St. Gregory the Theologian & Filioque

Originally posted 11/30/2009.

Culled from various sections of my upcoming paper on the Cappadocian Fathers and Filioque:

In Oration 29:2{26} (the Third Theological Oration) on the Son, St. Gregory the Theologian (†390) says, “The Father is the Begetter and the Emitter … The Son is the Begotten, and the Holy Spirit is the Emission …”{27} In the same section, he suggests confining the discussion to “the Unbegotten and the Begotten and That which proceeds from the Father, as somewhere God the Word Himself says.” Does this imply that the Son has no role in the ontological procession of the Holy Spirit? Fr. Jugie gives a negative answer, explaining that St. Gregory does not rule out the idea that the Son has it from the Father that He is also προβολεύς.{28} The fairness of the scholar’s explanation becomes apparent when we compare St. Gregory’s statement from this oration with comments he makes elsewhere.

{26} P.G. 36:76B.
{27} Philip Schaff, D.D. translation, used for the rest of the primary sources unless otherwise noted.
{28} Jugie, De processione, 164.

In Oration 34:10, St. Gregory lays special emphasis on the monarchy of the Father: “all that the Father has belongs likewise to the Son, except Causality.”{29} Mark of Ephesus, in his July 1440 “Encyclical Letter to All the Orthodox,” quotes this statement to show that the Son does not spirate the Holy Spirit.{30} If the Father is the only cause, Mark argues, the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son. However, St. Gregory uses “cause” in a narrower sense than proponents of Filioque do when they say that the Father and the Son are one “principle” of the Holy Spirit,{31} and he does not teach that the Son does not participate in the spiration of the third person of the Trinity.{32} He means that the Father is the only person of the Trinity Who does not take His origin from another; this hypostatic property of being the ungenerated generator does not include the notion of being the sole spirator of the Holy Spirit, as St. Gregory’s other statements show.{33} Several codices of Oration 34 have “ingenerateness” instead of causality; the two words are synonyms for St. Gregory.{34} Moreover,{35} in Oration 41:9, he says, “All that the Father has the Son has also, except being Unbegotten.”{36}

{29} P.G. 36:252A.
{30} P.G. 160:176B.
{31} When Catholics say one principle of the Holy Spirit, they use “principle” indeterminately. See Aquinas, Summa Theologica I, q. 36, art. 4, ad 4. The term “principle” of the Holy Spirit is a substantive name (a form with an accompanying suppositum), so even though the Father and the Son are two supposita spirating, They are not two principles because They are one form, God. See ibid., ad 7.
{32} Jugie, De processione, 165.
{33} Ibid., 165.
{34} Ibid., 165.
{35} Qtd. in ibid., 165.
{36} P.G. 36:441C.

We find, in Oration 31 (the Fifth Theological Oration) of St. Gregory, a number of indications of the Son’s involvement in the hypostatic procession of the Holy Spirit. In Oration 31:4, the Theologian observes, “If ever there was a time when the Father was not, there was a time when the Son was not. If ever there was a time when the Son was not, then there was a time when the Spirit was not.”{37} According to Fr. Jugie, St. Gregory here not only declares the co-eternality of the three hypostases, but also describes the Trinitarian ταξις so as to vaguely allude to the asymmetric dependence of the Holy Spirit on the Son.{38}

{37} PG 36:137A.
{38} Jugie, De processione, 162-163.

Other statements are clearer in their signification. In Oration 31:32, the saint compares the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to “the sun and a ray and a light.”{39} This figure implies more than just an eternal energetic shining forth (manifestation) of the Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son, which is the view of Gregory of Cyprus (†1290), who succeeded the unionist John XI Bekkos as Patriarch of Constantinople in 1283. The analogy St. Gregory uses implies that the Father and the Son act together to give existence to the Holy Spirit, because the globe of the sun is the unbegotten source, which, through and with the ray, produces the light.{40}

{39} P.G. 36:169B.
{40} Jugie, De processione, 161.

