Eternal Mystery: God is a Trinity!

The Incarnation of the Word has revealed to men a mystery reserved for the fullness of time: the existence of Three Persons in the divine unity.

Newsroom (14/06/2022 13:00, Gaudium Press) This sublime reality transcends human criteria and is illuminated only by faith: the one essence of God is the Father, Who eternally generates the Son in perfect and full knowledge of Himself, and causes the Holy Spirit to proceed from the loving relationship between Them.

This divine knowing and loving are infinite, inseparable and most complete. Thus, each of the Three Persons is equal to the divine essence itself, and They in no way divide its perfect unity, distinguishing themselves only by their mutual relations.

Thus the Trinitarian life does not alter the crystalline divine simplicity and unity, but is identified with it. By the fact of begetting, only the First Person is entitled to be called Father; by the fact of being begotten, only the Second Person deserves to be called Son or Word; by the fact of proceeding from both, the Third Person is called Holy Spirit, closing this mysterious circuit, radiant with light and glory, which is the Trinity. No other difference distinguishes the Three who are One! And herein consists the full life of God.

The Father

The Father is the beginning of all deity, according to the expression of St. Augustine. Now that He is fully capable of knowing Himself, He would be “unhappy”, so to speak, if He did not make Himself completely explicit, for there is no perfect happiness when nature does not realize what is proper to it.

In knowing Himself, the Father expresses Himself completely in His eternal Word, which is so perfect an image of the Father (cf. Heb 1:3), that anyone would be wrong to affirm that They constitute two incommensurables, two uncreated and two omnipotent. On the contrary, the Two are one incommensurable, one uncreated and one omnipotent, as the ancient and poetic profession of faith attributed to St. Athanasius teaches us.

So, what differentiates the Father from the Son if They are equal in everything?

The Son

Only their opposite relations: the Father begets the Son, and the Son is begotten by the Father. In a word, what defines the Father is to generate: to be the Divine Person Who without interruption, from all eternity and for all eternity, is continually generating the Son, communicating the fullness of His own divine nature, exhausting Himself intellectually so that there is nothing left to give of Himself.

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This property of the Father, of being the One Who generates, indicates a perpetual communicating of Himself within the Trinity by the fact that He does not proceed from any other Divine Person but is the origin of the other two. Hence it can be said that the Father, in addition to being God’s infinite power to know Himself, is also God’s aspiration to be totally known, to communicate Himself.

As for the Son, St. Thomas defines Him as the “intellectual emanation” of the Father. Since, in God, being and understanding are identical with the divine essence, the Second Person is generated from the Father’s act of intelligence, which has for its own the titles of Son and Word.

For this reason, in the first public manifestation of the Trinity to men, during the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, as well as on the mount of the Transfiguration, the Father wished to manifest Himself by voice, indicating that there was His Word, His Word, in whom He had placed all His pleasure.

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the loving relationship which is immediately established between the Father and the Son. As the Father fully knows the Son and the Son fully knows the Father, and both are substantial Good, the Two love one another and from this pure, sublime and affectionate relationship proceeds the Holy Spirit, Who is Personal Love.

In His continuous Trinitarian process, called by theologians perichoresis, the Triune God enjoys the infinite summit of every imaginable beatitude. The Three Persons find Their delights in that eternal life which consists in being indissolubly united, looking at each other and loving each other! They lack nothing.

God is glorified in Their works

But since good is eminently diffusive and delights in communicating itself, the Trinity took the free decision to create the universe, which is made up of a countless number of disparate and complementary creatures, many of whom, like the Angels, escape human senses.

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God made everything with such greatness, proportion and harmony that, in conceiving each being, He endowed it with a reason for existence, a symbolism and a purpose. No being, however small, was created by chance. The supreme purpose of the whole of creation is to magnify its Creator, as the Psalm says: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (18:2).

The Creator wished to communicate His goodness and His wonder to the works of His hands. Among them, however, there is an established order. Some, as mentioned above, mirror Him in a distant way. These are the so-called divine vestiges, among which are included the irrational creatures: animals, vegetables and minerals.

Others, however, called to reflect Him in a more perfect way, participate in something of their own life through their capacity to know and love Him, as well as to welcome Him into their hearts as true holy temples.

These are the intelligent beings: Angels and men. Behold the sublime hierarchy of creation! At the pinnacle of the universe, as the monarchic point that gives it meaning and brilliance, stands Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word. He stands out as the most beautiful among the sons of men, the Alpha and the Omega, the ideal archetype who shines above the Angels, as St. Paul teaches us: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.

In Him were created all things in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible creatures. Thrones, dominions, principalities, powers: all things were created by Him and for Him. He exists before all things, and all things subsist in Him. He is the Head of the Body, the Church. He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, and therefore has first place in all things. For it pleased God to make all fullness dwell in him” (Col 1:15-19).

The bridge between the King of kings and other men

True God and true Man, Jesus Christ is the exemplary cause, efficient cause and final cause of the universe. As Word, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He created all things, including His exalted humanity, to manifest His infinite greatness; as Man, He became the model from which other creatures were made, in order to unfold in a thousand facets His immeasurable beauty.

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Though united to the divinity in the Son, in His humanity Christ reflects the perfection of the Three Persons. When the Apostle Philip begged Him to show them the Father, He replied, “I have been with you so long and you have not known Me, Philip! He who has seen Me has also seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

Our Lord’s humanity, therefore, mirrors in an unsurpassable degree the richest simplicity of God, the ineffable unity of the Three Persons, identical in everything except in the relationships that distinguish them.

Nevertheless, by hypostatic union in the Person of the Word, Jesus has only divine personality. And this most high and inscrutable mystery places Him, so to speak, infinitely above other men, although He is by all rights one of them. Such a distance should be filled by an intermediate degree.

Indeed, God rules all things with gentleness (cf. Wis 8:1) and has ordered created beings according to a nuanced gradation of perfections, which distinguishes them harmoniously and favors the communication of divine goodness from one to another.

Given the unfathomable grandeur of the Incarnate Word, King of kings and Lord of lords, it was fitting that a creature should serve as a bridge between His imposing superiority and the rest of men. In the divine mind such a creature is called, from all eternity, Mary Most Holy! Because She is the Mother of Jesus, She is so close to the mystery of the hypostatic union that She participates in it in a relative manner, although She has a human personality, not a divine one like her Son.

At the same time, however, She is a simple creature, albeit the holiest and purest. Our Lady, therefore, constitutes the second step in the scale of perfection of the rational order, placed above all men and, by virtue of the sublime grace that has inhabited Her since Her immaculate Conception, above all the cohorts of Angels.

Msgr João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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