In this post I will be quoting snippets from John the Damascene’s monumental tome titled, Exposition of the Faith, in regards to his articulation of the Trinity, the Son’s eternal generation, and two natures of Christ. As the readers will readily discern, John’s insights, depth of knowledge, and mastery of the Holy Scriptures are simply remarkable, showing that he indeed was a remarkable and Spirit-filled servant of Christ. May he forever rest in the everlasting peace of our blessed God and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
All emphasis shall be mine
Chapter 8. Concerning the Holy Trinity.
We believe, then, in One God, one beginning , having no beginning, uncreate, unbegotten, imperishable and immortal, everlasting, infinite, uncircumscribed, boundless, of infinite power, simple, uncompound, incorporeal, without flux, passionless, unchangeable, unalterable, unseen, the fountain of goodness and justice, the light of the mind, inaccessible; a power known by no measure, measurable only by His own will alone (for all things that He wills He can), creator of all created things, seen or unseen, of all the maintainer and preserver, for all the provider, master and lord and king over all, with an endless and immortal kingdom: having no contrary, filling all, by nothing encompassed, but rather Himself the encompasser and maintainer and original possessor of the universe, occupying all essences intact and extending beyond all things, and being separate from all essence as being super-essential and above all things and absolute God, absolute goodness, and absolute fullness : determining all sovereignties and ranks, being placed above all sovereignty and rank, above essence and life and word and thought: being Himself very light and goodness and life and essence, inasmuch as He does not derive His being from another, that is to say, of those things that exist: but being Himself the fountain of being to all that is, of life to the living, of reason to those that have reason; to all the cause of all good: perceiving all things even before they have become: one essence, one divinity, one power, one will, one energy, one beginning, one authority, one dominion, one sovereignty, made known in three perfect subsistences and adored with one adoration, believed in and ministered to by all rational creation , united without confusion and divided without separation (which indeed transcends thought). (We believe) in Father and Son and Holy Spirit whereinto also we have been baptized. For so our Lord commanded the Apostles to baptize, saying, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Matthew 18:19.
(We believe) in one Father, the beginning , and cause of all: begotten of no one: without cause or generation, alone subsisting: creator of all: but Father of one only by nature, His Only-begotten Son and our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and Producer of the most Holy Spirit. And in one Son of God, the Only-begotten, our Lord, Jesus Christ: begotten of the Father, before all the ages: Light of Light, true God of true God: begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, through Whom all things are made: and when we say He was before all the ages we show that His birth is without time or beginning: for the Son of God was not brought into being out of nothing , He that is the effulgence of the glory, the impress of the Father’s subsistence , the living wisdom and power 1 Corinthians 1:24, the Word possessing interior subsistence , the essential and perfect and living image Hebrews 1:3 of the unseen God. But always He was with the Father and in Him, everlastingly and without beginning begotten of Him. For there never was a time when the Father was and the Son was not, but always the Father and always the Son, Who was begotten of Him, existed together. For He could not have received the name Father apart from the Son: for if He were without the Son, He could not be the Father: and if He thereafter had the Son, thereafter He became the Father, not having been the Father prior to this, and He was changed from that which was not the Father and became the Father. This is the worst form of blasphemy. For we may not speak of God as destitute of natural generative power: and generative power means, the power of producing from one’s self, that is to say, from one’s own proper essence, that which is like in nature to one’s self.
In treating, then, of the generation of the Son, it is an act of impiety to say that time comes into play and that the existence of the Son is of later origin than the Father. For we hold that it is from Him, that is, from the Father’s nature, that the Son is generated. And unless we grant that the Son co-existed from the beginning with the Father, by Whom He was begotten, we introduce change into the Father’s subsistence, because, not being the Father, He subsequently became the Father. For the creation, even though it originated later, is nevertheless not derived from the essence of God, but is brought into existence out of nothing by His will and power, and change does not touch God’s nature. For generation means that the begetter produces out of his essence offspring similar in essence. But creation and making mean that the creator and maker produces from that which is external, and not out of his own essence, a creation of an absolutely dissimilar nature.
Wherefore in God, Who alone is passionless and unalterable, and immutable, and ever so continues, both begetting and creating are passionless. For being by nature passionless and not liable to flux, since He is simple and uncompound, He is not subject to passion or flux either in begetting or in creating, nor has He need of any co-operation. But generation in Him is without beginning and everlasting, being the work of nature and producing out of His own essence, that the Begetter may not undergo change, and that He may not be God first and God last, nor receive any accession: while creation in the case of God, being the work of will, is not co-eternal with God. For it is not natural that that which is brought into existence out of nothing should be co-eternal with what is without beginning and everlasting. There is this difference in fact between man’s making and God’s. Man can bring nothing into existence out of nothing, but all that he makes requires pre-existing matter for its basis, and he does not create it by will only, but thinks out first what it is to be and pictures it in his mind, and only then fashions it with his hands, undergoing labour and trouble, and often missing the mark and failing to produce to his satisfaction that after which he strives. But God, through the exercise of will alone, has brought all things into existence out of nothing. Now there is the same difference between God and man in begetting and generating. For in God, Who is without time and beginning, passionless, not liable to flux, incorporeal, alone and without end, generation is without time and beginning, passionless and not liable to flux, nor dependent on the union of two: nor has His own incomprehensible generation beginning or end. And it is without beginning because He is immutable: without flux because He is passionless and incorporeal: independent of the union of two again because He is incorporeal but also because He is the one and only God, and stands in need of no co-operation: and without end or cessation because He is without beginning, or time, or end, and ever continues the same. For that which has no beginning has no end: but that which through grace is endless is assuredly not without beginning, as, witness, the angels.
