Saturday, September 4, 2010

Trinitarianism and Orthodoxy

My plans to make "Concrete Proposals vis a vis Orthodoxy" into a cohesive series never really panned out. I made my posts on the question of the East and remarriage, and then ended up addressing almost all of the other issues I had planned to write about in a variety of other unexpected contexts (such as the question of primacy and ecclesiology, or the questions of nature, original sin, and grace).

I might soon write a brief post about my conviction that, all else being worked out, the question of papal infallibility should be a non-issue (or at least a bridge crossed only when and if we ever come to it again, rather than a barrier to reunion). But largely my explorations of these issues are for now complete, and they have left me more convinced than ever that there is really no substantial dogmatic difference between East and West when we get behind the miscommunication, misrepresentation, and semantics.

There may be different attitudes and theological approaches and emphases to be sure, but these are complementary, not contradictory. This has been a commonplace on the overly-optimistic ecumenical Catholic side, at least, for some time now. But I feel like I have demonstrated, to my own satisfaction at least, ways the two formulations can be shown specifically to be equivalent in a practical conceptual way. As it would be intellectually dishonest to simply take their equivalency on faith (as some of those same overly-optimistic ecumenical Catholics seem to want to do) without being able to find some common formulation that shows exactly how they're equivalent and why there was misunderstanding in the past.

Not everyone might be satisfied with my explanations, which are surely imperfect and by no means theologically or historically comprehensive of the various debates. I'm sure professional theologians and hierarchs on both sides would still have to flesh things out further, clean it all up, make many changes and further clarifications, etc. I'm not saying these are going to be the way to make them equivalent in the end, but they convince me there are ways to do it. And combined with the clear continuing spiritual vitality of the Orthodox East, I've convinced myself personally that I could accept the Orthodox today without any changes to their theology and not be accepting any heresy. And that if they could likewise accept the West as non-contradictory in our formulations, the Church truly could "breathe with both lungs."

However, the last major issue I have not yet addressed is, perhaps not surprisingly given how daunting the task is, theology itself strictly-so-called! Specifically, the Filioque controversy and the question of terms like essence, energies, hypostases, persons, existences, etc, when describing the Trinity.

Though I have a strong "feeling" of the two positions "clicking" together as complementary when I read Orthodox sources about the matter, I am no theologian, have a hard time trying to sort out something like a one-to-one equivalency between the disparate systems of terminology. This is only compounded by the fact that the Latin was historically "supposed to be" a mere translation from the Greek conciliar declarations, but often seems not to be exactly equivalent conceptually.

I also don't feel competent to make generalizations about or extrapolations from the Orthodox side, which isn't "my" side, after all. It would be presumptuous for me to present their teachings and try to make Catholic arguments from them, especially when I've expressed frustration in the past at them doing the same thing with Catholic teachings on, for example, Original Sin; drawing conclusions from misrepresentations and then trying to tell us what we believe.

But, in order to give some idea of what I feel on this question, I'd like to quote some things, with minimal comment, that I think are important for the West to remember about the Eastern theology from this great article on the Filioque question by Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky, and then share one proposed solution I found from an Orthodox source that seems to jive with the nature of the semantic differences I have been perceiving between the East and West:
Our task here will not be that of a historian. We shall leave aside questions concerning the origins of the two different formulas. We shall even admit the possibility of an Orthodox interpretation of Filioque, as it first appeared at Toledo for example. We are not dealing with verbal formulas here, but with two established theological doctrines. We shall try to show the outlines of the Trinitarian theology which Orthodox theologians regard themselves as obliged to defend when they are confronted with the doctrine of the eternal personal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son as from a single principle. We shall confine ourselves to setting forth certain theological principles, of a general character, about the formulas ek monou tou Patros and dia Huiou. We shall not enter into the controversies of the past in detail. Our sole aim will be to make Orthodox triadology better understood.

Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians agree in recognizing that a certain anonymity characterizes the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. While the names "Father" and "Son" denote very clear personal distinctions, are in no sense interchangeable, and cannot in any case refer to the common nature of the two hypostases, the name "Holy Spirit" has not that advantage. Indeed, we say that God is Spirit, meaning by that the common nature as much as any one of the persons. We say that He is Holy: The triple Sanctus of the canon of the Mass alludes to Three Holy Persons, having the common holiness of the same Godhead. Taken in itself, the term "Holy Spirit" thus might be applied, not to a personal distinction, but to the common nature of the Three. In that sense, Thomas Aquinas is right in saying that the Third Person of the Trinity has no name of His own and that the name "Holy Spirit" has been given to Him on the basis of Scriptural usage.
Rather unrelated, St. Maximilian Kolbe had some very interesting things to say on the "proper name of the Holy Spirit" in some of his writings on Mariology and Divine Maternity, interestingly enough, something I should write about at a later date...
We meet the same difficulty when we wish to define the mode of origin of the Holy Spirit, contrasting his "procession" with the "generation" of the Son. Even more than the name "Holy Spirit," the term "procession" cannot be considered to be, in itself, an expression which exclusively envisages the Third Person. It is a general term, which could be applied, in abstracto, to the Son; Latin theology even speaks of duae processiones. We leave aside, for the moment, the question of the extent to which such an abstract way of dealing with the mystery of the Trinity is legitimate. The one point which we stress here is that the term "procession" has not the precision of the term "generation." The latter term, while preserving the mysterious character of the divine Fatherhood and Sonship, states a definite relationship between two persons. That is not the case with the term– procession"– an indefinite expression which confronts us with the mystery of an anonymous person, whose hypostatic origin is presented to us negatively: it is not generation, it is other than that of the Son. If we seek to treat these expressions positively, we find an image of the economy of the Third Person rather than an image of his hypostatic character: we find the procession of a divine force or Spirit which accomplishes sanctification. We reach a paradoxical conclusion: all that we know of the Holy Spirit refers to his economy; all that we do not know makes us venerate his Person, as we venerate the ineffable diversity of the consubstantial Three.


Starting from the fact that the hypostatic character of the Holy Spirit remains undefined and "anonymous," Latin theology seeks to draw a positive conclusion as to his mode of origin. Since the term "Holy Spirit" is, in some sense, common to the Father and the Son (both are Holy and both are Spirit), it should denote a person related to the Father and the Son in respect of what they have in common. Even when the matter at hand is the procession, taken as the mode of origin of the Third Person, the term "procession"–which in itself does not signify any mode of origin distinguishable from generation–should denote a relation to the Father and the Son together, to serve as the basis for a Third Person, distinct from the other two. Since a "relation of opposition" can only be established between two terms, the Holy Spirit should proceed from the Father and the Son, inasmuch as they represent a unity. This is the meaning of the formula according to which the Holy Spirit is said to proceed from the Father and the Son as from one principle of spiration.

One cannot deny the logical clarity of this process of reasoning, which seeks to base hypostatic diversity on the principle of relations of opposition. This triadological principle, formulated by Thomas Aquinas, becomes unavoidable the moment that the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit ab utroque is admitted. It presupposes the following conditions: (1) That relations are the basis of the hypostases, which define themselves by their mutual opposition, the first to the second, and these two together to the third. (2) That two persons represent a non-personal unity, in that they give rise to a further relation of opposition. (3) That in general the origin of the persons of the Trinity therefore is impersonal, having its real basis in the one essence, which is differentiated by its internal relations. The general character of this triadology may be described as a pre-eminence of natural unity over personal trinity, as an ontological primacy of the essence over the hypostases.
This is the Latin formulation that most in the West will be familiar with. The Orthodox, however, apparently approach things differently:
On the contrary, because that diversity, or (to speak more generally) the diversity of the Three Persons, is presented as something absolute, we refuse to admit a relation of origin which opposes the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, taken as a single principle. If this were admitted, personal diversity in the Trinity in effect would be relativized: Inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is one hypostasis, the Holy Spirit only represents the unity of the two in their identical nature. Here the logical impossibility of any opposition between three terms intervenes, and the clarity of this triadological system shows itself to be extremely superficial. Indeed, on these lines, we cannot reach a mode of distinguishing the three hypostases from each another without confounding them in one way or another with the essence. In fact, the absolute diversity of the Three cannot be based on their relations of opposition without admitting, implicitly or explicitly, the primacy of the essence over the hypostases, by assuming a relative (and therefore secondary) basis for personal diversity, in contrast to natural identity. But that is exactly what Orthodox theology cannot admit.


It may be objected that this formula for the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone provides no place for any relation of opposition between the Second Person of the Trinity and the Third Person. But those who say this overlook the fact that the very principle of relations of opposition is unacceptable to Orthodox triadology– that the expression "relations of origin" has a different sense in Orthodox theology than it has among defenders of the Filioque. When we state that the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone is distinguished in an ineffable manner from the eternal generation of the Son, who is begotten of the Father alone, no attempt is being made to establish a relation of opposition between the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is not merely because the procession is ineffable (the generation of the Son is no less ineffable) but also because relations of origin in the Trinity– filiation, procession– cannot be considered as the basis for the hypostases, as that which determines their absolute diversity. When we say that the procession of the Holy Spirit is a relation which differs absolutely from the generation of the Son, we indicate the difference between them as to mode of origin (tropos hyparxeos) from that common source in order to affirm that community of origin in no way affects the absolute diversity between the Son and the Spirit.

Here it may be stated that the relations only serve to express the hypostatic diversity of the Three; they are not the basis of it. It is the absolute diversity of the three hypostases which determines their differing relations to one another, not vice versa. Here thought stands still, confronted by the impossibility of defining a personal existence in its absolute difference from any other, and must adopt a negative approach to proclaim that the Father– He who is without beginning (anarchos)– is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, that the begotten Son is neither the Holy Spirit nor the Father, that the Holy Spirit, "who proceeds from the Father," is neither the Father nor the Son. Here we cannot speak of relations of opposition but only of relations of diversity. To follow here the positive approach, and to envisage the relations of origin otherwise than as signs of the inexpressible diversity of the persons, is to suppress the absolute quality of this personal diversity, i.e. to relativize the Trinity and in some sense to depersonalize it.


If personal diversity in God presents itself as a primordial fact, not to be deduced from any other principle or based on any other idea, that does not mean that the essential identity of the Three is ontologically posterior to their hypostatic diversity. Orthodox triadology is not a counter-blast to Filioquism; it does not run to the other extreme. As we already have said, relations of origin signify the personal diversity of the Three, but they indicate no less their essential identity. In that the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinguished from the Father, we venerate three Persons; in that they are one with Him, we confess their consubstantiality. Thus the monarchy of the Father maintains the perfect equilibrium between the nature and the persons, without coming down too heavily on either side. There is neither an impersonal substance nor nonconsubstantial persons. The one nature and the three hypostases are presented simultaneously to our understanding, with neither prior to the other. The origin of the hypostases is not impersonal, since it is referred to the person of the Father; but it is unthinkable apart from their common possession of the same essence, the "divinity in division undivided." Otherwise we should have Three Divine Individuals, Three Gods bound together by an abstract idea of Godhead. On the other hand, since consubstantiality is the non-hypostatic identity of the Three, in that they have (or rather are) a common essence, the unity of the three hypostases is inconceivable apart from the monarchy of the Father, who is the principle of the common possession of the same one essence. Otherwise we should be concerned with a simple essence, differentiated by relationships.
This is an important point I think Latins often miss; as I understand it, the Orthodox never speak of "God" as if the essence can be referred to impersonally. When they say "God," this is to be understood as a specific personal reference to the person of the Father. The accuse the West (perhaps with some merit) of basically personalizing the essence as almost a sort of super-trinitarian hypostasis separate from and prior to the three persons. And yet, as we know from the "communication of idioms" regarding the person of Christ (such that we can say "God died on the cross")...natures can't do anything, only persons can. Even though in ad extra actions the Trinity act in common, we cannot speak of some unitarian essentialized "God" that is somehow prior to the three persons.
The causality ascribed to the person of the Father, who eternally begets the Son and eternally causes the Holy Spirit to proceed, expresses the same idea as the monarchy of the Father: that the Father is the personal principle of unity of the Three, the source of their common possession of the same content, of the same essence. The expressions "Godhead-source" and "source of the Godhead" do not mean that the divine essence is subject to the person of the Father, but only that the person of the Father is the basis of common possession of the same essence, because the person of the Father, not being the sole person of the Godhead, is not to be identified with the essence. In a certain sense it can be said the Father is this possession of the divine essence in common with the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that he would not be a divine Person if he were only a monad: he would then be identified with the divine Essence.


