TSERKOVNOST::An Eastern Orthodox Resource Centre

The Three Pillars of Orthodoxy

Ss. Photios the Great, Mark of Ephesus, and Gregory Palamas

St. Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople

Commemorated February 6/19

The Holy Hierarch Photios the Great lived in the 9th Century.  He was the child of zealous Christians; his father endured a martyr’s death in defense of the holy icons.  St. Photios received an excellent education, and, related to the Imperial Family, held the post of first government secretary in the senate.  His contemporaries said of him “that he so excelled in knowledge,  in almost all spheres of secular learning, that he could truly be considered the glory of his age; he could even have disputed with the ancients.”  He was the tutor of both Michael, young heir to the Imperial Throne, and Equal-to-the-Apostles Kyrill, future enlightener of the Slavs.  Photios’ profound Christian piety protected him from the allures of life at court.  To the depths of his soul, he was drawn to the monastic life.          

In 857, Varda, Michael’s co-emperor, deposed Patriarch Ignatios from the Patriarchal throne of Constantinople. Aware of the piety and the breadth of learning possessed by Photios, the bishops pointed him out to the emperor as one worthy of being ruling hierarch.  St. Photios humbly accepted the office.  He was moved through the successive clerical steps [i.e. reader, subdeacon, deacon, priest -ed.] over the course of 6 days, and on the day of the Nativity of Christ, was consecrated a bishop and elevated to the Patriarchal Throne.  However, soon troubles brought on by Ignatios'’ removal from the Patriarchal Throne developed. A Council convened in 861 to deal with those troubles confirmed Ignatios’ deposition and Photios’ election as Patriarch. Pope Nicholas I, whose emissaries attended that Council, had hoped that by confirming that Photios as Patriarch, he would bring Photios under his sway. Failing to achieve that result, he subsequently announced at a council in Rome that Photios was anathema.  From that point, and to the end of his life,  St. Photios had to do battle with papal exercise of self-will and attempts to encroach upon the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

In 864, the people of  Bulgaria freely converted to Christianity.  It is said that Boris, Prince of Bulgaria was baptized by Patriarch Photios himself, that subsequently Holy Hierarch Photios dispatched an archbishop and priests to Bulgaria to baptize the Bulgarian people, and that in 865, he sent Ss. Kyrill and Methodius to preach Christ in the Slavonic language.  At the same time, adherents of the Pope aroused distrust among the Bulgarian people toward the missionaries of the Eastern Church.  Bulgaria’s impoverished condition, the result of attacks by the Germans, forced them to seek help from the West, and the Prince of Bulgaria requested the Pope to send him bishops.  Upon their arrival in Bulgaria, the papal legates immediately began to supplant Orthodox customs and teachings with their own Latin ones.  Holy Hierarch Photios, a staunch defender of the Truth and denouncer of untruth, issued an encyclical advising the Eastern Church of the Pope’s actions and pointing out the Roman Church’s departure from the ancient Orthodoxy, not only in terms of ritual but in terms of confession of faith.  A Council was convened, and condemned the self-willed action of the West.             

In 867, Basil of Macedonia killed Emperor Michael and seized the Imperial Throne.  St. Photios condemned the murderer and forbade him from receiving Holy Communion.  For this, he was removed from the Patriarchal Throne, and put under guard in a monastery.  Ignatios was reinstated as Patriarch.  The Council convened to consider Holy Hierarch Photios’ actions included papal delegates, who demanded of the Council a written declaration of the Church’s unconditional obedience to the judgment of the Pope.  The Eastern bishops did not agree, and began to argue with the legates.  Called to testify, St. Photios, responded to all of the delegates’ questions with silence. He responded only to the question of whether he was prepared to repent, by asking, “And have the judges themselves thought better of it? ”  After lengthy argument, St. Photios’ opponents prevailed, and without any basis for their judgment, pronounced anathema over Patriarch Photios and all of the bishops who had defended him.  The Holy Hierarch was incarcerated for 7 years, and as he himself said, “only gave thanks unto the Lord, patiently enduring His judgment…” .          

It was during this period that because of the willfulness of the Pope, the Latin clergy were driven from Bulgaria, and were replaced by bishops sent by Patriarch Ignatios.  After the death of Patriarch Ignatios in 879,  another Council (called by many of the Fathers of the Church the 8th Ecumenical Council), once again recognized Holy Hierarch Photios as lawful Pastor of the Church.  Pope John, who knew Photios personally, announced through his emissaries that all of the previous papal decrees regarding Photios were rescinded.  The Council affirmed the inviolability of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, rejected the Latin innovation (the filioque), and recognized the independence and equality of the two thrones and two Churches, East and West.  The Council decreed that in Bulgaria, he church practices and rites introduced by the Latins there would be discontinued, thereby putting an end to Latin power in that land.             

During the reign of Basil’s successor Leo, St. Photios again suffered as the result of a false accusation, to the effect that he had plotted against the emperor.  Removed from the cathedra in 886, the Holy Hierarch ended his days in 891 in the Armonia Monastery.           

The Orthodox Church reveres St. Photios as a zealous defender of the Orthodox East against papal rule, and as a learned Theologian who left us a wide variety of works denouncing the errors of the Latins, rebutting various heresies, explaining Divine Scripture, and elucidating various subjects of the Faith.


Saint Mark Evgenikos, Metropolitan of Ephesus

Commemorated January 19/February 1

Our father among the Saints Mark Evgenikos (1392 - 1444), Metropolitan of Ephesus, was born Manuel to George and Maria, both of devout and well-known families in Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church. Manuel's father died when he was 13, after which he dedicated himself to his scholarly pursuits. He became a brilliant student of theology and rhetoric and also distinguished himself by his kind manner and his holy life. Both the Patriarch (Evthymios II of Constantinople) and the Emperor (Manuel II Paleologos) took note of him, and at a young age he became principal of the Patriarchal School and personal secretary to the Emperor. At age 26 he entered the monastery on the island of Antigone in the Sea of Marmara, where he subjected himself to a harsh asceticism. After two years, due to concerns about Turkish attacks, he relocated to the Monastery of St. George at Mangan, behind the fortified walls of the capital. There he was tonsured a monk and took the name Mark, after the Evangelist. At 28 he was ordained a deacon and two years later a priest.

At that time the eastern part of the Empire had been conquered by the Turks, and Emperor Manuel entered into negotiations with Pope Martin V, hoping to convene an ecumenical synod to achieve a union of the two churches, and thereby to gain the military assistance of the western European monarchs. These negotiations were interrupted, however, when the emperor suffered a stroke. After the unsuccessful siege of Constantinople in 1422 by the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, the emperor's son and successor, John VIII Paleologos, undertook fresh negotiations with the new Pope, Eugene IV, and made preparations for an ecumenical synod. The Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem declined to appear personally at the council, but grudgingly appointed representatives.

The Patriarch of Alexandria chose for one of his representatives the priest-monk Mark Evgenikos, whose theological works had gained him fame throughout the empire. Both the Emperor and the Patriarch (Joseph II of Constantinople) wished for Mark to be ordained a bishop in order to occupy the place of chief theologian of the Orthodox delegation at the council. At age 46 Mark was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan of the See of Ephesus, which had been vacated by the death of Metropolitan Ioasaph. Speaking of his hopes for the council, St. Mark said: I placed my hope in God and in the common saints shared between the Eastern and Western Churches. Indeed, I believed all would proceed well with us and that we would achieve something great and worthy of all our labor and hopes.

