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The Eastern Orthodox Nicene Creed says:

I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And He rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father; And He will come again with glory to judge the living and dead. His kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets. In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come. Amen.

But what about God? It says God "proceeds" from God. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, proceed means:

Full Definition of proceed intransitive verb

1: to come forth from a source : issue

2 a: to continue after a pause or interruption b: to go on in an orderly regulated way

3 a: to begin and carry on an action, process, or movement b: to be in the process of being accomplished

4: to move along a course : advance

According to Eastern Orthodox, what does "proceeds" mean?

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    "...καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ Κύριον καὶ Ζωοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον...." The original Greek word translated here as "proceeds" is ἐκπορευόμενον (ekporeuomenon). Now look at John 15:26: "...τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται...." The original version of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is straight from Scripture. Through much controversy in the early Church, the Fathers understood procession (ekporeusis) to be from a single and ultimate source, whereas the Latin procedere (procedit) does not. – Dan Nov 13 '16 at 2:48
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Our Church teaches that these are the attributes of the persons of the Holy Trinity (fatherhood, begotten, procession), and that we should not try to associate human concepts to them. After all, what does "begotten" mean? Can it be humanly explained? From my point of view, one can understand these just through revelation and not through ration.

[editing to reply to the first comment] According to the dictionary, "born" means to "start to exist". But the Word has not start, there is no time notion within the Holy Trinity. According to the teaching of the Church, we cannot say that the Father was before the Son or the Spirit. There is no "before". This is what I mean that "born" should not be interpreted in human terms. You can use "proceeds" to describe the relationship between the Father and the Holy Spirit and the fact that, somehow, there is a sort of movement (Gen 1,2 "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.") but we should not try to attach the human understanding in order to describe God. The Holy Trinity cannot be truly described in human terms. One can understand God inasmuch as one is in communion with God.

  • Thank you for the answer. I believe "begotten" means "born" =) Are you saying there is no definition for "proceeds"? It's just a word that means what it means, whatever that may be? – Cannabijoy Nov 1 '16 at 4:53
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    @anonymouswho : In my native language, Romanian, the Niceean Creed says "născut" in the place of begotten which would mean "born". But all holy fathers that I read from explain that this is not a human-like birth. It is hard, just like Apostle Paul says, to express in words what is above words. – Andrei Rînea Nov 22 '16 at 18:27
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It may be immaterial, but perhaps a better track would be to understand what the underlying Greek word means, since the Creed was written in Greek.

Properly, the Creed you quote is not the Nicene Creed - i.e. the Creed issued by the Council of Nicea in 325 - but rather the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that was issued by the Council of Constantinople in 381.

The underlying Greek phrase in this Creed is ἐκπορεύομαι εκ (ekporeuomai ek). It is found in several places in the New Testament, including:

Matthew 4:4 (RSV)

But he answered, “It is written,‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 15:11

Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.

Regarding the precession of the Holy Spirit as well as the pre-eternal begetting of the Son, Gregory of Nazianzus (known as Gregory the Theologian) (329-390) is reputed to have cautioned:

When was this begetting and this procession?

This was before when itself.

You have heard that the Spirit proceeds from the Father; do not be curious to know how He proceeds.

Oration 20

Nonetheless, one Orthodox dogamatic theology text offers the following:

Although the meaning of the words “begetting” and “procession” are beyond us, this does not decrease the importance of these conceptions in the Christian teaching regarding God. They indicate the wholeness of Divinity of the Second and Third Persons. The existence of the Son and the Spirit rests inseparably in the very Essence of God the Father; hence we have the expressions regarding the Son: From the womb ... have I begotten Thee — from the womb, that is, from the Essence. By means of the words “begotten” and “proceeds,” the existence of the Son and the Spirit is set in opposition to any kind of creatureliness, to everything that was created and was called by the will of God out of nonexistence. An existence which comes from the Essence of God can only be Divine and eternal; therefore the word of God says of the Son Who came down to earth: the only begotten Son, Who IS in the bosom of the Father (John 1: 18); and concerning the Holy Spirit: Whom I will send ... Who PROCEEDETH from the Father. (Here the grammatical present tense signifies eternity.)

Michael Pomazanski, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (3rd ed.), p.87

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