Accordingly the everlasting God generates His own Word which is perfect, without beginning and without end, that God, Whose nature and existence are above time, may not engender in time. But with man clearly it is otherwise, for generation is with him a matter of sex, and destruction and flux and increase and body clothe him round about, and he possesses a nature which is male or female. For the male requires the assistance of the female. But may He Who surpasses all, and transcends all thought and comprehension, be gracious to us.
The holy catholic and apostolic Church, then, teaches the existence at once of a Father: and of His Only-begotten Son, born of Him without time and flux and passion, in a manner incomprehensible and perceived by the God of the universe alone: just as we recognise the existence at once of fire and the light which proceeds from it: for there is not first fire and thereafter light, but they exist together. And just as light is ever the product of fire, and ever is in it and at no time is separate from it, so in like manner also the Son is begotten of the Father and is never in any way separate from Him, but ever is in Him. But whereas the light which is produced from fire without separation, and abides ever in it, has no proper subsistence of its own distinct from that of fire (for it is a natural quality of fire), the Only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father without separation and difference and ever abiding in Him, has a proper subsistence of its own distinct from that of the Father.
The terms, ‘Word’ and ‘effulgence,’ then, are used because He is begotten of the Father without the union of two, or passion, or time, or flux, or separation: and the terms ‘Son’ and ‘impress of the Father’s subsistence,’ because He is perfect and has subsistence and is in all respects similar to the Father, save that the Father is not begotten: and the term ‘Only-begotten’ because He alone was begotten alone of the Father alone. For no other generation is like to the generation of the Son of God, since no other is Son of God. For though the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, yet this is not generative in character but processional. This is a different mode of existence, alike incomprehensible and unknown, just as is the generation of the Son. Wherefore all the qualities the Father has are the Son’s, save that the Father is unbegotten, and this exception involves no difference in essence nor dignity, but only a different mode of coming into existence. We have an analogy in Adam, who was not begotten (for God Himself moulded him), and Seth, who was begotten (for he is Adam’s son), and Eve, who proceeded out of Adam’s rib (for she was not begotten). These do not differ from each other in nature, for they are human beings: but they differ in the mode of coming into existence. For one must recognise that the word ἀγένητον with only one ‘ν ‘ signifies uncreate or not having been made, while ἀγέννητον written with double ‘ν ‘ means unbegotten. According to the first significance essence differs from essence: for one essence is uncreate, or ἀγένητον with one ‘ν,’ and another is create or γενητή. But in the second significance there is no difference between essence and essence. For the first subsistence of all kinds of living creatures is ἀγέννητος but not ἀγένητος. For they were created by the Creator, being brought into being by His Word, but they were not begotten, for there was no pre-existing form like themselves from which they might have been born.
So then in the first sense of the word the three absolutely divine subsistences of the Holy Godhead agree: for they exist as one in essence and uncreate. But with the second signification it is quite otherwise. For the Father alone is ingenerate , no other subsistence having given Him being. And the Son alone is generate, for He was begotten of the Father’s essence without beginning and without time. And only the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father’s essence, not having been generated but simply proceeding. John 15:26 For this is the doctrine of Holy Scripture. But the nature of the generation and the procession is quite beyond comprehension.
And this also it behooves us to know, that the names Fatherhood, Sonship and Procession, were not applied to the Holy Godhead by us: on the contrary, they were communicated to us by the Godhead, as the divine apostle says, Wherefore I bow the knee to the Father, from Whom is every family in heaven and on earth. But if we say that the Father is the origin of the Son and greater than the Son, we do not suggest any precedence in time or superiority in nature of the Father over the Son John 14:28 (for through His agency He made the ages ), or superiority in any other respect save causation. And we mean by this, that the Son is begotten of the Father and not the Father of the Son, and that the Father naturally is the cause of the Son: just as we say in the same way not that fire proceeds from light, but rather light from fire. So then, whenever we hear it said that the Father is the origin of the Son and greater than the Son, let us understand it to mean in respect of causation. And just as we do not say that fire is of one essence and light of another, so we cannot say that the Father is of one essence and the Son of another: but both are of one and the same essence. And just as we say that fire has brightness through the light proceeding from it, and do not consider the light of the fire as an instrument ministering to the fire, but rather as its natural force: so we say that the Father creates all that He creates through His Only-begotten Son, not as though the Son were a mere instrument serving the Father’s ends, but as His natural and subsistential force. And just as we say both that the fire shines and again that the light of the fire shines, So all things whatsoever the Father does, these also does the Son likewise. John 5:19 But whereas light possesses no proper subsistence of its own, distinct from that of the fire, the Son is a perfect subsistence, inseparable from the Father’s subsistence, as we have shown above. For it is quite impossible to find in creation an image that will illustrate in itself exactly in all details the nature of the Holy Trinity. For how could that which is create and compound, subject to flux and change, circumscribed, formed and corruptible, clearly show forth the super-essential divine essence, unaffected as it is in any of these ways? Now it is evident that all creation is liable to most of these affections, and all from its very nature is subject to corruption.
