The Moral Relationship of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity

When we examined the relationship which exists by nature among the persons of the Holy Trinity, we stated the need to examine their moral relationship also, because they are free, rational persons. possessing liberty in thought and will, and forming a moral unity. What is their moral relationship? Firstly, we must determine what comprises a moral relationship, and where it may exist.

The reciprocal union of two or more persons through duties and mutual rights, strictly observed. is a moral relationship. This relationship comes into existence between persons who are free and capable of reasoning, but it has no place in any being or event where there is no act of decision or freedom.

In the Godhead, one finds relationships both by nature and by morality. The relationship by nature involves the natural generation of the Son, which occurs in eternity from the eternally existing Father, and the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit.

The moral relationship concerns the moral dependence and relationship of the Son and the Spirit with the Father, and of the Father with both – with the Son and with the Holy Spirit. The moral relationship that exists among the three persons of the Holy Trinity is the prototype of the moral relationship of all free persons. This is the relationship that all free persons should seek to emulate.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three perfect persons-co-essential, held in equal honour, equally rational, and equally free. Among them there exist moral relationships; among them they have duties and rights by which they are bound together morally. Of what does this relationship consist?

The Father makes an act of will and His will is identical with the will of the Son and of the Spirit. The Father makes an act of will that is in harmony with His Logos, a benevolent will, completely in harmony with the will of the Son and of the Spirit. The Son accepts this decision of the Father and the Spirit implements it. because it is a joint act of will which all three persons make. The Father thinks and wills, but both His thoughts and His acts of will are also the thoughts and acts of will of the two other equally divine persons, who are free both to think the thoughts and to make the decisions.

The Logos and the Spirit act as arms for the Father; they are the Father’s two hands. With the aid of these two hands, God the Father accomplishes everything. The explanation is that as our soul, our will, performs its work through the agency of the hands and is powerless to do anything without them, so too, the Father performs His work through the Son and the Spirit, and through them has the power and the ability. It is to our will that our hands submit, but this obedience is natural and physical, not moral. Yet to the will of the Father, the Son and the Spirit submit, but this obedience is moral, because it is given freely.

Each person performs His own function. Yet in the will of the three persons, the same motives may be observed. The Father loves His Son with a perfect love, and this love is returned by the Son in the same perfect measure. The Son is obedient to the will of the Father, and carries out His Father’s beneficent will which is also His will. Then the Holy Spirit, as the executive force, carries out the will of God the Father, which is the will both of the Son and of the Spirit. Out of this joint activity of the three persons is born righteousness, and righteousness is the supreme virtue which springs from the close moral relationship among the three persons and from their harmonious action directed toward what is right and proper.

Righteousness consists of the observance of the duties and rights which right reason, as well as the law, enjoins. God is righteous, because He allots to each his duty. If God were not God in three persons, He would not be righteous, because righteousness in assigning duties may be observed only between two or more persons.

The Son acknowledges His Father as His source and is conscious that He is “. . . the brightness of his” (God’s) “glory, and the express image of his person . . .” (Hebrews 1 :3). Conscious of Himself as the natural offspring of the greatest essence of all, the Father, He is obedient to the Father’s beneficent will, and complies with His decisions. He wills what the Father also wills. He loves what the Father also loves, and hates what the Father also hates. The Father knows His own Son, as He is known by Him. He loves Him as He is loved by him, and fulfills all the decisions of His Son, because He knows that they are in harmony with His own beneficent will, since the Son cannot seek the opposite of what the Father wishes and decides.

The Father is allied closely to His Son in a single will. The two wills become one will, because both make the same act of will and both take the same decision. Moreover, they also are united in one thought process. This happens because the two thought processes become one, for both think identically, and what they think about, they also decide upon.

The Holy Spirit is conscious of the fact that He has the Father as His source and origin, and that He rests on the Son. Consequently, He loves the Father as His natural cause, for He proceeds from Him eternally. He loves the Son, too, as His eternal place of rest, for He rests upon the Son eternally.  He loves both even as He is loved and held in affection by both.

The love that reigns in the will of the three persons is perfect and ineffable. God is full of love; He is love itself. That is why St. John the Theologian wrote, “God is love” (I John 4:8). But if God were not God in three persons, He would not possess love, for love is to be seen between two or more persons.

 Not only does righteousness presuppose the existence of a triune God, but also love presupposes the very same thing. Those who deny that God is a trinity deny the existence both of absolute righteousness and of absolute love. Those who deny the existence of absolute righteousness and love, deny the existence of a universal and absolute law, and make a god of caprice and kismet.

