About Us

What do we, the Orthodox, Believe

What do we believe? It is more to ask: "in whom do we put our trust?" "Believe" is a very vague word. Often it means simply holding an opinion without demonstrable evidence. But our faith is not an opinion, not one of many possible views. It is an affirmation of what ultimate reality is-dependable, trustable reality.

We do not put our trust either in the ancient character of our Church or in any dogmas or doctrines. Our trust is in the One True God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit, eternal, self-existent, indivisible, infinite, incomprehensible, glorious, holy, not created or owing his being to something else, all-sovereign, Creator of the whole universe. All things are from Him. We too have our being from Him, acknowledge him as the source of our being. Of the being of all else, of all good and therefore worthy of adoration and praise perpectual.

About the First Person of the Trinity, the Father we know only what the Son and the Spirit have revealed to us, and still continue to reveal. The knowledge or statable doctrine, but true worship in the community of Faith. True knowledge of God comes through the quality of our life than through intellectual clarification. Some things, however we can affirm conceptually, knowing well that these concepts do not fully conform to reality.

The Truine God is beyond all conceptual comprehension not only by human beings, but by any created mind. He is, in a way different from the way anything else in creation is. We know the Truine God, not because we have comprehended His being or isness, but through His operations or activities, the energies of God which come down to us through the Incarnate Son and through the Holy Spirit. The Truine God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, share the same is-ness; their being is one-infinite, eternal, uncreated, self-existent, with three persons or centres of consciousness and response, always acting in concord and unison as one being. There is no gap or interval of time or space between the three persons; there is no senior or junior; greater or lesser.

We believe that Jesus Christ the Son of God became a human being, rules in the universe. All power in heaven (the aspects of the universe now not open to our senses) and on earth (that is, the universe in all-its tangible, sensible aspects) is given to Jesus Christ the God-Man. Death and Evil have been overcome, but they are still allowed to function, serving Christ’s purposes. They will disappear-love and life will triumph-this is the faith of the Church, and this we affirm.

For us the Holy Spirit is Life-giver, Sanctifier and perfecter. We do think in terms of sin and grace, but the central category in our understanding of salvation is the life-giving Spirit. It is He who effects forgiveness of sins, removes barriers between human beings as well as between them and God, gives life, makes people more holy and God-like, and draws us to perfection. He works in the Church, through His special gifts, to build up the body of Christ and to make its members holy. He also works in the Creation, bringing all things to their fullness and perfection.
While we do speak about these operations of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are not three Gods, but one God, we know next to nothing about His being as Truine God, It is important for us to confess the incomprehensibility of God. He is not to be discussed or explained, but to be worshipped and adored and acknowledged as Lord of all.

We believe in the Church, all who acknowledge the Niceno Constantinopolitan creed do. The Church is the great consequence of the Son of God becoming flesh. It is this community that not only bears witness to Christ, but also is the abode of Christ, Christ dwelling in the Church, which is His body. It is in the Church that the life-giving power of the Spirit is at work.
But the Church is not simply the community believers gathered together. It is a reality which spans heaven and earth, the risen Christ himself as chief cornerstone, the Apostles and Prophets as foundation, and all who belong to Christ from Adam to second coming being members of this one, holy Catholic apostolic community.

The local Church is not a mere part of this one great heaven-and-earth community; it is the full manifestation of the One Church, especially when the community is gathered together with the Bishop for the hearing of the Word of God and for the Eucharistic participation in the one eternal sacrifice of Christ of the Cross.

We are never allowed to forget even in a small local church the presence of this great cloud of witnesses who share with us the life of the One Church. We remember at every Eucharist the departed as a whole, and especially the Apostles, great teachers, and spiritual leaders who have helped build up and protect the Church from error and deviation. It is not a law that we have to ask the Saints to intercede for us. We do it with great joy and genuine appreciation of their past and present role in the one Church of Jesus Christ.

Of the great Saints in the Church, the first (after Christ) and unique place goes to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for she was the first to hear the Gospel of the Incarnation of our Lord from the Archangel, and to receive Him, on behalf of all of us human beings, into her womb. She is the mother of Christ, and thus mother of all the faithful who are joint-heirs with Christ. But she is also the Theotokos, the Godbearer, for the one whom she bore in her womb was truly God himself.

For her, Jesus Christ was not an ordinary human being who was then adopted or exalted as Son by God the Father. No, He is the Second person of the Trinity, who dwelt in the womb of Mary without being absent from the "place" of His eternal being. Jesus Christ is now fully God as he always was, of the same being as God the Father. He is also fully a human being, sharing our fallen human nature, but without incurring sin. His humanness and his Godness are inseparably and indivisibly united without change or mixture. One divine-human Christ, one Person, with one united nature and faculties which combine the divine and the human. Our union with this divine-human nature of Christ is what makes us participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 2:4; Hebrews 2:10-14) without ceasing to be human beings.
Salvation for us means more than escaping hell and going to heaven. It means separation from evil and growth in the good. It means eternal life with true holiness and righteousness. It means also being united with Christ in his divine-human nature, in his sonship and rule over the universe. It means becoming more and more God-like in love, power and wisdom. This is what the Holy spirit makes possible. What is humanly impossible becomes reality by the grace and power of God.

The participation in Christ’s body and His being and nature becomes possible, by the grace of God, by the Holy Spirit, through the "mysteries of the Church" (roze-d-idtho in Syriac), which are called Sacraments in the West. These mysteries, mainly Baptism -Chrismation-Eucharist, are acts in the community of Faith by which the eternal and eschatological (i.e. pertaining to the last times) reality of our oneness with Christ becomes experienced by faith in the Church, in time, here and now.

There are other mysteries also-Confession-Absolution for forgiveness of sins for the baptized, an anointing of the Sick for deliverance from Sin and Sickness. Marriage too is a mystery of the Church, because it unites Man and Woman in an act of permanent mutual commitment and permanent union, reflecting the Union of Christ with His Bride, the Church, or of God with the new Humanity.

Another great mystery of the Church is hierotonia (or hierothesia) the special laying of hands for receiving special gifts of the Holy Spirit - for the Bishop as the mystery -presence of Christ the High Priest and Good Shepherd with His Church, and the related ministries of ruling elders (priests or presbyters) and serving ministers (deacons and deaconesses).

We hold the Bible in very high regard. The Gospel is the Word of Life, the proclamation of life and salvation to the world. We hold the Scriptures in the highest respect, and no other writings can have the same standing, for the primary witness to Christ is in the Scriptures. We revere the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God, and all our prayers, as well as the services of the mysteries of the Church are saturated with Biblical reference, and always completed by the public reading of the Scriptures.
Icons are important for us. These mediate to the worshipping community the presence of the Saints, and of the saving events of our Lord’s incarnate life. We do not make images of the unseen God. We consecrate icons to mediate to us the Godbearing persons and events which have been actually manifested to our senses.

For us Tradition is not something old, static, and life-less; it is the life of the Church as a counting body, with the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit in it. It is the Spirit that makes the Tradition alive and it bears witness to Christ; it also moves forward in expectation of the final fulfillment. Hence Tradition for us is dynamic. It includes knowledge of Christ, the teaching of the Apostles, the doctrine of the Saints and fathers, the practices of worship developed by the community of faith, its way of doing things and practicing love. Scripture is part of this tradition. Tradition is not just a body of knowledge, but a way of life and worship and service.

Our worship as a community is the centre of our life, not our own personal articulations of faith. It is there that the Church, united with Christ, participates in Christ’s self-offering for the world. Our daily life flows out from worship and has to be a life of love and compassion, caring for the needy, struggling against evil, serving the poor.

Our hope is focused on Christ’s coming again. It is only in that coming that evil would be separated from good, death from life, so that the good can triumph eternally and grow eternally also. In that coming there will be a reconstitution of the universe; all things shall be made new; evil shall be banished. Death and darkness would be finally overcome; light and life and love will triumph.

It is our task to bear witness to this final reality, while living it out here and now, as much as we can, beset as we are by sin and frailty.
Thy Kingdom Come Lord. And when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom, remember us poor sinners also.

