International Conference March 2012: "St Gregory Palamas: The Theological and Philosophical Significance of his work"

The University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki in association with the Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies in Thessalonica (at the Holy Monastery of Vlatadon), the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (Cambridge, UK), the Holy Metropolis of Thessaloniki, the Friends of Mount Athos (UK-USA), other Orthodox Christian Institutions and Hellenic Republic organisations invite you to participate in the International Conference on St Gregory Palamas that will take place in Thessaloniki from the 7th till the 15th of March 2012.

The Conference will have as its focus the important contributions of St Gregory Palamas in the theological and philosophical debates from the 14th century till today.

Conference participants will be able to visit Monasteries related to St Gregory Palamas in Thessaloniki, Veroia and the Holy Mount Athos (there will be an alternative programme for women; the dates of the visits are included in the above indicated dates of the Conference). Further details about the programme of the Conference will be circulated shortly. There will be a simultaneous translation of all Sessions in English and Greek.

The list of Conference Speakers with titles of presentations and abstracts is as follows:

Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia (Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, Ecumenical Patriarchate): The Human Person according to St Gregory Palamas.

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos (Church of Greece): St Gregory Palamas as the one who expresses the Life of the Fathers of Holy Mount Athos.

Hieromonk Melchisedec (Holy Monastery of St John the Baptist, Essex): The Indisputable Wisdom of the Holy Spirit: St Gregory Palamas and St Silouan the Athonite.

Abstract: St Gregory Palamas and the Byzantines maintained that the uncreated God and the created world are known through distinct epistemological avenues. There is with the Byzantines what the late professors Chrestou and Matsoukas have called a ‘twofold epistemological method’. Knowledge of God is not something obtained through study, dialectical disputation, or thinking, even when coupled with apophatic denial. Knowledge of God is always a gift of the Holy Spirit and as such it is ‘indisputable’ and higher than any intellectual knowledge. Both St Gregory and St Silouan the Athonite emphasize that knowledge of God is given through God’s revelation and only, and that the way to this knowledge is by way of ‘keeping the commandments’. This differs radically from knowledge, or science, obtained through study or through observation of the cosmos. Direct and personal knowledge of the personal God is far higher than earthly wisdom; wisdom termed as ‘foolishness’ by the apostle Paul, frequently quoted by Palamas.

 The way of the cross, which in its turn is ‘foolishness’ to the Hellenic mind, is in actual fact the very epistemological method that both of the Athonite saints advocate. Through this way the knower comes into an intimate communion with the Known God, and Palamas speaks in this context of the characteristic experience of light and warmth in the heart. As Archimandrite Sophrony says, utter kenosis precedes theosis. Both Palamas and Silouan also indicate the wrong kind of spiritual knowledge as well as the symptoms which such knowledge brings with it. For St Silouan love-for-enemies and Christ-like humility safeguard the true knowledge, while peace and joy are the characteristics of the real presence of the Holy Spirit.

Fr Theophanes (Kafsokalyvia, Holy Mt Athos): Remarks on the Evolution of the Hesychastic Method

Abstract: We show that just as there is no formal canon of the Hesychastic tradition, neither is there an official standard method of practising Hesychasm.  We define the Hesychastic method of an author as the psychological model of man used by the author together with his analysis of the necessary practices in the ascent to God.  We look at the Hesychastic method practised by Evagrius (4th C. Egypt), Diadochos of Photiki (5th C. Greece), St John of Sinai (7th C. Sinai), St Hesychios of Sinai (8th C. Sinai?) and St Gregory Palamas (14th C. Athos). In Evagrius, man is composed of soul and body.  The soul is composed of mind, temper and desire, the last two constituting the passionate part of the soul.  Man is subject to 8 passions of the passionate part of the soul.  The Hesychast in his cave first purifies the passionate part of his soul by practising praktiki, the systematic rejection of tempting thoughts which commence in the Hesychast’s consciousness as an image corresponding to one of the eight passions.  After he has completed this purification, the Hesychast commences the purification of his mind through natural contemplation, ultimately ascending to the vision of God. Diadochos uses much of the Evagrian model but for the first time discusses the Jesus Prayer, and that repeated uninterruptedly even in sleep.  He also introduces notions from the Makarian corpus of the experience of Light. St John of Sinai defines Hesychasm as a serene watching in the field of consciousness to detect the tempting thought.  He also describes it as the practice of enclosing the bodiless mind in the body.  He attaches the Jesus Prayer to the normal breathing. St Hesychios continues the praktiki of Evagrius and St John of Sinai, explicitly tying it to the unceasing repetition of the Jesus Prayer in the heart.  Praktiki is accomplished with the mind in the heart.  The end state is the ‘guard of the mind’, a serene state from which the Hesychast is raised to contemplation, ultimately the contemplation of Light, by the Holy Spirit. Gregory Palamas emphasizes basic ascetic practices such as solitude and poverty.  However, he has nothing substantive on praktiki.  It is simply not foreseen.  Instead, there is the practice of penthos, which certainly has a pedigree but which does not play a central role in the Hesychasm of the authors discussed above.  Moreover, while the Hesychasm of the previous authors is a serene observance of the field of consciousness together with means to destroy the tempting thought with the help of Jesus, Gregory emphasizes overcoming tempting thoughts through an intense infolding of the mind into the heart and an intense practice of the Jesus Prayer in the heart, so much so that he is obliged to discuss the tension and fatigue created by the practice. There is a basic uniformity among these authors as to the highest state of contemplation.  There is enough uniformity that in Letter to Xeni Gregory comes full circle and uses texts of Evagrius and Diadochos to illustrate the vision of God.  But there are important differences between Evagrius and Palamas in the role of natural contemplation: Palamas treats natural contemplation as a ‘side effect’ of the contemplation of God in the Uncreated Light not as a stage on the ascent, as Evagrius does.

