SET-1&2: Season of Apostles
Many Catholics give importance to the feast of saints because most of our churches and institutions are under the patronage of saints. However, the prominent feast in the church is that of God who is the source of all blessings. Saints are models of our faith and charity, and we ask their intercessory prayers for us. We venerate them as Christian heroes and do not worship them. Only the one God in three Persons deserves our worship. When we received Baptism in the Trinitarian formula, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit came within us. Let us worship the Most Holy Trinity with a better understanding based on the profession of faith as given in the Nicene Creed.
THE NICENE CREED
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Baptism using the Trinitarian formula originates from Jesus’ command to his disciples stating: “Go, therefore, and make disciples from all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). We start our prayers “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” We conclude our prayers by saying, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Lord of all, forever.” The Trinitarian blessing in the liturgy has its origin from Saint Paul’s concluding words in 2 Corinthians 13:13. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Thus, we bless ourselves or others bless us in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. On this feast of the Most Holy Trinity, it is good to reflect on the Most Holy Trinity based on the Nicene Creed that we recite as part of many of our prayers, especially the Holy Mass.
Faith in God (I believe in one God)
‘One God in three Persons’ is a mystery difficult to grasp, given the limitations of our human intellect. Theologians and teachers have tried to simplify this mystery using metaphors, resemblance materials, and art forms. However, none of them is adequate because there is nothing in this world that has a corresponding existence. Compared to God’s omniscience, we have limitations in understanding. A child trusts the parents, believes what they say, and follows their instructions. As children of God, we trust God and follow the teachings of Jesus. Heresies happened based on different interpretations and disputes on the Holy Trinity among the Christian scholars. For a believer, faith in the Most Holy Trinity is an article of faith and not a topic for dispute.
Oneness of the Trinity (I believe in one God)
We first express our faith in the oneness of God. Israelites lived among pagans who worshipped many gods, including the forces of nature and man-made objects. The Almighty God commanded through Moses: “You shall not have other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Ex 20:3-5a). Jesus affirmed the oneness of God along with his revelation of the three persons in the Most Holy Trinity.
Jesus commanded his disciples to use the Trinitarian formula for Baptism. Though we start the prayer referring to the three persons of the Holy Trinity, it should start with the singular word “In the name” (not “names”) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mk 12:29-30).
We base our faith in the one and true God in a loving relationship with our creator, sustainer, and redeemer. “Listen, O Israel: The LORD, our God, is the One LORD. And so you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:4, 5). Love is a two-way relation and commitment. God who made a covenant with Israel compared his relationship with them as a father’s love for his son, stronger than a mother’s love for her children, and more than a bridegroom’s love for his beloved. It is out of this love that he gave His only begotten son for our redemption (Jn 3:16). Hence, John concludes, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8) and that unites the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity. God called us to be in loving communion with Him and with one another who are also dear children of God.
God, the Father (I believe in one God, the Father)
Since God the Father is the first and top divine person of the Most Holy Trinity, we reflect and acknowledge what God the Father has done and is doing for us. In the Old Testament, God is Father because he is our creator. “Is he not your father, your creator, who formed you and established you?” (Deut 32:6). Malachi 2:10 asks: “Do we not all have one father? Did not one God create all of us?” The Israelites, who had a covenant relationship with God, considered God as their father and themselves as the first-born children of God. Quoting God, Moses told Pharaoh of Egypt: “Israel is my firstborn son” (Ex 4:22). Other people are also children of God. However, the firstborn had special privileges including inheritance of a double portion.
Since people consider God as a Father, it shows a loving relationship between God and humanity like parent and children. Since God is above and beyond sexual classification, God’s parental tenderness also includes the image of motherhood. Through Isaiah, God said, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isa 66:13).
God, the Almighty (I believe in one God, the Father almighty)
Our heavenly Father is omnipotent because He who created everything in this universe has power and control over everything, He can do anything He wishes. The Bible expresses this universal power of God in its various parts. For example: “Ezra said, ‘LORD, you alone are the LORD, you made the heavens, the heaven of heavens and all their stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all, and all the angels of heaven adore you’ ” (Neh 9:6).
God the Creator (Maker of heaven and earth)
God the Father is the creator of heaven and earth and everything in it. That does not mean that only God the Father was at work. The Father involved the Son and the Holy Spirit in the creation. The participation of the three persons in one God is clear in the creation account of man. God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen 1:26). This verse shows that God is a plurality of persons, each communicating the other while remaining one God. Saint Paul writes about Jesus’ involvement in the creation: “for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, rulers, authorities, powers; all things were made through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17). The Holy Spirit’s involvement in the creation is clear from Genesis 1:2: “The earth had no form and was void; darkness covered the deep, while the spirit of God hovered over the waters.” Psalm 104:30 says: “When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.” Thus, we see the unified work of the three persons of the Holy Trinity in the act of creation.
Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
“Heaven and earth” mean all that exists, known or unknown. Heavens mean not just the visible sun, moon, and stars but the invisible bodies of the universe and the upper heavens where the saints, angels, and God dwell. “Earth” encompasses humankind, the culmination of God’s creation in his very own image and likeness. God created all of it in a six-day time frame to have the seventh day set aside for sanctification.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ.
The word for “Jesus” in Hebrew is Joshua, which means “God saves.” This name is suitable for Jesus, the God who came to save us. The title of Jesus is Messiah in Hebrew and Christ in Greek, which means anointed. God anointed kings, prophets, and priests in Israel through His representatives. Christ combined all these positions in himself and accomplished his mission that his Father entrusted him. God the Father anointed Jesus through the Holy Spirit when John the Baptist baptized Jesus at River Jordan. Hence, on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached, “You know how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38). The baptizer heard the Father’s voice declaring, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). The Holy Spirit anointed Jesus, appearing in the form of a dove. Thus, the Most Holy Trinity manifested to John at the start of Jesus’ public ministry.
Kyrios (the Lord) was the Greek word used for the name of God. YHWH himself had revealed this to Moses. The title “Lord” shows the sovereignty of God. The New Testament uses the same term “Lord” for Jesus acknowledging his divinity. Saint Thomas addressed Jesus, “My Lord, my God” (Jn 20:28) affirming the divinity of Jesus.
The Only Begotten Son of God
The Old Testament attributes “son of God” to the angels, the kings, the chosen ones, and the children of Israel (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] #441). They are creations of God and not sons in the strict sense. However, Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God. Begotten means fathered or generated by procreation. So, Jesus as the begotten son of God means he is also God. No one else can claim this position.
Born of the Father before all ages
Jesus was with the Father from all eternity. When we use the term born, we must not take it in the worldly sense of giving birth though there is a father-son relationship between the two persons of the Most Holy Trinity. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (Jn 1:1-2).
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God
Jesus said, “As I came from the Father and have come into the world, so I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (Jn 16:28). “He who sees me, sees him who sent me” (Jn 12:45). Hence, Jesus is God who came from God the Father.
God is the source of all light. The light was there on the first day of creation; before God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day. Jesus who proceeds from the Father said, “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).
Jesus said of his Father: “the One who sent me is truthful and everything I learned from him, I proclaim to the world” (Jn 8:26). So, what Jesus taught is the truth. Jesus affirmed of himself saying: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Thus, Jesus and his Father are true and conveyed the truth to us.
Begotten, not made
Though Jesus had a human birth in Bethlehem from Mary, he eternally coexisted with His Father in heaven. To beget and to create have different meanings. To beget is to procreate someone of the same kind as the parents beget human babies. Thus, God beget the Son who is also God. But when we make something, we are producing it different from ourselves like the sculptural artwork is the creation of a sculptor. Thus, God created Adam and Eve in His image and likeness (Gen 1:27) but were substantially different from Him. So, unlike Adam and others, the Sonship of Jesus is unique and he is the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:16).
Consubstantial with the Father
The Son is “consubstantial with the Father” means “in the Father and with the Father the Son is one and the same God” (CCC #262). The reason is that unlike other “sons of God” whom God created; Jesus is the eternally begotten son of God. Thus, Jesus and the Father are substantially one.
Through him all things were made
John wrote of Jesus: “All things were made through him, and without him was made nothing that was made” (Jn 1:3).
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven.
The redemptive ministry of Jesus has an association with the fall of the first parents and the propagation of sin to all the succeeding generations. Before expelling Adam and Eve from the paradise, God promised a redeemer, the second person of the Holy Trinity. The incarnation and the redemptive ministry of Jesus fulfilled this promise.
And by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
In the fullness of time, God sent Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary to get her consent to be the mother of His Son. The angel revealed to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy and shall be called Son of God” (Lk 1:35). God through Angel Gabriel told Joseph, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20). The Father worked through the Holy Spirit for the miraculous virgin conception of the Son of God in Mary. The birth of Jesus was also as a human being in its fullness, except for sin. Mary confirmed her virginity by asking the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” (Lk 1:34).
For our sake
Jesus came as the sacrificial Lamb of God. The Israelites killed one lamb per family in Egypt to save their first-born children. Jesus is the perfect lamb that came from God to sacrifice himself so he could save all humanity. He was the perfect and last scapegoat selected to die for the sin of the people (Lev 16:7-10). John the Baptist testified Jesus to the public saying: “Look, there is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). This sin (not plural) stands for the original sin of the first parents. Jesus spoke of himself: “the Son of Man who has come not to be served but to serve, and to give his life to redeem many” (Mt 20:28).
He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day.
