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വംശാവലിയിലെ വൈരുധ്യങ്ങള്‍

Mar 14th, 2016 Posted in General, Religion | 370 comments »

യേശുക്രിസ്തുവിന്റെ വംശാവലി പുതിയ നിയമത്തില്‍ രണ്ട് സുവിശേഷങ്ങളില്‍ കാണപ്പെടുന്നുണ്ടല്ലോ- വി.മത്തായിയുടെ സുവിശേഷത്തിലും വി.ലൂക്കോസിന്റെ സുവിശേഷത്തിലും. എങ്കിലും ഈ രണ്ട് വംശാവലികളിലും പല വ്യത്യാസങ്ങളും പ്രകടമാണ്. സുവിശേഷങ്ങളില്‍ ചേര്‍ത്തിരിക്കുന്ന വിവരങ്ങള്‍ തെറ്റാണ് എന്നാണോ ഇതിനര്‍ത്ഥം? ഇങ്ങിനെ പ്രകടമായ വൈരുധ്യങ്ങള്‍ വേദപുസ്തകത്തില്‍ കാണുമ്പോള്‍ നാം ഇതാണ് വിശ്വസിക്കേണ്ടത്? ഈ വൈരുധ്യങ്ങള്‍ എങ്ങിനെ ഉണ്ടായി? ഈ ചോദ്യങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് ഉത്തരം കണ്ടെത്താന്‍ ശ്രമിക്കുകയാണ് ഈ ലേഖനത്തില്‍.

യഹൂദ പാരമ്പര്യത്തില്‍ വംശാവലിക്ക് വലിയ പ്രാധാന്യമുണ്ട്. ഏതൊരു പുരുഷനും തന്‍റെ വംശശുദ്ധി തെളിയിക്കാനായി വംശാവലി സൂക്ഷിക്കേണ്ടത് ആവശ്യമാണ്‌. ബാബേല്‍ പ്രവാസത്തിനു ശേഷം ഇസ്രയേല്യര്‍ മടങ്ങി വന്നപ്പോള്‍ പുരോഹിതന്മാരായിരുന്ന ഹബയ്യാവിന്റെ മക്കള്‍, ബര്‍സില്ലായിയുടെ മക്കള്‍ എന്നിവരുടെ വംശാവലി രേഖകള്‍ കണ്ടുകിട്ടാഞ്ഞതിനാല്‍ അവരെ വംശശുദ്ധിയില്ലാതവരെന്നു എണ്ണി പൌരോഹിത്യത്തില്‍നിന്നു നീക്കി കളഞ്ഞതായി പഴയ നിയമത്തില്‍ നാം വായിക്കുന്നു (എസ്രാ 2:61,62). പുറജാതിയില്‍ നിന്നും യഹൂദമതത്തിലേക്ക് പരിവര്‍ത്തനം ചെയ്ത ആളായിരുന്നു ഹെരോദാ രാജാവിന്റെ പിതാവായ അന്തിപേറ്റര്‍. തന്‍റെ വംശശുദ്ധിയില്ലായ്മ ആരും അന്വേഷിച്ച് അറിയാതിരിക്കാനായി വംശാവലി സംബന്ധിച്ച ഔദ്യോഗിക രേഖകളെല്ലാം ഹെരോദാവ് നശിപ്പിച്ചു കളഞ്ഞതായി കൈസര്യയിലെ യൌസേബിയോസിന്റെ “തിരുസഭാചരിത്ര”ത്തില്‍ രേഖപ്പെടുത്തിയിട്ടുണ്ട്.

രണ്ട് സുവിശേഷങ്ങളിലെയും വംശാവലികള്‍ തമ്മിലുള്ള പ്രധാന വ്യത്യാസങ്ങള്‍ ഇവയാണ്:

1. വി.മത്തായിയില്‍ അബ്രഹാം മുതലുള്ള വംശാവലിയും വി.ലൂക്കൊസില്‍ ആദാം മുതലുള്ളതും.

2. ദാവീദിന് ശേഷമുള്ള വംശാവലി രണ്ട് സുവിശേഷങ്ങളിലും വ്യത്യസ്തം

3. യേശുവിന്‍റെ നിയമാനുസൃത പിതാവായ യോസേഫിന്റെ പിതൃസ്ഥാനത്തു വ്യത്യസ്ത ആള്‍ക്കാരെയാണ് രണ്ട് സുവിശേഷങ്ങളിലും കാണുന്നത്.

ഈ വ്യത്യാസങ്ങള്‍ക്കുള്ള കാരണങ്ങള്‍ നമുക്ക് പരിശോധിക്കാം.

അബ്രഹാമിന്റെ പുത്രനായ ദാവീദിന്റെ പുത്രനായ യേശുക്രിസ്തുവിന്റെ വംശാവലി എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞുകൊണ്ടാണ് വി.മത്തായി തന്‍റെ സുവിശേഷം ആരംഭിക്കുന്നത്. അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്‍റെ സുവിശേഷ രചനയുടെ ഉദ്ദേശ്യം തന്നെ യഹൂദന്മാരുടെ മാത്രം രക്ഷകനായി യേശുവിനെ അവതരിപ്പിക്കുക എന്നതാണ്. അതിനാല്‍, അബ്രഹാമിന്‍റെ പരമ്പരയിലെ രാജാവായ ദാവീദിന്‍റെ ഗോത്രത്തില്‍ പിറന്ന യഹൂദനായി യേശുവിനെ അവതരിപ്പിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നു. എന്നാല്‍ വി.ലൂക്കോസിന്റെ ഉദ്ദേശ്യം സര്‍വ്വ ജനതയുടെയും രക്ഷകനാണ് യേശു എന്ന് സ്ഥാപിക്കലാണ്. അതിനാല്‍ അദ്ദേഹം ആദാം മുതലുള്ള വംശാവലി നല്‍കുന്നു.

എബ്രഹാം മുതല്‍ ദാവീദ് വരെയുള്ള വംശാവലി രണ്ട് സുവിശേഷങ്ങളിലും ഒരുപോലെയാണ്. തുടര്‍ന്ന്, ദാവീദിന്‍റെ മകനായ ശലോമോന്റെ വംശാവലിയാണ് വി.മത്തായി നല്‍കുന്നത്. എന്നാല്‍ ലൂക്കോസ് രേഖപ്പെടുത്തുന്നത് ദാവീദിന്‍റെ മറ്റൊരു മകനായ നാഥാന്റെ വംശാവലിയാണ്.

വി.മത്തായിയുടെ സുവിശേഷ പ്രകാരം യേശുവിന്‍റെ നിയമാനുസൃത പിതാവായ യോസേഫിന്റെ പിതാവ് മഥാന്റെ മകനായ യാക്കോബ് ആണ്. എന്നാല്‍ ലൂക്കോസിന്റെ സുവിശേഷ പ്രകാരം യോസേഫിന്റെ പിതാവ് മഥാത്തിന്റെ മകനായ ഹേലി ആണ്. ഈ വ്യത്യാസം എങ്ങിനെ ഉണ്ടായി? ഇത് സംബന്ധിച്ച് ആഫ്രിക്കാനൂസിന്റെ “അപ്പോളോജി” എന്ന കൃതിയിലെ വിവരണം കൈസര്യയിലെ യൌസേബിയോസിന്റെ “തിരുസഭാചരിത്ര”ത്തില്‍ രേഖപ്പെടുത്തിയിട്ടുണ്ട് (ഒന്നാം ഭാഗം ഏഴാം അദ്ധ്യായം).

