Thursday, August 11, 2011

Two Symbols in the Syro Malabar Marriage - Tali and Manthrakodi


Tali – Minnu
Talikettu or Minnukettu is supposed to be the most important public ritual by the bride and the groom in a marriage ceremony in the Syro Malabar Rite. There is great importance for Kettikkunna Priest. Marriage itself is called Kettukalyanam. Bridegroom is known as Kettiyavan or Tali kettiyavan (one who tied the Tali).
Tali is the foremost symbol of the Covenant of Marriage in India. Bride wears it forever to signify the permanent commitment and loyalty in the marriage. It is removed only just before the burial. After that it is given to the Church.
It is made in the form of a cross with 21 golden beads.  21 = 3 x 7. Cross signifies the Risen Lord. 3 stands for the Trinity and 7 for the sacraments.
Marriage is the union of two bodies and two souls. Trinity is the most important symbol of union.
Matrimony being a Sacrament, remembrance of sacraments gives the couple to remember about the Grace they have received through this sacrament.
It is attached to a cord made of 21 strands drawn from the manthrakodi (wedding cloth (sari)) and entwined in seven sets of three each.  Three again signifies the Trinity and Seven, the Sacraments.
The priest who blesses the marriage (mostly a very close relative of the bride) blesses the Tali. The groom ties the tali around the neck of the bride assisted by the groom's eldest sister. 
The word meaning of Tali is key.  Hence, this is also a symbol of the mutual ownership.. It signifies the authority of one over the other. In biblical terms, husband has the authority on the body of his wife and wife has the authority on the body her husband. (1 Cor 7:4)

Manthrakodi
The priest blesses the manthrakodi. Manthrakodi is imposed on the head of the bride by the groom with the assistance of his eldest sister. This symbolizes the protection and care the bridegroom promises to the bride. The protection and care given by the father of the bride is now taken over by the groom.  
Manthrakodi also symbolizes the new life begins with the marriage. Immediately after the Marriage Rites and the Holy Qurbana, bride wears the manthrakodi and thereafter for all receptions and major functions she wears it. She keeps it for ever.

https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3030/2955200701_1a036612cf.jpg
Bride's head is being covered with Manthrakodi

Tali and Manthrakodi are typical Indian cultural symbols associated with marriage. In olden days Talikettu or kettukalyanam  and Marriage (Pudamuri Kalyanam) were done separately. Groom ceremoniously ties the Tali. But the real marriage is Pudamuri kalyanam. Here, the groom gives the bride kodi pudava (new cloth). Once she receives it, they start living together.
Nowadays, Talikettu and Pudava giving are done in the same function.
Pudava kodukkal is the Manthrakodi Aniyikkal. By this the groom assures that he is there to provide everything for the bride. Cloth is more important to woman than it is to man.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Elevator Etiquette


An Elevator is a very small room where you live with others for few seconds.
Are you happy with the life in this tiny room?
To feel comfortable in your elevator experience and to make others feel comfortable, follow these tips:

DO's
  • Take the stairs to your destination if it is one or two floors only, up or down. 
  • Allow others to exit the elevator before you attempt to enter.
  • On entry, stand close to the walls of the lift. Do not block the way for others.
  • Wait briefly to accommodate anyone running to take the elevator.
  • Give preference to staff and any one elderly.
  • Give others their personal space in an uncrowded elevator.

DONT’s

  • Do not block the way while entering or exiting.
  • Behave responsibly while inside the elevator.
  • Press the button for your desired floor only.
  • Avoid crowded lift if you are feeling unwell. Minimize coughing or sneezing while in the lift.
  • Don’t hold up the lift for long for your friend or colleague to come in.
  • Do not draw or scratch on the walls of the elevator.
  • Do not litter the lifts.
  • Do not eat or drink or carry food in the lift.
  • Do not use cellphones, or any electronic gadget while inside the elevator.
  • Refrain from talking loudly in the elevator.
  • Do not stare at others
  • Do not break wind
Finally, the most important thing is 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sixth Friday of the Great Fast


Genesis 19:26-30
Joshua 22:10-20
Romans 15:1-13
John 11:1-45

The Divine Plan is revealed from time to time. To be exact, it is understood to the mortals from time to time. Our God is not a dictator who imposes everything on the mortals. At least since the creation of human beings this is true. God is ready to ‘change’ His plans with the request of the just. God is forced to ‘change’ His plans with the wrongdoings of the unjust. The destruction of Sodom is an example to understand the heart of Yahweh. Sodom was not created for destroying. God does not create anything for destroying. Sodomites invited curse and total destruction. Yahweh was forced to change His plans on Sodom and destroyed it completely because of the cry for justice against it! But, even after such a hard decision being taken by Yahweh, He was ready to change it at the request of His beloved, Abraham. He kept on heeding to the bargains of Abraham and decided at the request of him. But Sodom welcomed self-destruction by their actions. Even at this massive destruction, God remembered Abraham and hence saved Lot and his family. Our God is a God with a tender heart.