The Holy Spirit thinks and wills just as the Father and the Son. He loves what must be loved by the first two persons, and He hates what must be hated by them. He is one with the thought and will of the two other persons and does not seek the opposite of what the Father and the Son propose. The three persons think one thought and will one intent. Consequently, they have one thought process and one will. Nevertheless, the thought process and the will are in accord with the beneficent nature of God and are in harmony with the universal reason and law by which God acts and reigns.

Therefore, a moral equality exists among the three persons because they act and operate on equal terms – not capriciously, but in accord with orthos logos and the absolute, universal law. This equality is absolute and presupposes the existence of God, one in three persons. Hence righteousness, love, and equality spring from the God of truth – from the God whom Orthodox Christian worship.

Absolute freedom also is seen in the Holy Trinity. The explanation of this is that each of the three persons fulfills his own function freely and willingly, without being coerced in any way by another. Then again, since perfect morality reigns in the Godhead, because God is the absolute and perfect good, therefore, in whatever He wills and creates, God always wills and creates the good. For His criterion is His beneficent nature, and this is the absolute law by which God acts and works and wills. In doing good freely and willingly, in harmony with His beneficent nature, God demonstrates His freedom which consists of arriving at a good decision and willingly working for the good.

If in the Godhead a universal and absolute law regulating God’s will and activity did not exist, God would be an arbitrary force, lacking in charity, oppressive, and destructive. Consequently, there would be no place for freedom in the Godhead, nor for any of the other virtues by which God’s beneficent will is enhanced. By this, God clearly is revealed as being morally perfect.

From the moral relationship which exists among the three persons in the Godhead spring these perfect virtues:

  1. Righteousness;
  2. Love;
  3. Equality;
  4. Freedom or freedom of action.

These are absolute virtues inasmuch as they are the virtues of absolute being. Yet generally speaking, every other virtue also has its source in the perfect, beneficent will of God, from which comes perfect morality. Creation is nothing but the revelation of the virtues of God, of His righteousness, and of His love. The moral unity of the Holy Trinity is the mirror of the unity of mankind.

Before His precious death and passion, Christ indicated our moral unity with and our likeness to the Holy Trinity in His prayer to the heavenly Father, in these sublime words:

“. . . That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:21-23).

When we become righteous in our relationships with one another, when we love one another, as the heavenly Father loves His Son and His Spirit and in turn is loved by them, when we acknowledge God’s law and all equally submit to it, and become morally free through our obedience to God’s law – as we act according to this most excellent law – then we also shall realize our moral unity with God. Then we shall become one with God morally, for we shall think what is thought by God, and we shall promote and effect that which the Holy Trinity, our true God, promotes and effects. Then we shall be morally perfect.

The Holy Trinity is the measure of our moral unity, and toward this the Church strives. The foundation of this moral unity is love. There is nothing greater than Christian love, the love which is seen in the Holy Trinity. Everything is achieved when love exists, and everything is destroyed without love. To this end our Father implanted the warmth of love in us, because according to the Son’s loving word, God is love. “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him,” wrote St. John (I John 4:16). The Theanthropos Jesus Christ recommended love toward one another when He declared, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

Indeed, dearest Saviour, Thou didst speak truly and truly didst Thou define holy love as the distinctive mark of Thy disciples – the feeling of affection and sympathy for all mankind, the love of everything beautiful and good, the spiritual tenderness toward the brethren, the pure and holy driving force behind every moral action, the mainspring of perfect morality.

God is love and whoever believes in the true God and listens to the teaching of the Son of love, must be wholly and entirely love. The love that comes down from the Holy Trinity finds the heart of the believer in Christ. Nothing else can exalt man and offer him before the throne of eternal love, for it is only love, which is a moral force, that attracts the will of God to the will of man, and the will of man to the will of God.

The kingdom of the Holy Trinity is a kingdom of true love. In this kingdom the Holy Trinity is supreme in everything. For the Holy Trinity, the spur to every action and deed is love. Whoever believes in the Holy Trinity cannot be other than a dwelling place of love. All the duties that govern the moral relationship of the three persons in the Holy Trinity are summarized in the duty of love; in love they possess the spur to the performance of their duties. Consequently, our saviour, the Theanthropos, who revealed love to the world, gave us just one commandment of love for God and for our neighbour.

The words of the Theanthropos were: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27). Upon the perfect love among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all moral relationships are founded – eternal, unchanging, and unchanged forever. Upon love the perfect morality of God is founded, and after this the human will also strives, with the free will of God acting upon it.

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