Who is the God of
1. The hospitality of Abraham
Man cannot possibly know God the way He is in reality.
That is, he cannot become acquainted with the essence of
God. He can only perceive the uncreated energies of God
- the "traces" of God.
However, in the Holy Bible and the Sacred Tradition of
the Church, we have certain "portrayals" of God. The
most familiar one is that Byzantine icon in which God is
portrayed in the form of three angels - the way He
appeared before Abraham. The Fathers of the Church
say that the excerpt in question actually comprises the
very first depiction of the Holy Trinity in the Old
God appeared to him near the oak of Mambre, while he was
sitting at the door of his tent at midday. And looking
up with his eyes he saw, and behold, three men stood
over him. And when he saw them, he ran forward from his
tent door to meet them and did obeisance upon the ground
and said, “Lord, if perchance I have found favor before
you, do not pass by your servant. Do let water be taken,
and let them wash your feet, and you refresh yourselves
under the tree'." (Gen.18:1-4)
What surprises us here, is that although the number of
visitors is three, Abraham addresses Them as though They
are one! Then, he again addresses Them in the plural.
Then in the same excerpt, we notice something amazing:
Abraham's interlocutor (in the
Septuagint Greek text, which is used by our Church
and used by the Apostles themselves during the
compilation of the New Testament), He is characterized
with the word "Lord" (Êýñéïò),
whereas the Hebrew text uses the word
- in other words, "God" (Genesis 18:16-23):
טז וַיָּקֻמוּ מִשָּׁם
הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיַּשְׁקִפוּ עַל-פְּנֵי
סְדֹם; וְאַבְרָהָם--הֹלֵךְ עִמָּם,
16 And when the
had set out from there,
looked down upon the face of Sodoma and
Gomorra, and Abraam was going along with
as he joined in escorting
אָמָר: הַמְכַסֶּה אֲנִי מֵאַבְרָהָם,
אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי עֹשֶׂה.
LORD said: 'Surely I shall
from my servant Abraam what
am about to do?
יִהְיֶה לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וְעָצוּם;
וְנִבְרְכוּ-בוֹ--כֹּל, גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ.
for Abraam, he shall come to be a great
and populous nation,
and all the nations
of the earth shall be blessed in him.
יט כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו,
לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת-בָּנָיו
וְאֶת-בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו, וְשָׁמְרוּ
לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט--לְמַעַן,
עַל-אַבְרָהָם, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר,
household after him, and they will keep
the ways of the
, by doing righteousness
and justice so that the
may bring upon Abraam all the things
has talked about to him.'
זַעֲקַת סְדֹם וַעֲמֹרָה כִּי-רָבָּה;
וְחַטָּאתָם--כִּי כָבְדָה, מְאֹד.
said: 'Verily, the
outcry concerning Sodom and
Gomorrah has been increased, and their
sins are very great!
וְאֶרְאֶה, הַכְּצַעֲקָתָהּ הַבָּאָה
אֵלַי עָשׂוּ כָּלָה; וְאִם-לֹא, אֵדָעָה.
shall see whether they are perpetrating
according to the outcry concerning them
that is coming to
but if not—that
כב וַיִּפְנוּ מִשָּׁם
הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיֵּלְכוּ סְדֹמָה;
וְאַבְרָהָם--עוֹדֶנּוּ עֹמֵד, לִפְנֵי
after the men had turned away
from there, and went
to Sodom; but Abraam was still standing
אַבְרָהָם, וַיֹּאמַר: הַאַף תִּסְפֶּה,
when Abraam had come near, he said,
“Surely you will not destroy the
righteous with the ungodly, and the
righteous will be as the ungodly?
This event therefore, of Abraham's hospitality at the
Oak of Mambre, is characterized by the Fathers of our
Church as the first portrayal of the Holy Trinity.
2. The Holy Trinity revealed in the New Testament
In the era of the New Testament, God is revealed in a
very clear manner: it was at the River Jordan - on
the day that Christ condescended to be baptized by John.
The One Whom man could not possibly have perceived with
his own faculties: the One, Trinitarian God: The Father,
Who testifies about the divinity of the Son and
announces Him as 'His beloved Son'; the Son, Who
was being baptized in the Jordan and Who illuminates the
whole world, ridding it of the domination of Satan, and
the Holy Spirit, Who descends in the likeness of
a dove and confirms the witness of the Father and Who
provides for us the unshakeable foundation of our faith.
This great truth is confirmed by the hymn of our
"While being baptized in the Jordan, o Lord,
the veneration of the Trinity was made manifest:
for, the voice of the Begetter testified of You,
naming You as the beloved Son;
and the Spirit, in the likeness of a dove,
confirmed the inerrancy of those words.
O manifest Christ, our God,
Who also illumined the world:
glory be to You"
This divine revelation is also confirmed by the
testimony of John:
I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with
water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit
descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who
baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and
testified that this is the Son of
But in the New Testament we have other revelations also,
of this ineffable mystery. It is the witness of
the event on Mount Tabor: the Transfiguration of the
Saviour (Matth.17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36)
The three disciples there had witnessed the radiance of
the divine Person, while the Holy Spirit shrouded them
with the glowing cloud and the Father was again
confirming that "this is My beloved Son; it is Him
that you should listen to".
Our faith, therefore, is not supported on the unstable
and full of imperfections human logic. It is the
result of a divine epiphany and is supported by the
Uncreated divine light of Mount Tabor, and the certainty
given by the presence of the Holy Spirit, Who again
descended with a rushing noise "as though a strong wind
blowing", as on the day of the Pentecost, in order to
"replete" the disciples (Acts 2:2-4) and remain in the
Church, in order to guide God's people to the truth
These are the unshakeable foundations of our faith,
which secure a stability that exceeds every other
certainty that is based on human arguments and facts:
The witness of God the Father and the manifestation of
the Son's glory. The descent of the Holy Spirit in the
likeness of a dove and like tongues of flames.
It was for this reason that the Apostle Peter wrote the
following to the Christians:
we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made
known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He
received from God the Father honor and glory when such a
voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard
this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him
on the holy mountain.
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you
do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place,
until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your
hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of
Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy
never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke
as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:16-21).
And another disciple - John - adds:
"If we accept the witness
of men, the witness of
God is greater, for this is the witness of God in
which He testified about His Son. Whoever
believes in the Son of God, has the witness in himself;
but whoever does not believe in God, has made Him
a liar, because he did not believe the testimony that
God gave about the Son." (1 John 5:9-10)
3. Other witnessing in the Holy Bible
Apart from the aforementioned excerpts, the Holy Bible
mentions the Holy Trinity in other places as well.
They are the passages of the Old Testament in which God
speaks in the plural (Gen.1:26. 3:22, 11:7) There
is also the angelic hymn, in which the word "holy" is
repeated three times (Isaiah 6:3) and elsewhere.
When Christ sent forth His disciples, He gave them the
command to baptize those who accepted the message of the
gospel, "in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit" (Matth.28:19)
The incarnated Son and Logos of God, the Christ, clearly
discerned Himself from the Father and the Holy Spirit.
"How, therefore, do the scribes say that Christ is
the Son of David? For David himself had said in the Holy
Spirit: 'Sayeth the
Lord to my Lord, 'sit Thou at My right-hand...'."
