Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Creed – Part 18B

…And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father. Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. Who spoke by the prophets.”

One of the main activities of the Holy Spirit is in the act of creation together with the Father and the Son. This role is seen in the first two verses of the Book of Genesis which begins to narrate the creation of the world:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)
This is also seen in the Book of Psalms:
When thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the ground. (Ps 104:30)
Of course, one of the main roles of the Holy Spirit is to inspire the prophets to proclaim God’s word to the people. It is important to clearly understand the mission of the prophets. When we hear the word “prophecy” or “Biblical prophecy” (especially on television) we tend to think of prophecies as detailed messages about what will take place in the future. We do see many prophesies of the future in the Old Testament prophecies, such as the coming of the Messiah or the destruction of Jerusalem.
However, the main role of the prophets is to proclaim God’s message to the people. So in the Old Testament we see God sending prophets to protest again the oppression of the people when rich and powerful in the Jewish kingdom were mistreating the poor and needy. In such cases God sent prophets that tell the rich and powerful that they are disobeying God’s will with their oppression and they need to change or God will punish them. On the other hand, when the Jewish people were in difficult and dangerous situations, such as being in captivity in Babylon, God sent prophets to comfort the people, reassuring them that God had not abandoned them.
So we see that the prophets are not “fortune tellers”. As one theologian put it “The prophets are not primarily foretellers as forth tellers.” To foretell is to predict the future. To “forth tell” or tell forth is to proclaim God’s word to his people even if it is not a prediction of the future.
As we see in the verse of the Creed we are looking at now, one of the other main roles of the Holy Spirit is to inspire the prophets. We see many examples of this in the Old Testament:
When they came to Gib’eah, behold, a band of prophets met him; and the spirit of God came mightily upon him, and he prophesied among them. (1 Sam 10:10)
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (Is 61:1)
And he said to me, “Son of man, stand upon your feet, and I will speak with you.” And when he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me upon my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. (Ez 2:1-2)
Turning to the New Testament we also see the Spirit active. For example at Christ’s baptism we read:
And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” (Mk 1:10-11)
Later Christ is lead to the desert for forty days and nights of prayer by the Holy Spirit:
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. (Mark 1:12-13)
Jesus said the following when he opened his ministry in Capernaum quoting from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah:
“… and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21)
Later on in the New Testament when the apostles and the Mother of God were together on the day of Pentecost:
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4)
Finally in the 3rd century, Saint Irenaeus said the Word and the Spirit are the two hands of God participating in the creation of the world and maintaining its existence.
So the Holy Spirit is present and active in heaven in the created world, in the church and in human beings. At the prayer “O Heavenly King” we here that the Holy Spirit is “everywhere present and filling all things.” We are never far from the Spirit.

Fr. John

The Creed – Part 18A

“…And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father. Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. Who spoke by the prophets.”

As we saw earlier in this series, the Creed was composed at two ecumenical councils. The first part of the Creed which we have been looking at up to now was written at the Council of Nicea in 325AD. The part we are looking at now was written at the Council of Constantinople in 381AD. We may remember that the Council of Nicea met because a priest named Arius was saying that Jesus Christ was not God, so this part of the Creed clearly states that Jesus is “true God of true God.” Later on, some people were denying that the Holy Spirit was God so this addition to the Creed was made.
As we know, the part of the Creed about Jesus Christ states that the Son is “begotten (born) of the Father.” While the Creed used the term “begotten” (to be born of) to describe Jesus Christ, the Creed says that the Holy Spirit “proceeds” from the Father.
What is the difference between “begotten” and “proceed”? In fact, no one knows. The Fathers of the Church affirm that there is a difference but add that there is now way of knowing what the difference is.
The version of the Creed given in this series of articles is, of course, the version we use in the Orthodox Church. If we look at the version used in the Western churches we see it stated that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”. In other words, the Western church has added “from the Son” to the original version of the Creed. This addition is known as the ‘filioque’ which means ‘and from the Son’ in Latin.
These few words are one of the major disagreements between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. One of the earliest mentions of the filioque is found in the writing of St. Augustine. It appears also in the writings of other Western Fathers. It was first added to the Creed in Spain in the 6th century. At first, the popes resisted this addition to the Creed, but more and more people in the West used this form of the Creed so finally in 1014 the Pope ruled that ‘filioque’ should be officially added to the Creed.
So in the Orthodox Church we use the original version of the Creed. We base this on Christ’s words:
“But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me.” (Jn 15:26)
The words were added to the Creed to strengthen the doctrine that Jesus Christ is really God. But the Creed does this already. Some Orthodox theologians say that the filioque is a major heresy (false teaching) which is at the root of many negative things in the Western Church. Others say that filioque can be understood in an Orthodox way.
But all Orthodox Fathers and theologians say that the Pope had no right to alter the text of the Creed written and accepted by a long list of ecumenical councils. So this issue relates to the disagreements about the role of the Pope. For Orthodox, the Pope (if he were Orthodox) would be the first among equals of the bishops of the church, without any special power of his own. For Roman Catholics, the Pope is the infallible primate of the church. This is a fundamental disagreement between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church and until this question is resolved there can be no unity between the Orthodox and Catholic churches.
It has to be admitted that the matter of the filioque is a highly technical theological issue. However, the Fathers of the Church stress its theological importance.
But one can easily see the question about the authority of the Pope. Is his power so great that he can alter the Creed on his own authority? In other words, does the Pope have absolute authority over the other bishops of the church? The Catholics say yes, the Orthodox say no. It’s unfortunate that this division exists, but perhaps with God’s help one day it will be resolved.

Fr. John