The Being Of Divine Relations

The existence of real relations having been laid out, it remains to be shown that the relations do not divide the divine essence. The theory of relations seeks to account for the fact that Trinitarian faith is monotheist. Along

50 ST I, q. 28, a. 1. In his questions De potentia, Thomas mentions the three factors which are required for two things to have a mutual 'order': these things must really exist (ens), they have to be distinct from each other (distinctum), and they must be 'orderable' (ordinabile).

52 I Sent. d. 26, q. 2, a. 2, ad 4; q. 2, a. 1, sol. If his use of the category of relation is not innovatory, the systematic and synthetic character of his analysis shows a typical feature of Thomas' thought, from his very first teaching.

with the conception of person as a subsistent relation for which it is the preparation, this stage of the argument supplies the key to St Thomas' Trinitarian theology.

At an historical level, Thomas formulates this question in reference to Gilbert de la Porree (+1154). The Chancellor of Chartres, professor in Paris and then bishop of Poitiers, Gilbert had been an outstanding figure within twelfth-century theology. When commenting on Boethius, he had taken care to show that the Trinity is compatible with the unity of God. So as to hold on to the unity of the divine essence, which is absolutely identical in each divine person, he had explained that the divine persons are not contrasted on the level of their essence, which is identical, but distinguish themselves from one another by a relation which Gilbert defines as 'extrinsic' or as 'extrane-ously labelled' (extrinsecus affixa).5* Gilbert uses the word 'external' to indicate that the relation does not belong to the order of essence, that is, the divine unity, but to the order of the distinction of the persons, which does not touch their essential unity. He also takes over from Boethius the distinction between abstract forms (that by which a thing is such) and the concrete subject (the concretely existing subsistent individual). He makes an analogous distinction in God: there will be a diVerence between the divine person and his relative property, for instance, between the Father and his paternity. This idea elicited heated reactions, especially from Bernard of Clairvaux, who counter-attacked in the name of God's simplicity. The theory would be rejected at the synod of Reims (1148), whose doctrinal decision was accepted by Gilbert. Whatever its accuracy with respect to Gilbert's actual thinking, the criticism which it addressed to him constituted the scholastic form of 'Porre-tanism', as the kind of Trinitarian theology which Peter Lombard's Sentences characterized as 'heretical'.55 It is found throughout the whole of theological Trinitarian writing, from the middle of the twelfth century right down to the fourteenth century and beyond.

At a theoretical level, St Thomas draws out the thinking of his teacher Albert the Greats6 Albert had stressed that relation simultaneously secures the plurality of divine persons and the simplicity and immutability of God.

54 Gilbert of Poitiers, Expositio in Boecii de Trinitate I. 5, nn. 42-43 (ed. N. M. Haring, The Commentaries on Boethius by Gilbert of Poitiers, Toronto, 1966, p. 148); cf. II.1, n. 37 (pp. 170171). For an overview and bibliographic references, see our article, 'Trinite et Unite; de Dieu dans la scolastique, XIIe-XIVe siecles', in Le christianisme est-il un monothéisme?, ed. P. Gisel and G. Emery, Geneva, 2001, pp. 201-204.

55 Peter Lombard, Sentences, Book I, dist. 33, ch. 1 (vol. I/2, Grottaferrata, 1971, pp. 240243).

56 For more details and reference to Albert's texts, see our article, La relation dans la theologie de saint Albert le Grand, pp. 457-461.

Following Aristotle and Averroes,57 Albert went back to the idea that relation has a 'minimal degree of being' and is thus workable for giving an account of a 'minimal distinction' at the heart of the sovereignly simple divinity, that is, a distinction which makes for no difference in essence. This enabled him to sort out two different aspects or components in a real relation: (1) the being which the relation derives from the subject in which it exists or 'inheres', as all accidents do; (2) the connection to another. Under the first aspect, the relation does not remain in God; since God's simplicity excludes him from having any accidents, the accidentality of a relation disappears when one attributes it to God, in whom the relation has the being of the divine substance itself. Trinitarian relations take this prerogative from their divine status, from the fact that it is a divine relation. But, under the second aspect, (connection to another), relation does not need to be reconstructed in order to be attributed to God. Because of its purity, the connection to another constituting the essence of the relation can properly be acknowledged in God.

St Albert's Commentary on Pseudo-Deny's Divine Names, which Thomas knew at first hand, supplies a brilliant synthesis.58 Albert explains that, so far as their second aspect, connection to someone, is concerned, there is no modification to what relation is like within God; whereas, from the perspective of its being (the first aspect), relation in God loses its accidentality and is purely and simply identified with the divine substance. St Albert can thus show the existence of real relations, distinguishing the divine persons (through connection to someone else), but also the substantial unity of these three persons (the being of the relation). St Thomas' meditation is engrafted within the framework St Albert opened up.

In the Summa Theologiae, Thomas' discussion requires three stages: first, he takes over Albert's analysis of the twin aspects of relation, then he uses this analysis to rectify what Gilbert de la Porree had said about relation, and finally he exhibits the way in which we can understand the existence of relations in God. The twin aspects of relation are presented in the general setting of the Aristotelian theory of accidents:

57 Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics N.1 (1088a22-24). St Thomas takes over this theme: I Sent. d. 26, q. 2, a. 2, contra; De potentia, q. 8, a. 1, arg. 4 and ad 4.

5s See F. Ruello, 'Une source probable de la theologie trinitaire de St Thomas', Recherches de science religieuse 43 (1955), 104-128; F. Ruello, 'Le commentaire inedit de saint Albert le Grand sur les Noms divins. Presentation et aperçus de theologie trinitaire', Traditio 12 (1956), 231-314; see also my article, 'La relation dans la theologie de saint Albert le Grand', pp. 458-461. We have a copy of this commentary which is handwritten by St Thomas himself, in his famous littera illegibilis; cf. J.-P. Torrell, St Thomas Aquinas, vol. 1: The Person and His Work, trans. Robert Royal, Washington, 1996, pp. 21-22 and 25.

two aspects can be considered in each of the nine categories of accidental being. The first is being (esse) which belongs to each of them as accidents. For everything, commonly, this is existence in (inesse) a subject; for an accident to be is to be in another. The second aspect that can be considered in each category is the specific character (proprio ratio) of each of these genres. In categories other than relation, for example, quantity and quality, the specific character of the genre is defined by its connection to the subject; so one says that quantity is the measure of the substance and quality its disposition. But in relation the specific character is thought of with regard to something other (ad aliquid extra), not to the subject in which it is.59

As we have seen earlier, the second aspect (ratio) constitutes the essence of relation: it is 'only the connection to another thing' which states the definition of the relation.60 Relation occupies a unique place here, and it is just this which Trinitarian theology is going to put to use. The specific character of the relation, its essence, is not taken from its connection to the subject in which the relation is inlaid, but concerns rather a connection to something or someone other.61 Relation is an ec-stasis, a pure 'outside referring': this is its own special feature, its perfection, and allows it to be attributed directly to God. In his 'Writing on the Sentences', Thomas explains that,

If one considers the proper notion (propria ratio) of all the genres [of accidents], with the exception of relation each of these genres involves an imperfection. For instance, the proper notion of quantity derives from its connection to its subject: quantity is a measure of the substance, quality is a disposition of this substance; and it works the same for the other genres. This is why, under the aspect of their generic notion, one must exclude them from things which we attribute to God, just as one must exclude them under the aspect of their accidentality [...] But, conversely, even if one looks at the relation from the perspective ofits generic notion, relation does not imply a dependency-connection to a subject: it refers itself rather to something external (aliquid extra). And this is why, under the aspect of its generic notion, it can also be found in God.62

As Augustine and Boethius had already seen, it follows from this that our language about God can only accurately attribute two modes to him: substance and relation.63 The other kinds of attributes, such as action for instance,

59 ST I, q. 28, a. 2. Thomas had already worked out this doctrine in his first teaching: see I Sent. d. 8, q. 4, a. 3; d. 26, q. 2, a. 1; d. 33, q. 1, a. 1.

