Hilary - the Councils 39
and that there was a time or age when He was not, the holy Catholic Church regards as aliens.”
40 40. What ambiguity is there here? What is omitted that the consciousness of a sincere faith could suggest? He does not spring from things non-existent: therefore His origin has existence. There is no other substance extant to be His origin, but that of God: therefore nothing else can be born in Him but all that is God; because His existence is not from nothing, and He draws subsistence from no other source. He does not differ in time: therefore the Son like the Father is eternal. And so the Unborn Father and the Only-begotten Son share all the same qualities. They are equal in years, and that very similarity between the sole-existing paternal essence and its offspring prevents distinction in any quality.
41 41. The very statement of the name as our religion states it gives us a clear insight into the fact. For since it is condemned to say that the Father and the Son are two Gods, and it is also accursed to deny that the Son is God, any opinion as to the substance of the one being different from that of the other in asserting two Gods is excluded. For there is no other essence, except that of God the Father, from which God the Son of God was born before time. For since we are compelled to confess God the Father, and roundly declare that Christ the Son of God is God, and between these two truths lies the impious confession of two Gods: They must on the ground of their identity of nature and name be one in the kind of their essence if the name of their essence is necessarily one.
42 42. The fact of the essence declared to be one in the Father and the Son having one name on account of their similarity of nature seemed to offer an opportunity to heretics to declare that the Unborn God, or a part of Him, was born of Mary. The danger was met by the wholesome resolution that he who declared this should be anathema. For the unity of the name which religion employs and which is based on the exact similarity of their natural essence, has not repudiated the Person of the begotten essence so as to represent, trader cover of the unity of name, that the substance of God is singular and undifferentiated because we predicate one name for the essence of each, that is, predicate one God, on account of the exactly similar substance of the undivided nature in each Person.
and denies that He was born of the Father before the ages and with God, and that all things were made through Him: let him be anathema.”
43 43. While denying that the God of us all, the Son of God, existed before He was born in bodily form, some assert that He existed according to foreknowledge and predestination, and not according to the essence of a personally subsistent nature: that is, because the Father predestined the Son to have existence some day by being born of the Virgin, He was announced to us by the Father’s foreknowledge rather than born and existent before the ages in the substance of the divine nature, and that all things which He Himself spake in the prophets concerning the mysteries of His incarnation and passion were simply said concerning Him by the Father according to His foreknowledge. Consequently this perverse doctrine is condemned, so that we know that the Only-begotten Son of God was born of the Father before all worlds, and formed the worlds and all creation, and that He was not merely predestined to be born.
44 44. To contract and expand are bodily affections: but God who is a Spirit and breathes where He listeth, does not expand or contract Himself through any change of substance. Remaining free and outside the bond of any bodily nature, He supplies out of Himself what He wills, when He wills, and where He wills. Therefore it is impious to ascribe any change of substance to such an unfettered Power.
45 45. The above opinion, although meant to teach the immutability of God, yet prepared the way for the following heresy. Some have ventured to say that the Unborn God by expansion of His substance extended Himself as far as the holy Virgin, in order that this extension produced by the increase of His nature and assuming manhood might be called Son. They denied that the Son who is perfect God born before time began was the same as He who was afterwards born as Man. Therefore the Catholic Faith condemns all denial of the immutability of the Father and of the birth of the Son.
46 46. Heretics, destroying as far as in them lies the Son of God, confess Him to be only the word, going forth as an utterance from the speaker’s lips and the unembodied sound of an impersonal voice: so that God the Father has as Son a word resembling any word we utter in virtue of our inborn power of speaking. Therefore this dangerous deceit is condemned, which asserts that God the Word. who was in the beginning with God, is only the word of a voice sometimes internal and sometimes expressed.
We cannot declare that the Son of God is born of Mary without declaring Him to be both Man and God. But lest the declaration that He is both God and Man should give occasion to deceit, the Council immediately adds,
47 47. Thus is preserved both the name and power of the divine substance. For since he is anathema who says that the Son of God by Mary is man and not God; and he falls under the same condemnation who says that the Unborn God became man: God made Man is not denied to be God but denied to be the Unborn God, the Father being distinguished from the Son not under the head of nature or by diversity of substance, but only by such pre-eminence as His birthless nature gives.
48 48. This preserves the dignity of the Godhead: so that in the fact that the Word was made Flesh, the Word, in becoming Flesh, has not lost through being Flesh what constituted the Word, nor has become transformed into Flesh, so as to cease to be the Word; but the Word was made Flesh28 in order that the Flesh might begin to be what the Word is. Else whence came to His Flesh miraculous power in working, glory on the Mount, knowledge of the thoughts of human hearts, calmness in His passion, life in His death? God knowing no change, when made Flesh lost nothing of the prerogatives of His substance.
