Skip to comments.Filioque
Posted on 04/05/2005 9:11:13 PM PDT by annalex
The quotations below show that the early Church Fathers, both Latin and Greek, recognized the same thing, saying that the Spirit proceeds "from the Father and the Son" or "from the Father through the Son."
These expressions mean the same thing because everything the Son has is from the Father. The proceeding of the Spirit from the Son is something the Son himself received from the Father. The procession of the Spirit is therefore ultimately rooted in the Father but goes through the Son. However, some Eastern Orthodox insist that to equate "through the Son" with "from the Son" is a departure from the true faith.
The expression "from the Father through the Son" is accepted by many Eastern Orthodox. This, in fact, led to a reunion of the Eastern Orthodox with the Catholic Church in 1439 at the Council of Florence: "The Greek prelates believed that every saint, precisely as a saint, was inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore could not err in faith. If they expressed themselves differently, their meanings must substantially agree. . . . Once the Greeks accepted that the Latin Fathers had really written Filioque (they could not understand Latin), the issue was settled (May 29). The Greek Fathers necessarily meant the same; the faiths of the two churches were identical; union was not only possible but obligatory (June 3); and on June 8 the Latin cedula [statements of belief] on the procession [of the Spirit] was accepted by the Greek synod" (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 5:9723).
Unfortunately, the union did not last. In the 1450s (just decades before the Protestant Reformation), the Eastern Orthodox left the Church again under pressure from the Muslims, who had just conquered them and who insisted they renounce their union with the Western Church (lest Western Christians come to their aid militarily).
However, union is still possible on the filioque issue through the recognition that the formulas "and the Son" and "through the Son" mean the same thing. Thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "This legitimate complementarity [of expressions], provided it does not become rigid, does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed" (CCC 248).
Today many Eastern Orthodox bishops are putting aside old prejudices and again acknowledging that there need be no separation between the two communions on this issue. Eastern Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware (formerly Timothy Ware), who once adamantly opposed the filioque doctrine, states: "The filioque controversy which has separated us for so many centuries is more than a mere technicality, but it is not insoluble. Qualifying the firm position taken when I wrote [my book] The Orthodox Church twenty years ago, I now believe, after further study, that the problem is more in the area of semantics and different emphases than in any basic doctrinal differences" (Diakonia, quoted from Elias Zoghbys A Voice from the Byzantine East, 43).
"I believe that the Spirit proceeds not otherwise than from the Father through the Son" (Against Praxeas 4:1 [A.D. 216]).
"We believe, however, that there are three persons: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and we believe none to be unbegotten except the Father. We admit, as more pious and true, that all things were produced through the Word, and that the Holy Spirit is the most excellent and the first in order of all that was produced by the Father through Christ" (Commentaries on John 2:6 [A.D. 229]).
Maximus the Confessor
"By nature the Holy Spirit in his being takes substantially his origin from the Father through the Son who is begotten (Questions to Thalassium 63 [A.D. 254]).
Gregory the Wonderworker
"[There is] one Holy Spirit, having substance from God, and who is manifested through the Son; image of the Son, perfect of the perfect; life, the cause of living; holy fountain; sanctity, the dispenser of sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father who is above all and in all, and God the Son who is through all. Perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty neither divided nor estranged" (Confession of Faith [A.D. 265]).
Hilary of Poitiers
"Concerning the Holy Spirit . . . it is not necessary to speak of him who must be acknowledged, who is from the Father and the Son, his sources" (The Trinity 2:29 [A.D. 357]).
"In the fact that before times eternal your [the Fathers] only-begotten [Son] was born of you, when we put an end to every ambiguity of words and difficulty of understanding, there remains only this: he was born. So too, even if I do not grasp it in my understanding, I hold fast in my consciousness to the fact that your Holy Spirit is from you through him" (ibid., 12:56).
Didymus the Blind
"As we have understood discussions . . . about the incorporeal natures, so too it is now to be recognized that the Holy Spirit receives from the Son that which he was of his own nature. . . . So too the Son is said to receive from the Father the very things by which he subsists. For neither has the Son anything else except those things given him by the Father, nor has the Holy Spirit any other substance than that given him by the Son" (The Holy Spirit 37 [A.D. 362]).
Epiphanius of Salamis
"The Father always existed and the Son always existed, and the Spirit breathes from the Father and the Son" (The Man Well-Anchored 75 [A.D. 374]).
Basil The Great
"Through the Son, who is one, he [the Holy Spirit] is joined to the Father, one who is one, and by himself completes the Blessed Trinity" (The Holy Spirit 18:45 [A.D. 375]).
"[T]he goodness of [the divine] nature, the holiness of [that] nature, and the royal dignity reach from the Father through the only-begotten [Son] to the Holy Spirit. Since we confess the persons in this manner, there is no infringing upon the holy dogma of the monarchy" (ibid., 18:47).
Ambrose of Milan
"Just as the Father is the fount of life, so too, there are many who have stated that the Son is designated as the fount of life. It is said, for example that with you, Almighty God, your Son is the fount of life, that is, the fount of the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit is life, just as the Lord says: The words which I have spoken to you are Spirit and life [John 6:63]" (The Holy Spirit 1:15:152 [A.D. 381]).
"The Holy Spirit, when he proceeds from the Father and the Son, does not separate himself from the Father and does not separate himself from the Son" (ibid., 1:2:120).
Gregory of Nyssa
"[The] Father conveys the notion of unoriginate, unbegotten, and Father always; the only-begotten Son is understood along with the Father, coming from him but inseparably joined to him. Through the Son and with the Father, immediately and before any vague and unfounded concept interposes between them, the Holy Spirit is also perceived conjointly" (Against Eunomius 1 [A.D. 382]).
The Athanasian Creed
"[W]e venerate one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in oneness. . . . The Father was not made nor created nor begotten by anyone. The Son is from the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding" (Athanasian Creed [A.D. 400]).
"If that which is given has for its principle the one by whom it is given, because it did not receive from anywhere else that which proceeds from the giver, then it must be confessed that the Father and the Son are the principle of the Holy Spirit, not two principles, but just as the Father and the Son are one God . . . relative to the Holy Spirit, they are one principle" (The Trinity 5:14:15 [A.D. 408]).
"[The one] from whom principally the Holy Spirit proceeds is called God the Father. I have added the term principally because the Holy Spirit is found to proceed also from the Son" (ibid., 15:17:29).
"Why, then, should we not believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son, when he is the Spirit also of the Son? For if the Holy Spirit did not proceed from him, when he showed himself to his disciples after his resurrection he would not have breathed upon them, saying, Receive the Holy Spirit [John 20:22]. For what else did he signify by that breathing upon them except that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from him" (Homilies on John 99:8 [A.D. 416]).
Cyril of Alexandria
"Since the Holy Spirit when he is in us effects our being conformed to God, and he actually proceeds from the Father and Son, it is abundantly clear that he is of the divine essence, in it in essence and proceeding from it" (Treasury of the Holy Trinity, thesis 34 [A.D. 424]).
"[T]he Holy Spirit flows from the Father in the Son" (ibid.).
"Just as the Son says All that the Father has is mine [John 16:15], so shall we find that through the Son it is all also in the Spirit" (Letters 3:4:33 [A.D. 433]).
Council of Toledo
"We believe in one true God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, maker of the visible and the invisible.
. . . The Spirit is also the Paraclete, who is himself neither the Father nor the Son, but proceeding from the Father and the Son. Therefore the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten, the Paraclete is not begotten but proceeding from the Father and the Son" (Council of Toledo [A.D. 447]).
Fulgence of Ruspe
"Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the only God the Son, who is one person of the Trinity, is the Son of the only God the Father; but the Holy Spirit himself also one person of the Trinity, is Spirit not of the Father only, but of Father and of Son together" (The Rule of Faith 53 [A.D. 524]).
"Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the same Holy Spirit who is Spirit of the Father and of the Son, proceeds from the Father and the Son" (ibid., 54).
"Likewise we believe also in one Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life . . . God existing and addressed along with Father and Son; uncreated, full, creative, all-ruling, all-effecting, all-powerful, of infinite power, Lord of all creation and not under any lord; deifying, not deified; filling, not filled; sharing in, not shared in; sanctifying, not sanctified; the intercessor, receiving the supplications of all; in all things like to the Father and Son; proceeding from the Father and communicated through the Son" (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 8 [A.D. 712]).
"And the Holy Spirit is the power of the Father revealing the hidden mysteries of his divinity, proceeding from the Father through the Son in a manner known to himself, but different from that of generation" (ibid., 12).
"I say that God is always Father since he has always his Word [the Son] coming from himself and, through his Word, the Spirit issuing from him" (Dialogue Against the Manicheans 5 [A.D. 728]).
Council of Nicaea II
"We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, proceeding from the Father through the Son" (Profession of Faith [A.D. 787]).
Yeah, but Aquinas lists that as an objection. See Aquinasfan post below yours.
That's perfect. Thank you.
That's what Aquinas understood, at least from my reading of him in the Summa. The generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit are necessarily immanent in God.
To which I replied: we only know the Trinity from its manifestation in the economy of salvation. That which is true in the temporal sense must be true in the eternal sense.
My understanding is that all Three Persons are present and cooperate in every act of God attributed to a single Person in Scripture, since they all possess the same nature. According to Aquinas, the Persons differ in origin (in a similitude to natural generation, as like being generated from like) and relation.
The Eastern Theology is that "God" means God the Father. This is apparent in the first line "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty". The Creed then defines the other two Persons of the Trinity ion terms of their point of origin with God. Therefore, the Son is "eternally begotten" and the Ghost is "proceeding".
For Catholics and Protestants, "God" means the God the Trinity.
Right. So how can one relation, -- of giving -- that exists between the Son and the Holy Ghost in the temporal sense (John 20:22) be not matched by the similar relation, of proceeding, in the eternal sense?
And would not the West be perfectly justified, under the same doctrine, in viewing the 381 Creed as "unilaterally amending the Nicene Creed by fiat"? Ephesus made no mention of the 381 Creed in its prohibition against creating a creed other than that set forth at Nicaea (not Constantinople), and there are compelling arguments that the council of the 150 Fathers (which didn't even bother trying to invite Westerners) was not recognized as Oecumenical until after Chalcedon. What's worse, there's also a real possibility that the 381 Creed was never approved by the Council at all, which would place its first approval at Chalcedon - after Ephesus laid down its canon against change to the Nicene Creed. When the Creed was read at Ephesus, it was the real Nicene Creed, not the 381 Creed which is improperly called the "Nicene Creed". The case against the 381 Creed is far more powerful then the case which the Greeks made against the Latin Creed - it's no surprise that at Florence the Greeks were forced to admit defeat.
With regard to the first matter, they (the Romans) have produced the unanimous evidence of the Latin Fathers, and also of Cyril of Alexandria, from the study he made of the gospel of St. John. On the basis of these texts, they have shown that they have not made the Son the cause of the Spirit--they know in fact that the Father is the only cause of the Son and the Spirit, the one by begetting and the other by procession--but that they have manifested the procession through him and have thus shown the unity and identity of the essence. (Letter to Marinus)
We only know the Trinity based on what is revealed to us about the Trinity, and many things have been revealed. By this same argument, since the Holy Spirit was involved in the economy of our salvation -- i.e. Christ was sent to us by means of the Holy Spirit -- then this must be true in the eternal sense, and the Son must be begotten of the Father and the Spirit both.
The phrase "proceeds from the Father" as Kolokotronis points out, is a direct quotation from Scripture. As bobjam pointed out on this thread and as I pointed out on the other thread, when Orthodox simply use the word "God," we are generally talking about the Father, who is the personal point of unity of the Trinity. There is also unity of essence, nature, and energies. But for the Orthodox, these impersonal things are not what we talk about when we speak of "God." The chief prayer that Christ taught us to pray to God begins "Our Father."
I would also mention that a post on the earlier thread stated that the Spirit must proceed from the Father and the Son because the Spirit was not present at the beginning. This seems to me to be applying concepts such as time to the Trinity, and this is highly problematic. Time itself is a created thing. Even what we will experience in the next life (commonly described as eternity) is taught by the Fathers to be a created thing, and God is still outside and beyond even this.
Anyway, I pretty much exhausted myself yesterday, and like the others, don't have a whole lot more in me on this subject. I think that your posting has shown what Catholics believe, and I hope we have done an adequate job of sharing what the Orthodox believe, teach, and live.
Great Lent is indeed a rough time to get into these things. Most of us are very aware of the fact that the temptations to say things we would regret are higher now than at any other time of the year. We are also in church a lot. I will be standing through, making prostrations, and chanting in about 9 hours worth of services yet this week. Most of us have added things to our prayer rule. We're on our 5th week without meat and our 4th without any egg or dairy products, and have several weeks to go on both. I'm not by any means complaining -- it is a joyous time for us, affectionately known by some as the "Lenten Spring."
The only reason that I'm spelling this out is to make sure that you understand that for me anyway, my FR activity (as you can see by examining my track record over the past 5 weeks) comes in spurts as energy and time allow, and only for as long as I'm able to maintain a good attitude. When I can't, then it's back to prayer. Lack of engagement should not be taken either as an indication that we have nothing to say in response to a given argument, nor as an indication that we are upset or uninterested.
[Agrarian quoting me:] "If the Orthodox understanding is that the Son and the Holy Ghost proceed symmetrically from the Father, and not sequentially, first the Son and then the Holy Ghost, then indeed that is not compatible."Note that Agrarian repeats what is also the Catholic dogma, misstated by me with the loose usage of "proceed": that the Son is begotten and the Spirit proceeds, but the implication is that there is no co-procession from the Son. I wish he could respond to your post here.
