The Holy Trinity Is like… Really Confusing

Confusion isn’t always a bad thing…

Re-presenting here, in honor of Trinity Sunday, my thoughts on the unfathomable Mystery of the Holy Trinity.  And by “unfathomable”, I mean totally confusing. I can tell you that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are not three separate gods, but, rather, three different Persons of the same (only) God – but that doesn’t mean I can understand it. As a former atheist, then deist, who chose Christianity in 2002, I am actually grateful for the endless confusion that is this Mystery of the Holy Trinity. It was rather easy when I believed in God without the triune majesty aspect – it was like, God is one and I’m done. But, trying to understand God as three Divine Persons is, well… impossible for my little human brain. And that’s a very good thing. For, as St. Augustine says, “Why wonder that you do not understand? For if you understand, then it is not God.”[1]

Consubstantial

Over the last 2000 years, there have been countless explanations and teachings about the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, all of which are worthy of contemplation, though, in the end, poor shadows and incomplete. But, I wanted to share one here. It uses a simple comparison to a very common substance on earth: H2O, or water. H2O takes on three different and distinct forms: vapor, water, and ice. A glacier is not a river, a cloud is not a puddle, and steam is not an ice cube, yet all are the same compound of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. God the Father is not God the Son is not God the Holy Spirit, yet all three are the same divine substance – all are equal Persons of the one true, living God.

Let’s Go with That…

With this analogy of H2O and the Holy Trinity, I’ve often wondered which form of water might be like which Divine Person and why. My wondering led me to this thought: vapor is like the Father, ice is like the Son, and liquid water is like the Holy Spirit.

Father

No one “… has seen the Father…”[2] God the Father is, to me, the most mysterious of the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity. He is our Source, our Creator. He is over our heads, above us in being, like the clouds in the sky that send the nourishing rains. Therefore, water vapor is like God the Father, difficult to contain, always rising upward, if you will, toward the heavens.

Spirit

The rain that comes down to us from the heavens is like the Holy Spirit, sent to renew the face of the earth[3]. Water seeks containment, as does the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are mostly made up of water and Saint Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit[4]. The power of the Holy Spirit is given to us through the waters of baptism and it pools within us to give us true life – just as we need water to live. And yet, if water remains still it becomes stagnant, for it is its purest when it flows. So, too, the Holy Spirit seeks to flow through us, to work through us to erode obstacles and wash away sins. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit our cups run over and we share the abundance with others. Another thing about this analogy: rain always makes us look up toward the heavens, to the source – and the Holy Spirit in us causes us to cry out, “Abba! Father!”[5]

Son

The Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity really doesn’t need an earthly comparison. Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, the Word of God made Flesh. He is made Flesh so that we may come closer to God, so that we may see God and hear God and touch God… and, through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, eat God. For this analogy of H2O, to better understand the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, I liken ice to the Son of God. Of the three forms of H2O, only ice has solid definition. Ice has definite shape and form, as does our Lord, Jesus. Ice can be held between our fingertips. We can smash and break ice. So humble and fragile was Jesus while He was with us on earth. And now, in the Eucharist, we can hold Him in our hands and we can crush Him with our teeth. (Mystery of Mysteries!) We can know that God is with us, substantially, given the right conditions, in the Divine Person of God the Son. Once He came to earth in the “ice age,” so to speak – and He will come again, as will another ice age. Meanwhile, when we receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament, Jesus is substantially within us for a short while… for about as long as it takes for an ice cube to melt.

In the End

This is an interesting way to try to understand the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, but by no means is it the only or best way. God, by being God, is always, necessarily, beyond our ultimate comprehension. Truly, there is nothing else like God. All analogies that we humans make to try to better understand God are limited because they are human. But, because our souls will always long for God, even while we are limited, there is inexhaustible blessing in faith that seeks understanding.

 unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase
with additions © 2015 Christina Chase

[1] St. Augustine, Sermons 117, 5

[2] John 6:46

[3] Psalm 104

[4] 1 Corinthians 6:19

[5] Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6

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