Dr Andreas Andreopoulos (Winchester, UK): The effect of hesychasm on the icon of the Transfiguration

Abstract: The effect of the flowering of hesychasm in the 14th affected iconography - most notably, although not exclusively, the iconography of the Transfiguration of Christ. By reading the iconography of the Transfiguration in the 14th and the 15th century, and by treating icons as end products but also as sources of theological thought, we can understand how the hesychastic views were understood and received beyond the hesychastic councils.

Dr. Clemena Antonova (Vienna, Austria): Hesychast Influences on Russian Religious Philosophy

Abstract: The proposed part is part of my current research project, “Pavel Florensky (1882-1937) and the Nature of Russian Religious Philosophy” at the IWM, Vienna. That the Hesychast movement had a strong following in medieval Russia is well known. What is probably less appreciated is the enormous impact of Palamite ideas on the evolution of Russian religious philosophy from its very beginning in the nineteenth century (Khomiakov, Kireevsky, and later Soloviev) to the first half of the twentieth century (Berdyaev, Bulgakov, Florensky, etc.). This topic is important in view of the revived interest in this trend of religious thought in Russia, especially since 1989 in the context of what is sometimes called a “religious renaissance”. In this paper I will focus, first, on the idea of wholeness/ total unity, which is practically present with all the major representatives of Russian religious philosophy.  Second, I will consider Florensky’s notion of “consubstantiality”.  My contention will be that these two, related, ideas derive directly from St. Gregory Palamas’s energetism. To be aware of the origins of these concepts is also to understand better the consistent endeavours by Russian thinkers to go back, beyond Western philosophy, to the roots of Eastern Orthodox thought.

Dr Dimitri Atanassov (Sofia, Bulgaria): Nudity of the body in the Late Medieval Orthodox tradition: one example.

Abstract: The article is aimed to analyze the ideas of nakedness through a prism of the well-known letter of Theodorus Metochites to Nicephorus Chumnos (1299).

In a vast variety of texts, written by professionals and non-professionals, it is commonly shared, that the thinking of nudity of human’s body in the Eastern Orthodoxy is not only unacceptable, but even stigmatized. The (naked) body is sinful as well as its themtaiziation. Is makes the person ready to fall. But, the closer look to the history of the Orthodox tradition provides arguments for deeper and different way of thinking. One of the main theoretical problems, raised once more time by the letter, is the way of thinking “The other” according to the Byzantine political doctrine and Christian paradigm. The main concept here is dichotomy between civilization and barbarity – two notions with long history, used in the Christian tradition as well. In accordance with his philosophical orientation, the author’s ideas could be analyzed in depth by using another two key concepts, taken directly from Aristotle – λόγος τ ς ο σίας and τρόπος τ ς πάρξεως. The diversity of optics for thinking “The other” is put in order and different concept systems are coordinated by introducing one more notion, forged by Aristotle - ξις. The article makes a considerable contribution, detailing the basic debates in the intellectual life of the Late Middle Ages – the polemics on the problem of acceptance of Latin concepts in the Eastern theology, the important dispute about Palamism. These debates are crucial for the history of the process of conceptualizing of the theory and philosophy of the Orthodoxy.

Dr. Constantinos Athanasopoulos (IOCS): Being Good, Knowing Good, Doing Good: St Gregory Palamas and False Dilemmas in Contemporary Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics.

Abstract: I will try to highlight the contribution of St Gregory Palamas for effectively dealing with the dilemmas presented to the Ancient Greek Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy and Contemporary Philosophy in core areas of Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics. I will focus on three such dilemmas: Being or Good; Body or Mind/Soul; Faith or Reason.

Revd Dr Liviu Barbu (IOCS): Hesychasm and the prayer of heart: The legacy of St Gregory Palamas for Spiritual Fatherhood in Romanian Orthodoxy


Hesychia and the prayer of the heart are only possible if practised along with spiritual guidance. The tradition of spiritual fatherhood is therefore the basis of hesychasm. In this paper, I evaluate the legacy of hesychasm by looking at the trajectory and specificity of the tradition of spiritual spiritual fatherhood in Romanian Orthodoxy, past and present. At the same time, I will review the academic interest and the status of Palamite studies in Romania, starting with the landmark contribution of the late Father Dumitru Staniloae, whose 1938 study on the person and work of Saint Gregory Palams inaugurated the neo-patristic revival brought about by his dogmatic-experiential theology.

Patrícia Calvário (Porto, Portugal): The problem of deification and imparticipability of God's essence in Gregory Palamas

Abstract: St Gregory’s position regarding the possibility of union with God raises several issues. How to reconcile or preserve God’s transcendence with the possible deifying union is probably the most important. And how is that deification possible, if there’s not, in fact, a participability in the divine essence? In this paper the third Triad in defense of the hesychast saints and the work called «Divine and Deifying Participability or Divine and Supernatural Simplicity» will be accounted for. Our goal is to discuss St Gregory’s position concerning the transcendence of God, who states the impossibility of participation in God’s essence and the deifying unity through the «doctrine of God’s energies». Such views raise new problems: how to salvage God’s simplicity, distinguishing His essence from uncreated energies? How can it be an object of contemplation in Himself –something that is in His own essence, and in which something else may participate, but has an essence that is superior and imparticipable? How does St Gregory avoid the division that these issues seem to suggest there are in God? We will attempt to clarify Gregory’s thought on deification and the role that the concepts of ousia and energeia have in his arguments. These are in fact key concepts to understand how God’s transcendence remains untouched, even within the idea of deification. Reasserting God’s simplicity and unity, Gregory has no choice but to relegate essence, understood as essentializing power (which differs from superessentiality), to an horizontal plane, next to other categories, which he designates as «powers». These include the divinizing power, the vivifying power, among others. Gregory Palamas quotes Dionysius to defend this assertion: «Indeed, even this name "essence" designates one of the powers in God. Denys the Areopagite says, "If we call the superessential Mystery 'God' or 'Life' or 'Essence' or 'Light' or 'Word', we are referring to nothing other than the deifying powers which proceed from God and come down to us, creating substance, giving life, and granting wisdom." So, when you [Barlaam] say that only the essence of God is an unoriginate reality, you give us to understand that only one power of God is without beginning, that which creates essence, whereas all the others apart from this one are temporal. Yet why should the substance-creating power be unoriginate, when (according to you) the vivifying power has a temporal beginning, as also the life-giving and wisdom bestowing powers? Either all the divine powers are unoriginate, or none! If you say that only one of them is uncreated, you expel the others from the realm of the uncreated; and if you declare all are created, you must also reject this single uncreated one. [Triads, 3, 2, 11]. The attempt to answer the quoted questions requires a decentering in relation to the scholastic tradition, the only way to penetrate the complexity of Palamite metaphysics, open to other traditions and other problems. This is not an easy task mostly because of the Aristotelian framework of the Western Metaphysics.

