Proceeds from the Father and the Son - - - >

The Scriptures | The Church Fathers

By Raymond Taouk

In coming to understand the Procession of the Holy Ghost, from the Father and the Son, we can see this from the fact that the Son is "begotten" from the Father-- this is the first kind of procession-- the Son exists from eternity, but was "generated" as the Word (John 1:1). Now, the Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Son (Gal., iv, 6), the Spirit of Jesus (Acts, xvi, 7). These terms imply a relation of the Spirit to the Son, which can only be a relation of *origin*.

In order for something to be "sent" it must proceed. Just as the Father externally sent the Son into time (in the world) the Son internally proceeds from the Father in the Trinity. This is confirm by Christ who said that "He" would send the Holy Ghost into the world (John 15:26,), thus it may be said that he internally proceeds from both Father and Son in the Trinity (Acts 2:33). An objection however is that some tend to try and distinguish between being "sent" and "proceeding" however such an objection is put to rest if one comes to see that all things that are sent actually proceed from their very source, much like the suns rays a sent to us from the sun but in actual fact we see that all light (no matter how small the amount of light we receive) all proceed from the sun (their source).

No-one explains this better than St. Thomas:

"Hence also the Greeks themselves recognize that the procession of the Holy Ghost has some order to the Son. For they grant that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit 'of the Son'; and that He is from the Father 'through the Son.' Some of them are said also to concede that 'He is from the Son'; or that 'He flows from the Son,' but not that He proceeds; which seems to come from ignorance or obstinacy. For a just consideration of the truth will convince anyone that the word procession is the one most commonly applied to all that denotes origin of any kind. For we use the term to describe any kind of origin; as when we say that a line proceeds from a point, a ray from the sun, a stream from a source, and likewise in everything else. Hence, granted that the Holy Ghost originates in any way from the Son, we can conclude that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son."

The example of a line proceeding from a point, or a ray from the sun would be helpful in explaining this, which really touches on the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. St. Thomas continues: "For when the Lord says, 'No one knoweth the Son, but the Father,' the idea of the Son knowing Himself is not excluded. So therefore when we say that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, even though it be added that He proceeds from the Father alone, the Son would not thereby be at all excluded; because as regards being the principle of the Holy Ghost, the Father and the Son are not opposed to each other, but only as regards the fact that one is the Father, and the other is the Son."

Therefore, if the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father then it must also *proceed* from the Son; as the Father and the Son are One. St. Augustine writes:

"You hear the Lord himself declare: 'It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you'. Likewise you hear the Apostle declare: 'God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts'. Could there then be two spirits, one the spirit of the Father, the other the spirit of the Son? Certainly not. Just as there is only one Father, just as there is only one Lord or one Son, so there is only one Spirit, Who is, consequently, the Spirit of both. . . Why then should you refuse to believe that He proceeds also from the Son, since He is also the Spirit of the Son? If He did not proceed from Him, Jesus, when He appeared to His disciples after His Resurrection, would not have breathed on them, saying: 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost'. What, indeed, does this breathing signify, but that the Spirit proceeds also from Him?"

"The Father is not made by anyone, nor created by anyone, nor generated by anyone. The Son is not made nor created, but he is generated by the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is not made nor created nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son. . . But the entire three persons are coeternal and coequal with one another. So that, as we have said, we worship complete unity in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. . . This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved." (Athanasian Creed).

The scriptures are no less clear in there affirmation of this doctrine as the inspired writers call the Holy Ghost the Spirit of the Son (Gal., iv, 6), the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9 Phil 1:19), just as they call Him the Spirit of the Father (Matt., 10: 20) and the Spirit of God (I Cor., ii, ll). The Son sends the Holy Ghost (Luke, 24: 49; John, 15:26; 16: 7; 20: 22; Acts 2: 33,; Tit., 3: 6), just as the Father sends the Son (Rom., iii. 3; etc.), and as the Father sends the Holy Ghost (John, xiv, 26). St. John (16:13-15) gives the filioque formula.

What is more is that Our Lord expressly states concerning the Holy Ghost that "He shall Glorify me because he shall receive of mine and show it to you" (John 16:14). In other words if Christ says that the Holy Ghost will reveal to you what he shall receive from me, it is because it has come to the Holy Ghost by procession from the Son. Any receiving within the trinity can only be by procession since all divine persons are all God and equally so. If the Holy Ghost is to Glorify the son, it is because He is receiving directly from the Son. Hence the Holy Ghost proceeds both from the father and the Son.

The Importance of Filioque

The insertion of the "filioque" clause is very important as it expresses a Catholic dogma, which is denied by some-the procession of the Holy Ghost from BOTH the Father and the Son. The procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, does not make the Holy Ghost "subservient". The Creed is quite clear:

"...qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur"

The doctrine of the Filioque was dogmatically declared in the Fourth Lateran Council, Second Council of Lyons, and the Council of Florence. The latter Council states:

"We define that this truth of Faith be believed and accepted by all Christians, and that all likewise profess that the Holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son and has His essence and His subsistent being both from the Father and the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and one spiration"

If, in a Council held at Toledo, in 448, the words Filioque (and from the Son, viz., proceeding from the Son as well as from the Father) were added to the Formula of Nice, it was in order to put an end to the heresy of the Sabellians, who were denying that the Holy Ghost was personally distinct from the Father and the Son.

Some of the Eastern uniates do not say the "filioque" clause in the Creed, and the Church does not oblige them to do so. Many, however, do include the filioque, as an expression of their union with the Church. Therefore, since the Eastern uniates, are not obliged to include the filioque clause in the Creed, it should have no effect on a union with the schismatic orthodox. The requirements for such a union would be for the orthodox to accept the -dogma- of the Procession of the Holy Ghost, and the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff, as was set forth in the Council of Florence.

Further keeping in mind that the Church never usually defines something unless it is being attacked, and so since this was being attacked the Church took to defining it . The Church only defined what was always believed, it can be liked to the Immaculate Conception which was defined in 1850, yet Catholics had always believed it yet since it was being attack the Church took to defining it. No one would say that it was an addition to the deposit of faith . To confirm this is the fact that all of the Ecumenical Councils of the Church were called in order to combat or clarify some heresy or error; with Vatican II being the only exception-- a pastoral Council which did not define any dogma.

The Council of Trent is a perfect example of how the Church defined those doctrines, which were under attack. Many non-Catholics are often under the impression that the Church "makes up" new doctrines, which power she does not have. The Church can define and clarify doctrines to give us a fuller understanding of them, but this never in a sense contrary to their original meanings. One may use the example of an apple seed growing into a tree. The apple seed will not become an orange tree.

Further a review of the writings of the Church Fathers indicates that it was Church doctrine long before the Council of Toledo. Athanasius' Creed, Quicunque Vult, (AD. 400) contains it, as well as the writings of St. Gregory the Wonderworker (AD. 260), St. Epiphanius of Salamis, and St. Augustine. Diverse Greek Fathers also included it in their writings, all AD 400 or before.

The addition of the filioque was in response to the denial of the Holy Ghost as the third person of the Holy Trinity. The Church, infallible in such pronouncements of dogma, thus defined the double procession, which we are to believe with a divine and Catholic faith.