Friday, February 20, 2009

Great Lent

Our journey through this year’s great lent starts next Monday. The 3-day lent was a preamble for the great lent.

The forty day lent starts on Feb 23rd and we celebrate Easter on April 12th. Count it for yourself on the calendar and you’ll notice that it stretches beyond 40 days. One of the most perplexing questions I had, when I was a kid, was why the 40 day lent extends more than 40 days. Just last year, some of the adults came by and asked me the same question. This time, I was able to give them an explanation. The explanation is that we do not count Sundays in our lent. Aaaha… does that mean we can break our lent on Sundays? Well… not exactly. Sundays are considered to be Feast days, and we are supposed to be jovial and come participate in Holy Qurbana.

Prior to getting into lent, we do couple of activities. One of them is we forgive all others around us; come to agreement with anyone and everyone that we may have irritation or anger against. There is a special service at church, called the Shu-bah-kono. The prayers are fundamentally to give us the strength to forgive all around us and to give peace to all. At the end of this service, you’ll notice people standing in a line and exchanging kiss of peace to each and everyone. What we learn from this is that, there is no meaning or value in stepping into the great lent if you have any kind of annoyance or irritation against your fellow human beings. This is step # 1.

Step # 2 is the fun activity and we hold a feast on the day before the lent begins. In our church, it’s called ‘peth-ru-tha’ – similar to the ‘Mardi Gras’ or ‘Fat Tuesday’ that precedes Ash Wednesday. In catholic religion, the great lent begins on Ash Wednesday and therefore Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday is on the prior day. People are excited and hold large carnivals and banquets the day before the lent begins. Since orthodox lent begins on Feb 23rd, we hold Peth-ru-tha on Sunday, Feb 22nd.

Personally, I have tried observing the great lent several times but have failed miserably every time. When I reviewed the reasons, I discovered that only few human beings have been really successful in observing the great lent in its true meaning. I am talking not just about abstaining from meat or egg or dairy products. I am talking about controlling food, your actions, your body and even your thoughts. In my examination, what I have learned is that only few people have truly been successful in observing the lent for 40 days, such as Mosses, Elijah, Jesus Christ etc. The higher we set our standards for observing the great lent, the vicious the testing and temptation from the devil. The reason is simple – the devil does not want anyone to attain such power that would thwart his existence.

So, why are we still trying to set forth for a journey that has quite a huge number of challenges? We do our best in staying on course and God knows our weakness. When God created human beings, He provided us with those ingredients necessary to withstand devil. However, only a very few have tried to attain that echelon. At least, we try our best. Also, it’s an opportunity for us to realize how frail we are, when it comes to our strength – both mental and physical. This will certainly allow us to humble ourselves.

Once again, this year, I plan on observing the great lent by giving my best shot. I’ll see how long I can hang on. Prayer is the only medication that will enable me to ride into this journey. There is going to be constant struggles at home, work, church, friends, etc. I am sure there will be some damage done to me during this lent season. There will be circumstances where I may have to raise my voice, times when my patience will be tested, times when unfavorable news will be heard. I’ll try my level best not to succumb to any of those. If you’ve read the story of Job in the Bible you know how much Job had to suffer while being tested by devil. My plan is to believe in God and stay course. Let’s see what they are.

If any of you are planning to journey the great lent this year, I request you to pray for me as well. I’ll pray for all of you to succeed in whatever you are doing. If time permits, I’ll try to post how each day is going by. My schedule would be get up early, take a shower, pray to God, go to work, stay in constant communication with God, control my thoughts and actions, do good deeds to others, if I get tempted, say a simple Kauma or psalm, remember about those who survived the lent, ask our saints to give strength, pray in the evening, talk less, go to church on Sunday, consume Holy Qurbana, thank God for the past week, request strength for the next week. I plan on visiting the prison and talking to some of those who are behind bars. If I were in India, I would have visited a hospital and surprised some of the poor families by talking to them and paying off their hospital bills (the joy they express at that time cannot be elucidated).

When we reach mid lent, there is a service at church where ‘Golgotha’ will be placed at the center of the church. Does anyone know why it’s there? I’ll post the reason later on.

Holy week is the last episode of the great lent. I’ll share few thoughts on the Holy week when we get closer.

Wish you the very best to those of you who are setting out for this journey. Remember – you are not alone!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Update on BBS

I received an email last evening from Kevin Thomas. In his email he communicated to me that, due to scheduling conflict with his oboe lessons, he cannot participate in BBS this Sunday. It's a good gesture from Kevin's part to inform ahead of time about his non-availability. Now we are left with only Kevin Varghese representing our class and participating in a speech.

After hearing the news of Kevin Thomas bailing out, the natural tendency that would come to Kevin Varghese's mind (if I were him) would be to think hard of a convincing excuse to give Jacob Uncle not to take part in BBS. Now, we all know that next Sunday is Kevin Varghese's birthday and he is not going anywhere - gotcha!.

It will be interesting to see how Kevin Varghese handles this situation - either use his energy and brainpower into preparing the speech, or use the same energy and brainpower to cook up an excuse to bail out. Anybody care to place bets on this, using your knowledge in probablity and statistics? Send me an email with subject line 'Kevin Yes' or 'Kevin No'. We'll discuss the results next Sunday....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Final Roadmap

We have arrived at a juncture where we only have 3 more units to complete our prescribed textbook, and I can see the light at the end of this tunnel – wow! The remaining units are about Marriage, Orthodoxy, and Psalms. I looked up our schedule and we seem to be poised for a comfortable wrap up. Here’s what I am planning for ya’ll.

