7 Now for your say! Let the slings fly and the subtle inferences be drawn!
The Holy Spirit must either be ingenerate or begotten. If he is ingenerate, there are two unoriginate beings. If he is begotten, we again have alternatives: either begotten from the Father or from the Son. If from the Father, there will be two sons who are brothers.
Make them twins if you like, or one older than the other, since you have a penchant for corporeal ideas. If he is begotten from the Son, our God apparently has a grandson, and what could be odder than that? We certainly have here the arguments of people “wise to do evil,”(23) but unwilling to write what is good. For my part, if I saw the necessity for the alternatives, I should accept the realities without being put off by the names. But because the Son is “Son” in a more elevated sense of the word, and since we have no other term to express his consubstantial derivation from God, it does not follow that we ought to think it essential to transfer wholesale to the divine sphere the earthly names of human family ties. Do you take it, by the same token, that our God is a male, because of the masculine nouns “God” and “Father”? Is the Godhead a female, because in Greek the word is feminine? Is the word “Spirit” neuter in Greek, because the Spirit is sterile? If you want to take the joke further you could say, as the trashy myths of old did, that God coupled with his own will and fathered the Son. We should then be faced with the bisexual God of Marcion, who pictured those outlandish aeons.(24)
23 Jer 4:22.
24 The second-century heresiarch Marcion is not elsewhere recorded as teaching anything of the kind.
But since we do not admit your first dilemma with its assumption that there is no midway term between ingeneracy and generacy, away go your “brothers” and “grandsons” at once along with the pompous dilemma, beating a retreat from theology, dissolved, so to say, along with the dissolution of the first link in the complex chain. Explain to me where you are going to put “procession” which is evidently a mean term between alternatives and was introduced by a better theologian than you, our Savior? I take it that you have not composed a new New Testament and on the strength of it removed the phrase: “The Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father.”(25) Insofar as he proceeds from the Father, he is no creature; inasmuch as he is not begotten, he is no Son; and to the extent that procession is the mean between ingeneracy and generacy, he is God. Thus God escapes your syllogistic toils and shows himself stronger than your exclusive alternatives. What, then, is “proceeding”? You explain the ingeneracy of the Father and I will give you a biological account of the Son’s begetting and the Spirit’s proceeding—and let us go mad the pair of us for prying into God’s secrets. What competence have we here? We cannot understand what lies under our feet,cannot count the sand in the sea, “the drops of rain or the days of this world,”(26) much less enter into the “depths of God”(27) and render a verbal account of a nature so mysterious, so much beyond words.
25 Jn 15:26.
26 Sir 1:2.
27 1 Cor 2:10.
In what particular, then, it may be asked, does the Spirit fall short of being Son? If there were not something missing, he would be Son.
We say there is no deficiency—God lacks nothing. It is their difference in, so to say, “manifestation” or mutual relationship, which has caused the difference in names. The Son does not fall short in some particular of being Father. Sonship is no defect, yet that does not mean he is Father. By the same token, the Father would fall short of being Son—the Father is not Son. No, the language here gives no grounds for any deficiency, for any subordination in being. The very facts of not being begotten, of being begotten and of proceeding, give them whatever names are applied to them—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit respectively. The aim is to safeguard the distinctness of the three hypostases within the single nature and quality of the Godhead. The Son is not Father; there is one Father, yet he is whatever the Father is. The Spirit is not Son because he is from God; there is one Only-begotten.(28) Yet whatever the Son is, he is. The three are a single whole in their Godhead and the single whole is three in personalities.(29)Thus there will be no Sabellian “One,” no three to be mischievously divided by our contemporaries.
28 Jn 1:14.
29 Cf. paras 28, 29, and 31. The term (idiotetes) used here and in a number of other passages by Gregory as a synonym of hypostases, or “subjects,” can be translated properties and was to cause confusion for Gregory’s later exegetes with the use of the expression “characteristic properties,” viz. the distinctive “fatherhood” and “ingeneracy” of the Father, the “generacy” or “filiality” of the Son, and the “procession” of the Holy Spirit
10 What, then? Is the Spirit God?
Is he consubstantial?
Yes, if he is God.
Present me then, someone may say, with two things from the same source, one a Son, the other not a son but, despite that, of the same substance, and I get God plus God.
