H.G. DR. GEEVARGHESE MAR OSTHATHIOS METROPOLITION
H.G. GEEVARGHSE MAR OSTHATHIOS
What real, the life span of any man can achieve, cherish, ambition, aim, fantasize or dream, these all were accomplished by the life in this world of H.G. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios Metropolitan. Many renowned people realized their celebrity out of position, handed over from the past, gained out of intelligence/Education/wealth or as a gift of birth. But what Mar Osthathios achieved is from none of these benevolences or from any favor of circumstances. He achieved everything out from a thorny surface, by hard work, purity of vision and the real love sprout from God, the Almighty. The life and achievement of beloved Mar Osthathios Thirumeni is beyond the limits of words, which it can carry. He always surfaced out as a unique person, send by God for commission of the mission of a real church. His enriched life taught the world, what is the way a Church should look like and in what mode the church should act in this world.
My close acquaintance with Osthathios Thirumeni was in 2002 in Philadelphia, other than the occasions when I heard his Sermons (Both as M.V. George Achen and Mar Osthathios) or met in some Church Visits and Holy Qurbana. When Thirumeni visited St. Gregorios Church, I personally met Thirumeni and requested for an interview to translate some of his Malayalam articles to English for publication. Very gladly Thirumeni agreed for the same. He had postponed some of his house visits and told me to meet on the next day early morning at the house of Mr. George M. Mathew (Kunj) where he lived that night. Next day morning I reached at Kunj's house fifteen minutes earlier than that was scheduled and I met Thirumeni on the way making a morning stroll along with Kunj. By seeing me, he reduced his walking time and came back to the house. Thirumeni sat on a chair and I sat down on the floor and put our efforts together to translate some articles line by line in one stretch of three hours. Thirumeni heard, examined each word and sentences and corrected or remarked wherever needed. This was an unforgettable blissful event in my life. Thirumeni blessed me many times and even after entering the car to go somewhere else, he called me again and put his hands on my forehead and informed me that he gives his blanket permission to translate or publish all his Articles and books.
H.G. Mar Osthathios was born on 9 December 1918 to Kochitty and Mariamma of Munduvelil family in Mavelikara. His father's clan was following Marthomite tradition and that of Mother, an Orthodox tradition. As his father was adopted to mother's house by marriage, the family abided by, as a member of Orthodox Church. However, Thirumeni himself witnessed that he had attended the Sunday school of both the Churches. His parents were very devout and led a dedicated life. In his autobiography Thirumeni humiliated himself saying that he could not attain even a fraction of the spirituality that his mother could achieve in her life. Though the family was not rich, his mother used to go to the houses of local preachers and the poor people with food for them and Thirumeni accompanied her in her household charitable mission. This early bound charitable vision nurtured at home from the parents had made Thirumeni to become the champion of charitable mission of Malankara Church which changed the face and outlook of the Church itself.
Mar Osthathios obtained his B.D from Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur, M.A from Drew University in America and his S.T.M from Union Seminary, Bangalore. He received the order of deaconate from H.G. Augen Mar Timotheos on 9 August 1947 and priesthood from H.H. Basalios Geevarghese II on May 1956. H.G. Daniel Mar Philexenos ordained him as a Ramban at St. Mary's Cathedral Puthencavu. He was consecrated as a Bishop by H.H. Basalios Augen I on 16 February 1975 at Niranam Church.
Here an important thing is to be noted that Thirumeni became a Bishop at the age of 57 Years. Now as per the newly formed corporate laws and structure of the modern administration, our Church is loathful to ordain any devout Monk to His Episcopate at their old age. If this man-made-law for the call to His Episcopate was prevailing at the time of ordination of Mar Osthathios, he would have remained as M.V. George Achen even now.
