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FAQ

Part A
1. When Christ Died, and Rose ?

2. Is God created the world in six days ?

3. Date of Easter ?

Part B

Faith & practices of the Church

Rev.Fr.P A Philip
1. What is the Church

2. What is Faith

3. Are we saved by faith or by faith and works? Doesn�t James contradict Paul?

4. What is the religious basis of the Trinitarian doctrine?

5. What is the Orthodox Church?

6. What is so special about the Orthodox Church?

7. How did different Churches originate?

8. What are the main differences between the Churches

9. Differences between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches?

10. What are the main differences between Orthodox and Protestant Churches?

11. Why our Church is called Malankara Orthodox Church?....................

12. What is the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church?

13. How is it that the teaching concerning Jesus Christ led to divisions in the Church?

14. Why should I pray?


15. Why so many prayers ?

16. Why do we face the East during our prayers?

17. What is the principle underlying our prayers and worship service in general?

18. What is the meaning of the offering of the incense in worship?

19. Is the Bible sufficient by itself ?

20. What the traditions are and why they are important ?

21. What is the relevance of Old Testament in Christian faith?

22. If God is omni-present, what is the need for Church?

23. If God is Omniscient (knowing everything ), He knows everything including my needs.


Then why should I pray?.........................

24. Does God change His mind?

25. Why would a loving God make a man, knowing that the man would reject God, and that
God would then have to send the man to eternal damnation?

26. What is sin?

27. What is evil?

28. When Did Satan Fall from Heaven?

29. Do we have any biblical and other evidence for the observance of Sunday as the Lord�s
Day? �����

30. Are the days in Genesis, chapter one literal 24- hours days?

31. Where does it say in the New Testament that offerings should go to the local Church?

32. Is the celebration of Christmas a pagan ritual?

33. What is Salvation?

34. Is Jesus your personal Savior ?

35. Where did Jesus go between His death and resurrection?

36. What the Orthodox believe Concerning prayer for the dead?

37. What is the sacrament of Confession then? What need is there for it?

38. Should there be a special priesthood in the Church as all believers are priest?
39. Based on St. Mathew 23:9, some people argue that it is wrong to call bishops and priests
�fathers�. What answer can be given to these people?

40. Why do priests wear black?

41. Why do our Priests wear caps ( Thoppi)

42. Why do we worship Cross ?

Part C

Social issues & Church


1. What is the Orthodox stance on ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopacy,
and how do you back it up?

2. What is the problem with inter-caste or interfaith marriage?

3. Is it sin to date?................

4. How far can we go?

5. What�s wrong with sex before marriage?

6. Where in the Bible does it spell out that premarital sex is sin?

7. Is it wrong for a girl to wear pants/ jeans?

8. Is divorce permitted in the Church?............

9. Is abortion sin?..............

10. What does the bible say about tattoos? Or men getting piercing?

11. What is the Church�s stand on Smoking and Drinking?

12. What is the Church�s view on Homosexuality?

13. How to Behave In a Church?

FAITH AND PRACTICES OF THE CHURCH

1. What is the Church?


In very simple words, the Church is a community of men and women who are
committed to a life of discipleship to Jesus Christ.

1. Religion being a personal matter and, should as such, be conceived subjectively,


why should the Church be a subject of concern for the Christian?
The goal of the Christian faith is not merely to lead individual persons to an experience
of salvation and leave the rest of mankind and the world outside its concern. As we have
noted, man/woman is not a pure individual person, but a social being. Born into a
society, he/she grows into the human fullness through social interactions. Therefore, the
salvation of the individual person calls for the salvation of the society as well. The
Church as a community has the duty to work as much for the transformation of the
individual as for that of the society. In fact ideally speaking, the Church of the
transformed society, as the Christian is the transformed individual. Therefore the
Church is a fundamental point in the Christian faith.

2. Does this mean that the individual person is not important and can therefore be
ignored or dismissed?

No, not at all. The individual person is indeed primary. It is in fact through the
individual that noble ideas and ideals come to be expressed and memorable examples
are shown forth. What is implied here, on the other hand, is that the transformation of
the individual person is not enough. It should go with it the transformation of the society
as well. Form this point of view man needs the society to be transformed, which the
Church is intended to be. St. Peter calls his readers in the Church to realize this
meaning in their lives. �come as living stones, he says, �and let yourself be used in
building the spiritual temple �..� (See 1 Peter 2:5).

3. Is this statement true of the Church in the world?

We have to acknowledge the paradox involved in the statement above. As a community


in the world the Church is subject to most of the defects ascribable to other
communities. Yet the Church has a faith centred in Jesus Christ and the means of grace
sealed in the Holy Spirit. As a result of these facts, the Church may be to include a
dimension of experience which other communities cannot give.

2. What is faith?
The biblical definition of faith is seen in Heb. 11:1. �Now faith is the assurance of
things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.� Two meanings of the world
�faith� should be noted. In the first place, faith is an attitude of trusting in somebody.
In the present instance it refers to our trusting in God. Jesus Christ gives the illustration
of a child in relation to its mother (See Mathew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; and Luke
13:17). The child trusts its mother without the least reservation. In the same way, he
says, we should have unquestioning faith in God. Secondly, faith is a normal statement
like the Creed, in which the nature of our faith is recorded.

The sense of the word �faith� in the first meaning noted above being personal and
subjective, how can we speak of a faith of the Church?

The Church is a community of believing people. Their belief in God corresponds to the
sense in which the Creed affirms his reality. The faith of the individual persons
comprising the community and the statement of belief as it is recorded in the Creed, are
both included in the expression �faith of the Church�.

1. What the need for faith?


Human nature is such that it does spontaneously seek refuge and protection from a
source or sources believed to be capable of offering it. Born at a particular time, the
human person lives in this world for a period of time and then passes from hence by
death. During this transitory life man is not really the master of his existence, and he
longs for assistance from God who, he believes, can give it all the time. Also, when he
departs from this life he hopes to be with God who alone is beyond all earthly
limitations. Thus faith gives man a foundation in life, whether in this world or in the
world to come.

2. Why should the Church have faith?

The Church is a community which offers the ground for a life of faith to people, both as
individual persons and in their community living. This enables them to live courageously
holding to ideals on the one hand, and be witnesses in the world for faith on the other.

3. How is the Church�s affirmation concerning God related to other emphases in


its faith?

It is by affirming the reality of God that the Church views the world and life as a whole
in its light. Therefore, faith in God is not merely the mental assent that God is there, but
is the basis of a life that touches all aspects of our existence. Thus the faith of the Church
regarding matters other than God is expected to be directly consistent with faith in God.
The faith of the Church is a totality, in which God occupies the central place.

4. What is the value of the Church�s faith?

The value is to offer man a way of life which enables him to live without fear, but in
hope and brotherly love.

3. Are we saved by faith or by faith and works? Doesn't James contradict Paul?

James 2 does �seem� to contradict what Paul teaches. Both James and Paul (in
Romans 4) start with Abraham, yet seem to arrive at completely different conclusions
about how we are made right. Paul says we are justified by faith alone and James seems
to say we are justified by faith and works (2:21, 24)!

However, the contradiction is really only a verbal one (logic calls this a "verbal
fallacy"). James and Paul are both using the same words: faith and justification, but
with different meanings.

� "Faith" in James means "mental assent; an intellectual belief in the


existence of God." You can see this in verses 14, 17, 19. The faith that
James talks about is a faith that even the demons can have! James was the
leader of the Messianic church in Jerusalem and so he uses terms in the
same way the non-Messianic Jews in Jerusalem do. The Pharisees and
rabbis in Jerusalem spoke of the assertion of monotheism and the mere
intellectual assent to orthodox teaching as "having faith." Does this kind
of faith save people? NO! And Paul would have agreed. Intellectual faith
does NOT save anyone.
The kind of "faith", Paul talks about is "absolute trust; total dependence on
God; being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised"
(Romans 4:5, 18, 21). This is more than just intellectual faith! The difference
between James' "faith" and Paul's use of the word is the difference between
believing a parachute could save you if you jumped out of a plane (James)
and actually jumping out of a plane and pulling the ripcord (Paul).

� "Justified" is the other word that is being used differently. Paul is


talking about being justified in God's sight (Romans 5:1). James is talking
about being justified before men (James 2:18). "Don't tell me that you
have faith, show me!" James says.

James gives the example of Abraham's offering of Isaac (Genesis 22). He says
this action by Abraham was proof before men of Abraham's righteousness:
"Was not Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his
son Isaac on the altar?" (James 2:21). But James is quick to add that
Abraham was made righteous before God some 30 years prior to this event:
"Abraham believed God and his faith was credited to him as righteousness"
(James 2:23; Genesis 15:6).

There is no contradiction between Paul and James when you realize that the
one is talking about justification before God and one is talking about
justification before men.

4. What is the religious basis of the Trinitarian doctrine?


We begin our prayers and public worship in the name of the Father, the Son and the
Holy Spirit, and ascribe glory to the same during the service on a number of occasions.
This shows that we call on God as the eternal Father and with him the eternal Son and
the eternal Spirit, in other words as the Holy Trinity.

1. How do we confess God as the Holy Trinity?

We confess that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Since God is one, do we mean by these words only that the one God has three names?

No, we mean that the one God is eternally Father, who has with him eternally the Son
and the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Father is the eternally perfect God, who has
with him the Son who is eternally born of him, and the Holy Spirit who comes forth
eternally from him. Each of them is indeed perfect God, and the reality by which he is
God, namely Godhead, is the same. Therefore, God is one, and the same is also three.

2. If they are three persons, are they not also three Gods?

The question is legitimate if we follow our usual logic. For us three persons are three
separate human individuals. But, as we have already shown, we do not speak of God by
using that logic. To illustrate the point further, God is the ground of all existence and
existents, not one of the existents that constitutes the universe. For this reason, in talking
of God, our language and logic should be different. Accordingly, we affirm that God, the
ground of all existence, is one, and that the same God is also three. He is at once Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.

3. What other implications can we draw from the affirmation that God is
triune?

We have shown that the three eternal persons have the same Godhead. To this should be
added that they have the same authority, the same will, the same operation, and the
same nature. The divine authority of the Father, for instance, is the same for the Son
and the Holy Spirit. In willing and acting also they express the same energy.

5. What is the Orthodox Church?

The dictionary meaning of �Orthodox� is �Conservative�, �strict in observances�,


unwilling to change etc. This was not the original meaning when the word was actually coined
by the Church in the 4th century. The word Orthodox is the combination of two Greek words.
�Ortho� and �Doxa� mean �Right Glory� or correct worship. Orthos doxadzein was a
Greek expression for rightly glorifying through the right doxologia, �Glory to be the father
and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit�. The Arian heretics had changed this doxology to suit
their heresy � i.e., Only Father is God, and that the Son and the Holy Spirit are merely
creatures. The Arians thus changed the Doxology in to �Glory be to the Father through the
Son by the Holy Spirit.� This was not ascribing straight Glory to the Trinity. Orthodox is a
term used to describe the original Church during the Ecumenical Synods to distinguish the
Church from heretical sects like Arianism and Montanism.

The pillar and foundation of the Orthodox Church (The Oriental & Eastern Orthodox families) is
the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God incarnate as a human being as testified by the Apostolic
witness and teaching. The Orthodox Church deny any authority for one national Church over
other national Church. The Orthodox Churches are unanimous in rejecting the claims of the
Pope of Rome to have authority over anything other than the Western Church.

6. What is so special about the Orthodox Church?

Today the Orthodox Church -- fully aware that man is a union of body and soul -- uses all the
beauty of creation to move her faithful children to prayer and worship: icons (holy pictures),
beautiful singing, sweet-smelling incense, and majestic services.

Yet if the visible beauty of the Church is dazzling, her unseen beauty and glory are even more
compelling, for the Orthodox Church is the Bride of Christ, and within her shelter we can begin
to struggle for our salvation.

Orthodox Worship

The Greek word Orthodoxia means "correct praise" or "correct teaching" and in Orthodox
worship the praise and teaching are closely interwoven. If you attentively follow the prayers
and services of the Church, you can learn from them all her teachings and rich spiritual
experience.

The services trace their beginnings back to the Old Testament rites of the Hebrews. They are a
treasury of Scripture readings, prayers, hymns, and canons composed by the Saints and pious
Christians throughout the ages.

Easter -- is the Feast of Feasts, the high-point of the Orthodox year. During Easter, the Church
shines with the glory of Christ's resurrection. Clouds of fragrant incense accompany prayers
heavenward; choirs and bells sing out the triumphant news; the faithful greet one another with
the holy kiss of peace amid the greeting, "Christ is risen!" The altar doors are left open all week
to show that the Gates of Paradise are opened by Christ for us sinners to enter in for eternal
life and joy in heaven.

Sacred Tradition

Just as the Grace of the Holy Spirit which descended on the Apostles at Pentecost flows in a
living stream down through today's bishops and priests, so Sacred Tradition carries the
spiritual life of the Church in an unbroken stream from the time of the Apostles down to
Orthodox believers today. Sacred Tradition includes the unwritten acts and teachings of Christ
and the Apostles which the Church preserves unchanged for us all. (John 21:25; 2 Thess. 2:15;
2Thess. 3:6) The power of Sacred Tradition is the power of the Holy Spirit as it influences
Orthodox Christians in all ages. Through Sacred Tradition we are in communion with the
spiritual life of all preceding generations back to the Apostles.

Orthodox beliefs and Sacraments

We worship God in Trinity, glorifying equally the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that
the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, begotten before all ages, and that He is of one
essence with the Father. We believe that Christ incarnate is truly man, like us in all respects
except sin. We worship the Holy Spirit as Lord and Life-giver who proceeds from the Father.

We honor and venerate the saints and ask their intercession before God. Of the saints, Mary,
the Mother of God, holds a special place ��.more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond
compare more glorious than the Seraphim."

Baptism and Chrismation are the two sacraments essential to enter into the saving shelter of
the Church. Baptism by triple immersion washes away our sins and restores the image of
Adam. With Chrismation, we receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, becoming partakers of the
fullness of Christ.

Sacrament of Holy Confession & the Holy Eucharist , we partake of the true Body and Blood of
Christ in the form of bread and wine for the remission of sins, the healing of body and soul,
and for life eternal. Confession is the fourth essential sacrament for the life of all Christians. In
confession, Christ gives us, through our father confessor, the forgiveness of the sins we
commit after Baptism if we truly repent of them.

Ordination, Marriage, and Holy Unction complete the central Mysteries of Orthodoxy By the
laying-on of hands, a bishop transmits Divine Grace to the person being ordained, linking him
through the continuing flow of Grace that descended on the Apostles at Pentecost -to the
uninterrupted succession of Orthodox clergy. Divine Grace sanctifies the union of two people
in matrimony (Orthodox parish priests are usually married; bishops now come from the
Church's monastic tradition.) The sacrament of Holy Unction heals infirmities of body and soul.

Church Symbols
Virtually everything you see in an Orthodox Church symbolizes and calls to mind some aspect
of our meeting with eternal Divinity.

An Open Church. There are no pews or chairs in most Orthodox Churches. We stand during
worship services out of reverence and humility before God. The absence of rigid pews gives us
freedom to move about the Church and feel at home. We are free to venerate icons and light
candles, as well as to bow and do the prostrations necessary at times during worship.

Candles. Candles burn on the altar, signify the light of truth given by the Lord, illuminating the
world with spiritual radiance. Candles also symbolize our soul's burning love of God and the
spiritual joy and triumph of the Church. Burning is sacrifice. It burns and becomes less and
less. The principle of self-emptying is seen in candles.

The Sanctuary. Raised above the nave (body of the Church), the sanctuary is where the
Church's consecrated clergy perform divine services. The altar in the center of the sanctuary is
known as the Holy Throne because the Lord God Himself is present on it.

Icons. As a matter of fact the use of icons in our churches is very rare. Icons are an in
separable part of Orthodox Spiritual life. Holy pictures draw you into the spiritual life of the
Church like silent, ever-preaching sermons. Called icons, from the Greek word for image, the
holy pictures of Christ, the saints, and martyrs have deep significance in Orthodox life.

Because the Son of God took on human flesh and became incarnate as the God-man Jesus
Christ, it became possible to portray the glory of God incarnate. "Blessed are the eyes which
see what you see!" (Luke10:23). The icons' style may seem austere and strange at first; they do
not depict the natural beauty of the material world, but the spiritual beauty of the Kingdom of
Heaven. Icons are venerated, but not worshipped, by Orthodox Christians. Free from the
subjective, sentimental, and fleshy quality of Western religious art, the true icon is part of the
Church's Sacred Tradition. A true icon, painted through the power of the Holy Spirit, is in
communion with the spiritual life of the Church back to its earliest days.

Because of the unity of Sacred Tradition, icons -- like Orthodoxy itself -- exist as unchanging
and ageless windows into the spiritual world. As you gaze into an icon, the calm eye of eternal
truth falls upon you. And you begin to realize the true beauty and order of all things visible and
invisible.

7. How did different Churches originate ?

The Church was established by Jesus Christ as mentioned in St. Mathew 16:18.

Here the Church is the divine institution established on the faith confessed by St. Peter.

Believers were added on.

Later, we find St. Paul speaking against the other teachings which were contrary to the
teachings of the Apostles.

Gal. 1:8. �But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel that is
different from the one we preached to you, may he be condemned to hell.�

The Orthodox Churches accepted whatever was taught by the apostles without any change.

From the beginning of Christianity, every church in a particular place was independent.
The first three ecumenical synods codified the faith and practices of the Church refuting the
teachings of the heretics.

There was a controversy at the council of Chalcedon held on A.D. 451 regarding how the divine
nature and human nature of Jesus Christ were united. Among the Churches which accepted
the decisions of the Chalcedon council were the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern
orthodox Churches such as the Greek Church and the Churches of the Byzantine tradition.

The Churches which did not agree with the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon are known
as the Oriental orthodox Churches. They are:

i) The Antiochian or Syrian Orthodox Church

ii) The Armenian Orthodox Church

iii) The Coptic or Egyptian Orthodox Church

iv) The Ethiopian Orthodox Church

v) The Malankara Orthodox Church

Eventually, with the expansion of the Roman empire, the Roman Catholic Church claimed
authority over other Churches which they did not agree. In the 11 th century (A.D. 1054) as a
result of disagreement about the authority of the Roman Bishop, the Church split in to two
parts: Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. The Roman Catholic Church added certain
new doctrines and practices in the Church.

With the �Reformation� of the 16th century, the Protestants questioned the practices of the
Roman Catholic Church forming new Churches in different countries known as the Protestant
Churches.

A number of sectarian groups have evolved recently (Pentecostals, etc) without apostolic
succession and apostolic faith as a result of individual interpretations of the Bible.

8. What are the main differences between the Churches

The Malankara Orthodox Church is in communion with other Oriental Orthodox Churches
namely, the Syrian Orthodox Church, The Coptic Orthodox Church, the Armenian Orthodox
Church and Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Also we have close relationship with the Eastern orthodox Churches of the Byzantine
Tradition, such as the Greek, Russian, Rumenian Churches. Theologians have come to a
consensus regarding the Christological controversies between these Churches. So, now we
can say that the faith of the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches is the same.

The Orthodox Church and the Protestant Churches differ mainly on the concept of the
�Church�. To the Protestants and sectarian groups the Church is the fellowship of the living
people only, but to the Orthodox Church, the Church is the communion of believers, both the
living and the departed ones. In these days of ecumenism, we have better relationship with the
Roman Catholic Church. But the areas of disagreement continue.

9. Differences between the Catholic Church and the


Oriental Orthodox Churches
a. Regarding the place of St. Peter

According to the faith of the Catholic Church St. Peter is the foundation stone of the Church.
Therefore Peter has got authority over the whole Church.

In view of the Orthodox Churches, this position and authority are not given to one apostle only.
The call to be the foundation of the Church is for all apostles. (Ephesians 2:20). The Orthodox
Churches teach the following things regarding the foundation rock (Matt 16:18) and carrying
the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt 16:19)

a. The Foundation Stone

1. Christ is the real rock. � the Rock was Christ� (1 Cor 10:4)

2. Peter declared the faith of the apostles. Therefore rock is their faith. The Church
is built on that.

3. Peter is a believer who got faith. Therefore the Church is built of the rock, the
believer.

b. The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

The Key of the kingdom of heaven represent the authority to bind and loose (to
forgive sins) (Matt 16:19) Jesus gave authority to bind and loose to all disciples
equally (Matt 18:18; John 20:23)

b. Regarding the position of the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church teaches that the Bishop of Rome is the ambassador of Christ,
the head of the whole visible church of Peter, and is the symbol of unity of the
Church. Not only that it teaches that Pope has the supreme authority and he is
infallibile.

The Orthodox Churches teach that all priests are ambassadors of Christ. Not only
that Peter does not have any special right over the Church. Because, all apostles
are equal as far as priestly rights are concerned. The believe that there is no need
of a visible head for the whole church except Christ, and synods are the symbol of
unity of the visible Church. The teach that the argument of the Catholic Church on
the supreme authority of Peter and the infallibility of Pope are not in line with
Christian principles.

c. Divine-human natures in Jesus Christ


The Catholic Church, according to the decision of the Chalcedon Council, gives
emphais to the separate divine-human natures in Jesus Christ. The Oriental
Orthodox Churches, not accepting the decision of the Chalcedon Council, give
emphasis to the unity of divine-human natures in Jesus Christ.

d. Number of Universal Synods

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes 21 Universal Synods. The Oriental


Orthodox Churches recognize only the first three synods (Nices, Constantinople
and Ephesus)

e. Addition of Filioque clause.

When the Catholic Church has added the words �from son also� in the Nicene
creed regarding the proceeding of the Holy Spirit (Filioque), the Orthodox Churches
do not accept this correction.

f. Immaculate conception of St. Mary.

The Catholic Church teaches the sinless birth of Virgin Mary. The Orthodox
Churches do not accept this teaching.

g. Trans-Substantiation theory.

The Catholic Church teaches as a dogma the Trans-Substantiation theory of the


Holy Qurbana (According to them when the bread and wine change in to the Body
and blood of Jesus Christ, the matter also changes). The Orthodox Churches do not
believe in giving a scientific explanation as to how bread and wine are changed into
body and blood of Jesus Christ, in the Holy Qurbana because the actions in the
mystery of God cannot be explained scientifically.

10. What are the main differences between Orthodox and


Protestant Churches?
1. When the protestant churches teach that the Bible with 66 books is the only basis of
faith and practices, the Orthodox Churches teach that the Bible is part of tradition.
2. Most of the protestant groups oppose child baptism. Orthodox Churches practice it
from ancient days.
3. The reformed groups do not accept the teaching regarding the Holy Qurbana that it is a
sacrifice and become holy body and blood, and they do not accept prayer for the
departed, intercession of the saints, confession before priest etc. The Orthodox
Churches accept these.
4. As far as the administration is concerned, the Orthodox Churches give supremacy to
the Episcopal Synod, whereas reformed Churches do not give any importance to it.
5. When Virgin Mary is called �the Mother of God� by the Orthodox Churches,
Protestant Churches avoid calling her this name.
6. When Protestants consider the Church as a fellowship of the living believers, the
Orthodox Churches teach that the Church includes all who have joined with Jesus
Christ (living and departed).

11. Why our Church is called Malankara Orthodox Church?


Why some people call us Jacobites?
�Malankara� is the place where St. Thomas the Apostle of Christ built his first Church after
coming to India in 52 A.D. according to the tradition of the Church. From this name the ancient
church in India was known as the Malankara Church.

The term Orthodox is the combination of two Greek words, �Orthos� and �doxa� which
means �right glory�. Our Church is Orthodox because it teaches the right faith, the pure and
true faith.

Jacob Bardeaus (who died in 578 A.D) worked a lot to strengthen the Eastern Church in the
Non-Chalcedonian faith.

Then the Roman Catholic Church nick-named the Eastern Church as the Jacobite Church to
show that our ancient Church was a new Church stared by Jacob Bardeaus. It is from this
back-ground that some people called us Jacobites.

12. What is the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church?


The Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church is that section of the historic St. Thomas�
Church which seeks to maintain an Eastern character of Christianity within the Indian
context.

1. What is the fundamental character of Eastern Christianity which our Church


tries to conserve?

Eastern Christianity claims to have continued the tradition of the Church form its
beginning in its genuine form, with in the life-setting of the East Mediterranean world.
We have inherited it through our contacts with Churches of West Asia, whether of
Persia or of Syria.

2. How does this character affect our Church in its everyday life?

It may be noted that Eastern Christianity does not seek to promote the idea of an
administrative unity for the world Church. It does, however, maintain the unity of the
communities in faith and life within different cultural and geographical areas.
Administratively, Churches of the East are on the whole autocephalous and in many
cases autonomous as well.

3. What do the words �autocephalous� and �autonomous� mean?

An autocephalous Church is a self-governing body under the leadership of its


ecclesiastical head, say Patriarch or Catholicos, or even Archbishop or Metropolitan.
Both words are derived from Greek roots. Etymologically, whereas �atocephalous�
means having its own head, �autonomous� means having its own laws or
individuality and selfhood. An autonomous Church is therefore both self governing and
independent in life, worship and even traditions.

During the early centuries the Church spread in the Mediterranean and the West Asian
world. In each of these regions the communities evolved its forms of worship and
practices in life within the cultural and social setting of the concerned regions. This was
in fact necessary because of the need for relevant communication. In this way there
emerged differing traditions in Egypt, Syria, Rome, Persia, Greece, Armenia, Ethiopia,
and so on. The Churches in these areas thus evolved into autonomous Christian
communities.

4. Were all autonomous Churches autocephalous and vice versa?

No. The autonomous Churches were not in every case autocephalous. The Church of
Ethiopia was autonomous from very early in its history, for it had its own forms of
worship and church practices, but it became autocephalous by having its own Patriarch
only in the last century. On the other hand, there are the Churches of Russia, Rumania,
Bulgaria, Greece, and so on. They are autocephalous, as each of them has its own
ecclesiastical head. But they are not autonomous, because they do on the whole adopt the
Byzantine forms of worship and other practices.

5. What is the status of our Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church? Is it


autonomous or autocephalous or both?

With the tradition of an apostolic foundation, our Church should be autonomous and
autocephalous. But in our history we happened to pass through vicissitudes of various
kinds, which led it to be dependent on Churches abroad. As it is, (With the
establishment of Catholicate in 1912) our Church is autocephalous under the leadership
of His Holiness our Catholicos, it is not yet fully autonomous, as we still follow the
Antioachene Syrian forms of worship and Church practices almost invariably.

6. Should we endeavour to change them, and if so, why?

This is a large topic, which cannot be answered here adequately. We need say only that
this worship and practices of the Syrian Church were all produced before the 13th
century against the background of a cultural and social setting which was very different
from that of ours today. In any case, we have to translate the forms from Syriac into our
language in order that they may be used in Churches. If we put a little more effort than
we exert in producing translations, we shall be able to procure our own forms of
worship more relevant and useful to the Indian context.

7. Does this not mean that we do not have to be �Syrian� in order to be


�Orthodox�?

Yes, precisely. What ever traditions and forms of worship which we have received from
the Antiochene Syrian or other Churches should be examined by us on the basis of
fundamental theological principles, our culture and living conditions, and adapt them to
serve our need effectively.

13. How is it that the teaching concerning Jesus Christ led to


divisions in the Church?
The most important point which the Church sought to define theologically had reference
to the question as to who Jesus Christ was. The issue had two aspects. The first, namely
the fact that he was God the Son who became incarnate was settled in a more or less
acceptable way during the 4th century. The councils of Nicea in 325 and Constantinople
in 381 were important landmarks in this movement. Then in the 5th century the question
how the incarnation was to be affirmed came up for serious discussion and settlement.
The two councils of Ephesus in 431 and Chalcedon in 451 took up the subject for
decision. But by that time the Church had developed three traditions on the issue in
three areas, namely Alexandria, Antioch and Rome. Men representing them could not
agree on a formula, and this led two divisions in the Church and three ecclesiastical
groupings from those times.

1. What are these groupings?

These are � i) The Church tradition which respects the teaching of the Antiochene
Theological School represented by Nestorius; ii) The teaching of Church fathers who
follow the tradition of the Alexandrine Theological School in opposition to the council of
Chalcedon of 451; and iii) The tradition built up on the foundation of the doctrinal
formula offered by the Council of Chalcedon.

2. How do these ecclesiastical groupings define the doctrine?

Each of them has its own technical language for affirming the doctrine. We need not go
into them adequately here. In a general way we may state the positions something like
this. The first insists that Jesus Christ is the one person, in whom God and Son and the
man Jesus remain united. Though he is one person, the duality between God the Son
and the man Jesus is preserved in such a way that the title �Mother of God� with
reference to Mary is not affirmed. The Second emphasizes the unity of Christ.
Composed of the two natures of Godhead and manhood which continue in him without
confusion or division, Jesus Christ is confessed to be the one incarnate nature of person
of God the Son. Mary is indeed �the Mother of God�. The third maintains that Jesus
Christ is one person made known in the two natures of Godhead and manhood. The
expression �the Mother of God� with reference to Mary is accepted.

14. Why should I pray?

Here are some reasons for prayer:

� Because God, our Creator and King, commands us to pray. - Romans 12:12;
Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

� Because Christianity is not about religion, but relationship. Relationship


requires communication. Sons talk to their Father. - Exodus 33:11; Matthew 6:9;
Hebrews 4:15-16.

� Because we are weak and helpless and need much more than we have. -
Psalm 54; Matthew 7:7-12; Philippians 4:6; James 5:13.
� Because we are sinners and need a changed heart. - Psalm 51:10; Luke 18:9-
14; James 5:16; Jude 20.

� Because other people need God to do things in their life and we can pray for
them. - Job 42:7-9; Luke 6:27-28; Colossians 1:9-12; 4:3

15. Why so many prayers?

Why do we have in our church so many prayers, isn't it in contradiction with


Matthew. 6:7 - 6:15 ("But when praying, do not say the same thing over and over
again...")?

There are a number of aspects to this question. Perhaps the one most applicable is the
teaching of the fathers on the different "kinds" of prayer. In The Art of Prayer St.
Theophan the Recluse (a Bishop in nineteenth century Russia) reiterates the teaching of
earlier fathers concerning 3 kinds of prayer -1.Prayer with the lips. 2.Prayer with the
mind, and 3.Prayer from the heart.

1. Prayer with the lips is simply the physical repetition of the words of the prayer. This
by itself is empty. If we mindlessly repeat the words of prayer or if we just mindlessly
"babble" spontaneous words, that prayer cannot be true prayer and pleasing to God.
Prayer of this nature has at best no effect on the soul, however, it is more likely
damaging to the soul because he who prays this way deceives himself and thinks that he
is praying.

2. Prayer with the mind is the second "stage" of prayer and is (and should be) coupled
with prayer of the lips. When we say a prayer, mentally or verbally, the mind should be
wholly involved in the prayer. This is what the fathers call "attention" in prayer. It is
the mind's involvement in concentrating on and attending to the words of the prayer.
Prayer with the mind gives understanding and meaning to the prayer of the lips and
these two together form most often the type of prayer that we offer to God and is
beneficial but not yet perfect.

3. Prayer from the heart. Bodily prayer (as represented by prayer of the lips, but not
limited to verbal expressions - making the sign of the cross for example) and mental
prayer lack yet one element, and that is the heart. The heart, according to the teaching
of the fathers is the seat of the soul and of all feelings and as such, must be involved in
any prayer that we make. Just saying the words (lips) and understanding them (mind) is
not enough - we also must mean them (heart). We are created with a dual nature, body
and soul. The mind is the "lowest" part of the soul and the heart/spirit is the highest
Perfect prayer must come from and involve our whole being - body, mind and heart.
What the fathers refer to additionally as "prayer of the heart" is not this third type or
stage of prayer, which is within our ability as creatures to offer to God by our own
strength but rather it is a gift from God transforming our souls so that the heart
continually prays to God not prompted by bodily or mental activity and thereby infuses
the mind and body with prayer.

Part of the teaching of the Church about vain repetition in prayer is that the empty
prayer such as mindless repetition or babbling of words should be avoided and is of no
effect. And Jesus equates the prayers of the pagans with this "empty", "wordy" type of
prayer. Notice how He does teach us to pray immediately after this instruction of how
not to pray - "Our Father... ". Just the first words evoke the deepest, most personal of
all natural feelings of the heart,- those of a child toward their parent, thereby
immediately drawing not only the lips and the mind, but the heart as well into the
prayer.

The most often cited "offending" prayer in this category is "Lord have mercy" which
we seem to say over and over and over again. But (assuming this prayer is said with
attention and feeling) is there any other prayer we could say? What else can we ask for
from God except mercy? We certainly deserve nothing from God and so we ask for His
mercy. We can't presume to know better than He what is most spiritually beneficial for
anyone, not ourselves, not others and so we commit our prayers for others to the words,
"Lord have mercy" knowing that by doing so we ask that God decide, in His mercy,
what is to be done or provided in any given circumstance and then act according to what
is needful for the salvation of each and every person for whom we pray. While the words
of the prayer "Lord, have mercy" are the same, the context and meaning and intent of
the words is never the same. "Lord, have mercy" is the universal prayer, it is applicable
to any and every situation and it is the prayer we pray when we don't know how to pray.

When you consider only the words of our prayers, they remain generally the same, but
that is only prayer with the lips. It is the prayer with the mind and heart that activate
and enliven and give meaning to the words. If we pray for "the peace of the world" that
can mean many things and we fill that petition with our intent and then ask not for this
or that resolution to a particular conflict, but rather for God to act in His mercy,
according to His perspective and knowledge and understanding of what is best for the
salvation of the world and the establishment of the Kingdom of peace. If we pray for
"those who are in captivity" again the words stay the same but the meaning can shift
widely from who is in captivity to what we mean by captivity and again our request is
not this or that specific resolution, but that God, who is all knowing and all seeing and is
aware what the needs of each soul are, will act in this situation according to His mercy.

