3. Multiple differences between the divine essence and its energies or attributes (col. 1756-1757)

Originally posted 1/10/2011.

From the French text of Fr. Martin Jugie’s 1932 article, “Palamas, Grégoire” in DTC 11.2:1756-1757, graciously made available to me by Dr. Peter Gilbert of De unione ecclesiarum.

N.B. the translation of this section is finished; thanks be to God. 🙂

III. Origin and Explanation of Palamas’s Doctrine on God’s Essence and His Energy (col. 1750)
3. Multiple differences between the divine essence and its energies or attributes (col. 1756-1757)
To show that the divine essence is one thing and its energies and attributes are another, Palamas was pleased to give a long enumeration of the properties of one and the properties of the others.

a) The work Against Palamas published by Arcadius under the name of Demetrius Cydones, P.G., t. CLIV, col. 835864 (it is not by that author, but probably by the monk Niphon), relates as many as 24 differences or modes of distinction, πρόποι διακρίσεως, established by Gregory Palamas and his disciples, between the divine essence and its energy. Manuel Calecas, On Essence and Energy, P.G., t. CLII, col. 316317, gives an even richer list of distinctions. We are content to point out the main ones:
1. The superior divinity is essence and hypostasis; the inferior divinity is neither essence nor hypostasis. 2. God’s essence is the possessor, “τὸ ἔχον” the energy, the thing possessed, “τὸ ἐχόμενον.” 3. The essence is spoken of in the singular only; the energy is spoken of in the singular and in the plural. 4. The essence is the cause, the principle, αἰτία; the energies are the effects, “ἀποτελέσματα,” effects flowing from God, not after the manner of creation, but by way of production, natural procession. 5. The essence is invisible and incomprehensible; the energy is visible to the bodily eye elevated by the power of God, and it is knowable and comprehensible. 6. The first is absolutely immobile; the second is mobile and movement, “τὴν δ᾽ἐνέργειαν κινοθμένην καὶ κίνησιν.” 7. The one is imparticipable, the other is participable by creatures. 8. There are no differences within the essence itself; the energies differ from the essence and between themselves; this is because the first is above all names, while the second can be designated by a special name. 9. The essence is absolute, without relation, inimitable; the energies are relative and imitable. 10. The essence is immortal in itself; the energy is immortal because of the essence; by itself it can pass away, if we consider it from the side of the creature, “ἡ ἐνέργεια διὰ μὲν τὴν ούσίαν άθανατός, δι᾽αὑτὴν δὲ νέκρωσις”. 11. The essence, inasmuch as it is imparticipable, prevails infinitely over the energy, which is participable, “καὶ τὸ μὲν ὡς ἀμέθεκτον, ἀπειράχισ ἀπείρως ὑπέρκειται. τὸ δ᾽ ὡς μεθεκτόν, ἀπειράκισ ἀπείρωσ ὑφεῖται.” Cf. P.G., t. CLII, col. 316D; t. CLIV, col. 848A, where more citations from Palamas’s writings can be found.

b) Despite these many differences, the essence and the energies have some attributes and names in common. The first and second are part of the one God, are divine, and by that fact are equally uncreated and eternal. We can designate them by the name “divinity” and even by the name “God.” A crucial point for Palamas is that the operation, the divine energy, can receive the name “divinity”; and as it is possible to distinguish an infinite number of energies and attributes, it is permissible to speak of many “divinities.” Attacked by his opponents for this terminology, at the Council of 1351, he seemed, one time, to renounce the use of the plural; but this was a purely formal and temporary concession. In the final decree of the Council, he maintains that, according to the Fathers, the divine energy can be called “divinity;” cf. P.G., t. CLI, col. 725D,730731; 742745.

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