The Most Holy Trinity
THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
STEWARDSHIP: Today’s psalm reminds us that we have been crowned with glory and honor and given rule over the works of God’s hands. But we must be good stewards, for the Lord will surely hold us accountable for the use of those gifts!
“The Trinity becomes a reality in us as the guest of the soul. Why go on searching for God beyond the stars when He is so close to us.”
READINGS FOR THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST 29 MAY ‘16
Gn. 14:18-20: We see in the bread and wine offered by the priest Melchizedek the foreshadowing of Christ’s perfect offerings.
1 Cor. 11:23-26: Paul is instructing the Corinthian community to take seriously the command of the Lord to celebrate the Eucharist and the commemoration of His life-giving death – this is in view of their own failure to remember that the love of Christ at the heart of the new covenant and the Eucharistic celebration is not being reflected among them since the wealthiest members of the community fail to share their food with the poorest members.
Lk. 9:11-17: The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, is a reminder of the presence of the Messiah God among the people, ushering in the Kingdom, and testifying to God’s desire to heal and satisfy their hungers. It points to the Eucharist and the building up of the Body, the Church.
“For all the other things which are said in the earlier parts of the service are said by the priest … when it comes to the consecration of the venerable sacrament, the priest no longer uses his own language, but he uses the language of Christ. Therefore, the word of Christ consecrates this sacrament.”
ICON: ANDREI RUBLEV’S ICON OF THE HOLY TRINITY
The Church has many different depictions of the Holy Trinity. But the icon which defines the very essence of Trinity Day is invariably the one which shows the Trinity in the form of three angels. The prototype for this icon was the mysterious appearance of the Holy Trinity in the form of three travelers to Abraham and Sarah under the oak of Mamre. The Church specifically chose this particular icon because it most fully expresses the dogma of the Holy Trinity: the three angels are depicted in equal dignity, symbolizing the trinity and equality of all three Persons.
We find the deepest understanding of this dogma in the icon of the Trinity painted by the venerable Andrei Rublev for the Trinity Cathedral of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. This icon is a masterpiece of ancient Russian iconography, and it is not surprising that the Church established it as the model for depicting the Trinity. In Andrei Rublev’s icon, the persons of the Holy Trinity are shown in the order in which they are confessed in the Credo. The first angel is the first person of the Trinity – God the Father; the second, middle angel is God the Son; the third angel is God the Holy Spirit. All three angels are blessing the chalice, in which lies a sacrificed calf, prepared for eating. The sacrifice of the calf signifies the Savior’s death on the cross, while its preparation as food symbolizes the sacrament of the Eucharist. All three angels have staffs in their hand as a symbol of their divine power.
The first angel, shown at left, is vested in a blue undergarment which depicts his divine celestial nature, and a light purple outer garment which attests to the unfathomable nature and the royal dignity of this angel. Behind him and above his head towers a house, the abode of Abraham, and a sacrificial altar in front of the house. This image of the abode has a symbolic meaning: the house signifies God’s master plan for creation, while the fact that the house towers above the first angel shows him to be the head (or Father) of this creation. The same fatherly authority is seen in his entire appearance. His head is not bowed and he is looking at the other two angels. His whole demeanor – the expression on his face, the placement of his hands, the way he is sitting – all speaks of his fatherly dignity. The other two angels have their heads inclined and eyes turned toward the first angel with great attention, as though conversing with him about the salvation of mankind. The second angel is placed in the middle of the icon. This placement is determined by the position held by the second Person within the Trinity Itself. Above his head extend the branches of an oak tree. The vestments of the second angel correspond to those in which the Savior is usually depicted. The undergarment is a dark crimson color which symbolizes the incarnation, while the blue outer robe signifies the divinity and the celestial nature of this angel.
The second angel is inclined towards the first angel, as though deep in conversation. The tree behind him serves as a reminder of the tree of life that was standing in Eden, and of the cross. The angel on the right is the third Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. His light blue undergarment and smoky-green outer garment represent heaven and earth, and signify the life-giving force of the Holy Spirit, which animates everything that exists.
