Trinitarian prayers and symbols abound

By | June 15, 2011

The Trinity, “it’s a mystery.” When asked to explain the Trinity I find that response to be my most sound answer. This weekend the church calls us to celebrate Trinity Sunday and to ponder the mystery. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct yet united in a way that is beyond our comprehension. This relationship, however, provides vision for the community of believers who gather in God’s name. We too are bound to God and to one another through the word and sacraments. The Father teaches through the word, the Son’s body and blood feeds us and the Holy Spirit moves within us to live the faith.

This Sunday, you will hear many reference made to the Trinity in the readings, music, prayers of the liturgy and homily. However, every time you attend liturgy there is a beautiful ritual in the eucharistic prayer that is directed to the Trinity. It is called the Epiclesis, taken from Greek, meaning to call down from on high. The Epiclesis occurs shortly after the Holy, Holy. At a liturgy where bells are being used, you will hear a single ring of the bell. At all liturgies, a ritual action on the part of the priest should gain your attention. He will extend both hands over the bread and wine. You will hear this prayer or one of similar wording: “and so Father we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Holy Spirit that they may become for us the body and blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate this Eucharist.” Attune your ears to many of the other prayers. Note how many of them conclude with (Father) “we ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.”

Trinity Sunday is a good day to take another visual tour of your church. Look for symbols of the Trinity. Probably one of the earliest representations of the Trinity is the equilateral triangle. Each angle represents one God in three persons. Another symbol we often see is three interconnecting circles, (also known as the Borromean Rings). It traces back to St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Those churches with stained glass from the 19th and 20th centuries may hold more obscure Trinitarian symbols, such as the triquetra, a three-part interlocking fish symbol that can have a Celtic appearance. You might also find the trefoil, which is believed to be a stylized shamrock, the shamrock being the symbol St. Patrick used to illustrate the Trinity, or you may see the fleur-di-lis, a stylized lily, adopted because of its three-part shape.

Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.


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