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Author Topic: Essence/Energies Distinction  (Read 632 times) Average Rating: 0
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« on: March 07, 2013, 02:28:25 AM »

Forgive my ignorance, but I was wondering if our OO Churches make the same distinction between God's essence and His energies that the EO's do. I know that St. Gregory Palamas articulated this distinction at the 7th ecumenical council in response to Barlaam's assertion that men could not become gods by theosis. I know that we OO's believe in theosis, but do we acknowledge this distinction between essence and energies? If so, was such a distinction ever discussed or articulated in any of the first three councils? I'm not saying I don't agree with this distinction, I'm just curious to know if it is a distinction that our Churches have ever articulated.

Thanks in advance for educating me on this point.



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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2013, 03:06:37 AM »

Gebre, while I cannot offer you anything regarding the OO view of the Essence/Energies distinction, I thought I would just point out real quick that St Gregory did not articulate the distinction at the 7th Ecumenical Council, having been born about 500 years too late and the 7th Council dealing with Icons- unless there is something in the OO tradition regarding St Gregory Palamas speaking of either innate time travel capabilities or a blue call box Cheesy
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2013, 03:35:33 AM »

Gebre, while I cannot offer you anything regarding the OO view of the Essence/Energies distinction, I thought I would just point out real quick that St Gregory did not articulate the distinction at the 7th Ecumenical Council, having been born about 500 years too late and the 7th Council dealing with Icons- unless there is something in the OO tradition regarding St Gregory Palamas speaking of either innate time travel capabilities or a blue call box Cheesy

LOL! You are correct of course. Don't know what I was thinking. St. Gregory articulated this disctinction in the 14th century. I guess I was thinking of the iconoclast controversy. Thanks for the correction. Smiley



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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2013, 03:23:17 PM »

in answer to your question, i have heard one of the priests i know well discussing this, and he explains we 'become like God, and united to God' and not 'become gods'.
which i think is what saint gregory was saying, just we don't put it in such a complicated way in the coptic church.

generally, the orthodox churches put things in a complicated way in order to answer some heresy or other.
(e.g. councils of nicea and constantinople. also probably ephesus, but i won't be sure until thursday, where we will study it, as God wills)
so if there was no major heresy on this point in a particular church, then you won't find a hair-splitting complicated way to explain it.
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2013, 04:18:17 PM »

While we as OOs as far as I have seen do not have the Palamite tradition, I can safely say based on what I read so far, his theology is more agreeable with what I've read.

First off, I think it's important to note that there is for sure an essence/energy distinction that goes back to the Capadocians.  It's not the essence/energy distinction that Barlaam and some scholastics had a problem with.  It's saying that the diverse energies of God are an ontological reality and uncreated.

From what I can understand, in OO theology, and even Cyrillian theology, the life that we receive from Christ's "life-giving" flesh is uncreated, because it comes from the divinity.  In Coptic hymnology, we liken the womb of the Theotokos to the chalice that holds the blood, her womb held the divinity for those who drink from it.  To be united or "mingled" with the divine nature is an important aspect of our salvation and sanctification.  Holiness is not a creation, because holiness comes from the divine nature.  So the priest also chants in the Coptic Liturgy, "the Holies are for the holies", and we reply "One is the All-Holy Father, One is the All-Holy Son, One is the All-Holy Spirit, Amen!"  We are made Holy by uniting with the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit, and enter into Trinitarian life, filled with eternal uncreated love, eternal uncreated holiness, eternal uncreated life.  Holiness, love, life, and many other diverse properties of God are all what St. Gregory Palamas calls energies, and what we also believe in.

Recently, a few theologians, based on influence of scholastic theology from 19th Century Arabic resources, felt scandalized by theology that talks about "partaking of divinity" or "uniting with divine nature" or "becoming God," all of which are perfectly acceptable in the Patristic realm, but because of ignorance and misinterpretation, saw the need to condemn as heresy, since they only assumed this was alluding to the divine essence.  When one says we become god, that doesn't mean we will be gods in the same way the persons of the Trinity eternally are.

While there might be a theosis/theopoeisis distinction in some pre-Chalcedonian fathers, there is practically no difference.  Both mean the same thing.
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2013, 08:02:45 PM »

Just want to share that this was discussed before:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=40052.0

Here's a post of mine of interest:

From the Coptic Psalmody on terms of theosis and partaking of the divine nature:

Quote from: Monday Psali
God is Emmanuel
The True Food
The Immortal Tree
Of Life

Here we start with the idea that the Tree of Life is God, who is our sustenance.  Only God is immortal, and by partaking of immortality, it is an uncreated energy of God.

Quote from: Tuesday Psali
Come to us today
O Christ our Master
Shine upon us
With Your exalted divinity

Send to us
This great grace
of Your Holy Spirit
the Comforter

Here, we ask God to give us the light of His divinity, and we call this "This great grace of Your Holy Spirit."  Therefore, grace is the uncreated energy of God, and His light is an uncreated energy, which comes from from His divinity.

Quote from: Tuesday Theotokia
You are the bush
which Moses saw
Flaming with fire
And was not consumed.

That is the Son of God
Who dwelt in your womb
The fire of the Divinity
Did not consume your body.

This idea about the "fire of His divinity" was repeated in most other Theotokias of the week.  Here, we see the Divinity burns, as is popular among some contemporary EO's in their eschatology.  Nevertheless, we understand that this burning is not a burning of destruction, but of glorification.  This fire does not consume, but deifies.  Therefore, we hail the Theotokos:

Quote from: The Second Hails of the Vatos Lobsh of the Saturday Theotokia
Hail to the incorrupt vessel
Of the divinity
Which heals everyone
Who drinks from it

Notice the fire of the Divinity IS the Divinity.  Her womb held the fire of divinity, and now she is called the "vessel of the divinity."  The fire being divinity is uncreated.  This distinction is implied and necessary.  It agrees with Palamism.  While the hymns are quite strong in their language, nevertheless, the Church teaches we are not partaking of the essence of the divinity.  It is implied in this, whatever we partake of from the divine nature is  necessarily distinct into whatever one wants to call it, grace, energy, glory, love, power, all from God, and all uncreated.
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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2013, 09:45:00 PM »

While we as OOs as far as I have seen do not have the Palamite tradition, I can safely say based on what I read so far, his theology is more agreeable with what I've read.

First off, I think it's important to note that there is for sure an essence/energy distinction that goes back to the Capadocians.  It's not the essence/energy distinction that Barlaam and some scholastics had a problem with.  It's saying that the diverse energies of God are an ontological reality and uncreated.

From what I can understand, in OO theology, and even Cyrillian theology, the life that we receive from Christ's "life-giving" flesh is uncreated, because it comes from the divinity.  In Coptic hymnology, we liken the womb of the Theotokos to the chalice that holds the blood, her womb held the divinity for those who drink from it.  To be united or "mingled" with the divine nature is an important aspect of our salvation and sanctification.  Holiness is not a creation, because holiness comes from the divine nature.  So the priest also chants in the Coptic Liturgy, "the Holies are for the holies", and we reply "One is the All-Holy Father, One is the All-Holy Son, One is the All-Holy Spirit, Amen!"  We are made Holy by uniting with the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit, and enter into Trinitarian life, filled with eternal uncreated love, eternal uncreated holiness, eternal uncreated life.  Holiness, love, life, and many other diverse properties of God are all what St. Gregory Palamas calls energies, and what we also believe in.

Recently, a few theologians, based on influence of scholastic theology from 19th Century Arabic resources, felt scandalized by theology that talks about "partaking of divinity" or "uniting with divine nature" or "becoming God," all of which are perfectly acceptable in the Patristic realm, but because of ignorance and misinterpretation, saw the need to condemn as heresy, since they only assumed this was alluding to the divine essence.  When one says we become god, that doesn't mean we will be gods in the same way the persons of the Trinity eternally are.

While there might be a theosis/theopoeisis distinction in some pre-Chalcedonian fathers, there is practically no difference.  Both mean the same thing.
Just to comment, the Constantinople rite has the same exchange, except that the response is "One is Holy, One is Lord, Jesus Christ! To the glory of God the Father. Amen!"
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2013, 10:24:03 PM »

Thank you very much everyone. Thanks Mina!



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