Skip to comments.Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier Lesson 2:The Most Holy Trinity
Posted on 04/17/2006 7:28:38 AM PDT by MILESJESU
Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier
Lesson 2: The Most Holy Trinity
If I do not have you confused enough and wanting to leave, now we are going to get into the really hard stuff. Before we even begin, just a warning that this is the most difficult stuff in theology. We are going to talk now about the Trinity. Again, we begin with ourselves, and we recognize that we have consciousness as human persons. That consciousness gives us awareness of ourselves doing things.
We know ourselves, then, as doers of certain actions or certain things. Consciousness also allows us to shape ourselves into the persons who are doers of certain actions.
The consciousness is always with us; therefore, everything we do is filtered through our consciousness.
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Lesson 2: The Most Holy Trinity
If I do not have you confused enough and wanting to leave, now we are going to get into the really hard stuff. Before we even begin, just a warning that this is the most difficult stuff in theology. We are going to talk now about the Trinity. Again, we begin with ourselves, and we recognize that we have consciousness as human persons. That consciousness gives us awareness of ourselves doing things. We know ourselves, then, as doers of certain actions or certain things. Consciousness also allows us to shape ourselves into the persons who are doers of certain actions. The consciousness is always with us; therefore, everything we do is filtered through our consciousness.
We start as we did before and ask ourselves: If we have it, does God have it? In other words, does God have consciousness? Well, if God is not conscious, we are all in trouble so, of course, He does. Consciousness is part of the interior life of the human person; therefore, it is something that is indeed said of God. Therefore, God has a consciousness of His two acts. And what are the two acts of God? There is one which is the act of the mind, and one which is the act of the will. The act of the mind is to know, and the act of the will is to love, or, you could say, to think and to choose. God can think (He can know) and He can choose (He can love).
When we look at the mind, first of all beginning with the intellect, then we ask ourselves: What does God know first? Remember that God exists from all eternity, and so nothing else was in existence; therefore, what God knows first is Himself. He knows Himself because His existence and His essence are one and the same. Therefore, God has a perfect consciousness of His existence. Not only is He just like us, where we are aware that we exist (we can poke ourselves and realize we are here), but God has a perfect consciousness of His existence. Now which is more perfect: the idea of the thing, or the thing itself? In other words, just think about something you have always wanted. Maybe it is a new house, or maybe it is a new car, whatever it might be, would it be more perfect to actually have the thing? Or is it more perfect to sit around and think about it? Obviously, it would be more perfect if you had the thing, right? Well, if the thing exists, it is more perfect than just being an idea. If that is the case with us, so it is with God. God knows Himself first; therefore, God has a perfect consciousness of His act of knowing. And if it is perfect, then it exists, because we just said it is more perfect to exist than just to have an idea of something; therefore, if God has a perfect consciousness of His act of knowing, then there is an existence that is there. That act of knowing is what we call the Word, as in: In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. When we think about things, there has to be something tangible for us to have an idea. That is normally either a picture or a word. You can have a picture or image of something in your mind, or you can have a concept of it. The concept is simply the word that is there, so you can have that word in your mind. The Son, that is, the Second Person of the Trinity, is a consciousness of the Fathers act of knowing. Again, the Father has an act of knowing; He knows Himself, and He knows Himself perfectly because it is perfect; there is an existence; and that existence is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God.
God loves through His Will. And who does God love first? Himself, because He was the only one in existence at the time. Therefore, God has a perfect awareness of His act of loving. Once again, if it is perfect, it is a reality; it exists. This existence is the One we call the Holy Spirit. The Son (the Word) relates to the Fathers perfect act of knowing, the act of the mind or the intellect. The Holy Spirit is the Fathers perfect act of loving, the act of the will.
Having said that, was there ever a time when the Word and the Holy Spirit did not exist? The answer is no. If there were, it would imply time; and if there is time in God, then He is not God. When we talk about this, we have to understand that we are talking about a logical sequence, not a chronological sequence. We can look at it and pick it apart and say, Okay, theres an act of knowing and an act of willing (or an act of loving). The Son is the Fathers act of knowing, and the Holy Spirit is the Fathers act of loving, so that is how we can understand this. But we need to understand it is not like the Father was sitting there for a while when suddenly the light bulb goes on and He says, Hey, I know Myself! Look at that! That act of knowing is the Son. Wow! Then a little while later He says, You know what? I really love My Son. Oops! Thats another perfect act; now look, theres a third one: the Holy Spirit! No, it was not like that at all. It is not chronological. It is not that God the Father was sitting there alone and then after a while, even after a split second, the Son started to exist and then the Holy Spirit. No, all of them are eternal. Remember, eternity means no beginning and no end. So there was not a time when the Son (the Word) and the Holy Spirit began to exist, because God is one; always and eternally, He is one. If He were not, He would not be God. If the Son and the Holy Spirit started to exist at some point, we would have to say that they are not God because obviously they are not perfect; if that is the case, they are not eternal and there must be something missing. Well, there is not. They are eternal and they have no beginning.
Having said that, are they identical? Are the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit identical? The answer is yes, because, as we said, God is perfectly simple, so there cannot be any kind of division. Yet, at the same time, they are distinct as persons. What I just said sounds like a logical contradiction, but it is not and we will explain that. What we have in God are three Persons and one God. There is only one God. We have already seen that there can only be one. Remember that when we were talking about God as a Supreme Being, we said if there were two of them who were Supreme Beings they would have to be identical, and if they are identical then they can only be one. That is what we are dealing with. We are talking about three Persons but only one God. There are three Persons subsisting in one God.
Now some have suggested that maybe there are three persons who are distinct individuals like us. In other words, you look at the table of people next to you and say, There are three of us sitting here; maybe this is like God. No, it is not, because the three of you are not one. If that were the case, then there would be three gods, not one God. Others have thought that maybe God is only one person who was given three different names in Scripture. Once again, that is not the case. I was asked a number of years ago by a little ten-year-old girl, How do you explain the Trinity? Great. I cannot explain it to adults; how am I going to explain it to a ten-year-old? So I thought about it, and thanks be to God, the Holy Spirit inspired me with a neat idea. I said to her, Do you have any of those blue plastic ice cube trays? She said, Yes, why? I said, Go get one for me. And so she did. Anyway, if you fill up one of these little blue ice cube trays and you have a teenager around your house, your ice cubes will look like that: just one big hunk of ice, but you have lots of cubes underneath. In our house, we always overfilled them and made sure it was one big hunk of ice. The idea of this is very simple. If God were three persons just like us, it would be like having three ice cubes separate from one another. It would be like three of us sitting here. We are three completely separate, distinct individuals. If you could take this big chunk that is all one hunk of ice and break off one little section of three cubes, you would have something that looks like one chunk of ice but three cubes. So you have three in one. This is more like God. One piece of ice, three cubes. That is something similar to what we are talking about.
All we can say with God is that it is similar; it is an analogy. It is all we can say. We are never going to understand God fully. Saint Patrick tried to explain to the people of Ireland that God could be likened to a cloverleaf. It is one plant which has three distinct leaves, but if you look at them, all the leaves are united together. They are not three separate leaves like on a tree; there is only one flower, but it has three different leaves coming off of it. Some people have suggested it could be as if you got three matches and put the heads together and lit it. You have three distinct matches, but you only have one flame coming off of it. There are different ways people have tried. They say, Water can be steamed, it can be water, and it can be ice. You can have three different facets of the same thing, and it is the same water. Well, that is the same concept. It is a matter of how you have three in one, one in three. That is what the question comes down to. Again, the best we can do is analogies because we cannot grasp it completely. This is the best I have been able to find trying to explain it: You have one hunk of ice, but you have three ice cubes underneath, so you have three in one in that way.
We will come back to this.
What we see, then, is that the Father did not create the Son. The Son has no beginning; He is eternal. It is not like the Father was sitting around one day and decided that He ought to have a Son, because how can He be a father if He does not have a child; therefore, if He is going to be a father, He needs to have a son, so maybe He ought to create one. No, it did not happen that way. The Son has no beginning. The Holy Spirit has no beginning. The Father did not create the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then we have to ask the question: Where did they come from? How do we explain their existence? The Church teaches that there are two internal divine processions. That is where the existence comes from. By procession is meant the origin of one from another. Procession can be either internal or external depending on whether or not the procession goes outside of the principal from which it proceeds. Putting that into English, what that means is right now what you are hearing is an external procession of what is going through my mind. It is coming out of my mouth. Right now, whatever is in your mind is an internal procession. We are probably all grateful for that, at least I am because I probably would not want to know what you are thinking right now I dont have a clue what this guy is saying. Hes nuts! so it is good that it is an internal procession and stays on the inside. An external procession comes out from the source from which it proceeds. An internal procession stays within. If you think of it that way, we are external processions from God, not of His divinity, but everything that exists outside of the immanent Trinity can exist within God and it proceeds out from God in that way. But when we are talking about the Trinity, it is within the Godhead, so that is an internal procession.
If we look at it that way, an internal divine procession refers to the origin of one divine Person from another through the communication of the numerically one divine Essence. Again, in order to put that into a form that we can try, at least, to understand a little bit: If we put the ice cube tray under the water, we will say that the water in this case is the one substance; it is the same water. If you put the water into this cube at the top, it overflows from that one into the second one. Then it overflows from that one into the third one. It is the same water, but now you have three different cubes that are filled with the water. When we are talking about an internal procession, it is the origin of one from the other. And so you start with the Father, to the Son, to the Holy Spirit, the origin of one from the other. The Son proceeds from the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. That is what we are thinking. If you were to put Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in those first three cubicles, you could have the Son proceeding from the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son, if you think of the water as the one divine substance, or the one divine essence. As I have told you, this is not easy stuff. If you are completely confused, do not worry about it. But we will continue on because it is only going to get more confusing.
The word procession is used in this regard because it is the word Jesus used. In John 8, Jesus said, I proceeded from the Father; and in John 15, He says, I will send to the Church the Spirit of truth Who proceeds from the Father. Since He used the same word with regard to Himself and the Holy Spirit, as far as their origin goes, we see that from the mouth of Our Lord there are two internal divine processions. That brings us to a point of controversy with regard to the word filioque. The word filioque was inserted into the Creed to point out these internal divine processions. The result of that is what is called the Eastern Schism, the break of the Orthodox from the Catholic Church. In English, filioque is translated as and the Son. We profess that every single Sunday: We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The and the Son is filioque. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Orthodox would say, No, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. We recognize the same thing, that the Father is the origin of everything. But they want to say, No, He proceeds only from the Father, not the Father and the Son. That is where the difference is. It is a theological point, a kind of splitting of hairs in a way. This, thankfully, now has all been worked out theologically, but obviously we are not united yet. They are still working in that direction and hopefully we will see that one of these days; we need to pray for that. But that is the one little word which caused the split back in the year 1054. Anyway, we believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son because when the Father loves, He loves the Son. The Father knows Himself; therefore, the Son exists. He loves the Son, Who is in existence, and that love is the Holy Spirit.
Now if there are three Persons, as we said, but they are not three individuals like human beings, because that would imply a multiplicity of gods, yet somehow there are three distinct Persons, then somehow there has to be a difference. We have said that the three of them are identical. If they are identical, how can there be a difference? And if there is a difference, it would suggest that maybe one has something the other doesnt, which means they cannot be Supreme. We get into this whole thing, but there has to be some way to be able to make the distinction between the three. The question then is: What constitutes the three Persons? The answer is the relations within the Godhead. The Godhead means the immanent Trinity, within God Himself. The relationships between the Father and the Son, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and so on, those are the differences. There is no difference in the Persons. The distinction is in the relationships. That is what we have to look at then.
We look first at ourselves. A relation is the reference of one thing to another. A relation for us always exists in something else, that is, it does not make a new, separate individual. If you think about it, for instance, when you get married, there is a new relationship that is established. You are no longer boyfriend and girlfriend, nor are you fiancés; you are now husband and wife. Then there is a child; now you are mother and father. You are also husband and wife. You are also son and daughter to your own parents, and grandson and granddaughter to your grandparents. There are all of these different relations, but there is not a new person with each relation. The relationship exists outside of the person. You as the person can have relationships with all these different people, but you are not a different person in each relationship. It is the same person with all these different relationships; therefore, that is why we would say that the relationship exists in something else. It does not create a new individual.
