Monday, June 23, 2008

A filioque footnote

I interrupt my soon-to-be-completed series to provide this footnote to Mike Liccione's filioque VIII post. Fr. Giulio Maspero is one of the foremost experts on Gregory of Nyssa among contemporary scholars, and he first came to my attention as one of those rare priests having a scientific background equally formidable with his theological learning (he has a Ph.D. in quantum physics, and his work was in an area of personal interest: stochastic quantum mechanics).
At any rate, I think he has the best take I have encountered in the scholarship re: Gregory's use of dia tou yiou, and I reproduce a brief excerpt from one of his works here with the hope that it will entice people interested in this subject to read the entire work. I've transliterated Greek text in what I hope to be an understandable way; footnote citations are omitted, and bolding is mine.


The conclusion is that one cannot understand the significance of the dia tou yiou
if one does not pay attention to the personal characteristic of the Spirit: the one who united the Father and Son and who leads to unity. For, with a beautiful expression of B. Forte, the Spirit is the "us in person of the divine communion." Thus, one can affirm that, in the context of Nyssian thought, the Spirit as syndetikon is the exegesis of the dia tou yiou, from which it can never be separated. This should be the most original contribution of the present study: this connection is almost totally passed over in the literature, which is principally dedicated to the study of the divinity of the third Person and, in the few cases in which his procession is treated, one gets often sidetracked in polemics of verbal Byzantinism.

Thus it was seen, that the base of the whole Nyssian construction is the continuity between economy and immanence: the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Son cannot be solely limited to the economic sphere.

It is probable that this development of Gregory's Trinitarian doctrine is due to the great value that he places in creation and to the purification of the remnants of Origenistic intellectualism that still slowed down Basil's pneumatology. For the Spirit is, at the same time, the One who brings to completion the dynamic of intra-Trinitarian union and who attracts and unites man and the world to the Triune God, inserting them in his vortex of life and love.

The summit of Gregory's pneumatology is then, precisely the recognition of the personal characteristic of the Third Person: he who leads to union, in immanence as in the economy. He is the syndetikon, the bond. His mode of being God, his mode of containing the unique divine essence, is the holos einai: that is, to carry to unity, to constitute a whole. This syn- of syndetikon recalls immediately the syn- in the syneklamponta of the Son with the Father: in this way it is shown that the fundamental category is intra-Trinitarian koinonia. B. Forte cites 2 Cor. 13.13 and auspiciously notes that, precisely due to his personal characteristic, in the greeting use by the primitive Church koinonia was attributed to the Holy Spirit.

In this sense, the accent moves to the Trinity as union of love. In the communion of the Father and the Son, which point one to the other, on the real level as on the logical level, the Spirit is not a complement, a simple extension toward the economy, fruit of an almost subordinating conjoined spiration. The Spirit rather unites the Father and the Son in as much as Spirit of the Father and of the Son.


Trinity and Man: Gregory of Nyssa's Ad Ablabium (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae series, vol. 86, Brill: Leiden and Boston, 2007), p. 184-85.

Fr. Maspero goes on to make the explicit connection to Latin theology on pp. 185-87:

So, in the Nyssian dia tou yiou the accent is placed on the tou yiou, on the communion of the Father and the Son, and not on the pure passivity of the dia. The same phenomena will be reproduced in Latin theology, where the nexus amoris eliminates the danger of dialectically and logistically opposing the Son to the Father, in generation as well as in spiration. The nexus amoris shows, in fact, that in the Filioque the accent is on the Filio and not on the que. With the same operation the dangers of "theological filioqueism" are eliminated, which, with an almost rationalistic coldness, dissects the Trinity, separating Paternity and Filiation from Spiration and Procession.

Such a deformation would lead to negate the Trinitarian reciprocity of the Spirit in relation to the Father and the Son. In fact, from a purely logical viewpoint, only the Father and the Son are in relative opposition. The temptation is then born to move from the logical level to the real one, affirming that, while the Spirit is relative to the Father and the Son, united in the unique spiration, one cannot say however that the Father and the Son are, in their turn, relative to the Spirit.

In synthesis, in Latin terms, l'unus Spirator is unus precisely by the Person of the Spirit, who is the union, the syndetikon, of the duo spirantes, united and distinct in their proper Paternity and Filiation by their mutual Spirit. Spiratio is, in fact, the unique respiration of love of the Father and Son: to be Son does not only mean to receive all from the Father -- to be his perfect Image but also to give to the Father perfect glory, to give everything back to the Father. It is in this manner that the Son manifests the Spirit in his Filiation to the Father, who is in this way fully Father, receiving his own glory from his own Son. This is the circular dynamic of glory seen in the [Adversus Macedonianos, De Spiritu Sancto]. But, at the same time, since it is proper of the Son to give to the Father all glory, it is the Son who sends the Spirit in the economy, extending into time the eternal movement that characterizes him as Person, to attract all to the Father. The Spirit is then like the eternal 'regard' of the Son to the Father, which for love of the Father himself reposes on creation and is extended as the gaze of the Crucified Christ, that fascinates and conquers. Gregory's equilibrium is, thus, perfect.

Therefore, while confronting Nyssian pneumatology with Latin doctrine, two considerations are necessary: on one side Gregory purifies the category of 'cause' of the temporal dimension and of substantial inferiority, transforming it into a notion that signifies fundamentally 'origin'. Thus the Nyssian aitia is notably closer to the Latin principium. On the other hand, it is also necessary to consider that Occidental pneumatology does not intend, with the Filioque, to introduce a second cause in the Trinity. The key point is the consideration of the Spirit as bond of union in the Blessed Trinity.
In my opinion, Fr. Maspero closes some important gaps in the pioneering work of Fr. David Balas, and Fr. Maspero does a great deal to correct the misinterpretations of Latin theology and Gregory's work as a result of the "verbal Byzantinism" described above. Upon reading his work, one will not doubt that he supports his position with close textual analysis, and I must again commend the study of this excellent work for those who wish to grasp the complicated issue of the Spirit's procession from the Son.

11 Comments:

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This "harmonization" of Gregory with Augustine looks "suspect" to me. I have read the epistle Ad Ablabium more than once, but never did it occur to me that the Saint means what fr. Giulio says he means.

Andrew

 
At 1:51 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

And yet...

Perhaps it's simply because I have more experience with Western mystics and others in the Augustinian tradition, but I see a great deal of continuity with Augustine and numerous Eastern Fathers. I suppose it's one of those situations where one finds what one wishes to find, but the fact that you consider the thesis "suspect" suggests to me that it would be easy for you to miss something. But my experience has been that you are in relatively august company in that regard, since there have been many patristics scholars in East and West who have bypassed these connections to some degree. That's why I tend to rely on those who hang their hats on close readings of the texts themselves and why I find Fr. Maspero's work particularly enlightening.

 
At 8:46 AM, OpenID energeticprocession said...

"It is in this manner that the Son manifests the Spirit in his Filiation to the Father, who is in this way fully Father, receiving his own glory from his own Son. This is the circular dynamic of glory seen in the [Adversus Macedonianos, De Spiritu Sancto]."

I'm having a hard time understanding exactly what the intent of your post is to convey or what the exact distinctiveness of your argument is. What is stated here seems almost verbatim what I argued in the latter part of my work on Gregory of Nyssa. Perfects you could draw out what exactly that is.

Photios

 
At 8:47 AM, OpenID energeticprocession said...

Perhaps* you could draw out what exactly that is.

 
At 8:33 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Daniel:
You claim:
It appears that in this passage Gregory has fallen prey to the use of the ‘dialectic of opposition’ with a second step of “interposition of the Son” in attempting to distinguish between generation and procession. This supposition can and should be resisted since Gregory does state at the end of the passage that the Spirit has a “natural relation to the Father,” though it is difficult to see how the Spirit’s own ‘relation of origin’ from the Father could be considered “natural” if it is the Son that constitutes an interposition between the Spirit and the Father.
Turning to Gregory’s Contra Eunomium corpus we find a different approach. As we have remarked earlier, there is not just a problem of the Spirit and the Son being subordinated to the level of creatures, there is also a structural problem to Eunomius’ system. The former is a product of the latter and this all by the dialectical method of distinguishing the hypostases by opposition. When Gregory turns his aim toward the subordinated structure of the Eunomian system, I find it fascinating that he avoids the implicit interposition that we saw in his works On Not Three Gods and On the Lords Prayer.


Fr. Maspero disputes that thesis in particular, arguing that Ad Ablabium is actually chronologically *after* Contra Eunomius and that it ought to be viewed as the summa of his Trinitarian thought. You appear to be treating it here as an aberration that he later corrected or a persistent error, but Fr. Maspero sees it as an essential feature of Gregory's Trinitarian thought without which his concept of the Trinity simply doesn't make sense.

On that account, Fr. Maspero's thesis significantly contradicts your own interpretation of Gregory solely in Basilean terms of what is common and what is individual, which is quoted in relevant part as follows:
And finally the Hypostasis of the Holy Spirit:
"The Holy Spirit by the uncreatedness of His nature has contact with the Son and Father, but is distinguished from them by His own tokens. His most peculiar characteristic is that He is neither of those things which we contemplate in the Father and the Son respectively. He is simply, neither as ungenerate, nor as only-begotten: this it is that constitutes His chief peculiarity."
It seems that in this last passage, thus quoted, that Gregory’s strong apophaticism does not wish to touch further on the relation of the Spirit. “He is simply,” and confesses the absolute distinctions amongst the Hypostases. It seem as if there is nothing more to say about the Hypostasis of the Spirit since he has adequately been distinguished from the Ingenerate and the Only-Begotten, but Gregory moves on to clarify the relationship of the Spirit to the other two Hypostases, and it is the same rule as before: what is common is of the nature, what is unique is of one Hypostasis:
"Joined to the Father by His uncreatedness, He is disjoined from Him again by not being ‘Father.’ United to the Son by the bond of uncreatedness, and of deriving His existence from the Supreme…"
It is clear in this passage that Gregory distinguishes what is shared in common among the Hypostases and what is not. With the Father, what is common is uncreate, what is unique is not being Father. With the Son—like the Father—what is shared is uncreate, but what is unique is precisely His deriving His existence from the Father. The implications would be if the Holy Spirit derived is His existence—that is proceeds—from both the Father and the Son, something would be common to two Hypostases which is not common to the Spirit. Either the derivation of the Spirit would be common to Himself along with the Father and the Son, i.e. a property of the common nature, or He is something of a dissimilar nature, since the derivation would only be common to two Hypostases. Both conclusions are clearly unacceptable. The former would destroy the Hypostatic character of the Holy Spirit and hence confuse all of them with the divine nature, while the latter would be the very essence of the Eunomian dialectic! This is not to say that Gregory sees no relation whatsoever between the Son and Spirit, as it seems this would imply, but that this relation is properly not one of derivation or ‘relation of origin.’ As we quoted earlier from Gregory’s work On the Lord’s Prayer, He does see a certain order to the Hypostases, a certain taxis [tacij] even. Gregory points to this order continuing with the passage quoted:
"He [the Holy Spirit] is parted again from Him [Father] by the characteristic of not being the Only-Begotten of the Father, and having been manifested by means of the Son Himself."
This is a remarkable passage and will characterize the uniqueness of Byzantine Triadology since the Cappadocian Fathers. Again Gregory distinguishes between what is common and particular.


As far as I can tell, you're simply wrong about Gregory being unwilling to speak about the relation of the Father to the Son. He does so extensively before and after, but the point in the dialogue with Eunomius is that the particular nature of the relationship between Son and Spirit is inessential to rebutting his point, which is about the relationship between the Spirit and the Father. You're essentially making an argument from silence here, in that Gregory does not speak of the relationship between the Spirit and the Son (although notably dismissing his earlier statements as a lapse into dialectic). But when the relationship between the Son and the Spirit is part of the issue, then certainly Gregory is willing to speak of the Spirit's personal characteristic as being a relational one (syndetikon) much like the nexus amoris in the West.

You're simply trying to box Gregory into Basil's framework about what is common and individual, but Basil's rule is itself the result of more or less conceding Origen's dialectical framework so that something must be either nature or person, either theology or economy. But Gregory's formation is essentially a non-dialectical concept of personal distinction without the implications of causality, inferiority, and subordination that Eunomius draws. Gregory has thus broken out of the Origenist dialectic that burdened even Basil's concept of "relations of opposition." So did the West did with the doctrine of the nexus amoris and the notion of "relations of opposition" absolutely purified from any notion of finite causality and their Origenist implications. It was only a hardened Byzantinism steeped in the same prejudices that Basil had that erroneously concluded otherwise.

In Basil's view, love must be a natural energy personally exercised, but both Gregory's view and the Western view surpass that prejudice, emphasizing the pure relationality so that it is a defining personal characteristic, just as "begetter-begotten." Likewise, the circular nature of the manifestation of glory is not an energy; it is the defining personal characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Your interpretation of AdMac on p. 20 reads the Basilean formulation into the circulation of glory; Fr. Maspero's does the opposite in the passage I cited above.

Fr. Maspero certainly does criticize scholastic formulations that evacuate the filioque of the important personal characteristic of the Holy Spirit as the Bond of Love, which could mislead people into having in their minds precisely the sorts of causal connotations that they shouldn't. This is why he emphasizes the need to keep the Scholastic formulations informed by Augustine's doctrine of the nexus amoris, as the great Western Saints Bernard, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas and Blesseds Duns Scotus and John Ruysbroeck always did (Anselm, not so much, although he wasn't actually wrong).

The bottom line is that Fr. Maspero's conclusion is a direct contradiction of your thesis regarding Gregory's supposed "silence" on the relationship between the Spirit and the Son. It also contradicts the reading of the Basilean rule into Gregory's position. You might well want to accuse Gregory of Origenism for violating Basil's rule, but it seems clear to me that he did violate it, and he did so in exactly the way that traditional Western theology did. But if Gregory's Trinitarian theology was not a victim of the Origenist dialectic, then neither is the filioque of the West.

And BTW, if that is the case and these relations are non-dialectical distinctions, then the whole argument from absolute divine simplicity and the necessity of creation goes our the window, since there can be real reflexive relations distinct from Leibnizian identity. God can relate to Himself and to creation without compromising His ontological simplicity, because there is an absolute modal distinction between God's self-relationship and the causal relations He has with everything else. All those nasty consequences about either getting absorbed into God or creation being a part of God that burdened the Neoplatonic concepts are just gone, period.

 
At 9:05 AM, OpenID energeticprocession said...

Let me get clear what the argument is here. The thesis that you propose by way of Fr. Maspero is that the Holy Spirit's unique irreducible personal property is the (syndetikon) that of Love?

 
At 11:04 AM, OpenID energeticprocession said...

"You appear to be treating it here as an aberration that he later corrected or a persistent error."

Of course I do because the dating list for 'On Not Three Gods' is 375, Council of Constantinople is 381, Contra Eunomium I is 382/383, and Contra Eunomium II is 384. The point of my paper however is not to say that Gregory is a Neoplatonist in this passage and then later a 'Photian' in Contra Eunomium, but rather that the data is inconclusive in 'On Not Three Gods' to fix the meaning one way or the other (a hypostatic or an energetic procession) or its a possible thesis to entertain that Gregory is just inchoate in this passage. Both are possible, however I personally think he means the eternal energetic procession, the data becomes more clear in Contra Eunomium.

The "Basilian" principle is also Gregory's as he states as much in On the Lord's Prayer, and "Basil's" Letter 38 long thought to be Basil's, scholars generally recognize as Gregory's. That letter is my hermeneutical principle though it can be found in lots of other Fathers both East and West.

