Gregory Palamas: The genealogy of Christ Wednesday, Dec 21 2016 

Gregory_PalamasMatthew…begins with those born first, and makes no mention of anyone born before Abraham.

He traces the line down from Abraham until he reaches Joseph to whom, by divine dispensation, the Virgin Mother of God was betrothed (Matt. 1:1-16), being of the same tribe and homeland as him, that her own stock may be shown from this to be in no way inferior.

Luke, by contrast, begins not with the earliest forebears but the most recent, and working his way back from Joseph the Betrothed, does not stop at Abraham, nor, having included Abraham’s predecessors, does he end with Adam, but lists God among Christ’s human forebears (Lk. 3:23-38);

wishing to show, in my opinion, that from the beginning man was not just a creation of God, but also a son in the Spirit, which was given to him at the same time as his soul, through God’s quickening breath (Gen. 2:7).

It was granted to him as a pledge that, if, waiting patiently for it, he kept the commandment, he would be able to share through the same Spirit in a more perfect union with God, by which he would live forever with Him and obtain immortality.

By heeding the evil counsel of the pernicious angel, man transgressed the divine commandments, was shown to be unworthy, forfeited the pledge, and interrupted God’s plan.

God’s grace, however, is unalterable and His purpose cannot prove false, so some of man’s offspring were chosen, that, from among many, a suitable receptacle for this divine adoption and grace might be found, who would serve God’s will perfectly, and would be revealed as a vessel worthy to unite divine and human nature in one person, not just exalting our nature, but restoring the human race.

The holy Maid and Virgin Mother of God was this vessel, so she was proclaimed by the Archangel Gabriel as full of grace (Lk. 1:28), being the chosen one among the chosen, blameless, undefiled and worthy to contain the person of the God-Man and to collaborate with Him.

Therefore God pre-ordained her before all ages, chose her from among all that had ever lived, and deemed her worthy of more grace than anyone else, making her the holiest of saints, even before her mysterious childbearing.

For that reason, He graciously willed that she should make her home in the Holy of Holies, and accepted her as His companion to share His dwelling from her childhood.

He did not simply choose her from the masses, but from the elect of all time, who were admired and renowned for their piety and wisdom, and for their character, words and deeds, which pleased God and brought benefit to all.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Old Testament Saints. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009).

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Gregory Palamas: Christ now sent forth the Spirit Who comes from the Father Sunday, Jun 19 2016 

Gregory_PalamasA short while ago, with the strong eyes of faith, we beheld Christ ascending, no less clearly than those accounted worthy to be eye-witnesses.

Nor are we less favoured than they. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”, says the Lord (John 20:29), referring to those who have found assurance through hearing, and see by faith.

Recently we saw Christ lifted up from the ground bodily (Acts 1:9). Now, through the Holy Spirit sent by Him to His disciples, we see how far Christ ascended and to what dignity He carried up the nature He assumed from us.

Clearly He went up as high as the place from which the Spirit sent by Him descended. He who spoke through the prophet Joel showed us whence the Spirit comes, saying, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28), and to Him David addressed the words, “Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth” (Ps. 103:32).

It follows that at His ascension Christ went up to the Father on high, as far as His Fatherly bosom, from which comes the Spirit. Having been shown, even in His human form, to share the Father’s glory, Christ now sent forth the Spirit Who comes from the Father and is sent by Him from heaven.

But when we hear that the Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son, this does not mean that the Spirit has no part in their greatness, for He is not just sent, but also Himself sends and consents to be sent.

This is clearly shown by Christ’s words spoken through the prophet, “Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth and stretched out the heavens, and now the Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent Me” (cf. Isa. 48:13-16). Again, speaking through the same prophet He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek” (Isa. 61:1).

The Holy Spirit is not just sent, but Himself sends the Son, Who is sent by the Father. He is therefore shown to be the same as the Father and the Son in nature, power, operation and honour.

By the good pleasure of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, the only-begotten Son of God, on account of the boundless ocean of divine love for mankind, bowed the heavens and came down (Ps. 17:9). He appeared on earth after our fashion, lived among us, and did and taught great, wonderful and sublime things truly worthy of God, which led those who obeyed Him towards deification and salvation.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 24, on Pentecost, 1-2. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009), full version online here.

