Archive for April, 2009

What’s IT? How’s IT?

Apr 20th, 2009 Posted in Personal | Comments Off on What’s IT? How’s IT?

Last Saturday (18th April), I made a talk on Information Technology to a group of students at Kottayam. It was part of the week-long Education Orientation Camp conducted by Mar Gregorious Orthodox Christian Students Movement (MGOCSM), the students wing of Indian Orthodox Church. The presentation is available in Slideshare. Objective of the session was to familiarize the students to the world of IT career and motivate them.

[slideshare 1316018 itmgocsm-090420093602-phpapp01]

Personally, it was a home-coming for me. I was a also a participant in the same camp, way back in 1992. Actually, that camp helped me in shaping my character, vision and future.

Easter

Apr 11th, 2009 Posted in General, Religion | Comments Off on Easter

The Resurrection of Christ after his death on the cross is celebrated on the Easter day. Easter is the most important and fundamental of the Christian liturgical feasts. According to the scripture, Christ resurrected on the first day of the week. Hence Sunday became the worship day for the Christians. Orthodox Churches pay extreme importance to the Resurrection of Jesus. In Syriac tradition, this day is known as Qyomto. Resurrection is of far more importance than the death of Christ on the cross. That is the reason why the Church chose Sunday as the day of worship instead of Friday (the day on which Christ was crucified). Unlike Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Churches doesn’t use crucifixes, to reaffirm the fact that the Church believes in a Christ who not only died on the cross, but resurrected to life also on the third day. The resurrection of Christ is the fundamental building block of Christian faith. As St Paul puts it “if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinth. 15:14). So the Holy Fathers included this as a creed in the liturgy of Easter. On the Easter day, after conducting the Order of Resurrection, the celebrant holds the cross high and says in a loud voice, “My brethren, I bring you new glad news; Christ has risen from the tomb and has struck His enemies behind Him.” The congregation responds saying: “We believe and confess that He was indeed risen.”

Easter Date

Though we celebrate Easter with great enthusiasm, seldom we give a thought to the fact that why Easter date changes every year and how this date is calculated. Easter is a movable feast in the liturgical calendar. In the early days of Christianity there was no written record for the date of resurrection of Christ. Jesus’ followers had failed to record the exact date of their Lord’s resurrection. Many of those first believers expected Jesus to return soon, a hope that rendered such anniversaries unimportant for them. When the religion started to grow, it became a priority to fix the date of religious festivals. This was one of the major issues considered by the first ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 AD. There was a great difference of opinion regarding Easter date, between the Eastern and Western Churches. Easterners followed the lunar calendar and Westerners the solar Julian calendar. The Council decreed that Easter should fall on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the vernal equinox. (The vernal equinox-March 21- is one of the two times in the year when the sun crosses the celestial equator and the length of day and night are approximately equal. It is the beginning day of spring season in the northern hemisphere) . We can see this as a compromise as this method incorporates both the sun (the equinox) and the moon (full moon). So Easter date is not fixed because it depends on the full moon. Easter can fall on any date from March 22 to April 25.

Even today all churches are not celebrating Easter on the same day. This is because some churches (e.g. Greek Orthodox Churches) follow Julian calendar for fixing liturgical feasts and others the Gregorian calendar. (Gregorian calendar-the usual calendar we follow today- came into existence on 4th October 1582 following a papal decree issued by Pope Gregory XIII. Indian Orthodox Church accepted the use of Gregorian calendar in 1956).

Message of Easter

Easter day specifically brings great joy of resurrection through its unique message. What is the message of Easter?

