Sunday May 31 is Trinity Sunday–Or, more formally, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
In honor of the holiday, I thought I would discuss the Trinity a bit – what it means, and when the concept of a God who is “Three in One” was officially defined. This happened when the Church was young – over two hundred years before the books of the Bible were finalized by the Orthodox at the Second Council of Trullan in 692. (The Catholic scriptures, although generally accepted, no. ‘were not officially canonized until the Council of Trent in the 16th century.)
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The First Council of Constantinople was summoned in AD 381 to – guess where? – Constantinople. He was summoned by Theodosius, for the purpose of uniting the church on the basis of the Orthodox faith. But travel was difficult at this time, and despite Theodosius’ good intentions, the council was uncrowded, without Western bishops or legates. Only a few bishops from Egypt attended and they arrived late. In reality, therefore, the council was only a synod of bishops from Thrace, Asia and Syria.
Given its sectoral character, Constantinople I was perhaps not at all listed among the great “ecumenical” councils; but eventually its doctrines were affirmed by the entire Christian Church, and the Council came to be viewed as ecumenical by both West and East.
Basic education– More importantly, Constantinople I reaffirmed the principles of the faith that were demarcated at Nicaea and denounced all opposing doctrines. The divinity of the Holy Spirit was an important question as the Church debated and formalized its new understanding of the Trinity.
The so-called “Nice-Constantinopolite Credo”, generally attributed to this council, is probably a revised Jewish baptismal formula by interpolation of some Nicene test words. More recently, its claim to be called “Constantinopolitan” has been challenged; scholars note that the creed is not found in the earliest records of the acts of the council, neither by the last council of Ephesus (431 AD), nor by the “Robber Synod (449 AD) – although these two The councils affirmed the faith of Nicaea, but it was this creed that became the creed of the universal Church – and it has been kept unchanged except for the addition of the filioque.
Filioque– Latin for “and of the Son”, the word filioque (pronounced fee-lee-OH-kway) – is at the basis of Christian belief, in that it defines the three persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the original Greek form, the creed said that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father.” With the inclusion of the “filioque”, the Church has clarified that the Holy Spirit proceeds both from the Father and the son.
Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum, et vivificantem: qui ex Patre Filioque proceed.
(And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who from the
Dad and the son process.)
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In the Gospels, does Jesus speak of the Trinity?
Well yes. He frequently refers to his Father: “I and the Father are one.” “As the Father sends me, so I send you.
It refers to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who will come after his return to heaven.
Clear proof of the Trinity can be found in Matthew 3: 16-17, the Gospel account of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River:
After being baptized, Jesus immediately came out of the water; and, behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and shine upon him, and, behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, in which I take pleasure in. “
And here it is: Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity, is there, wading in the Jordan, the cool waters poured over his head by his cousin John.
And God the Father, First Person of the Trinity, is there, making his presence known as a Voice from heaven.
And the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is there, in the form of a dove, hovering over Jesus’ head.