The Most Holy Trinity: A Glorious Pledge of Everlasting Happiness

The Most Holy Trinity: A Glorious Pledge of Everlasting Happiness

One day a girl brought home her report card. Most of the grades were all right, and a few were even very good—but there was one glaring exception that stood out like a sore thumb, no doubt due to a lack of effort on the girl’s part in that particular subject. When her mother saw this grade, she demanded in an angry tone, “Young lady, I want you to explain to me why you got an ‘F’ in spelling!” The girl shrugged her shoulders and said, “Words fail me.” So it is with us when we try to understand, explain, or describe the mystery of the Holy Trinity: words fail us. Our minds can’t really comprehend how there can be Three Persons in One God, and human language is inadequate when it comes to expressing the significance and depth and richness of this mystery—but belief in the Trinity is a part of our lives as Christians. Another little girl was using her crayons to draw pictures—first of her mother, then of her father, then of her brother; each time she showed the finished product to her mom, who responded, “That’s very nice, dear.” Lastly, the girl decided to do something much more ambitious: she drew a confusing maze of squiggly lines, then announced, “Look, Mom, a picture of God!” The mother studied the drawing, but said, “I’m afraid I can’t find God in that picture.” The girl replied, “Well, He’s in there somewhere” (Kevin McKenna, You Did It For Me, pp. 71-72). We might say the same thing in terms of our experience of God in the midst of dogmatic teachings and official Church pronouncements and theological terminology about the Holy Trinity: the concept may be unclear and confusing, but the reality does exist in there somewhere—and love is the key to experiencing it. We won’t be judged on our theological expertise or on our religious vocabulary, but on whether we’ve honestly tried to enter into and reflect that love shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The image of an equilateral triangle is often used to reflect the Holy Trinity, for it has three equal sides and three equal angles. Another quite different but equally valid image might be that of a heart, for the heart is commonly used as a symbol of love, and the readings for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity make it very clear that without this idea of love, we’ll never begin to understand or relate to God properly. In the passage from the Book of Deuteronomy (4:32-34, 39-40), Moses reminded the people that God’s loving care for Israel was unprecedented in human history, and that obeying His commandments with gratitude and love would ensure His continued blessings. In the Gospel of Matthew (28:16-20), as Jesus was about to ascend to Heaven, He told the apostles to make disciples of all the nations through baptism and to teach them to keep His commandments—for these commandments are rooted in truth and love, and lead to eternal life. Even in our earthly lives, as St. Paul (Romans 8:14-17) tells us, our faith is to be based not on fear, but on the confident trust that our Heavenly Father truly loves us and cares us for us—a glorious truth made known to us by the powerful yet gentle presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. The image of a heart truly is an appropriate image for God, for it makes no sense to believe in the Holy Trinity without a loving response on our part.

Christopher Columbus had a great devotion to the Holy Trinity, Whom he invoked at the start of everything he did and at the beginning of everything he wrote.  When he sought funding from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain for his journey of discovery, they sent him to explain his theory of a New World waiting to be discovered to the Council of Salamanca, an assembly of the most learned men of the kingdom. Columbus began his presentation, “I come before you in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, because our sovereigns have commanded me to submit to your wisdom a project which has certainly come to me inspired by the same Holy Spirit” (Castle, More Quips, Quotes, & Anecdotes for Preachers and Teachers, p. 411). In a sense, we too are on a journey of discovery in life, for we are all searching for three things above all else:  purpose, happiness, and security. We want our lives to have meaning, instead of being wasted; we want to end up being happy, rather than desperate or miserable; and we want to be assured that once these things are achieved, they won’t be lost or taken away from us. We need and want a sense of purpose, happiness, and security in life—and just as Columbus made the Holy Trinity the foundation of everything he did, so we must make love—expressed by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—the foundation of our lives. 

The fact that we can’t really begin to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity should actually be a consolation and reassurance to us: if our God is too big for us to comprehend, it also means He’s too big to be overcome by our worries and fears, by our problems and difficulties, and by our sinfulness and unworthiness. We have questions; one day God our Father will reveal the answers to us. We are trapped in our weakness and sins; Jesus our Savior offers us forgiveness and freedom. We are limited by our uncertainty and our inadequacies; the Holy Spirit fills us with His gifts and enables us to do what would otherwise be beyond our strength and knowledge. If we open our hearts to God’s love, life becomes an adventure and a promise, and the Church’s teaching on the mystery of the Holy Trinity becomes a glorious pledge of everlasting happiness. Words may indeed fail us, and our efforts to imagine the Triune God may amount to little more than squiggly lines on a piece of paper, but we know the Three Persons in One God deserve our heartfelt worship and allegiance—and if we do our best to respond, we will have all eternity to rejoice in overwhelming wonder and awe. 

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Written by
Fr Joseph Esper