28 The flesh, without ceasin to be truly flesh, is represented as becoming divine like the Word. That is, the humanity becomes so endowed with power, and knowledge, and hoiness through the unction of the Holy Ghost that its natural properties are “deified.” These and similar phrases are freely used byt the Fathers of the fourth century, and may be compared with Jn 1,14, and 2P 1,4.
49 49. It is clearly shewn why the Word, though He was made Flesh, was nevertheless not transformed into Flesh. Though these kinds of suffering affect the infirmity of the flesh, yet ú God the Word when made Flesh could not change under suffering. Suffering and change are not identical. Suffering of every kind causes all flesh to change through sensitiveness and endurance of pain. But the Word that was made Flesh, although He made Himself subject to suffering, was nevertheless unchanged by the liability to suffer. For He was able to suffer, and yet the Word was not possible. Possibility denotes a nature that is weak; but suffering in itself is the endurance of pains inflicted, and since the Godhead is immutable and yet the Word was made Flesh, such pains found in Him a material which they could affect though the Person of the Word had no infirmity or possibility. And so when He suffered His Nature remained immutable because like His Father, His Person is of an impossible essence, though it is born29 .
29 Passibility may not be affirmed of the dive nature of Christ which is incapable of any change or limitation within itself. At the same time the Word may be said to have suffered inasmuch as the suffering affected the flesh which He assummed. This subject was afterwards, carefullly developed by St. Jn of Damascus , III. 4. In c 79, Hilary criticises the Arian statement that the Son “jointly suffered,” a word which meant that the divine nature of the Son shared in the sufferings which were endured by His jumanity. this phrase, like the statement of Arius that the Logos was “capable of change” implied that the Son only possessed a secondary divinity.
30 (Gn 1,26,
31 Gn 18,3.
32 Gn 32,26.
but says that the Father rained from Himself: let him be anathema. For the Lord the Son rained from the Lord the Father.”
33 Gn 19,24.
50 50. These points had to be inserted into the creed because Photinus, against whom the synod was held, denied them. They were inserted lest any one should dare to assert that the Son of God did not exist before the Son of the Virgin, and should attach to the Unborn God with the foolish perversity of an insane heresy all the above passages which refer to the Son of God, and while applying them to the Father, deny the Person of the Son. The clearness of these statements absolves us from the necessity of interpreting them.
let him be anathema. For we do not make the Son the equal or peer of the Father, but understand the Son to be subject. For He did not come down to Sodom without the Father’s will, nor rain from Himself but from the Lord, to wit, by the Father’s authority; nor does He sit at the Father’s right hand by His own authority, but because He hears the Father saying, Sit Thou on My right hand34 .”
34 (Ps 110,1,
51 51. The foregoing and the following statements utterly remove any ground for suspecting that this definition asserts a diversity of different deities in the Lord and the Lord. No comparison is made because it was seen to be impious to say that there are two Gods: not that they refrain from making the Son equal and peer of the Father in order to deny that He is God. For, since he is anathema who denies that Christ is God, it is not on that score that it is profane to speak of two equal Gods. God is One on account of the true character of His natural essence and because from the Unborn God the Father, who is the one God, the Only-begotten God the Son is born, and draws His divine Being only from God; and since the essence of Him who is begotten is exactly similar to the essence of Him who begot Him, there must be one name for the exactly similar nature. That the Son is not on a level with the Father and is not equal to Him is chiefly shewn in the fact that He was subjected to Him to render obedience, in that the Lord rained from the Lord and that the Father did not, as Photinus and Sabellius say, rain from Himself, as the Lord from the Lord; in that He then sat down at the right hand of God when it was told Him to seat Himself; in that He is sent, in that He receives, in that He submits in all things to the will of Him who sent Him. But the subordination of filial love is not a diminution of essence, nor does pious duty cause a degeneration of nature, since in spite of the fact that both the Unborn Father is God and the Only-begotten Son of God is God, God is nevertheless One, and the subjection and dignity of the Son are both taught in that by being called Son He is made subject to that name which because it implies that God is His Father is yet a name which denotes His nature. Having a name which belongs to Him whose Son He is, He is subject to the Father both in service and name; yet in such a way that the subordination of His name bears witness to the true character of His natural and exactly similar essence.
52 52. Sheer perversity calls for no contradiction: and yet the mad frenzy of certain men has been so violent as to dare to predicate one Person with two names.
53 53. The further clause makes liable to anathema the predicating Unborn God of the Paraclete. For it is most impious to say that He who was sent by the Son for our consolation is the Unborn God.
for He said, And the Further shall send you another Comforter, whom I shall ask: let him be anathema.”
