by Priest David Moser
The Holy Trinity is one of the great mysteries of the Orthodox Faith. With our finite and limited minds, we are unable to comprehend the Holy Trinity at all, and yet with our hearts, we can believe in the truth of the this mystery. We confess our belief each time we say the Creed , "I believe in One God, the Father almighty,...and in one Lord Jesus Christ...and in the Holy Spirit..." And so, even though it is incomprehensible, the mystery of the Holy Trinity is intertwined throughout the most basic confession of our faith.
The worship of the Trinity is the key element of the Orthodox Faith. If you were to ask a group of people, "What is the essence of true religious belief?" you would get a number of different answers, depending on who you asked. If you were to narrow your questioning down to only those who confessed Christianity, it is most likely that you would get an answer which expressed in some way "to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ". But if you were to ask an Orthodox Christian who was familiar with the services of the Church, "What is the true faith?" he could immediately answer with the words of the Church. At the end of the Divine Liturgy when we sing "We have found the true faith..." we describe what this "true faith" is "...worshipping the undivided Trinity." Orthodox Christians have known even from the very beginning that in order to truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary to believe in the Holy Trinity and that in order to worship God "in spirit and in truth," we must worship the Holy Trinity.
What is it that makes this mystery of the Holy Trinity so vital to our Christian belief? In order to answer this question, we must first understand a little about the Holy Trinity. The mystery of the Trinity is that there is One God in three Persons and that each of these Persons is distinct and separate from the others while at the same time all three Persons are indivisibly united. How can something be three separate and distinct things and yet at the same time be only one? This is the mystery of the Trinity.
But the nature of the Trinity is not just an abstract idea, a belief that has no impact on us as Orthodox Christians. St Athanasius said about the incarnation, "God became man so that man might become god." And indeed this is true - when we "put on Christ" at Holy Baptism and as we begin to work out our salvation, we become like God, that is we take on His nature. We give up our own fallen human nature, and in exchange we receive the nature of the God-man Jesus Christ. In order to be saved we must exhibit the mystery of the Holy Trinity in our own lives.
How is such a thing possible? How can we, who are created beings, who are limited, mortal and finite, become like the Holy Trinity - three persons in one essence? Again the Holy Fathers teach us what we must know. We know that there is no salvation outside the Church. In order to be transformed and enter into the life of Christ, we must do so within His Church. The Church is the ark of salvation and we are all gathered into that ark. But there is more to this than just membership in an earthly organization. The Church is much more than that. The Church is the union of all Orthodox Christians into the one mystical Body of Christ. It is in the Church that our true nature as Christians is made manifest. We, who are many, are united into one body (and yet we remain many persons, distinct from one another). This unity of diversity that we find in the mystery of the Church is exactly the same mystery of the unity in diversity of the Holy Trinity. By being members of the Holy Church, we are transformed so that our nature becomes like that of the Holy Trinity.
In the Holy Church, our true nature as a corporate body, a single entity made up of many persons, is made manifest. When we gather together to worship in the public services of the Church, we express this godlike nature. In this we can begin to see the importance of participating in the services of the Church. These services are not just a social gathering, a ritual that we share with those of like mind and belief. The services of the Church are the necessary expression of our godlike nature. By participating in the public worship of the Church we act like God, we confess our belief in the Holy Trinity and we confess our likeness to the Holy Trinity. If we shun the services of the Church, if we do not participate, then we are in effect turning our back on Christ, turning away from the salvation that He provides, denying that we are like Him. It is in the public services of the Church that God does the work of making our nature to be like His. It is only in the Church and in her public and corporate worship that we become like the Holy Trinity.
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