“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” These are about the first words we learn about God in early childhood–a proclamation of the greatest mystery of our faith: the Most Blessed Trinity. It is linked to the sign of the cross precisely because the cross is the symbol of God’s love for us: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son…” (Jn. 3:16)
If the mystery of the Trinity does not particularly excite us it is partly due to the way in which it was explained to us in school. It was presented as a mystery of numbers: “Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three persons but only one God. How can that be?” The teacher would use different devices, such as a triangle, or a branch with three little twigs, to help us understand the mystery; only to conclude by saying that, anyway, no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to understand the Blessed Trinity because “it is a mystery.”
Christianity is the only religion that believes in a triune God. It was Jesus who revealed to us the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—without mentioning the word Trinity: “The Father and I are one” (Jn. 10:30). “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (Jn. 14:11) “The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send you in my name will teach you everything.” (Jn. 14:26) Jesus speaks of the Blessed Trinity, not in terms of numbers but in terms of persons–Father, Son, Spirit, among whom there is communion, love and unity in diversity. The Blessed Trinity is family. The Blessed Trinity is community.
Hence the best thing to do in order to understand something of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is to look into God’s own image: Man and woman. We are God’s image—not the triangle, not the branch. God has created us into his image and likeness and has placed within us something of himself: his love. It is love that drives husband and wife to join their lives forever and to build a home. It is love that keeps friends in each other’s company for hours… Love unites and makes one: “That is why a man leaves father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” (Gen. 2:24) Hence it is God’s infinite love that makes it possible for the three divine persons to be One God.
Seen in this light, the Blessed Trinity is no longer an abstract mystery of numbers but a mystery of love in which we ourselves are involved. At baptism we have become sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters of Christ the Son, and temples of the Holy Spirit. Our task is not so much to explain the mystery of the Blessed Trinity through visual aids and comparisons but rather to live it out by leading a trinitarian life marked by love, respect, unity, and acceptance despite differences.
We can (and should) play the role of God the Father/Mother (God is both) by giving love, attention, quality time and warmth to our children. We can (and should) play the role of God the Son by giving love, respect, and assistance to our parents, grandparents, the elderly and the sick. We can (and should) play the role of God the Holy Spirit by giving hope, encouragement and inspiration to the hopeless, the helpless, the depressed and the confused, especially among the young. Thus the Blessed Trinity is no longer a mystery of numbers but rather a program of life that brings hope and life to the world—through us, who have been baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.