Attempt to grasp Trinity in heart, not mind

Published: June 5, 2020

En Español

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is celebrated the week after PentecostThe Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith. "It is the mystery of God in himself." (no. 234) God has revealed himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is three distinct persons in one God. The Church's teaching focuses on the following:

  • The Trinity is One — "We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons ... The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire ..." (no. 253)
  • The Three Persons of the Trinity are Distinct from One Another — "It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds." (no. 254)
  • The Three Persons of the Trinity are Relative to Each Other — "Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another ..." (no. 255)

This may sound overwhelming and difficult to understand because it is. In his 2019 homily on the Trinity, Father Antony Kadavil told a story of how St. Augustine tried to understand the great mystery of the Trinity. He was walking along a seashore when he saw a child pouring seawater from a shell into a small hole in the sand.

He asked the child what he was doing and the little boy replied: "I am trying to empty the sea into this hole." When St. Augustine told the child that was impossible, the boy replied: “What you are trying to do — comprehend the immensity of God with your small head — is even more impossible.”  Then he vanished.  Not a child but an angel sent by God to teach the saint a lesson.

Later, St. Augustine wrote: "'You see the Trinity if you see love.' According to him, the Father is the lover, the Son is the loved one and the Holy Spirit is the personification of the very act of loving. This means that we can understand something of the mystery of the holy Trinity more readily with the heart than with our feeble mind. Evagrius of Pontus, a Greek monk of the fourth century who came from what is now Turkey in Asia and later lived out his vocation in Egypt, said: 'God cannot be grasped by the mind. If God could be grasped, God would not be God,'" Father Kadavil said in his homily.

In his 2015 homily, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor explained the Trinity in a similar way. "The Father's love pours forth in the creation and maintenance of the world. The Son's love pours forth in his total self-sacrifice for our salvation. And the Spirit's love pours forth to strengthen us and unite us in the face of all the temptations and challenges that still lie before us. God's love is dynamic, full of power and always relational -— the source of our life, our being, our salvation and our hope of eternal life.

"Today you and I are invited to recognize that just as God is relational in the very core of his being, so also are we, since we were created by this relational God. Just as the essence of God's divine nature is love, so also — in a more limited way — the essence of our human nature is love too.

"And we are most fully human only when this love so characterizes each one of us that we become relational in the full sense of the term. If we invest ourselves totally in others and they in us, then this love will also be creative — to the glory of our Triune God and for the building up of his Kingdom. Our faith is not static in the least. God is doing powerful things in our world and we are given a share in his work, as well as eventually a share in his victory." Read this homily.