I had been asked to give the following lecture by Mr. Luke Macik, headmaster of the Lyceum School in Cleveland, Ohio, a Catholic school with something of a great books curriculum. This past Friday and Saturday, December 4 and 5, I delivered the lecture three times: twice at the Lyceum School (on Friday morning I read a somewhat abbreviated version of it to the students; in the evening, I read the full text to a general audience of about 25 people, who had read about it in the paper), and once at St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Boardman, Ohio, just south of Youngstown, at a meeting of the Youngstown branch of the Society of St. John Chrysostom. Some of the people who attended these readings of the lecture asked if I would put the text of it on the blog, and at least one reader of this blog had earlier made the same request, so I am adding it here as a page.

I would ask for prayers for Mr. Vito Carchedi. It was he who had invited me to speak at Youngstown, but he was unable to attend the lecture because he has begun receiving chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He has been a regular reader of this blog, and I was very sad that I did not get to meet him in person on this trip. I wish him a speedy, full recovery.

I recognize that this lecture has some serious deficiencies; it really does not accomplish all that it sets out to do. Towards the end, it becomes dense and obscure, and its assertions about the early history of the Filioque doctrine are insufficiently documented; partly this is due to the time constraints under which I operated, but much of it has to do with the fact that I was rushing to finish the thing, and did not sufficiently revise it. To some extent, these deficiencies were made up for by the discussions which followed each reading of the lecture; they were lively, and raised issues like the scriptural basis of the teaching and its ecclesiological implications. But I do think that the lecture, as given, shows at least one thing: that, if one wants to understand why the Filioque question became a church-dividing issue, one needs to become aware of the political matrix in which the controversy was engendered.

In committing myself to speak about the Filioque today, I took on a difficult task. People have been arguing over the Filioque, in one form or another, for well over a millennium and a half; I have something like 45 minutes in which to summarize and assess that debate. Given such time constraints, I must necessarily leave much unsaid that properly ought to be said about this doctrine. Also, even within the limited scope of this one investigation, there is much that I simply don’t know; what I can promise to give you are essentially the reflections of a Church Historian on a subject that has preoccupied him for longer than he likes to admit, and which contains spiritual depths in which he knows that he is swimming well over his head. You perhaps know the apocryphal story about St. Augustine, according to which he went down to the seashore one day and saw a little child scooping up water in a pail. Augustine asked him what he was doing; the child replied that he was scooping up the sea into his pail. Augustine said to him: Child, you can’t scoop up the sea in a little pail. The child (who, according to the story, was Jesus) replied to Augustine: So neither can you comprehend God in the little pail of your mind. I recognize that, in attempting to expound the doctrine of the Holy Spirit’s eternal procession, I am in somewhat of the same position as Augustine was when faced with that child. May the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, assist me to speak the truth about him; and if I should say anything about him that requires amendment, may he pardon it.

Filioque is, to begin with, a Latin word. It is the ablative form of Filius, the Latin word for “Son,” combined with the suffix –que, meaning “and.” Its simple meaning is, thus, “and the Son.” But the words “and the Son” do not, by themselves, assert or deny anything; they are not a sentence. They make a claim to truth only by being part of a full, declarative sentence, with a subject and a verb. When one speaks about “the Filioque,” then, one is actually using this single word, Filioque, as a short way of referring to the whole sentence of which it customarily forms a part, that is, the sentence that asserts that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, Spiritus Sanctus … ex Patre Filioque procedit.

The claim that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son is a doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is part of the Creed that most Catholics are familiar with from catechism and from the Mass; it is also something that was defined as Catholic dogma at the Second Council of Lyons and the Council of Florence. From the point of view of an orthodox Catholic, therefore, it is not an optional belief, but a truth of the faith. Whether one is Catholic, or Orthodox, or Protestant, or none of the above, that dogmatic position is a reality with which one has to reckon. Similarly, the claim that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone is unquestionably a doctrine of the Orthodox Church. It was the view of St. Photius the Great, it was affirmed at the Second Synod of Blachernae in 1285 that repealed the Union of Lyons, it was the emphatic teaching of St. Gregory Palamas and St. Mark of Ephesus (who, along with St. Photius, are often referred to as the “Pillars of Orthodoxy”), and it has been reaffirmed by countless Orthodox writers and synods since then. That dogmatic position is also a reality with which one has to reckon. On the face of it, it would appear that the two dogmatic positions are contradictory and irreconcilable, that, if one is true, the other is false, if one is orthodoxy, the other is heresy, and the only possible resolution to the problem is for one or the other party to admit that they are wrong and join the other side. That is the premise upon which the debate has been conducted for most of its unhappy history, and it may well be that the premise is a realistic one: like death and taxes, logical contradiction is a fact of life that one must eventually face.

But, from time to time, some people have thought that the opposition between the two sides has been overdrawn. Sometimes logical contradiction is more apparent than real — that is, in cases where there is an ambiguity in the terms, where people use the same words but mean different things by them. That is what a man named John Bekkos, who lived in the thirteenth century and served for a time as Patriarch of Constantinople, thought had happened in the case of the Filioque debate. As had occurred before in the history of the Church, so also, Bekkos thought, in the case of the Filioque, there had been a misunderstanding between Greeks and Latins; the Latin Church, Bekkos said, when it asserts that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, means no more than what some of the fathers of our own Greek Church meant when they said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. He collected a great many patristic texts (that is, texts of the Church Fathers) to support this claim, and he took this presumed compatibility of meaning as grounds for supporting the Union of the Churches that had been agreed to at the Council of Lyons in 1274. By the middle of the next decade, though, the Union of Lyons was a dead letter, John Bekkos was in jail, and his teaching had been directly condemned by the Second Synod of Blachernae in 1285. If nothing else, that condemnation makes the ecumenical attempt to understand the teaching of the two Churches, not as contradictory, but as expressing complementary insights into the one divine mystery, much more difficult.

I have a great deal of respect for John Bekkos: I think he was a more subtle and perceptive reader of the fathers than he has generally been given credit for; I also believe he was an exceptionally honest man and a sincere Christian. Nevertheless, I cannot say that I find all of his patristic interpretations equally convincing. Although some scholars have noted that, of all the people who were debating about the Spirit in the thirteenth century, he was the only one who gave the history of the controversy any serious attention, the notion that doctrine itself has a history was just as foreign to him as it was to his contemporaries; all of them thought that the position they had identified as the true one must have been the position all the fathers at all times had held to be true, even if some of the texts of the fathers seemed to be asserting something else entirely. This notion that doctrine itself has a history is a characteristically modern notion — indeed, some would claim that it is a characteristically heretical notion. And I would not deny that this notion, that doctrine, in some sense, develops, is fraught with all kinds of intellectual problems and dangers. I bring up the point here only because it seems to me that, if in recent times some genuine progress has been made towards an ecumenical agreement on this issue of the Holy Spirit’s procession, much of that progress has been due to a recognition, by people on both sides, that this doctrine of the procession has a history.

To that history, let us now turn.

An historical account of the Filioque has to try to answer at least two important questions of historical fact, and these two questions, in turn, involve two questions of interpretation. First, there is the question of how this word Filioque got into the text of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed, when the original text lacked it. (And bound up with this factual question there is a more thorny, juridical question: What right did the Latin-speaking Church have to alter unilaterally the text of an ecumenically approved creed?) Secondly, there is the deeper historical question, how did belief in what is sometimes called the “double procession” arise in the first place, and how did belief arise in the opposite proposition, that the Spirit owes his eternal being to the Father alone? This second historical question raises a theological question, the most important question of all: What is the truth of the doctrine?

I will try to answer the first historical question first, and the second one second. As for the two theoretical questions, I will try in passing to say something about them, too, but please remember that this lecture is meant to be kept short.

When Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida placed a solemn bull of excommunication against Patriarch Michael Cerularius and his followers upon the altar of Hagia Sophia on July 16th, 1054, one of the charges he laid against them was that they had deleted the word Filioque from the creed. At least on this basic point, there is now no disagreement: Humbert was wrong, the original version of the creed, as issued by the Council of Constantinople in the year 381, did not contain this word. (The Creed of Constantinople is often referred to as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. That term is at least partially misleading: the creed that derives from the Council of Nicaea, held in the year 325, differs from the later creed in some significant respects, and the Creed of Constantinople is probably not directly based on it. Nor was the Creed of Constantinople immediately accepted everywhere; neither St. Augustine nor St. Cyril of Alexandria ever mention it; probably they had never heard of it. When, in the year 431, the Council of Ephesus prohibited additions to the Nicene Creed, it specifically meant the Creed of Nicaea, not the Creed of Constantinople; and it has often been observed that, if that prohibition were to outlaw any later clarifications of the Nicene creed’s meaning, the Constantinopolitan creed itself would fall under the council’s condemnation.)

The Creed of Constantinople was originally meant to reconcile various dissenting groups to the Church, and, to do that, it uses somewhat conciliatory language; it does not, for instance, apply to the Holy Spirit the much-debated term homoousios, consubstantial, nor does it expressly call the Spirit “God.” It nevertheless asserts the divinity of the Spirit in an indirect way; it does this by ascribing to the Spirit divine attributes, most of them taken directly from scripture: the Spirit is called “Holy,” “Lord,” “life-creating,” he is said to have “spoken through the prophets,” and he is also said, with an allusion to John 15: 26, to “proceed from the Father” (τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον). The primary purpose of this clause in the creed is, like the other predicates applied to the Spirit, to affirm that the Spirit is not a creature; that, at least, is the interpretation given by the Agreed Statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission on the subject of the Filioque, published in 2003; it says that “it was not a concern of the Council to specify the manner of the Spirit’s origin, or to elaborate on the Spirit’s particular relationships to the Father and the Son.”[1] All in all, that seems to me a fair assessment.

In any case, by the late fifth century the Creed of Constantinople was becoming widely used in the East, not only as a baptismal profession of faith, but also as a regular part of the eucharistic liturgy: in that way, it came to be accepted as the creed par excellence.

In the Latin-speaking West, other creeds were in use; some of them, indeed, continue to be used to this day. There was, first of all, what is called the Apostles’ Creed; this creed simply states belief in the Holy Spirit, without any further elaboration. There is also the creed, or psalm, called the Athanasian Creed, or the Quicunque vult. It certainly is not by St. Athanasius. The current view is that this creed originated in Southern Gaul, perhaps about the middle of the fifth century; by the mid-sixth century it was being used liturgically through much of Western Europe. It gives a clear and memorable statement of trinitarian doctrine; the Augustinian influence on it is unmistakable. Among the matters of belief it states as necessary for eternal salvation are the following propositions:

The Father is made of none : neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone : not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son : neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

The existence of this creed, its popularity and the clear, absolute manner in which it states trinitarian doctrine, go a long way towards explaining why, when people in the West did encounter the Constantinopolitan creed, they found the absence of such language in its article on the Holy Spirit anomalous.

The actual insertion of the word Filioque into the text of the Creed of Constantinople almost certainly occurred in Spain, sometime between the Third and the Sixth Councils of Toledo (that is, between the years 589 and 653 A.D.). At the Third Council of Toledo, the Visigothic king, Reccared, who had recently converted from Arianism to Catholicism, caused his bishops to swear publicly to the faith of the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon. In doing so, he required them to affirm the Creed of Constantinople. The text of the Creed of Constantinople in the Acts of the Third Council of Toledo, as they have come down to us, contains the word Filioque. Recent scholarship, however, sees the presence of this word in the text of these acts as probably due to a somewhat later hand; that is to say, it may be that someone, in copying down these acts, assumed that the word should be there, because that is how he had always heard the creed recited, and he added the word to the text. But three things are to be noted. First, whether or not the word Filioque was in the creed these Spanish bishops confessed in the year 589, the acts of this council, as well as the acts of the previous councils of Toledo, make it clear that a belief in a procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son was part of the orthodoxy to which these bishops were expected to subscribe. Secondly, at the Third Council of Toledo the Creed of Constantinople was adopted for liturgical use in Spain, and henceforth became a regular part of the Mozarabic liturgy. This liturgical use of the creed certainly helped to popularize the interpolation when it did occur, and perhaps it helps explain how the interpolation occurred in the first place: perhaps, in some quiet, backwater town of seventh-century Spain, some long-forgotten priest, who may have confused this new creed with the Quicunque vult, added the word, little knowing that he was sowing the seeds of a future international conflagration. The third point I would make is that the addition of the word Filioque to the text of the creed was undoubtedly unintentional; the fathers of the Third Council of Toledo, ironically, added the creed to the liturgy because they wanted to follow the current practice in the East, they had no intention to alter the text and cause a scandal. The overwhelming impression one gets is that the whole thing happened almost unconsciously; given the already-existing conviction that the Holy Spirit in fact proceeds from the Father and the Son, the addition of this word to the creed came about almost by a process of osmosis.

Gradually, the interpolated text found acceptance in other places as well. Gradually, also, there begin to appear negative eastern reactions, first to the doctrine itself, then, when the fact of it became known, to the interpolated creed. The first evidence of an eastern reaction to the characteristic western teaching on the Spirit occurs in a letter, dating from the 640’s, from St. Maximus the Confessor to a priest in Cyprus named Marinus. Maximus wrote this letter at a time when Rome and Constantinople were not in communion; the imperial government at Constantinople was at this time promoting a compromise doctrine called “monotheletism,” that is, the teaching that Christ, although he has two natures, has only one will, a doctrine that the emperors hoped would unite the various religious factions in the East. Rome would have nothing to do with it, and St. Maximus believed that Rome, on this point, as on most points, was right. The imperial court at Constantinople was eager to charge Rome with teaching false doctrine; and, according to St. Maximus, one of the things it objected to was that the reigning pope (Theodore I) had said in a letter that “the Holy Spirit proceeds (ἐκπορεύεσθαι) also from the Son.” St. Maximus defends the pope’s usage; I’ll read what he says:

“With regard to the first matter, they (the Romans) have produced the unanimous documentary evidence of the Latin fathers, and also of Cyril of Alexandria, from the sacred commentary he composed on the gospel of St. John. On the basis of these texts, they have shown that they have not made the Son the cause of the Spirit — they know in fact that the Father is the only cause of the Son and the Spirit, the one by begetting and the other by procession; but [they use this expression] in order to manifest the Spirit’s coming-forth (προϊέναι) through him and, in this way, to make clear the unity and identity of the essence.”

Now, one should note at least two things here. The first is that St. Maximus plainly is defending the Western usage, that is, the Filioque; he thinks that, properly interpreted, it is compatible with traditional Eastern teaching. Secondly, the way he sees the Filioque to be compatible with traditional Eastern teaching later caused some difficulty for supporters of union at the Council of Florence, because Maximus says here that the Son is not the cause of the Spirit. In my own view, what Maximus says here about “cause” has to be taken in conjunction with things he says elsewhere on this subject. Viewed in the light of these other statements, I think it is undeniable that St. Maximus sees the Son as playing a mediating role in the Holy Spirit’s eternal origination from the Father. To give an example: in his work Quaestiones et dubia, there is a chapter in which St. Maximus says the following:

“Just as Mind is the cause of the Word, so also it is [cause] of the Spirit, but by means of the Word [διὰ μέσου δὲ τοῦ λόγου]. And just as we are unable to say that a word is ‘of the voice,’ so also neither can we say that the Word is ‘of the Spirit.’” (Quaestiones et dubia, I, 34)

This passage helps to clarify what St. Maximus means when he says, in his letter to Marinus, that the Father is the “only cause” of the Son and the Spirit. In the passage just cited, he says that the Father causes the Spirit, but that the Father’s causing of the Spirit involves the Son’s mediation. The Father’s being “only cause” does not exclude his causality taking effect through another. There is an order of the persons, and this order is founded upon their internal relationships: the Spirit is “of” the Word, and not vice versa. So, likewise, in his 63rd Question Ad Thalassium, St. Maximus says that “just as the Holy Spirit exists of the Father by nature, according to substance, so also is he, according to substance, of the Son, in that, in an ineffable way, he proceeds from the Father substantially through the Son who is begotten.”[2] The doctrine that St. Maximus teaches in these passages, that the causality of the Father is exercised through the Son, and that the Spirit proceeds through the Son substantially, that is to say, through the Son, from the Father, the Spirit receives his substance, his very being — that doctrine, I would submit, is essentially the doctrine John Bekkos would later teach in the thirteenth century, and on account of which he would be condemned by the Second Synod of Blachernae. As mentioned already, I think Bekkos was a better reader of the fathers than he has been given credit for.

During the course of the eighth century, the Kingdom of the Franks began to play a major role upon the world’s stage. For much of the eighth century, the Byzantine empire, which traditionally had provided military protection to the papacy and to the Italian peninsula, was governed by emperors who pursued a religious policy of Iconoclasm; this resulted in another long period of estrangement between Constantinople and Rome. Furthermore, from the middle of the seventh century onward, the cultural unity of the Mediterranean world was severely disrupted by the rise of Islam, which not only succeeded in capturing the ancient centers of Christian civilization in the Middle East but had rapidly spread across Northern Africa into Iberia and was only prevented from overrunning Gaul by the victory of Charles Martel over the Moors in 732. Increasingly, the popes looked northward to the Franks for protection, rather than eastward to the Byzantine state. On Christmas Day, 800 A.D., Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish king, Charlemagne, as Emperor of the Romans, an act that is sometimes said to mark the beginning of modern history and the birth of Europe as a concrete political entity, but an act which, not surprisingly, did not go over well with the Greeks: it was interpreted by them as an act of treason against the legitimate Roman government, which for centuries had had its home on the shores of the Bosporus. For the purposes of this lecture, the point I wish to stress is that this act intensified the growing political rivalry between Franks and Greeks, a rivalry in which both sides claimed to embody the one, true Christian empire, and that, in this rivalry for imperial power, the differing traditional views of Greeks and Latins concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit soon took on a crucial ideological importance for both sides, as sanctioning their conflicting imperial claims. It will be instructive to see how this ideological antagonism developed, and also to see what the position of Rome was with respect to the two sides.

Even before Charlemagne was crowned as Roman emperor, debate had arisen between Greeks and Franks over the doctrine of the procession. Frankish chroniclers report that, in 767 A.D., a council was held at Gentilly at which Greeks and Romans discussed two issues: the question of whether images of the saints should be painted and displayed in churches, and the question of the Trinity, that is, whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son just as he proceeds from the Father. This is the first known occasion on which the issue of the Filioque was raised in formal debate between East and West. In the following year, Charlemagne succeeded his father Pippin as King of the Franks. He soon made sure that the creed, with the Filioque included, was added to the liturgy at his royal chapel at Aachen; from there the practice of singing it liturgically rapidly spread throughout his dominions. In 787, a council at Nicaea overturned Iconoclasm, ratifying the practice of the veneration of icons; and at this council a letter by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Tarasius, was approved. In this letter, the patriarch confessed, among other things, his belief “in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father through the Son, and who is acknowledged to be himself God” (Mansi XII, 1121 D). The Eastern Empire and Church recognized this synod as the Seventh Ecumenical Council; Charlemagne and his court were much less happy with it. Charles complained about the council to Pope Hadrian I; among other points, he charged that Patriarch Tarasius, by teaching that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son and not that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, was teaching something at odds with the Nicene Creed. Hadrian wrote back to him and defended the patriarch’s language, noting that it was traditional and had been used by fathers both Eastern and Western as well as by the Holy See. Soon after this there appeared the Libri Carolini, i.e., the Caroline books, commissioned by Charlemagne and written by various prelates of the Carolingian court. These books further elaborate the criticisms Charlemagne had already made of the Second Nicene Council, that is, both with regard to icon-veneration and with regard to Tarasius’s claim that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. (I might note that the Libri Carolini were read by John Calvin in the sixteenth century, and helped to confirm him in his abhorrence of icon veneration.) In 794, Charlemagne assembled a council of western bishops at Frankfurt, which the Westerners considered ecumenical, and two years later held another at Friuli near Venice; at both of these, the Filioque was asserted, and at the latter council Paulinus, Patriarch of Aquileia, while acknowledging for the first time that the Latin text of the Creed of Constantinople contained an interpolation, expressly defended the addition on theological grounds, stating that it was necessary to defend against the heresy that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.

While all this conciliar activity was going on in the realm of Charles the Great, and not long after he had had himself declared Emperor of the Romans, an incident occurred in the East that helps to illustrate what the mood was like there. Late in the year 807, a quarrel erupted in Jerusalem. At a Frankish monastery that had been founded on the Mount of Olives, the custom had been established of singing the Creed with the Filioque addition, according to the liturgical practice of the court of Aachen. This practice became known to the Greek clergy in the neighborhood. In a letter sent to Pope Leo, some Frankish pilgrims report of their encounter with an irate Greek monk named John. This monk John, the letter reports, “was puffed up against us, saying that ‘the Franks that are in the Mount of Olives are heretics,’ and he said to us that ‘all you Franks are heretics,’ and he insults our faith, saying that ‘there is no greater heresy.’ And we, for our part, tell him: ‘Brother, mind your language. For, if you call us heretics, you are ascribing heresy to the holy apostolic see.’ And he stirred up trouble for us even to this extent, that, on the day of the Lord’s Nativity, in holy Bethlehem at the holy Manger, where Our Lord, the Redeemer of the human race, deigned to be born for the world’s salvation, he got together laymen who sought to throw us out, while he said, ‘You are heretics, and the books that you have are heretical!’ But, through your holy prayer and faith, the Lord strengthened us. For they were unable to evict us. We all said, ‘Here we choose to die! There’s no way you’re going to kick us out of here!’” The monks go on to note that one of the points on which their liturgical practice differs from that of the Greeks is that their version of the creed is somewhat longer, in that they say that the Spirit proceeds ex Patre Filioque, from the Father and the Son. They mention that this is the way they had heard the creed recited in the royal chapel at Aachen, and that this is stated also in various other books they own; yet the Greeks, in their version of the creed, don’t say this, but say merely “who proceeds from the Father,” and they take deep offense at this Latin wording. The monks ask Pope Leo for clarification on this matter.

We don’t now possess Pope Leo’s reply to the monks. But he wrote also a letter addressed “to all the churches of the East,” in which he gives a statement of faith plainly inculcating the doctrine which the Filioque means to express. Concerning the actual addition to the creed, however, the letter says nothing. Later, in discussions with representatives of Charlemagne, after yet another Frankish council had been held on the matter, Pope Leo made it clear that, while he approved of the doctrine, he was less happy about the addition made to the text of an ecumenically-approved creed; he advised Charlemagne’s bishops to cease singing the creed at the liturgy and gradually to withdraw the word from it. (They did not follow his advice.) To emphasize the point, he had the text of the creed, lacking the Filioque, inscribed in Greek and in Latin on two silver shields which were then hung up in St. Peter’s basilica; Anastasius the Librarian, writing later in the ninth century, says that Leo did this pro amore et cautela orthodoxae fidei, out of love and concern for the orthodox faith. At this time, the Church of Rome still had not adopted the interpolated version of the creed, and it would not in fact do so until early in the eleventh century, at the coronation of a German emperor. Pope Leo’s shields, lacking the word Filioque, were still hanging in St. Peter’s as late as the twelfth century; apparently, no one had thought of taking them down yet.

Now, I recognize that, up to this point, I have said a fair bit about what I described earlier as the first historical question, the question of how the word Filioque came to be added to the Creed; but, as yet, I have said virtually nothing about the second, more important question, where did the doctrine of the Filioque come from. If I have dwelt so much on the first of these questions, it has been partly from a desire to impress upon you the point that this was not merely a theoretical question; it was, indeed, almost from the start, a political one, and, were it not for this political context, the conflict between two rival Christian empires, it is unlikely that the two different interpretations of the procession of the Holy Spirit would have become a Church-dividing issue. I would like to move on to the other historical question, the question of where this doctrine originally comes from; but, before I do so, there is one more issue I need to discuss, a subject matter that anyone who tries to understand this problem of the Filioque needs to become acquainted with. The subject matter I refer to could be summed up in a single, proper name: Photius. One might say that, in all the history we have been looking at so far, people were building a very large firecracker; with Photius, it exploded.

Photius was a brilliant man; that is, indeed, the meaning of his name, “brilliant.” He was the greatest Greek scholar of the whole Byzantine era, in a world in which people took pride in their language in a way that it is perhaps difficult for us, as Americans living in an age of instant text-messaging, to comprehend. He lived at a time which saw what one scholar has described as the “first Byzantine humanism,” a time when a new form of Greek handwriting was invented and the ancient classical texts of Greek civilization were being transmitted to posterity, that is, to us, along with texts of the fathers. Photius was right at the center of that intellectual movement. He was professor at the University of Constantinople, a man who attracted to himself a wide network of students, correspondents, and friends. He came from an orthodox family that had produced leaders in the fight against Iconoclasm; Patriarch Tarasius had been a great-uncle. He knew where he stood in society, and was not the sort of man to be pushed around.

It is not possible for me to relate here in detail the whole story of how Photius twice became patriarch and twice was deposed; of how Bardas murdered the adviser to the Empress Theodora and had her confined to a nunnery, and how Patriarch Ignatius was deposed when he complained about this; of the Emperor Michael the Drunkard, and the mock liturgies that he had his courtiers perform in his palace, and how he befriended the Armenian Basil, who murdered his uncle Bardas and eventually murdered Michael himself; of how Basil, now emperor, first deposed Photius and then reinstated him after hiring him as tutor for his children. Nor can I possibly relate in detail the three councils that dealt with Photius’s situation, each one successively revoking the decisions of the previous one. It is, indeed, a very complicated story. What I will say, briefly, is this: when Photius became patriarch, there was a serious dispute over whether or not his ordination was legitimate, given that his predecessor Ignatius was still living and had been made to step down under dubious circumstances. The question was referred to Rome. Pope Nicholas I examined the evidence, and decided that Photius was in the wrong. (Pope Nicholas, it must be said, wanted something that the Byzantines were not willing to give, namely, Western jurisdiction over the newly Christianized Bulgaria, along with the return of Illyria, which had been annexed to the Patriarchate of Constantinople during Iconoclast days.) The eventual response of Photius and the Emperor Michael was to excommunicate and anathematize Pope Nicholas, which they did at a synod in Constantinople in the year 867. The acts of that synod were later destroyed, but one of the main charges was that Pope Nicholas had sent Frankish missionaries into Bulgaria who were teaching this newly baptized people false doctrines and practices, including mandatory priestly celibacy, fasting on Saturdays, the eating of cheese during Lent, and, worst of all, the addition of the word Filioque to the creed.

In the thirteenth century, John Bekkos, who supported the Union of Lyons, criticized both Photius’s motives and his theology. He pointed out that, in an earlier letter to Pope Nicholas, Photius had referred to things like priestly celibacy, fasting on Saturdays, and the eating of cheese during Lent as examples of cultural differences that the Church had always tolerated for the sake of peace. When Photius did not get his way, Bekkos said, he used these points of difference in order to light a firestorm. Moreover, when Photius and the Roman see were eventually reconciled to each other, at the council that took place in Constantinople in the year 879, no mention was made of the Filioque as a heresy which Rome must abandon; although it must be said that the creed was read without the Filioque at this council, and the council solemnly forbade any alteration, addition, or suppression to be made to it. It also must be said that Bekkos does not mention the quarrel over the Bulgarian church, which was an important part of what was going on.

For the purposes of this lecture, the most important point to make about Photius is that he was the first person to produce a detailed theological critique of the Filioque, and this critique had a lasting effect upon succeeding generations. He presented this critique at greatest length in a book he wrote during the final years of his life, after his second, forced deposition from the office of patriarch; the title of the book is the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit. “Mystagogy” literally means a leading into the mystery; St. Maximus had written a book with the title “Mystagogy,” which was an exposition of the symbolic meaning of the liturgy. Photius’s Mystagogy, by contrast, is concerned not so much with symbolic interpretation as with logical refutation. Photius is convinced that the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son is heretical and blasphemous, and he argues this point with both dialectical agility and endless vituperation.

There are many arguments in this work, so many, in fact, as to be somewhat bewildering; but Bekkos, in the thirteenth century, thought that they depended upon three stated or unstated principles:

1) All that is predicated of the Trinity is said either of one person or of all three;
2) Everything predicated of the divine hypostases is either hypostatic or natural; and
3) The production of the Holy Spirit is the hypostatic characteristic of the Father.

