OrthoAnalytika

Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas

Notes:

So, when the saints contemplate this divine light within themselves, seeing it by the divinising communion of the Spirit, through the mysterious visitation of perfecting illuminations—then they behold the garment of their deification, their mind being glorified and filled by the grace of the Word, beautiful beyond measure in His splendour; just as the divinity of the Word on the mountain glorified with divine light the body conjoined to it. For “the glory which the Father gave Him”, He Himself has given to those obedient to Him, as the Gospel says, and “He willed that they should be with Him and contemplate His glory” (John 17:22,24). St. Gregory Palamas, The Triads, I, iii, 5.

 

The problem with words.

  • We need them, but...

The problem with words about God.

  • We need them, but...

  • Even the best words about God (scripture, prayer, Creed)

    • Always about us, wanting something, looking for answers to specific questions, challenging

    • This is like listening to someone only so you can figure out how to argue with them, or manipulate them, or figure out how much they can be trusted.

Go in and meet God as He really is

  • Not the puppet we have created (from last week) with our words

  • “Do you not know that you are the temple of God”; 1 Corinthians 3:16.

  • Our heart – that is to say, the best and most central part of our mind – is the altar, the place where God means to live and where we can go to meet Him.

  • Actually meet HIM, not our image of Him.

  • But the only way to see and know Him and the way to experience His grace is to let go of the wall of words and ideas and requests and demands and disappointments that we build between us

    • I mean, it would be very strange for God to give us a place where we could meet Him, and then for us to build a wall to keep us from Him (like an iconostas with no doors!).

  • St. Gregory knew that it was possible to experience the grace of God when He went in silence into the Altar of His Mind. He knew this because this is described in Scripture, it is taught by the Church, and because just his thing was a regular part of his life. It took years of training to strip away the wall of words and ideas and requests and demands and disappointments so that he could do it, but through constant effort and an apprenticeship with a good elder monk, he was able to do it.

  • This experience is available to us as well. Just as the grace of God comes so that we can be blessed by the sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, the Eucharist and so on; so too can we be blessed by the silent prayer in the presence of God.

Go out and meet our neighbor

 

There is another way that is related to the way of silence, and that is the way of service. Whenever we serve someone, we are serving Christ. Whenever we gather in His name – and this includes anything we do in the name of sacrificial Love – He is there. Christ God Himself told us this.

Here, the way of meeting is different, but the same discipline is required. We talked about this some last week; about how we need to transform the absurd theater of our mind – populated by terrible caricatures of our enemies and ridiculously over-wrought images of ourselves and our friends – and turn it into a fitting temple; adorned by icons that show the people in our lives in the light of Christ rather than in the light of our own biases and brokenness.

Note how much this picture of our mind fits with what we do here: we have this Church, a place designed for us to meet God – and we have it adorned with the images of men and women, and these images are intentionally done in a way that shows the way God loves and blesses them. We don't portray them in their sin, nor to we overdo or romanticize their beauty – it's not about them, it's about the Christ in them. Our minds can be the same. We go there to meet God and we bring the images of our loved ones – both friends and enemies – into His presence so that they can shine in His love.

And surely this is an act of love on our behalf. But if we really love our neighbor, this can only be part of the way we serve him. Just as we have to go out of this temple to take the Gospel to the world, so to do we have to take the love that we experience in the temple of our heart and mind to the people in our lives.

But remember how St. Gregory spent years tearing down the words and ideas and requests and demands and disappointments that were the bricks in the wall keeping Him from seeing and meeting God as He really was in the altar of the temple of our mind?

We have to do the same thing so that we can see and love the people in our lives as they really are. Even the best words we use to describe them; “wife”, “husband”, “son”, “daughter”, “father”, “mother”, and “friend” carry so much baggage and extra accumulated meaning and emotion that they distract us from the truth of the child of God before our eyes.

And so, just as we work to approach God in simplicity and awe and reverence; without words, and without judgment and without wanting anything but all that He is waiting and willing to give; let us do the same for our neighbor. And then the grace will transform us into holy images of His glory.

Direct download: Homily-HesychasmandLove.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EST