Interactions with an Oriental Orthodox Bishop: An Eastern Orthodox Experience




Presvytera Seraphima Shagoury (Delegate & Chief Coordinator of OCP Foundation in North America) – OCP News Service – 13/6/16

Reflections on Metropolitan Mar Yulios’s Words During His Tour

I first met – with much excitement – His Grace Mar Geevarghse Yulios Pulikottil (Metropolitan of the Ahmadabad Diocese of the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church) at the home of Mr. Alex Alexander, Garland TX., 2 weeks ago during the Dallas leg of his USA tour. Although I had visited the St. George Indian Orthodox Church in Irving, TX; I was still an Eastern Orthodox just scratching the surface of our relations with Oriental Orthodox Churches worldwide, but the Lord graciously rewarded me again with another, wider, more brilliant view of same industrious, colorful, prolific and apostolic work of the Oriental Orthodox in India.

Upon asking him about his current project, he replied that the schooling system in his Diocese is, and remains key as both educational and moral guiding force for children of Believers and non-Believers alike. As an American, I was immediately amazed at such a feat, since his Diocese is so ironically buttressed up against the traditionally volatile, neighboring Pakistan and its Muslim population.

“Is it safe?” I asked. “There are relatively very few problems – maybe only once in a while, and not for long at all”, he replied. “The people value the school, despite the fact, out of our 44,000 attendees, only 500 children are Orthodox.” “And the rest are Hindu and Muslim?” “Yes – and all say the Lord’s Prayer before their classes begin, led by their teacher, so, all come into contact with Christian values as well as a good education.” This indeed took my breath away, making me wonder what a country as vast as the USA could do if all Orthodox united to become a guiding light for youth despite our own challenges being surrounded by an increasingly secularized society.

I spent a short while more in cordial conversation with His Grace before having to leave,and asked him, “since you have such success with relations between Orthodox and Unbelievers in your part of the world, could you share with us the secret to dialogue with people of other faiths?” His Grace related a charming story about a Hindu boy who worked selling oranges on a busy street, and what happened the day the boy lost his source of income and nearly his life in the road. A Christian acting as a Good Samaritan came to console the boy and restore what was ruined so that the boy could still provide for his family. It was said that the boy immediately looked at him and eagerly asked “Are You Christ?”

“This,” Mar Yulios said, “is all that is necessary. To help others in time of need when they are hurting, and not to proselytize; then their eyes will be opened to the love of Christ.”

Upon my departure from Mr. Alexander’s house, I was warmly welcomed to attend the Liturgy at St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church, Stafford, TX, the following weekend, since I was leaving to visit my mother in Houston. His Grace also invited me to say a few words at the parish about George Alexander’s new book “The Orthodox Dilemma“, and hoped to have time to go with me on a visit to my mom to bless her in the hospital.

This was indeed such an honor, and in Stafford, His Grace gave the sermon for the Liturgy, capitalizing on aspects of our stewardship on earth, and how to avoid wastefulness in a country as blessed as the USA is in resources. Care of the environment, he said, is also part of the wider scope of man’s daily life praising God, and honoring that which God has given us dominion over. For a moment, I even thought His Grace was reflecting the same words of “my” Patriarch, Bartholomew of Constantinople, the “Green Patriarch.” Yet it was in a refreshing and expressive new way, just like the Indian Orthodox Liturgy itself.

His Grace’s visit to my mother was loving and simple and radiant. I am a convert to Orthodoxy from 28 years ago, and my mother could never reconcile herself to study more about the divisions between East and West once I converted. But fortunately, I began Baptized Christian life with a Godfather who was a close friend of hers — a ship’s Captain from Mumbai, and my mother acquired quite a fondness for Indian culture through him. I introduced her to His Grace and told her “not to be scared” I could see my Roman Catholic mother’s eyes become clear and focused, despite being paralyzed and almost dumb from her 3 recent strokes.

His Grace visited, prayed and comforted her at her bedside. And after His Grace left, I could hear her struggling to whisper, “Who was that was just here?” I smiled and thanked God for such a Good Samaritan that had accompanied my mother briefly on what her doctors say is the very last leg of her journey in mortal life.

I urge my fellow Eastern Orthodox and all Orthodox Christians reading this article to take heart, have Faith, pray and act as a result of my visit with Mar Yulios. Reach out to your fellow Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians each day with hope and love of God, taking comfort that the Church Christ originally began is with you and praying for you!

If you’re still in doubt of this – take a walk down the street to your local Oriental or Eastern Orthodox Church; take part in their local festivals – talk to their people…… for you will find a treasure-box of wonders wrought by the Holy Spirit that can be yours. Christ will indeed take your breath away too, as you explore the possibilities of union with these “undiscovered countries” of Churches, silently waiting for you in your own back yard. 🙂

OCP News Service