Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Dark Lord of the Sith chimes in...


"The subordination of the Persons to the essence, inherent in the structure of his theology, also provides Augustine with the means to attempt to distinguish the Persons from each other. Having assumed an absolute simplicity, the Persons can no longer be absolute hypostases, but are merely relative terms to each other, thus occuring on an even lower plane than the attribute proper. 'The terms (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are used reciprocally and in relation to each other' [Augustine De Trinitate, 1:8:15]. There is a subtle, but nevertheless, real play of the dialectic of oppositions here. One no longer begins with the Three Persons and then moves to consider their relations, but begins with their relative quality, the relation between the Persons, itself. In other words, there is an artificial opposition of one Person to the other two. It is at this point that the flexibility of Augustine's Neoplatonic commitment begins to surface in a more acute form."

--Joseph Farrell, Introduction to The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit of our Father among the Saints, Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantiople (2001), p. xx-xxi.

4 comments:

Jason Loh said...

Dan and Photius,

I subscribe to Augustine's maxim that the "The terms, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are used reciprocally and in relation to each other" [as per De Trinitate, 1:8:15]. I believe this is grounded on the premise that each *Person" fully and exhaustively inhere/indwell in each Other (i.e. perichoresis).

Even as we do not exclude the Son and Spirit from the prominent activity ad intra ascribed to the Father such as the decree of predestination, or exclude the Father and Spirit from the Incarnation considered as the Son's activity ad extra, so do not exclude the Only-Begotten and His Breath from the One we address as Father most pre-eminently and uniquely in the liturgies. The Son is (in) the Father, not by virtue of the Personhood but Essentially, i.e. He is What the Father is in Power, Glory and Majesty and vice-versa. The Son is distinguished from the Father in Their Self-Consciousness and Relations.

At Baptism and more fully at Confirmation, the Trinity comes and dwell in us by the Spirit. Colossians 2:9 says that for in Him dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead bodily. This is only true because the Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and His Son.

When we praise God the Father for His wonderful and glorious work of creation, the adoration addressed peculiarly to Him passes to the Son also for both share in the one and same Power, Glory and Majesty. Just as the veneration of an icon is not intended to terminate in the visual medium, likewise the glory ascribed to the Father does not revolve around Him only as if the Power, Glory and Majesty of the Godhead can be "divided" according to peculiar attributes of each Person.

lexorandi2 said...

Hi Jason,

Yes, I subscribe to the doctrines of perichoresis and appropriation if you were wondering, and I'm glad you do too and can articulate these concepts reasonably well. But I think you're missing the point of +Photius' (Farrell's) statement.

Here's where Christology can help us by illustration. Chalcedon obliges us to understand that nature is dependent on person. The Chalcedonian definition insists that the PERSON of Christ is a principle in its own right, which in turn constitutes the UNITY of the two natures -- Divine and Human. Thus it is not the Divine nature, let alone a "Trinitarian nature," that assumes the human nature in Christ, but rather the Divine Person of the Son. (The former would require us to think in terms of the entire Trinity becoming incarnate, which is an absurdity).

In short, Chalcedon forces us to consider PERSON as a first principle in theology, not nature, and thus to acknowledge Person as a substantial reality in itself. Thus in Trinitarian thought the Persons cannot be thought or conceived of as simply modes of Divine being as it seems you are suggesting. Rather the Persons possess the one Divine nature as three substantial realities in their own right.

Dan

Photius said...

Basil's letter 38 to Gregory of Nyssa (which was actually probably written by Gregory of Nyssa) is a key text to understand the Cappadocians on Person/Nature.

For 220 pages, Farrell's dissertation "Free Choice in Saint Maximus the Confessor" traces out a whole method and theological grid to understand these questions.

Dr. Dunlop, have you had a chance to look at that one?

lexorandi2 said...

Unfortunately I don't own it. Last I looked it wasn't available.