03 March 2009

St. Gregory Palamas, on the divine energies

68. The divine transcendent being is never named in the plural. But the divine and uncreated grace and energy of God is divided indivisibly according to the image of the sun's ray (Cf. Basil, De spiritu sancta 9.22.35) which gives warmth, light, life and increase, and sends its own radiance to those who are illuminated and manifests itself to the eyes of those who see. In this way, in the manner of an obscure image, the divine energy of God is called not only one but also many by the theologians. For example, Basil the Great says, "As for the energies of the Spirit, what are they? Ineffable in their grandeur, they are innumerable in their multitude. How are we to conceive what is beyond the ages? What were his energies before intelligible creation?" (Idem, 19.49.1-4) Prior to intelligible creation and beyond the ages (for also the ages are intelligible creations) no one has ever spoken or conceived of anything created. Therefore, the powers and energies of the divine Spirit are uncreated and because theology speaks of them in the plural they are indivisibly distinct from the one and altogether indivisible substance of the Spirit.

69. As it has been made clear above by Basil the Great, the theologians treat the uncreated energy of God as multiple in that it is indivisibly divided. Since therefore the divine and divinizing illumination and grace is not the substance but the energy of God, for this reason it is treated not only in the singular but also in the plural. It is bestowed proportionately upon those who participate and, according to the capacity of those who receive it, it instills the divinizing radiance to a greater or lesser degree.

70. Isaias named these divine energies as seven, but among the Hebrew the word seven indicates many: he says, "There shall come forth a rod from the root of Jesse and a flower shall come forth from it. And seven spirits shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, piety counsel, might, fear." Those who hold the opinions of Barlaam and Akindynos foolishly contend that these seven spirits are created. This opinion we examined and refuted with clarity in our extensive Antirrhetic Against Akindynos. But Gregory the Theologian, when he called to mind these divine energies of the Spirit, said, "Isaias was fond of calling the energies of the Spirit spirits." And this most distinguished voice among the prophets clearly demonstrated through this number not only the distinction with respect to the divine substance but also indicated the uncreated character of these divine energies by means of the word `rested upon,' for `resting upon' belongs to a pre-eminent dignity. As for those spirits that rested upon the Lord's human nature which he assumed from us, how could they be creatures?

71. According to Luke, our Lord Jesus Christ says he casts out demon by the finger of God, but according to Matthew it is by the Spirit of God." Basil the Great says that the finger of God is one of the energies of Spirit. If then one of these is the Holy Spirit, the others too certainly are, since Basil has also taught us this. But on this account there are not many Gods or many Spirits, for these realities are processions, manifestations and natural energies of the one Spirit and in each case the agent is one. When the heterodox call these creatures, they degrade the Spirit of God to creature sevenfold. But let their shame be sevenfold, for the prophet again says of the energies, "These seven are the eyes of the Lord that range over the whole earth." And when he writes in Revelation, "Grace to you t peace from God and from the seven spirits which are before the throne of God, and from Christ," he demonstrates clearly to the faithful that these are the Holy Spirit.

72. Through Micah the prophet our God and Father foretold the birth the Only-Begotten in the flesh and wishing to show as well the inoriginate character of his divinity said, "His goings forth have been from the beginning from an eternity of days." The divine Fathers explained that these 'goings forth' are the energies of the Godhead, as the powers and energies are identical for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yet word is being passed around about their being created by those who eagerly hold and defend the opinions of Barlaam and Akindynos. But let those who have lately come to their senses understand who is the one from the beginning, who it was to whom David said, "From eternity (which is the same as saying from an eternity of days') and unto eternity you are." And let them consider intelligently, if they will, that God, in saying through the prophet that these goings forth are from the beginning, in no way said they came into being were made or were created. And Basil, when, in the Spirit of God, he made the theological statement, "The energies of the Spirit existed before intelligible creation and beyond the ages," did not say `they came into being.' God alone, therefore, is active and all-powerful from eternity since he possesses pre-eternal powers and energies.

73. In outright opposition to the saints, those who advocate the opinion of Akindynos say, "The uncreated is unique, namely, the divine nature, and anything whatsoever distinct from this is created." Thus do they make into a creature the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, for there is one and the same energy for the three, and that of which the energy is created cannot itself be uncreated. For this reason it is not the energy of God that is a creature—certainly not!—but rather the effect and the product of the energy. Thus, the holy Damascene taught that the energy which is distinct from the divine nature is an essential, that is, a natural movement (Cf. John Damascene, Expositio fidei 37 and 59.7-9). And since the divine Cyril said that creating belongs to the divine energy,( Cyril of Alexandria, Thesaurus 18) how can this be a created reality, unless it shall have been effected through another energy, and that in turn through another, and so on ad infinitum; and the uncreated cause of the energy is always being sought after and proclaimed?

74. Because the divine substance and the divine energy are inseparably present everywhere, the energy of God is accessible also to us creatures, for according to the theologians it is indivisibly divided, whereas the divine nature remains utterly indivisible according to them. Thus, the Church Father, Chrysostom, says, "A drop of grace filled all things with knowledge; through it wonders took place, sins were loosed (John Chrysostom, Expositiones in Psalmos 44.3)." When he indicated that this drop of grace was uncreated, he then hastened to show that it was an energy and not the substance; and, further, he added the distinction of the divine energy with respect to the divine substance and the hypostasis of the Spirit when he wrote: "I am speaking of this part of the operation for indeed the Paraclete is not divided." The divine grace and energy at least is accessible to each of us since it is itself divided indivisibly, but since the substance of God is utterly indivisible in itself how could it be accessible to any creature?

75. There are three realities in God, namely, substance, energy and a Trinity of divine hypostases. Since it has been shown above that those deemed worthy of union with God so as to become one spirit with him (even as the great Paul has said, "He who clings to the Lord is one spirit with him.") are not united to God in substance, and since all theologians bear witness in their statements to the fact that God is imparticipable in substance and the hypostatic union happens to be predicated of the Word and God-man alone, it follows that those deemed worthy of union with God are united to God in energy and that the spirit whereby he who clings to God is one with God is called and is indeed the uncreated energy of the Spirit and not the substance of God, even though Barlaam and Akindynos may disagree. For God foretold through the prophet not `My Spirit', but rather, "Of my Spirit I will pour out upon those who believe."

76. Maximus says, "Moses and David and those who have become fit for the divine energy by laying aside their carnal properties were moved at a sign from God"; and, "They became living icons of Christ and the same as he is, more by grace than by assimilation"; and, "The purity in Christ and in the saints is one"; and, "The radiance of our God is upon us," sings the most divine of melodists. For according to Basil the Great, "As souls that bear the Spirit are illumined by the Spirit they become spiritual themselves and send forth grace to others. Thence comes foreknowledge of the future understanding of mysteries, apprehension of things hidden, distribution o spiritual gifts, citizenship in heaven, the dance with the angels, joy without end, divine distribution, likeness to God, and the summit of our longings, namely, to become God.”

---from The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters, translated by Robert E. Sinkewicz (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies) Note: I've omitted some footnotes, and put others in parentheses next to the words they refer to.

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