DC32 St. Gregory of Narek The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson
Discerning Hearts Dot Com presents the doctors of the church. The carriers some wisdom with Doctor Matthew Bunsen for over twenty years. Dr Bunsen has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education including writing editing and teaching on a variety of topics related to church. Church history the papacy the saints and Catholic culture. He's the faculty chair at the Catholic Distance University a senior fellow of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the author or CO author of over fifty books including the Encyclopedia of Catholic history. And the best selling biographies fees of Saint Damien of Molokai and saint cafeteria took a cosa. He also serves as a senior editor for the national Catholic Register and is a senior contributor contributor to e WGN news the doctors of the church the charismatic wisdom with Doctor. Matthew Bunsen. I'm your host. Chris McGregor Dr Benson. Thank you for joining me. A great privilege to be with you. A very special event has once again occurred in the life of the church. The doctor has been elevated. Yes the the thirty six doctor of the Church I. We're talking of course about Saint Gregory of Norac who who on February twenty first Two Thousand Fifteen was given the title doctor of the Church. By Pope Francis the first first person to be declared a doctor under Francis and and Gregory is something of a major surprise. I think if you and I were to put together a list of one hundred fifty candidates to become doctor of the Church I suspect the Gregory of NARIGC would not have made the list potential list their names they're like Saint Ignatius Loyola or even blessed. John Newman at a number of others in the whole history of the church at and it is interesting Greg. Jarrett Gregory clearly fulfills the requirements. Traditionally of appointment of declaration has a doctor of the church. He by every account lead extraordinary. Holy Life he was saint. He was a priest. He was mystic composer astronomer theologian theologian and poet. But he was also a saint. You as somebody who very famously was describing their means as a watchful angel in human form so he fulfills that first requirement. He is a saint the other did he leave behind a body of writings that has been of great value to the Faithful. Has He made a significant lasting contribution to the life of the Church while the answer to that as you and I are going to discuss is also yes. So Gregory meets the at least minimum requirements to be named doctor of the Church. But I think there's a lot more to it. Gregory of Norwich also represents so many of the themes of Pope Francis but he's stressing not just for this generation ration- but every generation as he has with the last thousand years for the Armenian people in in four eastern. Christianity represents a way way of healing are broken -ness of sending up our cries in the state of our broken nece to God seeking that reunion with him so oh he is a figure of great spiritual power but also of power within humility. Probably those writings means I would say in Decree me if I'm wrong. Rank up there with the writings of Saint Augustine. The poetry of his discolored are just. They're breathtaking in their beauty. They are they are. He was a startlingly accomplished person person. He was ordained a priest pub around twenty five crew up in a monastery at Narvik. His uncle wasn't Abbott and he displayed blade talent in a host of various numerator. Just a few of them a couple of minutes ago but he seemed to have a particular talent for two things. One was poetry which is why he's honored as the first poet in Armenian history and the other was for spiritual mystical theology. Now you put those together. The other as as we have seen for example in John of the Cross and you have a truly formidable figure in the history of Christian Christian mysticism his first great book is First Great Writing was a commentary on arguably one of the most challenging books of the Old Testament. And of course it's a song of songs. He composed it for an Armenian Prince and based on that earned him for himself himself a reputation for genuine genius significantly his greatest work. The book of lamentations will unpack a little bit in a minute. It was written at the very end of his life. Probably around one thousand three as he lay dying as he was moving moving toward deaths from some sort of a terminal disease at least a debilitating disease and was looking around at the deteriorating situation surrounding Armenia and recognized that he wanted to take all of the wisdom that he had acquired from spiritual life from his theological reflections and especially is deep deep study of scripture and write something that would be worthy of the generations to follow not just for the Armenian generations but for the entire world for the entire church. It's why why when he was describing what he was trying to do with this masterpiece of the book of lamentations. He called it an encyclopedia of prayer for all nations. In other words he wanted everyone to benefit from it. And you mentioned a name. I think that is very apropos here. And that is Augusta Guston when you read through the book of Lamentations this collection of ninety five prayers and three hundred sixty six chapters of eleven hundred lines. And what do you see you see. This openness bluntness this candour without lapsing into any sort of voyeurism. That reminds you very much of Agustin's confessions. But then you also see the depth to which Gregory was familiar with the psalms the imagery and the key themes of the great wisdom literature of the Old Testament's all of that comes together but it it has only one real purpose and that is to help the average person who has a broken heart broken and contrite contrite heart to send the size as he put it to God as a pleasing sacrifice in other words helping everyone one to speak with God quoting now from the depths of the heart. It reminds me so much of the mystics that we've come to know over the centuries and for example I think of a little Carmelite nun in dijon less Elizabeth the trinity who would write about how from the cups of one's heart. The abyss of our misery encounters the abyss of his mercy. Yes and that is what Gregory ignoring tale way throughout these ninety five poems or prayers that he offers us in that book of lamentations this essentially what. He's helping US guiding us to to do yes exactly every one of them begins with the same thing as he writes speaking with God from the depths of the heart and he grounds each of them in a plea for mercy he recognizes that we are all in need of medicine of strong medicine for the body. I am the sole. That's an image that he uses repeatedly that too is found in the psalms in wisdom literature. But he's also realistic about about broken of his own heart. Broken this that we all face and the torment of daily life the misery that we encounter counter but then taking that misery and making of it an offering to God so when he echoes the the work of the Psalm Ists Who who right of course about the size of the heart? He sees the size as a gift. So he says for example in in one of his prayers that that I lie here on a cot stricken by evil sinking in a mattress of disease and torment like the living dead yet able to speak. What does he say? Oh kind son of God have compassion. Upon my misery he has frequent recourse to the images. Inches of my soul is filled with torment. There is no cure for my body. I'm tortured he says. I grown again with the size of my heart. Hard quoting psalms but then he adds treat me like a physician rather than examining me like a judge so he's making of his suffering a conforming with Christ standing him in the great traditions mystical traditions of the church but at the same time articulating killing so perfectly the plea for that reunion with God that all of us seek and unfortunately so many of us struggle to find in our enthusiasm to talk about just the beauty of his works. We did not approach those early years of his Own Formation. Has We have come to know. These great doctors of the Church. Many of them are formed in that prayer because of maybe potential suffering and he is one who was an immune from that when you look at his early life it was the the loss of a mother at a very young age that maybe helped crack that hard open for him It does to appreciate some of his background he. I grew up in a family of immense intense faith. I mean it. It's quite compelling to think about What his family life must have been like his father calls Rav was a bishop and a renowned theologian in the Armenian Apostolic Church when calls throws wife died? The bishop who had many tasks found it difficult to raise the boy and so entrusted him into the care of an uncle. The Abbot Abbot of the Monastery of Narvik on the shores of Lake van in eastern Anatolia. Large what is now Turkey and Gregory then grew up in monastic community. In a way the reminds me very much of the life and work of venerable bead now he remained in this community community for the rest of his life but rather than feeling like he had missed out on something from the few details that we know of Gregory's life. We know that he probably suffered illnesses throughout his life is brief life. Consider that he died even for that era at a relatively the young agent his fifties but he lived in an atmosphere completely steeped in faith and an an atmosphere atmosphere because of the the renowned reputation for NARC monastery historically in a place that really cultivated and encouraged courage all of his talents to be put at the service of God but focusing especially on the spiritual life so the fact that he emerged emerged as kind of preeminent figure one of the most respected of the spiritual masters at Norwich Monastery gives us a little hint of just how extraordinary his spiritual life must have been and we also have to focus on one of the key aspects of eastern Christianity. Which is the preparation celebration central to their spiritual lives of the divine liturgy so much so that the elements of the ninety five lamentations of the ninety five prayers of the book of Lamentations Find Their way repeatedly into into the liturgy of the church even today so the mystical and the liturgical were two of the pillars of the life of Gregory and both of them come together for all of us to appreciate in the book of lamentations I could? I'd say that someone could just take two years every day and just each day. Read one of those Prayers and it would be difficult not to have it become a transformative vehicle in spiritual life. They're in they're just donning. Ah Yes absolutely and just ninety five prayers. That are so reminiscent of the psalms but have that a deeply personal cry up to God that the prayers are supposed to help us with to communicate with God. It is an entire school of prayer in this one set of ninety five prayers that you will find in them things in your own life your own desperate yearnings but also and this is. This is the advantage. I think that the Gregory had over so many of those who followed hollowed he grew up in an atmosphere that gave him the wisdom to see all of these so that by the end of his life as the infirmities piled up upon him and as as I was saying as he looked around the world because NARC was a major center of learning so a lot of information was constantly coming to it so they would have been acutely aware of the fact that the world was starting to fall apart. which is a lesson for us? Today he wanted to take all of that to distill it down to one set of teachings that anyone could take because I think he understood stood that generations will pass but the human condition will always be the same that we're going to face trials and sufferings. I wonder and this is pure speculation if he knew the enormity of the suffering that was going to be visited upon your