Photios (the Lesser [wink]) on the Divine Persons-Essence Distinction and Orthodoxy

Photios may object to my posting his reply (as opposed to a polished paper) in a comment thread on Dr. L’s site, but he summarizes quite nicely I think the Orthodox understanding of Person and essence:

Are you clear, from an Orthodox perspective, that there is no divine essence abstraced from person? That the divine nature is the content of the person and that it is concrete only in enhypostatization? That is, nature only has existence in a person. To continue on this line, what various scholastic authors have setup in abstracting a concept of a divine essence prior to consideration of persons, in which it (i.e. the divine essence) only truly subsists, is (again from an Orthodox perspective) no divine essence at all. In that respect, I would agree with many of the heavy-handed a-theist type arguments that are leveled at the “proofs” for the existence of God.

Having said that, I believe it is misleading to construe Palamas’ view of divine essence as a mere universal, “or as an abstraction from reality,” since Palamas would never analyze a concept of divine essence apart from Persons, and vice versa, which is why Lossky says, “There is neither an impersonal substance nor non-consubstantial persons. The one nature and the three hypostases are presented simultaneously to our understanding, with neither prior to the other. The origin of the hypostases is not impersonal, since it is referred to the person of the Father; but it is unthinkable apart from their common possession of the same essence, the “divinity in division undivided.” St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Or. 31, 14; P.G. 36, col. 148D. Otherwise we should have Three Divine Individuals, Three Gods bound together by an abstract idea of Godhead. On the other hand, since consubstantiality is the non-hypostatic identity of the Three, in that they have (or rather are) a common essence, the unity of the three hypostases is inconceivable apart from the monarchy of the Father, who is the principle of the common possession of the same one essence.”

The Fatherhood Chronicles CX

The Power of the Cross

I am reminded of my daughters’ mortality these past several days as they struggle with colds and illnesses.  While we’ve taken them to see the doctor, and they’ve gotten some antibiotics, I also sign the cross on and over them each night.  Last night, when I got home from teaching logic, they were already in bed asleep.  As I made my way to bed myself, I signed the cross over them as they slept, giving my fatherly blessing and praying for their healing.  This morning, Delaina awoke early, seeing the light on in the office, and called for me.  I rocked her back to sleep, and as I did so, signed the cross over her.

Many, myself once included long ago, view the making of the sign of the cross as mere superstition, something one does in vampire movies.  But the signing of the cross on oneself is an ancient symbol and practice, as Tertullian writes, at the beginning of the third century:

At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign.

For the signing of the cross invokes its power, the power by which Christ destroyed our mortality.  By signing on them the symbol of our Lord’s passion, how by death he destroyed death, I am praying for them, that the death in them might be overcome in the Lord’s death.  When they are baptized in the name of the Trinity and chrismated with the Holy Oil, this cross will be signed on them again, and in this sacrament they will know the Resurrection of the Lord.

For now, I mark them as Christ’s and invoke his healing protection.