19 June 2011
Sermon for Trinity Sunday
Given today by Canon Aaron B. Huberfeld, ICRSS:
Trinity Sunday 2011
How many of you would be able to tell someone you meet that in God we acknowledge one Divine Essence, two internal and eternal Processions, three distinct Persons, and four real Relations? My catechism students might be able to do it, but then, I taught them that several months ago, and the memory of it is dim by now. How many of you could explain to this same inquirer how it is that we do not worship three gods on the one hand, nor on the other hand do we worship one God who merely wears three masks in different times and places, nor do we worship one God, one creature called his son, and one force called his spirit? I know some of my high school scholars have told me they’ve made a good showing now and again, but I’m not sure how the rest of us would do. Finally, how many of you would be able to declare when asked, without hesitation, the central mystery of our Catholic Faith? If you had any hesitation before the beginning of this sermon, I trust that now you would boldly reply that the central mystery of our Faith is the one which we honor by name today: the Most Holy Trinity.
I refrain from saying that we give this mystery special or particular honor today. We may well say that every Sunday or even every day is a feast of the Most Holy Trinity. No matter what particular mystery we may be honoring on any given day – the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the anniversary of a martyr – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Divine Office, the entire liturgy of the Church, is always and only directed to the praise and honor of the Triune God, the Holy Trinity one in substance and undivided. Nevertheless, a Mass was composed and celebrated in many parts of Christendom in honor of the Blessed Trinity and was finally adopted in the Middle Ages by the Universal Church. I would like to mention what I think are the two most important reasons why the Church did this.
The first is that, after so many centuries of attacks against this dogma by Arius and his successors, attacks which were the principal reason for convening nearly all the early ecumenical councils and which, humanly speaking, seemed at times sure to prevail over sound doctrine, it was fitting that a feast should be promulgated to celebrate the victory of the truth.
The other reason is that Providence has led us to the celebration of today’s feast by means of the second great mystery of our Faith: the Incarnation. Since the beginning of the liturgical year, we have celebrated the greatest action of the divine in human history: the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took on human flesh, suffered and died for our salvation, rose again and ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Ghost among us to enlighten our hearts. All the mysteries of our faith will now be seen again through the Pentecostal lens, through the grace that is ours by the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ. And the first of these is the mystery of the divine life that exists between these Three Divine Persons who have been revealed to us: the Eternal Father, His eternally begotten Son, and the Spirit who proceeds from both as from one principal.
I firmly believe that it is important not only to teach but to preach the catechism, since I can never replace these precious moments which I have with all one thousand of you every Sunday morning at 8 and 10. But I cannot cover today everything which I had the chance to teach to your children over several Wednesday mornings. I will confine myself today to what I think must be said every year concerning this sublime mystery.
The Trinity of God is above human reason; it must be revealed to us. We never could have discovered it ourselves. In Sacred Scripture we find one God in three Persons. And we must strictly adhere to the short and simple vocabulary list which Sacred Tradition has given us to describe what we find in the Scriptures: essence or nature, generation, procession, person, distinction, relation – Trinity.
Although our reason cannot discover the Trinity by itself, our reason does tell us to believe what God has revealed about Himself. Our vocation here on earth is not to understand the mystery of the Trinity, but to adore it. And when we adore this mystery, we adore distinction in the Persons, unity in the Essence, and equality in the Trinity. As the immortal Roman Catechism has it:
“Let him who by the divine bounty believes these truths, constantly beseech and implore God and the Father, who made all things out of nothing, and ordereth all things sweetly, who gave us power to become the sons of God, and who made known to the human mind the mystery of the Trinity – let him, I say, pray unceasingly that, admitted one day into the eternal tabernacles, he may be worthy to see how great is the fecundity of the Father, who contemplating and understanding Himself, begot the Son like and equal to Himself, how a love of charity in both, entirely the same and equal, which is the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, connects the begetter and the begotten by an eternal and indissoluble bond; and that thus the Essence of the Trinity is one and the distinction of the Three Persons perfect.”
And our own dear patron, St. Francis de Sales, speaking of the joy that awaits us in the beatific vision, declares:
admirations should be honored and loved, the eternal and sovereign friendship of the Father and the Son! What is there to be loved and desired if not friendship? And if friendship is to be loved and desired, what friendship can be so in comparison with that infinite friendship which is between the Father and the Son, and Which is one same most sole God with Them?”
Blessed be the Holy Trinity, the undivided Unity; we will give praise to Him, for He hath shown His mercy to us. Amen.