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).
The Divine Trinity.
The New Testament speaks of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Many have understood this to mean that God is in three Divine Persons, each of whom is infinite and eternal, and each of whom is God and Lord. But the New Testament does not speak of Persons in God at all, much less of three Divine Persons existing from eternity.
It is admitted by many that the question of how three persons make one God is past all human understanding. And because of this mystery many people do not think deeply about God, believing that their minds are not capable of entering into such thought.
What does Swedenborg teach concerning the Divine Trinity?
From what has gone before in this lecture it can be seen that the Father, the one infinite and eternal God, is not one Divine Person and the Son another Divine Person. but that they are one. as soul and body are one. The Son. the Divine Human, is the Divine Body, and the Father is the Divine Soul in that Divine Bodv. Even as the soul and body of a man are not two people, but one person, so the Father and the Son, the Divine and the Divine Human of the Lord are one Divine Person.
But what then of the Holy Spirit?
Swedenborg teaches that the Holy Spirit is the Lord’s own Divine Spirit going forth from Him to men and angels. It is the Divine Love and Wisdom proceeding out of the Divine Human of the Lord to work the regeneration and salvation of mankind. This can be seen perfectly represented in the Gospel of .John:
“And when He had said this. He breathed on them and said. Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
This was said after the Lord’s Resurrection. The Holy Spirit is there represented as the Breath of the Lord. His Breath is His Divine Truth going forth from Himself to men. Swedenborg calls this the Divine Proceeding, or, the Divine Operation.
That the Holy Spirit is the Divine proceeding from the glorified Human of the Lord is also taught in these passages from the New Testament: “But this He spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39.) The original Greek reads “The Holy Spirit was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”
“It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” (John 16:7.)
After the Lord was glorified, that is, after His Human was made Divine, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, which leads men into all truth, could come to men, because through the Divine Human the Divine Good and Truth can inflow into our minds.
The conclusion therefore is that the Divine Trinity is not a Trinity of Persons, but that it is a Trinity of essentials in the one Divine Person, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father is the Divine itself, present in Him as the Soul. The Son is the Divine Human, which is the Body of that Divine Soul, and the Holy Spirit is the Divine Operation, the Divine Good and Truth proceeding from God to men.
This is taught also by Paul, in these words concerning the Lord:
“For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9.)
If you see God as one Divine Person, one Divine Man, and the Trinity in Him as Soul, Body and Proceeding, you will have an understandable idea of God and of the Divine Trinity in Him. This teaching is that which is given in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. It is the Supreme Truth concerning the Lord.
This truth may be summarized thus: That the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God of heaven and earth, that He is Jehovah, the Lord from eternity, that He is the Creator from eternity, that He is the Redeemer in time, that He is the regenerator into eternity, and thus that He is at the same time the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our God. There is no other. To Him we owe all that is good and all that is true. All power in heaven and on earth is His. To Him alone should we pray. To Him alone should be our worship, our love, and the service of our lives.