Greetings to the International Conference on Saint Gregory Palamas

9 March 2012

The Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki in collaboration with the Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies, the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies at Cambridge, the Metropolis of Thessaloniki as well as other Metropolitan dioceses organized an International Conference held on 7-15 March 2012, on the subject: “Saint Gregory Palamas: The Theological and Philosophical Significance of His Work”.

The reverend Archimandrite Ephraim,  Abbot of  the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi, sent his greetings, which were read at the commencement of the Conference and are available to our readers  in the text below.

Greetings to the International Conference on Saint Gregory Palamas

Thessaloniki  7-12 March 2012

The Abbot of the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi, Archimandrite Ephraim

Korydallos Prison

Thursday, 1 March 2011

We were quite pleased to learn of the hosting of the International Conference on Saint Gregory Palamas at the Ecclesiastical Academy in Pylaia, Thessaloniki, co-organized by the Academy, the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies at Cambridge, and the Patriarchal Institute at Vlatadon Monastery.

 The teachings of Saint Gregory Palamas are as timely today as ever before, especially his anthropological teachings. Living behind a façade, contemporary man does not understand what a human being really is. The human being, as he is presented today through the philosophical, political, social and syncretistic religious systems, is seen more as a biological unit. He has degenerated, diminishing the quality and the meaning of his life. Doing as he pleases and being self-serving, he is tightly enclosed within his ego – a pessimistic pleasure-seeker fashioning a modern globalized system of bioethics that expresses the pick-and-choose ethical immorality of the times. In other words, contemporary man has built a façade upon the foundation of his overwhelming passions.

 All of the various types of crises that are scourging our society today – economic, political, cultural, moral, institutional – are based upon the crisis of person and are expressed in a corresponding passion-centered guise.

 Saint Gregory Palamas says that when the mind of a human being comes “to itself” and catches a glimpse of the inner person, it will see the appalling and “hideous façade” constructed by the passion-filled attachment to worldly things and sin. Hence it rushes to cleanse this façade with mourning and repentance, to remove this misshapen mask through ascetic practice and the keeping of God’s commandments. The person then finds peace in his physical and mental faculties, harmony of soul, and genuine inner stillness, arriving at real self-knowledge and awareness of God. Then the “hideous façade” is cast off and the human being is transfigured into a true person in the image of the true and eternal Person, the God-man Christ.

 Man is not some simple or chance creation. Saint Gregory Palamas characterizes man as “the greatest thing in a small world” and highlights the perfect and consummate Christ-like person – one who has cast off the “hideous façade”, who has discovered his mental abilities, who has united his mind with his heart, who has consolidated the faculties of his body and soul, who lives in virtue, and who has an unconditional love for God and his fellow man. Such a person is in a position to offer all of himself, all of humanity and all of creation to God. According to Palamas, his offering, his ascent towards God, happens “with every type of creation” – that is, together with all of creation. Then both man and creation are sanctified. Neither science, nor philosophy, nor art constitutes an obstacle to the attainment of this purpose; rather the obstacle is a vehement attachment to these things and making them an end in themselves. The man “in Christ” lives twenty-four hours of the twenty-four hour day in Christ within daily life, within the occupation of his craft or profession, his science and his art. This way of being should challenge all of us and should become the genuine model for society.

 Unfortunately, from the place where I find myself today I cannot participate in your wonderful conference, but I do pray that the Lady Theotokos, the Abbess of the Holy Mountain, and her worthy offspring, Saint Gregory Palamas, may guide its proceedings.