On the Holy Spirit

John Zizioulas The Second Ecumenical Council on the Holy Spirit in Historical and Ecumenical Perspective


1. From Nicaea to First Constantinople. The crucial issues and the new theological ideas

1. The establishment of the dialectic between ‘created’ and ‘uncreated’
Arianism did not appear as a storm out of the blue. It was connected with an issue that became crucial once the Church tried to relate the gospel to the educated and philosophically inclined Greeks of late antiquity. This issue can be summed up in the question of the relationship between God and the world. To what extent in this relationship a dialectical one? For the ancient Greeks the world and God were related to each other with some kind of ontological affinity (syggeneia). This affinity was expressed either through the mind (Nous) which is common between God – the Nous par excellence – and man, or through the Reason (logos) which came to be understood, especially by Stoicism, as the link, at once cosmic and divine, that unites God and the world. Attempts, like that of Justin, to identify Christ, the logos of the Fourth Gospel, with this Gospel of the Greeks concealed a problem which remained unnoticed as long as the issue of the relations between God and the world was not raised in the form of a dialectical relationship. For many generations after Justin the Logos (Christ) could be thought of as a projection (provole) of God always somehow connected with the existence of the world. Origen’s attempt to push the existence of the Logos back to the being of God himself did not help very much to clarify the issue, since he admitted a kind of eternal creation, thus giving rise to the question whether the Logos was not in fact to be understood in terms of an eternity related to this eternal existence of the world. This is why both the Arians, who wanted the Logos to be related to creation rather than to God’s being, and their opponents could draw inspiration and arguments from Origen himself.

Thus Arianism highlighted the philosophical issue of the ontological relation between God and the world, by forcing the Church to become more conscious than ever before that there is no ontological syggeneia between God and the world, between created and uncreated, and that there is no way of compromising between these two. No being can be both created and uncreated; the Logos is either created or uncreated; to mix up creature and creator is to make the most unacceptable theological as well as logical mistake. Both the Arians and the Nicaeans seem to have reached a silent agreement on this methodological principle to such an extent that it was regarded as sufficient to prove that Christ was God, if it was shown that he could not be a creature – and vice versa.
It is well known how Nicaea and Athanasius himself tried to express this dialectic between created and uncreated. The employment of the language of substance (ousia, phusis) was intended precisely to express this. The world owes its existence to the will (boulesis) of God, not to his substance. The Logos owes his existence to the substance of God; he is homoousios with him – hence not a creature. Substance was the highest ontological category to indicate that something is and at the same is itself, and not something else. Its employment by Athanasius and Nicaea was not intended to create a speculative or metaphysical theology, as some historians seem to think, but to express the utter dialectic between God and the world. The homoousios is not to be understood so much as a positive statement, telling us something about God’s being, but rather as a negative one, indicating what the Logos is not, namely a creature. When substantialist language is taken out of the created-uncreated dialectic and is turned into a ground of divine metaphysics, it is taken away from its paganism context. This, as we shall see, relates directly to the doctrine of the Spirit.

2 The question of substantialist language and the emergence of the notion of person
The homoousios, by became part of the Nicene decision, acquired sanctity for those who accepted Nicaea, while constituting the stumbling block of all attempts at unity and the cause of continuous divisions. This we must emphasise was not because this term was used as a way of describing God’s being as such, ie as a way of professing a divine metaphysic. Neither in Athanasius nor in any of the Fathers of that century is there any indication that ousia was used for any other purpose than to indicate simply that the Son is God (and not a creature) – not how he is so, or what this means for God’s being as such, (eg its unity etc). the use of substance for such purposes is a later phenomenon and does not apply to the period we are examining here.
This observation is important in order to understand the reluctance of theologians like Saint Basil to employ the term homoousios for the Holy Spirit, a reluctance that becomes a notable and open refusal to do so by the Fathers of The First Council of Constantinople. Since this is immediately related to the Pneumatology of the Second Ecumenical Council, we cannot avoid asking the question: why this reluctance on the part of Basil, and this notorious omission on the part of the Council? The question, as we shall see, is not merely of interest to the historian.
Students of Saint Basil’s Pneumatology have tried to explain this attitude by pointing mainly to tactical reasons. Basil did believe in the homoousios of the Spirit, but wanted to win over to Orthodoxy those who found this language difficult to use. This explanation is certainly valid and can, as we shall see later, teach us very much, even today. But it is not sufficient to do justice to either Basil or the Council of Constantinople. For it would be unworthy of the theological seriousness which marked the Fathers of that time to reduce this attitude to mere diplomacy. Thus I should like to two facts which go beyond the mere tactical concern and which reveal deeper theological developments that took place between Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople.
In the first place, Basil’s attitude is not simply one of saying: it is not necessary to use the homoousios for the Spirit. He says something more positive than this: if one professes the Spirit is not a creature, then one does not have to profess the ‘homoousios’ of the Spirit. This proves the point we made earlier one, namely that the real – and perhaps only – issue behind the use of the notion of substance in theology was to safeguard what we have called here the dialectic between created and uncreated. Once you accept this, the question remains whether the Holy Spirit is to be placed on the level of creation or of the uncreated, and this would suffice. The term homoousios, sacred as it is because of its use by Nicaea, becomes unnecessary. Basil, and for that matter the Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council, were brave enough not to use this sacred term for the sake of the peace and the unity of the Church, and creative enough to single out and support the dogmatic raison-d’être of the homoousios, that is the faith that the created and uncreated cannot be mixed up, and that the Spirit belongs to the realm of the uncreated.
Secondly, there is more to be said concerning St Basil’s silence on the homoousion of the Spirit. If we read carefully his De Spiritu Sancto and his Letters, we get the impression that Basil prefers to speak of the unity of God’s being in terms other than that of substance. One could even risk saying that Basil does not particularly like this terminology, and prefers to use Koinonia whenever reference is made to the oneness of the divinity. There is a profound reason for this. Basil as we know was one of those Easterners who were anxious to stress and safeguard the distinct and ontological integral existence of each of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. The fear of Sabellianism (which destroyed this ontological integrity) was for him as deeply-seated as for many of his contemporaries in the East. The homoousios was of little help to dispel such fears, for it could itself be subject to Sabellian interpretations. Basil must have seen that the best way to speak of the unity of the Godhead was through the notion of Koinonia rather than of substance. His reluctance to use the homoousios for the Spirit cannot be entirely disassociated from all this.
This leads us to the next important point which has to do with the emergence of the new theological tools and concepts between 325 and 381 AD. Basil, and the Cappadocian Fathers in general, are known in history from their contribution to the notion of the Person. This contribution however is not sufficiently appreciated and needs to be discussed here, as it affects the pneumatology of the First Council of Constantinople in a decisive way. With regard to this subject, two points appear to me to be of fundamental significance:
a) For the first time in the history of philosophy, particularly of Greek thought, we have an identification of an ontological category, such as hypostasis, with a notion, such as Person. In classical antiquity, both Greek and Roman, these terms always remained clearly separate and distinct. Hypostasis was identical with substance or ousia, and indicated that something is, and that it is itself, while prospon indicated, in a variety of nuances and forms, the way something relates the other beings. By calling the Person a ‘mode of being’ (tropos hyparxeos) the Cappadocians introduced a revolution into Greek ontology, since they said for the first time in history that a) prosopon, is not secondary to being, but is its hypostasis; and b) a hypostasis, ie an ontological category, is relational in its very nature, it is prosopon. The importance of this lies in the fact that Person is now the ultimate ontological category we can apply to God. Substance is not something ontological prior to Person (no classical Greek would say this), but its real existence is to be found in the Person.
b) On the basis of this, the Cappadocians went on the develop another philosophical and theological position, for which some theologians of our time accuse them of having deviated from earlier tradition. Since the Person in its identification with hypostasis is an ultimate – and not a secondary – ontological notion, it must be a Person – and not a substance – that is the source of divine existence. Thus the notion of ‘source’ is complemented by the Cappadocians with the notion of ‘cause’(aitia), and the idea emerges that the cause of God’s being is the Father. The introduction of a ‘cause’ in addition to ‘source’ was meant to indicate that divine existence does not ‘spring’ so to say, ‘naturally’ as from impersonal substance, but is brought into existence, it is ‘caused’ by someone. Whereas Pege (source) could be understood substantially or naturalistically, aitia (cause) carried with it connotations of personal initiative and – at least at that time – of freedom. Divine being owes its being to a free person, not to impersonal substance. And since hypostasis is now identical with person, freedom is combined with love (relationship) and the two together are identified with the Father – a relational notion in its very nature.
2. The emergence of doxological theology and the contrast between ‘Theologia’ and ‘Oikonomia’
Basil’s treatise on the Holy Spirit reveals certain important new developments in theology which lie behind the Creed of the First Council of Constantinople. They constitute indispensable tools in any attempt at interpreting this creed and can be summarised as follows:
1. There is a foundational distinction between what we can say about God as he is in Himself (immanently or eternally) and what we can say about Him as He reveals Himself to us in His Oikonomia. The two ways are indicated by the use of two different doxologies. The doxology which prevailed during the early centuries, probably of an Alexandrian origin, was ‘Glory be to the Father through (dia) the Son in (en) the Holy Spirit.’ This was replaced by Basil with another one which he claimed was just as ancient as the first one, namely, ‘Glory be to the Father with (syn) the Son, with (syn) the Holy Spirit.’
