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Gregory Palamas: Historical Timeline

 

Appendix I:

Timeline: Barlaam and the Councils of 1341

(Outline of materials in Meyendorff, Ch. 3)

c.1330 Barlaam comes to Constantinople from Seminaria in Calabria; Western educated, pious Orthodox.Powerful support from the Great Domestic, John Cantacuzene, under whose patronage he writes commentaries on Pseudo-Denys.Reputation quickly spreads, and he assumes great influence in the capital.His character is known to be both arrogant and flamboyant, and he possesses a ‘skill’ at making enemies.

1337 Gregory receives some of the anti-Latin writings of Barlaam at his hermitage in St. Sabbas (at Pentecost).Writings claimed that one could not demonstrate aspects of God, as God is unknowable (following the apophaticism of Pseudo-Denys).

During this same period (1336), Gregory has written his Apodictic Treatises, which contain a different view.

A dialogue of letters ensues between Gregory and Barlaam, with Akindynos functioning as ‘mediator’ (until 1341).

During this time, Barlaam learns, in Thessaloniki, of the hesychast method of prayer.In 1338 he lodges a complaint against it with Patriarch Calecas, who dismisses it.

1338 Palamas moves to Thessaloniki, to live there for three years (until 1341), near Isidore’s hermitage.Meets several times with Barlaam and attempts to settle the dispute amicably (p.46).

1339 Barlaam leaves for Avignon as imperial ambassador on a mission of unity with the Latin Church, which fails when Pope Benedict XII rejects his dogmatic relativism.

While he is away, Gregory writes his second Triad (p.47).

1341 Gregory returns to Athos (either while Barlaam is still in Italy, or just after his return) and writes his Hagioritic Tome, which irrevocably condemns Barlaam’s ideas, without ever actually mentioning him by name (p.48).

During this time, (1339-1340) there appears to have been some possibility for understanding between Gregory and Barlaam, if the latter would only change some of his wording; but this failed (p. 49).

Barlaam writes his work ‘Against the Messalians’, wherein he attacks Gregory by name for the first time, connecting him with the heresy of Theodore (p.49).

Barlaam presents his work to Patriarch Calecas and attempts to rouse him against Gregory and the Athonite monks.A council is held, in which Akindynos criticises Barlaam’s book, and the Patriarch himself speaks in support of Palamas (p.50).Barlaam further accuses Gregory and the monks of attempting to usurp the power of the Patriarch by ‘defining dogma’ in the Hagioritic Tome (p.50).

Barlaam and others demand a formal council led by the Emperor.Gregory agrees to go to Constantinople, travelling with Emperor Andronicus III, his friend from childhood, who would defend him.Gregory also brings three of his closest friends: Mark, Isidore, and Dorotheos.Passing through Adrianople, Gregory summons David Dishypatos, who would later become one of the greatest defenders of Palamitism (p.51).

Spring 1341 Gregory and his companions arrive at Constantinople, seven months after Barlaam.Gregory speaks to many, and convinces most of his arguments.Patriarch (Calecas) desires to avoid any dogmatic controversy, and thus vacillates views.He bars the discussion of any question of doctrine at the forthcoming council, which in fact will greatly aid the monks, as Barlaam will be forbidden to contradict them (p.54).

June 10, 1341 First council held in St. Sophia, lasting only one day.Andronicus III presides in person; hearings are public; senators and ‘general judges’ from the Imperial Court are present, along with bishops, several archimandrates and hegoumenoi (p.54).

Barlaam soon enters the ‘forbidden discussion’ of the energies, at which point the Patriarch forbids him to continue, citing the canons that reserved the right of doctrinal instruction to bishops only (p.54).

Discussion then turns to two points in Barlaam’s Against the Messalians, effectively turning him into the accused (p.55):

1. His teaching about the light on Mt. Tabor, which he claimed was created.

2. His criticisms of the Jesus Prayer, which he accused of being a practise of the Bogomils; also charged it with not proclaiming Christ as God.

Council is clearly unfavourable to Barlaam, who at the end of the day, under the advice of Cantacuzene his ‘protector’, confesses his error.Palamas freely pardons him (p.55).

June 15, 1341 Emperor Andronicus III dies, having fallen ill less than a week earlier.Barlaam finds some support and begins his attacks again (p.55).Yet he finally realises that he does not have the support to triumph in Constantinople.Barlaam leaves for Italy, where he finds more favour in the Renaissance, and is eventually made bishop of Gerace in the Greek Uniate Church (p.55).

* Thus Palamas’ victory had certainly been complete from 10 June, 1341 (p.56).

But now Akindynos begins to find more severe problems with the expressions of Palamas.It shall be his great downfall to continually attempt to find a via media between Palamas and Barlaam, when there could be none.Moreover, he proposes the possibility for man to share in the divine essence (p.56).

August, 1341Second Council in St. Sophia, presided over by Cantacuzene, who acts as de facto emperor.Patriarch Calecas summons Akindynos as the accused, and again attempts to limit discussion to non-doctrinal matters.The synod eventually condemns Akindynos and rejects his teaching about the light (pp.57-8).Thus the first reaction of the Byzantine Church as a whole is clearly favourable to Palamas (p.62).

Political complications to the second council:Calecas does not go into detail about the second council in his Tome, as both he and Cantacuzene are vying for political power after the death of Andronicus III; and he does not wish to ‘advertise’ the fact that the Great Domestic had acted as emperor (pp.58-60).

Palamas’ victory would have been decisive, had not circumstances purely political delayed it (p.62).

Appendix II:

Timeline: The Time of Civil War (1341-1347)

(Outline of materials in Meyendorff, Ch. 4)

June 18, 1341 Three days after the death of Andronicus III, Patriarch John Calecas and Great Domestic Cantacuzene begin to vie for the regency.After an initial round of stormy arguments, the two exchange oaths of mutual fidelity, and Cantacuzene leaves on a military campaign in the Balkans (pp.63-4).

October, 1341 Calecas and megas dux Apocaucos gain complete power by a coup d’état.Calecas had summoned Palamas earlier that month and attempted to gain his support; but Gregory was to side openly against the Patriarch (p.64).

Palamas does not take sides in the conflict, and gives full support neither to Calecas nor Cantacuzene; he sees himself rather as ‘defending the peace’ of the Empire as it is being torn apart (p.64)—though he tends more toward Cantacuzene as a more Orthodox personality.

At this point, Empress Anne sides with Calecas against Cantacuzene, and some have offered that there were economical motivations: Anne/Calecas as defenders of the poor, and Cantacuzene as a leader of the feudal nobility.Yet this is perhaps stretched.The hesychast monks were not in general fond of amassed land for monasteries, so their support of Cantacuzene should not be seen as stemming from this (pp.64-5).

Oct-Nov, 1341 Cantacuzene has himself proclaimed Emperor at Didymotica (p.65).

Nov. 19, 1341 John V is crowned as unique Emperor by Calecas. Cantacuzene is careful to admit the validity of this coronation, and recognises John as First Emperor, himself as second (p.65).

1341-1342 Palamas retires to the monastery of St. Michael of Sosthenion on the Bosphorus, a few miles from Constantinople, after repeated unsuccessful attempts to reverse the political current in the capital.Yet his influence and authority remain, and represent a threat to the Patriarch (p.66).

Midwinter:Calecas gives Akindynos a certain license to attack Palamas’ theology (p.66).

March 1342 A messenger from the Patriarch arrives at St. Michael’s, to ‘invite’ Gregory to Constantinople on a ruse to attack him (p.66).Gregory senses the ruse, but goes of his own volition.

March 24, 1342 Gregory returns to Constantinople (on Palm Sunday).A delegation of Athonite monks, including Protos Isaac, arrive on the 26th (p.66).

During Easter week, in first days of April, Palamas goes alone to visit Anne, but Calecas and officials insist on being present; the discussion is political and accomplishes nothing (p.67).Palamas stays another five weeks in Constantinople.

