The Contribution of Saint Gregory Palamas to Hesychasm

St. Gregory Palamas

St. Gregory Palamas

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
 

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE CONTRIBUTION OF SAINT GREGORY PALAMAS TO HESYCHASM
By Dr. Dimitrios Tselengidis, Professor of the Theological School, University of Thessaloniki

Introduction

Saint Gregory Palamas with his written works has boosted theologically the deeper content of the hesychastic life, and with his toilsome and persistent ecclesiastical struggles, contributed decisively to the unanimous and conciliar acceptance of the teaching of Hesychasm.

In his attempt to safeguard the lofty theological character of hesychia, he developed a most profound dogmatic theology around the identity and soteriological function of Divine Grace.

In the process he simultaneously revealed the theological presuppositions necessary for the hesychasts to share and abide in the life of the Holy Spirit. These presuppositions are found in the steadfast and delusion-free parameters of theophany and theoria (vision of God). The invincible ultra-defender of Hesychasm expressed the mind of the Church infallibly, asserting that the existential living experience of the deifying energy of the Holy Spirit, especially endows with theological meaning the hesychastic way of life. This life culminates in the complete union of man with God and in the charismatic theosis (deification) of man, which consists of the higher form of the spiritual life of the faithful.

The Character of the Hesychastic Life

Saint Gregory Palamas studied the Ascetic Literature near holy hesychasts, who were taught Hesychasm not only through Divine Grace, but through their personal experience as well. From these distinguished teachers he was taught the sacred nipsis (guarding of the nous) and the noetic prayer. His teacher par excellence, however, was his personal toil and the empirical knowledge procured through this toil. Thus, he received empirical knowledge of the hesychastic way of life, and when he received the calling to defend Hesychasm, he had already assimilated fruitfully and productively the entire Patristic Tradition. Consequently, he displayed an unrivaled combative spirit, theological eruditeness, along with holy-spiritual experience especially reflected in his written works In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts and in the Hagiorite Tome, synoptically. But what is the specific meaning of hesychia and Hesychasm? The ascetical term hesychia is primarily existential and experiential in character. Hesychia means the peace established in the inner man, when he sees, becomes disgusted with, and proceeds to expel his eidechthes prosopeion (his ugly mask) which had developed from the wandering of the nous. Hesychia is indispensably connected with the nipsis (guarding) of the nous, the spiritual vigilance, and the experiential knowledge of all those states which actualize in the practice of nipsis is a spiritual and inexpressible manner.

Consequently, the main task of the hesychast is the "guarding of the heart" with the congenial Keeping of the Commandments, spiritual purity, and sacramental life. With the Keeping of the Commandments, the hesychast expels the law of sin and introduces to himself the guarding of the nous. His senses are kept in check with the virtue of temperance (egkrateia), while the (pathetiko) impassive part of the soul is governed by the love and the (logistiko) noetic by nipsis (sobriety). The hesychastic way of life affords the functional ability to Divine Grace to "remodel" the inner man and to conform him according to his prototype, granting him "blossomed" his ancient and indescribable beauty. The hesychast lives without cares, absolved, as much as possible, from all matters of distraction. With the use of incessant prayer he unites his nous (essence of the soul) with God, and thus totally concentrated in his inner self, finds a new and mysterious ascent towards heaven. There having fixed his nous, he tastes ineffable pleasure, experiences perfect and sweetest peace--true hesychia and quietude. And thus, after having surrendered himself to God, sees the glory of God and visualizes the Divine Light. The ultimate purpose of the hesychastic life is for man to become one with the Trihypostatic Monad (according to the archieratical prayer of Christ and with his synergy) just as He entered into communion and unity with the human nature, without distancing Himself from His own Triadic Monad.

For the aforementioned reasons, the hesychastic life is esteemed by the theologians of hesychia and of the Light of Grace, as the ultimate form of the ascetical life, and Hesychasm as the most precious segment of the Church, being that in its parameters by and large the paramount spiritual experience of the Uncreated Light is lived as the vision of God (Theoptia).

Effulgence of the Deifying Grace--Theophany and Vision of God

Christ during His historical presence on earth revealed His Uncreated Divinity to the elect of His Apostles with His Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) on Mount Tabor. According to the theological evaluation of Saint Gregory Palamas, the disciples saw upon the mount "the essential majesty of God…the ultra-luminous brightness of the archetypal beauty, the formless kind of divine comeliness…they saw the inconceivable and ineffable Light...they saw the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they subsequently received, and it abided in them."

The Grace of God is the betrothal of the inheritance of the saints, the Spirit of sonship, the promise of the Spirit, which the Son received from the Father and granted to His faithful.  It is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit.

The faithful (Christian) receives the Divine Grace during Holy Baptism, and more specifically, during the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Chrism, whereby he becomes charismatic offspring since he was born from Her during the Divine washing, and thus he procured the ancient beauty.

(To be continued)

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FROM THE DIVINE LITURGY OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT

Prayer offered by the celebrant Priest before the reading of the Gospel:

Shine in our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments so that, putting down all our bodily desires, we may pursue a spiritual way of life, both thinking and doing only those things that are pleasing to You. For you are the Light of our souls and bodies, Christ our God, and to You we give glory, as to Your Father Who is from everlasting and Your All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George