The Nicene Creed and Filioque Clause: a Brief Examination

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten, born of the Father before all ages. Light of light, true God of true God, begotten, not made consubstantial with the Father; through Whom all things were made. Who, for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and Mary the Virgin, and became man. He was also crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And He rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures. And He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, and of His kingdom there will be no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who has spoken through the prophets.

In one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I profess one baptism for the remission of sins. I expect the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the world to come. Amen.

(Quoted from: Let us Pray to the Lord, Volume I: Daily Office, published by Eastern Christian Publications)

***

The Nicene Creed is a profound statement of Christian truth that sets out the nuts-and-bolts of what we believe as being members of Christ’s Church. It is shared in common between the Eastern and Western lungs, but (aside from stylistic differences in English rendering, especially) does differ in its expression on a very key point- one that lent a considerable difficulty between the Eastern and Western Churches of the 11th century, contributing to what became The Great Schism that divided the Church in 1054 (where, the Eastern Churches would no longer be in communion with the Roman Church). This divergence hinges on the insertion of the term, filioque ( “….and the Son”)  in the statement proclaiming the procession of the Holy Spirit: In the Eastern Churches, we declare that the Holy Spirit proceeds from (only) the Father. In the West, it is proclaimed that He proceeds from the Father and the Son.

The addition of filioque / …and the Son was originally introduced in 587 at the Council of Toledo (Spain). It was inserted as a counter to the heresy of Arianism, which (as promulgated by the fourth-century presbyter, Arius) maintained that Jesus was in fact not consubstantial with the Father, but was instead a created being who was not only subordinate to the Father, but also not co-eternal with Him. This heresy spread readily among the Germanic Christians (Visigoths and also Vandals) through the efforts Ulfilas [311-380 / 381] (in Gothic, Wulfila: “Little Wolf”), who was actually of Cappadocian descent (the historian, Philostorgius stated that his parents were natives of Sadagolthina, but it is more likely that it was his grandparents who hailed from Cappadocia).

Ulfilas was born into and grew up solidly within the Gothic culture. He translated the Bible into Gothic (with the exception of the books of Kings), making it accessible to speakers of the language. Interestingly, the historian Socrates Scholasticus accredited the formation of the Gothic alphabet to Ulfilas himself, and while it is clear that the Gothic used for the text of the Bible was at the very least of a specific region, what is preserved in surviving texts may in fact be a “liturgical” form, meant to be understood by Goths of any dialect (here, our attention is perhaps immediately drawn to Saints Cyril and Methodius and their translation of Holy Scripture into Slavonic).

Pope Leo III rejected the use of the Council of Toledo’s rendition of the Creed and instead mandated the employment of the Nicene-Constantinople Creed, which did not employ filioque, but put forth and expanded recognition of the Holy Spirit: “….And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of life, [Who proceeds from the Father], Who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who has spoken through the prophets.” This  expansion within the Creed was meant to reinforce the Christian understanding that the Holy Spirit was consubstantial – “of the same substance”- with the Father and Son, just as They are (Father and Son) with one another- and so, a true Trinity of God.

Charlemagne, however, endorsed the Creed as formulated in Toledo. Through his efforts, it spread into the Frankish kingdom, and it was he who originally petitioned Pope Leo III (at the Synod of Aachen, in 809) to have it accepted universally throughout the Church. While Charlemagne was unsuccessful, the filioque clause would come to be utilized in the Creed within the Roman Mass in 1024, through Pope Benedict VIII.

The Creed was and is a statement of the catholic, or universal, belief of the Church. Given that the Council of Toledo was a synod of local occurrence and not one of an ecumenical nature that involved the entirety of the Church (both Eastern and Western lungs), the filioque clause was never accepted by the whole of the universal Church- namely, the East… Without the approval of an ecumenical council, it remains an unresolved issue at the very least, and at worst, a divisive element between two separated halves of should otherwise be truly “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”, unified in Christ.  

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The Nicene Creed and Filioque Clause: a Brief Examination

  1. Byzantine Catholic

    Dave- thanks for commenting…. Sorry for the confusion- the reference was to Socrates Scholasticus, a 5th Century historian. 😊

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s