Summary: For Trinity Sunday, using the Roman Lectionary
The Holy Spirit has been explained as being the mutual bond between the Father and the Son in order that when one of the Divine Persons is active, the others are involved. I like this explanation and definition because I find approaching this doctrine, and thus attempting to understand it and integrate into my spirituality, too philosophical and academic. Doctrine, for me, ceases to be life-giving when it can not be related to experience and so, in contemplating the concept of a Triune God, I believe that God now is inviting me to reflect on His presence in my life and is challenging me to combine and adapt philosophical, academic and experiential approaches.
Coming from the Catholic faith tradition, we as Catholics express belief in the Trinity every time we pray for we begin all prayer with the Sign of the Cross, praying in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, the most common greeting used at the celebration of the Eucharist is from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor 13:13) Without profound thought, I have attached myself to a mystery that is at the heart of my life as a Christian. It wasn’t until now, after academic and philosophical exposure to explanations of the Trinity, that I even considered the meaning of “co-equal, co-eternal” or “eternally begotten of the Father” and “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Rather odd, especially since at Sunday Mass I repeat the words of the Nicene Creed, professing my belief in “one God.” Reflecting on the nature of God, I thought, was once left solely to philosophers and my undergraduate study of philosophy. However, again looking for that link to experience, the Catholic Church does celebrate this doctrine with a liturgical feast, Trinity Sunday.
While originally I thought that the Trinitarian doctrine only tried to describe the inner life of God, I now understand that it presents to us the relation of the three Persons to one another and relationship is an experience. Relationships are something that we as humans understand. In our lives, we participate in many types of relationships; some weak, others strong, some healthy and others not so healthy. At times they can be formal and distant while others can be intimate and spontaneous. Relationships are constant elements in our human experience.
Through Baptism, we enter into a relationship with God. This relationship is not the same abstract relationship any deity as the philosophers spoke of, but a concrete relationship with God as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob experienced. The same relationship God the Father has with Jesus, who in turn, reveals himself as a Trinity of Persons. In Baptism, we enter into a relationship not only with God, but with a community which becomes a family. Jesus calls God “Father” and we in turn call God “Father” for in Romans 8:15 we hear St. Paul telling us: “When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness and with that Spirit we are children of God.” This doctrine then teaches us that we believe in a personal God because God is cognizant of us, loved us enough to send us His Son and through the Holy Spirit enables us to love Him back, intensely and wholeheartedly.
Secondly, the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God does not exist in isolation but that God is a social god. Even prior to creation, Father, Son and Spirit were always existing and always in the closest relationships. Since we are created in the Imago Dei, we then, are created for relationship as well, becoming whole persons only in relationship to one another and to God. In the Nicene creed we profess “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father…” and “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Here, and each Sunday, we state that we believe in a god that functions in unity, with equality and has, what we find in many job descriptions today, “a working relationship among equals.” The persons of the Trinity do not allow for inequality or subordination or domination. Our baptism into the Church, then, in the name of the Trinity, means that all of us exist together as equal partners in a relationship of mutual love.
If we consider how we all belong to a family, the family can be counted as one unit, with more than one person in it. At times, we act as a family unit, bringing to that unit our different personalities, talents and characteristics. Although we may be acting as one unit, we do not loose our individuality. Sacrifice enables us to continue in healthy relationship. This is true in family life, marriage and in dating couples. Like the Trinity, we can have great joy in one another, committed to loving others which, in turn, strengthens us. As the Father, Son and Spirit love one another, their love creates, redeems and inspires us.