Saint Gregory Palamas, a noted hierarch of the 14th century, is remembered by the Church on the Second Sunday of the Great Fast. Although he served as an Archbishop in Greece, it was his labors in 2 areas that gained him religious fame.
One was the revival of monastic life in the communities of Mount Athos, which had been plundered over the centuries. Through much hard work, he was able to rekindle this beacon of our faith into an eternal flame.
His other great contribution was to the system of spiritual contemplation for union with God. We hear much today about the need for relaxation and meditation as a means of handling stress. Indeed, physicians have prescribed this as a formula for promoting good health. Meditation is as old as Christianity. The ascetics of the early Church developed a form of contemplation to a high degree. This became known as “hesychasm,” and St. Gregory was a great proponent of this practice. Its purpose is to attain quietness by uninterrupted mental prayer, contemplating God and envisioning the Divine Light. One must sit quietly, keeping the heart silent and aloof from any distraction. Some close their eyes, but others fix their gaze on a particular spot. One should repeat a word or phrase: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Or simply, “Lord have mercy.” The difficult part is in keeping thoughts concentrated on the Lord.
St. Gregory Palamas was able to accomplish much during his lifetime. He helped restore the monastic haven known as Mount Athos back to the influential spiritual center it had once been. With his guiding hand, he reminded us of the power that prayer and meditation has to strengthen our Christian cause.
The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