The Trinity and the Thrill of Knowing God in the Experience of Love
The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the most misunderstood among the catholic dogmas. We were being formed into the concept of God as Trinitarian and maybe almost of us can recall one of the first catechetical statements we learned in our Catechesis: “There is only one God. But, in one God there are three persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. It so simple a statement that undoubtedly, we can always recall. But did we understand it?
While we call it a mystery, many of us will simply dismiss, “That’s why it is a mystery because do not need to understand it”. But a mystery is not complete unknowability in the light of our faith. Much more, the mystery of God is not complete unknowability for God is knowable BUT – there is always this “but”- in a certain level only that we can grasp Him according to our rational (or intellectual) capacities.
Mystery in the New Testament, is used as a secret being revealed in the preaching of the Gospel. Hence, there is what we call a divine revelation. God therefore has since taken initiatives to reveal himself. That is the point of the first reading: we heard Moses talking to Israelites recalling the wondrous deeds of God that had happened in their lives. When God had revealed himself to his people, God gives them a picture of himself but not the whole of his identity. Hence, it’s a mystery it’s a thrill! It is an experience of excitement to know God! Faith is born in our hearts then when we respond to a mystery. Naturally, we will ask, we will investigate who God is!
But in the thrilling experience of Moses in front of the presence of God in the burning bush, God revealed himself only as “I am who am” which pious Jewish would not pronounce it (hence it is rendered as YHWH, the tetragramaton) in great revered fear of unworthiness. Many biblical scholars offered us a lot of interpretation but in one of reflections I encountered when I was studying, it says like this: When God revealed himself as “I am who am” he tells us like saying “You don’t need to ask more, for you shall see!” Again, there is this suspense in waiting for God to reveal himself.
Then why have we concluded that God is Trinitarian? God’s self-revelation, God’s self-mystifying did not end with the Moses experience. Jesus is the fullness of the revelation of God for he revealed God to us as his Father, that he and the Father are one. We recall his unending claim of unity with the Father as one in the Gospel of John we have heard a lot of times during Easter season. Then we also heard the revelation of the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Son and the Father uniting Himself to them for he speaks not of his own. There is unity, but there is also a community in God. But today, as Matthew revealed to us, we heard Jesus himself telling his disciples to baptize them “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Thus, it becomes so clear to us that God is not in himself a monolithic God. He is a trinity, a community of three divine Persons, co-equal and co-owns the Divinity.
But are we satisfied by his divine revelation? If your answer is no, then, remember the mystery. God, as almighty and all-powerful He is, we can know something about him, but there will remain forever something part which cannot be grasped by our humanity. Saint Augustine once said: “Si comprehendis, non est Deus” for if you start to understand “God” completely that is not God. That is why, faith is born whenever there is a mystery. It will be useless to believe when you understand it already. But it does not mean that if you do not have an absolute understanding of God, then you will not be saved. Remember knowledge is not more essential in salvation; but sufficient faith is.
Then what shall we believe more to convincingly believe that God indeed is a community of three Divine Persons? Saint John thus told us: God is love! Love is the key to put our faith in a triune God. When God is love, his love is unselfish. So God cannot love himself but he loves the other. God teaches us that a true kind of love is to “lay down one’s life for a friend” and we will never understand it if God himself did not offer his Son to us to die for our sake. God revealed a selfless love by offering himself in the person of his Son, Jesus, to die for us. God, who is revealed to us as Father to us, loved him and he loved the Father back by doing His will only. Jesus once said: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to complete His work” (Joh 4:34 NRS). The faithfulness of the Son to the Father revealed a kind of communion, a unity. That bond of union is love itself which proceeds from the Father and the Son, hence the Holy Spirit: it is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son which, as Jesus himself declared to us, will be sent to us when He goes back to the Father. He will not speak of his own (Jn. 16:13) because He is not different from the Father and the Son.
Again and again, we cannot grasp more, we can question more and we can write and reflect more. But, we cannot quench the question of the identity of God as Trinity. But ultimately, faith is needed, not to know all about God. It is needed to sustain our trust to a God hidden but revealed. The lesson of celebrating the Mystery of the Holy Trinity is not to bring more knowledge about who God is in himself. It is rather who God is in yourself. For God is love, and you have believed in God’s love, did you love so as to imitate a community of that Divine Love? This feast is not an investigation about God who loves, it is rather an introspection if we have mirrored a loving God in our lives by loving unconditionally as he does. Amen. (Ric Anthony Reyes, OSA)