My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"BEACON OF ORTHODOX BELIEF… THE MESSENGER OF
GRACE…" (Hymn of Saint Gregory Palamas)
On the Second Sunday of Holy and Great Lent our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates the great holy Father and Theologian Saint Gregory Palamas.
For the Hierarch. Mode pl. 4.
Beacon of Orthodox belief, the strong
support of the Church and her teacher inspired
by God, you are the ornament of monks, the
unassailable champion of theologians, O Gregory
the Wonder-worker and the boast of Thessaloniki,
the messenger of grace. Forever earnestly entreat
for the salvation of our souls.
Orthodox Christian spirituality has developed and evolved over twenty centuries and continues to evolve and grow. There are many factors and many elements that contributed to its dynamism, beginning with the divinely inspired Holy Scripture. The Logos/ Word of God present in the holy and divinely inspired Scripture remains the foundation of the whole of Orthodox spirituality. "Sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy Word is truth" (Saint John 17:17). In our churches, the Book of Gospels always lies in the middle of the holy altar Table. Every Orthodox priest approaching the holy Table kisses or venerates the Gospel first and then the Table. The Holy Scripture is the very substance of the dogmas and liturgies of our Holy Orthodox Church and, through them, engenders the piety of Orthodox Christian souls.
Our Holy Orthodox Church has definite teaching on ascetical and mystical concerns, and this teaching is a paradosis (tradition) handed down from the beginning of Christianity to today. It is this Holy Tradition, and not personal theories or any arbitrary spiritual writer.
The holy Fathers of the Church have cultivated and strengthened the life of Christ in the Holy Spirit. Orthodox Monasticism has been a beacon of Christian spirituality and has enlightened holy Fathers such as Saint Basil the Great, Saint Theodore the Studite, and the Desert Fathers. One of the great Desert Fathers, Saint Anthony the Great, at the age of 20, once listened to the reading of the Gospel that said, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give it to the poor.. and come and follow Me" (St. Matthew 19:21). Leaving the world, he gave an example which many followed. Our Lord Jesus Christ called them in order that they should follow Him and be led up in the Spirit to the wilderness" (St. Matthew 4:1).
Just as God spoke to the ears and hearts of the holy ascetics, he spoke to the Holy Father Gregory Palamas. From his youth, he was drawn to the Monastic life and was successful at convincing his brothers and sisters, along with his widowed mother, to take up the monastic life around the year 1318.
Saint Gregory was a monk at the monasteries of Vatopedi and Esphigmenou in the Holy Mountain. He was a preeminent theologian and a proponent of hesychastic theology. He was initially asked by his fellow monks on Mount Athos to defend them from the charges of Barlaam. Barlaam believed that philosophers had better knowledge of God than the Prophets and valued education and learning more than contemplation.
However, contrary to Barlaam, Saint Gregory asserted that the Venerable Prophets in fact had greater knowledge of God because they have actually seen or heard God Himself. Addressing the question of how it is possible for humans to have knowledge of a transcendent and unknowable God, he drew a distinction BETWEEN KNOWING GOD IN HIS ESSENCE (in Greek Ουσία() and knowing God in His ENERGIES (in Greek ενέργεια).
This was another triumph of Orthodoxy over heresy. The Holy Synods supported Saint Gregory’s theology as Orthodox and condemned Barlaam and Akindynos as heretics. Saint Gregory Palamas was elected to be the Archbishop of Thessaloniki and was consecrated in 1347. However, due to the political climate at the time, it made it impossible to take up his See until 1350.
Hesychastic practice involves acquiring an "INNER STILLNESS" and ignoring the human senses. The Hesychast interpreted Christ’s injunction in the Gospel of Saint Matthew to "go into your closet to pray," to mean they should move beyond the senses and withdraw inwards to pray. Hesychasm often includes repeating the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me [a sinner]."
It is of great spiritual value for the Orthodox Christian to enter and to dwell in stillness. Above all, he wishes to truly find himself, to collect himself within himself, being alone in stillness. It is in the stillness that God’s voice can be heard clearly. The Almighty reminds us: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). In this psalm God describes THE INDWELLING OF GOD WITHIN HIS PEOPLE. The wise man looks to find God within himself, since he believes that we are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Our difficulty in praying to our Creator is that there is an absence of stillness, or hesychia. Our minds, our hearts, our senses are constantly in turmoil and filled with noise and clatter. We cannot find peace and quiet in order to concentrate on our prayers. We are distracted, disturbed, and irritated. This causes a person to leave the peaceful and tranquil thoughts and instead concentrate on his earthly, mundane, and worldly cares. In order to find stillness, one must free himself from the cacophony of the day-to-day sounds. If we are serious and committed to acquiring stillness, we must guard our thoughts carefully and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the Office of Orthros the priest reads, "And teach us Your statutes, FOR WE KNOW NOT HOW TO PRAY FITTINGLY UNLESS YOU, LORD, THROUGH YOUR HOLY SPIRIT, LEAD US."
The humble believer keeps a reign of silence and awaits patiently for God to speak no matter how long it takes. A prayer is not a demand or an ultimatum. Neither are we there to bargain with Him. We need to understand that the Lord’s answer to our supplication can indeed be His silence. His answer to us can come in different forms or means. It is impossible for a human being to know what God thinks and why He acts the way He does. There are times that He will test us, our faith, our trust in Him, our humility, our sincerity, our love for Him, our determination, our persistence, and finally our endurance. Our heavnely Father knows us. He says, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I sanctified you" (Jeremiah 1:5).
Praise be To God our Father!
:Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George