The dogma of the Holy Trinity is a central teaching tenet and pillar to the Catholic Faith – embedded in this teaching is the truth and mystery, is that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are three distinct persons, but one God.

God the Father is God, Jesus the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, but they are not three Gods, but only one God. As the Athanasian Creed states:

“And the Catholic Faith 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. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord.” (Sullivan, 1907)

As an aside, the Athanasian Creed while widely attributed to St. Athanasius the bishop, the champion of the orthodoxy of the Holy Trinity during the saga of the Arianism Heresy, was actually written around the 5th century. Athanasius died in A.D. 373. The Arianism Heresy argued that Christ was an exalted figure but He was less that a God. Athanasius spent his life rebuking the Arianism heretics. The Arianism Heresy eventually resulted in the formulation of the Nicene Creed at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 (Joyce, 1912). The Athanasian Creed draws from the language of St. Augustine and reiterated the teachings of St. Athanasius.

What’s the difference between the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed?

The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest and shortest creed. This creed builds on the teachings of the apostles and identifies the fundamental tenets of Catholic doctrines in a concise manner.

The Nicene Creed, as mentioned, stems from the Ecumenical Council of Nicea and was later formalised at the Council of Constantinople in AD. 381. The Nicene Creed corrected the blasphemy committed by Arius who claimed that Jesus was not God, but merely an exalted servant.

The Athanasian Creed, as modern scholars agree, however is likely to have come from the authorship of some obscure bishop or theologian, who wrote the creed, likely for some provincial use in a province diocese. Nonetheless, while lesser known, it remains an ancient and legitimate profession of the Catholic Faith, because it addresses and affirms the dogma of the Holy Trinity that was put into place at the Council of Nicea and affirmed the teachings of the Council of Chalcedon in AD. 451. The Athansian Creed also addresses two other heresies: Nestorianism – the denial of the reality of the Incarnation. Nestorianism states that Jesus was not a God-made Man, but a God-inspired man, and Monophysitism – the heresy that states that Christ only has one nature instead of two.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

CCC. 192: ‘Through the centuries many professions or symbols of faith have been articulated in response to the needs of the different eras: the creeds of the different apostolic and ancient Churches, e.g., the Quicumque, also called the Athanasian Creed; The professions of faith of certain Councils, such as Toledo, Lateran, Lyons, Trent; or the symbols of certain popes, e.g., the Fides Damasi or the Credo of the People of God of Paul VI.’

CCC. 193 – 195: ‘None of the creeds from the different stages in the Church’s life can be considered superseded or irrelevant. They help us today to attain and deepen the faith of all times by means of the different summaries made of it.
Among all the creeds, two occupy a special place in the Church’s life:

The Apostles’ Creed is so called because it is rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles’ faith. It is the ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome. Its great authority arises from this fact: it is “the Creed of the Roman Church, the See of Peter the first of the apostles, to which he brought the common faith”.

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan or Nicene Creed draws its great authority from the fact that it stems from the first two ecumenical Councils (in 325 and 381). It remains common to all the great Churches of both East and West to this day.’

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1993)

The dogma of the Holy Trinity is supported by Scripture. In Deuteronomy 6:45, God reveals Himself as One God: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

This teaching that God is only one God is affirmed by Jesus in Mark 12:29-30.

The evidence of the Holy Trinity is found in the Gospels – In Jesus, the Apostles come to recognise that He is the Eternal Son of God. This is revealed in the experience of the Transfiguration: “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5; cf. Mark 9:7) and at the Baptism of Jesus: “After Jesus was baptised, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3: 16-17)

Jesus then refers to Himself as one with the Father – “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30)

The Holy Spirit is referred to by Jesus as coming from God the Father: “For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:20), but also as proceeding from Jesus – “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.” (John 15:26). The Paraclete comes to us from God the Father at the request of Jesus, so the Paraclete proceeds from both the Father and the Son. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit is referred to as God – when Peter confronts Ananias. He says first, that Ananias has lied to the Holy Spirit, and next, that whom Ananias had lied to was God (cf. Acts 5:3-4).

The Holy Trinity is explicitly revealed in the Great Commissioning of Jesus: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20)

The use of anthropological analogies may be helpful to a certain extent to understand a small portion of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. However, analogies are still limited by the finiteness of human understanding and the limitations of language and translation.

St. Patrick, for example, describes the Holy Trinity as a Shamrock – a plant with three distinct fronds sharing the same stem. However this analogy is flawed in how it attributes the persons of God as being of different parts. Each person of God, is not 33.333% of God, but fully and 100% God.

Some priests have also used the highly flawed analogy to describe the Holy Trinity as Three-in-one coffee. This analogy is weak and erroneous on many counts, as in that mix are still three separate and distinct entities – the coffee powder, the creamer, and the sugar. They do not have the same nature.

Another analogy that is commonly used is that the Holy Trinity is like Water – the same substance, but existing in different states – liquid, solid, and gas. However this analogy does not hold water, because the Holy Trinity cannot be split into different modes of being, and also while water can be found in either the liquid, gaseous, or solid state, it cannot be all three at the same time.

To summarise the philosopher’s conundrum:

  1. God the Father is God.
  2. Jesus, the Son, is God.
  3. The Holy Spirit is God.
  4. The Person of the Holy Spirit is not Jesus or God the Father.
  5. The Person of Jesus is not the Holy Spirit or God the Father.
  6. The Person of God the Father is not Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
  7. There is only one God.

Therein lies the beauty of the mystery of the Holy Trinity – words do not do any justice to describing this dogma.

Dante tries to in his Divine Comedy, and he writes that the Holy Trinity is like three circles of light or suns, that occupy the same space, but overlap each other so that where each begins and ends is indistinct. Each sun is nonetheless distinct in its colour and hue, and yet the colours do not mix. One of these lights has a human face – the face of Jesus (Dante, 1909).

What analogy would you use to describe the Holy Trinity?

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan





Cathechism of the Catholic Church. (1993). Catechism of the Catholic Church (Online Edition). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved from – fonte

Dante, A. (1909).  The Harvard Classics 20: The Divine Comedy by Dante. (Ed. Eliot, C. W. ). New York: P. F. Collier & Son.

Joyce, G. (1912). The Blessed Trinity. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May 29, 2023 from New Advent:

Sullivan, J. (1907). The Athanasian Creed. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May 29, 2023 from