Most Holy Trinity

Blest be God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son of God, and also the Holy Spirit for He has shown us His merciful love.

God our Father, Who by sending into the world
the Word of Truth and the Spirit of Sanctification
made known to the human race Your wondrous mystery,
grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith,
we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory
and adore Your Unity, powerful in majesty.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own. (Psalm 33:12).

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go (πορευθέντες, poreuthentes), therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:16-20).”

What happens when you hear the phrase, ‘the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity’? Is there a particular word that captures your mind? Many of the undergraduate students that I have in class often get hung up on the word mystery. Many have heard from childhood that the Most Holy Trinity is a mystery and therefore one will never completely understand the reality. The more practical students in the class then say, “so we won’t be studying this and it certainly won’t be on the test! Correct?” “Not so fast,” I caution because the Divine Community of love and life, the singular Divine Unity of three distinct, divine Persons is the very grounding of all reality, all life and all love.

Part of the ‘problem’ lies, not in the word mystery itself, but how the word is grasped in Western culture. Mystery was used in the Eastern world to describe a particular way of living. In the Hellenistic world of antiquity, one was ‘initiated into the mysteries.’ Once one’s life began ‘in the mysteries,’ one’s life was different. Mystery in this original Greek context was not primarily focused on the unknowable, but on living what was known of the particular reality that now captivated one’s life. In other words, mystery was a word used to describe a very active and particular way of living life. Sure there were aspects of this living that were unknown, unclear and uncertain. The person living the mysteries knew however that deeper insights and the occasional resolution of the unknown, unclear and uncertain came only by living deeply that which is known.

Consider though how mystery is popularly understood in the West. Mystery is practically synonymous first and foremost with ‘unknowable’ or ‘can't be figured out.’ Further complications arise when these (and others) descriptions of mystery hit the pragmatic and utilitarian approach of Western culture: ‘why bother,’ why waste time trying to figure out the unfirgurable,’ etc. I'll simply take ‘it’ on faith and believe, even though I may have absolutely no idea of what I am saying.

Andrei Rublev's icon of the Holy Trinity in Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Along with ‘taking the Holy Trinity on faith,’ Christians often try to engage theological algebra: how can 3 be 1, how can 1 be 3? We attempt an explanation with Saint Patrick's shamrock (1 leaf with 3 petals), or water (ice, liquid, steam) or a candle (wax, wick, flame). Early Christianity had its struggles with articulating an acceptable expression of the Incomprehensible. In fourth-century Constantinople, Saint Gregory of Nyssa quipped, "The whole city is full of it, the squares, the marketplaces, the crossroads, the alleyways; rag dealers, money-changers, food-sellers, they are all busy arguing. If you ask someone to give you change, he philosophizes about the Begotten and the Unbegotten; if you inquire about the price of a loaf, you are told by way of reply that the Father is greater and the Son inferior; if you ask, “Is my bath ready?” the attendant answers that the Son was made out of nothing."

With all of these thoughts swirling about, what guidance does the Word of God offer us this Sunday? The Gospel proclamation known in some circles as the “Great Commissioning” helps to properly orient our thoughts – and more importantly, our lives – in the direction of Trinitarian living.

Some hold that the connection between this Sunday’s Gospel pericope and today’s Solemnity lies in the Baptismal formula. Consider for a moment another, prior connection: Jesus’ charge to the disciples “GO!” The Greek verb πορευομαι (poreuomai) has in interesting background in the Ancient Near Eastern world. While certainly a common verb to describe short or long travels, many cultures also engaged the verb to describe life’s journey to the other-world, the ‘world-beyond-this-one’ or the afterlife. Some cultures even linked the ‘travel’ of the sun from east to west as a metaphor for humanity’s travel from birth to death and with death, entrance into another world.

This sense of poreuomai gives a definitive direction to Jesus’ command GO. The actions of baptizing, teaching, and knowing His presence are actions at the heart of living the discipleship of the Lord Jesus – AND – living the life of the Most Holy Trinity. Living life now with the awareness that it has a particular direction, that is, union with the Divine Persons gives life a purpose now and therefore one lives Holy Trinity.

When disciples engage the command of ‘baptizing’ it is not a single event that has happened at some point in life. It is a way of living that recognizes each moment as a opportunity of be plunged more deeply into the very heart of life and love, the opposite of sin. When disciples live lives avoiding sin and conscious of being drawn more deeply into life and love, disciples lives Holy Trinity.

When disciples engage the command of ‘teaching’ it is not a ‘trivial pursuit’ approach to the things of God. Christian teaching – catechesis – is the forming of the intellect to assist with being put into communion with the Divine Persons (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 426). When disciples seek opportunities to be schooled by the Spirit of Love, disciples live Holy Trinity.

When disciples engage the command of ‘knowing’ that “I [Jesus] am with you always,” they acknowledge that journeying in this life is not a solitary affair. Not only is each disciple bonded to another, but the journey is done as the Body of Christ. Conscious that each disciple is part of the Body, disciples work to strengthen the Body by putting the needs and concerns of others first. When disciples life live unselfishly, disciples live Holy Trintiy.

Far from an abstract, heading teaching, the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is an invitation to live life in a particular way, a way that always leads to an intensification of live and love. Saint Gregory of Nyssa in the Life of Moses summed it up this way: “May life thunder loud and pure in the proclamation of the Most Holy Trinity and may life imitate the fruit of the pomegranate!”

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvations,
always and everywhere to give You thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

For with Your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit
You are One God, One Lord:
not in the unity of a single person,
but in a Trinity of one substance.

For what You have revealed to us of Your glory
we believe equally of Your Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
so that, in confessing of the true and eternal Godhead,
You might be adored in what is proper to each Person,
their unity in substance, and their equality in majesty.

For this is praised by Angels and Archangels,
Cherubim, too, and Seraphim,
who never cease to cry out each day,
as with one voice they acclaim:

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