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The Filioque Clause The Filioque Clause

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The Filioque Clause

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Dissecting the Filioque Clause statement, we explain how it supports both positions of how the Spirit comes from the Father and through the Son

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This essay is an Appendix to the essay called CREED NICENE. It deals
with one particular line of the Nicene Creed.

The Creed as formulated at Nicea in 325 ended with the words

* And we believe in the Holy Spirit.

When the Council of Constantinople met in 381, it officially adopted
an expanded version, the Creed (without the FILIOQUE) as we have it
today. This expanded version is in fact older than 381. It was the
Baptismal Creed of the Church of Salamis, on the island of Cyprus,
and is quoted by St. Epiphanius of Salamis in 374 in his ANKROTOS
(see below). It was apparently a reworking of the Baptismal Creed of
the Church of Jerusalem, which in turn was a reworking of the Nicene

The portion of the expanded Creed that here concerns us reads as

* I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
* who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].
* Who with the Father and the Son he is adored and glorified.
* Who has spoken through the Prophets.

I propose to discuss in this Appendix

  1. the meaning of the Doctrine of the Dual Procession, and some
    arguments for and against its truth,
  2. the history of belief in the Doctrine,
  3. the history of the insertion of the FILIOQUE clause into the
    Nicene Creed in the West.


Eastern Christians, in my experience, are accustomed to give the
following arguments against the “Filioque”.

ARGUMENT (1): The Holy Scriptures state that the Spirit
proceeds from the Father. Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night before
He suffered, said to His apostles (John 15:26 RSV):

But when the Counsellor comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
even the Spirit of truth,
who proceeds from the Father,
he will bear witness to me.

To this a Western Christian might reply as follows:

The Scriptures also say (John 20:21 RSV):

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be unto you.
As the Father has sent me, even so send I you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them
and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

We read in Matthew of one angel at the tomb on Easter Day, and this
does not contradict Luke’s statement that there were two angels. We
read in Mark 10 and Luke 18 of a blind beggar healed by Jesus on the
outskirts of Jericho, and this does not contradict the statement in
Matthew that there were two blind beggars healed. Similarly, it is
clear that the saying of Jesus, that the Spirit proceeds from the
Father, does not contradict the statement that the Spirit proceeds
also from the Son.

ARGUMENT (2): The Creed, without the Filioque, was adopted by
agreement of the entire Christian Church. It is an offense against
the unity of the Church for some Christians to alter that Creed
without consulting with, and obtaining the agreement of, the entire

To this a Western Christian might reply as follows:

As regards the insertion of the extra word into the Creed, it is to
be noted that some Western Christians, and in particular the Bishop
of Rome, resisted this insertion until after East and West were
already sundered, and it was not practical to consult with the East
on changes.

There are two questions here:
(A) Is it true that the Spirit proceeds from both Father and

(B) Is it lawful to insert an affirmation of this into the
Creed, without a consultation with the entire Church, East and West
alike, perhaps in the form of a Council like those of Nicea and
Constantinople in ancient times?

Let it be granted that the insertion of the FILIOQUE by the
West, without due consultation with the East, was a grievous
offense. The question still remains: is the doctrine true. And we
here urge our Eastern brethren to consider the doctrine on its own
merits, not permitting their judgement as to its truth to be swayed
by their indignation at the manner of its proposal.

Just as it cannot be said that the statement in John 15:26, by
speaking only of the Father, teaches the exclusion of the Son, so it
cannot be said that the Council, borrowing without discussion the
wording of John 15:26, meant to deny that the Spirit proceeds also
from the Son. We have therefore a question on which Councils have
not spoken one way or another, and one which Christians, East and
West, ought thoughtfully to consider, in preparation for a future
Council of the entire Church.

ARGUMENT (3): The doctrine of the Filioque is untrue! It
undermines the very foundations of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity,
in that it denies the nature of the Father, Whose nature it is to be
the sole source from which all else is derived. Although all Three
Persons of the Trinity are co-eternal and co-equal, nevertheless the
Son is derived of the Father, and not the Father of the Son. When we
call the First Person of the Trinity the Father, we are affirming
that He imparts life and existence to others, for this is what it
means to be a father. It is NOT what it means to be a Son, and
therefore it is wrong to suppose that the being of the Spirit is
derived from the Son as well as from the Father.