61 Cf. I Sent. d. 8, q. 4, a. 3; ST I, q. 28, a. 1, ad 1.

63 Ibid.; ST I, q. 28, a. 2, ad 1: 'There are thus only two predicaments in God. For the other predications imply a connection to the subject of attribution from the point of view both of existence and the proper characteristics of the genus. Nothing can be attributed to God in any other way than as identical to him, since he is absolutely simple.' This takes us back to the foundational structure of the treatise on God: substantial unity of essence and relational cannot be attributed to God in an unmodified way, because of the divine simplicity: God acts, but without changing, without passing from potentiality to act; he is good but without disposition or 'habitus'; he is great, but without dimensions, and so forth. Unlike the other genres of being, relation has no need to be reconstituted for us to acknowledge it within God; it fits the divine simplicity in and of itself.64 It can be applied immediately to God on the basis that its specific characteristic is pure connectivity. When one recognizes 'relations' in God, the relation preserves its formality of relation.65

The last point is central for Trinitarian theology. The relation as such (its essence, its proper notion) adds nothing positive, it does not modify its subject, it is purely outward-bound; it does not perfect the subject. 'Relation adds nothing real to essence.'66 The 'outgoing/ec-static' mode, which can also be called a 'mode of exteriority' of predicamental relation, reveals its special intelligibility. 'Its formal content free of the bondage and limitation of the material subject, this notion can be immediately transposed into the spiritual world' because 'what it says about its subject is this order, this pure looking outwards toward its aim, leaving the rich positivity of the subject untouched.'^

This pure connectivity to something other only indicates one aspect of relations in our world. Real relations are part of the texture of things, they exist in and through an other: that is the definition of an accident. If one looks at it like this, a real relation derives its being from the subject in which it inheres, as all accidents do, and it creates a compound with its subject (a subject is not a relation to another, but it has a relation to another, it is qualified by this relation). In short: a real relation only concretely exists because it is the relation ofsomething or ofsomeone. A real relation 'cannot exist without something absolute', that is to say, without a reality which itself does not belong to the order of relativity.68 In Thomas' terms, Gilbert de la Porree's error was in only looking at relation from the perspective of its connection to another (its ratio): from this viewpoint, relations can indeed be considered as 'positioned from outside', since they formally consist in the connection 'to the outside'. But this is only one aspect of relation. So far as its being is concerned, relation inheres 'from within', it has its being in the subject in which it exists.69 This other aspect is an absolute requirement—as Thomas distinction of persons; see above, in Chapter 3, 'The Essence and the Distinction of Persons: the Common and the ''Proper'' '.

64 Cf. Depotentia, q. 8, a. 2. 65 cf. I Sent. d. 33, q. 1, a. 1.

66 De potentia, q. 8, a. 2, ad 3. 67 h. Dondaine, La Trinite, vol. 1, pp. 234-235.

68 SCG IV, ch. 10 (no. 3455); ch. 14 (no. 3506). In God relation will be identified with this absolute.

69 ST I, q. 28, a. 2; q. 39, a. 1; I Sent. d. 33, q. 1, a. 1. Albert had already said this (I Sent. d. 33, a. 5). For this reason, the only relations which can properly be called 'positioned from outside'

has already said—for the relation to be real; without it, one cannot show the real distinction of the persons, and the use of relations would just turn us around into dedicated Sabellians. So it is necessary to state very precisely how this twin aspect can be transposed into God. The key to the theory of Trinitarian relation lies in this explanation:

Whatever has accidental existence within creatures has substantial existence when transferred into God; for nothing is in God as an accident in its subject, but whatever is in God is his essence. Consequently from this point of view, while relation in created things exists as an accident in a subject, in God a really existing relation has the being of the divine essence and is wholly identical with it. But in so far as it is a pure reference (ad aliquid), relation does not bear upon essence, but on its opposed term. It is thus manifest that a real relation in God is really identical to God's essence, and only differs in our way of thinking, in so far as the relation implies a reference to its opposed term which is not implied by the term 'essence'. Therefore it is clear that in God there is no distinction of being-as-relation and essential-being: this is one and the same being.70

(1) From the perspective of its being, like all the other accidental predicates which we attribute to God (such as good, wise, great, and so on), relation does not retain the mode of an existential accident when it is ascribed to God, but exhibits the substantial mode of existence of divinity itself. In God, relation is not something which inheres: it is what God is. Its existence is that of the incomprehensible being which God is: from this angle, relation is identified with an 'absolute' in God. This identification is hard for us to deal with intellectually, because, in our experience, a relation is not an 'absolute': 'a substance is never a relation'^1 St Thomas appeals to the transcendence of God, for God cannot belong to any genus: 'No substance that is in a genus can be a relation, because it is limited to one genus and is therefore excluded from another. But the divine essence is not in the genus of substance, but is, rather, above every genus, embracing in itself the perfections of all genera. This is why nothing prevents one from finding that which pertains to relation within it.'72 In the final analysis, the real identity of the divine substance and the divine relation hangs on the supereminent mode of the divine being.

are 'logical' relations, which have no ontological reality in the subject itself (De potentia, q. 8, a. 2).

71 De potentia, q. 8, a. 2, arg. 1. The word 'absolute' literally means 'that which is not bound, the boundless', and thus that which is not relative to something else.

72 De potentia, q. 8, a. 2, ad 1: 'God is not in the genus of substance like a species of this genus, but he belongs to the genus of substance in that he is the principle of the genus' (De potentia, q. 9, a. 3, ad 3). Cf. ST I, q. 3, a. 5, ad 1; SCG IV, ch. 14 (no. 3506).

(2) But from the perspective of its formal character (reference to another), relation can be transposed to God without any qualification, since it does not entail any imperfection. It is here that the metaphysical purity of the relation comes into the picture, its formal character in comparison to other accidents, for this character does not pertain to the divine essence but to the correlative term ('relation does not bear upon essence, but on its opposed term'). The connection between the existence and the ratio of the relation are thus different in God than in creatures. Whereas, in creatures, a real relation adds to the subject who has it, and is really different from this subject, in God the absolute and the relation 'are one and the same reality'.73 Albert the Great had already explained this, in very similar terms. One can thus grasp the divine relation in its authentic formality of relation (reference to another) and in the identity of the divine substance.

The application of this teaching to Trinitarian relations will go like this. Christian faith recognizes paternity in God. Under the aspect of its formal characteristic (ratio), the relation of paternity does not condition the divine essence, but consists in the reference of the Father to the Son. And paternity, under the aspect of its being, is identical to the essence or substance of God; paternity is God himself, not something other than God: the Father is God. One can thus account for the divinity of the Father and the real relation which he maintains with the Son and which distinguishes him from his Son.

The investigation of relation gives rise to a twin distinction, and one has to observe what is happening here very carefully. On the one hand, each personal relation is distinguished from its opposite correlate, and this distinction is entirely real (paternity is not filiation). But, on the other hand, from within the divine essence, relation is just a logical distinction. Effectively, when we speak of 'paternity' in God, we signify the reference of the Father to the Son but we do not pinpoint 'anything other' than God himself. In our language and in our thinking, relation remains a mode of attribution which is distinct from substance/4 but without naming anything which could be distinct from the divine substance. Thomas explains: 'Even though they signify the divine essence, the divine relations do not signify it by way of essence, since they do not convey the idea of existence in something, but of reference towards something else.'75

73 ST I, q. 28, a. 2, ad 2. In the created world, real relation produces a composition with its subject. Such composition has no place in God, in whom relation is really identical to the essence and the person; cf. I Sent d. 33, q. 1, a. 1.

74 STI, q. 28, a. 2, ad 1; cf. ad 2; De potentia, q. 8, a. 2. This discussion is important. It shows that relation is the divine essence, without making the divine essence into a relative reality (cf. I Sent. d. 33, q. 1, a. 1, ad 1).

