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

God. Trinity. Trihypostatic Personality
In the works of Fr. Sergei Bulgakov

… God, as the Absolute Person, is thereby also the trihypostatic Person, truly One in Three and Three in One. He is not Three in one, but the triunity of the Divine Person and of His life. [This idea of trinitarian personalism, which overcomes the ancient and patristic impersonalism, is deduced and developed in my work «Chapters on Trinity».]

Fr. Sergius Bulgakov
The Comforter
VIII. The Trinitarian and Pneumatological
Doctrine of St. John of Damascus

Congregate personality of the Divine triunity

For Christian philosophy, the supreme and therefore initial form of the Absolute is personal being, which is actualized in an absolute manner in the congregate personality of the Divine triunity, of the trihypostatic hypostasis. Christian philosophy proceeds from this being and does not seek any further foundation for itself. This philosophy takes as its basis here not only the divine revelation itself but also the insights of reason; and it cannot recognize any other character of the Absolute. God is the Absolute, the Transcendent, the personal and trihypostatic entity that is revealed in the relative and immanent being of the world as the divine principle of the latter and as the Personality which has this principle for Itself and which lives in it by Its own life. This revelation of the Absolute in the world, however, is such that it presupposes the self-revelation of the Absolute in itself, which in turn is included in the revelation of the Absolute to the world. The being of the Transcendent is an absolute relation in the Absolute itself, or the Holy Trinity. The relation between God and the world, between the Creator and creation, is in turn characterized by two opposite features: the revelation of the Creator in creation is inadequate, for creatures cannot fully know their God and Creator, but know Him only "in part" (1 Cor. 13:9);[1] but at the same time, creatures conform to the Creator, for they are sophianic in nature, and bear His seal and image. This conformity, however, particularly in the fallen world, which has lost its proper proto-image, remains as "through a glass, darkly" (13:12).

It is erroneous to say that God is unknowable for and in creation, for such alienation of the world from God would signify a blasphemy against the Creator. But it is also erroneous to say that He is known by the world. He remains unknown in knowledge and known in unknowability as a living Revelation, a Mystery in the process of being revealed.


[1] It is true that, in 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul adds, "now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." That is, he admits — in rhe framework of escharology, when "God will be all in all" — adequqte knowledge, "even as also I am known," by God. Even this state of deification, however, does not exclude a difference berween the Creator and creation, as the One who is revealed and that which receives the revelation; and the apostle's words refer, in our opinion, only to the measure of this revelation.

The trihypostatic God is Spirit

The trihypostatic God has His one nature, and He has this nature both as the Divine triunity in its unicity and as each hypostasis in its being.

Fully manifested and actualized, the personal principle, the hypostasis, is a trihypostatic personality, in which the personal unity is revealed in the reality of three hypostatic centers, or hypostases, in triunity.

God is Spirit. As such, He has a personal consciousness of self ("hypostasis") and a nature ("ousia"); and this inseparable union of nature and hypostasis is the life of Divinity in itself, a life that is both personally conscious and naturally concrete. …

In relation to the hypostasis of God as the Absolute Subject, there is the trihypostatic personality, which in one personal consciousness of self unites all the modes of the personal principle: I, thou, he, we, and you; whereas a unihypostatic personality has all these modes except I outside itself, in other personalities, and is thus limited and conditioned by them in its being. Fully manifested and actualized, the personal principle, the hypostasis, is a trihypostatic personality, in which the personal unity is revealed in the reality of three hypostatic centers, or hypostases, in triunity. Triunity is the divine number, not three and not one, but precisely triunity, Trinity. Such hypostatic being is realized not statically, as the unipersonal personal self-consciousness of the separate, isolated I in itself, reposing in its self-givenness (although this static and self-finished character is only apparent, for every I goes out into thou, we, you); rather it is realized dynamically, as the eternal act of trinitarian self-positing in another. This dynamic self-positing is love: the flames of the divine trihypostasis flare up in each of the hypostatic centers and are then united and identified with one another, each going out of itself into the others, in the ardor of self-renouncing personal love. Statically, the unihypostatic personality is the center of self-affirmation and of repulsion; it is egocentric. Dynamically, the personality actualizes itself as the initial principle of self-renouncing love, as the going out into another I. The Holy Trinity as a personality is precisely such a dynamic personal principle. In it, the static being of each personal center is the initial principle of the dynamic going out, where personal self-affirmation is removed and overcome, and the Person is realized as the ring of this trinitarian self-moving love. Therefore, the first thing one must say about the Divine Person is that, as trihypostatic, this Person is equally real in one hypostasis and in three hypostases, that this Person is the pre-eternally realized reciprocity of love that totally vanquishes personal isolation and identifies three in one, while itself existing by the real being of these personal centers. [On this subject, as well as on the further considerations in the present chapter, see my work «Chapters on Trinity». I will not repeat the discussion in that work here.]

