THE DOCTRINAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE COUNCIL
By Fr. Panagiotes Carras
The deep-rooted antagonism of the Church in the Byzantine Empire toward the Roman Catholic West during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries has been generally believed to spring from nationalistic or political causes,1 rather than religious. The endless discussions concerning the Filioque are only to be understood either in the light of the contemporary political conditions; or, as D.J. Geanakipoulos says, it would appear that the question of the Filioque, so bitterly debated at Florence, masked the vital, underlying problem of the hostility between Greeks and Latins.2 However, a careful examination of the discussion at the Council of Florence of the Filioque will reveal that the Orthodox understood that doctrine of the Filioque actually was in direct contradiction to Orthodox soteriology and to the Sacramental life of the Church, which is the life source of the Church.3
Thomistic theology had so developed and applied the Filioque doctrine
that the whole life and fabric of the
presuppositions, basis, and cause of the Filioque in Roman
well understood by the Orthodox; for Augustine6 and Aquinas7
were read and known in the East. The Emperor John VIII, however,
discussion by the Orthodox on the relation of God's Essence to His
is the heart of the Filioque problem and of the difference
and East, as had been demonstrated in the Hesychast Controversy.8 As evidence that Western theology
well known and that the basic problem was believed to be that of God's
and Energies, we have John VIII's first direction that the discussions
at the forth
coining revolve around the two basic problems of the Filioque and
Essence and Energies.9 Once the discussions commenced,
John VIII, attempted to avert all serious theological discussion on the
problems.10 He realized that
the cleavage between the Orthodox and the Latins was too deep and too
be healed. According to the Orthodox,
the Latins were not only wrong in regard to the Filioque and
theology of Grace, but were also wrong in regard to the Eucharist,
Primacy, Baptism, Purgatory, etc. Symeon Thessalonikes in his list of
errors11 included the withholding of the chalice from the
withholding of Holy Chrismation and Holy Communion from infants, the
non-concelebration of the clergy. Symeon was also shocked by Latin
art, especially by the statues equipped with artificial hair and
painted in life-like fashion. What
disturbed him even more was Latin sacred drama and the realism for
strove. For Symeon, Latin sacred drama
was a theatrical profanation of divine things. He also points out that
ethical and moral corruption of the Latin Church was caused by
to the Council returned home only to find that they were
to their faith. In Constantinople, the
faithful were told to shun the Unionists as one does a snake,16
and in Moscow, Isidore of Kiev, one of the signers and now a cardinal,
accused of heresy and imprisoned immediately upon his arrival.17 The Orthodox people refused to accept the
Union, and would not Communicate with those who did. In
so doing, they remained adamant until the fall
of the city, an event which they recognized as an act of God.18 The faithful who resisted the
The role that these two leaders of the Orthodox faithful played in the last years before the fall should not be underestimated. K.G. Mamones lists one hundred and ten titles in his catalog of the works of Saint Mark,19 and we must remember that Saint Mark reposed at the age of fifty-two. The works of Gennadius have been published in eight volumes by L. Petit. Mention need not be made of the long list of anti-Latin writings which circulated at that time, authored by such great men as Nilus and Nicholas Cabasilas. In Syropoulos we find references to Nilus Cabasilas as saint and to Nicholas as God-inspired.20
light of the cognizance of the real issues which the Orthodox faithful
we can be assured of the severity with which they viewed the separation
now existed between them and the Latins, and we must make a serious
ascertain the exact theological issues which were so vehemently
the Council of
Catholic doctrine of the Filioque had so developed that it
basic teachings of the Church on the Holy Trinity. The property of
was attributed to the one common essence of the Holy Trinity, and
doctrine accordingly developed around this basic premise. The theology
of the Filioque
is in direct contrast to the Orthodox teaching that the Essence of God
totally inconprehensible to man and that nothing can be postulated
The standard argument of
Orthodox against the Latins concerning the Filioque was that it
that the Holy Spirit had two sources, the Father and the Son. Although
Even as the Monophysites, though they deny ten thousand times that God suffered in the flesh, are still Theopaschites as long as they remain Monophysites, and even though they name Christ both true God and true man, but nevertheless remain Monophysites ...so also the same must be understood here, for as long as they profess the Filioque in the Creed, even though they deny ten thousand times the Dyarchy (alt. trans; the two principles of Godhead) and Sabellian-like teaching, and other such things, or even should they renounce or state their intent of renouncing their teachings at some point, but still retain the Filioque, they still remain what they are.27
The Latins appeared to the Orthodox to be either Sabellians, or to teach that there are two principles of Divinity. Even though the Latins condemned both doctrines, their theology, as well as the manner of its presentation, differed so greatly that the Orthodox could not be convinced that the Latins were not heretics. The Latins kept affirming that it is the Essence of God which is the source or cause of the persons, and to this the standard answer was: The essence, as the teachers stated, neither begets nor projects; but neither does the Father beget or project according to the common essence, nor does the Son do so, as you say; but according to His own essence, or rather, to His own hypostatical characteriatic."28 The Latin answer to the above was to begin a discussion of the substantia prima and substantia secunda, using Aristotle as an authority.29
At the Council of Florence, the theological debate on the Filioque was carried on principally by Saint Mark Eugenicus and John de Montenegro, a Dominican. Before the Orthodox allowed the Latins to force them to discuss the theology of the Filioque, they tried their best to limit the discussions to the canonicity of the insertion.30 These discussions lasted about two months. The Greeks argued that the insertion was uncanonical: We say that it is not permissable to add to the Creed, and that the addition which you have added is not a pious one. And we further state that no addition of any kind, neither word nor syllable, should be added to the Creed.31
The Latins, however, kept insisting that the addition was an explanation and, as such, was perfectly in order. Their strongest argument, based on a false document, was that the Council of Ephesus was not the first to make the prohibition against any insertions to the Creed. They quoted the apocryphal Letter to Athanasius by Pope Liberius35 as proof that the Council of Nicea itself made a similar prohibition against insertions, yet the next Council completed the Creed. Bessarion claimed that this argument baffled the Orthodox,36 yet the opposite was true. Saint Mark openly declared that nothing was known of this prohibition in the East and refused to accept the argument.37
months of such discussions, the Orthodox were ready to abandon the
The Orthodox delegation knew quite well that the Latins would base themselves on their own fathers who were not acknowledged in the East.40 Saint Mark and the rest of the Orthodox delegation knew the Latin arguments and their sources41 even before the Latins presented them. They were not at all impressed either by quotations from Augustine42 or Aquinas or the use of scholastic arguments. In fact, Saint Mark often made clear that he believed Augustine to be in error.43 Later, when Saint Mark published his confession of faith, he declared: The words of the western fathers and doctors, which attribute to the Son the cause of the Spirit, I never recognize (for they have never been translated into our tongue nor approved by the Oecumenical Councils).44
Latin presuppositions being
Augustinian,45 the debates at
The second text presented by Montenegro was, And as no one hath seen the Father, except the Son, nor the Son, except the Father, so do I dare to say that no man has known the Holy Spirit, except for the Father and the Son, from Whom He receives His being and proceeds neither the Son and the Father, except for The Holy Spirit, which (Spirit) truely glorifies, Who teaches all, and Who is (cometh) (from the Father and the Son.50
which Migne has, however, not only differs from the text of
Since now, as the Lord states, (the Spirit) proceedeth from the Father, and is received of ‘Me’, and as no one knows the Father, except the Son, nor the Son, except the Father, so do I dare to say in such a manner no one knows the Spirit, except the Father and the Son, from whom the Spirit proceedeth, and from whom he is received, and that no one knows the Father and the Son, except the Holy Spirit, who truly glorifies, who teaches all things, who attesteth to the Son, who is of the Father and from the Son: the only guide to the truth, the interpreter of the holy Laws (or the interpreter of the laws of the saints).51
Saint Mark contested the validity of the texts, and explained that Saint Epiphanius never said that the Holy Spirit receives its being from the Son. He also called particular attention to the use of the words proceeds and is received. According to Saint Mark, Saint Epiphanius used the verb proceeds to show that the Holy Spirit receives its existence from the Father. The verb receive, however, is used to show the agreement and concordance of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son, which Son announces to his disciples (the coming) of the Holy Spirit, who would instruct them in the matters which they had received from Him.52 Later in the debate, Saint Mark again clearly stated the Orthodox position: According, therefore, to the theology of the Fathers, we are able to comprehend that the Spirit thus proceedeth from the Father, that is to say, derives its existence (or being) from the Father; is given (or bestowed) by the Son; and is received by those who believe in him.53
verb receives is used to show the activity of the Holy Spirit
world was further demonstrated by Saint Mark through his citing of
Chrysostom and Saint Cyril of
We admit that whenever we say that (the Holy Spirit) is from the Father, we mean from his Person, whenever we say that he is from the Son, we mean to say from his Person; for the essence of the Father and the Son is one. As the Father projects the Spirit, so does the Son likewise project the Holy Spirit, as if from one the Holy Spirit is projected.54
At this point it seems necessary to note that the Latin subsistentia (person) was rendered hypostasis by the interpreters, a rendition which could easily lead the Orthodox to believe that the Latins were teaching that the Holy Spirit had two sources. For the Latins, this was not so; the source of the Holy Spirit is one, the common essence of the Father and the Son. The use of the Thomistic term subsistentia leads us further to understand why, when one reads the Acts of the Council, he is led at times to believe that the two opposing sides spoke different theological languages.
