The Trinity: Water, Ice, and Gas

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The following was a college essay written by Joseph Giessuebel. It has been edited and approved by GraceAnne Sullivan. If you have a Theology essay that you would like published that received a grade of an A- or higher, please be sure to contact us.

By Joseph Giessuebel, Catholic University of America

In De Trinitate, Augustine explains the relationship of the Trinity which seems complicated to us because we are trying to understand God who is infinite. The way I like to envision the Trinity is as such: imagine that the Father is water in its solid state, the Son in its liquid state and the Holy Spirit water in its gaseous form. As the Father is not the Son or Holy Spirit (just like steam and liquid water are not ice), the Son is not the Holy Spirit or the Father (just like liquid water is not ice or steam), and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son (just like steam is not ice or liquid water). However, there is a relationship between ice, liquid water and steam, and they are all of the same substance H2O, just in different expressions. This model shows and describes most of the picture of the Trinity as three distinct persons Who are all in perfect relationship with one another and Who all are God.

Secondly, I want to take a closer look into the relationships in the Trinity that Augustine describes so well. The Father is not from another, so he is unbegotten, whereas the Son is begotten from the father. As Augustine says, the Holy Spirit “proceeds principally from the Father, but by virtue of the Father’s gift [to the Son].” In other words, the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. Despite being three distinct persons, all persons of the Trinity are united in perfect relationship through love. To quote Augustine “if the charity (love) by which the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, ineffably demonstrates the communion of both, what is more fitting than that ‘charity’ (love) be given as a proper name to the One who is the Spirit common to both?1” Augustine even says that through the Father’s and Son’s love comes the Holy Spirit.

Even though we are trying to understand an infinite God who we can never fully understand, we should know these basic truths. The Father, Son, and Spirit are all three unique persons but are all God and are in perfect relationship built by love with one another. God sent his only begotten Son to suffer and die on the Cross for our sins. This is love. In receiving the Eucharist at every Mass, we learn to love and can give love since we receive love. Since “Deus caritas est” [God is Love], the world (including us) was made through love. Despite our sins, it is love that unites us all to each other and to God.


1 “Et si caritas qua Pater diligit Filium, et Patrem diligit Filius, ineffabiliter communionem demonstrat amborum; quid convenientius quam ut ille dicatur caritas proprie, qui Spiritus est communis ambobus?” (Augustine, De Trinitate, XV, xix, 37).

Edited by: GraceAnne Sullivan

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