Wednesday, December 4, 2013


The Filioque controversy probably has to do with the Latin phrase which when translated as `and the Son’, was added to the Nicene Creed by the Western churches and opposed by the Eastern churches. The Nicene Creed was then confirmed by the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and with the “filioque” was accepted by the Western churches after the Synod of Toledo in Spain in 589:- “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified”. This extract refers to the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son.

It was opposed by Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople in 867 and 879 and was not accepted on two reasons namely, i) the addition was made unilaterally, changing a creed which was approved by early ecumenical councils and ii) the formula reflected a particular western conception of the Trinity which was objected by most of the Byzantine theologians. This theological dispute between the two churches in the West and East was a bit subtle when it came to dealing with the Godhead persons and the mystery of the Trinity and it became a continuous friction between them which resulted in an official cause of the Great Schism in 1054 AD.

 Photius had excluded not only `and the Son’, but also `through the Son’, relating to the procession of the Holy Spirit and `through the Son’, was applicable to the temporal mission of the Holy Spirit. According to him, the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit is `from the Father alone’. The Orthodox theologians believe that the phrase was only a reaffirmation of traditional teaching while on the other hand; Sergei Bulgakoy declared that Photius’s doctrine represented a novelty for the Eastern Church. Pontius has been recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church and his criticism has made reconciliation between the East and the West a difficult task and the two churches are still in disagreement over the issue of Filioque controversy. Scripture reading in John 14:26 tells us that `the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name’ and in John 15:26 `When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me’, indicates that the Spirit is sent out by the Father and the Son.

 The concern in the filioque clause is to protect the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Bible in Acts 5:3-4 states that the Holy Spirit is God. Those opposing the filioque clause object since they believe that the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit who is `Subservient’, to the Father as well as the Son. Those upholding this controversy believe that the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son do not believe that the Spirit is equal to God with the Father and the Son. The filioque was probably devised in response to Arianism who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

 Unsuccessful attempt was made to bring about an understanding between the two points of view by the Council of Ferrara- Florence in1439 but the eastern and the Western churches remain separate and the doctrine of filioque remains as one of the most primary point of difference between these two churches. The doctrine of filioque controversy relates to the presence of God’s person which itself is a divine mystery, incomprehensible to man since God being infinite and immortal is most incomprehensible to us, mortal beings.

The Holy Spirit is God, sent by God as Jesus Christ’s representative here on earth when He ascended into Heaven after His Resurrection from his death on the Cross. Presently many Eastern Orthodox bishops are overlooking their old prejudices and are acknowledging that there is no need for separation on the issue of the filioque controversy. Bishop Kallistos Ware who had opposed the filioque doctrine remarks that the filioque controversy which separated the two churches for many centuries is a mere technical issue with a solution.


According to him the problem was more in the area of semantics and different emphases than in any basic doctrine differences. Towards 1014, the German King Henry II who came to Rome to be crowned Emperor was amazed at the different custom present there and requested Pope Benedict VIII who owned King Henry his restoration to the papal throne after the seizure of Antipope Gregory VI, had the Creed with the addition of the Filioque which was sung during Mass in Rome for the first time and in other places the filioque was incorporated in the Creed later. The Filioque clause since then has been included in the Creed throughout the Latin Rite but not where Greek liturgy is used though it was never adopted by Eastern Catholic churches.

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