The Creed and the Trinity | Foreword to "The Christian Faith: An Essay on the Structure Of
the Apostles' Creed" | Henri de Lubac | Ignatius Insight
The Creed and the Trinity | Foreword to The Christian Faith: An Essay on the Structure Of
the Apostles' Creed | Henri de Lubac
This book does not pretend to impart any information to the learned
historians of the creeds, save that, for better or worse, the author has often
made use of their works. Nor does it deal in depth with any of the current
theological problems, although it does not avoid alluding to them in passing.
Nor should one seek in this book a systematic study of trinitarian doctrine or
Christology. Its purpose is not even, at least not directly, pastoral. Rather,
we have tried to make it a sort of introduction to catechesis, addressed to all
those who, either in preparing candidates for baptism or in teaching children
or in day-by-day preaching to the Christian people, are entrusted with this
most beautiful of all roles: handing on the faith received from the Apostles,
always and infinitely fruitful even as it was when they themselves received it
from Jesus Christ.
Like everyone else, the believer is able to observe the changes, slow or sudden
depending on the times, in people's mentalities and interests, the variations
that occur in language. Without becoming enslaved to theories (themselves
subject to so many vicissitudes) that seek to account for these changes, he
does not necessarily remain insensitive to the repercussions of this historical
development of culture or cultures upon theological work and even, on occasion,
upon the very expression of his faith. If he himself is not conscious of it,
the Magisterium guides him to make him understand that in certain circumstances
renewal is necessary and that one would be condemned to wither and die if one
did not ever consent to adapt or change anything. But at the same time he sees
with great clarity that the treasure he has received as his inheritance is not
the fruit of a perishable culture. The Christian tradition, that living force
in which he shares, is rooted in the eternal. If he strives to be faithful, the
newness that rejuvenates his heart is not exposed to the erosion of time.
Consequently he is not in the least tempted to a certain kind of forced advance
in which a number of those around him are indulging. He can only see in that,
as Pascal would say, a confusion of orders. He knows in advance: in the letter
of the Creed which he recites with his brothers, following so many others,
there is infinitely more depth in reserve and timeliness in potential than in
all the explanations and critical reductions that would affect to "go beyond"
it. He knows this in advance, and experience and reflection reveal it to him a
little more each day.
Above all, this Creed teaches us the mystery of the divine Trinity. It is in
this mystery that our faith consists. It is for us both light and life.
Nevertheless, it is very necessary for us to recognize that this is not always
easy to understand and is not readily apparent to everyone. For a number of
Christians, and not just those who retain only a vague, conventionalized
version of their faith, this seems to be a sealed mystery. Is it proper to
blame those who have the task of instructing us? It would be more just to take
this blame upon ourselves. We do not always know how to embrace the most
pregnant truth, which must slowly produce its fruit within us. Impatient as we
are, we would like to understand immediately, or rather, in our shortsighted
pragmatism, if we are not shown practical applications for it right away, we
declare it to be abstract, unassimilable, "unrealistic", an
"empty shell", a hollow theory with which there would be no point in
burdening ourselves. This is what Faustus Socinus and his disciples thought, as
witnessed by their Catechism of Racow (1605): "The dogma of the Trinity is
contrary to reason. It is absurd to think that by the will of God, who is
reason and who loves his creatures, men must believe something incomprehensible
and useless to moral life and therefore to salvation." This was also the
opinion of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, agreeing in this respect with all the Christians
of his century seduced by the "lights": the Trinity, in the judgment
of the Savoyard Vicar, was a part of those things that "lead to nothing
useful or practical". Now we must really be convinced that, when we allow
ourselves to indulge in such thoughts, it is we who are thus living
superficially, outside of ourselves. The Christian who does not trust the
fruitfulness of revealed truth, who consents to interest himself in it only to
the degree to which he perceives the benefit in advance, who does not consent
to let himself be grasped and modeled by it, such a Christian does not realize
of what light and power he has deprived himself.  He does not see that in
consenting to hear--if it may be called that--only the voices that promise him
a response to his immediate questions, he is himself renouncing the opportunity
to grow in self-understanding and depth while shutting himself up within the
limits of his own narrow experience. Sometimes he even reaches the point of
imagining he can no longer find any meaning in a hackneyed,
"out-of-date" concept, when in fact he is dealing with a mystery he
has not yet glimpsed.
The revelation of the trinitarian mystery turned the world upside down. Not
after the fashion of human, political, social or, to use the current jargon,
"cultural" revolutions which mark the course of history; but by
opening up within man himself new depths, definitive depths, which he must
thenceforth never cease to explore. By transforming totally his idea of the
divinity, it at the same time transformed man's understanding of himself. More
precisely, it revealed him to himself and transformed him. The transcendence of
this mystery is total, and precisely for that reason its light can plumb the
depths of our being. If I speak as one who believes in the Most Holy Trinity,
then "I do not speak of it as I might of a constellation lost somewhere in
the limitless reaches of space, but I see in it the first principle and the
last end of my own existence; and my belief in this supreme mystery includes me
too."  It includes me, it includes all of us. By this faith the Church
of Jesus Christ lives.  If, instead of getting caught in that pathetic
masochism into which so many perverse prophets work unceasingly to plunge them,
Christians truly resolved to believe--I mean, to trust in their faith--this
faith would in all truth make of them today the soul of the world.
