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Thoughts to Live by | Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

by Cardinal Orlando Beltran Quevedo, O.M.I, Archbishop-Emeritus of Cotabato

1. Today's Thoughts are devoted to the Holy Trinity. We declare our belief in the Holy Trinity through the Apostles Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty ... and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit...." We believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are co-equal, co-eternal, of one divine substance or nature (con-substantial), all uncreated. We are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (see Mt. 28:19). That is our hallmark, our Christian identity.

2. Old Testament believers in the one true God did not have any idea that the one God is actually Three Divine Persons . But there are intimations of this mystery in the Old Testament. The Early Church said that the three men who visited Abraham were the three Divine Persons. In the beginning of time was the Word who is God, the divine Son of God. The "spirit of the Lord" in Isaiah, quoted by Jesus in Nazareth, is identified with Holy Spirit as well as Wisdom (see our 1st Reading).

3. The revelation of the Trinity was gradual. The New Testament has Trinitarian texts. " Go and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." So also Paul's greeting: "The grace

of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowhip of the Holy Spirit be with you all." At the end of his Gospel, John writes of Thomas acknowledging the Risen Jesus, saying,"My Lord and my God" (Jn: 20-38). It is an echo of the beginning of his Gospel, "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn. 1:1). Likewise, we read that the Holy Spirit "drove" Jesus into the desert where he prepared for his mission. The Spirit anointed and sent Jesus to preach the Gospel to the poor. For Paul, we are God's temple because the Spirit dwells in us.

4. Many instances in the New Testament indirectly mention the Holy Spirit as someone distinct from and equal to God. Still, the developed doctrine of the Trinity was a product of theological reflection by the early Church Fathers as they strove to penetrate the mystery of God, Father, Son and Spirit. St. Theophilus of Antioch in the late 2nd century was the first to use the word, "Trinity," defining it as God, his Word, and his Wisdom (Sophia). The Church Fathers reacted against the belief that Jesus was merely an ordinary man, who became Christ and Son of God after his Baptism (Adoptionism). Another non-trinitarian belief was Sabellianism which held that God, Son, and Spirit are simply names of the same Person.

5. In the 4th century, Arius contended that the Father pre-existed before the Son, who was not by nature divine, but was granted the dignity of becoming "Son of God." The Council of Nicea resolved the issue and said that Jesus is "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father and the Holy Spirit (one nature or substance or consubstantial - "homoosios"), with the Father and the Holy Spirit. They are Three Persons in One Being. The 1st Council of Constantinople (381) expanded the Nicene Creed to explicitate that the Holy Spirit is "the Lord and Giver of Life, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped snd glorified." That is our Trinitarian faith.

6. Mainly responsible for the form of our belief were the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Athanasius, St. Basil of Caesarea, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Naziansuz. In the late 6th century, the word "Filioque," was added to the Creed, meaning that the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father "and the Son." Filioque became one of the reasons of the East-West Schism in 1054.

7, Theologians use two words related to the Trinity, immanent and economic. The first refers to the inner life of the Trinity, whle the second refers to all the works by which the Triune God reveals himself. The whole "Divine Economy" is the common work of the Three Divine Persons. They work inseparably, although we might "attribute" some work to one of the Divine persons, e.g., creation to the Father, redemption to the Son, and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. The Divine Persons are inseparable in being and in work. If we are to define who God is in Three Persons, the best is simply to say "God is Love."

8. Some modern non-Trinitarian groups are the Mormons, the Christian Science group, Iglesia ni Kristo, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Unitarian Christians.

9. Prayer -- O God our Father, you have shared your unending love with us in the glories of creation, in the redeeming work of your Son, in the daily intercession of the Holy Spirit to make us holy. Grant, we pray, that we may daily share your love with others, through works of justice and mercy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayers, stay safe, God bless!

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