54 54. We remember that the Paraclete was sent by the Son, and at the beginning the creed explained this. But since through the virtue of His nature, which is exactly similar, the Son has frequently called His own works the works of the Father, saying, I do the works of My Father35 : so when He intended to send the Paraclete, as He often promised, He said sometimes that He was to be sent from the Father, in that He was piously wont to refer all that He did to the Father. And from this the heretics often seize an opportunity of saying that the Son Himself is the Paraclete: while by the fact that He promised to pray that another Comforter should be sent from the Father, He shews the difference between Him who is sent and Him who asked.
35 (Jn 10,37,
55 55. The insane frenzy of the heretics, and not any genuine difficulty, rendered it necessary that this should be written. For since the name of Holy Spirit has its own signification, and the Holy Spirit the Paraclete has the office and rank peculiar to His Person, and since the Father and the Son are everywhere declared to be immutable: how could the Holy Spirit be asserted to be a part either of the Father or of the Son? But since this folly is often affirmed amid other follies by godless men, it was needful that the pious should condemn it.
56 56. Since it is contrary to religion to say that there are two Gods, because we remember and declare that nowhere has it been affirmed that there is more than one God: how much more worthy of condemnation is it to name three Gods in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Nevertheless, since heretics say this, Catholics rightly condemn it.
Only-begotten God, the words, I am the first God, and I am the last God, and beside Me there is no God36 , which were spoken for the destruction of idols and them that are no gods: let him be anathema.”
36 (Is 44,6,
57 57. Though we condemn a plurality of gods and declare that God is only one, we cannot deny that the Son of God is God. Nay, the true character of His nature causes the name that is denied to a plurality to be the privilege of His essence. The words, Beside Me there is no God, cannot rob the Son of His divinity: because beside Him who is of God there is no other God. And these words of God the Father cannot annul the divinity of Him who was born of Himself with an essence in no way different from His own nature. The Jews interpret this passage as proving the bare unity of God, because they are ignorant of the Only-begotten God. But we, while we deny that there are two Gods, abhor the idea of a diversity of natural essence in the Father and the Son. The words, Beside Me there is no God, take away an impious belief in false gods. In confessing that God is One, and also saying that the Son is God, our use of the same name affirms that there is no difference of substance between the two Persons.
58 58. To all creatures the will of God has given substance: but a perfect birth gave to the Son a nature from a substance that is impossible and itself unborn. All created things are such as God willed them to be: but the Son who is born of God has such a personality as God has. God’s nature did not produce a nature unlike itself: but the Son begotten of God’s substance has derived the essence of His nature by virtue of His origin, not from an act of will after the manner of creatures.
For the Father was not forced against His own will, or induced against His will by any necessity of nature, to beget Ills Son; but as soon as He willed, before time and without passion He begat Him of Himself and shewed Him forth.”
59 59. Since it was taught that the Son did not, like all other things, owe His existence to God’s will, lest He should be thought to derive His essence only at His Father’s will and not in virtue of His own nature, an opportunity seemed thereby to be given to heretics to attribute to God the Father a necessity of begetting the Son from Himself, as though He had brought forth the Son by a law of nature in spite of Himself. But such liability to be acted upon does not exist in God the Father in the ineffable and perfect birth of the Son it was neither mere will that begat Him nor was the Father’s essence changed or forced at the bidding of a natural law. Nor was any substance sought for to beget Him, nor is the nature of the Begetter changed in the Begotten, nor is the Father’s unique name affected by time. Before all time the Father, out of the essence of His nature, with a desire that was subject to no passion, gave to the Son a birth that conveyed the essence of His nature.
speaking as though there were two incapable of birth and unborn and without beginning, and makes two Gods: let him be anathema. For the Head, which is the beginning of all things, is the Son; but the Head or beginning of Christ is God: for so to One who is without beginning and is the beginning of all things, we refer the whole world through Christ.”
60 60. To declare the Son to be incapable of birth is the height of impiety. God would no longer be One: for the nature of the one Unborn God demands that we should confess that God is one. Since therefore God is one, there cannot be two incapable of birth: because God is one (although both the Father is God and the Son of God is God) for the very reason that incapability of birth is the only quality that can belong to one Person only. The Son is God for the very reason that He derives His birth from that essence which cannot be born. Therefore our holy faith rejects the idea that the Son is incapable of birth in order to predicate one God incapable of birth and consequently one God, and in order to embrace the Only-begotten nature, begotten from the unborn essence, in the one name of the Unborn God. For the Head of all things is the Son: but the Head of the Son is God. And to one God through this stepping-stone and by this confession all things are referred, since the whole world takes its beginning from Him to whom God Himself is the beginning.
If any man denies that Christ, who is God and the Son of God, existed before time began and aided the Father in the perfecting of all things; but says that only from the time that He was born of Mary did He gain the name of Christ and Son and a beginning of His deity: let him be anathema.”
