- Slides: 30
God in Three Persons: Blessed Trinity The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life. - CCC, no. 261
I believe in one God… v As we have said, this is the first and foundational article of our faith v To say we believe in one God has many implications – among them, that we believe there is only one God. - There do not exist now, nor have there ever existed any other divine beings except the one true God o - “the gods of the heathens are naught…” (Ps 96: 5) Therefore recourse to false gods, spirits or demons is a grave offense against the first commandment o ”I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no other
The Nature of God v God is infinite, meaning that ultimately, He cannot be defined by our finite language and concepts or understood by our finite intellects. - This is a truth we must accept, and we must avoid trying to “fit” God into our own conceptions v God is one, meaning that He is utterly unique and simple. He is not composed of parts, but is one - Three Persons, yes, but He is one v God is good, perfect, righteous, just, merciful, holy and moral, all to an infinite degree - Whatever it is better to be than not be, God is, to an infinite degree (St. Anselm) By the way, the moral law he gave us reflects His own nature - this is why the essential principles of the moral law are absolute and unchanging
The Nature of God v God is both infinitely just and infinitely merciful - - With us, it is more one than another, “either/or” With God, it is “both/and” Sneak peek: that is why God sent His Son to die in our place…because God is both just and merciful On the Cross, Jesus got the justice; we got the mercy v God is omniscient: all-knowing and all-wise - Every hair on your head has been counted (Lk 12: 7) v God is omnipotent: He created everything out of nothing – He can do anything it pleaseth Him to do
The Nature of God v God is transcendent – He is not a part of our universe (He is its Creator) but rather exists apart from it - He is always more – infinitely more than the sum of His creation or anything we can conceive about Him - But this does not mean He is absent or distant, like a clockmaker or the deist god of the Enlightenment era v God is also immanent (‘in’ = in/within; ‘manere = remain) – He is intimately present to every atom of His creation, omnipresent v These terms are often in contrast. God is both/and. God is “higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self” (St. Augustine) - In other words, God is both – transcendent and immanent, always present, right here and right now.
The Nature of God v God is love (1 Jn 4: 8) - Not limited to feelings or emotions - Charity – the highest perfection of love, seeking the good of the other for his/her own sake. v God is ‘self-giving love’ in His essential nature - Perfectly exemplified in the Cross - “Self-giving love is what motivates everything God does: His creation, His redemption and His providential care over our lives, including allowing us to suffer evil (pain) for our own eventual greater good, and even His allowing us to commit evil (sin), out of respect for our free will. - “Neither the evil we suffer nor the evil we do refutes God’s goodness and love. ”
God’s name v God has a name; He is not an impersonal force (CCC 203) He told Moses His name at the burning bush (Ex 3: 14) v “I AM” (Yahweh in Hebrew, a name so holy that no pious Jew will ever pronounce it) - Similar translations: “I AM WHO AM, I AM WHO I AM” meaning the same - “Before Abraham came to be, I AM. ” (Jn 8: 58) When Jesus spoke these words here (and other places), He claimed to be God Himself. o This was why He was executed.
God’s name v ‘I AM’ is the perfect name for God (of course) and signifies: - His reality and existence - His oneness (i. e. not ‘we are’) - His uniqueness – God is not simply one being among others, but the Absolute Being. He is not a being; He is Being itself. - His personhood – “I” signifies a self-aware Person, not an impersonal force - His eternity – God’s existence is not like ours. He exists outside of time in an eternal present (am), not a past or future.
The Holy Trinity v The Holy Trinity is the central mystery and primary doctrine of the Christian faith, the truth from which all other truths proceed. - It reveals the ultimate truth, reality and nature of God - Together with the Incarnation, the doctrine of the Trinity is unique to Christianity v It means that we believe in one God, who exists as a Trinity of three divine Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Holy Trinity v The Trinity is not formally defined or explained in Scripture; however, Christians have always seen the Trinity taught implicitly in several biblical passages – and of course, Jesus Himself revealed it. v He called God His Father, prayed to Him, taught His teachings and obeyed His will - So Jesus is distinct from the Father v He also claimed to be one with and equal to the Father - “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10: 30) “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (Jn 14: 9) v He further promised to send the Holy Spirit (Jn 14: 16) v So there exists distinction, yet oneness amongst the three divine Persons.
In Scripture v “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ” (Jn 1: 1) v “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. ’” (Lk 3: 22) v“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. ” (2 Cor 13: 14) v“Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and coming in human likeness. ” (Phil 2: 6 ff)
In Scripture v Jesus also commanded His Church to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28: 19) - NB – not “the names” In would make no sense to baptize in the name of a non-divine entity v So we can understand the following: - There is only one God (Dt 6: 4) The Father is God (Jn 5: 18) The Son is God (Jn 8: 58) The Holy Spirit is God (Mt 28: 19)
Dogmatic Definitions v The most famous definition was at the Council of Nicaea (325), whose definition was meant as explaining the equality of the Father with the Son. - The Nicene Creed, which we recite at Sunday Masses, states that the Son is “the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father. ” - “Not made” – The Son was not created by the Father. There was never a time when the Son did not exist - The Son and the Holy Spirit are ‘co-eternal’ with the Father, sharing the same divine ‘substance’ and nature
Nature and Person v The classical example of the Trinity defines God as Three Persons who share one Divine Nature. v We affirm that though there are three divine Persons, there is but one God, each Person himself possessing the fullness of the divine nature. - In other words, the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, each one fully and completely that divine entity we call God.
Nature and Person v “The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity. ” The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: - “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son is that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i. e. , by nature one God. ” v “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, that is, the divine substance, essence or nature. ” (CCC 253)
Distinction and Relativity v Despite the absolute oneness of the Godhead, the Persons of the Trinity are nevertheless truly distinct. v Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not just three ways of talking about the same thing, nor are they three different manifestations of God – they are truly distinct from one another. v God is one, but He is not solitary. The true distinctions between the Persons reside in their relations to one another, their relativity. - The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Spirit, etc.
Three Persons, One God v The qualities and actions of God belong essentially to all the Persons; yet, according to our understanding of revelation and our theological concepts, we consider some of these things as belonging to one Person rather than to another. v This is true of the Names for the Three Persons as well; - “God” typically refers to the Father, - “Lord” to the Son, - and “Spirit” to the Holy Spirit, even though each Person of the Trinity is God, Lord and Spirit.
Three Persons, One God v The term “the Almighty” is usually spoken with reference to the Father, but in fact each of the Persons is rightfully said to be Almighty. v Traditionally, we associate different ‘works’ with a particular Person: - God the Father is often associated with creation - God the Son with its redemption - and God the Spirit with the sanctification of God’s people v By way of analogy grounded in the words of Scripture, we appropriate certain works to certain Persons even though these works of the Trinity are done in common.
Trinitarian Missions v That being said, there are certain special acts of God that are proper to each of the Three Persons in a unique sense. v These are not done in common by the Trinity but can be said only of one Person in particular. v These special acts are referred to as the Trinitarian missions and are distinguished by their uniqueness and their central role in the economy of salvation. v The mission of the Father in the economy of salvation is the sending of the Son. v The Spirit did not send the Son, nor does the Son send Himself. This mission is only properly spoken of with reference to the Father alone.
Trinitarian Missions v The Son’s mission is to be begotten of the Father and Incarnate as a true Man on this earth. v Only the Son (Jesus) was Incarnate; the Father was not Incarnate, nor the Spirit, but the Son alone. v The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and is sent to the Church
Expressing the Trinity by Analogy v The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery, which in theological vocabulary means a teaching that, while truly logical and coherent, nevertheless is beyond the ability of our reason to comprehend fully. v The doctrine of the Trinity does not contradict reason, but it does go far beyond it. v No matter how much we have studied it, prayed about it, or spoke of it, there is still a veil of darkness over it that can only be penetrated by faith.
Expressing the Trinity by Analogy v Because the Trinity is a mystery, Christian saints and theologians have frequently resorted to analogy to describe the Trinity. v One famous analogy was that attributed to St. Patrick, who likened the three leaves of a shamrock to the Three Persons of the Trinity; as the leaves of the shamrock, are distinct while remaining one, so are the Persons three while remaining one Being.
Expressing the Trinity by Analogy v Others have used the example of fire, which consists of a flame, which generates both heat and light; yet though the heat and light proceed from the flame, the three occur together as one phenomenon. v Ultimately, though the analogies are helpful, we must remember that they are only approximations, and no analogy of the Trinity is completely perfect.
“God is Love” v God is a Trinity because “God is love. ” (1 Jn 4: 7) v Where there is love, there are three: - The one who loves (the Father) The beloved (the Son) The love itself (the Holy Spirit) v Where there is love, there is one - Love binds together and creates unity/oneness (the Trinity) - Human analogy – the marital act between a husband wife, the two become one flesh (Gn 2: 24; Mt 19: 5; Mk 10: 8; Eph 5: 31)
“God is Love” v Love is the best way to think about God. Despite His mystery, we can come to know him: - By faith better than by reason (though His existence is reasonable) By prayer, which is nothing less than communing with God But best by loving Him, doing His will and obeying His commandments o o “You are my friends (you know me) if you keep my commandments” (Jn 15: 14) “I made known to them your name…that the love with which you loved me may be in them. ” (Jn 17: 26) v Sneak peak: The ultimate reason for our existence is to share in the trinitarian life and love of God for all eternity.
Humility before the Mystery v Ultimately, because the doctrine of the Trinity concerns itself with the very internal life of God, it is incomprehensible to the human intellect. v Yet God has been pleased to reveal Himself to us and desires that we know Him. As we have seen, we have much we can positively say about God, and we can know Him through love, prayer and faith. v Before this mystery we bow in humility, accepting humbly what God has passed on to us without arrogantly claiming to be able to exhaust its content on the one hand, or abandoning ourselves to agnosticism on the other.
Alternatives to God v Atheism (‘a’ = no; ‘theos’ = God) v Agnosticism (‘a’ = no; ‘gnosis’ = knowledge) v Polytheism (‘poly’ = many) v Pantheism (‘pan’ = everything) – opposite of atheism (Hinduism, New Age) - In pantheism, the gods are immanent only, not transcendent v Deism – opposite of pantheism - In deism, the gods are transcendent only, not immanent. v Monotheism (Judaism, Islam, Christianity) v What sets Christianity apart: the Trinity and the Incarnation (stay tuned)
Next week… v Creation, Angels and Demons v Adam and Eve v The Fall of Man and the Promise of Redemption v RCIA people: please turn in your registration forms if you haven’t already Sources: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic Christianity by Peter J. Kreeft, Unansanctamcatolicam. com
Direct, we beseech you, O Lord, our actions by your holy inspirations, and carry them on by your gracious assistance, that every prayer and work of ours may begin always with you, and through you come to completion. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.