GARCIA-LUENSE: The meaning of the Most Holy Trinity

June 11, 2019

Mosaic tiles depicting the Most Holy Trinity and various saints are seen in the Trinity Dome at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. CNS photo.

As the annual observance of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity approaches on June 16 this year, I find myself again reflecting on what the Catechism calls “the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (no. 234). It is not just an esoteric theological definition of interest only to academic elites, but influences our daily faith and lived spirituality.

In a previous column I wrote about how our Trinitarian faith is essential to making sense both of our experience of being saved through Jesus Christ and the idea that self-surrender leads to self-fulfillment and not self-destruction. This time I would like to reflect on a more basic idea: what the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity says about who we are as human beings.

We know that part of why we name this doctrine a “mystery” is that it begins to speak something of the inner nature of God; of who God is within Godself. Of course, then, we recognize that anything we say in our limited human language about the eternal, transcendent, and ineffable God is going to be at best partial and incomplete. But even though we cannot say everything there is to say about who God is, nonetheless we can say something true about God. The doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity states that the one God, living and true, exists as a perfect communion of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This Trinity Sunday, as you listen to the homily, pay attention to the implications of what you hear to your understanding of who you are and how you are called to live.

This communion is so perfect that there is no separation or division within the Godhead, even as there is distinction. At the heart of God’s being, God is dynamic and not static. God does not merely have relationships, God is relationship itself in the most perfect of ways. This, I think, is what the inspired author of the first epistle of John meant when he wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

But if we can say this true thing about God, it has massive implications for how we understand ourselves. This is, of course, because, unique among all of creation, we believe that as human beings we are made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27).

Therefore, if being in relationship is at the center of who God is, so too must it be that we as human beings are created for relationship; relationship with God and with one another. As human beings we are social by our very nature.
We who are begotten in love by our parents, we who are their love made flesh, are called not only to love other people but to be people of love ourselves.

We are called to live lives of self-donation and deep and intimate communion. This is true regardless of our vocation, whether to the married life, as vowed religious, as ordained clergy, or as people living the dedicated single life. Our lives are most fundamentally about the relationship we cultivate, the intimacies we share, and the fruits that flow from them. This is the most profound aspect of what the Church calls a theological anthropology; what it means from a theological perspective to be truly human.

This, then, becomes the foundational basis for our moral theology and for our social teaching. And all of it has its basis in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.

This Trinity Sunday, as you listen to the homily, pay attention to the implications of what you hear to your understanding of who you are and how you are called to live.

Brian Garcia-Luense is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.