Readings: Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9;
II Cor 13:11-13. Gospel: Jn 3:16-18
Anecdote # 1: Simplified explanations by Ss. Patrick, Cyril and John Maria Vianney: The shamrock, a kind of clover, is a leguminous herb that grows in marshy places. St. Patrick, the missionary patron saint of Ireland, used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. The story goes that one day his friends asked Patrick to explain the Mystery of the Trinity. He looked at the ground and saw shamrocks growing amid the grass at his feet. He picked one up one of its trifoliate leaves and asked if it were one leaf or three. Patrick's friends couldn't answer – the shamrock leaf looked like one but it clearly had three parts. Patrick explained to them: "The mystery of the Holy Trinity – one God in Three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - is like this, but more complex and unintelligible.”
St. Cyril, the teacher of the Slavs, tried to explain the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity using sun as an example. He said, "God the Father is that blazing sun. God the Son is its light and God the Holy Spirit is its heat — but there is only one sun. So there are three Persons in the Holy Trinity but God is One and indivisible." St. John Maria Vianney used to explain Holy Trinity using lighted candles and roses on the altar and water in the cruets. “The flame has color, warmth and shape. But these are expressions of one flame. Similarly, the rose has color, fragrance and shape. But these are expressions of one reality, namely, rose. Water, steam and ice are three distinct expressions of one reality. In the same way one God revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.” According to Tradition, when St. Spyridon of Trimithund was asked at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) how three can simultaneously be one, he responded (with a little Divine help!) by taking up a brick and squeezing it. From the now-soft clay in his hands, a flame flared up, while simultaneously water flowed downward. “As there is fire and water in this brick,” said St. Spyridon, “in the same way there are three persons in the one Godhead.”St. John of Damascus, a great Eastern theologian of the eighth century, said we should think “of the Father as a root, the Son as a branch, and of the Spirit as a fruit, for the sustenance of these three is one.”
Introduction: The mystery of the most Holy Trinity is a basic doctrine of Faith in Christianity, understandable not with our heads but with our hearts. It teaches us that there are three distinct Persons in one God, sharing the same Divine Nature, co-equal and co-eternal. Our mind cannot grasp this doctrine which teaches that 1+1+1 = 1 and not 3. But we believe in this Mystery because Jesus who is God taught it clearly, the Evangelists recorded it, the Fathers of the Church tried to explain it and the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople defined it as a dogma of Christian Fai
Importance in Christian life: 1) All prayers in the Church begin in the Name of the Holy Trinity and end glorifying the Trinity. 2) All Sacraments are administered (we are baptized, confirmed, anointed, our sins are forgiven, our marriage blessed, and our Bishops, priests and deacons ordained) in the name of the Holy Trinity.3) Church bells ring thrice daily, reminding us to give glory to the Holy Trinity for the Incarnation of Jesus and His Redemption of all of us.4) We bless ourselves, and the priest blesses us, in the Name of the Holy Trinity.
There are only vague and hidden references to the Trinity in the Old Testament. But the New Testament gives clear teachings on the Holy Trinity.
- At the Annunciation, God the Father sends His angel to Mary, God the Holy Spirit comes upon her, the Power of the Most High overshadows her and God the Son becomes incarnate in her womb.
- At the baptism of Jesus, when the Son receives baptism from John the Baptist, the Father’s Voice is heard and the Holy Spirit appears as a Dove.
- At the Ascension, Jesus gives the missionary command to his disciples to baptize those who believe, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
- In John, chapters 15--18, we have a detailed account of Jesus’ teaching of the role of each Person of the Holy Trinity: a) God the Father creates and provides for His creatures. b) God the Son redeems us and reconciles us with God. c) God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, strengthens us, teaches us and guides us to God.
The first reading, taken from the book of Exodus, describes how God revealed His name to Moses as “Yahweh,” which means, “I am Who am.” But Orthodox Jews never used that name. They addressed God by calling Him Lord. The passage also is as close as the Bible comes to giving a definition of God. According to that text, the Lord is “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” Every part of that statement stresses God in relationship to humankind, and it emphasizes especially God’s great love for us. The revelation of God’s nature as Triune was made by Jesus. In fact the very word "Trinity,” referring to Three Persons in one God, one in Godhead yet distinct in Person, is not explicitly spelled out in the Bible, although the doctrine on Trinity is mentioned about forty times in the New Testament without using the term “Trinity.” Rather, the early Church arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity when she reflected on the Revelation which she had received from Jesus in Faith.
Today’s second reading, taken from St. Paul’s second Letter to the Corinthians, contains the ancient apostolic blessing in the name of the Holy Trinity: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Paul reminds the people of the Father’s love, the grace that comes through Jesus Christ and the fellowship or the unifying power of the Holy Spirit. The word “grace” in a theological context refers to Divine favor. In Christ, God has shown favor toward us humans, a special care for us and a desire that through Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection we might find and enjoy a right relationship with God. We often use the phrase “the love of God” to describe our response to God and our duty to love God. That is both correct and appropriate. But what comes first is God’s love for us.
The Scriptures emphasize that God has loved us first and that our love for God is only a fitting response. And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit shapes and animates the life of the Christian community. In other words, we live our Christian lives in the fellowship, or koinonia, formed by the Holy Spirit because it is He who guides, empowers and teaches in Christ’s place and brings us together in Faith, Love and Hope. In the story of salvation, we usually attribute Creation to the Father, Redemption to the Son and Sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, though they are distinct as Persons, neither the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Spirit ever exists in separation or acts in isolation from the other Two Persons of the Godhead. The inner relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is such that each of them is fully God, yet They are not three Gods but One. This is not comprehendible by the human mind. It is a Mystery.
Today’s Gospel comes from the story of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. Jesus speaks about the Father who has sent him (the Son), and after the Last Supper, He speaks about the Holy Spirit Whom he will send. He says that the Father has given him (the Son) all that He has and that Jesus, in turn, has given to the Holy Spirit all that he has received from the Father. In this we see the unity of purpose among the Three Persons of the Trinity.
1) The development of the Trinitarian doctrine in the Church. The oldest doctrinal formulation of the Church’s belief in the Trinity is found in the Apostles’ Creed which has served both as the basis of instruction for catechumens and as the Baptismal confession of Faith since the second century. Later, the Nicene Creed, originating at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325), stated the doctrine more explicitly. This creed was introduced into our Western liturgy by the regional council of Toledo in AD 589. God has revealed to us three separate functions that are carried out by the Three Persons. He has told us that it is proper to attribute to God the Father the work of Creation, to God the Son the work of Redemption and to God the Holy Spirit the work of Sanctification. Our knowledge of God as Trinity is made possible by God, Who has chosen to reveal Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Father, God has brought forth the created universe, including our own being. As Son, Jesus has made known a God who hears our cries, who cares, who counts the hairs on our head and who loves us so passionately that He became one of us in order to suffer for our sins, and even to die for us. As Spirit, God remains with us and within us.
2) The Triune God as seen in the Old Testament: Since Yahweh, the God of Israel, was careful to protect His Chosen People from the pagan practice of worshipping several gods, the Old Testament books give only indirect and passing references to the Trinity, and the Jewish rabbis never understood them as references to the Holy Trinity. Genesis 1:26 presents God speaking to Himself: "Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness." Genesis 18:2 describes how Yahweh visited Abraham under the appearance of three men, an event that the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates as the “Trinitarian Experience of Abraham.” In Genesis 11:7, before punishing the proud builders of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let Us go down among them and confuse their language. “These passages imply, rather than state, the doctrine of the Trinity.
3) Clear doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament.
a) The Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38), describes how God the Father sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to announce to her that God the Holy Spirit, would "come upon” her, that “the power the Most High will overshadow” her, that the Son would be made flesh in her womb: “Therefore, the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
b) During the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3: 16-17), the Holy Spirit was shown descending on Jesus in the form of a Dove, while the Voice of God the Father was heard from the clouds, saying, “You are My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Luke 4:22).
c) John (Chapters 15 through 18), presents the detailed teaching of Jesus on the Persons of the Holy Trinity.
d) In the preaching mission given by the risen Lord to the disciples, Jesus commanded them to baptize people “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Confer also Matthew 28:19; John 10:30).
1) we need to respect ourselves and respect others. Our conviction of the presence of the Triune God within us should help us to esteem ourselves as God’s holy dwelling place, to behave well in His holy presence, and to lead purer and holier lives, practicing acts of justice and charity. This Triune Presence should also encourage us to respect and honor others as "Temples of the Holy Spirit."
2) We need to be aware of God as the Source of our strength and courage. The awareness and conviction of the presence of God within us gives us the strength to face the manifold problems of life with Christian courage. It was such a conviction that prompted the early Christian martyrs being taken to their execution to shout the heroic prayer of Faith from the Psalms: "The Lord of might is with us, our God is within us, and the God of Jacob is our helper" (Psalm 46).
3) We need to see the Trinity as the model for our Christian families: We are created in love to be a community of loving persons, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in Love. From the day of our Baptism, we have belonged to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How privileged we are to grow up in such a beautiful Family! Hence, let us turn to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in prayer every day. We belong to the Family of the Triune God. The love, unity and joy in the relationship among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit should be the supreme model of our relationships within our Christian families. Our families become truly Christian when we live in a relationship of love with God and with others.
4) We are called to become more like the Triune God through all our relationships. We are made in God’s image and likeness. Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only as one member of a relationship of three partners. The self needs to be in a horizontal relationship with all other people and in a vertical relationship with God. In that way our life becomes Trinitarian like that of God. Modern society follows the so-called “I-and-I” principle of unbridled individualism and the resulting consumerism. But the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity challenges us to adopt an "I-and-God-and-neighbor" principle: “I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people.” Like God the Father, we are called upon to be productive and creative persons by contributing to the building up of the fabric of life and love in our family, our Church, our community and our nation. Like God the Son, we are called upon to reconcile, to be peacemakers, to put back together that which has been broken, to restore what has been shattered. Like God the Holy Spirit, it is our task to uncover and teach truth and to dispel ignorance. (Trinitarian spirituality: “The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that it belongs to God’s very Nature to be committed to humanity and its history that God’s Covenant with us is irrevocable, that God’s Face is immutably turned toward us in love, that God’s Presence to us is utterly reliable and constant.... Trinitarian spirituality is one of solidarity between and among persons. It is a way of living the Gospel attentive to the requirements of justice, understood as rightly ordered relationships between and among persons.” Dictionary of Spirituality)
St. Francis Xavier’s favorite prayer was: “Most Holy Trinity, Who live in me, I praise You, I worship You, I adore You and I love You.” Let the Son lead us to the Father through the Spirit, to live with the Triune God forever and ever. Amen.
JOKE OF THE WEEK:
1) Trinitarian Love the essence of family life: One day, while he was walking with God in the Garden of Eden Adam said, "Excuse me God, can I ask you a few questions?" God replied, "Go on Adam, but be quick. I have a world to create."
So, Adam says, "When you created Eve, why did you make her body so curved and tender unlike mine?" "I did that, Adam, so that you could love her." "Oh, well then, why did you give her long, shiny, beautiful hair?" "I did that Adam so that you could love her." "Oh, well then, why did you make her so stupid? Is that too because I should love her?" "Well, Adam, no. I did that so that she could love you."