On November 27, 1437, seven hundred bishops, abbots, monks, priests, and laymen set sail for Italy. This Orthodox delegation included Emperor John, Patriarch Joseph, and twenty-two bishops, among which was Metropolitan Mark of Ephesus. The first meeting of the council was held on Holy Wednesday, April 9, 1438, at the Cathedral of St. George in Ferrara, Italy. After 14 sessions in Ferrara, the last of which was on December 13, Pope Eugene transferred the council to a new location (due to financial considerations) on January 12, 1439. The council reconvened in Florence on February 26 and was concluded on July 5.

This was not the first time that such a reunion had been attempted. Negotiations to restore ecclesiastical communion between Rome and Constantinople had been undertaken approximately 30 times since the Great Schism of 1054. The most notable of these prior attempts was at the Council of Lyons in 1274. It too was motivated in large part by the desire of Emperor Michael VIII for military help from the papacy. Of that council Bishop Kallistos (Ware) writes: But the union proved no more than an agreement on paper, since it was fiercely rejected by the overwhelming majority of clergy and laity in the Byzantine Church, as well as by Bulgarian and the other Orthodox countries. The general reaction to the Council of Lyons was summed up in words attributed to the Emperor's sister: "Better that my brother's Empire should perish, than the purity of the Orthodox faith."

At Ferrara-Florence the primary issues in dispute were: (1) the procession of the Holy Spirit (that is, the addition by the Latin Church of the filioque clause to the Nicene Creed); (2) the primacy of the Pope; (3) purgatory; and (4) the use of unleavened bread (azymes) in the Eucharist. (There was another important subject that some of the delegates wished to discuss, the distinction in Orthodox theology between the divine "essence" and the divine "energies," but the Emperor, wanting to avoid further impediments to reunion, forbade the Greek participants to discuss this issue.)

The Filioque: Since the earliest days of the church, candidates for baptism into the Christian community were required to profess the Christian faith in the form of a short doctrinal summary, a "creed" (from the Latin credo, "I believe"). The First Ecumenical Council (Nicaea I, 325 A.D.) and the Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople I, 381) adopted what came to be known as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, or simply the Nicene Creed. This creed was based on the earlier baptismal creeds of the church, but was expanded somewhat to clarify the Church's teaching regarding the divinity of Christ and to combat the Arian heresy spreading in the church at that time, which held that Christ was a created being rather than eternally God. The Nicene Creed was universally accepted in both east and west as the foremost statement of Christian doctrine, "the symbol of faith." In 589 a local council in Toledo, Spain, added a phrase to the creed so that it said, "I believe... in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son" (filioque in Latin). This addition was made ostensibly as a further defense against Arianism. Rome initially rejected the change to the ancient creed. In fact, in the ninth century, Pope Leo III had the original creed, without the filioque, inscribed on silver plaques at St. Peter's Basilica. Soon after 1000 A.D., however, the Church of Rome accepted the change. The subject of the filioque occupied by far the greatest part of the council's discussions. The following excerpt from "The Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy" describes the Orthodox objection to the filioque:

Indeed, this was the most painful question between the Orthodox and the Latins. The Greeks, led by St. Mark, insisted that any introduction into the Creed -- Filioque or not -- was uncanonical. Some Popes prior to Eugene would not sanction this addition and, at other times, other Popes supported it. However, it gradually became a permanent part of the Creed in the West, and succeeding Popes reinforced this heretical teaching, declaring that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the hypostases of God the Father and God the Son, that is, His existence is from both hypostases. In an attempt to combat Arianism, the West created two causes in the Godhead. The Orthodox affirm that the Father is the only Source of the Son and the Spirit -- the One begotten eternally from Him and the Other proceeding eternally from Him. God, therefore, is One because the Father is the Source of Divinity and that which makes the unity. The Filioque addition had been gradual, yet the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils enacted a strict decree that, in the Creed, no word could be changed, added or subtracted -- not even a syllable. Upon those that dared to make alterations, terrible condemnations were laid.

