Gregory Palamas
(1296 - 1359)

Gregory PalamasHe was a monk of Mount Athos in Greece and later Archbishop of Thessalonica known as a preeminent theologian of Hesychasm.

He defended the Orthodox Church from the charges of Barlaam of Calabria who believed that philosophers had better knowledge of God than did the prophets, and valued education and learning more than contemplative prayer.

Gregory said that the prophets in fact had greater knowledge of God, because they had actually seen or heard God. Addressing the question of how it is possible for man to have knowledge of a transcendent and unknowable God, he drew a distinction between knowing God in his essence (Greek ousia) and knowing God in his energies (Greek energeiai) - workings or activities.

Gregory asserted that when Peter, James and John witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor, that they were seeing the uncreated light of God; and that it is possible for others to be granted to see that same uncreated light of God with the help of certain spiritual disciplines and contemplative prayer, but not in any automatic or mechanistic fashion.

God’s Uncreated Energies

Saint Basil the Great writes, “the energies are numerous and the essence of God simple and what we know when we say God is in fact His energies. We do not pressure to approach His essence. His energies come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.” Our Church Fathers tell us that although God is incomprehensible by nature, He comes in range of our experience by His energies. This means that He can be contemplated in things that point to Him.

We find numerous references to grace and light and these are all what we term uncreated. They are manifested by God to sanctify and transfigure all that God has made. Saint Maximos the Confessor says, that “God has created us in order that we may become partakers of the Divine Nature, that we may enter into eternity, that we may resemble Him, that is, being deified by His grace through which all things were made. The Divine uncreated light has the purpose of uniting the creation with God. It is a visitation from the future age to come and is often called by the Fathers the “light of the eighth Day.” This is the same light that Paul experienced on his way to Damascus. There are countless Scriptural references to Light: “God is Light” (1John 1:5); “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12); “the righteous shall shine as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father” (Matt 13:43). These cannot be understood as similes as numerous saints have Light as the Presence of Divinity.

We can not know the essence of God , but we can experience his energies and be united with the uncreated light of God and through Grace be made like Him. This is the path to Theosis which is a fundamental teaching of the Orthodox Church.










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