Now, possibly these principles are not, at first glance, very intelligible. But what they are essentially saying is that there is nothing in between person and nature in God, no ontological category that would encompass two persons but not the third. Eventually, some critics of Photius began pointing out that there are, indeed, predicates that apply to two divine persons and not to a third: notably, both the Son and the Holy Spirit are from the Father, and the Holy Spirit is of, that is, belongs to, both the Father and the Son, while he cannot be said to be “of” or “belong to” himself. But Photius’s analysis does raise the question of how such shared attributes are to be accounted for, if, besides person and nature, there are no other ontological differentiations in God.

Photius’s arguments against the Filioque seem to me to boil down to a basic dilemma: If you say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, then you are doing either one or another of two things; either you posit Father and Son as two separate causes for the Holy Spirit, and thereby destroy the Monarchy (the oneness of divine causality) and produce a Spirit who, because he is composite, is less than fully divine, or else you meld Father and Son together into a kind of transpersonal monstrosity, what Photius calls a “semisabellian coalescence.” (Sabellius was a third century heretic who taught that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are really only three separate “faces” or masks of a single, unitary agent, worn by him in succession.) If you do that, and make the causing of another person, not the personal attribute of the Father, but a shared attribute, then, because everything in God that is common must be common to all three, the Holy Spirit also must cause another divine person, and so on to infinity. Thus, some modern Orthodox writers read Photius as having correctly diagnosed the Filioque to be a form of Neoplatonic emanationism in a Christian guise; they see this teaching as implicitly transforming the personal God of biblical faith into the impersonal One of the philosophers; some writers trace everything they dislike about the West to this one, basic error, and, in general, they lay the blame for this error on one person, Augustine of Hippo.

Is that a fair analysis? For my own part, I tend to think that it can only be maintained at the expense of a gross misrepresentation of the history of Christian doctrine.

The claim that St. Augustine “invented the Filioque” has about as much truth to it as the claim one sometimes hears that the Council of Nicaea “invented” the doctrine of the Trinity. Nicaea certainly gave precision and force to that teaching, and applied to it a word, homoousios, that had previously been rather suspect; but anyone who claims that the Council of Nicaea “invented” the doctrine of the Trinity is either ignorant or dishonest; I would advise such a person to consult a standard history of doctrine, like the one by the late J.N.D. Kelly. Similarly, the teaching that the Holy Spirit depends in some way on the Son, not only in his being sent into the world in time, but in his eternal being, was not St. Augustine’s invention; he popularized it, he explored in minute detail its rational foundations and various analogous ways of conceiving of it, and he was a powerful influence in shaping the West’s adherence to it, but he did not invent the doctrine.

What I think needs to be said is that Augustine stands within a particular theological tradition, a particular reading of Christian orthodoxy, and Photius stands within another one, and the roots of their disagreement go back at least to the fourth century, and probably earlier. In technical terms, Augustine is an Old Nicene, Photius is a New Nicene, but they are both theologians committed to Nicene Christianity. Their disagreement on the subject of the Holy Spirit is a reflection and outgrowth of disagreements over how to understand and speak about divine substance, disagreements that preoccupied many sincere Christians during the fourth century.

To give you a better notion of what I am talking about, I have to go back even earlier, to the third century. The two main, paradigmatic figures in Christian theology during the third century were Tertullian in the West and Origen in the East. The way these two men spoke about the Trinity helped to shape the various ways people subsequently thought about the subject. Both of them, in many respects, had a very orthodox understanding; but, in their ideas of divine being or substance, they were strongly influenced by current philosophical views. Tertullian took for granted a Stoic view of substance: he saw divine substance as a kind of very fine, extended, material stuff. Origen considered that idea both crude and false; his own view of divine substance was much closer to that of Middle and Neoplatonism, which spoke of three primordial divine entities or levels of being, three “hypostases.” Both of these ways of seeing divine substance would eventually be viewed as problematic from the standpoint of orthodox Christianity.

Both Origen and Tertullian speak of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as deriving his being through the second one, the Son. But this derivation is understood by them in radically different ways. Tertullian, in keeping with his view of substance, conceives of it as a kind of material extension; Origen conceives of it, in Platonistic fashion, as a kind of eternal, ideal creation or emanation. Again, both of these ways of viewing the Spirit’s origination raise theological difficulties. Tertullian’s view arguably leads to the view of Marcellus of Ancyra, who, in the fourth century, taught that the Godhead expands upon entering into history and then contracts again at the end of days, and that Christ’s kingdom would have an end, when God would be “all in all.” This teaching was condemned at the Second Ecumenical Council; that is why the Creed of Constantinople confesses, of Christ, that his “kingdom will have no end.” As for Origen, if too much stress is laid on his notion of distinct levels of being, this results in Arianism; most of the Arianizing bishops who were strong in the East in the fourth century could be called “Conservative Origenists” — they were strongly subordinationist, and they thought that the Nicene word “homoousios” risked a kind of materialist understanding of God. But there were important Christian teachers in the fourth century who thought that Origen could be read in an orthodox sense, in line with the Council of Nicaea. The most influential of these teachers were the Cappadocian fathers; it was they, more than anyone else, who gave to trinitarian theology, in the Christian East, its final, definitive shape. It is also their influence that primarily shaped the revised form of the Nicene Creed that is the Creed of Constantinople.

Of the Cappadocian fathers, two of them, the brothers St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa, fairly frequently speak of the Holy Spirit as being “through the Son.” The other Cappadocian father, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, often called “the Theologian,” hardly ever speaks in this way. Suffice it to say that Gregory the Theologian was worried that such language could imply an ontological subordination. There were people at this time, sometimes called “Pneumatomachians” or “Spirit-fighters,” who denied that the Holy Spirit is God in anything but an equivocal sense; and many of them held to Origen’s view, that the Spirit is a kind of creature of the Son’s. St. Gregory the Theologian wanted to guard against that error, by emphasizing the Spirit’s direct connection to the source of divine being, the Father. He pointed to the statement in the Gospel of John, that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26). He believed that this text could serve, just like statements about the Son’s being “begotten,” as a characteristic that clearly identifies who the Spirit is. The Spirit is the one who proceeds, just as the Son is the one who is begotten.

St. Gregory the Theologian did not think that the identifying attributes of “proceeding” and “being begotten” could be further analyzed. He thought that the attempt to do so, to define minutely what is meant by the Son’s being begotten and the Spirit’s procession, would only lead people into madness. It is not safe for the impure to approach what is pure, he sometimes remarks; and who among us is pure enough to give an account of the origination of the Holy Spirit himself, of whom Jesus himself says: You cannot tell where it comes from, or whither it goes.

For my own part, I tend to think that Gregory the Theologian’s reticence is wise; I trust it more than I trust Augustine’s speculative urge for certainty and completeness. But I also think it is worth pointing out that Gregory’s unwillingness to speculate and Photius’s speculative negation are two very different things. If Gregory nowhere explicitly affirms that the Son plays an active role in the Holy Spirit’s eternal origination from the Father, neither does he anywhere explicitly deny it.

Nazianzen’s was not the only position on the question of the Son’s role in the origination of the Holy Spirit, even within the Greek-speaking Church, even, indeed, among the three Cappadocian fathers. The position St. Gregory of Nyssa comes to, it seems to me, is a revised statement of Origen’s view, with its ontological subordinationism deleted. Gregory of Nyssa differentiates between an immediate origination from the Father, in the case of the Son, and a mediated origination from the Father, in the case of the Holy Spirit. He compares the three divine persons to three torches, a kind of divine relay, in which the flame of the first torch is the ultimate cause of the flame in the other two, but this flame gets passed down from the first torch to the third via the mediation of the second. There are those who think that this mediation Gregory of Nyssa is talking about is a mediation only on the level of manifestation, not on the level of existence, that Gregory is thus teaching, in effect, the doctrine that his namesake Gregory of Cyprus was going to teach nine hundred years later at the Synod of Blachernae. There are some very distinguished modern patristics scholars who give the thought of Gregory of Nyssa this interpretation, but, so far as I can see, it is wrong: when you talk about one torch lighting another torch, or when you talk about mediate versus immediate origination, you are talking about the being of the thing in question, not just about how the thing externally appears.

This lecture has, I think, come to the end of its allotted time. God is infinite, and much more could be said about this subject, but we are finite, and must at some point cease speaking. Please bear in mind that this was advertised as a very basic introduction, not an exhaustive treatise. And there will be time for you to ask questions afterwards. Perhaps the best way for me to end this lecture would be to cite a favorite passage of mine from one of St. Gregory the Theologian’s autobiographical poems; he is not talking about the Filioque controversy here, not intentionally at least, but his comments could well be taken as applying to that debate:

Others, mutually divided, drive East and West
into confusion, and God has abandoned them to their flesh,
for which they make war, giving their name and their allegiance to others:
my god’s Paul, yours is Peter, his is Apollos.
But Christ is pierced with nails to no purpose.
For it’s not from Christ that we’re called, but from men,
we who possess his honor by hands and by blood.
So much have our eyes been clouded over by a love
of vain glory, or gain, or by bitter envy,
pining away, rejoicing in evil: these have a well-earned misery.
And the pretext is the Trinity, but the reality is faithless hate.
Each is two-faced, a wolf concealed against the sheep,
and a brass pot hiding a nasty food for the children. [3]

In my humble opinion, these lines, written in the fourth century, entitle St. Gregory to be called a prophet.


[1] “The Filioque: A Church-Dividing Issue? An Agreed Statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, Saint Paul’s College, Washington, DC, October 25, 2003,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 48:1 (2004), 93-123; cited p. 97.

[2] Quaestio LXIII ad Thalassium, PG 90, 672.

[3] St. Gregory of Nazianzus, poem 2.1.13, To the Bishops, vv. 151-163; PG 37, 1239-1240.

131 Responses to “The Filioque: a very basic introduction”

  1. […] unione ecclesiarum (one of a few blogs by an Orthodox Christian I can bear to read) has just posted the text of a lecture he recently gave to the Youngstown, Ohio chapter of the Society of St John Chrysostom. Please leave […]

  2. evagrius Says:

    Thank you. An excellent introduction.

  3. Veritas Says:


    Great lecture; good job on keeping the subject focused. That can be a very hard thing to do, given the topic. It’s kind of funny, I could almost tell how you wanted to go into detail at almost every turn; that is what would be ideal, had you the time. Really, these sort of lectures are very important in getting people energetic about doing their own research on the topic; I venture to assume your lecture has accomplished that goal in at least some of your audience.

    May Our Lady, on Her feast day of the Immaculate Conception, pray for your friend, Mr. Vito Carchedi, and us.


  4. Michaël Says:

    Just thought I might mention that the link to this article on your home page and archives seems to be broken. I had to access the article through the Eirenikon site.

    As for comment on the article itself, I would have liked it if you had gone on for another 45 minutes. Could you give us the gist of the questions and answers that followed the presentation?

  5. Fr. Deacon Daniel Says:

    This is simply brilliant! Please if you can, continue your lecture here on you site. What the lecture format lacks, the blogosphere provides!

    Thank you for sharing this. It is – perhaps – the best presentation I have come across on this issue.

  6. Cristian C. Says:

    Congratulations for the very beautiful, luminous lecture.

  7. Hieromonk Ambrose Says:

    It may seem a small point but I think it is important to be aware that Humbert did not accuse the Greeks of a technicality in the wording if the Creed, i.e., removing the filioque from the Creed. He accused the Greeks of theological error and heresy, of not teaching the filioque as a matter of the faith – “…like Pneumatomachoi or Theomachoi, they cut off the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son…”

    The text of the Anathema

    Click to access Schism.pdf

  8. bekkos Says:

    Hieromonk Ambrose,

    I just checked the Latin original of the text you cite; the Latin text is found in C. Will, Acta et Scripta quae de controversiis ecclesiae graecae et latinae saeculo undecimo composita extant (Leipzig and Marburg, 1861), which, in turn, is available on the internet at Google Books (do a search on “Cornelius Will Acta” and you’ll find it). The translator of the Anathema, W. L. North, has indeed translated that clause in the way you cite it above, but he has translated that clause incorrectly. In the Latin, the text reads as follows:

    … sicut Pneumatomachi vel Theumachi absciderunt a symbolo Spiritus sancti processionem a Filio … (Will, op. cit., p. 153).

    North, the translator, has missed the words a symbolo. The translation should read, “… like Pneumatomachoi or Theomachoi, they have cut off from the creed the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son.”

  9. Hieromonk Ambrose Says:

    Thanks for the Latin text. I had never checked it. That is a significant omission in the English.
    For any who like me have trouble negotiating google books

    Click to access 1010-1061,_Humbertus_Silvae_Candidae_Episcopus,_Commemoratio_Eorum_Quae_Gesserunt_Apocrisarii,_MLT.pdf

  10. Tap Says:

    Dr. Gilbert, If you don’t mind me asking, have you read Edward Pusey’s ‘letter’ to H.P. Liddon regarding the Filioque? was wondering if you think his treatment of the subject was balanced?

  11. bekkos Says:


    I don’t mind your asking. Pusey’s “Letter,” published in 1876, was in fact one of the books I consulted in preparing this lecture. Like H. B. Swete’s On the History of the Doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Apostolic Age to the Death of Charlemagne, published in the same year, it is an important work, and has lost little of its value over the century and a quarter since its publication. Of the two books, Swete’s is the more balanced and thorough as a history; Pusey is more directly concerned with negotiations over the Filioque at the Bonn Conference of 1876. The two books are reviewed by an anonymous reviewer in The Church Quarterly Review, vol. 3 (London 1877), pp. 421-465, a review which is also worth reading; the text of it can be found on Google Books.

    Some other books I made use of:

    Henry Chadwick, East and West: The Making of a Rift in the Church, from Apostolic Times Until the Council of Florence (Oxford 2003).

    Peter Gemeinhardt, Die Filioque-Kontroverse zwischen Ost- und Westkirche im Frühmittelalter (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter 2002).

    “The Filioque: A Church-Dividing Issue? An Agreed Statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission,” in: St.Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 48/1 (2004), pp. 93-123.

    Lukas Vischler, ed., Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ: Ecumenical Reflections on the Filioque Controversy (Geneva 1981).

    Colin E. Gunton, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Essays Toward a Fully Trinitarian Theology (London and New York, 2005).

  12. Tap Says:

    Thanks, and thanks for the suggestions on other books

  13. Dr. Gilbert,

    I am hoping you’ll grant me some clarification. You wrote,

    “when you talk about one torch lighting another torch, or when you talk about mediate versus immediate origination, you are talking about the being of the thing in question, not just about how the thing externally appears.”

    What exactly do you mean by the term “externally?”


  14. Veritas Says:

    Mr. Robinson,

    Please don’t take this as an answer to your question of clarification for Dr. Gilbert; he is far more educated in this field then I could ever hope to be. Since, also, I know you to be an educated man on these things as well Perry, you’re question then seems to me to be a baiting one.

    My own sense is that Dr. Gilbert, when he writes “externally,” is referring to the “economic,” and not the “theological”; ad extra, and not ad intra. If my intuition is correct, then my senses would also tell me that you yourself would have also come to the same conclusions. Forgive me if I have assumed too much.

    It also appears to me that Dr. Gilbert’s reading of St. Gregory’s words seems quite right. And, truth be told, it seems rather hard for me to understand exactly how some can read into St. Gregory’s words any sort of concept of “eternal manifestation.”

    As a side note, St. Cyril of Alexandria seems to me to be saying essentially the same thing. Now, we must keep in mind the historical context in which St. Cyril found himself a part, but when Cyril speaks of the “economic” and the “theological,” it seems that his view would not be to distinguish rather rigorously between the two. In fact, he seems to be suggesting the contrary: that what we can see of the relations of God, i.e. the Son breathing the Holy Spirit on the disciples, can tell us something about the inner life of the Holy Trinity.



  15. Veritas Says:

    I just read over my last post. Please forgive the sloppy grammar in my haste.


  16. Veritas,

    Baited or not, the question is, is it a good question, the answer to which would clarify our understanding of the mattr or not? I think it would, which is why I asked it.

    The distinction you proffer isn’t sufficient for the simple reason that say Gregory of Cyprus and others take the shining forth of the Spirit through the Son to be not economic and not hypostatic either.

    There are lots of ways to understand ad extra and ad intra. What one means by these terms and hence by terms like external and internal require a good deal of fleshing out. This is why I wanted to know exactly what he means by it. There is more than one way to understand them, which is usually the case when we use spatial language (location) to speak of non-spatial things.

    I don’t find it hard to see an eternal manifestation for a few reasons. First because logically and metaphysically on certain metaphysics there is space for something between hypostasis and temporal activity or activity in the temporal to be more precise. And this is because when I read Plato, he makes a distinction between the form of the cold and coldness, which he speaks of as deserving the name equally of the cold. Likewise, Plotinus speaks of an external and an internal “energy” of the One.

    So it should come as no surprise that I don’t think Cyril lends support to the position you are putting forth. As for the relations of God, that is a bit vague as I don’t think Cyril is using Aristotle’s category of relation and not in the way that Augustine wishes to use it.

  17. Veritas Says:

    Mr. Robinson,

    Your question is a valid one; I hope I didn’t come off as crude. As far as Gregory of Cyprus goes, I’ll admit that if his position is not one of a simply temporal character, and yet also not one of a “hypostatic” either, then I am admittedly ignorant to his position. To be quite honest, I don’t think this specific question was a central one for any of the fathers in the way it is for us now.
    Boulnois notes,

    “Since the Spirit is both the Spirit of the Father, from whom he proceeds, as well as the Spirit of the Son, from whom he draws all that he has, his procession comes from the Father without excluding the Son’s mediation. The Son receives from the Father a participation in the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit only comes from the Son because the Son receives from the Father the possibility of giving all to the Spirit. Cyril thus insists on the movement of giving which goes from the Father through the Son up to the Spirit and is transmitted by the Spirit to men.” (Marie-Odile Boulnois, “The Mystery of the Trinity according to Cyril of Alexandria: The Deployment of the Triad and Its Recapitulation into the Unity of Divinity” in “The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria,” T.G. Weinandy & D.A. Keating, eds., [London, 2003] pp. 107-108)

    Also, Berthold has it that,

    “The events of Christ’s life, the realities of the divine dispensation, take place not merely to transform us in a mystical way, but also to teach us about the ineffable realities of divine theology. The breathing of the apostles takes place not only to communicate grace and power but, as Cyril makes clear, ‘so that we may believe’ in the mysterious consubstantiality of the divine persons.
    “In the Commentray on Joel, when he [Cyril] comes to the verse, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people’ (2:28-3:1), Cyril again brings out the link between theology and economy. Insofar as he was God, the Son possessed the Spirit. Insofar as he was made man the Spirit descended on him and he was baptized and received the Spirit from above. The Spirit is Christ’s by virtue of his divine nature, and thus he is in the Son and from him.
    “It is the usual practice of St. Cyril to speak of the Holy Spirit’s procession as being through rather than from the Son. This was in accordance with tradition. Nevertheless, he does use the latter expression as we have just seen. In the Thesaurus, he states:

    ‘The Spirit proceeds from the substance of the Son.’

    “He does this as a certain quality, as sweetness from honey, heat from fire, coolness from water.
    “The Holy Spirit will show that Christ is ‘truly God and fruit of the substance of God the Father.’ For Cyril the words of Jesus, ‘he will glorify me since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine’ (John 16:14) point to the Holy Spirit as the revealer of Christ. They signify that the Spirit

    ‘is consubstantial to the Son, proceeds through him, and possesses the most perfect power and activity..'[Joel, 930]

    “Yet even if his usual formula is, as here, the traditional Eastern expression ‘through the Son,’ Cyril nevertheless makes it clear that one could speak just as well as the Spirit’s expression ‘from the Son.’ In a passage from the work De Adoratione in Spiritu et Veritate he shows the identity of the two expressions in his mind by using them in the same sentence:

    ‘[The Holy Spirit] is Spirit of God the Father as well as of the Son, and proceeds substantially from both, that is, from the Father through the Son.'” (G.C. Berthold, “Cyril of Alexandria and the Filioque,” Studia Patristica, 19, [1989], pp. 145-146)

    It is important to note that here Photius takes on a different reading of John 16:14-15 than that of St. Cyril, St. Epiphanius, and Dydimus, to name a few. I think Peter’s Communion article rightly points out what Bekkos’s view was (which was also St. Cyril’s), that — as also Buolnois points out — the Spirit’s eternal procession also from the Son is made possibly because of the Father. In any case, one can see in Cyril that the general status of consubstantial (which is how I understand Photius and Gregory of Cyprus see it) does not take sufficient account of what the fathers are saying — something that Peter’s paper also points out. In any case, that’s just my two cents; I’m sure Peter can more appropriately attend to your questions.

  18. […] know a topic is complex when a “very basic introduction” to it runs over 8,000 words. But when the topic is the filioque, it is difficult to reduce […]

  19. Paul Cat Says:

    I got thrown into teaching a course on Church History at a catholic school last year. The one spot I found that I had difficulty teaching was why exactly the east and west split and the filioque controversy.

    Something I was wondering as I read the transcript is where and/or how does the Athanasius Creed fit into the picture? I do not recall you mentioning it. I believe it dates to before the Council of Nicea and in it there are the lines that go as follows:

    The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

    Plus, how do the Orthodox interpret the passage in the book of revelation (22:1) that reads ” Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb”? As it seems that the spirit (life-giving water) is proceeding from the Father (God)and the Son (Lamb).


  20. bekkos Says:

    Dear Perry,

    I apologize for not getting back to you earlier; I did not check the computer till late today, and I have been busy, like much of the rest of the world, writing Christmas cards.

    Veritas was right to interpret my differentiation between “the being of the thing in question” and “how the thing externally appears” to refer, basically, to the distinction between theology and economy. That is to say, when St. Gregory of Nyssa, in one place, speaks of the Son being from the Father immediately and the Holy Spirit being from the Father in a mediated way,* and when, in another place, he compares the three persons to three torches, of which the third is lighted by the first by way of “transmission” (ἐκ διαδόσεως) through the second,** I find it hard to take these statements as referring solely and simply to some manifestation of God to the creature that implies nothing about the persons’ actual, hypostatic relationships to each other. Nor do I find Gregory of Cyprus’s interpretation, that what is spoken about in such passages is an eternal manifestation, a manifestation outside the realm of the economy, all that helpful. St. Gregory Palamas himself someplace criticizes this view, asking, “An eternal manifestation to whom?” That is, it seems to me, an obvious and legitimate question. If, then, you find my expression “external manifestation” problematic, and thereby imply that there is an internal, eternal manifestation that, strictly speaking, has to do neither with theology nor with economy, then please explain to me who is the eternal subject to whom this eternal manifestation is given, and why he or she needs it. (Within a strictly Neoplatonic system, the question does not present such a problem: in such a scheme of thought, there are posited eternal minds besides the primary hypostases, and various things can be eternally manifested to them. But, within Christian theology, you do not have, strictly speaking, any eternal subjects besides the Trinity itself; and if Gregory of Cyprus has borrowed this interpretation out of his studies of the Platonists, he has forgotten that point.)

    It seems to me a more plausible reading of these passages to suppose that St. Gregory of Nyssa, like some other Christian thinkers of his day, understood the Spirit to receive his very divine ousia by the mediation of the Son. And he uses the analogy of the three torches to show that this mediated reception in no way implies a lessening of the nature of what is received. Nor does it do away with the unique role of the one who is the original source.

    In giving this interpretation of these passages of Gregory of Nyssa, I am explicitly disagreeing with the interpretation given by the Belgian Catholic patrologist André de Halleux in his article “«Manifesté par le Fils.» Aux origines d’une formule pneumatologique” (in his Patrologie et Oecuménisme: recueil d’études, Louvain 1990, pp. 338-366). De Halleux is a highly respected teacher, but I think that, on this point, he is simply wrong. He says, with regard to the three torches image:

    “En évoquant «la flamme divisée en trois lampes» sans que cette division entraine aucune différence de chaleur ni de feu, l’évêque de Nysse aurait pu rattacher les deuxième et troisième flammes directemant à la première; mais il suppose, au contraire, comme allant de soi, que «la première flamme est la cause de la troisème lumière par transmission (ἐκ διαδόσεως), en ce qu’elle a allumé la (lumière) extrême par (διά) la médiane.» Toutefois, l’auteur argumente ici à partir de la théorie platonicienne du bien, dont l’activité se diffuse sans diminution; il ne songe donc pas, dans ce contexte, à distinguer les modes de procession respectifs du Fils de de l’Esprit.” (Op. cit., pp. 359 f.)

    De Halleux dismisses any strictly trinitarian application of the image by claiming that “the author is arguing here from the Platonic theory of the Good, the activity of which diffuses itself without diminishment; he thus does not mean, in this context, to distinguish the modes of procession of the Son and of the Spirit respectively.” Against this, I would note that, although one may possibly draw a parallel in Platonic thought to what St. Gregory of Nyssa is saying here, Gregory is in fact speaking here as a Christian theologian, not as a Platonic philosopher, and, within the context of Christian theology, his image of three torches, lit in various ways, most naturally would indicate something about the three persons of the Trinity in their mutual relations of origin. In other words, I think De Halleux’s attempt to read the passage within a philosophical context has blinded him to its obvious, straightforward meaning; I think the same thing has occurred in the case of readers like David Bradshaw, and probably in your own case as well.


    *) Literally, what he says, in his work On Not Three Gods, is that “one is directly from the first Cause, and another through that which is directly from the first Cause; so that the attribute of being Only-begotten abides without doubt in the Son, and the mediation of the Son, while it guards his attribute of being Only-begotten, does not shut out the Spirit from his relation by way of nature to the Father” (Gregory of Nyssa, Ad Ablabium: Quod non sint tres Dii, PG 45, 133B-C).

    **) Gregory of Nyssa, Adversus Macedonianos de Spiritu sancto, 6; PG 45, 1308 A-B.

  21. bekkos Says:

    Dear Mr. Cat,

    With regard to the Athanasian Creed, you will find that my lecture actually says a fair bit about it, usually while naming it the Quicunque vult. As for how the Orthodox interpret Revelation 22:1, what I can tell you is that, in John Bekkos’s day, people like George Moschabar were claiming that the passage had to refer, not to the Spirit in his eternal hypostastic nature, but solely to the eschatological gift of the Spirit, or rather, to the Spirit’s gifts. John Bekkos didn’t buy that interpretation; he pointed out that the verse uses the very word, ἐκπορεύεσθαι (“to proceed”), that people like Moschabar usually claim is a unique, technical term for indicating the Spirit’s eternal, hypostatic origination. In other words, he charged Moschabar with inconsistency, using ἐκπορεύεσθαι as a technical theological term when he feels like it (at John 15:26) and denying the technical theological use of the term when he doesn’t feel like it (at Rev 22:1).

    My guess is that part of the reason why the verse does not come up more often in the writings of the Greek fathers is that the Book of Revelation, in many of the fathers’ eyes, is too obscure to serve as a basis for dogma. St. Gregory the Theologian notably does not include it in the scriptural canon that he writes up in the form of a poem (PG 37, 471-474); moreover, it is a book that is never read liturgically within the Orthodox Church. I indeed have sometimes wondered if a greater receptivity to the Book of Revelation helped make the West more open to the Filioque doctrine; but, so far as I can tell, the argument based on Rev 22:1 is a relatively late one, even within a Latin-speaking context; I don’t find it in Augustine, for instance. That is not to say that it is a poor argument. It is hard to read John 7:38-39, where the “living water” is identified with the Spirit himself, while reading the “water of life” of Rev 22:1 to mean something else entirely.


  22. Veritas,

    It seems to me that Gregory thinks of it as an eternal manifestation or energetic procession. That is, the procession is related to the doctrine of energies, which is in turn related to how one understands the divine substance. The question may not have been a question for any of the fathers, but neither it seems was the problem of how to distinguish Nous and the One from Psuche, which was a significant problem in late platonism.

    As has been noted here at this blog, there seems to be a difference between the procession of the Spirit from the Father and his reception by the Son which qualifies as his “shining forth.” So it seems possible to speak of the dual procession relative to the order of consubstantial communication within the Trinity without this implying hypostatic origination. If that is so, then the language in Cyril doesn’t of itself carry the conceptual matter that the authors you cite claim. So does “through” mean hypostatic origination for Cyril or no? That is, what does “mediation” mean exactly in terms of metaphysics since mediation can be said in many ways?
    Also, can you explain given the citations you layed out what you think Cyril was accused of relative to this question by the Nestorians and how this may or may not be germane?

    I don’t deny a link between theologia and ecnomia. The question is the nature of the link and what it may or many not license.

  23. Veritas Says:


    As for your question regarding the Nestorians and their view/objections to St. Cyril, my sense is that the Antiochene tradition, from which they (the Nestorians) came, was bound to clash with the Alexandrian tradition sooner or later; as it turns out, St. Cyril would attack Nestorius (recall his infamous IX anathema), and Nestorius would return his own anathema in kind, but it is Theodoret of Cyrus who really takes up the defense of the Antiochene view.

    Reminiscent of Theodore of Mopsuesita (“We neither regard the Spirit as a son, nor as having received His subsistence through the Son.”), pupil of Diodore of Tarsus, Theodoret states:

    “We have been taught that the Holy Spirit has His subsistence from the Father — that the Father is the source of the Spirit. He is called the Spirit of Christ, as being consubstantial with the Father and the Son; not because, as the heretics affirm, He was made by the Son, whereas the Gospel teaches that He proceeds from the Father.” (Haereticarum fabularum compendium, V, 3)

    When Theodoret says here, “as the heretics affirm,” he probably has in mind Origen or Macedonius. The Antiochene view was uneasy (and unwilling) to allow any dependence of the Third Person to that of the Second Person; they thought that it smacked of heresy, given what Origen and others had previously taught: that the Third Person really did owe its existence to that of the Second, and so the sole Monarchy of the Father is blasphemously abolished. For my own part, I think Theodoret’s view is sincere and Christian, although I think his defensive theology is just that, defensive. He thinks he is defending his views against those of Origen and the like, and he is quite right; although he doesn’t see how his own view may not align so evenly with that of the Cappadocians, or at least St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Basil. Recall how St. Basil, while disagreeing with Eunomius, did not object to the Son being a cause of the Spirit. He easily could have, and I believe John Bekkos was very perceptive in pointing that fact out.

    Just as Theodore and Theodoret say (for their own reactionary reasons) plainly that the Son does not have His subsistence from the Son, so I think St. Cyril’s words should be seen as much the same:

    “The Spirit has by nature His subsistence from Him [the Son], and being sent from Him upon the creature, works its renovation.” (Thesaurus; PG 75, 608)

    I appreciate your willingness to see some other way; a “middle road” if you will. That is, as of now, how I see the Cypriote’s view. I think he was convinced, through Bekkos’s persuasive arguments, that he did indeed need to posit some other way of viewing the Trinity than had previously been explicated by Photius; although, I must admit, I always thought it was mere wording, i.e., “eternal” not really meaning eternal in the eternal sense, and that Gregory was really just speaking of the salvific mission to man, ad extra. You seem to be saying something different. Perhaps I have been mistaken, something that I should be familiar with by now. In any case, I think Peter raises a good question; one that I have wondered as well:

    “If, then, you find my expression ‘external manifestation’ problematic, and thereby imply that there is an internal, eternal manifestation that, strictly speaking, has to do neither with theology nor with economy, then please explain to me who is the eternal subject to whom this eternal manifestation is given, and why he or she needs it.”

    Could you possibly answer how it is that you and Gregory of Cyprus see this?


  24. Anthony Says:

    I’m surprised more hasn’t been said about the quote from St. Maximus that begins: “Just as Mind…” For my part, I don’t see how this quote can be interpreted as referring to an “eternal manifestation.” Whether it is compatible with the specific Latin doctrine of the filioque is another matter, of course. In any case, it seems to speak without qualification of the origin (procession) of the Spirit, by the Mind, “διὰ μέσου δὲ τοῦ λόγου.”

  25. Tap Says:

    Anthony, from what work of Maximus is you phrase quote from?, Also can Veritas or Dr. Gilbert help us with this?

  26. bekkos Says:


    The quotation from St. Maximus is given in the text of the lecture; the reference there is to the work Quaestiones et dubia I.34. In the edition of José H. Declerck (Turnhout, 1982) [=Corpus Christianorum, ser. gr., vol. 10], the citation occurs on p. 151; in Migne’s Patrologia Græca, vol. 90, it occurs at col. 813B.

    I would note that a new translation of this work has just come out: St. Maximus the Confessor’s Questions and Doubts, translated by Despina D. Prassas (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010). Dr. Prassas’s translation of the passage in question occurs on p. 147 of this book; she renders it as follows:

    That it is not possible to say that Christ is “of the Spirit” as, in the case of the Father and of the Son, it is said indifferently “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ.”

    Just as the nous is the cause of a word, so, also [the Father is the cause] of the Spirit through the mediation of the Logos. And just as we are not able to say that the word is of the voice, neither can we say that the Son is of the Spirit.

    I would only add that I would agree with Anthony, that it is hard to see this text as indicating an “eternal manifestation”; it plainly states that it is “through the Son” that the Father causes the Spirit. And that, in brief, was John Bekkos’s whole point.


  27. Anthony Says:

    I think the context of St. Gregory of Nyssa’s torch analogy shows that it is clearly not talking about an eternal manifestation (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2903.htm, see the paragraph beginning “For the plea will not avail them…”). Of course, if scholars smarter than I say otherwise, I can’t exactly press the point.

    Off topic, but: Dr. Gilbert, I am reading Papadakis’ Crisis in Byzantium about the Council of Blachernae. Do you have any thoughts on the accuracy of the history it presents? Just curious. Rhetorically speaking, it is not very friendly to Bekkos.

  28. bekkos Says:


    When one cuts through the rhetoric, one can in fact find much useful information in Papadakis’s book. He undoubtedly has read the historical sources pertaining to the Synod of Blachernae. How fair a presentation of these sources he gives remains an open question to me; it is not something I think can decided before translations become available of Meliteniotes’ and Metochites’ accounts of those same events. But on the basic historical sequence, Papadakis is probably trustworthy, though, as I say, one needs to read him critically, and try to separate fact from interpretation.

    Papadakis tends to minimize anything that would place his hero, Patriarch Gregory II, in an unflattering light. So, for instance, the question of how George of Cyprus went from being one of the leaders of the unionist party, in the days before and just after the Second Council of Lyons, to being one of the chief accusers of unionists in the days after the death of Emperor Michael VIII, is smarmed over with a thick layer of pious justification.

    On p. 47 of his book, Papadakis writes:

    In short, like the young emperor, Andronicus (whose behavior during his joint rule with his father the patriarch is trying to defend), Gregory, too, was hostile to the negotiations. The whole enterprise appeared misguided—”contrary to his convictions”—and yet, he had no choice in the matter in view of the emperor’s restraining orders.

    On this, I have written in my copy of Papadakis’s book:

    “According to Pachymeres, at the time Bekkos made his reply to the Emperor that the Latins should be counted in the category of those who are not called heretics, but really are, George of Cyprus (whom Papadakis calls “Gregory” throughout, retrojecting his patriarchal title) railed at him. This was before Lyons, at a time when many ecclesiastics were openly expressing uneasiness about the Emperor’s theopolitical agenda; the Cypriot, by contrast, was actively promoting it.”

    That is to say, Papadakis’s claim that George/Gregory of Cyprus “had no choice in the matter” is true only to the extent that professional courtiers like the Cypriot and Manuel Holobolus could not simultaneously maintain their governmental positions and their personal integrity, so they chose to promote the former.

    On p. 44, Papadakis cites George Metochites, who describes the Cypriot as a fox who did everything out of a concern to advance his own career. Papadakis dismisses this description; he characterizes Metochites’ Dogmatic History as “humorless” — evidently Papadakis expects Metochites, rotting in a Byzantine jail, to dish up jokes, and is disappointed when he fails to find them. Virtually every page of the book has gratuitous sneers of this character. For my part, I think Metochites is at least as trustworthy a witness to events of that time as anybody else; he knew Gregory of Cyprus personally, and, if he describes him as a “fox,” he also gives a lot of specific information supporting that characterization, most of which Papadakis chooses to ignore.

    For instance, Metochites points out that George/Gregory of Cyprus, who had heaped effusive, oratorical praises upon the Emperor Michael when he was alive, cursed him and refused him Christian burial when he was dead, and prohibited his widow from having prayers said on his behalf. This was the gratitude that he showed, Metochites says, for a man who had cared about him and had helped him at every stage of his career.

    All in all, then, my complaint is not that Papadakis’s book is full of false historical information. My complaint is that it is full of biased, one-sided interpretations of history, that it routinely dismisses Bekkos and his associates as “anthologists” (i.e., not theologians) without giving the patristic evidence they present the serious hearing that it deserves, and that Papadakis’s interpretation of this history receives more attention than it actually merits only because no better, more balanced and objective account of this important controversy has yet been made available in the English language. I don’t know if I can supply that lack, but I am hoping to redress the balance by making some of Bekkos’s own writings available, so that people can judge for themselves.


  29. Anthony Says:

    Dr. Gilbert,

    Thank you for the informative reply. Having finished the book, I am quite disappointed with the biased, even apologetic, way it was written, which was obvious even to me, who knew only the broad outlines of the story prior to reading the book. Perhaps some of the defensiveness in Papadakis’s tone (apart from errors of interpretation) stems from the time the book was written (1983), when Western scholarship was still largely hostile to Gregory of Cyprus.


  30. Fr. Deacon Daniel Says:

    Dr. Gilbert,

    I continue to visit your site and read your articles with great interest. I was curious, if you have the time, about your thoughts on Rev. Dr. Paul Babie’s Discussion Paper on the filioque issue as it relates to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, which has officially dropped the use of the filioque from the Creed in the liturgy.


    God bless!

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  31. bekkos Says:

    Dear Fr. Deacon Daniel,

    I read the Rev. Dr. Babie’s paper just now. (Would “Babie” be a shortened form of “Babiak”? Just wondering.) I confess that it raises more questions for me than it answers.

    First, I would note that, from the first page onward, Fr. Babie speaks of “the Eastern Christian theological tradition,” implying from the start that there are no significant theological differences between Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. Perhaps that is a true assessment, or perhaps it is not. Either way, I don’t think the issue can be resolved merely by lumping all theological phenomena one chooses to designate as “Eastern” and “Christian” under this generic phrase, “the Eastern Christian theological tradition.” One needs to look at councils and theologians, authoritative ecclesiastical statements, and see what they teach. To a small extent, Fr. Babie does that later on in the essay, but mostly after he has already established, to his own satisfaction, the existence of a single “Eastern Christian theological tradition,” by assuming what he wants to prove.

    On p. 2, Fr. Babie writes:

    Eastern Christianity considers the filioque, regardless of the purpose for which it was added to the Creed, to be an illegitimate interpolation of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, an alteration that lacks canonical status.

    By using the catch-all phrase “Eastern Christianity” here, Fr. Babie, again, assumes what he ought to demonstrate; he begs the question of what Eastern Catholics teach. It is clear that Orthodox Christians view the interpolation of the Creed as canonically irregular, and most would say, illegitimate; but it is hard for me to see how an Eastern Catholic could hold the interpolation to be illegitimate, if being an Eastern Catholic implies acceptance of the Council of Florence, which stated that the interpolation was legitimate. Fr. Babie might have a stronger case if he were able to cite some Eastern Catholic theologians who asserted this illegitimacy; instead, he refers the reader to an article by David Melling, an Orthodox theologian. So, up to this point in the essay, his case amounts to assertions without argument.

    Again, further down on p. 2, Fr. Babie rejects, not only the legitimacy of the addition to the Creed, but the doctrine itself — all the while citing only Orthodox sources. In the course of this, he says some rather odd things.

    The Doctrine of the Trinity, for Eastern Christian theology, is not an invention of theologians, nor a teaching which gradually developed within the Church, but a Divinely revealed truth.

    Is this meant to suggest that, for Western Christian theology, the doctrine of the Trinity is an invention of theologians? Moreover, from this citation, it would seem that Fr. Babie denies that any development of the doctrine of the Trinity occurred within the Church. Yet, in the next paragraph, he writes:

    It is useful to consider the development of the Doctrine of the Trinity in the East.

    Something odd has just happened here; what was given by the right hand has just been taken away with the left. The Doctrine of the Trinity is not a teaching which gradually developed within the Church, but it is useful to consider the development of the Doctrine of the Trinity in the East. Is there not some lack of logical consistency in this?

    Page 3: The characterization of the Cappadocians as having “developed their teaching on the Holy Trinity along the lines of the Antiochene school” is misleading at best. (I will assert this without proof; but, having written a doctoral dissertation on St. Gregory the Theologian, I think I can be trusted on this matter.) The description of the Cappadocians as having defined the distinguishing characteristic of the Spirit as “proceeding” really applies only in the case of St. Gregory Nazianzen; for both St. Basil and his brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, the point about the Spirit’s being “through the Son” was just as important as the point about his “proceeding.” And, even in the case of St. Gregory Nazianzen, it is begging the question to presume to know what he would have made of a doctrine like that of St. Augustine’s. When Fr. Babie says, “In this system, filioquist thought is entirely out of place because it obscures what is unique to the Hypostasis of the Father,” etc., it seems to me that the “system” he is talking about is not so much that of the Cappadocian fathers as that of St. Photius the Great, an author whom Fr. Babie notably fails to mention.

    Page 4: It is, I think, out of place for me to try to adjudicate questions about Ukrainian Catholic identity. Also, although I have read one of the books Fr. Babie refers to, Fr. Borys Gudziak’s Crisis and Reform: The Kyivan Metropolitanate, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Genesis of the Union of Brest, it is some years since I read it, and I don’t have it here with me. But I seem to recall that, in that book, Fr. Gudziak spoke at some length about the role of Isidore, Metropolitan of Kiev, at the Council of Florence; perhaps he even cited the case of Isidore to argue that there was a continuing unionist strain of thought in the Church of Kiev, and that that Church never formally disowned the Florentine union. About Isidore of Kiev/Kyiv, Fr. Babie says nothing. Were he to say something about Isidore, it might undercut his attempt to depict the Council of Florence and the Synod of Brest-Litovsk as being in flat contradiction with each other.

    Page 5: Fr. Babie infers, from a reading of the First Article of Union from the Synod of Brest-Litovsk, that that synod understood the filioque to be “a grave theological error.” My own, simple reading of that Article does not support his interpretation. First, because the article states that the disagreement between Romans and Greeks over the procession “probably endures for no other reason than that we do not understand each other” — in other words, if each side had a better understanding of what the other side was saying, it would recognize the essential orthodoxy of the other side. This hardly amounts to viewing the filioque to be “a grave theological error.” Secondly, because, when the Article states

    we therefore request that we not be constrained to a different confession [of faith], but that we remain with the one that we find expressed in the Sacred Scriptures, in the Gospels, and also in the writings of the Holy Greek Doctors, namely, that the Holy Spirit does not have two origins, nor a double procession, but that He proceeds from one origin, as from a source — from the Father through the Son

    I see nothing in this that explicitly affirms the filioque to be “a grave theological error.” I see the Article as affirming that, if one takes the filioque to mean that the Father and the Son are two origins of the one Holy Spirit, then that is an error, and if one takes the filioque to mean that there is one procession from the Father and another procession from the Son, that also is an error; but, if one takes the filioque to mean that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, and if one, further, takes the Father, through the Son, to be the single origin and source of the Holy Spirit’s being, then this is not a theological error, but in line with the teaching of Scripture and of the Holy Fathers. In other words, it seems to me that this Article from Brest-Litovsk is essentially confirming what was taught at Lyons and Florence; and I doubt that Rome would have accepted communion with the Ukrainian bishops under other terms.

    The bishops say, “we therefore request…,” probably implying thereby that, as both statements of faith are equally valid and legitimate in their own linguistic spheres, we ought to be allowed to retain that statement of faith which we have inherited from our fathers. That was John Bekkos’s position in the thirteenth century, and it seems to me that this interpretation makes the best sense of the passage.

    In none of this do I wish to make any judgment upon Fr. Babie’s person, or upon the sincerity of his Catholic faith. I only know him on the basis of what I have read here, and, as mentioned already, questions about Ukrainian Catholic identity are outside my proper sphere of adjudication. But, since you ask me what I think of his essay, I have told you.

    Thanks for continuing to read my blog!


  32. Fr. Deacon Daniel Says:


    Thank you so much for your penetrating analysis and insight.

    Yes, I too was bothered by the assumption of unanimity when speaking about this issue as though a singular, hermetically sealed position could be magisterially ascribed to the entire Christian East. This is quite commonplace, I think, in most polemical works on the subject. It creates the illusion of speaking from a secure position, but ultimately the cracks reveal themselves upon closer scrutiny. One need only look at the enormous list of patristic quotes from Patriarch John Bekkos on the subject to see that the Photian model of Trinitarian Theology does not reflect the whole spectrum of Eastern views, but a very narrow band within a band.

    That said, I certainly favor the removal of the filioque from all the Creeds of Christendom, since, while one can certainly say that it is reconcilable with the Monarchia of the Father, it’s insertion in the Creed is an unnecessary offense against the expressed unity of faith such a Symbol is meant to engender in the Churches and is thus also a wound to Christian charity. The Papacy may protest its perfect canonical legality (another discussion in itself), but even things which are “legal” are not necessarily either good or prudent.

    But to insinuate that the entire Eastern Christian theological tradition in toto (I assume he includes the Oriental traditions in addition to the Greek) rejects filioque (as it is truly defined, not in terms of its how many of its detractors misrepresent it) as a theological error is overreaching, in my opinion.

    I have also heard it said that the Latin position on filioque is the result of confusing the Theological Trinity with the Economic Trinity. I can certainly see that there might be dangers in a whole host of ways if in fact such a confusion were to exist. Might it also be said that an exaggerated division of the two – theological and economic – also presents its own set of theological dangers? Might such an extreme position lead one ultimately into skepticism regarding all of Divine Revelation?

    I am very much attracted by the eirenicism of Patriarch John Bekkos vis-a-vis the relationship of the Greek East and the Latin West. It is a shame that he was so micharacterized (IMHO) by the recent and otherwise helpful analysis of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue on “Filioque” as being “pro-Latin” in his theology. This insinuates that the Patriarch was a “Latinizer” which appears not to have been the case at all. To reject certain polemical strains within the Orthodox theological tradition as representative of the whole of Orthodoxy does not mean that one has betrayed a genuine expression of his own Orthodox theological tradition. It is an unfortunate thing when certain Eastern Catholic writers in the genuinely positive interest of restoring our full Eastern patrimony have unquestioningly embraced certain aspects of these polemics as though they faithfully and fully represent the “Eastern view.” As I said, they may only reflect bands within bands.

    For my part I do believe that it is possible to be fully Eastern without being anti-Western. I believe that this was one of the noble aims of the Union of Brest-Litovsk.

    Apologies for the ramble. Again, I enjoy reading your blog.

    In ICXC,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  33. Veritas Says:

    “The Papacy may protest its perfect canonical legality (another discussion in itself), but even things which are “legal” are not necessarily either good or prudent.”

    Hello, Fr. Deacon Daniel,

    I think this is very well-put. This is someting I’ve been saying to my fellow Latin rite Catholics for some time. It very well may be that I am being shortsighted — that questioning the prudence of the decisions of Peter’s office is said to be unfair, and such a thing may open up the Papacy to a whole bag of scrutiny through the ages — but, if we are to be reunited, are we not to carefully examine our pastoral decisions that have brought us to this point? In many regards, it seems that both Catholic and Orthodox are unwilling — at this point — to be constructively (but seriously) critical of both their respective pastoral decisions.

    The Holy Spirit will truly have to be at work if we are to be one again.


  34. Dear Peter, I would also like to add my laudations to those above regarding this article. You have very well treated a difficult subject that wreaks havoc in the ecumenical dialogue from not only a theological perspective, but also has nuances of historical, cultural, more modern examination, polemical aspects. I also appreciate your analysis of Fr. Paul Babie’s article. As a short catechetical summary and not a scholarly article he would likely also agree with a number of your points, but I admit my general agreement with Fr. Paul’s conclusions regarding the impropriety of the filioque in our usage as Greek Catholics. As a Ukrainian Greek Catholic one cannot, as our late Patriarch +Josyp (Slipiyj) reminded us, separate the Council of Florence from the rest of the history of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. While I, like Fr. Borys Gudziak in his seminal and vital history of the Union, am somewhat skeptical about the total “theological” impact of Florence on Brest, nonetheless one cannot completely reject that history or even previous examples that surely had an impact on the milieu of the Union Fathers of Brest, such as Prince Danylo and other manifest examples even before Florence. The Kyivan Church has always enjoyed a unique place as the crossroads of Eastern and Western Christianity, not in a syncretistic way, but as a place where dual communion between the traditions of Constantinople and Rome was seen as something tangeable, with none of the entrenched polemic that became in vogue from both East and West especially in the 18th century and afterwards.

  35. David Hemlock Says:

    Dear Peter,
    Pardon me for saying so, but horsefeathers! ;-)

    You wrote: “When, in the year 431, the Council of Ephesus prohibited additions to the Nicene Creed, it specifically meant the Creed of Nicaea, not the Creed of Constantinople; and it has often been observed that, if that prohibition were to outlaw any later clarifications of the Nicene creed’s meaning, the Constantinopolitan creed itself would fall under the council’s condemnation.”

    This very old Western claim, which ought to be simply abandoned by respectable folk, is no more convincing today than when Paulinus advanced it at the Council of Frejus-Toulon in 796, and has been specifically addressed by the East for centuries (hadn’t you noticed?). I’ll let Jaroslav Pelikan provide the requisite retort: “If this addition [in the Ecumenical Creed of 381] was legitimate, why was the Filioque illegitimate? This Western argumentation missed at least part of the point of the Eastern critique. For even if an irenic Easterner were persuaded by Western logic to acknowledge the theological correctness of the Filioque, the unilateral insertion of the formula into the creed remained a grave scandal, one that could be set straight only if ‘a general council of the Western and Eastern churches’ [Nicetas of Nicomedia] convoked by papal and imperial authority, were to legislate the addition. It was up to a council to expand a creed that had been formulated by a council” (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, Vol 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom, p. 192).

    Your additional error was to suppose the prohibition was “to outlaw any later clarifications” of the creed. “Clarifications” of a creed (rhetorical reductionism on your part??) is a tad different than *unilaterally amending* an ecumenical creed!! (to put it charitably). So if the Ecumenical Creed of 381 “added” to Nicea I, it was ecumenically, not unilaterally as the West did centuries later (and has been continuing to do non-stop ever since). Pope Leo understood this was not something the West should do alone, as you duly noted in your article, and as he duly noted by inscribing the creed without the Filioque on shields of silver.

    I don’t want to give a mistaken impression however, despite the above (and other hesitations I haven’t mentioned) I did enjoy your lecture, though it confirmed my belief that much of the Western argument for Western alteration, unilaterally, of an Ecumenical Creed, in violation of their own apparent agreement to a prohibition of the same, remains as problematic as it ever was. Respectfully, I do think Jaroslav Pelikan had a much more comprehensive and more balanced handle on the subject of the Filioque than the above when he wrote The Spirit of Eastern Christendom -while still a Lutheran who confessed the Filioque at the time… Possibly this great scholar’s ability to retain a good academic balance was part of the reason he later converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and confessed the Creed without the Filioque thereafter until his death (and unto the ages of ages ;-)

  36. bekkos Says:


    It seems to me that your criticism avoids the point that was made in the sentence immediately preceding your citation. Neither St. Augustine nor St. Cyril of Alexandria, the leading figure at the Council of Ephesus, ever cite the Creed of Constantinople of 381 (though I seem to remember that Pelagius somewhere does). The Creed that the Council of Ephesus, in its canon, is talking about is the Nicene one, not the Constantinopolitan one. That was the Creed that was used in the Church of Alexandria at the time; the Alexandrians did not recognize the Council of Constantinople of 381, probably because it elevated the bishop of Constantinople over the see of Alexandria; nor did the West accept that Council until some time later (its canon elevating Constantinople over Alexandria was not accepted until the thirteenth century). At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Creed of Constantinople is cited with approval, and the Church at large has come to recognize this as the ecumenical creed and even, by a curious metonymy, has come to call it “the Nicene Creed”; nor am I in favor of adding words to it; but my point was simply that, if the prohibition by the Council of Ephesus of any new creed meant, in fact, to prohibit any creed other than the Creed of Nicaea, or excluded the addition of any words to it, then the Creed of Constantinople (now called “the Nicene Creed”) would itself fall under that prohibition. That this same point was advanced by Paulinus at the Council of Frejus-Toulon in 796 is very possible, but that circumstance does not, I think, show the claim to be false, or something that “ought to be simply abandoned by respectable folk.” Nor, so far as I can see, does anything else that you say show this.

    In brief, the process by which the Creed of Constantinople came to be recognized as “the ecumenical Creed” differed in the West and in the East; the “Filioque” addition, and the consequent controversy over it, is one unfortunate byproduct of that difference. What is called “the Nicene Creed” (i.e., the Creed of Constantinople) never circulated in the West in any other form than with the Filioque; by the time people came to realize that the Western text differed from the Eastern one, that text, with its addition, had already become a traditional part of Latin Christian piety. Pope Leo III may have encouraged Charlemagne and his clerics to erase the word for the sake of ecclesiastical peace, but he did not excommunicate those who used it, nor did he condemn the theology of it, as Photius later would do.

    As for the late Jaroslav Pelikan, because I do not have his volume at hand, I cannot right now examine the context of the passages you cite. But I would note that he says that this grave scandal “could be set straight only if ‘a general council of the Western and Eastern churches’ [Nicetas of Nicomedia] convoked by papal and imperial authority, were to legislate the addition.” Was Florence anything other than this?


  37. Hyperion Says:

    One of the arguments that the Latins use to try to proof the Filioque is that because the Son received all from the Father excluding the personal characteristics of the Father as divine hypostasis, implicitly He received the procession of the Holy Spirit. But I think that this is an error because in John 15:26 the gospel says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and this means that the proceeding of the Holy Spirit is a fundamental characteristic of the hypostasis of the Father. Now the fact that the Son received all from the Father excludes the hypostatic characteristics of the Father, and this is applicable to both the generation of the Son and to the proceeding of the Holy Spirit, because both are hypostatic characteristics of the Father (the proceeding of the Spirit from the Father is explicitly revealed as a hypostatic characteristic of the Father in John 15:26). So following this line of thinking it becomes clear that the Father did not give or communicate to the Son neither the personal characteristic of generating the Son, neither the personal characteristic of the Father of proceeding the Holy Spirit. Both these characteristics are personal for the divine hypostasis of the Father and were not given nor communicated to the hypostasis of the Son.

    Furthermore, according to that saying that the Father gave all to His Only-Begotten Son, expressions like “the Spirit of the Son”, “the Spirit of Christ” are intelligible because when the Father gave everything to His Son, He also gave His Spirit (the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father) to the Son and that is why the Spirit of the Father is also the Spirit of the Son, because the Father gave His Spirit to the Son, but the Father could not communicate nor give to the Son the Father’s hypostatic characteristic to proceed the Holy Spirit also as He didn’t communicate to the Son the characteristic of generating the Son. Al these are sustainable because there is no place in the Scriptures that says that the Spirit proceeds (or co-proceeds) from (also) the Son, but there is a place in Scriptures, John 15:26, where explicitly says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and that means that the proceeding of the Holy Spirit is in fact a hypostatic characteristic of the Father, which as an incommunicable characteristic of the Father could not have been transmmitted nor communicated in every way to the Only-Begotten Son of God.

    I hope these thoughts will be considered by the readers and I accept every kind of reasonable critique. Thanks.

  38. Lucian Says:

    I don’t think the Filioque is true because it lacks universality (catholicity).

  39. bekkos Says:

    Is then the explicit denial of the Filioque something possessing universality (catholicity)? Is ἐκ μόνου τοῦ Πατρός something all the fathers, of west and east, have taught at all times? I don’t think so, Lucian.

  40. Lucian Says:

    I understand what you mean… but why make an exception out of the Filioque?

    For instance, I don’t imagine you asking: “Is dyophysitism something ALL the fathers, of west/east AND orient, have taught at ALL times?”, and then concluding: “I don’t think so, Lucian”, with the implied subtext: “Therefore Monophysitism can be a viable Christological alternative”.

    I eliminated the filioque in the same manner as all other heterodox believes, by proving it to be geographically restricted to the West. Its opposite, in turn, is common to all other regions: Orthodoxy, Monophysitism, and Nestorianism. The vote against it is 3:1, just as with monophysitism and nestorianism. Orthodoxy -on the other hand- has no doctrines against which such a negative consensus can be formed.

