18 June 2011

Sanctissimæ Trinitatis

First Reading, Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
Saint Thomas Aquinas concluded [from the original Latin]: “Quod impossibile est per rationem naturalem ad cognitionem Trinitatis divinarum Personarum pervenire” -- “It is impossible by natural reason to attain to the knowledge of the divine Persons of the Trinity” (Summa Theologicæ). Interesting, though, is that Saint Thomas believed that the existence of God can be reasoned. Arguably the greatest theologian the Church has ever had, Saint Thomas had a most peculiar but incredibly fair way of presenting his arguments: He would state his case, answer all oppositional objections and even produce objections no one ever thought of and answer those too. As far as the Trinity being “three Persons” Saint Thomas said that this doesn’t mean three separate individuals in the subject of God. In other words, the Trinity is not as sometimes portrayed in artwork with the Father as the older, white-haired Man with the patriarchal beard, while the Son is the younger, brown-haired Man, and the Holy Spirit is the Dove. Saint Thomas thinks of the Trinity as relationships within one God. These relationships within God depict His knowledge of Himself and His Love. This means that the Paternity of God is God. God’s superior knowledge of Himself is the Filialness or Son of God and the relationship of Love between God and His Self-knowledge is the Holy Spirit. The Angelic Doctor explains it this way: “Quicumque enim intelligit, ex hoc ipso quod intelligit, procedit aliquid intra ipsum, quod est conceptio rei intellectæ, ex vi intellectiva proveniens, et ex eius notitia procedens. Quam quidem conceptionem vox significat; et dicitur verbum cordis significatum verbo vocis” – “Whenever we understand, by the very fact of understanding, there proceeds something within us, which is a conception of the object understood, issuing from our intellectual power, and proceeding from our knowledge. This conception is signified by the spoken word; and it is called the word of the heart signified by the word of the voice” (ibid.). Granted, that explanation from the gifted mind of Saint Thomas Aquinas is not an easy read but the truth is that no one possesses the intellectual capacity to fully comprehend and hence define the Trinity. The Most Holy Trinity is a great, sacred mystery. There are some interesting comparisons in this First Reading with events in the New Testament. Moses, early in the morning, ventures off to meet his Lord and receive His commands which were to be engraved on stone tablets. In Saint Mark’s Gospel, Jesus, early in the morning, went off to a lonely place to pray (cf. Mark 1:35) just before He was to preach God’s commands which were to be engraved on the tablets of the human heart. As Moses is confronted with the Presence of His Lord he bows down to the ground in worship. Likewise, on a mountain, Jesus is Transfigured and the disciples fall on their faces (cf. Matthew 17:1-7). Moses begs for God’s pardon and asks Him to receive His people as His own. Jesus Christ makes the ultimate Sacrifice, securing our pardon and conferring upon us the joy of being received as God’s own sons and daughters. No longer will we find scrolls and tablets in our Tabernacle. Our Tabernacle now contains not only the New and Everlasting Covenant but the Covenant Maker Himself. John the Baptist proclaimed that God could raise children of Abraham from the stones (cf. Matthew 3:9). And from the stone tablets of the covenant is raised a Child of Abraham and a fulfillment of the covenant Who is the Son of God. In the desert the devil tempts Jesus and tells Him to turn the stones into loaves (cf. Matthew 4:3). Not even Satan could have foreseen that the Almighty’s Law and Identity written on stone tablets would eventually stay with God’s people in a more intimate way as the Bread of Life.

Second Reading, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Saint Paul writes, “Rejoice.” In the ancient style of writing, the Greeks customarily ended their writings this way. Paul, a Jew, apparently understood this when writing this letter to Corinth, a Greek city-state; and this is the end of his second letter to the Corinthians. Greeting “one another with a holy kiss” was customary for Jews and soon spread into Gentile Christian communities; and since it was a part of their ordinary living, the custom soon made its way into ecclesiastical assemblies. Interestingly, in the ancient world it was quite common for people to embrace each other before they shared a meal. And that custom moved into the sharing of a much greater Meal -- the Eucharist. In the Latin Vulgate this letter closes with the word, “Amen.” This is not found in the original Greek and actually was added by the Church of Corinth. The Holy Spirit did remarkable things at Corinth. This was a city that lived under the ideals of paganism and vulgar excesses. It took only four short years for the Gospel to make a life altering change in this community. With Saint Paul as the Paraclete’s instrument, the Corinthians began to receive lessons on morality which converted their hearts.

Gospel, John 3:16-18
You’re familiar with the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive.” True, but who could argue about the beauty of receiving when considering the riches we have received because God “gave His only Son”? The teaching of the Fathers of the Church is that Christ was not God’s Son only by reason of the Incarnation. He was the only begotten Son before God sent Him into the world as He is the Word from all eternity. Christ is and always has been True God and by the Incarnation also is True Man. Condemnation is not a popular subject but it cannot be completely ignored. Saint Augustine of Canterbury teaches: “Why is Christ called the Savior of the world, unless from the obligation He took upon Himself at His birth? He has come like a good physician, effectually to save mankind. The man, therefore, destroys himself who refuses to follow the prescriptions of the Physician.” As sinners, we all occasionally step off the path that Christ has put us on but our Lord remedies that through the sacraments. Condemnation is inflicted upon oneself and not brought upon by God. It is an obstinate refusal of God’s love, grace and mercy. And even if one chooses such obstinacy as their life’s path, who would dare underestimate or even attempt to comprehend the superabundance of love, grace and mercy that may arrive at the hour of death?