This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I think we can all agree the understanding of the Holy Trinity is one greatest of all mysteries of our faith: the One and Only God is a unity of Three Persons. In attempts to define the Trinity, we often hear it explained as a three-leaf clover, all being part of one stem. We’re also referred to the physical states water can take, as either liquid, ice, or steam, yet are all still water.
Perhaps you are familiar with a story from the life of St. Augustine on The Trinity:
It was around the year 415 A.D., and St. Augustine was walking along the beach on a bright, sunny day. He was frustrated, having taken a break from working on what’s become known as one of his greatest contributions to the Church, “On the Trinity.” The subject matter had left him bleary-eyed and in need of fresh air, so he went for a walk on the beach.
It was in this moment, as the frothy tide rushed out, that a little boy caught St. Augustine’s eye. He was a freckle-faced child who had a determined, furrowed brow. He was clearly up to something, running back-and-forth, back-and-forth, between the sea and a tiny hole in the ground.
“My son,” St. Augustine called over the crashing waves, “What are you doing there?” The boy held up the pink shell he was using to move water, “I’m trying to fit that great big ocean into this tiny hole,” he yelled, pointing assertively at the sand. St. Augustine smiled, charmed by the child’s innocence. He then followed the boy to kneel beside the hole, watching him spill out a few meager drops.
“My child,” the bishop of Hippo started, as he attempted to break the news gently, turning the boy’s shoulders to face the sea. He then spread his own arms wide, “You could never fit this great, magnificent ocean into that tiny hole!” The child didn’t flinch, but responded quickly: “And you could never possibly understand the Holy Trinity.” Then in a flash, the boy disappeared.
In our Franciscan tradition, the fact that God is Triune is not simply a dogma for the intellect. The Trinity should have meaning in all of our lives. Scripture and tradition establish key things. First, God is love. Second, as Trinity, God is in loving relationship with Godself. Finally, we are created in the image and likeness of a loving and relational God; this means we are most human when we are in loving relationship with God and one another.
Although the hidden life of God remains a mystery inaccessible by reason alone, professing God as Trinity is not meant to distance us from him. Through the Son’s incarnation and the sending of the Holy Spirit, not only are we capable of understanding the eternal relationship of intimate loving communion that is the Holy Trinity, we are able to share in it. This is why we were created, why every human heart cries out to be loved. The revelation of God as a relationship explains what it means to be human. Let us always pray inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives for the understanding of what it means to be in true relationship with God, each other, and all of God’s creation!
Peace and All Good,