ഇസ്രയേലില്‍ ഒരുവന്‍ സന്തതി ഇല്ലാതെ മരിച്ചാല്‍ അവന്‍റെ സഹോദരന്‍ പരേതന്റെ ഭാര്യയെ പരിഗ്രഹിച്ചു സന്തതിയെ ജനിപ്പിക്കേണം എന്ന് മോശയുടെ നിയമത്തില്‍ അനുശാസിക്കുന്നുണ്ട് (ആവര്‍ത്തന പുസ്തകം 25:5).ഇങ്ങിനെ ജനിക്കുന്നവര്‍ മരിച്ചുപോയ വ്യക്തിയുടെ സന്തതി ആയിട്ടാണ് അറിയപ്പെടുന്നത്. ഹേലിയും യാക്കോബും ഇപ്രകാരം ദേവര വിവാഹത്തിലൂടെ ജനിച്ച സഹോദരങ്ങളായിരുന്നു. ഹേലി സന്തതി ഇല്ലാതെ മരിച്ചപ്പോള്‍, യാക്കോബ് ഹേലിയുടെ ഭാര്യയെ പരിഗ്രഹിച്ചു യോസഫിനെ ജനിപ്പിച്ചു. അങ്ങിനെ യോസേഫ് യഥാര്‍ത്ഥത്തില്‍ ജനിച്ചത്‌ യാക്കോബില്‍ നിന്നാണെങ്കിലും, നിയമാനുസൃതം ഹേലിയുടെ പുത്രനാണ്. അതിനാല്‍ യോസേഫിന്റെ പിതൃ സ്ഥാനത്ത് രണ്ട് സുവിശേഷങ്ങളിലും രണ്ടു പേരെ കാണുന്നതില്‍ അസ്വാഭാവികത ഒന്നുമില്ല- ഒരാള്‍ നിയമാനുസൃത പിതാവ്, മറ്റെയാള്‍ യഥാര്‍ത്ഥ ജനകന്‍. പ്രത്യേകം ശ്രദ്ധിക്കേണ്ട വസ്തുത, വി.മത്തായി എഴുതുന്നത്‌ “യാക്കോബ് യോസേഫിനെ ജനിപ്പിച്ചു” എന്നും, വി.ലൂക്കോസ് എഴുതുന്നത് “ഹേലിയുടെ മകനായ യോസേഫിന്റെ മകനായി അവന്‍ കരുതപ്പെട്ടു” എന്നുമാണ്. “ജനിപ്പിച്ചു” എന്ന പദം വി.ലൂക്കോസ് ഉപയോഗിച്ചിട്ടില്ല. (യേശുവിന്‍റെ ജനനത്തെക്കുറിച്ച് പരാമര്‍ശിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ വി.മത്തായിയും “യോസേഫ് യേശുവിനെ ജനിപ്പിച്ചു” എന്ന് എഴുതുന്നില്ല, മറിച്ച് “മറിയയില്‍ നിന്നും ക്രിസ്തു എന്ന് പേരുള്ള യേശു ജനിച്ചു” എന്നാണ് (മത്തായി 1:16). യേശുവിന്‍റെ കന്യകാ ജനനം ഉറപ്പിക്കാനും യോസേഫിന് അതില്‍ ജീവശാസ്ത്രപരമായ പങ്കില്ലെന്ന് കാണിക്കാനുമാകണം ഇങ്ങിനെ പ്രയോഗിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നത്)

പ്രത്യക്ഷത്തില്‍ വൈരുധ്യങ്ങള്‍ ഉണ്ടെങ്കിലും, സുവിശേഷങ്ങളുടെ കാതലായ സത്യത്തെ ഹനിക്കുന്ന ഒന്നുംതന്നെ വംശാവലികളില്‍ ഇല്ലെന്നു ഇതില്‍നിന്നും വ്യക്തമാണല്ലോ.

Old Testament in a Nutshell

Jan 22nd, 2012 Posted in General, Religion | 9 comments »

Bible is perhaps the most read book in the world; and ironically Old Testament (OT) is the least read portion of the Bible. Most of the times people just ignore Old Testament thinking that

  • it’s too complex and confusing to understand
  • Old Testament is irrelevant as it’s “old”

 

Once I had a chance to look at the OT holistically and understood (of course, only partially) the context of each book in it. That helped me to counter the first point above. So I thought of just sharing my learnings with you. This may not be of any interest to a religious reader of the Bible. My target audience is the bible students. My point is  that, understanding the context of each book and the period of history associated with that will give us a better understanding of the OT. The Old Testament is in fact the story of Israel. Let me try to explain that story in a nutshell.

 

History of Israel

 

Abraham is the fist major character we see in the OT. Son of Terah, he is the eleventh in descent from Noah. Christians believe that Jesus was a descendant of Abraham through Isaac, and Muslims believe that Muhammad was also descendant of Abraham through Ishmael. He lived around 2000 BC. He had two brothers- Nahor and Haran. Haran died in his early age, leaving behind his son Lot.  Terah, Abraham, his wife Sarah and Lot set for Canan (present day Israel) from Ur (present day Iraq).

 

On the way they had a temporary halt at Haran (present day Turkey) where Terah passed away. Abraham and family reached Canan when he was 75 years old. When there was a great famine, he moved to Egypt. Later he returned to the land of Canan and settled there with great wealth and livestock brought from Egypt.

After some time, workers of Abraham and Lot engaged in some quarrel over the pastures, and this lead Abraham to decide on the division of properties between him and Lot. Lot opted for the land of Sodom and Abraham remained in Canan. Ismael was born to Abraham at the age of 80, in the maid Hagar. When Abraham was 99, God made a covenant with him assuring that the land he dwells would be a perpetual inheritance to his descendants. God appointed the practice of circumcision to Abraham and all his male descendants as a seal of the covenant.

