Last day to receive Easter Communion!
[Ordinary of the Mass]
The Moslems have been very much in the news lately, so I make a practice of
going to the Internet site “jihadwatch.org” which is run by an Eastern Rite
Catholic deacon named Robert Spencer. One of the pages run by Deacon Spencer
recently dealt with the Moslem error that Christians worship three “gods.”
Spencer observed that many Christians are not knowledgeable enough in the Faith
to refute the Moslem claim. Today being Trinity Sunday, it seems appropriate to
say a few words about what we know about the Trinity—the one God who exists in
First, we need to recognize that we
would know nothing about the Trinity if it had not been revealed to us. While
we can know God’s existence by seeing His effects on the world around us, the is
no perceivable indication that God exists in Trinity—we might say that the inner
life of God is hidden from our view. It is only because the three Persons have
chosen to manifest Themselves that we know of their existence. We must also
admit to ourselves that we will never be able to fully explain the Trinity—it is
a Mystery that we believe on the authority of God Himself who revealed it to us.
Quite appropriately the first human to
learn of the Trinity was the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, to whom it
was revealed through the Archangel Gabriel:
Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt
bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be
great, and shall be called the Son of the most High;
and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father;
and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his
kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How
shall this be done, because I know not man? 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.
Saint Matthew records that “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
This still must have seemed rather mysterious to Mary and Joseph, for they had
no reason yet to think that the “Spirit of the Lord” was anything more than the
power of God (as it was sometimes expressed in the Old Testament); they had no
reason yet to suppose it was a distinct Person.
Yet, from Mary’s revelation, they knew
that he Child would be a distinct Person, and that He would be the Son of God.
How this could be remained a mystery, but at least they knew something of this
inner life of God—there was a Father and a Son, and something called the Holy
With the birth of Jesus, we meet the
Second Person of God in the flesh. Jesus is, of course, both God and man, the
nature of His divine Father being hypostatically united with the nature of His
We learn more from the public life of
Jesus. At his baptism in the Jordan we are treated to a vision of the three
Persons present simultaneously. “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily
shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: Thou art my beloved
Son; in thee I am well pleased.”
Later on we have Jesus’ words: “I and
the Father are one.”
Here He is speaking about His divinity, which He shares with the Father. “I go
to the Father: for the Father is greater than I.”
Here He is speaking about His humanity, in which He is less than the Father.
“He that sees me sees the Father also.”
And we have Jesus’ words about the Holy
Ghost, the Advocate, the Paraclete: “But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom
the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things….”
He refers to all three Persons in today's Gospel: “baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Although the Bible never uses the word
“Trinity,” it certainly does tell us about the Persons and their divine unity.
There is one God, not three. How this can be is still a mystery—something that
we never will fully understand, and could not have known without divine
Having said that, let me give you Saint
Augustine’s conjecture about the origin of the Trinity. “Origin” is not the
right word, for all of this happened before the creation of time. But it will
have to do for us mortal creatures for anything outside of space and time is
difficult for us to understand.
Augustine proposes that God knows
Himself. But God's intellect is so powerful that His conception of Himself
actually takes on existence. This existence is the second Person, known in
Greek as the Logos, or in English the Word. This is the Word about which we
hear in he last Gospel at the end of Mass:. “In the beginning was the Word.”
The name is fitting for “Word” describes what is known in God's intellect, in
much the same way as people communicate what is in their intellects using
words. When we recite the Creed, we say that “Jesus Christ ... was
begotten, not made; of one substance with the Father.”
God knows Himself, begetting the Word, but making no new substance, for both the
Father and the Word (the Father and the Son) are of the same divine
substance—the one substance of one God.
Now, equally before the beginning of
time, the first and second person love each other. Love is an act of the will,
and God’s will is so powerful that the mutual love of Father and Son actually
takes on existence. This existence we know as the Holy Ghost. In the Creed we
say that “the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the
Son.” All three are of one substance, for the Father and Son are of one
substance, and no new substance is made as the Holy Ghost proceeds. All three
are of the same divine substance—the one substance of one God.
Now, I like Augustine’s conjecture—but
it is mostly that, a conjecture, for the Trinity is a mystery hidden deep within
the Godhead. It is known to us only because God loves us, made us His adopted
sons and daughters, and has shared the life of His divine family with us.
“I believe in one
God, the Father Almighty…. And in one Lord Jesus Christ …. And … in the Holy
Ghost…. Who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified….”
God who loves us,
and shares Himself with us!