Struggling with Filioque

I am struggling with my faith in the Filioque and I really need help and book recommendations on this one. It is hurting my meditation and I am afraid it could turn into a personal crisis.

Some say that it is completely possible to combine the views of the East and the West, but I am starting to have my doubts. The Fouth Lateran Council writes as follows:

“The Father is from none, the Son from the Father alone, and the holy Spirit from both equally, eternally without beginning or end; the Father generating, the Son being born, and the holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial and coequal, co-omnipotent and coeternal; one principle of all things, creator of all things invisible and visible, spiritual and corporeal”

I have read about the different terminologies etc. but I still have a hard time to make it fit together.


Whatever Florence et al meant it didn’t mean anything contrary to Canon 1 of the Union of Brest.

This is a long but thorough explanation of the history and Theological meaning of the Filioque:

It goes into the context surrounding the teaching as well as what the Eastern Fathers taught regarding the relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit. It shows the language differences between the Latin Fathers and the Greek Fathers. It also distinguishes between the different Trinitarian analogies (the Monarchy of the Father, the Collective Sense of Procession, etc) and what the context is when dealing with the procession of the Holy Spirit.

The West used the Filioque and maintained Communion with the East for quite some time. There is plenty from St Cyril of Alexandria that shows that the earlier Eastern Fathers were not so opposed to the idea behind the Filioque as they were opposed to its being unilaterally added to the Creed. Here are two of many examples from St Cyril:

When then “He,” that is the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth. See how free from extravagance the expression is: note the soberness of the phrase. For having told them that the Comforter would come unto them, He called Him the Spirit of Truth, that is, His own Spirit. For He is the Truth. For that His disciples might know that He does not promise them the visitation of a foreign and strange power, but rather that He will vouchsafe unto them His Presence in another form, He calls the Comforter the Spirit of Truth, that is, His own Spirit. For the Holy Spirit is not in truth alien from the Substance of the Only-begotten, but proceeds naturally from it, having no separate existence from Him so far as identity of nature is concerned, even though He may be in some sort conceived of as having a separate existence. The Spirit of Truth then, He says, will lead you to complete knowledge of the truth. For as having perfect knowledge of the truth, of which He is also the Spirit, He will make no partial revelation of it to those who worship Him, but will rather engraft in their hearts the mystery concerning it in its entirety. For even if now we know in part, as Paul says, still, though our knowledge be limited, the fair vision of the truth has gleamed upon us entire and undefiled. As then no man knoweth the things of a man, according to the Scripture, save the spirit of the man which is in him, in the same way, I think, to use the words of Paul, none knoweth the things of God save the Spirit of God which is in Him.

  • St Cyril of Alexandria, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Book 10

For that the Spirit impresses the Saviour’s Image on the hearts of those who receive Him surely does not admit of question; for Paul plainly exhorteth those who had fallen through weakness into observance of the Law, in the words: My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you. For he says that Christ will not be formed in them save by partaking of the Holy Spirit, and living according to the law of the Gospel. Therefore, as in the firstfruits of creation, which is made regenerate into incorruption and glory and into the Image of God, Christ establishes anew His own Spirit in His disciples. For it was necessary that we should also perceive this truth, namely, that He brings down and grants the Spirit unto us. Therefore, also, He said: All things, whatsoever the Father hath, are Mine. And as the Father hath, of Himself and in Himself, His own Spirit, so also the Son hath the Spirit in Himself, because He is Consubstantial with Him, and essentially proceeded from Him, having by Nature in Himself all the attributes of His Father.

  • St Cyril of Alexandria, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Book 12

To the OP:

I second this article by Mark Bonocore which Zekariya gave you the link for and cited ; it was the one I was going to recommend.

But then that leads to the question: What did Florence really mean?

To the OP, I would recommend reading sources both Latin Catholic AND Orthodox…here is an article from “the other side”:

While it has a whiff of the Polemic to it at times, it summarizes the Orthodox objections quite well and the issues. Beyond that, seek out the writings of both sides, and most of all…PRAY.

This isn’t an easy issue, and it is one that has vexed many people. There is no Magic Bullet argument…some people were more convinced by Latin Arguments, some more convinced by Orthodox ones. Take the polemics with a gallon of salt and seek out Primary sources.

Don’t take my word for it, read, pray and find out for yourself.

I too have struggled with Filioque; It has ruined my marriage; my son won’t address me on the issue; my neighbors won’t talk to me, but still I ponder… The Trinity is one of these mysteries that only pride will attempt. The division of the East and West on such a pilpul is surely the work of the devil. Let your mind concentrate on the escatological issues that give meaning to our everyday struggles. God bless!

Are you joking or are you seriously saying that a disagreement about how to properly interpret the Filioque has “ruined your marriage”? Maybe my humorometer isn’t functioning properly but I find that really hard to believe.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the Filoque. I don’t think God ever expect us to ever get it right about Him. What is more important is God knows what is right and He still loves us even though we want to argue about Him. What is more important is how God sees us and not primarily how we see Him. The human Church family always seem to engaged into too many arguments about God like for instance in the 5th century when the Church was divided over some definition on God. Does exact wording need to be that important so that Churches can split over something we can’t understand anyway. I mean who can really know God? Certainly God allowed this filoque to prove to us that it doesn’t have to be what is accurate on our part but what is accurate on His part. He allowed this to happen to show us not to engage into too many disagreements about His own nature. I think the 5th century decision bothered Him so He allowed all of this happen (the filoque) to show to us He doesn’t care about us defining Him that accurately. I am talking about what two or three words in the Creed that was changed. Who can accurately define God but God!

I realise some were not warmed to the assertion that Rome put in and here I am talking about the Orthodox. But I believe Rome is just too important for us (the Orthodox) to ignore just as the Coptics and other Christian groups from the 5th century are also too important for us to ignore just because certain words were added or subtracted in a creed. There is too much at stake here than what is contained in words. We are brothers and sisters of the same Trinity and we need to focus from that perspective than trying to define God. Anyway we know more today that God is a family of three Divine Persons who created the whole of the human race after the only model He knows which is the Trinity. The Trinity is a family of three Divine Persons and every family on earth draws it existence from it. The best example of a family that represents the Trinity in Heaven is the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. May be in defining God we need to be focused more looking at the Holy Family which was a Trinity on earth.

Thank you all for taking time writing me replies, I will try to dig in on your recommendations as soon as I find time. If you know of other books and articles, please let me know!

One again, thank you!

Thank you! I am already reading some Orthodox thinkers. This is one of the articles I found on the web:

I would be very careful about this line of reasoning, chimo…

I think the great mistake here is this modern tendency to flippantly dismiss things as “it’s only words…” OR “it’s only a picture…”

Words, Images and Ideas MATTER.

Like I said in another thread, I’m all for reconciliation, but it has to be done properly. What I have noticed is that many Latins are all too quick to throw their own Church fathers under the bus because their words are inconvenient to the current “Ecumenical Dialogue.” So you get mealy mouthed and attempt to qualify and “explain and interpret” their words so as to pull out their teeth. This is an insult to both the Latin Fathers of Florence and to St. Mark of Ephesus and all of our Fathers.

So they were arguing over nothing? Nonsense.

I am inclined to disagree with you, chimo…

To Nils: God be with you on your journey.

I’m sorry. I’ve done it again. Sarcasm to suggest that the issue is not vital to one’ ordinary life or the future of one’s soul is wrong if it confuses. My sick humour I am afraid. Again apologies. Peter

No apologies necessary, Peter, I wanted to believe it was humor! Just that I’ve gotten in in trouble for making that assumption in the past - when it turned out not to be! :smiley:

Hi Nils,
It is a dogma of the Catholic faith that the Holy Spirit proceeds equally from the Father and the Son. This is an article of our faith which we proclaim every Sunday at Mass when we recite the Creed “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son” and it cannot be doubted. This article of the faith has the certainty and infallibility of the Magisterium of the Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit and which the Church proposes for our belief as being divinely revealed. The Creed summarizes the chief truths of the Catholic faith and one of these truths is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. This truth has been dogmatically defined in councils of the Church with the approval and approbation of the Roman Pontiff who has supreme authority over the entire Church.

From what I understand, the latin and greek Fathers of the Church both attest that the Father and the Son are a principle of the Holy Spirit. The latin fathers generally say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and the greek fathers generally say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. They both essentially mean the same thing. The greek fathers focus more on the Father as the origin of the Trinity which is true while the latin fathers focus on the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son. The important point for Catholics is that their is a double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, though they are not two principles of the Holy Spirit but one principle. The Holy Spirit does not proceed solely from the Father.

The real controversy about the filoque appears to have surfaced around the 9th century with Photius although there were other somewhat minor controversies earlier. Photius said that the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit is from the Father alone. According to the wikipedia article on the filoque, “from the Father alone” was a verbal novelty. Orthodox theologians are divided whether Photius’ doctrine represents the traditional teaching of the greek fathers or whether it is a novelty for the Eastern Church.

So the controversy seems to focus on whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son or just the Father. Except with maybe a few exceptions and I’m not to sure whether there are even few exceptions, the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone is not attested to in either the latin or greek fathers. As I said above, the greek fathers generally say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son and they stress that the Father is the primative principle or origin of the Holy Spirit. However, they do not deny that the Son is also a principle of the Holy Spirit, or at least they do not say that He isn’t. The latin fathers generally say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son although they also say at times through the Son.

St John Damascene appears to have been one church father who denied that the Holy Spirit is from the Son; nevertheless, he teaches that He is the Spirit of the Son and that He proceeds through the Son from the Father. This sounds sort of contradictory. According to Dr Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Damascene does not deny that the Son is a principle of the Holy Spirit, but only that unlike the Father He is not the primitive principle.

I would recommend reading what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the Holy Spirit (also you might want to read the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma). It explicitly states, quoting from different councils of the Church and popes, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. And of course, we profess this truth in the Creed we recite every Sunday at Mass. The addition of the filoque into the Creed was approved by the Pope and it belongs to the Pope’s authority to do this as he is the supreme pastor of the entire Church and it belongs to his charge to keep the faithful from error. The double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son is an extremely important doctrine concerning the Trinity and it is not to be taken lightly which is why it was put in our profession of faith.

**Note from Moderator: **
A Catholic-Orthodox debate on the filioque was sufficiently off-topic to create a new thread from it. Please see here for that discussion.

Please keep this discussion on topic of supporting a Catholic in understanding the Catholic faith.

I am struggling with my faith in the Filioque and I really need help and book recommendations on this one. It is hurting my meditation and I am afraid it could turn into a personal crisis.

I have read about the different terminologies etc. but I still have a hard time to make it fit together.

May God Bless You Abundantly,
Catherine Grant
Eastern Catholicism Moderator

Thank you again for your replies!

I already have access to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Catholic Encyclopedia and similar resources but I was hoping to find some books on this subject. Any suggestions? Reading on screen is not really my cup of tea…


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