Following the closing of the Easter season last week with the renewing and energizing fire of Pentecost, we now find ourselves once again in Ordinary Time. But wait a minute, this coming Sunday we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. This day is not just some ordinary day, but rather an extraordinary one. The mystery of the Trinity invites us into relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I can remember as a “growing up Catholic girl” memorizing a definition of the Trinity from the traditional Baltimore Catechism:
What do you mean by the Blessed Trinity?
By the Blessed Trinity I mean one God in three persons.
Can we fully understand how the three Divine Persons are one and the same God?
We cannot fully understand how the three Divine Persons are one and the same God because this is a mystery.
Now I must confess I could not find an old Baltimore Catechism on the monastery bookshelves, so I googled my queries and was amazed that my religious education of those primary years was still available and sounded so very familiar. The answer to the second question, that the Trinity cannot be fully understood because it is a mystery, conjured up a chuckle. I can actually remember writing that exact answer on a test. I was relieved I did not have to understand it; I could just accept it as faith. I can remember turning to a boy who kept asking Sister to explain this mystery and saying, “Johnny, we cannot understand it; it’s a mystery!!! After I entered the monastery, I remember my novice director teaching us about the hypostatic union of the Trinity, drawing mathematic diagrams on the board that made absolutely no sense to me at all. She may have used the term “it’s a mystery,” but I certainly wasn’t going to be the one who said that to her!
There is a story told about St. Augustine, who one day was taking a stroll along the seashore, trying to ponder the mystery of the Trinity. He discovered a child with a little pail, who trekked back and forth, emptying bucket after bucket into a hole in the sand. When Augustine asked him what he was doing, the child replied that he was putting the ocean into the hole. Augustine told him this was impossible; the boy responded that it was just as impossible for him to comprehend the mystery of the Trinity. Bingo! “It’s a mystery, Gus! We cannot understand it.”
In the Gospel reading for this extraordinary day, we hear the following message:
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
As I reflect on this Gospel passage, there is one word that touches my heart−RELATIONSHIP. Barbara Reid, O.P., in an article entitled, “A Dance of Love,” (America Magazine, June 6, 2011) describes the Trinity as a dance of love and speaks to me of relationship:
[The Trinity] “tells of God’s ecstatic love of the world that overflows in the gift of the Son. He was not sent to die, but to share the life and love that is the very essence of the Holy One-in-Three.” [The concept of perichoresis helps us to] “envision the dynamic love relationship of the Trinity in a circular fashion. The Greek word means literally going around and suggests a vigorous dance-like movement of each person circling, interweaving, whirling in vibrant interaction. The point of this dance of love, however, is not for the sole enjoyment of the divine Dancers. The dance is an open circle that invites all onto the dance floor, drawing them right into the midst of the energetic flow of divine delight. If some hesitate, preferring to sit on the sidelines, the Three-in-One circle back again and again, extending the invitation over and over to each and to all, changing the pace and the rhythm, so that even the most clumsy of us can learn the steps in the dance of divine love.”
Now this makes perfect sense to me. I love the image of life as a dance. I love the image of the circle, an image of inclusivity, unity, and community. I see God the Father creating the universe out of love, sending Jesus to love, and sending the Spirit in ever-abiding love. And all Three-in-One beckon us to join in and stay faithful to this dance of love.
I see my living in community as a sacred dance. The Trinity embraces us in the divine dance as we pray together, share meals together, and share our gifts with one another. The Three-in-One dances with us as we go about our various ministries, inviting others into this dance of divine love. Because of the daily fidelity to this circle of love to which we have been called, we can understand the Trinity as lived reality, as sacred gift of all-embracing love, and as life-giving breath for our world today.
So, yes, I finally get it, or do I? If I am ever asked again to define the concept of the Trinity, I would answer: “It is a Holy Mystery of dancing in relationship with Love.”
By Sister Priscilla Cohen, OSB