The teaching and experience of the Church about prayer is like a vast and deep ocean
and we have described only a little shallow section of beach! To know more, one must
experience the prayer of the church, in the context of all of the Christian faith and its
practices.

16. Why do we face the East during our prayers?

Prayer facing the east is a strong tradition of the Church from the early period. It is
biblically based. St. Mathew. 24:27: �For as the lightning comes from the east and shines
as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
In its prayer, the Church awaits the second coming of the son of man from the east.

In St. Mathew 2:2, We read that in the birth of Jesus, signs were seen in the east.

Malchi 4:2. � The Sun of justice shall arise from the east.�

Ezek 43:4. The glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east.

Ezek. 46:12. The gate facing the east shall be opened during worship.

There are references in the Apostolic Constitution, martyrdom of Polycarp and other
patristic writings about the ancient church praying facing the east.

17. What is the principle underlying our prayer and worship


service in general?
The question cannot be answered fully here, neither is it necessary. We shall give a brief
comment on the prayer called Kauma, with which we begin our prayer and worship
service always. It is offered in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
namely the triune God. The praises and prayers of the Kauma that follow immediately
are addressed to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son. They are brought to an end with the
barekmor. Though this Syriac word means �Lord bless�, in the context it is a request
to the leader of the worship to start the �Lord�s Prayer� that comes immediately
thereafter. This prayer which our Lord himself has taught us addressed to the Father.
Thus the prayers and praises addressed to the son come to an end, and the prayer
addressed to the Father is begun, with the barekmor.

All prayers should thus begin in the name of the triune God, and by ascribing glory to
him. Within the context of remembering God as the Holy Trinity, we praise the
incarnate Son who has disclosed God�s love on the cross, and pray for his grace and
mercy. All this is then summed up in the Lord �s Prayer.

1. What about the �Hail Mary ��, which follows the Lord�s Prayer?

�Hail Mary� was not part of the Kauma even in the 13th century when Gregory Bar
Hebraeus lived and wrote. He includes the Kauma in no less than three of his books. The
�Hail Mary� is not included anywhere. This invocation addressed to St. Mary was
added obviously later.
Granting this fact, we can find a meaning in the addition. Mary does in fact represent
the human, created reality. While worshipping the triune God, Mary is remembered as
one member of the human family, whom God the Son chose to be his vehicle for the
incarnation. While seeking her intercessory prayers on our behalf, we express our
solidarity with her in the human family.

2. Are we expected to say the �Hail Mary� whenever we pray the Kauma?

No, the usual custom in the Antiochene Syrian Church, from which we have taken over
our practice, is to say the �Hail Mary� only once, namely at the close of the prayer.

18. What is the meaning of the offering of the incense in


worship?

In the Bible we see that incense is used for the worship in heaven. Rev. 8:3,4. And
another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much
incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne;
and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel
before God.�

It is also found in the Old Testament worship. Malachi. 1:11.��. every place incense is
offered to my name.�

Numbers 16:46-50. And Moses said to Aaron, Take your censer, and put fire therein from
off the altar, and lay incense on it, and carry it quickly to the congregation and make
atonement for them.� Here offering of the incense is to get rid off the plage. It also
removes the foul smell of sin.

Ps. 141:2. �Let my prayer be counted as incense.�

Heb. 9:4. ��. Having the golden altar of incense.�

Rev. 5:8. �� golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints.�

The worship of the Church is a heavenly worship and hence fragrant incense is used.

Mt. 2:11. �� They offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Ex. 35:8, 15. Spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense � this altar of
incense.

Nehemiah. 13:5,9. . The frank incense is to be put��


Proverbs. 27:9ff. Oil and perfume make the heart glad.Ex. 40:26, 27. Put burnt fragrant
incense upon it.

2 Chron. 2:4. dedicate it to him for the burning of incense.

1 Dings 9:25. Solomon offered the incense in the temple of God.

2 Chron. 2:6. it is the place to burn incense before God.

19. Is the Bible Sufficient by itself?


Isn't the Bible sufficient in and of itself without needing any help? What about the
doctrine of sola scriptura?

To answer this question, I would like to intro�duce you to one of the heroes from the
Church's past. His name is Saint Vincent of Lerins, and he lived and wrote in the fifth
century. Like us, he had a deep and enduring love of the Holy Scrip�tures. (Isn't it a
shame we modern Christians so easily assume that we are the only ones to have an
interest in God's Word?) Listen for a moment to his discussion of how to determine true
doctrine:

�I have often earnestly approached learned and holy men who knew Christian
doctrine, asking how I can distinguish the truth of the catholic (universal) Faith from
the falsehood of heresy. In almost every instance, they have told me that if I, or anyone
else, want to detect heresy, avoid the traps set by heretics, and maintain the true Faith, I
must, with the help of the Lord, reinforce my own belief with two things:

1) The authority of the Holy Scriptures;

2) The tradition of the Church.

At this point someone may wish to ask, "Since the canon of Scripture is complete and
more than sufficient, what need is there to join the authority of the Church's
interpreta�tion to it?" Good question. But there is a simple answer we all know if we
think a moment: Because of the depth of the Scrip�tures, they are not interpreted in
the same sense by everyone. One understands a text to mean one thing, and another
thinks it means another. Sometimes it seems there are as many interpretations as there
are interpreters.... Consequently, because of the intricacies of all these heresies and
incorrect doctrines, we must formulate our understanding of the writ�ings of the
Apostles and prophets in harmony with the standards of ecclesiastical and ortho�dox
interpretation.� (From The Commentaries, chapter 2, paraphrased by Fr. Jack N.
Sparks).

Aside from the fact that this passage is so relevant to our contemporary scene it could
have been written yesterday, Saint Vincent's work is vitally important because it so
perfectly summarizes the need for tradi�tion in the earlier period of the Church-earlier
that is, even than Saint Vincent. It was because of the count�less heresies seeking to
pervert the Scriptures that Holy Tradition became so important!
Early "Scriptural" Heresies

Let's take a few steps farther back in time, starting in the first century, and listen to just
a few of the heresies which started attacking the Church from her earliest times. To
understand these heresies is to understand why the Church, from its inception, placed
such a high degree of emphasis upon the role of Holy Tradition.

� In the first century, the Cerinthians, a heretical cult, taught that the world was
formed out of preexis�tent matter, possibly by angels. Jesus began His life as a mere
man; the divine power descended upon Him at His baptism, and left Him before the
crucifixion.

� Also in the first century, the Ebionites taught that Jesus was only the son of Joseph
and Mary. The Holy Spirit came upon Him at, but not prior to, His baptism.

� In the second century, the Gnostics came into prominence. They taught a wide array
of philosophical and pseudo-Christian doctrines, saying, among other things, that there
was a distinction between the God who created matter, and the supreme and
unknowable Divine Being. The world was therefore imperfect and unspiritual. True
knowledge of God could only be obtained through mystical "gnosis" or knowledge.

� Also in the second century, the Marcionites taught that the God of the Old Testament
was different from the God of the New Testament. Jesus, who didn't really have a
physical, human body, came to over�throw this cruel god of law and violence.

� In the third century, the Novatians, a harsh and legalistic sect, taught, in part, that
the human soul was preexistent, and that Jesus' soul was united to Jesus, the Word,
somewhere in time prior to His human incarnation.

� Also in the third century, Sabellius taught that the Godhead did not consist of three
distinct Persons, but that there was only a succession of modes or operations of one
Person.

� In the fourth century, the infamous heretic Arius taught that the Son was not equal
to or of the same substance as the Father.

What a mess! And that is only to name portions of the teachings of just a few early
heresies. Other than the fact that some of these groups differed as to what books they
believed composed the Old and New Tes�tament, do you know one thing they all had in
com�mon? Just like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses of our day, they all claimed
adamantly that these misbegotten views were the true teaching of Scripture!

Setting the Record Straight

From the earliest period of the Church, going right back to the Apostles themselves, the
true heroes of our Faith fought tooth and nail against such perversions. No one, not a
single one of them, believed that the Bible needed additional help to somehow become
God's Word. In view of the countless heresies attacking the Church from the beginning,
all of them using Scripture to make their claims more palatable (in Saint Vincent's
words, heretics sprinkle the perfume of heavenly language upon their doctrines, because
they are "quite aware that the evil smell of their doc�trines will never be accepted if
their nasty vapors are released undisguised"), it was sincere Christians who needed the
help-desperately. There had to be some way to distinguish truth from error in those
crucially formative years of the Church. One thing wouldn't work, for sure: letting
everyone draw his own conclu�sions about what the Bible really meant!

One of the earliest and most important "yard�sticks" the early Christians used to
determine precisely the core essentials of true doctrine was their baptismal
formulations. What was it that catechumens coming for Christian baptism were
proclaiming they believed? In the face of all that wrong doctrine, what were the
essentials of the Church's saving and biblical Faith? Baptismal formulations-concise,
carefully worded statements of faith (such as the Apostle's Creed, whose roots go back
to the second century) -became one of the earliest forms of tradition. They were the
Church's way of protecting new catechumens who came seeking salvation in Christ.
Because of these baptismal creeds, the Church was able to say, "These are the essentials
of apostolic teaching. This is how true Christians under�stand the Scriptures
concerning vitally important points of belief. This is what you must believe to be a
Chris�tian."

The teachings of men like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hilary of Poitiers, Athanasius, and Basil
the Great concerning this subject. As one born "after the bomb," so to speak, someone
whose only experience of biblical interpreta�tion has been that of the contemporary
din of conflict�ing and contradictory opinions, this study has been like discovering a
sweet oasis in the midst of a parched desert. Finally, I have found godly men who agree
on the essentials of interpretation!

I will also say by way of summary that for these men, and in fact for all the great heroes
of the early Church, the Scriptures were never looked upon as something to be stripped
away and interpreted in isola�tion from the Church. That is what the heretics did. For
early Christians, the Bible was most naturally under�stood in the context of the
Church, that community of believers, both living and departed, who believed, taught,
and, most importantly, worshiped in accor�dance with what the Apostles had received
from the Lord Himself. For early Christians, that kind of faith�ful tradition, that
"Rule of Faith," was the interpreta�tion of Scripture.

20. What the traditions are and why they are important?

Traditions are the faith and practices handed down through generations verbally and in writing.
In the following passages we find how traditions were followed in the early Church.

2 Thess. 2:15. �So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught
by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Thess. 3:6. ��. You keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord
with the traditions that you received from us�.

We are bound to hold fast the traditions transferred to us through the Church by the Lord
Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the Church Father and the Councils of the Church.
Now let us see the importance of traditions in the formation of the formation of the faith of the
Church.

The Church was founded first and in the Church there evolved both the oral and written
traditions. The Holy bible is a major part among the written traditions.

The Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth as described by St. Paul. 1 Tim. 3:15 �But if I
am delayed, this letter will let you know how we should conduct ourselves in God�s
household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.�

He does not say that the written scripture is the only pillar of the Truth. The Church considers
the Bible as the touch-stone of Christian faith. The books of the New Testament are written in a
period from A.D. 55 to A. D. 125, and before that the New Testament messages were transferred
only through the oral traditions.

Christ did not write any book. The Lord did not even command to write a book. Christ and the
Apostles used existing book of mosaic laws, prophetical writings and other writings of the Old
Testament. In a latter period the written traditions of the Church were formed as the memory
notes of the Apostles, faith of the Christian community, explanation to the scriptures, forms of
worship prevailed in the community and solutions to problems which evolved in the Church.
These traditions were formed both orally and by writing.

As we have seen, among the written traditions of the Church, the place of the New Testament
is unique. ! Jn. 1:3��.. that which we have seen, and heard we proclaim also to you, so that
you may have fellowship with us.�

Why Scripture alone cannot be the basis of Christian faith?

1. The Bible states that it is not full in itself.

Jn. 21:25. �But there are also many other things which Jesus did: were everyone of them to
be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Jn. 16:12.13. �I have got many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the
Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own
authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to
come.�

2. Everything the Lord said was not written. We are obliged to obey the commandments of
the apostles and their disciples in the written form. In the same way, we are obliged to
obey the traditions taught by them in the Churches which they formed, nurtured and
guided.
3. 1 Cor. 11:34 reads �About the other things I will give directions when I came. These
directions given to the Church are the unwritten traditions of the Church.
4. Phil. 4:9 reads, �What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Do;
and the God of peace will be with you.� We have to do not only that which is written
but also the heard and the seen.
5. The heard things are equally important as the life model.

2 Tim. 2:2. ��. And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful
men who will be able to teach others also.

2 Tim. 1:13. �Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the
faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

Heb. 2:1. �Therefore we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, best we drift
away from it.�

6. 3 Jn. 1:13. �I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; I
hope to see you (Gaus) soon, and we will talk together face to face.� Such talks are
not recorded In the Bible, but can be seen in the Church in which Gaus practiced the
same.
7. Col. 4:16. �And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the
church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea. � This
letter to Laodicea is also lost.

The Church is the authority to interpret the Bible. The Church is expected to interpret the
Bible in the light of the traditions complimentary to the Holy Scripture.

21. What is the relevance of Old Testament in Christian


faith? Should Christians follow the Old Testament?

1. Jesus came not to abolish the Law and Prophets, but to fulfill them.

Mt. 5:17. �Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to
destroy, but to fulfill.�
2. Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, the same God as well as a
chosen people are mentioned. 1 Pet. 2:9. �But ye are a chosen generation, a royal
priesthood, a holy nation���� Ex. 19:6. �And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of
priests, and a holy nation���
3. Jesus learned the Old Testament.

Lk.2:46. ��.. And it came to pass, and after three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.�

4. Jesus taught the Old Testament.

Lk. 4:16-22. ���.he began to say unto them. This day is this scripture fulfilled in your
ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out
of his mouth��..�

5. The Law of Moses was fulfilled in Jesus.

Lk.24:44. � and he said unto them, these are the words which I spake unto you, while I was
yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in
the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.�

6. Jesus has quoted from O.T.

Ps. 22:1. �My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken we?�

This prayer is repeated at the cross. Mk. 15:34.

7. The sacred book of the early church was the Old Testament.
8. The psalms and other Old Testament books helped for the worship and spiritual
nourishment of the Church.
9. The Old Testament gave light to many of the ideas of the New Testament.

E.g.: New Isreal, Second Adam, messiah, the new commandment.

10. Heb. 1:1. �God spoke of old to the fathers in many and various ways����,�
22. If God is Omni-present, what is the need for Church?
(Should I go to Church?)

�And have them make a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them. In accordance with
all that I show you concerning this pattern of the tabernacle and of all its furniture, so you
shall make it.� (Ex. 25: 8-9)

Solomon Built the Temple of Jerusalem in the same model as the Tabernacle that Moses
built. (I Kings 6) 1 kings 9:3. ����� I have consecrated this house which you have
built put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.�

The presence of God is experienced in four different ways.

1. Universal Presence

The presence of God is in the whole universe both visible and invisible.

2. Promised Presence

�For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.� (Matt
18:20)

3. Dedicatory Presence

The dedicatory presence of God is seen on Mount Sinai, (Ex.19) Tabernacle (Ex. 35) and
Temple of Jerusalem (1 Kings 8) The church obtains this dedicatory presence through
this avoiding of the Holy Mooron during the conservation of Church with its Old
Testament basis of Jacob anointing the pillar in Bethel.

4. Eucharistic presence

The church obtains the redemptive presence of God through the Holy Qurbana

where God changes the Bread and Wine in to the Body and Blood of Jesus

Christ.

All these four types of presence is not experienced in homes of any other prayer centres. It
is experienced only in the church. Therefore it is very important to participate in the Holy
services at the Church itself.

23. If God is Omniscient (knowing everything), He knows everything including my needs.


Then why should I pray? Does not God know what I need even before I inform Him and ask
Him? Why does He want us to ask? Does prayer change God�s will in anyway? Can my
prayer change the future that God has already determined?

The Bible says ��.your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (St. Matt. 6:8)
But God wants that we know what is good for others as well as for ourselves. God wants
that our will should not incline towards evil, but desire the good with deep yearning. Prayer
is therefore the way of training the will to desire good as well as of turning our wills
towards the highest concentration of all good, namely God.

Prayer is thus a way of becoming good by using our freedom to turn towards the good and
to will the good. By prayer we become like God. God is good and wills the good. We should
also become like God in willing and desiring what is good. By communion with God we
also learn to desire the good which God also desires.

Prayer is not to change the will or mind of God. In prayer we submit ourselves to accept the
will of God. Therefore, a change occurs in our mind or will - a positive change to accept the
will of God. This is why the man of prayer is never disappointed or depressed. Through
prayer he conditions his mind to accept the will of God. As our heavenly father is a loving
Father he always wills good for us, though sometimes outwardly look to be bad.

