|St. Baselios Yeldo|
Yeldho Mor Baselios Bava & His Mission
Though St.Gregorios Abdul'Galeel Bava had succeeded in reorganizing the Syrian Christians and reaffirming them in the true faith of the Holy Church; after the saint’s demise, under the excessive pressures and influences of the Portuguese elements, Jacobite Syrian Christians were slowly drifting from their ancestral precepts and ethos. MarThoma II was not able to discipline them. So he sent a fervent appeal to his supreme head, His Holiness the Patriarch of Antioch, for the immediate assistance of a Metropolitan and also ‘Malpans’ (teachers of theology) with an aim to educate the faithful. A delegation was later deputed to the Patriarchate at Mardin (Turkey) with the same purpose. During the consecration of the ‘Holy Mooron’ (Holy Chrism) at the Kurkuma Dayro (Deir-al saffron) in 1684, Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Abdul Messiah I painfully discussed the matter with the Maphriyono Mor Baselios Yeldho and other prelates assembled there. ('Maphriyono' is another canonical title of the 'Catholicos of the East' that functions within the Patriarchate of Antioch. The title was adopted by the Syrian Church in the 7th century following the defection of the reigning Catholicos to the Nestorian Church in AD 498).,
On knowing the grave situation in Malankara, Maphriyono Mor Baselios Yeldho, who was above 90 years of age then, a native of Bakudaida (Kooded or koodeth) Karakosh, near Mosul, gladly volunteered for the service, relinquishing his administrative charge there. His self-sacrificing decision was praised by all. The Patriarch, concerned about the Maphriyono’s age and health, was worried at the decision, but finally His Holiness accepted the offer of Mor Baselios Bava and blessed him.
On returning to the Maphriyanate, at the Mor Mathai Dayro in Musul (Iraq), the saint made preparations for the treacherous journey to India. He installed Metropolitan Mor Diascorous of Mosul who belonged to Kurd Island as Maphriyono (Catholicos) Mor Baselios Geevarghese II and started the long journey to a region, totally unknown to him. He was accompanied by his brother Jamma, the newly consecrated Episcopa Mor Ivanios Hidayatulla (son of Samma of Bakudaidand) and two Ramban's (monks) namely, Joea and Mathai of the monasteries of 'Mor Mathai' and 'Mor Behnan'. (There is another version that the Episcopa was only a Ramban/monk and he was ordained as a Metropolitan only after he reached Malankara.) The group travelled down to south from Musal and boarded ship at Basra in Iraq, thus commencing the first phase of the mission.
Mor Baselios Yeldho Bava and his entourage reached Surat in Gujarat (North India) by the middle of 1685 and from there proceeded to the Malabar coast. Some time later, they landed at Thalassery port in North Malabar. [As per the letter of MarThoma IV to the Patriarch dated 25th Elool (Sept) 1720, those who reached Malabar, were Mor Baselios Yeldho, Mor Ivanios, and 'Ramban Mathai' (there exists no further information about this Rabban)]. In order to avoid attacks from pirates along the seacoast and to escape from the Portuguese, they traversed due east to TamilNadu and proceeded down to southern Kerala on foot. The journey was in disguise through thick forests. After some weeks they reached a small village on the bank of a river at sunset. On the way they encountered a ferocious tiger. Bava’s escorts were scared to death but the Saint calmly took out the 'Sleebo' (Cross) and made the sign of the cross in the direction of the animal which ran away roaring into the forests as if struck by a heavy object.
Later they reached the place which is now known as 'Pallivasal' near Munnar. There were many huts in the foothills for the travellers. Mor Yeldho Bava had a feeling that it would be dangerous to stay in those inns since he expected heavy rains and floods that night. So Bava advised his companions and the people remaining in the place that it would be better to sleep on the upper reaches of the surrounding hills. Some people who believed him moved higher up the hill but others dismissed the idea lightly and stayed on the inns. During the night there was a very heavy downpour and in the instantaneous flood many people and animals living on the river banks lost their lives. In the mourning the saint offered the Holy Qurbono (Eucharist), for the dead and the mercy shown on those with him, on a temporary altar made there. From that time the place assumed the name ‘PALLIVASAL’ (place of Holy church). The site where he offered the Holy Qurbono is said to be considered sacred by the tribals of the hills around.
From there the Holy Father accompanied by the Episcopa Ivanios came to Kozhippilli village near Kothamangalam by afternoon. When they came to know that they had reached populated areas, Bava decided that it was unwise for both to travel together any further. He therefore asked the Episcopa to climb a tree and hide himself while the Saint proceeded on foot for reconnaissance. When the holy father reached the banks of Kothamangalam river at Chakkalakudy he saw a Nair (Hindu) Gentleman who was tending cattle there. Through symbols they communicated and the man told Bava that there was a Church nearby.
