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11-08-2007, 06:08 PM,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Clearly one of the big differences between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics is the position of the latter on the addition of the filioque clause to the Creed.

Yet, if one reads the Fathers, it is not uncommon to see reference to the Procession of the Holy Spirit 'through' the Son and through the Father, and the statement that since everything the Son has He has through the Father, it follows that the Spirit proceeds through both. Clearly there is an important difference embodied in 'through' and 'and'; but in the following list culled from the Fathers, there are some, including St. Cyril, who seem to be using the filioque in the other sense. Can someone put me right here?

"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 Father?s] 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]).

St. 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).

St. 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]).

St. 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]).

Whilst I can find plenty of EO discussion of this important theme, I would be interested in any OO comments too.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
15-08-2007, 04:12 PM,
Dear John,

I am Catholic so am perhaps able to suggest what the RCC view would be....(at least that is as far as I understand it, catechesis not being what it was Sad )

Historically one can argue the RCC is far more interested in a (supposedly) organic development of doctrine. Thus how theology came about, in this instance the filioque, is of less importance than that the theology actually is and is taught by the Church. The Lord moves in mysterious ways to create what we hold to be true.

But again this is not exactly hitting the nail on the head and the fact that the Spirit goes through the Son or from the Son could again be from a similar language difference which caused the split between OOs and EOs?

I do hope the above is of some use but the definition in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is:
Quote: 743 From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit: their mission is conjoined and inseparable.

kind regards,

15-08-2007, 09:33 PM,
Dear John Mark,

I am grateful for you response, but feel there is something rather important about the Trinity which is not being grasped - not least by me!

Fr. John Meyendorff sees the Orthodox theology thus:

Quote:Eastern theologians, on the other hand, remained faithful to the old "personalism" of the Greek Fathers. The doctrine of the Filioque appeared to them, consequently, as Semi-Sabellianism (to use the expression of Photius). [Sabellianism is a heresy dating from the second century attributed to a certain Sabellius, who taught that the divine Persons are simply "modes" or "aspects" of a unique God.] Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, because proceeding from the Father, the unique source of the Deity, the Spirit has his own existence and personal function in the inner life of God and the economy of salvation: his task is to bring about the unity of the human race in the Body of Christ, but he also imparts to this unity a personal, and hence diversified, character. It is with a prayer to the Holy Spirit that all the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church begin, and with an invocation of his name that the eucharistic mystery is effected.

As I understand it, the RC version effectively has two Fathers and a version of the Trinity which is semi-Sabellian as stated above.

The Father is defined in relation to the Son and to the Spirit; the Son is generated by the Father, the Spirit Processes from the Father; were the Spirit to Process from the Son too, the economy of the Trinity would be destroyed and the Triad replaced by a Dyad. St. Gregory of Nazianzus offers us the following:
Quote:Not to be procreated, to be procreated, to proceed, characterise the Father, the Son, and He whom we call the Holy Spirit
if these are the relationships which allow us to distinguish the three persons of the Trinity.

I'll stop there as I feel the ground vanishing as I enter the deepest of waters - but somehow it seems right that the Trinity should only be adored and beyond my meagre comprehension!

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
16-08-2007, 05:43 PM,
I read a very interesting and stimulating paper on this subject a couple of weeks ago. It was interesting because the author was not trying to say that the filioque doctrine was saying the same as Eastern Fathers, but he was merely trying to examine the various doctrinal positions to see if they were within acceptable boundaries.

It is a serious and detailed academic paper but if anyone has access to the International Journal of Systematic Theology then I heartily recommend it and would be interested in people's opinions.

Here is the bibliographic info and the abstract.

International Journal of Systematic Theology
Volume 5 Issue 1 Page 3-21, March 2003

David Coffey (2003)

The Roman 'Clarification' of the Doctrine of the Filioque

International Journal of Systematic Theology 5 (1), 3?21.


This article offers an exposition of a recent Roman Catholic document on the disputed issue of the Filioque, and of some of the discussion that has followed it. Drawing on the Council of Florence in particular, it is here argued that there is a danger of a watering down of the developed Western trinitarian position encapsulated in the Filioque. A way of holding on to the fullness of that tradition, whilst taking seriously the need for a fuller recognition of the decisive Eastern insight concerning the monarchy of the Father, is offered.
16-08-2007, 06:12 PM,
Dear Peter,

Many thanks for the reference; I shall try to follow it up.

