BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (38) – What is the central mystery of our faith?

[照片說明] The Trinity, Taddeo Crivelli

– Rev José Mario O Mandía

First of all, let us answer the question “What is a mystery?” In Theology, the term “mystery” refers to truths that human reason cannot discover unless God reveals them to us.

Is “mystery” the same as “something we cannot know”?  In theological language, no. There are many things which our minds can understand or know but are nevertheless unknown to us for different reasons: things of the future, things that are remote to us, or are hidden from us.

Is “mystery” the same as “something we cannot grasp or comprehend”? In theological language, no. Because we cannot completely comprehend even the things that we know with our reason alone (unaided by faith). Even to our days, we still have not exhaustively understood subatomic particles, genetic material, world climate, the universe, and so on.

So what’s the central mystery of our faith? The Blessed Trinity. We believe that there is only one God. We believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. But the Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit, the Son is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is neither the Son nor the Father – they mutually exclude each other. Nonetheless, there is only one God and not three.

Let us take three men: Joe, John and James. Joe is a person, John is a person, Joe is a person. That makes three persons. That also makes three men. In the Blessed Trinity there are three Persons. But the three Persons are not three Gods. This is the mystery, the truth, that we will not be able to know if God did not tell us that it were so.

How important is this mystery to our faith? No 234 of the CCC teaches: “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.… 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.”

(1) It is the center of all the truths of faith. This mystery is of central importance to us because it concerns God’s inner life.

(2) It is also the center of the history of salvation. We can see the action of the Father in the Old Testament, that of the Son in the Gospels, and the Holy Spirit from Pentecost down to our times. Furthermore, we could say that the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are involved in the salvation and sanctification of every man and woman.

With respect to the involvement of the Blessed Trinity in our salvation and sanctification, we could use an analogy. Our coming to form part of the household of God in heaven is like one big project. That we be transformed from sinners to saints is, in fact, the most ambitious project ever launched in the whole history of mankind. In this big project, each Person has a role to play.

Every project requires a plan. The Father, who has “arranged all things by measure and number and weight” (Wisdom 11:20) is the one who has drafted that plan.

Every project also requires financing. Jesus Christ paid for most of the cost with His own life, though the Father’s plan calls for our little contribution: “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).

Every project also requires a model on which to pattern the outcome. Jesus Christ also plays this role – He is the living model of how a true child of God, a saint, ought to be. We want to be holy? Meditate on the life of Christ. Imitate Him. That is why Jesus tells us, “learn from me” (Matthew 11:29).

Every project requires someone to execute it. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. He acts in our soul to mould, to shape, to form us according to the image of the crucified Christ. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).