Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Holy Spirit in the Trinity

In an insanely long comments thread on this post, Michael Liccione and Photios Jones (of Energetic Procession) have been discussing, among other things, the Filioque, and Photios had an excellent comment that so neatly summarizes what one needs to convey in teaching the Trinity that I just had to record it here. This is the part of the comment that caught my eye:

One must be able to fit together these unique things from the Fathers:

(1) The Father as sole cause and originator of Son and Spirit *as* relation of origin (one by genesis, the other by ekpoureusis). - St. Photios

(2) The taxical order of the Persons coming forth: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, expressing their consubstantiality - Sts. Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius, Maximus the Confessor

(3) The Spirit rests in the Son as his object, the Son's existence from the Father is the Sprits aim for Spiration. - St. Gregory of Cyprus II

(4) The Spirit as bond of love between Father and Son, because it is this bond of love as the energy of the Spirit that is common to all. - St. Gregory Palamas, St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Cyprus II. This is how the Gregory's interpret Augustine anyway.

What doesn't fit well here is the Carolingian and Scholastic view of 'relations of opposition' since there is no step of two-ness in the Trinity, and dialectic can only consider two and not three.

The one caveat I would have is with regard to that last sentence. 'Relations of opposition' in Scholastic theology are not such that they "can only consider two and not three"; this is because relatio means not 'relation' in our sense (which is closer to a correlation) but 'relatedness'. So a standard form of relatio in this sense is 'being a father'. The reason for the emphasis on opposition is not dialectic but that, whatever one says of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one must not hold, or hold something that commits you to holding, that being the Son is indistinguishable from being the Spirit,, or that either is indistinguishable from being the Father. So you distinguish being-the-Father from being-the-Son (the Father by being the Principle, which is called paternity, the Son by that form of coming-from-the-Principle that is called filiation), and being-the-Father from being-the-Spirit (the Father by paternity again, and the Spirit by that coming-from-the-Principle that is called procession), and being-the-Son from being-the-Spirit (the Son by filiation again, and the Spirit by spiration). If there is a worry about the Scholastic view, it should be not with the relations of opposition but with what are called the 'notional acts' in light of which they are interpreted.

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