To this a Western Christian might reply as follows:

It oversimplifies to say that the Son does not impart existence to
others. We read (John 1:3 RSV):

All things were made through him, and without him
was not anything made that was made.

This is reaffirmed in the Nicene Creed itself.

Although the Creed begins by calling God the Father the Creator of
all things, it makes it clear that the creation is the work of both
Father and Son. Indeed, Christians both East and West acknowledge
that all three persons of the Trinity are involved in the work of
creation (see Genesis 1:1-3). Suppose, for the sake of argument,
that some group of Christians were to insert into the Creed a clause
explicitly recognizing that the Spirit is also active in the work of
creation. (The Creed as it stands calls the Spirit the Life-Giver,
but this is not as explicit as the statements about the Father and
the Son to the effect that every created entity owes its being to
them both.) We might very well react by telling them that the Creed
is the property of the entire Church, and that uniformity in its
content is a sign of the unity of the people of God, and that the
text of the Creed ought not therefore to be tampered with by some
group within the Church. But would it be appropriate to react by
denying the doctrine that the creation is the work of all three
Persons of the Godhead?


A Western Christian arguing for the doctrine that the Spirit
proceeds from both Father and Son might use any of the following

ARGUMENT (1): If the dual procession be denied, it is not clear
how we are to distinguish between the Word and the Spirit, between
the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity. We distinguish between
the Father and the Son, even though they are co-eternal and
co-equal, and omni-perfect, by virtue of the fact that the One
begets and the other is begotten — that is, the being of One is
derived from the being of the Other. But if we say that the Son is
derived from the Father alone, and that the Spirit is derived from
the Father alone, how are the Son and the Spirit different? We may
indeed say that it is the Second Person, not the First or the Third,
that was made flesh for our salvation in the Person of Jesus of
Nazareth. But this does not answer the question at hand, for the
distinction of the Divine Persons must lie in the nature of the
Godhead, not in the relation of God to a universe which He need not
have created.

Hence it is that a Western Creed (the QUICUNQUE VULT) affirms of the
Divine Persons:

The Father is of none, neither made, nor created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, neither made nor created, but
The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made,
nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

ARGUMENT (2): The first distinctive statement about the Holy
Spirit that we find in the Creed is that He is the Lifegiver. Now,
what does it mean to give life? What is the difference between a
dead cat and a live one? A dead body may have all the parts that a
live one has, but in a live body the parts are interacting, each
part carrying out its diestinctive function for the good of the
whole body. The life of an organism, the spirit of an organism, is
the “glue” that unites the parts into an integrated whole. So, in
the Church, it is the Spirit that gives to each member a function to
be carried out for the enhanced life of the whole Body of Christ,
and gives the gifts necessary for carrying out that function. Not
all members receive the same gifts; but, as the Apostle Paul points
out to the Corinthians, the one gift available to every member is
also the one gift most to be desired, and that is the gift of love,
by which the whole body is joined together, all the members being
united in love with Christ and with one another.

Thus, if anyone asks what is the special activity of the Holy
Spirit, we must answer that it is to unite in love. And if it is of
the nature of the Spirit to unite things, then we may be sure that
He has been carrying out this activity for all eternity. Before
there was a Church, before there was physical life of any kind, the
Spirit was the bond of love and unity between the Father and the
Son. From all eternity, independently of any created being, God is
the Lover, the Loved, and the Love itself. And the bond of unity and
love that exists between the Father and the Son proceeds from the
Father and the Son.

ARGUMENT (3): In the first chapter of Genesis, we read that God
made man in His own image. Clearly this means that humanity, or at
least unfallen humanity, is like God in some respect in which the
beasts are not. One might suppose that this refers to man’s
intellect or to his moral agency. However, the one thing that the
author has told us about God up to this point is that “God created.”
What do we observe about the creative process from observing it in
human writers, artists, scientists, and others?

Here I shall make extensive use of an insight expressed by the
English writer Dorothy L Sayers, in her play THE ZEAL OF THY HOUSE
and expanded and systematically analyzed in her book THE MIND OF THE
MAKER. I begin by quoting a passage from the play.

< Children of men, lift up your hearts.
< Laud and magnify God, the Holy and Eternal Wisdom,
< the everlasting and adorable Trinity.
< Praise Him that He hath made man in His own image,
< a maker and craftsman like himself,
< a little mirror of His triune Majesty.
< For every Act of Creation is threefold,
< An earthly Trinity to match the heavenly.
< First, there is the Creative Idea,
< passionless, timeless,
< beholding the whole work complete at once,
< the end in the beginning;
< and this is the image of the Father.
< Second, there is the Creative Energy,
< begotten of the Idea and subject to it,
< working in time with sweat and passion
< from the beginning to the end;
< and this is the image of the Word.
< Third, there is the Creative Power,
< the meaning of the work,
< and its response in the lively soul;
< and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit.
< And of these three, each equally is the work,
< whereof none can exist without the other;
< and this is the image of the Trinity.
< Honor, then, all work of the craftsman,
< imagined by men’s minds,
< built by the labor of men’s hands,
< working with power upon the souls of men,
< image of the everlasting Trinity,
< God’s witness in world and time.
< And whatsoever ye do,
< do all to the glory of God.

Let us see how this works out in a particular instance.
Consider a writer working, at the moment, on the following

Opening the door, he saw a young girl in a thin white dress,

sillouetted against the dark background of the night. “I’m

lost,” she said. “Could you help me, please?” John hesitated.

She looked very (something), standing there on the doorstep.

The writer pauses to consider how to fill in the blank. He knows
what the idea is that he wants to get across. The question is how
best to express it. She looked very — appealing? small? frail?
wispy? fragile? vulnerable? Aha. That is it! “She looked very
vulnerable, standing there on the doorstep.”

Clearly it is through reading, in context, the word “vulnerable”
that we, the readers, become aware of, and are able to respond to,
the idea that the writer wishes to express. But we can go further
and say that it is only through putting his thoughts into words that
the writer himself perceives, and is able to respond to, his own
meaning. This is not to say that the expression creates the idea.
The writer says, “This is, and that is not, the right word,”
meaning, that he already has something to express, and that he
judges words by whether they express that idea. However, until he
has found the right word, he cannot tell us, and cannot tell
himself, what the idea is that he is seeking to express.

Thus it is that “No one knows the Son, except the Father, and no one knows
the Father, except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal
Him.” (Matthew 11:27) Thus theologians say that the Father is aware of
Himself only by contemplating His image in the Son. And, just as in any
creative act on the part of a human creator, the appreciative and
understanding response proceeds not simply from the creative idea but from
the creative idea revealed in the creative expression of that idea, so on
the level of the Divine Creator, the Holy Spirit proceeds not solely from
the Father but from the Father and the Son.

(Note that, although the illustration of creative work used here was
the work of a writer, the same trinity of idea, expression, and
understanding reception and response is to be found in every
creative act, whether that of a sculptor, a musician, an architect,
a cook….)

For a more detailed discussion of this point, the reader is referred
to the aforesaid writings of D L Sayers, and to THE MEANING OF THE
CREATIVE ACT, by Berdaev.


Several early Eastern Christian writers use language that suggests
that, if the question had been put to them explicitly, they would
have agreed with the statement that the Spirit proceed from the
Father and the Son jointly rather than simply from the Father. For
example (roughly in chronological order):

St. Gregory the Wonderworker wrote a Creed, around 265, from which
the following is taken:

> One God, the Father of the living Word, of subsistent
> Wisdom and Power, and of the Eternal Image. Perfect Begetter of
> the Perfect, Father of the only begotten Son.
> One Lord, Only of Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of
> the Godhead, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehending the
> constitution of the universe, and Power shaping all creation.
> Genuine Son of Genuine Father, Invisible of Invisible, and
> Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal, and
> Eternal of Eternal.
> And one Holy Spirit, having substance of God, and who is
> manifested [to men, that is,]* through the Son; Image of the
> Son, Perfect of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of living; Holy
> Fountain; Sanctity, the Dispenser of Sanctification; in whom is
> manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God
> the Son, who is through all. Perfect Trinity, in glory and
> eternity and sovereignty neither divided nor estranged.

*(The bracketed phrase above is thought to be a later
editorial addition.)

