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PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND

(AD. 1895)

 

 

Parumala Thirumeni's visit to the Holy Land in 1895 was a landmark event in all respect. This was the first ever Holy Land visit of an Indian bishop in its centuries-old  history. Thirumeni's ardent wish to see for himself the Holy Places, where our Lord Jesus went about fulfilling the Old Testament prophesies about Messiah, started from a very young age itself. Soon after his ordination as a Metropolitan in 1876, Parumala Kochu Thirumeni had been invited by the Patriarch Mor Ignatius Peter IV  to visit the Holy Land and other important places of our Syrian Church in the Middle East.  As mentioned earlier, the title 'Gregorios', given to our Kochu Thirumeni during his metropolitan consecration, was the honorable title of the Jerusalem Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church and it became an ardent wish of our Gregorios Thirumni to visit the seat of this Archbishoprics in Jerusalem.   However his desire to visit the Holy Land and other places of importance did not materialize for another two decades.  Finally in 1895 Mor Gregorios was able to fulfill his longstanding wish.  His Grace made arrangement for the journey so that they may reach Jerusalem during the Passion week.  With the help of other Metropolitans, Mor Gregorios collected an amount of around Rs.5000/-, required for the pilgrimage.  Before the start of this long journey on 27th January 1895, Mor Gregorios consecrated the new church at Parumala  along with the Malankara Metropolitan Mor Dionysius Joseph. The next day Mor Gregorios left for Cochin.

Jerusalem being the most important city of Christians, the Archbishoprics of Jerusalem diocese under the jurisdiction of Holy throne of Antioch had some special privileges.  The name of the 'Jerusalem Archbishop' was earlier mentioned in the 1st 'TUBDEN', soon after the names of the prevailing Patriarchs and the Catholicos/Maphryono.  'Mor Gregorios' was this Archbishop's title name. "St. Gregorios Abdul 'Jaleel", send as an emissary of the  Patriarch of Antioch and laid to rest at the North Paravur St. Thomas Church  on 27th April AD.1681, was the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Jerusalem.  When Patriarch Ignatius Peter IV ordained Chathuruthy Geevarghese Ramban, a Metropolitan at the North Paravur Church, H.H. was very particular in giving him this title of the Jerusalem Archbishopric, 'Mor Gregorios'.

 

Holy Pilgrimage

Kochu Thirumeni started the journey from Cochin on 19th February, accompanied by Kochuparambil Ramban Paulose (later the Malankara Metropolitan, Paulose Mor Koorilos); Vattasseril Fr. Geevarghese Malpan (later Malankara Metropolitan, Mor Dionysius VI);  Thoppil Lukose Corepiscopa of N.Paravur;Karingattil Fr.Scariah of Thumpamon and Puthenpurakal Fr. Geevarghese of Kadambanitta. The Deacon Sleeba (later the Patriarchal delegate, Sleeba Mor Osthatheos) and Thirumeni's servant, Parumala Thoppil Philipose  were already send to Bombay for the arrangements of the journey. A large gathering including the Malankara Metropolitan Mor Dionysius V were there at Kochi to bid farewell for the group.   After reaching Pattambi in North Kerala through road, they travelled to Bombay via; train. On 18th March, the group boarded the ship from Bombay and reached 'Port Saidi' on 4th April. The Ship journey was extremely difficult for the pilgrims.  On Sunday the 6th April, Mor Gregorios celebrated the Qurbono in the Coptic Church there.  From here they left for Jerusalem and reached the Holy City on 7th April 1895.

On reaching Jerusalem, the delegation led by Mor Gregorios of Malankara were welcomed by a large gathering under the leadership of Mor Gregorios Geevarghese, the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of the Holy Land. Arrangements were made at the St. Mark's dayro for the stay of Kochu Thirumeni and others from Malankara. This dayro (monastery) stands on the ancient site of the house of St. Mark the Evangelist and is also the seat of the Jerusalem Metropolitan of the Syrian Orthodox Church. It is located some distance away south of 'The Church of Holy Sepulchre' and is on the northern slope of Mount Zion. The Street in front of this church is known as  St. Mark's Street.

