The Sublime Logic of the TrinityThe revelation of God as Trinity reveals Who God is and what God does, and is at the core of all Christian creeds. Oh, mystery: the Trinity does what the Trinity is.By Pat Gohn
MAY 26, 2013 (www.patheos.com
) - Taking a page from Frank Sheed's brilliant classic, Theology for Beginners, "No book on doctrine will teach you as much as the Missal—provided you bring some knowledge with you. Books . . . exist to provide the knowledge which the Missal assumes we have!"
This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Starting with Sheed's advice, let's try to come to this Mass better prepared, by first attending to the Preface of the Holy Trinity from the Missal.Father, all powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.
We joyfully proclaim our faith
in the mystery of your Godhead.
You have revealed your glory
as the glory of your Son and of the Holy Spirit:
three Persons equal in majesty,
undivided in splendor,
yet one Lord, one God,
ever to be adored in your everlasting glory.
This Solemnity proclaims the central mystery of our faith: the Most Holy Trinity.
Sometimes we Christians forget that. Sometimes we think Jesus' resurrection, or the Eucharist, or the commandment to love, are central. No doubt, these are all important to Christianity, but God's revelation of Himself as the Blessed Trinity is most important.
The revelation of God as Trinity reveals Who God is and what God does. The Trinity is the core of all Christian beliefs, as the well-known tri-fold structure of the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed illustrates.
In describing the "Who" of the Trinity, the Preface echoes the Creed by naming the Three-in-One Godhead according to the relationships contained therein—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Focusing on the relationships between the Persons of the Trinity, in the Creed and the Preface, unlocks its logic.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls this logic "the innermost secret" of the Trinity. (And for the record, it seems unlikely that a reference work like the Catechism would come up with pithy verbal gems. Yet, now and then, it does. So if you are looking for a sound bite to define the Trinity at your next cocktail party, you're about to get one.)God's very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange. (Catechism of the Catholic Church,
[CCC], par. 221)
Did you note the sound bite? God is an eternal exchange of love. This phrase describes the all-encompassing mystery of the Trinity in its purest essence.
What's more, did you catch the corollary at the end? We are destined to share in that exchange. More on that in a moment.
The "Who" of the Trinity is not only descriptive of God's being, but it also gives some indication as to "what" the Trinity does.
Some background: Christians have faith in this Three-in-One God because of God's own revelation to us. God not only created time but entered into time and spoke to us. The primary reason for this divine intervention is that God longed to reveal Himself to us, and did so in ever increasing degrees over the course of human history.
Think about it: This is a God who wants to be known. By us! And loved by us. The most amazing thing about the glory of God is that it is something that God wishes to share with us.
God is not afraid to seek us out and invite us to be joined to Him in everlasting glory. God is our origin and our end.
Reread the Preface above.
That little phrase from the Preface about God "ever to be adored" refers to would-be adorers—that would be us, His children, and all the saints in heaven—the ones who are invited into glory by being baptized in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Church, as Sheed says, assumes you might already have this knowledge.
But just in case you need a refresher, the Catechism of the Catholic Church outlines this relationship with the Blessed Trinity, and our true reason for being and our true destiny, in its very first paragraph:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.
(CCC, par. 1.)
As mentioned, God's inner workings revolve around an eternal exchange of love. God ceaselessly call us into relationship "at every time and in every place." This is a big part of the "what" that God does.
If the Trinity is an eternal exchange of love, then its primary action or raison d'être is all about relationships—between the members of the Trinity and with us. This exchange of love motivates and animates all that God creates and does. God's revelation of Himself and His ultimate plan of redemption flows from this love. For God cannot deny Who God is at His most intimate core.
Christians, baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are destined to share in that eternal exchange of love. Baptism is both a future promise of heaven, and of the relationship shared with God even now.
Let's spell it out the way the Church does:The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity.
(CCC, par. 260)
The "divine economy" is Church-speak for what is most easily defined as the work of the Trinity throughout history. It is the Godhead's initiation and movement in creation, and the divine governing of it. It is everything God does in the vast thing we call "God's Plan." The divine economy concerns the salvation of persons and the world, and a final, ultimate, cosmic, beyond-what-our-brains-can-fathom, entering in union with the Trinity.
The Trinity does what the Trinity is: the triune God of Love invites human persons to union with itself, and provides the means for that to happen via Christ and the Church. As the members of the Trinity are inseparable as divine persons, so, too, is their work inseparable from one another. This also means that the work of Christ is inseparable from the Church to which He is permanently wed.
Looking to the Church's wisdom and graces can assist our growth in the love and knowledge of the Trinity, that one day we, too, may be numbered among the saints in glory.O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.
(Prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity)Pat Gohn is a writer, speaker, and host of the Among Women podcast and blog. She holds a Masters in Theology, and a Bachelors in Communications. Her passion is working within the sphere adult faith formation both in parish life and in using media for evangelization and catechesis. Find more at PatGohn.com.