Thomas Mar Athanasius
|Most Rev. Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XIV)|
|Reign ended||10 August 1893|
|Consecration||1 June 1868|
|Born||7 October 1836
|Died||10 August 1893, age 56
Thomas Mar Athanasius Mar Thoma XIV (1877–1893) was the Metropolitan of the Malankara church. Mar Athanasiu's period was a turbulent one in the history of this Church. There was a litigation that took ten years to settle. After the final verdict, the Church passed through a period of transition. Malankara Church was divided into two. The majority came under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch, while the remaining individuals continued to be independent with their own Metropolitan, Thomas Mar Athanasius.
On the South Western coast of India lies a small state known as Kerala. It was here in the 1st century, Thomas the Apostle arrived to preach the gospel to the Jewish community. Some of the Jews and locals including the wise men who saw Jesus as a baby at Bethlehem, became followers of Jesus of Nazareth. They were known as Malabar Nasrani people and their church as Malankara Church. They followed a unique Hebrew-Syriac Christian tradition which included several Jewish elements and Indian customs.
Early days 
Palakunnathu Family 
In the 17th century, a member of the Panamkuzhy family came and settled in Kozhencherry on the banks of river Pampa. Later they moved to Maramon, and lived at Chackkalyil, on the other side of the river. The second son in that family, Mathen moved to a nearby house at Palakunnathu. He had six sons and a daughter. The daughter was married to a member of the Pavoothikunnel family and their first four sons moved to Themoottil, Neduvelil, Periyilel and Punamadom. The fifth son was a hermit priest (sanyasi achen). As was the custom, the youngest son, Mathew, lived at Palakunnathu family house, (This house still exists). He had two sons. The youngest son was Abraham Malpan leader of reformation in Malankara Church.
A number of Church leaders were born in this family. Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XIII); Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XIV); Titus I Mar Thoma Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XV); Titus II Mar Thoma Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XVI); were from this family. The present head of the Mar Thoma Church, Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XXI), is also from this family.
Early years 
Thomas Mar Athanasius was the second son of Pakalomattom Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan, leader of Sucheekaranam (Reformation) and Aleyamma, Thondamvelil, Thumpamon, Kerala. He was born on 7 October 1836 and his parents called him Thomaskutty. Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan was his first cousin.
Thomaskutty learned Syriac and church liturgy at the Old Seminary, Kottayam. While living in the seminary, he also joined C.M.S. School nearby, to continue his academic studies. After completing the courses he went to Madras to continue his education.
Entering the ministry 
While still in school, he was ordained as a Semmasu (deacon) In 1858, and as a Kassessa (clergy) in 1859. Soon after returning from Madras in 1862, Rev. Thomas joined duty at the Maramon parish, in his home village. He was an orator and was very particular to give messages during worship services. People from nearby parishes used to come and attend his services and to listen to his messages. He asked the people to give their health, wealth and time to the benefit of others.
By this time the duties of Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan doubled and he needed the help of an assistant. So Rev.Thomas was transferred to Kottayam and took charge of certain duties of a Metropolitan.
Malankara throne 
After the great swearing in 1653 it became necessary to appoint a bishop. For this purpose a special chair was made and Mar Thoma I the first bishop of Malankara church was enthroned. This throne, used for the consecration of Mar Thoma I, is in the possession of the Mar Thoma Church and is kept at Tiruvalla. It has been used in the installation of every Mar Thoma Metropolitan, to this day, so that the continuity of the throne of Mar Thoma is ensured. This was the throne used for the consecration of Mar Thoma XIV, Thomas Mar Athanasius.
Those who were loyal to Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan suggested to consecrate Rev. Thomas as a Metropolitan. Though he was reluctant at the beginning, due to the compulsion of the clergy and the people finally Metropolitan agreed. On 1 June 1868, Mathews Mar Athenasius Metropolitan assisted by Joseph Mar Koorliose, Alathoorey, (1856-4888) of Malabar Independent Syrian Church ordained Rev. Thomas and was given the Episcopal title Thomas Mar Athanasius. He became the Metropolitan of Malankara Church after the demise of Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan on 16 July 1877.
Condition of the church in 1877 
In June 1876 there was held a synod at Mulamthuruthi presided over by the Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Pathrose IV, who was on a visit to Malabar. This helped to tighten his hold over the Syrian Church in temporal as well as in spiritual affairs. Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan and his followers inspired by the reformation of the Church did not attend this synod.
Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan followed in the footsteps of his predecessor. Two strong groups were in the church at this time. One owing allegiance to the Metropolitan and supported independence and purification of the church (called Metran Kakshi) and the other under the control of Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious II, (1833–1909) spearheading orthodoxy and subservience to Patriarch of Antioch (known as Bava Kakshi).
Soon after Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan took charge as Metropolitan of the Church, Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious II, made a claim that he and the fellow trustees were the lawful owners of the Church and demanded the possession of the Seminary and control of the assets of the Church. Dionysius filed a case at Alappuzha civil court on 4 March 1879 (O.S.No.439 of 1054).
During the course of this litigation, Metropolitan was asked whether it was possible to take a decision according to the opinion of the majority. Metropolitan answered, “The Episcopal throne of Patriarch was the throne of St. Peter, while the throne of Malankara Church was that of St. Thomas. Malankara Church is as old as the Church in Antioch, equal in status, and both are independent. The land, where the Seminary stands, the funds and the materials were donated by the Government of Travancore to its subjects. So even if the majority agrees, it is not right to take away the land and property from them and give it away to foreigners.”
In the final verdict two of the judges of the Royal court decided in favour of the defendants and Justice Ormsby decided in favour of the plaintiffs. Thus when the verdict was announced on 12 July 1889. Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan lost all the properties claims. The court verdict was only about the Church properties, and it mentioned that the consecration, the authority of Thomas Mar Athanasius as Metropolitan and the properties of the individual parishes were not under the jurisdiction of the court.
Before announcing the verdict Maharaja of Travancore asked the Diwan (chief minister) to convene a meeting of both parties. Representing Metran Kakshi Mar Athanasius Metropolitan and Church trustee Punnathra Chandapillay Kathanar attended while Mar Dionysius and Mr. E.M.Philip represented the Bava Kakshi. Diwan informed them that, “When the verdict is announced one party will lose all their places of worship. So the winning party should allow the other Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious II, agreed to this reluctantly but Thomas Mar Athanasius refused.
Division of the church 
After this verdict, Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan was driven out of Old Seminary. All his belongings were thrown out of the room including the “Throne of St.Thomas,” the decorated chair that was used for the consecration of the head of Malanakara Church. This was the throne that was used when Mar Thoma I, was ordained in 1653.
The two churches 
The inevitable result of this verdict was that the church was divided into two. Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan became the head of the Metran Kakshi, while Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious II, became Malankara Metropolitan for the Bava Kakshi (the supporters of the Patriarch of Antioch).
When the Anglican missionaries (C.M.S.) formed a new church in 1878, they gave it the name C.M.S. Church. They called Malankara Church, Jacobite Church. But when the Church was again divided, they gave the name "Reformed Church" to the Metran Kakshi. Later, Jacobites adopted the name Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Metran Kakshi adopted the name Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church or Mar Thoma Church.
Mar thoma church 
It was during this most difficult period, the Church publication, Malankara Sabha Tharaka began. It guided the people in their study of the Bible, and explained the teachings of the Bible and of the church. Among all these great disappointments, Marthoma Evangelistic Association, the missionary wing of the Church was born. The first meeting was held on 5 September 1888 at Kallisseri. A clergy and eleven evangelists attended. Since then, this Evangelistic Association sent missionaries throughout and into the world, with the support of all the Marthoma parishes. In 1895, it took charge of Maramon Convention and organized the first meeting on 8 March 1895, This lasted for ten days and was and still continues to support the missionary work of the Church. This Convention has grown to such an extent that it is now the greatest Christian gathering in Asia.
Last days 
During his lifetime, Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan, in addition to his normal duties, had to face the court for about ten years. Finally he lost the case. He was driven out of the Old Seminary. He went back to his home village. Soon after this Metropolitan had a stroke and he died on 10 August 1893. He was laid to rest at Maramon Marthoma church. He was not able to consecrate his successor.
But the Church survived. The dedicated and loyal clergy gave the necessary support. Their evangelistic zeal found expression at this time. The voluntary donations of its people sustained the Church during those difficult years. Soon parishes began to form in various parts. The church grew out of Kerala and spread around the world. The verdict of the court was not a defeat but was the dawn of a great age to the Malankara Church.
Mathews Mar Athanasius Mar Thoma XIII
|Metropolitans of the Malankara Church
Titus I Mar Thoma Mar Thoma XV
Further reading 
- Juhanon Marthoma Metropolitan, The Most Rev. Dr. (1952). Christianity in India and a Brief History of the Marthoma Syrian Church. Pub: K.M. Cherian.
- Mathew N.M. (2003). St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages, C.S.S. Tiruvalla. ISBN 81-7821-008-8 and CN 80303
- Zac Varghese Dr. & Mathew A. Kallumpram. (2003). Glimpses of Mar Thoma Church History. London, England. ISBN 81-900854-4-1
- Chacko, T.C. (1936) Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charithra Samgraham. (Concise History of Marthoma Church), Pub: E.J. Institute, Kompady, Tiruvalla.
- Eapen, Prof. Dr. K.V. (2001). Malankara Marthoma Suryani Sabha Charitram. (History of Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church). Pub: Kallettu, Muttambalam, Kottayam.
- Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan. (1857). Mar Thoma Sleehayude Idavakayakunna Malankara Suryani Sabhaudai Canon. (Canon of the Malankara Syrian Church of Saint Thomas). Printed at Kottayam Syrian Seminary.
- Mathew, N.M. (2007). Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.(2006), Volume II (2007). Volume III (2008) Pub. E.J.Institute, Tiruvalla
- Mathew, P.V. (1992) Randayiram Varsham Pinnitta Malankara Sabha. (Two Thousand Years of Malankara Church)
- Mar Thoma Sabha Directory. (1999). Pub. The Publication Board of The Mar Thoma church, Tiruvalla, Kerala, India.
- Titus Varghese, V. Prof (1970) Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan.
- Varkey, M.P.(1901) Malankara Idavakauday Mar Dionysius Metropolitan
- Cherian Cherian. (1958). Maramon Pakalomattom Chackalyil Kudumba Charitram. (Family History of Maramon Pakalomattom Chackalyil).
- N.M.Mathew, (2003). History of Palakunnathu Family.
- Titus Varghese, V. Prof (1970) Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan.
- Mathew P.V. Two thousand years of Malankara Church
- T.C.Chacko (1936) Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitra Samgraham, Page 151-152.
- Zac Varghese & Mathew A. Kallumpram, (2003) Glimpses of Mar Thoma Church History. Page 74.
- Verdict Para 19 and 20.
- Varkey, M.P.(1901) Malankara Idavakudey Mar Dionysius Metropolitan. Page 141.
- This throne is still used at the time ordination of Metropolitans and episcopas (bishops) of Mar Thoma Church.
- Maramon Convention Satabdhi Volume (1995)