In Oration 31:8, St. Gregory points out that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father,” as “our Savior Himself” declares. Here St. Gregory does not say that the Holy Spirit “proceeds” from the Father and the Son, because εκπόρευσις has always been used, even by the Eastern Fathers after the Cappadocians who expressly taught the idea of Filioque, to indicate the relationship of origin of the Holy Spirit to the sole ἀρχὴ-ἄναρχος and πηγή of the Godhead, the Father.{41} εκπόρευσις cannot be used in connection with the Son, because the Son is not unoriginate, but rather is begotten from the Father. St. Gregory deems the fact of εκπόρευσις sufficient to prove that the Holy Spirit is God: “inasmuch as He proceeds from That Source, [He] is no creature.” Does this mean he had no idea of a relationship of origin between the Holy Spirit and the Son? On the contrary, his teaching, from the very same sentence, that the Holy Spirit “is between the Unbegotten and the Begotten” entails that the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son in the sphere of ontology,{42} though different vocabulary (προείναι instead of εκπόρευσις) must be used in order to convey this properly.{43}

{41} Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “The Father as the Source of the Whole Trinity: The Procession of the Holy Spirit in Greek and Latin Traditions.” Catholic Culture.
{42} Jugie, De processione, 163.
{43} Pontifical Council, “The Father.”

Further support for this thesis comes from the ninth section of the same oration, when St. Gregory explains why the Holy Spirit is not another Son. He points out that “the difference of manifestation, if I may so express myself, or rather of Their mutual relations one to another, has caused the difference of Their Names.”{44} The relations of which St. Gregory speaks are clearly relations of origin.{45} For St. Gregory to be consistent with his own maxim and be able to distinguish the hypostases of the Son and the Holy Spirit, there must be, besides the relation between the Father and the Son and the relation between the Father and the Holy Spirit, a relation of origin between the Son and the Holy Spirit. The order of names tells us that the Son does not proceed from the Holy Spirit, so it must be the case that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.{46}

{44} P.G. 36:141C.
{45} Jugie, De processione, 163.
{46} Ibid., 163.

In Oration 42:15,{47} his final farewell at the Second Ecumenical Council,{48} the Theologian does not deny that the Son, even though He is caused, spirates the Holy Spirit.{49} He teaches that the Father is ἅναρχος, the Son is ἀρχὴ, and the Holy Spirit is τὸ µετὰ τῆς ἀρχῆς, which, according to Dr. Bardenhewer, implies between the Holy Spirit and the Son the relation of One Who proceeds and One From Whom He proceeds. Additionally, in Oration 31:2,{50} St. Gregory expressly states that the Holy Spirit is “ἐξ μφοῖν συνημμένον,” that is to say, the Holy Spirit is “composed of both” the Father and the Son.{51} According to Dr. Bardenhewer, the sense of the Theologian’s words is that the Father and the Son both compose, so to speak, the Holy Spirit, i.e., the Father and the Son both produce or spirate the Holy Spirit.{52} It follows that St. Gregory teaches here that the Holy Spirit “proceeds equally from the Father and the Son.”{53}

{47} P.G. 36:476AB.
{48} New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., s.v. “Gregory of Nazianzus, St.”
{49} Jugie, De processione, 161.
{50} P.G. 36:136A.
{51} Bardenhewer, Patrology, 292.
{52} Ibid., 292.
{53} Ibid., 292.

This being so, why didn’t the Second Ecumenical Council, under St. Gregory’s presidency,{54} define that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son? First, the Second Council did not need to define that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, since that was not something the Pneumatomachi denied; the latter thought that the Son would of course be involved in the procession of any other person from the Father.{55} Second, the Council’s goal “was to put the origin of the Holy [Spirit] on a footing with the origin of the Son with respect to consubstantiality with the Father,” and since the Pneumatomachi denied that the Son is God, the Council would not achieve its goal of proving the Holy Spirit is ὁμοούσιος with God the Father by defining that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.{56} Third, the Council wanted to base its definition on Holy Scripture, but the key text John 15:26, which formally teaches that “the Spirit of Truth … proceeds from the Father,” does not formally teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.{57} After the Cappadocians’ time, why didn’t the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Ecumenical Councils define that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son? These Holy Councils, which hailed many Filioquist Fathers as illustrious teachers of orthodoxy,{58} had no need to define this because no one was denying it in those times.{59}

{54} New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., s.v. “Constantinople I, Council of.”
{55} Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., Ph.D. and Thomas B. Scannell, D.D., A Manual of Catholic Theology, vol. 1, 4th ed. (New York: Benziger Bros., 1909), 296.
{56} Ibid., 296.
{57} Ibid., 296.
{58} E.g., the Holy Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council declare in the first session that they “in every way follow the Holy Fathers … Hilary, … Ambrose, … Augustine, … [and] Leo [Pope of Rome], and their writings on the true faith.” See Mansi, IX:183B.
{59} New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., s.v. “Byzantine Theology.”

