Most Holy Trinity 2013

“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.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (click for full Psalm)
O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8 :2).

SCRIPTURE EXCERPT (Click for all Readings)
“Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-15)”

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.
Andrei Rublev's icon of the Holy Trinity in Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
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.

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.”

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: