Augustine Sokolovski

During the year, the memory of St. Gregory Palamas (1296–1359) is celebrated twice: during Great Lent and on November 14 (27) on the eve of the Nativity Fast. In their, these are two different memories. Lenten celebration represents thanksgiving to God for Orthodoxy, expressed in the theological works of St. Gregory. The second celebration is the personal memory of the saint, the day on which he reposed in the Lord in 1359. This is the day of his birth, as the first Christians called the days of the death of the righteous.

The autumn memory of Gregory is celebrated by the Church much less solemnly than the spring one. For most believers, this day of his memory generally passes unnoticed. Surprisingly, these two celebrations in honor of Gregory Palamas, solemn and humble, reflect the history of his veneration.

The fact is that less than a century after St. Gregory, Constantinople fell under the blows of the Ottomans. The Byzantine Empire ceased to exist, and theological life was suspended. The Athonite monks remembered their teacher. But educated church circles turned their gaze to the distant Greek patristic past of the first millennium. Gregory was almost a contemporary, and the theological debates that preceded the fall of the Empire suddenly became irrelevant with its collapse. It took centuries to pass.

After the Revolution and Civil War in Russia, many of our compatriots found themselves in foreign lands. Among them were philosophers, theologians, and intellectuals. In the cultural and academic centers of that time, for the first time in history, Russian theological thought had to collide with Western Christianity. It then became obvious that, among other authors, Western theologians considered St. Augustine (354–430) to be their greatest authority among the Fathers of the Church, and among later authors they constantly cited Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274). These were the key authors, “the matrix of all conclusions,” as one of the theologians of the New Time wrote about it.

In search of a similar compelling basis for theology, the Orthodox turned to the Three Hierarchs, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom. In particular, the main Orthodox church in Paris was consecrated in honor of these saints at the same time. At the same time, the thoughts of Russian theologians turned to Saint Gregory Palamas, who lived a century later than Thomas Aquinas, but by that time was almost forgotten.

Based on the works of St. Gregory, an attempt was made to express the most important, unique, and great thing that distinguishes Orthodoxy from Western Christianity. The key works of Cyprian Kern, Vladimir Lossky, and John Meyendorff were dedicated specifically to Gregory Palamas. Thus, with his participation, the famous Russian Parisian school of Orthodox theology was created. The humility of the autumn day of remembrance of the saint remains to this day a reflection of former oblivion.