St. Mark, against the strong objections of the Latins, insisted that the canons of the church pertaining to the disputed issues should be read aloud before anything else. He read the decrees of the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Ecumenical Councils, as well as quotations from various saints, including several popes, all of which affirmed the original creed and forbid any changes to it. Many of the Latin monks present at the council, after hearing the decrees and acts of the Ecumenical Councils, together with Mark's explanation, confessed that they never heard anything like it previously. They exclaimed that the Greeks teach more correctly than their divines, and marveled at Mark of Ephesus. Nonetheless, the Latins offered several arguments in defense of the filioque: that the filioque was not an addition to the creed, but merely an explanation; that the Pope, as supreme head of the church, has the authority to make such an explanatory insertion into the creed; and that the decrees of the councils forbid only unorthodox changes to the creed. A compromise was sought in a formula which the Greeks accepted, which said that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father through the Son." However, once the Greeks had accepted this formula, the Latins then insisted that "through the Son" and "from the Son" meant the same thing; therefore, the filioque should be accepted as it is: "from the Father and the Son"! Archbishop Mark continued to insist on the distinction between "from the Son" and "through the Son," saying, "If we accept that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son, then we abolish the monarchy in the Godhead and accept two causes of the Godhead."

Papal authority: It is clear from the New Testament and other early Christian writings from the apostolic period that since the first century there have been three levels of ordination in the church: Deacon, Priest, and Bishop. The bishop is the head of a local Christian community. He presides over the eucharistic worship of the church; he is ultimately responsible for teaching and defending true doctrine. Like a father in a family, he is the symbol and guardian of the Church's unity and is responsible to maintain godly discipline and order within the church entrusted to his care. By the early fourth century, five cities in the Christian world had taken on a special role because of their importance in the Roman Empire. The bishops of these cities came to be called "Patriarchs." Other bishops often looked to them for leadership and moral authority in doctrinal or disciplinary questions facing the church as a whole. Foremost among the five Patriarchs was the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. These Patriarchates do not represent a "fourth" degree of ordination within the church; the patriarchs are still bishops. Differing interpretations of the role of the papacy in the church has been a major point of tension between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, especially after the Great Schism of 1054. The statement of the Roman position presented to the council read, "We likewise define that the holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold the primacy throughout the world; and that the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of blessed Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ. The Pope is the head of the entire Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him in blessed Peter by our Lord Jesus Christ to feed, rule and govern the universal Church... Moreover, we renew the order of the other venerable Patriarchs, which was handed down in the sacred canons, that the Patriarch of Constantinople will be the second after the holy Roman Pontiff. Third, indeed, is Alexandria; fourth, moreover, is Antioch, and fifth is Jerusalem..." In contrast to the universal supremacy and immediate jurisdiction which the Roman Church ascribes to the papacy, St. Mark explained the Orthodox view succinctly when he wrote, "For us, the Pope is as one of the Patriarchs -- and only if he is Orthodox" (meaning, that he adheres to the Orthodox faith and does not depart from it).

Purgatory: The recently published "Catechism of the Catholic Church" defines the Roman Church's doctrine of purgatory as follows: "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire..." The Orthodox objection to the doctrine of purgatory, expounded at the council by Metropolitan Bessarion of Nicaea and by Mark of Ephesus, is that the Latin doctrine rests on a distinction between a temporal and an eternal fire, a distinction which the Orthodox reject. "Bessarion continued by explaining that there is one eternal fire only. The temporal punishment of sinful souls consists in that they, for a time, depart into a place of darkness and sorrow where they are punished by being deprived of the Divine Light. However, they can be delivered from this place of darkness and sorrow through the prayers of the Church, the Holy Eucharist and deeds of charity done in their name -- but not by fire." Thus, both churches affirm that the soul undergoes continued purification after death, but the Orthodox deny (or, at least, refuse to affirm) that a purgatorial fire is the means of such purification.

