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Bulgakov. Divine Motherhood Category: Theosis …between created and uncreated…

God. Trinity
Self-revelation of the Holy Trinity
In the works of Fr. Sergei Bulgakov

Self-revelation in the depths of the Holy Trinity

"The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Cor. 2:10).

The Son has and knows nothing that the Father does not have; and the Father does not possess anything that is not manifested in the Son.

Fatherhood is synonymous with self-renunciation, with self-revelation in others.

The true mystical revelation of God occurs not in the night of extinguished consciousness, but in the midday light of consciousness. The path here is not discursive, however, but intuitive, not the path of the Logos, but that of the Holy Spirit.[6] Cognition and intuition are two paths of revelation, two wings carrying man into a domain that is unknown, to be sure, but that reveals itself to knowledge. And this revelation exists in the image of the self-revelation that occurs in divine life, in the depths of the Holy Trinity, which, in itself, is eternal self-revelation, not immobile, lifeless knowledge, but hypostatic and living self-positing. Here, a distinction is thus made between that which is revealed and that which reveals, between the Subject of the Revelation and the Revelation itself, with all this, of course, taking place in hypostatic being. The hypostasis that is revealed, the Principle, from which the Son is born and the Holy Spirit proceeds, is the Father, whereas the hypostases that reveal the Father in divine life and wisdom, in the Divine Sophia, are the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This divine knowledge of God in self-revelation, in contrast to the creaturely knowledge of God, is absolutely adequate. There is no separation between apophatic and kataphatic knowledge here, except in the sense that on the one hand there is the hypostasis of the Father, the hypostasis that is revealed, the hypostatic Divine Depth and Mystery, the Divine Subject of self-revelation; and on the other hand there are the Revealing or kataphatic, so to speak, hypostases of the Word and the Spirit, the hypostatic self-revelation that trihypostatically realizes the fullness of divine self-consciousness, the triunely hypostatic I.

In the depths of the Holy Trinity, in God and for God, there is therefore no place for any mystery in the sense of the inadequacy of the Father's self-revelation. "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). In His Word the Father speaks Himself. He is, as it were, pre-verbal or nonverbal Thought thinking itself, Thought about Thought, noēsis tēs noēseōs, according to Aristotle's brilliant expression. But this Thought engenders itself in the Word, in which nothing remains unthought and unexpressed, unmanifested verbally. There is a perfect identity between the Father's proper, inner Word, restrained in silence, and the hypostatic Word, which is engendered from the Father and which is His own uttered Word. The Son has and knows nothing that the Father does not have; and the Father does not possess anything that is not manifested in the Son. This is attested by the Word of the Father about Himself and about the Father; some of these testimonies concern His divine-human, kenotic ministry, while others have a more general character.[7]

The chief pertinent text from the Synoptics is from Matthew 11:27: "no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son" (cf. Luke 10:22). In John 10:15, we find: "as the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father" (cf. 6:46). Also: "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father. … I am in the Father, and the Father in me" (14:9, 11); "I have known thee" (17:25).

The perfect adequacy of the revelation of the Father in the Son is attested by Scripture so undeniably and irrefutably that one does not need to insist on it. Indeed, this adequacy follows from the very relation of spiritual fatherhood and sonhood, where the Son is the hypostatic image of the Father ("the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person" [Heb. 1:3]), while the Father shows Himself in the Son. One can say that here the Divine Predicate, the Word, is absolutely adequate to the Divine Subject; but this identity is realized in two different hypostases, about which it can nevertheless be affirmed: "I and my Father are one," that is, Their separateness is affirmed at the same time as Their identity in mutual love.

But the Father is revealed not only in the Son but also in the Holy Spirit. As a result, this self-revelation is characterized by the same features as in the case of the Son, by adequacy and identity. But now these features refer not only to the Father, but to the Father and the Son, or to the Father through the Son; in a word, the relation is not immediate, but mediated. On the one hand, the Apostle directly attests the adequacy of God's revelation in the Holy Spirit: "we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden mystery, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. … God hath revealed [these things] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God … the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:7, 10-11). On the other hand, we have the Son's testimony about the adequacy of the Holy Spirit to the Son Himself and, through Him, to the Father: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself: but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak. … He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:13-15). The following series of equalities is affirmed here: The Third hypostasis, "another Comforter," in His revelation "takes" from the Second hypostasis; according to His hypostatic character, the Third hypostasis does not speak His Word, but confirms and actualizes the already spoken Word, but this Word, the Son, is also the Word of the Father. Therefore, the Third hypostasis, like the Second, reveals the Father — but He does so not directly, but only through the Son. And so we have one Revealed hypostasis, that of the Father; and two revealing hypostases, those of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This one bihypostatic and dyadic revelation of the Father is, as we already know, the Divine Sophia, the image of the Holy Trinity in its proper depths, the Divine world, Divine-humanity. This is the self-revelation accomplished in the Holy Trinity, in the two Revealing hypostases, by which the Divine Sophia is directly hypostatized. It is for this reason that we speak of the Divine Sophia in a certain specific sense: the Logos is Sophia (but not vice versa); the Holy Spirit is Sophia (but not vice versa); and finally the dyadic union of the Logos and the Holy Spirit is Sophia (but not vice versa). These particular equalities express the relations of hypostatization: of the hypostases and hypostatizedness. But now we arrive at a new equality: the Father is Sophia (but, of course, not vice versa). This equality expresses the idea that, insofar as Sophia is objective, divine self-revelation, she reveals and expresses the hidden essence of the Father; she is His genuine predicate, whose true Subject He is. Sophia, as Divine-humanity, belongs to the Father; she is His revelation. In this sense, the Father is Divine-humanity; however, He is the Divine-humanity which is not manifested, which is hidden and mysterious, but which is becoming manifested in divine self-revelation. The Divine-humanity is the manifested countenance of the Father. It is the Mystery of the Father, hidden in Him, but manifested by the Revealing hypostases.

The same idea can be expressed in a new series of equalities: In the order of self-revelation the Father is equal to the Son: "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30), although not vice versa: "my Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). And the Father is equal to the Holy Spirit, although not vice versa. And the Father is equal to the Son and the Holy Spirit, although, of course, also not vice versa. The image of the Father shines fully in the Son and the Holy Spirit. The interpenetration and mutual transparence of the hypostases correspond here to trinitarian life. For creaturely being, where a hypostasis is self-enclosed being and is repelled and reflected from the other, such mutual transparence is absent (except in love as a gift of grace). Here, this doubling of the self-revelation of God as the Father in the Son and the Spirit appears to be unnecessary and even impossible. "I and my Father are one" — what can this mean except that the distinctly personal beings of the Father and of the Son are livingly identical, are "consubstantial" by virtue of interhypostatic love? And it is of course the same with regard to the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that one can say that Sophia, being the revelation of the hypostases of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, is at the same time the revelation of the Father, in all the power of divine Fatherhood. One must remember that the Revealed hypostasis is the Father, for Whom it is proper to engender and originate by procession, while giving Himself. Fatherhood is synonymous with self-renunciation, with self-revelation in others.


[6] In this respect we are guided by the account of a mystical experience where the ineffability of the revelation is accompanied by personal consciousness: "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2 Cor. 12:2–4).
[7] Cf. the comparison of texts in my book The Lamb of God, Ch. IV. 3. Christ's Divine-Human Consciousness of Self, p. 281.

Self-revelation of the Father in creation

Let us now consider the self-revelation of the Father in creation. The Apostle says, "I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole fatherhood [patria] in heaven and earth is named" (Eph. 3:14-15; the King James Version has been modified to conform with the Russian Bible). This establishes the identity of fatherhood in heaven, in the Holy Trinity, and in creation, on earth. And if the Father in heaven, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, is also "our Father," this must be understood in the sense of that very same Fatherhood in self-revelation and love. The creaturely Sophia, as the creaturely Divine-humanity, exists in the image of the heavenly Sophia or the heavenly Divine-humanity, i.e., as the revelation of the Father's self-revelation. Man is created in the image of God, but this image is the Divine-humanity as the image of the Father. The image of the Father is the Son, Who manifested Himself in the God-Man, and the Holy Spirit, Who manifested Himself in the Mother of God. Man is created in the image of God, as male and female, according to the two images of the revelation of fatherhood, as sonhood and as mother-daughterhood. The image of the son of man corresponds to the image of the Son of God; and the two are identified in the God-Man. The image of the mother of man, but also of the daughter of God, is manifested in Eve, who after the fall ceded her place to the New Eve, Mary. Man is created for Godsonhood and Goddaughterhood; that is the Creator's supreme gift to His creation: "as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God … which were born, not … of the will of the flesh … but of God" (John 1:12-13).

This gift of the adoption of men in the Son of God, the God-Man, is bestowed by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of adoption, Who gives birth to them "maternally" as children of God and clothes them in Christ. This is attested by apostolic texts and especially, of course, by the Lord's Prayer, where human lips utter the words, "Our Father which art in heaven." But this gift is the supreme love and condescension of the Creator for creation, in relation to which the Creator and God becomes also the Father. This gift must have an ontological correlative in order for it not to be an ontological impossibility. And this possibility consists, of course, in the conformity of God to man; it consists in Divine-humanity, in which the Heavenly Sophia is the foundation of the creaturely Sophia, the two being united and identified in the God-Man by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to the idea that the Divine Sophia, the Heavenly Divine-humanity, is the image of the Father, we must add that the creaturely Sophia too, the earthly divine-humanity, exists in the image of the Father, although she is manifested in the images of the God-Man and the Mother of God, Jesus and Mary. The Creator is God, but it is precisely the Father Who is the Creator par excellence. The world is created by the Holy Trinity, by the trihypostatic God; and each hypostasis has manifested itself in creation in conformity with its hypostatic property. But the origin of creation proceeds from the Principle in the Holy Trinity, "from God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." He is the Primary Will to creation as the creaturely image of self-revelation. Creation is another image of His self-revelation by the Son and the Holy Spirit, of the Divine Sophia in the creaturely Sophia. The interrelation in self-revelation that exists in the depths of the Holy Trinity is also manifested in the creation of the world.

Creativity and content

The Father is eternally revealed in the Son as in the radiance of glory and the image of His hypostasis (Heb 1, 3) and in the Holy Spirit, who searches the depths of God (1 Cor 2, 10).

The Most Holy Trinity is just as consubstantial and indivisible in Its Glory, or in Its self-revelation, as well as in His Being.

In relation to all Holy Trinity the Wisdom of God is the Kingdom and Power and Glory of God.

Self-revelation of God. The Father is eternally revealed in the Son as in the radiance of glory and the image of His hypostasis (Heb 1, 3) and in the Holy Spirit, who searches the depths of God (1 Cor 2, 10). The birth of a word from the bowels of the spirit is, on the one hand, an utterance, an utterance of a thought, an act of a word, but at the same time, the birth of a thought itself in its content, a word as not only an act, but also a meaning, or a fact (which corresponds to the double meaning of the word, λόγος, word as word-speech and word-meaning). In the birth of the Son, the Father expresses Himself in Him, but in the same birth the content of the Divine word, the Wisdom of the Father in the Son, is revealed. The Father sends out the Holy Spirit, life-giving love for the Son, embracing the Son and, in response, the Father. In the act of inspiration, the creative impulse, or act, is also distinguished from its subject, or content, from the fact of creativity. In the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father to the Son, therefore, there is not only bringing of the Spirit from the bosom of the Fathers, but also exodus of Him as an act of Divine life-creation. And the content that is expressed in the Word and overshadowed (felt) by the Spirit belongs to the Holy Trinity as Her Glory, the Revelation of the Father in the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Most Holy Trinity is just as consubstantial and indivisible in Its Glory, or in Its self-revelation, as well as in His Being. Therefore, the Wisdom of God cannot be attributed to only one hypostasis, namely the Logos. This will be correct only in the sense that Wisdom, considered in its predominant relation to the Second Hypostasis, to the Word, is the Logos, but it, considered in its primary relation to the Third Hypostasis, is the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, the Glory of God [Here, for example, in Simeon the New Theologian, Divine Hymns, 1917, p. 132: «I mean and call Your Holy Spirit, co-natural and equal (with You), the Word, only begotten, of the same word and one of the same essence with Your Father and You, Christ, the God of all!»], but in relation to all Holy Trinity — Kingdom and Power and Glory of God.

