The Holy Trinity in the Catechism and Holloway

David Barrett FAITH Magazine September-October 2008 s
Fr David Barrett draws out the beauty of the Catechism’s presentation of the central doctrine of our faith, and of Fr Edward Holloway s developmental insights in his 1970 work Catholicism: A New Synthesis (Faith-Keyway Publications). This long but accessible piece was first given at the 2006 Faith Theological Symposium. Fr Barrett is a doctoral student at the Gregorian University, Rome, and a priest of Northampton diocese.

One of the striking features of the sections dedicated to the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) and Fr Holloway’s explanation in Catholicism: A New Synthesis (1972) is the relative brevity of both. Holloway begins to look at the doctrine specifically only in chapter 15 of Part 6 of his work and he does so after having shown the existence of God through examining evolution, looking at the spiritual nature of man and his relationship to God as Environer and the preparation for and advent of the Messiah, with the disaster of sin thrown in for good measure. The context in which he deals with the Trinity is that of Jesus Christ, Saviour and Redeemer, the Word Incarnate. The Catechism sets forth the Faith of the Church concerning the Trinity afterit has explained the notion of Faith; and it only commences its examination of the Trinity after it has looked at the Oneness of God, His uniqueness – the God who IS, the God who is merciful, who is Truth and Love.

In a sense, both the Catechism and Holloway are looking at this teaching from very different angles. However the one anchor that holds them together is of course Divine Revelation. Both root their explanations in the Incarnation. However, Holloway, as we shall see, also sheds light on the Doctrine through using human experience. In doing this he is not following the path of some Transcendental theologians who locate within graced human experience (and for them human experience is forever and always graced, and graced with the full measure of God’s self-communication) the content of Divine Revelation, which the categoricals of doctrine, dogma, liturgy and prayer seek to make explicit. Holloway’s approach is very different and is based on the more biblical and Augustinian understanding ofman as made in the image and likeness of God.

One further point is worth making. Both the Catechism and Holloway are peppered with other references to the Trinity throughout their pages. They show how the doctrine of the Trinity is more than just a theological treatise isolated in one part of their work, but that it dominates the life and liturgy of the Church because this is who God is, the God with whom we enter into communion, the God whom we praise.


Revelation: Source of Our Knowledge of the Trinity

The Catechism begins with Baptism. The three-fold questioning of Baptism is an indication of the constancy of the Church’s Faith in the Triune God. Quoting St Caesarius of Arles, it says, “The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity” (CCC 232). “It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith’” (CCC 234).

However because it is so central to the Faith, the Catechism also makes clear that this is “a mystery of faith in the strict sense” (CCC 237). Without direct Revelation, we could not have discovered this teaching through reason alone or even in what God revealed to Israel prior to the Incarnation. The Catechism does admit that traces of God’s Trinitarian being can be seen in creation and in the Old Testament revelation as well. However, none of these are enough to convey clearly what only an explicit communication from God could convey. Here the Catechism sees Revelation as more than just words or a message: it is deeds and words (“gesta et verba” in Dei Verbum 2), the whole Person of Christ in His life, death and resurrection. All of this is what conveys the Trinity:not just a doctrine but a communion of life, truth and love as well. Revelation in this sense is also dynamic: it is not just a disclosure of who God is but an invitation to man to participate in this life through the Church – beginning with Baptism.

Theologia and Oikonomia

The Catechism also mentions how the Fathers of the Church called the mystery of God’s inner life “theologia” and the works which He accomplished to reveal and give Himself as “oikonomia”. They showed that the theologia could only be revealed through the oikonomia. However, once known, the theologia also helps to shed light on the whole oikonomia (CCC 236). Here are the roots for the subsequent distinction of the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity.

Later in paragraphs 257-260, there is an explication of the meaning of this. It is worth noting paragraph 257 in full:

“ O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!” God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the “plan of his loving kindness,” conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: “He destined us in love to be his sons” and “to be conformed to the image of his Son,” through “the spirit of sonship.” (Eph1:4-5; Rom 8:15,29) This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,” (2 Tim 1:9-10) stemming immediately from Trinitarian love. It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission ofthe Church.
The whole oikonomia is conceived as one unique plan for the whole of creation. It is not an afterthought and it is always something to be done “in Christ Jesus” from before the foundation of the world. From our perspective, this is another indication of the rightness of the Greek-Scotist insight that the plan of salvation as culminating in the Incarnation is not determined by the agency of man or by the impact of sin. God’s will and His grace are always “prior” to us and never subjected to us. It is a course of action which is ultimately a plan of love, an economy of divinisation of humanity, whose origin is always in the Father and carried out through the Son.

All Actions the Work of the One Nature

The Catechism goes on to explain a key feature of Catholic doctrine. The whole economy is always the common work of the divine persons because they all share one nature alone and the nature is always the source of activity for any reality. There is only one operation. None can be separated from the other. At the same time the Catechism goes on to state that “each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property” (CCC 258). So it is the one God who creates all things, because creating is an activity and all activity is something that belongs to the one nature - yet each person is involved in this one Divine act in ways that spring from their unique personhood (and here all language is a little precarious!). In the same paragraph the Catechism quotesConstantinople II in this context: “one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are.” (Unus enim Deus et Pater, ex quo omnia; et unus Dominus Iesus Christus, per quem omnia; et unus Spiritus Sanctus, in quo omnia. DS 421)

What this seeks to do is to establish that although all are involved as one principle of operation in any of the acts of the economy (what is often dubbed actions ad extra by the scholastics), yet the actions also show properties that are best attributed to one Divine Person in particular. The Catechism says that the missions (ad extra!) of the Son’s Incarnation and of the giving of the Holy Spirit above all “show forth the properties of the divine persons” (CCC 258). In this sense therefore, although but one operation of Divine activity is involved it is only the Person who is the Son that becomes incarnate. All three Persons are not made incarnate. Yet they are evidently involved in a clearly attributable way in what is effected: the Incarnation has its origin in theFather who is always the one who sends the Son; it is the Son who becomes man and He does so through the working of the Holy Spirit who is the giver of life and the one “in whom all things are.” The Catechism makes the same point from another angle - from the perspective of the Christian. “Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him.” (CCC 259)

Incarnation: Why the Son?

Interestingly, the Catechism does not really explain why it should be the Son who should become incarnate, rather than the Father or the Holy Spirit. Assuredly there are indications: if the plan of salvation is for all to be drawn into communion of life with the origin and source of all things (God as Father) then it is more appropriate that this be carried out through the mediation of the one who mediates all things - the Son “through whom all things are”. After all, in the very theologia, as the Catechism says in 248, the procession of the Spirit takes place through the Son - and this “through” is not a passive mediation but an active one, based on the oneness of the nature shared by Father and Son. Hence although the Father is always the frst origin in the Trinity,yet at the same time (another loose use of words!) as He generates the Son He gives the Son all that He Himself is except actually being Father to the Son - that is His unique Personhood - and so the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son - “and the Son” taken in the sense that the Father is always origin but this originating power is also given to the Son. In this sense the through the Son” of Eastern Tradition makes more sense. It also shows that “through the Son” can never be seen as something passive but as a real active work attributable to the Son. From this perspective one could see why the Incarnation, through which God is communicated to man, needs to belong properly to the Person of the Son. The Catechism itself however does not draw theseconclusions - it is something that the readers must do for themselves. Fr Holloway, as we shall see, is interested in this question and gives his own argument as to why it is ftting for the work of the Incarnation to be a work of the Son.

The Fatherhood of God and Analogy

The Catechism roots the revelation of the Trinity most fully in the Incarnation. Yet it also shows that the Fatherhood of God is often confessed by other religions and that in Israel the Fatherhood of God is revealed through creation, through the Covenant, through the adoption by God of the king and through God’s loving care for the poor, the orphaned and the widow. None of this is the complete revelation of the Fatherhood of God in the Trinity. It points rather to God as origin of all and as transcendent authority and also as one who cares providentially for His creatures. The Catechism emphasises that although language about God’s fatherhood (and often this fatherhood is described with qualities pertaining to motherhood) is drawn from the human experience of parents, yet the truth ofthis insight, because its origin is in the work of progressive Revelation, has its origin in God. In this sense God transcends the normal characterisation of the sexes, of man and woman, of father and mother in the human sense. However transcendence does not mean that there is no relationship at all. Indeed, this is more than an analogy that is drawn from human experience and applied to God. In fact, parenthood and fatherhood in human existence are images of the perfection of what it means for God to be called Father. The Catechism puts this simply but brilliantly: “He is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.” (CCC 239)

This is important for us because it locates the origin of meaning not in our experience alone but in the very identity of God. Analogy in this sense is not some arbitrary imposition of human consciousness but the perception of the ways in which reality ultimately fows from God (i.e., it is created by Him actively, knowingly and wilfully) and in its meaning and structure reflects - often in a very partial way because it is marked by a finitude and a temporality which are part and parcel of what it means to be created - the infinite measure of God’s own Existence. He is the Fullness of all Meaning and knowledge. Created reality in varying degrees, depending on its place in the hierarchy of being, reflects that meaning in its own coherence of existence.

This was an important argument during the whole Arian crisis. For the Arians, as is often the case for some modern-day feminists, analogy was always arbitrary. In a sense they looked at the knowledge of God always from the subject, always from the human point of view, and they emphasised the creatureliness of human experience and knowing, indeed of all creation. Of course, we would not want to diminish this notion of creatureliness. However, what Arianism did was to put the emphasis in all language on its finitude, its imperfection, its lack of similarity to God. For them the imperfection of human language about God was so marked that it was very difficult to draw any real knowledge about God at all. Language about God could never convey any real meaning. Hence if Jesus calls God “Father”or Himself “Son”, these words could in no way mean that God was actually a real and true Father to a real and true Son. They had dislocated all the images of creation away from God and made Him an isolated fgure, whose dissimilarity to and separation from the rest of existence could only be emphasised.

The Catholics quickly realised that if this was true then no relationship with God is possible and that God’s revelation in Christ had effectively been thwarted through the inherent inability of human language to convey any meaning at all. Many modern-day feminists argue in the same way as the Arians. Language is (sinfully) sexualised and so all language about God, including that used by Jesus, is sexualised as well. Therefore we need to neutralise all language about God to get anywhere near any meaning about Him. However, they know they can only locate the sexualised nature of language within a broader critique which highlights the inability of language to convey any perennial meaning. After all, if there is a perennial meaning, then it is hard to see how Jesus’ use of the term “Father”can be devoid of meaning and can be discarded. It is interesting to note that in much feminist theology and much modern catechetics the tendency is to emphasis process rather than content; it is more important to tell a story than to communicate any clear truth. After all, we can never really grasp any truth but can only approach it in an adjectival way.

What the Catechism does is to follow the basic Catholic insight that although analogy has its limits because God is infnite, yet it is not useless because meaning is more than just our perception of possible patterns and structures; it has its origin in the Fullness of Meaning Himself and is a refection of the Mind from whom all things are and the Logos through whom all things are and the Joy in whom all things are fulflled. In this sense, the relationship of creation to God is not a dialectical opposition. That is the mistake of Arians, feminists and, this writer believes, some German theology - especially Rahner. Analogy’s usefulness and relevance has its origin in God himself and it is displayed in the organised and hierarchical manner in which the universe purposefully evolves, apurpose embraced by the Alpha and Omega of God Himself.

Revelation: The Missions From the Father of the Son and the Spirit

The Catechism goes on to show how the direct Revelation of the Trinity takes place. This is through the two missions - that of the Son and that of the Spirit. Both missions reveal to us both the oneness of God and also the reality and identity of the three Persons.

The Son’s mission reveals that “God is Father in an unheard-of sense” (CCC 240). He is truly and eternally Father of the Son. What characterises the deepest truth of their relationship is that one is Father to the Son and the other is Son to the Father. In this sense, God’s Fatherhood as explored earlier in the Catechism, in terms of His relationship as Creator and carer of all things, is radically different from the unique Fatherhood that Jesus reveals is His personal Origin in a unique and incomparable way. Here the relationship of Fatherhood to Sonship is personal and inheres in God’s personal identity from all eternity. It is not derived and has no beginning; it is unlike the Fatherhood of God with regard to creation which is characteristic of the creative and providential action ofthe whole Godhead towards created reality (i.e. the activities of ‘from’, ‘through’, and ‘in’). Yet seen in the light of the direct Revelation of the Trinity, it can be seen how this Fatherly creativity and care does have its origin in the Father Himself.

