BY APOSTOLOS MAKRAKIS
In the Godhead are found three persons, three individual substances (hypostases), but there is one essence and one nature: one in three and three in one, a Holy Trinity which is co-essential and inseparable. God the Father exists of Himself and possesses in Himself the reason for His existence – He exists without external agency. However, not all of the persons of the Godhead exist of themselves in this manner.
The persons are differentiated by their names, for one is called the Father, the second is called the Son, and the third is called the Holy Spirit. The Father exists of Himself because He possesses within Himself the reason for His existence. The Son and the Holy Spirit, however, are not persons who exist of themselves, for the reason for their existence lies not in themselves, but in the Father. If the Father did not exist, neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit would exist, for they both receive their existence from the Father.
Each person is a separately existing being. Each is a person and a substance (hypostasis), a spiritual being, a free individual with his own existence and reality, and his own character. Thus there is no confusion of one personality with another, but each is a being with the quality of perfect thought and will, a logical and free existence. In the one essence of God there exists a trinity of persons, a trinity of beings, distinct, but simultaneously united.
They are distinct concerning the special character which each of them possesses, and yet united concerning the attributes of the nature which they all share. The Father is only Father and not Son. The same also is true of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. However, if they are differentiated by their substances (hypostases), they are united by their essence and nature, because the divine nature is common to the three persons. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet they are not three gods of different essences, but one God in three coessential persons.
The Father is the principal reality, being sufficient in Himself and existing of Himself, neither created nor begotten, nor proceeding from any other. He is a person, able to beget and capable of causing other persons to proceed from Him, and of creating them. The Father is being itself and the first cause from which the other two persons, the Son and the Holy Spirit, derive being. Therefore, even the name Father signifies the one who is and is able to bring forth beings from Himself. The Father, then, is the life-giving cause of the other two persons.
The Father is the first person. He is the Lord. He is almighty God, who is called Sabbaoth, Adonai, Jehovah, and “He Who Is.” He is greatest of all, because He is the first. As Christ said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). The Father has life in abundance and, as Christ said of Him, has life in Himself. “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Again, “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall Jive by me” (John 6:57).
Moreover, the Father is full of knowledge, thus: ” … for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:32). And ” … no man knoweth the Son, but the Father … “ (Matthew 11:27). The Father possesses will and is full of love. Of this Christ said, “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matthew 11:26); and, “For I came down from Heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38); and again, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son … “(John 3:16).
The Father is full of might and the power of activity: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). “My Father … is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Such is the evidence that Christ bore of the Father, and through what He said, we know that the Father is the greatest of all, because He is the one from whom everything sprang, as St. Paul also taught.
The Son of God is the second person. The Son has His origin in the Father who is the cause of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but the Father is without cause. He inherits the Father’s essence, because He is begotten of the Father, light of light, true God of true God, begotten of the essence of God the Father before all ages-eternally, outside time, without passion.
The Son is called God, even as the Father. According to the psalmist, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand … “ (Psalms 109:1: LXX). The devout prophet Isaiah acknowledged and hailed the Son of God as “angel of great counsel, wonderful counselor, mighty God, Lord and master, prince of peace, Father of the age to come” (Isaiah 9:6 and other passages).
The Son of God, Jesus Christ, also possesses abundance and perfection of life. Said He: “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself’ (John 5:26), and ” … I live by the Father … “ (John 6:57). ” … No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).
The Son possesses will and is full of true love. Said Jesus: “I have power to lay it” (my life) “down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do” (John 14:31). “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love” (John 15:9).
Finally, Christ is possessed of perfect might and the power of activity. He Himself revealed: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). ” … Neither shall any man pluck them” (the sheep) “out of my hand” (John 10:28). The Son of God possesses all that the Father has, except the source of being and existence that has no cause other than itself. Only the Father has this, and it cannot be taken away from Him, nor can it be imparted to others. The Father has absolute being and is the cause of the existence of the Son and of the existence of the Holy Spirit.
Three beings or modes of existence may be discerned in the Holy Trinity, but only one being, the being of the Father, is absolute. The other two beings are dependent upon the being of the Father. They are not absolute, nor do they exist of themselves. If the Father were not in existence, neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit could exist.
Such, then, is the personal substance (hypostasis) of the Son, which has being eternally by generation from the essence of God the Father. For God the Father begat God the Son, outside time, without variation, in perfection, from His own essence which is in itself complete and perfect. He is called the only begotten Son of God because He is begotten as the only Son from the only Father, and because the perfect essence of God begets one perfect Son, one from one, perfect from perfect, equal from equal.
The Holy Spirit is the third person. He is called the Paraclete and the life-giving Spirit, because He is capable of creating life and is able to comfort and strengthen our souls. He is called God and Lord, just as the Father and the Son are called. The essence of the Holy Spirit has its origin and cause in the essence of the Father. but this does not beget the essence of the Spirit, rather it causes it to proceed. What is affirmed as true of God the Father and God the Son, also is affirmed of God the Holy Spirit, except for fatherhood and sonship, because the Holy Spirit is neither Father nor Son.
The Spirit is full of knowledge. That is why Holy Scripture bears witness of Him thusly: ”. . . the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:11). Then too, as a person distinct from the Father and the Son, He possesses will: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (Acts 15:28). According to St. Paul, ” … all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (I Corinthians 12: 11).
Moreover, the Holy Spirit has the power of activity and might. “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit … “ (I Corinthians 12:8,9). In general, the Holy Spirit regenerates, teaches, leads into all truth, comforts, appoints bishops, speaks through the prophets, enlightens, and hallows every man who believes in God and in Christ whom God sent as savior.
Such is the personal substance (hypostasis) of the Holy Spirit. He is distinct from the two other persons because the essence of the Father is without cause – with no generation from anyone and proceeding from no one, while the essence of the Son is begotten of the Father alone, and the essence of the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone – and not from the Son also, as the papists blasphemously dogmatized. The procession of the Holy Spirit is eternal in that it is perpetual.
It is noted, then, that in the one essence of the one God, there exist three substances (hypostases), three persons, and three beings, united in essence, but separate and distinct according to substance (hypostasis), person, and being. There are three existences as persons, but one existence in essence and unity.
There are three wills in three substances (hypostases), but one will in the one essence. There are three in one and one in three. The number three relates to the number of persons and their personal or individual substances (hypostases), whereas the one signifies the one essence and one nature of God.
The relationship between the Father and the Son is that of begetting and of being begotten. The relationship between the Father and the Holy Spirit is that of projecting and of proceeding. Just as the cosmic sun projects its rays and brilliance, so too, the heavenly Father projects His eternal Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and rests upon the Son. The Father is the cause of the existence both of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Son is the cause of the knowledge and mental picture of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the cause of the life of both.
These three sources in the Godhead, the fount of eternal knowledge and the fount of eternal life, are three sources, distinct in person and substance (hypostasis), but united and undivided by a common nature in one essence. Such is the knowledge of the Holy Trinity which we obtain from Holy Scripture when we seek the knowledge of God.
Those who in their imagination picture God as a single person only, fabricate a God who is false and non-existent, for they think along lines entirely opposite to the unerring teaching of Christ. In Orthodox theology, God is one, but one in three persons and substances (hypostases)-the Father from whom are all things, the Son through whom are all things, and the Holy Spirit in whom are all things. Anyone who does not believe correctly in the great truth of the Holy Trinity, cannot be a Christian, as shall be demonstrated hereafter.