Thursday, December 22, 2011

Inseparable Communion

By Sr. Teresa Forcades (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Un Manament Nou

NOTE: These current columns by Sr. Teresa, which we will be gradually translating into English, are extracts from her most recent book, published in Catalan in 2011 by the Abadía de Montserrat, Ser persona, avui: estudi del concepte de ‘persona’ en la teologia trinitària clàssica i de la seva relació amb la noció moderna de llibertat ["Being a person today: a study in the concept of 'person' in classic Trinitarian theology and its relationship to the modern notion of freedom"]. The book is an adaptation of her 2008 doctoral thesis at the Facultat de Teologia de Catalunya.

Besides being dependent on notions of space and time altogether improper for God, the notion of subordination, because of the perfect image ratio that exists between the Father and the Son, in diminishing the Son, also necessarily diminishes the Father:

"Moreover, whoever thinks so low of the Son, will also do so of the Father. Consequently, they do not take away the dignity of the Son, but, by repeating these arguments, they incur the charge of blasphemy against God, for every audacity they commit against the Son must necessarily be transferred to the Father. So whoever assigns to the Father the upper place by way of precedence, and asserts that His only begotten Son is in a more humble place, will find that to his fiction attach all the consequent conditions of body. And if these are the delusions of a drunken man or one who is on the brink of madness, how could it be pious not to worship and glorify Him who by nature, glory and dignity is conjoined with the Father, when He Himself has taught us that 'whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father' (John 5:23)?"(6,15)

St. Basil concludes that the doxology "Glory to the Father, with the Son, together with the Holy Spirit" is not only legitimate and in agreement with the written and oral tradition of the Church, but that it is particularly useful for capturing the difference between the persons and the unity of the essence that constitutes the mystery of God's being:

"Indeed, whoever says that the Son is with the Father, simultaneously states the properties of the hypostasis and of inseparable communion. This can be verified in human matters: the conjunction 'and' expresses the common element in an action, but the preposition 'with' means communion, in some sense. For example, Paul and Timothy sailed to Macedonia, while Tychicus and Onesimus were sent to the Colossians; from this we know that they did the same thing. If, however, we hear that they sailed with one another, and were sent with each other, we also know that they have carried out the action together. So this word, like no other, while demolishing the error of Sabellius, does the same with a diametrically opposed impiety. I speak of those who separate the Son from the Father and the Holy Spirit from the Son, by intervals of time (25,59)."

However, as we were reminded at the beginning of his treatise, St. Basil's intention was not at any time to replace one doxological formula with another, but to show 1) that the reality of God is above any formula, and 2) that the usual formula "Glory to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit" should be understood as the communion of the persons and never as the subordination of one person to another:

"And to you who love Christ, I say that the Church recognizes both usages and has not rejected one as destructive to the other (...). Therefore, the expression 'with whom' is for those who glorify, and 'through whom' is the term chosen by those who give thanks (7,16). "

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