Distancing the Christians away from the term “House of War” is a Humanitarian Mission

By H.B. Mar Meelis Zaia, A.M.
Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East
Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand

A lot of ink has been spilled over our good land in the past, and still does today over the issue of addressing the presence of the Oriental Christians in their home land. As such, a less gloomy dream of tomorrow for Christians has become an even more difficult matter.

As a result of the relentless indulgence savoured by the terrorist’s in the bombing and mass murder of innocent spiritual devotees at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, our people worldwide declared their condemnation of the abhorrent ritual and its corollary of accusing and killing Christians as “infidels”. They further deprecated the practice of hoarding this acrimony in private circles that shattered the society’s fraternal values and Iraqis’ national unity.

The ritual of slaughtering Christians as reprobation for being “infidels” is a clear and flagrant truth in the modus operandi of the terrorists persecuting our people. We have witnessed how the terrorists endorse the killing of Christians as “sacred duty” and a legitimate religious expression, delighting in the hideous mass murders at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation.

Discussions on eradicating terrorism through the application of security band-aids and a show of force, coiled temporarily around the churches and in Christian areas, seems incomplete unless fraternity ignorance is exposed and the “infidel-killing” ideologies disposed of. Security forces can reduce the level of terrorism around the churches and community centers, but the task of eradicating the incubators of terrorism can not be isolated and accomplished through military and security solutions alone

As individuals, confronting society’s inferior level of harmony and shattered national unity is every Iraqi citizen’s responsibility. Official force alone is not enough to face the arsenal of the “infidel-killing” ideology. The captivation of the “infidel” mania does not spawn overnight but is preceded early by various stages of nurturing intellectual fallacies and prejudices. Without instilling corrective values against them such as tolerance, brotherhood and coexistence in a multi- cultured society, we cannot reap the fruits of peace even if the banner of security protection is raised and imposed.

Community educational processes must exist for those more impressionable individuals deprived of coexistence awareness. When we nurture and build a peaceful individual and community frame of reference, society as a whole, will be prepared to take the required initiatives to confront, challenge and defy the deadly desecrating ideas that have devoured even the innocence of children. Given that the disguise of terrorism is religious, without the involvement of religious institutions, eradication efforts will be deemed unsuccessful. Religious leaders can play a crucial role in thwarting the proposals of instigators of hostility by pre-emptive purification of religious misconceptions and by bringing about the values of dialogue and religious tolerance. The religious treatment to this “trend” would be to strip the religious facade from the terrorists, who build their glory on sectarian hatred, and prevent diluting the religious values by these mercenaries of “infidel-killing” ideology.

The combat style of the killing violence is the offspring of verbal violence which was unleashed in private circles in a holy framework. This urged listeners for militancy, extremism and religiously justified the blood shedding of all that fell under the label “other”, whether Christian or Muslim.

Distancing and shielding of Christians or other persons from the term “House of War” is, first and foremost, the mission of the religious and humanitarian groups to save them from the fire of “infidel-killing” perpetrators, who find religious fulfilments in the killing of the different “other” the only way to divine satisfaction. The killings in the Church of Our Lady of Salvation were based on hatred and religious classification of Christians as “infidels” more than the defence principle of “detention of Muslim women in Coptic monasteries,” as claimed. The concealing motive of the perpetrators has been exposed in this murderous act that in their rational, the slaughter was a short cut for drawing closer to God.

What we want from each individual Muslim, everywhere, is to realize that the attack on Christians is an attack on himself, as it is a reflection on Islam. We did not forget, nor will we deny the consolations extended by the Muslims that were with us in the events of Our Lady of Salvation. But our security and peace does not depend and should not be limited to a serving of solace only. What transpired in the Church of Our Lady of Salvation was not an extreme act of terrorism. It was the ritual of ‘infidel-killing’ for those on the inside, and a blatant threat of deportation for those on the outside.

This matter is far greater than consolation of broken hearts and the issuance of denouncement letters and condemnations.

Addressing the above concerns requires the abolition of hatred and the dismantling of the talisman of extremisms to revive the ever lasting peace from its permanent setbacks. Iraq needs to stand accountable against those who glorify hatred and inspire extreme views in order to uncover deceiving practices. To guarantee the nation’s triumph, the government must storm into the sources and incubators of terrorism and flood the streams of ignorance of the “other” through educational and intellectual enlightenment and not by military force alone.

Hidden among the shelves of the libraries, worldwide, is the story of our ancestors’ faith, the greatness of our Christian history and, our greatest pride, the apostolic heritage of the Church of the East, also known as the Church of Kokheh. As a reflection of its spiritual and intellectual richness and enlightenment to its readers, the Assyrian Church of the East in Sydney issues its magazine; The Church of Beth Kokheh echoing the faithful message of the Church of the East.

From Kokheh, we went to all mankind.

The Existence of God

By the Late Lector Dennis Mirza

Introduction

Atheists cannot argue that God does not exist, because they cannot demonstrate the non-existence of God. Instead, they take a more Agnostic view, and can argue that unless they see God, there is no proof for His existence. The famous Russian astronaut Yuri Gagaran orbited the Earth in 1961. Upon his return one of the first statements he made was that he searched for God and never found Him. I would ask him, “Have you searched around Pluto and perhaps other Galaxies? Maybe God is there!” If you have to physically see God to be convinced and believe His existence, then you cannot confidently state that “God does not exist” just because you haven’t seen Him.    

We are constantly challenged by Agnostics and other sceptics to prove that God exists.

There are several reasons as to why many people refuse to believe in God. The most obvious is they have doubts due to not physically seeing Him. People in general don’t like to be in submission and obedient to anyone. Most people deny His existence because of the conviction of the pleasure of sin in their lives; Some claim that there is a “power out there” but deny to call Him “God”; and yet there are others who claim to believe in God, but they live as though He does not exist. How can you be sure whether or not there is a God? The answer can be given in three parts: Firstly, all people have an inner sense of God; secondly, we believe the evidence that is found in the Scriptures; and thirdly, that is evidence that points out from Creation.

Due to the advancement of science and technology over recent decades, man has made it a principle for himself to believe in something only when it is proven by sight and/or feeling. For this reason faith in God is diminishing.

As the world grows further away from faith in God, it is becoming difficult for a vast majority of people from many nations to believe in something that they cannot see, touch, and feel. The Bible claims that all people have a sense that God exists but it’s because of wickedness and the desire for sin there are those who claim, “There is no God”.

Romans 1:18-20

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Psalm 10:4

In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Psalm 14:1

The fool in says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Anyone who genuinely searches for God does find Him. They acknowledge His existence through various ways. Some find Him through calamities, sickness and suffering; others through wealth and materialism; some through poverty and turmoil; some through academic interests; and some through their cultural and traditional values. God is not restricted to only one or two sources. His ways and methods are invisible and mysterious. It is certain that if anyone seeks His existence earnestly, they will find Him.    

1. The Evidence from Moral and Conscience

Man is born with an inner belief of a Supreme Being. Every person admits the existence of a “Being” with supernatural intelligence and powers that supersede our knowledge and ability. Even the Agnostic and Sceptic call their god “mother-earth” or “mother-nature”. It is sad to hear at times Christians also use these ludicrous terminologies. Is it because they are ashamed of God? Or maybe they do not want any confrontation and ill-feeling in the ‘political correctness’ and ‘discriminatory laws’ that we have today? It is important therefore to grow in the knowledge of God through the studying of the Scriptures so that we, as Christians will always be prepared to give the right answers, “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)    

      

