Sunday, June 19, 2011
Some Thoughts for Reflection on the Holy Trinity
You may not get it at first and you may not agree with all of it but the Orthodox brother has given us much to chew on here... So read it here:
1. God is not an individual. That's right. Our God is most certainly not an isolated individual. He is not a Monad. Jews and Muslims worship a Monad,. Orthodox Christians worship THREE Diviine persons. These three Divine Person form a Community with one another that we refer to as the Synod of the Holy Trinity in Greek or the Sobor of the Holy Trinity in Slavonic. In English this would be best translated as the "Council of the Holy Trinity".
2. Why is there one God? The Eastern Orthodox answer to that question is there is one God because there is one Father. The person of the Father is the foundation for the Orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity, not some mystical Divine "substance" that all three share. That's too philosophical for us. It's too complicated and detached, and it just doesn't sound like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to us. It sounds like the god of academics and philosophers: cold, removed and detached.
3. So we have God the Father. What can we say about Him? Not much, actually. Because He is the most mysterious person of the Godhead. He hasn't revealed that much to us. So we describe Him by way of the negative (by what He is not, called the apophatic method). God the Father is neither created, begotten nor proceeding. He simply IS. He is the fount and source of the rest of the Holy Trinity. All other persons in the Trinity are defined by their relationship to Him. This is referred to as the Father's monarchy.
4. Then we have God the Son. God the Son is neither created nor proceeding but eternally BEGOTTEN from the Father. He is the Father's "face" so to speak and has come to reveal the mysterious Father to us. Since He is begotten of the Father, He shares in the Father's essence (Divinity) and is fully God. Yet He is also fully human since he took flesh from the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary. And His human nature and His human mother are of great importance. For the Orthodox, the whole reason Israel was selected to be the Chosen People of God was to raise up a holy humanity in the person of the Theotokos, a person (as we sing in the Akathist Hymn) who would be the Divine Ladder by which God came down to earth, the Bride of God, the Burning Bush (burning with the fire of divinity within her womb, yet not consumed.) Indeed, all of Israel served to be a preparation for her who would be the Divine Tabernacle containing Christ the Heavenly Bread. And the purpose for which God the Son came was man's theosis: that is, to make man like God, to incorporate man into the life of God and rescue him from the bondage to sin, death and the devil into which he had fallen.
5. Then we have God the Holy Spirit. He is neither created nor begotten, but eternally proceeding from the Father. He proceeds from the Father alone and not from the Son because the Father is the source, fount, and unity of the Holy Trinity. To make him proceed from the Son, is, in Orthodox eyes, to subordinate the Holy Spirit to the Son. And that cannot be done. All three persons of the Holy Trinity are equal and fully God. So we cannot diminish the role of the Holy Spirit by subordinating Him to the Son. He stands on His own as fully God. And we cannot, as Augustine did, refer to the Holy Spirit as "the love between the Father and the Son". To us, that is just hideous. The Holy Spirit is not an emotion. He is a Divine Person, and He has his own unique role that cannot be taken away from Him. One of the Holy Spirit's roles is to be the Life giver, as we confess in the Nicene Creed: He is the Lord and Giver of Life. At the Incarnation it was the Holy Spirit who overshadowed the Mother of God like a cloud and made her conceive Christ. In the Holy Eucharist also it is the Holy Spirit who descends upon the Bread and Wine and transforms it into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes Christ present.