Our God is a living God, a God who, in himself, is sufficient unto himself. In
him there is neither solitude nor egoism. In the very depths of Being there is
ecstasy, the going out of self. There is, "in the unity of the Holy
Spirit", the perfect circumincession of Love. Thus we can glimpse the
depths of truth in St. John's remark (which is not true vice versa) that
"God is love." If we exist, it is not due to chance(!) or to some
blind necessity; nor is it the effect of a brutal and domineering omnipotence;
it is in virtue of the omnipotence of Love. If we can recognize the God who
speaks to us and wishes to link our destiny to his, this is because within
himself he knows himself eternally; within his being a dialogue exists which
can overflow without; he is animated by a vital movement with which he can
associate us. If, even without philosophical training, we can resist those who
tell us that matter is the ground of all being, and if we spontaneously go
beyond the overly abstract views of those who tell us that spirit, or the
"one", is the ground of being, it is because this mystery of the
Trinity has opened up before us an entirely new perspective: the ground of all
being is communion.  If we are able to overcome all the crises which might
lead us to despair of the human adventure, it is because by the revelation of
this mystery we know that we are loved. And at the same time we learn what the
most clearsighted among men are inclined to question: we learn that we
ourselves can love; we have been made capable of doing so by the communication
of divine life, that life which is love. We thereby understand also how
"the fullness of personal existence coincides with the fullness of the
gift", how self-realization without the gift of self is a delusion, and
how, on the other hand, the gift of self goes astray into aimless activism if
it is not the overflow of an inner life. We know, finally, that we must yield
to this desire for bliss which no theory, no negation, no despair will ever
tear out of the human heart because, far from being the pursuit of one's own
interest, it blossoms under the action of God's Spirit into a hope of loving
even as God loves.
If, as explained in the following pages, the mystery of the Trinity is not
revealed to us first of all in itself but in the Trinity's action outside of
itself, in its saving activity, it is no less true that the term of that saving
action is indeed, already, the Trinity itself, glimpsed by faith in its very
essence--even though always veiled in mystery, in umbris et imaginibus. So the "Trinity in itself" is still, even
now, "the Trinity in relationship with us". Trinitarian doctrine is
not the brainchild of some solitary thinker; it comes from the revelation of
Jesus Christ. Nor is it a result of "high theological speculation".
It is not a secret "reserved to the learned professionals, but it has an
effective importance for every Christian".  Our inner existence, our
personal relationships, our social action, our research and our efforts toward
Christian unity, the entire basic orientation of our thought and life will be
right and fruitful in proportion as they are in conformity with the reality of
The mystery of the Trinity, which sheds light on the mystery of human
existence, is wholly contained in the mystery of Christ. For this reason, as we
well realize, another work would be necessary to introduce this one. It would
start with the very first formulations of the Christian faith, which are
Christic formulas. In Jesus Christ, God has opened his heart to us. Through
him, "the Mediator of revelation and also its fullness", the Good
News was proclaimed and will never cease to be heard. "A day has dawned
which will know no ending. It comes to us out of the obscurity of Nazareth and
reaches down to us through the centuries; it leads us on beyond all time . . .
even to the very Center of truth. Hope has already begun; it can no longer end."
 "The life of the Church is more reliable than our own judgment. It is
necessary to trust it, and experience does not hesitate to enlighten in this
regard the one who lives his faith simply and profoundly": Cardinal G. M.
Garrone, Que faut-il croire? (Paris:
Descle de Brouwer, 1967), 45.
2 Romano Guardini, Vie de la foi
(Paris: d. du Cerf, 1968), 48.
 Cf. Origen, In Exodum, hom.
9, no. 3: "Funis triplex non rumpitur, quae est Trinitatis
fides, de qua pendet et per quam sustinetur omnis Ecclesia" (d. Baehrens, 239).
 Jean Danilou, La Trinit et le mystre de l'existence (Paris: Descle de Brouwer, 1968), 53. "It is
hard to believe that Christians who possess the ultimate secret of things, who
are the only ones able to penetrate, by the light of Christ, into the abyss of
the hidden mystery that envelops all things, should not be more aware of the
fundamental importance of the message they have to convey."
 Cf. Timothy Ware, L'Orthodoxie,
French trans. Charit de Saint-Servais (Paris: Descle de Brouwer, 1968), 285.
 Jean Ladrire.
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Henri de Lubac, S.J. (1896-1991) was a French Jesuit and one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. De Lubac was
ordained a priest on August 22, 1927, pursued further studies
in Rome until 1929, and then became a faculty member at Catholic Faculties
of Theology of Lyons, where he taught history of religions until 1961.
His pupils included Jean
Daniélou and Hans Urs
von Balthasar. De Lubac was created cardinal deacon by Pope John Paul II on February
2, 1983 and received the red biretta and the deaconry of S. Maria in Domnica,
February 2, 1983. He died on September 4, 1991, Paris and is buried in
a tomb of the Society of Jesus at the Vaugirard cemetery in Paris. For more about his life and a listing of his books published
by Ignatius Press, visit his IgnatiusInsight.com author page.
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