St. Gregory Palamas



  1. Students should know his name and be able to tell his story briefly.
  2. Students should know that Gregory defended the Holy Spirit in the Trinity.
  3. Students should memorize the Jesus Prayer.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


  1. Tell the story of St. Gregory Palamas:


Gregory was born in the royal city of Constantinople more than a thousand years after the time of Jesus. At age 7, both of his parents died, and Gregory was an orphan. But, the orphan boy was a favorite of Emperor Andronicus II, who sent the boy to school, where Gregory studied all about science. Science, howev­er, did not interest Gregory; his interest was in the Lord Jesus. He soon began studying about the Lord and gave up his life in the court of the emperor to spend his time in monasteries.

When Gregory was 30 years old, he became a priest. He had learned well from the monks around Constantinople and Mt. Athos. They had taught him the Jesus Prayer. The monks would bow in prayer, concentrate on the Lord, and recite, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” As the monk prayed and prayed, over the years he would grow closer to the Lord and experience the light of the closeness of Jesus. With Jesus as the sun, Gregory and the other monks could feel the light and warmth of His shining rays.

But, in those days, a man named Barlaam was teaching also. Barlaam had never been a monk; he had studied about Jesus but had not spent years in prayer just getting to know Jesus. In fact, Barlaam didn’t believe that people could get to know Jesus, not to really feel Him near, until after they died. He made fun of the monks and called them “Belly—button-gazers” because they spent so much time kneeling and bowing in prayer.

Gregory knew that Barlaam was wrong. Gregory knew Jesus in his heart and had felt His presence with him. Gregory had seen and felt the light of God -- the same light that St. Stephen saw as he was being stoned, that St. Peter saw when Jesus was trans­figured on the mountain, and that St. Paul saw on the road to Damascus. He knew that the Lord was present with all of His followers since the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who appeared from heaven when Jesus was baptized in the form of a dove, was just as much a part of God as God the Father or God the Son, Jesus. Gregory defended the monks and their vision in his teachings as a priest and in his writings. He told the world that Barlaam was wrong -- that every Christian can draw near to God through prayer.

Later in life, Gregory was made Archbishop of Thessalonica. He suffered many times because of his teachings; he was thrown out of his home, was thrown in prison, and was even captured by the Moslem Turks. But, finally, before his death, two church councils in Constantinople held firm for Gregory’s teachings and told all of us that we can know and feel the presence of God in our daily lives.


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  1. True/False Questions:

                                    True                                                     False

Gregory was a monk.                                     Gregory was a monkey.

Gregory taught the Jesus Prayer.                    Gregory hated Jesus.

Gregory loved the Holy Spirit.                       Barlaam loved the Holy Spirit.


  1. First discuss the Holy Spirit: Review the stories of the dove at Jesus’s baptism, the tongues of fire at Pentecost, the Transfiguration, the death of Stephen, and the conversion of Saul. These are in the students’ story Bibles. Who are the persons of the Holy Trinity? Remember the sign of the cross and the three fingers, the shamrock and the three leaves. Can you feel Jesus in your heart, as did Gregory Palamas?


  1. Make a Gregory Palamas bookmark: Copy the front and back together on cardstock, fold, and glue together.  Punch hole in top. After children color the figures, use Contac paper (clear) or laminating sheets to waterproof. Pair of ribbons through the hole to complete the bookmark.


  1. Close with prayer: Practice bowing and saying the Jesus Prayer with the children until they know it by heart!