DC salutes the senior-most metropolitan of Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, who celebrated his 102nd birthday at a chapel at Fellowship Memorial Hospital with his followers in Kumbanad. Wit, hilarity and Chrysostom share a bond
ALAPPUZHA: Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan, who turned 102 on Saturday, still remains irrepressible in spirit and vibrant in words. His celebrated sense of humour floored even Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who called on him at Kumbanad, Pathanamthitta, the other day.
As soon as Mr Vijayan entered Chrysostom’s room, the bishop urged his domestic help to serve him tea. But Mr Vijayan politely replied: “No, I drank just little a while ago.” Chrysostom’s reply was typical of the ‘King of humour’: “Nobody has as yet dared to call on me after being drunk!”
Chrysostom’s ‘golden tongue’ continues to deliver flashes of wit and wisdom. The seniormost metropolitan of the Malank-ara Mar Thoma Syrian Church and Padma Bhu-shan awardee, who celebrated his birthday at a chapel at Fellowship Mem-orial Hospital with his followers and church goers, remains hale and hearty.
The congregation was all ears when he acknowledged their greetings: “Yet I was not always accountable to God, but God was accountable to me. For that I thank God and I can now see the limitless heaven. To reach there, I seek His blessings.”
Many bishops from his Church and other denominations paid rich tributes to him. Later, Chrysostom cut a specially made 'appam' (traditional pancake made with rice flour) to celebrate his birthday.
Born at Eraviperoor, near Kozhencherry, on April 27, 1917, in a family of priests, Chrysostom learnt the first letters of theology from his father, K.E. Oommen Kassessa who was a vicar of the Mar Thoma Church. After graduating from Union Christian College, Aluva, he studied theology at Bengaluru’s United Theol-ogical College and became a vicar in 1944. He was an-ointed as metropolitan in 1999 succeeding Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan.
What makes him exceptional is that even a decade after his retirement, his popularity, acceptance and influence in civil society are par excellence. These days, he moves around in a wheel chair, but the flow of the visitors to his residence, including Commu-nists, remains steady.
In 2018, Chintha Public-ations brought out a book on his conversation with CPM politburo member M.A. Baby titled ‘Christ, Marx and Sreenarayana Guru; A colloquy by Phili-ppose Mar Chrysostom Senior Metropolitan and M.A. Baby.’ On its cover, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury writes: “The words of wisdom that have filtered down through centuries tell us, ‘For the evil to succeed, the good only need to be silent.’ The ‘good’ can no longer afford to remain silent.” “He is a man of words than action,” Baby summarises Chrysostum’s life. “He chose to communicate universal truths that Jesus Christ taught the world in a language the laymen understand. This is his legacy and everyone, irrespective of rich and poor, enjoys his humour. He knows it. Christ taught the world to respect slaves and the oppressed.
He is a staunch priest who followed the same teachings of Christ. He once said that he was indebted to the coconut climber for his life, for his parents educated him with the income earned from coconuts plucked by the coconut climber,” Baby recalls. He used to advice the churchgoers, especially women who wore gold ornaments, to sell their jewellery and give the money to the homeless and hungry people. Many wealthy Christian men even refused to send their wives to the church fearing the impact of his words on them, says Baby, quoting Chrysostom’s humour sense.
“The LDF governments and chief ministers have always received his blessings. He has termed Pinarayi Vijayan as God’s gift to Kerala. He supported the people’s plan when the LDF government introduced it. He is a man of commoners and worked hard for the welfare of poor. The LDF government introduced a scheme ‘Darsanam’ (philosophy/-eyesight) after being inspired by his decision to donate his eyes after death when I was education minister. Though many fellow priests opposed it, he stood by his decision,” he says.
Chrysostom liked to go and speak wherever he was invited and he spoke his mind irrespective of the interests of the hosts, he says.
The youngsters who look up to him may have a question: “What makes him still important?” The answer lies in his secularist view of social life. His vision of humanity goes beyond religions and castes. He took a line different from that of Kerala priesthood steeped in the patriarchal framework. He broke that cult in his own way, calling upon the people to live life with love, compassion and tolerance. However, nobody, including Chrysostom himself and M.A. Baby, wants him to be remembered as a ‘revolutionary.’