Awe Before The Trinity

Last week another act of terrorism was committed against the innocent in London. The whole world seems to be watching these senseless acts of violence almost helplessly. I am not a historian, but in my limited understanding of history, I wonder whether humanity ever lived through a period like this. How can human beings be united in their consuming hatred that they would perpetrate such barbarous, random acts of murder? How callous can they be that they can invoke the name of God to justify their killing His children?


On the contrary, we believe in a God of love. Even as he held Cain responsible for the murder of his brother, Abel, God warned that no one would be able to kill Cain with impunity. The whole history of salvation is a love story between a God Who loves foolishly and humanity that often fails to love Him in return. And yet God never gives up. He pursues us relentlessly like the hound of heaven. Out of love for us, this God revealed Himself in Jesus. Through the words of Jesus we are able to take a peek at the very essence of God. It is in contemplating the very nature of God as revealed by Him that we come to know the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

The Holy Trinity – whose feast we celebrate today – is a mystery that we could have never known through our unaided human intellect. In His unbounded generosity God has revealed it to us. The Hebrew Scriptures rightly speak of God as one and Christians too believe in the one God. We are monotheists. However, Jesus spoke of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He said, “The Father and I are one. If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. I have to come to do the will of the Father.” He spoke of Himself as the Son. His sonship is unique. His relationship with the Father is unlike any other. He also spoke of the Holy Spirit. He said to His disciples: “I will not leave your orphans. I will send you the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. He will remind you of everything I have told you. He will teach you the complete truth.”

Having reflected on the words of Jesus, the Church has developed the doctrine of the Triune God. Great minds such as St Augustine have attempted to delve into the mystery and failed. In trying to formulate the doctrine, the Church used philosophical categories that seem distant to the modern mind. To help us appreciate the mystery, the Church speaks of the different roles of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity in the history of salvation. The Father is the Creator while the Son is the Redeemer. The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. The Old Testament is the age of the Father while the New Testament is the era of the Son. The time after the ascension of Christ until the end of the world belongs to the Holy Spirit.

The incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity should inspire reverence for this God. In recent years we have lost our sense of wonder and awe. One of the unforeseen consequences of the liturgy in the vernacular has been that even in our worship we somehow fail to touch the sense of mystery. Even though I am all for emphasizing God’s tremendous love for us, I am totally against even remotely suggesting that God is our buddy. God is totally the Other. Rudolf Otto in his classic volume, The Idea of the Holy, describes God as the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.” He calls God the “tremendous and fascinating mystery.” Our only viable posture before God is one of humble prostration. Even St Thomas Aquinas would state that in our human language we can say what God is not, rather than what God is.

As Christians what are we to do as we stand before this ineffable mystery? We must be careful with the vocabulary we use for God. All our language, all our categories and all our analogies are finite and imperfect. We can never, ever, fully grasp the essence of God. Hence we must develop a deep sense of awe before God. This feast calls on us to fall on our knees just like St Thomas who humbly knelt before the Risen Christ. His prayer should become ours: “My Lord and My God!”  We must resist the temptation to look on God as one of us, even though the Son of God did become one of us. As the Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

This is why we need to have a profound respect for the name of God. The Jewish people even refuse to speak God’s name. We should never use God’s name in vain. As we make the sign of the cross we should be aware of the mystery that we recall. The next time you get the opportunity to sing “How Great Thou Art,” dwell on the deep significance of the words:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder

Consider all the works Thy Hand hath made,

I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,

Thy pow'r throughout the universe displayed;

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,

How great Thou art! How great Thou art! 

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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