Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fr. Dr. V.C. Samuel - Architect of the Oriental Orthodox Churches

Fr. Dr. V.C. Samuel (1912-1998)
Author: Fr. Dr. Parackel K. Mathew, Canada

Architect of the Oriental Orthodox Churches: fellowship and Joint works 

The chief organizing force behind the first ever Conference of Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches held in Addis Ababa, 15-21 January 1965 was Dr. Samuel. (See the message send by Father Samuel immediately after the peace unity took place in Malankara in 1958, stressing the importance of a Conference of the representatives of the Five Orthodox Churches. Addis Ababa Conference known as Ethiopian Synod is first in the history of our Churches. Father Samuels message was published in the in one IOIF digest) It was providential that the Head of our Malankara Orthodox Church, H.H. the Late Catholicos, Baselius Augean I, an outstanding Scholar himself 
was assisted by Fr. Samuel, and together they contributed impressively to the Conference's deliberations. This Conference discussed the consequences of the Council of Chalcedon that have so far damaged the growth of Orthodoxy by its failure to give a united witness to the world. From this Conference, Fr. Samuel came emerged 
as the chief spokesperson of Oriental Orthodoxy to the Eastern Orthodox brethren. This Conference also paved the way towards the subsequent Pan-Orthodox Consultations.

Main Force behind the Pan-Orthodox consultations 

The imprint of Dr. Samuel's leadership was evident directly and indirectly at the Pan-Orthodox Consultations. Under the auspices of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, the first Consultation was held in Aarhus, Denmark in August, 1964, which expressed full agreement on the essence of the Christological dogma based on St. Cyril's famous clause. Next Consultation in Bristol in July 1967 agreed that since the 5th century different formulae were used to confess the common faith in the One Lord Jesus 
Christ, agreeing on the union of natures without confusion, change, division or separation. The Third Consultation in Geneva in August, 1970 more or less re-affirmed the agreement in Bristol. The Fourth Consultation in Addis Ababa, January, 1971 discussed the need for removing mutual anathemas and on the criteria for recognizing the 
saints of both factions and on the restoration of communion. These Consultations have become the model for subsequent Consultations between the Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches in Vienna, 1971, and the progress since.

A Word of Conclusion

In regard to Christology Dr. Samuel has not only discussed the general Patristics, but made special use of the rich old tradition of the Syrian Orthodox Fathers like Timothy Aelurus, Philoxenos of Mabbog and Severus of Antioch who with their Christological treatises have followed Dioscorus of Alexandria. 

To enter substantially into Dr. Samuel's voluminous contributions is indeed a mammoth task. I have been able to touch only on a fraction of available material. His writings have helped both scholars and others in general. His "The Orthodox Catechism on the Faith and Life of the Church" is an invaluable gift to everyone, especially to the 
youth and Sunday School students.

His personal qualities are fully known only to those who were close to him. I thank God for having given me the chance to be a close associate of his for a time. He is known for never losing spirit even in most trying moments. Criticism and opposition to his views made him more outspoken. He had a unique moral sense which many couldn't fully see. The sense of duty was a strong driving force throughout his life. I praise his greatness and brilliant intellect. He was working to the last, as I learned lately, by his principle: Don't stop until you drop.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Feast of St. Gregorios of Parumala (Parumala Thirumeni)

Feast of Parumala Thirumeni

November 2

Parumala Thirumeni
Kochu Thirumeni
St. Gregorios
1st ever “declared” Saint in India
June 15, 1848 – November 2, 1902
Passed away at the age of 54
Entombed: St. Peter’s & St. Paul’s Church (a.k.a Parumala Seminary)

We celebrate the feast of St. Gregorios (Parumala Thirumeni), on November 2. We celebrate the feast of saints, to remember the way they lived their lives and to emulate them in our lives.

Life History of Parumala Thirumeni

PARUMALA THIRUMENI" was born on 15th of June 1848, in Chathuruthy family in the village of Mulanthuruthy near Cochin, India.  He was baptized by name Geevarghese (George) at the Mulanthurtuhy Mar Thoman Church. After he lost his mother   when he was a small boy, he was brought up under the loving care of his elder sister Mariamma.
 From his early childhood, he had been leading a very disciplined life, enriched by prayer and fasting. Even as a boy, he had a deep fascination towards Syriac, the liturgical language of the Church.
His uncle, (father's brother) Malpan Kassisso Geevarghese, who was himself an authority in Syriac, and a celibate priest, noticed his nephew’s extraordinary ability to sing, gave him proper guidance. Through his continuous prayers, he made it clear to the world, that Prayer and devotion is mightier than any other worldly possession.

