Saint Gregory Palamas
Today we remember the great defender of Orthodoxy and the Hesychasts, St. Gregory Palamas.
We can look back into history and see many occasions in which western thinking and spirituality has invaded and attempted to usurp – sometimes with great temporary success – the Eastern Church and Her ways. And in the mid-14th century we see just such a conflict arising, a conflict in which we can clearly see the seeds whose now gown selves continue to divide East and West.
Hesychasm is the way of quietude. It is one path of contemplation in which monastics sought to have direct experience with the Uncreated Light of God.
Barlaam, a Greek monk who was, not coincidentally, trained in the west led and anti-hesychast campaign arguing that one could not “experience” God’s essence (Uncreated Light) and that the eastern approach was one of ignorance and superstition. Barlaam instead advocated a sort of Aristotelian intellectual and scholastic contemplation of God and that God's "otherness" makes it impossible to experience Him in the way that the monastics were claiming. The Archbishop of Thessaloniki, Gregory Palamas would have none of it.
St. Gregory Palamas argued that Hesychasm and the mystical way of contemplation was the only way to Theosis. But how could these men be experiencing the very essence of God, which we presumed to be unknowable? He described what the monks were experiencing as the Energies of God – the means by which God in His essence can be made known and experienced by humankind. The Uncreated Light, said St. Gregory, as seen by the Hesychasts was the very same light seen by the Apostles on Mt. Tabor and the Apostle Paul at the moment of his conversion.
Please forgive this very simplistic explanation from a very simplistic Orthodox Christian…but I think you get the gist of the matter.
The underlying debate was essentially over whether we come to know God primarily through the mind or through the heart. I face this debate personally everyday.
Holy Father Gregory Palamas, pray unto God for us!
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 2:56 PM [+]