The Triune God - A Reflection on
the Holy Trinity
By Fr. Jose Prakash
The Holy Bible teaches us that there is only one God (Deut 6:4; Ex 20:1-3). But in the one God, there are three distinct Persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Mt 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14). All three have the same divine nature- the Father is God (Is 9:5; Eph 4:6), the Son is God (Jn. 20:28) and the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). And yet there are no three gods but only one God. This, the Church teaches us, is a mystery which our human intellect cannot easily comprehend. Nevertheless, it is a doctrine, which every believer must accept in faith.
The World Reflects the Mystery of the Trinity
The mystery of the Holy Trinity is a revealed truth. The whole universe reflects this unique mystery. In mathematics we have learnt 1x1x1=1 and not 3. The same principle, though analogously, can be applied to the Holy Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit do not constitute three Godheads but ONE Godhead. Let us take another analogy. For instance, the universe. The whole universe is one, though it is constituted of three elements - the sky, the earth and the sea. Again take 'time', which is made up of three constituents the past, the present and the future,. But actually 'time' is one unbreakable continuity. In the same way there is only one God.
The Trinity manifests unity in diversity
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the three distinct persons have also distinct tasks which each one fulfills - the Father is the Creator (Gen 1:1); the Son is the Redeemer (Mt 1:21) and the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier (Rom 15:16). The three Persons, though they have distinct tasks to fulfill, do not act in isolation but in unison.
The Father, who is the Creator, for instance, did not create the world single-handed. He created everything through the power of the Word, that is Christ himself (Col 1:16). The Holy Spirit too, who was present at the time of creation was "hovering over the face of the waters" (Gen 1:2).
Though the Son is essentially the Redeemer, in the work of redemption, the Father and the Holy Spirit too are involved. The initiative was taken by the Father, who out of great love for the world gave his only Son for the salvation of the whole mankind (Jn 3:16). But Jesus, the Savior, was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35). At the outset of Jesus' public ministry, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him at the time of Baptism (Lk 3:21-22) and He was anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to bring the good news to the poor (Lk 4:18-19).
Again the Holy Spirit, who is the Sanctifier, is very much dependent on the Father and the Son. He is the Spirit of the Father (Mt 10:20) and of the Son (Rom 8 :9). He is given by the Father in answer to Jesus' prayer (Jn 14:16) and sent by the Father in the name of Jesus (Jn 14:26). Jesus himself sends the Spirit from the Father (Jn 15:26).
We have thus seen the effective collaboration of the Triune God, in fulfilling each other's task of creation, redemption and sanctification.
We are many and yet should be one
When we look at the world around us, we are astounded by its immense diversity, which also is a clear sign of the diversity that exists in the Triune God. The diversity that we experience in shape, color, sex, language, culture, religion and way of life, cannot but be God's plan for the whole world. How monotonous and boring the world would have been if it were devoid of any diversity and variety! Is it not most fitting and proper then that we acknowledge diversity as God's precious gift and also accept and respect it? It is indeed sad to see that people are very much divided and discriminated against on the basis of language, culture, color, sex and religion. If the white, black or brown people cannot get along with one another; if Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Bhojpuri-speaking people cannot tolerate one another; if Shuddras, Vaishyas, Rajputs and Brahmins cannot see one another; and if Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians cannot respect one another, it would indeed be a sin and rebellion against the Triune God, from whom all diversity has proceeded. We are diverse and yet called to be one just as the Holy Trinity is distinctly three and one at the same time. But we can be one only in as far as we accept and appreciate the other who is different from us. Let us remember that it is not uniformity that God wants but unity in diversity.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal, yet subject to one another
Because of their divine nature, the Father, Son and Spirit are equal to one another. And yet, unlike human beings, the three divine Persons do not fight for equality, power or position. On the contrary, they submit to one another in utter humility and love. This is what we encounter in Christ Jesus, who, "though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:6-8).
The Holy Spirit, we see, is subject to the Father as well as the Son. He is subject to the Father because he is the Spirit of the Father (Mt 10:20) and it is the Father who sends him (Jn 14:16;Gal 4:6). The Spirit is also subject to the Son, because "He is the Spirit of truth who will testify to the Son" (Jn 15:26). The Holy Spirit will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will glorify the Son (Jn 16:13-14).
Although the Son and the Spirit are subject to the Father, it cannot be that the Father is simply ruling over them. Because the Son and the Spirit are equal to the Father and share in the same divine nature, we should rightly think that whatever the Father does, He does it in total union with the will of the Son and the Spirit .
We are equal, and yet should be subject to one another
As children of the same God and as people made in the image and likeness of God, all human beings are basically equal. Hence all distinctions and discriminations based on caste, creed, color, sex, power, position and wealth are sins against the dignity of the human person. The basic equality of all people also calls for certain respect for one's own self. To consider oneself inferior to another, no matter how well-placed he is in society, is simply wrong and a sin against oneself. St. Paul says, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28).
Though equals, we are also called to submit ourselves to one another in humility and love, just as the Triune Godhead are subject to one another. St. Paul exhorts wives and husbands to be "Subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21). In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes "Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God" (Rom 13:1).
Our reflection on the Triune Godhead shows that though we cannot fathom the mystery of the Trinity with our human intellect, it is still very justifiable to believe in it. The Trinitarian life offers us the most beautiful model for our own lives in a pluralistic society. We are many and diverse and yet we can be one; we are all equal and yet can be subject to one another. Many of the problems that the world faces today, could be eliminated, if we, as the children of God seriously sought to emulate the Trinitarian model of life.