St. Gregory Palamas bases his teaching on the passions and virtues on the basic theological distinction between human life that is according to nature and that life which is contrary to nature. Passions do not belong to human nature. They are impulses and actions foreign to the natural life of man.
The passions are states where man moves in a world that is contrary to nature. Palamas characterizes passions as ‘deceitful desires’. However, when the soul moves according to nature, one’s desiring ability, which is a basic faculty of the soul, becomes an ardent longing for God, indeed a ‘divine passion’.
When he analyzes the causes of the soul’s enslavement to the passions and shows how the godlike virtues are their opposites, Palamas covers the entire spectrum of the spiritual life. This life begins with the cessation of our own impassioned thoughts, and it leads to the soul’s reception of the divine grace of the Holy Spirit. This is the ultimate goal for all believers.
ANESTIS KESELOPOULOS is Professor of Ethics, Pastoral Theology and Orthodox Spiritual Life at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
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