Tabor Light


Tabor Light

In Eastern Orthodox theology, the Tabor Light (also Light of Tabor, Tabor's Light, Taboric Light; Greek: Φῶς του Θαβώρ, also as Ἄκτιστον Φῶς, Uncreated Light, Θεῖον Φῶς, Divine Light; Russian: Фаворский свет) is the light revealed on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration of Jesus, identified with the light seen by Paul at his conversion. The doctrine was formulated in the 14th century by Gregory Palamas, an Athonite monk, defending the mystical practices of Hesychasm against accusations of heresy by Barlaam of Calabria. This doctrine (known as Palamism), argued for a distinction between divine "essence" and divine "operations".

In Eastern Orthodoxy

[
thumb|200px|Russian Orthodox icon of the Transfiguration (Theophanes the Greek, ca. 1408).]

The doctrine entertained by the Hesychasts, as to the experience of a vision of divine radiance as the goal of Hesychast practice, was that this light is the same manifested to Jesus' disciples on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration. This experience is referred to as theoria. This Barlaam held to be polytheistic, inasmuch as it postulated two eternal substances, a visible and an invisible God.

Gregory Palamas defended Hesychasm in the 1340s at three different synods in Constantinople, and he also wrote a number of works in its defense. In these works, Gregory Palamas uses a distinction, already found in the 4th century in the works of the Cappadocian Fathers, between the energies or operations (Gr. "energeies") of God and the essence ("ousia") of God. Gregory taught that the energies or operations of God were uncreated. He taught that the essence of God can never be known by his creature even in the next life, but that his uncreated energies or operations can be known both in this life and in the next and convey to the Hesychast in this life and to the righteous in the next life a true spiritual knowledge of God (theoria). In Palamite theology, it is the uncreated energies of God that illumine the Hesychast who has been vouchsafed an experience of the Uncreated Light. In 1341 the dispute came before a synod held at Constantinople and presided over by the Emperor Andronicus; the synod, taking into account the regard in which the writings of the pseudo-Dionysius were held, condemned Barlaam, who recanted and returned to Calabria, afterwards becoming bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.

One of Barlaam's friends, Gregory Akindynos, who originally was also a friend of Gregory's, took up the controversy, and three other synods on the subject were held, at the second of which the followers of Barlaam gained a brief victory.But in 1351 at a synod under the presidency of the Emperor John VI Cantacuzenus, Hesychast doctrine was established as the doctrine of the Greek Orthodox Church. Another opponent of Palamism was Manuel Kalekas who sought to reconcile the Eastern and Western Churches. Following the decision of 1351, there was strong repression against anti-Palamist thinkers. Kalekas reports on this repression as late as 1397, and for theologians in disagreement with Palamas, there was ultimately no choice but to emigrate and convert to Catholicism, a path taken by Kalekas as well as Demetrios Kydones and Ioannes Kypariossiotes. This exodus of highly educated Greek scholars, later re-inforced by refugees following the Fall of Constantinople of 1453, had a significant influence on the first generation (that of Petrarca and Boccaccio) of the incipient Italian Renaissance.

In Roman Catholicism

The Roman Church rejected Palamas' explanation of divine "operations" and traditionally sees the glory manifested at Tabor as symbolic of the eschatological glory of heaven; in a 15th century Latin hymn "Coelestis formam gloriae" ("Sarum Breviary", Venice, 1495; trans. Rev. John M. Neale 1851):

O wondrous type, O vision fair / of glory that the Church shall share / Which Christ upon the mountain shows / where brighter than the sun He glows / With shining face and bright array / Christ deigns to manifest today / What glory shall be theirs above / who joy in God with perfect love.

The theological interpretation of Tabor's light came to be a major dogmatic division between the eastern and the western Church, and the Hesychast movement is even described as "a direct condemnation of Papism" by anti-ecumenic currents of Eastern Orthodoxy. [http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/qasgpp.pdf]

Roman Catholicism in recent years has become more open towards ideas of Hesychasm, with endorsement of the Fatima Prayer etc.Pope John Paul II repeatedly emphasized his respect for Eastern theology as an enrichment for the whole Church ( [http://motherofgodchurch.org/mog/documents/jp2_EASTERN_THEOLOGY_HAS_ENRICHED_THE_WHOLE_CHURCH.HTM 1996] [http://rumkatkilise.org/byzpope.htm] ) and according to rumour even referred to Gregory Palamas as "Saint" in private conversation. John Paul II also added the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor to the "mysteries of the Holy Rosary" (the "Luminous Mysteries", published in "Rosarium Virginis Mariae", October 2002).Nevertheless, the Eastern doctrine of "uncreated light" remains unaccepted in the Roman Church.

In popular culture

"Tabor Light" was also used in the popular press of 1938 in reference to a mysterious light seen around a cemetery near Tábor, Bohemia, and a similar phenomenon observed in Saskatchewan, Canada. [http://homepage.usask.ca/~rhf330/3dec1938.html] [http://homepage.usask.ca/~rhf330/14dec1938.html]

Literature

*Lowell Clucas, 'The Triumph of Mysticism in Byzantium in the Fourteenth Century', in: "Byzantine Studies in Honor of Milton V. Anastos, Byzantina kai Metabyzantina", ed. Speros Vryonis jr, Malibu (1985). [http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/clucas_mysticism5.html]
*Vladimir Lossky, "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church", SVS Press, 1997. (ISBN 0-913836-31-1) James Clarke & Co Ltd, 1991. (ISBN 0-227-67919-9)
*George S. Maloney, "A Theology of Uncreated Energies of God" (1978), ISBN 9780874625165.
*George C. Papademetriou, "Introduction to Saint Gregory Palamas" (2005), ISBN 978-1885652836.
*J. Meyendorff, "A Study of St. Gregory Palamas" (1959).

ee also

*Glory (religion)
*Theophany
*Vision (religion)
*Enlightenment (concept)
*Holy Fire
*Aseity
*Negative theology

External links

* [http://www.russia-hc.ru/eng/religion/icons/icon4.cfm Light in Icon] (Russia-hc.ru)
* [http://benedictseraphim.wordpress.com/2007/03/04/the-sunday-of-st-gregory-palamas-the-second-sunday-of-great-and-holy-lent/ The Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas (The Second Sunday of Great and Holy Lent)] by Benedict Seraphim
* [http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/christou_partakers_glory.html Theoria, Tabor Light (photismos) as Vision]


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