O most holy Trinity, Undivided unity,
Holy God, mighty God, God immortal, be adored!
The heart of Christian confession and faith is the Holy Trinity.
As a little boy, I remember scrambling back to my pew after receiving Holy Communion in order to open the hymnal to the back, which contained various devotional prayers. After each Communion, I tried to recite as much as possible of St. Patrick’s breastplate without looking at the page. Eventually I memorized the entire prayer.
The prayer begins: “I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.”
The Trinity marks everything we do as Christians. We begin our prayers with the Sign of the Cross, and offer every Eucharistic sacrifice “Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit,” giving all glory to the Father.
Prayers in the name of the Trinity are more than eloquent verbiage and quaint tradition. The Most Holy Trinity is the center of our faith.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, boasts a number of great domes along its central nave. These domes feature different moments in salvation history. But the largest, the grandest dome is the Trinity Dome, which towers above the center of the Church, holding it all together. Our belief in the Holy Trinity is like the dome, bringing together the other tenets of the faith, penetrating at every turn our morality and our worship.
The Most Holy Trinity is the doctrine which gives life to all others and defines who we are and how we understand our faith. God has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But He has gone further still. He has told us not only this innermost secret of His deepest identity, that he is Three in One, but also that we can participate in the exchange of love these persons share.
The message of Christianity is that God has, through the redemption of Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit, decided to share with men and women of any time and place the very way that He loves Himself.
This is a creed. This is a horizon of existence. This is the kind of thing that determines how I will live: you see, we will live for that love. Once known and tasted we can ONLY live for that love.
Nothing else will satisfy the human heart than this intimate exchange of knowing and loving. God has been knowing and loving Himself since before time began. Our creation and redemption are glorious moments marking the possibility of entering into that eternal exchange!
This must take our whole heart. As Saint Augustine says, “Therein is our true peace and firm bond of union with our Creator, that we should be purified and reconciled through the Mediator of life.” This is worth living life for, this love!
One of the effects of this love is union. The Trinity offers the deepest kind of union imaginable: the three persons are one in substance. Our hearts ache for such consonance, for such harmony!
The Italian poet Dante captures something of the heights of this exalted vision of the Trinity at the end of his Divine Comedy.
In the deep and bright
essence of that exalted Light, three circles
appeared to me; they had three different colors,
but all of them were of the same dimension;
one circle seemed reflected by the second,
as rainbow is by rainbow, and the third
seemed fire breathed equally by those two circles.
How incomplete is speech, how weak, when set
against my thought! And this, to what I saw.
is such—to call it little is too much.
Faced with a vision of such love, platitudes and slogans fail. Any movement apart from this love must be carefully examined. Any goal that distracts from living in this love leaves unrest and must be resisted. Our hearts must constantly be purified from anything alien to this love, indeed from everything that refuses to conform to it.
The night before he died Jesus prayed for his disciples, “May all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21). To live in such love, to be bound by such love, hearts have to change; minds have to be transformed.
We are Christians. This is our Creed: “I believe in One God!” The Most Holy Trinity offers the unity we long for. As our nation and peoples across the globe pray in reparation for sins against justice, may we not fail to ground these prayers in our belief in the union of the Trinity.
May we pray this day and every day, “I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.”