Prayer is often misunderstood as a monologue or a one-way traffic. In fact, it is a lively


dialogue or conversation with God when we say something and God listens and vice versa.
Listening to what God has to say is very important in prayer. The perfect model of prayer is
Jesus�s prayer in Gathsamene. Even under unspeakable agony, he submits himself
before the will of the father. �Not as I will, but as You will.� (matt. 26:39)

And our prayers should not be selfish. In prayer, the first focus is God. The second focus is
other people. Only in the third place should we ask things for ourselves. In the Lord�s
Prayer, the perfect model of prayer, all the first petitions are focused on God � His name,
His kingdom, His will. This is the way our prayer also should be. We pray that God�s
purposes may be established in the lives of all people; that evil may be banished from the
earth, that all men live together in peace and justice praying God. Even in the prayers that
ask for daily bread, for forgiveness and for protection from evil, the first person singular (I,
me) is not used in the Lord�s Prayer. We ask things for �us�, for all men.

24. Does God change His mind?

How do you deal with the scriptures that say "God changed his mind". (As in jonah 3:10) Why
would he need to if he is perfect and knows all things from beginning to end?

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God
repented of [or changed his mind concerning] the evil, that he had said that he
would do unto them; and he did it not. Other passages are: Genesis 6:7; Exodus
32:14; 1 Samuel 15:11; Psalm 106:45; Hosea 11:8; Joel 2:13.

Some people view these Scriptures as contradicting other statements like Malachi 3:6: I
am the Lord, I change not or other passages like James 1:17 or 1 Samuel 15:29. This
contradiction is not real, only apparent. In logic this is called a fallacy of equivocation,
i.e. using a word which has two different meanings.

In one sense, God never changes in His character. However, God does change in his
dealings with people. Take the example of the Ninevites in the Jonah passage quote
above. God's character towards the Ninevites has not changed (Jonah 3:10). He is still
the same holy and righteous God that He was before Jonah's preaching. But when the
Ninevites changed, God's dealings with them must change. God decided not to punish
them based on a change that happened in the people (e.g. Nineveh's repentant attitude).
What changed were the people, not God's standards or God's nature.

So we may say that God's character never changes, but His dealings with men change as
they change from ungodliness to godliness. When a man bicycling against the wind turns
around and goes with the wind instead of going against it, the wind seems to change,
although it is blowing just as it was before.

25. Why would a loving God make a man, knowing that the man would reject God, and that God
would then have to send the man to eternal damnation?

There are some questions that just cannot be answered except from a Christian
perspective. God is God (that's the definition of God) and He can do what He darn well
pleases to do. The problem with Newagers and pagans (and some Christians) is that they
try to create a god that is manageable, predictable, controllable, or intellectually
graspable. But the very nature of �Godness� is to be "un-" all of those things.

When Paul was asked this question he replied in the following manner:

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? �Shall what is formed say to
him who formed it, �Why did you make me like this?�� Does not the potter
have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble
purposes and some for common use?

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great
patience the objects of his wrath�prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make
the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance
for glory� even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the
Gentiles? -- Romans 9:20-24, (The New International Version, Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan Publishing House 1984).

Paul gives three answers to your question:

1. God is creator and can do what He wants with His creations just as a
potter does what he wants with his creations.
2. Those who are not chosen have a purpose, i.e. to demonstrate God's wrath
and make His power known (v. 22). -- It probably goes without saying that
this will not sit well with humanists who see themselves as central to the
universe.

3. Those who are not chosen were created to make the riches of God's glory
known to those to whom He is merciful (i.e., those of us who are chosen to
be saved by the mercy of God). Mercy is revealed by contrast.

26. What is sin?


In the Greek language the word for sin is derived from a verbal root which means �to
miss the mark�. In Syriac it means �to err�. We are created by God in order that
we may reflect him by performing his will. But when we miss this goal in life, we are
subject to sin. Thus we may say that all our thoughts, words and deeds in defiance of
God or in violation of the rights and well-being of our fellow beings constitute sin.

1. Why is it that we fall into sin at all?

The root of all sin is self-assertion. Every human being, in fact every creature for that
matter, is led by a longing for self-preservation, which lies at the back of his search for
sufficiency in wealth and position, pleasure and recognition, and so on. This is not in
itself wrong or sinful. But he/she often tries to gain his end by ignoring the divine
dimension and neglecting his fellow beings. In other words, whether God and his plans
are recognized or not, whether others also obtain a due share of the good things of life or
not, man seeks them for himself and his kin. The selfishness which lies at the root of this
kind of man�s life is the basis of sin.

2. Is not the violation of the commandments a sin?

Commandments themselves have been given with a view to inculcate in man love of God
and love of man (Matt.22:35-40,) so that their real purpose is to restrain the selfish ways
of man. Following the commandments is not the ultimate ideal of life for man, but it has
a significant role to play in our lives. Thus by adhering to the commandments, we should
develop in us a character which will express itself spontaneously to love God and love
our fellows.

3. What is God�s attitude to man�s sin?

A sin is in fact a violation of God�s plan of life for man, and as such he does not think
lightly of it. But as supreme Love, God seeks to liberate him from his sin and the evil
which it causes.

27. What is evil?


The account of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, as noted in the book of Genesis which
the Church views respectfully, has an important point to make in answer to this
question. It says that the allurement to sin, which leads to evil, suffering and death,
results from the misdirected use of the divinely given faculties in us, in the realm of
thought, word and deed.

1. How is it that we who have been created by God express ourselves in


misdirected ways?

As creatures we have two characteristics. On the one hand, we are ever dependent upon
the Creator and our fellow creatures for our existence, life and growth, and on the other,
we do as a rule tend to assert the creaturely gift of our autonomy, to the neglect of our
fellow creatures and the Creator himself.

2. Does this mean that creature hood implies evil?

No, God created everything good (Genesis 1). Of all that God has made, man has
rational powers so highly developed that it leads him either to recognize his dependence
on God or to assert himself even against the Creator. The pride implied in the self
assertion of man is the root cause of sin and evil in us. We tend to seek our own
independence, without reference to God or to our fellow beings.

3 Is this not tantamount to saying that God has failed in creating man and the
world?

It is true that in human terms there is a temporary failure ascribable to God, but that is
not the final thing about God�s dealing with the world.

4. What is the final thing?

It is the salvation of man and the world. To save man from a state of sin, evil and
suffering is indeed the concern of God. He has expressed it in various ways through
history and pre-eminently in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. What was done
through him in this way and its culmination constitute the final thing.

28. When Did Satan Fall from Heaven?


The "turning" of Satan happened prior to Adam & Eve eating the fruit, since Satan
tempts them against God. The Bible calls him the first sinner (1 John 3:8), so in the
sense of a "moral fall," Satan morally fell prior to the temptation of Eve.

Concerning a "geographical fall," the issue is much more complicated. After Adam &
Eve's fall, Satan still had access to God's throne in heaven. This is seen in his
appearances before God with the other angels (see Job 1:6,12; 2:1,7). It is clear that
Satan has no authority in heaven, but he can appear there and accuse the brethren (cf.
Revelation 12:10). Although Satan doesn't have authority in heaven, he does have
authority in the earth (Matthew 4:8-9; Ephesians 2:2; 6:12; 1 John 5:19).

The term "falling from heaven" is a Near Eastern way of saying that someone is
suffering defeat. The term is used in non-biblical literature to describe the fall of gods
from power It's like our term "falling from grace." We don't mean an actual change of
geographic position, rather a change of power or relationship.

All of the passages that mention a fall of Satan are somewhat symbolic, so it is hard to
know exactly how to take them. The four passages are:

� Revelation 12:7-13

� Luke 10:17-24

� Isaiah 14:12-17

� Ezekiel 28:11-19

Let me take them one at a time.

Revelation 12:7-13

Concerning the Revelation passage, it would seem that the woman spoken of is "The
mother of God, St. Mary. She gives birth to the Messiah. It is clear that the child is the
Messiah, because only Jesus is the one who is said to "rule the nations with a rod of
iron" (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27; 19:15).

If John intended this prophecy as chronological, then the war in heaven (vv. 7-8)
happens sometime between the birth and ascension of Christ (vv. 5-6) and before the
second coming (v. 12). Either the war in heaven happened because of the death,
resurrection, and ascension of Christ, or it happened sometime between AD 30 and now,
or it will happen sometime between now and the Second Coming.

But taking any prophecy chronologically is always iffy, unless the prophecy clearly says
so. George Ladd in his commentary on Revelation says:

Here John employs apocalyptic mythological language to describe a spiritual fact. We


misunderstand the character of John's thought if we try to place this heavenly battle
somewhere in the stream of time. John is only concerned with the fact that Satan is
defeated....The reference to Satan being 'hurled down' is only meant to describe Satan's
actions against God's people losing their force. We are not to think of any actual change of
domicile.

Luke 10:17-24

Now let's look at the Luke passage. Luke records Jesus' words: "I saw Satan fall like
lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18). Commentators have often tried to decide when in
Jesus' thought this fall occurred. In this passage, the fall of Satan is connected with the
return of his disciples from a short-term mission�s trip. The disciples were able to cast
out demons. This is somewhat similar to the statement in Revelation: "They overcame
Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony" (Rev 12:11). The shed
blood of Christ (The death of Jesus on the Cross) and his resurrection are the real
means of victory over Satan. The secondary means of victory is the actions of Jesus'
people.
Just as in Revelation the "fall of Satan" doesn't refer to any particular change of
residence, but is a symbolic way of saying that he is being humbled and defeated by the
actions of the apostles. This fits with Old Testament language regarding the fall of
nations and kings.

Isaiah 14:12-17

Concerning the Isaiah passage, some people believe that Isaiah is giving a description of
the fall of Satan (vv. 12, 15). But the passage clearly applies to the king of Babylon. I
really don't see any legitimate reason to see Satan in the passage. It is the king of
Babylon who suffers defeat and humiliation here.

Ezekiel 28:11-19

This is a prophecy concerning the king of Tyre (see verses 2 & 12). But the prophecy
seems to go beyond the king of Tyre, because of the symbolic language. Ezekiel calls the
king "a guardian cherub" and refers to Eden. What does this mean? Is this a veiled
reference to Satan behind the king of Tyre?

The imagery keeps shifting. Some of it could refer to Satan, but some of it could also
refer to Adam (in Eden, clothed only with precious stones around you, blameless until
wickedness was found in you). And there are also symbols that seem to refer to the high
priest of Israel (9 stones that are mentioned are among the 12 worn by the Jewish high
priest, ordained to guard God's holy mountain, i.e. Jerusalem).

Whoever is being referred to here was "driven from the mount of God (Jerusalem),
expelled from among the fiery stones, and thrown to the earth." Is the language just
meant symbolically of the king of Tyre or is it a reference to some fall of Satan behind
the king of Tyre?

Honestly, it's just not very clear. We can see Satan behind the king of Tyre, but all of the
imagery doesn't seem to fit Satan (e.g., "through your widespread trade, you sinned" --
v. 16). Furthermore, you are still left with the question, when did this fall happen? Is this
a third fall of Satan? If it is a fall of Satan, then when was Satan driven from Jerusalem
(v. 16)!?

Therefore the conclusions are:

The Isaiah & Ezekiel passages have nothing to do with Satan.

� The reference to Satan's fall is a symbolic way of describing some terrible


humiliation and defeat (the defeat must be defined and understood from the
context).

� Based on that there have been a number of "falls" of Satan: the moral fall
before Eve's temptation, Jesus' disciples on their mission trip, the death of
Christ on the cross, the testimony of martyred saints.

Of course, that is just opinion. Now for things that are NOT just my opinion:
� Jesus defeated Satan and all spiritual forces of evil at the cross (Colossians
2:14-15).

� The testimony and work of Christians is helping to defeat Satan (Revelation


12:11).

� Satan's ability to accuse us before God has been (or will be) limited
(Revelation 12:10).

� Satan will finally be defeated and his destiny is in the lake of fire (Revelation
20:10; Matthew 25:41)!

29. Do we have any biblical and other evidence for the


observance of Sunday as the Lord�s Day? Why do we
worship on Sunday? Is it necessary that we should
worship on Sunday?
There are a number of scriptural and other evidences for the worship on Sunday and the
observances of Sunday as the Lord�s Day.

The New Testament contains clear evidence that from a very early period the first day
of the week was observed by Christians as a day of assembly for "the breaking of
bread" and perhaps for the collection of freewill offerings. (Acts xx:7 and 1 Corinth
xvi:2). Before the end of the 1st Century AD, the author of Revelation gave the first day
its name of the "Lord's Day" (Rev. 1:10).Justin Martyr in the middle of the second
century describes how "on the day called Sunday" all town and country Christians
assembled for instructions in holy writings, for prayer distribution of bread and wine,
and the collection of alms. Tertullian declared that the Christians "made Sunday a day
of joy, but for other reasons that to adore the sun which was not part of their religion.
The emperor Constantine (d. 337), a convert to Christianity, introduced the first civil
legislation concerning Sunday in 321, when he decreed that all work should cease on
Sunday, except that farmers could work if necessary. This law, aimed at providing time
for worship, was followed later in the same century and in subsequent centuries by
further restrictions on Sunday activities.

• AD 90-120, THE DIDACHE: "But on the Lord's own [day] assemble and break bread, and
give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But
let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be
reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned" (Didache, also called The Teaching
of the Apostles, 14).
• AD 74-132, EPISTLE OF BARNABAS: Moreover God says to the Jews, 'Your new moons
and Sabbaths cannot endure.' You see how he says, 'The present Sabbaths are not
acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which, when I have rested from
all things, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another
world.' Wherefore we Christians keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose
from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven. (The Letter of Barnabas,
15:6-8)
• AD 150, EPISTLE OF THE APOSTLES.- I [Christ] have come into being on the eighth
day which is the day of the Lord. (Epistle of the Apostles, 18)
• AD 150, JUSTIN MARTYR: And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together
in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district. (There follows an account of
a Christian worship service, which is quoted in VII.2.) We all make our assembly in
common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the
darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the
dead on the same day. (First Apology of Justin, 1, 67:1-3, 7)
• AD 150, JUSTIN MARTYR: But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common
assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our savior on the same day
rose from the dead. (First Apology of Justin, Ch 68)
• AD 200, TERTULLIAN: "We solemnize the day after Saturday in contradistinction to
those who call this day their Sabbath" (Tertullian's Apology, Ch 16)
• AD 220, ORIGEN: "On Sunday none of the actions of the world should be done. If then,
you abstain from all the works of this world and keep yourselves free for spiritual
things, go to church, listen to the readings and divine homilies, meditate on heavenly
things. (Homil. 23 in Numeros 4, PG 12:749)
• AD 225, THE DIDASCALIA: "The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the
week let there be service, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the oblation,
because on the first day of the week our Lord rose from the place of the dead, and on
the first day of the week he arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week he
ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week he will appear at last with the
angels of heaven" (Didascalia 2).
• AD 250, CYPRIAN: The eight day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord's
Day." (Epistle 58, Sec 4)
• AD 345, ATHANASIUS: "The sabbath was the end of the first creation, the Lord's day
was the beginning of the second, in which he renewed and restored the old in the same
way as he prescribed that they should formerly observe the sabbath as a memorial of
the end of the first things, so we honor the Lord's day as being the memorial of the new
creation" (On Sabbath and Circumcision 3).
• AD 350, CYRIL OF JERUSALEM: "Fall not away either into the sect of the Samaritans or
into Judaism, for Jesus Christ has henceforth ransomed you. Stand aloof from all
observance of sabbaths and from calling any indifferent meats common or unclean"
(Catechetical Lectures 4:37).
• AD 400, THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: And since He was crucified on the day of
the Preparation, and rose again at break of day on the Lord's day, the scripture was
fulfilled which saith, "Arise, O God; judge the earth: for Thou shalt have an inheritance
in all the nations. (Apostolic Constitutions, Book 5, Chapter 19)
• Every Lord's day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice: for he will be guilty of sin
who fasts on the Lord's day, being the day of the resurrection... (Apostolic
Constitutions, Book 5, Chapter 20)

30. Are the days in Genesis, chapter one literal 24-hour days?

The word "day" (yom in Hebrew) is used the same way that our word "day" is used. It
has a very specific meaning of 24 hours, but then is also used in a figurative sense as
days of Pontius Pilate the days of the Nazis, to indicate a period of time. Phrases in the
Bible that use this sense are "day of the Lord," " King Solomon's day," etc.

The argument for Genesis 1 meaning a literal day is that:

1. It is the most natural and common meaning of the word "day."

2. The phrase "and there was evening and morning, one day" certainly
shows a literal day is intended. (The Jewish day was marked as beginning
with sundown.)

3. Adam's age given in Genesis 5:3,5. The age of Adam is given from when
he was first created. If day six (when he was created) and day seven (when
God rested) were geological ages or long periods of time then the math is
way off.

4. Exodus 20:8-11 where God interprets the days of the creation week as
being normal 24 hour days.

5. The nature of the Genesis passage which is given as straight history, not
poetry (compare with Jesus' reference to Genesis 1 & 2 which shows he
viewed it as historical -- Matthew 19:4-5 and Mark 10:6-8). If Genesis 1
was in Hebrew poetic style then we would have reason to view the "days"
as symbol or poetic, but Genesis is straight history throughout.

You can be a person who believes in the Bible as God's Word and believes that Genesis
is historical and believe that the days in Genesis 1 are geological ages, not 24-hour days.
There are many conservative scholars who hold to a non-24 hour day view of Genesis 1.
We have many Christians in our church body who believe this way. I don't think this is
the most natural meaning of the text and I suspect that in most cases this is an attempt
to mesh Genesis 1 with the present scientific view.

But even before Darwin there were theologians who held a non-24 hour day. Augustine
was one of them. These scholars were rare, however. I believe a non-24 hour day view is
against most of the historic church confessions, such as the Westminster Confession
(WCF I:9; IV:1; XXI:7; L.C. 15; L.C. 116; L.C. 120; S.C. 9; S.C. 58,59). Of course, the
most important thing is whether or not it has an exegetical basis in Scripture.

There are certain lacunas in calculating days in creation as �the Sun, whose revolution
determines day and night, was created on the forth day only!!

31. Where does it say in the New Testament that offerings should go to the local church?

In the Old Testament, in Malachi 3:10, God says that He wants the tithe brought to the
"storehouse". The closest equivalent to the "storehouse" in our day would be the local
church.

Are there any New Testament Scriptures which show where offerings were to go? The
key Scriptures in the New Testament that I know of are in Acts 4:34-37 and 1
Corinthians 16:1-4.

The Acts passage tells us that offerings were brought and "placed at the apostles' feet"
and then distributed by the church as a body.

The Corinthians passage tells us about a collection being gathered for the believers in
Jerusalem. The Corinthians are told to bring their offerings on each Sunday to their
meeting place, so that when Paul arrives he will not have to wait to receive everyone's
individual collection.

The New Testament pattern seems consistent with the Old Testament pattern, i.e.
offerings were brought to a central location and decisions were then made by the
collective church or by church officers concerning how to distribute the funds.
32. Is the celebration of Christmas a pagan ritual?

There's no command in the Bible to celebrate Jesus' birthday. There's nothing in the
Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. Then why do we
celebrate it on 25th December?

It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was
a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival
on December 25. The Christians didn't want to participate in that, and so they said,
"While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we're going to have our own
celebration. we're going to celebrate the thing that's most important in our lives, the
incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous
festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King." (Opinion of Theologian R.C.
Sproul)

I can't think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his
birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and
celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for
example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember
certain events with annual celebrations. While the New Testament doesn't require that
we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church's
entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation, which is the dividing point
of all human history. Originally, the celebration of Christmas by the Christians was
intended to honor, not Mithras or any of the other mystery religion cults, but the birth
of our King.

33. What is Salvation?


In the passage from Paul�s epistle to the Romans, the apostle employs the word
�reconciliation�. He says that �while we were enemies, we were reconciled to
God by the death of his Son�. The emphasis here is that by sin we become
estranged from God, so that a restoration to relationship with him is necessary for
us. By the death of Christ God has effected this reconciliation for his side. Christ
accepted rejection by the human race, and proclaimed on the cross God�s
forgiveness. To be reconciled to God is salvation, which enables us to realize peace
with God and with our fellow beings.

Salvation is the redemption from sin, and growth to perfection in the image of God.
According to the Bible, salvation involves the past, the present and the future.

As a Christian, my answer to the question is: �I am saved, I am being saved and I


will be saved.� Let me quote the relevant verses from the Bible.

a. Past: Eph.2:8. �For by grace you have been saved through faith, and
not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.�

b. Present: 1 Cor. 1:18. �For the message of the cross is foolishness to


those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power
of God.� Also see Acts. 2:47

c. Future: Heb. 9:28. �So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of
many. To those who eagerly wait for Him. He will appear a second time,
apart from sin, for salvation. Also see Mk. 13:13.
34. Is Jesus your personal Savior?

I was always taught to think of Jesus as my "personal savior." Is this view based on
scripture and Christian tradition? What is the relationship of the individual believer to
Jesus? How does it work?

In the Orthodox Church the understanding is much more organic than in the Protestant
confessions. In Protestantism, the individual is saved by a personal (meaning relating to
me alone) action of God and the Church is the collection of all of those saved individuals.
Salvation is an individual state, according to this view. The Orthodox Faith teaches us
that salvation is not individual but corporate - the whole Church is saved together and
apart from the Church we cannot be saved. The conversion experience as a "saving act"
is not a part of Orthodox faith - rather this conversion experience (accomplished by
baptism, btw) is only the door into the saving ark of the Church. Jesus by His death and
(more importantly) resurrection has defeated sin death and the devil and has unlocked
the door to paradise (it had been closed against fallen man and guarded by an angel with
a flaming sword) and leads us in. Will we follow? - That is what "salvation" is all about;
following Christ into paradise.

The words individual and personal bring up another interesting and important aspect.
Within Orthodox teaching we can say that Jesus is our personal Savior in that He takes
individuals (a being that is independent and separated from all others) and makes them
persons (a separate being that is united to other beings in a larger whole, in this case the
Church) This contrast between individuals and persons is a little bit of an extrapolation
from the doctrine of the Trinity. We worship One God (individual) in three persons.
Similarly there is only One Church (individual) which is made of many persons. The
emphasis on individuality in western and especially American culture is in this sense
anti-Christian and derives from and incorrect understanding of the Church which is the
result of the reformation in Western Europe and the resulting theology which had to
justify salvation apart from the Church. We must remember that salvation is corporate
- the whole Church is saved together and will be presented as a single entity as the Bride
of Christ (there is only one Bride - Jesus is not a polygamist) at the 2nd coming. Our
individual judgment is not whether we are saved or not, but rather we are part of the
Church and following Christ. If we are part of the Church following Christ then we are
saved along with the whole Church but if we cease to follow Christ and separate
ourselves from the Church by placing our own judgment and will as higher and more
important than that of the Church, then we are not saved because we have "jumped out
of the ark".

What does it mean to ask in Jesus' name?


How do you deal with the Scripture that says: "Ask for whatever you desire in Jesus'
name and I will give it to you?"

I believe that the phrase "in Jesus' name" is vastly misunderstood. It is more than just a
phrase that the Protestants tack on to the end of their prayers. (All the prayers in the
Orthodox Church are concluded with ascribing glory and honour to the Father, the Son
and Holy Spirit).
"In Jesus' name" is ambassador language. It implies that (1) I have a relationship with
Jesus; (2) I am acting as His representative on His behalf, and (3) that what I am asking
for is truly Jesus' desire (1 John 5:14). If these things are true, then God will grant the
request. That's a promise.

Many requests that we make to God in prayer are legitimate and fine requests -- and
God grants many of them. But most of our requests do not meet the three criteria that I
have just mentioned and therefore are not requests made "in Jesus' name."

35. Where did Jesus go between His death and resurrection?

What can we say for certain about Jesus' location? Jesus said to the repentant thief,
"Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). So the question is: "Where was
paradise?"

Where Was Paradise

This isn't as easy to answer as we would think. The problem is that there is no
agreement in the writings of the Jewish people about "paradise." Both before, during,
and after Jesus' time, the term "paradise" has different locations and includes different
people. Sometimes it is located in the distant East; sometimes identified with the third
heaven; sometimes located on the perimeters of the circle of the earth-like a Greek view
of the Elysian Fields. Sometimes it is talked about as a compartment of Hades (Hades
being the place where all dead people went), that is, the happy side of Sheol where the
righteous went upon death. Sometimes it is the home of the specially privileged few, the
abode of those who haven't seen death, like Enoch & Elijah. What can we say for
certain? If we go by Jewish literature, we can't say much with any certainty. The only
agreement is this: it is the place of the righteous after death.

Key Passages

So what does the Bible say about where Jesus went and what he did between His death
and resurrection? These are the key Scriptures that for reference are:

� Concerning the Old Testament saints - 1 Samuel 28:3,13-15; Luke 16:19-31.

� Concerning Jesus' location and activities - Luke 23:43,46; Acts 2:24; John
20:17; 1 Peter 3:18-19.

� Scriptures that equate paradise with heaven - 2 Corinthians 12:2,4; Revelation


2:7.

� Scriptures that (in my opinion) are taken out of context and don't apply -
Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Peter 4:6.

Two Acceptable Views

The two orthodox views of Jesus' location and what He did are the following:

1. Paradise was (and still is) the third heaven - the place where God's throne room
is located - just as 2 Cor 12:2,4 and Rev 2:7 teach. Jesus committed His spirit to
the Father (Luke 23:46) and His spirit went to where the Father was. On Sunday
God reunited Jesus' spirit with His resurrected body - just as ours will be.

1 Peter 3:18-19 should be interpreted as the Spirit of Jesus preaching to the wicked
people of Noah�s generation before flood, who in Peter's day were in Hades
("prison").

The strength of this view is that it is straightforward and uncomplicated. It follows


the same pattern that all Christians will follow: our spirit goes to the Father, it
remains with the Father until it is reunited with our bodies at our resurrection.

2. Paradise was a compartment in Hades. Hades was the place where all the dead
went before the resurrection of Christ. The wicked went to a place of torment
(Luke 16:22-23). The righteous went to "paradise," also called "Abraham's
Bosom" (Luke 16:22), where they were conscious and were "comforted" (Luke
16:25). According to this view, when Jesus died His spirit went to the place in
Hades where the righteous were.

Why did Jesus go to Hades? To proclaim His victory to disobedient "spirits in


prison," either human or demonic (1 Peter 3:18-22). He did this, however, while
actually staying in the paradise precincts. At some point - either the death of
Jesus (Matthew 27:50-53) or the resurrection of Jesus or the ascension of Jesus
- Abraham's Bosom was emptied and all the Old Testament saints were led into
heaven. Heaven is now the new location of paradise (2 Cor 12:2,4; Rev 2:7).
After the taking of the righteous to heaven there is only one area of hell left, the
place of torment. The unrighteous dead await final judgment in Hades, when
Hades will be cast into the "lake of fire" (Rev 20:14), or "hell."

According to this view, the meaning of the phrase "He descended into hell" is that
Jesus' body died and though His body was still on earth in a tomb, His spirit
literally descended into Hades. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that
Jesus' humiliation consisted of, among other things, receiving "the wrath of God
and the cursed death of the cross, in being buried, and continuing under the power
of death for a time. "The Larger Catechism, with it's larger answer puts it, "Christ's
humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state
of death, and under the power of death till the third day; which hath been expressed
in the words, He descended into hell."

Where was Jesus' spirit and what did He do? We aren't given a lot of clear information -
just as we aren't told where Jesus is between resurrection appearances. In my opinion,
the evidence is so scanty that we can't be dogmatic. Either of the above views has been
considered orthodoxy by the Christian church, although one denomination may
embrace one view or the other.

Both views agree that heaven and paradise are now the same place and that this is where
the souls of dying believers immediately go to be with Christ (2 Cor 5:6-8; Phil 1:23-24).
We can be unified on this point.

36. What the Orthodox believe concerning prayer for the dead?

"If I may respectfully ask, in what sense do the Orthodox pray for the souls of the
departed? As you know, this is not a practice within Protestantism."
Those who depart this life in faith as members of the Church will continue with Christ
(see Phil 1:23). The Church has in fact the two parts of those who continue on earth and
those who have passed from hence. Theologians refer to them as the Church militant
and the Church triumphant respectively. The former has to fight the battle on the
earthly plane, but those who have left the world have triumphed over the battle.

You ask in what sense do we pray for the souls of the departed. Why, in the same sense
that we pray for the souls of those with us because Christ is Risen, trampling down
death by death. The barrier between living and dead has been eliminated due to the
Resurrection of Christ. Those who are departed are just as much with us and just as
much a part of the Church as those who we see living on this earth. There is no longer
any separation. And so not only do we pray for them, but they also pray for us; in the
same way that you might ask your friends to pray for you and in turn pray for them so
also do we pray for each other without concern for the separation of death.

When we pray for either the living or the dead we use the same prayer: "Lord have
mercy", to express our desires. We do not know what to pray for even for those with
whom we live because only God knows what is best for our salvation, and so we say
"Lord have mercy". Likewise we do not know the needs and concerns of the departed,
but God does and trusting in His knowledge we say, "Lord have mercy"

We do know that, like all of us, those who have departed require forgiveness of sins, and
that they look for a "place of rest" in the bosom of Christ and so we make this petition,
that God will provide these things, but again as for specifics about how this should
happen we simply conclude with "Lord have mercy".

Some of the confusion might occur in that most Protestant confessions teach that the
judgment after death determines the eternal state of the soul. Not so, according to the
Tradition and teaching of the Orthodox Faith. The particular judgment immediately
after death only determines the state and "residence" of the soul in the spiritual world
and that judgment is based on who our spiritual "friends" are. Do we have more
converse with angels or demons? Do we devote ourselves more to the saints or to
sinners? Are we attached to the world or to the Kingdom of God? Do we act like Satan
or Christ? Whatever we are like, there we are placed in the spiritual world. And the
demons are diligent in attempting to demonstrate that we are tied to them and not to
Christ and so any and every sin not confessed, no matter how seemingly small and
insignificant is brought out by them as accusations against us and the angels on the
other hand counter this accusation by a description of our righteous deeds which
indicate our change of heart and life. But do not confuse this particular judgment and
temporary disposition with the eternal disposition of the soul to be determined at the
Great Judgment. Then, the soul being reunited with the body thanks to the general
resurrection, each person will be judged by God Who sees within either the spark of
grace or none and those who have that spark will be brought into the Kingdom of God
and those who do not will be cast into outer darkness - finally and eternally. So you see
that when we pray for the departed, we do so knowing that the final judgment has not
yet occurred and while we don't know what the exact needs of the departed are, we can
simply lift them up to God calling out for His mercy.
37. What is the sacrament of Confession then? What need is there
for it?
In a word, Confession is the sacrament of penitence.

A Christian has taken the vow in baptism of abandoning Satan and his works on the one
hand, and of accepting Christ and his ways on the other. This means that he is called
upon to lead a life of faith, keeping to the ideals of honesty, dependability, purity and
nobility, in thought, word and deed. By such a life he will attain to a sense of self-
fulfillment in himself and be enabled to exert his influence in the world for its moral
progress. However, the fact is that this goal is seldom reached by us, tempted ever as we
are to seek our own private good to the neglect of the good of other, or to lead a life of
unhealthy pleasure to the neglect of fulfilling our duties. In the face of this reality about
us, the Church provides for sacrament of penitence to help us in our moral and spiritual
growth.

1. How shall we take advantage of this provision?

This is not a difficult task to perform. First of all, we must have a sense of responsibility
regarding ourselves. Holding to it, we should examine ourselves periodically and see
whether we do really fulfill it. Whenever we realize that we fall short of the mark, we
should ask for divine help to improve ourselves. Repenting of our sins in thought, word
and deed, we confess them to the priest and receive from him the absolution that comes
from God alone.

2. Why should we confess our sins before a priest?

Our Lord gave the authority to forgive sins to the bishops and priests through His apostles.

Mt. 18:18. �Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and
whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.�

Jn. 20:22, 23. �And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them,
�Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, if you retain the
sins of any they are retained.�

To receive forgiveness of sins we have to confess our sins before the priests. Confession
is a process of repentance and admission of sins committed either by word, thought or
action with a promise not to commit them again. The confession is a sacrament of giving
absolution by a priest, of sins confessed by a penitent. Confession is always the prayer
before God in the presence of a human witness in the Holy Bible. For example, Achan was
asked to confess his sins before God not hiding it form Joshua.
Confession is meant for a thorough change turning from evil ways to God. It is the
experience of a penitent admitting with a contrite heart to God that he or she sinned
against God.

King David confessed his sins to the prophet Nathan, the servant of Jehovah, and Nathan
conveyed to King David the absolution of his sins by God.

2 Sam. 12:13. �And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan
said unto David. The Lord also hath put away thy sin, thou shall not die.�

Confession is a process of repentance and admission of sins committed either be word,


thought or action with a promise not to commit them again. The confession is a sacrament
of giving absolution by a priest, of sins confessed be a penitent. Confession has the
following salient features:

Confession is a process of turning away from evil ways to God.

Ezek. 33:11. �Say unto them, As a live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death
of the wicked, and that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil
ways, for why will ye die, O home of Israel?�

Confession is the experience of a penitent admitting with a contrite heart to God that he or
she sinned against God.

Ps. 51:4. �Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight: that thou
mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when though judgest.�

Achan confessed his sins to Prophet Joshua.

Joshua 7:19. � And Joshua sail unto Achan, My son, give I pray thee, glory to the Lord
God of Isreal, and make confession unto him, and tell me now what thou hast done, hide it
or not form me.� It is also an opportunity to get counsel and advice from the priest. The
Bible says that one should consult the priest to learn from him.
Malachi 2:7. �For the priest�s lips should keep knowledge and they should seek the law
at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.� Through holy confession the
priest is enabled to pray for the penitent more meaningfully.

A priest has authority form God to absolve sins, which power he received through the
apostolic succession.

Jn. 20:23. �Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye
retain, they are retained.�

Priests are the ambassadors of God making people reconcile to a God.

