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Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia

Concerning the Filioque

From the book
The Orthodox Way

St. Vladimir's Seminary Press 1995 pp.32-33
God as Trinity: Personal Characteristics

The first person of the Trinity, God the Father, is the "fountain" of the Godhead, the source, cause or principle of origin for the other two persons. He is the bond of unity between the three: there is one God because there is one Father. "The union is the Father, from whom and to whom the order of the persons runs its course" (St Gregory the Theologian). The other two persons are each defined in terms of their relationship to the Father: the Son is "begotten" by the Father, the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father. In the Latin West, it is usually held that the Spirit proceeds "from the Father and from the Son"; and the word filioque ("and from the Son) has been added to the Latin text of the Creed. Orthodoxy not only regards the filioque as an unauthorized addition-for it was inserted into the Creed without the consent of the Christian East-but it also considers that the doctrine of the "double procession", as commonly expounded, is theologically inexact and spiritually harmful. According to the Greek Fathers of the fourth century, whom the Orthodox Church follows to this day, the Father is the sole source and ground of unity in the Godhead. To make the Son a source as well as the Father, or in combination with him, is to risk confusing the distinctive characteristics of the persons.
The second person of the Trinity is the Son of God, his "Word" or Logos. To speak in this way of God as Son and Father is at once to imply a movement of mutual love, such as we indicated earlier. It is to imply that from all eternity God himself, as Son, in filial obedience and love renders back to God the Father the being which the Father by paternal self-giving eternally generates in him. It is in and through the Son that the Father is revealed to us: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life: no one comes to the Father, except through me" (John 14:6). He it is who was born on earth as man, from the Virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem. But as Word or Logos of God he is also at work before the Incarnation. He is the principle of order and purpose that permeates all things, drawing them to unity in God, and so making the universe into a "cosmos", a harmonious and integrated whole. The Creator-Logos has imparted to each created thing its own indwelling logos or inner principle, which makes that thing to be distinctively itself, and which at the same time draws and directs that thing towards God. Our human task as craftsmen or manufacturers is to discern this logos dwelling in each thing and to render it manifest; we seek not to dominate but co-operate.
The third person is the Holy Spirit, the "wind" or "breath" of God. While appreciating the inadequacy of neat classifications, we may say that the Spirit is God within us, the Son is God with us, and the Father, God above or beyond us. Just as the Son shows us the Father, so it is the Spirit who shows us the Son, making him present to us. Yet the relation is mutual. The Spirit makes the Son present to us, but it is the Son who sends us the Spirit. (We note that there is a distinction between the "eternal procession" of the Spirit and his "temporal mission". The Spirit is sent into the world, within time, by the Son; but, as regards his origin within the eternal life of the Trinity, the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone).


Why should God be a communion of three divine persons, neither less nor more? Here again there can be no logical proof. The threeness of God is something given or revealed to us in Scripture, in the Apostolic Tradition, and in the experience of the saints throughout the centuries. All that we can do is to verify this given fact through our own life of prayer. What precisely is the difference between the "generation" of the Son and the "procession" of the Spirit? "The manner of the generation and the manner of the procession are incomprehensi ble", says St John of Damascus. "We have been told that there is a difference between generation and procession, but what is the nature of this difference, we do not understand at all." If St John of Damascus confessed himself baffled, then so may we. The terms "generation" and "procession" are conventional signs for reality far beyond the comprehension of our reasoning "Our reasoning brain is weak, and our tongue is weaker still remarks St Basil the Great. "It is easier to measure the entire sea with a tiny cup than to grasp God's ineffable greatness with the human mind." But while they cannot be fully explained, these signs can (as we have said) be verified. Through our encounter with God in prayer, we know that the Spirit is not the same as the Son, even though we cannot define in words precisely what the difference is.