A Local Council: History and Text

Author: Toledo XI


Symbol Of Faith (675)

[This small local Council, attended by only 17 bishops, has little significance today except for the beautiful confession of faith which was recited at its opening. The official value of this document consists in the fact that in subsequent centuries it was kept in highest regard and considered a genuine expression of the Trinitarian faith; it is one of the important formulas of doctrine. In fact, hardly anywhere is the reflection of the early Church on the Trinitarian mystery and on Christ expressed with such precision and acumen as in this Creed which sums up the tradition of the earlier Councils and patristic theology of the West.]

[From Neuner and Dupuis; The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, (New York; Alba House, 1982), pp. 102-106. Numbers refer to Neuner-Dupuis ref. Nos., numbers in brackets to The Denzinger Schoenmetzer equivalents]

(The divine Trinity)

308 [525] We confess and believe that the holy and ineffable Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is one God by nature, of one substance, of one nature as also of one majesty and power.

(The Father)

And we profess that the Father is not begotten, not created, but unbegotten. For He Himself, from whom the Son has received His birth and the Holy Spirit His procession, has His origin from no one. He is therefore the source and origin of the whole Godhead. He Himself is the Father of His own essence, who in an ineffable way has begotten the Son from His ineffable substance. Yet He did not beget something different (aliud) from what He Himself is: God has begotten God, light has begotten light. From Him, therefore, is "all fatherhood in heaven and on earth" (cf. Eph. 3.15 Vulg.).

(The Son)

309 [526] We also confess that the Son was born, but not made, from the substance of the Father, without beginning, before all ages, for at no time did the Father exist without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. Yet the Father is not from the Son, as the Son is from the Father, because the Father was not generated by the Son but the Son by the Father. The Son, therefore, is God from the Father, and the Father is God, but not from the son. He is indeed the Father of the Son, not God from the Son; but the latter is the Son of the Father and God from the Father. Yet in all things the Son is equal to God the Father, for He has never begun nor ceased to be born. We also believe that He is of one substance with the Father; wherefore He is called homoousios with the Father, that is of the same being as the Father, for homos in Greek means 'one' and ousia means 'being', and joined together they mean 'one in being'. We must believe that the Son is begotten or born not from nothing or from any other substance, but from the womb of the Father, that is from His substance. Therefore the Father is eternal, and the Son is also eternal. If He was always Father, He always had a Son, whose Father He was, and therefore we confess that the Son was born from the Father without beginning. We do not call the same Son of God a part of a divided nature,[1]because He was generated from the Father, but we assert that the perfect Father has begotten the perfect Son, without diminution or division, for it pertains to the Godhead alone not to have an unequal Son. This Son of God is also Son by nature, not by adoption; of Him we must also believe that God the Father begot Him neither by an act of will nor out of necessity, for in God there is no necessity nor does will precede wisdom.

[1] f. Vigilius Thaps., ContraArianos, Sabellianos etphotinianos dialogus, 11, 13.

(The Holy Spirit)

310 [527] We also believe that the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, is God, one and equal with God the Father and the Son, of one substance and of one nature, not, however, begotten nor created but proceeding from both, and that He is the Spirit of both. C)f this Holy Spirit, we also believe that He is neither unbegotten nor begotten, for if we called Him unbegotten we would assert two Fathers, or if begotten, we would appear to preach two Sons. Yet He is called the Spirit not of the Father alone, nor of the Son alone, but of both Father and Son. For He does not proceed from the Father to the Son, nor from the Son to sanctify creatures, but He is shown to have proceeded from both at once, because He is known as the love or the sanctity of both. Hence we believe that the Holy Spirit is sent by both, as the Son is sent by the Father. But He is not less than the Father and the Son, in the way in which the Son, on account of the body which He has assumed, testifies that He is less than the Father and the Holy Spirit.

