The Diocese of Delhi was carved out of the outside Kerala Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in the year 1975. The Diocese in the National Capital Region had been functioning as the backbone of the Church right from the time of its inception. The Diocese has been blessed in terms of the able leadership it has received time and again and the sincerity of its people, who living away from their homeland, have left no stone unturned in their pursuit of the growth of the Church in the regions where it was never been known.
The Diocese was first entrusted to the pioneering visionary and a world renowned scholar, the late lamented Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios, of blessed memory, whose tireless and bold leadership was quintessential in leaving his imprint in the early stages of Church. The growth of the Church, especially in terms of the large number of parishes and institutions, had been the result of Mar Gregorios’ tireless efforts. At present what the Diocese boasts of can be attributed to the great vision of the late lamented Job Mar Philoxenos, the second Metropolitan of the Diocese of Delhi.
The Diocese of Delhi is amongst the thirty dioceses of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church that spans both India and abroad. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is an autocephalous, autonomous and indigenous church that belongs to the family of Oriental Orthodox churches. It traces its origin to the evangelical activity of St. Thomas, the Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ in the 1st century (52 AD). The Church is headed by the Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan; presently it is His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II. The Diocese of Delhi is under the spiritual and temporal authority of its current metropolitan, His Grace Dr. Youhanon Mar Demetrios.
The Diocese of Delhi
The headquarters of the Diocese of Delhi, more often known as the Delhi Diocesan Centre is situated at 2, Institutional Area, Tughlaqabad, New Delhi – 110 062. The Delhi Orthodox Diocesan Council is the society registered by the Delhi Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in 1979 (Reg. No. 10502 of 1979) under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860 with the Registrar of Societies, Delhi. The primary objectives of the Council is to provide and administer the parishes, congregations, monasteries and convents, medical and educational institutions and cater to the welfare of humankind, especially for the upliftment of the poor and the downtrodden by means of various charitable and service-oriented endeavours.
The Orthodox Christians have been acknowledged worldwide as a faith community which is centred upon worship, study and service. The contributions rendered by the Church in the field of education, health care, missionary work has always been manifold in terms of leading to an overall upliftment and development of not just the Kerala Christian community but also for the people at large irrespective of the caste, creed, colour and language etc.
Once the nucleus of the Orthodox Church in north India was formed in the capital of the country, the growth of parishes in adjacent centres was rapid and the establishment of the Diocese of Delhi followed in a few years. The Diocese of Delhi spans not only the region of Delhi & NCR but is also spread to the different states in north India.
Today, there are thirteen parishes in and around Delhi alone – Hauz Khas, Janakpuri, Tughlaqabad, Sarita Vihar, Mayur Vihar-I, Mayur Vihar-III, Rohini, Dwarka, Dilshad Garden, Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad. Overall, there are forty five parishes, spread over major cities in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana and the United Arab Emirates.
There are 25 educational institutions under the Council, which have acclaimed laurels and maintains their reputation not just for the quality education they impart but also in terms of their notable contributions to the nation. A special mention needs to be made regarding “Aanchal”, a centre for the differently abled children at Sector-3, Rohini, which is the embodiment of love in action.
The Diocese of Delhi in general and the Council in particular has been doing a commendable job in terms of striving hard towards the fulfilment of its goal of rendering a place of worship and communion for its members and also achieving the service motto of its society. The Society has been remarkable in terms of the marked contributions in the field of education, health care, village upliftment that it provides to the society at large through its educational institutions, rehabilitation centres, children’s home, old-age home, counselling centres and community development programs.
Mar Philoxenos Centre for Human and Social Development, Shantigram
Mar Philoxenos Centre for Human and Social Development was set up as a consolidated organisation in memory of the late Metropolitan Job Mar Philoxenos who had initiated the developmental projects in Shantigram, Mandawar. Beginning with an integrated social development programme at Mandawar, Sohna Tehsil in Haryana, it is an ambitious project taken up by the Council. This project strives to work among the poor for the rural development of the surrounding village and is established in an area of 20 acres of land consisting of a CBSE affiliated school, a free medical dispensary and a bala bhavan. An old age home and rehabilitation centre have also been proposed for the future. Free health care camps and social awareness programmes are organised on a regular basis.
