a page dedicated to the "dialog of love" between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches

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One issue still dividing east and west, Orthodox and Catholic Churches, is the issue of the "filioque"--both the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father *and the Son* (filioque--in Latin), and the addition of this phrase to the Latin Liturgical Creed.

The following articles and discussions attempt to give some insight into this theme, which has deep significance for our participation in the life and love of the Most Blessed Trinity.  Hopefully, I will be expanding this page and can offer more background and various approaches. For now, already there are some excellent pieces for those who may wish to deepen understanding of this theme. In one sense, this page presumes some background knowledge already!  And, hopefully, more and more will be added as God allows and time permits (and as others might suggest to me!) Send comments, suggestions, to:

Gerard Serafin

**My own deepest conviction is that there are many "points of contact" between the best intuitions of both east and west regarding the Person and Mission of the Holy Spirit as well as in His eternal Procession (the "imminent Trinity") and Sending in time and history (the "economic Trinity"). And that the theological reflections of east and west are not contradictory but complementary!**

One of the most respected voices of Orthodoxy today would seem to confirm this conviction of mine:

"The filioque controversy which has separated us for so many centuries is more than a mere technicality, but it is not insoluble. Qualifying the firm position taken when I wrote The Orthodox Church twenty years ago, I now believe, after further study, that the problem is more in the area of semantics than in any basic doctrinal differences." (Diakonia, quoted from Elias Zoghby's A Voice from the Byzantine East, p.43)


I have added yet another chapter of Joseph Gill, S.J.'s "The Council of Florence" and now will have a special section of this Page dedicated to the Council of Florence and the Filioque, both to memorialize this significant event in the life of the Church and to offer any help it may be for our situation today as well.  This Council is not as well known as it might be, and is often misrepresented as well. I hope Gill's scholarship and balanced account will be found both interesting and encouraging! 


The Addition To the Creed -- Joseph Gill, SJ

  Florence and The Dogmatic Discussion -- Joseph Gill, SJ

***newest: Union: The Procession of the Holy Spirit -- Joseph Gill, SJ

 As an offering for this "dialog of love" between east and west, I offer a reflection, truly a model of ecumenical engagement, on the issue of the "filioque" by Fr Irenee Dalmais, OP, The Spirit of Truth and Life.  

And already on my site is the remarkable Clarification on the Filioque from the Secretariat of Christian Unity in Rome--and in which Fr Irenee's reflections seem to have had some frutiful effect!  The renowned Orthodox theologian, Olivier Clement, says this Clarification   which "is admirable in its composition, could sanction the end of the 'Filioque' question."

Another remarkable piece on the "filioque" is a comparison of "St John Damascene and St Thomas Aquinas on the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit" by Michael D. Torre.

These more recent writings are in continuity with a much earlier letter of St Maximus the Confessor to Marinus, as he "mediates" between east and west on the issue of the Latin use of "filioque."


On a "lighter note" I offer a delightful piece on the Trinity and the "filioque" by an Episcopal priest, who sees some signposts for us in the place of Mozart in music and Shakespeare in literature, "Heavenly Tunes."

Just recently (written: 3/6/99) it came to my attention that Marina Mary Robb, an Orthodox (living in Greece), has also put up a page dedicated to the "FILIOQUE" and hopes to expand this as time goes on.  We have some of the same articles available our pages--but different ones, too -- and most of the articles on her site are not exactly in favor of the Filioque!.

Another respected Orthodox voice, that of Fr. Alexander Webster, recently wrote an article in CRISIS magazine that deals, in part, with the filioque issue. While Fr Alexander seems to view the filioque as distorting the dogma of the Holy Spirit, yet he does allow a possibility that it be held as a "respectable theological opinion" (which I find confusing, as I attempt to understand his viewpoint). 

One of the most respected theologians of the Orthodox Church, now Archbishop John Zizioulas, offers his critique of the Clarification on the Filioque posted above.  While expressing reservations, he is hopeful that this Clarification breaks new ground towards reconciling the approaches of east and west.

Another fine introduction to the whole "filioque" question, is offered by the renowned Orthodox historian of Christian doctrine, Jaroslav Pelikan, from his dictionary, The Melody of Theology: A Philosophical Dictionary Harvard University Press). I note that his was written well before the Clarification on the Filioque, and I suspect Pelikan delights in the progress made since he wrote this piece!

Exploring what Dr Pelikan suggests as a basis for dialog on the Filioque: the dialog that took place at the reunion Council of Florence, Father Yves Congar offers some insights in his essay Attempts at and Suggestions for an Agreement.

Another fine essay by Yves Congar is very pertinent to this theme, since it explores the Trinitarian approach and Pneumatology of St. Augustine of Hippo  -- whose views are too often misunderstood and even, at times, somewhat distorted. Augustine's Trinitarian vision, of course, plays a significant role in the west; but Fr. Congar shows some "points of contact" with the eastern Tradition in this meaty and fascinating article.

For an extremely negative view of St. Augustine and "the Franks" Fr John Romanides (Greek Orthodox) has a long, difficult (at least for me!), and quite polemical article dealing with the Filioque. I can't say I understand all of it, and I must admit being put off by the extremely harsh/bellicose language often used, but think it a rather important piece -- which some Orthodox think compelling.