Likewise we believe also in one Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life: Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son: the object of equal adoration and glorification with the Father and Son, since He is co-essential and co-eternal: the Spirit of God, direct, authoritative , the fountain of wisdom, and life, and holiness: God existing and addressed along with Father and Son: uncreate, full, creative, all-ruling, all-effecting, all-powerful, of infinite power, Lord of all creation and not under any lord: deifying, not deified: filling, not filled: shared in, not sharing in: sanctifying, not sanctified: the intercessor, receiving the supplications of all: in all things like to the Father and Son: proceeding from the Father and communicated through the Son, and participated in by all creation, through Himself creating, and investing with essence and sanctifying, and maintaining the universe: having subsistence, existing in its own proper and peculiar subsistence, inseparable and indivisible from Father and Son, and possessing all the qualities that the Father and Son possess, save that of not being begotten or born. For the Father is without cause and unborn: for He is derived from nothing, but derives from Himself His being, nor does He derive a single quality from another. Rather He is Himself the beginning and cause of the existence of all things in a definite and natural manner. But the Son is derived from the Father after the manner of generation, and the Holy Spirit likewise is derived from the Father, yet not after the manner of generation, but after that of procession. And we have learned that there is a difference between generation and procession, but the nature of that difference we in no wise understand. Further, the generation of the Son from the Father and the procession of the Holy Spirit are simultaneous.
All then that the Son and the Spirit have is from the Father, even their very being: and unless the Father is, neither the Son nor the Spirit is. And unless the Father possesses a certain attribute, neither the Son nor the Spirit possesses it: and through the Father , that is, because of the Father’s existence, the Son and the Spirit exist, and through the Father, that is, because of the Father having the qualities, the Son and the Spirit have all their qualities, those of being unbegotten, and of birth and of procession being excepted. For in these hypostatic or personal properties alone do the three holy subsistences differ from each other, being indivisibly divided not by essence but by the distinguishing mark of their proper and peculiar subsistence.
Further we say that each of the three has a perfect subsistence, that we may understand not one compound perfect nature made up of three imperfect elements, but one simple essence, surpassing and preceding perfection, existing in three perfect subsistences. For all that is composed of imperfect elements must necessarily be compound. But from perfect subsistences no compound can arise. Wherefore we do not speak of the form as from subsistences, but as in subsistences. But we speak of those things as imperfect which do not preserve the form of that which is completed out of them. For stone and wood and iron are each perfect in its own nature, but with reference to the building that is completed out of them each is imperfect: for none of them is in itself a house.
The subsistences then we say are perfect, that we may not conceive of the divine nature as compound. For compoundness is the beginning of separation. And again we speak of the three subsistences as being in each other, that we may not introduce a crowd and multitude of Gods. Owing to the three subsistences, there is no compoundness or confusion: while, owing to their having the same essence and dwelling in one another, and being the same in will, and energy, and power, and authority, and movement, so to speak, we recognise the indivisibility and the unity of God. For verily there is one God, and His word and Spirit.
Marg. ms. Concerning the distinction of the three subsistences: and concerning the thing itself and our reason and thought in relation to it.
One ought, moreover, to recognise that it is one thing to look at a matter as it is, and another thing to look at it in the light of reason and thought. In the case of all created things, the distinction of the subsistences is observed in actual fact. For in actual fact Peter is seen to be separate from Paul. But the community and connection and unity are apprehended by reason and thought. For it is by the mind that we perceive that Peter and Paul are of the same nature and have one common nature. For both are living creatures, rational and mortal: and both are flesh, endowed with the spirit of reason and understanding. It is, then, by reason that this community of nature is observed. For here indeed the subsistences do not exist one within the other. But each privately and individually, that is to say, in itself, stands quite separate, having very many points that divide it from the other. For they are both separated in space and differ in time, and are divided in thought, and power, and shape, or form, and habit, and temperament and dignity, and pursuits, and all differentiating properties, but above all, in the fact that they do not dwell in one another but are separated. Hence it comes that we can speak of two, three, or many men.
And this may be perceived throughout the whole of creation, but in the case of the holy and superessential and incomprehensible Trinity, far removed from everything, it is quite the reverse. For there the community and unity are observed in fact, through the co-eternity of the subsistences, and through their having the same essence and energy and will and concord of mind, and then being identical in authority and power and goodness — I do not say similar BUT IDENTICAL — and then movement by one impulse. For there is one essence, one goodness, one power, one will, one energy, one authority, one and the same, I repeat, not three resembling each other. But the three subsistences have one and the same movement. For each one of them is related as closely to the other as to itself: that is to say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one in all respects, save those of not being begotten, of birth and of procession. But it is by thought that the difference is perceived. For we recognise one God: but only in the attributes of Fatherhood, Sonship, and Procession, both in respect of cause and effect and perfection of subsistence, that is, manner of existence, do we perceive difference. For with reference to the uncircumscribed Deity we cannot speak of separation in space, as we can in our own case. For the subsistences dwell in one another, in no wise confused but cleaving together, according to the word of the Lord, I am in the father, and the father in Me John 14:11: nor can one admit difference in will or judgment or energy or power or anything else whatsoever which may produce actual and absolute separation in our case. Wherefore we do not speak of three Gods, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but rather of one God, the holy Trinity, the Son and Spirit being referred to one cause , and not compounded or coalesced according to the synæresis of Sabellius. For, as we said, they are made one not so as to commingle, but so as to cleave to each other, and they have their being in each other without any coalescence or commingling. Nor do the Son and the Spirit stand apart, nor are they sundered in essence according to the diæresis of Arias. For the Deity is undivided among things divided, to put it concisely: and it is just like three suns cleaving to each other without separation and giving out light mingled and conjoined into one. When, then, we turn our eyes to the Divinity, and the first cause and the sovereignty and the oneness and sameness, so to speak, of the movement and will of the Divinity, and the identity in essence and power and energy and lordship, what is seen by us is unity. But when we look to those things in which the Divinity is, or, to put it more accurately, which are the Divinity, and those things which are in it through the first cause without time or distinction in glory or separation, that is to say, the subsistences of the Son and the Spirit, it seems to us a Trinity that we adore.
The Father is one Father, and without beginning, that is, without cause: for He is not derived from anything. The Son is one Son, but not without beginning, that is, not without cause: for He is derived from the Father. BUT IF YOU ELIMINATE THE IDEA OF A BEGINNING FROM TIME, HE IS ALSO WITHOUT BEGINNING; FOR THE CREATOR OF TIMES CANNOT BE SUBJECT TO TIME. The Holy Spirit is one Spirit, going forth from the Father, not in the manner of Sonship but of procession; so that neither has the Father lost His property of being unbegotten because He has begotten, nor has the Son lost His property of being begotten because He was begotten of that which was unbegotten (for how could that be so?), nor does the Spirit change either into the Father or into the Son because He has proceeded and is God. For a property is quite constant. For how could a property persist if it were variable, moveable, and could change into something else? For if the Father is the Son, He is not strictly the Father: for there is strictly one Father. And if the Son is the Father, He is not strictly the Son: for there is strictly one Son and one Holy Spirit.
Further, it should be understood that we do not speak of the Father as derived from any one, but we speak of Him as the Father of the Son. And we do not speak of the Son as Cause or Father, but we speak of Him both as from the Father, and as the Son of the Father. And we speak likewise of the Holy Spirit as from the Father, and call Him the Spirit of the Father. And we do not speak of the Spirit as from the Son: but yet we call Him the Spirit of the Son. For if any one has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His Romans 8:9, says the divine apostle. And we confess that He is manifested and imparted to us through the Son. For He breathed upon His Disciples, says he, and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:29 It is just the same as in the case of the sun from which come both the ray and the radiance (for the sun itself is the source of both the ray and the radiance), and it is through the ray that the radiance is imparted to us, and it is the radiance itself by which we are lightened and in which we participate. Further we do not speak of the Son of the Spirit, or of the Son as derived from the Spirit.
Chapter 12. Concerning the Same.
The following, then, are the mysteries which we have learned from the holy oracles, as the divine Dionysius the Areopagite said : that God is the cause and beginning of all: the essence of all that have essence: the life of the living: the reason of all rational beings: the intellect of all intelligent beings: the recalling and restoring of those who fall away from Him: the renovation and transformation of those that corrupt that which is natural: the holy foundation of those who are tossed in unholiness: the steadfastness of those who have stood firm: the way of those whose course is directed to Him and the hand stretched forth to guide them upwards. And I shall add He is also the Father of all His creatures (for God, Who brought us into being out of nothing, is in a stricter sense our Father than are our parents who have derived both being and begetting from Him ): the shepherd of those who follow and are tended by Him: the radiance of those who are enlightened: the initiation of the initiated: the deification of the deified: the peace of those at discord: the simplicity of those who love simplicity: the unity of those who worship unity: of all beginning the beginning, super-essential because above all beginning : and the good revelation of what is hidden, that is, of the knowledge of Him so far as that is lawful for and attainable by each.
Further and more accurately concerning divine names
The Deity being incomprehensible is also assuredly nameless. Therefore since we know not His essence, let us not seek for a name for His essence. For names are explanations of actual things. But God, Who is good and brought us out of nothing into being that we might share in His goodness, and Who gave us the faculty of knowledge, not only did not impart to us His essence, but did not even grant us the knowledge of His essence. For it is impossible for nature to understand fully the supernatural. Moreover, if knowledge is of things that are, how can there be knowledge of the super-essential? Through His unspeakable goodness, then, it pleased Him to be called by names that we could understand, that we might not be altogether cut off from the knowledge of Him but should have some notion of Him, however vague. Inasmuch, then, as He is incomprehensible, He is also unnameable. But inasmuch as He is the cause of all and contains in Himself the reasons and causes of all that is, He receives names drawn from all that is, even from opposites: for example, He is called light and darkness, water and fire: in order that we may know that these are not of His essence but that He is super-essential and unnameable: but inasmuch as He is the cause of all, He receives names from all His effects.
Wherefore, of the divine names, some have a negative signification, and indicate that He is super-essential: such are non-essential, timeless, without beginning, invisible: not that God is inferior to anything or lacking in anything (for all things are His and have become from Him and through Him and endure in Him Colossians 1:17), but that He is pre-eminently separated from all that is. For He is not one of the things that are, but over all things. Some again have an affirmative signification, as indicating that He is the cause of all things. For as the cause of all that is and of all essence, He is called both Ens and Essence. And as the cause of all reason and wisdom, of the rational and the wise, He is called both reason and rational, and wisdom and wise. Similarly He is spoken of as Intellect and Intellectual, Life and Living, Power and Powerful, and so on with all the rest. Or rather those names are most appropriate to Him which are derived from what is most precious and most akin to Himself. That which is immaterial is more precious and more akin to Himself than that which is material, and the pure than the impure, and the holy than the unholy: for they have greater part in Him. So then, sun and light will be more apt names for Him than darkness, and day than night, and life than death, and fire and spirit and water, as having life, than earth, and above all, goodness than wickedness: which is just to say, being more than not being. For goodness is existence and the cause of existence, but wickedness is the negation of goodness, that is, of existence.
