This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. And while I do not make any attempts to try and explain this mystery, I’d like to invite you to take some time to just appreciate the fact that this beautiful mystery is part of our faith (because no, it is not held across all Christian denominations).
During Holy Week this year, I attended a Triduum Recollection where one of the speakers was Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ. Fr. Villarin is currently the President of the Ateneo de Manila University, and is famously known (well, at least to me) to be both Jesuit and scientist-physicist. (Curious about his Nobel Peace Prize? Read more on him here.)
Fr. Jett shared a couple of his past Homilies with us, and on this occasion, I’d like to share with you one he wrote about the Trinity. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this as much as I did.
At my age, I will perhaps be able to tell you in forty years time what the Trinity is all about. I am of course hoping that eventually we shall all be given a ringside view of the beatific vision and of the eternal gardens. For now, I can only sit by the bleachers and squint at the Mystery of God’s godness that has been revealed to us through Jesus Christ, in the light of the Spirit’s leading. Understandably, our words can only obliquely describe the Mystery in whose likeness (we are told) we are created.
Some of these words are images and abstractions. Take the triad concept which can be a stumbling block for mathematical minds. Do the numbers and soon enough you will realize that God (like persons) will never be like guavas that can be counted or commoditized.
Take white light as an image for the Trinity. We learn early on in grade school that white is composed of red, green, and blue. The pixels in your PC are actually composed of little bulbs of red, green, and blue light (RGB, we say) that can produce a rainbow on your screen. Perhaps the Trinity shines like RGB?
Or music. A chord is a threesome combination of musical notes. Do-mi-sol is C. Perhaps the Trinity sings in the key of C? Add a fourth note (namely, we earthlings), and the chord becomes a bit more sophisticated, a little desafinado. Perhaps that is why we have been included in the Trinitarian ensemble?
Or how about something from management: synergy. There’s another tired, if oblique, word. The whole is greater than the sum of it parts. We use the idea to get everyone to work together. Perhaps in the boardroom of heaven, it was long resolved that the Trinity be a merger of three corporates?
Moving along these oblique images and words we use for the Trinity, I pray we eventually stumble upon the simplest mystery of all, which is the mystery of who God is: God’s godness is all about sharing. Sharing is who God is; sharing is what God does. A union of three persons, as distinct as red is from blue and green, yet as singular as the whiteness of light. A sharing of life (Father) and love (Jesus Christ) and power (Holy Spirit). Creation and redemption and responsibility, impressed upon us in the name of the Father and Son and Spirit.
Amen we say. This is all so simple yet beautiful. Ultimately, we discover: God is relationship. God is a relationship of love that ultimately gives life which in turn deepens and strengthens love. Because God is Trinity, we now know that life does not proceed solitarily. It does not go on, move on linearly and alone. Conversely, we now know that hell or sin or death is the rejection of relationship; we now know that the only come-on of hell is the false solace of isolation.
The crises we face, whether it is rice or electricity or governance, can get us going perilously along the path to perdition. We can each go our own solitary disconnected ways. Each province to himself. Each nation to herself. The conflicts that bruise our egos or wound our children can lead to gated communities and gated selves. We know ourselves to be a fractious people. We cannot disagree without disintegrating. We cannot divide without divorcing. You only have to look as far as Couples for Christ to see the pain of fracture and disconnection.
Or these crises and conflicts can bring us to our senses and bridge us to one another, helping us recover the joyful and glorious mysteries of being Filipino: our bayanihan or collective concern for home and harvest, our malasakit or enduring compassion for children (the small) and the weak, out utang na loob or unpayable debt of soul to those who have been kind to us, our pagsalig or relentless believing in a benevolent God even in the midst of disconnection or despair.
With or without crisis, today’s Mystery beckons us to ponder who God is and who we are as well. We pray to discover and realize the demands which this divine identity makes upon us. We pray to summon the courage to turn to one another in Trinitarian sharing and surrender, that we may begin to celebrate and respect at last our diversity and differences. The Trinity reveals to us that God and we are meant never to be alone. This is the Mystery in whose likeness we are told we are created.
Today, Trinity Sunday, I hope we do not have to wait forty years to stumble upon the simplicity and beauty and imperative of the Mystery.
Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ
18 May 2008