    *IF* Roman Catholicism would’ve indeed been the original faith, then we should expect Monophysites and Nestorians to confess the Filioque as well, and only the Eastern Orthodox to deny it (if indeed its rejection was local [characteristic only of Greek or Byzantine Orthodoxy], and/or an innovation [existing no sooner than Saint Photius in the 9th century]).

  41. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    There are several unstated assumptions in your argument that are faulty or at least seriously open to question:

    1. That the meaning intended by the filioque is that explicitly rejected by Orthodox regional councils rather than that explicitly taught by the Catholic Church.

    2. That the Creed without the filioque ipso facto precludes the interpolation, and that the two versions are thus incompatible.

    3. That the Maronites and the majority of the Melkites and Assyrians, and the substantial minority of Rus, who accepted the filioque and united with Rome were somehow not Eastern.

    4. That the controversy at Chalcedon was between dyophysitism vs monophysitism rather than between dyophysitism vs miaphysitism.

    I mention this last assumption because it is central to what historically became a practice (sadly only recently abandoned in the West) of ascribing particular meanings to the theological formulae preferred by the “other” in such a way as to preclude their orthodoxy, with little regard to their intended meanings. Hence those who reject Chalcedon are ipso facto “monophysites;” those who rejected Ephesus are ipso facto “Nestorians;” similarly, the Maronites (being out of communion with Orthodoxy) were ipso facto “monothelites.”

    The issue our host essentially put to you was that no pan-Orthodox council (or even regional Orthodox council that I am aware of) has ever anathematized the filioque as it is understood by Catholics, and yet you treat its rejection as a defining test of orthodoxy.

    I have mentioned this before on this blog, but I will state it here again explicitly: if Orthodox anti-ecumenists wish to put a definitive end to hopes of reunion based on anything other than the complete surrender of the West, all they have to do is put their assumption to the test. Either call a pan-Orthodox council, or get all the autocephalous Churches individually, to anathematize the idea of procession through the Son in a more than temporal sense.

  42. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    Lest anyone undertake a confused search of the archives, that should have been “I have mentioned this before on other blogs” rather than “… this blog” — a mild case of disorientation on my part. :-(

  43. bekkos Says:

    I understand what you mean… but why make an exception out of the Filioque?

    First, I don’t make an exception out of the Filioque — this issue of “universality” was brought up by you, not by me. You will nowhere find any appeal being made to the Vincentian canon (quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus) in the lecture which I posted here a year and a half ago, for the simple reason that I don’t find that canon a self-evident, do-it-yourself guide to determining what the teaching of the Church is; it is useful in many cases, but it doesn’t do away with the need for authoritative ministers of the Church — i.e., bishops — to meet in council and declare, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, what the Church teaches upon matters vital to faith and morals. It is, however, helpful at least to this extent: if the voice of the fathers and saints of the Church is unanimous on a particular question, one should not spend one’s time worrying about the possibility of their being wrong; but, if they seem to be saying different things, one should expend one’s best efforts to try to understand how their differences may be only apparent. As St. Maximus says: “I have often found the godbearing fathers to run counter to one another in sound, but never in meaning; for the mystery of our salvation does not consist in syllables, but in notions and realities” (Maximus, Epist. 19, Ad Pyrrhum sanctissimum presbyterum et hegumenum, PG 91, 596 B-C). (Since you bring up the Monophysitism issue, one might note that St. Maximus probably includes Pope Honorius among those whose language differs but whose meaning does not: he did not consider Honorius to be a heretic. And St. Maximus was someone who was about as firmly opposed to Monotheletism as they come.) There are saints of the Church, both eastern and western ones, who taught something like the Filioque doctrine — at least, who are recorded as teaching that the Holy Spirit is from both the Father and the Son, and who evidently mean this in an eternal, not merely temporal, sense. And there are saints of the Church, certainly eastern ones but perhaps western ones as well, who find this language very problematic; indeed, from Photius on, many saints of the Orthodox Church, and some synods, have declared this teaching heretical. Is it possible that the two sides have misunderstood each other’s teaching? The fact that there is ecumenical dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church implies that the two churches are willing to consider that possibility. I for one do not want to preempt that possibility, certainly not on the basis of some mechanistic application of the Vincentian canon. As Michaël de Verteuil wisely states, even if some Orthodox fathers, and some Orthodox synods, have anathematized the Filioque, it is not clear that what they have anathematized is what Catholics actually believe (does any Catholic really think that Father and Son are “two causes” of the Holy Spirit, or that, by virtue of the Holy Spirit’s coming forth from both, Father and Son are turned into one person?). The same thing is true of dialogue between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox: the discussion is predicated upon the possibility that the two sides have misunderstood each other (do Copts and Armenians believe that, in the Incarnation, Jesus’s humanity has been swallowed up by his divinity, so as to disappear? Probably not). But, if the condition for Orthodox engagement in ecumenical dialogue with other Christians is that these other Christians should first acknowledge that all the misunderstanding is on their side, not on the side of the Orthodox, then it would be equitable and just if the Orthodox would be clear about this and inform others of these conditions beforehand; it might save a great deal of trouble, expense, and empty hopes.


  44. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    Just as a further historical footnote to the “monophysite” controversy, it seems that many in both East and West still seem to be under the misapprehension that the purpose of Chalcedon was to anthematize some faulty monophysite Christological formula emanating from Alexandria.

    What was at issue instead was the explicitly dyophysite terminology preferred by Leo (amongst others) that smacked to Dioscoros (amongst others) as reeking of Nestorianism.

    For the Oriental Orthodox, a person can, by definition, only have one “nature.” Hence alluding to two natures implies that Christ is a chimera and that his humanity and divinity are objectively separable. Instead, they insist on describing him as having a single nature that is both fully and inseparably human and divine. Thus, for them it is Christ’s nature that is blended (miaphysitism) and not his personhood.

    Just as we deny that dyophysitism is Nestorian, they deny that miaphysitism is monophysite.

    The conclusion of the Catholic/Oriental Orthodox Dialogue was that these differences were not at heart Christological, but over the definition of the word “nature.” As a result, at least formally, the Oriental Orthodox no longer consider the Christological definitions of Chalcedon heretical (which is all the dyophysite fathers at Chalcedon asked of them at the time). There are remaining differences, but they now relate only to ecclesiology and sacramental theology.

    According to Catholic theologians, this represents an ecumenical breakthrough on par with the agreed statement with Lutherans on justification.

  45. Lucian Says:

    My innitial comment contained a link to an article on my blog, explaining more clearly what I meant. (You seem confused as to why I asked you why you want to make an exception for the Filioque, so I assume you didn’t read it, otherwise you wouldn’t have been confused).

  46. bekkos Says:


    I did look at your article briefly, and have now looked at it now more at length; I do not think I was, or am, confused about your position; I disagree with it. As stated above, I think the use you make of the Vincentian canon is simplistic and mechanical, and I do not think real theological issues can be decided in that way. If you are going to decide universality on the basis of a spreadsheet of a few arbitrarily chosen factors, why don’t you include things like actual numbers of believers or geographical extent, which, for some of the church fathers, was decisive? Or why not include biblical literacy, in which it is unlikely that we Orthodox should fare as well as some others? If antiquity is desired, why not have a row for Millennialism, or Quartideciman observance: St. Irenaeus believed in the one, and approved of the other, and he lived a very long time ago.

    Actually, now that I look at your blog more closely, I find that, under the heading “Fundamental Articles,” you have a link to an article titled “Napoleon Never Existed!” Granted, this article was written by someone else, but you seem highly to approve of its thesis. I confess that this does not leave me with a high opinion of your powers of judgment in matters of history, and it may explain something about your theological method.


  47. Lucian Says:

    LOL! — Sorry about that… that article is a cheek-in-tongue criticism of atheist/mythicist propganda denying the historicity of Christ based on fanciful comparisons between Him and other pagan gods (like Horus, or whatever). :-) — It was written some 200 years ago by a French Catholic cleric. (God bless Catholic intellectuals, and their sarcastic sense of humor!) :-)

  48. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    I have to stand up for Lucian on this one. The article “Napoleon Never Existed” is a notorious piece of outrageously biting theological satire, and I am sure Lucian knows this. Look at the date of composition (1827 by a French author, a mere six years after Napoleon’s death). I have tangled with Lucian before and can testify to the fact that he is not quite as naïve as you are suggesting. :-)


  49. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    I see that Lucian has answered for himself. I don’t think Pérès was a cleric, however, but I could be wrong.

  50. Lucian Says:

    And I guess that would be “tongue-in-cheek”, not the other way around… :-)

    Yes, size does matter, and they were of similar size: Western-Europe, Eastern-Europe, Nord-Africa, and the Middle-East. (That in the course of history the latter two were almost-eradicated by Islam while the first one conquered the two Americas is another story altogether).

    Quartodecimans were a local group, restricted to some Semitic-speaking regions in the Middle-East.

    The Early Fathers expected a literal thousand year reign of Christ on earth between 500 and 1,500 AD. This obviously didn’t happen, but, to my knowledge, there was a Christian Empire lead by a Christian Emperor for about a thousand years in that specific time-frame (313/395 – 1453 AD). :-) So I think their pious speculations weren’t that far off either… :)

  51. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    395 to 1453? Was there a time-out when those nasty “monophysites”, monothelites, iconoclast and filioquists ruled from the shores of the Bosphorus in Christ’s stead? :-)

  52. bekkos Says:

    Sorry for misreading your intentions on the Napoleon article, Lucian: I clearly got that one wrong.

    (Since everyone seems to be in the mood for putting emoticons into their comments today, I suppose I should put one in, too…) :-|

    I don’t have any trouble accepting the pious millenarian speculations of Ante-Nicene fathers like St. Irenaeus as having some possible application to the Christian Roman Empire; after all, that is likewise a pious speculation, and one must suppose that Rev 20:4 refers to something. But my point in bringing up that example is that it is a line of speculation that the Church eventually rejected: sometime after the middle of the third century, probably because people began to accept Origen’s allegorical exegesis of Scripture, Millenarianism came to be regarded as a heresy, and this is precisely why St. Irenaeus’s main work, Adversus haereses, has been preserved only in a Latin translation: the Greek original was destroyed because of suspicions about his orthodoxy. So one has to be careful when setting up a doctrinal spreadsheet or matrix and making claims about universality or catholicity on that basis, as you do in your blog post: it is quite possible that some present-day Millenarian (e.g., a Pentecostalist) would say to you: Look, you Orthodox make absolutely nothing out of the Book of Revelation, you don’t even read it in your liturgical services; what right do you have to claim “antiquity” and deny it of us Protestants when we actually read the book, and read it in the way St. Irenaeus did, and you don’t?

    And, similarly, even in the case of the Filioque: if the question of doctrinal truth were to be decided by numbers, who would fare better, the filioquists or the anti-filioquists? Have there been more Christians over the past two millennia who read the Creed with the Filioque, or without it? This is a statistical question to which I don’t know the answer, but my guess would be that, even in the Middle Ages, the West had a numerical edge, and that that certainly has been true since the great expansion of western culture since the time of the discovery of the Americas (which, for some reason, you claim is “another story altogether” — why should so much of church history be “another story”?).

    One could prove almost anything one wanted using your method, choosing whatever terms one happened to think are significant, and ignoring those that might tend to the opposite conclusion. This is why I think one has to be careful when making claims on the basis of the Vincentian canon: the Vincentian canon is not a do-it-yourself guide to doctrinal truth, nor a self-evident guide to ecclesiastical authenticity. Sometimes the principle quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus is not so easy to apply; the Filioque debate is precisely one instance where it is unclear that these characteristics apply to either side. Perhaps that is a sign that the Holy Spirit wants the two sides to do a better job of listening to each other.


  53. Lucian Says:

    I still don’t see how the Vincentian Canon is suposed to not work. (You gave me examples of things that possess either universality or antiquity, not both, as required by St Vincent’s rule).

    Revelation lacked universality. So does the Filioque.

    And the reason people abandoned Millenniarism is because Christ didn’t show up in the expected time-frame. (There is no other [general or indefinite] Millenniarism in the Fathers, except the one between 500 and 1,500 AD: something Protestants conveniently `forget` to mention…)

  54. Lucian Says:

    It is utterly & completely impossible for something so fundamental as the Filioque to be absent from the faith of all other Christians IF it were indeed true and part of the Apostolic deposit: One could not have simply forgotten about it, just like one could not have just forgotten about the Incarnation, or about the fact that there are three Persons in the Godhead, etc.

    From which Apostle did Rome get the dogma? Peter? Neither Copts nor Antiochians know about it. Paul? Neither Greeks nor the former Churches of Asia Minor know/knew of the teaching. Nor did the Church of Jerusalem, and both men were there as well.

  55. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    The problem, Lucian, is in your assertion that it is historically “absent from the faith of all other Christians.”

    Granted, the formula in conciliar form is absent prior to 447, but the creed itself is absent prior to 325, so this in itself proves nothing. The Latin Fathers inferred the Son’s role in the procession from a consistent reading of the scriptural witness. You can’t get more “apostolic” than that, and even Orthodox scholars admit that they can find no historical evidence of rupture or protest in the West against this particular reading of scripture.

    Significantly, the first demurrals of the teaching in the East can only be inferred from St Martin’s pointed use of the term “filioque” in correcting Monothelite circles in Constantinople in the 7th century.

    Note here that we have to make a distinction between the teaching itself and its actual inclusion in the Creed (for which there is no evidence until the late 7th century).

    Catholics see their understanding of the procession in the writings of Origen and Gregory Thaumaturgus (amongst other early Eastern fathers), so your argument that the filioque is merely a late Western affectation is not going to strike a filioquist as convincing historical scholarship.

    The fact that Catholics pointedly do not recognize their understanding of the procession in the polemical representations of Photios’ Mystagogy, on the other hand, should also give you pause, but doesn’t seem to.

    I am not aware of any explicit Eastern rejection of the filioque that actually does engage authentic Western teaching until the Council of Lyons. That’s several centuries into the controversy, and it is by no means clear to me that non-Chalcedonian or non-Ephesian Christians would accept Blachernae’s rendering of the Spirit’s relationship to the Son.

    What we do have is a predominance of opposition to the interpolation in the Creed in the East. What we do not have from the East is the explicit, universal and consistent rejection of the actual teaching that you infer.

  56. Lucian Says:

    No, there was nothing special with the West in terms of population. They were a territory of villages, not of great urban settlements, like the East and Orient. Their population doubled ‘over night’ about a millennium ago, due to the introduction of cereals in agriculture (they have a great amount of energy, leading to increased libido, leading to demographic explosion: it may sound trivial and a bit funny, but it’s true), and then they went on to conquer the two Americas, thus increasing the number of adherents to Catholicism even further.

    In the first millennium, the situation was quite the opposite of what we have today: a ‘third-world’ West composed of villages (Rome was the only metropolitan area, hence it’s great importance and significance in the West throughout history), and a ‘first-world’ East and Orient, composed of great and prosperous metropolitan areas. Today, of course, it’s the exact opposite. And there were no Russian Orthodox in the first millennium either. Etc. (True, there were no Orthodox Slavs at all, but the pre-Slavic population of today’s Eastern-European Slavic countries was Orthodox).

    The Assyrian Nestorians are thought to have been the largest church in Christendom before the rise of Islam, while today they are no more than a million of them world-wide, out of two billion Christians, half of which belong to ancient, historical, and apostolic churches.

    So each had its times of rise and glory, or decrease and fall, throughout history, that’s why I said that it’s a different story altogether. None of them is even remotely insignificant, that’s why I haven’t ignored any one of them (I couldn’t), not even the Nestorians, despite their present situation (because they had a glorious past).

  57. Lucian Says:

    The phrase “and descended into Hell” is also found only in Western Creeds, being absent from Eastern ones: but because it’s true, it’s accepted by all other ancient Churches as well: so your comparison fails.

    If the filioque would’ve been indeed part of the Apostolic deposit, no one would deny it (or maybe only one group would do so [say, the Greeks], and they would be distinguished from all the rest by this peculiarity: but the opposite is the case).

  58. Lucian Says:

    Origen was of Alexandria, Egypt.

    So if Origen’s ‘filioque’ would’ve been part of the local Coptic tradition, we would expect them to have it until this day: but they don’t.

    Origen’s filioque comes from Platonism, not ancient Christian tradition (otherwise it would still be present there). That’s why it’s only found in Platonic Fathers like, say, St Augustine. Or Origen. Or Gregory, who also got apokatastasis (not only the filioque) also from Origen.

    Either way, the *source* is Origen (or Plato), NOT the Holy Apostles (Peter, or Paul, or any other). — It’s really that simple.

  59. Lucian Says:

    And since you mentioned St Gregory, maybe you should take a look at this

  60. bekkos Says:


    When I look at how this discussion has unfolded, I notice an interesting fact. The first thing you said on this post was that the Filioque lacks universality (catholicity), and that that is why you don’t think it is true. I then asked you whether, in your view, the explicit denial of the Filioque, the teaching that the Holy Spirit is ἐκ μόνου τοῦ Πατρός, “from the Father alone,” possesses universality and catholicity, i.e., is something that all the fathers, of east and west, have taught at all times. You never answered this question; in your many subsequent comments, you continue to skirt and dance around this crucial point, and it is not hard to see why. If you were to state openly and plainly that you think “from the Father alone” is the universal teaching of the fathers, you would have to face the fact that many of the fathers of the Church, not only western ones but eastern ones, not only Greeks, but people writing in Armenian or Syriac, have spoken of the Holy Spirit as being from the Father and the Son. As for Syriac, consider the fact that, in the year 410, a synod in Seleucia, in eastern Syria, chaired by St. Isaac of Seleucia and St. Maruthas of Tagrit, produced a canon in which is found this statement: “We confess the living Holy Spirit, the living Paraclete, who is from the Father and the Son, in One Trinity, in One Essence, in One Will, in accordance with the creed of the 318 bishops in the city of Nicaea.” This is to say that, well before St. Augustine published his De Trinitate, and in a part of the world where no one would have understood that book anyway, people already had a teaching something like his; when they confessed the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in a creed, they confessed this faith by saying that the Spirit is from the Father and the Son. This is one reason why I stated, in my lecture posted above on this website, that the claim that St. Augustine “invented” the Filioque has about as much truth to it as the claim that the Council of Nicaea “invented” the doctrine of the Trinity; there were people before Augustine, in all parts of the Christian world, who had essentially the same teaching about the Spirit that he did, who perhaps did not state it in quite the same terms as his, but who clearly saw the Holy Spirit as dependent, in some way, upon the Son for his being, that is, saw him to receive, from or through the Son, that divine essence that originates in the Father.

    As for the Armenians, in the year 862, at an Armenian synod in the city of Shirak, the following canon was issued:

    “If anyone does not confess the one nature and three persons of the holy and life-giving Trinity — that is, the Father, without beginning, the Son, from the Father, and the Holy Spirit, from the essence of both and coequal with both — let him be anathema.” A. Balgy, Historia doctrinae catholicae inter Armenos unionisque eorum cum Ecclesia romana in concilio Florentino (Vienna 1878), p. 227; cited by Jugie, Theologia Orientalium, vol. 5 (Paris 1935), p. 611.

    One could multiply examples of this sort of thing. Even Photius himself, before his claims to being Patriarch of Constantinople were rejected by Rome and he began his polemics against the Filioque, was able to use language like this; a letter from Photius to Zacharias, Catholicos of Armenia, also written around the year 862, is extant in an Armenian translation; in it, Photius is found to say the following:

    “The Father is neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is neither begetter nor proceeding; the Holy Spirit is neither begetter nor begotten, inasmuch as he proceeds always. The Father rejoices in the glory of the Son; the Son is joyful to the honor of the Father; finally, the Holy Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son; for, indeed, the one who receives [his] essence from them renews the creatures, and by him all things were made in heaven and upon the earth.” Cited from M. Jugie, De processione Spiritus Sancti (Rome 1936), p. 302.

    As I say, I could go on citing evidence like this, although my sense is that the attempt to induce you to address such texts in a serious way is probably pointless; you are going to continue making a priori arguments until either Michaël de Verteuil or I simply get too tired to answer you. My claim is not that the Filioque has been professed by all the fathers and all Christians at all times and places; my claim is that neither the Filioque nor its opposite claim, the ἐκ μόνου τοῦ Πατρός, answers fully to the conditions of the Vincentian canon: neither of these things has been taught “everywhere, always, and by all.” And this lack of proper universality for both claims gives some ground for hope that the two sides may, at length, decide to sit down and ask whether they may not have misunderstood each other — as has, indeed, happened between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox with regard to their teachings concerning the person of Christ. To cite St. Maximus again, “Our faith is not in syllables, but in notions and realities.” If the realities in which we believe are essentially the same, then our differences in stating these realities cannot be insuperable obstacles to unity in Christ. That is what the fathers taught, and that is the hope that motivates Christian dialogue.

    As for your question “From which Apostle did Rome get the dogma [of the Filioque]?” that is simple: the claim is that the dogma comes from apostles like St. John the Theologian, who, in his Gospel, says that the Spirit receives from the Son and, for that reason, glorifies him (John 16:13-15), and, in his Book of Revelation, says that he saw “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding (ἐκπορευόμενον) out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 22:1), as also the Apostle Paul, who speaks of the Spirit as being the Spirit of the Son, and never puts things the other way around (the Son is not the Son of the Spirit); and, in general, from all the apostles, who regularly speak of the persons of the Trinity in the order Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and never, or almost never, in the order Father, Holy Spirit, and Son (do you ever use “Glory to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit, and to the Son” as a doxology? I think not). Furthermore, as to your ingenious theory about world history, which attributes western demographic growth to the eating of cereals and increased libido, it is a puerile subterfuge from a serious theological claim: the claim was that numbers are a sign of catholicity, a claim supported by many of the fathers; your claim is that numbers have only to do with cereal and libido; i.e., you see no place for divine providence in human history, but, like any materialist, you attribute the course of Christian history to mere chance. In fact, so far as I am aware, there was not an introduction of new grains, as such, into Western Europe around the year 1000, but there were new methods of land cultivation and new social structures, which helped to increase productivity; these social arrangements undoubtedly were rooted in the life of the Church, which was central to medieval society. But, is it true that the Nestorians, at one point, had “the largest church in Christendom”? Perhaps in area; certainly not in numbers; most of Central Asia, where they were centered, was extremely sparsely populated.

    But, for the moment, I have said enough in answer to your comments; if you are not going to come clean and say how you think the explicit rejection of the Filioque has been taught “everywhere, always, and by all,” according to the terms of the Vincentian canon, I see no reason to engage any further in this discussion.


  61. Lucian Says:

    I did answer it, but you didn’t notice it… So I’ll say it again:

    Why make and exceptipon for the filioque?

    Why not also ask: “Is the explicit & over-articulate denial/negation of monophysism/nestorianism/whatever found in ALL Fathers?”.

    You also seem to confuse consensus with absolute and utter unanimity.

    Your objections border on the absurd, that’s what I am trying to say.

  62. Lucian Says:

    Your use of Antiochian, Syriac, Assyrian, and Armenian sources is also self-defeating, since none of these Churches confesses the Filioque: *IF* they would’ve believed in it, *THEN* they would have kept their belief in it, *especially* since (as you well know) the various branches *already* went their own separte ways long *before* that.

    The only thing you’ve shown by using those passages is your pre-disposition to interpret someone’s words in a manner that they *themselves* DON’T interpret it: and this is called mis-interpretation.

    If you don’t like what I said about the ‘boom’ of Western-European demographics, feel free to take it up with this guy (or with whatever other historians or academicians you see fit).

  63. Lucian Says:

    The Eastern and Oriental Fathers never use the word Source to refer to anyone other than God the Father; NOR do they ever use it in order to describe a sub-trinitarian or infra-trinitarian Unity of Father-and-Son.

    In the West, on the other hand, the word Source is used for Father-and-Son jointly, taken together: this never happens in the East or Orient. Nor do the notions of primary-vs-secondary source exist outside the West.

    The Cappadocians never do that; nor do our great hymn-writers, like St Isaac the Syrian, who’s also revered by the Monophysites. Neither our lex orandi, nor our lex credendi, has such notions, of a joint or composite source. Or of a primary and a secondary source. It’s just not there.

  64. Lucian Says:

    I would also wish to add here that your way of eisegeting the Trinitarian formula for things that just aren’t there reminds me of what Arians used to do to the other Trinitarian formula. (They also had their own unspoken assumptions, that they brought to the table, and which ‘colored’ their perception of things).

  65. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    Do you believe in a real (as opposed to conceptual) distinction between God’s energies and essences?

    Name even a single Church, including your own if applicable, that actually “confesses” such a belief in credal form.

    How do you justify your own belief and square this lack of credal witness with your use (misuse?) of the Vincentian canon where the filioque is concerned?

    And as to misinterpretation, I would be grateful if you could state up-front what you think the Catholic Church actually teaches with respect to the procession (beyond citing a single Latin word as if it were comprehensively self-explanatory), and demonstrate how this teaching differs in substance from what you consider to be the correct interpretation of Dr. Gilbert’s citations.

    And do you seriously expect us to throw out the consensus view that regards the population explosion in North Western Europe from c. 700-1300 as the product of the introduction of the ox-drawn mouldboard plough, and adopt instead the views of an obscure Romanian art historian and politician whom you can’t actually be bothered to quote?

  66. Lucian Says:

    The Cappadocians are fundamental Fathers for all Eastern and Oriental Churches (that’s why I brought them up), and they confessed to the distinction (not separation) between essence and energies. That’s also why I brought St Isaac the Syrian up (who wrote the vast majority of all our church-hymns), because he’s venerated NOT just in Eastern, but also in Oriental, Orthodoxy. (He also believed in the divine energies).

    That’s why there’s no distinction between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox monasticism, because of this shared belief in the existence of divine energies, and our common veneration for and obedience to these Fathers I mentioned.

    Ploughing is not an end in and of itself: what did they plant in the wholes that they cut in the ground with their ploughs?

    When the schisms occured, the churches were similar in size: Christianity in 500 and/or 1,000 AD was not the same as today, as far as membership of her four main historical branches is concerned. (Obviously). [Russia and the two Americas did not “exist” back then, for starters…]

    Probably the most detailed version of the Filioque would be, as I said, that the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and from the Son as from a single, joint source. It goes beyond mere sharing in one and the same essence; it also goes beyond the mere temporal mission of the Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is the principal or primary source of the Spirit, and the Son acts as a necessary secondary source, and together they form one joint source of the Spirit. Kinda like a child being born from both parents, with the father as the ultimate source of origin, and the mother as a necessary second source. (It’s not really a perfect comparison, but I think it comes very close).

  67. Lucian Says:

    I think the Gnostics shared a similar view with regards to the eternal generation of the Son from the Father and the Mother, the Holy Spirit. (Theirs was more natural, but we reject both).

    (I would also be curious to find out your opinions about this…)

  68. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    “The Cappadocians are fundamental Fathers for all Eastern and Oriental Churches (that’s why I brought them up), and they confessed to the distinction (not separation) between essence and energies.”

    A Catholic would argue that the only “fundamental fathers” were the apostles. If you want to affirm belief in one Holy, Catholic and Cappadocian Church…

    This is not a trite point and goes to the heart of what we are arguing about. The West venerates the Cappadocian fathers as well, but doesn’t consider their theological methodology or terminology “fundamental.”

    Your approach to this question appears to rest on a selective case-by-case definition of who or what constitutes an authority from whom an application of the Vincentian canon can be made. To this end, you include “Nestorian” and/or Oriental (I am pleased to see that you have stopped maligning them as monophysites) Christians when it suits you, and ignore them (as you do all the Latin fathers) when it doesn’t.

    You also make a priori assumptions as to what the witness of the various Eastern Fathers regarding the procession was actually intended to convey so that any subtle difference in terminology can be seized upon as an affirmed negation of what you believe constitutes Catholic teaching.

    Far greater and learned minds than ours have gone round and round this particular tree using this approach without achieving anything (though, as numbers appear to be significant for you, it would be healthy to note that the historic flow between filioquists and anti-filioquists, while hardly a flood, has been overwhelmingly one-way).

    Dr. Gilbert’s approach is not entirely original either, but is the one the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have signaled as a *possible* way out of the impasse, and is the one adopted by the two communions in their official dialogue. It involves tracing back chronologically and in direct and dynamic relation with one another all the writings of the fathers, not as they were understood in later times in light of later doctrinal definitions and controversies, but in light of then existent dogma and the discourse of their contemporaries.

