Filioque as a dogmatic foundation for the development of sacred art and architecture

Dmitry Ostroumov. 2014
II Вселенский собор. Фреска Воскресенского собора в Тутаеве
Second Ecumenical Council. Fresco in the Resurrection Cathedral in Tutaev.

At the Second Ecumenical Council, Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed in 381. It was approved at the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 451.
Sacred art is always based upon theology. Its images are born from the experience of spiritual life, from contemplation. The human spirit (called 'the mind' in patristic texts) comprehends the manifestation of the Divine. This experience is then revealed to the mind in symbolic representations. It is also revealed through internal sensations of the communion of grace. A symbol is comprehended through a concept and can be expressed both in a word and in an image. Like any genuine spiritual experience of knowing God, the theology of the image in sacred art depends on dogmatic doctrine. It is also based on the doctrine's inherent tradition. Doctrine and tradition create explicit and implicit paradigms of personal and cultural consciousness. They determine the development of religious art. Architecture is a collective and spatial dominant of this art.

The Catholic dogma of the Filioque has a long history. It has begun long before its inclusion in the Creed in some areas of the Western Church before the Schism.

Filioque means "and the Son" in Latin. This is an addition to the Latin translation of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. It was adopted by the Roman Church in the 11th century and concerns the dogma of the Trinity. It means that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son. After the Pope's supremacy, Filioque is the second doctrine separating Catholicism from Orthodoxy. According to the Orthodox, this addition distorts the Creed. It has a deep dogmatic meaning, affecting the experience of knowing God. It determines the paradigms of spiritual life and influences its expression in sacred art. In particular, this concerns architecture, containing and embracing all other kinds of art.

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was approved by the Second Ecumenical Council (381). It is important to remember that canon 7 of the Third Ecumenical Council (431) affirms its inviolability. Any addition to the text of the Creed contradicts this canon. All later Orthodox interpretations of the Creed only reveal its deep meaning. In contrast, the Catholic doctrine introduced a different meaning into the very essence of the Trinitarian dogma.

However, at first this difference was not so fundamental. Some of the early Church Fathers did not see Filioque as a distortion. They implied a different context in it, unlike both the Augustinian and the present ones.

Discussing the Trinity, the Western Church Fathers rather emphasized the unity of Divine nature. From this they used to proceed to reasoning about the Divine Persons or Hypostases. In contrast, most Eastern Fathers went the opposite way. In the speculation of the Western Church, the Father and the Son bring forth the Holy Spirit by the unity of their nature. The Holy Spirit is the link between the Father and the Son. Thus, without extra interpretations, the clarity of the doctrine of the Hypostases of the Holy Trinity is lost. The Western Fathers had different ways to express that the Spirit is consubstantial with the Father and the Son. Some said that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Some said that He "proceeds" from the Father and "receives" from the Son (or from the Father and the Son) that which belongs both to the Father and the Son. This was the position of Saint Hilary of Poitiers. Saint Ambrose of Milan even said that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son [7, p. 149].

But from the context of these expressions, it is clear that the Church Fathers did not mean the reason for the being of the Spirit as Hypostasis. They had in mind the threefold order, seen either in the action of the Divine Persons, or in Their manifestation. Thus, Filioque itself, in its appropriate interpretation, can also have an Orthodox meaning. The problem of the Western Church is its take on the cause of the hypostatic being of the Holy Spirit. For it, the cause is some kind of inter-hypostatic single natural principle of the Father and the Son. Later, the Holy Spirit is often interpreted as love between the Father and the Son. Thus, different concepts are completely mixed and distorted. These are manifestation, Divine action, intra-hypostatic being and the relationship of Persons. The Orthodox understanding is that the hypostasis of God the Father is the cause of the hypostatic being of the Holy Spirit. The use of the term Filioque does not necessarily contradict this. It can be Orthodox from the point of view of the manifestation and the action of God in energies. This is directly related to the human perception and communion of a person with God. Accordingly, it is related to the different kinds of human witness to God, in particular by art. But in the West, the concepts of cause and manifestation got confused.