Yes, and you give me one more “God” and grant me God’s nature, and I will present you with the same Trinity along with the same names and realities. If there is one God, one supreme nature, where can I find an analogy to show you? Are you looking for one from your environment here in this world? It is a singularly graceless, and not just graceless but a pretty well futile, notion to get a picture of things heavenly from things of earth, of things fixed immutably from this transitory element. As Isaiah says, it is “seeking the living among the dead.”(30) All the same, to oblige you, I shall try to get a picture even from this source to give my argument some support. There are, of course, many illustrations I could give (all of which I have resolved to leave out) drawn from natural history, about nature’s devices for the production of living things. Some of the facts are known to us all, others only to a few. For example, it is asserted that not only do we have identity and difference in the parents reflected exactly in the offspring, but identical offspring can also result from different parents and vice versa. If the story is at all reliable, there is a further kind of parentage when a thing is spontaneously consumed and reproduced. There are, in addition, things that, through nature’s munificence, stop being themselves and change, transformed from one living thing into another. Indeed two things of the same substance, one an offspring, the other not an offspring, can be from the same source—an example which is rather more to the point at issue. I will mention one case, well known to everybody, from human history, before passing on to another subject.
30 Is 8:19.
Copyright St Vladimir Seminary Press.
Elder Ephraim and the young man who became a monk.
Posted: 09 May 2021 04:28 PM PDT
A young American man had visited St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona with his friends. At some point, Elder Ephraim who was in his room hearing confessions came out of the room, approached the young man and asked him:
Do you have a good cell phone, a modern one, the latest and greatest one my child? “Why are you asking Elder?” said the young man. “I want you to call a monastery on Mount Athos in Greece so that I can speak to the monks there,” the Elder replied.
The elder gave the young man the monastery’s phone number and told him: “My child, call this number in an hour, and when the line connects, give me the phone so I can talk with them.”
Indeed, the young American called the Monastery of Mount Athos, and in English, he said to the monk that picked up the phone that Elder Ephraim from Arizona would like to speak to him. While the young American was saying this, he was also walking towards the room of elder Ephraim, to find him and to give him the phone.
The monk at the Monastery of Mount Athos was surprised by the call, and said to the young American that Elder Ephraim was at their monastery and he too wanted to speak to him! The young American was shocked.
The young man suddenly heard from the other line the words of Elder Ephraim, who was saying: “Hello John (for that was the young man’s name), this is why I asked you to call; so that we could talk! I’m on Mount Athos and you are in Arizona! I wanted you to have a glimpse of our Orthodox Faith and what is possible by the Grace of the Holy Spirit! I will see you soon John!” That is what the Elder told him and he then hung up the phone.
The young man was shocked! After recovering from his shock, he went to the room of Elder Ephraim, opened the door and saw that Elder Ephraim wasn’t inside! Then he went to his friends and began to share his experience with them.
And when the story was over, Elder Ephraim all of a sudden came out of the door of the confession room and said to him:
“John, come here so I can see you for a second!”
This event became the reason why the young man gave up worldly things and became a monk in the Monastery of Saint Anthony in Arizona.
1So stands the doctrine of the Son. It has passed through the midst of its adversaries unscathed by their stones(1) The Word cannot be stoned. The Word, if you like, flings stones, striking the wild beasts, the arguments, which mischievously approach the mount.
But what do you say, they ask, about the Holy Spirit? Where did you get this strange, unscriptural “God” you are bringing in?
This is the view of people already fairly sound so far as the Son is concerned. You find roads and rivers will divide and join up again, and the same thing occurs here because there is a wealth of irreligion. People elsewhere divided concur on some points, and the result is that it is impossible to get a clear idea of what they agree on and on what they disagree.(1 Cf. Jn 8:59; Lk 4:30.)
2 Of course there is something especially difficult in the doctrine of the Spirit. It is not just that men exhausted by discussions of the Son are more eager to take on the Spirit—they must have something to blaspheme or life would be unlivable—but also that we become worn out by the quantity of issues. We are in the same condition as men who lose their appetite for all food regardless of what it is, after being disgusted with some particular dish; we take an equal dislike to all doctrinal discussion. All the same, let the Spirit aid us, and the Word will have its course and God be glorified. We leave to others a careful, critical analysis of the many different senses in which “spirit” and “holy” are used in Scripture, with the texts that bear upon the enquiry. We leave too the additional problem of the particular sense resulting from the combination of the terms—I mean “Holy Spirit.” Others(2) have benefited themselves and us, as we too have benefited them, by systematic studies here. We, though, shall now turn to o a further stage in the discussion.(2 Origen and contemporaries like Basil).
3 Yes, some people, very eager to defend the letter, are angry with us for introducing a God, the Holy Spirit, who is a stranger and an intruder. They must understand that “they are afraid where no fear is.”(3)They must recognize clearly that their love for the letter is a cloak(4)for irreligion, as shall be proved presently when we do our best to refute their objections. For our part we have such confidence in the Godhead of the Spirit, that, rash though some may find it, we shall begin our theological exposition by applying identical expressions to the Three. “He was the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world”(5) —yes, the Father. “He was the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world”—yes, the Son. “He was the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world”—yes, the Comforter.(6)These are three subjects and three verbs—he was and he was and he was. But a single reality was. There are three predicates—light and light and light. But the light is one, God is one. This is the meaning of David’s prophetic vision: “In your light we shall see light.”(7)We receive the Son’s light from the Father’s light(8)in the light of the Spirit: that is what we ourselves have seen and what we now proclaim—it is the plain and simple explanation of the Trinity. Let the treacherous deal treacherously, let the transgressor transgress(9) —we shall preach what we know. We shall climb a lofty mountain and shout it out, if we are not given a hearing below. We shall extol the Spirit; we shall not be afraid.(10) If we do have fear, it will be of silence not of preaching.