    This methodology also involves an effort to explore fully and fairly what each side claims to be its teaching. We shouldn’t be arguing, for example, over what Catholics mean by the filioque. This is exclusively a matter for the Catholic side to articulate. Similarly we shouldn’t be confusing the very little that is dogmatically taught about the procession by either side with the largely speculative arguments offered in favour of or against our respective positions.

    “Ploughing is not an end in and of itself: what did they plant in the wholes that they cut in the ground with their ploughs?”

    Initially they planted the same grain they were using in the shallower chalky soils already available to them. Progressively these grains were adapted to the richer and deeper soils made bare by the clearing of the primeval oak forest that covered much of northern Europe. It is the introduction of the mouldboard plough drawn by teams of up to eight oxen late in the seventh century that made the exploitation of the deeper soils possible and led to the demographic transformation of Northern Europe. Even then, it took some 200 years for the population of Northwestern and Southwestern Europe to achieve rough parity. Total population in Western Europe peaked around 1300, when the beginning of a cooling trend leading to the Little Ice Age started to kick in. In the hundred years between the Black Death (1348) and the fall of Constantinople to the Turks (1453), the population of Western Europe fell by half due to repeated epidemics and cooling temperatures.

    “When the schisms occured, the churches were similar in size: Christianity in 500 and/or 1,000 AD was not the same as today, as far as membership of her four main historical branches is concerned. (Obviously). [Russia and the two Americas did not “exist” back then, for starters…]”

    I’m not sure how relevant this is. Between Chalcedon and the definitive Catholic-Orthodox schism in 1099, I would argue that the West probably constituted some 60 to 65% of “orthodox” Christianity. If you gave me a specific year to check, I could probably do the math for you.

    “Probably the most detailed version of the Filioque would be, as I said, that the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and from the Son as from a single, joint source.”

    Catholic teaching doesn’t allude to a “joint source,” to my knowledge, but to a joint “principle” or “spiration.” As Catholic teaching is explicit in denying that the Spirit is generated, and argues that the Spirit’s principal cause lies in the Father, it strikes me that the “source” of the Spirit (assuming the term applies, which I doubt) would have to lie in the Father alone.

    “It goes beyond mere sharing in one and the same essence; it also goes beyond the mere temporal mission of the Son and Holy Spirit.”

    This much conforms to Catholic teaching.

    “The Father is the principal or primary source of the Spirit, and the Son acts as a necessary secondary source, and together they form one joint source of the Spirit”

    “Cause,” not “source.” I suppose you could say that the Son is the “source” of the procession of the Spirit, but I can’t see how the Son could be described as the “source” of the Spirit except in a highly qualified sense bringing a distinctly different meaning to the word “source” than when it is used in reference to the Father as the “source” of the Trinity, for example.

    “Kinda like a child being born from both parents, with the father as the ultimate source of origin, and the mother as a necessary second source. (It’s not really a perfect comparison, but I think it comes very close).”

    Actually this is a rather inapt analogy given that the West explicitly contrasts the “begetting” of the Son with the “spiration” of the Spirit, and that the standard Catholic polemic against the Orthodox position is that the latter places the Son and the Spirit indifferently in a filial relationship to the Father.

    A better analogy would be that the Son brings forth the Spirit from the Father through their love, but even that casts as many obscurities as it illuminates.

  69. Lucian Says:

    The Cappadocians are to us what Augustine and Jerome are to you.

    St Gregory Palamas is to us what St Thomas Aquinas is to you.

    (Let’s not pretend Fathers and Tradition are to us what they are to Protestants…)

    I did not ignore the Roman Church, nor the Latin Fathers: all I did what point out that they’re the only one confessing the doctrine of the filioque.

    St Vincent’s method is neither inconsistent nor subjective: it’s actually quite objective, empirical and self-consistent: That’s the beauty of it.

    I ignored neither the Catholic West, nor the Orthodox East, nor the Monophysites and Nestorians of the Semitic-speaking Orient. I took them ALL into consideration for solving the equation, and then I started “asking questions”, and see where the vote goes to: and the vote was 3:1 in all cases, no exception.

    – I “asked”: “Filioque!” And it turned out it was rejected by 3:1.
    – I “asked”: “number of natures in Christ!” And it returned “2”, with a vote of 3:1.
    – I “asked”: “number of persons in Christ Jesus!” And the answer was “1” with a vote of 3:1.

    What exactly do you perceive as being self-defeating and/or dishonest in St Vincent’s methodology? :-|

    To put it another way: if Catholicism would’ve been the original faith of all these regions, then, logically, once each branch started a schisms, we should expect the resulting religion to be Roman Catholicism, modified by the peculiar doctrine of each schismatic branch: the Monophysites and Nestorians, as a direct result of breaking off from the Original Catholic Church, should’ve confessed to the Filioque, diverging only on the issue of the number of Christ’s natures and/or persons. Right? Isn’t it logical? Isn’t it obvious?

  70. Lucian Says:

    Human sons are from two as if from one.

    The divine Son is from One Only.

    The Holy Spirit, according to Roman-Catholic teaching, is “from two as if from one”.

    The reason for this is because they think that, were this not the case, due to underlining Platonic assumtions, there would be no difference between the generation of the Son (from One Only), and the spiration or procession of the Spirit (ALSO from One Only).

    So, by trying to avoid making spiration/procession look like the generation of the (divine) Son, they ended up making it look like the generation of (human) sons.

    Don’t blame me for pointing it out: I’m just the messenger here, please don’t shoot me… :-(

  71. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    “Don’t blame me for pointing it out: I’m just the messenger here, please don’t shoot me… :-(”

    I have no desire to shoot you, but when you start drawing parallels between Catholicism and gnosticism…

    “The Cappadocians are to us what Augustine and Jerome are to you.”

    No they aren’t! And the mere fact that you think this way demonstrates exactly why you have difficulty discussing patristics with Catholics. The two epistemologies are not mirror images of each other. To Westerners, Augustine and Jerome just happen to be important fathers (plain stop) who wrote in Latin, just like the Cappadocians were important fathers (plain stop) who wrote in Greek. The West doesn’t privilege Ambrose and Augustine because they were Western.

    The West never stopped reading the Greek fathers. Indeed some significant writings from the Greek fathers have only come down to us in Latin translations.

    Here, in rough chronological order, is a comprehensive list of all 20 fathers born and baptized in the undivided Church whom the Catholic Church recognizes as doctors of the Church (short of the Apostles themselves, there is no higher patristic authority for Catholics) :

    1. St. Athanasius*
    2. St. Hilary of Poitiers
    3. St. Ephrem*
    4. St. Cyril of Jerusalem*
    5. St. Gregory Nazianzus*
    6. St. Basil*
    7. St. Ambrose
    8. St. Jerome
    9. St. John Chrysostom*
    10. St. Augustine
    11. St. Cyril of Alexandria*
    12. St. Leo the Great
    13. St. Peter Chrysologus*
    14. St. Gregory the Great
    15. St. Isidore
    16. St. Bede the Venerable
    17. St. John Damascene*
    18. St. Peter Damian
    19. St. Anselm
    20. St. Bernard of Clairvaux

    Nine of these twenty are Eastern.

    “I did not ignore the Roman Church, nor the Latin Fathers: all I did what point out that they’re the only one confessing the doctrine of the filioque.”

    The Latin Church may be the only “Church” that confesses the doctrine of the filioque *in the creed.* But the Melkite and Maronite Churches (which together represent most of the historic Chalcedonian Antiochan patriarchate), and the Chaldean Church (representing most of what you call the former “Nestorians”) also accept the doctrine, even if they don’t necessarily recite the filioque in the creed. Numerous Greek fathers prior to Photius, some cited above verbatim by Dr. Gilbert, give every appearance to Catholics of believing what the Catholic Church teaches concerning the procession.

    “St Vincent’s method is neither inconsistent nor subjective: it’s actually quite objective, empirical and self-consistent: That’s the beauty of it.”

    I have no grief with St Vincent. I just challenge your contention that you are properly applying his canon. He talked of unanimity of the patristic witness over time and place, not of polling for a simple gerrymandered majority amongst arbitrarily selected separated communions.

    Even amongst Eastern Orthodox bishops and theologians today there are some who do not consider the filioque to be heretical, preferring to see it instead as merely an optional pious opinion.

    “What exactly do you perceive as being self-defeating and/or dishonest in St Vincent’s methodology? :-|”

    There is nothing wrong with St Vincent’s methodology. You just aren’t using it in any recognizable form, and St Vincent’s methodology (the real one, not your effort) is in any case not applicable to cases in which the patristic witness isn’t transparently consensual.

    “To put it another way: if Catholicism would’ve been the original faith of all these regions, then, logically, once each branch started a schisms, we should expect the resulting religion to be Roman Catholicism, modified by the peculiar doctrine of each schismatic branch: the Monophysites and Nestorians, as a direct result of breaking off from the Original Catholic Church, should’ve confessed to the Filioque, diverging only on the issue of the number of Christ’s natures and/or persons. Right? Isn’t it logical? Isn’t it obvious?”

    I’m sorry Lucian, but it isn’t “right,” it doesn’t follow logically, it isn’t “obvious,” and it doesn’t even accurately reflect the circumstances in which these various Churches fell out of communion with one another.

    Schism isn’t that mechanistic, not all doctrine is equally dogmatized at all points in Christian history, and not all separated Churches have felt the need to affirm conclusively all the possible doctrinal positions and formulae they could consider orthodox.

    One dogmatizes in response to perceived need, not for the sake of doctrinal comprehensiveness. Because it had faced an actual rival Arian communion rather than merely having to just excise Arians from its own ranks as had been the case in the East, the West resorted to the most extreme formulation of Christological theophanic revelation patristically available in securing the submission of Arians to orthodoxy. That the formula might be misleading, deeply problematic and ultimately (with respect to the East) uncharitable, no reasonable person will deny. It doesn’t follow, however, that the underlying theology must have been absent from other Churches merely by virtue of an absence of dogmatic expression.

    Seriously Lucian, consider that all you have learned about Church history is from polemical Orthodox sources. All the fathers you have selectively read have been glossed for you through the prism of the a priori assumptions of these polemics. Your understanding of Catholic doctrine transparently comes via this prism and not from any authoritative Catholic source. You are full of indignant and contemptuous heat against Catholic “heresy,” but can’t even articulate this “heresy” in a way a Catholic would recognize, and yet you seem puzzled that your Catholic interlocutors find your methodology, reasoning and conclusions completely unconvincing.

    Contrast this with the fact that Catholics have no difficulty recognizing their Church’s teaching in the Cappadocian fathers. Even if Catholics are wrong about the Cappadocians and misread them, how is it that your inability to articulate actual Catholic doctrine in a satisfactory fashion, or even cite actual Catholic sources correctly, does not suggest to you that you might be missing some of the picture? If you actually know Catholic doctrine, why is it that I find myself continually having to correct you? If you don’t know Catholic doctrine, how can you be so sure that it is heresy?

    “The Holy Spirit, according to Roman-Catholic teaching, is “from two as if from one”.”

    Here we go again! What is your Catholic source for this supposed teaching? Do an internet search: the only person on the world-wide web claiming that this is Catholic teaching goes by the handle “Lucian.” ‘Nuff said.

    Trust me on this, there are many learned Orthodox who *can* articulate Catholic teaching accurately and fairly while still disagreeing with it. My suspicion is that they have achieved this astonishing feat by learning Catholic teaching from at least ostensibly Catholic sources.

  72. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    Sorry, St Peter was Italian of course. So that’s eight early Greek doctors out of twenty, not nine as I claimed above.

  73. Lucian Says:

    So St Thomas Aquinas, who said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son as if from One, wasn’t Catholic? :-|

    And St Augustine, who said that the Spirit proceeds from the Father ‘principaliter’, wasn’t a Catholic either? :-| And all those scholars who say he made a Platonic difference between primary and secondary sources [of procession] are idiots, right?

    If Catholics agree with the Cappadocians so much, how come they confess procession or spiration to being the attribute of two persons, when the Cappadocian Fathers made it pretty clear that attributes belong either to only one, or to all three divine Persons?


    Monophysites do not accept the Filioque, nor do Nestorians. That there are indeed so-called Oriental-Catholic and Eastern-Catholic Churches is something different: but neither one of these confessed the filioque BEFORE their union with Rome. (And I didn’t say “in creedal form”…)

    I also don’t understand what you find so “random” in the fact that I took into account the only four main surviving branches of historical Christianity for my survey on “antiquity”… What else was I supposed to take into account? Mormons and Protestants?

  74. Lucian Says:

    A simple google of the phrase “from both as from one” returns some 13,000 results (from Roman-Catholic Fathers, Doctors, and Catechisms): feel free to dig in…

  75. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    I would first like to apologize to Dr. Gilbert for contributing to the transformation of his eirenic blog into the kind of polemic “snake pit” he abhors. I will write to him privately to explain my persistence and why I hope this exercise will only be temporary and a one-off. But if he wishes to desist and keep silence, I will.

    “So St Thomas Aquinas, who said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son as if from One, wasn’t Catholic? :-|”

    He was certainly Catholic, but that’s not what he wrote.

    You can find a full translation of St Thomas’ views on the procession here:


    But even if that actually was what he wrote, it’s not what the Church teaches. For that, you must refer to liturgy, conciliar formulae, or magisterial doctrinal pronouncements. I take issue with some things St. Thomas wrote, as I do with some things Augustine wrote. Given the output of both saints, it would be surprising if they hadn’t written anything questionable.

    As it happens, however, St Thomas does accurately state Catholic teaching with regards to the procession. Your “quote,” if I can call it that, is actually a truncated paraphrase of various formulae all based on Lyons:

    “we confess that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, not as from two principles, but as from one; not by two spirations but by one”

    Note that in your truncated version, the “one” becomes a substantive referring to the two persons (Father and Son), whereas it actually refers to a single “principle” and not to the persons.

    This shows the danger of approaching the other side’s formulae with a priori assumptions. You are so sure that you “know” what constitutes Catholic teaching (presumably from reading Orthodox polemics) that you feel free to paraphrase and truncate what is actually the painstakingly precise terminology to make it fit you preconceived notions of what the Catholic Church teaches.

    “And St Augustine, who said that the Spirit proceeds from the Father ‘principaliter’, wasn’t a Catholic either? :-|”

    He was Catholic. This quote at least conforms to Catholic teaching, so I am not going to bother checking to see whether you quoted him accurately. What’s your point? Catholics believe that while the Son proceeds “equally” (in early formulations) from the Father and the Son, the Father is the principal “cause” of the Spirit, hence the procession from the Father is different in kind than from the Son though there is only only one procession (spiration) and not two.

    “And all those scholars who say he made a Platonic difference between primary and secondary sources [of procession] are idiots, right?”

    I don’t see how this would change anything one way or another. It’s a red herring.

    “If Catholics agree with the Cappadocians so much, how come they confess procession or spiration to being the attribute of two persons, when the Cappadocian Fathers made it pretty clear that attributes belong either to only one, or to all three divine Persons?”

    They don’t necessarily read the Cappadocians to mean what you think they meant. As Dr. Gilbert already indicated, your (and Photius’) reading of the Cappadocians can be made to seem silly simply through changing how the attributes are defined. Both the Son and the Spirit draw their origin from the Father, whereas He draws his origin from none (thus, by this reasoning, the Son and the Spirit share an attribute to the exclusion of the Father). The standard Orthodox response would be to argue that the origins of the Son and Spirit are different in kind (though they can’t explain *how* they are different). But Catholics can respond that the procession from the Father and the Son also involves a difference in kind (and they *can* explain the difference through the father being the “principal” cause).

    I also don’t understand what you find so “random” in the fact that I took into account the only four main surviving branches of historical Christianity for my survey on “antiquity”…”

    I didn’t say “random.” I said “arbitrary” which is quite the opposite of “random.” Again, if you are going to use quotes, quote accurately. At least you aren’t claiming to be using the Vincentian canon anymore (though you are backsliding on the ascription of monophysitism to the Oriental Orthodox again).

    Your genetic (as it were) methodology in comparing the various communions might convince you, but it doesn’t convince me. Your assumption that the Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrians have formally repudiated the Catholic teaching concerning the filioque (even to the limited extent that Blachernae did for Orthodoxy as a whole) is untested.

  76. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    I thought I had your e-mail address on file, but I can’t seem to find it. Could you send me a message privately so that I can gloss this discussion for you (and find out whether you wish me to continue with it)?

  77. bekkos Says:

    Lucian and Michaël,

    Sorry, I don’t use the computer on Sundays, and I was at work most of yesterday, so yesterday evening was the first chance I had to look through the long series of comments that have accumulated since Saturday night. There are 16 of them; in replying, I will have to be selective, because I have other things to do.

    * * *


    You write:

    (I would also be curious to find out your opinions about this…)

    I went to the link, and found a post on your blog, titled, “A Sixth Century Roman Deacon on the Filioque.” The sixth-century deacon is Rusticus Diaconus (lived ca. 549 A.D.); in your article, a passage is translated from his work Contra Acephalos disputatio (Disputation against the Acephali), found in PL 67, 1167-1254; the passage in question is found at col. 1237 C. Here is your translation of the passage:

    “For the Father indeed begets, and begotten He is not; and from someone else He is not, as from Him others are; the Son truly is begotten, and nothing co-eternal does He beget; and the Holy Spirit from the Father proceeds, and nothing co-eternal proceeds from or is begotten by Him. Some of the very ancient to these properties have also added, that just as the Spirit together with the Father does not eternally beget the Son, neither does the Spirit proceed from the Son as from the Father. To tell you the truth, that indeed the Spirit does not eternally beget the Son, this I confess (for neither do we speak of two Fathers); but whether He truly proceeds from the Son in the same manner as from the Father, this I haven’t yet perfectly figured it out.”

    You helpfully supplied a link to the original document, at Documenta Catholica Omnia; I downloaded the document, and made my own translation of the passage. Here is the Latin text:

    Nos enim tres esse subsistentias ob hoc confitemur, quod non in eo quod quid est secundum naturam, sed in eo quod qualiter sit unumquodque, proprietatibus distinguatur. Nam Pater quidem genuit, et genitus non est; et ex aliquo alio non est, sicut ex eo sunt alii: Filius vero genitus est, et nihil consempiternum genuit; et Spiritus sanctus a Patre procedit, et nihil consempiternum procedit vel genitum est ab eo. Quidam vero antiquorum et hoc proprietatibus adjecerunt, quia sicut Spiritus cum Patre Filium sempiterne non genuit, sic nec procedit Spiritus a Filio sicut a Patre. Ego vero, quia Spiritus quidem Filium non genuerit sempiterne, confiteor (nec enim duos dicimus Patres); utrum vero a Filio eodem modo quo a Patre procedat, nondum perfecte habeo satisfactum.

    Here is my translation:

    “For we confess there to be three subsistences, for this reason, because a thing is distinguished by properties, not in respect of what it is according to nature, but in respect of how each thing severally exists. For the Father begets, and is not begotten, and he is not from anyone else in the way that others are from him; but the Son is begotten, and begets nothing co-eternal; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and nothing co-eternal proceeds or is begotten from him. But some of those who lived in old times added this to his properties, that, just as the Spirit does not eternally beget the Son along with the Father, so neither does the Spirit proceed from the Son as from the Father. But, as for myself, I confess that the Spirit does not eternally beget the Son (for we do not say that there are two Fathers); but, as to whether he proceeds from the Son in the same way that he proceeds from the Father, I do not yet possess any completely satisfactory answer on this point.”

    Now, in most ways, my translation of the passage does not significantly differ from yours in sense; I add one sentence at the beginning, for the sake of context, and I do not highlight clauses by putting them in italics or bold print. But in one significant place, your translation is, I think, sufficiently obscure that it might cause a reader to miss what is being said. You translate the words “Quidam vero antiquorum et hoc proprietatibus adjecerunt” as “Some of the very ancient to these properties have also added”; the word order is not that of a normal English sentence, and some readers might not understand that “the very ancient” refers here to people. I think my translation renders the sense of the passage more clearly: “But some of those who lived in old times added this to his properties….”

    That is to say, Rusticus acknowledges that some people have given the view that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. He does not say that this is his own view; nor does he say that this is the view that everyone in his society holds. He specifically states that this is a point on which he has not yet formed a definite opinion.

    My question to you has been, repeatedly, whether you see the denial of the Filioque to be, itself, an opinion satisfying the conditions of the Vincentian canon, that is, a belief confessed by everyone, everywhere, at all times. I have not maintained that the Filioque satisfies these conditions, nor has Michaël de Verteuil made this claim; both of us, so far as I can see, see the historical record of the Church’s faith on this point to be sufficiently complicated and ambiguous to allow for some genuine dialogue between Christians on what is de fide regarding the role of the Son in the Holy Spirit’s eternal procession. You, on the contrary, do not see ambiguity in the historical record, nor do you see room for dialogue between Christians on this point. Apparently, you give the example of Rusticus Diaconus because you think it supports your position. I think what Rusticus Diaconus says here supports instead what I have been saying all along: he does not speak of either the Filioque or of monopatrism as the universal, undisputed teaching of the Church; he says that monopatrism was the opinion of quidam … antiquorum, some of the people who lived in former times. He cites it as one possible opinion, an opinion with some patristic support, but an opinion on which, clearly, some of the fathers say something else; and he is careful to say that, on this question, he has not yet made up his mind.

    Who exactly was this Rusticus Diaconus, and who were the “Acephali” against whom he wrote his treatise? The introduction to the treatise, in the Patrologia Latina, col. 1167 A-B, helps to answer these questions; it states that Rusticus wrote his treatise to support his view in defense of the Three Chapters, against Pope Vigilius. The “Three Chapters” were selections from the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa, three writers of the Antiochene school who lived in the first part of the fifth century; in the year 543, the Emperor Justinian, hoping to achieve some kind of agreement with the monophysites, issued an edict condemning these writings along with the person of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and he demanded that all the patriarchs, including the pope, ratify this edict. At first, Pope Vigilius resisted this edict; eventually, under heavy Byzantine pressure (including kidnapping and physical abuse), he changed his mind; in 554, he officially confirmed the decisions of the Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople 553), in which the Three Chapters are condemned. All of this made him very unpopular in the West, where condemnation of the Three Chapters was widely considered a betrayal of the Council of Chalcedon and the christology of Pope Leo the Great; Rusticus Diaconus, although a Roman deacon, was opposed to Vigilius, and was apparently one of those who had broken off communion with him. The word “Acephali” is a pun: it means both “headless people” and “people without the Chapters.”

    This background may help to clarify who is meant when Rusticus refers to quidam … antiquorum, some of those of olden times, who held a position of Monopatrism. As a defender of the Three Chapters, he clearly has read some of the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa; he has probably read enough of them to know that these writers of the Antiochene school had definite views, not only on matters of christology, but also in pneumatology. The oldest creed containing a specific denial of a participation of the Son in the procession of the Holy Spirit comes from Theodore of Mopsuestia; his ἔκθεσις is preserved among the Acts of the Council of Ephesus, where it was condemned for its christological doctrine; it states:

    καὶ [πιστεύομεν] εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα δὲ τὸ Ἅγιον ἐκ τῆς Θεοῦ τυγχάνον οὐσίας, οὐχ Υἱὸν, Θεὸν δὲ ὄντα τῇ οὐσίᾳ, ὡς ἐκείνης ὂν τῆς οὐσίας ἧσπερ ἐστιν ὁ Θεὸς καὶ Πατὴρ, ἐξ οὗπερ κατ’ οὐσίαν ἐστιν … καὶ οὔτε Υἱὸν νομίζομεν οὔτε διὰ Υἱοῦ τὴν ὕπαρξιν εἰληφός.

    (From August Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole und Glaubensregeln der Apostolisch-katholischen Kirche [Breslau 1842], pp. 203-204.)

    Which means:

    “And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, who is from God’s essence, who is not a Son, but is God in essence, as being of that same essence of which God the Father is (from whom he exists according to essence) … and we do not regard him as a Son, nor as one who has received his existence through the Son.”

    Similar language is found in Theodoret of Cyrrhus, who wrote against St. Cyril of Alexandria precisely on this point. In short, when Rusticus Diaconus speaks of quidam … antiquorum, some of those of olden times, who were monopatrists, he has in mind chiefly Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and (probably) Ibas of Edessa, the writers of the Three Chapters, the three men whose christological orthodoxy he is trying to defend against Vigilius and the Fifth Ecumenical Council; he undoubtedly would not have wanted to impugn their pneumatological orthodoxy while he was defending their views on the person of Christ. None of this suggests that Monopatrism had yet been established as the universal doctrine of the Church, perhaps not even in the East; all of it ties Monopatrism closely to a specific theological school, that of the Antiochenes.

    Now, if you will actually take the trouble to read the lecture to which these comments are appended, you will find that I say there that “Augustine is an Old Nicene, Photius is a New Nicene, but they are both theologians committed to Nicene Christianity.” When I say there that Photius is a New Nicene, I essentially mean that his views about the Holy Spirit have been heavily influenced by the doctrine of the Antiochene school. He revives and radicalizes all the Antiochene complaints about the pneumatology of people like St. Cyril and St. Epiphanius; and he reads the Cappadocian fathers with Antiochene spectacles, emphasizing those things that seem to agree with his principles and completely ignoring those things that don’t. This is not some little side issue; this is essential for understanding why the Filioque became a Church-dividing issue in the way it did, and I would be less than honest, as a historian and as a Christian, if I failed to point out this background to St. Photius’s ideas.

    Anyway, you asked my opinion about the Rusticus Diaconus passage; you now have it. I think that that text supports what I have been saying all along: that both the Filioque and the ἐκ μόνου τοῦ Πατρός were positions that had some support in the early Church, and neither of them had universality, certainly not at the time of Rusticus Diaconus. If Rusticus Diaconus had been asked whether the doctrine of ἐκ μόνου τοῦ Πατρός satisfied the terms of the Vincentian canon, he probably would have said no: first, because he himself is not sure that the doctrine is true; secondly, because, even if he knew that Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, and Ibas taught it, he must also have known that Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Boethius, and most other western writers did not; it was neither taught everywhere, nor always, nor by everyone, and he himself accepts it only as a possible opinion, not as a necessary truth of the faith.

    But, as to answering the many other things you say in your comments from this past weekend, I will pass them over for the present, because I have other work to do, because this reply has already been long and full enough, and because the things I have said here may, in any case, allow you to see why I disagree with the way you are using the Vincentian canon.


  78. Lucian Says:

    Note that in your truncated version, the “one” becomes a substantive referring to the two persons (Father and Son), whereas it actually refers to a single “principle” and not to the persons.

    Yes: Father and Son together form One joint Source or Principle of the Spirit’s procession. — I don’t understand the objection: what exactly did (or do) you perceive as faulty in my understanding?

    And it’s neither “paraphrased” nor “truncated”: it’s just a simple translation of the Latin “ab utroque sicut ab uno”.

    the procession from the Father is different in kind than from the Son though there is only only one procession (spiration) and not two.

    Which is different from what I was saying, how exactly? [And there’s only One Source, not two: let’s not forget that either].

    thus, by this reasoning, the Son and the Spirit share an attribute to the exclusion of the Father

    Too bad the Cappadocian Fathers didn’t mention such an `attribute`… so why do you write then: “They don’t necessarily read the Cappadocians to mean what you think they meant”, since I’m obviosuly not the one putting foreign words or concepts in their mouth?

    though they can’t explain *how* they are different

    Neither could the Cappadocians, or St John Damascene:

    St. Gregory Nazianzen:

    “You ask, what is the procession of the Holy Spirit? Do you tell me first what is the unbegottenness of the Father, and I will then explain to you the physiology of the generation of the Son, and the procession of the Spirit, and we shall both of us be stricken with madness for prying into the mystery of God.”

    St. John Damascene:

    “The mode of generation and the mode of procession are incomprehensible. We have learned that there is a difference between generation and procession, but the nature of the difference we in no wise understand.”

    So, again: where exactly do you find fault with in our reading of the Cappadocian Fathers, or other Eastern Saints?

    I already gave you an analogy, from Saint Gregory Nazianzus: Adam-Eve, Adam-Seth.


    Your assumption that the Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrians have formally repudiated the Catholic teaching concerning the filioque is untested.

