The Revelation Of The Trinity Through Its Works

We must distinguish the pathway by which we discover the Trinity (the Trinity's self-revelation by acting in the world) from the way in which theological understanding lays out the revealed mystery (the processions and the eternal properties of the persons), illuminating their action in the world. On the path giving us access to the Trinitarian mystery, the manifestation of the Trinity through the action of the Son and the Holy Spirit takes precedence. According to the Apostolic witness, the Trinity reveals itselfin the words and actions of Jesus and also in the gift of the Spirit. More precisely, the recognition of a Trinity of persons in God unfolds from that of the divinity of the Son and Holy Spirit, and of their distinction.6 St Thomas follows this path in the Summa Contra Gentiles: wanting to explain the biblical passages in relation to their interpretation by the ancient Christian heretics, he examines here the biblical testimonies to the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit.7 Thomas' New Testament commentaries (on Matthew, John, and the Pauline Epistles) pay attention to the same question.

For St Thomas, the divinity of Christ is manifested in many ways. First one finds the revelation which is Christ's very person. Christ manifested his own divinity in two ways: through his teaching and by his actions.s As Thomas explains it, these are bound together. The Father's presence in Christ accounts for the unique revelatory value of Christ's words and deeds.9 Such is what one

5 Creation and salvation nonetheless imply this central difference: salvation itself (and not only the theologians' understanding of it!) requires that men and women know the Trinity; cf. STII-II, q. 2, a. 8. CT I, ch. 1: love, through which we turn toward our ultimate end, requires hope in this end, 'and this cannot exist if one does not have knowledge of the truth [that is to say, faith]'.

6 See B. Rey, A la découverte de Dieu: Les origines de la foi trinitaire, Paris, 1982; A. W. Wainwright, The Trinity in the New Testament, London, 1962.

7 SCG IV, chs. 2-9; chs. 15-18. See our study, 'Le traite de St Thomas sur la Trinité dans la Somme contre les Gentils\ Revue Thomiste 96 (1996), 11-21; ET 'The Treatise of St. Thomas on the Trinity in the Summa Contra Gentiles', in Trinity in Aquinas, Michigan, 2003, pp. 33-70.

may call the sacramental structure of revelation, composed of words and of acts. St Thomas next finds the expression of the divinity of Christ in the Apostles' teaching (the titles which they attributed to Christ, the expressions concerning the unity of Christ with his Father, and so forth), and then in the activity of the Church (especially in the worship rendered to Christ). The passages are so numerous that we will limit ourselves to a few examples.

Thomas begins by reflecting on the words of Christ, because his 'words ... show the power of the divinity in Christ'. i° For example, when, in the Gospel of John, Jesus explains to Philip: Who sees me, sees the Father... I am in the Father and the Father is in me (14.9-10), St Thomas regards this as the expression of the consubstantial divinity of the Father and the Son; this interpretation is based on many patristic authors.n When Christ declares: The Father and I are one (Jn 10.30), Thomas explains that this unity is not limited to the union which their mutual affection creates, nor to a vague similarity in power, but, rather, invites us to acknowledge the unity of essence of the Father and the Son.12 The same divinity of Christ appears in the sayings of Jesus which express his intimacy of knowledge and love with the Father, an intimacy and unity in which St Thomas finds the sign of the eternal procession of the Son within the one God.i3 One could multiply similar examples; they are very numerous because St Thomas pays minute attention to these expressions whenever he meets them in his reading of the Gospels.

St Thomas observes that Christ gives himself the most significant divine name: I am (Jn 8.24, 28, 58; 13.19). In applying this name to himself, Christ 'recalls that which was said to Moses in Exodus 3.14: I am who am, for being itself [ipsum esse] is the property of God';i4 this name expresses Jesus' eternity and divinity: 'that I am, that is, that I have in me the nature of God, and that it is I who spoke to Moses, saying [Exodus 3.14): I am who I am.' 15 Christ does not 'become,' as do worldly realities (Jn 1.3); in giving the divine name to himself, he shows 'that he was not made as a creature is, but was eternally

1° In Ioan. 14.12 (no. 1898). Thomas' exegesis, which, like the Fathers and the medieval writers takes the Gospels literally, attributes to Christ himself sayings which modern exegetes interpret as an expression of the Easter faith of the evangelists and of their community.

