Garrigues on Latin trinitarianism

February 23, 2009

Translated from Jean Miguel Garrigues, L’Esprit qui dit «Père!» (Paris 1981), pp. 65-75.

But it was necessary to wait until the fourth century for these intuitions of early Latin theology to attain their full development. It is interesting to note that this Latin pneumatology took shape independently of the Arian and Macedonian quarrel; we will find it in fact among theologians prior to the Arian crisis as well as those who were unaffected by it. We will then be able to observe what effect the Arian crisis had upon the Latin theology of the procession of the Holy Spirit.

With Zeno of Verona, a bishop of the second half of the fourth century but whose theology had hardly been affected by anti-Arian developments, we can see the Holy Spirit appearing explicitly as the consubstantial plenitude of the Father and the Son:

“The Father, remaining intact in his condition, gave all of himself reciprocally to the Son, without diminishing anything that was his own. Therefore each exults in the other, preserving a single, original coeternity, together with the plenitude of the Holy Spirit.”
[P.L. 11, 392: “Pater qui, suo manente integro statu, totum se reciprocavit in Filium, ne quid sibimet derogaret. Denique alter in altero exsultat, cum Spiritus Sancti plenitudine una originali coaeternitate retinens.”]

In an unknown author of the same era (who passed into tradition under the name of Virgil of Thapsus) one already finds an exposition of the role of reciprocal conjunction that the Spirit plays in manifesting, by his very procession as Third Person, the consubstantial plenitude of the trinitarian order. It is from the consubstantial communion of the Father and of the Son, from their reciprocity whose source is the Father, that the divinity extends itself in the Spirit, in whom the Trinity’s divine plenitude is thus manifested.

“Just as, if one places two pieces of wood together in a furnace of fire, from these two pieces of wood there proceeds an undivided flame, so from the power of the Father and of the Son proceeds the Holy Spirit who has in himself the very power of the Godhead.”

[Corpus Christianorum, Brépols, vol. IX, pp. 116-117: “Quomodo si duo ligna conjuncta missa in fornacem ignis et de duobus lignis procedat flamma inseparabilis, sic de Partis et Fillii virtute procedit Spiritus Sanctus ipsam virtutem deitatis habens.”]

The procession of the Holy Spirit appears, in this way, as the ultimate condition of the consubstantial reciprocity of the Trinity, whose completion and seal it therefore constitutes. One will observe here, one more time since Tertullian, that processio is always understood as a derivation from consubstantiality in the eternal manifestation of the trinitarian order. It is thus the very theme and sense of the trinitarian processio that necessarily led the Latin tradition, well before the speculative syntheses of Marius Victorinus and St. Augustine, to consider the processio Spiritus Sancti as being ab utroque.

The Arian crisis and the reaction of the orthodox fathers would not fundamentally change the Latin theology of the procession. In the East, Arianism, in its radical version with Eunomius, in fact quickly situated its denial of trinitarian consubstantiality on the metaphysical level of the Godhead; marked by Neoplatonic theories of hierarchical participation, Eunomius postulated that any multiplicity of divine persons could only be possible under the form of subordinated participation. That obliged the Cappadocian fathers to confess in God one principle of personal multiplicity, irreducible to any order of essence: the hypostasis. In the East, the natural theology of Eunomius obliged the Cappadocian fathers to profess, in all its irreducibility, an authentic theologia of the Living and Threefold God distinguished from all order of essence, even from that of the economy. But at the same moment the Latin fathers were running up against a more unpolished, less metaphysical Arianism, which was content to deny the divinity of Jesus and of the Spirit in considering them concretely in their economic mission upon the earth. For the Latin fathers, therefore, it was not an issue of defending the possibility of a plurality of persons within a unique divine essence, but of showing that the consubstantial procession of the Son and of the Spirit was prolonged even at the point where they “left the Father” in order to come on their mission into the world. Not needing to confront Eunomius’s philosophical Arianism, the Latin fathers were able to continue their deepening trinitarian reflection in continuity with the economic theology of their third century predecessors. For them, it was a matter of showing that the mission of the Son and of the Spirit “outside the Father” is rooted in the order of their consubstantial procession from him, an order which is revealed in the economy. In this task, they were aided by an assimilation of vocabulary between the verbs proerkhomai (Jn 8:42) and ekporeusthai (Jn 15:26) — the most ancient translations of the Gospels and, following them, St. Jerome’s Vulgate translate these two different Greek verbs by a single Latin verb: procedere.

It is in this doctrinal context that one can comprehend the sense of the formula Spiritus procedit a Patre et Filio such as one finds it, for the first time explicitly, in St. Ambrose of Milan (340-397):

“The Holy Spirit is not sent as though from a place, just as the Son himself is not when he says, ‘I have come forth (procedi) from the Father and am come into the world’ (Jn 8:42). … Neither does the Son, when he comes forth from the Father, distance himself from a place or separate himself in the way one body is separated from another, nor, when he is with the Father, is he contained by him as one body is inside of another. Likewise the Holy Spirit, when he proceeds from the Father and the Son, does not separate himself from the Father, does not separate himself from the Son” (PL 16, 732-733A).

This text is a good illustration of how the Latin fathers synoptically contemplate, in the economic missions of the Son and the Spirit, the manifestation upon the eternal order of their consubstantial processions, in virtue of which they can leave God without substantially separating themselves from him. One sees how the trinitarian theology of the first Latin fathers, by their precocious discovery, with Tertullian, of the theme of the persons’ consubstantial procession, was able to be preserved without major alteration by the Latin fathers of the fourth century in their fight against Arianism. As against the East, which, with Eunomius, was more menaced by hierarchical Neoplatonism, in the West the theme of a trinitarian order in consubstantiality did not place the equality of essence among the persons in dispute, since it was expressed (beginning from the rather Stoic philosophical context of Tertullian) in terms of derivation and not in terms of a subordinated participation. That allowed the Latin fathers to consider more synthetically the link between theology and economy within this trinitarian order according to which the three persons communicate the unique divine substance and thence render it participable to man through the economy which has as a goal man’s divinization. In the Holy Spirit, as gift of divine life poured out upon men, they would see the manifestation of the Spirit’s eternal procession in which is brought about the consubstantial communion of the Trinity in the plenitude of the one divinity. Thus, for instance, St. Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli between 340 and 371, sees in the procession of the Holy Spirit the manifestation of the common name of the Father and the Son, since it brings the trinitarian communion in consubstantiality to completion.

“He who is neither the Father nor the Son is nevertheless unambiguously from the one sole divine nature. That is why the Spirit is the common name for the Father and the Son in the single divinity, as the Son testifies in the Gospel: ‘he will receive of that which is mine’” (De Trinitate, I, 51-52).

This synthetic doctrine does not as such imply a confusion between the person of the Holy Spirit and the common essence of the divinity. St. Eusebius in fact formally distinguishes between the irreducible person of the Holy Spirit and his status in the order of the consubstantial processions, according to which, as Third, he manifests the divine plenitude of the triune communion:

“Indescribable is this plenitude of substance in the undivided Trinity, as God, the Son of God, says: ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me.’ But the Holy Spirit, too, abides within the Father and the Son reciprocally and in himself, as John the Evangelist testifies so absolutely in his epistle, ‘And these three are one'” (De Trinitate, V, 46-47).

For St. Hilary of Poitiers (bishop from 350 to 367), as for St. Eusebius of Vercelli, the Holy Spirit manifests the consubstantiality of the trinitarian processions:

“The Father and the Son are one by nature, honor, and power: and the same nature cannot wish to be diverse. Let us hear the Son testify to his unity of nature with the Father: ‘When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father'” (De Trinitate, VIII, 19: PL 10, 250 AB).

St. Hilary, nevertheless, influenced by the Eastern notion of ekporeusis (he wrote book VIII of De Trinitate in exile in the East) presents a distinction between the procession of the Spirit from the Father (Jn 15:26) and his reception of divinity in the Son who holds this from the Father (Jn 16:14-15). Evidently reserving the verb procedere (in the sense of ekporeusthai) to signify the relation of the Holy Spirit with the Father alone, he nevertheless sees the Holy Spirit as a manifestation of the full trinitarian consubstantiality which he receives from the Father and the Son:

“‘All that the Father has is mine; that is why I told you, “The Spirit will receive from what is mine and will announce it to you” (Jn 16:15). He receives, then, from the Son, he who is sent by him and who proceeds from the Father. And I ask if it is the same thing to receive from the Son and to proceed from the Father. If one thinks there is a difference between receiving from the Son and proceeding from the Father, it is certain, contrariwise, that it is one and the same thing to receive from the Son and to receive from the Father…” (De Trinitate, VIII, 20; PL 10, 251A).