The Catechism uses the language of St John and St Paul (including Hebrews) in order to delineate more clearly the Revelation that takes place in the mission of the Son: He is the Word, the image of the invisible God, the radiance of the glory of God and the very stamp of His nature (CCC 241). All of this highlights the profound unity of Godhead that the Son has with the Father, while at the same time revealing the uniqueness of each Person. This fundamental oneness is emphasised by the language of the frst Council of Nicaea (325 AD) and used also by the frst Council of Constantinople (381 AD) which says that the Son is “consubstantial” with the Father - rendered not so decisively in our present translation of the Creed as “of one Being with the Father”. This oneness is still emphasisedwhen the Creed goes on to show how it is a real Person, a real Divine Person, who is begotten by the Person of the Father: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made.” All of these phrases show a real procession of a real Person who shares the same identical nature.

The mission of the Spirit in time reveals His eternal origin. “The Spirit is sent to the apostles and to the Church by both the Father in the name of the Son, and by the Son in person, once he had returned to the Father (cf. Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:14). The sending of the person of the Spirit after Jesus’ glorifcation (cf. Jn 7:39) reveals in its fullness the mystery of the Holy Trinity” (CCC 244). The way the Spirit is sent in time then gives the grounds for understanding who He is and how He proceeds within the Godhead. He proceeds as from His origin from the Father but at the same time He is truly from the Son as well, insofar as the Son is generated from the Father. He is as much God as Father and Son, and He too is “of the same substance” (“unius substantiae, unius quoque esse naturae”Toledo XI 675 AD - DS 527). The Catechism goes on to quote the Council of Florence (1439 AD) in paragraph 246: “He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration.” (DS 1300)

The word “spiration” is closely linked to the word “spirit” in its meaning as “breath”. Elsewhere the Catechism highlights the inseparability (though they remain distinct) of the Son and Spirit in the work of salvation by using the same concept: “When the Father sends His Word, He always sends His Breath.” (CCC 689) Indeed 683-744 of the Catechism can be proftably read to discover more deeply the identity of the Spirit who comes to unveil Christ ever more deeply. The Catechism’s description of His work in the one Divine Plan of God ties in beautifully with the Unity of the Master Plan that lies at the heart of Holloway’s vision:

The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation. But in these “end times,” ushered in by the Son’s redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognised and welcomed as a person. Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the frstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit: as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. (CCC 686)

Dogmatic Formulations

The Catechism also presents the various terms used by the Magisterium of the Church with regard to the Trinity (in particular substance/essence/nature, person/hypostasis and fnally relation) and also the various key points of doctrine that need always to be kept in mind. With regard to relation, the Catechism emphasises that the distinction of the three Persons “lies in the relationship of each to the others” (CCC 252). It goes on to articulate three important statements that we have already covered in one way or another. Firstly, “the Trinity is One” (CCC 253). Secondly, “the Divine Persons are really distinct from one another” (CCC 254). Thirdly, “the Divine Persons are relative to one another” (CCC 255).

For our purposes, the last point is worth emphasising. The Catechism says that the real distinction of the Persons comes about because of the real relations that each has to the other. As Toledo IX says, “In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both.” (DS 528) This suggests that the names or words used in Divine Revelation have a correspondence to reality that is valid and enduring. If the words and actions of Revelation, as enacted by Christ, do not have this validity it is hard to see how any teaching or action (this is particularly relevant with regard to the sacraments) cannot ultimately be surpassed or changed. Ultimately, the Arian/feminist dislocation of meaning from words results in either a remotenessof God which can never be accessed and whose gap no creature (not even the Logos creature of Arianism) can ever hope to bridge (i.e. Arianism); or it means an immanence of God who is one with creation and its articulation in such a way that every articulation of meaning can be surpassed by a further better one, as evolution/God evolves to a higher state of being. Either way none of these approaches to knowledge and reality really corresponds to the way in which we actually work, and the way in which reality is structured, as other symposium papers have discussed (Editor: See our September 2006 and May 2008 editorials). For Arianism/feminism all meaning is either inaccessible or too fuid to ever hold on to. This destroys not just the foundations of science and everydayliving but also the very heart of the Faith as revealed in both the Old Testament and the New. “I am with you for all time” -the words of Christ in Mt 28:20 can always be rendered as meaningless and so ineffective in such a view of reality.


I hope now to develop upon these Catechism themes through aspects of Edward Holloway’s insights in Catholicism: A New Synthesis.

The Trinity is Mystery

One of the things that Holloway is keen to emphasise is that the Trinity is indeed “Mystery”. As a result, the Trinity cannot be “proved” in the same way a scientist may prove something (p. 224). It can neither be demonstrated by looking at creation or the human mind; neither can it be fully delineated in exactitude. Indeed, like the Catechism, Holloway sees that the knowledge of the Trinity by man can only be granted through Revelation. In this sense, this is more than an unveiling of the fact of the Trinity. It is a real communication of who God is and an entry into a relationship of life, truth and love on the part of the created person, all of which is accomplished primarily by the act of God. In this sense the unveiling of the fact and the entry into relationship constitute the onlyway to begin to perceive, even to know, this fundamental Mystery. For Holloway, therefore, Mystery “does not mean incomprehensible, but ‘comprehensible till lost in the distance’.” (p. 227) It will involve a deepening of perception and knowledge that is accomplished through communion, doctrine, grace and prayer. In this sense the notion of “Mystery” should not be an impediment to the mind of man, especially those who demand rationality. Mystery is a fact of human knowledge and experience: it is embedded, for example, in the relationship of child to parents. The child’s deepening knowledge of the mystery of who his/her parents are depends on their revealing themselves and communicating themselves in a relationship of family communion. This is one of the reasons why the Trinity cannot beproved without God revealing Himself: the personal inner life of anyone can only be revealed partially by their works but only decisively and
most revealingly though their own definitive disclosure of themselves. In this sense, Holloway is showing that even Mystery has a certain reasonableness to it.

There is a further and more fundamental reason why Holloway sees the Doctrine of the Trinity to be something the human mind can neither alone arrive at nor fully delineate. It lies in the reality that God is Uncreated, utterly Necessary, Infinite and pure Act of Being. “Nobody could comprehend God without the experience of being God”(p. 223). To understand or grasp God fully means to be God. Indeed this is a key insight for Holloway’s doctrine of the Trinity. It also means that for man in the Beatifc Vision he will be given a share by charity in what God is by right - but never the right to it. He is divinised and sees God as He really is, but “there will always be left something above the comprehension of the creature” (p. 224). At the same time, the Beatific Vision is being preparedwithin us now by grace, the giving of God’s very Life, a real share in it which transforms us so that ultimately we are not just made like God but also “fulfilled like God” (p. 227). We will exist fulfilled as a gift from God in that same “Self-Relativity” in which God knows and rejoices in His Being.

Analogy Through the Human Being

God’s fullness of Existence, His very infinity of Act of Being and completeness, do not destroy the possibility of analogy for Holloway. Indeed the best analogy must be found in man who is made in the image and likeness of God. He is at pains to emphasise that this is analogy and “not a strict similarity” (p. 218). The created spirit is the best pathway to understanding the Mystery of God’s life, who is Himself Infinite and Uncreated Spirit.

One of the key hallmarks of man is his ability to engage in refection upon himself. This shows his spiritual and free nature: he is able to understand and know himself as “self”, to use the refexive pronoun, to form an understanding of himself as a knowing, personal being. It is here that Holloway begins to see a useful analogy for the Trinity.

He appeals for the reader - indeed any human being - to think about himself. For Holloway the reality of consciousness means that always and everywhere each person is “knowing myself”, even if not consciously thinking this. It is part and parcel of what it means to exist as spiritual. I am always aware of myself, I am always knowing myself. I cannot exist otherwise. To be as a spiritual creature entails a permanent presence to self which can never but be there. In this Holloway sees a procession within the human being of knowledge which is constitutive of whom I am. If I exist at all as a spiritual being I always exist as “I knowing myself”.

Holloway then goes on to say that from this flows, as equally constitutive of who and what we are as spiritual beings, a further procession. He says that the act of “self-reflexion” in man cannot just proceed according to knowledge alone: “it must of its very nature be completed in that to which it is of itself relative, it must cause within a man the self-assertion and self-procession of ‘I love myself” (p. 219). At first sight the reason for this next step may seem a little obscure. However it rests on the fact that in saying “I know myself” the creature then must also in knowing himself accept himself. There is a need for an acceptance of that knowledge, a welcoming of it, a possession of it in peace and joy and contentment. It is here that there is the procession of “loving myself”.In this sense too we can understand the commandment, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Within human consciousness there is always a sense of the goodness of one’s own existence (pace original sin) which is the basis of the sense of what rightly belongs to us, what makes us truly happy, what brings our existence to joyful fulfilment. Self-acceptance in the act of knowledge of self is indeed a loving of who and what I am.

