"I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every fatherhood, in heaven or on earth, takes its name" (Eph 3:15).

The word "fatherhood" (JB) is translated "family" in NAB and TEV, and could also be rendered "lineage". The point is that our heavenly Father is the first Father, the fatherless Father and unoriginated origin of all. In how many ways is the Father an originator or source?

Three ways that the Father is a source

The FIRST way is by his being the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 11:31) as an eternal divine person. The God of all knowledge necessarily knows himself and expresses this knowledge in the manner of a Word. This eternal divine self-expression involves two persons: the Father, who is God expressing himself as Speaker, and the Son, who is God expressed as a Word. This self-expression is total, meaning that the Word fully represents the Father and in no way is inferior or second to him. The Son has everything the Father has (Jn 15:15); the only difference is that he has it from the Father.

The SECOND way the Father is an originator is also within the divine Trinity. He is the originator of the Holy Spirit, but differently from the way he is the origin of the Son. Knowledge of what is good brings about love for that good. So once the all-good God knows his own goodness he must love himself and express this love in something that represents his perfect love for himself. Scripture uses terms familiar to our human experience of love, which is not expressed in words but as a sigh or a breath. The Spirit, then, is this wind or breath representing God's love for himself.

This perfect self-expression of God's love involves a difference of persons. The Spirit is the Breath, but who is the Breather? Who else but the Father? But in this case the Father cannot act without the Son. That is because God's self-expression of knowledge, which involves both the Father and the Son, is the source of God's self-expression of love, which results in the Spirit. Thus the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as a single principle, and is equally adored and glorified.

In fact, if the Spirit were to proceed from the Father alone without the Son, then the Spirit would not be distinct from the Son, since only differences of origin result in differences of persons. Thus we have the following diagram of the relations of the persons of the Trinity:

Father ---   Son

The way the Son and the Spirit proceed in the Trinity results in a kind of circularity within the one substance of God: The Father speaks the Word which represents everything God knows. The Father with the Word breathes the Spirit, the representative of God's eternal love, which goes back to himself and to all creation which he knows in himself.

The THIRD way in which the Father is an originator is in the creation of everything outside God. All creation, from the highest angel to the least atom of dust, is only a finite and extremely imperfect representation of God, infinitely distant from the way the Son represents the Father. The Father, Son and Spirit act in unison in the production of everything outside God, yet creation is sometimes attributed specially to the Father, reforming creatures to the Son, and drawing creatures back to God to the Spirit.

Four levels of representing the Trinity in creatures

There are four quite distinct levels by which a creature can represent the triune God: The LOWEST, shared by all creatures, is that called a "trace"like a footprint in the sand, since every effect reflects its cause, and all creatures are effects of God. The first thing about all creatures, their very existence, represents the Father. Their form, which defines what they are, represents the Word, through whom all things are made. Their natural action, tending towards the preservation of their species and the balanced order of the universe, represents the Spirit which draws all creatures to fulfil their purpose of existence.

On the same level, natural things imitate the Trinity in another way because they all produce their like; then things of the same species are attracted to one another, so that all parenthood represents the Father, the offspring resemble the Son, and their togetherness represents the Spirit; thus all natural families represent the Trinity.

On this physical level, we can also voluntarily glorify the Lord by imitating the Fatherhood of God. Do we take care of our health by a balanced life in our eating, rest, work and dress? If we are parents, do we welcome and look after our children? Do we look after the welfare other people who come under our responsiblity?

The NEXT level is that of "natural image", and is found only in men and angels, which have their existence like other things, but can also know and love themselves, just as God can. Thus God said, "Let us make man in our image and likeness" (Gen 1:26).

Men also can reproduce themselves not merely physically, but intellectually and morally in human society. This is the reason why some are called "fathers of the nation" or fathers of other institutions. Those who receive are like sons, and their appreciation results in social cohesion, or esprit du corps, completing the image of the Trinity.

On this human level too we can glorify the Lord by imitating the Fatherhood of God. Do we develop prize intellectual and moral training, whether by ourselves or under others? Are we willing to share our knowledge with others and to give advice, correction or encouragement? Sometimes we may have to withhold our words because they are not welcome, but we can never silence our example.

The NEXT level is that of an "image recreated in grace", which gives men and angels supernatural powers to have the same mind as God, knowing and loving him and what he knows and loves. This same level culminates in "glory", where this activity is made perfect. Thus Paul says, "All of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory" (2 Cor 3:18).

The society of grace is represented by the Church on earth, whether on the level of the family, the parish, the diocese or the Church universal. It is also represented by the society of the blessed in heaven. In the Church there also is paternity, all deriving from the Father through the Son, who is the head of his body, the Church. We are likewise children of the Church and are bound together in one Spirit.

On this spiritual level we can especially glorify the Lord by imitating the Fatherhood of God. Is it our ambition to be saints by knowing, loving and serving God to the best of our ability? Do we seek to please the Lord by searching for and choosing what is best for us to do? Do we accept his will as manifested through the decisions of our superiors or through the events of diving providencesuch as when a friend dies or we suffer any other disappontment in life? Do we try to lead others to holiness by our example, our prayers, our speaking to them and our service on their behalf?

The MOST PERFECT created representation of the Trinity is in Jesus, where the divine person of the Son joined to himself by "hypostatic union" a human nature full of grace and truth. Thus the man Jesus is really part of the Trinity. We now know the Father because of the fact that Jesus came as man and showed the Father's love in everything he said or did.

Though Jeus' human mind and will are finite, they extend to God in an infinite way and have infinite merit, since they are joined to the divine person. Thus he merited grace and salvation for all. The members of the Church who have sanctifying grace, joined with Christ their Head, share in the life of the Trinity. In the end he will hand over to the Father the Kingdom he has won (1 Cor 15:24). There, to the full extent of our union with Jesus, we will share in the happiness of his own Trinitarian life.