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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 Savior. Accordingly St. Gregorios was cannnonized 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 referred to 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, color 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 with interpretations.

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.

1) 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 of illiteracy.

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 colors. 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 of life.

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 of life.

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 perfect travelogue.

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