Gregory Palamas (1296–1359)

  • Beholding God’s energy

    The monk of Mount Athos and later Archbishop of Thessaloniki is seen in the Orthodox Church as the “Great Enlightener”, a teacher of mystical theology and of the prayer of the heart.

    Although the essence of God is incomprehensible and unapproachable for all humans, according to Palamas a vision of God or participation in the divine is possible: even though we cannot experience God himself, we can experience his energies. Palamas demonstrates this using the example of the Tabor Light, the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor where Jesus revealed himself as a figure of radiant light to three of his disciples.

    A condition for this beholding of energies for Palamas is the prayer of the heart which is spoken continuously in the rhythm of breathing. This prayer of the heart leads to an inner quietude, hesychia, which is a characteristic of Orthodox spirituality. In hesychia the Tabor Light, God's energy, can be contemplated as a joyous experience.