Day 35: Formation of Trinitarian Dogma (249-252)
Today we have a few short, action-packed paragraphs!
What does that look like?
We just talked about how The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son
As our Eastern brothers and sisters profess…
The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father THROUGH the Son
BOTH OF THOSE ARE PHENOMENAL!!
Today we are talking about The Formation of the Trinitarian Dogma
Those are a lot of big words
Sorry, but there are going to be even more big words today
From the beginning, God has been revealing Himself as a COMMUNION OF PERSONS
He has been revealing Himself as ONE BEING
God reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
So over the course of time we had foreshadowing in the Old Testament of God slowly revealing Himself as a Trinity
In Jesus and sending the Holy Spirit, there is something about them
Also in St. Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians and Ephesians
He says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all…”
There is this revelation of the Trinitarian dogma
In order to clarify what we mean by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the Church has used certain words taken from philosophical traditions
Words like SUBSTANCE
The Church used them from the beginning to try and capture what it is to say that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
The Father ISN’T the Son
The Son ISN’T the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit ISN’T the Father
THEY ALL ARE GOD!!
So the Church has used a formulation of these kinds of words
We will look at how the Trinitarian dogma was formulated
Tomorrow we will talk more deeply about the dogma of the Holy Trinity
Let us call upon the Trinity!!
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in heaven, we ask you, in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, to send your Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds, to enliven our hearts. Just please, help us to begin, even just begin to understand, or even capture. Help us to take one closer step into the mystery of who you are in yourself. Because, who you are in yourself is God. And we are nothing without you. And we're everything with you. So you love everything that is, that we are. You love us infinitely. Help us to know, as deeply as we possibly can, what and who you are, so we can love you and glorify you for what and who you are. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.”
So let’s review these 4 paragraphs
Paragraph 249 says, “From the very beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church’s living faith…”
The CENTRAL MYSTERY of Christianity is the mystery of the TRINITY
Which incorporates the mystery of the Incarnation
IT IS A REALLY BIG DEAL!!
Paragraph 249 continues, “It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith…”
That word BAPTISM is VERY IMPORTANT!!
Because at the end of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 28:19) Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
THIS IS SO CRITICAL!!
EVERY SINGLE CHRISTIAN PERSON IS BAPTIZED IN THAT TRINITARIAN FORMULA!!
FATHER SON AND HOLY SPIRIT!!
THIS IS REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT!!
Here is St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 13, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
So we have in that Scriptural designation both Jesus saying, “Baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Also St. Paul with his greeting, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
There is this CLEAR revelation of God as Father Son and Holy Spirit
But the question is, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
How can we clearly communicate this to people who say that maybe the Lord Jesus is a “demigod” because he is MAN, we know that
He is also GOD, we know that
So maybe He’s like Hercules
Hercules’ father was Zeus and his mother was someone
Jesus’ Father is God and his mother is Mary
So maybe they’re similar?
In order to really figure out what and who is it that Jesus really is
It is VERY CLEAR from the Gospels that Jesus is claiming EQUALITY WITH THE FATHER
And also that He speaks of the Holy Spirit as CO-EQUAL
At the same time, it seems like both of them DEFER TO THE FATHER
So Paragraph 251 says, “In order to articulate the dogma of the Trinity, the Church had to develop its own terminology with the help of certain notions of philosophical origin.”
Yes, we have BIBLICAL LANGUAGE which is ABSOLUTELY IRREPLACEABLE
Biblical language is God’s revelation to us through the Sacred Text
It says a lot BUT THERE IS MORE TO BE SAID
The mind keeps wanting to apprehend but how can we articulate this?
So we have these philosophical notions…
Paragraph 252 says, “The Church uses (I) the term ‘substance’ (rendered also at times by ‘essence’ or ‘nature’) to designate the divine being in its unity…”
Fr. John Hardon has a definition for substance: “a being whose essence requires that it exists in itself.”
He uses some Latin here
He says, “It is an ens per se (which means a being by itself) or ens in se (meaning being in itself)” (so my brain really hurts right now and I’m quite dizzy 🤣)
The being itself is the SUBSTANCE
What is that?
