Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Trinity Sunday AD 2005

How incomprehensible are [God’s] judgments, how unsearchable His ways.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Sunday Mass Text - Latin
Sunday Mass Text - English
The Athanasian Creed

    A few weeks ago, when two of our young men received their first Holy Communion, I spoke about the concept of “mystery”—the idea that there are things that are simply beyond the power of the human mind to fully understand.  Exactly how our Lord can be present in each and every consecrated Host in the whole world is one of those mysteries.  But, today, being Trinity Sunday, we consider an even more hidden concept—perhaps the greatest of all the mysteries of our Faith—the reality that even though God is one, He exists in a Trinity of Persons.

    First of all, we know that there is a Trinity, only because God chose to reveal this information to us.  It is possible to know that there is a God through the use of unaided natural reason—the immensity of the universe and the relative order that all created things seem to follow call for some sort of an explanation as to how they came to be—the existence of the creatures points to the existence of the Creator.  The explanation is sometimes a little distorted (some societies have assumed that there is more than one god;  others assume an equally powerful good and bad force in constant conflict),  but every human culture seems to have been able to arrive at the knowledge of a Creator, more or less.

    The Trinity, on the other hand, seems not to have been guessed by anyone.  Quite likely, this is because the relations of the three divine Persons involve one another, and do not effect the created universe until God makes the decision to effect it.

    In the Old Testament, the chief attributes of God were His existence and His unity.  “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one!”[2]  The God of Israel, the Maker of all things is one—quite unlike the gods of the surrounding nations, who are really nothing more than a bunch of demons, the numerous fallen angels who make believe that they are gods.  The Psalmist tells us:  “The Lord is great ... to be feared above all gods ... all the gods of the Gentiles are devils: but the Lord made the heavens.”[3]  There is, perhaps, only a hint of the Trinity to be found in the Old Testament:  only with hindsight do we recognize the Holy Ghost when we read in Genesis that the “Spirit of God moved over the waters,” or when we read in Isaias “that the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and understanding, counsel, fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness and fear of the Lord.”[4]  Only with the knowledge of the New Testament do we recognize Jesus Christ as the “Emmanuel” whom the “Virgin would conceive,” out of the “root of Jesse.”[5]

    “In the fullness of time,” of course, God chose to reveal Himself as a Trinity of divine persons.  The Blessed Virgin Mary was “overshadowed by the Holy Ghost,”  conceiving the “Son of God,” through the “power of the Most High.”[6]  When the Son was baptized in the Jordan, He was accompanied by the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove, as the voice of the Father approved of His “beloved Son,” in Whom He was “well pleased.”[7]  Our Lord spoke of being one with the Father.[8]  Last week on Pentecost we heard Him speak of “the Holy Ghost, the Advocate, Whom the Father will send in My name.”[9]  And today we heard the explicit command to baptize the people of all nations “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”[10]

    Of course, even though we know of the Trinity through these revelations, we are still far from understanding the Trinity and how It might be.  Saint Augustine is generally credited as being the first to come up with a plausible answer;  a conjecture, really:   God the Father, knows Himself with His infinite intellect;  an intellect so powerful that His knowledge begets His Son, the Word, a reality rather than a mere concept.  Likewise, the Father and the Son love each other with Their infinite will;  a will so powerful that from it proceeds their Love, also a reality rather than a mere concept.  Yet, the Son and the Holy Ghost are not creatures of the Father;  they exist in relationship with Him, even before creation with its time and space.  Here again, our understanding quickly breaks down, for we are creatures of time and space, and find existence without them quite inconceivable.

    While a precise understanding of the Trinity may well be impossible, even with the benefit of revelation, the Church has always taken great pains to state what we do know, and what we can understand, with careful precision.  To do any less would be to invite dishonor of God.  Centuries ago, the “Arian” heresy claimed that Jesus Christ was a mere creature of God;  superior to, but not radically different from creatures like the angels, or even like ourselves.  The Church, of course, held this theory inadmissible, for it dishonored one of the divine Persons—the Nicene Creed, which we recite on Sundays and a few other days of the year, was formulated to express the correct doctrine,  that the Son was “begotten, not made, of one being with the Father”—“consubstantial” may be a better word.  It also indicated that the Holy Ghost “together with the Father and the Son is no less adored and glorified.”  In fact, there is an even more detailed Creed—called the Athanasian Creed (mistakenly) after Athanasius of Alexandria, the Church’s champion against the Arians—which carefully presents what we know to be true about the Trinity.  I’ve posted a copy on the bulletin board, and you can also read it on the Internet at our website.

    We all ought to understand that this is not simply history that took place fifteen or sixteen centuries ago.  A great deal of what afflicts the Church today as Modernism, is a return to past errors about Christ and the Trinity.  Modernists today are quite happy to think of Jesus Christ as a mere man, rather than as the Second Person of the Trinity—for that would reduce His teaching from divine revelation to personal opinion;  that would reduce His Church from a divine institution to a collection of people with similar ideas, really no different from any other collection of people with similar ideas.  Demoting Jesus from God to man serves to justify every wind of doctrine, and every perversion of the moral law;  and makes sense of the notion that the Mass is merely a friendly meal rather than the sacrificial offering of the divine Victim to appease God for the sins of mankind.  It makes sense of these things for the Modernists, but in no way does it do so for Catholics who recognize the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Finally, each of us must recognize that God’s revelation of Himself to us as the Trinity of divine Persons is a generous act of love toward us.  It is a sort of “invitation” into the private life of God;  a call for us to know God not only in His exterior self which we know from natural reason;  but also in His interior self, as He has existed from all eternity without mankind’s knowledge until He chose to befriend us.  Understand, please, that eternal life begins for us here on earth—it begins as we allow ourselves to be drawn closer and closer to God in everything we do—it prepares us to spend our eternity with God who loves us so intimately that He has chosen to reveal His inner self to us: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

    The all-powerful, and eternal God, has given His children the true faith: so that we may adore Him in the glory of The Trinity and in the grandeur of His Unity;  may the firmness of this belief strengthen us in the face of life's difficulties.  And may He bless us now, Father, Son, @ and Holy Ghost.  Amen.


[1]   Epistle: Romans xi: 33-36.

[2]   Deuteronomy

[3]   Psalm xcv: 4-5.

[4]   Isaias xi: 2-3.

[5]   Cf. Isaias vii: 14;  xi: 1.

[6]   Cf. Luke i: 26-38.

[7]   Cf.  Matthew iii: 13-17;  Mark i: 9-11;  Luke iii: 21-22;  John i: 29-34.

[8]   John x: 30.

[9]   Gospel of Pentecost:  John xiv: 23-31.

[10]   Gospel of Trinity Sunday:  Matthew xxviii: 18-20


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