Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Holy Trinity

This Sunday is the Festival of the Holy Trinity, which in the Western Catholic Church has been observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost since 1334. It is commonly described as the only festival devoted to a doctrine, but I find that a rather short-sighted description. The day (as well as the doctrine) is about how God has revealed himself to man, so that we might know him and be in relationship with him. That's no dry academic thing, though we often treat it that way.

A liturgical tradition for Holy Trinity Sunday, one that we follow at Zion, is for the congregation to speak the "Athanasian Creed." According to the Lutheran Confessions, this Creed ranks with the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, all three of which appear at the beginning of the Book of Concord -- in front of the Augsburg Confession and the other Confessions. It is named after St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria from 328-373, the most steadfast of the defenders of the Creed of the Council of Nicea in 325 against the Arians, who nonetheless frequently controlled the Church (including exiling Athanasius several times) until the Council of Chalcedon in 381, from which came what we now call the Nicene (or Niceno-Constantinopolitan) Creed. The Arians were the initial evangelizers of Western Europe and remained strong there well into the 5th Century, the latter part during which the Athanasian Creed emerged in Gaul (France) as a meditation (or even hymn) upon the Nicene Creed against the Arians.

The congregation at Zion will be reading it antiphonally following the Sermon, using this elegant translation from the Lutheran Book of Worship -- which is by Prof. Ralph Quere and under the LBW copyright (and not ICET/ELLC as the ELCA website erroneously states). For purposes of this Blog, here is an older version (not under copyright) as found in the (current) 1979 Book of Common Prayer. (Don't need Augsburg Fortress' copyright department coming after me for this!)

To begin to "understand" the Holy Trinity, I recommend that you meditate on this, for it beats all those modalistic children's sermons Pastors (and, yes, I did it myself a couple of times) keep foisting upon their congregations. And Lutherans really do (or at least we have officially said so for 427 years) believe this!

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.

Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.

The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.

The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.

And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.

As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.

And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.

And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.

And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord,

So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.

The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.

The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another;

But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.

So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of his Mother, born in the world;

Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood;

Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ;

One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;

One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.

For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;

Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.

He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead.

At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works.

And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.


biggmann382 said...

At my suggestion the Assistant Pastor of my church used the Athanasian Creed. It was well recieved at both services. bigg

Pastor Zip said...

Way to go, bigg!