Holy Spirit Proceeds From Father And The Son

XJL158488 The chair of St. Peter, 1665 (bronze) by Bernini, Gian Lorenzo (1598-1680); St. Peter's, Vatican City; (add.info.: supported by statues of the four fathers of the church; Augustine and Ambrose of the Latin church; Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom of the Greek church; Augustin; Ambroise; Athanase; Jean Chrysostome;); Italian,  out of copyright
XJL158488 The chair of St. Peter, 1665 (bronze) by Bernini, Gian Lorenzo (1598-1680); St. Peter’s, Vatican City; (add.info.: supported by statues of the four fathers of the church; Augustine and Ambrose of the Latin church; Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom of the Greek church; Augustin; Ambroise; Athanase; Jean Chrysostome;); Italian, out of copyright


That the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father has always been admitted by all Christians; the truth is expressly stated in John, xv, 26. But the Greeks, after Photius, deny that He proceeds from the Son. And yet such is manifestly the teaching of Holy Scripture and the Fathers.

(1) In the New Testament

(a) The Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the Spirit of the Son (Galatians 4:6), the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7). These terms imply a relation of the Spirit to the Son, which can only be a relation of origin. This conclusion is so much the more indisputable as all admit the similar argument to explain why the Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of the Father. Thus St. Augustine argues (In Joan., tr. xcix, 6, 7 in P.L., XXXV, 1888): “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?” St. Athanasius had argued in exactly the same way (De Trinit. et Spir. S., n. 19, in P.G., XXVI, 1212), and concluded: “We say that the Son of God is also the source of the Spirit.”

(b) The Holy Ghost receives from the Son, according to John 16:13-15: “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you. He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it to you. All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine. Therefore I said, that he shall receive of mine, and shew it to you.” Now, one Divine Person can receive from another only by Procession, being related to that other as to a principle. What the Paraclete will receive from the Son is immanent knowledge, which He will afterwards manifest exteriorly. But this immanent knowledge is the very essence of the Holy Ghost. The latter, therefore, has His origin in the Son, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son. “He shall not speak of Himself”, says St. Augustine (In Joan., tr. xcix, 4, in P.L., XXXV, 1887), “because He is not from Himself, but He shall tell you all He shall have heard. He shall hear from him from whom He proceeds. In His case, to hear is to know, and to know is to be. He derives His knowledge from Him from Whom He derives His essence.” St. Cyril of Alexandria remarks that the words: “He shall receive of mine” signify “the nature” which the Holy Ghost has from the Son, as the Son has His from the Father (De Trinit., dialog. vi, in P.G., LXXV, 1011). Besides, Jesus gives this reason of His assertion: “He shall receive of mine”: “All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine Now, since the Father has with regard to the Holy Ghost the relation we term Active Spiration, the Son has it also; and in the Holy Ghost there exists, consequently, with regard to both, Passive Spiration or Procession.

(2) The same truth has been constantly held by the Fathers

This fact is undisputed as far as the Western Fathers are concerned; but the Greeks deny it in the case of the Easterns. We will cite, therefore, a few witnesses from among the latter. The testimony of St. Athanasius has been quoted above, to the effect that “the Son is the source of the Spirit”, and the statement of Cyril of Alexandria that the Holy Ghost has His “nature” from the Son. The latter saint further asserts (Thesaur., assert. xxxiv in P.G., LXXV, 585); “When the Holy Ghost comes into our hearts, He makes us like to God, because He proceeds from the Father and the Son”; and again (Epist., xvii, Ad Nestorium, De excommunicatione in P.G., LXXVII, 117): “The Holy Ghost is not unconnected with the Son, for He is called the Spirit of Truth, and Christ is the Truth; so He proceeds from Him as well as from God the Father.” St. Basil (De Spirit. S., xviii, in P.G., XXXII, 147) wishes us not to depart from the traditional order in mentioning the Three Divine Persons, because “as the Son is to the Father, so is the Spirit to the Son, in accordance with the ancient order of the names in the formula of baptism”. St. Epiphanius writes (Ancor., viii, in P. G., XLIII, 29, 30) that the Paraclete “is not to be considered as unconnected with the Father and the Son, for He is with Them one in substance and divinity”, and states that “He is from the Father and the Son”; a little further, he adds (op. cit., xi, in P.G., XLIII, 35):” No one knows the Spirit, besides the Father, except the Son, from Whom He proceeds and of Whom He receives.” Lastly, a council held at Seleucia in 410 proclaims its faith “in the Holy Living Spirit, the Holy Living Paraclete, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son” (Lamy, “Concilium Seleuciæ”, Louvain, 1868).

