Franz Leenhardt on Divergent Impulses in Latin West and Greek East
Eastern Christianity has always emphasized far more than Western Christianity the function and the action of the Holy Spirit. In this way it has endeavoured to affirm and safeguard the “overflowing” of the earthly by the heavenly; it has steadfastly refused to confound the event with the institution, the eschatological with the actual; it has wished to preserve for every mystery an open door to a beyond which should be its glorification. This tendency of its thought was manifested in the maintenance of the epiklesis in the eucharistic liturgy; the church must pray that the Holy Spirit should be outpoured on the gifts and the faithful. The Latin church, on the contrary, attributes to the priest the power of pronouncing in persona Christi efficacious words for the production of consecration. In that context the liberty and the living action of Christ are placed in the power of the historical institution; the Holy Spirit merges with this, which by definition He indwells.
When the Eastern Orthodox Christian utters the prayer of epiklesis he asks God “to give us mysteriously the Christ through the Holy Spirit, to manifest the virtue of the incarnation, to send anew into the world the Son and the Holy Spirit” [ed. note, citing Bulgakov]. The Western Catholic has no need of this deviation through the direct invocation of the Father in order that he may participate in the living presence of the Holy Spirit; he thinks that the church here below has at its disposal the virtue of the incarnation, since the Son has transmitted it to the priestgood.
[*]Leenhardt was one of the interesting francophone Reformed thinkers, from the early 20th century, whose modern Reformed resurgence was parallel to but not in any way derivative of Barth, that deserve more attention.