St. Dionysius Retreat Centre, Aravalli
The Aravalli Retreat Centre can be seen as the conceptualisation of the long standing dream of the late Metropolitan Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios, the first bishop of the Diocese of Delhi. This project houses a chapel and a retreat centre. The project responds to the increased depersonalization within the global society due to the stresses brought about by today’s living conditions and the resulting psychological consequences. The project endeavors to provide a secluded area for those seeking solace and tranquility, where people can experience a peaceful environment and attain realization of their inner selves.
Thought for the Month
The Silver Lining in the Cloud
“Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to a Skylark
As we anxiously labour under the cloud of COVID-19, we wonder when this virus will be eradicated, and what precisely is God’s intend in all this. And with the infection showing no signs of abatement, the situation becomes a fertile ground for all kinds of doomsday predictions. Amidst all this, when we raise our eyes to God for answers, we are reminded that there are no accidents with God; in fact, for those who trust and have faith in Him, all things work for good. As St. Paul writes,” We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Therefore, we have faith that God’s purpose which we cannot understand is working even in the midst of this viral infection to bring about a transformed heaven and a transformed earth. So, we ask ourselves the question: can any good come out of all this? For those with an abiding trust in God’s love, the response will surely be a categorical “Yes”! And so, while the cloud still hovers over us, we look for the proverbial silver lining that points to God continuing to work in these troubled times. Let us look at some of them.
- A Closer Walk with God: At no other point in the liturgical calendar of the Church is there the awareness of God’s proximity than during the Lent. The fast, the selected readings from the Holy Scriptures, the special services and meditations, all create in us an experience that we are walking closer with God. In fact, for some members the Lent is like a spiritual dry cell, for they appear to store up a divine energy, for we never see them in the Church for the rest of the year! The viral infection has only intensified this experience, for we are at one stroke impressed with our mortality and sense that God alone can remove this sickness, a theme that is reiterated in the hymns and prayers of this period. Burdened as we are with a deep sense of helplessness, we have now turned to God with the conviction that He alone can save us from this situation. It is true that we have been deprived of our freedom to worship God in our churches. But that too deeply impresses upon us what we took for granted, that the joy of our Christian fellowship that follows our corporate worship on Sundays is also a gift from God. All this has only made profound our prayers as we raise up our feeble hands to God for salvation, not only from this virus, but also from the disease of sin. Yes, our prayers become more poignant because we now pray with a conviction that God alone can save us from our dreadful situation. Now in the confines of our homes and out of sight of others, we now raise our spiritual worship (Rom 12:1) to God, in a way finding truth in the promise of Christ that when we pray in secret, our heavenly Father will see us in secret and reward our prayers (St Mt 6:6). In a way, the loss of public worship in our churches has been ameliorated by a deep personal proximity to God, an experience we would not have attained without the presence of this virus. Truly, our sense that our entire being is being permeated by the love and presence of God is a blessed outcome of our predicament.
- Retrieving the Tradition of Family Prayers: But that is not all! What about a tradition that all but disappeared from our homes, what with its fast-changing social mores. For once the veracity of the old adage, that a family that prays together, stays together is driven home with a strong conviction. The deprivation of church services now serves to bring the family together around the feet of God and there as a family we begin to renew a closeness that was rarely seen before. The family is truly the undergirding unit of the parish, the place where God is first experienced, where prayer life is taught and a new generation finds its roots in God and the Church. Devoid of this foundational spiritual bedrock, our young men and women become easy prey to new-found spiritual groups who teach instant spirituality. Now that tradition that had been consigned to oblivion has once more become a feature our family life as they gather together to pray, or even just to view the services on the YouTube. Somewhere in that process I am sure the family will find the chance to pray together. Perhaps, this enforced quarantine will have the salutary consequence of retrieving the tradition of family prayers so that it will become a perduring feature of our families.
