Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Readings and Commentary:[3]

Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai
as the Lord had commanded him,
taking along the two stone tablets.

Having come down in a cloud, the Lord stood with Moses there
and proclaimed his name, " Lord."
Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out,
"The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity."
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, "If I find favor with you, O Lord,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own."
Commentary on Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9

The events in this section of Exodus are occurring after Moses came down the mountain with the initial tablets; found the people had fallen to idolatry, and smashed them.  This exchange between God and Moses: ("If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.") demonstrates that the Covenant between God and the people is still intact.


R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

This selection is part of a very long hymn known as the “Hymn of the Three Men” referring to the three young men King Nebuchadnezzar had thrown into the furnace (Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego).  The part we given here is part of one of the litanies contained in the hymn – this one is a doxology (“In general this word means a short verse praising God and beginning, as a rule, with the Greek word Doxa.”)


Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Commentary on 2 Cor 13:11-13

These verses, which conclude the second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, are perhaps the clearest Trinitarian passage in the New Testament.  It takes the form of a blessing, proposing the peace of Christ; almost ironic after the many stormy passages contained in the letter.


God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Commentary on Jn 3:16-18

This passage is part of the section of St. John’s Gospel that describes Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus.  At this point it has turned into a monologue and in these verses it is clear that the Evangelist is speaking as the promise of Eternal Life is made to those who believe in Jesus as the Only Son of God.


Earlier this week we heard an exchange in the Gospel of St. Mark about Jesus revelation.  As I was doing some research for Trinity Sunday I came across the following for which I must give credit to Fr Munachi Ezeogu:

“Jesus said, whom do men say that I am?

And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.”

And Jesus answered and said, “But whom do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."

And Jesus answering, said, "What?"

I trust none of you took offense at this loving blasphemy that pokes a bit of fun at the difficulty with which we put into words something that cannot be described.  Our understanding of the One God in three persons is itself, while implicit in Holy Scripture, not explicit.  The word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible and it took great scholars many years to formulate an understanding that attempts to describe the relationship in essence between the three persons.

I was once told by a parishioner that he hated it when, on Trinity Sunday, all he could take away from a homily was that it was a “mystery”.  Unfortunately for him – that is what it is and the joke we just heard tells that tale pretty well.  But what is important about our belief in the Trinity is what it says to us, as faith filled believers.

The three persons of the Holy Trinity are mentioned in scripture today.  First we hear Moses, pleading with God to remember the covenant He had made.  Moses tells God that, yes, the people are a stiff necked and stubborn lot, prone to sin.  Of course God knows this.  Then Moses asks for forgiveness on behalf of all the people.  And God, the merciful Father also acceded to that request, but there had to be more, The Law God gave to Moses was not enough.

Next God sent the Prophets, individuals directly influenced by the Father, doing their best to interpret the Father’s will to the people through the flawed mechanism of human speech and understanding.  Still they could not grasp the unfathomable love their Father and Creator had for them.  They saw him as a child sees and disciplinarian, the punishment handed out was quick and often severe.

In love he sent His Only Son, begotten but not made, into the world so we could understand the depth of his love for us.  It was not until the Son revealed the Father that we understood that he indeed had answered Moses request for forgiveness.  It was so difficult for the people to understand this purpose that instead of raising the Son of God upon their shoulders in triumph, they raised him upon the cross in crucifixion.

But the revelation was made, the seed was sown and those whom the Father had given the Son were not lost.  Still they needed an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth needed to reside with them because they must not be alone.  So God gave us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete that we could have His guidance and a palpable sense of his love for us indwelling.

The Holy Trinity is, in its construct and relationship a mystery but the unified purpose is clear.  It is God the most high, creator of all things, lover of all creation, and guide to all mankind.  It is he who offers us Eternal Life.


[2] The picture used today is “Trinity” by Domenico Beccafumi, 1513
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

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