“Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while” (Mark 6:31)
Sunday 7th June – The Most Holy Trinity
This retreat Sunday gives us the opportunity in quiet and rest to meditate for a while on a central tenet of our faith and belief, without which nothing else will make sense to us as Christians and Catholics. The mystery of the Trinity – that the God in whom we believe is a Trinity of Persons, co-equal and co-eternal, in a Unity of substance – is the reality of the God who continually reveals himself to us as such, and as such does so through Sacred Scripture and the ceaseless reflection of the Magisterium and Tradition of the Church. To meditate on this mystery, as with any other mystery of faith, is not to try to establish answers which exhaust it rationally – this is beyond our human knowledge and intellectual capacity. Rather, when we approach the mystery it is with the intention and desire of entering more deeply into relationship with God who loves us utterly and absolutely, and who wishes that we do the same to him. A super-abundant love brings with it its own satisfaction and completion – even our experience as human persons, of being enfolded in the love which others give to us and which we wish to give to them, eventually sets aside all questions in favour of an acceptance which transcends language and worded articulation, and rests in that reality.
As before, we suggest that you begin your retreat day with the prayer of Lauds (Morning Prayer), and then join in the celebration of Mass, still virtually for most of us. The morning can be spent looking at the Athanasian Creed, below. Then in the afternoon take time to read prayerfully some of the Sacred Scripture passages which we have suggested for you. End the day with the prayer of Vespers (Evening Prayer). The offices of Lauds and Vespers can be found at Universalis https://universalis.com/
So, this is our suggestion to you for this Retreat Sunday – that you spend this day of prayer and reflection, of reading and silence, entering into the love of the Trinity, a love which is the perfect expression of their relationship to each other, and is the love which defines God’s relationship with you.
The Prayers of the Mass for Today’s Solemnity
We begin by looking at the fundamental truths about this mystery, expressed by the main prayers of the Mass for today. You might read these prayers in preparation for your own participation, probably virtual, in the celebration of Mass today.
The Opening Prayer of the Mass is a beautiful statement of acknowledge and praise – it captures the essence of our belief in the Trinity of Persons and our rootedness in God’s Unity:
God our Father, who by sending into the world
The Word of Truth and the Spirit of sanctification
Made known to the human race your wondrous mystery,
Grant us, we pray,
That in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory
And adore your Unity, powerful in majesty.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
This prayer already asks us to recognise God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – persons, not anonymous beings, nor transcendent role fillers, nor divine functionaries. This is how God reveals himself to us and asks to be recognised and loved – as Father, who is Creator of all and Creator of us and each one of us, who has a plan for his children, a plan which he has continually revealed to us throughout history by his promises and by his keeping of promises; as Son, Jesus Christ, the fullness of the Father’s revelation because he is Son and Word through whom all things are made, who obeys the Father’s will completely so that his plan of salvation might be brought to fulfillment in time and place and space by his dying for us on the Cross and being raised to new life, and in doing this who guarantees the forgiveness of our sins and the sure hope of eternal life; as Holy Spirit, the bond and reality of love between the Father and Son, who is sent by the Father to continue to fulfill the salvific mission established by the Son in the Church, who is the source of life for all of us, being the breath of life breathed into each of us, and the mark of divine ownership on each of us, who fills the Church with his gifts and brings forth his fruits through our faith lives. This prayer is already, in a sense, a profession of faith!
And that is how it continues – asking that we should be able to profess this true faith, by all that we do and say, and always manifest our acceptance of and belief in this great mystery , acknowledging the Trinity of Persons and adoring the Unity of the Godhead. Even the conclusion of the prayer, indeed, when we use this long conclusion, of all our prayers, is a profession of faith – through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, we address our prayer to the Father, with whom he lives in the bond of unity, the Spirit. And lest we forget – this is also what we do every time we sign ourselves with the sign of Christ’s Cross!
The Prayer over the Gifts reminds us that we participate in a special way in the offering which is about to be made, and that we are asked to join ourselves to this offering:
Sanctify by the invocation of your name, we pray, O Lord our God, this oblation of our service, and by it make of us an eternal offering to you. Through Christ our Lord.
The prayer centres upon God’s action – to make holy. This act of sanctification and consecration, which will take place through his name and by the calling down of the Holy Spirit, grounds us in the name which saves, the name which is given to the Lord and which is above every name. God has revealed himself to us by making known his name and asking that we address him by name – this is the marvellous generosity of God to those whom he has created in love, to love! By invoking him by name, by calling down the Spirit on the gifts which we present, he makes present through the action of the priest the sublime offering of the Body and Blood of Christ, the perfect sacrifice, and we join ourselves to this offering, and offer ourselves with it. In this sense we enter into the mystery and become people of the mystery. As the Eucharistic Prayer continues we see that the entire Eucharistic action is a Trinitarian action – wholly addressed to the Father, the memorial of the Son’s Body and Blood is made present through the action of the Holy Spirit, who consecrates the elements of bread and wine and consecrates the People of God, the Body of Christ, who are joined to God in this and more closely with one another in the communion.