Professor Dan Chitoiu (Iasi, Romania): St. Gregory Palamas' Critique of Nominalism

Abstract: In my presentation I will discuss St. Gregory Palamas`s response to the nominalism of Balaam. That kind of nominalism, embraced also by other Byzantine intellectuals of the time, pursued a kind of Platonic explanation when providing a response to the relationship between God and world. Palamas`s answer implied the distinction between immaterial and supernatural, thus affirming a realistic doctrine of supernatural knowledge: the possibility of a non-symbolical knowledge of God, and of an effective relationship between God and man. This kind of understanding is as much of an exceptional value for the thinking of today. Asserting the existence of an Eastern-Christian Philosophy in our days cannot be made without considering the doctrine of St. Gregory Palamas as a central landmark.

Prof. Fr Georgios Chrysostomou  (University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki and Metropolis Veroias): The veneration of St Gregory Palamas in Veroia

Abstract: The presentation will discuss the details of St Gregory Palamas' stay in Veroia and the circumstances of his and his family's monastic activity in Veroia. It will also discuss  the canonization of the family of the Saint (his father St Constantios, his mother St Kalloni, his brothers St Theodosios and St Makarios and his sisters St Epicharis and St Theodotis) that took place in Veroia in 2009.

Professor Stephen Clark (Liverpool, UK): Silence in the Land of Logos

Abstract: It is customary to contrast the pagan philosophical tradition with the Christian by suggesting that pagan philosophers favoured "reason" over "faith", and that their doctrines were conveyed as propositions either of a "self-evident" sort or as sound inferences from those first proposals. More exact studies of the pagan (Neo)Platonists suggests instead that they aimed, like other pagan philosophers, at a radical change of mind, not always or even primarily by way of reasoned argument, and hardly ever of a kind that could be summed up as propositional doctrine. Theurgical practices of the common sort involved external rituals, mostly drawn from traditional pagan religious or overtly magical rites, but the imaginative or spiritual exercises proposed by Plotinus were also theurgical in nature, even if they were "private" or "personal". Their goal was to put a stop to our usual interior monologues and permit the presence of God or a god to be made known, non-propositionally, to the philosopher. My aim in this paper is to seek to uncover similarities and differences between the Plotinian exercises and Palamas' Hesychasm, and to criticise some earlier, stereotypical discussions. Are the differences, whatever they turn out to be, related to theoretical disagreements about either the incarnate Word or the Spirit? Are those disagreements, about the origin and hierarchical status of Word and Spirit, of the same sort in pagan and Christian philosophizing?

Hagiographos Elias Damianakis Archon Maestor MXE: The immediate indelible Palamite influence on Liturgical Artistic Traditions of Orthodoxy Iconography

Abstract: Holy Gregory Palamas’ (1296–1359) teachings and defense of hesychasm had profound influence on liturgical artistic traditions of Orthodox iconography almost immediately. Profound concepts of uncreated light, epistemology and theory of knowledge (man’s personhood in the cosmos) indelibly altered the style, content, perspective, relationship to sacred space and shifted the focus of iconography for centuries. I will present an in-depth study of the breadth of Palamite influence on the iconographic style/content and illustrate the new understanding of our relationship to God “mans place in the universe” through the microcosm of iconography. Palamite teachings had an immediate affect on Russian identity and thought through the works Palamas’ contemporary iconographer/philosopher Theophanes the Greek from Constantinople (1340-1410) promulgating Palamite teachings through his art during the controversies [in real time] and eventually found authorship in the iconography of Andrei Rublev (1360-1447). On the Holy Mount Athos, Palamite influence on iconography’s evolution during the subsequent centuries manifests and finds expression in works of Theophanes Strelitzas (16th c) and subsequent ateliers, but still today, his teachings sways influence in many circles of Liturgical Artistic thought and expression. It seems no small coincidence the Church commemorates Gregory Palamas during holy lent one week after the Great Victory of the Icon “The Sunday of Orthodoxy” and one week before the veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. (presentation will be accompanied by visual aide if available).

