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“Filioque” means “division”
Posted By Eric Sammons On December 16, 2009 @ 7:19 am In Eastern Christianity,Ecumenism | Comments Disabled
You know a topic is complex when a “very basic introduction ” to it runs over 8,000 words. But when the topic is the filioque, it is difficult to reduce the subject to sound bites.
For those who are unaware, the filioque is Latin for “and the Son” (contrary to my post title) and it refers to the part of the Nicene Creed (which is actually the Creed of the Council of Constantinople) in which Catholics state, “I believe in the Holy Spirit…who proceeds from the Father and the Son” . In the original text, the phrase “and the Son” was not included (technically, the truly original text of the Creed, this whole line wasn’t even included). Many centuries later it was added in the West in response to heretical tendencies which wanted to subordinate the Son to the Father. This addition caused all sorts of problems between the East and the West and became one of the key points of division between the two.
Dr. Peter Gilbert, an Orthodox professor of Church History, gave the above-linked introduction to the filioque recently and I recommend it to anyone interested in East-West relations. Dr. Gilbert mostly focuses on the history of how the filioque came to be inserted into the Creed, noting both why the West came to accept it as theologically valid and why they felt it was legitimate to add it to the Creed.
My only complaint with Dr. Gilbert’s introduction is that it is too short! I think Dr. Gilbert would do a great service to the Church if he were to expand on this introduction and make it a complete book on the subject.
Update: I am currently reading “I Believe In The Holy Spirit ” by Yves Congar, and he has an in-depth analysis of the entire filioque issue. I think this passage sums it up nicely:
What we have to aim at and what can, in fact, be reached is a recognition both of the unity of faith on both sides of Catholicity and of the legitimate difference between the two dogmatic expressions of that mystery. Each expression is consistent in itself, and each is impossible in the categories and vocabulary of the other side. In the course of ten centuries of discussion, neither side has succeeded in convincing the other or in persuading it to accept its point of view. There is no chance that this goal will be reached in the future. In fact, we may say quite unambiguously that this is not a goal to be pursued.
Both Eastern and Western Christians are baptized in a common faith. For both, ‘the Spirit is confessed as the third Person-hypostasis of the one divine nature-essence and consubstantial with the Father and the Son’. Both confess the Father as the Principle without principle or beginning of the whole divinity. Both profess the Son as not unrelated to the Father in the production of the Holy Spirit.
The expressions of this faith, however, are different, especially in the matter of the third of these points…
I would conclude…with a statement by Mgr. Damaskinos of Tranoupolis, who is the Director of the Orthodox Centre at Chambesy… ‘It is both possible and necessary to explain, on the one hand, the formulations of the Greek Fathers and, on the other, those of the Latin Fathers, including the Filioque, and while respecting the originality of each, to draw attention to the ways in which they are in agreement. From the fourth century onwards, the Filioque came to form part of the Western tradition, but it was never regarded as an obstacle to union until that union was ended for other reasons.’
I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Volume 3, Yves Congar, pp. 201-202
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URL to article: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2009/12/16/filioque-means-division/
URLs in this post:
 very basic introduction: http://bekkos.wordpress.com/filioque-introduction/
 I Believe In The Holy Spirit: http://www.amazon.com/Believe-Spirit-Milestones-Catholic-Theology/dp/0824516966/
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