Christ’s suffering, death, burial, and resurrection was a pre-designed plan of God with a purpose to redeem mankind. Saint Peter told the Jewish leaders in his speech on the Day of Pentecost: “You delivered him to sinners to be crucified and killed, and in this way the purpose of God from all times was fulfilled” (Acts 2:23). God sent Jesus, and he came to the world to be with the people, to reveal God’s love for them, and to offer the perfect sacrifice of himself as the paschal lamb for the forgiveness of sins. According to Saint Paul, Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:18). His resurrection has guaranteed the resurrection of his followers. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, followed by the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, gave Jesus’ disciples a model for gaining victory by carrying the cross of suffering for the church.
In accordance with the Scriptures.
The Bible foretold Jesus’ mission and his victory through suffering. “He was harshly treated and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep dumb before shearers, he did not open his mouth” (Isa 53:7). Jesus himself confirmed that his sufferings were for the fulfilment of the scriptures. After his resurrection, Jesus told the two disciples who were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus: “‘How dull you are, and how slow of understanding! You fail to believe the message of the prophets. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer all this and then enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them everything in Scripture concerning himself” (Lk 24:25-27).
He ascended into heaven.
Jesus, the second person of the Most Holy Trinity ascended into heaven with his resurrected and glorified body. He returned to where he came from, his Father’s house. He went there to prepare a place for those who are his followers (Jn 14:2). We believe in the promise of Jesus: “when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12:32).
Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.
After his ascension, Jesus sits at the right hand of his Father. “Sitting at the right hand” shows the prominent position Jesus has in heaven. The one who sits at the right hand of the supreme head is the second in command, like a prime minister, or queen. Jesus oversees everything, and only through him do we reach the Father. Thus, the ascension of Jesus to heaven inaugurated the Messianic Kingdom, as envisioned by Daniel. “Dominion, honour and kingship were given him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served him” (Dan 7:14).
He will come again in glory.
Jesus assured his disciples: “I go now to prepare a place for you, I shall come again and take you to myself, that where I am, you also may be” (Jn 14:3). He spoke of the glorious return to re-establish the kingdom in its fullness: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all his angels, he will sit on the throne of glory. All the nations will be brought before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Mt 25:31-32).
To judge the living and the dead
The Father has entrusted the judgement of the world to his Son (Jn 5:22). One’s own choice of belief in Jesus or not will be the criteria for this judgement. “Whoever believes in him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn 3:18). The last judgement is to separate the good from the evil who have been growing together (Mt 25:31-46).
His kingdom will have no end.
In the Davidic covenant, God promised David an heir from him whose kingdom will be everlasting (2 Sam 7:13-16). According to Daniel, “His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; his kingdom will never be destroyed” (Dan 7:14). Saint Peter wrote: “you will be generously granted the gift of entry to the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:11). According to John’s vision in the book of Revelation: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and then loud voices resounded in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever’” (Rev 11:15).
I believe in the Holy Spirit.
Since the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, the Spirit is also God and is in communion with the other two persons of the Most Holy Trinity. The Bible mentions from the very beginning that the Holy Spirit was in existence from eternity and involved in the creation. The Holy Spirit’s presence was upon the anointed. The Spirit has been at work at the incarnation of Jesus, at River Jordan when John baptized Jesus, and at the church’s inauguration on the day of Pentecost. Jesus started his public ministry quoting from Isaiah the prophet, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18; Isa 61:1). The Holy Spirit continues guiding the church.
The Lord, the giver of life
The Holy Spirit is the source of physical and spiritual life. Following are a few examples: “the spirit of God hovered over the waters” (Gen 1:2) at the time of creation. “Then the LORD God formed man, of dust drawn from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). The Holy Spirit came upon Mary for the incarnation of Jesus (Mt 1:18). Jesus said: “Out of him shall flow streams of living water” (Jn 7:38). John continues: “Jesus was referring to the Spirit which those who believe in him were to receive” (Jn 7:39). After his glorification, this life-giving Holy Spirit came on the apostles inaugurating the church (Acts 2:1-13).
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
As the Father eternally begets the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son. We adore and glorify all the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity when we adore and glorify any of the persons of the Holy Trinity. Several prophets of the Old Testament also mentioned the works of the Holy Spirit.
Though we speak distinctly of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, they are not separate. Whoever sees Jesus, sees the Father and whoever receives the Holy Spirit receives the Father and the Son. The altar in the church’s sanctuary represents the Most Holy Trinity. The altar itself is the throne of God.
In the Syro-Malabar churches, placing the Gospel on the right side of the altar stands for Jesus the Word of God who sits at the Father’s right side. Saint Thomas Cross with a dove on the top stands for the Holy Spirit. Its placement on the left side of the altar symbolizes the Holy Spirit’s presence.
The Jerusalem Temple also had a similar representation of the Most Holy Trinity in its sanctuary. The Ark of the Covenant at the Holy of Holies represented the Seat of God the Father. The 12 showbreads (Bread of the Presence) in the Holy Place represented Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The menorah with seven flames in the Holy Place symbolized the Holy Spirit that came on the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost. The Old Testament had these truths hidden that are revealed in the New Testament. Saint Augustine said: “New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”