Categories
Columns Features Opinions

Mar Barnabas in Our Bold Memories


His Grace Mathews Mar Barnabas was unique in many respects. The well known simplicity, humility, sincerity, innocence, deep spirituality and purity at heart, His Grace was always jutting out in memory. His Grace’s life was that of complete surrender to the Lord and to the Malankara Orthodox Church. His Grace’s hospitality was also well-known. No one leaves the aramana without earing something. Even when His Grace comes to our churches or homes, His Grace makes sure all eat with His Grace at the same time.

Towards the end of His Grace’s life, there was a brightness of divine presence on His Grace’s face. Life in America for His Grace was a blessed time. So many changes took place and all for the positive growth of the Church and the people’s life. The various books His Grace written are all proofs of His Grace’s divine nature.

At this time it is difficult to come to terms with the loss. One thing gives me consolation is that His Grace will be a great intercessor for all. His Grace’s prayers from heaven will be a solace to many.

The Northeast American Diocese owes much to His Grace for its spiritual well-being. It was not an easy time when His Grace arrived in 1992 but somehow His Grace overcame all hurdles by His Grace’s prayer life. And I am sure His Grace’s spiritual presence will continue to nurture us. Now that His Grace has joined the Lord, let us hope that His Grace’s intercession will continue for us all. The different great qualities that we can emulate
will enrich us.

Fr. M. K. Kuriakose (North East American Diocesan Secretary)

Categories
Columns Features Opinions

Mar Osthathios: The One and Only


It was not without tears that His Grace Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios will be remembered. I am sure that volumes will be written about His Grace because His Grace’s life and work were gracefully voluminous. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church’s history of humanitarian projects will be the biography of Mar Osthathios. No doubt the modern history of our Church will be dominated by this unique personality.

I was in the 8th grade when I came in contact with Rev. Fr. M. V. George and Rev. Fr. T.J. Joshua who were the greatest gospel convention speakers of that time. I happened to have listened to them in my childhood days that connected me with them a little deeper than expected. It was amazing to me now when I look back that I had exchange of letters with them in English. His Grace wrote only in post cards. His letters were short, illegible (very difficult to read) and one has to guess what was written but in those letters one could see a great person and his unfailing love.

It was with the help of Mar Osthathios that I got into the Seminary that initiated my educational career which otherwise would have ended in the paddy field of Wayanad. Born and brought up in a farmer’s family I did not have a dream to see anything beyond the mountain ranges of Wayanad or the gates of a gateless high school. But Mar Osthathios was helpful in breaking that stigma. When I received the telegram to attend the interview at the Seminary in 1967, I went straightaway to the Seminary as though I got admission! When I reached there I had one or two persons who knew me, M.V. George Achen and T. J. Joshua Achen. The Principal His Grace Philipose Mar Theophilus was out of town or so and M. V. George Achen being the Vice Principal told me that an interview telegram does not mean that I am admitted but Achen gave me hope that I will get the admission. It was a miracle and I believe that the miracle was done by His Grace.

In the Seminary, His Grace was a mentor to me because I was one of the youngest of the students (19 years old) and very naïve and ignorant of the outside world. His Grace was my Father Confessor who was a guiding force in my personality development. His Grace’s spiritual guidance was special. Each sermon was a special treat for me. I heard a lot from others about His Grace while in the Seminary. People used to call him “thookkukatta Semmassen” because he eloquently spoke from Prophet Amos on social justice for all quoting Amos 7:8 “Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline (thookkukatta in Malayalam). Then said the LORD, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them anymore.” The plumbline is the device used to find level on a surface. I remember the days His Grace came with dim voice as His Grace has been speaking continuously for famous conventions. His Grace made time for various physical activities including, morning walk, garden work and Table Tennis. My first lessons on Table Tennis were from His Grace. Nobody could defeat His Grace and His Grace enjoyed defeating all his opponents at the Table Tennis games. In two years I mastered the game and His Grace could not defeat me anymore. That made us closer.

