At Christmas, we see Jesus come to us as a humble child.
And twelve days later we see the humble child revealed as the King of Gory.
God unveiled the mystery of the Trinity at the baptism of Jesus, and we celebrate the Feast of Theophany to remember and celebrate this mystery. St. Basil and many of the Church Fathers taught much about the Trinity.
This understanding of the Trinity is not just something for the theologians and it’s not something the Church compels you to believe in order to be Orthodox. Understanding the Holy Trinity expresses the experience of the Saints as they commune with God.
What is a Saint? A Saint is one who communes with God: someone who’s drawn so close to God that they know Him in a very special way and those Saints who knew God in that way, who prayed so deeply and gave their lives so fully understood God as Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We see this in the Holy Scriptures as the writers reflect on God and as He revealed Himself to them, they wrote about it in the written Word. In the Old Testament, we see Yahweh – the One God, and this is the first thing we confess in the Creed, “I believe in One God.”
Christians are monotheists. We do not have “many God’s” – we worship One God, and this God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We see this in the Old Testament as Yahweh the One God is acting in the world through His Word and through His Spirit. The Prophets would say things like, “The Word of the LORD came to me,” and they would declare things like “In the last days God will pour out His Spirit.” Isaiah said “I was in the Spirit,” and then he shares his vision, so we not only see Yahweh the One God throughout the Old Testament but we also see Him working through His Word and through His Spirit.
We see this in the Old Testament as the writers talk about the Word of God and the Spirit of God. The Word of God became flesh. John was talking about the same Word of God that was there in the Old Testament, the Word of Yahweh. The Word is also referred to as the Son…the Word and the Son are the same person. When Jesus is born, He is the Word made flesh and that is what we celebrate at Christmas. The Spirit of God is also poured out on all flesh in Acts 2, at Pentecost when the Spirit of God was poured out on the apostles and tongues of fire came on their heads and again we see God working in the world through his Word and through His Spirit.
There have been some things people have gotten wrong in trying to understand this mystery throughout history.
They said the Word and the Spirit were created beings – this is false teaching.
They said the Son and the Spirit were lesser than God – which is equally errant doctrine.
Arius mistakenly said that there was a time when the Son of God didn’t exist.
The early Fathers concluded that these beliefs were against the teaching of the Church.
We confess that the Word and Spirit are one with the Father, that they are God just as the Father is God and they share the same Divinity with Him, so they’re not lesser beings.
Some of the heretics taught that God is one, but that He appears in different forms – so sometimes He appears as the Word or the Holy Spirit and sometimes as the Father but really is the same God appearing in different ways.
This didn’t make sense to the Fathers as they reflected on the scriptures because they saw Jesus praying to the Father.
When we talk about the Holy Trinity, we are not just saying they are three different forms of the same God…they are each distinct. The Son is the only begotten Son of God who comes from the Father. The Spirit Proceeds from the Father. That source is Eternal. There was never a time never a time when the Word of God did not exist and never a time when the Spirit of God did not exist. They are eternal.
This the the great mystery of our church and of our faith and why we end all of our prayers in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
When we do this, we are doing the same thing Saint Paul did in his letters, closing in a doxology of praise. That is what the Church life is: it is praising and worshipping God. When we celebrate the Divine Liturgy every Sunday, we are doing the most normal thing we can do. All week long, we live our lives according to God’s word and we sometimes fail, but we try to understand His will. We may need to come to confession, but we get up and all of this leads to an act of praise and glory.
The Divine Liturgy comes at the end of the week for us as the 8th day. It is the day beyond time. We celebrate all that He has done for us and the Holy Trinity reminds us of that, as we try to understand it in our minds. Ultimately, we end up praising and glorifying God because He is immeasurably more than we could ever think or imagine.
Our God is the source of all life and truth, and all beauty and salvation, and we give Him glory along with His Son, and Holy Spirit. Unto ages of ages, Amen!
The next homily on the Mystery is right here.