Essence and Energies

“Is it not ridiculous to say that the creative power is an essence, and similarly, that providence is an essence, and foreknowledge, simply taking every energy as essence?” Basil the Great, Contra Eunomius, I.8, PG 29, 528B

“Do you worship what you know or what you do not know? If I answer, I worship what I know, they immediately reply, What is the essence of the object of worship? Then, if I confess that I am ignorant of the essence, they turn on me again and say, So you worship you know not what. I answer that the word to know has many meanings. We say that we know the greatness of God, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His providence over us, and the justness of His judgment; but not His very essence. The question is, therefore, only put for the sake of dispute. For he who denies that he knows the essence does not confess himself to be ignorant of God, because our idea of God is gathered from all the attributes which I have enumerated. But God, he says, is simple, and whatever attribute of Him you have reckoned as knowable is of His essence. But the absurdities involved in this sophism are innumerable. When all these high attributes have been enumerated, are they all names of one essence? And is there the same mutual force in His awfulness and His loving-kindness, His justice and His creative power, His providence and His foreknowledge, and His bestowal of rewards and punishments, His majesty and His providence? In mentioning any one of these do we declare His essence? If they say, yes, let them not ask if we know the essence of God, but let them enquire of us whether we know God to be awful, or just, or merciful. These we confess that we know. If they say that essence is something distinct, let them not put us in the wrong on the score of simplicity. For they confess themselves that there is a distinction between the essence and each one of the attributes enumerated. The operations are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our  God from His operations, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence. His operations come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.” Basil the Great, Epistle 234

“And if we may reckon that the Cause of our existence did not come to the creation of man out of necessity but by benevolent choice, once more we say that we have seen God in this way too, arriving at an understanding of his goodness, not of his being…He who is by nature invisible becomes visible in his operations, being seen in certain cases by the properties he possesses.” Gregory of Nyssa, Homily on the Beatitudes, VI.

“Essence and energy are not identical.” Cyril of Alexandria Thesaurus 18, PG 75:312c

“The man divinized by grace will be everything that God is, apart from identity of essence.” Maximus the Confessor Ad Thalassium 22, PG 90:320a

“But He Who is beyond every name is not identical with what He is named; for the essence and energy of God are not identical.” Gregory Palamas Triads, p. 97

“Nor does indeed everything predicated of him denote the substance, for relation is predicated of him, which is relative and refers to relationships with another but is not indicative of substance. Such also is the divine energy in God, for it is neither substance nor accident, even though it is called a quasi-accident by some theologians who are indicating solely that it is in God but is not the substance.” Gregory Palamas Capita 127

“God also possess that which is not substance. Yet it is not the case that because it is not a substance it is an accident. For that which not only does not pass away but also admits or effects no increase or diminution whatever cold not possibly be numbered among accidents. Gregory Palamas Capita 135,

“Nature and energy are not identical.” Gregory Palamas Capita 143

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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