In introducing and trying to justify the second doxology Basil offers a theology which includes the following points:
a) If one looks at the Economy in order to arrive at Theologia one begins with the Holy Spirit, then passes through the Son and finally reaches the Father. The movement is reversed when we speak of God’s coming to us; the initiative starts with the Father, passes through the Son and reaches us in the Holy Spirit. In the latter case the Spirit can be said to come third in order, but Basil does not seem to insist on that. The main point when referring to the Economy seems to be that the Spirit is a forerunner of Christ; There is no phrase or act of the Economy which is not announced and preceded by the Spirit. So even in the Economy, for Basil at least, the Spirit does not seem to depend on the Son.
All this may well be an idea related to an old liturgical practice in the areas of Palestine and Syria (with which Cappadocians is closely related) according to which the giving of the Spirit in the form of Chrismation or Confirmation preceded the Baptism in water. There is, one may say, in these areas a reversal of the liturgical order existing elsewhere in this respect, and this may well have been accompanied by an analogous theology (perhaps Theodoret’s strong repudiation of Cyril of Alexandria’s views on the relation between Son and spirit, has something to do with the fact that the former is an Antiochene?) This means that the dia/en doxology can be interpreted in a way indicating either the precedence of the Son or the precedence of the Spirit in our relation to God.
b) If on the other hand, one speaks of God in terms of liturgical and especially eucharistic experience, then, Basil argues, the proper doxology is that of syn- and this makes the inter-trinitarian relations look entirely different. The three persons of the Trinity appear to be equal in honour and placed next to the other without hierarchical distinction, almost as if the Monarchy of the Father itself was an irrelevant matter.
Basil’s introduction of this doxology and his insistence on defending it seem to indicate that for him this kind of doxology supports his favourite idea that the oneness of God is to be found in the koinonia of the three person (De Spiritu Sancto 18.45: en te Koinonia tes theotitos estin he henosis). The experience of liturgy points to an experience of communion.
The existence of God is revealed to us in the Liturgy as an event of communion. Basil in agreement with the Fathers of both East and West, stresses the unity of divine operations ad extra, and cannot see how else one can speak of God in His own being: ‘If one truly receives the Son, the Son will bring with him on either hand the presence of his Father and that of his own Holy Spirit; likewise he who receives the Father receives also in effect the Son and the Spirit. So ineffable and so far beyond our understanding are both the communion (Koinonia) and the distinctiveness (dianerisis) of the divine hypostases.’ From whatever end you begin in speaking of the Holy Trinity you end up with the co-presence and co-existence of all three Persons at once. This is the deeper meaning – and the merit – of the syn- doxology and for that matter of a theology inspired by the Liturgy. As Gregory of Nazianzen put it later, the worship of one person in the Trinity implies the worship of the Three for the Three are one in honour and Godhead.
This language which is taken up by the First Council of Constantinople opens the way to an argument based on liturgical experience and worship and thus to a theology which does not rest on historical or ‘economical’ experience. The only thing which we can say about God on the basis of this relation is that He is three Persons and that these three Persons are clearly distinct from each other in that they exist in a different manner each. Nothing however can be said about the way they exist on the basis of the way they appear in the Economy or on any other basis. This is why we cannot say, Gregory of Nazianzen argues, what the difference is between generation and procession. The safest theology is that which draws not only from the Economy, but also, and perhaps mainly, from the vision of God as He appears in worship. The Cappadocian way of thinking is thus strongly present behind the Eastern preference for a meta-historical or eschatological approach to the mystery of God as contrasted with the Western concern with God’s acts in history. The First Council of Constantinople is in this respect, theologically and not only historically speaking, an Eastern Council, but its interpretation can and must be, as we shall see later, truly ecumenical.

2. Important points of the Pneumatology of the Second Ecumenical Council – Constantinople
Viewed against the background of the theological developments that took place between AD325 and 381 the doctrine of the first council of Constantinople on the Holy Spirit involves the following main theses:
1. The Holy Spirit is God. This assertion of the Council is given indirectly and in a way that leads us back to the observations we made in the previous section of this paper.
Firstly there is no mention of the word homoousios. This seems to be a victory of Basilian, (whether this was simply tactical or based on the theological presuppositions which marked Basils avoidance of the term is not clear). It is thus significant that the way in which assertion of the divinity of the Spirit is made by the Council reminds us vividly of Basil’s way of speaking of God.