May 12, 1342 Gregory returns to St. Michael’s.Within days, an official of the Patriarch is sent to find him.He cannot, as Gregory had retreated to a hermitage outside the monastery, but Palamas discovers that a Council is being assembled to consider his case, and he returns to Constantinople (p.67).

[[After Palamas’ return to Constantinople, Calecas risks making full use of Akindynos (beginning Autumn 1342).Admits into full communion the condemned monk, and allows him to write theological tracts against Palamas (p.70).]]

The object of the council, quickly assembled, is to condemn Palamas (p.67).The proceedings are waged solely against him, and the Athonite monks in the capital fear for Palamas’ life.They convince him to flee the city.

Palamas retires to Hereclea.In his absence, a synod presided over by Calecas orders the destruction of his writings later than 1341 (pp.68-9).

Sep., 1342 Palamas is arrested on a purely political charge.He is imprisoned in a monastery, but the megas dux dismisses the guards.Gregory seeks asylum in St. Sophia for two months before Calecas issues an order that asylum-seekers should not live in the basilica (March 1343). Gregory is thus forced to leave, but finds relative security in the monasteries (pp.69-70).

April or May 1343:Palamas and his disciple Dorotheus are shut up in the palace prison by Calecas, again for political rather than theological reasons (p.70).Here he will remain for four years (p.81).

Mar/Apr, 1343 Akindynos delivers his Report to Patriarch Calecas, giving his interpretation of events since 1342.The Patriarch knows the facts for himself, but needs the monk to provide religious justification for the political measures he has taken.The Report is adopted by Calecas as the official version of events (pp.72-3).

Palamas, for his part, is quite active in prison, writing a great deal during 1342-1344 (p.73).

4 Nov, 1344 Calecas makes the Synod announce the deposition of Isidore and the excommunication of Palamas, after starting earlier that month to generously reward known opponents of Cantacuzene.Religious reasons are invoked for the excommunication of Gregory: his ‘false interpretation’ of the Tome of 1341, and his followers’ ceasing to mention the Patriarch’s name in the Liturgy (pp.73-4).Calecas obtains the signature of three Eastern patriarchs on the act (p.74).

1344 / 1345 Calecas has Akindynos ordained deacon, then priest, and finally elevates him to the episcopate (probably in November 1344), wholly against the will of Anne and the Court, who resolutely oppose the idea of ordaining a formally condemned monk.Thus a conflict arises between the Patriarch and the Court.Anne attempts to stop the process—even at one point arresting Akindynos—but Calecas is strong-willed enough to defy her (pp.75-6).

After his ordination, Akindynos gains great power; recommending those to be appointed as bishops to Calecas, and leading the episcopate in its anti-Palamite movements (p.76).

End of 1345 Calecas, against Anne’s opposition, and taking the opportunity of the Zealot revolt at Thessaloniki, deposes Makarios as Metropolitan of that town and appoints an extreme Akindynist, Hyacinth; thus entering into a ‘policy of force’.This policy, certainly applied elsewhere, will do him no good (p.77).

No one is convinced by his explanation of the Tome of 1341 (issued late 1344), and government officials begin to join Cantacuzene’s camp in increasing numbers (p.77).

January 1346Athonites address two Dogmatic Treatises to Anne, encouraging Palamas’ position, at the same time that she begins to realise the error of having supported Calecas.She requests a complete anti-Palamite dossier from the Patriarch, which she studies herself.She seems to become convinced to join his side (p.78).

21 May 1346Patriarch Lazarus of Jerusalem solemnly crowns Cantacuzene at Adrianople; a Council of Thracian bishops and of Metropolitans who had fled Constantinople assemble there and pronounce the deposition of Calecas on the grounds that he had ordained condemned heretics.Thus Calecas is no longer considered legitimate Patriarch by that camp, and Cantacuzene gives Lazarus a sort of ad interim authority (p.78).

1346 Calecas realises that his anti-Palamite strategy will not work, and distances himself from Akindynos, who reacts bitterly to the ‘ingratitude’.By this time Anne has definitively decided to rely on the Palamites (p.79).

January 1347Empress Anne summons a Council to depose Calecas (p.79).

