Feast of the Trinity
FEAST OF THE TRINITY
Deut. 4: 32-34, 39-40 Rom. 8: 14-17 Mt. 28: 16-20
The Trinitarian Mystery reveals that God is beyond us, yet beside us.
The dogma of Trinity, that God is one, yet of three persons, is a revealed truth. The very first three verses of the Bible point to this revealed truth. Gen 1: 1 speaks of the presence of the Father. Gen 1: 2 speaks of the presence of the Holy Spirit (“a wind from God”). Gen 1: 3 speaks of the presence of the Son, the Word (Then God said). It is this truth that is affirmed in today’s gospel too. Jesus instructs his disciples to baptize people (i.e. to offer new life) in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of Trinitarian relationship in this way: “The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.” “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.” They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.” The divine Unity is Triune.” (CCC. 254). It further says, “Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son” (CCC. 255).
The challenge of understanding the Trinitarian mystery lies in the fact that God is ‘one’ and at the same time, this one God has three constituent persons, who are distinct and yet wholly present in each other. Indeed, it is very difficult to understand. Though it is very difficult to have a thorough grasp of the Trinitarian mystery, we cannot completely ignore our effort to have an intellectual grasp of the Trinitarian mystery since this intellectual understanding plays a pivotal role in living out this mystery.
The problem in understanding a mystery is that we use our mind to understand the things which are beyond the realm of mind. Here is where analogies and symbols can be of great help. An unfortunate thing is that it is almost impossible to give a perfect analogy from our normal day-to-day experience to explain the Trinitarian relationship, since all analogies and examples are limited by the space-time framework, while the Trinitarian relationship transcends space and time. However a lot of ‘imperfect’ analogies can be given. Let us see one such analogy.
Let us think of a ‘single man’ who relates with his mother in the capacity as her son, with his wife in the capacity as her husband, and with his children in the capacity as their father. His relationship with all the three group is distinct and unique. In fact, he ‘behaves’ in three different ways, which may give us the impression that he is a ‘combination’ of three different persons. However we do know from our experience that he is a single individual.
Coming to the Trinitarian God, the three ‘persons’ refer to the three aspects of God. God, who is in silent mystery and who is transcendent is called the Father. Karl Rahner in his book Encounter with Silence refers to this dimension of God when he writes, “If you were not incomprehensible, my God, you would be inferior to me, for my mind could grasp and assimilate You. You would belong to me, in stead of I to you. And that would truly be hell.” The God who continues to act in human history and who redeems the world, is known as the Son. The God who dwells within the hearts of every human being and who is immanent, is called the Holy Spirit (Today’s second reading speaks about it). In other words, God, the Father, is beyond us; God, the Son, is beside us; God, the Holy Spirit is within us.
In today’s first reading, though it looks like that Moses speaks of the Father-God, in fact we understand that the whole Trinitarian mystery is present there, since one cannot be without the other two.
The next challenge of the Trinitarian mystery lies in experiencing it. In fact the intellectual understanding of it is not so important as the experiential realization of it. The purpose of having intellectual grasp is to lead us to have an experience of it. It is not the intellectual understanding of the mystery that saves us, but the experiential realization of it. Normally, we use the word ‘mystery’ to mean that which is incomprehensible and beyond our human understanding. However, this word has got a deeper meaning. Gabriel Marcel, an existentialist philosopher, talks about problem and mystery. For him, problem is something that which is not part of oneself, and which can be objectified and analysed. It is possible to find solutions for a problem. Mystery is something that which is part of oneself and one is part of it, and which can’t be objectified and analysed. So a mystery is not something to be solved, but to be lived.
The following words of St. Gregory of Nazianzus to the catechumens of Constantinople reveal how the Trinitarian mystery was affecting his very life: “Above all guard for me this great deposit of faith (i.e. the Trinitarian mystery) for which I live and fight, which I want to take with me as a companion, and which makes me bear all evils and despise all pleasures.”
Another example is St. Teresa of Avila. She was a person who had a long and bitter struggle with her lower self, suffered so much from a prolonged ill-health and experienced a lot of opposition from the Church hierarchy. However in spite of all these things, she started a new life in her fifties and went about reforming a great religious order. It was because of her experience of the Triune God.
Self-Offering to the Trinity (by St. Theresa of Lisieux)
O My God, in order that I may be a living act of perfect love, I offer myself as a whole burnt offering to your tender love. Consume me continually, letting my soul overflow with the floods of infinite tenderness that are found in you, so that I may become a martyr of your love, Amen.