15 In Ioan. 8.28 (no. 1192); cf. 8.58 (no. 1290). Thomas here takes up a very ancient tradition which, at the least since Justin Martyr, recognized the person of the Son in the angel which spoke to Moses from the burning bush; cf. Justin, Apology I.63, (ed. Ch. Munier, Fribourg, 1995, pp. 116-119). The words 'I am that I am', as pronounced by the Son, manifest that the Son is God, that he possesses the fullness of being and eternity belonging to God alone (Basil of Caesaria, Against Eunomius II.18; SC 305, pp. 70-75).

begotten from the essence of the Father.^6 Trinitarian faith is born out of the recognition of the divine unity of Jesus and his Father, with which the Holy Spirit is immediately associated.

Alongside the sayings of Jesus, St Thomas pays a great deal of attention to the revelatory value of those of Jesus' actions which disclose his divine unity with the Father. Commenting on St John, Thomas particularly considers judgement, the giving of life, and forgiveness: these properly divine works can only be exercised by God, and Christ effectively carries them out. Thomas notes the relation which the action observes with the nature in which it is founded and which it manifests. Because of the human mode of knowledge, 'it is natural to man to know the power and the nature of things from their actions; and therefore our Lord fittingly says that the sort of person he is can be learned from the work he does. So since he performs divine works by his own power, we should believe that he has divine power within him.'17 One can see from this last passage that, if St Thomas often associates operation and nature, he also connects them to a consideration of power.18 This is why, since everything was made by him (Jn 1.3), believers acknowledge that the Word has the totality of divine power. St Thomas conceives power as the principle of action, and he explains it as follows: 'To be the principle of all things that have been made is the property of the great all powerful God: All that the Lord wills, he has done, on heaven and on earth (Ps. 134.6 (135.6)). Thus, the Word through whom all things have been made is the great God and co-equal with the Father. 19

Concerning the life-giving power of the Son, St Thomas observes: 'Here we should point out that in the Old Testament the divine power is particularly emphasized by the fact that God is the author of life.'2° In related passages, Thomas notes that 'the clearest indication of the nature of a being is taken from its works'.21 If one applies this to Christ, 'the fact that he does the works of God' entails that 'it can be clearly known and believed that Christ is God'.22 Conversely, in the realities in which one observes different actions, one must

16 In loan. 8.58 (no. 1290). Thomas rests his position here on Augustine's interpretation. For an evaluation of these interpretations, see A. Feuillet, 'Les ego eimi christologiques du quatrieme evangile', Recherches de Science Religieuse 54 (1966), 5-22 and 213-40; M.-E. Boismard, Moïse ou Jésus: Essai de christologie johannique, Leuven, 1988, pp. 127-130.

18 On the patristic argument from power (and on operation), see M. R. Barnes, The Power of God: Dunamis in Gregory ofNyssa's Trinitarian Theology, Washington DC, 2001.

22 Ibid.

recognize a diversity of substance because 'different actions indicate different natures'.23 St Thomas explains:

when we want to know if a certain thing is true, we can determine it from two things: its nature and its power. For true gold is that which has the species of true gold; and we determine this if it acts like true gold. Therefore, if we maintain that the Son has the true nature of God, because the Son exercises the true activities of divinity, it is clear that the Son is authentically God. Now the Son does perform true works of divinity, for we read, 'Whatever he [the Father] does, that the Son does likewise (5.19); and again he said, 'For as the Father has life in himself,' which is not a participated life, 'so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself' (Jn 5.26); 'That we may be in his true Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life' (1 Jn 5.20).24

These actions are not restricted to the miracles which Christ once performed, but extend to the whole of his activity; he continues to act on believers' behalf today, as Scripture attests. For this reason, the experience of salvation which we receive from Christ leads us to recognize his divinity and his eternal unity with the Father:

a person participating in the word of God becomes god by participation. But a thing does not becomes this or that by participation unless it participates in what is this or that by its essence . . . Therefore, one does not become god by participation unless he participates in what is God by essence. Therefore, the Word of God, that is the Son, by participation in whom we become gods, is God by essence.25

One recognizes here the soteriological argument that Athanasius liked, as did many other Fathers of the Church.26 Thomas takes it over not only from St Hilary, but also from St John Chrysostom and palpably from St Augustine (as the Catena aurea on the passages which we have indicated here shows): if Christ is not God, he could not save, for he could not renew the faithful in the grace of the new creation, which is adoptive Sonship (meaning divinization). The reality of salvation rests on the divinity of Christ who, because he is God, enables us to participate in what he really is.

Alongside Christ's own words and actions, Thomas examines the titles and the names given to Christ by others (such as Son of God, Son, the Son, Word): they express the divine intimacy of the Son with His Father, the divine relationship which the Son has with the Father.27 St Thomas also considers the New

23 In loan. 14.16 (no. 1912). Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean that, if the works of the divine persons are different, the persons would not be of the same nature. But, according to Thomas, the action of persons is identical: only the mode of this common action is distinct (see below, in Chapter 14, 'The Persons' Distinct Modes of Action and their Unity in Action').

25 In loan. 10.35 (no. 1460). On this theme, see L.-B. Geiger, La participation dans la philosophie de St Thomas d'Aquin, Paris, 1953, pp. 238-258.

2« Cf. for example Athanasius, De synodis 51 (pG 26.784). 27 Cf. SCGIV, chs. 2-3.

Testament passages which explicitly attribute the name God to the person of Christ: Jn 1.1 (And the Word was God); Jn 20.28 (My Lord and my God); Rom. 9.5 (Christ...who is over all, God blessed for ever), or Titus 2.13 (the glorious appearing of our great God and saviour, Jesus Christ), etc.28 In applying the name God to Christ, Christian revelation enriches the meaning of this word: as signifying 'that which has the divine nature', the name God can designate each and all of the persons who commune in one and the same divine nature.29

In his reading of Scripture, St Thomas also meditates on the way in which Jesus is addressed in the liturgy: Jesus is glorified in the same way as the Father is. For example, commenting on Romans 16.27, he explains that glory and honour are rendered to Christ 'by every creature's worship of his full divin-ity'.30 In honouring the Son alongside the Father, the faithful offer a worship of 'latria' which expresses faith in the Father and the Son in their common divinity and their distinct persons.3i Thus, the adoration of Christ is a practical recognition of his personal divinity.32

These considerations, for which one could easily multiply examples, affect how we should enter into Thomas' Trinitarian theology. His practice in the Summa Theologiae is to explain the secondary reality (our salvation) from the primary reality (the divinity of the Son and the Spirit): the Son deifies and the Spirit gives life, because the Son and the Spirit are God; such is the order of doctrinal exposition which one habitually encounters in Thomas' synthesizing texts. But his biblical commentaries, in close contact with his patristic sources, also follow the opposite order: Thomas establishes the primary reality (the divinity of the persons) on the basis of the secondary reality (our salvation). He starts off from the faith-experience of salvation, that is, the authentic re-creation (divinization) of believers, to show the divinity of the persons: only the true God can divinize and re-create. Here he follows the order in which we discover the mystery: the action of the persons in the economy leads to the discovery and disclosure of a truth concerning the Trinity itself. This shows that, behind the ordo disciplinae of the Summa, Thomas was seriously concerned to recapture the patristic roots of Trinitarian doctrines and their foundation in the economy of salvation.

He takes the same approach when he reflects on the Holy Spirit. St Thomas focuses on the biblical passages witnessing to the divinity of the Holy Spirit

28 SCG IV, ch. 3; In loan. 1.1 (no. 59). For an introduction to the exegetical discussion of these passages, see especially Raymond Brown, Jeésus dans les quatre eévangiles, Paris, 1996, pp. 237-273; M. J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Relation to God, Grand Rapids, 1992.

29 ST I, q. 39, a. 5; In loan. 1.1 (no. 44). See below, in Chapter 7, 'The Word God '.

30 In Rom. 16.27 (no. 1228). 3i In Ioan. 5.23 (nos. 768-769).

and to the Spirit's subsisting as a person. Even though Scripture does not directly ascribe the name God to the Holy Spirit—as it does to the Son— Thomas' biblical reading here is like his practice of exegesis in relation to the Son. Once again we find the soteriological argument which Thomas developed in relation to the Son, this time for the Holy Spirit. The divinity of the Holy Spirit sets the scene for one of Thomas' best formulations of the soteriological argument:

It is clear that the Holy Spirit is God, since he says, unless one is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God____From this we can form the following argument: He from whom men are spiritually reborn is God; but men are spiritually reborn through the Holy Spirit . . . therefore, the Holy Spirit is God.33

