On St. Gregory Palamas

Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra

Today is also the Second Sunday of Lent, when we celebrate the memory of Saint Gregory Palamas. He was the son of a Byzantine nobleman, but renounced the world and became a monk, persuading his mother, siblings, and servants also to be tonsured and enter monasteries and convents. Every day he drank only a little water and ate only a little bread. He avoided sleep as much as he could, because it robbed him of precious hours for prayer, which for him was communion with God. For a three-month period, he slept only for a short interval around mid-day, after consuming a small amount of bread. He was a “heavenly man and an earthly angel”. For five days of the week he remained secluded in his cell, leaving it only on Saturdays and Sundays in order to attend the Divine Liturgy. There he sought the face of God, an experience essential for his assimilation to the divine, for his growth in likeness to God. Like the Psalmist, his constant wish was to be with God, to be united with Him. As he was dying, he appeared to be speaking, although his voice was little more than a whisper. One of his disciples drew near and heard him say the following words: “The things of heaven are destined for heaven”. And this he repeated, his biographer tells us, in a rhythmic fashion until the moment when his “heavenly soul was released from its natural union with the earth, and joined the company of the angels, with whom he had long consorted.” Saint Gregory could not imagine himself to be merely a creature of the earth, because all his thoughts, his heart, his desires, and his whole being were of heaven. He was completely united with God. (Psalms and the Life of Faith, On Psalm 63. pp. 16-18)

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