Faith in God is primarily an individual responsibility. But it has a community aspect also. Every faith community has a role in keeping the members together. The response of Israelites to the action of the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh is a justified one. Community as a whole must make sure that everyone is waking in the Way. In this era of increasing migrations in many forms, the Mar Toma Nasranis should take initiatives like the Israelites to bring back their brethren who deflected from true faith.

Paul wants us to be strong and liberated and hence to help the weak. When each one is strong and liberated, the community is strong and liberated. Once each community is strong and liberated, the whole world is strong and liberated. A world which is strong in praising in one voice God, Father of Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit is the liberated world.

Jesus did what his Father wanted to do. Jesus did how his Father wanted to do. Jesus did how his Father did things. With a tender heart, Jesus restores Lazarus back to life. Jesus as a man was risking His life in doing so. By giving life He surrendered His life. Yahweh was there to help Lot because of His attachment to Abraham. A true believer can truly ‘change’ the heart of God. He can truly experience the tender heart of God. Jesus did the impossible because of His attachment to Lazarus and his family.

Great Fast is a season to experience the tenderness of Yahweh’s heart !

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Sixth Sunday of the Great Fast

Genesis 19:1-7,9-26
Joshua 21:43-22:9
Romans 14:13-23
John 9:39-10:21

Quite often, we find it difficult to understand the message and meaning of natural calamities. Disasters and Catastrophes are always eye-openers for the human beings. These days we have first hand experience of tsunami, Flood, Volcano, Earthquake etc. God is not in favour of those are completely going against a divine order. Sexual aberrations are always against divine plan.

Condemnation and destruction of Sodom is described in the first reading. In the modern world, one of the greatest aftereffect of Sexual Aberrations is AIDS. Even a non-believer can understand the effect of AIDS and keep away from the misuse of sexual power.  Lot was dear to Yahweh. Hence He protects him in the midst of a massive destruction. God is mindful of His faithful always. Hence being faithful to Him is the only vow we need to have and the rest is assured. He will prepare a Zoar for His beloved ones.

The sum total of all a believer need to do is there in the words of Joshua: “love Yahweh your God, follow His paths always, keep His commandments, be faithful to Him and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” To believers who stick to the above advice of Joshua, Yahweh gives them peace throughout their land and not one of their enemies would be able to stand against them. Faithfulness to God is highly rewarded.

A true believer is a person with convictions. Faith itself is the greatest conviction. The convictions should lead one in one’s life. It is not in what others do that convictions and actions of one are to be based but in one’s own belief. Food habits, Languages, Complexion, Family, Culture etc. are always matters of dispute in people’s life. A true Christian should be able to celebrate the differences because Paul says:”nothing is unclean in itself, it is only unclean for those who consider it unclean.” Celebrating the differences also leads to understanding the other as an individual and hence avoiding unnecessary conflicts.

Jesus declares in no uncertain terms that He is the Way. Jesus is the Way through which everyone needs to reach God. The sight of a person is judged by his seeing of this Way. If somebody fails to see the Way, he is blind. Jesus gives us the gift of sight to see the Way and to enter through the Way. If one has found this true Way, he would abstain from Sexual Aberrations, he would keep the commandments of Yahweh and love Him above everythingelse and do not cause scandals to his brethren. The Great Fast is a time for introspection to check whether we are in the Way.

Fifth Friday of the Great Fast


Genesis 18:1-19
Joshua 14:6-15
Roman 13:1-14
John 8:30-59

God visits us regularly. How do we recognize Him? It is through our actions that we and others feel the presence of God among us. For Abraham, all his actions testify that he is visited by Yahweh regularly. For a person who acknowledges the regular visit of God, the the bond among them is very thick. Both the parties are in a helpless situation to avoid each other and to hide things from each other. This passage is an obvious example of this. Yahweh-Abraham relationship is one of the greatest Divine-Human encounters in the history of humanity.

