Mar Odisho, Metropolitan of N’siwin and Armenia
Theory Concerning God
That there is a God, and that the world is created, is made, and is temporal.
St. Paul the heavenly apostle, the treasury of the Holy Spirit, and the spiritual philosopher, has, through the Spirit, laid an awe-inspiring foundation for Theology, by his saying, that men “should seek God, and feel after Him, and find Him1 out from His creation.” The artificer is known by his art, and the maker through the thing made.
That the world is made, and created, and that it had a beginning in time is evident from the fact, that it is compounded, framed and regulated as a whole, and in all its parts. Everything that is compounded, framed and regulated must have a compounder, framer and regulator. That it is compounded is proved from its whole being made up of many parts, and from all its bodies being made up of matter and species, and from the visible and invisible movers therein. But the most certain witness, of its being framed is man, who is a small world in himself, and in whose formation all creation is brought together, as one of the sages has said: “Man is an epitome of the whole world, and of the whole frame of creation.” That the world is regulated is clear from the wonderful order of the heavens, the planets, the elements, with all their productive powers, generating plants, trees, mines, and the members of beasts and of men, the astonishing order of which surpasses the wisdom and knowledge of all created beings. In the same way the ancient philosophers concluded that every motion must have a mover, until it arrived at Him Who is not moved, Who is the Cause of all, and of Whom they predicated that He must be good, wise, and almighty. God, inasmuch as He created the world without a cause (i.e., of His own motion); wise, because of the admirable order and frame displayed in the universe; almighty, because He overcame the things which are naturally destructive of each other, and brought them together in one agreement. Further, this world is made up of quality and quantity, as respects its bodies and spirits, and of different dimensions and extensions, of which the mind can inquire, why they were not less or more, higher or lower than they are. And when it would know a cause for the appropriate designs, resemblances and dimensions, of all and of each, and for their existence and continuance as they are, it can find no other than the will and intelligence of the Creator, who created and disposed them after His own will, and as He knew would be best and most fit.
The artificer must of necessity exist before the work, in order that it may be proved of him that he is really the maker of that which did not exist before, and that he made it. This truth, then, being confirmed, it follows that the world is made, and had a beginning in time, and is not eternal. It also follows that it has a Maker, Who is good, wise, eternal, strong, and possessed of a will.
That God is One and Not Many
That the Maker of this world is one and not many is proved by the fact that it is impossible that many can possess one, perfect, unchangeable, self consentaneous will; because they must either be co-equal in essence, and in everything appertaining thereto, which would destroy plurality by the non-existence of distinction, or anything distinguishing, just as it is inconsistent to conceive of the existence of two blacknesses, alike in every respect, and not distinguishable, and having but one and the same substance or they must be distinct from each other in essence and in all that appertains thereto; for they would be contrary and destructive of one another. But con-substantiality could not exist between two opposing makers, nor could a perfect work proceed from them. For they must be alike in essence, and distinct in what appertains thereto, each one having an appropriate quality by which he is distinguishable from his associates: when they would all be compounded of the things in which they are alike, and of those in which they are distinguishable. But every compound thing is made, and must have a maker and compounder; hence results the truth of that declaration: “The Lord our God is One God2 and though there be gods many and lords many, to us there is but one God.”3
That God is Eternal
Everything that exists must be either eternal or emporal; and everything temporal has a cause and a maker, and time and maker must be preexistent to it. But that the cause of all things is without a cause, and that the Creator of all things has no maker, every right and unprejudiced mind is assured of, because it is natural to it so to judge. It follows, then, that the Self-existent is the Creator, and the Eternal, anterior to time, because He Himself created time. Time is a reckoning of the motions of bodies, and as we have already proved that He is the cause of these, therefore He is eternal, and without beginning. Now that which has no beginning, can have no end, and must possess of these two opposite extremes whatsoever is the most high and the most glorious, as truth, light, and life, and must be the Best, the Wisest, the Almighty.