Latin theology teaches a Trinity of persons subsisting in the one undivided nature or essence, thus reducing the persons to relations of paternity, sonship and active and passive spiration. Orthodox theology on the other hand hangs on the patristic terms the only source of the super-essential Godhead is the Father (Saint Dionysius)55 and The only source of Godhead is the Father (Saint Athanasius)56 The Latins, following Augustine, who defined the essence of God to be simplicity (unity),57 defined God as Actus Purus.58 Aquinas in his fivefold proof for the existence of God followed pagan Greek Philosophy and declared that there must be a first mover, unmoved, a first cause in the chain of causes. For Roman Catholic Scholastic Theology, God is this unmoved cause. Their theology became a theology of Being, and God was then subjected to a theology which was governed by categories and laws of being. Everything from the first principle down to the last detail was thought of as likewise determined by these laws and categories, and thus deducible in a logically consistent manner which in effect was Aristotelian.
This theology of Being
The existence and the essence of the
are the same thing. For this reason, we always say that the Spirit is
In the same line of
thinking we find
the essence and the person or hypostasis are the same thing, in reality, and differ only according to our mode of comprehension, in that the person depends on the essence and the attributes. Now, therefore, while the persons differ according to thought or word, the essence remains common to the persons, but the attributes in no way are made common to all; this being due to the vitality of the relationship.60
In order to preserve the unity of the Trinity, the Latins made the persons subsistent to the essence. According to Scholastic Theology it is from the essence that the Son is born and the Spirit proceeds, yet the essence itself is not the cause of generation and spiration. Consequently the persons of the Trinity cause generation and spiration. The essence is not (the cause) of the divine generation or spiration, but rather, the persons generate and spirate, so that it follows that the cause of the Spirit is the person, and not the essence. 61
When Saint Mark heard that last statement he proclaimed, I am not able to connect your statements, for it seems to me that they are contradictory. For at times, you say that the Father and the Son are of the essence, which is one, and which essence is also the number, but now, you again change, consequently saying to the teachers that the essence is not the cause of the hypostases, per se.62 The query of Saint Mark was due to the fact that since in Latin theology the persons of the Trinity are reduced to relations within and subsistent to the Divine Essence, the Essence becomes the source of Godhead instead of the hypostasis of the Father. Accordingly, the modes of existence peculiar to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit lose their identity and simply become casual and principal relationships within the common Essence. In Thomistic theology, the above is expressed in the following terms:
In creatures relations are accidental, whereas in God they are the divine essence itself. Thence it follows that in God essence is not really distinct from person: and yet that the persons are really distinguished from each other. For person, as above stated signifies relation as subsisting in the divine nature. But relation as referred to the essence does not differ therefrom really but only in our way of thinking: while as referred to an opposite relation, it has a real distinction by virtue of that opposition. Thus there are one essence and three persons.63
Such a theology forced the Latins to deny that God had any real relationship with the world, limiting the activity of God within the world to the mission of created grace. This is all in keeping with the Augustinian doctrine whereas, everything which is said of God, is said of Him as regards either His substance or relation.64
of the Latin theological approach was such that the Orthodox
actually dumbfounded by certain Latin positions. One particularly
incident took place while Saint Mark and
To all the arguments of the Latins that when they teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, they do not teach two causes of the Holy Spirit but one, Saint Mark answered, and is it possible for one cause to come from two persons? Is this not a commingling of the hypostases? This is the dogma of Sabellios.73 Saint Mark understood what the basis for the Filioque was and according to him it taught a confusion of the hypostatic modes of existence. in continuation he stated:
if then, the unique source of the super-essential Godhead is the Father, and in this He is distinguished from the Son and the Spirit, what was the objective of this radical distinction? The Son cannot partake of the source of the Father, nor can the Holy Spirit do so, for thus, there is a confusion concerning the divine persons, and the distinctions are abolished. For as he says, neither is it lawful that those things which are united be abolished, nor can those things which are distinguished (from one another) be confused. And for this reason, (the matter) of the source of the Godhead can in no way be attributed to the Son.74
We receive the Spirit from the Son: this is the Spirit of adoption. We become by Grace what the Son is by nature, through the adoption by the Spirit ...... if then, we receive the Spirit of adoption from the Son, we are also adopted of the Father by the Spirit. From the Spirit, we receive naught but that very Spirit.75
the Acts one can readily note that this short but frantic episode
the Orthodox doctrine on Uncreated Grace was planned by Saint Mark. He
evidence from the discussions at Florence that show Saint Mark was
with Scholastic theology is to be found when Montenegro, in defending
doctrine of the order of nature within the Trinity, brought forth an
the stars and the Trinity. Saint Mark
The Filioque controversy was quite involved and, in actuality, cannot be understood unless the doctrine of the Filioque is examined in the light of the Orthodox teaching on the Divine Essence and Energies. It is due to a false theology on the Essence and activity of God that the Filioque found a place in the Latin Creed. Saint Mark had an excellent knowledge of the doctrine of the Divine Essence and Energiess and was able to realize what the basis of the Filioque was. He was the successor of Joseph Bryennius81 who in turn had been a personal desciple of Saint Gregory Palamas.82 Although during the Filioque discussions at the Council of Florence, Saint Mark didn't have an opportunity to expound on the Orthodox doctrine of Grace, he did manage in one place83 to be explicit about the doctrine of the Uncreated Energies, and in two places84 to speak concerning the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world. In his final reference to the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world he based himself on Saint Gregory Nazianzus' phrase that the Holy Spirit, is sent through economy, comes of its own volition.85 The Spirit is sent. into the world through the Son and it is through the Son that the Holy Spirit is revealed to mankind.86
The open discussions of the Council of Florence were not the only time that Saint Mark made it evident that the basic error of Latin theology is its incorrect view of the Divine Essence and Energies. Saint Mark submitted to the Latins87 three documents on purgatory in which he struck out at the doctrine of the Beatific Vision88 and Latin gnoseology89.
The Roman Catholic doctrine of the Filioque not only confuses the Hypostases of the Holy Trinity but also denies the real activity and presence of the Holy Spirit within the world. According to the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the Holy Fathers, if we do not acquire the Holy Spirit in this life, we are not saved. St. Mark of
Geanikopoulos, The Council of Florence (1438-1439) and the
Problem of Union Between
the Greek and Latin Churches, Church History, XXIV <1955>,
No. 4, pp.
324-346. cf. J.
Gill, The Council of
2 Geanikopoulos, op. cit., p. 333.
3 Cabasilas, N., De Vita in Christo, Migne, P.G., 150:521.
4 S. Upson, Simeon Archbishop of Thessalonika, St. Vladimir' s Seminary Quarterly, II (1958) No. 4, pp. 14-15.
5 A. Schmeman, "St. Mark
6 J. Romanides, Notes on the Palamite Controversy and Related Topics, Greek Orthodox Theological Review, VI (1960-1961) No. 2, p. 203.
7 The most important works of Acquinas were translated by Demetrius Cydones and his brother in the fourteenth century, cf. P. Sherrard, The Greek East and the Latin West, (London, 1959), p. 120.
8 The Hesychast
essentially a battle between Orthodox and Latin theologies, cf. J.
cit., pp. 194-205. Also C. K. Mamones notes that All
the foes of the hesychasts were initiates of the Scholastic
theology of the West.' K.G. Mamones, Mark
Evgenicus; His Life and Works, Theologia, 25 1955), p. 384
Greek). Krumbacher also states that there are parts of Akindynus' Concerning
Essence and Energy, which are literal translations from Acquinas' De
Catholicae Fidei Contra Gentiles. K. Krumbacher, History of
9 A. Schmemann, op. cit., pp. 16-17.
10 I. N. Ostroumoff,
The History of The Council of
11 Migne, P. G., 155:97-123.
12 Excluding of course Bessarion, Isidore and Dorotheus.
14 They carried the water and towel for the washing of the Pope's hands, cf. J. Gill, of,, cit., p. 293 - 294.
16 I. Sevenko,
"Intellectual Repercussions of the
17 M. Cherniavskv.
"The Reception of the Council of
18 Migne, P. G. , 157:1058.
19 K. G. Mamones, op. cit., pp. 553-563.
20 1. Sevenko, op. cit., p. 314.
21 A. Alivizatos, op. cit., p. 97.
22 J. Romanides, op. cit., pp. 190-191.
23 Synods of
24 D. S. Balanos,
25 J. Gill, op. cit. ,p. 249.
26 J. Gill, Actorum Graecorum Concilii Florentini, (
G., Centre L'Union de Florence, ed. L. Petit, "Oeuvres
Gennade Scholarios'', (Paris, 1930), t.
28 Actorum Graecorum, pp. 287-288 (my italics).
29 ibid, p. 288. "and concerning the various meanings of the word essence, some one (Aristotle) has spoken in the fifth Tome of Metaphisics9'.
30 I. N. Ostroumoff, op. cii., pp. 62-87. Gill, op. cit. pp. 147-178.
31 Actorum Graecorum, p. 47.
32 ibid., p. 101.
33 ibid. p. 146.
34 ibid. p. 148.
35 Migne, P. G. , 28:1469 - 1471.
36 J. Gill, op. cit., pp. 168 - 169.
37 ibid., p. 162.
38 Actorum Graecorum, p. 217.
39 J. Gill, op. cit., pp 169 - 179; N. Ostroumoff, op. cit., pp. 84-91.
40 N. Ostroumoff, op. cit., p. 86.
41 Saint Mark read Augustine's De Trinitate in Greek. Cf. Documents Relatifs au Concile de Florence, ed. L. Petit, Patrologia Orientalis, v. 15, p. 73.
42 J. Gill, op. cit., p.216.
43 N. Ostroumoff, op. cit., pp 52 & 55; Patrologia Orientalis, v. 15, pp. 48, 49, 67, 88 - 91, 121 - 122.
44 Quoted in J. Gill, op. cit., p. 226.
doctrinal debate was started
46 Actorum Graecorum, p. 255.
47 N. Ostroumoff, op. cit., p. 93.
48 Actorum Graecorum, p. 256.
49 Migne, P. G., 43:148.
50 Actorum Graecorum, p. 256.
51 Migne, P. G., 43:153.
52 Actorum Graecorum, p. 257.
53 ibid.. p. 271.
54 ibid., p. 261.
55 ibid.. p. 368.
56 ibid.. p. 323.
57 Augustine, On The Holy Trinity, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, (Grand Rapids, 1956), vol. 3, pp. 99 - 101.
58 T. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Q. 9, Art. 1; Q. 54, Art. 3; Q. 79, Art. 2; Q. 90, Art. 1.
59 Actorum Graecorum, p. 265 (My italics).
60 ibid.. p. 266.
61 ibid., p. 281.
63 Summa, Q. 39, Art. 1 (My italics).
64 Augustine, op. cit., p. 88 - 89.
65 Actorum Graecorum, pp. 286 - 339.
66 ibid., p. 315.
68 ibid., p. 308.
69 Summa, Q. 42, Art. 3 (My italics).
70 Quoted in Summa, Q. 42, Art. 3.
71 ibid., Q. 37, Art. 1 & 2; Q. 41. Art. 2.
72 ibid., Q. 37. Art. 1.
73 Actorum Graecorum, p. 352 (My italics).
74 ibid., p. 368
75 ibid., p. 342
(My italics). At this point
76 ibid., p. 345.
77 ibid., p. 346. , 78 ibid., p. 348.
79 K. G. Mamones, op. cit. p. 536.
80 Actorum Graecorum, p. 365.
Bryennius was also familiar with Aquinas
and Western Theology. cf. Dictionaire de Theologie
83 Actorum Graecorum, p. 345.
84 ibid.. pp. 257 & 364.
85 ibid., p. 365.
86 ibid.. p. 367.
87 Private discussions on Purgatory were held at Ferrara while everyone waited for the Emperor and the Pope to start the work of the council officially, cf. J. Gill, op. cit., pp. 85 -130. N. Ostroumoff, ap. cit. , pp. 40-64.
88 Patrologia Orientalis, vol. xv, p. 157.
89 ibid., p. 161.