Romans 2:14-15

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

“Compelling evidence that points to the existence of God is our moral experience. Morality is an essential part of our human fabric. The very fact that humans believe in a high and just moral standard is conclusive due to the existence of God. It is because of the existence of God that humans experience moral conviction. No human is possible without subscribing to moral values. Everyday we observe politicians, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, judges, police, humanitarians, and citizens of all nations arguing for justice, fairness, equality, tolerance, honesty, responsibility, accountability, civil rights, human rights, women’s rights etc. We believe that it is right to treat all people with equal right. We condemn racism, rape, violence, child abuse, war, corruption, murder, treason, betrayal, abortion and other behaviour as evil and wrong. The reality of our moral commitment is unavoidable: we live in a moral universe.”1

If our conscience that is given to us by God did not direct us to know and understand the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, then humanity would have been subject to chaos resulting in a world no different to that of animals, where only the strong and fit would survive.

Paul in Athens amongst many Philosophers:

Acts 17:23

For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

Conscience told the Athenians that there was a God even though they did not know Him personally. Sceptics who claim that their conscience does not tell them about God are people who have suppressed and silenced their conscience by their disbelief only for the reasons of selfish gratification. Many people who sternly deny the existence of God are afraid to face the responsibility of being accountable to Him after death.

Romans 1:18-19

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

“To look up into the skies and observe the universe and claim that there is No God because we cannot see Him, is as ridiculous as seeing a passenger airline fly over us and saying it is pilotless because we cannot see the pilot”. 2

2. The Evidence from Scripture 

The evidence that God exists is found throughout the Bible.

Psalm 19:1

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

The beauty and glory of creation; the heavens; and all that we can see points to a “Creator” – God.

Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Creation even teaches us about the sovereignty and eternal power of God,

Job 26:7

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.

The Earth “Hangs” upon nothing.

Scholars claim that the Old Testament book of Job was written approximately 1500 BC. The main point that is made in this verse is that some 1500 years BC we were told that God “HANGS” the Earth on Nothing! The Earth is hanging out in empty space and is not placed on any foundation. While Believers were informed by their God that the Earth was hanging out there in the empty universe, modern day sceptic Scientists never knew of this fact until some 450 years ago. They believed that the Earth was flat and had its foundations and somehow everything else like the sun, stars, moon, and planets revolved around it.

Job 38:4-5

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know. Who stretched a measuring line across it?   

‘Measuring line’ across the Earth?

The Earth’s Northern and Southern hemisphere’s are separated by The Equator. In approximately 1500 BC, the Bible informs us of this separation and calls it, “measuring line”. It is set at zero degrees exactly across the centre of the Earth’s circumference dividing it into equal parts. One of its main purposes is that seasons are set by it. Whatever season it is in the Northern hemisphere, the opposite season is in the Southern hemisphere. It creates order for seasons. It also does serve for other purposes. Could this “measuring line” – The Equator, perfectly situated upon the centre of the Earth at zero degrees Longitude have come as a result of the “Big Bang Theory?” Could the revolving of accumulated particles of dust and debris in the outer space that’s in a state of imperfection, come ever to a formation of a Planet and function perfectly in its design and order even if the process ran a course of a Quadrillion (1015) years? Can any perfection in whatsoever form exist as a result at any imperfection? A young child will even tell you, “Only in Cartoons!”

More on this point is written in point 3 – “The Evidence from Cosmology”.

Isaiah 40:22

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth.

The book of Isaiah was written around 750 BC. Isaiah records that the Earth is a globe. The word ‘circle’ in this verse means ‘globular’ not ‘a flat circle’ as some have commented to be.

It is recorded that the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) argued in his writings that the Earth was spherical, because of the circular shadow it cast on the Moon during a lunar eclipse.

In approximately 1500AD after sailing around the globe, Christopher Columbus discovered the Earth was round. Isaiah was no mathematician, nor a philosopher and certainly no sailor, but he wrote some 2750 years ago that God is seated and enthroned upon His global creation, Earth.

There are numerous verses and passages we can look at throughout the Bible to prove the existence of God. The person who accepts the Scriptures will readily acknowledge the existence of God. Paul does state that “All Scripture is inspired by God and it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). However, people will not accept the Bible as today the authentic word of God. The Sceptic of this century demands evidence of the existence of God from other sources other than the Bible.

