|Icon of St. Gregory Palamas|
For St. Gregory Palamas, whose feast we will celebrate on Saturday, November 14, the Transfiguration is much more than simply a supernatural event in the life of Christ and the Apostles James, Peter and John. For St. Gregory, the unveiling of the uncreated light of the Logos within us is both a historical event and an existential experience.
Born in Constantinople in 1226, the son of an imperial courier, Gregory’s father died at an early age and his welfare and education were taken up by the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282–1328). He was well educated in Greek philosophy and administration by the imperial adviser Theodore Metochites. Gregory was a very austere and ascetic monk who began his spiritual path as a novice on Mount Athos in 1318. He later relocated to a skete, which is a small hermitage meant for religious who were extreme ascetics or preparing themselves for martyrdom. There he wrote and taught about the technique known as the prayer of the heart, or Hesychasm. It is not his austerity, which was no doubt extreme by any standard, but his writing and teaching that lives on today as a great gift to those whose spiritual lives have improved as a result of the prayer of the heart.
After retreating to the Greek city of Thessaloniki as a result of an invasion by the Turks, Gregory was ordained a priest and established himself as a leader in the community in 1326. Although Gregory was later consecrated as Archbishop of Thessaloniki, he would be hounded by the Calabrian abbot-theologian Barlaam of Seminara, who insisted that the process of divinization known as theosis in the Hesychast tradition, was Bogomilism and therefore, heretical. While the controversy with Barlaam must have been very difficult for Gregory to bear, it produced the quintessential Hesychast treatise, Triads for the Defense of Those Who Practice Sacred Quietude, which Gregory wrote as a rebuttal to Barlaam’s accusations of heresy. Hitherto the tradition had not been systematically described and theologically defended in one document.
Gregory’s theology finds its crux in the example of the uncreated light of the Transfiguration, which he referred to often. This metamorphosis of Jesus is recounted in Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36, and very briefly in John 1:14. On Mount Tabor, Peter, James and John were not seeing something that was new: they were able to behold that uncreated light within their master as it had always existed. They had eyes to see. In the words of the great Syrian Saint John of Damascus, “I have seen God in human form, and my soul has been saved.” The Apostles present at the Transfiguration realized that what they were seeing had always been there in Christ, yes, but as the Gospel of John recalls, “Abide in me, and I in you.” The revelation of the uncreated light of the Logos is something that is both a historical event and an event that happens within us.
St. Gregory calls us to be one in spirit, always recognizing that uncreated light that is within us all, and which for us must be united as a Temple of Living Stones, the Body and the Blood of the eternal Logos. That’s you. That’s me.
 Fr. Bassam A. Nassif. Light for the World: the Life of St. Gregory Palamas (1296–1359), Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.
 John of Damascus. On Divine the Images, I, 22.
 John 15:4