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Friday, May 24, 2013

Trinity Sunday--Celebrating a Great Mystery

Traditional artist's rendition of the Trinity
  This Sunday we observe what is now called The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. More commonly it is called Trinity Sunday.  What exactly are we celebrating?  A doctrine that is hard to understand?  Or something more?  I would suggest the latter.  The Church, in fact, never celebrates a "doctrine". She celebrates rather mysteries of faith which are often elaborated as doctrines.  Mysteries of faith are divine realities which touch and shape our human experience as Christians.  I would like to suggest here that the Trinity is not a belief that God is up there somewhere as a threesome playing around in the sky, but rather a divine reality in which we are swept up. An incident that happened to me 20 years ago while visiting Israel brought this home to me.

  In 1993 I was on a biblical study tour under the auspices of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.  We were visitng a site along Lake Genesaret (Sea of Galilee). There was a native Israeli group nearby us. They were speaking in modern Hebrew.  A little boy in their group of 4 or 5 years old fell down and bumped his head.  There was stunned silence for a time followed by loud crying and screaming. We were actually relieved by the crying because it meant that the little guy was breathing. We weren't too sure before that.  At any rate as he calmed down he spotted his father out of the corner of his eye. He got up and ran crying abba, abba, abba, abbaaah!  His abba (dad) was running toward him and bent down to pick him up and embrace him. It was a touching moment. Our group then went on our way.  The boy, we found out, was checked at a hospital for concussion and was OK.

   Now what does that have to do with the Trinity?  When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray He responds with "When you pray say, Our Abba who art in heaven, etc." (see Lk:11, 1-2) Most of us know that Abba in Hebrew and Aramaic means father, but in context it also means dad, pop, papi, etc.  Jesus was not just giving us a formula to pray, He was showing us that His Abba, was our Abba too. His Abba was Father and also Daddy to us. The above story by the way was definitely a daddy moment. The love between them, that we Christians call the Holy Spirit, also then comes to us. When we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit we are drawn into the mystery that is Trinity. We are enveloped by it.  The trinity then is not "out there" someplace. We are rather placed "in there" with a loving Abba who bends down to pick us up and a loving Spirit who breathes life, love and seven wonderful gifts into us.

   Great theologians like Augustine and Aquinas have given theological and philosphical discourses, wonderful ones by the way, on the Trinity. Reflecting on the mysteries of faith with the mind is important, but by itself is not sufficient.  This little Jewish boy taught me a great deal about the Trinity. His story, by the way, is told on pages 81-82, of my book, The Wandering Friar. The mysteries of faith need to be meditated on with the heart as well as the mind.

    A Blessed Trinity Sunday to all!!!

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