Venerable Joseph Sarvananthan
From the time I was told by Sarva’s personal physician that Sarva was
terminally ill, my mind went back to the long journey we have travelled
My first meeting with Sarva was in January 1965 when I as a part of
my Ordination formation before going to Calcultta was sent by Bishop
Lakshman Wickremasinghe of Kurunegala to be tutored by the Archdeacon of
Colombo, Cyril Abeynaike of Blessed Memory.
If Sarva had lived, on December 05 this year, he would have kept the
Pslamist’s span of life. Sarva’s earthly pilgrimage began in the
Northern Province of our Country and terminated in the Western Province.
During this period of almost 70 years Sarva had his formation in that
home in the Jaffna Peninsula, through Jaffna College Vaddukkodai and
then his Formation for Ordination.
His formation for Ordination in a sense began in Ratnapura where he
did his field work under the supervision of the then Vicar of St Luke’s
Ratnapura also of Blessed Memory Jabez Gnanapragasam. Thereafter he
perhaps belonged to the golden era of the then Divinity School in
Colombo under the supervision of Bishop Harold de Soysa and Cyril
Abeynaike as Principal.
He was ordained Deacon in 1966 and Priested in 1968.
His work as an Ordained Person is a journey from the Uva Hills to
Christ Church, Galle Face. During this period he also served Chilaw,
Nallur, Chundukuli, Kynsey Road, Pilimatalawa and after the death of Fr.
Donald Kanagaratnam in 1996 as the Archdeacon of Jaffna, which work he
did from Kynsey Road.
After his resignation as the Archdeacon of Jaffna in 2001 he served
the Parish of Mount Lavinia and thereafter short periods in Borella and
at the Cathedral. He spent his last few years before retirement in Galle
Face. When one looks back at Sarva’s work as an ordained person there
are a few salient trends:
* His concern for education
* Women’s Ordination
* Interfaith relations
Therefore it is no surprise that Sarva took education in its entirety
and totality seriously. Hence his contribution in Chaplaincy work in
Jaffna, in Pilimatalawa and in Colombo. Also the leadership provided by
him as the Director of the Cathedral Institute.
In this area of education one must not forget his life long interest
as a Student, Teacher and Preacher. In all the other areas of his
interests mentioned above Sarva with others worked tirelessly to make
Ecumenism, Women’s Ordination and Interfaith work come alive.
Reflecting on the life and work of Sarva what strikes me most is his
commitment to his People, a part of the Minorities of this Country.
Therefore his work in Jaffna at a critical, crucial time during the
war, Sri Lanka and also later on from the South looking after Jaffna in
several ways. Sarva like the assassinated Southern Baptist, Martin
Luther King Junior felt strongly for the suffering of his People. To
underline his passion in this area of work, a few stories.
* A few years ago, when on invitation, I did a piece on the late
Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike for a Sunday Paper, Sarva late that
night telephoned me and we had a long conversation about his thinking on
*Soon after the military end of the war Sri Lanka, when the
Lectionary that we use called for a certain type of service to remember
the 1st anniversary, Sarva came clean and shared with the Colombo South
Deanery his thinking on this subject.
I would like to remember Sarva for his passion for his People. Also
certainly as a very good friend. Although after the initial years in the
then Divinity School in Colombo we went our separate ways, our bonds
During my many years in Colombo after Kurunegala whenever I was in
the midst of a crisis or controversy in the Church, it was to Sarva that
I turned. Not only did he spend time on the telephone but he used to
visit me thereafter and spend time. Sarva was one person who makes time
To my mind Sarva was what he was because of his formation at the then
Divinity School in Colombo.
That formation was deeply rooted in the daily Eucharist and the daily
office. So I for one am not surprised that when a person has that inner
life and spirituality that Sarva had become what he was to all of us.
During the last few weeks of Sarva’s illness and after his death on
February 16, 2011 I met many a person who testified about all that I
have stated in this personal reflection of Sarva.
We must thank Iris, Sudarshan now Priest in the Church of England and
Chrisanthan and their families for having shared Sarva with us.
We assure them of our prayers and say may Sarva’s soul with all souls
of all the faithful departed rest in peace and rise in glory.
Presents CD to her mother
Sr Chamari launches new CD:
Sr Mary Chamari Fernando presents CD to His Eminence Malcolm
Rev Sr Mary Chamari Fernando, Sister superior of Good Shepherd
Convent, Welivita has released her second CD “Limitless Love” with 11
hymns recently. She has released her first CD when she was serving at
the Wahakotte, Convent.
She initiated Welivita Youth Council co-ordinating all societies
affiliated to churches in Welivita, Angoda and Nawagamuwa.
Born in Hingurakgoda to Vesius Fernando and Mary Violet, Sr. Chamari
took her first vows in 1985 at Nayakakanda.
She presented “Limitless Love” CD to his eminence Malcolm Cardinal
New grotto at St Lourdes’ Chapel
The statue carrying to the grotto
A grotto was constructed in front of St Lourdes’ Chapel on Hathmatha
estate in the Dehiowita parish. The grotto was blessed and the statue of
our lady was installed by Rt Rev Dr Cletus Chandrasiri Perera, OSB,
Bishop of Ratnapura on February, 12.
