Posted by: Joe of St. Thérèse | June 7, 2009

Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday…(and this year it happens to be Rachel’s b-day, so go tell her happy b-day).

I’ve titled this blog entry, Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier for a reason.

Often times we get into word association games with the Holy Trinity. If we describe God the Father we’d say Creator as we remember from Genesis 1 and 2. We’d often describe Jesus as the Redeemer, as he died on the Cross for us (Ref Jn 19)…And the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier as it guides us towards a life of grace.

This is a heresy known as modalism. Modalism is the heresy that separates the persons of the Trinity by roles. Or to say assigns roles to each person of the Trinity.

Why is this a heresy?

The Trinity is one essence. That is to say, they can not be separated at any given moment. Where one is, so are the other two. One of those deep Theological concepts which are mysterious and any explanation would fall short, so I won’t try to do so.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us the following:

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith.” The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin. (234)….The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God.” To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit. (237)

Old school Catechism tells us this

In the one Substance of the Divinity the Father is the First Person, who with His Only­begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, is one God and one Lord, not in the singularity of one Person, but in the trinity of one Substance. These Three Persons, since it would be impiety to assert that they are unlike or unequal in any thing, are understood to be distinct only in their respective properties. For the Father is unbegotten, the Son begotten of the Father, and the Holy Ghost proceeds from both. Thus we acknowledge the Essence and the Substance of the Three Persons to be the same in such wise that we believe that in confessing the true and eternal God we are piously and religiously to adore distinction in the Persons, unity in the Essence, and equality in the Trinity.

Hence, when we say that the Father is the First Person, we are not to be understood to mean that in the Trinity there is anything first or last, greater or less. Let none of the faithful be guilty of such impiety, for the Christian religion proclaims the same eternity, the same majesty of glory in the Three Persons. But since the Father is the Beginning without a beginning, we truly and unhesitatingly affirm that He is the First Person, and as He is distinct from the Others by His peculiar relation of paternity, so of Him alone is it true that He begot the Son from eternity. For when in the Creed we pronounce together the words God and Father, it means that He was always both God and Father.

Since nowhere is a too curious inquiry more dangerous, or error more fatal, than in the knowledge and exposition of this, the most profound and difficult of mysteries, let the pastor teach that the terms nature and person used to express this mystery should be most scrupulously retained; and let the faithful know that unity belongs to essence, and distinction to persons.

But these are truths which should not be made the subject of too subtle investigation, when we recollect that he who is a searcher of majesty shall be overwhelmed by glory. We should be satisfied with the assurance and certitude which faith gives us that we have been taught these truths by God Himself, to doubt whose word is the extreme of folly and misery. He has said: Teach ye all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and again, there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.

Let him, however, who by the divine bounty believes these truths, constantly beseech and implore God and the Father, who made all things out of nothing, and ordereth an things sweetly, who gave us power to become the sons of God, and who made known to the human mind the mystery of the Trinity ­­ let him, I say, pray unceasingly that, admitted one day into the eternal tabernacles, he may be worthy to see how great is the fecundity of the Father, who contemplating and understanding Himself, begot the Son like and equal to Himself, how a love of charity in both, entirely the same and equal, which is the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, connects the begetter and the begotten by an eternal and indissoluble bond; and that thus the Essence of the Trinity is one and the distinction of the Three Persons perfect.

Better yet, here’s an even better explanation

  1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
  2. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
  3. And the Catholic Faith is this:
    That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
  4. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance [Essence].
  5. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
  6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
  7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
  8. The Father uncreate [uncreated], the Son uncreate [uncreated], and the Holy Ghost uncreate [uncreated].
  9. The Father incomprehensible [unlimited], the Son incomprehensible [unlimited], and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible [unlimited].
  10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
  11. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
  12. As also there are not three incomprehensibles [infinites], nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible [infinite].
  13. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
  14. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
  15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.
  16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
  17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.
  18. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
  19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity: to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord,
  20. So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, There be [are] three Gods, or three Lords.
  21. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
  22. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
  23. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
  24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
  25. And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another [there is nothing before, or after: nothing greater or less];
  26. But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
  27. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
  28. He therefore that will be saved must [let him] thus think of the Trinity.

  29. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  30. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
  31. God, of the Substance [Essence] of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance [Essence] of his Mother, born in the world;
  32. Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting;
  33. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his Manhood.
  34. Who although he be [is] God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ;
  35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking assumption of the Manhood into God;
  36. One altogether, not by confusion of Substance [Essence], but by unity of Person.
  37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
  38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell [Hades, spirit-world], rose again the third day from the dead.
  39. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God [God the Father] Almighty,
  40. From whence [thence] he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
  41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies
  42. And shall give account for their own works.
  43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
  44. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully [truly and firmly], he cannot be saved.

Examples of this heresy being lived out: Jesus only people…which attributes the other 2 persons of the Trinity to modes. For example, some “pentecostals”, Arianism.

Most people don’t realize that this is a heresy, I have seen it in various religious ed books. That I’ve had to teach with, so I’ve been sure not to teach with it. This is all for your edification, not mine 🙂

There are also some people who think that we believe in 3 Gods. This is also heresy called triheism.

The Math expression 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. But God Multiplies instead 1 x 1 x 1 = 1. 🙂

ONE God, THREE Persons, ONE ESSENCE!…Of course if you want a tritheism not eccesiastical community, all you need to do is look at the later day saints (aka Mormons) and that’s what they teach.

My Public service announcement was brought to make sure that you can distinguish these two heresies :)…My work is done.


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