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Moran Mar Basalios Augen I succeeded Basalios Geevarghese II as the fourth Catholicos of Malankara Orthodox Church. Mar Augen was, earlier on May 17, 1962, elected as Malankara Metropolitan and Catholicate-designate in succession to Mar Geevarghese II who was the Third Catholicate at Malankara. Consequently, Mar Basalios Augen officially came into position as Malankara Metropolitan on January 3, 1964 following death of H.H. Mar Geevarghese II.
Mar Augen was born on July 26, 1884 to Rev. Fr. Abraham of Turuthi Chettakullathumkara family of Vengola near Perumbavur and Annamma, daughter of Valiyal Mathai at Puthenkurrissu. His father Abraham Kasseessa was a Scholar of Syriac language and the entire family led a very pious and spiritual life with timely prayers of the day and night. His both parents had high longevity. The Child was baptized by Metropolitan Murimattom Mar Ivanios who was elevated as the first Catholicos of the Malankara Church and christened him with baptismal name of Mathai. During his early childhood, Mathai lived in his mother's house at Puthenkurrissu and did his preliminary education there. At a very young age itself Mathai joined for theological studies at Pampakkuda Seminary under the discipleship of Konattu Mathen Cor-Episcopa who was the Malankara Malpan at that time.
In 1900, Mathai received the first stage of the order of a deacon from Kadavil Mar Athanasios. After gaining proficiency in Malayalam, Syriac, and attaining sufficient skill in preaching, Dn. Mathai went for English education at M.D. High School Kottayam. At this time, he came into contact with Deacon Sleeba of the Church of Syria who was in Malankara. Deacon Sleeba later became Metropolitan Sleeba Mar Osthathios. Dn. Mathai traveled with Dn.Sleeba in many Churches of Malankara and translated his sermons.
Due to his affinity to Syriac and Syrian Church, Dn. Mathai went to Syria with Deacon Sleeba in 1906 and started living at Kurkuma Dayara at Murdin in Syria. For three years the deacon lived in Syria visiting the holy land, various historical monasteries and studying theology. During that time, he got ordained as a full deacon at Mar Mathai Dayara in Assyria. While residing in the ancient and famous Dayara of Mar Augen at Thurabdin in Syria, the young deacon adopted the name of Augen in place of his baptismal name of Mathai. Also he had the fortune to live with and to acquaint personally with Patriarchs Moran Mar Abdullah at Mardin and Moran Mar Abdul Messiah at Thurabdin. Then he went to Kurkuma Dayara and met Patriarch Elias III and Mar Aprem. He lived in the Kurkuma Dayara for about nine months. He read many invaluable theological books in Syriac at this Dayara and it increased greatly his knowledge about Eastern Church Theology and got acquainted with traditions of the Syrian Orthodox Church.
In 1908, Patriarch Mar Abdullah ordained Deacon Augen to the monastic order of Ramban, at the Dayara of St. Mark in Jerusalem. It is noteworthy that he became a Ramban which means a full Monk, before he was ordained as a priest, which is not a tradition in Malankara.
After returning from Syria in 1908, Ramban Augen was ordained as a priest at Cheriapally, Kottayam by Metropolitan Sleeba Mar Osthathios. When Patriarch Abdullah and Ramban's friend and inseparable companion, Sleeba Mar Osthathios, visited Malankara in 1909, he traveled with them to all places as a translator to them. When Abded Messiah Patriarch visited Malankara and installed the Catholicate and consecrated Murimattom Mar Ivanios as the first Catholicos at Niranam Church, Ramban Augen also attended the celebrations.
Considering the spiritual needs of the Orthodox members at Madras, as per the request of Judge K.K. Lukose, Ramban Augen had celebrated Holy Qurbana at an Anglican Church in Madras which later paved the way for extending the horizon of Orthodox Church to Madras and eventually it became a full Diocese.
