There is a beautiful story about St. Augustine, which occurs as he is walking beside the shores of the sea and pondering the mysteries of the Trinity. As he strolls along, he comes upon a small child scooping water from the sea and pouring it into a small hole in the sand. Noticing the child, Augustine asks him what he is trying to do. The young boy tells him, “I am moving all the sea water into this hole.” Augustine smiles and says, “Well, it is impossible to bring all that water into this small hole.” The boy responds, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do — comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.” This story is a reminder to St. Augustine, who wrote extensively on the Holy Trinity, and to each of us, that our limited human intelligence can never fully comprehend the great mysteries of our faith.
Does this mean on Trinity Sunday (or any time we ponder the mysteries of faith) we resign ourselves to knowing little or nothing about them? On the contrary, rather than seeing them as completely unknowable, view them as infinitely knowable. This means that although we will never fully comprehend the great mysteries of faith, we can always learn something new about them. So what can we learn this year as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity?
As we begin to emerge from quarantine and social distancing, from what for many has been an experience of great loneliness and isolation, perhaps Trinity Sunday reminds us this year more than any other that we have been made for one another — “for it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We have been created “in the image and likeness of our God” (1:27). Our God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is relationship. Hence, we have been made in the image and likeness of God, who is relationship. Therefore, is it any wonder that we are so hungry to be in authentic relationship with God and with one another? Upon our baptism, this essential identity was confirmed and strengthened when we were baptized in the “Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And the Greek in of the New Testament really emphasizes into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, we are forever part of the Trinity and part of all those who belong to the Trinity. What does this great mystery offer us this year? It reminds us even when we are alone or experience loneliness, we are never alone — we always belong to God and to one another.
Fr. Brennan, vocation director at St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, earned master of divinity and theology degrees from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.