St. George Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
Cheppaud, Kerala, India
St. Peter was a fisherman of Galilee, named Simon, and the son of John. His brother Andrew introduced him to Christ about whom they had probably heard from John the Baptizer, and he became His disciple, ultimately giving up his family and possessions to follow Him. Christ changed his name to Peter (Rock) and made him the Rock on which His Church was to be built. After His Resurrection, Jesus conferred the primacy on Peter and he became the Vicar of the Christ and the head of the Apostles, the first Patriarch.
The Gospels speak about Peter more than any other Apostle. He was honoured on many occasions; several miracles were performed for his benefit; Christ stayed at his home, preached from his boat, sent him the first message of the Resurrection, and appeared to him personally. Often Peter acted as a spokesman for the other Apostles. Finally, mention is made of his defects: his anger, imperfect faith, impetuosity, and his triple denial of Christ.
After the Ascension Peter began his work as head of the Church. He directed the election of Matthias, delivered the first public Apostolic sermon, cured a man lame from birth, and received a Divine commission to receive Gentiles into the Church. After the execution of James, the brother of John, by Herod Agrippa, Peter was miraculously rescued from prison. He presided at the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem in the year 50, when it was officially declared hat the Gentile converts to the Faith were not subject to the Jewish law of circumcision. Later it was decided that not even the Jews were bound to observe the Mosaic Law.
On 22nd Feb AD 37, Saint Peter founded the see of Antioch which is attested by many Saints of the earliest times, including Saint Ignatius of Antioch and Pope Saint Clement. This Apostolic Throne at Antioch is acknowledged as the first See of Peter. It was just that the Prince of the Apostles should take under his particular care and surveillance this city, which was then the capital of the East, and where the faith so early took such deep roots as to give birth there to the name of CHRISTIANS. There his voice could be heard by representatives of the three largest nations of antiquity — the Hebrews, the Greeks and the Latins. Saint Chrysostom says that Saint Peter was there for a long period; Saint Gregory the Great, that he was seven years Bishop of Antioch. He did not reside there at all times, but governed its apostolic activity with the wisdom his mandate assured. All the historical evidences points to the fact that the date of establishment of the Apostolic Throne at Antioch is within few years after Our Saviour’s Ascension. The Apostle no doubt left Jerusalem when the persecution which followed Saint Stephen's martyrdom (AD.35) broke out (Acts 8:1), and remained in Antioch until he escaped miraculously from prison and from the hands of Herod Agrippa, while in Jerusalem in 43 at the time of the Passover. (Acts 12) Knowing he would be pursued to Antioch, his well-known center of activity, he went to Rome.
St. Peter's Cave Church (Grotto) at Antioch (Antakya, now in Turkey) established by the Apostle
In the first ages it was customary, especially in the East, for every Christian to observe the anniversary of his Baptism. On that day each one renewed his baptismal vows and gave thanks to God for his heavenly adoption. That memorable day they regarded as their spiritual birthday. The bishops similarly kept the anniversary of their consecration, as appears from four sermons of Saint Leo the Great on the anniversary of his accession to the pontifical dignity. These commemorations were frequently continued by the people after their bishops’ decease, out of respect for their memory. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter was instituted from very early times. Saint Leo says we should celebrate the Chair of Saint Peter with no less joy than the day of his martyrdom, for as in the latter he was exalted to a throne of glory in heaven, by the former he was installed Head of the Church on earth.
From Antioch, St. Peter went to Rome where he stayed there intermittently for about 25 years, as founder and first bishop of the Church there. Finally, in the last year of Nero’s reign, 67, he was crucified with his head downward, at his own request, not deeming himself worthy to die as did his Divine Master. Two Epistles of the New Testament are attributed to him and the Gospel of St. Mark, who was his disciple, has been called “the Gospel of Peter.”
The Universal Apostolic Church
Rev. Fr. K. K. John
When we say that the Church is Apostolic, we affirm and acknowledge that the Church began with and keeps in line with the Apostolic teachings. Apostolic teachings are of two kinds namely; written and unwritten. "Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught whether by word or our epistle" 2 Thes. 2:15. By genuine Apostolic descend, Church derives its authority for its teachings from the Apostles by the continuing guidance of the Holy Spirit, John 16:13. Thus the faith of the Church is divinely inspired and undefiled. The Church traces back to Apostles especially Saint Peter, the head of Apostles, for its humble beginning. Jesus Christ chose and appointed the twelve disciples with specific missions.
Two-fold missions: (1) Certain missions were common to all Apostles, "He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease." Mat.10:1, Mk. 3:13, and Lk.6:12, "As you go, preach, saying The Kingdom of heaven is at hand, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons, freely you have received, freely give" Mat. 10:7-8. Granted them Holy Spirit, peace, power to forgive and retain sins, John 20:22-23. He kindled their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures and empowered them to be witness for Him, Luke 24:45-48. He charged them to preach and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all commandments, Mat 28:19-20. (2) Some missions, as discussed below, were not common to all but personal as for St. Peter and St. Paul.
