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April 5, 2013

The Experience of Uncreated Light

Ioannis Lotsios
March 31, 2013

In the present course of this difficult economical situation, on the Second Sunday of the Fast we are presented with the person of St. Gregory Palamas, as a continuation of the Sunday of Orthodoxy. We are specifically speaking of the experience of the Uncreated Light. This is of importance to all members of the Church: the ability to experience this and the rejection of the erroneous methods that come from western theology and spirituality. Saint Gregory Palamas says:

"If the God preached by Barlaam is not communicable through His uncreated energies, but is a God who is distant and incommunicable, somewhere above in the sky, people will reject Him and will need another God."

This has to do with the salvation of mankind. Saint Gregory Palamas distinguished between God's essence and His energies. The energies are detected through the results, by the creations. Creation is different from the Uncreated God. Personal communion with God is achieved with the uncreated energies of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Father refers to this in his homily on the Transfiguration:

"This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine.... This Light is not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the Divine Spirit."

The grace of God is uncreated, not created (gratia create). God is unknown and known. He is unknown in His essence, yet known through His energies. In this way man attains and communes with God. The deified and saints of our Church show us the method of obtaining this grace. It is exactly this experience that marginalizes the reduction of doctrine and faith to a closed system of truths, as a system of ideas in a certain situation. The binding of God and man occurs exactly in the experience of everyday life, and not in a technical assumption of certain truths.

In the struggle of mankind [during Great Lent], we are offered a reflection of divine grace, not simply to understand the acts of God in history, but to steer the course into contemporary reality, into relationships, into values, and in very simple language into the "what" of human life, that it may be filled with this uncreated grace.

The unknown and incomprehensible God is found precisely in the weakness of mankind to experience the essence of God. What usually prevails is the alienation of God from modern reality, beyond the reach of a person's life, a philosophical search based on emotion, making God's presence into an emotional and philosophical experience, which leads us to a vision of created light.

Meanwhile there are also people who are seekers, and their experiences are not the expression of the acquisition of divine grace. They are either demonic, psychological or emotional experiences, which are driven through some technique to balance the problems of man. But they certainly do not give real solutions and security. They are from a state of illness. Indicative of this are the various techniques learned by seekers as taught from the East.

We are also interested in the spiritual and economic problems ahead of us. Sometimes the overemphasis on one purpose from another corrupts or removes the person from being a psychosomatic being, and we work in two ways. Moreover there is the perception that between these two ways there is no commonality. There is the life "in Christ" and the life "without" in the same daily routine. This leads to the distancing of God from our everyday life, turning the idea into an ideology, or even into an incentive to combat the economic crisis that is spreading.

But St. Gregory Palamas comes forward to invalidate this position: God is knowable and He manifests Himself by His uncreated energies. Not as an abstract relationship, but He comes in compassion and as a friend, a Person who can love and be loved. Otherwise He is an incomprehensible God, essentially nonexistent.

We live in a period where different experiences can be perceived to be known, where someone can see something, such as in yoga or some other method of therapy and seeking after the divine, but not truly known. That which differentiates it is the importance of God, if He is knowable or unknowable, a person or a power.

We can discern the true experience of divine grace from the false. Our contemporary life in its search for answers, economical and spiritual, within our everyday walk, in the form of relations of persons, is enlightened by St. Gregory Palamas who comes to correct many of our perceptions and actions.

Through the hesychastic experience we acquire repentance, humility and self-awareness. God is a Person Who comes into a relationship with humanity. It is precisely the binding of the Divine with man that distances one from the isolation and loneliness of today, and a spiritual guide is needed for this.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos