The Mystery of the Trinity — By Fr. Rich, O.P.

FrRichWebMost of us find mysteries frustrating. Most of us tend to like information in neat, easy-to-digest units. Most of us prefer not to be burdened with irrelevant data, what we have labelled “irrelevant,” anyway. Mysteries are frustrating because they rarely are neatly packaged. Rarely are they orderly with information that interacts nicely with reality. In our world, mysteries demand to be solved; they poke and prod; they demand that we search and investigate, pushing the boundaries of the unknown until “voila!” mystery solved.

Will you join in celebrating Trinity Sunday? The readings today: with Moses speaking to the people, “You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper”; with Paul speaking of the “Spirit of God” by whom we are empowered to call “Abba”; with Matthew recounting the great commission:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

give us suggestions and clues about this triune God, three in one.

And yet, here we are, celebrating a mystery that has generated hundreds of thousands of words and is no closer to resolution than when we began our questions. It is foundational to our faith, both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed acknowledge the roles that each divine person plays in its ongoing presence and growth. Our Father, creator of heaven and earth; Jesus Christ, Redeemer; Holy Spirit, source of all life and wisdom; three persons, each possessed of a distinct character.

I, personally and theologically, am quite comfortable with mystery. As a participant in Catholic education from first grade through senior year in a Jesuit high school, the Trinity was an integral part of each day in our prayer lives. Conversation about God and God’s nature were part of the landscape at different levels throughout my education. Rarely, if ever, were there any conclusions drawn — just thoughts, concepts, ideas to be contemplated. My images of God changed over the years, as I matured, learned more theology, broadened my perspectives, and as the world around me changed. Vatican II opened up a whole universe of God: God as mystery, God as triune, God as (fill in the blank). The image has stabilized of late though I’m not sure that my description of that image would be as succinct as I imagine in my head.

It seems to me that the important point here is that we engage the mystery in our own way and time; not with an eye toward resolution, but toward a deeper appreciation and awareness of the sacredness, the complexity, and the intimate nature of this trinity. If we move in that direction, we can also come to a deeper awareness and appreciation of our relationship with this mystery. It is more than just about study; it is about contemplating the mystery as a reflection of the love and grace that God enfolds us with all the time.

Celebrate the Triune God, one in three! Rejoice in the life-giving mystery that is a source of grace, a source of strength, and an opportunity for faith, today and always.