Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

God the Holy Spirit - Pneumatology in the Early Church


St Gregory the Theologian ( of Nazianzus )

'The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The new manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity in the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies is with a clearer demonstration of Himself.'
 - Oratio 31.26




Saint Gregory writes that over time, there is a clear progressive revelation of God, and His nature. Within the Church, the Holy Spirit is best known and seen in His fullness. He writes that the Holy Spirit works through the visible Church in a profound way - it is only within the Eucharistic community that we truly experience and witness the third person of the Godhead. Early pneumatology is focused on the Church' ministry, apostolic tradition and Liturgy. Perhaps most importantly, the Holy Spirit mystically consecrates the bread and wine, in order for faithful Christians to partake of 'the bread of life' (John 6:35) - Christ. 

The Spirit's Divinity
After the Council of Nicea, addressing the Arian controversy and focusing primarily on Christ's divinity, a group known as the Pneumatomachians, deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit. St Basil the Great ( in Letters 159.2 ) makes the Orthodox position very clear : 

'We glorify the Holy Spirit together with the Father and Son, from the conviction that He is not separated from the Divine Nature.' 

He highlights that we baptise in the name of the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 'The Spirit must be reckoned with, rather than below, the same glory reckoned to the Father and the Son.'  Therefore, he tells us that the Holy Spirit is indeed divine, and through the incarnation of the Word, we can experience and see the full work of the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit, Who enables us to reach theosis - being one with God in full communion and love.

Saint Gregory backs up these holy teachings of Basil by writing:

'Is the Spirit God? Yes indeed' as we read in the Gospel that 'God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.' ( John 4:24 ) 

'Then is He consubstantial? Of course, since He is God' ( Oratio 31.10 )

Saint Gregory the Theologian clarifies that the Spirit proceeds from the Father - as we read that 'the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father..' ( John 15:26 ) 


Saint Gregory of Nyssa, develops the triadology and pneumatology of St Basil and St Gregory the theologian, telling us that 'while we confess three Persons we say that there is one goodness, and one power and one Godhead.' In addition he states that the Spirit does indeed proceed from the Father, but he also writes 'through the Son.' This idea is taken out of proportion, and incorrectly expanded by Augustine - which will be the basis of my next post : The Filioque. 

'The one (the Son) is directly from the First and the other (i.e., the Spirit) is through the one who is directly from the First (τὸ δὲ ἐκ τοῦ προσεχῶς ἐκ τοῦ πρώτου) with the result that the Only-begotten remains the Son and does not negate the Spirit's being from the Father since the middle position of the Son both protects His distinction as Only-begotten and does not exclude the Spirit from His natural relation to the Father.'

The Church fathers clarify the Orthodox pneumatology, with the inclusion of an additional verse in the Creed..'in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with Father and Son is worshipped..'

My forthcoming post will be centred around the Filioque, with references to the writings of Irenaeus, Augustine and other Church fathers - highlighting how this problem arose, and why Augustines view disregards the Personhood of the Holy Spirit and the equality and consubstantiality of the Triune God. 


No comments:

Post a Comment