Essence – Energies Distinction in the Church Fathers – Part II

The distinction between God’s essence and his uncreated energies are found in (but not limited to) the following patristic writers. It is pertinent to note that in these quotes the terms “operation”, “activity”, “work” signify “energy”. The first part of this series can be found here.

We have taken a selection of quotations from each, these do by no means exhaust the number of quotations from each Father:

St. Athanasius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory Nazianzus, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Dionysius, St. Sophronius of Jerusalem, St. Maximos the Confessor, St. John of Damascus.

St. Athanasius

“And, as being in all creation, He is in essence outside everything but inside everything by his own power, arranging everything and unfolding his own providence in everything to all things, and giving life to each thing and to all things together, containing the universe and not being contained, but being wholly, in every respect, in his own Father alone (On the Incarnation, 17).”
Citation: St. Athanasius. On the Incarnation. Translated by John Behr, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011.

“Therefore, just as if someone wishes to see God, who is invisible by nature and not seen at all, understands and knows Him from His works, so let one who does not see Christ with His mind learn of Him from the works of His body, and test whether they be human or of God (On the Incarnation, 54).”
Citation: St. Athanasius. On the Incarnation. Translated by John Behr, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011.

“For God, being good and loving to mankind, and caring for the souls made by Him — since He is by nature invisible and incomprehensible, having His being beyond all created existence, for which reason the race of mankind was likely to miss the way to knowledge of Him, since they are made out of nothing while He is unmade — for this cause God by His own Word gave the universe the order it has, in order that since He is by nature invisible, men might be enabled to know Him at any rate by His works…so by the order of the universe one ought to perceive God its maker and artificer, even though He be not seen with the bodily eyes. For God did not take His stand upon His invisible nature (let none plead that as an excuse) and leave Himself utterly unknown to men; but as I said above, He so ordered Creation that although He is by nature invisible He may yet be known by His works (Against the Heathen, 35).”
Citation: St. Athanasius of Alexandria, and Archibald Robertson. Against the Heathen. Dalcassian Publishing Co., 2018.

For if the Divine Essence be not fruitful itself, but barren, as they (the Arians) hold, as a light that lightens not, and a dry fountain, are they not ashamed to speak of His possessing framing energy? And whereas they deny what is by nature, do they not blush to place it before what is by will? But if He frames things that are external to Him and before were not, by willing them to be, and becomes their Maker, much more will He first be Father of an Offspring from His proper essence. For if they attribute to God the willing about things which are not, why recognize they not that in God which lies above will? Now it is a something that surpasses will, that He should be by nature, and should be Father of His proper Word. If then that which comes first, which is according to nature, did not exist, as they would have it in their folly, how could that which is second come to be, which is according to will? For the Word is first and then the creation (Against the Arians, II.2).”
Citation: Athanasius of Alexandria. Four Discourses Against the Arians. Aeterna Press, 2016

“And thus, as I said, God’s creating is second to His begetting; for Son implies something proper to Him and truly from that blessed and everlasting Essence; but what is from His will, comes into consistence from without, and is framed through His proper Offspring who is from It (Against the Arians, II.2).”
Citation: Athanasius of Alexandria. Four Discourses Against the Arians. Aeterna Press, 2016

St. Basil of Caesarea

He is inaccessible in nature, but approachable in goodness. He wills all things with power, but only those who are worthy participate in him. He is not participated in all at once but shares his energy in ‘proportion to faith’ (Rom. 12:6). He is simple in substance, but manifold in powers. He is present as a whole to each and wholly present everywhere. He is portioned out impassibly and participated in as a whole. He is like a sunbeam whose grace is present to the one who enjoys him as if he were present to such a one alone, and still he illuminates land and sea and is mixed with the air. Just so, indeed, the Spirit is present to each one who is fit to receive him, as if he were present to him alone, and still he sends out grace that is complete and sufficient for all. The things that participate in him enjoy him to the extent that their nature allows, not to the extent that his power allows (On the Holy Spirit, 9.22).”
Citation: St. Basil the Great. On the Holy Spirit. Translated by Stephen M. Hildebrand, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011.

It is to be expected that the very substance of God is incomprehensible to everyone except the Only-Begotten and the Holy Spirit. But we are led up from the activities of God and gain knowledge of the Maker through what He has made, and so come in this way to an understanding of his goodness and wisdom. For, ‘what can be known about God is that which God has manifested (Romans 1:19),’ to all human beings (Against Eunomius, 1.14).”
Citation: St. Basil of Caesarea. Against Eunomius. Translated by Mark DelCogliano and Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, The Catholic University of America Press, 2011.

“Therefore, putting aside this idle curiosity about the substance since it is unattainable, we ought to obey the simple advice of the Apostle, who said: ‘One must first believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).’ For it is not the investigation of what he is, but rather the confession that he is, which prepares salvation for us. Therefore, since it has been demonstrated that the substance of God is incomprehensible to human nature and completely ineffable, it remains that we must thoroughly examine unbegottenness itself, both what it is and how it is considered in the case of the God of the universe.
So, then, when we reflect upon the matter, we find that our notion of unbegottenness does not fall under the examination of ‘what it is,’ but rather – and here I am forced to speak this way – under the examination of ‘what it is like,’…When we talk about human beings and say that this person has come from that person, we are not relating the ‘what it is’ of each but the ‘from where he has come.’ Similarly, when we talk about God, the term ‘unbegotten’ does not signify his ‘what’ but that he is ‘from no source’
(Against Eunomius, 1.15).”
Citation: St. Basil of Caesarea. Against Eunomius. Translated by Mark DelCogliano and Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, The Catholic University of America Press, 2011.

Who does not know that some names are expressed absolutely and in respect of themselves, signifying the things which are their referents, but other names are said relative to others, expressing only the relation to the other names relative to which they are said? For example, ‘human being’ and ‘horse’ and ‘ox’ each communicate the very thing that is named. But ‘son’ and ‘slave’ and ‘friend’ reveal only the connection with the associated name. So when anyone hears ‘something begotten,’ he is not brought in his mind to a certain substance, but rather he understands that it is connected with another. For that which is something begotten is said to be ‘something begotten’ of someone else. So, how is it not the peak of insanity to decree that that which does not introduce any notion of subsistence, but only signifies relation to another, is the substance? In addition, we indicated a little more before that, even if absolute names seem most of all to reveal some referent, they too do not communicate the substance itself, but delineate certain distinguishing marks in connection with it (Against Eunomius, 2.9).”
Citation: St. Basil of Caesarea. Against Eunomius. Translated by Mark DelCogliano and Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, The Catholic University of America Press, 2011.

St. Gregory of Nyssa

“Now if any one should ask for some interpretation, and description, and explanation of the Divine essence, we are not going to deny that in this kind of wisdom we are unlearned, acknowledging only so much as this, that it is not possible that that which is by nature infinite should be comprehended in any conception expressed by words. The fact that the Divine greatness has no limit is proclaimed by prophecy, which declares expressly that of His splendour, His glory, His holiness, there is no end: and if His surroundings have no limit, much more is He Himself in His essence, whatever it may be, comprehended by no limitation in any way (Against Eunomius, III.5).”
Citation: Gregory of Nyssa. “Against Eunomius.” Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by H.A. Wilson, CHURCH FATHERS: Against Eunomius (St. Gregory of Nyssa), Kevin Knight, 2020, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2904.htm.

“‘Since then,’ he (Eunomius) says, ‘the Lord was named “a door,” it follows from hence that the essence of God may be comprehended by man.’ But the Gospel does not admit of this meaning. Let us hear the Divine utterance itself. ‘I am the door,’ Christ says; ‘by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.’ Which then of these is the knowledge of the essence? For as several things are here said, and each of them has its own special meaning, it is impossible to refer them all to the idea of the essence, lest the Deity should be thought to be compounded of different elements; and yet it is not easy to find which of the phrases just quoted can most properly be applied to that subject. The Lord is ‘the door,’ ‘By Me,’ He says, ‘if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and shall find pasture.’ Are we to say ‘entrance’ of which he speaks in place of the essence of God, or salvation of those that enter in, or ‘going out,’ or ‘pasture,’ or ‘finding’?— for each of these is peculiar in its significance, and does not agree in meaning with the rest. For to get within appears obviously contrary to ‘going out,’ and so with the other phrases. For ‘pasture,’ in its proper meaning, is one thing, and ‘finding’ another thing distinct from it. Which, then, of these is the essence of the Father supposed to be? For assuredly one cannot, by uttering all these phrases that disagree one with another in signification, intend to indicate by incompatible terms that Essence which is simple and uncompounded (Against Eunomius, X.1).”
Citation: Gregory of Nyssa. “Against Eunomius.” Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by H.A. Wilson, CHURCH FATHERS: Against Eunomius (St. Gregory of Nyssa), Kevin Knight, 2020, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2904.htm.