Speaking about the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and His testimony about Christ, it is important to remember the Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, they became able to witness Christ by the power of the Spirit. The same goes for artistic testimony. The true revelation of the image of the Son (as well as of all deified people and the Church) is only possible in the Holy Spirit. This revelation and the testimony about the Son in art can take the form of temple building, as a common sacred rite of this testimony. Christ's actions on earth can be symbolically manifested and affirmed in the Liturgy. All this is the making of the Church, visible in symbolic images. And we know that Christ entrusted this making to the Holy Spirit. It is already His Divine Economy, after Christ's Divine Economy ended with Ascension. Thus, it is very important to understand the personal meaning of the Holy Spirit.

Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky wrote thus about the hypostatic being of the Holy Spirit. "We confess the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and His hypostatic independence in relation to the Son. By this the Tradition of the Eastern Church affirms the personal fullness of the work of the Comforter who came into the world. The Holy Spirit is not the unifying force by which the Son would unite the members of His mystical Body. If He testifies of the Son, He does it as a Divine Person, "independent" from the Son. He is a Divine Person, communicating a new fullness to each human hypostasis and to each member of the Church. In this fullness, the created persons are revealed for free and direct confession of the Divinity of Christ, certified by the Holy Spirit." [8, p. 286]. The confession of the Divinity of Christ in the images and in the tectonics of the temple is the task of the church art. This is possible because "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14). Art that is not based on the communion with the Holy Spirit can actually confess Christ as a Man and honor His work. But such art cannot confess His Divinity, cannot testify to His God-human nature. For such art, the Divinity remains beyond the achievable heights of knowledge and symbolic expression. There are only human, purely human ideas about the images of God and Christ. And these ideas are rather sensuous, for Man is a sensuous being. Man can't have a true spiritual experience but through the communion with the Holy Spirit. Without this communion, the expression of the heavenly image of God is unattainable or distorted. In such a case, an icon becomes a mere religious illustration. The temple strives towards the sky, as in the Gothic architecture, but the Deity remains transcendent. The ideas about God are sensuous, but not spiritual.

Thus, correct understanding of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, of His hypostatic being and action, is very important. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem defines it this way. "There is one and the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, living and personally existing. He is always present with the Father and the Son. He is not pronounced or exhaled from the mouth of the Father and the Son or dispersed into the air. He is a personally existing being. He himself speaks and acts and carries out His distribution of mercy and sanctification" [6].

Already the New Testament indicates the fundamental doctrine of the Holy Spirit disclosing the image of Christ. This also concerns the image of the Church as the body of Christ, and also symbols, concepts and iconography that expresses these images. "No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12, 3), says Apostle Paul. Saying that "Jesus is Lord" means the expression of His divinity. And what is saying if not a translation of a concept into a verbal image, which is the basis of a visual one? "Man ascends to the Son through the Spirit" [5] and can contemplate Him. By the Holy Spirit, Man can convey the image of the Son in his creativity.

The Holy Spirit is an independent Personality, inseparable from the Father and the Son. The lack of its clear understanding influenced the deep paradigms of Western theology. This also concerns sacred art, which is the theology in images. These theological paradigms defining spiritual experience imply that the Son testifies of Himself. The Holy Spirit, if He is discussed at all, is rather a sort of "the Son's vicar" [10, p. 107]. But this testimony remains inaccessible without the true knowledge of God based on communion with the Holy Spirit. Thus, Western religious art is between two opposites. It can testify to the human nature of Christ and His ministry. Or it can strive towards the unattainable ascended Son, in an attempt to surpass the unsurpassable humanity.

