Gregory of Sinai
Our father among the saints Gregory of Sinai, also Gregory the Sinaite, was a monastic of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries who advanced the practice of hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer and, with St. Gregory Palamas established Mount Athos as a center of Hesychasm. He is commemorated on August 8 as well as on November 27, the date of his repose, February 11, and April 6.
Gregory was born around 1265 in the village of Clazomenia near the city of Smyrna in western Asia Minor. About the year 1290, he was captured by the Hagarenes and carried off to Laodicea. After he was ransomed, Gregory traveled to Cyprus where he was tonsured a rasophore monk. Afterward Gregory journeyed to St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai where he assumed the great schema.
After a period at Sinai in which he fulfilled a number of obediences, including cook, baker, and copyist, Gregory left the monastery for Jerusalem. From Jerusalem he traveled to Crete where he learned the practice of the Jesus prayer and hesychasm from the monk Arsenios. After the turn of the century, Gregory moved on to Mount Athos, to the Magoula skete near Philotheou Monastery. Thus, having gained the experience of many centuries of the monastic life from the ancient monasteries, Gregory settled himself down in a solitary place for "hesychia" (stillness doing the Jesus Prayer), in a cell for silence and the unhindered pursuit of mental prayer combined with hard work. With his contemporary Gregory Palamas, he helped to establish Mount Athos as a center of hesychasm.
Concerned with spreading of monasticism, Gregory founded several cells on Mount Athos, as well as four monasteries in Thrace.
The last years of the life of Gregory are uncertain. On one hand his is found to have reposed in 1310 at Mount Athos. On the other hand, Gregory remained at Mount Athos until Ottoman Turks began to raid the monasteries of Mount Athos during the third decade of the fourteenth century. Then, it is said he took refuge in Bulgaria where he established a monastery in the wilderness at Paroria in the Strandzka mountains on the west coast of the Black Sea. There he reposed on November 27, 1346.
The Philokalia includes five of his works, in Greek.
- 137 Texts: On Commandments and Doctrines, Warnings and Promises; on Thoughts, Passions and Virtues, and also on Stillness and Prayer, where he says that "trying to comprehend the commandments through study and reading without fulfilling them is like mistaking a shadow of something for its reality" ("On Commandments and Doctrines," section 22).
- Further Texts
- Ten Texts: On the Signs of Grace and Delusion, written for the Confessor Longinos.
- Fifteen Texts: On Stillness.
- Seven Texts: On Prayer.
Gregory was also a remarkable hymnographer. The hymns ascribed to him include: The theotokion "It is Truly Meet", a canon to the Most Holy Trinity which is read at Sunday Vigil, and a canon to the Holy Cross. In the book of canons of St. Cyril of White Lake (from the year 1407) is found the "Canon of Supplication to the Lord Jesus Christ, a work also ascribed to Gregory the Sinaite."