Trinity - An Introduction

In an earlier section, we introduced the idea of God and attempted to make a few useful points while being acutely aware that there are limitations on what we can do within the short amount of space available to us.

You might think that the topic of ‘God’ would be reasonably straightforward. Certainly, the way God is discussed today would give the impression that it is. It can get a little more challenging once we acknowledge that our understanding of God is at best limited. Our words cannot capture the reality.

The first thing that Catholics should be aware of is that we do not believe in God in the way that others might. That is to say, while we agree that the term ‘God’ has meaning, we more accurately describe our belief in God as belief in the Trinity.

We believe that God has self-revealed as three Persons: One God. While Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the traditional words we use to describe the Persons of the Trinity, being our merely human words, even they do not adequately express the reality that is God. We will spend eternity coming to understand the mystery that is God.

Over the centuries there have been various attempts to express the Trinity, seeking for ways to describe how something can be one thing and three things at the same time. All of those symbols (e.g. the shamrock) offer some insight but invariably fall short. Perhaps a more helpful approach might be to think of two or more musical notes being played together to form a dyad or a chord. Each note is distinct, but together they form one sound.

Of course, even this insight falls short of the reality that is the Trinity. All it seeks to do is to highlight the thought that it is not as nonsensical as some might imagine to say that something can be one thing and several things at the same time.

There is something reassuring about an awareness of God that defies easy explanation. Occasionally people of faith are accused of ‘making up God’ as a way of getting around life’s difficulties. We are told that God was invented as an answer to questions that science will one day resolve. Or that God exists in our imagination to help give us a sense of control in those situations over which we have no control – suffering, loss and death.

The Christian Trinity flies in the face of this. If human beings were to invent a ‘god’ they would design one that makes sense to them. They would manufacture one that does as he’s told, behaves predictably, and could be comprehended by other human beings. They would not come up with ‘Trinity’.

As a final thought: the account of Jesus’ baptism speaks to us of the Trinity (Mark chapter 1). The Spirit descends upon the Son in whom the Father is well pleased. The Father is gazing at the Son. Elsewhere in the gospel accounts, we see the significance of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. Like Peter, we are in danger of drowning if we do not contemplate the face of Christ (Matthew 14: 24 and following). That the Father does the same thing… that he models for us how we are to be should not be ignored. Our joy and hope are in Jesus.

Original text by Shane Dwyer
Photo of clouds by Rodrigo Rodriguez on Unsplash

Fr Anthony Mellor, 30 October 2019

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, 30 October 2019

30 October 2019

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