Gregory Palamas: This great mystery of our re-creation and restoration Saturday, Dec 26 2015 

Gregory_PalamasGod who sits upon the cherubim (Psalm 99:1) is set before us as a babe on earth.

He upon whom the six-winged seraphim cannot look, being unable to gaze intently not only at His nature but even at the radiance of His glory, and therefore covering their eyes with their wings (Isaiah 6:2), having become flesh, appears to our senses and can be seen by bodily eyes.

He who defines all things and is limited by none is contained in a small, makeshift manger. He who holds the universe and grasps it in the hollow of His hand is wrapped in narrow swaddling bands and fastened into ordinary clothes.

He who possesses the riches of inexhaustible treasures submits Himself voluntarily to such great poverty that He does not even have a place at the inn; and so He enters into a cave at the time of His birth, who was brought forth by God timelessly and impassibly and without beginning.

[…] Anyone who has been vouchsafed understanding and grasped the honour which our nature received from God through being formed by His hands in His own image, will run towards Him, having come to a realization of His love for mankind, and will obey Him and learn His commandments. But how much more so if he comprehends, as far as is possible, this great mystery of our re-creation and restoration.

God formed human nature out of the earth with His own hand and breathed His own life into man (Genesis 2.7; 1 Thessalonians 5.23), whereas everything else He brought into being by His word alone. He then allowed man to be governed by his own thoughts and follow his own initiative, because he was a rational creature with a sovereign will.

Left alone, deceived by the evil one’s counsel and unable to withstand his assault, man did not keep to what was in accordance with his nature, but slid towards what was unnatural to it. So now God not only forms human nature anew by His own hand in a mysterious way, but also keeps it near Him.

Not only does He assume this nature and raise it up from the fall, but He inexpressibly clothes Himself in it and unites Himself inseparably with it and was born as both God and man: from a woman, in the first instance, that He might take upon Himself the same nature which He formed in our forefathers; and from a woman who was a virgin, in the second, so that He might make man new.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 58, on the Holy Nativity of the Lord. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @ Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, Oakland, California.

Gregory Palamas: “God is glorious in his saints” Saturday, Nov 14 2015 

Gregory_PalamasLet us call to mind the martyrs’ superhuman struggles, how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil one’s strength, disregarding pain and wounds…, and keeping the confession of faith in Christ in its integrity – complete, unharmed and unshaken.

As a result there were bestowed on them the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit and the power to work miracles.

Let us consider the patience of holy men and women, how they willingly endured long periods of fasting, vigil and various other physical hardships as though they were not in the body, battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin, in the invincible inner warfare against principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness (Eph. 6:12).

They wore away their outer selves and made them useless, but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him from whom they also received gifts of healing and mighty works.

When we think on these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such grace and power. For even if their intentions were good and noble, without God’s strength they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature and driven away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies.

That is why, when the psalmist and prophet declared “God is glorious in his saints”, he went on to say, “he giveth strength and power unto his people” (Ps. 68:35 LXX). Carefully consider the force of these prophetic words. Whereas God, according to the psalmist, gives all his people strength and power – for He shows no partiality (cf. Acts 10:34) – He is glorified only in His saints.

The sun pours down its rays abundantly upon all alike, but they are visible only to those with open eyes. Those with clear-sighted, pure eyes benefit from the pure light of the sun, not those whose vision is dimmed because illness, mist or something similar has afflicted their eyes. In the same way, God richly bestows His help on all, for He is the ever-flowing, enlightening and saving fount of mercy and goodness.

But not everyone takes advantage of His grace and power to practise and perfect virtue or show forth miracles – only those with a good intent, who demonstrate their love and faith towards God by good works (cf. Jas. 2:20-26), who turn away completely from everything base, hold fast to God’s commandments and lift up the eyes of their understanding to Christ the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 15, @ Diakonima, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (2009 and 2014) and On the Saints: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas (2008).

Gregory Palamas: He bestowed at the time of His Transfiguration a divine power upon the eyes of the apostles Thursday, Aug 6 2015 

Gregory_PalamasThe apostles fell to the ground, unable to rest their gaze on the glory of the light of the Son, because it was a “light unapproachable”.

The Spirit, too, is light, as we read: “He who has shone in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 4:6).

If then the unapproachable is true and this light was unapproachable, the light was not a simulacrum of divinity, but truly the light of the true divinity, not only the divinity of the Son, but that of the Father and the Spirit too.

This is why we sing together to the Lord when we celebrate the annual Feast of the Transfiguration: “In Your light which appeared today on Thabor, we have seen the Father as light and also the Spirit as light,” for “You have unveiled an indistinct ray of Your divinity.”

[…] Denys the Areopagite, Gregory the Theologian and all the others who await His coming from heaven with glory, affirm clearly that Christ will be for all eternity as He then appeared, as we showed above.

This light, then, is not just a phantom without subsistence. Indeed, not only will Christ be eternally thus in the future, but He was such even before He ascended the Mountain.

Hear John Damascene, who is wise in divine things: “Christ is transfigured, not by putting on some quality He did not possess previously, nor by changing into something He never was before, but by revealing to His disciples what He truly was, in opening their eyes and in giving sight to those who were blind.

“For while remaining identical to what He had been before, He appeared to the disciples in His splendour; He is indeed the true light, the radiance of glory.”

Basil the Great testifies to the same truth: “His divine power appeared as it were as a light through a screen of glass, that is to say, through the flesh of the Lord which He had assumed from us; the power which enlightens those who have purified the eyes of the heart.”

And do not the annual hymns of the Church affirm that, even before the Transfiguration, He had previously been such as He then appeared? “What appeared today was hidden by the flesh, and the original beauty, more than resplendent, has been unveiled today.”

Moreover, the transformation of our human nature, its deification and transfiguration—were these not accomplished in Christ from the start, from the moment in which He assumed our nature?

Thus He was divine before, but He bestowed at the time of His Transfiguration a divine power upon the eyes of the apostles and enabled them to look up and see for themselves.

This light, then, was not a hallucination but will remain for eternity, and has existed from the beginning.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): The Triads, E 12-15, in Gregory Palamas: The Triads, ed. John Meyendorff, trans. Nicholas Gendle, Classics of Western Spirituality series, Paulist Press, 1983.

Gregory Palamas: The resurrection of the Lord is the re-creation of the first Adam Monday, Apr 27 2015 

Gregory_PalamasThe resurrection of the Lord is the regeneration of human nature.

It is the resuscitation and re-creation of the first Adam, whom sin led to death, and who because of death, again was made to retrace his steps on the earth from which he was made.

The resurrection is the return to immortal life.

Whereas no one saw that first man when he was created and given life—because no man existed yet at that time—woman was the first person to see him after he had received the breath of life by divine inbreathing.

For after him, Eve was the first human being.

Likewise no one saw the second Adam, who is the Lord, rise from the dead, for none of his followers were nearby and the soldiers guarding the tomb were so shaken that they were like dead men.

Following the resurrection, however, it was a woman who saw Him first before the others.

[…] The Myrrhbearers are all those women who followed with the mother of the Lord, stayed with her during those hours of the salvific passion, and with pathos anointed him with myrrh.

After Joseph and Nicodemos asked for and received the body of the Lord from Pilate, they took it down from the cross, wrapped it in a cloth with strong spices, placed it in a carved out tomb, and closed the door of the tomb with a large stone.

The Myrrhbearers were close by and watched, and as the Evangelist Mark relates, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were seated opposite the grave. With the expression “and the other Mary” he means the mother of Christ without a doubt.

[…] St Luke writes that they went and bought spices and myrrh; for they did not yet clearly know that he is truly the perfume of life for those who approach him in faith, just as he is also the odor of death for those who remain unbelievers to the end.

They did not yet clearly know that the odor of his clothes, the odor of his own body, is greater than all perfumes, that his name is like myrrh that is poured out to cover the world with his divine fragrance.

For those who wanted to remain close by the body, they contrived an antidote of perfumes for the stench of decomposition and anointed it. Thus they prepared the myrrh and the spices and rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

For they had not yet experienced the true sabbath, nor did they understand that exceedingly blessed sabbath that transports us from the confines of hell to the perfection of the bright and divine heights of heaven.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily for the Sunday of The Myrrhbearing Women, translated by Fr. Hierodeacon Photios Touloumes+ from Migne P.G. vol 151, pp 236-248; full text @ Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church.

Gregory Palamas: Incarnation, Death, Resurrection Saturday, Apr 19 2014 

Gregory_PalamasThe pre-eternal, uncircumscribed and almighty Logos and omnipotent Son of God could clearly have saved man from mortality and servitude to the devil without Himself becoming man.

He upholds all things by the word of His power and everything is subject to His divine authority….

But the incarnation of the Logos of God was the method of deliverance most in keeping with our nature and weakness, and most appropriate for Him who carried it out, for this method had justice on its side, and God does not act without justice….

Man…had voluntarily approached the originator of evil, obeyed him when he treacherously advised the opposite of what God had commanded, and was justly given over to him.

In this way, through the evil one’s envy and the good Lord’s just consent, death became twofold, for he brought about not just physical but also eternal death.

Christ clearly had to make immortal not only the human nature which existed in Him, but the human race, and to guide it towards participating in that true life which in due course procures eternal life for the body as well, just as the soul’s state of death in due course brought about the death of the body too.

That this plan for salvation should be made manifest, and that Christ’s way of life should be put before us to emulate, was highly necessary and beneficial.

At one time God appeared visibly before man and the good angels that they might imitate Him.

Later, when we had cast ourselves down and fallen away from this vision, God came down to us from on high in His surpassing love for mankind, without in any way giving up His divinity, and by living among us set Himself before us as the pattern of the way back to life.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and love of God! In His wisdom, power and love for mankind God knew how to transform incomparably for the better the falls resulting from our self-willed waywardness.

If the Son of God had not come down from heaven we should have had no hope of going up to heaven. If He had not become incarnate, suffered in the flesh, risen and ascended for our sake, we should not have known God’s surpassing love for us.

If He had not taken flesh and endured the passion while we were still ungodly, we should not have desisted from the pride which so often lifts us up and drags us down.

Now that we have been exalted without contributing anything, we stay humble, and as we regard with understanding the greatness of God’s promise and benevolence we grow in humility, from which comes salvation.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on Great and Holy Saturday, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @Kandylaki (fuller version).

Gregory Palamas: Spiritual Circumcision of the Heart Tuesday, Apr 1 2014 

Gregory_PalamasEven when your body does nothing, sin can be active in your mind.

When your soul inwardly repulses the evil one’s attack by means of prayer, attention, remembrance of death, godly sorrow and mourning, the body, too, takes its share of holiness, having acquired freedom from evil actions.

This is what the Lord meant by saying that someone who cleans the outside of a cup has not cleansed it inside, but clean the inside, and the whole cup will be clean (Matthew 23:25-26).

“Strive as hard as you can to ensure that your inner labour is according to God’s will, and you will conquer the outward passions” (Abba Arsenios, Apophthegmata Pateron 9).

If the root is holy, so are the branches (John 15:5). If the yeast is holy, so is the dough (Galatians 5:9).

“Walk in the spirit”, says Paul, “and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Christ did not abolish the Jewish circumcision but fulfilled it. He Himself says, “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5.17).

How did He do this? It was a seal, a sign and a symbolic way of teaching about cutting off evil thoughts in the heart….

The Jews…were reproached by the prophets for being uncircumcised in their hearts (cf.  Jeremiah 9:26; Romans 2:25).

Man looks at the outward person, but God regards the heart, and if it is full of foul or evil thoughts, that man deserved to have God turn away from him.

That is why the apostle exhorts us to pray without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8).

To teach us to strive for the spiritual circumcision of our hearts, the Lord pronounces the pure in heart and the poor in spirit blessed.

He stresses that the reward for this purity of heart is seeing God, and He promises the kingdom of heaven to the poor (Matthew 5:8, 3). By the poor He means those who live frugally and in need.

But it is not only such people whom He calls blessed, but also those who are like them in spirit, those who, because of their inner humility of heart and their good purpose, have arranged their outward life accordingly.

He forbids not just murder but anger, and commands us to forgive from our hearts those who sin against us. Nor will He accept the gift we offer unless we are first reconciled with one another and let go of anger (Matthew 5:21-24).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Lent,  from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009).

Gregory Palamas: Love of God and Love of the World Sunday, Mar 16 2014 

Gregory_PalamasWhereas love for God is the source and starting point of every virtue, love for the world is the cause of all evil.

For that reason these two loves are at enmity with each another and destroy each other.

As the Lord’s brother declares: “Friendship of the world is enmity to God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

And John, whom Christ loved, says, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, is not of the Father” (cf. 1 John 2: 15-16).

Let us take heed, brethren, lest by loving evil desires and being arrogant to one another, we fall away from our heavenly Father’s love. For these two evils include every passion which separates us from God.

The foundation, origin and cause of these two opposing roots, love for God and love for the world, is another pair of implacably opposed loves.

Love for the world springs from love for the body, since we love the world because of our body’s well-being. On the other hand, love for God comes from love for our spirit, our soul, for we love God on account of the comfort and good fortune our souls will have in the world to come.

The great Paul bears witness to the fact that these two attitudes are at enmity with each other by saying, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit”, meaning the soul, “and the Spirit against the flesh” (Gal. 5: 17).

[…] Because they yearn to attain to divine, unfading delight and are afraid of suffering in that fire, they break their ties with everything passionate, blameworthy and earthly, and strive to cleave to God through intense prayer.

[….] In this way they acquire love for God, and as they become more perfectly united with God through this love, they gain all the virtues as well. When God is at work in us, every kind of virtue becomes our own….

Those who truly act virtuously are aware of this, and do not pride themselves on any of their achievements, but humbly glorify God, the Fount of virtues, by Whom they are filled with the light that bestows goodness.

When the air is full of sunlight, the glory and radiance it displays are not its own but the sun’s. So those who are united with God through fulfilling His commandments are, according to Paul, the sweet savour of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 2:15).

They have Christ’s fragrance, and proclaim the virtues of Him Who called them “out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 33 – Virtues and their Opposite Passions, 4-5, 7, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009), @ Kandylaki (fuller version)

Gregory Palamas: “Two Men Went Up Into the Temple to Pray” Wednesday, Feb 12 2014 

Gregory_PalamasOn Luke 18:9-14 (the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee).

The Publican, as a publican, dwells in the depths of sin.

All he has in common with those who live virtuously is one short utterance, but he finds relief, is lifted up and rises above every evil.

He is numbered with the company of the righteous, justified by the impartial Judge Himself.

If the Pharisee is condemned by his speech, it is because, as a Pharisee, he thinks himself somebody, although he is not really righteous, and utters many arrogant words which provoke God’s anger with their every syllable.

Why does humility lead up to the heights of righteousness, whereas self-conceit leads down to the depths of sin?

Because anybody who thinks he is something great, even before God, is rightly abandoned by God, as one who thinks that he does not need His help.

Anybody who despises himself, on the other hand, and relies on mercy from above, wins God’s sympathy, help and grace. As it says, “The Lord resisteth the proud: but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Prov. 3:34 LXX).

The Lord demonstrates this in a parable, saying. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican” (Luke 18:10).

Wanting to set clearly before us the gain that comes from humility and the loss from pride, he divided into two groups all who went to the Temple, or, rather, those who went up into the Temple, who are the ones who go there to pray.

This is the nature of prayer, it brings a man up from the earth into heaven and, rising above every heavenly name, height and honor, sets him before the God Who is over all (cf. Rom. 9:5).

The ancient Temple was set in a high place, on a hill above the city. Once when a deadly epidemic was destroying Jerusalem, David saw the Angel of Death on this hill, stretching out his sword against the city.

He went up there and built an altar to the Lord, on which he offered a sacrifice to God, and the destruction ceased (2 Sam. 24:15-25).

All these things are an image of the saving ascent of the spirit during holy prayer and of the forgiveness it brings – for these things all foreshadowed our salvation.

They can also be an image of this holy church of ours, which is indeed set in a high place, in another angelic country above the world, where the great, bloodless sacrifice, acceptable to God, is offered for the forgiveness of the whole world, the destruction of death and abundance of eternal life.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Publican and the Pharisee, 2-4, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009); full text @ Discerning Thoughts.

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