“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son.”
We are designed to live in community. The basic unit of human society is the family, and several families gathering together make the basic unit. Absolutely fundamental is the idea that we flourish in community. We learn by imitating others and being taught by others. We love telling stories, we have a need to create, and we build and trade. Even the hermit, living in a hut in the forest, can only be solitary because he or she first belongs to the human family.
As well as this social aspect, we can also have a rich interior life. We can imagine, have daydreams and capture in our minds the essence of things. Above all we can understand, and communicate that understanding with words and concepts. As somebody once said, we are the only animals who keep diaries to record and reflect on our inner life. All this is the case because we are made according to a certain plan or pattern. Like a painting, we carry the tell-tale signs of the artist who made us; we can even say we have the signature of the Most Holy Trinity.
So what is meant by that? As the incarnation reveals to us, God is eternally one, but also a communion of Persons. The interior life of God, if we may put it like that, is the eternal communion of love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: one sole God in essence, with three distinct Persons. St Paul, in his beautiful farewell to the Corinthians, associates grace with the incarnate eternal Son, Jesus Christ; love with God the Father; and fellowship, or communion, with the Holy Spirit. This helps us gain an entry into the mystery, but in reality all three Persons are grace, love and communion. God has revealed to us the names Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to help draw us into this mystery, so we can communicate with the holy and undivided Trinity.
The terms express a reality, but a reality which we will only see when we participate fully in the eternal love of the three Persons in heaven. Here we have to exercise our spiritual muscles to receive the reality of the Trinity, where, in the words of St Athanasius: “In that Trinity there is no before or after, nothing greater or lesser: because the three Persons are co-eternal and equal among themselves.” So we are social creatures because God is communion. We are rational creatures because the divine Trinity is the fountain of all reason, order and intelligence.
So we have the maker’s mark, the artist’s signature. But God does more than create us; we are also redeemed. The eternal Word, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, while never ceasing to be God, took on our human nature. God could have redeemed us with just a word of command. But God wishes to enter into the life of God’s beloved creatures to heal and raise them to participate, by grace, in the divine, eternal life. So great is God’s desire to share communion with us that Jesus Christ, who is both divine and human, was prepared to suffer and die on the cross to communicate that love.
But, not content with dying and rising for us, Jesus also sent the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to dwell within the Church, and dwell within each one of the baptised. In fact, the whole of the Trinity dwells within us when we live a sacramental life in the Church, when we pray, in our life of good works. Without that divine life, healing and illuminating us, we would be unable even to make the sign of the cross with any conviction.
St Elizabeth of the Trinity, who died in 1906 and was canonised in 2016 by Pope Francis, had an especially vivid awareness of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity. She was an ordinary girl from an ordinary family but was graced to experience profoundly the divine Persons in her daily life. She wrote: “O my God, Trinity whom I adore! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest.” We are made for communion, communion with each other and communion with God. Even in this Pandemic when we are physically apart there is a still a deep spiritual communion between us all and the Trinity.