3 Ps 13:5 [LXX]; 53(52):5(6).
4 Cf. Mt 7:15.
5 Jn 1:9.
6 Jn 14:16 and 26.
7 Ps 36(35):9(10)
8 Cf. Jn 1:5.
9 Cf. Is 21:2.
10 Is 40:9.
“If there was a “when” when the Father did not exist, there was a “when” when the Son did not exist. If there was a “when” when the Son did not exist, there was a “when” when the Holy Spirit did not exist. If one existed from the beginning,(11) so did all three. If you cast one down, I make bold to tell you not to exalt the other two. What use is incomplete deity? Or rather what is deity if it is incomplete? Something is missing if it does not have Holiness, and how could it have Holiness without having the Holy Spirit? Either God’s Holiness is independent of the Holy Spirit (and in that case I should like to be told what it is supposed to be) or if it is identical with the Holy Spirit, how, I ask, could it fail to be from the beginning(12) —as if it had at one time been to God’s advantage to be incomplete and without his Spirit. If he did not exist from the beginning,(13) he has the same rank as I have, though with a slight priority—we are both separated from God by time. If he has the same rank as I have, how can he make me God,(14) how can he link me with deity?
11 1 John1:1 , 12 Ibid.13 Ibid. 14 Cf. 2 Pet 1:4, Mt 28:19
But I will now take the investigation a stage further back for you—we have discussed the Trinity earlier. The Sadducees alleged that the Holy Spirit does not exist at all and that there are no angels and no resurrection. I do not know what grounds they had for their scornful rejection of so many important proof-texts in the Old Testament. Amongst non-Christians,(15) on the other hand, the more theologically-minded, with views nearer our own, had, I think, some mental picture of him. They were divided, though, as to his name; “mind of the universe,” “external mind,” and suchlike were the titles they gave him. Amongst our own experts,(16) some took the Holy Spirit as an active process, some as a creature, some as God. Others were agnostic on this point out of reverence, as they put it, for Scripture, which has given no clear revelation either way.
On these grounds they offer him neither worship nor disrespect; they take up a sort of halfway (or should I say “a thoroughly pitiful”?) position about him. Amongst those who take him as God, some keep their devotion to their own minds, others venture to express it with their lips as well. I understand that there are others besides, even more expert at measuring out Godhead. These acknowledge as we do that it is three beings that are spiritually discerned, but they put a vast distance between them. One is infinite in substance and power; one is infinite in power but not in substance, and one is finite on both counts. These people copy, if in a slightly different form, those who use the names “Creator,” “Co-worker,” and “Minister,” alleging that the rank inherent in the names coincides with the quality of the realities.
15 No precise references have been found, but for the second phrase cf. Aristotle De generatione animalium 736b. Plotinus and the Neoplatonists knew a sort of Trinity and to this Gregory here appeals.
16 No names can be attached to the views, except Origen’s to the notion that the Spirit is created. See below para 7.
“We shall not argue with those who deny the Holy Spirit’s existence or with pagan chitchat we must forgo the luxury of the “oil of sinners”(17) and get on with the sermon. With the rest though we shall take issue. The Holy Spirit must be presumed to be either a being existing in its own right or an inherent property of something else—what the subtle here call a “substance” or an “accident” respectively. If “accident” applies here, the Holy Spirit must be an activity of God. What otherwise, whose otherwise, could it be? The Holy Spirit has, after all, a certain superiority and is unscathed by composition. If an activity, clearly it must be activated, because he has no active power and ceases with the cessation of his production—that is the kind of thing an activity is. How comes it then that he does act?(18) He says things,(19) he decrees,(20) he is grieved,(21) he is vexed(22 ) all of which belong to a being with motion, not to the process of motion. If he is a substance, not the attribute of a substance, he must be taken either as a creature or as God. Not even the inventors of fabulous goat-stags could envisage a halfway being here, or anything that belonged to, or was composed out of, both sides. But if he is a creature why do you believe in him, why are we baptized in him? “Believing in” is not the same thing as “believing a fact about.” The first applies to God, the second to everything. If he is God, then he is not a “creature,” or a “product” or a “fellow-slave” none of these lowly names belongs to him at all”. (17) Ps 141(140):5.
(18) 1 Cor 12:11. (19) Acts 13:2.( 20 Ibid. ) 21) Eph 4:30. (22) Is 63:10.