In the liturgical life of the Church, many days of the year are dedicated to concrete events and persons. Of course, there are many feasts for Jesus. But in addition, we remember Mary, the saints, and the “signature” moments in the Gospel and life of the Church. We even celebrate the “Chair of Peter” which is the office of the pope, and the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica which is the “feast day” of a building used as the pope’s cathedral in Rome.
On Trinity Sunday, however, we acknowledge that there is much to be grateful concerning our relationship with God. The Creator of all things, who is also the Savior and Redeemer, as well as the Spirit and Consolation of the Church, is literally, all things to all people. In fact, no person (or anything else) would be here without God. For without God, there would be no “here” here. And if there were no “here” here, there would be no one around to celebrate anything.
Now, as creatures, when we use words to think about God (e.g., the Blessed Trinity), we will always fall a bit short. For God is God—and we are not! And as St. Paul reminds in his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 2:9): “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” But, as a wise seminary professor once told me: “Despite these limitations, let’s give words a shot anyhow and see where they might take us.”
In the Scriptures, certain passages lead us to the Blessed Trinity. In the first two chapters of Genesis, for example, we read about the Six days of Creation and the Sabbath. But, in Genesis 1:26, something happens. God provides us a clue about Himself: “Let us make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness…” Hence, a plurality is present. No, not multiple Gods; but rather, three persons in ONE God!
And in the 28th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus commissions the disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” As such, the second person of the Blessed Trinity instructs us that there are THREE: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Outside of the Scriptures, in our 2,000-year Tradition, we can point to popes and theologians and saints who have aided us in explaining the Trinity.
One of my favorites is St. Patrick (5th century), who once ventured to the west of Ireland (Connacht) and met up with King Laoghaire and his daughters, Ethne and Fedelm. While unable to persuade the king to convert, he did convince his daughters through the use of a shamrock to visualize the mystery of the Trinity as a single plant with three leaves that is analogous to the one Triune God with three separate and distinct Persons. (Thurston, H. J., ed., Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Vol. 1, 615)
Yet another beautiful way of describing the Trinity comes to us from St. John of Damascus who, in the 8th century, urged us to think of: (1) “The Father as a spring of life begetting the Son like a river and the Holy Spirit like a sea, for the spring and the river and the sea are all one nature.” (2) “The Father as a root, of the Son as a branch, and of the Spirit as a fruit, for the substance in these three is one.” (3) “The Father as a sun, the Son as rays, and the Holy Spirit as heat.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think of the Trinity as a family: one God in three persons who has Created and Redeemed, and continues to Sanctify us. Yes, one God who has brought you and me into being—because He loves us!
Of course, all of this begs an even larger question. If the Trinity explains God and we are his adopted sons and daughters, are we not also—part of the family? Just yesterday, I baptized twin boys of a growing family, one that I have journeyed with in my time as a deacon. During the baptism, I noted what a “beautiful family they were.” Afterwards, one of the grandmothers remarked: “Deacon, you’ve truly become part of our family. You’ve been present at our baptisms, weddings, and funerals. You’re even in our family pictures!”
In closing, there is one last thing. This past February, I had lunch with a friend who was excited to be entering the Church at the Easter Vigil while also anticipating the birth of his first child. At lunch, I told him the story of how I realized the true meaning of love when I first became a father. Until that time, I thought I knew the meaning of love. But, at my daughter’s birth, when I first saw her face, it was though a switch was flipped. And at that moment, I realized: “Oh, this is love.” For I knew that, if such an occasion were to ever present itself, that I would die for her.
Does this sound familiar?
A few weeks ago, I called my friend to remind him that I had still not been invited to he and his wife’s home to hold their baby. As we ended our conversation, I did ask him one more question: “Now that you’re a father, has the switch I spoke about flipped?” To which he replied: “Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed.”
Given that it is Father’s Day, may we honor our beloved dads, whether they are among us or have passed into eternity. In doing so, perhaps this poem will resonate with you.
Strength of a Mountain
God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it … Dad
– Author Unknown