Notes on a text by Severian of Gabala

April 7, 2010

Severian of Gabala’s Sermon on the Epiphany, or, to give it its full title, In magna die luminum, Jerosolymis prolata. De fide, deque generatione Filii ex Patre, was delivered, in Greek, in the city of Jerusalem on the 6th of January, probably in either the year 390 or the year 396 (that is, at least, Martin Jugie’s reckoning, based on the fact that, in those years, January 6th fell on a Sunday). The original Greek text is lost; an Armenian translation is extant, dating from the fifth century; it was edited and published, with a Latin translation, by Jean-Baptiste Aucher in the volume Severiani sive Seberiani Gabalorum episcopi Emesensis homiliæ nunc primum editæ ex antiqua versione armena in latinum sermonem translatæ (Venice 1837) (as Roger Pearse recently reported, this book is now available on Google Books). Below is given a passage from this sermon; the Latin text is cited from pp. 196-197 of Martin Jugie’s “Sévérien de Gabala et le Symbole Athanasien,” Échos d’Orient 14 (1911), 193-204; Jugie, in turn, reproduces the passage from Aucher, op. cit., pp. 13-17; the English translation is my own.

In his article, written just under a century ago, Jugie maintains that the passage from Severian’s sermon translated below shows numerous parallels with the Quicumque vult, that is, the “Athanasian Creed” (specifically, with its first, trinitarian section), too many parallels, in his view, to be merely accidental. To show this, Jugie sets phrases from the sermon and the Athanasian creed in parallel columns. He notes that this sermon is probably the libellum de Epiphaniæ solemnitate of which Gennadius of Marseilles speaks in his Liber de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis, c. xxi (PL 18, 1075), and speculates that it was brought to southern Gaul by John Cassian after his departure from Constantinople at the time of St. John Chrysostom’s exile. Jugie, it should be stressed, does not think that Severian composed the “Athanasian Creed”; he does, however, think that this and other sermons of Severian’s provided a template for the kind of language one finds in the Quicumque vult — language which accentuates the equality and unity of the persons through a rhetorical accumulation of parallel clauses. He discusses various fifth-century Latin writers as possible authors of the Quicumque vult, including Gennadius of Marseilles, Faustus of Riez, and Marius Mercator, without settling conclusively on any one of them.

Finally, I should note that Jugie sees the absolute, legally-binding language of the Quicumque vult — “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholick Faith; which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly” — as rare among credal statements; one does not, for instance, encounter such language in the Nicene Creed itself, which begins simply “I believe” or “We believe.” There is, however, something of a parallel to such language in the late-fourth century Creed of Theodore of Mopsuestia, a creed that was in use among the Nestorians at the time of the Council of Ephesus. This leads Jugie to speculate that the Quicumque vult may have been originally intended as an antidote to Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Creed. That creed, it should be noted, laid particular stress on the idea that Holy Spirit was from the Father alone; the Quicumque vult lays equal stress on the idea that the Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son. Since the popularity of the Quicumque vult in the West was without doubt one of the main causes for the eventual introduction of the word Filioque into the Western text of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, it is worth investigating what causes led to the Quicumque vult’s composition; if Jugie is right, one of those causes is to be seen in the writings of a Greek-speaking Syrian bishop named Severian of Gabala.


Erat Pater ingenitus, et Filius genitus, Ens ab illo Ente substantiali, vita e vita. Sicut, ait, Pater habet vitam in seipso, ita et Filio dedit habere vitam. Non quasi prius genuerit, et postmodum dederit ei vitam, sed Vivens viventem vitam genuit, et Creator creatorem, judicemque. Non enim improprie velut adscitiam habet Patris virtutem, sed ex natura æqualis ei fuit, juxta illud quod in Evangelio exponitur, quod: Omne quod Patris fuit, illud meum est. — Et: Ego et Pater meus unum sumus. — Et: Qui vidit me vidit Patrem. The Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten, Being from that essential Being, Life from Life. For he says, “As the Father has life in himself, so he has given to the Son to have life” (Jn 5:26). Not as though he first begot him, and afterwards gave him life; but, as the Living One, he begot him, the Life, as Living, and, as Creator, he begot him as Creator and Judge. For [the Son] has the Father’s power, not improperly, as though it were a thing externally acquired, but he is equal to him by nature, according to that which is expressed in the Gospel, that “All that the Father has is mine” (Jn 16:15). And “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). And “he who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
Omnia quæcumque Patris sunt, eadem et Filii, nisi solum quod non est Pater; et omne quicquid Filius est, idem et Pater, nisi solummodo quod non est Filius, nec carnem sumpsit; atque omne quidquid Pater est et Filius, idem et Spiritus sanctus, præter quod non est Pater et Filius, neque homo factus est, sicut Filius. Vivit Pater: Vivo ego, inquit, Dominus virtutum. Vivit et Filius: Ego sum, ait, vita et lux et veritas. Vivit et Spiritus sanctus: Caro nihil juvat, sed Spiritus est qui vivificat. All things whatsoever are the Father’s, the same things are the Son’s, excepting only that he is not a Father; and whatsoever thing the Son is, the same is the Father, excepting only that he is not a Son, nor has taken on flesh; again, whatsoever thing are the Father and the Son, the same is the Holy Spirit, aside from the fact that he is not a Father nor a Son, nor has he, like the Son, become man. The Father lives: for, “I live,” he says, “the Lord of hosts” (cf. Jer 46:18; Zeph 2:9). The Son also lives: “I am,” he says, “the life, and the light, and the truth” (Jn 14:6 and 1:9). The Holy Spirit also lives: “The flesh profits nothing; it is the Spirit that gives life” (Jn 6:63).
Unus est etiam Dominus, et unus Deus, et unus Rex; non Dominos, nec Deos, neque Reges profitemur sanctam Trinitatem, secundum quod Seraphim clamabant in templo: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus; ter Sanctus et semel Dominus. Siquidem unus est Dominatus Patris et Filii et Spiritus sancti. Unus Dominus et Deus, Pater; non est enim alius Deus Pater. Et unus Dominus et Deus, Filius; non est enim alius Filius. Et unus Dominus et Deus, Spiritus sanctus; non est enim alius Spiritus Deus, nisi Dei Spiritus. Unus est Deus Pater, ex quo omnia. Unus Dominus Jesus Christus, per quem omnia; et unus Spiritus sanctissimus, qui omnia renovat et sanctificat. Unum baptismum et unam Ecclesiam Paulus prædicat, non ipse, sed ille de quo dicebat: Si experimentum aliquod quæritis Christi, qui per me vobiscum loquitur. Again, there is one Lord, and one God, and one King; we do not profess the Holy Trinity to be Lords, or Gods, or Kings. This agrees with what the Seraphim cry in the Temple: “Holy, Holy, Holy” — thrice “Holy” and yet once “Lord” (Is 6:3). Since, indeed, there is one lordship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is one Lord and God, the Father; for there is no other God the Father. And there is one Lord and God, the Son; for there is no other Son. And there is one Lord and God, the Holy Spirit: for there is no other God the Spirit, aside from the Spirit of God. One is God the Father, from whom are all things. One is the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things. And one is the Most Holy Spirit, who renews and sanctifies all things. One baptism and one Church are preached by Paul, or rather, not by himself, but by him of whom he said, “If you seek some proof of Christ, who speaks to you through me” (2 Cor 13:3).
Genuit Pater Filium, non tamen in Genitum suum mutatus fuit; sed est Pater, Pater; et Filius, Filius; et Spiritus sanctus, Spiritus Dei. Genitus est Filius, nec tamen in Patrem mutatus est; non enim in opprobrium vel in explosionem est Patris Filius, sed ex scientia [Jugie: ex essentia] Ingeniti Genitus. Ne diffidamus de divina generatione. Ne contemnamus et ipsius carnalem nativitatem. Ne pessumdemus et voluntariam paupertatem. Dignitas angelorum, honor coram standi est; dignitas Unigeniti sedere a dextra Patris. Angeli vel nomen ipsum ministerii est, et archangeli principatus ministerii. Deum autem apud Deum dici, nomen Dei est. Deum, inquam apud Deum, non Dii. Non enim duos Ingenitos neque duos Genitos confitemur, sed unum Ingenitum et unum Genitum, et unum Spiritum veritatis ex Patre procedentem. The Father begot the Son, but he has not been changed into the one begotten by him; but the Father is Father; and the Son is Son; and the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit. The Son is begotten, but has not been changed into a Father; for it is in no way to his shame or discredit to be Son of the Father, but he is begotten of the essence* of the Unbegotten. Let us not show little faith in the divine generation. Let us also not show contempt for his nativity in the flesh. Let us not put down his voluntary poverty. The dignity of the angels is the honor of standing in his presence; the dignity of the Only-begotten is to sit at the right hand of the Father. Even the name itself “angel” names a ministerial function, and the name “archangel” names a principal ministerial function. But to be called “God” alongside God — that names God. God, I say, alongside God, not “Gods.” For we do not confess two Unbegottens, nor two Begottens, but one Unbegotten, and one Begotten, and one Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father.
Tres et unus, unus et tres, quia unam essentiam sanctæ Trinitatis profitemur, in tribus hypostasibus perfectarum personarum. Non enim persona Patris est persona Filii, neque persona Filii aut Spiritus sancti est persona Patris, quamquam jam inde ex una ipsa essentia Patris est Filius et Spiritus sanctus. Quoniam Unigenitus Filius, qui ante sæcula est et ex Patre et apud Patrem, Deus apud Deum, et idem homo cum hominibus, non decidens a divinitate, etsi incarnatus comperitur, non deturbatus a prima sua nativitate, etsi per carnalem nativitatem ex Virgine apparuit in carne natus. Imo etiam dum in utero Virginis erat, non erant ab ipso vacui cœli et terra universaque creatura. Three and One, One and Three: for we profess one essence of the Holy Trinity, in three hypostases of perfect persons. For the person of the Father is not the person of the Son, nor is the person of the Son, or that of the Holy Spirit, the person of the Father, albeit it is, indeed, out of the one very essence of the Father that the Son and the Holy Spirit exist. For the Only-begotten Son, who before all ages exists both from the Father and with the Father, is God with God, and is, the very same, man with men, without any falling away from his divinity, even if he is found to have taken on manhood, nor is he cast down from his first nativity, even if, by his fleshly nativity from a virgin, he has appeared as one born in the flesh. Rather, even while he was in the Virgin’s womb, the heavens and the earth and the whole creation had not been emptied of him.
Ingenito Deo Patri, et Genito ab ipso Filio unigenito et Spiritui sancto procedenti ex illorum essentia, tribus in una substantia omnis gloria, nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen. To God the Father, the Unbegotten, and to the Only-begotten Son, begotten from him, and to the Holy Spirit who proceeds† from their essence, to the Three in One substance, be all glory, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

*Reading, with Jugie, ex essentia instead of ex scientia.

†The Latin word procedere commonly translates a number of different Greek words; what the original word Severian used here is not clear. It might have been προϊέντι or προερχομένῳ, in which case the translation would read “who comes forth from their essence.”

31 Responses to “Notes on a text by Severian of Gabala”

  1. Roger Pearse Says:

    Marvellous – thank you for translating this!

  2. ioannis Says:

    This sermon seems quite Orthodox to me, if you permit me, because it speaks about “one Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father”.
    How can this sermon lead to the introduction of filioque?

  3. Tap Says:

    ioannis,

    It’s in the Last sentence.

  4. Tap Says:

    Jugie’s theory does seem strange though, why would St. Cassian, a defender of Chrysostom, give weight or bring Severian’s (an enemy) sermons with him to the west? It just doesn’t sound plausible.

    As Roger Pearse was pointing out on his blog the other day (LINK) It seems there is a confusion as to who actually wrote some of works attributed to Severian. With one author thinking that Eusebius of Emesa and Severian are the same guy.

    Perhaps St. Cassian brought the sermons of Eusebius over the west but they’ve but…..this is all confusing. lol

  5. Roger Pearse Says:

    Sermons by Eusebius of Emesa did come to the west. Indeed a bunch previously lost were rediscovered, in a Latin version, in a manuscript in Troyes (Trecensis 523) in 1914 by A. Wilmart.

    But also we ought to remember that westerners would not necessarily see things as black and white as we do now. Both Severian and Chrysostom were great preachers in their day, and since exegetical material by the former was preserved, under his name, in catenas, by the disciples of Chrysostom, we shouldn’t be surprised that people use stuff from both sides.

  6. ioannis Says:

    Tap,

    Hello my friend, if you permit me, Tap!
    Thank you for sharing with me the battle about Christ and original sin the other day!

    The statement the “Holy Spirit who proceeds† from their essence” means that He is of the essence of the Father and the Son, i.e. He is God and not a created being. The text speaks for itself because its author uses the same manner when he talks about the Son. After he has established the hypostatic origin of the Son stating that He is begotten from the Father, he continues saying that He is begotten from the essence of the Father in order to show the co-essentiality of the Son and the Father. Similarly, after establishing the hypostatic origin of the Holy Spirit saying the He proceeds from the Father, he goes on to make it clear that the Holy Spirit is God showing that He is co-essential with the Father and the Son through the aforementioned passage.

  7. bekkos Says:

    Ioannis,

    A question. If “proceeding from (or coming forth from) the essence of the Father and the Son” signifies merely co-essentiality with the Father and the Son and nothing more, then why is the Son not likewise said to proceed (or come forth) from the essence of the Father and the Holy Spirit? For, in fact, the Son is just as consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit is consubstantial with the Father and the Son. If “being-from” means simply “being-consubstantial” (or co-essential) in the Holy Trinity, why is the order of being-from in the trinitarian relations never reversed? Why is it that “consubstantiality” is a convertible relationship, but “being-from” is not? Or what, to you, does “being-from” state that “being consubstantial” does not?

    This is, it seems to me, an obvious question to ask in reply to the sort of interpretation you give to the text, and it is a question that Bekkos asked many times in response to the interpretations, similar to yours, that were being given to such texts in his day by people who did not want to admit the possibility that some of the Greek fathers might have taught something not all that far from the Latin doctrine.

    Peter

  8. Tap Says:

    Hey ioannis!,
    Thanks for sharing in that argument about original sin as well, was a pleasure. Although the argument was St. Cassian’s. ;)

    Anyways don’t want to mess this one up, i disagree with you on this one, and i think Dr. Gilbert is onto something here. We’ll see if you can answer his questions.

    Dr. Gilbert if you wouldn’t mind just a little bit of speculation here, Myself I’m starting to suspect that these sermons might have been preached by Chrysostom, before his 1st exile, and just re-read by Severian and/or Eusebius. Or perhaps sermons Chrysostom wrote (during his exile) and sent to Constantinople, to be read by whomever was the visting, “preacher” for that day.

  9. bekkos Says:

    Tap,

    For myself, although I am open to the possibility of Eusebius of Emesa having written some of the things ascribed to Severian, I am not yet convinced of it. Jugie, in the article above mentioned, p. 195, says:

    “The epithet Emensensis, given to Severian by the Armenian text, probably signifies that the bishop of Gabala was a native of Emesa (as Aucher thinks, p. xvi).”

    On the same page, he writes:

    “The authenticity [of this homily] is beyond doubt. Taking internal evidence in view, it is clearly the alert, nervous, ‘iron-hard’ style (to cite Saville’s expression), sententious and fond of antithesis, that one associates with the bishop of Gabala, who says of himself, I always love to say much in few words [Semper compendiose agere me delectat, et plura paucis comprehendere. Homil. IX, Aucher, p. 337]. Besides, the Armenian version goes back to the fifth century, that is to say, to the golden age of Armenian literature, as Aucher informs us in his introduction (op. cit., p. xviii). It is difficult to suppose that a translator nearly contemporary with Severian would have attributed writings to him that did not belong to him. Finally, it is perhaps possible to identify our homily with the one Gennadius of Marseilles speaks of in his Liber de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis: Legi ejus (Severiani) de Baptismo et Epiphaniæ solemnitate libellum gratissimum.”

    Both Severian and St. John Chrysostom were noted orators at the beginning of the fifth century, but I have to say, reading this sermon, that its style does not remind me of Chrysostom’s. It is terse, full of antitheses and parallelism, and, most strikingly, is almost wholly dogmatic, void of the paraenetic digressions and moral exhortation with which Chrysostom customarily filled his sermons. Moreover, the Armenian text does not attribute it to Chrysostom at all, but ascribes it directly to Severian. I see no reason for thinking that the sermon is Chrysostom’s; whether it could possibly be attributable to Eusebius of Emesa, as Dr. Pearse suggests, is another question. One reason for my not being inclined to think this is that the present sermon is clearly the work of a skilled rhetor — and Severian, so far as we know anything about him from history, was undoubtedly that. How far it would be fair to describe Eusebius of Emesa in such terms, I simply do not know.

    Peter

  10. ioannis Says:

    Hello Dr. Gilbert,

    Starting off from your last statement, I would say that I believe that the text you posted says something which is far from the Latin doctrine. Perhaps one could conjecture that Severian says something similar to it if we could infer from his text that “being from” means the same with “being from the essence of”. One could think that only if Severian had written that the HS is from the Father and the Son and that He is from the essence of the Father and the Son. But Severian when he speaks about the person he writes that the HS is from the Father. But when he refers to the essence he writes that the HS is from the essence of the Father and the Son. Therefore, for him, we can be certain that those two expressions have a different meaning. The Latin doctrine states that the HS is from the Father and the Son, not that He is from the essence of both. The Creed, when it uses the form “from a person”, deals with the hypostatic origination of the persons of the Trinity. What the Creed says about their common essence, it tells it through other expressions.

    “Being from” does not mean “being consubstantial”. However, “being from the essence of” means “being consubstantial”. How do we know that? We know it from the writings of St Athanasius who used that expression against Arianists in order to show that the Son is God. We know that the phrase “from the essence of” means “not from the will of”. Athanasius used it to indicate that the Son is not product of the willing energy of the Father like the created world but He is a natural product of the Father. In that very meaning the expression was used in the Creed of Nicaea in 325. But because the expression could give rise to certain misunderstandings it was omitted from the Creed when it was moderated in the Council of Constantinople of 381 which articulated the divinity of the Holy Spirit. However the Fathers kept on using it in their writings in the same sense that St Athanasius used it. It can be found in the writings of St Cyril, St John Damascene and it is used until today in that very same sense. Nobody ever used it in a different sense. That “being from the essence of” means “being consubstantial” and nothing else you can find it in the writings of Joseph Vryennios who, living about a century after Bekkos sort of sums up the Orthodox arguments against the pneumatology of John Bekkos.

    It isn’t wrong to say that the Son is from the essence of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Vryennios says that as well. The reason why we do not find that expression in the early Fathers lies in the development of the articulation of the doctrine. The Fathers first had to deal with those who were denying the divinity of the Son. The phrase “from the essence of the Father” became somewhat a standard argument in their writings. Later they had to deal with those downgrading the Holy Spirit. So, after the “athanasian” manner, they expanded his expression and they wrote that the Holy Spirit is from the essence of the Father and the Son who had been already established as God in doctrinal terms. That course of events and the order that we use when we speak about the three persons of the Trinity is reflected in the text of Severian and nothing more.

  11. Mary Lanser Says:

    “Starting off from your last statement, I would say that I believe that the text you posted says something which is far from the Latin doctrine. Perhaps one could conjecture that Severian says something similar to it if we could infer from his text that “being from” means the same with “being from the essence of”. One could think that only if Severian had written that the HS is from the Father and the Son and that He is from the essence of the Father and the Son. But Severian when he speaks about the person he writes that the HS is from the Father. But when he refers to the essence he writes that the HS is from the essence of the Father and the Son. Therefore, for him, we can be certain that those two expressions have a different meaning. The Latin doctrine states that the HS is from the Father and the Son, not that He is from the essence of both. The Creed, when it uses the form “from a person”, deals with the hypostatic origination of the persons of the Trinity. What the Creed says about their common essence, it tells it through other expressions.”

    You are absolutely certain of your characterization of Catholic teaching here? No reservations whatsoever?

    Mary

  12. ioannis Says:

    Mary Lanser,

    The only thing that I said in the whole paragraph about the Catholic teaching is that its Creed says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Isn’t that true?

    My last two phrases “The Creed……expressions” refer to the Creed in general.

  13. Mary Lanser Says:

    Sorry. It seemed to me you also noted what what not :said: and also seemed to imply that the meaning is literal so that what is not there by definition cannot be intended. I guess I was wrong.

    What do you say the Catholic Church teaches with respect to the addition of “filioque” then?

    Mary

  14. ioannis Says:

    Mary Lanser,

    I just tried to show that Severian says something different from what the Catholic Creed teaches.

    Now, what the Catholic Church teaches is what we can find in the decrees of its Ecumenical Councils, that is, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle.

  15. bekkos Says:

    Hello, Ioannis.

    Your reply makes some things very clear. First, you can find no church father, as such, who supports your claim that it is legitimate to speak of the Son as being “from the essence of the Father and the Holy Spirit.” The reason you find no church father who supports this claim is because the claim itself is false, and is based on a polemical misreading of the fathers. The only writer you are able to cite is Joseph Bryennios, a fourteenth/fifteenth century writer, the teacher of Mark of Ephesus, and someone who can hardly be called an objective, unbiased patrologist; virtually his whole literary output was directed against the Latin Church. The fact that he accepts completely untraditional propositions, like the claim that the Son is from the essence of the Father and the Holy Spirit, or the claim that the Father is from the essence of the Holy Spirit and the Son (which is also implied by your view), merely shows how far he is willing to falsify patristic teaching in order to uphold his entrenched view of “the heresy of the Latins.” It was on account of people like him, who preferred the Turban to the Tiara, that the Greek nation was shortly afterwards submerged in darkness and slavery for four hundred years. You, apparently, want to continue this merry sport of Latin-baiting, perhaps until the next catastrophe occurs; for myself, I would rather follow the ancient practice of the fathers of the Church, which was to overlook differences of terminology when there are underlying grounds of real doctrinal agreement. That was John Bekkos’s policy, and I think he was a better patrologist, and a better Christian, than Joseph Bryennios.

    The reason why statements like that of Severian’s here, that the Holy Spirit “proceeds (or perhaps, comes forth) from the essence” of the Father and the Son, are found in writers of the early Church while statements like “the Son is from the essence of the Father and the Holy Spirit” and “the Father is from the essence of the Holy Spirit and the Son” are only found in anti-Latin polemicists of the late Middle Ages is that, unlike these later polemicists, the fathers of the Church recognized the reality of a fixed, identifiable trinitarian order, an order, not of nature, but of the persons who share the one divine nature, based ultimately on their differing relations of origin, and these late polemicists denied this reality. The Father is from no one; the Son is from the Father; the Holy Spirit is from the Father through the Son. The Father receives his essence from no one; the Son receives his essence from the Father; the Holy Spirit receives his essence from the Father, through the Son. The fathers of the Church speak like that; those late Byzantine writers who carry forward Photius’s critique of the West do not and cannot, because the Photian premises they have accepted force them to explain such language away as meaning something other than what it obviously means.

    Secondly, you write:

    Perhaps one could conjecture that Severian says something similar to [the Latin doctrine] if we could infer from his text that “being from” means the same with “being from the essence of”. One could think that only if Severian had written that the HS is from the Father and the Son and that He is from the essence of the Father and the Son.

    This claim, that “being from” cannot mean “being from the essence of” unless there are explicit affirmations in the fathers of their meaning the same thing, is alleged by you without proof; one could equally demand, on your part, explicit affirmations in the fathers that they mean something different. But, in fact, it is not difficult to show that people like Severian use both expressions. In a sermon of Severian’s titled In nativitatem Christi, et quod unicuique climati angeli præsunt (a sermon that was passed down among the works of St. John Chrysostom), the statement occurs:

    Christ came to us; he gave us the Spirit which is from him, and received our own body (PG 59, 697).

    Now, since I have shown you Severian saying, in one place, that the Spirit is from Christ, and, in another place, that he is from Christ’s essence, I think it is up to you to demonstrate that these expressions cannot refer to the same reality. That is to say, I would want you to show me a specific text in which Severian states that, when he says that the Spirit is from the essence of the Son, he in no way means to imply that the Spirit is from the Son, although he describes the Spirit as being from him in the passage just cited. Since I have given you specifics, you give me some; that might persuade me that you know what you are talking about.

    Similarly, St. Cyril of Alexandria uses both expressions:

    The Spirit is from the essence of the Son (Thesaurus 34, PG 75, 588A).

    When Christ lays down the law, his Spirit lays down the law, as one who naturally exists in him and from him (Thesaurus 34, PG 75, 600D).

    Are you going to tell me that, when St. Cyril says that the Spirit exists from the Son’s essence, in one place, and, shortly after this, says that the Spirit exists “in him and from him,” these two expressions, “to be from” and “to be from the essence of,” have radically different meanings?

    I would submit that your espousing of Photian premises blinds you to some things that are genuinely present in the writings of at least some of the fathers. My claim is that Bekkos was merely being an honest reader of the fathers when he pointed such things out in the thirteenth century, things which make the story of an evil Latin defection from ancient patristic consensus a little less plausible. If anything, Joseph Bryennios is falling away from the ancient consensus of the fathers when he admits language like “the Son is from the essence of the Father and the Holy Spirit,” something which none of the fathers of the Church ever said.

    I could comment on other things you say, like the claim that “the Latin doctrine states that the HS is from the Father and the Son, not that He is from the essence of both,” which I think shows complete ignorance of the history and doctrine of the Latin-speaking Church. But I have probably said enough already, and I have to go do my taxes.

    Peter

  16. ioannis Says:

    Hello Dr. Gilbert,

    On the one hand you claim that we can find no church father, as such, who supports the claim that it is legitimate to speak of the Son as being “from the essence of the Father and the Holy Spirit” because, according to your opinion, that claim itself is false, and, on the other hand, you say that there are many anti-Latin polemicists and Byzantine writers of the Middle Ages who support that claim. Don’t you know that many of them are Fathers of the Orthodox Catholic Church which never stopped producing Fathers until today? If one does not consider them as Fathers, if, for instance, one does not think of St Gregory Palamas who wrote against filioque, as a Father of the Orthodox Church, then, simply, he is not Orthodox. We can not pick and choose whatever we want from the Orthodox doctrines, according to our will, and still claim that we are Orthodox. The fact that a certain Father can also be an anti-filioque polemicist does not mean that he is not a Father of the Church. It is like saying that St. Athanasius was not a Father of the Church because he was an anti-Arian polemicist as well. On the contrary, the fact that he was a fighter against heresy verifies his position as a Father. The early Fathers do not make the claim that the Son is from the essence of the Father and the Spirit because they had not to deal with the heresy of filioque and the misinterpretations of certain phrases by its supporters. Once that heresy appeared the Orthodox Fathers responded accordingly. Your argument is like having Arius saying to St. Athanasius that there was no church Father before him making the claim that the Son is consubstantial to the Father because that claim was false. Would you agree with that?

    You do not do justice to the intentions of Joseph Vryennios. He wanted the union but he was reluctant to compromise the Orthodox faith for it. For that he is praiseworthy. You made some irrelevant to the topic of our discussion statements about the Muslim yoke. First off, there was no Greek nation at that time. The political entity existing back then was the Roman Empire. Its catastrophe was the Latin occupation from which it did not manage to recover. Its fall was a consequence of the abandoning of the Orthodox faith of the Fathers and the unionist policy of those trusting more in the secular power of the heretics than in God. What’s the “new catastrophe” that you threaten me with? Do you possess any information that I do not? Whatever it is, the Orthodox faith does not change despite any kind of yoke, whether it is Latin, or Muslim, whether angels come from heaven or St. Paul himself comes to preach a different faith. Be sure about that and feel joy for that and take courage if you are an Orthodox.

    No, there is no order in the Trinity. There is no first, second and third in those persons who are consubstantial and co-eternal unless you are to accuse Christ who said “I and the Father are one” for denying that order. Your phrase “The Father receives his essence from no one; the Son receives his essence from the Father; the Holy Spirit receives his essence from the Father, through the Son” is totally wrong. The essence of God is indivisible. The essence of the Father is the essence of the Son which is also the essence of the Holy Spirit. The three persons have one and the same essence. That’s one of the many reasons why the phrase “from the essence of” can not mean but the consubstantiality of the persons.

    You cited from a different text, the Severian’s phrase that Christ “gave us the Spirit which is from him, and received our own body”. It is obvious that Severian refers to the Holy Spirit as divine energy because what else is the Spirit that Christ gives us from Himself if not the energy of the Spirit which is common to the three persons and it is also called Holy Spirit? Because, what the faithful receive from Christ is the Holy Spirit as energy and not as person. That’s also pretty obvious from the context of the phrase. Even the whole sermon is about the gifts that the Incarnation of the Son offered to the humankind. At any rate, if you think that Severian refers here to the hypostatic origination of the Holy Spirit then you have to choose between two possibilities. Either Severian expresses here a heretic idea because he claims that the Holy Spirit is from the Son whereas the Creed says that the HS is from the Father, or that the Creed is false. Of course none of them can be correct and therefore Severian does not speak about the hypostasis of the Spirit.

    The same applies to Cyril’s phrase: “When Christ lays down the law, his Spirit lays down the law, as one who naturally exists in him and from him”. In saying that the Spirit is from Christ, either Cyril makes a heretic statement or the Creed is wrong. In fact, when someone reads Cyril’s phrase “from him” in its context it becomes obvious that he does not refer to the hypostatic procession of the Spirit but he speaks about the Spirit in His relation to the world. In laying down the law, the Spirit is from Christ. Who could deny that? It seems to me that you haven’t read the text from which you quote because, if you had, you would have read in that selfsame chapter and page (34, 600C ) Cyril saying that the existence of the Holy Spirit is from the Father but He is given as a gift through the Son.

    It is also as plain as day that in saying that the Spirit is from the essence of the Son, Cyril refers to their consubstantiality. You just had to post the whole of his phrase. I would have done it of course but I didn’t find an English translation of Thesaurus on internet. He comments on 1 Corinthians 12:3 “no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” explaining that since only those who partake of the Holy Spirit can learn that Jesus is the Lord that means that the HS is of the same essence with the Son and therefore God like the Son. Cyril wants to show that the HS is God.

    Now, it is strange that when the Fathers try to manifest the divinity of the HS, you isolate certain phrases and you try to show that they agree with the Latin doctrine although they do not. But when the Fathers specifically deal with the hypostatic procession of the HS after the issue was raised by the introduction of filioque, you say that they are not Fathers. Do you believe that the Orthodox Church fell short of Fathers after 8OO AD or do you believe that her Fathers are those who abandoned her and those who were cut off from her? Does such a position seem Orthodox to you?

    In the end you wrote that I claimed that “the Latin doctrine states that the HS is from the Father and the Son, not that He is from the essence of both,” and that that shows to you a complete ignorance on my part of the history and doctrine of the Latin-speaking Church. I do not know why you wrote that. The thing is that I did not make a claim. I just stated a fact. That’s what the Latin Creed says. I just tried to show that what it says has nothing to do with the theology of Severian’s text. As regards the Latin Creed in itself, all the interpretations of the filioque are equally wrong although each one for different reasons. That can easily be shown but I do not want to become tiresome and, besides, I do not know which of those interpretations you think that I ignore.

    However, because Catholics throughout the centuries have produced many interpretations of the totally erroneous filioque clause in their futile efforts to justify it, just let me remind you please, if you will, that the filioque was added to the Creed and not the Creed to the filioque. Therefore the filioque takes its meaning from the meaning of the Creed it was added to. And the meaning that the filioque clause acquires from the Creed is heretical and against the Patristic consensus no matter how many interpretations Catholic thinkers try to give to the isolated word “filioque”.

    And, no, the filioque is not a matter of disagreement in terminology. It is the breaking of the agreement both in terminology and in doctrine.

    Good luck with your taxes!

  17. bekkos Says:

    Hello Joannis.

    Thank you for your long reply. I am grateful to you for being specific, and for maintaining something of an objective spirit. There are those who think that the sole test of the truth of an assertion is the fervor with which one maintains it; I do not agree with this notion, and, so far as I can tell, neither do you. That seems to leave open some grounds for a reasonable discussion.

    Your position is clear: the filioque is a heresy, the fathers did not teach it, if one questions this, one questions the judgment of later fathers like St. Photius and St. Gregory Palamas who declared it to be a heresy, and therefore one is not Orthodox. By virtue of the fact that I think John Bekkos’s reading of the fathers is at least partially justified, that is to say, that I agree with him that there are things in the writings of the Greek-speaking fathers of the Church of the first millennium that are not incompatible with the teaching of the Latin Church and are hard to square with a Photian reading, I must, on your view, not be Orthodox. So be it; if my reading of the fathers gives offense to Orthodox Christians, I will cease to receive communion in the Orthodox Church, until such time as I can wholeheartedly profess that the things St. Photius and St. Gregory Palamas teach with regard to the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone and the real distinction in God between essence and energies are unequivocally true. For the present, I cannot claim to think this.

    With regard to the procession of the Holy Spirit, I think that what John Bekkos taught was essentially the doctrine that was taught by St. Maximus the Confessor, six and a half centuries earlier. There were people in St. Maximus’s day who were claiming that the filioque was a heresy; St. Maximus said that this teaching was rather due to the peculiarity of the Latin language, that the Latins do not mean to assert two causes in God, that they are aware that the Father is the one cause, of the Son by generation, of the Holy Spirit by procession; he also noted that the Latins, legitimately, cite the example of St. Cyril of Alexandria in support of their usage. In another text, St. Maximus states that, “Just as Mind is cause of the Word, so it is also [cause] of the Spirit, but by means of the Word. And just as we cannot say that a word is ‘of the voice,’ so also we cannot say that the Son is ‘of the Spirit.’” (Quaestiones et dubia I.34: Ὥσπερ ἐστὶν αἴτιος τοῦ λόγου ὁ νοῦς, οὕτως καὶ τοῦ πνεύματος, διὰ μέσου δὲ τοῦ λόγου. καὶ ὥσπερ οὐ δυνάμεθα εἰπεῖν τὸν λόγον εἶναι τῆς φωνῆς, οὕτως οὐδὲ τὸν υἱὸν λέγειν τοῦ πνεύματος.) Although Bekkos did not know of this text, it gives a succinct and accurate statement of his position. The Father is the one cause, but he causes through the Word. The Father’s causing of the Spirit through the Word is not merely a matter of manifestation, “energetic procession”; it has to do with being. St. Maximus had lived in the West, he was aware of what people in the West were teaching, and yet he did not condemn the Western position as heresy. Rather, he wrote about the doctrine of the procession in such a way as to mediate between the Latin and the Greek positions.

    Bekkos saw that Photius’s syllogisms made such a mediating, irenic position impossible, so he criticized Photius. He thought that Photius’s syllogisms against the West were based on logical premises that had no patristic basis. And I have to say, that Photius’s basic dilemma — that, if you assert that the Holy Spirit exists from the Father and the Son, either you imply that the Father and the Son are two separate causes, two archai, of the Holy Spirit, which is a kind of Manichaean dualism, or else you imply that the Father and the Son have coalesced into one person, which is Sabellianism — this basic dilemma seems to me closely akin to what the Arians in the early fourth century were saying about the homoousion itself: they also were saying that, if the Son is homoousios with the Father, then either the Father and the Son are two separate archai, or else they are melded into one person. It was heretical and illogical in the fourth century; somehow, when Photius asserts it in the ninth century, it becomes the touchstone of Orthodoxy for all time.

    So, no, I do not agree that my argument is like having Arius tell St. Athanasius that there was no Church Father before him who had claimed that the Father and the Son are consubstantial. The position of St. Athanasius, that the Father and the Son are consubstantial, was upheld by an ecumenical council of the whole Church, East and West, as being a faithful statement of the universal, catholic teaching of the one Church of Christ. Neither Photius’s diatribes against the West nor Gregory Palamas’s dogma about essence and energies can show that kind of validation. And, if one takes Photius’s and Gregory Palamas’s positions as infallible criteria of orthodoxy, it becomes difficult to see why East and West were ever in communion with each other in the first place. Neither of these men makes any serious effort to show that the doctrines especially associated with them — the “from the Father alone,” on the one hand, the “ineffable real distinction in God between essence and energy,” on the other — agree with anything that Latin-speaking Christians had ever believed. The point was simply irrelevant to them. But harmony and agreement with the Latin-speaking Church was not irrelevant to St. Athanasius, or St. Maximus, or the Cappadocian fathers, just as it was not irrelevant to John Bekkos. All of these men understood that the survival and growth of the Christian Church in a hostile and dangerous world is not an automatic given, that peace among Christians has to be actively, intelligently maintained, in some cases repaired when it has been broken. For this reason, I think your analogy of Arius and St. Athanasius radically misses the mark.

    For this reason, I also brought up the point about the Turban and the Tiara. No, I do not possess any special information about threats to Christianity. I do know that the European Union, by its economic policies, has brought about in a few decades a demographic transformation of Western Europe that appears to be irreversible, and that Mehmed the Conqueror and Suleyman the Magnificent would have found very gratifying. How to respond to that transformation in a genuinely Christian manner is obviously a difficult and complex question; but it is one issue among many that raise for me profound concerns about the future of Christianity — indeed, I think that anyone who is informed about the present state of the world ought to be concerned about the future of humanity itself. A healing of the division between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches seems to me a most urgent need if the Church is to give a credible, united witness to its faith before a sceptical and cynical world. I agree with you that the Fourth Crusade was a gross crime (although the murder of some thousands of Venetians in Constantinople a few years earlier was not the work of angels!). I do not agree with you that the policy of unionists like Bekkos had mainly secular motivations, or that it was an abandonment of the faith of the fathers, or that it was in any way to blame for the fall of the Byzantine state. The last Byzantine emperor, who died defending the walls of Constantinople, was a unionist, and an Orthodox saint. And when you say, “there was no Greek nation at that time,” it is clear that you misunderstand what the English word “nation” means: it does not refer chiefly to a political entity, but to an historical, linguistic, and cultural one, to a people. In that sense, there certainly existed a Greek nation at that time, and it certainly became enslaved. I think that men like Joseph Bryennios and Mark of Ephesus bear some share of the responsibility for that catastrophe, by helping to make Christian reconciliation impossible by their polemics. And those who continue those polemics will bear some responsibility before the throne of Christ for the next catastrophe, whenever and wherever it comes.

    That there is an order in the Trinity was expressly taught by many statements of the saints, one of them being the very citation from St. Maximus I quoted above: the Spirit is “of the Son,” and not vice versa. Another is found in St. Basil’s Adversus Eunomium I.20 (PG 29b, 557B-C); St. Basil asks, concerning Eunomius:

    ”For what reason, then, does he deny that order holds good in God? He supposes that, if he can show that being ‘first’ in the case of God can be thought of in no other way, he will be able to show the rest, that this is a precedence according to essence itself. But as for us, we say that the Father is placed before the Son according to the relation which exists among causes and things from them, but never that it is according to a difference of nature, or according to a priority of time. Otherwise we would even be excluding God’s very being Father, since, were they differentiated in essence, this would exclude a natural conjunction.”

    St. Basil here does not deny the Father’s being first. As for you, you seem to think that being first can only be conceived of in the way that Eunomius does, as a difference in nature. St. Basil does not agree with you.

    Who is misrepresenting the fathers here, me or you? You confidently assert that, “No, there is no order in the Trinity.” You represent any assertion of order in the Trinity as a denial of Christ’s statement, “I and the Father are one.” In Basil’s Letter 52.4 (PG 32, 396B-C), he asks:

    “But what madness is this, when one is the Unbegotten, to say that there is another one that is above the Unbegotten? For there is nothing that stands in the mean position between Son and Father…. Thus, this innovation concerning order holds forth a negation of the very existence [of the Trinity], and is a denial of the whole faith. It is equally impious, either to reduce [the Holy Spirit] to the level of a creature, or to set him above either Son or Father, either with respect to time, or with respect to order.”

    How does this stand next to your assertions that it is legitimate to teach that the Son is “from the essence of the Father and the Spirit,” or that the Father is “from the essence of the Spirit and the Son” — that, essentially, since the essence is the same, it doesn’t matter who is from the essence of whom?

    St. Gregory of Nyssa, at the end of Book One of his Contra Eunomium (PG 45, 464B-C), writes:

    “Our account of the Holy Spirit is the same, with a difference only of order. As the Son is joined to the Father, and having his being from him does not come afterwards in existence, so in turn the Holy Spirit holds close also to the Onlybegotten, who only in terms of causation is thought of as prior to the existence (hypostasis) of the Spirit; temporal measures have no place in preeternal life. So with the exception of the idea of cause, the Holy Trinity has no variation in itself at all.” (Tr. by Stuart G. Hall.)

    What do you think? When St. Gregory says here that, in the case of the Holy Spirit, there is only a difference of order (μόνῃ τῇ τάξει τὴν διαφορὰν ἔχων), do you really think that he agrees with you that “there is no order in the Trinity”? When he says that the Onlybegotten is thought of as prior to the hypostasis of the Spirit only in terms of causation, do you really suppose that he thinks of such priority only in terms of a “manifestation” or “energetic procession,” not in terms of real, hypostatic being?

    I do not deny that there are ambiguities in the fathers, that sometimes the statements of the fathers in one place are difficult to square with their statements in another. What I am saying is that, in the mind of any honest reader of the fathers, such passages ought to raise questions about the absolute sufficiency of the Photian reading, the view that poises East and West in everlasting, diametrical opposition. And I don’t know that one is being unfaithful to the Orthodox Church for asking such questions.

    When you say that “what the faithful receive from Christ is the Holy Spirit as energy and not as person,” you state a position which St. Cyril of Alexandria explicitly rejects. In Book VII of his Dialogues on the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity (PG 75, 1088D-1089A), St. Cyril writes:

    “But if the grace conferred by the Holy Spirit is something divorced from his essence, why did the blessed Moses not state clearly, when the living creature was being brought into being, that the Creator of all things then breathed in grace, the grace which came through the breath of life; or why did Christ not say, ‘Receive grace by the ministry of the Holy Spirit’? But what was breathed into him was named ‘the breath of life,’ for the true life is the nature of the divinity, if in fact it is true that in him we live, and move, and exist; while, by the Savior’s expression ‘Holy Spirit,’ the very Holy Spirit, in truth indwelling and abiding in the souls of the faithful [is signified].”