One can see that there is for Thomas no question of creating clear blue water between the divine essence or substance and the relations. And likewise, as we will see in the next chapter, there is no intention of making a gulf between the divine essence and the divine persons. Those of Thomas' interpreters who read his Trinitarian theology as investing in a sort of concurrence between essence and relation, or as opposing essence to person, make a serious mistake touching on the heart of his teaching. The divine relations integrate or draw together everything that exists in God, in their two aspects: the common essence and the mutual connections of the persons. Thus the divine unity and the distinction of persons are brought together. This is also why the theologian tackles the Trinitarian mystery by following the law of 'redoubling' which we mentioned earlier: to grasp the mystery, we must join these two aspects together. This conclusion is central to understanding St Thomas' thought. The doctrine of relation integrates all of the aspects of our knowledge of the mystery of God, and this is why relation permits us to conceive the divine person.


Down to this stage, Thomas has exhibited the existence of real relations in God and these relations' identity in being with the divine essence. After having seen how these factors can direct one to understanding the divine person, two further frontiers must still be crossed. One must fine-tune the way in which the relations entail a real distinction, and determine precisely what relations are at issue. The first question is filled out in the idea of relative opposition, whilst the second comes back to showing the four relations of origin which Trinitarian doctrine traditionally acknowledges in God.

(a) Relative Opposition

The recognition of real distinctness amongst the divine relations results from the analysis of the structure of relation, as Thomas has earlier described it:

To attribute a predicate to a subject necessarily involves attributing to it everything that belongs to the deWnition of this predicate. For instance, calling anyone 'man' involves conceiving him as endowed with reason. Now by deWnition relation implies reference to another, according to which the two things stand in relative opposition to one another. Therefore since there is in God a real relation, as we said earlier, there must also be real opposition. And by its very meaning such opposition implies distinction. Therefore there must be real distinction in God, not indeed when we consider the absolute reality of his nature, where there is sheer unity and simplicity, but when we thing of him in terms of relation.76

This consideration is founded on the two aspects of relation which were discussed earlier. On the side of its ratio, relation involves a reference to another, and this reference formally distinguishes the two relatives which are mutually referred to one another: paternity is not filiation. Amongst all the divine attributes, only relation entails formal distinction; it is unique in involving an 'opposition'77 in its formal character. And, from the side of its being, the relation of origin is entirely real, as St Thomas has already shown. Thus, the opposition of relations of origin includes a real distinction. As Thomas has already shown, this real distinction is not a matter of the reference of the relations to the essence, but the mutual connection of the relatives: it is a distinction from relative to relative, and not of relative to essence. The real distinction of the relations thus maintains the simplicity and unity of the divine essence, without partitioning it out: it does not divide the single essence of God. The distinction must be seen as the 'smallest possible distinction' in so far as the difference it entails is concerned, that is a distinction which is 'closest to unity'78 (the three persons are one single God), even though it has the status of the sovereign distinction, since it is a distinction within God.79

The idea of'opposition' was not a new one. Well before Thomas, Anselm of Canterbury had foregrounded it:

It follows from God's unity, which has no parts, that whatever we say about the one God, who in his entirety is whatever he is, we say about the entire God, the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, since each is the sole and whole and complete God. And the relational opposition, which results from the fact that God is from God through the two aforementioned ways [the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit], prevents us from predicating Father and Son and Holy Spirit of one another, and from attributing the properties of each to the others. Therefore, the consequences of this unity and this set of relations are so harmoniously mixed that neither the plurality resulting from the relations is transferable to the things in which the simplicity of the aforementioned unity resounds, nor does the unity suppress the plurality whereby we signify the same relations. The unity should never lose its consequences, except when a relational opposition stands in the way, nor

77 ST I, q. 28, a. 3, ad 2. Goodness or power, for instance, do not have this element of distinction.

78 ST I, q. 40, a. 2, ad 3. 79 i Sent. d. 26, q. 2, a. 2, ad 2.

should the relations lose what belongs to them except when the indivisible unity stands in the way.80

The idea of 'opposition' was not discovered in the Middle Ages; it does not even come from the Latin West. As early as Basil of Caesarea, one finds the comment that, under the aspect of the divine substance, there is no opposition between the Father and the Son, but 'in so far as one engenders and the other is engendered, one must consider them under the aspect of their opposition (antithesis)'.8i This way of talking about relations becomes commonplace with the Scholastics. The characteristic feature of Thomas' investigation is the way he put his mind to fine-tuning the concept of opposition in order to determine the nature of the distinction in God. The word 'opposition' obviously does not indicate competition, but must be taken in its formal meaning: opposition is the principle of a distinction.82 This opposition is required because the distinction of the divine persons is not 'material'. No opposition, no distinction: to reject such 'opposition' comes down to an acceptance of Sabellianism.

Assisted by his reading of Aristotle, Thomas allows for the existence of four kinds of opposition: (1) opposition of affirmation and negation; (2) opposition of privation and possession; (3) opposition of contrariety; (4) opposition of relation. The first kind of opposition implies a difference in being, the second necessarily involves inequality, and the third entails an essential difference (a 'difference of form') between the opposed terms: none of these can be applied to the three consubstantial divine persons. Rigorous analysis shows, then, that the only remaining possibility is 'opposition of relation'83 or 'relative oppos-ition',84 whose 'very definition includes opposition'. A relative opposition can rest on many foundations, as we indicated in the study of processions: quantity, action, and passion. The only relation which can be attributed to the Trinity is that founded on immanent action, the relation of origin. Here we have the

80 Anselm of Canterbury, The Procession of the Holy Spirit (ET by Richard Regan, in Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works, ed. Brian Davies and G. R. Evans, Oxford, 1998, pp. 390-434 (p. 393). The first section of this formula is repeated by the Council of Florence, in 1442: in God 'Hae tres personae sunt unus Deus, et non tres dii: quia trium est una substantia, una essentia, una natura, una divinitas, una immensitas, una aeternitas, omniaque sunt unum, ubi non obviat relationis oppositio' (Denzinger, no. 1330). One might perhaps expect to find a citation from this passage of Anselm's in the Trinitarian treatise of Thomas' Summa Theologiae, but it is not there. But Thomas integrates this doctrine into his own theology (see especially ST I, q. 28, a. 3). He refers explicitly to Anselm, on this point, in the De potentia, q. 10, a. 5, sed contra 2.

81 Basil of Caesarea, Contra Eunomius II.28 (SC 305, pp. 120-121). Cf Contra Eunomius II. 26 (SC 305, pp. 108-109): 'opposition (antithesis) between the unengendered and the engendered'. The Latin word oppositio is the literal equivalent of the Greek term antithesis.

83 SCG IV, ch. 24 (no. 3612); I Sent. d. 27, q. 1, a. 1.

principle of the intra-Trinitarian distinction: 'relative opposition as to origin'.^ His scriptural lectura gives rise to reflections which accord with this and which lead Thomas to the same conclusion.86

Relative opposition consequent on origin does not just put the real distinction of the divine persons on show. It also exhibits the inseparability of the persons, because a relative, as such, cannot exist without its correlate. It cannot even be thought without its correlate. This is why, 'as to the distinction of the Persons, which is by relations of origin, knowledge of the Father does indeed include knowledge of the Son, for He would not be Father, had he not a Son; and the Holy Spirit is their mutual bond'.87 In this way, relative opposition shows that the persons are distinct and inseparable. One can easily see why the theory of relative opposition plays such a central role in accounting for the distinction and unity of the three persons.

Finally, with respect to the terminology, one should note that Thomas generally uses the expressions 'relative opposition' and 'opposition of relation'. He also speaks of'opposed relations',88 of'mutually opposed relations',89 or of 'relations which have a mutual opposition'.90 In all of their uses, the formulas refer to the kind of opposition which takes place through relation, or they home in, precisely, on a pair of relations. In contemporary theology textbooks, one often comes across the phrase 'relation of opposition', but this formula—which St Thomas never uses—is inapt. For Thomas, the relations of origin, which by definition include opposition, specify a kind of opposition. These relations involve a special mode of distinction, the kind which the doctrine of the Trinity recognizes in God. So it is preferable to speak of 'relative opposition', and, when one wants to refer to a pair of relations (such as paternity and filiation), of'opposed relations'.

