Metropolitan Theophilos – A Tribute to a Spiritual Father

Indian Orthodox Church Mourns the Falling Asleep in the Lord of Metropolitan Theophilos of Malabar Diocese

By: Fr. Alexander J. Kurien, Washington D.C.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life ‘in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him the authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” St. John 5: 24-30.

The Indian Orthodox Church is mourning the passing of Metropolitan Theophilos of Malabar, 65, who fell asleep in the Lord on October 24, 2017 at MVR Cancer Centre, Kozhikode following a battle with cancer. Rather than mourning, today we are here to say, ‘thank you, God’. We really want to say thank you for our most beloved M.C. Cherian Achen, our Metropolitan Theophilos for his love and dedication to unconditionally and indiscriminatively serve His children.

His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, the Catholicos of the East & Malankara Metropolitan (the Supreme Head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India), other Metropolitans, clergies, and faithful were with His Grace during his last moments. His Holiness with a heavy heart and deep sorrow made the first announcement of his demise on behalf of the Holy Synod. With the falling asleep in the Lord of the late Metropolitan Theophilos of Malabar, the Malankara Orthodox Church has lost a prominent Hierarch, known for his great and long service to the people of God.

A long friendship connected me with the departed Metropolitan since 1987; continued that friendship through multiple visits to St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church of Greater Washington DC and my residence throughout his studies at the St. Vladimir School of Theology as Fr. M.C. Cherian. Already at that time, the unforgettable Metropolitan Theophilos distinguished himself for his deep piety, service to His people, his ecclesiastical ethos and the special love he had for the sacred services of our Orthodox liturgical tradition.

H.G. Dr. Zachariah Mar Theophilos  – The Calling

Metropolitan Theophilos, also equally known as M.C. Cherian Achen, was born on September 16, 1952 to M.P. Chandapillai and Achamma Chandapillai, Manjanamkuzhiyil near Kallupara, Thiruvalla. He grew up as a devoted Orthodox Christian at St. George Orthodox Church in Chengaroor. After completing high school in Kallupara, he attended Marthoma College in Thiruvalla for his undergraduate studies. He finished Master of Arts Degree Kerala University. Subsequently, he joined Orthodox Theological Seminary. He had attained Bachelor of Divinity and Masters in Theological Studies from Serampore University. He attended Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York, USA for Doctor of Ministry. Metropolitan has ministered to our faithful across the globe.

He received the order of Deaconate from His Grace Late Yuhanon Mar Severios Metropolitan in 1977. On May 15, 1991, His Grace Late Dr. Philipose Mar Theophilos ordained him into the Priesthood. Metropolitan Theophilos is well known for his inseparable association with MGOCSM (Mar Gregorios Orthodox Christian Student Movement), the students and youth mission wing of the Malankara Orthodox Church. He had served the Church in different capacities from 1979. Considering the importance of our coming generation, Metropolitan Theophilos held symposiums, seminars, study classes, conferences, discussion forums, workshops, etc.

On August 7, 2004 Fr. M.C. Cherian was elevated as Ramban with title Zachariahs by Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews II at Devalokam Catholicate Aramana Chapel. He was elected Bishop by the Malankara Christian Association held at Parumala Seminary on 10th June 2004 and subsequently, consecrated as a Bishop on March 5, 2005. On December 2, 2006, he was enthroned as Metropolitan of the Malabar diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

Leading his flock

Metropolitan’s enthronement was conducted by the Late Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan Baselius Mar Thoma Didymus 1 at St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral in Bilathikulam. Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Jose Baby inaugurated the public meeting held later to felicitate the newly enthroned Metropolitan. Aryadan Mohammed, MLA, delivered the keynote speech. The senior-most Metropolitan of the Church His Grace Late Geevarghese Mar Osthathios delivered the benedictory address. Alexander Karackal, Church secretary, and other dignitaries offered felicitations. Metropolitan Theophilos’ hard labor in His vineyard is reflected in the significant growth of the Malabar diocese with now more than 100 parishes.

