Trinity Sunday - What is it?

Trinity Sunday (also called Holy Trinity Sunday) is a day commemorated on the Sunday following Pentecost to emphasize the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the Western church calendar, this Sunday occurs on the eighth Sunday following Easter (since Pentecost Sunday falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter) in May or June of each year.

Though the term Trinity is not mentioned in the Bible, the doctrine is found throughout Scripture, especially in the New Testament. Readings used in the church on Trinity Sunday include Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Psalm 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22; Romans 8:14-17; and Matthew 28:16-20.

Trinity Sunday originated in the fourth century. It was in part a response to the erroneous teaching of Arius that taught Jesus was a created being and thus denied the deity of Christ. The famous Council of Nicaea in 325 affirmed the biblical view of Jesus as both fully God and fully human, as well as the belief in the Triune God. Though celebrated for some time prior, Trinity Sunday was officially added to the church calendar by Pope John XXII (1316-1334).

In addition, the Athanasian Creed has served as part of the reading in some mass ceremonies in the past, though this is not common today. It reads, in part, "We venerate one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in oneness; 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 Spirit; but the divine nature of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one, their glory is equal, their majesty is coeternal."

When Jesus gave His Great Commission, we read, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). He emphasized one baptism into one name—Father, Son, and Spirit. While God the Father is affirmed clearly throughout the Old Testament and the entire Bible, the New Testament clearly affirms the deity of Jesus (John 10:30) and the Spirit by referring to each as God (Acts 5:1-4).

Early in Paul's writings, we also find clear references to all three Persons of the Triune God together. Second Corinthians 13:14 shares, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." First Thessalonians 1:3-5 adds, "remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction."

Trinity Sunday helps the church to emphasize the proper understanding of Father, Son, and Spirit, and reminds us that God exists in both perfect oneness and community. He is perfect in every way, transcending all creation, sending Jesus to live among humanity, and empowering believers by the Spirit today.

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