How to Speak About God

July 21, 2018

In images we speak of God correctly
Because some things cannot be said directly.
How can a Name unspeakable be said
Without it rendering the speaker dead
At least as to the intellect and heart
Which, by one’s arrogance, are torn apart?
In images we speak of God with care
In hopes to find our truth and meaning there
In what we cannot otherwise proclaim
And, in so doing, glorify His Name.
Because our human intellect is such
That it transforms whatever it may touch
Into a kind of idol: which to break
God breathes in us, a truer mind to make.

Every Sunday is the Lord’s day, the day of the resurrection; but today, Sunday, April 8, 2018, is, for millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world, the day of the resurrection par excellence, the feast of feasts, holy day of holy days, the Lord’s Pascha. Yesterday evening and earlier this morning, I experienced this feast in a new way: for most of the past month I have been conducting our church choir in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, our official choir director being incapacitated due to a recent hip replacement. So, although I have sung in many Easter services, today was the first time in my life of some 59 years that I conducted one. Thanks be to God, our singers sang well, we acquitted ourselves of our task with jubilation, and, I think, helped the congregation to pray and to focus their minds and hearts on the glory of God, which is what a choir is supposed to do.

Whether it is this novel experience of directing a church choir during an Easter service that has awakened these reflections, I don’t know, but I think it is right, on this feast day, to speak of joy. What is the joy that characterizes the life of a Christian? A Christian is, like other human beings, subject to innumerable ups and downs, a Christian is not, any more than anyone else, continually floating on a cloud of earthly and material bliss, and, even in spiritual matters, a Christian is acquainted with the grief first of all of his or her own sinfulness and the estrangement from God and man that sin entails, and secondly, with the grief of living in a fallen world in which might frequently triumphs over right and falsehood over truth. Nevertheless, the life of a Christian is characterized by joy. How is this possible?

It is possible, I think, because of the resurrection. The resurrection contains the entire message of Christianity, and, if we are to understand what makes the life of a Christian what it is, it is there that we must look. On the cross, Christ broke the power of sin, the demonic forces that tyrannize human life, and provided, for all time, an infallible key for escaping spiritual imprisonment; by rising from the dead, Jesus showed us that death is not the final reality, he showed himself the victor over death and corruption, and gives us the possibility of sharing in his victory and in newness of life. That is what Christian joy is all about; it is the response of one who begins to live in the light of the risen Christ, who has overcome the world. And Easter, as it is the feast of Christ’s resurrection, is preeminently a feast of joy — a joy, not in ourselves or our accomplishments, but in Christ who gives us the victory. It is the communal joy of Christ’s redeemed people. If the singers at a liturgy, by their voices, are able to communicate this joy to the congregation, they have done their part in proclaiming the gospel.

May God grant the readers of this blog a joyous Easter. Christ is risen!

Origen on Adam and Eve

September 15, 2017

Origen, De Principiis, iv. 16 = Philocalia Origenis, p. 24. (Translation, with original text on facing side, in H. M. Gwatkin, Selections from Early Christian Writers, London 1897, pp. 136-139.)

What intelligent person would fancy, for instance, that a first, second, and third day, evening and morning, took place without sun, moon, and stars; and the first, as we call it, without even a heaven? Who would be so childish as to suppose that God after the manner of a human gardener planted a garden in Eden towards the east, and made therein a tree, visible and sensible, so that one could get the power of living by the bodily eating of its fruit with the teeth; or again, could partake of good and evil by feeding on what came from that other tree? If God is said to walk at eventide in the garden, and Adam to hide himself under the tree, I fancy that no one will question that these statements are figurative, declaring mysterious truths by the means of a seeming history, not one that took place in a bodily form. And Cain’s going forth from the presence of God, as is clear and plain to attentive minds, stirs the reader to look for the meaning of the presence of God, and of any one’s going forth from it. What need of more, when all but the dullest eyes can gather innumerable instances, in which things are recorded as having happened which did not take place in the literal sense? Nay, even the Gospels are full of sayings of the same class: as when the devil takes Jesus up into a high mountain, to show him from thence the kingdoms of the whole world and the glory of them. Who but a careless reader of such words would fail to condemn those who think that by the eye of flesh, which needed a height to bring into view what lay far down beneath, the kingdoms of Persians, and Scythians, and Indians, and Parthians, were seen, and the glory men give to their rulers? Countless cases such as this the accurate reader is able to observe, to make him agree that with the histories which literally took place other things are interwoven which did not actually happen.