St. Peter is entrusted with additional privileges, missions and responsibilities. At the first meeting itself Jesus treated him in a special way. Jesus promised him a surname, 'Cephas.' "You are Simon, the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" John 1:42. Cephas in Aramaic means rock. In the Old Testament rock is synonym of Yahweh. Yahweh is the rock of Israel 2 Sam 23:3, Is 30:29. He is their rock of refuge. Dt 32:37, Ps 18:3. He is their rock of deliverance, Dt 32:15, Ps 62:3. He is their everlasting rock, Is 26:4. Yahweh is the blessed rock, Ps 18:47. He is righteous, faithful rock in whom there is no wrong Dt 32:4, Ps 92:16. Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron when they had no water in the wilderness of Zin. Moses and Aaron went into the presence of the Lord. The Lord instructed them to strike the rock with their rod. They did so and water gushed out of the rock (Meribah) abundantly. Ex 17:6, Num. 20:11. St. Paul interpreted that, "that rock was 'Christ," I Cot. 10:4. The title, 'rock' thus rightly belongs to Jesus Christ. By calling Peter 'Cepah,' Jesus imputed His personality in him rather, He conferred His own title to Simon. Adoption was common practice among Jews on those days. Family title was conferred on those who were adopted, Gen. 15:2. It can be assumed without error that Peter was more like adopted kin to Jesus Christ. Heavenly father validated what Jesus conferred on Peter by revealing to him that Jesus was Christ, the Son of the living God. It was then that Jesus confirmed him the title, 'Cepah.' Jesus promised to build the Church on the leadership of Peter, "On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." Some theologians interpret that, 'Cephas' is not a citation to Peter himself but to the faith he confessed. Such opinions are absurd as, "You are Cephas-Peter," purely implies a personal reference. "Church is built upon him. "He conferred this personally upon Peter," says Tertullian. "Peter upon whom is built the Church of Christ," says Origen. "It is on one man that He builds the Church," says Cyprian.
Keys: Peter's personal commission is further fortified by assuring him the keys of kingdom of heaven and the power to bind and loose. "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven," Mat 16:17-19. The key of the kingdom of heaven is not given to Church but to Peter himself. In Isaiah 22:22 we read, "And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder so he shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open." Revelation 3:7 says He who is holy, He who is true," has the key of David, and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is legitimately holding the Keys of the Kingdom of God. "I am He who lives, and was dead and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen. I have the keys of hell and of death." Rev 1:18. Shortly, he has overall authority of all things, created, uncreated, visible, invisible, earthly, celestial, living, dead, temporal and eternal. For, Jesus endowed all His authority to Peter by promising the keys.
Temple tax collectors' inquiry to Peter if their teacher pay tax is an ample proof that Peter was by then well known in the society as representative of Jesus. Jesus affirmed it by asking Peter to pay tax for both Himself and Peter, Mat 17:24-27. His eminent position among the Apostles prompted Satan to sift him as wheat. Jesus prayed for him so that his faith would not fail Luke 22:31-32. Jesus' special care and keen interest to retain Peter in leadership position is self-evident in these statements. Peter in his frailty denied Jesus three times. Peter's denial and its aftermath, that he will not forfeit but retain his leadership by strengthening other Apostles, were predicted well in advance, hence not by chance. On the first day after Sabbath when Mary Magdalene and other women entered the tomb to anoint with spices and the angel spoke to them that Jesus was risen from the dead and asked them, "Go tell his disciples and Peter" Mark 16:7. Special mention of Peter’s name is yet another piece of evidence of his eclat position among the disciples that the angel was very much aware of. It also testifies Jesus' loving concern and special favor to Peter. The disciples disbelieved the account of resurrection as narrated by Mary Magdalene, Mark 16:1. Their words seemed to them like "idle tales." Peter arose and ran to the tomb and thus he was the first among the disciples to believe the resurrection. Luke 24:11-12. Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His flock. Peter denied Him three times, as predicted, Mat. 26:69-75. Though he wept bitterly after denial, it was necessary to affirm his conviction. Jesus asked him three times if he loved Him more than other Apostles. Peter affirmed he loved Him more than others and surrendered by saying, "You know that." Jesus then appointed him to feed His lambs (children), His sheep (women) and Goats (men). Unlike in English, Syriac version has distinct words. This fulfills all the previous promises. Our practice of declaring candidate's unwavering faith and obedience to the Church and to the bishop who ordains (Salmoosa or Amologia) has its origin from this tradition.
