Trinitarian Love (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)
There is always difficulty in explaining the profound mystery of the Blessed Trinity. How can we have one God in three persons and three persons in one God? Quite obviously, the word mystery itself already connotes that a certain reality eludes understanding. I remember a theology professor who shared that a nun once asked him to explain the difference between a mystery and a miracle. In jest, he told the nun: “Sister, when a priest gets pregnant that is a miracle. But when you get pregnant, then that is a mystery!” The joking remark of the professor drives home the point that mystery is “something hidden which has been revealed, something unapproachable which invites entry, something unknowable which offers true understanding.” (The New Dictionary of Theology, Philip Gleeson, OP)
A story is told that while St. Augustine was in deep contemplation, trying to grasp the full meaning of the Triune God, he saw a boy at the shore. With the palms of his hands, he was scooping water from the ocean, pouring it in a big hole which he himself had dug from the sand. Augustine observed that the boy did this routine as if it would take him forever. Wondering what the boy was doing, Augustine approached him and asked: “I saw you going to the ocean, getting water from there and pouring it in this hole of sand. Would you mind if I asked what you are doing?” The boy answered, “I want to put the ocean inside this hole so that I will know what is under the ocean.” Augustine remarked: “That‘s impossible!” “I know,” the boy replied. And he told Augustine, “So is it impossible, too, to grasp the full meaning of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.”
Though we cannot fully grasp the meaning of the Trinity, we can learn a basic and practical lesson for Christian living: LOVE. St Augustine himself said: “If you see love, you see the Trinity.” (De Trinitate, VII, 8, 12: CCL 50, 287) This teaching is spelled out in the words from the gospel: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3: 16) God the Father sent His only begotten Son to the world because of His great love for each of us, His creatures. God the Son offered His life out of sacrificial love for our salvation. God the Holy Spirit was sent by the Son to the world so that we may always feel the indwelling love of God until the end of time and receive the gift of eternal life. Such offer of love exemplified by each person of the Trinity challenges us to love one another unconditionally.
In a world conditioned by a culture of individualism and selfishness, each of us is called to selfless love. One should love without counting the cost. One must love even though it hurts. One makes another feel gratuitously loved as God loves. Remember the words of St. John of the Cross: “At the end of our life, we shall be judged by love.” (Ronald de Sola Chervin, Quotable Saints, p. 130, 1995)
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