St. Gregory Palamas on the Trinity

I have been reading St. Gregory’s 150 Chapters and I was especially impressed by chapter 37, which follows an explanation of how the Father and Son can be thought of as mind and knowledge, respectively, and the Spirit as the love between the two:

37. Our mind too, since it is created in the image of God, possesses the image of this highest love in the relation of the mind to the knowledge which exists perpetually from it and in it, in that this love is from it and in it and proceeds from it together with the innermost word. The insatiable desire of men for knowledge is a very clear indication of this even for those who are unable to perceive their own innermost being. But in that archetype, in that absolutely and supremely perfect goodness wherein there is no imperfection, leaving aside the being derived from it, the divine love is indistinguishably identical in every way with that goodness. Therefore, this love is the Holy Spirit and another Paraclete and is so called by us, since he accompanies the Word, in order that we may recognize him as perfect in a perfect and proper hypostasis, in no way inferior to the substance of the Father but being indistinguishably identical with both Son and the Father, though not in hypostasis – a fact which indicates to us that he is derived from the Father by way of procession in a divinely fitting manner – and in order that we may revere one true and perfect God in three true and perfect hypostases, certainly not threefold, but simple. For goodness is not something threefold nor a triad of goodness; rather, the supreme goodness is a holy, august and venerable Trinity flowing forth from itself into itself without change and abiding with itself before the ages in divinely fitting manner, being both unbounded and bounded by itself alone, while setting bounds for all things, transcending all things and allowing no beings independent of itself.

A few things to note: Firstly, it’s impressive that here, and elsewhere, St. Gregory sounds like St. Augustine! He uses the mind as an analogy for the Holy Trinity, and emphasizes divine simplicity. Secondly, the translation I used, by Robert E. Sinkewicz, inserts “<name for the>” in between the words “another” and “Paraclete,” so the whole sentence becomes “Therefore, this love is the Holy Spirit and another <name for the> Paraclete and is so called by us…” but this seems like a mistake to me. It seems “another Paraclete” is correct, and not “another name for the Paraclete,” since I think it’s an obvious reference to John 14:16. Further, if we read “another name for the Paraclete,” then St. Gregory is made to say that we are making “love” another name for the Spirit, but that seems to make nonsense of the argument that follows (namely, that calling the Spirit “another Paraclete” proves the Spirit’s equality with the Son, and thereby His divinity). Lastly, what St. Gregory says about how our insatiable desire for knowledge is an indication of the Father’s endless love for the Son, fits pretty well with what David Bentley Hart says here: “the Father knows his own essence perfectly in the mirror of the Logos and rejoices in the Spirit who is the bond of love … in which divine Being and divine Consciousness are perfectly joined. The ecstatic structure of finite consciousness, then, this inextinguishable yearning for truth that weds the mind to the being of all things is simply a manifestation of the metaphysical structure of all reality, and that because all reality reflects the ordo amoris that is the life of God.” While not making exactly the same point, it is interesting how both Palamas and Hart see the “insatiable desire of men for knowledge” (Palamas) or man’s “inextinguishable yearning for truth” (Hart) as an insight into the life of the Trinity.


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