legitimate complementarity, provided it does not become rigid, does not
affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed.
The formation of the Trinitarian dogma
From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity
has been at the very root of the Church’s living faith, principally
bymeans of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal
faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis, and prayer of the
Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic
writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
During the first centuries the Church sought to clarify its
Trinitarian faith, both to deepen its own understanding of the faith
and to defend it against the errors that were deforming it. This
clarification was the work of the early councils, aided by the
theological work of the Church Fathers and sustained by the
Christian people’s sense of the faith.
In order to articulate the dogma of the Trinity, the Church had to
develop its own terminologywith the help of certain notions of philosophi
cal origin: “substance,” “person” or “hypostasis,” “relation,” and so on. In
doing this, she did not submit the faith to human wisdom, but gave a new
and unprecedented meaning to these terms, which from then on would be
used to signify an ineffable mystery, “infinitely beyond all that we can
The Church uses (I) the term “substance” (rendered also
at times by “essence” or “nature”) to designate the divine being in
its unity, (II) the term “person” or “hypostasis” to designate the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them,
and (III) the term “relation” to designate the fact that their distinc-
tion lies in the relationship of each to the others.
The dogma of the Holy Trinity
The Trinity is One.
We do not confess three Gods, but one
God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity.”
persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each
82 Paul VI,
83 Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 421.