We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.
Today’s post is from Chapter 57, “Properties of the Father”.
In today's outing, Thomas isn't so much sketching a proof, or explaining a point of theology, as he is making some definitions.
Such being the number of persons in God, the properties whereby the persons are distinguished from one another must be of some definite number. Three properties are characteristic of the Father.
In scholastic parlance, a property is some feature of a thing that follows necessarily from its essence, from what it is. A green apple is the fruit of an apple tree; as such, it contains seeds and has the ability to ripen. Thomas wants to identify the properties by which we can tell the Father from the Son, and the Father and the Son from the Holy Spirit. Or, rather, Thomas wants to name these properties. In so doing, he's simply defining some technical terminology to match what we know from the Creed.
The first is that whereby He is distinguished from the Son alone. This is paternity.
We believe in God the Father.
The second is that whereby the Father is distinguished from the other two persons, namely, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And this is innascibility; for the Father is not God as proceeding from another person, whereas the Son and the Holy Spirit do proceed from another person.
The Father doesn't proceed; the Father simply is.
The third property is that whereby the Father along with the Son is distinguished from the Holy Spirit. This is called their common spiration.
The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The word "Spirit" means "wind" or "breath", so Thomas refers to the procession of the Spirit as the common spiration or breathing out of the Father and the Son.
But a property whereby the Father may be distinguished from the Holy Spirit alone is not to be assigned, for the reason that the Father and the Son are a single principle of the Holy Spirit, as has been shown.
And as a good Latin Christian, Thomas affirms that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, and not from the Father alone.
photo credit: Public Domain; source Wikimedia Commons