Aleteia

A clever way to explain the Holy Trinity to children

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Icône, dite de la Trinité, Andreï Roublev, 1410 et 1427, galerie Tretiakov de Moscou
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Why not take this occasion to enter more deeply with your children into the Trinitarian mystery?

The feast of the Holy Trinity is the perfect occasion to explain this great mystery to your children. Start by talking about the word “Trinity” itself. Why not try together to think of other words that begin with the prefix “tri,” like “tricycle,” for example. It’s easy to see that “tri” indicates three elements. In God, there are three Persons. Who are they? To help your children name them themselves, suggest that they make the sign of the cross. They will quickly realize that they are actually addressing three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Speak about each one of the three Persons of the Trinity

There are three Persons, but one God. These three Persons are not three gods. Mom, Dad, and a child are three persons, three individuals. With God, it’s different: He is three Persons in one God. It’s important to insist on this truth which, in addition to understanding it with our minds, requires the adherence of our faith. When we speak about God, when we say we believe in God, when we pray, it is truly a question of three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We offer these three Persons the same adoration and the same glory. No one of them is more important or more divine than the others.

This is why it’s important to talk to children about all three of them. Of course, it’s always the same unique God, but it’s good to be familiar with all three Persons. One little girl, who had above all been taught about the Father and the Son, was astonished to discover that the Holy Spirit was also fully God. Since she hadn’t heard him spoken of much, she prayed to him less often by name than to the Father and the Son. For her, he was a secondary figure, a kind of servant of God.

Use the right words

For the same reason, we must be very clear when speaking to children: certain terms, while correct in and of themselves, can be ambiguous to little ones. So, while it’s correct to say that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, this may be unclear to children who might infer that the Holy Spirit isn’t a Person distinct from Jesus. It may suggest to them something like the spiritual part of Jesus, and nothing more.

It’s also correct to say that Jesus is the Son of God. But we must be clear and make sure the child understands that Jesus, the Son of God, is God. Not a different God than his Father. He is one God with his Father and the Holy Spirit. When speaking to children, we all too often notice that, while they may certainly picture one God, they envision him as the sole Person of the Father. This Father God has a Son, Jesus, animated by a spirit, the Holy Spirit. Of course, children can’t fully comprehend the mystery of the Holy Trinity (its hard enough for adults!). But that’s no reason to water down its truth.

Through faith, we glimpse the Holy Trinity

Moreover, in the face of this mystery, God does not tell us to leave our intelligence at the door and stop seeking to understand. On the contrary, if God gave man intelligence, it was so he make use of it and develop it in all domains. And so we must use our intelligence, in all humility, recognizing its limitations. God tells us: “Believe. Have faith.” And this faith makes it possible to understand truths that can’t be grasped by intelligence alone.

If, in the face of the mystery of one God in three Persons, we say to ourselves: “That’s impossible. That can’t exist. It’s ridiculous to think it’s true” — then we remain within the confines of our very limited intelligence, with a ground-level view of reality. If one believes, if one accepts to recognize a superior reality, one can then enter into the Mystery. Through faith, we can get a glimpse of the Holy Trinity, and contemplate it as we await the day when we will see it face to face. As we gaze upon the Holy Trinity, we see that God is love: the Father loves the Son who loves the Father, and from this love the Holy Spirit flows forth. To help children enter into the mystery of the Holy Trinity, it’s not enough to tell them there is one sole God in three Persons. We must also add: three Persons who love one another. The meaning of the Holy Trinity is just this infinite love continually flowing between three Persons.

Christine Ponsard

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