St Gregory Palamas

For if the deifying gifts of the Spirit in the saints are 'created', and are 'like a habit' or a 'natural imitation', ... then the saints are not deified beyond nature, nor are they born of God, nor are they spirit, as having been born of the Spirit, and, one spirit with the Lord, being joined to him.

(On Divine and Deifying Participation 2)




  • Essence and Energies: What Kind of Distinction?
    David Bradshaw (read abstract)
    University of Kentucky

    There is much confusion among scholars over the precise nature of the essence-energies distinction. Various authors have identified it as a Thomistic real minor distinction, a Thomistic rational distinction with a foundation in the object, and a Scotistic formal distinction, whereas others deny that any of these descriptions properly apply. The issue is further complicated by the tendency of some of Palamas’ closest followers, such as Philotheos Kokkinos and John Kantakouzenos, to describe the distinction as ‘conceptual’ (κατ’ ἐπίνοιαν), notwithstanding that Palamas himself seems to have avoided describing it in this way. Such varying interpretations point to the need for a careful consideration of the history and meaning of the various types of distinction at play, both Greek patristic and Latin scholastic. After offering such a history, I conclude with some thoughts regarding the ways in which Palamas’ own distinction does, and does not, conform to these various models.

    The exact nature of the essence-energies distinction has been controversial ever since the time of Palamas. Within twentieth-century scholarship, this subject was first given prominence by the great Roman Catholic scholar Martin Jugie. Jugie took it as obvious that Palamas meant to distinguish between the divine essence and energies as between two res, or, in other words, that he intended what the scholastics call a real distinction.1 He was followed on this point by Sébastien Guichardan, who argued specifically that the distinction between essence and energies is a Thomistic real minor distinction.2 In the subsequent decades, numerous other authors accepted that Palamas intended a ‘real’ distinction.3 It must be admitted, however, that they


    Martin Jugie, ‘Palamas, Grégoire’, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, vol. 11, pt. 2 (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1932), col.  1735–76, esp. col. 1750, 1755–56, 1760–64.


    Sébastien Guichardan, Le problème de la simplicité divine en orient et en occident au XIVe et XVe siècles: Grégoire Palamas, Duns Scot, Georges Scholarios (Lyons: Anciens Établissements Legendre, 1933), 93, 105–109. The largely critical review of this work by Vénance Grumel, Echos d’Orient 34 (1935): 84–96, repeats this point without criticism.


    For example, Basil Krivosheine, The Ascetic and Theological Teaching of Gregory Palamas (London: Coldwell; reprint from The Eastern Churches Quarterly, 1938), 32; Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1976; orig. pub. in French, 1944), 76–77 and ‘ The Theology of Light in the Thought of St. Gregory Palamas’ (orig. pub. in French, 1945) in idem, In the Image and Likeness of God (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), 45–69, at 56; Georges Florovsky, ‘St. Gregory Palamas and the Tradition of the Fathers,’ Greek Orthodox Theological Review 5 (1959/60): 119–31, at 130; idem, ‘St. Athanasius’ Concept of Creation’, Studia Patristica 6 (1962): 36–57, at

  • Narcissism beyond Pleasure and Inter-subjectivity without Meaning: Reading Maximus the Confessor, Gregory Palamas, and Thomas Aquinas today 1
    Nikolaos Loudovikos (read abstract)
    Professor of Dogmatics and Philosophy, University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki; Visiting Professor, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, UK; Research Fellow, University of Winchester, UK

    This study is a systematic effort to understand modern narcissism-without-pleasure and intersubjectivity- without-meaning, with the help of the Maximian teaching on pleasure and pain, and the Palamite distinction between essence and energies. This is, at the same time, an effort to understand tradition in the context of a lively re-appropriation of the spiritual findings of the past. In order to express this, some new terms such as inter-meaningfulness are thus created with the help of modern Philosophy.

    Introduction: The Strawberries of Tradition and the Blood of Interpretation

    It was in Cambridge where Virginia Wolf, in 1923, started her famous lecture on modern literature with the phrase: ‘Suddenly, around 1910, human nature changed’. Indeed, human nature had started changing long before Wolf’s circle of artists and thinkers, along with other groups of intellectuals in Cambridge, such as the poisonous ‘Apostles’, realized it. If this change represents the ‘self-sufficient humanism’, its story has recently been told again, brilliantly, by thinkers such as Charles Taylor (A Secular Age) and Rémi Brague (Le Régne de l’homme).2 In any case, even the Enlightenment’s ‘detached self’ was strongly doubted: by Nietzsche and his change of ecstatic transcendence into will to power, along with the parallel re-evaluation of materiality; or by Freud and his (re-)discovery of the Unconscious, which is now decisively psycho-biological; and of course by Feuerbach, Hegel and Marx,


    Half of this paper, in an earlier form, was published as ‘Δι-εννοημάτωσις or Inter-meaningfulness: rereading Wittgenstein through Gregory Palamas’ and Thomas Aquinas’ readings of Aristotle’, in S. Mitralexis, ed., Ludwig Wittgenstein between Analytic Philosophy and Apophaticism (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015), 151–165. This half has undergone substantial changes.


    Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Rémi Brague, Le Régne de l’homme (Paris: Gallimard, 2015).

  • St Gregory Palamas on the Eschatological State: Some Observations
    Marcus Plested (read abstract)
    Professor of Greek Patristic and Byzantine Theology, Marquette University

    This paper serves as a brief and very preliminary exploration of a fascinating and under-explored aspect of St Gregory Palamas’ teaching: the nature of the next life. While we are used to thinking of St Gregory as someone who fought for the reality of human experience of the breaking-in of the Kingdom, the eschaton, even in this life, we are perhaps less prone to ponder what he has to say about the next life. In this respect, Gregory offers a number of intriguing suggestions, notably in terms of the vision of God with the eyes of the spiritual body and human participation, not only in the Resurrection but also in the Ascension of Christ.

    The whole thrust of St Gregory Palamas’ teaching is dedicated to the proposition that the eschaton is not to be imagined as some sort of future state but as the underlying, undergirding, and all-embracing eternal reality of the cosmos—a reality that is absolutely accessible to us in this life, and which has a habit of breaking into this world and upsetting all our comforting notions of linear time and bounded space. This breaking-in of the alone real, the Kingdom, is of course more than mildly mind-boggling, and indeed incapable of exhaustive expression. As T.S. Eliot puts it: ‘human kind / Cannot bear very much reality’.1 But Palamas is at great pains to defend the possibility of the vision and ingress of the wholly actual, the eternal now, into this life—however unbearable that might be. To put it more simply, Palamas categorically affirms that human beings can see and experience God and his Kingdom both in this life and a fortiori in the next life. The eschaton is to be understood not in terms of spatial or temporal extent (that is as far off and/or a long time ahead) but as the ultimate and uttermost here and now.2

    Palamas’ conception of time and eternity is certainly nourished by the hymnography and iconography of the Orthodox Church. Among many possible examples, let me invoke the text of the divine liturgy of St John Chrysostom in


    Thomas S. Eliot, Four Quartets: ‘Burnt Norton’, I.


    This paper was given at a colloquium on ‘Imagining the Eschatological State’ held at Wheaton College in the spring of 2017. It stands, as I say, as a very preliminary exploration of a complex theme that deserves closer and more sustained attention than I have been able to afford it here.

  • Divine Essence, Divine Persons, and Divine Energies in Gregory Palamas: A Methodological Approach
    Christos Terezis & Lydia Petridou (read abstract)
    Professor of Ancient Greek and Byzantine Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Patras, Greece, and Course Director of the Orthodox Theology Studies M.A. at the Hellenic Open University

    Dr of Ancient Greek and Byzantine Philosophy, Academic Staff at the Department of Greek Civilization at the Hellenic Open University

    In the present study, which is based on Gregory Palamas’ work Περὶ θείας ἑνώσεως καὶ διακρίσεως (On Divine Union and Distinction), it is our aim to present a methodological proposal for an approach to the texts of this Christian theologian, bearing in mind, on the one hand, the preceding tradition and teaching of Eastern Christianity and, on the other, the specific thematic directions taken by the text. The central thrust of our analysis is the question of the union and distinction between the divine essence, the divine persons, and the divine energies. Moreover, through a rational organization of the concepts, we attempt to establish a theory concerning theological metaphysics in order to demonstrate that they all reflect the same ontological reality: that is, the Holy Trinity. As regards the structure of our study, we examine the following categories: 1. the uniform manner of divine creativity and a cognitive approach thereto; 2. created things are not divine ‘procession’, but the results thereof; 3. God creates without multiplying; 4. the participated exist before the participating; 5. the divine as transcending any number; 6. the divine names are not an empty sound; 7. on the kinds of distinction; 8. on hypostatic distinction; 9. on the uncreated nature of the divine hypostases. These are issues which first touch upon the field of ontology and then that of epistemology.


    This study lies chiefly within the compass of methodology. In particular, it aims at presenting a methodological proposal for an approach to the texts of the Christian theologian Gregory Palamas. The proposal is concerned with how to locate and

  • Finitude and Deification: Maximus the Confessor's Eschatology as Systematic Metaphysics
    Miroslav Griško (read abstract)
    Independent Researcher, Ljubljana, Slovenia

    From the position of Saint Maximus the Confessor’s eschatology, conceptual pairs which address specific theological problems, such as logoi-tropos and natural will-gnomic will, also function as mirrors of each other, together clarifying the fundamental principles of the Confessor’s eschatology as well as demonstrating the systematic character of his thought. Following the tradition of figures such as Sherwood and Zizioulas, the paper takes the opposition between Maximus’ logic of end and Origen’s logic of beginning as a starting point to describe Maximian eschatology as systematic metaphysics. The cosmic finitude of eschatology is an ‘incomplete ontology’ (Loudovikos) of crucifixion and resurrection, according to which the void of soteriological incompleteness (viz. that the creation is not yet deified) receives an objective meaning in the eschaton. The fallen tropos of being as deep ontological contingency is guided by the in- carnation of the Logos, and, by extension, the logoi, thus instantiating the ‘fundamental meaning’ (Louth) of eschatological history. In other terms, history is the eschatological antagonism between, on the one hand, the gnomic will as the reduction of freedom to the complete ontology of immanent perpetual choice and, on the other, the natural will that determines the ethical mission of man as the total transformation of the cosmos, theosis.


    In his Lectures on Christian Dogmatics, Zizioulas writes that Saint Maximus the Confessor ‘took the cosmology of Origen and made it eschatological, transferring its reference from the beginning to the end, thus dethroning Plato’.1 The introduction of eschatology into cosmology engenders a new metaphysical model. Maximus’ transformation of the theological and philosophical tradition is occasioned by the depth of the difference between beginning and end. Although there is no doctrinal formulation of eschatology in Orthodoxy,2 the basic metaphysical premises of eschatology,


    John D. Zizioulas, Lectures on Christian Dogmatics (London: Continuum, 2008), 130.


    Cf. Andrew Louth, ‘Eastern Orthodox Eschatology’ in The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology, ed. J. L. Wells (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 233.

  • BOOK REVIEWS Church in the Making: An Apophatic Ecclesiology of Consubstantiality by N. Loudovikos
    Maximos Constas (read abstract)
    Senior Research Scholar, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA


    In an essay originally published in 1948, Fr Georges Florovsky noted that, whereas the Orthodox conciliar tradition produced no formal definition or doctrine of the Church, this was not because of any confusion or obscurity regarding the question, but because the experiential reality of the Church was so overwhelmingly self-evident that it required no explanation.1 Yet, what may have been self-evident in the patristic and Byzantine period no longer seems to be quite so obvious, and theologians now regularly question the nature of the Church, along with its purpose and relevance in the modern world. Despite the proliferation of various ecclesiological models and theories, many questions regarding the nature, identity, unity, structure, orders, and ministries of the Church remain largely open and under discussion, and these are not merely academic questions but to the contrary express a genuine and widespread crisis.

    Church in the Making addresses these questions in ways that are exceptionally fresh and creative, and which should insure this book an important place in the large and complex body of ecclesiological literature produced over the last century and a half. The central problem, as Loudovikos sees it, is that hierarchy and institutional structure have come to dominate the vision of the Church, and as a result have become unwitting vectors in a vicious cycle: disproportionate emphasis on the Church as an institution invariably provokes a range of subjective, spiritualizing, charismatic and therapeutic reactions.

    Far from being a merely general study of ecclesiology or episcopal primacy, Church in the Making is at once a meticulous and far-reaching exploration of these questions based on often brilliantly perceptive readings of patristic sources, in particular the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite and Maximus the Confessor. The author’s reading of these sources brings new categories and concepts into prominence—or rather new understandings of traditional categories—such as ‘imitation’, ‘consubstantiality’, and ‘participation’ (all of which require careful parsing), which aim to move beyond the facile and false dichotomy of so-called ‘therapeutic’ ecclesi-


    Georges Florovsky, ‘The Church: Her Nature and Task,’ The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, vol. 1 (Vaduz: Büchervertriebsanstalt, 1989), 57; originally published in The Universal Church in God’s Design: An Ecumenical Study (London: SCM Press, 1948), 43–58; the quotation appears on page 43.