A couple of weeks ago I wrote briefly about peace. This week, as we celebrated the feast of St. Gregory Palamas, is a good opportunity to look at this in a bit more detail. St. Gregory was born into a noble family at the Constantinopolitan court and received an excellent education. His thirst for God led him to decline a position at the palace and go instead to the Holy Mountain. There, he lived a life of prayer in the hesychastic life.
The name hesychasm comes from ησυχία – quiet. It is a life of inner quiet, lived in constant communion with God. As Fr. George Papavarnavas mentions in a brief summary of St. Gregory’s life, this quiet and hesychastic life, “do not simply mean for one to live in a quiet place. One could live in the most quiet place and still not find quiet, because the passions rage inside and mental images drive them crazy.”
Ultimately, peace is not about our surroundings, but about the health of our souls and our relationship with God. St. Gregory endured many hardships in his life. He was imprisoned by his own patriarch. Later, when under a new patriarch he was chosen to become archbishop of Thessaloniki, he could not even enter the city for a couple of years because of the violence and political unrest of the day. In such circumstances, discouragement would be an understandable reaction, but such was not the case for St. Gregory.
The hesychast life, the time spent cultivating the prayer of the heart, enabled his to remain steadfast and peaceful in the midst of all trials. His prayerful life and devotion to the faith made him one of the pillars of the Orthodox Church. The hesychastic life that he lived and publicly defended against various attacks and slanders is a recipe for holiness and acquiring God’s peace. There are two ingredients in St. Gregory’s life that I would like to mention here. The first is his thirst for God and his preference for the good things of God over worldly honor. The second is the fervent and frequent prayer that brought him quiet of soul, peace of mind, and the vision of God.
May the Lord Whom St. Gregory so faithfully served, guide us through his prayers and grant us the same thirst and fervor of prayer.