March 2023 Newsletter / 1.1

ܫܠܳܡܳܐ Shlomo dear friends,

Urho, The Way is a Christian outreach ministry to disseminate the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ through the Syriac Orthodox faith. We regularly release incredible content on our website and social media pages. In addition, we are sharing this quarterly newsletter, highlighting our new content, and we hope you find them inspiring.

Great Lent is a time for purification and joyfulness. True joyfulness is experienced through refocusing and renewing our perspectives and taking up righteous and just deeds. We pray that this newsletter will help your journey, especially in imbibing the wisdom shared by ancient Syriac Christianity, and prepare you to partake in the joyous feast of the resurrection of our Lord.

Mr. Merin Thomas is serving as the editor of this newsletter, and may this effort be for the glory of our Lord!

May the Almighty God make us all worthy to praise His Holy Name, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, one true God. Amen!

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Dr. Renjan Mathew

Spiritual Director, Urho The Way

Wisdom From The Saints

St. Ephrem The Syrian on Fasting

The earnest period of fasting has arisen, to lead the king’s bride forth,
That she be escorted to the banquet of white-garments and be baptized on that day and beam forth.
Her crowns are due to her manner of living, Her adornments from her fasts.
May she come forth amid Hosannas,
May the lamp before her, with ever constant oil, shine.
Blessed is he who sent forth and escorted the bride of his first-born,
So that she might reach the Canopy of his light.

Praise to the Son who adorned his Holy Church with fasting, prayer, and vigil.

2. Behold the fast which encourages, He gathers his camp to war with the Greedy One.
It is with food that he overcame that Athlete whose power is decreased by food.
He made a test of the first-one so as to over come even the last-one
He drew near to test him.
The perfume of his fast smote his ravenousness and he was confused.
Blessed is the grace which the fast gives us
Which despises the font of desires.

Behold the bow of the Evil One has risen for battle, Let each be armed!
The spiritual shield is able to absorb the tips of his sharp arrows.
There is great fear if a man receives one
For fire spreads in one who is so smitten.
The flame of that sweet fire pleases him.
Blessed is the Good One who has given us the fast
Which is able to extinguish the burning arrows.

The weak one cannot overcome freedom, whose weapon is the will,
Nor can division overcome unity, for its health is in its assembly.
A united party is a great sea:
Those who are gathered together are strong, those who are divided are defeated.
If unity is relaxed, it is smitten and destroyed.
Blessed is the one who has gathered the divided peoples
They have become a people without division.

Blessed is he who gave us “the image” for if we examine it
It will become a mirror to us, of our hidden unity.
Let us look, O brothers, at the revealed symbols
Let us examine sour (congealed) milk, for when it sinks into fresh milk
The fresh milk can no longer be poured out. It is bound fast with a compact strength.
Blessed is he who gave us love which mixed a hidden strength with our weakness.

Come let us reflect on [this] fast day, what the sinners did on their fast days.
It is a terrible thing that we put the abuse of the Holy One in our mouths and ears.
The Lord of the Passover, they killed on the Passover
The Lord of the Feasts they slew on the Feast.
They hung God on wood, they sinned and provoked [God] to anger
The mouth that cried, “crucify him”
Rose to read on Passover the holy books.

They read on Passover of how they killed the lamb in Egypt.
O Blind People who read without knowing, who interpret and do perceive:
They read the scriptures, they hang on wood,
The symbols in the books, the truth on the wood.
They crucified the true lamb and hung him , and they pierced the lamb and cooked.
The pierced lamb in silence
gave witness to the crucified lamb that it was finished.

The blind ones, drunk with envy, became confused, erred, and crucified (the Lord)
They falsely accused the First Born of being a law-breaker.
By him they brought the law to an end; they dissolved it (by their deeds).
Their own mouth makes the accusation, the hand which wrote became guilty,
The mouth denied.
The sinners having brought the law to an end, they ran and sent for what they had lost
In the story of Passover.

Amid those who openly crucified him, a hidden spiritual crowd arose.
The Evil Ones with their taunts gathered around the First-Born,
Yet the Prophets (gathered) with their books.
Moses arose with outstretched hands and his staff on his breast,
It was a wonderful sight on the top of the Mount, that outstreched hand and raised staff Ex 17:8-11
(He was) like the one on Golgotha. Their own witness cries out against them,
This very symbol which overcame Amalek.

The testamenies of Moses are like a Mirror
which reflect our Lord. Anyone with intelligence
Who looks around (in these writings), will see the symbol in its voice,
And even the truth in its deed.
O Truth, which even to the blind shouts: “I am here”
The blind touch him and are illumined
Those who can see grope for him and become blind, for they crucified the Light.

Source: St. Ephrem’s Hymns on Fasting 5

Gospel For The Eyes

Icon: Syriac Manuscript CFMM 41, Department of Syriac Studies

In addition to that of the Nativity and the Resurrection, the Icon of the Crucifixion is ubiquitous in presentations on Orthodox iconography. Regardless of ritual tradition, these icons share many common elements, and a reading of the Crucifixion Icon from one rite is generally sufficient for a robust understanding of them all. Therefore, this is not an attempt to discover new or unique symbols in a Syriac icon of the crucifixion, but to focus on one specific visual detail and the textual connections from the Syriac patristic tradition.

At the bottom of our Lord’s Cross a skull is lodged in the mount, a reference to the alternate name of Calvary, Golgotha, as mentioned in the Gospels (Mk 15:22; 27:33; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:17–18). The iconographer depicts the Blood of Christ flowing down from the Cross into the mouth of the skull. According to Orthodox tradition, this is the skull of the first-man, our father Adam. We are reminded that Christ’s death was for the salvation and redemption of the entire human race; His blood shed to wash clean the sins of Adam, whose transgression in Eden caused our collective fall. In the prayers recited on Good Friday, the Sedro for Ninth Hour draws on this tradition, which is most beautifully presented in this extended excerpt from the 6th century text ‘Cave of Treasurers’:

“…When Shem and Melchizedek put Adam’s body in the middle of the earth, the four corners ran and embraced Adam, and the door was shut immediately, and none of Adam’s children could open it. But when the Cross of  Christ—the savior of Adam and his children—was placed over it, the door of the place opened on Adam’s face. And when the Cross was fixed over him, Christ was wounded by the spear, and blood and water flowed from His side, they flowed into Adam’s mouth and became his baptism, and he was baptized with them.”

Liturgical Pearls

Hymn: O Mary! I am the Gardener (Processional Hymn from Easter Sunday)

English Text:
O Mary I am – the Gardener indeed
I’m the Great one, the Founder of Paradise
O Mary, I am – the Risen One indeed
Resurrection and Life – of all the – living
Mary, I’m He, Who
Was slain and buried
Come near me not, I’ve
Not ascended to the Father
Go and announce to – the Apostles that I
Have risen from the – tomb in great- glory!

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