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August 7, 2014

The Transfiguration and Post-Patristic Theology

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The Evangelists describe that on Mount Tabor the face of Christ shined like the sun and His garments became white as light. The Fathers of the Church teach that the Body of Christ, with His incarnation, became a source of the uncreated energies of God.

In the fourteenth century there was a big debate between Saint Gregory Palamas and Barlaam on the nature of this Light, that is, if this Light of the Transfiguration was created or uncreated. Saint Gregory Palamas taught that this Light was not a third hidden force within Christ, but it was the Light of the divinity of Christ. Thus, this Light was divine and uncreated, while Barlaam contended that it was a created light. Barlaam generally argued that the Light seen by the Prophets and Apostles was created and below the reasoning faculty, which is why he considered philosophers who thought reasonably to be higher than the Prophets and Apostles who saw this Light. This discussion led to the Church accepting synodically the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas and numbered Gregory Palamas in the list of saints of the Church, while the heretic Barlaam was condemned.

Modern post-patristic theology interprets the event of the Transfiguration of Christ from the perspective of Barlaam and unbinds itself from the teaching of the supreme Father of the Church, Saint Gregory Palamas. Generally, this movement restores in a more intense form what a few years ago was called Neo-Orthodoxy and before that was called Barlaamism. If anyone investigates these streams of thought, they will find that they have common origins and common points.

Source: From the book Μεταπατερική θεολογία καί ἐκκλησιαστική πατερική ἐμπειρία (Post-Patristic Theology and the Ecclesiastical Patristic Experience). Translation by John Sanidopoulos.