(Reproduced with thanks from our catholicate web site )

This write-up on Parumala Thirumeni is reproduced with thanks from our Catholicate website

Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Gregorios

St. Gregorios of Parumala is popularly known as ‘Parumala Thirumeni’. He was Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Gregorios of the Malankara Orthodox Church, and he passed away on November 2nd 1902; he became the first declared saint from Malankara (Kerala, India) naturally to be called, ‘Parumala Thirumeni’. He shines in the cloud of witnesses as a bright luminary giving rays of hope to millions in their suffering and struggle.

Birth and Parentage

Mar Gregorios was born on 15th June 1848 (M.E. Mithunam 3, 1023) to Kochu Mathai and Mariam of Pallathetta family in the Chathuruthy house at Mulamthuruthy. He was called by the name ‘Kochaippora’ and was given the baptismal name ‘Geevarghese’. Kochaippora had two brothers and two sisters; Kurian, Eli, Mariam and Varkey. Kochaippora was the youngest and was therefore the most beloved to everyone. Unfortunately, his mother passed away when he was only two years old. His eldest sister Mariam became to him all that a mother was meant. Mariam was married at that time and had a child of Kochaippora’s age.

Reader-Deacon and further education

He was ordained as a reader-deacon (Korooyo) on 14th Sept, 1858 at the age of ten by Palakkunnath Mathews Mar Athanasios at Karingachira Church. Koroyo Geevarghese continued his training under Geevarghese Malpan until the latter died due to small pox. Although Deacon Geevarghese was also infected with small pox, he miraculously survived it. Afterwards Deacon Geevarghese moved to Pampakuda to continued his studies under Konat Geevarghese Malpan. In the mean time Deacon became associated with the visiting Syrian Bishop Yuyakim Mar Coorilos. Mar Coorilos had great admiration for the deacon and was pleased to ordain him as full deacon, priest and cor-episcopa within few months in 1865.

Vettickal Dayara

The new priest’s short stay at Mulanthuruthy Marthommen Church gave him an inner conviction that he should lead a hermit’s life in a quieter place. Therefore he shifted his residence to Vettickal Dayara. At Vettickal Dayara, Corepiscopa Geevarghese started a strenuous life of prayer and fasting. Having heard about the vigorous asceticism practised by corepiscopa Geevarghese, the then Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius made him a ‘Ramban’ (Monk Priest) in 1872.

Patriarchal visit and the Synod of Mulamthuruthy

In 1875, the Antioch Patriarch His Holiness Peter III visited Malankara. The Patriarch chose Ramban Geevarghese as his Secretary and translator during the entire visit. Along with the Patriarch , the Ramban visited many churches. Ramban Geevarghese also assisted the Patriarch in the consecration of the Holy Mooron and in the historic synod of Mulanthuruthy in 1876.

Consecration as Metropolitan

Being pleased with the Ramban Geevarghese, the Patriarch decided to consecrate him as Metropolitan. On December 10, 1876 the Patriarch consecrated six priests as bishops including Ramban Geevarghese at St. Thomas Church, N Paravur. He was given the new name Geevarghese Mar Gregorios and was given the charge of Niranam Diocese at St.Thomas Church, N Paravur. Mar Gregorios was only 28 years when he was made a bishop. Since he was the youngest among all the bishops, he was dearly called by all as ‘Kochu Thirumeni’. The first thing the new bishops undertook was a special fasting-vigil for forty days at Vettickal Dayara under the leadership of ‘Kochu Thirumeni’. This fasting was both symbolic and effective in the pursuit of new life in an old church.
Mar Gregorios took charge of the Niranam Diocese and started staying at Parumala. There was at Parumala, at that time, a land donated by Arikupurath Koruth Mathen to the church and in this plot a small building was erected by the Malankara Metropolitan Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysius. This building was known as ‘Azhippura’. Mar Gregorios lived there along with few other deacons who came for priestly training. They worshipped in a thatched chapel during that time.