Another point of criticism is that you need to make a further distinction about dialectic. There is dialectic and then there is dialectic of opposition. A good way to distinguish the two is to listen to Orthodox hymnography or look at Dionysios the Areopagite. Both are clearly "dialectical." Dialectical opposition is a method to distinguish things by their mutal opposition. Remember, pers MaximusYour interpretation of a relational property of love as a personal characteristic of the Spirit does not exempt you from a non-nature/non-personal property, or person-nature dialectic. We're bound to that dialectic, because that is the only two realities in the Trinity. Either something is of the Person and only of that Person or it is of the Nature. Person-Nature can both then receive further qualifications. Nature is a broader category for an essence and all its natural energies. Person are broken down into the unique property that constitutes the person and the modal employment of natural energies that characterizes a certain person's actions.

I don't argue and stop with a "silence," I go on to categorize what that relationship is between Son and Spirit, and I consider it as one that can't be something that "might" happen.

"As far as I can tell, you're simply wrong about Gregory being unwilling to speak about the relation of the Father to the Son."

You never got that from my writings, because 'generation' is the relation of the Son to His point of origin, the Father.

"Likewise, the circular nature of the manifestation of glory is not an energy; it is the defining personal characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Your interpretation of AdMac on p. 20 reads the Basilean formulation into the circulation of glory;"

If it is Fr. Maspero thesis that glory is a person and that the Holy Spirit's personal property is just the circulation of glory, I don't find very persuasive or a good reason to think so. As a way of reductio, the Father and Son couldn't also be of the same glory if this glory is in fact a person. So I don't see any reason to read Gregory this way without pains of making him say something that would be nonsensical to him since he doesn't think the unique personal properties are shared among the persons.

Photios

 
At 11:08 AM, OpenID energeticprocession said...

"Remember, pers Maximus"

Something happen to my word document where this was cut off, but I meant to say.. per St. Maximus distinction does not necessarily entail opposition, but it still can be considered dialectical if it is in fact a distinction between two.

 
At 8:10 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

JP> You appear to be treating [the passage in AdAbl] here as an aberration that he later corrected or a persistent error.

PJ> Of course I do because the dating list for 'On Not Three Gods' is 375, Council of Constantinople is 381, Contra Eunomium I is 382/383, and Contra Eunomium II is 384.


... which begs the question as against Fr. Maspero's dating of the AdAbl at ca. 390. That is a significant part of his thesis. If his dating is right, your position is untenable.

The point of my paper however is not to say that Gregory is a Neoplatonist in this passage and then later a 'Photian' in Contra Eunomium, but rather that the data is inconclusive in 'On Not Three Gods' to fix the meaning one way or the other (a hypostatic or an energetic procession) or its a possible thesis to entertain that Gregory is just inchoate in this passage.

Fr. Maspero's thesis actually explains this passage, as opposed to arguing that it is simply inconclusive or inchoate. That's one of the reasons I find it convincing. If he is correct, then it is hypostatic, but hypostatic in a certain relational sense.

Both are possible, however I personally think he means the eternal energetic procession, the data becomes more clear in Contra Eunomium.

And I suspect that this is contrary to both logical and chronological order of the works. AdAbl IS the clarification.

The "Basilian" principle is also Gregory's as he states as much in On the Lord's Prayer, and "Basil's" Letter 38 long thought to be Basil's, scholars generally recognize as Gregory's. That letter is my hermeneutical principle though it can be found in lots of other Fathers both East and West.

The question is not whether he shares the principle, but how he conceives it. Gregory certainly does hold to a version of "what is not common to the nature is personal." But he seems to hold to the Western take "and everything personal specifies a relation to the other two persons." That relation ALSO maps on to the eternal sharing of the nature, in that it is the personal manner in which the nature itself is shared, but the relation itself is at the level of hypostasis. That is an extension beyond Basil's concept.

per St. Maximus distinction does not necessarily entail opposition, but it still can be considered dialectical if it is in fact a distinction between two.

