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noiembrie 2014
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Through Jesus to the Trinity

Număr de vizionări :3920

by Leonard Tony FARAUANU

“No one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Mt. 11, 27)


When we speak of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the very word “mystery” should warn us with respect to the way in which we ought to approach this subject. In our intellectus fidei we should remain always aware of the fact that the more one penetrates a mystery of faith, the more this mystery appears hidden and beyond one’s comprehensive power. As S. Augustine says, si comprehendit non est Deus. Sometimes it happens that, by an abuse of reason, man distorts the truth of a mystery, trying to reduce it to something comprehensible for his week mind. The infinite richness of the divine truth is then denied because of the apparent contradictions experienced on account of his narrow intellect, and consequently this truth is adjusted in order to fit into a narrow and hideous system. But, as Hans Urs von Balthasar says, “the Cross explodes all systems,”[1] and we think that we can affirm the same of any other divine mystery.

Keeping in mind these truths, we want to analyze in our essay the sources of our knowledge about the Holy Trinity and also to see how philosophy can be used or abused in trying to penetrate this divine mystery. We will refer mainly to the Holy Scripture, but we will use also in our arguments some Encyclical Letters of Pope John Paul II, some texts from Hans Urs von Balthasar (Theodrama) and also some texts from Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia. We found also very helpful insights in Bertrand de Margerie’s book, The Christian Trinity in History, which has a deep analysis of the revealed analogies used in the Christian theology. Some other works will be quoted when necessary.

This essay was intended to express our conclusion to some serious discussions concerning the way of approaching the mystery of the Holy Trinity, a conclusion that we consider extremely important for one’s intellectus fidei. A mistake in this field would have serious consequences not only for one’s understanding of God (and theology in general), but also for one’s understanding of man and of the world. The constant reference to the mystery of the Trinity by the actual Magisterium, in particular that of Pope John Paul II[2] , is often explained by the fact that this divine truth stands at the basis of one’s understanding of any other divine mystery, of man and of his social relationships.


“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2). These are the words with which the Letter to the Hebrews begins. Moreover, as the Second Vatican Council says, God revealed Himself through words and deeds:

The pattern of this revelation unfolds through deeds and words which are intrinsically connected: the works performed by God in the history of salvation show forth and confirm the doctrine and realities signified by the words; the words, for their part, proclaim the works, and bring to light the mystery they contain. [3]

Of course, the Council speaks here about the twofold supernatural action of God: His words, revealed in a supernatural way, are intrinsically connected with His supernatural works, enlightening one another. This can be seen in all the history of salvation, which culminates with the Incarnation of the Word of God Himself. Christ, the Son of the Living God, is Himself “both the mediator and the sum total of revelation.”[4] He is mediator because “no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”[5] Likewise, He is the sum total of revelation in so far as He is the Truth[6] and one who sees the Son sees the Father[7]. To resume, the final and complete revelation of God in His Son happened through Jesus’ words and deeds intrinsically connected, enlightening one another. God “has spoken to us” by Jesus’ whole life[8]. This must be for us a starting point in our considerations.

The second point we want to make is concerned with the reason of this final and complete revelation of God, which is seen by the Second Vatican Council as related to the supernatural end of human life. Insofar as God, in the fullness of His love, “addresses men as His friends”[9] and lives among them “in order to invite and receive them into His own company[10],” the end of the human life is understood as sharing in the intra-trinitarian relation, as becoming sons in the Only Begotten Son of God. Thus, men are called to “draw near to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit”[11] and to share in the divine nature. To reiterate, therefore, the reason of the ultimate Divine Revelation in Jesus Christ is men’s sharing in the intra-trinitarian life as adopted sons in the Son. Hence, the revelation of the mystery of the Holy Trinity is to be seen as standing at the heart of Jesus’ mission. This means that we have to look at how Jesus taught us about the Trinity, what words He used and to which of His deeds did He attach a particular importance in this revelation of the Triune God. Jesus spoke in human words, He performed human deeds, thus in our expression of the mystery of the Trinity we must draw our words from Jesus’ own words. Otherwise we risk going astray and loosing the very heart of the truth.

Keeping in mind these principles, we should look now to the Gospels. First let us analyse the main words used by Jesus himself. It is easy for everyone to see that the word most often used by Jesus when He spoke to God or about God is “Father”[12]. He also makes a clear distinction between His and our relation with the Father, when He says “My Father and your Father” (Jn. 20: 17); He actually used the words “our Father” only once, and then He does not include Himself in this “our”, for He says “when you pray, say . . .” (Lk. 11: 2).

Deeply connected with the word “Father” is the word “Son”, which again is used by Jesus in a different way for Himself than for us. The Gospels speak about Jesus’ divine sonship, a relation that is eternal, before the creation of the world (Jn. 1: 14, 18; 3: 16; 17: 5) and in which Jesus is One with His Father: “I and My Father are One” (Jn. 10: 30). Of course, such a relationship could not be applied to us, for we are not “before Abraham was” (Jn. 8: 58) and all things were not made through us (Jn. 1: 4). The Jews understood quite well Jesus’ claim to be divine, when they wanted to kill Him for “He called God His Father, making Himself equal to God” (Jn. 5: 18)[13]. They had been taught “to honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (Jn. 5: 23) – an honor that they did not understand how to reconcile with “Shema, Israel, Adonai Eloheinou, Adonai Echad” (Dt. 6: 4)[14]. Jesus never claimed to be Himself “the Father”, for He spoke to the Father in an “I” – “Thou” distinction[15] and about the Father as “Other” than Himself. However, Jesus affirms that “I and My Father are One” (Jn. 10: 30), an affirmation that should help them to reconcile somehow His “equality with God” with Adonai Echad, God is One. At least they should have understood that Jesus never meant something that would contradict the Scriptures: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt. 5: 17). Therefore, the first result of our inquiry is that Jesus affirmed Himself as God, both “One” with the One whom He calls “Father” and distinct from Him as His own unique Son.

Also, another word that appears connected with God is “the Holy Spirit [to pneuma to hagion – ruah ha kodesh]”. When Jesus uses it, He clearly means by it a person: the (other) Paraclete [ho parakletos], the Advocate, the Comforter (Jn. 14: 26; 15: 26; 16: 7). In the Gospel of John the Holy Spirit is spoken of as a “He”, “That One” [ekeinos]. Many personal characteristics are also attributed to this Holy Spirit: He hears, speaks, guides, declares (Jn. 16: 13), glorifies, takes (Jn. 16: 14), teaches (Jn. 14: 26), testifies (Jn. 15: 26), reproves (Jn. 16: 8). Actually, the very name of Comforter or Advocate implies a personal operation: to console, to defend.

Now, if Jesus clearly meant by the Holy Spirit a distinct Person, is this Person divine? Although we cannot find anywhere in the Gospels such an explicit affirmation, there is however an implicit evidence, on account of the origin and the works attributed to this Holy Spirit. He proceeds [ekporeuetai] from the Father (Jn. 15: 26); He is sent by the Father in the name of the Son (Jn. 14: 26) and by the Son from the Father (Jn. 15: 26); He will dwell with the disciples (Jn. 14: 17), like the Father and the Son who will make their abode with them (Jn. 14: 23); He is the Spirit of Truth [to pneuma tes aletheias], while Jesus is the Truth itself (Jn. 14: 6); He is “another Comforter” (Jn. 14: 16), Jesus being the first Comforter. Many other passages could also prove that Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as of a Divine Person. It is possible, however, that Jesus’ audience took the Holy Spirit to mean some attribute of the Father, some power coming forth from Him. In the three old Sacred Writings (Torah, Nabhiim, Ketubim) one can easily find the expression ruah elohim (the Spirit of God), which is not clearly understood as speaking about a Divine Person distinct from other Divine Persons, but we have shown that for Jesus the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person distinct from the Father and the Son. Now we have to come back to our previous question: how then can we still say “Adonai Echad” – the Lord is One? Although Jesus did not teach any sophisticated explanation for our intellectual difficulty, He let us understand that the principle of this divine unity is the Father Himself, as the One from whom the Son and the Spirit[16] come forth and with whom the Son and the Spirit are One.[17] Yet the mystery of their unity and distinction is far from being comprehended, though we might have some “lights” about it. Again, si comprehendit non est Deus. Jesus asked our fidei amorosa adhaesio.

After having analysed Jesus’ own words through which He chose to reveal the mystery of the Triune God, we should inquire now into His deeds – deeds that shed a special light on the understanding of this sublime mystery. Now, in considering these deeds we cannot ignore Jesus’ own interpretation of them, and therefore we are still concerned with Jesus’ words. As we said in the beginning of this chapter, these words and deeds are intrinsically connected: they enlighten one another. Along with Jesus’ words written in the Gospels that are relevant for our task there are also all the interpretations that we can find in Scripture in general, for Christ fulfils the Scriptures (Mt. 5: 17) and the Holy Spirit guides the Church into all the truth (Jn. 16: 13). [18]

One of Jesus’ most fundamental attitudes and deeds was His prayer to the Father, His permanent dialogue with Him. Christ never ceased to contemplate the Father, and as Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) observed, all Jesus’ deeds flowed from His communion with the Father, from His continual prayer[19]. Jesus is the One towards the Father (apud Deum – pros ton Theon, as in Jn. 1: 1). He continually went “into the hills” to pray in solitude (Mk. 1: 35; 6: 46), He is concerned only about His Father’s will, which is His “food” (Jn. 4: 34), and He even dies praying to the Father (cf. Mt. 27 :46; Mk. 15: 34; Lk. 23: 34, 46). This fact is particularly relevant for the “distance” between the Father and the Son, as the distance between “I” and “Thou”. Jesus applies this “distance” not only within His earthly life or only on account of His human nature, but even before His incarnation: “So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence [para soi] before the world existed” (Jn. 17: 5). The other important aspect of this dialogue with the Father is that Jesus’ own Person is revealed as a “dialogue”, as a “relation” with the Father. This is “the core of His personality.”[20]

Another important fact is Jesus’ awareness of being “sent”[21] by the Father. He “does not speak and act from Himself, but from Another: it is of His very essence that He comes from this Other.”[22] As Hans Urs von Balthasar says, “Jesus Christ is the Person, in an absolute sense, because in Him self-consciousness (of the conscious subject) coincides with the mission He has received from God, a mission that, because of this identity, cannot but be universal . . .”[23] This self-consciousness is expressed by words like “I am sent” (Lk. 4: 43), “I have come” (Jn. 5: 43), “the One whom the Father sent into the world” (Jn. 10: 36), etc. He [the Son] “can do nothing on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise” (Jn. 5: 19). That is why the Son is “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His substance [character tes hypostaseos autou] (Heb. 1: 3). These last words suggest much more: the Son is not only sent into the world, but His very Person is “sent,” comes from the Father from all eternity. He is character tes hypostaseos autou, words that convert “to send” into “to beget”.[24] The Father is spoken of as “the One who sent” the Son (Jn. 7: 33; 8: 18, 26, 29, 42), while the Son is “the One sent” by the Father. Very often, in the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself or to the Father only with these words, as being sufficient for their identity. If now we convert “to send” into “to beget”, the Father appears as “the One who begets”, and the Son as “the One begotten” from the Father. The Prologue of the Gospel of John expresses clearly this truth: Jesus is “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1: 14). Jesus Himself seems to show this correspondence between His eternal procession from the Father and His mission: ego gar ek tou Theou exelthon kai eko – for I came forth and I came from God” (Jn. 8: 42). Missio follows processio, or, as Hans Urs von Balthasar says, “the Son’s missio has been taken up into His processio, rendering it timeless.”[25]

Another relevant activity of Jesus is His speaking “the word [ho logos] from the Father” (Jn. 14: 24). He is the Word [ho logos] of God (Jn. 1: 1), that is, the Word of the Father, from all eternity. In giving to the world the words that are “spirit” and “life” (Jn. 6: 63) Jesus gives Himself, for He says “I am the Life” (Jn. 14: 6). He gives what He is, for He is the Word of God.

To recap what we have said up to this point: Jesus’ deeds reveal His Person to be relation with the Father, the One coming forth from the Father and the Word of the Father. What then can be said about the Holy Spirit? We see that Jesus sent Him to His disciples after His resurrection (Jn. 20: 22, Lk. 24: 49), as He promised them (Jn. 14-16). But, using Jesus’ own interpretation, “he that is sent is not greater than he that sent him” (Jn. 13: 16). Therefore, Jesus appears here “greater” than the Holy Spirit. Of course, “greater” should be understood in this case only with respect to the origin, that is, the Holy Spirit has His being also from the Son. Similarly, the Father is said to be greater than the Son (Jn. 14: 28), who is, at the same time, God (Jn. 1: 1), One with the Father (Jn. 10: 30). Thus, the Holy Spirit comes forth from the Father (Jn. 15: 26) and from the Son, while the Son comes forth from the Father alone. The immanent Trinity is revealed in the economic Trinity, for missio follows processio.

There is, however, something more to speak of concerning the mystery of the Triune God, for “the Paschal Mystery is Christ at the summit of the revelation of the inscrutable mystery of God.”[26] Consequently, we should look in a particular way to this “summit” of the revelation, trying to see what we can learn from it about the Trinity.


In the light of the Cross, “death, which puts an end to words and meaning, itself becomes a word, becomes the place where meaning communicates itself.”[27] Moreover, the Cross “is in a sense the final word of His [Jesus’] messianic message and mission.” [28] In order to understand what this word actually says, we should look first for Jesus’ own interpretation: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15: 13) and “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn. 3: 16). We see, therefore, the Cross as an expression of this love of the Father and of the Son for mankind. This love also has the dynamic of a gift of self, for Christ gives his own life and the Father gives what He has most preciously, His Son. Moreover, the Cross is an expression of Christ’s love for the Father: “I do as the Father has commanded Me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (Jn. 14: 31). This love of the Son to the Father consists, according to Scriptures, in His being “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2: 8), in His doing always “what is pleasing to Him [i.e., to the Father]” (Jn. 8: 29). Yet in this case the Cross can be seen as a “dialogue” of love between the Father and the Son, for the Father answers to this gift of the Son: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again” (Jn. 10: 17). “The Father loves the Son” (Jn. 3: 35; 5: 20) and the “Son loves the Father” (Jn. 14: 31)… Moreover, as Hans Urs von Balthasar says, God “does not become ‘love’ by having the world as His ‘thou’ and His ‘partner': in Himself, in lofty transcendence far above the world, He ‘is love’ already.” [29] We have to avoid a process theology (which implies a change in God, like in Hegel’s view) as well as a modalism or semi-modalism (which consider the Persons merely as modes of manifestation of the same hypostasis, therefore not really distinct); thus, the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father from all eternity. Their very love is the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is this love that “keeps the distance” between the Father and the Son, and nowhere is this “distance” more clearly seen than on the Cross. That is why it can be said that “the Cross reveals the Trinity,” [30] for the doctrine of the Trinity is an “inner presupposition of the doctrine of the Cross.” [31] In the love of the Son on the Cross one can see “the invisible nature of the Father.” [32] As Pope John Paul II says, “it is precisely then [in the Paschal Mystery] that the words pronounced in the Upper Room are completely fulfilled: ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father.'”[33]

Moreover, as Pope John Paul II says, “he who loves desires to give himself.” [34] There is then a “dynamic” of self-giving between the Father and the Son from all eternity, for we have seen that their reciprocal love is eternal. In His self-giving the Son does nothing else but imitates the Father, for He is “the express image of His [of Father’s] substance [character tes hypostaseos autou]/” (Heb. 1: 3). The kenosis of the Son presupposes the kenosis of the Father, or, as Hans Urs von Balthasar says, “the drama of the ‘emptying’ of the Father’s heart, in the generation of the Son, . . . contains and surpasses all possible drama between God and the world.” [35] It is “an initial kenosis within the Godhead that underpins all subsequent kenosis,” and the Son answers to the gift of Godhead (of equal substance with the Father) in “an eternal thanksgiving (eucharistia) to the Father, a thanksgiving as selfless and unreserved as the Father’s original self-surrender.” [36] The Holy Spirit, proceeding from both (as their subsistent ‘We’), “maintains the infinite difference between them, seals it and, since He is the one Spirit of them both, bridges it.” [37]

