,
      Syria, on the 30th day of January in the year of
      our Lord of 2004, which is the 24th year of our
      Patriarchal reign.

      Ps:
      His Holiness our Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I
      Iwas issued the above encyclical this year
      declaring the year 2004 as 'the year of the Bible'.
      With reverence and awe let us read this encyclical
      and benefit by reading the bible completely in
      this year. The stress of the bible in the Syriac
      tradition is stressed by His Holiness. I request
      all my co believers to read the Malayalam
      translation of the Syriac Bible by
      V.Rev.Dr.Kurian Corepiscopa Kanianparampil.

      Lovingly,Moolelachen
      Kuriakose Corepiscopa Moolayil,
      Publication officer
      Syrian Orthodox Bible Society of India.
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