Trinity Sunday – 2019

               Deus Semper Maior” – God is always greater than anything – and this because He is Creator ex nihilo. The Trinity is God Speaking Himself, not our inferring about Him.

This means that God does not create beings from Being. “He” transcends “Being.” God is simply “TO BE.” He is Transcendent Act, which St. John called, “Love.” And so God is above “being.” He ises, loving. If He were “being,” He would be part  of His own creation.

Robert Barron did his doctoral thesis on the notion of creation. In his introduction, he writes: “Is it possible that the idea of creation presupposes that God is not a bieng in or alongside the world, not one agent among others, not he highest or first cause, not anything in nature, but rather the  sheer act of being itself which escapes all categorization? And thus is it possible that, Robert  Sokolowski insists, creation is the doctrine which decisively distinguishes a Christian from a pagan perspective, which shakes and undermines a purely ‘natural’ philosophy, which open one to the ever greater mystery which is God?

“Is it perhaps possible that the strangeness of the creation teaching is a clue and a hint, a vague and often misunderstood indication that our normal view of the world is perhaps not sufficient, that ‘something else might be the case,’ that there is something uncanny at work in the ordinary, that the reality we call ‘God’ is ever stranger than we can imagine. But if that is true, if creation signals the essential otherness, difference and indefinability of God, then it is the Urfrage of Christian faith, that question around which all the other theological questions turn. Finally, it is this uncanniness and this inescapable centrality of creation which intrigue and attract me and which led me to this project of research.” [“A Study of  the De Potentia of Thomas Aquinas in Light of the Dogmatik of Paul Tillich – Creation as Discipleship”

  • * * * * * * *  

The import of Trinity Sunday. The first impression that one has of the information that there is such a God as the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit,  is that it is way beyond not only my imagination but my intelligence. And so it is.  But consider that reality is not as it appears. It is immensely reasonable from the order and beauty of the world as we experience it sensibly and intellectually, that there be a Creator. And it is air-tight reasonable as a non-contradiction that the Creator would not be created. Yet, the revelation has it that the Creator has entered His Creation as a part of it, i.e. a being an entity, the man, Jesus of Nazareth a creature with a mother. However, although He appears to be a being,  He reveals Himself to be other than an individual in and of creation. He reveals Himself to be Son as pure relation to the Father such that He and the Father are One (Jn. 10, 30)[1]. s totally beyond creation as a triple relation – Love as Father, Son and Spirit. Everything appears to be an individual entity except the Creat or of all entities. Therefore the real “Being” is to Love within Himself and therefore introduce this  “new” way of being inside the Creation and gently inducing all Creation to become Him as Trinitarian.

This was the great work of Anselm to Bonaventure to Aquinas: God is greater than whom nothing can be thought to God is Ipsum Esse Subsistens Who is, indeed, unthinkable according to our way of conceptualizing and reducing to object. This great achievement of faith as the praxis of self-gift and thought as consciousness (not concept) was undone by Scotus and Occam who – wanting to give ontological realism and epistemological clarity to Him –  declared God to be A Being, no, the Supreme Being in a universe of created beings. By so doing, they destroyed His reality as Transcendent Creator by declaring Him to the most and best of creatures. This set the stage for Enlightenment philosophy which was hell-bent on the clear and distinct idea.

This has had a devastating effect on the scholastic theology and philosophy  deployed by the Church to give an account in reason of the faith experience. Conceptual clarity quoad nos is irresistible when confronted with the cloud of unknowing about the Transcendent Reality of God in se. And the price of the clarity is the loss of realism and ultimately Truth. We tend to change the true God for the cheap clarity of our thinking and we worship idols.

The true God is the Communio Personarum of the Three each of Whom IS A RELATION. The Father is the Esse of engendering the Son. The Son is the Esse of obeying and glorifying the Father. The Spirit is the Esse Personifying the Two Loves. No one can be without the other. They are one. Ye no one is the other. “The Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14, 28). Yet “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30).And that relation that is the Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell” (Col., 1, 15-19). And that relation that He is, is the prototype of the human person and center of the material cosmos.”

 

 

 

 

(From “The Trinity as History”[2] by Bruno Forte)

The Exile of the Trinity:

 

Is the God of Christians a Christian God?

“This question, paradoxical in appearance, arises spontaneously if we consider the manner in which most Christians picture their God. They talk of him by referring to some vague divine ‘person,’ more or less identified with the Jesus of the Gospels or with an unidentifiable heavenly being. In prayer they speak to this rather indefinite God while at the same time they find the way the liturgy prays to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit a bit strange, not to say abstruse: God is prayed to, but not in!

“It is an undeniable fact that many Christians, ‘notwithstanding their exact profession of the Trinity, are almost alone as “monotheists” in the practice of their religious life. One can even risk claiming that if the Trinity should have to be suppressed as false doctrine, a great part of religious literature could still remain unchanged after this occurrence. The suspicion could arise that, for the catechism of the mind and heart (unlike the printed catechism), the representation of the incarnation on the part of the Christian would not have to change at all if ever there were no Trinity.’”

Blogger: Question: is there a practical atheism  in our worship of a false divinity although in ignorance? Is this the cause of the superficial clericalism that has spawned the individualistic secularism that we are trapped in?

Looking up, there has been a radical change in the Second Vatican Council. By way of musical metaphor, the key has changed, but the melody has remained the same. All the notes [read concepts] are different but the melody has remained the same [the revelation more real, deeper and richer].  Epistemologically, it went from object to subject. And since God revealed Himself to be “I Am,” and that relationally as Father, Son and Spirit, we are working, at least semantically, in a heightened state of consciousness. The Trinitarian Persons have become the meaning of the human person by the mediation of Jesus Christ as prototype of man. Until Vatican II, Catholic theology had considered Christ to be an exception to man. Joseph Ratzinger explained that pre-Christian philosophy was limited to the level of essence to which I would add that there was due to the epistemological level they worked at, namely, sensible perception and abstract thought. They did not have the experience of transcendent being as in the self going out of self in the act of faith. Reality was always known in categories of conceptual abstraction. Christianity introduced the existential experience of self-transcendence in the act of faith. One can know not only by vision and conceptual abstraction, but also by hearing and accepting the testimony of another which is a stretching of the self to transcendence.

Ratzinger comments that “Scholastic theology developed categories of existence out of this contribution given by Christian faith to the human mind. Its defect was that it limited these categories to Christology and to the doctrine of the Trinity and did not make them fruitful in the whole extent of spiritual reality…. The contribution of Christian faith to the whole of human thought is not realized; it remains at first detached from it as a theological exception, although it is precisely the meaning of this new element to call into question the whole of human thought and to set it on a new course.”[3]

Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes #22 corrects this error, affirming: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling. It is no wonder, then, that all the truths mentioned so far should find in him their source and their most perfect embodiment.

“He who is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1, 15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of dam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, bay the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his incarnation, he, the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.”

The Trinity enters the human dimension through Jesus Christ and becomes the very meaning of man, and therefore the dynamic of all human existence: sexuality, work, economics, politics, etc. That Trinitarian dimension appears in us by the going out of self which we call supernatural and takes place in the most material and ordinary situations of secular life.

Thomas Aquinas himself was betrayed by the scholastic  thomists who did not appreciate the relational and dynamic character of the thomistic act of existence – esse. Robert Barron has set that error straight by going to sources prior to Thomas’s “Summa theologiae”  – above all the De Potentia (Question 3 article 1, 3), where he finds that “creation is the act by which the whole of one’s being is constituted” and “the creature is nothing but a relationship to God. In light of Thomas’s  understanding of creation, relation, not substance, is the primary category of reality. It is not as though God makes things with which he then establishes a relationship; on the contrary, from the beginning, all ‘things” already are relations to the divine source. We are most ourselves precisely when we acknowledge that what we are, most fundamentally, is a rapport, a play, a dynamic relation to God.”[4]

               And if I may, I would refer to the Trinitarian theology of Joseph Ratzinger to appreciate that that the divine Persons do not so much relate, as that they are constitutively relations. That Father is not the Father and then engenders the Son. Rather, the Father is the action, the relating act, the Personal Fathering Esse that is the engendering of the Son. Hence, not only would there be no Son if there was no Father, but there would be no Father if there were no Son. This is the meaning of “constitutive.” We have no first order epistemological experience of this except loving and fatherhood in ourselves, but we have this by way of imaging precisely this kind of Transcendent Reality of which we have consciousness, but not proper conceptuality.

[1] J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity:

[2] “Bruno Forte, “The Trinity as History,” Alba House, N.Y. (1989)

[3] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio Fall 1990, p. 449.

[4] R. Barron, Thomas Aquinas, Spiritual Master, Crossroad (1996) 118-122.

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