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as a unified active agency, and those that pertain to the divine relations that constitute the divine essence, which are equally incomprehensible but also manifest in the ordered relations which constitute the unified active agency. Thus, the principle that the divine essence is manifest in divine operations allows for the assertion that Father, Son and Spirit equally belong to the divine essence, without any claim to an exhaustive comprehension or definition of that essence: 'Whatever your judgement suggests and however it suggests as to the essence of the Father (for it is impossible to superimpose any definite concept upon the immaterial because of our persuasion that it is above every concept), this you will hold for the Son and likewise for the Spirit.'25

This quotation from Gregory of Nyssa helps us to contextualise the much-vaunted contribution of the Cappadocians in providing a terminological resolution of the Trinitarian controversies in the formula of 'one nature, three persons (mia ousia, treis hypostases)'. In fact, the formula thus stated occurs infrequently in Cappadocian theology and is only one of various versions of an attempt to state the simultaneity of unity and distinction within the Godhead.26 Nevertheless, it remains true that the construction of a linguistic framework to denote respectively the unity of divine being and the real distinctions between Father, Son and Spirit was a crucial step toward resolving the Trinitarian debates of the fourth century.

As we have seen, Basil, who was most responsible for regulating a distinction between hypostasis and ousia, related the two as the common to the particular.27 Such language can imply that Basil's understanding of the oneness of the Trinity amounts to merely 'a generic unity', but such an account fails to do justice to his rejection of the application of number to the Trinity and his emphasis on the single ousia of God as a concrete reality.28 Moreover, the other Cappadocians pointedly dismiss the appropriateness of a 'social analogy' ofthe Trinity.29 It is better to understand the Cappadocians on their own terms, in which the terminological distinction between ousia and hypostasis designates the unfathomable mystery of God as manifest through a single divine activity composed of the correlated agency of Father, Son and Spirit.

The formula of 'one nature, three persons' was not incorporated into the creed of Constantinople but the conceptual framework behind the formula,

26 See J. T. Lienhard, 'Ousia and hypostasis'.

28 Basil, De Spiritu Sancto 17.41; see the discussion in Hanson, The search for the Christian doctrine of God, 696-9.

29 Gregory of Nazianzus, Or. 31.15, Gregory of Nyssa, AdAbl. (GNO 31: 47-8).

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