SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
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The dogma of the Trinity is central in our Christian belief, that is “the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The Church defines the doctrine more in terms of Greek philosophy than the vocabulary of the Bible. But we can only understand the philosophical definition by going back to the historical experience of the people in the Bible who encountered God as the Trinity.
True enough the Jews believed in monotheism, that there is only one God. But the manifestation of the God they believed in was not just limited to Yahweh, in fact the Son was already present in the form Wisdom and the Holy Spirit was already present as the Ruach or the Breath of God.. We see in the New Testament the fuller revelation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There are two biblical events when the three persons were made manifest at the same time namely the Baptism of Jesus and Transfiguration. Mt. 28:19 mentions the Father, Son and Holy Spirit which became basis of the formula of our Christian baptism. The doctrine the way we understand it now was not yet present during the time of the writing of the books of the New Testament. St. Paul already has the implicit belief as reflected in our second reading today; the synopticists St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. Luke do not give us a clear understanding yet as to the doctrine. Even St John who had the most developed Christology among the New Testament writers was still groping in defining the doctrine.
It was Tertullian in the early third century who initiated the understanding of the doctrine using Greek philosophical terms. He was the one who introduced the terms trinity, substance and person to explain that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are "one in essence or substance but not one in Person.” About a century later, in 325AD, the First Council of Nicaea established the doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy confirming that Jesus is begotten and of one substance with the Father. Many more theologians like St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and modern thinkers like Karl Rahner helped us in our present understanding of the Trinity.
The mission of Jesus is not just to reveal to us the three persons of the Trinity but to bring us into the Trinitarian life. Our understanding of the doctrine will only be academic and philosophical unless we enter into a personal relationship with each of the person of the Trinity. When we were baptized, we received the indelible but invisible mark of the Trinity: we became children of God the Father, Jesus became our Saviour and the Holy Spirit became our Sanctifier. This is what our whole Christian life is. The eternal life mentioned by Jesus in our gospel today means our full communion into the divine fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in eternity and it already starts here and now. Our celebration today reminds us of this profound truth.