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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.

70. But I do not admit that what you assert was so plainly taught by those blessed men. Even so, if any among them has fallen into something unseemly — for they were all men and human, and no one composed of dust and ephemeral nature can avoid some trace of defilement — I would then imitate the sons of Noah and cover my father's shame with silence and gratitude instead of a garment. I would not have followed Ham as you do. Indeed, you follow him with even more shamelessness and impudence than he himself, because you publish abroad the shame of those whom you call your Fathers. Ham is cursed, not because he uncovered his father, but because he failed to cover him. You, however, both uncover your Fathers and brag about your audacity. Ham exposes the secret to his brothers; you tell yours not to one or two brothers, but in your rash and reckless abandon, proclaim the shame of your Fathers to the whole world, as if it were your theatre. You behave lewdly towards the shame of their nakedness and seek other revellers with whom to make more conspicuous festival, rejoicing when you expose their nakedness to the light!

71. Augustine and Jerome said the Spirit proceeds from the Son. Now why is it that having said this in faith, in a time great with sayings, that their treatises did not work your evil? Because it is you who presume that they, and not just yourself, were intent upon this insufferable godlessness. And it is because of the fact that in those times, these sayings were not a impediment to anyone. You, however, abound in the resourcefulness of the enemy.
Augustine and Jerome said the Spirit proceeds from the Son. How can one trust or confidently testify their writings have not been maliciously altered with the passage of so much time? For do not think you are the only one eager for ungodliness and bold in things that should not be dared. Rather, from the state of your own mind, realise that nothing hindered the wily enemy of the human race from finding vessels for such a deed.

72. Admittedly, those things were said (by Augustine and Jerome). But perhaps they spoke out of necessity in attacking [pagan] Greek madness, or whilst refuting heresy, or through some condescension to the weakness of their listeners, or due to the necessity of any one of the many things presented by daily life. If, by chance, such a statement escaped their lips because of one or more of the above reasons, then why do you still dismiss their testimony, and take as a necessary dogma what they did not mean as a dogma? Do you not realise that you bring irreparable destruction upon yourselves by enlisting those men in your rebellious contention?

73. What did the preacher of the whole world, the contemplator of ineffable things, who ennobled nature with his manner of life, what did he say when he opposed the [pagan] Greeks who were spewing forth many words? He condescended to their weakness and proclaimed, For as I passed by and beheld your objects of worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: To the Unknown God. Whom, therefore, you worship ignorantly, Him I declare unto you. (Acts 17:23) What are we to make of this? By being a teacher even of Greek wisdom, he captured and guided the impious to the piety of the Church. Will you therefore presume to teach this invented dogma of yours to the destroyer of the Greek idol called the Unknown God? It would not be surprising when we consider the web of your quibbling sophisms and the use which you make of philosophy. The altar was erected in Pani, and the citizens of Athens worshipped for a long time without comprehending the Name written upon the altar: To the Unknown God. But that expert and heavenly man saw the [pagan] Greeks were not convinced by the sayings of the prophets and the teaching of the Master and recalled them from their diabolical devotions to the worship of the Creator. He used the very proclamations of the devil to condemn the devil's tyranny. From the devil's stronghold, he overthrew the might of their authority. From deception, he cultivated godliness and from the offspring of perdition he produced sprigs of salvation. From the snares of the devil, he urged them on to the race of the Gospel. From the summit of apostasy, he made an entrance through which he brought them into the bridal chamber and to the immaculate nuptials of Christ, the Church. His mind was so sublime, bearing strength from on high, wounding and subjugating the devil by the devil's own weapons. What then? Because Paul overcame the enemy with the enemy's own weapons, will you therefore honour those weapons, call them divine, and use them for your own slaughter? How many similar examples can be found in him who wisely used all things in the strength of the Spirit!

74. But what need is there of more examples? He himself says with a piercing voice, I became to the Jews as a Jew that I might gain Jews; to them who were under the law that I might gain them who were under the law; to them outside the law, not as being outside the law of God but in the law of Christ, in order that I might gain them who were outside the law. (1 Corinthians 9:20-21) Would you, therefore, revive Judaism because of this statement? Or would you legislate lawlessness instead of being renewed by the divine and human laws for the conduct of our life and shamelessly — or, rather, godlessly — say that such are the commandments and such is the preaching of Paul?

75. It is possible to find many other examples in our holy and blessed fathers. I have in mind Clement, one of the bishops of [Old] Rome. Consider the books which are known from him as Clementine (I do not say write because, according to ancient report, Peter the Coryphaeus commanded they be written). Consider also Dionysius of Alexandria, who in stretching out his hand against Sabellius nearly joins with Arius. Consider also the splendour of the sacred-martyr, Methodius the Great of Patara, who did not reject the idea that angels fell into mortal desire and bodily intercourse, even though they are incorporeal and without passions. I shall pass over Pantaenos, Clement, Pierios, Pamphilos and Theognostos, all holy men and teachers of holy disciples whom we hymn with great honour and affection, especially Pamphilos and Pierios, distinguished by the trials of martyrdom. Although we do not accept all of their statements, we grant them honour for their patient disposition and goodness of life and for their other doctrines. In addition to those previously mentioned, there is Irenaeus, the bishop of God, who received the supervision of sacred things in Lyons and also Hippolytus, his disciple, the Episcopal martyr: all of these were admirable in many ways, though at times some of their writings do not avoid departing from orthodoxy.

76. Consequently, you should produce this double dilemma and strive against all of these men and, with raised brows, say: Either these men should be honoured and their writings not rejected, or, if we reject some of their words, we should simultaneously reject the men themselves. But will not these more-than-righteous, expert men more fairly turn your facile argument back upon you, saying, Why, O man, do you enjoin what is not enjoined? If you really call us Fathers, why do you not fear to take up arms against the Fathers and, what is even more prideful, against our common Master, the Creator of all? But once you decided to behave insultingly towards us by being zealous for your doctrine, are you not evidently insane when you simultaneously stretch patricidal hands towards us? How many ways your sophisms can be turned against you! But just as we passed by the Fathers previously named, let us pass by discussion of these points for now.

77. Who does not know about Basil the Great, who (whilst preserving the royal garment of pure godliness in the secret chamber of his soul) was silent about the deity of the Spirit? A soul burning with divine love, but not flaring into an open flame lest it be extinguished by that very progress and open splendour! This man ordered his words with judgement and guided the godly with small, gradual increases (for when it has been gently introduced into men's souls, the mighty flame of faith arises more strongly; for the hasty assault of light frequently blinds the spiritual eyes of men as when strong light overshadows the eyes of those who have weak vision). For this reason, he is silent, inflaming them before he proclaims it. He passed over it in silence so that a more seasonable time would come to eloquently proclaim the secret. If one wished to name all the men and their reasons for often not revealing the blossom of truth, one would have to compose a huge book! Their ultimate concern was how this blossom might bloom more beautifully and how its fruit might multiply so that an abundant harvest could be gathered. But we admire those men who had unspeakable inspiration which surpasses reason and for their judiciousness of wisdom. Now if any of you would introduce laws and dogmas into the Church which are hateful to the Holy Fathers, we would consider him an enemy of the truth and a destroyer of piety. Since he becomes guilty by himself, we would condemn him with the judgements he himself provides.

78. You cite Western Fathers. But this simply pours the West down into the abyss, because it contends against the whole world. For my part, I will kindle for you from the West a never-setting and noetic light of godliness, whose brilliance your darkness cannot resist and can only fade. Ambrose might have said: The Spirit proceeds from the Son. But the evil is wrought by your tongue. But then this is in turn contradicted by the Orthodoxy of the luminous, thrice-blessed Damascene and thus your darkness is destroyed before it came to be. For by confirming the Second Ecumenical Synod, whose dogmas are affirmed to the ends of the world, he resplendently confesses and understands that the Spirit proceeds as Light from the Father. But then you say that Ambrose or Augustine taught otherwise. But again more murk pours forth from your tongue because Clement did not say it, nor hear of it, nor assent to it. On the contrary, he dissipated the blindness of your statements by the luminous radiance of Orthodoxy.