If that is the case, we could say that somebody here could be a brother, a son, a grandson, a nephew, a father, a grandfather, a friend, and an acquaintance, all at the same time. You can have all these different relationships going on. Well, if you are a son or daughter of your parents, if both of your parents died, then in a relational sense on an earthly level, you would cease to be a son or daughter. You would not have that relationship to mother or father any longer; therefore, you would cease to have that particular relationship. Obviously, you would still say, I am the son (or daughter) of my parents, but in a relational sense that is no longer there. Perhaps it is easier to look at it from a friendship point of view. If you get into a fight with your friend and they move away, you do not call them your friend anymore. The relationship has ended, and you no longer define yourself that way.
What we see, then, is that a relationship is something which is called accidental. Accidental does not mean, Oops, I made a mistake; accidental means that it is something which is external and exists in something else. We have to make a distinction between substances and accidents. A substance exists in itself; an accident exists in a substance. To try to make that a little more simple for you, if you look at this podium, it is made out of wood. The best we could do as far as trying to put it into English form is to say, The substance is that which makes it what it is for woodness, that which makes wood wood. It is that which makes it what it is. The accidents, on the other hand, exist in the substance. The shape, the color, the sound, the hardness or softness, all of those are accidents. If you think about your own self, your substance is your soul. The accidents are everything else: the color of your hair, the color of your eyes, the color of your skin, the size of your body, the shape of your body, the sound of your voice. All of those things are accidents, and they can change. You could go home and color your hair purple tonight, and you are still the same person. The accidents can change, but the substance remains the same. All of the external things can change, but the reality of who the being is remains the same. In God, the relationships are not accidental; for us, they are. We are one person who can have many relationships, but we are not defined by our relationships. We are defined by who we are as a person. With God, it is just the opposite.
In God, fatherhood and sonship define the persons. The relationship is not accidental; the relationship is substantial. The relationship exists in itself; it does not exist in something else. It is not like us.
If you think about it, with us we could say, Here is one person, and there is the other person. The relationship exists between the two persons, but the two persons are the two points on either end. You would be defined as one person; your friend or your spouse or your child would be defined as the other person; and the relationship is what unites the two. It is not that way with God. With God, we can say that there is a relationship of the Father to the Son, and a relationship of the Son to the Father. Therefore, the relationship of Father to Son sets up fatherhood; the relationship of the Son to the Father sets up sonship. In us, the two points are the persons; in God, the relationship is the person. It is not the points that are the person in God; it is the line that unites them that is the person. It is just the opposite of us. For us, the relationship is accidental; it is outside of us. The relationship could end, and that does not change who we are. We could enter into a new relationship, and that does not change who we are. In God, the relationship is substantial; it defines the person and it cannot change. Any man here can be a father, but we all start as a son. The Son, in the case of God, cannot become a father, and never will be a father in that relationship. It is the relationship that establishes the person.
If this establishes fatherhood and sonship, then we have a second set of relations, that is, the Father and the Son to the Holy Spirit. That is what is called passive spiration. The relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son is called active spiration. Spiration means to breathe. To expire means to breathe out; to inspire means to breathe in. And so spiration is the act of breathing. You have to see this from the point of view of the Holy Spirit. Passive spiration means the Holy Spirit is being breathed forth from the Father and the Son; the Holy Spirit is receiving, if you will. Active spiration means the Holy Spirit is breathing to the Father and the Son. Is the Holy Spirit giving or receiving? Is He active or is He passive? That is the way it is set up within the Trinity: the relations are the Persons. That is not the way we operate as human beings. Our relationships are not the persons; the person has relationships. But in God, the relations are the Persons. I told you, this gets very complicated. We see that when we call God the Father we are not saying anything about His essence or activity, but rather what we are talking about is the relationship of the Father to the Son, and the relationship of the Son to the Father. That is what fatherhood and sonship are all about.