3. The Evidence from Cosmology

The Cosmological argument is the study of the existence and function of the universe. Everything that we see has a cause and a point of existence. We see the world and study the universe. It must have come from somewhere. Somebody or something must have been the cause for it to come into existence at a point in time. We look at everything the eye can see and know that there is a Designer who formed it. Cotton jumpers do not come into existence as a result of a cyclone that whirls through a cotton farm. We look at our watch and know that at one point in time someone sat down and carefully studied and planned to create a watch. Do the Sceptics believe that by placing some metal fragments in a jar then shaking the jar for billions of years will create a watch perfect in shape and size which works in harmony in accordance to the rotation of the Earth, Moon and Universe that rotate around the Sun? Can ever the Sceptic believe in such a Theory? What is the Mathematical probability of such a thing to come into existence? Impossible is the answer! We can only witness such things in cartoons. Nothing can be created from disorder, but everything created comes from an orderly Designer.

The Apostle Paul speaking to the Greek philosophers of his day argued that the existence of the universe provided good and sufficient reason to trust in the existence of God:

Acts 17:24, 25, 28

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

18th Century French writer and philosopher Voltaire quoted, “You see many stars at night in the sky but find them not when the sun rises; can you say that there are no stars in the heaven of day? So, O man! because you behold not God in the days of your ignorance, say not that there is no God.”

The universe is a remarkable evidence of a Creator. Its very existence points out to the reality of an omnipotent God. King David understood this truth when he wrote 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

The perfect creation of the universe and its design points to the evidence of an intelligent purpose. Through its design, beauty, complexity, harmony and order, Man is able to discover God and reside in the universe enjoying its benefits. “A watch not only exists but it has a designer who created it for a specific purpose. A watch was not designed for mosquitoes to live in it. It was designed by a keen intelligent mind for the purpose of accurately telling the time”.3

Voltaire also supports the existence of God by the design of the watch, “I shall always be convinced that a watch-maker, and a universe proves a God.”

An examination of the universe and the things that it comprises both large and small shows that each is designed by an intelligent mind for a specific purpose. Albert Einstein quoted, “The mathematical precision of the universe reveals the mathematical mind of God.”

Astrophysicists declare that our Planet is incredibly unique in its position, function and existence.

➢ It is located at the right distance from the sun for human life to exist. If it were any closer it would be too hot, if further away, it would be too cold.

➢ Its tilt at 23.5 degrees provides gravity. If the tilt were more or less, then there would be no gravity.

➢ It rotates on its axis once every 24 hours = One Day.

➢ 365 times in one Year

➢ And once around the Sun = One Year.

➢ The rotation provides Day/Night and Seasons created for Man’s purposes.

➢ Consists of many elements, minerals and other resources for Man’s sustenance.

➢ Its design and operations work all together in harmony and order.

All this harmony and order could never have resulted into existence by ‘chance’ or a ‘big-bang’. That’s why they call it the “big bang theory” because a theory is not factual.

One of the greatest minds of Science, if not the greatest scientist, Sir Isaac Newton declared, “When I look at the solar system, I see the Earth at the right distance from the Sun to receive the proper amount of heat and light. This did not happen by chance.”

After returning from his flight around the Moon with Apollo 8, Astronaut Frank Borman was questioned by a reporter. The reporter pointed out that the Soviet cosmonaut who recently returned from space flight said that he did not see God or Angels on his flight. “Did you see God?” questioned the reporter. To his question, Frank Borman gave a brilliant response, “No, I did not see God either, but I saw His Evidence.” Brilliant Answer!

Conclusion

The only sensible answer to the explanation of our existence and the existence of the world and universe is the existence of an intelligent Being Who created it and Whom we call God.

In this modern day world, Atheism somehow seems to be “cool”. Atheism only leads to confusion and despair as it never provides solid and sound answers built on fact and truth. It only leads to an imbalanced life without answers. Ultimately, the belief in God and in particular in Christianity is not a confusing philosophy. It is the most simplistic of beliefs. It requires faith to believe and acceptance of the truths of the Scriptures. This is certainly not blind faith, but faith that is built upon evidence, logic, and truth.

God Bless

_________________________

References:

1. Christianity for Sceptics (Steve Kumar) page 24.

2. Christianity for Sceptics (Steve Kumar)

3. Christianity for Sceptics (Steve Kumar)

Commentary on the Second Sunday of the Resurrection

Reverend Fr. Dr. George Toma

“New Sunday”

John 20:19-29

The second Sunday of the Resurrection is called a new Sunday because our Lord Jesus Christ by His suffering, death and Resurrection renewed the whole world which was corrupted by the breaking of the commandment of God. The fathers of the Church of the East in regard of calling the second Sunday of the Resurrection new Sunday say:

“On Sunday the New day. Come let us sing the new glory. Unto the Christ the new groom. For He has promised us the new world.”  (Khoodra Prayer Book, Volume II, Page 601)

Jesus after His Resurrection from among the dead did not immediately ascended into heaven. He stayed for 4o days and 4 nights on earth then He ascended into heaven in order to:

  1. Strengthen the faith of His disciples about His Resurrection from among the dead on the third day.
  1. During the forty days Jesus prepared His disciples for the great commission to go and courageously and without doubt preach the good news of His death and Resurrection from among the dead. It was of utmost important that the Apostles would believe in the death and Resurrection of the lord which is the foundation of the Christian faith.

We learn from the Holy Bible that:

  1. Jesus rose from among the dead on Sunday“the first day of the week”.It is written:

“1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (Which means “Teacher”)?  17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:1-19)

  1. On Sunday the risen Lord met with two of His disciples on their way to Emmaus. These disciples were talking about the suffering, death and Resurrection of the Lord. Jesus is always present among those who talk about His death and Resurrection namely the plan of Salvation. He Himself said whenever two are gathered in my name I am there among them. It is written:

“13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.  14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.  15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.  16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.” (Luke 24:13-16)

  1. On Sundaythe risen Lord taught His disciples about His death and Resurrection from among the dead. The two disciples had a little doubt about the Resurrection of the Lord. Jesus as usual played a role of a teacher and removed their doubts by explaining the scriptures for them. This is exactly what happens in the Holy Mass. The readings are read and a Priest in a person of Christ “as a soul of the Risen Lord” explains in his sermon the teaching of the readings and the gospel lesson. It is written:

17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”19 And He said to them, “What things?” So they spoke to Him about Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross…… 25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”  27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”  (Luke 24:17-27)

  1. On the first Sundaythe Lord celebrate the first Mass.

Our Lord Jesus Christ celebrate two Masses both in the evening. One before His Crucifixion immediately after He ate the last supper with His disciples according to (Matthew 26:26). The second after His Resurrection with two of His disciples in the village of Emmaus. So rule of celebrating the Eucharist in the evening was indeed established by the Lord Himself.   He Himself said whenever two are gathered in my name I am there among them. It is written:

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:30)

  1. On the first Sundayof the Resurrection in the evening the risen Lord appeared to the ten of His disciples who were gathered in the upper room behind the closed doors from the fear of the Jewish leaders. Saint Thomas was not with them. It is written:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord”. (John 20:19-20)

  1. On the second Sundayof the Resurrection the Risen Lord again met with His disciples in the same upper room and Thomas was with them.  It is written:

“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)

  1. The lessons we are learning from the gospel lesson:
  2. When the disciples so what happened to the Lord they lost their hope. All their dreams collapsed. They were not sure what their future is going to be. The same thing happened to their Lord might happen to them. So they locked themselves in fear in the upper room. In the midst of fear and hopelessness the risen Lord met with His disciples and gave them peace by saying “peace be with them”.

