Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. We explain it by saying the Trinity is the mystery of One God in three divine Persons. However, catechism answers like that can give us wrong pictures of our truths.
The word trinity, when we hear it, locks our minds into the number three, which goes against our most fundamental belief that God is One.
The word person is also misleading. “Per-sona” literally meant to make a sound through something. Persons were what they called the various masks worn by a single actor who played several roles in a Greek drama. When we use that word to describe the Almighty we get the picture of God switching masks to play the three different roles of the Father, Son, and Spirit. That does not match up with what Scripture teaches us about God. So, what does Scripture say?
Even in looking at what Scripture says, we might lack the insights to properly understand them. Our two sources for understanding the pertinent Scripture passages are the writings of St. Thomas and the writings of three Greek Fathers of the Church: St. Gregory, St. Basil, and the other St. Gregory.
But, let’s first take a look at the Old Testament. It’s opening words, “In the beginning,” gives us the strong idea of the one God who was there forever and ever before he initiated creation.
The New Testament introduced us to the Son. The Letter to the Hebrews described him as “the very imprint” of God’s being. The Letter to the Colossians called him, “The image of the invisible God.”
St. Thomas Aquinas interpreted those Bible passages by saying that before there was any creation the One God, containing all reality within himself, was alone with his thoughts. Now, the only object his thinking could focus on was himself. So, he saw himself completely, and his thinking never wavered from that picture of himself. It was his “brain child.”
Turning to the Greek Fathers who were of greatest help to us in understanding God, we find that two of them, Gregory and Basil were brothers, and the third one, Gregory of Nazianzus, was a close friend of theirs. As boys the three had studied together in Alexandria and Athens. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa had a most capable older sister named Makrina. Sensing that her brothers and the other Gregory were on to something, she opened her home to them, turning it into the Holy Spirit’s think tank.
Those Greek Fathers saw the mutual love of Father and Son as substantive in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Going on to the First Letter of John’s succinct definition that says, “God it Love,” they pictured the Persons as engaging in an endless exchange of love. They described the interior behavior of the Trinity as one of perachoresus, a word describing three persons holding hands turning in a dance.
Perhaps I am wrong for trying to go beyond the catechism answer, but I think that God in giving us these Scriptural clues was offering us an invitation to know him better, and he is pleased when we accept the invitation.