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#1 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 07 October 2010 - 06:20 PM

I felt it best to post here about St Augustine since this doesn't relate directly to any of the threads that have already begun.

My first point is that to be honest I am not sure that before this point in my life I could have read St Augustine in an open minded enough of a way to see how he fits into the larger choir of the Fathers. Yes- we all feel in Orthodoxy that we know something about St Augustine. But the truth is that very few of us have ever devoted that time to him that would be needed in order to understand most any Father of the Church.

After all with each Father it takes a certain time to 'sink' into their works, to grasp their manner of expression and focus. But with St Augustine what is most striking is that much of what we say and believe of him is based on a sentence or phrase read in isolation from the rest of his works and thought. Clearly this is unsatisfactory not to mention unfair. Since the Fathers are living we have to spend time with them just as we would with anyone else we sought to really understand. And certainly there is little good excuse for not doing so since so much of St Augustine's works are now available in decent English translation (recently a new set of translations has been begun from New City Press). We need to get past the practice seen until now of 'knowing St Augustine' only from secondary works.

The urgency of this seen for example, again from a more thorough reading of St Augustine, of the falsity of the often repeated assertion that he is a dualist Manichean, hater of the material creation, and someone who shrilly demands a level of ascetic life few could ever realistically attain. As I have already tried to suggest in other threads this view of St Augustine is plain wrong. Probably underneath much of this misinterpretation is a general mistrust of the ascetic life in general. For if we carefully would compare St Augustine with the other Fathers we would see that he operates from a similar ascetic perspective- but indeed implies a real measure of economia and common sense that is most reassuring.

From here though one has to back track a bit to understand St Augustine. For his perspective is mostly based on a familiar Patristic view of man, of the Fall and of sin, and of how only in Christ can we find life. These themes are similar to what we find in the other Fathers. However what St Augustine brings to this is an added dynamic dimension of man & creation, that man's whole life and indeed the history of human culture itself, is found in Christ as the definition of what we were created to be. There is in this then the understanding that Christ represents the fulfillment of man's created nature as it originally came forth from God. So that there is in St Augustine's perspective a way in which the Incarnation is related to the Fall and our sin; but crucially the stronger emphasis is often on the Incarnation as fulfillment of man's nature, of his actual purpose.

This then obviously brings us far beyond the often made statements that St Augustine is obsessed with the Fall and original sin. That he believed that sin as a major rupture in our nature is passed on through Adam as a kind of natural communion between those of our own kind, is known by most of us from the commentaries about him. But often it is put that his understanding of original sin is entirely placed on the common nature of man so that he scarcely has a choice any more except to sin. Such an understanding however is about as far from St Augustine's actual perspective as one could possibly get- for his foundational point is always of the possible and needed restitution of man's nature which is found only in Christ. One gets the sense though that the note of urgency in St Augustine, that only in Christ, that only in employing choice in terms of Christ do we find life, is mistaken for fundamental human desperation over our depravity. Similarly to how St Augustine's point about the necessity of infant baptism for their salvation, is actually grounded in his understanding of the common and redeemable nature of all mankind, here too this point is often reversed to read as if it refers to the irredeemable nature of man plain and simple.

In any case these are just some few points to consider. In the coming days if time permits I would like to provide some interesting quotes from St Augustine that show the great depth and inspiration of his thought and how he is well worth the read.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#2 Shaun M.

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Posted 07 October 2010 - 11:07 PM

Looking forward to hearing more about St Augustine, Father.

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 07 October 2010 - 11:11 PM

Unfortunately, St. Augustine suffers from the extrapolations that later theologians like Anselm, Aquinas, and Calvin made from his work, and those extrapolations often get retroactively assigned back to Augustine.

#4 Owen Jones

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 02:28 PM

The problem with Augustine is not so much in his sermons or in his Confessions. It's in De Trinitate.

#5 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 03:25 PM

My approach has inevitable weaknesses: limited understanding of the Fathers themselves, limited time to read (and with all of the Fathers one needs to read as many of their works as possible in order to fairly understand them), and limited understanding of the forms of Christianity outside of Orthodoxy. This means that my approach is more impressionistic than rigorous and leaves doors of investigation open for others to enter on a deeper level if they wish.