These, then, are the affirmations and the negations, but the sweetest names are a combination of both: for example, the super-essential essence, the Godhead that is more than God, the beginning that is above beginning and such like. Further there are some affirmations about God which have in a pre-eminent degree the force of denial: for example, darkness: for this does not imply that God is darkness but that He is not light, but above light.
God then is called Mind and Reason and Spirit and Wisdom and Power, as the cause of these, and as immaterial, and maker of all, and omnipotent. And these names are common to the whole Godhead, whether affirmative or negative. And they are also used of each of the subsistences of the Holy Trinity in the very same and identical way and with their full significance. For when I think of one of the subsistences, I recognise it to be perfect God and perfect essence: but when I combine and reckon the three together, I know one perfect God. For the Godhead is not compound but in three perfect subsistences, one perfect indivisible and uncompound God. And when I think of the relation of the three subsistences to each other, I perceive that the Father is super-essential Sun, source of goodness, fathomless sea of essence, reason, wisdom, power, light, divinity: the generating and productive source of good hidden in it. He Himself then is mind, the depth of reason, begetter of the Word, and through the Word the Producer of the revealing Spirit. And to put it shortly, the Father has no reason, wisdom, power, will, save the Son Who is the only power of the Father, the immediate cause of the creation of the universe: as perfect subsistence begotten of perfect subsistence in a manner known to Himself, Who is and is named the Son. And the Holy Spirit is the power of the Father revealing the hidden mysteries of His Divinity, proceeding from the Father through the Son in a manner known to Himself, but different from that of generation. Wherefore the Holy Spirit is the perfecter of the creation of the universe. All the terms, then, that are appropriate to the Father, as cause, source, begetter, are to be ascribed to the Father alone: while those that are appropriate to the caused, begotten Son, Word, immediate power, will, wisdom, are to be ascribed to the Son: and those that are appropriate to the caused, processional, manifesting, perfecting power, are to be ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Father is the source and cause of the Son and the Holy Spirit: Father of the Son alone and producer of the Holy Spirit. The Son is Son, Word, Wisdom, Power, Image, Effulgence, Impress of the Father and derived from the Father. But the Holy Spirit is not the Son of the Father but the Spirit of the Father as proceeding from the Father. For there is no impulse without Spirit. And we speak also of the Spirit of the Son, not as through proceeding from Him, but as proceeding through Him from the Father. For the Father alone is cause.
Chapter 13. Concerning the place of God: and that the Deity alone is uncircumscribed.
Bodily place is the limit of that which contains, by which that which is contained is contained: for example, the air contains but the body is contained. But it is not the whole of the containing air which is the place of the contained body, but the limit of the containing air, where it comes into contact with the contained body: and the reason is clearly because that which contains is not within that which it contains.
But there is also mental place where mind is active, and mental and incorporeal nature exists: where mind dwells and energises and is contained not in a bodily but in a mental fashion. For it is without form, and so cannot be contained as a body is. God, then, being immaterial and uncircumscribed, has not place. For He is His own place, filling all things and being above all things, and Himself maintaining all things. Yet we speak of God having place and the place of God where His energy becomes manifest. For He penetrates everything without mixing with it, and imparts to all His energy in proportion to the fitness and receptive power of each: and by this I mean, a purity both natural and voluntary. For the immaterial is purer than the material, and that which is virtuous than that which is linked with vice. Wherefore by the place of God is meant that which has a greater share in His energy and grace. For this reason the Heaven is His throne. For in it are the angels who do His will and are always glorifying Him. For this is His rest and the earth is His footstool. Isaiah 66:1 For in it He dwelt in the flesh among men. Baruch 3:38 And His sacred flesh has been named the foot of God. The Church, too, is spoken of as the place of God: for we have set this apart for the glorifying of God as a sort of consecrated place wherein we also hold converse with Him.
Likewise also the places in which His energy becomes manifest to us, whether through the flesh or apart from flesh, are spoken of as the places of God.
But it must be understood that the Deity is indivisible, being everywhere wholly in His entirety and not divided up part by part like that which has body, but wholly in everything and wholly above everything…
Marg. ms. From various sources concerning God and the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And concerning the Word and the Spirit.
The Deity, then, is quite unchangeable and invariable. For all things which are not in our hands He has predetermined by His foreknowledge, each in its own proper and peculiar time and place. And accordingly the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son. John 5:22 For clearly the Father and the Son and also the Holy Spirit judged as God. But the Son Himself WILL DESCEND IN THE BODY AS MAN, and will sit on the throne of Glory (for descending and sitting require circumscribed body), and will judge all the world in justice.
All things are far apart from God, not in place but in nature. In our case, thoughtfulness, and wisdom, and counsel come to pass and go away as states of being. Not so in the case of God: for with Him there is no happening or ceasing to be: for He is invariable and unchangeable: and it would not be right to speak of contingency in connection with Him. For goodness is concomitant with essence. He who longs always after God, he sees Him: for God is in all things. Existing things are dependent on that which is, and nothing can be unless it is in that which is. God then is mingled with everything, maintaining their nature: and in His holy flesh the God-Word is made one in subsistence and is mixed with our nature, yet without confusion.
No one sees the Father, save the Son and the Spirit John 6:46.
