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Posted February 17, 2005

Book: The Trinity: Rediscovering the Central Christian Mystery
Author: M. John Farrelly, O.S.B.
Sheed and Ward, New York, pp.305

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The mystery of the Trinity is the central Christian belief that defines the essence of God and God’s ongoing love and saving grace for humanity. Yet over the past few centuries, Christians have either ceased believing in the Trinity or simply no longer recognize its relevance in their ecclesial or individual lives.

By first identifying contemporary problems with the Christian proclamation of the Trinity in our culture and major differences among modern theologians, M. John Farrelly, O.S.B., explores Scripture, the life and message of Jesus Christ, the development of Trinitarian doctrine in Christian history, the relation of the Trinity to creation and salvation, the generation of the Son from the Father within the Trinity and the procession of the Holy Spirit from Father and Son, and the meaning of three persons in one God.

Written in an ecumenical spirit that engages contemporary questions and theological viewpoints, The Trinity: Rediscovering the Central Christian Mystery articulates the mystery of the Trinity for people formed by modern historical consciousness, science, awareness of the equal dignity of men and women, and respect for world religions.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Among the consoling messages Jesus offers his disciples in preparation for his departure is his promise: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” This Advocate or Paraclete will take away from them their orphaned state, and with the Spirit’s comeing Jesus and the Father will also come and make their dwelling in the disciples. This Spirit gives a kind of knowledge of its presence. John calls the Spirit “another Paraclete” or Advocate. The word parakletos signifies one who is called to one’s side. It most probably refers to one who in the Greek court assists defendants to plead their cause, not by arguing their case for them but by suggesting to them how to plead their case. More broadly, Jesus was a defender, assistant at the side of his disciples while he was among them; after his departure when he is no more visibly among them, the Spirit will be “another” Paraclete or Advocate: “The distinction between the physical Jesus, who is departing, and the ‘other Paraclete’, who will be given must be maintained. They are two different characters in the narrative, however closely their roles may be link.”

John notes one function of this Advocate. The church of John’s time still had to struggle for self-definition and do so in the midst of conflicts not explicitly addressed in earlier times. Thus, there is still a need for them to understand more deeply the message of Jesus. When the Spirit comes, “he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears . . He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” As Jesus’ message had been that of the Father, so too the Spirit’s message will be that of Jesus. Another function of this Paraclete is to aid the disciples in the cosmic trail that they will face, as Jesus had faced it. They will be attacked by the world. But by their lives “convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation” because they did not know Jesus.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 The Trinity: The Theological Problematic

1. A sketch of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity
2. Some earlier twentieth-century theological reflections on the Trinity
3. Some later theological reflections on the Trinity

Chapter 2 Scripture and the Roots of Christian Belief in the Trinity

1. The Old Testament and preparation for the Trinitarian mystery
2. The ministry of Jesus and the mystery of the Trinity
3. The developing Trinitarian belief of the Apostolic Age

Chapter 3 Soundings in the History of Christian Reflection on the Trinity: To Constantinople I (381)

1. Theological development before the Fourth Century
2. The Arian crisis and its aftermath (315-381)

Chapter 4. Later Soundings: The Fifth to the Nineteenth Century

1. Major reflections on the Trinity from Augustine through the Council of Florence (1439)
2. Some reflections on the Trinity from the Protestant Reformation to the Nineteenth Century

Chapter 5 The Trinity’s Relation to the Orders of Salvation and Creation

1. The relation of the Trinity to the order of salvation
2. The relation of the Trinity to creation

Chapter 6 The Father’s Generation of the Son

1. Our intellectual knowledge as analogue for the Father’s generation of the son
2. A modification of Thomas’s theology of the Father’s saying of the Word
3. The critique of the Father-Son relationship as patriarchal

Chapter 7 The Procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity

1. A theology of the Holy Spirit in the economy of salvation and creation
2. The Holy Spirit within the Trinity

Chapter 8 Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as Three Relational Persons in One Being

1. The Patristic development of understanding of the Trinity as Three Persons
2. Thomas Aquinas’s theology of the Three Divine Persons
3. A modern sense of person and the mystery of the Trinity

Chapter 9 A Trinitarian Spirituality

1. The Trinity’s saving presence to us through the church
2. The Trinity indwelling the graced human person
3. A