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How do St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine differ in their doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit?


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#1 Stephen Griffith

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 08:43 AM

According to St. Augustine of Hippo the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. The Spirit proceeds ‘principally’ from the Father (as from the principle or fountain of the Godhead) and proceeds from the Son in a different way – as a gift of the Father to the Son: ‘as the Father has in Himself that the Holy Spirit should proceed from Him, so has He given to the Son that the same Holy Spirit should proceed from Him.’ (De Trinitate XV.26.47)

According to St. Gregory of Nyssa writes concerning the difference between the Son and the Holy Spirit, ‘one [the Son] is directly from the first Cause [the Father], and another [the Holy Spirit] through that which is directly from the first Cause [the Son].’ (‘On Not Three Gods’ – Quoted in Stevenson, J., Creeds, Councils and Controversies: Documents illustrating the history of the Church AD 337-461, London: SPCK, 1989) In other words St. Gregory seems to be saying that: the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.

At a first glance these two formulations appear similar. However we all know that while St. Augustine’s theology became the basis for the Filioque controversy and was rejected by the Orthodox Church, St. Gregory’s Trinitarian theology as far as I know has never been regarded as controversial among the Orthodox in the same way. What I am interested in understanding is then how these two Fathers differ (if in fact they do differ). Anthony E. Siecienski writes that for St. Gregory the relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit is not a causal one as it is for St. Augustine (see: Siecienski, A.E., The Filioque: History of a Doctrinal Controversy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 44) but I find this hard to see just looking at St. Gregory’s text in itself. Can someone please shed some light on the matter?

#2 Lakis Papas

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 10:54 AM

I think the following excerpt from St. Gregory's  On "Not Three Gods" To Ablabius provides the substantial difference between St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine:

 

 

 

"...If, however, any one cavils at our argument, on the ground that by not admitting the difference of nature it leads to a mixture and confusion of the Persons, we shall make to such a charge this answer—that while we confess the invariable character of the nature, we do not deny the difference in respect of cause, and that which is caused, by which alone we apprehend that one Person is distinguished from another—by our belief, that is, that one is the Cause, and another is of the Cause; and again in that which is of the Cause we recognize another distinction. For one is directly from the first Cause, and another by that which is directly from the first Cause; so that the attribute of being Only-begotten abides without doubt in the Son, and the interposition 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.
 
But in speaking of cause, and of the cause, we do not by these words denote nature (for no one would give the same definition of cause and of nature), but we indicate the difference in manner of existence. For when we say that one is caused, and that the other is without cause, we do not divide the nature by the word cause , but only indicate the fact that the Son does not exist without generation, nor the Father by generation: but we must needs in the first place believe that something exists, and then scrutinize the manner of existence of the object of our belief: thus the question of existence is one, and that of the mode of existence is another. To say that anything exists without generation sets forth the mode of its existence, but what exists is not indicated by this phrase. If one were to ask a husbandman about a tree, whether it were planted or had grown of itself, and he were to answer either that the tree had not been planted or that it was the result of planting, would he by that answer declare the nature of the tree? Surely not; but while saying how it exists he would leave the question of its nature obscure and unexplained. So, in the other case, when we learn that He is unbegotten, we are taught in what mode He exists, and how it is fit that we should conceive Him as existing, but what He is we do not hear in that phrase. When, therefore, we acknowledge such a distinction in the case of the Holy Trinity, as to believe that one Person is the Cause, and another is of the Cause, we can no longer be accused of confounding the definition of the Persons by the community of nature.
 
Thus, since on the one hand the idea of cause differentiates the Persons of the Holy Trinity, declaring that one exists without a Cause, and another is of the Cause; and since on the one hand the Divine nature is apprehended by every conception as unchangeable and undivided, for these reasons we properly declare the Godhead to be one, and God to be one, and employ in the singular all other names which express Divine attributes."

 

 



#3 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 12:24 PM

Fr Raphael did a series of posts on Augustine's De Trinitate on this thread which may be of interest. The main posts on the filioque are #16-18 but to understand fully it would be good to read the preceding posts.

 

One of the important points that Orthodox teachers are trying to protect is that the Father is the one cause or source of the divine nature which the other persons have in virtue of their begetting or proceeding from Him.  In addition, the uniqueness of the Son's position as the ONLY Begotten must be guarded.  This is what St Gregory is concerned about as can be seen: 

 

"and the interposition 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."

 

Fr Raphael sums up Augustine's position as being Orthodox in holding to one source within the Trinity, not to two principle sources as the heresy (especially as seen articulated at the Council of Florence and following for many years) would have it. 

 

In Western theology attributes have been and continue to be very connected with the articulation of nature. Likewise in Augustine the concept of person as being centered in a particular mode of action or being is absent, instead he sees person in terms of differences in names and relations.   So when Augustine does not sufficiently differentiate the properties of holy and spirit which are common to the Trinity and part of its nature, from the Holy Spirit as a person of the Trinity with its own action, he leaves the door open for later problems that arose in connection with the filioque

 

Notice though how in St Gregory, he does not depend upon attributes or names, but rather concentrates solely on the different modes of existence of the three persons, making a clear distinction between person and nature, mode of existence and the substance of existence.  


Edited by Anna Stickles, 14 May 2013 - 12:25 PM.


#4 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 12:51 PM

The Scriptures speak of the Spirit as being sent from the Father, but they also speak of the Son sending the Holy Spirit from the Father, (John 15:26, 16:7) This is much of the basis of the statement about the Holy Spirit coming from the Father and through the Son.

I think what we need to differentiate is a doctrine that says that the Son sends the Spirit as from Himself, as well as the Spirit being from the Father, and the Orthodox doctrine that says that the Son only does whatever He sees the Father doing - in other words not only the Divine nature needs to be seen as originating in the Father and being given to the Son through begetting and Spirit through proceeding, but that also all the divine action has its origination and source in the Father. Always in the West the unity of the divine nature has been protected, but Augustine opens the door for the divine action of the Father and the Son to be seen in terms that are independent of one another rather then as truly one action in three particular modes. In the wrong understanding of the word "through" in the statement above, the Son is seen as a source of the action of the sending of the Spirit.

So not only in regards to substance, but also in regards to action, the Son and the Spirit are one with the Father but in a dependent relationship with the Father who is the source and cause of the whole Divine economy of salvation.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 14 May 2013 - 12:57 PM.


#5 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 01:19 PM

but Augustine opens the door for the divine action of the Father and the
Son to be seen in terms that are independent of one another rather then
as truly one action in three particular modes. In the wrong
understanding of the word "through" in the statement above, the Son is
seen as a source of the action of the sending of the Spirit.

 I should have been more specific and said, "as truly one action having its sole source in the Father, in three particular modes.

 

In other words I think we can say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and through the Son, as a way of stating the oneness of the action of the Godhead (that the Spirit is not operating independently of the Son) as long as we also protect the sole source of that action in the Father. 

 

The Scriptures themselves are clear in stating that the Holy Spirit is sent from the Father and from the Father in the name of the Son, it states that He is sent from the Son, and it also states that He is sent from God.  Thus we have the unity in Trinity of this action of sending the Spirit.



#6 Lakis Papas

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 10:14 PM

The Scriptures speak of the Spirit as being sent from the Father, but they also speak of the Son sending the Holy Spirit from the Father, (John 15:26, 16:7) This is much of the basis of the statement about the Holy Spirit coming from the Father and through the Son.

I think what we need to differentiate is a doctrine that says that the Son sends the Spirit as from Himself, as well as the Spirit being from the Father, and the Orthodox doctrine that says that the Son only does whatever He sees the Father doing - in other words not only the Divine nature needs to be seen as originating in the Father and being given to the Son through begetting and Spirit through proceeding, but that also all the divine action has its origination and source in the Father. Always in the West the unity of the divine nature has been protected, but Augustine opens the door for the divine action of the Father and the Son to be seen in terms that are independent of one another rather then as truly one action in three particular modes. In the wrong understanding of the word "through" in the statement above, the Son is seen as a source of the action of the sending of the Spirit.

So not only in regards to substance, but also in regards to action, the Son and the Spirit are one with the Father but in a dependent relationship with the Father who is the source and cause of the whole Divine economy of salvation.

 

 

John 15:26
 
“But when the Comforter comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.
 
1)The Comforter was send to disciples at a specific historical time by Christ - this is what we call Pentecost.
2) the Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father as a mode of existence (beyond time).
 
The difference between 1 and 2 is very important. 


#7 Stephen Griffith

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 05:01 PM

It seems then from what you’ve all said that what St. Gregory is talking about with regards to the Son’s relationship to the Holy Spirit is that the Son eternally manifests the Spirit and although this eternal manifestation has a part in defining the Holy Spirit’s hypostasis as different from those of the Father and the Son, the Son’s relationship to the Holy Spirit is defiantly not a causal one. Please correct me if any of you think I’m going wrong somewhere. This seems to be the interpretation I found today in Yves Congar: ‘This is not, of course, the same as the Filioque of the Latin Church, since the Eastern Christians have never spoken of the Father and the Son as forming a single principle of active spiration, even if it has been emphasized, as Augustine and Christians in the West did, that this goes back principaliter to the Father. The Greeks did not like speculating or arriving at greater precision on the basis of deductions. It is, however, hardly possible to deny that the Son played a part in the intra-divine existence of the Spirit, although that part was not of a causal nature. Gregory of Nyssa, however, uses the formula, either literally or with the same meaning, ek tou Patros dia tou Huiou ekporeuetai: the Spirit comes from the Father through the Son.’ (Congar, Y.M.J., trans. Smith, D., I Believe in the Holy Spirit, London: Geoffrey Chapman 1983, p. 32.) The problem that remains for me is that there seems to be a conflicting interpretation of St. Gregory of Nyssa which states, in the words of G.W.H. Lampe: ‘The Spirit is derived from the Father and is also “of the Son”; he proceeds from the Father through the Son, like a third light kindled through the medium of a second light from a first light.’ (Lampe, G.W.H., ‘Christian Theology in the Patristic Period’ in: Cunliffe-Jones, H. ed., A History of Christian Doctrine, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1978, p. 113) This is pretty much the interpretation of St. Gregory’s theology given by my professors at university. However if this is true what St. Gregory is proposing is a concept of the Trinity as: Father, Son and Grandson. Is Lampe wrong in his interpretation of St. Gregory of Nyssa or am I simply misunderstanding him? By the way it might be worth noting that St. Gregory the Theologian uses a similar image to think about the Trinity to the one Lampe uses to illustrate his interpretation of St. Gregory of Nyssa: the image of – a spring, a fountain and a river (see: Oration 31 ‘On the Holy Spirit’) which likewise seems to suggest a view a Father, Son and Grandson Trinity. I hope I’m misunderstanding somewhere.

#8 Lakis Papas

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 05:32 PM

From the web site: http://www.oodegr.co...a/filioque1.htm

 

 

What is the significance of the expression “…from the Father, by the Son” in regard to the Holy Spirit’s procession?

 

According to the sacred Fathers of the Church, the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father, by the Son”. This is the customary form by which the faith of the Church is expressed.  When interposing in this matter, theology formulates many and subtle thoughts, which are difficult to perceive by most of the faithful, for whom theology is both difficult and abstruse.  We will attempt to give an elementary reply here, avoiding complex theological thoughts and without deviating from the teaching of the 4th Gospel (John 15:26).

 

Linguistically, the preposition “from” denotes the cause from which/whom something takes place, whereas the preposition “by” denotes the cause by which/whom something takes place.  In the theological Trinity, the “from” refers to the Father, from Whom the Spirit proceeds eternally, acquiring His divinity fromthe Father (= “the Spirit Who proceeds from the Father”, and “the One proceeding from the Father”). The preposition by” on the other hand pertains to the Son, in Whose name the Spirit is sent to the world (without this implying that the Son is just a menial instrument of the Father). It is obvious that with regard to the Holy Spirit’s procession, the preposition “by” pertains to the providential Trinity; i.e., to the external energies of the Triadic God.  Equally obvious is the fact that the preposition “by” reveals the sameness of nature between the Son and the Spirit.  It is on this fact that the other statement is based; i.e., that the Spirit reposes in the Son (“and reposed in the Son”) and is referred to as “the characteristic quality of the Son.



#9 Lakis Papas

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 05:45 PM

It seems then from what you’ve all said that what St. Gregory is talking about with regards to the Son’s relationship to the Holy Spirit is that the Son eternally manifests the Spirit and although this eternal manifestation has a part in defining the Holy Spirit’s hypostasis as different from those of the Father and the Son, the Son’s relationship to the Holy Spirit is defiantly not a causal one. Please correct me if any of you think I’m going wrong somewhere.

 

No.

