A Star Of The East Shoots Into Infintity And Eternity

His Holiness was regarded by other church leaders and community leaders as the lighthouse of hope when there erupted community disharmony within the pluralistic population of Keralam. Catholicos-Patriarch Matthews I, his predecessor, delegated him to lead the Christian community in Keralam when there arose a crisis dismantling the unity between the Christian and Hindu communities based on a proposed church-building at Nilakkal which was said to be within domain and vicinities of the Shabarimala Temple. Hindus vehemently opposed the project and Christians were equally offended by the resistance from the Hindu community. It was His Holiness, a Metropolitan then, took the lead to diffuse the crisis and received the acclamation from both sides and turned out a champion of concord among the diverse people of Keralam. The Hindu community saw in him a Mahacharya and Maharshi, who was totally Indian in culture

Moran Mor Matthews II was a great friend of all Christians, whether Roman Catholics or Protestants. He maintained extraordinary closeness to both of these denominations, although there were critics about him being too charitable to them sometimes. Both of these groups have a history of exploiting and destroying the ancient Orthodox Church in Malankara. For example, the Uniate Romo-Syrian Catholic hierarchies are still stealing the sheep of the Orthodox Church, but His Holiness showed his magnanimity by attending and addressing a congratulatory gathering to honor their newly-consecrated bishop at Trivandrum. The Church of Malankara did not really appreciate this act of charity towards the Uniate Ivaniosites, because there was no one like Archbishop Ivanios in the history of the Church in Malankara, who inflicted the deepest wound on her. Similarly, he was also graciously generous to the Syro-Malabar Roman Catholic and the CSI and Marthomite communities that are vestiges of western uncanonical and criminal encroachment into the apostolic ancient Church of Malankara. He loved every human being without reservation, fully understanding his role as a high priest and community leader, who should treat everyone equally beyond the boundaries of his own Church, often forgetting and forgiving past deadly wounds.

He was never a politician, but attracted politicians of all persuasions. The veneration that Mr. R. Bala Krishna Pillai of Kottarakara had towards our Holy Father was always far greater than his own spiritual children had. Mr. R. Bala Krishna Pillai treated him like a father, and a great Rishi. One could watch an adoring Bala Krishna Pillai in front of the mortal remains of the Holy Father after his death. Great political leaders like K. Karunakaran were his regular visitors. When the Church celebrated his 90th birthday a year ago at Adoor all social, political and religious leaders of Keralam surrounded him with the acclamation of “Ad Multos Annos”. An unusual political figure surprised the multitudes with his mesmerizing presence: it was Mr. V.S. Achyuthanandan, the Marxist Communist opposition leader of Keralam, who had no special reason to appease a towering religious leader like His Holiness. Mr. Achyuthanandan very well knew the extent of Holy Father’s charisma that influences the Malayalee communities and the incomprehensible aura that surrounds the person of the Holy Father. It was striking to watch the 81 year Achyuthanandan, an unbending Communist, painfully rushing through the crowd for kilometers to the funeral site of His Holiness on the day of his entombment.

Again, we watched the crowd that attended the funeral! It is estimated that more than a million people viewed his mortal remains seated on the Patriarchal throne and received his invisible blessing. Who among the religious leaders in Keralam had such a farewell! In the history of Keralam, no religious leader ever received a State Funeral; His Holiness was accorded with this honor. He was great when he was alive, but was even greater after his demise. He was unique while he was living, but he was uniquely singled out after his passing away.

This writer has personally witnessed the spiritual fervor of His Holiness even when he was into his nineties. He officiated in the Holy Week services at St. Gregorios Church at Bellwood near Chicago. He took his fasting all the way to 3.00 PM. He stood all the time during the services, which this writer, who is only old enough to be his son, could not observe. I wondered at his perseverance in still observing all the prostrations required for Holy Week services! How many of our prelates, or priests, or monks could observe such penitential practices diligently and fervently as he did when he was ninety or ninety-one! Yes, his religious observances were fruits of his monastic and ascetic practices for over seventy-five years. He was not forced into them, but he voluntarily embraced them to spiritually tune him up and to identify with Christ through self abnegation, mortification and charitable acts, all for the love of God.

He did tell me several times what he had endured at the Monastery of Othara. Several days, he did not even receive a grain of rice for food. He cooked the jackfruit that was provided by a tree on the courtyard of the monastery, which was indeed a poor source of nutrition. He became so lean and pale, lacking hemoglobin in his blood. Occasionally, God brought some visitors, who might bring some rice and other provisions. The members in the monastery can use them up so fast. Again, the kitchen pantry was empty. But God provided. Often they could not afford a normal Malayalee lunch or supper; instead they often just had only a bowl of boiled rice cereal with a side dish of tapioca or jackfruit. Many monastic aspirants came under the novitiate of Fr. Matthews, but a good number of them left the monastery being unable to understand the theology of extreme poverty. But Fr. Matthews never quit. He was slowly climbing the ladders of sanctity and monasticism accepting joyfully the ordeals and rigor of ascetic life. From the depravity experienced in the monastery he became spiritually richer day by day. It prepared him even for a more austere life. Catholicos Givargis II noticed the sublime monastic virtues of Hieromonk Matthews, and cherished a special predilection for him; and that is why he was consecrated a bishop at the age of thirty-eight, even without the consensus of an association, which he secured before assuming the administration of the Metropolitanate of Quilon.

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