June 14, 2017: Holy Trinity = Divine Mystery

Quick Summary

First let me correct the attendance last week. I was informed that there were twenty one present rather than the nineteen I reported. And this week, seventeen, including Bailey.

We enjoyed a presentation by group member Tom Gregory on the theology of the Holy Trinity. He shared some theologically sound Lutheran satire, St. Patrick trying to explain Trinitarian theology without stumbling into heresy and finally resorting to quoting an excerpt from the Athanasian Creed, a creed approved by The Catholic Church but not often used in the Liturgy. You can see the satire again here.

Tom quoted Proverbs 25:2 (It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to fathom a matter.) to introduce the idea that God is not fully knowable by us though we can know something of God through His divine revelation.

The search for understanding of God has been a consistent theme through the centuries. Plato theorized that existence of just one God didn’t work because that God would be unable to love. Therefore, it made sense to have all those Roman gods. Bishop Fulton Sheen explained that the Trinity, the one Triune God, is the answer to Plato’s concern.

Tom explained the eternality of the Triune God as the perfect expression of eternal divine LOVE (not love as we use the word today in popular culture.) and suggested 1st John as the explanation of that Divine Love. Here is a clip of 1 John 3:11-18. In sacred scripture, love has hands, feet, and truth.

1 John 3:11-18

John 3

G. K. Chesterton

Another reference Tom used was G. K. Chesterton on the Trinity with a mention of the Athanasian Creed (This is good.)


Back for a minute to the St. Patrick satire and the idea of heresies. Here is a handy list of eight Trinitarian heresies which includes the three mentioned in the satire, modalism, partialism, and Arianism.

“Heresy” is a scary word. Nobody wants to be guilty of HERESY. It is important that just being wrong does not make one a heretic. It is much more specific as explained in Paragraph 2089 of the Catechism.

In plain words, we have to have been baptized and be purposefully and intentionally in denial of some key tenant of the faith. As Father Linsky explained at Mass a few weeks ago, it is one thing to struggle with some teaching of the Church, seeking further understanding, and another thing entirely to reject and deny that teaching.

The Athanasian Creed

I don’t believe I have heard the Athanasian Creed used in Catholic Liturgy, but it is approved. It is mentioned twice in The Catholic Catechism, in Paragraphs 192 and 266.

If you really want to dig in, here is a document from the Vatican, “A New Response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Validity of Baptism,”  explaining why we baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as commanded in Matthew 28:19 rather using more politically correct substitutes such as “creator, redeemer, sanctifier, etc. Then the document says that to express the Trinitarian faith, “we can turn to the Athanasian Creed which is cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

At this link you can read some history and the full text of the Athanasian Creed. If we use it, Mass will be a couple of minutes longer, and everybody will be reading instead of reciting from memory. I’m copying the text below just for any who don’t want to click on links. It is valuable for reading and meditation. (Of course this creed was not composed in English so there are a number of English translations of it. This one seems a bit awkward to me.)

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Many thanks to Tom Gregory for the inspiring and thought-provoking presentation.

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