Dr Elena Dulgheru (Romania): Title: Taboric Light in Russian Visual Culture: From the Frescoes of Dionisy to the Photographies of Yuri Holdin

Abstract: One of the most important, but less known abroad icon painters from “The Golden Age” of Russian Orthodox art is Dionisy (~1430 – after 1502). His work is a direct continuation of the labour of materialization of the Orthodox mystic experience into Russian iconography, initiated by Theofan the Greek and Saint Andrey Rublew. The two famous masters mark the transition of the iconic understanding of the Orthodox experience, from Byzantium (and the Greek painting tradition) to Russia. The hesychast experience, which deeply influenced Andrey Rublew’s work (through his spiritual master, Saint Sergius of Radonezh), is continued on a new step by Dionisy. The theology of Saint Gregory Palamas and the controversies upon the nature of Taboric light, brought to Russia from Athos by monks (like Saint Nil Sorsky, a contemporary of Dionisy) deeply influenced the Russian icon painting conception, both stylistically (through light, colour, and drawing) and thematically. Highly appreciated by his contemporaries (especially by the clergy), both for his artistic virtuosity and for the deep theology of his frescoes (they nicknamed him “the Wise”), Dionisy somehow failed into shade in 20th century, especially outside USSR. The reasons of this fact was, first of all, the serious degradation of the Dormition Cathedral from Ferapont monastery - the main holder of his best frescoes - and the unsatisfying quality of their reproductions in the Soviet albums. The technics of icon photography and publishing never took into account theological reasons. That’s why the work of Yuri Holdin, a Russian art photographer (1954-2007), who realized more than 300 shots of Dionisy’s Ferapont frescoes, succeeding for the first time to catch on the frame their real colours with a richness of details never seen before in reproductions, was perceived both by art historians and theologists as a great cultural event. The exhibitions held in Russia and abroad since 2007, as well as the published albums have a great artistic, editorial and theological importance. By reconstructing the behavior of the cathedral’s natural illumination while the time of the Holy Liturgy, when the cathedral is flooded by a serene irisated Taboric-like light, Yuri Holdin demonstrates that photographing old frescoes is a spiritual art, which involves not only photographic skills and technology, but a deep theological understanding and faith. Holdin puts the basis of the art of “pnevmatic photography” (in Russian: “svetopis”, literally meaning “photo-graphia”, “the art of writing or painting with light”), conferring to an art strongly connected with technology the elevation of the old medieval icon-painting. The spiritual continuity between Saint Gregory Palamas, the old master Dionisy and the contemporary photo-artist Yuri Holdin is ensured by the confessing by everyone of them of the experience of Taboric light, by the languages of theology, icon-painting, or photography respectively.

Professor Oleg Dushin (St Petersburg, Russia): St. Gregory Palamas and the Moscow School of Christian Neo-Platonism (A.F. Losev, S.S. Averincev, V.V. Bibihin, S.S. Horujy). Abstract: It is well known that the development of Orthodox theology in twentieth century was determined by conception of Neo-Palamism. Besides, it should be stressed that the famous Russian theologians made their contribution in this teaching. Unfortunately, they lived in emigration. However, in spite of dictatorship of Soviet communist system there was a group of Russian scholars which studied and practiced Christian traditions. They were interested mostly in Ancient philosophy and Byzantine Orthodox theology. The leader of this group was Aleksei Losev. He studied in the Moscow University before Revolution. Certainly he was a religiously oriented person. In this connection he transmitted some ideas and practices of Russian Orthodox culture. Hesychasm and theology of Gregory Palamas was important topic of their reflections. Hence the purpose of my paper is to present their interpretations.

Dr. Christophe Erismann (Lausanne, Switzerland): Gregory Palamas and Aristotelian ontology: substance and relation.

Abstract: This contribution proposes to discuss the reception of Aristotle’s ontology, in particular of his theory of categories, by Gregory Palamas. Palamas’ metaphysics is deeply determined by the notion of energeia. This notion is central to the rethinking by Palamas of Aristotle’s categorical ontology. Palamas’ knowledge of Aristotle stems from Byzantine handbooks of logic and from the process of integration of Aristotelian logic by patristic authors from Gregory of Nyssa to John of Damascus. We can observe in Palamas acceptance of the validity of the doctrine of the Categories for the sensible world: “those realities that are subsequently observed in substance, can be included within ten categories, namely, substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, action, affection, possession and situation” (The one hundred and fifty chapters, § 134). The ten categories are a correct way of understanding created beings. Two aspects of his theory will be of particular interest to us: his notion of substance as applied to ontology of the created world and that of relation, most importantly in theological context. The notion of substance is reconceptualised in a very interesting way due to the importance of the notion of energy. Gregory gives as an ontological rule that “If the substance does not possess an energy distinct from itself, it will be completely without actual subsistence and will be only a concept in the mind” (op. cit., § 136). This has a direct consequence on his theory of universals – ‘secondary substance’ according to Aristotle’s expression. Given that is does not have energeia, a universal cannot subsist. As Gregory states for the example of man: “And so the universal man is entirely lacking actual subsistence”. Relation has an interesting characteristic: it is, with the category of action (to poiein), the only one that can be attributed to the superessential essence of God. But here again, the notion of relation is reconceptualised. The case of the two mentioned categories should allow us better to understand the complex attitude of Gregory Palamas toward Aristotle: he uses elements of Aristotle’s thought, which have often be mediated though a long tradition, but he also seeks to show that Aristotelian logic is not sufficient to define divine transcendence.

Dr Christine- Mangala Frost (IOCS): Gregory Palamas's Prophetic Polemics: a Comparative Study of Hesychastic Prayer and the methods and goals of Contemplative Yoga. The lingering legacy of Barlaamite rejection of the role of the body in Christian spiritual experience seems to have resulted in a vacuum which is being filled in by teachers of Contemplative Yoga. Not just the agnostics, and atheists, but even Orthodox Christians seem mesmerized by the apparently non-dogmatic, practical, holistic spiritualexperience offered by teachers of Contemplative Yoga. Palamas' polemicaldefence of hesychastic prayer in The Triads has multifaceted relevance in this context. The aim of this paper is twofold: first, to offer a comparative critique of the methods and goals of Contemplative Yoga and Hesychastic Prayer, charting the differing spiritual trajectories, and dealing with questions of compatibility; secondly,to explore how Palamas' staunch defence of the body in the experience of'deification' can lead to a creative interfaith dialogue with those who seek'divinisation' through yoga.

