Three in One?

This post is the special request of our reader Eric – Thank you for your request!

The Question: Can you possibly explain the concept of the Trinity to someone who is not a Catholic? I’ve never quite understood why it is necessary for God to have three faces. Why can’t there just be one God with everyone else being servants of God?

The Answer: The first thing that must be pointed out in any discussion on the Trinity is the fact that the Triune nature of God is a mystery. We can only make feeble attempts at poor analogies to understand His mysteries. Because of the topic, any explanation I offer will not be adequate. We know, though, that God is Truth Itself, and as such, cannot deceive or be deceived. We believe these things about Him because He Himself revealed them, and this is how He chose to reveal Himself to us. All I can do is offer my humble understanding of a mystery that cannot be understood.

In the Person of the Trinity, we’re taught that there is more than just three ‘faces,’ rather, there are three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and yet one God. In many old paintings, when the Blessed Trinity was depicted (right), they would each have the same face, to show that they are perfectly united with the other. St. Patrick, whose memorial we celebrate on the 17th of this month, taught the Irish people the doctrine of the Trinity using a three-leaf clover. Holding it up, he showed the people how there are three distinct leaves, and yet it is only one plant.

Why it is necessary for God to be three Persons perfectly united in One God, though? God is perfect relationship. Bl. John Paul the II showed us in his work “Love and Responsibility” that God the Father and God the Son are participating in a continual giving and receiving of love with each other, and it is this flow between the two from which comes the Holy Spirit. Because we are created in the image of a relational God, we must have relationships to each other to survive. Stories like Robinson Crusoe are so remarkable because he survived with no relationship to another human for many chapters of the book. We need each other! We’re designed to give ourselves as a gift to others. A married man and woman, religious sister, or priest embody this most effectively, but even single men and women are each called to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in whatever way Christ calls.

So if one took Jesus Christ apart from the Blessed Trinity, would He still be God? Well yes and no. Yes, in that Jesus is perfectly God. No, in that you cannot separate them! It’s not possible! Jesus Himself said that “I and the Father are one and the same,” and “He who seems Me, sees the Father.” (Not to confuse the doctrine teaching us that each of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity is distinct from the others – Jesus spoke often of having been sent from the Father. Again, it’s a mystery!) Christ also promised that He would be with us always, and not leave us orphans when He returned to His Heavenly Father. He accomplishes this is a few ways… First, the gift of His very Flesh and Blood to be our nourishment in the Holy Eucharist! Second, the gift of the Holy Spirit sent to the 12 Apostles and His Blessed Mother at Pentecost, giving the leaders of the Church the ability to lead us as Christ Himself. (Note here: The Apostles didn’t just run out after the Resurrection and start preaching! They were too scared! It was only after the decent of the Holy Spirit that they had the courage to go out and teach! This Spirit was so fully in them, they didn’t hesitate to die a martyr’s death for the sake of Jesus Christ.)

So why the Trinity? Only God knows. Pondering His mysteries, though, is a very fruitful exercise for the believer. Ultimately, the Trinity is not about understanding, but about love. We can love something we don’t understand (small children loving their parents). As we dig deeper into this particular mystery, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds and draw our hearts ever-deeper into the perfect Love and Truth of God!

Does this answer your question?


About Mary's Ghillie

Why Mary's? Because she is the best example of how to live a life worthy of Christ. Why Ghillie? It's an old Celtic word for servant. I'm Mary's Ghillie!

Posted on March 14, 2013, in Ask Ghillie. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you for the explanation! You write very well and will be a great teacher. My own personal philosophy has always been that we are all a part of God. If there is a Trinity, it exists for each individual, so that in effect we are all sons (and daughters) of God and we all possess the ability to be God-like. Of course, as you pointed out it is a great mystery to define exactly what God actually is. Perhaps it is something that is impossible for us to comprehend and describe completely.

    • You’re welcome, and thank you!
      You are most correct in saying that we are all sons and daughters of God! We are His beloved children, and most precious in His eyes. And thanks to God’s grace in His Sacraments through the Church, we do have the ability to be perfect as God Himself is perfect. Because of Original Sin though, our nature is wounded and will to do good is weakened, so we will often fall in our attempts to be as our Heavenly Father. In His infinite love and mercy though, He never tires of forgiving us and picking us back up again and again.

      It was pointed out to me that it is not possible for us to understand God. The created cannot understand the Creator. (Compare this to a man-made computer. The computer will never understand the man – it will only understand what the man programs it to understand.) St. Augustine of Hippo wrote in one of his many works, “If you understand, then it is not God.”

      Again, it’s ultimately about love. It’s very possible to love what you do not understand, and even more possible to understand something you do not love.The mystery of God is what makes Him inviting. He wants you to seek to understand Him more, and the more you seek Him, the more you will find Him!
      God bless you!

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