Theme: The Blessed Trinity: Our Faith and Model
In the fourth century AD, the Church convoked a council at Nicea precisely in 325 to condemn the Arian heresy taught by Arius. This man taught that Christ was not fully God and is unequal with the Father in all respects. This Council proclaimed Christ equal with the Father by proclaiming the dogma of the Blessed Trinity; that there are three persons in one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are equal and of the same substance. The Council Fathers also composed hymns and prayers to be used specifically on the Sunday after Pentecost. At the request of St. Thomas a Becket, the Church in England was granted the permission to celebrate it as Trinity Sunday and in 1334 AD, Pope John XXII made it a universal solemnity. That is why we are celebrating it today.
The mystery of the Blessed Trinity is very important in the life of the Church because it is the source of her faith. The Church is in fact Trinitarian in her origin, form and destiny. In other words, the Church originated from the Trinity, is formed according to the image of the Trinity and is destined to return to the Trinity. Despite the importance of this mystery in the life of the Church which is God’s visible instrument of salvation, she is not in any way interested in unravelling this mystery but in explaining the relationship between the three Divine persons and the role they play in the history of our salvation.
Like other mysteries, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is a truth revealed by God but beyond human comprehension. We accept this truth not based on the principle of verification or demonstration but by faith in God who has revealed Himself to be one in three and three in one. That the mystery of the Triune God is beyond the scope of human understanding does not mean it is irrational. We shall one day come to understand exactly how this mystery is at the beatific vision. Then, our faith will give way to vision because we shall understand the deepest mysteries of God. Then it will no longer be a mystery because we shall see God as He really is. For this reason, the Church encourages us today to look forward to the beatific vision when we shall behold the Blessed Trinity and to imitate their love and cooperation now.
The word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible but it is emphasized throughout the Bible. In Genesis 1:26 God said “let us create man in our image after our likeness”. Some biblical experts argue that the pluralism used here suggests the involvement of other persons equal with God in the act of creation and these persons point to the Trinity. They argue that God was not speaking to the angels because they are not of the same nature with God and cannot create. So God was referring to other(s) who have the same essence, being and power of creation as Him, hence the Trinity. In Genesis 3:22 we also see the plurality of the Three persons in one God in “the man has become like one of us…, in Gen 11:7 “Let us go and confuse their language” and in Isaiah 6:8 “who shall I send, who will go for us”. It was Christ himself who first introduced the idea of the Trinity and we see the culmination of his teaching on the Trinity in his mandate to his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19. The theophany at the Baptism of Jesus and his numerous references to the Father and the Spirit are also pointers to the Blessed Trinity. These instances suggest the existence of more than one divine persons.
However, we cannot understand the description of the three persons in God except we reflect on the distinct roles they play in the history of human salvation. In the history of salvation, the Father is revealed first as the Creator of the universe. He was too awesome and fearful to behold by men. In other to be closer to man, the Son was revealed as the redeemer who redeemed mankind on the tree of the Cross. Before his Ascension into heaven, he promised us the Holy Spirit which was revealed as the Sanctifier who sanctified all redeemed by Christ. Thus, the Father is God for us, the Son is God with us and the Holy Spirit is God in us.
Though anthropomorphically, we can say that each person of the Blessed Trinity has an area of specialization, their mystery involves the participation of all in the acts of one. That is to say, there is an “interpenetration” of the three persons of the Trinity (pericherosis). For example in the creative work of the Father, the other persons are fully and actively involved. When the Son is principally celebrated, the other persons are also celebrated because we cannot talk about any in isolation of others since they are not only one and equal in all respects but also interwoven in being. In the Old Testament, we find the Father principally at work in creation. In the earliest part of the New Testament, we find Jesus at work in redemption. In the later part (from the Apostolic era till date), we find the Spirit at work in sanctification.
But how does this mystery challenge us in our Christian lives? First, we are challenged not only to learn the theology of the Blessed Trinity but also to practice it. The unity which binds them together is a virtue to imbibe. Unity as a virtue is fostered by cooperation and we can learn from the Holy Trinity to work for the unity of the Church and our society by cooperating with one another positively. This cooperation which will foster unity must be motivated by love. This Trinitarian relationship (perichoresis) consisting of unity, love and cooperation can be imitated when despite our differences we remain united in heart and mind, when despite the hurts we learn to forgive and love and when despite the nature of our tasks we learn to cooperate with each other.
The unicity and unity of the Blessed Trinity also challenge us to live as a community of persons baptized in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Our unity ought to be seen in the way we accept strangers in our midst and in the way we relate to people of other denominations and faith. There should be no form of segregation among us and we should learn to be united under one head even where there are circumstances threatening our unity. United under one head, we should also cooperate with each other especially our leaders through whom God forms us into His people. Church and State leaders are also challenged to see and relate with everybody as equal without discrimination due to colour, race, gender, history or social status. Therefore, today we are all invited to preserve among us the love with which the Father created us, the Son redeemed us and the Holy Spirit sanctified us. This love should be reflected in our unity and cooperation with each other as a foretaste of what we shall enjoy when we meet the Blessed Trinity at the beatific vision. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen. God loves you.
Uwakwe Chibuike MFC