Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Nicholas Cabasilas

Baptize them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Mt 28:19)

Although it was by a common benevolence that the Trinity saved our race, each one of the blessed persons played his own part. The Father was reconciled, the Son reconciled, and the Holy Spirit was the gift bestowed upon those who were now God’s friends.

The Father set us free, the Son was our ransom, and the Spirit our liberty, for Paul says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Father recreated us through the Son, but it “is the Spirit who gives life.”

Even in the first creation there was a shadowy indication of the Trinity, for the Father created, the Son was the Creator’s hand, and the Paraclete was the Life-giver’s breath. But why speak of this? For in fact it is only in the new creation that the distinctions within the Godhead are revealed to us.

God bestowed many blessings on his creation in every age, but you will not find any of them being ascribed to the Father alone, or to the Son, or to the Spirit.

On the contrary, all have their source in the Trinity, which performs every act by a single power, providence, and creativity. But in the dispensation by which the Trinity restored our race, something new occurred.

It was still the Trinity that jointly willed my salvation, and providentially arranged the means for its accomplishment, but the Trinity no longer acted as one. The active role belonged not to the Father, or to the Spirit, but to the Word alone.

It was the only-begotten Son alone who assumed flesh and blood, who was scourged, who suffered and died, and who rose again.

Through these acts of his our nature received new life; through these acts baptism was instituted—a new birth and a new creation. Only in this new creation are the distinctions within the Godhead revealed.

Therefore, when those who have obtained this holy re-creation call on God over the sacred bath, it is fitting that they should distinguish between the persons by invoking them as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Life of Christ 2: pp. 150, 532-33

Cabasilas, Nicholas (b. 1322/23) was a native of Thessalonica. After receiving an excellent education, first at Thessalonica and then in Constantinople, he entered the imperial service, in which for ten years he played a prominent part.

After the deposition in 1354 of his friend, the emperor John VI Cantacuzenos, Cabasilas entered the Manganon monastery near Constantinople, and probably became a priest. This was the period of his greatest literary output, his two principal works being The Life in Christ and A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, both of which were written for lay people.

The kernel of Cabasilas’ teaching, which was praised by the Council of Trent and by Bossuet, is the Christians’ deification by means of the sacraments. Cabasilas died some time after the capture of Thessalonica by the Turks in 1387.

 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson