The Holy Trinity
The Catholic Church regards the mystery of the Holy Trinity, that of three persons in one God, as one of the central mysteries of the faith. It is the mystery about the nature of God himself and the source of all other mysteries of faith, because God is the source of all Creation.
What is a mystery?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes a mystery as something that is “hidden in God, which can never be known unless … revealed by God.” It is something that is difficult to comprehend: “that is inaccessible to reason alone,” according to the Catechism, yet it is a central article of the Catholic faith.
Many religions have an image of God the Father, and the Catholic Church is no exception. It teaches that God is the origin and Creator of all, and he provides protection and loving care for all his children. According to the Scriptures, Creation is the work of the Holy Trinity.
Not only is God the Father in the sense that he is the father of Creation, he is the Father in relation to his only Son, Jesus. The first ecumenical council at Nicaea decreed that the Son is “consubstantial” with the Father; that is, he is one God with him. Jesus is the “only-begotten” Son of God, “true God from true God, begotten not made” (Nicene Creed).
The Gospel of John is rich with images of the Spirit as Paraclete. The term is derived from the Greek
Jesus is considered to be the first Paraclete (advocate), pleading with God on behalf of mankind. Before he returned to Heaven to join the Father, he told his followers that a second Paraclete, the Spirit, would be sent down to dwell with the apostles in order to guide them and would remain with mankind until Judgment Day. Existing since creation, the Spirit is the third person of God.
The Church recognizes God the Father as the source of all divinity. Therefore the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is one with and equal to God the Father and the Son; they are all of the same substance and have the same nature. In 1438, the Council of Florence explained, “The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; he has his nature and subsistence at once from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration.”The Dogma of the Trinity
From the earliest days of the Church, the apostles referred to the Holy Trinity of God. Over time, this belief came to be enshrined in the central worship of the Church, the Eucharistic liturgy. At every Mass, the priest gives this blessing: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The Church fathers aided the early Church councils to clarify the theology of the Holy Trinity; eventually, a dogma of the Holy Trinity was declared.
The dogma of the Holy Trinity consists of three parts:
The Trinity is One. The Church does not believe in three gods, but in one God in three persons. These persons do not share one divinity — each of them is God, completely and utterly.
The divine persons are really distinct from one another. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not simply names for different aspects of God. Rather, they are distinct persons with distinct origins and special roles. God the Father is Creator or Source; God the Son is Redeemer; God the Holy Spirit is Advocate and Teacher.
The divine persons are relative to one another and are distinguished by the ways in which they relate to one another. According to Lateran Council IV (1215), it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds. “The Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both” (Council of Florence, c.1438).