“But to us, as says the word of Wisdom, He makes Himself known that He is by the greatness and beauty of His creatures proportionately to the things that are known, vouchsafing to us the gift of faith by the operations of His hands, but not the comprehension of what He is (Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book).”
Citation: Gregory of Nyssa. “Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book.” Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by M. Day, CHURCH FATHERS: Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book (St. Gregory of Nyssa), Kevin Knight, 2020, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2904.htm.

“In answer to whom we may also observe that, since they (the Eunomians) call the Father both Creator and Maker, whereas He Who is so called is simple in regard to His essence, it is high time for such sophists to declare the essence of the Father to be creation and making, since the argument about simplicity introduces into His essence any signification of any name we give Him. Either, then, let them separate ungeneracy from the definition of the Divine essence, allowing the term no more than its proper signification, or, if by reason of the simplicity of the subject they define His essence by the term ungeneracy, by a parity of reasoning let them likewise see creation and making in the essence of the Father, not as though the power residing in the essence created and made, but as though the power itself meant creation and making. But if they reject this as bad and absurd, let them be persuaded by what logically follows to reject the other proposition as well. For as the essence of the builder is not the thing built, no more is ungeneracy the essence of the Ungenerate (Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book).”
Citation: Gregory of Nyssa. “Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book.” Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by M. Day, CHURCH FATHERS: Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book (St. Gregory of Nyssa), Kevin Knight, 2020, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2904.htm.

It is not possible, he (Eunomius) says, for the life to be one, unless indestructibility and ungeneracy are identical terms. An admirable ‘addition’ on the part of our friend. It would seem, then, that we may hold the same language in regard to righteousness, wisdom, power, goodness, and all such attributes of God. Let, then, no word have a meaning peculiar to itself, but let one signification underlie every word in a list, and one form of description serve for the definition of all. If you are asked to define the word judge, answer with the interpretation of ‘ungeneracy;’ if to define justice, be ready with ‘the incorporeal’ as your answer. If asked to define incorruptibility, say that it has the same meaning as mercy or judgment. Thus let all God’s attributes be convertible terms, there being no special signification to distinguish one from another. But if Eunomius thus prescribes, why do the Scriptures vainly assign various names to the Divine nature, calling God a Judge, righteous, powerful, long-suffering, true, merciful and so on? For if none of these titles is to be understood in any special or peculiar sense, but, owing to this confusion in their meaning, they are all mixed up together, it would be useless to employ so many words for the same thing, there being no difference of meaning to distinguish them from one another. But who is so much out of his wits as not to know that, while the Divine nature, whatever it is in its essence, is simple, uniform, and incomposite, and that it cannot be viewed under any form of complex formation, the human mind, groveling on earth, and buried in this life on earth, in its inability to behold clearly the object of its search, feels after the unutterable Being in various and many-sided ways, and never chases the mystery in the light of one idea alone (Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book).”
Citation: Gregory of Nyssa. “Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book.” Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by M. Day, CHURCH FATHERS: Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book (St. Gregory of Nyssa), Kevin Knight, 2020, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2904.htm.

“But let us hold to the question before us. He (Eunomius) abuses our assertion that our knowledge of God is formed by contributions of terms applied to different ideas, and says that the proof of His simplicity is destroyed by us so, since He must partake of the elements signified by each term, and only by virtue of a share in them can completely fill out His essence. Here I write in my own language, curtailing his wearisome prolixity; and in answer to his foolish and nerveless redundancy no sensible person, I think, would make any reply, except as regards his charging us with senselessness. Now if anything of that description had been said by us, we ought of course to retract it if it was foolishly worded, or, if there was any doubt as to its meaning, to put an irreproachable interpretation upon it. But we have not said anything of the kind, any more than the consequences of our words lead the mind to any such necessity. Why, then, linger on that to which all assent, and weary the reader by prolonging the argument? Who is really so devoid of reflection as to imagine, when he hears that our orthodox conceptions of the Deity are gathered from various ways of thinking of Him, that the Deity is composed of these various elements, or completes His actual fullness by participating in anything at all? A man, say, has made discoveries in geometry, and this same man, let us suppose, has made discoveries also in astronomy, and in medicine as well, and grammar, and agriculture, and sciences of that kind. Will it follow, because there are these various names of sciences viewed in connection with one single soul, that that single soul is to be considered a composite soul? Yet there is a very great difference in meaning between medicine and astronomy; and grammar means nothing in common with geometry, or seamanship with agriculture. Nevertheless it is within the bounds of possibility that the idea of each of these sciences should be associated with one soul, without that soul thereby becoming composite, or, on the other hand, without all those terms for sciences blending into one meaning. If, then, the human mind, with all such terms applied to it, is not injured as regards its simplicity, how can any one imagine that the Deity, when He is called wise, and just, and good, and eternal, and all the other Divine names, must, unless all these names are made to mean one thing, become of many parts, or take a share of all these to make up the perfection of His nature (Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book)?”
Citation: Gregory of Nyssa. “Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book.” Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by M. Day, CHURCH FATHERS: Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book (St. Gregory of Nyssa), Kevin Knight, 2020, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2904.htm.

“We, on the other hand, following the suggestions of Scripture, have learned that that nature is unnameable and unspeakable, and we say that every term either invented by the custom of men, or handed down to us by the Scriptures, is indeed explanatory of our conceptions of the Divine Nature, but does not include the signification of that nature itself. And it may be shown without much difficulty that this is the case. For all other terms which are used of the creation may be found, even without analysis of their origin, to be applied to the subjects accidentally, because we are content to denote the things in any way by the word applied to them so as to avoid confusion in our knowledge of the things signified. But all the terms that are employed to lead us to the knowledge of God have comprehended in them each its own meaning, and you cannot find any word among the terms especially applied to God which is without a distinct sense. Hence it is clear that by any of the terms we use the Divine nature itself is not signified, but some one of its surroundings is made known. For we say, it may be, that the Deity is incorruptible, or powerful, or whatever else we are accustomed to say of Him. But in each of these terms we find a peculiar sense, fit to be understood or asserted of the Divine nature, yet not expressing that which that nature is in its essence. For the subject, whatever it may be, is incorruptible: but our conception of incorruptibility is this — that that which is, is not resolved into decay: so, when we say that He is incorruptible, we declare what His nature does not suffer, but we do not express what that is which does not suffer corruption. Thus, again, if we say that He is the Giver of life, though we show by that appellation what He gives, we do not by that word declare what that is which gives it. And by the same reasoning we find that all else which results from the significance involved in the names expressing the Divine attributes either forbids us to conceive what we ought not to conceive of the Divine nature, or teaches us that which we ought to conceive of it, but does not include an explanation of the nature itself. Since, then, as we perceive the varied operations of the power above us, we fashion our appellations from the several operations that are known to us, and as we recognize as one of these that operation of surveying and inspection, or, as one might call it, beholding, whereby He surveys all things and overlooks them all, discerning our thoughts, and even entering by His power of contemplation into those things which are not visible, we suppose that Godhead, or θεότης, is so called from θέα, or beholding, and that He who is our θεατής or beholder, by customary use and by the instruction of the Scriptures, is called θεός, or God (On ‘Not Three Gods’).
Citation: Gregory of Nyssa. “On ‘Not Three Gods’.” Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by H.A. Wilson, CHURCH FATHERS: On “Not Three Gods” (St. Gregory of Nyssa), Kevin Knight, 2020, https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2905.htm.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

If you suppose that God becomes composed because he has nature and judgment or will, consider also this: the Father possesses the ability of generating in a physical way and of creating through the Son by way of making and in spite of that He is not composed; or those things are the fruit of His one nature. The same argument will prevail concerning good and indestructible and invisible and all other characteristics which belong to God by nature (Thesaurus, 7).”
Citation: St. Gregory Palamas. Dialogue Between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite. Translated by Rein Ferwerda, State University of New York Press.

“None of the divine characteristics is acquired, even if they are not His essence (Adoration in Spirit and Truth, 9).”
Citation: St. Gregory Palamas. Dialogue Between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite. Translated by Rein Ferwerda, State University of New York Press.

St. Dionysius the Aeropagite

“On the other hand, if differentiation can be said to apply to the generous procession of the undifferentiated divine unity, itself overflowing with goodness and dispensing itself outward toward multiplicity, then the things united even within this divine differentiation are the acts by which it irrepressibly imparts being, life, wisdom, and the other gifts of its all-creative goodness. It is according to these gifts that the things which are participated in, but which do not themselves participate, are praised through the participations and those who participate. Now this is unified and one and common to the whole divinity, that the entire wholeness is participated in by each of those who participate in it; none participates only in a part (The Divine Names 2.5).”
Citation: St. Dionysius. The Divine Names. Edited by Paul Rorem. Translated by Colm Luibheid, Paulist Press, 1987.

“I must speak now of those names which tell of the Providence of God. I do not promise to express the absolutely transcendent goodness, being, life, and wisdom of that Godhead beyond all which, as scripture tells us, has its foundation in a secret place above all goodness, divinity, being, wisdom, and life. What I have to say is concerned with the benevolent Providence made known to us, and my speech of praise is for the transcendentally good Cause of all good things, for that Being and Life and Wisdom, for that Cause of existence and life and wisdom among those creatures with their own share of the Good as one thing, Being as another, Life and Wisdom as yet other, and I do not claim that there are numerous causes and different Godheads, all differently ranks, superior and inferior, and all producing different effects. No. But I hold that there is one God for all these good processions and that he is the possessor of the divine names of which I speak and that the first name tells of the universal Providence of the one God, while the other names reveal general or specific ways in which he acts providentially (The Divine Names, 5.2).”
Citation: St. Dionysius. The Divine Names. Edited by Paul Rorem. Translated by Colm Luibheid, Paulist Press, 1987.

“It might be more accurate to say that we cannot know God in his nature, since this is unknowable and is beyond the reach of mind or of reason. But we know him from the arrangement of everything, because everything is, in a sense, projected out of him, and this order possesses certain images and semblances of his divine paradigms (The Divine Names, 7.3).”
Citation: St. Dionysius. The Divine Names. Edited by Paul Rorem. Translated by Colm Luibheid, Paulist Press, 1987.

St. Maximos the Confessor

St. Maximos the Confessor

“And even if these arguments were not logically compelling, we would nonetheless be obliged reverently to confess the two natures of Christ, of which He Himself is the hypostasis, and the natural energies of His two natures, of which He is the true union, since He performs the activities proper to each nature as a single subject, and in all His activities He reveals the energy of His own flesh, united inseparably to His divine power. For how will He be God by nature and man by nature without possessing completely what belongs to each nature in its natural constitution? What and who will He be known to be – which is not subject to change – if this could not be confirmed by what He performs by means of His natural energies? How could each of the natures – from which, and in which He is constituted, and indeed which very things He is – how, I say, can these constitutive element be confirmed if they are devoid of their natural motion and activity (Ambiguum 5)?”
Citation: St. Maximos the Confessor, and Nicholas Constans. On Difficulties in the Church Fathers – The Ambigua. Edited by Jan M Ziolkowski, 1st ed., vol. 1 2, Harvard University Press, 2014.

If, therefore, consistent with true teaching, every divine energy indicates through itself the whole of God, indivisibly present in each particular thing, according to the logos through which that thing exists in its own way, who, I ask, is capable of understanding and saying precisely how God is whole in all things commonly, and in each being particularly, without separation or being subject to division, and without expanding disparately into the infinite differences of the beings in which He exists as Being, or without being contracted into the particular existence of each one, or without contracting together and fusing all differences of these beings into a single totality, but on the contrary is truly all things in all, never going out of His own indivisible simplicity? Well did the teacher say that the ‘perceptions’ concerning the principle of the divinity are many, from which we are taught only that God exists, and that the ‘solutions are arduous,’ from which we learn that God is not. So let there be an end to pointless and harmful curiosity on the part of all those who think they can understand the Deity by means of the vacuous constructions of the mind, with which they are incapable of understanding even the lowermost creature in terms of the logos of its being and existence (Ambiguum 22.3).”
Citation: St. Maximos the Confessor, and Nicholas Constans. On Difficulties in the Church Fathers – The Ambigua. Edited by Jan M Ziolkowski, 1st ed., vol. 1 2, Harvard University Press, 2014.

All things immortal and immortality itself, all things living and life itself, all things holy and holiness itself, all things virtuous and virtue itself, all things good and goodness itself, and all things existing and existence itself clearly occur as works of God; but the first began to be temporally, since there was once when they were not; the second did not begin to be temporally, thus, there never was when there were neither virtue, nor goodness, nor holiness, nor immortality. And the first, beginning temporally, are and are called whatever they are and are called by participation in the ones not beginning temporally. So, God is the fashioner of all life, immortality, holiness, and virtue, and being beyond substance he transcends the substance of all intelligible and utterable realities (200 Chapters on Theology, 1.50).”
Citation: St. Maximus the Confessor, and Luis Joshua Sales. Two Hundred Chapters on Theology. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2015.

“Some are born again through water and the Spirit, others receive baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire. These four, I mean water, Spirit, fire, and the Holy Spirit, I take to be one and the same Spirit of God. For to some the Holy Spirit is water, as a cleaners of the external filth on the body; to others, he is Spirit only, as productive of the good deeds of virtue; to others he is fire, as a purifier from the internal impurities in the depth of the soul; and to others, as with the great Daniel, he is the Holy Spirit, as the giver of wisdom and knowledge. For on the basis of the subject’s different activity, the one and the same Spirit receives different titles (St. Maximus the Confessor, “200 Chapters on Theology,” 2.63).”
Citation: St. Maximus the Confessor, and Luis Joshua Sales. Two Hundred Chapters on Theology. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2015.

St. John of Damascus

“On the contrary, because the begetting is an action belonging to His nature and proceeding from His substance, it is without beginning and eternal, so that the Begetter undergoes no change and so that He is not a first God and a later God, but receives no addition. But, since with God creation is a work of His will, it is not co-eternal with Him – which is because it is not of the nature of that which is produced from nothing to be co-eternal with that which is without beginning and always existing (On the Orthodox Faith, I.8).”
Citation: St. John of Damascus, and Frederic H Chase. On the Orthodox Faith. Ex Fontibus Company, 2015.

“Since the Divinity is incomprehensible, He must remain absolutely nameless. Accordingly, since we do not know His essence, let us not look for a name for His essence, for names are indicative of what things are. However, although God is good and has brought us from nothing into being to share His goodness and has given us knowledge, yet, since He did not communicate His essence to us so neither did He communicate the knowledge of His essence. It is impossible for a nature to know a nature of a higher order perfectly; but, if knowledge is of things that are, then how will that which is superessential be known? So, in His ineffable goodness He sees fit to be named from things which are on the level of our nature, that we may not be entirely bereft of knowledge of Him but may have at least some dim understanding. Therefore, in so far as He is incomprehensible, He is also unnameable. But, since He is the cause of all things and possesses beforehand in Himself the reasons and causes of all, so He can be named after all things – even after things which are opposites, such as light and darkness, water and fire – so that we may know that He is not these things in essence, but is superessential and unnameable. Thus, since He is the cause of all beings, He is named after all things that are caused (On the Orthodox Faith, I.12).”
Citation: St. John of Damascus, and Frederic H Chase. On the Orthodox Faith. Ex Fontibus Company, 2015.

That God, although invisible by nature, becomes visible through His operations we know from the arrangement of the world and its governing (On the Orthodox Faith, I.13).”
Citation: St. John of Damascus, and Frederic H Chase. On the Orthodox Faith. Ex Fontibus Company, 2015.

Therefore, when we speak of the divinity, we do not attribute the properties of the humanity to it. Thus, we never speak of a passible or created divinity. Neither do we predicate the divine properties of the flesh, for we never speak of uncreated flesh or humanity. In the case of the person, however, whenever we name it from both of the parts or from one of them, we attribute the properties of both the natures to it. And thus, Christ – which name covers both together – is called both God and man, created and uncreated, passible and impassible. And whenever He is named Son of God and God from one of the parts, He receives the properties of the co-existent nature, of the flesh, that is to say, and can be called passible God and crucified Lord of Glory – not as being God,but in so far as the same one is also man. When, again, he is named Man and the Son of Man, He is given the properties and splendors of the divine nature. He is called Child before the Ages and Man without beginning, not as a child or a man, but as God, who is before the ages and became a child in latter times. Such, then, is the manner of this exchange by which each nature communicates its own properties to the other through the identity of their person and their mutual immanence (On the Orthodox Faith, III.4).”
Citation: St. John of Damascus, and Frederic H Chase. On the Orthodox Faith. Ex Fontibus Company, 2015.

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