The Christian faith is unique among world religions. We don’t just seek to know divine revelation. Our God entered His own creation to bring us into communion with Him. The history of humanity chronicles the rebuilding of our relationship with God as He methodically reveals Himself to us. From the words of the prophets, we learned His will. In Jesus, we met Him in the flesh. Through the Spirit, we are united with Him. Over time, He has revealed Himself to us as an unfolding mystery. This isn’t an abstract thought or an ideal, it’s a relationship.
The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them (CCC 234).
What can we know of God except what He Himself has revealed to us (CCC 237)? Can He be an infinite God—all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, ever-present, etc—and be easily understood by finite creatures—confined in a minuscule dot of space and time? We try to express our understanding of Him in art and literature but perceive Him through an anthropomorphic lens. In our limitations, our understanding of Him in naturally limited.
One day, while St Augustine was working on his book “On the Trinity”, he was walking by the seaside, meditating on the difficult problem of how God could be three Persons at once. He came upon a little child. The child had dug a little hole in the sand, and with a small spoon or seashell was scooping water from the sea into the small hole.
Augustine watched him for a while and finally asked the child what he was doing. The child answered that he would scoop all the water from the sea and pour it into the little hole in the sand.
‘What?’ Augustine said. ‘That is impossible. Obviously, the sea is too large and the hole too small.’
‘Indeed,’ said the child, ‘but I will sooner draw all the water from the sea and empty it into this hole than you will succeed in penetrating the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your limited understanding.’
Augustine turned away in amazement and when he looked back the child had disappeared (multiple sources).
From our very beginning, God has used both singular and plural language in reference to Himself. He is one God and yet more than one person. The writers of Scripture faithfully recorded the words of God though they may not have fully understood the importance of every word in its usage. The faith of our forebears was in one God without an understanding of His trinitarian nature. He introduced Himself individually—first as Father; second as Son; finally in Spirit. In each revealing, He hinted at the next—Father foretold Son and Son foretold Spirit. In the fullness of time known only to His infinite wisdom, His revelations of Himself came to us in a process of spiritual maturation.
Listen to me, Jacob,
Israel, whom I called!
I, it is I who am the first,
and am I the last.
Yes, my hand laid the foundations of the earth;
my right hand spread out the heavens.
When I summon them,
they stand forth at once.
All of you assemble and listen:
Who among you declared these things?
The one the Lord loves shall do his will
against Babylon and the offspring of Chaldea.
I myself have spoken, I have summoned him,
I have brought him, and his way succeeds!
Come near to me and hear this!
From the beginning I did not speak in secret;
At the time it happens, I am there:
“Now the Lord God has sent me, and his spirit” (Is 48:12-16).
Throughout the Old Testament, we see the Spirit of God coming upon individuals to give them charisms of grace—primarily for prophecy (1 Sam 10:10), leadership (1 Sam 10:1), and power (1 Sam 16:13). In this time, the Spirit doesn’t come as a distinct person of the Godhead but as a representative of God’s essence. He doesn’t come universally as He will after Pentecost, He comes singularly to empower individuals to do the will of God. In the Spirit, these individuals don’t just know OF God, they get to know God in a personal and intimate relationship. Moses’s ability to lead His people and communicate with God comes from the Spirit of God upon him. The Psalms written by David aren’t only prophetic, they are a record of David’s love for God in their personal relationship with one another.
The language used in the Old Testament is of the Spirit coming upon and dwelling with people. It isn’t until Jesus tells us the Spirit will be in us (John 14:17) and He and the Father will make Their home in us (John 14:23) that we begin to understand the unique relationship that the indwelling of the Spirit will be for us (Ez 36:27). However, before we can have the Spirit within us, we must be made new (Matt 9:17). The difference between Old Testament and New Testament people is Jesus, the Son of God. At the center of history is His cross for our restoration and redemption. Through the Baptism He commanded His Apostles to convey, we are made new creations for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 5:17). Baptism is first among the Sacraments because it is essential for the rest.
We are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are not baptized in Their names (CCC 233). Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt 6:9). The Trinity is His name. It is the family name we take when baptized into His family. Each is a unique person but one God. The name of God is His essence. From all eternity, God the Father is father to the Son. From all eternity, God the Son is son to the Father. From all eternity, the Spirit of God is the unity of love between them so real that He is a unique person. We may know them individually, but they are undivided.
