Skip to comments.The Concept of the Most Holy Trinity - The Relationship between the Three Persons in One God
Posted on 10/19/2007 9:51:40 AM PDT by NYer
The Concept of the Most Holy Trinity
The Relationship between the Three Persons in One God
Some doctrines perplex us more than others. Offhand, we could enumerate the following:
We assent to these dogmas (dogma, just by the way, is not a four letter word --- but rather, a formally revealed truth) although they remain mysteries, that is to say, they exceed the capacity of reason, while not conflicting with it. No logical contradiction can be adduced to discredit them; they simply lie beyond the province of our natural experience and the limitations inherent in reason (and reason has limitations: we need only ponder the concepts of infinity, infinite divisibility, and eternity to name a few).
Among these dogmas, or revealed truths, however, none quite so perplexes us as the notion of the Most Holy Trinity. That in and of itself it remains a profound mystery is profoundly true. However, because it pertains to the most central aspect of our faith as Catholics and Christians, inasmuch as it pertains to the Person and nature of God, we attempt to apprehend it in some measure, for only in knowing something, in knowing of its nature, can we begin to love it. We do not love what we do not know, and our knowing defectively or insufficiently results in our loving defectively or deficiently.
We wish to know God. We wish to know Him well. In fact, we are convinced --- and rightly so --- that the more we know about God, the more we will find to love in Him, and the more we love, the greater our own felicity ... especially when that love is requited.
Too often, in the minds of Christians, God is reduced to the Father: conceived as an elderly, avuncular figure with a great white beard Who is rather stern and quite distant; one Who is really very little involved in the trivial affairs of men, and so sent His Son instead, and the Son, of course, is less than the Father. What is more, the Son is more compassionate than this remote and rather irascible figure that more resembles Aristotle's Unmoved Mover, than a Father. We like Jesus --- although we fear His Father. In fact, for so many, Christian and pagan alike, Jesus was merely a man, perhaps a wise man, maybe even a prophet of sorts --- but not more. Well ... maybe ... but we are not quite sure how. The Holy Spirit? This faceless Spirit, whatever its nature, clearly cannot be that of a person, although He nevertheless figures largely in this mysterious narrative. Quite a conundrum.
Ask quite nearly every adult Catholic who has, over the past 40 years, suffered from the inexcusable negligence in Catechism, or CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine), as we call it here in America --- a negligence that lays at the feet of the Bishops who, opting for a more visible correctitude in matters social and political, have defaulted on their primary responsibility as Teachers of the Faith in their respective dioceses --- and the answer is the same, although the inflections vary: "I really don't know", or, "it is terribly unclear to me."
Many --- perhaps most --- will reply that there are three gods, or that one is superior to the other, or existed prior to the other, or in fact, that only one is God and the others are something of the nature of demiurges or lesser gods, possessed of remarkable abilities, to be sure, but rather like us in every other way.
Saint Augustine literally wrote volumes on the subject (De Trinitate), as did Saint Thomas Aquinas and many, many, other great and learned Saints. Even the the most modest compendium using the utmost concision will, very likely, avail you little in the way of understanding the most fundamental features of this doctrine, this profound mystery --- and in failing to yield understanding in whatever measure, consequently failing to motivate love for that which is not understood.
Perhaps, then, as it is said, "a picture (in this case a diagram) is worth a thousand words". So, for the sake of those who should be teaching and do not, or are teaching and know little of what they teach --- but most of all for the children, we present you a picture --- in the shameful absence of words.
Our motivation is simple: if you do not know God, how can you love Him?
Oh ... yes, ...God does not "look like" the conceptual drawing ... and we truly fear that we are compelled to say that ...
Thanks for the post. Excellent.
Thanks for the post.
FWIW, I’ve found the issue of the trinity is best understood by simply recognizing God Provides.
He reveals Himself in three persons.
We don’t need to read anything more into that revelation, but simply need to comprehend bit by bit exactly what He reveals to us in each of those revelations.
God didn’t provide us with a Library of Congress and encyclopedias of quantum mechanics in order for us to understand everything in His Creation, so why would we be so arrogant as to think we would comprehend Him in a fashion we comprehend worldly things, independent of simple faith through Him?
Keep it simple. He has seen from eternity past the best way to reveal to us about His essence and nature in the fashion in which He has.
I suspect any challenge is comprehending the Trinity is better met by the wondrous awe we should instead afford Him, in simply studying what He has revealed and comprehending those aspects of the person in which He reveals Himself, instead of getting wrapped up in man made doctrines built more upon rationalism and empiricism, than first upon faith through Him.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights! That is certainly an engaging analogy.
Yes. He provides for us through each member. Visually, I have found the pretzel to be an easy way to teach the Trinity to children.
God didnt provide us with a Library of Congress and encyclopedias of quantum mechanics in order for us to understand everything in His Creation, so why would we be so arrogant as to think we would comprehend Him in a fashion we comprehend worldly things, independent of simple faith through Him?
You make an excellent point! Scientists can't explain the universe. It is indeed arrogant for man to think he can comprehend the mind of God.
Yes - three persons in one God.
Alright, K, go ahead and leave everyone scratching their heads. A little explanation goes a long way.
How can we live in the midst of a world marked by fear, hatred and violence and not be destroyed by it? When Jesus prays to his Father for his disciples, he responds to this question by saying.
"I am not asking you to remove them from the world but to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world".
To live in the world without belonging to the world summarizes the essence of the spiritual life. The spiritual life keeps us aware that our true house is not the house of fear, in which the powers of hatred and violence rule, but the house of love, where God resides.
The house of love is beautifully expressed in this icon.
The icon of the Holy Trinity was "written" (painted) by Andrew Rublev in 1425, in memory of the great Russian saint, Sergius (1313-1392). He wanted not only to show the fruits of his own meditation on the mystery of the Holy Trinity but also to offer his fellow monks a way to keep their hearts centered in God while living in the midst of political unrest.
The more we look at this holy image with the eyes of faith, the more we come to realize that it is painted not as a lovely decoration for a convent church, nor as a helpful explanation of a difficult doctrine, but as a holy place to enter and stay within. As we place ourselves in front of the icon in prayer, we come to experience a gentle invitation to participate in the intimate conversation that is taking place among the 3 divine angels and to join them around the table. The movement from the Father toward the Son and the movement of both Son and Spirit toward the Father become a movement in which the one who prays is lifted up and held secure.
From within this holy circle, this house of love, the mystery of God is revealed to us. It is the mystery of the 3 angels who appeared at the Oak of Mamre, who ate the meal Sarah and Abraham generously offered to them and who announced the unexpected birth of Isaac (Gn 18). It is the mystery of hospitality expressed not only in Abraham's and Sarah's welcome of the 3 angels, but also in God's welcome of the aged couple into the joy of the covenant through an heir.
This angelic appearance is the prefiguration of the divine mission by which God sends us his only Son to sacrifice himself for our sins, and gives us new life through the Spirit. The tree of Mamre becomes the tree of life, the house of Abraham becomes the dwelling place of God-with-us and the mountain becomes the spiritual heights of prayer and contemplation. The lamb that Abraham offered to the angels becomes the sacrificial lamb, chosen by God before the creation of the world, led to be slaughtered on Calvary and declared worthy to break the seven seals of the scroll. This sacrificial lamb forms the center of the icon. The hands of the Father, Son and Spirit reveal in different ways its significance. The Son, in the center, points to it with two fingers, thus indicating his mission to become the sacrificial lamb, human as well as divine, through the Incarnation. The Father, on the left, encourages the Son with a blessing gesture. And the Spirit, who holds the same staff of authority as the Father and the Son, signifies by pointing to the rectangular opening in the front of the altar that this divine sacrifice is a sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
Thus, praying with this icon leads us into the mystery of God's self-revelation. It is a mystery beyond history, yet made visible through it. It is a divine mystery, yet human too. It is a joyful, sorrowful and glorious mystery transcending all human emotions, yet not leaving any human emotion untouched.
(taken from Behold the Beauty of the Lord - Praying with Icons, by Henri J. M. Nouwen. In praying with icons, they will begin to speak of the unique way in which God has chosen to love you.
I know I’m not expressing myself well on this point.
I think of it in this fashion. Through faith in Christ, I recognize that God has in eternity past considered the best way He is able to make Himself known by His Creation including man.
When He reveals Himself, and we understand He does reveal Himself as God the Father, also by God the Son, and also by God the Holy Spirit,...when He has chosen to thus reveal Himself in this fashion, then if we don’t understand it is either because we have a natural state which has strayed from Him or it is because we have scarred our thinking processes so as to wrongly influence our understanding of what He has provided.
He still provides a way in which we may have fellowship with Him, so by remaining in faith through Him, and slowly thinking about Him through these different persons, we might be able to better understand Him.
I have no criticism of the driver’s wheel model.
Instead, through faith in Him,... in all things, including our thinking of doctrine, we place ourselves in His hands so that when we view the model, He guides us in our thinking.
Likewise in study of Him by reading Scripture. I’ve found study of the Trinity to be one of the most rewarding studies as it helps us better comprehend and identify what and how He has prepared things for us from eternity past to eternity future.
In studying the Son of God as discerned from God the Father, who have the same essence, but different persons, we are provided an example of how man should think while he is in fellowship with God.
In studying the Holy Spirit, as discerned from the Son of God, we grow to understand how Divine power is provided to man for us to utilize, but again only though faith in Him, not of ourselves, but from Him, for the performance of good works. We also see how the Holy Spirit indwelling us provides the temple for the indwelling of Christ who is one with the Father.
In studying the Holy Spirit as discerned from God the Father, we also are able to discern mechanisms which exist between our communicating to God and His perfect holiness which is respected by the Holy Spirit expressing our thinking in proper inexplicable moanings to the Father.
We discover how God the Son nor the Holy Spirit, doesn’t know the day or hour of His second coming, yet He is still God. If this appears to be contradictory, that sense is a manifestation that somewhere in our past thinking we have improperly perceived His true nature, because He Himself has revealed to us something about Himself in a perfect fashion. He is not a God of confusion, but has blessed us with His revelation of what He actually is to our scarred minds.
It's even more wondrous when through faith in Him, with our limited faculties, He who indwells us is able to reveal the unlimited by the very simple lines of His Word.
I try not to apply physical laws/logic to God. Thank you for the explanation.
So, needing to start somewhere...voila...the "Steering Wheel" catechetical tool is presented for their edification! St. Patrick used the shamrock, we 21st Century types can appeal to more familiar objects in our culture, such as this well-known automobile part.
Indeed. Thank you for that insight!
Because that which is known of God is manifest among them, for God did manifest [it] to them, for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world, by the things made being understood, are plainly seen, both His eternal power and Godhead -- to their being inexcusable;
“So, needing to start somewhere...voila...the “Steering Wheel” catechetical tool is presented for their edification! St. Patrick used the shamrock, we 21st Century types can appeal to more familiar objects in our culture, such as this well-known automobile part.”
That’s just pandering to a fallen and abysmally stupid (not uneducated...stupid!) age! I prefer NYer’s closing comment above:
“In praying with icons, they will begin to speak of the unique way in which God has chosen to love you.”