 

The town of Sodom (where Lot lived) was destructed by God because the people there were sinners (the English word Sodomy has its origins in Sodom). God allowed Lot and family to escape from there, but the defiant wife of Lot turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters flew to a mountain and stayed in a cave there.

 

Next year Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah. Isaac was married to Rebecca who is the daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor (Nahor was the brother of Abraham who stayed back in Ur when rest of the family travelled to Canan). They had 2 sons – Esau and Jacob. Jacob became the heir of Isaac as he deceived his brother Esau and gabbed his rights of the first-born. Esau (also known as Edom) became the father of Edomites. God renames Jacob as Israel. Jacob had 12 sons who became the founding fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. 11 of his sons conspired against their brother Joseph and sold him as a slave to Egypt. But Joseph became a powerful minister there second only to Pharaoh. When the land of Canan was hit by a great famine, the brothers of Joseph had to go to Egypt where they met with him and the family re-united. Joseph had all his family migrate to Egypt. This happened around 1700 BC. After Joseph’s lifetime, the new rulers were not in favour of the migrant Israelites, and forced them into slavery. This continued for 450 years till 1250 BC when God appointed Moses as the leader to his people. The great Exodus started in 1250 BC and by 1210 BC they entered into the land of Canan. After death of Moses, Joshua assumed the leadership of Israelites. Out of the people started from Egypt, only 2  were able to reach Canan- Joshua and Caleb; all others were born during the journey. They conquered Canaan by fighting with the natives and destroying them. Out of the 12 tribes, Reuben, Gad and half of the Manasseh requested Moses for the allotment of the trans-jordan area and was granted.

 

For the rest, Joshua did the allotment. When the land of Israel was apportioned among the tribes in the days of Joshua, the Tribe of Levi, being chosen as priests, did not receive land. However, the tribe of Levi were given 48 cities. Thus the Israelites started occupying the land of Canaan after a long gap started when Jacob and his sons migrated to Egypt.

 

United Kingdom of Israel

 

Following the conquest of Canaan by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel, the Israelite Tribes formed a loose confederation. No central government existed in this confederation and in times of crisis, the people were led by ad hoc leaders known as judges. These “judges” were more of military leaders than legal judges. Probably Samson is the one who is most famous among them. Samuel was the last of the judges and first of the major prophets who began prophesy inside the Land of Israel. He was thus at the cusp between two eras.

 

With mounting pressure from enemies, the tribes of Israel joined together to form the Kingdom of Israel around 1020 BC. Samuel anointed Saul as the first king. Gibeah was his capital.  After Saul’s death, his son Ish-bosheth assumed the throne, but the tribe of Judah seceded from the rule of the House of Saul by proclaiming David as its king. After two years of war, Ish-bosheth was killed by his own military captains. and David became the soul king. By 1000 BC, David was successful in creating a strong unified Israelite monarchy. Hebron was his capital initially. Later he established Jerusalem as the capital.

 

David succeeded in truly unifying the Israelite tribes, and set up a monarchical government. He embarked on successful military campaigns against Israel’s enemies, and defeated nearby regional entities such as the Philistines, thus creating secure borders for Israel. Under David, Israel grew into a regional power.David’s son Solomon is one of the most famous biblical characteres.Under King Solomon, the United Monarchy experienced a period of peace and prosperity, and cultural development. Much public building took place, including the First Temple in Jerusalem.

 

The Divided Israel

 

Following Solomon’s death, tensions between the northern part of Israel containing the ten northern tribes, and the southern section dominated by Jerusalem and the southern tribes reached boiling point. When Solomon’s successor Rehoboam (932 BC – 915 BC) dealt tactlessly with economic complaints of the northern tribes, in about 930 BC the united Kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms: the northern Kingdom of Israel, which included the cities of Shechem and Samaria, and the southern Kingdom of Judah, which contained Jerusalem; with most of the non-Israelite provinces achieving independence. Kingdom of Judah had Jerusalem as its capital. Tribes of Judah and Benjamin were part of this kingdom. Northern Kingdom of Israel had Samaria as its capital with 10 tribes.

 

The Kingdom of Israel (or Northern Kingdom) had 19 kings thereafter. They were Jeroboam I, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab (and Jezebel), Ahaziah, Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah and Hoshea. It existed as an independent state until 722 BC when it was conquered by the Assyrian Emperor Shalmaneser V. The people were deported to Assyria. It’s believed that the entire population of northern kingdom are deported and thereafter no information about them.