therefore, himself calls Him 'Lord'. How can He
therefore be his Son?..." (Mark 12:35-36)
The "Lord" who speaks is the Father. The "Lord" to
whom He is referring is the Son. And He who is
inspiring David to utter that prophetic phrase is the
Furthermore, the Apostle Paul concludes his second
epistle to the Corinthians with the Trinitarian blessing: "May
the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all"
(2 Cor.13:13, cmp. 1:21-22 and Titus 3:4-6)
But all these testimonies of the Holy Bible - as well as
others which we haven't mentioned - are properly
comprehended and are accepted, only as gifts of God, as
the fruits of the Holy Spirit and divine energies in the
hearts of the people. (1 Cor. 2:4-16; 1 John 2:20,
4. The need for the divine "noise"
Even though the foundations of our faith in the One,
Trinitarian God are unshakeable because they are founded on
the Word/Logos of God and not on the instability of
human logic, there are people who did not arrive at the
Trinitarian truth, but instead remained in delusion and in
heretical cacodoxy - albeit asserting that they study
the Holy Bible. They study it with their own
powers only, without invoking the help of the Holy
Spirit, Who "leads
the truth" (John
16:13, 14:26). They don't invoke the assistance of
the Paraclete (Consoler), because "the Spirit of
the Consoler/Paraclete, Who proceeds from the Father and
rests in the Son" (hymn of the Holy Spirit) acts
only in the name of Christ (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13-15)
- that is, in regard to His Holy Body, the Church
Whoever does not have Christ has remained in the age of
the Old Testament, and a "veil" hinders him from
understanding the Holy Bible. The Apostle Paul
characteristically says to the Corinthians:
until this day, that same veil remains unlifted during the reading
of the Old Testament, not yet discovered that it is
abolished in Christ; but even to this day, whenever
Moses is read, a veil lies upon their heart.
Nevertheless, if that person returns to the Lord, the
taken away. The Lord is the Spirit. And where the
Spirit of the Lord is, there liberty is. We all,
with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to
glory, as by the Lord, the Spirit."
(2 Cor. 3:14-18)
For the people therefore of Christ, the "veil" that
hinders the true comprehension of the Holy Bible and
especially the Old Testament, is abolished. The "Lord" -
the Spirit of Truth - grants them the true freedom and
renders them able to face the radiance of God.
For those who do not have Christ - that is, for those
who are far from the Church - that "veil"
remains and they cannot properly comprehend the
Scriptures. Thus, in order to reach the truth of
the Trinitarian God, studying the Holy Bible is not enough.
We need to become people of Christ - that is, members of
the Church wherein the Holy Spirit of God is active -
and await that divine "noise". That is when we will feel
the presence of the fiery tongues and receive divine
illumination, just like the Apostles on the day of the
Pentecost. Without that divine breath, no man can
get to know the great truth of the Trinitarian God,
regardless if he studies the Holy Bible - even if he
memorizes it entirely by heart. "For us to
become fully acquainted with the mystery of the Holy
Trinity" says Evagrios of Pontus, "means
to attain a perfect union with God - to enter into the
5. The dogmatic clauses of our Church
Saint Hilarion says that for us Orthodox, "it should
suffice for us to fulfil everything that has been
decreed, solely with faith: that is, to worship the
Father, to honour the Son together with Him, and to be
replete with the Holy Spirit."
But, as he further mentions, there is also the "malice
of the heretics and the blasphemers". As such, "we
are forced to match our humble word to the most
ineffable of mysteries"; "to climb unreachable heights,
to speak of ineffable things... to expose the mysteries
to chance, with the human tongue, instead of enclosing
them inside the worship of our soul."
That is the reason the Church made sure that She
expresses more analytically the faith in the Holy
Trinity and protect Her members form the dangers of
heresy and cacodoxy, the results of which lead to
6. One essence and three hypostases
Our Church teaches us that the three Persons of the Holy
Trinity are united in an inseparable bond and that
simultaneously they each are discernible between each
other. The three Persons or three Hypostases of
the Holy Trinity - says John of Damascus - are
"the one within the other" (åí áëëÞëáéò)";
however, they are not confused between themselves.
In the Holy Trinity there is a sole and unique principal
and a sole and unique source: that is, the Father.
He shares His own divine nature with the Son and the
Holy Spirit - that is, the one and unique nature of
One, therefore, is the nature of the Holy Trinity, and
one is the principal and the source that imparts that
nature: the Father.
However, that which is different is the manner of
existence of the Son and the Holy Spirit out of that one
source, the Father: The Father begets the Son and
the Holy Spirit proceeds from him. Consequently,
the Son exists in a different manner with regard to the
Father (He is begotten by Him) and the Spirit also
differently (He proceeds from Him).
From the above, we can understand that there is a
difference in the form of their relationship towards the
common source - the Father - by the Son and the Holy
Spirit. Exactly what that difference (begetting,
procession) constitutes remains something entirely
unknown to us.
The Orthodox teaching therefore regarding the Holy
Trinity is precisely about the preservation of the
perfect union (the one essence) and the distinguishing
between the three hypostases. This distinguishing
is based on the manner of the pre-eternal existence of
the Son and the Holy Spirit (begetting and procession)
as ordained by God the Father.
7. The procession of the Holy Spirit
According to the Orthodox faith, therefore, the only
source from which the Son is begotten and from which the
Holy Spirit proceeds is the Father.
But this truth is not safeguarded in the Orthodox manner
in the Roman Catholic church, which has added to the
Creed the term "Filioque" - that is, that the Holy
Spirit proceeds ALSO from the Son. The reason is that
this viewpoint of the Roman Catholic church does not
preserve the unity of the three Persons of the Holy
Trinity, thus risking the introduction of diarchy
- that is, of two principals (the Father AND the Son),
or even a difference in the essence and not in the
manner of imparting the one, common Divine Essence.
It is furthermore obvious that in this case, the risk
implies dual deism.
This is the precise danger that the Orthodox
Church averts, by proclaiming the distinguishing factor
between the three Persons; that is: the manner of
imparting the single Divine Essence on the part of the
Father. This is the way that the discerning of the
three hypostases and the unity of the one essence of God
are also preserved in Orthodox teaching.
This faith by the Orthodox Church in the monarchy
of the Father, in regard to the pre-eternal imparting of
the Divine Essence to the Son (by the pre-eternal begetting)
and to the Holy Spirit (by the pre-eternal procession)
should not be confused with the "sending forth" of the
Time by the Lord, for the
illumination and the salvation of the world.
"But when the
Consoler is come, Whom I shall send unto you from the
Father - the Spirit of Truth Who proceeds from the
Father - He shall testify of Me..."
And elsewhere, he mentions that "...the Consoler - the Holy Spirit -
Whom the Father will send in My Name"
(that is, in the name of Jesus Christ)... (John 14:26)
Justifiably, then, do we Orthodox faithful cry out
to the Holy Spirit the hymn of the Pentecost:
"O Thou Most Holy Spirit,
Who has proceeded from
and through the Son
has remained within
the illiterate disciples"
("O Most Holy Spirit,
You, Who have proceeded from within the Father and have
alighted - through the Son - upon the illiterate
disciples - save us and sanctify all of us who have
acknowledged You as God!")
Our Church confesses the whole Orthodox faith in
the One, Trinitarian God, with Her superb hymn on the
"Come, you nations, let us worship the
thrice-hypostatized Godhood: the Son in the Father,
together with the Holy Spirit. For the Father has
timelessly begotten the Son - eternal and co-enthroned -
and the Holy Spirit Who was forever in the Father, glorified
along with the Son, as one power, one essence, one
Godhood, worshipping which, we all say:
Who created everything through the Son, with the
collaboration of the Holy Spirit;
through Whom we have come to know the Father and the
Holy Spirit Who came to the world;
- the Holy Spirit - Who proceeds from the Father and
reposes in the Son.
glory to You.'
