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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
 
Bishop's Message/Blog

Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit

Dearly beloved sisters and brothers, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. The Easter joy is the climate of the Church; her Lord, risen and ever alive is an assurance of his continued presence and her fellowship in the Divine life. The Father sends the Son into the world “not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him and those who believe in the One sent will have life” [Cf. Jn 3:16 & 17]. In order to have this Divine life [welling up to a spring], one must be born “of water and the Spirit” [Jn 3:5]; the Spirit who is the source and principle of life. One of the principal celebrations of the month of June is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, a celebration and doctrine that strikes at the core of absolute mysteries and is undoubtedly the oldest and most fundamental of mysteries in the Christian faith, yet remains meaningful for us.

The doctrine of the magisterium on the Trinity retains that the one God exists in three persons, are equal, co-eternal and omnipotent. The persons are also distinct from one another as clearly depicted in Sacred Scripture: the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Father is not the Holy Spirit.

A hymn of the Church has the lyrics “Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit three we name thee, while in essence only one.” Before the emergence of the term “Trinity” the Divine Triad in the Church’s life and theology were referred to concretely as “the Father” “the Son” “the Holy Spirit”. There was not yet a generic term for the three ‘persons’ until the third century with the influence of the early Church Fathers namely Tertullian, Hippolytus and Origen. The lyrics give a summary of the Trinitarian Dogma: one God but three distinct persons, yet cannot be divided from one another in being or in operation. It is important to note that the activity of the three persons is one and the same “for as the Trinity has only one and the same nature, so too does it have only one and the same operation” [CCC 258] yet this work can be ascribed to any one of the persons only by appropriation, i.e. each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property.

Indisputably, there is so much for the doctrine of the Trinity, “an absolute mystery which is not perspicuous to reason even after being revealed.” But looking at the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we have so much to emulate from this first community. The American theologian, Catherine LaCugna suggested that the Trinity taught “a theology of relationship which explores the mysteries of Love, relationship, personhood and community within the framework of God’s self-revelation in the person of Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit.” So what lessons can we glean from this hallowed doctrine and community?

Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit

The common adjective qualifying the three persons is ‘Holy’. But this is not a mere qualification but a Divine attribute; God is Holy, he alone is majestic in holiness [Ex 15:11, 1 Sam 2:2] so unique and to the highest degree as seen in the Seraphic cry and Hebraic Superlative “Holy, Holy Holy” [Is 6:3]. A careful reading of the prophecy of Isaiah shows that one of the most frequent titles of God is the Holy One of Israel [Is 12:6; 17:7; 29:19, 23]. God’s holiness is one of the defining attributes that separates him from all other beings and distinct from everything else; he is set apart. God invites each of us into this beautiful divine space of being set apart for him and from the world. The things that God set apart for himself become Holy too. In his relationship with the people of Israel, God makes it known to them his purpose of choosing them among other nations of the world, that is, “to be a people for his own possession” [Deut 7:6; 14:2, 21]. The same is the case of objects which are to be used for the Lord or a place for his dwelling [The Holy of holies].

Once God’s people have been chosen and separated from the world to be like him, there comes a mandate to remain in perpetual separation when he says to them “be holy; for I am holy” [Lev 11: 44-45; 20:26]. The coming of Christ does not in the minutest way abrogate this commandment rather it is reinforced by his words “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Matt. 5:48]. This same commandment is to find fulfilment in each of us who are the members of the Body of Christ, the Christian community, to take seriously the responsibility to “make holiness perfect in the fear of God” [2 Cor 7:1; Eph 1:4; Col 1:22, 1 Pet 1:16].

Solidarity And Common Good

There are certain principles that matter in the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church and among them are Solidarity and Common Good. Everyone belongs to one human family regardless of national, religious, ethnic, economic and political differences. Solidarity ensures that the obligation binding on all peoples to promote the rights and developments of all peoples across the world with defiance to national boundaries is met. All energies, resources, talents should be geared towards this end. On the other hand, the principle of Common Good ensures that every person should have sufficient access to the goods and resources of society to enable them have a fulfilled living; the well-being of everyone without exception is the priority.

The doctrine of the Trinity teaches human beings how they should shape their lives by providing us a model for the best sort of human relationship we can enjoy, premised upon mutuality, love and communication. In fact, when the question arises about how best human beings are to live and relate to others, we can look no further than to the Most Holy Trinity.

The Trinity as earlier mentioned cannot be divided from one another in being or in operation. The principle of solidarity finds bearing in the unity of the Divine Triad since none of the three persons work in isolation especially “because of that unity between them, the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son” [CCC 255]. Since the Trinity has only one and the same nature, so too does it have one and the same operation. Yet as cited earlier from the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 258, each Divine persons performs the “common [collective] work” according to his unique personal property; the emphasis is ‘mutual work’ and not an individual or separate plan / mandate. “The ultimate end of the whole of divine economy is the entry of God’s creature into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity” [CCC 260]. This is the ‘goal’ of the Divine Triad, from which the principle of Common Good can be deduced; the well-being of all and sundry.

From the foregoing, these two principles are ‘almost’ two sides of the same coin but within the framework of the Trinity, it comes with even bigger concerns to each one of us with the question of how much we have taken seriously and conscientiously, our daily responsibilities, works, demands, and obligations to stimulate the community to enjoy a fulfilled life? Our policies and institutions can be evaluated upon these bases, to know how much they propel the things of higher priority and shared concerns; if they fall short in this, then they have to be redefined or jettisoned.

Communication And Relation

Our faith professes a God who is not a lonesome being but an effervescent communion of love in which each person’s love [of the Trinity] gives joy to the other. As Trinity, God is an intimate partnership of love in which love is perfectly given and perfectly received. Speaking of God as Trinity proclaims that God is not three separate individuals because separateness will be tantamount to loneliness in God but rather an absolute communion of unbreakable love. “At the heart of God we find not solitude and isolation, not alienation and discord but the perfection of intimacy and communion that is itself the fullness of Joy.”

Communication and interaction are characteristics of every social being and it almost never stops. The Doctrine of the Trinity predicates this art, in terms of its proper mode and direction. The dialogue and communication that exists between individuals is a healthy art to enhance as against the debilitating vice of self-absorption; relationship[s] / friendship[s] against every form and level of individualism; Love / sharing to dispel the evils of greed, avarice and self-centeredness. Nothing emulated from the Trinity can be short of being Holy, proper and healthy.

Look at your marriage keenly and see what life of the Trinity is reflected there in; do you find those virtues of communication, love, sharing, and friendship? Keep improving on them. Or you do not see any of them at all, they seem far from being achieved? You can begin anew. How about your lifestyle, has it become a tacit negation of what the Trinity offers? Are you open to the relationship of the Trinity?

To reiterate the truth once again, if we are to live very credible lives in the society, community, family or Church we find ourselves, then the Most Holy and undivided Trinity is the compass for us.

Firmly I believe and truly God is three and God is one.

† Alfred Adewale Martins

Archbishop of Lagos

 

 

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