*Excerpts*, Volume 9

Gregory of Nazianzus – Oration on the Holy Spirit



The Fifth Theological Oration
On the Holy Spirit

Gregory of Nazianzus

Parts XI – XV

XI. What was Adam? A creature of God.  What then was Eve?  A fragment of the creature.  And what was Seth?  The begotten of both.  Does it then seem to you that Creature and Fragment and Begotten are the same thing?  Of course it does not.  But were not these persons consubstantial?  Of course they were.  Well then, here it is an acknowledged fact that different persons may have the same substance. I say this, not that I would attribute creation or fraction or any property of body to the Godhead (let none of your contenders for a word be down upon me again), but that I may contemplate in these, as on a stage, things which are objects of thought alone.  For it is not possible to trace out any image exactly to the whole extent of the truth.  But, they say, what is the meaning of all this?  For is not the one an offspring, and the other a something else of the One?  Did not both Eve and Seth come from the one Adam?  And were they both begotten by him?  No; but the one was a fragment of him, and the other was begotten by him.  And yet the two were one and the same thing; both were human beings; no one will deny that.  Will you then give up your contention against the Spirit, that He must be either altogether begotten, or else cannot be consubstantial, or be God; and admit from human examples the possibility of our position?  I think it will be well for you, unless you are determined to be very quarrelsome, and to fight against what is proved to demonstration.


XII.  But, he says, who in ancient or modern times ever worshipped the Spirit?  Whoever prayed to Him?  Where is it written that we ought to worship Him, or to pray to Him, and whence have you derived this tenet of yours?  We will give the more perfect reason hereafter, when we discuss the question of the unwritten; for the present it will suffice to say that it is the Spirit in Whom we worship, and in Whom we pray. For Scripture says, God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. And again,–We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and I will pray with the Spirit and I will pray with the understanding also; –that is, in the mind and in the Spirit.  Therefore to adore or to pray to the Spirit seems to me to be simply Himself offering prayer or adoration to Himself.  And what godly or learned man would disapprove of this, because in fact the adoration of One is the adoration of the Three, because of the equality of honor and Deity between the Three?  So I will not be frightened by the argument that all things are said to have been made by the Son; as if the Holy Spirit also were one of these things.  For it says all things that were made, and not simply all things.  For the Father was not, nor were any of the things that were not made.  Prove that He was made, and then give Him to the Son, and number Him among the creatures; but until you can prove this you will gain nothing for your impiety from this comprehensive phrase.  For if He was made, it was certainly through Christ; I myself would not deny that.  But if He was not made, how can He be either one of the All, or through Christ?  Cease then to dishonor the Father in your opposition to the Only-begotten (for it is no real honor, by presenting to Him a creature to rob Him of what is more valuable, a Son), and to dishonor the Son in your opposition to the Spirit.  For He is not the Maker of a Fellow servant, but He is glorified with One of co-equal honor.  Rank no part of the Trinity with thyself, lest thou fall away from the Trinity; cut not off from Either the One and equally august Nature; because if thou overthrow any of the Three thou wilt have overthrown the whole.  Better to take a meager view of the Unity than to venture on a complete impiety.


XIII.  Our argument has now come to its principal point; and I am grieved that a problem that was long dead, and that had given way to faith, is now stirred up afresh; yet it is necessary to stand against these praters, and not to let judgment go by default, when we have the Word on our side, and are pleading the cause of the Spirit.  If, say they, there is God and God and God, how is it that there are not Three Gods, or how is it that what is glorified is not a plurality of Principles?  Who is it who say this?  Those who have reached a more complete ungodliness, or even those who have taken the secondary part; I mean who are moderate in a sense in respect of the Son.  For my argument is partly against both in common, partly against these latter in particular.  What I have to say in answer to these is as follows:–What right have you who worship the Son, even though you have revolted from the Spirit, to call us Tritheists?  Are not you Ditheists?  For if you deny also the worship of the Only Begotten, you have clearly ranged yourself among our adversaries.  And why should we deal kindly with you as not quite dead?  But if you do worship Him, and are so far in the way of salvation, we will ask you what reasons you have to give for your ditheism, if you are charged with it?  If there is in you a word of wisdom answer, and open to us also a way to an answer.  For the very same reason with which you will repel a charge of Ditheism will prove sufficient for us against one of Tritheism.  And thus we shall win the day by making use of you our accusers as our Advocates, than which nothing can be more generous.


XIV.  What is our quarrel and dispute with both?  To us there is One God, for the Godhead is One, and all that proceeds from Him is referred to One, though we believe in Three Persons.  For one is not more and another less God; nor is One before and another after; nor are They divided in will or parted in power; nor can you find here any of the qualities of divisible things; but the Godhead is, to speak concisely, undivided in separate Persons; and there is one mingling of Light, as it were of three suns joined to each other.  When then we look at the Godhead, or the First Cause, or the Monarchia, that which we conceive is One; but when we look at the Persons in Whom the Godhead dwells, and at Those Who timelessly and with equal glory have their Being from the First Cause–there are Three Whom we worship.


XV. What of that, they will say perhaps; do not the Greeks also believe in one Godhead, as their more advanced philosophers declare? And with us Humanity is one, namely the entire race; but yet they have many gods, not One, just as there are many men. But in this case the common nature has a unity which is only conceivable in thought; and the individuals are parted from one another very far indeed, both by time and by dispositions and by power.  For we are not only compound beings, but also contrasted beings, both with one another and with ourselves; nor do we remain entirely the same for a single day, to say nothing of a whole lifetime, but both in body and in soul are in a perpetual state of flow and change.  And perhaps the same may be said of the Angels and the whole of that superior nature which is second to the Trinity alone; although they are simple in some measure and more fixed in good, owing to their nearness to the highest Good.


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