Peter as the most obedient and loving disciple fulfilled the assignment soon after Jesus' ascension. He took up the leadership of the disciples and disciples accepted it, as in Acts 1:15-17. Peter was the first Apostle to speak. He filled in the void in the gospels as to the end of Judas and initiated the process of selection of twelfth Apostle. Peter instead of claiming or exercising absolute authority for himself submitted to the ultimate will of God. That is why our Church as always rightly teaches that no human being but Jesus Christ Himself is the real Head of the Church. No human being, no matter whatever title he holds, can be infallible. Peter is the first Apostle to preach at the Pentecost, Acts 2:1 - 41, He was first to perform miracles, Acts 3:1-11. He was the first to preach to gentiles and convert them, Acts 10:1-11:8. Church grew as faithful multiplied daily and extended to neighboring areas and countries.
Holy See in Antioch, not in Rome: The first gentiles Church was established in Antioch. The faithful were first named 'Christians in Antioch-Syria. Antioch was a major city, center of trade and influence in those days. Peter, before his missionary journey to Rome, appointed Evodius a successor to shepherd and govern the Church of Antioch. Cardinal Gibbons, in his book, 'Miraculous spread of faith,' on page 6 says, "They parcel out the Roman Empire among themselves. Their only weapon is the Cross, their only credentials, the Gospel of Christ. St. Peter commences his apostolic ministry in Jerusalem, where his first sermon is followed by conversion of three thousand souls, some of whom had, no doubt, witnessed the crucifixion of our Savior, and perhaps even had a hand in his death. He afterwards established his See in Antioch and finally suffers martyrdom in Rome." 'The faith of the early apostolic fathers, by William A Jurgens, volume I page 17 says, "St. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, who was the immediate successor of St. Peter." Page 73 says, St. Theophilus was the seventh bishop of Antioch, the sixth successor of Peter."
Tradition (Roman Catholic calendar) has that St. Peter established his Holy See in Antioch on 22 February 37 AD. The above records (Roman catholic publications) put it beyond doubt that St. Peter established his Holy See, which is also called, throne of St. Peter, in Antioch by appointing successors quite earlier to his departure to Rome. He suffered martyrdom in Rome. There is absolutely no record either traditional or historical to suggest that St. Peter established a second Holy See in Rome. Residence, death and burial of Peter in Rome are so strongly imbedded in tradition that few recent historians doubt it... Peter, as bishop of Rome does not appear in the literature before the 3rd century. The recent excavations under St. Peter's basilica have disclosed a pagan cemetery in which the earliest dated burials belongs to AD 70 Christian burials occur in late centuries, but the inscriptions make no allusion to the proximity of the graves to Peter's grave." Dictionary of the Bible, by John L. McKenzie, SJ. Page 664. The author mentioned first above, introduces St. Clement of Rome in page 6 saying, "To base Clement's title of the Apostolic Father on his supposed association with St. Peter is at best somewhat tenuous. Whether or not he was consecrated Peter's successor, by Peter himself... still he is an Apostolic Father, simply by reason of the fact that he is a man of apostolic age." The author clearly expresses his inability to establish beyond reasonable doubt that Clement was either consecrated by Peter as his successor or he had association with Peter. None of the record ever suggested that Clement was the successor to Peter, but he was a bishop in Rome. The ambiguity can be cleared when we read, "After the martyrdom of Paul and Peter, Linus was the first appointed to the episcopacy of the church at Rome," His story of the church 3:2, by Eusebius. There is no criterion by which Rome can, except for its political superiority, supersede the genuine succession of Peter at Antioch and claim succession at Rome. Strong possibility to the contrary, is that St. Peter might not have appointed any successor in Rome, so as to negate his first appointment in Antioch. St. Peter was more certain than any others that appointing two equals at the same time would invite more problems than good that would be detrimental to the oneness of the Church. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit...one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and father of all," Eph 4:3-6. Secondly the circumstances were also different. In Antioch he appointed a successor to look after the affairs in his absence, a fact testified by various relevant records, because he was planning to go far off Whereas, he had no urgency to do so in Rome because of his presence. We do know that he was put in prison and crucified but we have no record to show that he appointed a successor in prison before execution. Chance of succession from a place of martyrdom is bleak or else Eusebius might have mentioned it. Claim of succession in Rome was never surfaced before third century. To illustrate, I had a friend in my native place. He finished his Bachelor Degree and took up a job. He married and fathered two children. Then he left abroad for higher studies. He could not take his family with him. There he developed an affair with a woman whom he liked most. He completed his course of study but he did not return to his native place for he was so involved in the affair. There he took up a job. He begot two children in that affair. He lived with those children and when they grew up, he died. In the meantime his children in the first marriage grew up under the care of their mother and took over the father's estate. His children from the illegal affair learned that their father had a good fortune in his native place and staked claim on the estate. Now, who are the legitimate heirs and who will get the properties? Undoubtedly, the children of his native place become the legal heirs. They got the right of succession and bequeathed the fortune. None on earth including other Apostles had authority to abrogate what Peter established at Antioch and for the same reason claim of succession at any place other than Antioch by any one is untenable. "The Apostle Peter, after he has established the Church in Antioch, is sent to Rome, where he remains as bishop of that City, preaching the gospel for twenty-five years "The chronicles by Eusebius of Caesarea. I therefore hold that the succession of Antioch shall legitimately prevail over that of Rome.
