Canonically, the Church asserts that “the union of God the Word with flesh ensouled by a rational and intelligent soul took place by composition or hypostatically, as the holy fathers taught, and that as the result His composite hypostasis is one, which is the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Constantinople II, Canon 4) Yet, the Damascene in his Homily on the Meeting of the Lord speaks of “the divinely hypostatized (Θεοϋπόστατος ) flesh” or “the flesh of divine hypostasis” (ἡ θεοϋπόστατος σάρξ, p. 426) and uses the similar terminology in his Homily on the Annunciation (κἀντεῦθεν θεοϋπόστατος δογματί ζεται ἡ Χριστοῦ σάρκωσις, p. 4). Perhaps not coincidentally, the same word “of divine hypostasis” is used all over the Menaion and Octechos (source #1, source #2), with one Oectechos hymn explicitly speaking of how Christ’s “divinely hypostatized flesh came into being” (θεοϋπόστατος, σάρξ γενόμενος).
The importance of the hymnographic usage of “divinely hypostatized” is that Orthodox consider hymns dogmatic. So, do the dogmas contradict each other or is there some way to reconcile the usage of both terminologies? At stake is the proper understanding of two essential dogmas of the Church, that being the hypostatic union and the other being dyoenergism (and dyotheletism by extension).
The Hypostatic Union and Dyoenergism/Dyotheletism in simple terms. Before framing the doctrine of the hypostasis, it helps to speak of the doctrines of the hypostatic union and dyoenergism/dyotheletism in layman’s terms.
In short, the hypostatic union is the union of two natures (the divine and human) in one hypostasis, or person (that of Christ). What it is not is the union or merger of two hypostases (or persons) into one person, because this would be the Christological heresy of adoptionism. For example, a human person of Jesus was not indwelt by the eternal Word at conception. This would not imply, but explicitly state, that there was a non-divine human Jesus assumed by the Word. The Scriptures themselves oppose this, stating that “the Word became flesh.” (John 1:14) And so, the incarnation was not the joining of the divine Word with a human person, but the actual conception of a God-Man, the Word made flesh. There was never a time the flesh of the Lord was not deity.
In other, even simpler terms, the hypostasis of the Word, His person, “assumed” (προσλαβόντος) a human nature (and not a human person) at the incarnation. However, now the hypostasis of the Word was no longer merely divine according to the nature He contained. The hypostasis of the Word assumed the human nature upon that conception. And so, the hypostatic union is the union of natures or essences, not hypostases or persons.
The preceding is relevant, because according to Aristotelian physics (which was assumed in the early Church when parsing out the meaning of technical jargon that was employed in patristic writings such as those of Saints Dionysius and Leo the Great), each nature/essence has an energy (or “working”). And so, because the Lord’s person has two natures, both divine and human, these natures are coupled with their respective divine and human energies and wills (being that both natures have the capacity for working and willing).
In plain English, this means that Christ works in both divine and human ways. Because He is not exclusively God in one context or exclusively man in the other, He energizes (or “works”) in a composite, divine-human, “theandric” (to quote Saint Dionysius) way.
This can very easily be confused and so illustrations are necessary. When Christ raised the dead man Lazarus, it is not in His human nature to raise the dead. Clearly, this is the work of His divine nature. Yet, the divine work is not done apart from Christ’s humanity, as He is truly man. Christ does not stop being human when He raises the dead according to His divinity, because He as a complete hypostasis (person) is performing the act.
On the flip side of the coin, when Christ experiences the pain of crucifixion, the experience of pain does not belong to divinity. Divine nature is not sensual. The feeling of pain belongs to His humanity. Yet, the person (hypostasis) of the Word made flesh is on the cross, so it can be properly said it was God (as a complete hypostasis) who suffered—but He suffered according to His human, and not divine, nature. Hence, the differences in categories between hypostasis (person), nature (essence), and energy (work) are important not to conflate. If one cares to notice, the preceding is pretty much the teaching of the Tome of Leo in simpler terms.
An introduction to hypostasis in Maximus and Damascene. Having laid this groundwork, one can start unpacking the doctrine of the hypostasis as explained by Saints Maximus and Damascene (with some other sources thrown in). Out of full disclosure, many citations are in an article by Jay Dyer.
Saint Maximus’s first discussion of the topic in his Ambigua begins by teaching the following about hypostasis and composition:
“He who is now human was incomposite” and simple both in His nature and hypostasis, for He was “solely God,” naked “of the body and all that belongs to the body.” Now, however, through His assumption of human flesh possessing intellectual soul, He became the very thing “that He was not,” that is, composite in His hypostasis, “remaining” exactly “what He was,” that is, simple in nature, in order to save mankind. (3:2)
Before the incarnation, the hypostasis of the Word was “incomposite.” His person only had a divine nature (“He was ‘solely God’ naked”). Hence, His hypostasis was solely divine, just like the hypostasis of you the reader is solely human and the hypostasis of a horse is solely equine according to nature. His nature, being “simple,” made His hypostasis, having no other nature, the same. After the incarnation, though His human nature certainly was not “simple” as His divine nature, “He” remained “what He was.”
This is a difficult passage, because the hypostasis is not simple as it is composite; but also the divine nature is not a “He,” because this conflates person with nature. Maximus may be implying Platonic metaphysics. Plato asserted that the “One is not many and therefore has no parts…and therefore has neither beginning, middle, nor end.” (Parmenides 137) And so, all things with composition are created as compared to something simple like the One, which is uncreated and eternal.
And so, it appears the Maximus is asserting that when the hypostasis acquires a new nature, He does not become a new hypostasis. There is indeed a sense that Christ’s hypostasis retained its eternity. Maximus does not spell this out here, but other saints such as Augustine and Damascene point out that hypostatic differences in God are relational. And so, Christ being begotten of the Father is precisely the quality that gives Him hypostatic existence. This being the case, acquiring a human nature does not change the very basis for His existence, the divinely begotten-relationship. Hence, Christ’s hypostasis remains exactly how He was according to His eternal relationship with the Father.
While the preceding (though logical and patristic) may be a stretch in isolation, Maximus’ best exegete (the Damascene) likewise teaches that from a change in natures does not “arise another hypostasis” and he does so on the relational basis:
[T]he names Father, Son and Spirit, and causeless and caused, and unbegotten and begotten, and procession contain the idea of separation: for these terms do not explain His essence [i.e. substance/nature], but the mutual relationship and manner of existence. (Exposition, Book I, Chap 10)
[T]he divine subsistence [lit. hypostasis] of God the Word [θείαυ του θεοϋ Λόγου ὑπόατασιν] existed before all else and is without time and eternal, simple and uncompound, uncreated, incorporeal, invisible, intangible, uncircumscribed, possessing all the Father possesses, since He is of the same essence with Him, differing from the Father’s subsistence in the manner of His generation…the very subsistence of God the Word was changed into the subsistence of the flesh, and the subsistence of the Word, which was formerly simple, became compound (Exposition, Book III, Chap 7)
For since one and the same subsistence of the Word has become the subsistence of the natures, neither of them is permitted to be without subsistence, nor are they allowed to have subsistences that differ from each other, or to have sometimes the subsistence of this nature and sometimes of that, but always without division or separation they both have the same subsistence… For the flesh of God the Word did not subsist as an independent subsistence, nor did there arise another subsistence [lit. hypostasis] besides that of God the Word, but as it existed in that it became rather a subsistence [lit, hypostasis] which subsisted in another, than one which was an independent subsistence. (Ibid., Chap 9)
As Damascene points out, “the divine hypostasis of God the Word” became “compound” according to His natures, but in so doing there did not “arise another subsistence besides that of God the Word,” because the composite “hypostasis…subsisted in another.” The preceding can be confusing, because it sounds like there are two hypostases. However, the Damascene is attempting to communicate that the hypostasis of the Word became composite in natures, but He did not become a different hypostasis, as He remained the “divine hypostasis of the Word of God.” Rather, He only changed according to the natures He has.
This is why Damascene coined the term “the divinely hypostatized flesh” to describe what he and Maximus were expounding. The human nature, which on one hand makes the hypostasis of Christ now compound according to natures, was enhypostatized (or joined) into the same divine hypostasis of God the Word which remains in the same unfailing relationship with the Father.
This doctrine was not an invention of Maximus or an elucidation by Damascene. It even finds expression in Saint Hippolytus’ early third-century work, Against Noetus:
For neither was the Word, prior to incarnation and when by Himself, yet perfect Son [i.e human], although He was perfect Word, only-begotten. Nor could the flesh subsist by itself apart from the Word, because it has its subsistence in the Word. (Par 15)
And so, Christ’s hypostasis changes according to nature (as He assumes a new nature, becoming composite according to natures), but not according to relational divinity (as He is fully God and remains unfailingly so being only-begotten of the Father). So, one may legitimately speak of Christ’s hypostasis being both composite and divine depending upon the hypostatic categorization being spoken of.
The role of human nature within the Lord’s hypostasis. In another ambiguum, Maximus refers to the addition of human nature to a pre-existent (divine) hypostasis. He does so within the context of explaining Christ’s human experience:
He bears the totality of human nature, including its natural, blameless passions, which He united to His own hypostasis. (4:4)
As one can see, He is not partly human, but totally human. The importance of this is not some sort of arcane metaphysical factoid, but it pertains to Maximus’ theory of the atonement. The Lord, when assuming the human nature, likewise voluntarily assumed blameless passions. By so doing, He purged the experience of the Fall from the human experience by the energies (and wills) of His divinity and humanity respectively, conquering both passions and death:
His ineffable self-emptying [Phil 2:7] which through passible flesh divinized all humanity, fallen to the ground through corruption. For in the exchange of the divinity and the flesh He clearly confirmed the presence of the two natures of which He Himself was the hypostasis, along with their essential energies, that is, their motions, of which He Himself was the unconfused union. And this union admits no division between the two natures—of which He Himself was the hypostasis— because in a manner consistent with His nature He acted uniquely, that is, as a single agent, and in each of the things He did by the power of His own divinity He showed forth— simultaneously and inseparably—the activity of His own flesh. (Ambiguum 4:7)
He walked about on the surface of the sea as if it were dry land. By walking about in this manner, He shows that the natural activity of His own flesh is inseparable from the power of His divinity, since movement from one place to another is an activity belonging to His human nature, but not to the Divinity beyond infinity and being, which is united to it [divinity] according to hypostasis. (Ibid. 5:7)
[W]e would nonetheless be obliged reverently to confess the two natures of Christ, of which He Himself is the hypostasis, and the natural energies of His two natures, of which He is the true union, since He performs the activities proper to each nature as a single subject, and in all His activities He reveals the energy of His own flesh, united inseparably to His divine power. (Ibid. 5:12)
As one can see, Maximus asserted (as detailed above) that one nature worked one thing and the other nature the other, due to the hypostatic union. The work of one nature was experienced by the cooperation (the co-energizing) of the other. This co-working is described as that of “a single agent.” It is implied that the reason it works this way is because human nature was “united” to “divinity beyond infinity and being…according to hypostasis.” “He Himself” both “was” and “is the hypostasis.”
Maximus is asserting that the human experience was united to God the Son’s “hypostasis.” Human nature was united to “divinity.” This cannot be referring to divine nature as this would confuse the natures, something Chalcedon’s definition disallows. So, it is a reference to the divine hypostasis of God the Word.
The unequal participation of natures in dyoenergism and dyotheletism, and hypostatic implications. In order to understand the preceding, it is important to continue to unpack Maximus’ dyoenergism and dyotheletism in the Ambigua:
[E]ven when He suffered, He was truly God, and when He worked miracles the same one was truly man, for He was the true hypostasis of true natures united in an ineffable union. (4:8)
He experienced suffering in a divine way, since it was voluntary (and He was not mere man); and that He worked miracles in a human way, since they were accomplished through the flesh (for He was not naked God). (5:18)
And so, God was not merely divine when He experienced human things nor merely human when He performed divine things. He is always the God-Man, the Word made flesh, with both the Word and flesh hypostatically united and together experiencing all things His person experiences. Maximus (quoting Saint Dionysius) asserts that the saint taught:
[T]hat the God of all, having been made flesh, is not said to be “man” simply or superficially “but as being that which in the entirety of its essence is truly man.” (Ambiguum 5:2)
From this Maximus concludes:
[N]one of our natural human properties should be denied to God incarnate, except—which in any case does not belong to our nature…He is neither mere man, nor naked God, “for the preeminent lover of mankind has truly become man.” (Ibid. 5:3)
He became “that which in the entirety of its essence is truly man,” clearly by the assumption of human flesh endowed with an intellectual soul, united to Him according to hypostasis. (Ibid. 5:4)
The expression the “He is neither mere man, nor naked God” is a reference to His Hypostasis. The Hypostasis does not solely have a human or divine nature, but is composed of both natures. The “partnership” between the divine and human natures, though equal in number, is not qualitatively equal. Quoting Saint Gregory Nazianzus’ First Oration on the Son, Maximus teaches:
He manifested His infinitely immeasurable power, for “it”—obviously the flesh—was “blended with God and He became one, the stronger side predominating [έκνικήσαντος],” precisely because it was assumed [προσλαβόντος] by the Word, who deified it by identifying it with His own hypostasis. (Ambiguum 3:3)
The preceding is important, because it makes it clear that the human nature was both “assumed” and “deified,” (which is precisely why Damascene’s “the divinely hypostatized flesh” is such a perfect term for the concept). The way this occurs makes the human nature qualitatively different from a non-deified (or non-divinized) human nature. Additionally, the passage also asserts that the composite hypostasis is a description of the natures the Word’s “own hypostasis” assumes. The hypostasis itself changes its natures from solely divine to both divine and human, but it does not become a different hypostasis.
The fact that the hypostasis belongs to the divine hypostasis of God the Word is “precisely” why the divine nature in Christ’s incarnational experience is “predominating” over the human nature (“the flesh”). This doctrine of “predomination” simply put is that the Son’s divine nature predominates over His human nature, because the hypostasis of the Son does not lose His relational quality of being the Word of God the Father. In other words, the hypostasis does not lose its quality of deity and so, the nature it assumes becomes deified.
The relevance of hypostatic self-subsistence. The doctrine of predomination explains why as a default Christ’s human will always cooperated (co-energized) with His divine will. However, even without predomination, human nature is always inclined to cooperate/co-energize, though like Adam and Eve, it can fail in this endeavor through deception. This is opposed to Nestorian and later incorrect Latin theology, which posits that the human will naturally can be opposed to God.
Nevertheless, just as His human will as a default fully cooperated with His divine will, His human works/movements had concurrent divine works/movements. Maximus has the preceding in mind when making comments relevant to hypostatic self-subsistence (a person’s existence depending upon nothing outside of himself):
[I]f we say that the assumed nature is not self-moved (since it is truly moved by the Godhead, united to it according to hypostasis), and in so doing we negate that nature’s constitutive motion, it follows that we shall not be able to affirm the [human/assumed] essence itself, which plainly is not a self-subsisting hypostasis, for it has no existence in and of itself, but instead receives its being in the person of God the Word, who truly assumed it. (Ambiguum 5:11)
In simpler terms, if one were to say the “assumed” (human) nature lacks its own energy (and only has a divine energy as the monoenergists claim), this would deny the assumed nature an energy altogether. If so, “it follows that we shall not be able to affirm” the existence of Christ’s human nature.
