March 21, 2022

Homily on our Holy and Wonderworking Hierarch Gregory Palamas Archbishop of Thessaloniki (Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis)

 Homily on our Holy and Wonderworking Hierarch 
Gregory Palamas Archbishop of Thessaloniki

By Archimandrite Gabriel,
Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou


Six hundred years have passed since our Father among the Saints Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, reposed in the Lord. In 1959, honoring this anniversary in a grand manner, beginning with November 14, the day of his repose, the Church of Thessaloniki dedicated a festive celebration of three days in that city.Among the participants were representatives of all the Orthodox Churches and leaders in the field of Orthodox Theology. The celebrations constituted a major event in the history of the whole Orthodox Church, and by extension of the Holy Mountain, for it was here that the Holy Father began his spiritual activities and arduous struggles for Orthodoxy, having as his co-workers a group of select, God-inspired monastics.

The Hesychastic Movement of the 14th century constituted a flowering of our theological and philosophical literature. And it is recognized both by our scholars and by others as the most important religious movement of the Middle Ages.

For us Orthodox, and particularly the Greeks, it has an altogether special significance, from the religious as well as from the national standpoint. The 'Hesychastic Disputes' of that century, as they have been called in Church history, were not merely a rupture of the Palamites and the Barlaamites, not simply a special dispute about the 'uncreated light' and 'noetic prayer'. At its core, it was a clash between East and West, between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, and still deeper between Hellenism and Latinism. It was the culmination of three centuries of discord between two worlds. It was the opposition of the Orthodox soul to the arrogant aspirations of Papism that was later manifested at the Pseudo-Synod of Florence.

Throughout this dispute, Rome wanted to feel out the resistance of the East to its plans, and having the Latinizers as its allies, carried out an intense war against Palamas for a period of twenty years. Rome was finally defeated in definitive manner through the decisions of the Synod of Constantinople in 1341.

Orthodoxy owes much to this great teacher and authority on the dogmas. He is, after Saint Athanasios the Great, par excellence the authority of the dogmas, and similar to him in the sufferings which he endured, having been subjected to various persecutions by the Latins and by our Latinizers. But finally, through divine aid, he prevailed over them. He is the loudest herald of secret theology after Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and the most prolific writer among the later Fathers of our Church.

The great Metropolis of Thessaloniki is justly proud of her great Hierarch and Wonderworker Saint, and duly celebrates his memory.

The Holy Mountain, too, extols him and boasts of him in Christ, as an Hagiorite, as a remarkable apologist of monasticism, and as outstanding philosopher of mystical activity of the soul and purification according to Christ. And it deeply prays that the spirit of Saint Gregory Palamas will govern and direct the thoughts and orientation of today's leaders of the Church in the defense of the eternal truths of our Orthodoxy. In the course of the centuries, seldom are observed celebrations with such spirituality and very seldom has the Christian world duly concerned itself with 'Secret' Theology, the chief representative of which is considered to be Saint Gregory Palamas.

For our epoch especially - a time of spiritual aridity, of materialism - celebrations with a turning of the attention inward, such as that in Thessaloniki, consistute a spiritual oasis, refreshing weary mankind.

In our materialistic age, with the frantic endeavor to conquer the physical universe, and the turning of society towards technological civilization, mankind has lost its true orientation, has lost its ideals. It concerns itself with everything except the soul, having become 'mere flesh'. But "what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" as the Holy Gosple says (Matthew 16:26). For this reason we rejoice when we hear of spiritual celebrations such as this one.

Source: "Jubilee of Gregory Palamas", Hagioreitike Bibliotheke, 1959, No. 279-280, November-December, pp. 388-389. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.