[These notes are suitable for any of the three years as they do not make reference to the particular readings of the day. They are also more suitable as a talk than as a homily.]
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2 Corinthians 13:11-13
THE TRINITY is one of the most basic doctrines of our Christian faith. When we enter the Church we are baptised "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit".
It forms part of the very earliest teaching of the Church. It can be found in the letters of Paul, which were written before the gospels:
"There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same SPIRIT gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same LORD is served. There are different abilities to perform service but the same GOD gives ability to everyone for their service" (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all". This is a greeting often used at the beginning of the Eucharist but is in fact the closing words of Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:13).
"There is one body and one SPIRIT, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one LORD, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and FATHER of all, who is Lord of all, works through all and is in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).
In the early centuries of the Church there was much discussion about this mystery in order to come to a better understanding of the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit. There were many misunderstandings which were rejected and condemned.
In the course of these discussions, special terms came into use with quite technical meanings. There were words like "essence, substance, nature; person and hypostasis and relations". Of course, these did not provide a full explanation of the mystery but were rather aimed at avoiding wrong understandings.
So the theologians speak of:
Nature – there is only one God. Each of the Persons shares this one nature.
Person – there are three distinct Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Relations – the three Persons are distinguished by their mutual relationships. Father-Son; Son-Father; the mutual Love between the Father and Son is the Spirit. Love in God is a Person.
Some basic principles
In our understanding of the Trinity there are a number of principles to be recognised:
a. The Trinity is One
There are not three Gods but one God and three Persons.
Each Person is fully God; it is not a question of each having just one-third of the Godhead!
b. The divine Persons are really distinct from each other.
"God is one but not solitary."
The Persons are really distinct and not just modalities of one God
(like looking at a person from the front, back and side!).
They are distinct in their relations of origin but it is not a dependent relationship.
So the Father "begets" the Son and the mutual relationship between Father and Son is the Spirit.
c. The divine Persons are relative to one another
The distinction is only in the relationship: Father – Son; Father/Son – Spirit.
Three Persons because of three distinct relationships are still but one God.
Each one is totally in the other.
d. Trinitarian missions
God – Father, Son, Spirit – is Love.
God freely communicates his life. This is his plan for us.
"Before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his in Christ, so that we would be
holy and without fault before him.
Because of his love, God had already decided that through Jesus Christ
he would bring us to himself as his children – this was his pleasure and purpose…
God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan [mystery] he had already
decided to complete by means of Christ" (Ephesians 1:4-5,9).
"For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you a slave and cause you to be afraid;
instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children and by the Spirit’s power we cry to God, ‘Father,
Those whom God had already chosen he had also set apart
to become like his Son so that the Son would be the first among many brothers and sisters"
"He saved us and called us to be his own people, not because of what we have done,
but because of his own purpose and grace.
He gave us this grace by means of Christ Jesus before the beginning of time
but now it has been revealed to us through the coming of our Saviour, Christ Jesus.
He has ended the power of death and through the Good News has revealed immortal life"
(2 Tim 1:9-10).
All for one, one for all
God’s work is done by all three Persons. But each Person does so according to each one’s unique quality or property.
"One God and Father FROM whom all things are,
one Lord Jesus Christ THROUGH whom all things are,
one Holy Spirit IN whom all things are."
We incorporate this in the closing of the Eucharistic Prayer which is addressed to the Father –
“through him, with him, in him [i.e. the Son], in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and
honour is yours for ever and ever”.
We can speak of the three masks (prosopon, proswpon, persona) of God:
God as Source of all that is;
God as Creator and Saviour (through the Word all things were made, cf. John 1:3; Colossians 1:16);
God as indwelling in Church and in individuals (the Spirit as the "soul" of the Church).
In our Christian lives we need to communicate and be in touch with all three Persons:
Father of all our life and being
Son as Lord and Saviour
Spirit as Guide and Teacher.
Our one over-riding long-term goal in life is union with the Trinity. It is something which needs to begin NOW.
Those who love me will keep my word,
and my Father will love them,
and we [Father and Son] will come to them
and make our home with them [through the Spirit]
– John 14:23