On this second Sunday of Lent we celebrate the memory of one of the greatest of the mediaeval saints, Gregory Palamas, who died in 1357/9. The spiritual struggle, to overcome the limitations of our fallen fleshly existence and to acquire spiritual virtue so as to liberate the body to be truly a temple of the Holy Spirit, has been the calling of Christians from the start – and indeed is our focus in the Great Fast especially – but especially it is the focus of the monastic life. In St Gregory’s time a great controversy arose as to whether it were possible through asceticism, contemplation and spiritual exercise for a human to be granted to see the Uncreated Light of God in this world. He championed this cause in the teeth of much opposition, but following his efforts the spiritual way of hesychasm, as it is called, has been accepted into Orthodox Christian spiritual practice.
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