For those of you who followed this blog over this past Advent Fast, you will already be a bit familiar with St. Gregory Palamas. As much as I adore him, even I have to admit that he can be a bit impenetrable at times; however, his import on the second Sunday of Lent can be easily summarized. In the 14th century, there was a philosopher named Barlaam who claimed that philosophers knew more about God than prophets and that contemplative prayer was a waste of time because God is unknowable. St. Gregory argued against Barlaam’s claim by insisting that all Christians are capable of participating in the uncreated light of God’s divine glory even in this life through the ascetic practices of prayer and fasting (to which I would also add almsgiving). In other words, our own ascetic endeavors during this time of Lent are not in vain.
This week we started contemplating St. Gregory’s import by examining the Gospel Reading (Mark 2:1-2):
- It was noted the importance of the faith of the friends of the paralytic. They didn’t tell him that he should go and see Jesus, they physically took him to Jesus.
- We compared this to the concept of “Come and See” vs. “Go and See.” The former requires that we are actively involved in and present at Church. We are saying “come to the place that I am” rather than “go to that place over there.”
- Note that the factor that Christ highlights is the faith if the friends, not the paralytic. Our faith, our prayers and our presence in Church is vital to the health, not just of ourselves, but of those around us.
- This pericope highlights the reality that the Church is a hospital that heals us both in body and in soul. The friends of the paralytic brought him to the best hospital for the best medicine available to him — Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.
- Note how the path to get their friend to Christ was not easy. There path was blocked and they had to go to the great effort of lowering him in through the roof — not unlike our ascetic practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
- Finally, note the very first thing Christ heals the paralytic from — his sins. In other words, sin (our separation from God) is the cause of all the world’s problems, diseases, etc.
In discussing the Epistle Reading (Hebrews 1:10-2:3), we focused primarily on St. Paul’s quotation of Psalm 109:1
Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.
and Hebrews 2:1
Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
The first part of Psalm 109:1 states, “The Lord said to my Lord” where the word “Lord” is a title for God. In other words, “God said to my God.” It is one of the explicit OT references to a Trinitarian existence within the Godhead. Thus, the Father is telling the Son these things. One of the verses for the Lauds sung next week (the Veneration of the Holy Cross) is this:
Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at the footstool of His feet; for He is holy.
In other words, the Church understands that Christ’s footstool is the Cross. Therefore:
- That which we have heard is the Apostolic kerygma — Christ Crucified and Risen.
- We cannot escape crucifixion — without the Cross we cannot have the Resurrection.
- We are anticipating next Sunday (the Veneration of the Holy Cross).
- The easiest way to deny ourselves and pick up our Cross is to pray, fast and give alms (thus tying back to St. Gregory Palamas).