 

The Kingdom of Judah (or Southern Kingdom) had 20 kings. They were Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, (Queen) Athaliah, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah and Zedekiah.

 

 

 

Kingdom of Judah existed as an independent state until 586 BC when it was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar II, the Babylonian Emperor. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem and walls of the city. He moved most of the people of Jerusalem to Babylon, leaving behind only the poor. The official appointed by the Babylonians to rule the people remaining in Jerusalem was assassinated, as were other Babylonian representatives. In fear of retaliation, the remaining poor of Judah, including the prophet Jeremiah, fled to Egypt. The Babylonian captivity had a number of consequences on Judaism and Jewish culture, including changes to the Hebrew alphabet and calendar and changes in the fundamental practices and customs of the Jewish religion.

 

In 539 BC, Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon and Judah (or Yehud medinata, the “province of Yehud”) became an administrative division within the Persian empire. Cyrus allowed the Jews in exile to return to their land. A group returned under Zerubbabel and Joshua the Priest, and the construction of the Second Temple started. The new temple was consecrated in 516 BC.

 

Artaxerxes, king of Persia, sent Ezra to Jerusalem in 457 BC to teach the laws of God to any who did not know them. Ezra led a large body of exiles back to Jerusalem, where he discovered that Jewish men had been marrying non-Jewish women. He worked hard to enforce the Torah. Some years later Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah, a Jewish noble in his personal service, to Jerusalem as governor with the task of rebuilding the city walls. Once this task was completed, Nehemiah had Ezra read the Torah to the assembled Jews, and the people and priests entered into a covenant to keep the law and separate themselves from all other peoples. The narrations in the Old Testament concludes around this point.

 

Judah remained under Persian empire for two centuries in peace. The Persian era, and especially the period 538–400, laid the foundations of later Jewish and Christian religion and the beginnings of a scriptural canon. Other important landmarks include the replacement of Hebrew by Aramaic as the everyday language of Judah (although it continued to be used for religious and literary purposes).

 

After Old Testament

 

The intertestamental period is a term used to refer to a period of time between the writings of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament texts. Traditionally, it is considered to be a roughly four hundred year period, spanning the ministry of Malachi (c. 420 BC), the last of the Old Testament prophets, and the appearance of John the Baptist in the early 1st century AD

Around 333 BC, the Greeks, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, defeated Persian armies in Macedonia. This marks the fall of the Medo-Persian Empire and the rise of the Grecian Empire.

On the death of Alexander the Great (322) his generals divided the empire between them. Ptolemy I, the ruler of Egypt, seized Palestine, but his successors lost it to the Seleucids of Syria in 198 BC. At first, relations between the Seleucids and the Jews were cordial, but the attempt of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (174–163) to impose Hellenic culture sparked a national rebellion,

Antiochus’ activity led to the Maccabean revolt in 166 BC in which the priest Matthias and his sons defeated the Syrians in a series of battles, which secured the independence of the providence of Judea. This was the foundation of the Hasmonean dynasty lead by Judas Maccabee, son of Matthias, which reigned from 166 – 63 BC. The Hasmonean kingdom was a conscious attempt to revive the Judah described in the Bible: a Jewish monarchy ruled from Jerusalem and stretching over all the territories once ruled by David and Solomon. In order to carry out this project the Hasmoneans forcibly converted to Judaism the one-time Moabites, Edomites and Ammonites, as well as the lost kingdom of Israel.

 

In 63 BC the Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem and made the Jewish kingdom a client of Rome. In 40 BC, Herod the Great was appointed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate.  Herod was an Edomite converted to Judaism. The New Testament narrations begins at this point of time. When Jesus was born, Herod the Great was the ruler of Judea. After Herod’s demise in 4 BC, Roman emperor Augustus Caesar divided his kingdom among his sons- Herod’s son Archelaus made ruler of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea (biblical Edom) from 4 BC to 6 AD, other son Herod Antipas was made tetrarch of Galilee from 4 BC – 39 AD, and another son Philip was made the tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis. Archelaus was judged incompetent by Augustus who then annexed the Iudaea Province under direct Roman administration. Roman emperors started appointing an official titled “prefect” to rule the province. Pontius Pilate was one such prefect (26 AD- 36 AD).