Primacy of honor to Rome, but all bishops are equal in spiritual powers. Fathers of the Church conferred a primacy of honor' to the bishop of Rome, as is evident from the Hudoyo canon 7:1 which reads, "There shall be four patriarchs in accordance with the four corners of the earth, that is, the bishop of Rome, with him the bishop of Alexandria, the bishop of Constantinople that is also called New Rome, and the bishop of Antioch who 'has jurisdiction over all the East. Bishop of Jerusalem shall be honored as the fifth patriarch without jurisdiction..." This arrangement was made to avoid confusion to the future synods. The basis was nothing but the political prominence of the cities. They had to, no doubt, please the emperor of Rome who convened the synod of Nicea, for it was 'the question of their survival.
Jerusalem was honored, for, this place was blessed by the redemptive activities of our Savior. All bishops were equals. Patriarchs had no spiritual superiority over other Patriarchs. No bishop was ever subject of another bishop. All bishops are partakers of the throne of St. Peter. This also shows the oneness of the Church. "Every bishop has his own free will to the unrestrained exercise of his liberty and power, so that neither can he be judged by another, nor is he himself able to judge another," Acts of the seventh council of Carthage AD 256. Cyprian also held that, episcopate itself is one and undivided," in his treatise on the unity of the Catholic 'Church. Though he was the bishop of Carthage, the clergy of Rome addressed him, The blessed Pope Cyprian," However Pope Stephen continued to stake his claim of superiority over other bishops and Cyprian continued to oppose him. There was struggle between Polycrates of Ephesus and Victor of Rome (AD 190) regarding the date of Easter. The decision of Polycrates to continue Easter on fourteenth of Nisan prevailed over the dictum of Victor. Eusebius and Jerome endorsed the decision of Polycrates. In the early Centuries all bishops treated themselves part of the same episcopate. Clement of Rome wrote letter to Corinthians. Some of his successors interpreted this as Clement acting as the 'General to bishops.' This is utterly untrue. Other bishops’ also acted the same way. Ignatius of Antioch wrote letters to at least seven Churches namely; Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smymaeans, Polycarpus and Antiochians. Polycarpus of Smyrna wrote to Philippians. Dionysius of Corinth wrote to Sotter of Rome. Tatian the Syrian wrote to the Greeks. Irenaeus wrote to Victor of Rome. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianz, John Chrysostom and all early bishops wrote pastoral letters 'to other bishops. There was no question of one controlling the other. Later, Popes of Rome departed from the noble tradition, connived with the emperors, twisted the doctrines and gained control over other bishops. He became a formidable force to reckon with during the Middle ages. He even dictated terms with rulers in Europe and had direct confrontations with some monarchs.
An excerpt from the statement on papal supremacy issued by Pope Boniface VIII in 1302 to the French king Philip IV known, as 'Unam Sanctam' may be remarkable. We are compelled, our faith urging us, to believe and to hold-and we do firmly believe and simply confess-that there is one holy catholic and apostolic church, outside of which there is neither salvation nor remission of sin. In this church there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism...Therefore, of this one and only church there is one body and one head. Christ. Namely, and the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter, and the successor of Peter. For the Lord himself said to Peter, feed my sheep... We are told by the word of the gospel that in this His fold there are two swords-a spiritual, namely, and a temporal... Both swords, the spiritual and the material, therefore, are in the power of the Church; the one, indeed, to be wielded for the church, the other by the church. The one by the hand of the priest, the other by the hand of kings and knights, but at the will and sufferance of the priest. One sword, moreover, ought to be under the other, and the temporal authority to be subjected to the spiritual... Therefore if the earthly power err it shall be judged by the spiritual power; but if the lesser spiritual power errs, by the greater. But if the greatest, it can be judged by God alone, not by man, the apostle bearing witness. A spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is not judged by no one. This authority, moreover, even though it is given to man and exercised through man, is not human but rather divine, being given by divine lips to Peter and founded on a rock for him and his successors through Christ himself whom he has confessed; the Lord himself saying to Peter: "Whatever you shall bind, etc." Whoever, therefore, resist this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordination of God... Indeed, we declare, announce and define, that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff' (Page 398 of Eastern Civilization by Jackson JS). However, King Philip not only defied it but al50 charged the Pope for heresy 'The Pope could not get over from the shock and he soon died. This paved the way for the king to create an Anti-pope at Avington.