Remarkable Life:
  •  A Deacon at the age of 10
  • A Priest at the age of 18
  • A Metropolitan at the young age of 28 (the reason for referring to him as 'Kochu Thirumeni')

Parumala is a small stretch of land on the shores of the river Pampa (,76.5361582,12z) . 

Map of India
Kochi Airport – Mulanthuruthy (25 miles)
Kochi Airport – Parumala (75 miles)
Malankara Metropolitan Joseph Mar Dionysius wanted to establish a seminary in this area. A plot of land with an area of 2 acres was donated by Arikupurathu Mathen Karnavar to the Malankara Metropolitan for this purpose. An ordinary building called ‘Azhippura’ was soon built on this plot of land for conducting classes for the deacons etc. Syriac classes were begun here under the care of Fr.Yakob. In course of time, Metropolitan Mar Dionysius gave the charge of the seminary to Metropolitan Mar Gregorios (Later known as Parumala Thirumeni), in order to carry on the Syriac teaching sessions more efficiently and also to help him in other church matters.

Thirumeni became seriously ill at the age of 54.  He knew that his end was near.  On November 2, 1902, while the Metropolitans and priests and others around him were praying, Kochu Thirumeni uttered, "MY LORD" and closed his eyes.

Miracles when Thirumeni Lived:

Thirumeni brought the solar system under his control like Joshua, the prophet. Mr. D ‘Cruz the official Royal painter and famous thinker got the fortune to witness the ability of the saint. Mr. K. M. Varghese (Chithramezhuth great painter) had reported the matter in the newspapers of those days.  “Wonder happened in the sky” was the headline of the news.  Mr. D’cruz stated that the incident was above reasons and explanations.  Mr. D’cruz admits that he was really frightened.  He says that he had thirty year’s experience in the photography. The day on which he had attempted to photograph Parumala Thirumeni was not at all a favorable day. It was in 1902.  He had attempted to take a photograph of Thirumeni as the Divan Mr. Nagamayya directed him.  The Divan wanted a photograph of the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church to add in the Travancore state manual as a model.  Parumala Thirumeni was staying at Trivandrum church in those days.  As pre-planned, Mr. D’cruz reached the church in the morning itself.
   At that time Thirumeni was inside the church conducting prayers followed by the celebration of the Holy Qurbana.  By 7 a.m. the sunlight was hot.  So he returned and went back by 4 p.m. By that time Thirumeni had entered the private prayers and meditations.  He had to go after Thirumeni two or three days to get a convenient time. One day he got a chance at 10 a.m. By that time the sunlight was too bright.  Thirumeni understood the photographer’s problem and pitiful condition.  Then he looked at the sun and stood two minutes in silence. The photographer looked at Thirumeni’s face as well as at the sky.  In the meantime, Thirumeni raised the Sleeba in his hand and blessed in the shape of cross.  Within no time the bright sun was covered by a thin cloud so that the extreme brightness was covered, providing most suitable light for the photography. Thirumeni said, “You may take it”.  As soon as he took the photograph the sun became extremely bright as before. The said photograph is the one provided at the beginning of this article.
There are countless many other miracles that were performed by God through Thirumeni when he was alive and continues to do so after his departure. For more information, read:

Parumala Perunnal (Feast) and Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage processions from different parts of the country (on foot) travel many days and reach Parumala for the feast of the saint.
People from all walks of life regardless of faith, take vows and visit the saint’s tomb year round. They stay for many days near the saint’s tomb and do bhajana (meditate) reading bible, attending canonical prayers, holy liturgy and return home with blessings received from the tomb.
Pilgrimage Procession

Kodiyettu (Flag Hoisting for the feast of Thirumeni))

 May the prayers of Thirumeni be a stronghold for us!

Friday, August 28, 2015

New School Year 2015-2016

Prayer at the Beginning of School

Read with the children the following books from the bible and pray.

Proverbs 3:13-15
14 14 14 14 
Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.

She is more precious than rubies,

And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.


