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The Cappadocians’ Stress on the Monarchia of the Father in Metropolitan John D. Zizioulas

  • Krzysztof Leśniewski
Part of the Pathways for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue book series (PEID)

Abstract

The Holy Trinity is the central and most important content of the Christian doctrine of God. This crucial basis of all theological endeavors to present this mystery has been the most difficult to explain and vulnerable to various types of heresies throughout the centuries. It has been necessary for the Church to defend the mystery of the Holy Trinity against the natural tendencies of human reason.1 One has to distinguish the two main reductionist tendencies of the rational faculty of the human mind. The first consists in reducing the Holy Trinity to unity by stressing that there is one God’s essence with three modes of manifestation (the modalism of Sabellius).2 The second was created by Arius, who distinguished God as three separate beings.3 How did the Church respond in order to preserve the constitutive and substantial part of her doctrine? As Vladimir Lossky writes, “The Church has expressed by the homousios the consubstantiality of the Three, the mysterious identity of the monad and of the triad; identity of the one nature and distinction of the three hypostases.”4

Keywords

Fourth Century Christian Theology Christian Doctrine Divine Nature Theological Reflection 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Cf. Michel René Barnes, “The Fourth Century as Trinitarian Canon,” in Christian Origins: Theology, Rhetoric and Community, ed. Lewis Ayres and Gareth Jones (London: Routledge, 1998), 47–67.Google Scholar
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    Sabellianism is a theological statement of Sabellius from Libya concerning the Holy Trinity. In this form of modalism, the term prosopon was assumed but only as an appearance or a role. By favoring the term prosopon in relation to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Sabellians assert that the three prosopa were merely modes of the single divinity. Such a presupposition led to the simple conclusion that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were not full persons in an ontological sense. Rather, there is one God, or “one person” in God. If that were the truth, there would not be any possibility for the Christian to establish a real personal dialogue with each of the three persons of the Trinity. What is of the great importance is that the modalistic interpretation of the Trinity caused the unsolved difficulty of understanding the reciprocal relations of the three Divine Persons. Cf. Henri Crouzel, “Modalism,” in Encyclopedia of Christian Theology, ed. Jean-Yves Lacoste (New York: Routledge, 2005), 1048–49;Google Scholar
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    Karl Rahner criticized the Western approach to God in Trinity. Cf. Karl Rahner, The Trinity (London: Burns & Oates, 1970), 15–21.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 18. Cf. Alan J. Torrance, Persons in Communion: An Essay on Trinitarian Description and Human Participation with Special Reference to Volume One of Karl Barth’s “Church Dogmatics” (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 274–80.Google Scholar
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    Zizioulas, Being as Communion, 41. Zizioulas’s conviction differs from Lucian Turcescu’s opinion: “The Cappadocians did not state a priority of the persons over the substance, but preferred to keep the two together when worshipping God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.” See Lucian Turcescu, “The Concept of Divine Persons in Gregory of Nyssa’s ‘To His Brother Peter, on the Difference between Ousia and Hypostasis,’” The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 42, no. 1–2 (1997), 82.Google Scholar
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  36. 86.
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  37. 104.
    This relationship with the Trinity should be supported by worship. Boris Bobrinskoy, presenting the Trinitarian context of Christian worship, writes, “The Church is filled with the Trinity. All Christian worship is an ecclesial—and personal—celebration addressed to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Christian worship, likewise, expresses the gift of knowledge and of the new life which comes from the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit.” See Boris Bobrinskoy, The Mystery of the Trinity: Trinitarian Experience and Vision in the Biblical and Patristic Tradition, trans. Anthony P. Gythiel (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1999), 153.Google Scholar

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© Krzysztof Leśniewski 2016

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  • Krzysztof Leśniewski

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