Solemnity of Trinity Sunday

The profession of Christian faith involves believing in One God - the Father, Son and Spirit. The truths of faith are articulated in reference to the three people of the most Holy Trinity. Celebrating the tenet of the Blessed Trinity is all that the feast is about.
The Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost or the descent of the Holy Spirit. Unlike other Christian feasts that celebrate an event or a person, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity celebrates the doctrine of the Triune God, which is a reality. The essence of Trinity Sunday is celebrating God - a God with us (Father), God for us (Jesus) and God within us (Spirit). The Feast itself is symbolic of the Unity of the Trinity.

The Blessed Trinity is the very core of the Christian faith and the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity celebrates the day of salvation, revelation and adoration. Trinity Sunday glorifies the Father as the creator of heaven and earth, and his Son Jesus as the Savior who succumbed to death to make way for the sinners and the Spirit as the comforter and guide.

In a religion which begins everything with the invocation to the trinity, and duly signs themselves with 'In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit', believing in the Trinity becomes the basis of their very faith and religion.

Before we learn more about Trinity Sunday in particular, it is essential that we have some knowledge on the Trinity and the Trinitarian doctrine.

*Click on the images for a better view.
Trinity

The term "Trinity" is used to signify the fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion which believes in the unity of the Godhead. The three persons; the Father, Son and the Spirit, though distinct from one another and seemingly performing different duties, are in essence - One.
Father

God the Father, is the maker of all things of the universe, the one who reigns supreme over all things.
Son

God the Son, is the image of the invisible God, and is the manifestation of divine love in the human form.
Spirit
God the Holy Spirit, is the divine gift bestowed on us to guide and direct. The Spirit gives us the power to fulfill the commands God has given us.

The Trinity, thus understood, is one being, united in love for each other.

Preliminary Clarification

Christianity believes in one God who is at the helm of all things, is the alpha and the omega, i.e., the beginning and the end of all things. The mainstream teaching of Christianity is that God is a coequal, co-eternal, one-substance trinity, and that Jesus Christ is God. The Trinitarian doctrine is considered to be the cornerstone of Christianity.

The early church testified to the supremacy of the father, the only true God and to the derived nature of the son. Though the early Christians had a fundamental understanding of the nature of the Trinity or Triune God, they worshiped one God and believed in a subordinate Son. The early church councils felt that the terms, Father, Son and Spirit corresponded to the terms, Creator, Preserver and Benefactor, respectively.

The very fact that Jesus is referred to as the son of God in the Bible strikes at the heart of monotheistic approach. Strict monotheists believe that Jesus is no more than a mere prophet and hence, deny the tenet of the Trinity. The deviation stems from the fact that the Oneness of God is often than not misinterpreted as being unitarian.

Popular Heresies

Sabellianism: Sabellianism essentially states that the Father, Son and Spirit appear to be different aspects or different persons, but, in reality, are just different manifestations of one God. The implications of this heresy is that Jesus Christ was in every essence a divine being devoid of a human body; this nullifies his suffering and death.

Docetism: On similar lines with sabellianism, docetism states that Christ being divine was not really human, and thus, did not have a human body. He only appeared to be a human to us.

Monophysitism: This heresy states that during the incarnation of Jesus Christ, he was nothing but bringing together of a human person (Jesus) with eternal logos. Jesus, therefore, becomes two separate natures that is Jesus + Christ, united in one body.

Socianism: Socianism states that Jesus was no more than a prophet. The tenet held that there did not exist a trinity and that Jesus was definitely not a part of the Trinity.

History of the Doctrine

Those who read the Bible regularly will know that the term 'Trinity' never really appears in the Bible; yet, as Christians, we believe in a triune God. An in-depth study of the Bible will reveal that God is referred to as one; yet, what mystifies most is the fact that there are three people who share the power and authority to bring about change in the most explicit way. Early theologians pondered over the trinity, but it was not until the rising popularity of the doctrine of Arianism that pushed the Theologians to formulate the Trinitarian doctrine.
Blessed Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity ascertains that the being or essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons. The word "trinity" consists of two words; 'tri' which means three and 'unity' which stands for oneness. Trinitarians believe in one God, the emphasis thus, being on the fact that the essence of God is indivisible.

The word 'Trinity' was coined by the Latin theologian Tertullian in the 2nd century and was used by the church sometime in the 4th century. In order to affirm their stance on a 'Triune Godhead One', the Church formally stated the term 'Trinity' in the Nicene Creed (325 A.D) and then again in the Atanasian Creed. The Trinity was reaffirmed at the council of Constantinople in 381 A.D., and has ever since been accepted widely.

