The Holy Trinity
By Rev. George Mastrantonis
BELIEF IN THE HOLY TRINITY
The fundamental truth of the Orthodox Church is the faith revealed in the True God: the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is in reality the declaration of the Christian faith, formulated and pronounced by the Ecumenical Synods of the One Undivided Church. It is impossible for the finite human mind to comprehend objectively the substance of the True God, true worship, and true norms of life. Human reasoning in regard to faith in the Holy Trinity is confined to formulating the truths which already have been revealed in the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. These truths of the Holy Trinity were formulated by the First and Second Ecumenical Synods in the Nicene Creed and were based on Divine Sources.
The Orthodox Church believes that God is one in substance and Triune in three Persons or Hypostases. The Church pronounces in its lucid liturgical confession: "I confess the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, Trinity consubstantial and undivided." In the Holy Scriptures, there are passages recorded to strengthen this belief in the Holy Trinity in which the faith in God is revealed. The Scriptures proclaim "to us there is but one God, the Father" (1 Cor. 8:6); "in him (the Son) dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9; cf. Matt. 26:63); and, relating to the Holy Spirit, "thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 5:4). This fundamental belief in the Holy Trinity was the subject of all the Ecumenical Synods in which the unchangeable pronouncement on the Holy Trinity was affirmed. They proclaimed primarily that the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Logos, and the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, are of the same essence, Homoousios, of the Father. In the personal attributions of the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father begot the Son and from the Father proceeds the Holy Spirit. The Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, sends the Holy Spirit to guide His Church (cf. John 15:26). The nature and attributes of the Persons of the Holy Trinity are revealed through Jesus Christ. The truth can be reached only by faith, being above and beyond human comprehension.
THE SECOND PERSON OF THE HOLY TRINITY
Another fundamental belief of the Orthodox Church is the faith in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, Who became "incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and became man" (Nicene Creed) for our salvation. The Virgin Mary Theotokos gave birth to Jesus, Who is the only begotten Son of God. In the Orthodox Church, the Theotokos is highly honored, as expressed in praises recorded in the Scriptures with qualities mirrored in the Magnificat (cf. Luke 1:46 ff.). Despite the high honor and the highest admiration which the Orthodox Church bestows upon the Virgin Mary Theotokos, it does not teach either her immaculate conception or her bodily assumption into the heavens. The Church venerates the Theotokos as "holder of Him Who is illimitable...and infinite Creator."
God's love caused Him to send His Son Jesus Christ to save man. For the Christian, the Incarnation of Christ is a mystery. Apostle Paul, the most keen interpreter of the life of Christ, in his epistle to the Colossians writes that it was "the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now made manifest to his saints" (Col. 1:26; cf. Rom. 16:25-26). Jesus Christ was sent for this divine mission "when the fullness of time was come" (Gal. 4:4), when man was prepared to accept Him as his Savior. Christ was born with two perfect natures, the divine and human, as God-man. When a Christian refers to Christ in the Old and New Testaments, he should presuppose the fact of the two natures of Jesus Christ which are made manifest in His Gospel and deeds.
Another essential in the life of Christ, which is indispensable for the Church faith, is the Crucifixion of Christ, which is considered the end of His humiliation and emptiness on earth. The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ nails to the Cross the sins of mankind. The Church considers this divine event the "sorrowful Easter," for it is linked with His Resurrection.
The Orthodox Church considers the highest event in the life of Christ to be His Resurrection. It is pronounced as the glorification of Christ, touching upon the scope and the nature of Christ's Mission, which has been a part of the everlasting Christ. Christ presented Himself, as "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). Without this belief in the Resurrection, the preaching and the faith of the Church is in vain, as Apostle Paul proclaims (cf. 1 Cor. 15:14). The belief of the Church is that, on the third day, Jesus Christ rose again. The Resurrection of Christ is considered by the Church to be the supreme declaration of faith. The Lord's Day, Sunday, is dedicated to His Resurrection. For this reason, the celebration of Easter in the Orthodox Church is called the "Feast of Feasts."
The Church believes that "He shall come again with glory to judge" the world and everyone on earth, to "render to every man according to his works" (Romans 2:6) of faith in Christ and His Gospel, his love expressed in good works, and in helping others, described as the "least," as explicit witnesses to the steadfastness of his faith in Him. In the Orthodox Church, the justification and salvation of man depends on the standard of "faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6).
THE THIRD PERSON OF THE HOLY TRINITY
The Orthodox Church believes "in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the Giver of life" (Nicene Creed). The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, Who proceeds from the Father only (cf. John 15:26). The Church firmly opposed the opinion that the Holy Spirit was created by the Son, and it pronounced the correct belief in the Nicene Creed at the Second Ecumenical Synod. The Orthodox Church does not use the phrase filioque, "and of the Son." According to the Scriptures, the Son Jesus Christ only sends the Holy Spirit in time, saying: "I will send unto you from the Father even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father" (John 15:26).
It is evident from the Scripture that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only; this was the belief from the very beginning of the One Undivided Church. When the church in the West inserted the "filioque" phrase into the Creed, this innovation precipitated the Great Schism of the Undivided Church. The "filioque" phrase is an error. It is not found in the Scripture. It was not believed by the Undivided Church for eight centuries, including the church in the West. It introduces a strange teaching of a double procession of the Holy Spirit and refers to two origins of the Spirit's existence, thus denying the unity of the Godhead.
Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7063