My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
The Second Sunday of the Great Fast: Saint Gregory Palamas,
Archbishop of Thessaloniki. (Part II)
Saint Gregory Palamas was present in Constantinople at the Council that was convened in 1341 A.D. against Varlaam of Calabria, and at the Council of 1347 A.D. against Acindynos, who was of like mind with Varlaam; Varlaam and Acindynos claimed that the GRACE OF GOD IS CREATED. At both these Synods, Saint Gregory contended courageously for the True dogmas of the Church of Christ, teaching in particular that Divine Grace IS NOT CREATED, BUT IS THE UNCREATED ENERGIES OF GOD WHICH ARE POURED FORTH THROUGHOUT CREATION: OTHERWISE, IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE, IF GRACE WERE CREATED, FOR MAN TO HAVE GENUINE COMMUNION WITH THE UNCREATED GOD. In 1347 A.D. he was appointed Metropolitan of Thessaloniki. He tended his flock in an Apostolic manner for some twelve years, and wrote many books and treatises on the most exalted doctrines of our Orthodox Christian Faith, and having lived for a total of 63 years, he reposed in the Lord in 1359 A.D. His holy relics are kept in the Cathedral of Thessaloniki.
In general, the HESYCHASTS, with a particular method of prayer and asceticism, AIM TO ATTAIN SPIRITUAL PERFECTION OR THE ACQUISITION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The method to attain this purity is rooted in the practice OF THE JESUS PRAYER: “LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME.” The method of practicing the Jesus Prayer is described completely in The Philokalia. Briefly, it consists of the Hesychast sitting with HEAD BOWED AND EYES DIRECTED TOWARD THE CHEST OR HEART. At the same time, BREATHING IS COORDINATED WITH THE SAYING AND THINKING OF THE Jesus Prayer. It the Prayer is practiced with patience, under an experienced spiritual director (guide), eventually, in time, it will become”THE PRAYER OF THE HEART.” SELF-PROPELLED WITHOUT WORDS OR THOUGHTS. Therefore, because there are many “road marks, places of caution and pitfalls, along this spiritual path,” ONE MUST HAVE AN EXPERIENCED DIRECTOR WHO HAS WALKED ALONG THIS ROAD. Thus, WITH OBEDIENCE AND ASCETICISM, THIS METHOD LEADS THE ORTHODOX MONASTIC TO “BLISSFUL HUMILITY” AND, IF GOD WILLS, EVEN TEH VISION OF THE DIVINE LIGHT, THE “LIGHT OF THE TRANSFIGURATION.”
Varlaam unable to comprehend what the monks were saying about seeing Divine Light, he thought they pretended to see the Divine essence with bodily eyes. His attack was effective. A major controversy had begun in Thessaloniki and was spreading to Constantinople because Varlaam DISTORTED AND RIDICULED THE HESYCHASTIC DOCTRINE ON THE BASIS OF SOME SIMPLE MONKS THAT HE HAD ENCOUNTERED. In 1338 A.D., Varlaam went to Constantinople with the intention of lodging a complaint against the monks with the Patriarch and the Synod. Nevertheless, Patriarch John XIV Kalekas (1332-1347 A.D.) FORMALLY AND DECISIVELY REJECTED VARLAAM’S ACCUSATIONS AGAINST THE MONKS OF ATHOS. The Patriarch sent him away in disgrace, threatening him with punishment if he did not stop his reproachful behavior in disturbing the peace of the Holy Mountain.1359
At the age of 62, the Saint had another attack of the internal disease he had been suffering with since he was thirty-nine. Nevertheless, he continued to celebrate services and to preach. As his illness grew worse, his sermons focused more on the subject of death. He foretold the day of his departure to everlasting life to those who surrounded him. Then, on the 13th of November in 1359 A.D., he uttered: “My friends, I am going away from you now to the Lord. I know this because Saint John Chrysosomos (whom they commemorated that very day) appeared to me, and, as a friend, with love, he called me to himself.”
On the 14the of November in 1359, at the age of 63, after serving twelve and one-half years in the episcopacy, Saint Gregory Palamas departed to his Lord. IN his last moments, those surrounding him saw that his lips were whispering something, but as much as they tried to understand, they could only distinguish, “The heavens, to the heavens.” With these words, his holy soul quietly and peacefully separated from the body.The Saints body was buried in his Cathedral of Hagia Sofia at Thessaloniki. In departing his body, gloriously enlightened with Angelic purity. Archbishop Gregory left his flock with his precious relics that brought healing to the sick and infirm who came to him with faith. After the Patron of Thessaloniki, Saint Demetrios the Great-Martyr and Myrrh-Streamer, Saint Gregory Palamas has remained, in this day, the most loved Saint of that city.
Many miracles occurred upon the repose of the Saint. Local veneration, as usual, preceded HIS OFFICIAL GLORIFICATION. Nine years after his repose in 1368 A.D. A DECREE OF THE SYNOD AUTHORIZED THE INCORPORATION OF ARCHBISHOP GREGORY’S NAME INTO THE CHURCH CALENDAR OF THE GREAT CHURCH AT CONSTANTINOPLE. This example would be followed by other churches. In addition to the 14th of November, a unique place to the Church Calendar WAS ASSIGNED TO THE SAINT: THE SECOND SUNDAY OF THE GREAT FAST. The service was a kind of extension from the First Sunday of the Great Fast. At the Feast of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Hymns composed by Patriarch Philotheos were incorporated into the service, while the Orthros Canon was composed by a certain George. The Synodikon of Orthodoxy was expanded with the declaration: “TO GREGORY, THE MOST HOLY METROPOLITAN OF THESSALONIKI, ETERNAL MEMORY.” (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomoas
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George