Dr Stavros Giagkazoglou (Volos): Eucharist and Ascesis: Eucharistic and Therapeutic Ecclesiology in the Theology of St Gregory Palamas.

Professor Fadi A. Giorgi (Deacon Porphyrios) (Balamand, Lebanon): En topo Foteino: The Dialectic of Death and Transfiguration in Saint Gregory Palamas.

Abstract: This paper attempts to make a comprehensive analysis of the concept of Death, an essential theological component in the ascetical as well as the pastoral teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas. Death is conceived by this defender of ?esychasm as a dynamic spiritual reality affecting the entirety of human existence. He defines death as “the rejection of God by the noetic creatures,” both angels and human beings, introducing to the created reality the possibility of evil. The paper also sheds light on the theo-centric dimension of Gregory’s biblical anthropology, and his interpretation of the mystery of salvation as a continuous permeation of the divine light into human existence until the manifestation of the eschatological triumph over the “last enemy”.

Fr. Dimitri Harper (Winchester, UK and Thessaloniki): Becoming Homotheos: St. Gregory Palamas’ Eschatology of Body

Abstract: In the latter portion of The Triads, St. Gregory Palamas describes deification as an event that is inclusive of the entirety of man’s being, inasmuch as he becomes “entirely God in his soul and body by grace”. This bold assertion on the part of St. Gregory is demonstrative of the way in which he consciously follows in the footsteps of his theological forebearer, St. Maximus the Confessor, by synthesizing Evagrian-style spirituality with Biblical anthropological presuppositions. Man qua being, for Palamas, can only be defined as such to the extent that he possesses both soul and body, both of which are eternally predetermined for deification. The ascetic life and the practice of the virtues therefore constitute not a rejection of the body or its powers, but rather function as a way of redirecting man away from an inordinate obsession with the physical world that he may become receptive to the deifying grace of God. In his rigorous defense of the practitioners of hesychia, Palamas makes it clear that he considers prayer and the ecstatic experience of the uncreated light to be events that are inclusive of man’s entire hypostasis, even asserting that man’s bodily senses become capable of participating in this foretaste of the eschata. My paper shall focus upon Palamas’ ‘eschatological’ view of the body and his insistence on the relevance of man’s somatic dimension in the spiritual life. I shall also strive to illuminate the ontological presuppositions of his synthesis that enable his anthropological perspective, with particular emphasis on those which he received from his predecessors. Finally, I will argue that the Incarnation is a sine qua non of his theology and, consequently, of his eschatology of body.

Filip Ivanovic (Trondheim, Norway): Man’s Position in Cosmos According to Dionysius the Areopagite and Gregory Palamas.

Abstract: It has been evidently pointed out and widely discussed the fact that Gregory Palamas quotes extensively and follows the works of Dionysius the Areopagite. This is clear from both explicit citations within the Palamas’ works and implicit allusions to the passages from the Corpus Dionysiacum. However, some interpreters have argued that Palamas does not follow Dionysius in all respects, and that he applies correctives to certain teachings of his. It is in this light that the position of man in cosmos, and especially his relation to angels, has been seen as opposed in the works of the two great thinkers. As a matter of fact, Dionysius talks about a specific order of cosmos, divided into two hierarchies, celestial and ecclesiastical (or “our”, to be more precise). In this regard, he says that our hierarchy is the image of the celestial one, and in the overall conception of the two hierarchies, the concept of mediation could be seen as crucial. Thus, although he poses angels in the lowest rank of the celestial hierarchy, Dionysius still puts them above human hierarchy, so that one might conclude that the angels are mediators between God and humans. On the other hand, Palamas puts humans above angels, arguing that man is a more perfect image of God because he possesses the life-giving power, because he exercises dominion, and because his knowledge has a threefold character (sense perception, intellection, reason). In this sense, Palamas seems to oppose Dionysius, or at best, corrects him. However, in the proper understanding of Dionysian hierarchies, one has to take into account the definition that the Areopagite himself gives, according to which “the hierarchy is a sacred order, a state of understanding and an activity approximating as closely as possible to the divine”. A careful reader of Palamas, on the other hand, will notice that, in his words, “even though we possess the image of God to a greater degree than the angels, even till present we are inferior by far with respect to God’s likeness and especially now in relation to the good angels”. Departing from these passages, this paper will examine the correct understanding of Dionysius’ hierarchies and Palamas’ thoughts on man and angels, in order to arrive at the right appreciation of man’s position in cosmos in both thinkers, with the aim to show that Palamas is not so much opposed to Dionysius as one would think at first glance.

Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis (Volos Ecclesiastical Academy): "Fr John Meyendorff and Fr John Romanides: Two Opposite Interpretations of Palamism and their Impact on Contemporary Orthodox Theology."

Abstract: TBA

Dr. Mikonja Kneževic (Montenegro):  "Eκ" and "δια" in Apodictic Treatises on the Procession of the Holy Spirit of Gregory Palamas.   Abstract: The text aims to investigate in a systematic and ehxaustive way the use of prepositions κ and διά in the antilatin polemics over filioque of Gregory Palamas, as it is exposed in his Apodictic Treatises on the Procession of the Holy Spirit. The use of two prepositions, that, actually, attain a function of technical terms, in this work of Palamas is not really consistent: sometimes Palamas explicitly distinguishes these prepositions, sometimes sees them as of the same meaning, and this applies both to the economic as well as to the trinitarian context. However, the constant is the strong insistence of Palamas that the existential procession of Holy Spirit takes place only „from“ ( κ) the hypostasis of Father, so that in this very sense the preposition κ can in no way be applied also to the Son. Even when he on the triadological level, too, accepts the thesis that Spirit proceeds also „from“ ( κ) the Son, meaning „from the nature of the Son“, he always underlines that this procession takes place „only according to the hypostasis of the Father“ (καθ’ πόστασιν μόνην τ ν πατρικήν). The monarchy of the Father, then, shows itself again as the corner stone of trinitarian considerations of Gregory Palamas.

