Feast of the Holy Trinity

 

June 7 is the Feast of the Holy Trinity

From the beginning, [the Church] has expressed in this way what she regards as the truly definitive mark of our Christianity: faith in the triune God. . . [The Church's] proper orientation is not to our hopes, our fears, or our wishes, but to God, to his majesty and his power. . .We must, therefore, learn anew to take God as our starting point when we seek to understand the Christian existence. This existence is belief in his love and faith that he is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

The Dogma of the Trinity – the truth that there are three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, united in one God – is the central doctrine of the Christian Faith. In the words of the Athanasian Creed (c. 500 AD), “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” The three persons of the Trinity are all co-equal and co-eternal, uncreated and omnipotent.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that, as defined by the first Vatican Council, the meaning of the Trinity is a mystery in theology,“a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from Divine Revelation, but which, even when revealed, remains hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness... Our understanding of it remains only partial, even after we have accepted it as part of the Divine message. Through analogies and types we can form a representative concept expressive of what is revealed, but we cannot attain that fuller knowledge which supposes that the various elements of the concept are clearly grasped and their reciprocal compatibility manifest.”

Though the term “trinity” is not used in Scripture, the Doctrine of the Trinity is based in Scripture. The nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons, yet one God, is apparent throughout the New Testament. For example, when after His resurrection, Jesus instructs the disciples to “go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:18).” The phrase “in the name” (eis to onoma) affirms the Godhead of the three Persons and their unity of nature. Additionally, because there is only one God, any Scripture passages revealing the divine nature of Christ and of the Holy Spirit are an affirmation of the unity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The earliest writing using the term Trinity (trias) was in a document by Theophilus of Antioch, about 180 AD; afterwards it was used by Tertullian, and over the next century became a popularly used term. It appears frequently in the writings of Origen, and the first creed in which it was used was that of Gregory Thaumaturgus, a pupil of Origen:

There is therefore nothing created, nothing subject to another in the Trinity: nor is there anything that has been added as though it once had not existed, but had entered afterwards: therefore the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit: and this same Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever.”

 

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