Father Kyrillos Ibrahim
July 13, 2021
The word Trinity is a combination of two lexis, Three and Unity; God is one in Essence yet triple in person; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is eternally in God true unity, combined with genuinely personal differentiation: the term ‘essence’, ‘substance’, ‘being’, or ‘nature’ indicating the unity, and the term person indicates the differentiation. The Holy Father, The Holy Son, and The Holy Spirit are one in essence forming a single, unique, specific reality. There are no variety packages of non-essential characteristics but there is in this respect then an important difference between the sense in which the three divine persons are one, and the sense that three human persons may be termed one.
Humans, however closely co-operate, each retain their own will and their own energy. But in the case of the three persons of the Trinity, there is distinction but never separation. Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit, have only ONE will and not three, only ONE energy and not three. None of the three ever acts separately, apart from the other two. They are not three Gods, but one God.
Yet, although the three persons never act apart from each other, there is in God genuine diversity as well as specific unity. We believe that this threefold differentiation in God’s outward action reflects a threefold differentiation in His inner life. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not just “modes” or “moods” of the Divinity, not just masks God assumes for a time in His dealings with creation and then lays aside. They are on the contrary coequal and coeternal persons. We do not interpret God as ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ and affirm of the Son, “There was never a time when he was not.” and the same is said of the Holy Spirit.
Personal Attributes of the Divine Persons
The Father is the Fountainhead of the Holy Trinity. He is not an unapproachable, vague, religious substance far removed from earth in some distant, dark, recess of heaven. He is a person who is ever-present, who knows and loves, and who is to be known and loved. Lord Jesus Christ said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)
The other two persons are each defined in terms of their relationship to the Father: the Son is ‘begotten’ by the Father, the Spirit ‘proceeds’ from the Father. Both ‘begetting’ and ‘procession’ are from all eternity, outside of time. The dogma of the begetting of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father shows the mystical inner relations of the Persons in God and the life of God within Himself. We must never forget that one of our Lord Jesus Christ’s objectives was to bring people to His Father as well as Himself. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
The second Person of the Holy Trinity is the Son of God, His ‘Word’, or ‘Logos’. The concept or name “Word” has its foundation in the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint John.
Saint Dionysius of Alexandria explains, “Our thought utters from itself the word according to what the Prophet has said: ‘My heart hath poured forth a good word.’ (Psalm 45:1) Thought and word are separate one from the other, and each occupies its special and separate place: while thought remains and moves the heart, the word is on the tongue and the lips. However, they are inseparable, and not for one moment are they deprived of each other. Thought does not exist without word, nor word without thought, having received its existence in thought. Thought is, as it were, a word hidden within, and word is thought which has come without. Thought is transformed into word, and word transmits thought to the hearers. In this way, thought, with the help of the word, is instilled in the souls of the listeners, entering them together with the word. Thought, coming from itself, is as it were the father of the word: and the word is, as it were, the son of the thought. Before the thought the word was impossible, and the word does not come from anywhere outside, but rather from the thought itself. Thus also, the Father, the greatest and all-embracing Thought, has a Son, the Word, His first Interpreter and Herald.”
The Holy Spirit
The third Person is the Holy Spirit, the ‘wind’, or ‘breath’ of God. While understanding the inadequacy of neat classifications, we can say that the Spirit is God within us, the Son is God with us, and the Father God above or beyond us. Just as the Son shows us the Father, so it is the Spirit who shows us the Son, making Him present to us.
Lord Jesus Christ said, “But when the Helper (i.e. the Holy Spirit) comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds form the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). He also made it clear that the Holy Spirit can be known personally when He said concerning Him, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever–the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16, 17). Our loved prayer of the Orthodox Church offers to the Holy Spirit expresses our constant dependence upon this divine person for His work in our Lives, and it is a prayer all sincere Christians should know and use.
Saint Irenaeus speaks of the Son and the Spirit as the ‘two hands’ of God the Father; and in every creative and sanctifying act the Father is using both these hands at once:
- Creation. By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth (Psalm 33:6). God the Father creates through His Word or Logos (the second person) and through His Breath or Spirit (the third person). The ‘two hands’ of the Father work together in the shaping of the universe. Of the Logos it is said, all things were made through Him (John 1:3); of the Spirit it is said at the creation He brooded or moved upon the face of the deep (Genesis 1:2). All created things are marked by the seal of the Trinity.
- Incarnation. At the annunciation the Father sends the Holy Spirit upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, and she conceives of the eternal Son of God (Luke 1:35). So God’s taking of our humanity is a Trinitarian work.
- The Baptism of Christ. In the Orthodox tradition this is seen as a revelation of the Trinity. The Father’s voice from heaven bears witness to the Son, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; and at the same moment the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends from the Father and rests upon the Son (Matthew 3:16-17).
- The Transfiguration of Christ. This also is a Trinitarian happening. The same relationship prevails between the three persons as at the Baptism. The Father testifies from heaven, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him (Matthew 17:5), while as before the Spirit descends upon the Son, this time in the form of a cloud of light. (Luke 9:34)
- The Eucharistic Epiclesis. The same Triadic pattern as is evident at the Annunciation, the Baptism and the Transfiguration, is apparent likewise at the culminating moment of the Eucharist, the epiclesis or invocation of the Holy Spirit. In words addressed to the Father, the priest says in the Liturgy of Saint Basil: “And we ask You, O Lord, our God, we, Your sinful and unworthy servants. We worship You by the pleasure of Your goodness, that Your Holy Spirit descend upon us and upon these gifts set forth, and purify them, change them, and manifest them as a sanctification of Your saints. Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, given for the remission of sins and eternal life to those who shall partake of Him.” The Father sends down the Holy Spirit, to effect the Son’s presence in the consecrated gifts. Here, as always, the three persons of the Trinity are working together.
The Mystery of Holy Trinity is beyond Humans conception, but those fortune and righteous as Father Abraham has witnessed His presence. As written in the bible “Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.”They said, “Do as you have said.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate. Then they said to him,“Where is Sarah your wife?” So he said, “Here, in the tent.” And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Exodus 18:1-10). Holy Church commemorates this day on July 14, as annual celebration.
May God’s will be upon all of us; Amen!