The second session of The Way that was held on 2 September focused on God the Holy Trinity as the ‘Lover of Mankind’. The talk was given by Father Demetrios Bathrellos who began by noting that the doctrine of the Trinity is often seen as confusing and difficult. Yet, the question of God is the single most important question that we can ask, and the answer that we give to it determines our present and our future.
Believe in God is difficult for some people today. God does not impose His presence and we need eyes of faith to see Him. Moreover, people also have false ideas of God and so we also need to understand what the Christian Church understands when it speaks of God.
We believe that there is one God. But God is not impersonal; rather, He is three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These persons are not part of God but are fully God; they are distinct, but never divided from one another.
Therefore from the beginning, in His very being, God is personal and relates in love. He is a God of love, a God of love and communion. It is this love that comes down to us, and in which we are called to share.
The Fathers of the Church and the Ecumenical Councils used the terms ‘nature’ and ‘essence’ to refer to the oneness of God and the terms ‘person’ and ‘hypostasis’ to refer to the persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The former signifies what somebody is, whereas the latter signifies who
We can know God because He has revealed Himself out of love. He reveals Himself through creation, through human rationality, and through our conscience. However, our alienation from God has obscured our spiritual vision so that we may find it difficult to ‘see’ God, or even to believe that He exists. Therefore God chose to reveal Himself to the people of Israel, even though this was still in a partial way. His final and complete revelation occurred
when God the Father sent His Son in the Spirit to become man. We know God in Jesus Christ. No one has access to God the Father except through the Son [cf. John 14:6]. Great efforts have been made by religions and philosophers to conceive God and relate with Him. They are not always fully wrong, but they are at best incomplete, unsatisfactory, and misleading. They mainly represent man’s effort to reach the heavens. But even the most skilful and well-trained human being cannot jump that high.
We know God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ lives and acts in the Church, which Saint Paul call’s the Body of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit He removes our spiritual blindness so that we can see reality as it really is.
Having a reliable knowledge of God is of great importance, for our view of God shapes our own identity. Our knowledge of God is not simply theoretical, but is also a result of our communion and relationship with Him. However, our knowledge of God is not exhaustive and can never be fully expressed in language, and this stops us reducing God to an idol who we can fully understand.
We know that God is love, and this is true not only of the relationship of love that exists between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but it is also true of God’s relationship with us. God is the ‘Lover of Mankind’.
Father Bathrellos discussed several characteristics of God’s love. It is a free and creative love that respects our personhood and wants to give us life full of life, joy, peace and love. It is immeasurable and unconditional, totally unselfish and forgiving. He recalled the example of the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) which shows us how God always treats us as His children. God’s love is personal, caring and providential, but it also respects our freedom and God does not impose His love on us. It is also a teaching and correcting love and is not devoid of justice. It is a loving justice that permits those who have rejected Him to be separated from Him.
God’s love is humble and sacrificial and we see this in the way He took on human flesh and became what we are in order to make us what He is.
He died on the cross out of love for His executioners too, whom He had forgiven. Yet His perfect and sacrificial love proved eventually victorious. It brought about life. It led to the resurrection and opened the doors of everlasting life to the whole world.
The question can be raised of where God is when we suffer. How can He allow suffering in the world.
Suffering came as a result of misused human freedom and much, although not all, suffering is the result of human freedom. For Christians, God’s involvement in our suffering is that
Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross. Although He alone was sinless, innocent and holy, He shared our suffering to the full. For our sins He paid the price.
We may experience much suffering, but God is with us when we suffer. We can endure the Cross because we know that God is with us, and ultimately we need to see the Cross in the light of the Resurrection. “Likewise, only in the Kingdom of God will the mystery of human pain and suffering be fully understood and answered.”