Every year, on the Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. The word itself seems to make no sense: Trinity, from tri-une, meaning three-in-one. What does this mean? All attempts to explain it seem only to make it more complicated. It is a point on which Christians are often challenged by non-believers; how can you believe in a God who is both three and one? Surely it is illogical? How do we answer this challenge?|
Firstly, we must stress that however much we do understand about God, he will always be beyond our comprehension. Even in heaven, with all eternity before us, we will never be able to fathom the depths of God. He is infinite. Otherwise, eternity would be unendurable. Never being able to comprehend God fully is a blessing, considered from the perspective of eternity. But in fact, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not difficult to understand. It depends upon our grasping two different aspects of God one by one.
First, we worship ONE GOD. So we confess every Sunday at Mass. Christianity does not worship a multiplicity of Gods. God is One, Simple, Indivisible. We share with Judaism the declaration, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord, your God, the Lord is One” and with Islam, “There is no God but God,” He is One, Absolute, Eternal, All-knowing, All-seeing. There can be absolutely no doubt or question about this at all.
Secondly, and here Christianity differs profoundly from both Judaism and Islam, we encounter and experience this one God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each of the three is for us a distinct person, not merely one person appearing in three different forms. Each of the three plays a different role in the story of our salvation, in the history of the Church. They speak of themselves as distinct: “He who has seen me has seen the Father…I will send you another Advocate…we will come to him and make our home with him” and so on. Nor do we see any one of them as superior to the others; all three are co-equal.
As long as we see either our faith in the One God, or our relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit independently, there is no problem. It is when we try to combine the two that the divine mathematics defeats us. We believe in One God; we encounter him as Father, Son and Spirit; let this be sufficient for us, for the rest is unfathomable mystery. We may understand it better in eternity; we can be sure we will never understand it now. But faith carries us beyond understanding, and though we may not understand, yet we can believe in Him, we can love this three-in-one God. In the words from Deuteronomy ”and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength.”
Rev’d. Fr. Colin Humes