St Thomas presents this reflection as an argument (ratio) which believers, working from scriptural teaching, can use their reason to formulate. The divine action of the Holy Spirit manifests the Spirit's divinity. In the same way, the unity of action of the Holy Spirit and of Christ discloses their consubstantiality: although his action has a different modality, the Spirit does not accomplish something different from what Christ does; thus, his nature, the principle of his action, is not different from that of the Son of God.34 When Thomas approaches the subject in this way, he is drawing out the legacy of the fourth-century Church Fathers.35 On this issue, one can look at many chapters in the Summa Contra Gentiles which focus on the patristic exegesis springing from the anti-pneumatological controversy (the Pneumatomachai, or 'fighters against the Spirit').36 Thomas presents the works of the Holy Spirit in detail. This is a matter of works which God alone can perform, so the witness of Scripture induces one to acknowledge the divinity of the Spirit: the Holy Spirit creates, gives life to the dead, observes, instructs and inhabits human hearts, brings about justice, receives divine glory, speaks through the prophets, reveals the mysteries of God, and is the source of sanctification (one can hear the echoes of the Creed of Constantinople). This is one example of Thomas' soteriological reflection, chosen from amongst many:

34 In Ioan. 14.15 (no. 1912). On the strict parallelism of the actions of the Spirit and of Christ in St John and St Paul, see especially Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, vol. 1: The Holy Spirit in the 'Economy', trans. David Smith, London, 1983, pp. 55-59 and 84-86; cf. Congar, The Word and the Spirit, trans. David Smith, San Francisco, 1986. On Thomas' idea of the mutual work of the Son and Spirit, see the beautiful collection of texts, brought together, translated and annotated by L. Somme: Thomas d'Aquin: La divinisation dans le Christ, Geneva, 1988.

35 For instance, Athanasius of Alexandria explains: 'If [the Holy Spirit] divinizes, there is no doubt that his nature is that of God' (Letter to Serapion I.24; SC 15, p. 126); cf. Letter to Serapion I.23; I.27; I.29 (SC 15, pp. 124, 132, 135). Basil of Caesarea mines the same vein (see especially Basil, Letter 159, in Lettres, ed. and trans. Y. Courtonne, in SC 17, 2nd edn, pp. 132-133).

to sanctify men is the proper work of God, for Leviticus (22.32) says: I am the Lord who sanctify you. It is of course the Holy Spirit who sanctifies, as the Apostle says: You are washed, you are sanctified through the name of Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6.11). And in 2 Thessalonians (2.13) one reads: God has chosen you from the beginning to be saved by the Spirit which sanctifies and by faith in the truth. It is thus necessary that the Holy Spirit be God.37

The discussion thus far has been about the manifestation of the divinity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But Thomas pays as much attention to the distinction of the persons: One with the Father, the Son is nonetheless distinct from Him; and for all that the Holy Spirit is of the same nature as the Father and the Son, the Spirit is yet distinct from them. St Thomas shows this when he presents the standard set of biblical quotations, drawn together because of the Sabellian controversy, and which he knew through its patristic documentation.38 He also uses it to show that the New Testament does not present the Holy Spirit as just a 'force', like an attribute of God, but really as a person. He brings the biblical witness to the action of the Spirit: into focus the Spirit proceeds, he teaches, he witnesses, he intercedes, he reveals, he knows, he inhabits the faithful. Thomas concludes: 'One could not say that if the Holy Spirit were not a subsistent person'; 'Scripture speaks to us of the Spirit as a divine person which subsists.^9 Faith in the divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in their personal subsistence and in their distinction, rests on the historical manifestation of the divine persons, and above all on recognizing their action, following the witness of Scripture received in the Church.

Special witnesses to the unity and the distinction of the persons include the disclosure of the Trinity in Christ's conception and nativity,4° his baptism ('the Son is present in his flesh, the Father in the voice which speaks, and the Holy Spirit under the appearance of a dove'41), and his transfiguration ('the whole Trinity appears: the Father in the voice, the Son in the humanity, the Holy Spirit in the luminous cloud'42). According to Thomas, the sending of the Son and Holy Spirit into our world discloses their personal properties.43 The passion of Christ also discloses the Trinity: far from seeing in the passion the separation of the three divine persons— how could one do that?—St Thomas finds in it the expression of their unity and their relations: 'by infusing him with charity, the Father inspires Christ with the will to die for us',44 charity in which we recognize the Holy Spirit, with which Christ's humanity is filled. He looks at the resurrection from the

37 SCG IV, ch. 17 (no. 3 5 2 8). 38 SCGIV, chs. 5 and 9.

39 SCG IV, ch. 18 (no. 3553). 4° In Matt. 1.18 (no. 112).

41 In Matt. 3.16-17 (no. 305). 42 STIII, q. 45, a. 4, ad 2.

43 On this see below, Chapter 15. 44 ST III, q. 47, a. 3.

same perspective: living with the Father, the Son is exalted 'according to the Spirit of sanctification', in that he pours forth the Holy Spirit.45

