Unity and trinity

Daily Reading for December 4 • John of Damascus, Priest, c. 760

There is nothing created, nothing of the first and second order, nothing lord and servant;

but there is unity and trinity—

there was, there is, and there shall be forever—

which is perceived and adored by faith—

by faith, not by inquiry, nor by searching out, nor by visible manifestation;

for the more He is sought out, the more He is unknown,

and the more He is investigated, the more He is hidden.

And so, let the faithful adore God with a mind that is not overcurious. And believe that He is God in three hypostases, although the manner in which He is so is beyond manner, for God is incomprehensible. Do not ask how the Trinity is Trinity, for the Trinity is inscrutable.

But, if you are curious about God, first tell me of yourself and the things that pertain to you. How does your soul have existence? How is your mind set in motion? How do you produce your mental concepts? How is it that you are both mortal and immortal? But, if you are ignorant of these things which are within you, then why do you not shudder at the thought of investigating the sublime things of heaven?

Think of the Father as a spring of life begetting the Son like a river and the Holy Ghost like a sea, for the spring and the river and sea are all one nature.

Think of the Father as a root, and of the Son as a branch, and the Spirit as a fruit, for the substance in these three is one.

The Father is a sun with the Son as rays and the Holy Ghost as heat.

The Holy Trinity transcends by far every similitude and figure. So, when you hear of an offspring of the Father, do not think of a corporeal offspring. And when you hear that there is a Word, do not suppose Him to be a corporeal word. And when you hear of the Spirit of God, do not think of wind and breath. Rather, hold you persuasion with a simple faith alone. For the concept of the Creator is arrived at by analogy from His creatures.

From “On the Trinity” by John of Damascus, in Saint John of Damascus: Writings, translated by F. H. Chase, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University, 1958).

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