61 61. A condemnation of that heresy on account of which the Synod was held necessarily concluded with an explanation of the whole faith that was being opposed. This heresy falsely stated that the beginning of the Son of God dated from His birth of Mary. According to evangelical and apostolic doctrine the corner-stone of our faith is that our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God and Son of God, cannot be separated from the Father in title or power or difference of substance or interval of time.
62 62. You perceive that the truth has been sought by many paths through the advice and opinions of different bishops, and the ground of their views has been set forth by the separate declarations inscribed in this creed. Every separate point of heretical assertion has been successfully refuted. The infinite and boundless God cannot be made comprehensible by a few words of human speech. Brevity often misleads both learner and teacher, and a concentrated discourse either causes a subject not to be understood, or spoils the meaning of an argument where a thing is hinted at, and is not proved by full demonstration. The bishops fully understood this, anti therefore have used for the purpose of teaching many definitions and a profusion of words that the ordinary understanding might find no difficulty, but that their hearers might be saturated with the truth thus differently expressed, and that in treating of divine things these adequate and manifold definitions might leave no room for danger or obscurity.
63 63. You must not be surprised, dear brethren, that so many creeds have recently been written. The frenzy of heretics makes it necessary. The danger of the Eastern Churches is so great that it is rare to find either priest or layman that belongs to this faith, of the orthodoxy of which you may judge. Certain individuals have acted so wrongly as to support the side of evil, and the strength of the wicked has been increased by the exile of some of the bishops, the cause of which you are acquainted with. I am not speaking about distant events or writing down incidents of which I know nothing: I have heard and seen the faults which we now have to combat. They are not laymen but bishops who are guilty. Except the bishop Eleusius37 and his few comrades, the greater part of the ten provinces of Asia, in which I am now staying, really know not God. Would that they knew nothing about Him, for their ignorance would meet with a readier pardon than their detraction. These faithful bishops do not keep silence in their pain. They seek for the unity of that faith of which others have long since robbed them. The necessity of a united exposition of that faith was first felt when Hosius forgot his former deeds and words, and a fresh yet festering heresy broke out at Sirmium. Of Hosius I say nothing, I leave his conduct in the background lest man’s judgment should forget what once he was. But everywhere there are scandals, schisms and treacheries. Hence some of those who had formerly written one creed were compelled to sign another. I make no complaint against these long-suffering Eastern bishops, it was enough that they gave at least a compulsory assent to the faith after they had once been willing to blaspheme. I think it a subject of congratulation that a single penitent should be found among such obstinate, blaspheming and heretical bishops. But, brethren, you enjoy happiness and glory in the Lord, who meanwhile retain and conscientiously confess the whole apostolic faith, and have hitherto been ignorant of written creeds. You have not needed the letter, for you abounded in the spirit. You required not the office of a hand to write what you believed in your hearts and professed unto salvation. It was unnecessary for you to read as bishops what you held when new-born converts. But necessity has introduced the custom of ex-pounding creeds and signing expositions. Where the conscience is in danger we must use the letter. Nor is it wrong to write what it is wholesome to confess.
37 Eleusius is criticised by Socrates II. 40, for disliking any attempt at a repudiation of the “Dedication” creed of 341, although the “Dedication” creed was little better than a repudiation of the Nicene creed. He was, in fact, a semi-Arian. But his vigorous opposition to the extreme form of Arianism and the hopefulness with which Hilary always regarded the semi-Arians, here invest him with a reputation for the “true knowledge of God.” In 381 he refused to accept the Nicene creed or take part in the Council of Constantinople.
64 64. Kept always from guile by the gift of the Holy Spirit, we confess and write of our own will that there are not two Gods but one God; nor do we therefore deny that the Son of God is also God; for He is God of God. We deny that there are two incapable of birth, because God is one through the prerogative of being incapable of birth; nor does it follow that the Unbegotten is not God, for His source is the Unborn substance. There is not one subsistent Person, but a similar substance in both Persons. There is not one name of God applied to dissimilar natures, but a wholly similar essence belonging to one name and nature. One is not superior to the other on account of the kind of His substance, but one is subject to the other because born of the other. The Father is greater because He is Father, the Son is not the less because He is Son. The difference is one of the meaning of a name anti not of a nature. We confess that the Father is not affected by time, but do not deny that the Son is equally eternal. We assert that the Father is in the Son because the Son has nothing in Himself unlike the Father: we confess that the Son is in the Father because the existence of the Son is not from any other source. We recognize that their nature is mutual and similar because equal: we do not think them to be one Person because they are one: we declare that they are through the similarity of an identical nature one, in such a way that they nevertheless are not one Person.
65 65. I have expounded, beloved brethren, my belief in our common faith so far as our wonted human speech permitted and the Lord, whom I have ever besought, as He is my witness, has given me power. If I have said too little, nay, if I have said almost nothing, I ask you to remember that it is not belief but words that are lacking. Perhaps I shall thereby prove that my human nature, though not my will, is weak: and I pardon my human nature if it cannot speak as it would of God, for it is enough for its salvation to have believed the things of God.
66 66. Since your faith and mine, so far as I am conscious, is in no danger before God, and I have shewn you, as you wished, the creeds that have been set forth by the Eastern bishops (though I repeat that they were few in number, for, considering how numerous the Eastern Churches are, that faith is held by few), I have also declared my own convictions about divine things, according to the doctrine of the apostles. it remains for you to investigate without suspicion the points that mislead the unguarded temper of our simple minds, for there is now no opportunity left of hearing. And although I shall no longer fear that sentence will not be passed upon me in accordance with the whole exposition of the creed, I ask you to allow me to express a wish that I may not have the sentence passed until the exposition is actually completed.
67 67. Many of us, beloved brethren, declare the substance of the Father and the Son to be one in such a spirit that I consider the statement to be quite as much wrong as right. The expression contains both a conscientious conviction and the opportunity for delusion. If we assert the one substance, understanding it to mean the likeness of natural qualities and such a likeness as includes not only the species but the genus, we assert it in a truly religious spirit, provided we believe that the one substance signifies such a similitude of qualities that the unity is not the unity of a monad but of equals. By equality I mean exact similarity so that the likeness may be called an equality, provided that the equality imply unity because it implies an equal pair, and that the unity which implies an equal pair be not wrested to mean a single Person. Therefore the one substance will be asserted piously if it does not abolish the subsistent personality or divide the one substance into two, for their substance by the true character of the Son’s birth and by their natural likeness is so free from difference that it is called one.
68 68. But if we attribute one substance to the Father and the Son to teach that there is a solitary personal existence although denoted by two titles: then though we confess the Son with our lips we do not keep Him in our hearts, since in confessing one substance we then really say that the Father and the Son constitute one undifferentiated Person. Nay, there immediately arises an opportunity for the erroneous belief that the Father is divided, and that He cut off a portion of Himself to be His Son. That is what the heretics mean when they say the substance is one: and the terminology of our good confession so gratifies them that it aids heresy when the word ojmoouvsio" is left by itself, undefined and ambiguous. There is also a third error. When the Father and the Son are said to be of one substance this is thought to imply a prior substance, which the two equal Persons both possess. Consequently the word implies three things, one original substance and two Persons, who are as it were fellow-heirs of this one substance. For as two fellow-heirs are two, and the heritage of which they are fellow-heirs is anterior to them, so the two equal Persons might appear to be sharers in one anterior substance. The assertion of the one substance of the Father and the Son signifies either that there is one Person who has two titles, or one divided substance that has made two imperfect substances, or that there is a third prior substance which has been usurped and assumed by two and which is called one because it was one before it was severed into two. Where then is there room for the Son’s birth? Where is the Father or the Son, if these names are explained not by the birth of the divine nature but a severing or sharing of one anterior substance?
69 69. Therefore amid the numerous dangers which threaten the faith, brevity of words must be employed sparingly, lest what is piously meant be thought to be impiously expressed, and a word be judged guilty of occasioning heresy when it has been used in conscientious and unsuspecting innocence. A Catholic about to state that the substance of the Father and the Son is one, must not begin at that point: nor hold this word all important as though true faith did not exist where the word was not used. He will be safe in asserting the one substance if he has first said that the Father is unbegotten, that the Son is born, that He draws His personal subsistence from the Father, that He is like the Father in might, honour and nature, that He is subject to the Father as to the Author of His being, that He did not commit robbery by making Himself equal with God, in whose form He remained, that He was obedient unto death. He did not spring from nothing, but was born. He is not incapable of birth but equally eternal. He is not the Father, but the Son begotten of Him. He is not any portion of God, but is whole God. He is not Himself the source but the image; the image of God born of God to be God. He is not a creature but is God. Not another God in the kind of His substance, but the one God in virtue of the essence of His exactly similar substance. God is not one in Person but in nature, for the Born and the Begetter have nothing different or unlike. After saying all this, he does not err in declaring one substance of the Father and the Son. Nay, if he now denies the one substance he sins.
70 70. Therefore let no one think that our words were meant to deny the one substance. We are giving the very reason why it should not be denied. Let no one think that the word ought to be used by itself and unexplained. Otherwise the word ojmoouvsio" is not used in a religious spirit. I will not endure to hear that Christ was born of Mary unless I also hear, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God38 . I will not hear Christ was hungry, unless I hear that after His fast of forty days He said, Man doth not live by bread alone39 . I will not hear He thirsted unless I also hear Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst40 . I will not hear Christ suffered unless I hear, The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified41 . I will not hear He died unless I hear He rose again. Let us bring forward no isolated point of the divine mysteries to rouse the suspicions of our hearers and give an occasion to the blasphemers. We must first preach the birth and subordination of the Son and the likeness of His nature, and then we may preach in godly fashion that the Father and the Son are of one substance. I do not personally understand why we ought to preach before everything else, as the most valuable and important of doctrines and in itself sufficient, a truth which cannot be piously preached before other truths, although it is impious to deny it after them.
