Sunday, January 20, 2013

St John of Damascus- on the Orthodox Faith Chpt 9

Chapter 9. Concerning what is affirmed about God.

The Deity is simple and uncompounded. But that which is composed of many and different elements, is compound. If, then, we should speak of the qualities of being uncreated and without beginning and incorporeal and immortal and everlasting and good and creative and so forth as essential differences in the case of God, that which is composed of so many qualities will not be simple but must be compound.

But this is impious in the extreme.

Each, then of the affirmations about God should be thought of as signifying not what He is in essence, but either something that it is impossible to make plain, or some relation to some of those things, which are contrasts, or some of those things that follow the nature, or an energy.

It appears then that the most proper of all the names given to God is - He that is, as He Himself said in answer to Moses on the mountain, Say to the sons of Israel, He that is has sent Me. (Exodus 3:14)

For He keeps all being in His own embrace, like a sea of essence infinite and unseen. Or as the holy Dionysius says, He that is good. For one cannot say of God that He has being in the first place and goodness in the second.

The second name of God is ὁ Θεός, derived from θέειν , to run, because He courses through all things, or from αἴθειν, to burn: For God is a fire consuming all evil (Deut 4:24): or from θεᾶσθαι, because He is all-seeing (2 Maccabbees 10:5): for nothing can escape Him, and over all He keeps watch.

For He saw all things before they were, holding them timelessly in His thoughts; and each one conformably to His voluntary and timeless thought, which constitutes predetermination and image and pattern, comes into existence at the predetermined time.

The first name then conveys the notion of His existence and of the nature of His existence: while the second contains the idea of energy.

Further, the terms 'without beginning,' 'incorruptible,' 'unbegotten,' as also 'uncreated,' 'incorporeal,' 'unseen,' and so forth, explain what He is not: that is to say, they tell us that His being had no beginning, that He is not corruptible, nor created, nor corporeal, nor visible.

Again, goodness and justice and piety and such like names belong to the nature, but do not explain His actual essence.

Finally, Lord and King and names of that class indicate a relationship with their contrasts: for the name Lord has reference to those over whom the lord rules, and the name King to those under kingly authority, and the name Creator to the creatures, and the name Shepherd to the sheep he tends.

St John of Damascus

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