Saturday, May 21, 2016

One Great Dance of Love--The Trinity

 Several years ago I celebrated Mass in a nearby parish.  After the Mass I greeted people at the door of the Church and someone asked me, "Father, why do we have a feast honoring a doctrine?  Christmas, Easter and other feasts celebrate not just doctrines but things that happened to Jesus, Mary or one of the saints"

   I don't remember exactly what I said to her but I pondered her question after that.  Unfortunately in the western sphere of Christianity academic speculation about the Trinity has turned our understanding of it into a dry mysterious concept.  The Trinity, however, is not just a doctrine. (No, I'm not putting down the idea of a doctrine, just noting that doctrines point to actual spiritual realities.)  The Holy Trinity is a dynamic, flowing reality of love and grace into which we are swept at Baptism, Confirmation, in the other sacraments and in many other ways.

   A moment of inspiration regarding the Trinity came on my visit to the Holy Land in 1993.  Our Catholic group was visiting an area by the Sea of Galilee.  Our bus was in a parking lot and as we disembarked we saw a Jewish group, native Israelis who were visiting the same site.  There were several children in the group and one of them, a young boy, was running, fell down, and bumped his head on the pavement.  There was stunned silence, then the boy started to cry.  With blood dripping from his forehead he spotted his father, got up, ran to him and shouted aloud, "Abba, Abba,Abba." Abba, of course, is Hebrew for father.   His father picked him up, hugged him closely, then attended to his cuts and bruises.

    I thought, "Wow!  Our Christian faith is about God, our loving father, sending Jesus to unite with us. In Jesus God picks us up and lovingly embraces us.   In that embrace their Spirit fills our hearts.  The Trinity then is not just a concept about God. It is a wonderful mystery of love into which we are swept.

   St. Bonaventure, a great theologian in the early days of the Franciscan Order,  speaks of God as a continuing dynamic of love.For Him God is so loving that God has to create.  It is not enough that Father, Son and Spirit are a community of love.  God must go out of Gods" self to love even more.  He calls the Trinity a "fountain fullness of love." into which the whole universe is is swept.  Sr. Ilia Dileo, a contemporary Franciscan theologian, drawing on Bonaventure's fountain image, invites us to think of Niagara Falls. Can you imagine that not as water, but as a source of God's love and grace which envelops us. Now that is something to celebrate.  Happy Trinity Sunday.

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