Part 2 – The Most Holy Trinity
This is a profound mystery, revealed to us by God. The Catholic Church teaches that in one God there are three Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; really distinct one from the other, and equal in eternity, power, immensity, and all other perfections; because all the three Persons have only one and the same Divine nature or essence.
It would be a contradiction to assert that there are three Gods and one God; or that there are three Persons and one Person; but it is no contradiction to affirm that God is one in essence and three in personality. A thing can be one in one respect, and three in another respect. Thus the human soul, though one, is threefold in its powers; namely, the understanding, the memory and the will. Likewise a man is one human being, and three fold in his rational, animal and vegetative life.
Comparisons, however, are necessarily imperfect upon such a subject as the Blessed Trinity. It is a great mystery, surpassing all understanding, to be adoringly believed on earth, and to be understood only in heaven.
We are not able to understand how each of the three Persons can be God, and yet that there is but One God. It should be borne in mind that many things exist also in nature which we cannot explain, or even comprehend, and yet know to be facts. Among such may be noted the nature of latent substance of bodies, the cause of gravitation, the attraction of the magnet, and the amazing power and swiftness of the electric current. Human reason cannot of itself discover or demonstrate that there are three Persons in God, yet this revealed truth far from repugnant to reason can be shown to agree with it,. For God as an intelligent being of infinite Perfection must naturally know Himself, and in Himself know all things. To this end He must form to Himself an inward word through which the comprehension of Himself is effected.
When we understand a thing, the interior word or image which our intellect forms within itself in order to comprehend a thing is not a thing subsisting in itself, but in God in whom reason shows that there can be no accident of any kind, this eternal self-comprehension, or word, is not an accidental, transient thing, but a thing identified with divine nature, and at the same time, perfectly distinct from the Father, who is that intellectual supreme Being, who by comprehending Himself generates this His Word, and therefore He is a distinct subsistence or Person, because, although identified with the same nature of the Father, yet inasmuch as it is generated by the Father, it is perfectly distinct from Him, who is generator, and forms in Himself an individual, distinct and incommunicable subsistence, which is everything that is required for being truly a Divine Person, called in Holy Scripture the Word, and the Son of God; for by person it is understood an intellectual individual substance.
Likewise God loves Himself in the Son, and is beloved in return by the Son, and in Himself He loves all other things, and this eternal permanent act of mutual love is also, not a thing accidental and transient, as an act of love is in us, but is a thing identified with divine nature, eternal, permanent, subsisting, singular, incommunicable, perfectly distinct from the Father and the So, from both of whom this divine act proceeds, and is also therefore a distinct person called in Holy Scripture the Holy Ghost.
Therefore, to say that in one God there are three Persons, is no more repugnant to reason than saying that one God must of necessity be considered under three different respects:- 1st, as a God who knows Himself, that is, as a subject; 2nd, as a God who is known by Himself, that is, as an object of knowledge; and 3rd. As a God who is loving Himself and is beloved by Himself, as knowing and as known, that is, an object of mutual love. These remarkable self-subsistent eternal differences or relations are what constitute the three really distinct Persons in the one God.