Trinity Sunday: three persons in one and the consequences

What makes a divine service a New Apostolic divine service? One possible answer is that it begins and ends with the invocation of the triune God. Who is this triune God? What are the implications of our belief in this? Reflections on Trinity Sunday.

The Sunday after Pentecost is called Trinity Sunday in the liturgical calendar. Christians commemorate the fact that God is triune. In the Bible it says: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” This is exactly how the Priest blesses the congregation at the end of every divine service, with the Trinitarian blessing. It is the God whom Christians worship who is Trinitarian. He is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the Creator, He has revealed His human face in Jesus Christ, and He gives people hope for a better future through the activity of the Holy Spirit. The timeline of His existence is infinite—from the very beginning of everything to the most distant future. This triune God grants us His blessing.

Three persons, one being

When we address God as “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” it does not mean that three different gods are being invoked, but three different persons. The special term used for this is “hypostasis”. The New Apostolic Catechism uses the same term: “The trinity of God is a mystery. … The one God is the triune God. … When we speak of God as ‘the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’, we do not imply that these are three different gods, but rather three persons (hypostases), who are the One God” (CNAC 3.1.1). mia ousia – treis hypostaseis: this means “one being – three hypostases” or also tres personae, una substantia, meaning “three persons, one substance”—depending on which theological language you speak.

This is a mystery that seems difficult to digest for us humans: one being in three persons. How is that possible? God is one and at the same time triune! This contradicts human knowledge. Man is rather fixed on being what he really is. But belief in the triune God influences the image that we humans have of God. If Christians believe in the Trinity, they also believe that God can do anything, that He is almighty and eternal; they believe that God is merciful and lenient towards them; they believe that God is truth and wisdom and that He is interested in the future. “He is the One (the Only One), the Holy One, the Almighty, the Eternal, the Loving One, the Gracious One, the Righteous One, the Perfect One. God is neither unknown nor concealed. He inclines Himself to human beings, speaks to them, and allows them to speak to Him” it says in the Catechism.

Our image of God has consequences

So what do you as a Christian believe? Are you dissatisfied because your image of God cannot be reconciled with all the experiences you have made and all the things you have seen in life? Are you afraid of Him, the Almighty, because He does not fit into your three dimensional world? Do you want to be more powerful than almighty, even though you know that this is not possible! Humans cannot live on earth forever nor can they foresee their future. What they can do, however, is worship the triune God, trust Him, and allow Him to form and shape them. We can follow the example of God the Son and be merciful and lenient. We can also assign more importance to those things that concern our future and not only worry about our earthly needs. All of this wanting to understand God is the mission of mankind, who not only speaks about the trinity of God but believes in it. This is something we must prove in everyday life.

The Trinitarian-oriented believer does not need a god of vengeance or of war. He does not need to fall back on archetypal patterns of behaviour where might makes right. From an ethical point of view, Christians live a life of high moral competence. They are generous when it comes to their neighbor; they see the horizon and are eager to expand it. Christians listen and speak the truth. They believe in what is good even though evil exists.

Being there where He is

Worship and glorification are due to all three divine persons. They are the one God and are in eternal unity and communion. We aspire to enter into perfect fellowship with the triune God. This is why we are waiting for the return of Christ, the implementation of the kingdom of peace, and finally perfection in the new creation, in which we will see God as He is.

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Peter Johanning
Divine service, Christian holidays