St Gregory Palamas

For those who exist and live in a divine and supernatural way, the inspired life and grace are most truly divine activity, through which union is effected between God and those who are worthy of God.

(On Divine and Deifying Participation 19)




  • Gregory Palamas: On Divine and Deifying Participation (Περὶ θείας καὶ θεοποιοῦ μεθέξεως)
    Kirsten H. Anderson (read abstract)
    University of Notre Dame


    On Divine and Deifying Participation2 was written by Gregory Palamas during the middle phase of the Hesychast Controversy, 1341–1347, between his two most important works, the Triads (1337–40) and the One Hundred Fifty Chapters (1350). Soon after the condemnation of Barlaam at the Patriarchal Synod of 1341, Palamas faced a new opponent in Gregory Akindynos, who had formerly supported and defended Palamas and the Athonite monks through 1341.3 Akindynos began to have misgivings about Palamas’ notion of grace at the Synod, and urged Palamas then to retract from his writings expressions Akindynos thought objectionable, such as referring to the divine ‘essence’ and ‘activities’ as ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ divinities. After the Synod, he began official proceedings against Palamas. In response to these new accusations, Palamas wrote six treatises from 1341 to 1342, sometimes called the Dogmatic Orations, of which On Divine and Deifying Participation is the third. These writings constituted an act of defiance against the prohibition in the Synodal Tome of 1341 of further debate on the subject. Consequently, Palamas was imprisoned for a time, and then temporarily excommunicated in November 1344.4

    The first two of the six treatises written at this time (On Union and Distinction and Apology) address the ways we can speak of union and distinction with reference to the divine, arguing that a distinction between ‘essence’ and ‘activities’ does not entail a belief in two gods. The third (On Divine and Deifying Participation) focuses on the difference between the general participation in God that every creature



    Special thanks go to Alexis Torrance, for whose doctoral seminar on the Hesychast Controversy I first translated this text in the fall of 2015, and who gave me many helpful comments on the translation in preparation for its publication.


    Gregory Palamas, De participatione quae deos faciat, in Greek as Περὶ θείας καὶ θεοποιοῦ μεθέξεως, in Panagiotes Chrestou, ed., Γρηγορίου τοῦ Παλαμᾶ Συγγράμματα (Θεσσαλονίκη, 1966), 2:137–63.


    For a summary of Akindynos’ interaction with Palamas, and his later opposition to Palamas’ concept of grace, see the introduction in Angela Constantinides Hero, ed., Letters of Gregory Akindynos (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1983).


    Robert Sinkewicz, ‘Gregory Palamas’, in La théologie byzantine et sa tradition, ed. Carmello Giuseppe Conticello (Turnhout: Brepols, 2002), 2:134–35.

  • Paul the Hesychast: Gregory Palamas and the Pauline Foundations of Hesychast Theology and Spirituality *
    Maximos Constas (read abstract)
    Senior Research Scholar,
    Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Mass.

    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.

    The last fifty years have witnessed an explosion of Palamite studies, along with growing interest in other theological writers of the period, yet almost no attention has been paid to the Palamite (or Hesychast) use of the Pauline corpus or of Scripture more generally. If we take the standard works of reference as our starting point, we will be told that the Hesychast controversy was a debate about the nature of mystical experience, a clash between ascetic spirituality and scholastic methodology, a chapter in the ongoing quarrel between faith and reason (or between theology and philosophy, or Christianity and Hellenism), or simply an ideological screen for the ambitions of warring feudal magnates set against the background of reviving urban life. As true as these interpretations might be, they do not even remotely suggest that the Hesychast controversy can and probably should be seen as a debate about who was the true follower of Paul.


    This article revisits and revises material from Maximos Constas, ‘The Reception of Paul and Pauline Theology in the Byzantine Period,’ in The New Testament in Byzantium, eds. Derek Krueger and Robert S. Nelson (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2016), 147–76. I am thankful to Tikhon Pino for his assistance with that study, and for his helpful comments and suggestions on this article.

  • ‘The Life and the Light’: The Influence of Saint Symeon the New Theologian on the Teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas
    Porphyrios Georgi (read abstract)
    Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology
    University of Balamand, Lebanon

    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.

    During the period of cultural revival preceding the Great Captivity of Constantinople,1 there arose in the Church two theologians who renewed Patristic Theology. Their names were Symeon the New Theologian (+1022) and Gregory Palamas (+1359). Originating from Asia Minor, they were both educated in the aristocratic environment of Constantinople and the imperial court before choosing to follow the monastic path. Symeon departed to Studion Monastery while Gregory went to Athos, the Holy Mountain. Around three hundred years separate these two leading figures of Christian spirituality. Nevertheless, one finds in the writings of Saint Gregory an organic continuity of Saint Symeon’s teaching. Both monastic writers are known as the theologians of the Uncreated Light and promoters of Hesychasm, and they remain till our present time among the most prominent spokesmen for Orthodox theology.2 The time in which Palamas lived was a critical moment in the history of Eastern Christianity, a phase of political, cultural, and theological turmoil and travail.3 Within the vibrant Byzantine setting of the fourteenth century, and as he



    J. Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, A History of Development of Doctrine 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 252–54.


    Δ. Κουτρουμπῆ, ‘Ἡ ἐπικαιρότης τοῦ Γρηγορίου Παλαμᾶ’: ἩΧάριςτῆςΘεολογίας (Ἀθήνα: Δόμος, 1995), 157–69; F. Georgi, Ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή: Ἡ ἐσχατολογία τοῦ ἁγίου Γρηγορίου Παλαμᾶ (Θεσσαλονίκη: Μπαρμπουνάκη, 2010).


    For the historical and intellectual framework of the Hesychastic controversy, see P. Lemerle, ‘Le Tomos du concile de 1351 et l’horismos de Matthieu Cantacuzène’, REB 9 (1951): 55–64; A. Papadakis, ‘Gregory Palamas at the Council of Blachernae (1351)’, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 10 (1969): 333–42; L. Clucas, The Hesychast Controversy in Byzantium in the Fourteenth Century: A Consideration of the Basic Evidence, Microfilm, I & II (PhD diss.: University of California, 1975); Δ. Τσάμης, ‘Ὁ Ἅγιος Γρηγόριος Παλαμᾶς καί ἡ ἐποχή του’, in Χ. Κοντάκης, ed., Πρακτικά Θεολογικοῦ Συνεδρίου εἰς τιμήν τοῦ Ἁγίου Γρηγορίου Παλαμᾶ (Θεσσαλονίκη: 1985), 51–69; Β. Χριστοφορίδη, Οἱ ἡσυχαστικές ἔριδες κατά τό ΙΔ΄ αἰώνα (Θεσσαλονίκη: Παρατηρητής, 1993); Tsirpanlis C. N., ‘Byzantine Humanism and Hesychasm in the Thirteenth & Fourteenth Century: Synthesis or Antithesis, Reformation or Revolution’, PBR 12:1–3 (1993): 13–23; Δ. Γ. Κουτσούρη, Ὁ Ἅγιος Γρηγόριος ὁ Παλαμᾶς καί ἡ ἀντιησυχαστική κακοδοξία τοῦ ΙΔ΄ αἰώνα ( Σροχαλία: Ἀθήνα, 1996); Γ. Μαντζαρίδης, ed., Ὁ Ἅγιος Γρηγόριος Παλαμᾶς στήν Ἱστορία καί τό Παρόν: Πρακτικά διεθνῶν ἐπιστημονικῶν συνεδρίων Ἀθηνῶν καί Λεμεσοῦ (Ἅγιον Ὄρος: Ἱερά Μέγιστη Μονή Βατοπαιδίου, 2000).

  • Gregory Palamas and Political Hesychasm in the Fourteenth and Twentieth Centuries
    Tone Svetelj (read abstract)
    Hellenic College and Boston College, USA

    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-Western 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.


    In order to explain the rise of religiosity in the post-modern world in general, and in particular the Neo-Orthodox movement in Greece, Daniel P. Payne’s book, The Revival of Political Hesychasm in Contemporary Orthodox Thought, offers a detailed interpretation of this phenomenon. The Neo-Orthodox movement, with its teaching about a ‘return to the tradition’, suggests much more than a simple religious nationalism in Greece. The Neo-Orthodox movement seeks ‘to ignite a

  • Created and Uncreated Light in Augustine and Gregory Palamas: The Problem of Legitimacy in Attempts for Theological Reconciliation *
    Stoyan Tanev (read abstract)
    Associate Professor, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada,
    Adjunct Professor, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada, and
    Faculty of Theology, Sofia University ‘St Kliment Ohridski’, Sofia , Bulgaria

    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.


    John Manoussakis dedicated his book to His Holiness, Pope Francis, and His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, on the fiftieth anniversary of the historic encounter between their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. In the foreword, Patriarch Bartholomew points out that, since the historical meeting in January 1964, in Jerusalem, ‘the Orthodox Church and the Roman



    Acknowledgments: I express my deepest gratitude to Fr Dr Bogdan Bucur, Associate Professor, Department of Theology, Duquesne University, for the fruitful discussions.


    J. P. Manoussakis, For the Unity of All: Contributions to the Theological Dialogue between East and West (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015).

  • Receiving Palamas: The Case of Cyprus, 1345–71
    Alexis Torrance (read abstract)
    Assistant Professor, University of Notre Dame

    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 geopolitical 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.


    Among the chief purposes of Analogia is to discuss key principles of the Christian faith in fruitful dialogue with the problems of contemporary life. One such problem, at once academic and existential, is reception. It is a problem bound up in turn with the issue of interpretation and hermeneutics: πῶς ἀναγινώσκεις; ‘how do you read?’ (Luke 10:26). This question has particular significance in the context of these special issues on St Gregory Palamas. One of the ‘battles’ currently taking place in the study of Byzantine and Orthodox theology concerns the manner in which Palamas is received, interpreted, and re-deployed, both historically and in our current environment.2 Broadly speaking, there are two—often interrelated—debates at play. The first has to do with the Byzantine reception(s) of Palamas from the beginning of



    I am grateful to Alexander Beihammer for giving me the opportunity to present some of this material at the Knighthood, Crusades, and Diplomacy in the Eastern Mediterranean at the Time of King Peter I of Cyprus conference held in Rome in 2016, and for the precious feedback I received there. I am also grateful to the journal’s readers for their suggestions, and to Tikhon Pino for his helpful comments (and for catching an infelicity). Any remaining errors are my own.


    In the previous journal issue of Analogia, Tikhon Pino and Normal Russell offered valuable assessments of several contours of this debate: T. Pino, ‘Beyond Neo-Palamism: Interpreting the Legacy of St Gregory Palamas’, Analogia: The Pemptousia Journal for Theological Studies 3.1 (2017): 53–73, and N. Russell, ‘Inventing Palamism’, Analogia: The Pemptousia Journal for Theological Studies 3.1 (2017): 75–96.