August 3, 2009

Perichoresis: The Inner Life of the Trinity

To the early Church Fathers the idea of perichoresis (the exchange of Persons in the Trinity), was indispensable to understanding God. This sublime, metaphysical concept is central to John Paul’s Theology of the Body. The inner life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Divine Love Itself, is dimly but unmistakably reflected in the beauty of the conjugal embrace, the nuptial meaning of our bodies, and the echo of original innocence that resides in the human heart.

The three-leaf clover used in religion classes to explain the mystery of three Divine Persons in one God does not begin to penetrate the incomparable majesty, boundless love, and total communion, which the Church in her Tradition and creeds ascribes to the Godhead.

Before continuing, the term "person" should be defined. A person has an intellect, with which to know and a will, with which to choose. As a result, a person is always a "someone," never a "something." Animals are not persons. Their intellects are governed by instinct and they do not have free will. Only persons can freely choose.

There are three types of persons: Divine Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), angelic persons (angels), and human persons (human beings). God alone possesses the Divine Nature that is the Divine Intellect and the Divine Will. As Persons, each member of the Trinity has a Divine Intellect and a Divine Will, separate from and in accordance with each other. Christ incarnate also possesses a human intellect and a human will. Angels are persons because they know and choose, as do human beings. This is what it means to say we are made in the image and likeness of God. Our personhood images the Divine Personhood of the Trinity.

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