Already I was in the kurishummoodu prayer group led by His Grace. This was secret prayer groups that M. V. George Achen led. Nobody questioned him or opposed him and so we got a secret spiritual enrichment. The present Bombay Diocesan Bishop His Grace Geevarghese Mar Coorilose, Rev. Fr. George Panackamattam and Rev. Fr. K. T. Mathukkuty were in that group. We would go to the two tomb crosses on the western and eastern ends of the Seminary property in the evenings. Mostly those areas were filled with bushes and therefore nobody will see us. I learned my first lessons how to say an extempore prayer in that fellowship. His Grace asked all of us to pray. Those days I had no idea how to frame a personal prayer.

In the classroom, highly bombastic language was used in teaching theology. Paul Tillich and Bultman were so tough to read and understand and equally difficult was His Grace’s class on them. We copied some words and names from here and there along with a galore of Bible verses. It was tough to write down the Bible verses because His Grace had such a fluent knowledge of the key Bible verses. It always amazed us. His Grace’s knowledge and instant answers to ANY question was a yardstick for many of us. His Grace solved all our problems no matter it was educational, spiritual, financial, social, personal or theological.
After my parents, if I owe much to a person, that is His Grace Mar Osthathios. His Grace timely help was the ONLY reason that I could get a scholarship for my study for Masters in Theology at the United Theological College, Bangalore.

In 1972 I needed a strong letter of recommendation to get admission at UTC. Unfortunately the recommendation I got from an important person was useless because the recommendation said, “if you give admission and scholarship to Rev. Dn. M. K. Kuriakose, he will appreciate it”. Normally one would say, I will appreciate it” UTC Principal Rev. Dr. E. C. John was very kind to let me know that I will not get admission on the basis of this “hopeless letter” and I immediately wrote a very strong hurting letter to Mar Osthathios reflecting my frustration. In no time His Grace wrote a strong letter of recommendation for admission and scholarship and that made the difference for the rest of my life. Now looking back to history I see how such Fathers become unique personalities in our life.

I would not have heard the concept of giving “tithe” if I was not that close to His Grace. “The Tither’s Guild” that His Grace started was introduced to all of us. But it took long time for me to digest it until one of my close friends, a Lutheran classmate the late lamented Rev. Dr. Immanuel David, inspired me when I learned that the Protestant community has to give tithe on a regular basis. The seed that was sown by His Grace sprouted in me and I have been sharing that with our people.

On February 2, 1968 the Orthodox Theological Seminary Chapel rang the emergency bell at an odd time in the morning and all of us were called to gather immediately. We heard some bishop passed away. Rev. Fr. M. V. George the Vice Principal addressed the gathering in a somber mood and said, “today a strong voice that spoke for the poor and the needy is silenced, the one who joined Mahatma Gandhi for the Vaikkam Sathyagraham for equality to worship God, the deacon who held the Indian national flag in front of the procession, converted tens of thousands of families to Orthodox faith, one of the most educated man of the time, and the one who lived like an ordinary servant, died like a common man in a private hospital, none other than His Grace Pathrose Mar Osthathios the Metropolitan of Malabar Diocese”. The somber voice of Rev. Fr. M. V. George reverberated in our ears like thunder. We were struggling to hold our tears when the short speech ended. Later the same name Mar Osthathios was given to Rev. Fr. M. V. George when he was elevated to bishopric.

We, his disciples, have no negative comments about His Grace because His Grace was exemplary in all walks of life. All the institutions His Grace started and catered to all were run with such a transparency that no one had any question. Indeed the help of Rev. Fr. Philip Rambachan the most trusted and revered servant of the Malankara Orthodox Church was with His Grace like a shadow. His Grace is the epitome of sincerity, hard work and truthfulness.

A revolutionary deacon, ideal priest, exemplary bishop, a great teacher, competent counselor, genuine thinker, realistic philosopher, prolific writer, eloquent golden-mouthed speaker, spiritual leader, genuine and guileless friend, loving spiritual father, great social reformer, and ultimately a simple and common human being with no imposture. Death is natural but great people make that life supernatural. Life on earth has to come to an end but great people will continue to live in the hearts of people forever.

