Now, I may very well be mistaken about this, so I'm steeping out on a limb, perhaps, by even posting it, but from what I've gathered so far, the Latins spoke of the "energies" of God in terms of His divine characteristics or attributes. If I'm not mistaken about this, then we may view all Scriptural references to God's "attributes" as actually referring to His divine "energies." For example: 2 Pet. 1:3-4 "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature." Note the expression, "partakers of the divine nature." There, the term "nature" refers not to the divine essence, but to the divine attributes or energies.
The Greek word for "nature," in 2 Peter 1:4, is "phusis
." According to the Greek Lexicon, this term appears 11 times in the New Testament. Of the several "contextual" meanings given for it, the one which appears most suitable to 2 Pet. 1:4 is: "The sum of innate properties and powers by which one person differs from others, distinctive native peculiarities, natural characteristics." On the Divine Attributes
by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
"One may speak only of the attributes of God, but not of the very essence of God
. The Fathers express themselves only indirectly concerning the nature of the Divinity, saying that the essence of God is “one, simple, incomplex.” However, this simplicity is not something without distinguishing characteristics or content; it contains within itself the fullness of the qualities of existence. “God is a sea of being, immeasurable and limitless” (St. Gregory the Theologian); “God is the fullness of all qualities and perfection in their highest and infinite form” (St. Basil the Great); “God is simple and incomplex; He is entirely feeling, entirely spirit, entirely thought, entirely mind, entirely source of all good things” (St. Irenaeus of Lyons).
Speaking of the attributes of God
, the Holy Fathers indicate that their multiplicity, considering the simplicity of the essence, is a result of our own inability to find a mystical and single means of viewing the Divinity. In God, one attribute is an aspect of another. God is righteous: this implies that He is also blessed and good and Spirit. The multiple simplicity in God is like the light of the sun, which reveals itself in the various colors that are received by bodies on the earth, for example, by plants. In the enumeration of the attributes of God in the Holy Fathers and in the texts of the Divine services, there is a preponderance of expressions that are grammatically in a negative form, that is, with the prefixes “a-” or “un-.” However, one must keep in view, that this negative form indicates a “negation of limits,” as for example: “not unknowing” actually signifies “knowing.”
Thus, the negative form is really an affirmation of attributes that are without limit. We may find a model of such expressions in the Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith by St. John Damascene: “God is unoriginate, unending, eternal, constant, uncreated, unchanging, unalterable, simple, uncomplicated, bodiless, invisible, intangible, indescribable, without bounds, inaccessible to the mind, uncontainable, incomprehensible, good, righteous, the Creator of all creatures, the Almighty Pantocrator, He who looketh down upon all, whose Providence is over everything, Who has dominion over all, the judge.”
Our thoughts about God in general speak: 1) either about His distinction from the created world (for example, God is unoriginate, while the world has an origin; He is endless, while the world has an end; He is eternal, while the world exists in time); or 2) about the activities of God in the world and the relation of the Creator to His creations (Creator, Providence, Merciful, Righteous Judge).
In indicating the attributes of God, we do not thereby give a “definition” of the concept of God Such a definition is essentially impossible, because every definition is an indication of “finiteness.” [In Russian, Father Michael is indicating here the derivation of the word opredeleniye (“definition”) from predel (“limit” or “boundary”). In English the same thing is true: “definition” derives from the Latin finis, (“limit”) and signifies, incompleteness.] However, in God there are no limits, and therefore there cannot be a definition of the concept of the Divinity: “For a concept is itself a form of limitation” (St. Gregory the Theologian, Homily 28, his Second Theological Oration).
Our reason demands the acknowledgement in God of a whole series of essential attributes. Reason tells us that God has a rational, free, and personal existence. If in the imperfect world we see free and rational personal beings, we cannot fail to recognize a free and rational personal existence in God Himself, who is the Source, Cause, and Creator of all life. Reason tells us that God is a most perfect Being. Every lack and imperfection are incompatible with the concept of “God.” Reason tells us that the most perfect Being can be only singular: God is One. There cannot be two perfect beings, since one would limit the other. Reason tells us that God is a self-existing Being, since nothing can be the cause or condition of the existence of God.