Next week we'll have the GD on 'youth and the society' followed by the BBS. Once that's over, we'll be back on track learning the textbook.

The unit about marriage will be covered bit slowly, and I am thinking about spanning it over few weeks, as it is an interesting as well as important topic that all of you look forward to. While the text book just ‘scratches over the surface’ on this topic, I however plan to take a deeper dive into the subject to enlighten you on several key factors that constitutes marriage. We’ll examine the topic from an eastern as well as western perspective, merely because of our cultural background and the society we are currently part of. Try not to miss any classes related to this unit, as this is one topic every boy and girl needs to know about! We’ll also discuss related topics that are woven into this fabric. Our class will have a questionnaire box wherein you can write and deposit any anonymous questions that you may have, connected to the topic. I promise that every question will be weighed in with equal importance and addressed appropriately.

The unit on Orthodoxy is another interesting topic that many of the so called orthodox Christians themselves are not aware of. This topic came up in the recent teachers’ meeting and Achen was specifying the importance of this subject. We’ll learn the subject in a way that it’ll register in our minds forever.

The final unit talks about 3 psalms that are quite prominent and the book tries to educate us the background of those psalms.

I’ve started reading extensively on the above topics (text book is a mere pointer to those subject areas). Once we are done with these 3 units, our 10th grade class will come to a closure. Aren’t you guys/gals waiting for that??

If, after this week's GD, you guys/gals want to hold additional GD's feel free to let me know, and I can try to build it into our schedule.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Comments on 2012

When Chris read the article about 2012 on our class website, he came back and provided me his comments.

Chris: “Dada (that’s what he calls me), do you believe in religion?”
Myself: “Of course, I do.”
Chris: “Do you believe in Christianity?
Myself: “Yes, I believe in Christianity”.
Chris: “Ok. You remember the story of Noah – right? In that story, God promised Noah that he will never destroy Earth again. That was God’s promise, and the rainbow is the sign of that promise. You should believe in God’s promise as there in no bigger promise that God’s promise.”

I did not have anything else to tell him in return. He strongly believes that God will not destroy earth in 2012.

Do you guys/gals have any similar comments?

New Bishops

We are about to have few new Bishops. Our church is consecrating 7 new Bishops on Feb 19th. This event will take place at St. George Church, Puthupally, Kerala.

If you recall, in the past 2 months, 2 of our Bishops entered eternal rest.

BBS on Feb 22nd

We are getting closer to our BBS for Feb 22nd. From our class, both Kevins have signed up for a speech. Let’s all wish them the very best.

There is no restriction on the topic – you can pick up any Christian topic for your speech (call it freedom of speech). Before you present your speech though, as a responsible class teacher, I would like to know beforehand the topic and material you are going to cover. I do not want to be caught off guard while you deliver the topic.

To the best of my knowledge, BBS is going to be held inside the sanctuary. Now, there is another meeting inside the sanctuary after the Holy Qurbana –i.e., the General Body. It was said that there will be only one topic for discussion in the GB, but it’s difficult to predict how long the GB will last. We will have to wait for the GB to finish, for us to start our BBS. Therefore, the plan is, let’s wait in our class until we hear from someone.

I noticed some students sneaking out home after the class and before the BBS. You are putting your attendance in jeopardy. If you want to leave, you need to let me know prior to leaving. Else, I’ll be under the impression that you’re in the sanctuary attending BBS. In order to prevent this, our class will form a line and slowly and steadily march towards the sanctuary in an orderly fashion.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Class on Feb 15th

What we covered in our class yesterday, included chapters 14 thru 18. I know it took a bit longer to dismiss the class. Synopsis for these chapters, as well as the text book material is available online.

Next week, let's plan on having our second session of GD. It's good to see all of you are interested and pumped up for GD - yeah!! let't do it.

Kevin & Kevin, what are you guys planning on talking for BBS next Sunday? Do you need any help compiling or delivering the speech? Feel free to ask.

We talked about texting in class yesterday, as well as we discussed about what happened to Michael Phelps and it was a conincidence that I happened to read an article on texting when I got home. Texting has gotten hi-tech and 'sexting' is the latest hip. The article says that the biggest online threat is not predators, but your own peers - that's exactly what we talked about!! When you get some free time, think about the material below.

According to the The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, below are few important things to think about before pressing "send":

  1. Nothing stays private. Don't assume anything you send or post is going to remain private.
  2. There's no changing your mind. In cyberspace, anything you send or post will never truly go away.
  3. You can say no. Don't give into pressure to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even in cyberspace.
  4. Consider the recipient's reaction. A message may be meant in fun, but the person who gets it may not see it that way. You may say something suggestive as a "joke," but the person who reads it may expect a hook-up in real life.

image credit: open.salon.com

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Next Sunday

Agenda for Sunday, Feb 22nd:
(a) Second round of Group Discussions on the topic 'Youth and the Society'.
(b) BBS after our class.
All BRS answers are in and I posted your grades - thank you.