CT 58: Properties of the Son and the Holy Spirit

Thomas has shown the properties of the Father that distinguish Him from the Son and the Holy Spirit; in Chapter 58 we move on to the properties of the latter:

Two properties must pertain to the Son: one whereby He is distinguished from the Father, and this is filiation; another whereby, along with the Father, He is distinguished from the Holy Spirit; and this is their common spiration. But no property is to be assigned whereby the Son is distinguished from the Holy Spirit alone, because as we said above, the Son and the Father are a single principle of the Holy Spirit.

This is essential the same as we saw yesterday, with the replacement of paternity with filiation, “son-ship”.

Similarly, no single property is to be assigned whereby the Holy Spirit and the Son together are distinguished from the Father. For the Father is distinguished from them by one property, namely, innascibility, inasmuch as He does not proceed. However, since the Son and the Holy Spirit proceed, not by one procession, but by several, they are distinguished from the Father by two properties. The Holy Spirit has only one property by which He is distinguished from the Father and the Son, and this is called procession. That there cannot be any property by which the Holy Spirit may be distinguished from the Son alone or from the Father alone, is evident from this whole discussion.

I’m finding the above two sections to be somewhat dizzying. I don’t see how the Son proceeds from the Father by several processions. It looks like one procession to me: the Son is the Father’s word. Similarly, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son together, which again looks like one procession. Or, perhaps, Thomas is saying that the Son proceeds from the Father in one way, and hence is distinguished by one property, filiation, while the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son in another way, and hence is distinguished by a different property, procession. I think that must be it.

Accordingly five properties in all are attributed to the divine persons: innascibility, paternity, filiation, spiration, and procession.

OK, though I think the name of that last one, procession, indicates mental fatigue on somebody’s part, given that paternity, filiation, and spiration all appear to be kinds of procession, generally speaking.

8 Responses to “CT 58: Properties of the Son and the Holy Spirit”

  1. Niggardly Phil says:

    I’m not a theologian, but I think that procession distinguishes the son and spirit from the father (ie they both process – the son by filiation, and the spirit by spiration. Now the Father is distinguished from the son by paternity (that’s not a procession, because he’s processionless, and that processionalessness is called innascibility). The spirit is not distinguished from the son apart from the father, because he proceeds from both. So those five are the distinctions of persons one from another.

    I’m going to stop now before I break your spellchecker.

  2. Brandon says:

    Yes, I think Phil has it right: Aquinas isn’t talking about processions, he’s talking about the distinctive properties of the persons, and he just has to put up with the fact that some words are used for several different things.

    The Father has three properties that distinguish him out: paternity (distinguishes Him from the Son) and innascibility (distinguishes Him from both the Son and the Spirit) and common spiration (distinguishes Him from the Spirit but not the Son).

    Given this, we only need two properties to distinguish the Son: filiation (distinguishes Him from the Father, because it marks the fact that He proceeds from the Father) and the common spiration (distinguishes Him from the Spirit but not the Father).

    Given both of these we only need on property to distinguish the Spirit: procession (distinguishes Him from the Father and Son together). I agree that this is somewhat confusing; ‘procession’ here doesn’t mean ‘coming from something’ but ‘the distinctive feature of being one who comes from something’.

    Since one of these (common spiration) is a shared property, there are then only five properties needed to distinguish each Person of the Trinity from all the others: innascibility, paternity, filiation, spiration, and procession.

  3. Very well said Brandon.

    By the way, interesting article here:
    http://dicendumquod.net/id2.html

    And also, I have started translating a work on logic, you might want to take a gander sometime. I put the link in my name…

  4. Brandon says:

    Thanks.

    I should add to my comment above that this talk about distinguishing features seems a little odd if you come to it directly without any context (why, for instance, are we taking so much trouble in distinguishing the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son together, but not any in distinguishing the Son from the Father and the Holy Spirit together); but it makes a lot of sense if instead of starting with the distinctions you start with the processions. The Son comes from the Father: that gives us paternity (in the Father) and filiation (in the Son). The Son comes from the Father and the Son: that gives us spiration (in the Father and the Son) and procession (in the Spirit). And the Father doesn’t come from anyone else: that gives us innascibility.

  5. Will says:

    This is an unusual case, where (in English translation, at least), Thomas appears to be less than perfectly clear. I understood the bit about how the Son proceeds from the Father, and the Spirit from the Father and the Son; and so I understood why Thomas grouped them as he did; but the way he phrased this chapter made it seem a lot more complicated than it is. (I find the essential complexity plenty complicated enough.) I agree, Brandon’s summary is outstanding.

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