“In our faith, we believe that in God, there are three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And each of these three persons possesses the one divine essence.” (Fr. Ludwig Ott)
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Catholic belief in the Holy Trinity, the most common one being that it implies Catholics believe in three different gods. John Morales welcomed William Albrecht onto Morning Air to discuss the truth behind this dogma and how the Trinity fits neatly into our faith.
“The Father is eternal God, the Son is eternal God, and the Holy Spirit is eternal God.” And yet, they are not the same person. They are three distinct persons that are all wholly and entirely God, possessing the same divine nature, with no hierarchical structure. The three persons are all equally God. Albrecht emphasized the importance of that point because of the heretics of the past who have argued that the Son is lesser, or the Holy Spirit is lesser. But each and every time a Trinitarian heretic has arisen, the Church has been there to denounce that false teaching.
Albrecht brought John’s listeners back to Genesis during the creation story. In it, we see a passage that says a lot about the Trinity: “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
Let us make human beings in our image. The question was, John explained, who was this “us”? Ancient Hebrew scripture didn’t entirely make sense of why God spoke in this seemingly odd way. But through the Incarnation, the fulfillment of scripture, and the realization of the Holy Trinity, that “us” becomes clearer.
Granted, understanding the Trinity is not like putting a jigsaw puzzle together where the image becomes totally clear to us. The dogma surrounding the Trinity is one of those “deep mysteries” of the faith that will be somewhat unclear until we reach eternal salvation and are granted a glorified intellect. As John pointed out, it is virtually impossible for us to fully comprehend the reality of three different persons possessing one, divine, eternal nature as God.
While it might sound counter-intuitive or like an oxy-moron, the bottom line is that we believe in one God. We are a monotheistic Church that has found the full truth through Salvation history. As St. Paul said, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Corinthians 13:13)
But, as John continued, we are not Bible-only Christians. As Catholics, we get our beliefs from both sacred scripture and sacred tradition. So, what did the early Church Fathers have to say on the matter of the Trinity? Albrecht referenced several fathers including Pope St. Clement of Rome who wrote in the 1st century, a letter entirely reminiscent of St. Paul’s blessing: “As God lives, and as the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit live, both the faith and hope of the elect, he who in lowliness of mind, with instant gentleness and without repentance has observed the ordinances and appointments given by God.”
And from St. Ignatius of Antioch, “…with the ministry of Jesus Christ who was with the Father before the beginning of time.” If He was with the Father before the beginning of time, He is eternal, and therefore God. Ironically enough, Christian denominations like Jehovah’s Witnesses will often use the Church Fathers to try and prove that Christians should not believe in the Trinity, but their collections of documents and sources are heavily edited and interpolated to reflect teaching contrary to the Catholic Faith.
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