St. Athanasius writes in about 360 to Serapion of Thmius:

> Insofar as we understand the special relationship of the Son to
> the Father, we also understand that the Spirit has this same
> relationship to the Son. And since the Son says, “everything
> that the Father has is mine (John 16:15),” we will discover all
> these things also in the Spirit. through the Son. And just as
> the Son was announced by the Father, who said, “This is my
> beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17),” so also
> is the Spirit of the Son; for, as the Apostle says, “He has
> sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba!
> Father!’ (Galatians 4:6).”

St Epiphanius of Salamis (315?-12 May 403), a scholar much admired
by St. Jerome, wrote in 374 in his ANKYROTOS (The Man Well

> For the Only-Begotten Himself calls Him “the Spirit of the
> Father,” and says of Him that “He proceeds from the Father,”
> and “will receive of mine,” so that He is reckoned as not being
> foreign to the Father nor to the Son, but is of their same
> substance, of the same Godhead; He is Spirit divine,… of
> God, and He is God. For he is Spirit of God, Spirit of the
> Father and Spirit of the Son, not by some kind of synthesis,
> like soul and body in us, but in the midst of Father and Son,
> of the Father and of the Son, a third by appellation. …
> The Father always existed and the Son always existed, and the
> Spirit breathes from the Father and the Son; and neither is the
> Son created nor is the Spirit created.

He further writes a year or so later in his PANARION (Breadbox):

> The Spirit is always with the Father and the Son, …
> proceeding from the Father and receiving of the Son, not
> foreign to the Father and the Son, but of the same substance,
> of the same Godhead, of the Father and the Son, He is with the
> Father and the Son, Holy Spirit ever subsisting, Spirit divine,
> Spirit of glory, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of the Father. …
> He is third in appellation, equal in divinity, not different as
> compared to Father and Son, connecting Bond of the Trinity,
> Ratifying Seal of the Creed.

St Gregory of Nyssa (died 394), in his EPISTLE TO ABLABIUS, writes:

> While we confess the invariableness of the [divine] nature we
> do not deny the distinction of cause and of caused, by which
> alone we perceive that one Person is distinguished from
> another, in our belief that it is one thing to be the cause and
> another to be from the cause; and in that which is from the
> cause, we recognize yet another distinction. It is one thing to
> be directly from the First Cause, and another to be through Him
> who is directly from the First, so the distinction of being
> Only-begotten abides undoubtedly in the Son, nor is it doubted
> that the Spirit is from the Father; for the middle position of
> the Son is protective of His distinction as Only-begotten, but
> does not exclude the Spirit from His natural relation to the
> Father.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, a principal champion of the orthodox faith
against the Nestorians, in a work called THE TWELVE ERRORS (or THE
TWELVE ANATHEMAS) written in 430, said:

> We must not say that the one Lord Jesus Christ has been
> glorified by the Spirit, in such a way as to suggest that
> through the Spirit He made use of a power foreign to Himself,
> and from the Spirit received the ability to work against
> unclean spirits, and to perform divine signs among men; but
> must rather say that the Spirit, through whom He did indeed
> work His divine signs, is his own. [Error 9]

Earlier (probably around 424), in his THESAURUS (Treasury of the
Holy and Consubstantial Trinity), he said:

> Since the Holy Spirit when He is in us effects our being
> conformed to God, and He actually proceeds from Father and Son,
> it is abundantly clear that He is of the divine essence, in it
> in essence and proceeding from it. [Thesis 34]


Now let us consider some early Western writers. The following
examples are again in roughly chronological order.

St. Hilary of Poitiers, “The Athanasius of the West,” in his great
work DE TRINITATE (which he wrote in 356-359, while in exile in the
East because of his opposition to Arianism, just as the Eastern
bishop Athanasius was at the same time and for the same reason
exiled to the West by the Arian emperor Constantius):

> Concerning the Holy Spirit… who is of the Father and the Son,
> His Sources. [2:29]

> We are all spiritual men, if the Spirit of God is in us. But
> this Spirit of God is the Spirit also of Christ. And since the
> Spirit of Christ is in us, the Spirit of Him also who raised
> Christ from the dead is in us; and he that raised Christ from
> the dead will vivify our mortal bodies too, on account of His
> Spirit’s dwelling in us. (quote from Romans 8:11) [8:21]