An observation that will be made is that most of these services are in Malayalam and so remain unintelligible to many of our young men and women. Allow me to share my experience. I too grew up with little knowledge of my mother tongue. But that was not an impediment for my participation in the family prayers in my grandparents’ home. Even though I couldn’t understand them, the deep sense of being in prayer was always present. And I learned most of these prayers by heart as a result of these daily prayers. Today, they have become meaningful, as they are a rich source of my own prayer life. That, too, I pray will result from this coerced family prayer meetings. And it is when families experience difficulties that they draw closer together, a bond that will preserve their unity and cohesiveness well into the future.
- Regaining the Joy of Family Communications: Surely, there will come a time during this period when we tire of staring at the TV or being engaged with our handsets. And so, we will be forced to engage in talk with family members. Family members talking to each other is another casualty of our communication technological explosion. The paradox is that even as we spend more time in talking to friends and being engaged on social media sites, we rarely talk to family members, even at home. Now out of necessity we indulge in talking to one another. As the days pass, our conversation progresses from small talk to sharing our life stories, so that the bonds that keep a family together are strengthened. Fathers are able to spend quality time with their children and it is my hope that husbands and wives will also talk to each other. In fact, I hope that family members will put aside their handsets so that they can all come together to spend time in talking and sharing their life experiences.
One certain outcome of this lockdown is that families are compelled to have meals together. This used to be a welcome part of growing up in a family. But with the fractured life we lead, families are not always able to come together for meals. Now for a change all come together to share meals as a family. And the experience of sharing a meal as a family now become once more a happy occasion for all to talk and laugh over a good and delicious meal. Our nostalgic recollections should include such reminiscences of the family in later times, so that they can bring a wistful smile of delight to our faces.
- Managing with What We Have: The virtual curfew imposed all over the country has disrupted supply channels so that we have had to curtail our consumption to what is necessary or essential. Because we cannot avail of all what we wish for we are learning to manage with what is essential. What is prepared at home is carefully done so that we have cut down the waste. I recall my childhood days when every part of a pumpkin was served as some dish or other, without diminishing its taste. And there was little to waste, considering the food chain that was a regular feature of our homes in Kerala. Here in the NCR a whole new generation has grown up experiencing a life-style that minimises sacrifice and sharing. Most families enjoy a comfortable financial situation here in the NCR (this can be contested, but I offer this as a relative statement) which allows for a wider range of spending by the upcoming generation. In our changed circumstances there are the demands now for a changed pattern of living which places limits on what is spent, the food eaten and so forth. If nothing else, this upcoming generation will learn that controlling consumption is a virtue that needs to be cultivated. It is also a valuable experience for parents to impose some control, all aimed at enabling the family to become a happy, enriching and valuable learning experience for all.
- Sharing What We Have: The fasts of the Lenten season are not meant to be a goal in Itself, but an exercise in sharing what we have. Thus, the money saved by abstaining from food is to be collected and donated for the relief of those who are financially disadvantaged. Thereby, we learn the art of sacrificing and sharing what we have with others. This is an important lesson of the Lenten season. The onus is on the believer to find out those in need and to share a part of what God has given us with others. We live in a context where our unlimited consumption creates no compunctions in us. At least for a time, the sense that we have extravagantly utilised our assets should compel us to evaluate our life-style and see where we can sacrifice and share our assets with others. We should recall the observation of St. Paul, “In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus , for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to giver than to receive’ (Acts 20.35).”
If at the end of all this lockdown we could all so benefit from our difficulties, would that not be a welcome experience? Then, we could surely share the sentiments of Shelley which appears at the beginning of this article. Let us pray that this period will be a time of healing and learning to see the silver lining in the cloud of COVID-19.
Met. Dr. Youhanon Mar Demetrios