The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
First Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 8:4-9
Second Reading: St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 5:1-5
Gospel: According to St. John 16:12-15
God is love.
The statement is so embedded in our collective psyche that to read it is to have it go in one eye and out the other. There is a vanilla blandness to it that keeps us from seeing the revolutionary nature of its claim, as well as its relevance to the families sitting in the pews.
Many characteristics are attributed to God, and from religion to religion these characteristics can have some overlap, but there are no necessary properties that are claimed about God for every religion. Some believe God to be personal, others impersonal; some believe God to be one, others many. Unique among all of the world’s faiths is the Christian claim of God being a Trinity, three Persons in one God.
Over the years theologians have attempted to use various metaphors to help the faithful to understand this seeming contradiction. The most famous metaphor comes from a legend about the Apostle to Ireland, St. Patrick, who pointed out that the three distinct leaves of the shamrock did not destroy the plant’s unity, and in fact helped to define what a shamrock was.
The Dogma of the Trinity is the essential Truth of the Christian understanding of God. Our creeds, both Apostles’ and Nicene, are divided along Trinitarian lines: they speak to our beliefs about the Father, then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit. No one member of the Trinity is more important than the other – all are God equally.
Because we believe in a God of Persons we can begin to speak of God in terms of love. A monotheistic, non-Trinitarian view of God will produce descriptors such as omnipotent, just, omniscient, and eternal. It might even lead people to speak of a loving God, but it will never allow them to conclude that God is love.
Only when there is a Trinity of Persons is God able to be love. Only when there is a Trinity of Persons can we claim that the essence of God is love. For if God is love, then there never was a time when God did not love – even before anything was created. The Dogma of the Trinity teaches that the Father loves the Son perfectly and eternally – without beginning or end – while the Son loves the Father in the very same way, and that perfect and eternal love, that perfect and eternal self-giving, actually is another Person, the Holy Spirit.
This is why Trinitarian theology is essential to the Catholic theology on marriage and the family. The family is meant to be a mirror of the Blessed Trinity.
Just as the Father and the Son are one so are a husband and a wife, and just as the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of that unitive love so is a child the manifestation of the love between a husband and a wife. That is why the goal of marriage is not for each spouse to be “happy” in whatever way people might define that word, but, rather, the goal is for husband and wife to offer themselves to each other in a way that attempts to approximate that of the Son and the Father. Thus, the children are not only the embodiment of that love, but are also the recipients – since the role of Catholic parents is to give of themselves to their children, their family’s incarnations of the Holy Spirit.
In a world of radical individualism based on a philosophy of me-first self-actualization, marriage and the family – as well as its underlying theology of the Blessed Trinity – are looked down upon as an unappealingly bland and vanilla way of living. But even with such disparagement, those of us who champion the importance of marriage and families for the Church and for the nation can take solace that among Americans vanilla is still the favorite flavor.