79. What will hinder me from referring to other Fathers? Leo the Great, whilst bishop of [Old] Rome, carefully demonstrated divine matters in his inspired and dogmatic Tome. In this, he was confirmed by the Fourth Synod. He confirmed its decree, and was praised by the sacred, and God-inspired assembly. He clearly taught that the All-Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. He thus radiates the very same light of Orthodoxy, not only upon the entire West, but also to the ends of the East through his God-inspired and dogmatic epistles, through the legates who exercised his authority, and through the peace with which he illumined that great assembly collected by God. Moreover, he also said that if anyone set up or teach another doctrine other than that taught by the Synod, that person should be deposed if he were of the dignity of the priesthood or anathematised if he were a layperson or even a monastic, religious or ascetic. Whatever that God-inspired Synod decreed, Leo, similarly inspired by God, openly confirmed through the holy men Paschasinus, Lucentius and Boniface (as one may hear many times from them, indeed not only from them, but from him who sent them). Dispatching synodical letters, Leo himself testifies and confirms that the speeches, spirit, and decisions of his delegates are not theirs, but his own. Still, even if there were nothing of this, it is sufficient that they were his representatives at the Synod and that when the Synod ended, he professed to abide by its decisions.

80. There were some who would not heed their sacred utterances, because after the exposition of the Faith which the First and Second Synods delivered and established, it goes on to say, Therefore, this wise and salutary Symbol of divine grace is established in perfection of godliness and knowledge, of wisdom and salvation. Now, it says perfection and not imperfection. It is not in need of any addition or subtraction. And how is it perfect? Turn your attention to that which follows: it says it expounds matters concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit perfectly. How does it perfectly expound these matters? By exclaiming that the Son is begotten from the Father and that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. And shortly thereafter, it says that one hundred and fifty fathers, assembled in the Imperial City, subsequently confirmed the teaching concerning the essence of the Spirit against those contending against the Holy Spirit. Now, how did they confirm the essence of the Spirit? By plainly stating that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Therefore, he who teaches a different doctrine overturns their authority and has come to a point in his presumption of confounding and confusing the very essence of the Spirit. Next, consider these words: those contending against the Holy Spirit. Who were these men? Then it was those who proclaimed Macedonius as their teacher in place of the immaculate teachings, but now, it is those who are against Christ and His doctrine. Thus, I will not hold back what needs to be said: it is the same senseless act of impiety which rushes towards perdition instead of towards the Saviour. With a multi-tongued voice under the inspiration of the Spirit, the Synod spoke clearly; they are confirmed by all votes and the all-wise Leo resoundingly concurs. Apply your mind, therefore, to what follows towards the end of the entire section of the Acts it says quite clearly: The Holy and Ecumenical Synod fixes therefore with these men from every quarter, with exactness and harmony, our exact exposition, the meaning of which the chief legate of Leo procured. What did it decree? That no one is permitted to declare a different faith; that is to say, neither to write it, nor assent to it, nor think it, nor teach it to others. But for those who presume to accept another faith, that is they who promulgate or teach or deliver a different Symbol to those who wish to return to the knowledge of the truth from Hellenism, or Judaism, or any other heresy; and if any are bishops or clergy, let the bishops be deprived of their diocese and the clerics be deposed of their office; but if they be monks or laity, let them be anathema.

