Saturday, June 14, 2014

Trinity Sunday reminds us "God is love"

I am firmly convinced that as Christians our reflections about the nature of God should begin with Jesus Christ, Theanthrōpos ("the God-man"). Any other starting point is defeated from the get-go for its failure to take account of the fullness of God's revelation, which nothing apart from God's becoming incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians St. Paul wrote about this. He begins by noting that when Moses came down off the mountain after his direct encounter with the living God he had to veil his face "so that the Israelites could not look intently at the cessation of what was fading" (2 Cor 3:13). Then Christ came. As a result, we are now able to gaze "with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord" even as we "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:18).

Of course, there is nothing more Trinitarian than the Eucharist. While the Mass is Trinitarian from beginning to end (beginning and ending by our making the Sign of the Cross), I find the epiclesis to be particularly so: "Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body + and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ" (Eucharistic Prayer II).

In my view the best and probably most succinct way to define the Most Holy Trinity is "one God in three divine persons." The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, while distinct persons (i.e., distinct and distinguishable One from the Other), all share equally in the divine nature, having such attributes as omniscience, omnipotence, simplicity, infinitude, aeternity, etc. As I never tire of pointing out, the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which is, properly speaking, a mystery of faith (i.e., not knowable by the unaided light of natural reason, but requires revelation to be known), is not somehow trying to get your mind around a gross arithmetical error (i.e., How does 3=1?). The mystery lies in grasping that "God is love" (1 John 4:8.16), which is more experiential than intellectual.

Don't we call the Eucharist the sacramentum caritatis, the sacrament of love? Given the many, many different meanings, under the weight of which the English word "love" gets crushed, it's important to distinguish the kind of love referred to in this passage. The word used in both 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16 is agapé. Most of the time way too much is made by Christian exegetes about the uniqueness of this word. So, sticking with Johannine corpus (and the lectionary), let's turn to John 3:16-17: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

Love requires requires a lover and beloved. Love is also profuse, not closed in. Hence, love is fruitful. I think the collect for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity provides a beautiful way of wrapping up this reflection:

God our Father, who by sending into the world
the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification
made known to the human race your wondrous mystery,

grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith,
we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory
and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.

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