We will hear a million personal stories and witnesses like mine from many people across the world, culture, religion and denominations in which the stalwart Mar Osthathios will remain bold for centuries. The clergy including bishops who went through His Grace’s mind will attest that Mar Osthathios is One and the Only One for the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

Herald Spl Supplement

Categories
Columns

Saint Gregorios of Parumala (1848-1902): Some Reflections

Parumala-thirumeni-herald

Parumala is once again busy with the celebration of the 107th death anniversary of the great saint of our Church. Year after year more and more people throng to the holy site of the resting place of the mortal remains of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church’s first saint. It is truly a time for members of our Church to reflect on the life of a saint whose intercession is sought by millions of believers. Saint Gregorios stands out in the mind of the members of the Indian Orthodox Church, remembering him in every Holy Qurbana, refer to his saintly life in sermons and spiritual discourses, founding more parishes in his name and call upon the people to make him a model in Christian spirituality. It is not only members of our Church but also members of other denominations and religions seek intercession and give high respect to this saint. It will be appropriate for us to ponder upon a few thoughts about Saint Gregorios.

1. Prayer Life:

An Orthodox clergyman has a different prayer life. The seven offices of prayers, prayer for special occasions, prayer for special seasons etc. give a special identity to Orthodox spiritual life. Along with these prayers, strict observances of lent and fasting keep such people in active communication with God. The prayer life of St. Gregorios is well known to everybody. He had extended hours of prayers and strict observance of fasting, even to the point of debilitating his physical body. Mortification of his body helped him overcome all physical or material weaknesses and temptations. As a result, his life became sanctified. St. Gregorios proved that material weaknesses can be overcome by continuous communication with God. No wonder he became a source of divine power while alive, helping many believers, saving them from different kinds of afflictions. The same help continued even after his departure from the physical life. True saints continue to help people even after death. That is one of the signs of saintliness.

2. Monastic life:

St. Gregorios is an example of a true monk. His self-renunciation made him purely a person away from worldly pleasures. The vow of a monk symbolized in the masanapsa has become a unique tradition in the Orthodox Church. The thirteen crosses embedded in the head-veil symbolize the fact of rigid life discipline. Saint Gregorios lived to that expectation. The saint proved his celibacy a true discipleship of Christ. Being unmarried is not a great condition at all. We can see many unmarried people living in various immoral ways including unnatural human relationship and defiance of social norms. A true celibate is the one who follows a special life style that our Lord had prescribed. They are married to the Lord. Often we may wonder how this superior life style is slipping away from our

Categories
Columns Opinions

Happy New Year?

fireworks

It is very clear to us today that millions of God’s children will not have a happy New Year in the South-East Asian region. The devastating oceanic earthquake and subsequent tidal waves (Tsunamis) that destroyed life and property worth of billions of dollars in more than eight countries is blatant to our eyes. One of the holiest places that Christians normally throng, the Velankanni Church in Tamil Nadu, was also terribly hit by the tidal waves. It has shaken the life and faith of many people. At the point of this write-up the total number of life lost is estimated at 26,000.00 as per CNN.

The war in Iraq is still going on with no sign of easing terrorism. Poverty is still a reality in many continents. AIDS has been affecting more countries predominantly as a sign man’s failure to abide with God’s law of human relationship. In India alone there are more than 10 million AIDS patients which will multiply to 25 million in 10 years, according to a study conducted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN. Drought or hurricane or other natural calamities have affected the economy of Kerala in the past two years. More than 100 families committed suicide in the past two years because they could not pay off their loans.

Religious leaders are becoming all the more blind. Many educated and spiritually brought-up people fail to find value of human freedom, life, and the very goal of existence. Misunderstood concept of Church and its mission has confused more people than ever in history. Anger and hatred between major religions are still rampant. Even Christians have miserably failed in grasping the mission that Lord Jesus Christ entrusted them. Hatred is the art of the game for everyone. It has become impossible to see people of other religions, language and ethnicity as our own. People’s tendency to be exclusive is on the increase. Jesus Christ’s message of inclusiveness is falling into deaf ears.