Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 2:
Though no human mind can fully comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity, yet the concept is not unintelligible. It certainly conveys a definite meaning to Christians. In revealing Himself to us God had to employ terms on our own level which could not but be inadequate to express His infinite perfection. But the terms used are not nevertheless without meaning. We know what a nature is, and we know what a person is. It may be, and in fact must be, that the Divine Nature, and the real character of Personality in God will be mysterious to us. But that does not mean that our ideas are wrong, or that they have nothing in them. It only means that if our ideas are right as far as they go, they do not go far enough to completely exhaust the reality.
I can but assure you that the matter is of supreme importance. For if the doctrine of the Trinity be false, that would be the end of the Christian religion.The very essence of the Christian religion is that the Eternal Son of God became man for our salvation. If there is no Trinity of Persons in God, there would be no Eternal Son to become man at all, and the whole of Christianity would be built on a mere flight of fancy. If I believed the doctrine of the Trinity to be false, or in the least uncertain, I would abandon Christianity altogether. That would be the only logical thing to do. So from the Christian point of view you can see that it is no question of hair-splitting, but a matter of supreme importance.
The doctrine of the Trinity lifts the notion of God, and carries it beyond the most powerful created intelligence, as befits the dignity and majesty of God. By it, God takes life instead of being the great unknown X of the universe. One, He is not solitary. And the multiplicity of the universe is but the shadow of the diversity of God in Himself according to the Trinity of relationships. How conceive of God save as knowing and loving? And how conceive of thought and love in God save as God Himself, yet distinct as operations? How conceive of God as happy without society and reciprocal activity, before the universe; and after its creation, since the universe adds nothing to God Himself? The Trinity gives us a living rather than an abstract God, individualizing Thought and Love in Him, giving interior multiplicity with His eternal unity. If my thought became myself intimately and adequately, and my happiness in myself were essentially identified with myself, I would be a trinity whilst remaining myself. But what is not possible with me is a fact with God; and His living unity is the Trinity.
The philosophy of Plato has contributed towards explanations of the subject, as it has contributed much towards many other departments of human thought. But the dogma of the Trinity in no way came from Plato, or from any other merely human source. The Trinity of Persons in God was taught as a fact by Christ to explain His own Person and work. He gave the dogma, and the dogma gave rise to philosophical explanations of it. Nor does the doctrine merely give ways of thinking of God. Aspects of our own thinking would not be Divine Persons. The dogma tells us of God's own intimate life within the Divine Nature.
They are not merely three different titles of the one Being as if they were names only and in no sense realities. They are three relative personal aspects of one absolute and substantial Being. One and the same Absolute Being can have relative aspects distinct from one another. In God, of course, we meet with what should not be an unexpected mystery. The three relative aspects of the one Divine Nature are Personal. Our experience of finite and created man is of one nature and one person. But our knowledge of finite and created man cannot give us an adequate knowledge of the Infinite Creator unless we are prepared to work on a very crude and anthropomorphic basis. The fact that in the one Absolute God there are three relative Personalities, distinct in virtue of their relationship to each other, yet identically possessing the Divine Nature, is known to us by revelation alone. And we know the fact without being able to comprehend it fully, not because of any defect in God, but because of the defect in our finite selves.
That doctrine was first promulgated by Christ Himself, as recorded in the Gospels. Thus Christ said, "I and the Father are one." The doctrine was also clearly taught by St. Paul. Against various heretics in the early Church again and again the Bishops re-declared the truth both implicitly and explicitly. The General Councils of Nicea, and of Ephesus, as well as other Councils, excluded all ambiguity as to what Christ had revealed by their specific definitions and formulas.
No. Nor is there any need to do so.
There is no question of supposition. The doctrine is clearly given by Christ in His words, "Baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Matt. XXVIII., 19.
The one name of the Three Persons was certainly meant to indicate the unity of God despite triple Personality.
Our exegesis involves no violation of grammar. And all danger of distortion is removed by the use of the usual safeguards of exegesis; namely, the analogy of faith, the interpretations of the Fathers, and the constant tradition of the Catholic Church. No argument based on grammatical form arises where the baptismal formula is concerned; nor can any such considerations rob the words of their trinitarian value.
The Word of God was personal. My hand is not a person. The Word was with God, because the Second Person of the Trinity is distinct by personality from the Father and the Holy Ghost; yet the Word was God because possessing the same Divine Nature with them. To suggest that the Word of God is no more personal than my hand is quite opposed to the truth. St. John, who declares that the Word was with God, and was God, says also that the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us; that in "Him" was life; that "He" was in the world; that "He" dwelt amongst us; that we saw "His" glory, and of "His" fullness we receive grace. The Word was the Eternal Son of God, every bit as personal as the Father.
It is also explicitly stated that the Word is "the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father." God may act in a fatherly way towards us men, but He is a true Father to the only-begotten Son, generated in the same Divine Nature, and equally the uncreated God with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
He was addressing His heavenly Father, and in virtue of the sufferings of His created human nature.
It did not imply any distinction between Himself and His Father so far as the Divine Nature was concerned. It implied that, in His human nature, He experienced that sense of dereliction by God which man deserved. If man abandons God he deserves to be abandoned by God. Jesus took the place of sinners, and suffered the sense of dereliction deserved by sinners.
Centuries ago St. Augustine replied to a similar complaint with the words, "If you do understand, then that is what God is not." He meant, of course, that no human being can fully comprehend God. We cannot exclude mystery when speaking of God, for if He came within the limits of our finite intelligence He would be finite and not God at all. At the same time, we can understand on our own level what the doctrine of the Trinity means. The idea of personality is not foreign to us, nor is the idea of a given nature. If the Trinity is a mystery it is because both the Nature and the Persons in God transcend all our notions of these things, our ideas giving but a faint and most inadequate reflection of the truth. It is also a mystery because our experience is limited to a single nature with a single personality. A single Divine Nature with a threefold Personality is not on the same plane as any of our ordinary experiences, and is known by revelation alone; and even then only insofar as human words can express the transcendent truth. But the terms are not meaningless, and we do find a profound significance in the doctrine.