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What Is the Holy Trinity?

What does the mystery of the Trinity tell us? And why is it a mystery? Because we can’t know it unless God reveals us. God is one substance and three persons. God is love. All three persons in the Trinity are the same divine substance:It tells us that God is relationship. In fact, God is such a perfect relationship in unity that God is truly one.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Catholics profess that there is one God in three persons: The Father, the Son who is Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 253

Lover, Beloved, and Love

This is certainly difficult to grasp. But remember that God is relationship. It might be easier to think of the Trinity this way:

  • The Lover (The Father)
  • The Beloved (The Son)
  • The Love flowing between them (The Holy Spirit)

So we might pray prayers of thanksgiving to the Father at the beauty of creation which he has provided for us. We might pray to Jesus when we need to be forgiven or to need to feel that God understands what we are going through. We might pray to the Spirit for inspiration or the right words to say to a friend who is hurting.

Formlessness, Form, Energy

Another way to think of the Trinity is

  • Formlessness (The Father)
  • Form (The Son)
  • The living and loving Energy flowing between them (Holy Spirit)

This is not to reduce the Trinity to some sort of physics. In fact, this presents God as the force behind all creation. This is still three distinct persons who are creating and loving.

A Love Triangle

The Trinity is often depicted as a Triangle, sometimes made of intertwined arcs. This is also a useful image. This is also related to the shamrock, which St. Patrick promoted as a way to think of the Trinity.

Historically we usually view the triangle image with the Father at the top and the Son and the Holy Spirit at the bottom. This can make our minds think that the Father “rules” over the Spirit and Son. So if you like the triangle image, try mixing it up. Put the Son or the Holy Spirit at the top and see if that helps contemplate this mystery.

A Water Wheel of Flowing Love

Consider this quote from St. Bonaventure:

Trinity is like a water wheel with three buckets on it. Same water flows through all three buckets, shows the unity of three persons in Trinity; the flowing water is love, what God is; God is flowing love.

This image of the Trinity includes the dynamic nature and that one person flows endlessly into another.

A Movement of Love

It can be helpful to think of the Trinity as more of a verb than a noun. It is after all a relationship. Instead of the static triangle model, think of a circle of movement: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit holding hands in a spinning dance, each moving and reaching toward the others in a joyful swirl of love.

We are invited into that perfect relationship. Join in the dance of the Trinity!

More Resources

Social Media Graphic and Quote

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mystery of the trinity

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity tells us that we do not have a solitary God up there in heaven, far away; no, He is the Father who gave us his Son, who became man like us, and who sends his own Spirit to be even closer to us.

Pope Francis

What Is the Trinity? LifeTeen Explains

This video from Life Teen also has a nice explanation of what it means to be “eternally begotten” and “consubstantial”. This is helpful for a study of the Creed.

What is the Holy Trinity?

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