Sunday, August 10, 2008

Three in One

Luca Rossetti da Orta, The Holy Trinity
St. Gaudenzio Church (Torino)

It's not uncommon to come across explanations of the Trinity of the Godhead. It is -- in my experience at least -- less common to see a practical implication articulated for it.

God is uncreated spirit, without gender, without beginning or end. We use the pronoun "He" to describe Him because that's the closest we can get to describing what God is like after our own fashion using human language.

We say that God is the Father because He is the ultimate seminal cause, the supreme source. Everything else proceeds from Him; He holds all authority; like good children, we are to return to Him love and honor.

We say that God is the Son because He is the consummate manifestation of the mind of the Father. Imagine a thought so perfect that it truly and literally exists in its own right, outside the mind of the individual who thought it. That is what the Son is to the Father, and it is why in his Gospel St. John the Evangelist called Him the Word. Being of the same substance of the Father, the Son is begotten.

We say that God is the Holy Ghost because when the Father and Son behold one another, they see the infinite truth, beauty, and goodness that the Other possesses and respond with an infinite Love. This Love is so profound and perfect that it is manifested as yet another Individual: the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. That is why the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son.

(Though I speak of each person of the Trinity in turn, there is no sequence to Them -- i.e. there was never a moment when there was no Son or Holy Ghost: all Three have existed forever and will continue to exist for eternity. And though there are three distinct Persons in the Godhead, there is only one God -- a God who cannot be divided, and three Persons who must not be confounded. But all that is material for a future blog entry.)

So what does that mean for us here below?

One crucial point is that it concretely demonstrates what it means to love. This is not love in the sentimental sense -- as C.S. Lewis put it:

"Not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes..."

Love responds to love with acts of love. For example, the fellow in love will bind himself to his beloved by promising to love no one else forever (it is the nature of love to inspire this sort of conduct), and his beloved will respond in kind. So toss out the window pre-nups, temporary marriages of convenience, and multiple marriages punctuated by divorces: they're all invalidating exercises, shabby imitations, tired and sterile expedients that make for a damnable waste of time.

Love creates, for another. The love of the Father and the Son is a spirit so real that is actually another Person. Likewise, when a man and woman are in love, there is no better manifestation of that love than for the couple to give birth to another person. That is why birth control is intrinsically perverse, why same-sex marriages aren't marriages, and why couples who marry with the intention to never have children are committing fraud.

Laudamus Te. Benedicimus Te. Adoramus Te. Glorificamus Te.

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