“Divine [energy = “grace”] reaches even to the life of the locust”
—St. Ambrose of Milan
Although this energy of God is quite simple, we can perceive differences between God’s creative energy, His providential (preserving) energy, His purifying energy, His illumining energy and His glorifying energy. These distinct forms of the one self-same energy of God are not identical. If they were identical, then all of creation would partake, for example, of God’s glorifying energy. But what would that mean? It would mean that all of creation would see God. But how do we know that these energies are not identical? The Church knows full well on the basis of Her experience of divine grace that God’s illumining energy and His glorifying energy are not the same. How do we know that they are not the same? We know this from the fact that some people, the saints, have reached a state of theosis, while others have not.
Now according to Patristic tradition, God’s energy is as simple as His essence is. The essence of God is simple. It cannot be imparted to creation, and creation cannot participate in it. Nevertheless, creation does participate in God’s energy, which is the natural energy of God’s essence. But everything created does not participate in God’s energy in the same way. Not only can created beings participate in God’s energy in different ways, but there are also different kinds of divine energy open to participation, as we have already said. In other words, the energies of God can be distinguished from one another.
This is the reason why the Fathers mention that the one simple natural energy of God’s essence is divided into different kinds of energy among the many who receive them. But how is it divided? Indivisibly. It is indivisibly divided. In other words, it is multiplied without being multiplied. It remains simple in spite of the fact that it is multiplied among the many, that is, among many created beings. The energy of God “is indivisibly divided among individual creatures.”
The Old Testament uses the word ‘glory‘ as a name or term to convey the unique and simple energy of God that is “indivisibly divided among individual creatures.” Since the New Testament identifies the dwelling place [moni, in Greek] of God with this glory of God, it follows that this one dwelling place is multiplied and becomes “many dwelling places.” Since this dwelling place of God is the glory of God, the Church says that the Father has prepared a dwelling place where every human being can live, provided that he becomes worthy of the reign of God. This dwelling place is the glory of God. It is multiplied without being multiplied and becomes a dwelling place for each person who reaches theosis. These dwelling places are only for those who reach theosis. This is what Christ means when He says, “In my Father’s house, there are many mansions” [John 14:2] or dwelling places [monai, in Greek]. Christ wants every believer to reach theosis, so that this dwelling place or His glory becomes the place where each believer lives. So every believer should aspire to dwell within such a mansion.
These alternative meanings, which we have mentioned, have their origin in the experiences of theosis, illumination, and even in the experience of purification. After all, someone who is in the process of purification has some grasp of these matters. Since that person reads the Fathers, since he reads Holy Scripture, since he accepts Biblical and Patristic teachings, he has enough understanding, even before reaching illumination and theosis, to be in a position so that his spiritual father can help him to discern for himself which spiritual stage he is in and if he is on track or in delusion.
—Protopresbyter John S. Romanides