East and west differ. Both Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches sharply differ on this issue. The said attitude of Roman Pope is outright defiance to the teachings of Jesus Christ, his disciples and the biblical truth. Jesus Christ never conceived the idea to hold any temporal power. "Therefore when Jesus perceived they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, He departed again into the mountain by Himself alone," John 6:15. Why? He knew that they were acting on a misguided enthusiasm and it was not His mission to fulfill their earthly wishes. He said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world," John 18.36. The Apostles rightly understood Him and labored not for this worldly power. How then one can claim successorship of Christ or the Apostle and twist the doctrines to wield temporal power?
Specialties of Patriarch of Antioch: However, two specialties are noticed in the case of the Patriarch of Antioch. Firstly, he had vast areas of jurisdiction. The synod confirmed the jurisdiction he already had over all the East. There was a Church fully developed in the East that extended to India, China and right up to Korea. Secondly no other patriarchate had a Catholicose. Catholicose of the East was to obey him. This subjection is not because of any difference in spiritual authority as bishops but for administrative convenience. One seat (Holy See) of St. Peter was divided into Four Pattiarchates for administrative convenience but was of the same succession from Peter. When four Patriarchs came together in unity; the seat of Peter was valid and complete. Patriarchates had no independent identity. There was no Catholicose elsewhere because other Patriarchates had smaller territories and there was no need for an intermediary
Moses and Peter The Fathers of the Church conferred equal status to Moses and Peter. "Moose reeso d'athikatho o'semavoon dah'datho / thrihun domen lah'dode valoho bhun sre / Moose ahes loohe dno Moose o'semavoon kabel / kleede d'malkooso / Moosebno maskan sabno o'semavoon eethobno / o'men aathiktho vah'dado lok subaho moreo / haaleluuya slooshun th'aderlan." (Kukoyo, Monday midnight II) The meaning, "Moses was the head of the Old Testament Church. Peter is the head of the New Testament Church. Both have semblance. Lord God confirmed this. Moses received tablets of laws. Peter received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Moses built tabernacle in the Church. Peter built New Testament Church. O Lord, glory be to your name from the Old and the New. May their prayers help us, Haleluya." All other Apostles accepted Peter's leadership without question. Peter, John and James were regarded as three pillars of the Church, Gal 2:9. The mention of 'three pillars' does not allege that John and James took upon themselves the special commissions which Jesus gave to Peter nor does it diminish the preeminence of Peter; rather, it reveals how closely and unitedly they preached the same gospel. Paul himself submitted to the authority of Peter, "I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and remained with him fifteen days," Gal 1:18. The fathers and doctors of the early Church held and conveyed the same idea. Liturgy of Matrimony states, 'Jesus appointed Simon to rule the house.' Priesthood ceremony also very clearly asserts that the incumbent priest is given the blessing and authority of priesthood as it was given to and by Peter. Canonical prayers are full of expositions on the pre-eminent position of Peter.
However Peter never exercised a monarchical leadership. After third Century such a dogma was evolved to exercise powers by the then leaders. As time went on the leadership struggle gathered momentum and gave rise to many ugly faces. It may be perceived that Peter never claimed infallibility He rightly took up the leadership position after the ascension of Jesus Christ. Instead of arbitrating, he proposed the election of an Apostle in place of Judas. He laid down the qualifications of the incumbent. Further proceedings are jointly done by all gathered. They submitted in prayer to the will of God, who knows all the hearts. The selection process was completed by casting lots, Acts 1:26. The first Apostolic Council was presided by James, not because he was more prominent than Peter but because he was the bishop of Jerusalem. Here again Peter is the spokesman and James is pronouncing decisions based on the words of Peter. Peter's eminence is well established through the words of James. Peter's approval of James to preside adduces that he believed in collective decisions rather than dictatorial rule. Galatians 2:11 says, "Now when Peter had come to Antioch I withstood him face to face because he was to be blamed." Tertullian says in, Against Heresies, "If Peter was reproached by Paul because, after having lived with the gentiles, he later separated himself from their company out of respect for persons, the fault certainly was one of procedure and not of doctrine." This is an exact evidence that no one is infallible, no matter what titles one holds. Peter was correctable. How then his successors are not correctable? Thus it is clear that the claim of infallibility by Roman Pope is not a sound biblical doctrine. Infallibility is the immutable quality of God. Imperfect human being cannot ever merit this quality Claim of infallibility is as good as claiming equality to God and hence detrimental to the character of Church. Church candidly holds that it is unacceptable heresy, and hence repudiates it. It was invented to exert complete control over worldly affairs namely; kings and Governments.
The Pontiff The word, Pontiff was unknown to the Christian world. It has a pagan origin. It was the name of the Roman priest in the pre-Christian era, which were advisers to the king. There were as many as sixteen pontifices during the time of Julius Caesar. Their chief priest was called pontifox maximus. They had no executive function, yet, their expert opinions were of considerable value. When the Roman emperor converted to Christianity he made Christianity the official religion of the empire. The bishop of Rome, in order to add grandeur to his position, styled himself; 'Pontiff' with the consent of Emperor. None of the other Patriarchs seem to have used this tide. This word conveys a sense of command instead of a sense of service and hence improper to a Christ's servant.
