The Nub

Fr. Jean Miguel Garrigues has an interesting article on Latin Trinitarianism relative to the Filioque. Here are some sections that I thought expressed well a major problem. Hat Tip to Bekkos.

The Arian crisis and the reaction of the orthodox fathers would not fundamentally change the Latin theology of the procession. In the East, Arianism, in its radical version with Eunomius, in fact quickly situated its denial of trinitarian consubstantiality on the metaphysical level of the Godhead; marked by Neoplatonic theories of hierarchical participation, Eunomius postulated that any multiplicity of divine persons could only be possible under the form of subordinated participation. That obliged the Cappadocian fathers to confess in God one principle of personal multiplicity, irreducible to any order of essence: the hypostasis. In the East, the natural theology of Eunomius obliged the Cappadocian fathers to profess, in all its irreducibility, an authentic theologia of the Living and Threefold God distinguished from all order of essence, even from that of the economy. But at the same moment the Latin fathers were running up against a more unpolished, less metaphysical Arianism, which was content to deny the divinity of Jesus and of the Spirit in considering them concretely in their economic mission upon the earth. For the Latin fathers, therefore, it was not an issue of defending the possibility of a plurality of persons within a unique divine essence, but of showing that the consubstantial procession of the Son and of the Spirit was prolonged even at the point where they “left the Father” in order to come on their mission into the world. Not needing to confront Eunomius’s philosophical Arianism, the Latin fathers were able to continue their deepening trinitarian reflection in continuity with the economic theology of their third century predecessors. For them, it was a matter of showing that the mission of the Son and of the Spirit “outside the Father” is rooted in the order of their consubstantial procession from him, an order which is revealed in the economy. In this task, they were aided by an assimilation of vocabulary between the verbs proerkhomai (Jn 8:42) and ekporeusthai (Jn 15:26) — the most ancient translations of the Gospels and, following them, St. Jerome’s Vulgate translate these two different Greek verbs by a single Latin verb: procedere… 

 St. Hilary, nevertheless, influenced by the Eastern notion of ekporeusis (he wrote book VIII of De Trinitate in exile in the East) presents a distinction between the procession of the Spirit from the Father (Jn 15:26) and his reception of divinity in the Son who holds this from the Father (Jn 16:14-15). Evidently reserving the verb procedere (in the sense of ekporeusthai) to signify the relation of the Holy Spirit with the Father alone, he nevertheless sees the Holy Spirit as a manifestation of the full trinitarian consubstantiality which he receives from the Father and the Son:

“‘All that the Father has is mine; that is why I told you, “The Spirit will receive from what is mine and will announce it to you” (Jn 16:15). He receives, then, from the Son, he who is sent by him and who proceeds from the Father. And I ask if it is the same thing to receive from the Son and to proceed from the Father. If one thinks there is a difference between receiving from the Son and proceeding from the Father, it is certain, contrariwise, that it is one and the same thing to receive from the Son and to receive from the Father…” (De Trinitate, VIII, 20; PL 10, 251A).

Leaving open the possibility of a specific sense of the procession of the Holy Spirit as ekporeusis from the unique personal principle of the Father, St. Hilary directs his attention above all to the Spirit’s reception of divinity from the Father and the Son. Under this more scriptural term of “reception,” he takes up again, as his own, all the teaching of early Latin tradition concerning the Holy Spirit’s consubstantial procession as seal of the divine plenitude.

“The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, and the Holy Spirit receives from both of them (accipiat ab utroque), given the fact that the Spirit expresses the inviolable unity of this Holy Trinity” (PL 10, 656B).

Unfortunately, St. Hilary’s distinction between procession and reception was too hesitant to have had a decisive influence upon a Latin tradition which, for more than a century, had already fixed the sense of processio as derivation of the triune consubstantiality from the paternal source. It was seen above that St. Ambrose of Milan took up again St. Hilary’s accepit ab utroque (receives from both) in formulating this as a Patre et Filio procedit (proceeds from the Father and the Son)…

The Father is here contemplated by St. Augustine, following other Latin fathers, above all as the source of deity, since, he says, “the deity itself ought to be equal with him who generates.” In this context procession appears, as we have noted since Tertullian, as the derivation of divinity from the Father according to the order of the consubstantial processions of the Son and of the Spirit. While retaining in the word procession this sense which Latin tradition had given it, St. Augustine was not embarrassed to speak along with it of a “procession of the Word,” since this term, as opposed to the Greek ekporeusis, does not signify specifically the hypostatic origin of the Spirit in the incommunicable paternal principle, but the order of consubstantial communication within the Trinity beginning from its source of communion in the Father. Moreover, he is influenced by Latin translations of St. John’s Gospel which, as we have seen, translated from the beginning the term proerkhomai of Jn 8:42 by procedere: A Deo processi et veni. But this passage, which Tertullian was able to interpret as keeping both economy and theology synthetically in view, required to be interpreted, after Arianism, in such a way that procedere would signify the eternal generation of the Word:

“To speak of the Word having proceeded from God implies an eternal procession; he knows no time, he by whom time was created…. Therefore he proceeded from God as God, as equal, as only Son, as the Word of the Father” (Tractatus in Ioannem, XLII, 8).

In seeing in procession the derivation of consubstantiality according to the trinitarian order, the communication of divinity as well to the Son as to the Spirit, St. Augustine comes up against the difficulty of understanding the term processio, in the sense of the ekporeusis of Jn 15:26, as expressing specifically the mode of origin of the Spirit in the Father in relation to the mystery of the generation of the Son. This obscurity, which constitutes the very depths of the trinitarian mystery, becomes, owing to the Latin displacement of the sense of processio, an impenetrable difficulty. The weakness of Latin pneumatology will always, at bottom, remain its incapacity to hold, explicitly, as far as it is possible to do this in the comprehension and language of faith, to the unfathomable antinomy between generation and ekporeusis.

“Because the Spirit is in no manner the Son of the Father and of the Son, he is not born from the two. He is therefore the Spirit of the two in proceeding from the two. Who can explain that which separates being born from proceeding when this concerns this supreme nature? Not all that proceeds is born, even though all that is born proceeds; just as not every biped is a man, though every man is a biped. This I know; but as for distinguishing between this generation and this procession, in this matter I know nothing, for this I haven’t the ability or the force” (Contra Maximinum, liber II, 14, 1).

But it would be ridiculous to make a value judgment upon this theology. Our own task is clearly to note the space in which it is silent and in the interior of which it attempts to take up the confession of the mystery of the Trinity. To do that, it is necessary to show also its inherent limits, beyond which it acknowledges its powerlessness, even in the very mouth of its most eminent interpreter, St. Augustine. This point has long been taken into consideration by the most classic Catholic theologians — for example, Fr. Dondaine, O.P., one of the great specialists on St. Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on the Trinity. “We should recognize,” he says, “the distance between the two words, the Latin procedere and the Greek ekporeuomai. If, in the end, this latter word was restricted to the personal relation of the Holy Spirit to the Father, in faithfulness to the formulation of St. John, the Latin procedere, already in St. Augustine, covers indistinctly proienai and ekporeuesthai. Processio can signify indifferently, as a general term, the origin both of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; thus we speak in the plural of the ‘Processions ad intra.’ It is also possible to designate by the special term ekporeusis the relation of the Holy Spirit to the Father; the Latin expression procedit ab utroque remains outside this precision since it regards the Father and the Son in their community as spirating principle, instead of which the Greek term regards the Father qua source, arche, pege tes theotetos.” [“La théologie latine de la procession du Saint-Esprit” in Russie et Chrétienté, 3-4 (1954), p. 213.]

But we must now show in a positive manner the specific line Latin theology takes in its deeper understanding of the trinitarian mystery. It always regards the processions as consubstantial communications from the Father, source of divinity. In this, too, St. Augustine merely takes up again, in all fidelity, the earlier tradition:

“He (the Father) from whom the Son receives being God — he is in fact God from God — has therefore given it to him that the Holy Spirit should proceed from him also: and this is why the Spirit receives from the Father himself that he should proceed from the Son, as he proceeds from the Father” (Trac. in Johannem, XCIX, 8).

As the Father appears here before all else as the source of divinity, his monarchy is primarily understood as the principle of trinitarian consubstantiality. The Latin tradition, which St. Augustine recapitulates, considers the hypostatic origination of the Persons in terms of the derivation of Godhead in them, according to the trinitarian order of their consubstantial communion. Not having had to confront the metaphysical subordinationism of a Eunomius, not having had as a point of reference the Neoplatonic metaphysics of participation, the Latin tradition did not feel it necessary to distinguish antinomically between essence and hypostases in God. It thus remained in continuity with the synthetic vision of the Trinity which was that of the fathers before Nicaea, all the more easily since, in the West, Tertullian had firmly established the doctrine of consubstantiality from the start of the third century.

In this perspective, in which the origin of the hypostases and the order of their consubstantial communion within the divine essence are viewed synoptically, monarchy, in the sense of the hypostatic, incommunicable principle of the Person of the Father, can only be signified indirectly. St. Augustine, like Tertullian before him, can signify it only in an adverbial way: the Holy Spirit proceeds principaliter from the Father.

“As the Father has it in himself that the Holy Spirit should proceed from him, so has he given it to the Son that the same Holy Spirit should proceed from him, without reference to time in the two cases. And it is said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, in such a way that it may be understood that, if he proceeds also from the Son, this is something the Son possesses from the Father. In fact, whatever the Son has, he has from the Father; he has from the Father that the Holy Spirit proceed from him…. The Son is born of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father principally (principaliter) and, by the intemporal gift of this to the Son, from the Father and the Son, in communion (communiter) (De Trinitate, liber XV, cap. 25.47, PL 42, 1094-1095).

In indicating here, not specifically the origin of the hypostases in the Father according to their incommunicable characteristics of generation and ekporeusis, but the order of consubstantial communication, St. Augustine is obliged to have recourse to two adverbs, principaliter and communiter, to distinguish two aspects of trinitarian theology which St. Hilary was able to distinguish, not adverbially, but verbally, by procedere (in the sense of the Greek ekporeusis) and accipere (to receive). But this distinction, which was hardly used even by St. Hilary, did not make an impact upon Latin tradition. In fact no heresy of the Eunomian variety obliged it to differentiate antinomically the source of essential unity from the principle of hypostatic diversity and incommunicability.

It fell to the Cappadocian fathers to confess this antinomic mystery of the Father, faced with the metaphysical heresy of Eunomius, and thus to give the Church the deepest expression of trinitarian theology. But the discovery of the paradoxical mystery of the paternal source of the Trinity seems not to have prevented the Cappadocians from considering it also as being, by virtue of its very causality, the principle of trinitarian order. This is true above all for St. Gregory of Nyssa who, since he was younger than St. Basil and St. Gregory of Nazianzus, had experienced the Apollinarian crisis and balanced the antinomies directed against Eunomius with a clarification of the order of trinitarian consubstantiality which manifests itself in the economy:

“The difference between being cause and being caused is the only thing that distinguishes the divine persons from one another, while faith teaches us that there is a Principle and there is that which is from the Principle. And besides, in that which is from the Principle we recognize another distinction, namely, between being immediately from the Principle and being by him who is immediately from the Principle. In this manner, the name of the Only Son remains without ambiguity the Son’s and nevertheless, without question, the Spirit has his ekporeusis from the Father, the mediation of the Son preserving for him his property of being Only Son and not depriving the Spirit from his natural relation with the Father.”’ (PG 45, 133)

As for St. Augustine, faithful to the synthetic vision of his tradition, he understands the monarchy in its dimension as source of the consubstantial communion. It appears, not so much as the incommunicable principle proper to the very person of the Father, but as a source of divine life which, from the Father, is communicated to the Son in order to spring forth, from him, in the Holy Spirit.

“The Father is the principle without principle, the Son is the principle who has issued from the principle; the two of them together are not two principles, but one single principle, in the same way that the Father and the Son are God, without being two gods but a single God. The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from these two, is, I will not deny, also a principle, but all three of them together, just as they are but one God, are, likewise, a single principle.” (Contra Maximinum, lib. II, cap. 17.4; PL 40, 784-885 [?]).

Here one sees the extreme development of the Latin tradition concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit and the deepest point of its penetration in trinitarian theology. While the Cappadocian fathers would make manifest the monarchy, as origin, in the Father, of the irreducible hypostatic diversity of the Son and of the Spirit, the Latin fathers placed in light the manner in which the persons are, for one another, conditions in the consubstantial communion in the unique Godhead. The divine essence is, in fact, communicated from the Father, according to the order of consubstantial processions of the Son and of the Spirit. Between generation and ekporeusis there is no order, because the hypostatic diversity of the Son and the Spirit, coming forth from the Father, is an immeasurable abyss. But, in the eternal manifestation of the consubstantial communion of the Trinity, there appears an order of processions which allows one to speak, with the entire Tradition, of the First, the Second, and the Third Person. In thus speaking, one does not number the hypostases, which radically transcend numerical sequence, neither does one assign degrees to the one, indivisible divinity, but one manifests the manner (tropos) in which each of the hypostases enhypostasizes, in relationship with the others, the same divine essence. In their incommunicable, hypostatic name, the Son and the Spirit are in relationship only with the Father who is, so to speak, the origin of their personal originality. But, to the extent that the hypostasis manifests itself in a mode of existence (tropos tês uparxeôs) according to which it enhypostasizes the essence (the Latins and Alexandrians say: according to which it proceeds in the essence), the divine Persons manifest an order according to which they are, for each other, the conditions of their consubstantial communion.


  1. A few points:

    1)It is very refreshing to read an RC theologian who actually understands the development in terminology as well as the problems.

    2) This is exactly how Palamas and Gregory of Cyprus II understood Augustine. Perhaps they had the better insight. The problem is that you can still get Ratramnus and Alcuin and Aquinas out of Augustine as the dominant paradigm.

