The Mystery of the Holy Trinity and Daily Christian Life
19 May 2021
By H.E. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
The truth of the Holy Trinity is at the very heart of our life in the Church. We, in fact, become living members of the Church through Baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”,[i] in accord with the explicit command of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son Incarnate. Blessed Columba Marmion, the great teacher of our divine filiation, writes regarding the reality identified by the words of Baptism:
“These truths constitute an ineffable mystery concerning which we can but lisp. However Our Lord has revealed to us the existence of this mystery, and He made this revelation in His last discourse with His disciples on the eve of His death, that our “joy may be filled”. He Himself tells us that if we are His friends, it is because He has made known to us these secrets of God’s innermost life, while we await the enjoyment of them in eternal happiness. And why should He have revealed these secrets to us, if He, Infinite Wisdom, had not judged that this revelation would be profitable to us?”[ii]
We express the reality of our intimate communion with the Holy Trinity each time we make the Sign of the Cross. In professing faith in the Holy Trinity by making the Sign of the Cross, we symbolically express the profound significance of the truth that the three Persons in one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – have, through the Cross of Christ, loved us with a totally selfless and unconditional love.
Blessed Columba Marmion thus instructs us:
“In His Divine Nature, Jesus is, with the Father, the principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds. The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and to souls is a priceless gift, since this Spirit is Divine Love in Person. But this gift, like every grace, was merited for us by Jesus. It is the fruit of His Passion. He purchased it by the sufferings He endured in His Sacred Humanity. Was it not therefore just that this grace should not be given to the world until that Humanity, whereby it had been merited, had been glorified? This exaltation of the Humanity in Jesus was not accomplished in its fulness, nor did it reach its fruition until the day of the Ascension. It was only then that the Sacred Humanity entered definitively into possession of the glory to which it is doubly entitled as being united to the Son of God, and as a victim offered to the Father thereby to merit every grace for souls. Seated at the right hand of the Father in the glory of heaven, the Humanity of the Incarnate Word was to be thus associated with the “sending” of the Holy Spirit by the Father and the Son.”[iii]
Rightly, Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, declares that we “rejoice in our sufferings”,[iv] that is, we rejoice that we share in the Cross of Christ, “because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”.[v]
The truth of the Holy Trinity is made known to us by Christ, by His words and deeds which reach their fullness in His Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension and Sending of the Holy Spirit. God the Father sent God the Son into the world, so that we might receive the sevenfold gift of God the Holy Spirit, leading us into all truth and inspiring in us an ever-greater love of God and of our neighbor. In His last discourse to the disciples to His disciples before His Passion and Death, to which Blessed Columba Marmion refers, Christ declared:
“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak of his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”[vi]
God the Son, the Wisdom of God without beginning and without end, has become one of us, so that we may know, love and serve God the Father, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and may, one day, finally be with God – in the Communion of the Saints – for all eternity. We remain confident, no matter what may come, because the Holy Spirit dwelling within us instructs us regarding all that God the Father desires for our eternal salvation.
The truth of the Holy Trinity is beyond our human understanding. It is the mystery of God’s own life. Only God understands fully the mystery of His own Trinitarian life, but, in His immeasurable and unceasing love for us, God the Father has revealed to us the truth of His life, as fully as it is possible for us to understand by sending God the Son in our human nature. On the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, the First Sunday after Pentecost Sunday, we rejoice, with particular gratitude, in the immeasurable love of God for us, for He has revealed to us His most intimate self in Christ. He pours forth into our hearts – from the glorious pierced Heart of Christ, His only-begotten Son – the Holy Spirit to be our Helper and Guide. He thus makes it possible for us to live in the communion of love with Him throughout our earthly pilgrimage and attain finally the goal of our pilgrimage, eternal life in Heaven. He loves us immeasurably and unceasingly. It only remains for us to respond to His love with our love. In that sense, every moment of our daily life involves the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit within our souls, Who unites us in love with the Father and the Son.
We witness the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives, in a most special way, whenever we are privileged to take part in the Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, which is the personal Pentecost for the Christian, the life of the Holy Spirit, first given in Baptism, is strengthened and increased within the Christian soul, so that the Christian may be a more perfect witness to Christ in the world. In the Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation, we rejoice to witness the mystery of God’s love in the lives of those confirmed, drawing them ever closer to Christ and to His Church. And we pray for them, that they may respond each day anew to the gift of God’s grace, which they receive through a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit into their souls.
