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Saint Athanasius on the Trinity

 

We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energising reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved. Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things. God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.

Writing to the Corinthians about spiritual matters, Paul traces all reality back to one God, the Father, saying: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.

Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.

This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we possess the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

3 Comments

  1. On Trinity Sunday, every homilist should proclaim and discuss this creed. But I fear that most fear that his audience, supposedly the might highly educated in our history, has been so poorly catechized that it would right over their heads.There is a story by Aldous Huxley about a Spanish fisherboy whom he met walking on a beach. He was stuck by the boy’s intelligence. One day they fell into conversation about religion. The boy’s instruction extended only two his catechism but he showed an extraordinary mastery of it. But with that he was able to meet Huxley almost as a peer. Today one can have a master’s degree in theology and be lacking such depth. For so many learned Catholics begin with Descartes’ methodical doubt. Pascal begins his Pensees from a totally different perspective, from the depth faith of Athanasius. I can imagine The boy and the bishop at table sitting at table in Chesterton’s IN at the End of Time, and sharing a common beverage, having seen clearly what they had already discerned on earth. Our Father in heaven.

  2. I think every homily I’ve ever heard on Trinity Sunday tackles the subject. With varying degrees of insight, of course, but I’ve rarely heard a dangerous slip-up (the kind that a Council would condemn). The biggest weakness is that many priests try to make it relevant to one’s daily life – and of course it is relevant, but not in a surface way.

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