By Patricia McNally
The doctrine of the Trinity is a revealed and practical doctrine with radical consequences for Christian living.
Pope Francis describes the Trinity as this ‘burning fire of love’ and says that the relationship between Jesus and his Father is the ‘womb’ of the link between Christians. This beautiful description takes us to the starting point of this journey in discussing the Holy Trinity as a practical doctrine with radical consequences for Christian living.‘The relationship between Jesus and the Father is the ‘womb’ of the link between Christians. If we are rooted in that womb, in this burning fire of love which is the Trinity we can become able to possess one heart alone and one soul alone because the love of God scorches our selfishness, judgements and divisions’ – Pope Francis
God Loved us First
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you’ (Jeremiah 1:5)
Let us think for a moment about the depth of these words. Before we were even formed in the womb we were loved by God. ‘He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19).We would not know what love was unless we experienced it first. Our Minds cannot comprehend just how special we are to God and it goes beyond us to try to grasp hold of the complete love that he has for each one of us. It is seldom that we think back to before we were born and to the time we spent growing in our mother’s womb. God Loved us then, and he loves us now with the same perfect love.
‘You know me through and through, from having watched my bones take shape when I was being formed in secret knitted together in the limbo of the womb’ (Ps. 139:15)
Mary responded to God the Father’s call when she agreed to be the mother of his Son. Saying Yes to God requires trust and faith. It was her ‘Yes’ that changed everything for us. It was her ‘Yes’ that brought forth God’s love into the world. It is our ‘Yes’ to God that changes us and changes the world. It is our response to his love that he yearns for. We see this common theme running through the Bible and in particular in St. Johns gospel where his thirst for us to believe in him and to love him is evident.
We were in God’s plan. He made us in his own image and likeness. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we are capable of, he knows all our weaknesses and our strength and he loves us.
‘God loves each of us as if there were only one of us’ – St. Augustine
The Trinity is a Revealed and Practical Doctrine
The Trinity is a revealed doctrine. God is a revealed God, not one that we make up in our minds and shape him into what we want him to be. God reveals himself to us when he says:
“I Am who I Am”
Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”God said to Moses,
“I AM WHO I AM.” and he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’. . .
This is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” Exodus (3:14)
The divinity of Jesus Christ is further illustrated in John 8:58. Jesus said, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am”, which means that Jesus existed before His human life on earth. Jesus also tells us that he is: ‘The light of the world’ (John 8:12) ‘The Good shepherd’ (John 10:11) ‘The gate’ (John 10:9) ‘The resurrection and the life’ ( John 11:25) ‘The way, and the truth, and the life’(John 14:6 ) ‘The true vine’ (John 15:1 )
Jesus revealed his Divinity at his Baptism in the river Jordan. Jesus baptism was a declaration of his relationship of Son to the Father. Here we have all three persons of the Trinity present. God speaks directly to Jesus and says
‘You are my Son the beloved, with you I am well pleased’ (Mark 1: 11).
In St. Luke’s Gospel we are told that ‘The heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical form, like a dove’. (3:22) St. Paul expressed Baptism as a break with the old and a beginning of a new life in Christ, and he conveys to us that Baptism establishes the relationship between us and God. The very start of our Christian journey began at our Baptism when we became official followers of Christ, a child of God and a temple of his Spirit.
‘No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit’. (John 3:5).
In the same way that Jesus is God’s Son we too become sons and daughters of God through this Sacrament and thus enter into relationship with Him. It is the Holy Spirit that binds us together in Christ and we are united as brothers and sisters and united to the body of Christ – the Church.
Jesus had a unique and intimate relationship with his Father. He referred to his Father as ‘Abba’, which is the Aramaic word for father. His use of this word gives us an idea of the intimacy of the relationship that they had. God the Father loved his Son. Jesus loved his Father completely and was obedient to him. In John (4:16) lies the answer to what the heart of our Christian faith is, and also to what the Trinity is. ‘God is Love’.
The Trinity is Love. God is one being and at the same time he is three persons, each one equal yet distinct from the other two. God the Father begets the Son; the Son proceeds from the Father; and the Holy Spirit comes from the Father and the Son. They are three individual persons but one God only, because the Divine Nature is unique and identical. It is beyond our intelligence to understand the Mystery of the Trinity but it is not beyond our intelligence to experience the Trinity in our everyday lives.
Living The Trinity in Relationships and Community
We experience the Trinity when we experience God, because God is love. The kind of love that we experience is Divine love, it is this ‘burning fire of love’ that Pope Francis speaks of. He gives us a deeper insight into this when he says that the Trinity is the ‘Communion of life and love’. When we hear the word Communion we think of Holy Communion which is when we receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ at Mass. We are present in this most holy and sacred space with God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit and all the Holy angels and Saints.