We know that it is not easy to be a strong witness to Christ in the world today. We suffer influences both from within ourselves and from the world around us, which would lead us away from Christ. One of those influences is Satan himself who desires our spiritual death and never tires in his lies and other forms of deception to lead us away from God dwelling within us, when we are in the state of grace. Our happiness, our joy and peace, lie in Christ alone and in doing, with Him, all that God the Father asks of us. If we trust the Holy Spirit, praying each day to respond obediently to His inspirations, we can be certain that God will give us the grace to accomplish all that He asks of us.
The grace of Confirmation prepares us in a most special way to know our vocation in life, whether it be to the married life, to the consecrated life or to the priesthood. The grace of the Holy Spirit, given to us for the first time through Baptism, and strengthened and increased within us through Confirmation, accomplishes its greatest work in the response which we give to God’s call in our life, setting aside everything else, in order to do His will, in order to give our life, with Christ, completely to God and neighbor in the married life, the consecrated life or the priesthood.
Today, sadly, for various reasons, many Christians reach adulthood without having received the Sacrament of Confirmation. In other words, they struggle to live a Christian life in a strongly anti-Christian society without the special grace of the Holy Spirit, strengthening and increasing the grace of their baptism. The lack of the grace of Confirmation, in particular, makes it difficult for them to follow faithfully and generously their vocation. Reflecting upon the Mystery of the Holy Trinity at work in our daily Christian living, if we have not yet been confirmed, let us ask our parish priest or other priest in whom we have confidence to help us to receive Confirmation at the earliest possible time. If we know other Christians, family members or friends, who have not yet received the Sacrament of Confirmation, let us encourage and assist them, so that they may enjoy the particular grace which this sacrament unfailingly confers throughout a lifetime.
May the annual celebration of the Feast of the Holy Trinity fill us with wonder at the mystery of the love of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – poured forth into our hearts. May it give us renewed courage to seek holiness of life in all that we think and say and do, in accord with the divine life dwelling within our hearts. Let us daily recall the words of Saint Paul: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”[vii]
Source: Radici Cristiane, May 2021
[i] Mt 28, 19.
[ii] “Ces vérités constituent un ineffable mystère dont nous ne pouvons parler qu’en balbutiant. Pourtant Notre-Seigneur a voulu nous en révéler l’existence ; il a voulu nous faire cette révélation dans ses derniers entretiens avec ses disciples, la veille de sa mort, « afin que notre joie fût entière » ; il nous dit même que si nous sommes ses amis, c’est parce qu’il nous a fait connaître ces secrets de la vie intime de Dieu, en attendant que nous en jouissions dans la félicité éternelle. Et pourquoi nous les aurait-il révélés, ces secrets, s’il n’avait jugé, lui, Sagesse infinie, que cette révélation nous serait utile ?”Columba Marmion, Le Christ dans ses mystères (Montréal: Librairie Granger Frères Limitée, 1946), p. 367. Cfr. Jn 15, 11. 15. [Marmion]. English translation: Columba Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries, tr. Mother M. St. Thomas of Tyburn Convent, 11th ed. (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1939), p. 327. [MarmionEng].
[iii] “Le Christ Jésus, dans sa nature divine, est, avec le Père, le principe dont procède l’Esprit-Saint. Le don du Saint-Esprit à l’Église et aux âmes est une grâce sans prix, puisque cet Esprit est l’amour divin en personne. Mais, ainsi que je vous l’ai dit tantôt, ce don, cet envoi a été mérité pour nous, comme toute grâce, par Jésus ; il est le fruit de sa passion ; le Christ en a soldé le prix par les souffrances endurées dans sa sainte humanité. N’était-il pas dès lors équitable que cette grâce ne fût donnée au monde, que lorsque l’humanité, qui l’avait méritée, serait glorifiée ? Cette exaltation de l’humanité en Jésus ne s’est accomplie dans sa plénitude et n’a atteint son épanouissement qu’au jour de l’ascension. C’est alors seulement que cette sainte humanité est entrée définitivement en possession de la gloire qui lui revenait à double titre d’humanité unie au Fils de Dieu, et de victime offerte au Père pour mériter toute grâce aux âmes. Assise à la droite du Père dans la gloire des cieux, l’humanité du Verbe incarné sera ainsi associée à l’« envoi » qui sera fait du Saint-Esprit par le Père et le Fils.” Marmion, pp. 368-369. English translation: MarmionEng, pp. 328-329.
[iv] Rom 5, 3.
[v] Rom 5, 5.
[vi] Jn 16, 12-15.
[vii] Gal 4, 6.