 

Son did not defined Holy Spirit’s hypostasis.  The term "define" is not acceptable. Neither the Father defined Holy Spirit’s hypostasis. 



#10 Stephen Griffith

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 08:14 PM

The term "define" is not acceptable.


Thanks for the clarification. What I meant to say is that what St. Gregory of Nyssa is affirming when he says that the Holy Spirit proceeds ‘through the Son’ is that the life of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity is what it is according to the Holy Spirit’s relation to both the Father (from Whom He receives His causal origin) and from the Son (from Whom He does not receive a causal origin but nonetheless shares an integral relationship as a Member of the Holy Trinity). Is this an acceptable way of describing it?

Edited by Stephen Griffith, 15 May 2013 - 08:15 PM.


#11 Lakis Papas

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 12:53 PM

Let me first make a clarification: when we say that Son is begotten and Spirit proceeds we actually do not know what "begotten" and "proceeds" mean. We signify by these terms that the Father is the causing principal for both the Son and the Spirit. 
 
But we need to specify also that "to be begotten" is not the same as "procession". The difference is not  identical to the conceptual difference between the significance of these words. We use human words to express divine things!
 
If we just say that "Son is begotten and Spirit proceeds" then the difference of relationships with the Father bettwen Son and Spirit would be only verbal. Here comes St Gregory and provides what is necessary to designate the difference in a way independent of words. St Gregory said (in the excerpt post #2):
 

..For one is directly from the first Cause, and another by that which is directly from the first Cause; so that the attribute of being Only-begotten abides without doubt in the Son, and the interposition 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...

 

 
1) For one is directly from the first Cause (Son is directly from the Father)
2) and another by that which is directly from the first Cause (Spirit is by the Son, not directly from the father) 
3) so that the attribute of being Only-begotten abides without doubt in the Son (Son is Only-begotten)
4) and the interposition 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 
 
In this way St Gregory provides the argument to support Father not having two Sons. In order Son to remain as the Only-begotten, he must be recognized exclusively to be "directly from the first Cause", or else we would have two Sons somehow (or two Spirits). This exclusivity is based on the phrase "For one is directly from the first Cause, and another by that which is directly from the first Cause". So directly for the Father is only the Son.  
 
At the same time, the physical, the essential relationship of the Spirit to the Father is not removed,  Spirit comes to existence through the interposition of the Son ( because the Son is the whole divine nature, and therefore as to the nature, He is in communion with the Father and the Spirit). This was also presented by Anna Stickles post #4.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 16 May 2013 - 12:53 PM.


#12 Stephen Griffith

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Posted 23 May 2013 - 08:28 AM

Just to try and tidy up a few last things. First, please could you clarify a bit more what you mean by 'interposition' regarding the Holy Spirit's relationship to the Son, if it is not to be understood as a causal relationship? Second, why is it necessary to affirm the Son's interposition in the procession of the Holy Spirit to differentiate the the Son and the Holy Spirit from each other? Are not the terms 'begotten' and 'proceeds' (though mysterious as to their precise meanings) enough to differentiate? Or is St. Gregory of Nyssa's statement simply an attempt to point towards how 'begetting' and 'procession' can be thought of as somehow different?

#13 Lakis Papas

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Posted 23 May 2013 - 11:31 AM

Just to try and tidy up a few last things. First, please could you clarify a bit more what you mean by 'interposition' regarding the Holy Spirit's relationship to the Son, if it is not to be understood as a causal relationship? Second, why is it necessary to affirm the Son's interposition in the procession of the Holy Spirit to differentiate the the Son and the Holy Spirit from each other? Are not the terms 'begotten' and 'proceeds' (though mysterious as to their precise meanings) enough to differentiate? Or is St. Gregory of Nyssa's statement simply an attempt to point towards how 'begetting' and 'procession' can be thought of as somehow different?

 

From http://www.oodegr.co...tiki1/D2d.htm#9

 

 

Despite all the above, the Greek Fathers do make a certain distinction. They allow a particular role to the Son, during the “procession” of the Holy Spirit. In one of the passages by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, which is a key passage for this subject, he says:  “We do not deny the difference between Him (the Father), who exists as the Causer, and Him, Who is of the Causer”.  In this way, we can comprehend how the one Person is distinguished from the other Person; i.e., by realizing that “the cause” is one thing, and that “of the cause” is another thing.  In other words, if we ask what the difference is between the Father and the Son (or the Father and the Spirit), then, according to the above passage, the difference is that the Father is “the Cause”, while the Son and the Spirit are “of the Cause”.  Therefore, the distinction between “the Causer” and “of the Causer” is extremely significant.

