Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
In the Baltimore Catechism, of ancient (and not so venerable) memory, I learned in Number 27:
- Q. What is the Blessed Trinity?
- The Blessed Trinity is one God in three Divine Persons.
I may have learned the words, and I knew I had to recite them, but this was one of the most difficult concepts for me…and for many others, as I have found out. How can there be three persons and still one person?
Unfortunately for those of us speaking English, “person” is not a proper translation from the Greek. This is not to say that the original Greek-speaking Christians were not also perplexed by the divinity and the humanity of Jesus.
Let me start again. There are two words in Greek that translate to “person”: prosopon and hypostasis. The first means the “self-manifestation of an individual” that can be extended by other means and the second means “being” or “substantive reality.” The early church fathers had as much trouble with the concepts as I do now. But the point is that we are not talking about three distinct human beings…
OK, let me start again. The philosopher Kierkegaard wrote that the dual nature of Christ is the “ultimate paradox.” God is perfectly wise, good, powerful who became fully human, tempted by sin, limited in goodness, knowledge, and understanding. This paradox, he believed, can only be resolved by a leap of faith, away from reason and understanding toward belief in God.
And so now, I will start for the fourth time. In the first reading, Moses is exhorting the Israelites to acknowledge that the Lord is God by reminding them of the manifestations that God performed to free them all from slavery in Egypt. In the Old Testament understanding, we are still relying on proof to come to the belief in one God. In the second reading, St. Paul is exhorting the Romans to recognize that as they received the Holy Spirit, they are then heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Not proof, but simply remembering and accepting the gift of the Spirit.
But here is where he throws in the kicker: “…if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”
In the early days of Christianity, to suffer was a real and present possibility. Today, some around the world still face this kind of physical suffering. But we, fortunate as we are, can only suffer with him in our prayer, our study, our life of preaching, our throwing aside proof and evidence; and through contemplation and proactive living accept in our minds, hearts, and souls the faith which we proclaim.
And Jesus said,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
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,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Ultimately, the Trinity is not about Greek words, theological concepts, metaphysical speculation, but about observing all that Jesus commanded – the heart of our salvation, and recognizing finally that he is with us always, until the end of the age.
Lord, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, may we enter into your peace with calm gratitude and joyful acceptance of your message, that we love you and we love our neighbors as ourselves. Help us in our faith and help us in our suffering to become one with you, your Son, and the Holy Spirit.