If there is one doctrine which most defines what it means to be a Christian, it is the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity. It is so central to our beliefs that we baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Before every prayer, we mark ourselves with the sign of the cross praying in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. To be a Christian, in essence, is to profess belief in One God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Since this belief is at the root of our identity as Christians, it is imperative that we have some understanding of it, even though a full understanding of this mystery will always be beyond our grasp.
In a sentence, we believe that the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity all share in the nature of the One God.
What does it mean when we use the word “nature” as it refers to the Trinity?
When we use the word “nature” in this context, we are speaking about what makes a thing what it is. For instance, as human beings we have a human nature. Our human nature is what makes us different from trees, dogs or rocks. Human beings have certain qualities or attributes which distinguish us from other things in the world. For instance, human beings have the ability to speak and to reason while animals act on instinct and make only noises.
God also has a nature, and all the persons of the Trinity share in it.
For instance, God is eternal. He has no end and no beginning. There has never been a time when He has not existed and there will never be a time when He stops existing. Therefore, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also eternal. God the Son did not begin existing when Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb but He has existed before all time. The same is true with the Holy Spirit.
God is also All-Powerful. There is nothing He cannot do. Therefore, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also All-Powerful.
To say that all the persons of the Holy Trinity share in the nature of God is to say that whatever can be said about God can be said about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. All of them are equally God.
At the same time, they are not three gods but One God. Rather than three independent beings, they are one Being with three persons.
Each person of the Holy Trinity is fully God. The Father is not just a part of God but all of God. In the same way, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are not pieces of God but fully God themselves.
Of course, our heads can begin to spin when we try to make sense of this great mystery. In fact, though the reality of the Trinity can be seen already in the Bible, it took the Church over three hundred years to find the precise language to define this belief. So, we should not be surprised that our minds boggle as we try to understand it ourselves.
Because of how complicated our explanations of the nature of God as Trinity can become, we might want to dismiss it as not relevant to our daily lives and leave it to theologians to argue over. However, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us something very important - and very simple - about God.
Simply put, it teaches us that God is love. Our God is not some distant Being looking for ways to spend His time. No. In His essence, God is a Being who is constantly loving. God the Father is constantly pouring Himself out in love to God the Son. God the Son is continually receiving that love from the Father. And God the Holy Spirit is that eternal exchange of love between them.
We read in today’s gospel why Jesus came into the world: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” As complicated as we may sometimes make the matter, it all boils down to this. The God who is love loves us. And He wants us to love Him in return.
When we fall in love, what is the first thing we do? We try to find out everything we can about our beloved. When were they born? What do they like? What do they dislike? What are they interested in?
And, at the same time, we want them to know everything about us.
Just so, the God of love wants us to know everything about Him that our human minds can fathom so that we can love Him. It is as simple as that.
We worship a God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This God of love created us to know, love and serve Him in this life and to share eternal life with Him in the world to come. It is a marvelous truth that we should not just leave to theologians but should ponder every day in prayer. It is also a truth that we should strive to live. Just as God has poured Himself out in love for us, so we should do the same for one another. Then the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will come down upon us and remain with us forever.