The Father: Trinitarian Context
- The Trinity is central to the faith. [Mt 28:19]
- Christians are baptized in the name of the Trinity.
- The Trinity is a mystery and a fundamental teaching. Salvation history is identical to God’s revelation of himself.
- This mystery has been revealed by God, is a doctrine of the faith, and fulfills God’s plan (creation, redemption, and sanctification).
- The life of the Trinity (theology, theologia) illuminates yet is simultaneously revealed by his works (economy, oikonomia).
- Creation and the Old Testament bear traces of the Trinity.
- God is “Father” because he is the Creator [Dt 32:6; Mal 2:10], the Lawgiver [Ex 4:22], and the protector of the poor [2 Sam 7:14].
- Like human parents, God is both authority and love [Is 66:13; Ps 131:2], yet transcends human capabilities [Ps 27:10; Eph 3:14; Is 49:15].
- God is also Father in his unique relationship to his Son. [Mt 11:27]
- Thus, Jesus is the coeternal Word of God. [Jn 1:1; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3]
- Jesus is also consubstantial (homoousios, consubstantialis).
- The Holy Spirit was present at creation [Gn 1:2], revealed both the Father and the Son through the prophets, and was sent by both as an advocate (paraclete) and guide to the Apostles [Jn 14:17,26; Jn 16:13].
- Coeternal and omnipresent, the Holy Spirit completes the revelation of the Trinity. [Jn 14:26; Jn 15:26; Jn 16:14; Jn 7:39]
- The Holy Spirit is equal with Father and Son, sharing their nature and substance.
- The Holy Spirit does not come (or is not sent by) the Father alone.
- The ‘filioque’ clause in the Nicene Creed was confessed by Leo I (AD447) and the Council of Chalcedon (AD451), and admitted to the Latin liturgy over several centuries.
- Eastern Christianity confesses the coming of the Spirit independently from the consubstantial communion of Father and Son, though this does not conflict with a belief in the Trinitarian mystery.
- The Church has always expressed faith in the Trinity through the use of the Trinitarian formula. [2 Cor 13:14; 1 cor 12:4-6; Eph 4:4-6]
- Early Councils, Church Fathers, and common faith defended and clarified the Trinity.
- The Church had to develop terminology to articulate this dogma.
- “Substance” (or esence or nature) designates unity in being, whereas “person” (or hypostasis) distinguishes between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit based on their relationships with one another.
- The Trinity is consubstantial. Each person is wholly God.
- The persons are not simple modalities of one deity.
- Distinctions between the persons are based only on their relationships with one another.
- St. Gregory of Nazianzus (“the Theologian”; late 4th c.; quoted here) contributed greatly to the development of Trinitarian theology.
- Each person of the Trinity has a mission in God’s plan of love. [Eph 1:4-5,9; Rom 8:15,29; 2 Tim 1:9-10]
- The divine economy is the common work of the persons, for all things are from God, through the Son and in the Spirit.
- Christian life is a communion with all three persons. [Jn 6:44; Rom 8:14]
- Though we are called to be a dwelling for the Trinity [Jn 14:23], the unity of creation with the Trinity [Jn 17:21-23] is the ultimate end. [Prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity]
* IN BRIEF sections are materially the same as the preceding paragraphs and are generally omitted from these notes.