The Sunday following Pentecost is set aside in the church’s liturgical year to invite us to reflect on the essential tenet of our faith in God: The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. It is, as the Catechism states, "the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself."
We will never be able to grasp the reality of the Trinity – one God, three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – until we experience the fullness of God’s love in our eternal life. This has not stopped us, though, from trying to get our heads around this idea of the Trinity. Church history is filled with attempts to tie down its meaning, all of them coming up short and many of them earning heresy status.
If we have failed to tie down the mystery of the Trinity through theological concepts, we moved to analogy and art. Just a few examples include the equilateral triangle; three intersecting circles; circle within a triangle; St. Patrick’s shamrock; and the famous icon by Andrei Rublev depicting three identical persons around one altar. Again, each comes up short.
But this should not surprise us. Imagine trying to perfectly represent love. Imagine being asked to define in words or a picture a relationship that grips us at the very core of our life. The love of a parent for a child, the bond of husband and wife, or the friendship with the one who knows us best are beyond words, beyond art, beyond poetry, beautiful as they might be. They always come up short.
These profound relationships are what this Feast of the Holy Trinity celebrates. Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the most real and profound relationship that exists. The gospels tell the story of the Son of God sent by the Father to reveal the depth of God’s love for us, and how, through the Spirit, we are sent – in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – to love as we have been loved.
We enter the mystery of this Trinitarian relationship just as we do in any other relationship. We begin with a personal relationship, by coming to know the other and allowing the other to know us. We begin by spending time with Jesus and opening ourselves up to him. When this happens, all our other relationships begin to reflect – even if imperfectly – the perfect relationship of love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It all begins with the mystery of falling in love, and allowing ourselves to be loved in return.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.