He was the Diocesan Metropolitan of Niranam diocese of Malankara Orthodox Church for thirty years from 1976 to 2007. Though he was relieved from the duties of the Diocesan Metropolitan in 2007 as per his own wish, he was esteemed as the Metropolitan Emirate of the diocese till his last breath. He did not restrain himself for the diocesan responsibility as a Bishop. He had great passion for justice, equality and sharing founded on divine love of trinity. He advocated for the Indian theological philosophy with a new approach of 'Atraita' equating to 'Advaita' defined by Indian Rishis. He broke the barriers of region, language or community and emerged to the whole world for his commission to be discharged.
Mar Osthathios Thirumeni had founded and operated numerous Orphanages, Old Age Homes, Leprosy Homes and other Charitable Institutions, under the Church Mission Society, spread all over India. Also many charitable schemes / foundations like Marriage Assistance Foundation, Sick Aid Foundation, Save A Heart Foundation, House Building Aid Fund, Mission Training Centre etc. are also to his credit as the chief organizer. He was the President of the Mission Society of the Church for all these years. The Mission Society has played crucial role whenever necessity arisen for relief work and rebuilding of lives and society during and after natural calamities and other tragedies.
His contributions were not limited for charitable endeavors. He was a revolutionary Theologian with a varied approach of his own but valid and stout. He promoted the theology of human love above all. With his revolutionary thinking many people misunderstood his doctrine similar to that of Communism. But the theory of equal distribution of Communism is not based on faith over divinity or the love germinated out of love of the God. But the doctrine of Mar Osthathios about the social parity was based on the divine inspiration of human love and that was what he advocated throughout his life. He was the member of Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. He was also a faculty member of the Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam, and the Director of St. Paul's Mission Training Center, Mavelikara.
After Kochoonju Upadeshi, Osthathios Thirumeni was the spiritual inspirational poet of this era who composed more than fifty songs which are used for the daily worship in the Christian families. His songs were not only spiritual but were even revolutionary in thoughts which will inspire the mind of the singers urging them to repent and dedicate themselves.
Thirumeni never neglected any small things considering it as of low priority. When we requested Thirumeni for a message to be published in a newly started Web Magazine, Thirumeni took time, put efforts and specially prepared a message for the Global Village and handed over to us sending through an envoy. If we give a donation directly to Thirumeni, what ever small amount it may be, Thirumeni very promptly send the receipt along with a small hand written letter, illegible in words, but we can very well make out it as a big Thanks.
Considering the vivid and rich contributions to the Church and society, Malankara Orthodox Church had honored him with the title of Sabharathnam [Pearl of the Church]. To depart from this world is Godly disposition, but certain people could make their visible life for a continued invisible cherishing life on earth with an ever living portrait in front of all. H.G. Mar Osthathios was one among them and it happens only in a blue moon or in a certain spots of the centuries. H.G. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios was called for his heavenly abode, breathed his last at 7.30 PM on February 16, 2012, gathered to His folks and joined the cloud of witnesses. He was 94 years of age at his last breath. He was a lived legend of our era. We bow before his greatness and kiss his hands tearfully...
METROPOLITAN MAR OSTHATHIOS - AN ECUMENICAL DOYEN
Dr. Geevarghse Mar Osthathios Metropolitan now speaks to us from behind the Curtain as the Abel of old. He was called to his eternal rest on February 16, 2012. “Remembrance of the righteous is a blessing”.
I have had the privilege to know Mar Osthathios from close quarters right from the middle of the 6os while His grace was a member of the faculty of the Orthodox Theological Seminary,Kottayam.In this brief tribute, I would like to speak about his ecumenical contributions to the Universal Church.
