Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thoughts on Orthodoxy, Trinity, "the West", etc.

[Wanted to post these afore I fergot to...]

1 John 4:8, 16 say, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ... And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." Further, we see (in Rom 5:5 and Gal 4:6, Mk 1:11, 9:7, Lk 3:21-23, Jn 17:26, etc.) that God sends His love to the Son and the Church in and precisely AS the Holy Spirit.

Let us also note St. Gregory Palamas’s words:

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 towards the Father: but insofar as he has the Spirit coming with him from the Father and reposing connaturally in him.

[alternate translation: “This Spirit of the Word from on high is like a mysterious love of the Father towards the Word mysteriously begotten; it is the same love as that possessed by the Word and the well-beloved Son of the Father towards him who begat him; this he does insofar as he comes from the Father conjointly with this love, and this love rests naturally on him.”]
(_Capita physica_ XXXVI, _PG_ 150, 1144 D-1145 A)

Consider also Sergius Bulgakov:

The tri-hypostatic union of the Godhead is a mutual love, in which each of the Hypostases, by a timeless act of self-giving in love, reveals itself in both the others. ... The Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father to the Son, as the hypostatic love of the Father, which "abides" in the Son, fulfilling his actuality and possession by the Father. In turn, the Holy Spirit passes "through" the Son, returning, as it were, to the Father in a mysterious cycle, as the answering hypostatic love of the Son. In this way the Holy Spirit achieves his own fulfillment as the Hypostasis of Love. ... If God, who is in the most holy Trinity, is love, the Holy Spirit is the Love of the love.
[_The Wisdom of God_ (1937), p. 57-58; _Le Paraclet_ (1946), p. 121; _TWoG_, p. 74]

Finally, consider Dmitri Staniloae:

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 irridation 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.
[*Theology* (1964), p. 25, 30-31]

Notice 1 John does not say “the Father is love”, or “the Spirit is love”, nor “the Son is love”, but bluntly that God (in His divine essence) is love. Hence, this feature of the divine essence must be equally and fully “possessed” by each of the persons. Further, after taking such pains to clarify that God does not “have” his energies, but really IS (and really is “had”) His energies, I fail to see how calling love an energetic action of God allows one to deny that same love-energy IS God. That the Holy Spirit “possesses” the divine nature of being love more vividly or dynamically than the other Persons is only an apparent difficulty: just as the Son manifests certain aspects of the Godhead more than the Father, and vice versa, so too may each person be said to BE divine in a unique, preeminent way.

At any rate, I've always taken the objection that "calling the Spirit love de-personalizes/ de-hypostasizes Him" to be too wooden, or just too easy. It seems to ignore the fairly central biblical notion that a person IS what he/she LOVES (with all various necessary qualifiers and "in a sense"s). The perichoretic LOVE of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit simply IS what makes them God (both distinguished hypostatically and unified essentially). The Son's entire person is comprised of His loving-of the Father, which in itself "makes" Him as much God as the Father. Same for all three persons.

From a different, more “human” perspective, I do not blush calling love a person precisely because in loving, we are most truly ourselves; and when we are most truly and purely ourselves we become pure love. God loved the world so much that He became one of us; and we, by divinizing grace, grow to love God so much that we too become God. Man becomes his idols. God becomes his beloved.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Two other things:

1) Who in the West has claimed to see the Trinity? Er, St. Ignatius, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, to name only three counter-Reformation figures. I may as well ask who in the East has enjoyed apparitions of our Lady, or who in the East has manifested stigmata. Clearly something is going on both sides of the Bosporus. Hence, asking such questions, while helpful in certain ways and at certain times, tend too easily to become a "my mystic is better than your mystic" theo-pissing contest. Not my style.

2) "The first principle [of Augustine’s theology – EBB], viz., that of the absolute sovereignty of God over the will, in opposition to the emancipation of Pelagius, has not always been understood in its entire significance. We think that numberless texts of the holy Doctor signify that not only does every meritorious act require supernatural grace, but also that every act of virtue, even of infidels, should be ascribed to a gift of God, not indeed to a supernatural grace (as Baius and the Jansenists pretend), but to a specially efficacious providence which has prepared this good movement of the will (_Retractations_, I, ix, n. 6). It is not, as theologians very wisely remark, that the will cannot accomplish that act of natural virtue, but it is a fact that without this providential benefit it would not. Many misunderstandings have arisen because this principle has not been comprehended, and in particular the great medieval theology, which adopted it and made it the basis of its system of liberty, has not been justly appreciated. But many have been afraid of these affirmations which are so sweeping, because they have not grasped the nature of God's gift, which leaves freedom intact. The fact has been too much lost sight of that Augustine distinguishes very explicitly two orders of grace: the grace of natural virtues (the simple gift of Providence, which prepares efficacious motives for the will); and grace for salutary and supernatural acts, given with the first preludes of faith. The latter is the grace of the sons, gratia filiorum; the former is the grace of all men, a grace which even strangers and infidels (filii concubinarum, as St. Augustine says) can receive (_De Patientia_, xxvii, n. 28).

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