The Father is the cause of the other hypostases in that He is not His essence, i.e. in that He does not have His essence for Himself alone. What the image of causality wishes to express is the idea that the Father, being not merely an essence but a person, is by that very fact the cause of the other consubstantial Persons, who have the same essence as He has.
As I read this, Lossky is saying that by not being His own essence, but a rather a specific Person having that essence, the Father causes the diversity of the other Persons by opening up the possibility of the essence being realized, as it were, in specific Beings, rather than remaining some Platonic Form, rather than remaining Essence that may or may not Be.

In this sense, the Father is clearly the only Origin of the Trinity. For example, what the Holy Spirit is (ie, God, divinity) has the Father alone as Origin. The Son Himself receives His divinity from the Father already, so the Son cannot be its Origin in any sense, and thus is not that sort of Origin for the Holy Spirit's divinity either, as the Father can be (though there are other types of procession and sources as we'll see at the end).

I also think this starts to touch on the Western idea that "God's existence is His essence" and that "the nature of God is to be." As I understand the Orthodox teaching, this is not true or, rather, we are speaking of possibly different things when we speak of "essence" and "nature." For the Orthodox, I have read, God's essence is said to be "hyper-being" which is to say...beyond the categories of both being and non-being. God in the incomprehensibility of the ousia is both something and nothing and niether, as it were. And, I tend to sympathize with this idea that God, to truly be above all categories and dualities, must also be above the duality between being and non-being.

The persons, then, or rather the hypostases, are the essence "being" in a comprehensible way. This also gets into the essence-energies distinction often misunderstood in the West. Orthodox readers feel free to chime up and correct me, but the West (in trying to reconcile with Orthodox thought) often identify the "energies" merely as the "operations" of God, and so think in terms of the "economic" actions of God in the world of creation. However, I believe the Orthodox would also see the "being" of God in the three persons of the Trinity "as a verb," as it were, as an eternal and uncreated energy, one that perhaps has some similarity here with the West's "relations of opposition" which Lossky is so loathe to base the absolute diversity of the hypostases in themselves.

According to St. Maximus, God is "identically a monad and a triad." He is not merely one and three; he is 1=3 and 3=1. That is to say, here we are not concerned with number as signifying quantity: absolute diversities cannot be made the subjects of sums of addition; they have not even opposition in common. If, as we have said, a personal God cannot be a monad– if he must be more than a single person– neither can he be a dyad. The dyad is always an opposition of two terms, and, in that sense, it cannot signify an absolute diversity. When we say that God is Trinity we are emerging from the series of countable or calculable numbers. The procession of the Holy Spirit is an infinite passage beyond the dyad, which consecrates the absolute (as opposed to relative) diversity of the persons. This passage beyond the dyad is not an infinite series of persons but the infinity of the procession of the Third Person: the Triad suffices to denote the Living God of revelation. If God is a monad equal to a triad, there is no place in him for a dyad. Thus the seemingly necessary opposition between the Father and the Son, which gives rise to a dyad, is purely artificial, the result of an illicit abstraction. Where the Trinity is concerned, we are in the presence of the One or of the Three, but never of two.
Here Lossky critiques the Western model as destroying this, and I believe he has some points. The West clearly has "scholasticized" God in this regard, but I do not believe there is no valid context for the Filioque understanding, as I'll discuss at the end. I think Lossky is assuming that the Filioque and the relations of opposition have to be understood in the West as the source of the absolute diversity of the Persons, which I don't think is necessarily the case. But certainly the attitude of Catholics and especially scholastic theologians when it comes to coldly philosophizing God as if He is some sort of math problem need to change:
The procession of the Holy Spirit ab utroque does not signify passage beyond the dyad but rather re-absorption of the dyad in the monad, the return of the monad upon itself. It is a dialectic of the monad opening out into the dyad and closing again into its simplicity. On the other hand, procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone, by emphasizing the monarchy of the Father as the concrete principle of the unity of the Three, passes beyond the dyad without a return to primordial unity, without the necessity of God retiring into the simplicity of the essence. For this reason the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone confronts us with the mystery of the "Tri-Unity." We have here not a simple, self-enclosed essence, upon which relations of opposition have been superimposed in order to masquerade a god of philosophy as the God of Christian revelation. We say "the simple Trinity," and this antinomic expression, characteristic of Orthodox hymnography, points out a simplicity which the absolute diversity of the three persons can in no way relativize.
He summarizes:
As we have seen, all triadology depends on the question of the procession of the Holy Spirit:

(1) If the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, this ineffable procession confronts us with the absolute diversity of the three hypostases, excluding all relations of opposition. If He proceeds from the Father and the Son, the relations of origin, instead of being signs of absolute diversity, become determinants of the persons, which emanate from an impersonal principle.

(2) If the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, this procession presents us with a Trinity which escapes the laws of quantitative number, since it goes beyond the dyad of opposed terms, not by means of a synthesis or a new series of numbers, but by an absolutely new diversity which we call the Third Person. If the Holy Spirit proceeds ab utroque, we get a relativized Trinity, submitted to the laws of number and of relations of opposition– laws which cannot serve as a basis for the diversity of the Three Persons without confusing them either with each other or with their common nature.

(3) If the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, as the hypostatic cause of the consubstantial hypostases, we find the "simple Trinity," where the monarchy of the Father conditions the personal diversity of the Three while at the same time expressing their essential unity. The balance between the hypostases and the ousia is safeguarded. If the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one single principle, essential unity takes precedence over personal diversity, and the Persons become relations of the essence, differentiating themselves from one another by mutual opposition. This is no longer the "simple Trinity" but an absolute simplicity of essence, which is treated as an ontological basis at a point where there can be no basis except the primordial Tri-Unity itself.
He then goes on to discuss the essence-energies distinction, which is extremely important, I've found, to the question of the Filioque:
Every name except those of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit– even the names of "Word" and "Paraclete"– is inappropriate for designating the special characteristics of the hypostases in the inaccessible existence of the Trinity, and refers rather to the external aspect of God, to His manifestation, or even to His economy. The dogma of the Trinity marks the summit of theology, where our thought stands still before the primordial mystery of the existence of the Personal God. Apart from the names denoting the three hypostases and the common name of the Trinity, the innumerable names which we apply to God– the "divine names" which textbook theology calls his attributes–denote God not in his inaccessible Being but in "that which surrounds the essence" (taperi tes ousias). This is the eternal radiance of the common content of the Three Persons, who reveal their incommunicable nature in "energies." This technical term of Byzantine theology, denoting a mode of divine existence besides essence, introduces no new philosophical notion alien to revelation. The Bible, in its concrete language, speaks of nothing other than "energies" when it tells us of the "glory of God"– a glory with innumerable names which surrounds the inaccessible Being of God, making Him known outside Himself, while concealing what He is in Himself. This is the eternal glory which belongs to the Three Persons, which the Son "had before the world was." And when we speak of the divine energies in relation to the human beings to whom they are communicated and given and by whom they are appropriated, this divine and uncreated reality within us is called Grace.


The manifesting energies of God– which signify a mode of divine existence other than that of the Trinity in itself, in its incommunicable nature– do not make a breach in its unity; they do not abolish the "simple Trinity." The same monarchy of the Father, who is the cause of the consubstantial hypostases of the Son and the Holy Spirit, also presides over the external manifestation of the unity of the Trinity. Here the term "causality," applied to the Person of the Father in that He is the principle of the absolute diversities of the Three consubstantial Persons (a term implying the hypostatic procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone), must be clearly distinguished from the revelation or manifestation of the Father by the Son in the Holy Spirit. Causality, with all its defects as a term, expresses what it stands for quite well: the hypostatic distinction of the Three which arises from the Person of the Father– a distinction between absolute diversities, brought about by the fact that the Father is not uniquely the essence. It is not possible to replace the conventional term "causality" by that of "manifestation" of the Father– as Fr. Bulgakov has tried to do– without confounding the two planes of thought: that of the existence of the Trinity in itself, and that of existence ad extra, in the radiance of the essential glory of God.

If the Father is the personal cause of the hypostases, He is also, for that very reason, the principle of their common possession of one and the same nature; and in that sense, He is the "source" of the common divinity of the Three. The revelation of this nature, the externalization of the unknowable essence of the Three, is not a reality foreign to the Three hypostases. Every energy, every manifestation, comes from the Father, is expressed in the Son, and goes forth in the Holy Spirit. This procession– natural, "energetic," manifesting– must be clearly distinguished from hypostatic procession, which is personal, internal, from the Father alone. The same monarchy of the Father conditions both the hypostatic procession of the Holy Spirit– His personal existence ek monou tou Patros– and the manifesting, natural procession of the common Godhead ad extra in the Holy Spirit, through the Son– dia Huiou.

If, as we have already said, the name "Holy Spirit" expresses more a divine economy than a personal quality, this is because the Third Hypostasis is par excellence the hypostasis of manifestation, the Person in whom we know God the Trinity. His Person is hidden from us by the very profusion of the Divinity which He manifests. It is this "personal kenosis" of the Holy Spirit on the plane of manifestation and economy which makes it hard to grasp His hypostatic existence.

The same plane of natural manifestation gives to the name "Logos," as applied to the Son, all its significance. The Logos is "a concise declaration of the nature of the Father," as St. Gregory of Nazianzus says. When St. Basil speaks to us of the Son who "shows in Himself the whole of the Father, shining with all His glory in resplendence," he also is concerned with the manifesting and energetic aspect of the Trinity. Likewise all the patristic passages in which the Son is called "the image of the Father" and the Holy Spirit is called "the image of the Son" refer to the energetic manifestation of the content common to the Three; for the Son is not the Father, but He is what the Father is; the Holy Spirit is not the Son, but He is what the Son is. In the order of divine manifestation, the hypostases are not the respective images of the personal diversities but of the common nature: the Father reveals His nature through the Son, and the divinity of the Son is manifested in the Holy Spirit. This is why, in the realm of divine manifestation, it is possible to establish an order of Persons (taxis) which, strictly speaking, should not be attributed to Trinitarian existence in itself, despite the "monarchy" and "causality" of the Father: these confer upon Him no hypostatic primacy over the other two hypostases, since He is a person only because the Son and the Holy Spirit are also.


