March 17, 2013 by mattfradd
The first Vatican council defined as dogma that we can know God exists by reason, wholly apart from divine revelation:
If anyone shall say that the One True God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be certainly known by the natural light of human reason through created things; let him be anathema (First canon on revelation).
Although reason, unaided by divine revelation, can understand some things about God, there is much it could not and would not (like the Trinity) unless God chose to reveal it.
“Our vision of the face of God” writes Pope John Paul II, “is always fragmentary and impaired by the limits of our understanding. Faith alone makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently” (Fides Et Ratio 12).
The Catechism teaches that, “The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the ‘consubstantial Trinity’.
The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: ‘The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God.’
In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.” (CCC 253)
The reason I don’t use the three-leaf clover as a teaching aid to explain the trinity is that it has a fatal flaw; namely, it has parts! God does not. Jesus (or the Spirit, or the Father) is not three a part of God, he is God “whole and entire.”
The three-leaf clover can therefore mislead a person, especially a child, into falling into the heresy of Tritheism. Tritheism was (and is) a heresy which taught that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were three distinct Gods who shared a similar nature rather than the truth of there being one God in three persons who share an identical nature.
If you’re looking for a teaching aid to help your children understand the Trinity, I’d suggest using the image below: