Saint John of Damascus on God and the Holy Trinity

Saint John of Damascus Franciscan ImageSaint John of Damascus on God and the Holy Trinity

Chapter 13.

“The Divinity, therefore, is absolutely unchangeable and inalterable. For, all things which are not in our power He predetermined by His foreknowledge, each one in its own proper time and place. It is in this sense that it is said: ‘Neither does the Father judge any man: but hath given all judgment to the Son.’ For, of course, the Father has judged, and so has the Son of God, and so has the Holy Ghost. But, as man, the Son Himself will come down in His body and sit upon the throne of glory – for both the coming down and the sitting will be of His circumscribed body – and He will judge the whole world in equity.

All things are far from God: not in place, but in nature. With us, prudence and wisdom and counsel come and go like habits, but that is certainly not the case with God. With Him, nothing comes into being or ceases to be, and one must not speak of accidents, because He is inalterable and unchangeable. The good is concomitant to His essence. He sees God who always longs for Him, for all things that are, are dependent upon Him who is, so that it is impossible for anything to be, unless it have its being in Him who is. Indeed, in so far as He sustains their nature, God is mixed in with all things. God the Word, however, was united to His sacred body hypostatically and was combined with our nature without being mingled with it.

No one sees the Father, except the Son and the Spirit.

The Son is the counsel, the wisdom, and the power of the Father. For we must not speak of quality in God, lest we say that He is composed of substance and quality.

The Son is from the Father, and whatsoever He has He has from Him. For that reason, He can do nothing of Himself. Thus, He has no operation that it is distinct from the Father.

That God, although invisible by nature, becomes visible through His operations we know from the arrangement of the world and from its governing.

The Son is image of the Father, and image of the Son is the Spirit, through whom the Christ dwelling in man gives it to him to be to the image of God.

The Holy Ghost is God. He is the median of the Unbegotten and the Begotten and He is joined with the Father through the Son. He is called the Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, Mind of Christ, Spirit of the Lord, True Lord, Spirit of adoption, freedom, and wisdom – for He is the cause of all these. He fills all things with His essence and sustains all things. In His essence He fills the world, but in His power the world does not contain Him.

God is substance eternal, unchangeable, creative of the things that are, and to be adored with devout consideration.

The Father is also God. It is He who is ever-unbegotten, because He was never begotten of anyone, but He has begotten a co-eternal Son. The Son is also God. It is he who is ever with the Father, having been begotten of Him timelessly, eternally, without change, without passion, and without cease. The Holy Ghost is also God. He is a sanctifying force that is subsistent, that proceeds unceasingly from the Father and abides in the Son, and that is of the same substance as the Father and the Son.

The Word is He who is ever present with the Father substantially. In another sense, a word is the natural movement of the mind, by which the mind moves and thinks and reasons, as if it were the light and radiance of the mind. And again, a word is that internal thought which his spoken in the heart. Still again, there is the spoken word which is a messenger of the mind. Now, God the Word is both substantial and subsistent, while the other three kinds of word are faculties of the soul and are not found to exist in their own hypostases. The first of these is a produce of the mind, ever springing naturally from the mind. The second is called internal, and the third called spoken.

The term ‘spirit’ is understood in several ways. There is the Holy Spirit. And the powers of this Holy Spirit are also called spirits. The good angel is likewise a spirit, and so is the demon and the soul. There are times when even the mind is called spirit. The wind is also a spirit, and so is the air.

Chapter 14.

The uncreate, the unoriginate, the immortal, the boundless, the eternal, the immaterial, the good, the creative, the just, the enlightening, the unchangeable, the passionless, the uncircumscribed, the uncontained, the unlimited, the indefinable, the invisible, the inconceivable, the wanting nothing, the having absolute power and authority, the life-giving, the almighty, the infinitely powerful, the sanctifying and communicating, the containing and sustaining all things, and the providing for all – all these and the like He possess by His nature. They are not received from any other source; on the contrary, it is His nature that communicates all good of His own creatures in accordance with the capacity of each.

The abiding and resting of the Persons in one another is not in such a manner that they coalesce or become confused, but, rather, so that they adhere to one another, for they are without interval between them and inseparable and their mutual indwelling is without confusion. For the Son is in the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit is in the Father and the Son, and the Father is in the Son and the Spirit, and there is no merging or blending or confusion. And there is one surge and one movement of three Persons. It is impossible for this to be found in any created nature.

Then there is the fact that the divine irradiation and operation is one, simple, and undivided; and that, while it is apparently diversely manifested in divisible things, dispensing to all of them the components of their proper nature, it remains simple. Indivisibility, it is multiplied in divisible things, and, gathering them together, it reverts them to its own simplicity. For, toward Him all things tend, and in Him they have their existence, and to all things He communicates their being in accordance with the nature of each. He is the being of things that are, the life of the living, the reason of the rational, and the intelligence of intelligent beings. He surpasses intelligence, reason, life, and essence.

And then again, there is His pervading of all things without Himself being contaminated, whereas nothing pervades Him. And yet again, there is His knowing of all things by a simple act of knowing. And there is His distinctly seeing with His divine, all-seeing, and immaterial eye all things at once, both present and past and future, before they come to pass. And there is His sinlessness, His forgiving of sins and saving. And, finally, there is the fact that all that He wills He can do, even though He does not will all the things that He can do – for He can destroy the world, but He does not will to do so.”

– Orthodox Faith: Book One –


– Lucas G. Westman

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