The Trinity is called a Mystery. That does not mean it is not describable, but means it cannot be recognized as True except to Faith. And it is the same with the description of the Trinity – the description, also, can only be claimed to be true by an act of faith.
So, let’s take a look at the Mystery’s description.
To begin, it will be a great help to look at ourselves, specifically at our Soul. The name “soul” is a term used for whatever it is that “animates” our bodies and minds. The word for soul in Latin is “anima”, from which we get the term “animate”.
But what is this animator? Philosophy has used the word “soul” to refer to that invisible, non-material “thing” that keeps all the various elements within a body all working together as a single living body, rather than falling apart and going their separate ways (as with a dead body, or corpse, after death) . When looking for the definition of the Trinity, it is best to focus on the relation of the Soul to the human mind, thought processes, since we hear things like “the Son of God is the Word, begotten of the Father,” etc. A word is something having to do with the intellect, with thought, with the mind.
Right now you are hearing Words (or reading them here). Words are entering your conscious thoughts from somewhere outside of you. Hopefully as you hear (or read) them, the words are making sense as the words become phrases and as the phrases become sentences, and as the sentences become an idea. One after another, one word follows another word making an understandable idea in your thoughts.
So, your conscious thoughts get their words from something besides themselves. Your thoughts “receive” words, rather than make them up. And, it is the same with your own thoughts. Your Soul is something you cannot see or hear or point to or feel. But, it can do and does do for you the same thing I just did with my words to you. Your soul puts words into your conscious thoughts, one word at a time, and they make sense as each word appears in your thinking. There is an invisible, “spiritual”, intelligence that puts words in your thoughts or out your mouth, making sense as you think them or speak them. That invisible intellect that gives words to your thinking is what we give the name “soul”. That invisible thing “animates” your conscious mind with words and also with images. Try this: make up a sentence, either in your thoughts or by writing it down. Here is a starter for the sentence: “The road went winding …” and as you finish the sentence, pay attention to how you get each next word for completing it, where are the words coming from; try to see where the next words come from.
(Pause a moment and complete your own sentence)
I will give you my sentence: “The road went winding, uphill and down, until it came to a dead-end”.
Where did “uphill and down” come from? “Uphill and down” were simply there as the seemingly appropriate next words, so they were part of my thought’s sentence. They were not there, and a moment later they were in my thoughts. And what about “dead-end”? Actually, with “dead-end”, two words appeared in my thoughts: “dead-end” and “cliff”. And also out of the blue (from my soul), came the choice of “dead-end”, like a decision I was not aware of making. Of course in normal conversation I would say that “I chose to use ‘dead-end’” but it was not really that way.
Words appear in us, from somewhere we cannot perceive. And strangely, they make perfect sense when they appear. Your sentences make as much sense as mine. You did not have a thousand words sitting in front of you and you did not have to pick and choose from those thousand words to find a group that make sense for your sentence. The correct words were all there, one after another, making sense. That is your soul animating your thought. This invisible, spiritual, thing called the Soul is intelligent. It knows what it knows and it knows how to operate the body, operate the brain, to bring what it knows into the material world of your thoughts, the material world of your brain. Why does your soul do this? Why bring words and ideas into your conscious thought or into your speech?
Your soul’s biggest desire is to make true in the physical world what it knows in itself, and to bring truth from the outside physical world into itself. When you hear someone else talk, it is not just going into your conscious thought, but your soul is taking it into itself also, so it has inside (intellectually and spiritually) what exists in the physical world.
What your soul knows, it wants the body to experience physically, so that your soul’s “understanding” matches the reality outside the soul, since it is one being, one person, with the body. When I asked you to make a sentence, your soul knew the sentence long before you did consciously. It knew, and it wanted the physical reality of your brain, your thoughts, to equal what it knew inside. So your soul “spoke” and the “words” entered your flesh (your thoughts).
What is in your soul?
Your soul is the place of your intellect, the place of your reason and your will. It is also the place of your appetites. We won’t go into those. It is enough for talking about the Trinity what we have already seen.
We are like God in our souls, in that we are intelligent. We know truth.