The Son is the counsel and wisdom and power of the Father. For one may not speak of quality in connection with God, from fear of implying that He was a compound of essence and quality.
The Son is from the Father, and derives from Him all His properties: hence He cannot do ought of Himself. For He has not energy peculiar to Himself and distinct from the Father.
That God Who is invisible by nature is made visible by His energies, we perceive from the organisation and government of the world Wisdom 12:5 .
The Son is the Father’s image, and the Spirit the Son’s, through which Christ dwelling in man makes him after his own image.
The Holy Spirit is God, being between the unbegotten and the begotten, and united to the Father through the Son. We speak of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the mind of Christ, the Spirit of the Lord, the very Lord, the Spirit of adoption, of truth, of liberty, of wisdom (for He is the creator of all these): filling all things with essence, maintaining all things, filling the universe with essence, while yet the universe is not the measure of His power.
God is everlasting and unchangeable essence, creator of all that is, adored with pious consideration.
God is also Father, being ever unbegotten, for He was born of no one, but has begotten His co-eternal Son: God is likewise Son, being always with the Father, born of the Father timelessly, everlastingly, without flux or passion, or separation from Him. God is also Holy Spirit, being sanctifying power, subsistential, proceeding from the Father without separation, and resting in the Son, identical in essence with Father and Son.
Word is that which is ever essentially present with the Father… God therefore is Word essential and enhypostatic… The Spirit has various meanings. There is the Holy Spirit: but the powers of the Holy Spirit are also spoken of as spirits: the good messenger is also spirit: the demon also is spirit: the soul too is spirit: and sometimes mind also is spoken of as spirit. Finally the wind is spirit and the air is spirit. (BOOK I)
Chapter 2. — Concerning the manner in which the Word was conceived, and concerning His divine incarnation.
The angel of the Lord was sent to the Holy Virgin, who was descended from David’s line. Luke 1:27 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe no one turned his attention to the altar Hebrews 7:14, as the divine apostle said: but about this we will speak more accurately later. And bearing glad tidings to her, he said, Hail thou highly favoured one, the Lord is with you. Luke 1:28 And she was troubled at his word, and the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary, for you have found favour with God, and shall bring forth a Son and shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 Hence it comes that Jesus has the interpretation Saviour. And when she asked in her perplexity, How can this be, seeing I know not a man Luke 1:34? The angel again answered her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 And she said to him, Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to Your word.
So then, after the assent of the Holy Virgin, the Holy Spirit descended on her, according to the word of the Lord which the angel spoke, purifying her, and granting her power to receive the divinity of the Word, and likewise power to bring forth. And then was she overshadowed by the enhypostatic Wisdom and Power of the most high God, the Son of God Who is of like essence with the Father as of Divine seed, and from her holy and most pure blood He formed flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, the first-fruits of our compound nature: not by procreation but by creation through the Holy Spirit: not developing the fashion of the body by gradual additions but perfecting it at once, He Himself, the very Word of God, standing to the flesh in the relation of subsistence. For the divine Word was not made one with flesh that had an independent pre-existence, but taking up His abode in the womb of the Holy Virgin, He unreservedly in His own subsistence took upon Himself through the pure blood of the eternal Virgin a body of flesh animated with the spirit of reason and thought, thus assuming to Himself the first-fruits of man’s compound nature, Himself, the Word, having become a subsistence in the flesh. So that He is at once flesh, and at the same time flesh of God the Word, and likewise flesh animated, possessing both reason and thought. Wherefore we speak not of man as having become God, but of God as having become Man. For being by nature perfect God, He naturally became likewise perfect Man: and did not change His nature nor make the dispensation an empty show, but became, without confusion or change or division, one in subsistence with the flesh, which was conceived of the Holy Virgin, and animated with reason and thought, and had found existence in Him, while He did not change the nature of His divinity into the essence of flesh, nor the essence of flesh into the nature of His divinity, and did not make one compound nature out of His divine nature and the human nature He had assumed. (BOOK III)
Chapter 4. Why it was the Son of God, and not the Father or the Spirit, that became man: and what having became man He achieved.
The Father is Father and not Son: the Son is Son and not Father: the Holy Spirit is Spirit and not Father or Son. For the individuality is unchangeable. How, indeed, could individuality continue to exist at all if it were ever changing and altering? Wherefore the Son of God became Son of Man in order that His individuality might endure. For since He was the Son of God, He became Son of Man, being made flesh of the holy Virgin and not losing the individuality of Sonship.
Further, the Son of God became man, in order that He might again bestow on man that favour for the sake of which He created him. For He created him after His own image, endowed with intellect and free-will, and after His own likeness, that is to say, perfect in all virtue so far as it is possible for man’s nature to attain perfection. For the following properties are, so to speak, marks of the divine nature: viz. absence of care and distraction and guile, goodness, wisdom, justice, freedom from all vice. So then, after He had placed man in communion with Himself (for having made him for incorruption Wisdom 2:23, He led him up through communion with Himself to incorruption), and when moreover, through the transgression of the command we had confused and obliterated the marks of the divine image, and had become evil, we were stripped of our communion with God (for what communion has light with darkness 2 Corinthians 6:14?): and having been shut out from life we became subject to the corruption of death: yea, since He gave us to share in the better part, and we did not keep it secure, He shares in the inferior part, I mean our own nature, in order that through Himself and in Himself He might renew that which was made after His image and likeness, and might teach us, too, the conduct of a virtuous life, making through Himself the way there easy for us, and might by the communication of life deliver us from corruption, becoming Himself the firstfruits of our resurrection, and might renovate the useless and worn vessel calling us to the knowledge of God that He might redeem us from the tyranny of the devil, and might strengthen and teach us how to overthrow the tyrant through patience and humility.
