Cor-Episcopos Kuriakos Thottupuram I believe it was Goldsmith, who said: “Water, water, everywhere water; not a drop to drink”. Now we have another paradox.
A few years ago, I was strolling with His Beatitude Mor Timotheos of Malabar, the Catholicos-elect of the Church of Malankara, on the courtyards of the Orthodox Theological Seminary at Kottayam. We talked about the great strides the seminary has made, and I proudly said: “Look, Your Beatitude, most of the faculty members possess doctoral degrees from prestigious institutions of Europe and it is definitely going to improve the academic standard of our seminary and enhance a deeper understanding of genuine orthodoxy amidst the encircling heterodox tendencies resulting from unhealthy contacts with Roman and Protestant theologies and practices.”
The response of the Catholicos -elect is the topic of this editorial. “Yes, we have many Doctors here; but there is no one to treat the disease. Actually the Church is getting sicker and sicker everyday in the areas of doctrines and practice. Our faith is eroding every day, our spirituality is getting more and more westernized and losing its genuine eastern flavor…”
For the past few years I have been re investigating the depth of this response, and I also came to the same inference: “Doctors, Doctors, Everywhere Doctors; there is not a single one to treat the disease!”
Recently a family left my congregation for another parish under the Malankarese Orthodox Syrian Church. I visited the family three times to inquire about the reasons for their departure from a parish church where they worshiped for over twenty years. I met with the father and his adult son thrice at different times in order to gather their explanations for their action. One of the major concerns to justify their departure to the other parish was very disappointing for me as a Chor-Episcopos. On different occasions the father and his eldest son insisted: “You are too Orthodox. Always you teach and preach Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy and Orthodoxy, that’s all we hear from you all the time. You do not teach Christianity. When we go to the other Church, it is different. They sing hymns that we use in prayer meetings during the sermon of the Holy Qurbana, even during the Holy Qurbana they have Christian songs…”. I wondered about what I did wrong as a priest.
From my deep recollection of their explanations I have understood what they are missing in my Church, and what I do not have for them. This family was wandering from faith to faith during their sojourn in America before finally settling down in my parish, and their religious experience had been primarily their exposures to different types of Protestant denominations, particularly the Pentecostal groups. For them Christianity consists of sermons of revival, noisy music (preferably with instruments that make ear-breaking sound), presentations of testimonies and the like. Pure Orthodoxy has no such noisy outbursts. It is simple, soft, and recollecting. Whereas our young priests were exposed to other forms of worship either when they were in the seminary or when they were out in the field; and they were indoctrinated to accept the legitimacy of those forms of worship as being part of orthodoxy. I keep the traditional style of worship without Protestant adulterations, and I also keep the traditional style of didactic preaching in order to explain and elucidate Orthodox doctrines and practices and their theological and patristic justifications. People who were exposed to Protestant forms of worship may find the Orthodox worship and preaching very arid if they do not understand the meaning and symbolism behind it. The truth is that the formation of our current generation of priests is within an ecumenical environment that inhibits articulation of orthodox doctrines and practices. I have seen no Protestant clergymen eager to follow an Orthodox pattern of prayer; on the other hand, most of our priests seem to seem to deliberately appease the other side of the audience by following their pattern of worship and prayer. If the seminarians who are exposed to Protestant forms of worship and prayer come out as priest to the vineyard of the Lord, naturally they will be more “Christian” (?) than Orthodox Christian.
This writer feels that our seminary is primarily concerned about theology as an academic discipline. That is why its leaders are more concerned about its degrees and their recognition by Serampore College, a very liberal Protestant institution established during the British rule in India. In a seminary the primary goal of the Church should be to promote the faith, doctrines and morality she upholds. This writer understands the relevance of theology as an academic discipline in a university set up where the primary goal of a theology department is not to promote a particular faith but to explore areas of knowledge within that field. However, a seminary is a place where the seeds of faith and doctrines of the Church are sown and nurtured. The Latin word seminarium literally means a field where seeds are sown and raised. It is deplorable to implicate that our seminary does not adequately promote genuine orthodoxy.