This the Second Sunday of Great Lent, is dedicated to the memory of the 14th century Saint, Gregory of Palamas. He initially started out in his life as a young scholar, monastic and eventually Archbishop of Thessaloniki, serving as a shining example to his contemporaries.
Many in the world today, long for some fulfillment in their lives but feel empty. Today, students feel, especially unsatisfied having gone through the pandemic with its numerous changes and adjustments in their academic studies. Family’s dreams and aspirations in many situations have been postponed or altered leaving them either burnt out or frustrated. Many of us feel restless searching for peace and tranquility and a restoration of our spiritual selves. The common denominator with all these people and most of us is that we are searching for inward fulfillment. We are all praying for something more to fill the void.
St. Gregory Palamas taught in his writings that the “something more” we desire is simply life with God. His central teaching was that through faith, prayer, and the ecclesiology of the Church, Christians experience a personal sharing in the life of God, summed up by two key Orthodox traditions: “theosis” (becoming like God) and “hesychasm” (quietude or prayerful stillness before God).
Theosis, according to the Fathers of the Church, 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” (2 Pt.1:3). In the Gospels, the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2-8), Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), and the vision of St. Stephen (Acts 7:55-56), are examples of “Theosis”.
For each of us “theosis” begins at baptism, for 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 is our bridge to heaven. St. Athanasius wrote in his treatise, “On the Incarnation”, “God became man in order that man might become God”.
This brings us to the second point of this Sunday, the way St. Gregory Palmas connected the experience of “theosis’ with the practice of “hesychasm”. He said, “the power of prayer fulfills or completes the sacrament of our union with God”. It is a spiritual tradition which teaches us how to pray not only with the lips and the mind but also with the heart. Prayer is an essential part of our Lenten “podvik” (effort), and discipline.
The Church, therefore, seeks to awaken us to the power of prayer and to the mystery of our “theosis” in Christ by offering opportunities to worship God during Great Lent. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!” Let us work with the body and pray with the soul!