“By the Holy Spirit every soul lives and is elevated in purity” – sings the Church. This elevation in purity is represented in the icon by a mountain above the third angel. Thus Andrei Rublev’s icon, while being an unsurpassed work of iconography, is first and foremost a “theology in color,” which instructs us in all that concerns the revelation of the triune God and the three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
FEAST OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY: This is an annual solemnity celebrated on the first Sunday after the feast of Pentecost which explicitly acknowledges the threefold revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Special emphasis on the Trinity in peaching and devotion emerged as a result of the Christological and Trinitarian controversies (the Arian heresy which denied that Jesus was equal to God) of the 4th and 5th centuries. This emphasis escalated in the 7th and 8th centuries, formulating a proper preface and votive Mass by the 9th century.
Testimony before the year 1000 suggests a solemnity of the Trinity with its own proper and office was observed in some monasteries in the Frankish kingdom on the Sunday after Pentecost. Although the Trinity is celebrated every Sunday, and in fact every day, the solemnity of the Trinity was extended to the universal Church in 1334 by Pope John XXII. This “idea feast” commemorates an aspect of doctrine, rather than an event in salvation history. The readings and presidential prayers focus on the mystery of redemption by God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
TRINITY DOCTRINE: This is the specifically Christian way of speaking of God. The doctrine of the Trinity, which stands at the center of Christian faith, summarizes the basic truth of Christianity: that people are saved by God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The triune mystery of God is the central mystery of Christian faith and life; thus the doctrinal formulation about the nature of this God is the source of all other mysteries of the faith.
Divine Revelation begins with a decision: “Let us make man in our image and likeness. Male and female He created them.”
These words tell us something important about the Godhead and something important about ourselves. When God decided to fashion the divine image, the result was a tiny community – a man and woman joined in love. In doing this the Creator was pointing to the reality that God is also a community of three persons joined in love, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The delight these three have in knowing and loving one another is so intense that it spills over into the work of creation. God calls us into being so that we may join them in their divine community.
In describing the relationship between God and creation, Bishop Robert Barron speaks of ecstasy. God “leaps out” of Himself to bring us into being. In turn God invites us to “leap out” of ourselves, to leave ourselves behind, in order to join the divine community.
If the creation of the world was a move outward for God, the Incarnation was truly ecstatic. St. Paul tells us that the Son did not “cling to His divinity” but became one of us. Jesus reveals a divine love that stops at nothing to reach the creatures it loves. In Barron’s words, “Jesus Christ is the joining of two ecstasies, the moment when the passionate human thirst for God meets the passionate divine thirst for us.” (St. T. Aquinas)
If God’s Son emptied Himself to become human, this human son in turn emptied Himself in an unmatchable act of love for His Father for us. “Greater love than this no one has than that He lay down His life for His friends.” Jesus is transparent. Looking at Him we see who God is for us and something of what God was before us and always will be – unlimited power and beauty that engulfs and sustains in a storm of love everything that is. This same Jesus gathers us about Him in a new family: the sons and daughters of God.
ORDINARY TIME: With the celebration of Pentecost we concluded the Easter Season and have entered into Ordinary time, the longest portion of the church year, fills the weeks “which do not celebrate a specific aspect of the mystery of Christ.
The Easter cycle and Christmas cycle are so rich with religious traditions that the remainder of the year often seems ordinary at first glance. The title, “Ordinary” does not mean that the 33 or 34 weeks of this time and their accompanying Sundays are unimportant, set apart from the “extraordinary” times. On the contrary, it is a time ordered for, or ordained to, the everyday living of a Christian life, it is also during these weeks that the special character of Sunday is experienced. Except for four special devotional feasts of Christ after Pentecost; Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart and Christ the King, no special theme “distracts” from the wonder of the original meaning of Sunday as the Lord’s Day.
There are two discrete periods of Ordinary Time. The first is the five to eight weeks between Epiphany and the beginning of Lent (Ash Wednesday). The second is the twenty-three to twenty-seven weeks following the feast of Pentecost and concluding with the Solemnity of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the liturgical year.
Very few religious traditions are directly connected with the weeks of Ordinary Time. The traditional color used for liturgical vestments and church decoration in green, the color of hope and life. Other popular religious traditions occur briefly, but they are connected with other special days that are independent of the liturgical season, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving.
EVANGELIZATION: Approximately two years ago the Diocese initiated a program of encouraging parishes to engage in the process of evangelization. The approach taken here at St. Stephen was to invite participation in the program “Discovering Christ” which generated some interest and fostered the establishment of small groups. As we prepare to move forward in exploring our community’s approach to evangelization perhaps it would be beneficial to reflect on what this is about.
