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

Parumala-thirumeni-herald [1]

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 Church life! Humility is the other mark of the masanapsa. Once a person accepts the life of Christ and takes the vow, he will be completely dedicated to the life style seen in Christ. Christ who showed the ultimate example of humility, in his feet washing ceremony is the criteria to which all of us are to rise. Indeed St. Gregorios proved it is possible to show ultimate humility. Some of us heard the story of the saint apologizing and going for confession with the priest to whom he lost his temper. Will we see such people these days?

3. Charity:

Charity is a virtue seen in people who relinquish material desires and luxury. St. Gregorios had a life of simplicity. Many of us who are the old timers had seen the mat on which he slept. The simplicity in life was not to gather money or increase bank balance but to help the needy and the poor. St. Gregorios opened many schools to educate children of poor families. This is an alien concept today because each educational institution of any Church is a profit making pursuit. Education has become a business than a charity these days. Needless to say, the malpractices attached to such high-flying institutions. It gives us a clue how far away we have gone from a saint whose memory we are celebrating with interest!

4. Love for the Church:

There is no doubt that every member of the Indian Orthodox Church would claim to love the Church. In true sense who loves the Church beyond one’s own convenience? Very rarely we see such people. St. Gregorios loved his Church to defend it from all kinds of wrong teachings and heresies. He did not hate other religions or denominations but stood firm on Orthodoxy because he knew well there is nothing lacking in our Church for those who truly seek the way of the Lord. People belonging to other religions and denominations always respected him. He was a not like the people who love the Church for the sake of authority, power and honor. He took a low profile. St. Gregorios’ love for the Church is depicted in his saintly life that our Lord has prescribed. Jesus said, “if anyone wants to follow me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” That is the true mark of the love for the Church. How many real Church lovers can we see today?

It is a great feeling to remember such saints of our Church because they have proved in their life that it is possible to follow the footsteps of our Lord. It gives us hope, courage and inspiration to walk in the path of holiness. It should be our prayer that the spiritual fervor and excitement that we show in celebrating the memory of St. Gregorios must convert us spiritually. Those who join the well organized pilgrimage should honestly participate in such events with a commitment to walk the ways that the saint adopted. Otherwise it is just a futile exercise that we do as a formality with no impact in our or the Church’s life. The saint is interceding for us in heaven. Hope and pray that his intercession will help us deliver from the evil one and his hosts!