Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Trinity Sunday—7 June AD 2009

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

“How incomprehensible are his judgments and how unsearchable His ways!”[1]

    Certainly, there is no disagreeing with Saint Paul, for God is certainly “incomprehensible” and “unsearchable” when we compare Him with anything else we know.  But still, even the child who has mastered the Baltimore Catechism is able to speak about the one God and name the three Divine Persons in that one God.  Every time we say the Rosary we profess belief in “God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His Son, our Lord ... and in the Holy Ghost.”  Each Sunday we recite the Nicene Creed and further profess that “Jesus Christ [is] the only-begotten Son of God. Born of the Father before all ages ... begotten, not made; of one being with the Father ...  Who ... for our salvation came down from heaven.  And was made flesh, by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary ... And in the Holy Ghost ... who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

    So, apparently, we do know something about God after all.  We might ask ourselves how we know all these things—both so that we can more appreciate God from whom we have learned them, and so that as individuals we can go back to these sources and learn more.

    If we take stock of our knowledge, we will realize that we know God by way of three sources.  They are our natural human reason;  God’s revelation of Himself;  and the magisterium of the Catholic Church.  Let us look at each of these three briefly:

    Men and women are capable of considering the things around them and drawing conclusions from what they experience.  Even if they live in a pagan society, they are capable of looking up and seeing the motion and order in the moon, the sun, and the stars.  They can look around them on earth and see that nothing happens without cause, nothing moves without a mover, nothing is organized with an organizer.  They can look down into their own souls and see that there is a spiritual dimension to things that is unexplained by anything material.  In short, the thinking person will recognize four or five reasons that suggest that something far beyond the things of our experience was necessary to create and to preserve the world around us.

    This First Cause – First Mover – First Organizer, and so forth, is what the philosophers call “God.”  By himself, the thinking person will not know God as a personal and loving God—he will certainly not realize that God exists in Trinity—but the thinking person can know at least that God exists.

    He will also be able to discern an outline of God’s natural moral law.  This God who created the universe, who set things in motion, and put people on this world, obviously does not want his plans frustrated by His thinking creatures.  The thinking person will realize that society cannot function, and that God’s plans will be frustrated if we go about beating and killing and cheating and lying and stealing from one another—so these are things that we must not do.  He will also recognize that this God whom he has discovered is worthy of honor and must be held in high esteem.

    This concept of man knowing God and His laws through natural human reason comes down to us through the ancient Greeks.  It has been an essential part of Catholic theology through the centuries.  It is presented to us as dogma through the teachings of Pope Pius IX and the First Vatican Council back in 1870.[2]  (That was the good Vatican Council.)

    We also know God through His revelation of Himself to us.  In the Old Testament He revealed Himself as a personal God;  loving, even if somewhat stern.  He revealed His natural law in some detail, so that it is known even by those people who don’t spend much time in thinking.  The Old Testament doesn’t say much about God existing in Trinity, but there are a few hints:

“In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.... and the spirit of God moved over the waters.”[3]  Perhaps the Holy Spirit of God, Whom we know as the Holy Ghost.

    “Let us make man to our image and likeness.... And God created man to his own image: to the image of God He created him: male and female He created them.”[4]  “Our image and likeness”—God is referring to Himself in the plural, perhaps speaking of the God Son, “through Whom all things were made,” as we say in the Creed.

    The prophet Isaias described the angels worshipping God in Heaven:  “And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory.”[5]  Note that there are three “Holies.”

    The same prophet predicts the coming of the Messias and describes what we know as the Gifts of the Holy Ghost:  And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.  And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness.”[6]

    In the New Testament, of course, God reveals Himself plainly as existing in Trinity.  We see it immediately in the infancy narratives:

    “Thou shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be called the Son of the most High.... And of his kingdom there shall be no end.... The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee.... The Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”[7]

    “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.”[8]

    And at the very beginning of our Lord’s public life we read that  “Jesus being baptized, came out of the water: and lo, 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.”[9]

    And our Lord speaks about His Father, and about the Holy Ghost, the Advocate, Whom would send after His Ascension into heaven:

    “As the Father knows me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold ... they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. The Father loves me: because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.... I give them life everlasting; and they shall not perish for ever....  and no one can snatch them out of the hand of my Father.  I and the Father are one.[10]

    “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.... Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in 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,  In that day you shall know, that I am in my Father....” [11]

    We have the testimony of the Apostles and those who knew the Apostles—sometimes in writing, and sometimes passed on in oral tradition.

    And finally, we have the teaching of the magisterium of the Catholic Church which our Lord founded to preserve His teaching for all time.  The Popes, the bishops, the fathers and doctors, and on down to Catholic sense of the faithful.  The Church does not create any new doctrines—all public revelation ended with the death of Saint John the Apostle—rather It preserves the deposit of Faith, interprets it, and keeps it pure from contamination by the doctrinal innovations that seem to spring up in each century.  We know of the Trinity through the pronouncements of the Church, particularly in the Nicene Creed and another called the Athanasian Creed.

    Again, I tell you these things so that you may know the sources of our Faith, and so that you can draw upon them to learn yet more than you know today.  But above all I tell them to you so that you can recognize the great gift that God has given to us, revealing even the inner secrets of His family—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—and taking us into that family as the adopted sons and daughters of God.

Holy!  Holy!  Holy!
May God bless you † in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.


[1]   Romans xi: 33-36.

[2]   Vatican I, Session 3 : 24 April 1870  Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith

[3]   Genesis i: 1, 2.

[4]   Genesis i: 26, 27.

[5]   Isaias vi: 3.

[6]   Isaias xi: 2, 3.

[7]   Luke i: 31, 32, 33, 35.

[8]   Matthew i: 20.

[9]   Matthew iii: 16, 17.

[10]   John x:  15-17, 27-30.

[11]   John xiv: 6, 11, 16, 16, 29.


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