God's redemptive opus - divine providence - is
fulfilled in the Person of the Son, "in the Holy
Spirit", But, the principal and the source of salvation
is always God the Father.
as many as the promises of God are",
says the Apostle characteristically, they are all
realized in the Person of Christ. "In
Him is the 'yes' and in Him is the 'Amen', for the
glorification of God by us. For, the One Who assures us,
Who is with us in Christ, and Who has anointed us, is
God; and Who has also sealed us and has given us
the betrothal of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Cor.1:20-22. Cmp. Titus 3:4-6).
8. Love, as the revealing of the life of the Trinitarian God
Of all that has been mentioned about the
procession of the Holy Spirit by ONLY the Father, the
following question can be posed:
Is this dogma indeed so basic for our salvation,
that all the struggles made by Orthodoxy to preserve it
We are aware from the Holy Bible that God is love
(1 John 4:8, 16); consequently, love undoubtedly
constitutes a revealing of God's way of life.
Thus, God is love, because He is not a unit, nor is He a
dyad; He is a Triad. If God were a solitary unit,
love would not have been an expression of God's essence.
Because, how can a being that exists in solitude be
"love"? Then again, if God were a dyad - that is,
Father and Son only - again, we would not have union and
love in their fullness; rather, we would have a kind of
opposition: Father-Son. Well, that opposition is
eternally overcome, in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
This is how we come to understand why the Holy
Trinity has nothing to do with numeric arithmetic: it
denotes the transcending of the ego, the transcending of
division, and the fullness of union, harmony and love.
characteristic of love",
says Bishop Nicholas of Ohrid, "is
that the Person who loves, wants to disappear into the
person being loved. That is how ardent the Father's love
towards the Son is, and the Son's love towards the
Father! Just as ardent is the love of the Holy
Spirit towards the Father and the Son. "It
is with that kind of kenotic ("self-emptying") love -
that is, with a love that keeps nothing for itself", he
continues, "that the words of the Lord are interpreted,
when He said that
Father is greater than me'
(John 14:28). With that kind of love, the Holy Trinity can
neither be confused, nor divided. It is, and it remains,
one and simultaneously a threefold flame of life and
love. In this wondrous flame of the Trinitarian God's love,
we also light our own little candles of terrestrial
love, which can easily be extinguished. When love is concentrated
in one person - that is, in our self - it is not love,
it is self-love and egotism. Love between two
quickly cools and turns into sorrow. This is the
reason that childlessness in the Old Testament was
looked upon as a curse. The fullness of love is
love of three. That is the way it is on earth,
because that is the way it is in heaven."
9. The Trinitarian God as man's only hope.
The above words by the Bishop of Ohrid come to
remind us of a basic teaching of our Church: that man
was fashioned by God according to His image ("in the
image of") and that the destination given to man is to
resemble Him ("in the likeness of").
Thus, man discovers the purpose and the fullness
of his life, when he becomes a living image of God; when
his life becomes a miniature replica of God's life.
That is why he must know that God is Trinitarian - that God
lives "triadically" - ie., a life of complete unity and
If man becomes aware that this is his model - in
other words, that he is in the image of the Holy Trinity
- then he will believe that it is possible for him to
likewise live a life of union and love. Then he will be
able to find salvation.
This is not difficult to perceive, when we stop to
think that man - especially in our day - lives
internally splintered and externally isolated. He
feels this loneliness and isolation very deeply . He
feels as though he consists of multiple elements. He has
a body, a spirit, will, sentiments etc...
A man who is internally divided can never say that
he is redeemed. The same applies, when he feels he is
living in total isolation and loneliness. A person
who doesn't possess the potential to love cannot find
his inner balance.
But, when the person realizes that inner splintering and
isolation do not belong to his nature, only unity, then,
when he is informed that he is in the image of the
Trinitarian God Who lives in fullness, in unity and in love,
he will believe that he too is able to attain it: that
he too is created for that same thing, and that is the
point where his final destination lies.
Behold, therefore, why man's only salvation is the truth
of the Trinitarian God - the faith in the Holy Trinity.
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