Today is the second Sunday of Great Lent dedicated to the memory of the 14th century Theologian, St. Gregory Palamas, who eventually became the Archbishop of Thessalonica.
The central teaching of St. Gregory was that through faith, prayer and the Church we Orthodox Christians experience a personal sharing in the life of God. The life and work of St. Gregory can be summed up by two words, theosis and hesychasm.
Theosis according to the Church Fathers is the renewal of all things in God. It is the experience of salvation as a personal sharing in God’s own glory and goodness. The great Feast of Transfiguration and Pentecost are examples of Theosis. Theosis is not only an ultimate goal but also the wonderful gift of new life, a process already begun through the person and redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
For us as Orthodox Christians, theosis begins at our Baptism. It is the grace of God seeking to renew us inwardly in the image of Christ and to lift us up into heaven from the ordinary conditions of life. Christ, in simple terms, is our bridge to heaven. “God became man in order that man might become God”.
Hesychasm has been connected to theosis, the power of prayer completes the sacrament of our union with God. It is the connection between prayer and theosis that is behind the rich Orthodox practice and tradition about how to pray, not only with the lips and the mind, but also with the heart.
Prayer is an essential part of our Lenten discipline: the Church seeks to awaken us to the power of prayer and to the mystery of our theosis in Christ through the opportunities of increased prayer and devotion during the great and holy Lent. It is our time for intense prayer both communal and privately for it means quietude and stillness before God.
So as we are within great Lent, let us in the morning, the noontime and evening give thanks to Almighty God and entreat the master of all to guide our prayers as an offering of sweet spiritual fragrance before the throne of God.
May we continue our journey towards the Holy Pascha and pray that we awaken our hearts and minds to the glory of God.