Martin Jugie, The Palamite Controversy (continued).
III. Patriarch John Kalekas and Akindynos against Palamas (October 1341 – February 1347).
With the promulgation of the synodal tome, the first phase of the Palamite controversy comes to a close. It was possible to hope that Gregory Palamas and his followers would be satisfied after having obtained a document so favorable to them, and that, obedient to the prohibition at the end of it, they would maintain silence concerning the strange doctrines and formulations which the polemic with Barlaam had caused them to invent. But this was not to be.
Akindynos informs us that, as soon as he was in possession of this tome, Palamas set about publishing everywhere that his doctrine and his writings had been approved by the Church, and that it was necessary to accept them under pain of excommunication, καὶ διϊὼν τὴν οἰκουμένην σχεδὸν ἔλεγε κεκυρῶσθαι πάντα αὐτοῦ τὰ γράμματα συνοδικῶς. Monac. 223, fol. 514. Besides this, he composed new doctrinal treatises, in which his theory concerning God’s essence and operations reappears with the same heretical formulations that were found in the preceding works. To this open disobedience he added public criticisms of the political stance taken by the patriarch against Kantakouzenos, the protector of the hesychasts. Being kept up to date on all this by Akindynos, who hereupon became his close adviser and played the foremost role in the fight against the new heresy, John Kalekas decided to act more forcefully and to make use of his twofold authority, both religious and civil, against the rebellious monk. Palamas was summoned to Constantinople. He arrived towards the end of Lent, 1342, and had a private interview with the patriarch, who demanded that he renounce his doctrinal innovations. He categorically refused to obey. A canonical summons followed, which called upon him to appear before the patriarchal synod. He went into hiding, and counted upon his friend, the monk Isidore, to undertake his defense. The synod met, probably during the course of June 1342. Isidore justified Palamas’s conduct as based upon the synodal tome, which the patriarch had signed. As for the patriarch, with the agreement of the members of the synod, he condemned the writings of the innovator to the flames as scandalous and as sowing discord everywhere. This sentence was confirmed by a new synod which was held at the imperial palace at some later time (probably in September 1342) and which was attended also by the members of the Senate.
Of these first two synods, which condemned Palamas’s writings but not, directly, his person, there has come down to us only the information preserved for us by Akindynos (op. cit., fol. 54 vº). It was not till two years later, on November 4, 1344, that excommunication was finally decreed against the rebel, after he had already spent two years in prison. He was, in fact, arrested in the autumn of 1342 at Heraclea, where he had taken refuge, and, after a number of weeks spent in the dependancies of Hagia Sophia, he was locked up in the monastery of the Incomprehensible, ἡ μονὴ τοῦ Ἀκαταλήπτου, where he remained until the triumph of Kantakouzenos. The excommunication was motivated by the propaganda in support of his theology which he did not cease to disseminate, both by writing and by speech. The actual text of the sentence against him has not come down to us, but we still possess various official documents of John Kalekas that make reference to it for us, and which inform us that the sentence applied equally to all of Palamas’s adherents and, specifically, to the famous Isidore, who by this time had been elected bishop of Monemvasia. These documents are: (1) An encyclical letter to all the faithful, announcing to them the condemnation of Palamas, Isidore, and their adherents (Incip.: Ἡ μετριότης ἡμῶν άναδεδεγμένη), in PG 150, 891-894, according to the edition of Allatius (De perpetua consensione, etc., book II, chap. xvi, 5, ii); (2) A letter to the Athonite monks, written immediately after the synod of November 4th (PG 152, 1269-1273). The patriarch, after speaking about Barlaam’s condemnation in 1341, recalls Palamas’s contumacy, his imprisonment and, without explicitly mentioning his excommunication, exhorts the monks to employ their influence to bring him back into the way of obedience. The Athonites’ only response to this was to send the Empress and the leading magistrates a copy of the τόμος ἁγιορειτικός, an insult which drew down upon them the reprisals of which we spoke earlier; (3) An official explanation of the τόμος συνοδικός of 1341 by the patriarch, composed after his letter to the Athonites (Incip.: Ἔστι μὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ τόμου καταφανές), in PG 150, 900-903 according to the edition of Allatius (op. cit., book II, chap. xvii, 2); (4) The beginning of the sentence against Isidore, published by G. Mercati (Notizie ed appunti, etc., Rome, 1930, pp. 202-203). When the excommunication was pronounced against Palamas and Isidore, the patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius, happened to be passing through Constantinople. After the case of the two rebels had been explained to him, he sided with the measure taken by the ecumenical patriarch, and authored, for his own part, two tomes, one of them, fairly long, directed against Palamas, which has remained unpublished and which was rebutted by Palamas himself (see above, col. 1745), the other, shorter, against Isidore, which Allatius published in his work, De libris ecclesiasticis Græcorum, pp. 188-189 (Incip.: Ἐλαλήθη περὶ τοῦ ὑποψηφίου). Both of them were promulgated after the synod of November 4, 1344, and in the same month.
The activity of John Kalekas against Palamas and his disciples did not end at that. Supported by the civil authority, he acted harshly against the innovators and named to episcopal sees only clerics of a proven orthodoxy. Cf. John Kyparissiotes, Palamiticarum transgressionum, lib. I, sermo iv, c. 4 (PG 152, 709 D). He encouraged Akindynos to refute Palamas’s writings, and occupied himself with the same task. All went well while he was in the Empress Anna’s favor. For several years, she did nothing without consulting him. If we are to believe what the historian Nikephoros Gregoras says, it was even one of his own suggestions which prepared the way for his downfall and, by the same token, for the triumph of Palamism (Historia byzantina, book XV, chapters vii and ix; PG 148, 1008, 1029). Having only the good of the empire in mind, John persuaded the empress to come to a reconciliation with John Kantakouzenos. Ever docile, Anna had a liking for the project, and secret negotiations must have been entered into with the Grand Domestic. Given the events that followed, we may suppose that he presented, as conditions for a reconciliation, the dismissal of the patriarch (who had excommunicated him at the start of his revolt against the court) and acceptance of the Palamite doctrine. The empress had sufficient weakness not to reject categorically these suggestions, which prompted her to sacrifice simultaneously the true doctrine and her best counsellor. She attempted at first to appease her conscience on the question of doctrine and desired to make up her own mind on Palamas’s theology. To that end, she asked him to give her a brief explanation of it. One can imagine the joy of the hesychast theologian at this unexpected turn of events. Although he was still in prison, he was not long with his response, which Boisin published in a note to his edition of Gregoras’s Byzantine History, book XV, chap. vii (PG 148, 1010-1012). It was very skillful. Anna was complimented for her zeal for orthodoxy, and the doctrine of Akindynos was represented as affiliated with Messalianism and logically tending towards atheism. The empress also sought the advice of the philosopher Nikephoros Gregoras. He declared himself against Palamas and in favor of Akindynos. Disappointed, Anna asked him to put the reasons for his position in writing.
This took place during the first months of the year 1346. John Kalekas and Akindynos must have quickly enough come to perceive the change that was beginning to take shape in the empress’s policy, and they did what they could to make her aware of Palamas’s errors. Anna, for her part, sought an occasion for entering into conflict with the patriarch, so as to have a pretext for getting rid of him. The occasion presented itself when, towards the end of the year 1346, the rumor circulated that Akindynos, the Palamites’ bête noire, was going to be raised to the order of the diaconate. She let it be known to John that this ordination displeased her. The patriarch went ahead with it anyway. A decree of expulsion against the new deacon was the empress’s vexed reaction. The conflict soon came to a head. This was much worse, when the question arose of naming Akindynos to the metropolitan see of Thessalonica, which had lost its Antipalamite bishop, Hyacinth, who had been taken away by a premature death. At this news, Anna no longer restrained herself, and let loose a torrent of abuse against the prelate. To calm her and to justify himself, John sent her a collection of treatises, composed by himself, by Akindynos, and by other theologians, in which Palamas’s errors were exposed and refuted. We suspect that the works found in this collection included the two anonymous documents published by Allatius in his work De libris ecclesiasticis Græcorum, dissert. II (reprinted in PG 150, 864-872).
The news of the conflict between the empress and the patriarch brought joy and hope to the camp of the Palamites. Kantakouzenos believed the moment had come to have John Kalekas deposed by the small group of prelates who were numbered among his retinue. Chief among them was Lazarus, Patriarch of Jerusalem. Where the meeting took place is not known. The tome of the synod of February 1347, about which we shall speak presently, tells us merely that it occurred outside of the capital. The conciliabulum drew up a tome of deposition in proper, due form, which has not come down to us: καὶ σύνοδον ἱερὰν συγκροτήσαντες, καθαιρετικὸν τόμον τοῦ τοιαῦτα τολμῶντος συγγραψάμενοι …, καθαιρέσει τελείᾳ καθυποβάλλουσιν. (Cod. Dionys. Athon. 147, fol. 268. Cf. PG 152, 1278, which lacks this passage.) At the same time, the six Palamite prelates who had been kept under watch in their cells at Constantinople addressed to the empress a virulent reproach against the patriarch. They accused him of avarice, nepotism, simony, perjury; they portrayed him as a wolf, a lion, a serpent, a persecutor of the orthodox, a protector of the Barlaamites, and they called for his expulsion. See the text of this report, PG 151, 767-770. It is dated September 1346. We find among the signatories two churchmen who would soon afterwards pass over to the camp of the Antipalamites, Matthew of Ephesus and Chariton of Apro.
Nevertheless, the empress was in haste to have done with John Kalekas, who had dared to go against her wishes. She turned resolutely to the side of the Palamites, and, in due course, found some ten prelates who lent themselves to her plans and who likewise converted to Palamism. Together with two of the signatories of the preceding report, they convened under her presidency at the imperial palace, at the start of February 1347. Besides the senators, there were present also the Protos of Athos, along with several monks and learned laymen. The public was not allowed to attend. Summoned to appear before this conciliabulum, John Kalekas made no reply; but, a few days earlier, having learned what was being planned against him, he had once again issued an anathema against Palamas and all those who accepted “his impious dogmas or, to speak more truly, his blatherings”; included in this condemnation were those prelates who, uncanonically and ill-advisedly, had recently suppressed his name from the sacred diptychs. See the text of this anathema in Allatius, De libris ecclesiasticis Græcorum dissert. II and in PG 150, 863-864. G. Mercati, Notizie ed altri appunti, etc., p. 195, gives an addition to this text according to cod. Barber. 291, and thinks the decree was issued sometime after John’s deposition, contrary to the assertion of the anonymous tome of Antioch, which says: τούτων δ᾽ ἔτι μελετωμένων ὁ πατριάρχης, συλλογισάμενος ὁποῖον ἔσται τὸ πέρας αὐτοῖς, ἐσχάτην ταύτην ἐγγράφως τὴν ἀποκήρυξιν κατὰ τῶν Παλαμητῶν ἐκφωνεῖ. [“But while these schemes were still being hatched, the patriarch, having inferred what their goal would be, pronounced this condemnation against the Palamites.”] Cod. Vatic. 2335.
But, to return to the empress’s synod. The chief complaint that was raised against the patriarch was that, together with this new Barlaam named Akindynos, he had combatted the dogmas of Palamas. To lend the synod greater importance, a long tome was produced, in which is found a very one-sided account of the Palamite controversy to the year 1347. All the same, this tome contains interesting historical details and, in particular, provides information concerning the contents of the Antipalamite collection of documents which John Kalekas caused to be sent to Anna Palaiologos to enlighten her on the faith at the time when she was on the point of giving her approval to the followers of Palamas. The document ends by deposing the patriarch and expressly condemning Akindynos and his doctrines. Promise is given to the Antipalamite clergy that, if they adhere to the dogmas of Palamas, they will keep their rank within the hierarchy. Finally, anathema is pronounced against all those who, in the future, should dare to attack Palamas and his disciples, “these genuine upholders and defenders of the Church and of orthodoxy.” Such is the tome of the Palamite conciliabulum of February 1347; a text of it, full of lacunae, is found at PG 152, 1273-1284, and the complete text is in Dionysianus Athon. 147, foll. 263-272, with three sets of signatures. The document was in fact signed, a few days later, by the prelates who entered the capital among Kantakouzenos’s followers; then, a few months later, by the metropolitans whom Isidore had promoted (May 1347).
The conciliabulum came to an end, and, on behalf of the court prelates who had so effectively carried out her plans, the Empress Anna proceeded to hold a great banquet in one of the rooms of the imperial palace. Joyous toasts were raised to Palamas’s health until a very late hour of the night, when suddenly there arose a fearful outcry: Kantakouzenos had just breached the walls of the city with his soldiers. Panic-stricken, the empress ordered that the palace be fortified, and summoned the Genovese of Galata to her aid. They were repulsed by the imperial garrison, which had been bought out by Kantakouzenos. There was no other alternative than to negotiate with the victor. Palamas, finally released from prison, was one of the go-betweens. On February 8th, the reconciliation so long sought after by the empress was a reality. Cf. Kantakouzenos, op. cit., book III, chapters 99-100 (PG 153, 1292-1300); Nikephoros Gregoras, op. cit., book XV, ch. 9 (PG 148, 1027 f.). One of Kantakouzenos’s first acts was to confirm the deposition of John Kalekas and the synodal tome that had just been issued against him. The decree is dated to March of that year; see the text of it at PG 151, 769-774. After initially being confined to the monastery of St. Basil, John, who did not cease to protest against the unjust sentence laid against him, was exiled to Didymoteichon. He soon afterwards fell ill, and Kantakouzenos, moved by pity according to his own account (History, book IV, ch. 3; PG 154, 29-33), had him brought back to the capital, where he died soon afterwards (December 29, 1347), aged about 65 years. Cf. Gregoras, op. cit., book XVI, ch. 4 (PG 148, 1064).