When was the last time you consciously thought about the Trinity? For me, it was at 2:40 AM this morning, when I got up to use the bathroom. Usually, when I try to go back to sleep, I do a mini-Lectio Divina in order to prime myself for day ahead. I don’t know what the day will bring, but it does not matter. I just try to seek God daily where I am and how I am. In silence and solitude, I just let the Holy Spirit talk and I listen. This morning, what poped into my head was the Trinity.
Let me tell you a story about a young boy in 1963, who was studying theology and faced the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. I have never been one to have good grades (either because I was not smart enough or because I over-thought the questions). One Saturday afternoon, while other students of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, were out playing softball, I trudged up five flights of stairs to our chapel. I was very hot and stuffy in that chapel and everything inside me kept telling me to get out of there. What I had come to do was try to comprehend the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity. I sat there in silence and solitude and kept repeating to God that I believed but asked that he help my unbelief (St. Thomas Aquinas). I thought that, since God was everywhere, He would hear my plea and answer my prayer. As I sat there, I began to look around that chapel. There were no lights on but the sun was shining through the high stained-glass windows. I thought, “How can there be but one nature in God (divine) but three separate persons, each distinct. What would that look like?” Thinking that this was a waste of time, I turned to leave and gave one last glance to the altar. On it showed a rainbow of colors, a light that had passed through the clear window pain and refracted into various wavelengths. At that very moment, two things happened to me: a) I stopped trying to cram the divine nature of the Trinity into my poor, broken-down, Temple of the Holy Spirit. b) I experienced a profound sense of wellbeing and peace that I did not need to understand what could not be understood fully by any human, just ask for God’s mercy on me, a sinner. The Trinity is the mystery of Faith.
My Lectio this morning brought four examples of how the Blessed Trinity is a paradigm on how to look at reality and see the whole picture. Let me share these with you now.
I. THE MYSTERY OF DIVINE NATURE : One God but three persons
There are some ideas that humans could not reason without some hints or help in the form of revelation. The Blessed Trinity is one such dogma (dogma means teaching from Christ). Other major religions teach that God is One in Divine Nature, but there are not three persons in the form of a Trinity of Persons. Remember that each individual human being has the ability to reason for a reason and also the capability to choose what they think is good for them. Not all humans reason that there is a Trinity so they are not able to choose this way of thinking. It would be like taking a hike in the Grand Canyon and coming upon a great rift between one side (The World) and the other (The Spirit). You are not able to exercise this option. Your life will be spent on one side of the rim and not the other. Then, all of a sudden, a very young man comes up to you and tells you how to get across and what is on the other side. In this example, this would be Christ who tells you that He is the Pontifex Maximus (The Great Bridge Builder) and that on the other side of the gap is His Kingdom where he invites you to be an adopted son or daughter of the King. He tells you that all you have to do is walk across the gap (Baptism) and have Faith(Acceptance of Christ as Lord). The problem is, you must have faith in the words of the young man because this gap does not seem to have any bridge over it. Remember the movie of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? There is a scene in the movie that I always think about when I am faced with what seems like an impossible task. Here it is! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFntFdEGgws
God is one in nature (divine) and three in persons. You can’t make this stuff up. We would not know about the Trinity unless Christ revealed it. We would not be able to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven had not Christ redeemed us and paid the price of that reconciliation of human nature with the divine by His passion and death. (Philippians 2:5-12) Remember, nothing about the Mystery of Faith or the Kingdom of Heaven makes sense with the measurements of the World, or without the revelation from Christ, and Christ does not make sense without the Resurrection. And the Resurrection does not make sense without Faith. And Faith does not make sense without Love. And Love does not make sense without the Trinity who is the paradigm of Love.
Here are some of the other “one and three” paradoxes that came to my mind during my Lectio.
II. THERE ARE THREE HUGE QUESTIONS THAT CHALLENGE YOUR REASONING AND FREE CHOICE BUT ONLY ONE ANSWER
Here are three questions I asked myself about the reality that I see about me, questions that may not have answers in just two universes (physical and mental) but which are reasonable in a reality with three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).
