ST. GREGORIOS OF PARUMALA
(Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Gregorios)
Saint Gregorios of Parumala is popularly known as ‘Parumala Thirumeni’. Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Gregorios of the Malankara Orthodox Church who passed away on November 2nd 1902, became the first declared saint from Malankara (Kerala, India) naturally to be called, ‘Parumala Thirumeni’. He shines in the cloud of witnesses as a bright luminary giving rays of hope to millions in their suffering and struggles.
BIRTH AND PARENTAGE
Mar Gregorios was born on 15th June 1848 (M.E. Mithunam 3, 1023) to Kochu Mathai and Mariam of Pallathetta family in the Chathuruthy house at Mulamthuruthy. He was called by the name ‘Kochaippora’ and was given the baptismal name ‘Geevarghese’. Kochaippora had two brothers and two sisters; Kurian, Eli, Mariam and Varkey. Kochaippora was the youngest and was therefore the most beloved to everyone. Unfortunately, his mother passed away when he was only two years old. His eldest sister Mariam became to him all that a mother was meant. Mariam was married at that time and had a child of Kochaippora’s age.
READER-DEACON AND FURTHER EDUCATION
He was ordained as a reader-deacon (Korooyo) on 14th Sept, 1858 at the age of ten by Palakkunnath Mathews Mar Athanasios at Karingachira Church. Koroyo Geevarghese continued his training under Geevarghese Malpan until the latter died due to small pox. Although Deacon Geevarghese was also infected with small pox, he miraculously survived it. Afterwards Deacon Geevarghese moved to Pampakuda to continued his studies under Konat Geevarghese Malpan. In the mean time Deacon became associated with the visiting Syrian Bishop Yuyakim Mar Coorilos. Mar Coorilos had great admiration for the deacon and was pleased to ordain him as full deacon, priest and cor-episcopa within few months in 1865.
The new priest’s short stay at Mulanthuruthy Marthommen Church gave him an inner conviction that he should lead a hermit’s life in a quieter place. Therefore he shifted his residence to Vettickal Dayara. At Vettickal Dayara, Corepiscopa Geevarghese started a strenuous life of prayer and fasting. Having heard about the vigorous asceticism practised by corepiscopa Geevarghese, the then Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius made him a ‘Ramban’ (Monk Priest) in 1872.
PATRIARCHAL VISIT AND THE SYNOD OF MULAMTHURUTHY
In 1875, the Antioch Patriarch His Holiness Peter III visited Malankara. The Patriarch chose Ramban Geevarghese as his Secretary and translator during the entire visit. Along with the Patriarch , the Ramban visited many churches. Ramban Geevarghese also assisted the Patriarch in the consecration of the Holy Mooron and in the historic synod of Mulanthuruthy in 1876.
CONSECRATION AS METROPOLITAN
Being pleased with the Ramban Geevarghese, the Patriarch decided to consecrate him as Metropolitan. On December 10, 1876 the Patriarch consecrated six priests as bishops including Ramban Geevarghese at St. Thomas Church, N Paravur. He was given the new name Geevarghese Mar Gregorios and was given the charge of Niranam Diocese. The other bishops and their Diocese were:
Murimattath Mar Ivanios (Kandanad)
Kadavil Mar Athanasios (Kottayam)
Ambattu Mar Coorilos (Ankamaly)
Karottuveetil Simon Mar Dionysius (Cochin)
Konat Mar Julius (Thumpamon)
St.Thomas Church, N Paravur
Mar Gregorios was only 28 years when he was made a bishop. Since he was the youngest among all the bishops, he was dearly called by all as ‘Kochu Thirumeni’. The first thing the new bishops undertook was a special fasting-vigil for forty days at Vettickal Dayara under the leadership of ‘Kochu Thirumeni’. This fasting was both symbolic and effective in the pursuit of new life in an old church.
Mar Gregorios took charge of the Niranam Diocese and started staying at Parumala. There was at Parumala, at that time, a land donated by Arikupurath Koruth Mathen to the church and in this plot a small building was erected by the Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius. This building was known as ‘Azhippura’. Mar Gregorios lived there along with few other deacons who came for priestly training. They worshipped in a thatched chapel during that time.
Mar Gregorios engaged in a threefold activity of tireless service for the church: Diocesan administration, Ministerial formation of deacons, Missionary witness of the church through inner spiritual and theological consolidation, along with evangelical reaching out.
In addition to these, Mar Gregorios undertook the task of building a church and seminary at Parumala. The diocesan administration, in the meantime, was extended to two more dioceses, Thumpamon and Quilon. The newly constructed church was consecrated in 1895. Mar Gregorios was the co-celebrant for the consecration of two ex-Roman Catholic priests as bishops: Fr.Alvaris as Alvaris Mar Kulius for Bombay-Mangalore Diocese; Fr.Rene Vilatti as Rene Vilatti Mar Timotheos for America.
HOLY LAND – PILGRIMAGE
Mar Gregorios made the Holy Land Pilgrimage in 1895 as the fulfillment of a long cherished dream. On his return he published a travelogue under the title ‘Oorslem yathra vivaranam’ (a narrative of the Jerusalem visit). This book, published in 1895 is to be considered as the earliest printed travelogue in Malayalam. This book had its centenary edition in 1996 and translation into English in 2000.
A VISION AND MISSION FOR THE ENTIRE CHURCH
Mar Gregorios believed that the church should engage in educational activity especially to facilitate primary education and English teaching without discriminating gender or religion. Accordingly he started schools at Kunnamkulam, Mulamthuruthy, Niranam, Thumpamon, Thiruvalla etc. The missionary task of the Church was also evinced by his outreach programme to the socially down trodden communities at Chennithala, Kalikunnu, Mallappally, Puthupally, Kallumkathara etc. He also organized evangelical awakening programme for non-Christians at various places like Aluva, under the leadership of the Seminary students.
A major task of Mar Gregorios was to motivate the clergy for effective ministry. With this aim, he formed the Malankara Syrian Clergy Association and took many progressive decisions and made many suggestions for the effective functioning of the priestly ministry.
DISCIPLES OF THIRUMENI
Among the many disciples of Mar Gregorios, three deserve special notice:
1. Vattasseril Rev.Fr.Geevarghese (later, Malankara Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Dionysius)
2. Kuttikattu Rev.Fr.Paulose (later, Paulose Mar Athanasios of Aluva)
3. Kallasseril Rev.Fr,Geevarghese (Punnoose) (later, Catholicos Baselios Geevarghese II)
DEPARTURE FROM THE WORLD
Mar Gregorios was already a piles-patient. It became chronic in 1902. Treatments proved futile and slowly His Grace became physically weaker and weaker. At last the blessed soul left the earthly abode on 2nd November 1902. The funeral was conducted at Parumala on Tuesday the 3rd of November 1902 in the presence of thousands of people and hundreds of priests. The many testimonies to the saintly intercession of Mar Gregorios made Parumala Church and the tomb a centre of pilgrimage. In 1947 Mar Gregorios of blessed memory was declared a saint by the then Catholicos of the church, His Holiness Baselius Geevarghese II.
For more details visit: http://www.parumalachurch.org/
HIS GRACE DR. STEPHANOS MAR THEODOSIUS
His Grace Dr. Stephanos Mar Theodosius popularly known as ‘Bhilai Thirumeni’ or ‘Bada Baba’ was born on 2 October 1924 as the fifth son of Chacko Kurien and Mariamma of Kayalath family in Pathamootom, Kottayam. He obtained B.A from C.A. Jain College, Jabalpur, M.A from Mahakeshal University, Jabalpur, B.D from General Episcopal Seminary, New York and S.T. M from Konnett Berkeley Divinity School. He received in 1946 his deaconship and in 1947 his priesthood from His Holiness Baselios Geevarghese II Catholicos of the East. The Malankara Syrian Christian Association, which met on 2 October 1974 at Niranam, elected him to the order of Episcopa. On 15 February1975 Daniel Mar Philexinos made him Ramban.On 16 February 1975 he was elevated as Metropolitan Stephanos Mar Theodosius at Niranam. He was appointed as Diocesan head of Madras from 1976 to 1979 and as head of Calcutta Diocese since 1979. He served as Director of St. Thomas Mission, Bhilai, as Manager of St. Thomas College Bhilai, and also of all the educational institutions under the diocese, and principal of St.Thomas Seminary, Nagpur. He laid the foundation for the first village Mission movement in North India. He was giving leadership to Macodia Mission, Bhilai Mission Centre, Ashram, Hospitals and Schools.
His life Cycle
- 1924, Oct 2 -Was born as the fifth child to Mr. Kurian and Mrs. Mariama of Kayyalathu family at Pathamuttam.
- 1942 – Passed Teachers Training Certificate examination from Changanacherry.
- 1946, April 25 – Ordained as Deacon by H.H Geevarghese II, the Catholicose at Sleeba Church Pathamuttam.
- 1947 – Was ordained as priest by H.H Geevarghese II, the Catholicose.
- 1947 – Celebrated first Holy Qurbana on Palm Sunday.
- 1952, April 1 – Arrived in Jabalpur.
- 1952, April 6 – Offered the first Holy Qurbana outside Kerala at the Garrison Church, Jabalpur on the Catholicate day and Jabalpur parish was formed.
- 1956 – Joined Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur for theological studies and later discontinued.
- 1956 – Passed the B.A. examination from D.N. Jain College, Jabalpur.
- 1956 – Passed the B.A. examination from D.N. Jain College, Jabalpur.
- 1957, Aug 15 – (Bhilai Orthodox Parish was formed) Celebrated the first Holy Qurbana in Bhilai.
- 1958 – Passed M.A. in History from Mahakoshal, Jabalpur.
- 1959 – Was appointed as the Vicar of St. Mary’s Church, Dadar, Mumbai.
- 1961 – Was appointed as the Vicar of Malaya- Singapore Parishes.
- 1965 – Got admission in General Theological Seminary, New York.
- 1966 – Was awarded B.D. degree.
- 1967 – Secured STM degree from Bercklely Divinity School at Yale University Campus.
- 1967, Dec – Assumed the Vicarship of the Parish of Bahrain.
- 1972 – The Silver Jubilee of Priesthood was celebrated in Bahrain.
- 1972 – Was given the charge of Bhilai Mission, as its first Director and the Vicarship of Bhilai Parish.
- 1974, Oct 2 – Malankara Association held at Niranam elected Fr. Punnoose to be a Bishop along with Fr. M.V.George, Fr. Paul Varghese, Fr. K.C.Thomas and Fr. P V Joseph.
- 1975, Feb 15 – Professed as Ramban at Puthencavu St. Mary’s Orthodox Church.
- 1975, Feb 16 – Consecrated as Bishop at Niranam Valiyapally.
- 1976 – Was given the charge of the Diocese of Madras.
- 1979 – Was given the charge of the Calcutta Diocese.
- 1986, Jan 25 – Consecration of the diocesan centre and chapel was performed by H.H Marthoma Mathews I, the Catholicose.
- 1986 – Laid the foundation stone of St.Thomas College.
- 1986 – Adopted the Makodia Mission Centre.
- 1990 – Was awarded Doctor of Divinity (Honoris Causa) by General theological Seminary, New york.
- 1993-94 – The Calcutta Diocesan Council took the decision to celebrate the year as the Saptati year of its shepherd.
- 1994 – Bagdona Mission Center was inaugurated.
- 1998 – Started M.P.C.C.E.T in Bhilai, the first Engineering college run by the Church.
- 2007 November 5 – Called for His Heavenly Abode by His Master
- 2007 November 8 – Funeral Conducted at Bhilai Mission centre.
ST. GEEVARGHESE MAR DIONYSIUS VATTASSERIL
St. Geevarghese Mar Dionysius Vattasseril, Malankara Metropolitan, was a bright light for the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church that illumined during her dark and tumultuous times and possessed the vision to bring the Church triumphantly from the bonds of foreign oppression. Thirumeni dedicated his entire life to secure the freedom and welfare of the Holy Church. His Grace faced many troubles and obstacles as well as received constant physical and verbal abuse via threats and physical attacks as he courageously led the Church to her independence. He confronted the dangers and obstacles directly responding with vigor, strength and remarkable conviction and confidence in God’s justice and plan, which was a product of his continual fasting and prayer. God protected Thirumeni throughout his life whether in Kerala or abroad as he sought the freedom of the Church from foreign powers. His great triumph lay in the ability to unite the entire Church, both the priests and laymen to follow his lead. He was incredibly gifted in many fields, a multifarious genius. He was a spiritual leader, a theological educator, scholar of languages, literature and traditions. He was a dignified, valorous and noble personality with a remarkable commanding power.
St. Dionysius was born to his parents, Joseph Vattasseril of Mallappally and Eliamma Kolathu Kalathil of Kurichy on 31st October 1858. Following his elementary education at C. M. S. Middle School in Mallappally he completed his high school education from C. M. S. High School, Kottayam. In 1876, while still a high school student, he was ordained as a sub deacon by H. H. Moran Mar Pathrose Patriarch.
LIFE IN THE CHURCH
Dn. Geevarghese studied at the Orthodox Theological Seminary (Old Seminary or Pazhaya Seminary), Kottayam for four years thereby undergoing his theological training. Dn. Geevarghese soon became a great Syriac scholar under the careful tutelage of St. Gregorios of Parumala, who taught him at Seminary. In 1879 Dn. Geevarghese was ordained as a full deacon and in 1880 he was ordained as a priest by St. Gregorios. By 1880, Fr. Geevarghese had become an authority in the Syriac, Church History, Faith and Doctrine, the Church Fathers, and Theology. In recognition of his incredible expertise in Syriac and theology he was designated as Malankara Malpan. He spent his spare time reading, studying, and thinking which translated to his many renowned writings such as “Doctrines of the Church”. He also used his scholarship to edit and publish the order of Church worship to be used by the ordinary faithful for meaningful participation in worship. He was appointed as Principal of M. D. Seminary, Kottayam as he was both a great scholar and administrator. In 1903, he was blessed as a Ramban (monk). He also served as the Manager of Parumala Seminary. In 1908 he was consecrated as H. G. Geevarghese Mar Dionysius Metropolitan and served as the Assistant Malankara Metropolitan. The next year he became the Malankara Metropolitan and served and led the Church in that capacity until his departure from this life in 1934 when he and the Church triumphed in establishing the official constitution of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
H. H. Moran Mar Baselios Geevarghese II Catholicos of blessed memory remarked in the speech at the burial of Vattasseril Thirumeni, “When we look at the highest solemn position held by Vattasseril Thirumeni and his deep and firm faith in God, he seemed similar to Moses who led the sons of Abraham from the captive land of Egypt to the promised land of freedom and happiness. There is no doubt about it. Moses had spent his entire life for the freedom of his people but he could not enter the Promised Land. He was only able to see the Promised Land from a distance. Likewise the Moses of the Malankara Church has also watched the freedom of his Church from a distance”. Vattasseril Thirumeni was a good orator who was well aware of the importance of the vitality and moral persuasiveness of words when delivering the speeches to the faithful. Spiritually, he was transformed by Christ and bore no scars from sin. His humility and withdrawal from the praise of this world kept many from seeing the incredibly pious and faithful life that Thirumeni lived. In addition to not publicizing his own spiritual advancement he also avoided spiritual hypocrisy and arrogance throughout his life. Prayers and fasting were the pillars that were Vattasseril Thirumeni’s spiritual foundation. He faced all the challenges with the power he had gained through his valued spiritual life. In addition to the liturgical hours of prayer, Thirumeni spent much time in private prayers and silent meditations behind closed doors and away from the attention of people. In spite of his busy schedule, he was also able to focus on three to four lessons from the Holy Bible everyday. Despite Vattasseril Thirumeni’s literal application of Christ’s instruction to pray in private and not for others to see, many recognized that His Grace was a living saint amongst them.
ST. MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD
Among all the saints of the Church, St. Mary occupies a preeminent position. This prominence is the consequence of her role as the Mother of God (Theotokos), a title that was underscored by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) and firmly establishing it in the spirituality of the Church. St. Mary thus appears not only as the person who was favoured to bear the Son of God, but because of her acquiescence to God’s offer, she represents the pinnacle of synergy, the process by which human beings cooperate with God for the advancement of the salvific plan. Thus, she represents the reversal of the fatal fall of Eve in the Garden of Eden, and so is also given the designation “the second Eve.” The concept and role of St. Mary in the Malankara Orthodox Church can be appreciated only in the connection with its Christology and ecclesiology.
While the Holy Scriptures do not contain this information, the Church tradition names St.Mary’s parents as Joachim and Anna, information contained in the Protevangelium of St.James. Her early years are shrouded in silence, except for the generalized picture that she was resident in the Jerusalem Temple. From this point the New Testament informs us that she received the annunciation of the birth of the Son of God (Lk 1: 2ff ), a point obliquely stated in St. Matthew’s infancy narrative (Mt.1:20) St.Luke very succinctly suggests that many of St.Mary’s experiences went past her comprehension, and it was only the passage of time that unpacked their significance for her (Lk 2:19, 50-51). Both St.Matthew and St.Luke record that she was affianced to Joseph who belonged to David’s family. It is in this way that Jesus’ ancestry is ultimately traced to the Davidic line. St.Matthew’s narrative St.Mt 2:1ff) has King Herod making an attempt on the life of the young Jesus, occasioned by the arrival and query of the Wise Men. Operating through a divine revelation, St.Joseph takes the mother Mary and the little Jesus and flees to Egypt. A revelation in a dream at a later stage conveys the death of those who sought the life of Jesus and so St.Joseph returns with St.Mary and the child to their native country and opt to settle in Nazareth for fear of Herod’s son who now controlled Judea. St.Luke alone records the event of St.Joseph and St.Mary taking the young Jesus to Jerusalem to attend the Passover and is somehow lost. After three days, the parents return to find Jesus discussing with the teachers.
We do not glimpse too many occasions when St.Mary is sighted during Jesus’ public ministry. There is the anecdote of how she, accompanied by other family members, attempt to obtain a meeting with him, which Jesus supposedly does not acquiesce to. St.John, however, has the narrative of Jesus, along with his disciples and St.Mary attending a marriage feast at Cana and during the course of which the wine runs out. St. Mary intercedes with her Son Jesus, the consequence of which leads to the transformation of the water held in six stone jars into the most qualitatively superlative wine. We then find references to St.Mary only during the last hours of Jesus when she is numbered among the women who watch his crucifixion. St.John has the poignant story of committing her to the care of his Beloved Disciple, an indication that by this time she had no family to look after her.
A very different picture of St.Mary emerges in the Acts of the Apostles. The post-resurrection phase presents us with a St.Mary who by now is a confirmed believer in Jesus and active in the early Christian community. And along with the Apostles and other disciples, she experiences the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of the Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11). After this episode, she fades from the accounts of the Acts of the Apostles. Her end is not narrated in the New Testament and is found only in the annals of the Church’s traditions. According to the main substance of this account, all the Apostles, with the exception of St.Thomas, were summoned to St.Mary’s bedside in anticipation of her death. In the blessed company of the Apostles, St.Mary breathed her last. One Church tradition has it that her body was taken up into heaven and St.Thomas managed to catch a glimpse of her as she was taken up. In proof of this encounter, St.Thomas was given the girdle and kerchief that St.Mary was using. The other disciples were astounded that the tomb where St.Mary had been interred was found to be empty. It was left to St.Thomas to end their consternation with the news of her body being taken up into Paradise, in proof of which he displayed her kerchief and girdle.
The increase in the respect and reverence to St.Mary in consequence of her developing faith, which is seen in Acts of the Apostles, is continued in the early Church. And it is on the basis of the popular devotion to her that the Second Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in A.D. 431 declared that St.Mary be addressed as the “Mother of God” (theotokos). It must be borne in mind that St.Cyril of Alexandria’s opposition to Nestorius’ advocacy for the use Mother of Christ (christotokos), the controversy that constitutes the background for this ecumenical council was based not only on this popular piety, but also on the sound theological principle that what was in question was more than a mere use of a term. What was at stake was the very foundation of the belief that God had become man. In pursuing the belief that Christ was fully God and fully man, the Alexandrian Church father stressed that to address St.Mary as merely the Mother of Christ alone sundered this unitive concept.
This high reverence for St.Mary forms the underpinnings for the Orthodox Church’s hymns which extol her as the Second Eve and a second heaven. Many of the hymns use the events of the Old Testament to interpret the mystery of how God could have become a human through the agency of St.Mary. For instance, a favourite event is to interpret the appearance of God to Moses in the burning bush as a type of how Christ was incarnated; just as God appeared as a fire in the bush, but the bush was not consumed, so also Christ was born of St.Mary without consuming her. And since Christ is borne by the Cherubim in heaven, so also St.Mary is figured as a second heaven because she bore the Son of God. In all these instances, what is stressed is St.Mary’s obedience and submission to the will of God, thus reversing the disobedience and self-oriented character of the first Eve which paved for humankind’s fall into sin.
The Orthodox Church holds it as part of its faith article that St.Mary continued to be a virgin all her life, addressing her as the Virgin Mary or the Virgin Mother. It believes that the Holy Scriptures do not contradict this belief and interprets the statements in the New Testament to the brothers and sisters of Jesus as either referring to brothers and sisters born to Joseph through a previous marriage or his cousins. Indeed, the New Testament could be seen as very supportive of affirming the continued virginity of St.Mary. When Joseph and Mary go up to Jerusalem and inadvertently leave Jesus behind in the Temple, there is no mention in the gospel to any of his siblings who accompanied them. And in the Gospel of St.John, Jesus hands over charge of his mother Mary to his Beloved Disciple, a situation which would have been unwarranted if Jesus had other brothers or sisters.
However, it must be also stated that in the devotion of the Orthodox Church to St.Mary no role or description is made other than her being the Mother of God. In the iconographic tradition of the Church, St.Mary is usually presented as holding in her arms the child Jesus. Similarly, in the hymns which focus on St. Mary, she is asked to intercede to her Son, affirming the biblical principle that there is only one Mediator between God the Father and humankind. In fact, constant stress of the Church is on the fact that there is only one person, Jesus Christ, who has been exempt from the taint of humankind’s sin. It can, therefore, be inferred that the Orthodox Church does not believe that St.Mary was immaculately conceived or that she has a special mediatory role alongside Jesus Christ in the salvation of humankind.
In thus developing a devotion to St.Mary the Orthodox Church extols her who exemplifies what it means to be transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. No doubt St.Mary symbolizes what it means to find favour with God. And in so praising her, the Church recognizes that it fulfills St.Mary’s prediction given in the Magnificat:
“For, behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed ” (Lk 1:48).