The attributes discussed last chapter — infinity, eternity, supraspatiality, omnipotence — were formal “structural” attributes that could be experienced “externally.” They could be observed in what is commonly called “general revelation.”
But the attributes discussed in this chapter (omniscience, justice and mercy, holiness and love) are experienced “internally,” through the spirit of man. They are the manifestations of what God is in His essence, in which the “self-sacrifice” of the Three Persons is absolutely complete, so that there is no movement to cover any interval, but there is, instead, a “stability.”
Frequently, Staniloae is not at all shy about saying that God “cannot” do something. When he says that God “cannot” do something — like “he cannot make them to be as he himself is, that is uncreated and sources of existence” (p216) — we misinterpret “cannot” as a limitation, and as a contradictory constraint upon God’s infinity. Actually, however, the “cannot” refers to the infinitely transcendent gulf between the created and the Creator, and so the “cannot” — far from being a contradiction of the infinite — is actually an enlarging indicator of the infinite.
The spiritual attributes which “bridge” this gulf between Creator and the immediacy of souls are rooted in this perfectly and infinitely complete stability (i.e., “perichoresis”) work “from within” the soul, in what Staniloae calls “interiority.” In each of these cases — omniscience, justice, holiness and love — God is essentially unknown, but He is experienced in these energies.
But He is experienced personally. This is true of all the energies of the Holy Trinity, but it is especially true of the “spiritual attributes.” The personal character of these energies are the main reason why the energies are called “Names.” To understand these attributes as impersonal forces is to utterly distort them, and to cause grave theological errors all the way down into practical understanding.