II. THERE ARE THREE SEPARATE UNIVERSES BUT ONLY ONE REALITY
Another of the “one yet three” paradigms is that of three separate and distinct universes. They correspond to the three questions you just read above. I recommend you read this section then go back and re-read sections I and II. Here is what I wrote about three universes in a former blog. I think it applies to the Trinity.
First, in the physical universe, the one in which we share with all other matter, energy, time, rocks, and those who have life, there is both resonance and dissonance. These qualities are part of the natural order of reality which we call the natural law. For example, if animals would, all of a sudden stop procreating, that would not be a part of the natural order of things. It would be dissonance. Keeping the natural expectations of reality is called resonance. All things living are a part of the physical universe and subject to its Laws. It is the object of study and inquiry of the next universe, one in which only humans live.
The mental universe are those gifted with human reasoning and the ability to choose what they reason. Only humans are part of this universe. They can act outside the Laws of Nature if they choose. In this universe, the individual is the center of all reality. The languages of Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Logic helps humans to discover the physical universe and find out what makes it tick, why it ticks, and how it ticks. Humans, as well as all reality, has a beginning and an end, 70 or 80 years, if we are strong as humans, then we die. We hand off what we have learned to the next generation. In doing so, we humans try to find meaning and purpose for why we are here at this particular time, in this particular space. Individual persons try to find security and stability by adopting various ways to see reality and answer the six questions each person must ask and answer before they die (these are my six questions):
Granted these are the six question each of us must ask and answer, but where do you find the answers? This is a big challenge for humans. They try to answer questions with different philosophies or no ideas at all. This is the reason you have reason and the ability to choose something or someone that is invisible to your usual pattern of thinking. Where do you go for the truth? Science and the empirical way of thinking, to its credit, has tried to objectify the answers to questions of Why, Where, When, How, and What. It looks at the physical universe of matter, time, and energy and proposes solutions using the languages of Science. What is real is where you find ourselves and what you have learned from the past.
The mental universe (reason and the ability to choose) allows humans to ask questions about who we are. The answers come from science, logic, deduction, probability, historical precedent. Each individual must address what is real according to certain criteria that they, themselves, choose as being true. Collectively, these individuals form tribes, gangs, groups of like-minded thinkers, such as churches, societies, nations, and ethnic attachments that form who they are.
The problem that I have with just a physical and mental universe is that is does not provide me with the answers that answer these six questions. Like the presence of dark matter in the universe, there is part of the equation that is missing. When I use my reasoning and freedom to choose what I reasoned, I look back on reality, both present and in the past to inform me of what is true. I use the languages and tools that we have developed so far to separate fact from fantasy. Is this all there is? Are we just condemned to live for seventy or eighty years, then die?
WHY ARE WE?
The Church Universal is a collection of those marked with the sign of Faith and who are alive. Those in Heaven are called Saints or saints, those on earth still practicing what is means to love others as Christ loves us are called by the name Church Militant, and those who have been judged by God to need purification before they enter the kingdom of heaven are the Church Purgative. All are alive. Christ is the head and we sinful members make up the Mystical Body of Christ. There is a danger that Christ warned us about and St. Paul confirmed, when the Church becomes keeping rules alone (the Law) without using The Law to allow us to love others as Christ loves us, then we have a group of people with the Church as their center. As humans, we all have the ability to reason, then to choose to do what we have reasoned is true.