The missionary zeal of the Ramban was none too less. After returning from Madras, Ramban Augen concentrated in the evangelical, charitable and educational services at Vadakara and surrounding places. There were many backward class people of Pulaya caste at Vadakara and neighboring villages. He was attracted to this village, selecting it as his first mission field, by seeing the condition of the poor people in this area. He entered house by house of the low caste and downtrodden people and met all their needs and helped them. More than two hundred families believed in Christ and got baptized. They were given clothes from the Church. Many houses were constructed and blessed by him. He initiated marriages and housewarming of these people. Mar Augen had vehemently opposed the idea of building separate Church for the newly converted Christians. Mission work of Mookancherril Deacon Pathrose [Later Metropolitan Pathrose Mar Osthathios] also started consequently at these villages and continued the work started by the Augen Ramban and it emerged out as the Society of Servants of Cross [Sleebadasa Samooham]. Basalios Augen was then known as the Anchor of this Society. After it had emerged out as a full fledged and well organized Evangelical Society under the leadership of Deacon Pathrose, during its early years all the Annual General Body meetings were presided over by Metropolitan Augen Mar Timotheos.
Ramban Augen strongly believed that the newly converted Christians should be well educated so that they can be uplifted in the Society from their downtrodden Status. With this intention, he desired to establish an English School near Vadakara. There were no schools available at Vadakara or surroundings. A granted Anglo vernacular school at Koothattukulam was closed due to financial crisis. Also another effort for starting a girl’s school also was failed due to same reason. Finance was a hindrance to Ramban also for starting an English School. However, he had full confidence and ardent faith in God for the accomplishments of his mission. He suggested to the Vadakara Church that if a land can be given, he will put his efforts for starting the school. Accordingly, Church agreed and gave the open space at the Kurisin Thotti Maidan and Ramban commenced his work. He went house to house for donations for the building of the school. Ramban accepted anything, whatever the people gave, whether it is wood, coconut leaves, paddy, money, coconuts, hens, eggs or any type of donation. He was very particular to give his handwritten receipts even for donation of 4 Annas (Quarter of a Rupee).
As his fund raising programs were during lent period, he was fasting till 3 O' Clock in the evening. He used to take his breakfast snacks at 3 O’clock. The Roads in that village were in very pathetic condition. While the Donation collecting group carried the wood and other donated materials, it was quite common that the wheel of the Bullock Cart fall into pits on the road. Ramban who accompanied the collection group was the first to put his hands to raise the wheel of the bullock cart from the muddy pits on the road. Ramban was initiating himself for the excavation work for the school building. His answer to those who discouraged him from the manual work was that the Manual labor is not prohibited for Rambans. With the money and materials, he collected from the people, he could make a two storied building at Vadakara on the Koothattukulam-Ernakulam Road for starting a full-fledged High School. He could accomplish his dream in six years time. While doing his mission, he did not have any intention of any reputation for himself. In 1928 the High School was completed.
Next, his attention turned for building of the Sion Ashram at Kodanad Chettivilla near Malayattoor. To this intention, Augen Ramban started living there at the site. The Church he constructed near the site of the Ashram became the worshipping place for the migrated people to the nearby villages from eastern places. Later, after he became Catholicos, the Ashram and Church were rebuilt and a High School named after him was also established. Also he had participation for the building of Piravam Seminary Middle School and Kolencherry High school and held office of the Manager of these schools.
As per united desire of the Kandanadu Diocese, Ramban Augen was consecrated as a Metropolitan on May 15, 1927 by Patriarch Elias III at St. Mark Dayara Church in Jerusalem with Title Augen Mar Timotheos. After returning from Jerusalem as a Metropolitan, he was assigned the charge of the Diocese of Kandanad. His head quarter was at Moovatupuzha. Later he became the Principal of Theological Seminary Kottayam and started living there. When Geevarghese Mar Philaxenose of Thumpamon Diocese expired, Timotheos was given charge of that diocese and started living at Basil Aramana at Pathanamthitta. Five more new Metropolitans viz. Ivanios, Daniel Mar Philaxenose, Mathews Mar Coorilos and Pathrose Mar Osthathios were consecrated in the Church. Metropolitan Augen Mar Timotheos attended the ordination ceremony. When Daniel Mar Philaxenos took over charge of the Thumpamon Diocese, Timotheos left Pathanamthitta and returned to Moovattupuzha. After that, the Metropolitan had undergone a surgery at Vellore Hospital. He returned back to Moovattupuzha and was nominated as the Catholicos designate.
