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130 GREGORIO IL SINAITA

ranno mai il frutto per la mancanza di pena, essendo interiormente insensibili al


dolore. Testimone colui che dice: Anche se possediamo tutte Ie azioni piu grandi,
se non abbiamo il cuore afflitto, esse sono bastarde e senza vigore. Allo stesso
modo, quando ci conduciamo senza fatica, tratti dall' accidia nelle distrazioni inu-
tili, e siamo ottenebrati e crediamo di trovare in lora la quiete, cosa che non cor-
risponde alla realta, mentre siamo avvinti in modo invisibile da legami indissolu;..
bili, diventiamo immobili e inerti in ogni opera, colmi di rilassamento, in particolar
modo se siamo dei principianti. Tutto eutile nella giusta misura ai perfetti. Cio e
attestato dal grande Efrem che dice: Datti alle fatiche nella pena per sfuggire Ie
vane fatiche.19 Se Ie nostre reni, come dice il Profeta, non vengono indebolite con
gli sforzi del digiuno e non sentiamo i dolori, come una partoriente [cf. Is 21,3; 26,
18], nel cuore, non concepiamo 10 Spirito di salvezza nella terra del cuore, secondo
quanto hai udito. Ci vanteremo aHora soltanto di aver passato tanti anni in un yanG
eremitaggio e nel rilassamento, ritenendo di essere diventati qualcuno nella hesy-
chiao Nel giomo della nostra morte, tutti conosceremo senza alcun dubbio il frutto.
15. Nessuno puo imparare da solo la scienza delle virtu, anche se alcuni hanno
avuto come maestro I' esperienza. Fare di testa propria e non ascoltare i consigli di
quelli che ci hanno preceduto conduce aHa presunzione, meglio la genera. Infatti, se
il Figlio da se non puo fare nulla, rna fa quello che gli insegno il Padre [10 5, 19]
e 10 Spirito non parlera da se [10 16, 13], chi puo pensare di essere giunto ad un
tale vertice di virtu da non avere bisogno di qualcuno come guida? Anche se crede
di possedere la virtu, costui emandato in rovina dalla follia. Per questa motivo si
devono imparare Ie fatiche della pratica da quelli che sanno e COS! intraprenderle :
digiuno e astinenza completi, veglia assidua, genuflessione faticosa, stare in piedi
con pena nell' immobilita, preghiera continua, umilta sincera, contrizione e gemito
incessanti, silenzio saggio e come condito con sale [cf. Col 4, 6], sopportazione in
tutto. Non bisogna rimanere sempre nella quiete, ne restare sempre seduti sino alla
vecchiaia 0 al sopraggiungere di una malattia, perche, dice la Scrittura:
Mangerete dei frutti delle tue virtu [cf. Ps 127, 2], e: II Regno dei cieli edei
violenti [Mt 11, 12]. Chi si sforza ogni giorno di praticare tali virtu nella pena,
grazie a lora e con l' aiuto di Dio, conseguira il frutto.
19 De recta vivendi ratione 25: J. S. ASSEMANI, Sancti Patris Nostri Ephraem Syri
opera omnia quae exstant graece, syriace, latine II, Raffia 1743, p. 60, n xxv (CPGs
3941).
GREGORY PALAMAS
ROBERT E. SINKEWICZ, Toronto
I. BIOGRAPHY
Born ca 1296, Metrop. of Thessalonica 1347-1357, died 14 Nov. 1357,
declared a saint in 1368.
1
The life and theological work of Gregory Palamas
can be divided into four periods: his early life and formative period (1296-
1335), the controversy with Barlaam the Calabrian (1335-1341), the contro-
versy with -tGregory Akindynos (t 1348) and the civil war period (1341-
1347), and, finally, the triumph of Palamite theology (1347-1357).2
Gregory Palamas was born ca 1296 in C/ple to the family of the senator
Konstantios Palamas (t 1301).3 Under the patronage of Andronikos II
Palaiologos (1282-1328)4 Palamas received a classical education and was
seemingly destined for a career in the civil service. Influenced perhaps by
Athonite monks visiting the capital, Gregory decided to enter monastic life
and left for Mount Athos with two of his brothers ca 1314.
By the time of his departure for Athos, Gregory had already acquired a
sound education in the best of the Byzantine tradition. He had, no doubt,
completed all or most of the basic programme of study, the
He was certainly well-versed in the forms of Byzantine rhetoric,
and he himself wrote in both the simpler' ecclesiastical' style and the Hoch-
sprache of the literary elite. The exact extent of his training in philosophy is
uncertain. After describing his achievements in grammar and rhetoric, his
biographer, Philotheos Kokkinos (t ca 1377/8),5 mentions his familiarity with
the physics, the logic and other works of Aristotle.
6
Although there are few
quotations from Aristotle in his writings, Gregory had some acquaintance
with the logical works of Aristotle, as we can see especially in his initial
1 PLP 21546.
2 MEYENDORFF 1959 (Introduction), p. 25-64,65-94,95-128 &129-170, respectively.
3 PLP 21549.
4 PLP 21436.
5 PLP 11917.
6 Encomium Gregorii Palamae, edt D. TSAMES, (/hAODiou K/rroAclJJq roD Koxxtvou
ayt,oAoyt,xa epyrx I 4), Thessalonica 1985, p. 437-438; PG 151, 559D-560A; cf.
GREGORY PALAMAS, Contra Gregoram 1, 14: 4, 242 (W 20).
132 R. E. SINKEWICZ
GREGORY PALAMAS 133
discussions with Barlaam the Calabrian (ca 1290-1348).7 In his treatment of
natural science in the One Hundred and Fifty Chapters (W 19) Gregory
showed some familiarity with the ideas of Aristotle's De caelo perhaps De
anima and Meteorologica, and he may have known the Ps.-Aristotelian De
mundo.
8
Elsewhere, Gregory refers to Aristotle's Metaphysica once by name;
he could recall a theorem of Euclid and he knew something of the Platonic
theory of the world soul.
9
However, in all these texts one is left with the dis-
tinct impression of an earlier schooling imperfectly remembered. We should
also bear in mind that Gregory was only about eighteen years old when he
left the capital for Athos.
Of Gregory's spiritual or theological formation in this early period, vir-
tually nothing is known. In spite of the claim in the Encomium Gregorii
Palamae written by Philotheos Kokkinos, Theoleptos of Philadelpheia
(t 1322)10 could not have been the spiritual father of Gregory, since the chro-
nology of their lives does not allow for this. 11
On Mount Athos Gregory spent two years under the direction of
Nikodemos,12 whose hermitage was near the monastery of Batopedi. After
the death of Nikodemos (ca 1316), Gregory moved to the monastery of the
Great Laura, then around 1320 he took up the eremitic life in the hermitage
of Glossia. Because of Turkish incursions on Mount Athos in 1322, Gregory
fled with eleven other monks to Thessalonica where shortly after he was or-
dained to the priesthood. Around 1326 he then moved on to an eremitic
retreat near Berroia. Gregory returned to Athos in 1331 and took up the
eremitical life at St Sabas, a dependency of the Great Laura. It was during
this first period of his monastic career that Palamas wrote the Life of St Peter
the Athonite (ca 1332)13 and his Discourse on the Presentation of the
Theotokos (ca 1333).1
4
For a short while he served as higumen of the monas-
tery of Esphigmenou (ca 1333/4).
The period of Gregory's controversies with Barlaam the Calabrian15 ex-
tended from 1335 to 1341. The initial controversy of 1335-1337 revolved
7 See SINKEWICZ 1982.
8 See esp. The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters 3-12. Also SINKEWICZ 1986 (Christian
Theology).
9 One Hundred and Fifty Chapters 3-7, 13; Contra Gregoram 2, 70 4, 313).
10PLP 7509; A. RIGO, Ancora sulle opere diTeolepto di Filadelfia, OCP 60 (1994),
p. 245-246; SIDERAS, p. 252-254.
11 See SINKEWICZ 1992, p. 11.
12 PLP 20374.
13W44.
14 W 50, Hom. LIII.
15 PLP 2284; TRE 5 (1980) 212-215; SINKEWICZ 1981 & 1982; KAKRIDIS 1986;
KOLBABA 1995 &1995 (Conversion); RIGO 1997; FLOGAUS 1998. For a new assessment
of the dating of Barlaam's works and his role in the controversy with Palamas see
FYRIGOS 1998.
around several issues. In 1334 there had been a renewal of discussions with
Latin theologians over the reunion of the churches.
16
Barlaam had become
involved in the debates. In 1335 Gregory wrote his Treatises against the
Latins (W 1) defending the traditional Orthodox position on the procession of
the Holy Spirit and warning, in a veiled way, against certain improprieties in
Barlaam's treatment of the subject. As Gregory learned more of Barlaam's
methods of refutation, he became seriously alarmed about the latter's use of
Aristotelian logic in theological discourse. This in tum led to a dispute over
the nature of human knowledge of God. The situation worsened further when
the Calabrian raised the question of the illumination of the Hellenic sages.
The second phase of controversy with Barlaam is the hesychast contro-
versy proper (1337-1341). By the beginning of 1337 Barlaam was already in
contact with certain hesychast monks in Thessalonica, who introduced him to
the writings of several hesychast authors on the subject of prayer: principally,
Nikephoros the Monk (t after 1282),17 On Watchfulness and the Guarding of
the Heart; the Methodos (The Three Methods of Prayer) ascribed to -7Sy-
meon the New Theologian (in fact, a late thirteenth-century text); and the
writings of -7Gregory the Sinaite (t ca 1346).1
8
On the basis of what he read
or was told of these teachings, Barlaam accused the hesychast monks of the
heresy of Messalianism and denounced them to the Standing Synod in C/ple
sometime before the summer of 1337. The Synod decided that his ac-
cusations were unfounded. 19
By the end of 1337 Palamas had come to Thessalonica to defend the
hesychast monks against Barlaam's accusations. In the spring of 1338
Gregory wrote his first Triad in Defence of the Holy Hesychasts (W 3). This
first set of three treatises was written mostly on hearsay of Barlaam's posi-
tions. The first was a treatise against profane philosophy and its dangers;
mostly traditional in character, it had little to do with Barlaam's actual posi-
tions. The second treatise was a defence of the hesychast way of prayer, and
the third treatise demonstrated that the proper way to knowledge of God is
through the divinecharism of spiritual perception (voepcX
Late in 1338 Barlaam wrote his first treatises against thehesychast prac-
tices and teachings. Palamas replied in the first half of 1339 with his second
Triad. This second set follows the same schema as the first: refutation of pro-
fane philosophy, treatment of hesychast prayer, true knowledge of God. In
the winter of 1339/40, the Calabrian replied with a new or revised set of
treatises titled Against the Messalians. In the early part of 1340, Gregory re-
16 SINKEWICZ 1980.
17 PLP 20325; A. RIGO, Niceforo l'Esicasta (XIII sec.): alcune considerazioni sulla
vita e sull' opera, in Amore del bello. Studi sulla filocalia. Atti del 'Simposio Intern. sulla
Filocalia' (Pontificio Collegio Greco. Roma, nov. 1989), Magnano 1991, p. 81-119.
18 PLP 4601; RIGO 1989, p. 43-103.
19 Regestes, no. 2178.
134
R. E. SINKEWICZ GREGORY PALAMAS 135
turned to Athos where he convinced the principal monastic authorities to add
their signatures to the Hagioretic Tomos (W 4), which he had drawn up as a
solemncondemnation of Barlaam's basic positions though Barlaam himself
was not specifically named. At the same time Gregory wrote his third Triad
as a refutation of Barlaam's Against the Messalians. In this third Triad
Gregory expounded at length the orthodox teaching on divinization, his
theology of the Light of Tabor as an uncreated energy of God, -and his
understanding of the distinction between the divine substance and the divine
energies. The controversy, however, was not settled until 10 June 1341 when
the Patriarchal Synod was convoked to examine Barlaam's accusations
against the hesychast monks regarding their method of prayer and the vision
of the Taboric Light. In the end Barlaam was condemned for blasphemy and
the patriarch issued a document ordering the Calabrian's writings destroyed.
The Synod also forbade all further discussion of these questions, either
written or oral.
20
The next phase of theological controversy lasted from 1341 to 1347. Now
that Barlaam had left the scene, it was Gregory Akindynos21 who came to the
forefront of the opponents of Palamas. Originally, Akindynos was on good
terms with both Palamas and Barlaam and acted as a mediator between the
two. When Barlaam attacked themonks, Akindynos made a concerted effort
to warn the Calabrian about the inadvisability of such a course of action.
Akindynos finally broke with Gregory over the question of the distinction of
the divine substance and the uncreated energies. In particular, certain incau-
tious and awkward theological statements in Gregory's third letter to
Akindynos - such as his referring to God's substance and energy as a su-
perior and inferior divinity - raised the latter's suspicions. This
greatly troubled Akindynos, even after Barlaam's condemnation, and he
eventually spoke openly against Gregory. Most importantly, he had the ear of
the Patriarch John Kalekas (1334-1347)22 and was gradually drawing him
over to his side.
To defend himself against the accusations of Akindynos, Palamas wrote a
series of six treatises (W 5-10) in 1341 and 1342. In these works Gregory
20 Regestes, no. 2210 (10 June 1341): Synodal examination of the accusations of
Barlaam against the hesychast monks regarding the vision of the divine light and their
method of prayer; no. 2211 (after 10 June - July 1341): Letter ordering the submission of
Barlaam's writings to the ecclesiastical authorities for destruction; no. 2213 (July 1341):
Redaction and synodal examination of the letter giving the account of the condemnation of
Barlaam, deemed guilty of having unjustly attacked the hesychast monks; no. 2214 (Aug.
1341): signing of the letter drawn up in July. For the text of no. 2211 and 2213, see
HUNGER, Register, no. 130, 132.
21 PLP 495. For the details of Akindynos' life see CONSTANTINIDES HERO 1983, p.
IX-XXXIII; J. NADAL CANELLAS, Gregorius Acindynus. Refutationes duae operis
Gregorii Palamae cui titulus Dialogus inter Orthodoxum et Barlaamitam (CCG 31),
Tumhout 1995, p. XIII-XXVIII, and Gregorio Akfndinos.
22 PLP Gregorio Akfndinos, Text
tries to prove that his theology and language of the divine substance and
energies was wholly traditional. They include detailed refutations of the
statements and opinions of Akindynos, along with numerous citations from
patristic writers accompanied by theological commentary. With these writi-
ngs, Palamas contravened the interdiction of all further treatment of the con-
troversial theological issues that had been laid down in the Synodal Tomos of
1341 (W 51). As a result, Palamas was imprisoned for a time; first in two
successive monasteries (the Akataleptos monastery being one of them), and
then in the prison of the imperial palace. About 4 November 1344, at a meet-
ing of the Synod, Palamas was formally condemned and excommunicated.
23
Between 1342 and 1343 Akindynos, having received patriarchal per-
mission to dispute Palamite theology, wrote two important refutations of
Palamas' Dialogue of an Orthodox and a Barlaamite (W 8) - one a lengthy
and systematic treatment in four parts; and a short refutation in the form of a
continuous commentary (the latter unfortunately survives incomplete).24
Palamas responded in a series of seven Antirrhetic Treatises (W 11), and his
correspondence during this period is of critical importance to the correct
interpretation of his theology. In an effort to better inform his supporters and
to persuade the undecided, Palamas tends to be more cautious in his letters,
nuancing his explanations and his use of theological language. 25
It is also important to remember that 1341-1347 was a period of civil war.
After the death of Andronikos IlIon 15 June 1341,26 there were two claim-
ants to imperial power; John Kantakouzenos (t 1383),27 the Great Domestic
under Andronikos; and the legitimate successor, John V Palaiologos
(t 1391).28 John V, however, was a minor and thus unable to rule, so his
mother, Anna of Savoy (t ca 1365),29 supported by the patriarch, laid claim to
the regency. The party of John Kantakouzenoswas for the most part support-
ive of Palamas, while the empress and Patriarch John Kalekas favoured the
side of Akindynos. Needless to say, this complicated matters considerably.
23 Regestes, no. 2249.
24 NADAL CANELLAS, Gregorius Acindynus. Refutationes, p. 3-410,413-430.
25 See for ex. the discussion in the art. of SCHULTZE 1975, p. 114-117. Note for ex. the
statements in Palamas' Letter to Daniel of Ainos 3-5 : 2, 377-378 (W 29): The
energy and the substance are identical in the divine and supernatural simplicity;
Substance and energy in God are somehow identical, but it happens that they are also
distinct from each other, as the treatises of the Fathers clearly indicate ; One must,
therefore, admit both the distinction and the identity and through both remain in the midst
of orthodoxy.
26 PLP 21437.
27 PLP 10973.
28 PLP 21485.
29 PLP 21347; SandraORIGONE, Giovanna di Savoia, alias Anna Paleologina, Latina a
Bisanzio (c. 1306-c. 1365), Milan 1999.
136 R. E. SINKEWICZ
GREGORY PALAMAS 137
By the spring of 1346, Kalekas was in disfavour with the empress, who
now informed herself more fully on the theological positions of Palamas. In
Jan. 1347, with John Kantakouzenos at the walls of C/ple, the Empress Anna
decided to summon a synod to depose the patriarch. On 8 Feb. 1347 a
synodal judgement was rendered, deposing and excommunicating both the
Patriarch John Kalekas and Akindynos. The Synodal Tomos of 1341 was
solemnly reaffirmed and Palamas exonerated.
30
Upon his appointment to the patriarchal throne on 17 May 1347, Isidore
Boucheiras (1347-1350)31 proceeded to promote thirty-two new bishops, all
sympathetic to the theologial positions of Palamas. In the late spring of the
same year Palamas was himself appointed Metrop. of Thessalonica, but was
unable to enter the city until 1350 when John Kantakouzenos had won
control back from the zealots who had held the city since 1342. Gregory
spent the intervening years mostly on Mount Athos. In 1349/50 during this
relatively tranquil hiatus between two periods of polemic, he wrote the One
Hundred and Fifty Chapters on Topics of Natural and Theological Science,
the Moral and Ascetic Life, intended as a Purge for. the Barlaamite Cor-
ruption (W 19). This is one of the more important theological works of Pala-
mas, comparable to the Triads. It has the distinction of being presented in a
relatively systematic format and represents a more mature stage of Palamas'
theological thought.
Opposition to Palamite theology had by no means been put to an end by
the synod of 1347. Throughout the spring of that year a group of bishops
continued to hold meetings against the Palamites, and against the election of
the new Patriarch Isidore, even going so far as to publish a formal declaration
of their opposition in July 1347. The synod responded by deposing the dissi-
dent bishops at the end of August.
32
The intellectual leader of the opposition
was the learned scholar Nikephoros Gregoras (t 1358/61)33 and so, in the
winter of 1348, Palamas disputed publicly with Gregoras in C/ple. Two years
later, in 1350, Gregoras published his First Antirrhetics against Palamas.
34
These are theologically the most significant refutation of Palamite theology
within the lifetime of Palamas.
By 1351 the convocation of a new council had become inevitable. On 27
Maya synod was convened under the presidency of the Emperor John VI
Kantakouzenos (1347-1354). In May and June meetingswere held in which
both parties were heard, and then in July a new assembly was convened and a
30 Regestes, no. 2270; HUNGER, Register, no. 147.
31 PLP 3140.
32 Regestes, no. 2281, 2289.
33PLP 4443; BEYER 1971 & 1978; DEVRIES-VANDER VELDEN 1989, p. 117-147.
34 BEYER 1976.
solemn definition of dogma was promulgated.
35
The synod laid down six
principal doctrinal tenets: [1] there is in God a distinction between his sub-
stance and his energy; [2] the energy is uncreated; [3] this distinction does
not involve composition in God, for it is not a question of two substantial
realities, since both belong to one unique God; [4] the Fathers used the term
, divinity' or ' God' for the energy; [5] the Fathers also spoke
of the substance that surpasses or transcends the energy; [6] likewise, the
Fathers asserted very clearly the incommunicability of the divine substance,
while at the same time they speak of the real participation in the divine life or
energy (PG 151, 732 C - 754 B).36
In the last period of his life Palamas worked diligently as pastor of his
flock in Thessalonica, although for a while in 1354-1355 he was imprisoned
by the Turks. 37 At the end of 1354 John V Palaiologos entered C/ple and
forced John Kantakouzenos to abdicate. Although condemned in 1351,
Gregoras now again had access to the court and received permission to con-
tinue his polemic against Palamas. In 1355 John V organized a public debate
between Palamas and Gregoras for the benefit of the papal legate Paul
(t before 1371).38 There are two surviving and differing accounts of the de-
bate; a verbose polemic by Gregoras himself and a more sober, official ac-
count by the Protostrator George Phakrases.
39
Gregoras, not willing to cede
the issue, completed and published his Second Antirrhetics against Palamas
in 1355/6.40 A year later Palamas countered with his own Antirrhetics
(W 20).
The latter part of Gregory's carreer is most characterized by his preaching
in Thessalonica, though not all of his homilies can be dated to this period.
Gregory died on 14 Nov. 1357.
41
In late Feb. or early March of 1368, he was
proclaimed a saint and his feast was celebrated in the Great Church of C/ple
by the Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos (Regestes, no 2540), who had earlier
written his biography.
35 Regestes, no. 2324. A set of six anathemes was also incorporated into the Synodikon,
p.80-85.
36 See MEYENDORFF 1959 (Introduction), p. 147.
37 Ibid. (p. 157-162); PHILIPPIDIS-BRAAT 1979; DE VRIES-VAN DER VELDEN 1989.
38 PLP 22143.
39 PLP 29575.
40 PAPAROZZI 1970-1971.
41 There is a long-standing debate over the dating of Palamas' death to 1357 or to
1359. There is now a growing consensus in favour of 1357 (see RIGO 1993, p. 159 n. 9).