My Second Journal in India
by Papa Ephraim
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Once again I find myself unexpectedly flying out to India. Since my last trip there four months ago which can be read about in my previous journal much has happened. In November some professional translators in India were hired to translate into Telugu the book by Fr. Seraphim Bell entitled “Understanding the Rich Heritage of the Orthodox Church.” This book answers the questions that Protestants typically have when exposed to Orthodoxy. And then in December, Fr. Seraphim himself went to India!
He stayed there for more than two weeks and did an intense seven-day, all-day catechism for two different groups of 30 pastors. Then those 60 pastors went back to their parishes and passed on to their parishioners what they had learned. As a result, there were hundreds of people who learned the basics of Orthodox Christianity and wanted to be baptized immediately!
However, there was some discussion among the members of the mission whether or not those people should be baptized so soon. After all, under normal circumstances, it isn’t enough for people to have merely a mental grasp of just the basic Orthodox dogmas before they are ready for baptism, but they should also have begun to put into practice their theoretical understanding of the Orthodox spiritual life. Acquiring an Orthodox mindset is something that takes years. It takes even longer when a catechumen has no access to an Orthodox spiritual father, Orthodox literature, an Orthodox parish, and living role models demonstrating what it means to be a serious Orthodox Christian. Also a catechumen needs to show some stability. This is why a person typically remains a catechumen for a year or longer before being baptized.
So it was decided that they should not be baptized in December but should be given more time to grow in the faith.
Meanwhile, that professional group of translators continued translating more essential texts into Telugu. In particular they completed (or almost completed) the following:
- The Catechism of St. Nikolai Velimirovich*
- The Typica Service
- The Baptism Service
- The Creed
- The Lord’s Prayer
- 5 small books of Fr. Daniel Sysoev
- Elements from the Book The Truth of our Faith by Elder Cleopa
They tried to jack up their prices for us, knowing that we’re American. But Fr. Athanasius explained them that he’s working on a very limited budget. They insisted on their unreasonable prices, so Fr. Athanasius told them: “Forget it! I can’t afford you. Good-bye.” Fortunately, this ultimatum brought them to their senses, and so they agreed to continue translating for us at a reasonable price. But they did drag their heels and create difficulties.
Now that the people in India are getting a little more exposure to Orthodoxy, there are more than a thousand people who are eager to be baptized. Fr. Athanasius presented this situation to Metropolitan Hilarion, and he decided that the time is right for them to be baptized now. I was not expecting to return again to India because my last trip was difficult. But since I believe that the salvation of so many souls is worth making sacrifices for, I agreed to help Fr. Athanasius face this challenge.