Holloway sees this “basic self-contemplation and basic self-love” as essential to our nature, to man’s “existential definition” (p. 223). This means that this is fundamentally what a spiritual being is and what it does. It cannot prescind from this or deny this. In a sense these processions are “spirit-in-act” or spirit actually existing. For Holloway, a suicide always ultimately is an action that is seeking to recover or affirm a deeper love of self, a love of what should have been even though now seemingly thwarted, because life seems filled with an unhappiness that should not be there.

Thus the kernel of the analogy in human beings is “I know myself, and knowing love myself” (p. 219). The first procession of knowledge not only necessarily happens in a spiritual being but it must also happen first. The second procession of acceptance or love follows on from and through this because we can only love and accept something once we actually know it. Yet at the same time both the processions which result in two “myselfs” from the first “I” form a real unity within, indeed of my person. This is what constitutes the spiritual being: to truly know oneself and to have as a completion of this a true love of that self as known. As Holloway puts it, “It involves also ‘I’, ‘myself and again ‘myself in a threefold and different relativity, and in doing this it realises ‘me’ as me, itdoes not disintegrate but manifests the unity of my person.” (p. 220)

The Trinity Itself

For Holloway, the strength of this analogy is that it shows how spirit has as essential to its existence this threefold aspect (I, myself, myself) through the two faculties of knowledge and will. However, because the creature is finite, the processions within ourselves do not result in other persons. For even though we are able to know and love ourselves in these processions, it is always a finite grasp of who we are that we attain and never a complete grasp. We do not know ourselves completely because our existence is owed to others - to evolution, to parents and ultimately to God. In this sense, although the procession of “I knowing myself, loving myself, am” actually constitute our spiritual existence, there is a ‘more’ in this process which we never quite grasp - a more in terms ofour past (we are derived from others) and a more in terms of our future (there is more of our existence to be realised).

With God it is very different. It is the complete Actuality and eternity and infinity of God’s Existence that show the inadequacy of the analogy but at the same time help to enlighten us as well in what this means for God’s own Life. God is totally and fully fulfilled in Himself. He is in no way derived from another or defined towards another. In no way is a there any lack in His existence. This completeness does not entail a static Pure Act. It means a vitality and a life whose infinity is dynamic and forever exceeds all creaturely attempts to encapsulate. This completeness of God means that when God knows Himself we are not dealing with a finite faculty of self-knowledge as seen in the created spirit. God’s knowledge of Himself is one with His existence, with His immeasurable anduncircumscribed existence or Reality. His self-knowledge is therefore not something that He engages in at one particular moment rather than another. It is something that is forever who He is, what He is doing, in an analogous manner to the created spirit. But in God, when He knows Himself, when He expresses the content of who He is in a term of knowledge, this term must be as Real as He is if it is to express fully who He is as God. It must be fully all that He is, but also just as real as Himself as an Expression. This term of knowledge must express infinitely and eternally and fully who God is, while at the same time being diverse as Expression from the Original that it is expressing. Its diversity lies in the fact that it is an Expression - but everything else is there: infinity,eternity, Divinity, for only one who is God can truly and fully express who God is. And if God is to express who He is in knowledge then it will always be a full expression, involving all of His Divinity, as much Person as the Original, because only as Person can He fully express who God is, who the Original is. Anything else would be subordinate and so not-God. It is God’s nature as Necessary Existence, as Self-Subsistent Being that holds the key as to why the processions of knowledge and love in God “result” in Persons. The word ‘result’ is written with caution: there is no priority of moments in any temporal sense here, as if the Trinity is an emanation of the divine nature. This is who and what God is forever and always, as one Act. As Holloway puts it:

“ Only in Self-Relative Act can there be Self-Reflexive Terms which are Necessary and Subsistent Relativities, which are best named as ‘Persons’ in human language, and which again are much better reflected than in the language of technical theology by the titles of ‘the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (p. 222)

