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19-3 Orthodox Christianity in Bulgaria - The Persons Of The Trinity (Nedelno Uchilishte) - Day 3




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This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev radev@tune.cs.columbia.edu with numerous contributions by others.

19-3 Orthodox Christianity in Bulgaria - The Persons Of The Trinity (Nedelno Uchilishte) - Day 3


NEDELNO UCHILISHTE - DAY 3

THE PERSONS OF THE TRINITY

(I believe) IN ONE GOD...

The first section of the Creed deals with the object of
the Orthodox religious worship - the Holy Trinity, who has
revealed to mankind His presence and role in the history of
the nations, as well as in the personal lives of millions of
people.

All religions worship some sort of a divine Person, or
Being, or Essence. Some tend to depersonalize the Godhead
and often talk about the Spirit of Nature, or the Spirit of
the Universe, who has not any aspects, similar to the Man's
personality. This group of religions constitute the
pantheism, the "all-is-God" view, associated mainly with the
religious systems of Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. The religious
experience for them can be very strong, even ecstatic, but
never personal, i.e. promoting the individual uniqueness and
the person-to-person relation with God.

For us Christians God is doubtlessly a Person, although
not in the same sense in which man is a person. The
psychological sciences have achieved a lot to explain the
process of the formation of individuality and personality in
Man; obviously, this process has a lot to do with the
external influences (from the parents or the society). This
is not the case with God. His Person has never been formed
and is not a subject to any change or development (because
God exists beyond Space and Time). More importantly, He has
a Being-in-Himself, that is, he does not owe His existence
to an external cause, as we all do; He is self-sufficient in
His Divinity.

The problem of the Person of God is one of the most
difficult to understand. One of the reasons for this is that
it is very much related with the problem of the Essence of
God, which is beyond any human understanding. The other
reason is the fact that we, having been granted human
personalities by God, often tend to "create" a God of our
own "image and likeness". No matter how tempting this may
seem, it has ever to be avoided by the true seekers. The
anthropocentricity, as this is called, can be overcome only
by a real personal relation with God; a relation dominated
not by pride, but by humiliation and an honest desire to
know God better, which is a natural desire, implanted in
every man's soul, no matter how distorted it may be.

The detailed history of God's revelation as One God
(opposed to the polytheism of most of the nations at that
time) is to be found throughout the books of the Old
Testament, since the very first page.

...THE FATHER...

Now probably some people may think: "Well, if that is
not anthropomorphism (ascribing aspects of the human nature
to God), then I don't know what is". Calling the Godhead "a
Father", and therefore ascribing to it human
characteristics, may seem strange and primitive.

Actually there are a lot of reasons for calling God
"Father". First, our relationship with Him is very much like
a fatherhood and a sonhood, as He is our Creator and we owe
Him our existence. Second, the love of a father for his
children is an image of God's love for every individual of
mankind. There are also many other theological arguments for
this name. But, above all, God Himself is calling us His
sons and Jesus referred to Him as "Father".

It has been become a fashion recently for some groups
to talk about the "feminine aspect of God" and to address
Him by other names. But for an Orthodox Christian, it is
clear that God is above any sexuality and gender;
nevertheless He Himself has taught us to address Him as
Father. Sometimes, especially in the spiritual matters,
obedience is more important than understanding and
understanding of a spiritual truth comes after a certain
period of obedience.

Also, the Father is the name of one of the three
Persons (hypostaseis) of the Godhead, the other two being
the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. The relation
between God's unity and diversity at the same time will be
examined later.

...ALMIGHTY, MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, AND OF ALL THINGS
VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE.

These are words, referring to some of the attributes of
God. He is almighty, (omnipotent; in Slavonic: Vsederzhitel)
that is, His powers and abilities transcend any human
imagination or understanding. The omnipotence of God's
divine nature expresses itself in the creation of the world,
that is, the Universe. "Heaven and Earth" does not
necessarily mean the physical sky and the planet Earth; it
includes the whole Nature, the Cosmos, all dimensions,
planets, stars and aspects of the material being, both known
and unknown to Man. The things which are "visible" are the
realities of the physical Universe, while "invisible" refers
to the spiritual realities (for example, the angelic
powers).

The act of Creation is one of the ultimate self-
expressions of God. Not that He needs such self-expression,
but because it is a sign of His Divine Love. ("God is Love",
the Gospel says, and through Love we find Him. Therefore,
Christians view this world as an enigmatic signature of God;
by exploring the material aspects of Nature many scientists
have come to a greater faith in God - such as Isaac Newton,
for example.)

VOCABULARY: Omnipotence - the unlimited and unconditional
powers and abilities of God to dispose of His own creation.
Omnipresence (vezdesushtnost) - God is not "living"
somewhere beyond the borders of the known Universe and
actually He is not occupying any particular space at any
particular time. Being above the dimensions, He is at the
same time ever-present in all of them, everywhere and all
the time. Being a "Superperson" He is also able to relate to
each and everyone of all the human beings, without
neglecting anybody and fully present any time we call on His
holy name.

Angelic powers - spiritual beings, created before the
first men, which do not possess material shape or nature and
only occasionally can appear as visible messengers of God.
The angelic powers are not completely revealed to us; we
know very little of them. But the Scripture makes it quite
clear that: 1) they exist; 2) part of them have turned away
from God, using their free will for disobedience; they are
called demons; 3) there are multitudes of them and they form
a certain hierarchy (the Orthodox church formally agrees on
seven angelic ranks, although for some of them virtually
nothing is known, except that they are mentioned in the
Scripture.) It should be pointed out, that knowledge about
the teaching of the Church on the angelic powers is
extremely important today, when many people speculate with
the spiritual hunger of the people and claim to be in
contact with spirits, extraterrestrials, angels, etc. The
Church has been dealing with such "paranormal" cases for
centuries and has worked out many rules for our proper
relation to such phenomena.

 

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