Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

IHS

Ave Maria!
Trinity Sunday—22 May AD 2016

The Holy Trinity

Last day to receive Easter Communion!

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

    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 three Persons.

    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.[1]

    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 Holy Ghost.”[2]  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 Ghost.

    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 human mother.

    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.”[3]

    Later on we have Jesus’ words:  “I and the Father are one.”[4]  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.”[5]  Here He is speaking about His humanity, in which He is less than the Father.  “He that sees me sees the Father also.”[6]

    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….”[7]  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.”[8]

    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 revelation.

    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.”[9]  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!

 


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