The distinction between the unknowable essence of the Trinity and its energetic processions, clearly defined by the great councils of the fourteenth century, allows Orthodox theology to maintain firmly the difference between tri-hypostatic existence in itself and tri-hypostatic existence in the common manifestation outside the essence. In His hypostatic existence, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone; and this ineffable procession enables us to confess the absolute diversity of the Three Persons, i.e. our faith in the Tri-Unity. In the order of natural manifestation, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son (dia Huiou), after the Word; and this procession reveals to us the common glory of the Three, the eternal splendor of the divine nature.
It is perhaps presumptuous of the Orthodox, however, to assume that in the West's discussion of the Trinitarian processions we were ever talking about absolute diversity (too ineffable to approach for us, perhaps) rather than the eternal manifestation. For this manifestation, Lossky makes clear, is not just to be attributed to ad extra temporal activities in creation, but rather even, as it were, to the relations from eternity:
It would not be exact to say, as some Orthodox polemicists have, that the procession dia Huiou signifies solely the temporal mission of the Holy Spirit. In the case of the temporal mission of the persons of the Son and the Holy Spirit, a new factor is involved: that of will. This will, as we know, can only be the common will of the Trinity. The temporal mission is a specific case of divine manifestation in the economy, i.e. in relation to created being. Generally speaking, the divine economy in time expresses the eternal manifestation; but the eternal manifestation is not necessarily the basis of created beings, which could have not existed. Independently of the existence of creatures, the Trinity is manifested in the radiance of its glory. From all eternity, the Father is "the Father of glory" (Eph. 1:17); the Word is "the brightness of His glory" (Heb. 1:3); and the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of glory" (I Peter 4:14).
His next admission as to the confusion of all this (though it makes sense) would make one think that they might have the courtesy to extend the benefit of the doubt to the Latins...:
Poverty of vocabulary sometimes makes it hard to recognize whether it is the hypostatic procession of the Holy Spirit or the procession of manifestation to which a writer is alluding: both are eternal, though having a different point of reference. Very often the Fathers simultaneously employ expressions referring to the hypostatic existence of the Holy Spirit and to the eternal manifestation of the divine nature in the Holy Spirit, even when defining His personal qualities or distinguishing His person from the other two. Nevertheless, they well distinguished between the two different modes of hypostatic subsistence and of manifestation. In evidence, we can cite this passage from St. Basil: "From the Father proceeds the Son, through whom are all things, and with whom the Holy Spirit is ever inseparably known, for none can think of the Son without being enlightened by the Spirit. Thus on one hand the Holy Spirit, the source, of all good things distributed to created beings, is linked to the Son, with whom He is inseparably conceived; on the other hand His being is dependent on the Father, from whom He proceeds. Therefore the characteristic mark of His personal quality is to be manifested after the Son and with Him, and to subsist in proceeding from the Father." Many other patristic texts could be cited, in which the writer is concerned simultaneously with the eternal manifestation of the Divinity in the Holy Spirit and with His personal existence.


It is easy to conceive the difficulties which the distinction between hypostatic existence of the Holy Spirit and eternal manifestation of the divine nature in His person presented to the theologically rude and uneducated minds of Western Christians of the Carolingian period. It may well be supposed that it was the truth of the eternal manifestation which the first Filioquist formulas, in Spain and elsewhere before the ninth century, were intended to express. It is possible that the Filioquism of St. Augustine can also be interpreted in the same sense, although here the problem is more difficult and a theological analysis of the treatise De Trinitate is needed– something which has not yet been done by the Orthodox. Filioquism as a doctrine of the hypostatic procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son as from a single principle reached its clear and definitively explicit form in the great centuries of scholasticism. After the councils of Lyons and Florence, it was no longer possible to interpret the Latin formula for the procession of the Holy Spirit in the sense of eternal manifestation of the Divinity. At the same time it also became impossible for Roman Catholic theologians to admit the energetic manifestation of the Trinity as something not contradicting the truth of the divine simplicity. No longer was there any place for the concept of the energies of the Trinity: nothing was admitted to exist outside the divine essence except created effects, acts of will analogous to the act of creation. Western theologians had to profess the created character of glory and of sanctifying grace, to renounce the concept of deification; and in doing this they are quite consistent with the premises of their triadology.
I disagree that it is impossible to interpret the Latin formulation in this Orthodox sense. Indeed, the West may have lost track of the distinction the Orthodox make between the ineffable essence and absolute diversity of the persons, and the eternal energetic manifestation through their relations. There may be a scholasticizing attitude in the West that seeks to reduce the Trinity to a sort of mathematical oddity, but this is certainly not dogma.