The trihypostatic Divinity is one Person, despite this trihypostatizedness, or rather in virtue of it. And in this unity of its personality (which nevertheless is not a monohypostatizedness) the Divine spirit does not formally differ from the creaturely spirit. And the Divine Person lives, actualizing His life in His nature. The one trihypostatic Divine Person has His divine nature — that is the fundamental definition of the Church. The trihypostatic God has His one nature, and He has this nature both as the Divine triunity in its unicity and as each hypostasis in its being: not only is the Son "consubstantial" with the Father (which was precisely the subject of dispute in the Arian epoch) but the Holy Spirit is "consubstantial" with the Father and with the Son. The three hypostases have their nature not in common, not in common possession (nor do they have it each one for Himself, which would be tritheism), but as one for all, homoousianly, not homoiousianly. In the domain of the theoretical reason, or rationality, this can be expressed only in equalities of the unequal: (1a) the Holy Trinity differs from each hypostasis, is not equal to it; (1b) the Holy Trinity is equidivine with respect to each hypostasis and consequently is equal to it; (2a) the Holy Trinity possesses one nature; (2b) each hypostasis also possesses one nature; consequently, the possession of one nature is equal and different for the Holy Trinity and the individual hypostasis. These rational contradictions, to which this idea is reduced, can be explained by the fact that rational thought deals with static quantities that are posited externally in their finished facticity, whereas here it is faced with acts that are fluid in their dynamicity and continuity. These acts are therefore not subject to rational thought; they are not exhausted by its schemata.

The Divine Spirit is a trihypostatic spirit, a trihypostatic personality, which, however, has one nature and, accordingly, one life (not a life in common, but precisely one life), just as every unihypostatic spirit has one nature and one life.

Personal consciousness of self is proper to the nature of spirit: «I am that I am», Jehovah, says the Lord. Spirit is, above all, personality as personal consciousness of self, as «I». An impersonal («unconscious») spirit is a contradiction. But this I is not an abstract self-consciousness that is not connected with anything and empty for itself (even the dreaming I of Hinduism at least has its dream and lives in it). It is a living I («I am that I am»), the subject of a certain objectivity, the subject of a certain predicate, the receptacle of a certain content. The living I has its own life. It is the source of this life and its fullness, its beginning and end. The personal spirit thus has in itself its own nature, in which it lives, ceaselessly realizing itself for itself through this nature, defining itself and revealing itself to itself. This indissoluble unity of the personal self-consciousness, of I and its nature, grounding the life of the personal spirit, is the spirit's limiting intuition of itself and also the initial ontological axiom. This axiom is contained in Revelation, and it is attested by the Church in the fundamental dogmatic doctrine that God possesses personality and nature, hupostasis, phusis, or ousia. As a result, God is a hypostasis that has its own nature, and precisely in this sense He is a living personal spirit. Such a definition of personal spirit is applicable to any spirit, divine, angelic, or human. The distinctive property of the Divine Spirit is that this Spirit is not only a personal but also a trihypostatic spirit, a trihypostatic personality, which, however, has one nature and, accordingly, one life (not a life in common, but precisely one life), just as every unihypostatic spirit has one nature and one life.

Trihypostaseity

The life of the trihypostatic God is a pre-eternally realizing Fulness. By trihypostaseity the solitude of the Absolute subject, his aloneness, is overcome. The Trihypostatic God is one in His triunity, but not alone…

With the victory of Orthodoxy, homoousianism, faith in the trihypostatic God, over the doctrine of the monoadic monohypostaciety of the Godhead, the whole formulation of the question about the relations of God anf the world is changed. It is now impossible to say about the trihypostatic God that which inescapably has to be said about the monohypostatic monad that needs the world: the life of the trihypostatic Godhead as Love, as preeternal mutuality and self-revelation is absolutely self-sufficient and complete, it needs no one and nothing and cannot have any supplementing. The trihypostatic God lives in Himself, i.e., in the Holy Trinity, and this Life is a pre-eternally realizing Fulness. Hence the world is not necessary for God himself and it is powerless to add any supplementing to the Fullness. The world is entirely a creation of the generous and magnanimous love of God, a love which gives and which receives nothing. God is necessary for the world as its foundation and goal, but not the reverse. By trihypostaseity the solitude of the Absolute subject, his aloneness, is overcome, and thanks to this victory the monohypostatic God is compelled as it were to create the world. The Trihypostatic God is one in His triunity, but not alone…

Fr. Sergius Bulgakov
The Burning Bush
The Doctrine of the Wisdom of God
in St. Athanasius the Great and Other Church Fathers

In order to clarify this question it is necessary to distinguish (of course, in the abstract) the immanent Trinity from the economic Trinity, the supra-eternal life of the Holy Trinity in Itself from Its trihypostatic revelation in creation. Let us first investigate trinitarity in its immanent aspect. Here, Revelation gives us the fact of the divine triunity of the Father, Son, and Spirit: Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, the one Name, the one God the Holy Trinity. Not three in unity, but triunity; and not one, but unifiedness in Trinity. This is the divine number, which does not exist in the natural world, but which is a super-number for the latter: the three in one. This super-number refers not to things, which can be counted in their separateness and juxtaposition, but to the Divine Person or Persons, Who has or have one unified, but not common, natural life.

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