iBELIEVE: TRUTH ON TRINITY
Ever since I was little, I have always been intrigued about science, linking everything to a cause and effect, things that can be seen and defined. While that is interesting, conversely, it made things like spirituality, religion, and God unappealing because it did not fit into the science mould as I knew it. Like so many intellectuals, I thought that Christian theology contradicted science.
In 2014, much to my reluctance, my mother registered me for a Parish Youth Retreat and thank goodness she did. Today I know that if it were not for her intervention, I would still be lost, surfing the night sky and trying to make sense of the beginning and end of a cosmos, something that still leaves me stumped. Through the talks delivered at the retreat, I discovered truths I had never known, and those which left a deep impact on an atheistic heart like mine.
One such amazing revelation was this brilliant statement in what I have now come to find as an absolute essential for every Catholic – The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
Paragraph 159 of the CCC says “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God.”
From this itself we see that the Church does not fight against science but holds a perpetual handshake with faith. But this does not prevent our ability for things of faith to go beyond our understanding. This is what the Church calls a ‘Mystery’.
The complexity of the “Mystery”
To an intellectual mind like mine, a question that wrecked me for the longest time was: How can there be one God but three at the same time? Moreover, all three were different, distinct, and yet shared the same nature? To defend Christianity as monotheistic against religions like Islam which are monotheistic or pantheistic Hinduism was very challenging especially on university campuses that houses multiplicity of faiths.
I thought, ‘How could someone so intelligent and so gifted not have an answer to this?‘ I was comforted though finding that I wasn’t the only one with these questions. Many saints too pondered over this mystery including one of my favorites, St. Augustine. It was amazing that someone who was of such great holiness also struggled with the understanding of this mystery. Like St. Augustine, I became consumed at this mystery and sought to find everything I could to understand it.
The Saint and the shore
One day St. Augustine was walking down a beach pondering on the thoughts of a Triune God when suddenly his attention was shifted to a small boy who had dug a hole and tried filling it with sea-water. The process repeated several times and with each attempt, the water disappeared in the sand. The Saint approached him and asked, “My boy, what are you doing?” the boy responded, “I am trying to bring all the sea into the hole”. St. Augustine had never heard anything more impracticable than this and told the boy that it was an “impossible” task. The boy looked at the Saint in his eyes and said, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.” The Saint was amazed by the response of the boy and turned away to ponder. As he turned back the boy had vanished.
This vision reminded St. Augustine just as it reminds us today that man is finite, and that God is infinite. That man is the creation, and that God is the creator. That man has a fixed lifespan, and that God is everlasting. To make sense of His Triune being is truly like emptying the ocean into that small sand-hole.
On the other hand, over the years, I also discovered that God had not left us abandoned and confused to simply believe something for the sake of it. His Word has provided sufficient answers to understand His Triune nature, if only we are receptive to learn, if only we are seeking it with all our heart.
The simple answer
I recall this one time when I was in the kitchen and my little niece approached me. She had learned something in school but found it difficult to communicate to me. “I’ve seen Jesus, but I have not seen God” she innocently stated. My intellectual self rose to the rescue and I began to expound, giving way to mysteries and manic at the same time. Pacing up and down, I illustrated the nature of God as I understood it and His Triune nature; how the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit were all the same persons. And yet, nothing seemed to make sense to her. At that instance, I noticed my sister remove a crate of eggs from the refrigerator in preparation for breakfast.
I quickly grabbed one egg and placed it in front of my niece with two bowls. Cracking the egg, I split the white from the yolk placing them each in separate bowls. Now holding up the eggshells I asked, “Is this an egg” and she responded “yes”. Then showing her the whites and the yolk, I repeated “Is this an egg.” “Yes” she promptly replied. “You see” I explained, ”Separately they are no more an egg than they are together. Same with Jesus and God.” “Uncle Joe,” she quickly retorted, “Why didn’t you just say that in the first place!”
Sometimes the most complex matters require the simplest responses – having ‘child-like’ faith just like Jesus has asked us for.
Coming to grips with scripture
In our first physical encounter at Baptism we are brought to this mystery of the Trinity when we are blessed “in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit” and we continue to affirm our faith every time we utter the words of the Nicene Creed.
But what are we affirming?
That God is one in three persons. Each person distinct yet made of one essence and nature. They relate in a way unlike the other. The Father who generates, the Son who is begotten and the Holy Spirit who proceeds, are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial, each containing all the aspects of the Godhead making them fully God.
In John chapter 1, John unfolds that creation is the work of the Father through the Word (who is the Son) (John 1:1). In John 14, Jesus announces the sending of “another Paraclete” (Helper) who is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and life” and yet we see Jesus revealing another divine Person who will also lead us into that Truth.
The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God—but there is only one God. That is the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. This is a “mystery”. Rather than attempting to fully define the Trinity with our finite human minds, we would be better served by focusing on the fact of God’s greatness and His infinitely higher nature, which is love, the reason we exist.
The Truth of the Trinity is more than a test of our faith. It is a model of our love. God who is perfect in love in His Godhead has loved us perfectly and sought us with His own life and blood on the Cross.
Nothing is more beautiful than knowing that a mysterious and magnificent God who is unfathomable makes Himself known in ways we can’t fully comprehend but One who can be found when we seek Him, yes when we seek Him with all our heart.
Here are a few additional scriptures that may help us understand further:
- There is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:5).
- The Trinity consists of three Persons (Genesis 1:1, 26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8, 48:16, 61:1; Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
- The Father is God (John 6:27; Romans 1:7; 1 Peter 1:2). The Son is God (John 1:1, 14; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 5:20). The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joseph Menezes is a full-time student and self-proclaimed loner, his only hide-outs being home, university and Church. He loves everything surrounding the saints, Mother Mary and the tech industry. His heart’s desire is to live a life fully devoted to Jesus and follow Him in every way possible. He currently resides in Edmonton, Canada. You can reach him on Instagram at @joseph.menezes