Response to Ian on Filioque

Originally 2/2/2010.

Ian: I found your post very interesting but….I must admit it’s a stretch I think…the universal witness of the cappadocians as with all the eastern Fathers is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.
Author: Dear Ian, thanks for you readership and feedback, and congratulations on obeying God’s calling you to prepare for the reception of Holy Orders.

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 the Catholic doctrine on the procession of the Holy Spirit. The case for Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa teaching the Catholic doctrine is admittedly stronger than the case for St. Gregory the Theologian.
2. The closest any of the Eastern Fathers come to denying Filioque are some statements by St. John of Damascus (addressed on my Catholic Patristics post hyperlinked in note 2 below). His words either mean that (1) the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son as from an unoriginate cause or (2) the Holy Spirit does not at all proceed from the Son. If (1), there is no incompatibility between his words and the teaching of the Catholic Church. If (2), he taught contrary to the explicit statements of several Eastern Fathers and contrary to the explicit unanimous tradition of the Latin Fathers. I’m not prepared to admit that the Holy Doctor did such a thing.
3. The Photian doctrine, to which you hold, first appears not in any orthodox writer, but in the work of the Nestorian Bishop Theodore of Mopsuestia, an arch-heretic of the Antiochene school whose writings and person were condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople II) in 553; no Eastern Church Father said “from the Father alone.”{1}
4. Several Eastern Fathers teach expressly that the Son also spirates the Holy Spirit in the immanent or ontological Trinity (e.g., Sts. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, St. Epiphanius of Salamis, and St. Cyril of Alexandria).{2} This teaching is not explicit in all the Eastern Fathers. However, all the Latin Fathers, from the Doctor Bishop St. Hilary of Poitiers onward, explicitly teach Filioque.{3} To maintain that Filioque is false is to say that the God-bearing Eastern and Western Fathers, who were inspired by the one Spirit of Truth when communicating the traditions of the Church, taught mutually exclusive doctrines on the procession of the Holy Spirit. You, my brother, venerate as saints many Western Fathers who taught the Catholic doctrine: St. Hilary of Poitiers (January 13), St. Ambrose the Great of Milan (December 7), St. Augustine the Great of Hippo (June 15), Pope St. Leo I the Great of Rome (February 18), Pope St. Gregory I the Great of Rome (March 12), and St. Isidore of Seville (April 4). All of these illustrious men are Doctors of the Catholic Church.

{1} “The doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Spirit came into discussion early … Theodore of Mopsuestia denied it … None [of the Greek Fathers] ever wrote ‘from the Father only’…” Gill, J., and B. L. Marthaler. “Filioque.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 719-720. 15 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Fordham University Libraries. 23 Mar. 2009.
{2} “Filioque: Fathers, Popes, & Councils.” Catholic Patristics. 4 Aug. 2009. 2 Feb. 2010>.
{3} New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., s.v. “Filioque.”

Ian: As soon as you introduce the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son you blur the distinction between them, and not only that, but you also make the Holy Spirit less of a person. The Holy Spirit becomes dependent on both the Father and the Son in order to have His distinct mode of being. This essentially lessons His equality.
Author: None of the God-bearing Latin Fathers ever drew these negative conclusions, and if your line of reasoning is true, you have to anathematize the Latin Fathers. The incommunicable personal properties are generation (paternity), filiation (sonship), and passive spiration (procession).{4} It is not proper to the Father or the Son to spirate, because active spiration is not relatively opposed to paternity or filiation [ST I, q. 28, art. 3, ad 1], but it is proper to the Holy Spirit to be spirated. In this way the difficulty–which underlines your reasoning above–of all real divine properties being common to all three hypostases or proper to one hypostasis is circumvented.

{4} New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., s.v. “Divine Personal Properties.”

Ian: And the Roman, (or Frankish to more accurate) Catholic Church also teaches that the Holy Spirit proceeds as from ONE PRINCIPLE. [God] is not a principle, and the the unity of the Trinity is not to be found in a principle but in the Person of the Father. This however does not in any way subordinate the Son and the Spirit to the Father, because by nature the Father always has His Son and His Spirit.
Author: The monarchy of the Father, Who, as you point out, is the “the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity, or if it is better so expressed, deity” [St. Augustine, On the Holy Trinity 4:20:29] means that He alone has His being from no other hypostasis. That the Son also spirates the Holy Spirit does not make Him a second source of divinity, because He is begotten from the Father and has it from the Father that He also spirates the Holy Spirit. The Eastern Fathers use “cause” in a very narrow, determinate, and specific sense: the unbegotten source from Whom the other two persons proceed.{7} Catholics use principle in an indeterminate sense when they say that the Father and the Son are the one “principle” of the Holy Spirit [ST I, q. 36, art. 4, ad 4]. “Principle” is a substantive name with a form and an accompanying suppositum: the Father and the Son must be one “principle” of the Holy Spirit because even though They are two supposita spirating, They are one form, God [ibid., ad 7].

I look forward to hearing back from you.

One Response to Response to Ian on Filioque

  1. […] from the Father and the Son *The Meaning of Filioque *The Meaning of the Monarchy of the Father *Response to Ian on Filioque *St. Gregory the Theologian & […]

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