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Saint Photius the Great

Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit

Concerning statements in the sacred teachings which state that as the Son is begotten of the Father alone, so likewise the proper theology concerning the Holy Spirit is that He proceeds from one and the same cause; and also concerning the saying that because He is of one essence with the Son, He therefore proceeds from Him as well.

37. Furthermore, if the Son is begotten from the Father and the Spirit — according to this innovation — proceeds from the Father and the Son, then likewise another hypostasis should proceed from the Spirit, and so we should have not three but four hypostases! And if the fourth procession is possible, then another procession is possible from that, and so on to an infinite number of processions and hypostases, until at last this doctrine is transformed into a [pagan] Greek polytheism!

38. But if you say you are against this fourth procession, then what manner of speech is this? If the Son receives the property of causing the procession of the Spirit because He is as great as the Father is, and therefore has all the Father has, by what reason do you incline to such favouritism, by which means you think the Son co-causes the Spirit, but by means of which you deny the Spirit, Who is likewise of equal honour and dignity, since He came forth with equal rank from the same essence?

39. Again, if the Father is a cause and the Son is also a cause, which of these insufferable thinkers will at least clarify their doctrine and tell us which one of the hypostases has more of the property of being a cause? If they decide for the Father, is not this arrangement a slight on the dignity and honour of the Son, especially since He already has the supreme authority and fullness of the Father? But if the Son is also a cause, they impiously presume to redistribute the Father's causality and distribute parts of it to the Son — alas for this grievous impudence! — It was not sufficient for them to choose the impiety of dividing the Father's causality and have Him share it with the Son, but they would take even more and would substitute the Son for the Father as cause of the Spirit.

40. What do you say? You say the Son received, by His generation from the Father, the power of also producing another hypostasis of the same nature. But should not this change one's opinion of the Spirit, Who proceeds from the same nature as the Son? In other words, since He partakes of the same dignity and power, why is He not similarly accorded the power of also producing another hypostasis from the same nature so that He may also be adorned with being a cause of a consubstantial hypostasis? And, indeed, this turns into hatred of the Son as well, for if the Spirit's procession from the Son is not any different than that from the Father, then this participation by the Son hypostatic properties of the Father brings the likeness of the Father upon the Son.

41. But I will not permit this great absurdity, for the Master's words mystically instruct us to consider the Begetter greater than the Begotten, although not by nature — away with the thought! — the Trinity, which is beyond grasp, is consubstantial because the Begetter is cause. And the chorus of our Holy Fathers, teaches the same. Nowhere do the divine teachings state the Son is greater than the Spirit by being a cause — you are not paying attention to the words of God! — nor has any pious mind up to now ever been detected of having thought so. But the contentious speech of the enemies of God not only makes the Son greater than the Spirit, but also makes the Son nearer to the Father, and, even worse, confused with Him.

42. Moreover, how can you escape the conclusion that if the Son causes the Spirit, you have found an emergent second cause in the Trinity, which is beyond nature and causality? Do not such machinations do wanton violence against not merely the first source, but also against the second source, for Whom it was devised to honour? For, if there is no advantage to the Spirit, Who has no need of such a procession nor any need for a man to exhibit such a need, will it not insult the Son? Is not the insult more wanton when called an honour? And as for the Spirit, Who has an eternal procession from the Father and therefore is in need of nothing, if He is known more fully in another procession which is also a procession proper to the essence, then what exactly does that production by another procession provide?

43. Is it possible to avoid the conclusion that the Spirit has been divided into two? The one part proceeds from the Father, Who is the first cause and also unoriginate; the second part proceeds from a second cause, and this second cause is not underived. This heresy invents a distortion of the Spirit's distinction, not merely by arrangement, but also in the category of His origin. It makes us cast off our adoration of the Trinity for a Quaternity. Indeed, no effort is neglected to malign everything in the plenteously-good Trinity and Creator of all! We will leave no ramification of this teaching aside.

44. And besides, if on one hand the Son is the cause of the Spirit, and on the other hand the Father is the cause of both, then certainly a new cause is discovered in the most perfect and perfecting Trinity which is excluded from the source and first cause of perfection. Thus, the lordly perfection of the Spirit is destroyed because it will either be imperfect and divided in two, or it will be a composite. Consequently, it is valid to view this as a mythology which composes the hypostases in successive, corruptible generations, as if imitating the part-horse and part-man centaurs of old. — These impious contentions speak absurdities such as a cause either divided in two or synthesised from cause and caused, without shuddering in fear. — Even if each absurdities pretend to battle with each other — for such is the harvest of impious seeds — nonetheless both lead to the same crime of attributing imperfection to the Spirit. When all is said and done, it comes down to the same eternal pride.

45. All this aside, if the one Spirit is beyond nature and of a lordly unity, just as the Father and Son are each absolutely and ineffably one, then is it not monstrous and impossible to say He is from two causes?

46. Now it was right that you should understand all the implications of these impious men by means of such perceptions. The Catholic and Apostolic Church, instead of superstitious nonsense, is instructed in pure godliness to believe with the whole mind, and with resolute understanding, the unchangeable doctrine that each hypostasis of the consubstantial and divine Trinity is ineffably united to each other in an inseparable communion of nature, but each maintains His specific and unique characteristic properties by distinction of the hypostases. This distinction allows no room for confusion — away with the thought! — You are led astray, because the communion of nature does not permit any severance or division, nor are the properties which distinguish each of the three permitted to be mingled into any fusion. Just as the Son is begotten from the Father and remains immutable and unchanging in Himself, preserving the dignity of Sonship, so also the All-Holy Spirit likewise proceeds from the Father and remains unchanging in Himself, preserving the property of procession. And, according to the Word Who is from the Father, the Spirit, being likewise produced (but according to a different type of production) from the uncaused Father does not assume the divine operation of any other begetting or procession, nor is He made into something new by any transmutation of His procession, even so, by the same analogy, the Son, Who is begotten of the uncaused Father does not assume the divine operation of originating another hypostasis, either by begetting or by procession. Nor is the divine procession subject to participation in other privileges because of the common nature, because when this is introduced, it adulterates the Sonship.

47. If you do not see these distinctions rightly, I should have to describe you as wilfully blind. For if the Father produces the Spirit according to the nature, the very nature of the Trinity, then many other kindred and outrageous acts would certainly result from such an unreasonable origin. What was your motive, then, in inventing the fables of your impiety? Not only would you change the Son into a cause of the Spirit, but the Spirit would be changed into a cause of the Son, and the Spirit's specific distinction of procession is divided and distributed to multiple hypostases. It is better to let silence conceal the rest, for even if we do not utter the other improprieties to be observed in this word [Filioque], those who investigate with intelligence and reverence will clearly understand. For if this word [Filioque] is the expression of something about divine nature, and not about some specific hypostatic characteristic, then anyone who says the Father causes the Spirit is thought to be telling a fantastic fable! It was told in sacred dogma that the Father produces the Spirit, in view of the fact that He is the Father; it will not doubted by the godly-minded. But if this is so, then this word [Filioque] has introduced an innovation into the dignity of the Sonship, in view of the fact that it speaks of the Son as producing the Spirit! Neither will the Son mutilate the Father and transfer to Himself the property of procession, nor will He ever change His own submissive and changeless generation. For it is not, I repeat, not the nature (that which is common amongst these hypostases) which is worshipped, but the specific hypostatic properties through which theology discerns the hypostases of the Trinity.

48. Well! It is certain the heresies also ask: Will you not be convicted of changing the meaning of the writings of Paul, the herald of the Church, the teacher of the civilised world, that truly great and heavenly man who cries out, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying "Abba, Father".? (Galatians 4:6) If Paul who knows orthodox dogmas, therefore says the Spirit proceeds from the Son, why do those who receive the teachings of heavenly things from him not receive this is as well? Who is it that in every opinion impudently smears this Paul, the ambassador of ineffable things: he who strives to prove that Paul contradicts his teacher and our common Master, or he who reverently maintains and hymns Paul's agreement with the Master? For if the Master mystically teaches that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, but heresy introduces Paul as teaching that He proceeds from the Son, who would be the slanderer? Would it not be the one who attributes to Paul contradiction of the Master and thus renders himself liable to the judgement of impudence? Observe how you attempt to isolate the ecumenical teacher from the assembly of teachers which is a guide unto godliness. You use zeal without knowledge instead of proceeding with humility. Heresy always makes use of the customary usage of language. Since it accuses the very Son and Word of God of falling into contradiction, it is only being consistent when it argumentatively and contentiously affirms that His genuine servant and disciple denies and corrects his teacher.

49. Where does Paul supposedly say the Spirit proceeds from the Son? For it is certainly proper to the Spirit to be of the Son? For — God forbid! — He does not belong to anyone else! Together with Paul, the Church confesses and believes it. But the statement that the Spirit proceeds from the Son surely did not come forth from his divinely inspired tongue — God forbid! — Nor did you write of any of the saints who never wrote such a thing nor would they have permitted this blasphemy to be heard. Instead, you acquired knowledge of the ill omen before hearing their statements. Truly, a far-fetched slander.

50. Though being small of stature, but great in trials and zealously protecting the ecumenical Faith, Paul said, the Spirit of His Son. Why do you not say the same? Instead, you do evil by dragging down and distorting the doctrine of the herald [Paul], which is from above. But — what is more urgent? — would you send your distorted and blasphemous voice into the mouth of the teacher?

51. He [Paul] said the Spirit of the Son with God-given wisdom. Why do you distort his teaching and say what he did not say, but rather proclaim — without even blushing — what he never conceived as though he had supposedly said the Spirit of His Son? He certainly could not have phrased it better. For the Spirit has a nature identical to the Son, and the Spirit is of one essence with the Son, and possesses the same glory, dignity, and dominion. Therefore, when Paul says the Spirit of His Son, he is teaching the identity of the nature, but by no means indicating the cause of His procession. He acknowledges the unity of the essence, but by no means considers or exhibits that the Son brings forth a consubstantial hypostasis. Indeed, he does not even hint concerning the origin.

52. Why is this? Is it not also a divine statement that the Father is the Father of the Son? Will you consequently reverse the begetting for this reason? We say the Father is the Father of the Son because the Son is consubstantial, not because He has been begotten. However, if you like, let it refer to the fact that the Son has been begotten. Then, given the phrase, the Spirit of the Son, why have you not called the Spirit the source of the Son? Instead, you move the Spirit to the rank of caused and effected. If it is possible to say there is a procession of the Spirit from the Son on the basis of the expression of the Son, then in the same way it is possible to have a production of the Son from the Spirit. Thus, Paul is presumed to teach a wandering principle by means of an example. But, surely, only deception could have invented a procession from this starting point and example. Your irrational contentions are sacrilegious towards God and rivals only your fondness of embellishment.

53. Truly the Church says, the Son of the Father and the Father of the Son. With these expressions she understands they are consubstantial. It is theologised that the Son is begotten of the Father, yet we shall never be misled by the phrase, the Father of the Son and blasphemously presume to theologise the reverse. When we sacredly proclaim the Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, we unambiguously indicate by these phrases the Spirit's consubstantiality with both. Now, He is consubstantial with the Father because He proceeds from Him, and He is consubstantial with the Son, but not because He proceeds — God forbid! — neither is the Son consubstantial with the Spirit because He is begotten, but rather because His procession from the same one, indivisible, eternal cause brings each of them into the same rank.

54. The Spirit of His Son. Your presuppositions only prepare a fatal poison in you, not the saving word of the herald of divine truth and wisdom. Returning to your senses is not difficult: you need not a more acute or vigorous intelligence for deeply delving into formidable secrets. He [Paul] says, the Spirit of His Son, which means one thing, and elsewhere it is said, the Spirit Who proceeds from the Father, which means something else. Do not allow the similarity of the grammatical cases lead you to such incurable error; there are many expressions similar in sound that are not interpreted with a similar meaning, indeed they are not even close. I should have collected a list of many such expressions, but your disobedient minds weary me.

55. Equally grievous is that you are a slave to your customary usage because you have not apostatized to the logical absurdity. For it is said the Son is the effulgence of the Father, the Light from Light. But He says as much Himself, I am the Light of the World. {Saint Photius here suggests that to understand all genitives of description as ablatives of source, then the Lord Jesus Christ must be the light proceeding from the world because He is the light of the world.} The phrase, light of light, shows the consubstantiality of the Son and of the Father. This fact prepares a noose for your own wisdom and opinion and tongue, not so that I may place it around your necks, but to entreat you to search the perdition of hanging, and to flee it by any means possible.

56. The divine Paul, in the fullness of the evangelical proclamation which went into the whole world, said, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son (Galatians 4:6). If you declare what he said we will not bring you to trial, but if you teach what he did not say as if it were what he preached, we shall indict you as surely deserving punishment for impiety. That heavenly man said, the Spirit of His Son. But you, just as if you were caught up to the third heaven of transcendent and ineffable expressions, a law unto yourselves, proclaim of Paul that he was imperfect in his writings. Thus, you exclude him from your faith, perfecting what was imperfect. Rather than saying, the Spirit of His Son you teach — alas! the rashness is not to be outdone! — that the Spirit proceeds from the Son. And you will receive no one if they do not subscribe to these drastic compositions and blasphemies, with respect and harmony to your teaching. Inventing defamations, you are not ashamed to claim as your teacher and advocate him [Paul] whom you have defamed. The noxious venom of impiety you have so abundantly vomited forth truly demonstrates what spirit animates and possesses you.

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