The doctrine of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity is a central tenet of the Christian faith; at once a mystery beyond all telling and a reality intrinsically present in the lives of each of us. Blessed John Henry Newman, concluding one of his sermons on the subject, encouraged his congregation to consider this lofty topic only with a certain reverence. He writes: “May we never speak on subjects like this without awe; may we never dispute without charity; may we never inquire without a careful endeavour, with God’s aid, to sanctify our knowledge, and to impress it on our hearts, as well as to store it in our understandings!” So we may well be tempted to handle this profound theological notion with kid gloves; with a kind of holy fear. Yet the ready presence of the Most Holy Trinity, which runs through the veins of each Christian, and which is present in a very real way in the action of the Sacred Liturgy, calls us to set aside such anxiety, if not our just reverence, and to enter into the mystery and life of the Trinity, with awe and respect for sure, but with tenacity and confidence, knowing that the doctrine we revere is not something distant from us, but here and now, in our midst; in our very being, and in the act of divine worship we gather this morning to perform.
The life of the Trinity, then, is something with which each of us is fundamentally, and properly speaking, familiar. Our entering-into the Christian life through the watery portal of Holy Baptism takes place under the seal of the persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—and from that moment our lives are caught up in the relationship that exists between these three divine persons, by virtue of our incorporation into the mystical body of Christ. We become part of the family of the Trinity, not simply by affinity, but by the blood of Christ which, through our incorporation into his body, unites us to him.
In baptism, by dying to self and rising to new life in Christ, we become so one with him that we are invited into his eternal life, the life of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus the defining characteristic of the Christian life—of each of us—is nothing less than the life of the Trinity. Each and every post-baptismal reception of grace is possible as a result of our communion with the Trinity, which itself comes about through our membership of the Church; our unity with the mystical body of Christ, its head. Even our reconciliation with God and the Church in the sacraments is carried out in the name of the Trinity. The Priest, God’s minister of justice and mercy, pronounces the formula for absolution in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He anoints us in the sacrament of the sick under the same authority. And it is for this same reason that the Church’s worship, her public duty of prayer, almost always begins with the tracing of the life-giving Cross over our selves; the symbol par excellence of the sacrifice of Christ for our redemption, and also the Trinitarian life into which that sacrifice leads. Indeed, do we not frequently accompany the tracing of this sacred sign with the words first heard at baptism: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?
And if the Trinity is that hidden, yet ever-present “DNA” of the Christian life, through the intimate connection we share with Christ in our membership of his mystical body, then it is also a fundamental duty of each Christian to strive to live out the life of the Trinity. By our baptism, our taking-up into the life of the Godhead, we are being prepared for the eternal action and selfless communication of love which is at the heart of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are being schooled in worship and charity in this life, so that we might be made fit to partake in the perfect worship and perfect charity of the life of the world to come. Our interior and exterior participation in the supreme action of the Sacred Liturgy—our devout attendance at the Eucharistic sacrifice, our recitation of the psalms and canticles in the Hours, our acts of piety, and especially in Eucharistic adoration—all seeks to contain us in the life of Christ, who is the central actor of all liturgical prayer.
Each of these actions roots us in life of the Trinity. Our attentiveness to reverent worship, both in terms of an interior disposition worthy of meeting our God and Lord, and in external acts worthy of the eternal kingdom of which in the Sacred Liturgy we catch a glimpse, are both equal means of recognizing the eternal presence of God in the “little space” of our earthly devotions.
Thus it is through the living-out of our baptismal vocation, through our individual and corporate participation in the missionary activity of the Church, and by our formation in the virtue of religion in that “seminary” of the Christian life which is the Sacred Liturgy, that we learn the most profound and important lesson about the Most Holy Trinity. It is here, in the Eucharistic sacrifice, that we come to worship in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and it is here that, through our participation in that life of the Godhead, we come to behold God face-to-face, and to experience in the here-and-now the eternal worship of heaven.
Our worship is thus the perfect answer to the question, What is the Trinity? It is an answer that is sure and definitive, but it is an answer that speaks with an eloquence greater than mere words, and proclaims a truth that truly surpasses all understanding. As we turn now, once more, to the altar of the Lord and to the sacrificial action enacted upon it, let us ask God to bind us once more to the “strong name of the Trinity,” that in knowing him and worshipping him in this life, we may be joined to the eternal Godhead in the life of the world to come, and there enjoy the peace and felicity that is inherent in his kingdom.