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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Concerning the manner of the Mutual Communication.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IV.—Concerning the manner of the Mutual Communication 1985 .

Now we have often said already that essence is one thing and subsistence another, and that essence signifies the common and general form 1986 of subsistences of the same kind, such as God, man, while subsistence marks the individual, that is to say, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, or Peter, Paul. Observe, then, that the names, divinity and humanity, denote essences or natures: while the names, God and man, are applied both in connection with natures, as when we say that God is incomprehensible essence, and that God is one, and with reference to subsistences, that which is more specific having the name of the more general applied to it, as when the Scripture says, Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee 1987 , or again, There was a certain man in the land of Uz 1988 , for it was only to Job that reference was made.

Therefore, in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, seeing that we recognise that He has two natures but only one subsistence compounded of both, when we contemplate His natures we speak of His divinity and His humanity, but when we contemplate the subsistence compounded of the natures we sometimes use terms that have reference to His double nature, as “Christ,” and “at once God and man,” and “God Incarnate;” and sometimes those that imply only one of His natures, as “God” alone, or “Son of God,” and “man” alone, or “Son of Man;” sometimes using names that imply His loftiness and sometimes those that imply His lowliness. For He Who is alike God and man is one, being the former from the Father ever without 1989 cause, but having become the latter afterwards for His love towards man 1990 .

p. 49b When, then, we speak of His divinity we do not ascribe to it the properties of humanity. For we do not say that His divinity is subject to passion or created. Nor, again, do we predicate of His flesh or of His humanity the properties of divinity: for we do not say that His flesh or His humanity is uncreated. But when we speak of His subsistence, whether we give it a name implying both natures, or one that refers to only one of them, we still attribute to it the properties of both natures. For Christ, which name implies both natures, is spoken of as at once God and man, created and uncreated, subject to suffering and incapable of suffering: and when He is named Son of God and God, in reference to only one of His natures, He still keeps the properties of the co-existing nature, that is, the flesh, being spoken of as God who suffers, and as the Lord of Glory crucified 1991 , not in respect of His being God but in respect of His being at the same time man. Likewise also when He is called Man and Son of Man, He still keeps the properties and glories of the divine nature, a child before the ages, and man who knew no beginning; it is not, however, as child or man but as God that He is before the ages, and became a child in the end. And this is the manner of the mutual communication, either nature giving in exchange to the other its own properties through the identity of the subsistence and the interpenetration of the parts with one another. Accordingly we can say of Christ: This our God was seen upon the earth and lived amongst men 1992 , and This man is uncreated and impossible and uncircumscribed.


Footnotes

48b:1985

Cf. Athan., De Salut. adv. Christi; Greg. Naz., Orat. 38; Greg. Nyss., Contr. Apoll.; Leont., Contr. Nestor. et Eutych., bk. 1; Thomas Aquinas, III., quæst. 16, art. 4, 5.

48b:1986

εἶδος, form, class, species.

48b:1987

Ps. xlv. 7.

48b:1988

Job i. 1.

48b:1989

ἀεὶ ἀναιτίως ἐκ Πατρός.

48b:1990

Greg. Naz., Orat. 35.

49b:1991

1 Cor. ii. 8.

49b:1992

Baruch iii. 38: these words are absent in many mss.


Next: Concerning the number of the Natures.

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