Mylapra Mathews Ramban | Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios

It has been five years today since Mylapra Mathews Rambachan left for heavenly abode. I have great respect for Rambachan, who lived as a Ramban for forty-eight years, spent his time in solitude and silence without any of the ambitions often seen in ordinary Rambans, and rose to become an unknown saint due to a profound experience of God’s love. As an example of this exemplary life, we can see more than five thousand pages of his own handwritten inscriptions.

Three different types of monastic practices arose in the Eastern tradition of Christianity. First, the solitary hermitage associated with the name of Saint Anthony. Mylapra Rambachan’s ascetic life is very close to this. This practice emphasizes solitude, silence, meditation and fasting.

The second major monastic tradition was the social monastic movement that originated in the Egyptian desert itself and spread elsewhere. Saint Mar Pachomius is the founder of this movement. He established more than nine monasteries, bringing together many solitary monks and inculcating a common rule and way of life for them, and building churches where necessary. One of them was for women. Saint Pachomius counselled that many of the selfish tendencies found in the solitary hermit could only be extinguished by an organized community. The monastic movement of St. Pachomius was a way of life in dependence on God, humility, and obedience, with nothing of one’s own, giving everything to the community. A monk has his own freedom. Saint Pachomius did not attempt to establish uniformity in secret prayer, diet, and dress. The movement originated in Egypt and soon spread to Ethiopia, Nubia (Sudan), Syria, and Palestine. Much of the spirituality of the Christian Church in the fourth and fifth centuries arose from this movement.

A third unique monastic system is that established by Saint Mar Baselios in what is now Asia Minor. A peculiarity of this monastic system, which gave equal importance to prayer, fasting, and social discipline, was that all monks should feed and uplift the poor around them with the labour of their own hands. Saint Baselios and his fellow monks tried hard to solve all the problems of the surrounding society. For example, when there was a food shortage in a country, it was common even then for profit-seeking merchants to hoard grain and raise its price. When this happened, Saint Baselios himself confronted these traders and used his great love and eloquence to bring out the hoarded grain and sell it at a low price. It is the practice of Baselian monks and p. It was also a habit of Baselios himself.

Later variations of the monastic movement were an amalgamation of these three practices. Cave dwelling, solitude and silence were given special importance in the Syrian monastic movement. But at the same time, dramatic self-restraints emerged that were absent from all three movements. There were monks in Syria like Shemawun Destunoyo, who built a stone pillar and sat on top of the pillar doing penance. Monks were also seen in Syria who did penance standing on one leg without sleeping or eating. A monastic movement also arose in Syria called the Ereyanmaar, or the Awake, who alternate twenty-four hours in groups of two or three who give thanks to God without interruption. However, the first three movements, namely, those founded by Antonius, Pachomius and Baselios, are the foundation of the Eastern monastic tradition. Of these, Mylapra Rambachan was a combination of the first and second methods. Although he himself did not live long under social discipline, he brought up several his fellow monks under a social discipline. But in reality, he was a recluse monk (Yihidoyo).

Yihidoyo and Dayaroyo were two branches of the Eastern monastic movement. ‘Dayaro’ means home. Monasteries were considered as abodes of God. Those who did not belong to it were addressed as ‘Olam’ or ‘Olmoye’ because their abode was ‘Olam’ or the world. ‘Almayakaran’ means one who is not a resident of the world or a resident of the world. It does not mean that he is not a priest. But among the residents of Dayara, permission was given by Dayara itself to some special persons to go to a corner of Dayara, or to go to a forest or a cave and do solitude. After several years of solitary penance, the ascetic used to come back to Dayara again. The main limitation of solitude was that there was often no possibility of regular participation in community prayer and Holy Communion.

Although our Mylapra Rambachan was a recluse and a sage, he also held a high place for community prayer and the Holy Eucharist.

Moreover, chief among the characteristics of a good ascetic are immeasurable humility and unblemished childlike purity. In both, Rambachan was second to none. Although he did not have the opportunity to learn humility etc. under the tutelage of another Guru, he practiced humility and purity himself. I can say from my knowledge that Rambachan had an innocent mind. The basis of my great respect for him was this purity, humility, and his unceasing prayer. There are not many such saints in our church even today. Mylapra Rambachan was not a scholar like Saint Parumala Thirumeni. But like Parumala Thirumeni in prayer and fasting, Rambachan was as austere and devoted.

On this 5th anniversary, I remember with special fondness Rambachan, who has often inspired me personally. I offer my most humbly oblation on those thripadas. I request that holy man to pray especially for me, for my church, and for my world.

(1996 September)