Azymes: Differing liturgical practices existed in the Latin West and the Greek East. One notable difference was the use of unleavened bread (azymes) in the eucharist by the Latin church and the use of leavened bread in the eastern churches. Ware sums up the council's treatment of this issue: "The Florentine Union was based on a twofold principle: unanimity in matters of doctrine; respect for the legitimate rites and traditions peculiar to each Church... so far as 'azymes' were concerned, no uniformity was demanded: Greeks were allowed to use leavened bread, while Latins were to continue to employ unleavened."

St. Mark's defense of Orthodoxy: As the discussions dragged on, concern for theological understanding and agreement gave way to worldly motives on both sides: of the Pope (to subject the eastern churches to his ecclesiastical authority) and of the Emperor (for military help from the west). In an effort to expedite the talks and facilitate union, the Emperor John excluded the two most fierce defenders of the Orthodox faith, Mark of Ephesus and Anthony of Heraclea, confining Mark to his cell and even posting guards at his door to prevent him from leaving. A formula of union was drawn up in which the Orthodox accepted the Roman Church's position on every disputed point of doctrine. Even the Byzantine Patriarch Joseph had a private meeting with St. Mark to persuade him to sign the decree. But Mark was steadfast: "In matters of faith, there must be no concessions and no wavering." Eight days after urging the other Orthodox delegates to sign the decree, Patriarch Joseph died. Emperor John took over the direction of the church, an action which St. Mark condemned: "Let no one dominate in our faith: neither emperor, nor hierarch, nor false council, nor anyone else, but only the one God, who both himself and through his disciples has handed it down to us." Both the pope and the Emperor sought to intimidate the Orthodox delegates into submission. The pope threatened to withhold military aid unless the Orthodox signed. The Orthodox delegation was out of food and money, and the Latins threatened to withhold payment of the promised stipends for travel and living expenses. Bribes were offered to Orthodox delegates in return for their signatures. One of the Russian bishops who did not at first sign the decree was arrested and imprisoned for a week until he agreed to sign. A few bishops and laymen feared for their lives and fled the city.

In the end, Mark of Ephesus was the only Orthodox bishop who remained at Florence but refused to sign the decree of union. "Orthodoxy was more precious to Mark than the State; Orthodoxy was the eternal treasure, the true Church of those being saved. The Byzantine state is of the earth; it was born, flourished and would die. Yet Orthodoxy is eternal and must be preserved as an eternal light." But as to the other delegates, "though in their hearts many did not wish to sign, yet they trampled on their Orthodox conscience for fear of death, for money, for food, or to appease the Emperor." In fairness, it should be said that not all of the delegates on the Roman side agreed with such tactics. One of the foremost of the Latin theologians, the Dominican provincial John de Montenero, repeatedly insisted that Mark of Ephesus be permitted to return to the talks, but the Emperor refused.

On July 5, 1439, the Florentine Union was confirmed. After the Greek bishops had signed the decree, while Pope Eugene was signing, he inquired whether Mark of Ephesus had signed. When he was told that Mark had not, he exclaimed, "Then we have accomplished nothing!" Nevertheless, a service celebrating the union was held the next day, and the Greeks then returned to Constantinople. On February 1, 1440, ships carrying the Greeks sailed into the Golden Horn. Through the merchants that had been in Ferrara and Florence, the fame and achievements of Mark arrived before him in the capital. After reporting his valiant steadfastness, the people were waiting to applaud and cheer their hero... One described the people's behavior towards Mark, thus: "The Ephesian beheld that the crowd glorified him because he did not sign. The multitudes venerated him as the Israelites of old did Moses and Aaron. All lauded him and called him 'saint.'" Even those that were against Mark said, "He neither received gifts nor gold" from the Pope. Horrified, the faithful avoided the bishops that had signed and even cast insults at them. The clergy that remained in Constantinople also would not concelebrate with the unionists. In due time, the eastern Patriarchs announced that they were not bound by anything that their representatives had signed. The venerable Mark was called a new St. Athanasios and St. John the Theologian. He was considered a confessor and martyr by almost the entire body of the Greek Church. He was met with universal enthusiasm and respect.