The Bishop said the Holy Mass assisted by Rev Fr Damian Fernando
Procurator General of the diocese and Fr Sathish, Parish Priest,
Hundreds of Devotees participated. The Parish Priest, Dehiowita, Rev
Fr Neville Jansze has organized the entire event successfully.
The statue of our Lady was taken in a motorcade to the estate chapel
from Dehiowita Church to be installed in the grotto.
Text and Pix by Dehiowita Special
Prayer, soulfulness and political mysticism
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the
mysterious - Albert Einstein:
Prayer is the heightened awareness, heightened consciousness, of
everything that is going on in the universe. Prayer purifies one’s whole
existence. Prayer is always a joy, never an extra burden, or an
obligation or a duty. The prayerful person is the most joyful person. To
pray is to swim in God, to do skiing and skating in God, to dance Tango
and Flamenco in God. When one prays, one becomes a dancing star, a
Prayer is a spiritual ballet, a soulful concert, a spiritual symphony
where God is the orchestra conductor. Prayerful life is an orchestral
concert. To pray is to grow in courage and love. Prayer is a courageous
act, a loving deed. To live prayerfully in God is to live joyfully.One’s
whole existences is an act of contemplative prayer. To live is to pray
ceaselessly and we live as good as we pray. Not to pray is, on the
contrary, is to live like a walking cadaver.
To pray is to spray divine inspirations. Prayer is the antenna that
captures the divine vibrations. Prayer is a radar system that receives
divine signals. Prayer is an immense magnetic field. Prayer is a
gravitational pull that keeps all the planets of our daily mundane
concerns in their proper orbits and epicycles. Prayer is a navigational
compass that points at the proper direction and orientation of human
Prayer as self-transcendence
To pray is to go beyond oneself endlessly. Praying is
self-transcending. To pray is to move from ego to egoless ego. Praying
is self-making, self-constructing and self-cultivating. I make, nurture,
culture and cherish my depth, substance, authenticity and soulfulness
constantly and continually in the process of contemplative prayer.
Transcend and transform
To pray is to transcend and transform oneself constantly. Unless one
transcends oneself ceaselessly, one is in danger of becoming neurotic
progressively. To pray is to grow towards the fullness of life. The
fullness of life can only be sensed in the process of
self-transcendence. In prayer, one is reaching towards the unfathomable
Mystery, the Ground of all beings.
The one who does not pray or meditate has a clear tendency to become
ego-centric and eventually neurotic. One cannot remain emotionally
healthy for a long time without a meditative or prayerful lifestyle. To
pray is to grow spiritual and therefore to be truly objective. Prayerful
person is the most objective person for she has no vested interest or
Objectivity is sanctity. To be objective is to be holy and to be holy
is to be truly objective and hence to be free from prejudices,
prejudgements and biases. In that sense, Albert Einstein had certain
holiness and Jesus was scientific in his ethical conduct and interhuman
relationships. He gradually became free from biases and prejudices.
One cannot be a saint without ever becoming objective. One’s
conversion must radiates in one’s conduct and life. In that sense, Saint
Therese of Lisieux was very objective to the extent that she could give
her best smile to the most annoying nun in her religious community.
In prayer one’s shelter for God keeps growing and growing and then
one enlarges one’s mansion for the divine indwelling. In our lives, God
is the perfect visitor. In cultivating a solid prayer life, one prepares
oneself for this grand visitor.
Prayer as truthfulness
We do not possess quick and ready-made solutions to most of our
social maladies but we can live in profound solidarity with the victims
of social injustice and economic exploitation. Those who promise such
quick fantasy solutions are pathological liars and they are not touch in
with the real world or real human beings.Humans are a weak, selfish and
complacent lot and hence nothing short of redemptive love is the
solution to all our maladies. Only sustained love can eradicate social
evil and injustice from this planet earth. The one who truly loves
promotes a humanly livable world.
Love unfreezes cold hearts and melts frozen sentiments. In order to
love forever, we need to love with the love of Christ. God’s love is
concrete, particular, special and specific but never abstract, vague or
shallow. Jesus is the greatest practitioner ever of that unrestricted
love and infinite humility and part of our humility must be to accept
everything as a gift from God. All our talents, skills, potentialities,
wealth and intelligence are a direct gift from God.
Prayer as redemptive love
But to live this realisation out in one’s daily life is the ultimate
test of deep humility. It takes a lot of humility to live a life of
The one who accepts one’s pride must be a humble person or must be in
the process of cultivating deep humility. The most humble person is the
freest person. Our true freedom is in proportion to our humility.
The prayerful soul drinks God for its thirst. Prayer raises our daily
life to a new height from which we could glimpse a panoramic view of
life. Prayer is not an isolated spiritual praxis. It is intimately bound
up and intelinked with everything else in human existence. The prayerful
person has the potential to become the most authentic person.
