Gregory is venerated, since 1368, as a Saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some Byzantine Catholic Churches, which form part of the communion of the Church of Rome have also included him in their liturgical books. (He has also been called a saint, and repeatedly cited as a great theological writer, by Pope John Paul II.) Some of his writings are collected in the Philokalia, and since the Ottoman period, the second Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to the memory Gregory Palamas in the Orthodox Church. The Byzantine Synodikon of Orthodoxy also celebrates his memory and theology while condemning his opponents, including some anti-Palamites who flourished after Gregory's death.
Gregory was born in Constantinople around the year 1296. His father, Constantine, was a courtier of the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282–1328), but died when Gregory was still young. The Emperor himself took part in the raising and education of the fatherless boy and hoped that the gifted Gregory would devote himself to government service, but Palamas chose monastic life on Mt. Athos. Gregory's mother (Kalloni) and siblings (Theodosios, Makarios, Epicharis, and Theodoti) would also embrace monasticism, and the entire family was canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2009.
Before leaving for Mt. Athos, Gregory received a broad education, including the study of Aristotle, which he would display before Theodore Metochites and the emperor.
Despite the Emperor's ambitions for him, Gregory, then barely twenty years old, withdrew to Mount Athos in the year 1316 and became a novice there in the Vatopedi monastery under the guidance of the monastic Elder St Nicodemos of Vatopedi. Eventually, he was tonsured a monk, and continued his life of asceticism. After the demise of the Elder Nicodemus, Gregory spent eight years of spiritual struggle under the guidance of a new Elder, Nicephorus. After this last Elder's repose, Gregory transferred to the Great Lavra of St. Athanasius the Athonite on Mount Athos, where he served the brethren in the trapeza (refectory) and in church as a cantor. Wishing to devote himself more fully to prayer and asceticism he entered a skete called Glossia, where he taught the ancient practice of mental prayer known as "prayer of the heart" or hesychasm.
In 1326, because of the threat of Turkish invasions, he and the brethren retreated to the defended city of Thessaloniki, where he was then ordained a priest. Dividing his time between his ministry to the people and his pursuit of spiritual perfection, he founded a small community of hermits near Thessaloniki in a place called Veria.