[Ordinary of the Mass]
One of my
favorite Psalms is Psalm 147.
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:
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.
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
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
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.
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
The Holy Ghost
appears again with the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan—in fact all three
Divine Persons make their appearance:
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.
explained something of the mission of the Holy Ghost in His Sermon on the
... 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.”
Of course, it was
only at the Last Supper that our Lord revealed the complete mission of the
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!”