The interpretive key that unlocks our discussions beginning last week — our considerations of revelation — is to be found in the ‘mystery of mysteries’: the Trinity.
The Trinity is the foremost symbol of Christianity: it designates the unity of three divine persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—as triune (that is “three in one”).
And so these 3 divine persons are one God, together and distinct.
– the Father is completely God;
– the Son is completely God;
– the Holy Spirit is completely God;
– all three persons are one God;
– the Trinity is one God.
The word “trinity” allows us to express the mystery of a single God in three persons. According to the 3 great monotheistic religions of the world (that is, Judaism, Christianity and Islam), God can only be unique, for any multiplicity would indicate insufficiency or weakness. To illustrate this, let’s remember the gods of Greek and Roman mythology: the end up being antagonists, showing weakness, vulnerability, need, etc.
As the inheritor of Israel’s monotheism, Christianity considers that a single God is nevertheless not solitary. First and foremost, Love exists within him and he exudes it through his being and his work…creation. And so the mystery of God is a mystery of mutual love.
The OT/Hebrew Scriptures have given us the image already of a Father (see Hosea and Isaiah), and from the very beginning of the NT/Christian Scriptures, we immediately hear the revelation of the Trinity (one single God in three persons) when the Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary at the Annunciation.
This immaculate conception of the Son of the Almighty was to be the work of the third person of the Trinity, the Spirit of Love. Thus, the whole of the Trinity was expressed at the moment of this announcement: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.” (Lk 1:35)
We are baptized in the love that unites the three divine persons: that sacrament which is dispensed…
- in the name of the Father,
- and of the Son,
- and of the Holy Spirit
…is recognized by all three Christian confessions of faith (Catholic, Orthodox, & Protestant).
Unlike Jews and Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians justify making images of God because of the mystery of the Incarnation.
- Since one of the persons of the Trinity became man, it is then possible to depict him as a human.
- Similarly, the Holy Spirit, which manifested itself in the form of a dove, can be thus depicted.
- Of course, difficulty remains in the depictions of the unseen Father, the divine “source”.
The Catechism (CCC) and the Trinity
- Christians confess that “Jesus is Lord” (Phil 2:11).
- We believe that Jesus is “the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).
- We worship him as “my Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28).
- And still we say “I believe in one God.”
- Our monotheistic religion requires belief in one God, yet we are baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”; not “in the names” (plural), but “in the name” (singular). For we do not believe in three Gods, but, rather, that God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (CCC 233).
- To believe in the Holy Trinity is not possible by the mere means of reason; this mystery transcends reason. And yet, when we accept it in faith, we discover it to be an illuminating light into God’s own life (CCC 257).
- God’s innermost mystery is that he is the Trinity, made up by his communion of love:
- the Father loving the Son,
- the Son loving the Father,
- and their love giving forth the Holy Spirit.
- This is a three-fold unity: one God and three persons. In himself, God is the mystery of fruitful love.
- Yes, God is love, and everything springs from his un-beginning and un-ending love.
- The Son is eternally begotten of the Father, who is the origin of everything.
- The Son is not created, but, rather, is “light from light, true God from true God” (CCC 242).
- The Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from both, this third Divine Person, “one and equal” with the Father and the Son (CCC 245).
- Because of this unity of being, the Father is entirely in the Son and entirely in the Holy Spirit, and vice versa. They are really and truly the one God. Therefore, everything that God effects is the work of the Trinity. The Father never acts apart from the Son and the Holy Spirit, yet each Divine Person acts in his own proper way: “one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are” (CCC 258).
- So, from the Father’s love everything originates; through the Son we receive all the Father’s grace and love (cf. Jn 1:14,18); and just as Father and Son are one in the communion of the Holy Spirit, so all who are touched by Christ’s grace are included in this communion (CCC 1997).
- Finally, the first and last goal of all God’s work is that we should come to know and love God and thus, now and forevermore, gain entry into the blessed communion of the one and triune God (CCC 260).
The Baptism of Christ… and the Revealed Trinity
Christ’s baptism in the Jordan reveals the Trinity
Christ tells his disciples to go and baptize the nations using what we now call a “Trinitarian” formula…
- in the name of the Father,
- and of the Son,
- and of the Holy Spirit.
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