Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Icons and St Gregory Palamas

Arabic original here.

Icons and St Gregory Palamas

The veneration of icons is tied to the mystery of the incarnation. In the Old Testament, God was invisible, so at that time he forbade us to make an image of Him, lest we fall into idolatry. Through the incarnation of the Son of God, God became visible to us, "he who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

With regard to St Gregory Palamas, this saint struggled with all his strength throughout his teachings and life to affirm that it is possible for man in his body, soul and spirit to be united to God and not only to depict Him.

"God became man so that man may become divine," says Saint Athanasius the Great. Christianity is not limited to good morals. Rather, before all else it is God's gift in Christ, His giving the Holy Spirit after the Resurrection, this gift which completes the economy of our salvation.

Today, in the heart of every baptized Christian, there is a divine light hidden in the depths of the heart, a power capable of making us christs by grace.

After thirteen centuries, the Church placed her seal on the complete, true Christian dogma.

This took place through the Ecumenical Councils which were held over the years: she first fought the various main heresies such as Arianism (and today's Jehovah's Witnesses), as well as all those who opposed the holy icons and she confirmed the Orthodoxy of Saint Gregory Palamas' teaching. She added nothing to the Gospel, but expressed the purity of the Christian faith and cast away from it and from us every heresy that would corrupt it.

The fourteenth century was distinguished by the appearance of great saints, as the Byzantine Empire was falling to the Turks. This holiness branched out on Mount Athos, whose monks unleashed the practice of the Jesus Prayer in all its spiritual dimensions.

Among them was Gregory Palamas, who became Archbishop of Thessalonica after having been an ascetic monk on the Holy Mountain.

There was also Saint Gregory the Sinaite, who brought together the spiritual experience of Sinai and of the Holy Mountain an, through the Jesus Prayer, passed their torch to the Slavic lands: Bulgaria, Russia, Romania and Serbia.

Saint Palamas established the theological principles of  Hesychasm when he spoke of the divinization of the Christian, enlightened by the divine, uncreated energies of the Holy Spirit which radiate from the tomb of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. This divine radiance illumined the apostles on Mount Tabor at the Divine Transfiguration when the power of the Holy Spirit covered Christ's human body.

This spiritual tradition, which goes back to the fourth century with the monks of the Egyptian Desert, was brilliantly awakened in the fourteenth century when Orthodoxy was clothed in all her splendor.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

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