THE MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY
Some Christians think that the doctrine of the Trinity is so baffling that it's better to forget about it. Others recognize that it must be important in some way, but do not see how it could possibly be of any help to us in our daily lives as followers of Jesus Christ. This should not be so – not only because I believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is true, but even more so because I see it as being of the greatest help in showing us the way to God. Far from being irrelevant, I believe that belief in the Trinity is at the very centre of our lives as Christians.
Today’s feast invites us to live in the awareness of the presence of the Triune God within us: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Holy Trinity, a doctrine enunciated by the ecumenical councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and the greatest mystery of our Faith, namely, that there are Three Divine Persons, sharing the same Divine nature in one God. “There is one God, Who has three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each Person is God, yet there is still only one God” (C.C.C. #234, #253-256). We have Father who is the Creator, Son the Redeemer and Holy Spirit the Sanctifier and the Counselor.
When we reflect on what Jesus shows us about relationship with God, we see that this relationship is about our sharing in the life of the Trinity. To be fair, the doctrine of the Trinity can seem not only very confusing, but confused. It tells us that God is both One and that God is Three: the Persons of Father, Son and Spirit. There is in God a profound and perfect unity, so that we can rightly speak of God as One. And yet in that unity there is distinction, of Father, Son and Spirit.
In fact the very word "Trinity,” referring to Three Persons in one God, one in Godhead yet distinct in Person, is not explicitly spelled out in the Bible, although the doctrine on Trinity is mentioned about forty times in the New Testament without using the term “Trinity.” But the doctrine of the Trinity underlies all major Christian feasts, including Christmas, the Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost. All the official prayers of the Church, including the Holy Mass and the Sacraments, begin with an address to the Holy Trinity: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are baptized, absolved of our sins and anointed in the name of the Blessed Trinity. We bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross invoking the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we conclude our prayers glorifying the Holy Trinity, saying “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” Today’s readings convey the fundamental mystery that the Triune God reaches out to people in love, seeking the deepest communion with them.
THE TRINITY IN SCRIPTURE - The Old Testament books give only indirect and passing references to the Trinity, and the Jewish rabbis never understood them as references to the Holy Trinity. Some references to the Trinity found in the Old Testament include but not limited to are, Genesis 1:26 presents God speaking to Himself; "Let Us make man in Our image and likeness." Genesis 18:2 describes how Yahweh visited Abraham under the appearance of three men. In Genesis 11:7, before punishing the proud builders of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let Us go down among them and confuse their language. “These passages imply, rather than state, the doctrine of the Trinity.
In the New Testament there are some references too. However, we need to restate that there is nowhere in Scripture where the term TRINITY is employed. The Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38), describes how God the Father sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to announce to her that God the Holy Spirit, would "overshadow" her, and that God the Son would be made flesh in her womb. Secondly, during the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3: 16-17), the Holy Spirit was shown descending on Jesus in the form of a Dove, while the Voice of God the Father was heard from the clouds. John 15-18, presents the detailed teaching of Jesus on the Persons of the Holy Trinity. Jesus himself commanded the Apostles to baptize all nations “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Cf also Matthew 28:19; John 10:30)
Another scriptural passage that provides some insight about the nature of God as Trinity is what is known as the Triadic Benediction: “The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:14. Therefore, the Father is love, the Son is grace and the Holy Spirit unites (fellowship). Furthermore, in the Great Commission Jesus spoke to his disciples saying: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:18-19). The Introduction of Gospel of John clearly shows the divinity of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
The letter to Corinthians says, “Depth of God can only be understood by the Spirit of God…An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:11,13-14). Catechism of the Catholic Church adds: “The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God” (#237).
Our own personal experience of love, of deep friendship, might give us the flicker of a glimmer of understanding of God who is love. In loving one another there is the delight, the beauty, of bonding together, of being there for each other. This is something enriching, satisfying – indeed, mutually life-giving! So it is with God…three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their life is a communion of love. As the Trinity reaches ‘outside itself’ towards our world, which it has created and now sustains, there is a divine collaboration between the Heavenly Father, ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, who lives and reigns with him in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.’
Our conviction of the presence of the Triune God within us should help us to esteem ourselves as God’s holy dwelling place, to behave well in His holy presence, and to lead purer and holier lives, practicing acts of justice and charity. This Triune Presence should also encourage us to respect and honor others as "Temples of the Holy Spirit."
We need to be aware of God as the Source of our strength and courage. The awareness and conviction of the presence of God within us, gives us the strength to face the manifold problems of life with Christian courage. It was such a conviction that prompted the early Christian martyrs, when taken to their execution, to shout the heroic prayer of Faith from the Psalms: "The Lord of might is with us, our God is within us, and the God of Jacob is our Stronghold" (Psalm 46).
We need to see the Trinity as the model for our Christian families. We are created in love to be a community of loving persons, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in love. From the day of our Baptism, we have belonged to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How privileged we are to grow up in such a beautiful Family! Hence, let us turn to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in prayer every day. We belong to the Family of the Triune God. The love, unity and joy in the relationship among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit should be the supreme model of our relationships within our Christian families. Our families become truly Christian when we live in a relationship of love with God and with others.
We are called to become more like the Triune God through all our relationships. We are made in God’s image and likeness. Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only as one member of a relationship of three partners. The self needs to be in a horizontal relationship with all other people and in a vertical relationship with God. In that way our life becomes Trinitarian like that of God. Modern society follows the so-called “I-and-I” principle of unbridled individualism and the resulting consumerism. But the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity challenges us to adopt an "I-and-God-and-neighbor" principle: “I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people.”
We are called to emulate the characteristic functions of the Trinity. Like God the Father, we are called upon to be productive and creative persons by contributing to the building up of the fabric of our family, our Church, our community and our nation. Like God the Son, we are called upon to reconcile, to be peacemakers, to put back together that which has been broken, to restore what has been shattered, to live a life of forgiveness and love. Like God the Holy Spirit, it is our task to uncover and teach truth and to dispel ignorance.
The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity shows how near God is to his people and so he is called father, he took flesh to live and work among his people and continues to support his people through the power of his spirit. He is present through his love; he is present through the grace of his son and empowers his people through his spirit dwelling in hearts. The doctrine of the Trinity is a great gift to us. It helps us see that we are truly brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, not only in his humanity, but also in his divinity.
PRAYER: St. Francis Xavier’s favorite prayer was: “Most Holy Trinity, Who live in me, I praise You, I worship You, I adore You and I love You.” Let the Son lead us to the Father through the Spirit, to live with the Triune God forever and ever. Amen.