Festival of the Holy Trinity
June 3, 2012
The Lord be with you
Today is Trinity Sunday. I could put us several different posts, all of which would be appropriate and all of which would be very different. In the worship notes for today I said I’d put up something about the icon of the Old Testament Trinity. It is also sometimes called the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah. I could also put up a post tracing the Trinity from the first chapter in Genesis through the book of Revelation. Then again I could put up something about the history of Trinity Sunday, when it started, why, and so forth. I might even include something about the old Trinity Season, which now is called the Pentecost season, why it was introduced and why most liturgical calendars now prefer the name Pentecost.
However I’ve decided to post the Athanasian Creed. It is the best “short” explanation of the Trinity I’ve ever found. Information about the background of this creed can be found in this month’s newsletter article "digging in" and is posted on this blog. The link to the newsletter is on the right-hand side of the blog.
If you are not familiar with this creed two things might trouble you because of your lack of familiarity. First are the words “catholic faith” found in verse one and elsewhere. You might think it is referring to the Roman Catholic Church. It does not. When this creed was written, the Roman Catholic Church, as a distinct denomination, did not exist. In fact, no distinct denomination existed. Every Christian used the word “catholic.” It is a Latin word which means “universal” Therefore, in the creed below, the word “catholic” is not capitalized. It is understood as referring to the universal Christian Church and not to any specific denomination. The next puzzle comes in verse 39. There we confess: “And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.” You might think the creed is saying good works contribute to salvation. However the rest of the creed, which speaks of faith as the only key to salvation, indicates that such an understanding of verse 39 is incorrect. What the creed confesses is that our good works are not forgotten in heaven. In fact, good works in the eyes of God can only be done by those who have saving faith. In heaven, such works are remembered. And now:
The Athanasian Creed
1 Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith.
2 Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.
3 And the catholic faith is this,
4 that we worship one God in Trinity and
Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.
5 For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another.
6 But the Godhead of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
7 Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit:
8 the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Spirit uncreated;
9 the Father infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite;
10 the Father eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal.
11 And yet there are not three Eternals, but one Eternal,
12 just as there are not three Uncreated or three Infinites, but one Uncreated and one Infinite.
13 In the same way, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty;
14 and yet there are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
15 So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God;
16 and yet there are not three Gods, but one God.
17 So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord;
18 and yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord.
19 Just as we are compelled by the
Christian truth to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord,
so also are we prohibited by the catholic religion to say
that there are three Gods or Lords.
20 The Father is not made nor created nor begotten by anyone.
21 The Son is neither made nor created, but begotten of the Father alone.
22 The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son,
neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.
23 Thus, there is one Father, not three Fathers;
one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
24 And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another;
25 but the whole three persons are coeternal with each other and coequal,
so that in all things, as has been stated above,
the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity is to be worshiped.
26 Therefore, whoever desires to be saved must think thus about the Trinity.
27 But it is also necessary for everlasting salvation
that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
28 Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that
our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of-God, is at the same time both God and man.
29 He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages;
and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age:
30 perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh;
31 equal to the Father with respect to His divinity,
less than the Father with respect to His humanity.
32 Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ:
33 one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh,
but by the assumption of the humanity into God;
34 one altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
35 For as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ,
36 who suffered for our salvation,
descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead,
37 ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty,
from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
38 At His coming all people will rise again with their bodies
and give an account concerning their own deeds.
39 And those who have done good will enter into eternal life,
and those who have done evil into eternal fire.
40 This is the catholic faith;
whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.
Blessings in Christ
Pastor John Rickert