One of the important figures in the history of the controversy over the Filioque is the Patriarch of Constantinople,  Photius. His anti-filioque writings are still considered by many Orthodox as definitive. Yves Congar, OP, gives a relatively brief look at Photius and his views in an essay, The Patriarch Photius: the Era of Confrontation and Polemics.

Perhaps the greatest theological voice (and heart!) of our times is Hans Urs von Balthasar, and his "praying theology" is utterly Trinitarian. In this selection from a much larger essay, von Balthasar offers some insights into the Filioque and the catholicity of the Church. (The Filioque is very central to von B's Trinitarian theological vision).

An interesting viewpoint is found on a page, The Nicene Creed and the Filioque: a Lutheran Approach, giving yet another perspective on the filioque, from a member of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church.

One of the issues at stake in the whole "filioque" issue is its insertion into the Latin liturgical Creed -- without the participation of the eastern Churches.  Here is an issue of authority in the Church!   I do not have, as yet, many articles dealing with this theme explicitly (though it is mentioned in The Clarification). 

For a sense of perspective that might help some, I do post here a section from Vladimir Soloviev's Russia and the Universal Church in which he points out how the common Creed of Nicea was changed by the Council of Constantinople -- and at this Council there was no western representation!  Perhaps Soloviev speaks too strongly. But his point might be of some significance in this dialog.

The Holy Spirit as "LOVE" in the Western and Eastern Traditions

The great "spiritual impulse" behind the Latin doctrine of the "filioque" is the wonderful insight into the Holy Spirit as LOVE/CARITAS.

And some Catholic saints and theologians were great lovers of the gktrinity1.jpg (32862 bytes)Greek Fathers of the Church, and in their own reflections honored the basic insights and "intuitions" of the Greek Fathers (especially regarding the "monarchy" of the Father, as the Source of the Trinity). Thus they were able to integrate the best of east and west, even as they affirmed the great Latin enrichment: the Holy Spirit as Love! 

Two such witnesses are the early Cistercian father, William of St Thierry, and--more recently--the great theologian, Matthias Scheeben, whose writings on the The Production of the Third Person and the Triunity of God and on the Communion of the Holy Spirit (taken from "The Mysteries of Christianity")--are seemingly so balanced and so radiant -- real theology that leads to prayer, gratitude, and worship!  

I add here, too, a relatively brief selection from the mystic-poet, John of the Cross, in which he attempts to describe something of the soul's participation in the Trinitarian Mystery of Love

For a rich and dynamic Orthodox understanding of the Procession of the Holy Spirit (in the context of Trinitarian Love), perhaps there is no finer voice than that of Father Dumitru Staniloae, who Fr. John Meyendorff thought perhaps the greatest Orthodox theologian of our times. Here is a selection from Staniloae on The Procession Of The Holy Spirit From The Father And His Relation With The Son. (I did not include Fr. Staniloae's critique of the Filioque -- in part, to let his own vision stand on its own, and, partly, because he seems to me to misunderstand the authentic western understanding here -- especially as expressed in the Clarification and recent theological writings).

Agreeing with my own understanding that Fr Staniloae's vision is quite consistent with the Catholic understanding of Filioque, the Anglican E.L. Mascall has pointed this out in a section of his book,  On The Triune God.

This approach was not, for the most part, followed by the Greek Fathers, who (as some of the articles on this site indicate), emphasized more the Holy Spirit as Light (a wonderful "spiritual impulse" as well!). 

Yet there are those voices, quite representative of the best of Orthodox theological contemplation, who came to see the Holy Spirit as manifesting, in His divine Person, the Love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father (and even if not expressed in terms that are totally similiar to the words used in the west, these insights reveal, once again, deep "points of contact" that can be so fruitful for any ongoing "dialog of love").

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit as love has been harmoniously assumed by St Gregory Palamas into the Greek theology of the ekporeusis from trinity.jpg (14979 bytes)the Father alone:

"The Spirit of the most high Word is like an ineffable love of the Father for this Word ineffably generated. A love which this same Word and beloved Son of the Father entertains (chretai) towards the Father, but insofar as he has the Spirit coming with him (sunproelthonta) from the Father and reposing connaturally in him."

(Capita physica XXXVI, PG 150, 1144, D-1145 A).



Another witness is the contemporary Orthodox theologian Dumitru Staniloae.  In his introduction to Staniloae's work written in 1980, Fr John Meyendorff not only characterized him as the most "influential and creative" Romanian theologian, but described his work as a "fresh and masterly synthesis" that gives a "dynamic presentation of the Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity." Here are two of his richest passages, among many that bear on our question and which express a vision of the Trinitarian relations in remarkable accord with the deepest intuition of the West.

"In the Trinity the Spirit subsists in continuous procession from the loving Father towards the beloved Son, and in loving 'irridation' from the Son towards the Father. . . . He is this flowing current of the love of the Son or, more exactly, of the Father, returning from us also as a current which is united with our, loving affection for the Son or, more precisely, for the Father."

