Day 36: The Nature of the Trinity (253-256)
Dense paragraphs again!
We are talking about The Dogma of the Holy Trinity
THIS IS AWESOME!!
Yesterday we started a subsection called The Holy Trinity in the Teaching of the Faith
We talked about The Formation of the Trinitarian Dogma
It is revealed to us in Scripture
God is Father
God is Son
God is the Holy Spirit
It then gets articulated to us in a way that we are trying to understand
How is it that God is ONE, a UNITY?
But also How is it that God is TRIUNE, a TRINITY?
The Church used certain philosophical terms
Now we are going to use those terms today as we dive into the dogma of the Holy Trinity
There are three key points to pay attention to in Paragraphs 253-255
Paragraph 256 is an extended quote by St. Gregory of Nazianzus
The first point is THE TRINITY IS ONE in Paragraph 255
We will talk about the UNITY of the TRINITY
God is STILL ONE in SUBSTANCE and ESSENCE
Second point is that the Divine Persons are REALLY DISTINCT FROM ONE ANOTHER in Paragraph 256
Here is a heresy that popped up…”If God is ONE, then maybe the God of the Old Testament expressed Himself as Father and then in the New Testament the same God, same person even, kind of expressed Himself as Son. And then in the Age of the Church He expresses Himself as the Holy Spirit like as if these are modalities or MASKS that God puts on.”
Sometimes, the analogies that we use to try and EXPLAIN the Trinity FALL VERY VERY SHORT
We have to recognize that the three Divine Persons are REALLY DISTINCT FROM ONE ANOTHER
It’s not the same God with three different masks
Or three different modes of being
This is ONE GOD with THREE DISTINCT PERSONS
IT IS PRETTY REMARKABLE!!
But also it is a distinction that NEEDS TO BE MADE
You might think, “It’s all the same!”
Well, it’s not really all the same
So we’ll try and keep it simple (BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA 🤣🤣🤣🤣)
The final point is that the Divine Persons are RELATIVE TO ONE ANOTHER in Paragraph 255
So keep these three points in mind
The Trinity is One
Yup, we got that
Second point…The Divine Persons are REALLY DISTINCT FROM ONE ANOTHER
The Father is NOT the Son
The Son is NOT the Father
The Holy Spirit is NEITHER OF THEM
At the same time, the Divine Persons are RELATIVE TO ONE ANOTHER
Paragraph 255 says, “Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another…”
Why is the Father the Father?
Because He is RELATIVE to the Son
Why is the Son the Son?
Because He is RELATIVE to the Father
Hopefully it makes sense!!
We are trying to establish, as DEEPLY as we possibly can, WHO IS GOD?
WHAT IS GOD?
GOD IS ONE, A UNITY
GOD IS A TRINITY OF PERSONS
He is RELATIVE IN HIMSELF
Remember those terms we used before
God IN HIMSELF IS TRINITY
God IN HIMSELF IS UNITY
Hopefully this makes sense as we continue to dive deeply
Paragraph 256 is a beautiful explanation by St. Gregory of Nazianzus who says basically, “I know that this can be very confusing. I know that it’s hard to hold all these things in your mind at once. And yet, we get to be CAPTURED and CAPTIVATED by this God. We get to be CAPTURED and CAPTIVATED by the very LOVE of God. The God who IS love. That is the depths of whom we are plunging into today…”(Hold on is St. Gregory still speaking? This sounds way more like how Fr. Mike speaks 🤔🤔)
Let's say a prayer before we get started
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in heaven, we praise you and glorify you. We know that you revealed yourself through the Son, you continue to reveal yourself and come to us in the power of the Holy Spirit. You are one God and three Divine Persons. And we just ask that you, please, not only help us to see your work in this world and experience your grace in this world, but also help us to understand who you are in yourself. Not just in your works, but who you are in yourself. And let this time that we listen to these four paragraphs in the Catechism, let them just open our minds and open our hearts. That since we know you better, we can love you better. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen”
Remember those three points
The Trinity is One
The Divine Persons are really distinct from one another
The Divine Persons are relative to one another
So let’s go back over this
Once again, THE TRINITY IS ONE
You might think this is redundant to keep going back to God’s ESSENCE, SUBSTANCE, and NATURE
God is ONE DIVINE BEING
It could be annoying you to go back and say, “I know. I got it. Move on.”
We have to establish this and NEVER EVER FORGET
That when we talk about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we are NOT TALKING ABOUT THREE GODS
THIS IS ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY AGAINST WHAT GOD HAS REVEALED
Ultimately, that is a HERESY
GOD IS ONE
THE TRINITY IS ONE
The next part is SO IMPORTANT FOR US
The Divine Persons are REALLY DISTINCT from one another
There are heresies that have come up
The first few sentences of Paragraph 255 makes the statement we just said
“The divine persons are relative to one another.”
Fides Damasi in Paragraph 254 says, “God is one but not solitary.”
Completely makes sense!!
“‘Father,’ ‘Son,’ ‘Holy Spirit’ are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being…”
When we say MODALITIES what it means is MODES OF BEING
Here is ONE GOD and He sometimes reveals Himself as Father
Sometimes reveals Himself as Son
Sometimes reveals Himself as Holy Spirit
The Father is NOT the Son
The Son is NOT the Father
The Father is NOT the Holy Spirit
The Son is NOT the Holy Spirit
RECOGNIZING THAT TRUTH IS SO VERY VERY IMPORTANT FOR ALL OF US!!
