A Life of Close Intimacy with God
Rev. Fr. John - Brian Paprock
“Without Divine Aid our human efforts can bear no significant fruit.”
(Mar Gregorios 1994)
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Book of Proverbs)
One of the greatest Orthodox Christian Lights of this century, Paulos Mar Gregorios (Memory eternal!) demonstrated Christian love for all of humanity. Metropolitan Paulos Mar Gregorios Verghese, PhD, the Indian (Syrian) Orthodox Bishop of New Delhi and all North India and long-time President of the World Council of Churches, was blessed with many gifts that he shared abundantly with the world. Probably his most substantial gift was one of vision and foresight. Great men, such as Mar Gregorios, have blessed our planet and have granted our sin-filled world opportunities for spiritual, ethical and moral advancement throughout history. A few of these have transcended their culture and their personalities to touch the very place where our spirits are connected to God. There is little doubt that Mar Gregorios was such a man. Among his many achievements, he opened the centennial Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1993 with an address titled: “The Vision Beckons.” The address began:
“For me, this is a great privilege indeed, to inaugurate the centenary celebrations of the World’s Parliament of Religions. The World’s Parliament of Religions, convened in this historic city of Chicago a century ago, held aloft a torch which helped us see a vision. We are far today from having realized it; but to renew that vision is the purpose of my few words this evening.
“It is a perennial yearning of the human race to find its own unity. To this, I believe, the 1893 Parliament responded…” (emphasis mine)
Mar Gregorios’ vision of unity in the midst of diversity was controversial, but, even after his passing, continues to inspire and lead others toward greater understandings. He was widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest scholars of all religions and a tireless champion of interfaith understanding. In 1995, he said:
“When we work for the unity of humanity we stand on our own convictions and traditions, while sharing a great vision of God at the center of all and an all-embracing love for all humanity… We pledge, rooted in our own religious traditions, to work for the fulfillment of the will of God.” (From Towards A New Enlightenment interview with Diana Holland in Share International 2/95)
As President of the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace in 1994, he wrote:
“It is our faith in the Divine that permits us to freely embrace the whole of humanity in a warm embrace of love and respect for their dignity and freedom.”
“Experience shows that the deeper we go into our respective religions, the more clearly we find the basic love of God and love for all humanity which should unite us all. The more rooted one is in one’s own tradition the freer and more secure one becomes in facing our fellow human beings and finding our unity in God and in our shared aspirations. At the deepest levels, there is more unity than diversity among the world’s religions.”
Mar Gregorios never lost site of his Indian Orthodox Christianity and of its founder Mar Thoma (the Apostle Thomas). Indian Times called him “A modern interpreter of Eastern Christianity,” that Paulos Mar Gregorios “clarified its ethos as a quiet life of prayer and work.” He taught regularly on Christian topics and often was a Christian apologist within his native India. Babaji (of Gobind Sadan, House of God, New Delhi 2/97) recounted their meeting, “When Father Gregorios and I first met, I said, ‘Jesus is Light. If we try to confine him within sectarian boundaries, the trees and the oceans will despair, the whole Creation will despair, because Jesus gives Light to everything. This is my inner feeling. I respect Jesus day and night.’ Father Gregorios rose and embraced me. He folded his hands and said, ‘I feel the same way. Jesus is not a matter of a boundary. He is universal. If the Light is enclosed in a fort, all people will be unhappy.’ “Mar Gregorios was a prolific writer. Among his better-known books is a definitive and monumental work on his names’ sake, Saint Gregory of Nyssa: “Cosmic Man – The Divine Presence.” Scroll down for a list of Mar Gregorios’ works. Many of them are difficult to find and many are out of print.
“Love’s Freedom, The Grand Mystery: A Spiritual Autobiography” published posthumously and incomplete by the Mar Gregorios Foundation in India, carries the hopeful designation of Collected Works Volume 1. In this book, Mar Gregorios wrote with remarkable humility in the opening words of Chapter I: Credentials, Apology For A Personal Confession:
“This is my story. I wish I could tell it as it really happened to me, in me, and around me. That would take a better memory than I have. It calls for much more: for example, a nobler soul unafraid of exposing itself with more honesty; freedom from the need to brag and boast; better capacity to give credit where it is due and to acknowledge one’s myriad debt to others; in speaking of achievements and failures, less selectivity in favor of the former; perhaps more willingness to perceive one’s own ordinariness….I have not attained to that level of spiritual development where praise and blame would equally bounce off my skin like water off a duck’s back. An adverse judgment by others still depresses me. A good review in turn pleases me no end.
“In principle, I know that this is not as it should be. My self-esteem should not, in theory, be dependent on other people’s judgments of me. I should value myself and love myself for the simple reason that, despite all my failures, faults and foibles, God loves me. I know that in theory. But to practice that equanimity fully I must grow deeper roots into that love of God. The greater my sense of security in being enfolded in God’s caring and dependable love, the higher would be my capacity to be unaffected by accolade or allegation, reproof or approbation. That sense of security measures up in me at present as fair, but by no means as full or near perfect.”
On November 24, 1996 – Paulos Mar Gregorios Verghese passed on to the next life after struggling for several years with the effects of a stroke. As Babaji said of his dear friend’s passing. “He is a very great soul, and he is going to a very great place.”
This very “Great Soul” left the a last will for all of us:
“I leave this word to all who survive me:
q Love God with all your mind and all your will and all your feeling and all your strength.
q Live for the good of others. Pursue not perishable gold or worldly glory.
q Wish no one any evil. Bless God in your heart, and bless all his creation.
q Discipline yourself while still young, to love God and to love his creation,
q To serve others and not to seek one’s own interest.
q Pray always that God’s Kingdom may come and all evil be banished from this created order.”