Prayer as prophetic praxis
One cannot be a prophet unless one is also a prayerful person. A
prophet dwells prayerful in this universe. Only a prayerful person, a
contemplative person, could see the depth of injustice, the gravity of
human suffering and glimmer a ray of hope amidst human misery. The
prophetic person is truly a prayerful person, a contemplative person.
Prayer and prophecy are two sides of the same coin.
Prayer as soulfulness
Prayer for the union and communion with God is the deepest longing
and profoundest yearning of the human heart. Prayerful heart is a
soulful heart. Prayerful person is a soulful person. By continually
praying one attunes oneself to the divine dynamics in one’s heart: the
divine heartbeat is felt within one’s heartbeat.
Prayer purifies human interiority, the innermost soul. It redesigns
and rearranges the interior landscape and interior geography. Prayer
deepens one’s sensibility and sensitivity towards human suffering,
misery and pain. Prayer donates us sufficient courage to embrace pain
and find meaning in it. Pain and suffering make us wise, magnanimous and
compassionate. The one who has not suffered does not know anything at
all about life. Part of our pain is that we cannot adequately enter into
the pain of the suffering masses. That is where precisely the dignity of
the sufferer lies; that is, one has to suffer alone and find God in it.
To pray for victims is to be in solidarity with the sufferers. Real
prayer is always for the other. To pray is to suffer with deep-seated
joy on behalf of other people’s pain. Pain is the teacher of spiritual
gain. Suffering is a means for sanctification. Suffering is the teacher
of joy. Suffering is a whole university, the only real university.
Prayer challenges me-for-me mentality ruthlessly. Me-for-me mentality
means getting frozen within one’s own ego and beginning to live only for
one’s own tiny little self. Such a person is a dead fossil spiritually.
No human pain is ever alien to a prayerful heart. There are no
foreigners or strangers on earth. We are all fellow sufferers and
therefore we need become a constant blessing to one another.
Prayer as Political Involvement
Every human relationship has a political dimension. Prayer is a
political activity in the broadest sense of the word. Prayer is the
ultimate and therefore the most solid foundation of all meaningful
political involvements on behalf of the suffering masses. No prayer is
ever politically or economically neutral for there is never such a thing
as a politically or economically neutral reality in life. Neutrality is
never a spiritual virtue or category.
When God decided to create the universe, it was a political decision
too. Human beings are political animals through and through.
Prayer pays in the end. To pray is to pay one’s due to God. Prayer is
divine contemplation in the midst of chaos. There is no salvation
outside the mess. The divine salvation lies in the midst of human chaos.
Sermon on the Mount
umanity, though Divine, led Jesus to the mountain for contemplation.
Closer to the skies, in silence, His Father prompted Him on our
People gathered around Him to listen to His Divine Wisdom.
He spoke in parables, yet millions follow Him to earn His Kingdom.
His teachings were surely not in the realm of logic to be reasoned
Logic and Faith are two realms-the twain will never, never meet, no
To one who finds Faith-behold-this in turn becomes the most logical.
None blind as those not wanting to see nor believe in the Boundless
He admonished all to be poor in spirit-also encouraged them to use
To advance themselves and help those in need with complete abundance.
To be poor in spirit is to empty self will and preconceived notions,
Not to rely on own judgment nor take selfish pride in academic
Be poor in spirit-so as not to have fear of that inevitable public
Stand up for the righteous with no pride-steadfast in self rule.
Yes-easy it is for a Camel to pass the eye of a needle in stealth,
Than for the rich-not poor in spirit-to gain heaven possessive of
Mourn! He says, to be comforted in due time and place.
Endure suffering till you encounter presence of God and his grace.
Be in anticipation of the resurrection that follows the crucifixion,
All the time: asking-seeking-knocking for his redemption.
Be meek to inherit the earth-implying-to merit due desires of life,
A willingness under pressure to allow God’s will to take place with no
Be bold to allow his will to come about whilst we do our best.
Be meek as Moses-we also know how bold he was at God’s behest.
Undergo hunger and thirst for righteousness so as to be filled,
Surrender to a mental search for right thinking in life to be distilled.
Think positive in concert with God’s will to be filled with what we
For the righteous will succeed and overcome if they continue meek.
Be merciful of others so as to obtain mercy he says.
Meaning to be merciful in thought before action is in place
Kind action with unkind thought is hypocrisy,
Only done for self glory and worldly vanity.
Be merciful in judgment of the other’s actions and their stand.
No one’s perfect-be merciful and react with right thought and
With no loss of temper and in pursuit of the said goal,
Be merciful and know that to err is human but to forgive is divine and
Be pure in heart he said to be able to see God and be kind.
Implying spiritual perception as God is spiritual and benign.
Be pure in the subconscious-as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.
Keep thy heart with diligence for out of it are the issues of life said
Be peacemakers with self and others so as to be called children of
Commune with God to bring peace serenity and accept the rule of the
Each time you commune your character will change and peace will evolve,
Until all stress and strain accumulated in your mind will eventually
Be ready for persecution-be righteous to possess the Kingdom of
Persecute self in using free will to do that which he would beacon.
Rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven,
Inside you-awaits you on the last day in full glory when you’d be