Three in complete union

By | May 26, 2010

As we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, it’s important to notice that the dogma of the Trinity either explicitly or implicitly grounds all Christian prayer — especially our celebration of baptism and the Eucharist.

We find references to the Trinity throughout the New Testament, but clearly articulated in the account of the Annunciation (Lk 1:34), Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan (Mt 3:16), his command to the disciples to baptize, (Mt 28:18), in his promise to send the Paraclete (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26), and in Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 8:15b and 15:30).

As some of the earliest prayer formulas developed, the church grappled with questions about whether our prayer “through Christ and in the power of the Spirit” meant that Christ was subordinate to or “less than” the Father. Eventually the issue was addressed by the Council of Nicea (325 AD) which declared that Christ was of one substance with the Father. The creed did not describe the nature of the Holy Spirit, but this was eventually defined by the Council of Constantinople (381 AD): “the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.”

There was no universal feast in honor of the Trinity until about the 14th century, but some of the texts we now use, especially the Preface of the Holy Trinity, date back to the time of Pope Leo the Great in the 5th century. Today we hear the echoes “three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendor, yet one Lord, one God, ever to be adored in your everlasting glory.”

During the eucharistic prayer, we should pay special attention to the “Epiclesis” – the invocation where the church asks God to send the sanctifying Spirit. “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us, the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ (EP II); or in Eucharistic Prayer III: “and so, Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit . . .” In addition, each of the four eucharistic prayers concludes with the doxology, “Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, forever and ever” — to which we all respond, “AMEN.”

And just a note about baptism: We are very familiar with the Trinitarian formula used for baptism. But the baptismal liturgy includes the profession of Trinitarian faith, and the symbols of water and the cross and the anointing with the Spirit. All are powerful reminders of who we are, and whose we are.


Sr. Rehrauer is the director of Evangelization and Worship for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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