By Fr Jose LaBoy
The New Testament, in many passages, reveals to us the divine plurality of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Synoptic gospels clearly present a Trinity in the Baptism and Transfiguration of Christ. At the end of the Gospel according to Matthew (Mt 28:19) we find the words: “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We also find a Trinity of persons in the Christ’s praise of the Father (Lk 10:21ff): “At that very moment he rejoiced in the holy Spirit and sied, ‘I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike…”
The Gospel of John is constantly referring to the relations between the Father and the Son, and in the discourse at the Last Supper we find a rich doctrine regarding the Paraclete, Spirit of truth. This is summed up in the fact that we see Christ saying that he must go to his Father in order to give us the Spirit.
St. Paul ends his Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 13:13) with the following words: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” As in this and other passages, 1 Cor 12:4-6 for example, St. Paul usually uses the titles God the Father, Lord Jesus Christ (Son), and Holy Spirit for each divine person.
Jesus Christ revealed to us that God is a Trinity of Persons. Something we could never know without him. The name the Incarnate Word took for himself means “God saves”. The Old Testament reminds us that only God saves. If, then, God is Trinity, we need to relate to each of the divine persons if we want to reach salvation, which is assumption into the Trinitarian communion.
We might be used to praying the “Glory be…”, which stresses the unity of the divine persons. But it might help to pray another form of that prayer that St. Basil used: “Glory be to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.” The first form helps reminds us that each person is God. The second form helps us pay more attention to the role of each divine person on our path to salvation. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “The whole divine economy is the common work of the three divine persons… However each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property” (n. 258). And “being a work at once common and personal, the whole divine economy makes known both what is proper to the divine persons and their one divine nature. Hence the whole Christian life is a communion with each of the divine persons, without in any way separating them. Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him” (n. 259).
Sometimes we may only pray to the Father, or only to the Son. How many of us really pray to the Holy Spirit? And yet we should have in mind each of the persons every time we pray.
We can find beautiful texts in the Letters of St. Paul regarding the role each divine person plays so that we may come into communion with the Blessed Trinity. In Gal 4:4-6 we See that the Father adopts us as his children, the Son redeems us and the Holy Spirit cries and prays in making us pray. Rom 8 goes develops these aspects. But the text that most expresses the role of each person in the economy of salvation is Eph 1: 3-14. The Father blesses, predestines, chooses, reveals adopts and recapitulates (vv. 3-11); Christ redeems or rather “in him” we find the redemption (vv. 5-13) prepared by the Spirit who is the pledge of our inheritance (vv. 13-14).
Bertrand De Margerie, an expert in Trinitarian Theology sums up the different roles this way: “The Father is the one who conceives the divine plan of salvation, before the creation of the world. He sends his son and their Spirit to realize this plan. The Holy Spirit is the Envoy given and poured out on us, the permanent Gift who dwells in us; he makes us pray and witness, assists the Church and its leaders in their decisions; he is the seal and the pledge of the final condition into which we will enter as heirs. This final state is characterized by a return to the Father by way of the Son (1 Cor 15: 24-28).”
The Catechism (n. 260) reminds us that even though “the ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity”, “even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity (cfr. Jn 14:23).