The Synaxarion of the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas.

On this day, the second Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the memory of our Father among the saints, Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica and Wonder-worker.

Our holy father Gregory, the son of the Divine and unwaning Light, true servant of the true God and initiate of His wondrous mysteries, was born in the imperial city of Constantinople. His parents were noble and renowned persons who took care that he be taught both the secular sciences and divine wisdom and that he learn every virtue.

Gregory’s father reposed while the saint was still of a tender age; but his mother continued to rear him and his brothers and sisters in the law of the Lord, instructing them in the divine Scriptures and in the rules of good conduct. She arranged for them to be taught by learned teachers, and thus her son acquired much knowledge. The youth was by nature diligent and possessed a keen mind, and in a short time he became acquainted with every branch of philosophy.

Gregory disdained everything worldly as a deceptive dream – and wishing to cleave to God, the well-spring of all wisdom – at the age of twelve resolved to take up the monastic life. He revealed his intention to his pious mother, and although she was saddened at first, she gave her consent. In time, she came to rejoice in the Lord over Gregory’s desire and decided to follow him in embracing the monastic life; moreover, with God’s help, she persuaded all her other children to do likewise. Thus she could repeat the words of the prophet, “‘Behold, I and the children which You have given me’ (Is. 8:18) shall follow after You, О Lord.”

St. Gregory, who despised with his whole heart the beautiful, sweet things of this world and earthly glory, gave his possessions to the poor in accordance with the teaching of the Gospel and followed after Christ, forsaking his mother, brothers, an! sisters. After leaving his mother and sisters in a convent, he went with his brothers to the holy mountain of Athos where they took up their dwelling in one of the monasteries. He gave himself over in complete obedience to a wondrous and perfect holy man named Nicodemus, who instructed him in the commandments of God. Under his guidance, Gregory advanced in the virtues, and because of this, the Virgin Theotokos deigned to appear to him, receiving him under her protection and promising to be his mediatress.

After the repose of his instructor, the holy Nicodemus, Gregory went to the Great Lavra of Mount Athos and lived for several years in the fear of God, obedience toward all, and perfect love for the entire brotherhood. He then left the Lavra and settled in the wilderness, where he led a most severe life, burning with boundless love for God, to Whom he cleaved with his whole being. Thus he succeeded in prevailing over all the devices of the demons and was vouchsafed divine revelations. God bestowed upon him the gift of healing the souls and bodies of the infirm and of working miracles.

Gregory lived for a number of years in the wilderness and then, in obedience to God’s will, was elevated to the priestly rank. He served the divine Mysteries like an angel of the Lord, those who beheld him celebrate the Liturgy were moved to compunction and tears. Many holy men marveled at his virtuous life and began to call him the “Godbearer,” “the exorcist of demons,” “he who brings forth fruit from barren trees,” and “the holy prophet.” Nevertheless, Gregory was still subjected to numerous trials and temptations in accordance with the words of the divine Scriptures: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecutions” (2 Tim. 3:12). He endured all things gladly, however, that the trial of his faith, “being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tested with fire, may be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”, as the holy Apostle Peter said (2 Pet. 1:7).

For twenty-three years, Gregory bravely bore the Innumerable sorrows and attacks he suffered at the hands of the God-hating heretics, who were more savage than the demons themselves. The trials he endured beggar description, for it was at that time that the Italian serpent, the heretic Barlaam of Calabria, began to wage a fierce war against the Church[1]. This man, whose mind was filled with vain reasonings, blasphemed Christ our God, saying that He is not the Creator but only a creature. He taught that the super-essential and supremely divine grace and might of Christ are not eternal, but temporal, and called the Orthodox ditheists and polytheists, as do the Jews, Arians, and Sabellians. Therefore, the blessed Gregory, the defender and spokesman of the Orthodox faith, who was full of the Holy Spirit and renowned above all others for his great struggles on behalf of piety, was appointed to represent the Church of Constantinople at the council summoned by the pious emperor Andronicus Paleologus. When Barlaam appeared before this council with his disciples, impiously spewing forth accusations against the Orthodox and belittling them, the great Gregory, clothed with invincible power from on high, opened his lips and swept away all heresy like dust from the face of the earth. His fiery and inspired words and writings burned up the arguments of the heretics like thorns and brushwood, utterly putting the enemies of God to shame.

Barlaam was unable to endure his disgrace, so the reviler of piety and schismatic fled to the West, from which he had come. Then Acindynus, a second heretic, appeared, whose name means “he who inflicts no hurt” but who more aptly might have been called “Policindynus” or “he who brings much harm.” Another council was convened, and St. Gregory prevailed over Acindynus in debate before all the assembled fathers, scattering thl tares of the heretic's teachings by his divinely inspired words.

Nevertheless, the disciples of these heretics, who were hard of heart, continued to do battle with the Church of God, so all the bishops, clergy, and the emperor himself compelled St. Gregory to accept the rank of archbishop. The saint ascended the throne of the holy Church of Thessalonica and became its pastor. As archbishop, Gregory labored and struggled still more on behalf of the Orthodox faith, for the impious followers of Barlaam and Acindynus continued to multiply and sow their perditions teachings. The saint uprooted and utterly destroyed their evil doctrines by his divinely wise words and writings. He disputed with them not at one or two local councils but at many, refuting them before three successive emperors and as many patriarchs. But the incorrigible sons of perdition gave no heed to the saint’s exhortations and the righteous judgments of the councils and continued to utter their blasphemies, for satan makes every effort to further the heresies which the Holy Fathers have anathematized and condemned. Thus even now that generation of vipers, the Jews, the murderers of Christ, in their wrath continue to spew forth poison and rage against the Church of Christ, which ever blossoms like a lily among the thorns of blasphemy, filling the whole world with its fragrance.

While the holy and most wondrous Gregory, victor over the enemies of Christ’s Church, was traveling from Thessalonica to the Imperial City to ensure that the Christian Empire would remain unshaken, he was captured by the Turks. In accordance with God’s awesome judgments, he remained their captive for a year, in this way becoming a teacher for the lands of the East. Gregory was compelled to travel from place to place and was sold from city to city, since it was the will of God that he preach the Gospel of Christ like an Apostle, confirming the Orthodox and teaching them to stand fast. He strengthened the faith of those plagued by doubt, expounding the mysteries of God’s wisdom in such a way that they could be readily understood, and was truly like an Apostle in every respect. With great boldness, he disputed against unbelievers and those who had foolishly separated themselves from the Church of Christ, abandoning the teaching of the Orthodox faith concerning the incarnate dispensation of Christ our God, the precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, and the veneration of the holy icons. He also disputed with the Moslems, answering firmly, wisely, and with great discretion every question put to him. Some of those with whom he debated marveled at his wisdom and the grace which flowed from his lips, but others beat the saint furiously and would gladly have killed him. He would certainly have suffered a martyric death had God not preserved him from his enemies and had the Turks not hoped that he would bring them much gold. At length, the saint was ransomed from the Hagarenes by a fervent Christian. Having endured martyrdom even though his blood was not shed, Gregory returned to his flock in honor.

St. Gregory, the chosen vessel of Christ, who ever sought to emulate the great Apostle Paul, was adorned with innumerable divine virtues, among which were meekness, quietness, and humility. Nevertheless, he did not hesitate to upbraid the enemies of God and of the Orthodox faith, subduing them with the sword of the Word of God. He held no rancor against others, sought both to say and to do only what is good, and always returned good for evil, thus conquering wickedness with virtue. He gave no heed to those who told him how his enemies slandered him, and his patience and nobility of soul remained apparent despite the many misfortunes and difficulties he faced. He despised the sweet and beautiful things of this world and counted hunger and thirst as satiety, poverty as wealth, sorrow tribulation as joy, and mockery and persecution as honor and glory. Christ’s true disciple faithfully bore the Lord’s light yoke, becoming a marvel not only to the faithful but to unbelievers as well. Because of the tears he constantly shed, his eyes always caused him pain. From the time Gregory received his calling to follow Christ, he took up arms against the demons and the passions and fought the good fight even until his repose. Heretics and apostates he drove far from the Church of Christ, thus bringing her peace, and he adorned the Orthodox faith with his divinely inspired words and writings. His most wise teaching was stamped as if with a royal seal by the dogmas of the Holy Fathers and his angelic life as like that of the greatest of the monastic saints; therefore, both his teaching and life are held in honor by the Orthodox and revered by them.

After the intercessor for the Orthodox and their common benefactor had shepherded the flock of Christ for thirty years in a manner pleasing to God, like one of the Apostles, he received his reward. St. Gregory surrendered his spirit into the hands of the Lord and was translated unto celestial life. His body, which shone most gloriously with angelic purity, was left to his flock as a rich inheritance of great treasure, and through it healings are unceasingly bestowed upon the ailing, who come to it from every land. It ever performs miracles beyond number, unto the glory of Christ God, one in essence with His Father, and the most holy, good, and life-creating Spirit. His holy relics lie today in the Cathedral church dedicated to his holy memory in Thessalonica, Greece. St. Gregory (1296-1359) was glorified as a saint in 1368 by Patriarch Philotheos of Constantinople, who composed the service that is chanted today. He is also commemorated on November 14, the day of his falling asleep in the Lord.

 

Through the holy intercessions of the venerable hierarch Gregory,

О Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.

 

The Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and the Pentecostarion, ed. Fr David (Kidd) and Mother Gabriella (Ursache), Rives Junction, MI: HDM, 1999, pp. 69-76.

 

[1] This Barlaam was an Italo-Greek monk from Calabria, Italy, who opposed the practice of hesychasm. Briefly, hesychasm is a technique whereby its adherents pray the “Jesus Prayer” and are sometimes counted worthy to behold the presence of God in His uncreated light. Barlaam did not believe one could behold the uncreated light of God, saying that this light was created and an earthly one and not the uncreated light of God. St. Gregory formally pronounced that this light was the authentic uncreated light of God, the same light in which the righteous shall shine in the Kingdom of Heaven, and the same light in which Christ was seen during His Transfiguration upon Mount Tabor. He firmly held that this light was the light of God’s action or energy and not the light of God’s nature or essence. Thus, St. Gregory introduced into Orthodox dogma the distinction between the essence and energy of God, saying that His essence was invisible and incomprehensible, whereas His energy was visible and perceivable. Therefore, we are able to behold God through His energy, but not in His essence.

28.03.2021