This morning's Office of Readings has a fantastic letter from Saint Athanasius on the topic of the Most Holy Trinity and I wanted to share it with those who don't have access to it. Today is after all the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I placed a few of my own meager thoughts below Saint Athanasius brilliant explanation.
A letter by St AthanasiusThis letter is beautiful and there are three things that should be especially noted.
Light, radiance and grace are in the Trinity and from the Trinity
It will not be out of place to consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.
We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energising reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved. Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things. God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.
Writing to the Corinthians about spiritual matters, Paul traces all reality back to one God, the Father, saying: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.
Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.
This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we possess the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.
First, St. Athanasius is convinced that the doctrine of the Trinity is the sine qua non of Christian faith. Faith's content includes not only the narrative of redemption culminating in Christ (he died, he rose, he shall come again), but also contains the conviction that God is one being subsisting in the three divine Persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, St. Athanasius and the Catholic Church hold that "there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being." The holy father Athanasius undercuts any notion of the Trinity that would introduce a "blend" of uncreated and created. This is a metaphysical conviction that safeguards us from wading into error as it regards the Most Holy Trinity.
Lastly, St. Athanasius appeals to Sacred Scripture for support. As a bishop of the Catholic Church, Athanasius roots his theological beliefs in the pages of Sacred Writ. It is not enough to have a sound metaphysical understanding of God. It must be based on divine revelation because the mystery of the Holy Trinity is beyond the light of natural reason. Even more, Athanasius appeals to Saint Paul, a worthy theologian of the Holy Trinity. This is a fitting reminder of the Apostle Paul's robust Trinitarianism as we draw to the end of the year of Saint Paul.