We are also like God in that we want the truth we know to not just be in our understanding, but to be outside us, all around, so that what we know are not just ideas, but is real substance also. Your souls knew the words of your sentences, and then there was suddenly substance to your words as they began to appear in your thoughts or on paper in front of you. The outside and inside of your intellect were matching.
We say that God is infinite in many ways. He is Truth. And he knows. And, what is the biggest thing that God knows inside himself: what might that be?
God knows himself. He knows he is Truth. He knows it is Good to be one with Him. And he knows he is Beauty. What do we do, our souls, when we know something inside? We move our bodies, our minds, our thoughts to make it also real outside our intellect. We think thoughts, we write, we speak.
God does this also. That is how we are like him. He knows himself, and from forever he has “described himself”. He has “spoken himself”. One thing about God; when he speaks, what he says is real. So when he describes himself, the one he is describing is actually there with him, looking back at him. That is the “Father generating the Son”, from forever. Looking back at the speaker, the “Son” is real, just as your words in your thoughts are real, or your words on Paper. But this “Son” is not a lifeless material word, but a living Word – it is exactly what the “Father” is describing. And the Father is describing God. God is describing God – the Father is Speaking the Word, the Son.
So, Father and Son are facing each other. The Father is speaking, the Son knowing he is “known” by his Father. It is perhaps something like you knowing consciously now that your soul generates your conscious thoughts. In your conscious thoughts you can think about your soul generating your conscious thoughts. Father and Son face one another, both infinite Truth, both infinitely Good to be One with. And they desire that union. These “persons” of Father and Son, Being God, all powerful – they make that union real with their Will. Love proceeds from each to the other. That is the Holy Spirit. It is the Life of the Son going into the Father, and the Life of the Father going into the Son. (the Breath of the Son into the Father, the Breath of the Father into the Son). And it is the Breath of God, all powerful, Truth, Good, Love, it is the Living Breath of one being breathed by the other.
Like our soul generates truth outside us that matches the truth it knows, God has generated the Truth he knows, namely himself. But that Word of God is God. And the Speaker is God. And the Spirit they give to one another is God. Three Persons. Can this Truth, this Goodness, this Relationship of Love be shared by something that is not God? Can something that is not God, can a creature, appreciate the Truth, be united to the Good, take in the Beauty? God knew in himself the answer was “Yes”, if there were a creature like him, able to know truth, able to will what is good, able to love, to participate in union.
That is why we are. To participate God. But it is necessary to learn of him before we see him inside himself, to be suited to be one with him before we come in contact with him inside himself, to love him before we see him in glory, so that we are confident to love him when we see him face to face. That is where the preaching of the Gospel, Faith, Grace, and Sanctification come into view.
Now, let’s consider something familiar to us all: “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; ”
In the beginning, or always, God knew himself; God knew God. And he spoke Himself. It was not just a “divine nature” that did the speaking, but an individual, a Person, and it was not just a dead idea of who he is, but his Word was him. But the “divine nature” was not the Word; He, too, was a Person. His Word was his own reality being looked at and uttered by himself and was face to face with him. His Truth and Goodness was now relationship in God, matching him in Truth and Goodness. And breathing themselves into each other, they were not breathing “divine nature” into each other, but their Living Spirit, a Person.
… “14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. ” The Father also spoke his being out into that which is not God, just as we do not only hold our words in our own thoughts, but we send them out into the air for going into other flesh. And now the Truth and Goodness of Union with God became a reality outside of God in the man Jesus. There was now an equality of God outside that matched God within himself, by his Speech, just as our souls present words to our minds and our mouths so that the outside (what is in the flesh) matches what the soul knows inside itself. When we walk with Jesus or those he sent to us, we are walking with the person who matches the Father who speaks.
Why is all this good to know? In knowing God this way, and in knowing ourselves this way (with our souls) we can see that God is like us (or we are like God, or both). We are “suitable for relationship”. When something is not suited to you, you cannot love it, but instead you will ignore it or hate it. But when it suits you, and is desirable, then you can and do love it and will work to be together with it. In Jesus, in the Church (his Body), we are participating, in relationship, with the Trinity, of one flesh with the Word made Flesh.