Note that the above passage is cited in the Philocalia Origenis, an anthology of Origen’s writings made by Saints Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian with the intention of defending Origen’s essential orthodoxy. Compare Gregory the Theologian, Poem 1.1.8 “On the Soul,” lines 97-111 (PG 37, 454-455):

But when the imperishable Son had formed for himself a man,
in order to have new glory, and so that, in the last days,
leaving the earth, man might journey from here to God, as god,
he neither left him at liberty, nor utterly
bound him. But he placed a law in his nature, and engraved good things
in his heart, and set him, thus, in the vales of an ever-verdant
paradise, evenly balanced, observing which direction he’d incline.
Naked he was, without the form of evil and duplicity.
And, as for paradise, it is the heavenly life, it seems to me.
So this is where he placed him, to be a farmer, cultivating his words.
He kept from him one plant, a most perfect one,
having within it a perfect discrimination between good
and evil. For what’s perfect is suited for grown-ups,
but not for beginners; since this would be as hard to take
as were some very powerful dish to infants.

When St. Gregory says here that, “as for paradise, it is the heavenly life, it seems to me” (Ζωὴ δ᾽ οὐρανίη πέλεται παράδεισος ἔμοιγε), and that Adam spent his time cultivating God’s λόγοι — i.e., contemplating the eternal forms of things (cf. orat. 38.12, PG 36.324 B: Adam was placed in paradise “to till the immortal plants, by which is meant perhaps the Divine Conceptions, both the simpler and the more perfect”) — it seems clear that the Theologian basically accepts Origen’s interpretation of Adam and the Garden, as a kind of parable and not as something to be read strictly literally.

Because I am trying to put together an article on Bekkos and George Moschabar, I have of late been reading Martin Jugie again; he seems to have read virtually everything in Byzantine theological literature. In particular, he has a lot of information, and very definite opinions, on the issue of how far Byzantine writers understood there to be an indwelling of the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit in the souls of the just; this is an issue on which John Bekkos and George Moschabar were entirely opposed. Specifically, Bekkos sees it as the clear consensus of Scripture and the Fathers that the Holy Spirit himself — i.e., the person or hypostasis — is given by Christ to the faithful, and he sees this giving as implying something about the eternal, inner-trinitarian relationships of these two persons; Moschabar, by contrast, sees Scripture to use the term “Holy Spirit” in an ambiguous way, sometimes referring to the third person of the Trinity, sometimes to that person’s gift of grace — or, to put it differently, to an “energy” — and he lays it down as a kind of exegetical first principle that, whenever Holy Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit being given or sent or flowing forth from the Son, the “Holy Spirit” referred to is an energy, not the person. In teaching this, I think that Moschabar anticipated, in important ways, the doctrine of Gregory Palamas; in fact, it seems quite likely to me that Palamas was directly influenced by Moschabar’s writings.

Jugie is not an ecumenically sensitive writer; he is a Catholic apologist of the old school, and his references to Orthodox Christians as “Graeco-Russians” are bound to be offensive. Nevertheless, he is a clear thinker, and he backs up his assertions with evidence. As such, his historical judgments deserve serious consideration; it is for this reason that I present him here in English. I do not want to claim that Jugie is giving here a balanced, complete assessment of Orthodox spiritual tradition. But it does seem to me that some of the most important Orthodox writers of the past century, in particular the late Fr. John Meyendorff, were engaged in a tacit debate with Jugie over the significance of St. Gregory Palamas and his theology; if one reads Meyendorff as replying to Jugie, I think it opens one’s eyes as to what is at stake.

I would only add that what is given below is not a complete translation of Jugie’s chapter; I break off at the point where Jugie begins treating of more recent Orthodox writers.

Translated from Martin Jugie, A.A., Theologia Dogmatica Christanorum Orientalium ab Ecclesia Catholica Dissidentium, Tomus II (Paris 1933), pp. 233-242.


Article 3: On the notion of divine mission and of the relation between eternal procession and temporal mission

The doctrine of the Graeco-Russians on divine missions differs from the doctrine held in common among Catholic theologians in no small way. First of all, among dissident theologians you will not find the subtle distinctions and accurate definitions that are found among ours; for example, they do not clearly distinguish between visible mission and invisible mission; the aim or scope of the missions is not discerned by them with precision. All of their speculation concerning the nature of the missions has had a polemical origin — as though, when they take up the question of divine missions, they had almost solely this end in view, to weaken the force of the argument based upon missions which Catholic theologians employ to prove that the Holy Spirit proceeds and has existence from the Son. In this, Photius himself was their predecessor, not in fact in those writings where his explicit purpose is to treat of the procession of the Holy Spirit, but in his Amphilochian questions nos. 159 and 188, where he seeks to overturn the grounds of the Latins’ argument by teaching that each person of the Trinity, not excepting the Father, both sends the others and by the others is sent, indiscriminately. To establish this point, he appeals to certain texts of Scripture: Isa 48:16, “And now the Lord, and his Spirit, has sent me”; Isa 61 and Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … he has sent me to preach the good news to the poor.” After him, Byzantine theologians commonly held the same view on persons sent and sending, relying upon the same scriptural texts; nor do most of the moderns veer from this position.

Gravely, therefore, do the Graeco-Russians adulterate the notion of mission, insofar as they deny that mission implies a necessary connection with procession ad intra, that it imitates, manifests, and, as it were, reproduces this ad extra. They indeed commonly distinguish a double procession, one kind ad intra, which is from eternity, from which the divine persons are constituted in their hypostatic being; the other kind ad extra, which they call temporal, which is mission itself. The temporal procession is common to the three persons. The terminus ad quem of this procession is that temporal effect produced in creatures, which indeed is common to the three persons, as is any operation ad extra. But as for the terminus a quo, temporal procession or mission signifies a simple external manifestation of the person sent from the person sending. This external manifestation bears no necessary relation to a procession ad intra; it is something altogether accidental and extrinsic, pertaining to the historical order.

Moreover, as regards the form itself of this external manifestation, they do not agree among themselves. Does such a manifestation include a real bestowal of the person sent, made by the person sending to the creature, such that, beyond the gift of grace conferred upon the justified creature, there would be also a communication of an uncreated gift, that is, of a divine person himself, who in a new manner and on new terms would begin to exist within the creature? To this question they do not give one unanimous response. Before the Palamite controversy, most, not all, taught that, in mission, an actual divine person is communicated to the creature. After this controversy, most, not all, have held that a divine person is by no means given or communicated, and they have seen in mission nothing else than an operation common to the three persons, by which grace is communicated to the creature, grace which, according to the system of Palamas expounded above, is pronounced to be uncreated, and is regarded as a sort of eternal and uncreated outpouring from the divine essence. This very operation [or: energy] is a manifestation of Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and not just of the person sent or the person sending.

The earliest polemical writers after Photius and Michael Cerularius had no more common pastime than to reproach the Latins with confusing the eternal procession with a temporal procession or mission; nevertheless, most of them did not deny what the Greek fathers teach so plainly, namely, that in mission, besides grace and gifts, an actual divine person is communicated to human beings. See in volume one of this work the words of Nicetas the philosopher (pp. 291-292), Euthymius the patriarch (p. 298), the author of the tract Against the Franks (p. 300), Michael Psellus (p. 303), and especially Theophylact, who properly distinguishes between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s very person. For, in order to overthrow the argument of the Latins that is based upon Christ’s breathing upon his disciples after the resurrection, he wrote the following:

He breathes upon them, then, and gives them the Holy Spirit, not now granting them the perfect gift of the Holy Spirit (for this he was going to give at Pentecost), but rendering them suitable for receiving that Spirit … But after the ascension, when the Spirit himself had descended, and had bestowed upon them the power of miracles and other gifts …. If then he gave the disciples the Spirit when he breathed upon them, how was it that he later said to them, “You will receive power from the Holy Spirit, who will come upon you not many days hence”; or why is it that we believe that, at Pentecost, the Spirit is made to descend, if in fact he gave him on the evening of the day of the resurrection?

[Comment. in Joannem, xx, 19-23, PG 124, 297; Epist. ad Nicolaum, 4, PG 126, 228; In Joan., c. iii, 32-34, PG 123, 1224. Cf. tom. I, pp. 306-307, 309-310.]

During the twelfth century, many polemical writers repeated Theophylact’s words. Thus, for example, Eustratius of Nicaea, Nicholas of Methone, Nicetas of Nicomedia, Michael Glykas; in the thirteenth century, Germanus II. Mystical writers frequently say the same thing concerning the bestowal of the person of the Holy Spirit and the dwelling of the divine persons in the soul of the just, among whom should be mentioned Symeon the New Theologian, who not only teaches that the soul of a holy person is a temple of the Holy Spirit, but, in addition, contends that the soul necessarily is aware of this indwelling, and that it is impossible for anyone to have the persons of the Trinity within himself without intimately experiencing their presence.

Nevertheless, certain polemical writers, even before Palamas, begin already to deny that the person of the Holy Spirit is really given to the soul of the just according to that special mode which accompanies an infusion of charity and grace. If one were to believe them, it is not a divine person, but solely the person’s gifts, which are communicated, and they interpret the term “Spirit,” in those passages of Scripture or of the Fathers which have to do with the sending, giving, and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to mean the spiritual gifts themselves. They support their opinion by the testimony of pseudo-Chrysostom who, in a certain discourse On the Holy Spirit, previously cited by Photius himself, says the following:

But if you should hear him say, “I will send you the Holy Spirit,” do not interpret this to mean the godhead: for God is not sent. These are names signifying operation, in that everyone who sends, sends to those places where he is not…. Therefore when he says, “I will send you the Holy Spirit,” he means the gift of the Spirit. And, so that you may learn that the gift is sent, but the Spirit is not sent, the Savior says to the apostles, “Remain in Jerusalem, until you are clothed with power from on high.” The scripture says, “God poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It is not the godhead that is poured out, but the gift. For this reason, so that it might be demonstrated that that which is poured out is not the Holy Spirit, but the grace of the Spirit of God, David says to Christ, “Grace is poured out by your lips.” Grace is poured out, not he who bestows the grace. (PG 52, 825-826.)

In the twelfth century, these words are applauded by Andronicus Camaterus in his Ἱερᾷ Ὁπλοθήκῃ (Sacred Treasury), wherein he means to show that it is not the person of the Spirit but only his charisms that are bestowed upon men. As for Camaterus, John Bekkos refutes him by citing against him, at one time Christ the Savior’s clear words in the gospel, at another time testimonies from other Greek fathers, especially Cyril of Alexandria; the perspicuity of these testimonies is clearer than light. (John Bekkos, In Camateri animadversiones, PG 141, 419-428.) To this same question Bekkos devotes also his eighth Epigraph, which he prefaces with the following notice:

Since some people, when they hear that the Holy Spirit “exists” and “fountains” and “emanates” from the Son, give the strange account that it is not the divine nature of the Spirit which springs forth and fountains from the divine substance and nature of the Son, but rather the spiritual gift which comes to those who are worthy … because they take it that such a gift must be understood as something divided and disjoined from the Spirit’s divine substance, the following patristic citations have been gathered, from which one may apprehend … that it is the Holy Spirit himself, one of the Trinity and him who completes it and who is himself divine nature and perfect God, just like the Father and the Son, who is meant when one says that the Holy Spirit “emanates” and “fountains” and “exists” from the Son.

[PG 141, 673. If Philotheos Kokkinos is to be trusted (Contra Gregoram Antirrhet., vi, PG 151, 915-920), George the Cypriot, Patriarch of Constantinople, held the same opinion as Camaterus about the sending of the Holy Spirit — which however does not appear true from his published writings. Gregory was, nevertheless, in a certain respect the precursor of Palamas, by reason of his teaching concerning the eternal manifestation of the Spirit through the Son. See B. De Rubeis, Dissertatio I in Georgium Cyprium, PG 142, 109-110.]

