by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

It has been said that peoples’ eyes glaze over at the mention of the Holy Trinity, or that if it were suddenly declared that, actually, there are four persons in the Blessed Trinity, it would probably cause little stir. We might ask if this is true with all who hold to a Trinitarian belief system. Is this incomprehensible mystery we call “God” (for want of a word for which there is none to describe the Divine) a vital part of our prayer life and a motivating force in our lives?

Perhaps so. Still, as we celebrate Trinity Sunday and the revelation of God as triune, it will be helpful, despite our enormous human limitations, prayerfully to approach this mystery which is at the very center of all that exists.

One way to do this is to consider what God has revealed about God’s Self not so much from an intellectual, abstract point of view but from our own responses to it. For increasing numbers of believers a reverent consideration of cosmology has been helpful here.

Unlike any era in human history, science has allowed us to appreciate with awestruck wonder the seemingly endless sweep of Creation. Telescopes placed outside of Earth’s boundaries reveal almost unbelievable examples of time and space, which constantly cause awe and wonder and pose the question: is God the Creator of all we are now discovering?

Consider the concept of a light year: a unit of length used to express astronomical distances and equivalent to something in the order of 5.8 trillion miles. That reality, the actuality of one object being that far from another, is enough to “bend the mind” as the saying so accurately puts it. When astronomers speak about distances like 7,000 light years or 20,000, the soul of a believer can only bow in complete reverence and utter “who must you be, Creator God.”

Further, Trinitarian theology holds that Creator-God has sent His Word incarnated to our common home, planet Earth, this gorgeous blue and white dot hanging in the vastness of the cosmos. In this act of becoming one of us, God has shown infinite love for all life, particularly human life, made in the image and likeness of the Triune God. Another mind-bending concept which drives us to our knees. And more astounding yet, we believe that the Word made human not only lived fully our earthbound experience but by succumbing to evil overcame ultimately all rebellion against the Trinity. Mystery upon mystery!

Finally, the Spirit, described in our Profession of Faith as “the Lord and giver of life” has come to
be understood as the driving force behind the entire and ever-changing created order.
Theologian Elizabeth Johnson puts it in this way: “The stunning world opened up by Big Bang
cosmology and evolutionary biology on the one hand and the vulnerability of life on Earth
needing protection on the other is leading ecological theology to glimpse the Spirit’s presence
and activity with new contours, as the living God who is the source, sustainer and goal of the
whole shebang”.

In the divine light of all this, what sort of attitude is ours as we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday? Surely, an attitude of profound and grateful humility. We are so small, so fragile and so scattered. Yet the Father, His Word and their Spirit have called us “beloved.”

Gratitude also fills our souls. Humanity has been given the power of consciously and reflexively knowing. God has created us in God’s own image and likeness and gifted us with intellect and free will. We are able to acknowledge, celebrate and rejoice before the One who is all in all.

The prayer ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi offers a fitting conclusion to this Trinity Sunday reflection on God’s own Self: Who are you, O God and who am I?

Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.

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