We should believe that in the midst of fear and hopelessness the Lord will not leave us alone. He will be present among us and He will take away our fear and haplessness by giving us peace of His Resurrection.

  1. The goes after his believers. The disciples hid themselves from the fear of the Jewish leaders behind the locked doors. They were not searching for the Risen Lord. In the midst of fear and hopelessness the Rison Lord as a good shepherd went out searching for the lost ship namely His scattered disciples. He did not stop searching till He found them.  Even though we might not search for the Lord He will search for us.
  2. The need for personal meeting with the Rison Lord. We might sometimes just like Thomas have doubt about our faith.  In such times it is for our benefit not to withdraw ourselves and stay away from the church gathering. We are in need   Just like Thomas to meet the Lord personally and accept Him as our Lord and our God.
  3. Withdrawing ourselves from the Church gathering in the time of trouble. Saint Thomas was deeply saddened by what he has seen happened to the Lord. He lost his hope and his faith shook. This is the reason for withdrawing himself from meeting with the rest of the disciples and began hiding himself.  Saint Thomas by withdrawing himself from meeting with the rest of the disciples lost the blessings of the first meeting of the Rison Lord with the rest of the disciples on the first Sundayof the Resurrection. Once Thomas came back and began meeting with the rest of the disciples he participated in the blessings of the second meeting of the Risen Lord with His disciples. So we should learn from the mistake of Thomas that whenever we are in trouble instead of withdrawing ourselves from the church become closer to the church. We should not separate ourselves from the church gathering because we will miss the blessings of the meeting of the Lord with the Church.
  4. The Lord meets with those who gather in His name.

The Lord met with the ten disciples who gathered in His name in the upper room. He did not meet with Thomas who withdraw Himself from the church gathering “From the disciples who gathered in the name of the Lord”. The Risen Lord meets in a special way with those who gather in His name. It is written:

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

On Sunday the Lord rose from among the dead. On Sunday He met with His disciples. On Sunday He walked with them. On Sunday He taught them about the plan of God for the Salvation of the World. On Sunday He celebrated the Holy Eucharist. After the same manner the Risen Lord will meet with those who gather in the church in His name. Will walk with them in the journey of their faith. Will celebrate the Eucharist with them in the person of the ordained priest. This is what makes Sunday a Lord ’s Day.

  1. The Holy Church believing in the above mentioned reasons, from the very beginning began to gather and worship God on Sundayinstead of Saturday. It is written:

“7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together.…” (Acts 20:7-8)

Again it is written:

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)

 

Rev. George Toma

Saint Andrews Parish – USA

April 5, 2016

The Mysteries of Violence: Reflections on the Assyrian Crisis in Syria

Rev’d Archdeacon William Toma

An Introduction to the Divine Revelation

Reverend Fr. Dr. George Toma

 

The doctrine of the Apostolic Faith came from Divine Revelation. “Divine Revelation” is a doctrine which God Himself has revealed to mankind. God revealed the doctrine of apostolic faith to mankind so that mankind will rightly serve Him and will worthily give to Him due honor and praise.

God made His revelation known to all mankind. Because it is necessary to all of humankind, alike; and, it is capable to give salvation to all.  However, since all humankind are not capable to receive a divine revelation immediately from God, He has utilized certain persons, or gifted ones as heralds of this revelation in order to deliver it to all who desire it and wholeheartedly receive it.

Owing to sinful impurity of both body and soul all men are not capable of receiving the “Divine Revelation” from God. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Moses and other prophets; received the beginnings of the Divine Revelation and they in turn proclaimed the same to humankind; but, it was The Incarnate Son of God our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who brought the revelation to earth in its fullness and perfection.