However, when we compare the Latin writers, as a body, with the Eastern writers, we notice a difference in language: while the former almost unanimously affirm that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and from the Son, the latter generally say that He proceeds from the Father through the Son. In reality the thought expressed by both Greeks and Latins is one and the same, only the manner of expressing it is slightly different: the Greek formula ek tou patros dia tou ouiou expresses directly the order according to which the Father and the Son are the principle of the Holy Ghost, and implies their equality as principle; the Latin formula expresses directly this equality, and implies the order. As the Son Himself proceeds from the Father, it is from the Father that He receives, with everything else, the virtue that makes Him the principle of the Holy Ghost. Thus, the Father alone is principium absque principio, aitia anarchos prokatarktike, and, comparatively, the Son is an intermediate principle. The distinct use of the two prepositions, ek (from) and dia(through), implies nothing else. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Greek theologians Blemmidus Beccus, Calecas, and Bessarion called attention to this, explaining that the two particles have the same signification, but that from is better suited to the First Person, Who is the source of the others, and through to the Second Person, Who comes from the Father. Long before their time St. Basil had written (De Spir. S., viii, 21, in P.G., XXXII, 106): “The expression di ou expresses acknowledgment of the primordial principle [ tes prokatarktikes aitias]”; and St. Chrysostom (Hom. v in Joan., n. 2, in P.G., LIX, 56): “If it be said through Him, it is said solely in order that no one may imagine that the Son is not generated”: It may be added that the terminology used by the Eastern and Western writers, respectively, to express the idea is far from being invariable. Just as Cyril, Epiphanius, and other Greeks affirm the Procession ex utroque, so several Latin writers did not consider they were departing from the teaching of their Church in expressing themselves like the Greeks. Thus Tertullian (Contra Prax., iv, in P.L., II, 182): “Spiritum non aliunde puto quam a Patre per Filium”; and St. Hilary (De Trinit., lib., XII, n. 57, in P.L., X, 472), addressing himself to the Father, protests that he wishes to adore, with Him and the Son “Thy Holy Spirit, Who comes from Thee through thy only Son”. And yet the same writer had said, a little higher (op. cit., lib. II, 29, in P.L., X, 69), “that we must confess the Holy Ghost coming from the Father and the Son”, a clear proof that the two formulæ were regarded as substantially equivalent.

B. Proceeding both from the Father and the Son, the Holy Ghost, nevertheless, proceeds from Them as from a single principle. This truth is, at the very least insinuated in the passage of John, xvi, 15 (cited above), where Christ establishes a necessary connection between His own sharing in all the Father has and the Procession of the Holy Ghost. Hence it follows, indeed, that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the two other Persons, not in so far as They are distinct, but inasmuch as Their Divine perfection is numerically one. Besides, such is the explicit teaching of ecclesiastical tradition, which is concisely put by St. Augustine (De Trin., lib. V, c. xiv, in P.L., XLII, 921): “As the Father and the Son are only one God and, relatively to the creature, only one Creator and one Lord, so, relatively to the Holy Ghost, They are only one principle.” This doctrine was defined in the following words by the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons [Denzinger, “Enchiridion” (1908), n. 460]: “We confess that the Holy Ghost proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, not as from two principles, but as from one principle, not by two spirations, but by one single spiration.” The teaching was again laid down by the Council of Florence (ibid., n. 691), and by Eugene IV in his Bull “Cantate Domino” (ibid., n. 703 sq.).

C. It is likewise an article of faith that the Holy Ghost does not proceed, like the Second Person of the Trinity, by way of generation. Not only is the Second Person alone called Son in the Scriptures, not only is He alone said to be begotten, but He is also called the only Son of God; the ancient symbol that bears the name of Saint Athanasius states expressly that “the Holy Ghost comes from the Father and from the Son not made not created, not generated, but proceeding “. As we are utterly incapable of otherwise fixing the meaning of the mysterious mode affecting this relation of origin, we apply to it the name spiration, the signification of which is principally negative and by way of contrast, in the sense that it affirms a Procession peculiar to the Holy Ghost and exclusive of filiation. But though we distinguish absolutely and essentially between generation and spiration, it is a very delicate and difficult task to say what the difference is. St. Thomas (I, Q. xxvii), following St. Augustine (Do Trin., XV, xxvii), finds the explanation and, as it the were, the epitome, of the doctrine in principle that, in God, the Son proceeds through the Intellect and the Holy Ghost through the Will. The Son is, in the language of Scripture, the image of the Invisible God, His Word, His uncreated wisdom. God contemplates Himself and knows Himself from all eternity, and, knowing Himself, He forms within Himself a substantial idea of Himself, and this substantial thought is His Word. Now every act of knowledge is accomplished by the production in the intellect of a representation of the object known; from this head, then the process offers a certain analogy with generation, which is the production by a living being of a being partaking of the same nature; and the analogy is only so much the more striking when there is question of this act of Divine knowledge, the eternal term of which is a substantial being, consubstantial within the knowing subject. As to the Holy Ghost, according to the common doctrine of theologians, He proceeds through the will. The Holy Spirit, as His name indicates, is Holy in virtue of His origin, His spiration; He comes therefore from a holy principle; now holiness resides in the will, as wisdom is in the intellect. That is also the reason why He is so often called par excellence, in the writings of the Fathers, Love and Charity. The Father and the Son love one another from all eternity, with a perfect ineffable love; the term of this infinite fruitful mutual love is Their Spirit Who is co-eternal and con-substantial with Them. Only, the Holy Ghost is not indebted to the manner of His Procession precisely for this perfect resemblance to His principle, in other words for His consubstantiality; for to will or love an object does not formally imply the production of its immanent image in the soul that loves, but rather a tendency, a movement of the will towards the thing loved, to be united to it and enjoy it. So, making every allowance for the feebleness of our intellects in knowing, and the unsuitability of our words for expressing the mysteries of the Divine life, if we can grasp how the word generation, freed from all the imperfections of the material order may be applied by analogy to the Procession of the Word, so we may see that the term can in no way befittingly applied to the Procession of the Holy Ghost.  1914 Catholic Encyclopedia