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Trinity: the Origin, Foundation and Goal of Communion

Introduction:
- The over-all theme of our conference is Nourishing Communities of Faith.
- This theme is in line with the pastoral theme that CBCP has set for this year as part of the
nine-year preparation for the fifth centenary of the coming of Christianity in the Philippines
which we will celebrate in 2021.
- We are now in our fifth year of preparation and for this year 2017 the theme is Parish as
Communion of Communities.
- CBCP in its 2012 Pastoral Exhortation on the Era of New Evangelization, which outlines this
preparation clarifies that 2017 - the Year of the Parish is:
- a year when we more deeply discern not only the structures of governance of our dioceses
and parishes but also of the quality of faith life in the parish, the fellowship, belongingness,
and participation experienced by its members. In a special way we shall probe into our
efforts of making the parish a communion of communities, a communion of Basic Ecclesial
Communities and of covenanted faith-communities and ecclesial movements. We shall
discern and implement measures on how communities of consecrated life may be more
integrated into the life and mission of the parish. In brief, our focus will be the building of a
parish that is truly a faith community immersed in the lives of its people.
- This means also that schools in the parishes, especially catholic schools, are to be established
and nourished as faith communities which are an integral part of the parish as communion of
communities.
- This vision of the parish as communion of communities in which the schools as faith
communities are a part is symbolically illustrated in the Logo (see at the end of the page) that
CBCP has designed and has explained in this manner:
- The circles of people whose hands are intertwined symbolize the communion within the
BECs. These communities are linked together by the outline of the cross which signifies the
parish as communion of communities. It also includes other faith communities and
organizations that are in the parish that although trans-parochial in nature- are called to
actively take part in the life of the parish and BECs. The outline of the cross also symbolizes
the vertical and horizontal dimension of communion communion with the Triune God and
with each other. The bread and chalice at the center symbolize the Eucharist which is the
sacrament and celebration of this communion. The bible which is also at the center
symbolizes the Word of God that is shared and proclaimed which is the source of faith and
basis of communion and which nourishes and build up communion. The sun rays symbolize
the light of Christ that shines in the life of the members of parish and these communities.
- Apart from illustrating and explaining how the parish is communion of communities rather
than as community of individual persons, families or organizations, the CBCP logo and its
accompanying explanation point to us that there are two dimensions of communion (both on
the level of communities and parish, in fact in all levels of communion): horizontal and
vertical.
- The horizontal dimension refers to communion with each other and the vertical dimension
which is our communion with God.
- These dimensions are not on the same level.
- The vertical dimension, our communion with God is the origin, foundation and goal of the
horizontal dimension, our communion with each other.
- In fact, not only our communion with God but God himself is the origin, foundation and goal
of our horizontal communion.
- Even our communion with God has its origin, foundation and goal in God himself.
- God himself is the origin, foundation and goal of the reality and meaning of communion.
- The reason is that the God we Christians profess is the Triune God.
- In confessing that God is Triune (One God Father, Son and Spirit), we confess that God is not
solitary but communion of love.
- And God as Communion of Love is the origin, foundation and goal of all forms and levels of
communion.
- Furthermore, God as communion of love serves as model and guide to all forms and levels
of communion.
- This afternoon, we focus our reflection on the latter theme: Trinity as the Origin, Foundation
and Goal of Communion.
- This reflection is divided into three parts:
- Trinity as Economic Trinity and Immanent Trinity
- The Economic Trinity: God as Communion in Action
- The Immanent Trinity: God as Communion in Being

I. Trinity as Economic Trinity and Immanent Trinity


- In what sense is the Trinity the Origin, Foundation and Goal of Communion?
- Theology distinguishes between Economic Trinity and Immanent Trinity.
- Economic Trinity:
- Economy comes from the Greek word: oikonomia:
- Greek words: oikos (house), nomos (law, order)
- Gods ordering activities in the world
- God in his saving works in history; in his carrying out in the world of his plan of
salvation
- Immanent Trinity:
- Immanent: Late Latin immanns, present participle of Latin immanre, from im- (in)
+ manre (to dwell, remain, stay).
- refers to the mystery of God's inmost life within the Blessed Trinity.
- There is a relationship between the Economic Trinity and Immanent Trinity.
- Only through the economic trinity, the immanent is revealed to us; but conversely, the
immanent trinity illuminates the whole economic trinity.
- God's works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our
understanding of all his works.
- So it is, analogously, among human persons.
- A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better
we understand his actions.
- Thus, when we speak of the Trinity as the Origin, Foundation and Goal of communion, we
mean both Economic Trinity and Immanent Trinity.

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- The origin and foundation of communion (in fact of whole Christian life in which
communion is constitutive dimension) is what God has done to us, not what we
ourselves have done.
- There is a place for what we do but is never the origin and foundation of communion.
- It is always a response to a more original, foundational and eschatological reality.
- But the origin and foundation of communion is not only based on what God has done to
us (economic trinity).
- It has its ultimate origin from and foundation on what God is (Immanent Trinity). And
the ultimate goal of communion is no other God himself (Immanent Trinity).

II. Economic Trinity: God as Communion in Action

A. Doctrine of Appropriation and Principle of Unitary Action


- Since it is only through the economic trinity (what God has done to us in this world, in
history) that we come to know the immanent trinity (what God is in himself), we will
clarify first how the economic trinity is the origin and foundation of communion.
- There are two important principles in theology that we must hold in proper tension in
considering the activities of God in the world: Doctrine of Appropriation and Principle of
Unitary Action.
- According to the Doctrine of Appropriation, the activities that are common to the three
persons in the one God are appropriated to one of the persons as these are more
appropriate to the properties of that person.
- For example, we appropriate to the person of the Father, the activity of creation, to the
Son, Salvation, and to the Holy Spirit, Sanctification.
- In the popular catechesis, oftentimes this is no longer understood and explained as
appropriation.
- Rather, this is explained in a manner, that Creation is exclusive to the Father, Salvation
to the Son and Sanctification to the Holy Spirit.
- In this sense, the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit carries out the works of creating,
saving and sanctifying by dividing the work among different persons.
- The Doctrine of Appropriation could be understood properly only if we always keep in
mind the Principle of Unitary Action
- According to the principle of unitary action, all revelatory and saving activities of the
Triune God are activities of the One God; the three divine persons of the One act in unity.
- But we should also avoid an exaggerated explanation of this principle.
- This we do when we do think that the one God acts without any distinction proper to
each person.
- The proper way of understanding the Principle of Unitary Action is always to keep it
together with the Doctrine of Appropriation.
- Since all three persons have properties unique to each, then the unitary actions of God
are carried according to what is proper to each person.
- Thus for example, we say that creation is the activity of the One God but this is carried
out by the Father, through the Son in the Spirit.

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B. The Trinitarian Structure of Gods Revelatory and Saving Acts
- With these considerations of the Doctrine of Appropriation and Principle of Unitary
Action, it could be clearly seen that all actions of Economic Trinity are action of unity in
distinction and of distinction in unity.
- All the acts of God in the world and history are summed up in theology as both revelatory
acts and salvific acts.
- When we examine closely these revelatory and saving acts of God, they have a Trinitarian
structure.
- In simpler terms, the one God reveals himself to us and save us in way that is Trinitarian.
The one God reveals himself to us and save us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- The one God reveals himself as Father in the unheard sense of the term through the Son
in the Holy Spirit.
- The one God saves us by making us children of the Father through the Son in the Spirit.
- In that sense, we can speak of the Economic Trinity as Communion in Action.
- The activities of the God in the world are activities of communion.
- The act that reveals God to us and the act that saves are acts of communion.
- It is the Trinity as communion in action that brings about Gods Revelation and Our
Salvation.
- Without this joint, and at the same time specific, intervention of each of these three,
there is no way for us to attain communion.

C. The Trinitarian Response to Gods Revelatory and Saving Acts


- Father-Son-Holy Spirit, would be the order of the way to go from God to man
- We can call this line of movement as descending, from above to below
- If God the Father has revealed and saved us through the Jesus Christ in the power of the
Holy Spirit, then we respond to God the Father through Jesus in the power of the Holy
Spirit.
- Spirit-Son-Father would be the order of the way to go from humanity to God, made
possible because before God in his Son and in his Spirit has come to us.
- In this way, in the Holy Spirit who unites us all by means to Christ, we have access to the
Father: for through him (Jesus) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access in one Spirit to
the Father (Eph 2:18).
- We can call this line of movement as ascending, from below to above.
- If God comes to us in communion, we respond to God in communion.
- We do not respond to God individually but as community.

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III. Immanent Trinity: God as Communion in Being

A. The Economic Trinity leads us to the Immanent Trinity


- Our faith reflection does not just stop on the economic Trinity
- on what God the Father has done to us through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.
- on the revealing and saving acts in history which take a Trinitarian structure.
- On Trinity as Communion in action.
- On the basis of the economic Trinity, we come to know the Immanent Trinity, the inner
life of God; we come know God as Communion in Being.
- And we come to know that the very being of God is Communion.
- Gods very being is Communion because God himself is:
- Unity and Distinction
- Relation
- Self-Donation, Self-Emptying

B. The Immanent Trinity as Communion in Being


1. Unity and Distinction/Plurality
- On the basis of what God has done to us through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, we
come to know God as he is in himself, that in the One God himself, there is distinction
of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- The One God is not just Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in his revelatory and saving acts
in history, in the world, but in himself, the One God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- On the basis of the Trinitarian structure of his revealing and saving acts in history,
we come to know that in himself God is triune one and three at the same time
One God and at the same three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- God is really one yet within the one God, there are real distinctions of the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.
- In the dogmatic formulation of our Trinitarian faith, we speak of unity in God in term
of nature, substance or essence and distinction in terms of persons.
- In the words of Luis Ladaria,
- The unity of God is not a unity prior to the trinity of the persons, even though it
cannot be considered either as posterior to it.
- We say that there is only one God in the sense that there is only one concrete
substance in God and there are real distinctions, pluralities in the one God because
there are three distinct persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- In no way, we affirm that one comes after the other either:
- by saying that God is at first one nature and then at second moment unfolds into
three distinct persons.
- or by saying that that God is at first distinction of persons and then unites into one
nature or substance.
- We must not also think that the unity is at the expense or distinction or vice versa.
- The two aspects of God unity and distinction, nature and persons are equally
original and constitutive of each other.
- God in all eternity is simultaneously one and triune, is unity and distinction.

