The reception of the thought of St Gregory Palamas in a variety of contexts is a growing field of research. Some of the contours of this field are summarized before turning to an interesting test case in the late Byzantine period, namely, the Latin crusader kingdom of Cyprus. In the few extant sources related to the Palamite controversy on Cyprus we glimpse a generous range of both the theological as well as geo- political factors at play in the heat and immediate aftermath of the controversy. These factors are briefly discussed. On the theological level, it is argued that contrary to a certain scholarly trend that tends to see as many types of Palamism as there are Palamites, we in fact find that in spite of a striking diversity of expression, there is an impressive level of coherence among the disciples and defenders of Palamas in these sources, centred on the doctrine of deification. This is, moreover, a coherence that is not so easily found among the anti-Palamites.
In this paper, I discuss a recent publication by Fr John P. Manoussakis, titled ‘Created and Uncreated Light—Augustinian and Palamite Approaches’, which is the fourth chapter of his book, For the Unity of All: Contributions to the Theological Dialogue between East and West.1 My intention is not to provide a book review but a response, or, rather, a reaction to the theological style and stance adopted by the author. In my reaction, I am not looking to engage in rhetorical polemics. I do actually sympathise with the attempt to address a highly relevant theological issue by suggesting a positive and reconciliatory interpretation of the Augustinian theology of the Old Testament theophanies. The idea of engaging in a new reading of the Bishop of Hippo’s theophanic theology by tapping into the resources of phenomenology is thought provoking. I have therefore tried to understand the logic and the grounding of Manoussakis’s argumentation. Unfortunately, I have failed to see the value of the suggested approach. I find it unsubstantiated, especially with regards to his treatment of the Orthodox position, and therefore ineffective and disappointing in terms of its potential ecumenical value. In this paper, I will try to share the reasons for my disappointment.
The revival of the Neo-Orthodox movement in the twentieth century can be understood as a continuation of the hesychast movement and controversy started by Gregory Palamas in the fourteenth century. The Neo-Orthodox movement, with its teaching about a ‘return to the tradition’, expresses in our time much more than a simple religious nationalism in Greece. It seeks ‘to ignite a universal religious movement rooted in this particular understanding of the Greek identity, which actually transcends nationality’ (Daniel P. Payne).This paper will first explore the social and political context of the Byzantine Empire in the fourteenth century, which provided the framework of the hesychast movement, and where hesychasm offered an alternative hope in the midst of political instability. The interaction between political power and hesychasm in Constantinople was a dynamic one, depending on the agendas of the patriarchs and emperors of that time. It is in such a context that we place Palamas’ religious, social and political activities, and preaching. From a broader perspective, Palamas’ homilies were aimed at a spiritual and religious renewal of the society of his time. While John Meyendorff argues that there is no anti-West- ern sentiment in Palamas’ teaching, Christos Yannaras claims that the hesychast controversy in the fourteenth century presents much more than internal conflict between certain Byzantine humanists and monastics; it is basically a controversy between East and West. This controversy is resurging in our time as political theology, pointing us to the authenticity of human existence. As an alternative to western secularized society, Yannaras proposes a reintroduction of the structure of the Byzantine autonomous communities, centred around the life of the church or monastery. Such communities would continue the ancient patristic ethos of apophatic knowledge and affirm the identity of the persona qua persona—that is, not as an individual, but within the context of community. In this new context, the hesychast life provides a model for human society.
Two saints, Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas, played a crucial role in reviving Patristic theology during the period preceding the Great Captivity of Constantinople. Both monastic writers are known as the theologians of the Uncreated Light and promoters of Hesychasm, and they remain among the most prominent spokesmen for Orthodox theology until our times. Even though three hundred years separate them, one finds in the writings of Saint Gregory an organic continuity with Saint Symeon’s teaching. This article explores Palamas’ reception of the New Theologian’s theology and the relation between the teachings of these two leading figures of Christian spirituality.
The thought of Gregory Palamas is marked by an extraordinary appropriation of Pauline theology that has largely escaped scholarly notice. This paper argues that the Hesychast controversy unfolded around rival interpretations of Paul’s theology and visionary experiences, especially his vision of the divine light (Acts 9:3–9) and his ascent into the ‘third heaven’ (2 Cor 12:1–10), which Palamas and his followers identified with their own understanding of the uncreated light of God and with Hesychast spirituality more generally. Palamas’ rich and complex handling of Paul’s letters is explored through a close reading of the first Triad, along with relevant passages from the other works in the trilogy. The analysis suggests that the Hesychast controversy was in many ways a debate about who was the true follower of Paul.
This short treatise, devoted entirely to explicating what Gregory thinks deifying participation in God is, how it works, and what it says about the nature of God, contributes a valuable resource for further study of Palamas’ notion of ‘participation’, and should be taken into account along with the relevant material in the Triads and 150 Chapters.