Famous Heresy of Arianism

Arianism is named after Arius the presbyter (elder chief priest) at Alexandria. Arianism tends to occupy a huge space in the ecclesiastical history of the development of the church. The line of argument in Arianism and the teaching of Arius revolved around the Son being an inferior and not originating from the Father.

According to Arius, it did not seem befitting that God should have a son; hence, they argued that Jesus being the son of God was between God and man, and thus, not God himself. The tenet of Arius states that Jesus is a mere prophet and not a divine entity or a deity and hence, should not be included as a part of the Trinity or considered as a Godhead.

Supporting the Doctrine with Scripture

Hints of a trinitarian belief is seen in plenty in the Bible. Take, for example, the first book of the Bible, in Genesis 1:26, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." The passage (if read carefully) uses the plural 'Us' and not the singular 'I' while referring to God, pointing to the presence of a God who in every essence is the unison of multiple persons as a whole.
Trinity

Come down to the Gospel of Matthew and here again you will find God calling Jesus his son, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Mt. 3:17). The title that God the Father gives to Jesus his Son denotes the closeness of the relation to God, and of his divinity and equality with God. The event of the Baptism in the river Jordan can be taken as a manifestation of the Trinity; Jesus who was baptized by John is addressed as the son, the Father makes his presence felt with 'the voice from heaven' and the Spirit descends in the form of the Dove.

Then again, just before his ascension into heaven, we find Jesus promising to pray to the Father to give them (apostles) another counselor who will be with them forever (Jn 14:16). The manifestation of the omnipresent spirit completes the plan of the salvation and redemption. Yet another significant mention of the trinity comes through in the Gospel of Matthew 28:18-20, which is also regarded as the reading for the day. It encompasses the final statements made by Jesus before his ascension into Heaven, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go then to all my people everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age."

Views on the Trinity

Father Son and Spirit
Father Son and Spirit

The Eastern Orthodox Church tends to emphasize the divine, previously existing nature of Christ, whereas the Western Church lays focus more on his human nature. The Orthodox Church lays more emphasis on the Spirit who is considered to play a central role. According to the Eastern Church, the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone and does not involve the Son, which means that the Spirit is a gift from God the Father and not from both. The Eastern church believes in the monarchy of God the Father, with the other two persons of the Trinity stemming from the Father.

The Western Church teaches that all creation, proceeds from God as One; the separate personalities of the Father, Son and Spirit are not considered. According to the Western Church, the Spirit proceeds from the love of God the Father and Christ the Son. The unity of the trinity is thus, impersonal as the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son; it is the essence that the three persons share that constitutes the Trinity or the unity. The whole perfection of the Godhead is contained in the one infinite Divine essence.

A group in the United States named the Jehovah's Witnesses denies the doctrine of the Trinity. According to them, Jehovah is only the true God, the creator of all things, and is not a part of the Trinity as believed otherwise. For them, the Spirit is a manifestation of the Power than a person. Jesus, on the other hand, is a mere High priest appointed by God.

Significance of the Trinity in the Church

Baptism

Cross
Christians are baptized with water and light with the sign of the cross, 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'. It is symbolic of being born into a new life, purging the sins of our ancestors. Baptism is the initiation into the Christian life; through baptism we are freed from sins and reborn as sons and daughters of God, and are enabled to be a part of Christ. Baptism is considered as a sign of regeneration. Through the sacrament of Baptism, the act of consecration is carried out by invoking the Father, Son and Spirit.

The Doxologies

The doxology is a short verse praising God, and is usually sung during mass. There exists two main doxologies; namely, doxology major i.e., the Gloria in excelsis Deo and the doxology minor, also called the Gloria Patri, which is followed by a response that it will last forever.

Gloria in Excelsis
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory. Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen."

Gloria Patri
C: 'Glory [be] to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost'
R: 'As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be the world without an end. Amen.'

The Creed

The Credo or the creeds for the Christian is a means of Communion with God - the Father, Son and Spirit, as it transmits the Christian faith to the faithful. These creeds act as a seal of spirituality and a summary of the principal truths of life. The Creeds, thus understood, is the unquestionable treasure of our soul. The Nicene Creed is supposed to represent belief for members of a Christian denomination. It was written in response to Arianism's philosophy that denied Jesus as a deity. The Creed explains the teachings of the Trinity, while affirming the Historical realities of the life of Jesus.

"I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
Altar

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
con-substantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit
was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake
he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated
at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the giver of life, who proceeds
from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

And one, holy, catholic
and apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection
of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen."

Prayers to The Trinity

"Holy Trinity, I am humbled by the thought of your greatness! Your power overwhelms me. Your infinite goodness causes my heart to burst forth in songs of praise.