1 Feb 1347 The Council takes place; only anti-Cantacuzenite bishops are in attendance, while Palamas and declared supporters of Cantacuzene are still in prison.Anne and John V preside; there are present some bishops, the Protos of Athos, and several civil officials.Calecas is condemned and the Tome of 1341 solemnly confirmed (p.79).

2 Feb 1347 Cantacuzene makes his entry into the capital, as Calecas is now no longer an issue.Anne does not yet succumb, and barricades herself into the palace.Only at the intervention of John V, then aged 15, does she send an ambassador: Palamas himself.This time Gregory succeeds completely in bringing the two sides together.Cantacuzene and John V are recognised as co-Emperors, effectively returning things to the political regime previous to Autumn 1341 (pp.79-80).

 

Appendix III:

Timeline: Post Civil-War Developments

(Outline of material in Meyendorff Chs. 5-6)

8 Feb, 1347 Cantacuzene enters the imperial palace; Calecas is still there.He refuses to accept the condemnation made in his absence.A new Synod is held in the palace, to which he is invited, but he does not attend.

A new Tome is issued, containing the rulings of the council held on 2 Feb by Anne, and this new council by both Anne and Cantacuzene.This Tome brings Calecas under the same judgement as Barlaam; Akindynos is also excommunicated (p.86).

March: Cantacuzene publishes a decree confirming the decisions of the Synod.

17 May, 1347 Isidore Boukharis is appointed to the Patriarchal see by Cantacuzene, to replace Calecas.Palamas himself had been a candidate, but he declined (p.87).

Upon Isidore’s consecration, he consecrates 32 new bishops; one of whom is Gregory, who is elevated to the Archbishopric of Thessaloniki (p.87).Yet Palamas is prevented from entering his see by the revolt of the Zealots (which had begun in the summer of 1342) in that town, who ‘fought for the poor’ and were against centralised government, and disliked Gregory for his support of Cantacuzene (pp.89-91).

Palamas instead goes to Athos, where he encounters Stephen Dushan, ‘Emperor of the Serbs,’ who tries to rally him to Serb authority against Constantinople.Yet Palamas remains firm in his support of the capital (pp.91-2).

During 1347, there is opposition to Palamite theology by some bishops, yet the nature of the arguments is highly political, and generally motivated by disapproval of Isidore’s consecration as Patriarch (pp.88-89).

May-Jul, 1347 Twenty anti-Palamite bishops assemble in councils at Constantinople.In July they publish a Tome of excommunication against Palamas and Isidore (p.89).

August, 1343After repeated attempts to correct the above bishops, Isidore and his Synod depose them in a new Tome countersigned by the Patriarch of Jerusalem (p.89).

29 Dec, 1347Calecas dies, still refusing to recognise his condemnation (p.88).Akindynos had already fled the capital, and addressed a number of letters to his supporters in the beginning of 1438.He dies in exile a few weeks later.

c.1348 Palamas returns to Constantinople after his time on Athos with Dushan.Here he debates with Nicephorus Gregoras, a firm anti-Palamite (pp.93-4).

Start of 1350Cantacuzene takes firm possession of Thessaloniki, and Gregory finally enters his see.He takes up his pastoral duties there (pp.92-3).Yet in Constantinople, opposition from Gregoras continues to mount, and it soon becomes apparent that a new Council will be necessary.

28 May, 1351 A Council is convened in the palace of Blakhernae by Patriarch Kallistos, with Cantacuzene presiding.Gregory is in attendance.Here the anti-Palamites are allowed to expound their views at great length, led by Gregoras.There are two distinct phases: May/June, and later in July (sometimes called ‘another assembly) (pp.94-5).

THE FIRST ASSEMBLY:

At the first meeting (28 May), the anti-Palamites expound their position, and argue especially against the new confession that was used during episcopal ordinations.Gregoras argues well, and considers himself the victor.It is decided that in the future sessions, the anti-Palamites will again speak first, and Gregory may defend himself at the end (p.95).

The second meeting (30 May) is much less favourable to the anti-Palamites.They attack the use of the terms ‘divinity’ and ‘God’ as applied to the divine energies; yet Gregory artfully points out that theological formulas have only secondary value compared to the truth they express (pp.95-6).

The third meeting (8 June) provides the anti-Palamites to present their own confession of faith, which is basically the Nicene Symbol (p.96).

The fourth session (9 June) is decisive: the Tome of 1341 is read, and Gregory & supporters show how the anti-Palamites have contradicted it.The heretical nature of the accusations against Palamas are revealed, and the bishops rule in his favour (pp.96-7).

THE SECOND ASSEMBLY:

Commences a few days after the first, probably in July.The condemned anti-Palamites are no longer present, and the Council discusses six theological questions related to the Palamite position.All are approved by the bishops, and they recognise the full Orthodoxy of Gregory (pp.98-9).

Jul / Aug, 1351 The Synodal Tome containing all the decisions of the Council is prepared, and signed on 15 August, on the day of the Assumption, after Matins, between 7 and 8am (p.99).

Autumn, 1351 Gregory is re-established in his see.His pastoral efforts are great, and he now devotes much energy to speaking out on behalf of the poor.The Zealot conflict is mainly finished (p.102).

Autumn, 1352 Gregory suffers the first serious attack of the illness which will eventually take his life.At the same time, John V, living in Thessaloniki, begins anew the civil war with Cantacuzene (p.103).

Spring, 1353A series of setbacks on John’s part results in the coronation of Matthew Cantacuzene at Constantinople.Patriarch Kallistos is deposed and replaced by Philotheus.Kallistos and John take refuge in Tenedos (p.103).

Start of 1354John approaches Gregory to request is services as moderator, perhaps on the advice of his mother (also living in Thessaloniki.Gregory seems fitted for the job, and leaves for Constantinople via an imperial warship put at his disposal.He waited until the earthquake of 2 March was over, but upon setting sail he is forced by wind to land in Gallipoli, where he finds the city overtaken by the Turks.The Turks take Gregory and his entourage captive (p.103).

During his captivity in Turkish control, Gregory is allowed to travel a great deal, and he learns of the Turkish culture.He speaks favourably of the occupying force, so long as they allow for the religious freedom of those under their control (cp. pp.104-107).

Nov, 1354 John V succeeds in entering the capital; Cantacuzene abdicates and becomes a monk with the name of Joasaph.Philotheus too surrenders, and Kallistos returns as Patriarch.John V not eager to return Gregory, as a former supporter of Cantacuzene (pp.107-8).

Spring, 1355Gregory returns to Constantinople, his ransom having been paid to the Turks, perhaps by Cantacuzene himself (p.108).

Meanwhile, Paul of Smyrna, Legate of Pope Innocent VI, has just arrived at Byzantium.He is ill-disposed towards Palamas, and Palamite theology in general.Attends a discussion between Gregory and Gregoras, but it not convinced by Palamas’ arguments (pp.108-9).

Eventually (c.1369?) he affects the conversion of John V to the Latin Church (p.110).

Summer, 1355 Palamas returns to Thessaloniki and begins again his pastoral duties.He spends much time writing (pp.110-111).

1358 The deposed Patriarch Philotheus asks Gregory to refute the Antirrhetics of Gregoras concerning the light on Mount Tabor; Palamas’ two final treatises deal with this matter (p.111).

The same year, Gregory has another attack of the internal disease from which he has now long been suffering.His homilies now begin to focus much on the end of life, and death (p.111).

14 Nov, 1359 Gregory dies, aged 63, having been a bishop for 12-and-a-half years.His body is buried in his cathedral of Haghia Sophia in Thessaloniki (p.111).

1363 Patriarch Kallistos orders an inquisition into the life of Gregory.Using this document, Philotheus (who succeeds Kallistos that same year) writes his Enconium of Gregory, and a liturgical service in his honour.Elsewhere the cult of Palamas also commences (p.112).

1368 On the Second Sunday in Great Lent, the Patriarch and Synod inscribe Gregory in the calendar of the ‘Great Church’ (Haghia Sophia at Constantinople), thus canonising him (p.112).


