Saturday, June 10, 2006

Trinity Sunday - The Holy Trinity

"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." St. Matthew, 28:19

"1 believe in the Holy Spirit." Creed.

During the Civil War General Smith of the army of the South was returning to his command with a contingent of his men. While he was gone the password had been changed. Smith and his men knew that it had been changed, but they did not know what change had been made. They also knew that if they went forward without the new password they would be fired upon and killed.

The general asked for a volunteer, someone to sacrifice his life to save the rest. A soldier stepped out of the ranks, a Catholic young man. After explaining the certain danger the hero would have to face, General Smith, gave the lad a piece of paper on which he had written: "Send me the pass­word." The soldier would be shot, searched, and the paper would be dis­covered. Bravely the young man set out, and reached the outposts.

"Who goes there?" shouted the guard.

"A friend," answered the soldier.

"Give the countersign," ordered the guard.

But the hero advanced without answering. At once rifles were raised and aimed. Feeling that his last moment had come, the soldier quickly made the sign of the cross. To his surprise the rifles were lowered. The making of the sign of the cross saved that soldier, for - the sign of the cross was the password that day, given to the army by the Catholic com­mander, General Beauregard. ­

By that same sign the soldier of Jesus Christ gets through the lines into heaven. Not that the mere making of the cross over our persons will open the gates of heaven to all of us. By no means. But, the sign of the cross, reverently and thoughtfully made, reminds us of some of the great­est mysteries and truths of our faith: of the Trinity; of the Incarnation; of the Redemption. Especially it reminds us of the Holy Trinity.

On this Trinity Sunday we pay special honor to the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the reyealed truth that there are three Persons in one God. Again and again Sacred Scripture speaks of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that these three are one and equal - one God. It is a mystery, something above and beyond all human under­standing, yet not against reason. We cannot explain how this can be, but we can explain what the Trinity means.

First and foremost we must ever keep in mind that there is and can be only one true God. From the very beginning God made it crystal clear that there is only one Creator, that there is only one Lawgiver, that there is only one Judge. In Deuteronomy, 4:39, God declared: "Know that the Lord He is God, and there is no other." In Chapter 32:39, He repeated that idea: "There is no other God besides me." In the new revelation we find the same truth: "That they may know Thee, the only true God." St. John, 17:3.

Reason confirms revelation. Reason proves the existence of God. And reason tells us there can be but one God. It is against reason to suppose more than One Supreme Being. The unity and order in the world point to only one Creator. The voice of conscience declares that there is only one Lawgiver, as His law is one and the same everywhere. The history and testimony of nations show that even among gods they adored one as supreme.

If there were more than one God, His perfections would be limited. Two or more cannot be supreme. One limits the other. To believe that there is only one true God is necessary for salvation.

At the same time there are three Persons in this one God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are distinct from each other, as the Gospel speaks of them separately.

This teaching on the Trinity is indicated already in the Old Testament. In Genesis, 1:26, we read: "Let us make man to our image and likeness." "Adam is become one of us." Genesis, 3:22. "Let us go down there and confound their tongue." Genesis, 11:7.

Despite these and other references in the Old Law, however, the teaching was still obscure. It was reserved for God the Son to reveal it fully, that the new Testament might be more excellent than the Old, and that all danger of idolatry might be removed from the Jews, who were prone to worship false gods.

The greeting of the angel at the Incarnation referred to three separate Persons. At our Lord's baptism three Persons are mentioned. When Jesus told the apostles to babtize He told them to do it in the name of the three divine Persons.

This has been the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church. It is found in her art and architecture, in her sacraments, prayers, and history.

Especially is the Trinity found in our two most frequently used prayers, the "Glory be to the Father," and the "Sign of the Cross." By this simple ceremony and prayer the truth of the Trinity, which is beyond the understanding of the keenest intellects of all time, is brought home, made inti­mate, made near and dear, made practical, to the smallest child, to the unlettered, as well as to thinkers and theologians.

We should make that sign of the cross with increased thought and devotion. It reminds us of the Holy Trinity. It brings the blessings of the Trinity. It asks the protection of the Trinity.

May the blessings of that same Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, descend upon everyone of you and remain with you forever. Amen.
Adapted from Talks on the Creed
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1946)

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