St. Gregory Palamas (1296 – 1359)
God’s Sustaining Energy and Essence
God is in the universe and the universe is within God…. Thus all things participate in God’s sustaining energy, but not in His essence.
~ “Topics of Natural and Theological Science,” Section 104, Philokalia, Vol. IV, Faber and Faber, 1995, p. 393.
The Reach of God’s Presence into Creation
God, Who fills all things and extends infinitely beyond the heavens, existed before the world, filling as He now fills the whole region of the world.
~ “Topics of Natural and Theological Science,” Section 6, Philokalia, Vol. IV, Faber and Faber, 1995, p. 349.
Ten Aspects of Creation
All existent things can be grouped into ten categories, namely essence, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, activity, passivity, possession and dependence. These ten categories apply likewise to everything subsequently seen to pertain to essence. But God is supraessential essence, in which can be seen only relation and activity or creation, and these two things do not produce in His essence any composition or change. For God creates all things without being affected in His essence. He is Creator in relation to creation, and also its Principle and Master in that it has its origin in Him and is dependent on Him.
~ “Topics of Natural and Theological Science,” Section 134, Philokalia, Vol. IV, Faber and Faber, 1995, p. 409.
St. Gregory Palamas was a personal student and disciple of St. Gregory of Sinai. At the height of a monastic controversy on Mount Athos in Greece over the perception and nature of the light of Christ, Gregory Palamas defended the authenticity of the mystical experience of light because the scriptures show the Apostles saw this same light on Mount Tabor and because God is light. Gregory maintained that this is an “uncreated light” because God is uncreated. Experience of this light involves contact with His essence which is diffused through what he called the “divine energies” of God. The writings of Gregory Palamas are significant for modern ecology because he provides a theological foundation to assert a communion between God and creation through humanity and through the energies of Christ, and because he describes the process of creation’s transformation through Christ without falling into a pantheistic confusion of the creation with the Creator which occurs if substance and energy are misunderstood.
The Energies of Creation
God creates everything, but He remains uncreated. The fact that the world has a beginning is confirmed by nature and taught us by history. … Creation is not from God’s essence; it is not the uncreated energies of God, but the result of the uncreated energies…. To “beget” is the property of God’s nature, but to “create” is the property of His energy and will. If there were no distinction between essence and energies, between nature and will, then the creatures would belong by nature to God….
Man is animal in his body, but his soul originated in the transcendental world (“hyperkosmion”) and is a superior creation. Man was made paradoxically a small world (“mikrokosmos”) in which is summarized all the rest of creation. For this reason He created man to stand between, to include and to beautify, both worlds, the visible and the invisible.
~ Sermon 26, Patrologia Graeco, Vol. 151, col. 223, as quoted in George Papademetriou, in Introduction to Gregory Palamas, 1973, pg. 58
Understanding Nature Through the Holy Spirit
When the mind, by the grace of Christ, ascends to what is above nature, then it is enlightened by the illumination of the Holy Spirit and splendidly reaches out into contemplation. And having come above itself, according to the measurement of grace given to it by God, it clearly and purely beholds the nature of all things in accordance with its condition and order.
~ Philkalia, Vol. 4. Quoted in Animals and Man: A state of Blessedness. Joanne Stefanatos. Light and Life Publishing, 1992, p. 49.