In any case it could be that much of what we (mis)understand of St Augustine comes from later times with the scholastics. He was deservedly much read in the west, since his language of expression was Latin. But also there is such a depth & range of insight in his works. In essence his focus is widely cosmological- the only comparison I can think of so far to his range of thought is St Maximus the Confessor. Sadly this fundamental aspect of his works is often overlooked. At its most basic level this deprives us of knowing of the sheer joy that is found by reading his books.

Up until recently I would have referred to the safe St Augustine- the pastoral St Augustine; and the one not so safe to read- the theological St Augustine. Now though I see that this isn't such a good way to see him either. Like many Fathers his written presentation is not systematic- he often presents lengthy passages in the middle of some other theme, which have no apparent connection to the overall theme of the book. But for all that his works usually convey an overall cosmological focus that in itself accounts for the passages that don't seem to fit in. In any case then, many of the same 'economic' themes found in City of God can be found in The Trinity. And this is a bit puzzling until one realizes that St Augustine's main focus in the latter work is on the economic mystery of the Trinity insofar as the Trinity is the source of man's divine destiny as described for example in City of God.

In any case here is a small taste of what can one find in The Trinity. I'd let the passage speak entirely for itself, except that it is so beautiful that it stopped me dead in my tracks immediately after reading it.

Book IV.— In What Manner We are Gathered from Many into One Through One Mediator.

11. This sacrament, this sacrifice, this high priest, this God, before He was sent and came, being made of a woman— all those things which appeared to our fathers in a sacred and mystical way by angelical miracles, or which were done by the fathers themselves, were signs of Him; in order that all creation might in some fashion utter the One Who was to come and be the saviour of all who needed to be restored from death. By wickedness and ungodliness with a crashing discord we had bounced away and flowed and faded away from the one true and supreme God into the many, divided by the many, clinging to the many. It was needful therefore, by the decree and command of God in His mercy, that the many should themselves acclaim together the One Who was to come, and that acclaimed by the many together the One should come, and that the many should join in proclaiming that the One had come; and that so, freed from the burden of the many, should come to that One; and that dead as we were in our souls by many sins, and destined to die in the flesh on account of sin, that we should love the One who without sin, died in the flesh for us; and by believing in Him now raised again, and by rising again with Him in the spirit through faith, that we should be made one in the one Just One; and that we should not despair of our own resurrection in the flesh, when we consider that the one Head had gone before us the many members; in whom, being now cleansed through faith, and then renewed by sight, and through Him as mediator reconciled to God, we may be able to cling to the One, enjoy the One, and remain forever one.


Perhaps at a later time when I come to the chapter of The Trinity that deals with this, I can deal with the filioque as St Augustine understands this.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#6 Owen Jones

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 12:00 PM

Romanides is, of course, absolutely merciless when it comes to Augustine and the Trinity.

#7 Anna Stickles

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 01:15 PM

Romanides is, of course, absolutely merciless when it comes to Augustine and the Trinity.


I have noticed about the early 20th century theologians that they are very defensive and harsh toward other traditions. If this was the prevailing attitude how could they have room to back up and really give Augustine a fair hearing? Our passions blind us. All they would have seen is the Catholic twistings of Augustine.

How many people read the Bible and all they ever do is read back into the text from their own preconceived notions of what it says without ever taking the time to really give the text a fair hearing? And this even when the Bible is read thoroughly and compeletely over and over. I don't think that the only problem with misreadings of Augustine lie in those who are only reading isolated quotes.

It's as Fr Raphael stated in his first post. Once one has been taught a certain bias or way of looking at things in seminary, this can be very hard to overcome. Yes gradually, over time, our understanding changes, but this is slow and still there are many unconcious prejudices that remain hidden. We are all caught up in this problem to some degree and it is why our faith is centered first in the Eucharist and not in a "right understanding" of the Bible or the Fathers. The mind clears only as our defensiveness and passions subside. We can be thankful that things are now opening up such that the prejudices and the defensiveness from that past time are dying out. (although I am sure there are new ones taking their place ;) )

#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 02:47 PM

Romanides is, of course, absolutely merciless when it comes to Augustine and the Trinity.