Wisdom and Glory

The Holy Spirit is also a personal revelation of the nature of the Father, as well as the Son.

The Divine Sophia, the nature of the Father, is thus Wisdom in relation to its content (the Logos is a substantive Hypostasis) and She is Glory in relation to its reality (the Holy Spirit is an executive Hypostasis).

Wisdom is the matter of Glory, Glory is the form of Wisdom.

“The self-revelation of the Holy Trinity is not exhausted by the Second hypostasis alone; the latter cannot realize this self-revelation by itself. It is completed by another form of the self-revelation of the Father: by the procession of the Holy Spirit upon the Son. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is the triumphant love of the accomplished sacrificial self-revelation” [«The Comforter» p.179]. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is also a personal revelation of the nature of the Father, as well as the Son: “The Holy Spirit together with the Son discloses the Father in the divine Sophia. The Son and the Holy Spirit, together, inseparable and unconfused, realize the self-revelation of the Father in his nature” [«Wisdom of God» p.46]. What is Usiya-Sophia in the Holy Spirit? How is the nature of the Father revealed in Him, manifested in the Son, as the fullness and depth of the Father's Word, as Wisdom? The Holy Spirit is an executive Hypostasis — “the Giver of life”, and “the life of truth in its full transparency is beauty, which is the self-revelation of the Divinity, the robe of God: that divine glory, which “heaven will tell” (Ps 17: 1) ... The Holy Spirit “transforms the world of ideas into a living and real essence, into a self-sufficient creation of God, the ens realissimum, into a world existing with the life of God” [«Wisdom of God» p.49]. And what is revealed in the Word as Wisdom (as an ideal content) is revealed in the Holy Spirit as Glory (real beauty). The Divine Sophia, the nature of the Father, is thus Wisdom in relation to its content (the Logos is a substantive Hypostasis) and She is Glory in relation to its reality (the Holy Spirit is an executive Hypostasis). Thus, “the self-revelation of Wisdom is equivalent to the self-revelation of Glory… Wisdom is the matter of Glory, Glory is the form of Wisdom” [«Wisdom of God» p.50]. But since the Glory of God expresses God's self-relation to His Wisdom - therefore, it has its own object - it is not the first, but the second in the self-revelation of the Divine (of course, we do not mean chronological, but ontological differences). It can be said (therefore) that the Glory in the Godhead will follow the Wisdom of the Word, and not precede it. Glory is the Glory of Wisdom; it rests on the ongoing revelation of the Word. It makes it tangible, valuable, desirable, joyful, complete, adequate. The manifestation and revelation of Glory, therefore, is inseparable from the revelation of the Wisdom of the Word… but Sophia, as Glory… is the self-revelation of God (not in the Logos), but in the Third Hypostasis… and belongs to the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the relationship between the Word and the Holy Spirit is also revealed, as between the Second and Third Hypostasis: first the Word, and then the Spirit. The Spirit rests on the Word, the Word and the Holy Spirit, their duality and dual unity, in the Divine Sophia reveal the Father. And therefore it is said about the trinity God: “for yours is the kingdom (of the Father) and the power (of the Son) and the glory (of the Holy Spirit) forever” (Mat 6:13) [«Lamb of God» p.110].

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