Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit
Saint Photius the Great
1. There are various arguments, scattered throughout many lengthy dissertations, which confute the arrogance of those contentious men who hold fast to unrighteousness and strive against the truth. Since your great zeal and love for God has requested that those corrective arguments, furnished by divine providence, be gathered into a general overview and outline, this goal is indeed not unworthy of your desire and godly love.
2. Above all else, there is a saying of the Lord which opposes them like a sharp, inescapable arrow, striking down and destroying every wild beast and fox as though with a thunderbolt. What saying? That which the Son Himself delivers; that which states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. Rejecting this compact garment, do you still seek for the divine clothing? Would you propagate the fable that the Spirit proceeds from the Son? If you do not cower when seizing the dogmas of our common Saviour , Creator, and Lawgiver with a violence that yields only to your insanity, then what other things could one find by which utterly to confute your impious zeal? — If you despise the laws of the Lord, what godly man will not execrate your opinion? — But what else can raise you from your fall? What other method of healing will cure your mortal wounds not caused by the word of the Saviour , but by your own self-made sickness, which out of disobedience stubbornly strives to transform the medicine of the Lord's doctrine into a noxious poison? The Saviour's doctrine does not simply touch these wounds, but digs deeply into them and cures the whole body of sores with care and concern. We have not laid the two-edged sword of the Spirit [the Holy Scriptures] against you too often, nevertheless because of the affection of our common Master we will make a prompt and willing proof of our sacred conceptions, and arm ourselves completely, preparing a strategy and drawing up an order of battle. And thus we will escape from these wounds of yours without anxiety.
3. For if the Son and the Spirit came forth from the same cause, namely, the Father (even though the Spirit is by procession whilst the Son is by begetting); and if — as this blasphemy cries out — the Spirit also proceeds from the Son, then why not simply tear up the Word [Logos] and propagate the fable that the Spirit also produces the Son, thereby according the same equality of rank to each hypostasis by allowing each hypostasis to produce the other hypostasis? For if each hypostasis is in the other, then of necessity each is the cause and completion of the other. For reason demands equality for each hypostasis so that each hypostasis exchanges the grace of causality indistinguishably.
4. Some others recognise that the Son's generation does not impair the indescribable simplicity of the Father. But since it is claimed that He proceeds from two hypostases, the Spirit is brought to a double cause, thereby obscuring the simplicity of the Most High. Does it not follow from this that the Spirit is therefore composite? How then is the Trinity simple? But, on the other hand, how shall the Spirit not be blasphemed if, proceeding from the Son, He in turn has no equality by causing the Son? O impiously bold tongue, corrupting the Spirit's own proper dignity!
5. Who of our sacred and renowned Fathers said the Spirit proceeds from the Son? Did any synod, acknowledged as ecumenical, proclaim it? Which assembly of priests and bishops, inspired of God, affirmed this understanding of the Holy Spirit? For these men, having been initiated into the Father's Spirit according to the Master's teaching, loudly proclaimed the splendour of the Master's teaching. These prophetic writings and books, predetermined from ancient times, are sources of light, and in accordance with righteousness, anticipate the composite divisions and apostasies of this new ungodliness. Indeed, they subjected all who believed otherwise to the anathema for being scorners of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; for the second of the seven Holy and Ecumenical Synods directly dogmatised that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The third received it by tradition; the fourth confirmed it; the fifth supported the same doctrine; the sixth sealed it; the seventh sealed it in splendour with contests. Accordingly, in each of their luminous proclamations the godly doctrine that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and not also from the Son is boldly asserted. Would you, then, O godless herd, draw away towards unlawful teaching and dispute this teaching of the Master?
6. If so, then straightaway their profane, self-sufficient contentions against God are detected. For if each hypostasis is as great as the others, then the procession is common to all three hypostases by virtue of the simple, indivisible essence. And if each hypostasis is as great as the others, then all share in a common and unique simplicity, and therefore the Spirit and the Father will be caused by the Son and the Spirit in a similar manner. Is this not the same thing as saying that since the Son exists in the Father, He is as great as the Father, since neither of them is despoiled of Spirit? But, according to the myriad voices who piously delivered the doctrine of the indescribable Godhead on high, the Spirit is of the essence-above-essence. His eternal, incorporeal procession is therefore beyond the powers of reason. If these observations are not so, then no one is a Christian who is not carried away into diabolical disputations, choosing this new word [ Filioque ] that the procession of the Spirit is from the Father and the Son as from a common source! And, if this is so — what teaching has ever come to a bolder impiety! — then the Spirit would participate in His own procession: on one hand producer, and on the other, produced; on one hand causing Himself, and on the other as being caused. — Another great array of blasphemies against God!
7. But concerning the procession of the Spirit from the Son, who formerly received it? For the procession of the Spirit from the Son is not contained in the procession from the Father. If we say this, then what does the Spirit gain which He did not already possess in His procession from the Father? For if it were possible for the Spirit to receive something and to declare what was gained, was He not imperfect without it? Indeed, He would have been imperfect if He had received some increment. Moreover, there would be problems of duality and composite-ness which would contend against the simply uncomposite nature. But if the Spirit received no increment, what is the purpose of the procession [from the Son] which is unable to add anything?
8. And you should also investigate the following argument: if the Son is begotten from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Son, by what reason do you not accord the Spirit, Who subsists in the same identical essence, the dignity of another procession from Himself to produce another hypostasis at the same time? Otherwise, you degrade Him Who is worthy of equal honour.
9. And you should consider this: if the Spirit proceeds from the Father and proceeds also from the Son — O deceiving drunkenness of impiety! — why do not the Father and the Spirit beget the Son for the very same reasons — which will atone for this blasphemous chattering which turns the monarchy into many principles and causes! — and make common to all three hypostases what uniquely characterises the Son as well, combining the other two hypostases into one, in the same manner? And thus, Sabellius — or rather some other sort of monstrous semi- sabellianism would again sprout up among us.
10. This ill doctrine, not being able to avoid absurd conclusions about the Son, goes on to engulf the specific hypostatic property of the Father as well. I say that it is now clearly manifest that the procession of the Spirit from the Son is the reason behind all this, since according to their godless fables about the Spirit of the Son, those advocating these ideas confuse each hypostasis' unique property with the others. They mutilate each hypostasis both by reason of the divisibility of the procession and then by turning around and making that division indivisible. If the Spirit's unique characterising procession may be so confused, then why is it not just as reasonable that more innovations of the same type can come about? But it is dreadful that we have reached this point by means of their blasphemy.
11. Leaving aside the aforementioned, if two causes are discerned in the divine, sovereign, and transcendent Trinity, and if the Spirit thus flows from two hypostases, then where is the much-hymned, divine majesty of the Monarchy? Will not the godlessness of polytheism be noisily reintroduced? Is this not but a reassertion of the superstitious ideas of the [pagan] Greeks, under the guise of Christianity?
12. And again, if two causes are promoted in the monarchical Trinity, why then, on the basis of the same reasoning, should not a third cause appear? For once the beginningless source, which transcends all sources, is cast down from its throne by these impious ones and is divided into a duality, the source will proceed more vehemently to be divided into a trinity, since in the transcendent, inseparable, and simple nature of the divinity, the triad is more apparent than the dyad and also more in harmony with the properties.
13. Can Christian ears tolerate such things? Indeed, are they not really absurd and lamentable? These bold and impious men are being forced to come to an absurd and lamentable conclusion, receiving manifold confusion on one hand and lamentation on the other, bringing them to incurable ruin. But since they provoke the pious to anger, their wailings cannot be laid aside.
14. It is odious not to see the explicit magnitude of this ungodly thing! For if, according to the principle of anarchy, the paternal principle and cause is established as common to all, and the Son is therefore a cause, how can you escape the conclusion that there are two interchangeable causes in the Trinity? On one hand, you firmly establish the idea that there is no source — anarchy [ anarchos means both no source and anarchy] — in Him, but at the same time you reintroduce a source and a cause, and then go on simultaneously to transfer the distinctions of each hypostasis.
15. If the Father is cause of the hypostases produced from Him not by reason of nature, but by reason of the hypostasis; and if, up to now, no one has preached the impiety that the Son's hypostasis consists of the principle of the Father's hypostasis — for not even the monstrous Sabellius taught the impiety of the fatherhood of the Son! — then there can be no way the Son is cause of any hypostasis in the Trinity.
16. It is also necessary to accompany this conclusion with the following one: this impious doctrine also separates the hypostasis of the Father into two hypostases, since the ungodly doctrine frames laws for itself, mixing the hypostasis of the Son with that of the Father, as parts of the same thing. But the essence is not the cause of the Word; the Father is the hypostatic cause of the hypostasis of the Word. But if, as this impoius doctrine asserts, the Son is also a cause of the Spirit, then it must be conceded that either the Son takes over the Father's role and title (receiving the hypostatic property of being the cause), or the Father's hypostasis is imperfect, lacking completion, and that the Son supplements the hypostasis of the Father. Since the Son is made a part of the Father, this truncates the awesome mystery of the Trinity to a mere dyad.
17. And since many other tares sprout up from this crowd, we should not rest as we would like, but as watchful souls should seek the death of these frenzied cancers in order that the noble birth and salvation from above may not be adulterated and choked out by these hateful tares which struggle for their souls. For truly, anything which is actually recognised as a proper characteristic of something when it is predicated of two other things, and it is truly asserted concerning one of the two but not concerning the other, the two are shown to be of a different nature (for example, laughter is a proper characteristic of man). [A reference to the classic argument: Laughter is a characteristic of mankind; Both Socrates and Plato laugh: therefore they are of the same nature. But though Socrates laughs, his image does not: therefore Socrates and his image are of different natures.] Now, if the property of being the leader of the people of Israel belongs to Joshua, but does not belong to the archangel of the Lord's host who appeared to him, it follows that the leader of the people is not of the same nature as the archangel, nor indeed consubstantial with him. Whoever pursues this method in all other matters shall find the same perception developing clearly and without difficulty. So, if this method is ever applicable and preserves the same sense, then if the procession of the Spirit is proclaimed to be a property of the Father, and this property is also asserted of the Son but not of the Spirit — such heretical wantonness! — then let what follows fall upon the heads of those who introduced such great evils, for thus far such slander was unthinkable. If they clearly affirm the procession of the Spirit from the Father and from the Son, then why do they not affirm a procession from the Spirit? — These men have said all the rash impudence there is to say! — How then is the Spirit not separated from the Trinity, if you say that He proceeds from the Father and the Son, but not in common, either? It must be asked then, Which one of the hypostases is the divine principle? If they say the procession of the Spirit is not a unique property of the Father, then clearly, it also will not belong to the Son since it does not belong to the Spirit. Let those who impudently say anything tell us how that which is not a unique property of any of the Three, yet also is not common to all, have a place in any of the hypostases of the divine sovereignty?
18. It amounts to this: if the unique property of the Father is transposed into a specific property of the Son, then it is clear that the specific property of the Son is also transposed into the specific feature of the Father. We must altogether shun this impious notion. For if, according to the reasonings of the impious, the specific properties of the hypostasis are opposed and transferred to one another, then the Father — O depth of impiety! — comes under the property of being begotten and the Son will beget the Father. This ungodly doctrine can accommodate all these conclusions because they are of a similar nature to the original premise, which will not cease in its insufferable contentions against God.