38 Jn 1,1.
39 (Mt 4,4,
71 71. Beloved brethren, we must not deny that there is one substance of the Father and the Son, but we must not declare it without giving our reasons. The one substance must be derived from the true character of the begotten nature, not from any division, any confusion of Persons, any sharing of an anterior substance. It may be right to assert the one substance, it may be right to keep silence about it. You believe in the birth and you believe in the likeness. Why should the word cause mutual suspicions, when we view the fact in the same way? Let us believe and say that there is one substance, but in virtue of the true character of the nature and not to imply a blasphemous unity of Persons. Let the oneness be due to the fact that there are similar Persons and not a solitary Person.
72 72. But perhaps the word similarity may not seem fully appropriate. If so, I ask how I can express the equality of one Person with the other except by such a word? Or is to be like not tile same thing as to be equal? If I say the divine nature is one I am suspected of meaning that it is undifferentiated: if I say the Persons are similar, I mean that I compare what is exactly like. I ask what position equal holds between like and one? I enquire whether it means similarity rather than singularity. Equality does not exist between things unlike, nor does similarity exist in one. What is the difference between those that are similar and those that are equal? Can one equal be distinguished from the other? So those who are equal are not unlike. If then those who are unlike are not equals, what can those who are like be but equals?
73 73. Therefore, beloved brethren, in declaring that the Son is like in all things to the Father, we declare nothing else than that He is equal. Likeness means perfect equality, and this fact we may gather from the Holy Scriptures, And Adam lived two hundred and thirty years, and begat a son according to his own image and according to his own likeness; and called his name Seth42 . I ask what was the nature of his likeness and image which Adam begot in Seth? Remove bodily infirmities, remove the first stage of conception, remove birth-pangs, and every kind of human need. I ask whether this likeness which exists in Seth differs in nature from the author of his being, or whether there was in each an essence of a different kind, so that Seth had not at his birth the natural essence of Adam? Nay, he had a likeness to Adam, even though we deny it, for his nature was not different. This likeness of nature in Seth was not due to a nature of a different kind, since Seth was begotten from only one father, so we see that a likeness of nature renders things equal because this likeness betokens an exactly similar essence. Therefore every son by virtue of his natural birth is the equal of his father, in that he has a natural likeness to him. And with regard to the nature of the Father and the Son the blessed Jn teaches the very likeness which Moses says existed between Seth and Adam, a likeness which is this equality of nature. He says, Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His father, making Himself equal with God43 . Why do we allow minds that are dulled with the weight of sin to interfere with the doctrines and sayings of such holy men, and impiously match our rash though sluggish senses against their impregnable assertions? According to Moses, Seth is the likeness of Adam, according to John, the Son is equal to the Father, yet we seek to find a third impossible something between the Father and the Son. He is like the Father, He is the Son of the Father, He is born of Him: this fact alone justices the assertion that they are one.
40 (Jn 4,13,
41 Jn 12,23.
42 (Gn 5,3,
43 (Jn 5,18,
74 74. I am aware, dear brethren, that there are some who confess the likeness, but deny the equality. Let them speak as they will, and insert the poison of their blasphemy into ignorant ears. If they say that there is a difference between likeness and equality, I ask whence equality can be obtained? If the Son is like the Father in essence, might, glory and eternity, I ask why they decline to say He is equal? In the above creed an anathema was pronounced on any man who should say that the Father was Father of an essence unlike Himself. Therefore if He gave to Him whom He begat without effect upon Himself a nature which was neither another nor a different nature, He cannot have given Him any other than His own. Likeness then is the sharing of what is one’s own, the sharing of one’s own is equality, and equality admits of no difference44 . Those things which do not differ at all are one. So the Father and the Son are one, not by unity of Person but by equality of nature.
44 Propricias, or sharing one’s own. the word proprietas is not here used in a technical sense. In its technical sense proprietas or signifies the special property of each Person on the Godhead, and the owrd is used to secure the distinctions of the three Persons and exclude any Sabellian misunderstanding.
75 75. Although general conviction and divine authority sanction no difference between likeness and equality, since both Moses and Jn would lead us to believe the Son is like the Father and also His equal, yet let us consider whether the Lord, when the Jews were angry with Him for calling God His Father and thus making Himself equal with God, did Himself teach that He was equal with God. He says, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do45 . He shewed that the Father originates by saying Can do nothing of Himself, He calls attention to His own obedience by adding, but what He seeth the Father do. There is no difference of might, He says He can do nothing that He does not see because it is His nature and not His sight that gives Him power. But His obedience consists in His being able only when He sees. And so by the fact that He has power when He sees, He shews that He does not gain power by seeing but claims power on the authority of seeing. The natural might does not differ in Father and Son, the Son’s equality of power with the Father not being due to any increase or advance of the Son’s nature but to the Father’s example. In short that honour which the Son’s subjection retained for the Father belongs equally to the Son on the strength of His nature. He has Himself added, What things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise46 . Surely then the likeness implies equality. Certainly it does, even though we deny it: for these also doeth the Son likewise. Are not things done likewise the same? Or do not the same things admit equality? Is there any other difference between likeness and equality, when things that are done likewise are understood to be made the same? Unless perchance any one will deny that the same things are equal, or deny that similar things are equal, for things that are done in like manner are not only declared to be equal but to be the same things.
76 76. Therefore, brethren, likeness of nature can be attacked by no cavil, and the Son cannot be said to lack the true qualities of the Father’s nature because He is like Him. No real likeness exists where there is no equality of nature, and equality of nurture cannot exist unless it imply unity, not unity of person but of kind. It is right to believe, religious to feel, and wholesome to confess, that we do not deny that the substance of the Father and the Son is one because it is similar, and that it is similar because they are one.
77 77. Beloved, after explaining in a faithful and godly manner the meaning of the phrases one substance, in Greekojmoouvsion, and similar substance or ojmoiouvsion, and shewing very completely the faults which may arise from a deceitful brevity or dangerous simplicity of language, it only remains for me to address myself to the holy bishops of the East. We have no longer any mutual suspicions about our faith, and those which before now have been due to mere misunderstanding are being cleared away. They will pardon me if I proceed to speak somewhat freely with them on the basis of our common faith.
78 78. Ye who have begun to be eager for apostolic and evangelical doctrine, kindled by the fire of faith amid the thick darkness of a night of heresy, with how great a hope of recalling the true faith have you inspired us by consistently checking the bold attack of infidelity! In former days it was only in obscure corners that our Lord Jesus Christ was denied to be the Son of God according to His nature, and was asserted to have no share in the Father’s essence, but like the creatures to have received His origin from things that were not. But the heresy now bursts forth backed by civil authority, and what it once muttered in secret it has of late boasted of in open triumph. Whereas in former times it has tried by secret mines to creep into the Catholic Church, it has now put forth every power of this world in the fawning. manners of a false religion. For the perversity of these men has been so audacious that when they dared not preach this doctrine publicly themselves, they beguiled the Emperor to give them hearing. For they did beguile an ignorant sovereign so successfully that though he was busy with war he expounded their infidel creed, and before he was regenerate by baptism imposed a form of faith upon the churches. Opposing bishops they drove into exile. They drove me also to wish for exile, by trying to force me to commit blasphemy. May I always be an exile, if only the truth begins to be preached again! I thank God that the Emperor, through your warnings, acknowledged his ignorance, and through these your definitions of faith came to recognize an error which was not his own but that of his advisers. He freed himself from the reproach of impiety in the eyes of God and men, when he respectfully received your embassy, and after you had won from him a confession of his ignorance, shewed his knowledge of the hypocrisy of the men whose influence brought him under this reproach.
79 79. These are deceivers, I both fear and believe they are deceivers, beloved brethren; for they have ever deceived. This very document is marked by hypocrisy. They excuse themselves for having desired silence as to ojmoouvsion and ojmoiouvsion on the ground that they taught that the meaning of the words was identical. Rustic bishops, I trow, and untutored in the significance of ojmoouvsion: as though there had never been any Council about the matter, or any dispute. But suppose they did not know what ojmoouvsion was, or were really unaware that ojmoouvsion meant of a like essence. Granted that they were ignorant of this, why did they wish to be ignorant of the generation of the Son? If it cannot be expressed in words, is it therefore unknowable? But if we cannot know how He was born, can we refuse to know even this, that God the Son being born not of another substance but of God, has not an essence differing from the Father’s? Have they not read that the Son is to be honoured even as the Father, that they prefer the Father in honour? Were they ignorant that the Father is seen in the Son, that they make the Son differ in dignity, splendour and majesty? Is this due to ignorance that the Son, like all other things, is made subject to the Father, and while thus subjected is not distinguished from them? A distinction does exist, for the subjection of the Son is filial reverence, the subjection of all other things is the weakness of things created. They knew that He suffered, but when, may I ask, did they come to know that He jointly suffered? They avoid the words ojmoouvsion and ojmoiouvsion, because they are not in Scripture: I enquire whence they gathered that the Son jointly suffered? Can they mean that there were two Persons who suffered? This is what the word leads us to believe. What of those words, Jesus Christ the Son of God? Is Jesus Christ one, and the Son of God another? If the Son of God is not one and the same inwardly and outwardly, it ignorance on such a point is permissible, then believe that they were ignorant of the meaning of ojmoouvsion. But if on these points ignorance leads to blasphemy and yet cannot find even a false excuse, I fear that they lied in professing ignorance of the word ojmoiouvsion. I do not greatly complain of the pardon you extended them; it is reverent to reserve for God His own prerogatives, and mistakes of ignorance are but human. But the two bishops, Ursacius and Valens, must pardon me for not believing that at their age and with their experience they were really ignorant. It is very difficult not to think they are lying, seeing that it is only by a falsehood that they can clear themselves on another score. But God rather grant that I am mistaken than that they really knew. For I had rather be judged in the wrong than that your faith should be contaminated by communion with the guilt of heresy.
80 80. Now I beseech you, holy brethren, to listen to my anxieties with indulgence. The Lord is my witness that in no matter do I wish to criticise the definitions of your faith, which you brought to Sirmium. But forgive me if I do not understand certain points; I will comfort myself with the recollection that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets47 . Perhaps I am not presumptuous in gathering from this that I too may understand something that another does not know. Not that I have dared to hint that you are ignorant of anything according to the measure of knowledge: but for the unity of the Catholic faith suffer me to be as anxious as yourselves.
47 (1Co 14,32,
81 81. Your letter on the meaning of ojmoouvsionand ojmoiouvsion, which Valens, Ursacius and Germinius demanded should be read at Sirmium, I understand to have been on certain points no less cautious than outspoken. And with regard to ojmoouvsion and ojmoiouvsion your proof has left no difficulty untouched. As to the latter, which implies the similarity of essence, our opinions are the same. But in dealing with the ojmoouvsion, or the one essence, you declared that it ought to be rejected because the use of this word led to the idea that there was a prior substance which two Persons had divided between themselves. I see the flaw in that way of taking it. Any such sense is profane, and must be rejected by the Church’s common decision. The second reason that you added was that our fathers, when Paul of Samosata was pronounced a heretic, also rejected the word ojmoouvsion, on the ground that by attributing this title to God he had taught that He was single and undifferentiated, and at once Father and to Himself. Wherefore the Church still regards it as most profane to exclude the different personal qualities, and, under the mask of the aforesaid expressions, to revive the error of confounding the Persons and denying the personal distinctions in the Godhead. Thirdly you mentioned this reason for disapproving of the ojmoouvsion that in the Council of Nicaea our fathers were compelled to adopt the word on account of those who said the Son was a creature: although it ought not to be accepted, because it is not to be found in Scripture. Your saying this causes me some astonishment. For if the word ojmoouvsion must be repudiated on account of its novelty, I am afraid that the word ojmoiouvsion which is equally absent in Scripture, is some danger.
82 82. But I am not needlessly critical on this point. For I had rather use an expression that is new than commit sin by rejecting it. So, then, we will pass by this question of innovation, and see whether the real question is not reduced to something which all our fellow-Christians unanimously condemn. What man in his senses will ever declare that there is a third substance, which is common to both the Father and the Son? And who that has been reborn in Christ and confessed both the Son and the Father will follow him of Samosata in confessing that Christ is Himself to Himself both Father and Son? So in condemning the blasphemies of the heretics we hold the same opinion, and such an interpretation of ojmoouvsion we not only reject but hate. The question of an erroneous interpretation is at an end, when we agree in condemning the error.
83 83. But when I at last turn to speak on the third point, I pray you to let there be no conflict of suspicions where there is peace at heart. Do not think I would advance anything hurtful to the progress of unity. For it is absurd to fear cavil about a word when the fact expressed by the word presents no difficulty. Who objects to the fact that the Council of Nicaea adopted the word ojmoouvsion? He who does so, must necessarily like its rejection by the Arians. The Arians rejected the word, that God the Son might not be asserted to be born of the substance of God the Father, but formed out of nothing, like the creatures. This is no new thing that I speak of. The perfidy of the Arians is to be found in many of their letters and is its own witness. If the godlessness of the negation then gave a godly meaning to the assertion, I ask why we should now criticise a word which was then rightly adopted because it was wrongly denied? If it was rightly adopted, why after supporting the right should that which extinguished the wrong be called to account? Having been used as the instrument of evil it came to be the instrument of good48 .
48 Impiare se is used by Plautus, Rua. 1, 3, 8, in the sense of . the sentence probably refers to the misuse of the word by Paul of Samosata.
84 84. Let us see, therefore, what the Council of Nicaea intended by saying ojmoouvsion, that is, of one substance: not certainly to hatch the heresy which arises from an erroneous interpretation of ojmoouvsion. I do not think the Council says that the Father and the Son divided and shared a previously existing substance to make it their own. It will not be adverse to religion to insert in our argument the creed which was then composed to preserve religion.
Hilary - the Councils 39