§6. The Trisagion wrongly explained by Arians. Its true significance.
And how do the impious men venture to speak folly, as they ought not, being men and unable to find out how to describe even what is on the earth? But why do I say what is on the earth? Let them tell us their own nature, if they can discover how to investigate their own nature? Rash they are indeed, and self-willed, not trembling to form opinions of things which angels desire to look into (1 Pet. i. 12), who are so far above them, both in nature and in rank. For what is nearer [God] than the Cherubim or the Seraphim? And yet they, not even seeing Him, nor standing on their feet, nor even with bare, but as it were with veiled faces, offer their praises, with untiring lips doing nought else but glorify the divine and ineffable nature with the Trisagion. And nowhere has any one of the divinely speaking prophets, men specially selected for such vision, reported to us that in the first utterance of the word Holy the voice is raised aloud, while in the second it is lower, but in the third, quite low,—and that consequently the first utterance denotes lordship, the second subordination, and the third marks a yet lower degree. But away with the folly of these haters of God and senseless men. For the Triad, praised, reverenced, and adored, is one and indivisible and without degrees (ἀσχηματιστός). It is united without confusion, just as the Monad also is distinguished without separation. For the fact of those venerable living creatures (Isa. 6:0, Rev. 4:8) offering their praises three times, saying Holy, Holy, Holy, proves that the Three Subsistences 443 are perfect, just as in saying Lord, they declare the One Essence. They then that depreciate the Only-begotten Son of God blaspheme God, defaming His perfection and accusing Him of imperfection, and render themselves liable to the severest chastisement. For he that blasphemes any one of the Subsistences shall have remission neither in this world nor in that which is to come. But God is able to open the eyes of their heart to contemplate the Sun of Righteousness, in order that coming to know Him whom they formerly set at nought, they may with unswerving piety of mind together with us glorify Him, because to Him belongs the kingdom, even to the Father Son and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
τρεῖς ὑποστάσεις. This expression is a link between this tract and the Expositio (§2), and is one of the indications it bears of an early date. At this time we see that Athanasius speaks of Three Hypostases, but qualifies his language by the caveat (Expos. 2) that they are not μεμερισμέναι. In this he follows his Origenist predecessor Dionysius, and the language of the present passage is that of Basil or the Gregories. But it is not the language of Athan. himself in his later years. See above, Prolegg. ch. ii. §3 (2) b, and Introd. to Tom. ad Ant. and to Ad Afr.