Trinity Sunday, Year C

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also may be in us (Jn. 17:21)

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity—someone noted recently—is too much to deal with logically [1]. And I really do not doubt it that, for all the amount and kind of theologizing or philosophizing I can engage in about the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, I will still fail to understand adequately and correctly the God whom Jesus—very much true to the monotheism of his Jewish tradition—affirmed to be the only one Lord (cf. Mk. 12:29).

But then, of course, what matters is neither heady concept nor hearty feeling about the teaching that there are three persons in one God. What is paramount is the relationship that the very concept of the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity supposes. It was, after all, the early church’s experience of intimacy with Jesus that eventually led to the formulation, in the 4th and 5th centuries, of the doctrine of the Trinity. So, then, if explicit knowledge of the truth of the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, along with the truth of the Incarnation, is truly necessary for salvation, as St. Vincent de Paul—faithful to the theology of his time [2]—repeatedly affirmed, such knowledge must be taken to be synonymous, first and foremost, I believe, with the intimacy of which the ecstatic mutual self-giving of spouses is symbolic. To know then means to let God become, in St. Augustine’s words, “more intimate to me than I am to my own self.” I am afraid that without such intimacy, I will never get past my ineptness and difficulty with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity. And, sadly, if this be the case, I may be part of not a small company. It was reported back in 1998 that a study made by a Protestant scholar indicated that only 20 of 3,000 Protestant sermons were about the Trinity (cf. Joseph T. Linehard, S.J., “A Trinity Summit,” in the May 16, 1998 issue of America). Could not this relative silence about a very important foundational teaching of mainline Christian churches have been due likewise to lack of intimacy? St. Francis of Assisi had a point, I am sure, when he indicated that we indeed do not know what we have not practiced or experienced. And much less can we speak of what we really do not know, of what we have not practiced or experienced.

Fortunately for us, however, having an experience of God is possible. In the first place, the word is very near us, for it is in our mouth and our heart (cf. Dt. 30:11-14; Rom. 10:8-9). In the second place, we can even now experience God through Christ in the love that has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Moreover, we are assured that we have access to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14; Jn. 1:16-18). Because of the Spirit’s penetrating and pervasive presence, we are capable of sharing in the divine life and enjoying the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (cf. Gal. 5:22-23). The same Spirit guides us to all truth.

And Jesus as the truth is also the way and the life. He is our mediator that unites us to the Father, the wisdom that is the Father’s delight and which also finds delight in the human race. We partake of what belongs to Jesus, which is everything that the Father also has, because the Spirit takes from what is Jesus’ and declare it to us.

Finally, let it not be left unsaid that baptism—in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit—does not only signify repentance, but also and especially the immersion of the baptized in the divine name, that is to say, in the divine reality of God, in the relationship among the three persons in one God.

Now for the follower of St. Vincent de Paul, this immersion in the divine life entails partaking specifically of Jesus’ mission that is seen to be the fulfillment of the prophetic utterance that proclaims (Lk. 4:18-19; Is. 61:1-2):

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to
bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim
liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let
the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the
Lord.

Given that this mission involves explicitly the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, then every Vincentian must indeed be called to be especially devoted to the Most Holy Trinity, called therefore also, in the words of St. Vincent, “to make everyone know of this mystery.”