The "Filioque" Wording Of The Nicene Creed
by Father William Saunders
President of the Notre Dame Institute for Catechetics
In John 15:26, Jesus tells us, "But
when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which Proceedeth from the Father, He shall
Testify of Me". Why does the Nicene Creed read, "We believe
in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who Proceeds from the Father and the Son"?
This Question is not New. Textbooks of Church History usually refer to
this as the "Filioque Clause Controversy". (Filioque is Latin for
"and the Son"). The Creedal Citation referenced actually appears in the Creed of the Council of
Constantinople (381 A.D.). The Creed of the Council of Nicaea (325
A.D.) ended, "And in the Holy Spirit".
At that time, however, a Group called the Pneumatomachi
(Combators of the Spirit) denied the Divinity of the
Holy Spirit, and consequently the Holy Trinity. In
Response, the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) 'Affirmed' Creed of Nicaea and added the Last
Section, which Clarified the Role of the Holy Spirit. In the Original Greek Text, this Last Section
reads, "And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who Proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father
and the Son is Worshipped and Glorified . . ." Thus, the Nicene Creed we Profess at
Mass was Actually Promulgated by the Council of Constantinople.
The Creed was Later Translated into Latin with the Addition,
"Who Proceeds from the Father and the Son" (Filioque). This
Filioque Clause First appeared in the Translation
issued by the Council of Toledo, Spain, in 589 A.D.. During the Carolingian Dynasty,
Charlemagne petitioned Pope Leo III at the Synod of Aachen (809 A.D.) to have the
Filioque Clause accepted Universally. The Pope declined, Hesitating to add anything, however Appropriate,
to the Official Text of a Conciliar-Creed. Several Church Fathers argued that the Meaning of the
Filioque Clause was no Different from the Meaning of the Succinct-Teaching,
"Father through the Son".
Nevertheless, the Filioque Clause was added to the
Creed Recited in the Roman Mass (Latin Rite) by Pope Benedict VIII
(1024 A.D.), but was not used in the
Liturgy of the Eastern Rites.
The Filioque Clause has been cited as One (1) of the
Official Causes of the Schism between the Western and Eastern Churches in
1054 A.D.. Although this Point was later Officially Remedied by the Churches at the
Councils of Lyons II (1274 A.D.) and Florence (1439 A.D.),
the Reconciliation was Short-lived. The Filioque Clause still remains a Point of Contention between
Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians.
(As an Aside, this is one reason why the Orthodox Churches call themselves
Why then did the Church add the Filioque
Clause? Remember, during those Early Councils, like Nicaea and Constantinople, the Church,
Guided by the Holy Spirit, was Struggling to Clarify
the Mystery of Christ, the
Incarnate Word of God, and thereby the Trinity. We Believe in
One (1) God,
Divinely Revealed as Father, Son
and Holy Spirit. All Three (3)
Persons of the Trinity are Equal, are Distinct, share the same
Divine Nature, and exist from all Eternity.
With this in Mind, let us Examine Sacred Scripture. We find the
Holy Spirit referred-to as the Spirit of the Son
(Galatians 4:6) and the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9,
Philippians 1:19). He is also called Spirit of the
Father (Matthew 10:20) and the Spirit of God
(1Corinthians 2:11). These Citations show the same Relationship of the Holy
Spirit to the Son as to the Father.
The Spirit is sent by both the
Father and the Son: "When the Paraclete comes,
the Spirit of Truth Who comes from the Father — and Whom I Myself will send from the Father — will Bear Witness on My Behalf"
(John 15:26). "It is much better for you that I go. If I fail to go, the Paraclete will never come
to you; whereas if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7). "This much have I told
you while I was still with you; the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My Name, will Instruct you in everything, and
Remind you of all that I told you" (John 14:25-6).
Origin of the Holy Spirit
God the Father possesses Two (2)
Internal Divine Processions
The Holy Spirit Proceeds (Spirates)from both the Father and the Son
Finally, our Lord Himself Attests-to the Intimate Bonding and Sharing between
the Persons of the Trinity:
"When He comes, however, being the Spirit of Truth, He will Guide you to all Truth. He will not speak on His own,
but will speak only what He hears, and will announce to you the things to come. In doing this He will give Glory to Me, because He will have
received from Me what He will Announce to you. All that the Father has, Belongs to Me. That is why I said that what He will announce to you,
He will have from Me" (John 16:13-15). Given this Basis in Scripture, the
Church Teaches that the Holy Spirit Proceeds from both the
Father and the Son.
The Council of Florence (1439 A.D.) summed it up well. The Council 'Defined'
that the Holy Spirit is Eternally from both
the Father and the Son, Shares the same
Divine Nature as Father and
Son, and Proceeds Eternally in One (1)
"Spiration" from Father and
Son as from One (1) "Principle". Moreover, the
Council stated that since the Father has given to the Eternally
Begotten Son everything, "we define that the explanatory words
'Filioque' have been added in the Symbol [Creed] Legitimately and with Good Reason for
the sake of Clarifying the Truth and under the Impact of a Real Need at that time".
In all, never was the addition of the Filioque Clause meant to change the Meaning
or Teaching of the Creed, but rather to Clarify It
from Misinterpretation. This Dispute is actually more a
Matter of Semantics.