Tuesday, September 6, 2011
We're going rather obscure today: filioque, a Latin word meaning "and (from) the Son." It describes how the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father, and the Son. Which seems now rather an uncontroversial point, or rather, not a point anyone would really care about. But the insertion of the one little word drove apart the Western and Eastern churchs, and for a good four hundred years kept them apart. A last attempt was made to join them up, just before the Fall of Constantinople, and poor translation allowed the Greeks to agree to the use of the word, as meaning almost the same thing as their recently adopted notion of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father, then through the Son. Almost immediately after agreeing to this notion after three months of debate, the rather elderly Patriarch of Constantinople died. Which brings me to the point of this daily vocab listing. In writing about the poor old fellows death, one wag commented that of course he had died, as what other decent thing was to do after muddling up his pronouns so thoroughly? I find this line endlessly amusing, having read it in several different books now. A dry joke, encompassing grammar, history, and religion. What's not to like? So, although you will never use it unless writing historical fiction of the middle ages, there is your word: filioque.