Only on account of this “dynamic” of kenosis within the Godhead can we speak about the “suffering” of the Father. Because the Son is the image of the Father, “in the humanity of the Son the ‘suffering’ of God is concretized.” [38] The Holy Spirit, searching “the depths of God” (I Cor. 2: 10) reveals this “unimaginable and inexpressible”, “inscrutable and indescribable” fatherly “pain” [39]caused by the mysterium iniquitatis, and unfolds also God’s response: His salvific Trinitarian love, mysterium pietatis. Although this kind of divine “suffering” is not caused by “deficiencies or wounds,” for God is “the necessarily most perfect being,” [40] it remains a real “suffering”. As Father François-Xavier Durwell says, “God is far away from suffering as human being know it.” [41]

To recap: the Paschal Mystery reveals a God who is triune love, a love that constitutes His very being, a love that is expressed through a total gift of self. “God is love” (I Jn. 4: 8, 16), and it is this love that accounts for and is the Trinity.


Having seen how we can approach the mystery of the Triune God, in trying to understand more fully what we believe (this is our intellectus fidei), we have to find the right way between Tertulian’s credo quia absurdum and the rationalistic credo quia intelligo. The first denies totally any possibility of understanding anything about the divine mysteries, which seem to be against reason; the last affirms a comprehensive knowledge, which in fact is a distorted one. That is why we should look for some analogies suggested already in Scripture, analogies that express our human knowledge about those mysteries. [42] Throughout the last fifteen centuries, concerning the mystery of the Trinity, three such analogies have been present to Christian thought, although sometimes in a veiled manner: (1) the analogy of the family – human friendship and intersubjectivity; (2) the analogy of the Church; and (3) the analogy of the individual soul. This order is not accidental, for we think that this is the order of the frequency with which they appear in Scripture. We should speak shortly about each of these analogies.

(1) The analogy of the family (more widely human friendship and intersubjectivity) occurs, as we have seen, in the very names “Father” and “Son”, which are taken from the familial relationships. Also, the same analogy can be inferred from all the “dialogues” between the incarnated Son and the Father, “dialogues” manifested as prayer or as action (i.e., the “dialogue of love” – vide supra). The “I” – “Thou” – “We” terminology is nothing else than the expression of intersubjectivity. “I” is not a simple individual, but a subject who posits himself consciously before others. Likewise, an “I” says “Thou” only to another person, and then enters into dialogue with that person. Finally, “We” is said to another but with another. [43] But some Fathers of the Church went even further: they tried to use the image of a nuclear family (father – mother – son), particularly the first human family (Adam, Eve and Set) for the Trinity. St. Methodius of Olympus and St. Ephrem the Syrian followed the sequence the Father- Adam, the Son-Set and the Holt Spirit-Eve. But this was problematic on account of Filioque – the Son is not born from the Spirit. St. Gregory of Nazianzus however finally identified Eve with the Son and Set with the Spirit. [44] He seems to be right, for the Spirit is the fruit of love between the Father and the Son, proceeding from both. When S. Augustine criticized the analogy of the family, he criticized the first one (Eve=Spirit and Set=Son), and this principally on account of Filioque. Saint Thomas, however, knew about the analogy used in the manner of S. Gregory the Theologian, but he did no like it because “a material procession seems unsuitable for signifying the immaterial procession of Divine Persons.” [45] The same materiality seems to be objected by S. Augustine in De Trinitate. But, as Bertrand de la Margerie says:

If this example ‘borrowed from a material origin’ was truly such a ‘poor choice’ to represent ‘the immaterial procession of the Divine Persons’, must we not say that the Revealer Himself has deceived us in wishing to be called Father and Son? The material origin of a son with respect to his father is not different from that of the same son with respect to his two parents.[46]

Also, the analogy of the family seems to be suggested by S. Paul himself, in I Cor. 11: 7, when he says that “the head of the woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God [the Father].” Thus Christ is to the Father as the woman is to her husband. Finally, the Holy Scripture speaks almost always in these intersubjective or familial terms, thus this analogy has to be seen as the principal one, according to Scripture. Man is made to the “image of God not only in his being and nature, but also in his activity and relation.” [47]

(2) The analogy of the Church is drawn from Jn. 17: 21-22, where “the unity of the Father and of the Son in the ‘We’ of the Holy Spirit is the exemplary, efficient and final cause of the unity of Christians in the ‘We’ of the Church.” [48] We will not insist very much on it, for it can be reduced somehow to the intersubjectivity of the former analogy. However, this analogy of the Church is very much used in our days, particularly by and after Vatican II Council.

