May 26th is Trinity Sunday, the day that we acknowledge and celebrate the central mystery of our faith: a mystery that we can never hope to fully understand in our heads, just to know and embrace in our hearts.
When I was a young boy in Catholic school back in the Bronx, I was dazed and confused about the Blessed Trinity. Were there three Gods? Was there one God with three faces? The Dominican Sisters who taught us were wonderful. With patience and love and above all faith, they taught us to celebrate, if not to fully understand, God’s three-dimensional relationship with humanity.
They tried diagramming the Trinity on the blackboard. But I couldn’t grasp it. They used Saint Patrick’s metaphor of “the shamrock” to show how God can be three in one, and one in three. They gave us the analogy of the Trinity as candle, flame, and light. But I just didn’t get it.
Though I couldn’t, and still can’t, use logic to explain the Trinity, I have come to know and embrace it as truth in my heart. I owe this in part to two great saints, Augustine and John.
Saint Augustine was a doctor of the Church and one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of all time. He wrote that for many years he was preoccupied with the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. He wanted so much to understand the mystery and to be able to use logic to explain it.
One day he was walking along the seashore struggling to figure it out. Suddenly, he saw a little child sitting alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand and ran down to the ocean with a tiny, little cup. She filled the cup with seawater, ran back and emptied it into the hole she had dug in the sand. Back and forth over and over; she ran down to the ocean, filled her cup, ran back and poured it into the hole.
Augustine finally stopped her, “Little girl, what are you doing?” She replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.” Exasperated, Augustine asked her, “How do you think that you can empty this enormous ocean into this tiny little hole with this tiny little cup?” With love in her eyes she answered him, “And you, Augustine, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared.
While Saint Augustine helps us to embrace the mystery of the Trinity with faith, Saint John gives us a framework built around love. In his first letter in the New Testament, Saint John writes, “Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.”
God is love. And from that love God created us. On Trinity Sunday, we acknowledge and celebrate our God as Creator of the universe, Creator of you and me, Creator and source of all goodness and love; our God who knew each and every one of us by name eons before we were born; our God who gave us the gift of life and loves us unconditionally. We acknowledge and celebrate our Creator God as a loving Father for all of us.
God is love. And from that love God redeemed us. On Trinity Sunday, we acknowledge and celebrate our God as Redeemer and Savior of the human race; our God who loves us so deeply that he took human form and came into our time and space to rescue us from our mistakes, and to redeem us by example; our God who chose to ride the bus of life with us, to live, laugh, weep, suffer and die with us; our God who was born a baby in a manger, wept at Gethsemane, and died on a cross just to save us and show us the way to get home. We acknowledge and celebrate our Redeemer God as Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, Savior and Brother for all of us.
God is love. And from that love God sanctifies us. On Trinity Sunday, we acknowledge and celebrate our God as the Sanctifier of all living things. Like a universe-wide web of love, God’s Holy Spirit echoes the redeeming love of Christ and sanctifies us, over and over again with grace, so that we in turn can be instruments of God’s love and healing for our world. We acknowledge and celebrate our Sanctifier God as the Holy Spirit, the personification of the love that flows between the Father and the Son, the love of God that permeates every corner of the universe.
God loves us so much. He created us as God the Father. God loves us so much. He became one of us and saved us as God the Son. God loves us so much. He remains with us forever and ever as God the Holy Spirit.
God is Love. The Blessed Trinity is a relationship of Love. God calls each and every one of us into that relationship. As Jesus told us, the window, the doorway, the hole in the sand through which we enter into that relationship is real pretty simple: it is love – love of God and love of neighbor.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .
Readers of this blog might enjoy these books by Deacon Lex. Both are available on Amazon.com:
Just to Follow My Friend: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life
Synchronicity as the Work of the Holy Spirit: Jungian Insights for Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Ministry