Yes- in seminary also we were thoroughly instructed on the problems with St Augustine. Apart from the universally negative, I recall only one positive voice among our instructors who recommended St Augustine's pastoral sermons. Otherwise we were thoroughly instructed in how St Augustine's underlying philosophical vision was responsible for the warp in western theology, for the distorted way in which the west sees man, the Schism, and even for the problematic aspects of modern society. So for years I also had this basic mistrust of St Augustine. But as the years go by and a person reads the Fathers further he begins to notice that one cannot place their thought into a totally explanatory abstract framework without severely distorting what they actually attempt to say. One reads the words and takes them in- but due to one's own framework of thought their actual meaning is altered and at times even reversed from what that Father is saying. But which goes to warn or advise us that the way in which the Fathers express themselves is more like someone painting to create an overall picture of effect. Each part of the work can only be understood by standing back and taking in the overall intent of the picture.

In any case my commentary concerning St Augustine and the Holy Trinity is restricted by own very limited understanding. And then I am only about half way through his work on The Trinity with apparently the next chapter (V) being one of the most crucial. For now though I will offer that his focus is deeply cosmological in terms of God's overall economia. To grasp this overall point think of St Maximus although the personal style is quite different. Here then St Augustine approaches the Trinity not mainly in terms of the inner relations of the Persons but rather in terms of the missions of each of the Persons to mankind and creation in order to bring about its restoration. The fact that these missions or this economia is one even while mediated through the Three Persons is for St Augustine a fundamental sign that the Trinity is one in essence. Crucially, in terms of one of critiques heard of him that he bases his theology on philosophical divine simplicity, for St Augustine the One in fact always acts as Three in terms of the economia. Here he is continually suggesting that the Three arose from the One, not in a contingent sense but rather completely freely, to accomplish the work of the economia.

This means that for St Augustine it may not be so helpful to just see him in terms of the classic description of 'the east starts with the Divine Persons while the west starts with the Divine essence'. For in an important sense St Augustine also starts with the evident fact of the Three Persons at work in terms of the cosmological economia. Of course this does not deny for him the reality that God is One in essence. He continually stresses this in common with all of the Fathers. But what is so interesting about this is that for him this stress is often expressed in terms of the Three involved in their common work.

Does this affect his expression of the filioque? I haven't yet reached the crucial chapter 5 that apparently goes into this. But from what has appeared so far in terms of references to the filioque (so far just stated but without theological explanation) they always seem to appear exactly in terms referred to above- a common economic work of the Holy Spirit that also must involve the Son in terms of sending. Maybe we could say that this means that the Holy Spirit 'comes from the Son' only in economic terms in the way that we often mean this. But I do not think that this way of 'exonerating' St Augustine is really accurate. For it is clear in St Augustine that just as he stresses the missions/work of the Three in terms of economia, he also believes that this common work is a real mirror of the reality of the Trinitarian relations. In other words there could very well be a problem with his presentation. But it is considerably more nuanced than normally presented.

Hopefully then after chapter 5 (or further parts of the book) we can add further descriptions to this.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#9 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 03:58 PM

Here is the first clear reference of St Augustine to the filioque in his The Trinity. It's very interesting but pretty nuanced I'd say in terms of meaning. Anyway I'd appreciate any comments on this passage.

Book IV; 29. As, therefore, the Father begot, the Son is begotten; so the Father sent, the Son was sent. But in like manner as He who begot and He who was begotten, so both He who sent and He who was sent, are one, since the Father and the Son are one. So also the Holy Spirit is one with them, since these three are one. For as to be born, in respect to the Son, means to be from the Father; so to be sent, in respect to the Son, means to be known to be from the Father. And as to be the gift of God in respect to the Holy Spirit, means to proceed from the Father; so to be sent, is to be known to proceed from the Father. Neither can we say that the Holy Spirit does not also proceed from the Son, for the same Spirit is not without reason said to be the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son. Nor do I see what else He intended to signify, when He breathed on the face of the disciples, and said, "Receive the Holy Ghost." For that bodily breathing, proceeding from the body with the feeling of bodily touching, was not the substance of the Holy Spirit, but a declaration by a fitting sign, that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son. For the veriest of madmen would not say, that it was one Spirit which He gave when He breathed on them, and another which He sent after His ascension. For the Spirit of God is one, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, the Holy Spirit, who works all in all. But that He was given twice was certainly a significant economy, which we will discuss in its place, as far as the Lord may grant. That then which the Lord says—"Whom I will send unto you from the Father," — shows the Spirit to be both of the Father and of the Son; because, also, when He had said, "Whom the Father will send," He added also, "in my name." Yet He did not say, Whom the Father will send from me, as He said, "Whom I will send unto you from the Father,"— showing, namely, that the Father is the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity, or if it is better so expressed, deity. He, therefore, who proceeds from the Father and from the Son, is referred back to Him from whom the Son was born (natus). And that which the evangelist says, "For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified;" how is this to be understood, unless because the special giving or sending of the Holy Spirit after the glorification of Christ was to be such as it had never been before? For it was not previously none at all, but it had not been such as this. For if the Holy Spirit was not given before, wherewith were the prophets who spoke filled? Whereas the Scripture plainly says, and shows in many places, that they spoke by the Holy Spirit. Whereas, also, it is said of John the Baptist, "And he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." And his father Zacharias is found to have been filled with the Holy Ghost, so as to say such things of him. And Mary, too, was filled with the Holy Ghost, so as to foretell such things of the Lord, whom she was bearing in her womb. And Simeon and Anna were filled with the Holy Spirit, so as to acknowledge the greatness of the little child Christ. How, then, was "the Spirit not yet given, since Jesus was not yet glorified," unless because that giving, or granting, or mission of the Holy Spirit was to have a certain speciality of its own in its very advent, such as never was before? For we read nowhere that men spoke in tongues which they did not know, through the Holy Spirit coming upon them; as happened then, when it was needful that His coming should be made plain by visible signs, in order to show that the whole world, and all nations constituted with different tongues, should believe in Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill that which is sung in the Psalm, "There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard; their sound is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."



#10 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 04:38 PM

If I could continue now with some comments on St Augustine's Trinity Chap 5. This is a very pivotal chapter in the whole book if we want to understand his understanding of filioque.

St Augustine's main focus in this chapter is on the commonality or common essence of the Three Persons as against the Arians. This can be seen for example in chap V 6:

Wherefore, although to be the Father and to be the Son is different, yet their substance is not different; because they are so called, not according to substance, but according to relation, which relation, however, is not accident, because it is not changeable.


Note though how St Augustine sees the Persons of the Trinity largely in relational terms as again in the following:

that which is asserted relatively does not denote substance, and accordingly, although begotten and unbegotten are diverse, they do not denote a different substance; because, as son is referred to father, and not son [ie Father] to not father [ie Son], so it follows inevitably that begotten [ie Son] must be referred to begetter [ie Father], and not-begotten [ie Father] to not-begetter [ie Son].


Such a manner of expression is found throughout this work, and denotes the characteristic relations of the Persons towards each other. These relational characteristics are for St Augustine what make the Persons inhere in each other in a unified manner. What is important for us to notice here is that whereas we are most used to understanding the relational characteristics of each Person- unbegotten, begotten, proceeding- as referring to distinct Personal characteristics in terms of the Father, Who is the monarchia of the Holy Trinity & Their Personal Source; with St Augustine there is much more of a focus on the unifying aspect of the Persons. This is not however just a matter of shifting focus between common essence and Persons. For what is crucial to catch in St Augustine is that his overall context is continually on the economia of the Persons in regards to mankind, creation and then working back from this in regards to Each Other.

Now, it is often heard that the west had no real understanding of person; that 'person' meant mask and so the greater focus in the west is on the common essence of the Trinity. However apart from a common sense critique of this interpretation of how it could be possible to not know what a person is, we have the following very interesting passage from Chap V:

10. The Greeks indeed use also the word hypostasis; but they make a distinction that is rather obscure to me between οὐσία and hypostasis: so that most of our people who treat these things in the Greek language, are accustomed to say, μίαν οὐσίαν, τρεῖς ὑποστάσεις or in Latin, one essence, three substances.

But because we have grown accustomed in our usage to meaning that by essence we understand the same thing which is understood by substance; we do not dare to say one essence, three substances, but one essence or substance and three persons: as many writers in Latin, who treat of these things, and are of authority, have said, in that they could not find any other more suitable way by which to enunciate in words that which they understood without words. For, in truth, as the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father, and that Holy Spirit who is also called the gift of God is neither the Father nor the Son, certainly they are three. And so it is said plurally, "I and my Father are one." For He has not said, " is one," as the Sabellians say; but, " are one." Yet, when the question is asked, What three? human language labors altogether under great poverty of speech. The answer, however, is given, three "persons," not that it might be [completely] spoken, but that it might not be left [wholly] unspoken.


Thus St Augustine is, even though this is continually denied in modern studies on him, as fervently interested in the Persons as any other Father of the Church is. Indeed this is his whole point, for what he seeks to defend is the understanding of the Church on the common work of the Persons in the salvation of mankind and creation. It is in this area though that his insights on this Trinitarian work are both familiar and different from what we know.

I will try, God willing, to continue with this at a later time and perhaps get into the area of the filioque.

In Christ- Fr Rapahel

#11 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 05:15 PM

A brief point of clarification because it is very important. It is very common to read that the main point of difference of St Augustine's Trinitarian theology (and thus the filioque) from that of the east is that the west starts with essence while we start with Persons. It is this common presentation that I have disagreed with, at least as far as St Augustine goes, in my previous posts. St Augustine will end up creating problems in his presentation of Trinitarian theology- but the roots of these lie elsewhere than in not enough focus on the Persons and instead on the common essence.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#12 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 07:16 PM

I wonder if Augustine's understanding of essence/substance differs from the understanding of essence as presented in the east. From other writings of his that I have read, his understanding of substance seemed more materialistic then the Orthodox presentation of essence.

#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 01:32 PM

I wonder if Augustine's understanding of essence/substance differs from the understanding of essence as presented in the east. From other writings of his that I have read, his understanding of substance seemed more materialistic then the Orthodox presentation of essence.


As for whether St Augustine's understanding of the divine essence is really different from that of the east- It's difficult for me to give a clear answer to this right now.

Certainly, along with the other eastern Fathers, his core belief is centered in divine immateriality & simplicity. However he continually emphasizes divine impassibility and unchangability in a very characteristic way which most often is paired with created instability and changability. In his presentation of this pairing there is often an added and crucial note beyond the Fall. Yes, man's Fall accentuates the need for man to find his only possible source of stability in Christ. But beyond this, man's very nature as coming from and image of the Word, means that his inherent need is to find his life in Christ. Thus it is not correct, in St Augustine's case at least, to apply the often heard criticism vs western Fathers, that the Incarnation only occurs due to the Fall, rather than being part & parcel of the original economia.

An added note here to further the ongoing discussion is that St Augustine's pairing of divine unchangability & created changability likely is one of his foundation stones in his understanding of the Trinity. As I already have commented a number of times now, St Augustine most often describes the Persons of the Trinity in relational terms to each other & in terms of creation. Through the Persons we see the ongoing activity of the Trinity in terms of the overall divine economia and this accounts for the missions of the Persons of the Trinity in terms of creation.

Up to this point I think that we are in very familiar territory. Indeed some of St Augustine's descriptions of this divine economia, especially when he uses descriptive language, are most beautiful and inspiring. However when he gets into further descriptions of the actual relationship of the divine substance/essence and Persons, here we begin to see problems. And much of this I think relates to his theological understanding of the Trinity.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#14 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 03:29 PM

In Book V 12 we begin with the first specific references to the filioque. St Augustine begins with a re-statement of his formula concerning the relational character of the Persons:

But as for the things each of the Three in this Triad are called that are proper or peculiar to Himself, such things are never said with reference to self but only with reference to each other or creation, and therefore it is clear that they are said by way of relationship and not by way of substance.

The point here is that what can be said of each Person 'in reference to self' is common; ie Father, Son & Holy Spirit are all good, wise, etc; then it follows that the Three are equal and one in substance. This is a major point against the Arians. However from here we can also go on to say that the terms used for the Persons; ie Father, Son, Holy Spirit, are relational terms (for example the Father is the Father of the Son; the Son is Son of the Father). So the fact that the Son is other than the Father does not imply that He is less, since the term Son is a term of relationship not substance.

