As I mentioned in a blog of July 20, and in two recent homilies, I have been drawn to know more about St. Gregory of Narek, the Church’s newest Doctor of the Church, her newest official teacher to all of us. I would hope to have you drawn more to Gregory of Narek. He wrote about how to live in a Dying-to-Rising Transformation of Life in an inspiring work a millennia ago of how to co-suffer with the world, as our joining with Christ on The Cross. It is an approach to Cross Living which he called the Way of Lamentations, which included 75 poetic prayers in the style of Jeremiah’s prophet lamentations for Israel. In Gregory’s work, he tells that we can find hope and meaning even though our suffering in this world, because with faith, it can lead to a Christic fulfillment for the soul. He says that if we can lament like Jesus for the world, and see how our Holy Mass presents the saving Offering in Him, then God can help us to rejoice in what we truly have in Jesus Christ, that He IS the Real Presence of God in The Church. He IS Life for our individual souls. All of us have been made with souls for God’s inhabitation. Let us tell the world that we have given God His rightful place in us, of surrendering the throne of our own lives. Let us show them that this life liberates! Let us mercifully invite them to be joiners in the Living Christ.
Let us not give the world the message: “I am saved, you’re not.” Let us say: ‘Let US be saved, brother and sister!’
What does Gregory teach? He teaches people to see that Jesus’ Cross is not just a past symbol or a past event, but instead the present means for people’s lives to begin again and grow and mature to a deliverance into the Kingdom of God, whose power and glory are ever more. The Cross is the starting place.
We can learn something from this newest Doctor of the Church. Pope Francis has. He has learned from Gregory of Narek that he needs to act in a way as pontiff that doesn’t make “pontificating” a bad word. The modern dictionary uses the word in a negative fashion as to act in an exalted spirit(!), but Francis wants to imitative his recent predecessors as showing that a pope is not just ruler of a religion, but also a servant who wants to relate to “the everyman” and to serve him.
(Recall Saint and Pope John Paul II’s self-title as “Servant of the servants of God… or Saint and Pope John XXIII’s self-title as “Simple Peace-on-Earth worker,” based on his famous encyclical.)
Pope Francis (and his saint buddy in Gregory of Narek) says to people, that we are all in the same boat here. Can we care for one another in any surprising way? Christians: can you be in the Joy of the Gospel, please?!
The Lamentations Way of Spirituality of St. Gregory asks people to have an attitude of deep compassion for others. In my homily last Sunday, I asked you to relate it to how the athletes in Special Olympics act among one another. (I know something personally of this, with a godson who is a Special Olympian.) As with the Special Olympics competitions, the Human Race isn’t so much a competition to finish first, but one for as many to finish together, if we would just care deeply enough to do so.
Gregory’s Way of Lamentations includes 75 poetic prayers in the style of Jeremiah’s prophet lamentations for Israel, but it is an updated versiongoing further into a Christic fulfillment for the soul. This spirituality (or theology) says: Jesus’ Lament and Offering is saving. Come into it! Join in as we all cry with Christ for His world. Join in as we learn in Christ and let the Holy Spirit teach us all how to overcome sin and see through all its follies and foolishness of being arrogantly distant from God. Let us depend on Jesus. He is a Real Presence in The Church. He is Life for our individual souls. All of us have been made with souls for God’s inhabitation. Let us tell the world that we have given God His rightful place in us, of surrendering the throne of our own lives. Let us show them that this life liberates!
St. Gregory of Narek learned this way of praying and living as He met Christ in his heart and mind and joined Jesus’ weeping for the world. As I said in the homily, Gregory learned that the Cross is not just a past symbol or a past event, but that the Cross presently saves people, and that the Lamb of God is present in Heaven and ministering also on earth to deliver us from evil and in bringing us about into a kingdom of God whose power and glory are ever more. This approach touches me!!
I like it as it shows a mature Christian path. We are taught to be as praying as one with the world, and not in some arrogant “I’m-better-than-others-in-the-world” attitude. In this Way of Lamentations, we don’t show an arrogant “I’m saved, you’re not” message. We show humility. We show that we still are a brother and sister to others in the world.
There is way too much in this new Doctor of the Church to cover in a few blogs or homilies. I hope I have introduced him well to you. I will leave my last comment on all of this to be about the New Evangelism of the Church.
In our New Evangelism, we should help the world to see the painfully obvious… that “something” IS seriously flawed in humanity. We should THEN witness to others that this flaw is SIN and that there is SomeOne Very Real Who is the REMEDY for it: Jesus Christ. Will the non-believing, non-converted world believe this message? Well, the key is that we Catholics need to show the rejoicing spirit that we ARE freed in Christ Jesus, and that HIS REIGN LIVES IN US, revealed in an Alleluia spirit. The Church needs to be a place where people are being healed and re-created so to become holy in The Lord.
We can show that we are making the good journey from the Cross to the Resurrection: A Living Reality of Jesus Christ’ Spirit.
I love how St. Gregory of Narek could take the prophet Jeremiah’s lamentations for Israel, and write of how Christ Jesus did fulfill God’s promises to redeem and lead His people, and how we now can live in this Dying-to-Rising Transformation with Jesus in our hearts and in the Church. The saint says that meeting Christ and joining Him in a co-suffering with the world, will then join us to Christ in His co-reigning, too, as the Christic Fulfillment takes place. “Christ in you, the Hope of Glory (Col. 1:27)” is a Bible verse of such fulfillment. If we can lament like Jesus for the world, and see how our Holy Mass presents the saving Offering in Him, then God can help us to rejoice in what we truly have in Jesus Christ. He is the Real Presence of God in The Church. He is Life for our individual souls. He is reigning in us.
Let us tell the world that we have given God His rightful place in us, of surrendering the throne of our own lives. Let us show them that this life liberates! Let us mercifully invite them to be joiners in the Living Christ. Let us not give the world the message: I am saved, you’re not. Let us say: ‘Let us be saved, brother and sister!’