"The love of the Son for the Father differs from the love of the Father for the Son.  Through the Spirit the Son responds with his own joy to the joy which the Father takes in him. . .  The irridiation of the Spirit from the Son is nothing other than the response of the Son's love to the loving initiative of the Father who causes the Spirit to proceed. The love of the Father coming to rest in the Son shines forth upon the Father from the Son as the Son's love."

Another leading Orthodox voice is priest-theologian, Sergei Bulgakov. In his classic "The Orthodox Church" he writes:

"The love of God, the love of the Father for the Son and that of the Son for the Father, is not a simple quality or relation ; it possesses itself a personal life, it is hypostatic. The love of God is the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father to the Son, abiding upon Him.

The Son exists for the Father only in the Holy Spirit which rests on Him; as the Father manifests his love for the Son by the Holy Spirit, which is the unity of life of Father and Son. And the Spirit itself, being the love of two persons, in keeping with the very nature of love lives, so to speak, in Its personal existence outside Itself in the Father and the Son.

This is love: living, It dies, and dying, It lives. In the moment when It seems to efface itself, It exercises the greatest force.

This is the place of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity."

Perhaps the greatest theologian of American Orthodoxy was Father Alexander Schmemman of blessed memory.  In one of his radio addresses to the Russian people, he affirmed:

"We believe in one God, but not a God in solitude, not in God-self-love.  God is love, teaches Christian faith. Yet love is openness to the other, and at its greatest the offering of oneself to the other.  The Father... loves the Son and gives everything to him. The Son loves the Father and gives himself to him. Finally, the very gift of love, this very love.... is the Holy Spirit...

"If God is the lover and the Son the beloved, then the Holy Spirit is the love that joins them together....  Such is the Mystery of God-the Trinity, the God of love." (Voskresnye besedy , Sunday Sermons, Moscow 1993, p.81)

And our final witness from the great tradition of the east is based on reflections by the lay Orthodox theologian, Paul Evdomikov, who reflected on Rublev's great icon of The Hospitality of Abraham :

"The Holy Spirit is in the middle of the Father and the Son. He is the one who brings about the communion between the two. He is the communion, the love between the Father and the Son. That is clearly shown by the remarkable fact that the movement comes from him. It is in his breath that the Father moves into the Son, that the Son receives his Father and that the word resounds."

Paul Evdokimov, "L'icone," La vie spirituelle, 82 (1956), pp. 24ff.


Here are some recommended books for further study/reflection on this theme:


congarspirit.jpg (1987 bytes)This is one of the finest, most exhaustive studies available on the theology of the Holy Spirit -- including an entire section (originally one of the three volumes combined into this one large book now) on the "filioque." Father Yves Congar, OP, was one of the great Catholic ecumenical theologians and displays not only great knowledge of the Eastern Tradition but a remarkable "feel" for it as well.  This is a worthwhile book for all Christians!  Fr Congar writes not only from his (brilliant) head but from his (burning) heart!

You can order it here....  I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT


losskymtech.jpg (3106 bytes)Lossky is a great, mind-expanding theologian--and  flashes with brilliant insight along the way! I can't say I've ever really understood him--over my head often enough. Yet I can appreciate, to some extent, some of his insights and even some of his (strong) critique of the "filioque." This may be the single most influential critique of the "filioque" in modern times, and so I think it good, for those interested, to point to this work. One comment, however: it does seem Lossky modified, to some extent at least, his own position in later years, according to his student/disciple, Olivier Clement (see footnotes to article on this page, comparing the theology of Sts Thomas and John Damascene for this information).


THE TRINITY OF LOVE by Michael Aksionov Meerson

Father Meerson is an Orthodox priest who has written a remarkable book, rich with ecumenical possibilities.  Even the fact that it is published by Franciscan Press might give some indication of its catholicity! Here is a fascinating look at some great Christian thinkers and witnesses--especially the Russian philosophers/theologians in the last centuries who integrated so many strands of both western and eastern understandings of the Mystery of Faith, people such as Soloviev, Ivanov, Berdiaev, Florensky, Kasavin and Sergius Bulgakov. Fr Meerson shows how much they learned from the augustinian/love-mysticism of the western Tradition in their own attempt to understand the Trinity as Love.  Even "borrowing" much from the Franciscan stream!  This book confirms in me something I have already seen--that the understanding of the Trinity among many of the best thinkers of Orthodoxy, especially the Russians, has many points of contact with the best of western Catholic thought and insight: and this is shown especially in the centrality of the Persons and of the superabundant Love between them. It seems to me the filioque question finds common ground here. How wonderful!

You can order it here..  THE TRINITY OF LOVE


This is a GREAT book, perhaps the definitive work on the Council of Florence. I am delighted to offer several of its chapters on this Page, but I do not come close to exhausting its rich, interesting, and compelling content. Florence, for all its problematics, was a truly great Council as this balanced, scholarly work will demonstrate. Joseph Gill writes well and the narrative flows. One gets a "feel" not only for the dialogs but some of the fascinating personages involved. It may take some time for Amazon to get this book to you; the wait is well worth it. Read it and you will see for yourself!

You can order it here: THE COUNCIL OF FLORENCE

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