The Spiritual Universe. We humans have always been an inquisitive lot. Perhaps why we evolved physically, mentally as well as spiritually is to be aware of a reality larger than our physical and mental universes, which St. Paul termed The Spirit. As good as reason is to make sense out of the World in which we live, it alone is not enough to approach the next universe, that of the Spirit. We must choose to enter the spiritual universe freely and we need to be lifted up to do that. By lifted up I mean God lifts us up from the Garden of Eden to the Kingdom of Heaven through Baptism. We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through Faith (God’s energy to gather all things to Himself). The reality now becomes what it was intended to be before the Fall of Adam and Eve from grace (Original Sin). These three universes complete the cycle for all humans and answer the question, Who are we? Why are we? What is our future? What is our purpose? How does love fulfill the longing heart? and We know we are going to die, now what? To inherit the kingdom, God’s playground, we must use what He taught us through His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, And what was that? Simply put, it is to love one another as He has loved us. The spiritual universe uses the opposite of what the World says is good to provide us with a path to walk through the minefields of life without getting blown up. We must renounce our false selves (the World) to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). We must make room for Christ in our hearts by using the Tools for Good Works listed in Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. Each day, we must seek God where we are, and as we are, taking up whatever cross we bear that day as Christ carried his cross for the sins of the World.
I realize that I am just hypothesizing with three universes, but this way of breaking down reality has been helpful for me to tease out what had heretofor baffeling. I like to put things together and see where they fit. This all leads me to think about the Trinity and why there is one God but three separate persons.
III.THERE ARE THREE LORDS BUT ONLY ONE REALITY
There are three persons yet one nature in God. That is not something humans could reason to but it took Christ to tell us that it is so. You either believe that or you don’t.
THE FATHER AS LORD OF FAITH CREATION AND ALL REALITY: We reaffirm our Faith each Sunday when we recite the Creed as part of our Eucharist. Before we approach the ultimate, timeless sacrifice of Christ in Eucharist, we must ask to receive the grace to even say, “Abba” or “Father”. Christ told us that no one can approach the Father but only the Son. The Father is the source of energy. This energy is the power of love, a love which created all the heavenly choirs of angels (and demons), a love that unleashed it DNA on matter, time and energy to propel it towards an end time, a desire to share all of this with humans by giving them the ability to reason and the freedom to choose good or evil. Everything we know of has a beginning and an end, galaxies, black holes, earth, all living things, all humans. Why is that? There are four Epochs of time:
a) From the beginning of time to the creation of Adam, b) from the creation of Adam to the creation completion of the mission of Christ, c) from Pentecost to the second coming of Christ, d) from the creation of each one of us as adopted sons and daughters of the Father until we die and live forever. Each person in the Blessed Trinity has a mission and plays a key role to help us fulfill our human destiny.
THE SON AS LORD AND MEDIATOR OF LOVE FOR THE FATHER: God did not leave us orphans at the mercy of Satan and his minions. He shared his own self, in the form of Jesus, Son of David, to set us free from the slavery of self and to give us forgiveness of Original Sin (the sin of Adam and Eve). Christ told us only to love one another as He has loved us. How simple! How difficult it is without Christ as the Way. Philippians 2:5-12 tells us that His name is above every other name and that every knee should bend at His name to the glory of the Father. Contemplative (Trappist) prayer gives me the opportunity to seek God every day, in all that I am, in all that I do. These charisms and practices are not just empty prayers but are transformative to all who are gentle and humble of heart. Christ is as present to us in my life as he was to the lives of the Apostles and his disciples if I have humility and obedience to His will. To move from self to God takes focus, purpose, and trial and error. Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict provides a wonderful guide to measure ourselves again. Jesus is the personification of the Trinity to show us how to love others and to make it possible for us to join him in Heaven…Forever. He is the Real Presence for each age in the Last Supper (Eucharist) as he takes us along with Him as He gives fitting honor and glory to the Father in union with the Holy Spirit.
THE SPIRIT AS THE LORD OF HOPE AND TRUTH: If you look again at the epochs of time (above), then you realize that something is missing in this divine economy without a Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit of truth that overshadowed Mary with the Immaculate Conception, the same Spirit that overshadowed the Apostles in the Upper Room, the same Spirit that overshadows each one of us at Baptism and in our daily prayer to have mercy on us, sinners all. The Holy Spirit is the Real Presence of God in the Church, which is why we say the Church is Holy. It is certainly not because of the people in it who must continously strive to love others as Christ did.
A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON THE REALITY OF THE TRINITY: The Archetype to Forever.
In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), it all came down to this.
Praise be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology