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2nd Sunday of the Great Fast - St. Gregory Palamas

ON THE SECOND SUNDAY OF GREAT LENT: The church leads us in pious works of prayer and fasting because the weakness of our soul and body can be healed only by the grace of God. The liturgy gives us the examples of the martyrs “who through penance and mortifications, overcame the disorder of their burning passions and received the grace to heal the sick and, after their deaths, the power to perform miracles (stichera of vespers). It exhorts us through the words of the kontakion: “Today the time of earthly deeds is revealed for judgment is at hand: let us be found fasting, and let us bring tears of supplication begging mercy and crying out: I have sinned more times than there are sands of the sea, but forgive me, O Creator of all, that I may receive the incorruptible crown.” Christ can save us as he saved and healed the palsied man in Capharnaum, described in today’s Gospel. On this second Sunday of Lent, the church also remembers St. Gregory Palamas, a devout bishop of the late Byzantine period, who came to the defense of “hesichism” or the devotion to the “prayer of the heart” also known as the “Jesus Prayer.” St. Gregory was known for his theological assertions on the “Created & Uncreated Energies” of God or “God’s essence vs. energy. This is now an accepted way to speak about the theology of Grace, from the Eastern Christian perspective. Only God, in his pre-existing and all-knowing state, can constitute the “essence” of Divine Grace, while it is through the “energies” of God, that the life of grace is passed on to the Christian faithful. In particular, it is in the sacraments that we share in God’s essence or very life. In the mysteries, especially the Eucharist, we participate in the body and blood of Jesus, his life and very being. Through the divine energies at work in the worship of the church—the liturgy (meaning “work of the people), the essence of God is made present among the Christian community. Gregory used terminology popular in his day to explain how God is alive and active among his people. His theology is still relevant for us today, as we remind ourselves of our basic catechism, through which we were taught to understand the truths of the faith. Especially during Great Lent, the church reminds us to “brush up” on our theology, going back to some of the basics of Christian belief and the commemoration of St. Gregory Palamas and his writings is one way that we can refresh our understanding of them.

'Be attentive to yourself,' says Moses (Deut. 15:9.LXX) - that is, to the  whole of yourself, not to a few things that pertain to you, neglecting the  rest. By what means? With the intellect assuredly, for nothing else can pay  attention to the whole of yourself. Set this guard, therefore, over your  soul and body, for thereby you will readily free yourself from the evil  passions of body and soul. Take yourself in hand, then, be attentive to  yourself, scrutinize yourself; or, rather, guard, watch over and test  yourself, for in this manner you will subdue your rebellious unregenerate  self to the Spirit and there will never again be 'some secret iniquity in  your heart' (Deut. 15:9).

St. Gregory Palamas, Those Who Practice a Life of Stillness no. 9, The  Philokalia Vol. 4 edited by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware; Faber and Faber pg. 338-339

 


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