The Divinity Of The Holy Spirit

The defence of the divinity of the Son in the course of the fourth century necessarily led the Fathers to confess the divinity of the Holy Spirit and to recall his action in creation, in the life of the Church, and in the personal sanctification of the faithful. The Son and the Holy Spirit, in their joint activity in the world, were visualised by Irenaeus and other early Fathers in an economic sense as 'the two Hands of the Father'.8 It was at the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (ad 381) that, following the work of the Cappadocian Fathers with regard to the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the Church affirmed that he should be 'worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son'. At the same time the feast of Pentecost developed into a celebration especially of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles in the 'upper room', the eucharistic epicleses invoking the Spirit were added to the Divine Liturgy, and the chrismation with oil after baptism, as the 'gift and seal' of the Holy Spirit, came into practice.

The role and presence of the Holy Spirit are prominent in the contemporary understanding of the Orthodox Church. St Seraphim of Sarov reminds us forcefully that the goal of Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.9 But it is important to trace the development of this tradition from the origins of Christianity to the present day. Along with the major contributions of St Maximus the Confessor and St John of Damascus on this subject, it is necessary to recall the importance of St Gregory Palamas's theological vision. The latter was a defender of the spiritual tradition of Hesychasm in the final period of Byzantine history. The apostles' vision of uncreated divine Light on Mt Tabor constituted the scriptural and christological foundation for his doctrine of the distinction, without division or confusion, between the inaccessible divine essence and the divine energies, which are uncreated but in which humans may participate. Thus, Gregory understands the Fathers' traditional doctrine on salvation in Christ and in the Holy Spirit as meaning deification, that is, participation and communion in the divine life. The current distinction between negative or 'apophatic' theology, which stresses the inadequacy of reason and human language to discern the divine mysteries, and positive or 'cataphatic' theology, which validates the usage of this language and which receives affirmation from a doxological perspective, here takes on its full meaning.

Unlike the scholastic notion of the divine attributes, which deals with them under the rubric of one God (de Deo uno), Orthodox tradition, represented by St Gregory Palamas, states that the divine energies are completely trinitarian: all of them issue from the Father and rest in fullness on the Son through the Holy Spirit. Gregory introduces a useful theological distinction which in fact finds a certain congruence with biblical pneu-matology. As a trinitarian hypostasis, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone and rests eternally on the Son, but at the same time he is activated by an energy that belongs to the Holy Trinity as a whole, illumining and sanctifying the world. This distinction is valuable because it underlines the utter human inability to discern the mystery of the Spirit, on the levels both of the eternal trinitarian life (trinitarian doctrine) and of trinitarian grace (trinitarian economy), which affects the human being in his most profoundly inward state.

This distinction between the Spirit as hypostasis and the Spirit as trinitarian gift allows us to say that the Spirit comes into the world as a gift of trinitarian grace, at once sent by the Father and the Son and giving himself so as to be creation's communion with the trinitarian life. This frees us from a tendency to depersonalise the Spirit, such as we see in the scholastic notion of sanctifying grace. The Holy Spirit always acts in person, helping Christians to become persons in the image of the only Son and making each of them uniquely a child of the Father, since they are bearers of the same Spirit. It is in this manner that Augustine's statement that 'God is deeper within me than my most intimate self' ('Deus meus interior intimo meo') is realised.10 What Augustine said in relation to God is what Orthodox Christians would say above all when pronouncing the names of the divine persons, in particular the Spirit, since we do not know when we pray whether it is we who pray in the Spirit (Rom 8:15) or the Spirit who prays in us (Gal 4:6).

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