The worship of demons then has ceased: creation has been sanctified by the divine blood: altars and temples of idols have been overthrown, the knowledge of God has been implanted in men’s minds, the co-essential Trinity, the uncreate divinity, one true God, Creator and Lord of all receives men’s service: virtues are cultivated, the hope of resurrection has been granted through the resurrection of Christ, the demons shudder at those men who of old were under their subjection. And the marvel, indeed, is that all this has been successfully brought about through His cross and passion and death… These are the achievements of Christ’s presence: these are the tokens of His power. For it was not one people that He saved, as when through Moses He divided the sea and delivered Israel out of Egypt and the bondage of Pharaoh Exodus 14:16; nay, rather He rescued all mankind from the corruption of death and the bitter tyranny of sin: not leading them by force to virtue, not overwhelming them with earth or burning them with fire, or ordering the sinners to be stoned, but persuading men by gentleness and long-suffering to choose virtue and vie with one another, and find pleasure in the struggle to attain it… Hail! O Christ, the Word and Wisdom and Power of God, and God omnipotent! What can we helpless ones give You in return for all these good gifts? For all are Yours, and Thou ask naught from us save our salvation, You Who Yourself art the Giver of this, and yet art grateful to those who receive it, through Your unspeakable goodness. Thanks be to You Who gave us life, and granted us the grace of a happy life, and restored us to that, when we had gone astray, through Your unspeakable condescension.
Chapter 18. Regarding the things said concerning Christ.
The things said concerning Christ fall into four generic modes. For some fit Him even before the incarnation, others in the union, others after the union, and others after the resurrection. Also of those that refer to the period before the incarnation there are six modes: for some of them declare the union of nature and the identity in essence with the Father, as this, I and My Father are one John 10:30: also this, He that has seen Me has seen the Father: and this, Who being in the form of God Philippians 2:6, and so forth. Others declare the perfection of subsistence, as these, Son of God, and the Express Image of His person Hebrews 1:3, and Messenger of great counsel, Wonderful Counsellor Isaiah 9:6, and the like.
Again, others declare the indwelling of the subsistences in one another, as, I am in the Father and the Father in Me John 14:10; and the inseparable foundation, as, for instance, the Word, Wisdom, Power, Effulgence. For the word is inseparably established in the mind (and it is the essential mind that I mean), and so also is wisdom, and power in him that is powerful, and effulgence in the light, all springing forth from these.
And others make known the fact of His origin from the Father as cause, for instance My Father is greater than I. John 14:28 For from Him He derives both His being and all that He has: His being was by generative and not by creative means, as, I came forth from the Father and have come John 16:28, and I live by the Father. But all that He has is not His by free gift or by teaching, but in a causal sense, as, The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do. For if the Father is not, neither is the Son. For the Son is of the Father and in the Father and with the Father, and not after the Father. In like manner also what He does is of Him and with Him. For there is one and the same, not similar but the same, will and energy and power in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Moreover, other things are said as though the Father’s good-will was fulfilled through His energy, and not as through an instrument or a servant, but as through His essential and hypostatic Word and Wisdom and Power, because but one action is observed in Father and Son, as for example, All things were made by Him John 11:42, and He sent His Word and healed them, and That they may believe that You have sent Me John 17:2.
Some, again, have a prophetic sense, and of these some are in the future tense: for instance, He shall come openly , and this from Zechariah, Behold, your King comes unto you Zechariah 9:9, and this from Micah, Behold, the Lord comes out of His place and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. Micah 1:3 But others, though future, are put in the past tense, as, for instance, This is our God: Therefore He was seen upon the earth and dwelt among men Baruch 3:38, and The Lord created me in the beginning of His ways for His works Proverbs 8:22, and Wherefore God, your God, anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows, and such like.
The things said, then, that refer to the period before the union will be applicable to Him even after the union: but those that refer to the period after the union will not be applicable at all before the union, unless indeed in a prophetic sense, as we said. Those that refer to the time of the union have three modes. For when our discourse deals with the higher aspect, we speak of the deification of the flesh, and His assumption of the Word and exceeding exaltation, and so forth, making manifest the riches that are added to the flesh from the union and natural conjunction with the most high God the Word. And when our discourse deals with the lower aspect, we speak of the incarnation of God the Word, His becoming man, His emptying of Himself, His poverty, His humility. For these and such like are imposed upon the Word and God through His admixture with humanity. When again we keep both sides in view at the same time, we speak of union, community, anointing, natural conjunction, conformation and the like. The former two modes, then, have their reason in this third mode. For through the union it is made clear what either has obtained from the intimate junction with and permeation through the other. For through the union in subsistence the flesh is said to be deified and to become God and to be equally God with the Word; and God the Word is said to be made flesh, and to become man, and is called creature and last Isaiah 48:12: not in the sense that the two natures are converted into one compound nature (for it is not possible for the opposite natural qualities to exist at the same time in one nature), but in the sense that the two natures are united in subsistence and permeate one another without confusion or transmutation. The permeation moreover did not come of the flesh but of the divinity: for it is impossible that the flesh should permeate through the divinity: but the divine nature once permeating through the flesh gave also to the flesh the same ineffable power of permeation; and this indeed is what we call union.