Evangelization is essentially the proclamation of the gospel. Jesus understood this to be at the center of His own ministry: “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose” (Lk. 4:43). He conferred the same mandate upon His apostles: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mk.16:15). The Church, in turn, receives the mandate from the apostles and makes its own the words of the Apostle Paul, “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). Thus, it sends missionaries “until such time as the infant churches are fully established and can themselves carry on the work of evangelizing” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 17).
Through the proclamation of the gospel, the Church “prepares the hearers to receive and profess the faith, disposes them for baptism, snatches them from the slavery of error, and incorporates them into Christ so that through charity they may grow up into full maturity in Christ” (ibid.). the “specific purpose” of missionary activity, therefore, is “evangelization and the planting of the Church among those peoples and groups where it has not yet taken root” (Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, n. 6). The former, evangelization, is the “chief means” of achieving the latter, implantation.
Evangelization is not only the responsibility of the bishops and the clergy, but of “every disciple of Christ, according to his or her ability” (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, n. 17). Indeed, “the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of the People of God” (Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, n. 35).
Because the kingdom of God that Jesus, the apostles, and the Church proclaim is a kingdom of justice and peace as well as of holiness and grace (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, n. 39), evangelization is about liberation from every form of sin and oppression (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1975, n. 29). Jesus Himself evangelized in more than word. He cured the sick, fed the hungry, raised the dead, and gave hope to the poor (n. 12). For the Church, therefore, “evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new” (n. 18).
The “first means” of evangelizing is “the witness of an authentically Christian life.” And that applies to the Church as well as to its individual members. The Church “will evangelize the world … by its living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus – the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity” (n. 41). Evangelization also occurs through preaching, that is, the verbal proclamation of the message. It occurs in the liturgy and sacramental life of the Church; through catechesis; through the use of the mass media; and through various forms of popular piety (nn. 40-48). In effect, evangelization encompasses the entire mission of the Church.
This is the formal, shall we say the official approach to evangelization as laid out in Church documents following Vatican Council II. In following weeks we will be looking at a deeper approach and understanding of evangelization as expressed by Church leadership in more recent years and eventually how this points our parish in its own direction in the years ahead.
SAINT OF THE WEEK: BEDE, the VENERABLE, PRIEST & DOCTOR 673-735 25 MAY
He was born in Wearmouth, England, and given to the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow at the age of three. The happy combination of an inquiring intellect and willing, able teachers including Sts. Benedict Biscop and Coelfried. made Bede one of the most learned men of his time.
Bede was ordained by St. John of Beverly at the age of thirty and spent virtually his entire life in the monastery studying, teaching, and writing. While he was knowledgeable in mathematics, the sciences, and philosophy, he devoted most of his time to the study of Scripture and English history. Bede’s writings summarize the knowledge of his era and include commentaries on theBible, theological treatises, scientific articles, historical works, and biographies. His writings are regarded as major influences on English literature. One book in particular, Ecclesiastical History, is the primary source of the history of Christianity in England up to that time (729).Bede was honored as a saint even in his own lifetime. In recognition of his saintliness and his scholarship, he was called “the Venerable.” His advice and counsel were sought after by noblemen and even the pope. Except for a brief period when he taught at the school of the bishop of York, however, he remained in the monastery. His final work, finished the day before he died, was an English translation of the Gospel of John “to break the word to the poor and unlearned.” Unfortunately, this work has been lost.
Bede is known as the father of English history. In his De Temporibus and De Temporum Ratione, he was the first to date events anno Domini (A.D.), meaning “in the year of our Lord.” At the Council of Aachen in 853, the title “the Venerable” was formally added to his name. in 1899, the Venerable Bede was named a Doctor of the Church, in recognition of his wisdom and learning. He is the only English saint so honored.
AN ACT OF OBLATION
TO THE HOLY TRINITY
By St. Francis de Sales
I vow and consecrate to God
all that is in me:
My memory and my actions to God the Father;
my understanding and my words to God the Son;
my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Spirit.
I consecrate my heart, my body,
my tongue, my senses and all my sorrows
to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ,
who consented to be betrayed
into the hands of wicked men
and to suffer the torment of the Cross for me.