The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
1st Reading – Proverbs 8: 22-31
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 8: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2nd Reading – Romans 5: 1-5
Gospel – John 16: 12-15
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is so significant, it gets its own day on the liturgical calendar. It is one of the four (moveable) solemnities that express a particular mystery of Christ:
Sacred Heart of Jesus
Christ the King
This particular feast day brings fond memories of my childhood. Growing up as a Mormon, my idea of the trinity or Godhead was very different than the concept presented by the Catholic Church. The Mormons see God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost as three, separate beings. (This specific belief is why most of the Christian denominations do not consider the Mormon faith as "Christian" even though they use the name of Jesus Christ in their official title.) My best friend in grammar school and junior high was a devout Catholic and we would spend hours discussing religion and debating the aspects of faith. (I have no doubt she was trying to convert me, and I was just trying to defend myself with my limited understanding.) I had no idea at the time that those discussions were the beginning of a life-long journey of faith and spirituality.
I have vivid memories of visiting the Mission at San Juan Baptista in fourth grade. (The primary focus of 4th-grade social studies is California State history, and since the history of the state is connected to the history of the Catholic Church in California, the remaining missions are the ideal field trip.) This was my first introduction to religious art as a tool for teaching. I found a small painting depicting The Holy Trinity as two men (an old man with a white beard and Jesus) and a dove. Even in my limited comprehension of such matters, I realized this was a painting of "The Trinity." I remember thinking at the time that even the Catholic Church had a difficult time explaining the Trinity as One. (How do you paint the image without three distinct figures?)
There is a story that I have always loved. One day, St. Augustine was walking on the beach, contemplating the Holy Trinity. He came across a young boy who was pouring seawater into a hole he had dug in the sand. When St. Augustine asked the boy what he was doing, the boy said he was going to pour the entire contents of the ocean into that hole. St. Augustine told him that it was impossible. The boy looked up at him and said, "So is understanding The Holy Trinity." -- This story sums up one of my favorite things about the Catholic faith. The Church has never been afraid to say that there are mysteries that we do not understand and cannot explain. However, our lack of understanding does not make them less true.
We'll have to read a lot more than just this passage from John to begin to understand the Holy Trinity. But we can acknowledge the significance. For these disciples, the Spirit fills the void of Jesus' absence. They were afraid of what was about to happen, but Jesus promises a guide. The Spirit will help the disciples understand the meaning of Jesus' teachings. Jesus tells them "you can't bear it now, but you'll be able to handle it later" which must have been a good sign for these guys (that they would live to see "later").
Like St. Augustine, we are all called to contemplate the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. So many of us make the sign of the cross without a thought of what the words and the action symbolize. Instead of just saying the words, think of the prayer (and yes, it is a prayer) as God the Creator, God the Redeemer and God the Source of Truth. Stop and consider how the three relate to each other and more importantly, how the three relate to us, The Church. It may seem impossible, but there is value in the work of filling the hole with seawater.
1. Do you bless yourself with the sign of the Cross?
2. What does it mean to you?
3. How is the Sign of the Cross a sign of unity and hope?
4. To what degree are you willing to accept that the Trinity is a “mystery”?
5. Does the term “mystery” seem to be a cop-out? Why/why not?