St. Mark, though now suffering from terminal cancer, spent the remaining four years of his life speaking and writing against the false union. In May 1440, the day before the installation of the new pro-union Patriarch Metrophanes II of Cyzicus, Mark and Anthony of Heraclea fled the capital. Mark returned to his flock in Ephesus, which was now under Turkish rule. He traveled throughout the region, visiting the churches and priests in his diocese. Shortly thereafter, because of his failing health and because he knew that he lacked approval to continue serving in Ephesus, he set sail for Mt. Athos, desiring monastic solitude. On the way, his ship stopped at the island of Limnos, which was still a Byzantine possession. Emperor John ordered the police to arrest him, and he remained confined there for two years. In his "Encyclical to All Orthodox Christians on the Mainland and in the Islands" (1440-41), he set forth the Orthodox position against western innovations with respect to the filioque, the divine essence and energies, purgatory, azymes, and the papacy. After his release, he was too weak for the monastic asceticism of Mt. Athos, so he returned to his childhood home in Constantinople, where he died on June 23, 1444, at the age of 52. Bishop Kallistos summarizes the aftermath of the Council of Florence: But the union of Florence, though celebrated throughout western Europe -- bells were rung in all the parish churches of England -- proved no more of a reality in the east than its predecessor at Lyons. John VIII and his successor Constantine XI, the last Emperor of Byzantium and the eightieth in succession since Constantine the Great, both remained loyal to the union; but they were powerless to enforce it on their subjects, and did not even dare to proclaim it publicly at Constantinople until 1452. Many of those who signed at Florence revoked their signatures when they reached home. The decrees of the Council were never accepted by more than a minute fraction of the Byzantine clergy and people. The Grand Duke Lucas Notaras, echoing the words of the Emperor's sister after Lyons, remarked: "I would rather see the Muslim turban in the midst of the city than the Latin mitre." John and Constantine had hoped that the Union of Florence would secure them military help from the west, but small indeed was the help which they actually received.

On 7 April 1453 the Turks began to attack Constantinople by land and sea. Outnumbered by more than twenty to one, the Byzantines maintained a brilliant but hopeless defence for seven long weeks. In the early hours of 29 May the last Christian service was held in the great Church of the Holy Wisdom. It was a united service of Orthodox and Roman Catholics, for at this moment of crisis the supporters and opponents of the Florentine Union forgot their differences. The Emperor went out after receiving communion, and died fighting on the walls. Later the same day the city fell to the Turks, and the most glorious church in Christendom became a mosque. The first official repudiation of the Florentine Union came in April 1443 when the three Patriarchs Joachim of Jerusalem, Philotheos of Alexandria, and Dorotheos of Antioch met in Jerusalem and condemned the Council of Florence as "vile" and Patriarch Metrophanes of Constantinople as a heretic. However, the Emperor, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and a few other clergy in the capital city remained loyal to the union. It was not until the Synod of 1472 that Patriarch Symeon I of Constantinople also repudiated the union.


Saint Gregory Palamas, Metropolitan of Thessaloniki

Commemorated on the Second Sunday of the Great Fast

Now is the truly great preacher of the Radiant Light led by the Source of Light to the never-setting Light. This son of the divine and never-setting Light was a true man of God indeed, and a wondrous servant and minister of the divine mysteries, having been born in the imperial city (Constantinople) of most radiant and glorious parents. Through his virtue and instruction he desired to adorn not only the outer of mankind according to the senses, but also much of the unseen inner being.