Celibacy of priests. The "infallible pope" made series of ex-cathedra innovations to his church. He imposed celibacy of priests. God created Adam in His image and likeness from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils and he became a living soul. God found that it is not good that the man should be alone. He made a helpmate to Adam and named Eve. God said that they shall be one flesh. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it," Gen. 1:28, 2:18. Theologians unanimously suggest that this was the first marriage and that was conducted by God. God intended to continue His creative faculty through man's reproductive system. Yet, He is the Creator at all times. Every living being is endowed with superb ability of reproduction. One develops certain symptoms to attract a mate on attaining maturity by certain physical and mental changes. Such urge for cleaving to a mate is naturally built in the creation itself This being a natural quality embedded in the very system of life, an essential basis of existential identity, no human system or law should stand against it. Man has no right to curtail by force another man's natural God gifted instincts so long as it works in unison with the divine purposes and does not hinder another. The notorious Chinese policy of population control is that one couple should have only one child. A second child is considered illegal and shall be killed at birth itself and besides, the parents of such child face punishments. International human rights' organizations view this as a blatant onslaught on human rights. The latest hot subject of controversy is 'gay and lesbian' life style. The moralists deplore and condemn that such trends are against the basic purpose of creation. Male and female are created with the sole purpose of procreation. Neither male without female nor female without male is complete. Any life style otherwise than what is intended for is abnormal, immoral, sin and utter defiance to the basic universal structure and ultimate will of God. Abortion whether pro-choice or not is yet another ugly topic. All moralists, irrespective of denominations, decry abortion as an evil. It amounts to murder of life. The united State Government favors abortion pro-choice. An estimated 1.5 million abortions are carried out each year in the United States in the name of pro-choice. Statistics show that 36 million abortions were carried out since 1973 to 1997 consequent to the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe case. "A woman who deliberately destroyed a fetus must pay the penalty of murder. Those who give drugs causing abortions are murderers themselves, as well as those who receive the poison which kills the fetus." St. Basil the Great, in the letter to Amphilochius, A.D. 374. No one has the right to kill another life, whether in the womb or not. Suppression of God given natural ability to procreate by man-made laws is another human rights violation, more heinous than the crime of murder. They encourage mass genocide of the fetus and deem it a mere normal way of life and yet loudly decree human rights violation elsewhere. Is it not a great paradox? Are we not living in the midst of transvestites? And when man employs Scriptures out-of-context to defend such suppression it becomes a still serious moral violation of human rights.
"The New Testament does not impose celibacy on ministers of Gospel, although it does require that a bishop be married only once, Tit 1:5" (Britanica.) Paul prohibits second marriage for the clergy but he is in no way against marrying once. Jesus encourages monogamy but prohibited divorce. Jesus conceived celibacy as a superior virtue but He was assuredly against imposed celibacy. "For there are eunuchs who are born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who are made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who made themselves for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept, let him accept it," Mat 19:12. St. peter was married as is evident from the narration of Jesus healing of his mother-in-law, Mat 8:14 and 1 Cor 9:5. We do not know if others, either, all or some, were married. New Testament is silent on this subject. I hold that at least some of them were married. Jesus was not concerned whether or not one is married so as to be His disciple, but taught them to prefer heavenly matters to worldly things. St. Paul was not married, it is clearly written. St. Paul also recommends celibacy not as imposed but as free choice of the individual, 1 Cot. 7:8-10. He considers it is better to marry than to insist celibacy and loose the battle of sexual passion. The fathers of the Church as successors to the Apostles followed the same concept. 'For the Church, built upon him (Peter), for the future appoint to every degree of orders none but monogamists," says Tertullian in his article on 'monogamy.' However, his assertion that, "Peter alone do I find married" seems to be incorrect. Apostle Philip had three daughters according to Polycrates of Ephesus, "Philip of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two daughters who grew old in virginity; and his other daughter who regulated her life in the holy spirit and who rests in Ephesus," (letter to Victor of Rome.) Apostles were not critical about the marriage status when selecting seven deacons, Acts 6:5. Philip one of the seven deacons had four unmarried daughters as seen in Acts 21.9. Thus we have on record both married and unmarried bishops in the early centuries. Celibacy was prevalent on those days not as a matter of imposition but as a matter of preference. Both East and West had many monks and nuns. The question of imposing celibacy on priests was discussed in the Council of Nicea and it rejected the idea of imposition. Church of Rome ever since vigorously pursued the imposition of celibacy of priests, though at times they overlooked the rule. Guinness books of world records 1991 page 563 states, "Popes and Cardinals last married, Adrian II (pre-celibacy rule) elected 867, last with children, Gregory XIII (1502-1585) had a son." How the first and second entries would go together? Alexander VI Pope, 1492-1502), member of Borgia family, had mistress and children. One son was made cardinal and another son Cesare even claimed a state. Celibacy became compulsory as a measure to combat Protestantism in the Roman Church. This proposition was many times challenged by their own members. Needless to mention, it has given rise to moral turpitude. Orthodox Church reserves the bishop's office to unmarried priests. Priests are so ordained after marriage, if so preferred. After ordination as priest, he is prohibited to marry and continue as priest at the same time, at least for some period. However, it cannot be deemed discrimination. Of late a widowed priest was ordained as bishop in Syria.
