The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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A Trinitarian Imprecision

Canisius | 01 June, 2007 07:50

In today's meditation, Dom Gueranger mentions the fact that the Holy Spirit is the only one of the three persons of the Trinity who does not have another person proceding from him. Then he mentions a patristic thought on this (IX,411):

Hence, as the holy fathers teach, the Holy Ghost received a fecundity outside, having none within, the Godhead.

This "fecundity outside the Godhead" is, of course, the Spirit's action in the Incarnation of Christ and the sanctification of Christ's members.

This is an example of what I think should be left behind from patristic thought. It is not only imprecise, which is not in itself necessarily a problem, but slightly misleading. It portrays the Holy Spirit as having some kind of lack or defect that can be supplied by something "received" from creation. This portrayal creates a pleasing picture of the Father as principle of the Son, the Father and the Son as principle of the Spirit, and the Father and Son and Spirit as principle of what is outside the Godhead; but this pleasing picture also implies that the Spirit would have pined away in eternity had he not created and sanctified man. The element of fittingness in this picture makes it all the more persuasive and therefore all the more misleading.

Although I am no patristic expert, my impression has been that we do not get this kind of thing from the greatest of the Fathers: Augustine, Gregory Naziansen, Basil. For whatever reason, when I have encountered this kind of thought that sees God as imperfect and in need or truly suffering, it seems to come from Gregory of Nyssa--but I am sure there are others.


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