(b) Paternity, filiation, spiration, procession

At the completion of his study of relations, St Thomas pares down and gives names to these real relations that are made 'oppositional' by the processions.91 Such a list of relations presents no novelty: it draws together common doctrines. It gives us paternity (the relation of the Father to the Son), filiation (the relation of the Son to the Father), the spiration of the Holy Spirit (the

86 In loan. 15.26 (no. 2063); In loan. 16.14-15 (nos. 2112-2115).

88 See for example ST I, q. 30, a. 2; q. 36, a. 2, sol. and ad 1; q. 39, a. 1.

90 See for example ST I, q. 39, a. 1, ad 1. 91 ST I, q. 28, a. 3, ad 3.

relation of the Father and the Son in respect to the Holy Spirit), and the procession of the Holy Spirit (the relation of the Holy Spirit in respect to the Father and the Son).92 This enumeration summarizes the traditional triad of personal properties established by the Capaddocians,93 inscribes in it the Catholic teaching about the procession of the Holy Spirit, and refines the point that the generation of the Son involves a pair of opposed relations (paternity-filiation), just as much as the procession of the Spirit does (spiration-procession). One nonetheless finds Thomas' original orientation in the manner in which he exhibits these four relations. By linking his explanation of them to relative opposition, Thomas exhibits the relations by way of the immanent processions of the Word and of Love:

In each of the processions, one must consider two opposed relations: the relation of what proceeds from its principle or source, and the relation of the principle itself. The procession of the Word is called 'generation' in the proper sense of the term which belongs to living beings; and, in the perfection of the living, the relation of being the principle of generation is called paternity; and the relation of the one who proceeds from this principle is called filiation. For the procession of Love, however, there is no proper name, as we have said above (q. 27, a. 4), neither is there for the relations which it founds. All the same the relation of being the principle of this procession may be called spiration and the relation of what proceeds procession, although these two words have to do with the processions or origins themselves, not with relations.94

Here, where Thomas makes a unified presentation of ideas whose main features he has already established, the first striking move is the use of relative opposition. Generation founds the relation of Father to Son, and, correla-tively, of Son to Father: these are 'opposed relations'. Not all of the connections of the four relations touch on opposition, just the mutual connection of paternity and filiation, on the one hand, and the mutual connection of spiration and procession, on the other. We are on familiar terms with the analogy of Word and Love, since Thomas used it in his discussion of the processions. It is this which, by enabling one to grasp the immanent processions, gives rise to the conception of opposed relations. St Thomas explains the relation of the Father and the Son by applying his analysis of the

92 See for instance Saint Bonaventure, Breviloquium I, ch. 3 (Opera omnia, vol. 5, pp. 211— 212). Bonaventure puts forward here a portfolio of academic refinements, the like of which is not found in St Thomas (!): two processions, three hypostases, four relations, five notions.

93 See Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations, 31.9 (SC 250, 292-293); Orations, 39.12 (SC 358, 174-177): the unengendered Father engenders the Son; the Son is engendered, the Holy Spirit proceeds. Peter Lombard offers a synthesis of these ideas on the basis of Augustine's theology: paternity, filiation, procession (Sentences, Book I, dist. 27).

94 ST I, q. 28, a. 4; one finds a comparable discussion in SCGIV, ch. 24 (no. 3613).

procession of the Word to it.95 One should observe that, as in the study of the processions,96 it is the mode of emanation of the Word which allows for the elucidation of paternity and filiation: the relation of filiation is the relation of the Word to his principle or source, and paternity is simply the correlative relation. The relation in question is not that which the divine intellect enjoys with the realities which it knows—St Thomas underlines this once again—but the mutual relation which the Word, in proceeding by an intellectual action, enjoys with his Principled7 The same goes for Love.

