Message From Rev. Fr.
Mathai Varkey Puthukkunnathu
Vicar, St. Ignatius Elias III Syrian Orthodox Church, Atlanta and
Former Diocesan Secretary, Malankara Arch Diocese.
"He called that place Bethel, [Bethel means House of God] though the city used to be called Luz". Genesis 28:19
It is a great spiritual joy to be informed of the initiation of
a congregation in Cleveland, Ohio for the Syrian Orthodox faithful. Moreover, it
is a blessing that the parish is named after the sacred name of Saint Baselios
Yeldho, the Catholicose of the East, entombed at the Marthoman Cheria Pally,
Kothamangalam. The Syrian Orthodox Faithful living in the vicinity have been
praying and exploring possibilities and scope of a Parish for the past few
Church is called the Body of Christ. As portrayed in Ephesians, 1:23. ďAnd He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.?br>
Extending the Old Testament idea of the Church as the people f God, this image fuses the scattered people into one organic unity in Christ, into a single living organism. St. Paulís famous metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ reveals his strong notion of Christian community. The Church is also called the Kingdom of God on Earth. Jesus promised Simon Peter, that He would build His Church on him and entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to him. ďJesus answered and said to him, ďBlessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And 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.?Matt: 16: 17 -19.
Through this commission, Simon Peter, who was first among the Apostles became the leader to the fellow Apostles and truly the master Shepherd to the entire Christianity. Jesus Christ being the head of the Church controls the entire functions. It is clearly explained in the book of Ephesians ?-- Christ is the head of the Church; and He is the Savior of the body.?Ephe: 5:23. Church in the New Testament is Ecclesia, means literally a calling out, an assembly, a community, a congregation or a church whether local, or scattered over a wide area.
The ancient Greeks had civic assemblies called Ecclesia. The old testament root is cahal or assembly of Israel as Godís people. One tradition sets the birthday of the Holy Church at the Days of Pentecost (Acts Chapter 2), then again the Church was believed to have been born from the side of Christ in the water (of Baptism) and the Blood (of Eucharist) that flowed form the open wound (John 19:34).
Church building is the House of God. There is a perfect example of the House of God, shown in the book of Genesis Chapter 28. ďAnd he was afraid and said, how awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!?Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.?This occurred when Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau.
After receiving paternal blessings from Isaac, Jacob left Beersheba from Padanaram where his motherís brother Laban lived. At the sunset, he laid down to sleep, resting his head on a stone. In a dream, he saw a stairway reaching from Earth to Heaven with angels going up and coming down on it. After waking up, he took the stone that he used as the pillow and set it up as a memorial. Then he poured oil on it and to dedicate it to God, naming the place Bethel, which means House of the Lord. Formerly the place was called Luz. Jacob, who became named as Israel later built an altar to God in Bethel in consistent with the commandment of the Lord. (Gen.35:7). Thus, a worshipping Community and the House of God becomes a blessing to the entire community, and in a broader sense, to the whole humanity.
My humble self along with my family and all members of St. Ignatius Elias III Syrian Orthodox Church in Atlanta, Georgia, join with all of you in wishing you a blessed onset and steady progress towards a full-fledged Parish that upholds the honored and time tested Faith and Traditions of our Holy Syrian Orthodox Church.
Prayerfully, in Christ with the venerable intercession of Virgin Saint Mary, Mother of God and Saint. Baselios Yeldho, the patron saint of the new congregation.
Fr. Mathai Varkey Puthukkunnathu.
Vicar, St. Ignatius Elias III Syrian Orthodox Church, Atlanta.
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