The One and Triune God - Missions and Divine Indwelling
What does the doctrine of the Trinity
have to do with us and the practical problems we must face every
day? It has very much to do with us since, if we are in the
state of sanctifying
grace, the Holy Trinity dwells in us in a very special
and personal way.
God is an intense and eternal lover. It was because of his love
that he created you, and it is because of his love that he wishes
to be united with you, to be present in you in a very special way.
It is most important for us to realize that God's grace is more
than merely some created thing that God imprints on us as a sign
of his ownership -- it is not just a brand mark or a tag of
ownership signed "God." The full meaning of sanctifying grace is
that God himself, that is, the Holy Trinity -- Father,
Son and Holy Spirit, is personally present in me in a way that he
is not present in the rest of the material universe.
The Bible says that God, through grace, dwells in me, makes his
home in me. For example, Jesus says in John 14:23, "If anyone
loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we
shall come to him and make our home with him."
When the three divine Persons come to the sanctified believer,
they come to him according to the special characteristics of their
origin and procession. These are the truths about the Trinity that
I have already explained. The NT uses the word "sending" or
mission in this regard. A divine mission in this context is the
procession of one Person from another with reference to a new way
of existing in an external term. The point is that, because of the
divine processions, the Father sends the Son, and the Father and
the Son send the Holy Spirit. Thus, St. Paul says in Galatians
4:4, "God sent his Son." Both the Father and the Son are described
as sending the Holy Spirit: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you" (John 14:26). In the
following chapter of John, Jesus says that he will send the
Spirit: "When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from
the Father...he will be my witness" (15:26).
The Blessed Trinity is the source or cause of all creation. The
final end or purpose of the universe is also the Trinity. By
reason of his creative power, God is present in all creation,
sustaining all things in existence. Irrational creatures, that is,
all things beneath man, glorify God necessarily by their very
existence. The glory of God from rational creatures requires free
worship, praise and honor. Through the sin of our first parents,
Adam and Eve, we lost the grace that God had intended for us to
have. That situation was abundantly restored by the Incarnation of
the second Person of the Blessed Trinity in Jesus Christ. God's
will is that through faith in Jesus Christ, the acceptance of
Baptism and incorporation into his Church, we should be made
temples of the Holy Spirit, children of God and heirs of heaven.
This is all accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy
Trinity in the souls of the just.
The "indwelling" means that Father, Son and Holy Spirit become
personally present to us through grace in a unique way. Their
presence in the soul affects both our knowledge and our love. When
the Bible speaks about "sending" or "mission" of the Son and the
Holy Spirit it is referring to the special way in which they
proceed in the Trinity itself. The temporal missions, therefore,
reflect the individual characteristics of the divine Persons: The
Father sends, but is not sent; the Son is sent and sends; the Holy
Spirit is sent, but does not send.
In the course of salvation history, or God's dealing with
mankind, we discover both external and internal divine missions.
They could also be called visible and invisible missions. Thus,
the Word of God became man in Jesus of Nazareth. That is what is
meant by a visible mission. The Holy Spirit appeared under the
form of a dove at the Baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16), under the
form of a brilliant cloud at the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount
Tabor (Matt. 17:5), and under the form of tongues of fire in the
upper room on Pentecost (Acts 2:3-4).
The visible missions are external signs of the invisible
missions, namely, the Trinity dwelling in the souls of the just.
This means that the Son and the Holy Spirit are present in a new
manner in creatures. It is a new, interior and invisible presence,
which sanctifies the soul and imparts to it a new supernatural
life. The Father is also present in the sanctified soul because,
as we have seen, where the Son and the Spirit are present, the
Father, who is one with them, is present also. So when we pray to
God within us we should pray to the Father, through the Son, in
the Holy Spirit.
The sending of the Son and the Holy Spirit is expressed in the
following texts: John 5:23; 6:38-39; 7:28;14:26; 15:26; 16:7;
Galatians 4:4 and 6.
The indwelling in the soul of the just is common to the three
Persons. We know, because consubstantiality and circumincession,
that one Person cannot dwell in the soul without the others.
Therefore, the indwelling is necessarily common and so the formal
reason for the indwelling cannot be something personal,
but it must be something substantial, namely,
participation in the divine nature.
What is proper to the individual Persons in God is only what is
of a relative nature or hypostatic nature. But indwelling or union
with the soul of the just, however it is understood, cannot
pertain to the relative order ad intra nor to the
order of a hypostatic union. Therefore there cannot be found in
the Holy Spirit any special reason because of which he is
communicated to the just, and which would be the reason why the
other Persons are communicated. In this there is a difference with
the Incarnation which pertains to the Hypostasis as such.
Therefore, the three persons cannot inhabit or be united to the
soul of the just because of an individual or singular title, but
only a common title.
This consideration brings us back to the notion of appropriation,
which means attributing to one Person something that is common to
all three. Appropriation is its positive foundation in the
frequent and emphatic attribution in the Bible to one Person what
is also said of the others. The indwelling in the just, both in
Scripture and in the Fathers, is affirmed of the three Persons but
frequently it is attributed to the Holy Spirit.
At the end of this course you should now be able to penetrate
more deeply into the meaning of two key texts about the Trinity:
2 Cor. 13:13, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the
love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you
Matt. 28:19, 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.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I, Q. 42,
a. 5; Q. 43, aa. 1-8.