St Gregory Palamas: Do You Hear Him from the Heavens?

Feast of St Justin the Philosopher & Martyr and His Companions

Gregory_Palamas_Square_3.jpgA SHORT WHILE AGO, with the strong eyes of faith, we beheld Christ ascending, no less clearly than those accounted worthy to be eye-witnesses. Nor are we less favored than they. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”, says the Lord (Jn. 20.29), referring to those who have found assurance through hearing, and see by faith. Recently we saw Christ lifted up from the ground bodily (Acts 1.9). Now, through the Holy Spirit sent by Him to His disciples, we see how far Christ ascended and to what dignity He carried up the nature He assumed from us. Clearly He went up as high as the place from which the Spirit sent by Him descended. He who spoke through the prophet Joel showed us whence the Spirit comes, saying, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2.28), and to Him David addressed the words, “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created: and Thou renewest the face of the earth” (Ps. 104.30). It follows that at His ascension Christ went up to the Father on high, as far as His Fatherly bosom, from which comes the Spirit. Having been shown, even in His human form, to share the Father’s glory, Christ now sent forth the Spirit who comes from the Father and is sent by Him from heaven. But when we hear that the Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son, this does not mean that the Spirit has no part in their greatness, for He is not just sent, but also Himself sends and consents to be sent.

This is clearly shown in Christ’s words spoken through the prophet, “Mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth and stretched out the heavens, and now the Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent me” (cf. Is. 48.13-16). Again, speaking through the same prophet He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek” (Is. 61.1). The Holy Spirit is not just sent, but Himself sends the Son, who is sent by the Father. He is therefore shown to be the same as the Father and the Son in nature, power, operation and honor. By the good pleasure of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, the only-begotten Son of God, on account of the boundless ocean of divine love for mankind, bowed the heavens and came down (Ps. 18.9). He appeared on earth after our fashion, lived among us, and did and taught great, wonderful and sublime things truly worthy of God, which led those who obeyed Him towards deification and salvation.

After willingly suffering for our salvation, being buried and rising on the third day, He ascended into heaven and sat down on the right hand of the Father, whence He co-operated in the descent of the divine Spirit upon His disciples by sending down together with the Father the power from on high, as Both had promised (cf. Lk. 24.49). Having sat down in the heavens, He seems to call to us from there, “If anyone wants to approach this glory, become a partaker of the kingdom of heaven, be called a son of God and find eternal life, inexpressible honor, pure joy and never-ending riches, let him heed My commandments and imitate as far as he can My own way of life. Let him follow My actions and teachings when I came to the world in the flesh to establish saving laws and offer Myself as a pattern.” Truly the Savior confirmed the gospel teaching by His deeds and miracles, and fulfilled it through His sufferings. He proved how beneficial it was for salvation by His resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven, and now by the descent of the divine Spirit upon His disciples, the event we celebrate today.

—St Gregory Palamas, Homily on How the Holy Spirit Was Manifested and Shared Out at Pentecost

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