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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The historical origins of the Filioque

Translated from the original by Costas Balomenos

As is known, the two most determinant factors that were the cause to become the schism in the Christian Church and thus be divided into East and West, have been the "papal primacy", i.e. the claim of the Pope of Rome to be recognized by all as visible head of the Church and delegate of Christ on earth and to have the authority over the other Churches and «Filioque». But what does it mean «Filioque»; The word is Latin. Is a compound word consisting of Filius = son and que = and, and all together mean "and from the Son".  It is mentioned from whom emanates the Holy Spirit. But let's be more detailed and therefore more understandable...

In the "Symbol of Faith" and better known as "I believe", we confess our faith by saying "... and in the Holy Spirit ... the emanating from the Father". In this sentence, the Westerners have added and the word Filioque, namely that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father and the Son. Thus, according to the Western Church - at this point - the "Symbol of Faith" was reformed: "... and in the Holy Spirit ... from the Father and the Son emanating".
This may seem a detail without substance, but it is very important, because it removes the uniqueness of each person of the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is perfect communion of three Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) equal, each of which is unique and unrepeatable, that each having some features exclusively its own. One such feature is that from the Father emanates the Holy Spirit. But if we say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, then it is as if we identify the Father and the Son. In this case is altered the doctrine of Holy Trinity since each person of this cease to be treated unique and unrepeatable.
There will not stick more to the theological issues of Filioque, something that are likely be our future work, but we will stand in the historical origins of this and particularly in what is obvious to the researcher of this period, the progressive alienation of the two sides, resulting the schism to ratify through time more and make evident this alienation.
At the time that the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles were traveling in the Mediterranean world for spreading the Christian message, were moving within a tight-knit political and cultural unity, which was none other than the Roman Empire.
This Empire had the great advantage of "embracing" many different ethnic groups, even though these groups were speaking different languages and dialects. But all that was ruling by the same Emperor. Throughout the Empire was a scattered Graeco-Roman culture, in which the educated participated. The Greek and Latin spoken everywhere in the Empire, and were not a few, these who had the option to speak both languages. So all these advantages have contributed and helped a lot in spreading of the first Christian Church.
With the passage of time and in the centuries that followed, this unity of the Mediterranean world gradually has disappeared. First was lost political unity, because since the end of the third century, the Empire, while still theoretically was remaining united, it was divided into two parts, in the eastern and western, each under its own Emperor. Constantine the Great continued this division process by founding a second imperial capital in the east, parallel to Old Rome in Italy. This process was completed, with the barbarian invasions in the beginning of fifth century in the western part of the Empire and the catalysis and sacking of Rome in 455 AD by the Vandals. Except from a substantial partion (the southern) of Italy, which was remaining for a little more time in the Empire, the western partion of he shared among barbarian chiefs.
However, the Byzantines, who of course considered they were Roman citizens, they never forgot the Roman ideals of the Augustan era and have continued to consider the Empire - even occupied by the barbarians - theoretically as ecumenical and theirs. Justinian was the last Emperor, who tried seriously with the wars that made in the West and Africa, to bridge the gap between theory and practice. After some successes that had and the regaining some territories, definitively he abandoned these conquests in the West. Then, the political unity of the Greek East and the Latin West completely destroyed by the barbarian invasions and never restored.
At the end of the sixth century, the East and the West were alienated even more because of the invasion of Avars and Slavs in the Balkan peninsula. The Illyria, that was useful as a bridge between Byzantium and the Latin world, after it became a barrier. The rupture was further extended with the rise of Islam, because the Mediterranean sea, which the Romans were saying it "mare nostrum", now the most part of this came under the control of the Arabs. Of course, despite all these difficulties and obstacles, cultural and economic contacts between the eastern and western Mediterranean never stopped entirely, but they were made very difficult.
