FishEaters Traditional Catholic Forums

Full Version: God's Essence and Attributes
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
I'm trying to understand the difference between the Catholic and Orthodox views of God's Essence and "Energies" (the Eastern term is Energies and the Western would be attributes). I'm just wondering if someone could let me know if my understanding is correct about the Catholic view  to clarify, I'm using the Thomistic understanding.

In my understanding..

- God is one, and undivided, so His essence is not actually distinct from His attributes*
- we can participate in God's nature, but this is not done by a change of our essence.
- There is a difference between comprehending and knowing, we can know His essence but not fully comprehend it
- grace is uncreated but our participation in it is created (like the occasion of our sharing in it is created)
- Our union with God's essence does not make us God, because: a) we remain creatures and our essence does not change, b) we are united to God through His attributes and not with a full comprehension of His essence

The specific part I'm uncertain about is the one in bold... is that how we are united to God, through His attributes? what does that mean, if His essence and attributes are not totally distinct?

Maybe I'm wrong about something or missing something.. would appreciate any help  I'm looking up Fr Garrigou Lagrange to help me with this. I'm looking for the Thomist understanding... thank you!

* Fr Garrigou Lagrange describes the distinction as follows:

"The common opinion of the theologians mediates, so to speak, between nominalism and exaggerated realism, and towers above them. This opinion, the source of which is the moderate realism of St. Thomas, is commonly formulated by the Thomists and a great number of theologians as follows: There is a minor virtual distinction between the divine attributes and God's essence, between the divine attributes, and likewise between the divine persons and the essence.

St. Thomas uses simpler terminology, saying that God's essence is distinct from the attributes and the divine Persons "not really but logically." (41) He is speaking of the logical distinction that is founded on reality, which subsequently is commonly called virtual; and this calls for an explanation."

I guess what I'm wondering about is using this information, how are we united to God in the Beatific Vision, - is it in the way that I wrote about in bold, or am I not really understanding?
Catholic view: we participate in the Divine Nature through the infusion of grace, which is created.

According to Orthodox: we participate in the Divine Nature through the infusion of the Divine Energies of God, which is Uncreated.

Catholic view: God's Essence are His Attributes. Not distinct in Reality.

Orthodox: God's Essence is His Energies. Not distinct in Reality.

These posts are from studying formally St. Thomas and The Trinity at university and studying informally Orthodox spirituality. In other words, the Orthodox viewpoint is my personal unbiased interpretation. Nevertheless after study and comparison of what the Orthodox say about this participation in God, I can see the reason the Orthodox view on this point - the Uncreated participation in God - was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church way back. My conclusion got me away from the practice of hesychia as well, since this practice is rooted in this Orthodox spiritual  theology.

From what I understand, the Orthodox believe that we will be able to participate in God's uncreated energies, but not his essence. "Energies" in this context is God's actions or operations toward humanity.
(01-06-2017, 07:38 PM)Echo Wrote: [ -> ]From what I understand, the Orthodox believe that we will be able to participate in God's uncreated energies, but not his essence. "Energies" in this context is God's actions or operations toward humanity.

Thank you... I'm trying to compare what you described to the Catholic view (in the Thomistic tradition).. Would the Catholic view be that we would share in God's Essence (without becoming God), or that we would share in His operations BUT they are not really distinct from His essence, but only in the way Fr Garrigou-Lagrange explained? Thank you
I had difficulty finding an answer that you may be looking for. To be honest, I have no education in philosophy or theology. The little I know is because of curiosity. I found this in Searching for God: Catholic Theology Past and Present by Gregory C. Higgins

Quote:According to Aquinas, through the use of human reason we can know that God exists, but we can't know God's essence for the simple reason that God is not an "object" that our minds can grasp. As Thomas explains in his Commentary on John's Gospel, "The reason why no created species can represent the divine essence is plain: for nothing finite can represent the infinite as it is.... Therefore, the knowledge by which God is seen through his creates is not a knowledge of his essence, but a knowledge that is dark and mirrored, and from afar." While our knowledge of God is always "dark and mirrored, and from afar," it is nevertheless knowledge. More specifically it is a knowledge about the "effects" of God. Aquinas states that "because we are not able to see [God's] essence, we arrive at the knowledge of his being, not through God himself, but through his effects."

I also found this in Called to be Children of God:The Catholic Theology of Human Deification edited by Fr. David Meconi:

Quote:Jerome. Like Ambrose, Jerome links deification with the life of virginity. “Great and precious are the promises attaching to virginity which He has given us, that through it we may become partakers of the divine nature.”54 Later in the same treatise, Jerome explains what this means: “You see, then, that we are privileged to partake of His essence, not in the realm of nature, but of grace, and the reason why we are beloved of the Father is that He has loved the Son; and the members are loved, those namely of the body

I hope that answers your question. Sorry if it doesn't. I've found this kind of topic to be puzzling. I have an interest in it as well, mainly because of the Orthodox criticism that I've seen that claims that Catholic theology's "failure" to distinguish between God's essence and energies led to the rise of Atheism in the west.