God in Three Persons: Using the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday

The first Sunday after Pentecost has a special theme: The Trinity. On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the mystery of God's being as Holy Trinity. Often the emphasis of this day has been placed on the Trinity as an abstract concept, idea, or doctrine—an intellectual emphasis that tends to produce sermons and liturgies that attempt to interpret or explain this doctrine to those who find it confusing or incredible. Whatever the pastoral justification for this approach may be in certain situations, it seems generally more in keeping with the character of worship and of the Christian Year to treat Trinity Sunday as a day in which we praise and adore the infinitely complex and unfathomable mystery of God's being to which we point when we speak of the Holy Trinity.

Because our celebration of the Easter cycle is based upon the mighty acts of the triune God, and because we are entering upon the Sunday-to-Sunday half of the year, when the emphasis is wholeheartedly upon each Sunday as the Lord's Day, whose celebration is also based upon the mighty acts of the triune God, it is appropriate that we pause on this transitional Sunday to give ourselves over to the adoration and praise of the being—as distinct from the acts—of the triune God.

Use of a creed is particularly appropriate on Trinity Sunday. The Nicene Creed is a more fully expressive witness to the church's faith in the Trinity than are modern affirmations or even the Apostles' Creed. The Athanasian Creed is in some ways an even more comprehensive witness to the church's faith, although its anathemas against unbelievers have caused much offense and led many churches to reject its use. An abbreviated form of the Athanasian Creed, including the positive affirmations but not the anathemas, is printed on this page.


The Athanasian Creed

Whoever wants to be saved
must, above all, hold the catholic faith.
Now this is the catholic faith,
that we worship one God in three persons
and three persons in one God
without confusing the persons
nor dividing the divine being.
For the Father is one person,
the Son is another,
and the Holy Spirit is still another;
but there is one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
all equal in glory and eternal in majesty.

It is necessary that one also believe faithfully
that our Lord Jesus Christ became human.
For this is the true faith, that we believe and confess,
that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
is both God and human:
God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father,
and human, born in the world from the being of his mother,
perfect God and perfect human,
with a rational soul and a human body.

For just as soul and body are one in a human being,
so God and human are one in Christ,
who suffered for our salvation, descended to the dead,
rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven,
sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty
and will come to judge the living and the dead.
At whose coming, all shall rise with their bodies
to give account of their own deeds.
Those who have done what is good will enter eternal life.
This is the catholic faith.

From Handbook of the Christian Year, edited by Hoyt Hichman, Don E. Saliers, Lawrence Hill Stookey and James F White. Copyright © 1986 by Abingdon Press. Reprinted by permission.

This adaption of the creed is available on computer disk. See p. 48 for more information.

Reformed Worship 23 © March 1992, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.