Of these four relations, three stand in opposition to one another, and therefore are really distinct, that is, fatherhood, sonship, and passive spiration. Active spiration stands in opposition only to passive spiration; therefore, it is not opposed to either fatherhood or sonship, and therefore does not constitute a separate person. Therefore, there are only three really distinct relations in God, and there are only three Persons in God. The three relations are fatherhood, sonship, and passive spiration. Active spiration stands only in opposition to passive spiration; fatherhood and sonship already exist, so therefore it does not stand in opposition to either fatherhood or sonship; and, therefore, that does not constitute a separate person. So there are only three oppositional relationships, oppositional not meaning something that is in conflict, but rather in this case there are three relationships that stand distinct in opposition to one another and consequently define who the Person is. In every way, the three Persons are identical except for fatherhood, sonship, and passive spiration.
We should also point out that when we make the Sign of the Cross, if we were going to be theologically technical about it, we should say, In the name of the Fatherhood and of the Sonship and of the Passive Spiration. That would sound pretty stupid, so we just say, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But it is the relationships themselves that actually are distinct. There are different ways of being able to talk about this. For instance, if you wanted to try to put it into our human way of looking at it, you can say that the Father is the lover, the Son is the beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the love that unites them. Well, that is another way of looking at it. You have three in one: the lover, the beloved, and the love that unites the three together. You can try to look at it that way. The Father begets the Son, the Son is begotten by the Father, etc. There are all these different ways that you can try to explain it, but the main thing is for you to try to understand that there are three That is all: three Persons in God. There is not a fourth.
By the nature of love, it has to be that way. God is revealed as love. Love is a relationship. If you are in love with yourself, that is called narcissism. It is a sin, so it is not something that can be said of God. God loves Himself, and He loves Himself perfectly, but He is not narcissistic. Therefore, He has to have someone to love. So the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, the Father and the Son love the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son, and so on. Love by its nature cannot remain only in two. What happens when a couple gets married? Their love has to overflow and become life giving for others. Love is, by the way, a reciprocal, benevolent communion of persons (we will talk about this another time). In other words, two persons seeking with good will only the good of the other forms a communion. What happens in marriage? The two become one, very similar to what we are talking about here. And who puts the two together? God. So what do you have in marriage? Three in one. You have a man, a woman, and God. You have the two souls united by God, Who created them. In marriage, then, we have an imitation of the Trinity.
But you also have something similar because love cannot stay just within the two, as I mentioned. You can be totally, completely in love with one another, but just standing there staring at one another for the rest of your lives would be pretty dull. Love by its nature overflows any boundaries we can put on it. The Father and the Son love one another perfectly, and that love has to overflow and become life giving that is the Holy Spirit. If God is love, there has to be a minimum of three. There does not have to be any more than three, but there has to be at least three if we are going to understand love in its proper form. God is revealed as three, so that is what we have. Even though we could say that logically there could be more, the revelation of God makes very clear that there are not. There are three Persons, one God. Again, it is that way because of the relationships, but it has to be that way just by the very nature of what love itself is.
In every way, the three Persons are absolutely identical except in fatherhood, sonship, and passive spiration, except in their relations to one another. We are not defined by our relationships. We are defined as persons who have relationships, and the relationships are outside of ourselves. God is defined as relationship. In God, everything is one where there is no distinction by relative opposition. Relative opposition means the opposition in the relationships, fatherhood, sonship, and passive spiration. What that means is there is only one consciousness; there is only one thinking; there is only one loving. Or if you put it another way, there is only one mind and one will in God. There is only one substance. The one substance, the water, is the same, if you think of the ice cubes. If we think of ourselves, we are three separate substances, so that would be three minds and three wills. If we have three of you sitting at a table, there are three minds, there are three wills, and there are three separate individual persons. That would be like these three ice cubes that are broken off of one another and separate. But if we are all together and there is only one, then there is one mind, there is one will, and there is only one substance, but there are three persons who share equally the one mind and one will and one substance.
