“What does it profit a man to be an expert theologian, if he is a shameless fornicator; or to be wholly temperate, but an impious blasphemer? The knowledge of doctrines is a precious possession.” St Cyril of Jerusalem


“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” These are words uttered everyday by Catholics across the globe, each time we pray the Sign of the Cross. It’s only twelve words, and yet, it encompasses the core of all our dogmas, doctrines and devotions. It’s only twelve words, and yet, it’s a mystery beyond anything we can comprehend. As St Paul told the Corinthians, “…now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully…” 1 COR 13:12.

I speak of course of the Holy Trinity. The triune God that is One, but also Three. Not three gods, one God. Three Persons, all distinct, but still One. Got that? If you did, you are indeed faithful, for reason alone would be incapable of enlightening one to such a mystery. This is the Creator of the whole universe after all! Without God revealing this truth to us, we would still live in a truly “dark” age. St Thomas Aquinas though, did warn us that “whoever, then, tries to prove the Trinity of the Persons by natural reason, derogates from faith…”. He said this primarily for two reasons, which he would later explain. The first, is that faith is supranatural, meaning above nature, and thus, to look for spiritual truths in the material world, would be like searching for mathematical truths in the Lord of the Rings. Secondly, he said that the attempt itself would likely lead Christians to produce weak arguments, appearing childish to non-believers, which in turn might actually lead them further away from the faith. Think of traditions like the shamrock, or the forms of water (gas, liquid, solid), which can be helpful to the young, but a barrier to a skeptical adult. St Paul in his brutal honesty, again comes to mind, when to the very same Corinthians, he said to them, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” 1 COR 11. As Athens instructed sons of men in the knowledge of the unknown god, not far away, another city was being instructed by the Son of Man.

Author Kevin Vost in his book on the Summa by Aquinas, explains that “our knowledge of the Trinity moves us from the realm of what God is into the fascinating realm of who He is.” He contrasts “Man made in the image of God” with “Jesus is the image of God.” One early verse in the Bible that always struck me as peculiar, was precisely the one about the first “image of God”. In the first chapter of Genesis verse 26, the author writes, “And He said: Let us make man to our image and likeness”. The whole story of salvation, of Israel was about worship of the One God, and yet in the very first chapter of the Holy Scriptures, we hear God, the Creator, refer to Himself in the plural? The very first Commandment is to “worship no other gods”. It seems to me that this was, at least in part, on St John’s mind when he began his Gospel with “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

The natural question would be to ask how could Jesus be the Word at the beginning, if He was born thousands of years later? Nicodemus after listening to Jesus teach about being born again, also asked Him the natural question: how can a man get back inside his mother’s womb? I presume Nicodemus’ mother was still alive at the time, otherwise, it’s possible the question would’ve been how can one be born again from a dead woman… Though Nicodemus sounded childish, his reason-ing is logical and even shows great belief in the power of God. He was by biblical accounts a wise man, knew the Scriptures, but despite being face to face with the Son of God, he could not understand. He had all the information, all the knowledge, but the only way he came to understand the truth, was by having Truth Himself reveal it to him. T.S. Eliot famously remarked, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”. We live in the information age, and now we no longer know what is a man. At the latter stages of Christ’s ministry, the apostle Philip asked Jesus if He could show them the Father, to which Jesus replied: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?”. John 14:9 Shortly thereafter, Blood ran in the city streets of…. Jerusalem.

Unlike Midas, Modernism’s mighty touch is to turn everything into mold. Like Midas, this touch is self-destructive, but Modernism is not modern. It is as old as the world. In around the 4th century, a fallen away Catholic came back to the Church, wrote one of the first ever autobiographies, was named Bishop against his will, and eventually became a saint. He is now a Doctor of the Church and wrote extensively on the Trinity, always acknowledging that his hope was to provide a glimpse of this mystery. He used two examples to help people overcome the intellectual challenge of the triune God: first, he said “The mind is an image of the Trinity in its own memory, and understanding, and will.” Second, building surely on St John’s “God is love”, he wrote “But what is love or charity, which Divine Scripture so greatly praises and proclaims, except the love of the good? But love is of some one that loves, and with love something is loved. Behold then, there are three things: he that loves, that which is loved, and love itself.”

Another man, centuries earlier, denied Christ three times and was called satan. He later affirmed his love for Jesus, baptized the first Gentiles, and later became the Church’s first pope. In one of his first homilies, he boldly urged people to, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” and to “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” Acts 2:38-40

More recently, a Polish pope gave us a wonderful catechism, which with great clarity expounded on the Trinity. It is worth reflecting on the direct quote: “The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”. The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is”, and adds, “The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.” “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.” They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.”The divine Unity is Triune.” CCC 253-254 It ends by exclaiming, “Thus the Church confesses, following the New Testament, “one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are”.

The doctor of the Church was St Augustine, the first Pope was St Peter, and the Polish pope was St John Paul II. It is said that all roads lead to Rome, but Rome is not our final home. Reflecting finally on man “made in the image of God”, I see our body, mind and soul, as perhaps a mirror image of this deep reality. A body without a mind is but a corpse after all, and a mind without a body is an angel or spirit, but neither is a man. Of course, this is an imperfect comparison, not least because man is only one person not three. Nonetheless, this analogy of Jesus as the body, God the Father as the mind, and the Holy Spirit as our soul may help provide a tiny glimpse into the reality of the Trinity. It is interesting that the first man was called Man (Adam), and it was deemed that it was not good for him to be alone. Commenting on heresies regarding the Divinity of Christ, G.K. Chesterton made the following observation: “…but out of the desert, from the dry places and, the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone.”

St Joseph, pray for us.

Roberto Freire


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