Two things are to be noted here: i) as far as being a presentation vs the Arians the emphasis is on common essence. For all of the difficulty for us at times in following St Augustine's presentation the point here is actually quite clear; the fact that Father, Son & Holy Spirit are equal & of one substance is demonstrated by the fact that they share an identical divine goodness, wisdom, etc, not added to themselves but inherent to their very being. This still leaves it unclear however as to the character of the Persons in themselves. St Augustine refers to the Persons in relational terms to point to the fact that these different terms do not imply difference & inequality of substance. To be fair, St Augustine is not at all denying the reality of the Persons (as some of his detractors seem to imply). But he does leave the door open to real problems in describing the reality of the Persons and in how they are distinct from the essence.

ii) Note also how St Augustine describes that the relational terms of the Persons are said: "only with reference to each other or creation". Notice how he elides what are theological terms of relation (ie the Personal inner relations of the Trinity) with economic terms of the Trinity's relation to creation. This combination of the theological and economic is characteristic of St Augustine and shows his continual focus on the inseparable mission of the Trinity to save mankind & creation. In other words the direction that St Augustine comes from is of the overflowing love of the Trinity through the active work of the Persons to mankind to creation. St Augustine will address the different aspects of this chain of being & salvation. But these different aspects are always meant to fit into the larger picture of the grand story of the divine working. In this sense his overall purpose is to describe how each part of the picture is a microcosm of the divine economia in terms of the larger picture of God's working of redemption.

The Triad, the one God, is called great, good, eternal, omnipotent, and He can also be called His own godhead, His own greatness, His own goodness, His own eternity, His own omnipotence; but the Triad cannot be called in the same way Father, except perhaps metaphorically with reference to creation because of the adoption of sons. The text "Hear O Israel the Lord your God is one Lord" (Dt. 6:4) is not to be said as excluding the Son or excluding the Holy Spirit, and this one Lord we rightly call our Father as well because he regenerates us by His grace.


The Trinity is identical with its own being and divine qualities; one in substance. The Father should not be identified with the qualities of the divine substance as if He is the only true God while other the Persons are less; thus 'the Lord (the Three Persons) are one Lord' and the other Two Persons are not to be excluded from the divine equality. Note the last remark again related to the economy that the Father (in which St Augustine would always include the whole Trinity) "regenerates us by His grace".

Neither can the Trinity in any way be called the Son.

Son is a term of relationship, not of substance.

But it can be called, in its entirety, the Holy Spirit, according to that which is written, "God is a Spirit;" because both the Father is a spirit and the Son is a spirit, and the Father is holy and the Son is holy. Therefore, since the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, and certainly God is holy, and God is a spirit, the Trinity can also be called holy and spirit. But yet that Holy Spirit, who is not the Trinity, but is understood as in the Trinity, insofar as He is properly or peculiarly called the Holy Spirit, is so called in regards to relationship, being referred to both Father and Son, since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son.


Before moving on to a fuller explanation of what lies behind St Augustine's thinking here concerning the Holy Spirit just notice that he is now relating the Holy Spirit to Father and Son. He does this by using his classic formula: "the Holy Spirit, is so called in regards to relationship"; but he first does this by relating the fact that the Father & Son are holy & spirit. Thus the classic term of relationship comes second as a descriptor in this case and is modified to include both Father & Son because of the fact of the Personal relationship between the Three.


This relationship, to be sure, is not apparent in this particular name.

The name Holy Spirit in itself does not convey a sense of the relation to the other Persons as does Father and Son.

But it is apparent when He is called 'the gift of God' (Acts 8:20; Jn 4:10). He is the gift of the Father and of the Son, because on the one hand He proceeds from the Father (Jn 15:26), and as the Lord says: and on the other the apostle's words, 'Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ is not one of His' (Rom. 8: 9), are spoken of the Holy Spirit.


St Augustine has already indicated previously that 'the gift of God' is a suitable term of relationship for the Holy Spirit. This term is also found in St Hilary's work on the Trinity which St Augustine read (he also quotes from this work later on) so it has a history in the west although St Augustine certainly develops it along his own lines. In any case, now we see St Augustine relationally connect the Holy Spirit to Father & Son from the authority of Scripture.

So when we say "the gift of the giver" and "the giver of the gift," we say each with reference to the other. So the Holy Spirit is a kind of inexpressible communion or fellowship of Father and Son and perhaps He is given this name just because the same name can be applied to the Father and the Son. For He is properly called what which they are called in common; seeing both that the Father is spirit and the Son is spirit, and both the Father is holy and the Son is holy. In order, therefore, that the communion of both may be signified from a name which is suitable to both, the Holy Spirit is called the gift of both. And this Trinity is one God, alone, good, great, eternal, omnipotent; itself its own unity, deity, greatness, goodness, eternity, omnipotence.