To make it clear, if each Person possessed His own distinct consciousness, there would be three gods. If they each had their own mind, there would be three gods. If they each had their own will, there would be three gods. There has to only be one; there can only be one. So all three Persons share equally in the internal activity, any internal activity. The Father cannot think separately from the Son, or vice versa, because there is only one mind. All of them are identical, they are all perfect, and so they are not going to think anything differently anyway. If you go to work tomorrow and somebody asks you, What is a divine person, what is the answer? A subsistent relation. Got it? A piece of cake. Subsistent means it exists in itself. An accident adheres in the substance. The three Persons in God are subsistent relations: fatherhood, sonship, and passive spiration. All of our relationships are accidental relationships.
When we speak of the different acts of the Persons, we talk about things like the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier. Actually, that does not really apply. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit actually do not apply when we are talking about God acting outside of the Godhead. The distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exists only in the Trinity itself. All external activities are equally shared; they are in common to all three Persons. One Person of the Trinity cannot act independently of the other two. Think about it.
If there is only one substance, you cannot pull one off and have it act independently of the other two because they are one. Otherwise, you are going to wind up with things like us, and it does not work. So they all share the same substance. If one is going to act, all three have to go, all three have to act together. Any time that there is an action outside of the immanent Trinity itself, it is common to all three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we are talking about the distinctions in the Persons, that only exists in the immanent Trinity in God qua God, the Godhead itself not in the way that God interacts in the world. It helps us to be able to understand the distinction when we say, God the Father is the Creator; God the Son is the Redeemer; God the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. The reality is all three Persons create, all three Persons redeem, and all three Persons sanctify because those are actions outside of the Godhead itself; consequently, they are common to all three Persons. The attributes or the activities spoken of each one simply point to the distinction of the three Persons, also it talks about the special relationship to the origin of that Person. It is only for us to be able to understand it, but that is the only thing.
Having said all of that, let me remind you that this is the most difficult thing in all of theology. It is the most difficult thing we will cover in this class. Everything else is substantially easier, but even with that, God is an absolute mystery; that is a theological term. A mystery is a revealed truth which totally surpasses the capability of the human mind. It is something we never would be able to reason to. We would never be able to come to it on our own. Once it has been revealed by God, then we can know something about it, but we would never come to any knowledge about it from our observation or from our experience. In other words, we can know from our observation that God exists. We will never know from our observation that God is a Trinity. Once it is revealed that God is a Trinity, then we can look around and say, Oh, look at all the threes that are out there. There are little vestiges of God; there are things that point to the reality that God is a Trinity. We would never have come to that on our own. Even seeing all the threes, nobody would ever say, You know what, with all these threes, God must be three. In fact, there can only be one God in three Persons; that must be it. No, we never would have come to that on our own, but only if God reveals it. Once it is revealed, we can know something about it, but we will never know all, and we cannot.
I am sure nobody would do this after my attempt at an explanation here, but if you walk out of here tonight and say, Now I understand the Trinity, then I have failed because for all eternity you will not understand the Trinity. If you get to heaven, you will look at God face-to-face for the rest of eternity, and you will never come to the end. You will never understand Him fully. God is infinite; we are finite. No matter how much you know of God, there is infinitely more. Isnt that the most incredible thing? The best description of heaven that I have ever heard anybody make is this: A priest was saying once, Heaven is like having constant novelty, being completely blown away at every instant, even though there are not instances in heaven, but we can only think of it in this sense. You know the novelty of something when you get what you really wanted? It is so wonderful and the world revolves around it. It just blows you away that somebody would love you so much that they would give you this thing. Now imagine getting to heaven and looking at God, being completely filled to overflowing with love, being totally blown away by it. It knocks you over backwards, and you pick yourself up, shake yourself off, and open your eyes to an entirely new vision of God that completely fills you to overflowing, blows you away, knocks you over backwards. You pick yourself back up, shake yourself off, and open your eyes to an entirely new vision of God that completely fills you to overflowing and blows you over backwards, knocks you down, and so on; for the rest of eternity, being filled to overflowing and never coming to the end.
So what is hell? Hell is looking at yourself for the rest of eternity. There can be no more miserable thing than looking at yourself. Tragically, that is what the devil has gotten us to do. We are the most selfish people. We are preparing ourselves for hell! This time that you have right now as long as you are alive is the only time you have to prepare yourself for eternity, and you start now by preparing for where you are going to go.