Bava asked him to accompany him to the church. The man expressed his inability to do so since he could not abandon the cattle. The Saintly Bava took his walking stick and drew a big circle on the ground. Then he asked the man to take all the cattle into that circle. He waited for some more time to see how the cattle behaved and he found that they were not leaving the boundary of the circle. He realised that Mor Baselios Yeldho was a man of God. The man's sister was at that time in labour pains. He told the Bava about the difficult situation. When the Saint asked for some water with a view to bless it, the man thought that he was asking for water to quench thirst and he tried to climb a coconut tree nearby. The tree began to bend ! The man took two tender coconuts from the tree and gave them to the Saint. The Saint blessed one of the tender coconuts and asked the man to rush home and make his sister drink the juice. While Bava waited at the same spot, after about one hour the man returned with the good news that his sister had given birth to a boy. Greater surprise was in store for him, since the cattle had not moved out of the circle. The man gladly accompanied the Saint to the church. While they got into the river to cross it, some children who were swimming in the river tried to throw pebbles at the Saint. Somehow instead of throwing pebbles they ended up following the Saint and his companion.
Holy Father in the MarThoman Church
As the saint reached the church premises, the church bells began to toll. People living in the neighbourhood rushed to the church to find out what the commotion was about. And that was on 'Kanni 11th' in the Malayalam calendar (end of September), AD 1685. The Saint entered the church and sat on the steps of the 'Madboho'. There was a young deacon who was fluent in Syriac. When he realized that a Episcopa had stayed behind at Kozhipally, he and some members of the congregation set out for the place. They took a kerchief from the Saint for identification. When the Episcopa saw the approaching crowd he was afraid. He thought that they had killed Bava and were now about to get at him. He therefore refused to come down from the tree. The deacon however offered him the sign of peace and spoke Syriac. He then came down from the tree and went with the people to the church.
On Kanni 13, the church used to celebrate its foundation day. On the 12th evening the Vicar sought the Saint's permission to hoist the flag. The Saint replied that the festival of the Holy Cross should be celebrated on the 14th and not on the 13th. When it was explained to the Saint that what they were celebrating was not the festival of the Holy Cross but the anniversary of the founding of the parish, the Saint permitted them to go ahead but reminded them about the importance of the festival of the Holy Cross.
On the next day, on the feast of the Holy Cross, (Kanni 14 in the Malayalam calendar), Episcopa Hidayatulla Mor Ivanios was consecrated as Metropolitan after the Holy Qurbono by the saintly Mor Baselios Yeldho Bava. (Mor Ivanios, who was consecrated by Mor Yeldho, carried on apostolic work for eight years. He passed away in 1693 and was buried at the MarThoman Church, Mulunthuruthy). Because of the tedious journey and the old age, by then Bava was totally exhausted. Three days after he became seriously ill. On 30th September (Kanni 17) he received the last sacraments of anointment with oil and extreme unction. All the while he was lying inside the church. Two days after (on Kanni 19, probably October 2) on Saturday in the afternoon, the saintly father left his mortal self for his heavenly home at the age of 92. As he was sinking, the congregation assembled inside the church and were offering prayers. The Saint told them that he was about to die and when his spirit leaves his body, there would be a sign on the Cross situated on the western side of the Church. And the huge granite Cross miraculously lit up at the time of the Saint's demise. The Holy Father's mortal remains was entombed on the next day (Kanni 20) in the western side of the Madboho of the church. The two weeks of sojourn of the Maphriyono at Kothamangalam electrified the Jacobite Syrian Christians all over Malankara and the mission undertaken by the saint was fulfilled to a large extent by his faithful associate, Metropolitan Mor Hidayatulla Ivanios.
Annual Feasts of the Holy Father ('Kanni 20 Perunnal')
Dhukrono of the saint is celebrated in the MarThoman Church (CheriaPalli) at Kothamangalam with spiritual grandeur every year on October 2 and 3 and is popularly known as "Kanni 20 Perunnal". Groups of pilgrims, irrespective of caste and creed come to the church every day seeking his intercession. And multitudes of devotee’s participate in the feast. Moreover, on all Saturdays, Holy Qurbono on three altars is offered in the church with special prayers beseeching the saint’s intercession. Through the years, the MarThoman Church at Kothamangalam, where the Saint is entombed has became a symbol of communal harmony. In remembrance to the instance of guiding Mor Yeldho Bava to this church by a Nair (Hindu) Youth, his successors are still given the privilege to hold the traditional lamp of the church and lead the 'Rassa' (Church procession) to the church on the festival day of the saint.
Many Children are baptized as ‘Yeldho’ and ‘Basil’, bearing the name of our saintly holy father, Mor Baselios Yeldho Bava. Number of children baptized in the church where Bava’s mortal remains are interred, on a single day, had even exceeded 50. Mass baptisms is very common in this Church, particularly on Saturdays, the day of demise of the Holy Father. The name 'Yeldho' (meaning, Birth of Christ), has became a very common among Syriac Christians, more particularly in Northern Malankara. According to a recent statistics, those who bear the name 'Yeldho', are the largest in number among the Malankara Syrian Christians after the names of the Apostolic fathers.
Remembering Mor Baselios Yeldho in the 5th 'TUBDEN'
Majanikkara, Kothamangalam and Parumala are conspicuous in India as the greatest pilgrim centers of the Syrian Christians where millions gather for commemorating the 'Dhukrono' of the three Saintly High-Priests; Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Elias III (Majanikkara, 1932), His Beatitude Mor Yeldho Baselios Maphrian (Catholicos) and His Grace Mor Gregorios Geevarghese Metropolitan (Parumala, 1902). Innumerable miracles are reported from the holy tombs of these saintly holy fathers. The Syrian Orthodox Church does not have an elaborate procedure for canonizing saints. By and large the practice is that by popular belief and approval some departed soul gets the status of saint and the later the Holy Synod and the Patriarch authorizes dedication of churches and altars to the saint.
In late 1920's, a petition was sent to the Apostolic Throne of Antioch by the Metropolitans in India including the then Malankara Metropolitan Mor Athanasius Paulose (Valiya Thirumeni, Alwaye) and the Patriarchal delegate praying that apostolic permission may be granted for dedicating altars in the name of Mor Baselios Yeldho. The then Patriarch, Moran Mor Ignatius Elias III, convened a meeting of the Holy Episcopal Synod (the local Synod in West Asia) to seek their advice. Mor Severious Aphrem who later became the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East succeeding Mor Elias III was appointed as a Commission of Enquiry. Mor Aphrem made investigations in Kooded and St.Mathews, as well as in Malankara and submitted his report to the Holy Synod. The Synod recommended to the Patriarch that Mor Baselios Yeldho may be deemed a saint and dedication of altars in his name be authorized. Around that time Mor Ignatius Elias III was planning his apostolic visit to India. The Patriarch therefore felt that it would be in the fitness of things if the declaration was made at Kothamangalam. On arrival at Karachi (then in India and now in Pakistan), and later during the stay in New Delhi Mor Elias III told Mor Julius Elias, Corepiscopa Skaria Nedumthalil and Malphono Ittyerah Maracheril (later Malankara Malpan) about his intention to make the announcement. Mor Elias III also reminded that Mor Baselios Yeldho belonged to the area from where Marth Shmooni came and that there was a record in the Patriarchate about the Saint's journey to India in the seventeenth century. During his short stay at Kothamangalam, Patriarch Mor Elias III reiterated his intention and promised to return to Kothamangalam to make the declaration. Unfortunately Mor Elias III never returned to Kothamangalam as he passed away at Majanikkara. Some years later, in September 1947, Malankara Metropolitan Mor Athanasius Paulose, made the formal declaration. Mor Gregorios Geevarghese (Vayaliparambil), then his assistant was also present. During the esteemed occasion Mor Athanasius Thirumeni asked the people of Malankara to venerate Mor Baselios Yeldho as they venerated St.Thomas, the apostle to India.
About four decades later, on 22nd August 1987, the Holy Episcopal Synod of Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church convened by the then Catholicos of the East His Beatitude Mor Baselios Paulose II, requested the Supreme Spiritual head of the Syrian Church, the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East, to include the names of 'MAPHRIYONO MOR BASELIOS YELDHO', 'Patriarch Mor Ignatius Elias III' and 'Mor Gregorios of Malankara', in the 5th 'TUBDEN' along with the Holy Fathers of the Church.
The Patriarch His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iywas graciously agreed to the request of the Malankara Church and included their names in the Fifth 'TUBDEN' (diptych) of the Holy Mass. Through the Patriarchal Bull No. E 265/87 dated October 20, 1987, His Holiness commanded the Church that the holy names of the aforesaid saintly High priests, should be remembered in the Fifth 'TUBDEN' in all churches in India and everywhere in the Universal Church, where Malankara Christians offer Holy Eucharist. His Beatitude, the Catholicos of the East, forwarded the patriarchal bull through his circular No. 67/87 dated 10th November 1987, to all the Syrian Orthodox churches and thanked the Holy Father for this Historical proclamation.
On 20th December 1987, during the Holy Mass celebrated at the ancient St.Thomas church, Mulunthuruthy, His Beatitude Mor Baselios Paulose II, the Catholicos, read the Historical Proclamation of His Holiness The Patriarch, in the presence of all the Metropolitans of the Malankara Church and thousands of faithful assembled there.
The proclamation has a very special significance considering that, besides these three Holy fathers who lived between 17th and 20th centuries, all the other twenty three saintly high priests remembered in the 5th TUBDEN, were of the pre-7th century..