Monday, May 28, 2018

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity 

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity compels us to consider the most important truth of our faith. We recall this truth every time we begin and end Mass.  We recall this truth when we begin the offices of the day.  We recall it before each meal.  We invoke the Trinity whenever we say the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The sign of the cross with the Trinitarian formula begins and ends everything the Church does, as it should.

Just as we heard Jesus' mandate in the Gospel, we read in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."I must add that Christians are NEVER baptized in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier. Indeed, if that formula is used, as some have done in an effort to be inclusive--whatever that might mean, or "non-sexist"--the sacrament is invalid and must be administered using the proper form. 

The Catechismcontinues, "The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself.  It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith . . . (It is) the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith.”

Every time we make the sign of the cross, we recall an inexplicable mystery. The Trinity remains inexplicable despite the vast number of books written about it.  Though each book may contain a shred of insight into the nature of the Trinity, no book captures the essence of the Trinity.  No book, nor the sum of all books, will ever capture the essence of the Trinity.  The dogma of the Trinity depends solely on faith. 

A dictionary definition of faith is: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”  Or, according to the Letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is the conviction of things unseen.”  Both definitions tell us something important in light of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; there will never be a logical proof of the doctrine. 

We must become comfortable with the definition of faith as mysterious because despite the absence of logical proof, despite the impossibility of philosophy, theology, or science to explain the Trinity, one cannot call oneself Christian if he or she denies the Trinity.  Father.  Son. Holy Spirit.

Many of you have probably heard the same legend I did back in grade school, somewhere about halfway through the previous century.  It is still a good way to illustrate the impossibility of understanding the dogma of the Trinity. 

St. Augustine was walking along a beach contemplating and trying to understand One God in Three Divine Persons. He wanted to explain the Trinity through logic.   He saw a small boy going back and forth between the water to the shore carrying a shell with water that he emptied it into a hole in the sand.  He then returned to the water to refill the shell.  Augustine asked, “What are doing?” “I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole.” Augustine replied, “But that is impossible. This small hole cannot contain all that water” 

The boy looked at Augustine, and replied, “It is no more impossible than trying to comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.” The boy then disappeared. 

His point remains valid. We can only understand through faith, some things that inadequate human intelligence will never comprehend. Even if we were somehow to comprehend the Trinity, the limits of human vocabulary, the emptiness of all languages, the pallid nature of similes and metaphors, and the inaccuracy of hyperbole, would not allow us to explain it in a way that others could understand.

The word Trinity does not appear anywhere in the Bible.  Rather, the understanding of the Trinity grew in the early years of the Church as the Church began to consider what Jesus said and did during His time on earth, a time during which Jesus, through his discourse and prayers, spoke of the indwelling of the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son with the Holy Spirit. 

The doctrine of the Trinity is the doctrine that in the unity of God there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these three Persons is One God yet each is distinct. 

Jesus always speaks of His Father as distinct from Himself, yet He also notes that “I and the Father are One.”  The same is true of the Holy Spirit.  We are accustomed to persons being distinct, individual, and unique. This human perception is true even when the persons are identical twins. We have a hard time wrapping our minds around three in one; the same yet distinct.  Thus, Augustine’s walk along that distant shore.  

The Trinity is a mystery.  It will remain a mystery beyond the end of time.  Our understanding, such as it is, is dependent solely on our conviction of things unseen. 


 The photos were taken on Friday of last week.  Several of us were at an overnight planning meeting at the Boston College Conference Center in Cohasset on the South Shore.  I woke a bit later than planned on Friday AM.  Headed out with the camera to shoot.  

The morning was splendid and predicted even better for the rest of the day.  The prediction came true and extended into Saturday down in Bethlehem, CT.  Alas, Sunday and today, Memorial Day, turned gray, rainy, and very cool.  

The Immaculate Conception overlooking the bay.  Through the joy of digital photography the photo appears to be earlier in the AM than it actually was.  For those who are photographers it was shot at ISO 640, f 3.2, at 1/4000 second.  I was not shooting directly into the sun in this.  The Olympus OMD EM1 mark ii has the option to use an electronic shutter which renders the camera completely silent.  If not using the electronic shutter the maximum shutter speed is 1/8000.  

 This was shot directly into the sun at ISO 640, f 3.1, at 1/13000 of a second.  That is not a typo.  When the electronic shutter is engaged it is possible to shoot as fast as 1/32000 second.  Thus with a wide open lens one can shoot into the sun and get this kind of result.  Am going to have a great deal of fun with this feature.  Only learned about it a few weeks ago.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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