Wednesday, December 06, 2023

John Damascene on energies

For activity is the natural power and movement of each essence. (St John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 147)

ἐνέργεια γάρ ἐστιν ἡ φυσικὴ ἑκάστης οὐσίας δύναμίς τε καὶ κίνησις (pp. 147-8)

And again: Natural activity is the innate movement of every essence. It is therefore clear that those things that have the same essence have the same activity, and those things that have different natures also have different activity. For it impossible for an essence to be without a natural activity. (p. 148)

Natural activity, again, is the power that makes each essence manifest. And again: Natural and primary activity is the ever-moving power of the intellectual soul, that is to say, its every-moving reason flowing out naturally from it. Natural activity is the power and movement of each essence; only non-being is without it. (p. 148)

One should know that the second way embraces both potentiality and actuality, for on the one hand, the latter is in potentiality, on the other, the former is in actuality. (p. 148)

Χρὴ οὖν γινώσκειν, ὁτι ὁ δεύτερος τρόπος κοινός ἐστι τοῦ δυνάμει καὶ τοῦ ἐνεργείᾳ, δεύτερος μὲν τοῦ δυνάμει, πρῶτος δὲ τοῦ ἐνεργείᾳ (p. 148)

Far from the static view of the classical God, the Eastern tradition has preserved a more dynamic view of God through its preservation of the difference between "essence," "energies," and "acts." In John of Damascus' work, all essences must have energies, and part of these energies includes the actions being do. However, the main focus of "energies" is to manifest the essence, not the actions themselves. Actions are part of the energies, but are not all of the energies. That is why actions are discussed later, after discussions of the "natural and primary activity" of the intellectual soul. We note here that discussions of "actuality" and "potentiality," where the same term is used for "actualities," should be taken to mean that "actualities" is a subset of "energies," rather than the two being the same.

God is thus not the "unmoved Mover," but rather He constantly "moves" yet never changes. The Father loves the Son, yet neither change despite the dynamism of the relationship. God has His own movement, and it is we who are blessed because of it.

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