That God is Incomprehensible
Every thing comprehensible is comprehended either by the senses, or by the mind; and that which is comprehended by the senses must be either a body or an accident. But the adorable God is not a body; for every body is compound, and every body occupies space, and every body has limits, all of which is opposed to the Self-existent. Nor is He an accident; for an accident cannot exist alone, but requires a substance wherein to exist.
All that is comprehended by the mind, the mind must either stretch to the ends of its length and breadth (which are parts of its limits distinguishing it from what it is not) in order that it may in reality comprehend it; but hereby the thing is at once limited, and limit and dimension are foreign to the nature of the Self-existent; or the mind does not stretch to its end, nor is it able to limit its boundaries, for these are incomprehensible. Hence the Divine Nature is incomprehensible, it being impossible for the mind to comprehend anything of the knowledge of the Self-existent, except that He does exist.
It is said of a certain great philosopher, that he always used this prayer: “O you cause of the motion of my soul, grant me to know that minute essence which moves me, what it is, and what it is like. But not even that minute essence with which I am endowed, and by which I am capable of knowing, can comprehend what you are, and how you are; but only that you do dost exist.”
Now, when we say (of God) that he is invisible, uncompounded, impassible, and immutable, we do not describe what He is, but what He is not.
On the Trinity
Everything that exists must be either a material body whose existence is the subject of accidents and changes, and is acted upon by whatever is opposed to it; or not a body, and consequently not the subject of any of these things. Now, we have already proved, that God (glory be to His incomprehensibility) is not a body and therefore is not subject to anything pertaining to materiality, from which He is infinitely removed. Whatever is immaterial, and not subject to anything appertaining to matter, the traditions of the ancients call Mind. And whatever is exclusive of matter, and of what appertains thereto, must be knowing, and must know himself, because himself is ever present and known to him, and it is not dependent on anything but itself. And whatever knows its essence must be living. Therefore God is Wise and Living. Now, he who is wise discerns because of his wisdom; and he who is living is living because he has life. This is the mystery of the Trinity, which the Church confesses of that Adorable Nature, Mind, Wisdom and Life. Three co-essential properties in One, and One who is glorified in three properties. The Mind (the Church) has called Father and Begetter, because He is the Cause of all, and First. The Son (She) has called Wisdom and Begotten, because He is begotten of the Mind, and by Him everything was made and created. The Life (She) has called, the Holy Spirit and Proceeding, because there is no other Holy Spirit but He. He who is Holy is unchangeable, according to the interpretation of received expositors; and this is that which is declared by John the Divine, the son of Zebedee: “In the beginning was the Word;4” and, “the Life is the light of men5”. Now in the manner of the soul which is possessed of three-fold energy; mind, word, and life, and is one and not three; even so should we conceive of the THREE IN ONE, ONE IN THREE. The sun also, which is one in its disk, radiance, and heat, is another simile adduced by the second Theologus Paul, the chosen6 vessel: “He is the brightness of His glory, and the Express Image of His being;7” and, again: “Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom8of God “. Further, everything that exists is either an accident or a substance. But the Self-existent can in no wise be susceptible of accident. Therefore these three properties are consubstantial and are on this account called (Qnume) hypostasis or substance and not accidental powers, nor do they cause change in the nature of the consubstantial nor plurality; for He is the Mind, the Same He is the Wisdom, the Same He is the Life, Who ever begat without cessation, and puts forth (makes to proceed) without removal from Himself. These things (cessation removal) are infinitely removed from Him for there is no real likeness between created natures and the Nature of the eternally existing and a simile does not in everything resemble that which is compared by it; for then the simile and that which is compared by it would be the thing itself, and we (who have just instituted several comparisons) would not be unlike the man who attempts to compare a thing by the self-same thing. The mystery of the Trinity is expressed in the words of the Old Testament: “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness;” the occurrence of the letter noon9three times in this sentence is an indication of the Trinity. The “Holy” thrice repeated in the seraphic hymn, as mentioned by Isaiah, joined with one “Lord “, attests Three Qnume in One nature. The words of David, also, are of ‘the same import: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth;” and many other like references. Let the heathen, then, and Jews who rail at the truth of the Catholic Church, on account of her faith in the Trinity, be confounded and put to shame. Here endeth the first part.