Gregory Palamas and his disciples apply his teaching about a real distinction between God’s essence and his operation (= energy) to the divine missions in the following manner: Since the divine essence and the divine persons themselves are, of themselves, utterly inaccessible, imparticipable, and incommunicable, the mission of a divine person can be understood only of a common operation of the Trinity, in particular of that operation which has the name grace. Since then this operation, just like all the other operations of God, is something divine, uncreated, and eternal, really distinct, indeed, from the divine nature, but in fact truly inseparable from it, it follows that a mission can, in a certain way, be called an eternal procession (πρόοδον). However, an eternal procession of this kind, which is manifested in time, is solely according to operation, κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν, not according to nature, κατὰ τὴν φύσιν, nor according to hypostases or persons, κατὰ τὰς ὑποστάσεις. It has creatures in view, it is ad extra; it does not have in view the persons nor the processions ad intra. Therefore differentiation has to be made between a two-fold eternal procession, one kind according to the subsisting of the persons in the divine essence, the other kind according to an operation of the essence which is common to the three divine persons. Where Scripture says that one person is sent by another, this in no way signifies that the person sent is communicated to the creature, that it indwells the creature in a special manner and on special terms — for this is altogether impossible. Such a mission indicates nothing other than an external and temporal manifestation of that eternal and uncreated operation which is called grace or the gifts of the Spirit, which is in fact common to the three persons, and is communicated to worthy souls, or rather, reaches to them, extends itself to them, like the light of some eternal sun which, at a certain moment in time, illuminates a new region, illuminates new things which earlier lay in darkness.

According to this speculation or conception, the following expressions of Scripture or of the Fathers — “the Holy Spirit is sent by the Son, is put forth, poured forth or shed forth by the Son, is from the Son, shines out from the Son,” etc. — signify in fact a certain eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son, but not one ordered to the Spirit’s personal existence. Such a procession occurs solely according to operation, κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν, ordered to the sanctification of the creature, or insofar as it is directed towards a terminus ad quem, it can even be said to be a temporal procession. In it is beheld, in truth, a certain showing and manifestation of the three Persons under an aspect whereby the persons are able to be manifested and known, namely by their eternal operation, which extends to the creatures and sanctifies them.

This is the genuine notion of divine mission in Palamite theology. Hear Palamas describing the mission of the Holy Spirit in his Confession of Faith:

The Spirit, subsisting in himself, proceeding from the Father and sent — that is, manifested — through the Son, himself also cause of all the creatures, as indeed it is in him that they have been brought to perfection, himself equal to the Father and the Son except in respect of unbegottenness and begottenness. He was sent by the Son to his disciples — that is, he was manifested. For in what other manner would he have been sent, since he was not separated from him? Or in what other way would he be able to draw near to me, since he is everywhere present? Wherefore he is sent, not only from the Son, but from the Father and through the Son; and he comes being manifested also from himself. For the sending, that is the manifesting, of the Spirit is a common work. But he is manifested, not according to essence (for no one ever has seen or declared God’s nature), but according to grace and power and operation (= energy), which is common to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

[PG 151, 766 A-B. Cf. the same author’s Homilia viii de fide, PG 151, 100 D.]

In his second treatise On the Procession of the Holy Spirit, against the Latins, he says these things:

The Son gives the Holy Spirit, but according to gift and grace and operation (= energy); he does not give the very person of the Holy Spirit, for this can be received by no one…. To be sent and to be given, when applied to God, means nothing else than to be manifested.

[Λόγος δεύτερος περὶ τῆς ἐκπορεύσεως τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος, Constantinople, 1627, pp. 54, 61: Δίδωσι Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν καὶ τὴν χάριν καὶ τὴν ἐνέργειαν, οὐκ αὐτὴν τὴν ὑπόστασιν τοῦ παναγίου Πνεύματος· παρ᾽ οὐδενὸς γὰρ αὕτη λαμβάνεσθαι δύναται … Οὐδὲν ἄλλο τὸ πέμπεσθαί τε καὶ δίδοσθαι ἐπὶ Θεοῦ ἢ τὸ φανεροῦσθαι.]

Palamas’s genuine disciples hold the same doctrine. Philotheus Kokkinos expounds it at length in his Antirrheticus vi contra Nicephorum Gregoram (Gregoras, by contrast, teaches that the three persons of the Trinity indwell the soul of the just):

If the three divine hypostases, as you say, indwell every one of those who are worthy of God, then each one of those who are made deiform will possess in himself more than did that divine temple which for our sake, in a manner surpassing reason, the Only-begotten Son of God indwelled, insofar as that [temple] held in itself [only] one of the Trinity, united with it according to hypostasis.” (PG 151, 893 A.) … “The Spirit is participated in, not according to essence, nor according to hypostasis — for this is altogether foreign to theology — but according to the divine charisms and operations (energies)…. From all these things you have been taught that the Holy Spirit inhabits those who are worthy energetically, not hypostatically. That is, his energy, not his hypostasis, dwells in them, and makes them to be temples of God; and through the divine energy and grace they have dwelling in them the whole Spirit. For in each gift (charism) the whole Spirit, as working, is analogically present.” (PG 151, 901 C, 902 C.)

