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Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
Orthodox dogmatic theology

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On the procession of the Holy Spirit.

The ancient Orthodox teaching of the personal attributes of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

was distorted in the Latin Church by the creation of a teaching of the procession, outside of time

and from all eternity, of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son — the Filioque. The idea

that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son originated in certain expressions of

Blessed Augustine. It became established in the West as obligatory in the ninth century, and

when Latin missionaries came to the Bulgarians in the middle of the ninth century, the Filioque

was in their Symbol of Faith.

As differences between the papacy and the East Orthodox became sharper, the Latin dogma

became increasingly strengthened in the West; finally, it was acknowledged in the West as a universally

obligatory dogma. Protestantism inherited this teaching from the Roman Church.

The Latin dogma of the Filioque is a substantial and important deviation from Orthodox

truth. This dogma was subjected to a detailed examination and accusation, especially by Patriarchs

Photius (9th century) and Michael Cerularius (11th century), and likewise by St. Mark of

Ephesus, who took part in the Council of Florence (1439). Adam Zernikav (18th century), who

converted from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy, cites about a thousand testimonies from the

writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church in favor of the Orthodox teaching of the Holy Spirit in

his work, Concerning the Procession of the Holy Spirit.

In recent times, the Roman Church, out of “missionaryaims, has disguised the importance

of the difference between the Orthodox teaching and the Roman teaching of the Holy Spirit.

With this in mind, the popes have kept the ancient Orthodox text of the Symbol of Faith, without

the words “and from the Son,” for the Uniates and the “Eastern Rite.” However, this cannot be

regarded as a kind of half rejection by Rome of its own dogma. At best, it is only a disguise forthe Roman view that the Orthodox East is backward in dogmatic development, that one must be

condescending to this backwardness, and that the dogma expressed in the West in a developed

form (explicite, in accordance with the Roman theory of the “development of dogmas”) is concealed

in the Orthodox dogma in a still undeveloped form (implicite). However, in Latin dogmatic

works, intended for internal use, we encounter a definite treatment of the Orthodox dogma

of the procession of the Holy Spirit as a “heresy.” In the officially approved Latin dogmatic work

of the doctor of theology, A. Sanda, we read: “Opponents (of the present Roman teaching) are the

schismatic Greeks, who teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. Already in the

year 808 Greek monks protested against the introduction by the Latins of the word Filioque into

the Creed . . . Who the originator of this heresy was, is unknown” (Sinopsis Theologiae Dogmaticae

Specialis, by Dr. A. Sanda, vol. 1, p. 100; Herder edition, 1916).

However, the Latin dogma agrees neither with Sacred Scripture nor with the universal Sacred

Tradition of the Church; and it does not even agree with the most ancient tradition of the

Local Church of Rome.

In their defense, Roman theologians cite a series of passages from Sacred Scripture where

the Holy Spirit is called “of Christ,” where it is said that He is given by the Son of God; from this

they conclude that He proceeds also from the Son. The most important of these passages cited by

Roman theologians are: the words of the Savior to His disciples concerning the Holy Spirit, the

Comforter: “He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:15); the words of the

Apostle Paul, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts” (Gal. 4:6); the words

of the same Apostle, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom.

8:9); and from the Gospel of John, “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the

Holy Spirit(John 20:22).

In like fashion, the Roman theologians find in the works of the Holy Fathers of the Church

passages where often there is mention of the sending of the Holy Spirit “through the Son” and

sometimes even of a “proceeding through the Son.”

However, no reasoning of any kind can obscure the perfectly precise words of the Savior:

“the Comforter, whom I will send unto you from the Father, and immediately afterwards, the

Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father(John 15:26). The Holy Fathers of the Church

could not possibly place in the words “through the Son” anything that is not contained in Sacred


In the present case, Roman Catholic theologians are either confusing two dogmas — that is,

the dogma of the personal existence of the Hypostases and the dogma of the Oneness of Essence

which is immediately bound up with it, although it is a separate dogma — or else they are confusing

the inner relations of the Hypostases of the All Holy Trinity with the providential actions

and manifestations of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which are directed towards the

world and the human race. That the Holy Spirit is One in Essence with the Father and the Son,

that therefore He is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, is an indisputable Christian truth, for

God is a Trinity One in Essence and Indivisible.