As a member of the Orthodox- Mar Thoma Dialogue Group in the 70s, Fr. M.V. George(later bishop) could draw the attention of the members to his critical comments on socio-political and ecumenical issues. He always spoke with an evangelical fervor. “To speak with love” was the code of ethics followed by all the stalwarts of ecumenism. His concern for the poor had anointed him as a social prophet of justice. His presence in the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches had made tremendous impact on the members. His leadership in the KCC is also gratefully remembered for his ecumenical hospitality. His writing on various subjects particularly the need for a classless society has raised umpteen questions in the world body. He was a regular contributor to the NCC review. His concern for a classless and egalitari8an society was well received in the ecumenical circles in India. In a poem published by the NCC Review a few years ago, the Metropolitan described the implications of a classless society in terms of the pruning of tea plants and their corporate existence in the hilly places! Probably, he had taken the imagery from the Tea Estates of Munnar.His ecumenical vision as a leveling process of the rich is worth considering. The theological foundation for his perspective was based on the broader frame work of the Holy Trinity. For him, the religion of love is the only criterion for the divine presence in our midst.
It was during his tenure as the president of the Kerala Christian Council (KCC), a delegation from China under the leadership of Bishop K.H. Ting visited Kerala Churches and other places in India. The visitation was organized by the NCCI head quarters, Nagpur.Metropolitan, late Mr.M.Kurien and I severed as the chief stewards along with a few friends in organizing programmes and visits for the group. The hospitality extended by the Orthodox Syrian Church through the initiative of Mar Osthathios is well remembered by all. It was through the good- will and guidance of the Metropolitan that everything went on well. In a reciprocal visit, Metropolitan Paulose Mar Gregorios represented the Orthodox Syrian Church. In both the visits Dr.G.R.Singh represented the NCCI.Dr.Mathai Zechariah was instrumental in looking after all the details of the visitation programmatic was also a member of the team to visit China. The visits were historic in all respects.
Metropolitan’s popular works namely My Lord and My God, Mafia, Sophia and Gloria, Sharing God and Sharing World, Theology of a Classless Society,Atraita Theology and One Religion of Love and several others carry his ecumenical convictions. All his perspectives have been summed up in a recent volume entitled, Nithyasnehakoodaram (CSS, 2009).I had the honour to write its preface and to introduce the concerns of the book on his 92nd birthday celebration at Tiruvalla. The ecumenical thoughts of the Metropolitan have made him a social prophet of the Eastern Churches. I would consider him next to Amos, the prophet of the Old Testament. All the humanitarian and social welfare projects, which he started, will bear testimony to his radical and visible concerns for the less- fortunate ones in the society. It is indeed great that he has chosen a group of trustworthy persons to carry on his work for God’s glory. His Grace was particular that I should present his social and theological concerns in a Seminar organized on his 94th birthday at Kottayam.I did so.
For the Metropolitan, mission of the Church is the celebration of the counter culture of the Kingdom of God in God’s one world. He believes that the impacts of economic, cultural and political aspects of globalization and the market-oriented consumerist theology have resulted in the marginalization of the powerless, erosion of cultural values, emergence of religious fundamentalism (including Christian fundamentalism) and the clash of civilizations. The welfare economics of Amerthya Sen and the humanitarian touch in the welfare projects of Bill gates have deeply influenced the Metropolitan in his later writings. His concept of Trinity as a model of social organization is widely recognized in the theological world. Among his works numbering about sixty, the Theology of a Classless Society and the Sin of being Rich in a Poor World are indeed his ecumenical treasures.
The ecumenical legacy of Mar Osthathios could be summed up as: I)A man with a bold vision and mission for the oikoumene.The unity of humankind, particularly the question of human brokenness, is uppermost in his mind.2)His theology of One Religion of Love speaks of the universal outlook of the Christian faith. For him, Christ is the savior of the whole world. 3) There is a discomfort in his ecumenical vision as he is much concerned with the poor in our midst. 4) The Trinitarian model of the human society- as unity in diversity- is uppermost in his mind 5) The primary concern of the Church is to manifest the power of love as justice in God’s world.
Here is a bishop who believes that God does not call the qualified, but He qualifies the one whom he called. He lived a full life till the age of 94. Thanks be to God for his life and witness “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord”… “They will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them”(Rev.14:13).
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