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Saint Gregory Palamas



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Saint Gregory Palamas : Life

Saint Gregory Palamas Later on, in the eleventh century in the works of St. Symeon the New Theologian (March 12), those praying in outward manner received detailed instruction in mental activity, and it was implemented by the Athos ascetics. The experienced use of mental prayer (or prayer of the heart), requiring solitude and quiet, is called "Hesychasm" (from the Greek "hesychia" meaning calm, silence), and those practicing it were called "hesychasts." During the time of his stay at Glossia the future hierarch Gregory became fully embued with the spirit of hesychasm and adopted it as an essential part of his life. In the year 1326, because of the threat of Turkish invasions, he and the brethren retreated to Thessalonika, where he was then ordained to the holy priesthood.

St. Gregory combined his priestly duties with the life of a hermit. Five days of the week he spent in silence and prayer, and only on Saturday and Sunday did the pastor come out to his people. He celebrated divine services and preached sermons. For those present in church, his teaching often evoked both tenderness and tears. Sometimes he visited theological gatherings of the city's educated youth, headed by the future patriarch, Isidore. After he returned from a visit to Constantinople, he found near Thessalonika the locale of Bereia, a place suitable for solitary life. Soon he gathered here a small community of solitary monks and guided it over the course of five years. In 1331 the saint withdrew to Mt. Athos and lived in solitude at the skete of St. Sabbas, near the Lavra of St. Athanasios. In 1333 he was appointed Igumen of the Esphigmenou monastery in the northern part of the Holy Mountain. In 1336 the saint returned to the skete of St. Sabbas, where he devoted himself to theological works, continuing with this until the end of his life.

But amidst all this, in the 1330s events took place in the life of the Eastern Church which put St. Gregory among the most significant universal apologists of Orthodoxy, and brought him reknown as the teacher of hesychasm.

In about the year 1330 the learned monk Barlaam had arrived in Constantinople from Calabria, in Italy. He was the author of treatises on logic and astronomy, a skilled and sharp-witted orator, and he received a university chair in the capital city and began to expound on the works of St. Dionysios the Areopagite (October 3), whose "apophatic" ("negative", in contrast to "kataphatic" or "positive") theology was acclaimed in equal measure in both the Eastern and the Western Churches. Soon Barlaam journeyed to Mt. Athos, where he became acquainted with the the hesychasts' manner of spiritual life. Saying that it was impossible to know the essence of God, he declared mental prayer a heretical error. Journeying from Mt. Athos to Thessalonika, and from there to Constantinople and later again to Thessalonika, Barlaam entered into disputes with the monks and attempted to demonstrate the created, material nature of the light of Tabor (i.e. at the Transfiguration). He ridiculed the teachings of the monks about the methods of prayer and about the uncreated light seen by the hesychasts.

St. Gregory, at the request of the Athonite monks, countered at first with verbal admonitions. But seeing the futility of such efforts, he put his theological arguments in writing. Thus appeared the "Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts" (1338). Towards the year 1340 the Athonite ascetics, with the assistance of the saint, compiled a general reply to the attacks of Barlaam, the so-called "Hagiorite Tome." At the Constantinople Council of 1341 in the church of Hagia Sophia St. Gregory Palamas debated with Barlaam, focusing upon the nature of the light of Mount Tabor. On May 27, 1341 the Council accepted the position of St. Gregory Palamas, that God, unapproachable in His Essence, reveals Himself through His energies, which are directed towards the world and are able to be perceived, like the light of Tabor, but which are neither material nor created. The teachings of Barlaam were condemned as heresy, and he himself was anathemized and fled to Calabria.

But the dispute between the Palamites and the Barlaamites was far from finished. To these latter belonged Barlaam's disciple, the Bulgarian monk Akyndinos, and also Patriarch John XIV Kalekos (1341-1347); the emperor Andronikos III Paleologos (1328-1341) was also inclined toward their opinion. Akyndinos, whose name means "one who inflicts no harm," actually caused great harm by his heretical teaching. Akyndinos wrote a series of tracts in which he declared St. Gregory and the Athonite monks guilty of causing church disorders. The saint, in turn, wrote a detailed refutation of Akyndinos' errors. The patriarch supported Akyndinos and called St. Gregory the cause of all disorders and disturbances in the Church (1344) and had him locked up in prison for four years. In 1347, when John the XIV was replaced on the patriarchal throne by Isidore (1347-1349), St. Gregory Palamas was set free and was made Archbishop of Thessalonika.

In 1351 the Council of Blachernae solemnly upheld the Orthodoxy of his teachings. But the people of Thessalonika did not immediately accept St. Gregory, and he was compelled to live in various places. On one of his travels to Constantinople the Byzantine ship fell into the hands of the Turks. Even in captivity, St. Gregory preached to Christian prisoners and even to his Moslem captors. The Hagarenes were astonished by the wisdom of his words. Some of the Moslems were unable to endure this, so they beat him and would have killed him if they had not expected to obtain a large ransom for him. A year later, St. Gregory was ransomed and returned to Thessalonika.

St. Gregory performed many miracles in the three years before his death, healing those afflicted with illness. On the eve of his repose, St. John Chrysostom appeared to him in a vision. With the words "To the heights! To the heights!" St. Gregory Palamas fell asleep in the Lord on November 14, 1359. In 1368 he was canonized at a Constantinople Council under Patriarch Philotheos (1354-1355, 1362-1376), who compiled the Life and Services to the saint.


  
  


Source : http://www.oca.org/pages/orth_chri/Feasts-and-Saints/November/Nov-14.html#4




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