(The oneness in the Trinity)

311 [528] This is the way of speaking about the Holy Trinity as it has been handed down: one must not call it or believe it to be threefold, but Trinity. Nor can it properly be said that in the one God there is the Trinity, but the one God is the Trinity. In the relative names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance. Although we profess three persons, we do not profess three substances, but one substance and three persons. For the Father is Father not with respect to Himself but to the Son, and the Son is Son not to Himself but in relation to the Father; and likewise the Holy Spirit is not referred to Himself but is related to the Father and the Son, inasmuch as He is called the Spirit of the Father and the Son. So when we say 'God', this does not express a relationship to another, as of the Father to the Son or of the Son to the Father or of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, but 'God' refers to Himself only.

312 [529] For, if we are asked about the single persons, we must confess that each is God. Therefore, we say that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God ' each one distinctly; yet there are not three gods, but one God. Similarly, we say that the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty, each one distinctly; yet there are not three almighty ones, but one Almighty, as we profess one light and one principle. Hence we confess and believe that each person distinctly is fully God, and the three persons together are one God. Theirs is an undivided and equal Godhead, majesty and power, which is neither diminished in the single persons nor increased in the three. For it is not less when each person is called God separately, nor is it greater when all three persons are called one God.

313 [530] This Holy Trinity, which is the one true God, is not without number; yet it is not comprised by number, because in the relationships of the persons there appears number, but in the substance of the Godhead nothing is comprised that could be counted. Therefore they imply number only in so far as they are mutually related, but they lack number in so far as they are by themselves (ad se). For this Holy Trinity has so much one name referring to its nature that it cannot be used in the plural with relation to the three persons. This then is, in our faith, the meaning of the saying in Holy Scripture: "Great is our Lord, abundant in power, and of His wisdom there is no number" (Ps. 147 (146) 5 Vulg.).

(The Trinity in the oneness)

314 [530] However, though we have said that these three persons are one God, we are not allowed to say that the same one is the Father who is the Son, or that He is the Son who is the Father, or that He who is the Holy Spirit is either the Father or the Son. For He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son He who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit He who is the Father or the Son, even though the Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, that is one God by nature. For, when we say: He who is the Father is not the Son, we refer to the distinction of persons; but when we say: the Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, and the Holy Spirit that which the Father is and the Son is, this clearly refers to the nature or substance, whereby God exists since in substance they are one; for we distinguish the persons, but we do not divide the Godhead.

[531] Hence, we recognise the Trinity in the distinction of persons and we profess the unity on account of the nature or substance. Thus, the three are one by nature, not as person.

(The undivided Trinity)

315 [531] Nevertheless these three persons are not to be considered separable since, according to our belief, none of them ever existed or acted before another, after another, without another. For they are inseparable both in what they are and in what they do, because, according to our faith, between the Father who generates and the Son who is generated or the Holy Spirit who proceeds, there has not been an interval of time in which the one who generates would precede the one who is generated, or there would be no begotten one to Him who begets, or the Holy Spirit in His proceeding would appear later than Father or Son. For this reason we profess and believe that this Trinity is inseparable and distinct (inconfusa). We say, therefore, of these three persons, as our forefathers defined it, that they should be acknowledged, not separated. For if we listen to what Holy Scripture says about Wisdom: "She is a reflection of eternal light" (Wis. 7.26), we see that, as the reflection belongs inseparably to the light, so too, according to our confession, the Son cannot be separated from the Father. Therefore, neither do we confuse these three persons whose nature is one and inseparable, nor do we preach that they are in any way separable.

316 [532] The Holy Trinity itself has indeed deigned clearly to reveal it to us: in these names by which He wanted the single persons to be known, it is impossible to understand one person without the other; one cannot conceive of the Father without the Son, nor can the Son be found without the Father. Indeed, the very relationship expressed in the personal names forbids us to separate the persons, for, though it does not name them together, it implies them. No one can hear any one of these names without necessarily understanding also the other. While then these Three are One and this One Three, each of the persons retains His own characteristics: The Father has eternity without birth; the Son has eternity with birth; the Holy Spirit has procession without birth with eternity.