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January 18, 2021

"On Peace With One Another": A Timeless and Always Relevant Homily of Saint Gregory Palamas


This first homily of St. Gregory Palamas was delivered during a procession, which took place either in December of 1350 or in January of 1351, on the third day following his entry into Thessaloniki, when the city was liberated from the Zealots by Emperor John VI Cantacuzenos (1347-1354). Though elected Metropolitan in May of 1347, Palamas, because of the strife caused by the fierce politico-religious disputes of the day, had twice been refused entry into the city, once in 1347 and then again in 1348. With this homily, he encouraged all the Orthodox Christians of Thessaloniki to be at peace with another, and unite in their purpose in Christ.


On Peace With one Another

By Saint Gregory Palamas

Delivered three days after his arrival in Thessalonica.

1. We are all brethren in that we have one Creator and Lord, who is Father to us all. That brotherhood we share with animals and inanimate nature. We are also brethren one to another as descendants of one earthly father, Adam, and the only creatures made in God's images. But even this is common to all nations. More especially, however, we are brethren in that we are of the same race and live in the some place; and above and else, share one mother, the Holy Church and true piety, the author and finisher of which is Christ, the rightful Son of God. Not only is He our God, but He was well-pleased to be our Brother, our Father and our Head, bringing us all together into one body and making us members of one another and of Himself.

2. When Christ rose from the dead on the third day, and appeared to the women who came to the tomb, He said, "Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (Matt. 28:10). Do you see how He deigns to be called our brother? Just as the apostle said of Him, "He took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren” (Heb. 2:16-17). Christ in also our Father because He gave us new birth through holy baptism and His divine grace. He calls His disciples His children and when He comes to His saving passion He promises not to leave them orphans. Again the apostle says, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Paul confirms that we are all one body in Christ by saying, "Now ye are body of Christ, and individually members of it” (I Cor. 12:27). As a single body has many members, and as many members as there are,they from a single body, so it is with Christ. For truly we were all baptized in the one Spirit into the one body.

3. We have baptism, brethren, for regeneration and divine birth, one faith, one hope, one God, who is above all and through all and in us all. In His love He gathers us together to Himself and makes us members of and one of Himself. But by the devil's cooperation hatred towards one another entered in, forcing out love, or rather, it entered in not once but many times, breaking up the unity that was ours in our love for one another and for God. This hatred not only paralyses the city by dividing its inhabitants, but it has also ranged them in warring factions and stirs up civil revolts, irreparable disorder and troubles. It makes fellow-countrymen into antagonists and renders our city like one taken by the enemy. Hatred stirs it up piteously against itself, deceiving it into making war on itself, until this accursed discord turns it into a grim riddle.

4. Who were those men who ran around the city, sometimes destroying houses and looting their contents, tracking down householders in a great frenzy, wanting to murder them without mercy or humanity? Where they not inhabitants of this city? Who were the victims of such frenzy, uproar, violence and persecution? Where not they too inhabitants of the city men from whom it had sometimes received great benefits? What suffering! What great wretchedness! The city fights against itself, it becomes its owns enemy. Its own feet pursue it, its own hands demolish it, its own voice clamors against it. Better men cringe with fear while the ignoble and inferior take control. Surely this commonly occurring sickness is much worse than the sickness of those paralyzed men mentioned in the Gospel, as evil-doing is worse and more harmful than idleness.

5. But do not feel annoyed when you hear these things. I do not say them to reproach you, but so that now you recognize the sickness, being sober and free of it, you may search out the reason you succumbed to it, long to be healed and make haste to attain and keep this healing, which is God's gift. He will also give you strength, as He did to those paralyzed men. For He not only healed them but granted each of them strength to pick up the bed on which he was lying and to walk without stumbling.

6. What was to blame for the sickness of those paralyzed men who were healed? There two such men: one was lying beside the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem (John 5:2-15), the other was carried by four men in Capernaum (Matt. 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12). What was to blame for their sickness? Sin. The Lord made this clear by saying to one of them, when He saw his faith before his body was healed, "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee” (Matt. 9:2). To the other, when he found hm after he had been healed, the Lord said, "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14). In their case sin put their health to flight and made them paralyzed. In your case sin you all share put love to flight and made you enemies of one another. For how else did you lose the common bond of love towards God and each other, except that your minds were enamored of sin? The Lord said in the Gospels, "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). Once love has grown completely cold, it is impossible for God's grace and care to remain.

7. I shall give you an illustration of how this passion works. Our soul is like a lamp with good works for oil. Instead of a wick it holds love, upon which rests, not light, but the grace of the divine Spirit. When the oil of good works fails, the wick of love in the soul must grow cold. So the light of God's care and love departs from those who leave virtue and put love to flight. God has turned His face from them and they are stirred up against one another. As David said, "Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled” (Ps. 104:29). Civil revolt and disorder befall us because of sin. They bring in all kinds of evil and give the prince of evil a home in the leaders of the revolt and their followers. He establishes himself within them and turns them into wild beasts. It is no exaggeration to say that he prepares them to acquire the character of demons. He who from the beginning was a murderer and hated men, now makes men murderers, antagonists to Christ, the giver of life, and, to an even greater extent, disobedient and hostile to earthly kings and their spiritual father, shepherd and teacher.

8. Turn back now to the way of Christ's gospel and hold to it firmly, that your unity with one another may be even flourishing and unbroken. Then the Lord will turn back to you and rest upon you in peace and the grace of the divine Spirit. As the paralyzed man in Jerusalem continued to lie beside the pool of Siloam which healed the sick, so you have not completely withdrawn from the Church of Christ which bestows peace. But as the paralyzed man had no one to help towards the grace from that pool, so you here in this place had no shepherd to preach peace, to gather the scattered members and bind them together, or to cast out from the body of Christ's Church the sickness and weakness which come from hatred.

9. Now we have come to stand with you in Christ. We are ambassadors for Christ, as though He did beseech you by us. Be reconciled with God. Recognize the ties of kinship between you, not only the spiritual ties but the physical ones going back to your forefathers. Call to mind the former days of peace. How many good things peace brought you, all now lost. Do not take account of evil, do not wish to repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. Embrace love to one another so you may attain the love that comes from God and show love towards Him. For it is impossible for those who do not love their own brethren to have love towards God or to enjoy His grace and care (cf. 1 John 3:17; 4:30)

10. Brethren, obey me as I come to you now and preach peace above all and towards all, according to the Lord's commandment. Share in this work by forgiving one another, if anyone has cause for complaint against another, as Christ forgave us, that you may become sons of peace, sons of God. He is your peace "who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition” (Eph. 2:14), abolishing enmity by His Cross. He said to His disciples, and through them to us, "into whatever town or house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house” (Luke 10:5). The whole work of His coming is peace, for this He bowed the heavens and come down. David foretold of Him, "In his days shall righteousness flourish and abundance of peace” (Ps. 72:7). Again in another Psalm he said of Him, "For he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, and to those who turn to him in their hearts” (Ps. 85:8)

11. Even the hymn sung by the angels at His birth shows that He came to us from heaven bringing peace: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). When He was completing the plan for our salvation, He left peace to His friends instead of an inheritance, telling them. "My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). He also said, "Have peace with one another and with all men” (cf. Mark 9:50), and, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love for one another" (John 13:35). The last prayer He gave us when He ascended to His Father establishes our love for one another: "Grant them that they may all be one” (John 17:21).

12. May we not fall away from this fatherly prayer or reject our inheritance from the heavenly Father, the seal and sign of our kinship with Him. Otherwise we may also reject our blessedness and our discipleship, and fall away from the life we have been promised. We may be shut out of the spiritual bridechamber and hear from the Father, the author of peace: "I know ye not. Depart from me, ye who are guilty of hatred, enmity and scandals” (cf. Matt. 7:23). That this might not befall us, He send peace into all the world through His disciples and apostles.

13. For this reason they put peace at the beginning of their homilies and writings, saying by way of a preface, "Grace to you and peace from God”. We too as servants of their ministry, now come to you bringing peace. With Paul we say to you, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). If without peace with all men no one will see God, how will he who does not lives in peace with his fellow-countrymen see God in the age to come? How can he avoid hearing, "Let him disappear, that he see not the glory of the Lord” (Isa. 26:10)? May none of us hear those accursed words, but let us all be reconciled and gathered into one in peace, love and concord with our Lord Jesus Christ in our midst, according to His sweet promise. He makes the difficulty of this present life easy for us and, when the right time comes, He will bestow on us eternal life, glory and the kingdom.

14. May we all attain to this by the grace and loving kindness of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the giver of peace, to whom be glory, might, honour and worship, together with His Father without beginning and the life-giving Spirit, now and for ever and unto the ages. Amen.