Professor Anna Koltsiou-Nikita (Thessaloniki): Gregorius Palamas’ theology, as viewed by the scholar Demetrius Cydones

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to examine the factors which contributed to the construction of the identity of the Byzantine scholar Demetrius Cydones’ theological discourse, his critique against Palamas’ theology in particular. On the basis of a systematic examination of the relevant evidence, one may conclude that Demetrius Cydones’ interest focuses on his pro-Western political beliefs and activities. He criticizes Palamas’ theological views, primarily because of the condemnation of his anti-Palamist brother, Prochorus, and, therefore, Cydones’ elenchus is for the most part motivated by his charged emotional state. On the other hand, as a true lover of the classical heritage and philosophy as well as on account of his deep political thinking and his rich experience, Demetrius constructs a full-fledged and vivid discourse, which is commendable not only due to its flawless linguistic usage and impeccable application of rhetorical rules, but also due to the extensive inclusion of quotations, mainly drawn from profane texts. In fact, his discourse may best be described as political rather than theological.

Professor Konstantinos Kotsiopoulos (Thessaloniki): St Gregory Palamas and the Social Problems of his time.

Professor Fr Nikolaos Loudovikos (Thessaloniki): Union of God and Concept of History in Gregory Palamas and Thomas Aquinas

Abstract: TBA.

Professor Georgios Mantzarides (Thessaloniki): St Gregory Palamas and Elder Sophrony of Essex.

Professor Georgios Martzelos (Thessaloniki): Holy Spirit as "Eros Aporritos" between Father and Son in St Gregory Palamas.

Professor Konstantinos Niarchos (Athens): Philosophy in Ancient Greece and in Byzantium with specific reference to St Gregory Palamas.

Dr Ezekiel Olagoke (USA): Gregory Palamas and African Religious Resurgence: A Case for Essential Dialog.

Abstract: The remarkable absence of Eastern Christian Orthodoxy in African Christianity is as profound as it is prodigious for many reasons. First and foremost of which is the non-player of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in the colonial project and the scramble for Africa. A cursory examination of the biblical, Patristic and theological traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy posits a powerful, but illuminating critique of Western Christianity as inherited and espoused by Africa, more so in the areas of the nature of sin, human dignity, the place of the church, suffering, sacrament, saints, and scriptures.  The purpose of this paper is three-fold. First, is the examination of the nature of religions in the light of Palamas life, theology, and practice. It is said that "religions are like men, they grow old and die unless they are renewed, unless the seed perishes and is born again" (Robert Payne, 1958: 296). I will argue that the historic and theological services provided and performed by Gregory Palamas can be a fulcrum to a renewal of African Christianity. Second, Gregory Palamas creative engagement in his day makes a significant contribution to current attempts at dialog between Orthodox Christians and Western Roman Catholicism and Protestantism (Papademetriou 2004:1).  Palamas was one of the best and astute exponents of Orthodox Christian theology in the fourteenth century.  He was also a creative thinker.  The import of this dialog for Africa, which has had its share of ethnic and religious violence, Christian-Muslim conflicts, and socio-political rudderlessness cannot be overstated. Third, it is pertinent to note that this dialog is not limited to Christians.  Eastern Orthodoxy has historically and geographically shared relationships, engagement, and dialog with Islam ever since the rise of Islamic faith in the seventh century.  A good number of African nations also share identical experience of sometimes peaceful, or violent co-existence.  Gregory Palamas and Eastern Orthodoxy can provide a new paradigm of engagement and enrichment as this paper will demonstrate. Finally, through this engagement, young churches in Africa will be further enriched through the nature of Palamas' hesychasm, Christology, Jesus prayer, and inter-religious dialog.

Rev. Michael Pacella III, CEC (USA): The similarities in the works of Aquinas and Palamas—rooted in the theology and thought of Saint John Damascene.

Abstract: The East and the West have been separated by more than geographical location in the theological realm. There was a wide divide especially during the 13th and 14th centuries prior to the Protestant Reformation which greatly impacted the West. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) wrote on similar subjects regarding metaphysical (theological) anthropology and in particular the harnessing of the passions and the cultivation of Christian virtue. I have been struck by their similarities, but I have no documentation to verify that Gregory Palamas was ever exposed to the work of Thomas Aquinas. However, I wish to propose in agreement with Andrew Louth that there was a common source that was familiar to them both, found in the works of Saint John of Damascus. Louth explains: “Saint John Damascene forms a strange, though by no means exceptional, case in the history of Christian theology. His influence is far-reaching, not only in later Byzantine theology, where eventually the pattern of John’s theological synthesis became determinative, but also in later Western theology, beginning with the great Summae of the scholastic theologians, for whom his epitome of patristic doctrine (known in the West as De Orthodoxa Fide, ‘On the Orthodox Faith’) became their principal resource…” (St. John Damascene—Tradition and Originality in Byzantine Theology. Andrew Louth—Oxford Early Christian Studies. 2002). Another recent work (1999) entitled "The ground of Union—deification in Aquinas and Palamas" by A.N. Williams also highlights the credibility of this inquiry.

Professor Georgios D. Panagopoulos (Ioannina, Greece): Patristic Evidences Concerning the Procession of The Holy Spirit in Gregory’s Palamas Work

Abstract:  My communication is focused on the way that St. Gregory Palamas interprets in his 2nd Oration on the Procession of the Holy Spirit main evidences of Gregory of Nyssa and Cyril of Alexandria related to this controversial issue, both for the West and the East. Concretely it will be taken under consideration the well known passage from Gregory’s of Nyssa Ad Ablabium and then a complex of various passages derived mainly from Thesaurus of St. Cyril, which seem to imply a certain involvement of the Son in the Spirit’s eternal procession from God the Father. My purpose is to shed light on the structural elements of Palamas’ theological interpretation, this means, to describe the way in which Palamas achieves his theological aim through the analysis of three aspects of the patristic evidences mentioned above: the grammatical, the logical and the ontological one. Hence it comes to be established the astonishing coherence of Palamas’ theological thought: His well-structured methodological approach to the texts (i.e. an approach that does justice to the grammatical, logical and philological aspects of text’s interpretation) serves to summarize the orthodox faith about the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone, i.e. the distinctions between πόστασις and ο σία but also between theologia and oikonomia, as a doctrine based absolutely on the experience of the Saints Apostles and the Fathers.     

Dr. Spyridon P. Panagopoulos (Patras, Greece): “The Relationship of Theology of the Uncreated Light on St Gregory Palamas and the Byzantine Iconography of 14th-15th Century”

Abstract: The subject of the present paper is based on the relationship of St Gregory Palamas’ Christology and the Byzantine Palaiologian iconography (mainly monumental painting) of 14th-15th century. The power and energy of Hesychasm’s victory and St Gregory Palamas’ theology succeeded to start creating a special iconographic style during the second half of 14th century. This iconographic style will find its full expression in the so-called Cretan school together with Theophanes the Cretan and his disciples, which in its main part, and not random, grows on Mount Athos, and together with Hesychasm, will spread through the Balkans to the lands of medieval Russia. The painting of the Palaiologian period and the Monastery of Chora in Constantinople will be useful to us as a counterpart to Hesychast style of iconography that can join the Cretan school, which lasts the next two centuries (15th and 16th century). In our paper we will deal mostly with a large number of frescoes and icons from Monasteries of Great Lavra, Stavronikita, Iviron, Dionysiou and Dochiariou on Mount Athos. After a short reference to St Gregory Palamas’ Christology we will attempt a theological analysis of relations or connections between the two fileds of spiritual-artistic activity with emphasis on divine Taborian Light and the particular “light” of icons and frescoes of the Palaiologian period, light inspired from the Hesychast teaching of the Church Fathers during the last centuries of Byzantium.

Professor Symeon Paschalides (Thessaloniki): On the afterlife of st Gregory Palamas' memory and theology

Abstract:The issue of consolidation and survival of the liturgical memory of St. Gregory Palamas during the last decades of the byzantine empire and especially during the first centuries of the Ottoman period, has attracted the special interest of many scientists in the recent past. However, both this issue and that of the survival and diffusion of hesychastic theology during the 15th and the next few centuries, need much more research, as they have not been fully presented. In this frame we are going to present the conclusions of our research about the introduction of the feast of St. Gregory Palamas in the byzantine calendar during the 14th and 15th c., mainly through the Synaxarion of the Second Sunday of Lent, which is erroneously attributed to Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos, and some little known hymnographic works. In addition, we will present the main representatives of hesychastic theology during the 15th century, a crucial period which has not been specially investigated as regards to the survival of Hesychasm, Symeon archbishop of Thessaloniki and Makarios Makris; and finally an interesting work called Skotodine, which was written by the prolific theologian of the 17th c. Gerasimos Vlachos in order to defend the memory and the theology of St. Gregory Palamas after the edition and circulation of Targa Pisteos by the Jesuit Fr. Richard.

Fr. Daniel P. Payne, Ph.D. (USA): The “Relational Ontology” of Christos Yannaras: The Hesychast Influence on the Understanding of the Person in the Thought of Christos Yannaras

Abstract: Christos Yannaras, one of the seminal Orthodox thinkers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, has articulated a particular understanding of the person based on his reading of the hesychast and spiritual tradition of the Orthodox Church and contemporary existentialist philosophy, especially the thought of Lacan and Heidegger. What emerges in Yannaras’s thought is a combination of Orthodoxy with existentialism. While some theologians have criticized Yannaras’s reliance on existentialism for his understanding of the person, I argue that it is his reading of the tradition of hesychasm that informs his personalism. Especially important is the idea of the distinction between the essence and energies of the person, which St. Gregory Palamas, drawing upon the work of St. Basil, articulated and defended in his theology.  In this paper I will describe Yannaras’s understanding of the person. In doing so, I will demonstrate the importance of Palamas’s thought upon his own. Accordingly, this will enter into the debate concerning the necessity of holding the distinction between the essence and energies of the person in contemporary Orthodox theology. Furthermore, the relational ontology of freedom, as developed by Yannaras, will be discussed as an important aspect of a hesychast understanding of the human person.

Dr Norman Russell (UK): The Christological context of Palamas's approach to participation in God

Abstract: In his classic account of Eastern Christian Christology, John Meyendorff maintains that the defeat of the anti-Palamites in Byzantium was a triumph of the theology of the incarnation of the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries. He insists that a real distinction between the essence and the energies of God is vital for a correct understanding of the operation in Christ of the communicatio idiomatum. It is certainly true that when Prochoros Kydones attempted to refute the distinction at his trial in 1368, he was found guilty of Christological error. Yet as John Demetracopoulos has recently shown, Palamas's real distiction between the essence and energies of God was a source of embarrassment to some of his most important immediate followers, who sought to soften his position by suggesting that the distinction was only kat'epinoian. Demetracopoulos has demonstrated that in speaking of essence and energy in terms of higher and lower divinities Palamas was consciously developing a metaphysics based on Neoplatonic tenets. The latter's minority position on the distinctio realis, however, is perhaps still best understood in a Christological context - not so much the decisions of the later ecumenical councils as the Constantinopolitan Christological controversies of the twelfth century.

Professor Richard Swinburne (Oxford): 'Gregory Palamas and our knowledge of God'.

Abstract: This paper assesses the views of Gregory Palamas on the nature and value of three routes to our knowledge of God - natural reason, publicly revealed truth, and personal direct awareness of God. Gregory believes that natural reason can provide for all humans a justified belief that there is a God. Although he doesn't attempt to articulate this reason in the form of a rigorous argument, I argue that it can be shown to be probable that there is a God by a method which he might well approve. Gregory holds that Scripture does provide revealed knowledge of the nature of God and his actions in Christ; but he provides little justification for why we should believe that Scripture does provide that knowledge, nor for any particular method of interpreting it. Gregory's emphasis is on the knowledge of the nature of God and his actions which is available to all Christians through obedience to the divine commands and prayer; although only some Christians can obtain in this life the full and inexpressible awareness of the divine energies.

Professor Manuel Summares (Braga, Portugal):  The Theotokos as Mystical Theologian: Ontological Issues arising from Palamas' Sermons on the Mother of God.

Abstract: In contrast with the post-12th century notion of theology as an academic subject, the properly patristic idea of theologia is inseparable from prayer to be “truly” practiced. Theologia is an experience to be thus attained, for the vision of divine glory is not only for the age to come but is indeed available to the saints in the present life.  Such will be one of the central arguments that St. Gregory Palamas will make in defence of the hesychasts, for whom  -- as his sermons on the Theotokos teach – the Virgin is to be considered a model. For Palamas, the Mother of God by-passes the stages of praktiki and physiki and moves directly into theologia. She is the true theologian who prays truly and is from the start gifted with the discerning spirit of prophecy. Having entered into the Holy of Holies shortly after she was weaned, she more than any other has insight into a divine knowledge beyond that contemplated in philosophy and analogical reasoning. Fruit of experiencing a communion with God unlike any other, her mystical vision of God transcends mere discursive speculation. Yet the implication is that, in becoming the Mother of God, she embodies a paradox: having been fashioned by God through providential grace, she freely consents to be the means of fashioning God in a human form through her flesh. In her body, she circumscribes the pre-eternal God. In the light of some of the issues raised in his controversy with Barlaam, Palamas’ teachings on the Mother of God put into a new perspective the question that Spinoza introduced into modern and contemporary philosophy: what can the body be? Palamas’ patristic understanding of the Theotokos and of the divine essence/ divine energies distinction does offer a promising answer to that question – an answer that finds some echo in the patristic elements that can be found in the thinking of Maurice Blondel and Michel Henry, but already powerfully envisioned in Palamas himself.

Dr. Stoyan Tanev (Odense, Denmark and Sofia, Bulgaria): "Orthodox theology and quantum mechanics: The meaning of words and language in St Gregory Palamas and Niels Bohr".

Abstract: In a recent interview Christos Yannaras pointed out that one of the key characteristics of post-modernity is the emergence of a new language in dealing with ontology and reality, a language emerging from two different scientific disciplines – quantum mechanics and post-Freudian psychology. The post-modern mission of the Church is seen in the opportunity to link the salvific message of the Gospel to linguistic categories that are much more efficient in the interpretation of ‘the reality of existence, the appearance and disclosure of being’, and more specifically, in the articulation of the existential mode of the relationship between God, world, and man. The objective of this talk is to provide an analysis that would enable the comparison of the ways of using words and language in Orthodox theology and quantum mechanics. The main motivation will be based on exploring the opportunity of using quantum mechanics as a source of a new language that could be used as a way of enriching the power of theological statements. The focus will be on examining the ways of using words and language by St. Gregory Palamas and Niels Bohr as two of the most authentic representatives of Orthodox theology and quantum mechanics. The novelty in such an approach should be sought in the possibility of using the comparison in “detecting” and helping the emergence of common linguistic themes, the discussion of which could become a source of insights for both theology and physics. The discussion will necessarily focus on epistemological issues and the nature of the relation between the meaning of words and the reality they represent. The focus on epistemological issues is justified by the fact that both St. Gregory Palamas and Niels Bohr have been acknowledged for their epistemological insights. Niels Bohr, in particular, has been widely acknowledged for the articulation of the so called “epistemological lesson” from the development of quantum mechanics. Can we speak of a similar lesson in relation to Divine epistemology of St Gregory Palamas?  

Professor Christos Terezis (Patras) - Professor Elias Tempelis (Peireus): Aspects of the Revelation of the Divinein St Gregory Palamas’ Treatise De Operationibus Divinis

Abstract: In this paper we examine the concepts "destination", "revelation", "foreknowledge" and "intention" as they appear in Palamas’ treatise De operationibus divinis. According to the Christian theologian, these four terms correspond to specific ways of God’s manifestation, i.e. His natural and supernatural revelation. They illuminate God’s energies, but not His essence. Therefore, they are participated by the beings of the natural world. The first two terms mainly refer to a general version of the revelation, while the third contains epistemological elements as well and the fourth contains elements referring also to the divine will. By means of these concepts, Palamas preserves the ontological difference between the supernatural and the natural, while, at the same time, he defines the exact way of their communion, which excludes pantheism. Palamas introduces into the divine realm the state of distinction, which, however, does not restrict its unity at all. We could, therefore, argue that he accepts the development of a metaphysical multitude, which is regulated by the divine uniqueness. What emerges is not a kind of Neoplatonic polytheism, but the infinite richness of the divine existence. Thus, Palamas steadily moves within the tradition founded by Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus the Confessor, John Damascenus and George Pachymeres, the main characteristic of which is ontological monism.

Professor Dimitrios Tselengides (Thessaloniki): The Theological Ramifications of Filιoque in the work of St Gregory Palamas.

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