From this Divine Possession of Self as known, as expressed, there flows also for Holloway the Divine Possession of the Godhead as Joy or Fulfilment (cf. p. 222). In a similar argument to what has been presented so far, such a Divine Fulfilment of the Self Known and expressed will be a Joy that is more than just some subordinate reaction in God. It will be a fulfilment in the fullness of existence, a fulfilment in the Full Content of what it means to be God. As such, it too will need to be as fully Act as the Content to which it thrills. Once again the foundational principle holds true: “Nobody could comprehend God without the experience of being God” (p. 223). This could be rendered as, “Nobody can fully love God without the experience of being God.” “It is an Immanent Procession withinthe Being of God according to Love” (p. 222). In this sense this Third Person is the ‘fulfilment’ of the Father through the expression of himself as the Word or Son. In this way Holloway holds together the notion of the procession of the Spirit through the Son (the Greek approach) and that of the Spirit proceeding from Father and Son (the Latin approach), though he is clear that this latter procession is through one principle of spiration (or breathing forth). However he states, “More simple to say ‘from the Father, through the Son, as the Immanence of them both’.” (p. 223)

Holloway seeks to maintain the reality and diversity of the Divine Persons, while at the same time maintaining their one Act of Existence. The reality of the three Persons is the manner in which the Divine Being exists.

The Oikonomia

For Holloway, as for the Catechism, the Trinity is directly and fully involved in the work of creation which is the one plan of salvation. In particular, it is more fitting for the Son to become man. The work of the Incarnation is to reveal and communicate the whole Life of God in Person. As “the term by intellectual generation of God’s self-contemplation” (p. 228), it is the Son who is to embody or translate all that the ‘through’ of His Person within the Godhead entails. He it is who is best suited to reveal Who God truly is while at the same time being the Way by which humanity reaches its supernatural destiny in God.

However, the oikonomia is not just the work of one member of the Trinity. All are involved in it directly. Indeed by becoming man, the Son thereby reveals the Father and communicates Him. However, in terms of time, this communication is not completed until the Holy Spirit, who is the Joy of possession in the Trinity, is given to us so that He can lead us into the joy and love and perfection of relationship that the Father and Son have. Thus God’s action in the world will always express the theologia: the work will proceed from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. It is in this way that the work of God in history will always be the common work of the Trinity. Holloway applies this to the Redemption which he sees as “a work accomplished by Christ unto theFather, in the love of the Holy Spirit, and this mutual relationship is to be found in all the works of God ad extra.(p. 231)

Holloway goes on to wonder in what way should a work ad extra which is appropriated to one Person in the Trinity not be proper in the same way to the other Persons. He emphasises that the taking on of a human nature is obviously something proper only to the Son: only He is made incarnate. Holloway does not want the roles of the members of the Trinity to be diminished because the acts are always those of the one God. He seems to argue that the appropriations must have some real relevance to the Persons. Thus the Father has a special work as creator of all things and as sender of the Son.

The Son as Man expresses a real relationship of Sonship to the real Father who sent Him. The Holy Spirit has a special office attributed to Him from Pentecost onwards in relation to the life of the Church, handing on the content of the Revelation made by the Father through the Incarnate Son.

Nevertheless, Holloway insists that the works of God ad extra are indeed common to the Person as of the Blessed Trinity as a whole. He says that this is because their temporal Mission follows on from their Eternal mission. Is he trying to have his cake and eat it? Perhaps, but perhaps only with the Trinity is such a thing possible!


In a way, Holloway admits that words fail us in considering this mystery. After all, human beings “are not big enough in being to take in all that is meant by ‘God’, not with entire clarity” (p. 224). As quoted earlier, “Nobody could comprehend God without the experience of being God” (p. 223). In a sense this is the key not only to understanding something of the Trinity (what grounds the “possibility” for the Trinity is that the One who understands or expresses God must be God) but also to why its full meaning is beyond us. Once again our knowledge is partial and our expression is poor. Fr Holloway ends his chapter on the Trinity in similar vein: “Perhaps what we want to say can best be summed up, if it is necessary to be extremely brief (!), in the first fourteen verses of the epistleof St Paul to the Ephesians.” (p. 232)

“ Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

“ He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

“ In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.

“ For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

“ In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory.

“ In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Faith Magazine

September - October 2008