2 Cor. 5:20. �Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by
us: we pray you in Christ�s stead, be ye reconciled to God.�

Christ had asked the lepers whom he cured to show themselves to the priests. Christ had
respected the Priests.

Lk. 17:14. �And when he saw them, he said unto them, go show yourselves unto the
priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.�

Confession is also a promise that a penitent undertakes not to commit sins at all.

Priests never disclose the matters confessed. Priests can be the best counselors too being
men of God and a sacramental presence in the society.

3. Can�t we obtain the absolution from God, without confessing to a priest?

The Church does not, in fact, deny that we can. What it does, on the other hand, is to
provide for the sacrament as a concrete means, whereby its members may receive the
consolation which they need. If we use this provision, we shall find it to be spiritually
and psychologically edifying and efficient way of getting rid of our guilt feeling in the
past and of our wrong ways in life in the future.
4. Why is it that Confession is considered a pre-requisite for receiving communion?

There is a lot of misunderstanding on this point. The truth of the matter is that
Confession is not so considered. On the other hand, the real emphasis of the Church is
that we should prepare ourselves spiritually in order to receive the Holy Qurbana.

5. Should confession be out loud?

- 1 John 1:9 states, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our
sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

The question arises is "Are we to speak our confession out loud."

The Greek word was typically used for a public confession. This sense comes out clearly
in Matthew 10:32 and Romans 10:9 where it talks about the need to publicly profess
Jesus or He will not publicly profess us before the Father. In secular literature the word
was used to confess to a crime, i.e. to admit guilt in a court of law (which would have
been verbal). Vine's Expository Dictionary defines it as "to speak..." and "to declare
openly..."

Perhaps even more important is the Old Testament pattern of the Sin Offering
(Leviticus 4:1-5:13; 6:24-30; 8:14-17; 16:3-22) and the Trespass Offering (Leviticus
5:14-6:7; 7:1-6) which were used to atone for specific transgressions. A bull, goat or ram
was brought to the priest. The worshipper laid his two hands on the head of the animal
(signifying that his sin was transferred to the animal) and then confessed his sin to the
priest. The confession would be something like this one found in the Mishnah: "O Lord,
I have committed iniquity, transgressed, and sinned before you, I and my house. O
Lord, forgive the iniquities, transgressions, and sins, which I have done by committing
iniquity, transgression, and sin before you, I and my house. As it is written in the Torah
of Moses, your servant, 'For on this day shall atonement be made for you to clean you.
From all your sins shall you be clean before the Lord (Leviticus. 16:30).'" Following this
public confession, the priest then sacrificed the animal.

This idea of verbal confession continues in the New Testament where we are told to
"confess our sins to one another" (James 5:16).

I think the pattern is pretty clear that (generally speaking) confessions ought to be made
to someone. This creates a humble, confessing community living in the grace of God.

38. Should there be a special priesthood in the Church as


all believers are priests?

According to 1 Peter 2:9, we all have general priesthood. �But you are a chosen race, a
royal priesthood, a holy nation, God�s own people, that you may declare the wonderful
deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. �But, to act as the
representatives or symbol of Jesus Christ, special commission from Jesus Christ is
necessary. For example the authority to celebrate the holy Eucharist was given only to the
selected twelve disciples can also celebrate the Holy Eucharist as chief celebrants.

Our Lord gave the authority to forgive sins. (John. 20:23) and so the disciples were given
special grace to forgive sins.

In fact the relationship existed between Jesus Christ and the disciples are the one he
expects to have between the priests and other members of the congregation.

We find that special gifts are given for special ministry. 1 Cor. 12:29, 30. �Are all apostles?
Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of
healing�..?�

39. Based on St. Mathew 23:9, some people argue that it


is wrong to call bishops and priests �fathers�. What
answer can be given to these people?

Bishops and priests are representatives of God, and hence they are spiritual fathers. When
the Lord objected to call �father� He did not mean it in the literal sense.

Here the Lord forbids people calling � fathers� to stop craving for respectful names like
�Father� in search of worldly glory forgetting the Heavenly father. It was in the context of
Scribes and Pharisees craving for such name that our Lord said this.

St. Paul also did not take it in the literal sense. We see St. Paul claims himself to be the
spiritual father as he has spiritually begotten the Corinthian Church. (1 Cor. 4:15). �For
though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers�.

Also St. Paul speaks of Timothy as his �true child in faith� (1 Tim. 1:2)

Hence it is right to call bishops and priest �fathers�. Moreover, this term reminds the
bishops and priests of their fatherly duties.
40. Why do priests wear black?

Where the custom of wearing black cassocks comes from? Why do priests wear cassocks
and why are they black, which is not the colour of joy and hope?
Over the centuries Church clerics were required to wear distinctive garb to identify them as
ordained clergy. In the early Church, no distinctive garb seems to have been worn, except of
course liturgical vestments, which in some cases were also worn outside the celebration of
sacraments. For instance, sometimes bishops and priests wore the chasuble like regular
clothing, as did the deacons with the dalmatic.

Naturally, in the first centuries of Christianity (for over four centuries) priests wore the same
clothes as ordinary people. The tunics were normal clothes. When it was fashionable to
wear shorter robes some priests kept tunics, and thus they stood out from other people.
The Synod of Braga, AD 572, ordered priests to wear different clothes when they went
out. The tradition of wearing cassocks was established over a very long period. In those
times men used to wear robes, especially the gentry liked wearing long dresses: the
zupan (a long coat lined with cloth of gold) and the kontusz (an overcoat with split
sleeves) and belts. The clerical clothing was established in the 17th and the 18th
centuries. The colour of the cassock was connected with the hierarchy of clergy, which
has remained up till now: the pope wears a white cassock, cardinals wear red (scarlet)
ones, bishops wear amaranth red ones and priests wear black ones.

The Council of Braga in Portugal (572) was one of the first such synods to mandate that
clergy wear a tunic reaching to the feet. Responding to reports of laxity in Britain, Pope
John VIII (c. 875) admonished the Archbishops of Canterbury d York to insure their
clergy wore proper attire, particularly long tunics.

In the middle Ages, the dress of clergy began to be regulated by canon law with other
specific regulations passed by local synods. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) decreed
that clerics must wear garments closed in front and free from extravagance.

At the turn of the 15th and the 16th centuries there was a custom of wearing robes
called 'rvrend' (the word derives from Romance languages). Around this time, the
cassock became the distinct garb of the clergy alone. It was given the French name
"soutane" (derived from Medieval Latin/Early Italian "sottana," which means beneath,
referring to the fur linings). The English speaking people adopted the word cassock,
derived from early French "casaque."

The color black indicates poverty. Moreover, black is a color of mourning arid death for the
priest, the symbolism is dying to oneself to rise and serve the Lord as well as giving
witness of the Kingdom yet to come. Black is associated with sorrow but in the case of
priestly robe this colour has another symbolic meaning. A black cassock is to remind a
priest that he 'dies to the world' every day and immerses in eternity. Blackness also
symbolizes giving up bright colours and thus giving up what the world brings, its
glittering, honours and entertainment.

Further, the colour black is the symbol authority. A judge sitting on the judgment chamber
wears black. An advocate who pleads in the court wears black robe. In the same
manner, wearing the black robs during the services is a mark of the spiritual authority of
Priests.
In our very secular world, the wearing of clerical garb continues to be a visible sign of
belief and of the consecration of one's life to the service of the Lord and His Church.

41. Why do our Priests wear caps (Thoppi)?


The Orthodox Priests wear caps which sometimes is a distinguishing mark for the
Priests. In facts, there is no clear spiritual meaning or theology for caps. During the
Holy Qurbana, when the Priests put on various parts of the vestments, there are prayers
associated with it. There are special prayers when the Priest puts on the ceremonial
sandals. No prayer is said when the cap is put on.

Interestingly, there is no prayer for putting on the caps by Priests. Further, during the
Holy Ordination service of the Priests, there is no specific prayer or spiritual direction
when the cap is given to the Priests. All these suggest that the cap is not a part of the
Holy Vestments of Orthodox Priests. In pre-Diamber era (before 1599) we do not find
any evidence of priests wearing caps. The minutes of the synod of Diamber suggest that
instead of caps, the Priests had �Kudummi� (locks of hair) like the Brahmin Priest.
In the post-Diamber era also there is no clear instruction regarding the Thoppi. The
Priests in Malankkara were instructed to wear the Thoppi only after the process of
Syrianization began here. As the cap is part of the apparel of a Syrian Priest, the Syrians
introduced it in our Church too. In many of the Orthodox Churches Priests have no
caps. There is more tradition than theology in the matter of wearing Thoppi. As it was
the part of the appeared Syrian of a Priest, we also adopted it.

42. Why do we worship Cross? Is it not idol worship?

We never worship the cross. Instead we venerate it. Veneration is distinct from idol worship
because we are not worshiping the object as such. When we venerate cross, we actually
venerate the sacrifice of our Lord on the Cross by which we are redeemed. As the saviour of
world, Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross. Christ used the cross as a weapon for our
salvation. Those who love Christ, love the cross.

The bible holds the cross in high esteem.

1. Jesus Christ himself speaks very high of the cross. The sign and concept of the cross
was so dear to Him. : �He who does not take the cross and follow me is not worthy of
me.� ( Matt. 10:38)

�If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and
follow me.� (Lk. 9:23)

2. St. Paul speaks about cross with respect.

�Our glory is on the cross of the Lord (Gal. 6:14)


The cross of Christ is God�s power for us. (1 Cor. 1:17)

The end of the enemies of the cross is decay. (Phil 3:18)

3. We read the indirect reference of cross in the Old Testament. Ephraem and Manasse
were blessed by hands put as cross (Gen 48:13,14)

The cross is used as a banner of Peace, Victory and Reconciliation. The word
�sleebo� (syriac for cross) means �the crucified one�. So when we venerate the
sleebo, we venerate the one who died on the cross.

SOCIAL ISSUES AND THE CHURCH

1. What is the orthodox stance on ordination of women to


the priesthood and episcopacy, and how do you back it
up?
The Orthodox Church precludes the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopacy. It
is a matter of Holy Tradition, as well as a vision of ministry as something not limited to the
ordained priesthood. In my limited experience of this subject I have come across theologians
who posit that, while there may be no strictly theological objection to the ordination of women,
Holy Tradition has never supported it, and that theological pursuits cannot be considered in
isolation from the ongoing life of God's People known as Tradition. [It is important here to
understand that Holy Tradition must not be confused with traditions (small "t", and plural) or
customs.]

I would like to share a story with you to help illustrate: Shortly after the outbreak of the
Russian Revolution, the militantly atheistic communist regime passed laws separating Church
and state and separating the schools from the Church. Other laws forbade the ordained clergy
from evangelizing, teaching religion to anyone, especially to children, etc. Clergy were limited
to carrying out religious rites within the confines of church walls -- which had been confiscated
by the state. The goal of this anti-religious stance was to wipe out all religious expression and
faith, since religion was seen as "the opium of the people" and an obstacle in the creation of
pure socialism. Such would be the situation until the late 20th century. There is a story which
relates how a Patriarch of Moscow, shortly after the Revolution, was asked by a Soviet leader,
"What will the Church do after the last grandmother dies?" The Patriarch replied, "There will be
another generation of grandmothers to take their place." Very prophetic words, especially
when one considers that most of today's grandmothers within the former Soviet Union were
mere children or not even born when these words were first spoken.

The point of the story: In Orthodoxy the ordained priesthood is, of course, essential. Yet other
ministries, including that of the grandmothers who were capable of continuing the priestly
ministry of handing on the faith to the younger generations when the ordained clergy had no
possibly to do so, are equally essential. Saint Paul speaks of a variety of functions which are
critical to making the ministry of the Church whole, complete, and lacking in nothing. While
each of these functions may be different, each is absolutely necessary. Hence, the ordained
priesthood is essential, yet there are a variety of other ministries which are extensions of the
priestly ministry of Our Lord -- and these other ministries, in fact, must be carried out in order
to ensure the fullness of the faith and Church life.

Orthodoxy does not see the priesthood has a "right" or a "privilege." It does not see the clergy
as a caste apart from the People of God. It does not understand ordination to the priesthood as
a matter of justice, equality, political correctness, or human rights. No one, not even males, has
the "right" to ordination; even our seminary catalogues state that the awarding of a divinity
degree in no way guarantees ordination, as this is within the competency of the hierarchy
alone. And no one, not even males, "chooses" ordination; we believe that it is God Who does
the choosing, even if His will in this instance seems completely contrary with the
understanding of this world or this culture or this era. [God's ways are not mankind's ways.]
The clergy do not stand above the People of God; they stand in their midst, just as Christ
stands in the midst of His People. Those who carry out essential ministries without being
ordained also stand in the midst of God's People, for the ministries they pursue in the name of
Our Lord also share in His work. The image of the Church is one in which the entire "People of
God" work and worship together "with one mind" in harmony, up building one another and
striving to achieve unity, rather than planting division or focusing undue attention on
differences or alleged inequalities.

It is interesting to note that the controversy over the ordination of women is a rather recent one
with roots outside the Orthodox Church. It is also interesting to note that, while the
controversy rages in other confessions and has been a source of division, enmity, and schism
elsewhere, it has garnered far less interest among Orthodox Christians. While the matter surely
warrants thorough study, discussion, and dialogue, especially within cultures such as our
own, and while there are certain related questions which indeed beg serious discussion -- such
as the role of deaconesses in the early Church -- care needs to be taken not to create an
artificial issue. The teaching of the Church clearly encourages all persons, women as well as
men, young as well as old, to undertake essential critical ministries in the life of the Church --
the grandmothers of the Soviet era had a far greater impact on the life of the Church than the
clergy of their day; had those grandmothers been ordained clergy, they would not have been
able to have the same powerful effect on generations which otherwise might have been lost.
Perhaps the very success of the hordes of faithful grandmothers in their priestly ministry as
grass-roots evangelizers is due not only to their faith, but to their understanding of ministry as
a gift and a blessing and a calling and a vocation rather than a question of justice and equality,
as is heard so often in heterodox circles.

If we truly believe that all that happens within the Body of Christ is directed and inspired by the
Holy Spirit, we might well question why calls for the ordination of women only surfaced some
1,950 years after Christ. In His own time we see the exemplary ministry of the myrrh-bearing
women who served Our Lord while the male disciples hid in fear and denied knowledge of Him.

While it is only my opinion that the question should never be silenced, I would also propose
that its discussion must be conducted within the parameters of the Church's ongoing Tradition
and not in post-modern secular or humanist categories which bear little relationship to the
Gospel. While Orthodoxy has not accepted the ordination of women, it does laud a woman, the
matter of God as the one who is "more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond
compare than the seraphim" and holds her up as a model for all of God's People, male and
female alike. In this light, salvation, not ordination, is the goal of Christian life.

2. What is the problem with inter-caste or interfaith marriage?


In the Orthodox Church, marriage is not only a contract between the bride and bride
groom. It is a sacrament (mystery) through which �two� different individuals become
�one�. A sacrament in the Church is meant for the church members only. Christian
calling is a unique one. 1 Pet. 2:9, says �But you are a chosen generation, a royal
priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that you may proclaim the praises of Him
who called you out of darkness into His marvelous Light.�
Since we are a chosen race and special people, it is quite in compatible with a Christian
boy to seek a non-Christian alliance or vice-versa. Marriage in the Church is possible
only between two Christian believers. II Cor. 6:14 �Do not be equally yoked together
with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what
communion has light with darkness?� Marriage between a �believer� and non-
believer is not possible. Secondly, family in the Christian understanding is a miniature
of heaven on earth. The unity in family is to a large measure, depended upon the faith
and practice of the parties. �A family that prays together stays together.� Praying
together is a near impossibility in a mixed marriage case. In an age when the even
marriage between boys and girls of identical background tend to fail and divorce has
become very rampant, how difficult it would be to get along for a couple of two different
faiths and religious practices? (In case such a marriage is to be solemnized in the
Church, the other partner who is not a Christian believer, has to be baptized first and
made a member of the Church.)

Why should there be matrimony in Church? Is it not enough that men and women
choose their respective partners in life and live together?

Life together of a man and a woman is, as a matter of fact, a family. It is in families that
children are born. The responsibility for bringing up children as worthy persons,
respectable citizens, and above all as devoted members of the family of God, is vested in
man and woman by God. Matrimony is the means where by the Church sanctions
people to work out this divine ordering in practice.

As I stated earlier, marriage in Christian understanding is not contract between two


individuals only. As such a marriage cannot be solemnized except in a Church. In this
unique sacrament, two people become �one� in a mysterious way. Further, in the
Orthodox rite of marriage, the wedding ring is blessed and given to the bride and groom
by the Church. No exchange of rings is seen in our marriage. For us, the marriage
contract is not between two human parties. Instead, it is a contract that the bride and
bridegroom together make with God. The Church enthrones them as King and Queen to
live happily in a family. This is expressed in the Service of Crowning. Therefore, the
Church is an indispensable factor in a Christian marriage.

