Gregory of Nazianzus – Oration on the Holy Spirit

January 25, 2016 — Leave a comment



The Fifth Theological Oration
On the Holy Spirit

Gregory of Nazianzus

Parts VI – X

VI. But we cannot enter into any discussion with those who do not even believe in His existence, nor with the Greek babblers (for we would not be enriched in our argument with the oil of sinners). With the others, however, we will argue thus. The Holy Ghost must certainly be conceived of either as in the category of the Self-existent, or as in that of the things which are contemplated in another; of which classes those who are skilled in such matters call the one Substance and the other Accident.  Now if He were an Accident, He would be an Activity of God, for what else, or of whom else, could He be, for surely this is what most avoids composition?  And if He is an Activity, He will be effected, but will not effect and will cease to exist as soon as He has been effected, for this is the nature of an Activity.  How is it then that He acts and says such and such things, and defines, and is grieved, and is angered, and has all the qualities which belong clearly to one that moves, and not to movement?  But if He is a Substance and not an attribute of Substance, He will be conceived of either as a Creature of God, or as God.  For anything between these two, whether having nothing in common with either, or a compound of both, not even they who invented the goat-stag could imagine.  Now, if He is a creature, how do we believe in Him, how are we made perfect in Him? For it is not the same thing to believe IN a thing and to believe About it.  The one belongs to Deity, the other to–any thing.  But if He is God, then He is neither a creature, nor a thing made, nor a fellow servant, nor any of these lowly appellations.


VII.  There–the word is with you.  Let the slings be let go; let the syllogism be woven.  Either He is altogether Unbegotten, or else He is Begotten.  If He is Unbegotten, there are two Unoriginates.  If he is Begotten, you must make a further subdivision.  He is so either by the Father or by the Son.  And if by the Father, there are two Sons, and they are Brothers.  And you may make them twins if you like, or the one older and the other younger, since you are so very fond of the bodily conceptions.  But if by the Son, then such a one will say, we get a glimpse of a Grandson God, than which nothing could be more absurd. For my part however, if I saw the necessity of the distinction, I should have acknowledged the facts without fear of the names.  For it does not follow that because the Son is the Son in some higher relation (inasmuch as we could not in any other way than this point out that He is of God and Consubstantial), it would also be necessary to think that all the names of this lower world and of our kindred should be transferred to the Godhead.  Or maybe you would consider our God to be a male, according to the same arguments, because he is called God and Father, and that Deity is feminine, from the gender of the word, and Spirit neuter, because It has nothing to do with generation; But if you would be silly enough to say, with the old myths and fables, that God begat the Son by a marriage with His own Will, we should be introduced to the Hermaphrodite god of Marcion and Valentinus who imagined these newfangled Æons.


VIII.  But since we do not admit your first division, which declares that there is no mean between Begotten and Unbegotten, at once, along with your magnificent division, away go your Brothers and your Grandsons, as when the first link of an intricate chain is broken they are broken with it, and disappear from your system of divinity.  For, tell me, what position will you assign to that which Proceeds, which has started up between the two terms of your division, and is introduced by a better Theologian than you, our Savior Himself?  Or perhaps you have taken that word out of your Gospels for the sake of your Third Testament, The Holy Ghost, which proceeds from the Father; Who, inasmuch as He proceeds from That Source, is no Creature; and inasmuch as He is not Begotten is no Son; and inasmuch as He is between the Unbegotten and the Begotten is God.  And thus escaping the toils of your syllogisms, He has manifested himself as God, stronger than your divisions.  What then is Procession?  Do you tell me what is the Unbegottenness of the Father, and I will explain to you the physiology of the Generation of the Son and the Procession of the Spirit, and we shall both of us be frenzy-stricken for prying into the mystery of God. And who are we to do these things, we who cannot even see what lies at our feet, or number the sand of the sea, or the drops of rain, or the days of Eternity, much less enter into the Depths of God, and supply an account of that Nature which is so unspeakable and transcending all words?


IX. What then, say they, is there lacking to the Spirit which prevents His being a Son, for if there were not something lacking He would be a Son? We assert that there is nothing lacking–for God has no deficiency.  But the difference of manifestation, if I may so express myself, or rather of their mutual relations one to another, has caused the difference of their Names.  For indeed it is not some deficiency in the Son which prevents His being Father (for Sonship is not a deficiency), and yet He is not Father.  According to this line of argument there must be some deficiency in the Father, in respect of His not being Son.  For the Father is not Son, and yet this is not due to either deficiency or subjection of Essence; but the very fact of being Unbegotten or Begotten, or Proceeding has given the name of Father to the First, of the Son to the Second, and of the Third, Him of Whom we are speaking, of the Holy Ghost that the distinction of the Three Persons may be preserved in the one nature and dignity of the Godhead. For neither is the Son Father, for the Father is One, but He is what the Father is; nor is the Spirit Son because He is of God, for the Only-begotten is One, but He is what the Son is.  The Three are One in Godhead, and the One Three in properties; so that neither is the Unity a Sabellian one, nor does the Trinity countenance the present evil distinction.


X. What then? Is the Spirit God?  Most certainly.  Well then, is He Consubstantial?  Yes, if He is God.  Grant me, says my opponent, that there spring from the same Source One who is a Son, and One who is not a Son, and these of One Substance with the Source, and I admit a God and a God.  Nay, if you will grant me that there is another God and another nature of God I will give you the same Trinity with the same name and facts.  But since God is One and the Supreme Nature is One, how can I present to you the Likeness?  Or will you seek it again in lower regions and in your own surroundings?  It is very shameful, and not only shameful, but very foolish, to take from things below a guess at things above, and from a fluctuating nature at the things that are unchanging, and as Isaiah says, to seek the Living among the dead. But yet I will try, for your sake, to give you some assistance for your argument, even from that source.  I think I will pass over other points, though I might bring forward many from animal history, some generally known, others only known to a few, of what nature has contrived with wonderful art in connection with the generation of animals.  For not only are likes said to beget likes, and things diverse to beget things diverse, but also likes to be begotten by things diverse, and things diverse by likes.  And if we may believe the story, there is yet another mode of generation, when an animal is self-consumed and self-begotten. There are also creatures which depart in some sort from their true natures, and undergo change and transformation from one creature into another, by a magnificence of nature.  And indeed sometimes in the same species part may be generated and part not; and yet all of one substance; which is more like our present subject.  I will just mention one fact of our own nature which everyone knows, and then I will pass on to another part of the subject.


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