 

St. Mark's dayro in Jerusalem

This St. Mark's dayro at Jerusalem is the oldest and the most historically important Monastery in the possession of the Syrian Orthodox Church. After the Syrian Church lost its other churches and properties in the Holy City, St. Mark's became the seat of the Archbishop of Jerusalem. It was here in the upper room where Our Lord had His Last Supper in the house of John also called Mark; it was here that Christ washed the feet of his disciples;   it was here Jesus appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection; it was here His mother and disciples waited in prayer between Ascension and Pentecost; it was here that St.Mary lived with St.John also called Markose after crucifixion;  it was here that St.Peter appeared after his miraculous escape from prison; it was here that St.Mary was baptized; it was here that the Priesthood was instituted; it was here that the first Holy Qurbono was celebrated in Aramaic (an ancient dialect of Syriac) by Yakoob, the brother of Jesus; it was here the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Holy Synods of the Christians were held under the Apostles; it was this, the first Church of the Christians and was dedicated to the name of Mother of God and is also the place of many other important events that had occurred in the long history of the Church.  

The famous portrait of Virgin Mary with infant Jesus, painted by St. Luke the Evangelist is in this Monastery (see the below portrait). A Syriac inscription of the sixth century discovered here in 1940 says: "This is the house of Mary, mother of John also called Mark. The apostles consecrated it as a Church after the name of Mary the God-bearer. It was built in 73 A.D.  after  King Titus destroyed Jerusalem". When Persians attacked Jerusalem in AD 614 this, 'Mother  of all Churches'  was also destroyed. 

The St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Monastery of Jerusalem, where Parumala Thirumeni celebrated the Holy Mass in AD.1895

('Sehion Malika' as mentioned in  travelogue written in Malayalam by Parumala Thirumeni)

photo: Hidden Pearl

The monastery was rebuilt a few times, in 6th century AD, 1009, 1718, 1791, 1833, 1858, 1940.  A piece of Holy Cross in which our Lord Christ was Crucified and relics of many Saints are preserved in this Monastery.  There is a large collection of manuscripts written by various Holy fathers of Christianity like that of,  Mor Kurillos Patriarch of Alexandria who presided over the 3rd Universal Synod of Christianity held at Ephesus in AD 431;   Mor Severious Patriarch of Antioch (A.D 538) Mor Gregorios Bar Ebroyo Maphriyono of the East (13th century);  Mor Dionysius;  Mor Chrysostom (4th century);  Mor Aphrem (AD 378);  Mor Kuriakose Patriarch of Antioch (AD 817);  Mor Michael Rabo Patriarch of Antioch (AD 1199) and others, in the monastery's famous library.  Also included in the library are the 15 New Testament books written between 7th and 15th centuries.    

          

Entrance to the St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox  Monastery

 in  Jerusalem where Mor Gregorios stayed

St. Mary with Infant Jesus - An historic painting in the monastery drawn by St. Luke the Evangelist

Source- Syrian Orthodox Resources  & 'The Vision', Aug 2001

 

The Pilgrims from Malankara together with Mor Gregorios Bava visited almost all the important sites of Christianity.  Parumala Thirumeni led the prayers at the various Syrian Orthodox locations during the Passion week.  His Grace had the chance to celebrate the QURBONO, at the St. Mark's Dayro and also at the various altars allotted to the Syrian Church, the Kyomtho dayro (Church of Holy Sepulcher); St. Mary's tomb; Mor Behanan Sahada etc. Addressing the local Christians, Kochu Thirumeni spoke in Syriac and Deacon Sleeba (St. Osthatheos Sleebo), translated the speech into Arabic.  In his travelogue 'Oorsalem Yathra Vivaranam', Parumala Thirumeni at many times had expressed his thanks for the help of this Syrian deacon, Sleeba.   Mor Gregorios on behalf of the delegation from Malankara presented a gold plated 'Kasa' (Chalice) and 'Pilasa' (Platen), a 'Crosier' (shepherd's staff) used by the bishops of Syrian Church and about Rs.2000 to the Metropolitan Mor Gregorios of Jerusalem diocese.  Also around Rs.1700 from many Malankara Christians were offered at the Holy Sepulchre.

During their stay there, the delegation from Malankara visited the Patriarchs of Greek Church; Armenian Church; Latin Church;  the bishops of Coptic Church; Maronite Church and other church dignitaries, accompanied by the diocesan Metropolitan of our Church at Jerusalem. 

On 22nd April, after a brief stay for 16 days at the St. Mark's dayro and visiting many of the Holy places, the Pilgrims left Jerusalem by train to the nearest port at Joppa.   Mor Gregorios of Jerusalem and other local Syrian Christians were present at the Railway station bidding farewell to the delegates from Malankara.  Ramban Abdulla and Deacon Ya'qub of  St. Mark's Dayro accompanied the pilgrims to the port of 'Joppa' and returned only after their departure. On his return Parumala Thirumeni had with him relics of many of our Holy fathers presented to him by our metropolitan of the Jerusalem diocese and was established at many churches in Malankara.

 

The group returns

 This visit of Mor Gregorios in 1895 to the Holy Land was the first by any Metropolitan of Malankara Syrian Church.  This had resulted in the starting of a new era of cordial relationship with the members of our mother Church at Jerusalem.  Further through this visit, the other Christian denominations in the Holy City came to know more about the Syrian Church in Malankara.  Mor Gregorios, the Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox diocese of Jerusalem, later in an encyclical to the Malankara Church, had mentioned this. 

Parumala Thirumeni and others reached Bombay by ship on 13th May and on 17th they arrived at Shornur Railway station.  Pulikkottil Kuriathu and Panakkal Itty Mathu from Kunnamkulam were there to receive them.  Then they visited Malankara Metropolitan Mor Dionysius V at Pazhanji Church near Kunnamkulam.   From there they went to North Paravur St. Thomas Church by boat and a reception was organised there by the local parishioners.   Later on his way back to Parumala Seminary, grand receptions were given to them at Cochin, Mulunthuruthy, Kandanad and Kottayam.  Mor Gregorios, in one of his encyclicals had specially thanked the churches at Mulunthuruthy, North Paravur, Kandanad, Kottayam and Niranam for all the help accorded to them in their Holy land visit.

On reaching Parumala Seminary, His Grace delivered a famous speech. This was later published in the church Magazine, 'Edavaka Pathrika'.  A scholar of the time, M. Rama Varma Thamban B.A.L.T, impressed by this speech of Mor Gregorious, included this portion in the book 'Prabashanagal' under the heading 'Bhaktha Vachanam'.  This book at that time was included in the High School syllabus of the Travancore state.

Translated version of the speech delivered by Mor Gregorios Thirumeni on his return from Holy Land

Beloved Brethren,

By the grace of God, we are back here after visit to Jerusalem, which is our most holy place. God has ordered that we should continue to accomplish his commandments, and we are doing the very same thing. It is a fact accepted by everyone that the eye is more powerful than the ear as a sense organ; seeing and believing is more effective than listening and believing. We learn about the teachings, passion and death of our Lord from the Bible. But this knowledge is tremendously deepened as we visit the land where these events took place, and where the relics and remnants live to this day. We understood this from our personal experience. True God is worshipped "neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem;" but in spirit and in Truth. That means, Christians can worship God anywhere. However, the pilgrimage to the Holy Land has taught us that, since we are sinners, seeing with our own eyes increases our devotion and confirms us in faith, than when we listen. As we prayed at the different holy places, the contribution and devotion, which we experienced, were rare and deep, the like of which we have never experienced in our life before. It seemed as though our heart and mind were immersed in God. We felt like lying down and praying there forever. Our hearts really melted!

I don't think such deep faith, devotion and contrition would be generated by spending five thousand rupees. This kind of seeing and believing is most useful in making perfect the union of Sprit and Truth. So my advice to you is that our people, it they can make it, should visit the Holy Land.

Now let us think about our duties as Christians. A lot of people in our country are poor and ignorant, doing hard labor and living sinful lives. People, like 'Pulayas', who are castigated as 'low castes' have no freedom to travel on public road, or approach high caste people. It is our bounden duty to create in them true faith in God, put an end to their hardships in life, and deliver them from sins by removing their ignorance. They should be admitted to the church, and separate chapels may be built for them for the time being. As they come up and improve their living conditions, they can be incorporated into the existing parish churches. In the same way separate schools may be established for them on a temporary basis. Our efforts so far made in this direction have to be redoubled. We should conduct Gospel and evangelistic work among these people.

