If there is any doctrine that permeates my thinking of just why I am Orthodox, it is the doctrine of the Trinity. It is this doctrine that is the basis and praise of our liturgical worship as Orthodox Christians. I think it goes without saying that the Saints and Doctors viewed any change in our liturgical worship as presenting what they believed to be a foreign faith. When we turn to the question of the Latin filioque doctrine, no more ink has been spilled in more fruitless discussion than any other doctrine. However, in the words of the great 20th Century theologian Vladimir Lossky:
“Whether we like it or not, the question of the procession of the Holy Spirit has been the sole dogmatic grounds for the separation of East and West. All the other divergences which, historically, accompanied or followed the first dogmatic controversy about the Filioque, in the measure in which they too had some dogmatic importance, are more or less dependent upon that original issue.” (In the Image and Likeness, p. 71)
It is the doctrine of the Trinity which which lies at the core of every belief that we have, whether ecclesiological, soteriological, spiritual and even cultural influences, to paraphrase a friend of mine Dr. Jospeh P. Farrell. So, I believe any analysis or head-way that we can make regarding the filioque question is worth our time and energy.
Since I embraced the strong monopatrism of St. Photios the Great, I’ve always asked these questions: in what sense, if any, is the filioque doctrine true? In what way can it be appropriated? Is there an eternal and theological relationship of the Spirit and the Son that intuitively grasps what the filioque doctrine wishes to express? I mean, if one is to believe that there is a “symphony of the Saints” that characterize Eastern and Western theology–which St. Mark of Ephesus clearly did–Orthodox theology must take seriously those texts in our Western Fathers, that are in every sense our Fathers, that proclaim a belief that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
I believe firmly there is a way without sacrificing “one iota” of what our Eastern Fathers proclaimed, especially St. Photios. I will be posting several installments that will be interacting with a dissertation that I’ve read, in which I fully share the author’s vision for putting aside this long impasse. The dissertation is called The Use of Maximus the Confesor’s Writings on the Filioque at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439) by A. Edward Siecienski. In my first installment, I will discuss Siecienski’s analysis of a key text: Quaestiones ad Thalassium 63 to try to understand Maximos’ thinking regarding the Holy Spirit.
For St. Maximos all that can be truly known of God’s inner life and relations (theologia) is revealed through the Incarnate Word (economia). As Siecienski points out quoting Lars Thunberg: “[the] distinction between theology and economy is strictly upheld [in Maximus]…but at the same time he relates them intimately so that a correspondence is established” (p. 23). Siecienski recognizes that Maximus does not collapse these two together, and “neither does he (Maximus) differentiate them in such a way that one cannot gain a knowledge of God’s trinitarian nature (i.e. theologia) from his revelation in history. (p. 24) Though he points out this is not to be confused with what would later be called “natural theology,” as these “adumbrations of the Trinity” in God’s historical working can only be apprehended through the “eyes of faith.” (p. 23) Siecienski rightly recognizes that their is an “intimate connection between theology and economy.” This shows the essential unity that Maximos has between the two, and sets up Siecienski’s discussion of Maximos’s text Quaestiones ad Thalassium 63 which I will quote the pertinent section here in full:
“Τὸ γὰρ Πνευ̑μα τὸ ἅγιον ὥσπερ φύσει κατ΄ ου͗σίαν υ͑πάρχει του̑ Θεου̑ καὶ Πατρός, ου͑́τως καὶ του̑ Υι͑ου̑ φύσει κατ΄ ου͗σίαν ε͗στίν, ω͑ς ε͗κ του̑ Πατρὸς ου͗σιωδω̑ς δι΄ Υι͑ου̑ γεννηθέντος α͗φφάστως ε͗κπορευόμενον.”
“For the Holy Spirt, just as he belongs to the nature of God the Father according to the nature of God the Father according to His essence so he also belongs to the nature of the Son according to His essence, since he proceeds inexpressibly from the Father throughHis begotten Son.”
Though most take this passage to signify God’s relation to man in the economy since Maximos goes on immediately to state that the Spirit “bestows on the lampstand–the Church–His energies as through a lantern,” I agree with Siecienski that this speaks also of an eternal relationship. First the Greek word ε͗κπορευόμενον is used in the passage which being a derivative of ε͗κπόρευσις. This signifies that we are discussing an eternal relationship as ε͗κπόρευσις denotes that their can only be one single point of origin for the Holy Spirit, and that undoubtedly being the Father. However, this coupled with the phrase dia tou Yiou shows that Maximus wishes to express, as Siecienski mentions, that it is precisely the Father as Father of a Son. Siecienski goes on to state that it is the intent of this passage to denote Maximos’s differentiation between τάξις (trinitarian ordering) and hypostatic origination. (p.30) The latter solely to denote the order in which we designate the hypostases as well as showing their consubstantiality, and the former to denote the single source of the Spirit’s existence from the Father [alone]. Those who are familiar with my paper on Gregory of Nyssa and his Trinitarian structure in Contra Eunomium, should readily remember the discussion regarding the taxis of the divine Hypostases, as this is fully a part of the Cappadocian heritage. Siecienski concludes his analysis of this text by stating a further insight that those who are familiar with modern discusions concerning the filioque will recognize:
“The Father remains the sole cause of the Spirit’s hypostasis (as the one who spirates Him), but the Spirit, intimately aware of the Father’s begetting of the Son, comes forth from the begetter through the begotten as the Spirit manifesting their common nature.” (p. 31)
Those who are familiar with Gregory of Cyprus or Gregory Palamas will readily pick up on Siecienski’s expression, as it corresponds to the eternal manifestation. The Father breathing forth the Holy Spirit as bond of love and the Son back towards the Father. This will be discussed in more detail in later installments.
So far, we have set the stage with a key text that will allow me to see exactly how Maximos understood the filioque (in St. Martin’s day) of the Latin Fathers in his Letter to Marinus. I will follow up with more from Siecienski’s dissertation later this week.