Dear friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – which centres upon the Blessed Trinity!
When we speak of the mysteries of our faith none is more profound and far surpassing our powers of understanding and speech than that of the Blessed Trinity, whose solemnity the Church celebrates this Sunday.
Each time we make the sign of the cross we are explicitly professing our faith in God as Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The early Church required several centuries of prayer, debate and reflection before finding the approximate concepts or terms in order to speak of this triune mystery of the godhead, three persons but one God.
Furthermore, it must be remembered that these theological terms resemble signposts more than an explanation of the mystery. We human beings are limited and finite, whereas God is infinite and eternal. St. Augustine’s observation is appropriate here when he says that we first believe in order to understand.
Of course, we know and believe that our God is not just a series of concepts, of neat but obscure and difficult theological terms. When Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai, the God who spoke described himself as the God of tenderness and compassion, wanting to be close to his people, and ever ready to pardon their faults. He is not a distant figure, but with a gracious nature, kind and full of goodness towards human beings.
Jesus Christ spoke lovingly and reverently of this God as his Father, and ours. In other words he has allowed us to share his filial relationship with his heavenly Father, and so we have the astonishing privilege of addressing God as our Father. We might call this Christian adoption. The exquisite passage from John’s gospel in Sunday’s Mass speaks of the extent of God’s love for us that he has given us his only Son. That Son, as the mystery of the Trinity teaches, has been with the Father from all eternity, a truth that our minds struggle in vain even to begin to comprehend.
The New Testament makes mention of the Holy Spirit on numerous occasions, and before he left this world the Lord Jesus promised his disciples that on his departure they would be ‘clothed’ with another power, to be their advocate and defender. That power, our faith teaches us, is the Holy Spirit, who is, as it were, the completion of the Blessed Trinity.
Images or artistic depictions of the persons of the Trinity, although far removed from the reality, can help nourish our piety in the Three-in-One. Michelangelo’s celebrated and powerful work of art in the Sistine Chapel which portrays God creating Adam always leaves a deep impression on me of the infinite power of God.
I find equally moving the Orthodox representation of Christ as ‘Pantocrator’ or ruler of the world which we see in icons, an image which mysteriously attracts and which a person never tires contemplating.
When I have had the good fortune to be in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, the alabaster window at the very back of the basilica whose centrepiece is the Holy Spirit as dove never fails to touch and inspire me as an example of religious art at its very best. Prayer to the Holy Spirit somehow becomes easier by simply gazing at this endlessly attractive window.
So while we stand in awe before the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, let us make our own the wish of the apostle Paul to the Corinthian Church which concludes today’s second reading: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all!
A happy and truly blessed feast of the Trinity to all of you!
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster