Palamas and the Energies of God
In the fourteenth century, there was a great upheaval in the Church which
was provoked by a Western monk, Barlaam. He heard that Athonite monks
talked about Theosis. He was informed that, after much struggle, cleansing
of the passions, and much prayer, they became worthy to unite with God,
to have experience of God, to see God. He heard that they saw the uncreated
light which the holy Apostles had seen during the Transfiguration of
our Saviour Christ on Mount Tabor.
But Barlaam, having the Western, heretical, rationalistic spirit, was unable
to perceive the authenticity of these divine experiences of the humble
monks, so he began to accuse the Athonite monks as though it was they who
were deluded, heretical, they were the idolators. Because he knew nothing
about the difference between the essence and the uncreated energy of God,
he said that it is impossible for someone to see the Grace of God.
Then, God's Grace revealed a great and enlightened teacher of our Church,
the Athonite St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki. With much
wisdom and enlightenment from God, but also from his personal experience,
he said and wrote much which taught, in agreement with the holy Scriptures
and the Holy Tradition of the Church, that the light of God's Grace is
uncreated; that it is a divine energy, so that in fact deified men see
this light as the ultimate, the highest experience of Theosis; and they
are seen within this light of God. This is the glory of God, His splendour,
the light of Mount Tabor, the light of Christ's Resurrection and of Pentecost,
and the bright cloud of the Old Testament. It is the real uncreated light
of God, and not symbolic as Barlaam and others who thought like him believed
in their delusion.
To continue, in three great Synods at Constantinople the whole Church
justified St. Gregory Palamas, declaring that life in Christ is not simply
edification of man, but Theosis, and that this means participation in
glory, a vision of God, of His Grace and His uncreated light.
We owe great gratitude to Palamas because, with the illumination he received
from God, with his experience and his theology, he expressed the eternal
experience of the Church, and so gave us the teaching concerning the Theosis
of man. A Christian is not a Christian simply because he is able to talk
about God. He is a Christian because he is able to have experience of God.
And just as, when you really love someone and converse with him, you feel
his presence, and you enjoy his presence, so it happens in man's communion
with God: there exists not a simple external relationship, but a mystical
union of God and man in the Holy Spirit.
Until now, Westerners have considered that divine Grace, or the energy
of God, is something created. Unfortunately, this is one of the many
differences which must be seriously taken into consideration in theological
with the Roman Catholics. It is not only the filioque, the primacy of
power, and the ‘infallibility’ of the Pope which are basic
differences between the Orthodox Church and the Papists. It is also the
above. If the
Roman Catholics do not accept that the Grace of God is uncreated, we
cannot unite with them even if they accept all the other points. For
who is able
to effect Theosis if divine Grace is a creation and not an uncreated
energy of the All-Holy Spirit?
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