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 ...
Useful diagram thanks for posting.
If God is the Father and also the Son and Holy Ghost, why isn’t the Son also the Father or the Holy Ghost?
...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.
And the author of this piece resorts to the same; unable to explain it, he resorts to pictures. Catholic apologetics have left the laity without hope. All they know is how to appeal to the authority of the Magistrate; none seem to make an appeal to Scripture.
Apparently you did not read the entire article. How about you, Professor Alex, explain the Trinity to the ignorant.
“Catholic apologetics” would be 2000 years’ worth of endeavor. Do you really feel qualified to assert a universal negative regarding every Catholic apologist from Clement, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr to Scott Hahn? You’ve read them all?
THIS is a magistrate.
THIS is the Magisterium.
It's hardly persuasive. Ask a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness just how convincing they find it. Why should anyone believe it?
I don't see the "steering wheel" as a tool of persuasion, but as a tool of explanation.
So a better question might be "Does it help to explain what we mean by 'Trinity'"?
The article is catechetical in scope, not apologetic. You need to teach your own first, before they evangelize others. As a means to that end, in conjunction with Scripture and the ecumenical councils (which treat to the subject in far greater detail, frankly, than Scripture does), the steering wheel is a very good tool. That’s all it is, a tool. Given the catechetical vacuum in the Western Catholic Church for 40+ years - a vacuum no serious Catholic will deny exists - it is a very good tool indeed.
Somewhat more satisfying and theologically rich than a steering wheel too!
This pretty much explains it:
1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.
19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.
26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.
27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.
32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.
36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
42. and shall give account of their own works.
43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved
Thanks, but all I could get was that certain things ‘are’, it didn’t really explain why or how.
I understand what you mean, but I like it because it’s a very clear and powerful statement of what we believe and what we don’t believe. It’s called the Athanasian Creed, by the way.
I do not claim this is THE most accurate way to explain this mystery/seeming paradox, but it has been helpful to others. The means to understand is based in the capabilities expressed in dimensional limits: Jesus told Philip that if he/Philip saw Jesus he saw the Father because Jesus was in the Father and the Father was in Jesus. In a sense what Jesus was using was a dimensional explanation.
In a length/width/height (volume) room, there is a length which is not height but it is part of the room; there is a width that is part of the room but it is not the whole room; in a volume there are points that are within the volume, located along a length, a width, and a height, but these points are not the whole room.
If we use only one direction, we may define where along a line a point may be found. If we use two directions (length and width) we may find on a plane where a point may be found. If we have three axi of direction (length, width, height) we can locate a point first with length, then length and width, but that would place the point on a plane. To place the point in the volume we need a third number, the height, then we have the particular plane in which the point is found placed at the particular height for the location. God is the volume of the room, in a sense, but in the Holy Spirit (we could analogize as the plane in the room) there are limits to the dimensional qualities in use. Jesus is God, but while in human flesh there are limits to dimensional quality in use. But he came from Mary's womb into the air world in the same fashion He came out of the sealed tomb to some location outside without unsealing the tomb.
Never seen the ‘steering wheel’ diagram before. I like it!
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