23 November 2019
The Mystery of the Holy Trinity (Timihrte Melekot) - 2
Deacon Ashenafi Mekonnen
THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH
A member of the Oriental Orthodox family of Churches, the Church of Ethiopia shares with them in essence a common faith. This faith, the churches believes, is derived from the apostolic heritage and borne witness to in the New Testament against the background of the Old Testament. It has been expounded by the fathers of the Church both in the ancient councils and in their teaching. It continues as a living reality in the church in its life of worship, preaching and discipline. In a word, then in the church of Ethiopia is a community which has inherited and which holds to the historic Christian faith as it has been handed down through the centuries. What is attempted here is, only to give a brief introduction to the faith of the Church of Ethiopia. (1)
The Mystery of the Holy Trinity
God is the only eternal Being. Beyond time, space and all limitations, He abides without a beginning and without an end. “Thou hast no beginning,” says in prayer the Ethiopian priest who celebrates the Anaphora of St. John, “but Thou bringest all things to their end. Infinite art Thou, but for all things Thou didst set bounds.”
God is the Creator of all that exists. Having made them all, He continues to sustain them. The Lord is high, says the Anaphora. Yet “all were created through His grace, and all live through His kindness”. Perfect in Himself, He continually imparts perfection to His creatures. Individuals as well as the entire historical process are ultimately under His control. God is not a passive perfection or an abstract ideal, but a dynamic reality who is ever active in bringing all that exists to the final destiny which He has for each of them as well as for the whole created realm.
God is one in three and three in one. The unity of God is nor convinced in the sense of an arithmetical digit nor of a solitary condition, but in that of an all-inclusive perfection. So the one is also eternally three. He is, affirms the Anaphora, “three names and one God, three prosopa and one appearance, three persons and one essence”.
The unity of God is confessed as the unity of Godhead – Melekote as the word is used in Ethiopia. The one Godhead is shared equally and eternally by the three Persons – Akal as they are referred to in Ethiopia. As in other parts of the Christian world, in Ethiopia also there were men who tried to interpret the doctrine in various ways. there were, for instance, persons who refused to accept the personal distinctions in the one Godhead and others who insisted that the three Persons were three Gods. Both these views were rejected by the Church.
God is eternally Father, eternally Son, and eternally Holy Spirit. “The Father beget His son without days or hours; and when He beget Him, His Father was not separated from Him.” Beyond time, God is the eternal One. That One is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No one of the three Persons is prior to the other two in time. “The One was not before the Other”, says the Anaphora, “and the Second was not before the Third.” But “we proclaim that the Father lived with His Son, and that the Son lived with His Father before creation, and before the heavens and the earth were made.”
In the one co-eternal and co-equal Trinity, the Father is the eternal source if the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son is born of, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from, the Father. While affirming that the Son and the Holy Spirit derive each of them His respective being eternally from the Father, it is insisted that “the Father did not beget the Son to help Him in His work before the world was created and the existence of the Holy Spirit is not to contribute wisdom and work.”
It is not with the Deity as it was with Abraham who was older than Isaac. Or with Isaac who was older than Jacob, but the Father is not older than the Son, neither is the Son older than the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not younger than the Son, neither is the Son younger than His Father.