Gregorios: My Life-Long
It was from my older brother that I first heard about Fr.
Paul Varghese. It was in sixties, and I was in middle school then. He
happened to see him in an Orthodox Student Movement conference, and
later at home he spoke highly of Fr. Varghese. We used to subscribe to
the Orthodox Youth magazine at our home, and I began eagerly looking for
anything written by Fr. Paul Varghese. He usually appeared in a column
answering the questions people send to the magazine. I had to wait until
late seventies to read his first book, the Malayalam translation of Joy
of Freedom. I read it with great enthusiasm and wrote a summary of it in
the Orthodox Youth magazine under the title ‘Our worship”.
I was fortunate to meet Gregorios
Thirumeni three times.
The first was in 1974, I think. I heard his sermon in a nearby church
during the Passion Week. I heard from a friend that he was going to be
there, and I went there just to see him and hear his speech. I still
remember him talking about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. He
presented it as an example of humility that all people need to follow. I
noticed that he had the magic of keeping the attention of the entire
audience from the beginning till the end. Not a single sound could be
heard from the audience of around 400 people.
The second was in 1979, I think. In an MGOCSM conference in Hyderabad
His Grace was the main speaker. I was at
at that time, and I went with a group of youngsters to Hyderabad to
attend the MGOCSM conference. I didn’t know
Gregorios thirumeni was the main
speaker there, and so it was a pleasant surprise to see him there. He
talked about the Kingdom of God. The clarity of his thought made a deep
impact on me. It was so much different from any other speeches or
classes I had attended. Before using any unfamiliar/unusual word, he
clarified what he meant by that term. He presented his thoughts from
simple to complex and from familiar to unfamiliar in traceable and
orderly way so that someone like me could enjoy listening to him. While
we were going to visit a museum in Hyderabad, I had the opportunity to
have a one-to-one talk with His Grace. I remember two questions I asked
and the responses I received. What I am writing here is just what I
remember, not the full answers given by him.
1. Q: What do you think of Universalism, which is the argument that all
will be saved.
A: I do not believe in it.
2. Q: How does your view differ basically from that of Dr. M. M. Thomas?
A: He supports the present Janatha
government of India.
The third was in 1984, in Kottayam, when
Manorama organized the 60th birthday of His
Grace. As soon as I read the news of the event in the morning news
paper, I hurried to catch the train to Kottayam
from Kollam, my place. It was a grand
occasion, where I could meet several faces I greatly admired. There was
a daylong symposium on world peace. Prof. K. M.
Tharakan was the master of ceremony. The speakers included Dr. M.
M. Thomas, H. G. Paulos
Dr. K. M. George. Dr.
Ninan Koshy and other eminent
scholars. In the evening there was a public meeting, which was
inaugurated by C.M.Stephen, a Cabinet
Minister of India, and chaired by C.Achuthamenon,
the former chief minister of Kerala. I
obtained a copy of “Cosmic Man”, the doctoral dissertation of His Grace,
The same year I left India to go to Ethiopia as a school teacher, and
among the few things I took with me was “Cosmic man”. I had a lot of
free time in Ethiopia, and I had the opportunity to read this book over
and over again. I heard the stories of Gregorios
thirumeni from several people there. I
happened to meet Ms. Kunjannama, whom
thirumeni mentions in his autobiography, in
Addis Ababa. One day, while talking to me casually, an assistant
principal in my school (Ethiopian) said to me, “John, do you know, there
is a great scholar in India called Mar Gregorios!”
He didn’t know I belonged to the Orthodox Church in India, and that Mar
Gregorios was a hero to me.
One day in 1989, I think, when I was in Ethiopia, I was surprised to see
his Grace on the Ethiopian TV. He was in Moscow speaking in the Global
Forum, and on the stage were the Soviet Union President
Gorbechew and other prominent figures.
Later in 1992 I came to the United States as a student. I often think
that my path has been similar to that of Gregorios
thirumeni in that respect. From
Kerala he went to Ethiopia as a school
teacher, and from there he went to USA as a student. But there were
important differences too. Gregorios
thirumeni could master Amharic, the language
of Ethiopia, in a year, but I could barely understand and utter simple
sentences and identify the letters of the alphabet even after eight
years of stay.
On Nov 24th, 1996, I was attending a prayer meeting of our church in
Houston in a house of one of our parish members. HG Mathews Mar Barnabas
was leading us in the concluding prayer. The phone rang. The message was
delivered to His Grace. Mar Barnabas stopped the prayer to announce:
“His Grace Paulos Mar
Gregorios, the Metropolitan of Delhi Diocese has passed away”. I
couldn’t control myself. I forgot where I was, and began to weep. He
meant so much to me. He is the one person who has
influenced me more than anyone else.
That night I sat down and expressed my feelings in a few lines in
Malayalam, and I recited it in our church after a week. It said:
I am submitting this poem to the memory of
Paulos Mar Gregorios,
who remained a heroic son to the Orthodox Church of
India for several decades,
and of whom the church has been very proud of.
After fighting for you all day long, here lies your dear son, sleeping,
with his head on your lap, O mother, the Church.
Rising from the land of Malayalam, your son enlightened the entire
He proclaimed the good news of Jesus, unblemished, to give salvation to
the whole world.
He traveled all over the world to give you fame.
God, thy dear servant Mar Gregorios has
shown us the depth, height, width, and length of thy love to us fully
God, we thank thee for giving us this great soul as our shepherd to show
us the right path.
In a few years, I happened to meet a handful of people in Houston
interested in Gregorios
thirumeni. Together we decided to celebrate a memorial of
thirumeni in November 1990. For this purpose
we set up an organization called Gregorian study circle, and had the
celebration. Soon we started an online group, and people began joining
it from all over the world. A few friends opened local chapters of
Gregorian Study Circle in Chicago and Madison. In 1991 November, there
was a memorial celebration in Chicago and and
another one in Madison in addition to Houston. In 1992, a grand
inter-religious seminar was held in Chicago for the memorial.
Gregorian Study Circle has about 200
members from around the world. The members include HG. Job Mar
Philoxenos, the successor of Mar
Gregorios in Delhi Diocese, Rev. Dr. K.M.
George, the successor of Mar Gregorios at
the orthodox Theological Seminary, thirumeni’s
brother in Canada, close friends like Dr. Roy
Cherian and Dr. Joseph Thomas, and Joice
Thottackad, the biographer of
thirumeni. Gregorian study circle has a
in addition to the yahoogroup. I feel happy
such a worldwide network of the friends of
Gregorios thirumeni could be formed.
Recently I made a powerpont presentation of
the life, thought, and work of Mar Gregorios.
I intend to show this around whenever I get an opportunity. I showed it
to the sunday school children in our church,
and the they were excited to see that there lived such a great man in
In conclusion, I must admit that I have had several heroes since my
childhood, but none has stayed a hero to me for such a long time as Mar