A. Mystery of the Holy Trinity
In this section the mystery of Unity and Trinity of the Triune God is described.
God is one in three and three in one. The unity of God is not convinced in the sense of an arithmetical digit nor of a solitary condition, but in that of an all-inclusive perfection. So the one is also eternally three. He is, affirms the Anaphora, “three names and one God, three prosopa and one appearance, three persons and one essence”.
The unity of God is confessed as the unity of Godhead – Melekote as the word is used in Geez, the ancient liturgical language of the Church. The one Godhead is shared equally and eternally by the three Persons – Akal as they are referred to in Geez. As in other parts of the Christian world, in Eritrea also there were men who tried to interpret the doctrine in various ways. There were, for instance, persons who refused to accept the personal distinctions in the one Godhead and others who insisted that the three Persons were three Gods. Both these views were rejected by the Church.
God is eternally Father, eternally Son, and eternally Holy Spirit. “The Father beget His son without days or hours; and when He beget Him, His Father was not separated from Him.” Beyond time, God is the eternal One. That One is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No one of the three Persons is prior to the other two in time. “The One was not before the Other”, says the Anaphora, “and the Second was not before the Third.” But “we proclaim that the Father lived with His Son, and that the Son lived with His Father before creation, and before the heavens and the earth were made.”
In the one co-eternal and co-equal Trinity, the Father is the eternal source of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son is born of, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from, the Father. While affirming that the Son and the Holy Spirit derive each of them His respective being eternally from the Father, it is insisted that “the Father did not beget the Son to help Him in His work before the world was created and the existence of the Holy Spirit is not to contribute wisdom and work.”
It is not with the Deity as it was with Abraham who was older than Isaac. Or with Isaac who was older than Jacob, but the Father is not older than the Son, neither is the Son older than the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not younger than the Son, neither is the Son younger than His Father.
The Father is different from the Son and the Holy Spirit only in that He alone is Father. The Son alone is Son, and the Holy Spirit alone dwells in us and makes God known to us. So the priest who celebrates the Anaphora of St. John says in prayer, “But thy living Holy Spirit knoweth the depth of Thy Godhead. He has declared to us Thy nature, and told us about Thy oneness. He taught thy unity, and helped to know Thy Trinity.” The one Godhead is, therefore, in the Father in perfection. From Him the same Godhead is received in perfection by the Son through His eternal generation; and from the Father again the same Godhead in perfection is derived eternally by the Holy Spirit. It is affirmed at the same time with equal force that “the father is not greater than the Son, and the Son is not less than His Father,” and the Holy Spirit in not greater or less than either the Father or Son. Thus the unity of God is affirmed by confessing that the Godhead is one, and that the Godhead is eternally in the Father. The Son and the Holy Spirit receive the same Godhead eternally and in perfection from the Father.
There is also another equally important emphasis regarding divine unity. This lies in the affirmation that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are eternally inseparably together. In everything that the Father does, the Son and the Holy Spirit are there with Him; in all the things that the Son does, the Father and the Holy Spirit are there with Him; and in all activities of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son are also with him. It is affirmed that “the father, being Father, doth not give orders to the Son; and the Son, being Son, is not exalted; and the Holy Spirit is equal. Both the divine Father, Son and Holy Spirit is equal. But the divine Father, Son and Holy Spirit and are one God, one Kingdom, one authority and one government.”
If we may put the emphasis in our words, the term “Father” with reference to God signifies the divine reality which originates everything; the Son indicates the divine reality implying all that is originated; and the Holy Spirit signifies the divine reality which dwells in creatures relating them both individually and corporately to God. The eternal God, as we have noted already, is the all-inclusive perfection. He creates all things; He sustains them; and He guides them to a final destiny.
God creates and sustains the world and all that there is in it. It is God the Father who brings all this into being; but it is accomplished in reality through the Son, and is perfected in the Holy Spirit. All this is one activity of God consisting of different aspects. Grounded in the Son and upheld and perfected by the Holy Spirit, the created world belongs to the Father. In His love God the Father sent His only Son into the world in order to accomplish its salvation; in the same love God the Son came and worked out the world’s salvation; in the same love again God the Holy Spirit perfects the salvation thus given. All these are manifestation at different levels of the same activity of God in relation to the world.
The Holy Trinity is three in name, in person (Akal), in deed and one in essence, in divinity, in existence, in will.
Three in name: - Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Three in deed: - the Father is the begetter
the Son is begotten
the Holy Spirit is the one who proceeds.
Three in person: - the Father has a perfect person
the Son has a perfect person
the Holy Spirit has a perfect person
The Father is the heart, the Son is the word, the Holy spirit is the life (breath).
The Father is the heart for Himself, and He is the heart for the Son and for the Holy spirit. The Son is the word for Himself, and He is the word for the Father, and for the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is the life (breath) for Himself, and He is the life (breath) for the Father and the Son.
Even though we say the Trinity are three in name, in deed and in person; the three are one in essence, in divinity, in existence and in will; we do not mean three God but one God. While the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit exist in their own perfect person, they are one in existence. (Hypolitus/Abulidis, Faith of the Father’s Chap. 40 verse 4:6).
As Ignatius has said in the Book of the Faith of the Fathers (HaimanoteAbew), the name of the Father is not interchangeable with the name of the Son or the Holy Spirit. The name of the Son is not changed to be the name of the Father or the Holy Spirit, the name of the Holy Spirit is not changed to be the name of the Father or the Son. The Father is called Father but not the Son or the Holy Spirit. The Son is called Son but not the Father or the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is called the Holy Spirit but not the Father or the Son. The Father is the Father, the Son is the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The three exist eternally in their own name and person. (Faith of the Fathers Ch. 11 part 1 verse 7.8).
In their name of unity, the three are called Lord, God. Lord the Father, Lord the Son, Lord the Holy Spirit One Lord.
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit One God. The three hundred eighteen Fathers of Necea in the Book of Faith (HaimanoteAbew) said “we believe in Lord the Father, In Lord the Son, in Lord the Holy Spirit, One God. (Hai. Ab. Ch. 19 Part 1 verse 30).
The Apostolic St. Athanasius Archbishop of Alexandria said “The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. They are call one God but not three Gods.” (Athanasius the Apostolic, Faith of the Fathers Ch. 24 part 4 verse 4).
It is stated in many places in the Old and the New Testament Books about the Oneness and Trinity of the Holy Trinity.
In the Old Testament
Gen. 1:26; 2:18; 3:22; 11:7; 18:1-8; pa. 33:6; 146:5; Isa. 6:3,8
In New Testament
Mt. 3:16-17; 28:19; Jn. 14:26; 2Cor.14:13; 1Pet. 1:2; 1Jn.5:7-8