ST. MARY MOTHER OF GOD
The Concept of St. Mary in the Malankara Orthodox Church
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 consitututes 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, Jeus 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).
Dr. Yuhanon Mar Dimitrios (Metropolitan, Diocese of Delhi)
The word Apostle (apostolos) designates a person with a particular mission. In the very strict biblical meaning it denotes only the twelve Apostles. In the Gospel narratives the Twelve Apostles are described as having been commisioned to preach the Gospel to the world, regardless of whether Jew or Gentile. Although the Apostles are portrayed as having been Galilean Jews, and 10 of their names are Aramaic and the rest are Greek. The Church considers St Paul in the same status because of his direct experience with Jesus Christ and zeal for the propagation of the Gospel. According to the tradition, all the Apostles, except St John, are suffered martyrdom.
The Twelve Apostles
According to the list occurring in the Synoptic Gospels (Mk 3:13-19, Mt. 10:1-4, Lk.6:12-16), the Twelve chosen by Jesus near the beginning of his ministry, those whomalso He named Apostles, were:
Simon: called Peter (Grk. petros, petra; Aram. kēf; Engl. rock) by Jesus, also known as Simon bar Jonah and Simon bar Jochanan (Aram.)
Andrew: brother of Peter, a Bethsaida fisherman and disciple of John the Baptist, and also the First-Called Apostle.
John: sons of Zebedee, called by Jesus Boanerges (an Aramaic name explained in Mk 3:17 as “Sons of Thunder”).
Philip: from Bethsaida “of Galilee” (John 1:44, 12:21)
Bartholomew: in Aramaic “bar-Talemai”, “son of Talemai” or from Ptolemais, sometimes identified with the Nathanael of John 1:45-1:51.
Thomas: also known as Judas Thomas Didymus – Aramaic T’oma’ = twin, and Greek Didymous = twin.
James, son of Alphaeus: commonly identified with James the Less. Sometimes also identified with James the Just.
Matthew: the tax collector, some identify with Levi son of Alphaeus
Simon the Canaanite: called in Luke and Acts “Simon the Zealot”, some identify with Simeon of Jerusalem, which others dispute on the grounds that Simeon was described at the time of Jesus’ birth some thirty years before, as an old man not far from death.
Judas scariot: the name Iscariot may refer to the Judaean towns of Kerioth or to the sicarii (Jewish nationalist insurrectionists), or to Issachar. Also referred to (e.g. at Jn. 6:71 and 13:26) as “Judas, the son of Simon”. He was replaced as an apostle in Acts by Matthias.
The identity of the other apostle of the twelve, traditionally called St. Jude, varies between the Synoptic Gospels and also between ancient manuscripts of each gospel: Mark names him as Thaddaeus; Different manuscripts of Matthew identify him as either Thaddeus or Lebbaeus.
EARLY CHURCH FATHERS
Church Fathers during 4th and 5th Centuries
The fourth and fifth centuries may be regarded as the greatest centuries as far as the defense of faith is concerned. There were many heresies attacked the Church and the Church strongly defended its true faith through her faithful believers. The heroic children of the Church fought against the opponents of the Church through their teachings and literary works. We can say, without any doubt, these significant personalities are really heroes, the champions of Orthodoxy. The Church cherishes them in her heart as sources and models for Spirit-inspired life.
PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA (+ ca AD. 309)
Pamphilus was born at Berytus in Phoenicia. After the primary education in his native place, he went to Alexandria for higher studies. He then reached Caesarea and read books on Theology and Philosophy from the library of Origen. He became a priest and votary of Origen. He took copies of many important works and added them to Origen’s collection of books. Maximinus had started his persecutions and had imprisoned many Christians including Pamaphilus. While imprisoned in the persecution of Maximinus, he wrote an Apology for Origen, highlighting the greatness of Origen’s theology. He made many copies of the Greek Bible, which later led to the propagation of the Bible. Pamphilus’ Chief contribution was that he shaped Eusabius into a student of history who later became the father of Church history. Pamphilus suffered martyrdom by 309.
EUSEBIUS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA (ca.AD 263-340)
Eusebius, the Father of Ecclesiastical History, was born at Caesarea in Palestine about the year 263 AD. Eusebius grew up as the disciple and spiritual son of Pamphilus and he got good education and training in research. In gratitude to Pamphilus, Eusebius took his name and called himself Eusebius Pamphili implying Eusebius, son of Pamphilus. When Pamphilus died, he fled to Tyre, then to Egypt and at the end, he returned to Caesarea in 313, and there he became a bishop. It was at this time that the disputes about Arius’ heresy rocked the whole Church of the Roman Empire. Eusebius also participated in some discussions. He put forward a proposal to solve the problem. Unfortunately, it created three groups in the Church: 1) those who favoured Arius, 2) those who favoured Athanasius and 3) those who favoured Eusebius, the mediator. He enjoyed the Emperor Constantine’s friendship and it was a very influential one. He died around 340 AD.
ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA
Athanasius was the great soldier of faith who fought bravely for truth. St. Basil describes him as the Divine doctor given to the Church. St. Gregory of Nazianzus depicts him as the Pillar of the Church. His life was eventful and he became famous as the fighter against Arius’ heresy. Athanasius was born in Alexandria around AD.295. In those days, Alexandria was a great centre of learning and Athanasius was able to become familiar with the various branches of learning. He had heard a great deal about Christian heroes who had faced persecution with unflinching courage. He had also heard about the Saints who spent their lives in contact with God in the deserts and forests of Africa. Therefore, he decided to become a Christian full of saintliness, knowledge and faith. When he was boy, he once told his friends about Christian faith. The force of his words made them accept baptism. Alexander, the Metropolitan of Alexandria was surprised at this Thereafter; Athanasius studies and training were perused directly under his supervision.
BASIL THE GREAT OF CAESAREA
The three great lights who are so often referred to as the Three Cappadocians are Basil the Great of Caesarea, his friend Gregory of Nazianzus, and his own brother, Gregory of Nyssa. Basil the Great is the senior venerable member among them. He was the first ascetic leader of the Eastern (Greek) Church tradition. Also called Second Athanasius, he proved his personality not only in the ascetic movement but also in the realms of Church administration and theology. Basil was one among the ten children of a rich family of Caesarea in Cappadocia around AD 330. His father, Baselius, was known, as a scholar and eminent writer throughout Cappadocea. His mother Emmelia was the daughter of a martyr. Of the ten children in the family, three became bishops: Basil himself, made bishop of Caesarea in 370, Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, and Peter, bishop of Sebasty. The eldest sister Macarena became a nun and started a nunnery.
GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS
Gregory was born around AD 330 at Arianzuz in Cappadocea. His father was Gregorios who was the Bishop of Nazianzus [In those days there were Bishops who led family life]. His mother, Nonna, was an ideal woman. Gregory says in one of his speeches about the profound influence his mother had on him. “My mother dedicated me to God even before I was born”. Gregory was educated first at Caesarea in Cappadocea and later at Caesarea in Palestine, Alexandria and Athens. He became acquainted with Basil for the first time when he was studying language and literature at Caesarea in Cappadocea. They kept that warm and intimate friendship until the end of their lives. When Gregory returned to his native place after completing his education, Basil invited him to his hermitage on the bank of river Iris in Pontus. The time Gregory spent there with Basil forms the priceless moments of their spiritual life. There both together codified Philokalia and rules for hermits.
GREGORY OF NYSSA
Gregory of Nyssa is the younger brother of Basil of Caesarea, born about the year 335 AD., and the third of the Three Cappadocians. He was known as the star of the Nyssa. His brother Basil was ceaselessly attached to work, his friend Gregory of Nazianzus was an eloquent speaker whereas the younger one, Gregory of Nyssa was the embodiment of spiritual vigour. He was a devotee who became eloquent in silence and a spiritual spark burning in devotional ascents. He was an extraordinary gifted man as mystic, theologian and writer. Gregory was educated under the guidance of his father and the elder brother, Basil. Hence, he sometimes called his brother my teacher. After his education, he became a rhetoric literaryast. He liked to visit and stay with the hermitage started by his elder brother, Basil of Caesarea. Persuaded by Basil, he became a deacon. However, ignoring the work of deacon, he did the work of a language teacher. It is believed that this time he married a young woman called Theosebaya, and his wife died very soon. After the death of his wife, he was encouraged by his friends to become a priest. At the same time, he received a number of letters from his friend Gregory urging him for a life in a hermitage. Accordingly, he went to the hermitage on the bank of river Iris. There his life became brilliant, purified in the crucible of spiritual experiences. He got a lot time to read study and write.
John Chrysostom succeeded Gregory of Nazianzus as the Patriarch of Constantinople. Both had brilliant personality. Nevertheless, both failed to please the envious and those in authority; hence, they had to give up their positions. The life history of John Chrysostom is the history of his unflinching fight against injustice. John Chrysostom was born at Antioch, the capital of Syria in AD 344 or 347. His parents were Christians. His father, Secuntus was a high-ranking army officer, and his mother Anthusa was a very god-fearing woman. His earliest education came from his mother who was widowed at the age of twenty. John studied philosophy under Andragathius and rhetoric under Lebanius, a famous pagan sophist and rhetorician. When John was about eighteen years of age, he met Meletius, the Bishop of Antioch. He learned Christian faith from Miletius and received baptism in 369.
CYRIL OF JERUSALEM
Cyril was born in Palestine around AD 313. He must have completed his education in Jerusalem and Caesarea. In 335, he was ordained deacon and in 345 Maximus II of Jerusalem ordained him priest. He became the bishop of Jerusalem when Maximus died. He did not engaged in any doctrinal controversies but he opposed Arianism in his writings, and thus, the Arians later troubled him. He was a scapegoat of many wrong notions and so he was exiled three times. It was during his time that a great famine occurred in Jerusalem and its suburbs. Cyril had to sell even the things of the Church to support the helpless that came to him. He was a spiritual father to the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem and to the hermits who lived there. He attended the Synod at Constantinople in 381 and signed the final decision against Arius and Macedonius. He enjoyed the peace that followed the Synod for four or five years. He died in 18 March 386.
ST. BASELIOS YELDHO (KOTHAMANGALAM BAVA)
St Baselios Yeldho was born in a village called kooded (now known as Karakosh) near Mosul in Iraq where Marth Smooni and her 7 children suffered martyrdom. At a very young age he joined the Mar Bahanan Monastery and become a monk. In 1678 he was consecrated Maphriyana by the Patriarch of Antioch Moran Mar Ignatius Abdul Masiha I. In 1685 at the age of 92, the holy father started the difficult mission to India at the request of Mar Thoma II of Malankara who informed the Patriarchate about the unpleasant situation of the Church here.
The saintly Maphriyana was accompanied by Mar Ivanios Hidayathulla, his brother and two monks but only three of them is believed to have reached Malankara. As the saint reached the church premises, the church bells began to toll. People living in the neighbourhood rushed to the church to find out what the commotion was about. And that was on ‘Kanni 11th’ in the Malayalam calendar (end of September), AD 1685. The Saint entered the church and sat on the steps of the ‘Madbaha’. There was a young deacon who was fluent in Syriac. When he realized that a Episcopa had stayed behind at Kozhipally, he and some members of the congregation set out for the place. They took a kerchief from the Saint for identification. When the Episcopa saw the approaching crowd he was afraid. He thought that they had killed Bava and were now about to get at him. He therefore refused to come down from the tree. The deacon however offered him the sign of peace and spoke Syriac. He then came down from the tree and went with the people to the church.
On Kanni 13, the church used to celebrate its foundation day. On the 12th evening the Vicar sought the Saint’s permission to hoist the flag. The Saint replied that the festival of the Holy Cross should be celebrated on the 14th and not on the 13th. When it was explained to the Saint that what they were celebrating was not the festival of the Holy Cross but the anniversary of the founding of the parish, the Saint permitted them to go ahead but reminded them about the importance of the festival of the Holy Cross.
On the next day, on the feast of the Holy Cross, (‘Kanni 14’ as per the Malayalam calendar), Episcopa Mar Ivanios Hidayathulla was consecrated as Metropolitan after the Qurbana by the saintly Mar Baselios Yeldho Bava. (Mar Ivanios, who was consecrated by Mar Yeldho, carried on apostolic work for eight years. He passed away in 1693 and was buried at the Mar Thoman Church, Mulanthuruthy). Because of the tedious journey and the old age, Bava was totally exhausted by then. Three days after he became seriously ill. On Kanni 17th, he received the last sacraments of anointment with oil and extreme unction. All the while he was lying inside the church. Two days after (on Kanni 19, which is September 29) in the afternoon, the saintly father left his mortal self for his heavenly home at the age of 92. That was a Saturday. As he was sinking, the congregation assembled inside the church and were offering prayers.
The Saint told them that he was about to die and when his spirit leaves his body, there would be a sign on the Cross situated on the western side of the Church. And the huge granite Cross miraculously lit up at the time of the Saint’s demise. The Holy Father’s mortal remains was entombed on the next day (Kanni 20) in the western side of the Madbaha of the church. The two weeks of sojourn of the Maphriyana at Kothamangalam electrified the Marthoma Christians all over Malankara and the mission undertaken by the saint was fulfilled to a large extent by his faithful associate, Metropolitan Mar Ivanios Hidayathulla.
In 1947 Mar Baselios Yeldho of blessed memory was declared a saint by the then Catholicos of the church, His Holiness Baselius Geevarghese II.
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 mean time, 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.
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.