We were made in His image and likeness—male and female (Gen 1:27). In that, is life-giving love.
Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness (Gen 1:26).
God said He would make us in His image and likeness so our creation wasn’t fully accomplished with Adam and Eve. He is three and Scripture records the creation of two. It is in our union of love that man fully realizes his trinitarian identity. When male and female come together in one flesh, the love they share becomes a unique person. It is in our families that we most resemble God. It is the family that the devil hates the most. Look at our modern world and you can see the focus of his hate and anger. He destroys families because he is impotent against God Himself.
God in His deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family, since He has in Himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family, which is love (Pope St John Paul II).
In this awareness, we can begin to understand why God created us at all. He didn’t need us. He wasn’t alone. He wasn’t incomplete. He is love incarnate. Love begets. As man has been fruitful and multiplied by the power of love so did God desire to share His love with us. We were created for communion with Him. In that is both power and purpose.
Created in the image and likeness of God, we share in His mystery. Through the allegory of the family, I have a trinitarian identity. I am one person yet I am also a father, son, and source of love in my home.
To my children, I am father. Unfortunately, I am not a perfect father and I fail at times. If my children learn something of God from me, they will learn that I love them—they will only find perfect love and fatherhood in God (CCC 239). The gift of fatherhood (parenthood) is one of God’s greatest blessings. Through the perspective of a father, I can understand how God is both just and merciful. We see the faults of our children and correct them but our love remains. It is because of our love that we are harsh at times (Heb 12:6). My role as a father is to raise up brothers and sisters in Christ with God as our heavenly Father. Although my children will always be my children in our relation to each other, our eventual relationship is as children of God. May my failings as a man and father not be a stumbling block to their relationship with Him who loves them beyond human understanding.
To my parents, I am a son. In this role, I learn faithfulness and compassion. Jesus showed us how to be perfect children as He accomplished all the Father gave Him. I know I am not a perfect son and have not always done as I should. As I know I am not a perfect son, I also understand that my parents have regrets in their relationship with me. My parents are cognizant of their failings and I certainly know of mine. Growing to maturity and gaining the perspective of a father I also gained an understanding of their struggles. In that, I also grew in compassion. May I not grieve my parents in dwelling on their failings but reflect back to them the love that made me who I am in the first place. I will honor them for who they are and forgive them for not being who they could never be.
To my wife, I am a source of love. In love, I give without measure. I follow the example of Christ’s love for the Church (Eph 5:21-32)—as He died to give Her life, my life is poured out in love for my wife. In a perfect world, she does the same for me. We struggle and fail. Our selfishness causes friction in our relationship just as it does in our relationship with God. The daily irritations we suffer are the sand in the tumblers by which we raw stones are polished for Heaven. Through our struggles we learn gratitude and forgiveness. In love, we learn to trust. We make our home a domestic Church where we worship and emulate the Lord we serve. Our needs are met in service to each other—in dying to ourselves so the other may know our love. May I not be selfish in my perspective with my wife but rather see to her needs before my own. I will remember that love is something we give. If I would have more love in my life, I must be the one to give it. The well of love from which I draw is as infinite as the Spirit of God. There is no limit to the love I have to give.
Consider these relationships in your own life…
– To whom are you a father (parent) in the flesh or the spirit? These are the ones you guide or raise up in the faith. You owe them a duty to practice and model the faith in your own life. You will fall. Rise in reconciliation and show the mercy of God.
– To whom are you a son (child)? Learn and grow in faith. In you is the promise of collegiality where all are called to share in the Kingdom.
– Who have you been given to love? Love without measure. Find ways to serve. Seek the lost. Feed the hungry. Love those who feel unloved. Teach others by your example to find love in what they have to give rather than in what they have to gain.
We were made for communion with God by the God who loved us into creation. By His grace, may I seek to walk more closely with Him and live my life in imitation of His trinitarian identity—the identity of love. In love, may I give without measure and be a conduit of His infinite love to all made in His image and likeness.
We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil (1 Thess 5:14-22).