    Your own link on Aquinas says otherwise, and so does our host here, in his previous comment… (at least as far as the Assyrian Nestorians are concerned).


    “It must be said that the Holy Spirit’s not proceeding from the Son was first introduced by the Nestorians, as appears in the Nestorian Sybmol condemned in the council of Ephesus. And this error was held by the Nestorian Theodoret, and many after him; among whom was also the Damascene.”

  79. Lucian Says:

    Please give me the full text of Theodore’s condemned Creed, since I’m unable to find it online anywhere…


  80. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    “Yes: Father and Son together form One joint Source or Principle of the Spirit’s procession. — I don’t understand the objection: what exactly did (or do) you perceive as faulty in my understanding?”


    “From the Father and the Son as from one principle” would be Catholic.

    “Father and Son together form one joint source…” would NOT be Catholic and simply smacks of outright heresy.

    The first is merely a simile. The second involves a positive fusion of the two persons into a single entity. If you cannot see the essential difference, then we are faced with a serious linguistic problem.

    Seriously, Lucian, you can’t go around paraphrasing technical theological formulae with something that sounds vaguely similar just so as to make them mean what your prejudices think they must mean.

    “And it’s neither “paraphrased” nor “truncated”: it’s just a simple translation of the Latin “ab utroque sicut ab uno”.”

    If it’s not a paraphrase, then quote the whole paragraph from which you think it comes and offer an actual citation and prove that you are using the same words. And if it’s not truncated, then the original will have nothing after “uno”. I strongly suspect that, as usual, you are quoting from an Orthodox polemic tract rather than from an authentic Catholic source. Prove me wrong.

    “”the procession from the Father is different in kind than from the Son though there is only only one procession (spiration) and not two.”

    “Which is different from what I was saying, how exactly? [And there’s only One Source, not two: let’s not forget that either].”

    Where do you get the word “source” in any Catholic formula regarding the procession? The words used in the formulae are “cause” or “principle.” Why is it so hard for you to quote the actual words? Is it possibly because using the actual words might not lend enough support to your belief that Catholics think the Spirit somehow originates in the Son?

    “”thus, by this reasoning, the Son and the Spirit share an attribute to the exclusion of the Father”

    “Too bad the Cappadocian Fathers didn’t mention such an `attribute`… so why do you write then: “They don’t necessarily read the Cappadocians to mean what you think they meant”, since I’m obviosuly not the one putting foreign words or concepts in their mouth?”

    I am not claiming that the Cappadocians described such an attribute. I am merely pointing out that you (and Photius) insist that the procession from the Father and the Son must constitute a shared attribute (and the Cappadocian don’t mention this as an attribute either) so as to make it run afoul of their principle that two of the three persons cannot share an attribute to the exclusion of the third. The attribute you and Photius have constructed is just an artificial artifact, just like the counter example I offered (quoting Dr Gilbert, who quotes Bekkos) regarding origination from the Father.

    My essential point was that as procession from the Father and Son involves a difference in kind (just like origination of both the Son and the Spirit in the Father involves a difference in kind) this cannot constitute a shared attribute and thus DOES NOT fall afoul of the Cappadiocians.

    “”though they can’t explain *how* they are different”

    “Neither could the Cappadocians, or St John Damascene

    “So, again: where exactly do you find fault with in our reading of the Cappadocian Fathers, or other Eastern Saints?””

    I am not finding fault, Lucian. I am just pointing out that, with respect to the procession, Catholics are clear as to what the difference in kind actually involves (i.e. origination in the Father alone vs mediation through the Son alone). This is why claiming that procession from the Father and the Son involves a shared attribute is faulty reasoning.

    “”Your assumption that the Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrians have formally repudiated the Catholic teaching concerning the filioque is untested.”

    “Your own link on Aquinas says otherwise, and so does our host here, in his previous comment… (at least as far as the Assyrian Nestorians are concerned).


    ““It must be said that the Holy Spirit’s not proceeding from the Son was first introduced by the Nestorians, as appears in the Nestorian Sybmol condemned in the council of Ephesus. And this error was held by the Nestorian Theodoret, and many after him; among whom was also the Damascene.””

    This is where your a priori assumptions come in to haunt you again. Aquinas doesn’t mention the Assyrians. For you, the Assyrians are unquestionably “Nestorian,” and ipso facto must hold all the beliefs and opinions of known notorious Nestorians, a classic case of ad hominem reasoning. As it happens, the Assyrians do venerate Nestorius as a saint, but they don’t consider themselves confessionally “Nestorian,” any more than Catholics consider themselves confessionally “Augustinian” or Orthodox consider themselves confessionally “Palamites.” (And let’s not forget that Nestorius died an orthodox Christian, accepting his deposition and the canons of Ephesus while still claiming that he had been sadly misunderstood by the council fathers.)

    If you want to argue that the Assyrians formally repudiate the Catholic theology behind the filioque (i.e what Catholics mean by the filioque), you are going to have to go into their liturgy and doctrinal statements and find proof of this. Waste your time looking if you wish, but you won’t find anything to support your contention.

    Note that I am not arguing by any means that they approve of the interpolation, let alone that they are filioquists. I am merely stating that the Assyrians have never formally condemned this aspect of Catholic teaching. If they had, then 3/4 of them would not have found it so easy to come over to Rome where they now constitute the Chaldean Church.

  81. bekkos Says:

    The full text of Theodore’s creed, in Greek with a Latin translation, is in Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole, pp. 202-211. As for a complete English translation of this document, I don’t offhand know of any; if I find one, I’ll let you know, or perhaps other readers of this blog might know of one.

  82. Lucian Says:


    I still do not understand the difference(s).

    I also think it’s a bit disingenuous to say that FOR *ME* the Assyrians are Nestorian, when they were the same for Aquinas as well… and for anyone East and West until the 20th century.

    But: I honestly don’t understand what you mean: official Catholic dogma has Father and Son as One eternal Source-Principle-Cause of the Spirit. Or is the One Source NOT the Father and the Son together? (That’s what the passages seem to mean…) I don’t really understand what exactly you object to… Please explain as plainly and as clearly as you possibly can, I would appreciate it. Thanks.


    Thanks for the link… I really don’t know Latin all that well, my Romanian identity notwithstanding… But I’ll give it a try anyway: thank God for the Wiktionary! :-)

  83. Lucian Says:

    Oh, ‘Bekkos’, and another thing:

    you seem to automatically assume or take for granted that Rusticus (and the ancients he’s quoting) is/are refering to monopatrism, or the Father’s monarchy: but it seems to me that -in the end- all that he’s actually saying is that the Spirit does not proceed from the Son as from the Father… with the implied meaning that he does –in some way, form, shape, or manner– also proceed from the Son as well… or do you think that such a reading would be either wrong or forced, given the context, and my faulty Latin skills?

  84. Lucian Says:

    Thanks, ‘Bekkos’!

    I’ve downloaded the Google-Book as PDF, saved the relevant pages as image-files, used ABBYY FineReader to turn them into text, and am now using Google Translate to view them directly in English! :-) Yay!


    the Geek-Orthodox. ;-)

  85. Lucian Says:

    …and it’s not just Nestorius that the Assyrians revere*, but Theodore the Interpreter as well… and if his creed confesses monopatrism (as all four of us agree [Aquinas included]), then that’s the end of it… :-|

    *as being fundamental to their faith.

  86. bekkos Says:


    I do not think I am automatically assuming anything. Admittedly, the clause in which Rusticus states that he does not yet know “whether [the Holy Spirit] proceeds from the Son in the same way that he proceeds from the Father” could be interpreted in two different ways: it is grammatically possible that he means, as you are suggesting, that, although he is quite sure that the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son, he is unsure whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son in the same way as he proceeds from the Father. The words utrum vero a Filio eodem modo quo a Patre procedat could conceivably bear that interpretation, just as the English translation could bear that interpretation. But I think that that interpretation is altogether unlikely. I might point out that the same ambiguity could be read into the clause where Rusticus says that the Father “is not from anyone else in the way that others are from him” (ex aliquo alio non est, sicut ex eo sunt alii); a hair-splitting exegete could argue that, although the Father is not from anyone else in the same way that others are from him (i.e., by generation or procession), it may be that Rusticus means that the Father is from someone else in some other way; perhaps by osmosis, or teleporting, or some other process. No intelligent reader who knows anything about Christian theology would read the passage in this way, however; and I must also think that the attempt to read the clause about the Holy Spirit in a parallel fashion is similarly far-fetched and nit-picking. Rusticus says that some people, of olden times, added something to the Holy Spirit’s properties; he has already mentioned the Spirit’s property of proceeding from the Father; he now specifies the further property, which some people add, that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son. He says he is not sure about that claim. The teaching that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son is called “Monopatrism”; it seems quite clear that that is the opinion Rusticus is referring to, not the teaching that the Holy Spirit does proceed from the Son, but proceeds in some undefined, unspecified way. I really do think that any other interpretation of his language here amounts to splitting hairs.

    Now I find another comment from you; you say that, if Theodore of Mopsuestia’s creed confesses monopatrism, then that’s the end of it. Apparently you are saying that, if a heretic believes anything, then that thing must be heretical; but that is a fallacy. The Council of Ephesus condemned Theodore of Mopsuestia’s creed, but what it specifically condemned it for was its christology; it doesn’t single out its teaching on the Holy Spirit as being heretical, nor does it, contrariwise, issue any formal statement, saying, “Oh, but, on this point, we think Theodore of Mopsuestia was right.” It avoids coming down one way or another on the question. That is, I think, not unlike the position Rusticus Diaconus took in the sixth century; he knew there were these different views about the procession of the Holy Spirit; since there had been no conciliar decision on the subject, he was unwilling to decide the question on his own authority.


  87. Lucian Says:


    I might point out that the same ambiguity could be read into the clause where Rusticus says that the Father “is not from anyone else in the way that others are from him” (ex aliquo alio non est, sicut ex eo sunt alii); a hair-splitting exegete could argue that, although the Father is not from anyone else in the same way that others are from him (i.e., by generation or procession), it may be that Rusticus means that the Father is from someone else in some other way; perhaps by osmosis, or teleporting, or some other process

    LOL & Duh! — Thanks: I didn’t notice that parallel with regards to the phrase “as from Him others are” before… Well, that settles the question for me.

    And no, I wasn’t saying anything about Theodore’s rightness or wrongness… all I pointed out was that he is a fundamental patristic authority insofar Assyrian Nestorians are concerned… so if *he* is confessing monopatrism, then *so* are they. (That’s all I was saying, for clarification). — Because Michael was arguing that they are either silent or ambiguous on the issue, and would therefore have no problem embracing the filioque with open arms, as the Chaldeans did.

    And thanks again for you helpful comments and clarifications!

  88. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    “I also think it’s a bit disingenuous to say that FOR *ME* the Assyrians are Nestorian, when they were the same for Aquinas as well… and for anyone East and West until the 20th century.”

    Whether the Assyrians are “Nestorians” as defined at Ephesus is a matter that should be subject to factual verification. They say they aren’t. For me, that settles matters. I don’t ascribe beliefs to others. I let them tell me what they believe. If they were Nestorians, then they would profess Nestorianism. They don’t.

    The Encyclopaedia Britannica gives an excellent and fair treatment of this issue:

    “Since the 5th century all the principal branches of the Christian church have united in condemning Nestorianism and have affirmed that Christ is a single person, at once wholly human and wholly divine. Even the so-called Nestorian church is not Nestorian in the strict sense, though it venerates Nestorius and refuses to accept the title Theotokos.

    “It is questionable, however, whether Nestorius himself ever taught, or intended to teach, the heresy named for him. Indeed, he repudiated such views, and Cyril’s attacks on him were based on a misunderstanding. The fact is that Nestorius repeatedly affirmed the perfect unity of the incarnate Christ, and he repudiated any suggestion of there being two persons existing side by side in his being. Nestorius can be better understood as the victim of his own intolerant personality and crudely provocative rhetoric, and as having been the loser in one of the rivalries between great episcopal sees that were a feature of the time.

    “What Nestorius actually taught was a prosopic union. The Greek term prosōpon means the external, undivided presentation, or manifestation, of an individual that can be extended by means of other things—e.g., a painter includes his brush within his own prosōpon. So the Son of God used manhood for his self-manifestation, and manhood was, therefore, included in his prosōpon, so that he was a single object of presentation.”

    Just because the Latin and Byzantine Churches spent centuries blithely ascribing various heresies to Christians outside their respective communions doesn’t make it an intellectually rigorous or acceptable practice. Only crude polemicists still do this.

    “But: I honestly don’t understand what you mean: official Catholic dogma has Father and Son as One eternal Source-Principle-Cause of the Spirit. Or is the One Source NOT the Father and the Son together?(That’s what the passages seem to mean…) I don’t really understand what exactly you object to… Please explain as plainly and as clearly as you possibly can, I would appreciate it. Thanks.”

    If you think the passages mean “source,” then you have plainly misunderstood them. A “source” is a point of origin. The Spirit does not draw his primary origin from the Son, so the Son cannot be “the source” of the Spirit, even in union with the Father. So, if you keep using or even thinking the word “source,” you are far removed from Catholic doctrine.

    Since you seem unable to locate or even reference an actual Catholic doctrinal statement on the procession, I will quote verbatim (without paraphrasing or truncating) what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on the subject. Note that the paragraphs draw on both the Western and the Eastern Traditions. Both are Catholic and should be read in light of one another. The Catholic Church takes its universality and its embodiment of the whole of Christian Tradition very seriously:

    “246 The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque)”. The Council of Florence in 1438 explains: “The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration. . . . And, since the Father has through generation given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.”

    “247 The affirmation of the filioque does not appear in the Creed confessed in 381 at Constantinople. But Pope St. Leo I, following an ancient Latin and Alexandrian tradition, had already confessed it dogmatically in 447, even before Rome, in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, came to recognize and receive the Symbol of 381. The use of this formula in the Creed was gradually admitted into the Latin liturgy (between the eighth and eleventh centuries). The introduction of the filioque into the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed by the Latin liturgy constitutes moreover, even today, a point of disagreement with the Orthodox Churches.

    “248 At the outset the Eastern tradition expresses the Father’s character as first origin of the Spirit. By confessing the Spirit as he “who proceeds from the Father”, it affirms that he comes from the Father through the Son. The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque). It says this, “legitimately and with good reason”, for the eternal order of the divine persons in their consubstantial communion implies that the Father, as “the principle without principle”, is the first origin of the Spirit, but also that as Father of the only Son, he is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds. This legitimate complementarity, provided it does not become rigid, does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed.”

  89. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    “Because Michael was arguing that they are either silent or ambiguous on the issue, and would therefore have no problem embracing the filioque with open arms, as the Chaldeans did.”

    That’s not quite what I said. Three quarters of the Assyrian Church of the East came into union with Rome in the late 18th century. The filioque does not seem to have been an issue then. Nor has it been an issue in more recent dialogue with the remaining Assyrians. There is nothing in the formal Assyrian liturgy or in the any of the pre-reunion conciliar canons of the Church of the East condemning Catholic theology on the procession. Perhaps this runs afoul of your preconceived notions, but life is complicated that way. If you still want to contend that the Assyrians at any time confessed monopatrism to the exclusion of Catholic doctrine, you will just have to accept my scepticism.

  90. Lucian Says:

    1. I’m familiar with those passages, and with other ones as well: and I still don’t understand what you perceive as wrong in my understanding of them…

    2. Regardless of how they’re called, one of their greatest teachers, Theodore the Interpreter, bishop of Mopsuestia, confessed to monopatrism. (As can be seen in his creed).

  91. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    You seem to understand them in such a way as to make the Son the or a “source” of the Spirit (indifferently from the Father).

    The Spirit originates in the Father alone (“the Father, as “the principle without principle”, is the *first origin* of the Spirit”), but proceeds (procede) from the Father and the Son equally and together (simul).

    The Son *can* be described as the “source” of the spiration, as the Son calls the Spirit forth from the Father but, unlike the Father, not as the or a “source” of the Spirit Himself, which is how you insist on reading the words. There is a clear difference between the Spirit on one side and the process of his spiration on the other.

    If you want to insist that the Catholic formulations mean what you claim they do, why can’t you just let the formulations speak for themselves? Why do you feel the need to paraphrase?

    Now with respect to Theodore of Mopsuestia: even if Theodore confessed to monopatrism and is venerated by the Assyrian Church, it doesn’t follow that the Assyrian Church credally rejects the Catholic understanding of the procession. The Eastern Orthodox Church venerates St Augustine: does it follow then that Orthodox must buy into his understanding of original sin?

    That said, I have a lot of respect for Theodore. Perhaps Dr. Gilbert could help me out here. Does Theodore really exclude explicitly any hypostatic role for the Son in the procession?

    All I can find is this:

    “Our blessed Fathers inserted this expression concerning the Holy Spirit as they had received it from our Lord, and added another: Who proceeds from the Father. This is also found in the teaching of our Lord to His disciples: “When the Spirit Paraclete is come, whom I will send unto you, even the Spirit of Truth which proceedeth from the Father, He will testify of me.” Here also He revealed in advance the gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit which was to be bestowed upon all the disciples after His ascension. In saying: “When the Paraclete is come, whom I will send unto you” He refers to the grace of the Spirit which He was about to bestow on them. He was not going to send unto them the Divine nature of the Spirit which was everywhere, but He said this of the gift of the grace which was poured upon them and in which He called also the Paraclete the “Comforter,” because He was able to impart unto them the knowledge which was required of them for comforting their souls in the numerous trials of this world.

    “After having spoken of the gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit He began to speak of His nature and of the greatness of the honour due to Him, in order to show the character of the grace which they were going to receive, and said: “The Spirit of Truth.” This expression denotes the greatness of His nature and His power to grant imperishable benefits to all He pleases. Then He added the sentence that “He proceeds from the Father” to signify that He is always with God the Father and inseparable from Him. This has also been said by the blessed Paul: “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit who is from God.” He meant by this that as the spirit of man is not separated from him as long as he is and remains a man, so also the Holy Spirit is not separated from God the Father because He is from Him and from His nature, and is always known and confessed side by side with Him To this our Lord referred as by a hint when He said: “He proceeds from the Father,” because the Holy Spirit is a spring which is always with God and has never been separated from Him. He has not been created later but He is eternally in Him, and He is from the nature of God the Father, and eternal; and like a river with undiminishing flow, He bestows His gifts upon whom He pleases.

    “In this way He said also in another passage: “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” and the blessed evangelist interpreting this expression said: “This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” 331 He explains here clearly that He was |109 speaking of the gift of the Spirit. He did not speak of the person 332 or of the nature of the Holy Spirit that they were not yet, when he said that Jesus was not yet glorified, because He was eternally before all creation, but He said it of the gift of the Holy Spirit which after the ascension of our Lord into heaven was poured and seen on the blessed Apostles and on those who were with them. He said that the gift of the Holy Spirit will be poured on those who will believe in Him, like an undiminishing flow of water, because it will be given by God the Spirit, who thus makes manifest His work of giving eternal life to those who believe in Him.

    “He who says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father shows that He is eternally with God the Father and is not separated from Him, because He is always and eternally in Him. Indeed if gifts proceed from the Holy Spirit like a river, and if this Spirit proceeds from God the Father, it is clear that He is eternally from Him and with Him and He did not come into existence later. As when the Book says that “a river proceeded from 334 Eden to water the garden, and from thence it was parted and became into four heads,” 335 we rightly understand that the source which made these rivers to flow from Eden was not parted for the reason that it was from thence that it had to flow, so also when our Lord says in parable of the Holy Spirit that He proceeds from the Father, He gives us to understand that the Holy Spirit is not separated from Him, but He is eternally from Him, in Him and with Him, and like an undiminishing river He distributes gifts to all creatures according to the measure of the faith of His receivers, as the blessed Paul said: “There are diversities of Gifts but the Spirit is one,” and also “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”

    “In explaining this expression of our Lord our blessed Fathers said that He proceeds from the nature of the Father, that He proceeds from Him eternally, and that He was always in the Father and did not come into existence later. It is evident that he who is eternally from the Father and with Him, proceeds also from His nature, because it is impossible that anything should be with God which is not by nature from Him.”

    I don’t see any necessary conflict here with the Catholic view. For that matter, I don’t see any necessary conflict between Photius’ Mystagogy of the Spirit and the Catholic view, either. Neither seem to engage what the Catholic view actually is.

  92. Lucian Says:

    Theodore the Interpreter, along with Nestorius, St Athanasius, Chrysostom, and the Cappadocians are the fundamental Fathers of the Assyrians; the comparison with Augustine’s role in Orthodoxy is NOT good at all, since he plays a fairly minor role in our faith.

    He writes in his creed, speaking of the Holy Spirit: `Who is neither a Son, nor from the Son receives His existence`.

  93. Michael,

    I’ve been sitting back and watching this dialog unfold for some time. Earlier you wrote to the effect that the distinction between energy and essence is something you reject.

    I am curious to know, what you make of the distinction in Christology in the Sixth council between the human essence and the human energy on the one hand and the divine essence and the divine energy on the other in Christology? Is the difference in the councils’ teaching something that is only epistemic in your judgment or is it something more robust? If so, in what way?

  94. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    Hi Perry,

    Just to be clear, I don’t *reject* the distinction between divine energy and essence. What I rejected was your (well-meaning, certainly) proposal to resolve the filioque issue on the basis of such a distinction. My grounds for doing so is that a fair review of the patristic tradition leads to the conclusion that the distinction is at best speculative, and that nowhere outside the Byzantine tradition is such a distinction treated as having any explanatory or consequential import.

    Dogma has to allow for the possibility that one can be a good Christian and fully understand the faith without having to buy into such a distinction being real and actual (as opposed to merely conceptual, involving a way of looking at God rather than explaining him).

    Now, do I personally believe in the reality of such a distinction? No, I don’t. But that’s a passive response, probably stemming as much from my lack of exposure to that mode of thought in my formative years as from any rational scepticism. I also have no problem with those who *do* see God in such terms. Indeed, possibly most Byzantine Catholics fall within this category, and I am not about to call them out as heretics or even wrong-headed.

    I acknowledge that the same could be said with respect to the filioque itself. The standard Western view, that the Son’s role in the spiration is hypostatic, also cannot and should not be dogmatized. The difference, however, is that the West is prepared to grant communion to those who deny any hypostatic significance to the Son’s role (but who nonetheless acknowledge that He plays *some* role even if leaving its nature unspecified), whereas most Orthodox appear convinced that the ascription of hypostatic significance is a heresy (which is going significantly further than Photius went in his Mystagogy where he limits himself to denying origination in the Son — a position an informed Westerner should have no problem with).

    In a practical sense, the West (while having a very clear view of its own) grants for a wider range of acceptable belief on the subject of the procession than do most Orthodox, or than the Orthodox Churches have done historically.

    I can’t help but feel that, on a rational basis, if the Orthodox were to just acknowledge the legitimacy of belief in a hypostatic significance, while not subscribing to it themselves, the problem would just go away.

    In fact, I suspect the Catholic side might be willing to drop the filioque from the creed on other grounds were the Orthodox prepared to make this concession.

    But that’s just what my “rational” side is telling me. My visceral side very much doubts this is ever going to happen any time soon.

  95. Michael,

    That’s fine if you reject using the distinction to solve the dispute over the Filioque. I don’t believe I directly asked about that in any case. First I want to know what you think the supposed distinction is. Second I specifically wanted to know what you make of the conciliar language which seems to be outside of the “Byzantine” tradition (Agatho wasn’t a “Byzantine.”) Until we know what the conciliar language means, I think it s rather question begging to assert that dogma allows for the possibility of dissent.

    So I’ll re-iterate, when the Sixth Council, along with Maximus and his theological heirs speak of a distinction between essence and energy in Christ, relative to both natures, what do you understand that distinction to amount to?

  96. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    I hesitate to abuse of Dr. Gilbert’s patience, but where exactly do you find “essence” and “energy” explicitly contrasted with each other at Constantinople III?

    My hesitation in answering your points directly stems in part from what seems to be effort on your part to draw out what I believe as an individual, whereas my purpose in intervening with Lucian was only to correct what I saw as misrepresentation of what the Catholic side actually teaches. I don’t really see how my personal views are particularly germane to this discussion. This isn’t about me.

    But, for what it’s worth, and I could be wildly off-base as this is not something on which I have received any instruction, done any reading, or to which I have even given much thought, but “energy” as used by the council fathers seems to me to have meant something like “actualization of the will.” It also appears to have been offered in a negative sense in a critique of a monothelite use of the concept, rather than in a dogmatic affirmation of its explanatory force and objective validity. By this I mean that what the council fathers intended was a rejection of the monothelite claim that Christ had only one will or only one “energy,” whereas IF “energy” were in fact to constitute an actualization of (even if in contrast to) the will, Christ would have to have two, having two natures and thus two wills to actualize.

    I’m quite willing to accept that “Maximus and his theological heirs” have taken the concept of “energy” as representing an actual reality (and clearly their monothelite opponents did as well). Insofar as I can tell, however, the West has never treated it as anything other than a philosophical construct, and not as an empirical reality.

    If I may draw an analogy, I would apply the same practical skepticism to the scholastic distinction between “essence” and “accident.” Both to me are simply philosophical constructs used to help us discuss aspects of a single underlying reality. Thus the “blueness” of a pen can be described as one of its “accidents” without thereby maintaining that this “blueness” has any existence, reality or objective significance independent from that of the pen in question. The two can be separated and seen as distinct, but only conceptually. I hope this helps.

    If you can cite an authoritative Western source offering a different understanding of “energy” as used at Constantinople III, I stand to learn something new.

  97. Michael,

    The discussion is about you in so far as you’ve made it about defending views you take to be true. (The same goes for everyone.) And part of that were claims you made about the e/e distinction. I want to be fair and get your idea of how you understand certain things, rather than presuming and creating an argument from that or from that and your stated views so far. So I am trying to let you speak for yourself. I did not understand how your comments could square with the conciliar and Papal language, since it doesn’t seem that they used those terms to pick out a mere conceptual or aspectual distinction.

    You ask where I find such things in the 6th council. I think it is plainly present in Agatho’s letters as well as the Synodal statements. They use the terms distinguishing between two natures and two energies or operations. What then do you understand those terms to mean and is this what you think they meant to their users at the time? What is and operation and in what way is it different from a nature?

    You cash some of that out now it seems, but I am not clear on what kind of difference you think there is between the natural power of choice (the will) and its actualization in terms of act, since that can’t be merely conceptual or epistemic. It seems that the synod and its language treat nature (essence) and energy as different things. They do not strike me as only an epistemological distinction, which seems to cut against your earlier comments. Moreover, given that this was a synod which had western representation and practical gleeful advancement by Pope Agatho, whatever “western” treatment of it that falls short of how Agatho (and behind him Martin and Maximus) thought of it seems not to really help the “western” position. I don’t think the subsequent “western” theological tradition treated it as a philosophical construction, but as a dogmatic truth. To my knowledge, Rome has never taken it as anything other than the latter.
    Hypostasis and essence are also philosophical constructions (albeit in a Hellenistic rather than Lockian or Kantian sense of construction) and this doesn’t remove their dogmatic standing and importance. I do not understand how your use of accident and essence is really helpful since for the scholastics or at least plenty of the more realistic type, accidents had a real and distinct existence, even if dependent. If we were to map this on to the discussion at hand, it would imply that energies or activities have a real but non-separable existence distinct from the essence of which they are energies. I am happy with that, but I do not understand how that would mesh with your previous statements.

    My point is that the language of essence and energy as being distinct things is something that all those who wish to maintain fidelity to the conciliar tradition have to come to grips with. And glossing it as a merely conceptual distinction won’t do. To do so for Maximus for example would leave the Monothelite controversy unresolved.

  98. Ralf Says:

    Hallo everybody.

    I’m far from being competent to engage in this very interesting discussion. I just want to point out a few small things:

    – it might help Lucian (buna seara!) to read the document on the filioque of the Florentine council to see Michael’s point. The filioque does not mean what Lucian thinks it does.

    – Last year a new online (and open source) bilingual magazine on orthodox theology came out. The vast majority of contributors are Romanian Orthodox (intelec prea putin in limba romana, din pacate!), but the articles are offered in German and/or English (it’s compiled here in Germany with financial support from Protestants). You should check it out:
    There are quite some interesting articles on the filioque.

    – I am deeply impressed with Dr. Gilbert’s ability to dive deep to the source of all citations used. This is definitely I can learn – not to take something for being true that easily.

