How to best explain the Trinity?

How to best explain the Trinity? June 8, 2023

Imagine what it would be like to live in a two-dimensional world.

It would feel as if we were stuck in some old-school cartoon on television or perhaps a caveman drawing.

There would only be length and width… everything would be flat and the concept of depth would simply not exist.  It would be impossible to experience it and explain it.

In a two-dimensional world, circles, squares, triangles and rectangles would exist.  But what about spheres and cubes?  What about cones?

Without the existence of depth in a two-dimensional world, it would be impossible to explain a cone, a three-dimensional object.  I could attempt to explain a cone saying:

It’s a circle and a triangle at the exact same time.

But, it is neither a circle nor a triangle, it’s a cone.

The mystery of the cone would be impossible to grasp entirely in a two-dimensional world.  It would remain a mystery.  Wise men would probably gather and speculate about the cone and ask people to imagine placing one circle over another, each successive one being a bit smaller, but they would have a hard time doing that, because that would involve depth.

Let’s now leave this two-dimensional world and return to our world.  Here we do have depth, we have three dimensions.  Some include time as a fourth dimension.  Concepts and theories from the world of physics and mathematics argue there are up to eleven dimensions in the universe!  Who knows what exists way out there in outer space.

In the Book of Isaiah God says through the prophet, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.  As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”

Scripture reveals to us that there is only one God, yet in the New Testament Jesus reveals Himself as God, and he speaks of His Father as God.  And at the same time, the Holy Spirit sent by the Father into the world, is the same God who created all things and gives us the ability to believe.

During the first four centuries of the Church, our ancestors in faith struggled to understand this revelation and make sense out of it in the same way our friends from the two-dimensional world would try to make sense of the cone.  The early Church Fathers struggled to understand what God had revealed, that He was one but that somehow, He was also three.

Among the things the Church has been able to accomplish to explain this mystery is first of all to name it: “Trinity.”  This is a non-Scriptural term yet all orthodox and faithful Christians profess belief in it.

To explain our belief, the early Church wrote the Nicean Creed in 325, a modification of which we recite at every Sunday Mass.  In it we profess belief “in one God, Father almighty,” and that the Lord Jesus Christ was “born of the Father before all ages.  God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,” and we profess belief in “the Holy Spirit, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.”

[At this time, I lit a candle from one of the candles of the altar]  Look at the new lit candle.  By lighting it, I did not diminish the size or power of the first candle, and in a way, the fire of the second light was already present in the first candle.  This is what the Council of Nicaea meant by: light from light – a powerful and effective way to begin to grasp the Trinity.

Early Church Councils confirmed our belief that God has One Divine Nature, just as we have One Human Nature, but in God exist Three Divine Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are equal and differ only in relationship with each other.   Despite much debate and countless pages written on the subject, God remains a mystery in the sense that He cannot be fully understood.

We cannot put God in a box and understand Him completely – and that is okay.  Belief requires humility and submission to what He has revealed.  Perhaps one day when we see God face to face after our time on earth we will fully understand.

For the time being, we pray, Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

Picture used with permission.

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