  1. Christ has risen from the tomb and has struck His enemies behind Him. Who are these enemies? They are Satan, Sin and Death. Humanity has always been under the threat of these three monsters for ages. Through His death on the cross and resurrection, Christ has proved that these enemies can be conquered and humanity is no longer under their rule. He gave us great hope that there is a way for redemption from sins. He freed us from the fear of death and Satan and showed us that there is indeed a resurrection. According to the Church Fathers, the portrayal of the mighty hero in Isaiah 63:1-6 is a prophesy about the resurrected Christ (Who is this that comes from Edom with crimson garments?…). This is the reason why on Easter day, the cross is decorated with a red scarf. (Bishops in our Church uses red robes as they represent the resurrected Christ in the Church)
  2. Go to my brethren, and say unto them (John 20:17). During the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples “You call me teacher and Lord and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13). In another occasion, He said “I no longer call you servants…, instead I have called you friends”(John 15:15). But after His resurrection, Jesus refers to His disciples as brethren. This indicates the step-by-step evolution in the relation between man and God and ascent of his status. Jesus made us the children of the Heavenly Father through His death and resurrection and thus His brothers. In the Holy Qurbana, the Lord’s Prayer is included after the Order of Intinction (Order of Intinction is the commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross) and not as a sequel to the Trisagion as it usually is. This is to indicate that we got the right to address the God as ‘Heavenly Father’, after the death and resurrection of Christ.

Easter is the celebration of this joy of becoming the children of God and the brethren of Christ. Procession is an important part of the Easter liturgy (in fact, for all the feasts) of Orthodox Churches. This is to indicate that the joy of resurrection (or any feast) should not be limited to the church members, but for the entire world. In some Orthodox Churches, these processions are not limited to the church premises, but extend out to the city center.

In fact, every Sunday is a continuation of the Easter day and the Church celebrates the Resurrection and participates in it through the Holy Qurbana. For a Christian, Easter is not only the resurrection of Jesus which occurred at a particular point in history, but it should be the resurrection of all the virtues and humane values that are buried in our hearts. It should be the resurrection of suppressed humanity. Only then the celebrations of Easter becomes meaningful.

My own article reproduced from http://niranamchurch.com/Articles.htm

Remembering a Nice Human Being

Apr 10th, 2009 Posted in Personal, Religion | one comment »

Yet another Good Friday. Time to remember a great human being and his sacrifice for mankind. This year, I devote this day to ponder the fond memories of another great man-a true desciple of Jesus. Saji Achan (Fr Philip Thomas), who passed away on 26th December 2008 was the rarest of his breed. These are the days where people lose faith in their leaders-spiritual or political-for a variety of reasons. In the Church, we can see many times people complaining about their priests. That was never true about Saji Achan. Everyone loved him. The parishes where he served, wished he would never get a transfer. While, others wished he could get a transfer to their parish. For us-Niranamites- he was our personal pride. Me and my friends carried more pride to that as Saji Achan was our MGOCSM unit’s secretary during his student days.

He had a very sweet voice. Those who participated in the prayers with him could enjoy the heavenly bliss. Late Fr George Mattackal, Vicar of Niranam Church was very particular during the holy services, that being a senior priest, he rarely allowed other priests to lead the prayers. But if Saji Achan was present, Mattackal Achan used to affectionately allow Saji Achan to lead the songs.

Some people, we respect and some others, we love. Saji Achan was a person whom people loved and respected. In physique, the elegant smile and a few white hairs among the black beard were his trademarks. When we meet, I used to ask him in lighter vain, whether he had made those white hairs cosmetically. His smile used to burst out into a small laughter.

My wife Asha originally belonged to the Catholic faith. Last year, before the Good Friday, I decided to take her to any small parish for the day where the crowd is less so that she could concentrate the great liturgy and enjoy it. Natural choice was Saji Achan’s parish. I always preferred to attend the Good Friday services where he served. As always, this time also it was a great experience to attend the service lead by him. We submerged ourselves in the memory of Jesus’ sufferings. When we met after the service, he was surprised to see us there. I told him we were there because he was there. His family was also present. He asked me whether I could take them back home, so that he can stay at church for the evening prayers. I happily agreed. That time I never knew that, we won’t be able to attend next year’s service lead by him. This Good Friday, he’s physically not with us here.

Let me quote a few lines by P B Shelley on the death of John Keats:

He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
From the contagion of the world`s slow stain
He is secure, and now can never mourn
He lives, he wakes – `tis Death is dead, not he;

Download mp3 from Youtube Videos

Apr 6th, 2009 Posted in Jack's Tools | 10 comments »

Earlier I have blogged about tools for downloading YouTube videos. Now I came across 2 sites which helps to download only the audio from YouTube videos. This is helpful if you want to get the songs as mp3, and don’t want to download the videos. try the sites http://listentoyoutube.com/ and http://www.getaudiofromvideo.com/