Friday, July 20, 2012

The Trinity

Trinity Sunday, also known as Holy Trinity Sunday, is celebrated a week after Pentecost Sunday in honor of the most fundamental of Christian beliefs—belief in the Holy Trinity.

As Fr. John Hardon points out in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, the origins of the celebration of Trinity Sunday goes all the way back to the Arian heresy of the fourth century, when Arius denied the divinity of Christ by denying that there are three Persons in one God. To stress the doctrine of the Trinity, the Fathers of the Church composed prayers and hymns that were recited on Sundays as part of the Divine Office, the official prayer of the Church.  For many centuries, the Athanasian Creed was recited at Mass on Trinity Sunday. While seldom read today, the creed can be read privately or recited with your family to revive this ancient tradition.

The Athanasian Creed  is traditionally ascribed to Saint Athanasius (296-373), from whom it takes its name.   Like other creeds, such as the Apostles' Creed, it is a profession of the Christian faith; but it is also a full-fledged theology lesson specifically formulated to solidify the truth of the Trinity.

Since we have the advantage of having our collection of inspired writings in a single book, a book Arius and Athanasius did not have, I thought it would be a good exercise to look in our Bible for proofs that the doctrine of the Trinity is indeed true.  Let’s find out if the Bible does indeed teach three distinct persons in one God.  The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God.  All three persons are distinct but all are one God.  First we can agree that the Father is indeed God, the Jewish people and us Christians have this in common.

Second, the first verses of the Gospel of John tell us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) and a few verses later, in the same context we find that the Word, which is God, “became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (verse 14)  An unmistakable reference to Jesus Christ. So we must conclude that Jesus Christ is God.

Third, is the Holy Spirit God as well? An extremely good verse that proves this to be true is found in the book of Acts.  A new convert to the faith named Ananias sells all his possessions and gives half of his proceeds to the Church but tells Peter that he gave everything he had.  Peter knew that Ananias lied to him and to God so Peter tells him “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit…You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)  We find that Peter tells Ananias that he lied to the Holy Spirit, he lied to God.  So we find that the Holy Spirit is indeed God.

Fourth,  now we can all agree that God is one but does He show Himself in these different forms as if wearing masks?  Not really because if He did then Jesus would be praying to himself in John 17:5  when He said: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Or if God was indeed only one person in one God then this one person would be wearing three different masks at the same time at the baptism of Jesus in John 1:31-32 where the Father speaks and the Holy Spirit descends as a dove while Jesus is standing in water.

Lastly, we have a passage of Scripture which also clearly identifies all three persons but one God at Jesus’ command to His Church to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt 28:19)  You’ll notice that the word ‘name’ is in a singular form and yet there are three names.  That’s because although there are three persons, we baptize in the name of One God, hence the singular.

Therefore, we have seen that Scripture does indeed show that although there is only one God, this one God is also three distinct persons. The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, all three are persons but there is only one God (Deut 6:4).

Prepared by a St-Denis parishioner

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