When he was yet quite young, his father died. His mother, brothers and sisters raised him and instructed him in morals, catechism and sacred scripture, and sent him to teachers of worldly wisdom, from whom he learned well. Cleverly combining his learning with a natural zeal, he soon became skilled in verbal arts. At the age of twenty, regarding all earthly things as inferior and passing dreams, he sought recourse to God the Author and Giver of all wisdom, to consecrate his entire self to God through a perfect life. Hence he disclosed his great love for God, his pious intentions and burning desire to his mother, and he found that for a long she too had been desirous of this and rejoiced at his decision. And straightway gathering her children his mother said with joy, "Behold, I and the children God has given me!" And she disclosed to them the intent of the great Gregory, asking if it seemed to them to be good. And he with words of instruction soon convinced them all in earnestness to follow him in his love and withdrawal from life. Distributing then his earthly possessions to the poor according to the teachings of the Gospel, and cheerfully abandoning human love, earthly honor and the approbation of men, he followed after Christ.

Placing his mother and sisters in a convent, he and his brothers went to the sacred Mount Athos, where he convinced his brothers to stay in different monasteries, so that they would have no time to be together, thereby perfecting their life in God. He himself became obedient to a wondrous man named Nikodemos who had consecrated his life of silence to God alone. Learning from him through actions every precept and every virtue, through a mystical revelation there he received the protection of the all pure Theotokos, an invincible help in all things. After Nikodemos’ parting from this life to God, having lived for several years in the Great Lavra most zealously with perfection of thought and a love of silence, Gregory left the Lavra and embraced the wilderness. Increasing ever in love and always desiring to be with God, he dedicated himself to a life of utmost severity, strenghtening his reasoning with earnest attention, raising his thoughts to God, practising prayer at all times, meditating on divine things, and leading an excellent life. With the help of God he overcame the attacks of demons, and cleansing his soul with fountains of tears at all night vigils, he became a chosen vessel of the gifts of the Spirit of God, and often had visions of the Godhead. Wondrously, because of the commencement of attacks of the Ishmaelites on Thessaloniki, he retreated to the summit skete, and was constrained to speak with several of the citizenry. Having led a diligent life, for he was no longer young, and having cleansed his body and soul entirely, at God’s command, he received the great anointing to the priesthood, and like an angel, becoming trancendent in the celebration of the sacred mysteries, so that all who observed him were moved. He was truly great and was recognized as a bearer of the Spirit by those who lived godly lives, revealing himself to those who witnessed the following outward signs: He had authority over demons and was able to release those possessed from their wiles and deceit. He could change barren trees into fruitful ones. He foresaw things to come, and was blessed with other gifts and fruits of the Divine Spirit. For when it lies within our power to act upon the virtues, then we are not able to fall into temptation. Without the virtues there can be no perfection or appearance of faith in God (for, he says, action and passion descending together perfects a man in goodness after God), but frequent falls into various temptations…this great man…so that he is shown to be perfect to all. And what mind can think on this further? What more can be said?

First the licentious wiles of the evil contender. And then the lies and slanders of the new theomachists were directed at him. In all twenty-three years he endured much anger and affliction. For the Italian beast, Barlaam of Calabria, philosophized in a worldly manner, and through the vanity of his philosophy (for he thought to know everything) he mounted a fierce attack against Christ’s Church, against our faith and against those who openly professed it. For the grace of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is one and the light of the age to come, as also the righteous shine like the sun, as Christ Himself demonstrated beforehand in splendor on the mountain. And simply he erroneously taught that all the power and action of the Godhead in three hypostases and all differences there might be in the divine nature were created, and those who piously believed that the divine Light was uncreated, and all His power and action, as not to one new of that which is naturally in God, through his rhetoric and widespread letters, he called bitheists and polytheists, as the Jews, Sabellius and Arios call us. For the sake of these the divine Gregory, as a defender of piety and most glorious intercessor, fought before everyone and was reviled. He was sent by the Church to Constantinople, and he went. And when the most divine emperor Andronicus, fourth after the Paleologos, sought to defend the faith, a sacred council was assembled. And when Barlaam appeared with his previously mentioned impious teachings and his accusations against piety, the great Gregory, filled with the Spirit of God and clothed with invincible power from on high, stopped his mouth from speaking against God and disgraced him utterly. With words of spiritual fire and documents he burned Barlaam’s heresies like brushwood to ashes. Wherefore unable to endure the shame, the enemy of piety ran back to Italy, whence he came. Immediately after this the council exposed his great harm, and with arguments to the contrary dispersed his compostions. But those who had partaken of these ideas did not cease their struggle against God’s Church. For this cause through the great urging of the sacred council, the emperor himself, and most importantly the command of God, Gregory was persuaded to ascend the bishop’s throne, and was appointed the pastor of the sacred Church in Thessaloniki. Wherefore he bravely and steadfastly accomplished great deeds in behalf of the Orthodox Faith.