Rewards for the ones who obey God are in abundance. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua are examples for this. Caleb son of Jephunneh is another one in the line. He was bold enough to say that he has faithfully obeyed Yahweh his God. He gets the city of Hebron as an inheritance in return to his commitment to Yahweh. His trust in Yahweh is what is more important. He says, “if Yahweh is with me, I shall drive them (a race of giants) out as Yahwheh said.” With God, nothing is impossible.

Duties and responsibilities of a Christian are very categorically specified in Chapter 13 of the letter of St. Paul to the Romans. Christianity is a way of life. It is a life in the path of the Nazarene. When we are in this world, we are expected to accept and respect all the legitimate authorities. Christians live as salt of the earth. Christianity improves the quality of life in any social setup. Paul justifies his arguments by asking us to be in love with everyone. For, love cannot do the neighbour any harm and it fulfills the whole Law.

Are we the children of God? How do we know it? Abraham justified and testified through his actions his relationship with God. He proved that he is a true son of God. Joshua and Caleb through their actions proved their legitimacy. Paul advocated for the true sonship of God by fulfilling the commandment of love. If we are children of God, we will do accordingly as God wanted us to do. Jesus challenges us to prove by our actions our legitimacy. If we are from God, we hear the words of God and we do according to the words of God. This is the surest test to prove what we are.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Fourth Friday of the Great Fast

Genesis 14:18-15:15
Joshua 9:1-14
Romans 11:25-36
John 7:14-36

Divine-Human encounter is most sublime in the Yahweh-Abraham relationship. In the Abraham episode we see the human face of Yahweh and divine transformation of Abraham. His call and response, his subsequent actions and his final atonement are unique. But this is the a blue print for anyone who wishes to have a divine experience. His encounter with Melchizedek, king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, his response to the offers of the king of Sodom, his hope in the hopelessness and his destiny were not accidental. They establish Abraham as the father of faith.

Prudence is a gift of God. In taking decisions in life, this gift has to be efficiently used. Unless one is prudent and vigilant, the distance to trouble in one’s life is much less. Here, Israelites are bluffed by Hivites because of their quick judgement and lack of prudence. On the contrary, Hivites saved themselves from complete destruction by their prudent action.

For Paul, the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Jews and now Christians have an upper hand in the process of Revelation. But this irrevocable call and gift from God gives greater responsibility. Gospel and patriarchs give a responsibility that is unavoidable. Paul is a perfect representative of those people who were responsible to their call and grateful to the gift they received. As a Jew and as a Christian, he is in the rank of the patriarchs.

Jesus tells what His origin is and foretells what He would do. He asks us to learn the obvious, the priority of mercy over law. What law intended was love and mercy but what it lacked was them. It is this contradiction that led to the Original Sin and the subsequent sinful nature of human beings. It finally led to the Crucifixion of Jesus. Even now the message is clear, i.e., “Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly.”

Revelation of God was not an exclusive one and hence salvation is not a monopoly of some group. There are parallel ways and diversified means whereby God revealed His plans to all the created beings. Melchizedek is the best example for this. God wants us to look deeply into ourselves and proclaim publicly His plan on each one of us during this Great Fast and subsequent seasons in our lives.

Fourth Thursday of the Great Fast

Genesis 14:1-17
Joshua 8:30-35
Romans 10:17-11:12
John 7:1-13

Abraham is an abode of forgiveness and care. When Lot’s kinsmen fought against his, he took initiative in giving whatever Lot wanted. Abraham took only what was not taken by Lot. Lot is now in trouble and is under captivity. Abraham with just 318 of his men defeats Chedorlaomer and the kings who were allied with him and liberates Lot and his flock. Abraham testifies that he is a true Patriarch. Parents are supposed to take care of their children when they are young. When they are older enough, they should allow them to live independently as Abraham did to Lot. Even if the children do give anything in return, parents should be watchful of what their children doing. If they are in trouble, they should go and help them.

Joshua establishes Israel as a God-oriented community. He explains to them the Law of Moses after conquering Canaan. The Law of Moses is inscribed upon the stones and in the heart of the Israelites. After the tumultuous exodus through the wilderness and planned takeover of the Promised Land, they gather around the altar of Yahweh. It is the altar that is the final destination of everyone. All the patriarchs have constructed altar for Yahweh wherever they went. Great Fast is a time where we construct and reconstruct altars in our life, family and community.

Though they gathered around the true altar by their great leaders, Israelites altered their life in search of false altars. They recklessly disobeyed Yahweh. Hence, Paul says that it is not the birth that makes you great, but the work. Be committed to the call. True altar is the altar of Jesus. Be counted among the loyal ones. Be graceful at the Cross. As Abraham went to Lot, Jesus is after us. Are we able to go with him from the captivity?

Jesus is preparing for the showdown. He is heading towards the Cross. He is clear about His mission. He is clear about His commitment. Commitment is equal to death. Commitment to God was death for Jesus, both mental and physical. What Israelites lacked was this commitment to Yahweh. Jesus testified this lack of commitment among them and hence they hated Him. They hated Him because He testified against their unfaithful nature. Jesus as a symbol of total surrender to Yahweh was and is a model for everyone of us.

Fourth Wednesday of the Great Fast

Mid-Fasting (25th day of the Great Fast)


Genesis 13:8-18
Joshua 8:18-29
Romans 9:30-10:17
John 6:51-70

Abraham is a peace loving man. He takes initiative in settling the dispute which did not emanate from him. The greatness of Abraham is seen his words to Lot, “If you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left.” Abraham’s magnanimity is rewarded with the promise of uncountable descendants and immeasurable land by the source and fullness of magnanimity. Abraham takes solace at the altar of Yahweh which he constructs wherever he goes.

Joshua destroys the whole of Ai. He sets fire to everything impure as commanded by Yahweh. Yahaweh demands a total dedication from His chosen ones. When we deal with our sinful nature, it is the clean sweep that God asks us. Do not leave anything for a later return. It is this absolute dedication that was missing from the Israelites many a time and hence led to their disasters. When we take orders from God, do not dilute them for our temporal pleasures.

Paul is reaffirming the promise, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." It is the undivided faith in Yahweh that helped Abraham and Joshua to be victorious. It is the undivided faith in Jesus that brings salvation to all. There is no distinction in the call we received. It is not what we were that matters but what we are. Are we able to burn our past and put all our eggs in one box? Are we able to to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead? Only then we will be saved.

Jesus is the bread from heaven which gives eternal life. Life in fullness is offered only by Jesus. Faith in God is faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus is the faith in what He preached. Words of Jesus were beyond human comprehension. He says,”Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” Though these words were hard, Simon Peter sets the requirement of the new Israel: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Great Fast is a time for reconciliation. Identify all others who are against us. Possess the broadmindedness of Abraham. Reconciliation is the reconciliation with God and reconciliation with the fellow beings. Construct ‘altar’ for God in every critical juncture of our life. Because ours is a demanding God. A God who wants our total commitment. A God who wants us share with Him the same Body and Blood.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fourth Tuesday of the Great Fast


Genesis 12:10-13:7
Joshua 8:1-17
Romans 9:14-29
John 5:19-47

Abraham was the chosen one among many. Just being a chosen one does not mean that everything will be alright. There would be testing times in everybody’s life. Things unexplainable would happen. Here, it is famine first; then the loss of own wife and finally his nephew. These calamities are not longstanding. Abraham is returned with flocks, silver and gold. His wife was also returned to him with the direct intervention of Yahweh among the abductors. Testing times are not for ever. Faith prevails everything.

After the minor jolt, Joshua could defeat Ai. Promises of Yahweh are true. When we go away from the covenant, there would be minor defeats. Deciphering these minor hurdles is the true nature of a faithful servant of God. With Yahweh, nothing is impossible.

Covenant is for both the parties involved in it. Since God is the initiator of the Covenant, we have a greater role to play. It is not out of necessity that God entered into the Covenant with each one of us. But for us, it is a necessity. Hence, our response to the everfaithul and everloving God must be of complete surrender. If we want to be counted among the few who are saved, we must be completely loyal to Him. God knows our frail nature, but does not wish us to take advantage of the frailty. We should not forget our role in the covenantal relationship. Role clarity itself is a virtue.

Father-Son relationship in the Holy Trinity is the perfect model for our covenantal relationship with God. Abraham did what he was instructed to do. Joshua literally obeyed Yahweh and hence he became the conqueror of Canaan. Paul was clear of his role initially as a zealous Pharisee and finally as the torchbearer of the new Way. John asks us to ponder over the mystery of our covenantal relationship with God, so that we speak what we hear from Him and we do as He instructs us to do.

How do we understand the plan of God in the face of extreme casualties? Rapes of the innocents during war, persecution etc, looting and killing in the name of religion, suffering of the innocent with severe diseases etc are all beyond our rationality. But one thing is sure, anyone who hears His word and believes Him, has eternal life. He passes from death to life.