|GREGORY OF INDIA||
[Late Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios is considered as one of the greatest philosopher, theologian, thinker and religious personaility of the past century after swami vivekananda. The text is based on the Profile of Late Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios and his speech in Chicago Nov, 1989 at the inaugural address of the centennial of the World Parliament of religions published by Delhi Orthodox Center.}
A peep into the life which started as a trade union leader to that of a great philosopher, intellectual, thinker and a deeply religious personality renowned all over the world.
Though filled with enthusiasm, young Paul Varghese was not in a position to continue his studies in Kerala. He kept up his early love of reading and journalistic writing on current affairs. After his initial education, he accepted employment first in a private firm, and then in the Post and Telegraph Department of Kochi, his birth place. Soon he became known as an efficient worker and an active trade union leader. It was an exciting time in the mid-1940's when political freedom could be seen coming. For his part, he wanted "to serve humanity" though at that stage, the way ahead was not clear. Coming from a traditional family of practicing Christians, he was aware that the Church was a natural source of inspiration for his idealistic ambition. He also felt that for drawing upon the spiritual and moral resources offered by the Church, it was not always necessary to become a priest. Much later, in 1961, he accepted priesthood. Looking back, he said of his life: "One thing lead to another"; yes, logically and to a divine design, as we now see.
Quite by an accident of circumstances, he was offered the post of a school teacher in Ethiopia, waiving the condition that the candidate should be a college graduate. He was 25, and he accepted the post. This was a turning point in his life. News of his capability and enthusiasm reached the Emperor, who was impressed by his work as well as by the speed at which he could master the local language, Amharic. But the teacher opted to be a life-long student. After three mutually useful years in Ethiopia, he went to the United States for further studies.
After receiving his BA from Goshan College in Indiana, he continued his studies at Oklahoma University, at Union Theological Seminary in New York, at Princeton (Master of Divinity), and at Yale (Master of Sacred Theology). He did his doctoral studies in Oxford and Muenster in Germany, and received his Doctorate in Theology from Serampore University.
His doctoral dissertation centered on the profound writings of the 4th centuary philosopher-bishop, Mar Gregorios of Nyssa (in the West Asian Province of Cappodocia, a part of present day Turkey). Following the official approval of Christianity by Emperor Constantine in 313, the early era of Christian martyrs came to an end, and the Church was in a position to give expression to its faith about its life here and now in this world, without being content of thinking about the other world alone. The Church was free and had to take a responsible role in politics, in education, and in culture. That was the context of the creative concern of Gregory of Nyssa - a "Teacher of the faith", accepted by both Eastern and Western Christendom - with the present and future of the human race in relation to God and the historical world. His thought and teachings provided a foundational framework for the thought and work of his 20th centuary student, Paulose Mar Gregorios.
Returning to India, Paul Varghese worked as an honorary lecturer at Union Christian College in Alwaye, as an Associate General Secretary of the Student Christian Movement (1954-56), and as the General Secretary of the Orthodox Student Movement (1955-57)
Haile Sellassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, visited India in 1956, and he persuaded Paul Varghese to return to Ethiopia, as his Aide and Advisor. While in Ethiopia (1956-59), he involved himself in education in Ethiopia, promoted Indo-Ethiopian diplomatic relations, and lectured at the Addis Ababa University.
Around this time, Paul Varghese decided that the time had come for him to return to his Church back in India, particularly in view of the peace being restored to the Church, following the 1958 settlement, between the Catholicose of the East and the Patriarch of Antioch. He was ordained as a priest by Catholicose H.H. Basalios Geevarghese II in 1961.
Fr. Paul Varghese's field of work soon shifted to Geneva, with the World Council of Churches. There he headed the Division of Ecumenical Action as an Asociate General Secretary. Later, he was a member of the Central Committe and of the Executive Committe, Moderator of the Commission on Church and Society (197-83), and one of its Presidents 91983-91). He led WCC delegations to major conferences including the UN General Assembly Special Sessions on Disarmament (1983,1988). In WCC forums and beyond, he persistently opposed apartheid and the old and new colonialism. He chaired the World Conference on Faith, Science and the Future in Cambridge, USA (1979). He was the vice-president of the Christian Peace Conference (1970-90).
In 1975, Fr.Paul Varghese was elevated as a bishop with the name Paulos Gregorios. He took charge of the newly formed Diocese of Delhi, a position he held until his death. He established the Delhi Orthodox Centre, where he began such ambitious projects as the Neethi Shanti Kendra for promoting peace and justice, and Sarva Dharma Nilaya for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.
Concurrently, Mar Gregorios was the Principal of the Orthodox Theological Seminary at Kottayam, the premier teaching and training institution for priests of the Church. He raised it to a college recognized for the award of graduate and post graduate degrees. He established the Sophia Centre linked to the Seminary.
Mar Gregorios was
Among the honours and awards received by Dr.Paulos Mar Gregorios are:
The honours made him happier for the cause, but humbler for himself.
The unusual versatality of Mar Gregorios consistently found expression in several ways:
Mar Gregorios will be remembered by the Church as a modern teacher of their ancient faith, and by the reading public for the many books and papers he wrote in several languages, particularly in English and Malayalam. The recurring themes of his writings reflect the quest for truth and love, freedom and creativity, peace and justice.
He was not for other-worldly mysticism which ignored man's sinful reality; nor was he impressed by secular humanism that was unconcerned about 'the source of our being.' As he wrote his book Cosmic Man, The Devine Presence with reference to the teachings of Gregory of Nyssa, 'Thought is not scholastic to the extent of eleiminating the element of mystery; but then neither is it an unintellectual mysticism' (p. xviii).
