March 5, 2013

The Revelation of God as Trinity

Catechism Paragraphs 232 – 278

Last week we looked at the opening of the Creed: “I believe in God.”  This week we look at the catechism’s explanation of the subsequent words the substance of God:  The Trinity.
“Christians are baptized ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ (Mt 28:19) 232   The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.  It is the mystery of God in himself..  It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith.  234   The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the ‘mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God.’  To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament.”  237  

“The Father revealed by the Son  By calling God ‘Father,’ the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children.  God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood.  We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes.  He is neither man nor woman: he is God.  He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard:  no one is father as God is father.  239   Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only Son who, reciprocally, is Son only in the relation to the Father: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  (Mt 11:27) 240   Following this apostolic tradition, the Church confessed at the first ecumenical council at Nicaea (325) that the Son is ‘consubstantial’ with the Father, that is, one only God with him.  The Nicene Creed confessed ‘the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.” 242

“The Father and the Son revealed by the Spirit  Before his Passover, Jesus announced the sending of ‘another Paraclete’ (Advocate), the Holy Spirit.  At work since creation, having previously spoken ‘all the truth.’ (Jn 14:17, 26; 16:13) The Holy Spirit is thus revealed as another divine person with Jesus and the Father.  343   ‘We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.’  By this confession, the Church recognizes the Father as the source and origin of the whole divinity.  But the eternal origin of the Spirit is not unconnected with the Son’s origin: ‘The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God, one and equal with the Father and the Son, of the same substance and also of the same nature.  The Creed of the Church confesses: ‘With the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified.’” 245  

“The formation of the Trinitarian dogma  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.  249   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: ‘substance,’ ‘person’ or ‘hypostasis,’ ‘relation,’ and so on.  In doing this, she did not submit the faith to human wisdom, but gave a new and unprecedented meaning to these terms, which from then on would be used to signify an ineffable mystery, infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand.  251   The Church uses (1) the term substance (rendered also at times by essence or nature) to designate the divine being in its unity, (2) the term person or hypostasis to designate the Father , Son, and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them, and (3) the term relation to designate the fact that their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others.  252   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.  253   The divine persons are really distinct from one another.  God is one but not solitary.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another.  254   The divine persons are relative to one another.  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.”  255

“For as the Trinity has only one and the same nature, so too does it have only one and the same operation: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle.  However each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property.  Thus the Church confesses: ‘one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are.’ 258   The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.  ‘If a man loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.’ (Jn 14:23) 260   By the grace of Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we are called to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here on earth in the obscurity of faith, and after death in eternal light.”  265

“The Father Almighty   Of all the divine attributes, only God’s omnipotence is named in the Creed: to confess this power has great bearing on our lives.  God’s power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious for only faith can discern it when it ‘is made perfect in weakness. (Jn 1:3) 268   God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us (I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty) (2Cor 6:18): finally by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.  271   Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power.  This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power.  The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that ‘nothing will be impossible with God.’ 273   Anyone who calls on God in need believes that he is all-powerful.  God created the world out of nothing.  He is the Lord of history.  He guides all things and can do everything.  How he uses his omnipotence is of course a mystery.  Through the prophet Isaiah he tells us, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.’ (Is 55:8)  YOUCAT Q40   

Next week we move on to talk about God as Creator of heaven and earth.

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