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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

A Mystery and not a Puzzle

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

Even if an MRI scan can reveal more about a person than a picture can, a portrait really captures their character. Instead of X-rays, dating services need photos. So too, in our attempts to explain the Blessed Trinity the use of analogies is inadequate for conveying this sacred mystery. If we were to equate the Trinity to water—which may be in three different states: liquid, frozen, and steam—it would imply that the Father changes into the Son and the Son into the Holy Spirit. This was denounced at the Council of Constantinople in 381 as a formal heresy known as modalism.

Accordingly, we must not make the error of attempting to portray the Father as Creator, the Son as Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier. Such an approach attempts to divide the three Divine Persons in their actions. The old Heresy of Arianism portrays the Son and Holy Spirit as creatures of the Father, creating the alluring image of the Trinity as heat, light, and sun. Partialism is a mistaken understanding of the Trinity. A thousand years after the death of Saint Patrick, some person invented a legend, saying that he used a shamrock to teach the concept of the Trinity to the Druids of Tara. The error of Partialism treats the three divine persons as independent entities, as if they were each constituting one-third of the total. There is only one God: one in nature and three in person. There are not three separate beings. Rather, Saint Patrick's Confessio is an accurate expression of Trinitarian theology, discussing the mystical essence of God as a lover singing a song.

God alone can provide an account of Himself, which is why the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity follows Pentecost:

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).

As creatures with limited intellectual powers, we cannot comprehend fully this divine mystery. In the religion of Mohammed, the belief in the Trinity is seen as a blasphemy, a denial of the One God. (Koran 4:171; 5:73; 5:116). Mormons cannot be considered Christians because they multiply the Trinity into polytheism, believing each man can become a god. Like the Arians, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Christ is not divine as he is only a creature.

When Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He revealed the great mystery of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19). At the Great Commission, He sent his disciples out to preach the Gospel to the nations and commanding them to baptize men in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. As a man with deformed legs who endured much pain by walking almost 10,000 miles by foot to preach the Gospel, Saint Paul proclaimed the Trinity in hymn-like cadences. If Saint Paul did not believe in the veracity of our Triune God, he would not have subjected himself to so much pain and loss to proclaim this saving truth. Indeed, the mystery of the Trinity would not be mysterious if it had been conceptualized by man. Saints can remark with wonder, "I am not making this up." because it is more of a mystery than a puzzle.



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