Sunday, April 17, 2016

Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos (Puthencavil Kochu Thirumeni)

Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos (Puthencavil Kochu Thirumeni)

April 17 – 65th Dukrono of Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos (Puthencavil Kochu Thirumeni)
Just as Parumala Thirumeni, Puthencavil Kochu Thirumeni was called to his heavenly abode at a young age, Thirumeni passed away at age 54 and is entombed at St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, Puthencavu, Chengannoor, Kerala.  

Holy Church honored Thirumeni by conferring the title Catholicatinte Rathna Deepam (Rathnam = Jewel; Deepam = Lamp). He is known as the Gaanakokilam (gaanam=song; kokilam=cuckoo bird) of the Church. The description by Vattakkunel Mathews Achen (later Catholicos Mathews I) of Kochu Thirumeni are inscribed on his tomb:

“His presence was joyful
His voice sweet
His words inspiring
His manners endearing
His smile unforgettable”

He was chosen by God from his mother’s womb just as stated in Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” [Jeremiah 1:5]. Thirumeni was born prematurely and for the first two days of his life, he did not move, nor produced any sound. But God had great plans for him; saving from the brink of death.
In the early 20th century when Mar Ivanios deceived holy fathers, abandoned his vows and left the Orthodox Church for greener pastures (and formed today’s Malankara Catholic church), Vattaseril Thirumeni handpicked Dn. K.T. Geevarghese (later Mar Philoexnos) to guard the Catholicate. Dn. K.T. Geevarghese earned his MA and B.Ed from Serampore University, Calcutta. Dn. K.T. Geevarghese was ordained a priest by Vattasseril Thirumeni and consecrated as a bishop in 1930 by Catholicos Baselios Geevarghese II. As he was the youngest of the living Metropolitans in those days (33 years old), he was affectionately called "Kochu Thirumeni".

Thirumeni’s gifts were many.  His command over English, Malayalam and Syriac, was unparalleled; his voice mesmerizing. He was not only a spiritual giant, but an able administrator, great orator, and erudite in versatile topics. Thirumeni traveled all over Kerala and through his sermons and speeches made the faithful unite under the Catholicate flag. When Mar Ivanios, who defected to the Catholic Church, started sheep stealing from the Orthodox Church, Thirumeni worked hard, with no rest to exhort the faithful to be steadfast in Orthodoxy. Church entrusted Thirumeni with the task of reclaiming the church schools and properties that were under the illegal possession of Mar Ivanios. Thirumeni used to continuously say “My God, My Church” (Ente daivam, ente sabha) with his hands on his chest.

Though he was highly educated for the time, he did not leave his people for a lucrative assignment elsewhere. He was passionate about playing soccer (a bishop playing soccer, quite unthinkable!). He would labor along with the day laborers. He would carry bricks when he was at a construction site. At night, he would lie on the ground gazing at the skies admiring the Creator’s handiwork. He would walk miles and miles, or travel in buses to reach his people, no matter how far they were. Thirumeni maintained cordial relations with leaders of the other faction in the Church, and debated them in the hope they would realize the truth and end the feud. Thirumeni banned fireworks during the Church feast at St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Puthencavu, and the money was redirected for organizing spiritual conventions. Thirumeni started St. Basil Monastery, and attracted many learned young men of those days to monastic life.

Fr. P. S. Samuel Cor Episcopa, vicar of St. Gregorios Cherry Lane Church, a deacon during Thirumeni’s last days, was with Thirumeni when he drew his last breath. During Thirumeni’s final moments, Dn. P.S Samuel sang Thirumeni’s favorite spiritual hymn “Karunakkadale njan nokkum” three times (access the lyrics and the song in English at Thirumeni called out “My God, My God” many times. As the priests finished reciting the Nicene Creed, Thirumeni’s soul departed to the heavenly abode.

A quote from the great Dr. K.M. Tharakan summarizes Thirumeni’s influence on the youth including himself:
“The light he kindled in my young heart
Was the Light of Heavenly Love;
The song he sang to my blithe childhood
Was a song of divine faith;
The path he showed my wavering feet
Was a path of supreme truth.”

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