In our discussions with Bosco we have penetrated into the outer part of the inaccessible depths of the greatest mystery of our Faith – the Trinity.  The short series finished with a reminder from St. Gregory, with which we all agreed, that to try to get to the very heart of this mystery is not possible, and that pondering it too closely is to risk being dazzled as well as puzzled.  But our forefathers in the Faith did not run away from this, even though they had the humility to know their limitations; it was too important to simply throw their hands in the air and walk off.

It was a clear from Scripture that there was a Father, a Son and a Holy Ghost; it was equally clear that there was One God; the mystery lay in how Three could be One. Here, the best minds of the fourth century strove to help their flocks – and us. Men like St. Basil and St. Gregory, as well as St. Athanasius and St. Cyril, were not academic theologians, they were pastors and men of God – they wanted to help stop the misreadings which were as common then as now. When Jesus says that he who has seen Him has seen the Father, He is not saying that He is the Father, He is saying that He and the Father are One – but how can that be?

The Greek word ‘hypostasis’ literally means ‘that which stands underneath something’; its Latin equivalent is subsistentia, or ‘subsistence’, or individual entity. It could also be rendered as ‘substance’ or substantia.

A very great deal of confusion arose during the third century from the Latin translation.  The Greeks explained (as far as it could be done) the Godhead in terms of three hypostases within a single ousia – that is three subsistences within one nature.  Unfortunately some of the Latins translated this as meaning three individual divine entities – that is three gods! 

In Hebrews 1:3 we read about Jesus being the image of God’s person; Hebrews 3:14 directs us towards the personhood of Christ, where it stands simply as a terms for substance (Hebrews 11:11). The word was used to combat those who tried to claim that God was One person – there were, Origen argued, and others followed, three hypostases – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in, as Athanasius argued – one nature or ousia.

It was St. Gregory of Nazianzus who showed that the word had two uses. In Trinitarian theology it denoted the Three-ness of the Godhead; in Christology – that is in writing and thinking about Christ Himself, it denoted the one-ness of Christ – His humanity was fully human, His divinity fully divine. It was St. Cyril of Alexandria who, during the Nestorian controversy, came up with the formula of ‘the single hypostasis of the Divine Word’; what did he mean?

He meant that in Christ the personal subject was the Divine Logos – the second hypostasis of the Trinity. The two natures – the Divine and the human, are brought together as a single hypostasis – there was no mixing of the two, they were united at the level of hypostasis.

No one is saying that any of these words explain the fullness of the mystery, and as Jabba has reminded us ‘Doctrine is made of *meaning*, it is not made of *words*’  However, we express ourselves and communicate in words, and so the problem for me here, is that we have to express ourselves in mere words – and carry that meaning if we can.