Trinity Sunday reminds Christians all over the world that there are 3 divine persons in one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It underscores the fact that the Church is the mystical body of Christ and the Holy Spirit remains our sanctifier. On top of that, the celebration underlines the hypostatic union, Trinitarian communion and the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Weaved around St. Paul’s charge that we greet one another with a Holy Kiss (2 Cor 13:11-13), this piece aspires to theologically interrogate this metaphor in light of the Blessed Trinity.
Holy Trinity: Some Clarification
Simply put, the Church teaches the theology of the Trinity as three divine and eternal persons in one God – The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In his article, The Trinity, the Hypostatic Union, and the Communicatio Idiomatum, Matt Slick (2010) explains that by “person” is meant the characteristics of self awareness, speech, having a will and emotions. Although there are three persons in one God, the Father is not the same person as the Son; the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the same person as Father – Each of them has a will and speaks to each other and to people. We must clearly understand that they are not three separate gods or beings. In the bible, there are various passages that teach about the Trinity: The Father is called God in (Phil. 1:2); the Son is called God in (John 1:1, 14), and the Holy Spirit is addressed as God in (Acts 5:3-4). One of the most common metaphors for explaining the Trinity is the relationship that exists in the life of a married woman who has children – she has to relate with her biological parents as a daughter, to her husband as his wife and her children as a mother with the same degree of love, care and affection. The mind, soul and spirit have also been used to describe the Trinity. These human analogies only present us with a glimpse of what constitutes the Trinity.
Unraveling the Trinitarian Mystery
The teaching of Hypostatic Union is encapsulated in the angelus when we pray, “And the Word was made flesh” – the mixing of water and wine during the celebration of the Holy Mass while the priest prays silently, “By the mystery of this water and wine may come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity” further proves the point. The hypostatic Union does not imply that Jesus is half God and half man. On the contrary, He is fully divine and fully man – That is to say, Jesus has two distinct natures namely, divine and human as indicated in scripture: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 14 and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1, 14). This means that the divine word became flesh in the single person of Jesus, who is thus both human and divine in nature – The divine nature was not changed or altered in this union.
Closely related to the theology of the hypostatic union is the Latin communicatio idiomatum which translates into (communication of properties/attributes). This teaching ascribes both divine and human natures to the one person of Jesus (Cf. John 17:5; John 3:13; Matthew 28:20). Since the person of Jesus died, His death was of infinite value because the properties of divinity were ascribed to the person in His death (Slick, 2010). The Trinitarian communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy is encapsulated in this teaching: God the Father created the world, God the Son redeemed the world and God the Holy Spirit sanctifies the world.
Though they are three distinct persons, they constitute one Godhead absolute in perfect harmony, consisting of one substance. They are coeternal, coequal, and co-powerful (Slick, 2010). In summary, the Holy Trinity is a mystery we cannot fully understand unless we become eternal like God. Since it is a mystery, we must be careful not to introduce inequality when addressing the Trinity in prayer – for instance some people say: “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” which is wrong. In addressing the Trinity, we should say: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Sometimes we make the mistake of removing the definite article in the Son and the Holy Spirit after addressing the Father. St. Augustine was said to have been contemplating on how to describe the Trinity to his flock – upon going to the sea shore, he saw a boy trying to empty the water into a small hole he had dug. When the Saint told him that it was an exercise in futility, the boy retorted, it is also impossible for you to explain the Trinity and he vanished.
Holy Kiss: The Trinitarian Lesson
Paul encourages Christians to agree with one another and to live in peace (Cf. 2 Cor 13:11- 13). We shall explore four implications of this call to greet each other with the Holy Kiss in the light of Trinity Sunday. First, we are called to reflect the creative power of God the Father: We must respond to the call of the Holy Father, Pope Francis about the devastating effects of global warming by not destroying nature. The Pontiff lists the sins against creation as destruction of the ecosystem and degrading the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate or contaminating water, land, air and life. Recall that during the World Day of Prayer for Creation 2016, the Holy Father noted that a crime against the natural world is a sin against us and a sin against God while stressing that protecting creation is a work of mercy. Laudato Si’ equally reminds us that we are only custodians of nature – this means that God will hold us accountable if we fail in sustaining his plan of creation. Second, we are encouraged to emulate the sacrificial love of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity: Though innocent, Jesus went to Calvary for our sake. What proves that God loves us is the fact that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Cf. Romans 5:8). We are challenged to live for our brothers and sisters. There are thousands of Nigerians in various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps begging for our attention.
It is no less for those at the margins of society. Our response to their plight is an answer to the gospel (John 3:16). After all, God revealed himself to Moses (Cf. Ex 34:4B-6, 8-9) as: “…a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger rich in kindness and faithfulness.” Third, we are urged to relish the consolation of the Spirit: The current harsh realities in our country have made many people to compromise their faith – the crime rate and uncertainty in the air are enough indices. In this seeming hopeless situation, Christians are called to rely on the consolation of the Holy Spirit. His consolation and abiding presence assures us that we are not alone. Fourth, we are charged to seek unity: The hypostatic union plus the unity of the Godhead as demonstrated in the Trinitarian Communion calls us to seek the unity of the spirit in our homes and the Church. As the domestic church, our homes should be citadels of God’s love which is fully expressed in the liturgical assembly during the celebration of Holy Mass. What is more, we are called to use our gifts and talents for the common good.
In the spirit of our common fellowship, we are once again urged to greet one another with the Holy Kiss. The Holy Kiss being the metaphor for the Trinity reminds us of the Trinitarian romance which came to fore at the baptism (Cf. Matthew 3:16-17) and transfiguration (Cf. Matthew 17:1-13) of Jesus. May our celebration have effects in our lives as the Blessed Trinity spurs us on to a greater nation towards the beatification.
• Justine John Dyikuk, a Catholic priest, is a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Nigeria, a Senior Fellow, International Religious Freedom Policy, Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), Washington DC and PhD Candidate, University of Strathclyde Glasgow, United Kingdom.