Immaculate Conception and St. Dominic, Stone

Including Sacred Heart Church, Eccleshall


header image

Trinity Sunday, Year C

Just a Thought

Today, we are going to look at the deepest and dearest of all the mysteries of our faith:- The Mystery of God Almighty, Himself. When we celebrate our faith we celebrate as a people who have been given a privileged look into the depths of God. Although it is impossible to fathom completely the mysteries of our faith (that’s why they are called mysteries) this does not mean that we cannot know something about it. God has disclosed some of this mystery of himself to us in the Christian Revelation: He has told us in no uncertain terms that:

He is a Trinity of Persons.
That He is God——And that in His One Divine nature, there are three Divine Persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Each totally possessed, one by the other—each totally distinct from one another — and totally in love.

For many Christians, the Holy Trinity evokes a particularly lofty and impenetrable mystery of faith, a most abstract dogma, completely apart from daily life, one among those dogmas that least count in their psychology and preoccupations. As a consequence, they find it difficult to grasp the object and interest of the solemnity of the Sunday after Pentecost. Throughout the year, the liturgy celebrates events of our salvation; and so they ask, ‘Why this exception, and what can be the meaning of this feast?’ This feast of course, is most important to us, as it reveals to us God’s true nature — One God, Three persons. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One might say: the central mystery of the Christian faith is the Holy Trinity. The Christian faith is monotheistic, (belief in one God) — It believes there is only one God. It has been revealed through Jesus, and attested by Scripture, that God is Three Persons in One God. This can be difficult for us to understand because we find it hard to speak of One simultaneously as Three. (It’s not really in our comprehension, is it?) Saint Patrick understood this difficulty and gave us his famous analogy of the Trinity being like the leaf of a shamrock: three leaves, one stem. There are many such analogies and examples, and we should be very careful when using them, not to mislead ourselves, we can easily over simplify things. It is obvious when dealing with God who is infinite; that our finite minds must eventually come to the end of its reasoning powers. It has no right to expect the answer to everything connected with God; in fact, it ought logically to expect to come up against many questions which it will never certainly be able to resolve; certainly in this life anyway.

In the fourth century, the church underwent a serious crisis when Arius, a priest of Alexandria who died in the year 336, denied the divinity of Christ; as a consequence, faith in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, together with the equality of the three Divine Persons, was imperiled. The heresy, called Arianism, was successfully condemned by the councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381), which affirmed and formulated the faith in a Creed, the one still recited today at Sunday Mass. But Arianism did not disappear after the two councils. It survived for a long time under various disguises, often more political than theological, but nevertheless endangering the Catholic faith. Preaching strove to teach the faithful true doctrine. But liturgy was also pressed into service. Thus in the middle of the fourth century, someone wrote the Preface of the Trinity, which is still found today in the Roman Missal. Around the year 800, a votive Mass of the Trinity was composed to be used on Sundays to give them a more Trinitarian emphasis. Later on, even before The year 1,000 Benedictine monasteries of Gaul and the Frankish regions celebrated the Feast of the Trinity on the Sunday after Pentecost. Therefore, this Solemnity was born in a context of controversy. It was instituted as a liturgical expression of the faith in the unity and equality of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, which was always held before the heresy of Arianism.

‘Father, all powerful and ever living God,
We do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.
We joyfully proclaim our faith
In the mystery of your Godhead.
You have revealed your glory
As the glory of your Son
And of the Holy Spirit:
Three Persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour,
Yet one Lord God,
Ever to be adored in your everlasting glory.’
(Preface of the Trinity)

Often, the Church moves slowly. For a long time, the Church of Rome was reluctant to adopt such a celebration. Finally, in 1334, it took its place in the calendar of the whole Church under Pope John XXII, the second Pope to reside at Avignon. The yearly feast of the Holy Trinity focuses the attention of the faithful on what must never be forgotten when one speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and when one reflects on their specific part in the work of salvation: there are Three Persons, but One God. This is what tradition and Church teaching have constantly proclaimed. We find the doctrine of the Holy Trinity also firmly founded in Scripture. At the Incarnation (the union of God and man in Christ) the Father sends the Holy Spirit upon Mary who conceives Jesus. (Luke 3:21)

At Christ’s baptism, the Father’s voice is heard identifying his Son and sending the Spirit upon him. ( Matt 3:16-17)

John gives us wonderful Trinitarian passages: ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me.’ ( John 16:26) ‘I came from the Father…….’ etc.