Leaving open the possibility of a specific sense of the procession of the Holy Spirit as ekporeusis from the unique personal principle of the Father, St. Hilary directs his attention above all to the Spirit’s reception of divinity from the Father and the Son. Under this more scriptural term of “reception,” he takes up again, as his own, all the teaching of early Latin tradition concerning the Holy Spirit’s consubstantial procession as seal of the divine plenitude.

“The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, and the Holy Spirit receives from both of them (accipiat ab utroque), given the fact that the Spirit expresses the inviolable unity of this Holy Trinity” (PL 10, 656B).

Unfortunately, St. Hilary’s distinction between procession and reception was too hesitant to have had a decisive influence upon a Latin tradition which, for more than a century, had already fixed the sense of processio as derivation of the triune consubstantiality from the paternal source. It was seen above that St. Ambrose of Milan took up again St. Hilary’s accepit ab utroque (receives from both) in formulating this as a Patre et Filio procedit (proceeds from the Father and the Son).

As for St. Augustine (354-430), who is often presented as the inventor of the Filioque, one can say that, in this matter, he hardly did the work of an innovator. Above all, he synthesized the diverse elements which he found in earlier Latin tradition concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit. From his earliest works, he explicitly takes up and makes his own the teaching of the Latin fathers who see in the procession of the Holy Spirit the manifestation of the Trinity’s consubstantial plenitude.

“Certain people have been so bold as to believe that the very communion of the Father and the Son, that is to say, so to speak, the deity which the Greeks call theoteta, is the Holy Spirit; in such wise that, since the Father is God, and the Son is God, the very deity by which they are united (the one in generating the Son and the other in adhering to the Father) should be equal to that which generates. This deity, therefore, whom they would also understand as the reciprocal love and charity of the two, they say is called Holy Spirit” (De Fide et Symbolo, IX, 19).

The Father is here contemplated by St. Augustine, following other Latin fathers, above all as the source of deity, since, he says, “the deity itself ought to be equal with him who generates.” In this context procession appears, as we have noted since Tertullian, as the derivation of divinity from the Father according to the order of the consubstantial processions of the Son and of the Spirit. While retaining in the word procession this sense which Latin tradition had given it, St. Augustine was not embarrassed to speak along with it of a “procession of the Word,” since this term, as opposed to the Greek ekporeusis, does not signify specifically the hypostatic origin of the Spirit in the incommunicable paternal principle, but the order of consubstantial communication within the Trinity beginning from its source of communion in the Father. Moreover, he is influenced by Latin translations of St. John’s Gospel which, as we have seen, translated from the beginning the term proerkhomai of Jn 8:42 by procedere: A Deo processi et veni. But this passage, which Tertullian was able to interpret as keeping both economy and theology synthetically in view, required to be interpreted, after Arianism, in such a way that procedere would signify the eternal generation of the Word:

“To speak of the Word having proceeded from God implies an eternal procession; he knows no time, he by whom time was created…. Therefore he proceeded from God as God, as equal, as only Son, as the Word of the Father” (Tractatus in Ioannem, XLII, 8).

In seeing in procession the derivation of consubstantiality according to the trinitarian order, the communication of divinity as well to the Son as to the Spirit, St. Augustine comes up against the difficulty of understanding the term processio, in the sense of the ekporeusis of Jn 15:26, as expressing specifically the mode of origin of the Spirit in the Father in relation to the mystery of the generation of the Son. This obscurity, which constitutes the very depths of the trinitarian mystery, becomes, owing to the Latin displacement of the sense of processio, an impenetrable difficulty. The weakness of Latin pneumatology will always, at bottom, remain its incapacity to hold, explicitly, as far as it is possible to do this in the comprehension and language of faith, to the unfathomable antinomy between generation and ekporeusis.

