My doodle of a Benedictine monk exercising speaks of a convergence of thoughts. My post middle-aged frame is now being subjected to regular workouts at the local gym (under the wise eye of a personal trainer, I hasten to add!) I’m also attending to the continuous development of Dayspring’s coursework in the practice of prayer. I’ve seen an article by Ralph Eibner, ‘Gregory Palamas: The Body in Prayer and Spiritual Transformation” in Presence (Volume 11, No. 4, December 2005). Presence is an international journal of spiritual direction published by Spiritual Directors International .
Gregory Palamas is a fourteenth century Greek Orthodox theologian whose writings challenge the familiar stereotype of the duality of flesh and spirit – a uniquely western phenomenon. The simplified notion that matter is evil and spirit is good gave rise to some pretty bizarre prayer practices far removed from the spirituality of prayer practiced by our Hebrew and early Christian forbears.
Palamas offers reflection on the combination of the silent prayer that is the basis of the hesychastic tradition in orthodoxy, and the infusion of spirit and body. Prayer posture is thus a key element in his writings, not as a means of expressive gesture, but as part of the very essence of prayer.
Eibner says, “The integration of the body in prayer and spiritual formation that we are seeing in contemporary spirituality is simply a practical application of the kind of incarnational theology and spirituality that Palamas indicated.”