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2. Relation being toward and being in the Other
- In the immanent life of One God, there is the distinction of the persons of the Father,
Son and Holy in the unity of the one substance, essence.
- The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are persons and in the immanent Trinity.
- They are persons in the sense that each is subsistent relation.
- Each person does not subsist in himself.
- Each is not turned toward himself but towards the other (esse ad).
- the Father is Father only relation to the Son and the Holy Spirit
- the Son is Son only relation to the Father and the Holy Spirit
- the Holy Spirit is Holy Spirit in relation to the Son and the Father
- They are not only persons because they are turned or related towards the others but
they are also in each other; between them there is not only an esse ad (being
toward) but also an esse in (being in)
- This is the perichoresis of the persons of the Trinity.
- Perichoresis comes from the Greek words
- chora (noun) room or space; chorein (verb): to make room or space
- peri means mutuality
- This conveys the idea of mutual inhabitation or indwelling of each person
without being swallowed by the other or without losing their distinctions.
- Perichoresis of the persons of the Trinity means that:
- The Father is fully in the Son and the Holy Spirit
- The Son is fully in the Father and the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit is fully in the Father and the Son.

3. Self-Donation, Self-Emptying
- The One and Triune God is not only relation (each person turned toward the other and
is wholly present in the other).
- The Immanent Trinity is Communion in Being because God is Self-Donation and Self-
Emptying (Kenosis).
- The Father subsists as pure source that pours itself out.
- The Father is purely a giver.
- He is thus the unoriginated origin, a pure source, a pure outflowing.
- The Son subsists as a pure passing-on, as pure mediation;
- The Son receives life, glory and power from the Father;
- but he does not receive it in order to keep it for himself, to possess it, and to take
full enjoyment of it for himself; rather, he receives it in order to empty himself of
it (Phil. 2.6f.) and to pass it on.
- Love that terminated in the two-in-oneness of the lovers, and did not selflessly
press out beyond itself, would be only another form of egoism.
- The Spirit subsists as the joy of pure receiving.
- The Spirit is nothing by himself;
- he is a pure receiving, pure donation and gift;
- as such he is pure fulfillment, eternal joy and blessedness, pure endless
completion

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C. God as Communion of Love
- We have reflected how God is communion in his very being because God in his very being
is:
- Unity in Distinction; Distinction in Unity
- Relation: being for, toward other and being in the other
- Self-Donation, Self-Empyting.
- This mystery of God as communion in his very being is no other than the mystery of God
as Love.
- In the New Testament, in the writings of John in particular, we find several definitions
of God. Among them, 1Jn 4:8, 16 stands out: God is love.
- God is love because in the one God there is the other. If God is simply unity and there is
no distinction in God, there is no other in God. Without the other in God, God will not
love since to love oneself is not true love but selfishness.
- God is love because each person of trinity is turned toward the other and is fully in the
other.
- God is love because there is total self-donation, self-emptying.
- In the much simpler language of St. Augustine and Richard of St. Victor, God is love
because in God, there is the Lover (the Father), the beloved (the Son), and Love or Joint
love of the Father and the Son (the Holy Spirit)
- With these we have only a glimpse of God as love, God as communion of love.
- But we could never exhaust the richness of this very essence, very being of God as
communion love. No concept could fully fathom the depth of Gods being as love.
- This is the reason why we say that our whole conviction about the Trinity is no other than
our conviction of God as the mystery of love.

D. God as Communion of Love: The Origin and Goal of Communion


- Through the economic trinity, the immanent trinity is revealed to us; God's works reveal
who he is in himself.
- Through the economic trinity which is Gods Communion in Action in the world, we
come to know God as Communion of Love in his very being, in very self.
- But conversely, the immanent trinity illuminates the whole economic trinity; the mystery
of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works.
- Because God is in his very essence a communion of love, we come to see and understand
why God in all in his action in the world acts in the communion of love.
- Because God is in his very essence a communion of love, we come to see and understand
the goal of all Gods action in the world is no other than participation of all in this eternal
communion of love.
- We who are totally other than God have a place in God in all eternity for in God there is
place for the other.

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Conclusion:

- We will end or reflection with this prayer of Jesus himself, that we find in Gospel of John.
Jesus prayed this at the last supper.
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"I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,
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that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also
may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
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The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as
we are one,
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I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may
know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.
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Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to
behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the
world.
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O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these
know that thou hast sent me.
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I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou
hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:20-26 RSV)

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