Preliminary Note: Basic Terminology 21
Preliminary Note: Basic Terminology In this preliminary note, we prepare the discussion for the subsequent chapters by reviewing the basic terminology of Aquinas’ Trinitarian theology. This presentation pretends neither to be exhaustive nor to offer an original contribution to the field of Trinitarian theology; its purpose is simply to obviate the need for obtrusive tangents in the following chapters. Discussion of the Trinity demands an account of divine unity and the distinction of persons, beginning with the Father. We need a way to refer to what is one in God and what is three. For the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit; yet all three are coequally the divine essence. Aquinas inherits the terminology that is summarized in the Trinitarian mnemonic: “one essence, two processions, three persons, four relations and five notions.”1 In the Summa Theologiae, he identifies the five notions, four relations and three personal properties that pertain to the divine persons: There are five notions, namely paternity, filiation, procession, innascibility and common spiration. But only four of these are properties that belong to only one person, namely paternity and innascibility, which belong only to the Father; filiation, which belongs only to the Son; and procession, which belongs only to the Holy Spirit. Common spiration cannot be called a property simply, because it belongs to two persons…. Of these [five] notions only four are relations, namely, paternity, filiation, procession and common spiration; for innascibility is not properly...
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