THE ALL-HOLY TRINITY

  • The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

  • God the Father.

  • God the Son.

  • God the Holy Spirit.

The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

        The doctrine of the Holy Trinity arises from man’s deepest experiences with God. It comes from the genuine living knowledge of those who have come to know God in faith. Orthodox Christians worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-the Holy Trinity, the one true God. Through the Holy Scriptures and the Church Fathers, we learn that the Trinity is Three Divine Persons (hypostases) who share one essence (ousia). It is paradoxical to believe thus, but that is how God has revealed himself. All three persons are consubstantial with each other, that is, they are of one essence (homoousios) and coeternal. There never was a time when any of the persons of the Trinity did not exist. God is beyond and before time and yet acts also within time, moving and speaking within history. Eternity as a word does not mean endless time. It means the condition of no time at all—no past or future, just a constant present. For God there is no past or future. For God, all is now.

 

God is not an impersonal essence or mere "higher power," but rather each of the divine persons relates to mankind personally. Neither is God a simple name for three gods (i.e., polytheism), but rather the Orthodox Faith is monotheist and yet Trinitarian. The God of the Orthodox Christian Church is the God of AbrahamIsaac and Jacob, the "I AM" who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush. The source and unity of the Holy Trinity is the Father, from whom the Son is begotten and also from whom the Spirit proceeds. Thus, the Father is both the ground of unity of the Trinity and also of distinction. To try to comprehend Unbegottenness (Father), Begottenness (Son), or Procession (Holy Spirit) leads to insanity, says the holy Gregory the Theologian, in fact even the Lord, through Isaiah the Prophet said: "my ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8.  Everything concerning God - the Creator of the universe, is quite incomprehensible to us, in fact, if our God and the Creator of all, was conceivable to our small minds, what sort of an All-mighty God would He really be? To be simply put, how are we, who can’t even gaze into the sun, for more than a second, suppose to understand God, who Created the sun? Therefore, in order to avoid missunderstandings, the Church approaches God in divine mystery, approaching God apophatically, being content to encounter God personally and yet realize the inadequacy of the human mind to comprehend Him. Apophatic theology—also known as negative theology—is a theology that attempts to describe God by negation, to speak of God only in absolutely certain terms and to avoid what may not be said. In Orthodox Christianity, apophatic theology is based on the fact that God's essence is unknowable or ineffable and on the recognition of the inadequacy of human language to describe God. The Holy Fathers of the Church use a few analogies to help us try to understand the Holy Trinity's Oneness, one such example, is that of the Sun. The Sun is one sphere, yet it produces both warmth and light. From the moment that the Sun rises, instantly it gives warmth and light. All three elements coexist in perfect harmony. 

 

Here are just a few examples of the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Spirit -- in the Old Testament, where it is evident that the Triune God Created the Universe and man. Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  The Father is portrayed as the creative source of all things. Genesis 1:2:  ".. and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters."  Here, in the second verse of Genesis, the Spirit of God appears as active in the creation process. Genesis 1:3: "Then God said, "Let there be light; and there was light."  The Son, the eternal Word of God, speaks the first of Gods works into existence.  The first three verses of Genesis portray the triune God creating the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1 refers to the Father, verse 2 the Spirit, and verse 3 the Son, as the eternal Word of God speaking light into existence. Genesis 1:26: "Then God said, "Let Us, ( in plural) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...". Genesis 1:27: "So God (in singular) created man in His (singular) own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Notice that Verse 26 mentions God three times - Us, Our and Our. In verse 26, God refers to Himself in the plural form; while in verse 27, immediately following, He refers to Himself in the singular form! Verse 27 also mentions God three times - His, He and He.

In the New Testament the “Word becomes flesh” (John 1:14). As Jesus of Nazareth, the only-begotten Son of God becomes man. And the Holy Spirit, ".....is poured forth from God upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17). In Mark 1:9-11:  "It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.  Then a voice came from heaven, "You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."  Here we have the Father, looking down approvingly at His beloved Son, while the Spirit descends and rests upon Him. In Matthew 28:19: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."  We are to baptize in the name of the three-person Lord - Father, Son and Spirit. Saint Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:14: "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen."  (Here we have the three persons of the Godhead described, each with their own distinctive qualities): "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" ("the law came by Moses, grace and truth by Jesus Christ"), and "the love of God the Father." ("God is love"), "and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" ("I will give you another Comforter"). In Galatians 4:6, the holy Paul says: "God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out "Abba, Father!".  Here the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all referenced." These were just a few of many examples from the Holy Scriptures concerning the Holy Trinity.

Since man is the most precious of God's creations, because man is made in the Image and Likeness of God, there is a mystical relation between God and man, in that man was blessed to have an eternal soul, so that he can rejoice in God's Glory forever, but man was also created to have the so called three natures, even though he is one body. Both man and woman have three parts: body, soul, and spirit. God the Son is comparable to the body since the Son is God incarnate. God the Father is comparable to the soul, or mind, since he was the mind that created everything. The Holy Spirit is comparable to man's Spirit. As the body of man is the temple of our spirit, the body of Jesus Christ is the temple to the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father through (dia) the Son. God the Father created the world through the Son (Word) in the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is present in all that exists, making it to exist by the power of the  Holy Spirit. Thus, according to Orthodox doctrine, the universe itself is a revelation of God in the Word and the Spirit. The Word is in all that exists, causing him to be, and the Spirit is in all that exists as the power of its being and life.

This is most evident in God’s special creature, man. Due to the fact that man is made in the Image of God, he bears within him the unique Likeness of God which is eternally and perfectly expressed in the Divine Son of God, the Uncreated and Absolute Image of the Father. 

God the Father.

         God the Father is know as the First Person of the Holy Trinity. It is the Church’s teaching and Her deepest experience that there is only one God because there is only one Father. God the Father (Abba) is the fountainhead (source) of the Holy Trinity, and the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible, as we recite in the Holy Creed. God the Father created all things through the Son, in the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1 and 2; John 1:3; Job 33:4), and Orthodox Christians are called to worship Him (John 4:23). The Father loves us and sent His Son to give us everlasting life (John 3:16). Throughout the Bible the term “God” with very few exceptions, is used primarily as a name for God the Father. The Father is Unbegotten, whereas the Son is eternally Begotten of the Father and the Holy Spirit Proceeds from the Father.

 

In this view, the Son and the Spirit are both one with God and in no way separated from Him. Thus, the Divine Unity consists of the Father, with His Son and His Spirit distinct from Himself and yet perfectly united together in Him.

In the Old Testament the intimate name of Father was not used to address God in prayer. Only in Christ and because of Christ can Christians have such boldness. Only Christians can properly say the Lord's Prayer that was taught to them by the Son of God. Only those who have died and risen with Christ in baptism, and have received the power to become sons of God by the Holy Spirit in Chrismation are enabled to approach the Almighty God most high as their Father (John 1:12; Matthew 6:9; Romans 8:14; Galatians 4:4). Although there exist many other passages in the Holy Scriptures that call God the Father, we must at this point, clarify the following points.

 

God is called Father in two senses: the moral and the doctrinal sense. God is the Father of all of us in a moral sense and meaning. This is how He is presented in the Lord’s Prayer, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, and in many other places in the Old and in the New Testaments. He is a Father with infinite love for His creatures. A Father Who sends the sun and the rain and all His other gifts to all people. A Father Who always receives with open arms all sinners; those who have taken the wrong path; even criminals, as long as they repent. He is our Father, our Creator, and our Protector. He accepts us when we repent and reinstates us in our former glory. He is our Father because He intends us to be heirs of His Own Kingdom. For all of these reasons, He is our Father. But all of us, and the angels, too, are children of God “by grace.”

God the Son.

There is but one eternal Son of God. He is called the Only-begotten, which means the only one born of God the Father. Begotten as a word simply means born or generated. The Son of God is born from the Father “before all ages”; that is, before creation, before the commencement of time. Time has its beginning in creation. God exists before time, in an eternally timeless existence without beginning or end. Although born of the Father and having his origin in Him, the only-begotten Son always existed, or rather more accurately always “exists” as uncreated, eternal and divine. Thus, the Gospel of Saint John says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth… No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:1-5; 9-14).

 

Accordingly, the teaching of the Church on the Son of God is that He was begotten of the Father before all ages, and not created in time like all other created beings of the world. Being begotten of the Father – as is said in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed – simply meant that the Son of God shared the same essence as God the Father and so was "light from light, true God from true God." Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ is the Ιncarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the only begotten Son of God, fully God and fully man, born in time of the Virgin Mary and begotten from before all time of God the Father.

As the eternally-born of God and always existing with the Father in the “timeless generation,” the Son is truly “Light of Light, True God of True God.” For God is Light and what is born of Him must be Light. And God is True God, and what is born of Him must be True God. We know from the created order of things that what is born must be essentially the same as what gives birth. If one comes from the very being of another, one must be the very same thing. He cannot be essentially different. Thus, men give birth to men, and birds to birds, fish to fish, flowers to flowers. If God, then, in the super-abundant fullness and perfection of His divine being gives birth to a Son, the Son must be the same as the Father in all things—except, of course, in the fact of His being the Son. Thus, if the Father is divinely and eternally perfect, true, wise, good, loving, and all of the things that we know God is: “ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, ever-existing and eternally the same” (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom), then the Son must be all of these things as well. To think that what is born of God must be less than God, says one saint of the Church, is to dishonor to God. The Son is “begotten not made, of one essence with the Father.” “Begotten not made” may also be put “born and not created.” Everything which exists besides God is created by Him: all things visible and invisible. But the Son of God is not a creature. He was not created by God or made by Him. He was born, begotten, generated from the very being and nature of the Father. It belongs to the very nature of God-to God as God—according to divine revelation as understood by the Orthodox, that God is an eternal Father by nature, and that He should always have with Him his eternal, uncreated Son.

God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, is God, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, and He is equal in honour and in Kingship with the Father and the Son, but He is also Consubstantial to the Father and the Son (equal in essence). The Holy Spirit, from Eternity, "Proceeds" from the Father as we can clearly see written in the following Scripture passages: John 14:16-17: "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

In John 15:26 we read: "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me." 

And again in John 16:13 we read: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through Christ into the world, so that man may fulfill God’s will in his life and become "like unto God", in other words to become Christ-like, because He became the Perfect Image and Living example of what we where created to be, this is none other than the Image and Likeness of God. The Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church say that the Holy Spirit makes people to be “christs,” that is, the “anointed” children of God. This also is the teaching of the apostles in the New Testament writings, such as: "But you have been anointed by the Holy One and you know all things . . . and the unction [chrisma] you have received from Him abides in you . . . His anointing teaches you about everything and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in Him. . . . And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us. . . . By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own Spirit." (1 John 2:20–27, 3:24, 4:13).

 

The Holy Spirit dwells inside every true Christian, each one's body being his temple, just as St. Paul the Apostle tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:16: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" He is known as the "Comforter", as we read above in the writings of the Gospel of John. "Comforter" in Greek is "Paracletos", which basically means "Helper" , but in describing the attributes of the Holy Spirit, it can also be understood as strengthener, fortifier, councilor and guide, as the Holy Spirit guides people in the way of the Truth.

 

In Galatians 5:22-23 we read: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." These "fruits" which the above Gospel passage mentions, are also known as virtues or gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are basically  spiritual abilities for Christians to live by. After his resurrection, Christ told his disciples that they would be "baptized with the Holy Spirit", and would receive "power" as we read in Acts 1:4-8; a promise that was fulfilled in the events recounted in the second chapter of Acts, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4).

It is the classical teaching of the Orthodox Church, made popular in recent times by Saint Seraphim of Sarov, that the very essence of Christian spiritual life, the very essence of life itself, is the “acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.” Without the Holy Spirit, there is no true life for man.

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