But many evil heirs of Akyndinos and Barlaam appeared, fierce beasts born of ferociousness, as well as their teacings and compositions, not once, not twice, not three times, but many times in great quantity, and not during the reign of one emperor or patriarch but during three successive reigns and an equal number of patriarchates and many councils, which through divinely inspired words and writings, countered them in many ways, and eventually overcame them completely. And some persist, having no regard for the High Court, shamelessly attacking the saints who triumphed over them. Such were in short Gregory’s victories over the impious.

Then God, in an ineffable manner, sent the teacher to the East. He was sent as the elder from Thessaloniki to Constantinople to make peace between two quarreling emperors. But he was seized by the Agarians and for an entire year was made to travel in suffering from place to place, from city to city, fearlessly preaching the Gospel of Christ. And he affirmed and convinced them in their faith, entreating them to remain steadfast, confirming with divine wisdom those who were wavering in the faith or could not understand or asked questions about the previous events, and freely granting healing to those who asked it. To those who did not believe, to wretched apostates, to those who had followed them and those who cast aspersions on our teachings about the incarnate providence of our Lord and God, or the veneration of the precious Cross and the holy icons he spoke many times without hesitation. He spoke also of Mohammed and answered many other questions which they put to him. Some wondered in themselves, others were angered and put forth their hands and would have made him a martyr, if not for God’s plan and the promise of money to be gained from his ransom. So he was spared. Then the great saint was freed by the lovers of Christ, and this bloodless martyr returned once more in joy to his flock. In addition to the other many and great gifts and preeminent qualities, which he had, he was also adorned with the wounds of Christ, bearing also in himself Christ’s, according to Paul. Let us describe him; these were his characteristics. Along with his excellence he was meek and humble. (We do not speak here of God and divine matters, for he was quite a defender of these.) He did not remember evil and was good-natured, desiring to return good for evil. He never quarreled. He was always patient and magnanimous in the face of adversity. He was above vanity and sensuality. He was always temperate and not extravagant in all personal necessities, and for all that time he was not ill. He endured quietly and silently, always graciously, to the limits of what was done to him, so that all would see him as reasonable, attentive and keen witted. And consequently he never allowed his eyes to be void of tears, but sympathized with a flow of tears. And so like a martyr from the beginning to the end he struggled against demons and the passions, driving heretics far the Christ’s Chruch, defining the Orthodox Faith through his words and compositions, and by them as with a seal sealing all divinely inspired writing, for his life and word became a seal of the life and words of the saints. He tended his flock for thirteen years more in the godly manner of the Apostles, and having adorned them with his moral teachings, he guided them to the heavenly sheepfold. And having served all Orthodox, both those who lived during his time and those yet to be born, he was translated to the higher life, having lived sixty-three years in all. And he commended his spirit into the hands of God, leaving his body to his flock, as a special portion and a precious treasure, enlightened and glorified at the end. For every day Christ benefits with wonders those who come near in faith and grants healing of many diseases, many of whom tell of their cures.

Through His prayers, O God, have mercy on us. Amen.

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