No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendor of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one. When I think of anyone of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. — St. Gregory of Nazianzus
Today’s feast of the Holy Trinity crowns the Octave of Pentecost, as it was only with the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost that the Triune nature of God was fully manifest to the world. It was 3rd century theologian Tertullian who coined the Latin word Trinitas, which means something like “tripleness.” It took the reconfiguring of language to capture something of the mysterious unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Trinity is the mystery of all mysteries, as it is the deepest secret of God’s inner life as an infinite, beginning-less community of Persons whose unity transcends all conceptual categories drawn from a material and finite world. Only in the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus of Nazareth was this secret disclosed, as God chose what humans know to be the most risk-fraught and vulnerable act possible: to make known your deepest identity, and its fiercely guarded secrets, to another. And as is the case with marriage, God reveals his inner world to us with only one purpose in mind: the establishment, by his act of total self-gift, of a covenant relationship of love with us, the chosen recipients of the divine Heart’s Triune inner core.
That is the meaning of the first reading from Deuteronomy for today’s Mass — to no one else has God revealed himself so completely as to Israel. The psalm reminds us that the purpose of this revelation is forging an intimate covenant of love, while the reading from St. Paul tells us that this covenanting revelation of God as Father, Son and Spirit has led us, in reality, into the deepest inner structures of divine life as “insiders of God” who exist as sons and daughters of our Father. And in the Gospel, Jesus the Jew reveals to his Jewish apostles, poised to go out to the whole world, the manner by which God wishes us to enter “in-to” Their threefold Name — Baptism.
It is, to me, a remarkable thing that whenever we remember our Baptism by making the cross-sign of the Trinity on our temple-bodies “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, we are at once recalling that it was by means of the cross that God chose to supremely — nakedly — manifest divinity’s deepest depths as tender mercy. And when we make that sign, we also recall the manner in which we received that revelation — with violence and death.
What a stunning profession of faith we make each time we make the sign of the cross! The paradoxy of orthodoxy.
Today’s dogmatic Feast is in truth a mystical Feast, as it opens to those of us who have faith in Christ the incomprehensibly beautiful truth of who God is, and of who we are in God. Today we are invited to plunge afresh into the deep end of Mystery. Next week’s second dogmatic Feast, Corpus Christi, takes the mystical realism even further, as it reminds us we have been invited by this threefold God to dine on Their eternal life by eating and drinking the divinized human Flesh and Blood of the Spirit-bearing Son of the eternal Father.
St. Edith Stein once said that mysticism is the experience of dogma. We are all called to be mystics! So this holy day, and in the days to come, taste and see the goodness, beauty and truth of a God who wishes to make Their home in you, and invites you to make your home in Them.