We know that Christ is with us "always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). But if we can partake of His divine beauty with feelings and mind, it is only through the grace of the Holy Spirit. On Mount Tabor, the apostles saw the fulfillment of the words of the prophet: "Your eyes will see the King in His beauty" (Isaiah 33:17). It was possible through the Divine energies that Saint Gregory Palamas taught about more than 1000 years later. This vision on Mount Tabor is the basis of the religious art of the Eastern Church. The Church sees the true beauty through the eyes of its saints. Its artists express it in the best examples of its spiritual literature, divine services, icons and temples. So, there is a fundamental difference in the theological basis of the arts. One is based on the theophany in the Spirit and its iconological interpretation, expressed in iconography. The other is based on the transcendence of the Divine Essence and human ideas about "ascension to Heaven". The experience of knowing God is substituted by theory. Everything is reduced to moral life with the hope of a future reward for it.

The Catholic Church has a doctrine of pre-eternal proceeding, i.e. the reason for the hypostatic being of the Holy Spirit both in the Father and the Son. The roots of this teaching are usually found in Saint Augustin, the 5th century Church Father. Augustine emphasized the unity of the Divine essence, common to all Persons of the Holy Trinity. But in doing so, he was inclined to diminish the supremacy of the Father. According to Augustine, Divine Persons are the relationships. Everything that does not imply opposition of the relationship is common. Thus, the Holy Spirit can differ from the Son only under the condition of proceeding from Him. Not distinguishing through the opposition of the relationship of the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit can proceed from the Father and the Son only as from a single source. The Eastern Fathers, in particular the great Cappadocians, said that the names of the Persons express only Their relationship, and not the difference in essence.

Later, Augustine's teaching was refined by other Latin theologians, in particular Thomas Aquinas. But it was already clearly expressed by Augustine himself: "To express in the Trinity the own and distinct properties of each Person means to express Their relationship. Everything that is said not about the Persons in Their relationship, but about each Person as such, refers to the essence". "The Father and the Son are one God, and in relation to the creation they are one Creator and one Lord in a relative sense. So, in relation to the Holy Spirit, are they not, from the point of view of relations, one and only beginning?". "It is not without reason that in this Trinity only the Son is called the Word of God. Only the Holy Spirit is called the Gift of God. And only the One from Whom the Word is born and from Whom the Holy Spirit proceeds as from His first cause is called God the Father. I say "as from His first cause" because it has been proven that the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son. But this privilege is also given to the Son by the Father. The Son never existed without this privilege, but the Father gave the Son everything at birth. So, He was born in such a way that Their common Gift comes also from the Son. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of both other Persons" [1].

Augustine's authority in the Western Church was enormous. His works influenced all Western theology, directly or indirectly. Later Western theologians ceased to distinguish between essence and energies (manifestations) in God. They believed that it contradicts the simplicity, unity and integrity of the Divine essence [4, p. 85]. This way, the essence of God is transcendent or, according to the Fathers, it is covered with "Divine darkness". All manifestations of the Divine Persons are limited to Their relationships or point to their essence. According to the Catholic doctrine, this excludes the Divine manifestation through uncreated energies. Thus, in the Western context, true communion with God and knowledge of God are impossible. After all, God is known not by His essence, but in His energies. But the Western theologians consider them nothing more than symbols, created by God to communicate with Man. Thus, theosis (deification) as the goal of human life turns out to be unattainable. The knowledge of God is seen as possible only through something created [See: 3, Triad III, 1-2]. The whole religious art and theology of the image are gradually distorted. Their goal is to reflect both the Humanity and the Divinity of Christ. But they are no longer able to bear true evidence of the knowledge of God and transfiguration of the world. Art can only reflect the created - the humanity and the sensuous yearning of the world for communion with God. Or it can tenderly rejoice in the lives of the saints and the events of the Gospel.

This Western understanding of the knowledge of God is intellectual and philosophical. It is the theology of reason and sensuous representation. In contrast, the Orthodox theology is Trinitarian and mystical. For the Orthodox, knowing God requires both the reason and the Prayer of the Mind. It also requires the path of repentance, that is, gradual internal and natural changes in Man. Such theology implies an ever deeper communion of the human person with God the Trinity. In the Gospel, Christ Himself says that Eternal Life is the knowledge of God (John 17:3). Without this knowledge, there can be no partaking in His Kingdom already here. Thus, there can be no true revelation of the image of this Kingdom. The Fathers of the Church understood this knowledge by experience. But the Western doctrine of the Filioque limits this empirical knowledge. It gets reduced to the "general concept of intellectual knowledge of God" [9].

For Saint Gregory Palamas, the root of this doctrine is the denial of the difference between the essence and energy of God. According to Palamas, Orthodoxy professes two different ways of being of the Holy Trinity. There is the being of three Persons in Their essence and Their appearance in energy. The saint writes: "The Father eternally begets the Son. The Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father. Both birth and procession are eternal and independent of each other. But in energy, God acts differently. Every act of the will of the Holy Trinity extends from the Father through the Son and ends in the Holy Spirit." [7, p. 173]. In Catholicism, these two different ways of being are reduced to one intra-trinitarian being. This makes the manifestation of God in energy by the active force impossible. God cannot be manifested by the Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son. The Trinity is thought to be essentially closed in itself.

Barlaam of Calabria, the main opponent of Palamas, represented the Catholic viewpoint. He considered the energy of the Trinity to be created, thus identifying God and His essence. We know Saint Gregory's answer to this. He cited as an example God's conversation with Moses, in which God did not say "I am the essence", but "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14). "Therefore," says St. Gregory, "God cannot be identified with His Essence alone. He is also present in His energies" [3, Triad III, 2].

Thus, in the era of the Palamite disputes, the problems of the Filioque became especially clear. Following this doctrine, the Catholics changed the apostolic and patristic teaching on grace. Before, it was interpreted as uncreated energy. Now this was replaced with the teaching on the so-called supernatural created elements. The well-known Greek theologian of the 20th century, Archpriest John Romanides, writes: "The Filioque heresy is just as harmful as Arianism. It reduces the fiery tongues of Pentecost to created beings, just as Arius reduced the Angel of Glory, that is, the Son, to the created Logos. Arius and the Latins have not been granted the grace of Pentecost, as the Holy Fathers. Otherwise, they would have known from their own experience that both the Logos and the fiery tongues are not creations. They would have known that the Logos is not a created Hypostasis, and tongues are not the created energies of the Holy Trinity." [7, p. 174] This means that the Holy Spirit is an active force, God Himself. The Spirit manifests Himself in uncreated energies and gives a Man an experiential knowledge of Himself. He also gives a correct vision of His manifestations in the language of symbols and images. Man expresses them in sacred art, which is the threshold and synthesis of human concepts and theophany. Further, John Romanides writes: "The Catholics recognize only one order of life of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit both proceeds and is sent into the world from the Father and the Son as from a single beginning. Thus, they believe that by blowing and saying, 'Receive the Holy Spirit' (John 20:22), Christ brings out the Holy Spirit. But, according to the Orthodox teaching, the breath of Christ on the apostles does not show the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Son. It shows the unity of the energies of the three Hypostases, which is given from the Father by the Son in the Holy Spirit." [7, pp. 174-175].

Thus, true knowledge of God and theology are the prayerful creativity, which can be expressed in word and image. It is more than pure intellectual play or sensual fantasy. It is not just an interpretation of spiritual experiences on a religious theme. In patristic understanding, the knowledge of God is possible only in the Holy Spirit. It can be achieved through communion with the Divine uncreated energies. This is completely impossible according to the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Of course, this has consequences in everything, from the inner life of the faithful to the social and cultural life. Also, the distortion of dogma continues in the theology of paints and stone, that is, in religious art and architecture.

Here we do not have the goal of conducting a comparative analysis of the sacred art of the East and West. We will only note the main vector that the doctrine of Filioque set in Western church art. Already in the architecture of Gothic cathedrals, we see a spiritual aspiration upwards. It is evident both in their external appearance and in their interior decoration. Humanity is trying to overcome itself, defeating its fears, expressed in demonic figures on the facades. The spire-like architectural forms strive towards the sky. During the Renaissance, the spiritual vector gets replaced by a human-centered, humanistic one. Sensual paintings and 'carnal' sculptures appear. This allows the consciousness to fantasize at the level of deep emotions and sensual experiences. The form of the interior also strives upwards, not finding an answer to its aspiration. The reverse perspective, inherent in the Byzantine tradition, is lost. Only the movement forward remains. The theophany is present rather as a memory than as an actual fact here and now. Everything sacred, mystical, spiritual remains beyond the bounds of direct perception. The very Revelation of God is no longer directly expressed in the art of the temple. Art is no longer symbolic, it does not testify to God as a Person self-revealing in the Holy Spirit. Rather it inspires reflection about Him, about the Church, about the Gospel and saints. The encounter with God is replaced by historical memory and dreams of the Kingdom beyond. Only high vaults testify to the unattainable heights of the Kingdom of God. The beautiful sculptures can only call for a moral life with the hope of posthumous good. Christ's words "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21) seem completely inappropriate here. It means that the revelation of the beauty of this Kingdom in the church is gradually replaced by the beauty of not transfigured human culture. We can trace the way of the Western tradition from the Gothic and the Renaissance to contemporary postmodernism. The fundamental postmodern dogma is the impossibility to partake of the uncreated energies of the Divine. Man cannot "taste and see that the Lord is good'" (Ps. 33).

The best examples of the tradition of Orthodox church building represent something different. Here one can see the principle of reverse perspective. There are both the aspiration towards the sky and the theophany. The aspiration is expressed mostly by the external forms of the temple. The revelation of the Divine is reflected both in the tectonics of the interior with its gentle vaults, and in fresco painting and mosaics. The dome of the cross-in-square church stretches like the vault of heaven and testifies to the proximity and direct perception of God. In this vault, the Ascension is often painted, which also symbolizes the Second Coming. The Christ Pantocrator comes in power with the angelic ranks and faithful witnesses of His glory. With the opened Book of Life in His right hand, He reveals to the contemplation and spirit of Man the Kingdom of God here and now. He reveals the depth of the Gospel, reflected in all vaulted structures and their paintings, in the space of the temple, coming to life in the Liturgy. The anthropological aspect of the temple, which is the image of a Man, is also important here. A person's perception of the sacred space influences their inner spiritual life, too. One or another tradition determines the way a person experiences God. He can be a reality, or the highest Principle, inaccessible and transcendent, comprehended only by the mind and assumption.

Saint Augustine considered that "everything that is in God, is the essence". After him, Western theology has led to the unknowable nature of this essence. Saint Gregory Palamas recognized in God the forces and energies other than essence. He believed them to be co-eternal with God. The general point of view of Orthodox theologians is that no essence can exist without its corresponding energy. According to Saint Maximus the Confessor, "nothing existing can be completely devoid of any natural energy." Saint Gregory Palamas writes: "A divine and unknowable essence that had no energy different from itself would be completely non-existent as a pure speculation of the mind." To have a real existence, a thing must "have a natural energy that is different from the essence" [4, p.88]. Saint Seraphim of Sarov said that gaining the grace of the Holy Spirit is the goal of the Christian life. In this theological context, his words seem completely clear and meaningful. Thus, through communion with the Divine uncreated energies, Man knows God and partakes by experience of Divine Life. Man can know non-abstract theology in its Trinitarian mystery. He unites with God, follows the path of deification and "participates in the Divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4 ). Then Man is able to express the mystery of God's revelation and Transfiguration in the theology of icons and architecture. It is possible not by Man's own understanding, but in synergy with the Spirit.

Archbishop Vasili (Krivoshein) writes: "The main idea of the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas on the Deity can be expressed as an antinomy. There is the complete impregnability, transcendence of God, He is "out of the world". At the same time, there is His self-revelation to the world, His immanence and real presence in it. This basic antinomy is expressed in Palamite doctrine of the "essence and energies" of the Trinitarian Deity" [2, p. 85]. The theological interpretation of the Filioque shows the lack of genuine knowledge of God in the Catholic doctrine. The Holy Spirit is presented in a subordinate position, which leads to the desacralization of church life. As a result, the art that reflects this life is desacralized, too. Christianity is gradually reduced to a moral philosophy of life and is being rationalized. This is especially noticeable in the fruit of this desacralization - the Reformation. The vision where the essence of the Christian life is the knowledge and contemplation of God, and its goal is theosis, is in many ways inaccessible. All that remains is the aspiration of Man towards Heaven. It is expressed in the lancet vaults and arches of the cathedral. The buttresses support this aspiration. The spires and internal vaults elevate the worshipers to unattainable heights. God's answer and the manifestation of His Essence in energies capable of making a person a partaker of Him are rejected at the dogmatic level. This is a deep paradigm that largely determines the development of Western religious art and architecture.

Thus, the meaning of a personal encounter with God and spiritual life becomes unclear. Man and his freedom come to the fore, humanism develops. Today it turns into transhumanism, determined by the freedom of Man without God. Parallel movement can be easily traced in architecture, too. At some point, the desire for Heaven, inherent in the late Middle Ages and Gothic, is lost. It is understood as a desire for an unrequited void. Man decides to become a god himself, a god not by grace, but by progress.

The transcendence of the Divine leads to the principle of perspective in art. The immanence of the Divine leads to the reverse perspective. It can inspire a kind of mystical idealism, which was the Byzantine weakness. It seems that the right path is that of synthesis. One should synthesize the direct and reverse perspective. The burning and aspiration of the human spirit can be expressed in symbolic forms and elements of the architecture of the church. The self-disclosure of God in His energies, as a response to the manifestation of the will of man, can be expressed in the interior of the church. This can be seen in the ancient Russian cathedrals. They are ascetic on the outside, decorated by kokoshniks as their main iconological elements. On the inside, they present the beauty of "reverse perspective".

"No one has seen or can see God" (1 Tim. 6:16). But "blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matt. 5:8). It is at the center of the heart that God manifests Himself, visible and cognizable in His energies.
The following sources were used for this article:
1. Saint Augustine, On the Trinity. VIII, 1.
2. Vasili (Krivoshein), archbishop. Bogoslovskie trudy [Theological works], Nizhny Novgorod, 2011.
3. Saint Gregory Palamas. Triady v zashchitu svyashchennobezmolvstvuyushchih [Triads For The Defense of Those Who Practice Sacred Quietude], Moscow, 1995.
4. Davydenkov Oleg, Fr. Dogmaticheskoe bogoslovie [Dogmatic theology], М., 2013
5. Saint Irenaeus of Lyon. Against heresies. IV. 20. 5.
6. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem. Pouchenie oglasitelnoe [Catechetical teaching], XVII. 5.
7.Kozlov Maksim, Fr. Zapadnoe hristianstvo: vzglyad s Vostoka [Western Christianity: view from the East], Moscow, 2009.
8. Lossky Vladimir. Ocherk misticheskogo bogosloviya Vostochnoj Cerkvi. Dogmaticheskoe bogoslovie [Overview of the mystical theology of the Eastern Church. Dogmatic theology], Sergiev Posad, 2010.
9. Meyendorff John, Fr. Zhizn' i trudy svt. Grigoriya Palamy [Life and work of saint Gregory Palamas], Part II, Chapter 5.
10. Fudel Sergei. Cerkov' vernyh [Church of the faithful], Moscow, 2012.