SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY (B)
Today is the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, one of my favorite celebrations of the year. It gives us an excuse to remind ourselves of one of the great mysteries of our faith, a mystery that we invoke every time we bless ourselves "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," every time we begin or end a prayer in these words, at our baptisms and all other sacramental celebrations, whenever we recite the Creed, and any other time we gather as Christians.
That mystery of the Trinity has variously been described as "God is one in Being and three in Persons," or "God is one in Essence and three in Persons," or "God is one in Nature and three in Persons." Being, essence, and nature all refer here to the same basic concept. The Father is God, Jesus Christ the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and all three are the same God.
How could this be? How can God be both one and three at the same time? Is this a contradiction of reason? No, it is not, for what is "one" in God is one thing, and what is "three" in God is another. To better understand, we need to get an idea of what we mean by "nature" in this context. I am a human being, and if you are reading this email it's safe to assume that you are also a human being. Those qualities that you and I and all other human beings share, which make us different from goldfish, horses, shrubs and earthworms, constitute our human nature. In this way we are like God, in that we are different individual persons, yet we share the same nature in common.
Well, then, you may ask, what's the big deal? If human beings are all different people, sharing the same nature, then why is it such a hard concept to grasp with God? And why do we teach that God is One. After all, we are all different human persons, with our own independent existence. So isn't it the same with the three Divine Persons of the Trinity? Why aren't there three Gods?
The answer has to do with God's nature. What do we know of it? We know a little from what He has revealed to us. When Moses asked God for His name, He replied simply, "I AM." Now, for you or I that would be an incomplete statement. I would want to finish that out with "I am Matthew Newsome" (indicating who I am as a person), or perhaps, "I am a human being" (indicating my general nature). When I say "I am" in either of those statements, I am saying, "I exist as..." For God, however, "I am" is a complete statement. When asked who He was, His answer is simple, "I exist." Period.
You and I share in human nature because we both exist as human beings. But neither of us has to exist. We could both never have existed at all and the universe would get on quite well without us. But not so with God. God's nature is existence. That is what the divine essence is -- being itself. God cannot not exist. So when we say the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, share in the same nature, we are saying they share the same existence.
Now there is a radical thought, and if that does not blow your mind just a little bit, you are not thinking about it hard enough.
Allow me to ask you this. Have you ever been deeply in love? I hope you have, and if you have not, I hope you are able to imagine what it might be like. When you fall deeply in love with someone, it can feel like you can never be close enough to that person. No matter how intimate you become, you always want to grow closer. Now there are limits to this, of course. We are unable to actually be inside of someone else's skin, to be inside of their minds, to share intimately in their very being, to become one with who they are. But God has no such limits.
Because the three Divine Persons share the same existence, theologians have described the life of the Trinity as each Person continuously pouring themselves into the other two in an eternal cycle of love. This is perfect intimacy. This is perfect unity. And this is what we mean when we say, along with St. John, that "God is Love."
You see, love is not something God does. Love is something God is. It is part of His very nature, part and parcel of His existence. We need someone outside of ourselves to love, but God needs nothing outside of Himself. He is, within His very being, perfect love.
God is Love. Love is something we do because we are made in His image. And it is something we strive to do better, because we want to be more perfectly like Him. Most important of all we need to love Him, who is Love itself.
So to those who say the doctrine of the Trinity is just "theological mumbo-jumbo, irrelevant to today's life," I say, "What can be more relevant than love?"
This is what the Trinity is about: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God in three Persons, existing in an unending circle of Love. This is the mystery we are invited into. This is the God who wants to dwell inside of you, to make His home in you, so that you, too, can be a part of His inner life of love.
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374 | POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723