This human nature “plainly is not a self-subsisting hypostasis,” such as you, me, or a horse whose personality is dependent upon nothing outside itself. Rather, Christ’s humanity “receives its being in the person” or hypostasis from “God the Word,” who assumed the human nature. Christ’s humanity is not functionally independent. The subsistence of Christ’s humanity depends upon the self-subsistent hypostasis of the Word.
Natures in of themselves lack self-subsistence, but subsist in hypostases (or persons) which are definitionally self-subsistent. In short, all hypostases are self-subsistent. To quote the Damascene:
[I]t is impossible for things that have once begun to subsist in themselves to have another principle of subsistence, for the hypostasis is subsistence in self. (Philosophical Chapters 66)
This is a rather dense issue, but it is important to understand in order to properly grapple with what a hypostasis actually is, why nature in of itself subsists in a hypostasis, and why a hypostasis can only exist if it has nature. Put into really low-IQ terminology, regular living creatures which are not deified have personalities in accordance with their nature. So, Mr. Ed (the person/hypostasis) is a horse (of course), because he is a horse according to his nature.
And so, one can properly call Mr. Ed a hypostasis that is a horse according to his nature. However, nature is not hypostasis, so Mr. Ed is not literally a “horse hypostasis.” According to the Damascene:
One should know that the holy Fathers used the term hypostasis and person and individual for the same thing, namely, that which by its own subsistence subsists of itself from substance and accidents, is numerically different, and signifies a certain one, as, for example, Peter, and Paul, and this horse. (Ibid. 43)
Thus it is with the hypostasis in the case of the soul and the body, for here one hypostasis is made of both—the compound hypostasis of Peter, or let us say, or of Paul. (Ibid. 66)
A hypostasis is a person encapsulated by a name or a designation (“this horse” such as Mr. Ed versus some other horse which does not talk). The hypostasis has a nature, just like a man named Peter has a human nature. Natures themselves can have natures, as human and horse nature is compounded with a body and soul (which themselves are different in essence/nature). But, the hypostasis is not a nature or they would be two words for the same exact thing.
So, when one says Christ’s hypostasis is composite by nature, this is simply saying He has human and divine natures. This is similar to saying, “he is rich,” which by this is meant, “he has riches.”
However, God’s hypostasis is not merely divine because He has a divine nature.
Rather, when one speaks of a hypostasis’ nature according to relationship, such as “he is an identical twin, because he is his brother,” or “the Son is God, because He is eternally begotten of the Father,” the nature is intrinsic to the hypostatic relationship. Therefore, one can only say the Lord is a composite hypostasis in reference to his natures in the sense of meaning “has,” while one can say the Lord is a divine hypostasis by reference to his nature in a literal sense.
Concerning Christ’s composite hypostasis, Christ after the incarnation has two natures, not one like us. Therefore, His personality cannot be strictly according to one nature or the other. His personality now requires the inclusion of both natures, with neither nature subsistent in its own right. Canon 7 of Constantinople II states:
If anyone saying ‘in two natures’ does not profess the one Jesus Christ our Lord to be acknowledged in Godhead and manhood, in order to signify by this the difference of the natures from which the ineffable union took place without merger, and without either the Word being changed into the nature of the flesh or the flesh transformed into the nature of the Word (for each remains what is by nature even after the hypostatic union), but understands this expression in respect of the mystery of Christ in terms of a division into parts or, while professing the number of natures in respect of the same, one Jesus Christ our Lord, God the Word incarnate, does not understand the difference of these elements from which he was compounded to be in perception alone, a difference that is not destroyed by the union (for he is one from both, and both through one), but uses number for this end, so that the natures are separate and self-subsistent, let him be anathema.
In short, neither the Lord’s human nor divine natures are self-subsistent as to be the God-Man, the Word made flesh, both must be there all the time. His natures subsist upon one another. Both are necessary after the incarnation in order to maintain Christ’s incarnational personality. Yet, the divine hypostasis of God the Word was always self-subsistent. Before the incarnation, according to Maximus:
[T]he only-begotten Word of God and Son of the Father is the Living Word and Power and self-subsisting Wisdom. (Ambiguum 26:3)
Hence, the divine nature of the Word was functionally self-subsistent before His hypostasis became composite according to nature, because at that juncture His personality was solely divine according to nature and it is impossible to contemplate a nature existing outside an individualized state, a hypostasis. In less words, nature lacks existence apart from hypostasis, so obviously it cannot subsist on its own in any event. However, when it is the only nature within the hypostasis, it depends upon no other nature.
The Word’s hypostasis, like all hypostases, is self-subsistent. When it was only divine by nature, the divine nature did not subsist upon another nature in order to maintain the integrity of Christ’s personality (as He was naked God). But how about un-naked God, the incarnate Word?
The divine nature became no longer functionally self-subsistent in itself, as after the hypostatic union it becomes contingent upon the human nature so that neither are self-subsistent according to Canon 7. Both the divine and human, though one predominates over the other, are necessary. Neither can be independent of the other within the composite hypostasis of the Word. However, Damascene said above “it is impossible for things that have once begun to subsist in themselves to have another principle of subsistence.” And so while the divine nature in of itself was no longer self-subsistent, the (divine) hypostasis of Christ Himself did not have another relational principle for subsistence.
Maximus’ and Damascene’s illustration of the preceding. As discussed previously, the composite hypostasis of the Word is merely the divine-only hypostasis pre-incarnate with the addition of human nature post-incarnation. How could one be sure that the preceding is not the result of confusing philosophical jargon? Thankfully for us, Maximus illustrates the concept:
It is just like what happens when a sword is heated in a fire: the quality of sharpness assumes the quality of heat, and the quality of heat that of sharpness (for just as the fire is united to the iron, so too is the heat of the fire diffused throughout the cutting edge of the sword), and the iron becomes burning hot through its union with the fire, and the fire acquires a cutting edge through its union with the iron. (Ambiguum 5:25)
In the metaphor, the sword is the hypostasis of the Word. The sharpness is the divine nature belonging to the sword. It is impossible to contemplate a sword of no sharpness whatsoever, just as it is impossible to contemplate a hypostasis of the Word without divinity as He is definitionally begotten of God the Father.
Continuing the metaphor, the sword is then put in fire, fire being representative of human nature. The sword (hypostasis) in this action becomes composite. It is no longer a sword which is by nature solely sharp (or a hypostasis with divine nature alone). The sword maintains its nature of being sharp, but it has assumed the nature of being hot.
A hot, sharp sword is in effect different in its actions, as it may be able to cut through things easier or the contrary, depending upon the hardness of the object it is wielded against where heat permits the sword to more easily be blunted. This can be compared to the “new theandric energy” in the incarnate God, which will be covered in a bit. In any event, one can see that neither nature of the sword is abrogated by the union and both are subsumed as fully existent and unconfused natures of the sword:
Yet neither of the elements undergoes any change in the exchange that results from their union, but each remains secure in its own natural properties, even though it has acquired the property of the other to which it has been joined. Likewise, in the mystery of the divine Incarnation, divinity and humanity were united in the hypostasis of the Word: neither of the natural energies was displaced in the union, neither functioned independently after the union, and neither was divided from that to which it had been conjoined and with which it coexisted. (Ambiguum 5:25)
As one can see, Maximus clearly asserts that the composite hypostasis is merely the existence of two natures that the hypostasis of the Word has. This hypostasis obviously pre-existed the incarnation and all that changed were the natures that it was composed of.
John of Damascus draws out this principle even further. In the Philosophical Chapters (66) he writes that:
[T]he hypostatic union produces one compound hypostasis of the thing united and this preserves unconfused and unaltered in itself both the uniting natures and their difference as well as their natural properties.
He continues by drawing out an example similar to Maximus’ sword, the human person having both a body and soul. “[I]n itself,” the human person, there are “two perfect natures—that of the soul and that of the body” and though united “their difference[s are] distinct and their properties unconfused.” Damascene continues:
Moreover, once the natures become hypostatically united, they remain absolutely indivisible. And this is so because, even though the soul is separated from the body in death, the hypostasis of both remains one and the same. For the constitution in itself of each thing at its beginning of being is a hypostasis.
In the above, “the hypostasis of both remains one and the same” means the additions of natures can never be negated, as even death (which physically separates the soul from the body) does not remove one or the other nature from the human’s hypostasis. A nature can never be removed from a hypostasis, rather a nature can only be added:
[I]t is also possible for the hypostasis to assume an additional nature. Both of these are to be observed in Christ, because in Him the divine and human natures were united, while His animate body subsisted in the pre-existent hypostasis of God the Word and had this for a hypostasis. It is, however, quite impossible for one compound nature to be made from two natures of for one hypostasis to be made from two, because it is impossible for contrary essential differences to exist together in one nature.
And so, one can see clearly that the doctrine of the hypostasis of Maximus, that being the once divine-only hypostasis becomes composite by the addition of human nature, is precisely what Damascene is elucidating. The human nature subsists in “the pre-existent hypostasis of God the Word,” elsewhere simply called by Damascene the “divine hypostasis of God the Word.”
The “new Theandric energy.” As discussed beforehand, Maximus’ doctrine of the composite hypostasis has its basis in dyoenergism. The hypostasis Himself does not have some melding of natures, but neither do His natures act with independence.
Rather, dyoenergism is something Maximus gleans from Dionysius, who speaks of a “new theandric energy:”
[H]e called the energy “theandric,” but not because he thought it was something simple, or that it was some kind of composite thing. For the “theandric energy” is not the natural manifestation of either divinity or humanity alone, nor is it that of a composite nature occupying some kind of borderland between the two extremes. Instead it is the energy that belongs most naturally to “God made man,” to Him who became perfectly incarnate. (Ambiguum 5:21)
In other words, when the God-Man does something according to His divine and human energies, as they always co-operate, this cooperation is natural to the God-Man condition. It is in this sense that it is “new,” because never before (or after) was there a Theandric energy—or a concerted working of two natures in a singular hypostasis/person/agent according to both respective natures. It is an energy, as compared to energies, not because there is only one energy, but because the cooperative movement of the two natures’ energies within the Person of Christ is singular as it pertains to the Person:
[H]e [Dionysius] did not say that it was “one” energy, because there would be no other way to understand “new” than “one,” as some have thought. For “newness” is a quality, not a quantity, because the latter will necessarily introduce by itself a new nature (since the definition of every nature is the principle of its essential energy). (Ibid. 5:22)
Dionysius says that Christ exhibited to us some sort of novel theandric energy , he does not do away with the natural energies by saying that one energy resulted from the union of the divine with the human energy: for in the same way we could speak of one new nature resulting from the union of the divine with the human nature. For, according to the holy Fathers, things that have one energy have also one essence. But he wished to indicate the novel and ineffable manner in which the natural energies of Christ manifest themselves, a manner befitting the ineffable manner in which the natures of Christ mutually permeate one another, and further how strange and wonderful and, in the nature of things, unknown was His life as man , and lastly the manner of the mutual interchange arising from the ineffable union. For we hold that the energies are not divided and that the natures do not energise separately, but that each conjointly in complete community with the other energises with its own proper energy. For the human part did not energise merely in a human manner, for He was not mere man; nor did the divine part energise only after the manner of God, for He was not simply God, but He was at once God and man. (Damascene, Exposition, Book 3, Chap 19)
When Christ heals the blind man by rubbing mud and saliva on his eyes, one entity (the God-Man) is doing a singular action. This singular action in fact is constituted by two energies (the divine and human acting concertedly, the human forming the mud and the divine using it as a means of grace onto the blind man). The energies belong to His natures and not His hypostasis, making them incomposite. If the “new Theandric energy” were in fact “new” in quantity, the energy would belong to an entirely new combined, Eutychian divine-human hybrid nature. Interestingly, Damascene illustrates the new theandric energy by invoking Maximus’ illustration of the sword:
For just as in the case of the flaming sword [i.e. the composite hypostasis] we speak of the cut burn as one, and the burnt cut as one, but still hold that the cut and the burn have different energies and different natures, the burn having the nature of fire and the cut the nature of steel, in the same way also when we speak of one theandric energy of Christ. (Ibid.)
Conclusion. As one can see, the doctrine of the hypostasis of God the Word is important because any number of Christological and anthropological errors can be made as a result of having the doctrine understood wrongly. A hypostasis is not a nature, so it is a misnomer to assert that it is strictly composite, human, or horse. Hypostases have natures. So, a hypostasis can have strictly a composite, human, or horse nature. In the Lord’s case, according to Maximus:
He…was the hypostasis in neither of them exclusively, in no way acting through one of the natures in separation from the other, but in all that He did He confirmed the presence of the one through the other, since He is truly both. (Ambiguum 5:17)
[His hypostasis] compounded of two perfect natures, divinity and humanity, and bearing the characteristic and distinctive property of the divine Sonship of God the Word in virtue of which it is distinguished from the Father and the Spirit, and also the characteristic and distinctive properties of the flesh, in virtue of which it differs from the Mother and the rest of mankind…He is then wholly perfect God, but yet is not simply God: for He is not only God but also man. And He is also wholly perfect man but not simply man, for He is not only man but also God. For simply here has reference to His nature, and wholly to His subsistence [lit. hypostasis] (Exposition, Book III, Chap 7)
As one can see, in order to understand what it meant for Christ to be exhibit a “new Theandric energy,” one must grasp that His hypostasis is composite with divine and human natures, with respective energies (and wills). With neither nature being functionally self-subsistent due to the incarnation, human works are done divinely and divine works humanly. Every movement always combines the works of both natures. This is what the whole paradigm of the composite hypostasis was intended to address.
As for the question of the “divine hypostasis,” in the language of the Patristics, this must be understood as two things. First, the hypostasis never changed relationally from the incarnation, so what makes Him a hypostasis (He is eternally begotten of God the Father) is fundamentally the same, hence the terminology “the divine hypostasis of God the Word.” Second, due to the hypostasis belonging to God, He by default deifies the nature assumed by it. This relationship, where the divine nature predominates over the human nature, exists because the hypostasis had solely a divine nature and remained exactly as He was hypostatically according to His relationship with the Father, as the quality of divinity is definitionally what Christ’s hypostasis literally is.
As Damascene (amongst other saints such as Augustine) points out, the hypostases of the Trinity are the result of personal/relational differences: The Father being unbegotten and unproceeded, being the origin of deity; the Son being begotten of the Father and not proceeded; the Spirit being proceeded from the Father but not begotten. Hence, divinity must be a hypostatic default for Christ, or this would collapse the differences between the Persons in the Trinity which are only predicated upon relational difference. This is why the hymns of the Church speak of the “divinely hypostatized flesh” of our Lord. Hypostatically, the Son’s existence is definitionally divine and though His divine nature loses functional self-subsistence, His hypostasis as a whole remains self-subsistent and relationally divine. The acquiring of a human nature does not cause His hypostasis to lose His relational, hypostatic quality/identification.
And so, the Orthodox must affirm both the doctrines of the divine and composite hypostases. They appear contradictory, but when understood as a whole, it is clear that both teachings of the saints must be adhered to holistically.