Saturday, November 1, 2008

Great Saint Parumala Gregorios' 106th Feast on Nov 2 and 3

The Great Saint Parumala Gregorios' 106th Feast on Nov 2 and 3
(Paul Ciniraj, Malankara Sabha Missionary, Kottayam-686038, India)
Kottayam (India), SVM News, 6 October, 2008: The Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Syrian Church celebrates 106th memorial festival of St. Gregorios of Parumala on November 2 and 3. The whole week till November 3 is being observed as 'Pilgrimage Week'. His Holiness Mar Baselios Marthoma Didymos I, the Catholicose of the East, H.B Paulose Mar Militheos Metropolitan, the Catholicose - Designate along with all other bishops of the church and other sister churches will be leading the festival programmes.
St. Gregorios of Parumala (1848-1902) is a great saint of Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Syrian Church. He is the first proclaimed saint of the Indian Christianity. He was canonized and proclaimed as a Saint on 1947 by the Holy Episcopal Synod. Many many years of the canonization he was accepted as a saint by the people of the church and the pilgrims of his tomb through his great intercession and miraculous healing.
St. Gregorios alias Parumala Thirumeni lived on a haunted island, called Parumala, on the banks of Rivers Pampa and Achencovil in Kerala in India at the fourth quarter of the 19th century till the beginning of 20th century. He was the prophet of his time, who set moral tone for his people. Powerful like Prophet Elijah and glittering like John the Baptist, he remains the beacon and a great Saint. Still his presence is there to glorify our Lord Jesus Christ by interceding for millions upon millions of people in India and abroad.
St. Gregorious of Parumala was born on June 15, 1848 in the priestly family of "Pallithatta Thanagattu" of Chathuruthy, Mulanthuruthy, Kerala. His parents were Kochu Mathai and Mariam, who had three sons and two daughters and he was the youngest one. They called him Kochu Iypera. After the birth of Kochu Iypera, his mother Mariam died. He was baptised as Geevarghese at his home Parish, Marthoman Church Mulunthuruthy. The disciplined life of Mar Gregorios enriched by prayer and fasting helped him to commune with God from his childhood days.
He had a thorough knowledge in Theology and Syriac, which he developed through his teachers, Pallithatta Rev.Father Gheevarghese Malpan (his uncle), Konat Malpan & the Patriarchal delegate Yuyakkim Mar Koorilose. His Grace was a man of prayer and made it clear to the world that Prayer and devotion is mightier than any worldly possession. Parumala Thirumeni's short life was remarkable in many respects. After the early days of education in Syriac and theology, Kochu Iypera was ordained as decon on September 14, 1859, by palakunnathu Mathews Mar Athanasios Metropolitan. He was only ten years old at that time.
One day Malpan became seriously ill with smallpox. Deacon Geevarghese was the only one who stayed and took care of him, while all others were sent home. On the eight day Malpan died and Deacon became ill. During this time he had a vision of St. Mary in his dream, descending to console him, and exhorting him to dedicate the rest of his life to the Lord. He pledged "He would". This was a heavenly vision that enables him to become a humble servant of God. Very soon the deacon recovered.
Deacon Geevarghese continued his theological training under Konat Malpan at pampakuda.Some times later, he joined Yuyakim Mar Ivanios, the Metropolitan of Syria who was sojourning in Malankara, as private secretary as well as learning Syric from him. He was blessed with the order of 'Korooyo' at the tender age of ten by Palakunnath Mar Athnasius at the Karingachira St.George church. At the age of 18, he was elevated as 'Shamshono' and in 1865 Mar Ivanios ordained the deacon as 'Kassisso' and 'Corepiscopa' by Yuyakkim Mor Koorilose. Later he stayed at the Vettikkal Dayra and led a strict monastic life. In 1872 he was ordained as Ramban Geevarghese (Monk-Priest) by Pulikkottil Mar Dionysius.
Fr. Geevarghese ministered in Mulanthuruthy church for a time residing at Vettikkal Dayara. It was here that the future Metropolitan trained his body and mind by ascetic virtues in gaining communion with God. Today it serves as head quarters of Kandanad diocese.
Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysios Metropolitan had established the frame of a future Seminary at Parumala in the south. Mar Dionysios soon put Fr.Geevarghese in charge of training deacons in theology and Syric. Mar Dionysios raised him to the order of monks (Ramban) in 1872.
When Patriarch Ignatius Mar Peter III visited Malankara in 1875, Ramban Geevarghese served as his secretary and interpreter, and traveled with him through out Kerala. Impressed by the simplicity, sincerity, commitment, and spirituality of Geevarghese Ramban.
