Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost. Trinity Sunday is often lost in the whirl of graduations, Confirmations, and marriages. Preachers and teachers can find it a difficult, abstract sounding doctrine for liturgical preaching. I would venture to say that the doctrine of the Trinity is not exactly in the forefront of our Catholic consciousness. That’s sad, however, because most Christians agree that God is one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Most Catholics believe that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three persons, one God. Every Sunday we recite either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed at Mass. But the doctrine of the Trinity took centuries to develop. The term trinity does not appear in the New Testament, but there are passages where it is certainly implied. Perhaps the most prominent is the great commission that Jesus gave the disciples according to Matthew 28:19-20. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
It took centuries for the doctrine of the Trinity to develop, as early Christians were confronted by arguments from Jews and Gentiles that it just did not add up to say that there was one God and three persons. The term trinitas (trinity) was first used by a Latin apologist named Tertullian around 200 or 220 A.D. who was trying to explain the apparent contradiction that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one single God, not three.
Two centuries later St. Athanasius asserted that “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” Today we Catholics and most Christians find it hard to accept the historical fact that the doctrine of the Trinity was once the topic of passionate argument among ordinary Christians until well after the Council of Chalcedon.
What does this doctrine of the Holy Trinity really mean in terms of our lives? First, it means that the God in whom we believe is a loving God in a community or family of love. Our God keeps expressing love for us.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things came to be through him” (Jn 1:1, 3).
The doctrine of the Trinity means that creation is an outpouring of God’s love. But more than that, it means that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Why? Because “God so love the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but may have eternal life.” This doctrine of the Trinity means that God can send his Spirit into those believe to guide into all truth (Jn 16:13) those who come to believe and that we live in divine love.
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Photographer: Marie Adelaide Silva