Feast of the Holy Trinity

“The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, the Holy Ghost is Love” (St. Augustine).

Today’s feast invites us to live in the awareness of the presence of the Triune God within us: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Holy Trinity, a doctrine enunciated by the ecumenical councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, and the greatest mystery of our Faith, namely, that there are three divine persons, sharing the same divine nature in one God. The doctrine of the Trinity underlies all major Christian feasts, including Christmas, the Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost. All the official prayers of the Church, including the Holy Mass and the sacraments, begin with an address to the Holy Trinity: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are baptized, absolved of our sins and anointed in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Throughout the world, church bells ring three times a day inviting Christians to pray to God the Father (the Provider); God the Son (the Savior); and God the Holy Spirit (the Sanctifier). We bless ourselves with the sign of the cross invoking the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we conclude our prayers glorifying the Holy Trinity, saying “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”

The Triune God as seen in the Old Testament: Since Yahweh was careful to protect His Chosen People from the pagan practice of worshipping several gods, the Old Testament books make only indirect and passing reference to the Trinity.  Gen. 1:26 presents God speaking to Himself:  “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”  Genesis 18:2, describes how Yahweh visited Abraham under the appearance of three men, an event that the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates as the Trinitarian Experience of Abraham.  In Genesis 11:7, before punishing the proud builders of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let Us go down among them and confuse their language.”  These passages imply, rather than state, the doctrine of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity as seen in the New Testament

  1. a) The Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38) describes how God the Father sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, to announce to her that God, the Holy Spirit, would “overshadow” her, and that God, the Son, would be made flesh in her womb.
  2. b) During the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:  16-17), the Holy Spirit is shown descending on Jesus in the form of a dove, while the voice of God the Father is heard from the clouds.
  3. c) John (Chapters 15 through 18) presents the detailed teaching of Jesus on the Persons of the Holy Trinity.
  4. d) In the preaching mission given by the risen Lord to the disciples, Jesus commands them to baptize people “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”(Confer also Matthew 28:19; John 10:30, 14:26; 2 Corinthians 13:14.). St Paul mentions the Trinity 30 times in his letters.

The development of the Trinitarian doctrine in the Church: The word “Trinity,” referring to Three Persons in one God, One in divinity yet distinct in Person; is not explicitly spelt out in the Bible although the doctrine on Trinity is mentioned about forty times in the New Testament without using the term “Trinity.”  The early Church arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity when she developed the revelation, which she had received from Jesus in faith. The oldest doctrinal formulation of the Church’s belief in the Trinity is found in the Apostles’ Creed, which has served as the basis of catechetical instruction and as the baptismal confession of faith since the second century.  Later, the Nicene Creed, originating at the Council of Nicaea (325 CE), stated the doctrine more explicitly.  This Creed; was introduced into the western liturgy by the regional council of Toledo in 589 CE. It was Jesus who revealed to us the three separate functions that are carried out by the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.  He has told us that it is proper to attribute to God the Father the work of creation; to God the Son, the work of Redemption, and to God the Holy Spirit the work of sanctification.

The Trinity in our Life: The entire Christian life is accompanied by the presence of the Trinity and it is the “fabric” of our life. In fact, we are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and “we are called to participate in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here in the darkness of faith, and beyond death in the eternal light” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 263). All the other Sacraments of the Church are conferred with the sign of the Cross and in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In fact, we have been confirmed with the anointing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In the Sacrament of Penance, we are forgiven for our sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Again, in this name the bride and groom are united in marriage and their love is lifted up to that of God, who is the guarantor of their mutual loyalty. In the Eucharist, it is though the action of the Holy Spirit bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ.

In the priestly ordination, the new priests are consecrated in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thanks to this, the priest is placed in the Trinitarian dynamics with a special responsibility. His identity stems from the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments that is in essential relation to the mystery of the saving love of the Father (Jn. 17,6-9,24, 1Cor 1,1, 2Cor 1,1), along with the priesthood of Christ, who chooses and calls his own minister to be with Him (Mk 3:15), and with the gift of the Spirit (Jn. 20:21). In illness and in the last hour, when the priest will anoint us, he will recommend the soul in the name of the Father who created us, of the Son who has redeemed us, and of the Holy Spirit who has sanctified us. In this way, all of our Christian existence is under the irradiation of the Trinity, who lives in us in a state of grace: “We will come to him – Jesus promised us – to make our home in Him.”

Immersed into the life of the Blessed Trinity, we the baptized Christian believers experience the ineffable goodness of God and are called to mirror in our lives the divine benevolence. By our efforts to awaken and cherish new life, we participate in the Father’s work of creation, generation, and maintenance. By our human works of healing, reconciling, serving, promoting the cause of justice and right, we reflect the divine Son’s own work of reconciliation and redemption. By pursuing the wisdom of heart and good inspiration, by responding to the call of holiness, by promoting community-communion, we give witness to the animating movement of the Holy Spirit. The functions of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity intertwine, influence and complement each other.