SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY TRINITY (2021)
Readings:Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40Psalms 33:4-6, 9, 18-20, 22Romans 8:14-17Matthew 28:16-20
It would be most simple at the outset to have a three-word homily: “It’s a mystery!” The priest could call it a day, and the faithful congregants would be overjoyed that they picked the Mass celebrated by the “three-word homilist”! Unfortunately, the point of having a Sunday solemnity dedicated to the Trinity would never be accomplished if that is all the priest would say, for, while it is, indeed, a “Mystery,” and something we can never fully grasp, we can ponder the mystery in such a way that it becomes just a little less mysterious.
The 14th century Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhart had a delightful way of viewing the Trinity, a way which might be seen as making a laughingstock of all humanity. He writes: “Do you want to know what goes on in the core of the Trinity? I will tell you. In the core of the Trinity, the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.” I am happy to think of our ultimate origins as the result of laughter, and I am reminded of the song by Joshua Kadison where he sings, “there are lines upon my face, from a lifetime of smiles.”
The Catholic Catechism points out that the Church’s teaching about the 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). As Christians we rightly model our lives on the God who drew so close to us that He took on our very flesh, He at one time walked in our midst, and taught us everything we need to know. But this solemnity after the close of the great Easter season reminds us that we are meant to model our lives on that of the Trinity, a communion of Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is that mystery and in that life that we are called to share. The Catechism goes on to declare that “the Church is a creation of the triune God: from the Father, who sends His Son and His Spirit to transform creaturely persons so that they come to share, with the uncreated Persons of the Trinity and with one another, a communion of divine life.”
The fundamental principles that we are meant to live can be found in the life of the Trinity, and while mysteries can never be fully proven, we see the Trinity manifesting itself in time on the pages of Scripture. No single reading from today’s liturgy deals with the Trinity, and yet all of the Scriptures in their entirety are what led the Church, after centuries had passed, to develop what is really a theological construct, something to help us better understand the God we worship as Catholic Christians. The ‘triadic seeds’ seen throughout the pages of Scripture and in the writings of the early Church Fathers, would not be definitively defined until the fourth century, when the Council of Nicaea would give us the Nicene Creed.
The writer of the Book of Deuteronomy could never have even imagined a Trinitarian God, and yet his profound understanding of his God, who we would call God the Father, is the first reading for this solemnity. It is Deuteronomy’s God and the God of the Psalmists who we believe eventually sent His Son into the world who would take on human flesh, causing us to make the words of the first reading our own: “Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of?” And also unheard of was the close relationship that God’s Son had with the promised Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate who would stand in Jesus’ stead, invigorating the hearts of the faithful, and building a Church, against which the gates of hell would not prevail.
It would take some of the great minds of the early Church – Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Theophilus of Antioch – to help the early church to understand just how Trinitarian we Christians are. The God who calls us to love all of our brothers and sisters is a God who lives in “community,” and who understands what perfect love is. It is that perfect love which casts out fear, and which compels us to live lives in such harmony with others that it spreads the kingdom God envisioned at the beginning of time.
Julian of Norwich, a contemporary of Meister Eckhart, viewed the Trinity as the power for good, especially in the face of evil. She writes: “Just as the joyful Trinity created all things out of nothing, so also the same blessed Trinity will make well all that is not well.” Comforting words for someone who has spent nearly five years staring into the face of injustice. Comforting words for all those who ponder what a difference the Trinity might possibly make in their lives.