(3) The analogy of the individual soul, so widely used by the medieval theology, [49] particularly by Scholasticism, in which mens, notitia and amor are images of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this analogy are important the intellectual processions, which are images of the divine processions: mens meminit sui – the Father, intelligit se – the Son, and diligit se – the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Son proceeds from the Father per modum intellectus (He is the Word of God – Jn. 1: 1), while the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son per modum amoris. This analogy is particularly relevant because seems to give an account for “why” there are only three Divine Persons and also because distinguishes very clearly the generation of the Son from the procession of the Spirit. This analogy, however, also has its own deficiencies: the mind, its knowledge and its love do not constitute one single nature, for the knowing of the mind is not its existing. It fails also especially because it looses the intersubjectivity, and consequently the very notion of Person.

A careful examination of each of these analogies would conclude that every analogy of the Trinitarian mystery remains deficient. [50] They complement one another, for as Nédocelle says:

[The] intersubjective love fails because it keeps us several persons, and the intra-subjective love fails because it keeps us alone. Plurality of the ‘We’, solitude of the ‘I': apparently inverse evils which express the same defect of being, in linea naturae, then in linea personae [51]. . . .

That is why no one should try to pretend the singular use of one of these analogies, for this would mean that he thinks of the analogy as being perfect. But an analogy, inasmuch as it is an analogy, is imperfect by its very definition. And one could exclusively apply such an imperfect image to the mystery of the Trinity only by distorting the truth, by trying to “fit” the divine reality into a hideous and narrow-minded system. Like the child seen by St. Augustine, he would try to carry the sea into a minuscule hollow. In fact, this would mean to deny the very notion of mystery. What else could be more dangerous for our intellectus fidei? Philosophy should serve, not distort our faith. We have to make use – not abuse – of reason, for every time that reason pretends to overcome its limits, it turns against itself.


To use the words of St. Basil the Great, “we confess that we know what is knowable of God and yet what we know reaches beyond our comprehension.” [52] This seems to be the best summary of what we think it is the right approach to the mystery of the Trinity. Having the word of God at the basis of this approach, reading it in the living tradition of the Church and recognising our intellectual weakness, we should ask the Holy Spirit to transform us into true sons of God and to lead us into the very heart of the Triune Love. Then we will understand from within, and our understanding will become our very life, for “this is eternal life, that they know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (Jn. 17: 3).


1. John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, St. Paul Books & Media.

2. John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem (Boston: Pauline, 1986).

3. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodrama, vol. III – IV, trans. By Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994.

4. Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum, ch. 1, 2, apud Vatican Council II. The Basic Sixteen Documents (New York, Costello Publishing Company: 1996), general editor: Austin Flannery O.P.

5. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997).

6. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One – An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. by Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986).

7. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia.

8. Bertrand de la Margerie, S.J., The Christian Trinity in History, trans. by Edmund J. Fortman, S.J. (Petersham: St. Bede’s Publications, 1982).

9. Feu et Lumičre, N0 180, Janvier 2000.


[1] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodrama, vol. IV (The Action), trans. By Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), p. 319.

[2] For example, the three Encyclical Letters Dives in Misericordia, Redemptor Hominis and Dominum et Vivificantem are intended as a clarification of the mystery of the Trinity in our social and ecclesiological context. Also, the preparatory years for the Jubilee show the same insistence of Magisterium on this mystery.

[3] Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum, ch. 1, 2, apud Vatican Council II. The Basic Sixteen Documents (New York, Costello Publishing Company: 1996), general editor: Austin Flannery O.P., p. 98.

[4] Vatican Council II, ibid., apud ibid.

[5] Mt. 11: 27.

[6] See Jn. 14: 6.

[7] See Jn. 14: 9.

[8] For example, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery. (…) Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love . . . among us”.” (§515-16)

[9] Vatican Council II, idem, apud ibid., p. 98.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] In the Gospels, Jesus uses this word for circa 130 times in order to express His relation with God.