I think that it would be good at this point to leave this passage open to comment from others. It obviously is a crucial passage. Just to guide things a bit: on what basis does St Augustine relate the Holy Spirit to Father & Son? What is the nature of that relationship and how does it connect to the question of origination?

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#15 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 09:47 PM

Test: has this thread been closed?

#16 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 03:42 PM

The clearest explanation of filioque that St Augustine provides is I think in Book V 15 of Trinity. Here he has:

15. But to return to the mutual relationships within the Trinity: if the producer is he origin with reference to what it produces, then the Father is origin in reference to the Son, because He produced or begot Him. But whether the Father is origin with respect to the Holy Spirit because it is said that He proceeds from the Father (Jn 15:26), that is quite a question. If it is so, then He will be origin not only for what he begets or makes, but also for what he gives.


Remember that St Augustine has decided to use the term 'Gift' as the relational term to describe the Holy Spirit.

And here perhaps some light begins to dawn as far as it is possible on a problem that often worries many people, namely why the Holy Spirit too is not a son, seeing that He too comes forth from the Father, as it says in the Gospel. He comes forth, you see, not as being born but as given

thus this is the personal property of the Holy Spirit- gift; then follows the reason for this

and so he is not called son, because He was not born like the only begotten Son, nor made and born adoptively by grace like us

this seems to refer to the equal divinity of the Holy Spirit.

What was born of the Father is referred to the Father alone when He is called Son, and therefore He is the Father's Son and not ours too. But what has been given is referred both to Him Who gave and to those it was given to and so the Holy Spirit is not only called the Spirit of the Father and the Son Who gave Him, but also our Spirit who received Him. It is like salvation, which is called the salvation of the Lord Who gives salvation, and also our salvation because we receive it.

Once St Augustine sees the Holy Spirit personally as Gift it seems that he cannot avoid- or better, purposefully wishes to include- Father and Son as givers of this Gift. To avoid the problem created by this and say that this is just St Augustine's way of referring to the economy of the Son; ie the Holy Spirit proceeds from Father alone and is sent by economy through the Son, really does overlook what St Augustine is saying. For he does refer to the economy "also our Spirit who received Him" but he also evidently means to refer to the manner of origination of the Persons. Thus even though there is a crucial causal reason for bringing in the overall economy he does mean what he says when he refers to the Holy Spirit originating from the Son. This for him demonstrates the one equal nature of the Trinity and its harmonious work precisely as Triad towards the salvation of creation and mankind- which is always one of the chief preoccupations of St Augustine.

The next short passage refers again to this crucial point of the economy, making the careful distinction between the divine Spirit and our spirit.

So the Spirit is both God's Who gave it and ours who received it. I do not mean that spirit of ours by which we are, which is also called the spirit of man which is in him (1Cor. 2:11); this Holy Spirit is ours in a different way, the way in which we say Give us our bread. Though as a matter of fact we also received that spirit which is called the spirit of man; What have you, it says, that you did not receive (1 Cor 4:7)? [ An interesting train of thought here- St Augustine has just made the distinction between the Holy Spirit and ours but then uses the word 'receive' which implies that our spirit too is a gift from God; a kind of image of the Holy Spirit]. But what we received in order to be is one thing, what we received in order to be holy is another. So then, it is said of John that he would come in the Spirit and power of Elijah; it is called the Spirit of Elijah, but it means the Holy Spirit which Elijah received. The same is to be understood of Moses when the Lord said to him, I will take some of your Spirit and give it to them, that it, "I will give them a share in the Holy Spirit which I have already given to you."


Then crucially:

If therefore what is given also has him it is given by as its origin [I'm not sure if this is meant also in a general sense of giver & gift or is meant specifically of the Holy Spirit as Gift and Father & Son as Givers- maybe it's meant in an overlapping sense], because it did not receive its proceeding from him from anywhere else, we must confess that the Father and the Son are the origin of the Holy Spirit; not two origins, but just as Father and Son are one God, and with reference to creation one creator and one Lord, so with reference to the Holy Spirit they are one origin, just as they are one creator and lord.