Finally, Thomas comes back to the linguistic problem which we have in talking about the procession of the Holy Spirit: we must use a common name ('procession') to designate both the origin proper to the Holy Spirit and the relations springing from this origin.98 Whereas, when we are speaking about the mutual reference of the Father and the Son, we can make a linguistic distinction between the procession ('generation') and the relations which it founds, ('paternity' and 'filiation'), linguistic constraints compel us to designate the relations by the procession and the action themselves ('procession' and 'spiration').

Opposition is strictly a matter of what the processions can tell us about the two pairs of opposed relations. There is, on the one hand, a mutual 'opposition' of paternity and filiation, and, on the other, an 'opposition' of spiration and procession. There is, for instance, no opposition of paternity and spira-tion, or of filiation and spiration. St Thomas explains this in more detail a little further on. Since they are opposed, paternity and filiation belong to two distinct persons: the Father and the Son. But there is no opposition between 'being Father' and 'breathing the Holy Spirit'; because there is no opposition here, these two relations do not cut across the Father (they do not really distinguish the Father from himself).99 In the same way, there is no opposition between 'being Son' and 'breathing the Holy Spirit together with the Father': the Son is not really distinguished in himself by these two relations.100 The only relative opposition is the opposition which the one who 'breathes'

95 The Commentary on the Sentences counts up the relations in the same way (I Sent. d. 27, q. 1, a. 1), but without making use of a doctrine of the Word and of Love that Thomas would only propose, in an exact form, starting with the Summa Contra Gentiles.

9s See above, in Chapter 4, 'The Word ''Procession'' ' and 'A Different Procession, Which is That of Love'.

99 Otherwise put: since they are not opposed, paternity and spiration do not make the Father two persons.

100 ST I, q. 30, a. 2. Likewise, the 'procession' does not enter into relative opposition with paternity or filiation as such. So Thomas appeals here to the 'order' of the processions of Word and Love to complete his explanations: this order entails that procession cannot belong to the one who has paternity or to the one who has filiation.

(the spiration of the Spirit) enjoys with 'being breathed' (the procession of the Holy Spirit); because of their 'opposition', these two relations cannot belong to the same person; they thus entail a person-to-person distinction. In this way, the spiration belongs to the Father and the Son, whilst the procession properly comes back to the Holy Spirit, and thus distinguishes the Spirit from the Father and the Son.101

The theory of relative opposition shows that the Father is distinguished and known by the relations of paternity and of spiration, the Son by the relations of filiation and spiration, and the Holy Spirit by the relation of procession. Since paternity, filiation, and procession properly and exclusively belong to only one person, they are called 'personal properties' (proprietates personales).102 According to Catholic doctrine, spiration is not proper to the Father alone, but belongs to Father and Son; it is very much a real relation, but it is not named a 'property'. As for 'Unbegottenness', which so heavily preoccupied fourth-century theologians (the Father is unengendered), it is a property of the Father's person, which does not precisely consist in a relation but rather in the negation of a relation (the Father is not-engendered).103 This gives us our tally of five 'notions', as mentioned above.104 The meditation on relation sometimes overwhelms one with its logical formulations, and it is important to pick out what is going on here. When St Thomas teaches on the four real relations and three personal properties in God, he does not restrict himself to invoking the authority of the Fathers, like a Catechism or a textbook of the history of doctrines. He intends to show that the tradition conveys the truth about the three divine persons,105 and he is trying to exhibit the rationale of this truth to believers.

There is still more to be said about relations beyond this discussion. The outstanding task is to show how the relations belong to the persons, and, in particular, what role is played by the relations in constituting the divine persons. This requires a preliminary fine-tuning of how 'person' must be understood, within God. Such will be the object of the next question.

101 ST I, q. 30, a. 2; cf. ad 1; CT I, ch. 60; SCG IV, ch. 24 (no. 3613).

103 We will come back to this in the investigation of the Father in Chapter 8, 'Unbegottenness: the Unengendered Father'.

104 See above, in Chapter 2, 'Why Investigate Notions, Relations, and Properties?'

105 As we observed at the beginning of the chapter: it is 'in following what the saints said', that is the Fathers and the doctors of the Church, that St Thomas proposes his doctrine of divine relation (De potentia, q. 8, a. 1).

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