The word Communion signifies unity and solidarity with God and with one another. We experience this unity and this special love with God when we keep his Commandments, follow his teachings and share in the Sacraments. The Sacraments are outward signs given to us by God from which we receive the graces we need for our lives. They are like resting places along the journey of life where we are renewed, nourished and forgiven.
The Spirit of God fills us with life and moves us out beyond ourselves. It is in our outreach to others that we encounter God within. A lot of practices today say we need to journey into ourselves to find God but this can lead to us journeying into the bubble of ‘self’ where we can come detached and dis-connected from our true selves and from those around us.
The love of God scorches our selfish-ness (Pope Francis) and living the Trinity helps us to be who we truly are as God made us. His grace enables us to look at life from a God-given perspective and from this grace the fruits of the Holy Spirit flow. These are: Charity, Generosity, Joy, Gentleness, Peace, Fidelity, Patience, Modesty, Kindness, Self- Control, Goodness, and Chastity.
Although we are in constant conflict with ‘self’ and our human nature leads us to say and do things that are not pleasing to God, we have the special gift of the Sacrament of Confession where Jesus waits to forgive us and bathe us in his mercy and love.
It is harder for us to keep God’s Commandments than for us not to keep them and in the same way it is easier to go with the flow and follow the crowd than not to. Jesus gave us a New Commandment and here lies the challenge of our Christian faith: He says ‘Love One another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34-35)
To follow Jesus and to be a witness to Him means having to leave behind our old ways, our old self.
It involves taking a step out into the ‘deep waters’ of life and shining Gods light in the world around us, in our personal relationships and in our community. We find God in that place of connection with another person, in that space where there is trust, fellow-ship and sharing. The journey into the heart of that intimate space leads us to experience the Trinity. It is here that we feel the heat from the flames of His love.
Jesus says ‘I am the way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me’ John (14:6).
We can’t get to the Father through short-cuts or back doors, we have to go through His Son. This requires trust. The Kings trusted that they were given the right information when they set out on their journey to find Jesus. They listened to the messages given to them all in a dream, and they took God at his Word. God’s Word was true because they found the stable, and they found the baby Jesus. Imagine how they would have felt if they had arrived at the foretold place to find nothing there! They would have been completely and utterly disappointed and dis-heartened, and probably annoyed and angry that they were misled. The joy of finding Jesus is a lasting joy and it moves us forward, it motivates us into wanting to share this with others.
Experiencing the Trinity is like a sense of having arrived at a destination after a very long journey where we place ourselves into the embrace of our Lord who waits with open arms in the arrivals lounge of our lives.
‘Come follow me and I will give you rest says the lord’ (Matthew 11:28-30)
Our life today is changed by the presence of Jesus. It is a lovely experience to be in the presence of someone who is fully present with you. They are there in that space with you completely and not a hundred miles away in their mind. We experience the presence of our Lord at Mass and also in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. When we read scripture his words give us life and we are moved by his spirit.
Jesus is present and resides in us because of our Baptism. This lays the foundation stone for all the other Sacraments. The Sacrament of Holy Communion follows the Sacrament of Confession and when we make our Confirmation we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit which are: Wisdom, Fortitude, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.
These gifts help us in our relationship with God and with others. Jesus remains in us and us in him. ‘Remain in me as I also remain in you’ (John 15:4) We are made up of mind, body and spirit. God the Father knows our innermost thoughts, he inspires our mind. Jesus inspires our words, and the Holy Spirit inspires our actions. Our lives are fuelled by the Holy Trinity.
We are a community of believers in Christ. We are the body of Christ. We are not just an individual floating around on our own. We are connected. Our lives are geared to be relational. It is the doctrine of the Trinity that is the foundation of Christian ethics, social justice and morality. Upon it rests the two great Commandments: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Community life depends upon those commandments, commandments having their foundation on the Triune God who is a community of persons in union and love. ( L’Osservatore Romano)
The Sacred Teaching of the Church is God the Father. The Sacred Scripture is God the Son and the Sacred Magisteruim is the Holy Spirit. God is in action in the church through the Holy Spirit. The fruits of the spirit flow out over the church and its people. It is up to us to allow the spirit to move us, to guide us, to teach us, to lead us in Love, and when this happens it is very powerful, our lives and the lives of others can be transformed.
When we become more like God in the way we live with others then God’s presence,
power and love are made all that much more real for those who live around us – (L’Osservatore Romano 2nd June 2010)