The Divine Revelation has been spread throughout the whole world by His great commission to the Holy Apostles, which is:

 “ . . . Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

St Paul the apostle to gentiles teaches that God the father at the end of time revealed His Divine Revelation to mankind through His only begotten son Jesus Christ. It is written:

“God, who in sundry times and in diverse manner, spoke to us in times past unto The Father, by the Prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, Whom He has appointed heir of all things, by Whom also, He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Again Saint Paul the Apostle says:  God has revealed the Divine Revelation unto the Holy Apostles by the Holy Spirit. It is written:

 “. . . but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory; but God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.”  (I Corinthians 2:7, 8, 10)

According to St John the Evangelist, the only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father has revealed God to mankind. It is written:

 “ . . . No man has seen God at anytime; the Only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  (John 1:18)

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself, by His own Divine Lips declared and confirmed that He has revealed the fullness of divine revelation to mankind. It is written:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  (Matthew 11:27)

 It is possible for man to have some knowledge of God. This knowledge of God can be gained by the consideration or contemplation upon the creation (such as the trees, flowers, the cosmos, etc); however, this knowledge is imperfect and not sufficient to reveal the totality of God.  It will only serve as a preparation for faith; or, as a help towards learning about God and His divine revelation.  Saint Paul says:

“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse;” (Romans 1:20)

Saint John Chrysostom regarding knowing God from His creation says:

“The Prophets also said: “The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalms 19:1).Will the heathens say at the judgement that they were ignorant of God? Did they not hear the heaven sending forth a voice while a well ordered harmony of all things spoke out more clearly than a trumpet?  Did you not see the hours of night and day remaining constantly unmoved, the good order of winter, spring and the other seasons remaining both fixed and unmoved? …. Yet God did not set so great a system of teaching before the heathen in order to deprive them of any excuse but so that they might come to know Him. It was by their failure to recognize Him that they deprived themselves of every excuse.” (Homilies on Romans Chapter 3)

St Luke writes:

“From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring” (Acts 17:26-28)

Saint Basil agrees with the teachings of the Sacred Scriptures and the commentaries of the Church fathers that we can learn from creations about the existence of God.  It is written:

“With regard to faith in God, it is preceded by the idea that God IS which idea we get from the things which have been created.  Attentively, examining the creation of the world, we perceive that God is wise, powerful, and good; we perceive, also, His invisible properties.  By these means we are led to acknowledge Him as the Supreme Ruler.  Seeing that God is the Creator of the whole world, and we form a part of the world, it follows that God is also our creator.  On this knowledge follows faith, and on faith adoration.”  (Basil. Magn. Epist 2:32)

By meditating at the beauty of creation, how everything has been working harmoniously since the beginning we need to confess that it must have a creator who is not just created it and rested but rather He has been supervising it constantly.  Saint John of Damascus says:

“The very creation, by its harmony and ordering, proclaims the majesty of the divine nature.”(Orthodox Faith 1.1)

 

Written by Reverend Fr. Dr. George Toma

Assyrian Church of the East

Lent 2016

Worshiping Towards the East

Cor-Bishop Dr. Father George Toma

Praying is not only a responsibility of a clergy; lay people are responsible to pray as well. A priest prays on behalf of the people, for the people and with the people. By the virtue of his apostolic rank of priesthood, he “the priest” is a mediator between the community of believers and God.

According to the liturgy of the Church of the East a clergy and lay people face the east during the celebration of the Eucharist and all other spiritual services. This is the reason the church tries to build all the church buildings facing towards the East.

1. Worshiping towards the East is an Apostolic Tradition:

Worshiping towards the East is an apostolic tradition. The Holy Apostles believed the second coming of the Lord will be from the East. The Lord said:

“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27)

An angle repeated the same words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the Holy Apostles who were witnessing the glorious Ascension of the risen Lord into heaven. It is written:

“They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

The Holy Church based on the above mentioned Biblical references believes and teaches that the glorious Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven took place on the Mount of Olives, and He will come again from heaven on a cloud from the East. Therefore, we worship God towards the East looking forward for His second coming.

