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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Reflection for Trinity Sunday

Reflection for Trinity Sunday

By Jim J. McCrea

Although the Trinity is a mystery, I would not say that it is true that there is no way we can know how three persons can exist in one God. The key is given by the early Church Fathers. According to them, the persons are distinguished by their relations of origin.

The only difference between the Father and the Son is that the Father begets and the Son is begotten. In all other respects they are the same. This is unlike human fatherhood in which there are a whole host of differences between father and son besides the fact that the father begets his son. God is absolute simplicity in that He has no composition of parts or attributes. In the Trinity, Father and Son have this absolute simplicity in distinction in simply that one is the Father and the other is the Son (they are not physical bodies related by space and position which would introduce complexity). Similarly, the only difference between the Holy Spirit and the Father and the Son is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and not the other way around.

As a result, the persons are distinguished not by what they are but by where they come from. What they are is one and the same, therefore, they are one God. But there is a real distinction in their relations which are the individual persons. When the Father begets the Son, He is not generating another thing or another being (or another substance), but is generating His own being in the relation of being begotten. Similarly, when the Holy Spirit proceeds it is not another being proceeding, but is the same being in the relation of proceeding. God is one being in three relations.

When I was younger, I strained to understand how three persons can exist in one God. My Father (unfamiliar with the explanation of the Church Fathers), said that only in heaven will we know how that is possible. I thought we were being asked to accept a contradiction. Many years ago I first read the explanation in St. Augustine's "The Trinity." It was a huge "Ah Ha" moment for me. It was Gregory of Nyssa who first came up with the explanation shortly before St. Augustine. From what I read, he received it in private revelation from the Blessed Virgin and St. John the Apostle. It seems as if the explanation is too simple and profound for man to come up with unaided.