3. Is it sin to date? How far I should go on a date? How Far is


Too Far?
From an Orthodox perspective, dating is an unnecessary practice imported from the
West. In a mad craze to imitate the West, which is the graveyard of all values, our young
generation also started speaking about dating. To me, as an Orthodox Priest, Dating is a
very dangerous trend which jeopardizes the institution of marriage and weakens the
concept of family. As the people engaged in dating are immature young boys and girls,
usually it culminates in sexual activity. Unbridled mingling of a boy and girl at an
explosive age would invite unnecessary consequences.

Many students ask the question, "How far should I go on a date?" My first response is
that the very concept of dating is incompatible with the Indian culture and Christian
traditions. If at all you date, here are some principles that will help you decide what
appropriate behavior is on a date.
1. Does the situation I put myself in invite sexual immorality or help me avoid it?
Says to "flee from sexual immorality." We cannot do this if we are tempting ourselves
through carelessness.
2. What kind of reputation does my potential date have? When you accept a date you are
essentially saying, "My values are the same as your values." That in itself can put you
in a position you may regret later. Remember �bad company corrupts good character."
3. Will there be any pressure to use alcohol or drugs? Don't give up your values for a
date.
4. Am I attracting the wrong type of person?

Make sure that the message you send with your actions doesn't attract people who will
lead you to compromise your values.

5. Am I aware that sin is first committed in the heart?

Says, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed with
her in his heart."

6. Are you going to the right kind of place for a date? Many good intentions have been
forgotten because the temptation and opportunity were too great.
7. Am I doing anything to encourage sexual desire?

Don't engage in any impure contact that is sexually motivated, such as petting.

4. How far can we go?


The best Christian male-female relationships are those that grow out of spiritual
beginnings. A Christian boyfriend-girlfriend relationship should start as a spiritual
relationship.

By this I mean the boy and girl should have a relationship that is one first centred on
friendship around prayer, worship and an awakening to the light and power of God's
word.

As the friendship develops into a prayer partnership and encouragement of each other
in excitement about the Gospel then the relationship begins to take on a social dimension
also. The boy and girl will start doing things together in a social context as well as
spiritual.

The emphasis in a Christian boy-girl relationship is meant to be on, first, its spiritual
dimension and, second, its social dimension. Before marriage an emphasis on a sexual
dimension to the relationship can hinder the relationship's healthy and strong
development. This is because the proper order for things is first the spirit; second the
soul and only lastly the body.

This is a principle of life that leads to great and marvelous things developing in a
person's life. Jesus gives us this principle as part of what we know as the Sermon on the
Mount. There He declares, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and
all these things shall be added to you." Mat.6:33.
The development of the sexual relationship is best left until after marriage. Marriage
gives warmth, security and liberty for the sexual relationship to develop richly and
emotionally soundly.

So my advice is - don't look to push the boundaries of sexual activity as far you feel you
can righteously get away with it but rather look to limit the boundaries of sexual activity
as far as you possibly can in order to give emphasis in the relationship to the spiritual
first and then the social.

5. What�s wrong with sex before marriage?


I think sex before marriage is wrong because the Bible tells us that it is. Sex comes with
a lot of complications that even an adult would find hard to handle, not to mention
sexually transmitted diseases.

Scientific studies indicate that relationships that involve pre-marital sex fail. A
relationship that starts with sex usually last only 2-3 years. A marriage usually runs into
trouble in 3-5 years. If a couple have sex prior to marriage, it may start to fade just
when the marriage troubles start, the strong sexual attraction may not be there when
the couple needs it most.

Sex before marriage changes your future in so many ways!! There are negative risks
both spiritually and physically.

Will their love for each other last a lifetime? I suggest that their sexual relations are self
serving. You/they are cheating themselves of the intimacy that God intended.

If you have sex before marriage you will never know whether the relationship is based
on a true "kinship" with that person or just sex.

Love waits. Your relationship should be able to grow and thrive without sex. God wants
us to develop a relationship that does not depend on sex for oneness.

Though you cannot imagine it now, sometime in your future you will really regret
having sex before you're married, if you should go ahead and do it. You are going to do
what you want to do but just know, without a doubt, it is true that sex before marriage
will hurt you inside.

If you have sex before marriage you lose your virginity and when you get married you
are not giving your whole self to your spouse.

Sex outside of marriage is like playing with gun. You never know when the gun will fire
or the person has an STD.

Sex before marriage will ultimately damage your sexual relationship with the one you do
eventually marry. It is much wiser to wait and experience that person and have that
person experience you for the first time without expectation of things that were before.
If you don't marry that person who you've had sex with, then the person who you do
marry won't get the entire you.

Sex is like a beautiful gift. It's only one special gift that should not be wasted on just a
love fling.

Sex is a precious gift from God. This gift can only be given away for the first time once.
Wouldn't this be a great gift for that one person who will be with you for the rest of your
life?

The Bible says that we are not supposed to commit adultery and having sex before
marriage is considered adultery, so it is called sinning.

If you love them you'll be willing to wait until marriage to have sex. It will make it all
the more special.

If you truly love someone you will respect them enough to wait until marriage to have
sex.

It's not worth the risk of pregnancy or STD. It's not fair to your future spouse.

6. Where in the Bible does it spell out that premarital sex is sin?

Virginity was highly valued by the Jews, so much so that there was a ritual that was
required on each wedding night to insure the bride's purity: a blood-stained cloth or
garment as proof. You can read about this in Deuteronomy 22:15,17,20.

This valuing of virginity continues into the New Testament, where the word "virgin"
appears many times in passages about sexual morals (see 1 Corinthians 7:28,34,36-38; 2
Corinthians 11:2).

7. Is it wrong for a girl to wear pants/jeans?

To give a clear cut answer to this question is rather difficult. I don't believe there is
anything in the Bible against wearing pants. Sometimes the Pentecostal churches cite
Deut. 22:5 as a command against wearing pants

The command in Deuteronomy contains teachings against women wearing male


clothing, but in our society pants is certainly not exclusively male clothing. At one time
they were, but no longer.

I would recommend you to read I Tim. 2:9-11 also in this context. There are two things
to say. First, we should ask what it meant for women to wear braided hair, gold, and
pearls in that society. If you do a little historical research on Roman apparel you will
find that these things all represented costly or time consuming extravagance. Pearls
were fabulously priced and thus way beyond the purchasing power of the average
church member. A display of gold ornaments meant "I'm rich. Look at me and envy."
Braids were fastened by jeweled tortoise-shell combs, pins of ivory or silver. The pin
heads often were jewels or consisted of carved miniature images (an animal, a human
hand, an idol, the female figure). This braiding of hair would take several hours to
accomplish. So in each case, these items represented extravagance.

An additional thing to say about this passage is that it is probably an example of using
an absolute statement when a relative statement is actually meant. Now don't let your
eye's glaze over at this, but this is a typical language idiom and an important thing to
keep in mind when reading the Bible. The Hebrews tend to give an absolute statement
when we would give a relative one. [Other Biblical examples: Genesis 45:8; Exodus 16:9;
Psalm 51:4; Psalm 51:16; Jeremiah 7:22-23; 1 Corinthians 1:17; Philippians 2:4; 1 John
3:18.] What this means is that the best translation of 1 Timothy 2:9 is probably "I also
want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not merely with braided
hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds." Absolute statements
like this are used when the speaker wishes to emphasize the latter part of the statement:
"Women should dress with good deeds." Therefore the whole statement is to emphasize
and uphold the principle �women should dress with good deeds�.

So how should a woman dress? God says that women should learn how to dress
modestly and decently. Women should not try to show off, wearing flashy apparel so as
to make others jealous of them or to attract men by sexual stimulation. Revealing the
curves and curls of human body objectionable as it leads to sexual stimulation. Vanity is
a sin and the pursuit of the cult of beauty is a waste of the time, money, and energy God
has given to you.

But women do not have to balk at fashion either (unless a particular fashion happens to
be immoral or indecent). Christian ladies must not look decidedly old-fashioned,
awkward, or strange. This is just another way to draw attention to you: "Look at how
holy and different I am." A proud heart is sometimes concealed behind a mask of
pretended modesty. That too is a sin.

"Be not the first by whom the new is tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside."

Therefore my personnel advice is this: There should be a meeting point of the morality
and discipline of the society and the changing trends in dress. Girls should avoid tight
jeans and tops especially in Churches as it may distract the attention of the
congregation.

8. Is Divorce permitted in the Church? What is our stand on


divorce?
"Divorce" is a legal word meaning full and final separation so that each one is free to
remarry or live alone at will. Ray E Baber defines divorce as, "Divorce is merely a
process of un-marrying people who have been married. It is an official recognition that
their marriage is a failure and therefore has more cause for terminating than for
continuing. Divorce indicates the failure of a given marriage," (Marriage and Family,
page 443). He notes; from 1867 to 1950 while the population increased fourfold, divorces
increased thirty-nine-fold that is ten times faster than the population growth. He cites
nine major causes, (1) "adultery, (2) desertion, (3) cruelty, (4) conviction for crime, (5)
alcoholism, (6) impotence, (7) nonsupport, (8) insanity, and (9) living apart, for divorce.
Drug habit, ante-nuptial un-chastity by wife, joining cults that disbelieves in
cohabitation of spouses, vagrancy of husband, crime against nature, violent temper,
leprosy, venereal disease, public defamation of spouse, gross misbehavior and
wickedness are some of the thirty-nine minor reasons for which divorces were granted
in various states as of 1950. Despite the crumbling relations, chaotic social situation and
frightfully escalating divorce rate people still attach great importance to the institution
of marriage at least in principle, according to a columnist. This being true, peoples'
understanding of marriage and family life is distorted and a source of great distress. I do
not presuppose by a flight of fancy that just because most couples live together without
divorce they all are leading virtuous family life. There are couples disdainfully pulling
together for various constraints. Looking at divorce by any standard there can be no
greater tragedy in the life of individuals and society. Relationships are shattered,
children stranded, finance crumbled, violence induced and hopes and aspirations
devastated. The anxiety, fear, hate and feeling of insecurity which it creates carry for the
rest of the life and pass it on a bad legacy to next generation. No one can ever replenish
the void created. It is a dereliction from the basic duties as an individual and an affront
to moral standards and God. Divorce itself is no sin but the result of sin.

Children are the most hapless victims. Children need the love and care of mother and
father both, grandparents and close relatives to develop positive attitude about life,
toward family and society. Children living with parents who constantly argue and fight,
single parent, foster parent, etc are more susceptible to all sorts of wild feelings than
those who live in lovable family atmosphere. Children, who are isolated from the love of
parents live in seclusion, and suffer low esteem. Wantonness induces abuses, addiction to
drug, alcohol and sex which in turn incites violence, psychological disorders and
ultimately become threat to themselves and society. Words fail to express the havoc that
divorce brings into the lives of spouses and children but the staggering question is; who
cares? I am yet to come across one single opinion supporting divorce, addiction and
violence and yet there is no end in sight; rather addiction, violence and divorce increase
unabated. We can point fingers and write volumes on the many reasons and aspects that
lead to divorce and all the chaos that it creates. All of them could be condensed in one
sentence and that is; humanity driven by outlandish ego first divorced God from life;
thus lost the standard point of reference as to what is right and wrong or good and evil.
In this case Satan is the victor.

My humble attempt is to search the biblical perspective on divorce. Divorce discussed in


Mathew 19:3-9 is the basis of my discussion. Marriage and divorce are two separate
subjects meriting detailed discussions because both are closely intertwined and touching
on both subjects is inevitable to discuss either one. Chief point of discourse here is
divorce; not marriage.

However it is essential to consider Mark's version on the same subject, Mk 10:1-12,


without which discussion on divorce will be inconclusive. A remarkable difference in the
two passages is the condition that Mathew says, ?except for sexual immorality,?v9, to
divorce. Scholars also say that the conditional clause in Mathew 19:9, "except for sexual
immorality," is not found in the oldest manuscripts of Matthew�s Gospel. Similar to
the portion in Mark 16:9-20 this was added later by someone more liberal. Liberal
thinkers like Baber and Jay Adams think that Jesus justified divorce. This
interpretation serves a guide to 'tidal increase in divorce.' This condition induces
immorality; to commit adultery and divorce; thus rendered more damage than good to
the all-time burning issue of divorce. Mark does not mention it at all as a condition to
divorce. We need to analytically view both passages. Mark's presentation is more a
natural dialogue than that of Mathew. Most scholars, especially ancient Churches,
Orthodox and Roman Catholic, agree that Mark is the first evangelist who wrote a
Gospel of our Lord. Mark as the faithful disciple of St Peter wrote his Gospel as per St
Peter�s advice and it is undoubtedly the Gospel of Peter himself. Both Mathew and
Luke considered the Gospel of Mark as their base. Gospel of Mark is thus more
accurate rendering of events. Luke deserves distinction too; he does not mention this
lengthy discussion at all. He says, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery," Luke 16:18. This is a pr�cis statement banning all kinds of divorce.
Surely, Jesus did not conceive a conditional divorce in opposition to the original intent of
creator because Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me," John 4:34.

Roman Catholics consider marriage a sacrament. There is no uniform approach among


Protestants, but most consider it a civil union. Orthodox considers marriage not only a
sacrament but also a mystery (Roso) beyond human understanding. God in His
unfathomable love for humanity makes the impossible, possible that is, unites and makes
one male and one female repeating after what He did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of
Eden.

Mathew says that Pharisees brought up the question of divorce to test Jesus. It was a
clearly devised snare against Jesus. Divorce was a nagging question for all people of all
the time and continues without solution until today. But it was never before as rampant
and uncontrollable as of today. Rabbis could not find a common solution for the
ravaging problem. Three rabbinical schools were prominent in the days of Jesus totally
opposed to one another. (1) Shammai taught that it was legal to divorce wife for reason
of infidelity. (2) Hillel taught any reason, as silly as a spoiled dish, would be sufficient
reason to divorce. (3) Rabbi Akiba taught an extremely liberal view, 'if you see a prettier
woman divorce the first wife.' They claimed basis of their teaching in Mosaic Law
regarding divorce, Deut 24:1-4. In the light of conflicting rabbinical positions the
question to Jesus in itself was not malicious. But the intent was malicious merely because
they wanted to drag him in the rabbinical brawl. The group of questioners would have
comprised of followers from all disciplines. Depending upon the reply they could easily
brand him in one or the other side of Rabbis; conservative, liberal or ultraliberal which
would prove detrimental to his authority. Such a situation would cause dissention
among his own following. They failed to trap him because Jesus very cautiously handled
the situation. He went all the way back to Genesis to clarify the question. He called their
attention to the original intent of creation asserting the fact that humanity in His days
drifted too far off the original purpose of creation.

In the beginning God created them male and female (in Syriac: Dkar v nekbo bro
enoon), Jesus said. Hebrew word for male is tsakar, which means prick or pierce. This
imports masculine sense to convey that which is powerful, sturdy, upright, etc. The word
for female is neqbah, means perforation, tunnel, etc which imports feminine sense; soft,
delicate, etc. Scholars suggest evidence of sexual union and that 'become one (sarx) flesh'
directly points to sexual union. St Paul agrees to this explanation, "He who is joined to a
harlot is one body with her," 1Cor 6:16. God is the one who designed sex and
procreation through sexual union. This happened before the fall and therefore not
incidental to fall. What the fall brought upon the humanity is loss of control, desire and
misuse of sex through such perverted desire. Sex is the gift of God; not an evil in itself.
Proper use of sex is exercising Will of God and a function that fulfills God's purpose.
Biological scientists now think reproduction is possible without sex and man can
conceive child!

Form all these it can be concluded that divorce is not permitted in the Christian Church.

9. Is abortion sin? What does the Scripture say about it?


Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by taking the life of the baby before it comes to
full term. The Scriptures teach, "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my
mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13). When an unborn child is aborted, a human being is killed.
There are at least two effective alternatives to abortion: 1) prevention of conception by
abstinence or contraceptives, or 2) giving up an unwanted baby for adoption. For the
Christian, all children, born or unborn, are precious in God's sight and a gift from Him. Even
in the rare case in which a choice must be made between the life of the child and the life of
the mother, decision making must be based upon the recognition that the lives of two human
persons are at stake.

In his canon 2 dealing with abortion, St. Basil the Great specifically excludes any
consideration which would allow abortion at an early period of pregnancy. �She who
purposely destroys the foetus shall suffer the punishment of murder, and we pay no attention
to the distinction as to whether the foetus was formed or unformed.�

The penitential discipline of the early Church required that �murderers� be admitted to a
reconciliation with the Church and to Holy Communion only at their deathbed of at that time
they repented. However, exceptions were admitted. The council of Ancyra specifically allows
some exceptions for these involved in abortion: �Concerning women who commit
fornication and destroy those which they have conceived or who are employed in making
drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death and to this some
have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater leniency, we have
ordained that they fulfill ten years (of penance)�.� (canon 21).