O Lord, our Lord and Creator, who has honored us with Thine own image; who has taught Thine elect, so that most wise are they who give heed to Thy teaching; who reveals wisdom unto babes; who has imparted Thy teaching unto Solomon and unto all who have sought Thy wisdom; open Thou the heart, the mind, and the lips of this Thy servants... our children, our hope and glory, that he/she/they may receive the power of Thy law, and understand the knowledge which shall be taught him/her/them to the glory of Thy all holy name, to the profit and the building upon Thy holy Church, and that he/she/they may comprehend Thy good and perfect will. 
Almighty God, send down upon (these children) the spirit of wisdom and understanding; open (their) minds and lips to learn their lessons well, enlighten (their) hearts unto receiving of precepts of good instruction, so that they may have a wise and virtuous life and prosperity through their faith and consolation to everyone involved.
Deliver him/her/them from every hostile oppression, tribulation, wrath and peril, keep them by Thy grace; preserver him/her/them in the Orthodox faith and in holiness all the days of his/her/their life/lives, that he/she/they may increase in wisdom, and in the fulfilling of Thy commandments; that being thus prepared he/she/they may glorify Thine all holy name, and become an heir of Thy kingdom. Give their teachers the spirit of wisdom and grace so that they may direct their pupils to reverence truth, desire goodness, and rejoice in beauty and of them may come to know and worship Thee, the giver of all that is good.
For Thou art God, mighty in mercy, and gracious in strength; and unto Thee is due glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now, always, and forever, and ever. Amen.

Source: Priest's Companion by Very Rev. Thomas P. Mundukuzhy Cor Episcopa

Friday, August 14, 2015

Feast of Soonoyo (End of 15 day Fast)

Feast of Soonoyo (Transfer or Dormition of St. Mary)

An excerpt from the homily of John of Damascus during the feast of Soonoyo and Bible Readings

"Theofanus uspenie" by Theophanes the Greek - Own work (scan). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
Icon of the Dormition by Theophan the Greek, 1392. The Theotokos is depicted lying on a bier, surrounded by the Twelve Apostles. At center, Jesus Christ is shown in a mandorla, swadling the soul of the Virgin Mary (a red seraph is shown above his head). To either side of him are depicted the Hieromartyrs Dionysius the Areopagite and Ignatius the God-Bearer who, according to tradition, are responsible for transmitting the account of the dormition.

10. Oh, see how the source of life is carried over into life, through the midst of death! See how the one  who overcame the defining limits of nature in her childbearing now gives way to those same limits, and submits her unsullied body to death!...Se how the maker of all things receives into his own hands her holy soul, now separated from that tabernacle that received God. He rightly honors her who was by nature his handmaid, but whom by his saving plan he made to be his mother, in the unfathomable ocean of his love for humanity. For he truly became flesh, and did not feign incarnation.

The Apostles saw, we are told, the ranks of angels waiting your departure from this world of human life. O lovely emigration, which was for you a migration to God!....

11. The angels and archangels carried you there. The unclean spirits of mid-air trembled at your departure. The air was blessed by your passing through it, the aether of the upper regions was sanctified. Heaven received your soul with joy!....

12. And so your holy, spotless body is committed to a reverent burial as angels go before you and stand around you and follow after, doing all the things by which it is fitting to serve the mother of their Lord. The Apostles, too, are there, and all the full membership of the Church, crying out divine hymns to the music of the harp of the spirit and singing... The company of the Apostles lift you up n their shoulders, the true ark of the Lord God, as once the priests lifted up the typological ark that pointed the way to you; placing you in the tomb, they carry you, as through another Jordan, into the true land of promise - to the Jerusalem which is above, the mother of all the faithful whose builder and craftsman is God. For your "soul did not go down into the underworld, nor did your flesh see corruption. Your immaculate, completely spotless body was not left on the earth, but you have been transported to the royal dwelling-place of heaven as queen, as lady, as mistress, as Mother of God, as the one who truly gave God birth...
Source: On the Dormition of Mary - Early Patristic Homilies by SVS Press

Bible Readings on the Feast of Soonoyo:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August 2015 - St. Mary, Prophets, Apostles and Fathers of the Church

The month of August is quite a treat for the faithful.

August begins with the Soonoyo fast (falling asleep and transfer of Virgin Mary), the feast of Priest Eleazar, Marth Shmooni and her seven sons who were martyred for their unwavering faith (2 Maccabees 7). The Feast of transfer (Soonoyo) of Virgin Mary is celebrated on August 15.

On August 6 we celebrate the feast of Transfiguration (the feast of tabernacles) and we remember the great father H.G Alexious Mar Theodosius (50th anniversary) who stood firm with our Church when his compatriot left the Orthodox faith.

