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March 28, 2016

St. Gregory Palamas on Augustine of Hippo and Pastoral Theology

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

1. Saint Gregory Palamas and Augustine

The work of Saint Gregory Palamas titled "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters" is a concise text, which in the way it is written recalls works of other Fathers of the Church, such as Saint Maximus the Confessor, Saint Symeon the New Theologian and others, and is regarded as a summary of the teachings of the Saint previously developed in his dialogues with Barlaam and Akindynos. In similar cases all writers at one time, after a few years, attempt to make a succinct summary of the teachings they previously delivered. However, this work has recently created concern.

It has been suggested that Saint Gregory, in order to write the text, used the work of the sacred Augustine titled "De Trinitate", receiving certain expressions from it, such as Aristotelian categories for God, without mentioning his source, and he even accepted the Augustinian psychotheological triad "mens – notitia (or cognitio or scientia or verbum) – amor", that is, "mind - reason - love/eros". Indeed it was given in a particular passage.

Certainly, Saint Gregory Palamas did not know the Latin language, since he was monolingual. This, however, is not considered a particular problem, because the work "De Trinitate" of the sacred Augustine was translated into Greek before 1281 by Maximos Planoudes. In view of this a copy, even the oldest of this text, was preserved at Vatopaidi Monastery, where Palamas was found from the period of September 1347 and the first months of 1348, when he went to Mount Athos after the refusal of the Thessalonians to accept him as Metropolitan after his election.

When reading about this view regarding the relationship between the theology of Saint Gregory Palamas and the sacred Augustine, I felt deeply surprised, because I knew from my many years, over forty, of studying the teachings of Saint Gregory that he himself confronted Barlaam, who expressed the western traditions of scholastic theology and had been influenced by the views of the sacred Augustine. How is it possible, I wondered, for Saint Gregory Palamas to contradict Barlaam and, at the same time, to accept the opinions of the sacred Augustine, whose opinions, basically, supported Barlaam as a Neoplatonist and as a voice of western scholasticism?

But I don't think it's possible for something like this to have happened for the following reasons:

First, because the works of Augustine were largely unknown to the Orthodox Fathers of the Church until the thirteenth century "when a few written examples of his theological thought were translated".

Second, because Barlaam, who was refuted by Saint Gregory, expressed the western tradition as formulated by Augustine's views on many issues, such as that the revelation of the Triune God takes place through done and undone created symbols of the divinity, so that when God gives an immediate higher revelation through the intellect, He gives it by means of human sensations; that there is no difference between the divine essence and the uncreated energies; that divine Grace is a created thing that unites with the soul and directs the will of man from the changeable to the unchangeable God, in Whom man finds happiness with the satisfaction of his desires; that the Kingdom of God is created; and generally the views of Barlaam regarding revelation, Hell and the Kingdom were formed under the influence of Augustinian theology.

Third, Barlaam himself didn't understand the genuine patristic tradition, as expressed by the hesychast Fathers, because the Franko-Latins had subdued the entire patristic tradition beneath the predicates of Augustine - this is why Barlaam heard when he came to Thessaloniki for the first time different interpretations from what he recognized in Augustine and was surprised - but neither did "Palamas and his circle recognize the Augustinian origins of the cacodoxies of Barlaam". Moreover, the Greek-speaking Roman Fathers never took into consideration the works and thought of Augustine "which, moreover, have never been a basis for the Ecumenical Synods and the teachings of the Fathers".

Thus the view that Palamas used the text of the sacred Augustine "De Trinitate", through the translation of Maximos Planoudes, is difficult to accept, because I consider the most brilliant and most God-seeing Gregory Palamas, who had extraordinary intellectual gifts as well as personal experience of the Triune God, as we see in his biography written by his fellow monk the Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos, if he had read this specific text of Augustine, he would have perceived its thoughtful infrastructure as a deviation from Orthodox Tradition. In other words, he who did a very detailed critique of Barlaam's serious doctrinal issues, if he had read the text of the sacred Augustine it would have been impossible to not know the relationship that existed between the sacred Augustine and Barlaam.

Certainly in his work "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters" he refers to and interprets the ten Aristotelian categories, namely - Substance, Quantity, Quality, Relation, Place, Time, Position, State, Action, Affection. It is even known that Saint Gregory Palamas knew from his studies in Constantinople Aristotelian philosophy, and no one would expect him to learn the Aristotelian categories of Aristotle from the related work of Augustine. From Saint Philotheos Kokkinos we know that Saint Gregory was a student of Aristotle. Indeed he writes concerning this issue that Gregory excelled in his study of grammar, rhetoric, physics, logic "and all the science of Aristotle" beyond all others, and that he was admired by his teachers for this. Furthermore, the chief officer and preeminent scholar Theodore Metochites, who interacted with Gregory before the Emperor regarding the writings on logic by Aristotle, was surprised by the analysis of Gregory and told the Emperor: "If Aristotle himself had been present to listen to this young man, he would, I believe, have praised him beyond measure. For the time being, I saw that it is those with such a soul and such nature as his who should be pursuing knowledge, and especially the omnifarious philosophical writings of Aristotle."

However there are two particular points that deserve special study:

One point is that in this work of Saint Gregory Palamas there is an excerpt from the "De Trinitate" of the sacred Augustine, namely "dispositions and states and places and times and suchlike things are not properly but only metaphorically to be ascribed to God...". I think upon inspection this can be seen as an interpolation, because it has little dependence on the text. The biggest argument which shows that Saint Gregory Palamas was not aware of this work of the sacred Augustine, by the translation of Maximos Planoudes, is that he would not agree to receive a few insignificant phrases from this work when we find out that a bit below this there are passages of the sacred Augustine that support the Filioque.

This passage is specifically found in the fifth book of the "De Trinitate" of the sacred Augustine. But I consider it unlikely, if not impossible, that Saint Gregory Palamas read this work and not realized that the thought of the sacred Augustine is problematic from an Orthodox perspective. And this is because in the very next paragraph the sacred Augustine seems to not be able to make a distinction between essence and hypostasis, when he writes: "I say essence, which in Greek is called οὐσία, and which we call more usually substance. They indeed use also the word hypostasis; but they intend to put a difference, I know not what, between οὐσία and hypostasis: so that most of ourselves who treat these things in the Greek language, are accustomed to say, μίαν οὐσίαν, τρεῖς ὑποστάσεις or in Latin, one essence, three substances." Also, it is unlikely that Saint Gregory Palamas didn't realize that immediately after this the thought of Augustine concludes with the Filioque, when he writes that the Holy Spirit is a gift of the Father and the Son Who is given to people, and that "the Holy Spirit is the spirit of the Father and the Son". And of course here is not meant that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from Father or by the Father and through the Son sent in time, as taught by Saint Gregory Palamas. In this passage of the sacred Augustine things are reversed, since it says "the Father and Son are a beginning of the Holy Spirit, not two beginnings", in other words with respect to the Holy Spirit there is one beginning (Father and Son), and in respect to creation the Father and Son and Holy Spirit are one beginning. This means that while Saint Gregory Palamas distinguishes the pre-eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone and sent in time through the Son also, the sacred Augustine speaks to the contrary of the procession of the Holy Spirit also from the Son, as well as the energy of the Triune God in creation. The heresy of the Filioque is also seen in other works of the sacred Augustine.

And the question is: Why did Saint Gregory Palamas accept from this work of Augustine a passage that does not really matter to his text and is not pardoned of the heresy of the Filioque that exists in the next few passages?

The other point is that there are some common conceptual similarities between the work of Saint Gregory Palamas and this specific work of the sacred Augustine, mainly related to the Augustinian psychological theory regarding the Holy Trinity, and in particular that the Holy Spirit is the love/eros between the Father and the Son, from which comes the heresy of the Filioque. And we consider this because this is an image used by Saint Gregory Palamas, but it results in the opposite conclusion as that of Augustine, and of course no one can be sure if Saint Gregory Palamas borrowed this from Augustine.

Consequently, there are three positions regarding the authorship of the work "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters". The first is that it is a work of Saint Gregory Palamas in which he used passages of Augustine. I cannot accept this hypothesis. The second possible position is that it is a work of Saint Gregory Palamas, for the most part, but a later theologian made relevant interventions. The third position, which in my opinion is the most likely, is that the work titled "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters" is not a work of Saint Gregory Palamas, but of a later writer.

One can locate such a hypothesis in what Professor Panagiotis Chrestou says, in that the "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters" do not "consist of an accurate record of the overall theological and spiritual teachings of Gregory Palamas, as is usually maintained", and that the manuscript tradition is not rich. Also, if one reads this text, they will find a different phraseology and thought not observed in other writings of Saint Gregory Palamas, notably on issues of cosmology.

If this has a basis, then we are left with the view that the work "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters" was written by a later theologian who knew the teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas and the theology of the sacred Augustine and made a summary between the two, and he also knew the Latin language. Such a hypothesis can cleanse all that has been attributed to Saint Gregory Palamas, since in other writings he condemns with Orthodox arguments the heretical teachings regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. The question, however, becomes if such a hypothesis stands, then who might be the composer of such a work as the "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters" who knew both the teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas and the views of the sacred Augustine, as well as the Latin language.

Having studied this issue and discussed it with others, I identified two such possible people:

The first may be Metropolitan Theophanes of Nicaea, a contemporary of Saint Gregory Palamas, and probably born between 1315 and 1320, who became Metropolitan of Nicaea around 1366 and died in 1380 or 1381. He had a personal relationship with Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos, friend of Saint Gregory Palamas, and he took part in the conflict in favor of hesychasm. Gennadios Scholarios considered him the best apologist in Byzantium. Most of his works remain unpublished. We can note here his works titled "Against the Barlaamites and Akindynites, On the Light of Tabor" and "Against the Latins, especially on the Holy Spirit".

Spyros Lambrou, who compiled a list of the manuscripts of Mount Athos, attributed to Theophanes of Nicaea the authorship of the works attributed to Saint Gregory Palamas titled "Dialogue of an Orthodox with a Barlaamite that Uncovers the Barlaamite Delusion" and "The Orthodox Theophanes Dialogue with the Barlaamites who Returned to Honor God". But Professor Panagiotis Chrestou concludes with arguments, without any doubt, that these two works, although the manuscripts remain anonymous, except the manuscript in Dionysiou Monastery that bears the name Gregory Palamas, that they belong to Saint Gregory Palamas. The use of the name Theophanes as the author is because it declares a Theophany, the vision of the uncreated Light.

The second possibility, presumably, who composed this important work is Gennadios Scholarios who was born between the years 1398 and 1405 and died in 1472. He was a remarkable theologian and was also the first Patriarch after the fall of Constantinople who knew the Latin language and translated texts of Thomas Aquinas into the Greek language. Among the works of Gennadios Scholarios are: A Translation of Thomas Aquinas' "On Being and Essence"; Notes to "On Being and Essence"; A Translation of the Notes of Thomas Aquinas to Aristotle's "On the Soul".

One can carefully study the works of Gennadios Scholarios to identify the internal evidence, that is, the phrases that may coincide with the work "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters". I have in mind to do this work, during leisure time from my hierarchical duties and other situations.

From all that has been previously mentioned we have three conclusions:

First, Saint Gregory Palamas was unaware of the text "De Trinitate" by Augustine nor did he borrow quotes or ideas from it and, of course, the theology of Saint Gregory Palamas clearly differs from the theology of the sacred Augustine.

Second, the "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters", in the most likely scenario, is the work of a later author, who knew the teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas and Augustine and attempted this synthesis. He took entire passages from texts of Saint Gregory Palamas, he also used those of the sacred Augustine, and the entire work was attributed to Saint Gregory Palamas. Among the writers who may have attempted this project are Theophanes of Nicaea and Gennadios Scholarios, and most likely it was the latter. However, this needs further investigation.

Third, no one can deny the importance of this work, in its key points, as it expresses the teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas, which are teachings of the Church, since they give entire texts of his. In fact, besides the one image used in an Orthodox manner that shows the relationship of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, and the juxtaposition of a text of the sacred Augustine we mentioned above, it is a Palamite work that is both Orthodox and Patristic. It shall not cease to have great value, since it offers texts and theological points of the teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas and expresses the dogmatic and hesychastic tradition of the Orthodox Church, which clearly differs from the teachings of the sacred Augustine.

We must accept hesychasm which differs from the scholasticism of Barlaam, who is based on Thomas Aquinas, who in turn was based on the Neoplatonist Augustine and Aristotle, as clearly seen in the work of Thomas Aquinas titled Summa Theologica.

2. Theology and Pastoral Ministry

Allow me at the end of my speech to mention another point, which is, in my opinion, remarkable.

The "One Hundred and Fifty Chapters" are important and constitute Orthodox dogmatic teachings, linking theology in an amazing way, namely about God, cosmology, anthropology, the economy of the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, and soteriology which is experienced when a human being partakes of the uncreated deifying energy of God. Thus, the content of this important text defines the work of Orthodox pastoral theology.

