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Wednesday, 3 March 2011






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Christian Perspectives

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 together.

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

* Ecumenism

* 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 Bandaranaike.

*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 continued.

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 for you.

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.


Sydney Knight

Presents CD to her mother


Singing nun

Sr Chamari launches new CD:

Sr Mary Chamari Fernando presents CD to His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith

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 Ranjith recently.

Joe Paris

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, Bulathkohupitiya.

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 Correspondent.

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 ballerina.

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 destiny.

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 hidden agenda.

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 humility.

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 Redemption.
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 out.
Logic and Faith are two realms-the twain will never, never meet, no doubt.
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 oracle

He admonished all to be poor in spirit-also encouraged them to use talents,
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 distinctions.

Be poor in spirit-so as not to have fear of that inevitable public ridicule.
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 wealth.

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 strife.
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 seek.
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 understand.
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 bold.

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 he.

Be peacemakers with self and others so as to be called children of God.
Commune with God to bring peace serenity and accept the rule of the Lord.
Each time you commune your character will change and peace will evolve,
Until all stress and strain accumulated in your mind will eventually dissolve.

Be ready for persecution-be righteous to possess the Kingdom of heaven.
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 reckoned.


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