 

Gregory continues his “key passage”, by saying: “as for that which is of the causer (=the Son), we acknowledge a further difference (that for both the Son and the Spirit, “the Causer” is the Father, while the Son and the Spirit are both “of the Causer”). One difference is that the Son originates immediately, directly from the First, from the Cause, whereas the other, the Spirit, originates via the One who originates directly from the First; through the intervention, the mediation of the Son.”

 

And why is this? Because, in this way, the mediation of the Son in divine life preserves His characteristic as the Only-born, while the natural, the essential relationship of the Spirit towards the Father is not annulled. In other words, the problem is that we must somehow move away from the notion of two Sons; to concede that the Son is the only-born son, and that there is no second Son.

 

According to Gregory, this compels us to “attribute” to the Son a characteristic, an intermediary role –a mediation– in the “procedure” of the Spirit. This mediation preserves the essential relationship of the Spirit with the Father. This is what led many to the idea that there is an “orthodox Filioque” and that the Filioque is admissible, provided it doesn’t refer to the Persons; in other words, that the Spirit does not proceed from the (Person of the) Son also, but that it proceeds from the Essence of the Father, which is common between Father and Son.

 

 

As for the status of the Essence, well, it could be considered a “dependency” by the Son…This is in a certain way correct, but it also creates various difficulties, because neither the Son nor the Spirit proceeds from the Essence directly; because the Son is born of the Father, and the Spirit proceeds out of the Father, i.e., out of the Person of the Father.  It is difficult for one to discern these two statuses –of essence and hypostasis- given that it is the hypostasis that provides existence.

 

In the passage we just mentioned, there is a certain truth in the fact that the Filioque can somehow become acceptable, except in the way it discerns between Providence and eternal Godhood, where the issue is very clear.

 

But even here, it can become acceptable.  In what way?  If we don’t accept the discerning of those two statuses between essence and person.   What matters in the Cappadocian Fathers’ Theology is that we are not allowed to attribute the role of Causer to the Son.

 

Since we do not recognize the role of Causer in the Son, one could say that any other role of the Son in the procedure of the Spirit is permissible.

In conclusion, the Filioque would be acceptable, under the condition that the Son does not become the Causer of the Spirit, and that the Cause is only one: the Father.  That is where Maximus the Confessor –and Photios the Great later on- rested their entire line of arguments against the Filioque.  Because according to them, the Westerners were bestowing the role of Causer on the Son also.

 

The reason why it is so important not to attribute such a role to the Son is because it is only in that way, that we preserve monotheism, monarchy.



#14 Anna Stickles

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Posted 23 May 2013 - 12:33 PM

As for the status of the Essence, well, it could be considered a
“dependency” by the Son…This is in a certain way correct, but it also
creates various difficulties, because neither the Son nor the Spirit
proceeds from the Essence directly; because the Son is born of the
Father, and the Spirit proceeds out of the Father, i.e., out of the
Person of the Father.  It is difficult for one to discern these two
statuses –of essence and hypostasis- given that it is the hypostasis
that provides existence.

 

 The personal distinction of being Father seems to rest wholly in how the Father is the source and is sharing with the Son and the Spirit.  In the Father is the source of oneness, simplicity, person, and essence. As for the dependency of the Son, Elder Sophrony explains it this way.

 

"The essence is not of primary or even per-eminent importance in defining Persons-Hypostases in their reciprocal relations. Divine being contains nothing that could be external to the hypostatic principle. ... The beginning of all things is the Father, Who in the pre-eternal begetting of the Son communicates to Him all the plentitude of His Nature, of His Essence. The same happens with the procession of the Holy Spirit."

 

(The elder here does not go on to talk about the difference between the Spirit and the Son because this is not the point of what he is trying to say)

 

One of the things Elder Sophrony tries to speak against in his writings is the tendency of the mind to depersonalize essence/nature seeing it as an impersonal substance of some type, rather then simply as that of Himself which the Father is sharing. 


Edited by Anna Stickles, 23 May 2013 - 12:33 PM.





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