The Delhi Orthodox Centre is the realisation of the vision and earnest endeavours of the first metropolitan of the Delhi Diocese, H.G. Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios. Exactly thirty years ago, the Cente was inaugurated by the then Vice-President of India, Shri R. Venkatraman and was dedicated to the service of the Diocese, the Church and the nation.
Built in a Byzantine architecture, the Centre housed the various activities that made Metropolitan Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios a world-renowned religious and social leader. And this was that the Centre would serve not only the interests of the Church, but also promote dialogue between philosophy, religion and modern science, in order that all would co-operate to advance genuine human development. These included the South Delhi People’s Educational Society, the Santi Kendra, the Sarva Dharma Nilaya, the Delhi DhyanMandir, the Sophia Society, the Delhi Orthodox Diocesan Council, the official residence of the Metropolitan of the Diocese of Delhi, a chapel, conference and seminar rooms and other facilities for the residents of the Centre. The facility thus served as a hub for the activities of all these organisations, a tribute to the beliefs and objectives of the late Met. Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios.
However, over the past three decades the changes in the local surroundings and the development of the activities of the Diocese, the Centre has become inadequate to serve as the centre. Many facilities have to be incorporated if the Centre is to serve as the headquarters of the Diocese of Delhi and to function as the nerve centre of the Malankara Orthodox Church in the capital city. There is an urgent need to provide office space for the various spiritual organisations, for a proper Office, guest rooms for visiting bishops, priests and guests who visit from all over the world, besides the necessary facilities to serve as the official residence of the Diocesan Metropolitan.
The years also have taken a toll on the building which has received only minimal maintenance over the past thirty years, very evident both externally and internally. The increasing demands of electricity and other utilities have over-extended the built-in capacity and the run-down condition inside, with the effects of seepage and other problems providing an unacceptable picture of a Diocesan headquarters.
It is in such a context that an urgent need was felt to renovate the Centre so that it can be acclaimed as a landmark reflecting the identity, ethos and tradition of the Malankara Orthodox Church in the national capital. With this objective, a plan has been drawn up, which will ensure that structure will serve eminently as the headquarters of the Diocese of Delhi and be a source of pride for all members of the Malankara Orthodox Church.
All this requires heavy investment in terms of finances and efforts of all the members of the Church. This brochure has been prepared to introduce the basic details to our members, well-wishers and institutions outside the Church to contribute to this worthy and noble cause.
The building, retaining its basic structure and preserving its sanctity and heritage, will be completely renovated and refurbished to make it functional, energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing.
The facilities will include a new-look Chapel, modern auditorium, a museum to preserve and exhibit fond memories and memorabilia of the late lamented Metropolitans Paulos Mar Gregorios and Job Mar Philexenos, a suite for His Holiness The Catholicos on his visits to the national capital, Bishop’s House, Diocesan secretariat, rooms for visiting Bishops, priests and other dignitaries, accommodation for visiting church members, offices for all the spiritual organisations and much more.
As we have no other source of income, the entire cost of Rs. 5 crores is proposed to be met from the generous contributions of Parishes and institutions under it, community members and other well wishers.
We earnestly appeal to you to kindly contribute the maximum for this much needed cause and be a proud participant in the development journey of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in the national capital.
Thought for the Month
Shepherds of Significance
The Gospel of St Luke portrays a group of shepherds, who were probably the first people to learn about the birth of a Savior and who visited the new born Baby at the manger and proclaimed the divine birth in public. St. Luke “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” (Luke 1:1-4) and reported in Chapter 2: 8-20 about the specially chosen shepherds who received the great message of universal importance,
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told”.
I really wonder why the angels appeared to a group of unnamed shepherds at night outside a small village called Bethlehem to proclaim a message of universal importance.
Shepherds were poor people who watched over their flock, a job which lacked any sense of respect or dignity from the society. It was perceived to be the last resort for a jobless man. However, shepherds were tough, tough in every sense of the word. They had to stay up all night and all day in order to deal with troublesome animals, fight wolves, lions, and bears to protect his flock. Moreover, shepherds were intimidating. Bishop Craig Satterlee writes, “Society stereotyped shepherds as liars, degenerates, and thieves. The testimony of shepherds was not admissible in court, and many towns had ordinances barring shepherds from their city limits. The religious establishment took a particularly dim view of shepherds since the regular exercise of shepherds’ duties kept them from observing the Sabbath and rendered them ritually unclean. The Pharisees classed shepherds with tax collectors and prostitutes, persons who were “sinners” by virtue of their vocation.” Hence, they belonged to the lower ranks of the society.
But the question remains: Why shepherds?
One could argue that the conception and birth of Jesus Christ was the greatest event in history. God had become a human being, was born in Bethlehem, and was named Jesus. Yet, this good news was proclaimed by angels to these shepherds. If protocol demands, the news of this importance should have been told to the highest authorities in the region, not the world. It should have been announced by the angels to Caesar Augustus in Rome? or to the Roman Governor Quirinius or King Herod? Why didn’t they appear to the Jewish high priest at the Temple? Again the question remains, why shepherds?
The Mishnah, a collection of documents recording oral traditions governing the lives of Jewish people during the period of the Pharisees, considers the possibility that these were not shepherds of ordinary sheep. Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889) provides a fascinating answer to our question in his book’ The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Writing about these shepherds, Edersheim referenced the Jewish Mishnah. One regulation in the Mishnah “expressly forbids the keeping of flocks throughout the land of Israel, except in the wildernesses – and the only flocks otherwise kept, would be those for the Temple-services” .Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and their surrounding fields were not in the wilderness where ordinary flocks of sheep were kept. Therefore, according to the Jewish regulations, the flocks under the care of the shepherds near Bethlehem must have been “for the Temple-services.” These shepherds watched over sheep destined as sacrifices in the Temple at Jerusalem.
Here lay the significance of the Shepherds of Bethlehem. If the flocks of sheeps are kept for the temple services; the shepherds watching over it are also specially chosen for the purpose and not like the nomadic ordinary shepherds of Bethlehem. Edershime wrote, “…everything points to these shepherds watching over sheep used for sacrifice. What would they have thought when they heard: ‘Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’ ” (2:11). The message of the angels signified, among other things, that the time of animal sacrifices would soon end. The offering of Jesus Christ, the Savior would soon take place. It is no wonder that these shepherds “glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen”. This clearly resonates with the celebratory spirit of Christmas, a traditional time for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Let’s remember why he came – not only to live but also to die – the perfect sacrifice for sin, once and for all.
Like the Shepherds of significance, we all are specially chosen for God’s purposes and are dignified enough to hear the good news from God and to proclaim to the world. As the chosen shepherds heard the good news and travelled far to see the incarnated God, let us also set for a search in our life to see the divine Child. Let us hurry and join the shepherds saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men and women, on whom his favor rests”.
Rev. Fr. Saji Yohannan