Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Holy Trinity

The feast of the Holy Trinity is coming up in two weeks, and right now I'm reading a short work by Rahner on it. He says something that's been repeated a lot: the doctrine of the Trinity doesn't really come alive for most of us. He said that if the Church were to change its teaching and say that there really is no Trinity, most of us wouldn't really have to change very much. We could go right on living and praying just the same.
But that's not a good situation. The Church wants the Trinity to be very real for us. Sometimes I just think of God, without necessarily thinking of the triune God. But God is a Trinity, and to think of him means to think of the Trinity.
Things like the sign of the cross are meant to help us remember the Trinity, but it needs to become living in our minds. It's hard because this teaching is so difficult to understand. We can never comprehend it. But like Frank Sheed used to say, whatever light we can get about the teaching is worth the effort. As I read more about this I'll blog more on it before the feast.

9 comments:

Grateful Catholic said...

Yet in a sense, the yearly liturgical cycle educates us about the Trinity in a very plain way that we all grasp, even if we don't "feel" that we've come to an understanding of the doctrine...incarnation of God the Son at Christmas, the sacrifice Jesus offers to his Father on Good Friday and in the Mass, the ascent of Jesus to the right hand of his Father at Ascension, descent of the God the Holy Spirit at Pentecost...

Thank you for the thought-provoking post, Sr.

Doug

xaipe said...

Nothing made the Trinity more present and relevant to me than John Paul II's Theology of the Body. It showed me our "place" in this mystery, and that God was really sharing his inner mystery with us.

Jacob said...

I for one would miss the Trinity if it were to be done away with.

Joanne said...

I think one of my most recent realizations about the Trinity came when I tried harder to meditate on the wholeness of it. Because in my younger years, I thought of it more as three distinct people. Now, in my mind, the Trinity is the three persons AND the relationship that binds them. Somehow, it has enlarged my conception of divinity as being less anthropomorphic to include a more mystical relational aspect of divinity. I can't explain this very well, does anyone understand what I mean or am I off on a tangent?

Sr. Lorraine said...

You're not off on a tangent, Joanne, but right on target. The mystery of the Trinity has to do with the relationships among the three persons. That's what makes them distinct from each other.

Joanne said...

Makes them distinct, yet binds them. When we say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, does it imply that the Spirit emanates from that bond between Father and Son? Is that why Christ said He had to return to the Father so that the Spirit would descend? That's another thing I could never get my brain around.....

Sr. Lorraine said...

Hi Joanne,
As far as I know, the word "emanation" is generally not used in the Trinity. Instead the technical term is "spiration"--the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in a spiration. It's like a breathing forth of love.
But are you referring to the way the Father and the Son send forth the Spirit? Another term used for that is "missions." The Father sends the Son, and the Father and the Son together send the Spirit.
I need to learn more about that too, and I hope the book I'm reading will explain it more.

Joanne said...

Not sure what I mean! Just some vague sense that the Father and Son have to be united in some fashion in order for the Spirit to go forth. There is some particular wording that implies that the descent of the Spirit depends on Christ's return to the Father.

If you get any additional insight, please share. It's always a tough lesson to teach my fourth grade religious ed class.

Sr. Lorraine said...

HI Joanne,
You're right because Jesus said in his last discourse in John's Gospel that he had to return to the Father so that they could send the Spirit (I don't have the exact quote handy).St. Thomas relates the missions or sending forth of the persons in the Trinity to their origin in the Trinity. Since the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, he is sent on mission by both the Father and the Son together. So that's why you can say that the Father and Son have to be united in order for the Spirit to go forth.
The Catholic Catechism has something on this in # 689 to 690. "When Christ is finally glorified, he can in turn send the Spirit form his lace with the Father to those who believe in him: he communicates to them his glory, that is, the Holy Spirit who glorifies him."

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