God, loving Father, you are always by me when I need you. You wait patiently when I stray. You never tire of forgiving when I contradict your Holy Will. You sustain me even when I am foolish enough to think that I do not need your help.
Holy, loving, merciful Father, I thank you for giving me your Son, Jesus, to be the Way, the Life, the Truth.

Lord Jesus, you are the bridge and the path to the Father. When I put my hand in yours, the journey is easy and sure. You chose to become man to take upon yourself my weaknesses. You died to wash away my sins. You arose to show me that my destiny is eternal life.

Lord, Holy Spirit, pour your love into my soul, so that I prefer your eternal designs to my own. Make me compassionate like the Father, self-sacrificing like Jesus, full of love like you. Help me when I falter. Lift me when I fall. Inspire me to do always what is expected of a disciple of Jesus.

Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God who alone are holy and good, I adore you. Do not permit me to worship the false idol of myself or the idols of transitory success and material riches. I thank you for the blessings you have bestowed on me in the past and I entrust myself and my dear ones entirely to your Divine Providence.

To You Be Praise, Glory And Honor Forever, Blessed Trinity."

The Athanasian Creed

"Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity.

But the Catholic faith is this, that we venerate one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in oneness; neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance; for there is one person of the Father, one of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; but the divine nature of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one, their glory is equal, their majesty is co-eternal.

Of such a nature as the Father is, so is the Son, so also is the Holy Spirit; the Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated; the Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, and the Holy Spirit is infinite; the Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal; and nevertheless, there are not three, but one eternal; just as there are not three uncreated beings, nor three infinite beings, but one uncreated, and one infinite; similarly the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty; and yet, there are not three but one almighty; thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and nevertheless there are not three gods, but there is one God; so the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord; and yet there are not three lords, but there is one Lord; because just as we are compelled by Christian truth to confess singly each one person as God, and also Lord, so we are forbidden by the Catholic religion to say there are three gods or three Lords.

The Father was not made, nor created, nor begotten by anyone. The Son is from the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, not made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

There is, therefore, one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits; and in this Trinity, there is nothing first or later, nothing greater or less, but all three Persons are co-eternal and coequal with one another, so that in every respect, as has already been said above, both unity in Trinity, and Trinity in unity must be venerated. Therefore, let him who wishes to be saved, think thus, concerning the Trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation that he faithfully believes also the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly, it is the right faith, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God is God and man. He is God begotten of the substance of the Father before time, and He is man born of the substance of His mother in time: perfect God, perfect man, consisting of a rational soul and a human body, equal to the Father according to His Godhead, less than the Father according to humanity.

Although he is God and man, yet He is not two, but He is one Christ; one however, not by the conversion of the Divinity into a human body, but by the assumption of humanity in the Godhead; one absolutely not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For just as the rational soul and body are one man, so God and man are one Christ.

He suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, on the third day arose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead; at His coming all men have to arise again with their bodies and will render an account of their own deeds: and those who have done good, will go into life everlasting, but those who have done evil, into eternal fire.

This is the Catholic faith; unless everyone believes this faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved. Amen."

In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, the Sunday of Pentecost itself is called Trinity Sunday.

Symbols of the Trinity

Trillium FlowerSt.Patricks Shamrock
TriquetraFlameBorromean Rings

Color White: White cloth is used to decorate the altar as it is representative of holiness, purity and the perfection of God.
Three Interlocking Rings or Circles: The Borromean rings, as they are called, consist of three overlapping circles forming a triangle. In the center of these circles is inscribed the word 'Unitas'.
Two Interwoven Triangles: The two triangles are interwoven to form a star, symbolizing the Star of David.
St. Patrick's Shamrock: Three-leafed clover is used as a metaphor for the Trinity.
Trillium Flower: The Wood Lily or the Trinity flower is used to symbolize the Trinity.
Flower of Life: It consists of a flower-like design formed by overlapping circles that are evenly spaced. It represents the love and life of the Trinity.
Triquetra: Each of the three arches represent the Father, Son and Spirit. The equal arches stand for the equal standing of the Godhead - Father, Son and Spirit.
Fire/Flame: It stands for the fire of God's love, the Light that penetrates darkness. The flame is symbolic of the unity of the three persons in the Trinity.

The other symbols used for the Trinity are:
  • Chi Rho
  • Shield of the Holy Trinity
  • Trefoil
  • Musical chord
  • Equilateral triangle

Celebrating the feast of the most Holy Trinity, points to the mystery of unity and diversity in God's experience and in the ongoing creative process. On this Feast, let the prayer in our hearts be, "let the grace of the Holy Trinity help us to banish all traces of selfishness in our lives and help us to live in love of God and of our neighbor". On the solemn feast, let's give Praise and honor to the Trinity by rightly saying, "Glory be to God the Father, and to Christ the Son, Glory to the Holy Spirit, Godhead three in one."
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