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His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI
HOLY TRINITY SUNDAY 2014- Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
The prayer we say most often daily is to the Holy Trinity. We bless ourselves in the name of the Trinity before we begin further prayers, and we bless ourselves before and after when we eat. The name is always on our lips. But we do not normally address God as ‘Trinity’ though liturgically we sometimes do:
O Trinity of Blessed light,
O unity of princely might,
the fiery sun has gone its way;
shed now within our hearts your ray.
To you our morning song of praise,
to you our evening prayer we raise;
your glory suppliant we adore,
forever and forever more.
(Evening Prayer Psalter week 2, Wed. 10th Week of ordinary time).
In invoking the help of God the Father, following the biblical tradition, we use the language of the family, as in the ‘Our Father’. Likewise with the Son, Come Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20). And we call on the Holy Spirit in a personal way: Come Holy spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful. We have learned this from Jesus himself as he is portrayed in the New Testament.
Prayer is personal to the Father
We cannot easily pray with abstractions. To call the living God by a rather mathematical designation may not best help us warm to him with love. A little example from ordinary life will illustrate that point. People who hold a political or social office remain distant from us as long as we just know them by the title they bear. They have no flesh and blood for us until we get to know them personally. It is when we get to know their characteristics, the way they speak and the things they stand for, their sense of humour and emotions and so on, that we can take a greater personal interest in them. It is not so unlike that when we try to relate in prayer to the Holy Trinity.
First of all God the Father.
It is family language. Our Father! Normally we should associate the name ‘father’ with love. In ordinary life we introduce our own father to people not by way of his function but as the person with whom we identify in a totally unique way: ‘Please meet my father’. And in turn he will introduce us with ‘Please meet my son- or daughter’. We do not relate warmly together through our functions and social roles. The father was traditionally the one who identifies with and provides for the family, who takes pride in its success and who does not overawe it by his superiority. On this analogy God as Father means God as love. In Judaism he was the dialogue partner with his people, and each person was made in his own image and likeness. He loves them with an everlasting love (Jr 31:3). He is experienced in their history as the purpose and meaning of life- which they in turn would declare to the whole world.
The Second Person
The eternal Son we relate to as Jesus of Nazareth. He entered history like us, and lived in it for all the same reasons that the Father had cared for the original chosen people. In his person he was with the Father at the creation of the world (Jn 1:1) and he became a human being for humanity’s sake. By his coming he was the perfect exemplar and reflection of the Father’s love. He described his Father as ‘my Father’. That Father knows all our worries and needs; the very hairs on our head are counted by him. Indeed sparrows do not fall to earth without his knowing it (Mt 10:29-31). Jesus taught us what being God’s child is: caring for what the Father cared for with love that continues until death and beyond. Jesus kept breaking down the barriers that set people off from people, helping people to overcome fear and live in freedom. Today’s Gospel (Jn 3:16-18) encapsulates it all: ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life’. When the time came for him to leave his loved ones he assured them he would not leave them orphans. He would send another Paraclete to be with them (Jn 14:18).
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit’s profile is found in another hymn from the breviary (Prayer During the Day, Thursday , Psalter Week 2, Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time):
Come Holy Spirit, live in us
With God the Father and the Son,
And grant us your abundant grace
To sanctify and make us one.
May mind and tongue made strong in love,
Your praise throughout the world proclaim,
And may that love within our hearts
Set fire to others with its flame.
He comes to comfort and console us, to water the arid wastes of selfishness, to keep the wilful from going astray, to heal the wounds of those who are lonely in the world. He is the love of God in Person, the love that moves the sun and the other stars (Dante, The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, XXXIII, 144).
God for us Christians is not a distant and motionless, static, maker of the universe. St.John has told us that God is love. Life for us is ultimately about love, and in so far we laugh and cry, in so far we hope and fear, in so far we reciprocate trust with others we do so in dependence on him the source of our being. Today in thinking of the Holy Trinity we are talking about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of the great prophets, and above all revealed in the face of Jesus who is his perfect image (Col 1:15). Believers have been encountered by him in history, have seen him in the work of the church, perhaps seen him in the face of their closest friends.
We recall some lines from Cardinal Newman’s hymn:
Firmly I believe and truly
God is three, and God is one
And I hold in veneration,
For the love of him alone,
Holy Church, as his creation,
And her teachings, as his own.
Mystery is not a puzzle or problem to be solved but a reality to be adored. Those we love because of their very goodness remind us of this all the time. Thus we are surrounded by mystery. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Rev Richard J.Taylor.
Boarbank Hall, Cumbria, England