St. Mary’s faithful response makes her the highest model of obedience to God. The early Church Fathers and Church History say that when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she was knitting a curtain for the temple. The Virgin Mary is honoured not only because God chose her, but also because she, herself, chose to believe and obey God firmly.
For two thousand years, the Church has preserved the memory of the Virgin Mary as the prototype of all Christians, the model of what we are to become in Christ. Mary was truly pure and unconditionally obedient to God. As Mary bore Christ in her womb physically, all Christians now have the privilege of bearing God within themselves spiritually. From early times, the Church has called her Mother of God (Theotokos), a title that implies that her Son, Jesus Christ, is both fully man and fully God. As His mother, Mary was the source of Jesus’ human nature, yet the one that she bore in her womb was also the eternal God. Christians appropriately honour Mary as the first among the Saints. The angel Gabriel initiated this honour in addressing her, as seen in St. Luke 1:28, “Rejoice highly favoured one, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.” The salutation clearly indicated that God Himself had chosen to honour Mary. Her favoured status was confirmed when she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Mary is confessed as the “mother of my Lord” by Elizabeth. This was no mere man that Mary was carrying. The title “THEOTOKOS” is given to the Virgin Mary by the Church, derived from the truth of this confession. No one else has ever received the glory given to Mary, either in Scripture or in Church History.
In obedience to the clear intention of God, the Orthodox Church honours Mary in icons, hymns, and special feasts. We ask St. Mary to intercede with her Son on our behalf. We ask for guidance, protection and we venerate her but we do not worship her, for worshipping belongs to God alone.
St. Thomas the Apostle was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. He was also called Didimos, which mean ‘twin’ because of the paired fingers of his hand. The Bible portrays him as a man of bravery and strong attachment to his Teacher. Jesus made the revelation that ‘I’m the way, the truth and the life’ (St. John 14:6) as an answer to the question of St Thomas. After his resurrection, when Jesus appeared before his apostles, St Thomas was not present there. When his colleagues told him later that they saw Jesus, he was reluctant to believe that. He proclaimed that “unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (St John 20:26). It was his earnest desire to see his resurrected Master. He also wanted to have the same fortune experienced by his colleagues. Jesus respected his disciple’s wish and made an appearance again before the group in which St Thomas was also present.
Jesus invited him to put his fingers on his wounds and get convinced. In the ecstasy of that moment, St Thomas addressed Jesus “My Lord and My God”—which is a basic creed of Christian faith. The tradition says that when St Thomas put his paired fingers in Jesus’ wounds they got separated and became normal and other apostles kissed his hands, which touched the resurrected Jesus Christ. The Christian practice of kissing the hands of bishops and priests originated from this.
Traditionally, it is believed that Christianity in India originated out of the evangelic mission of St. Thomas, the Apostle. The tradition maintains that St. Thomas came to the west-coast of South India (Malabar; now Kerala) in AD 52 from the island of Socotra and preached gospel to the Jewish community and then also made converts from among the natives. He established seven Christian communities and also appointed elders. Apostle Thomas then went to the east-coast and from there to China. He returned to the east-coast and was martyred in AD 72.
St George is one of the most venerated saint in the Oriental Orthodox church. It is believed that the saint (called Geevargheese Sahada in Malayalam) protects believers against serpents, ailments, and any kind of danger in general.
St. George was born in Cappadocia, Libya to Gerontios and Polychronia, a Roman officer and a Greek native of Lydda. Both were Christians from noble families of the Anici and George. St. George was brought up as a boy, strong in faith. When George was old enough, he was welcomed into Diocletian’s army. By his late 20’s, George became a Tribunus and served as an imperial guard for the Emperor at Nicomedia.
On February 24, 303 A.D., Diocletian, who hated Christians, announced that every Christian the army passed would be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods.
George refused to abide by the order and told Diocletian, who was angry but greatly valued his friendship with George’s father. When George announced his beliefs before his peers, Diocletian was unable to keep the news to himself. In an effort to save George, Diocletian attempted to convert him to believe in the Roman gods, offered him land, money and slaves in exchange for offering a sacrifice to the Roman gods, and made several other offers that George refused.
Finally, after exhausting all other options, Diocletian ordered George’s execution. In preparation for his death, George gave his money to the poor and was sent for several torture sessions. He was lacerated on a wheel of swords and required resuscitation three times, but still George did not turn from God. On April 23, 303 A.D., George was decapitated before Nicomedia’s outer wall. His body was sent to Lydda for burial, and other Christians went to honor George as a martyr.
St. Gregorios Mar Geevarghese Metropolitan, popularly known as “Parumala Thirumeni”, is the first indigenous saint of the Indian Orthodox Church. His life was one of righteousness and holiness. He shines in the cloud of witnesses as a bright luminary giving rays of hope to millions in their suffering and struggles.
St. Gregorios was born in the year in the village of Mulunthuruthy near Cochin. He was baptized at the Mulanthuruthy MarThoman Church with the baptismal name Geevarghese. From childhood days he followed a very disciplined life which was enriched by prayer and fasting. At a very young age Geevarghese had shown interest in spiritual matters. 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. Deacon Geevarghese became associated with a 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.
On the 7th of April 1872, Metropolitan Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysios elevated Geevarghese Cor Episcopa to the monastic order of a Monk (Ramban). At this time he was only 24 years old. In 1876, the then Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Peter III consecrated Geevarghese Cor-Episcopa as a Metropolitan with the name Geevarghese Mar Gregorios. 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’. Geevarghese Mar Gregorios was initially given the charge of Niranam Diocese and later Mar Gregorios was also appointed as the Metropolitan of Thumpamon and Quilon (Kochi) Dioceses as well.
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. In the late 1890s, many educational institutions were started by the Malankara Church under the initiative and guidance of St. Gregorios and His Grace Joseph Mar Dionysius Metropolitan. The missionary task of the Church was also evinced by his outreach programme to the socially down trodden communities. 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.
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.
Mar Gregorios was already a piles-patient. It became chronic in 1902. Treatments proved futile and slowly His Grace became physically weaker and weaker. Finally, the blessed soul left the earthly abode on the 2nd of November 1902. On the 45th Anniversary of his memorial, on the 2nd November 1947, Geevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala was officially canonized as Saint Geevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala by the Supreme Head of our Church, His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Geevarghese II Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Syrian Church.
Our Church canonized Vattaserril Thirumeni as a Saint on February 23, 2003. Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius is popularly known as “Malankara Sabha Bhasuran” (The Great Luminary of Malankara Orthodox Church). Vattasseril Thirumeni was a man of prayer, determination and dynamism. St. Dionysius 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 bravely fought for the establishment of Catholicate in 1912 to be the symbol of self-identity and independence of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. He can be called as the architect of the Indian Orthodox Church and thus endeared himself as one of the greatest fathers of the Indian Orthodox Church.
Thirumeni was born on 31st Oct 1858. He had his childhood education from CMS Middle School at Mallappally and the High School education from CMS High School, Kottayam. In 1876, when he was a high school student, he was ordained as sub-deacon by H. H. Moran Mar Pathrose Patriarch. Dn. Geevarghese had his four-year theological studies at the Orthodox Theological Seminary, (Old Seminary) Kottayam. He came out well versed in Eastern Orthodox Theology. When he was a theological student, St. Gregorios of Parumala was his Syriac Professor. Within a short span of time, Dn. Geevarghese became a great Scholar of Syriac language and literature. In 1879 Dn. Geevarghese was ordained as a full Deacon and in 1880, he was ordained as a priest by St. Gregorios (Parumala Thirumeni). By this time Fr. Geevarghese had become an authority of the Syriac language, Church history, faith and doctrines of the fathers, and theology. Being the dearly beloved of Parumala Thirumeni, he was designated as the Malankara Malpan. He spent his spare time reading, studying and thinking and this resulted him to achieve the status of a renowned writer. ‘Doctrines of the Church’ is one of the famous books. He was able to edit and publish the Church worship order (detailed Qurbana Kramam), which could be used by the ordinary faithful for the meaningful participation in the worships. He was also appointed as Principal of the Seminary, Kottayam. In 1903, he was elevated as a Ramban (monk). In the meantime, he had served as the Manager of the Parumala Seminary. In 1908 he was consecrated as H. G. Geevarghese Mar Divanasios Metropolitan and served as the Assistant Malankara Metropolitan. From the next year, up until his entrance to eternal rest, he served as the Malankara Metropolitan.
Many people are often ignorant about the pious life of Thirumeni as he had never exposed his spiritual life. He was never touched by hypocrisy. Prayers and fasting were integral to his life. He faced all struggles with the power he had gained through his valued spiritual life. He followed in the footsteps of his guru and role-model St. Gregorios of Parumala. 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.
Vattasseril Thirumeni was a good orator who was aware of the importance of the vitality and morality of the speeches. He also founded several spiritual organizations such as the Student Movement, Women’s Organization, and Society of the Cross. The “Faith of the Church “(Mathopadesam) released by him is still valuable for Malankara Church. He was also instrumental in drafting our Church Constitution.
He entered Heavenly abode on 23rd February 1933 and was buried at the Old Seminary in Kottayam. H. H. Moran Mar Baselios Geevarghese II, Catholicos remarked in the speech at the funeral of Vattasseil Thirumeni: “When we look at the highest solemn position held by Vattasseril Thirumeni and his deep and firm faith in God, he is 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 Malankara Church has also watched freedom of his Church from a distance”.