The Episcopal Synod which met on Sunday January 5, 1964, deliberated over the enthronement of the Catholicos and decided to invite the Patriarch His Holiness Mar Ignatius Yakoub III to formally install Mar Augen as the Catholicos of East. Patriarch accepted the invitation and arrived in Delhi. On 20th May 1964, the Patriarch and his troupe reached Kottayam. On Friday May 22, 1964 in a solemn and austere ceremony held at Mar Elia Chapel at M.D. Seminary, Kottayam, the Patriarch with cooperation of Metropolitans of the Synod and in the presence of a multitude of laity, consecrated Metropolitan Augen Mar Timotheos as the forth Catholicos of united Malankara Church with title Basalios Augen I. The ecclesiastical dignitaries present in the Sanctuary included Arch Bishops of Armenia, Abuna Mar Theophilus of Ethiopian Church, Mar Thomma Dharmo of Chaldean Church, Mar Coorilos of Thozhiyoor, three Metropolitans of the Syrian Church who accompanied the Patriarch and most of the Metropolitans of the united Orthodox Church. Catholicose Mar Basalios Augen led the Church for eleven years from 1964 to 1975.
Mar Augen had to undergo many persecutions in his life at various periods and he suffered all with great endurance in Christ. He led a very exceptional ascetic and prayerful life. He had very hectic prayer schedules in his daily living routine. Timely traditional Tri-hour prayers, fasting, lent etc. were very rigorously observed by him. Morning Prayer at 5 O' Clock in the morning; 9 O’clock Secret Prayer; 12 O' Clock Public Noon Prayer in the Chapel; 3 O' Clock Private Secret Prayer; 5.30 PM. Evening Prayer and Soothara in the Chapel; 9 O' Clock Group Bible reading session along with deacons continued with Night Prayer; from 1 AM to 3 AM in the night, Meditation and Bed Prayers. This was his prayer schedule of a full day. He had a very simple living pattern and dress pattern. At home he always wore cotton red garments. He never bothered to wear costly garments as he always reminded that he is Dayarite.
Two instances are worth mentioning about the cordial relationship of Malankara Orthodox Church with Roman Catholic Church during the time of Mar Timotheos. One was the occasion when, as a Metropolitan Mar Augen celebrated Holy Qurbana in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Mylapore in Madras December 25, 1963.
Secondly, the meeting with H.H. Mar Pope Paul VI in Bombay was an unforgettable and invaluable moments in the life of the forth Catholicos Mar Augen. When H.H. Mar Pope visited Bombay to attend the 38th International Eucharistic Congress, Pope expressed his desire to meet Catholicos of the East from Malankara. With the co-ordination work of Fr. K. Philipose [Later Metropolitan Philipose Mar Theophilus] and First Cardinal of India, Arch Bishop Valerian Cardinal Gracias of Bombay, the neeting was scheduled. Disregarding his old age and ailments Catholicos traveled to Bombay and met Mar Pope on December 3, 1964. Those were the magnificent moments when the East and West embraced each other. These both spiritual excellences were very humble in nature and this was the first meeting between a Roman Pope and the Catholicos of the East. Mar Pope exemplified the meeting as Union of two Apostleship of St. Peter and St. Thomas.