medium people in the long centuries that followed his death and he wanted to give to them a suitable gift and I think he did so much so that the Armenians throughout the millennium following his death have clung to Gregory especially his book of lamentations so much so that there is that uniform median tradition of sleeping with a copy of the book under your pillow to provide a kind of A. I don't WanNa say spiritual osmosis but to be connected very intimately with this book and I think that's one of the things that the Francis trying to tell us to that in the depths of our suffering that here is someone that we can turn to in that darkness to understand the deeper meaning of suffering to appreciate at its heart in a way. This is a perfect expression of the Odyssey of the fact. The suffering is going to be part of Your Life but God is thank God loves you and to turn our infirmities turn our sufferings right up to the moment of death. Is the gift that we can give that to conform ourselves to Christ and the True Path Through that narrow or return in just a moment went to the doctors of the church the charismatic wisdom with Doctor Matthew Johnson. Did you know that you can obtain a free APP. which contains all your favorite discerning hearts programs Father Timothy Gallagher occur Dr Anthony Lewis Archbishop? George Lucas Father Meritas filthy and so many more including episodes from inside the pages can be obtained on the discerning hearts free APP. This also includes all the no VINAS and devotional and prayers including the Holy Rosary and stations of the Cross. The tablet is saint. Ain't Michael and the seven sorrows of our lady. All available on the discerning hearts free half visit the I tunes and Google play APP stores to obtain your. You're free discerning hearts APP today. A prayer of Saint Ignatius of loyal take Lord and receive all my liberty my memory my understanding and my entire will all that I have and call my own. You have given all to me to you. Lord I return it. Everything is yours. Do with it what you will give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me Hello My name is Deacon Omani Gutierrez and I want to ask support discerning hearts in a special way. We Chris McGregor the board and I all know the not everyone listening can help financially. We know we have listeners. From all parts of the world and we have made a commitment since the beginning to make the truth shared through turning hearts totally free so while you may not be able to contribute financially which you can do is certainly pray but also Giving positive reviews on whatever platform you used to listen to us if at I tunes Android Stitcher spotify however it is that you get these podcasts. Or if you're on youtube and you like our videos please give us a good rating and write a review. The more good ratings and reviews we get. The higher profile in the more listeners will discover US listeners who may have the means to contribute in the future please consider rating us in writing a positive review. Today we now return to the doctors of the church the careerism of wisdom with Dr Benson. There is something really special about this particular book speaking with God from the depths of the heart these book of lamentations. Because we have to remember that this was composed a thousand years after Christ and the churches experience of that crystal centric centric understanding of the Trinity and of the Fathers Great love for us in the suns response is all kind of captured in sadness that makes sense math. Yes exactly I mean I certainly was not intended by Gregory for example. This is very clear to replace the psalms quite the opposite right it. It is in fact The fruit of what becomes obvious are decades of meditation reflections on the Salt on scripture on wisdom literature so for Gregory. I don't think he in any sense for because of the one word that I'm going to get to in a second in any sense. Sense saw this as a replacement for the psalms rather he is showing us this is. What can come from you when you spend your life and prayer with the sacraments perfecting the virtues and above all reading and making a truly part of your life the scriptures the keyword or all of these prayers? Yes we turn to God. Yes we we tried to send up our size in our broke. Oh goodness but we do so in humility. And I think that's one of the things have Francis is also trying to impart to us that. What is Francis this assay however many times we fall God is willing to forgive us yet? We grow tired of asking him. We lose our humility so that we lose that humble and contrite heart we have to have that humility and Gregory teaches us. That humility has to be central control. In how we approach this humility because we stand before our creator. We must stand in awe but also ingratitude amd and injustice give that creator is due in praise and worship and so the the book of lamentations really is a complete school of prayer in the sense that it teaches us. Humility it helps us recognize are broken but in that broken and in that humility ability we are able to transform are suffering our weakness to take it away from bitterness. Resentment regret to to a kind of joy in that humility of offering ourselves to God. But we're doing it. Because it is just it is being unfaithful in perfecting the virtue of Justice we are giving God is do as our creator and we trusting him and that's something that the Gregory Yeah I think understood very profoundly and become manifest when you read these ninety five prayers. It's not to to look at us. As shameful creatures is but really realizing our little nece here we have a `nother mystical Dr Pre at the church lists us up. A WHO now. Is that the same lines as Saint Tarez and Theresa Vava and those others who are are always saying humility humility humility. It like the Queen of humility all modeled on our lady. Yes Yup Who is a very prominent figure? You're in in Gregory's writings and because of this declaration of him now is a doctor of the church. Universal church is able to reappraise in many ways to discover him at the start of our conversation here both acknowledged the fact that the vast majority of people who heard the name Gregory of Norwich cash. She had no wadia who he was that he probably in their entire lives had never heard of him. That doesn't mean that he wasn't a doctor of the church. And now we have this opportunity as a church to take his writings this book of lamentations and go line by line as as you suggest prayer by prayer her and appreciate it meditate on it. Study it and then live it in in precisely the same way that we have. It's been such powerful beneficiaries just great beneficiaries of other doctors as a church John of the Cross Teresa Viola Tereza who offered their own body of teachings for the betterment of the church but most important from their standpoint for the betterment of our souls calls a term mystic. I'm I've I've mentioned that a couple times here. It is essentially what we're all called to by nature. Baptism isn't it is when we think about other doctors of the Church John of the cross with the great figures in the history of the church Francis to sales and others. What did they tell us that? Mystical Union the progress. Chris in the spiritual life is not for a select group of people. It is for all of us. Sanctity is for all of us are are passer going to be a little different in here. You get into the whole discussion. Especially eastern Christianity eastern spirituality of catastrophic versus episodic prayer and then all of that Ah but Gregory stands in that tradition of helping to remind us that we are called to holiness that we are called to that Mystical Union to heal. Theo are broken this and find that the union with the divine teaching. I think that all of us need to appreciate and I think one of the things that we will benefit most from from these ninety five prayers on that time when he will be declared a doctor of the church it probably will not not go without a bit of controversy as we alluded to earlier because it is occurring at at the same time time of a tragic tragic reminiscence of the Armenian genocide and one that Pope Francis spoke about a fake in in a year prior and was taken to task by the Turks Sane. How dare you turn it that way? But yet that's indeed what it was when you have what one point two to one and a half million people killed in such a short period. Yes yes the Armenian genocide is a historical reality and it has been great pertinence to the situation in which we find ourselves now with the suffering and the plate of eastern Christianity. Gregory offers us as we. You and I have been talking. A source of understanding more about eastern Christianity eastern spirituality in a way the depth switch. The Armenian people have been able to go spiritually with Gregory to survive even find constellations in the midst of the suffering. The other is precisely that that this is an opportunity for us to revisit the catastrophe of the Armenian genocide and to recognize the historical reality of it but also the historical Oracle Reality of the Armenian people as a model for Christians everywhere. I would also suggest that as if people begin to to find these prayers and to really begin to take it in their heart they may also on who explored that beautiful rich liturgy of the Armenian Indian church and I mean there's just nothing quite like that. Their song celebration it is just so full. Fool I don't know how else to explain it. It's the fullness of worships in in many ways as an and as we've been talking they'd be the central place that the key place of the divine liturgy energy in the life of of eastern Christianity is something that cannot be underestimated and to hear the Armenian liturgy is to hear elements elements of the work of Gregory of Norwich is. We've been talking. Many of the prayer book of limitations have found their way into Armenian liturgy. And so we we see once again that union of the divine liturgy with the eloquence quits of their spiritual writings in their prayer life. In that something to that. I think we're called now as a universal church to appreciate and to meditate and hand to celebrate any final thoughts on this incredible Saint as well as this moment in the life of the church I I think that the surprise that surrounded Gregory's appointment to the position to the rank of doctor of the church tells us something about the diversity and the stunning historical life of the faith that we can even now having studied in reflected on the life of the Church and we have thirty five doctors of the church even now we can almost literally stumble onto someone like Gregory of Norwich and have placed before us a treasurer and a Treasury of Wisdom and spiritual graces tells us how much more we have to learn and reminds us. How many other treasures are out there that we haven't yet discovered advert it's why we persevere in the faith but it's also why we continue and can spend a lifetime studying the faith and never never reached the bottom of this? Well that's what makes it so excited. It makes us such an incredible journey. It is and why it's such a joy to be Catholic every day of your life. Amen Saint Gregory of Norwich for us. Amen Thank you Dr Matthew Buns to to be with you. You've been listening to the doctors of the church Carrozza of wisdom with Doctor Matthew Bunsen to hear and or a to download this program along with hundreds of others spiritual formation programs visit discerning hearts dot com. This has been a production of discerning hearts. I'm I'm your host Chris McGregor. We hope that if this has been helpful for you that you will I pray for our mission and if you feel as worthy consider a charitable donation which is fully tax deductible to support our efforts but most of all we pray that you will tell a friend about discerning hearts DOT COM and join us next time for the doctors of the church cares move wisdom with Doctor Matthew Bunsen.