At the end of Christ’s earthly ministry, he sends the disciples out to baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Matt 28:19). This doctrine of the Trinity remains the basic formula for a valid baptism.

Today in the Gospel we hear Jesus telling his disciples he will send them the ‘Spirit of Truth, who will lead you to complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will only say what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come.. He will glorify me since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine. Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: All he tells you will be taken from what is mine.’

As the Trinity is the basic Mystery of the Christian faith it is beyond our comprehension, but in, accepting our limitations we can gain some understanding about it. Yes, it is true that we cannot know everything about a mystery of faith, but we can know something. Saint Catherine of Sienna says this about the Mystery of the Trinity and it can be applied to every mystery of faith: ‘You are like a deep ocean, the more I seek — the more I find — and yet — the more I find —the more I need to seek!’

Saint Ambrose (339-397) said when addressing newly baptised neophytes:
‘You were baptised in the name of the Trinity. We have respected the mystery of the Trinity in all we have done. Wherever we found the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we had one operation, one sanctifying action, albeit with some distinctive traits.
How is this possible? It is God who anointed you and the Lord who marked you with a seal and placed the Holy Spirit in your heart.
Then you found this particular thing: it is God who called you, while in baptism, it is with Christ that you were crucified in a special manner; afterwards, something special happened when you received the spiritual seal. You see that the Persons are distinct, but that the whole mystery of the Trinity follows from this distinction.’

The liturgy expresses in various ways and at every moment our faith in a unique God in Three Persons, a fact to which we do not always advert. The prayers at the Mass and the Office all end with an invocation — epiclesis — of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The psalmody of the Liturgy of the Hours and the recitation of the Rosary are punctuated by ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit….’ This doxology is developed in the hymn sung at the beginning of Mass to the glory of God the Father Almighty, glory shared by Jesus Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. The Eucharistic Prayer unfolds according to a Trinitarian scheme and concludes with the great doxology:
Through him [Christ] and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours for ever and ever. Amen.’

Thus, the liturgy, like the New Testament, like all the Greek and Latin Fathers before, Augustine, has a very concrete and dynamic conception of the Three Persons of the Trinity: everything comes from the Father and returns to him through the Son, in the Spirit. Restored to this general and familiar liturgical context, now freed from the polemic and apologetic connotations it had at the time of its institution in the eighth and ninth centuries, the feast of the Holy Trinity acquires its full meaning. Celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, it is a great doxology to the Father who raised his Son and brought him into the glory where he reigns with the Holy Spirit he has sent to us. When the sequence of the Sundays of Ordinary Time is about to begin again, this feast sheds light on the face and true nature of Jesus, The Son of God, who by his teaching and his acts, reveals the Father and leads humankind to himself in the Spirit. As Saint Athanasius (295- 373) testifies:

‘There is a holy and perfect Trinity, acknowledged as God in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…. The Father does all things through the Word, in the Holy Spirit. Thus the unity of the Holy Trinity is safeguarded and, in the Church, one God ‘who is above all and through all and in all’ is announced ‘above all’ as Father, principle and source, ‘Through all’ through the Word’ {The Son} ‘in all’ in the Holy Spirit.’

Finally, I’ll leave the last words to one of our local saints and great theologian, Saint John Henry Newman and his beautiful explanation of the Holy Trinity, when he writes:
‘But do not think that God was idle in that eternity (before the creation of the world) for He was not [Let’s not forget that God is outside time and space, for all time belongs to him] He was infinite in His love and activity.

For endless ages, God rejoiced in the knowledge of Himself; And knowing Himself — He declared and expressed His knowledge in the Infinite Word — His only begotten Son, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity — to whom He communicates His Nature, His Life, His Perfections, His All. These two Persons loved one another with an infinite love, (for God is infinite love) and from their mutual embrace, bursts forth the Holy Spirit of love — the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.’

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.



Comments are closed.