The Trinity is about more than names

By Pat Wettstein | For The Compass | June 7, 2017

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

There are many symbols in our faith tradition, some coming from the repetition of certain numbers. We just finished the 50 days of Easter, preceded by the 40 days of Lent. How about the number 12, you know 12 apostles or the 12 tribes of Israel?

This weekend we are hear of the number three, with the celebration of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This particular threesome is a central mystery of our Christian faith, which addresses the nature of God. But it is also the most confusing to get into one’s psyche. What do you mean, one God in three persons? Don’t you mean three gods?

This concept is by far one of the most puzzling, yet one of the most important concepts for us to grasp. We see this symbolism of three everywhere. In my church, we have a set of three doors that welcome us in; there are three altars, one main and two sides; there are three aisles, center and again two sides that lead to those three altars.

What does your church say to you with the number three? Can you look all around and find the number three? It is rich with theological concepts: one building, three entrances; one sanctuary, three altars. Wow, what does it all mean?

For me this concept of one God but three persons is hard to grasp. I got to thinking about our human bodies. We have our physical skeleton, composed of bones, skin and organs. But wait, we also have our mind, the brain that steers and unconsciously guides our bodies to function. Oh yes, there’s that third dimension, the soul — you know that moral entity that sets us on the path of right living.

When I thought of this and the concept of three persons, one God (which is far more complex than the human person) started to make sense. All three parts of our body have a function and all three have to work together to make us what and who we are.

This is a less than perfect analogy about the Trinity, but it is something in our physical world that we can use as a springboard as we prayerfully ponder God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “‘Father’, ‘Son,’ ‘Holy Spirit’ are not simply names … ‘He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.’ They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: ‘It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.’ The divine Unity is Triune.” (n. 254).

Now it begins to make sense, albeit still being mysterious. As Christians, we come to believe this as a part of our faith and part of our fabric of being, especially as we recite the Nicene Creed at Mass and bless ourselves in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Like our bodies, we know they are inseparable, they unite into one; all three have a purpose and a shared love.

Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.

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