Appendix IV:

Timeline: Gregory’s Early Life

(Outline of materials in Meyendorff, Ch. 2)

NOTE:While this timeline deals with the first events of Gregory’s life, and thus holds primary place in a chronological ordering, I have relegated it to the fourth and final appendix, as it relates least directly with the subject matter of this paper.

1326 Gregory born.First-born of a large aristocratic family.Father is Constantine Palamas, a senator in the immediate entourage of Emperor Andronicus II, who entrusts him with the education of his grandson, the future Emperor Andronicus III, who is of exactly the same age as Gregory.The family is quite pious, and lives a life centred on prayer.Constantine is known to practise ‘pure prayer’ even whilst at work (p.28).

Constantine dies c.1303.

Gregory came to know the young prince (future Andronicus III), who would later support him in his difficulties (p.28).

Gregory studies grammar and rhetoric, but not ‘theology’ which was taught at the Patriarchate’s School.Probably he does not go beyond the Trivium and Quadrivium (p.30).

c.1316 Gregory takes the monastic tonsure (aged about 20), encouraged by Athonite monks sojourning in the capital, including Theoleptus of Philadelphia.Convinces his close family to do the same (p.32).

Autumn 1316Gregory departs for Athos with his three brothers, yet they do not make it directly there.Stay some months at Mt. Papikion, between Constantinople and Salonica.There they encounter the nearby Bogomils, infected with ‘Marcionite and Messalian’ heresies; who try at one point to poison Gregory (pp.32-3).

c. Spring 1317 Gregory and his brothers arrive on Athos.Gregory puts himself under the spiritual care of Nicodemos, a hesychast near Vatopedi.Spends three years in his care (p.33).During this time his younger brother, Theodosius, dies.

Once Nicodemos had also died, Gregory and his remaining brother, Macarius, move to the Great Lavra of St. Athanasius, which will remain thereafter Palamas’ “mother-house” (p.33).

Lives three years in the cenobion; appointed cantor by the abbot.Then retires to the hermitage of Glossia (near Provata) and places himself under the spiritual care of ‘Gregory the Great.He remains here about two years.

c.1325 Turkish incursions cause those outside the fortified monasteries to flee.Gregory the Sinaite and his disciples Isidore and Kallistos (future patriarchs) flee, as does Gregory, to Thessaloniki.They intend to go east to Jerusalem and Sinai, but only the Sinaite and Kallistos do so.Gregory and Isidore remain in Thessaloniki (p.34).

IN THESSALONIKI:

Gregory and friends form a ‘spiritual circle’, led by Isidore.Semi-monastic, though women are present.Preaches much on renunciation, and the prophetic mission of monasticism.

While here, Gregory would again encounter the Bogomils.Nocephoros Gregoras notes the condemnation of certain Bogomil/Messalians on Athos; accuses Gregory of leaving not to avoid the Turks, but to avoid condemnation for the same (pp.36-7).

1326 Gregory is ordained priest in Thessaloniki, at the insistence of his friends.Aged 30: the canonical age.

1326 Gregory retires, with 10 other monks, to a hermitage on a mountain near Beroea (p.37).

Here he begins his classical pattern of spending five days in complete solitude, and two in the fellowship of the brotherhood (p.38).

This time is interrupted by the death of his mother in Constantinople.Gregory goes to the capital to attend the funeral, and returns with his sisters, to place them in a nearby convent.

Here insists that the life of prayer is for all Christians, not just the monastics (p.38).

Gregory remains in Beroea for five years, but has to leave c.1331 when Serb incursions make the area insecure.

c.1331 Gregory returns to Athos, and settles in the hermitage of St. Sabbas, near the Lavra.Leads a life here that is quite similar to that he led in Beroea.Becomes well known among the monks (pp.38-9).

c.1334 Gregory begins to write (p.39).

c.1336 Writes his Apodictic Treatises, concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit.Writes from St. Sabbas.

c.1335 / 1336 Gregory is appointed hegoumenos of Esphigmenou by the Athonite Protos.Yet he soon leaves, and returns to St. Sabbas.