It has been remarked by many scholars that the Council deals with the doctrine of the Spirit by using strictly scriptural language. It describes him as Lord (Kyrion), a reference to 2 Corinthians 3.17 as Life-giving (Zoopoion) which is taken from John 6.63 and as ‘having spoken through the prophets’ (2 Peter 1.21). This scriptural language is in its choice significant theologically, for its seems to based on soteriological and existential rather than on strictly speaking speculative or metaphysical language. The homoousios is therefore not replaced with another philosophical term, not even with that of hypostasis or Person which had become current terminology with the Cappadocians, but with terms which are not significant for the sake of being scriptural but are chosen in such a way as to make the doctrine directly related to the life of Man and the Church.
The only non-scriptural language used to denote the divinity of the Spirit is the reference to Him as ‘worshipped and glorified together with the Father and the Son.’ This is another Basilian victory, for it was he who argued for the divinity of the Spirit in terms of equal honour (homotimia) in worship. The fact that the Council resorts to this kind of terminology in order to assert the divinity of the Spirit is in itself very significant. It is as though the Council considered it sufficient merely to refer to the worship of the Spirit together with (syn) the Father and the Son in order to indicate that he is God. The argument from worship, viewed against the distinction between ‘Theologia’ and ‘Oikonomia’ which we discussed earlier, reveals that not only the dialectic between created and uncreated is maintained as a crucial issue (one cannot worship what a created being), but also that the doxological theology based on the vision of God’s being as it is offered primarily in worship and contrasted with the way of the economy and history is the way chosen by the Council to speak of the divine existence of the Spirit. As we have already remarked, it is significant that of the two doxologies mentioned in St Basil’s De Spiritu Sancto it is the syn- doxology that seems to find its way into the Creed. This certainly does not mean that the other doxology is excluded. But the way the Creed speaks about the Spirit calls for an investigation into the manner in which these two doxologies, representing as we saw two different theological methods, can be synthesised.
2. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.
This is another scriptural quotation which, however, should not be approached again as having no theological significance in itself. If Basilian theology has affected the Pneumatology of the First Council of Constantinople as much as it appears to have done, the reference of the Creed to the procession of the Spirit from the Father should be placed in the light of this theology, the main components of which have already been mentioned here. What is the importance of the idea that the Spirit proceeds from the Father if placed against this background?
Firstly, in asserting that the Spirit proceeds from the Father we must understand, in strictly Basilian terms, that the ultimate ontological ground of the Holy Spirit is a person, and not substance. We have already referred to the idea of ‘cause’ as a peculiar Cappadocians contribution to theology and of its significance. The whole point seems to be that whereas the notion of ‘source’ can be impersonal, that of aition is personal (there are clear reference to this reasoning in the Cappadocians). The concern of the council in making this assertion is not simply to keep the traditional idea of the Monarchia, since that is done by simply keeping the notion of ‘Source’ to describe the one ‘principle’ or arche. It is rather to safeguard the faith that the person precedes substance and ‘causes’ it to be. The Spirit, therefore, is not simply a power issuing from divine substance; he is another personal identity standing vis a vis the Father. He is a product of love and freedom and not of substantial necessity. The Spirit by proceeding from the Father – in not from divine substance as such – is a person in the truest sense. And this seems to be the most important implication of the phrase; ‘from the Father’.
Following this observation we can now raise the thorny question of whether the Spirit proceeds also from the Son. The first Council of Constantinople is clear in this respect, and it is unquestionably obvious that the Filioque is an addition to the original Creed. But in what sense can it be said to contradict the theology of the Council on the Holy Spirit? And we cannot answer this question without reference to the theological presuppositions which emerged between Nicaea and Constantinople.
That the Son has some kind of role in the procession of the Spirit can follow from a study of Patristic sources without any difficulty. Not only Alexandrian theologians, such as Cyril, seem to hold this view, but also Cappadocians like Gregory of Nyssa appear to be saying the same thing. The Son in some sense ‘mediates’ in the procession of the Spirit. The Father do not seem to say much as the how this mediation is to be understood. But certainly it is something to do with the eternal and ontological reality of the Spirit, not simply with the Economy.
This being said we must add that what we regarded as an important point in our interpretation of the ‘from the Father’ phrase has to remain intact and not be threatened by this ‘mediation’ of the Son. None of the Greek Fathers, certainly none of the Cappadocians, would understand the mediation of the Son in the procession of the Spirit as in any sense implying that the Son is another ‘cause’ in divide existence. The Father remains the only cause, and this for reasons which go deep into the philosophical and theological presuppositions with which the Cappadocians operate in theology. Thus, between the Alexandrian (Cyrilian) tendency to involve the Son in the ousianic procession of the Spirit – this is how a careful study of Cyril’s pronouncements on this subject seem to us to read – and the Antiochene (Theodoretan) tendency to limit the role of the Son in the coming to being of the Spirit to the Economy, Gregory of Nyssa’s position seems to strike a middle road which does more justice to the intention of the Fathers of the first council of Constantinople. In Gregory’s words:
‘We do not deny the difference between that which is by way of ‘cause’ and that which is ‘caused’, and by this alone can we conceive of one being distinguished from the other, namely by the belief that one is ‘cause’ and another ‘from the cause’. In the case of those who are from the cause we recognise a further difference; one is derived immediately from the first, and the other through that which comes immediately from the first. Thus the mediating position of the Son in the divine life guards his right to be the only begotten (Son), while the Spirit’s natural (ouisanic = physikes) relation to the Father is not excluded.’
Thus Gregory’s position seems to be similar to that of Cyril in that it clearly allows for a mediating position of the Son in the eternal spiration of the Spirit. But he differs from him in that a) he introduces the notion of ‘cause’ which he clearly reserves to the Father alone, putting the Son and the Spirit on an equal footing in this respect (both of them are ek tou aitou) and b) he, unlike Cyril does not leave any doubt as to the fact that even the ousianic or ‘natural’ relation of the Spirit to God is one of relationship with the Father.
If, therefore, we are allowed to interpret the first council of Constantinople in the light of Cappadocian theology, we must conclude that the phrase ek tou Patros: a) does not exclude a mediating role of the Son in the principle of the Spirit; b) does not allow for the Son to acquire the role of aition by being a mediator; and c) does not allow any detachment of divine ousia from the Father; when we refer to ousia we do not refer in any way to something conceivable besides the Father, that is we do not refer to an impersonal ousia.
This much can be concluded as an interpretation of the Council’s teaching on the Holy Spirit. Anything more than this, namely any attempt to define the content of this mediation of the Son by making him some kind of secondary cause, or by distinguishing between personal – relational and hypostatic – ousianic levels of operation, cannot be concluded from either the first council of Constantinople or the Cappadocians.
This little however that can be concluded is by no means negligible. For its deeper meaning has to do with an absolute and indispensable existential truth, namely with the ontological ultimacy of the Person. If God’s being is not caused by a Person, it is not a free being. And if this Person is not the Father alone, it is not a free being. And if this Person is not the Father alone, it is impossible to maintain the divine unity or oneness without taking resort to the ultimacy of substance in ontology, ie without subjecting freedom to necessity and Person to substance.
Many centuries separate us from the Second Ecumenical Council and during this time the doctrine of the Holy Spirit has been one of the thorniest problems in theology. As it does not fall within the scope of the subject to which this paper is essentially addressed, I do not intend to discuss the arguments that have been produced for and against the main issue that has divided East and West in their understanding of this doctrine. What I have tried to do in this paper is to point out what I regard as the main issues that lie behind the doctrine of the first council of Constantinople on the Holy Spirit, and as I promised in my introduction, to establish which of these were essential to the Fathers of that time and which of them, in accordance with an essential continuity of Tradition, continue to constitute fundamental issues for us today. I can now sum up this effort by underlining the following points.
As regard the Filioque problem, much of the polemic that prevailed since the time of Photius has tended to obscure the real issues, and therefore has to be re-examined today.
From what I have said so far the following clarifications appear to be necessary :
The real issue behind the Filioque concerns the question whether the ultimate ontological category in theology is the Person or substance. It seems to me that the choice here is limited. For the Son is understood as a kind of second cause in divine existence – alongside or even below the Father – the dilemma is that either the substance or the Person are the ultimate ontological category in God (that which has the priority and which safeguards the unity of the divine existence). If we go back to the biblical and Greek Patristic identification God with the Father – to which theologians like Karl Rahner point today – the ultimate ontological category cannot be other than the Person, the hypostasis of the Father alone, since two hypostases being such an ultimate ontological category would result in two gods. Profound and crucial existential reasons argue against making substance ultimate in ontology; I have only hinted at them in this paper.
The position of Western theology with regard to this issue which in my view is the only essential one, cannot be properly appreciated without taking into account the following observations:
As it has been so clearly shown by Father Y. Congar, the Western interpretation of the Filioque, based on the theology of St Augustine, does not necessarily reject or exclude the thesis that the Father is the only cause of divine existence in the Holt Trinity. Augustine refers to the Father as the one from whom the Spirit proceeds principaliter.
It must be noted – and this is crucial – that the West was satisfied with the notion of arche or pege (cf. Augustine’s principaliter) in what concern the ‘how’ of the Trinitarian being. The East on the contrary, as it shown by case of the Cappadocians, was not: it went further and introduced the notion of aitia or aition, and with it as we have argued in this paper also the notion of the ontological ultimacy of the Person in God. The reasons for this development in the East are on the one hand idiosyncratic (if we may call them this) relating to the strongly liturgical approach to the mystery of God which always marked the Eastern areas (Syria, Palestine, Cappadocians etc) and on the other hand purely historical and circumstantial: the rise of Eunominianism, for example, to refutation of which the Cappadocians had to devote so much of their energy, inevitably brought forth the necessity of a Trinitarian theology based on the ontological ultimacy of the Person. [Eunominaism in the final analysis was nothing but a conception of the divine nature in such terms as to make it impossible to distinguish between the ousia of the Father and the person of the Father. This point was seen by the Cappadocian Fathers who thought that Arianism could not be finally refuted until the distinction between the ‘Father’ and the ousia of God could be made, so that the generation of the Logos would not necessitate a movement of God outside his being, his ousia.]
Thus the Cappadocians marked the beginning of a theological ethos and a philosophical expression of the mystery of God which the West never fully appreciated or shared. In classical – perhaps also in modern – Western theology the Person never played the role of an ultimate ontological category due to the tendency to place the Person of the Father, under the ontological priority of the ‘one God’, ie of divinity in general. The same is even more true about the Medieval Scholastics. It is the light of the absence of an ontology of the Person in the West that we must place the entire history of East-West relations in theology, and absence which has affected other areas of doctrine and not simply the doctrine of God.
Now, such an absence of a philosophical tool in the West may well indicate a basic difference in the understanding of the mystery of God, but not necessarily so. Since even St Augustine’s intention in supporting the Filioque does not seem to have been the recognition of two archai in God, the absence of the concept of aition (and with it the ultimacy the Person) from his theology does not necessarily involve a radical departure from the faith of the First Council of Constantinople. It is unfortunate that in the course of Church history Cappadocian and Western thought were never given the opportunity to really meet except in the context of a polemic that sought after differences rather than better understanding. In this sense it could be said that the history of the reception of the First Council of Constantinople was interrupted and never came to full maturity. Modern theologians, both of the East and West tradition, must work towards a recapturing of the ancient Patristic threads that may rejoin us with the first dynamics of this unfinished history of reception. In any such attempt of contemporary theology the crucial question will be, according to the main argument of this paper, to what extent both East and West can appropriate the Cappadocian theology that lies behind the Second Ecumenical Council, including its most important and existentially decisive intention to give ontological priority to the Person in God and the existence in general. Thus the Filioque issue remains an open question which may only be decided on the premises of such a deeper theological re-reception of the First Council of Constantinople.
1. In any attempt to appreciate correctly the weight of the Filioque issue in East-West relations one must take into account certain differences in the meaning attached to the expression ekporeuetia (proceeds) of John 15.26. The Latin writers, including St Augustine do not seem to make the distinction we find in the Greek Fathers between that and the expression exelthon kai eko of John 8.42, taking the verbs ekporeuesthia and proienai as synonyms. This confusion in the vocabulary was regarded already by St Maximus the Confessor as sufficient reason for dispelling all suspicions of heresy that the Byzantines had against the Romans concerning the Filioque. He claimed he had secured from the Romans the explanation that the Filioque does not imply for them any other aition, except the Father, in divine existence – it is noteworthy that the entire issue seems to be judged by the Cappadocian idea of aition – and asked the Byzantines to respect the fact that the Romans ‘cannot render their thought in a language and words which are foreign to their mother tongue, exactly as this is the case with us (Greeks).’
Having said this we must immediately observe that this terminological problem was not entirely free from theological implications. Maximus himself in the above mentioned letter makes explicit reference to St Cyril of Alexandria and the support that the Romans drew from him in their defence of the Filioque. Cyril, as we have already noted, speaks clearly of the Spirit as coming from the Father and the Son with regard to substance (ouisodos). But Maximus notes in his letter, and no doubt had discussed this with the Romans, that Cyril uses the verb proienai – not ekporeuesthia – in all such cases. Ekporeuesthia is applicable only to ek tou Patros.
Now the theological issue between this is that for Cyril the term proienai is related simultaneously to both the eternal being of God and to his opera ad extra, ie the Economy. Cyril seems to push the economic ‘mission’ of the Spirit back into the eternal being of God into divine ousia. In so doing he displays insensitivity towards an issue which, as we have seen, was so important to the Cappadocians, namely the distinction between Theologia and Oikonomia. Are we confronted here with another Cappadocian novelty – in addition to that of the notion of aition – in the history of theology? The historian must certainly take note of this. As far as this concerns our purpose here, it is noteworthy that the same problem marks the relations between Eastern and Western theology with regard to the Filioque. If Cappadocian theology is of decisive importance for the interpretation and reception of the Pneumatology of the First Council of Constantinople, the extent to which East and West can come to a common understanding on this issue will affect the two traditions concerning the Filioque. We regard it, therefore, as imperative to add a few words on this subject.
2. The question of the distinction between ‘economic’ and ‘immanent’ relations in the Holy Trinity has justly received considerable attention in modern theology, especially in the West. The problem takes the form of the question: is the Economic Trinity the same as the immanent Trinity? Such a question seems to call for a positive answer, and indeed this has been the answer of most Western theologians in our time, both Protestant (K. Barth, J. Moltmann etc) and Roman Catholic (notably K. Rahner). But is the matter so simple?
In dealing with K. Rahner’s views on this question Father Y. Congar discusses this problem in such a brilliant way that we regard it as sufficient to repeat here what he writes in criticism of K. Rahner’s position.
Father Congar agrees fully with the axiom proposed by Rahner that ‘the Economic Trinity is the Immanent Trinity’, but finds it difficult to accept without further qualifications the idea that Rahner adds to this axiom, namely that this thesis is also true ‘reciprocally’ (umgekehrt), ie, that the immanent Trinity is also the economic Trinity. Father Congar offers detailed analysis of the reasons why he disagrees with Rahner on this point and concludes with the following words:
‘La Trinite économique révèle la Trinité immanente. Mais la révele-t-toute? Il existe tout de meme une limite à cela: ‘l’Incarnation a ses conditions propres, relevant de sa nature d‘oeuvre créée. Si l’on en transposait toutes les données dans l’éternité du Logos, Il faudrait dire que le Fils procède ‘a Patre Spirituque’. De plus, si la forma servi appartient à ce qu’est Dieu, la forma Dei lui appartient aussi? Or elle nous échappe ici-bas dans une indicible mesure. Le mode infini divin, dont sont réalisées les perfections que nous affirmons, nous échappe! Cela doit nous render discrets quand nous disons ‘et réciproquement’.’
As to the question posed by Father Congar in the same context, what would be Gregory Palamas’ reaction if he were to comment on Karl Rahner’s views, we agree fully with what Father Congar writes. We would add only by way of further clarification that the distinction between ‘essence’ and ‘energy’ in God – a classical topic in Orthodox theology since Palamas – significantly enough goes back to the Cappadocians, ie to those who develop more than any other of the ancient Fathers, the distinction between theologia and oikonomia. It is, therefore, nothing else essentially, but a device created by the Greek Fathers to safeguard the absolute transcendence of God without alienating Him from the world: the Economy must not be understood as implying a loss of God’s transcendence, an abolition of all difference between the immanent and the economic Trinity; at the same time God’s transcendence must be understood as true involvement of the very being of God in creation. ‘Energy’ by being uncreated, involves in history and creation the very being of God; yet by being distinct from God’s ‘essence’, it allows for God’s immanent being to be ‘incomprehensible’ and truly beyond history and creation.
The ‘essence-energy’ dialectic can be a useful means of approaching the problem posed by K. Rahner and others today if it is seen against its Cappadocian background. For ‘energy’ ie God’s love towards creation, stems from his very being and is not to be dissociated from it. But it is clearly addressed ad extra, and unlike the personal existence of God (the Trinity), it does not point to ‘immanent’ relations (differentiations) in God. With the help of the notion of ‘energy’ therefore, we can avoid the risk both of saying that the Economy does not involve the very being of God, and of necessarily implying that the very being of God, the immanent Trinity, is identified with the economy in a way that would rule out all apophatic elements in theology.
All this is related to Pneumatology in a decisive way. As the case of Justin, Origen etc, illustrates, Pneumatology is weakened whenever the approach to God is dominated primarily by the epistemological concern. If we make revelation the decisive notion in theology (and this was the case with Justin and Origen and it is today with Karl Barth and Karl Rahner – the latter works out his trinitarian theology on the basis of the idea of ‘self-communication’), Christology dominates Pneumatology, since it is Christ who links God and the world ontologically, the spirit pointing always beyond history. A strong pneumatology, therefore, leads to a stronger sense of this ‘beyond creation’ aspect and thus to the emergence of meta-historical and eschatology tendencies in theology. It is not accidental, therefore that the Basilian syn doxology is historically linked with all the peculiarities of Eastern theology already mentioned, namely a strong apophaticism in theological epistemology and a eucharistic, liturgical ethos as opposed to a preoccupation with history and a kerygmatic ethos in theology, which were more prominent in the West. [n.66 It must be clear that in the liturgical (apophatic) theology we do not say nothing about God’s being (we are not silent about it), but what we say about it transcends history and the Economy. Hence, to use Basilian terminology, the syn (with the Son and with the Spirit) doxology points to the Trinity as it is eternally, whereas the dia – en (through Christ, in the Spirit) doxology directs our attention to God’s acts in history. Both, however, imply that something positive is said about God]. Cappadocian theology proves once more to be crucial in any attempt at a fuller understanding and reception of the Pneumatology of the First Council of Constantinople.
3. Finally, related to all this is the issue of what we have called here the ‘created-uncreated’ dialectic. We have argued in this paper that this was very much behind the concern of the Fathers of the First Council of Constantinople (and indeed of all the Greek Fathers of the first four centuries), and the explicit evidence for this is to be found in the synodical letter of 382AD which interprets the decisions of the First Council of Constantinople. Why is this issue so important?
The answer to this question would lead us back to the problem of the distinction between the ‘immanent’ and the ‘economic’ Trinity, while revealing the soteriological significance of the Pneumatology of the First Council of Constantinople. The insistence of the Fathers on the idea that the Spirit cannot be both created and uncreated is due to the assumption, so central to their thinking, that creation cannot survive, if it is self-centred and autonomous, and that the only way for it to be ‘saved’ or deified (theosis) is through communion with the uncreated. This communion is the work of the Holy Spirit, who becomes in this way ‘life-giving’ (zoopoion) as the Creed of the First Council of Constantinople calls him. Life and communion coincide only in the realm of the uncreated, since in creation death overcomes communion. The Spirit gives true life because he is uncreated and the communion he offers comes ‘from above’, from the uncreated God. If the created and the uncreated are so confused in Pneumatology as to make of the Spirit a creature or as to abolish any distinction between the immanent and the economic existence of the Spirit, what is at stake is nothing less than the life of the world. The description of the Holy Spirit as ‘life-giver’ is another way of saying that he is God, only that this truth is now put in soteriological terms. In fact, on this description hangs the entire existential significance of the Pneumatology of the Council. As both Athanasius and Basil argue throughout this writings on the Holy Spirit, faith in the divinity of the Spirit involves so much of our salvation and of the life of the world that Man cannot afford to abandon or lose it.
These are the issues which, in our view, lie behind the teaching of the Second Ecumenical Council on the Holy Spirit and which continue to be crucial for us today. And yet the Fathers of this Council teach us a great deal not only by what they have said but what they avoided saying, often quite consciously, for the sake of the unity of the Church and of a creative re-conversation of the faith of Nicaea. The fact that they were bold enough to avoid the controversial homoousios in the case of the Holy Spirit and creative enough to amplify the Creed and find other ways of asserting the divinity for us today, as we seek our unity through a re-reception of Tradition.
In concluding this paper therefore with particular reference to current efforts to promote a better understanding and ultimately an agreement between East and West with regard to Pneumatology, we think that any attempt to go further than the Cappadocian Fathers, or say more than the Fathers of 381 AD said about the Holy Spirit, would only complicate the issue even more. The ‘golden rule’ must Saint Maximus the Confessor’s explanation concerning Western Pneumatology: by professing the Filioque our Western brethren do not wish to introduce another aition in God’s being except that Father, and a mediating role for the Son in the origination of the Spirit is not to be limited to the divine Economy, but relates also to the divine ousia. If East and West can repeat these two points of St Maximus together in our time, this would provide sufficient basis for a rapprochement between the two traditions. For while these points do not necessarily imply speculation about the how or the content of the intra-trinitarian relations – speculations which could be very dangerous indeed – they imply a great deal concerning the existential significance of Pneumatology.
Thus any progress in the pneumatology rapprochement between East and West cannot avoid posing the ecclesiological question: do we all accept that the Spirit is constitutive of the Church, and that in so being he points to the ontological priority and ultimacy of the Person in existence? Are we prepared to let this truth affect our ecclesial institutions, our ethics, our spirituality etc in a decisive way? If East and West can say ‘Amen’ to this, the intention and the theology of the Second Ecumenical Council in speaking the way it did about the Holy Spirit will be fully respected. In such a case no further formulae would be necessary, the Creed of the Second Ecumenical Council would suffice.