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Chapter XVI.

The Father is holy, and likewise the Son and the Spirit, and so They are honoured in the same Trisagion: nor can we speak more worthily of God than by calling Him Holy; whence it is clear that we must not derogate from the dignity of the Holy Spirit. In Him is all which pertains to God, since in baptism He is named with the Father and the Son, and the Father has given to Him to be greater than all, nor can any one deprive Him of this. And so from the very passage of St. John which heretics used against His dignity, the equality of the Trinity and the Unity of the Godhead is established. Lastly, after explaining how the Son receives from the Father, St. Ambrose shows how various heresies are refuted by the passage cited.

109. So, then, the Father is holy, the Son is holy, and the Spirit is holy, but they are not three Holies;13771377    This is, of course, to be understood as in the Athanasian Creed. The attributes of eternity, omnipotence, etc., are ascribed to each of the Three Persons, and we are then told that there are not three Eternals, etc. Each Person of the Holy Trinity possesses each attribute, but the attributes are all one and cannot be divided any more than the Godhead. Each Person is holy, but there are not, so to say, three separate Holinesses. for there is one Holy 151God, one Lord. For the true holiness is one, as the true Godhead is one, as that true holiness belonging to the Divine Nature is one.

110. So everything which we esteem holy proclaims that Sole Holiness. Cherubim and Seraphim with unwearied voices praise Him and say: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of Sabaoth.”13781378    Isa. vi. 3. They say it, not once, lest you should believe that there is but one; not twice, lest you should exclude the Spirit; they say not holies [in the plural], lest you should imagine that there is plurality, but they repeat thrice and say the same word, that even in a hymn you may understand the distinction of Persons in the Trinity, and the oneness of the Godhead and while they say this they proclaim God.

111. We too find nothing of more worth, whereby we are able to proclaim God, than the calling Him holy. Everything is too low for God, too low for the Lord. And therefore consider from this fact also whether one ought at all to derogate from the Holy Spirit, whose Name is the praise of God. For thus is the Father praised, thus is the Son also praised, in the same manner as the Spirit also is named and praised. The Seraphim utter praise, the whole company of the blessed utter praise, inasmuch as they call God holy, the Son holy, the Spirit holy.

112. How, then, does He not possess all that pertains to God, Who is named by priests in baptism with the Father and the Son, and is invoked in the oblations, is proclaimed by the Seraphim in heaven with the Father and the Son, dwells in the Saints with the Father and the Son, is poured upon the just, is given as the source of inspiration to the prophets? And for this reason in the divine Scripture all is called θεόπνευστος, because God inspires what the Spirit has spoken.

113. Or if they are unwilling to allow that the Holy Spirit has all things which pertain to God, and can do all things, let them say what He has not, and what He cannot do. For like as the Son has all things, and the Father grudges not to give all things to the Son according to His nature, having given to Him that which is greater than all, as the Scripture bears witness, saying: “That which My Father hath given unto Me is greater than all.”13791379    S. John x. 29. So too the Spirit has of Christ that which is greater than all, because righteousness knows not grudging.

114. So, then, if we attend diligently, we comprehend here also the oneness of the Divine Power. He says: “That which My Father hath given unto Me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.”13801380    S. John x. 29, 30. For if we rightly showed above that the Holy Spirit is the Hand of the Father, the same is certainly the Hand of the Father which is the Hand of the Son, since the Same is the Spirit of the Father Who is the Spirit of the Son. Therefore whosoever of us receives eternal life in this Name of the Trinity, as he is not torn from the Father; so he is not torn from the Son, so too he is not torn from the Spirit.

115. Again, from the very fact that the Father is said to have given to the Son, and the Spirit to have received from the Son, as it is written: “He shall glorify Me, for He shall take of Mine, and shall declare it unto you”13811381    S. John xvi. 14. (which He seems to have said rather of the office of distributing, than of the prerogative of Divine Power, for those whom the Son redeemed the Spirit also, Who was to sanctify them, received), from those very words, I say, from which they construct their sophistry, the Unity of the Godhead is perceived, not the need of a gift.

116. The Father gave by begetting, not by adoption; He gave as it were that which was contained in the very prerogative of the Divine Nature, not what was lacking as it were by favour of His bounty. And so because the Son acquires persons to Himself as the Father does; so gives life as does the Father, He expressed His equality with the Father in the Unity of Power, saying: “I and the Father are One.” For when He says, “I and the Father,” equality is revealed; when He says, “are One,” Unity is asserted. Equality excludes confusion; Unity excludes separation. Equality distinguishes between the Father and the Son; Unity does not separate the Father and the Son.

117. Therefore, when He says, “I and the Father,” He rejects the Sabellian, for He says that He is one, the Father another; He rejects the Photinian, for He joins Himself with God the Father. With the former words He rejects those, for He said: “I and the Father;” with the latter words He rejects the Arians, for He says: “are One.” Yet in both the former and the latter words He refutes the heretical violence (1) of the Sabellians, for He said: “We are One [Substance],” not “We are One[Person].” And (2) of the Arians, for He said: “I and the Father,” not “the Father and I.” Which 152was certainly not a sign of rudeness, but of dutifulness and foreknowledge, that we might not think wrongly from the order of the words. For unity knows no order, equality knows no gradation; nor can it be laid to the Son of God that the Teacher Himself of dutifulness should offend against dutifulness by rudeness.


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