The Trinity

The revelation of God as Trinity - One Divinity in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - is a mystery at the heart of all of God's mysteries. The Trinity is a revealed truth which cannot be explained thoroughly by any human construct, be it science, philosophy or theology. Accepting the mystery of God as Trinity by faith, we are able to make some inroads into the mystery, with guidance from Scripture in light of the Spirit and the teachings of the Church.

At Baptism, each of us is freed from the stain of original sin in the name of the Trinity. Jesus' last instruction to his Apostles was: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28.19) The account of the baptism of Jesus testifies to the dynamics of the Trinity: "After Jesus was baptized, He came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3.16-17)

The Three Persons of the Trinity are of one divine nature; they are not three deities, but Three Persons in One Triune Being. Through Isaiah, God revealed: "I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God besides Me." (Isaiah 45.5) The offices of the Three Persons of the Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), are expressed in Church teaching as Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification. Their offices spring from One Triune Nature which is the fullness of love, truth, and grace.

The prophet Isaiah reveals God the Father as Creator: "Thus says the Lord: 'The heavens are My throne, the earth is My footstool. What kind of house can you build for Me; what is to be My resting place? My hand made all these things when all of them came to be, says the Lord. This is the one whom I approve: the lowly and afflicted [person] who trembles at My word.'" (Isaiah 66.1-3) In this passage, the Creator reveals His will to dwell in the soul of the humble heart of the person who worships the Son - the Word made Flesh. Humility of heart consists of seeing ourselves in the light of truth: lowly mortal creatures before the majesty of the Immortal One. By the love of the Father, we were created, and in humility, we are able to love Him as His adopted children.

The Word of God has existed with the Father, as one in nature and substance, from all eternity: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1.1) In the fullness of time, the Redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ, was revealed: "And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." (John 1.14) It is only through the Son that we are able to approach God, and the Son has been entrusted with authority over all by the Father: "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him." (Matthew 11.27) By His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection, Jesus has redeemed us from our sin in His merciful love.: "For in Him, all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through Him to reconcile all things for Him, making peace by the blood of his cros
s." (Colossians 1.19-20) In the sacrifice of the Son, we are redeemed.

The Holy Spirit has also existed from all eternity, sharing in one nature and substance, together with the Father and the Son. In the book of Genesis, we read: "The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1.2 RSV) The Holy Spirit is symbolized by a dove, as seen in the Baptism of Jesus: "the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon Him." (Matthew 3.16) Following the resurrection, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into the world: "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, He will testify to Me." (John 15.26) and "He will guide you to all truth." (John 16.13) By the action of the Holy Spirit, we are sanctified in the light of truth.

The mystery of God's presence within us has been characterized as the 'Indwelling of the Trinity'. Jesus gave this promise of the Indwelling: "Whoever loves Me will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him." (John 14.23) The Indwelling of the Trinity is regarded as the highest form of spiritual perfection possible on earth: "God is love… If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us." (1 John 4.8,12)

Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD, penned this prayer to the Trinity: "O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling, and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action." (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 260)

Holy Spirit, our life and guide,
Lead us in the way of the Son;
In love and truth, may we abide
With the Father, dwelling as one. Amen.


New American Bible - Catholic Edition

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 232-267

Pope Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity,
© 2004 Ignatius Press, San Francisco, p. 162 - 190

prepared by:

Paul Buis

(c) Paul Buis, 2006