Thursday, May 25, 2006

Filioque and Eastern Orthodoxy

One of the major issues between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy is the Creedal statement about the Holy Spirit who "proceeds from the Father and the Son (Lat. "filioque"). The Eastern Orthodox have difficulty with the Latin Rite profession of "and the Son" (filioque). Our Catholic Eastern Rite continues to assert the same ancient Creed as the Eastern Orthodox which omits the "and the Son" narrative, but they understand and assent to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states:

245 The apostolic faith concerning the Spirit was confessed by the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (381): "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father."71 By this confession, the Church recognizes the Father as "the source and origin of the whole divinity".72 But the eternal origin of the Spirit is not unconnected with the Son's origin: "The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God, one and equal with the Father and the Son, of the same substance and also of the same nature. . . Yet he is not called the Spirit of the Father alone,. . . but the Spirit of both the Father and the Son."73 The Creed of the Church from the Council of Constantinople confesses: "With the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified."74

246 The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque)". The Council of Florence in 1438 explains: "The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration. . . . And, since the Father has through generation given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son."75

247 The affirmation of the filioque does not appear in the Creed confessed in 381 at Constantinople. But Pope St. Leo I, following an ancient Latin and Alexandrian tradition, had already confessed it dogmatically in 447,76 even before Rome, in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, came to recognize and receive the Symbol of 381. The use of this formula in the Creed was gradually admitted into the Latin liturgy (between the eighth and eleventh centuries). The introduction of the filioque into the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed by the Latin liturgy constitutes moreover, even today, a point of disagreement with the Orthodox Churches.

248 At the outset the Eastern tradition expresses the Father's character as first origin of the Spirit. By confessing the Spirit as he "who proceeds from the Father", it affirms that he comes from the Father through the Son.77 The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque). It says this, "legitimately and with good reason",78 for the eternal order of the divine persons in their consubstantial communion implies that the Father, as "the principle without principle",79 is the first origin of the Spirit, but also that as Father of the only Son, he is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds.80 This legitimate complementarity, provided it does not become rigid, does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed.

71 Nicene Creed; cf. DS 150.
72 Council of Toledo VI (638): DS 490.
73 Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 527.
74 Nicene Creed; cf. DS 150.
75 Council of Florence (1439): DS 1300-1301.
76 Cf. Leo I, Quam laudabiliter (447): DS 284.
77 Jn 15:26; cf. AG 2.
78 Council of Florence (1439): DS 1302.
79 Council of Florence (1442): DS 1331.
80 Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 850.

Nonetheless, an Eastern Orthodox Christian polemically asserted:
The East rejects the Filioque because it is antithetical to the Cappadocian understanding of the Trinity.
However, not all the East rejects it. Some understand it in its authentic meaning, which seems to reduce the disussion to mere semantical differences.

St. Athanasius, "the Word is in the Father, and the Spirit is given from the Word." (Discourse Against the Arians, 3, 25).

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (AD 424), in his THESAURUS (Treasury of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity):
Since the Holy Spirit when He is in us effects our being conformed to God, and He actually proceeds from Father and Son, it is abundantly clear that He is of the divine essence, in it in essence and proceeding from it.
Eastern Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware stated in May of 1995:
"The filioque controversy which has separated us [Eastern Orthodox and Catholics] for so many centuries is more than a mere technicality, but it is not insoluble. Qualifying the firm position taken when I wrote [my book] The Orthodox Church twenty years ago, I now believe, after further study, that the problem is more in the area of semantics and different emphases than in any basic doctrinal differences" (Speech to a symposium on the Trinity; Rose Hill College, Aiken, South Carolina; emphasis added).
Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland, to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 30 October 2000:
We have learned together how theology must be done with reference to the special traditions of the West. We have experienced the way in which the revealed truth was differently received, lived out, and understood in East and West and that the variance in theologies can be understood as compatible within one and the same faith.... one ought not to be a priori inclined to identify faith, and its expression, with particular theologies....

Together we arrived at the conclusion that our differences are to be understood in the sense of varying legitimate developments of one and the same apostolic faith in East and West, and not as divisions in the tradition of the faith itself.

... the main obstacle to the restoration of full communion is the pope's primacy of jurisdiction...
Despite the polemical charges of some, I think there are many learned Eastern Orthodox scholars and clergy who see that "our differences are...legitimate developments of one and the same apostolic faith," with the main obstacle being the pope's primacy of jurisdiction.

God Bless,