Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Trinity Sunday—30 May A.D. 2010

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!”[1]

The Holy Trinity

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[Latin Text]
[English Text]

    One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 147.[2]  I first came to appreciate it because of its nature imagery—it reminds me of when I was a young man during the northern winter: 

He spreads snow like wool; * frost He strews like ashes.
He scatters His hail like crumbs; * before His cold the waters freeze.

    Only with the passage of time did I realize that the Psalm contains something far more important than images of nature.  The last two verses praise God for having told the Jewish people what it was that He expects of them; how they can please Him and win His favor.

He has proclaimed His word to Jacob, * His statutes and His ordinances to Israël.
He has not done this for any other nation; * His ordinances He has not made known to them.

“He has not done this for any other nation!”  The Jewish people considered themselves uniquely blessed in having the Law of God, for not knowing what the Creator of the Universe wanted of them could have led to disastrous consequences.

    In Christianity we are similarly favored, although more greatly so, for we too know God’s Law, but He has also favored us with a glimpse of His personal life—He has revealed that He is one God in a Trinity of Persons.  This was something quite unknown to the Jews of the Old Testament—and while we can know that there is a God through the use of our natural reason, the Trinity of Persons is something that would remain unknown to us if God had not chosen to reveal it.

    You see, we know that there is a God by virtue of His interaction with the universe around us:  we know, for example, that motion and causality in nature require a First Mover and a First Cause;  we know that order and organization do not come to be without an Orderer and Organizer.  But these are all things we realize because we observe them in the physical universe around us.  Until our Lord took human form, there was simply no observation that people could make that would disclose a number of Persons in the one God.  It was His voluntary act of Incarnation that revealed Him to mankind.  The first mention of the Holy Ghost is mentioned to the Blessed Virgin in connection with this very same Incarnation:

And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.[4]

And, shortly thereafter, to Saint Joseph:

the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.[5]

    The Holy Ghost appears again with the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan—in fact all three Divine Persons make their appearance:

... the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him.  And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Our Lord explained something of the mission of the Holy Ghost in His Sermon on the Mount:

... when they shall bring you into the synagogues and to magistrates and powers, be not concerned how, or what you shall answer, or what you shall say.  For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you must say.”[6]

    Of course, it was only at the Last Supper that our Lord revealed the complete mission of the Holy Ghost:

But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.[7]

And I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever.  The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him: but you shall know him; because he shall abide with you, and shall be in you.[8]

the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.[9]

    The three Divine Persons are equal in that they all possess the one same divine nature.  All three exist from eternity, before the creation of the physical universe.  Our terminology breaks down a bit here, because time is as much a creation as matter and space are creations;  it is not really possible to speak of time before creation.  But we do speak of relationship:

The Father was made by no one, * being neither created nor begotten.
The Son is from the Father alone, * though not created or made, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son, * though neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.

    Saint Augustine, and later Saint Thomas, suggest that from all eternity God contemplates and knows Himself.  His knowledge of Himself begets the Word, or Second Person of the Trinity.  The Third Person, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the mutual love of Father and Son.  Paternity, Filiation, and Spiration, to use the terms of Saint Thomas.[11]

    Now, it is not all that important that we be able to explain the Trinity as Augustine and Aquinas and a few other great minds tried to do.  The importance of all this is that God loves His people, and loves us enough to reveal the inner relationships of His Trinity to us.  Indeed He has created men and angels in His image, similarly capable of knowledge and love.  We can know and love the things around us—but above all, we can know and love God Himself.  “He has not done this for any other” creature.  In this regard, men and angels are uniquely like God—we are “capable of God” (as Augustine says) precisely because we can lift our hearts and our minds up to Him.  “The mind is the image of God, capable of God, and able to participate in Him.”[12]

    I am indebted to the Late Father Joseph C. Martin, S.S., for his observation that prayer is essentially this lifting of our hearts and minds to God, and that when we do so we are being God-like, for we are doing what He does from all eternity.[13]

    Thus God has given us far more than He gave to the Israelites.  Not only do we know His Law;  not only do we know Him as He is in Himself;  but He has given us the means to be like Him.  He has given us the means to be radically holy—the means to know and love Him in this world, and ultimately, the means to know and love Him for all eternity.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom
and of the knowledge of God!”

[1]   Epistle: Romans xi: 33-36

[3]   Psalm cxlviii, Confraternity translation.

[8]   John xiv: 16-17

[11]   Summa Theologica I Q28. A4.

[12]   Eo mens est imago Dei, quo capax Dei est et particeps esse potest. St. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV:11

[13]   Joseph C. Martin, “Prayer, the Path to God’s Will (DVD)




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