    The fact that St. Cyril does not say here what you think he ought to be saying, the fact that he teaches that it is the Spirit himself whom Christ bestows, not just an energy or grace, gives me little confidence that you know what you are talking about when you interpret Cyril’s statement at PG 75, 600C as though it were a denial of the things he says elsewhere, e.g., that the Spirit exists from the Son (Θεὸς ἄρα τὸ Πνεῦμά ἐστιν, ὡς ἐν τάξει Θεοῦ, κατοικῶν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ, ἵν᾽ οὕτως εἴπω, τῆς ἀνωτάτω πασῶν ἐξέρπον οὐσίας ἐν ἰδίᾳ τε ὑπάρξει καὶ ἐκ Πατρὸς νοούμενον, δι᾽ Υἱοῦ τῇ κτίσει χορηγούμενον: “Therefore the Spirit is God, as being in the rank of God, dwelling in us and, so to speak, emerging forth from the highest essence in his own existence, and understood as from the Father, bestowed through the Son upon the creation.” Your paraphrase of this as “Cyril saying that the existence of Holy Spirit from the Father” is misleading: it is, literally, from the highest essence that the hyparxis of the Spirit is here said to come forth.). You say that, “it is also as plain as day that in saying that the Spirit is from the essence of the Son, Cyril refers to their consubstantiality.” Yes, clearly the main point of Cyril’s argument in these sections of the Thesaurus is that the Spirit is consubstantial with the Father and the Son; but in saying that the Spirit exists “from the essence of the Son,” he means more than just that they are consubstantial. For Cyril, the divine and the human in Christ interpenetrate; the fact that Christ breathes forth, not just some non-hypostatic grace, but the Holy Spirit himself, manifests an eternal relationship between the two.

    St. Cyril is a subtle, dense writer, and the meaning of his expressions is not always transparent; but at least one recent, exhaustive study of his trinitarian language supports the reading I am presenting here. Marie-Odile Boulnois, in her book Le Paradoxe Trinitaire chez Cyrille d’Alexandrie (Paris 1994), argues that all of Cyril’s statements about trinitarian relations, including those which speak of the Spirit’s relationship with the Father, refer, in the first place, to the divine economy. We have no access to the transcendent life of God except through what he has done and revealed here in time. But she also thinks that, because of the hypostatic union in Christ of the human and the divine natures, these temporal facts, the things of the economy, are, for Cyril, genuine manifestations of God’s eternal, triune relationships. So, when St. Cyril says that the Spirit exists from the essence of the Son, or when he says that God breathes forth the Spirit from the Son, as from a mouth, these things do point to something not unlike the Latin doctrine — certainly something more than mere consubstantiality.

    You write:

    “Do you believe that the Orthodox Church fell short of Fathers after 800 AD or do you believe that her Fathers are those who abandoned her and those who were cut off from her? Does such a position seem Orthodox to you?”

    As stated above, I believe that the theological position Bekkos enunciates in the thirteenth century, on the subject of the Procession, is basically the position St. Maximus the Confessor enunciated in the seventh century. I cannot believe that it was an Orthodox position when St. Maximus enunciated it, and Unorthodox or Heterodox when Bekkos enunciated it six centuries later. I know that Bekkos did not “abandon” the Orthodox Church; he tried to heal the schism between the Orthodox Church and Rome. The failure had less to do with the value of his arguments (most of which his contemporary opponents never seriously examined, just as you have not) than with the deep distrust that infected both sides, the unfortunate early death of Pope Gregory X and his replacement by a series of men who did not share his wisdom and patience, and, perhaps most importantly, with the immovable force of popular, nationalistic hatred, that was unwilling to consider Latins as fellow Christians. St. Maximus faced a fair bit of nationalistic hatred himself; that is why, when he was brought back to Constantinople from Rome, he had his tongue cut out and his thumbs cut off; Bekkos was merely sent to jail. I believe that God is merciful, and that most Orthodox Christians are too busy with the practical business of life to study those people you refer to as the later Fathers; they acknowledge their holiness, celebrate their memories, and leave their speculations for other people to worry about. If, as I think is the case, there are some genuine problems with some of those speculations, I do not think that that has had a great effect upon the piety of the majority of the Orthodox faithful; it has not prevented the appearance of real examples of holiness, and it has not prevented the sacramental life of the Orthodox Church from embodying saving divine grace. But, no, I do not think that being an Orthodox Christian means holding people like St. Photius, St. Gregory Palamas, and St. Mark of Ephesus as immune from rational criticism, as though their canonization meant that any interpretations they give of earlier Christian tradition must necessarily be true. When they misrepresent people, I do not follow them; to do so is not pious, but stupid, just as it is stupid and wicked to acquiesce in anything one knows to be a lie.

    I have written you a fairly long reply, in part because I ended the last one somewhat rudely, but mainly because you ask serious questions. You believe that the conditions of belonging to the Orthodox Church are agreement with the dogmatic positions of Sts. Photius and Gregory Palamas, those who condemned the Catholic West as heretical. Anyone who does not condemn the Catholic West as heretical is not, in your view, an Orthodox Christian. It is all very simple and tidy, it separates humanity neatly into Them and Us, and it saves one the trouble of looking very deeply into historical fact. I believe that when one looks deeply into historical fact, the neat categories of Us and Them tend to dissolve and blur, which can be very frightening: it might mean that we would end up having to love our neighbor as ourselves, if we actually understood who our neighbor was. Could that be a task that is actually laid upon us, that would make our Christianity a living reality instead of a dead relic of medieval debates? I wonder…

    Peter

  18. Mary Lanser Says:

    Well!! I had not gotten back to read this till today, Peter. I must say it is breathtaking.

    You outline in one grand scheme precisely why I have spoken against the agreement of the North American Consultation when they strongly suggest that we not only remove filioque from the Latin rite Creed but also that the west cease to catechize the filioque.

    Look at what would be lost and imagine the heresies that would emerge in the resulting lacuna.

    Thank you!!

    Mary

  19. Robert Says:

    Those stupid Orthodox Christians busy with life, ignorantly following misrepresentations of the early Fathers.

    Ha, onwards with unity!

  20. ioannis Says:

    Hello Dr. Gilbert,

    Thank you for finding specificity in my comments and I think that since you maintain something of an objective spirit as well, as I believe that you do, then you will admit that Severian’s text has nothing to do with the Latin Creed because, if in order to establish a relation between the two texts, one has to search first whether there was a Greek nation during Middle Ages or not, then, such relation actually does not exist.

    No, my position is not that the filioque is a heresy. The “filioque” is just a word. It can mean something or it can mean something else. It depends from the context whether it is a heresy or not. My position is, first, that the addition of the word filioque in the Creed created a heresy de facto and second, that the idea that the Son is the cause of the HS together with the Father as from one principle as stated in certain Councils of Rome as an explanation of that addition is a heresy as well.

    At the time of Maximus the Latins did not mean the filioque in a heretical manner.
    And, of course, they had not added that word to the Creed. I know the epistle of Maximus. In the Council of Florence, the Orthodox suggested to put that letter as a basis for an agreement but the Latins were reluctant because Maximus shows there that the Son is by no means the cause of the Holy Spirit. The passage you cited is mistranslated. I am Greek and I can see it. First off, you took it once again out of its context. In order to understand what he says in his response, we need first to read the question. It is the following: “Διά τί οὐ δύναται λέγεσθαι Πατήρ Πνεύματος, ἤ Χριστός Πνεύματος καθάπερ ἐπί τοῦ Πατρός καί τοῦ Υἱοῦ λέγεται διαφόρως [ἀδιαφόρως] Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ, καί Πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ;” Maximus asks why we can not say “Spirit’s Father” and “Spirit’s Christ” as we can say “God’s Spirit” and “Christ’s Spirit”? And he explains why we can’t say that. Of course I agree on that. Therefore, that’s something altogether different from the notion that the Son is “of the Spirit” that you wrote. Besides, who claimed that? Who ever said that the Spirit is the cause of the Son as your phrase implies? I did not say that the Son is from the Spirit. I said that the Son is from the essence of the Holy Spirit and I made it clear that that has not and can not have other meaning but that they are of one and the same essence. Now, about the phrase “by means of or through the Word”: First off, the Latin Creed does not say “through the Son” but “and the Son” and not only that but it also says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle. I can’t see any connection between Maximus phrase and the Latin Creed. If you are to suggest, as some Catholics do, that the ‘and” means “through”, my response is that I do not intend to put the Creed in the procrustean bed of a catholic theory and force it to agree with that theory nor do I intend to start imagine things and read different things from what I actually read. That shows also to me the poverty of the catholic argumentation in defending the addition of filioque because their best argument seems to be one invented by an ex-orthodox who was trying to please the emperor and to contribute to his unionist policy. Second, Maximus speaks about the actual and created word. If he says something about the God Logos then that is that the Spirit is caused through the Word. That’s different from saying that the Spirit proceeds through the Word. The former is Orthodox, the latter is not. Gregory of Nyssa uses the same form saying that the Father causes the Son and through the Son He causes the Spirit as well. That’s natural and Orthodox because without the “through the Son”, since we use the general word” cause”, one would think that the Spirit is another Son and by means of the “through” we indicate the two distinct manners of causation. But once we use the words which denote specifically those two distinct manners, i.e. generation and procession, the “through” becomes not only superfluous but also erroneous because the Father alone is also the Projector of the Spirit without any sort of mediation. Maximus is absolutely Orthodox.

    You misrepresented what St. Photius wrote against the filioque. He provided plenty of arguments against it and not only two. In fact he tried to help those who were holding the erroneous filioque and to show them why it is wrong. You say yourself that there is “something more than mere consubstantiality” in certain texts of the Fathers but you can not pinpoint what that is. The Papists decreed in their E.C. that the HS proceed from the Father and the Son as from one principle. Photius asked you what is that principle you are talking about? Is it a hypostasis or an essence? If it is the former you promote Sabellianism, if you say the latter then, either the Spirit is just energy and not a person or He is a created being and not God. There are no more possibilities. They are both heretical. Rome understood that St Photius was right and in the Ecumenical Council of 879 every addition in the Creed was prohibited with the consent of Pope John VIII in order to prevent the heretical adulteration of the Creed. But the arrogant Franks who, in order to promote their imperial ambitions, wanted to show that they were developing a better theology than that of the Ecumenical Councils, managed, in the course of the time, to impose the addition on the See of Rome. It was just politics. Things are simple. Show me why the filioque is correct and what do you achieve with that. You can not. You say “there must be something…” There is nothing but the arrogance of those that they do not want to admit their error.. It is possible that a certain Father can be wrong in something. Even if there is a Father, like St Augustine perhaps, who said that the HS proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle, he is still a Saint although he made an error. Errors are from humans. But arrogance is from the devil. Since St Photius and St Palamas and the rest of the Orthodox Fathers explained why the filioque is wrong, there are no more excuses for maintaining anymore that idea. You said that they are not “immune from rational criticism”. Of course they are not but I did not read any rational arguments against their positions. They were very rational themselves. The fact is that we do not get any rational arguments in support of the filioque. We only read passages taken out of their context and misinterpreted quotes from the Fathers. I wish that Catholics were, in their argumentation, as rational as St. Photius and St. Palamas were. Can you give me some rational arguments in support of filioque? I doubt it. That’s why you speak emotionally and you invoke the Muslim threat and a vague idea about love for our neighbors. St, Photius loved his neighbors, and that’s why he showed them their mistake. Those who do not love their neighbors prefer to impose their supposed authority on them and try making truth kneel before their “infallible” cathedra. Catholics hate Photius and Palamas because they deprived them from their pretexts to hold on to their error. Once we become aware of our mistake we can not pretend that nobody ever told us about it.

    For me there is no division between East and West or between Greek speaking and Latin speaking world. The only division that I recognize is that between orthodoxy and heresy. Since you have read ecclesiastical history you know that the efforts to unite, for political and secular reasons, orthodoxy with heresy all failed in the past. That’s what happened when the emperor wanted to unite the Orthodox with the Monophysists. That’s what happened in 1453. Orthodoxy always prevails even if those supporting it are fewer in number or in power as it happened in the times of St. Maximus. How can Christianity give a “witness to its faith” to the world if Christianity does not share the same faith? No, the last emperor of the Roman Empire is not, of course, an Orthodox saint. He is a saint for the Byzantine Rite Catholics. No, Bryennios and Mark of Ephesus do not bear any responsibility for the catastrophe. On the contrary, they became pillars of Orthodoxy in the midst of fear and the snares of the devil. They showed what true Christianity means and how Christians should defy death for the sake of their true faith. Thus they proved, especially Mark, that Christ is alive. You also seem to forget that the union took effect but it was of no avail. Besides your reasoning does not seem Christian to me. Do you accuse Christ for the catastrophe of Jerusalem because He did not side with the revolutionary Jews? Do you accuse Him for not liberating Jerusalem from the Romans although He could? Do you accuse Him because His Reign is not of this world?

    The passages you cited confirm that there is no order in the Trinity. There is order only in the manner that we speak about the Trinity. Notice what Basil writes: “But as for us, we say that…”. Since we are used to put the cause before that which is caused we refer first (because we can not utter the three words at the same moment and we are bound to make an order if we want to make mention to the three divine persons) to the hypostasis who is the cause of the other two persons. And we refer to Him with His name which shows His relationship with the Son, that is Father, And because the word Father immediately introduces the word Son, we put the Son after the Father because if we place the Holy Spirit after the Father we may give the impression that, either the Spirit is another Son of the Father or that the Spirit together with the Father are both sort of parents of the Son and that the Spirit is, together with the Father, the cause of the Son. Therefore, there is an order and it is important to keep it but it is an order in the manner that we speak about the Trinity and not in Trinity per se, Notice what Gregory of Nyssa writes: “only in terms of causation is THOUGHT OF” (επινοια) and “with the exception of the IDEA of cause” . That’s another misunderstanding that the filioque produces. It gives you the idea that there is order in the Trinity although there is not. When Basil writes in the letter you quoted from, that “It is equally impious, either to reduce [the Holy Spirit] to the level of a creature, or to set him above either Son or Father… with respect to order” makes it clear that there is no order in the Trinity.

    St. Cyril’s text confirms the Orthodox position which is established by Councils long time ago. Cyril does not deny that the faithful receive the grace of God, but what he says is that the grace if God is not divorced from His essence. That’s why he starts his response to the pneumatomach who was claiming that the Spirit is a created being with the phrase: “But if the grace conferred by the Holy Spirit is something divorced from his essence…etc”. See that he does not deny that it is the grace which is bestowed upon Christians but he explains what that grace means. That’s exactly the Orthodox position. The energy of God is distinct but not separate from His essence. The grace of God is uncreated, a natural product of God’s essence and in that there is the God Himself making Christians gods in energy but not, of course, in essence. I did not paraphrase anything. Cyril’s syllogism follows a certain course. First, in saying that the Holy Spirit emerges “forth from the highest essence in his own existence” he shows that He is God, second, in saying that He is understood to be from the Father he shows that the Father is the cause of His existence and, last, he shows that He is conferred upon the Christians by Christ. I find it obvious that Cyril in saying “ἐκ Πατρὸς νοούμενον, δι᾽ Υἱοῦ τῇ κτίσει χορηγούμενον” makes that crucial distinction between theology and economy and we shouldn’t confuse them as Cyril does not. I do not know who Marie-Odile Boulnois is but I do not put academics before the Fathers, the Orthodox doctrine and what I read with my own eyes. Of course we have not access to the life of the Trinity apart from what God has revealed to us. But I think that if we confuse what God reveals about Him with what He does in order to reveal it we are in jeopardy of reaching strange conclusions such as that Christ is the cause of the Holy Spirit because He bestows the Spirit upon us or that the HS and even Mary is the cause of Logos because He became incarnate by the Holy Sprit and Mary. Orthodox theology is the theology of distinctions. It does not lump things together.

    In the last analysis, we know what our Christian doctrine says. Do you believe that the three persons of the Trinity have one and the same essence or not? If yes, then we can agree that a Person can not be a product of the essence of another person. It is like saying that that Person is the product of His own essence and that He is the cause of Himself. That’s absurd. What’s the point in trying to make distinctions about causation then? The person of the Father is the cause of the other persons, not the divine essence. That’s what the Nicene Creed says. Do you imply that Cyril had any reservations as to the theology of the Nicene Creed? If, on the other hand, you do not believe that the three persons have one and the same essence, then you do not believe in the Holy Trinity as God because a divisible essence can not be the essence of the Triune God but the essence of created beings.

  21. bekkos Says:

    Joannis,

    Earlier you wrote:

    “The early Fathers do not make the claim that the Son is from the essence of the Father and the Spirit because they had not to deal with the heresy of filioque….”

    Now you write:

    “No, my position is not that the filioque is a heresy.”

    You say one thing in one place and deny it in the next place. I would submit that your current denial that the filioque, as such, is a heresy, is presented out of mere argumentativeness, and in an attempt to avoid the clear truth that St. Maximus defended both the expression and the thing that it expresses. Granted that he did not defend the addition of it to the creed, which had not yet occurred at Rome; that was not what was specifically at issue. What was at issue was the claim that the Church of Rome is heretical, because it teaches it. That is the accusation that was being made by the Monophysites in Constantinople; that is the accusation that St. Maximus was concerned to answer in his Letter to Marinus. St. Maximus did not consider the Augustinian theology concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit, a theology which was universally accepted in the West in his day, to be heretical. St. Augustine’s writings include the claim that Father and Son are one principle of the Spirit’s procession. Augustine does not claim that Father and Son are one “cause,” and St. Maximus does not interpret him to mean that. He interprets him to mean that the Father causes through the Son, and Bekkos, I argue, interprets the statement of the Second Council of Lyon in the same way. Curiously, you admit above that the Father causes the Spirit through the Son, but you do not accept that the causing of the Spirit through the Son is the same thing as the Spirit’s proceeding. If the Spirit’s proceeding and his being caused are two completely different things, then I am at a loss to know what it is we are really talking about.

    “…the Father alone is also the Projector of the Spirit without any sort of mediation.”

    Compare St. John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa I, PG 94, 848D:

    “He is, then, Mind, the abyss of the Word, the begetter of the Word, and, through the Word, the Projector of the illuminating Spirit (καὶ διὰ Λόγου προβολεὺς ἐκφαντορικοῦ Πνεύματος).”

    An exact denial of what you assert, and further evidence, if any was needed, that, when St. Maximus says that Mind “is [cause] of the Spirit, but by means of the Word,” he is talking about the Spirit’s procession.

    “…you will admit that Severian’s text has nothing to do with the Latin Creed because, if in order to establish a relation between the two texts, one has to search first whether there was a Greek nation during Middle Ages or not, then, such relation actually does not exist.”

    The inference is bizarre, and irrelevant. I never claimed that the existence or not of a Greek nation during the Middle Ages has any bearing on the question of what Severian of Gabala means in the passage reported above. My claim was, and is, that faith and intransigence are two different things, that the intransigence of writers like Joseph Bryennios and Mark of Ephesus, their unwillingness to look fairly at what other Christians taught, helped bring disaster to the Greeks in 1453, and that the destructive possibilities of this intransigence have not yet been exhausted. Part of the process of looking fairly at what Latin Christians think about God is looking at possible correlates with their teaching in the writings of the early Greek-speaking fathers of the Church; I think that the passage cited by Severian is one such possible correlate, and that some of the statements cited by St. Cyril of Alexandria, that “the Spirit is from the essence of the Son” and “when Christ lays down the law, his Spirit lays down the law, as one who naturally exists in him and from him,” are others. For you, the possibility of any such correlation is excluded automatically: if it disagrees with your presuppositions, then it isn’t there.

    Your example of the destruction that came on Jerusalem is also off the mark. You write:

    “Besides your reasoning does not seem Christian to me. Do you accuse Christ for the catastrophe of Jerusalem because He did not side with the revolutionary Jews? Do you accuse Him for not liberating Jerusalem from the Romans although He could? Do you accuse Him because His Reign is not of this world?”

    You seem to forget that Christ, in many places, speaks as though the disaster that is coming upon Jerusalem could have been averted if the people had recognized him for who he is.

    “But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children…. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Lk 23: 28, 31)

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate….” (Lk 13: 34-35; Mt 23: 37-38)

    In none of this does Christ imply that Christian faith negates the Old Testament truth that God visits judgments upon his people when they are unfaithful to him; indeed, the notion that that truth would be abrogated by the New Covenant, because Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, smacks of gnosticism. The early Church universally regarded the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as a consequence of the rejection of Christ and his message. Writers like Bekkos were not being un-Christian when they discerned a parallel between the two situations, and warned of the consequences for the Byzantine state that would result from a rejection of Christian unity.

    “No, the last emperor of the Roman Empire is not, of course, an Orthodox saint. He is a saint for the Byzantine Rite Catholics.”

    In my St. Herman Calendar, published by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood of Platina, California (an Old-Calendar group, and not an organization that is prone to adding Byzantine-Rite Catholic saints to the Orthodox calendar), the listing for May 30th reads as follows:

    St. Isaac, founder of the Dalmatian monastery at Constantinople. St. James, monk of Galich monastery. Martyr Natalius. Martyrs Romanus, Meletius, and Euplius. Blessed Constantine XII, last of the Byzantine emperor [sic], martyred by the Turks. Martyr Barlaam of Caesarea in Cappadocia….

