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The mystery of the Holy Trinity

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

This Sunday we celebrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The dogma of the Holy Trinity is the central teaching of our Catholic Faith. It is from this doctrine that all the other teachings of our Faith have context and meaning. It is very important that we grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Holy Trinity to the extent that each of us is able, while accepting that the Holy

Trinity is a mystery that we cannot fully know or understand. God is infinite and we are finite. God is perfect and we are not. God is being and we are not. We can know Him and be in a relationship with Him to the extent that He has revealed and we are made able by His help, but only He can know and understand Himself fully as He is.

Here is some of what our Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches on the Holy Trinity:

“Christians are baptized ‘in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. (Mt 28:19) Before receiving the Sacrament, they respond to a three-part question when asked to confess the Father, the Son and the Spirit: ‘I do.’ ‘The Faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity.’ (St. Caesarius of Arles )

Christians are baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their names, (Cf. Profession of faith of Pope Vigilius I) for there is only one God, the almighty Father, His only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity.

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the Truths of Faith’. (General Catechetical Directory 43) The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals Himself to men ‘and reconciles and unites with Himself those who turn away from sin’. (General Catechetical Directory 47)

The Trinity is a mystery of Faith in the strict sense, one of the ‘mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God’.

(Dei Filius 4) To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel's faith before the Incarnation of God's Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

The Church uses (I) the term ‘substance’ (rendered also at times by ‘essence’ or ‘nature’) to designate the divine being in its unity, (II) the term ‘person’ or ‘hypostasis’ to designate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them, and (III) the term ‘relation’ to designate the fact that their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others.

The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the ‘consubstantial Trinity’. (Council of Constantinople II) 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.’ (Council of Toledo XI) In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215),

‘Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.’ (Lateran Council IV)

The Divine Persons are really distinct from one another. ‘God is one but not solitary.’ (Fides Damasi) ‘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 is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.’ (Council of Toledo XI) 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.’ (Lateran Council IV) The divine Unity is Triune.

The Divine Persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the Divine Unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: ‘In the relational names of the Persons, the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three Persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.’ (Council of Toledo XI) Indeed ‘everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship.’ (Council of Florence ) ‘Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.’ (Council of Florence)” (CCC paragraphs 232-234, 237, 252-255)

Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may the blessings of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit come upon you, your families and our parishes!

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Kasel


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