Tag Archives: Holy Trinity

Most Holy Trinity

Henrik van Balen, detail, The Holy Trinity (1620)Today, following the great feast of the Pentecost, we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. The proposes this feast day to remind us that God-Head has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ. On Pentecost day the Apostles spoke in many tongues when the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus as He ascended to heaven, descended upon them in the cenacle.

We know from the biblical narrative that Jesus revealed to His disciples the face of the Father and the power of the Spirit. The Pentecost experience reveals the complete revelation of the persons of the Trinity with the outpouring of  the Holy Spirit –manifestation of the love between God the Father and God the Son. This loves pours into the world.

With this feast we are keenly reminded that the Trinity is petitioned in our spiritual life each time we pray. Most of the time we begin and conclude our prayer with the Sign of the Cross and a Glory be. Also, I think it is right to recall that God deeply loves us first before we love Him. It is His initiative of love that makes great sense to the Church Fathers and I am pretty sure we can verify this experience.

What is it that we receive from God? What does the Church believe? The gift we receive from Jesus is “grace”; from the Father “love”; and from the Holy Spirit “communio.” The Pentecost teaches us that we are now members of God’s household, part of His family not by nature but by grace, this is what it means to be a part of  the Church; we are the divinely adopted children of God through Christ; his Spirit dwells in us; now we are “temples of his holy Name!”

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Elizabeth of the TrinityOne of the local Dominican friars put me on to the life and insight of the French Carmelite nun, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity (whose feast is November 8). Thinking of this Blessed woman on Trinity Sunday draws me to think more deeply of what Love is in my own life and how it exists.

Blessed Elizabeth (1880-1906) had a personal mission of making the Holy Trinity better known and widely loved by every Christian. Hers is a manner of living the baptismal consecration we have received by the power of the Holy Spirit as a gift of living in the Father, Son and Spirit who make Their home within us (cf. Jn 14:23). Some of the many things she said:

The Trinity – this is our dwelling, our ‘home’, the Father’s house that we must never leave.

I think that in heaven my mission will be  to draw souls, by helping them go out of themselves to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement,  and to keep them in this great silence  within, that will allow God to communicate Himself to them and transform them into Himself.

To her mother she said: Oh, may the Master reveal to you His divine presence, it is so pleasant and sweet, it gives so much strength to the soul; to believe that God loves us to the point of living in us, to become the Companion of our exile, our Confidant, our Friend at every moment.

A Christmas poem of 1901 states: He comes to reveal the mystery, To give all of the Father’s secrets, To lead from glory to glory, Even unto the bosom of the Trinity.”

Why is Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity important for today? Why is this very young Carmelite nun relevant to my experience of faith? True to the meaning of her name, Elizabeth (means ‘house of God’), she communicated to the world that “God wants to make is His home in us.” She is widely admired and her writings are read the important and common persons because people seen in them a certain authenticity, a call to go deeper into the mystery of Love, that is, God Himself. Many call Blessed Elizabeth a “prophet for our time” saying that she heard God’s call, and speaks the truth to us today. In his beatification homily Pope Saint John Paul said that Elizabeth is “a brilliant witness to the joy of being ‘rooted and grounded in love'” (Eph 3:17). Can we say the same for ourselves?

Years later in the mid-20th century the Servant of God Father Luigi Giussani would echo the teaching of Blessed Elizabeth by reminding his followers that God is not an abstraction, an idea, a figure of ages past.  But that God is a Presence here-and-now, contemporaneous with human experience. Blessed Elizabeth and Father Giussani would indicate that a true Christian cannot claim with any degree of seriousness that we are surrounded by God as by air, light or energy, BUT that God is present within us; that God is at home in the human heart, that He exists in our concrete experience; that the newness of Christianity is that God wants to be in relationship with each person, and that God really cares and loves us. God incarnate –Jesus Christ– is not absent but truly present in every facet of human life. We know this by way of His eucharistic Presence.

Blessed Elizabeth’s writings reveal an awareness of the indwelling presence of God. She wished to “live through love in his presence” and to be in communion with Him for ever.

What is the relation the Holy Spirit to the Church

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Post Pentecost some of our study and prayer ought to work on what it means to live by the Holy Spirit and how does the Church relate to the Spirit. We need to be serious about the Holy Spirit and not leave such questions to the dust bin or the happy-clappy Christians who claim to be slain in the Spirit alone. Sometimes I get the sense that we Catholics go to extremes when it comes to Holy Spirit: either we pay no attention to the Spirit or we ascribe to much to the Spirit. We even forget that the Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity: the Bible reveals the Holy Spirit to be God.

