Essence and Energies of God – 5

Thaboric Light

Thaboric Light

In the context of this affirmation of God’s real manifestation of his energies to creatures, Palamas, following Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus, refers to the New Testament accounts and references to the Transfiguration of Christ on the mount (Mt. 17:1-9; Mk. 9:2-9;Lk. 9:28-36; 2 Pet. 1:17-21).  This idea of “God as Light” recurs throughout Patristic literature including the aforementioned Maximus and John, plus the likes of Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Dionysius the Areopagite, St. Symeon the New Theologian, and Gregory Palamas himself.

Palamas was quick to point out the difference between any other light-experience and that of the vision of God as Light that appeared to the disciples during the Transfiguration on Mount Thabor and that, in Christ, has become accessible to the members of His Body, the Church. The following quote from Palamas (Triad I, 3, 38) uses the image of the illumination of the disciples by Christ on Mount Thabor to explain how we, in Christ, can be illuminated from within.

“Since the Son of God, in his incomparable love for man, did not only unite His divine Hypostasis with our nature, by clothing Himself in a living body and a soul gifted with intelligence… but also united himself,,, with the human hypostases themselves, in mingling himself with each of the faithful by communion with his Holy Body, and since he becomes one single body with us (cf. Eph. 3:6), and makes us a temple of the undivided Divinity, for in the very body of Christ dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9), how should he not illuminate those who commune worthily with the divine ray of His Body which is within us, lightening their souls, as He illumined the very bodies of the disciples on Mount Thabor?  For, on the day of the Transfiguration that Body, source of the light of grace, was not yet united with our bodies; it illuminated from outside those who worthily approached it, and sent the illumination into the soul by an intermediary of the physical eyes; but now, since it is mingled with us and exists in us, it illuminates the soul from within.”  ~ Palamas Triad I, 3, 38

“It is precisely because Palamas understands illumination in the framework of Orthodox Christology that he insists on the uncreated character of divine light: This uncreated light is the very divinity of Christ, shining through his humanity.  If Christ is truly God, this light is authentically divine.”  (Meyendorff)

To be continued

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