My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE
ON THE SECOND SUNDAY OF THE GREAT FAST, THE HOLY CHURCH
COMMEMORATES OUR HOLY FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS,
THE ARCHBISHOP OF THESSALONIKE,
GREGORY PALAMAS THE WONDER-WORKER.
On this day, the Second Sunday of the Great Fast, we commemorate our Father among the Saints, Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki and Wonder-worker.
"Now is the truly great preacher of the Radiant Light led
by the Source of Light to the never-setting Light. Through
his prayers, O God, have mercy on us. Amen."
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Plagal of Fourth Tone
"Light of Orthodoxy, pillar, and teacher of the Church, adornment of
monastics, invincible champion of theologians, O Gregory thou
Wonder-worker, boast of Thessaloniki, herald of grace: ever pray that
our souls be saved."
Kontakion Hymn. Plagal of Fourth Tone
"With one accord, we praise thee as the sacred and divine vessel of
wisdom and clear trumpet of theology. O our righteous Father Gregory
of divine speech. As a mind that standeth now before the Primal Mind,
do thou ever guide aright and lead our mind to Him, that we all may cry:
Rejoice, O herald of grace divine."
Saint Gregory Palamas, our father among the Saints, was born in Constantinople in the autumn of 1296 A.D., of godly and distinguished parents, Constantine and Kalee. He was the eldest among his two brothers, Makarios, and Theodosios, and his two sisters, Epicharis and Theodote. His family was originally Anatolian, but they made their home in Constantinople because of the Turkish invasion. Constantine Palamas was a Senator who was brought into the immediate encourage as a counselor to Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos who reigned from 1282 to 1328. Constantine was greatly esteemed by the Emperor, who entrusted him with the education of his little grandson, the future Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos (1328-1341). Constantine taught his own son Gregory and the little heir together since they were both the same age. The young Gregory, however, was not quite seven years old when his father reposed.
The Saint’s mother, Kalee, took great care to give Gregory, as well as to all his brothers and sisters, a good education in the spirit of divine law and Holy Scripture. Although Gregory was distinguished for his natural intelligence and diligence, he still sensed that he had difficulty memorizing things. Not trusting his own ability, he made it a rule that before he would take up a book, he would make three prostrations with a prayer before an icon of our Lady, the Mother of God. With great compunction and a contrite heart, he recited the MENTAL PRAYER of Saint Mary of Egyp, before she departed Jerusalem to live as an anchoritess, which was "O Lady, Lady, do not forsake me!" Indeed, the Holy Virgin helped the pious child, whose rapid progress attracted everyone’s attention. Hence, in a short time, he succeeded in learning philosophy and the other known sciences. The lad then became a ward of Emperor Andronikos II, who was known as the Patron of writers and scholars. He supervised the education of the five Palamas children. In fact, the Emperor had a secret affection for the orphaned Gregory, taking a fatherly interest in him and an active part in his education. Gregory’s gifts and excellent conduct won the praise of all, and he was the joy of the Emperor’s heart. Under his patronage, Gregory, from the ages of eleven to fourteen, attained great success in both grammar and rhetoric. He was even admired by those who were then the instructors and masters of oratory. He studied at the Imperial University such topics as physics, logic, and all the sciences of Aristotle. His principal instructor in these subjects was the famous Theodore Metochites. However, Gregory himself believed that the study of profane (secular) learning was only useful as a preparation for the true philosophy of Christianity. Gregory believed that it would be wrong to spend too much time upon profane learning.
While Emperor Andronikos had in view earthly ends and worldly attainments, Gregory already detested everything worldly as an elusive dream. From his earliest childhood, he desired the higher life and the path of perfection. Filled with an ardent love for God, he rose above his promising political future and all temporal advantages. He desired to leave the world and its vainglory and to strive with all his soul to cling to the Only God, the Source of all wisdom, the Bestower of every gift. Gregory had frequent meetings with monks of Constantinople and Mount Athos and asked their advice. They, in return cultivated in him a desire for THE ASCETIC AND MONASTIC LIFE. The most renowned spiritual instructor of that time, Theoleptos, a former monk of the Holy Mountain but then Metropolitan of Philadelphia, had introduced Gregory to the activity of "PURE PRAYER" and "HOLY VIGILANCE." Later in life, the holy Gregory would refer to the saintly Theoleptos as one of the chief inspirations of the renewal of hesychasm.
Saint Gregory, taking the advice of spiritual men, decided to leave the court and his classical studies. He then gradually changed his habits and manner of outward life. After he had led a strict life, neither the Emperor’s offers, nor the kindness of his friends, nor the ties of kinship could make him relinquish the ay of the Cross to heaven. In the year 1316 A.D., Gregory, then 20 years old, as the firstborn of his family, had inherited his father’s responsibilities and property. When Gregory finally decided to become a monk, he told his devout mother Kalee about it. At first, she was rather distressed at the idea. Afterward, however, she not only agreed with his intention but also rejoiced in the Lord, and, so, she decided to become a nun. Further, with God’s help, she even persuaded her other children to receive monasticism with her. Hence, she could say with Prophet Isaiah, "Behold, I and the children whom God hath given me" (Isaiah 8:18). Eventually, Gregory’s mother, his two sisters, Epicharis and Theodote, and some handmaidens, entered women’s monasteries in Constantinople. Following the Commandments of the Gospel, Saint Gregory distributed all of his property among the poor. Then, taking along his two brothers, Makarios and Theodosios, he repaired to Mount Athos. The brothers Palamas left Constantinople on foot in the autumn of 1317 A.D.
After they had passed some months on Mount Papikion, Gregory, Makarios, and Theodosios reached the Holy Mountain of Athos at the beginning of spring. All three brothers put themselves under the spiritual direction of the Monk Nikodemos, a gifted spiritual father, who lived not far from Vatopedi. He would later come to be known as the "master of Gregory Palamas." Nikodemos was an experienced HESYCHAST who was formerly a mon of Mount Afxentios, a monastery on the Eastern Shore of the Bosporus, not far from Chalcedon. The Elder (Geronda) Nikodemos laid a good foundation by training the three brothers in spiritual vigilance, uninterrupted prayer, fasting, and sobriety. The goodly Gregory surrendered his will and practised true obedience and unceasing prayer. He set before himself the Mother of God as his protectress and mediatress, calling out to her, "Illuminate my darkness" [cf. Psalm 17:28]. Every hour, he would look to her icon and ask for her alliance and succor, so that he might finish the course of obedience with her leading him by the hand. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George