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Trinity 1: Nature and Person (Apologia Pt 4)

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Written by Basil on 05/14/2004 9:11 PM. Filed under:

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“The Way that can be explained is not the true Way.” This opening line from the Tao te Ching perhaps best introduces the mystery of the holy Trinity.

How does one begin to speak of this mystery? First, we must recognize that we are speaking of a deep and wonderful mystery. A mystery is not a riddle that demands a resolution. A mystery is a deep truth that will eternally elude every limited human attempt to exhaust it. No matter how much we say about a mystery, there is always infinitely more that can be said. No matter how much we learn about a mystery, we will never comprehend it.

God, the holy Trinity, is just such a mystery. A God that can be explained is not the true God. When we believe we understand God, we have in fact replaced the living God with an idol. A God in a box is not God. God has never had a begining and will never have an end. God has eternally been and eternally will be.

Holy Scripture teaches, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1Jn 4.16b) Love means living together in communion — personal union and harmony of will and action. God is a communion of three persons— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — who share a common divine nature.

When we speak of person and nature, we hit upon a deep mystery which God has shared with us by creating us in his image. We will discuss this further when we talk about the creation of man. The nature of something is its whatness — everything that can be described about it. The person is the unique, indefinable essence that is capable of loving communion with other persons. Created natures can be described with words and understood through teaching, but persons can only be known through communion. A simple example will help us understand what we mean here.

Identical twins share the exact same genetic material. In almost every respect, they are identical. When describing twins, we are hard-pressed to come up with any distinguishing characteristics. However, anyone who has known identical twins will tell you that they are each unique persons. Once you enter into communion with them, you no longer confuse them. Almost intuitively, you can tell them apart, because you know them on the level of the person, not on the level of their nature.

The holy Trinity is three divine persons eternally interdwelling one another in perfect communion. As we continue to explore the mystery of the Trinity, we will talk about the persons of the Trinity and how these three persons share a single divine nature in communion. As we do, it may be that the concepts seem impossible, or maybe just too much for us to grasp. This is exactly as it should be; remember: “The Way that can be explained is not the true Way.”

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