Malankara World

Faith of the Church: Trinity

Trinity

The Holy Trinity

by Saint Thomas Aquinas

Part - 1

36 Philosophical character of this doctrine

The truths about God thus far proposed have been subtly discussed by a number of pagan philosophers, although some of them erred concerning these matters. And those who propounded true doctrine in this respect were scarcely able to arrive at such truths even after long and painstaking investigation.

But there are other truths about God revealed to us in the teaching of the Christian religion, which were beyond the reach of the philosophers. These are truths about which we are instructed, in accord with the norm of Christian faith, in a way that transcends human perception.

The teaching is that although God is one and simple, as has been explained above, 42 God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit. And these three are not three gods, but are one God. We now turn to a consideration of this truth, so far as is possible to us.

37 The Word in God

We take from the doctrine previously laid down that God understands and loves Himself, likewise, that understanding and willing in Him are not something distinct from His essence. Since God understands Himself, and since all that is understood is in the person who understands, God must be in Himself as the object understood is in the person understanding.

But the object understood, so far as it is in the one who understands, is a certain word of the intellect. We signify by an exterior word what we comprehend interiorly in our intellect. For words, according to the Philosopher, are signs of intellectual concepts.43 Hence we must acknowledge in God the existence of His Word.

38 The word as conception

What is contained in the intellect, as an interior word, is by common usage said to be a conception of the intellect. A being is said to be conceived in a corporeal way if it is formed in the womb of a living animal by a life-giving energy, in virtue of the active function of the male and the passive function of the female in whom the conception takes place. The being thus conceived shares in the nature of both parents and resembles them in species.

In a similar manner, what the intellect comprehends is formed in the intellect, the intelligible object being, as it were, the active principle, and the intellect the passive principle. That which is

thus comprehended by the intellect, existing as it does within the intellect, is conformed both to the moving intelligible object (of which it is a certain likeness) and to the quasi-passive intellect (which confers on it intelligible existence). Hence what is comprehended by the intellect is not unfittingly called the conception of the intellect.

39 Relation of the Word to the Father

But here a point of difference must be noted. What is conceived in the intellect is a likeness of the thing understood and represents its species; and so it seems to be a sort of offspring of the intellect. Therefore, when the intellect understands something other than itself, the thing understood is, so to speak, the father of the word conceived in the intellect, and the intellect itself resembles rather a mother, whose function is such that conception takes place in her. But when the intellect understands itself, the word conceived is related to the understanding person as offspring to father. Consequently, since we are using the term word in the latter sense (that is, according as God understands Himself), the word itself must be related to God, from whom the word proceeds, as Son to Father.

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

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