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The Holy Trinity Sunday - 03 June 2012
Trinity Sunday, officially "The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity," is one of the few feasts of the Christian Year that celebrates a reality and doctrine rather than an event or person. On Trinity Sunday we remember and honor the eternal God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Trinity Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost, and lasts only one day, which is symbolic of the unity of the Trinity.
The Trinity is one of the most fascinating - and controversial - Christian dogmas. The Trinity is a mystery. By mystery the Church does not mean a riddle, but rather the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol, and faith. It has been said that mystery is not a wall to run up against, but an ocean in which to swim. The common wisdom is that if you talk about the Trinity for longer than a few minutes you will slip into heresy because you are probing the depths of God too deeply. The Trinity is best described in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, commonly called the Nicene Creed. Essentially the Trinity is the belief that God is one in essence (Greek ousia), but distinct in person (Greek hypostasis). Don't let the word "person" fool you. The Greek word for person means "that which stands on its own," or "individual reality," and does not mean the persons of the Trinity are three human persons. Therefore we believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are somehow distinct from one another (not divided though), yet completely united in will and essence. An illustration to explain the Trinity is the musical chord. Think of a C-chord. The C, E, and G notes are all distinct notes, but joined together as one chord the sound is richer and more dynamic than had the notes been played individually. The chords are all equally important in producing the rich sound, and the sound is lacking and thin if one of the notes is left out.
The shamrock, a kind of clover, is a leguminous herb that grows in marshy places. St Patrick, the missionary patron saint of Ireland, used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. The story goes that one day his friends asked Patrick to explain the mystery of the Trinity. He looked at the ground and saw shamrocks growing amid the grass at his feet. He picked one of its trifoliate leaves and asked if it were one leaf or three. Patrick's friends couldn't answer – the shamrock leaf looked like one but it clearly had three parts. Patrick explained to them: "The mystery of the Holy Trinity – one God in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - is like this, but more complex and unintelligible.” St. Cyril, the teacher of the Slavs, tried to explain the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity using sun as an example. He said, "God the Father is that blazing sun. God the Son is its light and God the Holy Spirit is its heat — but there is only one sun. So there are three Persons in Holy Trinity but God is One and indivisible."
On the feast of the Most Holy Trinity the church invites us to reflect on this central and most unfathomable mystery of that faith, which she has been sent to announce and make present: the mystery of who God is. In our practice of Christian Life, the Trinity is remembered often in prayer and during the daily routine by every Christian. Each time we make the sign of the cross, as we did at the beginning of this celebration, we say: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Our God is a Trinity, a God of love and forgiveness.
The readings of today do not give us a clear and elaborate presentation of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. The doctrine of three persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality, is not explicitly spelt out in the Bible. In fact the very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. The teaching about the Trinity is one of the most fundamental doctrines in our Christian faith yet not explicitly found as such in the New Testament. We have only limited biblical passages to support that in the fullness of God, there are three distinct Persons with specific attributes. In the closing verses of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told his disciples, to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Paul in the Second Letter to the Corinthians exhorts the community to live in peace and invokes on them the blessings of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself in his teaching calls God Abba, Father and he teaches the disciples too to invoke him in the same way. Jesus also speaks of the Spirit as his advocate and his oneness with him. He speaks of the unity of love between the three persons and says that if they have seen him they have seen the Father too. It is his Spirit that will come and continue to teach them further. He tells them that through the Trinity they will experience the love and forgiveness.
In our understanding of the Trinity specific roles however are attributed to them, namely, Father as the Creator, Son as the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier. Jesus explicitly teaches us about his close union with the Father and the Spirit, which is a bond of love. John in his Gospel tells us that the Word, Jesus was present at creation. We see the Trinity at work at the incarnation when Gabriel announces that Mary is having favor with God and the Spirit will come and Jesus will dwell in her womb. In the Holy Eucharist is manifested the fullness of the Blessed Trinity. As the Father and the Holy Spirit remained in Jesus while he was on earth, the Father and the Holy Spirit dwell in Jesus in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist bodily.
In the first reading of today, a discourse to the people of Israel before they move over to the Promised Land, Moses tells them of the special privileges they have above other nations where a God himself has led them from slavery to freedom. Moses as the leader impresses on the people of Israel of the unique relationship they have with God. The point that Moses wants to make here is that God is clearly committed to caring for them in every way. Fidelity to God is therefore, the one thing that will assure prosperity and long life for them in the Promised Land.
In the second reading of today Paul reminds the people of the Father’s love, the grace that comes through Jesus Christ and the fellowship or the unifying power of the Holy Spirit. We are all led by the Spirit and therefore we are the children of God. It is the Spirit which enables us to cry out with spiritual longing, Abba, Father, and the Holy Spirit does this because we have been made the children of God by the incarnation of Jesus the Son of God.
Our faith tells us that God is closely associated with human kind that he sent his son and also he sent his own spirit. The Father is at the origin of the Most Holy Trinity: he is its principle. The Father gives life to his Son: from all eternity, the Father begets his Son. The Son continuously receives life from his Father as he tells us that he lives because of the Father. The first person is the Father and he is called Father because he is the source of life for the son. The second person is called the Son because he receives his life from the Father. Father and Son love each other with a love more complete and perfect than we can imagine. Their love is so perfect that it is a person, the Holy Spirit. The third person then is the personal love between Father and Son and is the bond of Union between the Father and the Son.
If there is a spirit that presides over the whole of this Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, it is the spirit of love. First: God the Father. What does a Father do? A father cares, supports, and most especially loves his son or daughter. That is what our God also does to us. He cares for us. He loves us. He supports us. He feeds us. He provides us with what we need. And we can tell this through our experience of Him.
Second: God the Son. God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to save us. So Jesus Christ, the God-made man, came down and dwell with us, lived with us, walked with us, dined with us, suffered and died for our sins and is risen from the dead. The same God, who out of great love decided to be with us in person and lived like human beings and shared in our humanity without losing his divinity.
Third, is the Holy Spirit. The God in person, that is Jesus Christ has lived in this earth 2,000 years ago. But his Spirit remains in us, with us and works through us. It is the same God who out of love couldn’t leave us on our own. He continually sustains us, strengthens us, guides us and draws us to his friendship and to eventually gather us altogether in his kingdom.
What may be the messages we derive for our lives from this feast? Firstly, we need to respect ourselves and respect others. Our conviction of the presence of the Triune God within us should help us to esteem ourselves as God’s holy dwelling place. This Triune Presence should also encourage us to respect and honor others as ‘Temples of the Holy Spirit.’
Secondly, we need to be aware of God as the Source of our strength and courage. The awareness and conviction of the presence of God within us, gives us the strength to face the manifold problems of life with Christian courage.
Thirdly, we need to see the Trinity as the model for our Christian families: We are created in love -- to be a community of loving persons, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in love. We belong to the family of the triune God. The love, unity and joy in the relationship among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit should be the supreme model of our relationships within our Christian families.
Finally, we are called to become more like the triune God through all our relationships. We are made in God’s image and likeness. Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only as one member of a relationship of three partners. Modern society follows the so-called “I-and-I” principle of unbridled individualism and the resulting consumerism. But the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity challenges us to adopt an "I-and-God-and-neighbor" principle. I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people.
May this be our most fervent desire on this day: to obey the Word of God by participating with faith and with love in today's Eucharist, just as the Most Blessed Virgin Mary always said "yes" to the Order of God, ever present in her.