Greek patristic authors employed two ways in particular to articulate the double truth of God as transcendent yet immanent, as beyond and above, yet ‘everywhere present and filling everything’. St Maximus the Confessor thought in terms of the Logos and logoi. Other authors made a distinction between God's transcendent essence (ousia) and his immanent energies or operations (energeiai). In his essence God is infinitely transcendent, utterly beyond all created being, beyond all understanding and all participation from the human side. But in his energies – which are nothing else than God himself in action – God is inexhaustibly immanent, maintaining all things in being, animating them, making each a sacrament of his dynamic presence. The thinker who provides the most systematic exposition of this essence-energies distinction is St Gregory Palamas, archbishop of Thessalonica (ca. 1296-1359), the greatest Byzantine theologian of the period spanning the middle of the 13th to the end of the 15th century. For St Gregory, the divine energies are nothing less than love in action. When he speaks of the created world as sustained and interpenetrated by these omnipresent energies, his meaning is exactly that of Julian of Norwich when she marvelled at the contrast between the ‘littleness’ and fragility of the world on the one hand and its stability and persistence on the other: “It lasteth, and ever shall, for God liveth it. And so hath all things being by the love of God”.
Kallistos Ware is Assistant Bishop in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, sometime Spalding Lecturer of Eastern Orthodox Studies at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.