Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Concerning the place of God: and that the Deity alone is uncircumscribed.
Chapter XIII.—Concerning the place of God: and that the Deity alone is uncircumscribed.
Bodily place is the limit of that which contains, by which that which is contained is contained 1615 : for example, the air contains but the body is contained 1616 . But it is not the whole of the containing air which is the place of the contained body, but the limit of the containing air, where it comes into contact with the contained body: and the reason is clearly because that which contains is not within that which it contains.
But there is also mental place where mind is active, and mental and incorporeal nature exists: where mind dwells and energises and is contained not in a bodily but in a mental fashion. For it is without form, and so cannot be contained as a body is. God, then, being immaterial 1617 and uncircumscribed, has not place. For He is His own place, filling all things and being above all things, and Himself maintaining all things 1618 . Yet we speak of God having place and the place of God where His energy becomes manifest. For He penetrates everything without mixing with it, and imparts to all His energy in proportion to the fitness and receptive power of each: and by this I mean, a purity both natural and voluntary. For the immaterial is purer than the material, and that which is virtuous than that which is linked with vice. Wherefore by the place of God is meant that which has a greater share in His energy and grace. For this reason the Heaven is His throne. For in it are the angels who do His will and are always glorifying Him 1619 . For this is His rest and the earth is His footstool 1620 . For in it He dwelt in the flesh among men 1621 . And His sacred flesh has been named the foot of God. The Church, too, is spoken of as the place of God: for we have set this apart for the glorifying of God as a sort of consecrated place wherein we also hold converse with Him. Likewise also the places in which His energy becomes manifest to us, whether through the flesh or apart from flesh, are spoken of as the places of God.
But it must be understood that the Deity is indivisible, being everywhere wholly in His entirety and not divided up part by part like that which has body, but wholly in everything and wholly above everything.
Marg. ms. Concerning the place of angel and spirit, and concerning the uncircumscribed.
The angel, although not contained in place with figured form as is body, yet is spoken of as being in place because he has a mental presence and energises in accordance with his nature, and is not elsewhere but has his mental limitations there where he energises. For it is impossible to energise at the same time in different places. For to God alone belongs the power of energising everywhere p. 16b at the same time. The angel energises in different places by the quickness of his nature and the promptness and speed by which he can change his place: but the Deity, Who is everywhere and above all, energises at the same time in diverse ways with one simple energy.
Further the soul is bound up with the body. whole with whole and not part with part: and it is not contained by the body but contains it as fire does iron, and being in it energises with its own proper energies.
That which is comprehended in place or time or apprehension is circumscribed: while that which is contained by none of these is uncircumscribed. Wherefore the Deity alone is uncircumscribed, being without beginning and without end, and containing all things, and in no wise apprehended 1622 . For He alone is incomprehensible and unbounded, within no ones knowledge and contemplated by Himself alone. But the angel is circumscribed alike in time (for His being had commencement) and in place (but mental space, as we said above) and in apprehension. For they know somehow the nature of each other and have their bounds perfectly defined by the Creator. Bodies in short are circumscribed both in beginning and end, and bodily place and apprehension.
Marg. ms. From various sources concerning God and the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And concerning the Word and the Spirit.
The Deity, then, is quite unchangeable and invariable. For all things which are not in our hands He hath predetermined by His foreknowledge, each in its own proper and peculiar time and place. And accordingly the Father judgeth no one, but hath given all judgment to the Son 1623 . For clearly the Father and the Son and also the Holy Spirit judged as God. But the Son Himself will descend in the body as man, and will sit on the throne of Glory (for descending and sitting require circumscribed body), and will judge all the world in justice.
All things are far apart from God, not in place but in nature. In our case, thoughtfulness, and wisdom, and counsel come to pass and go away as states of being. Not so in the case of God: for with Him there is no happening or ceasing to be: for He is invariable and unchangeable: and it would not be right to speak of contingency in connection with Him. For goodness is concomitant with essence. He who longs alway after God, he seeth Him: for God is in all things. Existing things are dependent on that which is, and nothing can be unless it is in that which is. God then is mingled with everything, maintaining their nature: and in His holy flesh the God-Word is made one in subsistence and is mixed with our nature, yet without confusion.
No one seeth the Father, save the Son and the Spirit 1624 .
The Son is the counsel and wisdom and power of the Father. For one may not speak of quality in connection with God, from fear of implying that He was a compound of essence and quality.
The Son is from the Father, and derives from Him all His properties: hence He cannot do ought of Himself 1625 . For He has not energy peculiar to Himself and distinct from the Father 1626 .
That God Who is invisible by nature is made visible by His energies, we perceive from the organisation and government of the world 1627 .
The Son is the Fathers image, and the Spirit the Sons, through which Christ dwelling in man makes him after his own image 1628 .
The Holy Spirit is God, being between the unbegotten and the begotten, and united to the Father through the Son 1629 . We speak of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the mind of Christ, the Spirit of the Lord, the very Lord 1630 , the Spirit of adoption, of truth, of liberty, of wisdom (for He is the creator of all these): filling all things with essence, maintaining all things, filling the universe with essence, while yet the universe is not the measure of His power.
God is everlasting and unchangeable essence, creator of all that is, adored with pious consideration.
God is also Father, being ever unbegotten, for He was born of no one, but hath begotten His co-eternal Son: God is likewise Son, being always with the Father, born of the Father timelessly, everlastingly, without flux or passion, or separation from Him. God is also Holy Spirit, being sanctifying power, subsistential, proceeding from the Father without separation, and resting in the Son, identical in essence with Father and Son.
Word is that which is ever essentially present with the Father. Again, word is also the natural movement of the mind, according to which it is moved and thinks and considers, p. 17b being as it were its own light and radiance. Again, word is the thought that is spoken only within the heart. And again, word is the utterance 1631 that is the messenger of thought. God therefore is Word 1632 essential and enhypostatic: and the other three kinds of word are faculties of the soul, and are not contemplated as having a proper subsistence of their own. The first of these is the natural offspring of the mind, ever welling 1633 up naturally out of it: the second is the thought: and the third is the utterance.
The Spirit has various meanings. There is the Holy Spirit: but the powers of the Holy Spirit are also spoken of as spirits: the good messenger is also spirit: the demon also is spirit: the soul too is spirit: and sometimes mind also is spoken of as spirit. Finally the wind is spirit and the air is spirit.
Arist., Physic, bk. iv. 4.15b:1616
Text, οἷον ὁ ἀ& 209·ρ περιέχει, τὸ δὲ σῶμα περιέχεται· οὐχ ὅλος δε ὁ περιέχων ἀ& 208·ρ, &c. Variant, οἷον ὁ ἀ& 209·ρ περιέχει τόδε σῶμα, οὐχ ὅλος, &c.15b:1617
ἄϋλος ὤν. Greg. Naz., Orat. 34, Greg. Nyss., De anim. et resurr., &c. speak of God as nowhere and as everywhere.15b:1618
Greg. Naz., Orat. 34.15b:1619
Isa. 1:0, Isa. 6:1, seq.15b:1620
Isa. 1:0, Isa. 66:1.15b:1621
Baruch iii. 38.16b:1622
Greg. Naz., Orat. 44.16b:1623
St. John v. 22.16b:1624
St. John vi. 46.16b:1625
Greg., Orat. 36.16b:1627
Wisd. xii. 5.16b:1628
Basil, Cont. Eun., bk. v.16b:1629
μέσον τοῦ ἀγεννήτου καὶ τοῦ γεννητοῦ, καὶ δι᾽ Υἱοῦ τῷ Πατρὶ συναπτόμενον.16b:1630
προφορικός is absent in mss. but added by a second hand in one codex.17b:1632
οὐσιώδης τέ ἐστι καὶ ἐνυπόστατος. Against the Sabellian doctrine, the views of Paul of Samosata, &c.17b:1633
Next: The properties of the divine nature.
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: http://St-Takla.org / Contact us at