The Mosaic Soliloquies V

Joseph P. Farrell

Pope Leo The Third’s Final Oration to the Frankish Delegation:

You spoke with beguiling persuasion, my brothers, brother Smaragdus, of the simple elegance and clean, dialectical lines of your new conception of the Most Holy Trinity, of Its splendid and symmetrical design, of the powers of the dialectic of oppositions to take all within its grasp and to clarify and purify and rarefy and develop those elements implicit in It. But We are not persuaded to yield to your King’s demands unless you are able to answer a few questions, to resolve a few difficulties by means of your awesome dialectic.

In the ancient Scriptures, Adam walked and talked with God, yet We also read there that no man shall see God and live. He is Life, and He is Death. We are commanded to seek His Face, and when we bless each other, we are to say, ‘May the Lord make His Face to shine upon thee, may the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace,’ yet, one touch of that Gaze, We read elsewhere, and We are dismembered and our being sundered to the very marrow. When He withdraws His Face, that is death, yet the sight of It is surest retribution. Why do We seek His Face when the sight of it is death? And why do We not seek, when this, too, is death? We cannot see It, We dare not see It, We must see It. Will your vaunted dialectic tell me how He dwells in thick clouds and darkness Who yet dwells in unapproachable light? Is He Who made the eye not to be seen? Is He Who made the ear not to be heard? Is He Who made the mind not to be understood? But then, are His Thoughts not our thoughts? How ill your dialectic resolves these antinomies?

And think not to flee to the Son of God to rescue you from your plight. Gather your dialectical tools and hone your philosophical and scientific and critical instruments, garner vast treasure houses of reasonings and still, you will not be able to escape fundamental paradoxes.

Do you call Him God? Then I will add: He is a Man. Do you call Him Man? Then I say He is God, Whose Face is both visible and invisible to man! Do you say uncreate? I say created in addition to this. Do you say He is purest spirit? Then I shall add He is rawest matter. Do you say visible? But also invisible. Would you say He is hidden and unknowable? I shall then add that He was manifest and known. Would you say that there is naught in Him but Unity, like the impious Eutyches and Severus? Or would you say naught in Him but Duality, as did the impious Nestoris? To which aspect of the dialectic are you and your King inclined?

Was He not mortal? Does He not live forever in the body? Is He not Almighty God? Was He not, too, a helpless Infant? Is He not Priest? And yet also Sacrifice? Is He not the Judge of the Universe? Was He not judged? Did He not fling the stars into heaven only to be flung into the Tomb? You say He hath no Father, yet called He God His Father. You say He hath no mother, but He called Mary His mother. Is He not without father as man, and mother as God, and yet as God-man hath He not both Father and mother?

Consuming Fire, yet Living Waters. Do you say Lamb? Then I, for my part, Shepherd. Do you say Vine? Then I shall say Vinedresser. Would you say that in Him God humbled Himself to become man? Then I shall affirm the counterpoise: that in Him man hath been highly exalted to sit at the Right Hand of God. In His Emptying we are made full, and before His Fullness we are all empty. He hath all the universals common and proper to deity and to humanity, being preeminent in all things and summing them up in Himself. He was made an Infant to regenerate infants, a Child for children, Man for men, Paradox of Paradox, God of God, Light of light, and Very God of Very God, Ancient of Days and Wellspring of Youth.

Your dialectic therefore fails us; We will not therefore subscribe to your dialectical Trinity, for what can truly be said of the Son cannot be said of the other Persons, if there be only One Son there is only One Father and Source of the Son and the Spirit; that which is said of all Three Persons pertains to the divine nature alone, and the Holy Spirit’s procession is not such a thing. It is as St. John of Damascus hath said: ‘The error of all the heretics is the same, in that they say nature and person are identical.’ If therefore the fathers did not omit this doctrine from the creed, this filioque of yours, from oversight or negligence, but acted under Divine Inspiration, and if they said that no one might add to the Creed — not those with good intentions, neither bishop, nor archbishop, nor pope, nor emperor — but simply no one, then who am I to prefer myself to them? As We have neither the competence nor the authority to add it, We therefore forbid it to be added now, or in the future, but anyone, and furthermore We require your King, Charles, to remove it from the Creed throughout his realms as soon as possible.

And therefore that the incorruptible creed might have an incorruptible witness here in Rome, I have had the considerable and considerate gift of silver from your King made into these shields of the Shield of our common and incorruptible Faith. They shall, upon Our instruction, be taken to St. Peter’s where they shall hang until Our Lord come again or an heretic and apostate remove them.

These words of mine take back to your King. I have no authority or power over the Councils of the Church. That is the only decision I have to offer him.

And now unto God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, We ascribe as is most justly due, all Might, Majesty, Dominion, Power, and Truth, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages, Amen.

The other installments in the Mosaic Soliloquies can be read in our serial archives.

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