Aghios o Theós, Aghios Is’chyrós, Aghios Athánatos, eléïson imás.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!
One only is Holy, but He is God, He is Mighty, and He is Deathless. Not three Holies, but One, we know Him as God the Father, as His Mighty Son, and as His Deathless Holy Spirit. Even in this most ancient of all prayer cries, the undivided Triad is manifest. The undivided Trinity, as believed in and lived in the Holy Church for, yes, we do not presume to know the how, but the Who, of God.
We know that God is One. This is no secret even to the polytheist if he is a thinking man. Humankind did not evolve an idea of One God by gradually adding spirit to spirit, god to god, by a sort of mathematical reduction. If anyone has arrived at the idea of such a ‘one god’ in this fashion, that ‘god’ is certainly not the God of the Bible, not the God of Jesus Christ.
No, for the only God that is, the self-existing Divine Nature, revealed through His manifold works, the material universe and seen by the mind of rational men, was at the beginning with man, just as the Bible tells in the story of Adam and Eve and the original paradise. ‘The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…’ (Genesis 3:8).
It was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world, as well as the worship of many gods. Man devolved from relational monotheism to religious polytheism. Religion in the Garden of Eden? Hardly! What would be the need? There God walked with man and spoke to us face to face. Religion only came upon our race as sickness comes, a sickness called sin that brings death.
Human beings the world over have always believed in the immortality of the soul, but this is an unfounded belief. It is more of a hope, and a vain hope, as there is no proof in nature of our personal survival of death. ‘Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?’ (Ecclesiastes 3:21). We find ancient graves well-stocked for living somewhere.
Almost all religions believe something like this: ‘The soul of man is immortal and cannot die.’ This is what you find among Hindus, for example, who believe what is taught by their god Krishna, ‘That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul’ (Bhagavad Gita 2:17). For them, the ‘imperishable soul’ lives on through reincarnation.
For others, especially in East Asia, the souls of their ancestors are alive ‘somewhere’ and must be appeased, cared for, and helped. This is the most prevalent belief of most of humanity. In the three ‘Abrahamic’ faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, this belief takes on added content: the good ‘go to heaven’ at death, the bad ‘go to hell.’ This is, of course, at the level of popular religion.
As C. S. Lewis has written, ‘To believe in the popular religion of modern England is retrogression — like believing the earth is flat’ (Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 1), and the same is true of the popular religion of the biblically illiterate everywhere. For many people, it’s just not worth the time and effort to learn and understand the truths of faith, what man is, who God is, and how He deals with us.
The soul of man, despite our wishful thinking, our pious hopes, and our individual speculations, is not immortal by nature. Only One is Immortal, just as only One is God, and only One is Mighty. Having been originally made in His image, our first parents shared in the Divine Nature, in Might, and in Immortality, but by their rebellion, the image of God in them and us was broken.
We are born into a fallen world, disfigured, that is, dis-imaged, damaged, and what would have been an immortal soul in us, is immortal no longer, by nature.
We live and move and have our being only in God, only by His grace, only by His gift, only by His remembrance of us. Why else do we find in the psalms the petition to ‘remember us’, why else did the thief say to Christ, ‘remember me’?
We are living souls only by the good will of our Creator, who remembers us in life and in death. The soul of man, as it turns out, is immortal after all, but not by nature. Our lives are in His hands. Whether we are alive in the body or gone to ‘be with the Lord’, it is all by His will, by His mercy. How totally we are dependent on Him for everything! Knowing He loves us removes the fear of death.
When we pray the Trisagion, ‘Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!’ how true this prayer is, how wonderful that it has been revealed to us! We can depend on God, in fact He expects us to depend on Him, for everything, especially for our earthly life, and for the immortality that only He can grant us. There is so much more I would say if I could, but all I can say is, Thank You, Lord.