This holy father has a significant role for Orthodox Christians. Scholars believe that he was born in 1296 and lived until either 1357 or 1359. He was raised in Constantinople at the court of the Emperor Andronicos Paleologos II, to whom his father had been a courtier. Unfortunately, St. Gregory’s father died young but the emperor provided for the family, including education. The Emperor took great interest in the young boy as he showed great academic aptitude; and had aspirations to involve him in government and sent him to further his education in the sciences and philosophy.
Gregory withdrew to Mt. Athos at the age of 20 and began to live an ascetic monastic life at Vatopaidi Monastery under St. Nicodemos and later under St. Nicephorus. He later transferred to the Great Lavra Monastery, where his duties were primarily in the kitchen and as a cantor. In time he received the blessing to withdraw into a more ascetic life of hesychasm focusing on the “Prayer of the Heart” or the “Jesus Prayer”.
The Athonite monks withdrew to Thessalonica in 1326 due to the attacks of the Ottoman Turks. St. Gregory was ordained a priest there but returned and to continue his hesychastic life. For most of his monastic life, St. Gregory wrote and preached in debate with a certain Barlaam, who opposed the practice of hesychasm and St. Gregory’s teachings on the Uncreated Light of Christ. This was a great academic battle between Gregory and Barlaam which included even a series of six Church Councils in Constantinople between 1341 & 1351. St. Gregory and the Palamatie theology are well loved by the Church. He was glorified as a saint in 1368 and his relics life in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Thessalonica. He is commemorated on November 14 and the second Sunday of Great Lent.