No.18. The Holy Trinity – the Self Revelation of God
The Catholic faith is wholly Trinitarian. We praise and invoke the Blessed Trinity in our prayers and in our worship, every day, many times a day, all day, and we rejoice in it. And there is one day in the year, when we not only dwell upon not what God does or has done or calls us to, but on Who God Is.
On Trinity Sunday, in humility, awe and gratitude, we give special honour and pay special attention to the One Living and Eternal God, Who reveals to us the truth of His Own Being; that in Him Who Is Love, are Three Persons. A glorious mystery of mysteries, beyond the reach and grasp of the uninspired human intellect. Before it, the Christian bows, adores, lives, is loved, is at home and finds peace. We take it for granted, as we sign ourselves with a cross in all the events and needs of life, in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier.
To many, however this most fundamental belief is regarded as contradiction and anathema. It is rejected by members of the Jewish religion in their fidelity to the Mosaic proclamation that God is One and Indivisible, by all those who do not accept that the human Jesus was the Son of God. To those who follow the prophet Mohammed it is blasphemy, and to atheists and agnostics nonsense.
Development of Christian belief in the Trinity
Why do we believe in the Triune God? The answer is simple. Because it was revealed to us by Jesus Christ. In the New Testament there is explicit and ample reference to God as Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And, the Trinity was foreshadowed in the Old Testament.
Before the Trinity could be revealed by God, human beings first had to recognise that there were not several deities who they might invoke, but there was only the One, Infinite and All-PowerfuI God, Creator of all that existed, as Abraham and some of his contemporaries, such as Melchisedech did. This truth was formalised and amplified by Moses, to whom YHWH spoke.
But even for the Chosen people it was not a truth that all could fully place their faith in, living as they did close to or within cultural milieux that were polytheistic and pagan. The patient God spoke to them again and again through the prophets, to confirm them in their belief that God is One.
The Trinity was not explicitly revealed until the Logos, the Living Word of God, became flesh and dwelt among us, and his teaching and example led to the recognition that God was Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Theologians tried to delve more deeply into the mystery of the Trinity but could not and will never encompass the mystery of the Godhead. They’d have to be divine in order to do that.
The Key: God is Love
Let’s look at the key to the truth of the Blessed Trinity (based on the thoughts given in 2005 of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher of the Pontifical Household)
* Most theistic religions accept the idea that God is eternal and loving. To most Christians, God is Love. Because of this we are led to the inescapable conclusion that there are Three Persons in One God. The Trinity is not a human invention.
* There is no love that is not directed to someone. So we ask: who does God love to be defined as love?
* Mankind? Yes. But according to scientific theory, we have existed for some millions of years, no more. Before then, who did God love? The cosmos? The universe? But the universe itself had a beginning.
* God could not have begun to be Love at a certain point in ‘time’, because God cannot change.
* Before then, who did God love to be able to define himself as love? We cannot say that he loved himself because to love oneself is not love, but egoism or, as psychologists say, narcissism.
* Here is the Christian answer. God is love in Himself, because he has always had in Himself a Son, the Word, whom he loves with an infinite love, that is, in the Holy Spirit who is the living Love of God. In all love there are always three realities: one who loves, one who is loved, and the love that unites them.
* The God of Christian revelation is One and Triune because He is communion of love. Theology has made use of the term ‘nature’ or ‘substance’ to indicate unity in God, and of the term ‘person’ to indicate the distinction.
* Because of this we say that our God is One God in Three Persons.
* The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is not a regression, or a compromise between monotheism and polytheism. It is a wondrous step further that only God Himself could make the human mind take. For this we pray.
“Blessed be the Holy Trinity and Undivided Unity in Whom we live and move and have our being. Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.”