That is certainly one alternative for a non-oppositional dialectic, but it isn't clear to me that it is the only one. St. Anselm's notion of "from/not from" is also dialectical but not oppositional. The nexus amoris doctrine explains how.

Your interpretation of a relational property of love as a personal characteristic of the Spirit does not exempt you from a non-nature/non-personal property, or person-nature dialectic. We're bound to that dialectic, because that is the only two realities in the Trinity. Either something is of the Person and only of that Person or it is of the Nature. Person-Nature can both then receive further qualifications.

The fact that we are "bound to that dialectic" is precisely the disputed issue. The entire point is that relational categories DO exempt you from the dichotomy, because they inherently pertain both to the hypostatic existence itself and the manner of circulation of the nature. Basil made a stab at it with the "mode of existence" formulation and Gregory Theologian was a bit more specific with his skesis concept, but neither got to the point that Gregory did.

Nature is a broader category for an essence and all its natural energies. Person are broken down into the unique property that constitutes the person and the modal employment of natural energies that characterizes a certain person's actions.

It's that division between the unique property that constitutes the person (i.e., mode of existence) and modal employment of natural energies that seems superfluous. At least with respect to the self-relations of the Trinity, it doesn't exist. In creatures that are mixtures of act and potency, the distinction is relevant, but not for infinite act.

I don't argue and stop with a "silence," I go on to categorize what that relationship is between Son and Spirit, and I consider it as one that can't be something that "might" happen.

But you argue from silence that this relationship is purely on the energetic/nature side. Fr. Maspero argues to the contrary. Moreover, your assertion doesn't explain WHY the energetic relationship is a necessary result of the personal properties of the Son and the Spirit.

JP> "As far as I can tell, you're simply wrong about Gregory being unwilling to speak about the relation of the Father to the Son."

PJ> You never got that from my writings, because 'generation' is the relation of the Son to His point of origin, the Father.


When my typo is corrected to replace "Father" with "Spirit" (my fault), I believe the point still stands.

If it is Fr. Maspero thesis that glory is a person and that the Holy Spirit's personal property is just the circulation of glory, I don't find very persuasive or a good reason to think so. As a way of reductio, the Father and Son couldn't also be of the same glory if this glory is in fact a person. So I don't see any reason to read Gregory this way without pains of making him say something that would be nonsensical to him since he doesn't think the unique personal properties are shared among the persons.

As I said, it appears to me that he thinks the personal properties are the relationships between the persons, and I don't see why that is nonsensical. He isn't arguing that the glory is a person, but that existing in just such a relational mode of sharing/circulating the glory is the personal characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Gregory appears to say the same.

In sum, I think that Fr. Maspero provides a convincing refutation of the attempt to fit Gregory into the Basielan/Byzantine model and thus to read St. Maximus's and St. Photius's later interpretations into Gregory's work. It appears that Gregory actually took a similar approach to the Western view. This is not to say that St. Maximus is wrong or that the distinction he applied to human will and non-oppositional dialectic between goods cannot be extended as an image for the divine will. However, it also seems clear to me that one can appeal to distinctions between the human and divine to argue that these distinctions need not apply univocally to the divine and human cases, since what is necessary to preserve freedom for finite beings is not necessary to preserve divine freedom (viz., God has a drastically different form of freedom than we do). IOW, St. Maximus's view is an image, but not a literal description, because we actually have no capacity to understand the nature of God's freedom any more than the nature of God Himself. St. Maximus's speculation on the divine will is simply not dogmatically binding, although his conclusions regarding the human will are.

 
At 8:53 AM, OpenID energeticprocession said...

Thanks for clarifying your position. As this is getting a tad long for a blog comment, I'll move my response to a post on my blog when I get the chance. I also need to get a hold of this work so I can see his argument first hand for the dating and see his textual criticism vis-a-vis the "traditional" dating of 'On Not Three Gods.'

 
At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Father Robert (Anglican) said...

The whole reality to the "procession" of the Holy Spirit by the Father alone enters into the depths too of the Father's regal nature in the Godhead. This is the simplicity of this whole theological truth and reality.

 

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