Attempting to speak of a mystery

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I must confess, without shame as a writer, that I approach the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity each year with a sense of fear and trembling. Try as I might, to write something worthy of my God, I find that I fall short.

Nonetheless, my heart and soul are in my work. Perhaps God understands that we humans earnestly try to speak of mystery in the best way we know how. We realize, of course, that the metaphors or theological figures of speech that even the best theologians use to describe the Trinity clearly fall short of the divine reality.

Obviously, the Trinity simply a triangle or a three-leaf-clover! Nonetheless, all of us, whether we are praying, preaching or writing theology, are trying to use our best instincts: we imagine, we wonder, we reflect, we dream we ponder, we struggle for the correct human phrases, all the while knowing we are not yet any closer to the reality of the divinity. Deep in our souls, of course, we know that we have no other option; we are driven to it by our conviction that we need to say something and that God deserves our best efforts, skills and devotion.

It is said of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican theologian that after having written hundreds of works of theology he finally admitted that his many words were “little more than straw for the burning.”

Ultimately, therefore, our surest resources, when speaking of God, are the sacred Scriptures. On this Sunday’s readings we open the Book of Exodus and are introduced to the vision of Moses as he ascended Mount Sinai, the Commandments firmly in his grasp. It was on this lofty height that he learned of God’s name: “The Lord, a merciful and gracious God, is slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” Human ears had never before heard such words. Nonetheless, they are precisely what we would expect of one whom we speak of as God of the universe. If we are searching for the correct words as we pray, there are none better than these, at least as a starter.

Turning now to Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthian disciples, we are introduced once again to the customary way he begins all his letters: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (There you have it: the Trinity in one line). That is the greeting we hear each day in the introduction to the celebration of the liturgy but one, unfortunately, that we also simply take for granted. It does, however, tell us clearly that, as the Trinity is one family, so too are we members of the family of God.

Finally, in the Gospel of Saint John we are introduced once again to a God sending us a member of the Divine Family who, in turn, will send us the Holy Spirit to make all things new.

At this point, we might say that we are not any clearer regarding the nature of God than we were before. The point, of course, is that it is not our task to elucidate the nature of God but simply to experience the holy in human words. We try as best we know to speak of that which is of mystery to us. The rest is up to God!

June 11 Scriptures

Exodus 34: 4-6, 8-9

2 Corinthians 13: 11-13

John 3: 16-18

The writer formerly served the Anchorage Archdiocese. He now lives in Notre Dame, Ind.


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