Reading more on this it seems necessary to distinguish between sending the Spirit into the world, on which there is little argument; God sends the Spirit through the Son; but that is not the issue.

As I try to comprehend the incomprehensible, it is to do with the hypostatic relation of the Father, Son and Spirit as the one ousia that is God. The Father creates through the Word in the Holy Spirit, as I read recently; the three persons create together, but each in his own way, which together produces the Creation. St. Basil has it that the Father is the primordial cause, the Son the operative cause, and the Spirit the perfecting cause.

In this view it literally makes no sense to say that the Spirit processes through the Father and the Son, because it does, effectively, make the Spirit a creature, and a creature cannot be of one essence with the Father by whom all things were made.

We can only be sons of God by adoption and Grace - not by ousia.

But, as I say, I grope gingerly here - and am off to read more of St. Gregory Nazianzus in the hope of enlightenment - mindful, always, that the intellect is not the organ through which we encounter the Trinity - but wishing mine was up to more.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
18-08-2007, 09:07 AM,
In "The Orthodox Way" Bishop Kallistos Ware writes:
"One of the main reasons for which the Orthodox Church
rejects the precisely our concern that this
teaching could lead to the depersonalization and the
diminishing of the role of the Holy Spirit."
Bishop Kallistos explains that, although Christ sent, as He promised, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to the Apostles at Pentecost, the matter is much more complicated because, after all, the Holy Spirit sent us Christ, uniting the Logos with Mary's womb. At Christ's Baptism the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, then led Christ out into the wilderness.
During the Liturgy it is the Holy Spirit which is evoked to descend upon the bread and wine to transform them into the Body and Blood of our Lord.
When Christ is present, He is present through the Holy Spirit.
We should never forget that the Holy Spirit is one of the Persons of the Trinity and is in no way an inferior being, like an Archangel. Any apparent contradiction in Christ sending the Holy Spirit during Pentecost and the Holy Spirit sending the Logos to Mary's womb is easily resolved by remembering that we worship a Triune God, that the Trinity works in indivisible unison. There is no heirarchy in the Trinity. To say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son does indeed imply that the Spirit is an inferior agency, something which our Trinitarian faith cannot accept

Kirk Yacoub
18-08-2007, 12:27 PM,
Dear Kirk,

Thank you for developing this theme in such a useful way.

From what I am gathering, trying to discuss this with Catholic friends, they seem to think they are simply talking about the how the Spirit is sent - that is through Christ, and they look a bit blank when I start going on about the Economy of the Trinity (mind you, that is probably because of my poor explanations of what I talking about). They deny any semi-Sabellian tendencies; but they would wouldn't they?!

Peter has very kindly let me have a copy of the article he mentioned, and I hope to read that over the next day or so.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
20-08-2007, 08:28 AM,
Dear John,
My wife is a Roman Catholic and, developing the point you made, she explains that one of the reasons the RC Church say that the Spirit proceeds also from the Son is because, after the Resurrection, Christ breathed upon the Disciples. Again, this is Christ as a transmission belt for the Holy Spirit rather than Him being the originator.
Also, I am told that the Greek word translated as "proceeds" is much more forceful than the English which could be one of the reasons for RC misapprehension in the UK at least. The Greek implies a bursting forth, whereas "proceeds" can be a faint trickle (!)
I have read some interesting comments on the Filioque by the Ecumenical Patriarch and I shall endeavour to translate his words for you.

Kirk Yacoub
20-08-2007, 08:33 AM,
Dear Kirk,

I'm very grateful to you. Yes, it does look as though the RCs are talking about something different some of the time. I am now deeply into St. Gregory Nazianzen, trying to understand what is probably not understandable fully (and may not be at all to me!).

I shall look forward to seeing what the EP said.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
22-08-2007, 08:54 AM,
Dear John,
As I promised, words of the Ecumenical Patriarch regarding the Filioque.
The following is taken from a book called "La verite vous rendra libre", the results of conversations with Patriarch Bartholomew I conducted by Olivier Clement. I have chosen to abridge and paraphrase rather than translate direct.
In the patristic age there were two different approaches to the
mystery of the Holy Trinity, both of which are legitimate. Whereas
the Western approach of viewing the outpouring of God the
Father's love through the Son and the Holy Spirit to us was
somewhat imprecise, the East perceived this divine dynamic more
precisely in terms of what is proper to the Holy Spirit, ie the
Spirit is the breath of the Father, carrying the Word in which the
the Spirit dwells, becoming manifest in the Incarnate Son.
In the Middle Ages the West, imprecisely, identifiied the Latin term
"processio" with the Greek "ekporeusis". In their various attempts
to explain the relationships within the Holy Trinity, both East and
West committed the error of reducing the Trinity to two dualities.
The West: Father-Son, and Father and Son as one essence - Spirit,
forgetting that it is impermissible to divide the Trinity this way, ie
depriving the Spirit of the common essence. The East: Father-Son,
and Father-Spirit, forgetting to consider any relationship between
Spirit and Son until late in the 13th century when Gregory of
Cyprus "rediscovered" Alexandrain theology and wrote of the
eternal manifestation of the Spirit through the Son.
Today we should speak of relationships in the Trinity as being not
only Trinitarian but, more precisely, as Unitrinitarian, a concept
almost incomprehensible to the human mind. In saying that the
Spirit proceeds from the Father it is more exact to say "from the
Father of the Son". If we say that the Spirit proceeds from both
Father and Son, then we must explicitly remember that all three
Persons of the Trinity are of the same essence. We must explain
that the Spirit proceeds "principalitur" from the Father, though it is better
to say "from the Father in the Son."
Well, the Ecumenical Patriarch has thus explained the dynamic nature of the Persons of the Trinity, interacting with each other in a way that rigid intellectual formulas cannot properly explain.

Kirk Yacoub
23-08-2007, 08:20 AM,
A very interesting discussion on the Filioque can be found on John Romanides website <!-- w --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- w -->.
Read the article "Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine,
Part3 The filioque.

Kirk Yacoub
24-08-2007, 10:47 AM,
Dear Kirk,

Again, I am in your debt for a really good source of comment on this.

Do we have a good Oriental Orthodox commentary on this? I am struck, in the light of one or two recent comments, by how often we have resort to EO theologians; are we quite sure we hold what they hold?

How far is this another of those cases where a difference in expressing what is meant got elevated into something more?

As far as I can see no one is arguing that the Spirit does not come from the Father, through the Son; but as you say, the unitrinitarian argument gets close to overloading the mental circuits. Is it necessary for salvation to hold a Ph.D. in Trinitarian theology? If not, how can we as simple believers know that our Church is teaching aright?

I must read read Romanides and Peter's recommended article again.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
25-08-2007, 09:20 AM,
Dear John,
Yes our faith is not reserved exclusively for holders of ph.d's in Theology!
The simplest explanation is that God the Father is the beginning of all things, that before time and the universe began the Son was begotten of the Father, and the Spirit came forth from the Father to give life to all.
In the Trinity there is co-operation and interpenetration in activity, much as sunlight passes through glass without becoming glass (to use an old analogy!) and there is a dynamic in the activity that is beyond our understanding. After all, we believe that God created the universe without having the faintest idea how he did it. (If anyone still holds to the big bang theory, we cannot possibly know how God caused this big bang to create the universe out of nothing!)
Kirk Yacoub
25-08-2007, 11:40 AM,
Dear Kirk,

I'm with you on that!

But there is a worry here. So much depends upon how the Church reads the idea of the Trinity; are we sure that the historic Apostolic Churches read it in the same way? The RC doctrine on the filioque seems to have little to do with the Economy of the Trinity, and so can be read as no different from what the Orthodox hold.

It certainly points up (as though some of us here needed it!) the necessity of having a Church that can read these things aright for us.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
25-08-2007, 08:02 PM,
Well I have had a busy day, we were planning to make the most of the first sunny day we have had as a family for a long time. After stopping briefly at the local motorway services the car refused to start and there was obviously some sort of electrical problem. Short story ... two and half hours later we were back on the road thanks to the AA, but it has been a long day, but refreshing in the end.

Anyhow...I wonder if we need to read more Roman Catholic consideration of this issue rather than Orthodox of various flavours since in a sense we know what WE believe but if we only read Orthodox Fathers then we are only picking up what Roman Catholics believe by second-hand.

What I like about the demanding paper I recommended earlier is that it does seem to point to a difference in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic positions, but then seeks to reflect on whether that difference is so great and so critical that the two positions cannot be comprehended within the scope of the Orthodox Catholic Faith.

I would like to read other serious Roman Catholic thinkers on the subject who write with the Orthodox in mind. It seems to me that it is necessary to both seek for commonalities with an open and charitable heart while also being willing to consider if there are real and consequential differences, but both always require that we allow the other to speak for themselves.

So can anyone recommend Roman Catholic theological reflection in depth on the Filioque?

As ever


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