> In the fact that before times eternal Your Only-begotten was
> born of You, when we put an end to every ambiguity of words and
> difficulty of understanding, there remains only this: He was
> born. So too, even if I do not grasp it in my understanding, I
> hold fast in my consciousness to the fact that Your Holy Spirit
> is from You through Him. [12:56]

Pope St. Damasus I, in a statement that has been preserved in the
Acts of the Council of Rome of 382, writes:

> The Holy Spirit is not of the Father only, or the Spirit of the
> Son only, but He is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. For
> it is written, “In anyone loves the world, the Spirit of the
> Father is not in him (1 John 2:15)”; and again it is written:
> “If anyone, however, does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is
> none of His (Romans 8:9)”. When the Father and the Son are
> named in this way, the Holy Spirit is understood, of whom the
> Son Himself says in the Gospel, that the Holy Spirit “proceed
> from the Father (John 15:26),” and that “He shall receive of
> mine and shall announce it to you (John 16:14).”

The QUICUNQUE VULT is an early Western Creed. Its origins are not
known with certainty, but many scholars suppose it to have been
written in the late 300’s, and probably by St. Ambrose of Milan. It
is explicit and emphatic on the Dual Procession, saying:

> The Father is of none,
> neither made, nor created, nor begotten.
> The Son is of the Father alone,
> neither made nor created, but begotten.
> The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son,
> neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

St. Augustine taught that the Holy Spirit is the bond of love that
exists between the Father and the Son.

Writing to Pascentius, he says:

> It is our faith to believe and profess that the Father and the
> Son and the Holy Ghost are one God; but we do not call Him
> Father Who is the Son, nor do we call Him Son Who is the
> Father, nor do we designate Him either Father or Son Who is the
> Spirit of the Father and of the Son. [Ep. 238, 2:14]

In his HOMILIES ON JOHN he writes:

> Why then should we not believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds
> also from the Son, when He is the Spirit also of the Son? For
> if the Holy Spirit did not proceed from Him, when he showed
> Himself to His disciples after His resurrection, He would not
> have breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” For
> what else did He signify by that breathing on them, except that
> the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Him? [99, 7]

In his great work DE TRINITATE (On the Trinity), written between 400
and 416, he says:

> All the Catholic interpreters of the divine books of the Old
> and New Testaments whom I have been able to read, who wrote
> before me about the Trinity, which is God, intended to teach in
> accordance with the Scriptures that the Father and the Son and
> the Holy Spirit are of one and the same substance constituting
> a divine unity with an inseparable equality; and therefore
> there are not three gods but one God, although the Father begot
> the Son, and therefore He that is the Father is not the Son;
> and the Son is begotten by the Father, and therefore He that is
> the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit is neither the
> Father nor the Son, but only the Spirit of the Father and of
> the Son, Himself, too, co-equal to the Father and to the Son,
> and belonging to the unity of the Trinity. [1, 4:7]

> If, therefore, that which is given has for its principle the
> one by whom it is given, because it did not receive from
> anywhere else that which proceeds from the giver, then it must
> be confessed that the Father and the Son are the Principle of
> the Holy Spirit, not two Principles, but just as Father and Son
> are one God and, relative to a creature, one Creator and one
> Lord, so too, relative to the Holy Spirit, they are one
> Principle, while relative to a creature, Father and Son and
> Holy Spirit are one Principle, even as they are one Creator and
> one Lord. [5, 14:15]

> [With the Father and the Son] the Holy Spirit, too, exists in
> this same unity of substance and equality. For whether he be
> the unity of the Father and the Son, or Their holiness, or
> Their love, or Their unity because He is Their love, of Their
> love because he is Their holiness, it is clear that He is not
> one of the Two, since it is by Him that the Two are joined, by
> Him that the Begotten is loved by the Begetter, and in turn
> loves Him who begot Him. [6, 5:7]

> Therefore the Holy Spirit, whatever it is, is something common
> to both the Father and the Son. But that communion itself is
> consubstantial and co-eternal; and if it may fitly be called
> friendship, let it so be called; but it is more aptly called
> love. And this is also a substance, since God is a substance,
> and “God is Love,” as it is written. [6, 5:7]

