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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Concerning Energy.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXIII.—Concerning Energy.

All the faculties 1861 we have already discussed, both those of knowledge and those of life, both the natural and the artificial, are, it is to be noted, called energies. For energy 1862 is the natural force and activity of each essence: or again, natural energy is the activity innate in every essence: and so, clearly, things that have the same essence have also the same energy, and things that have different natures have also different energies. For no essence can be devoid of natural energy.

Natural energy again is the force in each essence by which its nature is made manifest. And again: natural energy is the primal, eternally-moving force of the intelligent soul: that is, the eternally-moving word of the soul, which ever springs naturally from it. And yet again: natural energy 1863 is the force and activity of each essence which only that which is not lacks.

But actions 1864 are also called energies: for instance, speaking, eating, drinking, and such like. The natural affections 1865 also are often called energies, for instance, hunger, thirst, and so forth 1866 . And yet again, the result of the force is also often called energy.

Things are spoken of in a twofold way as being potential and actual. For we say that the child at the breast is a potential scholar, for he is so equipped that, if taught, he will become a scholar. Further, we speak of a potential and an actual scholar, meaning that the latter is versed in letters, while the former has the power of interpreting letters, but does not put it into actual use: again, when we speak of an actual scholar, we mean that he puts his power into actual use, that is to say, that he really interprets writings.

It is, therefore, to be observed that in the second sense potentiality and actuality go together; for the scholar is in the one case potential, and in the other actual.

The primal and only true energy of nature is the voluntary or rational and independent life which constitutes our humanity. I know not how those who rob the Lord of this can say that He became man 1867 .

Energy is drastic activity of nature: and by drastic is meant that which is moved of itself.



Anast. Sin. in ῞Οδηγ., from Greg. Nyss., p. 44; Clem. Alex. ap. Max., p. 151.


The Greek ἐνεργεία being a term with a large connotation is explained as meaning in different cases operation (operatio), action (actio), and act (actus). Nemesius defines actio as operatio rationalis, actus as perfectio potentiæ


Cf. Anast. Sin. in ῾Οδηγός, p. 43; John of Dam., Dialect. c. 30; Greg. Nyss., in Maximus, II., p. 155.


πράξεις. So πρᾶξις is defined as ἐνέργεια λογική in the following chapter.


τὰ πάθη. Cf. Instit. Elem., c. 9; Greg. Nyss., Cont. Eunom., v. p. 170.


Max., Dial. cum Pyrrh.


Greg. Nyss. ap. Max., p. 155.

Next: Concerning what is Voluntary and what is Involuntary.

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