A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Sunday 7 June – The Most Blessed Trinity

By Fr Kevin Head SM

Evagrius of Pontus was a 4th-century Greek monk. He said, “The mind cannot grasp God. If God could be grasped, God would not be God”. It is well worth bearing this idea in mind when we try to get to grips with the central doctrine of Christian faith, the Most Blessed Trinity, the inner life of God.

In trying to understand something of the Blessed Trinity, 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 is unhelpful – it’s not to do with mathematics. And, as Redemptorist Father Denis McBride wrote in Seasons of the Word, “the triangle is tired, and the shamrock is long wilted: besides, both treat the Trinity as a problem to be reckoned with rather than a mystery to be entered into”. The great St Augustine was out of his depth grappling with the Trinity too.

He was walking one day on the beach, trying to imagine an intelligible explanation for the Mystery. He saw a small boy using a shell to pour seawater into a hole in the sand. “What are you doing, my child?” asked Augustine. “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole”, the boy answered with a smile. “But that is impossible, my dear child”, Augustine said. The boy stood up, looked Augustine straight in the eye and replied, “What you are trying to do - to understand the immensity of God with your small head - is even more impossible”. Then he vanished. Augustine understood that God had sent an angel to teach him, and later, he wrote, “You see the Trinity if you see love”. Augustine taught that the Father is the lover, the Son is the loved one and the Holy Spirit personifies the very act of loving. We begin to understand a little of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity more readily with our hearts than with our intellects.

If we tell someone the innermost secrets of our hearts, it’s undoubtedly a sign that we trust that person. Perhaps it’s a sign that we love that person. In revealing the Mystery of the Trinity, the secret of God’s inner life to us, God effectively says, “I want you to know me as much as is possible because I love you with all my heart”. God has made known and makes known to us the innermost secret of God’s being.

Conscious of what St Thomas Aquinas called “the misery of language” in the face of the Mystery, in a nutshell, we may state: everything the Father has, he gives to the Son. The Father does not keep anything from the Son. Everything the Son receives from the Father, he gives back to the Father. The Son does not hold back anything from the Father. This gift between the Father and the Son, the bond of unity between them, is called the Holy Spirit of God.

To make himself known, God sent Jesus Christ his Son to be Emmanuel, God-with-us, and to teach us the good news of God’s love for us. In the Scriptures, we meet God in human form. God’s Son prays to his Father and promises to send the Holy Spirit to us. The Lord Jesus links us into the life of the Trinity, connecting all our joys and sorrows, all our lives and everything about us to the inner life of God.
... and Us

We don’t know much about God. We only really know about ourselves. And what’s true of you and me and all people is that we don’t like being alone all the time.

There’s a story told of a man who was down to his last $20. He didn’t buy food or drink. He got a haircut so that he could feel someone touching him, and for a while, he was not alone.


Eating alone, living and working alone, talking to oneself all the time is horrible. It’s impossible to survive if we are totally alone and lonely. The Mystery of the Trinity is about persons relating to one another in love. And just as God is not alone, we are not alone, and we will never be alone. God made us to relate to others in love; in other words, to be like God.

Our being like God means reaching out to others kindly and openly, as friends. Being like God means not doing and saying things which cut us off from others. It means no nasty, jealous, mean, horrid words to others, or about them, even when others are rotten towards us. Being like God means being as generous as we can be to those less fortunate than we are.

God made us to relate to one another as Father, Son and Spirit relate to one another. When we celebrate the Trinity, we honour God as a good father/parent; as brother and friend; as loving, motherly spirit. We are to be like the persons of the Trinity, like God. After all, we were created in God’s image, weren’t we?

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