The divine revelation regarding the essence of God as a Trinity is a difficult paradox that many still struggle to understand. The original language that defined this most holy doctrine against the heresy known as Arianism is also difficult.
For instance, according to the Council of Nicaea (325). God is three hypostasis (persons) in one homousios (essence). The language to describe the divine revelation of the Holy Trinity is very complex, since it is based on the linguistic “tool box” that early Christians inherited from their education in Greek philosophy.
The Bible does not use terms as “persons” and “essence” in order to describe this revelation. These words are adopted linguistic “tools” that serve to aid the human mind in grasping some understanding regarding the transcendence of God’s self-revelation.
The one underlying aspect regarding the definition of the Holy Trinity, is that the essence of the all-transcendent and infinite God can never be defined. (See Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, book 4.) The definition of the Holy Trinity is NOT a definition of God. How can the limited minds of conditioned mortals understand the limitless and unfathomable nature of God? It cannot…
When Lord Jesus Christ revealed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, he did so in the midst of a command regarding the rite of disciplic initiation known as “Baptism.” The point is, that although God’s nature is limitless and unfathomable, we Christians WORSHIP one God in three Persons: The Father, and the Son, and The Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:18-20) The definition of the Holy Trinity points to the one and only transcendent Creator who reveals Himself as an eternal familial relationship into which all the disciples of Christ are brought into as full participants.
Latin (Western) theology sometimes tends to be too linear in the way that it communicates theological concepts. Hence why most illustrations regarding the Holy Trinity tend to be reflected in 2 dimensional explications that are designed to safeguard the doctrine of the divine at the cost of being too wooden for the average person to understand. The Latin (Western) Church also tends to fall into the error of depicting God the Father in iconography… an act which is prohibited by the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787 AD). St. John of Damascus says the following in his Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 4.16-
But besides this who can make an imitation of the invisible, incorporeal, uncircumscribed, formless God? Therefore to give form to the Deity is the height of folly and impiety.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is known to be the more “mystical” side of the Christian Church in comparison to the linear thinking and language of the churches associated with the Roman Patriarchy. I personally find Eastern thought patterns to make better descriptions of the teachings in Scripture…no surprise here, since (unlike what some people believe) Christianity is mostly an Eastern religion.
In a Christmas sermon in which he speaks of the angels’ hymn “Glory to God in the highest,” St. Philaret of Moscow (1782-1867) amazingly communicates a Biblical descriptive on the Holy Trinity that is rarely used to teach the average catechumen.
The following excerpt is found in one of my favorite books: The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church by Vladimir Lossky.
“God has from all eternity enjoyed the sublimity of His glory…His glory is the revelation, the manifestation, the reflection, the garment of His inner perfection. God reveals Himself to Himself from all eternity by the eternal generation of His consubstantial Son, and by the eternal procession of His consubstantial Spirit; and thus the unity, within the Holy Trinity shines forth imperishable and unchangeable in its essential glory. God the Father is the Father of glory (Ephesians 1:17); the Son is the brightness of His glory (Hebrews 1:3) and He Himself has that glory which He had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5); likewise, the Holy Spirit of God is the Spirit of glory (1 Peter 4:14).
God reveals Himself to Himself from all eternity by the eternal generation of His consubstantial Son, and by the eternal procession of His consubstantial Spirit.
In this glory, uniquely proper to Himself, God dwells in perfect felicity above all glory, without having need of any witness, without admitting of any division. But as in His mercy and His infinite love He desires to communicate His blessedness, to create for Himself beings capable of sharing in the joyfulness of His glory, He calls forth His infinite perfections (energies, attributes) and they disclose themselves in His creatures; His glory is manifested in the celestial powers, is reflected in man, and puts on the splendor of the visible world He bestows it, and those who become partakers thereof receive it, it returns to Him, and in this perpetual circumvolution, so to say, of the divine glory, the blessed life, the felicity of the creature consists.”
Glory be to The Father, and to The Son+ and to The Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of the ages. Amen.