In the very early Biblical accounts of the creation of mankind in the Book of Genesis, among the first Divine Words uttered are found, “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness (Gn1:26). It is curious indeed that the Jews who firmly believed and heroically defended that there was but one God should here preserve the Scriptural reference to God as plural: “Let us make man…” Polytheism was taboo, verboten, even blasphemous within Jewish circles. This use of the plural pronoun “us” here and also during the Tower of Babel incident (“Come, let us go down and there confuse their language…Gn. 11:7”) might just illustrate how truly ancient these Scriptural lines truly are. They predate the later Hebrew faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and especially that of Moses who solemnly insisted to the Jews: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one! (Deut.6:4)” Scripture scholars do note that in the ancient Near East, and sometimes in the Bible, God was imagined as presiding over an assembly of heavenly beings who deliberated and decided about matters on earth. The New American Bible cites references along this line in First Kings, Isaiah, the Psalms and Job. For example, Psalm 89:8 envisions “a God dreaded in the council of the holy ones, greater and more awesome than all those around him!” While Israel’s God was always considered as “Most High” over these other heavenly beings, it is, none the less, quite interesting that very ancient mankind envisioned heaven as some sort of assembly.
It would be too much of a jump to associate the use of a plural pronoun in these ancient texts with the much later Christian belief in the Holy Trinity revealed to mankind through Jesus Christ. Still, the instinct for community life is so innate among humankind that pre-Jewish and pre-Christian early believers might be forgiven for finding mankind’s noblest trait — community life — in God Himself.
Particular references to the Holy Trinity within the New Testament are infrequent, especially when one considers how foundational this belief is to Christianity. There are Trinitarian indications at the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit, the Most High, and the Son of God are clearly mentioned by the angel: “And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God (Lk1:35).” The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are mentioned by Matthew, Mark and Luke at the baptism of Christ at the Jordan River. The Son is baptized, the voice of the Father speaks, and the Spirit descends. St. Paul happily unites the Divine Persons in a single breath: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2Cor.13:14).”
But consider especially the final words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (28:19).” Here, Baptism is appreciated as the means of entrance into the earthly community of the risen Christ, the Church. These clear Trinitarian words possibly reflect the Baptismal liturgy as celebrated in St. Matthew’s local church community. But Baptism also is prized as the instrument through which believers enter into the heavenly community of God Himself, the eternal union of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism’s earthly results are certainly communitarian: the Church is formed. Baptism’s heavenly results must also be appreciated as communitarian — sharing in the community life of the Holy Trinity.
Whether it be the ancient musings of primitive peoples or the organizational maneuvers of the early Church or the very life of God Himself, communal action is at the heart of all these enterprises. Human nature, Church founders, and the Divine Essence all bear witness to the fundamental importance of interaction between and among persons. “God is love,” St. John succinctly and insightfully writes. Yes, God is indeed love. God is the interaction of three Persons intimately sharing their Divine personalities through a common Divine nature. And God’s Church must be love as well. Each believer generously sharing his or her own person with God and with the neighbor is at the core of Christianity. And even human nature in its most basic manifestation, the family, is a tribute to love. Dad, mom and the kids are certainly a Divinely intended reflection of the heavenly Trinity. Man is, after all, made in God’s image and God’s likeness.
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