Although St. Gregory the Theologian puts great emphasis on the monarchy of the Father, his vague allusion to the Holy Spirit’s dependence on the Son in the Trinitarian τάξις, his analogy of the Trinity as sun-ray-light, and his teaching that the Holy Spirit is the mean between the Father and Son all imply not merely that the Holy Spirit is eternally energetically manifested through the Son, but that He has His being from the Father and the Son. Filioque becomes necessary to distinguish the persons of the Holy Spirit and the Son when we give just consideration to the holy archbishop’s axiom that the persons are distinguished from each other in their relations of origin to one another. His teaching that the Father is ἅναρχος, the Son is ἀρχὴ, and the Holy Spirit is τὸ µετὰ τῆς ἀρχῆς, implies that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son. Finally, his statement that the Holy Spirit is “composed of both” the Father and the Son means that the Father and the Son spirate the Holy Spirit.

Whatever one thinks of the pneumatological statements of Eastern Fathers like St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria,{69} St. Epiphanius of Salamis,{70} and St. Cyril of Alexandria,{71} there can be no doubt that the Latin Fathers, from the time of Bishop St. Hilary of Poitiers,{72} unanimously teach Filioque.{73} They include St. Ambrose the Great of Milan,{74} St. Augustine the Great of Hippo,{75} Pope St. Leo I the Great of Rome,{76} Pope St. Hormisdas of Rome,{77} the martyred philosopher St. Boethius,{78} Pope St. Gregory I the Great of Rome,{79} and St. Isidore of Seville.{80} All the God-bearing Latin Fathers were, like the holy Cappadocian Fathers, inspired by the one Spirit of Truth; how could the Cappadocians and the Latins have held mutually exclusive views on the procession of the Holy Spirit?

{69} This great pillar of the Church saw no contradiction between affirming that the Father is “the sole unbegotten and sole fount of divinity” (P.G. 28:97BC) and declaring,
“Whatever the Spirit has, He has from the Word” (Against the Arians 3:25:24 in P.G. 26:376A) and “jointly with the Father, the Son is indeed the source of the Holy Spirit” (On the Incarnation of the Word Against the Arians 9 in P.G. 26:1000A).
{70} The Well-Anchored Man 71,73 in P.G. 43:148B,153A.
{71} Commentary on the Prophet Joel 35 in P.G. 71:377D; Thesaurus 34 in P.G. 75:576B,600D; On the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten in P.G. 75:1241A; On Worship and Adoration in Spirit and Truth 1 in P.G. 68:148A.
{72} On the Trinity 2:29 and 8:20 in Migne, Patrologia Latina Cursus Completus, 10:69A,250C-251A.
{73} New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., s.v. “Filioque.”
{74} On the Holy Spirit 1:11:120 in P.L. 16:733A. See also ibid., 1:15:172 in P.L. 16:739B.
{75} Against Maximus 2:14:1 in P.L. 42:770.
{76} Letter 15:2 to Bishop St. Turibius of Astorga in P.L. 54:680.
{77} Profession of Faith in P.L. 63:514B.
{78} How the Trinity is One God and Not Three Gods 5 in P.L. 64:1254C.
{79} Morals on the Book of Job 2:56:92 in P.L. 75:599A.
{80} Etymologies 7:3 in P.L. 82:268A,C. See also Books of Sentences 1:15:2 in P.L. 83:568C.

One Response to St. Gregory the Theologian & Filioque

  1. […] My 1/6/2010 post, “The Cappadocian Fathers and Filioque,” from which “St. Gregory the Theologian & Filioque” is excerpted, gives my best case against the claim that the three Cappadocian Fathers denied […]

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