Holy Trinity: theology and economy

Great-CommissionAs some critics rightly point out, nowhere in Scripture does the word “Trinity” appear. Their argument is then that the idea of a Holy Trinity is a human doctrine. Yet, Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their names, for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men ‘and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.” (CCC§234).

The Church distinguish between theology (theologia) and economy (oikonomia). “Theology” refers to the mystery of God’s inmost life within the Blessed Trinity and “economy” to all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life. Through the oikonomia the theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia. 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.

And while the critics are correct, it is the oikonomia of what is revealed in Scripture that forms the theologia of what we profess and proclaim – as well as the readings selected for the Solemnity. The readings for Holy Trinity Sunday varies with the liturgical year:

  • A: John 3:16-18, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son….”
  • B: Matthew 28:16-20, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit
  • C: John 16:12-15, “But when he comes, the Spirit of Truth, he will guide you to all truth

Clearly, the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28, including the “name” of the “persons” of Trinity is a pre-eminent gospel to read for this day. Yet there are so many readings that are part of the oikonomia about the full nature of God. Yet the Year B readings for Holy Trinity Sunday also share a characteristic with the other years – a selection of readings that reveal the oikonomia of the Holy Trinity, often emphasizing one of the “persons” of the Holy Trinity. In the first reading from Deuteronomy we see an emphasis on God as creator, often a role theologically associated with God the Father. The second reading from Romans 8 speaks to the role of the Holy Spirit in joining us to the “inner life” of the Holy Trinity as heirs. In the gospel, the mission of the Church is placed in the commissioning in the name of the Trinity.

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