The spread of the Gospel in this country will certainly be augmented by opening English schools not only for Christians but for non-Christians as well. Pupils in such schools will be studying books by great men who are God-fearing. Those great men are also Christians. We are grieved to hear the complaint that the studies of the books of these great men do not really generate Christian principles in pupils. We are told that these pupils do not follow a life of truth and morality; but we do not believe it. We need English education. Not only that, the many Englishmen who studied these have not become immoral! Is it that these books are bad only in our country? Never. Therefore more English schools should be founded in many places.

Prayer is one thing, which can help education to develop faith, devotion and mutual good will among people. He who prayers to God everyday will never be untrue, evil, faithless, an enemy of society or a traitor to this master. Prayer is the enthusiasm of childhood, the refuge of youth and peace in old age. God will listen to the prayer of a heart full of devotion and such a person will get abundant blessings from God in return. A real devotee of God is one who selflessly loves all his fellow-beings, because God has created everything as the object of our love. More things are wrought by prayer than we can even dream of. How can we say that man is better than we can ever dream of. How can we say that man is better than animals, which cannot discern their future, if even after knowing. God, man does not raise his hand in prayer, for his own sake and also for the sake of those whom he loves? Prayer, thus is golden chain by which we are bound to the holy feet of God. Therefore pray earnestly to God, day and night. Such prayer is the best means to remove the darkness in us, to free us from fatigue, to accomplish our needs and it can lead us to salvation and Heaven. Believe in God and pray to Him; my brethren, God will be pleased in you!

May the love of God the Father, the mercy of the Son and the fullness of Holy Sprit who endows us with peace be with you forever!

Click  Here for the original text in Malayalam

 

"Oorslem Yathra Vivaranam" - a travelogue by Parumala Thirumeni

In a month's time after his return, Parumala Thirumeni wrote down his experiences during the journey and handed it over to Mar Thoma Achukoodam*  in Kottayam, for publishing. This book,  published under name Oorslem Yathra Vivaranam was an excellent travelogue and was in great demand and the first set of 1000 copies were sold within two weeks.  Several editions of the book has been published since then and the wonder is that it is being reprinted even now, ie; after 100 years. Only recently the Mor Adai Study Centre has published a book titled "Vissudha Nadu Sandarsangal", which contains four famous travelogues written by primates of yesteryears, of which the second one is Parumala Thirumeni's Oorslem Yathra Vivaranam.  Click HERE for the excerpts from the travelogue of Parumala Thirumeni

* Mar Thoma Achukoodam was a press run under the supervision of Pulikkottil Mor Dionysius Metropolitan and his close associate,  Mr. E M Philip Edavazhikkal.  The "Malankara Edavaka Pathrika", then official publication of the Jacobite Syrian Church, was published from this Mar Thoma Achukoodam with E M Philip as its chief editor. The July 1895 issue of this Edavaka Pathrika carried an advertisement about the book 'Oorslem Yathra Vivaranam'. The English translation says like this:  "Now ready - The book Oorslem Yathra Vivaranam has been printed and is ready. This book is the diary containing the details of the visit of Geevarghese Mor Gregorios Metropolitan of Niranam and other churches, to the Holy Land. It is hereby notified that those who want to buy copies of the book can do it now. Price of the book 4-chakrams only - Manager."  In the very next issue of Edavaka Pathrika, it is mentioned that the first set of thousand copies of the book has been sold out already in two months time and hence the second edition is going to be printed. The popularity of this book was so great that many more copies has been printed subsequently. The manuscript of the Parumala Thirumeni's travelogue was preserved by E M Philip Edavazhikkal, who was in charge of the press.

 

Offering to the Church of Holy Sepulcher

After returning from Jerusalem, Parumala Thirumeni collected a certain amount from most of the parishes in Malankara and constructed a big silver Cross and sent it to the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Jerusalem, to be kept in the madbho of the Syrian Church in Kyomtha dayro (Church of Holy Sepulchre).  

With this visit to the Holy Land, the longstanding dreams of Parumala Thirumeni's life has been fulfilled.  He desired that the remaining days of his life should be spent in prayer and meditation at Parumala Seminary.  However this remained a dream only and he had to again actively participate in the administration.

Thirumeni's travel to such a distant place made him understand the importance of English education.  This he had mentioned in the speech delivered on his return from Jerusalem (see above).  Through many of the encyclicals, he stressed the need for English education.  His Grace later laid the foundation for a few English medium schools at all corners of Malankara.

 

    

 

 


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