Today, the second Sunday of the Great Fast, the Orthodox Church worldwide celebrates the memory of St. Gregory Palamas, fourteenth-century Archbishop of Thessaloniki and one of the greatest Fathers of the Orthodox Church.
Until this century, because of the influence of the West—the Jesuits in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Russia and the Lutherans who were appointed as the Ministers of Religion under the first King of Greece, a German Lutheran, placed in power in Greece after its liberation from the Turkish Yoke at the beginning of the nineteenth century—, St. Gregory Palamas was a virtual mystery to Orthodox theologians. This man, whom we hymn as "ho phoster tes Orthodoxias" (the "Enlightener of Orthodoxy") and "to sterigma tes Ekklesias" (the "Pillar of the Church"), taught and lived our Faith in a purity which, except in the hidden confines of monasteries and in the hearts of the simple people—who could not articulate what they knew of Orthodoxy—, was lost to the neo-Papism of Patriarchalism, Western notions of "officialdom," and to nationalism and ethnicity, which are nothing more than a return to heathenism.
Even the life of this great Saint is obscured by modern Western ideas. One of the few commentaries on his life, in a book dedicated to the Pillars of Orthodoxy, refers to him as a member of the "Palamas" family, as though this great Saint were remembered for the nobility of his parents, who were, indeed, members of the Imperial Byzantine Court. Many names at the time, of course, were not like family names as we know them today, and the name "Palamas" was an honorific name derived, not from St. Gregory’s bloodline, but from the Greek word for "clapping," thus meaning that the Saint’s family was lauded and honoured. And so, this worldly honour was transformed by St. Gregory into spiritual honour, which we commemorate when we refer to him as "Palamas," one applauded for his spiritual stature. Nor was St. Gregory Palamas influenced by the Bogomils, as the theologian Father John Meyendorff so wrongly taught; neither did he teach an innovative theology, as many modern Orthodox theologians teach. Rather, he codified and wrote about the deep, mystical theology of the Orthodox Church which is, indeed, a teaching passed down through the Fathers, both in writing and by word of mouth, from the time of the Apostles.