By Reader Timothy
St Gregory Palamas, whom the Church celebrates today, the second Sunday of Lent, was heavily persecuted in his lifetime. The persecution came, as it often does, as a result of an apparently very learned individual who had fallen into spiritual deception. The devil delights in such circumstances, and we who aspire to become strong defenders of the Faith must always be wary lest the same happen to us.
Through learning, we can easily become proud, and the devil takes up residence in our hearts. Whilst convinced we are ‘saving’ people we in fact become persecutors of the truly Godly.
‘There is nothing new under the sun’, so we read in Ecclesiastes, and so it continues to be. Later, we read that ‘in the abundance of wisdom is abundance of knowledge; and he that increases knowledge will increase sorrow.’ (Ecclesiates 1:9, 18)
Perhaps in this, we have a clue to the persistent reoccurrence of heresy, and one of the temptations all of us will face.
Many of the world orthodox console themselves with the Cyprianite heresy, and consider that because they have some apparently dissenting voices within their hierarchy, the hierarchy remains essentially sound. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. A cursory examination of the latest set of mental gymnastics exhibited by these ‘firebrands’ of ‘orthodoxy’ reveal the truth: they continue to be mired in the most abominable heresy. Consequently, they are wordier and less coherent by the day.
Truly, as in the days of Our Lord’s ministry and in the days of the prophet Isaiah:
“These people draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. “
Matthew 15:8, Isaiah 29:13.
It is apparently becoming vogue to say that ‘the danger of ecumenism is past’. I have read this unspeakably false sentiment in more than one place from different self-styled ‘champions of tradition’ in world orthodoxy.
I will endeavour, for the most part, to ‘let the dead bury their own dead’ (Matthew 8:22, Luke 9:60) and will not dwell overmuch on this, except to say that men of apparently great learning continue, as ever, to persecute the truth with sophism and give a brief example.
It is possible you will hear that the new problem facing Orthodoxy is ‘perennialism’, rather than ‘ecumenism’. As usual, we see the sophists attempt to obscure the real issues by drowning us in a sea of pointless verbiage. Will it help to quote Ecclesiastes again? Heresy will always be perennial, until the end of the age, for truly ‘there is nothing new under the sun’.
The learned will become sorrowful. Without the grace of God and His Holy Church, we are apt to invent vain fantasies to chase away our sorrows. Worse yet, the demons will gleefully supply us with a fantastical glowing vision of ourselves as a champion of the faith, riding a magnificent white stallion of faith to victory over our heretical neighbours, who are cast down in everlasting shame and ignominy.
The Holy Fathers tell us that true joy comes only when the Holy Spirit comes to abide in the heart, and our spiritual eyes are opened that we may glimpse the everlasting realm that is our true home and destination. Then our only concern is how we may continue to please the good Lord, further beseeching Him in the multitude of His mercy to let us go into His house, worship toward His holy temple in fear of Him, guide us in the way of His righteousness and make straight our ways before Him (Psalm 5:8).
Our sorrow, our Godly sorrow, is then matched and overcome by the Lord’s recompense to those who truly sorrow over their sins, and seek the forgiveness that can only be granted by God through His Holy Church – ‘a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over’ (Luke 6:38).
May St Gregory Palamas help us who seek knowledge of the Church to avoid the temptation of sorrow that much knowledge brings, and not fall into heresy by becoming foolish crusaders, mistaking our own fallen will, and thus the will of satan, for the Divine Will. Let us instead, like the Holy Apostle Paul, wish that we ourselves were cursed if only it would bring our brothers and sisters in heresy to salvation (Romans 9:3).
Let us ever be mindful of the age-old mistake of the heretics who seek “not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.’. (Romans 9:32).
Holy Father Gregory, champion of True Orthodoxy, pray to God for us!