    Now, granted that he is referred to here as “Blessed,” and not “Saint”; and granted also that the monks of St. Herman’s got his number wrong (he is actually Constantine XI, not XII). But his name is clearly present on at least this Orthodox calendar, and the implication that his memory is revered only by Byzantine Catholics is plainly wrong.

    “In the last analysis, we know what our Christian doctrine says. Do you believe that the three persons of the Trinity have one and the same essence or not? If yes, then we can agree that a Person can not be a product of the essence of another person. It is like saying that that Person is the product of His own essence and that He is the cause of Himself. That’s absurd. What’s the point in trying to make distinctions about causation then? The person of the Father is the cause of the other persons, not the divine essence. That’s what the Nicene Creed says.”

    Obviously, I believe that the three persons of the Trinity have one and the same essence, and nothing that I have written is a denial of this. I also know that when you say, “The person of the Father is the cause of the other persons, not the divine essence. That’s what the Nicene Creed says,” you go beyond what the creed actually states (the word “cause,” for one thing, doesn’t occur in it), and, in particular, you fail to mention the fact that the Nicene Creed — not the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, but the Creed of Nicaea — declared that the Son is ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας τοῦ Πατρός, “from the essence of the Father.” Ultimately, I think, my whole argument with you has to do with the meaning of this phrase. My claim would be that this phrase was understood in more than one way by the fathers of the Church in the fourth and early fifth centuries, and that this difference of understanding underlies the later Filioque controversy. Some fathers — including probably St. Athanasius and St. Epiphanius, and perhaps St. Cyril as well — understood “essence” and being ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας more in terms of a concrete unity, the extension of one and the same being from one person to another; other fathers, especially after the work of the Cappadocians, began to speak of it more in terms of a generic unity. The Latin Church continued to understand essence as a concrete reality, not a generic one; they were, I would claim, “Old Nicene,” and in fact they did not accept the Creed of Constantinople as authoritative until quite late, probably not until the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which cites it. In none of this am I stating anything radical; almost anyone who recognizes that Christian doctrine has a history recognizes that the fact of these different understandings of divine essence forms part of the history of doctrine. The view of the Latin doctrine of the Trinity as positive heresy rests upon an absolutization of the generic understanding of οὐσία, to the point where a concrete understanding of the term — the view that the essence itself is concretely given by the Father to the Son, and, through the Son, to the Holy Spirit — is excluded. I think that that absolutization of the generic understanding of οὐσία is what Photius’s syllogisms against the Filioque amount to; in the process, I think he has misread some of the fathers. He is more Cappadocian than the Cappadocians themselves, to the point where some of the things the Cappadocian fathers say must be excluded by Photius’s reasonings. The Cappadocians themselves were ecumenists; they recognized the problem caused by different ways of understanding the word οὐσία in their own day, and they tried to bridge the gap between the different groups. Photius burns the bridge. You may say what you like about Bekkos, but he tried to rebuild that bridge, and in doing so, I believe he was more faithful to Cappadocian theology than Photius himself.

    This really does seem to me to be the essential thing over which we are arguing. I recognize that there is such a thing as a history of doctrine; it seems to me that you don’t. Nor do I have any confidence that I can convince you of the reality of doctrinal history, and its importance for Orthodox/Catholic relations, in a series of comments on a blog post. For this reason, this debate increasingly looks to me like a logomachy and a waste of time. If you are genuinely desirous of knowing what “rational criticism” of Photius’s arguments would look like, you can read my article that I published in the journal Communio last autumn; I don’t have the time to repeat here everything I said there. For the present, I will have to leave it at that; I have other work to do.

    Peter

  22. dionysios Says:

    “The view of the Latin doctrine of the Trinity as positive heresy rests upon an absolutization of the generic understanding of οὐσία, to the point where a concrete understanding of the term — the view that the essence itself is concretely given by the Father to the Son, and, through the Son, to the Holy Spirit — is excluded. I think that that absolutization of the generic understanding of οὐσία is what Photius’s syllogisms against the Filioque amount to; in the process, I think he has misread some of the fathers. He is more Cappadocian than the Cappadocians themselves, to the point where some of the things the Cappadocian fathers say must be excluded by Photius’s reasonings. The Cappadocians themselves were ecumenists; they recognized the problem caused by different ways of understanding the word οὐσία in their own day, and they tried to bridge the gap between the different groups. Photius burns the bridge. You may say what you like about Bekkos, but he tried to rebuild that bridge, and in doing so, I believe he was more faithful to Cappadocian theology than Photius himself.”

    Some of this is true, but the Latins either should be getting “on board” with Constantinople I and moving with the Church as She goes through and unpacks the Neoplatonic influence starting with Origen and culminating with Arios. That Athanasios understands unity in a concrete sense as hypostasis or ousia of the Father develops into another problem in and of itself: that is, how do we go about book keeping the distinction between person and nature and do so consistently? That’s what Photios does and does better than any of the other Fathers, Cappadocians included (though they definitely laid the ground work for him, in the same way that they allowed Maximos to unpack the Neoplatonism of the Monothelites and their confusion between person and nature.). Athanasios often uses those ideas interchangeably, which can be problematic. Furthermore, it’s not that the Photian view understands the unity of the Trinity in a general way in terms of ousia, but rather in the personal feature of the Father. For Photios, there is no unity in abstract terms. I believe that you need to see the Councils not as a Port but rather as a Journey of unpacking the original problem that started the whole controversey in the first place, and it is by no accident that the approximation of the Triumph of Orthodoxy is so near to St. Photios. On that score, the Carolingian academics were sending us backwards and not forward, with a retrospection of a final, long, and hard fought success.

  23. bekkos Says:

    Dionysios,

    From your references to Monothelites and Neoplatonism, as well as from your spelling of Greek names, I would guess that you are either deeply immersed in the writings of Dr. Joseph Farrell or are the very man himself. If the latter, hello; I haven’t seen you in something like twenty-five years.

    One thing that struck me, upon reading what you wrote above, is that you seem very fond of the metaphor of unpacking. Twice you speak of unpacking Neoplatonism, and, in a third instance, you speak of “unpacking the original problem that started the whole controversy in the first place,” which I must assume refers again to the same thing — as though it were generally agreed that Neoplatonism lies at the root of all the heresies the Church encountered from Arius onward. That Origen was something of a Platonist (Middle or Neo-, I won’t quibble) is not to be disputed; that Arius was is more debatable. My own view would be that, to the extent that he viewed the three hypostases as standing to one another in an ontological descent, he is a Platonist; to the extent that he asserts a “when” when the Son was not, he is not a Platonist, but something else — perhaps a Stoic, perhaps an Aristotelian, but certainly not a Platonist, Neo- or otherwise. And the fathers’ battle against this Arian claim was not a battle against Platonism as such; if it were, then the Cappadocians and St. Athanasius would not have directly borrowed language from Plato and Plotinus so often, nor would they have exerted such efforts to vindicate Origen’s essential orthodoxy. (St. Gregory the Theologian described him as “the whetstone of us all.”) So your reading of the history of dogma as a series of “unpackings” of little packages of Neoplatonism that somehow got passed down along with Christian doctrine is less than fully persuasive. Neither is it true that all heresies were inspired by Platonism, nor is it true that all Platonic influence is inherently heretical. There are non-Platonic errors, and there are, perhaps, Platonic truths (e.g., the assertion of the eternal generation of the Son, a directly anti-Arian claim). The criterion for determining whether or not a given teacher is orthodox is not whether this person is, in some sense, a Christian Platonist, but whether this person’s teaching agrees, or does not agree, with the deposit of faith.

    I know that St. Gregory the Theologian says things like the following: “And the union is the Father, from whom and to whom the ones who come after him are referred” (Ἕνωσις δέ, ὁ Πατήρ, ἐξ οὗ καὶ πρὸς ὃν ἀνάγεται τὰ ἑξῆς, Or. 42.15, PG 36, 476B). And I would agree with you that, for the Cappadocian fathers, as for most of the fathers of the Church, divine unity is anchored and rooted in the person of the Father; St. Gregory, again, speaks of the Father as the one “from whom those who are his equals receive both their being equal as well as their being itself” (ἐξ οὗ καὶ τὸ ἴσοις εἶναι τοῖς ἴσοις καὶ τὸ εἶναι, Or. 40.43, PG 36, 420B). But this unique role of the Father as originating source does not mean that “there is no unity in abstract terms” in God, a view which you ascribe to St. Photius. Just as St. Gregory the Theologian is able to assert that the union is the Father, so he is able also to assert that “the unity is in the Godhead” (ἡ μονὰς ἐν Θεότητι, Carm. 1.1.3,75, PG 37, 414A; cf. Or. 31.14, PG 36, 148D: Ἡμῖν εἷς Θεός, ὅτι μία θεότης, “For us, God is one, because there is one Godhead.”). It was noted over a century ago, by Karl Holl, that St. Gregory likes to balance his affirmations of unity in the Father with affirmations of unity in the divine nature. I don’t think that this tendency of St. Gregory’s indicates mere dogmatic sloppiness, needing to be tidied up by a proper dogmatic bookkeeper. I believe it implies that St. Gregory, like St. Athanasius before him, takes a fairly strong view of divine simplicity, such that he is able to say of the three persons that they “are those in whom the Godhead is or, to speak more accurately, who are the Godhead” (Or. 39.11, PG 36, 345D; St. John of Damascus says exactly the same thing). I think this way of speaking about the persons is one example of the kind of theological “bridge” the Cappadocians were concerned to build with the West, a bridge which Photius burned.

    Because I assume you to be either Dr. Farrell himself or one of his followers, I must note that the way you earlier described the thought of Photius (“For Photios, there is no unity in abstract terms”) recalls a passage in Dr. Farrell’s translation of Photios’s Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit (Brookline, MA, 1987), p. 81. In that translation, the last sentence of §47 of Photius’s work reads as follows:

    For it is not, I repeat, not the nature — that which is common amongst these persons — which is worshipped, but the specific personal distinctions whereby the persons of the Trinity are distinguished.

    The original Greek runs as follows:

    Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν, οὐκ ἔστι ταῦτα φύσεως, καθ᾽ ἣν ἡ κοινωνία δοξάζεται, ἀλλ᾽ ὑποστάσεως ἰδιώματα, δι᾽ ὧν τὴν ἐν Τριάδι θεολογοῦμεν διάκρισιν. Photius, Mystagogy, §47, PG 102, 325C.

    Compare Farrell’s translation with the one published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline (Studion Publishers, 1983, p. 90):

    It is not possible that such things would belong to the nature wherein the common sharing is honored; rather, they are hypostatic properties through which theology discerns the distinctions in the Trinity.

    I have to say that this latter translation, to my thinking, more accurately renders the Greek; Farrell translates as though the genitive φύσεως were in the nominative, and as though the Greek text read something like Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἡ φύσις ἥπερ δοξάζεται. The claim that it is not the nature which is worshiped is a statement which, if Photius had actually said it, would have convicted him then and there of heresy. Fortunately for Photius, he did not actually say this. But Dr. Farrell seems to think that he did, and that this denial of worshiping the Godhead is perfectly orthodox. (One would think that the prayers of the Church would suffice to convince him otherwise; just this evening, at vespers, I sang a hymn which spoke of glorifying the one Godhead and power.)

    I give this example because it seems to me connected to your view that “there is no unity in abstract terms,” and it casts a dubious light on your claims about Photius’s service as the great theological bookkeeper, cleaning up residual patristic obscurities. If Photius’s language has led some of his recent interpreters into such blatant errors as to deny that the Godhead is worshiped, then his theological bookkeeping cannot have been entirely successful.

    There is much else I could talk about in what you say, but let me leave it at that for now.

    Peter

  24. dionysios Says:

    That’s not my posistion. We do indeed worship the ‘godhead’ but only in the context of the person. The abstraction of the ‘godhead’ is only in thought.

  25. ioannis Says:

    “If Photius’s language has led some of his recent interpreters into such blatant errors as to deny that the Godhead is worshiped, then his theological bookkeeping cannot have been entirely successful.”

    To accuse someone for the errors of his translators shows pure hatred for him. St Photius can not be translated unless someone is as competent as he was in Greek and that’s very rare.

  26. Veritas Says:

    “To accuse someone for the errors of his translators shows pure hatred for him. St Photius can not be translated unless someone is as competent as he was in Greek and that’s very rare.”

    Hello, ioannis.

    Sorry to interject, but I just thought I ought to at least state that I don’t think that’s what Peter was doing here. I don’t mean this in any way disrespectful, ioannis, but, if I may say: please try and read the comments of posters (especially our host) thoroughly before making such sweeping accusations.

    If you were actually paying attention to Peter’s post, you will know that he was trying to correct an incorrect translation of Photius, and thus defending Photius from being accused of adhering to an assertion that he may never have held to. How, again, is Peter “show[ing] pure hatred” for Photius when he is trying to wrestle away Photius’s actual words from an incorrect account?

    On another note, what if you were to direct your above comment at your fellow co-religionists in regards to some of the writings of St. Augustine?

    -Veritas

  27. ioannis Says:

    Hello Veritas.

    The Orthodox honour Augustine as a Saint and they still give his name to their kids when they baptise them. But the Catholics dishonour him by repeating and perpetuating his mistake instead of putting it, as St Photius suggested, into oblivion.

    Nobody has mistranslated Augustine. His case has nothing to do with the misleading (in both cases although the second is, of course, much better than the first) translations cited by Dr Gilbert. Can’t you see the difference?

  28. bekkos Says:

    Ioannis and Veritas,

    I drew attention to the error in translation because I thought that this error, which represents Photius as denying that the Godhead is worshipped (a theological error, not only a translational one), was logically connected to Dionysios’s claim that “there is no unity in abstract terms.” Because I think it is probable that Dionysios’s perspective on these issues comes from having read Joseph Farrell, or perhaps from being Joseph Farrell, I considered it worth my while to point out that Farrell had misread St. Photius at that point.

    Dionysios’s claim seems to be that, if St. Photius does give a stricter scope to the meanings of person and nature in God than the Cappadocians themselves do, this is a legitimate development, and is comparable to the clarifications of terminology that one finds in the third through seventh ecumenical councils in connection with the doctrine of the person of Christ. As St. Maximus was led to clarify the meaning of divine will in response to the misrepresentations of the Monothelites, so, Dionysios seems to be saying, St. Photius responded in the same way to the misrepresentations of the Carolingian academics, who present trinitarian theology in terms of a sort of necessary self-unfolding of a unitary divine nature and, in the process, lose sight of the distinctive character of divine personhood. That is a serious claim. My comment about the translation is not meant as a complete answer to it, but as a piece of counter-evidence; if St. Photius’s work is supposed to be that of a theological book keeper, someone who straightens out terminological ambiguities, one would expect that the people who cite him would not fall into such errors as to teach that the Godhead itself is not worshipped. Since then, Dionysios has written that that is not, in fact, his position; if so, then we are perhaps not so far from one another in our thinking as I supposed.

    I do not wish to defend the Carolingian academics. They responded to the teaching of St. Tarasius, at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father through the Son,” by claiming that this teaching was inadequate and heretical; that, to be fully orthodox, one must teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. St. Photius, later in the ninth century, responds to the sending of German missionaries into Bulgaria and to Pope Nicholas I’s refusal to recognize him as Patriarch by teaching that the view that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son” is positive heresy. Both sides, I would submit, have essentially ruled out, by their syllogisms, the earlier, irenic view of men like Tarasius and Maximus the Confessor, which saw the procession of the Holy Spirit through the Son as reconciling the positions of the Greek East and the Latin West. I think that Bekkos, in the thirteenth century, tries to recover that earlier view, I think that the evidence that he presents in support of it is serious, abundant, and not easily dismissed, and I am doing what I can to make that evidence and argumentation available to those who want to read it.

    As for this work, or any part of it, being motivated out of “pure hatred” for St. Photius, I would ask you to be a bit more temperate in your language and not to presume to know what goes on inside of another person’s breast. I do not deny Photius the honor of being counted among the saints (although, if you would read, e.g., the Life of St. Ignatius by Nicetas the Paphlagonian, PG 105, 487-574, you would find that there were many people in his own day and afterward who questioned this), but I also do not view him as infallible. I do think that, if his arguments lead to people claiming that the Godhead itself is not worshiped, or that there is no unity in the Godhead but only in the Father, then he has led people astray from the truth; that is not the way people like St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Cyril speak about the Holy Trinity.

    Peter

  29. dionysios Says:

    “irenic view of men like Tarasius and Maximus the Confessor, which saw the procession of the Holy Spirit through the Son as reconciling the positions of the Greek East and the Latin West.”

    Not necessarily though, at least not from our view point. As a Photian, one reads Photios as being a true expositor to answering the question: Who is the sole Monarchy of the Trinity? On that score Photios is in good keeping with Gregorios the Theologian, as the filioque results in Anarchy and Polyarchy from the logic of its own construction (i.e. persons are ‘features’ of the divine essence). For a fuller Triadological perspective, we couple Photios (i.e. Monarchy, Personal features) with Gregorios of Cyprus (i.e. eternal resting in the Son) for the correct understanding of the phrase in the Fathers of ‘dia tou Yiou.’ You probably disagree with Gregorios’ interpretation (being a proponent of Iohannes Bekkos), and Photios and Gregorios are fully compatible according to the way we see the text. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear to be the goal of the Mystagogia to exegete and synthesize that expression ‘dia tou Yiou’ to give one the full Triadological picture. Photios saw the filioque as threatening christianity, both theologically, politically, and culturally of East Rome.

    Perhaps I could and should have been a little clearer, but I did not intend to imply what you gathered in my statement.

  30. ioannis Says:

    Dr Gilbert,

    As you noticed I withdrew from the conversation as I was asked politely to do respecting the fact that it is your own blog and that you have other things to do and I do not intend continue it.

    As about St Photius, permit me to tell you that, judging from what you wrote about his passage and their translations, I doubt that your Greek is good enough to understand what he says in his texts.

    Besides, of course he is not infallible. Nobody is. But regarding the passage you cited, do you believe that his translators, and not he, made the blatant error or not? If yes, what’s the point in putting the blame on Photius, if no, what’s the point in correcting Farrell’s rendering?

  31. bekkos Says:

    “As a Photian, one reads Photios as being a true expositor to answering the question: Who is the sole Monarchy of the Trinity? On that score Photios is in good keeping with Gregorios the Theologian….”

    Compare St. Gregory the Theologian, or. 29.2:

    “With us, monarchy is what is honored, but not the sort of monarchy that is circumscribed by a single person.” (Ἡμῖν δὲ μοναρχία τὸ τιμώμενον· μοναρχία δέ, οὐχ ἣν ἓν περιγράφει πρόσωπον.)

    I would submit that to ask, “Who is the sole Monarchy of the Trinity?” begs the question, and presupposes that divine monarchy is the sort of thing that is circumscribed by a single person, something St. Gregory the Theologian says is not true. Undoubtedly St. Gregory sees all divine being as rooted in the person of the Father; but that he would deny the Son any mediating role in the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit is less clear, especially since his friend St. Gregory of Nyssa more than once explicitly affirms this.

    As for Gregory of Cyprus, I do take issue with much that he said and did. But the view that Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son is itself, I think, not incompatible with the doctrine of Lyons. If the Spirit proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son, then the Spirit is given by the Father to the Son. The Son is presupposed in the Spirit’s giving; he is a “that-for-the-sake-of-which.” To that extent, the Father and the Son are together one principle of the Holy Spirit’s proceeding. Just as, one may say, God is the cause of the Incarnation: but there would have been no Incarnation if God had not created man, and loved his creation. Love implies a beloved; the beloved has something to do with drawing love forth. It is not clear that St. Augustine’s language about the Father and the Son being one principle of the Holy Spirit’s proceeding implies anything more than this.

    This discussion has long since ceased to have anything directly to do with Severian of Gabala, the author whose statement I translated and posted on-line nearly three weeks ago. It seems at present to be mainly about St. Photius, and whether my disagreements with him are motivated by pure hatred and by ignorance of Greek. It also seems to have much to do with whether anyone who calls himself an Orthodox Christian is entitled to read the fathers in ways other than St. Photius and St. Gregory Palamas did, that is, to suggest that they give a one-sided picture of earlier patristic teaching. Earlier in this discussion, I wrote that “If my reading of the fathers gives offense to Orthodox Christians, I will cease to receive communion in the Orthodox Church, until such time as I can wholeheartedly profess that the things St. Photius and St. Gregory Palamas teach with regard to the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone and the real distinction in God between essence and energies are unequivocally true.” It now seems to me that that statement was perhaps uncalled-for and premature; it might be taken to imply that no one can be an Orthodox Christian and at the same time be willing seriously to consider the possibility that John Bekkos got some important things right. That is to say, no one can be an Orthodox Christian unless he condemns the Christian West for heresy. It may be that that is true, that that is indeed the position of the Orthodox Church, and that if one thinks otherwise one is only fooling oneself; but I do not want to prejudge things; for all I know, it may be false. So, while I do not want to offend anyone, I also do not want to offend Christ by avoiding his supper, or by ascribing more authority over the sacraments to the blogging public than to his ordained ministers. And, until such time as I am told by my priest or bishop not to receive, I will not take internet debates such as this one as grounds for separating myself from the Body and Blood of Christ. That is to say, my statement given above, that I should not receive communion in the Orthodox Church until such time as I can profess wholehearted agreement with St. Photius and St. Gregory Palamas, is hereby annulled.


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