Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Soundbite from Saint Photius the Great


"For it is not, I repeat, not the nature -- in other words, that which is common among the Three Hypostases -- which is worshipped, but the specific personal distinctions whereby the Hypostases of the Trinity are distinguished."

--Patriarch Photius, Concerning the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, 47 (translation by Joseph Farrell).

11 comments:

Steve Blakemore said...

Anyone who dresses as sharp as Photius must have something to say.

Photius said...

Ordo Theologiae here again. There is no such thing as a nature without consideration of a Person. We worship Persons.

Steve Blakemore said...

Are not the Three Persons in Unity the essence of God? Hence, if we worship the persons we are worshipping God. Certainly it would be odd, on any reading, to say that we worship God's nature. But, then again, the doctrine of the simplicity of God (regardless its limits in Trinitarian discussions) at least enables us to make sure that we contend that God is his nature.

Photius said...

Steve,

Did Mary give birth to a nature or a person? Furthermore, If the Son is identical to the divine essence, how can a human nature be enhypostasized in the Son without then confusing person and nature?

BTW-Orthodoxy and Rome don't have the same notion of simplicity.

Photios

Photius said...

John of Damascus and the long retrospective, the metaphysical paradigm of all heresy (ala Farrell): "But this is what leads the heretics astray, viz., that they look upon nature and subsistence as identical."--An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith III.3

lexorandi2 said...

Photius,

In the passage you just quoted, what words are translated "nature" and "subsistence"? Are they ousia and hypostasis?

Thanks,
Dan

Steve Blakemore said...

Photius,

YOu beg the question, I believe, because the person of the Son does not exhaust all that it means to be God. For example, Jesus sayes he was sent from the Father and he is one with the Father, but he is clear that the Father is other than he. But they are One.

I know, BTW, that the Orthodox and Rome have different notions of simplicity. What I don't like, however, is that some who embrace the East try to insist that the EAst doesn't have a philosophically discussable concept of simplicity.

Also, John's statement about heresy does not speak to my comments, because I am not nature and subsistence as identical. The nature of God is the Three Persons in Communion.

Photius said...

Dr. Dunlop,

I believe that the terms are physis and hypostasis used there by John, but I will have to double check.

The Fathers of the Church series put out by the CUA, says nature and person (instead of subsistence).

Steve,

What question am I begging? I never said the Son exhausts all it is to be God, it's just that we don't worship the nature of God, because our actions aren't directed towards the nature of anything, but rather toward persons or activity.

When you say that, "But, then again, the doctrine of the simplicity of God (regardless its limits in Trinitarian discussions) at least enables us to make sure that we contend that God is his nature," what do you mean by the term "God" and what do you mean by the term "is"? Identity?

The East doesn't have a philosophical view of simplicity, simply (no pun) because we don't wish to give it a philosophical and definitional meaning as the term is understood from its hellenistic import. For the Orthodox, simplicity has a much more symbolic meaning. First, it is an energy that we predicate to a Person, since we can predicate it to all the Persons, we conclude that it is a property of their nature. The term takes on a new Christian meaning: lack of partition, meaning that each Person and every operation is deity wholly and entirely. But we refuse to make the neoplatonic definitional account of identity and collapsing these things together. If you look at the structure of Thomas's Summa, you'll notice how the simplicity of the One essence stands in dialectical opposition to the Many attributes (which haunts medieval debates about the relationship of One and Many). One <--- ---> Many dialectical opposite, The synthesis (or rather another dialectical opposite) is the reconciliation of that dialectic of opposition with metaphysical identity. Simplicity is then understood as the great "correcter" to all the things we can say about God.

Photios

Jason Loh said...

But surely there is no consideration of the Person apart from the Nature/Being. To worship the Person is to worship an "enhypostastised" Nature for each of the Person is *equally* God. The "ascription" God does not refer to His Name, i.e. to Who He is, but to *What* He is (Divinity). That is why we confess that in the "Quicunque vult" and obliquely affirmed in Article I of the 39 AoR that there is not Three Almighties, but One Power and Glory.

Experientially, when we personally confess and worship God, we are addressing Him in His Oneness; when we personally confess and worship God the Father of Our Lord Jesus in the Spirit, we are addressing Him in His Threeness.

This is not to say that the ordo theologiae (the priority of essence over existence and vice-versa) is not pertinent or important ... the great insight of the Eastern tradition must not be sidelined or neglected. But to pit philosophical theology against creedal theology, intellection/abstraction against intuitive/doxative aspects of the life and witness of the Church to the apostolic faith smacks of the legalistic clap-trap of the papal definitions.

After all, the Apostles' Creed is not the same as the "Quicunque vult": the former is a body of succinct statements expressing the broad essentials of orthodoxy; the latter reflects a particular concern which have been repeatedly crop up, hence its polemical and strident nature.

I'll stick with Augustine and the Latin Fathers on this, including predestination and grace. I think the role of the Spirit as the bond of unity in the Church commensurates perfectly with His intra-Trinitarian role as the bond of love ("vinculum amoris") between the Father and the Son, hence the Filioque.

Photius said...

Jason,

That's just the thing though, the Latin Fathers (except Augustine and he only thought of it as a speculation) did not teach the filioque or the ordo theologiae of essence, attributes, persons. Hillary and Ambrose both start from the Cappadocian model of Persons, Operations (Energies for the East), essence. In fact it is Hillary who brings the restored Athanasian ordo to the west. The ordo was abandoned between the time of Irenaeus and Athanasius, because of the frustration to distinguish between the Father's Monarchy as cause and as his property of Creator.

I don't know why this is "papal" clap-trap, when it is the West that wants to define what God is, i.e. simplicity and all ITS attributes.

If you want to say we worship the SON, a person, because of or the reason of what He is. That is one thing, but we don't worship a Person as an enhypostasized nature. That smacks of Persons as being instances of their nature.

BTW--Augustine is a dyothelite with respect to Christ having two wills, but he sees these two wills in opposition. His position is no different than Byzantine Monenergism, which saw this opposition between the human and the divine, and so the divine had to trump the human will of Christ in order to secure Christ going to the cross. The root paradigm driving their view was the doctrine of absolute simplicity and its dialectical principles.

Most of the western views of predestination and grace, imported to a Christological context, are monenergistic. That is to say, they are defective and wrong, because they have a faulty christology. This is why the debate should first be viewed Christologically and not in an anthropological context. As Barth noted on Calvin's view of predestination, it was the ultimate separation of God and Jesus Christ. A divine attribute (predestination) has an interposition between the Father and the Son. Hence, Barth saw this as Arianism. He was right on the money.

Luther's Babylonian Captivity of the (Western) Church was really the NEOPLATONIC captivity of the (Western) Church.

Photios

lexorandi2 said...

Jason said:

"Experientially, when we personally confess and worship God, we are addressing Him in His Oneness;"

Who is the "Him" here in your statement, Jason? There is no all-encompassing Divine supra-hypostasis that can be the antecedent of the pronoun "Him" here. In other words, it is not appropriate theological or liturigcal language to hypostasize the Trinity into some sort of collective entity that can be addressed singularly in personal terms.

When I pray to God, my address is directed to the Father. I do not address an Essential "Him," but rather I address a Personal "Him." Likewise, when I confess one God, I confess "the Father Almighty."

Dan







when we personally confess and worship God the Father of Our Lord Jesus in the Spirit, we are addressing Him in His Threeness."