In addition to these, an ecclesiastical event came to be added and to grow more the division and estrangement between Byzantium and the West. The Popes - from the outset - firmly supported the views of iconolaters, and so for many decades were found outside of society and in a regime of hostility, with the Iconoclasts Emperors and Patriarchs of Constantinople. So, disfellowshipped from Byzantium and having need of help for its survival, the Pope Stephen, in 754 he turned north and visited Pipinos ruler of the Franks. This event marked the first step in a change of direction with decisive significance, at least with regard to Papism. Until then, Rome was continuing - ecclesiastically least – to be considered part of the Byzantine world, but now gradually was passing into Frankish sphere of influence, although the results of this reorientation were not fully visible and perceived before the middle of the eleventh century.
After the visit of Pope Stephen in Pipinos, half a century later, came to be added a much more dramatic event. On the day of Christmas of the year 800, Pope Leo III, he crowns Charles the Great (Charlemagne) Emperor, as king of the Franks. Charlemagne to be valid his coronation, pursues its recognition by the Byzantine ruler, who was then a woman, Irene the Athenian, asking her in marriage to unite the two kingdoms, but without success. And it happened because the Byzantines, insisting still to the principle of imperial unity, they considered Charlemagne as an intruder and the coronation made by the Pope as an act of schism within the Empire.  Thus, in the West created the Holy Roman Empire, which instead of bringing Europe closer contributed to the greater alienation between East and West.
Of course, the cultural unity between the two sides has continued but it was obvious that it had weakened considerably. In East and West, people of letters still were living within the classical tradition that the Church had recruited and appropriated. But with the passage of time gradually they began to interpret this tradition quite differently. Another big issue that was arised and has complicated most the things was and the problem with the language, because the time had passed, when the educated people of both sides were bilingual.
After the year 450, very few people in Western Europe were those who could read Greek, and after the year 600, although Byzantium (new word of modern times) were called even Roman Empire, it was rare phenomenon that someone Byzantine to speak Latin i.e. the language of the Romans. It is said that the Great Photios, the leading scholar of the ninth century in Constantinople, could not read Latin. And in the 864 a "Roman" emperor of Byzantium, Michael III, called the language written by Virgil as "barbarian and Scythian language".
Usually, when the Greeks were wished to read Latin works or the Latins to read Greek works, were using translations, although most of the time they did nothing. Michael Psellos, an eminent Greek scholar of the eleventh century, had such a nebulous knowledge of Latin literature, so to confuse Caesar with Cicero. The Greek East and the Latin West, because they did depended from the same sources and did not read the same books, were removed even further from each other.
The fact that the cultural renaissance of the Courtyard of Charlemagne was marked from the outset by a strong anti-Greek prejudice, although negative, remains important. In Europe of the fourth century there was a unified Christian civilization, but in Europe in the thirteenth century there were two. Exactly during the reign of Charlemagne - perhaps for the first time - it became discernible the schism between the two cultures. The Byzantines for their part were closeted to their own ideological world and did almost no step to meet the West halfway. Also, in the ninth century, they were unable to take as seriously deserved the western education. As barbarians characterized the Franks and nothing more.
These political and cultural factors were therefore not possible to not affect the life of the Church and to make the religious unity even more uncertain. The cultural and political alienation can easily lead to ecclesiastical wrangles, as shown by the case of Charlemagne, because when Irene (the Byzantine empress) refused to recognize him in the political sphere, then he hastened to avenge on charges of heresy against the Byzantine Church.  Specifically, denounced the Greeks for not using of the Filioque in the Creed and did not accept the decisions of the Seventh Ecumenical Council for the restoration the images. But it is true that Charlemagne was informed of these decisions through a mistranslation, which seriously was changing their true meaning. In any case it seems that his views were semi - iconoclastic. With this attitude of Charlemagne, was putting the bases to tear the "non-sewn chiton of Christ" (Church), which was performed a half centuries later (in 1054), with the schism of Eastern and Western Church.

1. Callistus Ware, «The Orthodox Church".
2. Religious School Manual “Church, the new society in course", Third Grade, Junior High school, 1999.

Writer Christos Pal

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