Finally, of all the New Testament sayings, the locus to which we particularly return is the Trinitarian baptismal formula in the last chapter of Matthew's Gospel: Go and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28.19). This baptismal formula, which was the source of the 'rule of faith', played a central role in the development of the patristic doctrine of the Trinity in the fourth-century Trinitarian controversies; St Basil especially used it to show the order and the equal divinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is just the same in St Thomas' writings. In the Matthean formula and in the Creed, the Holy Spirit is placed on the same level as the Father and the Son (the name of the Holy Spirit is 'numbered together' with that of the Father and the Son, the Spirit is 'counted with' the Father and the Son), following an order which discloses his personality at the heart of the Triune God:

Since the Father and the Son are subsistent persons and divine in nature, the Holy Spirit would not be 'counted with' them if he were not also a divine, subsistent person. And this is very well shown when the Lord says to his disciples (Mt. 28.19): Go and teach all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.4«

Thomas explains that,

The reason [for this formula] is as follows. Regeneration [which baptism brings about] involves three things: that in view of which it is done, that through which it is done, and that whereby it is achieved. In view of what [is one baptized]? In view of God the Father, as the Apostle says in Romans 8.29: For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestine to be conformed to the image of his Son____Through what [are we baptized]? Through the Son: God has sent his Son . . . so that we may receive adoption as sons of God (Gal. 4.4-5), for it is by adoption to the image of the one who is Son by nature that we are made sons. Whereby [are we baptized]? In the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we receive: You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father (Rom. 8.15). So it is suitable to mention the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.47

Thomas concludes his exegesis of the Trinitarian baptismal formula by observing that it discloses the Trinity and excludes heresies, such as Sabellian-ism, which conflates the persons, and Arianism, which separates them.48 The baptismal formula thus bears witness to the order of the persons, and to their consubstantiality. This is precisely what speculative theology will attempt to account for.

4« SCG IV, ch. 18 (no. 3554). 48 In Matt. 28.19 (no. 2466).

So, in the same way that, as St Thomas explains them, the mission of the Son and the gift of the Holy Spirit reveal to us their divine unity with the Father, these missions reveal the mutual relations which the divine persons engender. 'Everything that the Son does is directed to the glory of the Father':49 the Son 'relates everything to the Father because he derives everything he has from the Father'^0 Similarly, the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son and brings human beings together with the Son, because of his relation with the Son: 'Just as the effect of the mission of the Son was to lead us to the Father, so the effect of the mission of the Holy Spirit is to lead the faithful to the Son.'5i The missions of the Son and Holy Spirit in the economy of salvation provide believers with knowledge of the eternal origin of the persons: 'a mission . . . indicates an origin'.52 The expression of the Father through the Son, and the manifestation of the Son through the Holy Spirit thus enables us to recognise the eternal processions of the persons: this is the pathway of our discovery of the Triune mystery, within faith. But, conversely, knowing the eternal processions gives us a better perspective on the foundation (the 'reason') of the action of the Son and the Holy Spirit in the worlds3 And this will be the precise task of speculative Trinitarian theology.

In sum, Thomas finds in the action of the Trinity, as brought into focus by Scripture and received by faith, the revelation of the divinity of the three persons, their personal existence, and their relations. This rapid survey shows us the path on which Thomas will lead us through Trinitarian theology. The spring of Trinitarian theology is the reception of the revelation of the Trinity in the economic actions of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Trinitarian teaching in the Summa Theologiae will seek to present this same reality which the action of the persons discloses: their unity and their distinction. And, in studying the eternal mystery of the three persons who are one God, speculative theology will equally seek to show the depth of the creative and salvific action of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

52 In loan. 5.23 (no. 769); 15.26 (nos. 2061-2062). See below, in Chapter 15, 'The ''Visible'' Missions of the Son and Holy Spirit'.

53 In loan. 16.14 (no. 2107): 'For everything which is from another manifests that from which it is. Thus the Son manifests the Father because he is from the Father. And so because the Holy Spirit is from the Son, it is appropriate (proprium) that the Spirit glorify the Son'; cf. In Ioan. 14.17 (no. 1916); In Ioan. 17.2 (no. 2185): 'whatever the Son has he has from the Father; and thus it is necessary that what the Son does manifests the Father'. On this theme, see A. Cirillo, Cristo Rivelatore del Padre nel Vangelo di S. Giovanni secondo il commento di S. Tommaso d'Aquino, Rome, 1988.

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