Threefold Activity

Mar Gregorios engaged in a threefold activity of tireless service for the church: Diocesan administration, Ministerial formation of deacons, Missionary witness of the church through inner spiritual and theological consolidation, along with evangelical reaching out. In addition to these, Mar Gregorios undertook the task of building a church and seminary at Parumala. The diocesan administration, in the mean time, was extended to two more dioceses, Thumpamon and Quilon. The newly constructed church was consecrated in 1895. Mar Gregorios was the co-celebrant for the consecration of two ex-Roman Catholic priests as bishops: Fr.Alvaris as Alvaris Mar Kulius for Bombay-Mangalore Diocese; Fr.Rene Vilatti as Rene Vilatti Mar Timotheos for America.
Mar Gregorios made the Holy Land Pilgrimage in 1895 as the fulfillment of a long cherished dream. On his return he published a travelogue under the title ‘Oorslem yathra vivaranam’ (a narrative of the Jerusalem visit). This book, published in 1895 is to be considered as the earliest printed travelogue in Malayalam. This book had its centenary edition in 1996 and translation into English in 2000.

A vision and mission for the entire church

Mar Gregorios believed that the church should engage in educational activity especially to facilitate primary education and English teaching without discriminating gender or religion. Accordingly he started schools at Kunnamkulam, Mulamthuruthy, Niranam, Thumpamon, Thiruvalla etc. The missionary task of the Church was also evinced by his outreach programme to the socially down trodden communities at Chennithala, Kalikunnu, Mallappally, Puthupally, Kallumkathara etc. He also organized evangelical awakening programme for non-Christians at various places like Aluva, under the leadership of the Seminary students.
A major task of Mar Gregorios was to motivate the clergy for effective ministry. With this aim, he formed the Malankara Syrian Clergy Association and took many progressive decisions and made many suggestions for the effective functioning of the priestly ministry.

Disciples of Thirumeni

Among the many disciples of Mar Gregorios, three deserve special notice:

  1. Vattasseril Rev.Fr.Geevarghese (later, Malankara Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Dionysius)
  2. Kuttikattu Rev.Fr.Paulose (later, Paulose Mar Athanasios of Aluva)
  3. Kallasseril Rev.Fr,Geevarghese (Punnoose) (later, Catholicos Baselios Geevarghese II)

Departure from the world

Mar Gregorios was already a piles-patient. It became chronic in 1902. Treatments proved futile and slowly His Grace became physically weaker and weaker. At last the blessed soul left the earthly abode on 2nd November 1902. The funeral was conducted at Parumala on Tuesday the 3rd of November 1902 in the presence of thousands of people and hundreds of priests. The many testimonies to the saintly intercession of Mar Gregorios made Parumala Church and the tomb a centre of pilgrimage. For more details visit: http://www.parumalachurch.org/
In 1947 Mar Gregorios of blessed memory was declared a saint by the then Catholicos of the church, His Holiness Baselius Geevarghese II.

A brief history of St Gregoriose Orthodox Church

Compiled by P O Varghese, General Convener, Silver Jubilee Celebrations

Our parish began in early 1980, as an informal parish of ten to twelve members in the Bay Area when Rev. Fr. Dr. K. K. Kuriakose was . During that summer, the then Diocesan Metropolitan H.G. Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios visited and formally inaugurated the parish in the name of St. Gregoriose of Parumala and appointed Fr. Kuriakose as our first Vicar. The parish was incorporated in the State of California on December 24, 1980. Mathew Thomas served as the Treasurer and Secretary during the first year. Of the ten original members, three passed away and a few have relocated leaving only four people in this parish at present. We remember the departed souls of George Peediakal, O. P. Cherian and Abraham Varghese.

Holy Eucharist services were conducted fortnightly at All Saints Chapel of Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley until the end of 1984 when we had to vacate the Chapel. The services however, were continued in a school hall in Castro Valley for about six months. For brief periods, we conducted our service at Stanford Chapel of Stanford University, Lone Mountain Chapel of University of San Francisco and a Samoan Church in South San Francisco. In July 1985, Fr Kuriakose left for New York to continue his studies. At that time, we were fortunate in finding St John Armenian Church at 275 Olympia Way in San Francisco where our services were conducted on Saturdays in lieu of Sundays due to unavailability.

