On a Saintly Pursuit

Written By: on Nov 18th, 2011 and filed under Columns, Opinions.

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” Ephesians 6; 18

The month of November brings joy, happiness and harmony as the Church celebrates the great remembrance of the saint –The Gregorios of Parumala-mostly remembered as Parumala Thirumeni

The Catholic church celebrates ‘All saints Day’ on November 1st and has declared patron saints for ills, illnesses, afflictions and all human follies and frailties neatly assembled in alphabetical order for one’s perusal. For The Malankara Orthodox Christians it is a deserving tribute to our venerated Church to have a saint of our own-lived among us, preached to us, prayed for us- and exalted himself to the throne of heaven by following the path of Christ. The Commemoration and celebration of the Thirumen’s life is a worldwide affair as the Christian Diaspora has extended to the far corners of the world. We believe in celebrations and ritualistic exhortations without understanding the underlying meaning of the saint’s life and mission which was exemplified in the short period of fifty two years on this earthly abode.

Who is a saint?

How can one attain sainthood- some of the questions that prop up in people’s mind when they take a pilgrimage to the saint’s earthly abode-Parumala? The Pilgrims ritualistically enjoy the festivities and purchase a few merchandise in memory of that pursuit. The term “saint’ is widely accepted as a Christian term and the usage common in the lingua franca of the Christian community and has received wider acceptance. The dictionary meaning of “saint” refers to any believer who is “in Christ”, and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth (2Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 3:14-19; 2Corinthians 13:5) In Orthodox and Catholic teachings, all Christians in heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered to be worthy of higher honor, emulation, or veneration. In the Christian Bible, only one person is expressly called a saint: “They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord.” (Psalms 106:16-18) The apostle Paul declared himself to be “less than the least of all saints” in Ephesians 3:8

The life history of Parumala Thirumeni is worth exploring and in the light of the increasing materialistic view point of the Christian faithful and the deepening schism in the Orthodox Church is the reference point of our departure from the values of the past. The steadfast adherence to the spiritual way of life involving, constant prayer, meditation, fasting and the simple life of an ascetic enabled Thirumeni to be the true disciple of Jesus Christ. His famous verse “Prayer brings truth, religious faith, honesty and respect among the people” shows his conviction of the power of prayer as the strong weapon against evil.

The Life history of this saint begins in the priestly family of “Chathuruthy” in the village of Mulunthuruthy near Cochin on 15th June 1848. He was baptized by the name Geevarghese. He studied theology and Syriac at a very young age and showed exceptional talent in biblical scholarship. The destiny of such a life is very well revealed when he was entrusted with the title of deacon at a young age of ten. His early life resembles that of Prophet Daniel whom the Lord called to his side at a younger age and bestowed on him the power of the spirit. The amazing power of the Holy Spirit was evident in the young Thirumeni as he was led to a life of challenges and severe hardships of earthly lore which he surmounted with ease and dignity. The young deacon was made a priest at the tender age of eighteen, begins to show the clear signs of a spiritual life- remarkably peculiar and distinct from other priests and spiritual leaders of the times- elevated him to the spiritual position of Ramban. His mastery of the language Syriac led him to be the interpreter for the Patriarch of Antioch at the Mulunthuruthy Synod in June and July of 1876. He was appointed as the private secretary of the patriarch who found the young Ramban talented and spiritually superior.

Cor-Episcopos Geevarghese Ramban was soon elevated to the order of metropolitan at a young age of thirty-one. His fame spread and people adored him and called him “Kochu Thirumeni”- young bishop. The Young Thirumeni traveled to the Holy land and visited the monasteries, shrines and wrote about it the first travel journal in the vernacular Malayalam. Thirumeni saw the importance of English education and started schools in Thumpamon and Thiruvalla and insisted on establishing more. Under his tutelage the The Parumala seminary flourished and grew in prominence. Thirumeni extolled the virtues of educating women and the downtrodden-the latter for witnessing the true faith in Christ and bringing them under the Church. It begs description to see an institution of higher learning established in Parumala by the Hindu community not by the ardent advocates of Thirumeni’s Piety- defies logic- says volumes about the lack of vision of our Church elders and leaders. He was a humble and simple human being and never sought any recognition, seats of admiration or adoration during his lifetime. He was well respected by the faithful and the natives of other faith as a spiritual human being and many sought his prayer for the malaise of this world. It was Thirumeni who chased the bad spirits ‘ yakshi” from the palm trees of Parumala which is a powerful testimony of his power over evil, lends a new dimension to his power. Thirumeni’s daily routine reveals a life of prayer and severe fasting which wasted his body. He took everything in his strides and bore the fruit of the cross with dignity, moral and spiritual superiority. The saint Vattasserill Thirumeni received his spiritual blessing and character training from Thirumeni. This training gave him the fortitude to fight untruth with unflinching courage. The frugal way of life and extended periods of fasting took a heavy toll on Thirumeni’s life and the glorious, blessed spiritual soul of this saint separated from his earthly body on November 2nd, 1902.

People from all walks of life, throng to his death bed – the final resting place of a great soul- to pray and seek spiritual blessings and intercession for their worldly sustenance and feel energized by such a venture. A pilgrimage to Parumala is a must for the faithful and the multitude of people who throng to his deathbed to pray and renew the faith bear witness to the amazing power of the saint’s power of intercession.

An extraordinary life- from a humble and simple beginning- to an unparalleled ending within the shortest period of fifty-two years is simply astounding. This spiritual leader stands as a testament to the power of prayer and fasting, the weapon against the power of darkness. The St. Thomas Christians of today extol his virtues and celebrates the memory in the hope of extending harmony and brotherly love to all human beings. Let this celebration be marked by the peace of brotherly love and not marred by dissension and the quest for power, supremacy and worldly possessions.

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