81. Look attentively O blind men, and hearken O deaf men, you who reside in the heretical West and dwell in darkness. Look attentively to the ever-shining light of the Church, and search into the noble mind of Leo. Give ear to what kind of trumpet he sounds against your dogma — the trumpet of the Spirit! And if you will not be ashamed, you should at least fear your own Father, even if you fear no others. Through him reverence the other elect Fathers whose writings found favour with previous synods and are enrolled among the distinguished Fathers. You call the men Augustine, Jerome, and others resembling them your Fathers. You do well in this, but not in the purpose for which you use them, but because you consider it not praiseworthy to despise their title of Father. Indeed, if your subtle scheming concerning the Fathers went no further, then as long as the wickedness was unfulfilled, inasmuch as it was more moderate, so would have been the judgement. But if you begin with an impious opinion, and refuse to bring this to its completion, then does this in fact mean that the violence of the accursed thing is destroyed? No, it only abates and mitigates the inevitable punishment. You intended to frighten us with the Fathers whom you insult. But if there are among the chorus of the Fathers those who reject your subtle scheming against godly doctrine, then they are the Fathers of the Fathers. And, indeed, they are the Fathers of those very same men whom you acknowledge as Fathers. If you acknowledge Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome, then why do you not acknowledge those others, but indeed, deny them?

82. You should consider the equally renowned Vigilius, equal in throne and rank of glory with those other men, who assisted at the Fifth Synod which is also adorned with holy and ecumenical decrees. Like an unerring rule, this man conformed himself to its true dogmas. He voiced agreement in other matters and with equal zeal matching those Fathers before him and of his own time, proclaiming that the All-Holy and Consubstantial Spirit proceeds from the Father, also saying that if anyone introduced any definition other than the unanimous and common faith of the pious, then he should be delivered to the same bonds of anathema.

83. You should consider the noble and good Agatho, honoured with the same victorious deeds. Through his legates, he convened and made illustrious the Sixth Synod (which also shines with ecumenical rank), being present there, if not bodily, then certainly in will and with all diligence. He preserved the Symbol of our inviolate, pure, and unchangeable Faith without innovation, in accordance with the synods. Moreover, he confirmed the Synod by placing under an equal curse any so bold as to alter any word taught by it as dogma; these words which were affirmed as dogma from the beginning.

84. And why do you pass silently over Gregory [the Dialogist] and Zacharias, bishops of [Old] Rome, who were adorned with virtue, who increased the flock with divine wisdom and teaching, and who shone with miraculous gifts? For although neither of these men were ever assembled at a synod accorded ecumenical authority, yet brightly imitating those who did, they openly and clearly taught that the All-Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. While Gregory, who wrote Latin, flourished not long before the Sixth Synod, Zacharias, wrote in Greek sixty years after. These men enshrined the dogma and preaching of the Master and the Fathers without defilement and with purity of soul, as though in a pure and immaculate bridal chamber. They joined their flock to godly worship of Christ, the true God and Bridegroom of our souls. The wise Zacharias, besides the beneficial writings composed as dialogues, made other holy writings of the holy Gregory a resounding trumpet throughout the whole world in the Greek language. At the end of the second dialogue when Archdeacon Peter (a man loved by God) questioned why the power of miracles is present more in a small portion of a saint's relics than in the whole relic, the God-bearing Gregory and Zacharias explained that although divine grace was present in both, its operation was rather displayed in the case of a particle. For no one doubts regarding entire relics that they are the bodies of the saints they are said to be or that miracles can come from them by the authority of the victorious souls who, together with those bodies, endured trials and labours; but not a few weaker persons insult the particles by doubting that they belong to those saints to whom they are attributed, or doubting they are filled with the same grace and power. Therefore, where doubt seemed to reign, the enhypostatic and inexhaustible fountain of good things will spring forth into more miracles more abundantly, both in number and magnitude. When these two [Gregory and Zacharias] had answered the aforementioned doubt, along with many others under enquiry, no one amongst them stood up in argument against them. They added the following words a little later: The Paraclete — the Spirit — proceeds from the Father and abides in the Son, Gregory in Latin and Zacharias by correct translation into Greek.

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