“All glory belongs to You, Holy Trinity, one God, before all ages, now and forever.”
– Antiphon, Evening Prayer I, feast of the Most Holy Trinity
Unlike all the other feasts of the Catholic Church, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity is the feast of God Himself. Not surprisingly, then, it is the one I am least able to understand – I cannot comprehend what this feast actually means, nor can I so much as begin to explain it. And yet I believe it. I believe that there is one God in three divine Persons – I affirm this belief every time I pray the Creed.
I believe there is one God in three Person for three broad reasons – firstly, because Jesus Christ tells me it is so, and I trust Him and what He says; secondly, the Gospels speak of the Holy Trinity and I believe the Gospels to be true; and thirdly, the Church, to which I belong, affirms this belief and teaches it as being true.
Christ Himself talks about both the Father and the Holy Spirit, particularly later on in His public ministry, when His words give clearer substance to what is in His mind; Luke records, for example, that the Risen Christ tells the Apostles “I am sending the promise of My Father upon you” (Lk.24:49).
The Gospels make the trinitarian aspect of God very clear. This is especially so in the Gospel of Matthew, in the account of the Baptism of Christ. Matthew records that as Jesus comes up from the water, “the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon Him. And a voice came from the Heavens, saying ‘This is My beloved Son’..” (Mt.3:16-17). Similarly, Luke’s account of the Annunciation is explicitly trinitarian – the Blessed Virgin is told that the Holy Spirit will come upon Her and the power of the Most High will overshadow Her, so that “the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk.1:35).
The Church speaks of this Holy Trinity many times.
At the Second Vatican Council, in ‘Lumen Gentium’, the Dogmatic Constitution On The Church, the Council Fathers begin by reminding us that the Father created the world with the intention of raising us to participate in His divine life; that He sent the Son “to re-establish all things”; and that upon completion of the mission given to the Son, the Holy Spirit was sent “that He might continually sanctify the Church” (LG, 4). As the Fathers note, “thus, the Church has been seen as ‘a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit'” (LG,4).
Echoing this sense of loving unity in the summer of 2011, Pope Benedict said that “Responding to the love that comes from the Father, the Son gave his own life for us: on the cross God’s merciful love reaches its highest expression. And it is on the cross that the Son of God obtains for us participation in eternal life that is communicated to us with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Speaking this morning in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis commented on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. He said this Mystery –
“..speaks to our heart because we find it encompassed in that expression of Saint John which summarizes all of Revelation: ‘God is love’ (1 Jn4:8,16). The Father is love; the Son is love; the Holy Spirit is love. And inasmuch as He is love, God, while being one alone, is not solitude but communion, among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because love is essentially a gift of self, and in its original and infinite reality it is the Father who gives Himself by generating His Son, who in turn gives Himself to the Father, and their mutual love is the Holy Spirit, the bond of their unity. It is not easy to understand, but we can live this mystery, all of us, we can live a great deal.”
As the Holy Father summed it up –
“The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity leads us to contemplate the mystery of God who unceasingly creates, redeems and sanctifies, always with love and through love.”
And this, I think, is the key that enables us to understand – at least, as far as we are able – this great Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity; and it is this – that God is love. And since this love flows eternally between these three divine Person of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is a mystery not only of love, but of relationship. And as this love is poured out to us, we are invited to take part in this divine relationship. As my old Simple Catechsim put it so many years ago, God made us that we might ‘know Him and love Him in this life, and be with Him foever in the next’.
God is relationship, a relationship into which we are invited – ultimately, it really all comes down to this. God loves us and He invites us.
Perhaps, then, the single thing we need to take from this feast we are celebrating today is this – that if we profess to respond to that invitation from God, to be a part of this divine loving relationship which He extends to us, then we are bound to extend that same invitation to all, without exception. If God is love – then we must be love. And if God invites – then we, too, must invite.
To love and to invite are at the core of our Christian faith, intimately wrapped up in this transcendant – yet oh! so immanent – Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.
God is love. God is invitation.
How, then, are we loving and how are we inviting?