|Posted by stjohnsminneapolis on October 14, 2016 at 11:10 AM|
EASTERN CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING OF GRACE
by His Eminence Archbishop Lazarus Puhalo
Grace is an uncreated energy of God. While Apostle Paul uses the word “energy” more than 20 times in his Epistles, it is translated our of the text in most English versions.
“Energy” is a form of communication, or rather about “communicating something” in both physics and theology. Grace is neither “created,” nor does it have “species” as some sectarians teach. It is the uncreated “energy” of God.
While it is some times referred to as a “free gift” from God, this is a metaphor derived from the fact that God bestows His Grace freely. But what, exactly does that mean? We receive grace by being permitted to participate in the energies of God to some degree. For example, when we speak of a miracle by a saint, we really mean a miracle that God has granted “through” the saint. The energy that works the miracle is God’s energy, and we refer to it as an act of God’s Grace. This is also how we know God: He reveals Himself to us through the actions of His uncreated energies, which means that He communicates uncreated Grace to us.
When we speak of the “Grace of the Holy Spirit,” this means that God is communicating His uncreated energy to us through the Holy Spirit. Grace is not a "thing" or an "attribute" of God, and even though it is a "gift which God sends down" (James1:17), it cannot be defined, limited or ranked by degrees, and it is not something that is “created.” It is God's special act of lifting man up to Him and coming down to man, so that man shares in something of God Himself, and from this, receives a special consecration. If, for example, a Saint receives the "gift of working miracles," this gift is not something he possesses on his own. It is a result of his special nearness to God. God extends His Grace (Energy) by working miracles through that person, and it is a special communion of that holy person with God.
But let us try so explain this in more simple terms. We cannot know the Essence of God. It is so totally different from anything that we can know. So how does God reveal Himself to us, and how do we know God? He communicates to and with us through His energy. When God communicates with us in this way, we call it “Grace.”
“Grace” indicates “something that is given free and freely. God’s Grace (uncreated energy) is always present, always offered to everyone, but it is received only by those who come to understand that it is present and open their hearts and minds to receive it. This Grace is God’s way of speaking to us, to our hearts and souls and minds. This means that we can know God by directly experiencing God (through His uncreated Grace or Energy). God is the only source of life. So life itself is a gift of God’s Grace.
We can have life only by sharing in God’s energy. Life is a free gift from God, no matter by what process He chose to manifest it. We were created wholly mortal (only God can be immortal by nature). How will we inherit eternal life, that is, immortality? By His Grace, God allows us to share in His immortality; we become, as Apostle Peter says, “participants in the Divine nature.”
This means that God will being us into a participation in His divine energies and this is why we call everlasting life “Theosis,” that is, we become divine ourselves by participating in His Grace. While I hope that this will be of some help in explaining the question of what Grace is, a true understanding of the things of God can only be assimilated through an actual living experience of them in a life of prayer, contemplation, fasting, moral struggle and Holy Communion.