    Pax et bonum,

  99. Lucian Says:

    I’m interested in ONE thing, and one thing ALONE:

    What exactly does the average Catholic cleric and layman understand these words (this phrase) to mean?

    [Because I have a gut-hunch that they understand it in the same way as myself… I’m too old to believe that we’ve been merrily misunderstanding each other for a millennium… Sounds too far-fetched to me…]

  100. Lucian Says:

    …and none of the two filioque-essays on that site says anything concerning our discussion.

  101. Lucian Says:

    Oops.. I spoke a few lines/minutes too soon.. :D

    Caller and Answerer — OK.

    But given Augustine’s overall ideas, don’t you think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that that’s all there is to the Filioque? Doesn’t he make it clear all over the place in his writings that “by giving birth to Him [to the Son], He [the Father] gave Him the Spirit to proceed from Him as well” ? (Link, page 21/111).

  102. Ralf Says:

    Well, Lucian, I know quite a few normal Orthodox Romanians. I guess their understanding of e.g. the Holy Trinity should not be the foundation for saying that this IS the Orthodox teaching on this subject (meaning that most hold to some heresy withot knowing ist).

    Concerning the Latin filioque: I think the Augustinian understanding is the problem, not the filioque itself (I this disagree with Prof. Moltmann, see the article about him in the online magazine). The Augustinian “explication” of theMost Holy Trinity does indeed “underestimates” the Holy Spirit, as far as I see it. And unfortunately this Augustinian teaching is very widely spread in the Catholic Church.
    The filioqueis not the problem.

  103. Lucian Says:

    Nothing that can be re-interpreted by every ‘expert’ with every passing generation constitutes a problem, if you put it that way.

    And it’s not like the Filioque is some strange or fringe Catholic teaching: it’s one of the central tenets and cornerstones of the Roman-Catholic faith. You’ve damned the rest of the Christian world to hell because of it for the last one thousand years, you better make darn sure you at least know what it is. Yes, I expect most Catholics to have had (and still have) the right interpretation on it. I don’t trust original research or personal opinions of private ‘theologians’ (and neither does Wikipedia): and there’s a reason for that.

    The Filioque does not just exist in a vacuum: it existed, and still exists, in the minds of Roman Catholics: to say “it” is not the problem, its [virtually universal] interpretation [among Roman Catholics] is, is to beg the question. Bigtime. It reminds me of those jokes about ‘Radio Erevan’.

    Until Roman Catholics world-wide don’t consciously believe and confess an Orthodox-friendly Filioque, there can be no union and sacramental communion between the two Churches, it’s as simple as that. (Not that it would matter on an inter-personal level anyway, since we seem to get along just fine without it).

  104. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    I am trying to spend time on other things and so slow the pace of a discussion that I have every reason to suspect is not entirely welcome by our host; but really, Lucian, you take the cake.

    I dare say that I have probably conferred with more Catholics than you have by a factor of a couple of orders of magnitude, and yet I have so far not met a single one who confesses your understanding of the filioque, and I very much doubt you have either.

    Let me also disabuse you of four further notions:

    1. The filioque has never been “re-interpreted”, let alone once per generation. This charge is so extraordinary and insulting that it just begs evidence.

    2. The filioque may be a typically Catholic belief, but it isn’t a “central” one as you claim. You are projecting your own obsessions onto the Catholic side. The filioque is the subject of a mere three paragraphs in the Cathechism (one of which is devoted in part to explaining why the Orthodox think it’s an issue). Given that the Cathechism has 2865 paragraphs, one is left pondering what exactly in Catholic teaching would qualify as peripheral if a central belief can only get a 0.1 percent treatment.

    3. No one (let alone “the rest of the Christian world”) to my knowledge has ever been excommunicated solely for not being a filioquist. If you know of such an animal, present him or her for examination, and perhaps we will have something to talk about.

    4. The fact that the argument has gone on for more than a millennium is not proof, as you claim, of an absence of misunderstanding. Misunderstandings have clouded (and in your case, still do) the argument, but a more mature and less polemic set of differences still remain to be worked out.

    Responsible Orthodox scholars do understand what Catholics actually believe, and have largely done so since the issues were first fully thrashed out face to face in 1245. They see two clear problems that still have to be resolved, even in light of a correct understanding of Catholic doctrine, and this is why the argument has continued for the eight centuries since. First, Catholics see the role of the Son in the procession as hypostatic (and the filioque highlights this in an in-your-face fashion), while the majority of Easterners do not. Second, the role of the bishop of Rome in unilaterally authorizing the singing of an interpolated form of the creed in his liturgy implies a different understanding of ecclesiology than has traditionally been held in the East since the schism.

    If you really want to waste your time shadow boxing with your straw-man vision of filioquism, I can’t stop you; but perhaps you should limit yourself in doing so to forums consisting exclusively of Orthodox anti-Catholic polemicists and theologically naive or ignorant Catholics who might be prepared to take your word (rather than their catechism) over what they are supposed to believe as Catholics.

  105. Ralf Says:

    Lucian, the filioque is not the problem because we don’t believe in the filioque that you think we do (once more, please check out the Florentine documents, there you have it).

    If you want to keep on fighting againstsomething that ist NOT Catholic doctrine, feel free to do so. You’d certainly find Catholics who think your filioque is what the Church teaches, but like I said, the Church’s teaching is clear and these folks are wrong.

    Michael already pointed out the centra aspects, I do not intend to repeat him.

    Lucian, I’m not telling Orthodox what they believe in (and in some cases I actually really don’t understand it), so please refrain from telling us waht we believe in. We do know it better than you.

  106. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    I plan to respond to Perry in a few days, but I just found a short expression of trinitarian theology written in an aside by an Anglican priest which, despite four and a half centuries of separation from Rome and explicit reference to the Eastern tradition, manages to clearly and lucidly lay out a standard and typical Western filioquist position. If this doesn’t demonstrate to Lucian that the Catechism actually reflects the historic and unchanging Catholic understanding, rather than some recent and rarefied intellectual gloss used to cover a gross popular indifferentism between Father and Son with regard to the procession, I don’t know what will.

    “In the Triune life of God, as Scripture teaches and the Eastern Orthodox tradition often reminds us, there is a hierarchy among equals. An eternal headship and an eternal submission are lived out in the divine life of love. God the Father is by nature Father in His Triune life. He is the eternal loving fountainhead of the Trinity. He is eternally the Father of the Son and the primary source of the being of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son is ever delighted to do the Father’s will. In a biblical view, submitting to one’s father is what a good son does, whether it be human sons of human fathers or the divine Son of the divine Father. The Spirit is always the Spirit of the Father and the Son and submissive to both.”


  107. the holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has his essence and his subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration. We declare that when holy doctors and fathers say that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, this bears the sense that thereby also the Son should be signified, according to the Greeks indeed as cause, and according to the Latins as principle of the subsistence of the holy Spirit, just like the Father.

    And since the Father gave to his only-begotten Son in begetting him everything the Father has, except to be the Father, so the Son has eternally from the Father, by whom he was eternally begotten, this also, namely that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.

    the holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has his essence and his subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration.

    the holy Spirit alone proceeds at once from the Father and the Son. […] the procession of the holy Spirit from the Father and the Son is eternal and without beginning. Whatever the Father is or has, he has not from another but from himself and is principle without principle. Whatever the Son is or has, he has from the Father and is principle from principle. Whatever the holy Spirit is or has, he has from the Father together with the Son. But the Father and the Son are not two principles of the holy Spirit, but one principle, just as the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle.

    The holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son; not made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.

    the holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son

  108. Lucian Says:


    where exactly in the documents of the Council of Florence do you find the Filioque defined in the manner that you seem to interpret it?

    To make myself clear:

    I’m not saying that you’re necessarily wrong… it’s just that I have yet to see a single official document (Councils or Catechism) explaining the Filioque in the manner you propose.

    That would be all for now. Thank you.

  109. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    The Council offers the teaching in technical language, which you seemed to have difficulty understanding or quoting correctly. I tried to offer you an interpretation in colloquial layman’s terms. Now your difficulty appears to lie in the fact that I did not use the same words as the Council in interpreting the teaching for you. :-(

    Still, I thank you for acknowledging that I might not be wrong.

    Here are the key points from the texts you cite:

    “the procession of the holy Spirit from the Father and the Son is eternal and without beginning”

    i.e. it (the procession) exists outside of time.

    “the Father is … principle without principle”

    i.e. the Father is the source of the Trinity, himself having no source, and is thus the ultimate source of the other two Persons.

    “the Son is … principle from principle”

    i.e. The Son derives his origin from the Father

    “Whatever the holy Spirit is or has, he has from the Father together with the Son”

    i.e The Spirit derives his origin from the Father with the Son playing an integral (Latins would argue, hypostatic) role in the spiration. Note the subtle “together with” in contrast to the simple undifferentiated “and” (que) in the filioque and elsewhere in the text. The Fathers at Florence were trying to be as precise here as they could be in recognition of the fact that the plain, unadorned filioque had been misunderstood in the East.

    And to hammer this home:

    “the Father and the Son are not two principles of the holy Spirit, but one principle, just as the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle.”

    i.e. there is only one spiration, not two (one from the Father and one from the Son), the Son cooperating in the origination of the Spirit from the Father, but not as source.

    I assume the canons of Florence were approved in Greek as well as Latin. If they were, it might be both interesting and enlightening to note where in this hypothetical Greek version the Latin “procedere” is rendered as “proienai” (comes or moves) and where as “ekporeuetai” (originates), Latin not having separate terms for each.

  110. Lucian Says:

    the Son cooperating in the origination of the Spirit from the Father, but not as source.

    You seem to formally contradict the Council’s words:

    “proceeds from both eternally as from one principle”

    “the Son should be signified, according to the Greeks indeed as cause, and according to the Latins as principle of the subsistence of the holy Spirit, just like the Father”

    “the Father and the Son are not two principles of the holy Spirit, but one principle, just as the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle”

    And the following paragraph seems to teach that the Spirit proceeds from the Son JUST AS from the Father, since the Son inherited the Father’s spiration throught His birth from Him:

    “And since the Father gave to his only-begotten Son in begetting him everything the Father has, except to be the Father, so the Son has eternally from the Father, by whom he was eternally begotten, this also, namely that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.”

    I still don’t get it… And, again, actual official quotes, instead of personal assumptions, would be more helpful and credible… :-|

  111. Lucian Says:

    The Greek uses all words without distinction, relating to either Father, or Son, or both:

    “mias arches”, “aitia”, “proboles”, “ekporeuetai”, “proienai”, etc.


  112. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    Rather that going through an endless series of imbedded quotes…

    You wrote:

    You seem to formally contradict the Council’s words:

    “proceeds from both eternally as from one principle”, and

    “the Father and the Son are not two principles of the holy Spirit, but one principle, just as the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle”

    My response:

    If the Son were a source, there would be two principles, not one. The Son’s role is derivative, therefore the Spirit proceeds “as from one principle”. Do you get it now?

    Think this through carefully. If your interpretation were correct, wouldn’t the Council Fathers be insisting that there ARE two principles to the procession of the Spirit?

    You also quoted:

    “the Son should be signified, according to the Greeks indeed as cause, and according to the Latins as principle of the subsistence of the holy Spirit, just like the Father”

    My response:

    The language is right there in front of you: “principle OF THE SUBSISTENCE,” not of the procession/spiration! The change in substantive is significant.

    And finally, you wrote:

    And the following paragraph seems to teach that the Spirit proceeds from the Son JUST AS from the Father, since the Son inherited the Father’s spiration throught His birth from Him:

    “And since the Father gave to his only-begotten Son in begetting him everything the Father has, except to be the Father, so the Son has eternally from the Father, by whom he was eternally begotten, this also, namely that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.”

    I still don’t get it… And, again, actual official quotes, instead of personal assumptions, would be more helpful and credible… :-|

    My response:

    The fact that it seems to you to teach procession “JUST AS from the Father” doesn’t alter the fact that the quote doesn’t actually say that. The point of the passage in question (which is largely a quote from Augustine, I believe) is not to specify (as you seem to assume) HOW the Spirit proceeds from the Son, but WHY. The Father being who He is (a non-begettable attribute), and the Son being who He is (one begotten, unlike the Father), specifically preclude the possibility that the Spirit would proceed from the Son “JUST AS from the Father.”

    My best guess is that, as you scan the text, you are just processing out any words that don’t strike you immediately as meaningful, whereas you should really be stopping and wondering why this apparently (to you) meaningless verbiage is there in the first place. Let me assure that it isn’t poetic padding to make the text more sonorous or memorable (the text is anything but). Every word is there because it has to be, specifically to avoid misinterpretation.

    Now you want interpretive quotes. From whom? Bishops? Theologians? You seem reluctant to follow my suggestion that you actually read any of the many works on the filioque dispute written by Catholics (as opposed to un or poorly contextualized snippets gleaned from the works of Orthodox anti-Catholics). So here is some patristic exegesis written jointly by both Catholic and Orthodox bishops and theologians:

    “It is … not true that mainstream Latin theology has traditionally begun its Trinitarian reflections from an abstract, unscriptural consideration of the divine substance, or affirms two causes of the Spirit’s hypostatic existence, or means to assign the Holy Spirit a role subordinate to the Son, either within the Mystery of God or in God’s saving action in history.”


    ”…the Eastern and Western theological traditions have been in substantial agreement, since the patristic period, on a number of fundamental affirmations about the Holy Trinity that bear on the Filioque debate:
    • both traditions clearly affirm that the Holy Spirit is a distinct hypostasis or person within the divine Mystery, equal in status to the Father and the Son, and is not simply a creature or a way of talking about God’s action in creatures;
    • although the Creed of 381 does not state it explicitly, both traditions confess the Holy Spirit to be God, of the same divine substance (homoousios) as Father and Son;
    • both traditions also clearly affirm that the Father is the primordial source (arch‘) and ultimate cause (aitia) of the divine being, and thus of all God’s operations: the “spring” from which both Son and Spirit flow, the “root” of their being and fruitfulness, the “sun” from which their existence and their activity radiates;
    • both traditions affirm that the three hypostases or persons in God are constituted in their hypostatic existence and distinguished from one another solely by their relation¬ships of origin, and not by any other characteristics or activities;
    • accordingly, both traditions affirm that all the operations of God – the activities by which God summons created reality into being, and forms that reality, for its well-being, into a unified and ordered cosmos centered on the human creature, who is made in God’s image – are the common work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even though each of them plays a distinctive role within those operations that is determined by their relationships to one another.”


    “In Augustine’s view, this involve¬ment of the Son in the Spirit’s procession is not understood to contradict the Father’s role as the single ultimate source of both Son and Spirit, but is itself given by the Father in generating the Son: “the Holy Spirit, in turn, has this from the Father himself, that he should also proceed from the Son, just as he proceeds from the Father” (Tractate on Gospel of John 99.8).

    “Much of the difference between the early Latin and Greek traditions on this point is clearly due to the subtle difference of the Latin procedere from the Greek ekporeuesthai: as we have observed, the Spirit’s “coming forth” is designated in a more general sense by the Latin term, without the connotation of ultimate origin hinted at by the Greek. The Spirit’s “procession” from the Son, however, is conceived of in Latin theology as a somewhat different relationship from his “procession” from the Father, even when – as in the explanations of Anselm and Thomas Aquinas – the relationship of Father and Son to the Holy Spirit is spoken of as constituting “a single principle” of the Spirit’s origin: even in breathing forth the Spirit together, according to these later Latin theologians, the Father retains priority, giving the Son all that he has and making possible all that he does. “


    “Although the difference between the Greek and the Latin tradi¬tions of under¬standing the eternal origin of the Spirit is more than simply a verbal one, much of the ori¬gi¬nal concern in the Greek Church over the insertion of the word Filioque into the Latin trans¬lation of the Creed of 381 may well have been due – as Maximus the Confessor explained (Letter to Marinus: PG 91.133-136) – to a misunder¬standing on both sides of the different ranges of meaning implied in the Greek and Latin terms for “procession”.”


    “Gregory of Nyssa, for instance, explains that we can only distinguish the hypostases within the Mystery of God by “believing that one is the cause, the other is from the cause; and in that which is from the cause, we recognize yet another distinction: one is immediately from the first one, the other is through him who is immediately from the first one.” It is characteristic of the “mediation” (mesiteia) of the Son in the origin of the Spirit, he adds, that it both pre¬serves his own unique role as Son and allows the Spirit to have a “natural relationship” to the Father. (To Ablabius: GNO III/1, 56.3-10)”

    All these quotes are from the 2003 Agreed Statement of the
    North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation.

    The challenge is really for you to find any Catholic interpretive texts that make Catholic teaching at Florence or anywhere else to be what you claim it is

  113. Lucian Says:

    There’s nothing there, either in what I quoted, or in what you quoted, that seems to support your view of the Father being the ONLY Source of the Spirit, while the Son ‘calls’ Him out of the Father, thus the Two (Father and Son) being but One Principle of the Holy Spirit (the Son being NOT a Source, and yet part of the One Principle, together with the Father).

    If the Son were a source, there would be two principles, not one. […] Think this through carefully. If your interpretation were correct, wouldn’t the Council Fathers be insisting that there ARE two principles to the procession of the Spirit?

    The Council’s wording seems crystal-clear to me:

    the Father and the Son are not two principles of the holy Spirit, but one principle, just as the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle.

    The fact that it seems to you to teach procession “JUST AS from the Father” doesn’t alter the fact that the quote doesn’t actually say that. […] The Father being who He is (a non-begettable attribute), and the Son being who He is (one begotten, unlike the Father), specifically preclude the possibility that the Spirit would proceed from the Son “JUST AS from the Father.”

    Again, the Council’s words seem transparent to me: the Son inherits *everything* (*except* fatherhood) from the Father: *including* spiration. The Son therefore possesses the VERY SAME *spiration* as the Father’s, just as He ALSO possesses the VERY SAME *nature* as the Father’s. The ONLY thing He does NOT possess from the Father is *fatherhood* — as simple as that (and spiration/procession isn’t the same as fatherhood/begetting).

    The language is right there in front of you: “principle OF THE SUBSISTENCE,” not of the procession/spiration! The change in substantive is significant.

    “the Son should be signified, according to the Greeks indeed as cause, and according to the Latins as principle of the subsistence of the holy Spirit, just like the Father

    As for the quotes you provided… notice how the word “ultimate” just keeps on repeating itself… and the word “intermediate” in St Gergory’s quote. Etc.

  114. Michaël de Verteuil Says:

    Lucian, I give up. Obviously, nothing I can say or quote is going to change your mind. You apparently unshakably believe you know what Catholics believe better than any Catholic alive or dead. I can’t deal with that level of delusion.

  115. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    Please don’t take this as a sign of disrespect, but I plan this to be my concluding message on this thread. I think we have long overstayed our welcome and abused of Dr.Gilbert’s patience and hospitality. Sadly there is nothing like a filioque discussion to get people going, as if there was much likelihood of anything truly new emerging after more than 11 centuries of on again off again argument.

    First, on why my beliefs are not relevant: what the Church in the West teaches and has taught dogmatically is, of course, highly pertinent to what the Church as a whole taught prior to the schism and would teach once the schism is healed; similarly what the Western Church understands and even teaches ordinarily as opposed to dogmatically is also relevant. As I don’t propose to teach anything here beyond my understanding of what the dogmatic and ordinary teaching on the filioque consists of in its historical context, my own personal beliefs are *not* relevant to this discussion, and you should thus accept my preference to keep them private.

    I do have views with respect to philosophy as a whole that might be relevant, however. In general, I hold the field in low esteem because, like economists, many practitioners seem to have considerable difficulty distinguishing between conceptual representations and underlying concrete realities. I find that the philosophically inclined often become so used to using, manipulating and relating abstractions that they come to believe that these have a real (almost quasi-material) objective existence. All this business of essences/energies/natures/wills etc. is to me a clear example. These concepts are useful perhaps in talking about God and his works, but they aren’t necessary, and are at best analogical in their potential explanatory force.

    The created and eternal order do not consist of essences and energies. These concepts are our creations, not God’s. There is nothing in the creeds or scripture about our having to believe in essences and energies. The concepts aren’t even “natural” in that they are the product specifically of a single (Hellenic) philosophical tradition. This goes a long way i.a. towards explaining why the more Semitic and Coptic traditions have had such difficulty internalizing Christological doctrine as articulated at Ephesus and Chalcedon, and why it has been so easy for us historically to misread their Christology as Nestorian or Monophysite.

    It follows then that efforts to ascribe this or that phenomenon or attribute selectively and differentially to the essence or energies of this or that Person of the Trinity is an artificial exercise. It might explain something about the conceptual framework with which we are discussing God, and possibly illuminate our understanding of God, but it can’t actually explain anything about God as God.

    Now having said all this, I recognize that Greek philosophical concepts are powerful tools that have some utility (just as I recognize that Marxist concepts can be useful in understanding societal relations, for example) without our having to confuse these concept with realities. Analogies *can* be highly enlightening, but also misleading. And this brings me to your query about how I square my philosophical skepticism (as it were) with the willingness (even eagerness) of Church Fathers to seize on, use and even dogmatize with such concepts generally, and specifically with respect to Constantinople III.

    I’ll focus on answering the narrow part of this question as this will also explain my position on the broader. We have to begin by recognizing certain limitations with respect to the Council itself. Principally, we don’t have a clear record of its canons. We know of course what its conclusions were, we know who and what was condemned and why, but we don’t have the actual words in which these condemnations were articulated. That said, let’s grant that the Council’s definitions were strewn with references to essences and energies, carefully contrasted and distinguished one from the other. That still wouldn’t constitute dogmatic affirmation in their reality, as it would still allow for their validity as strictly analogical tools.

    The whole narrative behind the single, dual or double nature of Christ concerned *acceptable* and *not acceptable* ways of *talking* about God. At no time at Ephesus or Chalcedon did the Council Fathers insist that moderate dyophysitism encapsulated the only legitimate understanding of Christ. Ephesus ruled out what was understood as an extreme subordinationist dyophysitism, while Chalcedon merely defended the use of a balanced dyophysitism in the face of the heated objections of Dioscorus and his miaphysite supporters. The mere fact that the Chalcedonians and miaphysites couldn’t even agree on what constitutes an essence in itself should point to caution about treating either definition as an objective representation of reality.

    Similarly the point of Constantinople III was not to affirm the actual existence of essences and energies, but to define a monotheletitism specifically expressed through these terms as a *not acceptable* way in which to understand Christ. This was a classic exercise of apophatic and not cataphatic theology. There is thus no obligation, stemming from the Council or its Fathers, to understand God in terms of essences and energies at all.

    But I would go further. Even if essences and energies had been *used* cataphatically in a dogmatic definition, this would still not necessitate belief or even acceptance of their reality, unless the very concepts themselves were somehow presented as the subject of revelation (through e.g. an affirmation that the existence of essences and energies was a truth actually revealed by God to the apostles and passed on by them as essential to salvation). Given their linguistic and cultural background, it strikes me as very unlikely that any of the apostles (except possibly St Paul) would even have grasped the distinction intuitively, let alone teach it.

    As I mentioned and for the reasons given above, this formally ends my participation in this thread, though I am open to pursuing this discussion privately with you if you believe this would be useful.

  116. Skarga1618 Says:

    St Faustus of Riez also confessed the Filioque:

    “Le fait qu’il ait un nom à Lui prouve qu’il est la Troisième Personne, à côté des deux Premières ; leur Unité de majesté démontre qu’Elle procède de Dieu et que « troisième » dans l’énumération ne signifie point une infériorité de rang. En effet, procéder de l’intime de Dieu c’est être de sa substance, et non pas sa créature. Ne cherche pas à pénétrer comment il est Dieu, Celui dont il est manifeste qu’il est Dieu. Ici la raison se tait, la vérité se manifeste. Pourquoi demander comment se fait l’union et l’égalité entre le Roi et Celui dont il est avéré qu’il est de nature royale et honoré comme tel. Il est superflu de se mettre en quête du nom quand il n’y a aucun doute de sa Grandeur. Ainsi donc l’Esprit Saint procède du Père et du Fils, selon ces paroles : Qui n’a pas l’Esprit du Christ ne lui appartient pas (Ro 8, 9). Et celles-ci : Il souffla sur eux et leur dit : « recevez l’Esprit Saint (Jn 20, 22).”

    “En disant « Esprit de Dieu » et à la suite « Esprit du Christ » Paul emploie pour désigner le Christ la même expression que pour désigner Dieu, notons-le. Et si d’autre part l’appellation « Esprit de Dieu » signifie « Esprit du Père », voici que l’Esprit Saint se manifeste à la fois Esprit du Père et Esprit du Fils par Unité de substance. Et c’est donc à bon droit qu’on le discerne comme « procédant de l’Un et de l’Autre et qu’on le reconnaît comme une Personne distincte dans les liens de la Trinité. ”

    “Nous disons que l’Esprit est envoyé par le Père et par le Fils et qu’il procède de la même substance et que leur action est commune et c’est pourquoi le Fils dit de Lui : Le Paraclet … qui procède du Père (Jn15, 26). Il n’a pas dit : « Créé par le Père », mais « qui procède du Père », ce qui signifie qu’il se réfère à la puissance et à la nature du Père, en union avec Lui. Et l’expression « procéder du Père », précisément, fait ressortir que l’Esprit, avec le Père, n’a pas de commencement. ”

    “Si tu veux savoir quelle est la différence entre celui qui naît et celui qui procède, elle tient naturellement à ce que le premier est Fils Unique (du Père) tandis que le second tire son origine du Père et du Fils. L’Esprit Saint, en procédant du Père, manifeste qu’il possède les trois prérogatives de la Déité, la subsistance en Soi en tant que Personne, l’éternité hors du temps et la pleine provenance de la substance du Père. Et quand nous évoquons la procession de l’Esprit, au sens propre du terme nous reconnaissons qu’il échappe aux lois du temps et qu’il n’a ni commencement ni fin. Dans la lecture : Je suis Celui qui Suis (Ex 3, 14), et : Celui qui Est m’a envoyé, nous avons l’exemple d’une révélation et d’une procession.(1) En effet « être » et « procéder » expriment l’éternité de l’Unique. Ainsi, nous comprenons que la « procession » n’est ni première ni dernière et qu’elle n’a ni début ni fin qui la déterminent.”


  117. Nick Says:

    Saint Ambrose writes most cogently in his On the Holy Spirit, Book III, putting together John 7:37-39 AND Revelations 22:1-2, saying in Chapter 20:

    153. And this, again, is not a trivial matter that we read that a river goes forth from the throne of God. For you read the words of the Evangelist John to this purport: And He showed me a river of living water, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street thereof, and on either side, was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of all nations. (Revelation 22:1-2)

    154. This is certainly the River proceeding from the throne of God, that is, the Holy Spirit, Whom he drinks who believes in Christ, as He Himself says: If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He that believes in Me, as says the Scripture, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spoke He of the Spirit. (John 7:37-38) Therefore the river is the Spirit.


  118. This really is the 4th blog, of your site I read through.
    Nevertheless I actually like this specific 1, “The Filioque:
    a very basic introduction De unione ecclesiarum” the best.

    Thanks ,Francisco

  119. John Says:

    Hi guys, i m an orthodox christian. I alway had the view that the language in the council of Florence has had its limitations. I understand that the motive (as from one principle) was to avert double sourcing, however it blurred linguisticly the subject further. Lucian does not see and does not want to see this or he sees it and wants to stick upon for ages. Obviously the strict word per word interpretation is wrong or leads to wrong conclusions anda better wording would have made things easier. Hypostatic role as of the Son being “needed” for the existence of the holy Ghost will and cannot not be accepted by us but a mediation of a kind of acceptance/joyfull approval of the hypostatic origination of the Spirit from the Father by the Son leading to an ad intra STRONG preeternal ontological manifestation could bridge the gap. Certainly the Father alone is able to bring the Spirit into existence and does not need the son for this, that could prove Photius right and the council of Florence if the “hypostatic” thing is moderated. The filioque question is used by many ultaorthodox parrticularly residing in the West as a vehicle to resist intercommunion and to continuously justify the disruption of communion for doctrinal reasons-let aside anti-ecumenism. Clearly i disagree with the inclusion as many members of the western church the reasons being different in the merovingian visigothic period compared to the carolingians or to make it clearer with the way it happened and the underlying corresponding interpretation of the primacy in th 10th century.

  120. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    Your willingness to treat the issue ecumenically is clearly a sign of deep charity. The issue, however, is probably not amenable to the kind of resolution that you propose. The solution will not be found in deeper and ever more specific speculation about the ontological relationship or from a watering down of catholic belief. At the risk of boring you, I would like to take a moment to explain both why this is the case, and why alternate approaches might be more promising.

    First, I would like to clear up what seems to be a misunderstanding. Actual Catholic/Western teaching concerning the procession is both rather modest and limited. Catholics believe (or at least the Church teaches) that the Spirit originates in the Father in the strict sense, but that the Son cooperates in the procession of the Spirit from the Father, and that this cooperation is integral to the Spirit’s identity and to the ontological relationship between the three persons of the Trinity. That’s pretty much it. Everything else on the subject (such as exactly how the Spirit’s identity is ontologically affected) is more or less well-grounded speculation and in no way binds a Catholic’s conscience. There is thus no requirement for Catholics to believe that the Son is “needed” for the “existence” of the Holy Spirit. Though it is obvious to Catholics that the Spirit is who He is in part because of his relationship to the Son, this is not a revealed truth but merely an inescapable (to Catholics) logical deduction.

    The hypostatic “thing,” as you put it, is thus not something that can be “moderated.” It is what it is and unfortunately lies inescapably at the heart of what is at issue once you have stripped away the linguistic, canonical, and historical aspects of the dispute. To Catholics God does not exist in time, ergo all aspects of the relationship between the three persons must not only be eternal, but also “timeless” and inherent to the identity of each of the three persons (though it can, of course, also find expression in time as we mortals experience it). Trying to cast one aspect of the relationship exclusively in terms of temporal (even if “eternal”) manifestation is merely a rather unconvincing (to Catholics) evasion of the underlying issue.

    Clearly (and for reasons I, ignorant as I am, cannot claim to really understand in terms that do not at the same time strike me as essentially pejorative and thus un-Christian), a substantial proportion of contemporary Orthodoxy cannot seem to stomach the “hypostatic thing.” The ecumenical implications of this difficulty are not, however, symmetrical. Logic is not part of revealed truth, and the Church cannot insist that the faithful draw all possible logical conclusions that can be drawn from the Apostolic deposit. It suffices that the faithful draw those to which the Church calls attention as required for living a life in conformity with the divine plan as it has been revealed to us. Thus, monopatrists are not of necessity excluded from Catholic communion. Indeed, Catholic communion is open to any Orthodox who should seek it, and no adjuration of monopatrism is required. The filioque dispute is only a bar to communion because Orthodoxy has made it one.

    The ecumenical question thus fundamentally revolves around why Orthodoxy has made this determination. To this question Catholics receive a number of differing (though not necessarily contradictory) answers from various Orthodox (all of which are naturally contested by the Catholic side). These include claims that the filioque is in and of itself “heretical” or, while not necessarily inherently heretical, it leads logically to denial of the monarchy of the Father, or it is “not traditional” (perhaps with a capital “T”), or it appears to fly in the face of the writings of respected fathers, or it is “uncanonical.” In fact, any or even all of these reasons might be the underlying one(s) though you will find Orthodox bishops and theologians who would argue for one or more of these explanations while denying the others. Basically, Catholics are still waiting for an authoritative Orthodox explanation that carries actual ecumenical weight.

    I might offer two possible explanations for why such an “authoritative” explanation has not been forthcoming:

    1. While they are virtually unanimous in condemning the interpolation to the creed, Orthodox do not agree among themselves over exactly why the interpolation is a bad thing and thus attempting to formulate an authoritative response would run the risk of exposing differences and undermining Orthodox unity.

    2. Contemporary Orthodox ecclesiological praxis also effectively precludes the gathering of a pan-Orthodox instrument or spokesman capable of offering an authoritative explanation.

    A formal Pan-Orthodox determination that the filioque is heretical would end the discussion, and this is perhaps what some Orthodox anti-ecumenists wish for. We could then perhaps stop obsessing about the unity Christ prayed for and limit ourselves to mere practical issues such as cooperation on ethics in the public sphere.

    Ultimately, however, there is no evidence that the West has ever not been filioquist except in limited and isolated contexts that even Orthodoxy recognizes as unambiguously heretical (e.g. Arianism and some outgrowths of the Reformation). This means that Orthodoxy for half its history was in actual communion with filioquists and indeed (insofar as any form of papal leadership is conceded), actually “led” by filioquists. Furthermore, Orthodoxy at least formally venerates Western saints such as Ambrose, Augustine and Leo whose writings are objectively difficult to square with a purely temporal manifestation of Christ’s role in the procession (N.B. Mark of Ephesus’ rather telling response to this evidence was that all the then extant writings of these fathers must have been forgeries).

    This suggests to me that resolution is more likely to come from an agreement to disagree than from any moderation of the “hypostatic thing.” If Orthodox want to believe in “a mediation of a kind of acceptance/joyfull approval of the hypostatic origination of the Spirit from the Father by the Son leading to an ad intra STRONG preeternal ontological manifestation,” that’s all right from the Catholic perspective. It just wouldn’t do justice to what Catholics have always believed and understood about the procession. Imposing such an understanding on Catholics would be a non starter.

  121. John Says:

    Dear Michael,
    thank you very much for your reply, i can only tell you that i see an acceptance of this ontological manifestation(φανερωσις) on a preeternal basis (alongside the temporal mission) from many Orthodox theologians placed more or less within the cosubstantial framework of The Trinity , distinct from the hypostatic procession resting solely to the Father in the absolute sense(this is what i meant by moderation of the “hypostatic thing”-probably i somehow mislead you there- i meant this distinction which is important also linguistically for us).(So there is a growing consensus that linguistics may have done a “bad” through the ages). I am also of this opinion.You are absolutely right that many theologians give an orthodox interpretation to Filioque that does not substantially differ from the interpretation you present. You are right though there are still those that try to stick to a temporal mission but they can only have their view as theologoumenon just as the preeternal procession. So if you mean this by “agreement to disagree” that ‘s also acceptable from their part, however i see a growing consensus not to reject preeternal procession per se under particular assumptions.
    In respect to the filioque being “uncanonical” , obviously (and i am of the same opinion) it has to do not with the teaching itself but with the fact that the interpollation was done without the consent of the Eastern church, both by the Frankish church and by the Pope later which is where we differ not about (again) the primacy but the way it was implemented.
    In general to conclude i see a consensus to consent to the “orthodox” filioque ( as Kallistos of Diokleia -Cambridge UK) or even ex catholic Deseille has it in his mind etc which is the one based more or less on the Fathers as “προιεναι” , the modest(i used “moderated”), one you are describing, once the political and linguistics issues are stripped off.
    But you are right church unity is also important for us and for you too, so we have to go slow on this.
    Finally thank you for understanding the ecumenical spirit of me and many orthodox.
    By way have you ever had a chance to know (confer) with Kallistos?

  122. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    I’m sorry to have taken so long in responding. I hope this did not seem like a snub. Thank you for clarifying that by “moderation of the hypostatic thing” you meant “moderation of the Orthodox response” as opposed to “moderation of the Catholic teaching.” If this is indeed what you meant, then I can only thank you for a very understanding and ecumenically sensitive position. I am sadly so used to hearing Orthodox online tell me what Catholics ought to believe that I took your first message as merely a more courteous version of the same.

    I have never had the pleasure of meeting Metropolitan Kallistos Ware though I have listened to some of his speeches (and found them quite entertaining). I’m not entirely sure otherwise what to make of him, however. At the risk of high jacking this thread to where even I don’t want to go, I will admit that I used to admire what I saw as an ecumenical openness to the Western expression of orthodox Christianity, but after he went all wobbly on the ordination of women… This is what he wrote in 2008:

    “I’ve spoken about the need for catholic consensus on issues like the ordination of women or the blessing of homosexual relations. These are departures from Church order and from accepted moral teaching of major importance, and therefore there ought to be some consensus not just within the Anglican Communion but with the other Churches, especially those that preserve the historic apostolic faith and order, the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. That is one side of the matter, the need for consensus. But then we might also say, should there not also be the possibility for a prophetic action? Will you ever have change unless some people are willing to stand up and say, this is what we ought to be doing? And even if their testimony is highly controversial, who will nonetheless stand by their position. It could be argued that perhaps the Anglican Communion was guided by the Holy Spirit to lead other Christians into new paths. Now I can see that as a valid argument and I want to balance that against the point that we need to act with catholic consensus. How can we do both these things together – preserve catholic consensus, and yet allow grace for freedom in the Holy Spirit? Christ did not tell us that nothing should never be done for the first time. The whole witness of the early Church points in a different direction. So how do you balance these two things – the need for consensus with the need for freedom in the Spirit, the need for loyalty to holy tradition, with the need to be open to new initiatives?”

    I quoted at length lest someone claim I do so out of context. Now I am hardly a traditionalist. In fact, I find traditionalist Catholics who dissent from Church order and endlessly carp against the hierarchy to be little more than an annoyance. I am quite open to widening the space for women in non-sacramental leadership functions in the Church, and I have no problem with them approaching the altar in a non-sacramental context. I also note that Catholic sacramental teaching allows for women to administer baptism (because any lay Catholic can baptise). But I find Ware’s openness here to “the possibility for a prophetic action” a little too gaping for my understanding of where one has to draw an uncrossable line between orthodox and heterodox praxis. This leaves me wondering to what extent I can still consider Kallistos Ware an authoritative (and so ecumenically useful) spokesman for Orthodoxy.

    In any case, I only bring Ware up because you asked. I hope no one rises to the bait and tries to turn this into a discussion of women’s ordination rather than ecumenical understanding. Not only would it try my patience, but I suspect it would that of our kind host as well. This is not the place.

  123. John Says:


    it was certainly not my intention to tell anyone want to beleive in, i do not think that the orthodox bloggers are some how trying to dictate anything to anyone they’ re simply presenting arguments questions etc. Ware is said to have said that the controversy of filioque is more in the area of linguistics and based on the fact that the hypostatic(existential) procession from the Father is distinguished clearly from the (whatever type) procession from the Son we all agree on his statement, that’s why i mentioned him.
    Obviously i do not want to raise any peculiar sideline issue, i am sure you are well aware of the position of the Church in the East about women priesthood etc, or homosexual blessings, however his approach if well understood is correct. He speaks of theological consensus(not majority rule or common sense or .. or.. which are more or less wordly criteria) (implied is the synodical body of the Church approval of any decision, action etc in respect of the grave moral teachings from which we cannot depart) but he speaks also of the “prophetic action” per se(ie introduction of church customs, rules etc similar to the old testament period) which should be of course an ongoing process allowing for novelties in principle, not departing necessarily from these moral teachings. Please note that both involve the very idea of the Holy Ghost proceeding from the Son as His temporal mission is concerned, therefore Ware’s passage is not unrelated to this thread. The fundamental principle should lie exactly there:Would Christ or the saints want this or the other ? would it help the Church or even more precise would it help it more than it would damage her? And obviously the questions and answers should be discussed in pure heart and not in any context of intellectual scholastic assertions or even infallibility traps either of the hierarchy or of the laymen, not crossing of course the line where the decisions are against the fundamental moral or other teachings of the Church. What should be clear is however the following:The issues involved(celibacy , ordination of women etc) should not be discussed with wordly criteria-it is not about ideology, traditionalism or feminism. Personnaly i would like to see the abolition of cellibacy for all grades as it was the praxis in the anciant church(St Spyridon bishop of Cyprus was married, i think St Patrick’s father was also a deacon) but again any discussion should lie within a framework i mentioned. And again which comes first: the loss of the community spirit, the disillusionment and loss of hope, poverty and environmental destruction are far more important than to ordain or not women.

  124. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    Unfortunately, it really isn’t only a matter of linguistics. Orthodox Western Christians insist that the procession from the Son is also unambiguously hypostatic (that’s the fundamental point in dispute), even as the Son’s role in the procession clearly differs hypostatically from that of the Father. All forms of relationship between any two of the three persons (including their mutual love and unity) can only be hypostatic because of who the persons are. To agree that there is a distinction (to the extent that some non-temporal role for the Son in the procession is accepted) is nothing new. No Western bishop or theologian, to my knowledge, ever claimed that the Spirit proceeds from the Son in the same way as from the Father. So while Ware’s statement may help clear up some misunderstandings among the Orthodox about what Westerners actually believe, it doesn’t bring us any closer to resolution in the sense of achieving a common understanding.

    Now having said this, I think that we can both agree that continuing misunderstandings among Orthodox as to what Catholics actually believe certainly helps keep both sides apart. With separation comes a mutual lack of charity and so a difficulty in discerning to what degree differences are or are not fundamental.

  125. John Says:


    the”proienai” from or through the Son is placed within the context of the consubstantiability (at least this is what i understand from reading the Fathers) as many other identities of the three Persons. The word Hypostasis is associated clearly with the word “Person” and the understanding of the hypostatic procession from the Father refers to the will if you allow me to say it so to bring the Holy Ghost into existence equally to begetting the Son. The western fathers never spoke of Hypostasis because it is a Greek word. Their procession was either a simple pouring through or a more “essential” proienai (Augustine”) who starts with the Divine essence( a bit contrary to the Eastern Fathers). He does not make the Son Hypostatic Causer in the RESTRICTED eastern use of the word hypostasis of the Spirit in noway because he does not even understand Hypostasis ( and he says it). The proienai from or through the Son can be treated thus and should be treated within the cosubstantiality framework and there you can also treat it as part of the ontological relationships of the two persons. They share the same essence , love etc. (Pls. note that Augustine starts with essence and then goes to persons , therefore you should understand his filioque and the one of the fathers East & West in this framework (cosubstantiality), the “hypostatic thing” in wording began to appear through scholastisism very later but even there Thomas of Aquin says “i cannot distinguish the Holy Spirit as a person if he does not proceed from the Son too”(again “manifestation” effect- he uses “distinguish”, he does not say that the Holy Ghost does not EXIST if he does not proceed from the Son too- which is the red line for orthodoxy in the East and West ) What most Western Christians believe is that somehow this procession(which way is still a matter of speculation”) is part of the ontology of the Holy Spirit. That is not contested(was never) by the Eastern Church as long as it is not hypostatic in the SENSE that the East has used very restrictively this word(Obviously if you define “hypostatic” generally as “contribution to its being/ontology”as you have stated there is room for discussion). The eastern Church has insisted that the Hypostasis is an absolute term that should be left to the monarchy of the Father. You are using the word in a relativated fashion that can be described more or less close to ontological. (again linguistics are important). You are also making the distiction that the “hypostatic function ” differs with respect to the Son so you see the two positions are not far. I think that if the council of Florence took a bit more and the historical context was different these terms could be clarified better.

  126. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    I don’t quite understand how “hypostasis” can be “an absolute term that should be left to the monarchy of the Father” when each of three persons is referred to explicitly as a “hypostasis.” Indeed the union of the divine and human natures in Christ is referred to as a “hypostatic union.”

    I also think you have missed the gist of Aquinas’ observation if you see it as somehow referring to “manifestation.” What he means is that he (Thomas Aquinas) cannot understand (not just perceive) how the Holy Spirit could be who He is (i.e distinct from the Son) if He (the Spirit) does not proceed from the Son also.

    Whether the Holy Spirit could “exist” if he does not proceed from the Son is a largely nonsensical question from the Catholic point of view. It’s like asking whether a rock could exist if it was not made of stone or, more apropos, whether the Father could “exist” without begetting the Son. It might make a bit more sense to ask whether any third hypostasis could exist without reference to both the other two. I think Aquinas would answer in the negative. The three persons have no identity (i.e. personhood, hypostasis) independent of their relationship with each other.

    As to whether “the two positions are not far,” I would argue that this might be the case for *some* Orthodox understandings of the procession. This would not be the case, however, for an understanding that would limit any underlying relationship between the Son and the Spirit to a temporal (even if eternal) “manifestation.” And it appears to me that many Orthodox do indeed take this harder position which amounts to a flat, bald denial of the Catholic one. I recognize that Blachernae does not go quite that far (or rather that it need not be interpreted in such terms), but many Orthodox appear to think that this is exactly what their faith requires of them. One of the problems, in my view, is not just a difference in East-West positions, but in East-East ones as well.

  127. John Says:

    The Fathers are very simple in this. There are those that are “koina” shared and the unsharable(“ακοινωνητα” (“akoinonoita”) Indeed you have hypostatic union, equally you have the hypostatic derivation( the Son through begetting and the Spirit through proceeding”) The three persons share the same divine substance and the two (this is what Augustine teaches in reality) SHARE the ability to pour the Holy Spirit and in fact this IS an ontological function the two persons SHARE and the third partakes. But just as sharing the divine substance does not make the Son a person (Begetting does) equally sharing the ability to let the Holy Spirit proceed from the Son too(indeed some sort of ontological function for the two persons) does not make the Holy Spirit a person. This is precisely the patristic principle that the Franks ignored, it is what Pope Leo tries to protect and is what also Saint Maximus the confessor tells us: that in the 7th century the Romans DO NOT make the Son a cause of the Holy Spirit by saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son too. This interpretation changes when the descendants of the FrancoBarons in the 12 century decide to boost theologically the interpollation through the so called scholastisism-and at the abscence of patristic backing they revert to Aristotle: PERSONAS SUNT RELATIONES . Persons are relations !!! This is the abstract philosophical “person” that allowed them to give hypostatic procession to the Son as well, that namely the Holy Spirit find the completion of His EXISTENCE As a Hypostasis BECAUSE he proceeds from the Son too. It means he cannot exist as a person unless he proceeds from the Son too!.This is certainly not the modest filioque you describe so far and not the one the Ortrhodox christians in West believed but the very one the western orthodox church was not citing in the 7th century(St Maximus) and the one that Photius fought claiming the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only. What the Fracogerman theologians did and imposed as understanding to the orthodox christians in the West (as most of the bishops of the West in Florence were in straight line of feudal franco-norman germanic ancestry) is to JUSTIFY the INTERPOLLATION by EXTRAPOLLATING the ontological(indeed) shared function of pouring out the Holy Spirit onto the level of HYPOSTATIC derivation/completion.The real problem thus is the scholastic interpretation at the abscence of Patristic one(Not a single father says explicitly that the Son partakes into the Hypostatic completion of the Holy Spirit and the West until the 10th century simply never said it acc. St Maximus) which interpretation however is not binding for the church of Rome(at least this is what is found in the Internet). The council of Florence used this methodology which for the Eastern church departs from the one of the Fathers without though rejecting the claim that this procession is an ontological one, affecting somehow the beings involved.
    Now there is something however more important : the abstract “peron” of the holy Trinity defined as “set of relations” This is precisely not the Hypostasis decribed by the Greek Fathers. Both the philosophical scholastic approach and the attempt to apply it to the ecumenical church is explained absolutely by the historical environment of the 12th century. The theological imposition on the East (and in fact linguistically at least in any possible way that it would be incompatible to Patristic theology and language of the eastern Fathers) is nothing else than the theological reflection of the crusades of the Franco German nobility. Their “theology” needed an abstract (thus impersonal philosophical God) because it was only through such a God (either God the Substance-“Augustinism” not Augustine) or God the “Relation”- scholastisism that would allow them to oppress , steal , murder Christrians , Muslims Jews etc. Please be reminded that from the first German “Reich” of the so called “Father of Christian Europe” a guy called Charlemagne with 15 illegitimate children(though easily he accused the East of pornocracy), occupied the Roman province of Gaul(whatever south of the Rhine) and imposed his cryptopagan society of casts(feudal nobility ranks were based on “blood and honor” raciality, as if you were not a higher noble blood based German you could not rise to political or ecclestiastical authority) And Saint Boniface the romanized Aglosaxon apostle of Germany tells us that the Franks at his time(8th century) were treating the occupied Romans worse than the still German pagans. Effectively even the name of the country was changed from Gaul to “France” (land of the Franks even though the occupying “noble” Germanic population was not more than 5% of the population of Gaul-a Roman population described as “others” by the frankish chronicles that made at least three revolutions agains the German feudal yoke siding together even with Muslims Arabs).
    In England the things got even worse, the Anglosaxon civilization(St Bede chronicles) not having at all the feudal structure of continental Germany was destroyed by the Normans who killed one fourth of the population destroyed their wooden churches(all the stone made churches seen in the UK are Norman made) The myth is also explicit : the Orthodox romanized Anglosaxon Robin hood is fighting the Normans and THEIR CHURCH!. He dies in fact murdered in a Norman monastery poisoned by a Norman “catholic” nun. Even there falsification of history is prevailing: The typical Anglosaxon of today besides page three of the SUN and soccer adores his queen and her Norman feudal strucrures ie those who enslaved him and murdered him in the 10th century.
    And in the 20th Germany this raciality was also expressed through national socialism. (Remember the SS division “Charlemagne”) but also the fact that the SS state after the war (Himmler) would consist of castles with the so called “Wehrbauer” a typical replica of the feudal structure.(Again as in the 10th century, the Slavs this time caled “Untermenschen” would have to be subdued at the point where they could not have a civilization. This is precisely what their ancestors did in Moravia in the the 10th century when they(Bavarian feudal clegy) ordered the murder and slavery of the disciples of St Methodius as they did not like the use of Slavonic (local slavic language) in the mass(they liked Latin which was to be only for the higher Germanic class thus keeping the Slavic population illiterate just as they kept the lower german population illiterate in Germany) .
    Finally please note that the common justification for all these cryptopagan murders , occupation etc was ONE and the SAME:”lest they overcome us and make slaves of us Franks”. (In the second world war it was the jews who would overcome them, in the Afrikaaners state and the deep Ku klux klan south it would be the blacks etc) The raciality element comes through the ages precisely from the crypto pagan structure of the Karolingian state and takes different forms.
    So i have to be a bit strict as to an agument that it was simply a competition between Franks and Byzantines in the 9th centrury onwards where both sides used dogma. This is not the historical reality it is sheer falsification of history. The so called “Byzantium”(the word is an invention of the German school of history in the 19th century”) or the “Greeks” (“contra errores Graecorum”) is the legitimate successor of the Christian Roman empire where a simple soldier COULD become an emperor (ie not as in the so-called “holy roman empire of the germanic nation” where ONLY a feudal rank and blood based nobleman could become King)and has not a SINGLE aggressive war in his history, we did not invent crusades against Muslims, Jews , Orthodox Kelts of Spain, Orthodox Anglosaxons, Polish orthodox who through uniatism submitted to the “feudalcatholic ” opression etc. Also the synodical element is preserved in the East where as in the West after the deposition of the Roman popes by Feudalgermans The Pope (just as the German emperor) is elected by a “council” of the “cardinals” which is a direct replika of the election of the emperor by the council of the barons. Let aside the fact that when the filioque interpollation was accepted in Rome there was no synod at all. It meant only that the papal primacy/infallibility could do it. But Lo and behold! only that of the German frankish popes -namely two centuries ago when Leo(of non Frank ancestry) forbad the interpollation the Franks disobeyed. Obvioulsly he was not infallible then!. The Pope may even be infallible today as he still does not respect the decision of the 6th ecumenical council forbidding the obligatory celibacy in the church of Rome!
    This feudalcatholic spiritual element(“Frankism”) its theology , the intellectualism and rationalism into treating and understanding God in contrast to the empirical heart felt western and eastern orthodox experiences of our Saints is the real pest in the West and the one that led to the protestant degeneration and all the blood stained “isms” up to our ages and cannot be combatted with bringing polyphony, orchestras or statues or abolishing latin or ecumenical pseuedocharities or feeding from Orthodox spiritrual blood as the case with uniatism. You have tried all that and there are still herds flocking out the church in the West to atheism , protestantism or the occult. All you need is simply to get rid of this element and this is the requirement the OC has placed for her participation in the ecumenical process dialogue in the spirit of Love and Truth based on the common understanding of the first ten centuries. A pseudocharity effort where the “frankish” opressive element remains intact is a nonstarter for the OC. Obviously there are still forces in the church of the West that still want to preserve it and easily disguise themselves behind the fact that the OC does not posess a centralized authority and expression system. But there is such a revolt by the ordinary catholics that their days are counted.

  128. John Says:

    obviously i meant essence but mistakenly wrote substance.
    Sorry about the error wherever it happened.

  129. Michaël de Verteuil Says:


    I am not going to engage you on what I can only describe with considerable dismay, given the eirenic spirit of your earlier comments, as a rather tendentious pseudo-history of Western trinitarian theology largely unrecognizable to any Western historian or theologian as anything other than a misleading and offensive caricature. If you are satisfied with the intellectual and scholarly rigour (not to mention xenophobic undertones) that underlies this kind of narrative, than nothing I could say can move the discussion forward. I’m giving it a rest and suggest you do as well.

  130. John Says:

    “as a rather tendentious pseudo-history of Western trinitarian theology largely unrecognizable to any Western historian or theologian as anything other than a misleading and offensive caricature”

    The readers will indeed search and see my points if they are correct or wrong.
    Father has “Memory”, needs to know Himself so the Son is “Knowledge” and as he also need to Love himself “Nexus Amores” ie the love bondage between the Father and Son comes in place aftrwards ( The Spirit). As kowledge preceeds love(another arbitrary assumption of course), so the Son preceeds the Spirit. (Augustine). Aquinas continues him and the scholastics define the persons of Holy trinity as relations of oposite pairs. So the Holy Spirit can only proceed from a pair (Father-Son).
    Is this all unrecognizable???
    This your scholastic middle age “theology” ie philosophy imposed to the church and ignorant western christians oppressed by the Frankish theologians(ie the bishops and cardinals who were in straight line from the crusading warlords) and that fact is not presented at all in this blog by no one besides me, and obscuring such fact THIS IS MISLEADING. Ecumenical dialogue is not about justifying every theological anomaly of the West simply to keep evryone satisfied. You have invented ecumenism but we do not participate in order to simply accept that you ve been doing everything OK for the last ten centuries.There is a fact namely that the persons (hypostases) become anthropomorphic attributes themeselves (memory, knowledge etc Augustine or relations -Aquinas) effectively leaving the only place for hyperbatic nature of God at the level of the impersonal “divine Essence”. That is why the western man of today in particular the spiritual descendant of the middle age oligarchy either in high business or high state will use “God” continuously as an inpersonal abstract being. In the “Illuminati” the “progressive” Christian at Cern(may be the murdered priest there) asks himself what if this “archegonal” energy is God?( the one to be recreated there in the search of the Higgs boson)
    So the question should be asked to your people by your church if they believe/accept that persons are relations or if the Son for example is “knowledge” in the Augustinian way? if they believe in the philosophical determination of the Holy Spirit as love between the Father and the Son ? If they don’t then you have problem if the filioque you keep is based on such “theology”. And if some people insist on keeping such a derivative in the Creed they only do it because they have such an underlying and well known “theology” behind it which surprises me that you call “unrecognizable”.
    In the East we have insisted that God is not the Essence but the Father as Source(of the Son the Spirit) and we stopped from calling the Hypostases the very characteristics humans have from the economy(psychology , philosophy , our life here in Earth) as we left the hyperbatic element precisely to the Hypostasis level.
    Secondly the readers will notice that the historical facts and the fact you see xenophobic undertones. Obviously you do not want to accept the fact of the spiritual and actual occupation by the Francogerman “nobility”/ “Charles the Great” and the pseudo “holy roman empire of the germanic nation” of the western roman territories or the slaughter of Germanic but romanized Anglosaxons by the feudal catholic normans, as i understand that you also are descendand from the frankish nobility judging from your name (DE as VON is signifying feudal nobility descent) . Eirenic spirit in the sense of falsifying historical truths makes no sense.The readers will search and indeed find out who destroyed western romanism as well the related theological inventions of the brothers and cousins of the crusading warlords turned into bishops after the depostion of the roman bishops by the Francobarons of “Charles the great” and his successors.
    Thirdly i have to notice expressions as “carricature” , “entertaining”(you mean like a circus dancer?) for professor of theology Kallistos Ware of Cambridge or Oxford university whom you “do not know what to make of him” etc.

  131. James Rinkevich Says:

    First the creed of Constantinople leaves out significant meaning as the elucidation in Epifanius’s Ancoratus show. In fact Epifanius came to Rome in 382 for the ecumenical synod and translated the Latin creed with filioque. So every time I hear the Hreeks say the Filioque is wrong,they may as well say the 381 creed is wrong too because they are claiming Epifanius didn’t know what he wrote.

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