“Because the Spirit is in no manner the Son of the Father and of the Son, he is not born from the two. He is therefore the Spirit of the two in proceeding from the two. Who can explain that which separates being born from proceeding when this concerns this supreme nature? Not all that proceeds is born, even though all that is born proceeds; just as not every biped is a man, though every man is a biped. This I know; but as for distinguishing between this generation and this procession, in this matter I know nothing, for this I haven’t the ability or the force” (Contra Maximinum, liber II, 14, 1).

But it would be ridiculous to make a value judgment upon this theology. Our own task is clearly to note the space in which it is silent and in the interior of which it attempts to take up the confession of the mystery of the Trinity. To do that, it is necessary to show also its inherent limits, beyond which it acknowledges its powerlessness, even in the very mouth of its most eminent interpreter, St. Augustine. This point has long been taken into consideration by the most classic Catholic theologians — for example, Fr. Dondaine, O.P., one of the great specialists on St. Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on the Trinity. “We should recognize,” he says, “the distance between the two words, the Latin procedere and the Greek ekporeuomai. If, in the end, this latter word was restricted to the personal relation of the Holy Spirit to the Father, in faithfulness to the formulation of St. John, the Latin procedere, already in St. Augustine, covers indistinctly proienai and ekporeuesthai. Processio can signify indifferently, as a general term, the origin both of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; thus we speak in the plural of the ‘Processions ad intra.’ It is also possible to designate by the special term ekporeusis the relation of the Holy Spirit to the Father; the Latin expression procedit ab utroque remains outside this precision since it regards the Father and the Son in their community as spirating principle, instead of which the Greek term regards the Father qua source, arche, pege tes theotetos.” [“La théologie latine de la procession du Saint-Esprit” in Russie et Chrétienté, 3-4 (1954), p. 213.]

But we must now show in a positive manner the specific line Latin theology takes in its deeper understanding of the trinitarian mystery. It always regards the processions as consubstantial communications from the Father, source of divinity. In this, too, St. Augustine merely takes up again, in all fidelity, the earlier tradition:

“He (the Father) from whom the Son receives being God — he is in fact God from God — has therefore given it to him that the Holy Spirit should proceed from him also: and this is why the Spirit receives from the Father himself that he should proceed from the Son, as he proceeds from the Father” (Trac. in Johannem, XCIX, 8).

As the Father appears here before all else as the source of divinity, his monarchy is primarily understood as the principle of trinitarian consubstantiality. The Latin tradition, which St. Augustine recapitulates, considers the hypostatic origination of the Persons in terms of the derivation of Godhead in them, according to the trinitarian order of their consubstantial communion. Not having had to confront the metaphysical subordinationism of a Eunomius, not having had as a point of reference the Neoplatonic metaphysics of participation, the Latin tradition did not feel it necessary to distinguish antinomically between essence and hypostases in God. It thus remained in continuity with the synthetic vision of the Trinity which was that of the fathers before Nicaea, all the more easily since, in the West, Tertullian had firmly established the doctrine of consubstantiality from the start of the third century.

In this perspective, in which the origin of the hypostases and the order of their consubstantial communion within the divine essence are viewed synoptically, monarchy, in the sense of the hypostatic, incommunicable principle of the Person of the Father, can only be signified indirectly. St. Augustine, like Tertullian before him, can signify it only in an adverbial way: the Holy Spirit proceeds principaliter from the Father.

“As the Father has it in himself that the Holy Spirit should proceed from him, so has he given it to the Son that the same Holy Spirit should proceed from him, without reference to time in the two cases. And it is said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, in such a way that it may be understood that, if he proceeds also from the Son, this is something the Son possesses from the Father. In fact, whatever the Son has, he has from the Father; he has from the Father that the Holy Spirit proceed from him…. The Son is born of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father principally (principaliter) and, by the intemporal gift of this to the Son, from the Father and the Son, in communion (communiter) (De Trinitate, liber XV, cap. 25.47, PL 42, 1094-1095).

In indicating here, not specifically the origin of the hypostases in the Father according to their incommunicable characteristics of generation and ekporeusis, but the order of consubstantial communication, St. Augustine is obliged to have recourse to two adverbs, principaliter and communiter, to distinguish two aspects of trinitarian theology which St. Hilary was able to distinguish, not adverbially, but verbally, by procedere (in the sense of the Greek ekporeusis) and accipere (to receive). But this distinction, which was hardly used even by St. Hilary, did not make an impact upon Latin tradition. In fact no heresy of the Eunomian variety obliged it to differentiate antinomically the source of essential unity from the principle of hypostatic diversity and incommunicability.

It fell to the Cappadocian fathers to confess this antinomic mystery of the Father, faced with the metaphysical heresy of Eunomius, and thus to give the Church the deepest expression of trinitarian theology. But the discovery of the paradoxical mystery of the paternal source of the Trinity seems not to have prevented the Cappadocians from considering it also as being, by virtue of its very causality, the principle of trinitarian order. This is true above all for St. Gregory of Nyssa who, since he was younger than St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzus, had experienced the Apollinarian crisis and balanced the antinomies directed against Eunomius with a clarification of the order of trinitarian consubstantiality which manifests itself in the economy:

“The difference between being cause and being caused is the only thing that distinguishes the divine persons from one another, while faith teaches us that there is a Principle and there is that which is from the Principle. And besides, in that which is from the Principle we recognize another distinction, namely, between being immediately from the Principle and being by him who is immediately from the Principle. In this manner, the name of the Only Son remains without ambiguity the Son’s and nevertheless, without question, the Spirit has his ekporeusis from the Father, the mediation of the Son preserving for him his property of being Only Son and not depriving the Spirit from his natural relation with the Father.”’ (PG 45, 133)

As for St. Augustine, faithful to the synthetic vision of his tradition, he understands the monarchy in its dimension as source of the consubstantial communion. It appears, not so much as the incommunicable principle proper to the very person of the Father, but as a source of divine life which, from the Father, is communicated to the Son in order to spring forth, from him, in the Holy Spirit.

“The Father is the principle without principle, the Son is the principle who has issued from the principle; the two of them together are not two principles, but one single principle, in the same way that the Father and the Son are God, without being two gods but a single God. The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from these two, is, I will not deny, also a principle, but all three of them together, just as they are but one God, are, likewise, a single principle.” (Contra Maximinum, lib. II, cap. 17.4; PL 40, 784-885 [?]).

Here one sees the extreme development of the Latin tradition concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit and the deepest point of its penetration in trinitarian theology. While the Cappadocian fathers would make manifest the monarchy, as origin, in the Father, of the irreducible hypostatic diversity of the Son and of the Spirit, the Latin fathers placed in light the manner in which the persons are, for one another, conditions in the consubstantial communion in the unique Godhead. The divine essence is, in fact, communicated from the Father, according to the order of consubstantial processions of the Son and of the Spirit. Between generation and ekporeusis there is no order, because the hypostatic diversity of the Son and the Spirit, coming forth from the Father, is an immeasurable abyss. But, in the eternal manifestation of the consubstantial communion of the Trinity, there appears an order of processions which allows one to speak, with the entire Tradition, of the First, the Second, and the Third Person. In thus speaking, one does not number the hypostases, which radically transcend numerical sequence, neither does one assign degrees to the one, indivisible divinity, but one manifests the manner (tropos) in which each of the hypostases enhypostasizes, in relationship with the others, the same divine essence. In their incommunicable, hypostatic name, the Son and the Spirit are in relationship only with the Father who is, so to speak, the origin of their personal originality. But, to the extent that the hypostasis manifests itself in a mode of existence (tropos tês uparxeôs) according to which it enhypostasizes the essence (the Latins and Alexandrians say: according to which it proceeds in the essence), the divine Persons manifest an order according to which they are, for each other, the conditions of their consubstantial communion.

One Response to “Garrigues on Latin trinitarianism”

  1. Cristian C. Says:

    Dear Peter,

    One question:–do you know G. Mercati’s Notizie di Procoro e Demetrio Cidone, Manuele Caleca e Teodoro Meliteniota ed altri appunti per la storia della teologia e letteratura bizantina del secolo XIV (’31, in Vatican) and E. Voordeckers / F. Tinnefeld: Johannis Cantacuzeni Refutationes duae Prochori Cydonii (Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca 16), Brepols, Turnhout, 1987? I have also found out about A. Rigo’s Gregorio Palama e oltre. Studi e documenti sulle controversie teologiche del XIV secolo bizantino, Florence, 2004. I have not seen any of these books.

    Thank you.


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