The Persons of the Trinity
VOCABULARY: Godhead – Bozhestvo. The Holy Trinity, regarded in its unity, rather than in the aspect of the differences between the three Persons.
Religion – from re-legare, a Latin word for „to reunite“, to join together something that has previously been broken or cut apart.
Bible – from „biblia“ (Greek word for „books“), i.g. the collection of the sacred writings of Christianity. A general agreement on the contents of the Bible was reached no earlier than the 3-4th century, when there was a need of a common written source for all Christians. This concerns only the books of the New Testament; the Old Testament is basically all the major books of the Jewish Torrah (The Five Books, ascribed to Moses) and the writings of prophets, poets, hitorians, etc. – but every book deals with some aspect of the revelation of God to the Jewish nation.
(I believe) IN ONE GOD…
The first section of the Creed deals with the object of the Orthodox religious worship – the Holy Trinity, who has revealed to mankind His presence and role in the history of the nations, as well as in the personal lives of millions of people.
All religions worship some sort of a divine Person, or Being, or Essence. Some tend to depersonalize the Godhead and often talk about the Spirit of Nature, or the Spirit of the Universe, who has not any aspects, similar to the Man’s personality. This group of religions constitute the pantheism, the „all-is-God“ view, associated mainly with the religious systems of Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. The religious experience for them can be very strong, even ecstatic, but never personal, i.e. promoting the individual uniqueness and the person-to-person relation with God.
For us Christians God is doubtlessly a Person, although not in the same sense in which man is a person. The psychological sciences have achieved a lot to explain the process of the formation of individuality and personality in Man; obviously, this process has a lot to do with the external influences (from the parents or the society). This is not the case with God. His Person has never been formed and is not a subject to any change or development (because God exists beyond Space and Time). More importantly, He has a Being-in-Himself, that is, he does not owe His existence to an external cause, as we all do; He is self-sufficient in His Divinity.
The problem of the Person of God is one of the most difficult to understand. One of the reasons for this is that it is very much related with the problem of the Essence of God, which is beyond any human understanding. The other reason is the fact that we, having been granted human personalities by God, often tend to „create“ a God of our own „image and likeness“. No matter how tempting this may seem, it has ever to be avoided by the true seekers. The anthropocentricity, as this is called, can be overcome only by a real personal relation with God; a relation dominated not by pride, but by humiliation and an honest desire to know God better, which is a natural desire, implanted in every man’s soul, no matter how distorted it may be.
The detailed history of God’s revelation as One God (opposed to the polytheism of most of the nations at that time) is to be found throughout the books of the Old Testament, since the very first page.
Now probably some people may think: „Well, if that is not anthropomorphism (ascribing aspects of the human nature to God), then I don’t know what is“. Calling the Godhead „a Father“, and therefore ascribing to it human characteristics, may seem strange and primitive.
Actually there are a lot of reasons for calling God „Father“. First, our relationship with Him is very much like a fatherhood and a sonhood, as He is our Creator and we owe Him our existence. Second, the love of a father for his children is an image of God’s love for every individual of mankind. There are also many other theological arguments for this name. But, above all, God Himself is calling us His sons and Jesus referred to Him as „Father“.
It has been become a fashion recently for some groups to talk about the „feminine aspect of God“ and to address Him by other names. But for an Orthodox Christian, it is clear that God is above any sexuality and gender; nevertheless He Himself has taught us to address Him as Father. Sometimes, especially in the spiritual matters, obedience is more important than understanding and understanding of a spiritual truth comes after a certain period of obedience.
Also, the Father is the name of one of the three Persons (hypostaseis) of the Godhead, the other two being the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. The relation between God’s unity and diversity at the same time will be examined later.
…ALMIGHTY, MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, AND OF ALL THINGS VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE.
These are words, referring to some of the attributes of God. He is almighty, (omnipotent; in Slavonic: Vsederzhitel) that is, His powers and abilities transcend any human imagination or understanding. The omnipotence of God’s divine nature expresses itself in the creation of the world, that is, the Universe. „Heaven and Earth“ does not necessarily mean the physical sky and the planet Earth; it includes the whole Nature, the Cosmos, all dimensions, planets, stars and aspects of the material being, both known and unknown to Man. The things which are „visible“ are the realities of the physical Universe, while „invisible“ refers to the spiritual realities (for example, the angelic powers).
The act of Creation is one of the ultimate self-expressions of God. Not that He needs such self-expression, but because it is a sign of His Divine Love. („God is Love“, the Gospel says, and through Love we find Him. Therefore, Christians view this world as an enigmatic signature of God; by exploring the material aspects of Nature many scientists have come to a greater faith in God – such as Isaac Newton, for example.)
VOCABULARY: Omnipotence – the unlimited and unconditional powers and abilities of God to dispose of His own creation.
Omnipresence (vezdesushtnost) – God is not „living“ somewhere beyond the borders of the known Universe and actually He is not occupying any particular space at any particular time. Being above the dimensions, He is at the same time ever-present in all of them, everywhere and all the time. Being a „Superperson“ He is also able to relate to each and everyone of all the human beings, without neglecting anybody and fully present any time we call on His holy Name.
Angelic powers – spiritual beings, created before the first men, which do not possess material shape or nature and only occasionally can appear as visible messengers of God. The angelic powers are not completely revealed to us; we know very little of them. But the Scripture makes it quite clear that: 1) they exist; 2) part of them have turned away from God, using their free will for disobedience; they are called demons; 3) there are multitudes of them and they form a certain hierarchy (the Orthodox church formally agrees on seven angelic ranks, although for some of them virtually nothing is known, except that they are mentioned in the Scripture.) It should be pointed out, that knowledge about the teaching of the Church on the angelic powers is extremely important today, when many people speculate with the spiritual hunger of the people and claim to be in contact with spirits, extraterrestrials, angels, etc. The Church has been dealing with such „paranormal“ cases for centuries and has worked out many rules for our proper relation to such phenomena.