Note, too, that in the case of the first and second modes of those that belong to the period of the union, reciprocation is observed. For when we speak about the flesh, we use the terms deification and assumption of the Word and exceeding exaltation and anointing. For these are derived from divinity, but are observed in connection with the flesh. And when we speak about the Word, we use the terms emptying, incarnation, becoming man, humility and the like: and these, as we said, are imposed on the Word and God through the flesh. For He endured these things in person of His own free-will.
Of the things that refer to the period after the union there are three modes. The first declares His divine nature, as, I am in the Father and the Father in Me John 14:1, and I and the Father are one: and all those things which are affirmed of Him before His assumption of humanity, these will be affirmed of Him even after His assumption of humanity, with this exception, that He did not assume the flesh and its natural properties.
The second declares His human nature, as, Now ye seek to kill Me, a man that has told you the truth, and Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, and the like.
Further, of the statements made and written about Christ the Saviour after the manner of men, whether they deal with sayings or actions, there are six modes. For some of them were done or said naturally in accordance with the incarnation; for instance, His birth from a virgin, His growth and progress with age, His hunger, thirst, weariness, fear, sleep, piercing with nails, death and all such like natural and innocent passions. For in all these there is a mixture of the divine and human, although they are held to belong in reality to the body, the divine suffering none of these, but procuring through them our salvation.
Others are of the nature of ascription , as Christ’s question, Where have ye laid Lazarus John 11:34? His running to the fig-tree, His shrinking, that is, His drawing back, His praying, and His making as though He would have gone further Luke 24:28 For neither as God nor as man was He in need of these or similar things, but only because His form was that of a man as necessity and expediency demanded. For example, the praying was to show that He is not opposed to God, for He gives honour to the Father as the cause of Himself: and the question was not put in ignorance but to show that He is in truth man as well as God; and the drawing back is to teach us not to be impetuous nor to give ourselves up.
Others again are said in the manner of association and relation , as, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me Matthew 27:46? and He has made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin 2 Corinthians 5:21 , and being made a curse for us Galatians 3:13; also, Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him 1 Corinthians 15:28 For neither as God nor as man was He ever forsaken by the Father, nor did He become sin or a curse, nor did He require to be made subject to the Father. For as God He is equal to the Father and not opposed to Him nor subjected to Him; and as God, He was never at any time disobedient to His Begetter to make it necessary for Him to make Him subject. Appropriating, then, our person and ranking Himself with us, He used these words. For we are bound in the fetters of sin and the curse as faithless and disobedient, and therefore forsaken.
Others are said by reason of distinction in thought. For if you divide in thought things that are inseparable in actual truth, to cut the flesh from the Word, the terms ‘servant’ and ‘ignorant‘ are used of Him, for indeed He was of a subject and ignorant nature, and except that it was united with God the Word, His flesh was servile and ignorant. But because of the union in subsistence with God the Word it was neither servile nor ignorant. In this way, too, He called the Father His God.
Others again are for the purpose of revealing Him to us and strengthening our faith, as, And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with You, before the world was. John 17:5 For He Himself was glorified and is glorified, but His glory was not manifested nor confirmed to us. Also that which the apostle said, Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Romans 1:4 For by the miracles and the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit it was manifested and confirmed to the world that He is the Son of God. And this too Luke 2:40, The Child grew in wisdom and grace.
Others again have reference to His appropriation of the personal life of the Jews, in numbering Himself among the Jews, as He says to the Samaritan woman, You worship ye know not what: we know what we worship, far salvation is of the Jews John 4:22.
The third mode is one which declares the one subsistence and brings out the dual nature: for instance, And I live by the Father: so he that eats Me, even he shall live by Me. And this: I go to My Father and you see Me no more. And this: They would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. 1 Corinthians 2:8 And this: And no man has ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN John 3:13, and such like.
Again of the affirmations that refer to the period after the resurrection some are suitable to God, as, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost Matthew 28:19, for here ‘Son’ is clearly used as God; also this, And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, and other similar ones. For He is with us as God. Others are suitable to man, as, They held Him by the feet, and There they will see Me, and so forth.
Further, of those referring to the period after the Resurrection that are suitable to man there are different modes. For some did actually take place, yet not according to nature, but according to dispensation, in order to confirm the fact that the very body, which suffered, rose again; such are the weals, the eating and the drinking after the resurrection. Others took place actually and naturally, as changing from place to place without trouble and passing in through closed gates. Others have the character of simulation, as, He made as though He would have gone further. Luke 24:28 Others are appropriate to the double nature, as, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God John 20:17, and The King of Glory shall come in, and He sat down on the right hand of the majesty on High. Hebrews 1:3 Finally others are to be understood as though He were ranking Himself with us, in the manner of separation in pure thought, as, My God and your God John 20:17.
Those then that are sublime must be assigned to the divine nature, which is superior to passion and body: and those that are humble must be ascribed to the human nature; and those that are common must be attributed to the compound, that is, the one Christ, Who is God and man. And it should be understood that both belong to one and the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. For if we know what is proper to each, and perceive that both are performed by one and the same, WE SHALL HAVE THE TRUE FAITH and shall not go astray. And from all these the difference between the united natures is recognised, and the fact that, as the most godly Cyril says, they are not identical in the natural quality of their divinity and humanity. But yet there is but one Son and Christ and Lord: and as He is one, He has also but one person, the unity in subsistence being in nowise broken up into parts by the recognition of the difference of the natures. (BOOK IV)
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