PROCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
and the FILIOQUE CLAUSE IN THE NICENE-CONSTANTINOPLE CREED
Nicene-Constantinople Creed: "We believe in the Holy Spirit...who proceeds from the Father and the Son."
The Gospel of John: 14:15-17 "If you love me you will keep my commandments. I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with [by] you, he is in you."
In the Gospel of St. John chapter 14:15-17 Jesus speaks of His commandments in the context of love. What commandments, and how is our love evident in the action of covenant obedience? His commandments include everything He has taught us, and in obedience to His commandments we live our love for Him in our actions! In 1John 3:18 and 5:3 St. John the Apostle writes: "Children, our love must be not just words or mere talk, but something active and genuine. This will be the proof that we belong to the truth..." and "This is what the love of God is" keeping his commandments." Who then is the "other" Advocate Jesus is promising the Father will send? He is God the Holy Spirit who is for the first time revealed in this passage of John's Gospel as the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity.
The Old Covenant people of God did not have the revelation of the Trinitarian nature of God. In Hebrew the word ruah [ruach] (ie, Genesis 1:2), meaning wind, breath, air, or soul/spirit expressed the "spirit" or "divine wind" of God. Although the Hebrew word ruah can denote human breath, the air humans breathe to stay alive and sign of life or the absence of which indicates death, the use of this word in association with Yahweh is the very breathe which comes forth from the mouth of the Living God. It is His living power [see Psalms 33:6]. It is the "breath of God" that raised up the holy prophets and it is given to the kings of Israel at their coronation as Yahweh's anointed [Isaiah 11:2]. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament and in the New Testament the Hebrew word ruah is usually translated by the Greek word pneuma and is used to identify the Comforter also known as the Paraclete.
The word "paraclete" is an anglicized transliteration of the Greek word parakletos. This word is only found 5 times in Sacred Scripture and only in John's Gospel and First Epistle [see 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; and 1John 2:1]. The word parakletos can have various meanings. It can mean advocate, intercessor, counselor, protector or supporter. The literal Greek entomology is from para ="to the side of" and kaleo = to summon. Therefore, the word can be interpreted to mean to be called to someone's side in order to accompany, console, protect and/or defend.
In this passage Jesus says "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you..." ; in John 15:26 He will continue telling the Apostles of the coming of the Holy Spirit when He says, "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me", then in John 16:7 Jesus will tell the Apostles, "I will send him (the Holy Spirit) to you...", and after the Resurrection Jesus will breath on the Apostles in the Upper Room and will say "Receive the Holy Spirit" (see John 20:22).
Do these passages contradict each other? From whom does the Paraclete come from the Father or from the Son or from both? The answer is that these verses establish the procession of the Trinity. In writing about these passages St. John Chrysostom, the great last 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople contends that there is no contradiction in these statements: "But why said He, 'I will ask the Father'? Because had He said, 'I will send Him,' they would not have so much believed, and now the object is that He should be believed. For afterwards He declares that He Himself sendeth Him saying, 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost' (c 20:22); but in this place He telleth that He asketh the Father so as to render His discourse credible to them." Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, John Chrysostom, Homily LXXV.
Why then does Jesus speak of God the Holy Spirit as "another" advocate? Notice Jesus uses the Greek word "another" and not "different". The Holy Spirit will be given to the Church in Christ's place as Advocate, Defender, and Teacher, to give assistance since Jesus is going to ascend to heaven, but the Advocate who is to be sent is not different from Christ, rather He is another similar to Himself [see Matthew 6:24]. He will send the Holy Spirit after His Ascension in Acts chapter 2 on Pentecost Sunday when the Church will be filled and indwelled by God the Holy Spirit.
In John 14:16 Jesus gives the Holy Spirit the title "the Spirit of Truth." In verse 16 John makes was seems on the surface to be grammatical error in the Greek by referring to the "Spirit" in the masculine instead of in the neuter. The Greek word for wind or spirit is pneuma. The Greek word is neuter and does not take the masculine article John has given it. This may be bad Greek grammar but this is good Christian theology! God the Holy Spirit is a person and not simply a force.
Notice that three prepositions are used in verse 16 to describe the Spirit's relationship to the believer [highlighted in the quotation]. Jesus assures every believer that God the Holy Spirit will be "with you" as your companion in fellowship, "by you" in His position as your advocate and consoler, and "in you" as the indwelling personal God who is your source of supernatural life.
From John study chapter 15 Verses 25-27 "But all this was only to fulfill the words written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.' When the Paraclete comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness. And you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning."
The reference to "their Law" refers to the entire Old Testament. The Scripture passage Jesus quotes is either Psalms 35:19 or 69:4, or perhaps both. Psalm 35 is David's lament to Yahweh over his persecution. In verse 19 he cries out "Let not my lying enemies gloat over me; those who hate me unprovoked look askance at me." Psalm 69 is a similar lament in which David tells God in verse 4 "More numerous than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without reason. Those who seek to get rid of me are powerful, my treacherous enemies.." What is interesting is how both these Psalms lamenting unjust persecution end. The pslams end praising God for His goodness to His faithful servant: Psalm 35:27-28 "But let all who delight in my uprightness shout for joy and gladness; let them constantly say, 'Great is Yahweh, who delights to see his servant in peace.' And my tongue shall recount your saving justice, all day long sing your praise." The citing of this psalm is Jesus' promise that their persecution will not go unnoticed by God and that He will deliver them in the end.
This is the third time Jesus has mentioned the Paraclete, God the Holy Spirit [see John 14:16, 26]. The word parakletos is peculiar to John's writings. In 5 passages in this Gospel: 14:15-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-11, and 12-14, John identifies the 3rd Person of the Most Holy Trinity by the title the Parakletos.
What is the connection between the Paraclete and Christ? The connection is that the Paraclete represents Christ's presence among mankind. He is Christ's witness filling and indwelling believes who will become Jesus' witnesses to the world. This is a profound explanation of why the world will treat Jesus' disciples the same way it treated Him. Through the Paraclete's indwelling Christ lives in the disciples and therefore the world will hate the disciples who are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. [also see John 14:16, 26; 16:7; and CCC#244-48].
Why does Jesus call the Paraclete the Spirit of Truth? As the Spirit of Truth God the Holy Spirit will convict the world of its guilt and sin. The world has rejected Jesus the Truth, His words and His works, and the Holy Spirit will demonstrate and convict the world of this rejection. What then is the unique position as witnesses that the Apostles fill? They will provide the eyewitness accounts of Jesus' ministry, His words and His works, to the New Covenant people and to their successors in the Magisterium of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ.
Our understanding of the procession of the Holy Spirit is based on this text in John's Gospel, 15:25-27. In writing about these passages St. John Chrysostom, the great last 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople contends that there is no contradiction in these statements. In addressing John 14:15-16 he writes, "But why said He, 'I will ask the Father'? Because had He said, 'I will send Him,' they would not have so much believed, and now the object is that He should be believed. For afterwards He declares that He Himself sendeth Him saying, 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost' (c 20:22); but in this place He telleth that He asketh the Father so as to render His discourse credible to them." And then in his commentary on John 15 quoting from verse 15 Chrysostom writes, " 'Whom I will send.' Behold, it is no longer the Father alone, but the Son also who sendeth." Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, John Chrysostom, Homily LXXV & LXXVII.
When we recite the Nicene-Constantinople Creed we affirm, "We believe in the Holy Spirit...who proceeds from the Father and the Son." This line quoted from the Creed was not part of the original Creed approved by the ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381AD, a document that expanded on the earlier creed formulated by the ecumenical Council of Nicene in 324AD. As a consequence of this addition, the Orthodox churches of the Eastern rites have rejected what has become known as the "filioque clause" which affirms that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and not simply from the Father. The "filioque clause" was probably added to the Creed in the last decade of the 6th century in the Third Council of Toledo in 589AD, which was a council that did not include Eastern Rite Catholics. At issue was the old Arian heresy which denied the eternal coexistence of God the Father and the Son. In the first decade of the third century the Alexandrian priest Arius began teaching that if the Son was a real Son then his Father must have existed before Him, therefore the Divine Father must have existed before the Divine Son and the Son is a creature created by God. He declared that the Son was "the greatest and eldest of all God s creatures is Himself a God but still created and therefore like all creatures of an essence or substance which previously had not existed." It was the Arian heresy that forced theologians to take a new approach to the discussion of the nature of the Trinity. Earlier Christian theologians reflected almost exclusively on the Triune nature of God in the context of the economy of salvation and the aspect of revelation and redemption. After Arius introduced his heresy it was necessary to focus on the identity of God the Son with the Father and later on the Holy Spirit's relationship with both the Father and the Son. The addition of the filioque clause in 589 AD was made with the intention of repudiating the Arian heresy which still flourished among the Visigoths living in Spain and it was at this council that St. Leander, Bishop of Seville [577-600AD] is credited with leading the Visigoths away from Arianism and leading them to formally embrace the Catholic faith as expressed in the revised Nicene-Constantinople Creed. This addition to the Creed, although not made in concert with an ecumenical council, nevertheless was accepted in good faith as a further expression of the true nature of the Godhead and did not become an issue until two centuries later. Eventually the addition of the "filioque clause" would become one of the issues that lead to the Great Eastern Schism of 1054 AD in which the Eastern Rite Catholic churches no longer were in communion with the Bishop of Rome [see the document "The Great Eastern Schism"].
Until the controversy over the procession of the Holy Spirit as stated in the filioque clause is resolved, unity between Western and Eastern Catholics will not be established. This controversy is rooted in the different ways the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rite Catholics approach the Triune nature of the Godhead. Theologian Theodore de Regnon [died 1893] identified the problem as: "The Latin theologian says: 'three persons in God,' whereas the Greek says: 'one God in three persons.'" In other words, Latin Rite Catholics begin by emphasizing the expressed unity of the divine nature of God [expressed as the ousia, in Greek], and then work to explain how the 3 Persons of the Blessed Trinity differ among themselves while the Greeks look to the differentiation of the 3 Persons [hypostases, in Greek] and then work to explain how they function together in perfect union and how they form not simply a union of a full and complete unity.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2000, revised 2007 (on the Feast of the Bless Virgin Mary and the Feast of St. Ephraim) Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.