“What’s in a name?”
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;”
‘Romeo and Juliet’. Act II. Scene II.
Padma Bhushan Philipose Mar Chrysostom MarThoma Valiya Metropolitan.
Philipose Mar Chrysostom MarThoma Valiya Metropolitan was bestowed the second highest civilian honour of The Republic Of India just 3 months ago.
Before he received this honorary title, he was Philipose Mar Thoma Metropolitan.
And before Thirumeni achieved this status as the titular head of the Mar Thoma Church, he was Philipose Mar Chrysostom, or as was commonly called, just Chrysostom Thirumeni.
And before that, a long time ago, he was one Philip Oommen Kasheesha;
Or as affectionately addressed only in familial circles, Dharmishtan Achen.
and before that, just plain old Dharmishtan.
Less well known and perhaps lost to passage of time, nevertheless remains a substantial piece of information in all this, and that is:
Thirumeni was named Dharmishtan by his parents upon his birth.
It might just roll off the tongue as if nothing, (actually it doesn’t) and it’s not mentioned anywhere in his Wikipedia bio-data. I just happen to be aware of this piece of history.
And the name has a significant meaning. Which is what prompts me to do this post.
In Sanskrit, the word Dharm-ishtan means, One Who Loves Dharmam.
Dharmam in its element means, ‘performing one’s duty’.
However, as is the case with many Sanskrit or Vedic words, it has a more sophisticated subtext.
There, it means: ‘Duty That’s Right In The Eyes Of God’. A God-given or Divine Duty. Really.
So let’s leave what is ‘right in the eyes of God’.
Let’s go back to ‘What’s In A Name’.
Apparently, a lot.
Do we think Thirumeni’s parents had a forewarning of how their beloved son would turn out? If they didn’t, his Maker did.
“Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” Isaiah 49:1
I don’t wish to elaborate on how Thirumeni’s life as a whole has profoundly impacted and inspired so many from all spheres, from Malayalam film star Mammootty to Mata Amritananda-mayi, to name just two. It’s been attested to and documented well for quite some time, and a lot more of it came to light as he approached his birth centennial last year, and more recently with this honour.
In many ways, and not unlike the current Pope, he is arguably more loved by ‘non-MarThoma’ and ‘non-Christian’ folks, even more than his MarThoma kin. Much the same way as one would say, Francis is perhaps more revered by ‘non-Catholics’ than Catholics.
They both shattered conventions of institutional boundaries to simply LOVE.
This raises the curious question: if these two men had demonstrated this proclivity in their youth days, would they have been able to advance in their stations? Would the institutions have encouraged or permitted it? One for another day.
I found it somewhat amusing to have a ‘not-a-MarThoma’ close friend tell me, that her brother called all the way from India, just to tell her of Thirumeni’s honour soon after it was announced in Delhi;
as well as to witness the reaction of an Indian co-worker, Bala, who asked incredulously, ‘have you actually met this man’?
When I replied in the affirmative, he didn’t want to believe it. I guess he’s never had the chance to meet a Padma recipient.
I think we can all agree that Thirumeni lived up to a Creed driven by the Scripture.
“The Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.” Micah 6:8
To illustrate more, the following is cut and pasted from The Indian Express, published soon after the award announcement.
KOTTAYAM: The oldest living bishop in the world would have ended up as a registered porter at the Jolarpettai Railway Station, if the then metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church had consented to the request of the 29-year-old Philipose Mar Chrysostom.
Thirumeni, as he is affectionately called, was on his way to Kottarakkara to take charge as the clergyman of Kottarakkara, Mylum and Pattamala parishes after completing his Theological studies in Bengaluru.
While waiting at the Jolarpettai station for a train to Kerala, he closely watched the life and work of railway porters.
As usual he started advising them and the rude porters challenged the 29-year-old Chrysostom to stay with them and understand their miseries.
The well-built, over six-foot tall Thirumeni accepted the challenge and worked as a porter at the station for one month.
During this time he changed the lives of the porters who otherwise lead a very anarchic life.
As Thirumeni says in his autobiography: “The one-month-stay with them inspired a wish in me. I wanted to become a registered porter. But I had to get the permission of the Metropolitan.”
Though the Metropolitan welcomed the idea, he insisted that he needed a clergyman for the parishes and Chrysostom had to half-heartedly drop the idea of becoming a porter.
Happy One Hundred plus One, Thirumeni. Grace in Greatness. Greatness in Grace.
His Grace Philipose Mar Thoma. God’s Grace.
Happy Thursday to all…