Dig into the theology of fourteenth-century archbishop of Thessaloniki St. Gregory Palamas with Anestis Keselopoulos’ presentation of Palamas’ views on passion and virtue. Drawing heavily from Palamas’ homilies and other primary sources, Keselopoulos brings Palamas to life for twenty-first-century readers.
Palamas bases his teaching on the passions and virtues on the basic theological distinction between human life according to nature and human life contrary to nature. He argues that the passions do not belong to human nature, but are rather impulses and actions foreign to the natural life of man. For Palamas, the passions are states where man moves in a way that is contrary to nature. He characterizes passions as “deceitful desires.”
However, when the soul moves according to nature, one’s desires become an ardent longing for God, a “divine passion.” Palamas covers the entire spectrum of the spiritual life as he analyzes the causes of the soul’s enslavement to the passions and shows how the godlike virtues are their opposites. For him, this life begins with the cessation of our own impassioned thoughts, and leads to the soul’s reception of the divine grace of the Holy Spirit. This is the ultimate goal for all Christians.
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Anestis Keselopoulos is professor of ethics, pastoral theology, Orthodox spiritual life at the University of Thessaloniki.