Two Pieces on the Trinity

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The Creed and the Trinity,” from The Christian Faith, by Henri de Lubac, SJ:

Our God is a living God, a God who, in himself, is sufficient unto himself. In him there is neither solitude nor egoism. In the very depths of Being there is ecstasy, the going out of self. There is, “in the unity of the Holy Spirit”, the perfect circumincession of Love. Thus we can glimpse the depths of truth in St. John’s remark (which is not true vice versa) that “God is love.” If we exist, it is not due to chance(!) or to some blind necessity; nor is it the effect of a brutal and domineering omnipotence; it is in virtue of the omnipotence of Love. If we can recognize the God who speaks to us and wishes to link our destiny to his, this is because within himself he knows himself eternally; within his being a dialogue exists which can overflow without; he is animated by a vital movement with which he can associate us. If, even without philosophical training, we can resist those who tell us that matter is the ground of all being, and if we spontaneously go beyond the overly abstract views of those who tell us that spirit, or the “one”, is the ground of being, it is because this mystery of the Trinity has opened up before us an entirely new perspective: the ground of all being is communion. [more]

From “The Trinity: Three Persons in One Nature,” in turn from Theology and Sanity:

The notion is unfortunately widespread that the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is a mystery of mathematics, that is to say, of how one can equal three. The plain Christian accepts the doctrine of the Trinity; the “advanced” Christian rejects it; but too often what is being accepted by the one and rejected by the other is that one equals three. The believer argues that God has said it, therefore it must be true; the rejecter argues it cannot be true, therefore God has not said it. A learned non-Catholic divine, being asked if he believed in the Trinity, answered, “I must confess that the arithmetical aspect of the Deity does not greatly interest me”; and if the learned can think that there is some question of arithmetic involved, the ordinary person can hardly be expected to know any better. […] How did we reach this curious travesty of the supreme truth about God? The short statement of the doctrine is, as we have heard all our lives, that there are three persons in one nature. But if we attach no meaning to the wordperson, and no meaning to the word nature, then both the nouns have dropped out of our definition, and we are left only with the numbers three and one, and get along as best we can with these. Let us agree that there may be more in the mind of the believer than he manages to get said: but the things that do get said give a pretty strong impression that his notion of the Trinity is simply a travesty. It does him no positive harm provided he does not look at it too closely; but it sheds no light in his own soul: and his statement of it, when he is driven to make a statement, might very well extinguish such flickering as there may be in others. The Catholic whose faith is wavering might well have it blown out altogether by such an explanation of the Trinity as some fellow Catholic of stronger faith might feel moved to give: and no one coming fresh to the study of God would be much encouraged. […] We have seen that the imagination cannot help here. Comparisons drawn from the material universe are a hindrance and no help. Once one has taken hold of this doctrine, it is natural enough to want to utter it in simile and metaphor – like the lovely lumen de lumine, light from light, with which the Nicene Creed phrases the relation of the Son to the Father. But this is for afterward, poetical statement of a truth known, not the way to its knowledge. For that, the intellect must go on alone. And for the intellect, the way into the mystery lies, as we have already suggested, in the meaning of the words “person” and “nature”. There is no question of arithmetic involved. We are not saying three persons in one person, or three natures in one nature; we are saying three persons in one nature. There is not even the appearance of an arithmetical problem. It is for us to see what person is and what nature is, and then to consider what meaning there can be in a nature totally possessed by three distinct persons. [more]

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