Today in Christian History – June 10 (2020)

1341 – Gregory Palamas defended uncreated light of God.

At the famous monastery at Mt. Athos, Palamas learned the tradition of prayer known as hesychasm. This consisted of reciting over and over “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me,” while ignoring the senses and controlling posture and breathing. Some of the monks claimed that praying in this way, they saw the uncreated light of God that had shone from Christ at the transfiguration.

A monk from the West took issue with this practice, claiming God is unknowable. Others argued that such an uncreated light would rival God, adding a member to the Trinity. The argument simmered for years. Palamas was even imprisoned over it. Matters came to a head on this day, 10 June 1341, when an Orthodox council met in Constantinople at the great church named Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). It was a sweltering day, but the emperor attended in full regalia. He ordered that the matter be settled that day. The council upheld Palamas and criticized the teachings of Bernardo Barlaamo, the opposing monk.

Palamas is venerated as a Saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Some Byzantine Catholic Churches, which are in communion with Rome, venerate him in the liturgy, and he has been called a saint and has been repeatedly cited as a great theological writer by Pope John Paul II. Some of his writings are collected in the Philokalia.

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