Back to my theology days, precisely in the course of ecclesiology, it keeps coming into my mind and heart what the great theologian and poet, who first become an Anglican priest and then passed on to the Catholic Church and became a priest and cardinal, Blessed John Henry Newman, wrote on the Trinity: “The Church is the Trinity in exile and the Trinity is the Church at home”.
The meaning for such a theological assertion is that the Church starts from the Father’s eternal place, that has as its genesis the side of the crucified Christ, His beloved Son and our Elder Brother. Then, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church is given life and made one by the powerful and decisive descent of the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Church, being herself inherently Trinitarian, is in fact a structured community of love modelled on the Trinity’s loving union of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. To that effect the Church is sent by the Father, following his Son and his Spirit, in the challenging mission of building God’s Kingdom. Therefore, the Church herself is a pilgrim people who is always in mission, moving towards the Heavenly Jerusalem. In her sacramental presence and, obviously, her sacramental actions, the Church is and remains in communion with the Healing Trinity.
The Church is fully called and keeps trying to live, in her various members, what Christ tells us in his Gospel as recorded to us by John:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8).
The Church is strong because the Father is at her helm through the Son who gives her life. And, this life, or what the book of Genesis terms as the breath of life (Gen 1:30), is the Holy Spirit. It was this breath of life, the Spirit, that God, in the beginning, breathed into his [man’s] nostrils (Gen 1:7). It is precisely the man’s nostrils, which the Hebrew textual word is אַף (aph), which, among its differing meanings, means countenance and face, that received נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), namely the puff, the wind, the vital breath, the divine inspiration, the intellect of God.
This breath, the Holy Spirit, is itself Trinitarian. It is the incarnation of the Trinitarian Communion itself. That is why wherever this breath is taken and is allowed to be taken, it brings unity and makes homely things and people too that before where everything but homely. The Bible reminds us of this important fact in its second sentence. The book of Genesis rightly tells us of the actual situation of the earth without God’s Spirit guidance. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep (Gen 1:2). Certainly, this situation was far and far away from what God not simply intended it to be but from what God really did: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). In order to correct this confusing situation God sent his eternal Drome, the Holy Spirit, to monitor the situation and put everything into God’s order. So, the book of Genesis tells us: the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Gen 1:2). What strikes me is the fact that the Spirit’s presence and working is the right antidote so that the formlessness, voidness and darkness of the earth are put into God’s light. From now on, God’s Spirit inaugurates the time where God’s light gives us the real light of what it is, in other words, of what is really homely. As the Psalms says: In thy light do we see light (Psalm 36:9).
But what light are presented with? It is the Light of Communion, of being family, the light of the Trinity itself! In his masterpiece which discusses the Trinity in the context of the logos, De Trinitate, St. Augustine writes redolently: “God the Father, in thinking, generates his own inner wisdom, or Word. But it is above all a relationship of love that binds the thinking mind to his Logos. So, if you see charity, you see the Trinity. The Father is unreservedly infinite donation, the Son is active receiving, and the Spirit is the perfect unity of the one who gives and the one who receives. They are three: the Lover, the Beloved, Love”.
It is exactly this kind of light that our faces and countenances desperately need to portray in our time. It is this kind of Trinitarian smile, that comes from a charitable life and existence, that our world, the Church and societies at large are craving for! It is this kind of light, which emanates from the Trinitarian charity, that is capable of bringing order to the disorder created by our indifference, egoism and self-seeking attitudes. In other words, the Trinitarian charity, which is the first fruit of the Trinitarian communion, is what makes us family and, therefore, homely. And, when we become homely, that is the moment when we go back to our Trinitarian selves, since all of us have been created by the Father, saved by the Son and are being continually sanctified by the Holy Spirit. When we become transformed into the Trinitarian charity it is then that our world becomes homely too!
After all, in the Our Father, do we not pray daily to the Father that your Kingdom come? Which Kingdom is this if not the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?
FR MARIO ATTARD OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke’s Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master’s Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. Currently, he is one of the six chaplains working at Mater Dei Hospital. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ and hosts radio programmes about the spiritual care of the sick.