This month we also celebrate the memory of three other great fathers of Malankara Orthodox Church: Mathew Mar Ivanios (Pampady Monastery), Joseph Mar Pachomios (Mulakkulam Carmel Monastery near Cochin), and PauloseMar Pachomios (Ranni Perunad Monastery).

We also celebrate the feast of all the Prophets, Prophet Samuel, Apostle Labi (Judas Thaddeus), Apostle Matthias, and Feast of St. John the Baptist (his beheading).

2015 August is also the 100th dukhrono (memorial) of Patriarch Abdul Mesiha who helped with the re-establishment of the Catholicate of the East in India.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Soonoyo Fast: The Fast before Transfer/Migration of St. Mary: August 1 - 15, 2015

Soonoyo Fast

August 1 - 15, 2015

Soonoyo means Transfer. Soonoyo Fast is observed to commemorate the falling asleep and transfer of St. Mary, the Mother of God, to Heaven. As per tradition, when Mother Mary was on her death bed, all Apostles from different parts of the world came together and witnessed her departure from this earthly abode. As per Syriac tradition, Apostle Thomas could not get back in time for her funeral, but sees St. Mary being "transferred" to the Heaven. This can be seen in the special songs section in the Holy Qurbana book (August 15, end of the Soonoyo fast).

"Theofanus uspenie" by Theophanes the Greek - Own work (scan). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
Jesus receiving the soul of Mother Mary, surrounded by the Apostles

There are some Christian denominations that teach Mother Mary did not die, but was assumed to heaven alive before death. However, Orthodox tradition is unambiguous and teaches that Mother Mary did die a natural death. 

Soonoyo fast is a "fixed" fast and every year it is observed between August 1 -15. Through the observance of this fast, Holy Church admonishes the faithful to prepare for their own death and pray for a death as coveted as Mother Mary's. This fast ends with Holy Qurbana on August 15.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Apostles' Fast - Prayers

Apostles' Fast

Holy Apostles

Holy Church admonishes us to observe the Apostles' fast from Tuesday, June 16 - Monday, June 29. During this time we fast and pray just as the Apostles did before they embarked up on the missionary journey. This fast reminds us of our responsibilities in the post Pentecostal period. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you [ Matthew 28:19-20]. The fast is observed for 13 days, corresponding to the number of 12 Apostles and St. Paul. The fast ends with the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on Monday, June 29.

Special Prayers during the fast of Holy Apostles
Evening Prayer


Lord! The illiterate and ignorant fishermen became scholarly and intelligent and even unassailable to the philosophers of the world, when they followed You, and became Your disciples. Likewise, by the help of Your grace, may we come closer to You and live according to Your will, through our prayers, fasts, and good deeds. Barekmor.

Lord! because of their love, Apostle St. Peter submitted himself for a death with his head down on the cross and Apostle St. Paul submitted himself to the sharpness of the sword for Your Holy name. Likewise, by Your grace, help us to truly love You and bear miseries and difficulties for Your Holy Name, and to not separate from You due to torture or death. By the prayers of Sts. Peter and Paul save us from all the enemies. Lord have mercy upon us and help us.


Lord, through the prayers of the Holy Apostles, like them, make us worthy to overcome the world and its pleasures, and may we long for and become heirs to the joyful eternal life in the other world. By Your grace, help us to be not afraid of those who kill the body, but rather be afraid of the One who can annihilate both soul and body in fiery hell. Lord through Your grace, help us to live a life fitting for Christians, not for the sake of our bodies, but rather for the purity of soul and holiness.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Mission of Mission

Sermon on the eve of the Commemoration of the Feast of St. Barnabas, the Apostle

+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One Triune God, and may His grace and mercy be upon each and every one of us. – Amen

Respected Anoop Achen, and my dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

If I were to say “Indian Orthodox Church”, what are the few things that come to mind? Right off the bat, we usually come up with things such as worship, our saints, our liturgy, our songs, the diocese, MGOCSM, our Sunday school. I bet the word “missions” did not come across your mind at all, and don’t be alarmed; because this is the case for many.

This reminds me of what my friend had told me back when I was in college. I had brought her to my church and a few bible studies and afterwards, I had asked her about her experience. She then went on to say, “Bobby, what you guys have is really nice…..but I feel as if you guys are just focused on your own people. Your ministry is only geared to the people in your own church. What exactly are you doing to bring others to this faith of yours? I feel as if your church is an exclusive club”. She even went on to say that the clergy lead the services and sacraments, the elders take care of the logistics, and the youth and children are being taught about the faith……then after a few years, the  youth and children become the elders and there will be a new set of children to teach. Its ends up being an ongoing cycle”…..And she’s exactly right. We spend so much time teaching our own kids about the faith, which is great…don’t get me wrong….but what are we doing to educate others? I was a leader of a non-denominational group called Intervarsity Christian Fellowship back in college, and I kid you not, no one there knew what Orthodoxy was. So when I said I was Orthodox Christian, they asked me, “so like Jewish?” Sad isn’t it?

What are we doing to show others who Christ is? Do we love Orthodoxy enough to share it with the world? Are we just merely exercising our faith alone to benefit us and our loved ones? Do we even have to spread it in the first place? Peter gives us the answer to this in 1 Peter 2:9, where he states

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”.

We are CALLED….and we are CHOSEN to “proclaim the excellencies” of Christ. It’s not something we COULD do, but rather it is something we are CHOSEN to do. Just having faith in God does not cut it. What are we doing with this faith of ours? With that said, I’d like to turn our attention to James 2. IF you read this chapter, you can clearly underline his thesis as “faith without works is dead”. James is stating clearly that "an empty faith" (or a non-action filled faith) is not true faith, it is nothing more than mouthing words. Simply stating that I’m better than Lebron James in basketball, means nothing, and in the same way, simply stating that I’m a Christian, means nothing. It does not mean anything UNLESS you can demonstrate WHO YOU ARE in a way that would convince any and all who saw them. In the words of Billy Graham, faith and works go together like inhaling and exhaling. Faith is taking the Gospel in (inhaling) and works is taking the Gospel out (exhaling). Talk is not enough. Intentions are not enough. REAL faith…translates into REAL action.

So with that said, I invite all of us to examine our lives, myself included. Ask yourself, what have I done to spread the word of God? What have I done to help those who were in need?
When I take Holy Communion on Saturday evening, Christ dwells within me; so what am I doing to share that Christ that dwells within me? Do I Keep him hidden, or do I shine light to Him so that all may see? There is nothing I can say or do to show you what works you can do. Each of you are called in different ways. Each of you are put in different scenarios and situations in life where you can cater to those in need. For me, especially in New York City, you’ll see many asking for money. So the one question that I get asked in New York by the youth is, “well, what if I don’t have money to give to those in need”? My answer to them is “why does missions have to be limited to money?” It can be simple as giving a hand to someone who needs help, picking up trash that you see around your community, sharing a verse and praying for others, inviting people to church, praying for someone, and sooo much more

By you all coming here today, and attending Qurbana on Saturdays, and actively being involved in your prayer life, this all demonstrates your faith which is a great foundation. But to accompany this faith, have a heart for missions. If we define missions, it is as follows - the vocation or calling of a religious organization, especially a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith. This faith that is instilled in you, share it with the world! There’s a saying that goes “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, so in the same way, to reach the world, start with your own backyard. Share this faith with your neighbors, and those you encounter on a daily basis. Share it with the poor, the sick, the suffering, the needy, those who need Christ, and those who have not yet heard of him.

In the same way Christ called the disciples to go out in to the world, Christ is calling you too. Among the disciples called, is Barnabas, a disciple of St Paul. We see their motive here in Galatians chapter 2
….they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do”. (7-10)

They traveled together, have converted many, and attending to the poor and sick. How fitting is that this church bears his name. This church, is set apart from all other churches. You all are a mission parish. And so, don’t take that lightly. Be that beacon of light for missions, and lead the way for future churches and generations. And as you all prepare to celebrate the feast of St Barnabas, remember also the spiritual giant who bore his name as well, the late lamented H.G. Mathews Mar Barnabas. Thirumeni was a huge advocate for missions. So let us seek intercessions from Thirumeni, St Barnabas, and all the Saints as we too prepare to spread Gods love and our faith to all those we come across.

My prayer is that when people see you carry out missions, they can boldly say that you are a Christian. Not by the cross you wear around your neck, but rather through the reflection of Christ on your face and through your deeds.

+ To God belongs all glory, honor, and praise. Amen

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Feast of the Ascension of Jesus

"Jesus ascending to heaven" by John Singleton Copley - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
Ascension of the Lord
Feast of the ascension of the Lord comes 40 days (or sixth Thursday) after the Easter. The gospels of Luke and Mark describes the event of ascension. Acts of the Apostles provides a more vivid description of the ascension of the Lord and the events that followed it.

From the Acts we learn that Jesus ascended 40 days after the resurrection. Further we learn that Jesus ascended to the heavens from Mount Olive. Take a virtual tour of Mount Olive.

After ascension, the next ten days are the period of preparation and waiting for the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost. In some traditions in Malankara, the faithful fast before the feast of Pentecost.
The fast begins from the day of ascension and ends with the feast of Pentecost. The faithful generally do not conduct marriages, baptisms, etc., during these ten days of preparation for empowering of the Holy Spirit.

We read in Acts how the apostles, St. Mary and others prepared for the empowering of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 1: "12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brother...
Acts 2: When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Sunday

By Stefano Bistolfi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The angel answered the women, “Don’t be afraid, for I
know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified.

He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said.
Come, see the place where the Lord was lying

At the end of the third Kauma of the night, the priest and the deacons enter the sanctuary and put on their vestments. Then the tomb behind the altar is opened and the cross is taken out and the wrappings of burial around the cross is removed. The priest covers the cross with a red scarf and a red silk velvet veil over it as prophesied by the Prophet Isaiah, saying: Who is this that comes from Edom in crimsoned garments (Isaiah 63:1). The cross is then placed on the stand in between two lighted candles. While the sanctuary is closed, the celebrant conducts secret prayers. During this time, the congregation sings Kuriealison. After the supplication, the sanctuary is opened and the priest holds the cross high and comes to the door of the sanctuary. With lighted candles and marvahasas (fans) on both sides of the cross, the priest says in a loud voice: 
“Priest: My brethren, I bring you new glad tidings: Christ has risen from the tomb and has struck His enemies behind Him“
Congregation: "We believe and confess that He has indeed risen"

For the next 50 days, until Pentecost, the faithful shall greet one another by saying:
“Christ is risen“ and the response shall be “Indeed He is risen“
Easter Sunday

Celebration of the Holy Cross

Dialog between the Cherubim and The Thief

By Anonimous (Solovetsk closter. Cоловецкий монастырь. Ризница) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Cherubim (Uriel) with flashing sword at the garden of Eden and
Titus (Dismas), the Penitent Thief carrying the cross trying to enter the garden

Most of us are very familiar with the dialog between the two thieves on the cross during the Good Friday's ninth hour canonical prayers (watch). The penitent thief on the cross is known as Titus (Theethos) in Syriac tradition and as Dismas in the Western tradition. The back and forth between the two thieves is known as "precedent dispute", an ancient form of argument. 

There is another gem of a precedent-dispute dialog in our prayers on Gospel Saturday. It is the dialog between the Cherubim with the flashing sword at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24) and the penitent thief. After Jesus promised the penitent thief, Titus, the paradise on the cross, that night he arrives at the gates of Garden of Eden. The dialog that follows between the Cherubim, who is unaware of the promise, and Titus is sung during the first watch (Qauma) of the Gospel Saturday Midnight prayers. In some churches in Syria, there is a tradition where a deacon sings the part of the Cherubim and a small boy sings the part of Titus. At the end of the dialog, the deacon carries the boy on his back into the altar, since in the Syriac tradition, the unordained cannot set foot in the altar. The Indian Orthodox Church follows the Pampakuda Penkeesa which only has alternate verses of the song compared to the one found in the Mosul Penkeesa. The verses from the Pampakuda Penkeesa of the dialog is provided in red font below. The song has been translated in its entirety by Dr. Sebastian Brock. Fr. Dr. Baby Varghese has translated the dialog in the Prayers of the Holy Week for the Indian Orthodox Church.

  1. At the Crucifixion I beheld a marvel
   when the Thief cried out to our Lord, "Remember me, Lord, on the day when You

   come to that Kingdom which does not pass away". [Luke 23:43]


Praise to You, Lord, for at Your coming

sinners turned back from their wickedness;

they entered and found shelter

in the Garden of Eden - which is the holy Church.

2. He made a petition, stretched out and gave it

to the crucified King, asking for mercy;

and He who is full of mercy heard his cry

and opened the door to his request.

3. "Remember me, Lord", was what he cried out on the cross, "in that Kingdom which

does not pass away, [Luke 23:43]

and in that glory in which You will be revealed

may I behold Your rest, seeing that I have acknowledged You". [Luke 12:8]

4. Our Lord replied, "Since you have acknowledged me

this very day you shall be in the Garden of Eden;

in very truth, man, you will not be kept back

from that Kingdom to which you are looking.

5. "Take with you the cross as a sign, and be off:

it is a great key whereby the mighty gate

of that Garden shall be opened,

and Adam, who has been expelled, shall enter again". [Gen. 3:24]

6. The word of our Lord was sealed

like a royal missive from the palace;

it was handed over to the thief

who took it and made off for the Garden of Eden.

7. The Cherub heard him and rushed up,

he grabbed the Thief at the gate,

stopping him with the sharp blade that he held.

All astonished, he addressed him as follows:

. CHERUB "Tell me, my man, who has sent you?

What is it you want, and how did you get here?

What is the reason that brought you here?

Reveal and explain to me who it is who has sent you".

9. THIEF "I will tell you who has sent me,

just hold back your blade and listen to my words.

I am a thief, but I supplicated for mercy,

and it was your Lord who sent me on my way here".

10. CHERUB "By what powerful means did your arrival take place?

Who brought you to this dread spot?

Who transported you across the sea of fire

so that you could enter Eden? Who is it who sent you?"

11. THIEF "It was through the power of the Son, who sent me,

that I crossed over and came here without hindrance.

Through Him I subdued all powers

and I have come to enter here, seeing that He has given me confidence".

12. CHERUB "You are indeed a thief, just as you have said,

but you can't steal into this region of ours:

it is fenced in with the sword that guards it. [Gen. 3:24]

Turn back, my man, you have lost your way".

13. THIEF "I was indeed a thief, but I have changed:

it was not to steal that I have come here.

Look, I've got with me the key to Eden,

to open it up and enter: I will not be prevented".

14. CHERUB "Our region is awesome and cannot be trodden,

for fire is its indomitable wall;

the blade flashes out all around it.

How is it you have made so bold as to come here?"

15. THIEF "Your region is indeed awesome, just as you have said,

- but only until our Lord mounted the cross,

when He transfixed the sword of all suffering

so that your blade no longer kills".

16. CHERUB "Ever since the time that Adam left

I haven't ever seen anyone turn up here;

your race has been banished from the Garden;

you shall not enter it, so don't argue any more".

17. THIEF "Ever since the time that Adam left

your Lord has been angered at our race,

but now He is reconciled and has opened up the gate. [Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:16]

It is to no purpose that you are standing here".

18. CHERUB "You should realize that it isn't possible

for an unclean man to enter in here

- and you are a murderer, and a shedder of blood.

Who is it who has brought you to this pure place?"

19. THIEF "You should realize that such is the wish

of Him who makes the unclean clean, who was crucified together with me;

with the blood from His side He has washed me completely clean. [John 19:34]

It was He who has sent me to Paradise".

20. CHERUB "Be off with you, man, and don't argue any further,

for this is what I have been ordered:

to guard from your race, by means of the sword,

the Tree of Life that is to be found in here". [Gen. 3:22]

21. THIEF "Be off with you, angel; you should learn and see

that I've left behind, hanging on Golgotha,

that very Fruit of Salvation that's in your garden

- so that our race may now enter without any hindrance".

22. CHERUB "Eve and Adam fell into debt and wrote out

a document that will not be erased: [Col. 2:14]

they went out of here under sentence

to live in low estate in the land of thorns". [Gen. 3:18]

23. THIEF "The debt is repaid. Just listen, O Cherub:

the document has now been transfixed on the cross; [Col. 2:14]

by means of both blood and water your Lord has wiped it out,

and pinned it there with nails so that it won't be exacted".

24. CHERUB "Adam was driven out from this Garden

and there is no way he can enter here again,

for the sword's blade is revolving

and he'll encounter it should he come near".

25. THIEF "He who was driven out has returned to his father's house,

for the great Shepherd has gone out and found [John 10:11]

that sheep that had left the Garden;

carrying him on His shoulders, He has escorted him back". [Luke 15:5]

26. CHERUB "It is something totally novel that

I've seen today: a path leading back into the Garden.

But here are Adam's footprints, take a look:

he has left here and not returned again".

27. THIEF "Jesus your Lord has performed a novel deed,

for now He has released Adam who had been confined;

He has raised up whole crowds from inside Sheol, [Matt. 27:52]

and they have sent me in advance, to open up for them".

28. CHERUB "I am the cherub: how is it you have transgressed

against my office of guarding, with which I've been entrusted?

