Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Gregory Palamas

“He shall gather his elect from the four winds” (Mk: 13:27)

All those who hold to true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and show proof of their faith by good works, guarding themselves from sins or cleansing themselves from their stains by confession and repentance; who practice the virtues opposed to those sins—temperance, chastity, love, almsgiving, justice, and fair dealing—all these, I say, will rise again to hear the king of heaven himself saying to them: “Come, my Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

So will they reign with Christ, receiving as their inheritance that heavenly kingdom which cannot be shaken, living for ever in the ineffable light that knows no evening and is interrupted by no night, having fellowship with all the saints who have lived from the beginning of time, and enjoying delights beyond description in Abraham’s embrace, where all pain has fled away, and all grief and groaning.

For just as there is a harvest for inanimate sheaves of wheat, so for the rational wheat which is the human race, there is a harvest that cuts people away from unbelief, and gathers into faith those who accept the proclamation of the good news.

The reapers of this harvest are the Lord’s apostles and their successors, and in the course of time the teachers of the Church. Of them the Lord said: “The reaper receives his wages, and gathers a crop for eternal life,” for teachers who instruct others in piety will in their turn receive from God such recompense as befits those who gather the obedient into eternal life.

But there is yet another harvest: the transfer of each one of us by death from this present life into that which is to come. The reapers of this harvest are not the apostles but the angels, who have a greater responsibility than the apostles, because after the harvesting they sort out the good and separate them from the wicked like wheat from darnel. The good they send on to the kingdom of heaven, but the wicked they throw into hell fire.

As for us, who in this present age are God’s chosen people, a priestly race, the Church of the living God separated from all the impious and ungodly, may we be found separated from the darnel in the age to come as well, and united to those who are saved in Christ our Lord, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Homily 26: PG 151, 340-41

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) was born at Constantinople, and prepared by the piety of his parents for a monastic vocation. At the age of about twenty he became a monk of Mount Athos. In 1347 he was made bishop of Thessalonica.

Gregory stressed the biblical teaching that the human body and soul form a single united whole. On this basis he defended the physical exercises used by the Hesychasts in prayer, although he saw these only as a means to an end for those who found them helpful.

He followed Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nyssa in teaching that although no created intelligence can ever comprehend God in his essence, he can be directly experienced through his uncreated “energies,” through which he manifests himself to and is present in the world.

God’s substance and his energies are distinct from one another, but they are also inseparable. One of these energies is the uncreated divine light, which was seen by the apostles on Mount Tabor, At times this is an inward illumination; at other times it is outwardly manifested.

Jacob of Serugh

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson