Mar Gregorios As I Know Him

Job Mar Philoxenos

It was when I was a Deacon of 16, that I first heard about Valiya Tirumeni, then Mr. Paul Varghese. He had come back to Kerala after a stint in Ethiopia as Advisor to the Emperor and then after a period of academic studies in America. This was a time when Paul Varghese was seriously thinking about joining priesthood. This decision had stirred the thoughts of many a young men. A man who held a very reputable and lucrative post was coming to become a priest in Malankara Church! The decision was definitely a sacrifice, one borne out of deep
conviction. Valiya Tirumeni could have become anybody had he taken a different
decision. The sacrifice was for definitely for the glory of God as is clear from his contributions to the Church. This was a turning point in his career. The deeply embedded religious faith and conviction he imbibed right from his early childhood helped him in taking the correct decision. Every one of us has this inner call of the Soul, but very rarely we respond to this spiritual experience. That Tirumeni could respond to this call at the right time was the greatness of the wonderful phenomenon called Mar Gregorios.

Mr. Paul Varghese who came from America met the then Catholicos, His Holiness Moran Mar Geevarghese II, who had doubts about Mr. Paul Varghese’s loyalty to the Church, who according to His Holiness lived and studied for a long period in a protestant country. A very holy man who always stood for preserving the purity and sanctity of the Orthodox faith and its traditions, His Holiness with an eye of suspicion decided to interview Mr. Paul Varghese. The interview enabled both the interviewer and the interviewed to increase their admiration for each other.

I had occasions to hear about this interview both from His Holiness the Catholicos and Valiya Tirumeni. Two days after this memorable interview at Parumala, His Holiness was found in conversation with the late Mar Thoma Dionysius at the Bethany Aramana. Tirumeni, in fact was groping for words to express fully the depth of Mr. Paul Varghese’s wisdom and understanding about the Church. Years after, our Valiya Tirumeni himself had said about this meeting that His Holiness on that day had asked him a volley of questions, more than 150 questions. These questions Dr. Gregorios said had helped him to see the intuitive wisdom of His Holiness, a quality seen in great sages. The ancient seers had intuitive while the scholars have the derivative wisdom. The reason for Valiya Thirumeni’s adventures and explorations into the teachings of Gregory of Nyssa can very well be attributed to this interview. Mr. Paul Varghese, the devotee ardently delved deep into the intuitive wisdom of the Oriental Fathers and brought out its richness and glory in the form of ‘Cosmic Man’, ‘The Joy of Freedom’, etc. This also helped him to find similar strains in the thought-stream of our ancient nation’s culture. His book ‘Enlightenment, East and West’, a comparative study of the two civilizations and his final conclusion that Eastern enlightenment was by far superior in every respect to that of the Western Civilization bear testimony to this fact. Valiya Thirumeni was in praise, when he acknowledged the part played by His Holiness, Geevarghese II in moulding his thoughts. The conversation between them lasted for two hours only, but its impact in Valiya Thirumeni lasted longer. Still longer will be the impact of the teachings of Valiya Thirumeni upon the future generation, who would be benefited from his teachings. A small interview between Christ and Paul made Paul a different man. Its impact made Paul an interpreter of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The study of Pauline Writings is continuing and it will continue to influence the world as long as this Universe exists.

Mr. Paul Varghese was ordained a Deacon and was then a priest by His Holiness. Father Paul Varghese again went back to America to continue his studies further and to hold very important portfolios to the appreciation of all. This period in his life had been a very productive one. For him hard working was a ‘Tapasya’. It was this dedication and commitment of an extraordinary nature that made him what he was. Born in a poor family, which could not provide him means for his studies beyond S.S.L.C., Dr. Gregorios had grown to be one of the greatest personalities of his time. The journey from that humble beginning to the exalted position he held is a saga of rare commitment and devotion to the beliefs and ideas he held sacred. It was nothing but hard working that did the wonder, the alcholy that makes pure the impure, the perfect the imperfect. Mere hard working
is not sufficient. Hard working with a deep rooted conviction and an unrelented stand never to deviate from the path chartered already are needed for the crucible that distills out the essence in a human being. Dr. Gregorios was working hard till the time of his death. He never permitted the old age and its accompanied debilities to conquer him. Until his death, he was very active. He took very keen interest in being very clean and hygienic. He was so strong in his conviction that nobody could change his mind. If by force and persuasion he had to change his stand, the later development had vindicated that after all what he had stood for was the correct one.

He was a great man in every respect. His life had been a puzzle to us. It was because of our inability to see its glory in the dazzling incandescent brilliance it had radiated. We had seen in the past Bishops with extraordinary purity and inexorable thirst for truth and excellence, politicians with impeccable conduct and political acumen, philosophers with both mundane and transcendental wisdom and social reformers with great fervor and fire. But seldom we have seen one like Dr. Gregorios, who combined in him simultaneously all that go to make a perfect scientist, a perfect bishop, a perfect social reformer, etc. He had the wisdom of a sage, the vision of a philosopher, the aura of a saint, the eye of a prophet, the astuteness of a politician, the quest of a scientist, the intuition of a mystic, the hope of a visualiser, the dream of a builder, the clarity of a thinker, the lucidity of a writer, the austerity of a monk, the conviction of a believer, the fire of a revolutionary, the zeal of a missionary. People of this stature are gifts of God. We who had to associate with him either closely or distantly are fortunate; for the phenomenon was a rare wonder, a blaze in the firmament. The sheen of its splendour will illumine the humanity, groping in darkness.

When the question of an Assistant Metropolitan for Delhi Diocese came up for discussion in the Holy Synod and in the Managing Committee Valiya Thirumeni had chosen me for that post, although there had been better and very eminent candidates. I do not know whether I measured myself up to the expectation and confidence he had reposed in me. Knowing my own limitations, I always viewed Thirumeni from a distance with great respect, admiration and adulteration. I never had any disrespect for him. There had been misunderstandings amongst us, not due to my fault. But when I look back, I am perfectly happy that I could settle them by falling on my knees and kissing his holy feet which carried a head and heart that light to the millions and will continue to radiate that light to the core of the hearts of hundreds of millions in the years to come.

May his soul find rest with saints and martyrs in the bosom of Abraham on the right side of the throne of God and enjoy eternally the bliss meant for those who had pleased God Almighty. May his prayers be a fortress for us, his teachings a light for us when we grope in darkness for one step further.

(Vision, 1997 Jan.)