Mar Gregorios Thirumeni was born on June 15, 1848, in Mulanthuruthi, Kerala. From his childhood, he was aware of his call to serve the Lord and His Church. Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasius ordained him as a "Korooyo" (reader) on September 14, 1858. He received his religious and spiritual training from Geevarghese Malpan and Konattu Malpan.
Metropolitan Euyakim Mar Coorilos also helped Deacon Geevarghese in his spiritual growth. Mar Coorilos was very much impressed by the humility, simplicity, sincerity, devotion, unusual ability, and spirituality of Deacon Geevarghese. He ordained him as a full deacon , priest, and cor-episcopa in 1866.
Father Geevarghese moved into Vettikkal Dayara (monastery) and spent most of his time in prayer, fasting, study, and service. He became a very devoted monk who depended upon God for everything. Metropolitan Joseph Mar Dionysius consecrated him as a 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, Bava Thirumeni decided to consecrate him as a metropolitan. He consecrated Geevarghese Ramban as Mar Gregorios in 1876 and appointed him as the Metropolitan of Niranam Diocese. Mar Gregorios moved to Parumala, the seat of the Diocese of Niranam. Since he was only twenty-eight, people called him "Parumala Kochu Thirumeni".
What are some of the qualities that made Parumala Thirumeni and exemplary bishop and a spiritual leader.
1. Call of God. From his childhood he was aware of his call to serve the Lord and the Church. He surrendered his life completely to God and allowed the Holy Spirit to indwell in him and to control and guide his life.
2. Dependence on God. He depended upon God for his physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs. He was not concerned about what would happen to him in the future. He believed that God would provide for him. How many of us worry about what will happen in the future?
3. Communion with God. He was a prayer "warrior". His disciplined prayer life helped him to commune with God and receive guidance from Him. Before making any major decision, he used to spend time in fasting and prayer. Many of us recite our canonical prayers, but we don't know how to commune with God.
4. Life-long Student. Geevarghese Malpan and Konattu Malpan had great influence upon Deacon Geevarghese. Under the guidance of Konattu Malpan, he studied Syriac, the Holy Scriptures, theology, worship, and canon law. He also made very good use of Malpan Achen's library. He continued his studies during the rest of his life.
5. Dedicated and Devoted Teacher. His rigorous religious training at Pampakuda with Konattu Malpan Achen helped him to become a dedicated and devoted teacher. He provided religious and spiritual training for all the deacons who lived with him at Parumala Seminary. He influenced all of them by his life and example. Many of his students became spiritual leaders in Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. How many of us have any influence on the lives of our students?
6. Serving Others. He always remembered what Jesus said, "If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, be a servant." He served God's people without expecting anything in return. Since he had experienced the unconditional love of God, he shared that love with others. He reached out and touched the lives of many that were in need.
7. Trusting in God. Since he trusted in God to provide for his needs, he never worried about "tomorrow." Whatever he had, belonged to God, and he believed they were God's gifts. Whatever he received from the people belonged to the Church. How many of our leaders really trust in God? Don't we try to keep everything in our names?
8. Healing the Sick. During his ministry as a priest and bishop, people used to ask him to pray for them. They especially asked him to pray for the sick and lay his hands on them for healing. Many miraculous healing took place during his lifetime. The healing ministry of Parumala Thirumeni is still continuing. How many of us have time to pray for others?
9. Friend of the Poor. He was a friend of the poor, downtrodden, and untouchables. He encouraged the establishment of schools and the spread of the Gospel to the neighboring states and to low caste people who lived among the Syrian Christians.
10. Defender of the Faith. As a priest and a metropolitan, he defended the Orthodox faith and taught the believers through letters, articles, and sermons. Even though he was the Metropolitan of Niranam Diocese, his ministry extended all over Malankara.
11. Glorified God in Sickness. Even in his sickness and suffering, he glorified God and thanked Him for His grace. With Paul he was able to say, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." He did not consider death "as an enemy" but "as a friend." How many of us are afraid of death?
May the life of Parumala Thirumeni be an inspiration for all of us. Let us ask him to intercede for us. May his prayers be a stronghold for us.