Thrones to Apostles not on earth but in regeneration. He promised each one of them authority to sit upon each throne and judge at His Second Coming. 'Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging twelve tribes of Israel." Mat. 19:28, Lk. 22:30. But this had no instant effect. Judas Iscariot was among the twelve who followed Jesus when Jesus made this promise. If it was to take instant effect, Judas Iscariot was sure to get it. St. Peter testified to the assembly of one hundred and twenty; including Mary, the mother of Jesus, that Judas by transgression fell from his position. Mathias was filled in the vacancy (Acts 1:15-26.) Thus instead of Judas, Mathias inherited the promise of Throne and judging. The promise of the throne is for a specific times and purpose that is, in the regeneration to judge twelve tribes of Israel. Unfortunately, some people interpret this verse to claim imaginary thrones that never existed. The immediate task for the Apostles was not to sit on the thrones but to witness the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, in all the nations and the uttermost part of the earth, Mat. 24:14, Acts 1:8. As for the disciples, while on earth, bearing the Cross for the sake of Jesus was their 'throne.' Neither they established any throne nor they appointed any one to sit on such throne. Until recently, no one claimed any such throne. (See Moses' seat.)
St. John ordained St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Ignatius is credited with the succession of St. Peter and not St. John. St. John ordained St. Polycarpus of Smyrna yet he never claimed to have sat on the throne of St. John. St. Paul was known as the chief architect of Christianity; He labored more than all others. He wrote more epistles. He ordained Titus, Timothy, etc., as bishops. He directed them to ordain their successors. Yet, neither they nor those who succeeded them are said to have sat on the throne of St. Paul. St. Thomas came to India, converted many Hindus and established seven (seven and a half) churches. He did not ordain any bishop. Arkadyakon of Pakalomattom family is said to have succession from St. Thomas. Arkadyakon, as seen above, was not even a priest. Until late 17th. Century, Malankara Church did not have a fully ordained Bishop. Mor Yoohanon, who represented the East in the Nicene Council, was not from Malankara but from Persia. The first ever Catholicose in Malankara was consecrated by, the then deposed Patriarch of Antioch, Abul Mesiho, in 1912. This unauthorized consecration created a lot of disputes, dissension and litigation. The litigation ended in 1958. Both the supporters of the Catholicose and the Patriarch came together by mutual consent. The then Catholicose, Mor Baselius Geevarghese II and the Patriarch, Moran Mor Ignatius Yacoob III received each other. Both groups consented consecration of a bonafide Catholicose by the legitimate Patriarch. Thus the Patriarch of Antioch came to Malankara, consecrated and established a legitimate Catholicose on May 22, 1964. Above 200,000 devotees witnessed this spectacular event. Patriarch of Antioch is successor to St. Peter. So naturally, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East consecrated a Catholicose of the East under his authority and jurisdiction. How a Catholicose, or any ecclesiastical dignitary for that matter, claim to have sat on, a throne that had never existed. How could he sit on a throne other than the one he was ordained for? Christian world did not hear a word like, "Throne of St. Thomas" for nineteen Centuries. Avarice and abhorrence have no limits whatsoever! Followed by altercations, groupings, violence, litigation and all other nefarious activities that are contrary to the minimum morality of Christianity Church split once again in 1972. Both parties to the dispute behaved the most unchristian ways. They fought virulently, until at last, the Supreme Court of India ruled that, inter alia, 'The usage of the title, "St. Thomas throne," is honorific." The Supreme Court Judges, with all their wisdom and jurisprudence were entirely flabbergasted, convinced themselves that the usage under reference does not merit any value. So they simply evaded vindication, to satisfy both the litigants. Both the parties to the dispute welcomed the decision of the judges as, 'God's will.' Endorsing the remarks of the Supreme court, that the use of 'St. Thomas throne was honorific,' by the party who invented and led a tough fight to maintain this imaginary throne, was unwillingly admitting that their opprobrious fight was in vain, and that they had no sound basis to prove their doctrine. Alternatively, both are not serious about the claim any more. Let us hope that, at least at this eleventh hour, sense will prevail, so as to take steps to heal the wound.