St Augustine is being careful here not to imply two separate sources of origination for the Holy Spirit. By maintaining a common source of origination he assures us that there is One Lord, one creator, of one substance.

I don't think that we need to doubt St Augustine's intent in any of this. He means to maintain the one essence and equality of the Persons. He means also to defend the reality and distinction of the Persons. But from within his overall theological perspective (and this is why I asked the question yesterday about origination of the Persons) he does tend to confuse the natural/common and Personal characteristics especially in terms of later theological formulation. So that for him since all of the Persons are for example holy and spirit then all quite naturally are involved in the origination of the Holy Spirit which then acts as a Personal bond of love between Father & Son. Again we need to be fair that St Augustine didn't intend the later problems caused by the filioque controversy. As we just saw he firmly holds to one source within the Trinity and not two principles as the heresy would have it. However his own way of thinking and especially his own way of considering the overall economy in terms of the nature of the Trinity does leave some very problematic areas to his Trinitarian theology.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#17 Owen Jones

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 01:40 AM

Here is, unfortunately, all my mind seems to be able to grasp on the subject. Since the double procession of the Spirit seems to lead inevitably to a kind of subordinationism of the Spirit, and since all theories of subordinationism with respect to Christ ended up being seen as heretical by the Church, it strikes me that the same should apply to anything that suggests subordinationism with respect to the Holy Spirit. Am I wrong?

#18 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 01:58 PM

Here is, unfortunately, all my mind seems to be able to grasp on the subject. Since the double procession of the Spirit seems to lead inevitably to a kind of subordinationism of the Spirit, and since all theories of subordinationism with respect to Christ ended up being seen as heretical by the Church, it strikes me that the same should apply to anything that suggests subordinationism with respect to the Holy Spirit. Am I wrong?


Yes- this also takes me to the edge of what I can understand. But I take it, at least as far as St Augustine goes, that he means to defend the equality of nature of the Holy Spirit by putting forth a double procession. With St Augustine it's important to see, that he sees the Trinity in highly relational terms in terms of divine attributes. So that for example the Father & Son would both be personal sources for the Holy Spirit since both are holy and spirit. This could at first sight suggest a subordination of the Holy Spirit, but St Augustine means it to point to the co- equality of the Three Persons. An important element in this that he continually refers to is how the Persons co inhere and thus so do their attributes.

Now I don't at all mean that his presentation isn't problematic. I think it is, especially in how personal and natural get so wrapped up together for him, so as to lose what for us are crucial distinctions between the Persons. This in turn is what allows St Augustine to so easily see a double procession (and what is striking is how easily he sees it with so little explanation, as if it is quite obvious).

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#19 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 06:29 PM

Fr Raphael, I wish to thank you for sharing with us your journey through the writings of St Augustine. Your reflections are most illuminating and composed in a wonderful eirenic spirit. Thank you.

For your interest: Lewis Ayres much anticipated book, Augustine and the Trinity, is due out very soon. Dr Ayres, as you probably know, is critical of the long-held view that Augustine's reflections on the Trinity represent a decisive break with the patristic tradition, a view popularized in the 1890s by Theodore de Regnon. Scholars such as Lewis Ayres and Michel Barnes are working hard to place Augustine deeply within the Nicene tradition.

I confess that I have never read De Trinitate. Like many others of my generation, principally through the influence of contemporary theologians like Robert Jenson and Wolhart Pannenberg, I assumed a critical stance toward Augustine. I too have assumed that Augustine was a closet modalist. This apparently is not the case.

As I have read a bit more, I have been so very impressed by the radical significance of love in Augustine's understanding both of the Trinity and in our justification in Christ by the Spirit. He is truly a theologian of Love. My own interest has been trying to understand better Augustine's critique of Pelagianism and "Semi-Pelagianism." That Augustine goes too far I do not doubt. He comes so close to a double predestinarianism. But I think, and this is only my speculation, that what is driving him is his hope in the ultimate irresistibility of God's love. How can we sinners be finally saved if the love of the divine Lover does not "conquer" and transform and inform our hearts?

Thank you again.

#20 Sacha

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 07:38 PM

Augustine did not know greek... the OT septuagint and the NT were both written in greek. Does that matter to anyone?




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