Distinct Faith and Unique
Visions of St. Gregorios of Parumala.
Jose Kurian Puliyeril, Abu Dhabi.
According to Orthodox Church tradition, one would
be canonized as a saint on the basis of his pure
and blessed life, merged with innocent and real love,
associated with his own faith in Lord Jesus Christ
the Saviour. Accordingly St. Gregorios was cannnized
as a saint, as his life was almost identical to the
life style of his Lord and Master. St. Gregorios had
three special qualities of his own. The first and most
important was that he was a man of constant prayer. The
saint maintained a close link with God Almighty during
mid nights, mornings and at times of prayers and even
in between. The faith of the saint was so strong and
firm and its blessing was seen on his face. Secondly he
was a great Master. The life and activities of the large
number of his followers witness the truth. Thirdly he
was a good shepherd who had considered the welfare and
well being of the Church as a whole.
All Saints always express the godly natures of compassion,
love, forgiveness and other spiritual gifts through their
glorified lives. They do pray earnestly for the entire
universe and mankind while staying/remaining in Lord Christ.
(As alive in body and even after the worldly lives.) When
the faithful offer prayers for the departed saints and seek
the intercessions of those saints, the mutual prayers turn
as the expressions of the divine love of God, which was
exposed to the world through Lord Jesus Christ. From the
visions, life style, writings and exhortations of
St. Gregorios, one could witness the brightness of the
so-called Eastern Christian tradition. St. Gregorios
believed in the deepness of love and hence the saint taught
that a real devotee would love his fellowmen well.
St. Gregorios tried his best to identify with the tradition
of the Church Fathers. As a matter of fact it is very
difficult to identify the theological visions of
St. Gregorios separately from that of the Church Fathers
before and after him. The Eastern Church fathers before
him have totally ignored the importance of the secular
education and the peaks in this field where one learner
could reach. The Church Fathers were of the opinion that
the interpretations of the Holy Scriptures and the religious
practice must be practical in word and deed, which could be
easily practiced in the daily life. They were eager to find
the roots and base of the faith of theology in the lives of
the ordinary people.
When St. Gregorios says that all creations of God are
beloved while the saint is leading our attention to the
nucleus of the Eastern Christian theology. And he is
explaining the deep meaning of the great tradition. The
Holy Bible provides us enough evidences of God's nature
of goodness, love and freedom. For example, 1 John 1:15,
James 1:17, 1 John 4:16, St. John 3:16 etc. St. Basil of
Caesaria, St. Gregory of Nazianzi and St. Gregory of
Nyssa are considered as pillars of Eastern Christian
tradition, as these three were well versed in God's
goodness, love and freedom. In addition to the above faith,
they taught about the share of those virtues vested in
the entire creation. St. Gregorios of Parumala had
identified himself to the above theological version
of the Eastern Church fathers, who are generally refereed
as Cappadocian fathers. And in fact the vision of
St. Gregorios of Parumala had something more.
St. Gregorios of Parumala formed the divine theology
connected with the creation, on the basis of the Biblical
statement that after each creation "God found it good".
The saint of Parumala defined that the goodness, beauty
and truth of God are there in each creation of God. So
also the saint exhorted the faithful to lead a life to
attain the perfection of God's divine virtues. St. Gregorios
used to pray for the entire mankind with real repentance,
for and on behalf of the entire mankind with plenty of
tears. The saint was confident that we are supposed to love
all the creations irrespective of caste, colour and creed.
The feeling to love everyone and everything created by God
enables man to get freedom from sorrow and desperation.
When a faithful offers prayer with tears for his fellowmen,
it would enable others to achieve more and more blessings
from God. In the total life, St. Gregorios gave the priority
for prayer. So the saint emphasized to pray as and when time
would allow. The saint taught: "prayer is the enthusiasm of
childhood, the dependence of the youth, and peace of the old
age. One, who loves his fellowmen, is a real devotee. Because
what all are created by God deserves love. Many things more
than what we could dream are possible through prayer".
Teaching mission was another important vision of St. Gregorios
and the mission undertaken by the saint. In those days the
media for mass education was the worships in the Churches,
in addition to the practical teaching expertise by the elders
in the joint families. In those days education in Kerala meant
learning a few lessons of Sanskrit. And it was available to the
high-class Hindu male members only. This system was radically
changed by the effort of Christian Missionaries. In Kerala,
English education was started in Orthodox Theological Seminary,
Kottayam for the first time. The introduction of the
�education for all� resulted in a great social revolution. In
the Missionary Schools, there was no caste system. St. Gregorios
was greatly influenced by the good effects of the activities
of the Missionaries in the educational field. The saint desired
that his own church should also be active. So the saint utilized
his influence to open as many English Schools as he could.
St. Gregorios was considerate towards the socially downtrodden
and the so-called Dalits, as the high-class people had not
allowed the Dalit children to have education with their children.
The saint started separate schools for the children of Dalits.
St. Gregorios gave inspiration and the needy financial aid to
so many Dalit youth for their Education, even though many of the
Syrian Christians of those days had objected the saint�s attempts
to raise the standard of the socially down trodden people. During
the period from 1895 till 1902, St. Gregorios gave the final shape
for his visions like social reformation, Educational activities
as well as freedom struggle of the Dalits. St. Gregorios was able
to establish English schools in Mulamthuruthy, Tiruvalla,
Kunnamkulam, Niranam and Thumpamon. The efforts to establish the
schools are the evidences for the saint�s attempts for the
social reformation of Kerala. One could find the saint�s
reactions against the poor status of the social system, from
the private letters, sermons and articles of St. Gregorios.
