Difficulties understanding the Holy Trinity


The great Doctor of the Church St. Augustine of Hippo spent over 30 years working on his treatise De Trinitate [about the Holy Trinity], endeavoring to conceive an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity.

He was walking by the seashore one day contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand.

The Bishop of Hippo approached him and asked, “My boy, what are doing?”

“I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied with a sweet smile.

“But that is impossible, my dear child, the hole cannot contain all that water” said Augustine.

The boy paused in his work, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

The Saint was absorbed by such a keen response from that child, and turned his eyes from him for a short while. When he glanced down to ask him something else, the boy had vanished.

Some say that it was an Angel sent by God to teach Augustine a lesson on pride in learning. Others affirm it was the Christ Child Himself who appeared to the Saint to remind him of the limits of human understanding before the great mysteries of our Faith.



Jesus is fully God and fully man. He prayed in his humanity.

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three persons in one God. He prayed to the Father. The Father is not the Son.

Because he has a covenant with his people.

Jesus came to save all people.


All analogies for the Trinity will inevitably end up confessing some kind of old heresy.

Shamrock = “partialism” heresy; orthodox teaching is that God is absolutely simple.
Water = modalism/“Sabellanism”; orthodox teaching is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are truly distinct.
Father/Mother/Son = polytheism; orthodox teaching is that God is a single substance/essence.
Sun = Arianism heresy; orthodox teaching is that the Father, Son and Spirit are of a single substance and co-eternal, and the Son and Spirit are Uncreated.

Knowing the heresies are good because a key part of understanding the Trinity is negative: knowing what God is not, in addition to knowing what he is. Often, revealed truths require us to think in terms of what God is not, such as through the heresies described above.


Thank you.
My words are nothing but straw.


But then it makes it seem like he was praying to something distinct from himself.
If the father/son/Holy Spirit are one,then wouldn’t the Father have been “in” the son in his human incarnation?


Could the greatest commandments possibly describe how Christ is ‘One with the Father’?

God the Son, loves the Father with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.
Jesus loves all of us as he loves himself.

God the Father returns the same perfect love.

God the Father loves God the Son with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.
God the Father loves each and everyone of us as he loves himself.


Although one person, The Son of God, there are two natures there and two wills.

475 Similarly, at the sixth ecumenical council, Constantinople III in 681, the Church confessed that Christ possesses two wills and two natural operations, divine and human. They are not opposed to each other, but cooperate in such a way that the Word made flesh willed humanly in obedience to his Father all that he had decided divinely with the Father and the Holy Spirit for our salvation.110 Christ’s human will "does not resist or oppose but rather submits to his divine and almighty will."111

110. Cf. Council of Constantinople III (681): DS 556-559.
111. Council of Constantinople III: DS 556.


You will never understand the Trinity . No one does other than the three persons who make up the trinity .

You seem to be neglecting the reality of the Trinity being three person .


He was.

They are one God. But they are three persons.

Who? Father. Son. Holy Spirit.
What? God.

I recommend Frank Sheed’s book Theology for Beginners if you are struggling with this.

No. They are three persons. One God.


Because he WAS praying to someone distinct from himself. Jesus is the Son incarnate, who is a Person distinct from the Father. The Father did not become man, and neither did the Spirit.

And yet, the Father is God, the Son is God, and Spirit is God. And yet there are not three Gods but one God.

That is the mystery of the Trinity.


By three persons do you mean three aspects?
If they were literally three persons then wouldnt we be worshipping threee gods?


No by three persons I mean three persons , but don’t expect me to explain it because we are referring to the very essence of God which is ineffable .


No and no. Thatis modalism and polytheism repectively. Both are contrary to the Christian faith.

For the synthesis of what we truly believe read the Athanasian Creed.


One question, 1ke. My confusion about the Trinity is not so much the difference between Jesus, the Son and Gd, the Father, since Jesus is both human and divine while the Father is only divine. Or am I wrong about this? My problem is with the Holy Spirit; that is, how is the Holy Spirit a different Person from Gd the Father? Is it that the Holy Spirit is within each of us, while Gd the Father is not? But I thought Gd the Father is omnipresent, which would mean He too is within us. So what exactly is the distinction?


Jesus was with God before the earth existed, left His glory with the Father and was born of a virgin, lived a perfect, sinless life, died on Calvary for your redemption, and was raised again after three days. Today He is in heaven and His sacrifice has provided a way for you to come to a saving faith. Being saved is fully a work of God. No one is saved by works. No one is saved by their own efforts. It is by grace alone, in faith alone, by Jesus alone. It is a gift of God (Eph 2:8-9). We pray that you will come to believe in Jesus Christ, be born-again, and be saved today.

Not my quote but hope it helps.


Here is a quote from a previous post

To understand what it means to be “in” Christ, we must first understand what it means to be a Trinitarian God. The word knowing is critically important. God is not just Truth; God is Truth known . Truth that is known, however, is always good. Truth can never be otherwise. What is Good is loved. What is not Good is not loved. The begetting of the Son of God is an intellectual generation. It is the Father’s knowledge of himself; the Father is eternally “knowing” himself, i.e. generating the Son. This knowledge is eternally penetrated by the Holy Spirit who sees that what is known is perfect goodness that should be communicated to others (i.e. creation of man). Likewise, the Son is always knowing the Father by knowing himself. When the Father sends the Son into creation, does the Father forget his knowledge of himself? Of course not. That is why the Son is never absent from the Father, even though he has been sent, together with the Breath, the Holy Spirit, into creation. This is what is meant when Jesus tells us that he is in the Father, and the Father is in him.

Jesus is both fully human and fully Divine. His human part also possessed human free will, which was capable of willing that he not suffer.

In addition to what I quoted above, let me add this: God is a Trinity of three Persons in an eternal and unending dialogue. Human prayer is the human way of imitating that dialogue … participating from the sidelines, so to speak. Jesus’ humanity, since it had not yet been glorified and ascended to the Father, was participating in that dialogue through prayer, which is What God wants us to do. This is evident in Isaiah (or Malachi) when God says to the Son something along the lines of: if you ask it of me, I will give you the Gentiles. That asking is a form of prayer.


I explained the Trinity elsewhere in this thread, but I will add to it a little. Whenever we know ourselves, this knowledge does not exist in a vacuum, so to speak. This generation of knowledge is always accompanied by a sort of knowledge of the Truth of the Truth relative to that whiich is penetrated, and the goodness or badness of that which is known. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. We are told that the HS is eternally penetrating the thoughts of God. This knowledge leads (in the poverty of human language) to Divine Charity … the actions of Love. To put it in human terms, when I look in the mirror, do I like what I see or do I dislike the person staring back at me.


Thanks for the explanation. Another question, this time about Jesus. I believe the question was raised previously by a Muslim person. The question is if Jesus is FULLY human as well as fully divine, then why is He not subject to sinful behavior, which, after all, is a human behavior? I realize that His human will is totally in accord with His divine will; but if this is so, then can it be said that Jesus is FULLY human?


If we want to know why he is not subject to sinful behavior, we can look to why Adam and Eve, prior to the fall, were not subject to death, hunger, pain, etc. The soul is the substantial form of the body. In other words, the body was completely subject to, and in harmony with, the soul’s desires. Then on top of that, the Holy Spirit gave them the gift of supernatural grace, which elevated them to a nature above their human nature. As a result, all those bodily functions that provide the inclination and lusts for sin we’re completely under control of a soul that knew and desired the only true good … God. For example, the hormone that produces hunger is called ghrelin. No ghrelin expressed by the genes, no hunger. This is why our First Parents were not susceptible to any temptations of the flesh.

So the next question would be, why did Jesus experience hunger? After all, he didn’t “fall.” As we said earlier, because it is the soul that is the susbstantial form of the body, an unfallen soul would still be in complete control of his entire body. Jesus chose to become sin. In other words, because it was his desire to take upon himself the sins of all man so that he could elevate all man through his redemptive suffering. So, even though he is without sin, he desired to take upon himself the consequences of all our sins. He willed his body to function as though it was fallen, so his body obeyed Jesus’ soul.


Thanks again, StephenSTOSS1. I believe I understand. Still, if the human natures of Adam and Eve were elevated by the Holy Spirit to a “nature above their human nature,” it seems to me that the human nature of Jesus must have also been elevated above His human nature by the Holy Spirit, if, as you state, He took upon Himself all the sins of humanity. No human, even a Tzaddik, is capable of doing that. In that sense, it appears that Jesus could not have been fully human. Or I am missing something?

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