Because if they were simply modalities in the way the ONE GOD expressed Himself then He would still be MONOLITHIC
He would NEVER be a TRINITY OF PERSONS
The very deepest identity of God WOULD NOT BE LOVE
Because it would simply be ONE MONOLITHIC GOD expressing Himself in THREE DIFFERENT MODES
We know that God TRULY has revealed that HE IS LOVE
That the DEPTH of His identity is that HE IS LOVE
That is ONLY POSSIBLE if God is THREE DISTINCT PERSONS and yet ONE DIVINE BEING
So it’s NOT THREE DIFFERENT WAYS of expressing His EXISTENCE
Or expressing His ACTION IN THE WORLD
THREE DISTINCT PERSONS
Lateran Council IV (1215 AD) says in Paragraph 254, “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.”
THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT!!
Sometimes that we may think the Father is #1, the Son is #2, and the Holy Spirit is #3 in order of importance
If you want to RANK the persons of the Trinity then the Father is SUPERIOR
The Son is LESS
The Holy Spirit is EVEN LESS
THIS IS WHY WE NEED TO HOLD OUR HORSES IF WE START TO THINK THAT!! (For our international brothers and sisters, the phrase “hold your horses” is an american idiom which means “wait a moment” 😁)
St. Gregory of Nazianzus says in Paragraph 256, “Divinity without disparity of substance or nature, without superior degree that raises up or inferior degree that casts down…the infinite co-naturality of three infinites.”
THAT IS SO IMPORTANT!!
Paragraph 256 continues, “Each person considered in himself is entirely God…”
SO the Father is NOT MORE GOD than the Son or the Holy Spirit
Even though the Father is the one who GENERATES
The Son is the one who is BEGOTTEN
The Holy Spirit is the one who PROCEEDS
It’s not even in order of IMPORTANCE
It’s not even in order of TIME
BECAUSE THIS IS FROM ALL ETERNITY!!
FROM ALL ETERNITY GOD HAS EXISTED FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT!!
It wasn’t that at one point the Father existed AND THEN HE GENERATED THE SON
And then the Holy Spirit proceeded AFTER THAT
That is not one of the things we recognize
From all Eternity, God has always been and will always be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
If that is a mind-bender for you, that’s ok!!
Remember St. Augustine from yesterday with the little boy trying to empty the entire sea into a hole in the sand
THAT IS VERY VERY IMPORTANT!!
Onto the third point
First point is THE TRINITY IS ONE
Second point is THE DIVINE PERSONS ARE DISTINCT FROM ONE ANOTHER
Third point is THE DIVINE PERSONS ARE RELATIVE TO ONE ANOTHER
This might have been a confusing quote from the Council of Florence
It uses the term “wholly” which means fully
It also uses the term “holy” for HOLY SPIRIT
So let Fr. Mike paraphrase (hopefully without squirreling 🤣)
The Council of Florence (1442 AD) says in Paragraph 255, “Because of that unity the Father is wholly (entirely) in the Son and wholly (entirely) in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly (entirely) in the Father and wholly (entirely) in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly (entirely) in the Father and wholly (entirely) in the Son.”
You might have missed it because wholly wholly wholly wholly
So listen to it now…
“The Father is ENTIRELY in the Son and ENTIRELY in the Holy Spirit.”
“The Son is ENTIRELY in the Father and ENTIRELY in the Holy Spirit.”
“The Holy Spirit is ENTIRELY in the Father and ENTIRELY in the Son.”
This is an INCREDIBLE INCREDIBLY MYSTERY
Without this intermixture
Without the Son also being the Father…NO NO THEY ARE RELATED TO EACH OTHER!!
Without the Holy Spirit also being the Son…NO NO THEY ARE DISTINCT FROM EACH OTHER!!
WHOLLY (ENTIRELY) IN EACH OTHER AS WELL!!
A GREAT MYSTERY!!
It is this MYSTERY that St. Gregory of Nazianzus highlights, “Each person considered in himself is entirely God…the three considered together…I have not even begun to think of unity when the Trinity bathes me in its splendor. I have not even begun to think of the Trinity when unity grasps me…”
That is where we land today
We cannot COMPREHEND…
We cannot APPREHEND…
We cannot GRASP ONTO THE TRINITY
THE TRINITY DOES GRASP US!!
We cannot even BEGIN to plunge the depths of the MYSTERY of WHO GOD IS IN HIMSELF
God comes to US
God enters into OUR WORLD
God enters into OUR LIVES
God enters into OUR REALITY
Here we are today saying, “God, please reveal yourself to me even more and all that is not revealed to me let that take possession of me, take hold of me, grasp onto me and never let go.”
YES IT IS A CHALLENGE!!
Fr. Mike is praying FOR YOU!!
Please pray for Fr. Mike and for each other!!
I cannot WAIT to see you tomorrow!!
Scripture References & Reflections
- compiled by Andrew Adamany
Bible Translation - RSVCE
CCC 253 "The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the "consubstantial Trinity". The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: "The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God." In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), "Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature."
1 Timothy 2:5–6
"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time."
"And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’"
"And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
"Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
CCC 254 "The divine persons are really distinct from one another. "God is one but not solitary." "Father", "Son", "Holy Spirit" are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: "He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son." They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: "It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds." The divine Unity is Triune."
"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”