The Eucharistic Prayer ends with a great acclamation of praise, glory and honour, to which we answer with the only response possible, affirming everything we believe and, at its summit, what has just taken place:
Through him, and with him, and in him, O God Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Athanasian Creed
While we profess the Creed at each Sunday Mass and on other solemnities through the year, from time to time it can be good to look at a very powerful statement of faith which we know as the Athansian Creed. Summing up as all the creeds recognised by the Church do, all the fundamental articles of belief which are necessary for confirming our baptismal membership of the Body of Christ, this credal formulation is founded especially on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word and on the mystery of the Trinity and so is an appropriate prayer for today. It is a form of the creed which invites us to slow reading and pauses to allow each phrase and statement to register and sink in. For today it’s a prayer worth sitting with – we pray it as a statement of belief and faith, affirming each article and making it a personal statement of my own profession, asking for the grace not just to be a witness to belief but also for the grace to understand, and to accept in faith and with humility that which I do not fully understand.
Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith.
For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever.
This is what the Catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity.
Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance.
For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal glory, and coeternal majesty.
What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is.
The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
The Father is boundless, the Son is boundless, and the Holy Spirit is boundless.
The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal.
Nevertheless, there are not three eternal beings, but one eternal being.
So there are not three uncreated beings, nor three boundless beings, but one uncreated being and one boundless being.
Likewise, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent.
Yet there are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent being.
Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
However, there are not three gods, but one God.
The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.
However, there are not three lords, but one Lord.
For as we are obliged by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person singly to be God and Lord, so too are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords.
The Father was not made, nor created, nor generated by anyone.
The Son is not made, nor created, but begotten by the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit is not made, nor created, nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son.
There is, then, one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
In this Trinity, there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less. The entire three Persons are coeternal and coequal with one another.
So that in all things, as it has been said above, the Unity is to be worshipped in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity.
He, therefore, who wishes to be saved, must believe thus about the Trinity.
It is also necessary for eternal salvation that he believes steadfastly in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man.
As God, He was begotten of the substance of the Father before time; as man, He was born in time of the substance of His Mother.
He is perfect God; and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh.
He is equal to the Father in His divinity, but inferior to the Father in His humanity.
Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ.
And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed unto God.
He is one, not by a mingling of substances, but by unity of person.
As a rational soul and flesh are one man: so God and man are one Christ.
He died for our salvation, descended into hell, and rose from the dead on the third day.
He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
At His coming, all men are to arise with their own bodies; and they are to give an account of their own deeds.
Those who have done good deeds will go into eternal life; those who have done evil will go into the everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved.
Reflecting with Sacred Scripture
God reveals himself so that humanity can come to know him. And this revelation is never incomplete or partial but always the fullness of God as he is – it is merely that our perception of God is partial and incomplete. Throughout Sacred Scripture, therefore, God continues to be the Triune God always, and communicates himself to us in successive recorded revelations and covenants in the Old Testament through to the fullness of revelation in the Son, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and in the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost. So, today on this Retreat Sunday it makes sense to take time to read and pray with Sacred Scripture as God speaks his Word to us and asks the Holy Spirit to enlarge our hearts so that we can perceive him and receive him into our hearts. We can start at the very beginning, literally!
Genesis 1:1-2:25 The two creation myths which show God, from the fullness of his being, speaking the Word which creates all things and breathing the Spirit which is the breath of life into the person created in God’s image and likeness. A moment to consider that God, in all creation, reveals himself and asks that we read him there, recognise him there, adore him for his gift to us. And in a particular way the Triune God dwells in me, by his gift of his life to me brings me into being and sustains me.
Wisdom 7:22-30 Holy Wisdom by which all is created. This will become a model for how St John proceeds in the Prologue to his Gospel – John 1:1-18 – in which this wisdom is now the eternal Word through whom all things are created, and who takes flesh to live among us.
Mark 1:9-11 The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, and the theophany of the Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit, consecrating the moment in which the kingdom of God is revealed and Christ’s mission is begun. A moment to think about the reign of God in our lives, the consecration which we received at baptism, that I am called, ultimately, to be beloved son or daughter of the Father. This is the very point of our Christian life – that we realise, accept and live out of our sonship or daughtership.
Matthew 28:19-20 The great commission given to the disciples – and therefore to the whole Church – by the risen Christ, to baptise all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We celebrate our own membership of the Church, the Body of Christ. We contemplate what it means for us in our daily lives – both rights and responsibilities, what it gives me, what it asks me to carry out. What of the gift of the sacramental life which is gift after gift to me? And how do I ‘baptise’ others – where is the moment when I evangelise and invite them to deeper belief, deeper ownership of Christian and Catholic identity, deeper awareness of vocation and service?
John 3:1-21 The invitation to be born again, in the Spirit, so that all those who believe that God sent his only Son into the world may have eternal life.
John 16:4-15 Christ’s going to the Father and the coming of the Holy Spirit so that believers may be led into the fullness of truth
John 19:30; 20:19-23 John’s Pentecost account – and the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit in the heart of the redemptive action
Acts of the Apostles 2:22-39; 5:27-33 The fundamental starting point for the disciple – the proclamation of the core Christian faith and belief, the kerygma, that Jesus Christ has been crucified, has been raised to life by the Father, has sent the Holy Spirit to those who believe, and that we are witness to this, we and the Holy Spirit.
I Corinthians 1:4-9 I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.
II Corinthians 13:13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Ephesians 4:1-7 I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you therefore to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all. Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.
If you would like to read at a deeper level on the Church’s teaching on the mystery of the Trinity why not look for this pivotal study:
John J. O’Donnell, The Mystery of the Triune God (originally Sheed and Ward, 1988)