I found an Orthodox website that summarizes a potential solution. The Filioque seems to be admitted when discussing what Lossky was describing above as the "eternal energetic manifestations" which I could see identified, in the West, with the tradition of "relations of opposition." In trying to refute the West, the East has perhaps de-emphasized this second category (to the point that, as Lossky describes, some would reduce it merely to God's temporal manifestations), whereas the West (in its theology, though not its mysticism, methinks) has perhaps shied for too long from the ineffability and hyper-being of God's essence (if only exactly because of its ineffability). The two ideas would thus be complementary. The solution from an
Orthodox website:

From my reading of the Fathers and from Orthodox and Catholic theologians, particularly Vladimir Lossky who seems the clearest on this issue, I have outlined what I think are 3 types of processions of the Spirit:

1) hypostatic existence: from the Father alone. εκπορεύεσθαι is the term that denotes origin of the Spirit. This was St. Photius concern and correct assessment, and this is the term used in the Nicene Creed.

2) eternal energetic procession (eternal manifestation): from the Father through the Son.
This one denotes the common substance or ουσία (ousia) which the Spirit in deriving from the Father alone as Person or υπόστασις (hypostasis) receives from the Son, too, as ουσιωδώς (ousiwdws) that is, with regard to the one ουσία (ousia) common to all three persons (Cyril of Alexandria, Maximus the Confessor, Gregory Palamas et al). On the basis of this distinction one might argue that there is a kind of Filioque on the level of ουσία (ousia), but not of υπόστασις (hypostasis). We could also think of this one in terms of perichoresis.

The Spirit of the Word is like a love of the Father for the mysteriously begotten Word, and it is the same love that the beloved Word and Son of the Father has for the one who begot him. That love comes from the Father at the same time as it is with the Son and it naturally rests on the Son.–St. Gregory Palamas, Chapters, 36 (PG 150:1144D-1145A).

3) economic energetic procession: from the Father through the Son. This one denotes the same as the above but in acts of creation or sending a divine Person in time.

If Florence or Lyons can be rehabilitated, it’s my contention that it can only be read as #2. The wording of the dogma seems to rule out #3, and it clearly can’t be #1 without confusing generation and procession with properties of a nature.

I would tend to agree. It is on the level of #2 that the the Filioque can be agreed to be true, and may be what (when mapped onto the Orthodox theological framework) what we Latins were really talking about all along anyway, whereas the Orthodox have been confused and upset with Latin teaching because they see it as applying to level #1 (which Latin theology has perhaps not touched very much at all, but rather left to mysticism due to its ineffability). Solutions that involve reducing it merely to level #3 are unacceptable to both sides.

So, basically, the Western filioque applies to #2, what the East apparently is calling "Eternal Energetic" manifestation or procession, and which I would argue can be mapped onto our "relations of opposition" or "notional acts."

Contrary to the Eastern caricature of the West and Scholasticism prying too much into the nature of God and rationalizing or philosophizing the divine...the West actually doesnt even tend to speak of the first level (that of absolute hypostatic existence) at all. In theology, at least; though I'd argue those concepts can be found in many of our mystical works (albeit without a consistent language for it). But in theology, because it is so ineffable anyway, we don't even dare.

Remember, the West "ends" it's theology (or begins it) at an equivalency between what we're calling God's Essence and His Existence. The East dares to go a little further (where we fear even to tread) and extend their concept of "essence" to that which is beyond both Being and Non-Being, putting God truly beyond even the duality of Existent and Non-Existent, beyond any categories. The Persons then become, as it were, God "being" just as the energies are like God "doing". But in the West we don't go beyond the juncture of being and essence, which is to say, the Persons themselves (as much as the Orthodox say the opposite is true for us; ie, that we speak of an impersonal essence).

Because the "simple essence" in that sense is indeed (as the East reminds us a lot) ineffable and incomprehensible, so we don't even bother or dare; it is hard to speak of that which both and/or neither exists and/or non-exists. And yet perhaps our "reverent" desire not to speak of that, and the East's bold willingness to do so are, ironically, why they are now more known for their mysticism.

Either way, the two positions are complementary, not contradictory. But part of what you see here is this goes way beyond the isolated question of the filioque and into questions of basic conceptions of theology in general. The filioque merely served as a flashpoint for clarifying these various distinctions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is awesome. - Tabouli