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March 28, 2021

Homily for the Sunday of Saint Gregory Palamas (Archimandrite George Kapsanis)

In 1341 the teachings of Barlaam the Calabrian were condemned at the Synod of Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarch ordered his writings to be burned, while the teachings of St. Gregory Palamas were vindicated.

 By Archimandrite George Kapsanis,
Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos

(Delivered in 1987)

Today we celebrated the memory of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki. Saint Gregory is a great theologian of our Church, a great spiritual teacher, a great Hierarch of our Church.

In the fourteenth century westerners, as today so also then, were imbued with the spirit of rationalism and could not understand what divine Grace is and how God's Grace works in man. They tried to rationally interpret what is the Grace of God.

Then Saint Gregory Palamas taught the correct, Orthodox theology of the Gospel, the Apostles and the Fathers. That the Grace of God is the energy of God, it is uncreated, it is not a creation of God, and it sanctifies man, illumines man and even makes man, when man unites with God, a god by Grace.

And so he enabled everyone by his teaching to strive to have the Grace of God in their lives. May we have the Grace of God in our lives and not be in this world deserted, inconsolable, empty, full of stress and meaninglessness in our lives.

Because, when man does not have the Grace of God, he is empty, unfulfilled and his life is filled with anxiety and despair. But when man has the Grace of God, then he has the peace of God in him, he has the joy of God in him, he finds the true meaning of his life, he has light in his life.

So we owe all this to Saint Gregory Palamas. That is why our Church considers him as one of its greatest teachers and spiritual fathers. And it is a blessing that he was Archbishop of Thessaloniki, which is closest to Mount Athos, the second Queen City of Orthodoxy and our nation.

But he was also from Mount Athos, because here on Mount Athos Saint Gregory lived in asceticism for many years and from here he started and received the spiritual weapons to teach the Orthodox teaching about divine Grace.

All of us modern Greeks, and in fact the Orthodox believers, must read the works of Saint Gregory Palamas, to see what a great treasure Saint Gregory is and what he offers to each of us today. Because the Holy Fathers, and especially Saint Gregory Palamas, are relevant. It was not for the fourteenth century, it is for today.

That is why I recommend to all - and especially those of you who are educated - to seek to find and read the life of Saint Gregory Palamas and as much as you can from his works, to receive light for your life.

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Today, as we celebrate Saint Gregory, the teacher of Grace, we also experienced a mystery of the Grace of God, the mystery of the Priesthood. His Holiness,* having the fullness of the Grace of the Priesthood - because the Bishops have the fullness of the Priesthood - by the Grace of God transmitted this apostolic Grace to our brother, who until now - two hours ago - was a Deacon and then two hours later, when divine Grace came, he became a Priest of the Most High God. And now he can perform the Immaculate Mysteries and transmit the Grace of God through the Holy Mysteries.

It is a sign of God's love and how much God loves us. That's how I felt today. In as much as that He gives us humans the power to impart His divine Grace, first to the Bishops and then to the Priests. Is not this the love of God? That divine Grace does not come directly from Heaven, but is transmitted through people, whom He ordains by His Grace.

And the second Mystery of the Grace of God; the sanctification of the Honorable Gifts. For twice the Holy Spirit came today; to change the brother into a Priest and to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

This also is God's love; it also shows us how much God loves us. He gives us His Body and His Blood, so that we too can become one with Him. He did this so that He may not be in Heaven while we are on earth, but that we may we be in Christ and Christ be in us.

For all this we feel deep gratitude and thank our Crucified and Risen Lord for His gifts which are great and unique, for which we must be constantly excited and grateful in our lives, all of us, young and old.

Thank you all, fathers and brothers, for coming to pray together, and I humbly wish with the blessing of His Eminence that the Grace of the All-Holy Spirit, who so richly was shined today on all of us, to enlighten us and guide us on the path of our lives, to reach the awareness of the truth of Christ.


* Metropolitan Dionysios I of Neapolis and Stauroupolis.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.