Since we do not know when the second coming of the Lord is going to be, we worship watchfully towards the East expecting His coming in any moment. It is written:

““But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:32-37)

Mar Odisho Metropolitan of Sowa and Armenia of the Church of the East in his book of the pearl part V chapter 1 on worshiping towards the East page 64 says:

“It is necessary, therefore, that we should ever be on the watch, with our faces turned towards the promise of His shining forth.”

2. The appearance of the Angle Gabriel to the blessed Mary on the day of annunciation:

Fathers of the Church of the East believed, the angel Gabriel, on the day he announced to the blessed Mary the conception and the birth of the Son of God appeared to her from the East. It is written:

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)

Mar Odisho writes in His book of the Pearls, says:

“And according to the tradition of Mar Aprim, he says in his commentaries, that the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin from the East and that when he said unto her: “peace be unto you, O! full of Grace” She worshiped at his salutation towards the East.” (Book of the pearl page 65)

3. The coming of the Magi:

We learn from the Sacred Scriptures that once the magi sow a sign of the birth of the King of Kings, came from the East, presented gifts to the Lord and worshiped Him as God, King and Savior. It is written:

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

4. The appearance of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into Heaven:

The Holy Church teaches that our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven facing the west, prefiguring the nature of His second coming. The Holy Apostles who were watching Him ascending into heaven fell on their knees and worshiped Him towards the East. Mar Odisho in His book of the Pearls says:

“And when our Lord ascended up to heaven, His face was turned toward the west, significant of His coming at the Resurrection, and the disciples who were before Him, and looking at Him ascending , worshiped Him towards the East,” (Book of the pearl page 65)

5. The angels worshiped God facing the East.

The fathers of the Holy Church believed and taught that the Angels in the very beginning did not know who their creator was. When they heard a voice saying: “let there be light” they determined that the one who will create the light necessarily is their own creator as well. The Bible says and there was light. Thus as soon as the angels so the light, they fell down and worshiped towards that light which means towards the East. It is written Mar Odisho in His book of the Pearls says:

“And the early commentators have added that on the first day the seven essences were created in silence, and afterwards the voice went forth, “Let there be light”. The angels, who knew not that they had a creator, when they heard the voice, concluded that if an effect followed it, the speaker must be their Creator, and the Creator of all. “And there was light,” immediately then all of them worshiped towards the part from whence the light shone forth, which was the East; and this is what Job the blessed says: “When I created the morning star, all my angels glorified Me.” (Book of the pearl page 65-66)

6. References of worshipping towards the Eat from the Old Testament:

Prophet Ezekiel while facing the East saw the glory of the Lord entering the Holy Temple through the gate facing the East. It is written:

“The glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing the east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” (Ezekiel 43:4-5)

7. The Jews worship God towards the East:

Traditionally the Jews faced towards the East during their worship services. It is written:

“When the prince provides a freewill offering to the Lord whether a burnt offering or fellowship offerings the gate facing the east is to be opened for him. He shall offer his burnt offering or his fellowship offerings as he does on the Sabbath day. Then he shall go out, and after he has gone out, the gate will be shut.” (Ezekiel 46:12)

8. The Spiritual advantage of the canon of worshiping towards the East:

Mar Odisho Metropolitan of the Church of the East regarding the Spiritual advantage of the canon of worshiping towards the East says:

“This rule is, therefore, profitable in two ways: first, because it stirs up the remembrance of the end, and of the Judgment to come, and which checks us from doing evil things; and, secondly, so that we may remember our old home, from which we were driven out on account of our sins, namely, Paradise, which is situated in the East, and thereby we are to take refuge in repentance.” (Book of the pearl page 65)

The Garden of Eden from which we were expelled because of the breaking of the Commandment of God is located in the East. This Garden of Eden is our first home and we anxiously look forward to go back to it. It is written:

“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” (Genesis 2:8)

“So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:23-24)

Cor-Bishop Dr. Father George Toma
Saint Andrew’s Parish Priest, Glenview, Illinois – USA
The Great Fast of 2016

Typology of Mary in the writings of East Syriac Fathers

Rev’d Archdeacon William Toma