His Holiness led the delegation from Malankara in the Conference of the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches held at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia on January 15, 1965. It was the first time in many centuries that the heads of Oriental Orthodox Churches met. The conference was convened at the initiative of the Emperor of Ethiopia His Excellency Haille Selassie. This association of Oriental Orthodox Churches is considered as the avenues of cooperation and relationship among the sister churches in the field of theological studies and missionary work. Apart from His Holiness Moran Mar Augen, the other Heads of Churches who attended the Conference were: Curiloos, Patriarch of Alexandria; Vasken I, Supreme Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Syria. The delegation from Malankara included Metropolitans Paulose Mar Philaxenos, Daniel Mar Philoxenos, Rev. Dr. V.C. Samuel, Rev. Dr. K.C. Joseph and Rev. Fr. C. Jacob in addition to the Catholicose as the leader.
En route to Malankara from Ethiopia the Catholicos paid a visit to Mar Yokoub III, the Patriarch at Damascus on February 2, 1965 and also on Mar Severios Zacca, Metropolitan of Mosul. From the latter, the Catholicos received a portion of the relics of St. Thomas.
During this period of History, the Theological Seminary had taken significant steps to improve its image during the tenure of the fourth Catholicos. Keeping in view of the development of its academic standard and the need to train qualified priests, the Theological Seminary was affiliated to the Serampore University, Calcutta on February 1, 1965. Since then, the Seminary awards B.D and post-graduate degrees.
Theological Seminary which was established in 1815 by Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius, celebrated its 150th year jubilee on December 26-30 of 1965. Rev. Dr. K. Philiph who was later ordained as Philipose Mar Theophilus Metropolitan, was the Principal of the Seminary during 1965-66. Later, Fr. Paul Varghese who was later ordained as Paulose Mar Gregorios took over the Charge of Principal of the Seminary in 1967. The jubilee celebrations were arranged under the leadership of the Catholicose Mar Augen. Fr. Long as representative of Mar Pope from Rome, Fr. Vikre Mariam as representative of Patriarch of Ethiopia, Archbishop Alexi of Esthonia from Russia as representative of Patriarch of Russia, Bishop Conitas of Georgia, Archbishop Abrahamian of Calcutta, Catholicos of Armenia, representative of Lutheran Church and many other Church and political dignitaries attended this auspicious celebrations.
Later in 1969, the Seminary completed a new block and it was opened by Patriarch Justinian of the Rumanian Orthodox Church on January 7, 1969, who had come on special invitation.
The Catholicose consecrated Holy Mooron on December 21, 1967 at Old Seminary, Kottayam. The last occasion of this holy consecration was in 1951, held by his predecessor Mar Basalios Geevarghese II.
One of the very significant decisions taken by the Orthodox Church during the tenure of the fourth Catholicos was the relaxation on the Observation of the Lent. During the days of all lent periods, the Church used to enjoin its members for centuries, to abstain usage of milk, milk products, fish, egg and meat. Holy Synod of the Church under Catholicos Augen I, relaxed the restrictions on Feb. 9, 1966. As per this relaxation, though full periods of all Lents were maintained, restrictions of usage of milk, milk products and fish were removed during the period of Lents except during the Nineveh Lent, Wednesdays and Fridays of the first 40 days of the Great Lent and during the Passion Week.
In 1969, Mar Basalios Augen Catholicos delegated Metropolitans Mathews Mar Coorilos who is current Catholicose Basalios Marthoma Mathews, Fr. P.V. Joseph who was later ordained as Joseph Mar Pachamios to East Asian Christian conference held in Bangkok. This conference is a representative body of various Churches in the Eastern part of Asia from Pakistan to Japan. After the first conference of this Council at Prappat in Sumatra in 1957, the Council had met at Kuala Lumpur in 1959 and at Bangkok. It was the first time that Malankara Church had sent delegates to this Council which convened during August 1965 at Bangkok.
As a member of the World Council of Churches, the Catholicos sent delegations to its seven-yearly General Assembly Sessions in July 1968 at Upsala, Sweden and to its General Assembly meeting in December 1978 at Nairobi.
