Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan : biography
Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan (1818–1877) was the head of Malankara Church which had its adherents in Travancore, Cochin, and Malabar states of India (present-day state of Kerala). This Church was founded by Thomas the Apostle of Jesus Christ who arrived in the 1st century, (believed to be in 52 CE). The first Christians included Jews and the Wise Men from the East who saw Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem.Bowler, Gerry. (2000). The World Encyclopedia of Christmas. McClelland Stewart Ltd., Toronto, Canada. ISBN 0-7710-1531-3. Page 139.Bible. Matthew 2:1 They and their descendants were called Nazranis, meaning "followers of Jesus of Nazareth."
Definitions: – (for the following words used In this article).
Mar Thoma and Metropolitan – titles of the Head of Malankara Church. Usually they are addressed as Thirumeni. Head of Malankara Church, bishops of that Church and heads of Hindu temples (Namboothiri) are addressed as Thirumeni, a title given to them by the kings around 1225.Nilaknata Sastri, K. G. (1939). Foreign notices of South India. Chapter XXIV, Foreign Embassies between China And South India.
Kathanar, Kassessa – clergy, (Reverend) A Kassessa is addressed as Achen (A venerable person).Variyar, Prof. A. I. et al. (2003) Malayalam English Dictionary. D.C. Books. Hindus usually call their father Aschen, for which the Malayalam spelling and pronunciation are different.
Malpan – A priest who is a scholar in Syriac language.
Palli – A church building.
Sabha – A gathering of believers in Jesus of Nazareth. (Church)
Mar Athanasius was a social reformer also. He did a lot of things to help to improve the conditions of the society.
Some of the schools were run my the Malankara Church. Mar Athanasius advised the government to give some of grant to the schools as an encouragement. Government approved this proposal and gave grants to more than sixty schools.Chacko, T.C. (1936 ) Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitra Samgraham. (Concise History of the Marthoma Church). Page 125.
Without cast. creed or color people approached Mar Athanasius with their grievances, and received help from him.
Christians were forced to work on Sundays and do menial work in Hindu temples at other times. Punishments were severe, if they disobeyed. Mar Athanasius put an end to all these. His friendship with the Maharajas, government and its officials were of great help in this area.
Arrival of Patriarch
During his time Reformation of the Church became strong. Ouseph Kathanar from Kunnamkulam, who objected to Reformation went to Antioch and was consecrated as Joseph Mar Dionysius on April 3, 1865. After his return, those who opposed Mathews Mar Athanasius invited the Patriarch of Antioch. The large majority of the people were conservative and the reform party was a very small minority. Thus a large majority joined the Patriarch of Antioch.
Ignasious Pathrose III, Patriarch of Antioch arrived in June 1875 at Kunnamkulam. On his way he visited Istanbul, London and Madras.
By this time, those who opposed Mathews Mar Athanasius had a rumour flying among them that Mar Athanasius will be excommunicated, without realizing that this was not possible.Canon of the Malankara Syrian Church. Keppalayon (Chapter) 2. para 16–22.
There are no records to show that Mathews Mar Athanasius was ever excommunicated.
Relation with other Metropolitans
- Cheppad Mar Dionysius was seriously ill and was living at Cheppad. He had no one to care for him. Mar Athanasius went to Cheppad made arrangement to care for him and visited the parishes nearby till he died on October 9, 1855. The funeral service was conducted by Mar Athanasius.
- Mar Coorilos became sick and was at Mulanthuruthy church. He visited him and comforted him. Mar Coorilos died on September 2, 1874.
Decision to go to Antioch
It was at this time Deacon Mathen returned from Madras. He realized the problems that faced him, his friends, his uncle Abraham Malpan and the clergy who wanted a reformation in the Church. Deacon Mathen remembered his decision, "I shall live to pull out the weeds in my Church and bring it back to its original glory and pure undiluted faith."
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