sabato 26 maggio 2018

«Una divinitas, aequalis gloria, coaeterna maiestas»

St. Patrick used the shamrock as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity

The Fathers of the Church used to distinguish between theology and economy: with the first term they referred to the mystery of God; with the second, to the works of God, that is, the history of salvation. Up to now, during the liturgical year, we have had to do with economy: at Christmas we celebrated the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, his birth and his manifestation; at Easter we celebrated the mystery of his passion, death, burial and resurrection. We completed the celebration of the paschal mystery these last weeks with the Lord’s ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. On this Sunday after Pentecost, the Church wants us to shift our attention from economy to theology: after considering the works of God, we are invited to fix our eyes on God himself, on his mystery, which was revealed through those works. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Through economy, theology is revealed to us; but conversely, theology illuminates the whole economy. God’s works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works. So it is, analogously, among human persons. A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions” (n. 236).

Well, in the history of salvation, God sent his Son into the world, who became man and revealed to us the mystery of God. He used to call God his Father, and before leaving the world he promised another Advocate, who would be with us always—the Holy Spirit. Before ascending to heaven, as we have heard in today’s gospel, he sent his disciples to teach all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Little by little, the Church, taught by this revelation and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, has come to know that in God there are three Persons—the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Was this a regression to polytheism? What had characterized the Jewish religion in ancient times was precisely the confession of one God, against the many deities of pagan religions. And now Jesus tells us that there is a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit. We live in a Muslim country: the major accusation Islam makes against Christianity is exactly this; they consider us polytheists. Do we really believe in three Gods? Definitely not! We believe in only one God, in three Persons, exactly equal to each other, but really distinct from one another, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The three divine Persons are only one God because each of them equally possesses the fullness of the one and indivisible divine nature—three Persons, one nature. One of the ancient professions of faith, the Athanasian Creed, describes our faith in this way, “We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the Persons or dividing the substance; for the Person of the Father is one, the Son’s is another, the Holy Spirit’s another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal” (una divinitas, aequalis gloria, coaeterna maiestas).

The belief in the Holy Trinity is what distinguishes Christianity from other monotheistic religions. Nowadays we are inclined to stress what unites more than what divides. So, sometimes we have the impression that the three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—at least as for their belief about God, could be considered as one religion. But that is false. It is true that there is only one God; but our faith about this one God is deeply different from that of Jews and Muslims. The Catechism says, “The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith.’” (n. 234). In short, no Trinity, no Christianity.