Homily Notes: St. Gregory Palamas (Let’s Be Quiet)

What do you meet in the silence?

On Holy Saturday, at the First Resurrection service (3PM here), we sing;

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and in fear and trembling stand; for the King of kings and Lord of lords comes forth, to be slain, to give Himself as food to the faithful.”

Why should we be silent in the presence of God?

  • Shame. For the evil; the realization that God is Good and we are not worthy to be with Him
  • Gratitude. For those who have accepted God’s gift of redemption through His Son….
  • Relief. For those who have “wearied themselves in doing good”, there is acceptance that their efforts have not been in vain and that the burden is light because God is REAL.
  • Rationality. What could we possibly say that might add to the moment ? (e.g. St. Peter at Transfiguration)
  • Awe. The wonderful feeling of basking in God’s glory like feeling the warmth of the sun after a long cold winter.

Silence is not something that comes naturally to us.

  • Vs. distraction; not just vs. sound.
  • Quiet.

But we need to be quiet.

  • Not to see the uncreated light of Tabor (St. Gregory Palamas)
  • But to become human. We are failing at this. We see readily in others, but it is true of ourselves. It’s like bad breath. Is your breath the breath of sweetness? Or of a putrid corpse?

Some sayings get at this;

  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
    • Ask yourself; “Will the things that are about to come out of my mouth going to build up the person I am talking to?”
    • Not about sugar coating ; it’s about being human.
    • If you aren’t sure, just be quiet!
  • A brother asked Abba Pambo if it is good to praise one’s neighbor, and the old man said to him, ‘It is better to be silent.’” More so when it comes to attacking one’s neighhbor.
  • A brother asked Abba Poemen, ‘Is it better to speak or to be silent?’ The old man said to him, ‘The man who speaks for God’s sake does well; but he who is silent for God’s sake also does well.”
  • Proverbs 17:28 “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” (also Mark Twain’s version)

This is the first step in the way of silence, but we have to start somewhere.

  • Being quieter, listening instead of talking (two ears, one mouth), and learning to use our words to build up rather than tear down is good.
  • Ultimately, quiet will build within us the capacity to know and see God.

A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses and asked him for a word. The old man said to him, ‘Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.’”

The same is true of the Divine Liturgy.

Let us quiet our minds “and in fear and trembling stand” as the Lord of all sacrifices Himself for our salvation in the Holy Eucharist.