There is nothing to fear in coming to understand the what and who the Holy Spirit is for the Catholic.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (797) teaches:

What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church. To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members. The Holy Spirit makes the Church the temple of the living God:

Indeed, it is to the Church herself that the “Gift of God” has been entrusted. In it is in her that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruptibility, the strengthening of our faith and the ladder of our ascent go God. For where the Church is, there also is God’s Spirit; where God’s Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace. (Saint Irenaeus)

The Most Holy Trinity

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In case you heard a dreadful homily on the Holy Trinity today, you may rely on Saint Augustine. To be fair, this dogma is difficult to comprehend but we do have to give a reasonable explanation to what we believe. The Catholic faith is reasonable on all levels.

In the sacred Liturgy, our first theology, we prayed and lived in the last weeks the mysteries some of the crucial pieces of Christian life and salvation: the Paschal Mystery — the life, death, Resurrection, the Ascension, the Pentecost– and today, the Most Holy Trinity, and soon Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

The teaching of the Church is that the Father created us, we are redeemed by Jesus (the Son) and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. The communio of the Persons of the Trinity demonstrates how we are to live and gives voice to what we aspire: life with God. The most important thing to understand about the Trinity is that God is not a solitary unit, but a community of persons: a community of Love. If God were a single person the love spoken of would be ego-centric. But what is revealed to us is the God is a community of three persons whose other name is Love (or, Mercy) and that Love is shared among themselves and with us. The communio of the Trinity is expressed and lived dynamically with others, that is, in relationship with others.

“There is, accordingly, a good which is alone simple, and therefore alone unchangeable, and this is God. By this Good have all others been created, but not simple, and therefore not unchangeable. “Created,” I say,-that is, made, not begotten. For that which is begotten of the simple Good is simple as itself, and the same as itself. These two we call the Father and the Son; and both together with the Holy Spirit are one God; and to this Spirit the epithet Holy is in Scripture, as it were, appropriated. And He is another than the Father and the Son, for He is neither the Father nor the Son. I say “another,” not “another thing,” because He is equally with them the simple Good, unchangeable and co-eternal. And this Trinity is one God; and none the less simple because a Trinity. For we do not say that the nature of the good is simple, because the Father alone possesses it, or the Son alone, or the Holy Ghost alone; nor do we say, with the Sabellian heretics, that it is only nominally a Trinity, and has no real distinction of persons; but we say it is simple, because it is what it has, with the exception of the relation of the persons to one another. For, in regard to this relation, it is true that the Father has a Son, and yet is not Himself the Son; and the Son has a Father, and is not Himself the Father. But, as regards Himself, irrespective of relation to the other, each is what He has; thus, He is in Himself living, for He has life, and is Himself the Life which He has.”

Saint Augustine, City of God, 11.10

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

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God our Father, who by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification made known to the human race your wondrous mystery, grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty. 

For many preachers don’t handle the “idea feast” of the Most Holy Trinity. Their method is typically confused. Admittedly, the theology of the Trinity is not well represented in sacred Scripture in a direct way. You have to be able to read and interpret the indications given by Revelation. You can also read what the theologians have said, but you also may go to the poets and musicians (see the previous post today) but we have other spirited people like the saints. A reflection from Saint Hildegard of Bingen, last Doctor of the Church may shed some light on how we relate to this sublime of Mysteries. I happen to think that the saints and many artists are more successful in teaching some complexities of our faith, for example, a triune God but one.

 Before time, all creatures were in the Father. He organized them in himself and afterwards the Son created them in fact. How is that to be understood? It is similar to the situation among human beings when one carries the knowledge of a great work in herself and then later through her word brings it to the light of day, so that it comes into the world with great acclaim. The Father puts things in order; the Son causes them to be…The Holy Spirit streams through and ties together ‘eternity’ and ‘equality’ so that they are one. This is like when someone ties a bundle together – for there would be no bundle if it weren’t tied together; everything would fall apart. Or it is like when a smith welds two pieces of metal together in a fire as one…The Holy Spirit is the firmness and the aliveness. Without the Holy Spirit eternity would not be eternity. Without the Holy Spirit equality would not be equality. The Holy Spirit is in both, and one with both of them in the Godhead. The one God.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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