This is from The Modern Catholic Dictionary
He makes the DISTINCTION between SUBSTANCE AND ACCIDENT
So this is a little philosophy lesson (I refuse to believe that Fr. Mike pronounces philosophy like that “PHIL-OH-SOH-FEE”😝)
The SUBSTANCE and the ACCIDENT
The SUBSTANCE is the being BY ITSELF or IN ITSELF
The ACCIDENT whose ESSENCE is to EXIST IN ANOTHER
For example the color purple DOES NOT EXIST ON ITS OWN
The color purple is an ACCIDENT
You only experience the color purple in something like purple linen (Or the Oscar nominated film The Color Purple starring Whoopi Goldberg and directed by Steven Spielberg? 🤔)
So linen is the SUBSTANCE
Linen is the ESSENCE IN ITSELF, the SUBSTANCE, the WHAT IT IS
Purple is the ACCIDENT
The linen would still be linen if it was red or white or not even dyed at all
The ACCIDENT is the dye
So we can sort of begin to understand how we are philosophically trying to apply these terms to the EXISTENCE and the ESSENCE of God
WHO God is…
WHAT God is…
WHAT GOD IS BY ITSELF…
IS HIS ESSENCE
IS HIS SUBSTANCE
Now the term PERSON or HYPOSTASIS to designate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them
Fr. John Hardon, in The Modern Catholic Dictionary, says about hypostasis, “It is an individual complete substance existing entirely in itself and in communicable substance. The term used by the Church to identify the persons in the Trinity and the union of two natures in one divine person in Christ. A person is a hypostasis endowed with reason.” (??? 😐)
So what are we saying?
We are saying that HYPOSTASIS and NATURE are related to each other in such a manner that the hypostasis is the bearer of the nature and the ultimate subject of all being and acting while the nature is that through which the hypostasis exists and acts
That’s going to be the most helpful sentence
THAT WAS HELPFUL??? DO I EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH?? DO I UNDERSTAND ENGLISH ANYMORE???
Hypostasis and nature are related to each other in this manner: Hypostasis is the bearer of the nature and the ultimate subject of all being and acting
That’s the person right?
While the nature or the substance is that through which the hypostasis exists and acts
So the PERSON/HYPOSTASIS is Father
The ESSENCE through which the Father acts is the NATURE OF GOD the very BEING OF GOD
HYPOSTASIS is the Son (the PERSON is the Son) and the ESSENCE/SUBSTANCE through which the Son acts is the NATURE OF GOD
The ESSENCE or SUBSTANCE OF GOD
If that sounds CONFUSING that is ok!!
What did St. Pope Paul VI say?
This is used to signify an ineffable mystery, “infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand.”
I can’t even understand the WORDS YOU’RE SAYING much less the MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY
So let’s tell this story once again
St. Augustine, in the early centuries of the Church, is walking along the northern shores of Africa on the Mediterranean Sea
He is trying to ponder the mystery of the Trinity
He’s trying to figure out whether he’s using these terms HYPOSTASIS or PERSON or SUBSTANCE
He’s trying to figure out the Trinity and realizes he can’t do it
He’s MEDITATING and REFLECTING and PONDERING on this
As he’s walking along he happens along a young boy who is digging a hole in the sand in the beach
He has a shell or bucket of some sort
He’s running to the sea and filling up the bucket and runs up to the hole he dug and pours the water into the hole
He runs back to the sea and collects more water and then runs back to the hole to pour the water out
St. Augustine asks the little boy, “What are you doing?”
The little boy responds, “I’m trying to empty this sea into the hole I’ve dug.”
St. Augustine says, “Silly child! You couldn’t possibly fit that entire sea into this small hole that you’ve dug.”
That’s when the little boy stops and looks up at St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, and says, “Neither can you fit the infinite mystery of the Trinity into your finite mind.”
The story captures where we are at
We can only grasp SOME THINGS about God
That’s what these terms are trying to do
Paragraph 252 says, “The Church uses (I) the term ‘substance’ (rendered also at times by ‘essence’ or ‘nature’) to designate the divine being in its unity, (II) the term ‘person’ or ‘hypostasis’ to designate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them, and (III) the term ‘relation’ to designate the fact that their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others.”
The Father is Father BECAUSE OF THE SON
The Son is Son BECAUSE OF THE FATHER
The Holy Spirit is that BOND OF LOVE BETWEEN THE TWO OF THEM
If your head is spinning that is OK!!
This is DEEP THEOLOGY
We are only scratching the surface
Because our minds are limited
The mystery of the Trinity is the CENTRAL MYSTERY of our Faith
It is INEFFABLE AND UNPLUMMABLE
So we try to capture as much and plumb as much as we possibly can
“Lord, make up for what I lack.”
AND THEN WE MOVE ON!!
“Ok Lord, I trust in you. I know that you are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A Trinity of Persons. One God. Unity in being. And a Trinity in Persons. And I love you.”
WE ARE CALLED TO LOVE HIM!!
SO LET’S LOVE THE FATHER AND SON AND HOLY SPIRIT AS HE HAS REVEALED TO US!!
Fr. Mike is praying FOR YOU!!
Please pray for Fr. Mike and for each other!!
I cannot WAIT to see you tomorrow!! (After I go put some ice on my head to keep it from spinning and pounding in pain 🤣🤣🤣)
Scripture References & Reflections
- compiled by Andrew Adamany
Bible Translation - RSVCE
CCC 249 "From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church's living faith, principally by means of Baptism."...
"And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
"It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy:"
2 Corinthians 13:14
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all."