Three Persons By Appropriation Of Roles But One In Being

Today we have come to celebrate the greatest of Catholic mysteries! Today we have come to celebrate the mystery that has defied every human logic and learning so much so that the wisest of Theologians could not unravel it. Little wonder this drama: ‘No No No I can’t accept that’ said a man awaiting his plane at the airport hearing a priest’s preaching on the Trinity. Pointing at the sun the priest said, ‘do you believe in the sun’? ‘Yep of course’ he answered. ‘Can you explain its existence and operations?’ The priest asked. ‘No’ he answered. ‘Why do you believe it then when the sun is about 90,000,000 miles away from the earth and you only feel the heat,’ the priest retorted. The heat we feel is from both the sun and its rays. Similarly, the sun is God the Father; the sun sends out it rays-God the Son; then from both the sun and its rays-Father and Son- proceeds the Holy Spirit, the heat of the Father and the Son.
The divinity of the blessed Trinity defies every philosophical logic of syllogism, exclusivity of being, principles of excluded middle and contradiction. The principle of excluded middle upholds the logic of ‘either or’ rejecting the logic of ‘both and’. Hence the divinity is either three persons or is one God and not ‘both and’-both three persons and one God at a time. Does it mean then that the omniscient God has lost the sense of simple logic? Its really a puzzle to unravel. God is a community of THREE PERSONS in an eternal bond of love. They are three persons but one in substance. Thus they exist in the mathematical mutuality that can be expressed as follows: “each in each”, “each in all”, “all in each” and “all in all”. Hence just as each of the three persons is contained in each of the Trinity as a singular person and each is contained in all as a mutual community of being, so does all of the Trinity contained in each of the persons in their individuality and all of the Trinity contained in all in a mutual community of love. This does not in any way signify an assimilation of the different persons in the Trinity nor dissolution of their individuality.
Though the Trinitarian personality of the Divine is not by that name defined scripturally but the Bible gives distinct, clear and individual personalities to the different Trinitarian personalities consequent upon the roles they play as manifest in the salvation history of humanity. Though not explicit in the Bible but the early Christian community applied this term following Biblical recognition of the persons of the Trinity. Jesus always spoke about the Father who sent him (John 5:37; 20: 21) as a son and about the Holy Spirit whom the Father was going to send through him to be with the disciples till the end of the world. Furthermore, Pauline formula of greeting already in his letters gives a scriptural background to the Blessed Trinity: ‘may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (2Cor. 13:14). In spite of the difference in persons, there is among the Three Persons a unity of purpose- SALVATION OF MAN.
The Trinitarian definition of the divine persons is most aptly understood in the appropriation/ assignment/ascription of roles proper to each of the divine persons. Thus their difference and individuality is not in the QUALITY of persons but in the VARIANCE of roles appropriated to individual persons of the Trinity. This is the formular of the Blessed Trinitatrian role appropriation: in the history of human salvation the role of creation is appropriated to God the Father who planned the world so well and made it ready before creating man (Gen 1&2). In a similar way in the history of salvation, the role of redemption is appropriated to God the Son who at the fullness or appointed time was sent by the Father (John 20:21) for the redemption of man as perfected on the cross. Even by mere human reason I think that since the redemption of man needed a divine involvement, the Son cant but be the best choice for that role just as was already foretold hundreds of years before He was born (Isaiah 7:14; ). Hence He was sent for the ratification of the covenantal promises of God the Father. Furthermore, the role of sanctification is also appropriated to God the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the promise of both the Father and the Son. He is grace from both the Father and Son, source of empowerment and enlightenment, sanctifier and purifier. Thus he has been sent for the sanctification, consecration and forgiveness of sins. He is the divine grace sent for the forgiveness of sins (John 20:20-23) and our rejection of the grace and hope it offers is in itself unforgiveable (Mark3: 29) because we have by that very fact rejected forgiveness which is the appropriated role to the Holy Spirit.
One good thing to note is that the point of handover or exchange of roles among the divine persons in human experience is always described as the fullness of time- when the time is ripe/due/appropriate for the exchange of duty/role according to the salvation demand of man (Gal.4:4). This exchange was always welcomed with great anticipation of the ‘successor divine person’ by the ‘predecessor divine person’ thereby pledging a divine common purpose of realizing the historical salvation promised man. Thus expectancy of the next divine person by the former in this order: Father –Son –Holy Spirit was always a step forward in the realization of man’s salvation. Even though the divine persons have specific appropriated roles; it is not a ‘water-tight proof’ affair whereupon the other persons of the Trinity cant have a share of same roles but the idea is on characterization and specific identity. Sometimes these roles are mutually exercised such as forgiveness of sins. While Christ was at work he went about healing the sick and forgiving their sins (Luke 7: 47-48; 23:43, John 9:ff) just as God the Father forgives us(Mark 11:25) too.
Today reminds of the popular age long story about St. Augustine who asked a small girl trying to empty a whole sea into a small hole; “How do you think that you can empty this sea into this small hole and with this small cup?” To which she replied, ” And you, how do you suppose that with this your small head you can comprehend the immensity of the Trinity. Hence the effort so far is not in any way a show of absolute comprehension of the Trinity but a mere understanding of the Holy Trinity remains incomprehensible to us, a mystery. Our finite human minds cannot reach around the totality of its truth and assimilate all that it is. But because of the revelation of Jesus Christ the reality of the Holy Trinity is intelligible to us. While we can’t grasp the nature of the Holy Trinity in its entirety, we can know something about the inner life of God. The inner life of God is that God does not exist in isolated individualism but in a community of relationships. In other words, God is not a loner such that an ideal Christian spirituality should shun every tendency to isolationism and individualism. More so the number three, seven e.t.c are part of the symbols of fullness, perfection and completeness among the Jews. We come to share in the community of the Trinity by the virtue of baptism. Little wonder therefore the model of Christian spirituality is the Triangular spirituality whereupon the divinity acts on me and I in turn act on the community around me. May the Trinitarian formula be an exemplary of love and service to our communities as we pray glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. AMEN
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