This idea is clearly expressed by Blessed Theodoret: “Concerning the Holy Spirit, it is said

not that he has existence from the Son or through the Son, but rather that He proceeds from the

Father and has the same nature as the Son, is in fact the Spirit of the Son as being One in Essence

with Him” (Bl. Theodoret, “On the Third Ecumenical Council”).

In the Orthodox Divine services also, we often hear these words addressed to the Lord Jesus

Christ: By Thy Holy Spirit enlighten us, instruct us, and preserve us.” The expression, “the Spiritof the Father and the Son,” is likewise in itself quite Orthodox. But these expressions refer to the

dogma of the Oneness of Essence, and it is absolutely essential to distinguish this from another

dogma, the dogma of the begetting and the procession, in which, as the Holy Fathers express it, is

shown the Cause of the existence of the Son and the Spirit. All of the Eastern Fathers acknowledge

that the Father is monos aitios, the sole Cause” of the Son and the Spirit. Therefore, when

certain Church Fathers use the expression “through the Son,” they are, precisely by means of this

expression, preserving the dogma of the procession from the Father and the inviolability of the

dogmatic formula, “proceedeth from the Father.” The Fathers speak of the Son as “through” so

as to defend the expression “from,” which refers only to the Father.

To this one should add that the expression, “through the Son,” which is found in certain

Holy Fathers, in the majority of cases refers definitely to the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in

the world, that is, to the providential actions of the Holy Trinity, and not to the life of God in

Himself. When the Eastern Church first noticed a distortion of the dogma of the Holy Spirit in

the West and began to reproach the Western theologians for their innovations, St. Maximus the

Confessor (in the 7th century), desiring to defend the Westerners, justified them precisely by saying

that by the words “from the Son” they intended to indicate that the Holy Spirit is given to

creatures through the Son, that He is manifested, that He is sent — but not that the Holy Spirit

has His existence from Him. St. Maximus the Confessor himself held strictly to the teaching of

the Eastern Church concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and wrote a special

treatise about this dogma.

The providential sending of the Spirit by the Son of God is referred to in the words, “Whom

I will send unto you from the Father.” Also, we pray: “O Lord, who didst send down thine All

holy Spirit at the third hour upon Thine apostles, Him take not away from us, O Good One, but

renew us who pray to Thee” (troparion of the third Hour on weekdays of Great Lent; also said

silently by the priest before the Consecration at the Liturgy). Confusing the texts of Sacred Scripture

which speak of the “procession” with the others which speak of the “sending” of the Holy

Spirit, Roman theologians transferred the concept of providential relations to the very existence

of the Godhead, to the relations there between the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

Apart from the dogmatic side, by introducing a new dogma the Roman Church violated the

decree of the Third and subsequent Ecumenical Councils (4th to 7th centuries), which forbade

the introduction of any kind of change into the Nicaean Symbol of Faith after the Second Ecumenical

Council had given it its final form. Thus, the Roman Church also performed a serious

canonical violation.

But when Roman theologians try to say that the whole difference between Roman Catholicism

and Orthodoxy in the teaching on the Holy Spirit is that they teach the procession “also

from the Son” while we teach of the procession “through the Son,” in such an assertion there is

hidden at the very least a misunderstanding (even though sometimes our church writers also follow

the Catholics and allow themselves to repeat this idea). (The expression “through the Son

does not at all comprise a dogma of the Orthodox Church; it is only an explanatory means of certain

Holy Fathers in their teaching on the Holy Trinity, whereas the very meaning of the teaching

of the Orthodox Church in essence is different from that of Roman Catholicism.

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