Co-enthronment_icon_(Russia,_19_c.)

Co-enthronement Icon, 19th century Russia (Wikimedia Commons). The Holy Trinity teaches us the primacy of love.

Sunday was the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. At the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity here in New Ulm, Fr. Matthew Wiering gave a moving homily which inspired my thoughts for today’s posts. Thank you, Fr. Wiering!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.” (#221)

Imagine! God has a secret at the center of His divinity. What is this secret? God is a Trinity. Never has there been just one Person. From all eternity God the Father has said “You” to God the Son. The Son has returned this greeting. And this You that they speak is the Holy Spirit, Himself a third Person.

No one would have guessed this secret. In fact, many (as today) considered it blasphemous. How could Jesus, a man, be God? God is one! How could the Holy Spirit be a Person, rather than a mere divine tool?

With the Incarnation, God began to reveal His secret to the world. Jesus completed the revelation by promising to send the Spirit–not an “it,” but a “He.”

Centering Prayer’s gravest error

While pondering this mystery, I couldn’t help but think about the errors promoted by Fr. Thomas Keating and his Contemplative Outreach. Here is a link to a short video I have mentioned before, in which Fr. Keating teaches that “there is no Other,” and that those at the height of the spiritual life understand this.

Contrast this error with the Catechism’s teaching. God’s innermost secret is that there is always an Other. There is an other (really two Others) in the very godhead. To deny the reality of the Other is to reject God’s most intimate revelation about Himself.

What if you told your spouse a secret so personal, so central to your being, that you had never shared it before? What if your spouse then pushed it away, refused to believe it, openly contradicted it? God’s innermost secret is Truth. While we might be deceived in the way we perceive ourselves (think of those poor souls struggling with gender dysphoria), God is Truth, perceives Truth, and speaks Truth. To reject His self-revelation is to reject reality.

And it’s also a rejection of our own nature.

We all know this passage from the Gospel:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1)

The Son is God. At the same time, He is with God. One can only be with an Other.

Union and communion

The word union can have many meanings. But the Holy Trinity is not just any union. God is comm-union–union with. The Father is never alone. He is forever with the Son and the Spirit. And He desires to be forever with you.

Again, as the Catechism says, “God himself is an eternal exchange of love.” The Father eternally loves the Son. The Son eternally loves the Father. The Spirit eternally proceeds from both through their reaching out to each other.

God never turns in on Himself. He continually reaches out to draw others into communion with Him. The Father and Son reach out to each other, and through creation and regeneration in Christ, God reaches out to us. He beckons us with His love.

A theology in which there is no Other is a theology without love. It is a life turned in on itself. It is a life devoid of communion.

To understand who we are, we must understand that we were created by God’s outpouring of love. We must understand that the union He calls us to is not a union that erases our otherness. God calls us to communion, to eternally pour ourselves out in love for God and eternally receive His self-outpouring into our hearts.

Even as the Son will always be the Son, so you will always be you.

You are my son. Today I have begotten you.” (Ps 2:7)

The Father speaks these words first to the Son, and now through the Son and the Holy Spirit to you.

And so we reach out to others in love. We pour ourselves out for our brothers and sisters. We open our hearts to receive their love. Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of all that is.

The Holy Trinity frees us from our self-centered closing in upon ourselves. Through love, He sets us free.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Connie Rossini

Note: I have started a new Facebook Group called Authentic Contemplative Prayer to discuss matters related to mental prayer. If you’d like to join us, just request membership.

 

Written by Connie Rossini
Hi, I'm a Catholic writer and homeschool mother of four boys. I practice Carmelite spirituality. Check out my Books page for publications to help your whole family grow in holiness.

    2 Comments

  1. Alyosha June 5, 2016 at 1:20 pm Reply

    Thanks for an interesting post.

    I am interested in the Trinity because Buddhism has a similar concept called the three kayas — or the four kayas, if one approaches it from the perspective of union or indivisibility. Kaya is translated as body. Dharmakaya is beyond concept, beyond thought. very simply, what you can conceive of is not dharmakaya. So, dharmakaya seems inaccessible. It cannot be thought of as existing because to exist means to have identifiable qualities — and once something is described, it is limited.

    The second kaya is the sambogakaya. This is called the body of bliss — it is associated with communication — speech and emotion.

    The third kaya is the nirmanakaya. It is embodied form. It could be in the form of a statue or a person who is awake — who has realized the intrinsic nature.

    The fourth kaya is the svabhavikakaya — this is the indivisibility of the three kayas — that they aren’t and never have been separate.

    One metaphor for the kayas is the image of the sun. The sun is like the dharmakaya — brilliant but remote. The sambogakaya is like the rays of the sun that transmit the sun’s warmth to earth. The nirmanakaya is like a rainbow — a manifestation of the sun — the sun given form. The rainbow is essentially illusory — it appears, but also cannot be said to exist in a solid sense — just as the world of form is constantly in flux — being created and destroyed.

    The dharmakaya can’t be conceptualized. So, it is beyond existence and non-existence. The sambogakaya and nirmanakaya can be said to have form — in a sense — but, if you look deeply enough, you can’t find a permanent essence. So, these are also illusory or empty. The image of a rainbow in the metaphor is meant to convey the sense of appearance or display — but with the sense that the rainbow is ungraspable.

    Emptiness is an often misunderstood word in Buddhism. It could be thought of as complete fullness as well — or just as a sense that our experience is beyond concept. And the amazing thing is that emptiness is inseparable from compassion and love. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche said that “Emptiness without compassion is never taught, water will always be wet.” If you feel a sense of deep sadness, poignancy and love when you look at a sunset at the end of the day — that is a little bit of the sense of the union of appearance / emptiness and love.

    None of this equates directly with Trinitarian Christianity. There are a lot of conceptual distinctions that are very meaningful between Christianity and Buddhism — principally the concept of a self or soul as a permanent thing. But there are parallels that are interesting to discuss.

    • Connie Rossini June 7, 2016 at 2:18 pm Reply

      Thanks, Alyosha. I am still hoping to read my Buddhism for Dummies. I’m doing a lot of pre-reading of books for my boys right now, so my more discretionary reading has gone by the wayside. Someday…

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