    3) Notice how consistent Augustine is in that last quote calling the Spirit a principle. Obviously, in saying so he is not speaking of hypostatic diversity.

    4) St. Hilary has the most developed terminology to show continuity with the Eastern Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.

    5) It is interesting to note that Latin theology is not developing its terminology during and after Augustine with the 2nd Ecumenical Council with the rebuttal to Eunomius and the Macedonians. In other words, what are they doing not making the distinction and irreducibility between person and essence? Why isn’t their theology moving with the Councils?

    6) There is a problem with this essay still, something happened with Tertullian in which the patristic ordo theologiae was abandoned until Athanasius: How do we distinguish be-ing Father from be-ing Creator? (those of you that have read GHD, you know what text I’m talking about in Tertullian).

    7) So recognizing that bump in the road with Tertullian (which is not in Hippolytus), how can Garrigues say that Augustine was borrowing from Pre-Nicene tradition when Irenaeus waxing Photian sees generation and procession as two arms hanging from the Father? Obviously, there is more going on in Pre-Nicea then the exposition and presentation of Christian doctrine.


  2. I agree, this article is quite refreshing. I hope this is the direction that modern scholarship of both churches can move toward.

    Regarding your comment about Irenaeus, I’m not aware of Irenaeus speaking about ‘the arms’ in any way other than in regards to the economy. Can you point out which passage in particular you are thinking of?


  3. I don’t have the quote on me at the moment (I’m away from my library). Perhaps someone else can look it up and provide it.

    My point was to the symbolic structure that Irenaeus presented. It is triadic (pyramid) rather than the orthogonal structure you see in the Carolingian Shield.



  4. Certainly.

    The reason why I’m asking for a specific quote is that I had always understood Irenaeus’ model to be referring specifically to the economy, which would make it an awkward fit for this case. See specifically Proof 47.


  5. There is even a reference to something similar, i.e. what Irenaeus speaks of, in the Tao Teh Ching:

    “Tao gives them birth
    Teh fosters them.
    Therefore all things of the universe
    Worship Tao and exalt Teh
    Tao is worshipped and Teh exalted.
    Without anyone’s order but of its
    Own accord.”

    Those sound kind of like the two arms of the invisible Father, or so to speak; ‘Tao’ ~ ‘Logos’, ‘Teh’ ~ ‘Spirit’

    All he is missing is the revelation of the source of divinity; the Father. But then, he had no specific revelation, so it makes sense.


  6. Nathaniel McCallum,

    Regarding your previous question, Irenaeus described the Son and the Spirit as the two “hands” of the Father—the Son being called the “Word,” and the Spirit the “Wisdom,” both by whom and in whom the Father made all things.

    Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.20.1. In Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1.487.


  7. Preston,

    Even in that passage, Irenaeus is describing the economic Trinity. The problem is that photios above says “Irenaeus waxing Photian sees generation and procession as two arms hanging from the Father,” using the two arms to describe the ontological trinity. I’m just not so sure that Irenaeus really attempts to understand anything beyond the economy, or at least I don’t see it in the text. Irenaeus’ concern is precisely the economy, since it is in the economy that he rages his battle against the gnostics (arguing against the demiurge). Feel free to prove me wrong though, I’d really like to see the ontological trinity in Irenaeus.


  8. But what we learn about the Trinity is from the economy, this means that the economy precedes theology in the ordo theologiae. So it shouldn’t be surprising to see this type of structure being revealed from economy, the two will always go hand and hand, since to know the Trinity God has to initiate the process.



  9. Of course I agree with you. Yet there are distinctions between the two as well. Perhaps most poignantly, in the economy:
    1. the Son is begotten of the HS and the Theotokos
    2. the HS is sent (processes?) from the Son

    Yet these two economic examples are not taken as being the eternal generation. What in the economy communicates the ontology? What is strictly limited to the economy?

    To return to Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 47: “So then the Father is Lord and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God; for that which is begotten of God is God. And so in the substance and power of His being there is shown forth one God; but there is also according to the economy of our redemption both Son and Father. Because to created things the Father of all is invisible and unapproachable, therefore those who are to draw near to God must have their access to the Father through the Son.”

    The ambiguity here, as regards later Trinitarian definitions, is apparent. At least in this paragraph, Irenaeus can be read as a Sabellian, Originist or Nicene. About the only things that can be precluded from this paragraph are Arianism and Valentinianism. I think the same can be said of AH 4.20.1ff. Hence, I fear we must be extremely careful in reading later concerns into these early writers, lest we miss the true profundity of their works.

    I’m curious which text you are speaking of in regards to Tertullian, perhaps it could help clarify these waters?


  10. I should point out that Proof 51ff does provide *some* helpful resolution. I’m not entirely sure it could not be given a sabellian spin, but it more directly implies something beyond the economy.


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