Sharing in the Unity and Fellowship of the Trinitarian God
Readings: 1st: Ex 34, 4-6.8-9; Ps. (Dan 3, 52-56); 2nd: 2Cor 13: 11-13; Gos Jh 3: 16-18
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
On this Most Holy Trinity Sunday, our celebration is a song of praise to the Almighty God who has taken us up to share in the very life of the Trinity. Two of the most complete, heavily loaded, and yet very concise prayers and blessings are this: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you!” and “May the Almighty God bless you the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit. I call these Trinitarian formulas and fellowship. In these prayers, and blessings, the Trinitarian God unite to perform this function for which they are being consulted. Paul knew this and so, constantly employed this Trinitarian formula in concluding of most of his letters to the churches he wrote to (1 Cor, 16, 23; 2Cor 13, 14; Gal 6, 18; Phil 4, 2).
The doctrine of the Trinitarian God has over the centuries proved a very hard nut to crack, appreciate and understand for many. The first question that comes to mind at the very first encounter with this dogma and teaching is: “Three Persons in One God, how could this be? Indeed it provokes and should provoke such questions. However, this question becomes meaningful if only one could humble oneself and ask the Holy Spirit the Counselor of this “team” to teach him/her. It also calls for appreciating the limitedness of human reasoning as Saint Pope John Paul II the great taught in his encyclical Fides et ratio. This is because there are so many things that cannot be grasped by the human mind while it still subsists in the mortal body. In order words, by applying only human philosophy without faith on the dogma of the Trinity, one crashes completely. It also calls for faithful obedience in accepting what the Holy Mother Church’s Magisterium (the highest teaching authority) teaches on the Trinity. Definitively, she teaches that the Trinity is first a mystery and as such a Dogma which must be believed. This dogma on the Trinity could therefore be summed up as follows: “The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”. The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire…The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.” “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another…The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another (CCC253-255, p.82-83).
One of the simplest ways of explaining the mystery of the Trinity is that reportedly given by St Spyridon of Trimithund at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325). According to tradition, when asked how it is that three can simultaneously be One, St Spyridon responded by taking up a brick and squeezing it. From the soft clay in his hands a flame showed up while simultaneously water flowed downwards. “As there is fire and water in this brick”, said St Spyridon, “in the same way there are three Persons in the one Godhead”. Also in another debate, one philosopher argued long and hard with the Fathers of the Council, trying to prove logically that the Son cannot be consubstantial with the Father. Exhausted by long debates and eager to leave, the Fathers were suddenly confronted by a simple elderly shepherd who announced that he was prepared to argue with the philosopher and disprove his arguments. Turning to the philosopher, the shepherd looked at him severely, and said: ‘Listen, O philosopher, God is one, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has created all things through the power of the Son and the operation of the Holy Spirit. This Son of God became incarnate, lived among people, died for us and rose again. Do not labour in vain to seek evidence for that which is comprehended by faith alone, but answer me: “Do you believe in the Son of God?” Struck by these words, the philosopher could only say, “I do’”. The shepherd said: “If you believe, and then let us go to the church and there I will bring you into communion with this true faith”. The philosopher immediately stood up and went with the shepherd. On his way out, he said to those present: “When people tried to convince me with words, I countered words with words; but when a divine power came forth from the mouth of this old man, then words were no match for this power, as man cannot contend against God.”
In the first reading we see the obedience and humility of Moses before God. This humility won not only him, but his fellow Israelites the favour of God. Here also, God proved that he is indeed a Father. This is because, although he was not happy with the ways of his chosen ones, he relented in his anger at Moses’ plea, forgave their faults, and continued. In the second reading, Paul encouraged the believers to “be united and live in peace.” And then, he concluded with his characteristic benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” In this Paul shows great interest in the unity of Christian community. In order words, by invoking the Trinitarian fellowship on them, he wishes that they emulate this fellowship and be united in heart and soul just in the way they are united. This is because, a divided family or community or people lack the fellowship of the Trinitarian God, and until they give this fellowship a chance they will continue as such. The gospel of today is a very popular one: “God sent his son so that through him the world might be saved.” This sending is one way through which we share in the Trinitarian Community. They keep coming to us to unite us and to make us be like them. The Trinitarian Community continues to seek fellowship with us because they wish that we be united as they do.
In conclusion, human words cannot convey the divine reality. God’s enlightenment and His grace are needed, for us to comprehend the Trinitarian theology. No terminology or formulation is adequate to communicate the Mystery of the Trinity. Yet the Christian faith is above all Trinitarian, and it is crucially important for every Christian to partake fully in this mystery. Therefore, for us Christians, Trinity is not an abstract theological concept instead, it is a reality which is to be believed and lived through. The Trinity is someone to whom we pray, but it is also a community, the communion of three in one, the family in whose image we build up our own human community. In appreciation of this fellowship and communion extended to us let us praise the Trinitarian God as we say: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Peace be with you all!!