Malankara World

Faith of the Church: Trinity


The Holy Trinity

by Saint Thomas Aquinas

Part - 7

64 Generation with respect to the Father and with respect to the Son

However, we should see that the order of active generation (with reference to paternity) is to be taken one way and the order of passive generation or nativity (with reference to filiation) is to be taken another. In the order of nature, active generation presupposes the person of the begetter. But in the same order, passive generation, or nativity, precedes the begotten person, for the begotten person owes his existence to his birth. Thus active generation, according to our way of representing it, presupposes paternity, understood as constituting the person of the Father. Nativity, however, does not presuppose filiation, understood as constituting the person of the Son but, according to our manner of conceiving, precedes it in both respects, that is, both as being constitutive of the person and as being a relation. And whatever pertains to the procession of the Holy Spirit is to be understood in a similar way.

65 Nature of the distinction between notional acts and notional properties

In thus indicating the order between notional acts and notional properties, we do not mean to imply that notional acts differ from personal properties in objective reality: they are distinct only according to our manner of conceiving. Just as God's act of understanding is God Himself understanding, so the Father's act of begetting is the begetting Father, although the modes of signifying are different. Likewise, although one divine person may have several notions, there is no composition in Him. Innascibility cannot cause any composition, since it is a negative property. And the two relations in the person of the Father (paternity and common spiration) are in reality identical as referring to the person of the Father; for, as the paternity is the Father, so common spiration in the Father is the Father, and in the Son is the Son. But these two properties differ according to the terms to which they refer; for by paternity the Father is related to the Son, and by common spiration He is related to the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the Son is related to the Father by filiation and to the Holy Spirit by common spiration.

66 Identity between the relative properties and the divine essence

The relative properties must be the divine essence itself. For the relative properties are precisely the subsistent persons. But a person subsisting in the Godhead cannot be something other than the divine essence; and the divine essence is God Himself, as was shown above. 64 Therefore the relative properties are in all reality identical with the divine essence.

Moreover, whatever is in a being besides its essence, is in it accidentally. But there cannot be any accidents in God, as was pointed out above. 65 Accordingly, the relative properties are not really distinct from the divine essence.

67 The divine properties are not externally affixed

The view proposed by Gilbert de la Porree66 and some of his followers, that the properties under discussion are not in the persons, but are external to them, cannot be defended. Real relations must be in the things that are related. This is evident in the case of creatures, for real relations are in them as accidents in their subjects. But the relations whereby the three persons are distinguished within the Godhead are real relations, as was demonstrated above.67 Hence they must be in the divine persons, but not, of course, as accidents. Other perfections, too, which in creatures are accidents, cease to be accidents when transferred to God, as was shown above.68 Such are wisdom, justice, and the like.

Besides, there can be no distinction in God except through the relations; all perfections that are predicated absolutely are common. Therefore, if the relations were external to the persons, no distinction would remain among the persons themselves. And so there are relative properties in the persons; but they are the persons themselves, and also the divine essence itself. In the same way wisdom and goodness are said to be in God, and are God Himself, as well as the divine essence, as was said above. 69

Source: The Light of Faith by St. Thomas Aquinas (AD 1200 approx.)

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