The Holy Trinity

Sunday, 23 January 2011 11:08 pm
cjbanning: (Trinity)
[personal profile] cjbanning
God exists in community, in relationship, in conversation. (The technical account of how the Trinity works is, of course, found in the Athanasian Creed. The Episcopal catechism is, as it often is, less than useless on this point, more or less referring one to the Creed.)

For many Trinitarian Christians, including me, this mystery--and, yes, it is a mystery--is absolutely central to our understanding and experience of divinity. Try out this account of the Trinity by a fictionalized Jürgen Moltmann (but actually by Tony Jones): "Think of the Trinity as the dynamic, eternal dance of God. Doesn’t that jibe with your church’s desire to be a place of laughter and joy, a place where the body is honored, where worship is more than just words?"

C. Leonard Allan writes in Things Unseen that:
God is not a solitary, domineering individual who rules through arbitrary exercise of power but rather the perfect model of loving community—becoming vulnerable, entering into partnership, sharing the divine life, loving like a parent. [. . .]

In this view God is essentially dynamic, relational, and ecstatic (going outside oneself). God is the very paragon of love in relationship, of living in intimate community and submissive freedom—the God who loved Israel like Hosea loved Gomer and who so loved the world that [God] sent [God's] only [Child]. And God invites human beings, [God's] creatures, to share the rich life and fellowship of the divine community, and through partaking of that life to become like [God's Child]. [. . .]

The Trinity provides our pattern or exemplar for unity and fellowship. God leads a relational life as [Parent], [Child], and Spirit. That life is characterized by submissive love, as each member of the Trinity pours [their] life into the other. In God’s own self there is an abundant outpouring of life, so abundant that it overflows and creates community with God’s creatures—those outside the relationship within God.
God's relational character as Three in One models for us our way of being Church, enmeshed in loving relationship, and also the way that Scripture, Tradition, and Reason remain in conversation with each other as complementary sources of revelation.

The RCC catechism states:
The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in [Godself]. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the "hierarchy of the truths of faith". The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, [Parent], [Child] and Holy Spirit, reveals [Godself] to [human beings] "and reconciles and unites with [Godself] those who turn away from sin".

[. . .]

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 [Parent] is that which the [Child] is, the [Child] that which the [Parent] is, the [Parent] and the [Child] 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."

The divine persons are really distinct from one another. "God is one but not solitary." "[Parent]", "[Child]", "Holy Spirit" are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: "[They are] not the [Parent] who is the [Child], nor is the [Child they] who is the [Parent], nor is the Holy Spirit [they] who is the [Parent] or the [Child]." They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: "It is the [Parent] who generates, the [Child] who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds." The divine Unity is Triune.

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: "In the relational names of the persons the [Parent] is related to the [Child] , the [Child]  to the [Parent], and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance." Indeed "everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship." "Because of that unity the [Parent] is wholly in the [Child]  and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the [Child]  is wholly in the [Parent] and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the [Parent] and wholly in the [Child] ."
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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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