[Agrarian responding:] I don't recall the Fathers using words like symmetrical, but if I am understanding you correctly, then you are on the right track to understanding what Orthodoxy teaches.
One father wrote (can't remember which) that each person has a characteristic unique to Him: The Father is the source, the Son is begotten, and the Spirit proceeds. Orthodox arguments regarding the filioque are ultimately patristic, scriptural, spiritual, and practical, and not based on theoretical or metaphysical arguments of symmetry or asymmetry, but the observation was made by a father, and I thought I'd pass it on.
I am a visual person, so let me make this picture:
|Father||-- > eternally begets -- >||Son|
Great. We cross-posted. Please see the pictures I made, and have a productive Lent.
The reason I give this preamble is that diagrams are always problematic, because they are not a part of Holy Tradition, and yet one can look at a diagram and draw inferences and make deductions -- inferences and deductions that are not true or are not entirely true.
That said, your diagram is correct with regard both to how I understand Catholic teachings on the Trinity and how I understand Orthodox teachings on the Trinity. It is also correct in that it depicts a number of characteristics of the Trinity as we have come to understand them through Holy Tradition. First, it depicts the principle of "monarchia," which is the property of the Father within the Trinity. The Son always speaks with deference regarding the Father, even though he is equal in glory and honor. The Father is the source within the Trinity, even though the Son is "co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit," as the line from the Liturgy says. Also, this diagram of the Orthodox understanding depicts the equality of the Son and the Spirit. What it does not depict is the equality of glory and honor of the threee persons. I have seen diagrams that place
all on one line, which accomplishes this, but then that diagram misses the "monarchia" and it implies a distance between Son and Spirit that does not exist.
Still, the drawing of diagrams is interesting, as long as the severe limitations are understood. Now, I've really got to go. Maybe more tonight.
I don't think it necessarily follows, since the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit from Father and Son are immanent to God and eternal, while the passage from John seems to indicate a special, temporal outpouring of the Spirit.
That's the best I can do right now. (I just happened to be studying the section of the Summa regarding the Trinity this week.)
But John 20:22 is not like any other New Testament story (there are many in the Acts that involve the Holy Ghost). This is the Pentacost, which completes the mysteries of Christmas and Easter. This is the scriptural building block with which we build our concept of the eternal Holy Trinity
I'm not sure what you're getting at.
The Trinity is not explicitly stated in the Scripture. It is something the Church constructed as an intellectual effort, from the revealed truths. The revealed truths are mostly in the temporal domain. For example, the begetting of the Son is not described in the scripture as a primordeal event, Rather, it is postulated "I was there in the beginning" and then the Christmas incarnation, which is a temporal event, explains the relation between the Father and the Son. Similarly, the Holy Ghost is postulated as a primordeal person in the Genesis, and then a temporal event, the Pentacost, explains the relation between the Son (with the Father implied) and the Holy Ghost.
The event establishes the Holy Ghost as a distinct Person of the Trinity, but it can't establish the eternal relationship of the Holy Ghost to the other Persons of the Trinity, since it is a temporal event.
My two cents, anyway.
I am out on a limb here, since I did not read this anywhere. But this is my speculative thinking.
I see a danger in drawing a bright line between temporal events and eternal relations. We don't have a mythical god who first defeated Gilgamesh, then married Brahmaputra, then created mankind, etc. True, we have the Creation, but our eternal God permeates it, so temporal events are visions of His divine eternal essence. Such bending and collapsing the sequence of time is, for example, necessary to explain the prefigurement of later temporal events in the earlier ones, and of course, the Real Presence of the Eucharist.
In other words, when we separate the temporal from the eternal, we rob ourselves of a deeper understanding. Christ breathing the Holy Ghost is an event that happened in time, but it is also a timeless image of the Triune Eternal God in operation.
The Trinity is not explicitly stated in the Scripture. It is something the Church constructed as an intellectual effort, from the revealed truths.
The Church fathers were influenced in their trinitarianism by the neo-Platonists (including Plotinus, Proclus and the Pseudo-Dionysius). These guys characterized the fundamental triplicity at the root of things as follows:
mone (remaining, abiding); proodos (going forth); epistrophe (returning, turning back).
mone became "God, the Father" (Who abides in Himself); proodos became "Jesus, the Son of God" (Who goes forth into the world); and epistrophe became "The Holy Spirit" (Who mediates the return to the Father).
Of course, the neo-Platonists weren't called neo-Platonists for nothing; they owed most of the deepest aspects of their thinking to (their interpretations of) Plato's writings, and this includes their trinitarianism. But that's a matter for another post at another time.