“In this time of fasting and prayer, brethren, let us with all our hearts forgive anything real or imaginary we have against anyone. May we all devote ourselves to love, and let us consider one another as an incentive to love and good works, speaking in defense of one another, having good thoughts and dispositions within us before God and men. In this way our fasting will be laudable and blameless, and our requests to God while we fast will be readily received.”
– St. Gregory Palamas, excerpt from Homily Seven: “On Fasting”
On the second Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Gregory Palamas, fourteenth-century Archbishop of Thessaloniki and one of the greatest Fathers of the Orthodox Church. St. Gregory was a staunch defender of the Orthodox Faith and great man of prayer, who was given a special grace to be able to describe his mystical experiences in the way that others could understand.
St. Gregory said that we as human beings could know God, not only through the intellect alone, but also and more importantly through our hearts, and thus could experience God, as He reveals Himself to us. St. Gregory was not talking about some abstract theological concept, but about the reality of God`s grace which he had experienced himself.
That is why our Church gives us the tools of prayer, fasting, charity and repentance – especially prayer, because we can experience God through prayer. We are encouraged to “pray without ceasing,” and St. Gregory tells us, “Do you see, my brethren, that it is the duty of all Christians, small and great, always to practice the mental prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! so that their mind and heart may acquire the habit of always uttering those holy words.”
Now as we begin the third week of Great Lent, we may see that we are going to have to work a little harder to overcome our laziness and selfishness. I urge you to not be discouraged, but to renew your dedication to prayer – because through prayer and fasting, repentance and forgiveness, we can indeed know God and love Him.
Metropolitan of Atlanta