Maximus the Confessor believed in the Essence/Energies Distinction

From Hans urs von Balthasar’s Cosmic Liturgy,

This is not contradicted by the fact that Maximus, along with the tradition reaching back from Philo to Gregory of Nyssa, says we can only know God’s existence–that he is–not his essence, what he is (p. 88).


  • We have it from a Roman Catholic authority, a man not given to defending Orthodox distinctives (in fact, about one-fifth of Balthasar’s book is a myopic rant against Byzantium and Russia–the man hates the East, making this admission all the more noteworthy), that Maximus the Confessor held to the essence/energies distinction.
  • While it is true that Maximus said something like the Filioque, Balthasar does not see the difficulty in having both an essence/energies construction of God and the Filioque:  both Protestants and Catholics see the two as mutually exclusive. (see. p. 99; Balthasar is playing very loose with the historical evidence here.   Some of the documents are known to be spurious forgeries, and Balthasar seems unaware that some Latin renditions of the Filioque, per the nature of procession, are not immediately wrong; cf. St Hilary and possibly St Ambrose).