Mar Gregorios was of course sensitive to the need for urgent response to human suffering compounded by many-sided poverty. Of this, his modest efforts for stonecutters of Tughlakabad in Delhi and the orphaned boys at Thalakodu in Kerala are examples. What concerned him more basically was the futility of 'swabbing the floor without closing the tap.' He wanted the socio-economic system that regularly reproduced poverty to be altered. This explains his life-long interest in politics. He was not in politics but of politics.
Whenever he found time, he dialogued with the leaders of both the political Right and Left. Not surprisingly, he had a better wavelength with the latter. He held up a mirror to them to show how India, in particular, was impoverished not only for historical reasons but also by an ecological crisis and the so called 'secularization.'
Way back in 1978, he stated in his book, The Human Presence, 'The affairs of the world are largely in the hands of people who are expert at making money, waging war and playing politics', and proceeded to present 'An Orthodox view of Nature.' On Secularism, so fashionable among some intellectuals, he was equally clear and sharp. In a recent essay, he wrote: 'Secularism creates communal conflict because it brutally attacks religious identity, while pretending to be tolerant of all religions. It claims to be neutral towards all religions, equidistant from them, but it refuses to acknowledge itself as basically a religious ideology with a powerful propaganda machine' (India International Centre Quarterly, 22-1/1995).
In his book, Enlightenment: East and West (1989), he develops a critique of European Enlightenment. He asks the elight in India, who have so easily borrowed from the liberal humanism an technological civilization of the West, to step back and take a second look:
The book was acclaimed in the West.
Mar Gregorios did not share the view that all religions said same thing, but agreed that religions had common elements. Therefore, inter-religious dialogue for cooperation had untapped potential. During his 20 years in Delhi, he had extremely cordial and productive relations with the spiritual leaders of the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jain and Sikh religions.
Mar Gregorios had an abiding interest in education, which he maintained through children's easy access to him, through the schools run by the Church, and by interaction with educationalists besides working as the Principal of Theological College. Also, he was for reviving the tradition of women's active involvement in church affairs.
Illness during the closing years of his life seemed to have re-activated his interest in 'holistic health and healing.' He organized a major International seminar in February 1995 in Surajkund (near New Delhi). The papers prepared for it, including those by him, and its report (on which he was personally working in his last days) are valuable for the alert public as well as for medical practitioners from the different systems of healing. Bringing them together to re-examine their assumptions was a purpose which the consultation substantially achieved. Mar Gregorios sought a healing touch to a wounded society.
In the course of his life-long spiritual-intellectual quest with a social purpose, Mar Gregorios has authored a number of other books also. The Joy of Freedom (1967, 1987), The Gospel of Kingdom (1968), The Freedom of Man (1972), Freedom and Authority (1974), The Quest for Certainty (1975), Truth without Tradition (1978, Science for Sane Societies (1980), The Indian Orthodox Church: An Overview (1982), The Meaning and Nature of Diakonia (1988), A Light too Bright (1992) and A Human God (1992).
Apart from numerous periodical articles, contributions to symposia and Encyclopedias, and lectures in scores of universities worldwide, Mar Gregorios was the chief editor of the quarterlies, Star of the East (New Delhi) and Purohitan (Kottayam).
Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios lived a full life. True to his name, Gregorios, he remained ever awake. Yet such was the ambition of the agenda he set for himself, his work will have to be continued by those who share his convictions and interests. There are few countries he has not visited in his search for knowledge and friendship. The world was his neighbour. He was proficient in at least a dozen languages, modern and ancient, of Asia, Europe and Africa. He was equally at home in the East and the West, but he wanted Eastern enlightenment and the critical rationality of the West to maintain a dialectic relationship instead of the overwhelming one way flow as at present.
While he respected critical rationality, he also believed in revelation, in miracle, and in transcendence. The Orthodox tradition does not see these in conflict. He was essentially an activist for peace and justice, scholarship and contemplation being only a means to higher social and spiritual goals. he had the courage of his Christian conviction. He cherished freedom for others as much as him. He seldom compromised and always forgave. He was unmoved by calumny. He worked to a plan and had little time to waste, an impatience which sometimes would appear brusque. He knew his limitations and did not hesitate to publicly own the, as a corrective for himself and possibly others. Until the very end, he worked hard for peace and unity among Orthodox Christians in India.
Mar Gregorios was a lover of art, architecture, and music. There were, he would remind, a part of the authentic tradition of Eastern Christians. He established the Shruthi school of music at the Theological Seminary in Kottayam and started the School of Orthodox Sacred Music at the Orthodox Centre in Delhi.
Above all, Mar Gregorios was a seeker after Truth, and as he explains in an early book. The Faith of Our Fathers, truth has to be perceived in the light of tradition, which he was a lucid teacher, has to be understood in the light of sacred tradition, and not interpreted at will. It is only through the realization of truth that peace and justice, freedom and equality, the oneness of the human family and harmony between man and nature can be expected to come. Only this way, can the original concept of the word Orthodox - the right glorification of God - find expression in this world. What kept up his spirits was trusting confidence that " When the spirit of truth comes, He will lead you to the complete truth." (John 16:13)
[Document: Gregory of India : - A Profile of the life of H.G. Late Metropolitan Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios, Delhi Orthodox Centre, December 1996.]
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