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Bible Reflections View Comments

Live the Mystery of the Trinity
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 26, 2013
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More ink has been spilled on the mystery of the Trinity than any other doctrine in Catholicism. Many people can tell you that St. Patrick used the shamrock to demonstrate the three-in-one reality of the Trinity. But it’s difficult to move from this image to an academic definition of the Trinity.

While all analogies ultimately fail, taken together, they can give us myriad ways to begin to grasp this great truth of our faith. Celebrating this feast reminds us that God will always be beyond our human understanding and beyond human control. There’s something comforting in that. We want God to be all powerful, all encompassing, eternal, and ever present. A god small enough for humans to control is too small to do any good.

The challenges faced by the early Church in understanding the Trinity had much to do with the need to reconcile the strongly monotheistic (one God) tradition of Judaism with the tendency of the pagans to have multiple gods for a variety of tasks and circumstances. When Jesus says he and the Father are one, he’s speaking of a completely new concept.

Through the centuries theologians needed to fit their descriptions and definitions of the Trinity into established ways of thinking and talking about reality. The words academics used to talk about faith changed with different currents in philosophy. What didn’t change was the one God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

One of the deepest truths that the doctrine of the Trinity reveals to us is that God is in relationship. The union of Father, Son and Spirit is a fluid one. The Trinity is always working, always moving, animating the world with divine life. We see this especially in John’s Gospel. Jesus speaks easily of his union with the Father and of the Spirit who moves in their midst.

It can be difficult to pin down John’s words. We understand them in an intuitive, mystical way, but we can’t define and explain them to our own—or anyone else’s—real satisfaction.

The people who selected the sacred texts for our lectionary reached back to the words of Proverbs, describing the Wisdom of God present at creation. Like Patrick’s shamrock, our first reading roots this ethereal mystery in the things of the earth: fountains, springs of water, mountains and hills, clods of earth, the sky, the sea. Wisdom is described as a craftsman, someone working to shape earthly materials into something both useful and beautiful.

As we move into the summer months—a time for gardens, visits to the beach or mountains—we might know in our experience of God’s creation something of that oneness. Our hobbies might give us an understanding of God’s creative spirit. Certainly our relationships with those closest to us and most dearly beloved can suggest to us something of this divine union.

This feast asks us to ponder a concept that can easily become abstract, something we dismiss it as irrelevant to our daily lives. But the truth at the heart of this feast is the love of God—so great and all-encompassing that it is in constant movement within and around all of creation.

Instead of trying to “figure out” the Trinity, celebrate it by doing something special with those whose love shows you every day the face of God.


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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, keep me in your care. Guard me in my actions. Teach me to love, and help me to turn to you throughout the day. The world is filled with temptations. As I move through my day, keep me close. May those I encounter feel your loving presence. Lord, be the work of my hands and my heart. Amen.

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