Must We Call the Persons of the Trinity Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

By Coda, Teresa | U.S. Catholic, February 2019 | Go to article overview

Must We Call the Persons of the Trinity Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?


Coda, Teresa, U.S. Catholic


One of the paradoxes of our Catholic faith is that its foundational element, belief in the Trinity, the flour to the bread of Catholicism, cannot be understood through human reason. The mysteriousness of the Trinity, however, hasn't stopped the church from spending centuries examining and clarifying its doctrine. The core elements of the Trinity are described in no uncertain terms: God is only one, but exists in three distinct persons. The divine persons do not share one divinity but are each wholly and entirely God, existing in relationship with one another.

We almost exclusively refer to these three persons of the Trinity as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," but we also know that God is without gender. Is it possible to think of the three persons in any other way?

Since it can't be deduced through logic, the nature of the Trinity is only known through revelation by God, mainly through the life and words of Jesus. Jesus refers to God as Father, telling his followers that "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the apostles that though he is leaving them his Father will send the Holy Spirit to teach and guide them. It is largely through Jesus, therefore, that we have come to know the three persons of the Trinity as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Using these names to name the ineffable has both benefits and disadvantages. The merit of naming the persons of the Trinity is the merit of naming anything: A name encapsulates meaning. …

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