 

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;

Epiphany

Dec 27th, 2008 Posted in General, Religion | Comments Off on Epiphany

Note: Reproduced from http://niranamchurch.com/articles2.htm

6th January is a very auspicious day for the Orthodox Churches. In the church tradition, this day is known as ‘Epiphany’ whose Syriac equivalent is ‘Denaha’. Baptism of Jesus is remembered on this day. The feast of Denaha has an important place in the liturgical cycle of the Orthodox Churches. Many Churches-like the Armenian Orthodox Church-celebrate Nativity of Christ and Epiphany together on 6th January. The word “epiphany” comes from two Greek words, epi and phainen, and can variously mean, “to shine upon”, “to reveal” or “manifest”. This day is also known as theophany, which means ‘manifestation of God’.

The word ‘epiphaino’ (and it’s variants) appears in the New Testament mainly in two contexts. In Luke 1:79, Titus 2:11 and Titus 3:4 it means, “to shine upon”, “to appear” or “manifest”. In Luke 1, Zachariah prophesies that his newborn son John the Baptist will give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on [epiphaino] those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace (Luke 1:77-79). In 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:1,8, and Titus 2:13, this word is used in context of the revealing and appearing of Jesus at the end of time.

In the early days of Christianity, Nativity of Christ and His baptism was celebrated together on 6th January. It was only at the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), 25th December was declared as the date for the celebration of Christmas, separating the Nativity from the Baptism of Christ. The theory behind 25th December being the date of Christmas is like this: that day is the winter solstice in Northern hemisphere on which length of the day starts increasing. Pagans in the ancient Roman Empire celebrated 25th December as the “Birth of the Invincible Sun” as it was generally believed that the sun who dies during the winter solstice rises from death thereafter. It is generally believed that date of Nativity was fixed on 25th December in order to override and subdue pagan feasts and practices dedicated to the Winter Solstice, because at that time Christians also used to continue their observance of these pagan festivities. Since the date of the Epiphany was more ancient, and was of primary importance as a liturgical feast, it was not possible to move it, while the secondary and later addition of the nativity could be moved without great offence. (Armenia however, did not adopt this change for the simple fact that there were no such pagan practices left in Armenia in the 5th century allowing them to remain faithful to the traditions of their forefathers. To this day, Armenians have continued to celebrate the Nativity on 6th January along with the Epiphany).

God has been revealing himself to the universe for ages through his prophets and high priests. But all these were only partial and his complete revelation came through Jesus Christ, his Son. In the Old Testament times, God was not identified or revealed as Trinity, though indirect references can be found. It was at the time of baptism of Jesus in River Jordan, the Trinity was revealed to the world explicitly. This is the importance of Epiphany. Heb. 1:1 reads “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”. Son is the complete manifestation of God the father, the radiance of His glory and exact representation of His being (Heb. 1:3). The greatest and perhaps the simplest revelation God made through his son is that ‘as God became man, man can also became God’. St Athanasius, one of the Apostolic Fathers, first taught this idea. He pronounced: ‘God became man so that man may become God’. This is the message that Christmas and Epiphany is bringing to the believers.

The ultimate goal of Orthodox spirituality is this divination of human beings. We may doubtful that whether man may ever be able to become God-like. The answer that oriental orthodoxy gives is a big YES. The duty and goal of a believer should be become God. Whether we would be able to achieve that goal is a different thing. Saints are the people who approached more towards this goal. Orthodox theology treats spirituality not as an impossible probability but an infinite possibility. In Orthodox tradition, the process of growing in spirit towards Godliness is termed as Theosis. Through our good deeds, prayers, fasting and participation in the Holy Communion, we are striving hard towards theosis. St Paul reminds us: “not that I’ve already obtained all this, or already have been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philipians 3:12).

In contrast to the Orthodox tradition of remembering the baptism of Jesus, western Churches (Roman Catholicism and the Reformation churches) remembers the visit of the three wise men on this day. They focus on God’s revelation of Jesus’ identity to the magi (wise men) on Epiphany Day as it represents the revelation of God to the gentiles. The most characteristic feature of the Orthodox day of Epiphany is the sanctifying of waters by invoking the Spirit that appeared in the form of a dove over Christ at the time of His Baptism. The believers receive sanctified water at the end of the special service of Epiphany and with it sanctify their homes, gardens, and other possessions while some preserve it for the entire year partaking of it at times of illness and other personal or family adversities. The prayers of Orthodox Churches on the Epiphany day are reinforcement of the sacred relation between man and nature. May this year’s Epiphany day observance enable us to grow in spirit and reciprocate to God’s manifestation to humanity.