The Prayer Book orders the use of the Athanasian Creed on major festivals. This fifth-century creed’s Latin name is Quicunque Vult, meaning ‘Whosoever shall be saved…’ Salvation rests on believing ‘the Catholick Faith…’ which is this: “That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity. Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son: and such is the Holy Ghost.’
Baptism has placed us in a life rather than an idea. ‘Catholic’ describes this life and originates from the Greek word Katholike, meaning the inner wholeness and integrity of the Church’s life. This life embraces us rather than us it, transforming and transfiguring us rather than us transforming it. Living in the Katholike is living in the life which
is salvation, the Church’s life, the divine life of the Blessed Trinity that deifies us, making us godlike. It is saving life, because it is God’s own divine life in which we live with Christ in the Holy Spirit, the Trinitarian life, coming to know God, in the union of human lives with God in the way of holiness.
St John said, ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known’. Living with God is Jesus bearing the marks of human life as well as divine life, the marks of death as well as resurrection. In him the character of God himself was revealed.
His demands and promises were the demands and promises of God himself. If obeyed and accepted by people, then, thanks to him, they could be assured of being in the right relationship with God himself.
The Son represented God and speaks authoritatively for the God he represents, so that he is in a real sense a member of the Godhead. People reached that
conclusion about Jesus. If his amazing claims were justified then he must be a member of the Godhead he so completely represented. People gave him a central place in their religion, and made every effort to be right with him as the way of being right with God. They became aware of a new power in their lives which guided and strengthened them, giving them a wisdom, courage and charity not their own. What was this new Spirit all about?
They wondered if surrendering to this Spirit, and allowing it to control their lives, would make them acceptable to God as they knew him in Christ. They saw this Spirit reproducing in ordinary people the very quality of the life they had seen in Christ. The Spirit was nothing less than God himself at work within them and must be also a member of the Godhead. So the doctrine of the Trinity emerged.
Early Christians first thought God was a ‘one-man business’. This was impossible if Jesus and the Spirit were ‘full members’ of the Godhead. It took centuries to work out, but the Trinity proclaims one Godhead in three persons, and whether you meet it in the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit, it is always the same.