In his Tractatus contra Latinos, Macarius Ancyranus devotes four chapters to the present question; their titles sufficiently express the doctrine defended in them:

Ch. 76: That the Holy Spirit, poured out upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, was not the divine person himself, but his gift and grace and operation, which also is called “Holy Spirit.”

Ch. 77: That the Holy Spirit, a person of the Holy Trinity, is one thing, and his bestowal and grace and power and operation — or rather, the common bestowal and grace and power and operation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is another.

Ch. 78: Concerning the discrepancy which some people find in the prayers of Basil the Great which are read on the day of Pentecost, and that the Spirit poured out at Pentecost was not a person of the Trinity, but his gift and grace: for it is “divided.”

Ch. 79: Moreover, that the Holy Spirit, one person of the Most Holy Trinity, both is always identical with himself, and is invisible and incommunicable to others; and that, just as his gift and grace is called “Holy Spirit,” so also it is called “God,” whenever it is seen and divided and participated in by all.

[Κατὰ Λατίνων. In Dositheus, Τόμος καταλλαγῆς, pp. 132-139:
«Ὅτι τὸ κατὰ τὴν Πεντηκοστὴν ἐκχυθὲν Πνεῦμα ἅγιον εἰς τοὺς ἀποστόλους οὐκ αὐτὸ ἦν τὸ θεαρχικὸν πρόσωπον, ἀλλ᾽ ἡ δωρεὰ καὶ χάρις καὶ ἐνέργεια αὐτοῦ, Πνεῦμα ἅγιον καὶ αὐτὴ λεγομένη.
«Ὅτι ἄλλο Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, τὸ ἓν πρόσωπον τῆς Τριάδος, καὶ ἄλλο ἡ τούτου, μᾶλλον δὲ ἡ κοινὴ Πατρὸς, Υἱοῦ καὶ ἁγίου Πνεύματος δωρεὰ καὶ χάρις καὶ δύναμις καὶ ἐνέργεια.
«Περὶ τῆς δοκούσης τισὶ διαφωνίας ἐν ταῖς κατὰ τὴν Πεντηκοστὴν εὐχαῖς τοῦ μεγάλου Βασιλείου, καὶ ὅτι τὸ κατὰ τὴν Πεντηκοστὴν ἐκχυθὲν Πνεῦμα οὐ τὸ ἓν πρόσωπον τῆς Τριάδος, ἀλλ᾽ ἡ τούτου δωρεὰ καὶ χάρις· αὐτὴ γὰρ καὶ μερίζεται.
«Ἕτι, ὅτι τὸ μὲν Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, τὸ ἓν πρόσωπον τῆς ἁγίας Τριάδος, ἀεί τε ταὐτὸν αὐτό ἐστιν ἑαυτῷ, ἀόρατόν τε καὶ πρὸς τοῖς ἄλλοις ἀκοινώνητον· ἡ δὲ τούτου χάρις καὶ δωρεά, ὡς Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, οὕτω καὶ Θεὸς λεγομένη, ἔστιν ὅτε καὶ ὁρᾶται καὶ μερίζεται καὶ παρὰ πάντων μετέχεται.»]

On this question, Joseph Bryennius plainly agrees with Palamas:

No one of sound mind (he says), whether he thinks the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, or from the Son, or from both, holds the opinion that the person of the Spirit takes up his abode among men; for since he is God by nature, not only is he invisible, in this respect, to every created nature, but even to the Cherubim themselves he is by nature imparticipable.

[Λόγος η´ περὶ τῆς ἁγίας Τριάδος. Opera omnia, ed. E. Bulgaris, tome 1, Leipzig, 1768, p. 344: «Οὐδεὶς ὑγιαίνων τὰς φρένας δοξάζει τὴν τοῦ Πνεύματος ὑπόστασιν … ἐπιδημεῖν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.»]

As for theologians and polemical writers of the modern era, the greatest part of them accept this Palamite view, even those who in other matters contradict the theologian of the hesychasts….

I began rereading Hegel this afternoon, after coming across a note in the book Geist oder Energie by Dorothea Wendebourg (Münich 1980). Wendebourg (p. 7) says that the point stressed as an axiom by some modern theologians (Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, et al.) that the only way to a knowledge of God in his eternal being is through God’s self-revelation in his economy, was made by Hegel some two hundred years ago in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. 3. That axiom is important, not only in itself, but also for the work I am currently doing on Bekkos: in his book Against George Moschabar which I have edited, one of the main criticisms Bekkos makes against his adversary is that the latter, by claiming that grace, or divine energy, is separate from the person of the Holy Spirit and denying that what Christ sends is the Holy Spirit himself, the third person of the Trinity, undercuts the whole basis for our understanding God to be a Trinity. Wendebourg (who has evidently not read this book by Bekkos) makes essentially the same point as Bekkos in a short English summary of her book, titled “From the Cappadocian Fathers to Gregory Palamas: The Defeat of Trinitarian Theology,” in: Elizabeth A. Livingstone, ed., Studia Patristica, vol. XVII, part one (Oxford 1982), pp. 194-198.

Anyway, those who have read Kierkegaard, who criticizes Hegel as a proponent of a soulless historicist approach to faith, may find the following passage from Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion fairly shocking. Although Hegel held an extreme view on the ability of reason to comprehend the truths of faith, he was, on matters of basic Christian dogma, an orthodox Christian. And his criticisms of a purely historical approach to dogma that, because of its indifference to the content of what is studied, remains spiritually dead, still deserve to be taken to heart.


From J. Glenn Gray, ed., G. W. F. Hegel on Art, Religion, and Philosophy (New York 1970), pp. 163-166.

“Christ still indeed continues to be made the central point of faith, as Mediator, Reconciler, and Redeemer; but what was known as the work of redemption has received a very prosaic and merely psychological signification, so that although the edifying words have been retained, the very thing that was essential in the old doctrine of the Church has been expunged….

“Even though Christ be for many the central point of faith and devotion in the deeper sense, yet Christian life as a whole restricts itself to this devotional bent, and the weighty doctrines of the Trinity, of the resurrection of the body, as also the miracles in the Old and New Testaments, are neglected as matters of indifference, and have lost their importance. The divinity of Christ, dogma, what is peculiar to the Christian religion is set aside, or else reduced to something of merely general nature. It is not only by the Enlightenment that Christianity has been thus treated, but even by pious theologians themselves. These latter join with the men of the Enlightenment in saying that the Trinity was brought into Christian doctrine by the Alexandrian school, by the neo-Platonists. But even if it must be conceded that the fathers of the Church studied Greek philosophy, it is in the first instance a matter of no importance whence that doctrine may have come; the only question is whether it be essentially, inherently, true; but that is a point which is not examined into, and yet that doctrine is the keynote of the Christian religion….

“The strongest indication, however, that the importance of these dogmas has declined, is to be perceived in the fact that they are treated principally in a historical manner, and are regarded in the light of convictions which belong to others, as matters of history, which do not go on in our own mind as such, and which do not concern the needs of our spirit. The real interest here is to find out how the matter stands so far as others are concerned, what part others have played, and centres in this accidental origin and appearance of doctrine. The question as to what is a man’s own personal conviction only excites astonishment. The absolute manner of the origin of these doctrines out of the depth of spirit, and thus the necessity, the truth, which they have for our spirits too, is shoved on one side by this historical treatment. It brings much zeal and erudition to bear on these doctrines. It is not with their essential substance, however, that it is occupied, but with the externalities of the controversies about them, and with the passions which have gathered around this external mode of the origin of truth. Thus theology is by her own act put in a low enough position.

“If the philosophical knowledge of religion is conceived of as something to be reached historically only, then we should have to regard the theologians who have brought it to this point as clerks in a mercantile house, who have only to keep an account of the wealth of strangers, who only act for others without obtaining any property for themselves. They do, indeed, receive salary, but their reward is only to serve, and to register that which is the property of others. Theology of this kind has no longer a place at all within the domain of thought; it has no longer to do with infinite thought in and for itself, but only with it as a finite fact, as opinion, ordinary thought, and so on. History occupies itself with truths which were truths—namely, for others, not with such as would come to be the possession of those who are occupied with them. With the true content, with the knowledge of God, such theologians have no concern. They know as little of God as a blind man sees of a painting, even though he handles the frame. They know how a certain dogma was established by this or that council; what grounds those present at such a council had for establishing it, and how this or that opinion came to predominate. And in all this, it is indeed religion that is in question, and yet it is not religion which here comes under consideration. Much is told us of the history of the painter of the picture, and of the fate of the picture itself, what price it had at different times, into what hands it came, but we are never permitted to see anything of the picture itself.

