April 6, 2016

Saint Gregory of Sinai (Intro. to his Writings in the "Philokalia")

St. Gregory of Sinai (Feast Day - April 6)

Introduction to the Writings of Saint Gregory of Sinai in the Philokalia

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Our holy Father Gregory, who received monastic tonsure at Mount Sinai and so was given the name Sinaite, flourished under the rule of Andronikos Palaiologos (1281-1328). Arriving at Mount Athos, he visited the monasteries and hermitages there, and found many ornamented with prudence and dignified manners, but they had only dug the trenches of practical virtue, while they were so deprived of initiation into the guarding of the nous, the rigors of hesychia and theoria, that there were those who did not even know of these things, even by name. He met only three at the Skete of Magoula, opposite Philotheou Monastery, whose names were Isaiah, Cornelius, and Makarios, that dedicated themselves a little to theoria. 

Inflamed, then, by divine zeal, he taught them about watchfulness and the guarding of the nous and noetic prayer, not only to those living in the solitude of hesychia, but also to those in the monasteries. Not only that, but he also established in Paroria, Macedonian three very large monasteries and visited a vast number of places and traversed vast provinces with his divine teachings; he pleaded with all he met to enter the work of unceasing noetic prayer, and with this led many sinners to repentance and turned them from unworthy to worthy (cf. Jer. 15:19), so he made it possible for them to be saved. The most holy Partiarch Kallistos, known to be his disciple, wrote his extended biography.

But the celebrated Gregory, just as during his life he was a teacher of sacred watchfulness, so after death he leads us by the hand by means of these writings here. He initiates us, in fact, into the practical, best, and most perfect way of noetic prayer of the heart, he gives prescriptions for the moral virtues and the passions and he makes clear what, with these, are the signs of deception and grace. This work is very useful, as much as any ever, for beginners, for those in the middle, and the perfect. The spiritual richness hidden in these writings, as much and great as they are, will be found by those who study them deeply, and they will indeed taste of profound joy by uncovering them.