March 7, 2012
HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN ALEXIOS` REFLECTIONS ON THE SUNDAY OF ST. GREGORY PALAMAS
Among the many ways that our Church assists us in our spiritual journey during Great Lent is that each Sunday during this Holy Season has a different saint to be celebrated and a different theme or focus. First, of course, is the Sunday of Orthodoxy, then St. Gregory Palamas, now we are approaching the Sunday of St. John Climacus, or St. John of the Ladder. Next Sunday we will celebrate St. Mary of Egypt. As you can see, all the Sundays have distinct themes and lessons to be learned.
On the second Sunday of the Great Fast, the Orthodox Church worldwide celebrates the memory of St. Gregory Palamas, fourteenth-century Archbishop of Thessaloniki and one of the greatest Fathers of the Orthodox Church. St. Gregory was a great man of prayer and was given a special grace to be able to put into words his mystical experiences.
St Gregory Palamas who affirmed that humans can know God not through the intellect alone, but through the experience of God`s uncreated energies. St. Gregory was not talking about an abstract idea, but about the bright reality of God`s grace which he had experienced himself. When we read in scripture of the glory of God, or a divine light, St. Gregory said that this is the uncreated grace of God that we are called to participate in.
St. Gregory taught that we carry within ourselves two tendencies, one for good, the other for evil. However, the tendency for good can only be developed in us by acquiring the grace of God, which can only come to us if we repent, if we accept the process of fasting and prayer, and dedicate ourselves to it.
That’s why at this time of year, we must realize that we are going to have to work hard, to struggle, to strive to overcome the obstacles that the devil places in our path. We must struggle to resist evil and temptation, to do what is against our conscience. Our Church offers us the tools of prayer, fasting, and increased opportunities for worship and charity in order to “fight the good fight.” To these, we can also add reading the Bible, and the Fathers, or spiritually edifying books.
Using these tools offered to us by our Holy Church, I pray that on our Lenten journey we will come to the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ by participation in His Grace.