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St Gregory of Nyssa On the Holy Spirit, Complete

Translated by W. Moore and H. A. Wilson

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Against the Followers of Macedonius. [1221]

It may indeed be undignified to give any answer at all to the statements that are foolish; we seem to be pointed that way by Solomon's wise advice, "not to answer a fool according to his folly." But there is a danger lest through our silence error may prevail over the truth, and so the rotting sore [1222] of this heresy may invade it, and make havoc of the sound word of the faith. It has appeared to me, therefore, to be imperative to answer, not indeed according to the folly of these men who offer objections of such a description to our Religion, but for the correction of their depraved ideas. For that advice quoted above from the Proverbs gives, I think, the watchword not for silence, but for the correction of those who are displaying some act of folly; our answers, that is, are not to run on the level of their foolish conceptions, but rather to overturn those unthinking and deluded views as to doctrine.

What then is the charge they bring against us? They accuse us of profanity for entertaining lofty conceptions about the Holy Spirit. All that we, in following the teachings of the Fathers, confess as to the Spirit, they take in a sense of their own, and make it a handle against us, to denounce us for profanity [1223] . We, for instance, confess that the Holy Spirit is of the same rank as the Father and the Son, so that there is no difference between them in anything, to be thought or named, that devotion can ascribe to a Divine nature. We confess that, save His being contemplated as with peculiar attributes in regard of Person, the Holy Spirit is indeed from God, and of the Christ, according to Scripture [1224] , but that, while not to be confounded with the Father in being never originated, nor with the Son in being the Only-begotten, and while to be regarded separately in certain distinctive properties, He has in all else, as I have just said, an exact identity [1225] with them. But our opponents aver that He is a stranger to any vital communion with the Father and the Son; that by reason of an essential variation He is inferior to, and less than they in every point; in power, in glory, in dignity, in fine in everything that in word or thought we ascribe to Deity; that, in consequence, in their glory He has no share, to equal honour with them He has no claim; and that, as for power, He possesses only so much of it as is sufficient for the partial activities assigned to Him; that with the creative force He is quite disconnected.

[1221] Macedonius had been a very eminent Semi-Arian doctor. He was deposed from the See of Constantinople, A.D. 360: and it was actually the influence of the Eunomians that brought this about. He went into exile and formed his sect. He considered the Holy Spirit as "a divine energy diffused throughout the universe: and not a person distinct from the Father and the Son" (Socrates, H. E. iv. 4). This opinion had many partizans in the Asiatic provinces, "but," says Mosheim, "the Council of Constantinople crushed it." However, that the final clauses of the Nicene Creed which express distinctly, amongst other truths, the deity and personality of the Third Person of the Trinity were added at that Council to the original form, is extremely doubtful. For--1. We find the expanded form which we now use in the Nicene Creed, in a work written by Epiphanius seven years before the Council of Constantinople. So that at all events the enlarged Creed was not prepared by the Fathers then assembled. 2. It is extremely doubtful if any symbol at all was set forth at Constantinople. Neither Socrates, nor Sozomen, nor Theodoret makes mention of one: but all speak of adherence to the evangelic faith ratified at Nicaea. It is significant too that the expanded form was entirely ignored by the Council of Ephesus, 431. But at the Council of Chalcedon, 451, it was brought forward: though even then it appears that it was far from attaining general acceptance. By 540 it had become the accepted form (according to a letter of Pope Vigilius). "It seems most likely therefore that it was a profession received amongst the churches in the patriarchate of Constantinople, but at first not more widely circulated" (J. R. Lumby, Commentary on Prayer-Book, S. P. C. K., p. 66) F. J. A. Hort, however, (see Two Dissertations by) regards this "Constantinopolitan" Creed as the old Creed of Jerusalem enlarged and expanded; and he suggests that S. Cyril of Jerusalem may have produced it before the Council, which gave it some sort of approval. The addition, moreover, of the later clauses was not, as Mosheim seems to imagine, the only difference between the Nicene Creed and this Creed. That this lateness of accepted definition on a vital point should not excite our wonder, Neander shows "the apprehension of the idea (of the homoousion of the Holy Spirit) had been so little permeated as yet by the Christian consciousness of the unity of God, that Gregory of Nazianzum could still say in 380, Some of our theologians consider the Holy Spirit to be a certain mode of the Divine energy, others a creature of God, others God Himself. Others say they do not know which opinion they ought to accept, out of reverence for the Scriptures which have not clearly explained this point.' Hilary of Poictiers says in his own original way that he was well aware that nothing could be foreign to God's nature, which searches into the deep things of that nature. Should one be displeased at being told that He exists by and through Him, by and from Whom are all things, that He is the Spirit of God, but also God's gift to believers, then will the apostles and prophets displease him; for they affirm only that He exists.'" There can be little doubt, however, that Gregory, in the following fragment, is defending a statement already in existence. He seems even to follow the order of the words, "Lord and giver of Life." "Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified." Doubtless the next clause, "Who spake by the Prophets," was dealt with in what is lost. But, essentially a creed-maker as he was, his claim to have himself added these final clauses cannot be substantiated. For the mss. of this treatise, see p. 31.

[1222] sepedonodes...gangraina: both used by Galen.

[1223] eis asebeian graphein. This is Mai's reading. Cf. asebeias graphe. The active (instead of middle) in this sense is found in Aristoph. Av. 1052: the passive is not infrequent in Demosthenes and aeschines.

[1224] From God, and of the Christ, according to Scripture. This is noticeable. The Greek is ek tou Theou esti, kai tou Christou esti, kathos gegraptai. Compare the words below "proceeding from the Father, receiving from the Son."

[1225] to aparallakton (but there is something lost before this: perhaps to henomenon). This word is used to express substantial identity. Origen uses it in alluding to the "Stoic resurrection," i.e. the time when the "Great Year" shall again begin, and the world's history be literally repeated, i.e. the "identical Socrates shall marry the identical Xantippe, and teach the identical philosophy, &c." This expression was a favourite one also with Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria to express the identity of Glory, of Godhead, and of Honour, in the Blessed Trinity.

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