Saint Gregory Palamas Archbishop of Thessalonika the Wonderworker
Commemorated on November 14 and on the Second Sunday of Great Lent
That great luminary of the Church and hesychast Father of the 11th century, St. Gregory Palamas, constantly prayed: “Lord, enlighten my darkness!” “Most-Holy Theotokos, Enlighten my darkness, Enlighten my darkness…!”
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’.
Whereas vision of the uncreated light resembles the morning star which shines in the day, that is to say, the sun” (2,3,18;CWS p.63).
The vision of God, theoria of the uncreated light, is not a sensory vision but a deification of man.
The vision of uncreated light is called a deifying gift. It is not a gift of created human nature, but of the Holy Spirit. “Thus the deifying gift of the Spirit is a mysterious light which transforms into light those who receive its wealth. He not only fills them with eternal light but also grants them knowledge and life appropriate to God” (3,1,35;CWS p.90). Thus the vision of God is not external but comes through deification (2,3,25).
The divine Gregory told about prayer, that each Christian individually ought always to make an effort to pray, and to pray unceasingly, as the Apostle Paul exhorts all Christians in common, “Pray without ceasing”(1 Thess. 5:17), and as the Prophet David says, even though he was king and had all those cares of ruling his kingdom, “I behold the Lord before me always”; that is, noetically, by means of prayer, I see the Lord in front of me all the time. And Gregory the Theologian teaches all Christians, that we should remember the name of God in prayer more often than we breathe.
St Gregory’s father, Constantine,were attached to the court of the pious Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus (1282-1328). Despite his official duties, he led a life of fervent prayer. Sometimes as he sat in the Senate, he would be so deep in prayer as to be unaware of the Emperor addressing him.
The father of St Gregory Palamas, lived a life of stillness as a senator and member of the imperial court in Constantinople. The essence of this kind of life is detachment from worldly passions and complete devotion to God. This is why St Gregory Palamas says that salvation in Christ is possible for all: “The farmer and the leather worker and the mason and the tailor and the weaver, and in general all those who earn their living with their hands and in the sweat of their brow, who cast out of their souls the desire for wealth, fame and comfort, are indeed blessed” (Homily 15, PG151, 180 BC)
In the same spirit St Nicolas Kavasilas observes that it is not necessary for someone to flee to the desert, eat unusual food, change his dress, ruin his health or attempt some other such thing in order to remain devoted to God 16..(See On the life in Christ 6, PG150, 660A)
Thou standest now in worship before the throne of the all-merciful God with the theologian saints, for thou wast their equal in thy way of life, O wise Gregory, hierarch of Thessaloniki, glory of the episcopate, adorned with the dignity of the high priesthood.
(Matins Canon of the Second Sunday of Great Lent, Tone Four, by St. Gregory of Nicomendia)