[13] Jesus never denied the fact that He is God, although He never said it explicitly. Of relevance here is His dialogue with the high priest (Mk. 14: 61-62), where Jesus’ divine sonship is clearly understood as “equality wit God”. Jesus did not contradict this understanding, but He accepted death on account of this claim.

[14] Engl. : “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”. We have also to remember that a Jew had to recite this “creed” at least three times per day, thus they had a strong sense of the “oneness” of God. We will speak more about this “I – Thou” language in the fourth chapter of our paper.

[15] We will speak more about this “I – Thou” language in the fourth chapter of our paper

[16] We did not mention the Filioque because we refered to the principal (ultimate) origin (gr., aitia) of the Holy Spirit.

[17]We will develop more this idea in chapter III

[18] Jesus says “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (Jn. 16: 12). That is why the Holy Spirit will have to guide the Church into all the truth. This will happen especially through the writings of the Apostles. So we have to look for an interpretation of Jesus’ deeds not only in Jesus’ own words, for He did not tell to his disciples what they could not bear at that time

[19] See Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One – An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. by Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), p. 17.

[20] Ibidem, p. 18.

[21] This word occurs for 52 times in the Four Gospels (used in the sense we speak of now), and for 43 times only in the Gospel of John

[22] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, op. cit., p. 22.

[23]Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodrama, vol. III (The Dramatis Personae: The Person in Christ), trans. By Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), p. 509.

[24] To be character tes hypostaseos autou is a very strong expression, which implies a very strong likeness. This verse inspired some Fathers of the Church to say that the Father and the Son are of the same hypostasis – substance (see the Nicene Creed).

[25] Hans Urs von Balthasar, op. cit., vol. III, p. 513.

[26] John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, St. Paul Books & Media, p. 29 (emphasis added by us).

[27] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, op. cit., p. 25.

[28] John Paul II, op. cit., p. 26.

[29] Hans Urs von Balthasar, op. cit., vol. III, p. 509 (emphasis added by us).

[30] Ibidem, vol. IV, p. 320..

[31] Ibidem, p. 319.

[32]John Paul II, op. cit., p. 9.

[33]Ibidem, p. 29.

[34]Ibidem, p. 25.

[35]Hans Urs von Balthasar, op. cit., vol. IV, pp. 326-27.

[36]Ibidem, pp. 323-24. Actually, Hans Urs von Balthasar borrows this idea from Bulgakov.


[38]John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem (Boston: Pauline, 1986), p. 64 (§ 39).

[39]Ibidem, pp. 62-63 (§ 39).


[41]Lit., “Dieu est hors de portée de la souffrance telle que les hommes la connaissent” – Pčre François-Xavier Durwell, Le Pčre, Dieu en son mystčre (Cerf; 1999), apud Feu et Lumičre, N0 180, Janvier 2000, p. 52.

[42]”Human knowledge,” in the sense of, as much as an analogy can convey. As Hans Urs von Balthasar says, “only with great caution should we adduce analogies for the Trinity from outside Christianity”, for “they lack the ‘economic’ basis” (op. cit., vol. III, p. 508).

[43]These explanation are taken almost ad litteram from Bertrand de la Margerie, S.J., The Christian Trinity in History, trans. by Edmund J. Fortman, S.J. (Petersham: St. Bede’s Publications, 1982), pp. 280-81.

[44]See Bertrand de la Margerie, op. cit., p. 276.

[45]S. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 36, a. 3, 1st reply. He uses Abel instead of Set.

[46]Bertrand de la Margerie, op. cit., p. 279.

[47]Ibidem, p. 277.

[48]Ibidem, p. 292. This is not taken in the sense given by Joachim de Fiore, for whom the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit seem not to share the same being.

[49]And also by some Greek Fathers, like St. John of Damascus (see De Fide Orthodoxa, XIII).

[50]Cf. DS 806.

[51]M. Nédocelle, apud Bertrand de Margerie, op. cit., pp. 301-04. He refers to man as image of the Trinity, that is why he says “it keeps us” several or alone (comparing this imperfect image with the truly One and in the same timeTriune God).

[52]St. Basil, Epistula 235. 2.

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