> And yet is is not without reason that in this Trinity only the
> Word of God is called Son, only the Gift of God the Holy
> Spirit, and only He of whom the Word is begotten and from Whom
> principally the Holy Spirit proceeds is called God the Father.
> I have added the term “principally” because the Holy Spirit is
> found to proceed also from the Son. But this too the Father
> gave the Son, not as if the Son did not already exist and have
> it, but because whatever the Father gives the Son, He gives by
> begetting. He so begot Him, then, that the Gift might proceed
> jointly from Him, and so that the Holy Spirit would be the
> Spirit of both. [15, 17:29]

> For if whatever the Son has, He has from the Father, certainly
> He has it from the Father that the Holy Spirit proceeds from
> Him…. The Son, however, is born of the Father; and the Holy
> Spirit proceeds principally from the Father, and since the
> Father gives [to the Son all that He has] without any interval
> of time, the Holy Spirit proceeds jointly from both Father and
> Son. [15, 26:47]

> From Him from Whom the Son has it that He is God (for He is God
> of God),– from Him he certainly has it that the Holy Spirit
> also proceeds from Him; and therefore the Holy Spirit has it
> from the Father Himself that He proceeds also from the Son just
> as He proceeds for the Father. [15, 27:48]

St. Fulgence of Ruspe, in his DE FIDE (The Rule of Faith), written
around 524, says:

> Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the only God
> the Son, who is one person of the Trinity, is the Son of the
> only God the Father; but the Holy Spirit, Himself also one
> Person of the Trinity, is Spirit not of Father only, but of
> Father and Son together. [53]

Pope St. Leo I (died 461), said:

> The Son is the Only-begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit
> is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, not as any
> creature, which also is of the Father and of the Son, but as
> living and having power with both, and eternally subsisting of
> that which is the Father and the Son.
> [Sermons 75:3]


Our Lord, in His farewell address to His disciples, says (John
15:26 RSV):

+ But when the Counsellor comes,
+ whom I shall send to you from the Father,
+ even the Spirit of truth,
+ who proceeds from the Father,
+ he will bear witness to me.

The framers of the Creed simply copied the words, “who proceeds from
the Father” into the Creed with no particular discussion. The
Church was not at that time being troubled by any controversy over
the procession. However, as we have seen in the previous section,
many of the early Fathers, both eastern and western, both before and
after the official formulation of the Creed in 381, wrote of the
Spirit as proceeding from the Son as well as from the Father. They
include staunch defenders of the Creed, and they include St.
Epiphanius, who was using the Creed before its adoption by the
Council of Constantinople in 381. They never seemed bothered by the
fact that the Creed (and Our Lord as quoted above) said “proceeds
from the Father.” Apparently they did not see this as meaning or
implying, “proceeds from the Father and from no one else.”

Then, in the late 500’s, the Church in Spain was troubled with a
group of heretics who denied the full deity of the Son. They were,
however, willing to grant that the Holy Spirit was God. Their
orthodox opponents replied that the Spirit proceeds from the Father
and the Son, and that He from Whom God proceeds must himself be God.
As a result of this dispute, the Synod of Toledo in 589 officially
voted to insert the FILIOQUE into the Creed. From Spain the custom
passed to Gaul and the rest of the Western Church. During the reign
of Charlemagne, the matter was much debated at his court at Aachen
(Aix-le-Chapelle), and in the palace chapel it was customary to sing
the Creed with the FILIOQUE. Some Latin monks from Jerusalem visited
the court of Charlemagne, and then returned to Jerusalem with the
new version of the Creed. Naturally, the Easterners objected
vigorously. In a council held in Aachen in 809, the Frankish bishops
upheld the FILIOQUE. Pope Leo III (795-816) intervened, and forbade
any interpolations or alterations in the Nicene Creed. He ordered
the Creed, without the FILIOQUE, to be engraved in Latin and Greek
on two silver plates on the wall of St. Peter’s in Rome. By doing
so, he avoided a direct confrontation with the East. However, the
FILIOQUE continued to gain ground in the West.