The saint only had started the mission works in the Malankara
Church for the first time. He gave priority and exhorted
the Church to give due importance to mission works both inside and
outside the Church. It seems that he had instructed his followers
to maintain the following.
a)to start Sunday Schools and prayer meetings in the parishes.
b)The priests must deliver sermons on the Holy Biblical portions
c)Priests must continue the mission woks in the society. They
must establish schools and churches in accordance with the need.
The life of St. Gregorios was converted as a message to the entire
world where one could witness the message of Christian love and
holiness of life. The prayers of different occasions of the worship
were systematically arranged to remember and also to meditate the
events that took place in the life of Lord Jesus Christ from
childhood. The Holy Bible readings for an entire year are also
set likewise for the use of the faithful from the beginning of the
year till the end. St. Gregorios was of the opinion that the
spiritual education could provide the knowledge in three shapes.
l) As a weapon to fight against Satan. St. Paul compared the
spiritual education as a sword of Holy Spirit to fight against
Satan and the evil powers. (Read Ephesians. 6:11-18) St. Gregorios
confirmed that the spiritual education is the spiritual weapon
to fight Satan.
2) As a lamp which Satan cannot distinguish? All world religions
consider light as the symbol of wisdom and darkness as the symbol
3) As a treasure which Satan cannot inherit or rob. The saint
considered the spiritual wisdom gained by each and everyone as
eternal treasure. (Read St. Mathew 6: 19-20) St. Gregorios was
the first in the Malankara Church to initiate mission works
among the gentiles. So also the saint gave equal importance for
the protection of orthodox faith.
St. Gregorios always expressed a religious vision, which was
illustrated and illuminated through Jesus Christ. The same
vision had likeness to the teaching of all world religions.
When we attempt to analyze each religion through the vision
of St. Gregorios, we could see Christ's picture drawn in
different colours. When we would watch such a picture, we
will make sure that there are no limits and boundaries for
the glory of God. In addition to being the spiritual head
of a Christian church, St. Gregorios had a vision towards
other religions, which could be accepted by one and all. The
following points could be considered as a sign acceptable
to all religions.
a) A life style that is aimed to attain the final goal
b) Service to mankind is a means to worship and please God.
c) There is a common spirituality in all men.
d) Prayers, fasting etc. must enable one to achieve purity
e) There is a life after life (after the worldly death).
The five statements mentioned above are acceptable to all
religions as a means to enrich one's spirituality. St. Gregorios
was a veteran in all these aspects and hence one could say
that the saint maintained the vision of religions acceptable
to one and all.
St. Gregorios was the first person in the Malankara Church to
take initiative to translate the liturgies and prayer books
from Syriac language to Malayalam. The saint had extra ordinary
interest in compiling, translating and publishing the prayer
books as well as many other similar books from the Syriac
language. At the same time he had given inspiration and guidance
to his own disciples and close associates to do so, independently.
St. Gregorios had a special liking towards books and other
publications. Dr. Samuel Chandanappally had collected almost all
writings of the saint after the research of a very long period
and published them with the title �Holy writings�
(Pavithra rachanakal) in 1980. The most important writing among
others is the saint�s speech named �Pious verses�. In this speech
the saint first explains his experiences during the journey to
Jerusalem and secondly reminds his followers about their
responsibilities. The saint gave importance for the freedom of
the Dalits; need of English education and the significance of
spiritual revival in his prophetic sermon named the pious
verses. In the private and common letters of the saint, one could
find the sound of affection, love, and care as well as the
strictness for discipline, fear of God, etc. During the spare
time after the prayers and worships, the saint used to write a
lot as letters to individuals or to the parishes. From the
writings of the saint we could understand that he was a veteran
of the popular Malayalam literature of those days, which is
generally known as the Missionary Malayalam. In fact the Malayalam
literature became prominent as well as common due to the arrival
of the missionaries as well as their contributions to the language.
The saint had followed the missionary Malayalam, as it was very
simple for the common man to use. The books of Christian priests
have contributed a lot of means for the progress of Malayalam
language especially the prose. The experts of the language and
the prose consider the period from the time of Udayamperoor
Synod (1599) till the release of the �Holy Land Travelogue� of
St. Gregorios (1895) as the time of Missionary language. The Holy
Land travelogue is very rich in the value of literature. In this
book the saint explains about his journey to Jerusalem, sights
during the journey, blessings and experiences at Jerusalem,
return journey to Kerala etc in the unique manner and style.
St. Gregorios gives us a detailed description about the traditions,
rituals and rites, cultures and civilizations etc, which he had
seen and studied, in a very influential language and literature.
The saint explains about the places of importance in the Holy Bible,
as if he is standing there and showing us the location. The desire
to visit the Holy Land, which was touched by the feet of Lord Jesus,
was the intention of the saint�s visit. When the saint visited the
Holy Land, he longed to write a book for the sake of his sheep in
India that were less fortunate to visit the Holy Land. It is
a fact that all will agree to the statement that the travelogue of
St. Gregorios has to its credit all the significant features of a
May the intercession of St. Gregorios of Parumala be a fort of
protection to one and all who seek the blessed intercession. Let
us all thank God Almighty for the wonderful and magnificent gift
of Parumala Thirumeni to this Church.
Let us try to be identical to his spirituality.
May God bless us all.