The fourth Catholicos Mar Basalios Augen consecrated 8 Bishops in two ordination ceremonies in 1966 and 1975 at St.Peter's and St.Pauls's Church, Kolenchery and St. Mary's Church Niranam respectively.
Ordination Ceremony on August 24, 1966 at St.Peter's and St.Pauls's Church, Kolenchery:
Ordination Ceremony on February 16, 1974 at St. Mary's Church, Niranam:
In addition to the dignitaries attended during the Jubilee Celebrations of the Seminary, the fourth Catholicos hosted many dignitaries from sister Churches during his tenure. Most Rev. Dr. Donald Cogen, Archbishop of York, England paid a visit to the Church in February 1967. Archbishop Antoni of Minsk, Fr. Serapoion and Fr. George Telpis visited the Catholicose as representative of His Beatitude Justinian, Patriarch of Rumanian Orthodox Church. A delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church visited him in 1970.
On December 31, 1970 Mar Athanasios who was the Metropolitan of outside Kerala Diocese was nominated as the successor of Mar Basalios Augen I.
The Nineteenth Centenary Celebrations of the martyrdom of St. Thomas was celebrated during 1972. St. Thomas, Apostle of Jesus Christ came to Kerala in India during A.D. 52 and proselytized there the Word of God. Traditions believe that St. Thomas had suffered martyrdom in the Indian Soil at Mylapore near Madras on December 21, 72 A.D. Mar Augen firmly believed that the root of the Church in India was the evangelization efforts of Apostle Thomas. The 19th centenary celebrations of the martyrdom of the founder Apostle of Christianity in India was celebrated on grand scale and concluded at a splendid public function at M.D. Seminary Kottayam, on December 31, 1972. The Armenian Church delegates, Patriarch His Holiness Derdarian at Jerusalem, Arch Bishop Aslanian, Bishop Alerian and Arch Priest Tattorian were guests of honour on the occasion. In recognition of the stature of St. Thomas, Government of India brought out a 20 Paisa stamp depicting the Persian Cross in the Church on St. Thomas Mount, Madras on this occasion.
Many charitable institutions were initiated and developed during the period of the fourth Catholicos. A Medical Mission Hospital was established in 50 Acre plot at Kolencherry of which the foundation stone was laid by Patriarch Mar Ignatius Yakoub III on June 7, 1964. Foundation stone of the Mar Theodosius Memorial Hospital was laid at Sasthamkotta near Quilon. Foundation stone of the St. Gregorios Hospital was laid on Feb. 11, 1968 on the memorial day of St. Gregorios at a plot very near to the Parumala Church.
In 1974, Catholicos Mar Augen was seriously ill which situation caused anxiety about his health to all concerned. Due to illness, Catholicos relieved of his duties as the prelate of the Church from September 24, 1975. Mathews Mar Athanasios took charge of the Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan in 1975. This was the first occasion in the Church when the elected designate took over the Catholicate even when the predecessor was still alive.
Mar Augen completed 91 years on July 26, 1975, and four months thereafter, he breathed his last on December 8, 1975. Mar Augen was buried in a grave in solemn ritual of prayers befitting the head of the Church adjacent to that of late Catholicos Mar Geevarghese II. The fourth Catholicos led the Church for eleven years and five months from May 22, 1964 to Oct. 27, 1975. By his characteristic humility and calm and serene disposition, the Catholicos had endeared himself to the flock of sheep.
Mar Augen was a Scholar in Syriac and a Litterateur. He had a number of works of his own and as translations to his credit. From original Syriac books, His Holiness had translated into Malayalam, 'Passion Week Hymns, ' Hymns on the Festivals of St. Thomas and St. George, 'Promion', and other prayers. The translation works revealed Mar Augen's in depth knowledge in theology and resourcefulness in conveying them. Other books in Malayalam include 'Life after Death', 'The Supreme Sacrifice' (Parama Yagam), Mathopadesha Sarangal (Truths of Religion), ‘Holy Synods'.
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