You may have heard the expression, when referring to age: 70 is the new 50. Well, in Scripture seven is considered to be a sacred, perfect number. But today’s feast, the solemnity of the Trinity, tempts me to say “3 is the new 7.”
Some say that “Two’s company; three’s a crowd” but today’s feast would have it otherwise. In this instance, the figure three symbolizes completeness and perfect symmetry. The Holy Trinity is a mystery beyond the grasp of human reasoning. It reminds us of some key moments of the Christ story. For example, when Jesus stood before John in the River Jordan, the Spirit hovered and the Father’s voice was heard: “This is my beloved Son.”
Recall the Christmas nativity scene. There were three figures: the Holy Family – Mary, the mother, Joseph, the guardian, the stand-in father, and the infant Jesus. And, according to tradition, who tracked them down through the desert and into Egypt – the three wise men. 33 or so years later, when Jesus was preparing for his public life he went back to a desert. And, there he was tempted three times by the devil.
All of us like a good story. And, Jesus was a story-teller par excellence. He learned early on at his mother’s knee, or watching her bake bread for the day, or from his favorite bedtime stories that every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end.
We see this in Jesus parables. The story of the Prodigal Son is about a father and his two sons. How many passersby were in the story of the Good Samaritan? A priest, a Levite and the Samaritan. And, what about the farmer who went out to sow his seed? Jesus talks about three different types of terrain yielding three different levels of harvest.
At the end of Jesus’ life, like at the beginning, we see the three motif. During his Passion, Peter denied him thrice. On the road to Calvary, he fell three times. In the Crucifixion scene, you’ll recall we see three figures, Christ between two thieves. At the foot of the cross stood Mary, his mother, and two other Mary’s. Before his resurrection, he spent three days in the tomb.
Scripture does not explicitly teach the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; it is rather assumed especially through the story of Jesus’ baptism. The early Christians struggled to explain their understanding that Jesus was God on earth as a human being. “Trinity” or ‘tri-unity’ was the term that developed in an attempt to explain the relationship between God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Apostles Creed predates the Nicene Creed which was decreed in AD 325, to formalize the teaching about the Trinity. Either Creed is approved by the Church to be recited during the Eucharistic liturgy. “We believe in one God. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the given of life.”
This inner relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is such that each of them is fully and equally God, yet there are not three Gods but one God. This is incomprehensible to the human mind. It is a mystery. Together the three Persons in the Trinity, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit represent the fullness of love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father. The Holy Spirit is their love for each other.
But love is only a word until someone gives it meaning. We are made in the image of a triune God – God the Father, who created us, his Son who saved us, and the Holy Spirit who continues to guide us. To be true to our calling we must be the ones who give meaning to Love in our world. As Paul says in the second reading to the Romans: We did not receive the spirit of slavery, but of adoption … we are heirs of God with Christ and destined to be glorified with him.”
A “Trinitarian- like movement” in our prayer life echoes the rhythm of our whole lives. In Lectio we go up the mountain with Jesus, we have conversation with Him there, and we return to life among his people. In our community prayer, (again a three-fold movement) we bow, we sit, we stand. In our chants, we don’t always have to harmonize but we do strive to keep our voices in harmony with each other – one heart, one voice.
In tomorrow’s Responsorial Psalm we will sing: “Blessed the people (that’s us) the people the Lord has chosen to be His own!” Our lives, individually and as a community, reflect the Trinity. We are called to be creative like the Father, compassionate like God the Son, and, like the Holy Spirit to use our gifts and talents in service to others.
For “There are three things that last: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is Love!”