|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
| Prv 8:22-31
RCL: Prv 8:1-4, 22-31
|Ps 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9||Rom 5:1-5||Jn 16:12-15|
Trinity: relationship of infinite love
Unlike other liturgical feasts which celebrate events, Trinity Sunday celebrates a mystery: the mystery of God’s own inner life. The feast’s Lectionary readings trace the human experience of the mystery of God.
History and meaning
Scripture reveals the Trinity indirectly and implicitly. Hebrew scripture shows God reaching out from the Godself to reveal and to redeem, and to create in human hearts a believing response to God’s actions. Christian scripture recounts Jesus revealing God as “Father” (Jn 2:16), himself as “Son” (Jn 14:9), and the “Paraclete” (Jn 14:16) or “Spirit of Truth” (Jn 14:17) as a guide to all truth. The believing community’s liturgy and rituals make the Trinity explicit (for example, in the sign of the cross, and in sacramental words and actions).
Using scripture as a starting point, patristic writers and theologians constructed Trinitarian dogma. Although first-, second-, and third-century creeds, liturgy, and rituals asserted Christ’s deity and spoke of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” Christian writers and apologists struggled to articulate the exact relationship between Jesus and God and to defend Trinitarian ideas to philosophical opponents. Within the ekklesia itself, disagreements about Jesus’ nature led to conflicting views, such as adoptionism and Arianism. In the fourth century, the council of Nicaea (325 AD) addressed Jesus’ nature (Jesus is fully God and fully human) and the relationship between Jesus and God (homoousious, meaning “same substance” or “consubstantial” or “one-in-being”). Later councils expanded the Nicene creed to speak more about the Spirit’s divinity and role. In the fourteenth century John XXII instituted a church-wide feast celebrating the Trinity on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Theologians further our understanding of the Trinity by continuing to explore the mystery.
The first reading from the book of Proverbs explores divine Wisdom, personified as God’s witness and assistant at creation. In later Christian thought, Wisdom becomes synonymous with the Logos (Word); John’s gospel connects the Logos with Christ. Christians hear this poem as describing the Logos’ (or Christ’s) role in creation. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to highlight divine Wisdom, later understood to be Christ, already present in Hebrew scripture.
The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Rome ekklesia presents a disciple’s experience: God is the source of redemption; Jesus performs the redemptive act; and the disciple experiences redemption through the Spirit’s outpouring into the human heart. Between the time of Jesus’ saving act and his parousia, disciples experience suffering (along with weakness and death) as a result of the present age’s unbelief and persecution. The Spirit is the creative force of the new creation, and has already purified, cleansed, and readied disciples for the new age. Because water is the dominant symbol for cleansing and new life (baptism), Paul describes the Spirit’s action as pouring God’s love into disciples. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to highlight God’s actions of redemption, the redeeming act, and our encounter with God’s love.
In John’s gospel Jesus reveals the true mystery of the Trinity: God’s infinite love. God expresses this infinite love in relationship between the Father, Son, and Paraclete-Spirit.
- Father and Son. The Father and Son exist in total, self-giving love. The Father gives everything to the Son; the Son gives everything back to the Father in the Son’s complete gift of his life on the cross.
- Paraclete-Spirit. The Spirit makes the Father’s and Son’s infinite exchange of love known and powerfully real in disciples’ hearts. The Spirit continuously reveals and constantly updates our understanding of God’s once-for-all revelation of love in the Christ event.
The Trinity Sunday readings invite us to consider our own personal experience of the Father, Son, and Spirit, a God who reveals an ever-deepening mystery of God-in-relationship. We encounter God in creation, as suggested by the first reading. We encounter God in Jesus’ redeeming act, as suggested by the second reading. We encounter God in the Spirit’s revelation, as suggested in the gospel. In each case, we experience God who constantly reaches out and invites a response within disciples. Do we take time to meet God in mystery? Do we allow ourselves to be drawn into a relationship of infinite love? Do we reflect God’s infinite love in our human relationships?