“It is essential in philosophy and religion, however, that the spirit should itself enter with supreme interest into an inner relation, should not only occupy itself with a thing that is foreign to it, but should draw its content from that which is essential, and should regard itself as worthy of such knowledge. For here man is concerned with the value of his own spirit, and he is not at liberty humbly to remain outside and to wander about at a distance.”

This story is ten years old, and the current pope has said similar things; but the text is relevant for an ongoing debate at the school where I teach. From the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog:

I notice that in Germany, but also in the United States, a pretty hot debate is going on which pits so-called creationism against evolutionism. Creation and evolution are presented as if they were alternatives which logically exclude one another. The one who believes in the Creator is not supposed to be able to think in evolutionary terms, and the one who affirms evolution is supposed to be a non-believer in God by definition. This contraposition is an absurdity, because, on the one hand, there are many lines of scientific evidence in favor of evolution, which appears to be a reality we cannot help but see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.

On the other hand, the theory of evolution does not respond to all questions. In particular, it does not respond to the great philosophical question: what is the origin of all things? And how does the whole take a direction whose point of arrival is humanity? It’s very important, I think, and I was trying to say this at Regensburg in my lecture, that reason needs to open itself up more, so that, yes, it sees the physical and biological data, but also that these data are not sufficient to explain all of reality.

The Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique is a massive and invaluable theological reference work, which was begun in 1898 under the editorial direction of Jean Michel Alfred Vacant and continued to appear under successive editors (E. Mangenot, E. Amann) and with various revisions until work on it ended in 1950. Much of it is now in the public domain; the complete text of at least an early version of it is available online, on Internet Archive. Below I provide links to these volumes, and to a few articles from them.

Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 1, part 1 (Aaron – Apollinaire)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 1, part 2 (Apollinaire de Saint-Thomas – Azzoni)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 2, part 1 (Baader – Cisterciens)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 2, part 2 (Cajetan – Cisterciens)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 3 (Clarke – Czepanski)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 3, part 2
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 4, part 1 (Dabillon – Emser) (Note: this copy is missing cols. 941-948)
(another copy of this)
[fascicle: Dieu – Dogme]
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 5 (Enchantement – Fiume)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 5, part 2 (Eucharistie – Fiume)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 6, part 1 (Flacius Illyricus – Hizler)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 6, part 2 (Géorgie – Hizler)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 7, part 1 (Hobbes – Immunités)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 7, part 2 (Impanation – Irvingiens)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 8, part 1 (Isaac -Jeûne)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 8, part 2 (Joachim de Flore – Latrie)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 9, part 1 (Laubrussel – Lyre)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 9, part 2 (Mabillon – Marletta)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 10, part 1 (Maronite – Messe)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 10, part 2 (Messe – Mystique)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 11, part 1 (Naaséniens – Ordinales)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 11, part 2 (Ordéric Vital – Paul [Saint])
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 12, part 1 (Paul Ie – Philopald)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 12, part 2 (Philosophie – Prédestination)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 13, part 1 (Préexistence – Puy [Archange de])
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 13, part 2 (Quadratus – Rosmini)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 14, part 1 (Rosny – Schneider)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 14, part 2 (Scholarios – Szczaniecki)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 15, part 1 (Tabaraud – Trincarella)
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol. 15, part 2 (Trinité – Zwinglianisme)

 

Some links to articles in this collection:

Dieu. Sa nature d’après les Pères,” by X. Le Bachelet, in vol. 4. (A partial translation of this article was given on this blog eight years ago in the post “On the Cappadocians and Eunomius.”)
Esprit-Saint,” by A. Palmieri, in vol. 5.
Hypostase,” “Hypostatique (Union),” and “Idiomes (Communication des),” by A. Michel, in vol. 7, part 1.
Le IIᵉ Concile de Lyon,” by V. Grumel, in vol. 9, part 1.
Palamas, Grégoire” and “Palamite (Controverse),” by M. Jugie, in vol. 11, part 2. (A partial translation of the latter article may be found on this blog, beginning here.)
Platonisme des Pères,” by R. Arnou, in vol. 12, part 2.