The mystery of the triune is the underlying Catholic doctrine on salvation and grace. The Bishops of the Church over the ages have worked to provide unification and clarification on the relationship of the Holy Trinity. God the Father, the Word and the Paraclete existed as three Persons in One God before creation. This is the foundation and font of the Church and its Sacraments.
We speak of God as a “Person” so that we are not representing Him as simply a cosmic power or sea of spirit who is indifferent to the universe around Him. Additionally, we refer to God as “Father” in the example Jesus provided for us. Jesus’ relationship with God was exemplified as a Father to his Son to provide a model of behavior for his disciples and today for all Christians. In John 1:4, it is written: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life.” (NAS John 1:4). Jesus, who is the Word, is identified as a collaborator in creation. Jesus was not a product of creation. God creates through the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.
“God is one, but not solitary.” “Father,” “Son,” “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being for they are really distinct from one another: “he is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.” They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.” The divine Unity is Triune. (CCC, 254)
“Our profession of faith begins with God, for God is the First and the Last, the beginning and the end of everything. The Credo begins with God the Father, for the Father is the first divine person of the Most Holy Trinity; our Creed begins with the creation of heaven and earth, for creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works.” (CCC, 198). The Catholic belief is succinctly expressed in the profession of faith or credo called the Nicene Creed.
The creed serves both as a change of praise and a witness of faith. Christians confess before their Maker and their fellow human beings the wonders God has done for them.
Introducing the Holy Trinity as the core belief of One God in Three Persons has met with challenge through the history of the Church. The Arians, led by Arius, had been able to twist biblical texts to Arius’ own purposes as it related to the relationship of the Father and Son. Arius was an influential theologian in the church of Alexandria and it was because of the Arians that the Council of Nicea was called. At the Council of Nicea in AD 325, a clause stating that the Son is “one in being with the Father”, was inserted by the Bishops. Later, in the Council of Constantinople in AD 381, more clarifying expressions were added, in an effort to, better clarify the relationship of the Spirit to the other persons of the Trinity. (The Creed, Marthaler, p10). The catechism of the Council of Trent acknowledged that the creed is divided into three principal parts: the first describes the first Person of the divine nature and the wonderful work of creation; the second professes the second Person of the mystery of man’s redemption; and the third comprises in appropriate short sentences the doctrine of the third Person, who is the origin and the source of our sanctification. (The Creed, Marthaler, p13).
The Christian creed, while rooted in old tradition and history, needs to also speak to a modern audience. We’re able to give prominence to our beliefs by interpreting the Creed for the new audience in a new context without tossing away the historical old traditions. The Nicene Creed sums up what we believe as Catholics.
The rationalization of One God, Three Persons is truly a mystery for us to be able to comprehend fully. “Because the Logos is the mirror image of God, the Father and Son are distinguishable but inseparable. Their nature is the same.” (The Creed, Marthaler, p88).
There are several attempts to offer a more defined example of how One God can be Three Persons. St. Patrick attempted to use a three-leaf clover representing one clover but three leaves. His analogy fails, however because God the Father is not 33%, the Son is not 33% and the Holy Spirit is not 33%. God is 100%. An analogy I have used to try and explain in today’s terms but is also flawed and not fully capable of explaining the Trinity is: When I speak, the word is coming from me but takes on its own life once spoken. When I think, the thought is mine but it too takes on its own life once it has been thought. The word and thought are 100% me but also independent of me. The comparison ends there because again, the word and thought cease to be me even though they are of me. With God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, they remain Three Persons in One God.
Marthaler, Berard L. The Creed Revised and Expanded Edition. New London, CT. Twenty-Third Publications, 2007. Print.
USCCB. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition. Washington, D.C. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013 Print.
Senior, Donald, et al. Editors: The Catholic Study Bible, Second Edition New American Bible Revised Edition, New York: N.Y. Oxford Press, 2011 Print.