Working priests: Contemporary Christians are guided by a thought that priests' work is only to preach and perform Church related affairs. White-collar jobs, such as teacher, counselor, administrator, etc., are tolerable. Of late, some priests in Kerala have taken up insurance and banking services. The situation here is a bit different. Many priests engage themselves in commercial, manufacturing, and retail enterprises, largely not because of their choice, but due to compulsion of circumstances. As a displaced minority community we all face the problem of acquiring job positions equivalent to the qualifications and experiences many of us had in our country of origin. Many are handicapped to have further studies that would attract better opportunities and handsome remuneration, due to age, dependent children, lack of proper guidance, support, transportation and home, etc, But there are a few who could overcome the hurdles. Others satisfy themselves with what they get. Another factor is that none of our parishes are financially strong to support full time priests. The notion that the priest should only preach, or if he does, only certain works, is not a sound biblical doctrine, Apostles like Peter, Andrew and John were fishermen. Paul was a tent maker, Acts 18:3. He supported himself, Acts 20:34, I Cor.4: 12, I Thes.2:9 and 2 Thes. 2:9. Engaging in a gainful employment, for livelihood ought to be encouraged. Others need not feel aghast if it is not white-collar job. The prime factor is that one is not dependent on others. Truly, tent-making job was not highly respected yet; St. Paul was comfortable with it. However, our community is far away from this concept. Paul did not neglect gospel because of his preoccupation for livelihood. Therefore, I am strongly of opinion that a priest should have nothing other than priestly function as first priority and he should not set his goal on material gains. He is entitled to fair remuneration for his reasonable work, even as St. Paul said it. Joseph Thekkedathu says in his book, "History of Christianity in India" that, sustenance received from the parishes was very meager. The priests engaged themselves in normal works in normal clothing to earn their livelihood, before the Roman influence in Malankara.
Priesthood to women: God designed one way but man decided another way. Man greatly manipulated everything he could namely; change of sex, heart, liver, kidney, mutation of genes and cloning. Scientific/industrial revolution greatly improved the living standards and social awareness. Morality is on the decline. So called churches accept homosexual activity as normal way of life. Practicing gays and lesbians are ordained as 'pastors'! The generation lost track Results are not far to seek, chaos everywhere God created man and woman equal, "They shall be one flesh," Genesis 2:24 Equality and oneness are experiences of mutual share and care that is love. It should neither be fought for nor exploited. They are created differently in appearance and structure, for different yet definite purposes to function harmoniously. Different functions are allotted to different creations. In aviation industry there are pilots, crews, ground engineers, technicians, suppliers, managers and clerks. Clerk may not be able to fulfill functions of a pilot or vice versa. So is the case with man and woman. Of late, women started recognizing the differences. "Girls score (SAT) an average of 45 points lower than boys," says a survey reported in Philadelphia Daily News, dated Feb.18, 1998. No one knows why? Couple months ago medical experts startled, "Mari's brain has four billion cells more than woman's brain." No one knows why? "Men are fact finders, direct, take charge and competitive. Women are more global in their thinking, people-oriented and better team players. It is OK to be different," says a woman executive, Daily News dated Jan.15, 1998. Jesus Christ best noted the differences. He had friends like Mary and Martha. None of the women ever rebuked Him. Yet, He did not count them among the twelve disciples. St. Paul says in Galatians 3:28 that there is no distinction of man or woman in Christ. Yet he did not ordain women as presbyters. There were no women priests but there were Deaconess, Rom. 16:1-2, Prophetess, Luke 2:36-38 and Teachers, Tit.2:3. Our Church considers men and women equally eligible to all blessings. Men and women, both are made members of the priest-tribe and partakers in divine mysteries through Baptism and Holy Mooron. Church should not envisage what Christ or His Apostles did not conduct.
Responsibility. A word of caution. Compare the hierarchy of priesthood to a multi-storied building. There are nine floors. Each floor symbolizes a rank. The faithful who holds two ranks namely; Baptism and Confirmation stands in the second floor; M'samrono in the third floor; Koruyo in the fourth floor; Yaupadyakno in the fifth floor; M'samsono (full deacon) in the sixth floor; Kasseso (priest) in the seventh floor; Corepiscopus in the eighth floor and Episcopus (bishop, Archbishop, Catholicose, Patriarch) in the ninth floor. The ranks and responsibilities are directly proportional namely; higher the elevation more the responsibilities. More will be asked from those who were given more. That is what we learn from the story of ten talents, Mat. 25: 15-30. This designates awesome responsibilities to a priest and warns against laziness and wickedness. Promptitude, instead of promiscuity ought to dominate priesthood. Ignoring commitment would attract serious consequences. No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God," Luke 9:62. Fall from the first floor, as one could imagine, would cause injuries, bruises, bleeding, pain and scar but may not be often fatal. Fall from the ninth floor will, no doubt, be fatal and that will be a very violent death. So it is not that easy to be at the top. It is so vulnerable since neglect of responsibilities would be fatal. They are accountable not only to their personal blemishes but also to the shortcomings of their congregation.
Copyright © stgeorgecheppaud.org 2006 - all rights reserved unless otherwise noted