The Patriarch of Antioch consecrated four (4) Metropolitans at St.Thomas North Paravur church, Kerala in December 10, 1876. The youngest among them was Geevarghese Ramban and who was named Mar Gregorios. Because of his age everybody called him "Kochu Thirumeni" (Youngest Bishop). Mar Gregorios was appointed as the bishop of Niranam diocese, Kerala. He started a monastery at Parumala, Kerala.
Mar Gregorios was a man of God, who lived not according to the way of the flesh but according to the law of God. He led a virtuous and austere life, like a monk, living on frugal diet enriched by prayer and fasting.
At Parumala Seminary he led a austere life. He woke up at 4 am in the morning and prayed till 5am. He taught deacons till 7 am followed by prayer and his light breakfast. From 9 am till 11 am he taught deacons again. From 11 am to noon he took care of administrative matters and again went to prayer at noon and then to lunch. He rested till 1:30 pm and taught till 4 pm with a brief prayer in between. From 4 pm to 5:30 pm he was busy with his administrative duties. After evening prayers and supper he taught Bible to the deacons. After the complaining, at 9 pm he would let the deacons go to bed, but he would still be praying until midnight. On Wednesdays and Fridays and lenten days, he would fast till evening. Besides, he observed his own special fasts. People came from far and near to seek his blessings and paternal advises.
In his own words "Prayer brings truth, religious faith, honesty and respect among the people. "In his life time, Mar Gregorios was known for strict observance of ascetic rigorous in the footsteps of St. Antony and had gained divine powers.
Mar Gregorios had a wider acceptance among all the sections of the Syrian Church. In the earlier part of his life, Mar Gregorios spent most of his time in North Kerala. But after becoming a Metropolitan for Niranam diocese, his activities continued in the south. Until then, marriages between people staying North and South of Kerala, were not common. On the insistence of Mar Gregorios, who had a wider acceptance among the entire Syrian Christian community of Malankara, many marriages took place among these people and this resulted in having a closer cultural contact.
Four years, the Metropolitan served the diocese and was a strong defence against the reform movement. Mar Gregorios became sick when he returned from Veeyapuram Church after blessing a marriage. Even from the beginning of his illness he knew that he was in his last days. The news of illness spread all over Malankara. Although he grew weaker day by day, his face shone brighter and brighter. It was on November 2, 1902, midnight he was ready to meet his heavenly father. He left his earthly abode and flew to his heavenly eternity.
In 1947, The Holy Episcopal synod canonized and proclaimed Mar Gregorios as a Saint of the Orthodox Church. The Saint's tomb at Parumala today is a pilgrimage center. There are hundreds of instances that proved his Saintliness. Countless people receive favours and blessings through his intercession.
The growing flow of pilgrims to his tomb, several years after his demise, tells a story of a man of faith, prayer, healing, and great intercession.
The most important of the spiritual centers of the Malankara is the Tomb of St. Gregorios of Parumala. The 30 cents of land that Arikupuram Koruthu Mathen donated to Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysios in July 1872 became in later years Parumala Seminary. The Arikupuram family also gave land for building a church adjacent to the Seminary. The Church was constructed as a result of the efforts of Parumala Geevarghese Mar Gregorios. On 27 January 1825 a provisional consecration of the Church was conducted. Later, on 19 August 1912 His Holiness Abdul Messiah, the Patriarch of Antioch consecrated the Parumala Church. The Church is built and named after the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul. The burial place of Yuyakim Mar Ivanios can also be seen here.
On 8 September 1912 Kallasseril Geevarghese Mar Gregorios (later H.H. Baselios Geeverghese II) and on 3 November 1930 Puthencavu Geevarghese Mar Philexinos were consecrated in Parumala. On 29 April 1991 at the seminary the installation of His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II, the Catholicos of the East took place. Several bishops were consecrated in different times.
The new church was built during the period of the Catholicose H.H. Baselios Marthoma Mathews II and it was consecrated on 27th and 28th of October, 2000. The installation of His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I as Catholicos of the East took place at Parumala Church on October 31, 2005.
November 1 and 2 are the main feast days. In connection with this feast a whole week is being observed as 'Pilgrimage Week'.


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