Heaven is about love; it is looking at God and serving God and serving your neighbor and being served by everyone. Everyone loves. That is all there is in heaven: love, pure love. Not people sitting around with gushy feelings and saying, Oh, I think youre so wonderful. No. It is everybody seeking to serve one another and building one another up and moving one another toward God and receiving from everyone else. Remember, love is giving; it is serving. But part of the service of love is to receive the gift that the other wants to give to you. Again, think of a married couple. If you are married and your spouse says, No, I want this wonderful gift of our marital embrace just for you. Dont give me anything. I dont want any pleasure in this; Im just wanting this for you. The other person would be offended and say, But I want this for you. It is two people giving to one another, and two people receiving the gift that the other is giving. Well, in heaven, it is everybody serving one another and everybody being served by one another. And what is hell? Everyone looking at themselves nobody serving anybody. You will hate everyone and everyone will hate you. You will try to move ahead, but everyone will pull you back. Then they try to move ahead, and everyone will pull them back. Nobody builds one another up since everybody is trying to pull one another down because they want to get ahead themselves. Whereas in heaven, everyone is moving everyone else ahead so everybody keeps going. But in hell, everyone just focuses on themselves. So we have a choice. We can start focusing on ourselves now, or we can start focusing on God now. If we spend the time in prayer, if we spend the time learning how to love, we are preparing ourselves for heaven. If we spend all our time here being selfish and focused on ourselves, we are preparing ourselves for hell. That is what this is all about.
Now getting back to the mystery, mysteries are truths which concern God Himself. There are three mysteries that are called absolute mysteries. Those are the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Divine Grace. That is because they deal with God Himself. This means that not only do they surpass our intellects in this life, but they will do so in the next life as well. As I said, for all eternity, we can look at God and we will never come to the end; in fact, there will always be infinitely more. It is important to note that these absolute mysteries, like the Trinity, are beyond reason but they are not contrary to reason. As you can see, we can say some things about them. We can reason about them. They are not easy things to reason out, but they are not things that are contrary to reason.
I always end this class with a little story. Saint Augustine wrote many books, and one of his treatises is called the Trinitate, concerning the Trinity. As he was trying to work out this whole understanding, the theology, and so on, he was walking along the beach. Saint Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa. He was walking along the beach, mentally stuck, and he was trying to get it all together in order to explain it. As he walked along the beach, he came upon a little boy who was sitting on the beach digging a hole. He would dig his hole beautifully, then a wave would come in and fill the hole with water. The little boy would look at the wave and then look at the hole, and he would dig the hole deeper. The wave would come in and fill it up again. He would dig the hole even bigger, and the wave would come in and fill it up again. Pretty soon, Augustine realized what the child was trying to do; he was trying to get the whole ocean into his hole. He said, Little boy, no matter how hard you try, youre never going to get the entire ocean into your hole. The little boy looked at him and said, Augustine, no matter how hard you try, you will never comprehend the Trinity fully, and disappeared. It was a vision of an angel sent to Augustine to say, It is a mystery. You will never understand it fully. Quit trying so hard. Understand what you can; the rest of it is going to be beyond you in this life and in eternity. You will never understand it fully.
People ask, What are you going to do in heaven? It sounds boring, sitting around on a cloud with a harp. No. As you can see, we are never going to come to the end. There will never be even one single instance of boredom (again, there are no seconds or instances, but it is a way for us to understand) because you will be being loved, and you will be loving to the fullness of your ability. That is what you were created for. There will be perfect joy, perfect happiness, perfect love. No boredom, no dullness, nothing of the sort. That is what God created you for, and that is what He wants for you, to enter into this mystery which is infinite and which will keep us busy forever.
With that, the Lord be with you. May the blessing of Almighty God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with you forever. Amen.
[End of Lesson 2]
FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLICISM, LESSON 2 PING!
FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLICISM BUMP
Thank you for hot-linking the #1 lesson!
Yes, The more I think about this. It seems to be an excellent idea.
I will hotlink all the Lessons as I go along posting them.
Thanks for being a great friend.
In The Risen Lord,
LESSON 2: THE MOST HOLY TRINITY BUMP
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