The Understanding of God as a Holy Trinity
Table of Contents
The Catechism
Through Metaphor
Through Criticism

As Understood through the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Edition)

In simplest of terms, the trinity is three distinct persons in one God. The Second Edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that God, as the Holy Trinity, is a "mystery of faith" and that the "Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel's faith before the Incarnation of the God's Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit." (237) And, it should be taken into consideration that the Trinity is "infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand." (251)

Each of the three distinctions of God, being the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (also referred to as the Holy Ghost), should be noted as the same in essence, substance and nature. They are equals in this Holy Trinity. The Son, is eternally begotten from the Father, born of the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds as one principle and one spiration not only from the Father, but from the Son as well. In the Nicene Creed, the saying goes "we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father." By confessing this, it should be understood that the spirit also "comes from the Father through the Son." (247) The Father should be understood to be the first origin of the spirit, but as the Father, it is with the Son through whom the Holy Spirit proceeds. (248)

The three persons do not share the divinity of God, but fully enjoy being God in completeness. (253) To avoid confusion, you must understand that the Father is not the Son, nor the Spirit. The Son is not the Spirit, nor the Father. And the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. "It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds." (254)

Through a Metaphor

To understand the trinity, maybe there are things we can relate it to. Some have referred to H2O and its capability of turning into a solid, liquid or gas. However, is this applicable when relating the words found in the Catechism? None of the three forms proceed from each other. You may put ice into water and thus have two distinct forms that are H2O, but that's just two. If you try to get it to steam by heating it up, you'll melt the ice. Is there any instance that H2O would consist of all three forms? According to, "plain water, when placed in a vacuum under gas pressure of 230 millimeters and at a temperature of 0 degrees Centigrade, [w]ill solidify it into ice at the bottom of the container, the liquid will remain in the center and at the top it vaporizes. This, too, falls short of the perfect metaphor, seeing as they just co-exist, even though each being completely H2O. There is a certain evolution that takes place in this a solid is at the bottom, liquid in the middle, while vapor pours off the top.


Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994.

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