Two issues were involved: (1) Does the Holy Ghost in fact proceed
from the Son as well as from the Father? (2) Once a Creed has been
adopted by the authority of the Church assembled in a world-wide
council of bishops, is it lawful to amend the text of that Creed by
any lesser authority than a similar council? Leo saw that it is
possible to answer “Yes” to the first question and “No” to the
second question without contradiction. However, he seemed to be
almost the only one who saw this. Theologians in the West spent most
of their time defending an affirmative answer to the first question,
and their counterparts in the East were defending a negative answer
to the second question. Thus they functioned like two trains running
in opposite direction on separate tracks.

Thus the situation stood for several centuries. During those
centuries there were several developments. Up to about the year 600,
many Westerners knew both Latin and Greek. But then the knowledge of
Greek suddenly died out in the West, and thereafter theologians in
one half of the Empire seldom read what had been written in the
other half. A shift of trade patterns reduced travel and
communication between the two regions, and politically they became
two separate empires. The area then known as Dalmatia and now known
as Yugoslavia was in dispute both between the Emperors of East and
West and between the Patriarch of Rome (aka the Pope) and the
Patriarch of Constantinople. (The split is still visible, in that
the Croats today are loyal to Rome, and the Serbs to Constantinople.
They speak the same language, but the Croats write it in the Roman
alphabet and the Serbs in the Cyrillic or Russian alphabet.
Alphabets seem to play a special role in ethnic identity. After
World War I, there was a massive population exchange between Greece
and Western Turkey. Many Greeks whose families had been living in
Turkey for generations were repatriated to Greece. They then had to
learn a new language, for they spoken Turkish all their lives, and
knew no Greek. However, unlike their Turkish former neighbors, they
wrote Turkish in the Greek alphabet. The same is true in reverse of
the repatriated Turks.) Since, as one historian cynically remarks,
it would have been unseemly for the two Patriarchs to explain that
they wanted Dalmatia for the sake of the revenues to be expected
therefrom, each fell back on the argument that his rival held
unsound views on the Procession of the Spirit, and that a concern
for the spritual welfare of the people of Dalmatia compelled him to
insist on including them in his own jurisdiction.

Slowly, fatefully, the bond of unity between Eastern and Western
Christians continued to unravel.

In the 860’s, Boris I, king of the emergent state of Bulgaria,
at that time pagan, was concerned whether to ally himself with the
military power of the Greeks or the Franks, and whether to convert
with his subjects to Byzantine or Roman Christianity. He sent
emissaries to the Patriarch, was dissatisfied with the answers he
got (among other things, Boris wanted a Patriarch of his own in his
capital city), wrote to the Pope, was not fully satisfied there
either, and after some wavering decided in favor of Byzantium.
Boris was not concerned with the FILIOQUE controversy (his questions
concerned such matters as whether a layman might lead public prayers
for rain; the Patriarch said no, and the Pope was happy to tell him
that the Patriarch was being much too rigid), but the competition
for Bulgaria, and ultimately for all the Slavic peoples, did much to
embitter relations between East and West.

[The following paragraphs are a quotation from Charles
But if there was a verbal interpolation in the West, there was
an interpolation of a different kind in Byzantium. The Sacred
Emperor, having committed incest, had been refused communion by the
Patriarch. For this and other offenses the Patriarch was deposed,
and a learned layman Photius compulsorily ordained and imposed in
the See. He announced his election to the Pope [Nicholas I], to whom
the original Patriarch Ignatius also appealed. The Pope sent legates
who at a Council (he said) “betrayed him” and agreed to the
deposition. The angry arguments went on. [Pope Nicholas approved the
insertion of the FILIOQUE into the Creed.] Photius in 867 denounced
the West in eight articles, but [Nicholas died in that year,] the
Sacred Emperor was murdered in that year and Photius himself was
deposed. …

An uneasy peace settled down for two centuries; then suddenly
Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, provoked the storm.
He accused the West of heresy; he closed the churches of the Latin
rite. The Popes asserted the orthodoxy of the West and the primacy
of Rome; they maintained open in Italy the churches of the Byzantine
rite. The Patriarch removed the name of the Pope from the prayers.
The Papal legates, entering the Church of the Holy Wisdom in
Byzantium, just before the celebration of the Divine Luturgy,
ascended through the crowd to the altar, and laid on it the solemn
excommunication of the Patriarch and all his followers from the
co-inherence of their Christendom. The frontier of a thousand years
was drawn on 16th July, 1054.

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