Rev. Fr Yohannan Panicker of Los Angeles was appointed as our Vicar from 1985 to 2000, with the exception of brief periods in 1994-1996, when Rev. Fr. John Varghese (now H.G. Dr. Yuhannon Mar Chrysostomos, Metropolitan of Niranam), Rev. Fr. Philip C. Abraham and Rev. Fr. Mathew Philipose filled in as Vicars. In early 2000, Rev. Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil succeeded them as the full-time resident vicar.

Although the Armenian Church of San Francisco treated us very well, the weekly commute to San Francisco became rather tedious for most of our worshippers. So in 2000 when one of our members managed to secure a church for Sunday use, we relocated to Messiah Lutheran Church at 1835 Valota Road in Redwood City.

Having a church of our own was the fondest desire of the parishioners for a long time. After struggling through several efforts of fund raising, it was in September 2002 during the time of Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil, that we managed to buy a church building on a quarter of an acre of land in Belmont (3209 Longfellow Dr., Belmont, CA). Church members and well-wishers contributed generously at that time. Our Diocesan Metropolitan, H.G. Mathews Mar Barnabas, consecrated the church in November 2002. Fr. Joseph resigned and returned to India in April 2003. He was replaced by Rev. Fr. Rege Mathew who served as the vicar from May 2003 to August 2004. An interim Vicar, Fr. Mathew Philipose, was appointed in September 2004 until a permanent vicar was appointed. Rev. Fr. V.T.Thomas served as the vicar from February 15, 2005 until June 2005, when Rev. Fr. Mathews George was appointed as the vicar. He had been with us till June 2008 with his wife and two children.

Fr. Mathews was a young, vibrant and dynamic priest with outstanding leadership qualities. It was during his term that we celebrated the Silver Jubilee of our church in 2006 in the presence of our diocesan bishop, Mar Thoma Bishop and public dignataries. Under his guidance, the spiritual life of our church grew rapidly, especially involvement of youth in worship and church activities. The church membership grew to well over 100 families from a modest 80 at the beginning of his term. We are grateful for his tireless efforts and amazing contributions. From July 2008 to October 2008, we had no permanent Vicars; however, the position was filled by priest from other places like New York and Texas. Towards the end of October, we were fortunate in bringing our former Vicar, Rev. Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil, back from India. He has been actively serving as our current Vicar since November 1, 2008.

As the church members and the children grew in number, the Belmont Church became inadequate for our worship and Sunday School activities, and we started looking for a bigger church in the Bay Area. In October 2009, we were fortunate in selling the Belmont Church and subsequently purchasing a bigger church in Union City at 32462 Alvarado Blvd., Union City, CA 94587. The first service in the Union City Church was the Christmas service held on December 24, 2009, on the twenty ninth anniversary of the incorporation of our church. We are grateful for the great leadership and the tireless efforts of our Vicar, Rev. Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil, Treasurer John Thomas and the Managing Committee in the acquisition of the new church

From time to time, we are blessed by the visits of many metropolitans, priests, deacons and lay-leaders of our Church. Along with our worship and liturgy, which make up the core aspect of the Orthodox faith, we are proud to be conducting the Martha Mariam Samajam, Sunday School, Youth League/MGOCSM, monthly prayer meetings, Christmas caroling, Charity programs, and many other activities. The parish also maintains a website (www.indianchurch.org) and a newsletter named The Gregorian Insight. The memorial day of our patron saint, St. Gregoriose, is celebrated every year on the 2nd of November as the annual festival of the parish.

We humbly offer our thanks and praise to God Almighty who has constantly provided for His people. We also honor our patron saint and request his intercession for continued blessings and guidance in our daily lives and the continued prosperity of our church

Updated as of December 31, 2009.

Rev. Fr. Thomas Mathai

Dev 2015 - Present

Fr George Daniel

Jan 2013 - Oct 2013

Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil

Nov 2008 - Dec 2012

Fr. Mathews George

Jun 2005 - Jun 2008

Fr. V T Thomas

Feb 2005 - Jun 2005

Fr. Mathew Philipose

Sep 2004 - Feb 2005

Fr Rege Mathew

May 2003 - Aug 2004

Fr. Joseph Kalapurayil

Jan 2000 - Apr 2003

Fr Yohannan Panicker

Aug 1985 - Dec 2000

Fr. Dr K K Kuriakose
Jan 1980 - Jul 1985