The word “Trinity”

There is a genius to even the word “trinity” as a name for the mystery. Grammatically, the word is easy enough: when Latin wants to turn an adjective into an abstract noun, it adds “-itas” to the word stem; and so, for example, if you want to turn “heavy/ serious” into “heaviness/ seriousness” you take the stem “grav-” and make it “gravitas”. This “-itas” ending then falls into English as “-ity”, which gives us “gravity” or our target word “Trinity”.  So “Trinity” means exactly the same thing as “three-ness”. But what does it mean to say the threeness is GodThreeness is not a not a triple, for example; is it no more triple than the force of gravity is heavy. If trinity were triple, it would be referred to in the plural (trinities), but it isn’t. Like all nouns in the singular, if it subsisted as it is signified it would be one and not many; and so if the trinity so subsisted, it would be one. Following the Thomistic rule set out below, we speak of the simplicity of God by using abstract terms. But trinity is precisely such a term.

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