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“Avan nilathu veenu”
Original Malayalam Author: Fr. AM Varghese
Translated By: Eldho. K, NY

Human history is strung with numerous accounts of empires, emperors, warriors, rebels, conquerors, and noble men who have “crumbled to the ground” at some point in their lives. History records the fall of nations, societies, and individuals as the foundation and catalyst for elemental changes. This article meditates on one such fall that spurred the vigorous growth of Christianity and remains as a pillar for its enduring presence to this day.

“He fell to the ground” (Acts 9:4). It happened as he traveled the 190 mile journey from Jerusalem to Damascus. Filled with conviction and devotion to his cause, and bearing documents affirming his authority as a Jewish leader, Saul of Tarsus made the trip with his followers with utmost urgency and speed. The scenic foot hills, valleys, forests and fields along this route that witnessed the stories of the Old testament did not catch his attention as he sped by on horseback. Burning with anger and resentment for heretics, he could not perceive or appreciate nature’s grandeur. Oblivious to the beautiful earth and sky that stretched out before him, his mind filled with violent scenes from the final moments of St. Stephen’s life, whose trial and execution he administered. (Acts 7: 58-60).

Even after the ferocious campaign of house-to-house searches, imprisonment of Christians in Jerusalem, and deliberate attacks on women and men of the Church, Saul continued to breathe threats of death and destruction to the disciples as he stormed to Damascus (Acts 8:3, 9:1). However, unknown to him, just as he set out to on his hunt for Jesus’ disciples, Jesus had also set out to capture him.

God sets out in search of the souls that run from Him. Through dark wilderness and forlorn deserts, the good shepherd tirelessly seeks out the lost sheep. When we stray from His path, Christ comes calling after us. With deep sorrow, He pleads to us.

God sets out in search of the souls that run from Him. Through dark wilderness and forlorn deserts, the good shepherd tirelessly seeks out the lost sheep. When we stray from His path, Christ comes calling after us. With deep sorrow, He pleads to us.

Saul reached the hill-top opposite Damascus. It was noon time. Suddenly, a heavenly radiance descended upon him, blinding and surrounding him. The divine form of the crucified Christ confronted him in the radiance. The heavenly voice of Christ reverberated in his ears: “ Saul!, Saul!, Why are you persecuting me?”. With trembling lips he asked “Who are you, Lord?”. “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute”, came the answer.

“He fell to the ground”. The One whom he persecuted, the true form of Love, Jesus Christ, brought him to the ground. That fall however, raised a sincere, steadfast and faithful Apostle to protect the Church. That fall crafted a Martyr who not only suffered beatings and punishments for the sake of Christ, but laid down his life for Him. That fall raised a missionary who preached the heavenly message of salvation to the gentiles. That fall inspired the many epistles written from the jail cells and dungeons of Rome; messages that preach hope and salvation to the world to this day.

Avan nilathu veenu. Saul completely fell to the ground. It was not just his body that fell before Christ. Body, mind, soul, pride, status, strength, wealth, anger, selfishness, sin, - everything that defined his being fell before Christ so that he may rise from his fall as new creation. From that moment, to the moment that the sword cut his neck, he submitted all his energy and talents to praise Christ. How aptly does Paul who was Saul describe the joy and peace of being a new creation in Christ in 2 Corinthians: 5:17.

Saul who was captured and brought to the ground by the Light of Christ on that hill top near Damascus became St. Paul who went on to bring thousands Christ. Traveling through Asia, Europe and Africa, relentlessly toiling night and day, he spoke about the giver of True Life, and laid the foundation of many lives at the feet of Christ. The one who set out the harm and destroy the Church became its greatest protector. Following in the footsteps of his Master, he suffered beatings, imprisonment, sleeplessness, hunger, ridicule and finally, death by the sword to call the world to the way of the Cross.

God forges formidable weapons for His work by causing some of us to first fall to the ground. Humans, who cannot fathom the hidden mysteries of God, often fall into depression and anxiety as a result of their fall. Joseph, who was the dearest to his Father Jacob was made to fall into a dry well in the land of Shechem. As a consequence of that fall, God’s eternal light was brought to the land of Egypt. Jacob’s clan was saved from death and poverty. Prophesies came to life in the enslavement and liberation of the Jews. Similar accounts of grave falls giving rise to liberation and salvation are many. Similarly, Saul’s fall on that fateful day on that hill-top near Damascus gave rise to a dedicated soldier for the kingdom of God, and a chosen vessel to carry the Gospel of salvation.

God wishes to use us as weapons and tools for His work. He yearns for us to use our talents and gifts in various roles to radiate His glory. However, for God’s will to materialize in our lives, we must completely surrender and fall at His feet. Our being should fall prostate before the radiance of Christ’s unrelenting blessings that enrich our life. With all sincerity and devotion, we should declare as St. Paul did in Philippians 4:13; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

Human unwillingness to surrender to God robs our Church and communities of genuine peace. Our youth must fall before God’s Holy Spirit so that He may enter into our hearts and work His will in us. Saul, who was the enemy of Christ fell to the ground and rose as Paul - lifelong servant and friend of Christ. Saul, who ridiculed and mocked the Cross fell before it and rose as Paul whose only boast was the Cross. Saul, who imprisoned, starved, beat, and threatened the followers of Christ fell the ground and rose as Paul who willingly suffered imprisonment, beatings, stoning, sleeplessness, starvation, and nakedness for the sake of Christ. (2 Cor 11:23-28).

Our Church has countless youth who possess valuable gifts and talents. However, those who have been transformed for Christ are few. On this occasion of celebrating St. Thomas’ martyrdom, how many of us are falling before Christ like Saul and rising up as Paul? Let this question endure in our minds. May our mind, body, soul, knowledge, wealth and prosperity all fall to the ground in the Name of God.

About The Author

Fr. AM Varghese of Panthalam is one of the most unique priests in our Church. Even at his
advanced age (must be nearing 90 now), he carries out all services to their entirety, putting
all his energy and soul into them. Achen loved traveling and one of his life goals was to
visit every country. He tells us of his travels and how he met strangers who took care of him
and how he prays for them and keeps in touch with them. Achen was also a literary genius who
could come up with songs and poetry on the spot. His essays read like grand stories that take
us back in time and space - narrating every subtle detail about the setting and era.

This essay was part of his book "Unarvinte Uravakal". It was originally written in Malayalam.

Source: IOIF

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