As Catholics, when we are asked to explain the concept of the Trinity, it is the one time we can give a clear, definitive answer. Simply smile and say “It’s a mystery!”
Looking closely at the words in the Roman missal, there are very strong references to Jesus Christ. Often mention is made of the Father, with prayers being directed to him, in particular the eucharistic prayer. We do not hear the Holy Spirit mentioned in the prayers of the liturgy as often, but when the name of the Holy Spirit is invoked, unbelievable power is being called upon. In one sense we could say the Holy Spirit is a verb, rather than a noun. Whenever the Holy Spirit is acknowledged “something” is happening. Recall our celebration of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came upon those gathered in the upper room (and us) not as a “gentle dew fall” (EP 1) but as a roaring wind, a burst of flame, a cacophony of sound. God’s Holy Spirit is anything but timid.
This weekend at Mass pay special attention to the collect (formerly the opening prayer). This prayer changes in wording each week and sets the tone for the liturgy. In it we ask God to give to us the things we need for our journey of faith. On this Trinity Sunday we will ask for “true faith that we may acknowledge Christ and adore him.” Listen to the conclusion of the prayer. Unlike the body of the prayer, the conclusion remains the same every Sunday, year after year: “through our Lord Jesus Christ … who lives and reigns with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit binds the Father and Son together in one being.
Another place in the liturgy where the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work is within the eucharistic prayer. Although not as evident in Eucharistic Prayer 1, in the others you will see a gesture and hear words directed to the Holy Spirit. The action is called the epiclesis and it precedes the words of consecration. Watch for the presider to extend his open hands over the bread and wine on the altar. He will say words similar to “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 2). The Holy Spirit is called to come down upon those gifts (just like the Spirit came at Pentecost) and begin the work of transforming simple bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. What a powerful moment in the liturgy that so often slips past us unnoticed. That is one reason why the entire eucharistic prayer, along with the institution narrative, is referred to as the prayer of consecration.
Trinity Sunday, it’s a mystery. The Holy Spirit moving upon us and within us, it’s a mystery. The Holy Spirit, calling, choosing, purifying, unifying and binding in holiness. Of this we are certain.
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.