Always noble in his ways, ready to listen to the problems, and the disappointments and the pain of countless people, he did not hesitate to offer plenty of time for therapeutic advice and spiritual guidance of his flock. Throughout his diakonia as Metropolitan of Malabar Diocese he was always untired and present without exception, in all the events of our Holy Church in all the meetings of the Holy Synod and traveled throughout the world to preach the word of God.

Metropolitan Theophilos served with faithfulness and devotion to God and His Church until the very last days of his short life despite the increased health issues he was facing lately. The high hierarchical offering of the unforgettable departed Spiritual Father Metropolitan Theophilos has been indelibly engraved in the collective memory of the Holy Church, which is fervently praying for the blessed repose of the soul of such a beloved and distinguished Hierarch. May his memory be eternal as he rests among the just and the saints.

He felt that interfaith communication was vital in our society, and over the years, along with other faith communities, he promoted justice and truth. His Grace was greatly admired and respected by civic and religious leaders alike. Over the years, he received many honors and accolades, all of which he humbly and reluctantly accepted, saying the recognition belonged to God.

His Grace was a dynamic leader, and during his tenure, his ministry focused on numerous important initiatives. With a strong commitment to our youth, he established many youth programs. One of Metropolitan Theophilos’ the major charitable project was to provide financial assistance to girls and boys from poor families. He has completed over 50 weddings so far through his charitable financial assistance. Thirumeni donated one lakh Indian Rupees plus gold and a set of beautiful dress to the newly-weds. This was his kind effort to assist the newly-weds to have head start in their married life.

One of his dreams celebrating his 25th year of priesthood was to set aside one crore Indian Rupees for various humanitarian efforts. With his dedication and leadership, Metropolitan Theophilos has far exceeded his goal. Under his leadership, the Malabar Diocese has increased efforts to assist the homeless and those in need. In addition, the Metropolitan has built 150 plus homes for the homeless and donated over 60 lakhs of Indian Rupees in educational scholarships. His drive for educating the poor smart children of our society still continues.   Our beloved Thirumeni offered 1000 daily meals for the starving, including bystanders in hospitals. He supported two tribal villages with daily food for an entire year. His Grace also built the KRUPA de-addiction center in Erumamunda, Malappuram that rehabbed so far 500 plus alcoholics and drug addicts.

Even in these final days, our most beloved Thirumeni wore his signature smile. And despite the excruciating pain he endured, he never complained. He would simply say in his heart – Thank you, Jesus! He left an everlasting legacy as the “Metropolitan of the Poor.”

Saying Farewell

There is sadness in our hearts today, but it is sadness tinged with memories of love and laughter, of faith and loyalty, and of a life well lived unconditionally serving his Master. May our most beloved Metropolitan Theophilos now find rest in the eternal embrace of God where there is no more pain or sorrow and where there is only Divine light and peace forever.

Farewell………..Brethren, come, and let us give a farewell kiss give to our beloved Metropolitan Theophilos whom death has taken, and offer thanks to God. For he has departed from the bosom of his kin; and he hastens to burial, no longer remembering vanity, nor yet the flesh which is often sore distressed. Where are now his kindred and comrades? Now is come the hour of partings: let us pray to the Lord to bring him to his rest.

Prayers…………May Christ our true God, Who rose from the dead, have mercy on us; He Who as Immortal King has authority over both the dead and the living. Through the intercessions of His spotless, pure, and holy Mother; of His holy and just friend Lazarus, who lay in the grave four days; of the holy and glorious forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; may He give rest to our beloved Thirumeni, who has departed from us, and number him among the just and holy, through His goodness and compassion, as our merciful God.

Everlasting be your memory, O our beloved Thirumeni, who are worthy of blessedness and eternal memory. Please, Pray for us!

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