A fiery being like me cannot be vanquished,

but as for you, an offspring of Adam, how bold you are!"

28. Alternate from Pampakuda Penkeesa:
CHERUB "You are not my companion, O Created one!
My Lord is angry with your race
Set out from here
For you are a stranger to the garden

29. THIEF "I am your companion and we have but a single Lord
in common for both of us;
His authority is much higher than either yours or mine,
and so I've no fear, seeing that it was He who has sent me".

30. CHERUB "You simply cannot enter in here,
for it is a resplendent place that no one can tread:
the Shekhina is escorted around inside it,
and the sword of fire is guarding it".

31. THIEF "You cannot hold anyone back,
for the sword is not blunted and made dull.
The cross has opened up the Garden of Eden;
there's no means by which it can still be kept closed".

32. CHERUB "Haven't you heard from the Bible
how the cherub and the sword go round
guarding the way to the Garden of Eden,
so that none of Adam's offspring can enter here?"

33. THIEF "Haven't you heard from the Revelation
that your Lord has come down and become man,
thus reconciling Adam, who was in a state of anger,
bringing back to Eden the one who had been driven out?"

34. CHERUB "The sign of the revolving sword
that guards the Tree of Life
frightened off Adam when he was driven out,
so how is it that you're not afraid?"

35. THIEF "The sign of your Lord is with me,
and by it the sharp sword is blunted;
but it too is the sentence remitted,
and by it, Adam, once expelled, shall return".

36. CHERUB "The ranks of fire are standing here,
thousands of them in bands innumerable;
the multitudes are awesome, and quite simply
you can't travel on any further and enter among them".

37. THIEF "The multitudinous ranks of which you've told me
are themselves in awe as they look upon the Cross:
the sign of the Son inspires them with awe
and they worship before it, while me they hold in honour".

38. CHERUB "The sign of my Lord is upon the Chariot, [Is. 66:15]
resplendent upon the Throne, but from us it is hidden, [Ezek. 1:26-7]
so how is that you—as you are claiming—
carry this sign of His and escort it?"

39. THIEF "His sign is upon the Chariot above,
but look, His Cross is on Golgotha below,
and with His own blood He has written a new missive
permitting Adam to come back into the Garden".

40. CHERUB "O agent in blood, who has brought you here?
Who is it has sent you, a murderer?
The sword is drawn, and if you make bold
the blade will flash out against you".

41. THIEF "O agent for the King, don't be upset;
your authority is repealed, for your Lord has willed it so.
It is His cross that I've brought to you as a sign:
look and see if it's genuine, and don't be so angry".

42. CHERUB "This Cross of the Son which you've brought to me
is something I dare not look upon at all.
It is both genuine and awesome; no longer will you be debarred
from entering Eden, seeing that He has so willed it".

43. THIEF "The Cross of your Lord has breached the fence [Eph. 2:14]
that had been built up between us and you,
Anger has passed away and peace has come,
and the path to Eden is no longer cut off".

44. CHERUB "He who was slain has sent to me and testified with His own blood
that I should let go of the blame which I've been wielding.
Fearful is this sign which you have brought me;
enter in, O heir; I will not turn you back".

45. THIEF "Resurrection has occurred for the race of humankind
that had been thrust out of their home.
You cherubim and angels, rejoice with us, [cp Luke 15:10]
for we have returned now to your city".

46. CHERUB "Great is the compassion that has been shown to you,
the descendants of Adam who sinned and thus died.
Enter, thief, you will not be kept back,
for the gate is now open for those who repent".

47. THIEF "Great and most glorious is the compassion of my Lord,
for His mercy has effected and His love has constrained Him.
Rejoice with us, O spiritual beings,
for we have been mingled into your race".

48. CHERUB "The Gentle One has held back from your race [Matt.11:29]
the blade and the sword that I have been wielding.
Outcasts who have returned, have no fear,
enter inside the Garden with exultation".

49. THIEF "Praise be in Eden that is now at peace,
peace on earth which has been liberated.
Blessed is the Crucified One who has reconciled us
so that we shall not longer be deprived of your race".

50. Thanks be to You, O Lord of all,
who have brought back Adam who had been driven out,
while to the thief who asked for mercy
You opened up the gate that had been closed.

51. Thanks be to You, at whose word
the thief entered into the Garden of Eden,
and there was good hope for Adam again
and he returned to the place from which he had gone out.