In order to understand fully the position of the Orthodox Church on the issue of abortion, one
can also refer to the Solemn celebration by the Church of such feasts as the Conception of St.
john the Baptist (Sept. 24), the Conception of the Theotokos (Dec. 8) and indeed the Feast of
the Annunciation (march 25), when Christ Himself was conceived in the womb of the Virgin.
The celebration of these Feasts clearly implies that human life-and, in those cases, the life of
John, of the Theotokos, and of Jesus, as Man-begins at the moment of conception and not at a
later moment, when, supposedly, the foetus becomes �viable�.

If one remains in the Biblical and Christian perspective, there is no way of avoiding the fact
that abortion is an interruption of human life. It can in no way be justified by the arguments
which are usually accepted in our permissive and secularized society: the physical or
psychological discomfort of the mother, over-population, financial hardships, social
insecurity, etc. These are indeed evils which need to be cured, but the cure cannot by
achieved by killing innocent victims who possess a full potential for a normal human life. If
abortion is accepted, as a normal procedure in facing the ills of society, there is strictly no
reason why killing could not be accepted as a �solution� (Hitler�s �final solution� of
the Jewish problem!) in other situations, particularly in illness and old age. If the
�terminally� sick (and old people are generally all �terminal�) were put quietly to death,
what a psychological relief for those psychologically and materially responsible for their
continued existence! But what a horrible and totally inhuman perspective for society! Ant it is
quite frightening to discover how close to its realization we already are.

For Christians, killing is always evil in whatever circumstances it occurs, killing at war not
excluded. St. basil the Great requires that soldiers who have been directly involved in killing
in war do penance for three years (canon 13). However, by not condoning total pacifism
(though admitting it sometimes), the Church recognized that killing at war is not fully
identical to murder since it occurs (at least, in principle) to save other lives. Other instances,
when a killing occurs for the defense of innocent life, this cannot be seen, strictly speaking, as
murder. However, the attitude of St. Basil towards the soldiers indicates that even in these
cases, killing is evil, even of possibly a lesser evil that a passive acceptance of violence by
others. By analogy, one may consider that in the extreme (and very rare) case when the
interruption of the life of the foetus is the only means of saving the life of the mother, it may
also be considered a �lesser evil.� However, in those cases, the horrible responsibility for
the decision is to be taken with full awareness of the fact that killing remains killing.

So Orthodox Christians do possess a clear guidance of their Church in this fateful issue, as for
as their own personal and family responsibilities are concerned. They will also certainly
oppose legislation liberalizing abortion, since this legislation is a clear sign of
dehumanization and cynicism on our society. They will remember, however, that a morally
valid stand against abortion implies an especially responsible care for the millions of
miserable, hungry, uneducated and unwanted children that come into the world without
assurance of a decent life.

10. What does the Bible say about tattoos? Or men getting
piercing?
The only Scripture specifically mentioning "tattoos" is found in the Old Testament: "Do not
cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD." Leviticus
19:28. Tattoos were used extensively by the other nations for pagan worship, decoration, and
to mark a slave. Based on Leviticus 19:28, tattoos are still forbidden among Jews today (by
both Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed Judaism). There is even one rabbinic text
prohibiting the burial of bodies with tattoos. (However this prohibition is very rarely enforced
- although some traditional Jewish mortuaries and cemeteries will not officiate at a funeral of
one who is tattooed.)

The only Scripture that speaks about decorative "piercing" (as opposed to piercing by a sword
or nails) is Exodus 21:6. This is a passage on piercing the ear lobe of a person to mark him as
a slave. In the Jewish nation, slaves and pagans were the only ones with pierced ears. When
Jacob's family wanted to set themselves apart to the Lord, earrings are specifically mentioned
as items that they put off (Genesis 35:4). Apparently any disfigurement or cutting of the body
was not allowed for His "holy people" (see Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1-2; 1 Kings
18:28). The only exception to this was circumcision (Genesis 17:11-13). In modern day
Judaism, it has become permissible for women in the West to pierce their ears because it is a
common practice among the majority non-Jewish population. Jewish men, however, still may
not pierce their ears.

In the Jewish writings on this subject, the rabbis refer to two concepts: (1) We were "made in
the image of God." Even though God is spirit, somehow our bodies reflect God's glory. (2)
Our bodies are a good gift from God - complete as is. As one Jewish rabbi put it, "No matter
how well considered, a tattoo is the result of a short-term decision to decorate the body
forever. What hubris to imagine that any of us, as individuals, can improve artistically on the
original design of the Lord."

So if you were a Jew living in the Old Testament (or today), it would be clear that God
forbids tattoos and piercing. However, Christians don't obey all the Old Testament laws. As a
matter of fact, some of them are specifically set aside by Jesus and the apostles. Are tattoos
and piercing still forbidden or are they now acceptable for a Christian?

But let's ask, "Do the Old Testament verses line up with any basic principle found in the New
Testament?" The answer is "yes." There is the New Testament concept that our bodies are not
our own. This teaching is found specifically in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20:

� "The body is meant for the Lord" 1 Corinthians 6:13.

� "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit." 1 Corinthians 6:19.

� "You are not your own; you were bought at a price." 1 Corinthians 6:19.

� "Honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:20.

The key principle here seems to be that our bodies belong to God, not ourselves, and that we
are to use them in ways that honor and reflect God's glory.

Now let's use deduction to arrive at a conclusion. Based upon these facts (the Old Testament
commands against tattoos and piercing and the New Testament principle that my body is not
my own) I would reason that Christian ethics advocate to leave our bodies free from self-
inflicted marks and cuts. We are made in "the image of God." Apparently He thinks no
further pictorial adornment is needed.

Could I be wrong about this? Sure, it's a deduction, rather than a specific New Testament
command. But I think the key point that is clear in the New Testament is that our bodies aren't
really ours to decorate as we see fit.

11. What is the Church�s stand on Smoking and Drinking?

Read Proverbs. 23:29-31, 23:20-21, 20:1, Gal. 5:21.

As Orthodox Christians, we need to take these behaviors seriously and to better educate our
young people as to the sacredness of their bodies. Through our teaching and our own
behaviors, we want our young people to know that as Christians they expected to care for and
nurture the gift of their body that God has given them. We want them to do this so they can
live a fuller human life and are better able to glorify God and live the life that God has
enabled us to live.
Aside from the immediate health risks involved in these actions, as well as the fact that these
actions are illegal, we know from this and other studies that cigarettes and alcohol are
gateway drugs that can and often do lead to other drugs and other serious risk taking
behaviors amongst teens. Those who smoke and or drink alcohol are more likely to also
engage in pre-marital sexual relations (heterosexual and homosexual), more likely to struggle
in school and have difficulty in their relations with their parents.

We repeatedly find both in Holy Scriptures and the writings of the holy fathers the strong
denunciation of the vice of drinking, which, beginning unnoticeably, leads to many other
ruinous sins. Very often drinking causes the disintegration of family, bringing enormous
suffering to both the victim of this sinful infirmity and his relatives, especially children.

Drinking is animosity against God� Drinking is a voluntarily courted devil� Drinking


drives the Holy Spirit away, St. Basil the Great writes. Drinking is the root of all evils� The
drunkard is a living corpse� Drinking in itself can serve as punishment, filling as it is the
soul with confusion, filling the mind with darkness, making a drunk prisoner, subjecting one
to innumerable diseases, internal and external� Drinking is a many-sided and many-headed
beast� Here it gives rise to fornication, there to anger, here to the dullness of the mind and
the heart, there to impure love� Nobody obeys the ill will of the devil as faithfully as a
drunkard does, St. John Chrysostom exhorted. A drunken man is capable of every evil and
prone to every temptation� Drinking renders its adherent incapable of any task, St. Tikhon
Zadonsky testifies.

Even more destructive is ever increasing drug-addiction � the passion that makes a person
enslaved by it extremely vulnerable to the impact of dark forces. With every year this terrible
infirmity engulfs more and more people, taking away great many a life. The fact that the most
liable to it are young people makes it a special threat to society. The selfish interests of the
drug business help to promote, especially among youth, the development of a special drug
pseudo-culture. It imposes on immature people the stereotypes of behavior in which the use
of drugs is seen as a normal and even indispensable attribute of relations.

The principal reason for the desire of many of our contemporaries to escape into a realm of
alcoholic or narcotic illusions is spiritual emptiness, loss of the meaning of life and blurred
moral guiding lines. Drug-addiction and alcoholism point to the spiritual disease that has
affected not only the individual, but also society as a whole. This is a retribution for the
ideology of consumerism, for the cult of material prosperity, for the lack of spirituality and
the loss of authentic ideals. In her pastoral compassion for the victims of alcoholism and
drug-addiction, the Church offers them spiritual support in overcoming the vice. Without
denying the need of medical aid to be given at the critical stages of drug-addiction, the
Church pays special attention to the prevention and rehabilitation, which are the most
effective when those suffering participate consciously in the Eucharistic and communal life.

12. What is the Church�s view on Homosexuality?


Homosexuality is not new; writings as far back as the Old Testament deal with this issue.
What is new in American Society is the public display and promotion of this lifestyle and its
protection by laws. Much of what was earlier said before about sexual relations outside of
marriage applies to homosexual relationships. The Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church
speak out on this issue and classify this behavior as unnatural and immoral. Adding to the
complexity of this issue is the current claim that homosexuals may be genetically predisposed
to such behavior and therefore cannot help themselves but behave this way. Whether one
accepts this argument or the argument that children become homosexual in reaction to
unhealthy adult relationships, is to demean such individuals by saying that they have no
control over their passions or own personal direction in life. Whether heterosexual or
homosexual we are all called to control our passions. Sex outside of marriage for a
homosexual person is as wrong as it is for a heterosexual person. To claim one has more
control over not sinning than the other is to deny personal freedom and the ability to fully
choose one�s actions. It is to say that the homosexual has less control over their urges than
the heterosexual does and that one is freer than the other. The claim that they are naturally
attracted to people of the same sex, so it is acceptable, is no more appropriate than the claim
that a heterosexual person is attracted to people of the opposite sex and therefore should be
free to express their sexual urges at anytime and with anyone they desire of the opposite sex.
Likewise, the argument of genetic predisposition again demeans the person as saying they are
incapable of choosing to do right. It is much like the argument of conducting genetic tests to
see if someone is predisposed to be a thief or murder and therefore categorizing them and
even limiting their activities just because they may posses such a gene, with no consideration
for their own struggle to do right and refrain from acting on such predispositions. The
Church calls us to be caring and loving to all people, but this does not mean that in loving all
people we must accept all behavior as good. The Church has long taught that we are called to
love all people but not all behaviors. When one condemns homosexual conduct, he or she
condemns the conduct not the person. Despite the homosexual person�s failings, we are still
called to love them as a person, to treat them with respect, as we would expect to be treated in
our own personal failing.

Harakas in his book Contemporary Moral Issues, clearly outlines the Church�s teaching on
homosexual acts:
Regarding homosexual acts, the traditional and exclu�sive teaching of the
Church is condemnatory, seeing such acts as morally wrong. In the face of
homosexual acts as well as all other expressions of wrongful sexual
expression (fornication, adultery, prostitution, incest, bestiality,
mas�turbation) the Church teaches that the only proper place for the
exercise of the sexual function is in marriage. The evidence from the
sources of the faith, without exception, considers homosexual acts as
morally wrong. In the Old Testament, we read �If there is a man who lies
with a male as those be with a woman, both of them have committed a
detestable act. (Leviticus 20:13. Also, 18:22). Grave pun�ishment was
visited on the city of Sodom by God for this sin (Genesis 19:1-29) and as a
result Sodomy is another name by which homosexual behavior is
described. In speaking of this sinful act, the New Testament uses it to
il�lustrate the �depraved passions� of fallen humanity: �their women
exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the
same way the men abandoned the natural function of women and burned
in their desire to�wards one another, men with men, committing indecent
acts . . . � (Romans 1:24-28). Elsewhere, this evil is related with several
others and severe punishment is promised:
�Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of
God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor homosexuals (arsenokoi-tai � literally, �men go to bed
with men for sexual acts�), nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor
revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God� (1 Corinthians 6:9-
10. Also, 1 Timothy 1:8-10).
The patristic tradition is no less unanimous and clear-cut in its judgment.
From the 2nd century Didache of the Twelve Apostles, through the writings
of the Fathers of the Golden Age of the Church such as St. Basil, St. John
Chry�sostom, St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nyssa (4th and 5th centuries),
through the sixth century Code of Justinian, the Canons of St. John the
Faster (early 7th century) to the decisions of the 21st (1972), and 23rd
(1976) Clergy-Laity statement on Homosexuality by the Standing
Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, released in
March of 1978, the teaching is consistent and unvarying: homosexual acts
are immoral and wrong. W x

Paul D. O�Callaghan writes in the Journal of Christian Bioethics,


Consideration of the divine design and purpose of sex immediately reveals
why homosex, adultery, fornication, prostitution, masturbation, and all
other forms of sex outside of marriage are morally deviant. In none of
these acts can the true realization of oneness in communion occur,
because they are outside the God-established marital union, violations of
it, or fundamentally disordered. All of these are true of homosexuality.
Since the unitive drive for the experience of union is realized in the
conjuntio oppositorum, the desire of man and woman to recreate their
original oneness in Adam, it is clear that the desire for union with the same
sex is a disordered passion. Something is very wrong when a male seeks
to complete himself by union with another male. This is why the Apostle
Paul argues that homosexuality is �against nature� (see Rom. 1:26-27).
It is not just that the particular genital acts are ill fitted, unusual, and
abhorrent. It is the fact that the very nature of the homosexual drive is at
odds with how God created us as human beings, in His image, as male and
female.

13. How should I Behave In a Church?


"I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the Lord." I will enter
Thy house by Thy grace, O Lord, teach me Thy truth and straighten my path before
Thee, for my enemies' sake that I may glorify without obstruction the One God the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. (Ps. 122:1)

The Holy Catholic and apostolic church gathers all of us around our Lord Jesus Christ by its
holy liturgical unity. It is here and only here, that all are equal: the rich and the poor, the
simple and the learned, male and female, young and old. Here we stand as one soul, unified
by faith and prayer in Christ's gospel. "For where two or three are gathered together in My
name, I am there in the midst of them.... Anything that they ask, it will be done for them by
my father in Heaven." (Mat. 18:19-20) Let us learn well, brothers and sisters, the honorable
examples of church behavior and by worthy bearing let us give thanks to the Lord who
strengthens our souls by His presence, and who by His man-loving mercy forgives repented
and confessed sins.

2. Man is an icon of God, therefore let our relationships towards one another be loving
and kind, let us hate sin, but love men, for sin comes from the devil, but man is the
work of God. Sin is not only the doing of evil, but also the absence of good deeds, as
the apostle Paul teaches us: "Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good." (Rom. 12:9).
3. Remove the shoes and sandals before entering the Church. When we enter the Church,
we must leave all worldly thoughts behind us. Crossing ourselves with piety, let us go
forth with a prayer icon �In reverence, will I come to Thy House and offer my vows
to Thee�.
4. Men should stand on the North side of the church and women on the South. There
should always be space down the middle of the church.
5. Holding fast to the rules set by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 11:4-15), Christian men pray with
their heads uncovered, thus expressing their piety, while Christian women should be
decently clad, with no make up on, giving an example of meekness and purity in
serving God. No one should enter the church wearing shorts or sleeveless blouses or
shirts.
6. We should make sure to always be on time for holy liturgy, so as not to disturb the
prayerful peace and quiet. Greeting friends and handshaking in church is a sign of
disrespect for God, besides disturbing others in their prayer.
7. It is unseemly to reverence the relics, if any, while the service is in progress. Beware
of talking and laughing in church, for by this one shows disrespect of God and
disturbs others. Chewing gum, eating or drinking in church, before, after or during
services, is impermissible and blasphemous. If our thoughts stray from prayer, we
should strive to bring them back and concentrate on the services. We should try to
participate in the liturgy with pious singing (without artificial or emotional trills), each one
according to the possibilities of his/her voice.
8. "Let us stand well, let us stand in awe, let us be attentive to offer the holy oblation in
peace..." Do not turn around and watch others pray, for it is not for us to judge, lest we
be judged, as the Pharisee was; but repeat to yourself, as the repenting Publican,
"Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
9. Follow the exhortation by the deacon from time to time. E.g. �Let us stand well, Let
us bow our heads before the merciful Lord� etc.
10. While we receive the Holy mysteries, we piously bow our heads to the Holy
Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Saviour, and after receiving the Holy
Sacraments; we slowly and carefully step to the side and wait for the prayer of
thanksgiving and the end of holy liturgy.

11. No one should leave the church before the end of the divine service, especially during
the holiest moments of the liturgy: the Little and Great Entrance, the reading from the
Epistle and the Gospel, the Cherubim Hymn, the reading of the Creed and the Lord's
Prayer - Our Father, as well as the time when the Bread and wine are consecrated and
transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and after Holy Communion. Brothers
and sisters, let us prepare for holy Communion in a worthy manner through fasting,
prayer and individual confession (for this one should make arrangements with the
priest the day before), let us purify our hearts and minds, asking forgiveness of all and
for all, let us receive the body of Christ, the immortal fountain, praising the Divine
Incorporation.