Tuesday, November 14, 2006

St. Gregory Palamas and All Souls of the Benedictine Order

Blessed Convergence: Today is the feast of our Father among the Saints, St. Gregory Palamas and, in the Western Orthodox calendar, the feast of All Souls of the Benedictine Order.

Here is a beautiful and moving sermon on unceasing prayer by St. Gregory http://www.abbamoses.com/unceasing.html:

On the Necessity of Constant Prayer for all Christians in GeneralFrom The Life of St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, the Wonderworker by St. Nikodemos of the Holy MountainTranslation by St Gregory Palamas Monastery, Hayesville,Ohio: www.bright.net/~palamas/
Let no one think, my Christian Brethren, that only persons in holy orders, or monks, are obliged to pray unceasingly and at all times, but not laymen. No, no! It is the duty of all us Christians to remain always in prayer. For see what His Beatitude the patriarch of Constantinople, Philotheus, writes in the life of St. Gregory of Salonica. That saint had a beloved friend, Job by name, a most simple man, but extremely virtuous. Once, talking with him, the prelate said of prayer that every Christian in general ought always to labor in prayer, and to pray unceasingly, as is commanded by the Apostle Paul to all Christians in general: Pray without ceasing (I Thes. 5:17); and as the Prophet David says of himself, regardless of his being a king and having the care of all his kingdom: I behold the Lord always before me (Ps. 15:8), meaning I always mentally see the Lord before me in my prayer. And Gregory the Theologian teaches all Christians and tells them that we should more often remember the name of God in prayer than inhale air.
Saying this and much else to his friend Job, the holy prelate added that in obedience to the commands of the saints, we not only should always pray ourselves, but we should teach all others to do the same, all people in general: monks and laymen, the wise and the simple, men, women, and children, and induce them to pray unceasingly.
Hearing this, it seemed to the elder Job a new stunt and he began to argue, saying to the saint that to pray unceasingly was only fit for ascetics and monks living outside the world and its vanities, but not for lay people who have so many cares and so much work. The saint brought in new testimonies in confirmation of that truth and new irrefutable proofs of it, but the elder Job was not convinced by them. Then St. Gregory, avoiding useless words and love of argument, was silent, and after that each went to his cell.
Later on, as Job was praying in his cell, there appeared to him an Angel sent from God, who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (Tim. 2:4), and rebuking him for having contradicted St. Gregory and opposed an obvious fact on which the salvation of Christians depends, he admonished him in the name of God to attend to himself in future and beware of saying to anyone anything in disparagement of that soul-saving work, thus opposing himself to the will of God, and that even in his mind he ought not to harbor a thought contrary to this and should not allow himself to think otherwise than St. Gregory had told him. Then the most simple elder Job at once hastened to St. Gregory and, falling at his feet, asked his forgiveness for contradicting him and for his love of dispute, and disclosed to him everything that had been said to him by the Angel of God.
Do you see, my brethren, that it is the duty of all Christians, small and great, always to practice the mental prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! so that their mind and heart may acquire the habit of always uttering those holy words. Let this convince you how pleasing this is to God and what great good derives from it, since He, out of His infinite love for men, sent a heavenly Angel to tell us this, so that no one should have any doubt about it.

Read the rest here: http://www.abbamoses.com/unceasing.html

Let us remember the souls of those great Benedictine saints and ascetics who, dedicating themselves to the art of unceasing prayer, built up western civilization to the glory of God.

Requiem aeternum dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetuam luceat eis.


Benjamin Andersen said...

This is a very interesting coincidence, isn't it?

I recall Saint Gregory's own reference to Saint Benedict as "one of the most perfect" of God's Saints on earth!

Benedictus said...

Ben says: I recall Saint Gregory's own reference to Saint Benedict as "one of the most perfect" of God's Saints on earth!

Fascinating!!! Do you have the source for that?

Benjamin Andersen said...

It's in the Triads, I believe. I can't seem to find my copy at the moment, however.

Palamas cites an incident from the Pope Gregory's life of Saint Benedict (chapter 35 of the 2nd Dialogue):

"Standing there, all on a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light, which banished away the darkness of the night, and glittered with such brightness, that the light which did shine in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day. Upon this sight a marvellous strange thing followed, for, as himself did afterward report, the whole world, gathered as it were together under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes"

In the context of his discussion of the Divine Light, Palamas mentions this incident and calls Benedict "one of the most perfect" in his vision of the Divine Light upon earth.

Pretty cool, huh?

Benedictus said...

Thanks, Ben!

After having read the Triads, I didn't make the connection, simply because I didn't read the endnote (I have the Classics of Western Spirituality version). Goes to show how reading the endnotes, no matter how inconvenient it may be, yields a great deal of rewards. I read the 150 Chapters more closely for a paper in one of my doctoral classes. Actually found, among other things, a clear support for the doctrine of "felix culpa."