Basil the Great (c. 329-379) on the distinction between οὐσία and ὑπόστασις

 basil_the_great

 

“The distinction between οὐσία (ousia=essence/substance) and ὑπόστασις (hypostasis=person) is the same as that between the general and the particular; as, for instance, between the animal and the particular man. Wherefore, in the case of the Godhead, we confess one essence or substance so as not to give a variant definition of existence, but we confess a particular hypostasis, in order that our conception of Father, Son and Holy Spirit may be without confusion and clear. If we have no distinct perception of the separate characteristics, namely, fatherhood, sonship, and sanctification, but form our conception of God from the general idea of existence, we cannot possibly give a sound account of our faith. We must, therefore, confess the faith by adding the particular to the common. The Godhead is common; the fatherhood particular. We must therefore combine the two and say, I believe in God the Father. The like course must be pursued in the confession of the Son; we must combine the particular with the common and say I believe in God the Son, so in the case of the Holy Ghost we must make our utterance conform to the appellation and say in God the Holy Ghost. Hence it results that there is a satisfactory preservation of the unity by the confession of the one Godhead, while in the distinction of the individual properties regarded in each there is the confession of the peculiar properties of the Persons.”

– Basil the Great (c. 329-379), Letter 236.6

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