Indeed, Orthodox theology is not scholastic and ideological, it is not moralistc or humanistic, but it is eminently pastoral, which is exercised in the "space" of the Church.

A contemporary theologian must study the texts of the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers of the Church, because they are the created expressions, thoughts and images of the ineffable and uncreated reality. At the same time, however, we must study those who are living bodies, who live and partake of the revelatory experience of theosis, and are witnesses of God in each era. Then they should enter into the hell of human failure, to transfer the results of their theological research and experience to people who are hurting and wounded.

Similar is the work of a medical scientist researcher. He studies the given created realities, trying to understand the manner and behavior of the disease, investigating the genome in the science lab, struggling to discover the appropriate drug, doing tests and clinical applications, and then places the drug on the market in order to tackle human suffering. The same should be done with spiritual illness and the theologians who occupy themselves with human therapy. Besides research of monumental, biblical and living sources, they are occupied with human suffering.

Today there is profound suffering, existential and social. Contemporary people are wounded and hurt, which is why clergy and theologians must help them in ways that are indicated in the texts of those experienced, as well as through the lives of contemporary great living theologians of our time. Thus theology is associated with the pastoral ministry of the Church, and on this point I see the link between Theological Schools and the administration and pastoral ministry of the Church. In this way I observed my professors at Theological School, who had an Orthodox ecclesiastical mindset and in various ways led us to Mount Athos and so we studied the science of theology, by analyzing patristic texts, and combined this with the living tradition which we found in Mount Athos.

It is not possible today to face the ecclesiastical issues cut off from the created expressions and thoughts of those who are deified, and alienated from the experience of the saints who experienced ineffable uncreated expressions. Yet it is not possible to exercise a moralistic and non-theological pastoral ministry to people who are mentally and existentially hurting and wounded.

This anguish of contemporary people I read about in a realistic manner in the known novel of Dostoevsky titled Notes from the Underground. In the mouth of the hero, or rather anti-hero, Dostoevsky put the following startling words:

"We are all divorced from life, we are all cripples, every one of us, more or less. We are so divorced from it that we feel at once a sort of loathing for real life, and so cannot bear to be reminded of it. Why, we have come almost to looking upon real life as an effort, almost as hard work, and we are all privately agreed that it is better in books. And why do we fuss and fume sometimes? Why are we perverse and ask for something else? We don't know what ourselves. It would be the worse for us if our petulant prayers were answered. Come, try, give any one of us, for instance, a little more independence, untie our hands, widen the spheres of our activity, relax the control and we ... yes, I assure you ... we should be begging to be under control again at once....

Leave us alone without books and we shall be lost and in confusion at once. We shall not know what to join on to, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise. We are oppressed at being men -- men with a real individual body and blood, we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace and try to contrive to be some sort of impossible generalized man. We are stillborn, and for generations past have been begotten, not by living fathers, and that suits us better and better. We are developing a taste for it. Soon we shall contrive to be born somehow from an idea. But enough; I don't want to write more from the 'Underground'."

The view of Dostoevsky is very interesting and is experienced without much relief in our time, that we "would have suffered more if our crazy desires took place." Even his view is impressive, where he says that we would be lost without books. And very remarkable is his view that "We are stillborn, and for generations past have been begotten, not by living fathers, and that suits us better and better."

I think that what should be transmitted today by the Church with her theology by Orthodox theologians is the way of Hesychasm. I speak with academics who are sufficiently aware of these issues, and certainly know that theology as a charismatic state is the knowledge of God and hesychasm is the way and method by which people are released from their various dependencies, become liberated and journey towards the experience of the knowledge of God. Of course, there exist today some (clergy and laity) who live in the Orthodox Church, but they have clearly been influenced by the scholasticism and moralism of the West and they cannot comprehend Orthodox patristic theology which moves beyond scholastic and moralistic standards, which is why they are scandalized by everything Orthodox they listen to and read.

Saint Gregory Palamas defines hesychia (stillness or quietude) as "the nous and cosmos at a standstill, forgetfulness of things below, initiation into the things above, the laying aside of thoughts for something better. This is true praxis, a means of approaching theoria or, to state it more aptly, the vision of God, which is the only proof of a soul in good health."

This is the theological method of knowing God and simultaneously solves existential, spiritual and social problems. And this essential aspect of the Church is what contemporary people seek.

Source: This is an excerpt from a longer speech titled "The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters", delivered by His Eminence upon being awarded a doctorate from the University of Athens. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.